In Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai – which you all seem to have liked, thanks so much for all the great comments – we made the case that the Great Empire of the Dawn is really just another name for the ancient, pre-Valyrian dragonlord civilization that many of us, including Septon Barth himself, have long suspected once existed in Asshai. Seemingly with the use of their dragons, the Great Empire of the Dawn ruled pretty much all of Far Eastern Essos, an empire as big as Valyria – but they apparently weren’t content to stop there. A Song of Ice and Fire is a story about Westeros, and for the millennia-old events in Asshai and Eastern Essos to be more than just fun trivia, they need to have a connection to ancient Westeros. I’m here today to show you that not only did the ancient dragonlords of the Great Empire of the Dawn make contact with Westeros, they had a hand in shaping some of the most important events related to Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, the last hero, and the Long Night.
Hello there friends, it’s LmL and I am back with part 2 of my revamped Great Empire of the Dawn theory, which me and my friend Durran Durrandon came up with 5 years ago before anyone else blah blah blah blah. If you like these Mythical Astronomy video essays, please like and share them, subscribe to the channel, and if you have the means, consider tossing a coin to you dragon via our patreon campaign, which you can find at lucifermeanslightbringer.com. Thanks to all our patrons, and be sure to check out our Patreon Appreciation music video that I made on our YouTube channel if you haven’t already.
Let’s start with the hard evidence, as we did last time. One of the best, most-concrete clues about the great Empire of the Dawn being a dragonlord civilization was the fused stone that was used to build the enormous walls of the Five Forts. The Five Forts are pretty firmly dated to “before the Long Night,” while Valyria is firmly dated to “after the Long Night,” and the Five Forts are in the Far East, where Valyria was never known to come, so they are pretty much smoking-gun evidence that history has lost track of an empire of dragonlords that existed before the Long Night. Rather, history didn’t lose track of them – they are remembered as the Great Empire of the Dawn in Yi Tish history – but the historians lost track of the fact that they were dragonlords. They also failed to link them to the long-vanished people who built Asshai – the ones Septon Barth talks about reading of in an ancient Asshai text, which states 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.
It’s hard to say if Septon Barth knew about the existence of the Five Forts when he wrote this, but they sure do bolster his case for an Asshai race of dragonlords who came before Valyria. Nearly a thousand vertical feet of fused stone fortress wall, rendered in the form of five separate monstrous “forts,” the Five Forts have stood “undisturbed by time” for thousands of years, as only fused stone can. They can only have been built by dragonlords with a purpose, and we think we’ve found those dragonlords.
Even more exciting is the fact that we find something similar in Westeros – a fused stone fortress which can be reliably dated to “before the Long Night.” Though not nearly as large and imposing as the Five Forts, it is, like the Forts, hard evidence which sends a clear message that “dragonlords were here.” In Westeros. In the Dawn Age. Making fortresses.
So where is this mysterious fused stone fortress of Westeros? Well, it’s in Oldtown, right under the High Tower:
The stony island where the Hightower stands is known as Battle Isle even in our oldest records, but why? What battle was fought there? When? Between which lords, which kings, which races? Even the singers are largely silent on these matters.
Even more enigmatic to scholars and historians is the great square fortress of black stone that dominates that isle. For most of recorded history, this monumental edifice has served as the foundation and lowest level of the Hightower, yet we know for a certainty that it predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years.
Alright, so the famous High Tower of Oldtown stands on a little island in the Whispering Sound, which is where the Honeywine River meets the sea, and there’s a fortress at the base of the tower – literally underneath of it – which is made of black stone and predates even the oldest version of the High Tower (of which there were said to have been five). What kind of black stone was it, you ask? Here’s the next paragraph from TWOIAF:
Who built it? When? Why? Most maesters accept the common wisdom that declares it to be of Valyrian construction, for its massive walls and labyrinthine interiors are all of solid rock, with no hint of joins or mortar, no chisel marks of any kind, a type of construction that is seen elsewhere, most notably in the dragonroads of the Freehold of Valyria, and the Black Walls that protect the heart of Old Volantis. The dragonlords of Valryia, as is well-known, possessed the art of turning stone to liquid with dragonflame, shaping it as they would, then fusing it harder than iron, steel, or granite.
Okay, so it’s the fused stone that is the hallmark of the dragonlords, which is why the maesters think it could be Valyrian. There are timeline issues with that however – more on this in a moment – and the style doesn’t seem to match either, which is why the maesters go on to consider the possibility that the fortress is not Valyrian:
More troubling, and more worthy of consideration, are the arguments put forth by those who claim that the first fortress is not Valyrian at all.
The fused black stone of which it is made suggests Valyria, but the plain, unadorned style of architecture does not, for the dragonlords loved little more than twisting stone into strange, fanciful, and ornate shapes. Within, the narrow, twisting, windowless passages strike many as being tunnels rather than halls; it is very easy to get lost amongst their turnings. Mayhaps this is no more than a defensive measure designed to confound attackers, but it too is singularly un-Valyrian.
