Hey there friends, Patreon supporters, and myth heads everywhere, it’s your starry host, LmL. When last we left off in Weirwood Compendium 6: The Devil and the Deep Green See, our minds were reeling at the enormity of the green see wordplay. Does this really go everywhere water goes? Lakes, rivers, oceans, ponds, drinking and drowning and bathing and melting… do we really have to look sideways at every liquid we come across?
Well, basically, the answer is yes. But as you know, what we are really looking for is a confluence of multiple identifiable symbols and symbolic acts. Just because someone gets their throat cut doesn’t mean they’re manifesting weirwood stigmata and symbolically “going into the weirwoodnet.” But when red-headed Catelyn Tully gets her throat cut, has bloody hands and bloody tears and bloody hair – the full weirwood stigmata, in other words – and then gets thrown into a river named the Green Fork, and then pops up in a cave threaded with weirwood roots… we can feel confident in concluding that her death is indeed meant to symbolize the death of the weirwood goddess archetype and her subsequent entrance into the “green see” of the weirwoodnet.
Now what actually happened is that we first identified Cat as playing the role of the Nissa Nissa weirwood goddess figure without any of the green see wordplay, back in the Weirwood Goddess series which you have hopefully already listened to. In those episodes, we discovered a whole horde of mostly red-headed women who seem to manifest both Nissa Nissa symbolism and child of the forest / elf woman symbolism, all of whom undergo the weirwood stigmata. It happens so many times, and so distinctively, and always amidst metaphorical Lightbringer forging scenes, that we really can’t help but come to the conclusion that Nissa Nissa was part child of the forest and that the magic ritual which was the death of Nissa Nissa and the forging of Lightbringer was an event which was tied to the weirwoods, or even centered around them.
Then, when we consider the green see wordplay and observe Cat’s body being thrown into and then resurrected from the Green Fork of the Trident, it simply confirms and enhances the conclusions that we drew from her weirwood stigmata death scene: Nissa Nissa goes into the realm of the greenseers after she dies. Even taking a step back from the specific green sea / greenseer wordplay, it’s still easy to see the classic symbolic function of the river here: Cat goes into the river when she dies, and is resurrected when she is pulled out of the river. It’s like the River Acheron which serves as the border to the realm of Hades in Greek myth, to name one example. In other words, you can see that the green see wordplay is really just building upon the foundation of a classic mytheme, that of the river which represents the border between life and death. It’s just another version of the veil of tears.
Besides Nissa Nissa figures getting thrown into rivers like Cat, we’ve also seen that many Nissa Nissa figures have various kinds of mermaid symbolism, including many of the magical or divine wives of legend such as Elenei of the Durran Durrandon myth, the Grey King’s mermaid wife, or the two aquatic women tied to the Andal myth of Hugor Hill / Hukko, the swan maidens that ‘Hukko’ sacrificed and the woman with eyes like blue pools that the Maid of the Faith of the Seven brought forth for Hugor Hill to marry. And as we noted last time, we can even observe that Cat’s Tully / fish symbolism makes her a grisly sort of mermaid or fish person (or Cat-fish, if you prefer) when she is thrown into the river. We’ve also seen the classic sea serpent goddess archetype put into good use with Daenerys in particular, who is the most prominent Nissa Nissa figure in the series.
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
All of these things – the drownings, the mermaid imagery, and the sea serpent imagery – have accumulated throughout our study of Nissa Nissa figures, and they’ve been cluing us in to the fact that Nissa Nissa has a watery side to her story… or at least to her symbolism. Then when we reconsider those things with the green see metaphor in mind… again we see things snap into place. The mermaid and sea dragon goddess symbolism suddenly make a lot more sense – they’re implying Nissa Nissa a denizen of the green see!
There’s yet another line of symbolism the green see wordplay is best buddies with, and that’s the simple idea of the moon drowning in the sea. We caught on to this early on, in the very first few Bloodstone Compendium episodes, that there is abundant and repeated symbolic evidence that at least one of those moon meteors landed in or near the sea, causing huge tidal waves and some amount of land collapse. Both the Arm of Dorne and the Iron Islands (especially Pyke) show evidence of such traumatic, sudden land collapse, and both are festively decorated with moon meteor symbolism, so this part of the “moon drowning” idea is fairly literal – some pieces of the moon seem to have fallen into or near the sea. After all, an impacting meteor basically has a 2 in 3 chance of hitting water on earth, and I don’t imagine it’s much different on Planetos.
Of course the moon can be seen as an analog of Nissa Nissa, and that broken bit of moon, falling from the sky and into the sea as it was, can be seen as a representation of Nissa Nissa falling into the green sea at her death, kind of like a gigantic version of Catelyn falling into the Green Fork. Exactly like a giant version of that, in fact. Once again, we see that the green see wordplay layer fits harmoniously with all the other symbolism that is going on already – the idea of moon meteors falling into the sea, in this case – while also enhancing it.
That’s actually where we left it in Weirwood Compendium 6 – with Nissa Nissa figures drowning and dying and doing weirwood goddess things. We took a quick look at several of them and a longer look at Asha, because the Wayward Bride chapter is just so dank with the ocean of trees / sea of green goodness. The conclusion of that chapter was that amazing scene where Asha sees burning stags in a golden wood as she imagines the trumpets of the Drowned God’s Hall blowing at her apparent death, and all of that following her being backed against a tree and tangled in its roots as she is struck with a lightning-like blow. Asha actually utters such things as “drown me for a fool” and “splash some blood upon the moon with me,” it’s just so good. The trees-as-ocean quotes are equally fantastic and mirror the lines from Jon’s scenes north of the Wall.
Now before we discussed the drowning and bathing mermaid Nissa Nissa figures, we took a look at the dying Azor Ahai people who have a knack for dying in rivers, dying in burning boats on rivers, drowning in rivers that catch on fire, drowning on blood and wildfire and of course, drinking from the green fountain. And not just dying in the see, as it were, but also being reborn in the see or from the see, according to the prophecy of Azor Ahai being reborn in the sea. Just as it was with green see symbolism of the Nissa Nissa figures, applying the the green see lens to all of these watery deaths and rebirths simply simply confirms what we had already discovered by other means – that Azor Ahai essentially died to enter the weirwoodnet, and that his death was more of a transformation, one tied to or even facilitated by the weirwoods. That was basically the overarching topic of the first four episodes of the Weirwood Compendium series, and I think the evidence was already quite convincing – and the green see symbolism just pounds the nail in the coffin, so to speak. Because a weirwood tree is like a coffin for greenseers. Anyway.
Today, we are going to talk about Dany. Dany is the best because she combines the Nissa Nissa dying in the green see to forge Lightbringer symbolism with the Azor Ahai being reborn in the green see symbolism, and she does it in spectacular fashion. Tracing out all of Dany’s green see symbolism will also find us doing a fair amount of follow up on Weirwood Compendium 5: To Ride the Green Dragon, because a lot of Dany’s greenseer symbolism flows through Rhaegal. We’ve already seen that Rhaegal, as well as Rhaego the prophesied Stallion Who Mounts the World, are basically fountains of green seer symbolism, so it figures they’d show us some quality green see wordplay, and indeed they do! When we read Dany chapters, we find such things as Daenerys the Stormborn dragon wearing a green dress and a green dragon on her way to talk to old men in wooden thrones in a city by the shores of the Jade Sea, just by way of example.
