The Motherfuggin Andals
The first thing we must understand about trying to sort out the timeline of pre-Andal Westeros is that we are going off of myth and legend related by word-of-mouth and the occasional runic record. George has intentionally written ASOIAF history so that pre-Andal Westeros was illiterate – basically an early Bronze Age society. When the Andals came, they started writing things down as they conquered, and so we have a somewhat dramatic line of demarcation between written history and word-of-mouth history. Additionally, everything they wrote down was heavily shaped by the politics of trying to conquer and assimilate a foreign land, and so we must always bear that in mind. It’s somewhat like trying to suss out the state of the American continents before Europeans arrived – many native peoples had limited writing, relying instead on oral tradition, and those that did, like the Mayans, had most of their scrolls and carvings burned and erased. Disease, war, and genocide erased even more, and we are only now beginning to realize how populous and developed the Americas were pre-Columbus; I highly recommend the award-winning book 1491 for more on that. Point being – when an entire continent is conquered by a foreign people, much history is lost and replaced with the infamous “fog of history.”
Or, expressed in musical form, we can say that
If you’re lost you can look at Andal history
Time after time
They will lie, we will catch them, we’ll be waiting
Time after time
History’s lost, you can look, but there’s no writing
Time after time
Long Night falls, we can guess when, it’s spit-balling
Time after time
One of my favorite examples of Andal bias on Westerosi history is the term “First Men.” It’s not a name like “Egyptians” or “Pentoshi” – there’s no “FirstManlandia” or “FirstManos.” The term “first men” is descriptive – I think it’s literally what the Andals called everyone living in Westeros already when they arrived, and nothing more! This doesn’t seem like something the people of Westeros would call themselves, and there’s ample reason to believe there were in fact different kinds of people that got lumped together by the Andals as “First Men.” Think about it – Westeros is supposed to be about the size of Europe, and the people from the various parts of Westeros do indeed show different physical characteristics; perhaps not to the extent people from various corners of Europe do, but the Lannisters have their own look and so do the men from the North, the Stormlands, or the Reach.
Additionally, there’s very strong evidence that ancestors of House Dayne and Hightower descend from the Great Empire of the Dawn, a fabled empire from the Further East which existed before the Long Night with ties to Asshai and dragons and the origins of Valyria. The Lannisters – Lann the Clever at least – many also come from this fabled Great Empire, though the evidence is more sketchy. Then we have the Iron Islanders, who have many clues about a non-Westerosi origin, and certainly that’s the way I lean.
We also have the issue of religion to consider, because the religious diversity of pre-Andal Westeros is more evidence that not all First Men were the same. The First Men worship trees, at least after the Pact with the children of the forest, but what about before that? There are some weird aquatic religions on both coasts of Westeros, whatever was involved with the cult of Garth the Green, and some wildlings even worship the Others… and who knows how many other religions may have died out when the conversion to Old Gods worship happened.
Finally, the oldest tales of the migration of the first “First Men” to Westeros have them trekking over land from some undetermined point in Essos, perhaps from as far as the fabled Silver Sea which once existed where the Dothraki Grass Sea is now. This migration seems less a one-time exodus like the Biblical story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt, and more the gradual dispersal of people over many centuries, so plenty of intermarriage and warfare would have happened along the way. Ergo, there would have been plenty of exchange of genetics and culture, and the “First Men” who began tricking into Westeros over the land bridge between Dorne and Essos would almost certainly not have been culturally and racially homogenous.
In other words, the lumping together of all the peoples of pre-Andal Westeros into the conglomerate term “First Men” is highly reflective of the way we have to view pre-Andal history – as overly summarized, heavily truncated, and written with Andal bias. And as a Cyndi Lauper song. Anyway. It’s too much to say “it’s all up for grabs,” but when are talking about sorting out events that are thought of as taking place some 5,000 – 10,000 years ago during “the Dawn Age” and “The Age of Heroes,” we shouldn’t view the consensus timeline the maesters have arrived at as being very solid. The maesters themselves question it frequently:
“The Others.” Sam licked his lips. “They are mentioned in the annals, though not as often as I would have thought. The annals I’ve found and looked at, that is. There’s more I haven’t found, I know. Some of the older books are falling to pieces. The pages crumble when I try and turn them. And the really old books . . . either they have crumbled all away or they are buried somewhere that I haven’t looked yet or . . . well, it could be that there are no such books, and never were. The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it. Those old histories are full of kings who reigned for hundreds of years, and knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights. You know the tales, Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-Eyes, Night’s King . . . we say that you’re the nine hundred and ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but the oldest list I’ve found shows six hundred seventy-four commanders, which suggests that it was written during . . .”
“Long ago,” Jon broke in.
One of the worsting break-ins in the series; let Sam finish, Jon, it was just getting good! Anyway, this quote gives us a good framework for interpreting the consensus history – it was laid down by the Andals, and it’s highly questionable. The arrival of the Andals itself is somewhat up for debate, but because they began writing things down and because the historical events they recorded can be cross referenced against records from the Iron Islands, Riverlands, Reach, and elsewhere, it can be set with a range of sorts. It seems the earliest possible date is about 4500 years ago, and more likely the date is closer to 2500 years.
That’s an entirely different line of research, and I know you Andal truthers are out there, but look – there’s absolutely no narrative reason or payoff for the Andals to have been in Westeros during the Long Night, and the evidence people hold up for this regarding iron is misconstrued in my opinion. Bronze Age, Pre-Andal Westeros, just like Bronze Age cultures in the real world, had the capability to make crude iron long before they could make steel, and crude iron is inferior to bronze for making weapons. We see crude iron ceremonial swords in the Winterfell crypts, and plenty of iron on the Iron Islands, and most likely it would have been used for horseshoes and other basic things – again, just like in the Bronze Age in the real world. What the Andals brought was steel – very highly refined iron, essentially – which was much better than bronze weapons and armor and light years beyond the crude iron the First Men possessed. Thus the presence of some crude iron in ancient Westeros is in no way evidence of Andal presence. Not even a little bit.
In any case, narrative logic always comes first, and putting the Andals in Westeros at the time of the Long Night strikes me as pointless. The few things in ancient Westeros which seem too advanced for first men, such as the sword Dawn or the last hero’s “dragonsteel,” the fused stone fortress at Oldtown, Moat Cailin, Castle Pyke, the Wall, and more are better attributed to the Great Empire of the Dawn, or in a few cases, to some sort of vanished race of Deep Ones. None of it points to the Andals, who do not make fused stone or magic swords, who do not set spells in the walls of their fortresses, and who do not build in oily black stone or megalithic stone of any kind.
The theory that the Andals were in Westeros during the Long Night also requires an implausibly giant conspiracy by all of the Andal record keepers to obscure both the Long Night and the Andal conquest of Westeros, and that’s the opposite of what we see – the Andals are quite proud of their conquest and wrote down every detail of it. These details can be matched against the word of mouth and runic records of the various Westerosi First Men houses they interacted with, and the result is a pretty good historical record of the Andal conquest which sounds nothing like the fantastical tales of the Long Night and Age of Heroes.
In other words, I think it is a very safe and solid conclusion to say that there seems to have been a significant chunk of time between the Long Night and the arrival of the Andals. If the Andals had been in Westeros for the Long Night and the invasion of the Others, it would be written down as fact by first-hand witnesses, or by people living in the immediate aftermath. Instead they regard all the specific events and people of the Long Night stories as fable… because that’s how they heard about things like the Others and the last hero, as a fable. If the ancestors of the Andals in Essos witnessed the Long Night, they would have seen only a long winter, and not the Others, as there are no tales of Others in Essos. Thus, the Andals largely don’t believe in the Others. They are outside their historical record.
An that’s basically the point of this first section: when the Andals arrived in Westeros, they slapped the label “First Men” on all the “primitives” that lived there and the label “myth and fable” on pretty much all of their word of mouth and runic records. The history that comes after is fairly reliable, but what the current historians of the Citadel have to say about anything before that ranges from educated guesswork to very biased revisionist history – and all of the events we want to concern ourselves with today fall before this line of reliable history.
