Great Empire of the Dawn: Flight of the Bones

You all know I love the Great Empire of the Dawn theory. I think it’s the single most important piece of information in TWOIAF – all the collected clues about the GEOTD that is. It’s clear George has been developing the idea of pre-Valyrian dragon lords from Asshai since the very first book, as clues are all over Dany’s chapters in AGOT, but at some point he seems to have taken the idea beyond the nebulous “long vanished people from the shadow” and fleshed it out as the Great Empire of the Dawn. That’s what trips some people up about the GEOTD theory – it strikes some people as an absurdly large idea to hide in the last pages of a worldbook-type affair, though obviously TWOIAF is far beyond other such offerings from other authors in terms of detail and craftsmanship. This stumbling block is easily removed when you realize the Great Empire of the Dawn is simply the name for Asshai before the fall of the Long Night and the “Shadow” that hangs over Asshai.

As I mentioned, the idea of dragonlords from Asshai is spelled out from the beginning:

“Have you ever seen a dragon?” she asked as Irri scrubbed her back and Jhiqui sluiced sand from her hair. She had heard that the first dragons had come from the east, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai and the islands of the Jade Sea. Perhaps some were still living there, in realms strange and wild.

This is Dany’s third AGOT chapter, and she says it right out – dragons may have come from Asshai, before Valyria ever existed. In other words, the GEOTD info in TWOIAF is simply the answer to a question we should have been considering all along: who were these people from Asshai who tamed dragons before the Valyrians? If the idea of George putting the answer in TWOIAF is too much for someone, I don’t know what to tell them, really. Even before this Dany scene – which is also the scene where she hears the “dragons come from the moon” legend – we had Bran’s coma dream vision, where

He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise.

Again, everyone should have always been looking for clues to build on this idea of dragons from Asshai. I imagine if Martin had kept his stated earlier plans to actually take Dany to Asshai, we would have gotten some of the info about the GEOTD in the main series already. As it is, the idea of Dany’s connection to these pre-Valyrian dragonlords seems to be something Martin was thinking about from the beginning, because of the gemstone emperors Dany sees in her penultimate “wake the dragon” dream:

Ghosts lined the hallway, dressed in the faded raiment of kings. In their hands were swords of pale fire. They had hair of silver and hair of gold and hair of platinum white, and their eyes were opal and amethyst, tourmaline and jade. 

It’s always been obvious these are Dany’s ancient ancestors, but were they always intended to be the pre-Valyrian dragonlords from Asshai? It’s possible George was originally imagining Valyrians with other eye colors, and then later changed them to the gemstone emperors of the GEOTD later, but I think between the flaming swords (which the Valyrians are never recorded as possessing) and the fact only one has purple eyes, I’d lean towards Martin always having imagined these people as the dragonlords from Asshai that he refers to elsewhere in AGOT. Why else drop all these clues in the same book about people from Asshai taming dragons before the Valyrians did? TO be honest Asshai gets more development in AGOT than Valyria does.

Bloodstone Compendium
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

Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
I: The Last Hero & the King of Corn
II: King of Winter, Lord of Death
III: The Long Night’s Watch

Great Empire of the Dawn
I: History and Lore of House Dayne
II: Asshai-by-the-Shadow
III: The Great Empire of the Dawn
IV: Flight of the Bones

Moons of Ice and Fire
I: Shadow Heart Mother
II: Dawn of the Others
III: Visenya Draconis
IV: The Long Night Was His to Rule
V: R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons

The Blood of the Other
–  Prelude to a Chill
I: A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
II: The Stark that Brings the Dawn
III: Eldric Shadowchaser
IV: Prose Eddard
V: Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash

Weirwood Goddess
I: Venus of the Woods
II: It’s an Arya Thing
III: The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa

Weirwood Compendium B
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
VIII: A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
I: Veil of Frozen Tears
II: Sansa Locked in Ice

Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
IV: The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
V: The Great Old Ones
VI: The Horned Lords
VII: Cold Gods and Old Bones

We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue

Now in PODCAST form!

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The glorious (and false) vision of the Undying of Qarth that Daenerys sees in ACOK is another clue about the Great Empire of the Dawn, I believe. I think this vision, which the Undying are projecting into Dany’s mind, seems to represent the Undying trying to pose as the ancient people of Asshai, as opposed to Valyrians:

Beyond the doors was a great hall and a splendor of wizards. Some wore sumptuous robes of ermine, ruby velvet, and cloth of gold. Others fancied elaborate armor studded with gemstones, or tall pointed hats speckled with stars. There were women among them, dressed in gowns of surpassing loveliness. Shafts of sunlight slanted through windows of stained glass, and the air was alive with the most beautiful music she had ever heard.

A kingly man in rich robes rose when he saw her, and smiled. “Daenerys of House Targaryen, be welcome. Come and share the food of forever. We are the Undying of Qarth.”

“Long have we awaited you,” said a woman beside him, clad in rose and silver. The breast she had left bare in the Qartheen fashion was as perfect as a breast could be.

“We knew you were to come to us,” the wizard king said. “A thousand years ago we knew, and have been waiting all this time. We sent the comet to show you the way.”

“We have knowledge to share with you,” said a warrior in shining emerald armor, “and magic weapons to arm you with. You have passed every trial. Now come and sit with us, and all your questions shall be answered.”

This vision of impossibly lovely and grand splendor of wizards, kings and queens is clearly meant to resonate with Dany, who has lost her home and is searching for her identity and any connections to her lineage and history. These star-speckled and gemstone-studded fine folk look nothing like Valyrians, and since this entire thing is an illusion, one imagines the Undying could have portrayed themselves as Valyrians if they wanted to. Instead, they went for something different – and to me the only logical answer is that they were showing Dany their best, idealized memory of the Great Empire of the Dawn. They know the speech of dragonkind, see Dany as a fulfillment of ancient prophecy, and they sent the comet – this has Azor Ahai and dragonlords written all over it! But again, they aren’t posing as Valyrians, and given the use of the words “kingly” and “gemstones,” I have to think of the kingly ghosts with gemstone eyes who wanted Dany to “wake the dragon.” Here the air is “alive with music,” and the last line of AGOT, after Daenerys wakes the dragons, is “and for the first time in hundreds of years, the night came alive with the music of dragons.”

Qaarth itself really seems like Martin’s first attempt at showing us the legacy of the ancient Asshai’i / the GEOTD. Qaarth claims to be the oldest city in the world, and though Asshai is probably older, Qaarth is built right on the edge of the former territory of the Great Empire, and would have commanded enormous strategic importance sitting astride the Jade Gates, then as now. They’ve even got a Tourmaline Brotherhood, which I always like to joke is a sect of devotees to the wisdom of the Tourmaline Emperor. Hard to say for sure, but the overall picture I am seeing is that Martin is leaving GEOTD breadcrumbs all around Qaarth. The idea that they all want Dany’s dragons in Qaarth lines up with the idea of Qaarth seeing themselves as the heirs to the ancient knowledge and magic of the Great Empire. More on this in a moment.

So, like I said… there are plenty of Great Empire of the Dawn breadcrumbs in the series proper, so really the GEOTD theory is not far-fetched or tinfoily in the slightest. And then in TWOIAF, in the section about Valyria, Martin straight up BEGS us to think about this question:

In Asshai, the tales are many and confused, but certain texts—all impossibly ancient—claim that dragons first came from the Shadow, a place where all of our learning fails us. These Asshai’i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals.

Yet if men in the Shadow had tamed dragons first, why did they not conquer as the Valyrians did?

Again, Martin is posing the question straight-out: if people had tamed dragons in Asshai, which oh-by-the-way is the largest city ever built in 10,000 years by several orders of magnitude, wouldn’t they have conquered a huge Empire like Valyria? The obvious answer is yes, and then in the same book George tells us about this gargantuan, advanced civilization of legend – his Atlantis or Mu, essentially – which very much fits the bill. This Great Empire existed right on Asshai’s doorstep, and oh-by-the-way, they built these things called the Five Forts out of fused black stone, which can only be made with dragonfire and sorcery as far as we know.

I also love the very logical angle that considers the size of Asshai. Such a metropolis can only have been built by a rich and powerful civilization, and the huge land walls which surround Asshai – which are now totally useless – speak to a time when the Shadowlands peninsula and Asshai were heavily populated and had to contend with rival nations and armies. The GEOTD and the missing advanced civilization that built Asshai are a perfect fit, and combines to tell a very sensible tale: the people who tamed dragons in Asshai before the Valyrians did indeed conquer a huge empire, and their pursuit of power and magic eventually lead to a great downfall. It is from this ancient past that Lightbringer and Azor Ahai come from, and this conclusion is harmonious with the gemstone emperor kingly ghosts holding swords of pale fire, and of dragonlords existing in the GEOTD.

The fall of the GEOTD flows seamlessly into the legend of Azor Ahai ending the Long Night, with the last emperor of the Great Empire, the Bloodstone Emperor, being blamed for causing the Long Night. It’s pretty clear to me that the fall of this Great Empire and of the Long Night must surely be the thing which left Asshai and the surrounding area poisoned, shadowed, and magically toxic, especially when we consider the Bloodstone Emperor was really into cuddling with his black meteorite and his very name, blood-stone, is interchangeable with “bleeding star,” a term used to describe a meteor or comet.

Thus we can see the basic timeline being suggested – the dragonlords of ancient Asshai did indeed build an empire, but no one remembers it very well because it was wiped out during the Long Night, and no one remembers anything very well from before the Long Night. However, some survivors of this Great Empire seem to have taken some of the magical knowledge with them when they fled or migrated to Valyria, including the knowledge of taming dragons, and thus we have those impossibly ancient histories in Asshai which speak of a people who first tamed dragons by the Shadow and then taught these arts to the first Valyrians – or more likely, they became the first Valyrians, judging from the silver-gold hair that all the gemstone emperors had in Dany’s dream. That dominant Valyrian look seems a direct legacy of the GEOTD.

Today we are going to take a new angle on providing evidence for the GEOTD as not only the builders of Asshai, and not only the ancestors of Valyria, but as the people who essentially shaped the modern world of Plaentos or Grrth or whatever you want to call it. They are the starting point for all knowable history, and their fingerprints can be found in nearly every corner of the modern world.

Obviously this begins with Valyria, as I just mentioned. Not only did the Great Empire pass along the art of taming dragons, we can also observe that the Valyrian’s fabled art of making castles, fortresses, roads, and bridges out of unbreakable fused black stone with dragonfire and sorcery was something they inherited from the ancestors of the GEOTD. As many have observed, the theoretical formula for making Valyrian steel – dragonfire and blood magic – seems to constitute the Valyrians’ attempt to recreate the forging of Lightbringer, and though they may not be able to create flaming swords, they did create unbreakable magic swords, ones which can probably kill the Others. It’s well possible the Great Empire knew how to make such swords, I think. If Dawn is not the original Ice, then it’s definitely from the GEOTD, and I can even think of a couple of ways that it could be both (though that’s a story for another day). We also know that Quaithe, a shadowbinder from Asshai, has mastered the use of the glass candle, which is thought of as a Valyrian invention, but may well be a legacy from the Great Empire in retrospect.

It’s possible, and even probable in my opinion, that Valyrian magic as a whole can essentially be seen as a fragment of the magic of the Great Empire.

We just discussed Qarth, and I think the evidence is pretty good that there is some kind of cultural link between the GEOTD and Qarth. It’s also notable that the Qartheen are described as tall and milk-pale, so it’s definitely possible these fair looks come from the same branch of GEOTD lineage as Valyria. The cultural links are more clear however, and it may be that the Qartheen inherited some of the magical and knowledge of the GEOTD more than anything else.

It should be noted that any empire as massive as the GEOTD would have been a multi-ethnic conglomerate state, and we see that in wake of their collapse, several different nation-states popped up within their official borders with varying ethnicity, from the people of Hyrkoon, Yi Ti, and Nefer to the nomadic Jogos Nhai and the island nation of Leng.

Today we are going to go beyond those nations and peoples, and beyond the Valyrians and Qarthine and the few dark sorcerers left huddling in the greasy black stone buildings of Asshai. We aren’t going to talk about the Daynes of Starfall, who are definitively, positively, 100% descended from the Great Empire, and who even look like Valyrians from time to time. We also aren’t going to discussed the single biggest piece of “smocking gun” evidence in the entire series, the fused black stone fortress that sits beneath the Hightower. No, what we are going to talk about is the clear fact that Sarnori and Dothraki, two horse-loving people who inhabited the same grasslands at different times, are also descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn.

The Dothraki

When you read the story of the Great Empire of the Dawn in TWOIAF, you see that right after Azor Ahai and Lightbringer defeated the forces of darkness and returned love and light to the world or some such, the diaspora mega-bomb that is the Great Empire’s dissolution is spelled out:

Yet the Great Empire of the Dawn was not reborn, for the restored world was a broken place where every tribe of men went its own way, fearful of all the others, and war and lust and murder endured, even to our present day. Or so the men and women of the Further East believe.

An empire larger than any seen since, one which probably built Asshai, a city larger than any seen since, was broken apart in terror and madness during the Long Night, and when the Long Night ended, every tribe of man went their separate way. That wording is another clue that the GEOTD was a multi-ethnic nation state, one which contained many “tribes of man.” This spreading out in all directions form the Great Empire probably began as soon as the horrific reign of the Bloodstone Emperor did:

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror. He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky.
( . . . )
In the annals of the Further East, it was the Blood Betrayal, as his usurpation is named, that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night.

Sounds pretty bad, right? Sounds like the kind of thing that might make you want to migrate a bit, or even a lot. I have to say, as much as I like moon meteors, if the President of the United States ever started ‘worshipping’ a black meteorite I’d have a few concerns; and if he were to practice cannibalism and necromancy, I’d say that it is indeed finally time to “move to Canada,” which is what people in the Unites States say when they are really concerned with whatever the current president is doing. It would have been the same for the millions of people living under the yoke of the Great Empire – people might start saying things like “I’ve heard the weather in the Summer Sea is lovely this time of year,” or even “Sothoryos can’t be that bad, can it?” In fact the Rhoynar fleeing the Valyrians isn’t a bad parallel – if the wrath of the Bloodstone Emperor, a presumed dragonlord, turned on your particular tribe of man, as the wrath of evil tyrants always does… you’d basically do anything and go anywhere – even Sothoryos – to get away.

Turns out people didn’t have to sail to Sothoryos to get away, although maybe some did. Those brindled men have to come from somewhere. No, as it turns out, George has actually told us exactly where a great many of the enslaved peoples of the Great Empire fled to: they fled across the Bones Mountains.

East, beyond Vaes Dothrak and the Mother of Mountains, the grasslands give way to rolling plains and woods, and the earth beneath the traveler’s feet turns hard and stony and begins to climb upward, ever upward. The hills grow wilder and steeper, and soon enough the mountains appear in the far distance, their great peaks seeming to float against the eastern sky, blue-grey giants so huge and jagged and menacing that even Lomas Longstrider, that dauntless wanderer (if his tales be true), lost heart at the sight of them, believing that he had at last reached the ends of the earth.

The ancestors of the Dothraki and the other horse peoples of the grasslands knew better, for some remembered crossing those mountains from the lands that lay beyond. Did they come west in hopes of fairer fields and plenty or in search of conquest, or were they fleeing before some savage foe? Their tales do not agree, so we may never know, but of their travails we may be certain, for they left their bones behind to mark their passing. The bones of men, the bones of horses, the bones of giants and camels and oxen, of every sort of beast and bird and monster, all can be found amongst these savage peaks.

From them the mountains take their name: the Bones. Tallest of all the mountain ranges in the known world from the Sunset Sea to Asshaiby-the-Shadow, the Bones extend from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea, a wall of twisted rock and sharp stone stretching more than five hundred leagues from north to south and a hundred leagues from east to west.

The Bones Mountains are a natural land barrier – almost comically so. But there are so many bones littered in the passes through these mountains that the entire mountain range is named after them. This sounds like a mass migration, from east to west, and a desperate one at that – they brought all their animals with them, all their elderly and sick and young, everyone. No matter how many died, turning back was not an option, and so their animals and people and children perished along the way and were simply left behind or perhaps buried in quickly-fashioned stone cairns. This quote from TWOIAF even poses the question: were these people perhaps fleeing some savage foe? Well, yes, we know that during the reign of the Bloodstone Emperor, people going east would have had to cross the Bones, and we know that in the wake of his reign, the tribes of men went their own ways and scattered. Among all the history we are given for the east, it’s the obvious mechanism to trigger the kind of desperate mass migrations that the skeletal evidence points too.

This reminds me very much of the Wildling migration towards the Wall, which Jon observes in ACOK:

Their encampment had no plan to it; he saw no ditches, no sharpened stakes, no neat rows of horse lines. Everywhere crude earthen shelters and hide tents sprouted haphazardly, like a pox on the face of the earth. He spied untidy mounds of hay, smelled goats and sheep, horses and pigs, dogs in great profusion. Tendrils of dark smoke rose from a thousand cookfires. This is no army, no more than it is a town. This is a whole people come together.  

The Wildlings were fleeing from the Others – an enemy so terrifying that the they felt their only choice was to throw themselves against a 700 foot ice wall in a basically hopeless attack.  Later when Jon is among the Free Folk, he sees women and children as well as their livestock animals.  The Wildlings fled with with every man, woman, child, horse, pig, goat and dog – everything they valued carried on their backs, everything else left behind, forgotten, and abandoned.  That kind of wholesale migration, the kind where you don’t even stop for the sick or dying, makes sense when you are fleeing from an enemy as terrifying as the Others… or the Bloodstone Emperor.

So consider this line again, from the passage about all the bones in the Bones Mountains: “..the bones of horses, the bones of giants and camels and oxen, of every sort of beast and bird and monster.” That almost sounds like the animals are fleeing a natural cataclysm, like a forest fire that drives all the animals from the wood, only on a huge scale. We know of just such a cataclysm of course, wink wink snap snap grin grin know what I mean know what I mean? 

There are three well established passes through the mountains, and they are all three controlled by the last remnants of the lost kingdom of Hyrkoon, which was inside the Great Empire and which gave us “Hyrkoon the Hero,” one of the five given names of Azor Ahai. In other words, these passes have probably been in use since the time of the Long Night and the Great Empire. Here’s the quote from TWOIAF about these passes:

“A thousand roads lead into the Bones,” wise men say from Qarth to Qohor, “but only three lead out.” As impassable as the Bones appear from afar, there are indeed hundreds of footpaths, goat tracks, game trails, streambeds, and slopes by which travelers, traders, and adventurers may find their way into the heart of the mountains. In certain places, ancient carved steps and hidden tunnels and passages exist for those who know how to find them. Yet many of these paths are treacherous, and others are dead ends or traps for the unwary.

Small parties, well armed and well provisioned, may make their way through the Bones by myriad ways when led by a guide who knows the dangers. Armies, trading caravans, and men alone, however, are well advised to stay to the main routes, the three great mountain passes that bridge the worlds of east and west: the Steel Road, the Stone Road, and the Sand Road.

The Steel Road (so named for all the battles it has seen) and the Stone Road both originate in Vaes Dothrak, the former running almost due east beneath the highest peaks, the latter curving southeast to join the old Silk Road at the ruins of Yinishar (called Vaes Jini by the horselords) before beginning its climb. Far south of these, the Sand Road passes through the southern Bones (sometimes called the Dry Bones, for water is scarce there) and surrounding deserts, connecting the great port city of Qarth with the market city Tiqui, the gateway to the east.

Well that’s interesting – two of the roads through the mountains lead to Vaes Dothrak itself, and to the Dothraki grasslands more generally, and the other leads right to Qarth. That’s more evidence of an ancient GEOTD / Qarth connection, and thus we can see that Qarth would have been a logical place for people fleeing the downfall of the Great Empire to go. It’s actually the closest road if you were from Asshai, the lands which are now Yi Ti, or anywhere else in the south of the empire. Much of the traffic fleeing the Great Empire would have gone through Qarth, either by land or say, simply because of geography.

Those other two passes though, they dump you out right on the great grass sea, and the established roads from these two passes run to Vaes Dothrak, the Mother of Mountains, and the sacred Womb of the World. This all fits together well – the Dothraki have ancient memories of coming over the bones from the east, as we read a moment ago; the hard evidence proves thousands of people did just that; and two of those mountain passes lead right to the lands the Dothraki now occupy. Although the Dothraki now rule the entire plain of the grasslands, this has only been true since the Doom of Valyria and the century of blood that followed.

Travelers name these the Haunted Lands for the many ruined cities that dot them, or the Great Desolation for their emptiness, but it is as the Dothraki sea that these grasslands are best known today. That usage is comparatively recent, however, for the Dothraki are a young race, and it was only since the Doom destroyed Valyria that their khalasars came to dominate these lands, sweeping out of the east with fire and steel to conquer and destroy the ancient cities that once thrived here and carrying off their peoples into bondage.

The important part is the “sweeping out of the east” part. Before they spread out and conquered the Kingdom of Sarnor – which we will talk about momentarily – the ancestors of the modern Dothraki existed basically in the steppes of the Bones Mountains, most likely east of the Womb of the World. That’s where nomadic horse tribes tend to live anyway, on steppe land, so that all makes sense. Elsewhere in this same “Grasslands” section of TWOIAF it speaks of the Sarnori leading “many a foray against the bands of nomadic horseman who roamed the steppes to their east” throughout their history, just to drive the point home. The picture that emerges is that ancestors of the Dothraki seem to have crossed the Bones in the north and basically settled in the natural habitat they found there. They remained bottled up in the east by the Kingdom of Sarnor and the presence of Valyria for centuries and millennia, until they weren’t, and then they swept westward. This next bit is the beginning of the Dothraki’s encroachment on Sarnor following the Doom:

Contemptuous of the horselords, who had been no more than a nuisance to them for centuries, the Tall Men ignored the threat from the east for far too long, even as the khalasars began to raid across their eastern marches.

The Tall Men are the Sarnori, and their great kingdom or federation of kingdoms existed for several thousand years, essentially concurrent with Valyria. In the shadow of this great civilization existed the horselords of the Dothraki, which had been no more than a nuisance to the Sarnori up until the Century of Blood. They essentially prevented the Dothraki from spreading east, and this gives us the entire history of the Dothraki, more or less: their ancestors crossed the Bones in the distant past, they settled on the steppe land just on the other side of the mountain range, and then when the giant post-Valyrian power vacuum opened up, they moved west and destroyed the Kingdoms of Sarnor, making them the rulers of the entire grass sea that they are now.

We can also observe the Dothraki threat to the Sarnori seems to have built up gradually before finally overwhelming them, so we can probably infer that the destabilization of the fall of Valyria just sort of ‘happened to coincide’ with the growth of the Dothraki’s populace, power, and ambition. George even wrote a Ghengis Khan-like figure into the history, Khal Mengo, who was the first Khal to “unite the clans,” as they say, turning fractious horse tribes into one unified and terrible fighting force, and Ghengis Khan did with the Mongols.

We are going to come back to the Sarnori and the discussion of dispersal patterns following the collapse of the GEOTD, but before we move on from the Dothraki, let’s take a look at their cultural and religious beliefs of the Dothraki which show evidence of a GEOTD heritage. The main such link is an astronomy-based religion. The first God-Emperor of the Great Empire of the Dawn was said to descend from heaven a the beginning of his life and to ascend to heaven at the end, and the last God-Emperor was the Bloodstone Emperor, who worshiped a fallen star and founded the Church of Starry Wisdom, which is an actual astronomy-based religion that still exists in the current day of the story. If a comet was the root cause of the Long Night as I have proposed, then the Bloodstone Emperor may have either timed his dark deeds of blood magic which are remembered as having caused the Long Night to the comet’s arrival, or he may have even summoned it somehow through dark magic.

The official religion of the Great Empire seems to have been worship of the Maiden Made of Light and the Lion of Night, who were thought of as being in harmony before the Long Night when the Maiden Made of Light turned her back on the world and the Lion of Night came out to punish the wickedness of man. That’s the clue about the Maiden being the bright face of the sun, which is the exact thing that is elsewhere said to “turn its back on the world” during the Long Night. The Lion of Night I have interpreted as the more esoteric idea of a dark sun, for various reasons including the fact that the lion is the classic animal to depict the sun, and so a “lion of night” would be a dark sun or night sun. I’ve talked more about that elsewhere, and it has roots in a few real-world mythologies as well. More simply, we might say that the Lion of Night represents the night sky. Before the Long Night, day and night would have been in balance, as the Maiden and Lion of Night were said to be. During the Long Night. darkness reigns, and the sun is turned dark. Point being, it’s essentially a solar religion, and the Maiden Made of Light at least is surely based on the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu.

We know a lot more about the Dothraki religion, and it is heavy on astronomy. They believe that the sun and moon are man and wife, for starters, and gods as well:

The two Dothraki girls giggled and laughed. “You are foolish strawhead slave,” Irri said. “Moon is no egg. Moon is god, woman wife of sun. It is known.”

“It is known,” Jhiqui agreed.

We also know that Dany calls Drogo “my sun and stars,” while he calls her “moon of my life.” This probably reflects a natural association between the Khal and the sun in Dothraki culture, just as kings wear golden crowns to signify the favor of whatever sun god their culture worships. Sun gods aren’t exactly rare, but it’s worth noting that both the Dothraki and the GEOTD regard the sun as a god.

More important are the Dothraki beliefs concerning stars. This is from a Daenerys chapter of AGOT:

The Dothraki believed the stars were horses made of fire, a great herd that galloped across the sky by night. 

Even in Westeros, the maesters know of this believe, and this is from a Theon chapter of ACOK:

The crows came in the blue dusk, with the evening stars. “The Dothraki believe the stars are spirits of the valiant dead,” Theon said. Maester Luwin had told him that, a long time ago.

This fiery horde, made up of their ancestors, and the Mother of Mountains with its black lake, the ‘womb of the world,’ are the two holiest things in the Dothraki religion. Drogo swears by them when he vows to retake the Seven Kingdoms for Daenerys:

This I swear before the Mother of Mountains, as the stars look down in witness.” – AGOT, Daenerys

There’s a lot of talk about the Dothraki doing things out in the open so the stars can bear witness – those are their ancestors, after all. This has to remind us of how the first Emperor of the Great Empire, the God-On-Earth, was thought to ascend to to the stars at the end of his reign:

 For ten thousand years the Great Empire of the Dawn flourished in peace and plenty under the Godon-Earth, until at last he ascended to the stars to join his forebears.

When you think back to Drogo’s funeral pyre from which the dragons hatched, Dany does indeed perceive Drogo ascending to the stars. In fact let’s take a look at the Dothraki funeral ceremony, as it’s really poetic and beautiful as well as being interesting. These quotes are pulled from the same chapter, in the order they appear, but with the parts that don’t pertain to our discussion cut out:

They took the two straightest trees, hacked the limbs and branches from them, skinned off their bark, and split them, laying the logs in a square. Its center they filled with straw, brush, bark shavings, and bundles of dry grass. Rakharo chose a stallion from the small herd that remained to them; he was not the equal of Khal Drogo’s red, but few horses were. In the center of the square, Aggo fed him a withered apple and dropped him in an instant with an axe blow between the eyes.
Over the carcass of the horse, they built a platform of hewn logs; trunks of smaller trees and limbs from the greater, and the thickest straightest branches they could find. They laid the wood east to west, from sunrise to sunset.
The third level of the platform was woven of branches no thicker than a finger, and covered with dry leaves and twigs. They laid them north to south, from ice to fire, and piled them high with soft cushions and sleeping silks.

This is one of the only places where the phrase “ice and fire” is used in some form – the only other ones I can recall are the oath Jojen and Meera swear to Bran, and Rhaegar’s comments about his son having a song of ice and fire, so that seems significant.  This is a very old concept, and a deeply magical one.  The pyre is aligned to the cardinal directions, the afore-mentioned ice and fire for north and south, and sunrise and sunset for east and west.  This is a staple concept of pagan / hermetic magical traditions, and is an intrinsically astronomical concept.

After preparing Drogo’s body by washing, braiding, scented oils, etc, his body is placed on the pyre, and Dany spells out the specifics of the Dothraki belief here:

When a horselord dies, his horse is slain with him, so he might ride proud into the night lands. The bodies are burned beneath the open sky, and the khal rises on his fiery steed to take his place among the stars. The more fiercely the man burned in life, the brighter his star will shine in the darkness.

George is also giving us some symbolic clues here to associate the Dothraki flaming steeds in the sky and dragons, as Drogo’s fiery steed turns out to be the red comet, the dragon’s tail. There’s actually another whole layer to this concept, as the dragons themselves may contain the souls of dead dragonlords, as J Stargaryen of has discovered by decoding the puzzle of the Valyrian-looking lemurs of the Norvoshi forests.  At the very least, we can look at these beliefs about the stars and ascending to the stars and see that it could work very well as a remnant of the beliefs of the Great Empire which the ancestors of the Dothraki brought with them over the Bones Mountains.

As for which lineage of the Great Empire the Dothraki descend from, well that’s obvious: the Onyx Emperor. The gemstones of the emperors correlate to eye color, at least in Dany’s wake the dragon dream, and the very first time Dany sees Drogo, in her very first chapter, we get this:

Khal Drogo has never lost a fight. He is Aegon the Dragonlord come again, and you will be his queen.” Dany looked at Khal Drogo. His face was hard and cruel, his eyes as cold and dark as onyx.

In this scene, Dany was comparing the cruelty of Viserys to Drogo’s looks, while Illyrio calls him a reborn dragonlord. Interesting that the onyx eyes which could be reference to the dragonlords of the Great Empire comes side-by-side with the suggestion of Drogo as a reborn dragonlord! Later, when Drogo’s own cruelty is turned against Viserys, we get another Drogo’s-eyes-as-onyx reference:

Even now Viserys did not understand. “No,” he shouted, “you cannot touch me, I am the dragon, the dragon , and I will be crowned! ” Khal Drogo unfastened his belt. The medallions were pure gold, massive and ornate, each one as large as a man’s hand. He shouted a command. Cook slaves pulled a heavy iron stew pot from the firepit, dumped the stew onto the ground, and returned the pot to the flames. Drogo tossed in the belt and watched without expression as the medallions turned red and began to lose their shape. She could see fires dancing in the onyx of his eyes.

As a nod to the astronomy side of things, note the comparison of Drogo to Aegon the Dragonlord in the first scene and the description of his onyx eyes containing dancing fire as he prepared to kill the “dragon” Viserys.  (“Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”) Both ideas are consistent with the idea of Drogo playing the role of sun to Daenerys’s moon, and between Drogo’s star being the red comet, which is like a dragon, Drogo giving his name to a huge black dragon, Drogon, and this comparison between Drogo and Aegon Targaryen, you have to wonder if George wasn’t already thinking about the Dothraki having an ancient connection to the far east.

To be honest I wouldn’t bet my life on it – he very easily could have “retconned” that idea in TWOIAF, with George including an Onyx Emperor in the list of GEOTD emperors to create this tie to the Dothraki. Certainly when he wrote TWOIAF, he was thinking this was, as evidenced by the quote about the Dothraki having a memory of crossing the Bones Mountains. That’s what’s important, really; it’s fun to try to figure when George had which idea, since we know he is a gardener style writer, but at the end of the day whatever he decides is true has always been true, and thus we have my theory here that the Dothraki are implied as having fled the GEOTD.

Additional corroboration of the Dothraki having an origin east of the Bones mountains can be found in the similarities between their culture and that of the Jhogos Nhai, the horse riders of the far eastern plains, whose lands lie squarely inside the old borders of the Great Empire of the Dawn.

The Jogos Nhai

The Jogos Nhai have a culture which parallels that of the Dothraki in many ways, but with several key differences. Logic would dictate that the Dothraki culture has branched off from the original “horse lord” culture, since they came over the mountains from the lands which the Jogos Nhai still inhabit, so we will generally interpret the culture of the Jogos Nhai to be closer to that of their common ancestor. It seems like they only have xorses east of the Bones, which is what he Jogos Nhai ride, so we can assume that the Dothraki ancestors adapted their zorse-riding skills to the larger horses they found on the other side of the mountain.

Unlike the Dothraki, whose khals lead huge khalasars across the grasslands, the Jogos Nhai travel in small bands, closely connected by blood. Each band is led by a jhat, or war chief, and a moonsinger, who combines the roles of priestess, healer, and judge. The jhat leads in war and battle and raid, whilst the other matters are ruled by the band’s moonsinger.

Dothraki khals make endless war on one another once beyond the sacred precincts of Vaes Dothrak, their holy city. But the gods of the Jogos Nhai forbid them to shed the blood of their own people (young men do ride out to steal goats, dogs, and zorses from the other bands, whilst their sisters go forth to abduct husbands, but these are rituals hallowed by the gods of the plains, during which no blood may be shed). Instead, the Jogos Nhai make endless war upon everyone else, from the Golden Empire of Yi Ti to the former Patrimony of Hyrkoon to the vanquished stone giants of the northern Bones Mountains, the Jhogwin, and also the N’gai, a people who have been reduced to one foggy underground city (Nefer).

Although the Dothraki khalasars are much larger than the bands of the Jogos Nhai, they are united by an oath of brotherhood between a khal and his bloodriders, which can be seen as a kind of ritual adoption. The ancient horse riders fleeing over the mountains would likely have been fragments of decimated kin groups, so it makes sense that they might have adopted each other via blood oath as a way of uniting to survive in a new land. (Major hat-tip to BrainFireBob of

The Jogos Nhai taboo against killing other Jogos Nhai seems to have broken down during the course of the Dothraki’s migration and establishment of their new culture, but we do see an echo of this tradition in the Dothraki taboo against making war on each other within sight of the Mother of Mountains or shedding blood of any kind in Vaes Dothrak.

Both of our nomadic horse-warrior cultures seem to eschew the notion of inherited right to rule. The Dothraki khals are always the mightiest warriors, and if they become severely injured or weak, they lose their legitimacy and authority:

“Khaleesi,” Jhiqui said, “he fell from his horse.”

