Well, here we are, eight episodes in to the Weirwood Compendium; eleven really, since we should include the Weirwood Goddess episodes in this body of work. Yes, here we are, all these episodes in to our study of weirwoods, and I thought I’d play one of the hits, one of the old goodies. By that I mean that we are starting off today with a bit of Morningstar discussion, a familiar topic I know. Lately we’ve been studying Daenerys as a Nissa Nissa figure who symbolically goes into the “green see” of the weirwoodnet in all manner of clever ways, and the celestial equivalent to this involves the mythology of the planet Venus in general and Aphrodite in particular.
To whit: Daenerys and Nissa Nissa symbolize the second moon that cracked open to birth dragons, and their real or symbolic deaths symbolize the burning and cracking open of the moon. Before they die, they are equivalent to moon goddess, and after they die or symbolically die, they represent the falling stars made up of the moon’s corpse – my beloved moon meteors. They are no longer moon goddesses – they’re now falling stars, and as falling stars, George has chosen to see them as equivalent to Venus, who appears to fall to the horizon every night when it is in the Evenstar position. From moon to morningstar – I know I’ve talked about this many times, but I just want it to be super clear in your mind before we start. Plus, it’s one of the more brilliant things Martin has done, and I love talking about it.
The myth of Venus is probably familiar to you: Ouranos’s son Kronos cut of his balls and threw them down from heaven and into the sea. This made the sea “foamy” where they landed (ooh la la), and from this sea-foam was born Aphrodite, whose name famously means “foam-born.” At least, that’s what Hesiod, the famous Greek poet, story-teller and mythographer, said – he traced her name to aphrós, which mean sea-foam, though some scholars have come to dispute that. It makes sense to me though, since Aphrodite is unquestionably associated with Venus, and Venus appears to both fall from heaven to the horizon as the Evenstar and rise from the horizon as the Morningstar. If you lived surrounded by the ocean on three sides as most Greeks did, these fallings and risings would appear to occur into and out of the sea.
“Aphros” covers the first part of her name, and scholars in the early nineteenth century who accepted Hesiod’s analysis of Aphrodite’s name suggested that the second half of “Aphrodite” might be traced to as *-odítē, meaning “wanderer,” or *-dítē which means “bright”. Again I cautiously venture to say that this makes sense to me; the whole idea of this myth is that a star – a bright wanderer – appears to fall into and rise from the sea. All of this is in dispute, although there isn’t really a strong alternate theory – just to give you all the necessary disclaimers and updates on scholarly debates. Check out the wikipedia entry on Aphrodite if you want links to the scholars who makes these various arguments so that you can evaluate them for yourself.
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
VIII: A Silver Seahorse
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
So that’s Aphrodite – the goddess of love and beauty, she rises from the sea foam created by Ouranos’s severed balls falling into the sea. You can see how well this works for Martin’s basic mythical astronomy idea, that of a moon goddess being slain by a comet and falling into the sea, after which she rises and transforms, like Aphrodite rising from the sea. The sea serves as a metaphor for the weirwoodnet, and indeed, Nissa Nissa dies and goes into the green see just as the moon meteors fall into the sea. She also seems to be reborn from the weirwoodnet see, as Aphrodite is born from the sea; think of the symbolism of Lady Stoneheart here, who was reborn from the Green Fork of the Trident and took up residence in greenseer-like cave full of weirwood roots.
Backing up a bit, the very concept of Azor Ahai as “a hero reborn in the sea” is simply Martin pointing at the Venus component of the Azor Ahai myth. Lightbringer is synonymous with Venus as well as Lucifer, and so the rebirth of Azor Ahai, who is reborn to wield Lightbringer, is akin to Venus rising from the sea. Azor Ahai is also resurrected through the weirwoodnet, it seems to us, which Martin imagines as a green sea, and so in this way you can see how nicely Morningstar mythology dovetails with the idea of going into and coming out of the green see of the weirwoods. We already identified the falling moon goddess and all other moon meteor symbols – all the Lightbringer symbols, basically – as drawing on Morningstar and Evenstar mythology, and as we have continued out research, we have come to see that all the Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, and Lightbringer stuff seems inextricably linked to the weirwoods.
Ergo, I thought it was worthwhile to circle back to lovely Venus one more time and show how Martin has joined that symbolism with the green sea / greenseer ideas. The overarching symbolic themes we will be discussing today will be dragons going into the weirwoodnet and Nissa Nissa merging with and becoming the green see of the weirwoodnet, and Daenerys will be the dragon and the Nissa Nissa performing the symbolism in the scenes we’ll examine. She’s a moon goddess-turned-Morningstar, and she’s falling into and rising from the sea pretty much constantly.
But before we throw Dany into the ocean, let’s take a look at the famous nod to Aphrodite George slips in to one of Dany’s ADWD chapters, just in case you haven’t heard it in a while. This is Dany asking her handmaiden’s to send Daario to her:
Send him up at once. And … I will have no more need of you this evening. I shall be safe with Daario. Oh, and send Irri and Jhiqui, if you would be so good. And Missandei.” I need to change, to make myself beautiful.
She said as much to her handmaids when they came. “What does Your Grace wish to wear?” asked Missandei.
Starlight and seafoam, Dany thought, a wisp of silk that leaves my left breast bare for Daario’s delight. Oh, and flowers for my hair. When first they met, the captain brought her flowers every day, all the way from Yunkai to Meereen. “Bring the grey linen gown with the pearls on the bodice. Oh, and my white lion’s pelt.” She always felt safer wrapped in Drogo’s lionskin.
The classic translation of Aphro-dite is “sea-foam – bright / wanderer,” and Dany wants to wear “starlight and seafoam” to make herself beautiful. Dany is referred to “the most beautiful woman in the world” by two of her suitors, Quentyn and Victarion, so the Aphrodite reference really sticks. Consider the flowers in her hair – that’s basically like the flower crown worn by the woman named “the Queen of Love and Beauty” at a Westerosi tourney, especially since it’s her hunky love interest who gives her flowers, as the tourney champion bestows the floral crown to whomever he chooses as the Queen of Love and Beauty. But Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty, and is associated with springtime and the growth of vegetation, so we can see the logic in George giving Dany a symbolic “Queen of Love and Beauty” flower crown when comparing her to Aphrodite.
She wants to leave one breast bare for Daario – an obvious nod to the “bear your breast to me” part of the Lightbringer / Nissa Nissa legend, and the grey and white attire with pearls is lunar symbolism to go along with it. In other words, she is a moon maiden waiting to become a morningstar, and the moon goddess does that by coupling with the sun and his big, explosive comet.
Alright! Time say our thank you’s. Thanks to Stanley Black for our intro music and to John Walsh for our flameco guitar – and don’t forget you can find more of John’s lovely playing on the John Walsh Guitar YouTube channel. Thanks to Ba’al the Bard for performing the vocal readings of the text, and thanks to Sanrixian for painting an amazing Dany on her Silver Seahorse during our livestream this past weekend, which you can find at lucifermeanslightbringer.com embedded in the text version of this essay. Thanks to George R. R. Martin for sharing his world with us, thanks to all of our listeners and subscribers for being a part of our community and sharing Mythical Astronomy with all your friends, and thanks most of all to our Patreon patrons who bring this show to you with their generous and steadfast support.
By the way, look out for new, 13 minute YouTube videos on the lucifermeanslightbringer YouTube channel – they will be called “LmL in 13,” and they will essentially be boiled-down and condensed versions of some of our main mythical astronomy ideas. I am hoping these bite-sized bits might bring our show to more people, so I will really appreciate it if you guys can share those around. The first one will be “Dawn is the Original Ice,” and it should actually be up by the time you hear this.
Melting in to the See
The vast majority of Dany’s green sea symbolism happens in the actual Dothraki Sea of course, but when I looked back at her first two chapters, I actually did find that, right from the beginning, Dany appears to us a sort of watery goddess. Her first chapter opens like this:
Her brother held the gown up for her inspection. “This is beauty. Touch it. Go on. Caress the fabric.” Dany touched it. The cloth was so smooth that it seemed to run through her fingers like water.
It’s a beautiful gown made of water, excellent. Very practical. After this comes the cringeworthy scene where Viserys gropes his sister’s breasts, then twists one of her nipples painfully. This is showing right from the start that this is an abusive relationship, and it’s also a reference to Nissa Nissa bearing her breast to Azor Ahai and being stabbed by Lightbringer, just as with all the other times Viserys does something like this to her. It’s the unkind version of the scene with Daario we just quoted in the intro.