The Long Night Bottleneck
The next thing to realize about the timeline is that Long Night itself is really the only firm line of demarcation in the Westerosi history that comes before the Andal invasion. The Long Night was global or semi-global event, witnessed from Westeros to Asshai, so we know for a fact that it happened – even the maesters accept this. We can also deduce that it would have acted as a gigantic cultural and genetic bottleneck if it lasted anything longer than a couple of years, because any sort of worldwide darkness would quickly lead to famine, and thus to lawlessness, chaos, and anarchy. And not the good kind of theoretical anarchy, where everyone sort of polices themselves – we’re talking a bare-knuckles fight over the last helpings of meat or vegetables available (and yes I’m sure there was plenty of cannibalism). The Westerosi tales say the Long Night lasted “a generation,” while Colloquo Votar reports on the legend of the Long Night from Yi Ti, which says it lasted “a lifetime.” Descendants of the Rhoynar have “tales of a darkness that made the Rhoyne dwindle and disappear, her waters frozen as far south as the joining of the Selhoru,” which is a level of severity that speaks to semi-permanent winter. The Rhoyne is the biggest river we’ve seen anywhere in this world, and to freeze a large portion of it would require a Long Night that lasted more than a few weeks – more likely it was measured in years.
Here’s what this means: the Long Night would have been years of unbelievable starvation, war, and mass death. It would have meant the total collapse of any institutions or power structures that existed at that time – for nobody can maintain power over a population of human beings when there is no food to be had. Nobody cares about libraries or the crown jewels when everyone is starving, you know? It’s every man for himself, and the simple fact is that a Long Night lasting more than a couple of years is an event that would have shrunk the world’s population down to a very small number, as happened in the real world in 70,000 BCE when Mount Toba erupted and blew 650,000 miles of vaporized rock into the air, dimming the sun for at least 6 years. Human population dipped down to less than a thousand males of breeding age, and perhaps as low as 40!
Ergo, we don’t have to pin down the exact length of the Long Night to understand that it was a huge cultural and genetic bottleneck through which a lot of things did not pass. Much of mankind’s memory of the past up to that point would have been wiped clean, whole clans or tribes of people would have been wiped out, and many or most of the cultural traditions would have changed or disappeared altogether. In other words, if we have to take everything before the arrival of the Andals with a grain of salt, we have to take everything said to occur “before the Long Night” with an entire Lot’s wife-sized pillar of salt. It’s not all bad though – knowing that the Long Night existed, and that it would have killed almost everyone living at the time, actually helps us place certain events as likely to have happened either before or after it.
It is for this reason that we will start from the Long Night and work outward in both directions to establish a likely timeline for the major events which seem to have some basis in fact. Most legends do have a basis in fact, actually, because ancient man memorialized important events through myth and legend – it’s just a matter of sorting out metaphor and symbol from historical memory.
The Pact and the Long Night
And now I’d like to propose my first major reorganization of the timeline, my first timeline heresy, if you will: the Age of Heroes refers to events that took place right after the Long Night, while the Dawn Age occurs to events before it. Along the same lines, the Pact between humans and the children of the forest, which supposedly divides the Dawn Age from the subsequent Age of Heroes, occurred at the time of the Long Night, not thousands of years before as is commonly believed. In other words, I do think the Pact separates the Dawn Age from the Age of Heroes, but I think that Pact and that separation occurred at the time of the Long Night, not before. The Dawn Age , then the Long Night and the Pact, then the Age of Heroes.
There are so many reasons to think this, starting with the simple logic of the Long Night bottleneck, which dictates that the vast majority of the many Great Houses which claim to have existed since the Age of Heroes could only have been established after the Long Night, and not before. There’s just no way so many powerful families could have survived through the anarchy and death of the Long Night, let alone held on to their seats of power and their authority to rule. It makes far more sense that we would have had new centers of authority establishing themselves in the aftermath of the Long Night as humanity began to pick itself off the mat and rebuild. A few of those new authorities may have been peoples who survived through the Long Night, retained their cultural identity and ancestral lands, and returned to them and set up their power base again, but more of them would be heroes of the Long Night and groups of strangers that somehow banded together to survive the Long Night in various little pockets – and again, this is what happened on Earth after Toba.
It’s also what happened in the east to the Great Empire of the Dawn after the Long Night:
Yet the Great Empire of the Dawn was not reborn, for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others…
That’s more or less what I was proposing earlier for the rest of the world: established power structures were toppled, and the scattered survivors created new cultures and societies.
This, by the way, is probably the answer to the big question of “why did the First Men adopt the religion of the children of the forest wholesale, who had been their enemies?” Nearly every First Man house apparently adopted Old Gods worship and maintained it until the Andals came, and in the North, they practice it to this day. The Long Night provides just the sort of circumstance for this to happen: the existing population of Westeros is whittled down to a fraction, with the survivors desperate and traumatized and perhaps thinking of themselves as “abandoned” or “cursed” by their former gods. The Westerosi tales of the last hero and the Night’s Watch winning the War for the Dawn to end the Long Night speak of the children of the forest coming to the aid of humanity, and that’s the other piece of the puzzle here. This is the reason why the survivors of the Long Night would have been so grateful and impressed with the children of the forest that they would adopt their religion. If the weirwood nature magic of the greenseers was the thing that saved humanity’s bacon during the Long Night, you can see why they would take up enthusiastic worship of the weirwood trees and the power behind them.
In my opinion, placing the Pact between men and children at the time of the Long Night makes everything else make a lot more sense. The mysterious switch of religion is explained. The very basic question of why the First Men would make a pact at all with a foe they were largely defeating and driving back is also neatly explained – that has perplexed the fandom for years, but I think the answer is right here. They stopped warring on the children because the Long Night wiped out most of humanity, and the survivors made peace with the children because they only survived with the help of the children.
More evidence comes from thinking about the origins of the Night’s Watch. Most of Westeros now worships the Andal Faith of the Seven, and so most Nights Watch recruits say their vows in the Sept these days, but we see in AGOT that Night’s Watch recruits who come from houses that still worship the Old Gods may choose to swear their vows in front of a heart tree, as Jon Snow does. But think about it – before the Andals came to Westeros, almost every Night’s Watch recruit would have been a worshipper of the Old Gods, and thus would have sworn their oaths to protect the realm and never leave their post etc etc to the weirwood trees – to the greenseers, in other words.
I’ll say that again: before the Andals came, almost every Night’s Watch recruit swore their vows to the greenseers. That makes sense, because the children of the forest helped establish the Night’s Watch. This is from TWOIAF concerning the last hero:
Alone he finally reached the children, despite the efforts of the white walkers, and all the tales agree this was a turning point. Thanks to the children, the first men of the Night’s Watch banded together and were able to fight—and win—the Battle for the Dawn: the last battle that broke the endless winter and sent the Others fleeing to the icy north.
The children helped the last hero, and we also know the children once had a custom of providing dragonglass to the Night’s Watch as well – so this is all adding up. The children of the forest helped mankind defeat the Others – that’s very clear – and the children helped man set up a new institution, the “first men of the Night’s Watch,” which involved mankind swearing a bunch of stuff to the greenseers in return. The vows might as well say “thanks a ton for showing us how to defeat the Others, oh greenseers, and we swear upon our graves that we will maintain the practices you have shown so that we will always be ready when they come again,” more or less.
Gosh, that pretty much sounds like a pact to me – the children help man, man swears a bunch of stuff to the children in return, and a common goal is achieved. Doesn’t it makes sense that this is the same pact where man swore to stop fighting the children and instead take up their religion, or at least a similar pact made around the same time and for the same basic reasons?
If this is the case, then the Age of Heroes, which is supposed to follow The Pact, does indeed come right after the Long Night – and the Age of Heroes is basically a collection of origin stories for most of the first great houses of Westeros. This is exactly what you’d expect to find after a cultural reset button the size and severity of the Long Night.
