Hey there fellow mythical astronomers, LmL here to talk about our newly crowned god-king, Bran the Broken, First of His Name. Thanks so much for tuning in, and please check out lucifermeanslightbringer.com for the matching text to this video as well as our Patreon campaign and everything else Mythical Astronomy. This video / podcast / essay is brought to you by the generosity of our Patreon supporters, so all thanks to them.
One of the most stunning aspects of the way HBO’s Game of Thrones ended their version of the saga of ice and fire was, without a doubt, King Bran. Bran the Broken, First of His Name, as Tyrion awkwardly dubs him. Seems like we could give him a title that’s a shade more respectful, but nonetheless, there it is – Brandon Stark, the “broken” boy who fell from the tower, journeyed north to the weirwood cave of the three-eyed raven to learn the magic of the weirwoods, and then came back as the host body for some sort of greenseer hive-mind / collective consciousness… became the King of Westeros.
It’s something basically no one predicted, and it… how shall we say this, didn’t necessarily make a ton of sense to everyone? As I mentioned in the ‘Battle of Winterfell’ video, the decision by the HBO show-runners to simplify the magical elements of the story – particularly the magic of the weirwoods and the greenseers – had the effect of stunting Bran’s role in the conclusion of the story. In both show and books, Bran gaining access to the magic of the weirwoods means that he gains access to basically the entire history of everything that has happened in Westeros, and although you’d think the reason for Bran to get this power would be so that he can discover some secret about the White Walkers which enables their defeat… this turned out not to be the case. Bran did of course see the creation of the Night King at the hands of the children of the forest, but as we said last time, this knowledge didn’t turn out to be needed to defeat them. For the most part, Bran used his knowledge of history to help learn the full truth of R + L = J, and that’s about it…
…and then, after doing next to nothing in the final battle against the white walkers, and after saying he couldn’t be the lord of anything because he’s the three-eyed raven now, he becomes king of Westeros.
This, to me, feels very like the skeleton of a plotline which has had a lot of the flesh removed – call it a wighted plot-line, if you will. In other words, it seems like the HBO showrunners kept the major beats of Bran’s story, as told to them by George R. R. Martin many years ago, but then changed a lot of other things, which left some of those plot beats standing in a kind of senseless isolation. It’s one of the pitfalls of adapting a more complex story from a book to the television medium, and it should be noted that because so much of Bran’s story occurs in his own head in dreams and visions, it poses a particular challenge.
Well, I am here to tell you that Bran doing next-to-nothing in the battle against the Others and then becoming King of Westeros isn’t going to go down like that in the books. I think we can expect Bran and his weirwood magic to play a much more active role in the book version of the endgame, and I’m here to show you some of the things that Bran might do in the fight against the Others. Bran will be king, yes, but he’s going to be a greenseer king, and we are going to dive into the ancient legends of the First Men to reveal the dark and terrible truth of what a greenseer king actually means. And it will be dark… as Bloodraven says to Bran concerning the power of greensight:
“Never fear the darkness, Bran.” The lord’s words were accompanied by a faint rustling of wood and leaf, a slight twisting of his head. “The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother’s milk. Darkness will make you strong.”
Just as Bran’s weirwood powers enable him to make use of ancient history, so too shall we make use of ancient Westerosi history to enlighten our quest to understand “King Bran.” The notion of a greenseer king or a skinchanger king is absolutely suggested by the old legends of the Seven Kingdoms, beginning with those of the Starks and the north. In a section of TWOIAF that concerns the consolidation of the North by the ancient Stark Kings of Winter, we read about the Warg King:
Chronicles found in the archives of the Night’s Watch at the Nightfort (before it was abandoned) speak of the war for Sea Dragon Point, wherein the Starks brought down the Warg King and his inhuman allies, the children of the forest. When the Warg King’s last redoubt fell, his sons were put to the sword, along with his beasts and greenseers, whilst his daughters were taken as prizes by their conquerors.
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
So here in the Age of Heroes or sometime not long after, we have this fellow called the Warg King, who employs multiple greenseers in his army. That’s really something, because of the statistics concerning greenseer and skinchanger birth rates:
“Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger,” Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, “and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer.”
In other words, there should be many more people born with skinchanger ability than people who can become greenseers. If the Warg King had multiple greenseers in his army, he may have had many more wargs and skinchangers of other beasts in his army as well.. or it may be that the history speaks loosely here, using the terms skinchanger and greenseer interchangeably. Either way, this story speaks of a warg who became a powerful king whose subjects and allies included other greenseers and wargs and the children of the forest. That is a force to be reckoned with.
We cannot fail to observe that the Starks are said to have taken the daughters of the Warg King as “prizes.” As we know, this means that some of those unfortunate daughters were probably made to marry into House Stark or at least bear them offspring, thus introducing skinchanger genetics into the Stark bloodline if they weren’t there already. The theory that this is where the Starks first got their skinchanger genetics became fairly popular after TWOIAF was released, for what it’s worth.
The Starks did a similar thing when they married the daughter of the Marsh King, the legendary title of the Kings of the Crannogmen, whom the histories say “grew close to the children of the forest in the days when the greenseers tried to bring the hammer of the waters down upon the Neck.” According to TWOIAF, the Marsh King is strongly implied as a greenseer king… check it out:
Long ago, the histories claim, the crannogmen were ruled by the Marsh Kings. Singers tell of them riding on lizard lions and using great frog spears like lances, but that is clearly fancy. Were these Marsh Kings even truly kings, as we understand it? Archmaester Eyron writes that the crannogmen saw their kings as the first among equals, who were often thought to be touched by the old gods—a fact that was said to show itself in eyes of strange hues, or even in speaking with animals as the children are said to have done.
Whatever the truth, the last man to be called Marsh King was killed by King Rickard Stark (sometimes called the Laughing Wolf in the North, for his good nature), who took the man’s daughter to wife, whereupon the crannogmen bent their knees and accepted the dominion of Winterfell.
We know that greenseers and skinchangers can communicate with animals, and Bloodraven confirms to Bran that among the children of the forest, the greenseer gift is marked by the presence of eyes “as red as blood” or “as green as the moss on a tree.” Therefore, this historical account is consistent with what we know, and strikes me as accurate – the ancient crannogmen seem to have chosen greenseers for the office of “Marsh King,” and thus, we have greenseer kings.
Whom the Stark Kings of Winter conquered and intermarried with.
There’s another legend of a skinchanger war won by the ancient Starks, though it makes no specific mention of intermarriage:
Ancient ballads, amongst the oldest to be found in the archives of the Citadel of Oldtown, tell of how one King of Winter drove the giants from the North, whilst another felled the skinchanger Gaven Greywolf and his kin in “the savage War of the Wolves,” but we have only the word of singers that such kings and such battles ever existed.
Taking the grey direwolf-on-white sigil of the Starks, one wonders if this Gaven Greywolf skinchanger warlord might not be related to the Starks. It’s a bit like cadet branches of House Stark taking the name “Greystark” or “Karstark,” perhaps.
So who are these Starks, who relentlessly conquer armies led by fearsome warg kings and clever greenseer kings riding lizard lions, as well as a bunch of other northern houses? Well, I have to think they must have been warg kings in their own right. Why else would every single statue of the ancient Stark Kings of Winter and Kings in the North have a direwolf at their side, if not to indicate the Stark’s history as kings who were also wargs? We see precisely one Stark King in the main story of ASOIAF so far, and he is a warg king – King Robb. In battle against the Lannisters, Robb sends his wolf, Grey Wind, to frighten the horses at the beginning of the attack, and when Lancel Lannister reports back to Cersei and Sansa of the Battle, we get this:
“Using some vile sorcery, your brother fell upon Ser Stafford Lannister with an army of wargs, not three days ride from Lannisport. Thousands of good men were butchered as they slept, without the chance to lift sword. After the slaughter, the northmen feasted on the flesh of the slain.”
Tyrion rightly discerns that these are wild tales based on Robb taking his wolf into battle with him, but says to Sansa that “those who survived are spreading wild tales and swearing that the old gods of the north march with your brother.” Though exaggerated, these tales were easily spread and believed because the Starks and the First Men as a whole do have a known history of being skinchangers, wargs, and greenseers. When the Stark children gain individual pet direwolves and then begin to awaken their skinchanger powers, it reads more like the rediscovery of an ancient magical heritage than anything else.
Lest I forget our special snowflake, yes – if Jon Snow becomes Jon Stark, King in the North as he does in the show, he will also be a warg king, although I think the emphasis for Jon will shift to dragons and more esoteric matters related to being the nexus point of ice and fire, and these are topics we will cover in a different video. Still, he’d be another Stark warg king, just like Robb, which would make us two-for-two in the main story.
The evidence suggests that the Starks have probably always been skinchanger and perhaps even greenseers, right from the beginning of their house. TWOIAF speaks of Brandon the Builder, the supposed founder of House Stark, seeking the aid of the children while attempting to build the Wall, saying that
He was taken to a secret place to meet with them, but could not at first understand their speech, which was described as sounding like the song of stones in a brook, or the wind through leaves, or the rain upon the water. The manner in which Brandon learned to comprehend the speech of the children is a tale in itself, and not worth repeating here.
The last hero, who may have been a Stark like Bran the Builder, also sought the aid of children of the forest, so it seems that, right from the beginning, the Starks have had ties to the children of the forest. Learning to speak their language, called the true Tongue, would seem to take some time and effort, and therefore speaks of a close and collaborative relationship. This doesn’t necessarily mean that ancient Starks interbred with the children of the forest at this time, but it does mean the situation where something like that could occur did exist. It should be noted that everywhere Bran built – Winterfell, the Wall, Storm’s End, and at the Hightower of Oldtown – there are also stories of humans working with the children of the forest in some capacity.
Because of the fact that Bran the Builder was remembered as a child who built things in some tales, and because of certain clues that Brandon of the Bloody Blade, a probable ancestor of Bran the Builder, may have been impregnating children of the forest near Red Lake in the Reach in the most ancient days, there is even speculation Bran the Builder himself was a human / child of the forest hybrid. If that was the case, he’d be both very short and “half-child,” in a sense, and this could have given rise to legends of a boy who builds things using powerful magic and great cunning. And when we think about Bran the Builder being “taken to a secret place to meet with” the children of the forest and to learn their language… doesn’t that just sound like our own young Bran Stark, being led to a secret cave to meet the children of the forest and learn their greenseer magic? In other words, the idea of Bran the Builder, fou nder of House Stark, being either a greenseer and / or part child of the forest is very possible, and perhaps even probable.
Consider this passage from ADWD which portrays the Starks as being under the watchful protection of the Old Gods, down through the generations. This is also the first clue that we get that Bran might be able to affect the past, and also our first first-hand account of greenseeing, so it’s worth quoting:
Bran closed his eyes and slipped free of his skin. Into the roots, he thought. Into the weirwood. Become the tree. For an instant he could see the cavern in its black mantle, could hear the river rushing by below.
Then all at once he was back home again. Lord Eddard Stark sat upon a rock beside the deep black pool in the godswood, the pale roots of the heart tree twisting around him like an old man’s gnarled arms. The greatsword Ice lay across Lord Eddard’s lap, and he was cleaning the blade with an oilcloth.
“Winterfell,” Bran whispered. His father looked up.
“Who’s there?” he asked, turning …
… and Bran, frightened, pulled away. His father and the black pool and the godswood faded and were gone and he was back in the cavern, the pale thick roots of his weirwood throne cradling his limbs as a mother does a child. A torch flared to life before him.
The roots of the Winterfell heart tree wrap around Ned like an old man’s gnarled arms, while the weirwood roots of Bran’s nest wrap around Bran like a mother cradling a child. Is this a poetic way of showing us that the Starks are the children of the Old Gods? That their connection to the Old Gods runs deep, all the way back to the roots of their entire lineage? Did some of the most ancient Starks sit in weirwood thrones, going all the way back to Brandon the Builder? It’s not exactly far-fetched, right?
In similar poetic fashion, Catelyn’s inner monologue introduces us to the heart tree by saying that it was “older than Winterfell itself,” and that its strangely watchful eyes “had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true..”, which seems another way of saying that the Old Gods have been watching the Starks from the beginning. Ah, what a lucky man he was, that Brandon the Builder.
So, while I’d place my bets on the Starks being greenseer kings and warg kings from the first, implying intermarriage with the children of the forest, we can see that they’ve also received at least two major infusions of bloodlines that manifest skinchanger and greenseer powers. Greenseer kings and warg kings did exist, and at some point, some of those Stark Kings of Winter and Kings in the North would surely have been among them. In other words, if our beloved Bran Stark becomes a greenseer king, he won’t be the first person to do so, or even the first Stark.
Let’s talk greenseer powers for a second, according to book canon, so that we can begin to picture what a greenseer king might look like. We know greenseers are also skinchangers, and can potentially skinchange any animal (and we’ll talk about the potential of this in a moment). We know that greenseers can access all of history, which Bloodraven says is possible because weirwoods are eternal. He says that “Men live their lives trapped in an eternal present, between the mists of memory and the sea of shadow that is all we know of the days to come,” which is basically a longer way of saying “all men must die.” Weirwoods, however, “will live forever if undisturbed,” and that to them, “past, present, and future are one,” and this enables greenseers who skinchange the trees to “look where you will and see what the trees have seen.”
So we got that: greenseers like Bran can see through the trees and view the past, and they can potentially skinchange any animal they want to, including human beings. But there are two common misconceptions about the limits of a greenseer: that they can only access the weirwoodnet while sitting in a nest of weirwood roots, and that they can only see things that happened in front of heart trees. Neither are true. Bloodraven tells Bran that
The singers carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use … but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.
Ah ha, so greenseers can potentially see more that just what happened in front of heart trees – that expands the playing field quite a bit. The TV show already went this way, but I wanted to make sure everyone realizes that this is book canon as well.
The more important thing to realize in terms of grappling with the true potential of greenseers is mobility. They do not have to be touching weirwood at all to access the weirwoodnet, as we learn at the end of Bran’s last ADWD chapter. After his weirwood paste session, where he sits in the weirwood root nest and sees a series of visions, Hodor carries him back to his non-weirwood sleeping chamber, and as he drifts off to sleep, he re-enters the weirwoodnet and has another series of visions:
Watching the flames, Bran decided he would stay awake till Meera came back. Jojen would be unhappy, he knew, but Meera would be glad for him, He did not remember closing his eyes.
… but then somehow he was back at Winterfell again, in the godswood looking down upon his father.
Interesting that Bran is watching the flames, almost like Melisandre, when he drifts off, but the real point here is simple: now that Bran is wedded to the trees, he doesn’t seem to need to be touching weirwood trees to access their knowledge. There’s actually nothing besides a bunch of inconveniently-placed wights to prevent him from being a mobile greenseer, which is entirely different from greenseers trapped in out-of-the-way caves. This is very important, and explains how Bran could come back to the lands of the living and become a powerful and respected figure, in full possession of his weirwood powers and not confined to a dark cave.
As for Bloodraven, he is pinioned to the root nest because the weirwoods are actually extending his physical life, but otherwise, he wouldn’t be restricted to a lonely cave in the isolated north and could try to amass power and become king or whatever else. It’s actually an open question as to how much greenseer and skinchanger magic Bloodraven might have been using during his long tenure as King’s Hand, for that matter.
So, the Bloodraven we meet in the weirwood cave is old and frail and shot through with weirwood roots, and Bran is unfortunately without the use of his legs. They can still be very powerful in battle, wielding their greenseer powers from a remote location, but think about, say, Robert Baratheon with greenseer abilities. A greenseer who could walk and talk and lead men into battle – that would be a terrible thing indeed, and an impressive, awe-inspiring sight. That’s what we should imagine when we think of a warg king going into battle with his beasts and greenseers, or even some of the ancient Stark Kings of Winter going to battle with packs of direwolves. Mobile greenseers who can control flocks of ravens, packs of wolves; who can access the entire weirwoodnet to spy on their enemies or gain crucial knowledge; and who, most poignantly, are not stuck in a cave somewhere. After all, it’s hard to be ‘elected’ king if you can’t leave your weirwood cave.
Greenseer kings are terrible, yet logical. Inevitable, even, once man gained access to the power of the Old Gods. Anytime one person gains power, there will be others who cede them authority, and it stands to reason that many of these powerful greenseer and skinchanger lords and kings surely had the support of their people, as the Starks mostly do. The first Stark greenseer king may have helped end the Long Night, you know? He might have been elected king, perhaps.
It is also true that any time mankind gains any level of power, some people will abuse that power and dominate others, and many of the ancient greenseer kings and warg kings surely rose to power this way. Consider the wildling skinchanger Varamyr Sixskins – once called Lump – who is the most accomplished skinchanger we meet in the books, and something of a petty tyrant. He wanted to be a warg king though…
The boy had dreamed of a day when bards would sing of his deeds and pretty girls would kiss him. When I am grown I will be the King-Beyond-the-Wall, Lump had promised himself. He never had, but he had come close. Varamyr Sixskins was a name men feared. He rode to battle on the back of a snow bear thirteen feet tall, kept three wolves and a shadowcat in thrall, and sat at the right hand of Mance Rayder. It was Mance who brought me to this place. I should not have listened. I should have slipped inside my bear and torn him to pieces.
Before Mance, Varamyr Sixskins had been a lord of sorts. He lived alone in a hall of moss and mud and hewn logs that had once been Haggon’s, attended by his beasts. A dozen villages did him homage in bread and salt and cider, offering him fruit from their orchards and vegetables from their gardens. His meat he got himself. Whenever he desired a woman he sent his shadowcat to stalk her, and whatever girl he’d cast his eye upon would follow meekly to his bed. Some came weeping, aye, but still they came. Varamyr gave them his seed, took a hank of their hair to remember them by, and sent them back. From time to time, some village hero would come with spear in hand to slay the beastling and save a sister or a lover or a daughter. Those he killed, but he never harmed the women. Some he even blessed with children. Runts. Small, puny things, like Lump, and not one with the gift.
Dark stuff, as I warned earlier. But Martin isn’t writing anything that wouldn’t happen, were mankind to have this ability. That’s perhaps the most succinct distillation of George’s writing style, if you ask me: he writes fantasy while constantly asking himself “what would people do if they really could… ride dragons? …control animals? …see the future?” …and so on. It seems inevitable that some of those among the First Men who were born with the skinchanger or greenseer gifts would rise to power and prominence, becoming kings as the Starks were… and some of them would be very bad kings, no doubt.
Consider Varamyr: he’s a cruel and selfish man, and not particularly clever or qualified in any way other than his possession of “the gift.” And still, he almost became King Beyond the Wall, was instead a powerful warrior at the right hand of the man who was, and was “a lord of sorts” before that. A terrible sort of lord, using his power to systematically rape any woman he wished to, but don’t forget that the Starks wiped out whole houses and clans and took their daughters as “prizes” while conquering the North… that’s really not much different.
This is part of the dark heritage of the power Bran and the other Starks have inherited, and Martin is warning us about the places it can go. Bran is far more powerful that Varamyr, and already he has violated several of the skinchanger taboos laid out by Varamyr’s teacher, Haggon. Check out this passage from Varamyr’s ADWD prologue chapter, and once again, things are getting dark:
Abomination. That had always been Haggon’s favorite word. Abomination, abomination, abomination. To eat of human meat was abomination, to mate as wolf with wolf was abomination, and to seize the body of another man was the worst abomination of all. Haggon was weak, afraid of his own power. He died weeping and alone when I ripped his second life from him. Varamyr had devoured his heart himself. He taught me much and more, and the last thing I learned from him was the taste of human flesh.
Bran ate the flesh of the Night’s Watch mutineers while his spirit was inside of Summer, his wolf, and then he unknowingly ate it again in his human body when Coldhands brought it back and passed it off as pork so that they would not starve. Bran hasn’t mated as a wolf, which, thanks for sparing us that, George – but he has of course seized the body of Hodor on several occasions. Leaf also warns Bran against trying to call the dead back from the grave, but I have a feeling he might end up trying that one out too, for what it’s worth.
As for what a warg can do in battle, well. We don’t see Varamyr in action too much, but we can imagine: he controlled three wolves, an eagle, and most impressively, a shadowcat and a snowbear. That’s a lot of firepower against humans in anything less than steel plate armor, as would have been the case before the Andals came to Westeros.