The plain, unadorned style of fused stone construction might be a match for the Five Forts, which are described as having straight slabs of fused stone and are not described as having ornamentation (though we can certainly all forgive a bit of artist interpretation with all the amazing Five Forts artwork from Martin H. Matthes that we’ve been featuring in these episodes). That’s by no means a conclusive match, but as I mentioned, the timeline suggests this Battle Isle fortress is too old to be Valyrian, so it’s not surprising the style doesn’t match theirs.
As to those tunnels, well, they can’t have been carved by men, because, well, you can’t carve fused stone – that’s kind of the whole point of it being magically indestructible. Tunnels carved by men is also the boring explanation here; it’s far more likely those tunnels were made by the same dragons! (which is the Grandpa Simpson “now we’re talking!” explanation). We know that dragons can bore into rock to some extent like their fire wyrm brethren, as we see Viserion carve out a hollow in the brick of the Meereenese pyramid where he is confined: “Viserion had dug himself a hole in them with flame and claw, a hole big enough to sleep in.” If a young dragon like Viserion can do that, then it’s possible that the more extensive tunnels in the Battle Isle fortress could have been made by dragons – and after all, the fortress itself can only have been made by dragons, so it’s probable that those same dragons created the tunnels.
Incredibly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, there are actually rumors that dragons did once roost on this fused stone fortress:
How old is Oldtown, truly? Many a maester has pondered that question, but we simply do not know. The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend. Some ignorant septons claim that the Seven themselves laid out its boundaries, other men that dragons once roosted on the Battle Isle until the first Hightower put an end to them.
This is a case of the rumors being pretty much dead accurate, I believe. It’s made of fused stone, which requires dragons and dragonlords, and, accordingly, there is a hazy memory of dragons literally chilling on the walls of the fortress. This brings us to our next question: did the ancestors of the Hightowers slay those dragons, as this passage suggests… or did they perhaps ride them and use them to make their fortress?
The maesters tell us that “men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age” and suggest that “the first settlement at the top of Whispering Sound may have began as a trading post” for seafaring traders. Seafaring traders – you mean people who came to Westeros by ship? …in the Dawn Age? …and they may be the ones who built a fused stone fortress, which requires dragonfire and sorcery? Sounds like the Great Empire of the Dawn to me!
And the Hightowers might descend from these people?
The reasons for the abandonment of the fortress and the fate of its builders, whoever they might have been, are likewise lost to us, but at some point we know that Battle Isle and its great stronghold came into the possession of the ancestors of House Hightower. Were they First Men, as most scholars believe today? Or did they mayhaps descend from the seafarers and traders who had settled at the top of Whispering Sound in earlier epochs, the men who came before the First Men? We cannot know.
Men who came before the First Men? That is way before the Long Night, and way, way before the 14 Flames of Valyria were even a glimmer in a shepherd’s fire. These folks came by sea, and built with fused stone – if we were starting our exploration with this mystery, we would have the same question arise that we did with the Five Forts; there seems to be a missing, pre-Long Night dragonlord culture that we need to find. We already found it though, in the far east, and the fact that the maesters are so convinced that “seafaring traders” who came “before the First Men” were a part of the origins of Oldtown gives us the clue we need to understand that the dragonlords who built here came from far away, by sea.
The bit about “maybe the Hightowers descend from these seafaring folk, who knows” indicates they may be descended from dragonlords, as outrageous as that may seem. Here is the next part of that passage:
When first glimpsed in the pages of history, the Hightowers are already kings, ruling Oldtown from Battle Isle. The first “high tower,” the chroniclers tell us, was made of wood and rose some fifty feet above the ancient fortress that was its foundation. Neither it, nor the taller timber towers that followed in the centuries to come, were meant to be a dwelling; they were purely beacon towers, built to light a path for trading ships up the fog-shrouded waters of Whispering Sound. The early Hightowers lived amidst the gloomy halls, vaults, and chambers of the strange stone below. It was only with the building of the fifth tower, the first to be made entirely of stone, that the Hightower became a seat worthy of a great house. That tower, we are told, rose two hundred feet above the harbor. Some say it was designed by Brandon the Builder, whilst others name his son, another Brandon; the king who demanded it, and paid for it, is remembered as Uthor of the High Tower.
Once again I will point out the timeline – if the fifth iteration of the tower is still dated to the time of Brandon the Builder and Uthor Hightower – two figures from the Age of Heroes / Dawn Age – then we are indeed talking ‘before the Long Night’ and ‘before Valyria.’
Now it’s kind of strange that the first Hightowers would live on Battle Isle in the gloomy halls and chambers of the fused stone fortress… although it would certainly make more sense if they were related to the dragonlords who built it. That would also explain why they would be accepted as kings by the first First Men, and why they would have started off wealthy.
There’s also a slick naming clue being fed to us here with Uthor Hightower’s name. Uther Pendragon was the father of King Arthur, and the word “Pendragon” means “head dragon.” The word dragon also implies “warrior” here, so Uther was being called a figurative dragon and a warrior chief. The coolest part is that, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, Uther acquired the “Pendragon” epithet when he witnessed a portentous dragon-shaped comet, which inspired him to use dragons on his standards. Yikes! And this is the name George chose for the first named Hightower? A name associated with comets, dragons, kings, and even shining swords like Arthur’s Excalibur? These clues make a ton of sense if the Hightowers are descended from the the dragonlords of the Great Empire.