The collection of stories the maesters group into “the Dawn Age,” then, essentially represents the time before the Long Night – which is why everything we hear about that time sounds extremely fantastical and fairy-tale like. These are the very hazy memories that a few of the survivors of the Long Night carried with them through the darkness and then told to their children and grandchildren. Those tales would quickly take on the air of legend, because the post-Long Night world would have been so different. But the new history being created by the new First Men houses – the heroes of the Age of Heroes – would be carried on through direct transmission to the time of the Andals with at least some amount of clarity, since so many of those houses seem to have maintained power in a continuous fashion for centuries leading up to the arrival of the Andals. That’s what we we find in the historical record – many of the First Men houses kept records of their ruling monarchs which the Andal historians treated as somewhat historical, as opposed to primarily mythical.
You can find clues about this proposed alternate timeline of mine in the origin myths of some of the Great Houses – specifically in the fact that so many of them seem to have natural disasters which sound like they could be references to the Long Night built in to the beginning, and trace the expansion of their line to the time after. Although the main Westerosi Long Night story says nothing about what could have caused the sun to disappear, most of you watching will know that I believe the answer to that riddle is spelled out in three eastern myths. And once we have that fuller picture of the compound disaster that was remembered as the Long Night, we can then see that there are references to the Long Night in the origin stories of most of the Great Houses – because that’s when all of the Great Houses sprang up, after the Long Night. The Long Night, or some mythicized version of it, will often be the oldest thing anyone remembers.
Those three myths are the Azor Ahai forging of Lightbringer myth, which is from Asshai, the second moon / origin of dragon myth, which is from Qarth, and the Bloodstone Emperor Long Night myth, which was recorded by Yi Tish scribes. The Azor Ahai myth and the Qarthine myth speak of a moon cracking; it happens when Lightbringer is forged in the first, and in the second, there’s a once-existent “second moon” which “wandered too close to the sun” and cracked open to give birth to fiery dragons. The products of these two moon cracking myths – a flaming sword and fire-breathing dragons – are both classic mythical symbols for comets and meteors, and the third Long Night myth straight up tells us about a meteor falling at the time of the Long Night. That last legend is the Bloodstone Emperor myth, and it’s implied that he draws magical power from this black meteorite which he worshipped.
In other words, the Long Night was caused by a probably-magical moon meteor impact, or more likely a series of probably-magical moon meteor impacts, which threw up enough ash, smoke, and debris (think thousands of cubic miles of vaporized rock, dirt, and plants) to blot out the sun and cause a prolonged darkness. In addition to that, the moon meteor impacts could or would have set off raging wildfires, earthquakes, and most of all, floods if any of them landed in the water. We’ll find references to all of those things scattered throughout the Westerosi origin stories, and we’ll also see that Prometheus-like Azor Ahai component of mankind obtaining the “fire of the gods” in many or most of these myths as well. Though I won’t focus on that angle today, I will point it out as a corroboration that these myths are speaking of the same related set of events.
The three eastern myths I just named set the template – moons are cracked, meteors or symbols of meteors are born and fall to earth, darkness ensues, and some sort of wizard or king gains power. Azor Ahai gains Lightbringer, the Bloodstone Emperor gains the magic meteor and many dark sorcerous powers, and the Qarthine tale simply speaks of the moment dragons came to the earth, which are themselves a great magical power harnessed by the Valyrians and Targaryens and according to me, the Great Empire of the Dawn.
And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Hammer Time, because the most conspicuous Westerosi match might be the Hammer of the Waters legend. The unbelievable destruction recorded in this legend was supposedly the work of the children of the forest – although I have my doubts, as you’ll see. The following is the maesterly recounting of Westerosi fable in TWOIAF, and it begins by talking about how the First Men were winning the war against the children, saying
Finally, driven by desperation, the little people turned to sorcery and beseeched their greenseers to stem the tide of these invaders.
And so they did, gathering in their hundreds (some say on the Isle of Faces), and calling on their old gods with song and prayer and grisly sacrifice (a thousand captive men were fed to the weirwood, one version of the tale goes, whilst another claims the children used the blood of their own young). And the old gods stirred, and giants awoke in the earth, and all of Westeros shook and trembled. Great cracks appeared in the earth, and hills and mountains collapsed and were swallowed up. And then the seas came rushing in, and the Arm of Dorne was broken and shattered by the force of the water, until only a few bare rocky islands remained above the waves. The Summer Sea joined the narrow sea, and the bridge between Essos and Westeros vanished for all time.
Or so the legend says.
So the legend says something “hammered” the land bridge, and it collapsed, causing huge floods? Usually a hammer falls and strikes; that’s an odd name for an earthquake, which rises up from underground. It’s a great description of a meteor strike though, and meteors can in fact cause that sort of massive land collapse such as is described in the Hammer of the Waters tale. As the maesters go on to point out, it doesn’t make any sense for the children to have done this to stop the First Men from warring on them; thousands of First Men had already been crossing the land bridge for centuries and stopping more from coming wasn’t help them win the war they were losing against the First Men that were already there. It’s very much a “closing the barn door after the horses have escaped” situation, which, spoiler alert for those of you not raised with horses and barns… closing the barn doors after the horses have escaped doesn’t do a whole lot of good. They are gone already.
Additionally, do the children really have the power to cause earthquakes? If so, they sure used it in a weird way. The titanic scale of the Hammer of the Waters event supposedly required massive blood sacrifice, but wasn’t very effective, as I pointed out. Why not try a much smaller hammer on a couple of the First Man ringforts or primitive castles? That would have sent the First Men running, and presumably the smaller scale would require less blood sacrifice.
Try to picture it. You’re a First Man sentry looking over the moss-bearded crenelations of your ringfort, peering into the dark, primal forest for any sign of the creepy little elves you’ve been warring against. You see a group of them at the edge of the woods, slitting the throats of a few captives, then suddenly the ground begins to shake, rents open up and a few of your best drinking buddies fall in, your fort collapses… and the elves never even came within bowshot? How discouraged would you be? How are you supposed to fight that?
In other words, if the children had any sort of “make the ground shake” magic, they’d have used it much differently, and should have been able to use it to defeat the First Men long before resorting to destroying an entire land mass. I think we are being invited to question the official story… …and then to realize that the Hammer of the Waters sounds like a perfect mythical memory of a meteor impact event.
Whether or not the children caused the “hammer” to “fall,” the idea that it required blood magic murder to initiate matches the story template of the myths we are comparing to. Both the Azor Ahai fable and the Bloodstone Emperor fable speak of a blood magic murder – Azor murders Nissa Nissa, which cracks the moon, and the Bloodstone Emperor murders the Amethyst Empress, which causes the sun to hide its face because it just such an evil thing to do. Compare that to the Hammer legend, we have the Hammer being called down by mass blood sacrifice on the Isle of Faces – only death can pay for moon meteors, it seems.
George left us a nice literary clue about all this when he decided to name one of the Stepstones Islands, which are all that remains of the land bridge, Bloodstone Island. The Bloodstone Emperor supposedly caused the Long Night by calling down a meteor – a bleeding star or bloody stone in ASOIAF speak – and here where the Hammer of the Waters struck, we have a Bloodstone Island, like a giant “The Bloodstone Emperor did it!” sign. In more recent history, Bloodstone Island is taken as the royal seat of Daemon Targaryen when he declares himself King of the Narrow Sea, and Daemon is a terrific Azor Ahai-parallel figure who spends thirteen days carving wounds into a heart tree with a Valyrian steel sword before dying in a dragon-vs-dragon fight over the Gods Eye and Isle of Faces… where the Hammer of the Waters was supposedly called down. But that’s a symbolism for another day.
