Great Empire of the Dawn: Dracomorph

NOTE: the script below is performed in this livestream, but there’s also some stuff about the Church of Starry Wisdom and the Bloodstone Emperor first to set things up which is NOT in the script below. Cheers, LmL

George R. R. Martin loves to hint at dark sorcery without telling us enough to spoil the mystery – it’s a hallmark of his “low-magic” fantasy writing approach. There is “high magic” in ASOIAF, but it’s kept around the margins and it always serves the centerpiece of the story, which is the characters’ “hearts in conflict.” George is, however, totally into leaving breadcrumbs of world-building for us to follow, and he loves to hint as more powerful magic lurking just out of sight. Valyria was a 5,000 year-long empire built on powerful sorcery, but they’re gone now and Dany only has a small fraction of their magical capabilities, as of yet. A great deal of powerful magic occurred at the time of the Long Night – the Long Night cataclysm itself having been almost certainly brought down by humans practicing magic – and the time before the Long Night, known as the Dawn Age, seems to have been a time where magic thrived in the open.

The tales of the Great Empire of the Dawn follow this track – they were some sort of Atlantis-like or Numenor-like high civilization whose practice of sorcery eventually came to bite them in the ass. They disappeared in the smoke of the of the Long Night, leaving behind only their fused stone fortresses and some scattered myths in the Further East. At least, that’s the official record, but we’ve discovered that the fingerprints of this Dawn Age empire can be found all over the world, as the surviving peoples of that large, multi-ethnic empire scattered in all directions after the Long Night apocalypse. In my next scripted Great Empire of the Dawn video, I’ll be tackling the most important of these scatterings – namely, the evidence that points to the Great Empire of the Dawn having left a mark on Westeros. Westeros is the center of the ASOIAF story, and ultimately this “long lost race of dragonlords” stuff is leading us back to the last hero and the defeat of the Others in Westeros. But today, we are going to tackle another important child of the Great Empire, the one who inherited more of their sorcery than anyone else – Valyria. Not only are we going to show the lines of transmission between the Great Empire and Valyria, but we are going to drill down in to the guts of just how dark this sorcery was. And I do mean…into the guts.

Before we go any further, I want to make sure to recommend to everyone watching live and on replay that you go and watch a pair of videos on a YouTube channel call The Disputed Lands, run by Crowfood’s Daughter. She’s not actively making videos right now and she only has a few vids on her channel, but they are all mind-blowing and in particular, you need to watch “The Secret Origin of Dragons” Part 1 and 2:
In these videos, Crowfood’s Daughter lays out the best proof possible that Septon Barth was right about dragons having been bred from firewyrms and wyverns. This video today will build on some of her ideas, which in turn built on some of my ideas about the Great Empire, and back and back… Amanda is one of the folks who goes all the way back to the forum days, before I ever had a podcast, so we’ve been trading ideas for years now. She was actually the person who first pointed out to me that Garth the Green… looks a lot like this figure from European myth called Cernunnos! I didn’t even know who Cernunnos was at the time, if you can believe that. Anyway, you’ll enjoy these vids – they’re some of my favorite ASOIAF analysis, actually, and they compliment the discussion we’re about to have. I’ll refer to some of her points later today, but make sure you watch them as there’s more info there than I can sum up here.

Alright, so in Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai, we saw that there is a lot of evidence to support the idea that, well, the Great Empire of the Dawn was an ancient race of dragonlords from Asshai (good title, right?). Said another way, they were the ancestors of Valyria itself – all of the evidence points to this.

Consider the vision that Daenerys had in AGOT of the kingly ghosts with hair of silver, gold, and platinum white and gemstone eyes matching 4 of the 8 gemstones associated with the rulers of the Great Empire, the ones holding swords of pale fire and urging her to wake the dragon. This vision shows us that the signature “Valyrian looks” – silver, gold, or platinum white hair and purple eyes – were found among the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn. Only one had purple eyes, but they all had the hair, so the Valyrians may simply be descended from one tribe or dynasty of the Great Empire.

These gemstone emperor ghosts are of course urging Dany to wake her dragon during her dream, and that makes sense since they seem to have been the first dragonlords. The art of dragon-taming itself is the biggest link between the Great Empire and Valyria, and we will get into how the “blood of the dragon” dragonbond was created later today, but it’s important to realize it’s not just dragon-taming, but the way they used the dragons – both the Great Empire and Valyria figured out how to make magically indestructible fused stone with their dragons and their sorcery. Rather, instead of thinking they both separately discovered that same combination of magical techniques, it’s likely these vanished dragonlords taught the Valyrians their arts, as the ancient Asshai’i texts assert:

These Asshai’i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals.

What I’m saying is that the fused stone used by both civilizations indicates this claim is true; fused stone making is a specific technique which makes sense as something transmitted from one culture to another.

What about Valyrian steel, the other highly advanced magical technology the Valyrians developed with dragonfire and sorcery? Well, the swords of pale fire these kingly gemstone ghosts hold obviously suggest Lightbringer, and Azor Ahai and Lightbringer also arise at the end of the Great Empire of the Dawn legend to put the darkness to rout and all that. So here’s the thing: when the Valyrians made their famous magic steel swords, they really just seem to have been following the legend of Lightbringer’s forging like a recipe. The language of the myth suggest a process of steel-making, hat-tip Radio Westeros:

Heat and hammer and fold, heat and hammer and fold, oh, yes, until the sword was done.