Most terribly, a skinchanger can force their animal to attack without fear, and can afford to sacrifice those animals if need be (though it is physically painful to do so). Varamyr can send his wolves or his shadowcat or snowbear into battle and have them attack in ways a wild animal would not. Hearkening back to the tale of the warg king, who went into battle with many beasts and greenseers, we can conjure up terrifying images of packs of wolves, ravens, bears, lions, or whatever else being sent into battle on a dark and stormy night, ravening their scared foes and oh, what’s this? Martin has already done a bit of this sort of thing?
Well alright, let’s go to Queenscrown, where young Bran the Warg Prince of Winterfell is flexing his muscle a bit. It’s a great scene because George gives us both Bran’s POV inside the tower and Jon’s POV outside it. The situation is this: Jon, having gone over to the wildlings at the command of Qhorin Halfhand, is embedded with a party of wildling raiders who have climbed the Wall and are making their way to Castle Black. On the way, they come across the abandoned village of Queenscrown next to a lake with a watchtower on a small island in the middle.
Earlier that day however, Bran, Jojen, Meera, Hodor, and Summer had already arrived at Queenscrown and taken refuge inside the watchtower, although Summer was hunting outside and not actually in the watchtower. By the time Jon and the wildling party arrived, night had fallen, with a nasty storm kicking in as well. Bran and company try to keep quiet to avoid notice, which leads to Bran skinchanging Hodor to keep him from HODORing too lougly when the lightning crashes. The wildlings hear anyway, though, and Bran slips into Summer’s skin to investigate. At some point, realizing that Jon is there and in danger, Bran decides to act, and it is then that we get the tiniest glimpse into the terrible power of a warg king in battle:
The Magnar said something in the Old Tongue. He might have been telling the Thenns to kill Jon where he stood, but he would never know the truth of that. Lightning crashed down from the sky, a searing blue-white bolt that touched the top of the tower in the lake. They could smell the fury of it, and when the thunder came it seemed to shake the night.
And death leapt down amongst them.
The lightning flash left Jon night-blind, but he glimpsed the hurtling shadow half a heartbeat before he heard the shriek. The first Thenn died as the old man had, blood gushing from his torn throat. Then the light was gone and the shape was spinning away, snarling, and another man went down in the dark. There were curses, shouts, howls of pain. Jon saw Big Boil stumble backward and knock down three men behind him. Ghost, he thought for one mad instant. Ghost leapt the Wall. Then the lightning turned the night to day, and he saw the wolf standing on Del’s chest, blood running black from his jaws. Grey. He’s grey.
Darkness descended with the thunderclap. The Thenns were jabbing with their spears as the wolf darted between them. The old man’s mare reared, maddened by the smell of slaughter, and lashed out with her hooves. Longclaw was still in his hand. All at once Jon Snow knew he would never get a better chance.
That was one boy, with one direwolf. And death leapt down among them. A skinchanger newbie, just beginning to learn to use his powers, and look at what he was able to do to these wildling raiders. Fighting against other armed men is terrifying enough, but with giant wolves controlled by wizards sitting in towers added into the mix… you can feel the terror of the wildlings in this scene, even though we are rooting for Summer and Jon. Think about what Bran might be able to in battle after coming back from Bloodraven’s cave – again, it’s going to be more than “going away for a while” and flying some ravens around to spy on the Night King a bit.
We can glean more clues about what more powerful skinchangers might look like in battle by delving back into ancient Westerosi history, just as an inquiring greenseer would. In ASOS, Arya and the Brotherhood without Banners goes visit the Ghost of the High Heart, and Arya recalls that the enormous hill called the High Heart, which is crowned by 31 enormous weirwood stumps, “was said to be haunted by the ghosts of the children of the forest who had died here when the Andal king named Erreg the Kinslayer had cut down their grove.” Then in TWOIAF, we find out that there was a great battle involved:
The great hill called High Heart was especially holy to the First Men, as it had been to the children of the forest before them. Crowned by a grove of giant weirwoods, ancient as any that had been seen in the Seven Kingdoms, High Heart was still the abode of the children and their greenseers. When the Andal king Erreg the Kinslayer surrounded the hill, the children emerged to defend it, calling down clouds of ravens and armies of wolves…or so the legend tells us. Yet neither tooth nor talon was a match for the steel axes of the Andals, who slaughtered the greenseers, the beasts, and the First Men alike, and raised beside the High Heart a hill of corpses half again as high…or so the singers would have us believe.
Against steel plate armor, wolves and ravens aren’t going to be very effective, sadly. Still, it sounds impressive – greenseers emerging from the hollow hill to call down clouds of ravens and armies of wolves. In another battle against the invading Andals, the children fare a little better, as TWOIAF tells us that the singers sing..
…of the night in the White Wood, where supposedly the children of the forest emerged from beneath a hollow hill to send hundreds of wolves against an Andal camp, tearing hundreds of men apart beneath the light of a crescent moon..”
Got em before they could get their armor on, I’m guessing. You can pull that kind of surprise when you have ravens to spy with, another advantage for greenseers and skinchangers in battle, and one which we see Mance employ when attacking the Night’s Watch. Even TV show Bran does a bit of this, in fact. Its one of the few semi-useful things he does, hooray.
Overall, I think you can see the picture Martin is painting here between these historical and legendary accounts of greenseers and wargs in battle and the little bit of experience Bran got employing his wolf in battle at Queenscrown. There is potential here for more.
More wolves, did you say? How about that giant wolfpack in the Riverlands, led by Arya’s direwolf, Nymeria? This was a dropped plot thread in the show, where Arya is not a skinchanger… but in the books, Arya is the most powerful Stark skinchanger after Bran, as she’s able to warg into her wolf from all the way across the Narrow Sea in Braavos. We’ll come right back to Bran, but check out Arya’s long range warg powers for a minute. Here is Arya as Cat of the Canals, recalling a wolf dream in Braavos:
Cat sat with her legs crossed, fighting a yawn and trying to recall the details of her dream. I dreamed I was a wolf again. She could remember the smells best of all: trees and earth, her pack brothers, the scents of horse and deer and man, each different from the others, and the sharp acrid tang of fear, always the same. Some nights the wolf dreams were so vivid that she could hear her brothers howling even as she woke, and once Brea had claimed that she was growling in her sleep as she thrashed beneath the covers. She thought that was some stupid lie till Talea said it too.
In ADWD, Arya’s Nightwolf identity asserts itself more and more, and the wolf dreams become more vivid. Here’s the opening of her first ADWD chapter:
Her nights were lit by distant stars and the shimmer of moonlight on snow, but every dawn she woke to darkness.
She opened her eyes and stared up blind at the black that shrouded her, her dream already fading. So beautiful. She licked her lips, remembering. The bleating of the sheep, the terror in the shepherd’s eyes, the sound the dogs had made as she killed them one by one, the snarling of her pack. Game had become scarcer since the snows began to fall, but last night they had feasted. Lamb and dog and mutton and the flesh of man. Some of her little grey cousins were afraid of men, even dead men, but not her. Meat was meat, and men were prey. She was the night wolf. But only when she dreamed.
As we can see, Arya is a vicious little wolf girl in addition to being a powerful skinchanger. She revels in killing and shows no more compunction to avoid the “skinchanger taboos” than Bran, at least when it comes to eating the flesh of man while in a wolf. Note that she’s not afraid of the dead while in her wolf – this seems like clear foreshadowing of Arya fighting the army of the dead with the wolf pack.
In the next paragraph after this one, she recites her list of names of people she wants to kill, and thinks “That is the night wolf’s prayer. Someday she will find them, hunt them, smell their fear, taste their blood. Someday.” Look closely here – Martin has merged the foreshadowing of Arya’s list of names with foreshadowing of Arya leading the wolfpack against her enemies.
Actually, Arya has already lead the wolfpack against a few people on her list of names, albeit unknowingly, when she, Hot Pie, and Gendry were fleeing Harrenhal. In fact, Arya falls asleep whispering her list of names, her drawn sword drawn at her side as if to symbolize that she’s a killer inside the dream world, and then wakes up to her wolf dream to do some killing. This quote serves the same purpose as Bran’s chapter at Queenscrown; Martin is showing us just a little bit of what the Stark wargs will be up to by the end.
Her dreams were red and savage. The Mummers were in them, four at least, a pale Lyseni and a dark brutal axeman from Ib, the scarred Dothraki horse lord called Iggo and a Dornishman whose name she never knew. On and on they came, riding through the rain in rusting mail and wet leather, swords and axe clanking against their saddles. They thought they were hunting her, she knew with all the strange sharp certainty of dreams, but they were wrong. She was hunting them.
She was no little girl in the dream; she was a wolf, huge and powerful, and when she emerged from beneath the trees in front of them and bared her teeth in a low rumbling growl, she could smell the rank stench of fear from horse and man alike. The Lyseni’s mount reared and screamed in terror, and the others shouted at one another in mantalk, but before they could act the other wolves came hurtling from the darkness and the rain, a great pack of them, gaunt and wet and silent.
The fight was short but bloody. The hairy man went down as he unslung his axe, the dark one died stringing an arrow, and the pale man from Lys tried to bolt. Her brothers and sisters ran him down, turning him again and again, coming at him from all sides, snapping at the legs of his horse and tearing the throat from the rider when he came crashing to the earth.
Only the belled man stood his ground. His horse kicked in the head of one of her sisters, and he cut another almost in half with his curved silvery claw as his hair tinkled softly.
Filled with rage, she leapt onto his back, knocking him head-first from his saddle. Her jaws locked on his arm as they fell, her teeth sinking through the leather and wool and soft flesh. When they landed she gave a savage jerk with her head and ripped the limb loose from his shoulder. Exulting, she shook it back and forth in her mouth, scattering the warm red droplets amidst the cold black rain.
As you can see, Arya is a natural. She’s as wolfish as can be, and that’s only going to become more true when she returns to Westeros and reconnects with Nymeria. This last scene is frightening not only for its sheer viciousness, but for the fact that Arya is only nine or ten at this time, and is doing this in her dreams, without even intending to use her power. How much more terrifying will she be when she comes into her own as a warg queen?
Arya’s wolfish nature is apparent to those with eyes to see, something that is reinforced periodically throughout the story. The waif in the House of Black and White tells Arya that “You have the eyes of a wolf and a taste for blood,” again suggesting that Arya’s ultimate vengeance will involve wolves, and not just assassination. Similarly, the Ghost of the High Heart foreshadows Arya’s destiny in ASOS:
The dwarf woman studied her with dim red eyes. “I see you,” she whispered. “I see you, wolf child. Blood child. I thought it was the lord who smelled of death..”
Wolf child, blood child – she’s seeing the same thing the waif did when she said that Arya has the eyes of a wolf and a taste for blood. The foreshadowing seems clear: Arya’s Nightwolf persona has only begun to feast on the blood of the slain.
Indeed, this is where I think the show has dropped something big that Martin will not. I think we will see Arya lead the wolfpack as a warg queen of sorts, most likely against the army of the dead and perhaps against other foes before that. I noticed that when Bran thinks about the names his brothers and sisters gave their wolves, he thinks that “Arya named hers after some old witch queen in the songs,” who is of course the Dornish Queen Nymeria. Thinking about Arya naming her wolf after a “witch queen,” I am seeing foreshadowing that Arya herself will be a sort of witch queen – call her a warg princess, I suppose, or maybe just the Nightwolf.
In case you still have any doubt, let me cure you with this passage from early on in AGOT, where George seems to be giving us a hint about Arya’s destiny:
Nymeria was waiting for her in the guardroom at the base of the stairs. She bounded to her feet as soon as she caught sight of Arya. Arya grinned. The wolfpup loved her, even if no one else did. They went everywhere together, and Nymeria slept in her room, at the foot of her bed. If Mother had not forbidden it, Arya would gladly have taken the wolf with her to needlework. Let Septa Mordane complain about her stitches then.
As the story progresses, “needlework” becomes a euphemism for swordplay, based on Arya naming the sword Jon gave her “Needle,” so consider again the idea of Arya wanting to take Nymeria with her to needlework. This thing is gonna happen, folks.
So Arya will lead the wolfpack as Nymeria, that’s not a new prediction, but what about Bran taking a role in this as well? Arya can control Nymeria, but Bran might be able to control the entire pack, or groups of wolves, or to hop around from wolf to wolf when the need is present. Together, Arya and Bran could make the wolfpack a terrifying weapon, thus living up to their warg king heritage. Bran already flexed his muscle at Queenscrown, and has subsequently learned to skinchange ravens as well. By the time he comes back from Bloodraven’s cave, he will be more powerful still, surely, so Martin can basically do anything he wants here. I don’t see the point in showing us the power of warg kings and skinchangers in battle if not to give it to us at the end, right?
Just as Arya has some very early foreshadowing of leading a wolfpack, so too does Bran. This is from ASOS, and this narrative comes from inside the wolf dream, as Bran is currently skinchanging Summer:
Prince. The man-sound came into his head suddenly, yet he could feel the rightness of it. Prince of the green, prince of the wolfswood. He was strong and swift and fierce, and all that lived in the good green world went in fear of him.
Far below, at the base of the woods, something moved amongst the trees. A flash of grey, quick-glimpsed and gone again, but it was enough to make his ears prick up. Down there beside a swift green brook, another form slipped by, running. Wolves, he knew. His little cousins, chasing down some prey. Now the prince could see more of them, shadows on fleet grey paws. A pack.
If Bran gets a chance to skinchange some wolves in battle, perhaps this “Prince of the Green” fighting spirit will come back to him. We have to note the title “Prince of the Wolfswood,” applied to Bran as he skinchanges Summer, is simply a variation of “Warg King.” Tellingly, Bran’s status as “Prince” is wrapped up with his identity as a warg, so this should be counted as foreshadowing of Bran becoming a warg king and a greenseer king. So to for the Bran’s words when he returns from the wolf dream, when he tells Jojen that “I was a prince, Jojen. I was the prince of the woods.” A prince of the woods eventually becomes king of the woods, and if Bran becomes king, he’ll be a weirwood king – one who defends his woods and his kin as a snarling wolf, when need be.
One final note from history, based on thinking of Bran as Prince of the Green, and eventually, King of the Green – there is a figure in ancient Riverlands history called “the Green King of the Gods Eye.” Although we are told nothing about this legendary king, it’s safe to say that this sounds like an account of a greenseer king – a “green king” who centers his dominion on the Gods Eye and the Isle of Faces is either a greenseer king or someone masquerading as one, and I don’t think that kind of ruse would get very far.
Now you may be asking yourself how effective wolves and ravens will be against the wights. Well, we see a flock ravens effectively take on a dozen or so wights when Coldhands comes to rescue Sam and Gilly, and Coldhands also uses his ravens to take out a several Night’s Watch mutineers. The wolves, meanwhile, can do well against the wights because breaking their bones seems to be one way to “make the wights remember they are dead,” as we see in ADWD when Summer cracks the arm bone of a dead wight. We also read about Summer and his pack falling upon a wighted snowbear and tearing it to pieces, gorging upon the meat even as it moved. Ghost is also the first to smell the wights on multiple occasions.
Thematically speaking, wolves and ravens are both carrion eaters, so it makes sense that they would do well against the walking dead. Of course, both wolves and ravens are tied to Odin, whose shadow looms large in George’s creation of Stark and First Man culture and magic – greenseer magic in particular. It makes too much sense for Bran, the heir of what is basically Odinic weirwood magic, to lead wolves and ravens in the final battle, and I think it will happen.
When and if it does, we can all roll our eyes together at HBO and the missed opportunity of Arya and Bran teaming up as Warg Queen and King, leading wolves and ravens in battle as their First Men and children of the forest ancestors did.
Alright, bonus round: I have one final clue about Arya and Bran teaming up with children of the forest magic. In the Weirwood Goddess podcast series, I explored the extensive children of the forest symbolism of Arya Stark, most of which comes during her chapters. But in addition to her being repeatedly described like a child of the forest, there’s also the fact that when Bran meets his first child of the forest, he thinks it looks like Arya and even calls “the Arya thing” in his head for a while. Check it out, and this is from ADWD, as Bran and company are struggling to reach the entrance to Bloodraven’s cave. Just when things are getting desperate…
A cloud of ravens was pouring from the cave, and he saw a little girl with a torch in hand, darting this way and that. For a moment Bran thought it was his sister Arya … madly, for he knew his little sister was a thousand leagues away, or dead. And yet there she was, whirling, a scrawny thing, ragged, wild, her hair atangle.
And then after Bran momentarily blacks out and comes to inside the cave, we read:
Summer was there, sniffing round him, and Hodor, soaking wet. Meera cradled Jojen’s head in her lap. And the Arya thing stood over them, clutching her torch.
“The snow,” Bran said. “It fell on me. Buried me.”
“Hid you. I pulled you out.” Meera nodded at the girl. “It was her who saved us, though. The torch … fire kills them.”
“Fire burns them. Fire is always hungry.”
That was not Arya’s voice, nor any child’s. It was a woman’s voice, high and sweet, with a strange music in it like none that he had ever heard and a sadness that he thought might break his heart. Bran squinted, to see her better. It was a girl, but smaller than Arya, her skin dappled like a doe’s beneath a cloak of leaves. Her eyes were queer—large and liquid, gold and green, slitted like a cat’s eyes. No one has eyes like that. Her hair was a tangle of brown and red and gold, autumn colors, with vines and twigs and withered flowers woven through it.
Not only is child of the forest called the Arya thing, we also get the sly reference to Arya’s nickname, No One, as Bran thinks to himself that “no one has eyes li ke that.” The part that seems like foreshadowing is the fact that the “Arya thing” comes to Bran’s rescue when he is beset by wights – and I could definitely see Arya coming to Bran’s rescue at some key moment, most likely at Winterfell. The child of the forest here, Leaf, is attacking the wights with fire and sorcery, while Bran’s wolf Summer is bravely defending him, but I have to think that if Arya comes to Bran’s aid, we will see these ideas merged as Arya fights with the wolfpack. I don’t think Arya has any child of the forest fireballs in stowed away in her satchel anyway, and as you can see, her foreshadowing is all about her embracing her Nightwolf identity and bathing in the blood of her foes.
Alright, that’s it for today, but there is more to say about King Bran and the concept of greenseer kings in general. Look out for more videos in this series in coming weeks, and don’t forget to like the video and subscribe to the channel here, it really helps. Thanks to all our patrons , and check out lucifermeanslightbringer.com to join our Patreon campaign and help support the show, as well as receiving access to exclusive content and early releases. Cheers, and I’ll see you next time..
Hey there friends! LmL here, and thanks for checking out part 3 of our End of Ice and Fire series, and if you haven’t seen the first two you will definitely want to watch those before this one. In part one we laid out the basic theory of this series – that Beric stabbing and burning the corpse spiral at Last Hearth represents the idea of an Azor Ahai figure burning the weirwood tree in the far north where the Night King was created, or even burning the weirwoodnet as a whole. The idea is that spiral shapes seem to represent that Night King tree, which has those spiral arms of standing stones, so using a Lightbringer sword to burn such a spiral struck me (and a few others) as heavy foreshadowing.
In Part 2, we began to get into examples from the books which back up the main theory – scenes which depict an Azor Ahai person burning or stabbing weirwoods or things which symbolize weirwoods, and always with the goal of defeating the White Walkers and ending the Long Night. We mostly looked at scenes with Stannis burning weirwoods and symbolic weirwoods, though we also mentioned Stannis offering to make Jon Snow an official Stark and the Lord of Winterfell, if only he will burn down the Winterfell heart tree.
Perhaps the most telling of all the examples we looked at was burning the Lord of Bones, who was glamoured up to look like Mance Raydar, in a weirwood cage at the Wall. The weirwood cage is a book-only detail, but it’s especially important because both the Lord of Bones and Mance Raydar are symbolic Night King figures, and burning the Night King in a weirwood cage is simply another way of talking about the general idea of burning the weirwoods to destroy the White Walkers. The implication is that the weirwoods can be a trap which contain and consume the Night King, and that is because, in my opinion, the power of the show-version Night King is tied to that weirwood tree where he was transformed, and in the books, we can say that all signs point to the White Walkers as a whole having been created with weirwood magic.