Dany’s next move is to take a bath – I feel ya Dany, Viserys scenes make us all want to bathe. This is the famous scalding hot bath scene you probably remember from the TV show, the one where she shows a bit of her future ability to tolerate heat. As we discussed last time, Dany takes a lot of baths in pivotal scenes, including a couple of fiery baths, and here is the line from this one:
The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood.”
So she’s given a gown made of water, takes a hot bath, and afterward, “the girl brushed her hair until it shone like molten silver.” Not only is this symbolism wet and hot (aye carumba!), it’s also just generally evocative of silvery moon goddess mystique. She even checks out her molten silver hair in a silver looking glass, which is conveniently round, like a full moon. In her second chapter, which includes her wedding, we get this passage:
Afterward she could not say how far or how long they had ridden, but it was full dark when they stopped at a grassy place beside a small stream. Drogo swung off his horse and lifted her down from hers. She felt as fragile as glass in his hands, her limbs as weak as water.
This is the scene where Drogo and Dany first have sex, and it’s notable that it occurs by a stream. And look, Dany is made of water. Glass too, and since she is a dragon, this makes me think of dragonglass, although I think Martin is mainly using the word glass her for the more conventional purpose of portraying Dany as feeling nervous and weak. The watery legs description works well to that ends too, but also contributes to the other watery associations we find all around Dany. Is George making a “tall drink of water” joke here, since she’s like glass and water? Drogo is a tall drink of water, so I guess Dany is a short glass of water.
People made of water can melt. Moon maidens especially; we expect them to melt. We just saw Dany with “molten silver” hair, which sounds melty. And in the last Weirwood Compendium episode, we saw Dany “submerse herself” in the green grass see and become one with it, “losing herself in the green”… and that’s kind of like melting, certainly. The concept there seemed to be that Nissa Nissa dies and then not only enters the realm of the greenseers, but in some senses merges with and becomes the thing we think of as the weirwoodnet. Melting moon maidens are expressing the exact same concept.
We’ve seen this same idea expressed using the symbol of blood. You’ll recall Jorah’s fine dissertation on the various kinds of grasses in the world, including that bit about the Dothraki Sea turning into a sea of blood when it “blooms.” I interpreted that as a reference to the shed blood of the slain moon maiden entering the green sea, which of course amounts to Nissa Nissa merging with the green sea of the weirwoodnet after she is slain. To show you why I made that interpretation, we looked at two scenes that take place in the green Dothraki Sea where Dany symbolically has her blood boiled and melted: the dragon dream where “she could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam,” and the alchemical wedding, where she had the urge to run to Drogo in the pyre and “take him inside her one last time, the fire melting the flesh from their bones until they were as one, forever.” These are both Lightbringer forging scenes in the green sea that bring death transformations for Dany; I mean one is the bloody alchemical wedding, and the other is a dream of being burnt by a dragon, which would simply be the moon’s eye view of the oncoming comet, more or less. In both scenes, Nissa Nissa is melted and her blood is specifically mentioned.
Heck, the Lightbringer myth itself suggests Nissa Nissa’s blood as being boiled and melted. Nissa Nissa famously got stabbed by Lightbringer, and elsewhere (in the pages of the Jade Compendium, actually, chuckle chuckle), we hear about what happens when you get stabbed with Lightbringer:
Once Azor Ahai fought a monster. When he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast, its blood began to boil. Smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame.
Nissa Nissa certainly isn’t a monster, but you can imagine the same thing happening to our poor moon maiden when she was stabbed with white-hot Lightbringer, and thus we can see the idea of Nissa Nissa melting is hinted at right in the original tale of Lightbringer’s forging.
Perhaps the most clear expression of this symbolic bleeding and melting moon maiden idea was the scene involving Ygritte that we found two episodes ago, in Weirwood Compendium 6: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea. That was Jon’s dream of swimming in a hot pool beneath the heart tree of Winterfell’s godswood, where Ygritte’s flesh melts and dissolves into the pool:
You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she whispered, her skin dissolving in the hot water, the flesh beneath sloughing off her bones until only skull and skeleton remained, and the pool bubbled thick and red.
Ygritte, as we know, is a terrific red-headed weirwood goddess, and as a spear-wife, she even brings the Meliai ash tree nymph symbolism to life, since you will recall from the Venus of the Woods episode that those Meliai ash tree nymphs armed their sons with ash wood spears from their sacred ash trees. The Meliai were also created by Ouranos’s chopped-off balls, just like Aphrodite, so there’s even a Venus connection to the Meliai.
Ygrite’s name also contains a clear allusion to the root word of Yggdrasil, Ygg, and “Ygritte” may be intended to suggest an “Ygg rite,” since that would seem a good description of the idea of killing Nissa Nissa as a part of a magic rite to allow Azor Ahai to enter the weirwoodnet. You may also recall that there’s an ancient Ironborn myth where they seem to refer to weirwoods as “the demon tree Ygg,” which is essentially Martin tapping us on the shoulder and making sure we associate the weirwoods with Yggdrasil, and thus it’s no coincidence he named one of the weirwood goddess Nissa Nissa figures after old Yggy. Two other weirwood goddess figures, Asha Greyjoy and the wildling spearwife named Rowan, are both named after the ash tree, which is what Yggdrasil is, a “great ash tree,” which provides further context for Ygritte as “Ygg-rite.”
So, here is Ygritte, in front of Martin’s version of the Ygg tree, herself looking like a bit like a weirwood anyway with her red hair… and then she melts, with only her bones and blood remaining, and the blood fills the hot pool. Not only is she melting into the weirwood pool, we know that “blood and bone” is the frequently-used description of the weirwoods, so the idea of her “turning into a weirwood” is suggested in more than one way. As with Dany’s various submersions and meltings and boilings in the green Dothraki Sea, the message seems to be that Nissa Nissa, when slain, becomes one with the green see, so to speak. She turns to blood and dissolves into the green see. I especially like the way the Ygritte scene unites the bathing symbolism with the bleeding and melting symbolism, and again I would suggest that all of Dany’s symbolically rich scalding hot baths are getting at the same idea, hence her molten silver hair.
We see Dany’s silver hair again play the role of melting moon when she bathes after Rhaego’s stillbirth near the end of AGOT. This is also right before she walks into the pyre and wakes the dragons:
When she was clean, her handmaids helped her from the water. Irri and Jhiqui fanned her dry, while Doreah brushed her hair until it fell like a river of liquid silver down her back.
Notice her hair is not only like melting silver, but like a falling river of liquid silver, a molten silver waterfall. One imagines a moon melting right out of the sky and dripping down to earth… melty melty. There is even a third matching line about her hair being like wet silver, and it comes when Dany hears the story of the destruction of the second moon while sitting in a bath. It’s nestled right in the folds of the moon dragon myth itself: “Silvery-wet hair tumbled across her eyes as Dany turned her head, curious. “The moon?” “He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said.” ..and you know the rest.
Notice the word “tumbled” to imply the wet silvery moon hair falling from the sky or melting across the face of the moon. This melting moon maiden language is nicely paired here with the talk of a moon scalded and cracked open like an egg and Daenerys the moon maiden sitting in her hot bath. If you notice, the bath she sits in right before waking the dragons was called “scalding hot,” previewing Dany’s role as the moon egg that was scalded by the sun when she walks into the pyre.
With all these rivers of molten silver dripping off of Dany’s head into the bath, that bath might soon be a silver sea. A very small one, and a very small joke, but it is true that the Dothraki Grass Sea used to be an inland sea which was called the Silver Sea, and it was huge. A “Silver Sea” is an obvious symbol for the moon itself, especially when we have Dany the moon maiden’s silver hair melting like that in these three scenes. More on the Silver Sea in a moment (and I’d also point you towards the awesome new video from Crowfood’s Daughter on the Silver Sea, which you can find on the Disputed Lands YouTube channel), but for now think about it as a very large version of the reflective moon pool in Braavos, which is itself a larger version of the silver looking glass in Dany’s first chapter.
