The primary job of the first scene in any book is to hook the reader into the action, and the A Game of Thrones prologue certainly does the trick, dropping us right into the middle of the haunted forest only moments before three rangers of the Night’s Watch encounter the Others. It’s also well known that skilled authors usually try to use the first scene of a book to foreshadow as much as they can about the major themes and arcs of their story, and once again the AGOT prologue comes through with flying colors. Many folks have done fine analysis on this all-important chapter, and you can find a 3 hour deep-dive on the mythical symbolism therein on my channel here in the video “We Should Start Back.” But I’m here today to show you how Ser Waymar Royce’s confrontation with the Others actually spells out the beginning of the white walker endgame and sheds light on their mysterious motives.
Hey there friends and fellow myth heads, it’s LmL. I have to apologize to you all, for it seems that following the path of symbol and archetype has led us to pile heresy on top of heresy of late. That’s right, all we did was innocently follow the rabbit trail of the Kingsguard symbolizing the Others and pretty soon we are reordering the events of the Long Night and claiming to have discovered the very origins of the Others. Well, let the haters hate, because we’ve only begun exploring the ramifications of Azor Ahai the dragonlord having become Night’s King and, along with Night’s Queen, the creator of the Others, and there’s lots more to discover. If you like these videos and you want to keep the heresy rolling, please make sure you have clicked on that red subscribe button below, and I know this is asking a lot but please also click the like button, and maybe leave a comment if you’re really feeling it. You can support the program through a monthly Patreon pleadge or through a one-time donation at paypal.me/mythicalastronomy, and thanks to everyone who has already done so, you’re the reason I can make these videos.
Alright, let’s rip into the exciting notion of a new Night’s King arising to lead the Others!
Our first clue that the White Walkers are at the very least “looking for someone special” comes in the AGOT prologue, where we see six white walkers murder brave Ser Waymar Royce in cold butchery after he loses the duel to the first one. That’s actually the first part of the clue, right there, the sequence of the entire exchange. The Others almost certainly could have murdered Waymar and his company at any time, as they did the wildling party Waymar, Gared, and Will were tracking, but instead they exhibited intentional strategy and timing by killing the wildlings and then removing the bodies, luring the rangers further along to specific place where they chose to emerge and confront.
Then, one Other only stepped forward to challenge Waymar, while the other five remained standing back:
Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. Yet they made no move to interfere.
Again we see the Others refusing to simply kill Waymar as quickly as they can, so they must have some other objective, pun intended. If their goal isn’t to simply kill the Night’s Watch, what is it? Are they testing Ser Waymar and thereby the Watch for skill, just to assess their foe? Or are they perhaps testing him to see if he’s some sort of prophesied figure – someone like the dreaded Azor Ahai reborn, nemesis of the Others? Or might they, as the title of this video suggests, be looking for someone to make into a Night’s King, a new leader of the Others? After all, if the greenseers and Targaryens have prophesies about Azor Ahai and the Prince That Was Promised emerging to fight the Others, it stands to reason that the Others may be on the lookout for him too. They can certainly see that bloody red comet, you know? And if the Others are looking for a new Night’s King, that also be a matter of prophesy or of qualifications.
Whatever the case, what can observe is that the other Others continue to watch, motionless, until…
Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.
The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.
Ser Waymar Royce found his fury. “For Robert!” he shouted, and he came up snarling, lifting the frost-covered longsword with both hands and swinging it around in a flat sidearm slash with all his weight behind it. The Other’s parry was almost lazy.
When the blades touched, the steel shattered.
A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.
The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk. Will closed his eyes. Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles.
Alright, so the five Others in the woods moved forward together, as if a signal had been given, and they did it right after the Other chose to shatter Waymar’s sword. Some have interpreted this to be about the sword – the Other did take a nice long look at Waymar’s sword right before the fight, after all, and the thinking is that when it broke, that proved it wasn’t Valyrian steel. After that, the Others no longer respected Waymar as a threat, and disposed of him with all due disrespect.