Valyrian steel is just a fantasy version of Damascus steel, also known as “folded steel.” This is emphasized in quotes like this:

When Jon turned it sideways, he could see the ripples in the dark steel where the metal had been folded back on itself again and again. “This is Valyrian steel, my lord,” he said wonderingly. His father had let him handle Ice often enough; he knew the look, the feel.

Additionally, and more importantly, Azor Ahai failed twice to temper Lightbringer, and only succeeded when he used Nissa Nissa’s heartblood of his third attempt. As I always love to point out, this is one of the big clues that Azor Ahai was no hero, and may have been the villain of the Long Night, but the point here is to observe that Lightbringer was an unbeatable magic sword forged with blood magic. That’s likely true of Valyrian steel as well, and this is hinted at in a few passages from The World of Ice and Fire. First we hear of the Qohoric smiths’ ability to rework Valyrian steel:

The properties of Valyrian steel are well-known, and are the result of both folding iron many times to balance and remove impurities, and the use of spells—or at least arts we do not know—to give unnatural strength to the resulting steel. Those arts are now lost, though the smiths of Qohor claim to still know magics for reworking Valyrian steel without losing its strength or unsurpassed ability to hold an edge.

Indeed, Tobho Mott, the armorer and smith in Kings Landing that we encounter in AGOT, confirms this. Ned’s inner monologue is summarizing the things Tobho has told him, and it says

Tobho had learned to work Valyrian steel at the forges of Qohor as a boy. Only a man who knew the spells could take old weapons and forge them anew.

So reworking Valyrian steel requires knowledge of spells, as well as metalworking – that’s one reason why I don’t think the Maesters of the Citadel can actually rework Valyrian steel, though I see that idea popping up lately. Let me just knock that down real quick, because to me this is rather silly – people are thinking that because some maesters’ chains have a link of Valyrian steel, that the citadel must be able to melt those links to attach them to a chain, or maybe they need to make new links from a supply of steel somewhere – but this is, again, very silly. It makes far more sense to simply open the links next to the Valyrian one instead – the links made of steel that isn’t forged with sorcery, duh. The citadel used to have commerce with Valyria, so may have bought all the chain links they have before the Doom. Not many study magic, so they don’t need many Valyrian steel links. Anyway. Yeah, you melt and open the gold or copper link, not the Valyrian steel one… this just amuses me to no end.

Anyway, Valyrian steel needs magic just to reshape, let alone to forge. What kind of magic? Well all Valyrian magic is rooted in blood and fire, as Marwyn the Mage says, and looking to the legend of Lightbringer, the answer would seem to be forging a steel sword in fire and adding in blood sacrifice. That’s what the Qohoric smiths think is the key, apparently:

Maester Pol’s treatise on Qohorik metalworking, written during several years of residence in the Free City, reveals just how jealously the secrets are guarded: He was thrice publicly whipped and cast out from the city for making too many inquiries. The final time, his hand was also removed following the allegation that he stole a Valyrian steel blade. According to Pol, the true reason for his final exile was his discovery of blood sacrifices—including the killing of slaves as young as infants—which the Qohorik smiths used in their efforts to produce a steel to equal that of the Freehold.

So there you have it – the people who have come the closest to rediscovering the art of Valyrian steel making are pretty sure you need to use blood magic. Qohor is just the sort of place to delve into these sort of dark arts:

In folklore, even as far as Westeros, Qohor is sometimes known as the City of Sorcerers, for it is widely believed that the dark arts are practiced here even to this day. Divination, bloodmagic, and necromancy are whispered of, though such reports can seldom be proved. One truth remains undisputed, however: The dark god of Qohor, the deity known as the Black Goat, demands daily blood sacrifice. Calves, bullocks, and horses are the animals most often brought before the Black Goat’s altars, but on holy days condemned criminals go beneath the knives of his cowled priests, and in times of danger and crisis it is written that the high nobles of the city offer up their own children to placate the god, that he might defend the city.

So, like I said: Valyrian steel-making seems to involve dragonfire, sorcery, and blood sacrifice, and in this they seem to be trying to recreate the process of forging Lightbringer. That makes perfect sense if the Valyrians learned their sorcery from the Great Empire of the Dawn, from whence came both the tale of Lightbringer and the pale fire swords of the gemstone emperor ghosts.

The Valyrians had other bits of sorcery that we hear of, namely glass candles and dragonbinder horns. The horns don’t really have any clues that lead us to Asshai or the Great Empire of the Dawn, apart from the possibility that Euron could be lying about obtaining his horn and Valyrian steel armor in Valyria; some have proposed those things might have been more easily acquired in Asshai than Doomed Valyria, but this is only speculation.

Glass candles, however, are another story. As we discussed in the Church of Starry Wisdom livestream a couple weeks ago, the Bloodstone Emperor is remembered as founding the Church of Starry Wisdom, and the two people using glass candles show strong signs of being Starry Wisdom devotees. I’m talking about Marwyn and Quaithe of course, who have both spent years studying magic in Asshai. Both Marwyn and Quaithe believe that Daenerys Targaryen is or may be the promised savior who can defeat the Others, which (among other things) indicates that the Church of Starry Wisdom is up to date on all things related to dragons, Azor Ahai, and the associated magic and lore.

It’s by no means conclusive, but these links between Starry Wisdom Church, glass candles, Asshai, and the dragonlord that was promised suggest that the use of glass candles, like the arts of taming dragons, forging magic swords, and making fused stone, may have been taught to the Valyrians by the people from ancient Asshai. In ACOK, we even learn that dragonglass can be found in the hills near Asshai, which is confirmed by the maesters in TWOIAF. So if we have dragonlords and magic swords and fused stone going on, and there also happens to be a bunch of dragonglass close by… well it seems likely the candles started here too.