Now here we are, waiting for the big battle at Winterfell that’s coming in Episode 3, and look – Bran is planning to use himself as bait to lure the Night King into the godswood, where Jon and Dany hope to use their dragons to spring a trap. In other words… we will probably have, all gathered together: the Night King, Bran, a weirwood tree, and Azor Ahai people wielding lots of fire. All the ingredients of my theory are in place, save that our Azor Ahai people are armed with dragons as opposed to flaming swords, which is fine because they are both Lightbringer symbols. Another difference is that we aren’t at the Night King weirwood in the far north, but at Winterfell, but recall that the two times Bran visited the Night King tree, he did so on the astral plane, using the magic of the weirwoods. Many of us expect to see a battle where Dany and Jon fight the Night King on the physical plane while Bran does so on the astral plane at some point, and we could definitely see something like that next week, where the fight moves from Winterfell to the astral plane and thus to the now-frozen Night King home tree.
What I have for you today is another book example of Azor Ahai destroying weirwoods to kill a Night King figure. I’ve chosen this one because it’s a dragonrider vs dragonrider battle which acts as a perfect model for the eternal clash of ice and fire, and in Episode 3 we very well may see a dragon fight between Jon and Dany’s fire dragons and the Night King’s ice dragon. But before they do – whether that’s this week or in the future – I want to show you this dragonrider battle from the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons which may foreshadow what’s going to happen when ice and fire dragons collide. There are also more clues about Bran in here, as well as clues about the connection between the weirwoods and the white walkers, now is the time to have a good look at this hot, dragon-on-dragon action.
This dragonrider fight – the dragonrider fight to end all dragonrider fights, really – takes place about 200 years before the current storyline, back when the Targaryens ruled Westeros with dragons, but didn’t always get along so well with each other. The combatants in the fight are the nineteen-year old Aemond One-Eye Targaryen, who rode the mighty Vhagar, and his uncle, the forty-nine year old but still frisky Daemon Targaryen, who rode the fearsome red dragon called Caraxes, the Bloodwyrm. This one stood out right away because of the spectacular way the fight ends, and I’m just gonna read this bit from The Princess and the Queen because it’s simply too good to summarize:
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
The attack came sudden as a thunderbolt. Caraxes dove down upon Vhagar with a piercing shriek that was heard a dozen miles away, cloaked by the glare of the setting sun on Prince Aemond’s blind side. The Blood Wyrm slammed into the older dragon with terrible force. Their roars echoed across the Gods Eye as the two grappled and tore at one another, dark against a blood red sky. So bright did their flames burn that fisherfolk below feared the clouds themselves had caught fire. Locked together, the dragons tumbled toward the lake. The Blood Wyrm’s jaws closed about Vhagar’s neck, her black teeth sinking deep into the flesh of the larger dragon. Even as Vhagar’s claws raked her belly open and Vhagar’s own teeth ripped away a wing, Caraxes bit deeper, worrying at the wound as the lake rushed up below them with terrible speed.
And it was then, the tales tell us, that Prince Daemon Targaryen swung a leg over his saddle and leapt from one dragon to the other. In his hand was Dark Sister, the sword of Queen Visenya. As Aemond One-Eye looked up in terror, fumbling with the chains that bound him to his saddle, Daemon ripped off his nephew’s helm and drove the sword down into his blind eye, so hard the point came out the back of the young prince’s throat. Half a heartbeat later, the dragons struck the lake, sending up a gout of water so high that it was said to have been as tall as Kingspyre Tower.
Neither man nor dragon could have survived such an impact, the fisherfolk who saw it said, nor did they.
Perhaps the most single badass, action-hero type of thing anyone has done in ASOIAF. True, Daemon died anyway, but hey, he leaped from one dragon to the other in mid-air, and that sounds pretty hard.
There’s a lot of symbolism here to unpack, and let’s start with the fact that the battle took place over the lake of the Gods Eye, which contains the Isle of Faces. In the books, the Isle of Faces is the closest thing to a hub of the weirwoodnet that exists. For instance, it’s very possible that the book equivalent to “burning the Night King tree” may turn out to be burning the weirwoods on the Isle of Faces, and shout-out to Smokescreen who’s been talking about that very thing for a while now in his series “A Dragon Raised by Wolves.” It’s notable, then, that as Daemon Targaryen waited at Harrenhal before the battle, he made a habit out of stabbing weirwood trees, and this is from Fire and Blood:
Daemon Targaryen walked the cavernous halls of Harren’s seat alone, with no companion but his dragon. Each night at dusk he slashed the heart tree in the godswood to mark the passing of another day. Thirteen marks can be seen upon that weirwood still; old wounds, deep and dark, yet the lords who have ruled Harrenhal since Daemon’s day say they bleed afresh every spring.
Annnnd we’ve got some weirwood tree stabbing, here in the Harrenhal godswood by the Gods Eye and the Isle of Faces. Daemon’s sword is not a flaming sword, but it is made from Valyrian steel, making it a “magic sword” and a “dragon sword” and thus a great stand-in for Lightbringer. And what is he doing with it? Stabbing the weirwood tree, which is what TV show Beric is symbolically doing when he stabs the corpse spiral diagram of Night King’s frozen tree. That’s a clue that Daemon will be the Azor Ahai figure in this fight, as that’s who stabs and burns the weirwoods in these types of scenes, and as I mentioned, Daemon rode a red dragon, Caraxes the Bloodwyrm. Lightbringer was said to be a blood-red sword associated with dragons and the red comet, so Caraxes the red dragon serves well as a symbol of Lightbringer, especially when taken together with Daemon’s Valyrian steel sword.
Daemon stabbed the Harrenhal weirwood, which stands in for the Night King tree, thirteen times, and isn’t that interesting. Thirteen is a number strongly tied to the book legend of “Night’s King,” which, although different from TV show Night King, was definitely something that Dave and Dan drew on to create their own character of a similar name. “Night’s King” from the books was said to be the thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and was said to rule from the Nightfort for thirteen years. Even in the TV show, in the scene where one of Craster’s sons transformed at the strange White Walker ice temple thing, we did once see a dozen White Walkers, with the Night King to make thirteen. Ergo… Daemon stabbing the weirwood tree thirteen times is very, very suggestive – it’s almost like he’s labeling this tree as a Night King tree, or perhaps trying to summon Night King to come fight.
…which is actually just what happens next! That’s right, after thirteen days of weirwood stabbing, Daemon’s foe, a symbolic Night King figure, descends from the sky on a dragon. I’ve talked about this fight in lots of detail in several podcasts if you want the full breakdown, but here are the key points: at the age of ten, Aemond lost one of his eyes in a quarrel based around his claiming of the dragon Vhagar, and he replaced the missing eye with a blue star sapphire. As clues go, that’s not very subtle – it’s a blue star eye, an obvious nod to the blue star eyes of the White Walkers. Now take a look at the paragraph that comes after the one about Daemon slashing the heart tree thirteen times:
On the fourteenth day of the prince’s vigil, a shadow swept over the castle, blacker than any passing cloud. All the birds in the godswood took to the air in fright, and a hot wind whipped the fallen leaves across the yard. Vhagar had come at last, and on her back rode the one-eyed Prince Aemond Targaryen, clad in nightblack armor chased with gold.
Alright, so Aemond of the blue star eye has night black armor, that’s cool, and his dragon creates a dramatically black shadow, which taken together, implies Aemond as a blue star eyed guy who is bringing the darkness of the Long Night with him. The final clue tying Aemond One Eye to the White Walkers and ice magic in general is his resemblance to the constellation known as the Ice Dragon when he rides Vhagar. The Ice Dragon seems to be a modified version of our of constellation Draco, which sort of wraps around the pole star, or “north star,” Polaris. In ASOIAF, the north star is a bright blue star which is perceived as the eye of the rider of the Ice Dragon. So when Aemond of the one blue star sapphire eye rides a dragon… he’s creating the image of the ice dragon constellation, which, again, is thought to be ridden by a dude with a blue star eye.
Vhagar is also implied as an ice dragon by the name Vhagar, because the star Vega is bright, blue-white northern star that has been our pole star in the past (and will again in the future, because earth’s axial tilt means the pole star shifts slowly over time). That makes two references to the northern pole star when Aemond rides Vhagar, in ASOIAF, the pole star is part of the ice dragon. That’s exactly the sort of dragon you’d expect a Night King figure to ride, and indeed, the show has now given us the Night King riding a wighted dragon or white walker dragon, however you want to say it. Aemond One-Eye here did it first though, through all this heavy Night King and ice dragon symbolism, and I’ve been thinking of him and this fight since the day HBO gave Night King his dragon.
And in case you’re wondering why I am saying that characters from the books are “Night King figures” when there is no Night King in the current book storyline that we know of, well, two things. One, I believe odds are good that in the books, something like Night King does exist inside the weirwoodnet, and that we will get that reveal in the next book and realize the show is closer to the books than we think. And two, although the ancient legend of Night’s King from the books has him living sometime shortly after the Long Night, I believe this is a fog of history thing and that there was in fact an original Night’s King who created the White Walkers during the original Long Night. One of the reasons I believe these things is because I keep finding people like Aemond One Eye who are wearing all the Night King symbolism like a cheap suit, people like Euron Greyjoy, Varamyr Sixskins, Mance Raydar, the Lord of Bones, a few others. People in the fandom have been finding these Night King parallel figures even before HBO gave us a Night King, just to give you an idea. George R. R. Martin likes to create archetypes like Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, Last Hero, or Night’s King, which many characters seem to step into – that’s why Jon and Daenerys can both be Azor Ahai reborn, and why Jaime and many other characters might seem like Azor Ahai once in a while too. In this way, George hides clues about these all important issues in far-flung places like dragonrider fights from two-hundred year old Targaryen history.
Indeed, when we step back and look at what’s going on here at the Gods Eye with Daemon and Aemond One Eye in terms of symbolism, we see an Azor Ahai figure stabbing the weirwood, and then having a dragon fight with a Night King figure. We can observe that Azor Ahai “wins,” so to speak, in that Daemon leaps over to Vhagar and stabs Aemond right in his blue star eye before all the dragons plunge into the lake. Since the blue star eyes what signify the magic of the white walkers, Daemon stabbing Aemond right in his blue star eye seems like a symbol of defeating the power of the white walkers.
But really, what we see is ice and fire cancelling each other out, with everyone dying, including the Night King and Azor Ahai figures and the dragons – and that’s more or less what we should expect from the ending, I believe. This is another layer of potential meaning to the Last Hearth corpse spiral, which resembles a Targaryen three-headed dragon sigil when it goes up in flames: you can see this is a dragon symbol made of corpses… in other words, a corpse dragon. A dead dragon, burning in the same fire that consumes Night’s King. That’s in line with what he fandom has come to expect – you can’t kill all the White Walkers and leave the dragons. Either both will survive or neither, it seems, or else the Song of Ice and Fire has no balance.
The capstone of all this symbolism is the double blue-eye-stabbing symbolism happening here. It’s simple, yet elegant: first, Aemond is stabbed in his blue eye with a dragon sword, and only seconds later, the blue Gods Eye lake is stabbed with falling dragons. Either way, a blue eye is stabbed with a dragon! That certainly suggests using dragons or dragon swords to defeat the Night King, which, I know, duh, but think about the weirwood component. Since the Gods Eye lake contains an island full of weirwoods, it’s easy to see the idea of “stabbing the gods eye with dragons” as similar to stabbing a weirwood tree with a Lightbringer sword, or roasting it with dragonfire. And again, this follows right on the heels of Daemon stabbing an actual weirwood tree thirteen times with his own dragon sword.
Put it together, and we see the familiar message – stab Night King with Lightbringer, yes, but also stab the weirwoods at the same time. Burn them all, if you will. As much as I have talked about this fight, I’ve never fully understood the meaning, but after episode one of Season 8… I think we can see that the TV show and the books are both leading to the same general answer – to stop the white walkers, the weirwoodnet must be burned.
Looking at the fight between Aemond and Daemon more simply, we can observe that the ice and fire dragonlords are battling “over” the Gods Eye – think about them fighting over, as in contesting for, the weirwoodnet. The gods’ eyes are the weirwood’s eyes, the ones the Old Gods see out, and thus I believe the contestants here are meant to be seen as fighting over the use of these eyes. In the show, the Three-Eyed Crow, aided by his dragonlords, and Night King, aided by his ice dragon, white walkers, and wights, seem to be doing just that – fighting for possession and dominance over the weirwoods, which are almost certainly the most powerful source of magic around. Bran and the Night King seem to have their showdown inside the weirwoodnet, which is emblematic of the ground they are fighting over.
Consider also that Daemon is waiting in the Godswood for the Night King figure to show up – exactly as Bran will be waiting in the Winterfell godswood as bait for the Night King in Episode 3. Daemon was using himself as bait, just like Bran – he planted himself at Harrenhal because he knew eventually Aemond and Vhagar would come find him, and they did. It’s the same with Bran, who declares in Episode 2 that the Night King knows where he is and will come for him. I would not be surprised in the slightest if Bran’s plan is to lure the Night King into the godswood so he can pull some maneuver where he sacrifices himself to defeat the Night King, just as Daemon gave up his own life to take down Aemond One Eye.
Keeping in mind the idea that the Gods Eye lake represents the weirwoods, the trees with the eyes of the Old Gods, consider that in Daemon’s fight, both riders and dragons plunged into the Gods Eye lake, dying instantly or moments later. The parallel here would be Bran and the Night King essentially killing each other inside the weirwoodnet, which is where I think this is headed.
Not only do the dragons and riders die in the Gods lake (or on the lake shore in the case of Caraxes), Daemon’s dragon sword stays stuck in Aemond’s eye, as years later Vhagar’s corpse is found at the bottom of the lake, where “Prince Aemond’s armored bones remained chained to her saddle, with Dark Sister thrust hilt-deep through his eye socket.” Lightbringer and Night King, united forever at the bottom of the sea, if you will, and this to me reads like one of our heroes, who themselves can play the role of Lightbringer, self-sacrificing to trap the Night King in the underworld for all time, even though it means they will be trapped there as well.
This sounds like Bran to me, and remember that Bran’s name may be taken from the Norse word brandr, which means “burning brand” and “flaming sword.” He might be the symbolic flaming sword that sets fire to the weirwoodnet from the inside, much like Bran’s cauldron from Welsh mythology, which eventually has to be destroyed from the inside by a self-sacrificing hero because – get this – the cauldron raises the dead, which eventually gets out of hand. The parallels here are unbelievable, with the weirwood magic being used by Night King to raise the dead as the parallel to Bran’s cauldron. This is another reason why the myth-friendly portion of the fandom has actually been entertaining the idea of a weirwoodnet shutdown for years.
Speaking of Bran in the godswood waiting for Night King, it’s interesting to note that the plan is to have Theon and his ironborn there to protect him, in addition to the dragons. Why? Well, when Theon was in the Winterfell godswood at dawn in ACOK, the heart tree looked to him as though it were already on fire: “The red leaves of the weirwood were a blaze of flame among the green.” Usually the red leaves are always described as blood red, but nothing goes together like blood and fire… and weirwoods, apparently, which are well known for drinking blood and will soon be known for burning brightly, what with all these dragons and Targaryens and burning Brandons lurking about.
So with all of these examples I’ve given you so far in this series (and believe me, there are many more), you can see that not only does Azor Ahai need to face the Night King and the White Walkers with lightbringer, he’s got to deal with the Night King’s connection to the weirwoods. The Night King’s power seems rooted to that tree where he was created, and time and time again in these book examples, we see that the burning of the weirwoods is tied to the defeat of the long night and the White Walkers. This is exactly what I believe is implied by Beric stabbing the spiral corpse mandala at Last Hearth with his flaming sword.
So having established that the weirwoods must burn, in part 4 we will examine Daenery and the House of the Undying, which will begin to explain the connection between the White Walkers and the weirwoods and which will reveal the dark plans the White Walkers have for our Azor Ahai heroes.
Thanks so much for watching, please like this video, share this video, and subscribe to the channel here – make sure you hit the noti bell so you know when a new video hits or when I am going live. Come join the myth heads and myself every Sunday at 3 EST for Game of Thrones pregame, and again right after the show for a postgame. All the text versions of my essays are available at Lucifermeanslightbringer.com, you can find the podcast feed under “Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire,” and if you’d like to support the show, consider joining our Patreon campaign and getting yourself a starry nickname. See you again soon!
Hey there friends. LmL here again. Last time, I showed you why I think that the gruesome White Walker corpse spiral nailed to the wall of Last Hearth in Season 8, Episode 1 is functioning as a symbol of the Night King tree, and why I think that it’s actually giving us some strong clues about what needs to be done to end the threat of Night King and free the army of the dead from bondage. Hopefully you’ve seen that, and the basics of it ar e simple: Night King was created at that weirwood with the spiral arms of standing stones, and he seems to like to draw pictures of this place with the corpses of his victims, such as he did at Last Hearth and the Fist of the First Men. These corpse spirals are, on some level, serving as symbolic representations of his tree. This is reinforced through symbolism: for example, just as the limbs of a weirwood tree have red leaves that are always described in the books as looking like bloody hands, the corpse spiral design at Last Hearth is made of limbs and bloody hands. The wighted Ned Umber is pinned to the wall at the center of the spiral design, just as Night King was tied to the weirwood tree at the center of the spiral of stones – and look, they both have those same old blue eyes. I’ve got you… under my skin…
I’m certainly not alone in coming to the conclusion that the corpse spiral at Last Hearth represents the Night King tree, which is encouraging. That’s basically step one here: the real fun comes with trying to figure out how the writers of the show might be using this symbol to give us clues. That leads to exciting questions like “why did that guy with heavy parallels to Jon Snow just stab the corpse spiral with a flaming sword,” and “why did it then turn into a flaming spiral that kinda looks like a Targaryen three-headed dragon sigil?”
Here’s what I put together: someone playing the role of Azor Ahai and carrying a symbol of Lightbringer is setting fire to the thing that represents the Night King tree, and this seems like a clue about how to beat the Night King. This could imply setting fire to Night King’s tree specifically, or perhaps to the thing we call the “weirwoodnet” as a whole (meaning the astral dimension that is accessed by greenseers like Bran and Bloodraven, and by Night King as well). The idea is that Night King’s magic seems tied either to his home weirwood tree or to the weirwoodnet in general, and setting it on fire, in some sense, may be the only way to stop him. It could be a literal fire, or something more metaphorical, though with all the dragons and flaming swords around, I’d guess the fire will be at least partially real.
I left off last time by promising that this sequence – Azor Ahai setting fire to the weirwoods to stop the White Walkers and end the Long Night – had actually been spelled out in the books many times through symbolism, and that I had actually been documenting these scenes in my podcast for a long time. I’ve picked a couple of the very best ones for today, and I hope showing them to you will convince you that the books and the show are building towards the same general end game here involving the weirwoods and the White Walkers… and fire. First up, Melisandre and Stannis at Dragonstone, doing their Lightbringer dramatic reenactment.
When I say that Azor Ahai needs to set fire to the weirwoods with Lightbringer, I do not not mean that Jon Snow literally needs to stab the Night King tree with a flaming sword – although, who knows, it could happen. Lightbringer doesn’t have to be a literal flaming sword; it can also be a dragon, or a person (or even a comet). If Night King’ tree needs to be melted or burned, it probably makes more sense if our Azor Ahai reborn heroes, Jon and Daenerys, use a dragon instead of a flaming sword. Or it could be that setting fire to the weirwoods is more metaphorical, and it’s something Bran will do on the astral plane, on the inside. We will get into all that, and please comment on the video with your ideas about how this could play out, but I do want to tell you that the first time in the story that we ever saw a flaming sword called Lightbringer, it was actually already stuck in a kind of burning tree.
The scene on Dragonstone opens with the red comet in the sky and the wooden statues of the gods of the Faith of the Seven already on fire – and with a burning Lightbringer already jammed into the statue of the Mother. There’s no weirwood tree here, but this statue serves as a symbol of a weirwood tree because it’s a carved wooden god, specifically carved from “old wood,” just as the weirwood trees have carved faces and house the Old God s. Consider also that all of these wooden statues of the Seven are carved from the masts of the ships, which are the next best thing to tree trunks. With seven of them arranged in a group, they even look like a grove of trees – a sacred grove, which is now afire. The chapter from A Clash of Kings that has this scene begins with these lines:
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
The morning air was dark with the smoke of burning gods. They were all afire now, Maid and Mother, Warrior and Smith, the Crone with her pearl eyes and the Father with his gilded beard; even the Stranger, carved to look more animal than human. The old dry wood and countless layers of paint and varnish blazed with a fierce hungry light.