It’s really not as crazy as it sounds. The Hightowers have a long tradition of magic and interest in the occult, as Quinn and I discussed at length in our Winds of Winter predictions video about The Hightower, and that tower itself just reeks of Sauroman / Orthanc / Palantir symbolism. There are even signs that the Church of Starry Wisdom – which was founded by the Bloodstone Emperor and is known to operate in port cities around the world – may have some strange dockside temples in Oldtown. Those are those ones visited by Marwyn the Mage, an Archmaester of the Citadel who has been to Asshai and likes to play with glass candles. I plan on doing a full video about the on the potential rising influence of Starry Wisdom Cult in A Song of Ice and Fire, so I’ll leave it at that for now.
Another reason it’s not crazy to think the Hightowers descend from Great Empire of the Dawn people are their looks. We don’t get a glimpse of many Hightowers in the books to judge their appearance, but we do get a couple clues that they may have dragonlord features. Alicent Hightower married King Viserys Targaryen and gave him four children, all of whom had the trademark Valyrian look, and we have seen many times that darker haired genetics tend to overrun the silver-and-gold haired blood-of-the-dragon genetics. That means Alicent was at least fair haired and blue eyed, else her children would have some darker looks and eyes other than purple or blue. As a young girl, Alicent was the nursemaid for the old King Jaehaerys, and in Fire and Blood we read that “it is said that, at times, the king thought her to be one of his own daughters.” That would only happen if she looked like one of his daughters – meaning, if she looked Valyrian or at least close to it.
Alerie Hightower, meanwhile, who is between age 36 and 43 at the time of the main story, is twice described as having silver hair – in one place she’s called “silver-haired and handsome” and another time it says her “long silvery braid was bound with jeweled rings.” Now some people do get silver hair early in life, but the description of long silver hair implies it’s fully silver and has been that that way for at least the couple years it takes to grow hair that long. It might not be the silver of age, but of genetics.
Finally, we have Jorah comparing Lynesse Hightower, Alerie’s sister, to Daenerys, saying “Why, she looked a bit like you, Daenerys,” when asked. That’s interesting, right? Jorah’s Aunt, Lady Maege Mormont, says that “She had hair like spun gold, that Lynesse. Skin like cream.” Valyrians are known for hair of silver and gold and platinum white, so this is a potential match – and she looks a bit like Daenerys. The explanation may be that House Hightower has a bit of latent dragonlord blood in their veins. Heck, Lynesse’s father, Lord Leyton Hightower, may be in on the secret, having given two of his children dragon names, Baelor and Alysanne. I’ll also mention that Alicent Hightower wasn’t the only Hightower to marry a Targaryen; Garmund Hightower married Rhaena Targaryen (Rhaena of Pentos, rider of Morning, the last Targaryen dragon before Dany hatched her three).
While none of these three examples are conclusive, I do expect to see more from House Hightower in The Winds of Winter, what with Sam and Euron both at Oldtown, so perhaps we’ll get an answer on this. Personally, I find the Uthor Hightower / Uther Pendragon clue pretty convincing, but here’s the thing: whether or not the Hightowers are descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn is an interesting question, but it’s secondary to my main point in this section, which is that the presence of the fused stone fortress reliably dated to before the Long Night indicates that a pre-Valyrian dragonlord culture came to ancient Westeros and founded the first settlements at Oldtown, Westeros’s oldest city. That can only have been the Great Empire of the Dawn.
Why did they come? What did they do? Is this where the name of Battle Isle comes from, which is as old as anyone can remember? Well, to the last question, yes, I do believe the Battle Isle name must stem from some ancient conflict where native Westerosi resisted the dragonlords – after all, the dragonlords didn’t conquer Westeros at this time, and whatever mark they left has been obscured by history. As to why they came and what they did, I think we can find some big clues with the Westerosi House that is most obviously descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn… say it with me now… “House Dayne.”
The Daynes of Starfall are one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms, though their fame largely rests on their ancestral sword, called Dawn, and the men who wielded it. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. Those who have had the honor of examining it say it looks like no Valyrian steel they know, being pale as milkglass but in all other respects it seems to share the properties of Valyrian blades, being incredibly strong and sharp.
Yes, where did they get that sword? It’s almost too easy to say “they got the sword Dawn from the Great Empire of the Dawn,” but yeah, it does make a certain amount of sense. Dawn is basically white Valyrian steel, and something that advanced has absolutely no business being in ancient Westeros thousands of years ago, which was firmly stuck in the Bronze Age at that time. The Daynes are counted First Men, and in AFFC Gerold Darkstar Dayne says that “My House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days,” so we are indeed talking remote Westerosi history, almost certainly well before the Long Night.