And now we come to the heart of darkness with all this evil sorcery: human-animal crossbreeds. It was passing hilarious when Bush Jr. warned about the dangers of “human-animal hybrids” in that famous State of the Union speech, but this is no laughing matter. This is the account of the slave colony of Gogossos from TWOIAF:

The largest of the Basilisks is the Isle of Tears, where steep-sided valleys and black bogs hide amongst rugged flint hills and twisted, windswept rocks. On its southern coast stand the broken ruins of a city. Founded by the Old Empire of Ghis , it was known as Gorgai for close to two centuries (or perhaps four; there is some dispute), until the dragonlords captured it in the Third Ghiscari War and renamed it Gorgossos.

By any name, it was an evil place. The dragonlords sent their worst criminals to the Isle of Tears to live out their lives in hard labor. In the dungeons of Gorgossos, torturers devised new torments. In the flesh pits, blood sorcery of the darkest sort was practiced, as beasts were mated to slave women to bring forth twisted half-human children. 

Indeed, human-animal hybrids absolutely are a thing in ASOIAF. Evidence abounds for the existence of some kind of Squishers or Deep Ones of course, we have the legends of stag men in Westeros that we all know and love, and the children of the forest themselves seem to be humanoids with many animal traits. As we look around the margins of the Planetos, we find all kinds of weird stuff that sounds like human animal hybridization. East of the Five Forts, we hear of “men [who] soar like eagles on leathern wings,” bloodless men, and “half-human creatures with greenscaled skin and venomous bites” called Lizard Men or Shrikes. These last sound somewhat similar to the green skinned people of the Thousand Islands, who are “hairless people with green-tinged skin” who file their teeth and worship “squamous, fishheaded gods.” Over on Sothoryos, we find the Brindled Men, who seem to be like George’s version of very aggressive Neanderthals, which aren’t necessarily human-animal hybrids (though the brindled patterns on their skin are described as being “hog-like” by the maesters). There are rumors of hybrids though:

Some say that there were other races here once—forgotten peoples destroyed, devoured, or driven out by the Brindled Men. Tales of lizard men, lost cities, and eyeless cave-dwellers are commonplace. No proof exists for any of these.

Cool, so more lizard men, and those eyeless cave dwellers are interesting too, as they indicate some sort of divergent evolution, and we’ll come back to that. What’s interesting to me about these various freakshows of ice and fire are the places they are found. The Thousand Islands are in the Shivering Sea, on the border of Great Empire of the Dawn territory; the winged men and lizard men of the far east are similarly right on the borders of the Great Empire, and Sothoryos, well, that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms.

Sothoryos is potentially linked the Great Empire of the Dawn because of the oily black stone – Asshai is made of oily black stone, but so is the ancient cursed city of Yeen in the jungles of Sothoryos, and so is the giant carved toad idol which gives the Isle of Toads its name. The only other confirmed oily black stone we have is the Seastone Chair, which is of course linked to Squishers and Deep Ones clues, which means that Sothoryos has two of the four confirmed oily black stone locations. As you recall, Asshai is the largest city in the world, and is made entirely of oily black stone, so anything else made of that stuff may be potentially linked to Asshai.  I tend to think Asshai is the source of the stuff, since there is so much more of it there than anywhere else, and because of other clues like the cursed shadow hanging over the entire peninsula, the blighted and magically toxic land, and the tale of the Bloodstone Emperor’s black meteor.

One also notes that Gogossos, that Valyrian human-animal hybrid abomination factory, is basically right next to the Isle of Toads, with its oily black stone idol and its fish people with webbed hands and feet. I’m not saying oily stone turns humans into mutant freaks – although, it’s not impossible, right? – but what I am saying is that the oily stone indicates a link between Sothoryos and the Great Empire of the Dawn, and it’s a link made of very dark sorcery. I also think it’s clear that human-animal hybrid stuff didn’t begin with the Valyrians at Gogossos, that it was something they learned from the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Consider what we are told about the Bloodstone Emperor; he practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, and took a “tiger woman” for his bride. Tiger Woman may be a child of the forest, or she may be a Lengii god-empress… or she might be something else, some sort of real cat-woman. Setting Tiger Woman aside though, it’s very, very easy to picture the Bloodstone Emperor using his dark arts and blood magic – and maybe his magic space rock – to whip up some human animal hybrids.

In fact – and here comes the tinfoil – what if all the nasty beasties like the winged men, lizard men, and even the brindled men are nothing more than the freaky experiments of the Bloodstone Emperor? What if Sothoryos, which is clearly meant to mirror Africa in geography if nothing else, used to be a habitable place, but was at some point overrun by monsters? What if Sothoryos is the Bloodstone Emperor’s Island of Doctor Moreau, so to speak? There’s a potential clue about this in the history of the Summer Isles:

Lomas Longstrider, who visited the Summer Isles in his search for wonders, recorded that the sages of the isles claimed that their ancestors once reached the western shores of Sothoryos and founded cities there, only to have them overwhelmed and destroyed by the same forces that wiped out later Ghiscari and Valyrian settlements on that perilous continent. The Citadel’s archives hold a few ancient chronicles of Valyria, but none speak of these supposed cities, and there are maesters who cast doubts on the truth of these claims.

