Hey guys it’s LmL and I’m back to squeeze in Weirwood Compendium 10 before the end of the month! Real life has kept me away from you for the last two weeks, but I got up early on West Coast time to make you guys some myth head breakfast. Thanks to all of our patreon supporters and to everyone who likes and shares the videos, and I’d like to welcome those of you who have subscribed to the channel recently. This is Weirwood Compendium 10, and we’re picking up where we left on in WC9, so make sure you watch that video and probably the “Weirwood Magic and Lore” video from a couple weeks back if you haven’t done the whole Weirwood Compendium or forget what it was about. That said, it’s time for our trippiest episode yet, perhaps, although there was that 3 hour Rhymes and Riddles of Patchface the Fool halloween livestream form a couple years ago…
By now I have gotten to know a few of you listeners and patreon supporters, and I know you all are a clever bunch. When you hear me talking about a horse which allows the rider to travel the universe, you might be thinking of the phrase “the Stallion Who Mounts the World.” If you were, give yourself a big pat on the back and wear that smile of self-satisfaction, because you got that one exactly right – at least, I think so. To the extent that the weirwood functions as an astral projection horse like Yggdrasil, it is a horse which mounts the world and the cosmos. This is what Bloodraven alludes to when he tells Bran that he will fly, and that is the meaning of all of Bran’s dreams of flying – his ultimate flight will be through the use of the weirwoods.
Of course the tree-horse and the rider are one, and the greenseer mounts the cosmos by becoming the weirwood, by slipping into its skin. The greenseer becomes part of the horse that ‘mounts’ or ‘rides’ the world, and this is one of the ways in which I believe Azor Ahai’s group of naughty greenseers brought down the moon – I mean it starts with them having some mechanism for effecting the course of celestial bodies, does it not? Some way to go up to the stars? Riding the astral projection horse could be part of it, and mounting the world seems like the right idea too.
We saw a clue about this is Drogo’s funeral pyre, which we’ve talked about the last several episodes – Dany perceives Drogo as seeming to mount a grey stallion made of smoke and fire which he rides up to the stars, at which time time he exchanges the grey horse for his celestial mount, the red comet, which is seen as a fiery horse. That’s not one but two horses which seem to help Drogo to “mount the world.” The grey stallion is a call-out to Sleipnir and thus to astral travel, while the column of smoke and ash the horse is made of is expressing the ash tree and burning tree weirwood symbolism, and thus more astral travel. Are the weirwoods a way to “ride the comet,” as Drogo seems to do? We’ll come back to this scene later in the podcast, but it seems as though something along these lines is true.
Now lest I confuse anyone too badly too early in the program, let me say that it seems also certain that the most direct fulfillment of the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy will turn out to be Dany riding Drogon, high above the world – I’m certainly a believer in this. So which is it? Is the Stallion Who Mounts a greenseer mounting the weirwood – meaning Bran – or is it Dany and Drogon? Well, think about it this way. The original Stallion Who Mounted the World was Azor Ahai breaking into and stealing the power of the weirwoods – a dragonlord-turned-greenseer, essentially – and our modern incarnations are each showing us one half of that picture. Bran is the greenseer, Dany the dragonlord, and I have a feeling that Martin is implying that their arcs will intersect at some key moment of high magic near the conclusion of the story.
Dany and Bran have parallel arcs in many ways – they’re both separated form the rest of the story, with Bran sojourning in the coldest outskirts of the land and Dany the hottest, and they’re the two POV characters most heavily associated with magic. They’re both classic fantasy tropes, with their arcs clearly aimed at magical climaxes, and of course many have noticed that Dany’s House of the Undying / Shade of the Evening experience has many parallels to Bran’s greenseer cave / weirwood paste scenes. Dany and Bran are both a couple of young trippers, in other words, and most importantly, they are the two characters who consistently seem to think about flying in the sky and even touching heavenly bodies. Dany has already flown literally, and Bran astrally, so one wonders if their powers might be combined for some key moment.. I’m going to lay out the Stallion Who Mounts symbolism as best I can, and then we’ll have a discussion session to talk about what it might mean – and as always, leave your comments below and tell me what you think!
Alright. So like I said, we have to think about the “Stallion Who Mounts” as referring to both the general idea of a dragon greenseer like Azor Ahai as well as an archetypal role which will be manifested by Dany and Bran. Dany and Drogon will be the more literal fullfillment of the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy, but we’ll find tons of clues about greenseer things that probably apply to Bran when we look at Dany’s scenes that in any way involve the Stallion Who Mounts ideas. We’ve already seen a ton of horse greenseer symbolism in Dany’s arc, of course – the silver sea horse stuff which incorporates the idea of Sleipnir as a great grey stallion as well as the “ships as winged horses” symbolism – and the Stallion Who Mounts set of ideas will follow this pattern as well.