Consider the hair symbolism of the Nissa Nissa maidens we’ve studied. Most of them actually have red, “kissed-by-fire” hair, which is a great way to symbolize the burning of the second moon. It’s also a great way to create the image of the burning tree person that alludes to the weirwoods, whose red canopy looks like blood and fire. Dany doesn’t have kissed-by-fire hair, but rather the silvery-gold hair of Valyria; but then that’s the point of describing her silver hair as molten or liquid silver. It’s simply a different way to show a burning and melting moon.
And that’s just symbolism – you’ll recall that there are two scenes where Dany’s hair actually burns off! Talk about kissed by fire; that’s making the symbolism literal. Dany’s hair burns off both at the alchemical wedding and during the escape from the Meereenese fighting pit on Drogon’s back… both scenes which symbolize the burning of the moon to forge Lightbringer dragons. One scene happens in the Dothraki Sea, and the other as Dany is escaping into the Dothraki Sea, and so once again we can see George using the green Dothraki Sea as a backdrop to show that all these moon maidens aren’t just melting, but melting into the green see of the weirwoodnet.
At the end of Dany’s first chapter, Illyrio guides her and Viserys to Khal Drogo’s “manse,” which is the temporary home the Pentoshi happily keep for him when he comes here, part of their strategy for avoided strife with the Dothraki. There we find some awesome silvery moon symbolism:
They stepped past the eunuch into a pillared courtyard overgrown in pale ivy. Moonlight painted the leaves in shades of bone and silver as the guests drifted among them.
This would be the first of many instances of Martin giving us moonlight “silvering” things in the moonlight – usually white things, like weirwood bark, or gold things, like Jaime’s hair and armor at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. For example, when Arya practices her swordplay by night in the Harrenhal Godswood, it says “the light of the moon painted the limbs of the weirwood silvery white.” In fact, the “pale ivy” here at Drogo’s manse is painted in shades of “silver and bone,” and of course “bone white” is by far the most common description of weirwood wood. It makes a ton of sense to see moon and weirwood colors appearing together, since weirwoods have a ton of lunar symbolism, as we know from the Moon Door, the House of Black and White door, and the Black Gate weirwood face door that glows like milk and moonlight.
The occasion for this gathering is actually Drogo and Dany’s engagement. To me, the silver-and-bone-in-the-moonlight ivy here seems like a subtle way to tie Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa’s wedding, symbolized here by Drogo and Dany, to the weirwoods and the moon. Their wedding and consummation takes place in the green grass outside Pentos – on the edge of the green see in other words – so it’s all fairly consistent. Or simply look at it this way: Drogo the solar king found his Nissa Nissa among the silver and bone foliage of the garden on the edge of the green see. If the pale ivy looked painted in silver and bone by the moonlight, how do you think freaking Daenerys looked? Like a silvery white tree goddess, I’d imagine.
Moving on to Dany’s second chapter, we find a nice introduction of the Dothraki’s status as honorary sea people:
“A mighty earthen ramp had been raised amid the grass palaces, and there Dany was seated beside Khal Drogo, above the seething sea of Dothraki.”
They are sea people who come from the Dothraki Sea… I mean they did choose Jason Momoa (the Khal Drogo actor) to play Aquaman, did they not? Case closed. They’re sea men. On a more serious note, the Greek sea god Poseidon has a very strong association with horses, so it’s likely George drew some amount of inspiration from Poseidon when he thought of equating horse lords and sea lords.
As for those horselords of the grass sea, many have noticed the Dothraki’s philosophical similarities with the Ironborn: the Dothraki do not sew, like the Greyjoys, even believing farming to be some sort of defilement of mother earth. Viserys says “All these savages know how to do is steal the things better men have built … and kill,” and excepting for the bigoted and ignorant use of the word savage which is meant to make us see Viserys as constantly shitty, he has a point. The Dothraki do indeed steal everything, almost as a point of pride, just as the Ironborn take pride in “paying the iron price” and even cast shame on paying coin for nice things, as we saw with Theon and Balon. Obviously, both cultures emphasize warrior strength and tend to follow strength. And as we’re about to discuss, the Dothraki are at the center of a lot of conflation between horses and boats. I mean, if you consider boats to be wooden horses, as Drogo does, then the Ironborn are horselords of the sea, just like the Dothraki… only not like the Dothraki.
Who knows, maybe if Dany and Vic work out something to use the Ironborn ships to ferry Dany’s army to Westeros, we’ll get some amusing interplay between Victarion and some Dothraki where they explain why you cant sail a longship across the Great Grass Sea, ha. We can only hope.
So, to sum up – Nissa Nissa is a moon goddess, and when she dies, she melts into the green see of the weirwoodnet. That’s essentially what all these various metaphors about bathing, melting, and burning are about. Dany and her silver hair melting in the green Dothraki Sea, while at the same time assimilating with the lords of that sea is an especially watery version of that metaphor, and it makes a great counterbalance to all the fiery, wake the dragon symbolism which burns hot in Dany’s dreams and then explodes to life at the alchemical wedding. You will recall, however, that even on the first go-round analyzing the alchemical wedding, we noted the many watery descriptions of the fire there, such as when “the dusk shimmered as the air itself seemed to liquefy from the heat.” It’s the lake of fire!
You’ll also recall that from the beginning of the Weirwood Compendium, we have interpreted one aspect of the Sea Dragon myth to be a memory of a giant flaming piece of moon, a bleeding star with a fiery tail, falling into the sea. Thus you can see that this seemingly new idea of Nissa Nissa dying and going into the weirwoodnet was already incubating in the early mythical astronomy theories. Ravenous Reader’s green see metaphor does an exquisite job of unifying the various ideas about fiery moon meteor swords and dragons plunging into the sea with the idea of dying Nissa Nissa bringing her life and fire to the weirwoodnet, and allows us to see them as two sides of the same coin. At the end of the day, Nissa Nissa was sacrificed around the time the moon meteors fell, which is of course right in the original Lightbringer myth, which has Nissa Nissa’s death cry cracking the face of the moon.
Silver Sea Horse for a Silver Sea
The other big thing that happens at the wedding that pertains to our lines of investigation is the gifting of the silver horse to Dany. That’s where we are going to kick this essay into a full gallop, and for those of you who like House Velaryon, well, you’re going to be very happy.
There’s.. a lot to unpack here (dramatic understatement), so strap in or saddle up or whatever works for you. This paragraph is the tip of a truly titanic iceberg of symbolism. A silver glacier, if you will.
She was a young filly, spirited and splendid. Dany knew just enough about horses to know that this was no ordinary animal. There was something about her that took the breath away. She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke. Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane. Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated. “Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says.”
Alright, so, there are three different and completely awesome lines of symbolism going on here, at least. One pertains to the Grey King and the sea dragon’s fire, one to the idea of sea horses and House Velaryon, and the third one to Odin’s grey horse called Sleipnir. Naturally, there is some overlap, because they all relate to the idea of dragons in the green see of the weirwoodnet, and specifically to Nissa Nissa’s dissolution into the green see. We’ll start with the Grey King stuff.
“Grey as a winter sea” should definitely put us in mind of the Grey King, since that is exactly the phrase used to describe his hair and beard (as well as that of the Merling King statue in White Harbor, which is a variation of the same archetypal figure). But the horse’s mane is silver smoke, and smoke only comes from fire – so there must be fire in the grey winter sea. Something fiery must have fallen in to the sea, if you catch my drift. Indeed, as we just discussed, the Grey King is known for acquiring the living fire of Nagga the sea dragon from the sea, before turning as grey as a winter sea himself, and we know that one meaning of this myth is that a fiery meteor dragon fell into the sea.
Now while the sea and smoke description of the horse implies the idea of a fiery moon falling into the sea, Dany spells it out when Dany hops on the horse, because she is the fiery moon maiden! Since it’s the horse’s body that looks like the winter sea and its mane that is like silver smoke, we can even see the horses’s back as the horizon line of the ocean, with Dany on the back of the horse appearing half-submersed below the water like a sinking moon, silver smoke roiling from the waterline all around.
Of course we know that all this sea dragon and meteors falling into the sea stuff is also talking about dragon people going into the green sea of the weirwoods, and that is implied here in the grey-as-a-winter-sea horse’s description as well. When we consider the fact that Drogo compares the silver smoke-like mane of the horse to Dany’s molten silver hair, we can imagine the horses mane as molten silver dripping into its grey as a winter sea body. This is simply more Nissa Nissa dissolution language, comparable to Dany losing herself in the Dothraki Sea or Ygritte melting in the Winterfell pond before the heart tree, and so on. It’s Nissa Nissa becoming the sea.