Trembling, her eyes full of sudden tears, Dany turned away from them. He fell from his horse! It was so, she had seen it, and the bloodriders, and no doubt her handmaids and the men of her khas as well. And how many more? They could not keep it secret, and Dany knew what that meant. A khal who could not ride could not rule, and Drogo had fallen from his horse.

“A khal who cannot ride is no khal,” said Jhogo. “The Dothraki follow only the strong,” Ser Jorah said.

And then a moment later:

“They took Khal Drogo’s herds, Khaleesi,” Rakharo said. “We were too few to stop them. It is the right of the strong to take from the weak. They took many slaves as well, the khal’s and yours, yet they left some few.” (AGOT, Daenerys)

We don’t get the details of how the moonsingers and jhats are chosen, but the Jogos Nhai do occasionally raise up a jhattar, a warleader or “jhat of jhats,” which seem to be a matter of choosing and not family legacy. We are told that when facing extinction at the hands of Lo Bu, the forty-third Scarlett Emperor of Yi Ti, one thousand rival clans gathered together and chose a female warrior named Zhea Zorseface as jhattar (which turned out to be a great decision).

This is probably a good place to briefly note the general badassery of the Jogos Nhai. Not only did Zia Zorseface string out Lo Bu’s thirteen armies, isolating and destroying each in turn before killing Lo Bu himself, gilding his skull, and making a drinking cup out it; but we also hear of Garak Squint-Eye, who slew the last of the Jhogwin, the stone giants of the Bones mountains. It’s hard to say who or what those “stone giants” really were, but they don’t sound like easy prey. The Jogos Nhai also whupped up on Hyrkoon for many centuries and likely had something to do with their downfall.

It seems likely that the tight familial bonds of the Jogos Nhai and their extreme hostility to outsiders arose as a survival mechanism during the anarchy of the Long Night and the difficult living conditions that would have persisted long afterwards. As the horse riding culture that did not flee the Bloodstone Emperor holocaust, they would have had to become tough as nails to survive – and I think that’s a fine description of the Jogos Nhai, “tough as nails.”

Physically, the Jogos Nhai are much shorter than the Dothraki, with skin that tends more to yellow than the bronze of the Dothraki. This does beg the question of where the height of the Dothraki came in – were they always a taller cousin to the ancient Jogos Nhai, even when they were both part of the GEotD, or did they gain their height though intermarriage with the ancient people of the grasslands after crossing the mountains? We are about to get to the Sarnori, who are tall like the Dothraki (only more so) and have the same skin and hair and eye coloring as the Dothraki, so there is potential for the “tall genes” to have entered the Dothraki gene pool after they had crossed the mountains.

The Dothraki reverence for the Mother of Mountains and the womb of the world is certainly lunar in nature; mountains, whose peaks float in the sky like moons, and lakes, whose surfaces shine like the moon, are specifically used as metaphors for moons throughout the series. The Silver Sea is a definite lunar symbol, and the Womb of the World bears the same symbolism. Most importantly, we know the Dothraki view the moon itself as a goddess and the wife of the sun. The Jogos Nhai, on the other hand, have an extreme reverence for their moonsingers, who basically govern all aspects of life that don’t have to do with war. Although Dothraki khals are always male, the crones of the Dosh Khaleen have absolute authority and are obeyed without question inside of Vaes Dothrak, which sits at the foot of the Mother of Mountains by the Womb of the World. This seems like an echo of the power held by the moonsingers, and we have to notice that twice now, we see the Dothraki revert to practices much closer to those of the Jogos Nhai – they don’t make war upon one another, and they place the power in the hands of the women.

As I said above, the warleaders of the Jogos Nhai, the jhats, were usually male, but the moonsingers governed all other aspects of society. In a strange inversion of wildlings culture, the women of the Jogos Nhai even kidnap their husbands! In other words, women, and specifically the moonsingers, were generally more powerful than men in daily life. Thus we see that the Jogos Nhai are much closer to a matriarchal society than their taller horse-rider cousins to the west, which fits with the general theme of society moving towards patriarchy after the Long Night. Jogos Nhai also have somewhat flexible gender roles (not something patriarchy is really known for), as it is acceptable in their society for a woman to choose to be a warrior or a man to choose to be a moonsinger, though a woman choosing the life of a warrior must dress and live as a man, and vise versa.

Mirri Maz Dur met a moonsinger in Asshai while she was studying magic there:

When I was younger and more fair, I went in caravan to Asshai by the Shadow, to learn from their mages. Ships from many lands come to Asshai, so I lingered long to study the healing ways of distant peoples. A moonsinger of the Jogos Nhai gifted me with her birthing songs…”

There’s a nice bit of symmetry here as Daenerys herself represents the moon (and indeed Drogo calls her “moon of my life” a couple of lines after this quote, just to remind us). Not only is the moon strongly associated with the femininity in cultures all around the world, in ASOAIF we have the specific theme of sacrifice and childbirth-death running all throughout the series. This pattern began with the fire moon’s death in childbirth, which Daenerys represents, as she was ritually (un)burnt to hatch dragons into the world just as the fire moon was. Thus, it makes perfect sense for the “moonsingers” to know the best birthing songs.

The moonsingers of the Jogos Nhai are also demonstrating the important ASOIAF theme of everything having its song. The Church of Starry Wisdom sings to the stars, and Melisandre and the R’hllorists do a lot of singing at their nightfires. Of course the real name of the children of the forest is “those who sing the songs of earth.” Songs in this sense are a form of worship and communion, so it’s safe to say that there’s a deep reverence for the moon in the culture of Jogos Nhai. Given that they lived inside the GEotD, they may well have a moon-destruction legend similar to the Qarthine “origin of dragons” story. Their reverence for the moon may have something to do with a sense of gratitude for the moon we have left, a memorial for the one which we lost, or perhaps the joy that was felt the first time the clouds cleared enough to see the remaining moon again. We’ve broken down all the symbolism of the Temple of the Moonsingers in Braavos before, and it’s all cold white marble, milkglass, and other ice moon imagery. That’s a fun bit but it’s off topic here, so I won’t go into all of that. It’s in the Moons of Ice and Fire series if you are curious.

One last note: there is a Dothraki, one of Drogo’s bloodriders, named Jhogo, which is one letter away from Jogo, as in Jogos Nhai.

The Jogos Nhai are fun, but aren’t our main topic here. To fill out the story of the Dothraki, we actually have to delve into the lost Kingdoms of Sarnor, and that’s going to be a lot of fun.


The kingdoms of the Sarnori and the Rhoynar probably tie for the title of most beautiful and advanced civilization since the Long Night. These are the places you would want to live if you had to live on Planetos. Tragically, the Dothraki destroyed the former and the Valyrians the latter. Knowing as we do that many people seem to have fled westward over the Bones mountains and into the grasslands, we certainly have to take a look at the first and greatest post-Long Night empire of the grasslands, the Kingdom of Sarnor.

The people of the grasslands from which Sarnor arose seem to represent their own disapora, independent of the Great Empire of the Dawn, it must be said. However, some remnants of GEotD culture seem to have come over the mountain with the ancestors of the Dothraki and other fugitives, and the same may be true of the ancestors of the Sarnori. There’s also a nice little tip-off to look for GEotD fingerprints in the Kingdom of Sarnor:

Their gleaming cities were strewn across the grasslands like jewels across a green velvet mantle, shining beneath the light of sun and stars. (TWOIAF)

Jewels across a green mantle calls to mind the gemstone emperors of the GEotD and the jade and green pearls which they wore. “Shining beneath the light of sun and stars” certainly calls to mind a civilization with a connection to astronomy, and taken together with the cities being compared to gleaming jewels, it calls to mind the gemstone eyes of the GEotD emperors. It could of course have no double meaning (the wyrms of doubt are ever churning), but it is an interesting choice of words, and taken with the idea that refugees from the east passed through the grasslands, there’s enough to make us take a look here and see what we find.

On top of all that, it must be said – the Sarnori are just really cool and interesting. Many amazing things and places are briefly alluded to: The Palace With a Thousand Rooms where the High King dwelt, Sathar the Waterfall City, Sallosh the City of Schollars with its vast library and painted walls, Sarnath of the Tall Towers, Mardosh the Unconquerable (not so unconquerable, as it turns out). They were ”warriors, sorcerers, and scholars,” which is a match for our general perception of Great Empire of the Dawn rulers as embracing the use of magic and the pursuit of (starry) wisdom and knowledge.

The Sarnori themselves are heirs to an older legacy which traces back to the Dawn Age: the Kingdom of the Fisher Queens, who ruled the lands adjoining the now-vanished Silver Sea. The maesters of The World of Ice and Fire, in somewhat contradictory fashion, name several places as the site of the first “civilization as we know it:” Ghis, Yi Ti, the grasslands of the river Sarne, the first cities of the Rhoynar, and of course Asshai. That indicates they probably don’t know for sure; the only thing we can safely infer from this is that all of these civilizations are among the first to arise after the global disaster of the Long Night. Here is maester Yandel’s introduction to the grasslands of the river Sarne:

It was here amidst these grasses that civilization was born in the Dawn age. Ten thousand years ago or more, when Westeros was yet a howling wilderness inhabited only by the giants and the children of the forest, the first true towns arose beside the banks of the river Sarne and beside the myriad vassal streams that fed her on her meandering course Northward to the Shivering Sea. 

The histories of those days are lost to us, sad to say, for the kingdoms of the grass came and went in large measure before the race of man became literate. Only the legends persist. From such we know of the Fishers Queens, who ruled the lands adjoining the Silver Sea – the great inland sea at the heart of the grasslands – from a floating palace that made its way endlessly around its shores. 

The Fisher Queens were wise and benevolent and favored of the gods, we are told, and the kings and lords and wise men sought the floating palace for their counsel. Beyond their domains, however, other peoples rose and fell and fought, struggling for a place in the sun. Some maesters believe that the First Men originated here before beginning the long westward migration that took them across the arm of Dorne to Westeros. The Andals, too, may have arisen in the fertile fields south of the Silver Sea. 

At some point, the mythical-sounding kingdom of the Fisher Queens came to an end, and the Silver Sea was reduced to three large lakes. I would certainly place my money on this decline occurring or at least beginning with the Long Night disaster. The realm of the Fisher Queens certainly sound like a Dawn Age kingdom, with their matriarchal society, wise and just reputation, favor of the gods, etc. The symbolism of the Silver Sea ruled by a matriarch is strongly evocative of moon imagery, and the Silver Sea itself fits the pattern of one moon breaking apart into three things which see from time to time (think of Dany’s three dragons to represent the moon meteor shower).

It should be noted that the Dothraki womb of the world seems to be a remnant of the Silver Sea – a look at the map shows two large lakes closer to the Sarne, and the only possible third lake is the womb of the world… which means that the Silver Sea would have been truly, truly massive! Like, really, really massive – look at the map! This is pretty important, I think, because it seems George has taken effort to obscure this information, never telling us outright that the WotW was part of the Silver Sea, instead leaving it for us to make the connection. Crowfood’s Daughter of the Disputer Lands has recently done a terrific video on this topic.

This is also a continuation of the moon imagery, from the Silver Sea to the Womb of the World and Mother of Mountains. When we consider the Dothraki tale of the First Man emerging from the Womb of the World, we have to wonder whether this story came down from the Fisher Queens themselves in some form and originally referred to the Silver Sea as a whole, and was later transferred to the Womb of the World. Obviously the story of an origin over the mountains is entirely incompatible with the ‘first human emerging from the Womb of the World’ story, so the Dothraki may have adopted the second one after crossing the mountains and mingling with the survivors of the Silver Sea kingdoms.

Following hte fall of the Fisher Queens, the three principal surviving groups – the Cymmeri, the Zoqora, and the Gipps – were conquered and assimilated by a group who came to be called the Sarnori. They called themselves the Tagaez Fen, the “tall men.” The legendary founder of Sarnor, the man who “took to wife a daughter of the greatest lords and kings” from each of these three peoples to unite them and bind them to his will, was named “Huzhor Amai, The Amazing,” supposedly born of the last of the Fisher Queens. In a brief shout-out to Arthurian legend, I’ll just briefly mention that the concept of a “Fisher King” is that of a keeper of the holy grail, which is a metaphor for the bloodline of Christ, who was of course known as the “fisher of men.” This seems similar to the idea of Huzhor Amai as the guardian of the bloodline of the Fisher Queens.

I probably don’t have to point out the phonetic similarity between “Huzhor Amai” and “Azor Ahai,” because wow, are they similar.

It’s tempting to think that Huzhor Amai, last of the Fisher Queens, could be a garbled memory of a legendary ancestral hero named Azor Ahai. Even though I believe Azor Ahai was originally a bad dude, at some point he obviously became remembered as the hero, so this may be possible. However, all the other flaming sword heroes come from the other side of the Bones mountains, and nothing else about the Huzhor Amai story sounds like Azor Ahai or the Bloodstone Emperor (no flaming sword, no black stone, no dark magic, no usurpation or wife-murder, etc.).

I think it is more probable that the Sarnori language is phonetically similar to that of the Great Empire of the Dawn because some part of the Sarnori language originated there. The last hero of the Sarnori during their downfall at the hands of the Dothraki was named Mazor Alexi, another name bearing resemblance to Azor Ahai, but clearly, Mazor Alexi lived only four hundred years ago and is definitely not another name for Azor Ahai. I believe this lends credence to the idea of common phonetic roots between Sarnor and the Great Empire. The names ‘Azor Ahai’ and ‘Huzhor Amai’ are perhaps both derived from or named after an older hero, some ancient figure of GEotD lore, or else Huzhor’s name is recalling that of Azor himself. If the ancestors of the Sarnori did indeed migrate from the Far East to the grasslands, they may have carried a version of this name with them.

Alternately, it’s possible one or more of the people assimilated into the Sarnori culture was the descendant of the GEotD, and they brought this name or their language with them to the area, later to be adopted by their Sarnori conquerors.

It is ambiguous as to whether the “Sarnori” were living in the former Silver Sea area before their assimilation of the surrounding peoples or whether they migrated there and conquered. The Silver Sea Kingdom of Fisher Queens is almost certainly a pre-Long Night culture, but the the actual “Kingdom of Sarnor” arose approximately concurrent with Ghis and Valyria, the first empires to arise after mankind rose out of the darkness of post-Long Night Planetos. We know the Sarnori fought in the wars between Valyria and Ghis, the last of which was five thousand years ago (according to Daenerys’s memory – this is the only source for this), dating the rise of Sarnor to at least that long ago. Thus the timing of the conquest of the native peoples by the Sarnori does potentially line up with an exodus from GEotD territory. They claim a descent from the line of the Fisher Queens, but this could easily be another case of a conquering ruler “donning his floppy ears” to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the populace. This is a well-known historical phenomena which George succinctly sums up with his clever “floppy ears” saying, and one which he reproduces in his world countless times.

Concerning the peoples who were united by the Amazing One himself, Huzhor Amai, a couple of things seem relevant here. The Cymmeri were supposedly “the first people to work iron,” although the Rhoynar also claim this title. Azor Ahai was seemingly a smith, as he “heated, hammered, and folded” the steel of Lightbringer the sword, which implies the GEotD had some knowledge of metalworking. I’ve laid out the case in the previous essay that the Valyrians were in all ways heirs to the magic of the GEotD. The GEotD had control of dragons and the sorcery needed to make fused stone structures, and their emperors appeared to Dany holding swords of pale fire, all of which makes it likely that the GEotD not only knew how to work steel, but likely knew the secret of making steel with dragon flame and sorcery in a forerunner of Valyrian steel. Thus, the Cymmeri’s metalworking knowledge may be a link to the far east.

The Zoqora, meanwhile, had brown skin and pale hair, and were long of limb, and eyes that were something other than black (TWOAIF). Venturing into the realm of the highly speculative, it’s possible ‘tall with pale hair and medium brown skin’ is the look of the gemstone emperors, or at least one of the races or tribes of the GEotD. The Dothraki, fellow GEotD fugitives, also have medium brown or ‘bronze’ skin tones, and are fairly tall. The Lengii are definitely a GEotD descendant, as their “Holy Island” island was specifically listed as a part of their empire, and they have “teak” colored skin, which is another way of describing medium brown, golden, or bronze coloring. The Lengi are also very, very tall, like the Sarnori, and have the same black hair. The only difference is the eye color – black for the Sarnori and golden for the Lengi, which is likely explained by the Lengi having interbred with the Old Ones… whoever they are.

We’ve mentioned the similarities in eye, skin, and hair color, and height between Sarnori and Dothraki, and it’s probably also worth noting that both cultures were very good with horses, just in different ways. The Sarnori have their deadly scythe chariots – that requires very advanced horsemanship, breeding, and training, and also very strong horses. Indeed, we are told they used specific breeds for specific purposes – black mares for their cavalry, and blood-red horses trained to work in teams to pull the scythe chariots. The Dothraki were nomadic, unlike Sarnor, which accounts for the different uses of horses, but there may well have been some ancient transference of culture, knowledge, and horseflesh, even if they were generally rivals. The Dothraki probably did not bring their horses with them from the east, as the Jogos Nhai have to use zorses for lack of large horse breeds. The horses seems to have been in the grasslands.

Given the similar coloring and the similar horse culture… it’s almost impossible not to conclude that the Sarnori and Dothraki share a common ancestor, likely on the west side of the mountains. One culture became urbanized, whilst the other remained nomadic, but it’s probably not a coincidence we get two somewhat similar looking horse peoples living right next to one another.

The Sarnori men and women are said to have had the custom of making war together, with the women twice mentioned as chariot drivers. Huzhor Amai’s Cymmeri wife supposedly made his armor, which we are later told is in fact steel. So, even though we have transitioned from female rulers, the Fisher Queens to male rulers, the High King and lesser Kings of Sarnor, we still see a remnant of some kind of gender equality and gender role flexibility. This is too broad of a concept to be specifically associated with the GEotD, but it fits in with the general narrative of shift from matriarchal societies to patriarchal ones, which is worthy of note as George seems to be depicting this phenomena across large parts of the world. On a cosmic level, this all goes back to the murder of the moon goddess.

There’s nice bit of symmetry here with the beginning and end of the story of the grasslands: The Fisher Queens “ruled from a floating palace that made its way endlessly around its shores,” while today “the khals drive their great herds of horses and goats endlessly across their “sea,” fighting one another when they meet and occasionally moving beyond the borders of their own lands for slaves and plunder…” We used to have wise and benevolent female rulers traveling an actual sea, now we have traveling bands of violent male killers in a grass sea, again illustrating the shift towards patriarchy and violent conquest.

Lastly, concerning Sarnor, it should be noted that they are some of the most accomplished seafarers and travelers in history. The Great Empire of the Dawn conquered Leng by sea, and if they reached Westeros in any meaningful capacity (meaning more than a handful of dragonriders flying on dragonback), then it was surely a maritime power as well. It’s likely they were in any case, simply because of their size and power. The travels of the Sarnori:

Sarnori traders traveled to Valyria and Yi Ti, to Leng and Asshai. Sarnori ships sailed the Shivering Sea to Ib and Far Mossovy. Sarnori kings warred against the Qaathi and the Old Empire of Ghis, and lead many a foray against the bands of nomadic horseman who roamed the steppes to their east. (TWOIAF)

That’s pretty extensive travel, and they seem to have an interest in lands formerly under the rule of the Great Empire. It’s really too bad about the burning of the great library at Alexandri– I mean Sallosh, city of scholars, or else I might not have to write this essay. 🙂

So, to sort of sum up our findings here, a lot of people seem to have fled the collapse of the Great Empire of the Dawn by going west over the Bones Mountains. Thus both genetics and culture from the various tribes of men that comprised the Great Empire spread out all through Essos: to Valyria, to Qarth, and to peoples of the grasslands such as the Sarnori and Dothraki. There’s also the question of the Andals, who are said to have possibly arisen in the grasslands south of the Silver Sea, because that hey that Hugor Hill mythology that bears some of the hallmarks of the Azor Ahai mythology, and Hugor is very close to Huzhor, as in Huzhor Amai. They also have that Starry Sept and a heavy astronomical component to their theology in general. Perhaps another day we can explore that possibility. For now, I hope you have enjoyed this essay, and I will see you all next year with more Mythical Astronomy and Between 2 Weirwoods!

A Silver See Horse

Well, here we are, eight episodes in to the Weirwood Compendium; eleven really, since we should include the Weirwood Goddess episodes in this body of work. Yes, here we are, all these episodes in to our study of weirwoods, and I thought I’d play one of the hits, one of the old goodies. By that I mean that we are starting off today with a bit of Morningstar discussion, a familiar topic I know. Lately we’ve been studying Daenerys as a Nissa Nissa figure who symbolically goes into the “green see” of the weirwoodnet in all manner of clever ways, and the celestial equivalent to this involves the mythology of the planet Venus in general and Aphrodite in particular.

To whit: Daenerys and Nissa Nissa symbolize the second moon that cracked open to birth dragons, and their real or symbolic deaths symbolize the burning and cracking open of the moon. Before they die, they are equivalent to moon goddess, and after they die or symbolically die, they represent the falling stars made up of the moon’s corpse – my beloved moon meteors. They are no longer moon goddesses – they’re now falling stars, and as falling stars, George has chosen to see them as equivalent to Venus, who appears to fall to the horizon every night when it is in the Evenstar position. From moon to morningstar – I know I’ve talked about this many times, but I just want it to be super clear in your mind before we start. Plus, it’s one of the more brilliant things Martin has done, and I love talking about it.

The myth of Venus is probably familiar to you: Ouranos’s son Kronos cut of his balls and threw them down from heaven and into the sea. This made the sea “foamy” where they landed (ooh la la), and from this sea-foam was born Aphrodite, whose name famously means “foam-born.” At least, that’s what Hesiod, the famous Greek poet, story-teller and mythographer, said – he traced her name to aphrós, which mean sea-foam, though some scholars have come to dispute that. It makes sense to me though, since Aphrodite is unquestionably associated with Venus, and Venus appears to both fall from heaven to the horizon as the Evenstar and rise from the horizon as the Morningstar. If you lived surrounded by the ocean on three sides as most Greeks did, these fallings and risings would appear to occur into and out of the sea.

“Aphros” covers the first part of her name, and scholars in the early nineteenth century who accepted Hesiod’s analysis of Aphrodite’s name suggested that the second half of “Aphrodite” might be traced to as *-odítē, meaning “wanderer,” or *-dítē  which means “bright”. Again I cautiously venture to say that this makes sense to me; the whole idea of this myth is that a star – a bright wanderer – appears to fall into and rise from the sea. All of this is in dispute, although there isn’t really a strong alternate theory –  just to give you all the necessary disclaimers and updates on scholarly debates. Check out the wikipedia entry on Aphrodite if you want links to the scholars who makes these various arguments so that you can evaluate them for yourself.

So that’s Aphrodite – the goddess of love and beauty, she rises from the sea foam created by Ouranos’s severed balls falling into the sea. You can see how well this works for Martin’s basic mythical astronomy idea, that of a moon goddess being slain by a comet and falling into the sea, after which she rises and transforms, like Aphrodite rising from the sea. The sea serves as a metaphor for the weirwoodnet, and indeed, Nissa Nissa dies and goes into the green see just as the moon meteors fall into the sea. She also seems to be reborn from the weirwoodnet see, as Aphrodite is born from the sea; think of the symbolism of Lady Stoneheart here, who was reborn from the Green Fork of the Trident and took up residence in greenseer-like cave full of weirwood roots.

Backing up a bit, the very concept of Azor Ahai as “a hero reborn in the sea” is simply Martin pointing at the Venus component of the Azor Ahai myth. Lightbringer is synonymous with Venus as well as Lucifer, and so the rebirth of Azor Ahai, who is reborn to wield Lightbringer, is akin to Venus rising from the sea. Azor Ahai is also resurrected through the weirwoodnet, it seems to us, which Martin imagines as a green sea, and so in this way you can see how nicely Morningstar mythology dovetails with the idea of going into and coming out of the green see of the weirwoods. We already identified the falling moon goddess and all other moon meteor symbols – all the Lightbringer symbols, basically – as drawing on Morningstar and Evenstar mythology, and as we have continued out research, we have come to see that all the Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, and Lightbringer stuff seems inextricably linked to the weirwoods.

Bloodstone Compendium
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

Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
I: The Last Hero & the King of Corn
II: King of Winter, Lord of Death
III: The Long Night’s Watch

Great Empire of the Dawn
I: History and Lore of House Dayne
II: Asshai-by-the-Shadow
III: The Great Empire of the Dawn
IV: Flight of the Bones

Moons of Ice and Fire
I: Shadow Heart Mother
II: Dawn of the Others
III: Visenya Draconis
IV: The Long Night Was His to Rule
V: R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons

The Blood of the Other
–  Prelude to a Chill
I: A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
II: The Stark that Brings the Dawn
III: Eldric Shadowchaser
IV: Prose Eddard
V: Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash

Weirwood Goddess
I: Venus of the Woods
II: It’s an Arya Thing
III: The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa

Weirwood Compendium B
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
VIII: A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
I: Veil of Frozen Tears
II: Sansa Locked in Ice

Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
IV: The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
V: The Great Old Ones
VI: The Horned Lords
VII: Cold Gods and Old Bones

We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue

Now in PODCAST form!

Click to open in iTunes

Ergo, I thought it was worthwhile to circle back to lovely Venus one more time and show how Martin has joined that symbolism with the green sea / greenseer ideas. The overarching symbolic themes we will be discussing today will be dragons going into the weirwoodnet and Nissa Nissa merging with and becoming the green see of the weirwoodnet, and Daenerys will be the dragon and the Nissa Nissa performing the symbolism in the scenes we’ll examine. She’s a moon goddess-turned-Morningstar, and she’s falling into and rising from the sea pretty much constantly.

But before we throw Dany into the ocean, let’s take a look at the famous nod to Aphrodite George slips in to one of Dany’s ADWD chapters, just in case you haven’t heard it in a while. This is Dany asking her handmaiden’s to send Daario to her:

Send him up at once. And … I will have no more need of you this evening. I shall be safe with Daario. Oh, and send Irri and Jhiqui, if you would be so good. And Missandei.” I need to change, to make myself beautiful.

She said as much to her handmaids when they came. “What does Your Grace wish to wear?” asked Missandei.

Starlight and seafoam, Dany thought, a wisp of silk that leaves my left breast bare for Daario’s delight. Oh, and flowers for my hair. When first they met, the captain brought her flowers every day, all the way from Yunkai to Meereen. “Bring the grey linen gown with the pearls on the bodice. Oh, and my white lion’s pelt.” She always felt safer wrapped in Drogo’s lionskin.

The classic translation of Aphro-dite is “sea-foam – bright / wanderer,” and Dany wants to wear “starlight and seafoam” to make herself beautiful. Dany is referred to “the most beautiful woman in the world” by two of her suitors, Quentyn and Victarion, so the Aphrodite reference really sticks. Consider the flowers in her hair – that’s basically like the flower crown worn by the woman named “the Queen of Love and Beauty” at a Westerosi tourney, especially since it’s her hunky love interest who gives her flowers, as the tourney champion bestows the floral crown to whomever he chooses as the Queen of Love and Beauty. But Aphrodite is the goddess of love and beauty, and is associated with springtime and the growth of vegetation, so we can see the logic in George giving Dany a symbolic “Queen of Love and Beauty” flower crown when comparing her to Aphrodite.

She wants to leave one breast bare for Daario – an obvious nod to the “bear your breast to me” part of the Lightbringer / Nissa Nissa legend, and the grey and white attire with pearls is lunar symbolism to go along with it. In other words, she is a moon maiden waiting to become a morningstar, and the moon goddess does that by coupling with the sun and his big, explosive comet.

Alright! Time say our thank you’s. Thanks to Stanley Black for our intro music and to John Walsh for our flameco guitar – and don’t forget you can find more of John’s lovely playing on the John Walsh Guitar YouTube channel. Thanks to Ba’al the Bard for performing the vocal readings of the text, and thanks to Sanrixian for painting an amazing Dany on her Silver Seahorse during our livestream this past weekend, which you can find at embedded in the text version of this essay. Thanks to George R. R. Martin for sharing his world with us, thanks to all of our listeners and subscribers for being a part of our community and sharing Mythical Astronomy with all your friends, and thanks most of all to our Patreon patrons who bring this show to you with their generous and steadfast support.

By the way, look out for new, 13 minute YouTube videos on the lucifermeanslightbringer YouTube channel – they will be called “LmL in 13,” and they will essentially be boiled-down and condensed versions of some of our main mythical astronomy ideas. I am hoping these bite-sized bits might bring our show to more people, so I will really appreciate it if you guys can share those around. The first one will be “Dawn is the Original Ice,” and it should actually be up by the time you hear this.

Figurine of Astarte with a horned headdress, Louvre Museum

Melting in to the See

This section is brought to you by our newest dragon patron: Melaerys the WeirDragon, whose scales are white as bone and whose horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are as red as blood. Melaerys, who is native to Stygai, is the first known Stygian dragon to leave that corpse city at the Heart of the Shadow in over five millennia. It is rumored that Melaerys is inhabited by the spirit of a long-vanished sorceress from Asshai called Melanie Lot7

The vast majority of Dany’s green sea symbolism happens in the actual Dothraki Sea of course, but when I looked back at her first two chapters, I actually did find that, right from the beginning, Dany appears to us a sort of watery goddess. Her first chapter opens like this:

Her brother held the gown up for her inspection. “This is beauty. Touch it. Go on. Caress the fabric.” Dany touched it. The cloth was so smooth that it seemed to run through her fingers like water.

It’s a beautiful gown made of water, excellent. Very practical. After this comes the cringeworthy scene where Viserys gropes his sister’s breasts, then twists one of her nipples painfully. This is showing right from the start that this is an abusive relationship, and it’s also a reference to Nissa Nissa bearing her breast to Azor Ahai and being stabbed by Lightbringer, just as with all the other times Viserys does something like this to her. It’s the unkind version of the scene with Daario we just quoted in the intro.

Dany’s next move is to take a bath – I feel ya Dany, Viserys scenes make us all want to bathe. This is the famous scalding hot bath scene you probably remember from the TV show, the one where she shows a bit of her future ability to tolerate heat. As we discussed last time, Dany takes a lot of baths in pivotal scenes, including a couple of fiery baths, and here is the line from this one:

The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood.”

So she’s given a gown made of water, takes a hot bath, and afterward, “the girl brushed her hair until it shone like molten silver.”  Not only is this symbolism wet and hot (aye carumba!), it’s also just generally evocative of silvery moon goddess mystique. She even checks out her molten silver hair in a silver looking glass, which is conveniently round, like a full moon. In her second chapter, which includes her wedding, we get this passage:

Afterward she could not say how far or how long they had ridden, but it was full dark when they stopped at a grassy place beside a small stream. Drogo swung off his horse and lifted her down from hers. She felt as fragile as glass in his hands, her limbs as weak as water.

This is the scene where Drogo and Dany first have sex, and it’s notable that it occurs by a stream. And look, Dany is made of water. Glass too, and since she is a dragon, this makes me think of dragonglass, although I think Martin is mainly using the word glass her for the more conventional purpose of portraying Dany as feeling nervous and weak. The watery legs description works well to that ends too, but also contributes to the other watery associations we find all around Dany. Is George making a “tall drink of water” joke here, since she’s like glass and water? Drogo is a tall drink of water, so I guess Dany is a short glass of water.

People made of water can melt. Moon maidens especially; we expect them to melt. We just saw Dany with “molten silver” hair, which sounds melty. And in the last Weirwood Compendium episode, we saw Dany “submerse herself” in the green grass see and become one with it, “losing herself in the green”… and that’s kind of like melting, certainly. The concept there seemed to be that Nissa Nissa dies and then not only enters the realm of the greenseers, but in some senses merges with and becomes the thing we think of as the weirwoodnet. Melting moon maidens are expressing the exact same concept.

We’ve seen this same idea expressed using the symbol of blood. You’ll recall Jorah’s fine dissertation on the various kinds of grasses in the world, including that bit about the Dothraki Sea turning into a sea of blood when it “blooms.” I interpreted that as a reference to the shed blood of the slain moon maiden entering the green sea, which of course amounts to Nissa Nissa merging with the green sea of the weirwoodnet after she is slain. To show you why I made that interpretation, we looked at two scenes that take place in the green Dothraki Sea where Dany symbolically has her blood boiled and melted: the dragon dream where “she could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam,” and the alchemical wedding, where she had the urge to run to Drogo in the pyre and “take him inside her one last time, the fire melting the flesh from their bones until they were as one, forever.” These are both Lightbringer forging scenes in the green sea that bring death transformations for Dany; I mean one is the bloody alchemical wedding, and the other is a dream of being burnt by a dragon, which would simply be the moon’s eye view of the oncoming comet, more or less. In both scenes, Nissa Nissa is melted and her blood is specifically mentioned.

Heck, the Lightbringer myth itself suggests Nissa Nissa’s blood as being boiled and melted. Nissa Nissa famously got stabbed by Lightbringer, and elsewhere (in the pages of the Jade Compendium, actually, chuckle chuckle), we hear about what happens when you get stabbed with Lightbringer:

Once Azor Ahai fought a monster. When he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast, its blood began to boil. Smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame.

Nissa Nissa certainly isn’t a monster, but you can imagine the same thing happening to our poor moon maiden when she was stabbed with white-hot Lightbringer, and thus we can see the idea of Nissa Nissa melting is hinted at right in the original tale of Lightbringer’s forging.

Perhaps the most clear expression of this symbolic bleeding and melting moon maiden idea was the scene involving Ygritte that we found two episodes ago, in Weirwood Compendium 6: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea. That was Jon’s dream of swimming in a hot pool beneath the heart tree of Winterfell’s godswood, where Ygritte’s flesh melts and dissolves into the pool:

You know nothing, Jon Snow,” she whispered, her skin dissolving in the hot water, the flesh beneath sloughing off her bones until only skull and skeleton remained, and the pool bubbled thick and red.