Now, if the Hammer of the Waters was a moon meteor event as I propose, that means it fell at the time of the Long Night, not thousands of years before – and this is also what I am saying about the Pact. In fact, the official story is the Pact followed soon after the Hammer, that the Hammer drove the First Men to sign the Pact. Basically, I’m keeping those two events together, but moving them to the time of the Long Night. It makes a lot of sense that way – dark magic was performed, all the tales agree; then the meteors fell like hammers and dragons, causing the Long Night; in that darkness came the Others, and mankind allied with the children to stop them, forming a pact and the first Night’s Watch. When the sun rose again, the heroes and survivors of the Long Night established new centers of power that persisted for centuries, all of which were built around a godswood with a weirwood heart tree to honor their new worship of the Old Gods.
Compare that to the official story, which quite intentionally makes no sense at several key moments. The official story is that centuries or millennia before the Long Night, the First Men were kicking the children of the forest’s ass in a war of conquest, leading the little forest elves to use all of their magical power to destroy the land bridge the humans had already crossed. This did nothing to stop the humans, who kept kicking ass, but then the humans inexplicably ceased warring on the children and signed a Pact with them, and on top of that, the humans decided to toss out their old religion and adopt the religion of the elves they had been trying to exterminate… for no reason anyone can remember, seemingly.
None of that makes sense, and again, it’s written as a fog-of-history type puzzle that we are supposed to pull on the threads of. My proposed timeline resolves all the issues here… why did the children drop the Hammer when it was way too late? Well, they didn’t, that was a Long Night-causing moon meteor. Why did the First Men stop warring on the children? They got hit by a meteor, then the Others. Why did the First Men sign the Pact and adopt Old Gods worship? Because the children helped the first men of the Night’s Watch defeat the Others, saving humanity, and because so much of human culture would have been lost during the Long Night. Why did the Night’s Watch originally swear their vows to the weirwood trees and the greenseers? Because that’s who helped them survive. It’s a delightfully straightforward answer, to be honest, and to me it just makes a ton of sense.
Alright, my proposed timeline so far says that the Hammer of the Waters was an account of a meteor impact that occurred when the Long Night fell, that the pact or pacts between humans and children would have happened shortly after, probably a few years into the Long Night, that the Night’s Watch would have been set up at this time as well, and finally that the “Dawn Age” refers to everything before the Long Night, and the “Age of heroes” to the era right after the Long Night but still well before the Andals arrived and started writing things down.
Good Grief, Durran, What a Mess You’ve Made
We find pretty much the whole story, including references to the Hammer of the Waters, in the Stormlands legends – namely, that of Durran Godsgrief, fair Elenei, and the founding of Storm’s End and House Durrandon.
The songs said that Storm’s End had been raised in ancient days by Durran, the first Storm King, who had won the love of the fair Elenei, daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind. On the night of their wedding, Elenei had yielded her maidenhood to a mortal’s love and thus doomed herself to a mortal’s death, and her grieving parents had unleashed their wrath and sent the winds and waters to batter down Durran’s hold. His friends and brothers and wedding guests were crushed beneath collapsing walls or blown out to sea, but Elenei sheltered Durran within her arms so he took no harm, and when the dawn came at last he declared war upon the gods and vowed to rebuild.
Five more castles he built, each larger and stronger than the last, only to see them smashed asunder when the gale winds came howling up Shipbreaker Bay, driving great walls of water before them. His lords pleaded with him to build inland; his priests told him he must placate the gods by giving Elenei back to the sea; even his smallfolk begged him to relent. Durran would have none of it. A seventh castle he raised, most massive of all. Some said the children of the forest helped him build it, shaping the stones with magic; others claimed that a small boy told him what he must do, a boy who would grow to be Bran the Builder. No matter how the tale was told, the end was the same. Though the angry gods threw storm after storm against it, the seventh castle stood defiant, and Durran Godsgrief and fair Elenei dwelt there together until the end of their days.
Durran Godsgrief, founder of House Durrandon, is supposed to have lived in the Age of Heroes, which I am saying began right after the Long Night. Here’s the thing – Storm’s End is right up the coast from the Stepstones and the broken Arm of Dorne, and this legend of a great storm and flood wiping out everyone in Durran’s family except Durran and Elenei is almost certainly an account of the Hammer of the Waters event. Any sort of sudden collapse of land which resulted in the sudden joining of two oceans would have resulted in unbelievable tsunamis racing up the newly created Narrow Sea to punish anyone near the coastline… and this is exactly what we see in the Durran Godsgrief story. The weather of the area would change forever after this “hammer” event as the ocean currents readjusted to the joining of the Summer Sea and the Narrow Sea – and this is also exactly what we see in the Durran Godsgrief legend, which stipulates that the weather of the Narrow Sea changed forever after to be much more stormy.
This is a really nice fit, folks – the Hammer of the Waters event would have created deadly tsunamis, and when we look in that area, we do indeed find an ancient account of a deadly tsunami that almost killed the friends and family of the main character in the story.
Which, by the way, sounds like a cultural bottleneck event – everyone dies save for one man and his divine wife, who sheltered him. This is just the way I am describing the Long Night bottleneck! If Durran’s floods are the Hammer of the Waters floods, then they should happen at the time of the Long Night, and indeed, we hear of mass death striking at this time. Durran’s line was established in the aftermath of these events, a match for my theory that the great houses of the “Age of Heroes” would have mostly been established right after the Long Night.
The mythical themes of the story are a match to our other myths as well – Durran is the Azor Ahai figure who is trying to obtain something that belongs to the gods; in this case, the daughter of the wind and sea gods. This brings about the great devastation, and there’s even the implication of Elenei dying like Nissa Nissa in that she doomed herself to a mortal’s death by choosing to wed Durran. In some tales, Durran receives help from the children of the forest to stymie the wrath of the gods, kind of like how the last hero and mankind makes a pact with the children and receives their aid.
We also see echoes of the Hammer of the Waters myth here. The Hammer of the Waters was supposedly called down by “the greenseers” on the Isle of faces, but the greenseers on the Isle of Faces are probably the “Sacred Order of Green Men,” who are described as being green-skinned men with antlers on their heads, like a stag. This is the same description that we get of the legendary Garth the Green, supposedly the first man in Westeros, and here’s the kicker – the Durrandon Storm Kings (and the Baratheons after them) have been wearing something called “the stag crown” and putting antlers on their helms for as long as we are aware of. Dressing up like green men, in other words – like the people who dropped the Hammer of the Waters. In mythical terms, both legends have a stag man or men bringing on the apocalyptic floods, and that may because these myths are referring to the same events.
Interestingly, there also seems to have been a shift in the way the First Men of the Stormlands viewed the children that took place at this time. Durran Godsgrief originally warred against the children, taking the Rainwood from them, but as we just mentioned, he may have later allied with them to build his castle, which is built around a godswood and heart tree as the other First Men castles were. Even more clear is the story of his son, called “Durran the Devout,” who returned the Rainwood to the children – and I think the name “Devout” probably implies that he worshipped the gods of the children, the Old Gods the First Men are known for worshipping. This too tracks with my alternate timeline – the shift from warring against the children to adopting their religion should happen in the aftermath of the Long Night, which is when I am saying Durran Godsgrief and then his son Durran the Devout lived.
Now it’s also true that a century later, it’s said that another Durrandon Storm King took the Rainwood back from the children again, but this is a pattern we see all over Westeros.. even after the First Men adopted the religion of the children, there was still warring and conquest going on, right up to the arrival of the Andals, which kind of finished off the children in all but the most remote places.
Galladon of Morning
Now before we move on from the Stormlands, there is one more local legend to take a look at which has many parallels to the Azor Ahai story, and that’s the legend of Galladon of Morne.
“Ser Galladon was a champion of such valor that the Maiden herself lost her heart to him. She gave him an enchanted sword as a token of her love. The Just Maid, it was called. No common sword could check her, nor any shield withstand her kiss. Ser Galladon bore the Just Maid proudly, but only thrice did he unsheathe her. He would not use the Maid against a mortal man, for she was so potent as to make any fight unfair.”