But here’s the thing – Waymar’s sword didn’t break the very first time it touched the icy Other blade, and it didn’t break at some random point in the sword-fight, and it certainly didn’t break from the vicious force of the “almost lazy” parry of the Other. Rather, it seems to me that the Other chose to break his sword because he had already dismissed Waymar as a threat. If we look closely, we can see that the real change in behavior came when Waymar took the first wound from the Other’s sword and bled on to the snow with blood droplets that “seemed red as fire.” It is at this point that the Other first speaks in his mocking tone, which implies dismissal, and then the next move is the lazy parry which breaks the sword – in other words, Waymar is being dismissed by the sword break, not after the sword break.
What’s so important about Waymar bleeding? Do the Others simply play by one-hit-kill rules? Was they icy laughter basically Otherish for “you lose” or “game over?” or perhaps… perhaps they were looking for someone who doesn’t bleed. Someone who’s undead, perhaps, like Jon Snow will be by the time he ever confronts his first Other.
Here’s the thing: I don’t hate the idea that the sword breaking was a key sign to the Others that Waymar could be easily dismissed, and actually the the sword idea might well compliment the idea that his bleeding was a key sign. After all, by the time Jon meets the Others, it will be both as an undead person and with Valyrian steel in his hand. The Others may well be lookout for an undead person with a Valyrian steel sword, in other words, because that’s who’s ultimately going to face them.
Whatever it was about Ser Waymar that caused him to fail his test with the Others, fail he did, and it’s clear that the Others rapidly shifted from giving Waymar the respect of a ritual-like, one-on-one sword duel to dispatching him with “cold butchery” and “mocking” laughter.
So here’s the question: what were they planning on doing if Waymar had measured up, or if he had been some sort of prophesied figure whom the Others were watching for? Something other than kill him, obviously, since that’s what they did when he failed. What was it? We have two choices, essentially. If the Others are looking out for a threat, then it’s possible that all the other Others would have attacked if, say, Waymar’s sword had caught fire or if he had killed the first Other, or perhaps they would call in the reinforcements of ice spiders and wights to deal with this more serious foe.
The other possibility is that the Others, as I suggest in the title of the video, are looking for someone whom they can make into a new Night’s King, a new leader of the Others. Not only does this make sense for all narrative reasons and symbolic reasons that we’ve covered in the last few videos that suggest the Others should have a king, and that that person should be some sort of frozen Azor Ahai figure… I believe George is feeding us a very nice symbolic clue about the Others wanting to make a new Night’s King in the fate of Ser Waymar, because George basically turns him into a frozen Azor Ahai Night’s King person at the end of the chapter.
To whit: let’s have a look at the horror that George has fashioned at the conclusion of the first chapter of ASOIAF:
Royce’s body lay facedown in the snow, one arm out-flung. The thick sable cloak had been slashed in a dozen places. Lying dead like that, you saw how young he was. A boy.
He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof. Gared would know what to make of it, and if not him, then surely that old bear Mormont or Maester Aemon. Would Gared still be waiting with the horses? He had to hurry.
Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.
His fine clothes were a tatter, his face a ruin. A shard from his sword transfixed the blind white pupil of his left eye.
The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.
The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.
Alright, so I know that Waymar is in actuality just a common ice wight here, but what I want to talk about is the symbolism. Waymar is implied both specifically as a Night’s King figure and more generally as some kind of ice wizard who has transcended death and obtaining new icy magical powers… which is how we should think of someone who “becomes” a Night’s King, whether that’s the original Azor Ahai or Jon Snow or Euron or anyone else.
There are two ways in which Royce is implied as having obtained an icy version of the fire of the gods: the one-eye symbolism and the “broken tree struck by lightning symbolism.” The one-eyed symbol is easy to recognize as a call-out to the Norse god of shamanic magic, Odin, as George Martin made liberal use of Odin mythology and the related mythology of Yggdrasil, Odin’s magical tree, when he fashioned his own weirwood trees and greenseer wizards. I’ve explored this at length in the Weirwood Compendium, but the main thing to know here is having one-eye is Odin’s chief calling card; he appears in countless forms, even those of animals, but always with one eye. He lost that eye in exchange for “opening his third eye,” so to speak – he traded it for a drink from the well of Mimir, which (speaking in general terms) gave Odin increased magical knowledge and power.