Ygritte, as we know, is a terrific red-headed weirwood goddess, and as a spear-wife, she even brings the Meliai ash tree nymph symbolism to life, since you will recall from the Venus of the Woods episode that those Meliai ash tree nymphs armed their sons with ash wood spears from their sacred ash trees. The Meliai were also created by Ouranos’s chopped-off balls, just like Aphrodite, so there’s even a Venus connection to the Meliai.

Ygrite’s name also contains a clear allusion to the root word of Yggdrasil, Ygg, and “Ygritte” may be intended to suggest an “Ygg rite,” since that would seem a good description of the idea of killing Nissa Nissa as a part of a magic rite to allow Azor Ahai to enter the weirwoodnet. You may also recall that there’s an ancient Ironborn myth where they seem to refer to weirwoods as “the demon tree Ygg,” which is essentially Martin tapping us on the shoulder and making sure we associate the weirwoods with Yggdrasil, and thus it’s no coincidence he named one of the weirwood goddess Nissa Nissa figures after old Yggy. Two other weirwood goddess figures, Asha Greyjoy and the wildling spearwife named Rowan, are both named after the ash tree, which is what Yggdrasil is, a “great ash tree,” which provides further context for Ygritte as “Ygg-rite.”

So, here is Ygritte, in front of Martin’s version of the Ygg tree, herself looking like a bit like a weirwood anyway with her red hair… and then she melts, with only her bones and blood remaining, and the blood fills the hot pool. Not only is she melting into the weirwood pool, we know that “blood and bone” is the frequently-used description of the weirwoods, so the idea of her “turning into a weirwood” is suggested in more than one way. As with Dany’s various submersions and meltings and boilings in the green Dothraki Sea, the message seems to be that Nissa Nissa, when slain, becomes one with the green see, so to speak. She turns to blood and dissolves into the green see. I especially like the way the Ygritte scene unites the bathing symbolism with the bleeding and melting symbolism, and again I would suggest that all of Dany’s symbolically rich scalding hot baths are getting at the same idea, hence her molten silver hair.

We see Dany’s silver hair again play the role of melting moon when she bathes after Rhaego’s stillbirth near the end of AGOT. This is also right before she walks into the pyre and wakes the dragons:

When she was clean, her handmaids helped her from the water. Irri and Jhiqui fanned her dry, while Doreah brushed her hair until it fell like a river of liquid silver down her back.

Notice her hair is not only like melting silver, but like a falling river of liquid silver, a molten silver waterfall. One imagines a moon melting right out of the sky and dripping down to earth… melty melty. There is even a third matching line about her hair being like wet silver, and it comes when Dany hears the story of the destruction of the second moon while sitting in a bath. It’s nestled right in the folds of the moon dragon myth itself: “Silvery-wet hair tumbled across her eyes as Dany turned her head, curious. “The moon?” “He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said.” ..and you know the rest.

Notice the word “tumbled” to imply the wet silvery moon hair falling from the sky or melting across the face of the moon. This melting moon maiden language is nicely paired here with the talk of a moon scalded and cracked open like an egg and Daenerys the moon maiden sitting in her hot bath. If you notice, the bath she sits in right before waking the dragons was called “scalding hot,” previewing Dany’s role as the moon egg that was scalded by the sun when she walks into the pyre.

With all these rivers of molten silver dripping off of Dany’s head into the bath, that bath might soon be a silver sea. A very small one, and a very small joke, but it is true that the Dothraki Grass Sea used to be an inland sea which was called the Silver Sea, and it was huge. A “Silver Sea” is an obvious symbol for the moon itself, especially when we have Dany the moon maiden’s silver hair melting like that in these three scenes. More on the Silver Sea in a moment (and I’d also point you towards the awesome new video from Crowfood’s Daughter on the Silver Sea, which you can find on the Disputed Lands YouTube channel), but for now think about it as a very large version of the reflective moon pool in Braavos, which is itself a larger version of the silver looking glass in Dany’s first chapter.

Consider the hair symbolism of the Nissa Nissa maidens we’ve studied. Most of them actually have red, “kissed-by-fire” hair, which is a great way to symbolize the burning of the second moon. It’s also a great way to create the image of the burning tree person that alludes to the weirwoods, whose red canopy looks like blood and fire. Dany doesn’t have kissed-by-fire hair, but rather the silvery-gold hair of Valyria; but then that’s the point of describing her silver hair as molten or liquid silver. It’s simply a different way to show a burning and melting moon.

And that’s just symbolism – you’ll recall that there are two scenes where Dany’s hair actually burns off! Talk about kissed by fire; that’s making the symbolism literal. Dany’s hair burns off both at the alchemical wedding and during the escape from the Meereenese fighting pit on Drogon’s back… both scenes which symbolize the burning of the moon to forge Lightbringer dragons. One scene happens in the Dothraki Sea, and the other as Dany is escaping into the Dothraki Sea, and so once again we can see George using the green Dothraki Sea as a backdrop to show that all these moon maidens aren’t just melting, but melting into the green see of the weirwoodnet.

At the end of Dany’s first chapter, Illyrio guides her and Viserys to Khal Drogo’s “manse,” which is the temporary home the Pentoshi happily keep for him when he comes here, part of their strategy for avoided strife with the Dothraki. There we find some awesome silvery moon symbolism:

They stepped past the eunuch into a pillared courtyard overgrown in pale ivy. Moonlight painted the leaves in shades of bone and silver as the guests drifted among them.

This would be the first of many instances of Martin giving us moonlight “silvering” things in the moonlight –  usually white things, like weirwood bark, or gold things, like Jaime’s hair and armor at the Battle of the Whispering Wood. For example, when Arya practices her swordplay by night in the Harrenhal Godswood, it says “the light of the moon painted the limbs of the weirwood silvery white.” In fact, the “pale ivy” here at Drogo’s manse is painted in shades of “silver and bone,” and of course “bone white” is by far the most common description of weirwood wood. It makes a ton of sense to see moon and weirwood colors appearing together, since weirwoods have a ton of lunar symbolism, as we know from the Moon Door, the House of Black and White door, and the Black Gate weirwood face door that glows like milk and moonlight.

The occasion for this gathering is actually Drogo and Dany’s engagement. To me, the silver-and-bone-in-the-moonlight ivy here seems like a subtle way to tie Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa’s wedding, symbolized here by Drogo and Dany, to the weirwoods and the moon. Their wedding and consummation takes place in the green grass outside Pentos – on the edge of the green see in other words – so it’s all fairly consistent. Or simply look at it this way: Drogo the solar king found his Nissa Nissa among the silver and bone foliage of the garden on the edge of the green see. If the pale ivy looked painted in silver and bone by the moonlight, how do you think freaking Daenerys looked? Like a silvery white tree goddess, I’d imagine.

Moving on to Dany’s second chapter, we find a nice introduction of the Dothraki’s status as honorary sea people:

“A mighty earthen ramp had been raised amid the grass palaces, and there Dany was seated beside Khal Drogo, above the seething sea of Dothraki.”

They are sea people who come from the Dothraki Sea… I mean they did choose Jason Momoa (the Khal Drogo actor) to play Aquaman, did they not? Case closed. They’re sea men. On a more serious note, the Greek sea god Poseidon has a very strong association with horses, so it’s likely George drew some amount of inspiration from Poseidon when he thought of equating horse lords and sea lords.

As for those horselords of the grass sea, many have noticed the Dothraki’s philosophical similarities with the Ironborn: the Dothraki ‘do not sow,’ like the Greyjoys, even believing farming to be some sort of defilement of mother earth. Viserys says “All these savages know how to do is steal the things better men have built … and kill,” and excepting for the bigoted and ignorant use of the word savage which is meant to make us see Viserys as constantly shitty, he has a point. The Dothraki do indeed steal everything, almost as a point of pride, just as the Ironborn take pride in “paying the iron price” and even cast shame on paying coin for nice things, as we saw with Theon and Balon. Obviously, both cultures emphasize warrior strength and tend to follow strength. And as we’re about to discuss, the Dothraki are at the center of a lot of conflation between horses and boats. I mean, if you consider boats to be wooden horses, as Drogo does, then the Ironborn are horselords of the sea, just like the Dothraki… only not like the Dothraki.

Who knows, maybe if Dany and Vic work out something to use the Ironborn ships to ferry Dany’s army to Westeros, we’ll get some amusing interplay between Victarion and some Dothraki where they explain why you cant sail a longship across the Great Grass Sea, ha. We can only hope.

So, to sum up – Nissa Nissa is a moon goddess, and when she dies, she melts into the green see of the weirwoodnet. That’s essentially what all these various metaphors about bathing, melting, and burning are about. Dany and her silver hair melting in the green Dothraki Sea, while at the same time assimilating with the lords of that sea is an especially watery version of that metaphor, and it makes a great counterbalance to all the fiery, wake the dragon symbolism which burns hot in Dany’s dreams and then explodes to life at the alchemical wedding. You will recall, however, that even on the first go-round analyzing the alchemical wedding, we noted the many watery descriptions of the fire there, such as when “the dusk shimmered as the air itself seemed to liquefy from the heat.” It’s the lake of fire!

You’ll also recall that from the beginning of the Weirwood Compendium, we have interpreted one aspect of the Sea Dragon myth to be a memory of a giant flaming piece of moon, a bleeding star with a fiery tail, falling into the sea. Thus you can see that this seemingly new idea of Nissa Nissa dying and going into the weirwoodnet was already incubating in the early mythical astronomy theories. Ravenous Reader’s green see metaphor does an exquisite job of unifying the various ideas about fiery moon meteor swords and dragons plunging into the sea with the idea of dying Nissa Nissa bringing her life and fire to the weirwoodnet, and allows us to see them as two sides of the same coin. At the end of the day, Nissa Nissa was sacrificed around the time the moon meteors fell, which is of course right in the original Lightbringer myth, which has Nissa Nissa’s death cry cracking the face of the moon.

Silver Sea Horse for a Silver Sea

This section is brought to you by the newest member of the Long Night’s Watch, Tinnjack of the Dragonglass Shield, Ghost-Hunter of the Haunted Forest and Righteous Hand of the Snow Owl, by Qwesting Beast, the Anger Ranger, Keeper of the Dragon’s Wroth and earthly avatar of Heavenly House Virgo and Libra, and by Jonnel “Blackheel” of House Thompson, wielder of a Valyrian steel tray of phish food and kraken tacos and earthly avatar of House Ophiuchus the Serpent-Bearer 

The other big thing that happens at the wedding that pertains to our lines of investigation is the gifting of the silver horse to Dany. That’s where we are going to kick this essay into a full gallop, and for those of you who like House Velaryon, well, you’re going to be very happy.

There’s.. a lot to unpack here (dramatic understatement), so strap in or saddle up or whatever works for you. This paragraph is the tip of a truly titanic iceberg of symbolism. A silver glacier, if you will.

She was a young filly, spirited and splendid. Dany knew just enough about horses to know that this was no ordinary animal. There was something about her that took the breath away. She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke. Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane. Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated. “Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says.”

Alright, so, there are three different and  completely awesome lines of symbolism going on here, at least. One pertains to the Grey King and the sea dragon’s fire, one to the idea of sea horses and House Velaryon, and the third one to Odin’s grey horse called Sleipnir. Naturally, there is some overlap, because they all relate to the idea of dragons in the green see of the weirwoodnet, and specifically to Nissa Nissa’s dissolution into the green see. We’ll start with the Grey King stuff.

“Grey as a winter sea” should definitely put us in mind of the Grey King, since that is exactly the phrase used to describe his hair and beard (as well as that of the Merling King statue in White Harbor, which is a variation of the same archetypal figure). But the horse’s mane is silver smoke, and smoke only comes from fire – so there must be fire in the grey winter sea. Something fiery must have fallen in to the sea, if you catch my drift. Indeed, as we just discussed, the Grey King is known for acquiring the living fire of Nagga the sea dragon from the sea, before turning as grey as a winter sea himself, and we know that one meaning of this myth is that a fiery meteor dragon fell into the sea.

Now while the sea and smoke description of the horse implies the idea of a fiery moon falling into the sea, Dany spells it out when Dany hops on the horse, because she is the fiery moon maiden! Since it’s the horse’s body that looks like the winter sea and its mane that is like silver smoke, we can even see the horses’s back as the horizon line of the ocean, with Dany on the back of the horse appearing half-submersed below the water like a sinking moon, silver smoke roiling from the waterline all around.

“Dany Rides the Silver Seahorse” by Sanrixian

Of course we know that all this sea dragon and meteors falling into the sea stuff is also talking about dragon people going into the green sea of the weirwoods, and that is implied here in the grey-as-a-winter-sea horse’s description as well. When we consider the fact that Drogo compares the silver smoke-like mane of the horse to Dany’s molten silver hair, we can imagine the horses mane as molten silver dripping into its grey as a winter sea body. This is simply more Nissa Nissa dissolution language, comparable to Dany losing herself in the Dothraki Sea or Ygritte melting in the Winterfell pond before the heart tree, and so on. It’s Nissa Nissa becoming the sea.

And yes, I did just call the horse a “grey-as-a-winter-sea horse.” A sea horse, just the thing to ride around the Dothraki Sea! The Dothraki steeds are automatically a kind of sea horse in that the run on the waves of the grass sea (you may recall Dany observing the Dothraki as being “as fluid as centaurs”). Martin is encouraging us to see the connection by describing the silver horse’s coat as a winter sea. The fact that seahorses appear to fly through the water on fins that look like wings plays right into the green see word play, since a greenseer is said to “fly” when he does astral projection through the weirwood trees. One of the preferred habitats for seahorses are seagrass beds, as it happens, so putting a seahorse in the Dothraki Grass Sea works visually as well. And now you’ll always picture Dany riding a seahorse around in the tall grasses, ha ha.

This horse which is the color of a grey sea is hereafter always referred to as “her silver,” so we can even say it’s a silver sea horse! That is of course no accident of wordplay either, because as we mentioned, the green grassland that we call the Dothraki Sea used to be a huge inland sea called “The Silver Sea.” It was ruled by the divine-sounding Fisher Queens who lived in floating a palace, making them floating mermaid goddess figures, much like Daenerys in the Dothraki Sea. These Fisher Queen links only emphasize Dany’s mermaid queen / aquatic goddess symbolism, and now that Dany is swimming in this formerly silver sea, she has a silver sea horse.

We can even say that Dany riding the horse is like floating in a silver sea itself, and not just because its coat looks like a sea. It’s because the horse is also called Dany’s “silver mare” – but the Latin word mar or mer means sea, such as in the words marine or mermaid or Stella Maris, and thus silver mare could easily be interpreted as silver sea. I mean, Martin says is looks like a sea and like silver, but it’s fun to find the extra wordplay angle. A silver mar is a silver sea, ha ha.

One of our newly-minted Long Night’s Watch patrons, Tinnjack of the Dragonglass Shield, Ghost-Hunter of the Haunted Forest and Righteous Hand of the Snow Owl, chimes in with a great observation here. The dark spots on the moon are called “lunar maria,” which is the plural form of “lunar mare,” because early astronomers mistook them for seas on the moon. You see how naturally all of this symbolism works together – the silver sea horse is a silver mare, which implies it as a silver sea and even a moon sea. 

Martin actually teases us by showing us the silver see horse running in the actual, wet sea, the one made of water. This is from ASOS before Dany has taken Meereen:

Suddenly she could not stand the close confines of the pavilion another moment. I want to feel the wind on my face, and smell the sea. “Missandei,” she called, “have my silver saddled. Your own mount as well.”

She wants to smell the sea, so she has her silver saddled – you need seahorse to ride the waves of the sea, of course. Then a moment later, we read:

The tide was coming in, and the surf foamed about the feet of her silver. She could see her ships standing out to sea. Balerion floated nearest; the great cog once known as Saduleon, her sails furled. Further out were the galleys Meraxes and Vhagar, formerly Joso’s Prank and Summer Sun.

Ah ha, it’s a little Aphrodite sea-foam, very nice, just to make sure we know this is all about stars falling into the sea and goddesses rising from the sea. It’s the “surf” foaming around the feet of her silver, so maybe George, a huge comics fan, is making a Silver Surfer joke here, who knows. As you can see, Dany’s silver horse is now actually in the sea, a true silver seahorse at last. If you’ll look to your left (tour guide voice), you’ll see the sea dragon boats, floating at harbor. Sea dragon boats are of course very similar to the idea of a sea-horse; they both symbolize vehicles you can use to ride the waves of the green see.

With all this talk of silver seahorses and sea dragon boats, surely you are jumping out of your chair to say “ooh ooh! House Velaryon!” And you are right, clever myth head! The sigil of House Velaryon of Driftmark, a House with the blood of old Valyria in their veins, is indeed a silver seahorse on sea green. The Velaryons are dragons who became silver seahorses swimming in the green see, in other words, just as Dany the dragon rides her silver sea horse in the green Dothraki Sea, formerly the Silver Sea of the Fisher Queens.

As a matter of fact… (takes deep breath) …basically 100% of House Velaryon’s symbolism seems designed to demonstrate the idea of greenseer dragons. Besides the dragon-to-silver-seahorse thing, we have the fact that the Velaryons are basically the heart of the Targaryen royal fleet of sea dragon boats. This is from TWOIAF:

He was a scion of House Velaryon: a family of old and storied Valyrian heritage who had come to Westeros before the Targaryens, as the histories agree, and who often provided the bulk of the royal fleet. So many Velaryons served as lord admiral and master of ships that it was, at times, almost considered a hereditary office.

The “he” in this paragraph is by far the most famous member of the house of the seahorse, and that is of course the Sea Snake, Corlys Velaryon. The Sea Snake is named for one of his ships, and a boat named “Sea Snake” is already a fine sea dragon boat symbol in its own right, even before you consider that its captain is a blood of the dragon person with a ton of greenseer symbolism. A sea dragon sailing a sea dragon, that’s what he is, and of course his most famous voyages were to the Jade Sea, a match for the sea-green of his sigil. And that makes Corlys a green dragon as well as a see dragon, so he slides very nicely into all the Rhaegal and Jade Sea-related stuff from the last Weirwood Compendium episode, where we saw green dragon and sea dragon ideas constantly overlapping and intertwining… because of course, they are really sending the same message about greenseer dragons.

In addition to general nautical prowess and the many Velryons serving as Master of Ships and Lord Admiral, the ruling lord of the family bears the title “Lord of the Tides.” Of course, the real lord of the tides is the moon, which causes and regulates the earth’s ocean tides, and of course the silver seahorse represents the silver moon. In general, the Velaryons seem to be moon characters pretty consistently.

I mentioned a moment ago that seahorses, cute little buggers that they are, swim upright and almost appear to fly through the water. A couple of other notes on seahorse anatomy: they have a kind of bony skin armor – the wikipedia page calls it armor, so I’m not stretching the truth here – and together with the wings and the curling tail, you can see how you might interpret a seahorse as a cross between horses, very tiny bug-eyed fish, and armored sea dragons. Most depictions of the Velaryon sigil play up the dragon look of the seahorse, which makes sense of course since they are dragon-blooded seahorses. As it happens, horses and snakes are the two animals that dragons are most compared to, such as in this line from  Quentyn’s Dragontamer chapter of ADWD:

The dragon’s head was larger than a horse’s, and the neck stretched on and on, uncoiling like some great green serpent as the head rose, until those two glowing bronze eyes were staring down at him.

That’s far from the only passage like that – snake / dragon comparison abound and the dragon’s heads are compared to horses on other occasions as well. This passage is the best because it features a green dragon-turned-serpent with a horse head, so it’s basically a kind of remix on the dragon-ish seahorse idea.

Speaking of green dragons, House Velaryon, and the moon, consider Corlys’s granddaughter Baela Targaryen, daughter of the Rogue Prince Daemon Targaryen and Laena Velaryon – and the rider of the green dragon Moondancer, though only as a young teenager. You’ll recall her heroic dragonrider-vs-dragonrider battle with king Aegon II and Sunfyre which killed Moondancer – that’s a sun-kills-moon scene which signifies Baela’s Nissa Nissa moment. Nissa NIssa figures should go into the green see after such an event, and accordingly, Baela eventually goes into the green see by marrying back into House Velaryon. In particular, Baela married Alyn Velaryon, who would have been at best her third cousin but probably further removed than that, and it is from Baela and Alyn that the current house Velaryon descends.

Analyzing this lineage in terms of sigil-based symbolism, we can say that her story follows the symbolic story of House Velaryon: born to the house of the of the blood of the dragon, she rode the green dragon and became a seahorse swimming in the green sea. Although Moondancer and Baela didn’t crash in the water when they had that duel with Moondancer over Dragonstone, like so many other drowning moon maidens and moon dragons, Baela herself was saved by the water, in a sense. After she crashed and survived, a mean guy named Ser Alfred Broome wanted to execute her, while a brave and true man named Marston Waters stopped him and carried Baela to the maester instead, saving her life. Saved by the waters!

We can also observe that Dragonstone, where Baela and Moondancer landed, is basically the archetypal template for the dragon meteor plunging into the sea motif. It’s a smoking dragon rock in the sea, which gives the same visual image as Dany riding her grey-as-a-winter-sea horse, with Dany as the dragon rock sitting half below the waterline with smoke coming out of the sea around her. Tssssssss….

There’s a nice “moons of ice and fire” clue with Baela and her twin sister Rhaena that is worth mentioning. We can tell from her Moondancer / Sunfyre fight that Baela is the fire moon figure, and thus her sister Rhaena must be the ice moon… and indeed, Rhaena marries into House Hightower, which has white tower and white dragon symbolism, and most famous Hightower in the story was the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, Gerold Hightower, which brings the heavy Others symbolism of the White Sword Knights into the mix.

Even more clear is the symbolism of what Rhaena did during the Dance of the Dragons while her sister Baela was getting into dragonfight with King Aegon and Sunfyre: she was safely tucked away in the icy Eyrie! That’s right, Rhaena played the dragon locked in ice and even brought three dragon eggs to the Eyrie. Baela stays at Dragonstone, a fire moon symbol, and Rhaena goes to the Eyrie, an ice moon symbol, very like the pattern we saw with the wives of Aegon the Conqueror, where Rhaenys (the fire moon figure) died in Dorne while Visenya (the ice moon figure) went to the Vale twice.

Rhaena’s dragons tell the story too. Her first dragon dies immediately after hatching, perhaps indicative of some sort of baby-sacrifice symbolism. But she eventually bonds with the very last Targaryen dragon, one of the three eggs she brought to the Vale. The dragon actually hatches in the icy Vale, making it a perfect dragon-locked-in-ice symbol, and it even has a great dragon locked in ice name… Morning. That’s right, the dragon’s name is Morning, evoking the idea of Dawn, the Sword of the Morning, which believe to be the original Ice of House Stark. Setting aside the Dawn = Ice idea, the waking dragon locked in ice is pretty much equivalent to the sword of the morning, the one who brings the dawn. Morning, by the way, is “a pale pink hatchling with black horns and crest,” so one images the pale pink of a dawn sky… or perhaps the pale red flame of the sword Dawn, burning with magical fire? Who knows.

We aren’t done with House Velaryon, seahorses, Daenerys, or fiery things falling into the sea. However we are now going to focus on four silver dragons the tie into all of these things, and there’s simply too much Velaryon / seahorse goodness to be contained by one section.

That’ll be Four Silver Dragons, Ma’am

This section is brought to you by two of our dragon patrons: Bronsterys of lily-white scales and bronze horns, wingbones and spinal crest, a wise old dragon who teaches the young dragons, and Vaesperys the Nightbringer, the Shadowfire Dragon, whose scales are dark as smoke, whose  horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are the color of molten silver, and whose eyes are two black moons. It is said that Vaesperys is the secret spawn of Meraxes, and is known by some as  “The Phoenix of Hellholt.”

I can’t help but notice that Dany’s silver horse having a coat like a winter sea and a mane like silver smoke kinda reminds me of the dragon Seasmoke, a dragon described alternately as grey and white, pale grey, and silver-grey. I mean those are the same descriptions – grey and silver, sea and smoke. Even better, Seasmoke is no random dragon – he was ridden by a fellow named Addam Velaryon! And Addam was no random Velaryon – he was the brother of Alyn Velaryon, who married Baela, rider of Moondancer. Wow, right? Dany’s silver horse looks like the sea and like smoke, and plays massively on the seahorse symbolism of House Velaryon, and then House Velaryon has a dragon named Seasmoke. Dany is a silver dragon riding a silver seahorse, and Addam Velaryon is a silver seahorse riding a silver dragon. Mind = blown.

It gets worse, of course, when we consider the sea dragon meteor symbolism. A dragon called Seasmoke is once again creating the visual depiction of a dragon meteor submersing in the sea and causing smoke, just like Dragonstone, a smoking rock in the sea, or Daenerys when she rides her smoking silver sea horse.  Tssssss.

And yes, doomed Valyria, now covered by the smoking sea, is getting at the same idea. The Doom is obviously a strong parallel to the fire moon destruction, and it’s now a sunken land of fire partially covered by a smoking sea.

In other words, Seasmoke and Dany’s horse match not only in terms of descriptive language – grey and silver, sea and smoke – but also in terms of symbolic meaning: sea dragon meteors falling in the sea. Although we love talking about meteors and the tsunamis they cause, the more important layer of meaning to the sea dragon and the idea of drowning moon meteors is the idea of dragon people going into the green see and becoming greenseers. We known Martin is using Dany’s silver to depict her as riding her seahorse in the green sea, and wouldn’t ya known it, the Addam Velaryon / Seasmoke greenseer symbolism gets dialed up to eleven during the Dance of the Dragons.

That’s right – my eyes kinda popped out of my head when I read that Addam Velaryon took Seasmoke to the friggin’ Isle of Faces to consult with the Green Men during the Dance, before raising an army from the Riverlands and leading them to Tumbleton to Battle Ulf the White and Silverwing, amongst others.

Say what? I know, right? Yes, though the maesters dismiss it as an obviously false tale, it is indeed said that Addam Velaryon took Seasmoke to the Isle of Faces to chill with the green men before raising an army. The idea of raising an army “from the lands watered by the Trident” and “from the Riverlords,” as it is written in The Princess and the Queen, is suggestive of raising an army of green men, from the green sea. Obviously George couldn’t have Addam actually storm Tumbleton with actual Green Men, but by sending him to the green men and then giving him an army of Riverlanders from the Trident, he’s sending that message.

We also have to back up and simply appreciate the symbolic ramifications of sending a dragon and a dragonlord to the Isle of Faces. It’s creating the well-known “stabbing the Gods Eye” symbol, since the dragon is basically flying into the pupil of the Gods Eye, which equates to the moon in the celestial version of the Gods Eye. But it’s also a symbol of dragons and dragonlords going into the weirwoodnet, since nothing represents the weirwoodnet better than the green Isle of Faces, which is portrayed to us as basically an island full of weirwoods. It’s especially notable because it’s a Velaryon dragonlord, who carries the greenseer symbolism of their sigil with him, and then when you recall how the dragon Seasmoke parallels Dany’s silver seahorse, you see that George has essentially tripled down on the “dragons into the green see” symbolism here.

This must be an important idea, because George mirrored it pretty much beat-for-beat with another silver dragon, Silverwing. Silverwing is most famous for being the mount of Good Queen Alysanne, but was later ridden by Ulf the White during the Dance of the Dragons. Ulf was one of the two betrayers of Tumbleton, and it was he and Hugh the Hammer that Addam Velaryon as his army were coming to fight. Ulf the White is an interesting name – Ulf sounds like elf or perhaps wolf. He’s also known as Ulf the Sot, because he’s a drunk – but that also implies him as drinking the fire of the gods. He did in fact die by poisoned wine, so we actually get the whole drinking the fire of the gods and dying routine, a la Aerion Brightflame.

So here’s where Silverwing echoes Seasmoke going to the Isle of Faces: after all the horrendous fighting at Tumbleton, Silverwing went wild and made a lair on an island in the middle of Red Lake, which like Tumbleton is in the Reach. Right away you can see it’s once again a silver dragon going to an island in a lake, but there’s more, because Red Lake also has great skinchanger symbolism to parallel the Isle of Faces.

If you remember from our Zodiac Children of Garth the Green episode, Rose of Red Lake is one of the named children of Garth the Green. She was “a skinchanger, able to transform into a crane at will—a power some say still manifests from time to time in the women of House Crane, her descendants.” Another child of Garth was Brandon of the Bloody Blade, who “drove the giants from the Reach and warred against the children of the forest, slaying so many at Blue Lake that it has been known as Red Lake ever since.” Because of the sexual implications of the bloody blade symbolism, it seems likely that Brandon of the Bloody Blade was in fact impregnating children of the forest here at Red Lake and the Reach – which is of course how you get human skinchangers, like those attributed to House Crane, House Stark, and others. Before Brandon waved his bloody blade around, Rose of Red Lake would have been Rose of Blue Lake, which seems an obvious nod to blue roses and thus to maidens of House Stark, a clue that Rose’s tale intersects with that of Brandon of the Bloody Blade and House Stark.

Consider also that since Rose is “of the lake,” which implies her as an aquatic humanoid – but of course that’s just symbolic parlance for being “of the green sea.” Her lake turns from blue to red due to the shed blood of the children of the forest, which is symbolically her blood. That brings us back to the idea of a child of the forest Nissa Nissa bleeding out into the sea, just like Ygritte in Jon’s Winterfell dream or the idea of the the Dothraki Sea turning to a sea of blood when it “flowers.”

Ergo, the stories we have around Red Lake all have to do with skinchanging and humans attaining greenseer abilities. So when Silverwing goes and makes her lair there, on an island in the middle of the lake… it is indeed a wonderful parallel to Seasmoke the pale silver dragon going to the Isle of Faces, talking to the Green Men. Addam Velaryon raising an army of symbolic aquatic people from the green see (the rivermen from the Trident) might work as a parallel to the idea of Garth the Green and his son Brandon breeding generations of humans that carry skinchanger and greenseer genetics from the children of the forest.

I hate to tell you this guys, but there are two other silver dragons that we know of, and they both “go to the Gods Eye” as well, albeit in more violent fashion. One is Quicksilver, the dragon of King Aenys Targaryen and his young son Aegon after him. Quicksilver (and young Aegon) were unfortunately pitted against Maegor the Cruel riding the huge Balerion the Black Dread, with Quicksilver being about a quarter the size of the Black Dread, who was in his prime, more or less. Both Quicksilver and Aegon died – at a battle called “The Battle Beneath the Gods Eye.” It’s more violent, but it’s a direct parallel to Addam taking his silver dragon to the Gods Eye and the Isle of Faces.

Our fourth and final silver dragon is the most famous one of them all, and that would be “Meraxes of the golden eyes and silver scales,” as she is called in TWOIAF. She didn’t die over the Gods Eye lake, but the manner of her death is of course a smashing replica of the piercing of the Gods Eye, as I am sure you all know by now. Meraxes was shot through her eye with a scorpion bolt at the Hellholt in Dorne, and of course both Meraxes and her rider Rhaenys are analogs to the fire moon and Nissa Nissa. Here’s a new layer to this familiar story though: a ‘holt’ is a small wood or grove; thus “hell-holt” implies some sort of hell tree. A demon tree you might say, like the terrible flesh consuming weirwoods, the trees which look like they are bleeding and burning in symbolic imitation of the bleeding and burning of Nissa Nissa and the moon. Ergo, Meraxes takes the Gods Eye wound and falls into the Hellholt, an infernal grove of trees, symbolically speaking. Both send the familiar message of a dragon “going to the Gods Eye,” i.e. going into the weirwoodnet.

An honorable mention goes to Grey Ghost, a wild and presumably pale grey dragon that lived on Dragonstone. Grey Ghost was, sadly, torn apart by Sunfyre, her corpse left in two pieces near the base of the Dragonmont, and Dragonstone is in deed an island in the sea and a symbol of the fire moon. Not a particularly green island though so the parallel isn’t very strong to the other silver dragons, but two details bear mentioning. Dany’s silver and grey horse is introduced as “spirited and splendid,” perhaps implying it as a spirit horse. That makes sense, since greenseeing is all about astral projection, i.e. flying with your spirit. If we are using the horse as the metaphor for the vehicle that enables such flight, it can be thought of as a spirit horse or a ghost horse.

Secondly, here’s a cool passage about Grey Ghost

Grey Ghost dwelt in a smoking vent high on the eastern side of the Dragonmont, preferred fish, and was most oft glimpsed flying low over the narrow sea, snatching prey from the waters. A pale grey-white beast, the color of morning mist, he was a notably shy dragon who avoided men and their works for years at a time.

Morning mists are described as “morning ghosts” in ASOIAF, and here the Grey Ghost is as pale as morning mist, very cool. Grey Ghost likes to  fly low over the sea, waiting to dive in to catch fish – that’s good sea dragon action.

Here I’d like to add a word on George’s gardener writing style and how that interacts with symbolism. Obviously George wrote these Daenerys scenes in the Dothraki Sea with her silver “see horse” a long time before he wrote about Seasmoke, Silverwing, Quicksilver, Meraxes’s death in Dorne, Moondancer and rest of the Dance of the Dragons. He did conceive of House Velaryon and their basic symbolism by the beginning of ACOK, but essentially what seems to have happened is that when George was inventing dragons to fill out the battles of the Dance of the Dragons history, he built on the silver seahorse symbolism he already created with Dany and House Velaryon by giving Laenor and Addam Velaryon a dragon called Seasmoke whose name and symbolism correlate to Dany’s silver horse. He did the same with all these other silver dragons “going to the Gods Eye” in various ways, and the same goes for Moondancer legendary fight with Sunfyre and all of Baela’s life story. It’s a clever way of building upon the lines of symbolism he laid out initially as he fleshes out the corners of his world.

All of which is to say… it’s not an accident that Dany is riding a silver sea horse around the green Dothraki Sea. It takes the obvious seahorse metaphor implied by the horselords ruling a grassland sea and brings in a whole metric assload of other greenseer dragon symbolism.