There are just so many parallels to the Lightbringer story here. To wit: Azor Ahai received a magic sword when Nissa Nissa sacrificed her very heart to temper Lightbringer… and Galladon of Morne received his magic sword when the “Maiden herself” lost her heart to him. Galladon used the Just Maid only three times, while Lightbringer had to be forged three times. The name “Just Maid” is derived from “the Maiden herself,” and plays on the real-world astronomy of the constellation Virgo, which appears to holding aloft the scales of Libra – this is where our image of blind lady justice comes from. Point being – the sword is named for the essence of the woman who lost her heart to create it, and that’s very similar to Nissa Nissa having poured her strength and soul into Lightbringer. And don’t forget that the word “Lightbringer” is synonymous with Venus or Aphrodite, so it too is a goddess sword, like the Just Maid. Galladon and the Just Maid are even associated with dragons too – it’s said that Galladon slew a dragon with the Just Maid. The name “Morne” obviously makes us think of “Sword of the Morning,” especially when Galladon is described as “the perfect knight” and a “champion of such valor,” since Dawn is only given out to knights of House Dayne who prove themselves worthy.
There’s even an implication of the Just Maid as a star sword or meteor sword, because “the Maiden herself” is kind of implied as a star lady. As I mentioned, the phrase “Just Maid” refers to Virgo holding Libra, so Martin is making intentional reference to a zodiacal constellation in the name of the sword. Consider this: each of the Seven Gods of the Faith (which uses a lot of astronomy by the way) is associated with one of the seven “celestial wanderers,” a phrase which refers to the 5 planets visible from earth and the sun and moon. If we had to guess which wanderer was associated with “the Maiden,” the only two choices really would be Venus or the moon… and then we recall that the Dawn meteorite is called “the heart of a fallen star,” so now reading about this celestial maiden losing her heart to the Knight of Morne to make a magic sword… really starts to sound like just another version of the Lightbringer story. A remix, if you will.
The Galladon story is given to us by Brienne of Tarth, because Morne was an ancient castle on the Isle of Tarth and Galladon is a local hero there. As if to emphasize the morning / evening symbolism, Morne is complemented by Evenfall Hall on the other side of Tarth, where the Lord is called “The Evenstar.” Thus we are definitely meant to read Galladon of Morne as tapping into the Morningstar symbolism of Venus, which means that the Just Maid, Lightbringer, and Dawn all draw their symbolism from Venus mythology. Brienne herself carries around a magic sword, Oathkeeper, which she compared to the Just Maid, and that’s important because Oathkeeper used to be Ned’s Ice, and Arya compared a blood-soaked Ice to the red comet; Oathkeeper meanwhile has been colored blood red, making it a very good symbolic stand-in for Lightbringer.
Ergo, you have the daughter of the Evenstar carrying around a magic red sword and thinking of Galladon of Morne, who had a sword with an origin story that sounds like Lightbringer and Dawn. I don’t know why there’s a weird version of the Azor Ahai myth floating around on the Isle of Tarth, but that appears to be the case, and Tarth is very close to Storm’s End, lying due west of the Storm’s End in Shipbreaker Bay. Between the mythology of Durran Godsgrief and Galladon of Morne, we pretty much have the whole Mythical Astronomy Long Night story.
The Weirdest Place in Westeros
But let’s do move on. Many of you might be fidgeting in your seat to ask ‘what about the other Hammer of the Waters that fell on the Neck,’ and that’s a good question. It seems clear Westeros remembers two destructive flooding and land-subsidence events associated with the “hammer of the Waters” – one on the Arm of Dorne, and one on the Neck – but the author is intentionally being vague as to whether or not they fell at the same time or not. Most people tend to think they were two different events, based on the logic that the children were dropping the Hammers to try to stop the First Men, and tried to drop the second one on the Neck after the first one failed to stop them in the south. But the first time we hear of the Hammer, the story comes from Old nan, and it doesn’t sound like they dropped two different hammers:
“But some twelve thousand years ago, the First Men appeared from the east, crossing the Broken Arm of Dorne before it was broken. They came with bronze swords and great leathern shields, riding horses. No horse had ever been seen on this side of the narrow sea. No doubt the children were as frightened by the horses as the First Men were by the faces in the trees. As the First Men carved out holdfasts and farms, they cut down the faces and gave them to the fire. Horror-struck, the children went to war. The old songs say that the greenseers used dark magics to make the seas rise and sweep away the land, shattering the Arm, but it was too late to close the door. The wars went on until the earth ran red with blood of men and children both, but more children than men, for men were bigger and stronger, and wood and stone and obsidian make a poor match for bronze. Finally the wise of both races prevailed, and the chiefs and heroes of the First Men met the greenseers and wood dancers amidst the weirwood groves of a small island in the great lake called Gods Eye. There they forged the Pact.”
Obviously this is a mythical account of whatever happened back then, but as you can see there is only one hammer event in this story. There’s no reference to the Neck here at all – and I suspect that is because all the flooding happened at the same time, and so it suffices to refer to them both at once. I mean it does stand to reason that the low-lying lands of the Neck would have been flooded by those same tsunamis that ravaged Storm’s End, just not as severely.
The maesterly summary in TWOIAF makes it sound like the flooding at the Neck and the Arm of Dorne are thought of as one event as well:
The hunters among the children—their wood dancers—became their warriors as well, but for all their secret arts of tree and leaf, they could only slow the First Men in their advance. The greenseers employed their arts, and tales say that they could call the beasts of marsh, forest, and air to fight on their behalf: direwolves and monstrous snowbears, cave lions and eagles, mammoths and serpents, and more. But the First Men proved too powerful, and the children are said to have been driven to a desperate act.
Legend says that the great floods that broke the land bridge that is now the Broken Arm and made the Neck a swamp were the work of the greenseers, who gathered at Moat Cailin to work dark magic. Some contest this, however: the First Men were already in Westeros when this occurred, and stemming the tide from the east would do little more than slow their progress. Moreover, such power is beyond even what the greenseers are traditionally said to have been capable of…and even those accounts appear exaggerated.
Basically, it’s the same story Old Nan told, only the location of the summoning is moved from the Isle of Faces to Moat Cailin. You can see the maesters making the same argument I did about closing the barn door after the horses have escaped too, almost as if George Martin is begging us to question the official story of the children causing the Hammer. In any case, there’s really no evidence that there were two separate events, save for the confusion about where it was called down from, and that’s the part of the myth that is the most questionable to begin with.
So like I said, it could well be that the Neck was flooded by the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, but there’s actually a good amount of evidence that more than one moon meteor struck Westeros, or, alternately, that the impact on the Arm of Dorne was so severe that it caused earthquakes throughout Westeros… because there’s really no question that the entire midsection of Westeros, from the Neck to the Iron Islands, shook with a tremendous violence at some point in the past. The Neck isn’t just flooded, after all, as we see when we have a look at one of my very favorite places in ASOIAF, which is of course the very weird Moat Cailin. This is Catleyn catching sight of the gargantuan, abandoned fortress in AGOT:
Just beyond, through the mists, she glimpsed the walls and towers of Moat Cailin … or what remained of them. Immense blocks of black basalt, each as large as a crofter’s cottage, lay scattered and tumbled like a child’s wooden blocks, half-sunk in the soft boggy soil. Nothing else remained of a curtain wall that had once stood as high as Winterfell’s. The wooden keep was gone entirely, rotted away a thousand years past, with not so much as a timber to mark where it had stood. All that was left of the great stronghold of the First Men were three towers … three where there had once been twenty, if the taletellers could be believed.
The Gatehouse Tower looked sound enough, and even boasted a few feet of standing wall to either side of it. The Drunkard’s Tower, off in the bog where the south and west walls had once met, leaned like a man about to spew a bellyful of wine into the gutter. And the tall, slender Children’s Tower, where legend said the children of the forest had once called upon their nameless gods to send the hammer of the waters, had lost half its crown. It looked as if some great beast had taken a bite out of the crenellations along the tower top, and spit the rubble across the bog. All three towers were green with moss.