Therefore, the one-eye symbol is not only Odin’s calling card, but specifically represents the concept of sacrificing your physical body or life to gain magic power. Along the same lines, the other very famous way that Odin gained magical power was by being hanged from the ash tree Yggdasil for nine days, after which he was able to transcend death and “see the runes.” Enter Bloodraven, the living tree statue, who has both symbols: he’s lost one physical eye but has pried open his third eye all the way to gain magical sight, like Odin. Bloodraven is also is “hung on the tree,” only in the root zone, quite literally tied to the weirwood by its roots and even pierced by them, just as Odin was tied to Yggdrasil and pierced to the tree with his spear. On a thematic level, Bloodraven has certainly sacrificed much to gain the power of greenseer magic, and if you think about it, the same is true of Bran and Daenerys and the Undying of Qarth and everyone else who seeks magical power in this story.
So, getting back to Waymar, we see that one of the shards of broken sword has blinded his left eye, and that his right eye now burns blue. This blue is of course literally burning with magical fire, the same magical fire that animates his resurrected body, so Waymar has kind of done the Odin trick here – he’s become one-eyed, but gained magical power, and he did this while defeating death, just as Odin is thought to have died and then transcended death when he hung from Yggdrasil. That’s why I say that Martin is implying Waymar as possessing an icy version of the fire of the gods – he’s become an Odin figure, but unlike Bloodraven, he’s coded in the language of ice.
This is confirmed by the broken sword symbol; the end of which is “splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning.” Lightning is a classic symbol of the fire and power of the gods throughout mythology, and George has specifically made use of this idea in his Grey King mythology. Check this out:
It was the Grey King who brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God until he lashed down with a thunderbolt, setting a tree ablaze.
This isn’t to say the Grey King has anything to do with this specifically, rather, I am showing you that Martin has used the symbol of a tree struck by lighting to embody the Promethean concept of bringing the fire of the gods from the heavens to the earth. The Others are also described as moving and striking like lightning, so this broken sword twisted like a lightning-blasted tree is specifically a symbol of the icy fire of the gods which animates the Others. Thus, we see two symbols of obtaining the fire or power of the gods appear with Waymar’s death and resurrection: Waymar is given the icy blue version of the one-eye Odin symbolism at the same time that his sword is transformed into the tree-struck-by-lightning symbol.
That’s why I say that when undead Waymar rises from the snow to kill his fellow Night’s Watch brother, Will, he’s showing us more than our first ice wight. Unpacking this symbolism allows us to see that resurrected Waymar is being presented as an ice-Odin figure, as some sort of powerful ice magic wizard. Who could this be guys, what do you think? Who is it that goes through some sort of death transformation, bleeding out in drops “red as fire” only to gain the power of icy white walker magic? This can only be our Night’s King Azor Ahai figure, right? Waymar is manifesting this archetype right after the Others gave him that test, and as I alluded to a minute ago, I think that’s a clue about who they are really seeking here: someone who can become a new Night’s King, a new ice magic wizard who has defeated death.
I’ll put it like this: in terms of the surface level plot, Waymar fails and is killed; but in terms of symbolism, the Others have transformed him into a white walker king.
As it happens, Waymar has plenty of Night’s King symbolism about him, beginning with him killing his brother Will as soon as he is resurrected. Night’s King broke his vows and turned against the realms of men, according to legend, and transformed Waymar now seems to have adopted the Others policy of snuffing out all warm-blooded life. Night’s King was also thought to bind his brothers to his will with strange sorceries, and here in this scene Waymar is binding his brother Will to him with sorcery in the sense that Waymar is making Will into a magical ice wight who now takes orders from the Others.