When the weirwoods are burned, the air is similarly filled with the smoke of burning gods, so you can see the correlation here. Now in the show version, this scene is at night, but in the book version, it takes place in the morning – meaning that the night is ending here as the wooden gods are burnt. We don’t have time to go into detail on it here, but there’s a lot more to the link between burning ships and burning weirwoods – for example, there’s a legendary fellow named The Grey King who sailed weirwood boats and possessed the fire of the gods by means of a burning tree – weirwood boats and burning trees, together, and there’s also something about a sea dragon. You can find out more about that in “The Grey King and the Sea Dragon,” as well as on the Disputed Lands channel, but back here on Dragonstone, what we have is a carved wooden god, burning brightly, with Lightbringer jammed into its wood:
The Maiden lay athwart the Warrior, her arms widespread as if to embrace him. The Mother seemed almost to shudder as the flames came licking up her face. A longsword had been thrust through her heart, and its leather grip was alive with flame.
The sword is thrust through her heart everyone – through the wooden heart of a burning god.
This done, Melisandre begins feeling it and starts to talk of the prophecy of Azor Ahai, giving us a clue that the idea of sticking a burning sword into a weirwood tree has something to do with defeating the Long Night:
Melisandre was robed all in scarlet satin and blood velvet, her eyes as red as the great ruby that glistened at her throat as if it too were afire. “In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” She lifted her voice, so it carried out over the gathered host. “Azor Ahai, beloved of R’hllor! The Warrior of Light, the Son of Fire! Come forth, your sword awaits you! Come forth and take it into your hand!”
And that’s what Stannis does; hearing all this inspirational Azor Ahai and Long Night talk, he marches into the pyre and pulls Lightbringer out of the carved wooden god and holds it aloft. This is a symbolic depiction of Azor Ahai triumphing over the cold and darkness that covers the world during the Long Night, and again, it involves stabbing a tree-turned-carved-wooden-god with a flaming sword. That’s a pretty nice correlation to the proposed endgame of using Lightbringer to set fire to Night King’s tree, or to the weirwoodnet as a whole. Stannis’s sword even burns with green fire in this scene, as Melisandre has coated the sword in wildfire to make it look like a fulfillment of prophecy, which may be a clue about green magic – the magic of the greenseers and weirwoods – being burned.
Here’s something else to consider – burning weirwoods is a thing Melisandre is into. Speaking in terms of book cannon, Melisandre and Stannis later go to Storm’s End and burn the great old weirwood there, most likely an eight thousand year-old tree from the Age of Heroes. One imagines he waved his Lightbringer around a bit when they did, but either way, it’s another example of an Azor Ahai figure burning weirwoods – actual weirwoods that time, not symbolic ones like here at Dragonstone.
Then in ASOS, Stannis offers to legitimize Jon Snow as Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell… but Melisandre would require him to burn the Winterfell heart tree if he takes the offer, so he refuses. But if Jon does end up having to help set fire to the weirwoods in some sense to defeat the White Walkers, this will be looked at as heavy foreshadowing. That Winterfell tree Stannis wants him to burn is associated with Bran more than any other tree, too, since Bran sees through its eyes in his weirwood visions and even speaks from inside of it to Theon, so… yikes.
Mel and Stannis burn more actual weirwood at the Wall (and this is really becoming a theme here) when they demand that each of the wildlings who want to cross to the south of the Wall toss a piece of weirwood into the fire, and this time Stannis is definitely waving Lightbringer around in their faces. The wildlings are of course fleeing from the white walkers, and notice how escaping them is equated with burning the Old Gods:
Behind them was only cold and death. Ahead was hope. They came on, clutching their scraps of wood until the time came to feed them to the flames. R’hllor was a jealous deity, ever hungry. So the new god devoured the corpse of the old, and cast gigantic shadows of Stannis and Melisandre upon the Wall, black against the ruddy red reflections on the ice.
The weirwood trees really do look like corpse trees, with their bleeding faces carved into trunks “as white as bone” and with their leaves like bloody hands, and there’s even a white tree / wight tree wordplay thing going on. Here we see the weirwood corpse of the old gods devoured by fire at the command of an Azor Ahai figure and his fire witch, fitting the pattern once again.
In fact… only moments before unsheathing Lightbringer and opening the gate to the Wildlings, they burn the Lord of Bones, glamoured up to look like Mance Raydar, in a weirwood cage. The Lord of Bones, a.k.a. Rattleshirt, is definitely a white walker symbol, with his bone white armor to match the bone white skin of the White Walkers, and the geenral connotation of the Lord of Death which comes along with dressing up as a skeleton. And anyone who is the King Beyond the Wall like Mance can play that role as well, since the Night King is the real King Beyond the Wall (and this is corroborated by more book symbolism, for what it’s worth).
So that’s a Night King figure, burned inside a weirwood cage y’all, and as he died screaming…
Stannis Baratheon drew Lightbringer.
The sword glowed red and yellow and orange, alive with light. Jon had seen the show before … but not like this, never before like this. Lightbringer was the sun made steel.
If we imagine Rattleshirt-disguised-as-Mance as playing the role of Night King, this is a home run for our theory – burning Night King inside a weirwood cage at the Wall as Lightbringer shines as bright as the sun. This really seems like a glimpse of what the end game might look like – several heroes working together to trap and contain the Night King while his weirwood tree is set on fire, which contains and consumes him. This is the big hint about how to destroy the Night King: turn his weirwood tree, the source of his power, into a burning weirwood cage. Again we think of the blue-eyed, wighted Ned Umber, pinned to the spiral diagram of the Night King tree while it all burns – it’s a symbolic burning weirwood cage for the Night King.
Returning to the scene of Mance Raydar’s burning, we look around and… oh hey, there’s Jon Snowzor Ahai. Jon actually uses an arrow to put the glamoured Rattleshirt out of his misery, so he is even implied as delivering part of the blow that ends Night King.
Ok, did you enjoy that? I promised Azor Ahai burning weirwoods, and I think we are off to a good start. You gotta love how how the first Stannis Lightbringer scene is at Dragonstone, home of House Targaryen, and the place where the show has depicted spirals images in the caves alongside white walkers and other cool shit that I broke down with History of Westeros in their video “Caverns of Dragonglass.” I can’t wait to see if there are similar cave drawings in the books, and I’d also recommend Gray Area’s video positing that, at least in show cannon, the Targaryens may have modeled their three-headed dragon sigil off of the spiral designs in the dragonglass caves, which I think makes loads of sense.
I’ll see you again soon with part 3, where we’ll break down the most epic dragonrider versus dragonrider battle in recorded history, one that acts as a perfect model for the eternal clash of ice and fire. We’ll find more symbolism of Azor Ahai symbolically shutting down the weirwoodnet to defeat the white walkers (and even stabbing weirwoods with a sword, like literally), and this time… dragons. Also, I’d like you to invite you to join me and the myth heads (and other honored guests) every Sundays for NOWIE – at 3 EST we do a pregame show, and we do a live postgame reaction show right after the HBO episode is done airing. Thanks again for watching, don’t forget to like and subscribe, and you can find all of my material at Lucifermeanslightbringer.com. See you next time!
Hi there. My name is Lucifer means Lightbringer, or LmL for short, and I am known for analyzing the extensive use of symbolism in A Song of Ice and Fire, and sometimes, HBO’s Game of Thrones. In during Episode 1 of Season 8, we saw a giant, horrifying symbol which I believe spells out a large part of how this story will end, both in terms of the show and the books. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the same ending in both because the books have extensive symbolic evidence that backs up the ending I think the show is foreshadowing. Not only that, but this symbolic evidence from the books I am talking about will provide the context needed to understand why this is what has to happen. I’m going to give you the nuts and bolts of this theory first here in part 1, mostly based on material from the TV show, and then in subsequent videos I’m going to show you how this ending has been spelled out many times in the books of ASOIAF – through symbolism.
First of all, let’s be clear – we’re talking about poor dead Ned Umber and the other assorted body parts that were nailed to the wall of the Last Hearth in some sort of creepy white walker mandala. Let’s review the basics: the corpse of young Ned Umber is pinned on the wall, and surrounding him are eight spiral arms of.. well, arms and legs, hands and feet. When Lord Commander Dolorous Edd, the famous bearded wildling Tormund Giantsbane, and the undead-and-armed-with-a-flaming-sword Beric Dondarrion approach a bit closer, dead Ned Umber’s corpse begins to shriek and opens up its eyes, which now burn with the familiar cold blue star fire of the White Walkers. Beric quickly stabs the wighted corpse with his flaming sword, and as undead Ned Umber continues to scream, he and all the body parts on the wall catch fire. What began as a creepy White Walker corpse spiral with cold blue star eyes at the center transforms into a flaming spiral, somewhat reminiscent of the Targaryen three-headed dragon sigil.
And the crowd goes… straight to the internet, searching for and / or writing comments and theories about what it all means! Pausing a moment to grieve for poor Ned Umber and all the people of Last Hearth who are now part of the army of the living dead, I want to tell you that this giant symbol – for that is what it is – actually tells us just how to set the Umbers and everyone else enslaved in the army of the dead, free.
The basics are fairly straightforward, and it begins with recognizing that spiral design, which we’ve seen most notably in three places: the caverns of dragonglass on Dragonstone, which has spirals and many other things etched or painted on the wall, including several White Walkers; in the spiral arms of the shape the White Walkers made with the body parts of slain horses after the Fist of the First Men, very similar to what we see at Last Hearth; and most importantly, we see this spiral-arm design at the place where Night King was created. That was in Season 6, Episode 5, when Bran uses the power of the weirwoods to look into the past and sees our future Night King tied to a lone weirwood tree which is surrounded by eight spiral arms of obelisks made from dark stone. The children of the forest approach the captive and stab him with a dragonglass knife, embedding it in his chest; then his eyes turn ice blue, and presto, he’s the Night King.
The spiral also appears a couple of other places too, but let’s focus on that weirwood tree where Night King was created. Night King is the macabre “artist,” as Mance Raydar says, behind these corpse mandalas, so it makes sense he would be sort of fixated on the moment of his creation – or rather, his transformation. The moment he, against his will, was transformed into some sort of ice demon king condemned to live forever, or at least until the right person stabs him with the right magic sword. Beric, who seems to intuitively get Night King, takes a look at the corpse spiral on the wall at the Last Hearth and says “it’s a message from Night King,” and that’s what everyone’s been trying to figure out. The place to start is the place where Night King started, because that’s what he is drawing with these body parts! It’s a diagram of the weirwood tree and its spiral arms. Think about it – that’s what the spiral arm design means to Night King, more than anything. His message must have something to do with that – we can guess right away that he is probably pissed off about being turned into Night King, so on some level he’s probably making this design out of corpses to say “I am coming to make corpses of you all, because that is what I was created to do, at this place with the weirwood and the spiral arms.”
That IS, after all, why the children turned this guy into Night King – in the HBO show cannon, the children were losing the war against the First Men, who were cutting down their weirwoods. Night King was created to kill humans – but somehow, the children apparently lost the ability to control or contain Night King and his armies of white walkers and wights, and we know that the children actually turned around and allied with the remaining First Men to defeat the White Walkers and end the Long Night. The mythology surrounding this in the books is more developed, but it’s basically the same with the exception that instead of some guy called Night King, we’re simply told of the White Walkers, and some of this is implied as opposed to spelled out.
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
The important thing is that in show cannon, Night King was created to kill humans, and he was created at that weirwood surrounded by eight spiral arms of standing stones. Now he recreates that spiral with the body parts of his victims – makes sense, right? A fun wordplay note here: the spiral “arms” of the design on the wall of Last Hearth are made of the bloody limbs of dead people – but instead of body limbs, think “tree limbs” here, and then recall that the weirwood leaves are usually described in the books as looking like bloody hands – and yes, there are actually bloody hands included in the Last Heart corpse spiral design. Simply another layer of symbolism, however gruesome, which adds to the idea that Night King’;s corpse spirals are saying something about that place with the weirwood tree and the spiral arms of obelisks where he was transformed.
So you got all that – but there’s more to this spiral arm symbol at Last Hearth, because we don’t just get Night King’s icy corpse rendering of his home tree – we also see it lit on fire with a flaming sword. From ice to fire – what does that part mean?
Well, we see an overhead shot of the Night King tree and the spiral arms of standing stones two times, in two very different circumstances: once in the ancient past when the ground is lush and green, with the canopy of weirwood leaves as red as blood and fire, and once in the present (albeit on the astral plane), where everything is covered in snow and the now leafless weirwood tree hunches and crouches, its limbs weighed down by snow and ice. This transformation reflects the growing power of the white walkers, and one wonders if Night King might have a special connection to that tree in particular. The freezing over of that weirwood seems to mirror the icy transformation of Night King himself, I would say.
Now when we look at the corpse spiral at Last Hearth, we are surely supposed to see a diagram of the Night King tree and those spiral arms of standing stones, as I said – and more specifically, I think this is a diagram of the Night King weirwood after it has been frozen over, because the “spiral diagra m” is made of corpses, and dead Ned Umber animates with the cold blue magic of the White Walkers when the crew arrives. It’s a perfect reflection of how the Night King tree loo ks now – and when Bran sees the frozen Night King tree in the weirwood vision, it is actually surrounded by the army of the dead. In fact, one might even see the ice-blue eyed Ned Umber, pinned to the wall at the center of the spiral where the weirwood tree would be, as a stand-in for Night King himself, who was pinned to the weirwood tree at the center of the stone spiral and given those same sort of ice blue eyes! I found a great clue to confirm this on rewatch of this episode: Tormund is saying “..we just have to hope the Night King doesn’t come first..” at the moment the wighted corpse of Ned Umber is waking, with his shriek cutting off Tormund mid-sentence.
In other words, this is a diagram of the Night King weirwood tree, but it’s showing us Night King in power, with ice and death spiraling out from him and taking over everything. This strongly implies Night King’s power is tied to that frozen weirwood, something the books suggest is true of the white walkers in general (whose full name is “the white walkers of the wood”).
So, our heroes behold this horrific symbol of Night King’s frozen tree and his terrifying power, and then we know what happens next. Thinking quickly, Beric stabs it with a flaming sword, clearing out the White Walker magic and creating a lovely symbol of the Targaryen dragon in its place (at least, many think it resembles that sigil, and I agree). The flaming sword is an unmistakable symbol of Lightbringer of course, and here it is stabbing a representation of Night King’s tree, and perhaps Night King himself. Stabbing Night King with Lightbringer has always seemed like the thing to do – but we have to consider the weirwood angle here, which hints at a deeper mystery. What is being suggested here is more than just killing Night King, but rather setting fire to the weirwoods – either setting fire to his personal tree, or more likely, to the weirwoodnet as a whole. We could be talking about a total shutdown here, which may be the only way to stop him.
And yes, Bran is tied to the weirwoodnet, and will surely have to die – to sacrifice himself – if defeating Night King requires a total shutdown of the weirwoodnet. We can’t help but notice that the dead boy in the center of the corpse spiral is named Ned, a Stark name. I suggested earlier Ned Umber might be standing in for Night King, tied to the tree as he was, but it could also foreshadow Bran – a boy lord with a Stark name – burning inside the weirwoods along with Night King. I personally don’t see how it could be any other way, if the weirwoods are to burn. It’s sad, but Bran has always been slated for heroic martyrdom in my opinion… and there is actually so much foreshadowing of Bran burning in some way that I have an entire episode of the Weirwood Compendium called “A Burning Brandon,” which I wrote several years ago. From Hodor carrying Bran around in a basket used to carry firewood (gulp), to the phonetic connection of Bran’s name to the Norse word “brandr,” which means both “burning brand” and “flaming sword,” there’s quite a lot there pointing to a spectacular and heroic sort of “flame-out” for Brandon Stark, the Summer Child.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Before we talk of Bran and shutting down the weirwoodnet, and before we get into the deep connections between the White Walkers and the weirwoods, I want to show you that Azor Ahai setting the weirwoods on fire with a flaming sword is an idea that is expressed in the books many times. That’s what makes this such a fun theory for me – we saw Beric stab a symbol of Night King’s frozen tree with a flaming sword, and then I realized I had been documenting that exact sequence for years already. All such scenes with symbolic depictions of Lightbringer stabbing or burning weirwoods are surrounded by talk of the Long Night and symbolism tied to the Long Night, as well as to Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, and Night King.
And that’s what we’ll look at in Part 2: scenes from the book that use symbolism to depict Azor Ahai burning weirwoods to destroy the White Walkers and end the Long Night. I hope you’ve enjoyed part one, and for further reading, please enjoy the various compendiums of the Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast, which you can find in your podcast feed, at lucifermeanslightbringer.com, or here on YouTube.
Hey everyone, LmL here, back from my long break to talk about the ending of HBO’s Game of Thrones, and what it means for George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. In particular, we’ll be discussing what George’s version of a final Battle of Winterfell against the Others might look like. This video is brought to you by my Patreon supporters, and please visit lucifermeanslightbringer.com for the links to our Patreon campaign, the matching text to this video, and all things Mythical Astronomy.
Now, let’s cast out minds back to Game of Thrones Season 8, episode three, about an hour and fifteen minutes in. The setting is the Winterfell godswood. The piano music is playing slowly, and all seems lost for our heroes as the godswood fills with wights and white walkers, who surround Bran and the heart tree. Jon and Daenerys are pinned down elsewhere by enemies, we aren’t sure where the dragons are, and Bran’s last defender, Theon, has died upon the icy sickle of the Night King, who now walks toward Bran in that slow and menacing way that all the super villains apparently learn in super-villain school.
So, right at this moment, things were looking good for my main End of Ice and Fire theory, which predicts that burning the weirwoods is a key element to defeating the Night King and the White Walkers, and that Bran will probably sacrifice himself to pull it off. I have to say – right at this moment, I was ready for Drogon to swoop down out of the sky and set the tree, the Night King, and Bran on fire, and I was thinking that this time Drogon’s fire would work on the Night King because of the weirwood element, or because of something Bran does. Instead, the decidedly wingless Arya Stark, certified badass, swooped down out of the air and stabbed Night King in the belly, as we all know. And let me just say – although Arya’s “Space Jam” leap seemed a bit comical for the setting, Arya is definitely a ‘certified badass’ with the skills to stab white walkers with Valyrian steel, and it was certainly exciting in the moment.
Even then, I maintained hope for my theory – perhaps this was only the destruction of Night King’s physical body, and that he would be banished to the frozen part of the weirwoodnet astral plane. If so, he’d need to be confronted there perhaps, and that was where we’d get the burning of the frozen weirwood tree where the Night King was created. That was another possibility we discussed in the first three End of Ice and Fire videos, a scenario where the Night King’s physical body is destroyed, with his spirit surviving inside the weirwood astral plane.
And with three episodes to go, it even seemed like they had time to do it. Of course I didn’t know the Dark Dany turn / Jon-kills-Dany thing was coming as an alternate climax, and of course I didn’t think that that could really be the end of the Night King and the white walker threat.
Let’s all have a good cry for my theory, huh? Boo-hoo, wah-wah, the sound of the world’s smallest violin playing the Rains of Castamere. The sound of Arya Stark slicing open the throat of my theory with the Catspaw Blade… so sad. I’ll be okay though, with time and healing and self-care, but of course there is widespread dissatisfaction with certain elements of the ending, first among them being the stunning reality that the show version of the White Walkers turned out to be just the sort of mindless ice demons that we all said the Others could never be. Turns out, you don’t need to understand anything about them other than ‘you have to stick them with the pointy end of a Valyrian steel weapon.’ The connection between the Others and the weirwoods, which is artfully hinted at by George R. R. Martin in the books of ASOIAF from the prologue of the first book to the epilogue of the fifth, was left by the wayside in the show.
Most baffling was the fact that they seemed to introduce the weirwood / white walker connection when they showed us that the children of the forest were actually responsible for creating the white walkers, which they did by transforming a human man into the Night King with magic and dragonglass… while he was tied to a weirwood tree. This was treated as a huge reveal, and seemed like one – but in the end, we didn’t actually need to know any of that to defeat the Night King. We just had to stab him with Valyrian steel, which is the same solution Jon had already found for defeating white walkers at Hardhome, many seasons ago. Bran’s revelations about the connection between the white walkers and the weirwoods and children of the forest were interesting, but altogether irrelevant to the end-game.