Now originally it was believed that the Stallion Who Mounts would be Rhaego, Dany and Drogo’s unborn child, and we already know that Rhaego is the vehicle for a lot of dragon greenseer symbolism / Azor Ahai the greeneer symbolism. The vision Dany has of a grown Rhaego has him being consumed by ash, of course this is invoking the dual symbolism of the weirwood as a burning, ashy tree and the weirwood as a stand-in for the ash tree Yggdrasil. Beric is resurrected by fire in both a weirwood cave and a grove of ash trees at different times, Dany hatches her dragons and is reborn “covered in ash” and “amidst the ashes,” and of course Azor Ahai waiting to be reborn is called “an ember in the ashes” by Melisandre. Dany named Rhaego after Rhaegar, and there are several instances of Rhaegar being said to be “reborn from the ashes,” naturally. Rhaegar also has a lot dragon greenseer symbolism, if you recall – he dies “on the green banks of the River Trident,” but then is symbolically reborn as the people Dany names after him – not only Rhaego, but also later Rhaegal, the green dragon who is more or less entirely fashioned of dragon-greenseer symbolism. I don’t want to recap all of Weirwood Compendium 6, but the point is baby Rhaego leads to all the greenseer dragon symbolism of Rhaegal and Rhaegar, before we even consider the idea of a stallion who can mount the entire earth.
When we think of Rhaego as a merging of the animal mascots of his parents, horse and dragon, that also says dragon greenseer; think of Bloodraven the dragon merging with the weirwood, which is his astral projection horse. All the stuff about Rhaego riding in the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy… think of a dragon riding a horse, but the horse is a weirwood. Azor Ahai mounts the weirwoodnet.
So like I said a moment ago, we now think the stallion prophecy will be fulfilled by Dany riding Drogon, and Drogon, like Rhaego, is Dany’s child. So the idea here is that Dany is the mother of the Stallion, the mother of Rhaego and Drogon, but she herself can also be the Stallion because she becomes reborn in the funeral pyre, which we can see as her dying to give birth to a new self. She’s the mother of herself, just as Odin sacrificed himself to himself. It’s the same for Drogo – he would have been the father of Rhaego the Stallion Who Mounts, but when he dies, he seems to transcend death by riding stallions who mount the world by flying in space. Even Rhaego seems to be burnt and consumed by ash in Dany’s vision, so you can see that there’s always a “death and rebirth through the weirwoods” message with any incarnation of our dragon-stallion who mounts.
In the last episode, I explained how the rhythmic beating of the shaman’s drums which enable the trance-like state came to be thought of as the hoofbeats of an unseen horse which the shaman rides into the spirit world, and that this is what is behind the idea of Odin riding Sleipnir the eight legged stallion or Odin riding Yggdrasil like a horse by being hung upon it and using it for astral projection. We saw Martin uses this metaphor in several weirwood scenes, but we saved the best for today, because the invisible-yet-thundering shamanic horse makes a strong appearance at the scene where the prophecy of the Stallion Who Mounts is given, as you might expect.
Here’s the setup for the scene: Daenerys the moon maiden has just eaten the bloody heart of a wild stallion as a part of a Dothraki ritual to foretell the virility of her unborn child. There layers of symbolism here, and the first is classic mythical astronomy: this is a depiction of the moon (Dany) ingesting the Lightbringer comet (the bloody heart) right before giving birth to a version of Azor Ahai reborn and his dragons. Think about the horse heart as a symbol – we’ve seen that comets are bleeding stars and that meteors can be the hearts of fallen stars, so a bloody heart already works well as a comet or meteor symbol. But it’s not just a heart, it’s a horse heart, and we know that the Dothraki believe that the stars are fiery horses and that Dany equates the bleeding red comet with Drogo mounted on his fiery stallion. Ergo, a bloody stallion heart being eaten by a moon maiden works very well as a symbol of the moon ingesting a red Lightbringer comet. It’s very similar to the scene from Weirwood Compendium 9, Shamanic Thunder Horse, where we saw Aerion Targaryen telling Dunk to “eat this” and then hitting him with the bloody morningstar.
The other thing going on, symbolically, as Dany eats the horse heart is that she is getting heavy-duty weirwood stigmata: “Warm blood filled her mouth and ran down over her chin,” “..her face smeared with the heartsblood that sometimes seemed to explode against her lips,” and then “Her cheeks and fingers were sticky as she forced down the last of it.” Dany is like weirwood tree, with blood red hands and mouth, and the Prince inside her is like the greenseer inside the tree:
“Khalakka dothrae mr’anha!” she proclaimed in her best Dothraki. A prince rides inside me! She had practiced the phrase for days with her handmaid Jhiqui.