And yes, I did just call the horse a “grey-as-a-winter-sea horse.” A sea horse, just the thing to ride around the Dothraki Sea! The Dothraki steeds are automatically a kind of sea horse in that the run on the waves of the grass sea (you may recall Dany observing the Dothraki as being “as fluid as centaurs”). Martin is encouraging us to see the connection by describing the silver horse’s coat as a winter sea. The fact that seahorses appear to fly through the water on fins that look like wings plays right into the green see word play, since a greenseer is said to “fly” when he does astral projection through the weirwood trees. One of the preferred habitats for seahorses are seagrass beds, as it happens, so putting a seahorse in the Dothraki Grass Sea works visually as well. And now you’ll always picture Dany riding a seahorse around in the tall grasses, ha ha.
This horse which is the color of a grey sea is hereafter always referred to as “her silver,” so we can even say it’s a silver sea horse! That is of course no accident of wordplay either, because as we mentioned, the green grassland that we call the Dothraki Sea used to be a huge inland sea called “The Silver Sea.” It was ruled by the divine-sounding Fisher Queens who lived in floating a palace, making them floating mermaid goddess figures, much like Daenerys in the Dothraki Sea. These Fisher Queen links only emphasize Dany’s mermaid queen / aquatic goddess symbolism, and now that Dany is swimming in this formerly silver sea, she has a silver sea horse.
We can even say that Dany riding the horse is like floating in a silver sea itself, and not just because its coat looks like a sea. It’s because the horse is also called Dany’s “silver mare” – but the Latin word mar or mer means sea, such as in the words marine or mermaid or Stella Maris, and thus silver mare could easily be interpreted as silver sea. I mean, Martin says is looks like a sea and like silver, but it’s fun to find the extra wordplay angle. A silver mar is a silver sea, ha ha.
One of our newly-minted Long Night’s Watch patrons, Tinnjack of the Dragonglass Shield, Ghost-Hunter of the Haunted Forest and Righteous Hand of the Snow Owl, chimes in with a great observation here. The dark spots on the moon are called “lunar maria,” which is the plural form of “lunar mare,” because early astronomers mistook them for seas on the moon. You see how naturally all of this symbolism works together – the silver sea horse is a silver mare, which implies it as a silver sea and even a moon sea.
Martin actually teases us by showing us the silver see horse running in the actual, wet sea, the one made of water. This is from ASOS before Dany has taken Meereen:
Suddenly she could not stand the close confines of the pavilion another moment. I want to feel the wind on my face, and smell the sea. “Missandei,” she called, “have my silver saddled. Your own mount as well.”
She wants to smell the sea, so she has her silver saddled – you need seahorse to ride the waves of the sea, of course. Then a moment later, we read:
The tide was coming in, and the surf foamed about the feet of her silver. She could see her ships standing out to sea. Balerion floated nearest; the great cog once known as Saduleon, her sails furled. Further out were the galleys Meraxes and Vhagar, formerly Joso’s Prank and Summer Sun.
Ah ha, it’s a little Aphrodite sea-foam, very nice, just to make sure we know this is all about stars falling into the sea and goddesses rising from the sea. It’s the “surf” foaming around the feet of her silver, so maybe George, a huge comics fan, is making a Silver Surfer joke here, who knows. As you can see, Dany’s silver horse is now actually in the sea, a true silver seahorse at last. If you’ll look to your left (tour guide voice), you’ll see the sea dragon boats, floating at harbor. Sea dragon boats are of course very similar to the idea of a sea-horse; they both symbolize vehicles you can use to ride the waves of the green see.
With all this talk of silver seahorses and sea dragon boats, surely you are jumping out of your chair to say “ooh ooh! House Velaryon!” And you are right, clever myth head! The sigil of House Velaryon of Driftmark, a House with the blood of old Valyria in their veins, is indeed a silver seahorse on sea green. The Velaryons are dragons who became silver seahorses swimming in the green see, in other words, just as Dany the dragon rides her silver sea horse in the green Dothraki Sea, formerly the Silver Sea of the Fisher Queens.
As a matter of fact… (takes deep breath) …basically 100% of House Velaryon’s symbolism seems designed to demonstrate the idea of greenseer dragons. Besides the dragon-to-silver-seahorse thing, we have the fact that the Velaryons are basically the heart of the Targaryen royal fleet of sea dragon boats. This is from TWOIAF:
He was a scion of House Velaryon: a family of old and storied Valyrian heritage who had come to Westeros before the Targaryens, as the histories agree, and who often provided the bulk of the royal fleet. So many Velaryons served as lord admiral and master of ships that it was, at times, almost considered a hereditary office.
The “he” in this paragraph is by far the most famous member of the house of the seahorse, and that is of course the Sea Snake, Corlys Velaryon. The Sea Snake is named for one of his ships, and a boat named “Sea Snake” is already a fine sea dragon boat symbol in its own right, even before you consider that its captain is a blood of the dragon person with a ton of greenseer symbolism. A sea dragon sailing a sea dragon, that’s what he is, and of course his most famous voyages were to the Jade Sea, a match for the sea-green of his sigil. And that makes Corlys a green dragon as well as a see dragon, so he slides very nicely into all the Rhaegal and Jade Sea-related stuff from the last Weirwood Compendium episode, where we saw green dragon and sea dragon ideas constantly overlapping and intertwining… because of course, they are really sending the same message about greenseer dragons.
In addition to general nautical prowess and the many Velryons serving as Master of Ships and Lord Admiral, the ruling lord of the family bears the title “Lord of the Tides.” Of course, the real lord of the tides is the moon, which causes and regulates the earth’s ocean tides, and of course the silver seahorse represents the silver moon. In general, the Velaryons seem to be moon characters pretty consistently.
I mentioned a moment ago that seahorses, cute little buggers that they are, swim upright and almost appear to fly through the water. A couple of other notes on seahorse anatomy: they have a kind of bony skin armor – the wikipedia page calls it armor, so I’m not stretching the truth here – and together with the wings and the curling tail, you can see how you might interpret a seahorse as a cross between horses, very tiny bug-eyed fish, and armored sea dragons. Most depictions of the Velaryon sigil play up the dragon look of the seahorse, which makes sense of course since they are dragon-blooded seahorses. As it happens, horses and snakes are the two animals that dragons are most compared to, such as in this line from Quentyn’s Dragontamer chapter of ADWD:
The dragon’s head was larger than a horse’s, and the neck stretched on and on, uncoiling like some great green serpent as the head rose, until those two glowing bronze eyes were staring down at him.
That’s far from the only passage like that – snake / dragon comparison abound and the dragon’s heads are compared to horses on other occasions as well. This passage is the best because it features a green dragon-turned-serpent with a horse head, so it’s basically a kind of remix on the dragon-ish seahorse idea.
Speaking of green dragons, House Velaryon, and the moon, consider Corlys’s granddaughter Baela Targaryen, daughter of the Rogue Prince Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon – and the rider of the green dragon Moondancer, though only as a young teenager. You’ll recall her heroic dragonrider-vs-dragonrider battle with king Aegon II and Sunfyre which killed Moondancer – that’s a sun-kills-moon scene which signifies Baela’s Nissa Nissa moment. Baela eventually goes into the green see by marrying back into House Velaryon, as a post-moon disaster Nissa Nissa should. In particular, Baela married Alyn Velaryon, who would have been at best her third cousin but probably further removed than that, and it is from Baela and Alyn that the current house Velaryon descends.
Analyzing this lineage in terms of sigil-based symbolism, we can say that her story follows the symbolic story of House Velaryon: born to the house of the of the blood of the dragon, she rode the green dragon and became a seahorse swimming in the green sea. Although Moondancer and Baela didn’t crash in the water when they had that duel with Moondancer over Dragonstone, like so many other drowning moon maidens and moon dragons, Baela herself was saved by the water, in a sense. After she crashed and survived, a mean guy named Ser Alfred Broome wanted to execute her, while a brave and true man named Marston Waters stopped him and carried Baela to the maester instead, saving her life. Saved by the waters!
We can also observe that Dragonstone, where Baela and Moondancer landed, is basically the archetypal template for the dragon meteor plunging into the sea motif. It’s a smoking dragon rock in the sea, which gives the same visual image as Dany riding her grey-as-a-winter-sea horse, with Dany as the dragon rock sitting half below the waterline with smoke coming out of the sea around her. Tssssssss….