I have to warn you: the amount of greenseer symbolism around Dany is shocking. It’s so heavy, and so constant… it starts with her very first chapters, continues through all five books, and then ramps up harder than ever in her final ADWD chapter. We aren’t going to get it all today, by any means. It’s going to take two episodes to get the main stuff, and more will filter into other episodes. We’ve already led up to it a bit by exploring all the greenseer symbolism of her green dragon, Rhaegal, as well as her stillborn son Rhaego, but when we look at the greenseer symbolism directly applied to Dany, I promise your head will spin and you will want me to start making tinfoil with all due haste. Well, just reserve judgement about what it could mean for Dany in particular for now, and lets consider this first as commentary on the Nissa Nissa archetype, and if you’re all good then perhaps we’ll get around to speculating about whether or not her potentially significant amount of Blackwood blood might be stirring and giving her the potential to access the same magical greenseer genetics as Bloodraven.
Before we go head-over heels interpreting everything that happens to Dany in the green Dothraki Sea as containing a hidden message about greenseers and the weirwoodnet, let’s consider that Dany is already well established as a weirwood goddess figure, even beyond being the mother to green dragons like Rhaegal. I’m referring of course to Dany’s horse-heart-eating ceremony, which we covered a couple of episodes ago as well as previously in the Bloodstone Compendium. In that scene wherein we get the prophecy of the Stallion Who Mounts the World (which is basically the Dothraki version of the Prince That Was Promised prophecy), Daenerys has bloody hands and a bloody mouth like a weirwood tree, and is drinking blood and consuming flesh as the weirwoods do both literally and metaphorically, and the fact that she’s eating a bloody heart even adds the implication of a bloody heart tree, all of which makes this a grade-A weirwood stigmata.
Consider also that Daenerys declares herself newly impregnated with the fire of her solar king as she has the stigmata, matching both the Lightbringer forging mythology as well as the idea of the weirwoods being invaded and set on fire by Azor Ahai when he used Nissa Nissa’s death to essentially invade the weirwoodnet. Compare it to Thistle’s weirwood stigmata, where Varamyr’s spirit literally invaded her flesh – this also depicts Azor Ahai’s fiery spirit invading the weirwood tree, and using Nissa Nissa’ death to do so. Here we see Dany manifesting the stigmata and turning into the bloody weirwood tree after she’s been invaded by the fiery seed of her solar king, which is just a nicer version of the same symbolism.
The main point is that Dany’s stigmata is no random occurrence – it occurs during a symbolic Lightbringer forging, and it’s consistent with all the other weirwood stigmata scenes (trust me, it matches the other ones too, let’s not digress too far). Note also that this scene, like many of her best scenes in the green Dothraki Sea, occur in the first book, which implies that Martin has been weaving this green sea / greenseer wordplay as well as other greenseer clues into the plot arc of his primary avatar of Nissa Nissa from the very beginning. That makes sense to me, because we are increasingly coming to see that Nissa Nissa’s connection to the weirwoods is one of the most important aspects of the entire Long Night / Azor Ahai / Lightbringer ball of wax. He would have conceived of it early on, and after today’s episode I feel confident you will agree with me that he did.
Sailing the Dothraki See
This section is brought to you by our dragon patrons: Bronsterys of lily-white scales and bronze horns, wingbones and spinal crest, a wise old dragon who riddles with sphinxes; Vaespeyrs the Nightbringer, the Shadowfire Dragon, whose scales are dark as smoke, whose horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are the color of molten silver, and whose eyes are two black moons; and Falcoerys the ShagDragon, whose black stone scales are covered in purple and green 70’s shag carpeting and whose eyes, horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are as grey as a puff of smoke
The green see / reborn from the sea symbolism of Daenerys Targaryen is immediately obvious: she was reborn in the Dothraki Sea, which is often described as green. About half of Dany’s major scenes occur in this green grass sea in fact, including her symbolic death and rebirth in Drogo’s pyre and the waking of her dragons, her starry visions in her last ADWD chapter, and many other things that we’ll take a look at today. As we know, Azor Ahai is a hero prophesied to be reborn in the sea, and if George is thinking about one specific person who fulfills all of the Azor Ahai reborn prophetic check marks in the most clear way possible, it can only be Daenerys Targaryen, who after all, did wake dragons under a bleeding star, and the fact that this took place in the green Dothraki Sea means that she also checks out as a hero reborn in the sea.
Illyrio sums it up well when speaking to Tyrion in ADWD:
“The frightened child who sheltered in my manse died on the Dothraki sea, and was reborn in blood and fire. This dragon queen who wears her name is a true Targaryen.”
Reborn in blood and fire, after dying on the Dothraki Sea. So there you go – in her the prophecies are fulfilled, ha ha. She already met all the standard Azor Ahai reborn criteria there, so adding the “Azor Ahai reborn in the sea” aspect that Stannis speaks of just makes the alchemical wedding that much more of a home run for the rebirth of Azor Ahai.
We’re about to dive into Dany’s first chapter in the Dothraki Sea – the pivotal “Dany III” of AGOT, which I spent three hours breaking down with Poor Quentin and Brynden B-Fish on their Not-a-Podcast podcast, and we are going to see a ton of fantastic green sea / greenseer wordplay there. But before we do, I’ll share perhaps my favorite – no, definitely my favorite – example of the Dothraki green see wordplay, which comes in a Victarion chapter of ADWD:
“The silver queen is gone,” the ketch’s master told him. “She flew away upon her dragon, beyond the Dothraki sea.”
“Where is this Dothraki sea?” he demanded. “I will sail the Iron Fleet across it and find the queen wherever she may be.”
The fisherman laughed aloud. “That would be a sight worth seeing. The Dothraki sea is made of grass, fool.”
He should not have said that. Victarion took him around the throat with his burned hand and lifted him bodily into the air. Slamming him back against the mast, he squeezed till the Yunkishman’s face turned as black as the fingers digging into his flesh.
And then Victarion tosses his body into the sea, “another offering to the Drowned God.” There’s actually a nice symbolic parallel going on here: the fisherman tells Victarion the Barbarian that Dany flew away on her black dragon into the Dothraki Sea, which symbolizes both Nissa Nissa fleeing into the green see and a moon meteor dragon landing in the ocean, and then Vic mimics that symbolism by making a moon sacrifice out of the fisherman and throwing him into the sea. He lifts him up against the mast, which is like a tree trunk of course, and then strangles him, which gives the fisherman the ‘Odin hanging on the gallows tree’ symbolism that, in ASOIAF terms, refers to greenseers being ‘hung’ on the weirwood roots like Bloodraven. Then Victarion throws him into the sea and to the god beneath the waves, implying him a one who is sacrificed to the weirwoods and their green sea. The fisherman’s face is turned black, just as the moon turns into black meteors, and his black moon face going into the sea is equivalent to black Drogon flying off into the Dothraki Sea.