The oldest of the crones, a bent and shriveled stick of a woman with a single black eye, raised her arms on high. “Khalakka dothrae!” She shrieked. The prince is riding!
Okay, so we have a one eyed seer – a seeress in this case – and that is a sure sign of Odin symbolism at play. Calling her a shriveled old stick of a woman makes us think of Bloodraven, a shriveled old stick of a man, and wicker men and tree-people in general.
The prince is riding, riding inside Dany – this is a great visualization of the dragon greenseer riding inside the weirwood tree. It’s also a picture of the moon dragons waiting to be born inside the moon, and it echoes a line from the Hedge Knight, right before the trial of the seven, where Dunk is looking for a seventh man for his side:
Dunk left them there, feeling as relieved as he was guilty. We are still one short, he thought as Egg held Thunder for him. Where will I find another man?
“As egg held Thunder” – that’s a pretty nice one. Astronomy -wise, the moon-egg held thunderous dragon meteors, just as Dany “gives birth” to dragons whose eggs crack like thunder. But also consider that the “Thunder” young Egg Targaryen is holding is a horse – it’s just like Dany as a moon figure holding the Stallion Who Mounts, a prince who is riding the world like a horse. Dunk does find a seventh man of course, and he turns out to be a greenseer dragon symbol who looks like he hatched from a moon egg – I’m talking about Baelor Targaryen, dressed in black dragon armor and riding on a horse. Yes, a dragon riding a horse, just like Rhaego’s symbolism, and just like Drogon being considered as the Stallion Who Mounts. You’ll even recall Dunk telling a dying Baelor to rise with the command “UP!”, just as he had to Thunder in the melee… “Rise like Thunder, oh Azor Ahai,” lol.
The scene in Vaes Dothrak continues:
“He is riding!” the other women answered. “Rakh! Rakh! Rakh haj!” they proclaimed. A boy, a boy, a strong boy. Bells rang, a sudden clangor of bronze birds. A deep-throated warhorn sounded its long low note.
Hold everything. A deep throated warhorn? That is exactly the sort of thing to wake whatever is sleeping inside the moon, they should really be careful. The bells sound like bronze birds, and bronze birds sounds like meteors – flying metal objects that make noise. My pal Lady Evolett of the Blue Winter Roses blog thinks the gold, silver, and bronze bells worn in the Dothraki’s night-black hair represent stars, which make sense to me. The paragraph continues:
The old women began to chant. Underneath their painted leather vests, their withered dugs swayed back and forth, shiny with oil and sweat. The eunuchs who served them threw bundles of dried grasses into a great bronze brazier, and clouds of fragrant smoke rose up toward the moon and the stars. The Dothraki believed the stars were horses made of fire, a great herd that galloped across the sky by night.
The herd galloping across the sky sounds a lot like the wild hunt, which is sometimes seen as a sky-procession (again, think Santa Claus and his comet, lightning, and thunder reindeer). The fact that it is a procession of horses flying through the stars, deeeehhfinitely makes us think of the astral projection horse – and that is the one which the prince is riding. We definitely notice the all important symbol of the rising smoke column – that represents the burning ash tree, which is the weirwood, and it is rising up to the moon and stars, just as with Drogo’s bonfire, where the column of smoke and ash became a horse that he rode up to the stars. Martin is showing us that the weirwood, which can be pictured as a column of smoke and ash or a grey horse, can convey the rider to the stars, and he’s showing that this becomes possible because of the sacrifice of Nissa Nissa.
To put it really simply, we can observe that Dany with her stigmata represents a weirwood tree, and right next to her is a column of smoke rising to heaven, which can also represent the weirwood tree. Dany’s baby is riding inside her, and Drogo was riding inside the smoke column coming from his pyre.
Returning to the one-eyed crone giving the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy, notice how the chanting really drives home the shamanistic vibe of this whole ceremony. Horse sacrifice was a very common occurrence among shamans in northeast Asia, which is where the specific word shaman originates from (the Tungus people to be specific).
As the smoke ascended, the chanting died away and the ancient crone closed her single eye, the better to peer into the future.
That’s very consistent with the concept of Odin’s sacrifice of his eye – cutting off physical sight to aid in third eye sight. Peering into the future is specifically what the runes are about – they even give Odin the power to see and even alter the future. The well of Urd where he sees the runes is also where the three Norns weave the fates of all mankind, and the crones here might remind us a bit of them.
The silence that fell was complete. Dany could hear the distant call of night birds, the hiss and crackle of the torches, the gentle lapping of water from the lake. The Dothraki stared at her with eyes of night, waiting.