Wooden Wings

This section is sponsored by the support of our Long Night’s Watch patrons: Charon Ice-Eyes, Dread Ferryman of the North, Wielder of the Staff of the Old Gods, a weirwood staff banded in Valyrian steel; Cinxia, Frozen Fire Queen of the Summer Snows and Burner of Winter’s Wick; BlueRaven of the Lightning Peck, the frozen thunderbolt, whose words are “the way must be tried”; and The Smiling Wolf, Lord Steven Stark of the Broken Tower, Jedi of Just-Ice, he who awaits the Corn King

Horses that ride in the Dothraki Sea are like seahorses, I think we got that by now. But that’s actually only one side of the seahorse metaphor, because there are a not-insignificant number of ships that sail on actual water who are thought of as horses. A seahorse of another color!

“It was prophesied that the stallion will ride to the ends of the earth,” she said.

“The earth ends at the black salt sea,” Drogo answered at once. He wet a cloth in a basin of warm water to wipe the sweat and oil from his skin. “No horse can cross the poison water.”

“In the Free Cities, there are ships by the thousand,” Dany told him, as she had told him before. “Wooden horses with a hundred legs, that fly across the sea on wings full of wind.”

The seahorse material we just hashed out in detail is really all about greenseeing, and I briefly mentioned that the seahorse works very similarly to the sea dragon boat idea, both of them being vehicles you use to ride or sail the green see, which means astral projection through the use of the weirwood tree. Well, wooden seahorse boats basically merge those ideas, especially since it is the dragon princess who wants to sail these seahorse boats – they would then be sea dragon ships and wooden seahorses.

The astral projection aspect of greenseeing is spelled out by the fact that these wooden seahorses have wings of wind on which they can fly. Dany also mentioned something about the Stallion Who Mounts the World riding to the ends of the earth – that sounds like either astral projection or a prophecy of doom – the Stallion rides to the ends of the earth could be read like “Nero fiddles to the end of Rome,” or even just as the Stallion riding to an event which is the end of the earth. We’ll come back to the Stallion Who Mounts – let’s stick with winged wooden seahorses and see where we get with that.

Sea horse boats with wings full of wind actually bring us back to Dany’s silver sea horse, which as it turns out, has windy wings too. After Drogo gives her the silver sea horse, she goes for a ride, and as she picks up speed, she finds herself headed straight for a campfire:

The silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings. When she pulled up before Magister Illyrio, she said, “Tell Khal Drogo that he has given me the wind.” The fat Pentoshi stroked his yellow beard as he repeated her words in Dothraki, and Dany saw her new husband smile for the first time. The last sliver of sun vanished behind the high walls of Pentos to the west just then. Dany had lost all track of time.

Ah, so it’s a windy, winged horse – perfect for flying, like a greenseer flies, and of course the wind is what the greenseers use to speak through the trees. The silver horse is like the wind, and that reminds us of the “swift as the wind he rides” language of the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy. Notice that Dany loses all track of time while riding the grey horse – this is most likely a reference to the timelessness of the greenseer existence. She’s riding her winged silver-grey sea horse in the green see and losing track of time… you see what’s going on here.

I hope you know that House Velaryon is also going to get up in the mix of this other side of the seahorse metaphor coin. They do love boats after all. There’s a great clue about their seahorse being linked to flying ships during the burning of the Seven / forging of fake Lightbringer scene on Dragonstone. Davos sees his sons mingling with the nobility, including the heirs of House Velaryon, and he thinks “In time my little black ship will fly as high as Velaryon’s seahorse,” which gives us both flying ships and flying silver sea horses in one line. And at the risk of stating the obvious, this is happening when the wooden sea dragon boats-turned-statues of the gods of the Seven are burned and Lightbringer is “forged.” Flying boats, flying seahorses, and burning sea dragon boats, all in one, all gathered around the Lightbringer ritual. On Dragonstone, a smoking rock in the sea.

Not too long after the burning of the Seven, it’s finally time for Stannis to attack King’s Landing to take what is his by rights (lol, don’t take yourself so seriously bro). Naturally, the Velaryons are a major part of the fleet, and we see an excellent juxtaposition of sea dragon and seahorse symbolism when they approach the city:

The warhorns sounded again, commands drifting back from the Fury. Davos felt a tingle in his missing fingertips. “Out oars,” he shouted. “Form line.” A hundred blades dipped down into the water as the oarmaster’s drum began to boom. The sound was like the beating of a great slow heart, and the oars moved at every stroke, a hundred men pulling as one.

Wooden wings had sprouted from the Wraith and Lady Marya as well. The three galleys kept pace, their blades churning the water. “Slow cruise,” Davos called. Lord Velaryon’s silver-hulled Pride of Driftmark had moved into her position to port of Wraith, and Bold Laughter was coming up fast, but Harridan was only now getting her oars into the water and Seahorse was still struggling to bring down her mast. 

The drums are beating in unison like a great heartbeart, and we have discussed this previously as a symbol of the hive mind of the heart trees, issuing forth from a fleet of Stannis’s sea dragon ships – ones which burn with green fire to make the greenseer symbolism even thicker. Revisiting this passage again, we can see that the wooden wings of the sea dragon boats sprout when the hive mind heartbeat is achieved. This is heavy-duty astral projection symbolism, and wooden wings are about as obvious a reference to the idea of using trees to fly as you could want.

As promised, you can see that right alongside all this great sea dragon ship stuff, we also find seahorses – Lord Velaryon’s silver ship and another ship called Seahorse, which is presumably also owned by the Velaryons.

All of these sea-going dragon boats and winged wooden seahorses are flying straight for the fire of the gods, and they get in the form of a fifty-foot tall jade demon with “a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire.” One of the ships touched by the jade demon is Lord Velaryon’s ship:

Lord Velaryon’s shining Pride of Driftmark was trying to turn, but the demon ran a lazy green finger across her silvery oars and they flared up like so many tapers. For an instant she seemed to be stroking the river with two banks of long bright torches.

Alright, now those wooden wings are burning – shades of Icarus, perhaps, and either way, it’s the merging of the burning sea dragon boat idea and the winged wooden seahorse idea. The green fire of the gods has been obtained, but I’m not sure how proud lord Velaryon is feeling right at that moment.

The name Pride of Driftmark actually creates another parallel to Dany’s damnable silver horse that I won’t stop talking about:

Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane. Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated. “Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says.”

“She’s beautiful,” Dany murmured.

“She is the pride of the khalasar,” Illyrio said. “Custom decrees that the khaleesi must ride a mount worthy of her place by the side of the khal.”

The pride of the horse lords is a silver sea horse, the Pride of Driftmark is a silver ship belonging to the Seahorse Lord. And come on – you know that ship has a Seahorse of some kind on its prow, right? Anyway, let’s hope Dany’s silver does not catch on fire like Lord Velaryon’s silver ship.

Or like this horse from ADWD:

In a dozen heartbeats they were past the Dothraki, as he galloped far below. To the right and left, Dany glimpsed places where the grass was burned and ashen. Drogon has come this way before, she realized. Like a chain of grey islands, the marks of his hunting dotted the green grass sea.

A vast herd of horses appeared below them. There were riders too, a score or more, but they turned and fled at the first sight of the dragon. The horses broke and ran when the shadow fell upon them, racing through the grass until their sides were white with foam, tearing the ground with their hooves … but as swift as they were, they could not fly. Soon one horse began to lag behind the others. The dragon descended on him, roaring, and all at once the poor beast was aflame, yet somehow he kept on running, screaming with every step, until Drogon landed on him and broke his back. Dany clutched the dragon’s neck with all her strength to keep from sliding off.

Yeah, horses can’t fly, that would be silly. Of course her silver horse did seem like it had wings when she first rode it, and if we read the quote again, we find hope that Dany’s horse will not burn. The line was “silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings.” See? Good news. Flies right over the fire, ha.

Dany’s last ADWD chapter from which that last quote came also has a nice passage where Dany compares riding Drogon to riding her silver:

The dragonlords of old Valyria had controlled their mounts with binding spells and sorcerous horns. Daenerys made do with a word and a whip. Mounted on the dragon’s back, she oft felt as if she were learning to ride all over again. When she whipped her silver mare on her right flank the mare went left, for a horse’s first instinct is to flee from danger. When she laid the whip across Drogon’s right side he veered right, for a dragon’s first instinct is always to attack.

If we are comparing Dany’s mounts to one another, as she does here, then we can look at the silver mare as a symbol of the moon, pre-destruction: an untainted silver sea, looking-glass flat. A nice, happy silver moon, or a nice, happy silver horse. Drogon is the moon, post destruction: a fire-breathing dragon, symbolic of the fiery black meteors the moon became. Recall that Dany’s silver hair burns off when she mounts Drogon in Daznak’s pit, just as it did it Drogo’s pyre when she woke the dragons – this symbolizes the shift from silver moon to a burnt moon.

Speaking of Drogo’s pyre, that’s actually where we are going to finish this essay with our last flying silver (or grey) horse. This one really does fly up to the stars:

The flames were so beautiful, the loveliest things she had ever seen, each one a sorcerer robed in yellow and orange and scarlet, swirling long smoky cloaks.
( . . . )
She saw a horse, a great grey stallion limned in smoke, its flowing mane a nimbus of blue flame. Yes, my love, my sun-and-stars, yes, mount now, ride now.

Her vest had begun to smolder, so Dany shrugged it off and let it fall to the ground.
( . . . )
Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.

This really is similar to Dany’s horse, which looks like a grey sea and like silver smoke; Drogo’s mount is a great grey stallion limned in smoke, with a mane of blue flame. It’s being summoned here as the moon maiden is burned, as the dragons are woken, and as the fiery sorcerers dance and swirl their smoky cloaks. The column of rising smoke and ash is a weirwood tree symbol via the “ash tree” dual metaphor, which we covered in detail in Weirwood Compendium 4: In a Grove of Ash, and we also know there are other weirwood symbols here like the burning logs with secret hears, the thunderous green dragon awakening, and one or two others. It is here that Dany’s Nissa Nissa sacrifice opens up the way for Azor Ahai to ride the grey / silver horse, almost as if Dany had given her silver horse to Drogo. Now he can ride up to the sea of stars.

In Dany’s “wake the dragon” dream, which foreshadows this dragon-hatching bonfire, there’s an allusion to the silver horse being an astral projection mount that can gallop through the stars:

Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars.

As above so below, because the grass below is a sea, just as the stars above are a sea. Honestly, I mostly included that last quote because the “sea of stars” line is so cool, but the far stronger clue about riding the silver or grey horse into the stars comes at the beginning of the alchemical wedding chapter when Dany’s inner monologue explains the Dothraki beliefs about such things:

When a horselord dies, his horse is slain with him, so he might ride proud into the night lands. The bodies are burned beneath the open sky, and the khal rises on his fiery steed to take his place among the stars. The more fiercely the man burned in life, the brighter his star will shine in the darkness.

Jhogo spied it first. “There,” he said in a hushed voice. Dany looked and saw it, low in the east. The first star was a comet, burning red. Bloodred; fire red; the dragon’s tail. She could not have asked for a stronger sign.

According to Dothraki beliefs, Drogo is riding the stallion of smoke and flame up to the stars, where the red comet will apparently become his “star,” his final mount in the “starry khalasar,” as Dany refers to it later. This creates a wonderful parallel between Dany and Drogo as it pertains to their mounts. Dany traded the silver horse for the black dragon, and Drogo’s spirit is riding the grey smoky stallion up to the stars, where he trades it in for the red dragon comet. Similarly, when Dany rides her dragon, she thinks about reaching the comet:

She tried to imagine what it would feel like, to straddle a dragon’s neck and soar high into the air. It would be like standing on a mountaintop, only better. The whole world would be spread out below. If I flew high enough, I could even see the Seven Kingdoms, and reach up and touch the comet.

Not only is she flying up to the comet like Drogo, this passage really sounds more like Bran’s coma dream flying over the world than anything else. A similar line comes when she recalls her flight on Drogon from Daznak’s pit, where she saw “A silver moon, almost close enough to touch,” and again the flying and looking down at the world language is similar to Bran’s coma dream flight. Bran’s dream was a small taste of greenseer astral projection, essentially, and that’s what is implied with all of this flying up to the stars and comet – astral projection. All of this is enabled by the smoky stallion or the silver seahorse or the other such weirwood symbols. It’s astral projection through the use of weirwoods.

Here I will mention two other occurrences of silver smoke that pertain to these ideas. One is Bran’s wolf, Summer, whose fur is “silver and smoke” – an Bran does indeed hone his skinchanger abilities in Summer before switching to the weirwood tree as a mount. The other silver smoke we already saw in the last Weirwood Compendium essay – it was the fiery ladder that the fire mage climbed towards the latticed roof of the market, which disappeared and left “no more than a wisp of silver smoke.” That ladder was as symbol of climbing to the stars, and thus astral projection.

Those of you screaming for me to talk about Sleipnir can finally let out your breath. Yes,  Odin’s eight’legged horse Sleipnir is a great grey stallion, the best of horses, and he is basically a vehicle for astral projection and riding through the cosmos. Martin surely got the notion of grey and silver horses as symbols of astral projection and the weirwoods from Sleipnir, who looms large in Norse myth, which George has studied extensively. We are already familiar with Odin’s other astral projection horse – the gallows horse Yggdrasil, which is a horse in the sense that men are said to ride the gallows tree and Odin is thought of as riding Yggdrasil throughout the cosmos. Essentially, the same shamanic idea is approached through two different but similar metaphors involving horses. One horse is really a tree, and Martin is using that as his primary influence for the weirwoods; and by making us of the grey and silver horse and seahorse symbols to navigate various green seas, he’s tying Sleipnir into the weirwoodnet family of ideas too.

Unfortunately Sleipnir and astral projection horses are topics too big to unleash at this point in an essay; so this is where we will pick up next time in Weirwood Compendium 9: The Stallion Who Mounts the World. We’ll start with a better explanation of Sleipnir and the shamanic practices behind the idea of an “astral projection horse,” and then we’ll tear into the Stallion Who Mounts the World, which is one of the coolest symbolic metaphors George has come up with in the entire series.

Bonus Round: Pirates

I hope your brain hasn’t melted, because as ever, it gets worse the deeper you go. I have a couple more really great tidbits of House Velaryon symbolism which I couldn’t really fit in earlier without breaking the narrative flow, so I am adding them to the end as a bit of a bonus.

You may recall that the Velaryons of Driftmark have a wooden throne – one made of driftwood, which reminds at once of both the driftwood crowns of the Ironborn and the Grey King’s weirwood throne of Nagga’s jaws. The Driftwood Throne is a wooden throne that came from the sea, just as Grey King’s weirwood / sea dragon jaws throne is. Once again, with the green see wordplay in mind, this all makes more sense. A wooden throne always makes us think of the weirwood throne of a greenseer, and the idea of a driftwood throne that came from the sea – from the Merling King himself, actually, according to legend – now reads as a throne which is tied to the green see, which brings us back to weirwood thrones again.

The story of how the Velaryons got this wooden throne and the rest of the island is pretty great, even though it’s only one line in TWOIAF: it just calls it “the ancient Driftwood Throne—the high seat of the Velaryons, which legend claims was given to them by the Merling King to conclude a pact.” Now I’m not sure if the merlings were living on Driftmark and the Velaryons wiped them out, or if the first Velaryons just had a habit of bartering with merlings, or if this is just a really strange case of the more modern Velaryons becoming wrapped up in much older local myths about the driftwood throne and the Merling King, but consider this legend as a possible allegory to the history of the Iron Islands.

It goes something like this: The Iron Islands, like Driftmark, used to be inhabited by fish people, but at some point, dragon people came by sea and conquered the fish people, intermarried with them, and sat in the fish-people’s wooden chair. In doing so, they became see dragons – greenseers. The Grey King is the dragon-blooded pirate from Asshai who conquered the Iron Islands and sat in the the probably-weirwood throne of Nagga’s jaws, very comparable to the idea of the first Velaryons coming from Valyria to conquer the merlings and take the wooden throne from their merling king.

Is this the story of the Iron islands? Perhaps, perhaps – it certainly seems like a detailed allegory which matches our interpretations of the legends so far. And there’s yet another echo of it, right here in the history of the Dothraki Sea – remember those Fisher Queens who ruled the Silver Sea from their floating palace? Well. According to legend, a great warrior hero conspicuously named Huzhor Amai forged a new nation called Sarnor from the people of the grasslands, and he was supposedly the last descendant of the Fisher Queens. Huzhor Amai is an obvious Azor Ahai call-out, in some sense, and here is as a conqueror using the name of the Fisher Queens to make a new throne for himself, ruling over the sea that the Fisher Queens once ruled. For what it’s worth, the idea of Huzhor Amai as some sort of Azor Ahai echo is strengthened when you look at the name of the last hero king of the Sarnori, who is also an Azor Ahai echo: Mazor Alexi. Huzhor and Mazor and Azor, Amai and Alexi and Ahai. These two Sarnori kings who sound so much like Azor Ahai ruled over the Dothraki Sea and the three great lakes which were the remnants of the Silver Sea. Oh, and the Sarnori – they were expert breeders and riders of horses, whose great weapon of war was their cavalry, who went to battle in war chariots. So they were seahorse lords as well.

The second loose end, which actually goes back to Weirwood Compendium 6, is the idea of a green-eyed Valyrian or green-eyed dragon-blooded person. Dany saw a vision of the gemstone emperors who had hair of gold, silver, and platinum white, and one of them had eyes of jade. I asked what this represents, a green-eyed dragon person? Well, I really wanted to save all the House Velaryon stuff for one episode, so I didn’t go into it then, but we do have one such example of a green-eyed dragon person in the main story, who is of course draped in sea dragon and green dragon symbolism. That would be Aurane Waters, the “Bastard of Driftmark,” who is the half-brother to Monford Velaryon, Lord of the Tides and Master of Driftmark. This is from a Cersei chapter of AFFC:

Margaery was dancing with her cousin Alla, Megga with Ser Tallad the Tall. The other cousin, Elinor, was sharing a cup of wine with the handsome young Bastard of Driftmark, Aurane Waters. It was not the first time the queen had made note of Waters, a lean young man with grey-green eyes and long silver-gold hair. The first time she had seen him, for half a heartbeat she had almost thought Rhaegar Targaryen had returned from the ashes. It is his hair, she told herself. He is not half as comely as Rhaegar was. His face is too narrow, and he has that cleft in his chin. The Velaryons came from old Valyrian stock, however, and some had the same silvery hair as the dragonkings of old.

Oh man, so much here. We have mentioned the Rhaegar returned from the ashes bit, as that implies Rhaegar as an Azor Ahai dragon figure being reborn from the weirwoods, who are symbolic burning ash trees. You can see why this fits nicely with the stuff from the Devi and the Deep Green See, where we saw Rhaegar symbolically reborn as two different greenseer dragon figures: Rhaegal the green dragon, as well as Rhaego the Stallion Who Mounts the World and who has lots of greenseer symbolism. Now we can add a third, as Rhaegar is figuratively reborn as Aurane Waters, who the blood of the dragonlords via his Velaryon heritage combined with grey-green eyes and the name “Waters.”

It goes well beyond that of course. Cersei names him Grand Admiral of the royal fleet, enhancing his sea dragon symbolism. Then he later betrays her and sets himself up as a pirate lord in the Stepstones, calling himself “Lord of the Waters,” which makes him a Merling King / Grey King / Sea Lords figure. A dragonlord of the waters, setting himself up as a pirate around Bloodstone Island? That’s kind of familiar – it reminds us of Baela Targaryen’s father, Daemon Targaryen, who named himself King of the Narrow Sea and took Bloodstone Island for his seat. He was basically a glorified pirate though – he drove out all the old pirates and promptly began charging tariffs and taxes for any who wanted traverse the Stepstones.

Point being, Aurane has some nice Azor Ahai / pirate lord symbolism to go along with his sea dragon symbolism. Other pirate lord versions of Azor Ahai include Euron Greyjoy, who needs no introduction as a Bloodstone Emperor figure; the afore-mentioned Daemon Targaryen who rode a red dragon and took Bloodstone for his seat; the Red Kracken Dalton Greyjoy who carried the Valyrian steel sword Nightfall with its moonstone pommel and gained his nickname when once “he took a dozen wounds and emerged from the fight drenched head to heel in blood”; and of course the Grey King, the pirate lord from Asshai who sailed to Westeros in a weirwood boat. Or maybe he flew by dragon and then built a weirwood boat. We’ll sort that out another time, but the point is, he’s a pirate lord Azor Ahai person, like Aurane Waters, the Lord of the Waters with grey-green eyes.

Now that we understand the green see / greenseer thing, all of these pirate lord Azor Ahai people suddenly seem to be reinforcing the message that Azor Ahai went into and seemingly came out of the weirwoodnet, and can be probably considered kings of the weirwoodnet. We have to look at all the Merling King again stuff too, Wyman Manderly and the Merman’s court… be patient.

In any case, Azor Ahai can probably be considered to be not only a king of the weirwoodnet, but a usurper king of the weirwoodnet. All of these pirate kings were clear usurpers – Daemon Targaryen’s older brother Viserys I Targaryen was the official king of the Seven Kingdoms when Daemon named himself the King of the Narrow Sea; Dalton Greyjoy rose in rebellion with with Daemon’s “Blacks” during the Dance of the Dragons, and then refused to stop reaving once the Dance was concluded. Euron is a given, he’s rising in rebellion against the very gods themselves, let alone making a claim for the Iron Throne, and even the Grey King is kind of a usurper in the sense that we hear he had a “leal elder brother” from whom House Goodbrother descends. Why wasn’t the older brother the king? In this sense, Grey King is a younger brother who took the throne, just like the Bloodstone Emperor himself.

All of this points to Azor Ahai as a usurper of the weirwoodnet, which is important enough to make a big point of here. It’s one of the running questions we’ve been trying to answer. Did Azor Ahai force his way into the weirwoodnet, possibly against the will of the trees? I’d say the answer is increasingly looking like a yes.



We Should Start Back: AGOT Prologue

As even the most casual student of literature knows, the first words of a great novel are generally expected to be loaded with import and meaning. Frequently, the main themes of the story are touched on, and sometimes meta-clues about the work itself are  found there too. Such is the case with the first sentences of ASOIAF, which are:

“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

The first thing I noticed when taking a hard look at these first two sentences, which comprise the first paragraph of the prologue of AGOT, is the menacing nature of the woods, which are “growing dark around them.” Not ‘the night’ growing dark, but the woods themselves, which are surrounding and enveloping the three rangers. This motif is built upon throughout the prologue as the trees try to trip up and ensnare our party, seeming particularly hostile to Ser Waymar, so it’s fairly easy to spot this first sentence as the beginning of the ‘menacing trees’ motif. Obviously trees and the horrors that are hidden in their lore are a major component of ASOIAF, so it makes sense that this is one of the first ideas presented to us. The weirwoods are the ultimate “setting” of the story, just as the cosmic world tree they are personifying is typically regarded as the center of the cosmos.

One of the horrors hidden in the weirwood lore seem to be the Others, and this truth is fairly well spelled out in the prologue. The menacing trees idea essentially culminates in the Others “emerging from the dark of the wood” as pale shadows in the night, showing us just why they are sometimes called “the white walkers of the wood.” In other words, the menacing trees which seem to have been watching the rangers for days and giving them the creeps are essentially preparing the reader for the moment these icy tree shadows appear on the page and kill Ser Waymar. A ton of evidence for the white walkers’ connection to the weirwoods, the greenseers, and the children of the forest is found elsewhere as the series develops, but in retrospect this prologue lays it out pretty well – and it all starts with that first sentence.

“We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

Since we took care of the descriptive part of the sentence about the darkening woods, let’s isolate Gared’s speech. He says “We should start back, the wildlings are dead,” and then a moment later, “we have no business with the dead.” The general sense conveyed here is one of Lovecraftian terror – as we are about to learn, Gared and Will are totally picking up on the creepy Others vibe and want to get the hell out of here as fast as possible. They’ve seen enough, and they are ready to go back home. Gared is specifically saying ‘let’s go back because we completed our mission,’ which was to catch or kill the wildling raiders, but consider this sentence thematically – he’s saying that up ahead lies death, and that we should start back now while we have a chance. It’s ominous foreshadowing, in other words, as death does indeed lie in wait for them ahead in that very clearing where the wildlings died, and this was indeed their last chance to avert their doom.

I might add that when they choose to go forward, they aren’t just confronting death, but a fate worse than death and a power stronger than death. This is fire of the gods shit, in other words, a confrontation with an otherworldly power which man was for the most part not meant to tussle with. That’s why I say this is a Lovecraftian sense of terror being evoked here; Martin is very much mimicking the central conflict of main characters in the major works of H. P. Lovecraft, which is terror and insanity in the face of otherworldly powers beyond mankind’s comprehension. Gared shows this best; he’s rendered basically senseless by the time Ned finds him south of the Wall, having inexplicably fled his post after a long career as a faithful ranger of the Night’s Watch. All the more poignant, then, that Gared is the one to try to warn Waymar to “start back,” instead of going closer to confront death.

Bloodstone Compendium
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

Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
I: The Last Hero & the King of Corn
II: King of Winter, Lord of Death
III: The Long Night’s Watch

Great Empire of the Dawn
I: History and Lore of House Dayne
II: Asshai-by-the-Shadow
III: The Great Empire of the Dawn
IV: Flight of the Bones

Moons of Ice and Fire
I: Shadow Heart Mother
II: Dawn of the Others
III: Visenya Draconis
IV: The Long Night Was His to Rule
V: R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons

The Blood of the Other
–  Prelude to a Chill
I: A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
II: The Stark that Brings the Dawn
III: Eldric Shadowchaser
IV: Prose Eddard
V: Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash

Weirwood Goddess
I: Venus of the Woods
II: It’s an Arya Thing
III: The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa

Weirwood Compendium B
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
VIII: A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
I: Veil of Frozen Tears
II: Sansa Locked in Ice

Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
IV: The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
V: The Great Old Ones
VI: The Horned Lords
VII: Cold Gods and Old Bones

We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue

Now in PODCAST form!

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Defeating death is indeed another of the major themes of ASOIAF – we see it in the Others and their wights right here in this prologue, yes, but also in the greenseers like Bloodraven who outlive their mortal span both outside and inside the weirwoodnet; in the Undying of Qarth, who seem to have long outlived their natural time on the earth; and we see it with Melisandre, whom George has said to be “hundreds” of years old. We see it with Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart and Coldhands, and we will see it again soon with Jon and perhaps others, no pun intended. Okay, well maybe a little bit pun intended. But the point is clear – defeating death is a big part of the story, and it’s even baked into one of the prophecies of Azor Ahai reborn, who is foretold to resurrect those who die fighting in his cause.

So, talking all that into account, read this bit again: “We should start back. The wildlings are all dead.” It puts me in mind of resurrection, because when you say “we should go back,” you are sometimes saying you’d like to press the virtual ‘undo’ button, that we should go back to the point where we went wrong, or that we have gone to far and should turn around and trace our steps the way we came. It’s almost like Gared is saying we’ve come to the point where people have died, let’s turn back and undo the death. Perhaps I’m reading into things here, but those wildlings were surely wighted and raised from the dead, and of course Waymar will be wighted and raised from the dead at the end of this chapter. The idea of someone seeing the dead and wanting to “press the undo button” is indeed a thing in ASOIAF, of course:

Bran’s throat was very dry. He swallowed. “Winterfell. I was back in Winterfell. I saw my father. He’s not dead, he’s not, I saw him, he’s back at Winterfell, he’s still alive.”

“No,” said Leaf. “He is gone, boy. Do not seek to call him back from death.”

So from Azor Ahai reborn to young Brandon Stark, the idea of raising the dead is a major deal – and we see a lot of it in this prologue, of course.

Well, I’ve served up the appetizers, so let me tell you what I really think. The most important part of these two sentences is the very first bit: “we should start back.” Huge credit to Rusted Revolver for keying in on and developing this concept, with an additional thank you to Ravenous Reader and OuterPanda, the Pan Doubter for helping to develop the ideas further. Much of what you’re about to hear comes from their research and thinking, and in particular, Rusted Revolver has kind of made this “start back” thing his baby, and without his insight here this essay wouldn’t exist. Rusted and Ravi were also kind enough to review this essay beforehand and offer their input, so thanks guys. Puttin the “R.R.” in George R. R. Martin,” Ravenous Reader and Rusted Revolver.

A Wake in the River of Time

So, we should start back – what’s it mean? Well, it seems like Martin’s version of another famous first sentence from another famous and highly respected classic of literature, that of James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake. Here I must give a huge hat-tip to Sweetsunray, whose terrific essay “Them Bones” (it’s actually a legendary essay for old school myth heads) was where I first heard the Finnegan’s Wake parallels laid out. I highly recommend that as supplementary reading to this one. In any case, Finnegan’s Wake is a legendary and perplexing work of literary genius, by most accounts, and much attention is given to it’s first (and last) sentence.  Here’s that first sentence:

Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.

The thing is, according to Joyce himself, it’s actually the end of the the sentence fragment that ends the novel, which is “a way a lone a last a loved a long the.” Put it together, and you get an infinite loop, a novel who’s ending flows seamlessly into its beginning. The whole thing is “A way a lone a last a loved a long the Riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs.” I recommend this blog post by Steven Conger for a quick breakdown of this first sentence if you want to get it a little further, but right away you can see there is some sort of recirculation of time and fate thing going on here, with the river and the narrative both bringing the reader back to the spot where they began. It certainly makes you think of Bloodraven’s speech about how time is a river and how the weirwoods are not moved by that river, being the time-weirs that they are.

One imagines that House Tully’s castle named Riverrun is a nod to Joyce and this first sentence – I’m sure that got your attention, and of course Riverrun is also a castle built on a river like Joyce’s Howth Castle. It’s equally apparent that the idea of time and history being a loop is another theme Martin was eager to work with in ASOIAF, so it makes a lot of sense that he was captivated by Joyce’s literary puzzle here and the deeper concept behind it. Martin also expresses this idea of the recirculation of events in a nod to another of his favorite authors, Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series. The Wheel of Time, as you might guess if you don’t know already, makes heavy use of repeating cycles of history and fate, and Martin calls out to this idea when he calls out to the author. This is from an Asha chapter of AFFC:

“Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said. I think of that whenever I contemplate the Crow’s Eye. Euron Greyjoy sounds queerly like Urron Greyiron to these old ears.

James Rigney is the real name of Robert Jordan, and so Martin cleverly used the name Rigney here while he is talking about history (time) being a wheel. Some of the main heroes and villains in the Wheel of Time are fairly literal reincarnations of past characters, and in the end are primarily concerned with righting the wrongs of events from 3,000 years ago. Martin has borrowed many things from Jordan, who Martin admired and respected a great deal, and many of those things have to do with the “wheel of time” idea. For example, Martin’s “Azor Ahai reborn” is in some sense a less literal version of Robert Jordan’s “the dragon reborn,” an identity one of the main protagonists wears, and the Dothraki Mother of Mountains is an obvious parallel to Dragonmount, a similarly-shaped and similarly-isolated mountain where this “dragon reborn” character both died in the past and is reborn as a baby in the present.

Martin has also imagined the deeper concept of cyclical time and historical events as a dragon-shaped ouroboros, which he placed in the sigil of House Toland of Dorne. This next quote is from an Arianne chapter of AFFC, and you may recognize it, as it is the first quote in my very first essay, Astronomy Explains the Legends of Ice and Fire! This is Arianne, speaking to Arys Oakheart of her fear that her brother desires to steal her birthright as ruler of Dorne:

“Have you ever seen the arms of House Toland of Ghost Hill?”

He had to think a moment. “A dragon eating its own tail?”

“The dragon is time. It has no beginning and no ending, so all things come round again. Anders Yronwood is Criston Cole reborn. He whispers in my brother’s ear that he should rule after my father, that it is not right for men to kneel to women . . . that Arianne especially is unfit to rule, being the willful wanton that she is.”

This is almost Martin allowing us to see behind the curtain here – it’s as if Arianne is showing us how to analyze ASOIAF. ‘Consider the characters in the main story as parallels of those from history and legend,’ she’s telling us, ‘because all things come round again.’ It’s a major clue from Martin to us readers, and it certainly helped me make sense of what I had found when I discovered Daenerys acting out the Qarthine “dragons come from the second moon” legend even while she fulfills the prophecy of Azor Ahai’s rebirth by waking the dragons from stone under a bleeding star. In other words, I found this major, clear-cut echo between this pivotal scene at the climax of the first book and a legend Daenerys had heard earlier in the book, which is also a fulfillment of ancient prophecy, and then I read the quote about House Toland’s time dragon eating its own tail and it clicked. Martin is indeed creating stories that eat their own tail! He’s weaving parallels between the major events of the ancient past and the current plot, and he’s using symbolism and archetypes and metaphorical drama plays to do it. This understanding is the backbone of all Mythical Astronomy research.

One of the most obvious such parallels is probably this very prologue of AGOT. We don’t know it when we first read it, because we haven’t heard the story of the last hero yet, but Ser Waymar’s fight against the Others does of course turn out to have clear echoes of the legend of the last hero. It’s not a perfect match, but at this point, after reading and rereading the series a few times as most of us have, we can certainly recognize the idea of a man of the Night’s Watch searching deep into the cold dead lands and bravely confronting the Others alone, only to have his sword break from the cold of their magic.

This parallel is deepened by the fact that Ser Waymar Royce has many parallels to Jon Snow, the most likely candidate for a re-casting of the last hero’s cold journey into the dead lands to face the Others. Here I will point you to Joe Magicians’s video on Waymar Royce for further information, and don’t forget the great follow-up livestream he did with myself and Bookshelf Stud! Point being, Waymar’s description matches Jon’s almost perfectly, and that seems to be clearly intentional.

Now Bran does have parallels to the last hero as well, as we have discussed, but consider the simple fact that Waymar is a Jon parallel, and that Jon is set up to be a new last hero – it highlights Waymar’s last hero-ness in this prologue seen all the more.

So – we should start back. It’s a meta-commentary on how we should treat ASOIAF: we should start back on the re-read as soon as we finish, just like the reader of Finnegan’s Wake. We should start back, and when we do, we should remember that time is a circle, and we should look for repeating events.