I: Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
II: The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
III: Waves of Night & Moon Blood
IV: The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
V: Tyrion Targaryen
VI: Lucifer means Lightbringer
We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue
So too for the very exciting carvings in the caverns on Dragonstone – they depicted ancient scenes of the children of the forest and First Men banding together to fight the White Walkers, none of this ended up mattering. They mined a bunch of dragonglass at Dragonstone, but in the end what defeated the White Walker threat was Valyrian steel, which was only invented a few centuries ago in Valyria. The help of the children was not needed, and the carvings ended up functioning only as plot device to help Jon convince Dany to join him, and to drive me crazy thinking the show was using a bunch of Mythical Astronomy.
In fact, one might ask the question of why Bran even went north and became a host-body for the Three-Eyed Raven hive mind to begin with? Why did he sacrifice Jojen and Hodor and his friendship with Meera to gain all the knowledge of the history of Westeros? The only thing he did with all that knowledge of any consequence was to reveal the truth of R + L = J, which was itself only used to cause political strife between Jon and Dany and meant nothing for the magical, “defeating the white walkers / Prince That Was Promised” plot-lines. That’s a little underwhelming, to say the least, but we aren’t here to cry, oh no.
What we are here to do is something a lot more fun: we’re here to talk about what George R. R. Martin might do with some of these same exciting plot elements when he writes his version of these key end-game scenes. Mythical Astronomy has always been focused on the books, so while I do enjoy the show, what most of you fine folk who listen to this program are probably thinking about is the same thing I am – what does all this stuff mean for the book endings?
The main thing to remember is that the show has a consistent track record of simplifying the magical elements of the original story. That’s understandable most of the time, and frustrating some of the time, but it’s what they have consistently done, and it’s the first thing to think about when we speculate on what George might do.
I always like to use Jon’s resurrection as a great example of this: on the show, Melisandre prays a haunting prayer in High Valyrian, washes Jon’s hair, leaves the room, and then Jon wakes up from the dead. In the books… Jon’s spirit will almost surely reside in his aptly-named wolf, Ghost, for a few days, before being transferred back to his body somehow, which will need to be resurrected, likely with something a bit stronger than prayer and salon care. In fact, Jon isn’t even a skinchanger on the show, and actually none of the Stark children are besides Bran, whereas they are all skinchangers in the books. That’s another good example of what I’m talking about with the show simplifying the magical elements of the story.
So with all this in mind, when we look at the Battle of Winterfell in Episode 3 of Season 8 and consider the idea of having all the most magical elements of the story in one place – white walkers, dragons, weirwood trees, Jon and Dany and Bran, dragonglass and Valyrian steel and those cool white walker ice spears – we ought to think about what kinds of things George might do when he writes his version of the Battle of Winterfell.
We should expect George’s version to be similar in a lot of the broad strokes, but a lot more developed and.. ‘with more magic,’ to put it bluntly. We know a lot of this will be different – Dave and Dan, the HBO show-runners, have said it was their choice to give Arya the “kill shot,” which makes that a show-only detail, and there isn’t even any sort of equivalent Night King figure in the books anyway. There isn’t a wighted dragon in the books either, though I think it’s in the realm of possibility, as is some sort of Night King figure stepping forward in the books – I’ve got my eyes on Euron, as you might expect, especially the notion of Euron riding Viserion… and wouldn’t that be a bit different than the show? Video forthcoming.
What I do think we can bank on is a battle between the Others and the forces of the living at Wintefell. This could be the final battle against the Others, as it is on the show, or perhaps the Others will make it farther south as hinted at in Dany’s dream of fighting the Battle of the Trident on dragon-back against enemies armored in ice. Either way, this battle is surely coming, and I’d be surprised if Dany and Jon and their dragons, and Bran with his weirwood knowledge, weren’t there to meet the white walkers. This presumes a couple of things will work out in the books as they have in the show: that Bran will leave Bloodraven’s cave, which I assume he will, and that Jon will ride a dragon, which also seems like a safe bet, and has for years.
In other words, I think we will get a scene in the books along the lines of the climactic one in Episode 3 of Season 8. What will that battle look like? That is the question I will seek to answer in future “End of Ice and Fire” videos. The plan is to explore the elements at play in this final battle one by one, comparing what the TV show did to the foreshadowing George has laid out in the books, and culminating in a return to the Winterfell godswood to put it all together. We myth heads already have a huge head start here, because we have been exploring and dissecting the symbolic, metaphorical, and mythical layers of ASOIAF for several years now, and it is in those layers of the story in which we find most of the foreshadowing. By the time we are done, we’ll be in good shape to return to the Winterfell godswood and make some educated guesses about what George may have planned… and won’t that be fun.
Now if you’re a show watcher continuing on from the first three End of Ice and Fire videos, I think you’ll find the rest of this series interesting for a couple reasons. Firstly, it may whet your appetite for reading the books series, which I highly recommend. Secondly, it will be a fun exploration of some of the ideas the show left us with. Take King Bran for example: what does it really mean to have the sum total of the consciousness of every three-eyed crow greenseer inhabiting the body of a boy who now sits the iron throne? The books have already given us insight into this matter, and will surely explore it more in the remaining books. You might wonder what the show was teasing us with when they showed us the children of the forest creating white walkers, and the books again have things to tell us here. When the Night King stared down Jon Snow on the docks of Hardhome, raising his arms into the infamous, well-memed “come at me bro” pose, did you wonder if Jon and the Night king were, like, long lost relatives or something? How about those Bran – Night King theories, or the more sane version that speculates that Bran is a descendant of Night King? Well, the books suggest as much, and even though the show didn’t explore this… you better believe that this history is important, and will come in to play when the book series reaches its climax.
So, with the rest of this first post-HBO-show-ending video, what I’m going to show you is that George began laying down the foreshadowing for this climactic Battle of Winterfell from the very first pages of ASOIAF. I mentioned that the weirwood / white walker relationship is also hinted at from the start of the series, and in fact, what we really see is George laying the groundwork of a three-way relationship between weirwoods, white walkers, and the Starks – one that will reach its conclusion when the Starks confront the Others in the Winterfell godswood, as I believe they will.
Winterfell, with its location atop the hot springs, and its ancient, ancient history, has always seemed like it was obviously designed as a stronghold against the Others, and the foreshadowing of the final battle that will be set there begins as soon as AGOT does. The infamous prologue chapter introduces us to the general threat of the white walkers and some other symbolic goodness we’ll get to in a moment, but let’s start with the second chapter of A Game of Thrones, the first chapter set at Winterfell. From the moment we first see Eddard cleaning his Valyrian steel blade, Ice, in the Winterfell godswood, we’ve known the Others were coming. Catelyn knew it, as you can see here:
“There are darker things beyond the Wall.” She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts.
His smile was gentle. “You listen to too many of Old Nan’s stories. The Others are as dead as the children of the forest, gone eight thousand years. Maester Luwin will tell you they never lived at all. No living man has ever seen one.”
“Until this morning, no living man had ever seen a direwolf either,” Catelyn reminded him.
“I ought to know better than to argue with a Tully,” he said with a rueful smile. He slid Ice back into its sheath.
Catelyn is right of course, as was Osha the wildling when she warned Bran about the Others, and of course Bloodraven warned Bran of the threat in his famous coma-dream where he looked north and north and saw the Heart of Winter. Not only is Catelyn’s intuition right, the reader already knows that the man Ned executed that morning, Gared, had in fact seen a white walker. This scene is one of those obvious “oh, that thing could neeeever happen, everything is fine” quotes you often get near the beginning of a story, and it tells you, of course, that the dreaded thing will indeed come to pass. “Winter is coming, and with it, the white walkers,” as Jon Snow says in ADWD, and perhaps this is the ultimate meaning of the Stark words: a warning to stay vigilant against the ever present threat of the Others, who are simply a physical, magical incarnation of the very worst parts of Winter.
The person being warned about the Others here is a Stark armed with Valyrian steel; and indeed, when the Others do eventually arrive in the final books, we all expect them to be greeted by a Stark with Valyrian steel – Jon Snow, who may even be known as “Jon Stark” by then, and who will have either Longclaw or perhaps even one of the swords made from Ned’s Ice, Oathkeeper or Widow’s Wail. In fact, the Others will probably be confronted with two Starks armed with Valyrian steel, as I’d expect Arya to be here for this battle too, as in the show. She might not kill a Night King with a Simone Biles-worthy feat of gymnastic prowess, but I’m sure she’ll be here in the fight, and probably armed with something potent… perhaps the Catspaw blade as in the show, or better yet, Dark Sister, the Valyrian sword of Queen Visenya, Daemon Targaryen, and most recently, Bloodraven, who according to George still has it in his cave. Bran might give it to Arya, just as TV show Bran gave the Catspaw to Arya. Or perhaps we’ll even get Jon with Oathkeeper and Arya with Widow’s Wail, so that Ice will be returned to the hands of the Starks. As you can see, there are lots of interesting possibilities here for Starks with dragonswords!
On the most basic level, the fact that Ned is polishing a Valyrian steel sword while Catelyn speaks of the Others is part of the heavy foreshadowing here: not only are the Others coming, but it seems important to have some magical dragon weapons around to fight them. Although there are no live dragons here in this scene, the importance of the role of all things dragon is represented by the presence of Valyrian steel, and by Catelyn’s inner monologue about how Ice “had been forged in Valyria, before the Doom had come to the old Freehold, when the ironsmiths had worked their metal with spells as well as hammers.” This dragon stuff comes at us even while the scene is essentially introducing us to some of the Starkiest things in the book: the heart tree and the concept of weirwoods in general, the direwolves, the Stark words, Ned’s cleansing ritual in the godswood, Ned’s relationships to Catelyn, Jon Arryn, and Robert Baratheon, Ned and Cat’s relationship to their children, etc. Amidst all this, Ned’s Ice is a focal point of the scene, and the lines about it being a magic sword from a lost dragonlord empire come basically right after the description of the heart tree. This makes a ton of sense as foreshadowing – George is setting up the important elements that will be here for the penultimate Battle of Winterfell: the weirwoods, the white walkers, dragons swords and dragon fire, and Ned’s children.
Sticking with that last quote from Catleyn’s scene in the godswood with Ned, there’s a telling bit of foreshadowing concerning the white walkers that is often overlooked. It’s kind of glaring in retrospect, have a look:
“There are darker things beyond the Wall.” She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts.
It’s clear from the surrounding quote that Catleyn is alluding to the Others when she talks about “darker things beyond the Wall,” and she is doing it while she is looking back over her shoulder at the weirwood tree – as if weirwoods and white walkers have something to do with one another! Which, spoiler alert: they do.
Keep in mind that this chapter, the second in AGOT, comes only pages after the infamous Waymar Royce vs. the White Walkers prologue chapter, which is chock full of clues that indeed, the dreaded “White Walkers of the Wood” come from the wood, and most likely, from the weirwood. This chapter introduces us to the very real threat of the Others, who are like pale shadows that “emerged from the dark of the wood.” Their “milk-white” flesh is “hard as old bone,” a description that matches the “white as bone” description of the white bark of the Winterfell weirwood tree that comes only two chapters later. When Will first catches sight of “pale shapes gliding through the wood” in the prologue, the shadowy Other disappears from view and in its place, Will then sees “branches stirred gently in the wind, scratching at one another with wooden fingers,” as if the Other is actually a walking tree with hands – which, in a sense, I believe they are. When Sam Tarly kills a White Walker in ASOS, we actually see its fingers, which are affixed to “bone white hands,” so once again we think of the weirwood bark, which is almost always described as “bone white”… such as in ADWD, where we read that the cage Mance Raydar is burned in is made with “the bone-white fingers of the weirwoods.”
It’s not just that the Others looks like weirwoods; the resemblance goes both ways, as we see in ADWD in the Varamyr Sixskins prologue chapter. We will bounce right back to the AGOT prologue in a second, but have a look at what happens to this weirwood tree when the Others and the army of the dead march into a wildling village:
Outside, the night was white as death; pale thin clouds danced attendance on a silver moon, while a thousand stars watched coldly. He could see the humped shapes of other huts buried beneath drifts of snow, and beyond them the pale shadow of a weirwood armored in ice.
The Others are frequently described as pale shadows and white shadows, including in the AGOT prologue, and here the weirwood is a “pale shadow.” It’s also “armored in ice,” just as the Others are armored in ice. This is moments before the army of the dead arrives; when it does arrive, the line is:
Below, the world had turned to ice. Fingers of frost crept slowly up the weirwood, reaching out for each other. The empty village was no longer empty. Blue-eyed shadows walked amongst the mounds of snow.
Now we have icy hands crawling over the bone-white bark of the weirwood, and we can’t help but think of the bone white, icy hands of the Others, who are pale shadows armored in ice, just like this weirwood. Appearing alongside the actual White Walkers and wights, this tree is something of a symbolic “sign-post,” pointing towards that White Walker / weirwood relationship that we’ve been discussing.
There’s more language in the prologue suggesting the Others as icy tree warriors, such as when we read that
Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.
Basically, these are like icy elves, with reflective armor that makes them blend into the wood. Because of their armor, they appear “everywhere dappled with the grey-green of the trees,” as if they wore green tree armor, like green men, and one even notes that dappled is the word George uses to describe the skin of the children of the forest. Many have noticed that the speech of the children “was described as sounding like the song of stones in a brook, or the wind through leaves, or the rain upon the water,” according to TWOIAF, while the voice of the Others in the AGOT prologue “was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake.” In other words, if you froze the language of the children, you’d have Skroth, or whatever the language of the Others is called. Along the same lines, ADWD tells us that the voices of the children of the forest, who are really called “those who sing the song of earth,” “were as pure as winter air,” another subtle clue that the children have something to do with the origins of the Others.
My favorite clue about the children having a hand in the creation of the Others, which won me much fame and upvotes on Reddit, is this line from Cotter Pyke in ASOS, who is expressing skepticism about Samwell Tarly killing a White Walker on the way back from the Fist of the First Men:
“Sam the Slayer!” he said, by way of greeting. “Are you sure you stabbed an Other, and not some child’s snow knight?”
Some child’s snow knight – are the Others snow knights created by children? Well, in the show, the answer is ‘yes, kinda’ – the children of the forest made the Night King, and he seems to be able to transform human babies into White Walkers. In the books, I suspect the answer will again be ‘yes, kinda,’ in that I think the creation of the Others will come down to humans gaining control of the weirwood magic of the children of the forest, something along those lines. But hey, there it is – the Others are snow knights of the children. This is the kind of sneaky wordplay that makes reading ASOIAF so much fun! I’m not even sure if I should tell you about this line from later in ASOS, from Sansa’s chapter in the frozen Eyrie where she makes the snow castle version of Winterfell…
What do I want with snowballs? She looked at her sad little arsenal. There’s no one to throw them at. She let the one she was making drop from her hand. I could build a snow knight instead, she thought. Or even . . .
She doesn’t build a snow knight, but instead, ‘snow castle Winterfell,’ but the evocation of the snow knight language while she builds Winterfell is fascinating. Why? Well, Sansa has some covert “Night’s Queen” symbolism in this chapter, and I can’t help but notice the fact that as soon as the miniature Winterfell is completed, there is something of a ‘Battle of Winterfell,’ as Robbyn Arryn smashes down the gates of the snow castle with his toy giant… only to have Sansa rip its little doll head off. Petyr remarks that “If the tales be true, that’s not the first giant to end up with his head on Winterfell’s walls,” to which Sansa replies that “those are only stories.” Nope, it’s foreshadowing!
Of course, the TV show gave us giants attacking Winterfell not once, but twice – both when Jon Snow led the Wildling army against the Boltons, and then later when wighted giants fought in the army of the dead when the Others attacked Winterfell – so this is very possibly a scene in which George is indeed foreshadowing the final battle of Winterfell… where those snow knights, and maybe a few giants, will surely put in an appearance.
Returning to the AGOT prologue, we have more links between the Others, the weirwoods, and the children. The prologue describes these white walkers of the wood as “watchers” who are “faceless” and “silent.” But fast-forward two chapters to Catelyn’s inner monologue as she stands before Ned Stark in the godswood, and we read about these “Old Gods” of the weirwood tree to whom Ned prays:
..the blood of the First Men still flowed in the veins of the Starks, and his own gods were the old ones, the nameless, faceless gods of the greenwood they shared with the vanished children of the forest.
Catleyn goes on to call the weirwood’s eyes “strangely watchful,” and then thinks that the only weirwoods found outside of the north were “on the Isle of Faces where the green men kept their silent watch.” So, the Green Men who guard weirwoods are “silent watchers,” the Old Gods of the weirwood are also known as “nameless, faceless gods of the greenwood,” and the Others are “faceless, silent watchers” who walk the white wood, and who are for all intents and purposes nameless as well. One should also note that right before the Others appeared in the AGOT prologue, Will, who had just climbed a tree, utters a prayer to the “nameless gods of the wood,” which works to make us think of Ned’s nameless weirwood gods right as the Others emerge… almost as if Will prayed to the Old Gods, and then the Others came in answer (hat-tip Ravenous Reader).
My overall point throughout this section is that George is using the words he chooses to describe the Others, the children of the forest, and the weirwoods to encourage the reader to see them all as connected. As you can see, something is definitely up here with the bone-white weirwoods and the bone-white white walkers of the wood.
Something is also definitely up with the Starks and their connections to the Others. Again, I’m only giving you the tip of the icy spear, even just in terms of the prologue and first chapters of AGOT, let along the whole series. I mean, have you ever noticed that at the end of the prologue, we see a man of the Night’s Watch killed by the ice swords of the white walkers, and then at the beginning of the very next chapter, we see another man of the Night’s Watch beheaded by a sword named Ice…. which is wielded not by White Walkers, but by Ned Stark, Lord of Winterfell?
Weird, right? If the Night’s Watch brothers go too far north, they face the ice swords of the Others, and if they go too far south, they face the Ice sword of the Starks? George shows us both of these things only pages apart, right at the beginning of his story, and right alongside this, he’s dropping hints that the Old Gods of the weirwoods, to whom Ned prays, might have something to do with those White Walkers of the Wood.
The next Winterfell chapter in AGOT is the one where King Robert Baratheon arrives and has a long and interesting conversation with Ned, and more hints are dropped. Robert is happy to see Ned’s “frozen face,” and asks Ned if his people are hiding under the Summer Snows, which he says the Others can take. Thing is, wights hide under the snow, so Robert’s lines, taken together, could be read to suggest Ned as a man with a frozen face who rules of an army of the dead. Later in AGOT, Petyr Baelish taunts Ned by saying that “here in the south, they say you are all made of ice, and melt when you ride below the Neck,” which makes the Starks sound unambiguously like Others. Eventually we start getting some of the names of the ancient Stark “Kings of Winter” and Kings in the North interred down in the crypts, and we see names like Brandon “Ice Eyes” Stark and Edric “Snowbeard” Stark, and all of the statues of the dead Starks down in the crypts have “vengeful spirits” and eyes of cold stone. And what’s the name of that main Stark protagonist who’s going to fight the Others… what’s his name, Jon… Jon-something, what was it? Oh yes, Jon SNOW, an evil name according to Ygritte. It must remind her of the Others or something. The Night’s Watch recruits mockingly call Jon “Lord Snow,” another name that sounds like it would fit a King of the White Walkers, much like the ancient Stark title of “King of Winter.”
You remember how we talked about the ice armor of the Others? I also alluded to a dream Dany has of fighting the Battle of the Trident, but against the Others, and the quote there was:
That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be.
This is one of several passages foreshadowing Daenerys confronting the Others with her dragons, and we will look at the rest of those when we get to our Dany episode in this series. The thing I want to point out is that the ice armor is such a hallmark of the Others that it alone is enough to identify the foes in Dany’s dream; enemies wearing ice armor must be Others. Here’s where the Starks come into this: when Jon Snow has a dream foreshadowing him confronting the Others, we see ice armor in an interesting place. This is usually referred to as his “Azor Ahai dram,’ because he dreams of defending the Wall with a burning red sword, and because he kills his love, Ygritte, as Azor Ahai slew his love, Nissa Nissa. Here’s the passage:
Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again.