The lapping of the lake is a nice inclusion, as it gives us the watery element of the well, and actually I should clarify that a “well” in Norse myth really refers to the spring itself, whether or not there is an actual well there. This is important because the well in the Nightfort is not the only dark, bottomless body of water which is meant to parallel the idea of a Norse well such as the well of Mimir or Urd. The other ones, which are both black bodies of water said to be bottomless, are the cold black pond under the heart tree in the Winterfell godswood, the Womb of the World whose cool black waters we can hear lapping in this scene, and that black river in Bloodraven’s cave. Honorable mention goes to the pool of deadly liquid Arya serves people from in the House of Black and White when they are ready to set their burdens down.
Picking up right where we left off, we come to the important part:
Finally the crone opened her eye and lifted her arms. “I have seen his face, and heard the thunder of his hooves,” she proclaimed in a thin, wavery voice.
“The thunder of his hooves!” the others chorused.
We have a one-eyed seer, in a trance, hearing the thunder of hooves where there are no horses – this is the shamanic horse, the astral projection horse. It’s the one the prince – Azor Ahai reborn – is riding.
“As swift as the wind he rides, and behind him his khalasar covers the earth, men without number, with arakhs shining in their hands like blades of razor grass. Fierce as a storm this prince will be. His enemies will tremble before him, and their wives will weep tears of blood and rend their flesh in grief. The bells in his hair will sing his coming, and the milk men in the stone tents will fear his name.” The old woman trembled and looked at Dany almost as if she were afraid. “The prince is riding, and he shall be the stallion who mounts the world.”
Fierce as a storm he will be, and like the wind he will ride – here we think of the Baratheon Storm Lords and Durrandon Storm Kings of Westeros, with all their horned lord and green man symbolism. We also think of the Grey King myth of the Storm God’s thunderbolt which set a tree ablaze, especially since that burning tree represents the weirwood tree, which is a horse that a greenseer can mount to fly over the world.
The other implication of the Prince riding like a storm is that he’s a summoner of moon meteors. The Storm God’s ‘thunderbolt’ is probably a moon meteor, and all of Robert’s hammer symbolism seems to point to moon meteors as an explanation for the Hammer of the Waters. Dany is the Stormborn, and of course her death and rebirth is accompanied by a firestorm… with both events symbolizing the explosion of the moon to make moon meteor dragons. We know one of the symbolic motifs George likes to use for the moon meteors is the “storm of swords,” and that sounds a lot like what the seeress is talking about when she speaks of the khalasar of this thunderous stallion who mounts the world covering the earth and wielding shining arakhs.
Arakhs are curved blades, like the lunar crescent, so the notion of shining arakhs covering the world makes me think of think of fiery pieces of crescent moon covering the world. When Dany hatched the dragons, the first egg cracked open and “a chunk of curved rock, pale and veined with gold, broken and smoking” landed at her feet, just to give you an example of George using a crescent shaped thing to symbolize a moon meteor. Setting aside the curved part, shining blades are a pretty basic moon meteor symbol as it is. On top of that, the Dothraki believe the stars are a fiery khalasar in the sky, so again a khalasar that covers the earth with shining blades sounds a lot like a storm of falling stars, which the Dothraki would perceive as a fiery host of ancestors riding out of the sky and down to earth in fury and terror… covering the world with their shining blades and making everyone tremble, if you will. The Stallion Who Mounts being inside Dany is akin to the moon meteors waiting to be born inside the moon, so of course the coming of the Stallion would be accompanied by a khalasar of bleeding stars.
This is all starting to come together in an interesting way: the Stallion Who Mounts also seems to be Azor Ahai reborn; the Stallion Who Mounts is foretold to bring down what sounds like a moon meteor storm, and we’ve long believed that Azor Ahai called down the moon meteor shower the first time around. We’ve longed believed that Azor Ahai ‘mounts the world’ by using the weirwoodnet, and that seems to be the implication of surrounding the Stallion Who Mounts the World with all of this greenseer symbolism, that in one sense, when Martin talks about a stallion that can mount the world, he’s talking about the weirwood trees and the greenseer who use them to fly.
I say to you: this form of Azor Ahai reborn who rides the world like a stallion and brings with him a thundering herd of bleeding stars is none other than the horned lord riding the astral projection horse, weir-drasil. The big clue about this actually come back in Westeros, from ASOS. It’s the familiar passage where Jon is doing his astronomy review, talking about how he knows the twelve houses of heaven (the zodiac) and recognizes constellations such as the Ice Dragon, Shadowcat, Moonmaid, and Sword of the Morning. Then we get this curious line:
We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King’s Crown was the Cradle, to hear her tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Thief. And when the Thief was in the Moonmaid, that was a propitious time for a man to steal a woman, Ygritte insisted.