The Inverted Ballad of the Last Hero

In addition to looking for repeated events as we start back on our re-reads of ASOIAF, we’ve learned to look for what are called “inverted parallels” – a thing, place, person, or event that matches another, only flipped or inverted in some major way. The Others and the Black Brothers are a great example of inverted parallels, which is spelled out in this chapter – the Others are twice called watchers, while the Night’s Watch are the “watchers on the wall.” Both are brotherhoods of dudes who cannot or should not have children. Both are shadows, but the Others are called pale shadows and white shadows, while the brothers are called black shadows. The Others use magical ice weapons, while the Night’s Watch ideally uses dragonglass, a magical fire weapon. And so on.

In fact, ice and fire are the biggest inverted parallels in the story, as we have discussed extensively in the Moons of Ice and Fire series and elsewhere. Jojen’s famous quote encapsulates it perfectly: “If ice can burn, then love and hate can mate.” He’s setting up ice and fire as yin and yang, but pointing out that there’s a bit of yin in yang and vise-versa; ice can burn, yes, and fire can be frozen, a la “frozen fire,” the other name for dragonglass or obsidian. We don’t need to get lost in that discussion, but the point is that this sort of up and down, forward and backward symmetry is found all throughout ASOIAF, at scales both large and small.

When I say ‘forward and backward” symmetry, I’m actually referring to a deeper truth here. I think by now we all understand that the main events of the Long Night drama involving Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, the last hero, and whatever else will be echoed in some fashion at the conclusion of ASOIAF, and it seems very possible that our main heroes will be looking to somehow reconcile the sins of the past with their actions in the present. In other words, it would make sense if we see inverted echoes of the past – that might make more sense that repeating the sins of the past, right?  It might make more sense to see the events of the past somehow reversed, so that it ends up more like an image in a mirror, identical but flipped around in terms of left-to-right or forwards and backwards.

We might perhaps see the roles of ice and fire flipped around, or we could see a female Azor Ahai like Daenerys reforge a magic sword with the sacrifice of a male Nissa Nissa, like Drogo, and… oh, we already saw that. Hat tip to Ravenous Reader for this find – there is indeed a gender flipped thing going on at the alchemical wedding. Even as Dany is Nissa Nissa, symbolically dying to birth Lightbringer and wandering to close the fire of her solar king, Khal Drogo, she is also forging Lightbringer – the dragons – in the chest cavity of Drogo, from which the eggs hatch. Dany also inserts the phallic symbol of the burning torch into the pyre to light it, another sign of her playing the Azor Ahai role here. This gender-flipped layer is more subtle, but it’s there, and I’d not be shocked to see it happen again at the end, with Jon perhaps playing a Nissa Nissa role and giving up his last breath to help Daenerys finish whatever Azor Ahai reborn business needs finishing.

Anything is possible… but think about it: whatever the last hero did may have ended the Long Night and beaten back the Others for the moment – okay, well for 8,000 years, which ain’t bad – but it didn’t permanently solve the problem. It’s very possible that simply repeating the actions of the last hero or Azor Ahai or whomever isn’t going to cut it. We may see something more like an inverted or mirrored parallel to the events of the “original sins” of the Long Night instead.

In fact, the moment of “starting back” creates this mirror image – the moment at which you start back, retracing your steps, is the moment you pivot, as if you had run into a mirror and bounced off, reversing your steps like a tape played backwards. As Rusted Revolver and others have found, that “start back” moment turns out to be a recurring device Martin uses in the plot arcs of his character to pinpoint the moment the begin their redemption arc and start atoning for the sins of their past.

A great example of this is Jaime and his weirwood stump dream, where he and Brienne wield twin flaming swords in a watery underworld beneath the dream version of Casterly Rock. This is the moment of reflection and pivoting for Jaime, the moment when he starts back. Upon waking, he quite literally starts back, retracing his path from the day before back to Harrenhal to rescue Brienne from the bear pit, thus taking the first baby steps on the path of potential redemption, though it may have setbacks and asterisks and all kinds of needed commentary about narcissism and all the rest. Nevertheless, this is his “start back” moment and many characters have equivalent scene – or even more than one, as is the case with Jaime.

You can see how useful this kind of literary device might be to an author so obviously interested in conflicted characters with redemption arcs. Even the doomed characters often have a start back opportunity that Martin plants a flag on, only to have the main character dash by, heedless. If you’re thinking of Quentyn Martell and the people who advise him to turn back… you’re on the right track. And here’s the point: the book begins with one such moment, with Gared advising Waymar to start back and go no further. Heedless, Waymar plows on to his doom, but the fact the series opens on one of these moments is something we are meant to notice.

With that mirroring concept in mind in regards to the “we should start back” line which begins AGOT, let’s think in totality about the ballad of Ser Waymar that is told in that prologue. As I mentioned, it seems to have some of the main elements of the first part of the last hero story: we have a Night’s Watchman who is a stand-in for a Stark facing the Others alone, with his sword breaking and his companions nowhere to be seen. But the last hero story doesn’t stop there; we know he gets help of some kind from the children of the forest and reemerges again leading the Night’s Watch with his blade of dragonsteel, which the Others supposedly could not stand against.  Waymar does no such thing – his sword breaks, then he dies and gets cold-wighted and joins the army of the dead.

Now of course you all know about my green zombies theory, which stipulates that the last hero and his twelve companions all died, but were resurrected to become zombie Night’s Watchmen like Coldhands, or like Jon will become soon. So perhaps Waymar’s resurrection – especially with his Odin-like, one-eyed status – is a clue about a resurrected last hero. It’s a fairly well-hidden clue, though, as undead Waymar is playing for team Others and won’t be fighting against them any time soon. He doesn’t get a new sword, and won’t be leading the Watch or ending any Long Nights. Still, it’s like a last hero echo which simply ended in the middle, with Waymar not quite measuring up where the last hero did, or as Jon may yet.

In fact, the moment of Waymar’s enslavement by the blue star-eye magic of the Others, the moment where he seems to diverge from the last hero story, represents the start back moment of the last hero story, the pivot point at which his story begins to go backwards and mirror itself. Consider: the last hero journeys into the cold lands searching for the children of the forest, but the Others chase him and his friends die, and his sword breaks. Then, everything reverses itself – he gets a new sword somehow, either replacing or reforging his broken sword; he gains new companions, as we are told of him leading the Night’s Watch into battle with his new Dragonsteel sword; and instead of running from the Others, he’s now pursuing them. If those new companions were indeed his original twelve raised from the dead as I propose, then it’s really and truly a reversal of the first part of the story, with his friends (and the last hero himself) coming back to life.

Just to put it in even simpler terms, and this is incorporating the green zombie theory:

  • set out into cold dead lands
  • chased by Others
  • friends die
  • sword breaks
  • death
  • MID POINT: mysterious cotf help
  • resurrection
  • new sword
  • friends come back to life
  • chasing the Others
  • return from cold dead lands, victory parade

If the Waymar prologue is the first half of the last hero story, where can we find the template for the second half, the one we want to know about? Well, I expect we will see it when Jon wakes up! His Ceasar-like stabbing murder by multiple black brothers is somewhat similar to Waymar being stabbed by a group of white walkers, as I discussed with Joe Magician on his livestream a few weeks ago. Notably, the last words of both chapters is “cold.” Waymar’s prologue chapter, which is told from Will’s perspective, ends with

They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.

While Jon’s assassination chapter at the end of ADWD ends with

When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold …

Stabbed Jon evens falls “face-first into the snow” here, just as  Waymar falls “face-down in the snow.” Another comparison is that Will is murdered by the newly-wighted Waymar – he’s killed by his fellow black brother, in other words, just as Jon was killed by his fellow black brothers. And just as resurrected Jon may be killing a few of those conspirators when he wakes up!

That aside, resurrection is really the ultimate “start back” moment. Jon’s resurrection definitely qualifies, and I think we can expect it to imitate that mysterious “start back” pivot point of the last hero journey where he receives the unspecified help from the children of the forest and starts to turn things around. According to green zombie theory, that would be the point where he is resurrected and made into a super-soldier to fight the Others, which is pretty much what we expect from undead wolf-man Jon, a lot of ass-kicking. The major things Jon does after this point should tell us a lot about the remainder of the last hero story, and remembering that the last hero seems to had led the Watch in to the War for the Dawn after getting resurrected, I’d not be surprised to see Jon eventually assembling a crew to journey into the cold dead lands (which by that time might be everything north of Winterfell). In fact, I think Jon’s resurrection will also be a start back moment in that he will be somewhat freed of his duties as a Night’s Watchman and will return to Winterfell, where he began his journey, only to eventually go out and fight the Others at the end as we all expect him to.

Bran, who, again has last hero symbolism, has a similar moment too I’d like to mention. While he’s in Bloodraven’s cave in ADWD, learning how to be a greenseer and eating his friend (sorry), he talks about starting back:

Some days Bran wondered if all of this wasn’t just some dream. Maybe he had fallen asleep out in the snows and dreamed himself a safe, warm place. You have to wake, he would tell himself, you have to wake right now, or you’ll go dreaming into death. Once or twice he pinched his arm with his fingers, really hard, but the only thing that did was make his arm hurt.

Bran is imagining himself lying in the snow – like dead Waymar or dead Jon – and fears he’s about to die while stuck in this ‘dream’ of being a greenseer in a cave. He tries wake himself from this supposed dream and go back to his body, lying in the snow back home, so he can get up out of the snow and start back home, just like Jon or Waymar rising from the snow after their resurrection. Bran isn’t dreaming, of course – at least, he is really in Bloodraven’s cave, although from there he is green-dreaming. And really, he is still ‘under the snow and dreaming,’ since the cave is in the far north and it’s beneath ground buried in snow. Accordingly, most of us do expect Bran to leave that cave and eventually start back to Winterfell, at which he point he will parallel Jon and Waymar waking up from the snow to begin mirroring their previous events or journey.

There’s another layer here too: Bran is wondering if he’s lying in the snow and dreaming he’s in a weirwood cave, while as of ADWD Jon’s body is actually lying dead in the snow… but Jon’s spirit is inside Ghost, the weirwood-colored wolf. Symbolically, being inside Ghost is very like being inside a weirwood cave! And as you know, I hypothesize that the original last hero’s spirit was temporarily preserved in either the weirwoodnet itself or in their skinchanger bonded animal like Jon. The last hero’s resurrection may well have taken place in a weirwood root cave, or in a weirwood grove like the grove of nine.

So that’s cool, right? The last hero story has a start back mirroring-point, even more so if the green zombies theory is true (and I am pretty confident in that one, as much as anything else). Waymar seems to show us the first half in the prologue, and we should expect to see the second half when Jon wakes up, and perhaps when Bran leaves the cave. And all of this – the entire concept of starting back and inverted parallels – all of these ideas are seeded in that first sentence of the prologue. “We should start back.”

Now, there’s one more layer of this start back thing, and it’s perhaps the most wicked of all. Rusted Revolver and Ravenous have been fascinated with this start back concept for a while now, and have been pursuing it heavily. While I’ve been very busy working on my own scripts, I’ve also been keeping track of their research, and while I was studying this AGOT prologue for the livestream I did on Joe Magician’s channel as a follow-up to his Waymar video, something clicked. Start back… start back… what if you reversed the order of events in the prologue? Sort of… read it backwards? What if you reached the end, and then started back, retracing your steps through the chapter?

Well, let me tell you. It’s a thing, as I like to say, a thing that George R. R. Martin has done. I’ll let you judge for yourselves, and you do have understand the basic ideas I’ve laid out in my various compendiums regarding Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, their connections to the weirwoods, and that sort of thing for it to make total, perfect sense. But I think it makes sense, and the myth heads are on board, so lets take a look.

First, before we read it backwards, we actually need to read it forwards. At least, we need to go through the main events and outline both how they demonstrate the basic mythical astronomy pattern of sun and comet killing moon to make moon meteor Lightbringers as well as how the people involved fit the archetypal roles of Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa. Even though I just said that Waymar’s arc echoes the first half of the last hero’s journey, which it does, there is also a more detailed template of both sky and ground versions of Lightbringer’s forging written into the chapter. Let’s have a look at that, then will hold our copies of AGOT up to the mirror and read the text backwards… no wait, don’t do that. That’s not what I meant. Just hold on and I will take care of it.

“Dance With Me Then” by Sanrixian (drawn live during the livestream of this podcast)

Let’s Start Forwards

I’m calling this section “the forwards reading,” but what it really is is the mythical astronomy layer, and we just aren’t reading backwards yet. The astronomy layer is hidden underneath the action in the fight scene, and it’s a bit tricky because the original Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa forging of Lightbringer and its corresponding celestial events are fiery affairs through and through, while this prologue takes place in the frozen north. There’s also no women anywhere to be seen, so someone with a penis is going to have to play the Nissa Nissa role, I’m afraid. It’ll be like a Monty Python episode though, it’ll be great.

In all seriousness, the we do know that the celestial pattern of ‘sun and comet kill moon to make fiery moon meteors’ can manifest as all manner of interpersonal dramas, and sometimes the person playing the fire moon role which we normally think of as Nissa Nissa is a man. For example, take Gregor Clegane when he fought Oberyn Martel in that famous duel full of mythical astronomy symbolism. He did a couple of things that reminded us of Nissa Nissa – George threw in that line about Oberyn and Gregor being close enough to kiss, for example – but for the most part we thought of Gregor as the fire moon in that fight, and that’s kind of what appears to be happening here.

Now the primary “forwards reading” of the action, irrespective of astronomy symbolism, is what we’ve been talking about; Waymar as the last hero confronting the Others. But within that drama is also tucked the basics of the Long Night sun-kill-moon scenario and the story of Nissa Nissa and Azor Ahai, as I was saying. The first step is to identify the players – who is the sun? Who is the moon? Who is Nissa Nissa, and who is Azor Ahai? Well, I’ve long pondered the question, and it wasn’t until I revisited the prologue recently and then began looking at it in reverse that I have found the answers, and I also have to give a ton of credit to all the myth heads who helped me hash this out in the past weeks. I think I was struggling at first because I was trying to figure it out with only symbolic, astronomy-based analysis, and the astronomy symbolism in this chapter is actually a bit scattered about. But when I honed in on the narrative dynamic of the characters involved, that’s when it really made sense to me.

Let’s take it from the beginning and you will see how this works. I’m also going to divide this forwards reading into sub sections for clarity, as there is just a damn lot going on and there’s a bunch of stuff from other chapters we have to mention too because it ties in to this or that thing. Hopefully breaking it up into sub-sections will make it easier.

Wayzor Ahaimar 

First of all, if Waymar is the last hero in one sense, he’s the obvious candidate to play the role of Azor Ahai in any sort of Azor Ahai – Nissa Nissa action. If you’ve watched Joe Magician’s “The Killing of a Ranger,” and maybe even if you haven’t, you know about the many correlations between Waymar and Jon Snow, and that’s another tip-off that Waymar is likely to be the Azor Ahai figure. Indeed, I can say without reservation that this turns out to be the case, hence the title Wayzor Ahaimar, which I chose to go with over Azorway Marahai for whatever reason.

If you’ve listened to or read Blood of the Other 4: The Long Night Was His to Rule, then you will also recall that Waymar correlates very strongly not only to Jon, but also to Euron Crowseye and Aemond “One-Eye” Targaryen, the latter being a figure from the Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. There are several correlations between these figures, but the most important one is the sky map face, which, if you remember anything from that episode, it was probably the sky map face. In brief: Waymar, Euron, and Aemond One-Eye all have a face which symbolizes the sky and a pair of eyes which symbolize the moons of ice and fire. Waymar and Euron in particular are an exact match. Waymar’s bloody and blinded eye and Euron’s Blood Eye that he keeps under the patch represent the slain fire moon, the one which gave up its waves of night and moon blood when it died. Waymar and Euron both pair this blood eye with a blue eye – Euron’s blue eye is called his smiling eye, while Waymar’s is animated with cold blue star fire, and of course this eye would represent the ice moon.

We’ll get into that in more detail in bit, but my point in mentioning it now is that Euron and Aemond One Eye – and to a lesser extent Jon – all manifest symbolism which we would describe as evil Azor Ahai / Bloodstone Emperor / Night’s King symbolism. Setting aside the specific question of whether Azor Ahai himself became Night’s King or whether it might have been his son or brother or something else, we have seen enough evidence to be confident of a direct link between Azor Ahai, wielder of Lightbringer and slayer of Nissa Nissa, and Night’s King – with the important qualification that our mythical astronomy conception of Night’s King is slightly counter to the official legend in that the symbolic evidence seems to indicate Night’s King as having lived during the Long Night and not after.

All of which is to say that Waymar’s symbolism correlates very strongly to characters who manifest a range of Azor Ahai, Bloodstone Emperor, and Night’s King symbolism, and therefore it makes sense to look at Waymar as the Azor Ahai figure in this prologue drama play. Call him “The Runestone Emperor,” if you wish.

When we take a look at the surface level narrative of the conversation between the three rangers as the chapter opens, ‘Wayzor Ahaimar’ starts making a lot more sense. Gared and eventually Will are arguing for starting back to Castle Black, while Waymar wants to push on. Gared and Will are very in tune with the forest, being seasoned rangers and skilled woodsman, while Waymar is a richly dressed and entitled Lordling out on his first ranging, one which he commands solely on the merits of his high birth. He’s struggling with the woods, and yet boldly forcing those who know the woods to lead him on.

To me, it reads very like Azor Ahai forcing an unwilling Nissa Nissa to let him into the weirwoodnet, and the narrative bears this out.

Waymar is also showing that he knows no fear, a signature Azor Ahai / Night’s King trait. Recall that Old Nan says Night’s King was “a warrior who knew no fear. ‘And that was the fault in him,’ she would add, ‘for all men must know fear’.”  Regarding the corpse queen and Night’s King, Old Nan also says that “fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her..” After the opening lines where Gared urges Waymar to start back because all the wildlings are dead, Waymar retorts with

“Do the dead frighten you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.

Gared did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”

Death is one of the things people fear the most, and here is Waymar, giving the dead a defiant, cocksure smile. After Will offers that his mother told him that “dead men sing no songs,” Waymar famously answers

“My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,” Royce replied. “Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit. There are things to be learned even from the dead.” His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest.

Easy there mister necromancer guy! Now in this case, learning from the dead refers to simple detective work, really, but it does kind of give off a Bloodstone Emperor necromancer vibe – especially since we know Waymar will soon rise from the dead with a cold blue star eye version of Odin face. Anyway – anywaymar – he doesn’t fear the dead, and much like Robert laughing too loudly in the Winterfell crypts, Waymar’s pronouncements echo “too loud in the twilight forest.” It’s the first hint that Waymar is an intruder here in the woods, just as Azor Ahai is an intruder inside the weirwoodnet.

Next, Gared cautions that they have an eight or nine day ride to get back to the Wall, and that night is falling; in response Waymar taunts Gared, asking if he is “unmanned by the dark.” Wayzor Ahaimar, lord of night, is of course not scared of the dark. He does not fear death or the fall of night – he in fact revels and takes power from those things.

After this we get the fearful musings of Will, our POV for the prologue, which are centered around the creepy feeling he and Gared are getting from the woods – a feeling Waymar is oblivious to, of course. This can’t be emphasized enough; Will and Gared are in tune with the woods, with its trees rustling “like living things” in the cold north wind, while Waymar is heedless, haughty, and too bold by half. In the end, it will be the shadows emerging from the dark of the wood who will convert the hostility of the forest into violence and teach this young lord a sharp lesson.

It is at this point that we get a detailed description of the Lordly Ser Waymar, and most of it screams out “Night’s King / dark solar king.” First we read that he’s “a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife.” All of the black brothers have black sword and black knife symbolism, as they are the swords in the darkness who always wear black and wield black knives and swords against the Others, so Waymar is kind of prototypical for the watch in his knife-like nature. And as we know, the dark solar king archetype strongly identifies with the black meteors, which are like black swords and black dragons. This is nowhere more evident in the figure Waymar is paralleling, Jon Snow, who is himself compared to a dragonglass knife, so this all fits pretty well.

It says that “mounted on his destrier, the knight towered above Will and Gared on their smaller garrons,” which creates the image of Waymar as a black tower or shadow tower. That’s a recognizable motif we have seen many times which alludes to the towering columns of dark smoke that would have snaked upward into the sky from the meteor impacts. Think of Harrenhal’s Kingspyre Tower – that’s kind of the perfect distillation of the black tower of smoke symbol, especially since it was burned and melted by the incomparable fires of Balerion the Black Dread, so much so that it now appears “lopsided beneath the weight of the slagged stone that made it look like some giant half-melted black candle.” Say… wait a minute. A tower that is a pyre and a black candle? Sounds like a unification of glass candles and smokey pyres – and that makes sense, because you can see visions both “in the flames” as Melisandre does or through the use of a lit glass candle. Comparing the black tower to a black candle, and thus to a dragonglass knife, also shows you that towers and swords can often be interchangeable as symbols, something we see with the White Sword Tower of the Kingsguard or the Palestone Sword Tower at Starfall. Finally, taking note of the fact that Waymar was compared to a knife and a tower in rapid succession.

Next up is the famous description of his sable cloak, and that is essentially the same waves of darkness and night symbolism:

His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin. “Bet he killed them all himself, he did,” Gared told the barracks over wine, “twisted their little heads off, our mighty warrior.” They had all shared the laugh.

If the smoke columns that rise from the impact locations can be symbolized by black towers, the smoke and darkness that spreads out from the exploding moon itself is most often represented by the black crown symbol. The black crown is a deliberate inversion of the golden crown of solar kings, and it is the waves of darkness from the moon which turn the actual sun dark during the Long Night. The sable cloak unites those ideas, being Waymar’s “crowning glory”; it’s both a black crown and a billowing cloak of darkness. It’s “soft as sin,” because of course the acts which caused the Long Night are like the original sin of ASOIAF.

These ideas are built on a couple of pages later when Waymar reaches the clearing and finds it empty:

He stood there beside the sentinel, longsword in hand, his cloak billowing behind him as the wind came up, outlined nobly against the stars for all to see.

Waymar’s sable cloak of darkness is blotting out the stars, billowing out from him like a tower of smoke. We can essentially think of this cloak of darkness as the skin of the slain moon, because it comes off of the moon when it is destroyed. The cloak of darkness is the dust and smoke and debris of the moon itself, so the cloak is essentially made up of the moon’s ‘corpse.’ It is the solar king who puts on this dark cloak, thereby transforming himself into the dark solar king and eventually the Night’s King.

Notice the exchange a moment ago in reference to the cloak where Gared had joked about how Waymar must have “twisted their heads off” himself – sable is a word used for the species of marten from which sable cloaks are made. That’s right, it’s a small furry mammal with our author’s name, laugh it up.

Point being, the idea of the cloak being a stolen skin is emphasized here with their discussion, and this is a classic depiction of the actual mechanics which caused the darkness of the Long Night – the sun putting on the dark cloak of the burnt and broken moon.

Now here comes the trippy part, so pay close attention: because the moon correlates to Nissa Nissa, the cloak of darkness that comes from the moon can be seen as the skin of Nissa Nissa as well. What do I mean by that? Well, Nissa Nissa becomes the weirwood after she dies, and then the greenseer wears that skin by skinchanging the tree, as greenseers do…. and even though the trees are white, the greenseer sits in darkness and wears it like a cloak. Recall Bloodraven’s words to Bran:

Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother’s milk. Darkness will make you strong.

That’s pretty straightforward, now isn’t it! Now I’m not saying Bran is the Night’s King, although Night’s King was surely a greenseer. What I am saying is that in every sense, the symbol of the dark cloak comes from things that symbolize Nissa Nissa – namely, from the moon and the weirwood trees. The moon’s dark cloak covers the sun and the world, and the greenseer wears the tree as a cloak of darkness when they enter the weirwoodnet. Azor Ahai broke the moon, unleashing the great darkness, and this act seems to connected to his attempt to gain access to the weirwoodnet and wear its cloak of darkness.

That’s what Waymar is showing us here too. He’s going to do some symbolic Nissa Nissa killing in a moment, he’s got his sable-skin cloak which blots out the stars, and he’s on a fast track to acquiring some “fire of the gods” greenseer symbolism.

The symbolism of the sable cloak really explodes when we compare Waymar to Euron Greyjoy, who likes to wear a sable cloak… and an eye-patch… and nothing else. Yeah, sorry for that. He took his sable cloak from Baelor Blacktyde, whom he murdered for reasons of cruelty, religious intolerance, and symbolism. (chuckles) The fact that the black cloak comes from someone named Blacktyde really spells out the waves of night symbolism of the sable cloak, so you gotta like that. And once again, we see the implication of the sable cloak as something the Night’s King figure gains by killing someone and stealing it from them.

That someone should be a Nissa Nissa figure, so let’s consider Baelor Blacktyde. The Blacktyde sigil is a pattern of green and black, a depiction of a black tide on a green sea. Symbolically, it’s a blend of the waves of night symbol and the green sea symbol, which… makes perfect sense for a Nissa Nissa figure. Baelor himself is a godly man who was named for an extremely godly man, Baelor the Blessed. It is in part for his worship of the Seven that Euron singles him out for murder:

Nightflyer was seized, Lord Blacktyde delivered to the king in chains. Euron’s mutes and mongrels had cut him into seven parts, to feed the seven green land gods he worshiped.

Forget for a moment the fact that the phrase “green land gods” refers to the Faith of the Seven when coming out of the mouth of an Ironborn. Think about Baelor as a holy person who worships green land gods, which fits the presence of the green sea in his sigil. This devout green god worshiper is murdered, and their black cloak is stolen by the Night’s King… this is lining up very well with the Nissa Nissa symbolism we just discussed. Notice the line about Baelor being cut up “to feed” the green land gods – it reminds you of making human sacrifice to the weirwoods, certainly.

There’s another Nissa Nissa trapped in the weirwoodnet clue here in the name of Baelor Blacktyde’s ship, Nightflyer, one which you may know if you have watched Joe Magician’s amazing video about Whisperjewels (I know, lots of Joe Magician love today). In one of Martin’s older works, Nightflyers, there is a spaceship called a Nightflyer which essentially absorbs the consciousness of a dead female character by means of a crystal technology called a whisperjewel.  Point being, this seems to be something Martin drew on when he imagined Nissa Nissa a woman who dies, but whose mind inhabits some very important thing. The weirwoodnet is obviously standing in for the Nightflyer spaceship, which works very well since we know Martin thinks about the weirwoods as astral projection ships which the greenseer uses to sail the river of time and space.

We also know that Martin has applied literal ship symbolism to the weirwoods as well; the supposed rib bones of the sea dragon Nagga are really the petrified wooden beams of a flipped over boat made from weirwood; and burning boats and ships are used to represent the weirwoods as a fire that consumes those who wish to sail the green see.

Think about it like this: we have already found our way to the idea that Nissa Nissa’s consciousness transfers to the weirwoodnet when she dies, which makes the weirwood a device very similar to the whisperjewels that power the Nightflyer ship and store this woman’s consciousness. Martin named Baelor’s ship after the Nightflyer spaceship, and we know that Martin is using the ship metaphor for the weirwoods. Now we have this dark Azor Ahai / Night’s King figure, Euron, killing someone by feeding them to the green land gods and taking their Nightflyer ship, after which Euron puts on darkness as a cloak, as the greenseer does.

It really seems like George is saying to us that when evil Azor Ahai invades the weirwoodnet, that is something like stealing a spaceship that contains Nissa Nissa’s consciousness. That’s what Joe Magician and I concluded: the weirwoods are functioning like whisperjewels; and just like the Nightflyer ship, the weirwoodnet is inhabited by and even powered by the consciousness of a dead woman. After Azor Ahai the naughty greenseer kills Nissa Nissa and send her into the trees, he can then wear Nissa Nissa’s “weirwood skin” as a cloak of darkness, just like Euron wearing Baelor’s sable cloak and sailing his Nightflyer ship.

As I mentioned at the top, Euron’s one-eye Odin status is a kind of greenseer symbolism anyway, so all of this stuff about him killing Baelor and taking his black cloak and ship being suggestive of greenseer symbolism is really just a compliment to that more obvious one eye thing he has going on. It does however fill out the symbolism of Waymar’s sable cloak very nicely.

Painkiller Jane comes in here with a good observation – this idea of the greenseer wearing the skin of Nissa Nissa as a cloak is something we’ve seen before, only instead of a sable-skin cloak, it was a squirrel-skin cloak. That’s right, we’re talking about the Varamyr Sixskins prologue of ADWD and the squirrel-skin cloak he tries to take off of a dead wildling spearwife.  The quote about that actually has some great green sea / greenseer wordplay, now that I look back on it:

Hundreds more went off with the woods witch who’d had a vision of a fleet of ships coming to carry the free folk south. “We must seek the sea,” cried Mother Mole, and her followers turned east.

Varamyr might have been amongst them if only he’d been stronger. The sea was grey and cold and far away, though, and he knew that he would never live to see it. He was nine times dead and dying, and this would be his true death. A squirrel-skin cloak, he remembered, he knifed me for a squirrel-skin cloak.

Its owner had been dead, the back of her head smashed into red pulp flecked with bits of bone, but her cloak looked warm and thick. 

First of all, that’s cool green see wordplay right? Varamyr knew he would never live to see the sea – that’s another great one. Of course Azor Ahai has to die to enter the weirwoodnet, so you kind of don’t live to see the sea anyway, you die to see the sea, just as Varamyr will die at the conclusion of the chapter.

As we’ve discussed in the Weirwood Goddess series, the dead wildling spearwife with the squirrel-skin cloak is a prime Nissa Nissa-as-a-child of the forest clue, as the children are called the “squirrel people” by the giants. This wildling woman represents Nissa Nissa, and here we have our evil greenseer, Varamyr, stealing her skin cloak, just as with all the sable cloak symbolism we just went over. Tellingly, her son comes out of his hiding place nearby and stabs Varamyr for trying to take the cloak, which is yet another depiction of the child of Nissa Nissa coming back to kill father Azor Ahai.

Importantly, this dead wildling’s squirrel-skin cloak is just a warm-up for the same symbolism that appears at the end of the chapter when Varamy wears Thistle’s skin as a cloak by trying to snatch her body. It’s just another way of showing the solar greenseer stealing the skin of Nissa Nissa… which I have said amounts to skinchanging the weirwood – and of course Thistle gets the grisly stigmata in that scene, making her a symbolic weirwood, and then Varamyr’s spirit makes a pit stop in the frozen weirwood after he fails to possess Thistle’s body just to make it clear. The weirwood is ultimately the skin of Nissa Nissa, but the squirrel-skin cloak shows us what Nissa Nissa used to be before she was sent into the weirwoods.

Notice that Varamyr thinks about the sea being cold and grey and far away in the last quote. It’s a cold sea he’s about to enter, because I think Varamyr represents a Night’s King figure you comes out icy, very like the wighted Waymar who rises with one blue star eye. It ties into the frozen lake symbolism of the Others, in other words. Think about where Varamyr ends up after failing to possess Thistle: momentarily inside the frozen weirwood tree, and then inside his one-eyed wolf. The one-eyed wolf is very much a parallel to one-eyed Waymar, and the frozen weirwood is another representation of the cold sea or cold lake symbolism. Check out the quote about the weirwood:

When Varamyr pushed at it, the snow crumbled and gave way, still soft and wet. 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.

I’ve pointed out before that Martin is painting a portrait of the Others in the sky here: the dancing pale thin clouds are like the bodies of the Others, who “dance” with Waymar Royce, and the thousand stars watching coldly are like the cold star eyes of the Others. Then the weirwood is described like the Others: “pale shadow” is specific Other language, and “armored in ice” is highly evocative of the ice armor of the Others. In other words, this paragraph is a big clue about the Others coming from some frozen part of the weirwoods, the frozen part of the green sea. This is where Azor Ahai goes, where he becomes Night’s King, and where he creates the Others, at least in some sense. The cold-wighted Thistle ends up the chapter with corpse queen symbolism too:

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.

A beautiful corpse with blue star eyes… and those frozen knives in her hands, oh my! It kind of reminds me of Stoneheart, another weirwood stigmata goddess figure, with her nails raking her face like ten raven’s talons. We are going to talk more about the Nissa Nissa – Night’s Queen symbolic connection as this prologue chapter goes on, by the way.

Ergo, we can see abundant clear parallels between the two prologue chapters, five books apart, from the squirrel skin cloak / sable cloak comparison to the dancing Others symbolism to the rise of a cold, one-eyed Night’s King figure from some cold part of the weirwoodnet, and of course I am promising there will be equivalent Night’s Queen and Nissa Nissa stigmata symbolism to come in the AGOT prologue that will match Thistle’s weirwood stigmata and the frozen weirwood tree.

That’s an awful lot of symbolism for one sable cloak, I know, but you have to admit Martin pays it a lot of attention in the Waymar prologue. Plus, Nissa Nissa going into the weirwoodnet turns out to be a major symbolic theme of this chapter, so it’s worth digressing a bit… and as you are about to see, all the symbolism related to Euron’s sable cloak applies to Waymar in this chapter. Just as Euron is trying to force his way into becoming a god, and just like Varamyr was trying to force his way into Thistle to cheat death, and just like Azor Ahai was trying to force his way into the weirwoodnet, Waymar of the sinful black crown sable cloak is forcing his way into the woods against the will of his guides.

One of those guides should represent Nissa Nissa, and I am here to tell you that it is Will, or as we shall call him…

Willsa Willsa

The first clue about Will being Nissa Nissa is the name Will – it’s the root in the female name Willow, which of course comes from the Willow tree. The main thing that Will does in the chapter is climb the tree and come back down, and everything he does in relation to the tree represents Nissa Nissa going into – and coming out of – the weirwoodnet. Nissa Nissa, and all greenseers, basically merge with their trees, so naming our Nissa Nissa figure after a tree makes a lot of sense. We’ve also seen a weirwood goddess figure named Willow – the teenage “child-woman” who keeps the orphan children at the Inn of the Crossroads in AFFC. The inn itself has abundant weirwood symbolism, as we explored in Weirwood Compendium 3: Garth of the Gallows, and Willow is playing the role of the goddess inhabiting the tree.