The Ghiscari and Valyrian settlements on Sothoryos date back 5,000 years, so the maesters are crediting these legends to a very remote history, even if they doubt their veracity. But what if this legend is not only true, but flipped around – what if these legends of ancient colonies on Sothoryos could actually be memories of the original home of the Summer Islanders? To put it bluntly, it would make a certain amount of sense if, instead of all the black people in ASOIAF having originated from the equivalent of the Hawaiian Islands, they actually came from the Africa-parallel continent? Wherever Martin is imagining the first humans to have evolved, it likely wasn’t a tiny island, so at some point the ancestors of the Summer Isles must have come there by boat. Think about our own history – mankind evolved in Africa, then spread out at multiple times and places. Ergo, it is possible the Summer Islanders actually came from Sothoryos, only to have their homeland overrun by monsters. I can see not wanting to go back, having found the Summer Isles.

Alright, so the list of sins of the Bloodstone Emperor is growing longer – maybe he ruined an entire continent with his blood magic crossbreeding program. Just as the Valyrians conducted these experiments safely away form their homeland on Gogossos, the Bloodstone Emperor or his predecessors may have used Sothoryos or the various islands of the Jade Sea for this (and of course those islands are inhabited by things like basilisks, which are another magical hybrid creature).

Now as freaky as all that tinfoil is, the bottom line is pretty simple: human-animal crossbreeding has occurred in the world of Ice and Fire, and seemingly before the Valyrians at Gogossos. Most crucially, the primary important magic we can trace from Valyria to the Great Empire – the art of taming and bonding with dragons – involves human-animal crossbreeding of some kind.

Sheltered there, amidst the great volcanic mountains known as the Fourteen Flames, were the Valyrians, who learned to tame dragons and make them the most fearsome weapon of war that the world ever saw. The tales the Valyrians told of themselves claimed they were descended from dragons and were kin to the ones they now controlled.

The proof is in the lizard babies – Dany’s lizard baby, Rhaenyra and Daemon Targaryen’s lizard baby, Maegor’s lizard babies, and so on. Maegor’s malformed children were sometimes born without eyes or limbs, making them very worm-like, and Crowfood’s Daughter makes an interesting comparison to a malformed dragon hatchling that we hear about in Fire and Blood:

The first omen of the dark times to come was seen on Driftmark, when the dragon’s egg presented to Laena Velaryon upon her birth quickened and hatched. Her parents’ pride and pleasure quickly turned to ash, however; the dragon that wriggled from the egg was a monstrosity, a wingless wyrm, maggot-white and blind. Within moments of hatching, the creature turned upon the babe in her cradle and tore a bloody chunk from her arm. As Laena shrieked, Lord Oakenfist ripped the “dragon” off her, flung it to the floor, and hacked it into pieces.

Crowfood’s Daughter’s explanation was that this wyrm born from a dragon’s egg essentially reverted to the DNA of one of its genetic parents, the firwewyrm. I agree with that analysis, and it’s interesting to note that unlike the baby dragons placed in Targaryen cradles, this creature instantly attacks the child, Laena, who does turn out to be a dragonrider. (She actually ride none other than Vhagar, as a matter of fact!)

Crowfood’s Daughter does a great job in her videos going through all these examples and showing how these Targaryen lizard baby abominations are all manifesting traits of wyrms and wyverns, such as tiny wings, a lack of eyes or limbs, scales, or a tail. Deformed dragons also show traits of wyrms, and all of this points very convincingly towards two related truths: firewyrms and wyverns were somehow combined to create dragons, and the race of people known as the blood of the dragon does in fact have some amount of reptilian lizard DNA in their veins.

The remaining questions is how: exactly how was the DNA of one animal combined with another, or with humans? The answer is Dracomorph theory.

Everybody remembers the popular sci-fi horror movie Alien, and its sequels “Aliens,” “Aliens 3,” “Alien: Resurrection ,” “Alien versus Predator in a Pyramid Under Antarctica,” and so on. The main star of these movies (besides the amazing Sigourney Weaver) is the alien of course, and it’s known as a Xenomorph. It’s a kind of parasitic creature that seems to be able to combine with the DNA of its host to create new hybrid species, all of which are extremely terrifying.

There’s a delightfully horrific mechanism by which this occurs, and I think it may have given George RR Martin a couple of ideas. In fact I’d say it’s all but certain, after reading Fire and Blood. He’s at the very least drawing from the approximate feeling of horror experienced in the movie Aliens, and it might even go further than that.

So as I was saying, the deformed Targ babies and deformed dragons are all showing us hints of wyrmy DNA. As we read a moment ago, “beasts were mated to slave women to bring forth twisted half-human children” by the Valyrians at Gogossos. But I have to ask – mated as in… intercourse? I suppose maybe you could sprinkle dark magic on some bestiality and imagine it leads to hybrid offspring, but somehow I don’t think this is the case. It just seems a little too… straightforward. It’s something the “common folk” would think of to explain the idea of ‘human animal hybrids,’ but it doesn’t seem like something that would actually work to me, even with magic mixed in. How would one make a firewyrm mate with a wyvern, for example? That’s a little hard to picture, nor should you try. It’s obviously impossible for a human to fuck a dragon, if you’ll excuse my French, so… there basically has to be some other mechanism. I do think the bloodmages were experimenting with crossbreeding on Gorgai / Gogossos, but I think the methods were actually even darker and more twisted that what is imagined here.

And it has to do with the movie Aliens.