Saayyyyyy what?? The Stallion is the Horned Lord? You don’t f—in’ say. That makes perfect sense – the Stallion Who Mounts the World is the horned lord Azor Ahai hooked up to the weirwoodnet. That’s also the same fellow who is a thieving red wanderer, a stealer of moon maidens. The Horned Lord is a celestial stallion, a constellation that gallops across the sky, or you might say the horned lord rides the celestial stallion, just as the greenseer both rides the weirwood tree and becomes the weirwood tree. There’s a similar quote to this one which we examined in the scarecrow section of the Green Zombie series:
The west had gone the color of a blood bruise, but the sky above was cobalt blue, deepening to purple, and the stars were coming out. Jon sat between two merlons with only a scarecrow for company and watched the Stallion gallop up the sky. Or was it the Horned Lord?
The sky is bruised, the stars are ‘coming out’ (kind of like the Sam scene where the stars were coming out and they might get a bit of moon), Jon the King of Winter sits with his scarecrow brothers preparing for a fight… and the Horned Lord is galloping up the sky like a celestial stallion mounting the world. Notice that it’s galloping ‘up’ the sky – it’s rising. It’s flying upwards into space.
Now think of Drogo and the fact that Daenerys perceives the red comet as Drogo mounted on his fiery steed, galloping up the sky and riding into the Nightlands. Reborn Drogo is of course a manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn.. and he’s riding a horse.. into space. Repeat: Azor Ahai reborn is riding a fiery horse into space, whereupon he is seen to mount the red comet as his fiery steed. This takes place when the moon wanders too close to the fire of the sun and gives birth to dragons, just like Dany declares that “a prince is riding” inside her after reenacting the moon eating the comet with her horse heart ritual.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are sneaking up to the answer to how a magician might provoke a moon disaster, intentionally or unintentionally – they need to use the power of the weirwoodnet. After all, right after Drogo mounts the smokey stallion in the pyre, we get the first moon destruction symbol:
Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.
She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. The platform of wood and brush and grass began to shift and collapse in upon itself. Bits of burning wood slid down at her, and Dany was showered with ash and cinders.
As Dany is covered in ash, implying her as a dying Nissa Nissa entering the sacred ash tree, we see that fiery spirit Drogo literally hops on the grey horse and then promptly cracks the first dragon egg open with his comet-like fiery lash. To me this seems like a picture of Azor Ahai mounting the weirwoodnet in order to steer the comet into the moon. It’s the same thing was just saw implied by the idea of the Stallion Who Mounts covering the world in moon-meteor-like shining arakhs – using the weirwoodnet to bring down the moon meteors. Think back to Dunk, mounted on his thunder horse and thinking about his lance as his long wooden finger with which he can touch the dragons on Aerion’s shield- he does indeed touch those dragons, and in doing so brings them crashing down on his head.
And here we go one more time back to Bran at the Nightfort:
Outside the wind was sending armies of dead leaves marching across the courtyards to scratch faintly at the doors and windows. The sounds made him think of Old Nan’s stories. He could almost hear the ghostly sentinels calling to each other atop the Wall and winding their ghostly warhorns. Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well. Old gods, Bran prayed, if you hear me, don’t send a dream tonight. Or if you do, make it a good dream. The gods made no answer.
There’s the horn again, and there is the weirwood tree trying to pull down the moon. Praying to the old gods might have been part of how it happened, and the same goes for horns. Think also of Asha’s Wayward Bride chapter, which is full of moon-drowning ideas, where we get this passage:
Asha was not ready to die, not here, not yet. “A living man can find the sea more easily than a dead one. Let the wolves keep their gloomy woods. We are making for the ships.”
She wondered who was in command of her foes. If it were me, I would take the strand and put our longships to the torch before attacking Deepwood. The wolves would not find that easy, though, not without longships of their own. Asha never beached more than half her ships. The other half stood safely off to sea, with orders to raise sail and make for Sea Dragon Point if the northmen took the strand. “Hagen, blow your horn and make the forest shake. Tris, don some mail, it’s time you tried out that sweet sword of yours.” When she saw how pale he was, she pinched his cheek.
“Splash some blood upon the moon with me, and I promise you a kiss for every kill.”
Alright, so they’re trying to find the see by running through the woods – and by blowing a horn that makes the forest shake and splashing blood on the moon. There’s talk of Sea Dragon Point, a place dedicated to greenseer dragon symbolism, as well as burning ships, which are symbols of weirwoods as burning trees that sail the green see and the river of time. This is of course also the chapter where the branches of the threatening trees of the Wolfswood “scratched at the face of the moon” and Asha the “weirwood” bride is almost killed by a lightning-like blow while she’s pinned against a tree and tangled in its roots.
Jumping back to Dany’s chapter in Vaes Dothrak, we see that the idea of drowning the moon is also depicted there. Right after the crone gives the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy, they proceed to the Womb of the World where this happens:
They rode to the lake the Dothraki called the Womb of the World, surrounded by a fringe of reeds, its water still and calm. A thousand thousand years ago, Jhiqui told her, the first man had emerged from its depths, riding upon the back of the first horse.