There’s a nice “moons of ice and fire” clue with Baela and her twin sister Rhaena that is worth mentioning. We can tell from her Moondancer / Sunfyre fight that Baela is the fire moon figure, and thus her sister Rhaena must be the ice moon… and indeed, Rhaena marries into House Hightower, which has white tower and white dragon symbolism, and most famous Hightower in the story was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Gerold Hightower, which brings the heavy Others symbolism of the White Sword Knights into the mix.
Even more clear is the symbolism of what Rhaena did during the Dance of the Dragons while her sister Baela was getting into dragonfight with King Aegon and Sunfyre: she was safely tucked away in the icy Eyrie! That’s right, Rhaena played the dragon locked in ice and even brought three dragon eggs to the Eyrie. Rhaenastays at Dragonstone, a fire moon symbol, and Rhaena goes to the Eyrie, an ice moon symbol, very like the pattern we saw with Rhaenys (the fire moon) and Visenya (the ice moon) during the Conequest – Rhaenys died in Dorne while Visenya went to the Vale twice.
Rhaena’s dragons tell the story too. Her first dragon dies immediately after hatching, perhaps indicative of some sort of baby-sacrifice symbolism. But she eventually bonds with the very last Targaryen dragon, one of the three eggs she brought to the Vale. The dragon actually hatches in the icy Vale, making it a perfect dragon-locked-in-ice symbol, and it even has a great dragon locked in ice name… Morning. That’s right, the dragon’s name is Morning, evoking the idea of Dawn, the Sword of the Morning, which believe to be the original Ice of House Stark. Setting aside the Dawn = Ice idea, the waking dragon locked in ice is pretty much equivalent to the sword of the morning, the one who brings the dawn. Morning, by the way, is “a pale pink hatchling with black horns and crest,” so one images the pale pink of a dawn sky… or perhaps the pale red flame of the sword Dawn, burning with magical fire? Who knows.
We aren’t done with House Velaryon, seahorses, Daenerys, or fiery things falling into the sea. However we are now going to focus on four silver dragons the tie into all of these things, and there’s simply too much Velaryon / seahorse goodness to be contained by one section.
That’ll be Four Silver Dragons, Ma’am
I can’t help but notice that Dany’s silver horse having a coat like a winter sea and a mane like silver smoke kinda reminds me of the dragon Seasmoke, a dragon described alternately as grey and white, pale grey, and silver-grey. I mean those are the same descriptions – grey and silver, sea and smoke. Even better, Seasmoke is no random dragon – he was ridden by a fellow named Addam Velaryon! And Addam was no random Velaryon – he was the brother of Alyn Velaryon, who married Baela, rider of Moondancer. Wow, right? Dany’s silver horse looks like the sea and like smoke, and plays massively on the seahorse symbolism of House Velaryon, and then House Velaryon has a dragon named Seasmoke. Dany is a silver dragon riding a silver seahorse, and Addam Velaryon is a silver seahorse riding a silver dragon. Mind = blown.
It gets worse, of course, when we consider the sea dragon meteor symbolism. A dragon called Seasmoke is once again creating the visual depiction of a dragon meteor submersing in the sea and causing smoke, just like Dragonstone, a smoking rock in the sea, or Daenerys when she rides her smoking silver sea horse. Tssssss.
And yes, doomed Valyria, now covered by the smoking sea, is getting at the same idea. The Doom is obviously a strong parallel to the fire moon destruction, and it’s now a sunken land of fire partially covered by a smoking sea.
In other words, Seasmoke and Dany’s horse match not only in terms of descriptive language – grey and silver, sea and smoke – but also in terms of symbolic meaning (sea dragon meteors falling in the sea). Although we love talking about meteors and the tsunamis they cause, the more important layer of meaning to the sea dragon and the idea of drowning moon meteors is the idea of dragon people going into the green see and becoming greenseers. We known Martin is using Dany’s silver to depict her as riding her seahorse in the green sea, and wouldn’t ya known it, the Addam Velaryon / Seasmoke greenseer symbolism gets dialed up to eleven during the Dance of the Dragons.
That’s right – my eyes kinda popped out of my head when I read that Addam Velaryon took Seasmoke to the friggin’ Isle of Faces to consult with the Green Men during the Dance, before raising an army from the Riverlands and leading them to Tumbleton to Battle Ulf the White and Silverwing, amongst others.
Say what? I know, right? Yes, though the maesters dismiss it as an obviously false tale, it is indeed said that Addam Velaryon took Seasmoke to the Isle of Faces to chill with the green men before raising an army. The idea of raising an army “from the lands watered by the Trident” and “from the Riverlords,” as it is written in The Princess and the Queen, is suggestive of raising an army of green men, from the green sea. Obviously George couldn’t have Addam actually storm Tumbleton with actual Green Men, but by sending him to the green men and then giving him an army of Riverlanders from the Trident, he’s sending that message.
We also have to back up and simply appreciate the symbolic ramifications of sending a dragon and a dragonlord to the Isle of Faces. It’s creating the well-known “stabbing the Gods Eye” symbol, since the dragon is basically flying into the pupil of the Gods Eye, which equates to the moon in the celestial version of the Gods Eye. But it’s also a symbol of dragons and dragonlords going into the weirwoodnet, since nothing represents the weirwoodnet better than the green Isle of Faces, which is portrayed to us as basically an island full of weirwoods. It’s especially notable because it’s a Velaryon dragonlord, who carries the greenseer symbolism of their sigil with him, and then when you recall how the dragon Seasmoke parallels Dany’s silver seahorse, you see that George has essentially tripled down on the “dragons into the green see” symbolism here.
This must be an important idea, because George mirrored it pretty much beat-for-beat with another silver dragon, Silverwing. Silverwing is most famous for being the mount of Good Queen Alysanne, but was later ridden by Ulf the White during the Dance of the Dragons. Ulf was one of the two betrayers of Tumbleton, and it was he and Hugh the Hammer that Addam Velaryon as his army were coming to fight. Ulf the White is an interesting name – Ulf sounds like elf or perhaps wolf. He’s also known as Ulf the Sot, because he’s a drunk – but that also implies him as drinking the fire of the gods. He did in fact die by poisoned wine, so we actually get the whole drinking the fire of the gods and dying routine, a la Aerion Brightflame.
So here’s where Silverwing echoes Seasmoke going to the Isle of Faces: after all the horrendous fighting at Tumbleton, Silverwing went wild and made a lair on an island in the middle of Red Lake, which like Tumbleton is in the Reach. Right away you can see it’s once again a silver dragon going to an island in a lake, but there’s more, because Red Lake also has great skinchanger symbolism to parallel the Isle of Faces.
If you remember from out Zodiac Children of Garth the Green episode, Rose of Red Lake is one of the named children of Garth the Green. She was “a skinchanger, able to transform into a crane at will—a power some say still manifests from time to time in the women of House Crane, her descendants.” Another child of Garth was Brandon of the Bloody Blade, who “drove the giants from the Reach and warred against the children of the forest, slaying so many at Blue Lake that it has been known as Red Lake ever since.” Because of the sexual implications of the bloody blade symbolism, it seems likely that Brandon of the Bloody Blade was in fact impregnating children of the forest here at Red Lake and the Reach – which is of course how you get human skinchangers, like those attributed to House Crane, House Stark, and others. Before Brandon waved his bloody blade around, Rose of Red Lake would have been Rose of Blue Lake, which seems an obvious nod to blue roses and thus to maidens of House Stark who die giving birth – which is what happens to female children of the forest impregnated by humans, more often than not.
Consider also that since Rose is “of the lake,” which implies her as an aquatic humanoid – but of course that’s just symbolic parlance for being “of the green sea.” Her lake turns from blue to red due to the shed blood of the children of the forest, which is symbolically her blood. That brings us back to the idea of a child of the forest Nissa Nissa bleeding out into the sea, just like Ygritte in Jon’s Winterfell dream or the idea of the the Dothraki Sea turning to a sea of blood when it “flowers.”
Ergo, the stories we have around Red Lake all have to do with skinchanging and humans attaining greenseer abilities. So when Silverwing goes and makes her lair there, on an island in the middle of the lake… it is indeed a wonderful parallel to Seasmoke the pale silver dragon going to the Isle of Faces, talking to the Green Men. Addam Velaryon raising an army of symbolic aquatic people from the green see (the rivermen from the Trident) might work as a parallel to the idea of Garth the Green and his son Brandon breeding generations of humans that carry skinchanger and greenseer genetics from the children of the forest.