So in Aliens, the main alien creature is big and bad ass, and that turns out to the male – the female is a giant Queen Mother alien, something like mother of an ant colony. She lays large eggs, a little smaller than a wine barrel, and from these eggs hatch not baby aliens, but nasty little things we all call the face-huggers. To me these are more nightmarish than the actual xenomorphs, and I’m probably not alone. They look like a bony cross between a scorpion and manta ray, with a body just big enough to cover your face and a bunch of nasty skittery legs to wrap around your head and give you absolutely no chance of escaping while they ram their secret ovipositor down your throat and deposit the little alien spawn in your gut. Egads.

Oh and the worst is, somehow, still yet to come. You have a baby alien in your belly, remember, and it’s growing fast. We all know the alien tears its way out of your stomach after a day or so, which again is horrifying but is actually no worse than a bunch of horrible freaky shit that happens in nature, which is famously “red in tooth and claw” (and ovipositor). But try to remember the first time you saw Alien, after the one guy got the face-hugger treatment and nobody knew what would happen next. We hadn’t seen any of the main aliens yet, and we didn’t know that the face-hugger had laid an egg in that guy’s stomach. But then he’s not feeling well, we’re looking at his distended belly, and then comes perhaps the most terrifying moment of the movie – the moment you can see something moving inside him. That horror is followed by the alien bursting forth from his chest cavity, and the moviegoer is now terrified and repulsed and fascinated all at the same time.

This is the kind of emotional beat in a story that leaves an impression on the viewer, to say the least, and if the viewer is a writer like George, he may think about the feeling of such a scene and seek to recreate it in his own setting. That’s absolutely what George seems to have done with Septon Barth’s reaction to Aerea Targaryen, she of the grisly parasitic wyrm death that was a highlight of Fire and Blood.

Yeah, that’s right, we are all sick people and the girl who died of freaky little firewyrm parasites after probably visiting Valyria was, factually speaking, one of the things we all talked about the most after Fire and Blood came out. The reason, in part, is because that same sense of ultimate horror that Septon Barth felt was felt by we, the reader. The same feeling we had when we first saw the alien burst from that guy’s chest… parasites are just terrifying, plain and simple, but when they go from tapeworms to the xenomorphs and facehuggers, or the dreadful things inside Aerea, well… it’s just something not easily forgotten, once heard or seen.

Here is the passage, and this comes right after Aerea’s eyes burst form the internal heat of her condition:

“I thought that was the most hideous thing that I should ever see, but I was quickly disabused of the notion, for a worse horror was awaiting me. That came when Benifer and I lowered the poor child into a tub and covered her with ice. The shock of that immersion stopped her heart at once, I tell myself…if so, that was a mercy, for that was when the things inside her came out…

“The things…Mother have mercy, I do not know how to speak of them…they were…worms with faces…snakes with hands…twisting, slimy, unspeakable things that seemed to writhe and pulse and squirm as they came bursting from her flesh. Some were no bigger than my little finger, but one at least was as long as my arm…oh, Warrior protect me, the sounds they made…

Barth’s horror is palpable, and again, I think almost everyone who reads this passage immediately thinks of the movie Alien.

The other reason Aerea’s story grabbed our attention, besides the raw punk rock ethos of “running away from home” by claiming Balerion the Black Dread and just sort of seeing what happens,  are the implications for the “mechanisms of magic” of Planetos. Those things inside Aerea weren’t just parasitic wyrms, or even just parasitic firewyrms – they were worms with the hands and faces of humans. They are making sounds that frighten Barth – most likely because they sounded vaguely human, since they had human faces. They might have sounded like crying babies. What’s going on here?

These freaky little fuckers may or may not be related to the firewyrms that inhabit the volcanoes of Valyria, but I am pretty sure they are not the exact same species. We’ve never heard about firewyrms having hands and faces like humans. We are told that the slaves in the mines of Valyria did encounter firewyrms from time to time, so I really tend to think we would have heard about a physical feature so monstrous and repulsive as human hands and faces. It’s pretty easy to imagine more than one species of nasty worm creature living in Valyria, after all. However we must say that if Aerea’s worms were not Valyrian firewyrms, then they may well be related, since Aerea’s worms seemed to be cooking her from the inside, and were killed by immersion in ice water. “They were creatures of heat and fire, and they did not love the ice, oh no,” wrote Septon Barth. We don’t know if they could breathe fire, for they did not live long enough to fulfill their wyrmy destiny… so sad.

The thing I am most interested in are the hands and faces. Unless George just wrote this to be freaky, without any more thought to it than that, something really weird is going on. This doesn’t seem like the natural state of any sort of stable species, but rather something more along the lines of the malformed dragon babies that Targaryens occasionally give birth to. It’s some sort of… mistake. Some sort of accident. We’ve never heard of an animal like this, nor is there any apparent reason for something like this to exist at all. If you’re a worm tunneling through earth and rock, there’s no evolutionary reason to have a human face; you want a worm face for that. Nature worked all this stuff out already.

You can probably see where I’m going with this at this point. It seems possible to me those worms are something like the Xenomorph. They were surely very tiny when they got inside Aerea, most likely ingested in water she drink or something she ate while in Valyria or wherever Balerion took her (it’s either Valyria or Sothoryos, it would seem). These parasites obviously grew inside her, and then they emerge with hands and faces, and once we get past the basic freak out OMG factor, we are left to observe that these worms absolutely qualify as a human-animal hybrid. The bloodmages of Valyria created human-animal hybrids by “mating” human and animals; did the original worm parasite that invaded Aerea ‘mate’ with her in he sense that it combined its DNA with hers?