The burning red sword kind of steals the scene here, but yes, Jon Snow is armored in black ice. Black ice may be somewhat of a different symbol than just plain old ice, which we discuss at length in the Bloodstone Compendium podcast series, but still – Jon is armored in ice here, like an Other. Lord Snow, the King of Winter, armored in ice.
Now I don’t think any of this means that Jon Snow will be turned into an Other – although I wouldn’t rule some version of this out, either. It could be something more like fighting fire with fire, except you’re fighting ice with ice. After all, frozen fire, a.k.a. obsidian, kills the ice demons, and that big black Valyrian steel sword the Starks have? It’s called Ice, of course, but we know it would kill White Walkers too, so again we’d be killing ice demons with some sort of frozen or icy weapon. This is what makes the Stark – Others connection so interesting; George sets them up as foes, but gives them much of the same symbolism; and meanwhile, he sketches out a connection between the Others and the gods the Starks worship.
Jon has another dream which also confuses the Starks with the Others, or at least, with the wights. You probably recall the scene from the end of AGOT where Jon Snow and Ghost killed the wighted Othor in Lord Commander Mormont’s chambers, saving the Old Bear’s life and earning Jon the honor of carrying Longclaw. But when Mormont gives Jon Longclaw, he recalls his nightmares of the fight against the wight..
Whatever demonic force moved Othor had been driven out by the flames; the twisted thing they had found in the ashes had been no more than cooked meat and charred bone. Yet in his nightmare he faced it again … and this time the burning corpse wore Lord Eddard’s features. It was his father’s skin that burst and blackened, his father’s eyes that ran liquid down his cheeks like jellied tears. Jon did not understand why that should be or what it might mean, but it frightened him more than he could say.
To be fair, Jon also dreams of the Winterfell heart tree having his father’s face as well, which isn’t quite as bad. Taken together, both dreams make the point: the Starks are tied to the weirwoods, yes, but also the White Walkers. In fact, even though Othor is a wight and not an Other, I believe George named him “Othor” to indicate that he is representing the Others as a whole, and that George has Jon fight him here as a foreshadowing of his destiny of fighting the Others… except in his dreams, the face of Othor is his father’s.
Just as with Jon’s burning red sword Azor Ahai dream, this dream also contains references to Azor Ahai, because the wighted Other has a “pale moon face,” and Jon “slashes at it without hesitation,” scoring a deep wound. When Lightbringer was forged, the legend says that Nissa Nissa’s cry left a crack across the face of the moon. It makes sense to refer to the Azor Ahai legend when foreshadowing Jon’s fate, and that’s exactly what Martin seems to be doing in many of his dreams.
The only conclusion I can draw from this is that George has a plan to bring together all the fiery Azor Ahai & dragon plot elements and the icy, white walker elements. That, to me, has always been the importance of Jon being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna – not the political implications, but the magical ones. It’s obvious that we should associate his Targaryen lineage with fire magic and dragons, and though the links between the Starks and the Others are more subtle, they do exist, as you can see. Therefore, as a half-Targaryen, half-Stark, Jon really is set up to be the nexus point for the forces of ice and fire… hence my belief that Jon’s magical heritage is is the real point of R + L = J. Jon’s persistent dreams of the Stark crypts, which seem to want to take him deeper and deeper down, indicates that the culmination of Jon’s plot-line will also go right to the heart of whatever dark truth lies at the heart of House Stark – and I’m telling you that that secret has to do with the Others.
Authors like to set up some of the big payoffs as early as possible, and in looking at these first few chapters of AGOT and elsewhere, the pay-off I see coming is that the ancient connections between the Starks, the Others, and the weirwoods will have to be dealt with at the climax, most likely here in this Winterfell godswood, and perhaps in the crypts below. Despite linking the origin of the White Walkers to the children of the forest and the weirwoods so explicitly, the TV show adaptation did not address any of these connections – but I have very little doubt that George R. R. Martin will.
After all, the link between the Starks, the magic of the children of the forest, and the Others, goes back to the most ancient history, as we hear in the fourth Bran chapter of AGOT:
Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched, until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds—”
..and moments later, we read:
All Bran could think of was Old Nan’s story of the Others and the last hero, hounded through the white woods by dead men and spiders big as hounds. He was afraid for a moment, until he remembered how that story ended. “The children will help him,” he blurted, “the children of the forest!”
White woods, White Walkers of the wood, and to beat them, the last hero – who was presumably a Stark – has to receive the aid of the children of the forest. And then in ASOS, Bran visits the dreaded Nightfort on the Wall, and recalls Old Nan’s tale of Night’s King:
He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.
He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.
Old Nan always finished her story by tweaking Bran’s nose and saying
“He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.”
She also says that Night’s King was “a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down,” meaning that when the books pitted a “Night’s King” against a Stark, it was a brother-brother affair. And doesn’t that seem like the sort of history that will come back around? Might this be the sort of history that makes Bran’s access to the weirwoodnet a bit more relevant to the end-game? It ‘wood’ make sense to me – the obvious reason for Bran and his little company to sacrifice so much to get Bran hooked up to the weirwoodnet is that he’s going to learn the secrets of the white walkers, and of defeating them. And here is Old Nan, telling Bran that the first Night’s King might have shared not only his name, but his very Winterfell bedroom – do you think all this white walker stuff might be, like, I dunno, an important part of Bran’s plot?
You can kinda see what happened here in terms of the show. They chose not to go down the road of a more complex resolution to the white walker plot-line that dealt with their connection to the weirwoods and the children of the forest, and this left Bran’s weirwoodnet knowledge mostly without a purpose. That’s why his character stopped making sense (hat tip David Byrne), and that’s why something seemed off about his becoming king to some people. I don’t want to get into King Bran just yet – that will be its own video – but after having looked at some of the book evidence of important connections between the Others, the weirwoods, and the Starks, we can at least start to see how minimizing these elements changed Bran’s character and end-game quite a bit. We can start to see how George R. R. Martin’s Battle of Winterfell will do a lot more to resolve these ancient, wintry connections, and we can certainly see that at the center of it all, Bran will be doing a lot more with his weirwood magic that “going away for awhile.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this video, so please like and share the vid, subscribe to the YouTube channel and hit the notification bell, and if you want to see more Mythical Astronomy in the days to come, please consider supporting the program with a monthly Patreon commitment or a one-time PayPal donation at paypal.me/mythicalastronomy. I’ll be back soon with videos on King Bran, Night King Euron, Daenerys and Jon, and more, and in the meantime you can check out all of our material here on the YouTube channel, at lucifermeanslightbringer.com, or on the Mythcial Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast feed. Thanks everyone!
Hey there friends, patrons, youtube watchers and podcast subscribers, fellow myth heads all… my name is Lucifer means Lightbringer and I am here to shed light on yet another dark corner of ASOIAF lore. We are still following the trail of the Old Ones, who seem to be the same thing as the Green Men on the Isle of Faces, and we are doing this by pulling all the usages of the phrase “old one” and taking a look at the symbolic context on the scenes they occur in. We have worked through most of them, but not all, and one of the groups of old ones quotes I have reserved until now are the ones that apply to women!
That’s right, female Old Ones. Green women. Namely, Nissa Nissa – and Night’s Queen. Weirwood goddess figures, many of them, and many of them are women we covered in the Weirwood Goddess series, like the Ghost of High Heart or Cersei. So if you haven’t listened to the Weirwood Goddess series, I’d recommend that before this one. With that said, the weirwood goddess is quintessential to understanding what actually took place with Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, and the weirwoods, so I will give a quick summary an make sure it’s fresh in everyone’s minds.
It started with the weirwood stigmata discovery – the phenomena where dying people seem to turn into weirwood trees, with some combination of bloody hands, mouths, eyes, and hair appearing alongside other tree or face carving symbolism. The most vivid examples involve Nissa Nissa figures, especially Catelyn Stark. “Why are Nissa Nissa people turning into weirwood trees as they die or symbolically die,” I was forced to ask myself. The answer seemed obvious, yet profound – Nissa Nissa is going into the weirwoods when she dies, and in that way turning into a weirwood tree. We’ve since found men (usually Azor Ahai people) experiencing weirwood stigmata as well, and the message again seems to a symbolic absorption into the weirwoodnet.
However, further research has shown that with Nissa Nissa, this concept of becoming a weirwood tree actually goes further. By looking at a whole bunch of Nissa Nissa figures, we found very consistent and overwhelming child of the forest symbols – dappled skin, child-woman descriptions, cat woman ideas as with Lady Catelyn and Cersei the Lioness, spear-maiden symbolism that is specifically drawn from the Meliai of Greek myth, who are dryads tied to the ash tree (and of course Yggdrasil is an Ash, making these Norse and Greek myths naturally compatible for Martin’s mythology mash-up writing technique).
So, we don’t know if Nissa Nissa was a full-blooded child of the forest, or a hybrid, or perhaps even a female of this theoretical, taller, green man race, but the message seems to be, broadly speaking, that she was an elf woman, one of the old races who was already tied to the weirwoods and to the forest in general. The picture that has emerged is that Azor Ahai killed her in a blood magic ritual to essentially force his way into the weirwoodnet, or you might say “harness its power.” He seems to have chosen Nissa Nissa specifically because of her connection to the weirwoods.
One final detail: the killing of Nissa Nissa and the dark magic that accompanied it seems to have permanently altered the weirwoodnet. The way I prefer to say it is that Nissa Nissa’s mind and soul and life essence became what we think of as the weirwoodnet, and that this act enabled Azor Ahai and human greenseers after him to enter the trees and see through their eyes. Don’t forget that Bloodraven describes seeing through the tree as essentially skinchanging the tree – the greenseer is invading the consciousness of the tree just as he is when he takes control of an animal or another human. I believe the evidence points to Nissa Nissa’s sacrifice being necessary to enable humans to skinchange the weirwoods at all, and that before this, it simply wasn’t done in the same way. I suspect the children and green men had a different way of bonding with the tree, though that’s a bit off topic. The point is that in scene after scene, Nissa Nissa seems to become the green sea herself when she dies. She becomes the weirwood tree – and that is the weirwood goddess theory.
When we see Nissa Nissa figures undergo the stigmata, like Catelyn’s death scene at the Red Wedding, they are depicting the moment of Nissa Nissa’s transformation. For example… Catleyn, following her bloody death, is thrown into the Green Fork of the Trident River, which gives us the idea of a green river and a river named after the weapon of a sea god, and this depicts Nissa Nissa’s spirit entering the “green see” of the weirwoodnet. Then next time we see her, she appears to us as the weirwood goddess figure:
The outlaws parted as she came forward, saying no word. When she lowered her hood, something tightened inside Merrett’s chest, and for a moment he could not breathe. No. No, I saw her die. She was dead for a day and night before they stripped her naked and threw her body in the river. Raymund opened her throat from ear to ear. She was dead. Her cloak and collar hid the gash his brother’s blade had made, but her face was even worse than he remembered. The flesh had gone pudding soft in the water and turned the color of curdled milk. Half her hair was gone and the rest had turned as white and brittle as a crone’s. Beneath her ravaged scalp, her face was shredded skin and black blood where she had raked herself with her nails. But her eyes were the most terrible thing. Her eyes saw him, and they hated. “She don’t speak,” said the big man in the yellow cloak. “You bloody bastards cut her throat too deep for that. But she remembers.”
She remembers. The north remembers. The trees remember. Nissa Nissa’s spirit… remembers. Like Nissa Nissa, Catelyn was the victim of foul murder, and her spirit has reason to seek vengeance and many wrongs to right. The spirit-like nature of Lady Stoneheart is emphasized by her wispy white hair and pale skin, as well as the language about the Freys stripping her body naked before throwing it in the river – that line implies that Nissa Nissa has shed her skin. Indeed, the only part of you that can enter the weirwoodnet is your spirit, so that checks out. We can also see signs of the stigmata here – a bloody, carved face, a “red smile,” eyes that hate. She compares well the weirwood in the godswood at Harrenhal that Arya sees:
Shoving her sword through her belt, she slipped down branch to branch until she was back on the ground. The light of the moon painted the limbs of the weirwood silvery white as she made her way toward it, but the five-pointed red leaves turned black by night. Arya stared at the face carved into its trunk. It was a terrible face, its mouth twisted, its eyes flaring and full of hate. Is that what a god looked like? Could gods be hurt, the same as people? I should pray, she thought suddenly.
The blood red leaves and sap have even turned black, just as Catelyn’s red tears and facial wounds turned black when she became Lady Stoneheart. Even that name, Stoneheart, like heart tree, and of course dead weirwoods even turn to stone after thousands of years.
Lady Stoneheart’s second appearance is even more obvious as some sort of weirwood goddess, as it comes inside the cave full of weirwood roots that the Brotherhood without Banners has made their home.
Lady Stoneheart lowered her hood and unwound the grey wool scarf from her face. Her hair was dry and brittle, white as bone. Her brow was mottled green and grey, spotted with the brown blooms of decay. The flesh of her face clung in ragged strips from her eyes down to her jaw. Some of the rips were crusted with dried blood, but others gaped open to reveal the skull beneath. Her face, Brienne thought. Her face was so strong and handsome, her skin so smooth and soft. “Lady Catelyn? Tears filled her eyes. “They said … they said that you were dead.”
“She is,” said Thoros of Myr. “The Freys slashed her throat from ear to ear. When we found her by the river she was three days dead. Harwin begged me to give her the kiss of life, but it had been too long. I would not do it, so Lord Beric put his lips to hers instead, and the flame of life passed from him to her. And … she rose. May the Lord of Light protect us. She rose.”
There’s the signature grey and green symbolism that seems to relate to the weirwoodnet and the cycle of life, and the word ‘mottled’ is in the same group with dappled, spotted, etc. Most importantly, we observe that Stoneheart was raised from the dead by Thoros passing his “flame of life” to Catelyn with the same fiery kiss of R’hllor which Thoros used to raise Beric from the dead. This spells out Catelyn as what George would call a “fire wight,” which is what he called Beric. This idea is enhanced in this same Brienne chapter when it says
The woman in grey hissed through her fingers. Her eyes were two red pits burning in the shadows.
It’s hard to say if her eyes are literally red and fiery like Melisandre’s appear to be, or if this is firelight reflecting in her eyes and simply descriptive language, but together with her being animated by fire magic, the implication, at least, seems to be clear. She reminds us a lot of the Ghost of High Heart, who has bone white hair and burning red eyes like Stoneheart, and who, like Stoneheart, is a ghost haunting weirwoods in the Riverlands.
Long story short, this all lines up with my perception of the weirwood goddess figure as the ghost of Nissa Nissa, which I see aligned with fire, the greenseers, the Night’s Watch, the green zombies, etc. If the weirwoodnet has a partition, as we are coming to think it may, the weirwood goddess lives in the non-Other side. Additionally, Beric’s Brotherhood without Banners has always seemed like an analog for the Night’s Watch because they defend the people against the marauding Lannisters, and Beric in particular compares to Bloodraven and Jon Snow. Beric serves as the symbolic template for the idea of fiery undead Night’s Watchman, with the fiery scarecrow sentinels from Jon’s Azor Ahai dream comparing perfectly to Beric, the Scarecrow Knight dressed in black who is animated by fire. The Green Zombies have always seemed to be resurrected by the weirwoods – by the weirwood goddess, in other words – just as in classic mythology it is always the triple goddess / moon goddess figure who resurrects the horned lord or green man.
Thus, when the Brotherhood passes from Beric to Lady Stoneheart along with the flame of life, it’s always read to me as more green zombie Night’s Watch stuff, with the living ghost of Catelyn showing us how the ghost of Nissa Nissa powers or orchestrates the Night’s Watch from inside the weirwoodnet.
Unfortunately it’s not so clear cut! Catelyn also has some potential connections to the Corpse Queen of the Night’s King legend, who is the signature ice queen / ice moon woman figure. She’s a corpse, for one thing, and her skin is a pale as milk, which is almost as good as moon pale. Her hair is bone white, and bone white and milk white are both phrases used to describe the Others. Most conspicuously, there are these lines, from the same Brienne AFFC chapter:
Lady Catelyn’s fingers dug deep into her throat, and the words came rattling out, choked and broken, a stream as cold as ice. The northman said, “She says that you must choose. Take the sword and slay the Kingslayer, or be hanged for a betrayer. The sword or the noose, she says. Choose, she says. Choose.”
Now this is obviously figurative language, but that’s just the sort of thing we look at for symbolic associations – and though she might be a fire wight, her speech comes out choked and broken as an icy stream. Even her interpreter is named as a “northman,” which could fit.
There are also a pretty nice Others double entendre here, and although I don’t like to put too much stock in those, using them to confirm rather than establish ideas, but take a look at the description of the cave when Brienne enters at the beginning of this scene:
A fire pit had been dug into the center of the floor, and the air was blue with smoke. Men clustered near the flames, warming themselves against the chill of the cave. Others stood along the walls or sat cross-legged on straw pallets.
This one stands out because of the blue air and the capitalized “Others.” They are even standing along the walls, away from the fire, ha. The Brotherhood has also taken a darker turn under the new leadership, as reflected in these lines:
“My lady,” Thoros said, “I do not doubt that kindness and mercy and forgiveness can still be found somewhere in these Seven Kingdoms, but do not look for them here. This is a cave, not a temple. When men must live like rats in the dark beneath the earth, they soon run out of pity, as they do of milk and honey.”
“And justice? Can that be found in caves?”
“Justice.” Thoros smiled wanly. “I remember justice. It had a pleasant taste. Justice was what we were about when Beric led us, or so we told ourselves. We were king’s men, knights, and heroes … but some knights are dark and full of terror, my lady. War makes monsters of us all.”
Now this could certainly apply to the green zombies I hypothesize, especially since Coldhands is labelled a monster repeatedly by Bran. However it’s also possible George is drawing a distinction here between the two groups.
Now I actually have a good explanation for why Stoneheart’s voice is icy in that quote which can still line up with my original interpretation. It has to do with the sword Oathkeeper, the concept of frozen fire. Recall the similarities between the two favorite weapons of the Night’s Watch to fight the Others: dragonglass, which is called frozen fire and looks like black ice, and Valyrian steel, which is also black (dark-grey to black) and in the case of Ned’s sword Ice, is even “black ice” in a less literal sense. Like dragonglass, Valyrian steel was formed in a molten state, and even once cooled and hardened, seems to possess the power of fire magic. This “black ice / frozen fire” symbol seems to reflect a synthesis of ice and fire but one which plays on team fire.
Think about it like this: obsidian and Valyrian steel are like fire frozen in place, a perfect opposite of the Others, who are animated by an icy power that burns cold. The Night’s Watch use the frozen fire weapons to defeat the burning ice Others. If Lady Stoneheart is the weirwood goddess as she appears to be, and the Brotherhood her Night’s Watch analogues, then perhaps her icy stream of choked words is like that. In particular, I would point to the presence of Oathkeeper in this scene, which is one half of Ned’s black “Ice” sword. Check out that bit:
Another of the outlaws stepped forward, a younger man in a greasy sheepskin jerkin. In his hand was Oathkeeper. “This says it is.” His voice was frosted with the accents of the north. He slid the sword from its scabbard and placed it in front of Lady Stoneheart. In the light from the firepit the red and black ripples in the blade almost seemed to move, but the woman in grey had eyes only for the pommel: a golden lion’s head, with ruby eyes that shone like two red stars.
I want you to think about the concept of a sword voice, part of what Ravenous Reader calls the killing word. Oathkeeper’s other half is Widow’s Wail – a sword named after a woman’s cry. But like Oathkeeper, Widow’s Wail is really ice – I think you can see where I am going with this. Catelyn / Stoneheart is a widow with a voice like a stream of icy water, and Widow’s Wail is made of ice and has “waves of night and blood,” meaning… water. Icy water, black and red icy water, etc. Just like that Jon scene at the Wall I love quote from:
Jon Snow turned away. The last light of the sun had begun to fade. He watched the cracks along the Wall go from red to grey to black, from streaks of fire to rivers of black ice.