Not only was the raw steel-working needed to make Dawn beyond the skill of the First Men at that time, Dawn is clearly an unbreakable magic sword along the lines of Valyrian steel which presumably required powerful sorcery to fashion. If anyone around in the time before the Long Night had the know-how and magical ability to make some kind of forerunner to Valyrian steel from a magical meteorite, wouldn’t it be the Great Empire of the Dawn? We don’t know if Dawn was made with dragonfire, but Valyrian steel is, so if Dawn was too then it would have been something only the dragonlords of the Great Empire could have made.
Consider again those kingly ghosts with gemstone eyes that Daenerys sees in her “wake the dragon” dream: they were holding swords of pale fire. We don’t know if the sword Dawn can catch on fire, but it is described as pale as milkglass and as being made from a pale stone, so pale fire is what you’d expect if it were to blaze up. Dawn does glow a bit, and the fire seems to be implied; when Ned tells Bran the story of Arthur Dayne and Dawn, afterword it says that Bran “went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire.”
None of this stuff about Dawn is conclusive, but a Great Empire of the Dawn origin for it does fit everything we known about Dawn pretty well. Obviously the symbolism of Dawn suggests Lightbringer; “son of the morning” and “light-bringer” are both translations of the Latin word for Venus, which is Lucifer. Although Venus is a planet, it appears to us on earth as the largest star in the sky, and it’s called the Morningstar because it rises just before the dawn during half of its celestial cycle. In other words, the ASOIAF terms “Lightbringer,” “Sword of the Morning,” and “Dawn” all derive from the same Venus-based mythology. I don’t know if Dawn is “the” Lightbringer, or if perhaps any flaming sword is considered a Lightbringer, but there does seem to be a strong link between the sword Dawn, which resides at Starfall in Westeros, and Lightbringer, a myth from Asshai and the far east.
Gee, how could a magic sword myth from the far east be connected to a magic sword in Westeros, I wonder… they’re so far away, what could possibly link them togeth– okay I’ll stop. You get the picture. The presence of the Great Empire of the Dawn at nearby Oldtown (nearby relatively speaking) makes it very plausible that either the sword Dawn itself or the knowledge and technology needed to make it came to Westeros via the Great Empire, and the mythology and symbolism of Dawn and Lightbringer suggest a link. People have always wondered if Dawn might not be Lightbringer, but there’s always been that huge gap between Asshai, where the Azor Ahai / Lightbringer myth comes from, and Starfall, where House Dayne lives. The Great Empire of the Dawn theory, as promised, solves that puzzle.
Even the symbolism of House Hightower fits in this family: their sigil is a white lighthouse crowned with red flame, and their words are “we light the way.” I mean, compare: a white glowing sword or flaming red sword which brings the dawn and the morning vs a white lighthouse tower which lights the way with a crown of flame (and a book of spells, ha ha). The flaming lighthouse tower is even set on a field of grey smoke… just like the meteor-induced smoke, ash, and debris that caused the darkness of the Long Night. Whatever the Dayne house words turn out to be, they will no doubt be complementary to “we light the way” and the link between Dayne and Hightower will be even more obvious.
Like the first Hightowers living and building on Battle Isle, an island at the mouth of a river (the Honeywine), so too did the first Daynes, who built Starfall on an island at the mouth of the Torrentine River. The Hightowers are thought to descend from ancient mariners who came to Westeros in ancient day, and the first Daynes do indeed sound like they too migrated to Starfall:
At the mouth of the Torrentine, House Dayne raised its castle on an island where that roaring, tumultuous river broadens to meet the sea. Legend says the first Dayne was led to the site when he followed the track of a falling star and there found a stone of magical powers. His descendants ruled over the western mountains for centuries thereafter as Kings of the Torrentine and Lords of Starfall.
It doesn’t say where the Daynes came from, but they seem to have come here by following signs in the heavens, driven by the need to make a magical meteor sword. Lightbringer is associated with comets, and the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped that black meteorite, so we are seeing a familiar set of idea here.
We’re also seeing some familiar dragonlord looks amongst the members of House Dayne, even more so than House Hightower…
Everyone remembers the tall and fair Ashara Dayne’s famous “haunting violet eyes,” which we hear of early on in AGOT, but even more telling are Barristan’s words in ADWD:
Even after all these years, Ser Barristan could still recall Ashara’s smile, the sound of her laughter. He had only to close his eyes to see her, with her long dark hair tumbling about her shoulders and those haunting purple eyes. Daenerys has the same eyes. Sometimes when the queen looked at him, he felt as if he were looking at Ashara’s daughter…
That’s quite the resemblance, no? Ashara has dark hair instead of light, but her eyes and features are enough that Daenerys reminds Barristan of Ashara. It’s very like Dany reminding Jorah of Lynesse… the reason Lynesse Hightower and Ashara Dayne remind people of Dany may be that they have an ancient common ancestor, and because in ASOIAF these kinds of magical bloodline traits persist far longer than they should.
And it’s not just Ashara by any means. Gerold Darkstar Dayne is even easier to spot:
Arianne watched him warily. He is highborn enough to make a worthy consort, she thought. Father would question my good sense, but our children would be as beautiful as dragonlords. If there was a handsomer man in Dorne, she did not know him. Ser Gerold Dayne had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. He kept his face clean- shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry.