Imagine these worms were indeed a species capable of combining their DNA with that of their host, like the Xenomorph. That would explain what we see pretty well. It’s like the worm DNA and her DNA got thrown in a blender, and out came worms with hands and faces. Another time, with a different toss of the dice, perhaps you get something a little different – worms with pot bellies and little itty-bitty toes. Who knows, if you kept experimenting, you might get something stable, a new species they could eventually reproduce with its own kind. You’d need to be able to get the same result from these grizzly experiments more than once… but then the Valyrians only had about five thousand years to do so.

Think about the mystery this way: what explains these worms with human hands and faces? Either their species always looks that way, or they mutated inside of Aerea and became human-like. When you look at it like that, the latter choice seems more plausible to me – as I said, nature has been working on evolving the best worm faces and body features for millions of years, and the place it arrived at is distinctly not human-like. The same goes for parasitic worms; human-like features are apparently not useful for living in someone’s intestinal tract. And so, if Aerea’s worms weren’t always wearing the hands and faces of people, then… then they must have combined with Aerea’s DNA, and that means they are some sort of xenomorph-like creature.

And if that’s the case – if those worms combined with Aerea’s DNA – then we finally have an actual magical mechanism by which human animal hybrids can be achieved. Imagine putting some of these worms inside a wyvern… would they come out with wyvern faces and features? Fire-breathing wyrms with wings, if you try enough times?And here’s a thought – what if Aerea’s parasites started as young Valyrian firewyrms, and only came out with hands and faces because they were incubated in a human host? In other words, if Aerea’s worms are actually just baby firewyrms, then that would mean that firewyrms themselves are the xenomorphs. If that’s the case, injecting them into wyverns definitely seems like a potential way to make a dragon.

Even if Aerea’s worms did not start off as baby firewyrms, again we must say they are at least similar in that they are creatures of fire in some sense – it’s a fiery parasite of some sort or another.

Another possibility is that these worms are only one piece of the zenomorph picture. Meaning, perhaps Aerea’s type of worm is merely one result of the Valyrian experiments, and that there could be other types of creatures which can mix their DNA with other creatures in a similar way. When plant or animal breeders are breeding, they don’t just do it once, but rather again and again over many generations, selecting the specimens with the desired traits to breed again. The Valyrians had centuries and millennia to experiment with this stuff, so it’s hard to put together the whole picture from the little bits of information that we have, but these worms are tantalizing. I think my main point is that Aerea’s worms point to the possibility that this “technology,” if you will, parasites that can combine their DNA with that of their host, exists in ASOIAF, and that that opens up a lot of possibilities for creating hybrid creatures.

Let me take this in another direction for a second. You guys know me, I’m mythical astronomer #1, so let’s think about the the original sun, comet, and moon scenario that mirrors Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, and Nissa Nissa. The sun sends its comet seed or comet sword, depending on how you want to look at it, into the moon, which then explodes in dragon meteor childbirth. The big key to understanding this stuff is making the connection between “dragons coming from the moon” and meteors coming from some sort of lunar cataclysm, as you know. Dragons fly and breath fire and cause destruction, and comets and meteors do the same, especially if they impact on the planet. So that’s easy to understand – it’s the comets and meteors which are like flying dragons and swords… or like sperm, or star-seed I guess you might say. Or… like a wyrm.

In that context, we have to say that moons are not very dragon like or wyrm-like. They move slowly through the sky, with no fiery tail, and the usually don’t fall to earth and destroy things in a furious display of fire, sound, and death. The moon… is more like an egg! Or like a person’s head or face, as it is often seen. It’s the comet that is like the dragon, and it is only after the comet dragon strikes the moon and “impregnates” it with its fiery dragon seed that it transforms into the moon meteor dragons or ‘gives birth’ to the meteor dragons.

Now imagine Aerea is the moon. First, she gets those worms inside her, or possibly even just one worm to start with, just like the moon got the comet inside of it. Then the worms multiplied, grew, and seemingly combined with Aerea’s DNA. They cooked her from within and then burst out of her, but they were kind of like her children because they were made from her genes. They were part worm and part human. That’s what the moon meteors were – part moon, part meteor. They were like its comet parent because meteors look like comets, but of course they were actually made of pieces of the moon. From earth, it would like one fiery worm got inside the moon, infested it and multiplied within, with thousands of fiery worm children subsequently bursting forth, just as with Aerea.

My point here is that the basic “dragons come from the moon” mythical astronomy pattern can be seen as a good match to the proposed xenomorph worm theory. Put a fiery comet wyrm into any kind of moon, and you’ll get moon meteor hybrid offspring. If the Valyrians had put those worms into, again, wyverns, they might have gotten hybrid offspring that was part worm and part wyvern. Put them in people and get… various types of worm / human hybrids. Maybe you get a new batch of parasitic worms with different features, which you can then put in other creatures. As you can seem this could be a mechanism by which you can combine animal and human DNA.

Let’s consider, for a moment, the Targaryen custom of placing a dragon’s egg in the cradle with their babies and young children, and this is from Fire and Blood:

There were more dragons than ever before as well, and several of the she-dragons were regularly producing clutches of eggs. Not all of these eggs hatched, but many did, and it became customary for the fathers and mothers of newborn princelings to place a dragon’s egg in their cradles, following a tradition that Princess Rhaena had begun many years before; the children so blessed invariably bonded with the hatchlings to become dragonriders.