The entire first half of the prologue is dedicated to portraying Waymar as reckless, bold, heedless, and foolish as he insists on pressing on deeper into the haunted forest against the advice of his two seasoned ranger companions and the very woods themselves, which are written as actively hostile to Waymar. You could say Waymar is.. a man who knew no fear, and in truth we can actually say that that is Waymar’s defining characteristic, right up to his having the courage to stand and face the Other boldly before he died. If we look at this chapter in totality, we can see that it was Waymar’s fearless incursion into the woods which brought the Others down upon them, which is an echo of Night’s King quest for magical power having ended in the creation of the Others.
One thing that all Night King figures due is blot out the stars in various symbolic ways, and Waymar does this in grand style:
“Gods!” he heard behind him. A sword slashed at a branch as Ser Waymar Royce gained the ridge. He stood there beside the sentinel, longsword in hand, his cloak billowing behind him as the wind came up, outlined nobly against the stars for all to see.
Outlined against the stars means that his silhouette is blotting out the stars behind him, and specifically it’s his black cloak that is doing so:
His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin.
A thick, sinful black cloak which “billows” out and blots out the stars: this is a little bit mythical astronomy here, because (according to my grand theory) it was the clouds of smoke, ash and debris billowing out from the meteor impacts which blotted out the sun and stars. Thus Night King figures tend to have these black cloaks or some other equivalent symbol – Euron has an identical black sable cloak to Waymar’s and a ship with black sails; Stannis sets fire to King’s Landing and fills the sky with smoke that blots out the stars; Darkstar… is called Darkstar, and in one scene he stands outlined against a dying sun in a similarly grandiose fashion as Ser Waymar on the ridge here; Jon Snow of course wears a black cloak of the Night’s Watch and wears black ice armor in his dream, and we see “night black” armor on Jon’s daddy Rhaegar as well as Aemond One Eye Targaryen.
Waymar’s star-blotting sable cloak, all important symbol of the darkness of the Long Night, is named as his crowning glory here. This is simply a way of telling us that he’s a night king figure; sinful darkness is his crown. That’s not too hard to understand as far as symbolism goes, right? The golden crown kings have worn all throughout history symbolize the sun’s rays and the divine favor of the sun god thought to be conferred on the king. Inverting that golden crown symbol into a black crown is therefore a perfect symbol for someone who is king of the Long Night, a time when the sun’s face was darkened. Stannis was described as looking like he wore a shadow crown in the first scene we saw him as covered last video; Euron wears a black iron crown, and Aemond One Eye wore the black crown of Aegon the Conqueror, who is himself another Night’s King Azor Ahai figure. Even the Stark Kings of Winter have a black crown – which makes sense because the Starks seem to have a connection to both Night’s King and the Others, and because the title “King of Winter” is similar to the idea of a “King of Night.” The Long Night was also a Long Winter, and either way we’re talking about the idea of someone who is king when the sun is weakened or gone – hence the black crown symbol. Regarding Waymar, his version of the black crown symbol is specifically a sinful cloak of billowing darkness, which seems easy to interpret as a symbol of the Long Night.
So as you can see, I’m not haphazardly slapping the Night’s King label on Waymar just because he looks like undead ice Odin. He fits very well, and he has the same symbolism as other Night’s King figures. So why does George Martin have Waymar manifest this Night’s King ice wizard archetype here at the end of this chapter? I think the answer is that he’s trying to foreshadow where the story arc of the Others is going by showing us that the Others are waiting for someone special, someone who can pass their test and not get laughed out of the room, so to speak. Someone who fits this one-eyed ice wizard, king of night archetype.