After that detailed description of Ser Waymar and his glorious sable cloak we just mentioned, we get some important symbolic info on the weirwood goddess Willsa Willsa:

Will had been a hunter before he joined the Night’s Watch. Well, a poacher in truth. Mallister freeriders had caught him red-handed in the Mallisters’ own woods, skinning one of the Mallisters’ own bucks, and it had been a choice of putting on the black or losing a hand. No one could move through the woods as silent as Will, and it had not taken the black brothers long to discover his talent.

Although both Gared and Will are veteran rangers, Will is singled out for his exceptional woodscraft; no one can move as silently through the woods as him. That’s a good way of implying him as a native of the forest – a child of the forest figure, in other words, as we believe Nissa Nissa to be. Will was caught “red handed” in the woods belonging to a high lord – Lord Mallister to be exact. ‘Caught red handed in the woods’ is an obvious euphemism for being caught in the weir of the weirwood trees, with their red leaves like bloody hands. The possible penalty of Will having his hand chopped off further ties the red hand symbolism to Will and shows that he is becoming part of the weirwood tree, his hands red like those of the tree. Skinning a stag is somewhat ambiguous, though it seems to be a reference to skin changing and horned lords – I would read it as Azor Ahai, the stag, being sacrificed so he can slip his skin and enter the weirwood tree, which is an avatar of Nissa Nissa.

And finally, consider House Mallister, with their silver eagle on purple sigil, their house words “Above the Rest,” and their keep named Seaguard. I’m not positive, but this could be a reference to the eagle at the top of the Yggdrasil tree, with the name “Seaguard” alluding to the idea of the weirwoods guarding the green see which exists inside the weirwoodnet. Also… Seaguard… see-garden? That’s for Rusted Revolver.

Painkiller Jane has another find here: Sam plays the role of the Ratatoskr squirrel bearing messages between Lord Denys Mallister and Cotter Pyke, with Lord Denys player the eagle at the top of the tree and Cotter Pyke playing the nidhogg serpent at the bottom – think of the word “pyke” as alluding to both fish and spears, and of course Pyke is where we find all the heavy sea dragon symbolism. So it seems that the Mallister Eagle is indeed inspired by the Yggdrasil eagle.

Will’s poacher status has to be examined too, because Martin has elsewhere indicated that the way the Lords claim ownership of the woods and then punish anyone who hunts without their leave is bogus and unfair. It’s actually the lordly Mallisters in the Azor Ahai role here, trying to steal the woods for themselves, and as it turns out, there seem to be intentional correlations drawn between Waymar and the Mallisters.

First of all, consider Lord Denys Mallister, a veteran of the Night’s Watch who commands the Shadow Tower. Wait a minute, didn’t fellow Night’s Watchmen and Lordling Waymar tower over his companions in all his black steel and clothing? And consider the description of Lord Denys from AFFC:

The commander of the Shadow Tower had been born beneath the Booming Tower of Seagard, and looked every inch a Mallister. Sable trimmed his collar and accented the sleeves of his black velvet doublet. A silver eagle fastened its claws in the gathered folds of his cloak. His beard was white as snow, his hair was largely gone, and his face was deeply lined, it was true. Yet he still had grace in his movements and teeth in his mouth, and the years had dimmed neither his blue-grey eyes nor his courtesy.

Sable collar, aye? Snowbeard, you don’t say, and what nice bright blue-grey eyes you have. In other words – and I’ve mentioned this before in the Blood of the Other series – Denys Mallister appears to have some icy, Otherish symbolism about him, just as resurrected Waymar does, and look! Sable! So when we read about Will being caught red handed by the Lord of Seaguard in the Lord’s own wood, I think we can indeed read that as Nissa Nissa being killed and turned into a red handed tree, with the sable-cloaked icy lord claiming dominion over the wood. Remember, the Night’s Watch is a kind of symbolic death sentence, and the original Night’s Watch, according to the green zombie theory, were resurrected people, so Lord Mallister really is handing the red-handed Will a symbolic death sentence.

To corroborate all of this, check out the narrative as Will and Waymar arrive at the empty clearing where the dead bodies of the wildlings are supposed to be.

The great sentinel was right there at the top of the ridge, where Will had known it would be, its lowest branches a bare foot off the ground. Will slid in underneath, flat on his belly in the snow and the mud, and looked down on the empty clearing below.

Will is sliding underneath a tree to see, like a greenseer sitting under a weirwood tree and using its magic to see. This is a sentinel tree, too, so the idea of watching and seeing is right in its name. But Nissa Nissa is supposed to die when she goes in the tree, right? Well, the next words after the paragraph I just quote are “his heart stopped in his chest. For a moment he dared not breathe.” Oh no, Willsa Willsa’s heart stopped when she used the tree to see. It happens again a moment later, the exact same sequence:

“On your feet, Will,” Ser Waymar commanded. “There’s no one here. I won’t have you hiding under a bush.”

Reluctantly, Will obeyed. Ser Waymar looked him over with open disapproval. “I am not going back to Castle Black a failure on my first ranging. We will find these men.” He glanced around. “Up the tree. Be quick about it. Look for a fire.”

Will turned away, wordless. There was no use to argue. The wind was moving. It cut right through him. He went to the tree, a vaulting grey-green sentinel, and began to climb. Soon his hands were sticky with sap, and he was lost among the needles. 

Not only a sentinel tree, but a vaulting grey-green sentinel, language that suggests the heavenly vault of the sky. As Will is forced to climb it against his will, the wind cuts right through him – it’s more Nissa Nissa stabbing language as the tree climbing happens, just like when Willsa Willsa’s heart stopped as he crawled beneath the tree to see. That’s a pretty sly one by Martin, huh? Elsewhere, on three occasions, all at the wall, he just comes right out and describes the cold wind as being like a knife, which is implied here as it cuts right through Will. His hands become sticky with tree sap, the equivalent of tree blood, and in a moment later he gets it on the side of his face too, completing the tree sap stigmata. He’s “lost among the needles,” very like Dany “losing herself in the green” of the Dothraki Sea, as we saw in Weirwood Compendium 7, and it conveys the same idea: Nissa Nissa dissolving into and merging with the weirwoodnet.

Best of all, Wayzor the Amayzor commanded him “up the tree” to look for fire!!

What kind of fire can you find by climbing a tree, I ask you? It’s right there on your mythical astronomy drinking game bingo card – the fire of the gods, of course. This is a great dramatization of Azor Ahai using the magical sacrifice of Nissa Nissa to gain access to the weirwood fire of the gods. I mean, it’s really vivid – I was a bit flabbergasted when I first caught that line, like “really, climb the tree and look for fire, right after something cuts through you? Lovely.”

You starting to see why I said Nissa Nissa dying and going into the trees is a major symbolic theme of this chapter, right? There was actually a tip-off about this back several pages, when Will is reporting everything he saw in the clearing to Waymar. Will says

“There’s one woman up an ironwood, half-hid in the branches. A far-eyes.” He smiled thinly. “I took care she never saw me. When I got closer, I saw that she wasn’t moving neither.” Despite himself, he shivered.

Look! It’s a dead woman in a tree that is a “far-eyes,” meaning a watcher or a lookout. It’s basically a simple diagram of what Will is about to do in the Nissa Nissa role: become a dead woman in a tree with very good vision… meaning a greenseer of course.

There’s even an extra layer of this drama play between Wayzor Ahai and Willsa Willsa that I found that made me crack a smile, because stabbing trees is always a little bit funny. These next lines come as Will is huddled beneath the branches of the sentinel looking down at the empty clearing:

“Gods!” he heard behind him. A sword slashed at a branch as Ser Waymar Royce gained the ridge. He stood there beside the sentinel, longsword in hand, his cloak billowing behind him as the wind came up, outlined nobly against the stars for all to see.

Ha ha, I punked you with a quote we just used a few minutes ago. Last time we were looking at the billowing cloak though, and this time we are noticing Waymar say “gods” as as he slashes a tree with his sword. I’ll say that again: from a certain point of view, he’s calling the tree a god as he stabs it with his sword. Of course we know the greenseer hive mind inside the weirwoodnet is referred to as the Old Gods, so that part makes sense, and if Nissa Nissa becomes merges with the weirwood tree, then stabbing the tree is kind of like stabbing Nissa Nisssa. Notably, this tree stabbing occurs in between the two depictions of Will dying and going into the tree – right after his heart stops as he crawls under it, and before the wind cuts through him as he climbs it looking for fire.

The other notable tree stabbing in ASOIAF brings us back to Harrenhal again, so we will pause the prologue for just a couple of minutes to visit. Significantly, we have to visit Harrenhal right before the all-important dragon battle of the Gods Eye with Daemon Targaryen and his red dragon Caraxes facing off against Aemond One-Eye and his (probably) white dragon, Vhagar. It’s notable not only for Aemond One Eye’s presence, since he’s a Waymar parallel, but also because the battle itself takes place over the Gods Eye lake and thrice mimics the Gods Eye eclipse stabbing symbolism during the battle – once when Caraxes moves in front of the sun and then attacks from above, once when Daemon stabs Aemond in his star sapphire eye, and again when the dragons all crash into the lake itself.

It is against this backdrop that we see some first class tree-stabbing:

…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.

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 night-black armor chased with gold.

These two paragraphs are marvels of symbolism, and all of it enhances our understanding of the AGOT prologue. Taking the second paragraph first, our Night’s King figure Aemond makes a dramatic entrance on his symbolic ice dragon, hoary old Vhagar. The blackness of their shadow is emphasized (blacker than any passing cloud, evoking the black clouds symbol), as is Aemond’s night-black armor. This is just his version of Waymar’s crowning glory sable cloak, and indeed, Aemond had taken to wearing Aegon the Conqueror’s black crown at this point too. Finally, there’s a cryptic reference to the Nightfort here, home of Night’s King – Aemond shows up on the fourteenth day, and fourteen days is a fortnight; swap fort-night around and you have Night-fort. Hat-tip to Rusted Revolver for that one, and take my word for it that there are enough other examples of this wordplay out there to be confident in it.

The first paragraph, meanwhile, is straight up last hero stuff: thirteen bleeding sword wounds on the monstrous Harrenhal weirwood, with a very Azor Ahai-like Daemon using Dark Sister to stab the tree. The tree represents Nissa Nissa, so this is like Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa, yes – that was the original point of this comparison, tree-stabbing as a depiction of Azor and Nissa. But this tree-stabbing symbol is also a pretty clear reference to another myth about weirwoods and meteors, and that is the legend of the Storm God’s thunderbolt which set the tree ablaze. The sword is the thunderbolt meteor of course, and it’s striking a tree just as the thunderbolt does in the legend, and since Daemon is essentially carving the three with his thunderbolt dragon sword, we can infer once again that carving the faces and making the weirwoods inhabitable for humans is tied to the Long Night events. Caraxes also dives on Vhagar like a thunderbolt in the fight, a nice touch.

It’s important to keep in mind that Waymar slashing at a tree is as he approaches WIll hiding beneath the Sentinel is a parallel symbol to Waymar ordering Will up the tree while the wind cuts through him. You might imagine Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa while she’s backed up against a weirwood tree in fact – just like Asha Greyjoy tangled in the roots of a tree she is backed against when she is struck that famous blow that crackles up her leg like lightning. Point being, Nissa Nissa’s death and the symbolic lightning on fire of the weirwood tree are part of the same act.

So, Willsa Willsa has now died and merged with the tree, losing herself in the sap and foliage and becoming one with the weirwoodnet. The door to the weirwood fire of the gods is now wide open to Azor Ahai, and essentially this is what the burning tree symbol from the Grey King myth about. The burning tree represents the weirwood tree, yes, but specifically it represents the weirwoods in an activated state which gives man access to the fire of the gods. That’s what this sentinel tree symbolizes, now that Willsa Willsa has merged with it.

What’s great is that George creates a parallel symbol to this merged Willsa / sentinel tree in Waymar’s broken sword, the end of which is “splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning” at the end of the chapter. That’s right – the merged Will / sentinel tree is like a burning tree set ablaze by the godly thunderbolt, and Waymar’s sword is also like a tree struck by lightning. That makes a ton of sense if you think about the Azor Ahai myth – Nissa Nissa’s blood and strength and courage and soul all went in to the steel of Lightbringer, so that sword is Nissa Nissa, just as the symbolic burning tree struck by lightning, the weirwood, is also Nissa Nissa. I’ve long said the Lightbringer and the fire of the gods manifests as both the burning sword and the burning tree, and that they are interchangeable symbols, and here we have Nissa Nissa symbolized as both a tree person and a sword… but the sword is like a tree struck by lighting, very nice.  The guy climbing the tree even has a knife in his mouth!

More clues about Waymar’s sword representing Nissa Nissa and the breaking moon come in the fight against the Others itself, so let’s make this is a subsection break.

The Fight, and the Others

Time to talk about the Others! In terms of mythical astronomy correlations, we have pretty much exclusively talked about the Others as children of the ice moon – ice moon meteors, in other words. But guess what – here comes a curveball. The Others, with all their icy, white sword symbolism, can also symbolize the original comet, before it collides with the moon! Accordingly, white swords like Dawn can symbolize Lightbringer before it stabbed Nissa Nissa! I know, crazy, right?

Recall that Lightbringer is “white hot and smoking” before it stabs Nissa Nissa, and only thereafter becomes stained red with her fiery blood. It’s remembered as a red sword, but that’s only after it stabbed her… before that, it was white hot from the forge. The Others aren’t white hot, but then nothing burns like the cold, and they have a ton of white sword symbolism, as we know. Plus, “white ice sword” is actually a very good description of a comet, which are primarily made up of frozen rock, metal, and dirt, with tails that are usually whitish silver and light blue.

This is where the many similarities we’ve discovered between Dawn and the Others come into play – they’re about to help us solidify the Others as playing the role of white, pre-stabbing Lightbringer and the pre-impact comet. To whit: Dawn is a glowing white sword, pale as milkglass and alive with light, while the Others have milkglass bones, are milky white and sword slim themselves, and carry “pale swords” that are “alive with moonlight.” In other words, both the Others and their swords wear the same symbolism as the sword Dawn, the white sword that surely has something to do with Lightbringer. Therefore, I think it makes sense to see the Others as playing the role of the incoming Lightbringer comet.

And that’s what happens in this scene. Think about it – the shattering of Waymar’s sword and the wounding of his eye are basically the highlights of the astronomy symbolism of the chapter, and all of that is ‘precipitated’ by the white sword Other comes out of the darkness like a streaking white comet.

Similarly, we’ve also seen white sword Kingsguard knights, who parallel the Others very strongly, play the role of the white, pre-stabbing Lightbringer sword and comet. Arys Oakheart did it in Dorne, and although I haven’t covered this yet, Barristan Selmy does it in his ice dragon armor when he kills a couple of pit fighters in the heart of the pyramid at the moment the dragons are set free by Quentyn. It’s a bit of a side topic, but it’s a thing.

Even though Dawn has the same symbolism as the Others, it also makes sense to see Dawn as analogous to pre-stabbing Lightbringer. It may well be from the Great Empire of the Dawn, and may simply be a sword with similar technology to Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer, but which was not sullied with blood magic and turned red. Plus, a glowing white sword is not that far from a white-hot sword. And if there is a connection between Azor Ahai and the Bloodstone Emperor form the east and Night’s King in the north, it’s even conceivable that Dawn is both from the Great Empire of the Dawn and that it came to be remembered as the original Ice of House Stark.

It may have been the last hero’s dragonsteel sword, or even a sword wielded by Night’s King himself. After all, both swords in this Waymar vs the Other fight cold and pale; the Other’s “pale blade” is a shard of crystalline ice, while Waymar’s is white with frost near the end. The Other’s blade is “alive with moonlight,” and of Waymar’s blade it is said that “jewels glittered in its hilt, and the moonlight ran down the shining steel,” and then during the fight when Waymar holds it up for the Others’ inspection, it says:

The Other halted. Will saw its eyes; blue, deeper and bluer than any human eyes, a blue that burned like ice. They fixed on the longsword trembling on high, watched the moonlight running cold along the metal. 

They are both icy moonlight swords, is what I’m saying, and from a certain perspective you could even see this as a depiction of the the split comet idea – recall that my original theory postulates that we originally had one comet which split in half as it rounded the sun (a thing which happens in real life due to the sun’s gravity), just as solar king Twin splits Ice in half. One half of the comet would have hit the fire moon, while the other half would have just missed and continued on its orbit to return to us as the red comet we know and love… which is destined to hit the ice moon, if I am correct. The exploding sword is going to play the role of the moon meteor shower, but before that it may be a hint about two halves of an originally white comet. The Others do turn their swords red with Waymar’s blood at the end, just as the surviving comet would have been turned red, a la Tywin dying Ice red when he split it.

Anyway, we’ll come back to the Others in a moment, but let’s go back to Will up in the tree right before the Others appear. I mentioned that Will has a knife in his mouth as he climbs the tree; that actually comes in the lines right after the ones we quoted about Will climbing and losing himself in the needles. Picking back up:

Soon his hands were sticky with sap, and he was lost among the needles. Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest. He whispered a prayer to the nameless gods of the wood, and slipped his dirk free of its sheath. He put it between his teeth to keep both hands free for climbing. The taste of cold iron in his mouth gave him comfort.

Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, “Who goes there?” Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched.

The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl.

The Others made no sound.

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone.

Ravenous Reader’s killing word metaphor makes a strong showing here. Will has the knife in his mouth as he whispers a prayer to the “nameless gods of the wood,” but the nameless gods of the woods are actually the white walkers in this case, who have become avatars of the angry trees. Check out this quote:

Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. 

So, the old gods are nameless, and the Others are faceless – and only a couple of chapters after this, Catelyn’s inner monologue ponders Ned’s Old Gods and calls them “the nameless, faceless gods of the greenwood they shared with the vanished children of the forest.” So, faceless, nameless gods of the wood, and faceless, nameless Others, the white walkers of the woods who are almost invisible in the woods, and they appear literally right after Will climbs the tree, prays, and puts the knife in his mouth. He has uttered the killing words, in other words, a kind of magical invocation which has called down the fire of the gods.

If we think about the Others as the comet, this sequence contains a mind-blowing revelation. Azor Ahai killed Nissa Nissa, Nissa Nissa merged with the weirwood… and her prayer called the comet! This is one of the possible sequences of Long Night causation we have been entertaining – the death of Nissa Nissa first, with the weirwood magic involved and the magic of her death sacrifice being used to call the comet or steer the comet. The original legend has Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish cracking the moon, which isn’t a whole lot different from Willsa Willsa’s prayer calling in the Others. They are both examples of the killing word as something than can move the heavens, a topic we will explore further in the future when we talk about magic horns.

Another truth is revealed when we think about the Others as, well, the Others: it seems that the Others were somehow triggered by the invasion of Azor Ahai into the weirwoodnet. They seem like a manifestation of the dark id of the weirwoods, and they are not happy about being invaded. That’s what I take from the phrase “a shadow emerged from the dark of the wood.” The Others are like the shadow-selves of the trees, the equivalent of Forbidden Planet’s “monsters from the id.” All through this chapter, the woods and those who know the woods are begging Waymar to turn back. The branches claw at him, for crying out loud, but he forces Willsa Willsa to lead him into the wood, and as a result… the Others manifest. There is more to the secret of the creation of the Others, but that part at least seems spelled out here.

Another clue about the Others being a manifestation of the weirwoodnet comes when Gared gives his famously poetic speech about frostbite earlier in the chapter; he says the cold “sneaks up on you quieter than Will,” and this after saying “No one could move through the woods as silent as Will” just a moment earlier. But then, the Others appear and “make no sound,” just as the cold steals up on you quieter than Will. The Others are actually an extension of the will of the trees – I think that’s the message here.

Nissa Nissa’s cry of agony and ecstasy actually makes prominent appearance here, and keep in mind that one of the things Nissa’s cry represents is the screamingly loud sound that accompanies large, fiery things streaking through the atmosphere.

The pale sword came shivering through the air. Ser Waymar met it with steel. When the blades met, there was no ring of metal on metal; only a high, thin sound at the edge of hearing, like an animal screaming in pain.
( . . . )
Again and again the swords met, until Will wanted to cover his ears against the strange anguished keening of their clash. Ser Waymar was panting from the effort now, his breath steaming in the moonlight. His blade was white with frost; the Other’s danced with pale blue light.

The word keening is defined as ‘an eerie wailing sound’ or a wail that someone makes in grief for a dead person. Add the word anguished to keening and it seems like a clear allusion to Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy that she let out as she died – the one that left a crack across the face of the moon. We know that Martin has created another sword that is emblematic of Nissa Nissa’s cry, and that would be Widow’s Wail. Widow’s Wail is very comparable to the keening swords here, because it’s one half of Ice, which we can see as a broken sword, and of course Waymar’s sword gets covered in frost ice and breaks in the scene here, while the swords of the Others are made of some kind of magic ice.

You will also remember that just a moment ago, I was telling you that Waymar’s sword was also playing the role of Nissa Nissa and the shattering moon, mainly because it shatters to create the meteor show and because after it was broken, it looked like a tree struck by lightning, which is a weirwood symbol. Well, here it is giving off the anguished keening, as if the sword were Nissa Nissa’s cry. Now behold the moment when it shatters:

When the blades touched, the steel shattered. A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.

A rain of needles, but Arya’s sword is Needle, so this is a rain of swords or storm of swords meteor shower symbol here, one of the very best ones. I know it’s kind of basic by now, but here we have the symbol of the all-important meteor shower, and it’s the very stylish storm of swords motif. As you can see, George has placed the notorious cry or wail symbol right here in the middle of the action, where it belongs. And right when the steel of his sword shatters to create our moon meteor shower symbol, it says “a scream echoed through the forest night.” This nicely encapsulates the idea of Nissa Nissa going into the trees when she dies. The silent shout on the faces of all the weirwood trees is kind of like an echo of Nissa Nissa’s infamous cry of agony and ecstasy, perhaps. The wording even disassociates the scream from Waymar in particular and turns it into a sound that simply fills the world and the wood, kind of like dragonbinder’s scream filling the world when it was blown at the Kingsmoot.

Ravenous Reader chimes in here with another good catch regarding the ongoing comparison between the sentinel tree and Waymar’s frozen sword, which has to do with needles. Recall that quote about Will up in the tree as he closed his eyes where he gets “lost among the needles” of the sentinel tree… well, Waymar’s struck-by-lighting-tree sword also contains thousand of needles! Yet another clue that the tree and the sword are a unified symbol. We can even imagine the sentinel tree as the cosmic world tree, with its needle-like  meteor swords flying out at the commend of the greenseer inside.

Buh-buh-buh wait it gets worse! The Others themselves strike like needles, and this is from Sam’s confrontation with Ser Puddles in ASOS:

The Other’s sword gleamed with a faint blue glow. It moved toward Grenn, lightning quick, slashing. When the ice blue blade brushed the flames, a screech stabbed Sam’s ears sharp as a needle

This makes sense; the Others and their pale swords can represent either ice moon meteors or white comets, so they are like needles as well. Because it’s the sound that is needle-like, we again think of Widow’s Wail and Nissa Nissa’s cry being like a sword. You could even say that the silent shout of the weirwoods, Nissa Nissa’s cry, translates into meteor swords that stab your ears like needles.

One last note on the comparison between the needles of the sentinel tree and the needles of Waymar’s broken sword: Waymar having his blind eye transfixed by a frozen sword needle becomes tantamount to having a wooden needle in your eye, or perhaps a tree root like Bloodraven. It’s simply another layer to the one-eye greenseer symbolism, but it flows naturally out of the tree needle / sword needle comparison. Ravenous Reader also points out that needles… even have eyes! It’s another way of implying the sentinel tree as “having eyes,” and the needle in Waymar’s eye becomes an infinite needle-eye fractal symbolism vortex of some kind.

Now think about this – because the sword needle was frozen… it makes us think of frozen trees, like that “pale shadow or a weirwood armored in ice” from the Varamyr Sixskins ADWD prologue. Varamyr is another cold one-eyed evil greenseer figure, so I think we can say that the evidence is becoming overwhelming; Night’s King was definitely some kind of greenseer or transformed greenseer.

Returning to the prologue and the fight, take note of the blood welling between Waymar’s fingers after his eye is wounded, with “welling” being the key word. It also happens at the moment when he is first stabbed:

Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.

So when his eyed is put out, the blood “welled” between his fingers, and when the Other first stabs Waymar here, we see that “the blood welled between the rings” of his ringmail. The first welling is coming from his wounded eye – which represents the fire moon exploding in front of the sun, of course, and that figures; the exploding fire moon is a celestial well of moon blood which is overflowing itself and pouring out. The second blood welling is happening in the rings of his mail, which gives you a nice round well of blood image. You will of course notice the fiery language here applied to Waymar’s blood; it’s as red as fire and steaming in the cold. These fiery blood drops are basically another moon meteor symbol – they’re fiery bleeding stars, if you will, comparable to Rhaegar’s rubies falling into the Trident.

One other note on wells – think of the weirwood tree looking as though it wants to pull the moon down into the well at the Nightfort as another tie between moon destruction and wells.

In other words, Waymar really does has the whole package of moon disaster fallout – waves of fiery moon blood, a waves of night sable cloak, and the black knife symbolism. To that I will add a couple of other loose tidbits: we hear talk of the “soft metallic slither” of his ringmail, which makes you think of metal snakes, i.e. moon meteors. If you’re creative you even can see the circular rings of snake metal as little ourboroses, perhaps, a tie-in to dragons eating their own tails. Finally, wee see his breath go out in a hiss when he catches sight of the Other, so more snakey stuff. Azor Ahai the fire dragon, more or less.

I think Waymar’s temperature change is insightful – he has fiery red blood until his transformation by ice magic… and then he rises with frozen blood and cold fire in his eyes. This is, to put it simply, Azor Ahai the dragon-blooded person turning into Night’s King. He gives his blood and fire – his seed and soul, if you will – to make the Others, but this turns him cold himself, as we have long suspected.

Waymar’s intrusion into the woods throughout this chapter symbolizes Azor Ahai forcing his way into the weirwoodnet, as I mentioned. Waymar also gets the weirwood stigmata at his moment of death here, which implies that weirwoods and or greenseer magic was part of that transformation: his black moleskin gloves come away red, and his bloody eye is a match the carved bloody eyes of the weirwoods. Waymar’s face is essentially carved at the same moment that depicts the moon explosion, and that’s in keeping with all the other examples of weirwood stigmata we’ve seen. It should be noted though that Waymar only obtains his stigmata after Willsa Willsa does, and only after Will climbs the tree and prays to the gods.

A Lovers Reunion

We’ll finish off with a very short sub-section, but it’s message is important. Alright – so Will is up in the tree, holding his silence instead of warning Waymar. You will remember that when Wayzor ordered Willsa up the tree, Will had no words, and this is a depiction of the silencing of Nissa Nissa as she goes in to the trees. You will recall the red smile / throat cutting aspect of the weirwood stigmata, and in particular you will recall Lady Stoneheart appearing as an undead Nissa Nissa ghost in her weirwood cave, with her throat cut so badly she can barely speak. The weirwoods themselves are silent, though they have screaming mouths, and that is reflected by the fact that will cannot speak after climbing the tree.

Here are the lines about this:

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone. Branches stirred gently in the wind, scratching at one another with wooden fingers. Will opened his mouth to call down a warning, and the words seemed to freeze in his throat.

And then a moment later:

Will had to call out. It was his duty. And his death, if he did. He shivered, and hugged the tree, and kept the silence.

The pale sword came shivering through the air.

He’s not only silent – he’s growing cold as well, shivering against the tree and with his words freezing in his throat. Notice the comparison between Will shivering and hugging the tree – merging with it, basically – and the Other’s pale sword shivering through the air. Will has called the ice swords with his killing word, and both Will and the swords he summons shiver. As for the words freezing in his throat, it reminds me of Lady Stoneheart:

Lady Catelyn’s fingers dug deep into her throat, and the words came rattling out, choked and broken, a stream as cold as ice. 

In other words, will seems to be icing up a bit up in that tree, and this is starting to smell like dead Nissa Nissa is turning into the Night’s Queen. I say “turning into” quite loosely, because although we have discovered some Nissa Nissa figures transforming into Night’s Queen figures, we aren’t sure exactly how that works. There seems to be a distinct possibility of some sort of bifurcation with Nissa Nissa, and we’ve presented a variety of plausible theories on how it could have worked – a part of Nissa Nissa’s vengeful spirit coming back out of the weirwoodnet to inhabit either a magical ice body or even a resurrected corpse; some other spirit stealing Nissa Nissa’s cold corpse; Azor Ahai trying to raise Nissa Nissa from the dead out of love and regret; or perhaps the connection is something as simple their having been sisters, like Visenya and Rhaenys.

That being said, there is some kind of link between Nissa Nissa and Night’s Queen – the symbolism of Sansa and Cersei in particular make that undeniable. That seems to be what’s going on here, because not only does will begin to freeze in the tree there, he also… comes back down out of the tree:

When he found the courage to look again, a long time had passed, and the ridge below was empty. He stayed in the tree, scarce daring to breathe, while the moon crept slowly across the black sky. Finally, his muscles cramping and his fingers numb with cold, he climbed down.

As soon as Willsa Willsa comes down from the tree, she notices Wayzor Ahai’s body lying face down in the snow, a dozen slashes in his sable cloak…. which is last hero math when you add in the grisly eye wound we are about to see. Will thinks “lying dead like that, you saw how young he was… a boy,” and consider what we are seeing here. I think Will is playing more of a Night’s Queen role now as opposed to Nissa Nissa, but the point is, Will is some sort of revenant of Nissa Nissa here, which may or may not be Night’s Queen. I think that when we see Will regarding dead Waymar, we are supposed to see this as the revenant of Nissa Nissa regarding her dead Azor. And just like the triple goddess always resurrects the horned lord, who is a sun god, I believe that that is being implied here as well. This might be slightly controversial, so I will pull the whole quote and let you decide.

What I am seeing in this sequence is Will standing over Waymar’s body, picking up Waymar’s tree-struck-by-lightning sword (a clear fire of the gods symbol), and then while he is standing there contemplating the sword, Waymar rises. It’s almost like the sword is a magic wand Will uses to raise the dead. Then Willsa Willsa, now the Night’s Queen, drops the sword and closes her eyes to pray, thankful that her lost love is returned from death. Check it out, and this quote runs to the end of the chapter:

He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof. Gared would know what to make of it, and if not him, then surely that old bear Mormont or Maester Aemon. Would Gared still be waiting with the horses? He had to hurry.

Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.

His fine clothes were a tatter, his face a ruin. A shard from his sword transfixed the blind white pupil of his left eye.

The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.

The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.

The sequence is really tight – Will is only a few feet away from Waymar holding the fire of the gods sword, and when he stands, Waymar has already risen, which essentially means that Waymar awoke while Will was holding the sword. Keep in mind this is supposed to be a hidden layer of meaning; in terms of the surface plot, Waymar rises presumably on command of the Others to kill Will because they want to, and that’s kind of what wights do, they lie dormant in the snow and then pop out at the most inconvenient time, as we saw outside of Bloodraven’s cave with Bran and Coldhands and company. But the potential symbolism of Nissa Nissa’s ghost raising dead Azor Ahai, who has just given up his fiery blood, is quite compelling, and makes a lot of sense.

The Night’s King myth speaks of him giving his seed and soul to his corpse queen, and all indications are that some part of this sex magic ritual transformed him into an icy sort of dude. Night’s Queen would seem to facilitate this transformation, so seeing someone playing that role raising an Azor figure from the dead makes sense, especially since our undead Azor appears reanimated by ice magic with a blue star eye version of the Odin makeover. This is when he best matches Euron and Aemond One Eye as a Night’s King figure, so I think we can simply say that the one blue eye symbol exclusively belongs to Night’s King figures, thus indicating Night’s King as an ice magic user… as one would expect. And where did he get that ice magic? Well, from Night’s Queen… and thus I think it works to see this scene as Will using the frozen fire of the gods sword to resurrect Wayzor the Amayzor as a Night’s King.

And this, my friends, is the reason for the inexplicably romantic second-to-last line of the chapter: “Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat.” Wights never do this. They do not stop to savor the moment, or brush anyone’s cheek. They attack aggressively and viciously, like most zombies do. And yet, we have this poetic, delicate cheek-brushing moment… which makes sense if this is a reunification of lost lovers. Plus… what’s with the ‘long, elegant hands’ description of a wighted person… who is wearing bloody gloves? That language also does not fit with the main action, but does fit with the idea that Martin is trying to imply a tender reunion.

The choking, well that’s… that’s just a little kinky loveplay, you know? I kid of course; I think the choking has to be there for purposes of the main plot, and it’s this anomalous cheek-brushing elegance that is supposed to be the clue about this being a reunion of sorts. Or we could interpret it as a depiction of Night’s King “chasing” and “catching” and basically possessing Night’s Queen, as he is said to do. Again we are reminded of the choked, stream-of-ice speech of Lady Stoneheart.

One final note on resurrected Night’s King Waymar… I can’t help but notice the symbol of the meteor sword shard lodged in his eye and think about the show’s depiction of the creation of Night’s King being created by being stabbed with magical dragonglass. Even setting that aside, think about the sword shard as a meteor fragment… it’s literally lodged inside the body of Night’s King here. That seems like a symbolic suggestion at the very least that evil Azor Ahai / the Bloodstone Emperor / Night’s King used the magic of the moon meteors to transform himself, and it’s even possible there is a more literal truth and George is riffing on the idea of people having little pieces of metal trapped inside them after alien abduction experiences, lol.