Purple eyes and silver hair would be obvious enough, but then Arianne flat out compares his look to that of dragonlords. Okay, message received. Something is up here with House Dayne.
In case you’re wondering if some Targaryen may have married into House Dayne in the past, there is no record of such anywhere, I checked. Dyanna Dayne married Maeker Targaryen, but no Targaryen has married into House Dayne that we have been told of. George has also said the Daynes are not related to the Targaryens, and the Daynes are not named among the Westerosi houses descended from Valyria (which are Targaryen, Velaryon, and Celtigar). I believe the answer is instead that House Dayne shares a common ancestor with Valyria, which is of course the Great Empire of the Dayne–I mean Dawn.
So far we are two for two with Daynes whose physical descriptions have been given having some sort of dragonlord look with Ashara and Darkstar Dayne (we unfortunately never get a description of Arthur Dayne). There’s one more Dayne that gets a physical description, and a closer look at him brings us to three for three:
She had always heard that Dornishmen were small and swarthy, with black hair and small black eyes, but Ned had big blue eyes, so dark that they looked almost purple. And his hair was a pale blond, more ash than honey.
Alright, so this one isn’t as obvious, but remember that Targaryens have eyes that range from purple to blue, in both light and dark shades, and their silver and gold hair can run to blonde and ash, which is like a pale, metallic straw color. Valar Targaryen, for example, had “cool blue eyes,” and fAegon / Young Griff (who is likely a Blackfyre) has eyes which are dark blue in daylight, purple by light of dusk, and black in lamplight (and lashes as long as any woman, according to Tyrion, for what it’s worth). Egg of Dunk and Egg has eyes very similar to Young Griff; they’re described as large eyes which are dark blue, almost purple in one passage, and in another Dunk thinks “In the dimness of the lamplit cellar they looked black, but in better light their true color could be seen: deep and dark and purple. Valyrian eyes, thought Dunk.”
Ned Dayne compares very well to Egg and fAegon, and I can’t help but notice that George arranged to make him the squire of Beric Dondarrion, who famously wields a magical flaming sword that reminds us of Lightbringer. Ned ended up Beric’s quire because his aunt Allyria Dayne (who I like to call Allyria Valyria) was engaged to Beric, and I can’t help but think it’s a nod from the author to think of Lightbringer together with House Dayne.
Speaking of Allyria Dayne, I noticed a couple of naming crossovers between Dayne and Hightower; Allyria Dayne and Alerie Hightower, Gerold Dayne and Gerold Hightower, and perhaps even Vorian Dayne and Dorian Hightower. Oh, and of course there’s Uthor Hightower and Arthur Dayne, haha, might want to mention that one, since that represents the author connecting both House Dayne and House Hightower to King Arthur and Excalibur, an obvious influence on Lightbringer.
I mentioned a moment ago that that Egg’s father Maekar Targaryen married Dyanna Dayne, and though we are not given Dyanna’ physical description, there are reasons to think she had dragonlord looks. Even though Maekar’s mother was Mariah Martell, who passed on her dark-haired genetics to some of Maekar’s siblings like Baelor Breakspear, all of Maekar and Dyanna Dayne’s children came out with standard Valyrian looks, save for one who has sandy brown hair (Daeron the Drunkard). Daeron’s hair is no doubt a legacy of his grandmother Mariah Martell, but the point is that if she had had dark looks, her and Maekar’s children wouldn’t have come out almost completely Valyrian-looking. Instead, it seems like Dyanna may have injected a fresh batch of dragonlord looks into the line, giving Maekar a batch of mostly Valyrian looking kids. Egg later married the dark-haired Black Betha Blackwood, and their kids had incest for two generations leading up to Aerys and Rhaella, who look prototypically Valyrian, and their kids, Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys, who also all look Valyrian. This means that Dyanna almost certainly had some silver hair and purple / blue eye genetics in her veins – and in fact, that would actually be a potential reason for Maekar, a prince of the blood royal, to marry a woman from a relatively obscure house like Dayne, since the Targaryens are always trying to maintain their signature look. (Hat-tip to Aziz from History of Westeros for that analysis)
By the way, because Dyanna’s Dayne blood was only watered down once by Egg’s marriage to the Blackwoods (it was all incest from there to Aerys and Rhaella), both Jon and Dany have a significant amount of Dayne blood.
Just in case, you know, someone heroic needed to wield Dawn for the last battle. Ned Dayne is too young and Darkstar unworthy, so Jon or Dany’s Dayne lineage could actually be relevant at some point.
Speaking of Azor Ahai and last hero matters, you may recall that in the first Great Empire video, I mentioned that out of the five given names for Azor Ahai, we can trace four of them to places in the east (Neferion to Nefer, Hyrkoon the Hero to Hyrkoon, and Yin Tar to Yi Ti, and Azor Ahai to Asshai), but that Eldric Shadowchaser was kind of an oddball. It has no matches in the east, but it does find derivatives in both House Dayne and House Stark… which are the two houses most likely to be associated with last hero; the Daynes because of Dawn and their symbolism, and the Starks because, well, they’re the Starks, and the Others seem to be mainly their problem.