Try to picture it, if you can: blocks of black basalt as big as a cottage; those would weigh many tons. And they used to be stacked up fifty to eighty feet high to make a wall! This is true megalithic construction here, almost as if the castle were built on a scale intended for giants. The level of difficulty involved is far, far beyond the ringforts and primitive castles of the First Men, and indeed, we do not see anything remotely close to this type of construction anywhere else in Westeros, period. The only possible match is actually Yeen, on Sothoryos, which is made of oily black stone in “massive blocks so heavy that it would require a dozen elephants to move them.” When Theon sees Moat Cailin in ADWD, George seems to be teasing with the idea that these block of black basalt are actually the dreaded oily black stone:
Where once a mighty curtain wall had stood, only scattered stones remained, blocks of black basalt so large it must once have taken a hundred men to hoist them into place. Some had sunk so deep into the bog that only a corner showed; others lay strewn about like some god’s abandoned toys, cracked and crumbling, spotted with lichen. Last night’s rain had left the huge stones wet and glistening, and the morning sunlight made them look as if they were coated in some fine black oil.
There’s the fine black oil quote; make of it what you will. Like I said, the building styles of Moat Cailin and Yeen match, they’re both built in swampy jungles, and Moat Cailin is abandoned and damned almost like Yeen is – so if Moat Cailin’s black basalt turns out to be oily black stone, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Whether or not it’s oily stone, I think the easy conclusion is that Moat Cailin was built… a very long time ago. Quite possibly Yeen and Moat Cailin are Martin’s way of telling us that Deep Ones used to rule the earth, tens of thousands of years ago, or perhaps these places are connected to the Great Empire of the Dawn, but… Moat Cailin wasn’t built by no First Men that we know of, is what I’m saying, and as such it is almost certainly a pre-Long Night structure. Quite possibly very pre-Long Night.
And that makes sense, because it’s built in a damn swamp. Swamps are not where you build castles, usually. How exactly would one gain the leverage to stack cottage-sized blocks of rock eighty feet into the air… in a swamp? Where you put the giant cranes and pulleys, or the ramps solid enough to bear the weight of such blocks? Building Moat Cailin on solid, dry ground is already a task well beyond the First Men we know of; doing so miles into an uninhabitable swamp is just unthinkable. It’s far, far more likely that Moat Cailin was built when the Neck was solid ground, before it was inundted by the Hammer of the Waters event.
This too makes a lot of sense, because this place is pretty messed up. These unbelievably large and heavy stone blocks that used to comprise the fortress are strewn all about the bog like a child’s wooden blocks, or like a god’s toys. That sounds like more that just the land subsiding under the fortress and causing a collapse – both descriptions make it sound like they were hurled around the bog. If one moon meteor caused the tremendous violence of the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, then this kind of destruction could certainly be attributed to either the same meteor impact or a similar one that fell somewhere nearby. And after all – the destruction here at the Neck and down south at the Arm of Dorne are both attributed to the same thing. I’m just saying that thing was a moon meteor, which was remembered as a hammer that fell from the sky and struck the waters and earth.
If you think about it, these tales of the children of the forest being the ones to call the Hammer down from Moat Cailin are even more dubious than the ones of them calling it down from the Isle of Faces. So the children.. gathered at the top of a dark tower in a giant castle made of black stone to work their nature-based greenseer magic? Does that even sound like the children, who are never found in castles or towers, but rather tree-towns and caves and the deep woods? Azor Ahai working dark sorcery in a dark tower, sure, that I can buy, but the children of the forest?
As I mentioned, the flooding and land subsidence in this area extends to the iron Islands as well, and we find a lot of the same elements there: a castle that might be older than the First Men, massive land collapse, and even oily black stone.
Oh, and something about a dragon, we can’t forget that.
Castle Pyke and the Seastone Chair
The IronIslands mythology is the most developed of any region or culture in ASOIAF, at least in terms of what we get as readers. George really had fun with it, and I’ve written about it extensively as its highly symbolic – check out Weirwood Compendium 1, the Grey King and the Sea Dragon. Fortunately we don’t need to go into that level of depth today – we don’t have an extra two hours – but there are a few basic things to notice. First off, Castle Pyke. It’s very old – so old nobody actually knows who built it:
Pyke is so ancient that no one can say with certainty when it was built, nor name the lord who built it. Like the Seastone Chair, its origins are lost in mystery.
Once, centuries ago, Pyke was as other castles: built upon solid stone on a cliff overlooking the sea, with a wall and keeps and towers. But the cliffs it rested upon were not as solid as they seemed, and beneath the endless pounding of the waves, they began to crumble. Walls fell, the ground gave way, outer buildings were lost.
What remains of Pyke today is a complex of towers and keeps scattered across half a dozen islets and sea stacks above the booming waves. A section of curtain wall, with a great gatehouse and defensive towers, stretches across the headland, the only access to the castle, and is all that remains of the original fortress. A stone bridge from the headland leads to the first and largest islets and Great Keep of Pyke.
What’s interesting is that there are no records of Pyke being built, or of the disaster that struck it. True, it’s possible that the state of the castle could be the result of erosion by the waves, as the maesters suggest, but it’s also possible that this land collapse could have happened all at once. It’s not just a little erosion, after all, but the collapse of most of the land that the castle sits on.
My thinking here is that Castle Pyke was built before the Long Night, was nearly destroyed by the floods and earthquakes brought on by the meteor impacts, and then was later rediscovered by the first people to reinhabit the Iron Islands after the Long Night. A couple of things point to this – the Seastone Chair, and the round tower design of the castle. Round towers are supposedly something that was beyond the capabilities of the First Men and early Andals, and this idea has been used by the maesters to date castles throughout Westeros, as we see when the maesters discuss Winterfell’s First Keep:
The oldest of these—a long-abandoned tower, round and squat and covered with gargoyles—has become known as the First Keep. Some take this to mean that it was built by the First Men, but Maester Kennet has definitively proved that it could not have existed before the arrival of the Andals since the First Men and the early Andals raised square towers and keeps. Round towers came sometime later.
The First Keep is thought to have been rebuilt more than once, and it seems likely that the only original part of Winterfell is the complex of crypts below. But this can not be said for the Sea Tower of Pyke:
The Sea Tower rose from the outmost island at the point of the broken sword, the oldest part of the castle, round and tall, the sheer-sided pillar on which it stood half-eaten through by the endless battering of the waves.
The peninsula of land that Castle Pyke sits on is compared to a broken sword here, and that’s another clue that the land here might have been shattered in one violent incident (and I can’t help but notice George places the red comet in the sky right above the castle in this scene – it’s the one where Theon returns home to the Iron Islands – as if to say “gee, I wonder what could break the land in such a violent way, oh hey look at that huge comet.”
Symbolism aside though, Pyke’s outer curtain wall and the Sea Tower, both named as original parts of the castle, are clearly round – but they are far too old to be Andal construction. The clash between Andals and Iron Islanders came late in the Andal conquest and is a matter of historical record, while Pyke is so damn old nobody remembers building it. This raises questions about Storm’s End too, since it is comprised of one giant round tower and is thought of as being built before the Andals arrived, although it’s unclear if perhaps it was rebuilt over the years like Winterfell’s First Keep. When we take a look at Pyke, we can see that, like Moat Cailin, the building techniques here are hard to attribute to the First Men. They instead have to make us wonder about “men who came before the First Men,” or perhaps the similar idea that there were multiple groups of people that later got lumped together under the homogenous term “First Men.”
And after all, there are stories that someone was here on the islands long before the First Men. We first hear of this in ACOK when Theon first sees the Seastone Chair:
Lord Balon occupied the Seastone Chair, carved in the shape of a great kraken from an immense block of oily black stone. Legend said that the First Men had found it standing on the shore of Old Wyk when they came to the Iron Islands.
More detail about this comes in TWOIAF:
A possibility arises for a third race to have inhabited the Seven Kingdoms in the Dawn Age, but it is so speculative that it need only be dealt with briefly. Among the ironborn, it is said that the first of the First Men to come to the Iron Isles found the famous Seastone Chair on Old Wyk, but that the isles were uninhabited. If true, the nature and origins of the chair’s makers are a mystery. Maester Kirth in his collection of ironborn legends, Songs the Drowned Men Sing, has suggested that the chair was left by visitors from across the Sunset Sea, but there is no evidence for this, only speculation.