I hate to tell you this guys, but there are two other silver dragons that we know of, and they both “go to the Gods Eye” as well, albeit in more violent fashion. One is Quicksilver, the dragon of King Aenys Targaryen and his young son Aegon after him. Quicksilver (and young Aegon) were unfortunately pitted against Maegor the Cruel riding the huge Balerion the Black Dread, with Quicksilver being about a quarter the size of the Black Dread, who was in his prime, more or less. Both Quicksilver and Aegon died – at a battle called “The Battle Beneath the Gods Eye.” It’s more violent, but it’s a direct parallel to Addam taking jis silver dragon to the Gods Eye and the Isle of Faces.
Our fourth and final silver dragon is the most famous one of them all, and that would be “Meraxes of the golden eyes and silver scales,” as she is called in TWOIAF. She didn’t die over the Gods Eye lak, but the manner of her death is of course a smashing replica of the piercing of the Gods Eye, as I am sure you all know by now. Meraxes was shot through her eye with a scorpion bolt at the Hellholt in Dorne, and of course both Meraxes and her rider Rhaenys are analogs to the fire moon and Nissa Nissa. Here’s a new layer to this familiar story though: a ‘holt’ is a small wood or grove; thus “hell-holt” implies some sort of hell tree. A demon tree you might say, like the terrible flesh consuming weirwoods, the trees which look like they are bleeding and burning in symbolic imitation of the bleeding and burning of Nissa Nissa and the moon. Ergo, Meraxes takes the Gods Eye wound and falls into the Hellholt, an infernal grove of trees, symbolically speaking. Both send the familiar message of a dragon “going to the Gods Eye,” i.e. going into the weirwoodnet.
An honorable mention goes to Grey Ghost, a wild and presumably pale grey dragon that lived on Dragonstone. Grey Ghost was, sadly, torn apart by Sunfyre, her corpse left in two pieces near the base of the Dragonmont, and Dragonstone is in deed an island in the sea and a symbol of the fire moon. Not a particularly green island though so the parallel isn’t very strong to the other silver dragons, but two details bear mention. Dany’s silver and grey horse is introduced as “spirited and splendid,” perhaps impying it as a spirit horse. That makes sense, since greenseeing is all about astral projection, i.e. flying with your spirit. If we are using the horse as the metaphor for the vehicle that enables such flight, it can be thought of as a spirit horse or a ghost horse.
Secondly, here’s a cool passage about Grey Ghost
Grey Ghost dwelt in a smoking vent high on the eastern side of the Dragonmont, preferred fish, and was most oft glimpsed flying low over the narrow sea, snatching prey from the waters. A pale grey-white beast, the color of morning mist, he was a notably shy dragon who avoided men and their works for years at a time.
Morning mists are described as “morning ghosts” in ASOIAF, and here the Grey Ghost is as pale as morning mist, very cool. Grey Ghost likes to fly low over the sea, waiting to dive in to catch fish – that’s good sea dragon action.
Here I’d like to add a word on George’s gardener writing style and how that interacts with symbolism. Obviously George wrote these Daenerys scenes in the Dothraki Sea with her silver horse a long time before he wrote about Seasmoke, Silverwing, Quicksilver, Meraxes’s death in Dorne, Moondancer and rest of the Dance of the Dragons. He did conceive of House Velaryon and their basic symbolism by the beginning of ACOK, but essentially what seems to have happened is that when George was inventing dragons to fill out the battles of the Dance of the Dragons history, he built on the silver seahorse symbolism he already created with Dany and House Velaryon by giving Laenor and Addam Velaryon a dragon called Seasmoke whose name and symbolism correlate to Dany’s silver horse. He did the same with all these other silver dragons “going to the Gods Eye” in various ways, and the same goes for Moondancer legendary fight with Sunfyre and all of Baela’s life story. It’s a clever way of building upon the lines of symbolism he laid out initially as he fleshes out the corners of his world.
All of which is to say… it’s not an accident that Dany is riding a silver sea horse around the green Dothraki Sea. It’s a clever way to build on the obvious seahorse metaphor implied by the horselords ruling a grassland sea and bring in a whole metric assload of other greenseer dragon symbolism.
Horses that ride in the Dothraki Sea are like seahorses, I think we got that by now. But that’s actually only one side of the seahorse metaphor, because there are a not-insignificant number of ships that sail on actual water who are thought of as horses. A seahorse of another color!
“It was prophesied that the stallion will ride to the ends of the earth,” she said.
“The earth ends at the black salt sea,” Drogo answered at once. He wet a cloth in a basin of warm water to wipe the sweat and oil from his skin. “No horse can cross the poison water.”
“In the Free Cities, there are ships by the thousand,” Dany told him, as she had told him before. “Wooden horses with a hundred legs, that fly across the sea on wings full of wind.”
The seahorse material we just hashed out in detail is really all about greenseeing, and I briefly mentioned that the seahorse works very similarly to the sea dragon boat idea, both of them being vehicles you use to ride or sail the green see, which means astral projection through the use of the weirwood tree. Well, wooden seahorse boats basically merge those ideas, especially since it is the dragon princess who wants to sail these seahorse boats – they would then be sea dragon ships and wooden seahorses.
The astral projection aspect of greenseeing is spelled out by the fact that these wooden seahorses have wings of wind on which they can fly. Dany also mentioned something about the Stallion Who Mounts the World riding to the ends of the earth – that sounds like either astral projection or a prophecy of doom – the Stallion rides to the ends of the earth could be read like “Nero fiddles to the end of Rome,” or even just as the Stallion riding to an event which is the end of the earth. We’ll come back to the Stallion Who Mounts – let’s stick with winged wooden seahorses and see where we get with that.
Sea horse boats with wings full of wind actually bring us back to Dany’s silver sea horse, which as it turns out, has windy wings too. After Drogo gives her the silver sea horse, she goes for a ride, and as she picks up speed, she finds herself headed straight for a campfire:
The silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings. When she pulled up before Magister Illyrio, she said, “Tell Khal Drogo that he has given me the wind.” The fat Pentoshi stroked his yellow beard as he repeated her words in Dothraki, and Dany saw her new husband smile for the first time. The last sliver of sun vanished behind the high walls of Pentos to the west just then. Dany had lost all track of time.
Ah, so it’s a windy, winged horse – perfect for flying, like a greenseer flies, and of course the wind is what the greenseers use to speak through the trees. The silver horse is like the wind, and that reminds us of the “swift as the wind he rides” language of the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy. Notice that Dany loses all track of time while riding the grey horse – this is most likely a reference to the timelessness of the greenseer existence. She’s riding her winged silver-grey sea horse in the green see and losing track of time… you see what’s going on here.
I hope you know that House Velaryon is also going to get up in the mix of this other side of the seahorse metaphor coin. They do love boats after all. There’s a great clue about their seahorse being linked to flying ships during the burning of the Seven / forging of fake Lightbringer scene on Dragonstone. Davos sees his sons mingling with the nobility, including the heirs of House Velaryon, and he thinks “In time my little black ship will fly as high as Velaryon’s seahorse,” which gives us both flying ships and flying silver sea horses in one line. And at the risk of stating the obvious, this is happening when the wooden sea dragon boats-turned-statues of the gods of the Seven are burned and Lightbringer is “forged.” Flying boats, flying seahorses, and burning sea dragon boats, all in one, all gathered around the Lightbringer ritual. On Dragonstone, a smoking rock in the sea.
Not too long after the burning of the Seven, it’s finally time for Stannis to attack King’s Landing to take what is his by rights (lol, don’t take yourself so seriously bro). Naturally, the Velaryons are a major part of the fleet, and we see an excellent juxtaposition of sea dragon and seahorse symbolism when they approach the city:
The warhorns sounded again, commands drifting back from the Fury. Davos felt a tingle in his missing fingertips. “Out oars,” he shouted. “Form line.” A hundred blades dipped down into the water as the oarmaster’s drum began to boom. The sound was like the beating of a great slow heart, and the oars moved at every stroke, a hundred men pulling as one.
Wooden wings had sprouted from the Wraith and Lady Marya as well. The three galleys kept pace, their blades churning the water. “Slow cruise,” Davos called. Lord Velaryon’s silver-hulled Pride of Driftmark had moved into her position to port of Wraith, and Bold Laughter was coming up fast, but Harridan was only now getting her oars into the water and Seahorse was still struggling to bring down her mast.