Now think about this whole scene in light of Aliens. You have a large egg from a monstrous lizard creature waiting to hatch… and a small defenseless child right there when it does. Again, usually the dragon doesn’t hatch and eat the baby or inject it with a parasitic spawn of Satan, but it sure does remind us of the Aliens setup… and there was that one time we talked about earlier, which sure reads differently when you think about face-huggers and xenomorph eggs, so take a look at it one more time:

The first omen of the dark times to come was seen on Driftmark, when the dragon’s egg presented to Laena Velaryon upon her birth quickened and hatched. Her parents’ pride and pleasure quickly turned to ash, however; the dragon that wriggled from the egg was a monstrosity, a wingless wyrm, maggot-white and blind. Within moments of hatching, the creature turned upon the babe in her cradle and tore a bloody chunk from her arm. As Laena shrieked, Lord Oakenfist ripped the “dragon” off her, flung it to the floor, and hacked it into pieces.

Okay now that one definitely reminds us of Aliens! This was a deformed dragon and not a parasitic worm such as Aerea had, but they are described in similar fashion. We only have to imagine that deformed dragon hatching in princess Laena cradle as one of Aerea’s worms to basically have a complete Aliens / egg / facehugger situation: imagine the egg hatching, a parasitic worm crawling out and invading the child or as a host, and then hatching shortly after. It would be a perfect ASOIAF analog to Aliens – and George is basically implying it here. Is he simply playing with the idea here, either for fun, or is he trying to get us to think about the mechanics of the face-huggers and xenomorphs? Remember that we get both this story and Aerea’s story in Fire and Blood, so this could something Martin is “gardenering” in to explain the specifics of how the dragons were created and how the Valyrians came to possess the “blood of the dragon.”

Now fortunately for Laena, she survived her symbolic worm bite, and then became a dragon rider. That pattern makes me wonder –  is it possible that if things had gone differently,  Aerea might have successfully bonded with the worms instead of dying? It’s very speculative, but one wonders… there were no Valyrian bloodmages around to help Aerea, after all, and perhaps this is where sorcery comes in the process – perhaps sorcery is need to help the worm and the host bond successfully or produce the right kind of offspring. Once bonded with the DNA of the worm, perhaps this person can now bond with dragons, who were also created with worms and blood magic. That’s kind of the pattern we see with Laena – she survives the symbolic worm bite, then grows up to become a dragon rider.

Oh and on other thing –  she dies in childbirth giving birth to Daemon Targaryen’s deformed lizard baby:

A day and a night of labor left Laena Velaryon pale and weak, but finally she gave birth to the son Prince Daemon had so long desired—but the babe was twisted and malformed, and died within the hour. Nor did his mother long survive him. Her grueling labor had drained all of Lady Laena’s strength, and grief weakened her still further, making her helpless before the onset of childbed fever. ( . . . ) After three days of delirium, Lady Laena passed from this mortal coil. She was but twenty-seven. During her final hour, it is said, Lady Laena rose from her bed, pushed away the septas praying over her, and made her way from her room, intent on reaching Vhagar that she might fly one last time before she died. Her strength failed her on the tower steps, however, and it was there she collapsed and died.

Obviously there is no actual connection between young Laena being bitten by the deformed worm-dragon and her giving birth to a deformed Targ baby, right? Right? Well, in terms of symbolism, its certainly interesting. Martin could, again, be giving us hints about the original blood of the dragon process here, showing us a girl infected with worm DNA at an early age who then gives birth to worm children later. It’s a possible parallel to the idea of Aerea’s worms being kind of like her children. Even Laena’s collapsing on the tower steps trying to reach her dragon reminds us of Aerea collapsing onto the stone of the Red Keep after dismounting her dragon.

Recall that Laena’s husband, Daemon Targaryen, who fathered Laena’s deformed Targ baby, rode a dragon called “the Bloodwyrm.” That’s a name highly suggestive of a parasite worm – a worm that swims inside your body, in your blood. And perhaps there’s an implication of a worm that alter someone’s bloodline… to be like a dragon, as Bloodwyrm is a dragon.

Even better, it wasn’t just Laena that Daemon fathered a deformed Targ baby on… his third wife Rhaenyra gave birth to one as well:

On Dragonstone, no cheers were heard. Instead, screams echoed through the halls and stairwells of Sea Dragon Tower, down from the queen’s apartments where Rhaenyra Targaryen strained and shuddered in her third day of labor. The child had not been due for another turn of the moon, but the tidings from King’s Landing had driven the princess into a black fury, and her rage seemed to bring on the birth, as if the babe inside her were angry too, and fighting to get out. The princess shrieked curses all through her labor, calling down the wrath of the gods upon her half-brothers and their mother, the queen, and detailing the torments she would inflict upon them before she would let them die. She cursed the child inside her too, Mushroom tells us, clawing at her swollen belly as Maester Gerardys and her midwife tried to restrain her and shouting, “Monster, monster, get out, get out, GET OUT!”

When the babe at last came forth, she proved indeed a monster: a stillborn girl, twisted and malformed, with a hole in her chest where her heart should have been, and a stubby, scaled tail. Or so Mushroom describes her. The dwarf tells us that it was he who carried the little thing to the yard for burning.

Alright, so again this reminds us of aliens – there’s a monster inside her “fighting to get out?” Her terror and anger at the monster trying to fight its way out of her matches a scene from Aliens, to be honest, and again the baby is lizard-like and malformed.

One other note on Daemon, father of two deformed Targ babies: another of his love interests was a woman in King’s Landing nicknamed “Mysaria: the White Worm.” Daemon bonded with a worm dragon, made love to a worm woman, and had two… not quite worm children, but some sort of deformed lizard-human hybrids.It feels like Martin could be telling us a story here.