Alright, so first off we can observe that “shadow-chaser” is a great title for someone who fights the Others, who are called white shadows, pale shadows, cold shadows, shadows with teeth, and so on. The name Eldric is a nod to Michael Morcock’s Elric of Melnibone, who wields a magical (and cursed) black sword called Stormbringer and basically looks like a young Bloodraven. He has a ton of parallels to Bloodraven, Jon Snow, and Azor Ahai, and George has cited this series and author as a big influence of his many times. The name Hyrkoon is also from Elric of Melnibone; Elric’s cousin Yrkoon wields a magic sword called the “Mournblade,” which, I know – Sword of the Morning, Galladon of Morne and his magic sword, yes sir. Finally, the name Eldrick itself is German and means “sage ruler,” making it a good name for an Azor Ahai or Elric of Melnibone-type figure.
So back over at House Dayne, we have the tale of an Ulrick Dayne, who was of course a Sword of the Morning and was considered one of the greatest knights of his time. We just mentioned young Ned Dayne – his full name is Edric. Edric “Shadowchaser” Dayne, squire of Beric “don’t call me Azor Ahai” Dondarrion. The thing is, Edric Dayne is considered to be named after Eddard Stark – hence the shared Ned nickname – which demonstrates that in Westeros (as in the real world), you can honor a naming tradition with slight variations. That’s exactly what we find with House Stark, which serves up two Edric Starks – one Edric with a ‘c’ and an Edrick Snowbeard Stark with a ‘ck.’ If Edric is a variant of Eddard, then that means Eddard can be a variant of Edric, so we have to count all the Eddard and Edwyle and Edwyn Starks, and even the uber-fantasy sounding Edderion Stark. Then we have Ned’s great great great grandfather, Elric Stark, who I like to call Elric of Winterfellnibone.
I’ll give you a second to recover from that, apologies. But there’s also an Alaric Stark – the one who may have had a thing with Good Queen Alysanne Targaryen, which is why I call him Fly Alaric. (groan) Bad jokes aside, you can see what I am pointing at here with all this Eldric / Elric / Edric stuff: Eldric Shadowchaser may have been the Westerosi name for Azor Ahai or the last hero, who may or may not have been the same person, and if so, it makes sense to see the two houses associated with last hero ideas carrying on an Eldric naming tradition. In the case of the Daynes, it may be basically the same story as the other four Azor Ahai names: a people formerly part of the Great Empire of the Dawn who fled the destruction of its downfall, started a new kingdom, and retained their own version of the flaming sword hero myth. The Daynes just went farther, perhaps following the established route to Westeros which we know existed due to the fused stone fortress at Oldtown, and the surround evidence regarding it.
Another of George’s big influences is of course J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and its surrounding lore (George has definitely read the Silmarillion, let me tell you). Remember how I called the Great Empire of the Dawn like finding a long lost Numenor? That’s more true than you may realize. For any who do not know, Numenor was absolutely Tolkien’s Atlantis; it’s a once-glorious and now-vanished star shaped island in the middle of the ‘Atlantic Sea equivalent’ in Tolkien’s world from which the most fabled race of men came from. You may recall Aragorn saying that the blood of Numenor flows in his veins; that’s what we’re talking about. Aragorn’s ancestor’ Elendil and Isildur, who combined to defeat Sauron in his physical form, are also of this line – Elendil was the one who led his people away from Numenor for Middle Earth in the nick of time (Numenor, as an Atlantis parallel, grew prideful and corrupt and met a violent and sudden end, naturally).
So the name of Aragorn and Isildur’s ancestors? On Numenor, they were called the Edain, and in Middle Earth, the Dunedain. Edain, Dunedain, Dayne, yes that’s right. And it gets worse: you may recall that Aragorn was given a reforged sword by the elves called Narsil, which was the one Isildur used to cut the one ring from Sauron’s hand. Narsil means “red and white flame” in the elvish language, so now our eyebrows are raised right off our foreheads. Dawn is a glowing white sword, and Lightbringer was said to burn red, so these correlations are very strong. If the Daynes fled the Great Empire of the Dawn and came to Westeros with the sword Dawn, then they’d be mirroring the Edain and Dunedain quite closely. Given that Dawn seems like a “last battle” kind of sword, and given that Jon Snow – who has Dayne blood even assuming RLJ is true – has very strong Aragorn vibes, this all makes a ton of sense.
George also seems to have transferred some of the Dunedain lore on to House Hightower, which is a nice piece of evidence for our theory. So check this out – when those Dunedain fled Numenor and came to Middle Earth, it turns out they built some stuff. One thing they built was the Orthanc, the Tower of Isenguard which you may remember from the Lord of the Rings as Saruman’s tower – the one at which Gandalf is held captive and then rescued from by eagles, and later Orthanc is surrounded by tree ents and flooded. The notable thing about Orthanc being built by the Dunedain is that
“it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one…”
In other words, it sounds a lot like fused black stone, such as we find at Battle Isle! Dunedain coming to a new land and building a fused black stone tower sounds a lot like the Daynes and their fellow Hightower refugees from the Great Empire building the fused black stone fortress which would become the base of the Hightower. Orthanc and the Hightower also compare well to one another because atop Orthanc, Saruman sits in isolation, watching the world through the palantir stone, and atop the Hightower, from which you can supposedly see clear to the Wall, we find Lord Leyton Hightower and his daughter Malora Hightower, the Mad Maid, “consulting books of spells.” Euron’s goal may be to perform dark magic atop the Hightower, some have speculated, which would be an even better correlation.