The drums are beating in unison like a great heartbeart, and we have discussed this previously as a symbol of the hive mind of the heart trees, issuing forth from a fleet of Stannis’s sea dragon ships – ones which burn with green fire to make the greenseer symbolism even thicker. Revisiting this passage again, we can see that the wooden wings of the sea dragon boats sprout when the hive mind heartbeat is achieved. This is heavy-duty astral projection symbolism, and wooden wings are about as obvious a reference to the idea of using trees to fly as you could want.
As promised, you can see that right alongside all this great sea dragon ship stuff, we also find seahorses – Lord Velaryon’s silver ship and another ship called Seahorse, which is presumably also owned by the Velaryons.
All of these sea-going dragon boats and winged wooden seahorses are flying straight for the fire of the gods, and they get in the form of a fifty-foot tall jade demon with “a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire.” One of the ships touched by the jade demon is Lord Velaryon’s ship:
Lord Velaryon’s shining Pride of Driftmark was trying to turn, but the demon ran a lazy green finger across her silvery oars and they flared up like so many tapers. For an instant she seemed to be stroking the river with two banks of long bright torches.
Alright, now those wooden wings are burning – shades of Icarus, perhaps, and either way, it’s the merging of the burning sea dragon boat idea and the winged wooden seahorse idea. The green fire of the gods has been obtained, but I’m not sure how proud lord Velaryon is feeling right at that moment.
The name Pride of Driftmark actually creates another parallel to Dany’s damnable silver horse that I won’t stop talking about:
Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane. Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated. “Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says.”
“She’s beautiful,” Dany murmured.
“She is the pride of the khalasar,” Illyrio said. “Custom decrees that the khaleesi must ride a mount worthy of her place by the side of the khal.”
The pride of the horse lords is a silver sea horse, the Pride of Driftmark is a silver ship belonging to the Seahorse Lord. And come on – you know that ship has a Seahorse of some kind on its prow, right? Anyway, let’s hope Dany’s silver does not catch on fire like Lord Velaryon’s silver ship.
Or like this horse from ADWD:
In a dozen heartbeats they were past the Dothraki, as he galloped far below. To the right and left, Dany glimpsed places where the grass was burned and ashen. Drogon has come this way before, she realized. Like a chain of grey islands, the marks of his hunting dotted the green grass sea.
A vast herd of horses appeared below them. There were riders too, a score or more, but they turned and fled at the first sight of the dragon. The horses broke and ran when the shadow fell upon them, racing through the grass until their sides were white with foam, tearing the ground with their hooves … but as swift as they were, they could not fly. Soon one horse began to lag behind the others. The dragon descended on him, roaring, and all at once the poor beast was aflame, yet somehow he kept on running, screaming with every step, until Drogon landed on him and broke his back. Dany clutched the dragon’s neck with all her strength to keep from sliding off.
Yeah, horses can’t fly, that would be silly. Of course her silver horse did seem like it had wings when she first rode it, and if we read the quote again, we find hope that Dany’s horse will not burn. The line was “silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings.” See? Good news. Flies right over the fire, ha.
Dany’s last ADWD chapter from which that last quote came also has a nice passage where Dany compares riding Drogon to riding her silver:
The dragonlords of old Valyria had controlled their mounts with binding spells and sorcerous horns. Daenerys made do with a word and a whip. Mounted on the dragon’s back, she oft felt as if she were learning to ride all over again. When she whipped her silver mare on her right flank the mare went left, for a horse’s first instinct is to flee from danger. When she laid the whip across Drogon’s right side he veered right, for a dragon’s first instinct is always to attack.
If we are comparing Dany’s mounts to one another, as she does here, then we can look at the silver mare as a symbol of the moon, pre-destruction: an untainted silver sea, looking-glass flat. A nice, happy silver moon, or a nice, happy silver horse. Drogon is the moon, post destruction: a fire-breathing dragon, symbolic of the fiery black meteors the moon became. Recall that Dany’s silver hair burns off when she mounts Drogon in Daznak’s pit, just as it did it Drogo’s pyre when she woke the dragons – this symbolizes the shift from silver moon to a burnt moon.
Speaking of Drogo’s pyre, that’s actually where we are going to finish this essay with our last flying silver (or grey) horse. This one really does fly up to the stars:
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 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.
( . . . )
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.
This really is similar to Dany’s horse, which looks like a grey sea and like silver smoke; Drogo’s mount is a great grey stallion limned in smoke, with a mane of blue flame. It’s being summoned here as the moon maiden is burned, as the dragons are woken, and as the fiery sorcerers dance and swirl their smoky cloaks. The column of rising smoke and ash is a weirwood tree symbol via the “ash tree” dual metaphor, which we covered in detail in Weirwood Compendium 4: In a Grove of Ash, and we also know there are other weirwood symbols here like the burning logs with secret hears, the thunderous green dragon awakening, and one or two others. It is here that Dany’s Nissa Nissa sacrifice opens up the way for Azor Ahai to ride the grey / silver horse, almost as if Dany had given her silver horse to Drogo. Now he can ride up to the sea of stars.
In Dany’s “wake the dragon” dream, which foreshadows this dragon-hatching bonfire, there’s an allusion to the silver horse being an astral projection mount that can gallop through the stars:
Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars.
As above so below, because the grass below is a sea, just as the stars above are a sea. Honestly, I mostly included that last quote because the “sea of stars” line is so cool, but the far stronger clue about riding the silver or grey horse into the stars comes at the beginning of the alchemical wedding chapter when Dany’s inner monologue explains the Dothraki beliefs about such things:
When a horselord dies, his horse is slain with him, so he might ride proud into the night lands. The bodies are burned beneath the open sky, and the khal rises on his fiery steed to take his place among the stars. The more fiercely the man burned in life, the brighter his star will shine in the darkness.
Jhogo spied it first. “There,” he said in a hushed voice. Dany looked and saw it, low in the east. The first star was a comet, burning red. Bloodred; fire red; the dragon’s tail. She could not have asked for a stronger sign.
According to Dothraki beliefs, Drogo is riding the stallion of smoke and flame up to the stars, where the red comet will apparently be his “star,” his final mount in the “starry khalasar,” as Dany refers to it later in ADWD. This creates a wonderful parallel between Dany and Drogo as it pertains to their mounts. Dany traded the silver horse for the black dragon, and Drogo’s spirit is riding the grey smoky stallion up to the stars, where he trades it in for the red dragon comet. Similarly, when Dany rides her dragon, she thinks about reaching the comet:
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.
Not only is she flying up to the comet like Drogo, this passage really sounds more like Bran’s coma dream flying over the world than anything else. A similar line comes when she recalls her flight on Drogon from Daznak’s pit, where she saw “A silver moon, almost close enough to touch,” and again the flying and looking down at the world language is similar to Bran’s coma dream flight. Bran’s dream was a small taste of greenseer astral projection, essentially, and that’s what is implied with all of this flying up to the stars and comet – astral projection. All of this is enabled by the smoky stallion or the silver seahorse or the other such weirwood symbols. It’s astral projection through the use of weirwoods.
Here I will mention two other occurrences of silver smoke that pertain to these ideas. One is Bran’s wolf, Summer, whose fur is “silver and smoke” – an Bran does indeed hone his skinchanger abilities in Summer before switching to the weirwood tree as a mount. The other silver smoke we already saw in the last Weirwood Compendium essay – it was the fiery ladder that the fire mage climbed towards the latticed roof of the market, which disappeared and left “no more than a wisp of silver smoke.” That ladder was as symbol of climbing to the stars, and thus astral projection.
Those of you screaming for me to talk about Sleipnir can finally let out your breath. Yes, Odin’s eight’legged horse Sleipnir is a great grey stallion, the best of horses, and he is basically a vehicle for astral projection and riding through the cosmos. Martin surely got the notion of grey and silver horses as symbols of astral projection and the weirwoods from Sleipnir, who looms large in Norse myth, which George has studied extensively. We are already familiar with Odin’s other astral projection horse – the gallows horse Yggrasil, which is a horse in the sense that men are said to ride the gallows tree and Odin is thought of as riding Yggdrasil throughout the cosmos. Essentially, the same shamanic idea is approached through two different but similar metaphors involving horses. One horse is really a tree, and Martin is using that as his primary influence for the weirwoods; and by making us of the grey and silver horse and seahorse symbols to navigate various green seas, he’s tying Sleipnir into the weirwoodnet family of ideas too.