I should also probably point out that Daemon is an Azor Ahai /  Bloodstone Emperor figure, what with his taking the island of Bloodstone in the Stepstones for his seat when he declared himself King of the Narrow Sea, among other things. The Bloodstone Emperor was said to practice necromancy and all kinds of dark arts, and I’ve looked at Valyrian culture as sort of picking up where the Bloodstone Emperor left off. Slavery was another of Bloodstone’s practices, as it was with the Valyrians. Point being… it’s possible some of this blood-of-dragon, human-animal hybrid stuff could originate with the Bloodstone Emperor, or perhaps his forefathers.

Here’s an interesting link Amanda and I noticed concerning the two mothers of Daemon’s lizard babies, Rhaenyra and Laena, and other Targs with lizard babies. Laena rode Vhagar, originally Queen Visenya’s mount, while Rhaenyra named her deformed lizard baby Visenya. Visenya, meanwhile is rumored to have used sorcery to conceive her only child, Maegor the Cruel. And Maegor, well…

Three moons before she was due, Queen Jeyne was brought to bed by a sudden onset of labor pains, and was delivered of a stillborn child as monstrous as the one Alys Harroway had birthed, a legless and armless creature possessed of both male and female genitalia. Nor did the mother long survive the child.

Maegor was cursed, men said. He had slain his nephew, made war against the Faith and the High Septon, defied the gods, committed murder and incest, adultery and rape. His privy parts were poisoned, his seed full of worms, the gods would never grant him a living son. Or so the whispers ran. Maegor himself settled on a different explanation, and sent Ser Owen Bush and Ser Maladon Moore to seize Queen Tyanna and deliver her to the dungeons. There the Pentoshi queen made a full confession, even as the king’s torturers readied their implements: she had poisoned Jeyne Westerling’s child in the womb, just as she had Alys Harroway’s. It would be the same with Elinor Costayne’s whelp, she promised.

It is said that the king slew her himself, cutting out her heart with Blackfyre and feeding it to his dogs. But even in death, Tyanna of the Tower had her revenge, for it came to pass just as she had promised. The moon turned and turned again, and in the black of night Queen Elinor too was delivered of a malformed and stillborn child, an eyeless boy born with rudimentary wings.

So, Maegor, born of sorcery, had wormy seed. The women infected with it gave birth to monsters, with the first really looking like a worm – armless and legless. Daemon Targaryen was infected with the “blood wyrm,” so to speak, and he gave birth to lizard babies.  I find it verrrry interesting that with both Maegor and his wives and Daemon and his wives, it almost does seem like Martin is hinting at the idea of worms being transmitted though bloodlines, ones that cause strange hybrid offspring of humans and dragons or worms. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is Dracomorph theory.

These parallels are more what I would call “intriguing” rather than “convincing,” and at the end of the day I have two solid conclusions. One, Martin is at the very least evoking the feel of Aliens with the whole Aerea thing, with Laena Velaryon’s deformed dragon-worm that bit her, and with Rhaenyra’s monster baby trying fight its way out of her. And two, unless the species of worms that invaded Aerea’s body always had hands and faces, which I find unlikely, they seem to have combined with her DNA, and that simple fact opens up a Pandora’s box for the magical combining of different species through the use of nasty worm parasites. It’s disgusting and horrifying, which in my opinion makes it altogether satisfying as a nuts-and-bolts of explanation of just what dark places the Valyrians went to to complete their blood magic experiments.



5 thoughts on “Great Empire of the Dawn: Dracomorph

  1. Interesting piece. I think you can mash up your empire of the dawn posts into this. Maybe the Valyrians were hybrids of dragons and humans created by the dawn-people? at least the nobility.


  2. I know it’s probably too late for this, but you are mistaking the Laena Velaryion who was the rider of Vhalar (daughter of Corlys Velaryon), and her grandaughter, the Laena Velaryion (daughter of Alyn Velaryion), who was the babe who was bitten by the wyrm, and of who we don’t have further info beyond that
    Besides that, this is an amazingly dark theory and I really enjoyed it. Thanks so much


  3. I know I’m leaving this comment more than two years after the article was published, but I hope you see it in any case.

    This was a very interesting article. Overall the Dracomorph theory didn’t entirely convince me, but I found the hybrid wyrm/wyvern idea intriguing to say the least, and what happened to Aerea is also quite interesting.

    An extra thing is that I think you mixed up two Laena Velaryons. One was Oakenfist’s daughter, who was bitten by the wyrm, with Baela Targaryen, who herself was a daughter of the other Laena, who rode Vhagar, with Prince Daemon. Not a major critique, but just a small confusion.


  4. I think the point of fantasy literature is that you are not supposed to get the details on how a fantastic/unreal/magical thing actually works. So we shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed about the fact that we “only” end up with a theory more intriguing than convincing. After reading your theory however I think it’s certain that dragons are worm-wyvern-hybrids and that some of the worm or worm-wyvern-“essence” (let’s not try unmagical words like DNA here) got into the bloodline of the Valyrian Lords. After accepting that Targs are rare hybrids whose mixup cannot be reproduced now after the doom it only makes sense for them to practice incest in order to preserve their traits. This of course increases the prevalence of desired traits like good dragon bonding and apparently immunity to most diseases but also the side effects like cruel monster babies.
    Some interesting question I ask myself now, are: 1. When did the Valyrians forget about their horrible bloodmagical hybrid nature and came to think “blood of the dragon” is just a metaphor or a dogma not to be investigated and 2. How did the Targs exlain their suspiciously regular malformed dragon babies (note to King Robert’s term “dragon spawn”?

    Liked by 1 person

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