The poor fisherman shouldn’t have talked back to Victarion, it’s true – he wasn’t a very good judge of character. But he was technically correct that the Dothraki Sea is made of grass. I’m sorry, I just can’t help but find Victarion a little funny, and this scene just makes the Dothraki Sea joke so well. It is indeed a sea made of grass, and Vic would have a hard to sailing it with an Ironborn longship. He might have better luck, though, if he were to reach further back into Ironborn shipbuilding history and attempt to use a weirwood boat, like the Grey King – that might be the right one for “sailing the green sea.”
Note also the way Martin is trying to show us the green see wordplay – in the midst of the confusion about whether or not Vic can sail the Dothraki Sea, the fisherman says “..that would be a sight worth seeing. The Dothrkai Sea is made of grass..” It’s one of many examples of Martin using both forms of see/sea next to one another, in hopes the wordplay might click in our brains, such as when Mikken, the Winterfell smith, says “The sea, is it? Happens I always wanted to see the sea.”
But hey, look, don’t blame poor Victarion for taking things too literally. After all, not only are the plains of the Dothraki grasslands like a sea, the sea can be like the grasslands: “To the Dothraki, water that a horse could not drink was something foul; the heaving grey-green plains of the ocean filled them with superstitious loathing.” That’s a nice one because instead of the Dothraki grasslands being compared to a sea, it’s a sea described as a grey-green plain, as though it were a grassy plain.
But enough warm-up, let’s talk about Dany’s swim in the Dothraki Sea. The first time we ever see the sea, if you will, is in Dany’s amazing third chapter of AGOT, and the analogy is laid out pretty clearly. The chapter opens with Ser Jorah talking about the sea:
“The Dothraki sea,” Ser Jorah Mormont said as he reined to a halt beside her on the top of the ridge. Beneath them, the plain stretched out immense and empty, a vast flat expanse that reached to the distant horizon and beyond. It was a sea, Dany thought. Past here, there were no hills, no mountains, no trees nor cities nor roads, only the endless grasses, the tall blades rippling like waves when the winds blew. “It’s so green,” she said.
“Here and now,” Ser Jorah agreed. “You ought to see it when it blooms, all dark red flowers from horizon to horizon, like a sea of blood. Come the dry season, and the world turns the color of old bronze.
It’s so green, she said… lol. A green see! It stretches beyond the horizon, calling to mind the green see language of Jon’s scene at the Fist of the First Men. After saying that “the wood went on as far as Jon could see,” it said that “A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.” This green see is the cosmic sea, and it exists outside time and space, so to speak, and that’s emphasized in these quotes and others like them.
Even more important is the second part of Jorah’s speech about the Dothraki Sea: it’s a sea that turns to blood when it flowers. Think about that: when it flowers, it becomes a sea of blood. Hello, moon blood symbolism! In Westeros, a woman’s menstruation is known by the euphemism “moon blood,” and the first time she gets it is called her “flowering,” as we know, so this sea of bloody flowers is definitely a sea of moon blood. Thus, as Dany gazes out at the green Dothraki Sea for the first time, the idea of moon blood filling the green see is strongly suggested, and even highlighted. Ultimately, this is a reference to the concept of Nissa Nissa’s blood flowing into and merging with the ‘green see’ of the weirwoodnet.
This is a pivotal moment here, with Dany perched on the edge of the green Dothraki Sea and about to begin her journey. She’s just married Khal Drogo, consummated their marriage, and is now headed into the Green Sea. This is the basic pattern we’ve seen with all the other Nissa Nissa moon maidens – they do a Lightbringer forging ritual, then head into a body of water that symbolizes the weirwoodnet. Dany’s wedding and intercourse with Drogo give us the Lightbringer forging, and of course her wedding overlays in many ways with the alchemical wedding where the dragons are hatched and Dany is symbolically reborn. So, it fits the pattern well – Lightbringer forging with the solar king, then into the green sea. Dany’s horse heart scene follows a similar pattern, with Dany announcing her pregnancy as she manifests the weirwood stigmata that implies as merging with the weirwoodnet. She even goes and bathes in the “Womb of the World” right after, which adds the aquatic symbolism, and trust me we will circle back to that scene fairly soon to harvest all the greenseer stuff going on there.
Another way we might describe this pivotal moment with Dany getting set to plunge into the great grass sea is to say that her foolish brother Viserys has sold her for a golden crown, and idea that is emphasized all through Dany’s AGOT chapters. This creates a strong parallel to Dontos selling his moon maiden, Sansa, to Petyr for the price of 30,000 golden dragons. Both depict a foolish, would-be stealer of the fire of the gods who sells his moon maiden for gold and receives an ignominious death. One of the three arrows that killed Dontos struck him in the leftmost golden crown of the House Hollard sigil on his breast, which draws an even stronger parallel to Viserys selling his moon maiden and receiving a golden crown of death (Hat-tip Archmaester Emma). One even thinks of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy to Cersei about the death of her children: “Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds.”
We can also observe that Sansa and Dany are both sent in to the sea and sold to a sea lord; Petyr sails aboard the Merling King and takes possession of Sansa on the Blackwater Bay, and also carries the Titan of Braavos symbolism with him via his father’s sigil, and the Titan is certainly a type of Sea Lord; while Drogo on the other hand is the lord of the Dothraki Sea and immediately takes Dany into that sea after they are wed / Dany is sold. There is even good cause to believe that the House with the Red Door in Braavos that Dany grew up in was located in the Sealord’s Palace, which would be a nice fit with the symbolism we are talking about.
Yet another parallel between Dontos and Viserys comes with Viserys being called a fool, which happens many times (and rightfully so), and his stubborn refusal to change in Dothraki clothes leaves his court clothes turning to rags before long, with rags and patchwork being a part of the fool body of symbolism.
Before we move on from Jorah’s little speech about the various kinds of grasses which opens the chapter, I’ll just briefly point out that this is also the “oceans of ghost grass taller than a man on horseback with stalks as pale as milkglass. It murders all other grass and glows in the dark with the spirits of the damned.” It’s an ocean of grass, like the Dothraki Sea, but this is ghost grass and it’s like a cross between the Others, Dawn, and grass. Point being, the “oceans of ghost grass” line can now be seen yet another clue about the Others coming from a part of the weirwoodnet, a part that they might be killing or freezing somehow, in accordance with the prophecy of the ghost grass killing covering the world and killing everything. That’s actually kind of a major revelation, but it’s also somewhat beside the point and so we’ll have to come back to it another time.
After Dany shivers and says ‘ooh, I don’t want to think about that,’ we do actually catch sight of the Others! The next paragraph begins with
She heard the sound of voices and turned to look behind her. She and Mormont had outdistanced the rest of their party, and now the others were climbing the ridge below them.