Okay, so clearly the Great Empire of the Deep Ones came here first, and they left the Seastone Chair behind when they left because it was just too big and heavy to fit on the ship. Or maybe they just have tons of kraken-shaped chairs and they just left one by mistake. Whatever the case, the Seastone Chair is definitely oily black stone, and it’s definitely something pulled straight from Lovecraft. George is quite intentionally evoking the idea of the Deep Ones here, which fits well with the idea of Moat Cailin as a match for Yeen that may also be made of oily black stone. Put that together with the abundant legends of Deep Ones, Merlings, and Squishers that spread across the midsection of Westeros from the Iron Islands to the Riverlands to the Neck to Crackclaw Point and Driftmark, and you can see the author hinting at a previous cycle of existence, ruled by fish people. The Great Empire of the Squishers, more or less.
I don’t think that is anything George will ever confirm; this is only supposed to be a hint of a previous civilization from the remotest history – in Lovecraft’s universe, there are races of elder beings that vanished from the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago or more, and that’s what Martin is trying to evoke here I think. But for our purposes, consider that the Seastone Chair was supposedly found on the beach of Old Wyk, by people who found the Iron Islands uninhabited.
That’s interesting – someone must have moved it from Old Wyk to Pyke, and then to the Great Keep. Who in the hell did that exactly? Was that before or after Pyke was damaged? Whomever found it on the beach, did they find it already carved into a kraken shape, or was that done later? Nobody seems to know, just as nobody seems to know who built Pyke, or when. There’s also no specific record mentioned of the land Pyke is built on falling into the sea – it’s presumed that it happened, but it’s never mentioned that like half the King’s family died one time because part of the castle gave way during a feast or something. In other words, there’s a huge historical blind spot around everything concerning the Seastone Chair and Castle Pyke, and the most likely reason for this is that they were made before the Long Night. The massive land collapse at Pyke and the Iron Islands in general was in turn most likely caused during the Long Night.
The fact that the maesters and Ironborn alike keep talking about a lost race of men that once existed on the Iron Islands may also be explained by the Long Night bottleneck. This could be no more than a foggy memory of life before the Long Night:
Archmaester Haereg once advanced the interesting notion that the ancestors of the ironborn came from some unknown land west of the Sunset Sea, citing the legend of the Seastone Chair. The throne of the Greyjoys, carved into the shape of a kraken from an oily black stone, was said to have been found by the First Men when they first came to Old Wyk. Haereg argued that the chair was a product of the first inhabitants of the islands, and only the later histories of maesters and septons alike began to claim that they were in fact descended of the First Men.
Oh, hey look, it’s the Andals, lumping things together again and calling it “First Men.” Someone else noticed! Anyway, the passage finishes with this fun line:
But this is the purest speculation and, in the end, Haereg himself dismissed the idea, and so must we.
Any time TWOIAF says “oh well we have to dismiss that idea, of course,” it reads very like a hint to do the opposite. We have Archmaester Haereg here as well as Maester Kirth from the last quote are both suggesting that there might have been a lost epoch of Ironborn history, that today’s Ironborn may have an older, non-First Men ancestor. This argument is bolstered by the fact the the Ironborn have always been skilled seafarers, while the First Men were decidedly not, and both other cultural practices that set the Ironborn apart. And thats to say nothing of Maester Theron, author of “Strange Stone,” who apparently believes in the Great Empire of the Deep Ones; he suggested that a race of half-humans sired by Deep Ones were lurking around Westeros in the ancient past and may be responsible for the Seastone Chair, and that the Ironborn may descend from these fishy folk.
So look – we don’t know what’s going on here exactly, but that’s kind of the point. After Galon Whitestaff organizes the first Kingsmoot, we start getting list of kings from Houses we know of and semi-historical records that can be cross referenced against other histories from other regions, but before that there’s this super-foggy period where we kinda think somebody was there, but we don’t know if they were First Men or Fish People or foreigners from across the Sunset Sea. Whomever they were, they left only the oily black stone carved in the shape of a kraken and perhaps the Castle Pyke to remember them by, and nearly all other records of them have been erased – and this is just the sort of thing that is neatly explained by a cultural reset like the Long Night.
Smoking the Silver Seaweed
Saving the best for last, we actually do have an Ironborn legend – the oldest one, actually – which describes both a long lost golden age and its destruction by flood. That’s right; the legends of the Grey King are extensive and heavily laced with symbolism, but if we boil down the timeline of the story, that’s what they describe. If you squint a little, you can even see moon meteors! But we’ll get to that. This is the inner monologue of Aeron Damphair from AFFC:
But that was in the dawn of days, when mighty men still dwelt on earth and sea. The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall. On its walls hung tapestries woven from silver seaweed most pleasing to the eyes. The Grey King’s warriors had feasted on the bounty of the sea at a table in the shape of a great starfish, whilst seated upon thrones carved from mother-of-pearl. Gone, all the glory gone. Men were smaller now. Their lives had grown short. The Storm God drowned Nagga’s fire after the Grey King’s death, the chairs and tapestries had been stolen, the roof and walls had rotted away. Even the Grey King’s great throne of fangs had been swallowed by the sea. Only Nagga’s bones endured to remind the Ironborn of all the wonder that had been.
Like I was saying, there’s a glorious golden age full of mighty men and very impressive furniture and wall hangings which was washed away by a great flood. This lines up well with my proposed timeline, where the destruction of the Long Night acts as a line of demarcation between the barely-remembered, fairy-tale-like Dawn Age and the far-more historical, but still mythicized Age of Heroes. Additionally, we are told that after the Grey King’s death, which is when the floods came, we had tremendous war and strife:
The Grey King was king over all the Iron Islands, but he left a hundred sons behind him, and upon his death they began to quarrel over who would succeed him. Brother killed brother in an orgy of kinslaying until only sixteen remained. These last survivors divided up the islands between them. All the great houses of the ironborn claim descent from the Grey King and his sons save, curiously, the Goodbrothers of Old Wyk and Great Wyk, who supposedly derive from the Grey King’s leal eldest brother.
So after the Grey King’s death, great floods wash away his kingdom and his works… and then we have “an orgy of kinslaying.” This is remembered as a simple contest over the kingdom, which seems a bit over the top – the guy ruled for a thousand years, but didn’t leave anything stable behind? His sons just tore his kingdom apart for greed, and didn’t stop until 84 out of 100 brothers were dead? Perhaps this time of total anarchy and war described as following after the great flood is simply their memory of the desperate fight for resources that would have occurred as the Long Night wore on. On the other side of this chaos, some sort of new cultural equilibrium was reached, with 16 regional kings or lords holding power, and this sounds a lot like human society reasserting itself after the total anarchy of the Long Night.
Interestingly, the man who organized the very first Kingsmoot and forbade Ironborn to do that whole “orgy of kinslaying” thing was Galon WhiteStaff, whose white staff was said to be made either from weirwood or one of Naga’s bones… which are actually weirwood. He had a weirwood staff, in other words, and he helped organize the nascent Ironborn culture, and that reminds me a bit of the children of the forest helping mankind to survive the Long Night and shaping subsequent First Man culture.
As many of you will know, the Grey King himself is an obvious Prometheus / Lucifer figure who compares well to Azor Ahai, and his myths contain tantalizing hints of moon meteors. The Grey King is credited for bringing the fire of the gods to man as Prometheus did, and he did this in two ways: by slaying the Sea Dragon Nagga as well as by taunting the Storm God into setting a tree ablaze with a thunderbolt. Meteorites have been referred to as “thunder-stones” in world mythology, and thought of as a terrifying sort of lightning strike, so it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize this account of a great thunderbolt from the Storm God may well be the local mythicization of one of the meteor strikes. Lightbringer is definitely a “fire of the gods” symbol, and the same goes for stars that fall out of the sky to earth, so the idea that this thunderbolt is thought of as bringing heavenly fire to mankind makes a lot of sense. The Storm God myth actually has Grey King directly challenging the Storm God, which reminds us of Durran Godsgrief stealing the daughter of the Wind and Sea gods, for sure, but also of the Bloodstone Emperor’s apostasy when he “cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky.” The Bloodstone Emperor’s fire of the gods was an actual meteorite, and the same may be true of the Grey King.