Red fire and black ice is the same combination we see here in Stoneheart’s cave with Oathkeeper: it’s made from Ned’s black sword Ice, and the red garnets in the eyes of the lion’s head on the pommel shine like red stars. Then in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream… black ice armor, a Valyrian steel sword burning red in his fist. I’ve long pointed to the black ice / red fire combo as a Lightbringer thing that shows a balancing of ice and fire. Finding that combo on Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, well, I’ve always pointed to that as evidence that Martin has been using Ice as a Lightbringer symbol – and of course Arya compares the red comet to Ice covered with Ned’s Blood, so that all fits.
The weirwoods are also a symbol or incarnation of Lightbringer however – they represent the power and fire of the gods, like Lightbringer the sword, and just as the Lightbringer legend has Nissa Nissa’s soul and strength going into the sword, we have found the Nissa Nissa’s soul actually goes into the weirwoods. Lightbringer is a sword that burns without being consumed, and the weirwoods are depicted in symbolic terms as a tree which burns but which is not consumed, like Moses’s burning bush.
With this in mind, consider the parallels between Catelyn, the weirwood goddess, and the swords which used to be Ice, which symbolize Lightbringer. Both Stoneheart and the swords have burning red eyes – the line even suggests a comparison when it says “the woman in grey had eyes only for the pommel; a golden lion’s head, with ruby eyes that shone like two red stars.” Stoneheart is even a “cat” with burning red eyes, just like the lion’s head pommel. Again, she’s a widow, like Widow’s Wail, and her widow’s voice is like an icy stream, like Widow’s Wail is made of Ned’s “black Ice” and appears to have waves in its steel.
We’ve caught on to the pun contained in the word “justice” – “just Ice,” as in Ned’s ice that he does justice with. In our livechat, Gretchen and Merry made the point that justice can be perceived as a combination of duty and passion, and this maps well to the splitting of Ice into Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, and to the state of the Brotherhood under Lady Stoneheart. So – Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail; duty and passion, the two halves of justice, and of Ned’s Ice. Brienne is the oath-keeper who does her duty, with Stoneheart even telling Brienne to “keep her oath.” Stoneheart herself is basically vengeance and hatred incarnate, and accordingly, Thoros tells Brienne that neither mercy nor justice should not be expected here in the cave. Brienne the Oathkeeper and Stoneheart the Wailing Widow used to be on the same side, but are now opposed, mirroring the splitting of Ice. The pieces are there, but in opposition to each other.
Going back to the quote where Oathkeeper is given to Lady Stoneheart, listen to this part again: “This says it is.” His voice was frosted with the accents of the north. He slid the sword from its scabbard and placed it in front of Lady Stoneheart.” In between lines about the sword formerly known as ice, he see that the sword-bearer’s voice is frosted with the north. It looks like a case of Martin emphasizing a theme in multiple ways, coming only moments before Stoneheart’s icy voice. Stoneheart’s icy words were a command to take Oathkeeper and kill Jaime, and these words are even described as a sword:
The thing that had been Catelyn Stark took hold of her throat again, fingers pinching at the ghastly long slash in her neck, and choked out more sounds. “Words are wind, she says,” the northman told Brienne. “She says that you must prove your faith.”
“How?” asked Brienne.
“With your sword. Oathkeeper, you call it? Then keep your oath to her, milady says.”
“What does she want of me?”
“She wants her son alive, or the men who killed him dead,” said the big man. “She wants to feed the crows, like they did at the Red Wedding. Freys and Boltons, aye. We’ll give her those, as many as she likes. All she asks from you is Jaime Lannister.”
Jaime. The name was a knife, twisting in her belly.
So, Stoneheart, fire wighted weirwood goddess that she is, has a sword voice like ice. She speaks the name that stabs Brienne like a knife – an icy knife, to be sure. But again, Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper, and Ice before them, were “icy knives,” and Stoneheart has one of those too, in this same scene.
Just in case you aren’t convinced, the chapter ends with Brienne being forced to choose the sword or the noose, Brienne refusing and being hung, and then as she’s hung, the chapter ends with her screaming “a word”…. which George R. R. Martin has confirmed was “sword.” To put it simply, words and voices as knives and swords are everywhere in this chapter. Oathkeeper is named after words – an oath, just as Widow’s Wail is named for a scream. And again, the chapter ends with the line “she screamed a word.” That word was “sword,” and it constituted a commitment to keep an oath to Catelyn. An oath to use a sword. That was screamed. Okay you get it!
That to me all lines up with Catelyn as the weirwood goddess, although that blue, smokey air still troubles me. A fire that turns the air blue could be a way of suggesting blue fire, even though it’s the smoke turning the air blue in actuality. Here’s the broader point though: we do know that plenty of Nissa Nissa figures turn into ice queen figures. Sansa at the Eyrie, Cersei imprisoned in the Sept of Baelor, or dying Ygritte, who’s death scene we quoted last episode:
He found Ygritte sprawled across a patch of old snow beneath the Lord Commander’s Tower, with an arrow between her breasts. The ice crystals had settled over her face, and in the moonlight it looked as though she wore a glittering silver mask.
Ygritte is kissed by fire, and plays out Nissa Nissa scenarios with Jon a few times before her death here. But her death, well, that’s the biggest Nissa Nissa moment of them all. She has taken an arrow to the breast, comparable to Azor stabbing Nissa in her bared breast. It isn’t Jon’s, but in his dreams, it is, he thinks to himself. And yet, here is Ygritte putting on an icy, moon-silver mask as she dies. The weirwood faces are very like masks for the greenseer inside them, but this mask is made of ice. It’s like Nissa Nissa being trapped in the icy pond, in the frozen side of the weirwoodnet sea. Again, it’s comparable to Sansa being reborn with a new identity when she goes to the icy Vale, or like Cersei shaving her golden hair as she is imprisoned in the white marble Sept.
This could be explained with some version of the idea “the Corpse Queen / Night’s Queen is undead Nissa Nissa.” And this seems to be true, in some sense… but then we also have this weirwood goddess figure who seems to be fiery – the Ghost of High Heart for sure, and Lady Stoneheart, quite possibly. This has lead to ideas about bifurcation of Nissa Nissa, something we will discuss today. We will also discuss the possibility that Nissa Nissa’s spirit is only temporarily trapped on the icy side of the net – for example, Sansa will leave the hair and let her red hair grow back; Cersei escapes the Sept, grows her hair back, and seems to have wild, fiery plans in her future; and even Ygritte temporarily appears to have returned to fiery life when Jon sees Melisandre as Ygritte in the moonlight, just for a moment.
Ghost of High Heart
The Ghost of High Heart is labelled as an old one in ASOS:
“Tell her,” the lightning lord commanded Thoros. The red priest squatted down beside her. “My lady,” he said, “the Lord granted me a view of Riverrun. An island in a sea of fire, it seemed. The flames were leaping lions with long crimson claws. And how they roared! A sea of Lannisters, my lady. Riverrun will soon come under attack.”
Arya felt as though he’d punched her in the belly. “No!”
“Sweetling,” said Thoros, “the flames do not lie. Sometimes I read them wrongly, blind fool that I am. But not this time, I think. The Lannisters will soon have Riverrun under siege.”
“Robb will beat them.” Arya got a stubborn look. “He’ll beat them like he did before.”
“Your brother may be gone,” said Thoros. “Your mother as well. I did not see them in the flames. This wedding the old one spoke of, a wedding on the Twins … she has her own ways of knowing things, that one. The weirwoods whisper in her ear when she sleeps. If she says your mother is gone to the Twins …”
Ghost of High Heart description:
That night the wind was howling almost like a wolf and there were some real wolves off to the west giving it lessons. Notch, Anguy, and Merrit o’ Moontown had the watch. Ned, Gendry, and many of the others were fast asleep when Arya spied the small pale shape creeping behind the horses, thin white hair flying wild as she leaned upon a gnarled cane. The woman could not have been more than three feet tall. The firelight made her eyes gleam as red as the eyes of Jon’s wolf. He was a ghost too. Arya stole closer, and knelt to watch.
Thoros and Lem were with Lord Beric when the dwarf woman sat down uninvited by the fire. She squinted at them with eyes like hot coals.
This passage loaded with old ones shit; old bones, blood drinking weirwood lady, and more:
She had but a single tooth remaining. “Give me wine or I will go. My bones are old. My joints ache when the winds do blow, and up here the winds are always blowing.”
“A silver stag for your dreams, my lady,” Lord Beric said, with solemn courtesy. “Another if you have news for us.”
“I cannot eat a silver stag, nor ride one. A skin of wine for my dreams, and for my news a kiss from the great oaf in the yellow cloak.” The little woman cackled. “Aye, a sloppy kiss, a bit of tongue. It has been too long, too long. His mouth will taste of lemons, and mine of bones. I am too old.”
“Aye,” Lem complained. “Too old for wine and kisses. All you’ll get from me is the flat of my sword, crone.”
“My hair comes out in handfuls and no one has kissed me for a thousand years. It is hard to be so old. Well, I will have a song then. A song from Tom o’ Sevens, for my news.”
“You will have your song from Tom,” Lord Beric promised. He gave her the wineskin himself. The dwarf woman drank deep, the wine running down her chin. When she lowered the skin, she wiped her mouth with the back of a wrinkled hand and said, “Sour wine for sour tidings, what could be more fitting? The king is dead, is that sour enough for you?”
Arya’s heart caught in her throat.
The Old One has old bones, very nice. She says it twice, as a matter of fact. Here she is demanding a bit of tongue – think of the idea of a flesh-eating weirwood here – and settles for red wine that runs out the corners of her mouth like the bloody mouth of weirwood. She already has the red eyes of course.
What’s interesting is that it is Beric who hands her the blood-red wine, and that I have pointed to as Azor Ahai giving his blood and life to the weirwoods. Similarly, Beric gives his flame of life to dead Catelyn, another weirwood goddess, which points to Stoneheart and the Ghost of High Heart being parallel figures, maybe? Melisandre is another fiery weirwood goddess, and she takes the life fires of Stannis, then wants to do the same with Davos and Jon. The shadowbabies that Mel makes out of these fires seem to parallel the Night’s Watch, men who are black shadows and who are aligned with fire, and again I will say that I have always read Beric’s knights of the hollow hill to parallel the Night’s Watch as well.
In any case, the Ghost of High Heart is the easiest to identify as a weirwood goddess / weirwood ghost figure – clearly, she is not a Corpse Queen / Night’s Queen figure, and clearly, there is no icy symbolism about her. This to me is the place to anchor our idea of the ghost of Nissa Nissa weirwood goddess archetype; this figure leaves little doubt that some part of Nissa Nissa does indeed linger inside the weirwoods. The fact we get a weirwood associated last hero figure, Beric, seeking out the Ghost of the High Heart amongst the weirwood stumps seems like an echo of the last hero seeking out the children of the forest for aid in defeating the Others. That’s who relies on the ghost of Nissa Nissa for aid – the Night’s Watch and the last hero.
Night’s Queen Was an Old One
I have two old ones quotes which both apply to women that seem to be cast as ice associated, Night’s Queen figures, so let’s have a look at those to balance out the picture.
He had liked the look of Craster’s Keep, himself. Craster lived high as a lord there, so why shouldn’t he do the same? That would be a laugh. Chett the leechman’s son, a lord with a keep. His banner could be a dozen leeches on a field of pink. But why stop at lord? Maybe he should be a king. Mance Rayder started out a crow. I could be a king same as him, and have me some wives. Craster had nineteen, not even counting the young ones, the daughters he hadn’t gotten around to bedding yet. Half them wives were as old and ugly as Craster, but that didn’t matter. The old ones Chett could put to work cooking and cleaning for him, pulling carrots and slopping pigs, while the young ones warmed his bed and bore his children.
So, first of all, fuck Chett, he’s a good candidate to go far in the ASOIAF March Madness least favorite characters tournament. Second of all, Craster’s “wives” are obvious “mother of the Others” women, and Craster a white-walker-spawning Night’s King figure – and as we can see, this is a hub of Old Ones activity. In the last episode, we looked at all the evidence that the Others have an origin with the Green Men, who seem to be the Old Ones, and here we see the implication that Night’s Queen, the first mother of the Others, was in some sense an Old One.
Here’s a similar quote about the daughters of Walder Frey, another Night’s King figure with obvious parallels to Craster:
Your family has always pissed on me, don’t deny it, don’t lie, you know it’s true. Years ago, I went to your father and suggested a match between his son and my daughter. Why not? I had a daughter in mind, sweet girl, only a few years older than Edmure, but if your brother didn’t warm to her, I had others he might have had, young ones, old ones, virgins, widows, whatever he wanted. No, Lord Hoster would not hear of it. Sweet words he gave me, excuses, but what I wanted was to get rid of a daughter.
The notable things here are that this is the scene where Robb promises to marry a Frey woman, and the haunting presence of the horned moon outside the castle:
The rest was only haggling. A swollen red sun hung low against the western hills when the gates of the castle opened. The drawbridge creaked down, the portcullis winched up, and Lady Catelyn Stark rode forth to rejoin her son and his lords bannermen.
And then a moment later when Cat relates the details of the agreement to Robb:
“I consent,” Robb said solemnly. He had never seemed more manly to her than he did in that moment. Boys might play with swords, but it took a lord to make a marriage pact, knowing what it meant.
They crossed at evenfall as a horned moon floated upon the river. The double column wound its way through the gate of the eastern twin like a great steel snake, slithering across the courtyard, into the keep and over the bridge, to issue forth once more from the second castle on the west bank. Catelyn rode at the head of the serpent, with her son and her uncle Ser Brynden and Ser Stevron Frey. Behind followed nine tenths of their horse; knights, lancers, freeriders, and mounted bowmen. It took hours for them all to cross. Afterward, Catelyn would remember the clatter of countless hooves on the drawbridge, the sight of Lord Walder Frey in his litter watching them pass, the glitter of eyes peering down through the slats of the murder holes in the ceiling as they rode through the Water Tower.
Lots to discuss there in the details, and what stands out are heavenly bodies – the swollen, dying sun setting in the western hills, and then the horned moon floating on the waters. I also like how it says “it takes a lord to make a pact” and then immediately after the line about the horned moon. Robb is the pact-making horned lord here, and he’s unfortunately also sealing his own fate at the Red Wedding, which you can see foreshadowed here by the eyes peering through the murder holes. His army is a great steel serpent, and one wonders if George is paring the snake and the horned lord symbolism in imitation of the snake which Cernunnos usually holds.
So that’s what we have for Night’s Queen figures who carry the epithet “Old One.” Some discussion points here might be what the implications of Robb promising to marry one woman and then marrying another here might be, as well as the implications of Craster’s wives as Old Ones who are kept in some sort of slavery or thralldom, with Gilly being the one who escaped.
A couple of parallel figures to note: Morna White Mask, for one, who is a wildling:
The warrior witch Morna removed her weirwood mask just long enough to kiss his gloved hand and swear to be his man or his woman, whichever he preferred.
Interestingly, Jon later confers Queensgate on Morna White Mask, which used to be named Snowgate before another ice queen figure, Alysanne Targaryen, visited it and it was renamed in her honor. Both the idea of a Queen’s gate and a snow gate are intriguing, since the Black Gate weirwood face at the Nightfort may have been used to smuggle out the children of Night’s King and Queen to the Others. Those children might be thought as bastards – as “Snows,” like Jon, and of course they are turned into beings of ice and snow, the Others. The weirwood itself is a gate of course, and so here is this person with a weirwood mask in charge of “Queensgate.”
Val is another weirwood-associated ice queen:
“Did you follow me as well?” Jon reached to shoo the bird away but ended up stroking its feathers. The raven cocked its eye at him. “Snow,” it muttered, bobbing its head knowingly. Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.
They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.
A white weirwood woman with blue eyes, a match for the weirwood wolf with red eyes. Pale shadows of ice and fire, if you will. Then there is this quote:
The road beneath the Wall was as dark and cold as the belly of an ice dragon and as twisty as a serpent. Dolorous Edd led them through with a torch in hand. Mully had the keys for the three gates, where bars of black iron as thick as a man’s arm closed off the passage. Spearmen at each gate knuckled their foreheads at Jon Snow but stared openly at Val and her garron.
When they emerged north of the Wall, through a thick door made of freshly hewn green wood, the wildling princess paused for a moment to gaze out across the snow-covered field where King Stannis had won his battle. Beyond, the haunted forest waited, dark and silent. The light of the half-moon turned Val’s honey-blond hair a pale silver and left her cheeks as white as snow. She took a deep breath. “The air tastes sweet.”
“My tongue is too numb to tell. All I can taste is cold.”
“Cold?” Val laughed lightly. “No. When it is cold it will hurt to breathe. When the Others come …”
Interesting that Val and Jon pass through the belly of the ice dragon together, and when they emerge north of the Wall – where Night’s King saw his queen – Val gets the Night’s Queen treatment. Moon-pale and snow-white, and seemingly unperturbed by the extreme cold. Val is also able to come and go in the Haunted Forest without fear or danger, seemingly. It’s a great scene, and once again it clues us into the idea that the Night’s Queen / ice queen figures have a strong connection to the weirwoods.
Gretchen points out all the icy womb talk with tese two women, Morna and Val. A “queen’s gate” is a euphemism for a birth canal, the gate out of a woman’s womb. Ultimately we are taking “Snowgate” and “Queensgate” as giving us clues about the Black Gate weirwood face, so and of course if babies were smuggled through the Black Gate… it’s even functioning as a birth canal – a cold one. Gilly’s Monster is smuggled back through that same gate, and Bran, still a child, goes through it as well.
Then we have the idea of passing through the belly of the ice dragon when Val and Jon walk through the Wall. The words “belly” and “tummy” can be used to refer to a womb, and often are by George, so this is like being born out of the womb of the ice dragon. This lines up well with the idea of the Wall as a symbol of a partition or the “veil of tears.”
With all this cold womb talk, one thinks of the girl Adara from Martin’s book “The Ice Dragon.” Some sort of magic cold stole into her mother’s womb, and Adar was born like a young Night’s Queen, with blue eyes and cold skin and whatnot. She also had the ability to befriend and bond with an ice dragon, and these ideas factored into Durran Durrandon’s theory about Night’s Queen being more like a cold version of Melisandre (The One God, Two Gods, Red God, Blue essay, which formed the basis of my own “Prelude to a Chill”).
Thistle the wildling does not get the “Old One” treatment, but she is absolutely central to the Nissa Nissa-to-Night’s Queen transformation idea, so we have to review her weirwood stigmata scene in brief. The first thing to note is the weirwood tree being Otherized:
He could see the humped shapes of other huts buried beneath drifts of snow, and beyond them the pale shadow of a weirwood armored in ice.
This is an important symbol, because the weirwoods usually are described as bone white, with leaves like bloody hands or a blaze of flame, but here there is no talk of blood or fire, but instead, the tree is described like an Other; a pale shadow armored in ice. It gets even worse after everyone dies and the wights move in:
Below, the world had turned to ice. Fingers of frost crept slowly up the weirwood, reaching out for each other. The empty village was no longer empty. Blue-eyed shadows walked amongst the mounds of snow.
Fingers of frost are like the opposite of the bloody / fiery hand symbol of the weirwoods, completing the transformation idea here. The weirwoodnet – or at least some part of it – is freezing over! Of course this happens right after Thistle is transformed – and her transformation mirrors that of the tree. When Varamyr invades her, she gets the most horrible kind of vivid weirwood stigmata, biting off her tongue, clawing at her eyes and weeping tears of blood, etc. The tongue is important, because that creates the silent weirwood / silenced woman symbolism. But then, after everything freezes over and the wights move in…
The things below moved, but did not live. One by one, they raised their heads toward the three wolves on the hill. The last to look was the thing that had been Thistle. She wore wool and fur and leather, and over that she wore a coat of hoarfrost that crackled when she moved and glistened in the moonlight. Pale pink icicles hung from her fingertips, ten long knives of frozen blood. And in the pits where her eyes had been, a pale blue light was flickering, lending her coarse features an eerie beauty they had never known in life. She sees me.
Alright, it’s a beautiful corpse lady with blue star eyes and icy skin the glistens in the moonlight! That’s our Night’s Queen figure alright. But wasn’t she just turning into a weirwood and dying a Nissa Nissa death? Well, pretty much, yes! Of course, this is “the thing that had been Thistle,” not Thistle’s ghost, although we are really getting into fictional metaphysics here and it’s always a bit squishy. But that’s what’s at the heart of the bifurcation idea, that there may be separate paths for Nissa Nissa’s spirit and body, something like that.