As with most potential “others” double meanings like this, it’s hard to know if it was intended or not, but coming directly on the heels of Martin’s choice to include the obvious Others clue of the ghost grass in Jorah’s ‘introduction to the green see’ speech, it kind of makes sense to drop little clues that you know… maybe the Others are lurking around here somewhere.
After the last quote, Martin immediately begins building up the contrast between Viserys, the fish out of water, and Dany, who is already adapting to the green grass sea. Irri and the young Dothraki archers are called “as fluid as centaurs,” a nice way of describing them as watery horse people – fluid centaurs, if you will, the kind that can ride the waves of the Dothraki Sea. Horse people that ride in the sea might be seen as sea horse people anyway, so they might as well be fluid centaurs. Then, after Viserys starts to pitch one of his usual snits, Dany decides not to let him ruin the day and rides off alone into the grass sea for fun. After a bit of flashback recalling Dany’s adjustment to Dothraki life, which includes the dragon dream where she is burned and melted by the dragon but feels cleansed and renewed, we get some good green see language.
At the bottom of the ridge, the grasses rose around her, tall and supple. Dany slowed to a trot and rode out onto the plain, losing herself in the green, blessedly alone. In the khalasar she was never alone. Khal Drogo came to her only after the sun went down, but her handmaids fed her and bathed her and slept by the door of her tent…
Dany is never alone – her handmaids are always bathing her, don’t chya know? The dream of being melted and cleansed by the dragon that came a page or two prior also hits on the bathing theme, which is really just one way to see Nissa Nissa’s transformation inside the green see of the weirwoodnet. We see that symbolism coming to life here in Dany as she immerses herself in the green Dothraki Sea. “Losing herself in the green” alludes to dissolution of self to merge with the weirwoodnet, I would say, which his exactly what happens when a greenseer dies. If Nissa Nissa went into the weirwoodnet when she died, it makes sense to see her “losing herself in the green,” I think. Skipping over a couple of sentences, I’ll pick the quote back up:
She rode on, submerging herself deeper in the Dothraki sea. The green swallowed her up. The air was rich with the scents of earth and grass, mixed with the smell of horseflesh and Dany’s sweat and the oil in her hair. Dothraki smells. They seemed to belong here. Dany breathed it all in, laughing. She had a sudden urge to feel the ground beneath her, to curl her toes in that thick black soil. Swinging down from her saddle, she let the silver graze while she pulled off her high boots.
Dany is not only losing herself in the sea, now she is submersing and submerging herself deeper into the green sea of grass. There’s also a line a moment later where Viserys calls Dany out for looking like a Dothraki, and, regarding herself, barefoot and wearing Dothraki riding leathers, Dany agrees and observes that she “looked as though she belonged here.” Here, in the green see she’s submersed in… it’s where she belongs. The natives of the green see of the weirwoods are of course the children of the forest, and we’ve seen the mermaid symbolism used as a way to imply Nissa Nissa as a denizen of the “sea,” i.e. a denizen of the realm of the greenseers. It’s worth noting that Dany is something of a “child-woman” at this point – recall Illyrio referring to Dany as “the frightened child who sheltered in my manse” and was reborn in blood and fire on the Dothraki Sea. Dany is a child-woman who belongs in the green see, if you catch my drift.
My favorite part is when she takes off her boots in order to feel the ground beneath her and curl her toes in the soil… kind of like a tree taking root. Nissa Nissa is the weirwood goddess, after all, and the entire point of the weirwood stigmata symbolism is that it shows a Nissa Nissa figure turning into a weirwood tree. And just when Dany’s toes start taking root in the soil…
…then Ironborn mythology starts happening.
Viserys came upon her as sudden as a summer storm, his horse rearing beneath him as he reined up too hard.
A dragon that’s like a storm – sounds like the Storm God’s thunderbolt which we think is really a meteor dragon, that one that sets the tree ablaze and creates the weirwood symbol. He’s reigning up too hard – like meteor storm hard, you think? That’s about as hard as a storm god gets, I think. You know what would be great is if George would like, I don’t know, mix in some Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa symbolism and overlay it with the storm dragon striking the tree, just to show that Nissa is like the tree and the falling thunderbolt meteor dragon is like Lightbringer?
His hand went under her vest, his fingers digging painfully into her breast. “Do you hear me?” Dany shoved him away, hard.
Oh, okay, going for the breast is it? Viserys does this to her a few times, and each time it is a.) sexual abuse and b.) a symbolic reference to Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa after asking her to bare her breast (which also qualifies as abuse, as I’ve maintained from the beginning). Here’s the thing: the ‘weirwood goddess’ Nissa Nissa bared her breast, yes, but then got stabbed in the heart, and this bloody heart symbol seems like another reference to the heart trees. It makes sense, as the Nissa Nissa figures always manifest their bloody stigmata during Lightbringer forging scenes – think of Dany eating the bloody horse heart to get her stigmata, for example. Dany is kinda over Viserys’s bullshit at this point, and shoves him away, good for her. Then we get more Ironborn mythology:
Viserys stared at her, his lilac eyes incredulous. She had never defied him. Never fought back. Rage twisted his features. He would hurt her now, and badly, she knew that.
Crack. The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking. The Dothraki riders hooted at him as he struggled to free himself.
Recall that it was the fiery lash of Khal Drogo’s ghost rising from the lchemical wedding bonfire that seemed to snake down and crack open the first dragon’s egg, and that the second one cracked open with a sound like thunder. Here in the Dothraki Sea, we have a thunderous whip cracking against a dragon, Viserys, and this comes as Daenerys was worried about “waking the dragon” of Viserys’s anger. Instead, it looks like foolish Viserys has gotten more fire of the gods than he bargained for, in a preview of things to come; the whip coils around his throat like a noose and he chokes and struggles for breath, sprawled out on the grass of the sea. Then he’s on his knees like a sacrifice or praying man, and it says
Jhogo gave a pull on the whip, yanking Viserys around like a puppet on a string. He went sprawling again, freed from the leather embrace, a thin line of blood under his chin where the whip had cut deep.
That’s a red smile for Viserys, a weirwood sacrifice symbol to go along with his hanging by whip. Then we get a clue about Viserys as someone who is rejected or spit out of the weirwoodnet, as with Dany pushing him away earlier:
He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.
Hollow… like a tree that people can live inside? Or a moon egg whose dragon has been woken, perhaps? Then as Dany condemns him to walk behind the Khalasar, Dany ask Jorah if he’ll get lost, and there is talk of waking dragons and even waking the dead:
Jorah laughed. “Where else should he go? If he cannot find the khalasar, the khalasar will most surely find him. It is hard to drown in the Dothraki sea, child.”
Dany saw the truth of that. The khalasar was like a city on the march, but it did not march blindly. Always scouts ranged far ahead of the main column, alert for any sign of game or prey or enemies, while outriders guarded their flanks. They missed nothing, not here, in this land, the place where they had come from. These plains were a part of them … and of her, now.