And there’s really only two choices: Euron or Jon Snow. Euron already has the blue one eye symbolism: he famously has one “blood eye” which he keeps hidden under an eye patch and one blue “smiling eye.” Euron is actively seeking magic of all kinds and talks openly of becoming a god and bringing on the apocalypse, so this really isn’t some sort of wild counter-intuitive notion here. It’s backed up by specific Night’s King symbolism though too, and we will do a dedicated Night’s King Euron symbolism video very soon, perhaps next in this series. Euron is currently a long way from the north, but I think he’s going to be around for awhile, and he’s very intent on riding a dragon, so I think the idea of Euron’s story tying him in to the final events in the north makes a lot of sense. He’s certainly shaping up to be the final villain in a narrative sense, and it would be hard for him to do that if he has nothing to do with the Others.
As for Jon, well. He too is going to get his own video in this series solely dedicated to showing the foreshadowing for his becoming a new Night’s King and leader of the Others, but I can give you a brief run-down of what it involves before we call it a wrap here.
First, Jon compares well to Waymar, physically – from an ancient First Man house, dark hair, long face, grey eyes, and moleskin gloves (Jon and Waymar are the only two people to ever wear those in the series). This is actually important because it could explain why the Others might have thought Waymar was Jon – because of the Moleskin glove prophecy— no I’m kidding, it’s because Waymar literally looked like Jon and was about the same age. There have even been several somewhat recent Stark – Royce intermarriages, so Jon and Waymar are actually very distant relatives.
The second thing foreshadowing Night’s King Jon is that the Starks may be related Night’s King, according to Old Nan, so it may be that the Others need a Stark for their king in the way that Azor Ahai reborn should be a dragonrider and a Targaryen. The first Stark kings were called Kings of Winter as we just mentioned, and those kings bore nicknames like “ice eyes” and “snowbeard” in addition to the black iron crown of swords.
Then there is the possibility that the Others may be owed a Stark baby by some ancient, unholy pact – this is “Prince That Was promised to the Others” theory, which is the idea that a child of Night’s King and Queen was somehow not turned into an Other but was stolen and raised as a Stark, just as Gilly and Sam stole baby Monster from Craster before he could give him to the Others and brought him south of the Wall. If the Starks do descend from such a child, then it’s possible Jon must be “given” back to the Others as part of pacifying their ancient enmity for mankind.
And then there is the symbolic foreshadowing, like Jon’s ice armor, Bran seeing him growing hard and cold at the Wall, and the implied presence of the Others at the Tower of Joy scene. This is all topped off by the absolute avalanche of symbolism tying Jon to the fall of the Wall, which figures to be a key element of the fall of the new Long Night and the invasion of the Others.
As for that one-eye Odin symbolism, Jon has it too, in sneaky fashion. It comes in ACOK when Orell’s eagle attacks Jon, clawing his face around one of his eyes:
Half his world was black. “My eye,” he said in sudden panic, raising a hand to his face.
Jon ultimately ends up with a scar running across his eye, but as you can see he is initially blinded by the wound. The lines are also written to match the eye-wounding scene at the end of the Waymar prologue, tying Jon to these ideas about defeating death and obtaining the frozen fire of the gods. Jon’s chapter says this:
The blood kept running down into his right eye, and his cheek was a blaze of pain. When he touched it his black gloves came away stained with red.
Those are Jon’s black moleskin gloves stained with red blood, to be exact, so now check out Waymar checking out his first wound against the Other:
Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.
It’s almost the same line: “his black gloves came away stained with red” vs. “His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.” And then here’s the end of Waymar’s chapter as he strangles Will:
Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.
Jon touches his own cheek, staining his gloves red, and here Waymar’s bloody gloves touches Will’s cheek. I hope the reason why Martin would create parallels between these two eye-wounding scenes is obvious by now: it implies that Jon should be in the Waymar role, that he is destined to acquire the icy fire of the Others as Waymar and Night’s King did.
There are several ways that could manifest in the story though, and we’ll cover all that in the Night’s King Jon video, so start getting pumped for that. The same goes for Night’s King Euron – there are a couple of different ways it could play out, I’ll make a video about that, and you should be getting pumped like Arnold for that too. You can also get a head start by diving into the podcast playlists titled Moons of Ice and Fire and Blood of the Other which you can find under the playlist tab on this YT channel, as I’ve talked about some of this there.