Another noteworthy detail: those ten long pink knives of frozen blood. Those are essentially ice swords, and bloody ones at that…. and that compares very well to Lady Stoneheart holding Oathkeeper, which is one half of Ned’s “Ice” sword, now dyed partially blood-red. Both Stoneheart and wighted Thistle have bloody ice swords, to put it simply, and that’s really something. Thistle’s knives are pale pink and made of ice while Oathkeeper is dark red and black, and made of steel, so there are notable differences, but they are definitely parallel symbols in some sense. To that I might add the glamoured Lightbringer Mel conjures up for Stannis; it’s icy in that it gives off no heat unless coated in wildfire, so it’s a cold Lightbringer sword, which is kind of similar.
One last parallel between frozen Thistle and the frozen weirwood: they both seem to see and judge Waymar. “She sees me” was the last line of this epic ADWD prologue, and right bfore Varamyr tries to bodysnatch Thistle, we read
Varamyr could see the weirwood’s red eyes staring down at him from the white trunk. The gods are weighing me. A shiver went through him. He had done bad things, terrible things.
So there you have it – Thistle is a weirwood goddess figure who ends up as the Night’s Queen. She turns from fiery, or at least warm, to icy, mirroring the freezing weirwood in the scene. Thistle’s coat of hoarfrost is very like the mask Ygritte wears when she dies and turns cold: “The ice crystals had settled over her face, and in the moonlight it looked as though she wore a glittering silver mask.”
Sansa’s Murder Dress
Here’s a fun one – Sansa’s murder dress. Meaning, the one she wears at the “Purple Wedding” when the Tyrells use the strangler poison disguised as a fake amethyst planted in Sansa’s hairnet to murder Joffrey at his wedding to Margarey. We aren’t actually told what the dress looks like, but it’s labelled as an old one in this quote here:
She would wear her new gown for the ceremony at the Great Sept of Baelor, she decided as the seamstress took her last measurement. That must be why Cersei is having it made for me, so I will not look shabby at the wedding. She really ought to have a different gown for the feast afterward but she supposed one of her old ones would do. She did not want to risk getting food or wine on the new one. I must take it with me to Highgarden. She wanted to look beautiful for Willas Tyrell. Even if Dontos was right, and it is Winterfell he wants and not me, he still may come to love me for myself. Sansa hugged herself tightly, wondering how long it would be before the gown was ready. She could scarcely wait to wear it.
The old one dress is the one she is wearing to the feast after the wedding – and that is of course where Joffrey is murdered. Still, nothing really jumped out at me here until I considered that this would be the dress she is wearing when she flees Kings Landing after Joffrey’s murder, and check out the quote where she stashes the dress in a tree in the godswood:
The gods are just, thought Sansa. Robb had died at a wedding feast as well. It was Robb she wept for. Him and Margaery. Poor Margaery, twice wed and twice widowed. Sansa slid her arm from a sleeve, pushed down the gown, and wriggled out of it. She balled it up and shoved it into the bole of an oak, shook out the clothing she had hidden there.
We’ll read the rest of this passage in a moment, but I want to cut in here to point out the obvious – Sansa is shedding her “old ones” skin and leaving it inside the trees, then pulling a new skin from the trees and putting it on. Said another way, a changing of skins is being facilitated by the trees, and her starting point was “Old One.” This is simply another way of saying that Nissa Nissa was an Old One, meaning a green woman, which might just mean child of the forest or child / human hybrid, we can’t know for sure. This is the skin she is shedding here, which is part of her death transformation. These are more clues about Nissa Nissa dying, but going into the woods as a kind of escape… and then perhaps journeying somewhere else.
Dress warmly, Ser Dontos had told her, and dress dark. She had no blacks, so she chose a dress of thick brown wool. The bodice was decorated with freshwater pearls, though. The cloak will cover them. The cloak was a deep green, with a large hood. She slipped the dress over her head, and donned the cloak, though she left the hood down for the moment. There were shoes as well, simple and sturdy, with flat heels and square toes. The gods heard my prayer, she thought. She felt so numb and dreamy. My skin has turned to porcelain, to ivory, to steel. (ASOS, Sansa)
As you can clearly tell from the last line, this is a transformation scene for Sansa, coming just when you’d expect one – as she finally escapes captivity and goes into hiding, with her about to take a new name of Alayne Stone, as we know. From porcelain and ivory to steel, in astronomy terms, reflects a moon turning into moon meteors, the ones containing iron ore to make steel swords. Even more clear is the name change – Sansa is turning into a “Stone,” which is as good a clue as you are going to find. So, Sansa fleeing from Kings Landing and turning into a Stone represents a moon exploding and turning into moon meteors, which fly away from the explosion. And don’t forget that funny little rumor running around that “she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window.” This is very similar to a moon cracking open to birth dragons, except it’s a woman transforming into a ‘scary’ flying animal instead of a moon. Whether she’s a flying wolf bat or a flying stone, she’s going to “land,” so to speak, in the ice and snow of the Vale, which represents the ice moon. This is essentially the dragon locked in ice path, just with a female character.
In terms of archetypes, this is an example of Nissa Nissa seeming to transform into the Night’s Queen. At the very least, she is becoming frozen and even corpse-like as she climbs down the ladder, boards the Merling King, and sails to the Fingers and then journeys to the icy Eyrie. This is either Nissa Nissa being locked in ice, as in “on the Others frozen side of the weirwoodnet”, or this represents some part of Nissa Nissa becoming Night’s Queen. There is simply no question in my mind that Sansa taking on an entirely new identity in the icy Vale is telling us something specific about the Nissa Nissa archetype.
This passage describing Sansa’s assumption of the Alayne Stone identity, to me, sounds like Sansa skinchanging the corpse of a dead girl. Take a look, and keep in mind that only a few pages before this, she thinks to herself that she “must look as haggard as a corpse.” This is Petyr coming up with Sansa’s fake backstory here:
“Alayne … Stone, would it be?” When he nodded, she said, “But who is my mother?”
“Please no,” she said, mortified.
“I was teasing. Your mother was a gentlewoman of Braavos, daughter of a merchant prince. We met in Gulltown when I had charge of the port. She died giving you birth, and entrusted you to the Faith. I have some devotional books you can look over. Learn to quote from them. Nothing discourages unwanted questions as much as a flow of pious bleating. In any case, at your flowering you decided you did not wish to be a septa and wrote to me. That was the first I knew of your existence.” He fingered his beard. “Do you think you can remember all that?”
“I hope. It will be like playing a game, won’t it?”
“Are you fond of games, Alayne?”
The new name would take some getting used to. “Games? I … I suppose it would depend …”
This fake identity of Alayne Stone is essentially a person who doesn’t really exist; so to me that’s like a shell of a person, like a corpse that a different soul can steal. This fake person, Alayne Stone, grew in care of the Faith of the Seven, training to be a Septa, which is essentially like being raised on ice moon world. We tend to associate things having to do with the Faith with “team ice,” for lack of a better word, because that’s just what George seems to be doing. with all the snowy white marble and crystalline everything and the sigil of the Warrior’s Sons and so on and so forth. This identity has been kept on ice, in other words, waiting for Sansa to slip into it.
One might compare the empty Alayne Stone identity to the Eyrie itself:
The garden had been meant for a godswood once, she knew, but the soil was too thin and stony for a weirwood to take root. A godswood without gods, as empty as me.
Oh, look, Martin is actually comparing Sansa to the Eyrie – or at least, to the godswood. It’s described as empty, and the castle is empty as well, and this is the longer description of the Eyrie from AFFC:
Old snow cloaked the courtyard, and icicles hung down like crystal spears from the terraces and towers. The Eyrie was built of fine white stone, and winter’s mantle made it whiter still. So beautiful, Alayne thought, so impregnable. She could not love this place, no matter how she tried. Even before the guards and serving men had made their descent, the castle had seemed as empty as a tomb, and more so when Petyr Baelish was away. No one sang up there, not since Marillion. No one ever laughed too loud. Even the gods were silent. The Eyrie boasted a sept, but no septon; a godswood, but no heart tree. No prayers are answered here, she often thought, though some days she felt so lonely she had to try. Only the wind answered her, sighing endlessly around the seven slim white towers and rattling the Moon Door every time it gusted. It will be even worse in winter, she knew. In winter this will be a cold white prison.
As I have joked before, Sansa as the weirwood goddess figure
Cersei the Old Queen
Before reading this, note that Gyles Rosby is elsewhere labelled as an Old One, and has symbolism to back it up.
Thanks to Stannis and his filthy letter, there were already too many rumors concerning Tommen’s parentage. Cersei dared not fan the fires by insisting that he drape his bride in Lannister crimson, so she yielded as gracefully as she could. But the sight of all that gold and onyx still filled her with resentment. The more we give these Tyrells, the more they demand of us.
When all the vows were spoken, the king and his new queen stepped outside the sept to accept congratulations. “Westeros has two queens now, and the young one is as beautiful as the old one,” boomed Lyle Crakehall, an oaf of a knight who oft reminded Cersei of her late and unlamented husband. She could have slapped him. Gyles Rosby made to kiss her hand, and only succeeded in coughing on her fingers. (AFFC, CERSEI)
Cersei Ice Queen quotes
First appearance in AGOT, Jon observing Cersei at the feast in Winterfell:
Two seats away, the king had been drinking heavily all night. His broad face was flushed behind his great black beard. He made many a toast, laughed loudly at every jest, and attacked each dish like a starving man, but beside him the queen seemed as cold as an ice sculpture. “The queen is angry too,” Jon told his uncle in a low, quiet voice. “Father took the king down to the crypts this afternoon. The queen didn’t want him to go.”
ASOS, Tywin telling Cersei to remarry:
“The Tyrell heir would be my choice,” Lord Tywin concluded, “but if you would prefer another, I will hear your reasons.”
“That is so very kind of you, Father,” Cersei said with icy courtesy. “It is such a difficult choice you give me. Who would I sooner take to bed, the old squid or the crippled dog boy? I shall need a few days to consider. Do I have your leave to go?”
You are the queen, Tyrion wanted to tell her. He ought to be begging leave of you.
Oh, I pray the Seven will not let it rain upon the king’s wedding,” Jocelyn Swyft said as she laced up the queen’s gown.
“No one wants rain,” said Cersei. For herself, she wanted sleet and ice, howling winds, thunder to shake the very stones of the Red Keep. She wanted a storm to match her rage. To Jocelyn she said, “Tighter. Cinch it tighter, you simpering little fool.”
It was the wedding that enraged her, though the slow-witted Swyft girl made a safer target. Tommen’s hold upon the Iron Throne was not secure enough for her to risk offending Highgarden. Not so long as Stannis Baratheon held Dragonstone and Storm’s End, so long as Riverrun continued in defiance, so long as ironmen prowled the seas like wolves. So Jocelyn must needs eat the meal Cersei would sooner have served to Margaery Tyrell and her hideous wrinkled grandmother.
Right before she is arrested:
“No,” said the High Septon.
It was only a word, one little word, but to Cersei it felt like a splash of icy water in the face. She blinked, and her certainty flickered, just a little. “Ser Osney will be held securely, I promise you.”
“He is held securely here. Come. I will show you.”
Cersei could feel the eyes of the Seven staring at her, eyes of jade and malachite and onyx, and a sudden shiver of fear went through her, cold as ice. I am the queen, she told herself. Lord Tywin’s daughter. Reluctantly, she followed.
Ser Osney was not far. The chamber was dark, and closed by a heavy iron door. The High Septon produced the key to open it, and took a torch down from the wall to light the room within. “After you, Your Grace.”
( . . . )
Osney Kettleblack opened his eyes. When he saw the queen standing there before him he ran his tongue across his swollen lips, and said, “The Wall. You promised me the Wall.”
“He is mad,” said Cersei. “You have driven him mad.”
“Ser Osney,” said the High Septon, in a firm, clear voice, “did you have carnal knowledge of the queen?”
“Aye.” The chains rattled softly as Osney twisted in his shackles. “That one there. She’s the queen I fucked, the one sent me to kill the old High Septon. He never had no guards. I just come in when he was sleeping and pushed a pillow down across his face.”
So here’s cersei promising someone the Wall, very interesting. She’s also been exposed as someone orchestrating the supplanting of one High Septon for another, with the High Septon representing the leader or ruler of the ice moon / frozen part of the weirwoodnet. Shades of Sansa supplanting Lysa perhaps? The scene continues:
Cersei whirled, and ran. The High Septon tried to seize her, but he was some old sparrow and she was a lioness of the Rock. She pushed him aside and burst through the door, slamming it behind her with a clang. The Kettleblacks, I need the Kettleblacks, I will send in Osfryd with the gold cloaks and Osmund with the Kingsguard, Osney will deny it all once they cut him free, and I’ll rid myself of this High Septon just as I did the other. The four old septas blocked her way and clutched at her with wrinkled hands. She knocked one to the floor and clawed another across the face, and gained the steps. Halfway up, she remembered Taena Merryweather. It made her stumble, panting. Seven save me, she prayed. Taena knows it all. If they take her too, and whip her …
She ran as far as the Sept, but no farther. There were women waiting for her there, more septas and silent sisters too, younger than the four old crones below. “I am the queen,” she shouted, backing away from them. “I will have your heads for this, I will have all your heads. Let me pass.” Instead, they laid hands upon her. Cersei ran to the altar of the Mother, but they caught her there, a score of them, and dragged her kicking up the tower steps.
Inside the cell three silent sisters held her down as a septa named Scolera stripped her bare. She even took her smallclothes. Another septa tossed a roughspun shift at her. “You cannot do this,” the queen kept screaming at them. “I am a Lannister, unhand me, my brother will kill you, Jaime will slice you open from throat to cunt, unhand me! I am the queen!”
“The queen should pray,” said Septa Scolera, before they left her naked in the cold bleak cell.
( . . . )
She screamed and kicked and howled until her throat was raw, at the door and at the window. No one shouted back, nor came to rescue her. The cell began to darken. It was growing cold as well. Cersei began to shiver. How can they leave me like this, without so much as a fire? I am their queen.
( . . . )
An hour and an hour and an hour. So passed the longest night that Cersei Lannister had ever known, save for the night of Joffrey’s wedding. Her throat was so raw from shouting that she could hardly swallow. The cell turned freezing cold. She had smashed the chamber pot, so she had to squat in a corner to make her water and watch it trickle across the floor. Every time she closed her eyes, Unella was looming over her again, shaking her and asking her if she wanted to confess her sins.
( . . )
It was near dawn on the second day and Cersei was licking the last of the porridge from the bottom of the bowl when her cell door swung open unexpectedly to admit Lord Qyburn. It was all she could do not to throw herself at him. “Qyburn,” she whispered, “oh, gods, I am so glad to see your face. Take me home.” “That will not be allowed. You are to be tried before a holy court of seven, for murder, treason, and fornication.”
Before the walk of shame:
Barefoot and shivering she paced, a thin blanket draped about her shoulders. She was anxious for the day to come. By evening it would all be done. A little walk and I’ll be home, I’ll be back with Tommen, in my own chambers inside Maegor’s Holdfast. Her uncle said it was the only way to save herself. Was it, though? She could not trust her uncle, no more than she trusted this High Septon. I could still refuse. I could still insist upon my innocence and hazard all upon a trial.
( . . . )
When her gaolers came for her, Septa Unella, Septa Moelle, and Septa Scolera led the procession. With them were four novices and two of the silent sisters. The sight of the silent sisters in their grey robes filled the queen with sudden terrors. Why are they here? Am I to die? The silent sisters attended to the dead. “The High Septon promised that no harm would come to me.” “Nor will it.” Septa Unella beckoned to the novices. They brought lye soap, a basin of warm water, a pair of shears, and a long straightrazor. The sight of the steel sent a shiver through her.
( . . . )
The elder of the two silent sisters took up the shears. A practiced barber, no doubt; her order often cleaned the corpses of the noble slain before returning them to their kin, and trimming beards and cutting hair was part of that. The woman bared the queen’s head first. Cersei sat as still as a stone statue as the shears clicked. Drifts of golden hair fell to the floor. She had not been allowed to tend it properly penned up in this cell, but even unwashed and tangled it shone where the sun touched it. My crown, the queen thought. They took the other crown away from me, and now they are stealing this one as well. When her locks and curls were piled up around her feet, one of the novices soaped her head and the silent sister scraped away the stubble with a razor.
Cersei hoped that would be the end of it, but no. “Remove your shift, Your Grace,” Septa Unella commanded.
“Here?” the queen asked. “Why?”
“You must be shorn.”
Shorn, she thought, like a sheep. She yanked the shift over her head and tossed it to the floor. “Do what you will.”
When the silent sister crept between her legs with the razor, Cersei found herself remembering all the times that Jaime had knelt where she was kneeling now, planting kisses on the inside of her thighs, making her wet. His kisses were always warm. The razor was ice-cold.
( . . . )
One of the novices had brought a robe for her, a soft white septa’s robe to cover her as she made her way down the tower steps and through the sept, so any worshipers they met along the way might be spared the sight of naked flesh. Seven save us all, what hypocrites they are. “Will I be permitted a pair of sandals?” she asked. “The streets are filthy.”
“Not so filthy as your sins,” said Septa Moelle. “His High Holiness has commanded that you present yourself as the gods made you. Did you have sandals on your feet when you came forth from your lady mother’s womb?”
“No, septa,” the queen was forced to say.
“Then you have your answer.”
( . . . )
The Great Sept of Baelor was crowded with faithful come for the dawn service, the sound of their prayers echoing off the dome overhead, but when the queen’s procession made its appearance a sudden silence fell and a thousand eyes turned to follow her as she made her way down the aisle, past the place where her lord father had lain in state after his murder. Cersei swept by them, looking neither right nor left. Her bare feet slapped against the cold marble floor. She could feel the eyes. Behind their altars, the Seven seemed to watch as well.
In the Hall of Lamps, a dozen Warrior’s Sons awaited her coming. Rainbow cloaks hung down their backs, and the crystals that crested their greathelms glittered in the lamplight. Their armor was silver plate polished to a mirror sheen, but underneath, she knew, every man of them wore a hair shirt. Their kite shields all bore the same device: a crystal sword shining in the darkness, the ancient badge of those the smallfolk called Swords. Their captain knelt before her. “Perhaps Your Grace will recall me. I am Ser Theodan the True, and His High Holiness has given me command of your escort. My brothers and I will see you safely through the city.”
Cersei’s gaze swept across the faces of the men behind him. And there he was: Lancel, her cousin, Ser Kevan’s son, who had once professed to love her, before he decided that he loved the gods more. My blood and my betrayer. She would not forget him. “You may rise, Ser Theodan. I am ready.” The knight stood, turned, raised a hand. Two of his men stepped to the towering doors and pushed them open, and Cersei walked through them into the open air, blinking at the sunlight like a mole roused from its burrow.
( . . . )
And mingled in with them were the Poor Fellows, filthy, unshaven creatures armed with spears and axes and clad in bits of dinted plate, rusted mail, and cracked leather, under roughspun surcoats bleached white and blazoned with the seven-pointed star of the Faith. The High Sparrow’s ragged army.
Widow of the Waterfront
And then there was the smell. It hung in the hot, humid air, rich, rank, pervasive. There’s fish in it, and flowers, and some elephant dung as well. Something sweet and something earthy and something dead and rotten. “This city smells like an old whore,” Tyrion announced. “Like some sagging slattern who has drenched her privy parts in perfume to drown the stench between her legs. Not that I am complaining. With whores, the young ones smell much better, but the old ones know more tricks.”
“You would know more of that than I do.”
“Ah, of course. That brothel where we met, did you take it for a sept? Was that your virgin sister squirming in your lap?”
That made him scowl. “Give that tongue of yours a rest unless you’d rather I tied it in a knot.”
Seeing a running association between the septas and sex workers, weirdly. Temple sex workers, perhaps? Like in Meereen? Cersei came out of the sept being called the w-word.
Ser Clarence Crabb supposedly tied a dragon’s neck in a knot so he roasted his own ass, Tyrion = Targaryen confirmed
Farther on, they fell in behind a smaller elephant, white as old bone and pulling an ornate cart. “Is an oxcart an oxcart without an ox?”
Martin, George R. R.. A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5) (p. 388). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
(Widow of the Waterfront chapter, she’s an “old wh—“) by her own word. And a heck of a ww goddess figure.