“I hit him,” she said, wonder in her voice. Now that it was over, it seemed like some strange dream that she had dreamed. “Ser Jorah, do you think … he’ll be so angry when he gets back …” She shivered. “I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”
Ser Jorah snorted. “Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”
Ok, so a bunch just happened – Jorah somewhat ironically says it’s hard to drown in the Dothraki Sea; it’s actually implied that a greenseer or skinchanger can indeed drink too deeply of the green fountain and lose yourself. Ultimately, Viserys drowns in molten gold on the Dothraki Sea, so there you go. Then we get the all-important line about the plains being a part of the Dothraki, and a part of her. The ‘green see’ is a part of Nissa Nissa… just as Nissa Nissa looks like she belongs in the sea. The see is a part of her now because she only goes into the see after forging Lightbringer and undergoing death transformation. After that… Nissa Nissa is the see, and the see is Nissa Nissa.
But now that it’s over, this whole event in the green Dothraki Sea seems like some strange dream Dany had dreamed. Yikes! Dany is dreaming in the green see, like a green-dreamer! And once again, we are presented with the idea that the green see itself is like a dream of Nissa Nissa, that the weirwoodnet itself can be thought of as the mind of Nissa Nissa, in a sense. It compares well to Asha dreaming of the burning wood that contains the black, burning stag and the fiery hearts after she played the role of a tree-woman Nissa Nissa. The woods that is like a sea exists in the dream of Nissa Nissa.
In fact, Daenerys herself is quite the dreamer, just in general – everything she needed to know to wake the dragons basically came to her in dreams. Now, perhaps Quaithe was helping a bit, but the point is – Dany has a ton of visionary dreams, basically more than anyone. Dany’s historical Targaryen namesake, Daenys the Dreamer foresaw the Doom of Valyria, and in fact made enough prophecies to fill an entire book, including, in all likelihood, the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. Daenys the Dreamer most likely an echo of Dany and reflects the important role dreams and visions have in the arc of Daenerys and of course, Nissa Nissa, who dreams the green see.
So after Dany pronounces it all a dream, she asks Jorah if she woke any dragons, and Jorah asks her in return if she can wake the dead. This is weirwood goddess resurrecting the Night’s Watch green zombies talk! The green zombies watchmen always have fiery dragon symbolism, like the burning scarecrow brothers in Jon’s dream or like Beric the fiery scarecrow knight, so waking dragons and waking the dead… are the exact things the weirwood goddess does from inside of the green see, after she has died and merged with it. Jorah is referring to Rhaegar here as the dead dragon, but it’s Rhaegar’s son Jon Snow who is the dragon in need of resurrection, and it will be a different weirwood goddess figure, Melisandre, who will probably play a part in his zombie-fication.
On top of all that, we even get a throw away line about Rhaegar dying on the Trident. As we know, Dany’s naming of Rhaegal the green dragon after her brother’s death on the “green banks of the Trident” acts as a kind of symbolic resurrection for Rhaegar, and it happens here in the green Dothraki Sea, a la Azor Ahai being reborn from the sea. In fact, we are right about to talk about that rascally green dragon a bit more in just a second, because I had to save all the good Rhaegal stuff that pertains to the green see wordplay until after I unveiled the green see wordplay. That’s right, I did an entire episode on Rhaegal the green dragon, who seems dedicated to expressing the greenseer dragon idea, without ever referencing the green see wordplay… so you know we will catch George using the green see chicanery with his scenes, and indeed we do.
Just to finish off the chapter, I will inform you that we have a bath – a real one this time, with soap and water. Totally tame, no symbolism at all and – oh wait. No, this is the bath where she hears the story about the moon cracking to give birth to dragons, we better look again. So after Dany’s confrontation with Viserys and a bit of frank conversation with Jorah about the chances of Viserys ever retaking the Seven Kingdoms (spoiler alert: they’re not good), Dany rides away, eventually arriving at her tent which has been pitched by a spring fed pool. There she takes a hot bath and her handmaidens tell her about that old second moon that wandered too close to the sun!
This is but one of many parallel Dany bathing scenes, and this one is kind of the best because she symbolizes a drowning moon maiden as she hears about the destruction of the second moon… which was scalded by the cracked open like an egg. We know this scene well, as it’s the centerpiece of my very first theory, but now we can see all the intense Nissa Nissa-in-the-green-see symbolism that leads up to it. Fun, huh? This chapter started with a ton of green grass sea symbolism, which is all about Nissa Nissa immersing in the green see of the weirwoodnet, and finishes with the comparatively mundane metaphor of a moon maiden taking a bath, but there are both the same metaphor, and pretty much any time Dany takes a bath, we get symbolism tied to the death of Nissa Nissa and the moon and the waking of dragons, forging of Lightbringer, and so on. And once I’ll remind you that this is the chapter with Dany’s dragon dream of a dragon that roasts her in dragonflame and boils and melts the blood and flesh from her bones, and yet somehow cleanses her and makes her stronger. Ergo, we can see that the idea of a Lightbringer forging and rebirth, dragon-based magical ceremony being tied to a bath is really woven all throughout this chapter.
Now let’s check out Daenerys swimming in yet another iteration of the green see, this time with her green dragon at her side…
The Jade Empress Nissa Nissa
Don’t get too excited by the section title; I am not starting new tinfoil about a hidden line of the gemstone emperors or anything like that. This isn’t about bloodlines. We are still firmly planting our feet in the realm of green see symbolism, and we are going to talk about jade and the Jade Sea and a lot of Dany’s stuff in Qarth, so there you have it.
What I’d like to do next is to tie the green sea to Rhaegal the green dragon. I think you’re going to like this. As we know, Rhaegal was born amidst blood and fire on the green Dothraki Sea, just as Dany was reborn there. We know the cracking of his egg was like thunder, and that the burning logs with “secret hearts” exploded as his egg did. We know that he was named for Rhaegar, who died on those green banks of the Trident, a river named for the weapon of a sea god.
We’ve already seen that the green of Rhaegal’s scales can be described as “the green of moss in the deep woods at dusk, just before the last light fades,” which, now that we look at it again, contains a Deepwood Motte reference, since it’s the moss in a deep wood at dusk. That’s good, because the ocean-like forest of Deepwood Motte was full of greenseer / green sea puns. Of course, the green-of-moss-in-the-deep-wood description also matches the exact description of the eyes of greenseers, or green-dreamers like Jojen, yet another clue about greenseers hidden in Rhaegal’s symbolism. But there’s another description of Rhaegal’s green scales in ADWD when Dany goes down into the pit beneath the pyramid with Ser Barristan, and it leads us back to greenseers as well pretty quickly:
Rhaegal wore matching chains. In the light of Selmy’s lantern, his scales gleamed like jade.
That’s not the only time Rhaegal is associated with jade. When the Tourmaline Brotherhood of Qarth gives her a three-headed dragon crown, the head are made of jade, ivory, and onyx, for the colors of her three dragons. And another time in ACOK, there’s a line about Rhaegal’s “jade green wings,” giving us the magic number of three jade references for Rhaegal.