Well I hope you enjoyed that little dose of Lord of the Rings – thanks to my friend Blue Tiger for picking up on those clues ages ago, and check out his blog for more Tolkien / ASOIAF parallels. I think we can be fairly confident that House Dayne and House Hightower descend from the people of the Great Empire of the Dawn just based on the ASOIAF evidence – which is why I presented those first – but the parallels to the Dunedain of LOTR and Uther Pendragon of Arthurian myth are the sort of clever literary clues that seal the deal of authorial intent for me. They’re a nice cherry on top of an already strong theory.
And heck, here’s another cherry that takes the form of a literary clue. Think about the Tower of Joy scene, the place where baby Jon Snow was born. Who’s there outside the tower, fighting Ned and his six grey wraiths (as his 6 companions appeared to him in his fever dream)? Why it’s Arthur Dayne and Gerold Hightower… come to witness the birth of the promised prince, who may be the culmination of whatever business the Great Empire was up to when it first came to Westeros – business that probably involves both Dawn and the Others.
So let’s see if we can’t pull this all together. At some point before the Long Night, the Great Empire of the Dawn, who counted dragonlords among their number, used their arcane arts to raise a fused stone fortress on Battle Isle, most likely with the purpose of establishing trade with the children of the forest and / or the first First Men. They don’t seem to have had a large presence, as we have not found fused stone anywhere else as of yet and there are only a few tales of dragons to be found in Westeros, almost all tied to Oldtown (with the others being a couple one-off tales of dragon-slayers like Davos Dragonslayer, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, or Galladon of Morne). The Great Empire of the Dawn did however leave a small genetic fingerprint on the land that would become the Seven Kingdoms in the form of House Dayne and House Hightower, at the very least, and they may have left one of their magic swords behind.
That’s actually the heart of the matter: Lightbringer, Dawn, Azor Ahai, the last hero, and the idea of beating back the Others during the first Long Night. Many people have connected the Asshai’i tale of Azor Ahai defeating the forces of darkness to end the Long Night with the Westerosi tale of the last hero slaying the Others with an unbreakable sword of “dragonsteel,” which makes a lot of sense – both heroes are using a magic sword associated with dragons to defeat the minions of the Long Night and thereby the Long Night itself. Many people have also looked at Dawn, an unbreakable, glowing magic sword called “the sword of the morning” and thought “perhaps this is the magic sword which ended the long night and brought the morning,” and again I say this is both logical and intuitive. Dawn could be thought of as “dragonsteel” simply based on its meteoric origin, since we know comets and meteors can be seen as dragons in both the real world and within ASOIAF mythology, and if it is Lightbringer, then it’s even more strongly associated with dragons, since Azor Ahai reborn is prophesied to wake dragons from stone.
So now in light of the Great Empire of the Dawn theory, we can sort of fill in these gaps: the sword Dawn was most likely the “dragonsteel” sword the last hero used to defeat the Others, and it was most likely similar in nature to whatever magic sword was used by the various ‘flaming sword heroes’ of the further east (Azor Ahai, Neferion, Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar). We don’t know whether there was only one flaming sword, only one “Lightbringer,” or whether this was more of a technology that could be duplicated, but I think we can say that Dawn is either the Lightbringer or at the very least, a Lightbringer. I tend to think Dany’s vision of the Gemstone Emperor ghosts each holding swords of pale fire is a strong clue that it’s the latter, but the important thing is simply to connect Lightbringer, Dawn, and the last hero’s dragonsteel, and realize that the origin for all of this magical flaming sword business was the Great Empire of the Dawn.
Further corroboration lies in comparing the Night’s Watch oaths to the symbolism of Dawn, House Dayne, and Lightbringer. Remember how “Sword of the Morning” is taken from “son of the morning,” a translation of Lucifer, the Latin word for Venus, while another translation of Lucifer is “light-bringer?” Surely you do. Venus is called the son of the morning and the light-bringer because as the Morningstar, it rises just before the sun, heralding the dawn. So now, those Night’s Watch vows: I am the light that brings the dawn…? The sword in the darkness…? Yes, it’s more Venus symbolism, and it’s also obvious Lightbringer talk when we toss in “I am the fire that burns against the cold.” A warrior who is a flaming sword that brings the dawn? Does anyone know that guy?
In other words, the Nights Watch oaths, the names Dawn and Sword of the Morning, and everything related to Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer all come from the same Venus mythology, and I have to think this is done to reinforce the basic conclusion the reader wants to intuit: these things are all related to one another. Somehow, Dawn was Lightbringer and the last hero’s dragonsteel.