The procession waited on the grassy shore as Dany stripped and let her soiled clothing fall to the ground. Naked, she stepped gingerly into the water. Irri said the lake had no bottom, but Dany felt soft mud squishing between her toes as she pushed through the tall reeds. The moon floated on the still black waters, shattering and re-forming as her ripples washed over it. Goose pimples rose on her pale skin as the coldness crept up her thighs and kissed her lower lips. The stallion’s blood had dried on her hands and around her mouth.
So the Stallion Who Mounts is riding, Dany has the weirwood stigmata, and the moon is shattering and drowning in the supposedly bottomless lake as Dany the moon maiden immerses herself. The moon is also reforming, and Dany reemerges from the lake, reborn. Thus we can see that once again, the weirwood stallion is implied as a way to reach, shatter, and drown the moon.
To touch the moon with a comet, you need to be able to first steer the comet – to be able to touch it, in other words. In ACOK, Daenerys and her small khalasar wander in the red waste, following the red comet. She is musing that she should perhaps wear her hair in a braid like the Khals do to “remind them that Drogo’s strength lives within me now,” indicating that Daenerys is a moon maiden who has received the fire of the sun and is now transformed into Azor Ahai reborn. Then we get this:
Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter a half foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, his tail lashed back and forth in fury, and he raised his head and screamed. If I had wings, I would want to fly too, Dany thought. The Targaryens of old had ridden upon dragonback when they went to war. She tried to imagine what it would feel like, to straddle a dragon’s neck and soar high into the air. It would be like standing on a mountaintop, only better. The whole world would be spread out below. If I flew high enough, I could even see the Seven Kingdoms, and reach up and touch the comet.
You see how well Rhaegal works as a symbol now, showing us that a dragon person can use greenseer magic to fly and touch comets. Once again I will remind you that it was Rhaegal’s egg which hatched with a crack “as loud and sharp as thunder,” like the thunderous boom DOOM drums we’ve seen in all those scenes from the last episode and like the thunderous hooves of the Stallion Who Mounts. Rhaegal makes Dany want to mount the world and reach up into the stars, because Rhaegal’s symbolic purpose is to tell us about dragon using greenseer magic to fly.
Now is probably the right time to point out that when Dany rides Drogon at the end of ADWD – when they become the Stallion Who Mounts the World together – she thinks about touching the moon. Pay attention to the wording which makes it sound as though she is walking with the clouds and above the clouds:
Memories walked with her. Clouds seen from above. Horses small as ants thundering through the grass. A silver moon, almost close enough to touch. Rivers running bright and blue below, glimmering in the sun. Will I ever see such sights again? On Drogon’s back she felt whole. Up in the sky the woes of this world could not touch her. How could she abandon that?
Did you catch the cloud walking? It said, “memories walked with her, clouds seen from above” – it’s like the clouds are walking with her, implying Dany as sky walking. Inded, Dany is physically walking through the green grass sea, but seeing all her memories of flight in her mind’s eye – having dreams of flying in the green see, in other words. It’s great how Martin slips in the thunderous horses while Dany recalls flying up so high she could almost touch the moon, just to be consistent and continue his interweaving of Sleipnir flying hose symbolism and dragon symbolism. He wants us to know that yes, Dany is actually flying on her dragon, but that’s not how you touch moons and comets – that is done through the wooden thunder horse that is the weirwood tree.
Just to reinforce the idea of her touching the moon, we get this rather poetic line later in the chapter:
Once I dreamt of flying, she thought, and now I’ve flown, and dream of stealing eggs.
Egads. Flying and stealing eggs? Who would do such a thing? The Stallion Who Mounts the World, of course, flying into space to steal the moon dragons by cracking open the moon egg.
As Dany walks with her memories of dragonriding, her thoughts turn to the flight from Daznak’s pit, a scene which symbolizes the the landing of a moon meteor (Drogon in this instance). The fact that Dany takes flight from this spot of blood, fire, and carnage makes this a mirror of Drogo appearing to take flight from his funeral pyre on his own world-mounting stallion. Here are the highlights: she loses her veils and tokar, a clue about the moon losing its covering or crust, and there are two references to Dany wearing rags or looking like a “ragged thing.” As she recalls looking down at some of the people engulfed by Drogon’s black flame at Daznak’s, we see the fiery dancers which signify the rebirth of Azor Ahai as a tree sorcerer that we’ve seen so many times:
Below, she saw men whirling, wreathed in flame, hands up in the air as if caught in the throws of some mad dance.
Then it says
North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army.
Whoa! What’s that now? Seems like forshadowing of Dany flying north to fight a ghostly army, right? Going “beyond the river” works a s a metaphor for going beyond death as well as going north of the Wall, so this is really does seem like foreshadowing of Dany’s endgame. That’s a good way for her and Bran’s plot to intersect, right?