Why is jade important? Well, thinking back to Melisandre’s voice being flavored with the music of the Jade Sea and how “Jade Sea” could be translated as “green sea,” comparing Rhaegal’s green to jade is akin to likening it to the green of the sea. Remembering that he was called a green serpent and that his egg had a “deep green” shell, he’s basically a jade-green, deep sea-serpent. He also compares very well to Renly’s armor, which was like a “deep green pond” but also a “deep green wood” with the gold fastenings gleaming like “like distant fires in that wood.” Pretty sure there is some fire lurking beneath Rhaegal’s forest green / jade green scales, it’s safe to say.
The two descriptions of the scales of the green dragon, in other words, both allude to greenseeing: the green of moss on trees, like the eyes of greenseers, and the green of jade, alluding to the Jade Sea a.k.a. “the Green Sea.”
The other major thing that jade calls out to in ASOIAF is the jade demon, a.k.a. wildfire. Wildfire, as we’ve just discovered, is also part of the green sea symbolism, just like the green dragon and the sea dragon. Aegon the Unworthy’s wooden dragons were filled with the jade demon, for example, and those jade dragon demons set the kingswood on fire. Dragons themselves are like demons, and they come from Asshai on the Jade Sea, and Rhaegal the jade green dragon is full of fire, which although mostly yellow and red and orange, is sometimes laced with green. At the Battle of the Blackwater, we saw a fifty-foot tall jade demon hatch from a ship full of wildfire, a nice combination of the burning-ship-as-sea dragon symbolism and jade demon wildfire symbolism.
So, in terms of greenseer dragon symbols, we have the sea dragon, the green dragon, and green wildfire, and they are all basically interchangeable. They are all getting at the same idea with similar combinations of symbols, and they often appear together with one another… and Rhaegal is tied to them all.
The fun really begins when Rhaegal the jade green sea dragon goes to the Jade Sea – well, Qarth by the Jade Sea. It’s amazing how much Rhaegal hogs the spotlight in these scenes by the Jade Sea, I have to say. But before we get to that, let me briefly introduce the Jade Sea itself, because, you know… you might think I’m being over-eager by saying that the Jade Sea = the green see simply because jade is usually green. Well.
Let’s start with a fun easter egg which lumps the Jade Sea with some pretty notable companions and actual greenseeing. Oops, it looks like it was right in the first book! Almost like George planned ahead or something.
He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise.
That was from Bran’s coma dream vision in AGOT of course, and you’ll notice the greenseer / green see wordplay Martin worked in. Bran is actually and literally using his fledgling greenseer ability here, and in this vision he greensees across the Narrow Sea, and then to the green Dothraki Sea, and then to the Jade Sea! I mean that’s enough green see wordplay to overwhelm even ravenous Reader! Just kidding, Ravenous Reader has an infinite threshold for wordplay, this I can say for a certainty. Here’s one even Ravenous might have missed though: the dragons are “stirring” beneath the sunrise. Stirring, like a latte or a smoothie. These are water dragons we’re talking about, ha ha! I kid, I kid; that one is probably not meant as a sea dragon clue, but the seeing across the Narrow Sea to the green Dothraki sea to the Jade Sea while greenseeing thing is no accident, that I can assure you. And once again we see the suggestion of there being a link between the dragons and dragonlords from Asshai-by-the-Shadow and greenseers. Said another way, Bran finds himself in the green dream, and what is he doing? He’s imagining dragons. Heh heh. Dragons always exist inside the green sea and inside the dreams of the greenseer.
Dany loves to dream of dragons more than anyone, and in her wake the dragon dream, she also dreams of her ancestors from the Great Empire of the Dawn, which were discussed at length in our episode with History of Westeros. The rulers of the Great Empire are named after gemstones, and there were eight of them, and four of these appeared in the eyes of the kingly ghosts in her dream: opal, amethyst, tourmaline, and jade. They all have silver gold hair and flaming swords, but each with eyes according to these four gems. The one with amethyst eyes makes a model Valyrian, but what do we call the dragon lord ghost with jade green eyes? A green dragon? The jade is found in the eyes here, which could certainly be meant to imply a greenseer dragonlord.
I found a kind of easter-egg companion to the jade sea dragon concept in TWOIAF which does brings us to the shores of the Jade Sea in the Empire of Yi Ti. There’s a little sidebar section that gives us a long list of various YiTish emperors of note from various dynasties named after different colors, and there we read of the “sea-green emperors.” Their name may have been taken for their dominance at sea, for we are told of the 6th, 7th, and 8th of the sea-green emperors,
..under whose rule the empire reached the apex of its power. Jar Har conquered Leng, Jar Joq took Greater Morag, Jar Han exacted tribute from Qarth, Old Ghis, Asshai, and other far-flung lands, and traded with Valyria.
As you can see, all these conquests would have been made by sea, so the sea green emperors were indeed skilled sailors who ruled over the Jade Sea. This is a perfect greenseer metaphor: the sea-green emperors rule the Jade Sea, huh? Even better is Jar Har the sea-green emperor and his conquest of Leng, and thanks to Colin Longstrider, the Eighth Spoke of the Wandering Wheel for this find.
Legends persist that the Old Ones still live beneath the jungle of Leng. So many of the warriors that Jar Har sent down below the ruins returned mad or not at all that the god-emperor finally decreed the vast underground cities’ ruins should be sealed up and forgotten. Even today, it is forbidden to enter such places, under penalty of torture and death.
If you’ve listened to my Old Ones segment on Ideas of Ice and Fire’s channel, you know that I associate Leng and the Old Ones with the horned lord mythology, and of the haunted caves certainly seem like the familiar greenseer cavern symbolism, with a nod to Gendel and Gorne’s legend of being lost in the caves. And who is sending soldiers down into these caves? The Sea Green God-Emperor Jar Har. One has to wonder about the idea of sealing up the weirwoodnet as a solution to all the problems of magical imbalance in the story…. that might make a certain amount of sense.
Now sitting aside the Jade Gates which provide entrance to the Jade Sea is Qarth, and when Dany the sometimes sea dragon goes there, we find some things worth talking about – so let’s go there. In particular, there is some heavy symbolism going on with the Pureborn that pertains to sea dragons and greenseers both. To begin with, Daenerys is going to them seeking boats to carry her and her dragons and her army back to Westeros: she’s seeking sea dragons, in other words, just as the boats which eventually carry her away from Qarth are named after dragons and all the rest. In order to do so, she dresses in green, making herself a green dragon:
Rhaegal hissed and dug sharp black claws into her bare shoulder as Dany stretched out a hand for the wines. Wincing, she shifted him to her other shoulder, where he could claw her gown instead of her skin. She was garbed after the Qarthine fashion. Aaron had warned her that the Enthroned would never listen to a Dothraki, so she had taken care to go before them in flowing green samite with one bared breast, silvered sandals on her feet, with a belt of black and white pearls round her waist.