As for that sea dragon, well. If a fiery meteor falling out of the sky can be seen as a dragon, what do we call a meteor which lands in the sea and causes giant tsunamis?
The Grey King’s greatest feat, however, was the slaying of Nagga, largest of the sea dragons, a beast so colossal that she was said to feed on leviathans and giant krakens and drown whole islands in her wroth.
Now there may or not be fire-breathing sea monsters in ASOIAF; we just don’t know. But I’m pretty sure about the moon meteors – I think they definitely existed – and this fire-breathing “sea dragon” drowns whole islands! That’s exactly what a meteor landing offshore or just near the shore would do, and this is exactly what happened at the Arm of Dorne, where large swaths of land were drowned. If there was a meteor impact somewhere near here which triggered the collapse of land we see at Pyke, it could very well be remembered in legend as a “dragon” which lives in the sea and drowns the land, causing it to collapse into the sea.
The Grey King was said to possess nagga’s fire, and if Nagga was actually a meteor impact near the Iron Islands… well it might be the Seastone Chair. It’s not too big to be a meteorite, and one of the best theories for the “oily” look of the oily black stone is vitrification, such as is found on meteorites. That’s nothing I can prove, but I just thought I’d mention it. It’s one of the few ways we can make sense of the idea of the Grey King possessing the fire of the sea dragon; after all, we know making magic sword from magic meteorites is a thing in ASOIAF. The Bloodstone Emperor “worshipped” his black meteor, implying that he may have used it for magic power.
Finally, and I can’t even go into this in any depth here, I will tell you that there are certain clues that the Grey King was some sort of greenseer, or that he tapped into those powers somehow. The famous “bones of Nagga” that formed his great hall seem to be petrified weirwood, perhaps the ribbing of an ancient ship that was flipped over and made into a longhall, and more importantly, his throne and crown may have been made from weirwood, implying him as a greenseer. If the Storm God’s thunderbolt was a Long Night moon meteor, and it was called down by the Grey King, a possible greenseer – well it’s the Hammer of the Waters myth all over again, isn’t it?
The Storm God’s thunderbolt supposedly set a tree ablaze, thereby imparting the fire of the gods to man – but as I’ve pointed out in the Weirwood Compendium series and elsewhere, the weirwoods are implied as a symbolic flaming tree by virtue of their red leaf canopy being described as a “blaze of flame among the green,” and they obviously impart a form of the power of the gods to mankind just like the Grey King’s burning tree (and of course all of this divine burning tree imagery is borrowing from Moses’s burning bush). Ergo, if the Grey King is possessing the fire of the gods through a “burning tree,” well, that’s probably a weirwood. In other words, the Storm God’s thunderbolt legend and the Sea Dragon legend each seem to have references to both moon meteors and weirwood magic, and those are basically the two elements of the Hammer of the Waters event.
So, to sum up everything since we started talking about Moat Cailin and the Hammer of the Waters falling on the Neck… I think the Long Night moon meteors were the thing which broke and flooded Westeros in various places, from the Arm of Dorne to the Neck to the IronIslands. I think possibly Castle Pyke and definitely Moat Cailin were built before the Long Night, and I think their heavily damaged state reflects the devastating power of that disaster. Almost all record of the people (or fish-people) who built these structures was erased by the Long Night cultural bottleneck, leaving only vague rumors and folktales behind to explain their mighty works. When humans began to repopulate the Iron Islands, they found the Seastone Chair and Castle Pyke, and maybe a few weird looking locals with webbed fingers and very strange stories about where it all came from. From this point on began a period of somewhat historical record, with ruling houses and lineages arising that still exist today. Everything that came before – the previous culture of high magic, the floods and meteor impacts that washed it all away – are remembered in fantastical, mythical language, just like all the other stuff from the “Dawn Age.”
At this point, depending on how many of my Mythical Astronomy podcasts you’ve consumed, you may be wondering about the cause of these moon meteor hammers. Meaning, the official Hammer of the Waters legend places blame with “the greenseers” performing blood sacrifice either on the Isle of Faces or at Moat Cailin, the eastern legends says it was Azor Ahai / the Bloodstone Emperor murdering a woman that did it, and the Grey King and Durran Godsgrief legends say the destructive floods came when the first and greatest king in their cultural history challenged or stole from the gods. Is there a universal truth here to be sussed out?
Well, yes, I believe so. There is abundant evidence that Azor Ahai was himself either a greenseer, or one who stole the power of the greenseers, and that Nissa Nissa was part child of the forest. The Weirwood Compendium has the full breakdown there – and check out my two scripted Great Empire of the Dawn videos, “Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai” and “Westeros” as well – but the basic idea is that the Great Empire of the Dawn, who controlled dragons before the Valyrians did and probably built Asshai, came to Westeros in the Dawn Age, before the Long Night, and the purpose had something to do with the magic of the children of the forest.
We don’t know how long this cross-cultural contact was going on for, but what seems the most clear is that Nissa Nissa was sacrificed by Azor Ahai because she was part child of the forest, or like a female Green Man or something, and her magical connection to the weirwoodnet was used by Azor Ahai to gain access to the powers of the weirwoods. I have a feeling this blood magic rite did go down on the Isle of Faces, and thus we have the conflation of two stories about blood magic ritual sacrifice which brought about incredible devastation – the murder of Nissa Nissa which broke the moon, and the sacrifice of either humans or children of the forest on the Isle of Faces to call down the Hammer of the Waters.
Now, is there a way to steer a comet into a moon and blow it up using weirwood magic? Or did Azor Ahai time his blood magic ritual to the moment of celestial doom as a way of harnessing magical power? Perhaps he merely performed his dark deed.. .sometime during the Long Night, and as the legend developed, the murder itself began to be thought of as the thing which broke the moon, or caused the sun to hide its face. We probably won’t be able to answer that question until we see what Euron does to call down the moon meteor that causes the new Long Night in The Winds of Winter… lol. We’ll see.
But the last question I can answer concerns the Others, and here I’m pulling from Sacred Order of Green Zombies 5, 6, and 7. The evidence seems to point to the Others, the white walkers of the wood, being some sort of emanations from the weirwood tree. I first heard this idea on Quinn’s Ideas, formerly Ideas of Ice and Fire, and he points out that when George Martin describes the Others as icy sidhe, he’s actually telling us a lot about them; that they are like frozen nature spirits, essentially. I’ve tracked the symbolism further to the point where I am now quite convinced that the Others were the original spirits of the weirwood trees who were driven out when the first human greenseer invaded the weirwoods – a man named Azor Ahai.
Thus Azor Ahai’s murder of Nissa Nissa, a child of the forest, perhaps along with other green men or children, had the side effect of creating the Others. Or perhaps that was the intended effect – I tend to think of the Others as a reaction or defense mechanism from the weirwoods to being invaded, but we are deep into the land of the theoretical here, so who knows. I think this makes a lot more sense that what we saw on the show, where the children created the Night King and by extension the White Walkers to defend themselves against humans, but then somehow lost control of them or something (it isn’t said). Instead, it’s mankind who is directly responsible for creating the white walkers, and I always felt like it should man who is responsible for the major evils of the story, be it causing the Long Night or creating the White Walkers – you can’t pass that off on the little elves, man – man has to be responsible for those things, in my opinion.
Continuing on with this quote from The World of Ice and Fire, which is supposed to be thought of as “written by the maesters”:
It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.
Okay, so the YiTish records, which are among the very oldest in the world, speak of the darkness lasting “a lifetime,” which is similar to “a generation.” Here’s what I am driving at: if the Long Night lasted