I will also say that even though his wounded eye symbolizes the fire moon when it is stabbed and bleeds out, when we see it on resurrected Waymar, I think it’s showing us something else. Martin calls it a blind white eye transfixed by a sword shard, and this has to make us think about the dragon locked in ice symbolism. Resurrected Waymar might simply be regarded as the ice moon in this instance, just we see the moon leering with Euron’s face in one the TWOW early release chapters, implying Euron’s entire face as the ice moon. It’s not really a huge thing, but when we look at Waymar’s face with one blue star eye and one white eye transfixed by a shard… it seems like an awfully good picture of the face of the ice moon, with the dragon locked in ice meteor depicted by the sword shard, and the idea of turning fire magic into cold fire depicted in the cold burning blue star eye.

Let’s Start Back

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Alright, so let me explain what seem to be the rules for this. We are starting at the end of the chapter and working backwards, reshuffling the order events in reverse. There is a little discretion and common sense involved here, as sometimes we have to choose whether to reverse the action itself – i.e. something falling becomes something rising – or simply the order in which the event takes place relative the events before and after it – i.e. instead of Will dropping the sword and then being strangled, now he gets strangled and drops the sword. The hypothesis of this exercise is that if we are skilled, we can find the same sequence that we just outlined in the ‘forwards reading’ when we read the chapter backwards, so we will make those judgement calls in light of conforming to the pattern of the forwards reading.

Hopefully I didn’t make that sound too complicated, it’s actually pretty much common sense when you read the chapter to figure it out. You will see what I mean in just a second.

Right away we can see a natural symmetry to the chapter, given the symbolism we’ve just discovered:

  • Waymar symbolically kills Will
  • Will climbs the tree
  • Waymar fights the Others
  • Will climbs down from the tree
  • Wighted Waymar actually kills Will

Looking at all these w’s in a list, it occurs to me that the letter w is one of the few leters of the alphabet that looks like it is looking in a mirror if you draw a vertical line through the middle of it. Probably an coincidence…

Anyway, working off of this basic symmetry, you can see the chapter is primed for a backwards reading.

Let’s start by reversing the order of the sentences in the last two paragraphs. We get this:

They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold. Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. Will closed his eyes to pray. The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. 

It saw. The pupil burned blue. The right eye was open.

The first thing that happens is that a sorrowful Wayzor Ahai kills his love, Willsa Willsa, after tenderly stroking her cheek. This whole Long Night thing starts with Azor Ahai killing Nissa Nissa, so this checks out. As Azor kills Nissa Nissa, she closes her eyes and prays, as if she is perhaps giving up her life force or perhaps even cursing Azor as she dies. I’m seeing Waymar’s arm as Lightbringer here, sucking the soul and strength from Nissa Nissa as Lightbringer of legend did, and right after this, a sword falls from Nissa Nissa, mimicking the creation of Lightbringer from a dying Nissa Nissa’s body.

It’s also very like a moon coughing up a moon meteor sword as Nissa Nissa dies, it should be noted. Will is the fire moon here, and his moon meteor sword lands in the snow, just like the fire moon meteor shrapnel that seems to lodge in the ice moon, the celestial equivalent of the dragon locked in ice.

After this, Wayzor Ahai’s eye burns blue, and “it saw.” He’s possessed the fire of the gods – thanks, Willsa Willsa. Thank her for that moon meteor sword she dropped too -you’ll need that to go into the ice to fight the Others, which is what happens in reverse, as a matter of fact. Waymar, having killed his love and opened his new Odin eye, lays down face-first in the snow and becomes the dragon locked in ice himself, matching the sword he got from dying Willsa which is also lying in the snow. In a moment, he’ll awaken from the snow to fight the Others… very like Jon rising from the snow when he’s resurrected, or, as Patchface would say, when “snow falls up.” Falling up is literally what you see if you play a video of someone falling down in reverse, ha ha.

Willsa Willsa, meanwhile, has been slain, and has given up a magic sword. Taking the events in reverse order, the next thing that happens is that Willsa climbs the tree. Just as it was in the forward reading when Will climbed the tree at the beginning of the chapter, this is easy to spot as Nissa Nissa dying and going into the trees! Willsa Willsa goes into the trees, and Wayzor Ahai goes into the ice. This is going well so far!

Continuing to reverse the order of events, after Will climbs the tree, we have the Others all stabbing Waymar in “cold butchery.” I want to reverse the individual components of the fight, so let me list them out as they appear in the forwards reading. Waymar shatters his sword against the sword of the Other, has his eye put out by a sword shard, and sinks to his knees; then all the Others close in and stab him and he falls into the snow. Will closes his eyes and hears their mocking laughter. When he opens his eyes, the Others gone – meaning that he did not watch them walk away.

Reversing that sequence, we have Will in the tree opening his eyes. He sees the Waymar on his knees in the snow, with the Others pressing close and stabbing him. As Waymar stands all the way up, the Others back off.  A tiny piece of sword flies out of his eye and reassembles with the other shards and the hilt of the broken sword that is now in his hands.

Thinking about this as astronomy, this is a fantastic depiction of the waking of the dragon locked in ice. It has everything! When will opens his eyes, the Others start off pressed close around him, like the shell of the ice moon. As he stands up – as the dragon locked in ice wakes – they rush away from him like exploding ice moon meteor fragments, flying away form the newly cracked ice moon. This lines up perfectly with all the symbolic depictions of Jon’s resurrection which seem to involve the fall of the Wall and the impending #IceMoonApocalypse. Dead Jon in the ice cell is in exact parallel to the theoretical fire moon meteor lodged in the ice moon, and Waymar is awakening here like a dragon locked in an ice moon. It’s pretty great.

Just as with the forwards reading, we can also read this as Azor Ahai’s killing of Nissa Nissa and his invasion of the weirwoods somehow resulting in the creation of the Others. In the reverse reading, Wayzor has just killed Willsa and sent her into the tree, and when she opens her tree eyes, the Others appear.

So Wayzor Ahai has awakened to fight the Others – let review this reverse fight sequence with that in mind instead of the astronomy layer. Azor Ahai has just risen from the snow, only to one knee, and the Others are stabbing him, yet he is undaunted and rises to his feet, causing the Others to back off. It’s almost like our newly resurrected warrior is showing the Others that he can withstand their attacks. This may be the exact test Waymar failed in the forwards reading – notice that the Others all mocked Waymar after he took his first wound and bled hot red blood. Then the Other Waymar was fighting ended the ritualistic duel by breaking his sword with a lazy parry, and then they all butchered him. This is Joe Magician;s “testing” theory, and combining it with my green zombies theory, Joe and I both think that the Others were testing Waymar to see if he was an invincible wight, like Coldhands or like Jon will become, and dismissed him when he showed himself vulnerable. In this backwards reading, the Others stab Waymar as soon as he begins to rise, then back off as he rises further and proves himself invulnerable. Then Waymar casually reforges his broken sword before their eyes.

That’s right! Waymar appears to be reforging the notorious broken sword symbol that we see in the last hero and so many echoes such as Beric, Beric’s Dondarrion ancestor, the Titan of Braavos, the sigil of the Essosi free company known as the Second Sons, and so on. It’s written into the wordplay of the sword Dawn too, since dawn is notorious for breaking – it happens every day, after all, every time the sun rises. The idea of reforging the broken sword of destiny is certainly reminiscent of Tolkien and Aragorn’s Narsil, which was reforged by Elrond in time for the last battle against Sauron, as it was written in prophecy. More specifically, Waymar’s sword is “white with frost” before it breaks, suggesting it as a great symbol of Dawn as the original Ice. I’ll also note that we have long surmised that the last hero might have reforged his original sword, since he snapped his first one from the cold, yet emerges later chasing the white shadows with a sword of Dragonsteel. He either reforged the broken one or got a new one, and in this reverse reading, Waymar appears to reforge his sword.

Alternately, you could imagine resurrected Azor Ahai as materializing his sword out of mist or something, like Brandon Sanderson’s new series, but I think the message here is one of reforging a broken sword.

Getting back to the backwards reading, Wayzor Ahai passes the test of the Others, rises, reforges his sword. Let’s test that thing out, one of the Others calls out with a mocking laugh. His first parry is lazy, and he gets one strike in on Wayzor Ahai, but he again seems unaffected and even fights with rewed vigor. They fight to a draw, both of them hold their swords on high to shine in the moonlight – a salute or sign of truce of some kind, perhaps – and then the Others go away. That’s right, they go back into the trees, back where they belong. They are probably happier now, perhaps set free of some duty or obligation, or having had some debt repaid to them or what have you. Wayzor Ahai has saved the day! Perhaps he said some sort of healing words – the opposite of the killing words which summoned them. What were those words – “for Robert?” “Dance with me then?” Perhaps that’s it – the turtle god and crab god had to sing a song to return the sun to the sky according to Rhoynish myth, so who knows.

Then, coming back out of the trees, it’s his lost love, Nissa Nissa – er, Willsa Willsa. After the Others melted back into the trees, she offered a prayer of thanks to the Old Gods, then climbs down to reunite with her lost love. “Come here love, I won’t have you hiding under a bush,” he says, and reunited, they head back to their home to live happily ever after. They even remember to collect their ugly, earless stableboy who held their horses for them while they fought the War for the Dawn. Given Gared’s speech about frostbite which is really about ice transformation, this might be the last hero rescuing the stolen Other baby on his way back to Winterfell.

That’s one way to read the ending, but there’s another, less happy possibility. Wayzor Ahai fights the Other to a draw after passing their test – and then becomes the master of the Others, or a worshiper of the Others. The new Night’s King. Instead of reading the Others melting back into the dark of the wood as simply returning to the trees and being at peace, we might interpret Wayzor Ahai the Night King sending out the Others to invade Westeros. He’s giving them battle commands, and then they turn around and leave – to go fuck shit up elsewhere, you know? “For Robert! For the Horned Lord!” they cry.

We might even look at them stabbing Waymar in reverse, just like is was a videotape played backwards… it still looks like they are stabbing Waymar, but now the blood flies into him as they do, instead of flying out. It’s kind like they are putting blood back in to him! This isn’t crazy – think about the Others reanimating him or transforming him with their ice swords, kind of like the show depicts their version of Night King getting transformed by a dragonglass blade to the heart. Or how about this: think about a group of Others gathering in a circle around Jon’s body, putting their ice swords into his body, and transforming him into a new Night’s King. In the forwards reading, we had this same observation, that stabbing someone with a magic sword might be a way to resurrect them: when we saw Waymar rise with the sword shard in his eye to choke Will, and when I interpreted Will as using the broken fire of the gods sword to raise Will like a magic wand.

Similarly, just a minute ago in my happy ending reverse reading, I ignored the fact that Will has those two symbolic deaths as he climbs the tree originally. First his heart stopped while he was under the bush, and then the wind cut right through him as he started climbing, remember? Well, we could interpret this as Night’s King stabbing his resurrected corpse queen as in impregnation, which we know is a thing that did happen. It could also been Night’s King using a magic sword to raise Nissa Nissa from the dead and pull her spirit out of the tree, and instead of her heart stopping as it dead in the forwards reading, perhaps we should read it as a resurrection symbol, a heart that beats again.

Returning to Waymar in the backwards reading, let’s run with the hypothesis that he is rising as the Night’s King and commanding the Others for a minute. With that being the case, we can definitely see Will praying and climbing back down the tree to return to the Night’s King figure as the Corpse Queen coming out of the haunted forest north of the Wall to entrance Night’s King. Together, they return south to Castle Black – just like the official legend where Night’s King chases and catches Night’s Queen north of the Wall and takes her back to the Nightfort to declare her his queen.

So which interpretation of the reverse reading is right, the happy ending or the second option I just sketched out? The answer is both! The happy ending show us a compelling possible version of the end of the last hero’s journey, with him awakening as the dragon locked in ice, sending the Others back into the trees, and setting free the trapped spirit of Nissa Nissa, which might be akin to shutting down the weirwoodnet.

This is essentially a mirrored, backwards version of the “Waymar as the last hero confronting the Others” interpretation of the forwards reading.

But the second version, where resurrected Waymar is seen as the Night’s King commanding the Others instead of the last hero, makes a lot of sense as the story of Night’s King and Queen coming to power and unleashing the Others. The way it mimics the official legend of Night’s King finding his corpse queen north of the Wall and returning to Castle Black to rule together is really compelling, I have to say, and seeing him unleash the Others lines up with my belief that Night’s King and Queen lived during the Long Night and created the first Others.

This is essentially a mirrored, backwards version of the mythical astronomy interpretation of the forwards reading.

It’s interesting to me that the Nissa Nissa-turned-Night’s Queen idea appears in both the forwards and backwards reading, and each time, the weirwoods are involved. Both times, it seems like some part of Nissa Nissa comes out of the tree and becomes the Night’s Queen. I have always thought Night’s Queen to have ties to the weirwoods, with Val’s white weirwood broach being a major clue about that, so this is easy for me to accept.

Here’s another interesting observation. The entire last hero story is one that occurs at the end of the Long Night drama play, which probably spans thirteen years at a minimum, start to finish. That’s as opposed to the killing of Nissa Nissa and the destruction of the second moon, which would have happened at the beginning of the Long Night, years earlier. Additionally, if any magical babies were born such as a child of Azor and Nissa or a stolen Night’s Queen baby a la the Blood of the Other theory, they’d need at least thirteen years or more to grow up to be the last hero, I’d think.

Here’s the point: following Waymar as the last hero shows us an event from the end of the Long Night sequence, and foreshadows Jon’s probable actions to end the new Long Night; but the mythical astronomy readings, both forwards and backwards, show us the story of the beginning of the long Night, when Azor Ahai killed Nissa Nissa and the Night’s King and Queen came to power. That’s an awful lot of Long Night information to hide in one prologue, but then, that’s kind of the thing skilled authors like to do with prologues, and what Martin has done here is like a tour de force example of using a prologue to foreshadow as much as possible.

So, while reading the prologue forwards and backwards didn’t exactly solve every mystery of the Long Night, it did provide with some new clues and new possibilities to consider, and seemed to further some of my newer ideas about Night’s Queen and Nissa Nissa and the Others. I’d love to hear from you guys as to what you make of these clues, and the interpretations I’ve given here. And if you’re thinking of looking for other “start back” chapters that might work well read backwards… too late, the myth heads are already all over it! ha ha, just kidding  – well, the myth heads are already all over it, but you can and should of course enjoy the fun of looking for these chapters yourself. The main thing to look for is language about starting back or reversing course, that kind of thing. We have already spotted a couple of other such chapters, and they all seem to have very strong and repeated language like this, so look for that and then take a look at the backwards sequence and see if it makes sense.

Happy hunting!

Daenerys the Sea Dreamer

Hey there friends, Patreon supporters, and myth heads everywhere, it’s your starry host, LmL. When last we left off in Weirwood Compendium 6: The Devil and the Deep Green See, our minds were reeling at the enormity of the green see wordplay. Does this really go everywhere water goes? Lakes, rivers, oceans, ponds, drinking and drowning and bathing and melting… do we really have to look sideways at every liquid we come across?

Well, basically, the answer is yes. But as you know, what we are really looking for is a confluence of multiple identifiable symbols and symbolic acts. Just because someone gets their throat cut doesn’t mean they’re manifesting weirwood stigmata and symbolically “going into the weirwoodnet.” But when red-headed Catelyn Tully gets her throat cut, has bloody hands and bloody tears and bloody hair – the full weirwood stigmata, in other words – and then gets thrown into a river named the Green Fork, and then pops up in a cave threaded with weirwood roots… we can feel confident in concluding that her death is indeed meant to symbolize the death of the weirwood goddess archetype and her subsequent entrance into the “green see” of the weirwoodnet.

Now what actually happened is that we first identified Cat as playing the role of the Nissa Nissa weirwood goddess figure without any of the green see wordplay, back in the Weirwood Goddess series which you have hopefully already listened to. In those episodes, we discovered a whole horde of mostly red-headed women who seem to manifest both Nissa Nissa symbolism and child of the forest / elf woman symbolism, all of whom undergo the weirwood stigmata. It happens so many times, and so distinctively, and always amidst metaphorical Lightbringer forging scenes, that we really can’t help but come to the conclusion that Nissa Nissa was part child of the forest and that the magic ritual which was the death of Nissa Nissa and the forging of Lightbringer was an event which was tied to the weirwoods, or even centered around them.

Then, when we consider the green see wordplay and observe Cat’s body being thrown into and then resurrected from the Green Fork of the Trident, it simply confirms and enhances the conclusions that we drew from her weirwood stigmata death scene: Nissa Nissa goes into the realm of the greenseers after she dies. Even taking a step back from the specific green sea / greenseer wordplay, it’s still easy to see the classic symbolic function of the river here: Cat goes into the river when she dies, and is resurrected when she is pulled out of the river. It’s like the River Acheron which serves as the border to the realm of Hades in Greek myth, to name one example. In other words, you can see that the green see wordplay is really just building upon the foundation of a classic mytheme, that of the river which represents the border between life and death. It’s just another version of the veil of tears.

Besides Nissa Nissa figures getting thrown into rivers like Cat, we’ve also seen that many Nissa Nissa figures have various kinds of mermaid symbolism, including many of the magical or divine wives of legend such as Elenei of the Durran Durrandon myth, the Grey King’s mermaid wife, or the two aquatic women tied to the Andal myth of Hugor Hill / Hukko, the swan maidens that ‘Hukko’ sacrificed and the woman with eyes like blue pools that the Maid of the Faith of the Seven brought forth for Hugor Hill to marry. And as we noted last time, we can even observe that Cat’s Tully / fish symbolism makes her a grisly sort of mermaid or fish person (or Cat-fish, if you prefer) when she is thrown into the river. We’ve also seen the classic sea serpent goddess archetype put into good use with Daenerys in particular, who is the most prominent Nissa Nissa figure in the series.

All of these things – the drownings, the mermaid imagery, and the sea serpent imagery –  have accumulated throughout our study of Nissa Nissa figures, and they’ve been cluing us in to the fact that Nissa Nissa has a watery side to her story… or at least to her symbolism. Then when we reconsider those things with the green see metaphor in mind… again we see things snap into place. The mermaid and sea dragon goddess symbolism suddenly make a lot more sense – they’re implying Nissa Nissa a denizen of the green see!

Bloodstone Compendium
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

Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
I: The Last Hero & the King of Corn
II: King of Winter, Lord of Death
III: The Long Night’s Watch

Great Empire of the Dawn
I: History and Lore of House Dayne
II: Asshai-by-the-Shadow
III: The Great Empire of the Dawn
IV: Flight of the Bones

Moons of Ice and Fire
I: Shadow Heart Mother
II: Dawn of the Others
III: Visenya Draconis
IV: The Long Night Was His to Rule
V: R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons

The Blood of the Other
–  Prelude to a Chill
I: A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
II: The Stark that Brings the Dawn
III: Eldric Shadowchaser
IV: Prose Eddard
V: Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash

Weirwood Goddess
I: Venus of the Woods
II: It’s an Arya Thing
III: The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa

Weirwood Compendium B
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
VIII: A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
I: Veil of Frozen Tears
II: Sansa Locked in Ice

Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
IV: The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
V: The Great Old Ones
VI: The Horned Lords
VII: Cold Gods and Old Bones

We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue

Now in PODCAST form!

Click to open in iTunes

There’s yet another line of symbolism the green see wordplay is best buddies with, and that’s the simple idea of the moon drowning in the sea. We caught on to this early on, in the very first few Bloodstone Compendium episodes, that there is abundant and repeated symbolic evidence that at least one of those moon meteors landed in or near the sea, causing huge tidal waves and some amount of land collapse. Both the Arm of Dorne and the Iron Islands (especially Pyke) show evidence of such traumatic, sudden land collapse, and both are festively decorated with moon meteor symbolism, so this part of the “moon drowning” idea is fairly literal – some pieces of the moon seem to have fallen into or near the sea. After all, an impacting meteor basically has a 2 in 3 chance of hitting water on earth, and I don’t imagine it’s much different on Planetos.

Of course the moon can be seen as an analog of Nissa Nissa, and that broken bit of moon, falling from the sky and into the sea as it was, can be seen as a representation of Nissa Nissa falling into the green sea at her death, kind of like a gigantic version of Catelyn falling into the Green Fork. Exactly like a giant version of that, in fact. Once again, we see that the green see wordplay layer fits harmoniously with all the other symbolism that is going on already – the idea of moon meteors falling into the sea, in this case – while also enhancing it.

That’s actually where we left it in Weirwood Compendium 6 – with Nissa Nissa figures drowning and dying and doing weirwood goddess things. We took a quick look at several of them and a longer look at Asha, because the Wayward Bride chapter is just so dank with the ocean of trees / sea of green goodness. The conclusion of that chapter was that amazing scene where Asha sees burning stags in a golden wood as she imagines the trumpets of the Drowned God’s Hall blowing at her apparent death, and all of that following her being backed against a tree and tangled in its roots as she is struck with a lightning-like blow. Asha actually utters such things as “drown me for a fool” and “splash some blood upon the moon with me,” it’s just so good. The trees-as-ocean quotes are equally fantastic and mirror the lines from Jon’s scenes north of the Wall.

Now before we discussed the drowning and bathing mermaid Nissa Nissa figures, we took a look at the dying Azor Ahai people who have a knack for dying in rivers, dying in burning boats on rivers, drowning in rivers that catch on fire, drowning on blood and wildfire and of course, drinking from the green fountain. And not just dying in the see, as it were, but also being reborn in the see or from the see, according to the prophecy of Azor Ahai being reborn in the sea. Just as it was with green see symbolism of the Nissa Nissa figures, applying the the green see lens to all of these watery deaths and rebirths simply simply confirms what we had already discovered by other means – that Azor Ahai essentially died to enter the weirwoodnet, and that his death was more of a transformation, one tied to or even facilitated by the weirwoods. That was basically the overarching topic of the first four episodes of the Weirwood Compendium series, and I think the evidence was already quite convincing – and the green see symbolism just pounds the nail in the coffin, so to speak. Because a weirwood tree is like a coffin for greenseers. Anyway.

Today, we are going to talk about Dany. Dany is the best because she combines the Nissa Nissa dying in the green see to forge Lightbringer symbolism with the Azor Ahai being reborn in the green see symbolism, and she does it in spectacular fashion. Tracing out all of Dany’s green see symbolism will also find us doing a fair amount of follow up on Weirwood Compendium 5: To Ride the Green Dragon, because a lot of Dany’s greenseer symbolism flows through Rhaegal. We’ve already seen that Rhaegal, as well as Rhaego the prophesied Stallion Who Mounts the World, are basically fountains of green seer symbolism, so it figures they’d show us some quality green see wordplay, and indeed they do! When we read Dany chapters, we find such things as Daenerys the Stormborn dragon wearing a green dress and a green dragon on her way to talk to old men in wooden thrones in a city by the shores of the Jade Sea, just by way of example.

I have to warn you: the amount of greenseer symbolism around Dany is shocking. It’s so heavy, and so constant… it starts with her very first chapters, continues through all five books, and then ramps up harder than ever in her final ADWD chapter. We aren’t going to get it all today, by any means. It’s going to take two episodes to get the main stuff, and more will filter into other episodes. We’ve already led up to it a bit by exploring all the greenseer symbolism of her green dragon, Rhaegal, as well as her stillborn son Rhaego, but when we look at the greenseer symbolism directly applied to Dany, I promise your head will spin and you will want me to start making tinfoil with all due haste. Well, just reserve judgement about what  it could mean for Dany in particular for now, and lets consider this first as commentary on the Nissa Nissa archetype, and if you’re all good then perhaps we’ll get around to speculating about whether or not her potentially significant amount of Blackwood blood might be stirring and giving her the potential to access the same magical greenseer genetics as Bloodraven.

Before we go head-over heels interpreting everything that happens to Dany in the green Dothraki Sea as containing a hidden message about greenseers and the weirwoodnet, let’s consider that Dany is already well established as a weirwood goddess figure, even beyond being the mother to green dragons like Rhaegal. I’m referring of course to Dany’s horse-heart-eating ceremony, which we covered a couple of episodes ago as well as previously in the Bloodstone Compendium. In that scene wherein we get the prophecy of the Stallion Who Mounts the World (which is basically the Dothraki version of the Prince That Was Promised prophecy), Daenerys has bloody hands and a bloody mouth like a weirwood tree, and is drinking blood and consuming flesh as the weirwoods do both literally and metaphorically, and the fact that she’s eating a bloody heart even adds the implication of a bloody heart tree, all of which makes this a grade-A weirwood stigmata.

Daenerys Eating the Horse Heart by Sanrixian

Consider also that Daenerys declares herself newly impregnated with the fire of her solar king as she has the stigmata, matching both the Lightbringer forging mythology as well as the idea of the weirwoods being invaded and set on fire by Azor Ahai when he used Nissa Nissa’s death to essentially invade the weirwoodnet. Compare it to Thistle’s weirwood stigmata, where Varamyr’s spirit literally invaded her flesh – this also depicts Azor Ahai’s fiery spirit invading the weirwood tree, and using Nissa Nissa’ death to do so. Here we see Dany manifesting the stigmata and turning into the bloody weirwood tree after she’s been invaded by the fiery seed of her solar king, which is just a nicer version of the same symbolism.

The main point is that Dany’s stigmata is no random occurrence – it occurs during a symbolic Lightbringer forging, and it’s consistent with all the other weirwood stigmata scenes (trust me, it matches the other ones too, let’s not digress too far). Note also that this scene, like many of her best scenes in the green Dothraki Sea, occur in the first book, which implies that Martin has been weaving this green sea / greenseer wordplay as well as other greenseer clues into the plot arc of his primary avatar of Nissa Nissa from the very beginning. That makes sense to me, because we are increasingly coming to see that Nissa Nissa’s connection to the weirwoods is one of the most important aspects of the entire Long Night / Azor Ahai / Lightbringer ball of wax. He would have conceived of it early on, and after today’s episode I feel confident you will agree with me that he did.

Thanks you’s

Sailing the Dothraki See

This section is brought to you by our dragon patrons: Bronsterys of lily-white scales and bronze horns, wingbones and spinal crest, a wise old dragon who riddles with sphinxes; Vaespeyrs the Nightbringer, the Shadowfire Dragon, whose scales are dark as smoke, whose  horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are the color of molten silver, and whose eyes are two black moons; and Falcoerys the ShagDragon, whose black stone scales are covered in purple and green 70’s shag carpeting and whose eyes, horns, wingbones, and spinal crest are as grey as a puff of smoke

The green see / reborn from the sea symbolism of Daenerys Targaryen is immediately obvious: she was reborn in the Dothraki Sea, which is often described as green. About half of Dany’s major scenes occur in this green grass sea in fact, including her symbolic death and rebirth in Drogo’s pyre and the waking of her dragons, her starry visions in her last ADWD chapter, and many other things that we’ll take a look at today. As we know, Azor Ahai is a hero prophesied to be reborn in the sea, and if George is thinking about one specific person who fulfills all of the Azor Ahai reborn prophetic check marks in the most clear way possible, it can only be Daenerys Targaryen, who after all, did wake dragons under a bleeding star, and the fact that this took place in the green Dothraki Sea means that she also checks out as a hero reborn in the sea.

Illyrio sums it up well when speaking to Tyrion in ADWD:

“The frightened child who sheltered in my manse died on the Dothraki sea, and was reborn in blood and fire. This dragon queen who wears her name is a true Targaryen.”

Reborn in blood and fire, after dying on the Dothraki Sea. So there you go – in her the prophecies are fulfilled, ha ha. She already met all the standard Azor Ahai reborn criteria there, so adding the “Azor Ahai reborn in the sea” aspect that Stannis speaks of just makes the alchemical wedding that much more of a home run for the rebirth of Azor Ahai.

We’re about to dive into Dany’s first chapter in the Dothraki Sea – the pivotal “Dany III” of AGOT, which I spent three hours breaking down with Poor Quentin and Brynden B-Fish on their Not-a-Podcast podcast, and we are going to see a ton of fantastic green sea / greenseer wordplay there. But before we do, I’ll share perhaps my favorite – no, definitely my favorite – example of the Dothraki green see wordplay, which comes in a Victarion chapter of ADWD:

“The silver queen is gone,” the ketch’s master told him. “She flew away upon her dragon, beyond the Dothraki sea.”

“Where is this Dothraki sea?” he demanded. “I will sail the Iron Fleet across it and find the queen wherever she may be.”

The fisherman laughed aloud. “That would be a sight worth seeing. The Dothraki sea is made of grass, fool.”

He should not have said that. Victarion took him around the throat with his burned hand and lifted him bodily into the air. Slamming him back against the mast, he squeezed till the Yunkishman’s face turned as black as the fingers digging into his flesh.

And then Victarion tosses his body into the sea, “another offering to the Drowned God.” There’s actually a nice symbolic parallel going on here: the fisherman tells Victarion the Barbarian that Dany flew away on her black dragon into the Dothraki Sea, which symbolizes both Nissa Nissa fleeing into the green see and a moon meteor dragon landing in the ocean, and then Vic mimics that symbolism by making a moon sacrifice out of the fisherman and throwing him into the sea. He lifts him up against the mast, which is like a tree trunk of course, and then strangles him, which gives the fisherman the ‘Odin hanging on the gallows tree’ symbolism that, in ASOIAF terms, refers to greenseers being ‘hung’ on the weirwood roots like Bloodraven. Then Victarion throws him into the sea and to the god beneath the waves, implying him a one who is sacrificed to the weirwoods and their green sea. The fisherman’s face is turned black, just as the moon turns into black meteors, and his black moon face going into the sea is equivalent to black Drogon flying off into the Dothraki Sea.

The poor fisherman shouldn’t have talked back to Victarion, it’s true – he wasn’t a very good judge of character. But he was technically correct that the Dothraki Sea is made of grass. I’m sorry, I just can’t help but find Victarion a little funny, and this scene just makes the Dothraki Sea joke so well. It is indeed a sea made of grass, and Vic would have a hard to sailing it with an Ironborn longship. He might have better luck, though, if he were to reach further back into Ironborn shipbuilding history and attempt to use a weirwood boat, like the Grey King – that might be the right one for “sailing the green sea.”

Note also the way Martin is trying to show us the green see wordplay – in the midst of the confusion about whether or not Vic can sail the Dothraki Sea, the fisherman says “..that would be a sight worth seeing. The Dothrkai Sea is made of grass..” It’s one of many examples of Martin using both forms of see/sea next to one another, in hopes the wordplay might click in our brains, such as when Mikken, the Winterfell smith, says “The sea, is it? Happens I always wanted to see the sea.”

But hey, look, don’t blame poor Victarion for taking things too literally. After all, not only are the plains of the Dothraki grasslands like a sea, the sea can be like the grasslands: “To the Dothraki, water that a horse could not drink was something foul; the heaving grey-green plains of the ocean filled them with superstitious loathing.” That’s a nice one because instead of the Dothraki grasslands being compared to a sea, it’s a sea described as a grey-green plain, as though it were a grassy plain.

But enough warm-up, let’s talk about Dany’s swim in the Dothraki Sea. The first time we ever see the sea, if you will, is in Dany’s amazing third chapter of AGOT, and the analogy is laid out pretty clearly. The chapter opens with Ser Jorah talking about the sea:

“The Dothraki sea,” Ser Jorah Mormont said as he reined to a halt beside her on the top of the ridge. Beneath them, the plain stretched out immense and empty, a vast flat expanse that reached to the distant horizon and beyond. It was a sea, Dany thought. Past here, there were no hills, no mountains, no trees nor cities nor roads, only the endless grasses, the tall blades rippling like waves when the winds blew. “It’s so green,” she said.

“Here and now,” Ser Jorah agreed. “You ought to see it when it blooms, all dark red flowers from horizon to horizon, like a sea of blood. Come the dry season, and the world turns the color of old bronze.

It’s so green, she said… lol. A green see! It stretches beyond the horizon, calling to mind the green see language of Jon’s scene at the Fist of the First Men. After saying that “the wood went on as far as Jon could see,” it said that “A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.” This green see is the cosmic sea, and it exists outside time and space, so to speak, and that’s emphasized in these quotes and others like them.

Even more important is the second part of Jorah’s speech about the Dothraki Sea: it’s a sea that turns to blood when it flowers. Think about that: when it flowers, it becomes a sea of blood. Hello, moon blood symbolism! In Westeros, a woman’s menstruation is known by the euphemism “moon blood,” and the first time she gets it is called her “flowering,” as we know, so this sea of bloody flowers is definitely a sea of moon blood. Thus, as Dany gazes out at the green Dothraki Sea for the first time, the idea of moon blood filling the green see is strongly suggested, and even highlighted. Ultimately, this is a reference to the concept of Nissa Nissa’s blood flowing into and merging with the ‘green see’ of the weirwoodnet.

This is a pivotal moment here, with Dany perched on the edge of the green Dothraki Sea and about to begin her journey. She’s just married Khal Drogo, consummated their marriage, and is now headed into the Green Sea. This is the basic pattern we’ve seen with all the other Nissa Nissa moon maidens – they do a Lightbringer forging ritual, then head into a body of water that symbolizes the weirwoodnet. Dany’s wedding and intercourse with Drogo give us the Lightbringer forging, and of course her wedding overlays in many ways with the alchemical wedding where the dragons are hatched and Dany is symbolically reborn. So, it fits the pattern well – Lightbringer forging with the solar king, then into the green sea. Dany’s horse heart scene follows a similar pattern, with Dany announcing her pregnancy as she manifests the weirwood stigmata that implies as merging with the weirwoodnet. She even goes and bathes in the “Womb of the World” right after, which adds the aquatic symbolism, and trust me we will circle back to that scene fairly soon to harvest all the greenseer stuff going on there.

Another way we might describe this pivotal moment with Dany getting set to plunge into the great grass sea is to say that her foolish brother Viserys has sold her for a golden crown, and idea that is emphasized all through Dany’s AGOT chapters. This creates a strong parallel to Dontos selling his moon maiden, Sansa, to Petyr for the price of 30,000 golden dragons. Both depict a foolish, would-be stealer of the fire of the gods who sells his moon maiden for gold and receives an ignominious death. One of the three arrows that killed Dontos struck him in the leftmost golden crown of the House Hollard sigil on his breast, which draws an even stronger parallel to Viserys selling his moon maiden and receiving a golden crown of death (Hat-tip Archmaester Emma). One even thinks of Maggy the Frog’s prophecy to Cersei about the death of her children: “Gold shall be their crowns and gold their shrouds.”