Here’s one final bit of proof that this was the case, and here I’m drawing from another video of mine called “Dawn is the Original Ice: the Last Hero.” The first time we see Ned Stark polishing his Valyrian steel greatsword, Ice, in the Winterfell godswood, we see it through Catelyn’s eyes, and she informs the reader that although that sword is 400 years old and forged in Valyria before the Doom, “The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes.” In other words, the Starks have been naming their ancestral swords “Ice” for thousands of years, long before they acquired the current Valyrian steel sword called “Ice.” Where could this tradition have started, I ask you?
Well, the answer is surprisingly easy to come to. We just established that the last hero probably wielded Dawn against the Others. Setting aside the fact that Dawn is thought of as belonging to House Dayne, who do you think the last hero was? Probably a Stark, right? This story of ice and fire has two poles: the Starks and the Others on one end, and the Targaryens and the dragons on the other. The Others are obviously tied to the Starks, and the last hero myth is a northern myth, one we first hear told to Bran early on in AGOT. Thus most people have always assumed the last hero was be a Stark, and the two characters who seem to be echoing the last hero in the current story are Starks (Bran and Jon).
So where does that leave us? With a Stark last hero, wielding Dawn and leading the Night’s Watch into battle against the Others in the Battle for the …Dawn. Ah. There’s that word again. Try to picture it in your mind – a Stark last hero, leading the Night’s Watch against the white walkers, and in his hand, a big white sword that can withstand the cold of the Others. A big. White. Sword.
So where did the Stark tradition of calling their most important sword “Ice” come from?
Yes, that’s right, it can only have come from the last hero’s use of Dawn, a big unbreakable white sword. It isn’t made of ice, but it kinda looks like it is – “as pale as milkglass” is the description of both the sword Dawn as well as the bones of the melting white walker that Sam kills in ASOS. I go into further detail on all the symbolism linking Dawn to the Starks and the idea of an “ice sword” in the “Dawn is the Original Ice” videos, but here’s the important part: this mythical memory of a Stark wielding a sword of “ice” is actually just a corroboration of the hypothesis that the last hero, almost certainly a Stark, wielded Dawn, the unbreakable big white sword.
As to why Dawn ended up residing in Starfall with House Dayne, the answer now suggests itself: because it belonged to them in the first place; because the sword Dawn was Great Empire of the Dawn technology that came to Westeros in the hands of the ancestors of House Dayne. They must have loaned it to the Starks, or perhaps some other circumstances arose to put Dawn in the hands of the last hero at the right time. Heck, perhaps the Stark last hero killed a Dayne and took Dawn – after all, we see Ned do that at the tower of Joy: killing a Dayne, taking Dawn, and then after a great war is over, Ned returns Dawn to Starfall. Could this be an echo of history here, with a Stark having used Dawn for a short time and then returned it to Starfall after the Battle for the Dawn was over? However it happened that the last hero got his hands on Dawn, we’ve said from the first that the Great Empire of the Dawn is really the only plausible source for the technology needed to forge Dawn at that time, which was long before the rise of Valyria or even the arrival of the Andals, who brought the art of making steel to Westeros. Thus it makes sense to find it in the hands of the Daynes, who are the most obvious descendants of the Great Empire of the Dawn.
Here’s the best part: all of this may happen again. The Daynes may once again loan out their magic sword to a Stark last hero, which would of course be Johnny boy, the special snowflake. Or perhaps it won’t be a loan – perhaps Darkstar will have stolen it by then and someone will straight up kill him and take it, again echoing the tower of Joy where Dawn was taken from Arthur Dayne after he was slain. There is actually ample symbolic foreshadowing for Jon Snow to wield Dawn, so check out the Dawn is Original ice videos for more on that. Assuming R+L=J will be true in the books, as I do, I really like how all this could come together, with Jon echoing the Stark last hero and leading the Night’s Watch against the Others with Dawn in his hands, but with Jon having the bloodlines of Stark, Targaryen, and Dayne in his veins.
Daenerys, the other major incarnation of “Azor Ahai reborn,” will be right there with him, throwing her dragons into the fight, and she’ll be bringing with her not only the blood of Targaryen and Dayne, but the the secret knowledge of the Great Empire of the Dawn that waits for her in Asshai. With Marwyn the Mage almost certainly bringing Daenerys a glass candle, and with further contact with Quaithe the Shadowbinder seeming inevitable, Dany will no doubt learn whatever truth there is to be gleaned about these Dawn Age dragonlords from Asshai, and it’s probably going to be one of the key pieces of information which leads Daenerys to make her all-important, arc-defining choice to turn away from her quest for the Iron Throne to confront the Others. Whenever she meets Jon and hears about the Others and the threat of a new Long Night, she’ll be putting that together with the prophetic words of Quaithe and the Undying, as well as whatever she learns about the Great Empire of the Dawn and why they came to Westeros at the time of the first Long Night. As the final scions of the morning, it will be up to Jon and Dany put the pieces together and right the wrongs of the past, bringing this long chapter of Ice and Fire to a close – a chapter which started in Asshai, in a little old kingdom called the Great Empire of the Dawn.