Unfortunately Sleipnir and astral projection horses are topics too big to unleash at this point in an essay; so this is where we will pick up next time in Weirwood Compendium 9: The Stallion Who Mounts the World. We’ll start with a better explanation of Sleipnir and the shamanic practices behind the idea of an “astral projection horse,” and then we’ll tear into the Stallion Who Mounts the World, which is one of the coolest symbolic metaphors George has come up with in the entire series.
Bonus Round: Pirates
I hope your brain hasn’t melted, because as ever, it gets worse the deeper you go. I have a couple more really great tidbits of House Velaryon symbolism which I couldn’t really fit in earlier without breaking the narrative flow, so I am adding them to the end as a bit of a bonus.
You may recall that the Velaryons of Driftmark have a wooden throne – one made of driftwood, which reminds at once of both the driftwood crowns of the Ironborn and the Grey King’s weirwood throne of Nagga’s jaws. The Driftwood Throne is a wooden throne that came from the sea, just as Grey King’s weirwood / sea dragon jaws throne is. Once again, with the green see wordplay in mind, this all makes more sense. A wooden throne always makes us think of the weirwood throne of a greenseer, and the idea of a driftwood throne that came from the sea – from the Merling King himself, actually, according to legend – now reads as a throne which is tied to the green see, which brings us back to weirwood thrones again.
The story of how the Velaryons got this wooden throne and the rest of the island is pretty great, even though it’s only one line in TWOIAF: it just calls it “the ancient Driftwood Throne—the high seat of the Velaryons, which legend claims was given to them by the Merling King to conclude a pact.” Now I’m not sure if the merlings were living on Driftmark and the Velaryons wiped them out, or if the first Velaryons just had a habit of bartering with merlings, or if this is just a really strange case of the more modern Velaryons becoming wrapped up in much older local myths about the driftwood throne and the Merling King, but consider this legend as a possible allegory to the history of the Iron Islands.
It goes something like this: The Iron Islands, like Driftmark, used to be inhabited by fish people, but at some point, dragon people came by sea and conquered the fish people, intermarried with them, and sat in the fish-people’s wooden chair. In doing so, they became see dragons – greenseers. The Grey King is the dragon-blooded pirate from Asshai who conquered the Iron Islands and sat in the the probably-weirwood throne of Nagga’s jaws, very comparable to the idea of the first Velaryons coming from Valyria to conquer the merlings and take the wooden throne from their merling king.
Is this the story of the Iron islands? Perhaps, perhaps – it certainly seems like a detailed allegory which matches our interpretations of the legends so far. And there’s yet another echo of it, right here in the history of the Dothraki Sea – remember those Fisher Queens who ruled the Silver Sea from their floating palace? Well. According to legend, a great warrior hero conspicuously named Huzhor Amai forged a new nation called Sarnor from the people of the grasslands, and he was supposedly the last descendant of the Fisher Queens. Huzhor Amai is an obvious Azor Ahai call-out, in some sense, and here is as a conqueror using the name of the Fisher Queens to make a new throne for himself, ruling over the sea that the Fisher Queens once ruled. For what it’s worth, the idea of Huzhor Amai as some sort of Azor Ahai echo is strengthened when you look at the name of the last hero king of the Sarnori, who is also an Azor Ahai echo: Mazor Alexi. Huzhor and Mazor and Azor, Amai and Alexi and Ahai. These two Sarnori kings who sound so much like Azor Ahai ruled over the Dothraki Sea and the three great lakes which were the remnants of the Silver Sea. Oh, and the Sarnori – they were expert breeders and riders of horses, whose great weapon of war was their cavalry, who went to battle in war chariots. So they were seahorse lords as well.
The second loose end, which actually goes back to Weirwood Compendium 6, also leads us back to House Velaryon, is the idea of a green-eyed Valyrian or green-eyed dragon-blooded person. Dany saw a vision of the gemstone emperors who had hair of gold, silver, and platinum white, and one of them had eyes of jade. I asked what this represents, a green-eyed dragon person? Well, I really wanted to save all the House Velaryon stuff for one episode, so I didn’t go into it then, but we do have one such example of a green-eyed dragon person in the main story, who is of course draped in sea dragon and green dragon symbolism. That would be Aurane Waters, the “Bastard of Driftmark,” who is the half-brother to Monford Velaryon, Lord of the Tides and Master of Driftmark. This is from a Cersei chapter of AFFC:
Margaery was dancing with her cousin Alla, Megga with Ser Tallad the Tall. The other cousin, Elinor, was sharing a cup of wine with the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters. It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was. His face is too narrow, and he has that cleft in his chin. The Velaryons came from old Valyrian stock, however, and some had the same silvery hair as the dragonkings of old.
Oh man, so much here. We have mentioned the Rhaegar returned from the ashes bit, as that implies Rhaegar as an Azor Ahai dragon figure being reborn from the weirwoods, who are symbolic burning ash trees. You can see why this fits nicely with the stuff from the Devi and the Deep Green See, where we saw Rhaegar symbolically reborn as two different greenseer dragon figures: Rhaegal the green dragon, as well as Rhaego the Stallion Who Mounts the World and who has lots of greenseer symbolism. Now we can add a third, as Rhaegar is figuratively reborn as Aurane Waters, who the blood of the dragonlords via his Velaryon heritage combined with grey-green eyes and the name “Waters.”
It goes well beyond that of course. Cersei names him Grand Admiral of the royal fleet, enhancing his sea dragon symbolism. Then he later betrays her and sets himself up as a pirate lord in the Stepstones, calling himself “Lord of the Waters,” which makes him a Merling King / Grey King / Sea Lords figure. A dragonlord of the waters, setting himself up as a pirate around Bloodstone Island? That’s kind of familiar – it reminds us of Baela Targaryen’s father, Daemon Targaryen, who named himself King of the Narrow Sea and took Bloodstone Island for his seat. He was basically a glorified pirate though – he drove out all the old pirates and promptly began charging tariffs and taxes for any who wanted traverse the Stepstones.
Point being, Aurane has some nice Azor Ahai / pirate lord symbolism to go along with his sea dragon symbolism. Other pirate lord versions of Azor Ahai include Euron Greyjoy, who needs no introduction as a Bloodstone Emperor figure; the Red Kracken Dalton Greyjoy who carried the Valyrian steel sword Nightfall with its moonstone pommel and gained his nickname when once “he took a dozen wounds and emerged from the fight drenched head to heel in blood”; and of course the Grey King, the pirate lord from Asshai who sailed to Westeros in a weirwood boat. Or maybe he flew by dragon and then built a weirwood boat. We’ll sort that out another time, but the point is, he’s a pirate lord Azor Ahai person, like Aurane Waters, the Lord of the Waters with grey-green eyes.
Now that we understand the green see / greenseer thing, all of these pirate lord Azor Ahai people suddenly seem to be reinforcing the message that Azor Ahai went into and seemingly came out of the weirwoodnet, and can be probably considered kings of the weirwoodnet. We have to look at all the Merling King again stuff too, Wyman Manderly and the Merman’s court… be patient.
In any case, Azor Ahai can probably be considered to be not only a king of the weirwoodnet, but a usurper king of the weirwoodnet. All of these pirate kings were clear usurpers – Daemon Targaryen’s older brother Viserys I Targaryen was the official king of the Seven Kingdoms when Daemon named himself the King of the Narrow Sea; Dalton Greyjoy rose in rebellion with with Daemon’s “Blacks” during the Dance of the Dragons, and then refused to stop reaving once the Dance was concluded. Euron is a given, he’s rising in rebellion against the very gods themselves, let alone making a claim for the Iron Throne, and even the Grey King is kind of a usurper in the sense that we hear he had a “leal elder brother” from whom House Goodbrother descends. Why wasn’t the older brother the king? In this sense, Grey King is a younger brother who took the throne, just like the Bloodstone Emperor himself.
All of this points to Azor Ahai as a usurper of the weirwoodnet, which is important enough to make a big point of here. It’s one of the running questions we’ve been trying to answer. Did Azor Ahai force his way into the weirwoodnet, possibly against the will of the trees? I’d say the answer is increasingly looking like a yes.