Now there are reslly some great clues about Drogon being the Stallion Who Mounts in this chapter, and they all come with greenseer symbolism. Dany learns that Drogon has built a lair in a rocky bluff rising from the Dothraki Sea, which reminds Daenerys of her favorite rocky bluff that rises from the Narrow Sea, and so she names it dragonstone. It says that “the air smelled of ash, every rock and tree in sight was burned and blackened.” Very cool, very cool – the black dragon’s island in the green sea is a monument to weirwood symbols – burning trees and ash. This is mirrored in the line about Dany glimpsing “places where the grass was burned and ashen. Drogon has come this way before, she realized. Like a chain of grey islands, the marks of his hunting dotted the green grass sea.” Also, this new Dragonstone gets the rising fist description which alludes to the mushroom cloud / burning tree symbolism, as it is said to rise “above the grasslands like a clenched fist.” All of this sends the same message – the “Stallion Who Mounts the World” is a black dragon making a home in the green see, inside the weirwoods.
Drogon’s stallion status is further reinforced by the bowing grass, a motif which appears thrice in rapid succession in this chapter. First, as Dany is growing famished, sick, and delirious, we get this:
If I stay here, I will die. I may be dying now . Would the horse god of the Dothraki part the grass and claim her for his starry khalasar , so she might ride the nightlands with Khal Drogo? In Westeros the dead of House Targaryen were given to the flames, but who would light her pyre here? My flesh will feed the wolves and carrion crows , she thought sadly, and worms will burrow through my womb.
So, the Dothraki Horse God parts the grass and carries Dany to the Nightlands – this role was played at the Alchemical Wedding first by Drogo’s smoky stallion in the bonfire, and then by the red comet. Shortly after Dany has this thought about her death and the Horse God parting the grass, the grass starts acting funny. Specifically, it’s swaying mysteriously, very like the rustling of the weirwood leaves that constitutes greenseer communication:
The wind, she told herself, the wind shakes the stalks and makes them sway . Only no wind was blowing. The sun was overhead, the world still and hot. Midges swarmed in the air, and a dragonfly floated over the stream, darting here and there. And the grass was moving when it had no cause to move.
Compare that to this line which comes from one of Theon’s chapters in Winterfell in ADWD, which is actually the line that comes right after the doom BOOM drums make it sound like distant thunder was coming from the black air of the godswood:
The night was windless, the snow drifting straight down out of a cold black sky, yet the leaves of the heart tree were rustling his name. “Theon,” they seemed to whisper, “Theon.”
The rustling leaves and thunder in the Godswood announced the coming of Bran the lightning struck greenseer, and the grass here in Dany’s chapter announces the coming of a Dothraki riding a horse who is given a very grand entrance:
From the corner of her eye Dany saw the grass move again, off to her right. The grass swayed and bowed low, as if before a king, but no king appeared to her.
No king appeared, just a rider. But then the grass bows low a third time, and we can see the pattern:
The dragon was a mile off, and yet the scout stood frozen until his stallion began to whicker in fear. Then he woke as if from a dream, wheeled his mount about, and raced off through the tall grass at a gallop. Dany watched him go. When the sound of his hooves had faded away to silence, she began to shout. She called until her voice was hoarse … and Drogon came, snorting plumes of smoke. The grass bowed down before him. Dany leapt onto his back. She stank of blood and sweat and fear, but none of that mattered. “To go forward I must go back,” she said. Her bare legs tightened around the dragon’s neck. She kicked him, and Drogon threw himself into the sky.
Three things parting the grass and making it bow low: the Dothraki Horse God, a dreaming rider who stands frozen in place, and finally, the Drogon that mounts the world. Again I say they are all meant to tell a story together about flying horses and dragons – the horse god is tied to the grey stallion and the red comet, and then we have the dreaming rider to parallel the grey stallion and King Drogon to parallel the red comet. The chapter closes with her and Drogon picking off one of the horses in the herd for Drogon to roast, because as Dany notes, “as swift as they were, they could not fly.” No of course not! Who ever heard of a flying horse! Drogon sets the horse ablaze, which leads to a horse which is still running even as it burns, just so we have all the symbolism. Drogon lands on it, breaking its back, but really that’s just a slightly comical way of literally depicting a dragon riding a horse.
Would you believe there’s a well in this chapter too? Yep, it’s true. While walking through the grass back towards the Skahazadan River and Meereen, Dany comes across the ruins of a low stone wall, a well, and the remnants of eight huts. You will recall that at the octagon-shaped Nightfort kitchen, there were eight hearths around the well. We hadn’t talked about Sleipnir yet last time, so I didn’t say anything about the number eight, but now we can see that these are call-outs to eight legged Sleipnir. We found a weirwood reaching for the moon by one eight legged well, and by this one, Daenerys dreams of flying:
She dreamed. All her cares fell away from her, and all her pains as well, and she seemed to float upward into the sky. She was flying once again, spinning, laughing, dancing, as the stars wheeled around her and whispered secrets in her ear.