Notice the black and white pearls: pearls are distinct moon symbols, so this implies black and white moons or black and white moon meteors. This makes for a great complement to the green dress, because she’s wearing the colors of her dragons (black, white, and green) and also telling us a story about green dragons and two moons. Pulling this palanquin are two bulls, one white and one black, again suggesting a white moon and a black moon. To cap it off, Rhaegal the green dragon perches on her green dress – it seems she only brought the green dragon with her to see the Pureborn. It’s one of those double symbols, where Dany wears green and is thus a green dragon herself, and she also wears a green dragon like a garment.
Dany is calling out the Amethyst Empress and Nissa Nissa here as well. The naked breast of Qarthine fashion is an allusion to the tale of Lightbringer’s forging, where Azor Ahai told Nissa Nissa to bare her breast to the sword. Hat-tip, someone on the internet a long time whose name I cannot recall. And just before the paragraph above, it says:
Dany’s tight silver collar was chafing against her throat. She unfastened it and flung it aside. The collar was set with an enchanted amethyst Xaro swore would protect her against all poisons.
This works very well as a parallel to Mel’s ruby choker necklace which also seems to protect her from poison, but of course an amethyst is appropriate for Daenerys, the Amethyst Empress Reborn (™ Durran Durrandon).
Returning to the Pureborn themselves, we find greenseer clues. As you just heard, they are also called “the Enthroned,” and that is the word used for the singers “enthroned” on their weirwood thrones in Bloodraven’s cave. The Pureborn even have old, wooden thrones:
The Pureborn heard her pleas from great wooden seats of their ancestors, rising in curved tiers form a marble floor to a high-domed ceiling painted with scenes of Qarth’s vanished glory.
‘Great wooden thrones of their ancestors’ would be a good description of greenseer thrones, thrones which literally contain the spirits of a greenseer’s ancestors, as well as every scene of vanished glory in the history of humankind, and then some.
Descendants of the ancient kings and queens of Qarth, the Pureborn commanded the Civic Guard and the fleet of ornate allies that ruled the straights between the seas. Dany wanted that fleet, or part of it, and some of their soldiers as well.
There’s another emphasis of their very old blood, and we learn that they command the fleets – the boats Dany wants to make sea dragons. And then there’s one final greenseer clue, after describing the way in which each wooden throne was bedecked with jewels, including jade, we read:
Yet the men who sat in them seemed so listless and world-weary that they might have been asleep.
They’re dreamers in wooden thrones! They rule the Jade Gates which give entrance to the Jade Sea. They bestow sea dragons upon seekers.. or not. Dany’s role here is of one seeking to be a green dragon, and though she is denied, she does ultimately get her fleet of three sea-dragon boats (recall that she names them after Aegon’s three dragons) that carry her to her next destination, with her dragons diving into the water like sea dragons all the way.
As Dany is making her way through Qarth in Xaro’s palanquin having this conversation about the Pureborn, we get another green dragon / green sea clue.
She stroked Rhaegal. The green dragon closed his teeth around the meat of her hand and nipped hard. Outside, the great city murmured and thrummed and seethed, all its myriad voices blending into one low sound like the surge of the sea.
Basically what is happening here is that Daenerys is a green dragon by virtue of her green dress, she’s wearing her green dragon, and now she’s navigating through a surging sea. Rhaegal and she are both sea dragons now. Similarly, Rhaegal sniffs the wine and hisses, provoking Xaro to say that he has a good nose and that they should sail to the Jade Sea to get some really good wine, presumably wine that the green dragon might approve of. I’ll also point out the last line of the quote we just pulled – “myriad voices blending into one low sound like the surge of the sea.” This line speaks of the the hive mind made up of all the dead singers (the myriad voices) which which makes up the weirwoodnet, which we are calling the green see. That is exactly the sea that the green dragon must navigate.
There’s another curious call-out to the Great Empire of the Dawn in this sequence as well. Dany is asking Xaro for ships, and he is listing all the things he has already given here, including those black and white bulls, whose horns are inlaid with gemstones. Dany say “Yes, but it was ships and soldiers I wanted,” and then a moment later, “my bullocks cannot carry me across the water” – those lunar bulls are not sea dragons yet, in other words. Zaro has also given her a thousand knights in shining armor – but miniature ones, tiny statue knights in armor of gold and silver, and they were made of “jade and beryl and onyx and tourmaline, of amber and opal and amethyst.” Setting aside beryl and amber, we have five out of the eight gemstones of the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn listed there, including the four specifically named in Dany’s wake the dragon: tourmaline, opal, amethyst, and jade. A thousand sword-like things (the thousand miniature knights) are generally a symbol of the meter shower of a thousand thousand dragons, and gemstones are equated with stars at times, so this is a meteor shower army decked out in the trappings of the Great Empire. The way I would interpret this is as a hint that the meteor shower was triggered by the Great Empire of the Dawn – by the Bloodstone Emperor, to be exact.
Perhaps best of all, just as Dany is pointing out that the bulls are not ships, the palanquin is forced to come to a halt, because the crowd has stopped to oggle at a…
…wait for it…
…a fire sorcerer. That’s right, this is where the fire mage appears to climb the fiery ladder, and Quaithe of the Shadow appears to tell Dany that her dragons have made magic stronger in the world. The path of the green sea dragon leads to a fire sorcerer – and a shadow sorcerer from Asshai thrown in for good measure. The actual quote is worth pulling:
Jhogo rode back to her. “A firemage, Khaleesi.”
“I want to see.”
“Then you must.” The Dothraki offered a hand down. When she took it, he pulled her up onto his horse and sat her in front of him, where she could see over the heads of the crowd. The firemage had conjured a ladder in the air, a crackling orange ladder of swirling flame that rose unsupported from the floor of the bazaar, reaching toward the high latticed roof.
We have discussed the notion of Odin riding a shamanic horse to journey throughout the cosmos before when talking about Yggdrasil, and we are actually going to go further with that topic in the next episode and discuss Sleipnir, which is also a kind of astral projection horse Odin rides. Sleipnir is famously a grey horse, and Dnay just so happens to ride a grey horse all around the green Dothraki Sea, so… that’s going to be a fun episode, and actually started as part of this one, but it got to long, yadda yadda yadda. In any case, can see that symbolism at work here as Dany mounts a horse to “see,” just as Odin mounted Yggdrasil, his gallows horse, to see the runes. Instead of runes – although we have seen red priest make fiery glyphs appear in the air – Daenerys sees the mage and his fiery ladder, and they key line is the “latticed roof.” The word lattice or latticework is always a “latticework of stars” keyword in ASOIAF, so this fire mage climbing his ladder is signifying just what you’d think: he’s trying to use fire magic to ascend to heaven, so of course he disappears upon reaching the top. Thanks to Stone Dancer, The Mind’s Eye, Whorl-Master of the Trident for the lattice find.
And then, Quaithe appears:
When the fiery ladder stood forty feet high, the mage leapt forward and began to climb it, scrambling up hand over hand as quick as a monkey. Each rung he touched dissolved behind him, leaving no more than a wisp of silver smoke. When he reached the top, the ladder was gone and so was he.
“A fine trick,” announced Jhogo with admiration.
“No trick,” a woman said in the Common Tongue.
Dany had not noticed Quaithe in the crowd, yet there she stood, eyes wet and shiny behind the implacable red lacquer mask. “What mean you, my lady?”
“Half a year gone, that man could scarcely wake fire from dragonglass. He had some small skill with powders and wildfire, sufficient to entrance a crowd while his cutpurses did their work. He could walk across hot coals and make burning roses bloom in the air, but he could no more aspire to climb the fiery ladder than a common fisherman could hope to catch a kraken in his nets.”
Quaithe is playing the role of an undead Nissa Nissa inside the net, very like Stoneheart or the Ghost of High Heart. She wears a red lacquer mask, also referred to as a painted wooden mask, which mimics the carved red faces on the weirwood trees which are like wooden masks for the greenseers inside. She contacts Dany in dreams and visions in a way that is very much parallel with Bloodraven and Bran, and of course she is from Asshai, representative of the hot hell underworld which seems to be inside the weirwoods. In this scene, her eyes are wet and shiny, hinting at the sea that lies behind the weirwood mask.
And look, she’s making deep sea analogies! Welcome to the club, Quaithe. Before the dragons were reborn into the world, this mage could no more hope to ascend the fiery ladder than catch a kraken in his nets. That’s hilarious, because Azor Ahai climbing the fiery ladder to the stars and entering the weirwoodnet is akin to the weirwoodnet catching a sea monster or sea dragon. Krakens arms are likened to tree roots in a couple of scenes, the idea of a kraken in a net seems like George making his own “weirwoodnet” joke here. One thinks of Sam the Night’s Watch brother and “black leviathan” coming up out of the well at the Nightfort and “flopping” around in a “puddle of moonlight” whilst ensnared in Meera Reed’s net.
So let’s step back and look at the sequence here: George shows us several versions of Dany as a dragon in the green see, from entreating the Pureborn on their wooden thrones to sailing through the sea of people on her palanquin to the very fact that it all happens within smelling distance of the Jade Sea – and then we get a bunch of dragon waking and fire of the gods Lightbringer forging symbolism at the end. Just as Dany’s third chapter immersing herself in the green see ended with the story of the waking of dragons from the moon, this voyage through the various seas ends with a firemage ascending to heaven and Quaithe discussing the reemergence of dragons and magic to the world.
So – whether it’s the green Dothraki Sea or the Jade Sea or just a nice hot bath, Dany is going swimming.
Quaithe is actually delivering us a message about Nissa Nissa’s death enabling Azor Ahai to climb the fiery ladder into the stars here, I hope you can see that. Quaithe is literally telling Dany that this fiery mage would not have been able to scale the ladder to the sky before she birthed the dragons – meaning that her moon death and dragon-birthing ritual is what opened the doors to heaven for Azor Ahai. This is entirely in keeping with the weirwood door symbolism – Nissa Nissa is a door through which Azor Ahai enters the weirwoodnet, where he can do astral projection and fly amongst the stars. Nissa Nissa’s magic is what makes it possible, and in particular, her death and transformation makes it possible.
We see much the same at the alchemical wedding, where Dany’s Lightbringer bonfire creates a smoky stallion that Drogo can ride into the stars:
Another step, and Dany could feel the heat of the sand on the soles of her feet, even through her sandals. Sweat ran down her thighs and between her breasts and in rivulets over her cheeks, where tears had once run. Ser Jorah was shouting behind her, but he did not matter anymore, only the fire mattered. The flames were so beautiful, the loveliest things she had ever seen, each one a sorcerer robed in yellow and orange and scarlet, swirling long smoky cloaks. She saw crimson firelions and great yellow serpents and unicorns made of pale blue flame; she saw fish and foxes and monsters, wolves and bright birds and flowering trees, each more beautiful than the last. She saw a horse, a great grey stallion limned in smoke, its flowing mane a nimbus of blue flame. Yes, my love, my sun-and-stars, yes, mount now, ride now.
Her vest had begun to smolder, so Dany shrugged it off and let it fall to the ground. The painted leather burst into sudden flame as she skipped closer to the fire, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples. Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.
Hat-tip for Unchained for first spotting this grey stallion as Sleipnir, the grey astral projection horse – and again, we will go to town on astral projection horses in the next episode. But you can see the definite parallels to the fire mage scene in Qarth here. We see the fiery sorcerers appear in the flames, a match to the fire mage climbing the ladder, and by the end, Drogo himself has become a fiery sorcerer himself. He’s mounting the grey stallion made up of fire and smoke, the one which rises like a mushroom cloud from the Lightbringer bonfire where the moon dies.
We know that the Dothraki believe that their valiant dead become the stars in the sky, a fiery khalasar riding through the nightlands – through the celestial sea of space, if you will. Drogo is identified with the red comet by Daenerys, so what is happening here according to Dothraki beliefs and Dany’s perceptions is that Drogo is riding the smokey stallion into space, where he then rides the red comet as his celestial stallion. And all this is enabled by Daenerys and Drogo creating the alchemical wedding bonfire in the green sea, just as the fire mage in Qarth is only able to climb the fiery ladder because Dany has brought magic back into the world by creating the alchemical wedding bonfire.
Of course we know that Daenerys becomes Azor Ahai reborn herself after the alchemical wedding, and accordingly, she shares the same astral projection and comet-riding symbolism we see with with post-death transformation Drogo. For example, we see Dany riding Drogon, just as reborn Drogo rode the comet. We see her riding her grey horse with a mane like silver smoke in the green see, just as reborn Drogo rides the grey smoky stallion. And at the end of the green dragon episode, we dropped that quote about touching the comet that I am going to keep quoting until we can fully wrap our brains around it:
Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter a half foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, his tail lashed back and forth in fury, and he raised his head and screamed. If I had wings, I would want to fly too, Dany thought. The Targaryens of old had ridden upon dragonback when they went to war. She tried to imagine what it would feel like, to straddle a dragon’s neck and soar high into the air. It would be like standing on a mountaintop, only better. The whole world would be spread out below. If I flew high enough, I could even see the Seven Kingdoms, and reach up and touch the comet.
Inspired by the green dragon’s attempt at flight, Dany muses: if she could just fly high enough, she could see better and even touch the comet. This passage reads a lot like Bran’s vision of flying over the world and seeing the dragons beneath the sunrise in Asshai and then all the way to the Heart of Winter in Westeros, I have to say. That’s something we are going to see as we continue to follow Dany’s greenseer symbolism, a convergence with Bran’s symbolism. It stands to reason, right? Many have already picked out Dany’s House of the Undying experience as running in parallel with bran’s weirwood paste session in Bloodraven’s cave, and I am here to tell you that is where it starts, not where it ends.
This is where this episode ends, however, as going any further with the astral projection horse ideas will lead to another ten thousand words, easy. We’ve covered a lot of ground today, and the simple idea of Daenerys manifesting so much greenseer symbolism is a stunning revelation in and of itself which gives us a lot to discuss. So thanks for joining me, and I will see you again soon with Weirwood Compendium 8: The Silver Sea Horse.