Picture the stars wheeling around Dany – she is acting as a cosmic axis, as a cosmic world tree around which the heavens turn. She’s receiving the wisdom of the cosmos – the starry wisdom, if you will – as she flies in her dreams. By a well. Surrounded by eight ruined huts. This is the scene where she wakes up to find the ants biting her, says that the little stone Wall the ants climbed over to get her must seem like the Wall of Westeros to them, and then proceeds to crush them with enthusiasm. This reads as an easy foreshadowing of her inevitable conflict with the Others of course, and best of all, she recalls Viserys telling her tales of “knights so poor they had to sleep beneath the ancient hedges the grew along the byways of the Seven Kingdoms,” and then remarks that she would have given much and more for a nice thick hedge to sleep under.
Let’s see, sleeping under trees and dreaming of flying, where have we…
“Go,” Bran whispered to his own horse. He touched her neck lightly, and the small chestnut filly started forward. Bran had named her Dancer. She was two years old, and Joseth said she was smarter than any horse had a right to be. They had trained her special, to respond to rein and voice and touch. Up to now, Bran had only ridden her around the yard. At first Joseth or Hodor would lead her, while Bran sat strapped to her back in the oversize saddle the Imp had drawn up for him, but for the past fortnight he had been riding her on his own, trotting her round and round, and growing bolder with every circuit.
Robb smiled. “As you will.” He sent his gelding into a trot. The wolves raced after him. Bran snapped the reins sharply, and Dancer picked up her pace. He heard a shout from Theon Greyjoy, and the hoofbeats of the other horses behind him.
Bran’s cloak billowed out, rippling in the wind, and the snow seemed to rush at his face. Robb was well ahead, glancing back over his shoulder from time to time to make sure Bran and the others were following. He snapped the reins again. Smooth as silk, Dancer slid into a gallop. The distance closed. By the time he caught Robb on the edge of the wolfswood, two miles beyond the winter town, they had left the others well behind. “I can ride!” Bran shouted, grinning. It felt almost as good as flying.
The stream was running high and fast. Robb dismounted and led his gelding across the ford. In the deepest part of the crossing, the water came up to midthigh. He tied his horse to a tree on the far side, and waded back across for Bran and Dancer. The current foamed around rock and root, and Bran could feel the spray on his face as Robb led him over. It made him smile. For a moment he felt strong again, and whole. He looked up at the trees and dreamed of climbing them, right up to the very top, with the whole forest spread out beneath him.
They were on the far side when they heard the howl, a long rising wail that moved through the trees like a cold wind. Bran raised his head to listen. “Summer,” he said. No sooner had he spoken than a second voice joined the first.
“Put down your steel now, and I promise you shall have a quick and painless death,” Robb called out.
Bran looked up in desperate hope, and there he was. The strength of the words were undercut by the way his voice cracked with strain. He was mounted, the bloody carcass of an elk slung across the back of his horse, his sword in a gloved hand.
“The brother,” said the man with the grey stubbly face.
Hodor hummed tunelessly as he went down hand under hand, Bran bouncing against his back in the wicker seat that Maester Luwin had fashioned for him. Luwin had gotten the idea from the baskets the women used to carry firewood on their backs; after that it had been a simple matter of cutting legholes and attaching some new straps to spread Bran’s weight more evenly. It was not as good as riding Dancer, but there were places Dancer could not go, and this did not shame Bran the way it did when Hodor carried him in his arms like a baby. Hodor seemed to like it too, though with Hodor it was hard to tell. The only tricky part was doors. Sometimes Hodor forgot that he had Bran on his back, and that could be painful when he went through a door.
For near a fortnight there had been so many comings and goings that Robb ordered both portcullises kept up and the drawbridge down between them, even in the dead of night.
Little Walder cast his splintered lance aside, spied Bran, and reined up. “Now there’s an ugly horse,” he said of Hodor.
“Hodor’s no horse,” Bran said.
“Hodor,” said Hodor.
It took the rest of the morning to make a slow circuit of the castle. The great granite walls remained, blackened here and there by fire but otherwise untouched. But within, all was death and destruction. The doors of the Great Hall were charred and smoldering, and inside the rafters had given way and the whole roof had crashed down onto the floor. The green and yellow panes of the glass gardens were all in shards, the trees and fruits and flowers torn up or left exposed to die. Of the stables, made of wood and thatch, nothing remained but ashes, embers, and dead horses. Bran thought of his Dancer, and wanted to weep