We can also observe that Sansa and Dany are both sent in to the sea and sold to a sea lord; Petyr sails aboard the Merling King and takes possession of Sansa on the Blackwater Bay, and also carries the Titan of Braavos symbolism with him via his father’s sigil, and the Titan is certainly a type of Sea Lord; while Drogo on the other hand is the lord of the Dothraki Sea and immediately takes Dany into that sea after they are wed / Dany is sold. There is even good cause to believe that the House with the Red Door in Braavos that Dany grew up in was located in the Sealord’s Palace, which would be a nice fit with the symbolism we are talking about.

Yet another parallel between Dontos and Viserys comes with Viserys being called a fool, which happens many times (and rightfully so), and his stubborn refusal to change in Dothraki clothes leaves his court clothes turning to rags before long, with rags and patchwork being a part of the fool body of symbolism.

Before we move on from Jorah’s little speech about the various kinds of grasses which opens the chapter, I’ll just briefly point out that this is also the “oceans of ghost grass taller than a man on horseback with stalks as pale as milkglass. It murders all other grass and glows in the dark with the spirits of the damned.” It’s an ocean of grass, like the Dothraki Sea, but this is ghost grass and it’s like a cross between the Others, Dawn, and grass. Point being, the “oceans of ghost grass” line can now be seen yet another clue about the Others coming from a part of the weirwoodnet, a part that they might be killing or freezing somehow, in accordance with the prophecy of the ghost grass killing covering the world and killing everything. That’s actually kind of a major revelation, but it’s also somewhat beside the point and so we’ll have to come back to it another time.

After Dany shivers and says ‘ooh, I don’t want to think about that,’ we do actually catch sight of the Others! The next paragraph begins with

She heard the sound of voices and turned to look behind her. She and Mormont had outdistanced the rest of their party, and now the others were climbing the ridge below them.

As with most potential “others” double meanings like this, it’s hard to know if it was intended or not, but coming directly on the heels of Martin’s choice to include the obvious Others clue of the ghost grass in Jorah’s ‘introduction to the green see’ speech, it kind of makes sense to drop little clues that you know… maybe the Others are lurking around here somewhere.

After the last quote, Martin immediately begins building up the contrast between Viserys, the fish out of water, and Dany, who is already adapting to the green grass sea. Irri and the young Dothraki archers are called “as fluid as centaurs,” a nice way of describing them as watery horse people – fluid centaurs, if you will, the kind that can ride the waves of the Dothraki Sea. Horse people that ride in the sea might be seen as sea horse people anyway, so they might as well be fluid centaurs. Then, after Viserys starts to pitch one of his usual snits, Dany decides not to let him ruin the day and rides off alone into the grass sea for fun. After a bit of flashback recalling Dany’s adjustment to Dothraki life, which includes the dragon dream where she is burned and melted by the dragon but feels cleansed and renewed, we get some good green see language.

At the bottom of the ridge, the grasses rose around her, tall and supple. Dany slowed to a trot and rode out onto the plain, losing herself in the green, blessedly alone. In the khalasar she was never alone. Khal Drogo came to her only after the sun went down, but her handmaids fed her and bathed her and slept by the door of her tent…

Dany is never alone – her handmaids are always bathing her, don’t chya know? The dream of being melted and cleansed by the dragon that came a page or two prior also hits on the bathing theme, which is really just one way to see Nissa Nissa’s transformation inside the green see of the weirwoodnet. We see that symbolism coming to life here in Dany as she immerses herself in the green Dothraki Sea. “Losing herself in the green” alludes to dissolution of self to merge with the weirwoodnet, I would say, which his exactly what happens when a greenseer dies. If Nissa Nissa went into the weirwoodnet when she died, it makes sense to see her “losing herself in the green,” I think. Skipping over a couple of sentences, I’ll pick the quote back up:

She rode on, submerging herself deeper in the Dothraki sea. The green swallowed her up. The air was rich with the scents of earth and grass, mixed with the smell of horseflesh and Dany’s sweat and the oil in her hair. Dothraki smells. They seemed to belong here. Dany breathed it all in, laughing. She had a sudden urge to feel the ground beneath her, to curl her toes in that thick black soil. Swinging down from her saddle, she let the silver graze while she pulled off her high boots.

Dany is not only losing herself in the sea, now she is submersing and submerging herself deeper into the green sea of grass. There’s also a line a moment later where Viserys calls Dany out for looking like a Dothraki, and, regarding herself, barefoot and wearing Dothraki riding leathers, Dany agrees and observes that she “looked as though she belonged here.” Here, in the green see she’s submersed in… it’s where she belongs. The natives of the green see of the weirwoods are of course the children of the forest, and we’ve seen the mermaid symbolism used as a way to imply Nissa Nissa as a denizen of the “sea,” i.e. a denizen of the realm of the greenseers. It’s worth noting that Dany is something of a “child-woman” at this point – recall Illyrio referring to Dany as “the frightened child who sheltered in my manse” and was reborn in blood and fire on the Dothraki Sea. Dany is a child-woman who belongs in the green see, if you catch my drift.

My favorite part is when she takes off her boots in order to feel the ground beneath her and curl her toes in the soil… kind of like a tree taking root. Nissa Nissa is the weirwood goddess, after all, and the entire point of the weirwood stigmata symbolism is that it shows a Nissa Nissa figure turning into a weirwood tree. And just when Dany’s toes start taking root in the soil…

…then Ironborn mythology starts happening.

Viserys came upon her as sudden as a summer storm, his horse rearing beneath him as he reined up too hard.

A dragon that’s like a storm – sounds like the Storm God’s thunderbolt which we think is really a meteor dragon, that one that sets the tree ablaze and creates the weirwood symbol. He’s reigning up too hard – like meteor storm hard, you think? That’s about as hard as a storm god gets, I think. You know what would be great is if George would like, I don’t know, mix in some Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa symbolism and overlay it with the storm dragon striking the tree, just to show that Nissa is like the tree and the falling thunderbolt meteor dragon is like Lightbringer?

His hand went under her vest, his fingers digging painfully into her breast. “Do you hear me?” Dany shoved him away, hard.

Oh, okay, going for the breast is it? Viserys does this to her a few times, and each time it is a.) sexual abuse and b.) a symbolic reference to Azor Ahai stabbing Nissa Nissa after asking her to bare her breast (which also qualifies as abuse, as I’ve maintained from the beginning). Here’s the thing: the ‘weirwood goddess’ Nissa Nissa bared her breast, yes, but then got stabbed in the heart, and this bloody heart symbol seems like another reference to the heart trees. It makes sense, as the Nissa Nissa figures always manifest their bloody stigmata during Lightbringer forging scenes – think of Dany eating the bloody horse heart to get her stigmata, for example.  Dany is kinda over Viserys’s bullshit at this point, and shoves him away, good for her. Then we get more Ironborn mythology:

Viserys stared at her, his lilac eyes incredulous. She had never defied him. Never fought back. Rage twisted his features. He would hurt her now, and badly, she knew that.

Crack. The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking. The Dothraki riders hooted at him as he struggled to free himself.

Recall that it was the fiery lash of Khal Drogo’s ghost rising from the lchemical wedding bonfire that seemed to snake down and crack open the first dragon’s egg, and that the second one cracked open with a sound like thunder. Here in the Dothraki Sea, we have a thunderous whip cracking against a dragon, Viserys, and this comes as Daenerys was worried about “waking the dragon” of Viserys’s anger. Instead, it looks like foolish Viserys has gotten more fire of the gods than he bargained for, in a preview of things to come; the whip coils around his throat like a noose and he chokes and struggles for breath, sprawled out on the grass of the sea. Then he’s on his knees like a sacrifice or praying man, and it says

Jhogo gave a pull on the whip, yanking Viserys around like a puppet on a string. He went sprawling again, freed from the leather embrace, a thin line of blood under his chin where the whip had cut deep.

That’s a red smile for Viserys, a weirwood sacrifice symbol to go along with his hanging by whip. Then we get a clue about Viserys as someone who is rejected or spit out of the weirwoodnet, as with Dany pushing him away earlier:

He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.

Hollow… like a tree that people can live inside? Or a moon egg whose dragon has been woken, perhaps? Then as Dany condemns him to walk behind the Khalasar, Dany ask Jorah if he’ll get lost, and there is talk of waking dragons and even waking the dead:

Jorah laughed. “Where else should he go? If he cannot find the khalasar, the khalasar will most surely find him. It is hard to drown in the Dothraki sea, child.”

Dany saw the truth of that. The khalasar was like a city on the march, but it did not march blindly. Always scouts ranged far ahead of the main column, alert for any sign of game or prey or enemies, while outriders guarded their flanks. They missed nothing, not here, in this land, the place where they had come from. These plains were a part of them … and of her, now.

“I hit him,” she said, wonder in her voice. Now that it was over, it seemed like some strange dream that she had dreamed. “Ser Jorah, do you think … he’ll be so angry when he gets back …” She shivered. “I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”

Ser Jorah snorted. “Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”

Ok, so a bunch just happened – Jorah somewhat ironically says it’s hard to drown in the Dothraki Sea; it’s actually implied that a greenseer or skinchanger can indeed drink too deeply of the green fountain and lose yourself. Ultimately, Viserys drowns in molten gold on the Dothraki Sea, so there you go. Then we get the all-important line about the plains being a part of the Dothraki, and a part of her. The ‘green see’ is a part of Nissa Nissa… just as Nissa Nissa looks like she belongs in the sea. The see is a part of her now because she only goes into the see after forging Lightbringer and undergoing death transformation. After that… Nissa Nissa is the see, and the see is Nissa Nissa.

But now that it’s over, this whole event in the green Dothraki Sea seems like some strange dream Dany had dreamed. Yikes! Dany is dreaming in the green see, like a green-dreamer! And once again, we are presented with the idea that the green see itself is like a dream of Nissa Nissa, that the weirwoodnet itself can be thought of as the mind of Nissa Nissa, in a sense. It compares well to Asha dreaming of the burning wood that contains the black, burning stag and the fiery hearts after she played the role of a tree-woman Nissa Nissa. The woods that is like a sea exists in the dream of Nissa Nissa.

In fact, Daenerys herself is quite the dreamer, just in general – everything she needed to know to wake the dragons basically came to her in dreams. Now, perhaps Quaithe was helping a bit, but the point is – Dany has a ton of visionary dreams, basically more than anyone. Dany’s historical Targaryen namesake, Daenys the Dreamer foresaw the Doom of Valyria, and in fact made enough prophecies to fill an entire book, including, in all likelihood, the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. Daenys the Dreamer most likely an echo of Dany and reflects the important role dreams and visions have in the arc of Daenerys and of course, Nissa Nissa, who dreams the green see.

So after Dany pronounces it all a dream, she asks Jorah if she woke any dragons, and Jorah asks her in return if she can wake the dead. This is weirwood goddess resurrecting the Night’s Watch green zombies talk! The green zombies watchmen always have fiery dragon symbolism, like the burning scarecrow brothers in Jon’s dream or like Beric the fiery scarecrow knight, so waking dragons and waking the dead… are the exact things the weirwood goddess does from inside of the green see, after she has died and merged with it. Jorah is referring to Rhaegar here as the dead dragon, but it’s Rhaegar’s son Jon Snow who is the dragon in need of resurrection, and it will be a different weirwood goddess figure, Melisandre, who will probably play a part in his zombie-fication.

On top of all that, we even get a throw away line about Rhaegar dying on the Trident. As we know, Dany’s naming of Rhaegal the green dragon after her brother’s death on the “green banks of the Trident” acts as a kind of symbolic resurrection for Rhaegar, and it happens here in the green Dothraki Sea, a la Azor Ahai being reborn from the sea. In fact, we are right about to talk about that rascally green dragon a bit more in just a second, because I had to save all the good Rhaegal stuff that pertains to the green see wordplay until after I unveiled the green see wordplay. That’s right, I did an entire episode on Rhaegal the green dragon, who seems dedicated to expressing the greenseer dragon idea, without ever referencing the green see wordplay… so you know we will catch George using the green see chicanery with his scenes, and indeed we do.

Just to finish off the chapter, I will inform you that we have a bath – a real one this time, with soap and water. Totally tame, no symbolism at all and – oh wait. No, this is the bath where she hears the story about the moon cracking to give birth to dragons, we better look again. So after Dany’s confrontation with Viserys and a bit of frank conversation with Jorah about the chances of Viserys ever retaking the Seven Kingdoms (spoiler alert: they’re not good), Dany rides away, eventually arriving at her tent which has been pitched by a spring fed pool. There she takes a hot bath and her handmaidens tell her about that old second moon that wandered too close to the sun!

This is but one of many parallel Dany bathing scenes, and this one is kind of the best because she symbolizes a drowning moon maiden as she hears about the destruction of the second moon… which was scalded by the cracked open like an egg. We know this scene well, as it’s the centerpiece of my very first theory, but now we can see all the intense Nissa Nissa-in-the-green-see symbolism that leads up to it. Fun, huh? This chapter started with a ton of green grass sea symbolism, which is all about Nissa Nissa immersing in the green see of the weirwoodnet, and finishes with the comparatively mundane metaphor of a moon maiden taking a bath, but there are both the same metaphor, and pretty much any time Dany takes a bath, we get symbolism tied to the death of Nissa Nissa and the moon and the waking of dragons, forging of Lightbringer, and so on. And once I’ll remind you that this is the chapter with Dany’s dragon dream of a dragon that roasts her in dragonflame and boils and melts the blood and flesh from her bones, and yet somehow cleanses her and makes her stronger. Ergo, we can see that the idea of a Lightbringer forging and rebirth, dragon-based magical ceremony being tied to a bath is really woven all throughout this chapter.

Now let’s check out Daenerys swimming in yet another iteration of the green see, this time with her green dragon at her side…

The Jade Empress Nissa Nissa

Don’t get too excited by the section title; I am not starting new tinfoil about a hidden line of the gemstone emperors or anything like that. This isn’t about bloodlines. We are still firmly planting our feet in the realm of green see symbolism, and we are going to talk about jade and the Jade Sea and a lot of Dany’s stuff in Qarth, so there you have it.

What I’d like to do next is to tie the green sea to Rhaegal the green dragon. I think you’re going to like this. As we know, Rhaegal was born amidst blood and fire on the green Dothraki Sea, just as Dany was reborn there. We know the cracking of his egg was like thunder, and that the burning logs with “secret hearts” exploded as his egg did. We know that he was named for Rhaegar, who died on those green banks of the Trident, a river named for the weapon of a sea god.

We’ve already seen that the green of Rhaegal’s scales can be described as “the green of moss in the deep woods at dusk, just before the last light fades,” which, now that we look at it again, contains a Deepwood Motte reference, since it’s the moss in a deep wood at dusk. That’s good, because the ocean-like forest of Deepwood Motte was full of greenseer / green sea puns. Of course, the green-of-moss-in-the-deep-wood description also matches the exact description of the eyes of greenseers, or green-dreamers like Jojen, yet another clue about greenseers hidden in Rhaegal’s symbolism. But there’s another description of Rhaegal’s green scales in ADWD when Dany goes down into the pit beneath the pyramid with Ser Barristan, and it leads us back to greenseers as well pretty quickly:

Rhaegal wore matching chains.  In the light of Selmy’s lantern, his scales gleamed like jade. 

That’s not the only time Rhaegal is associated with jade. When the Tourmaline Brotherhood of Qarth gives her a three-headed dragon crown, the head are made of jade, ivory, and onyx, for the colors of her three dragons. And another time in ACOK, there’s a line about Rhaegal’s “jade green wings,” giving us the magic number of three jade references for Rhaegal.

Why is jade important?  Well, thinking back to Melisandre’s voice being flavored with the music of the Jade Sea and how “Jade Sea” could be translated as “green sea,” comparing Rhaegal’s green to jade is akin to likening it to the green of the sea. Remembering that he was called a green serpent and that his egg had a “deep green” shell, he’s basically a jade-green, deep sea-serpent. He also compares very well to Renly’s armor, which was like a “deep green pond” but also a “deep green wood” with the gold fastenings gleaming like “like distant fires in that wood.” Pretty sure there is some fire lurking beneath Rhaegal’s forest green / jade green scales, it’s safe to say.

The two descriptions of the scales of the green dragon, in other words, both allude to greenseeing: the green of moss on trees, like the eyes of greenseers, and the green of jade, alluding to the Jade Sea a.k.a. “the Green Sea.”

The other major thing that jade calls out to in ASOIAF is the jade demon, a.k.a. wildfire. Wildfire, as we’ve just discovered, is also part of the green sea symbolism, just like the green dragon and the sea dragon. Aegon the Unworthy’s wooden dragons were filled with the jade demon, for example, and those jade dragon demons set the kingswood on fire. Dragons themselves are like demons, and they come from Asshai on the Jade Sea, and Rhaegal the jade green dragon is full of fire, which although mostly yellow and red and orange, is sometimes laced with green. At the Battle of the Blackwater, we saw a fifty-foot tall jade demon hatch from a ship full of wildfire, a nice combination of the burning-ship-as-sea dragon symbolism and jade demon wildfire symbolism.

So, in terms of greenseer dragon symbols, we have the sea dragon, the green dragon, and green wildfire, and they are all basically interchangeable. They are all getting at the same idea with similar combinations of symbols, and they often appear together with one another… and Rhaegal is tied to them all.

The fun really begins when Rhaegal the jade green sea dragon goes to the Jade Sea – well, Qarth by the Jade Sea. It’s amazing how much Rhaegal hogs the spotlight in these scenes by the Jade Sea, I have to say. But before we get to that, let me briefly introduce the Jade Sea itself, because, you know… you might think I’m being over-eager by saying that the Jade Sea = the green see simply because jade is usually green. Well.

Let’s start with a fun easter egg which lumps the Jade Sea with some pretty notable companions and actual greenseeing. Oops, it looks like it was right in the first book! Almost like George planned ahead or something.

He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise.

That was from Bran’s coma dream vision in AGOT of course, and you’ll notice the greenseer / green see wordplay Martin worked in. Bran is actually and literally using his fledgling greenseer ability here, and in this vision he greensees across the Narrow Sea, and then to the green Dothraki Sea, and then to the Jade Sea! I mean that’s enough green see wordplay to overwhelm even ravenous Reader! Just kidding, Ravenous Reader has an infinite threshold for wordplay, this I can say for a certainty. Here’s one even Ravenous might have missed though: the dragons are “stirring” beneath the sunrise. Stirring, like a latte or a smoothie. These are water dragons we’re talking about, ha ha! I kid, I kid; that one is probably not meant as a sea dragon clue, but the seeing across the Narrow Sea to the green Dothraki sea to the Jade Sea while greenseeing thing is no accident, that I can assure you. And once again we see the suggestion of there being a link between the dragons and dragonlords from Asshai-by-the-Shadow and greenseers. Said another way, Bran finds himself in the green dream, and what is he doing? He’s imagining dragons. Heh heh. Dragons always exist inside the green sea and inside the dreams of the greenseer.

Dany loves to dream of dragons more than anyone, and in her wake the dragon dream, she also dreams of her ancestors from the Great Empire of the Dawn, which were discussed at length in our episode with History of Westeros. The rulers of the Great Empire are named after gemstones, and there were eight of them, and four of these appeared in the eyes of the kingly ghosts in her dream: opal, amethyst, tourmaline, and jade. They all have silver gold hair and flaming swords, but each with eyes according to these four gems. The one with amethyst eyes makes a model Valyrian, but what do we call the dragon lord ghost with jade green eyes? A green dragon? The jade is found in the eyes here, which could certainly be meant to imply a greenseer dragonlord.

I found a kind of easter-egg companion to the jade sea dragon concept in TWOIAF which does brings us to the shores of the Jade Sea in the Empire of Yi Ti. There’s a little sidebar section that gives us a long list of various YiTish emperors of note from various dynasties named after different colors, and there we read of the “sea-green emperors.” Their name may have been taken for their dominance at sea, for we are told of the 6th, 7th, and 8th of the sea-green emperors,

..under whose rule the empire reached the apex of its power.  Jar Har conquered Leng, Jar Joq took Greater Morag, Jar Han exacted tribute from Qarth, Old Ghis, Asshai, and other far-flung lands, and traded with Valyria. 

As you can see, all these conquests would have been made by sea, so the sea green emperors were indeed skilled sailors who ruled over the Jade Sea. This is a perfect greenseer metaphor: the sea-green emperors rule the Jade Sea, huh? Even better is Jar Har the sea-green emperor and his conquest of Leng, and thanks to Colin Longstrider, the Eighth Spoke of the Wandering Wheel for this find.

Legends persist that the Old Ones still live beneath the jungle of Leng. So many of the warriors that Jar Har sent down below the ruins returned mad or not at all that the god-emperor finally decreed the vast underground cities’ ruins should be sealed up and forgotten. Even today, it is forbidden to enter such places, under penalty of torture and death.

If you’ve listened to my Old Ones segment on Ideas of Ice and Fire’s channel, you know that I associate Leng and the Old Ones with the horned lord mythology, and of the haunted caves certainly seem like the familiar greenseer cavern symbolism, with a nod to Gendel and Gorne’s legend of being lost in the caves. And who is sending soldiers down into these caves? The Sea Green God-Emperor Jar Har. One has to wonder about the idea of sealing up the weirwoodnet as a solution to all the problems of magical imbalance in the story…. that might make a certain amount of sense.

Now sitting aside the Jade Gates which provide entrance to the Jade Sea is Qarth, and when Dany the sometimes sea dragon goes there, we find some things worth talking about – so let’s go there.  In particular, there is some heavy symbolism going on with the Pureborn that pertains to sea dragons and greenseers both.  To begin with, Daenerys is going to them seeking boats to carry her and her dragons and her army back to Westeros: she’s seeking sea dragons, in other words, just as the boats which eventually carry her away from Qarth are named after dragons and all the rest.  In order to do so, she dresses in green, making herself a green dragon:

Rhaegal hissed and dug sharp black claws into her bare shoulder as Dany stretched out a hand for the wines. Wincing, she shifted him to her other shoulder, where he could claw her gown instead of her skin. She was garbed after the Qarthine fashion. Aaron had warned her that the Enthroned would never listen to a Dothraki, so she had taken care to go before them in flowing green samite with one bared breast, silvered sandals on her feet, with a belt of black and white pearls round her waist. 

Notice the black and white pearls: pearls are distinct moon symbols, so this implies black and white moons or black and white moon meteors. This makes for a great complement to the green dress, because she’s wearing the colors of her dragons (black, white, and green) and also telling us a story about green dragons and two moons. Pulling this palanquin are two bulls, one white and one black, again suggesting a white moon and a black moon. To cap it off, Rhaegal the green dragon perches on her green dress – it seems she only brought the green dragon with her to see the Pureborn. It’s one of those double symbols, where Dany wears green and is thus a green dragon herself, and she also wears a green dragon like a garment.

Dany is calling out the Amethyst Empress and Nissa Nissa here as well. The naked breast of Qarthine fashion is an allusion to the tale of Lightbringer’s forging, where Azor Ahai told Nissa Nissa to bare her breast to the sword. Hat-tip, someone on the internet a long time whose name I cannot recall. And just before the paragraph above, it says:

Dany’s tight silver collar was chafing against her throat. She unfastened it and flung it aside. The collar was set with an enchanted amethyst Xaro swore would protect her against all poisons. 

This works very well as a parallel to Mel’s ruby choker necklace which also seems to protect her from poison, but of course an amethyst is appropriate for Daenerys, the Amethyst Empress Reborn (™ Durran Durrandon).

Returning to the Pureborn themselves, we find greenseer clues. As you just heard, they are also called “the Enthroned,” and that is the word used for the singers “enthroned” on their weirwood thrones in Bloodraven’s cave. The Pureborn even have old, wooden thrones:

The Pureborn heard her pleas from great wooden seats of their ancestors, rising in curved tiers form a marble floor to a high-domed ceiling painted with scenes of Qarth’s vanished glory. 

‘Great wooden thrones of their ancestors’ would be a good description of greenseer thrones, thrones which literally contain the spirits of a greenseer’s ancestors, as well as every scene of vanished glory in the history of humankind, and then some.

Descendants of the ancient kings and queens of Qarth, the Pureborn commanded the Civic Guard and the fleet of ornate allies that ruled the straights between the seas. Dany wanted that fleet, or part of it, and some of their soldiers as well. 

There’s another emphasis of their very old blood, and we learn that they command the fleets – the boats Dany wants to make sea dragons.  And then there’s one final greenseer clue, after describing the way in which each wooden throne was bedecked with jewels, including jade, we read:

Yet the men who sat in them seemed so listless and world-weary that they might have been asleep. 

They’re dreamers in wooden thrones! They rule the Jade Gates which give entrance to the Jade Sea. They bestow sea dragons upon seekers.. or not. Dany’s role here is of one seeking to be a green dragon, and though she is denied, she does ultimately get her fleet of three sea-dragon boats (recall that she names them after Aegon’s three dragons) that carry her to her next destination, with her dragons diving into the water like sea dragons all the way.

As Dany is making her way through Qarth in Xaro’s palanquin having this conversation about the Pureborn, we get another green dragon / green sea clue.

She stroked Rhaegal. The green dragon closed his teeth around the meat of her hand and nipped hard. Outside, the great city murmured and thrummed and seethed, all its myriad voices blending into one low sound like the surge of the sea.

Basically what is happening here is that Daenerys is a green dragon by virtue of her green dress, she’s wearing her green dragon, and now she’s navigating through a surging sea. Rhaegal and she are both sea dragons now. Similarly, Rhaegal sniffs the wine and hisses, provoking Xaro to say that he has a good nose and that they should sail to the Jade Sea to get some really good wine, presumably wine that the green dragon might approve of. I’ll also point out the last line of the quote we just pulled – “myriad voices blending into one low sound like the surge of the sea.” This line speaks of the the hive mind made up of all the dead singers (the myriad voices) which which makes up the weirwoodnet, which we are calling the green see. That is exactly the sea that the green dragon must navigate.

There’s another curious call-out to the Great Empire of the Dawn in this sequence as well. Dany is asking Xaro for ships, and he is listing all the things he has already given here, including those black and white bulls, whose horns are inlaid with gemstones.  Dany say “Yes, but it was ships and soldiers I wanted,” and then a moment later, “my bullocks cannot carry me across the water” – those lunar bulls are not sea dragons yet, in other words. Zaro has also given her a thousand knights in shining armor – but miniature ones, tiny statue knights in armor of gold and silver, and they were made of “jade and beryl and onyx and tourmaline, of amber and opal and amethyst.” Setting aside beryl and amber, we have five out of the eight gemstones of the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn listed there, including the four specifically named in Dany’s wake the dragon: tourmaline, opal, amethyst, and jade. A thousand sword-like things (the thousand miniature knights) are generally a symbol of the meter shower of a thousand thousand dragons, and gemstones are equated with stars at times, so this is a meteor shower army decked out in the trappings of the Great Empire. The way I would interpret this is as a hint that the meteor shower was triggered by the Great Empire of the Dawn – by the Bloodstone Emperor, to be exact.

Perhaps best of all, just as Dany is pointing out that the bulls are not ships, the palanquin is forced to come to a  halt, because the crowd has stopped to oggle at a…

…wait for it…

…a fire sorcerer. That’s right, this is where the fire mage appears to climb the fiery ladder, and Quaithe of the Shadow appears to tell Dany that her dragons have made magic stronger in the world. The path of the green sea dragon leads to a fire sorcerer – and a shadow sorcerer from Asshai thrown in for good measure. The actual quote is worth pulling:

Jhogo rode back to her. “A firemage, Khaleesi.”

“I want to see.”

“Then you must.” The Dothraki offered a hand down. When she took it, he pulled her up onto his horse and sat her in front of him, where she could see over the heads of the crowd. The firemage had conjured a ladder in the air, a crackling orange ladder of swirling flame that rose unsupported from the floor of the bazaar, reaching toward the high latticed roof.

We have discussed the notion of Odin riding a shamanic horse to journey throughout the cosmos before when talking about Yggdrasil, and we are actually going to go further with that topic in the next episode and discuss Sleipnir, which is also a kind of astral projection horse Odin rides. Sleipnir is famously a grey horse, and Dnay just so happens to ride a grey horse all around the green Dothraki Sea, so… that’s going to be a fun episode, and actually started as part of this one, but it got to long, yadda yadda yadda. In any case, can see that symbolism at work here as Dany mounts a horse to “see,” just as Odin mounted Yggdrasil, his gallows horse, to see the runes. Instead of runes – although we have seen red priest make fiery glyphs appear in the air – Daenerys sees the mage and his fiery ladder, and they key line is the “latticed roof.” The word lattice or latticework is always a “latticework of stars” keyword in ASOIAF, so this fire mage climbing his ladder is signifying just what you’d think: he’s trying to use fire magic to ascend to heaven, so of course he disappears upon reaching the top. Thanks to Stone Dancer, The Mind’s Eye, Whorl-Master of the Trident for the lattice find.

And then, Quaithe appears:

When the fiery ladder stood forty feet high, the mage leapt forward and began to climb it, scrambling up hand over hand as quick as a monkey. Each rung he touched dissolved behind him, leaving no more than a wisp of silver smoke. When he reached the top, the ladder was gone and so was he.

“A fine trick,” announced Jhogo with admiration.

“No trick,” a woman said in the Common Tongue.

Dany had not noticed Quaithe in the crowd, yet there she stood, eyes wet and shiny behind the implacable red lacquer mask. “What mean you, my lady?”

“Half a year gone, that man could scarcely wake fire from dragonglass. He had some small skill with powders and wildfire, sufficient to entrance a crowd while his cutpurses did their work. He could walk across hot coals and make burning roses bloom in the air, but he could no more aspire to climb the fiery ladder than a common fisherman could hope to catch a kraken in his nets.”

Quaithe is playing the role of an undead Nissa Nissa inside the net, very like Stoneheart or the Ghost of High Heart. She wears a red lacquer mask, also referred to as a painted wooden mask, which mimics the carved red faces on the weirwood trees which are like wooden masks for the greenseers inside. She contacts Dany in dreams and visions in a way that is very much parallel with Bloodraven and Bran, and of course she is from Asshai, representative of the hot hell underworld which seems to be inside the weirwoods. In this scene, her eyes are wet and shiny, hinting at the sea that lies behind the weirwood mask.

And look, she’s making deep sea analogies! Welcome to the club, Quaithe. Before the dragons were reborn into the world, this mage could no more hope to ascend the fiery ladder than catch a kraken in his nets. That’s hilarious, because Azor Ahai climbing the fiery ladder to the stars and entering the weirwoodnet is akin to the weirwoodnet catching a sea monster or sea dragon. Krakens arms are likened to tree roots in a couple of scenes, the idea of a kraken in a net seems like George making his own “weirwoodnet” joke here. One thinks of Sam the Night’s Watch brother and “black leviathan” coming up out of the well at the Nightfort and “flopping” around in a “puddle of moonlight” whilst ensnared in Meera Reed’s net.

So let’s step back and look at the sequence here: George shows us several versions of Dany as a dragon in the green see, from entreating the Pureborn on their wooden thrones to sailing through the sea of people on her palanquin to the very fact that it all happens within smelling distance of the Jade Sea – and then we get a bunch of dragon waking and fire of the gods Lightbringer forging symbolism at the end. Just as Dany’s third chapter immersing herself in the green see ended with the story of the waking of dragons from the moon, this voyage through the various seas ends with a firemage ascending to heaven and Quaithe discussing the reemergence of dragons and magic to the world.

So – whether it’s the green Dothraki Sea or the Jade Sea or just a nice hot bath, Dany is going swimming.

Quaithe is actually delivering us a message about Nissa Nissa’s death enabling Azor Ahai to climb the fiery ladder into the stars here, I hope you can see that. Quaithe is literally telling Dany that this fiery mage would not have been able to scale the ladder to the sky before she birthed the dragons – meaning that her moon death and dragon-birthing ritual is what opened the doors to heaven for Azor Ahai. This is entirely in keeping with the weirwood door symbolism – Nissa Nissa is a door through which Azor Ahai enters the weirwoodnet, where he can do astral projection and fly amongst the stars. Nissa Nissa’s magic is what makes it possible, and in particular, her death and transformation makes it possible.

We see much the same at the alchemical wedding, where Dany’s Lightbringer bonfire creates a smoky stallion that Drogo can ride into the stars:

Another step, and Dany could feel the heat of the sand on the soles of her feet, even through her sandals. Sweat ran down her thighs and between her breasts and in rivulets over her cheeks, where tears had once run. Ser Jorah was shouting behind her, but he did not matter anymore, only the fire mattered. The flames were so beautiful, the loveliest things she had ever seen, each one a sorcerer robed in yellow and orange and scarlet, swirling long smoky cloaks. She saw crimson firelions and great yellow serpents and unicorns made of pale blue flame; she saw fish and foxes and monsters, wolves and bright birds and flowering trees, each more beautiful than the last. She saw a horse, a great grey stallion limned in smoke, its flowing mane a nimbus of blue flame. Yes, my love, my sun-and-stars, yes, mount now, ride now.

Her vest had begun to smolder, so Dany shrugged it off and let it fall to the ground. The painted leather burst into sudden flame as she skipped closer to the fire, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples. Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.

Hat-tip for Unchained for first spotting this grey stallion as Sleipnir, the grey astral projection horse – and again, we will go to town on astral projection horses in the next episode. But you can see the definite parallels to the fire mage scene in Qarth here. We see the fiery sorcerers appear in the flames, a match to the fire mage climbing the ladder, and by the end, Drogo himself has become a fiery sorcerer himself. He’s mounting the grey stallion made up of fire and smoke, the one which rises like a mushroom cloud from the Lightbringer bonfire where the moon dies.

We know that the Dothraki believe that their valiant dead become the stars in the sky, a fiery khalasar riding through the nightlands – through the celestial sea of space, if you will. Drogo is identified with the red comet by Daenerys, so what is happening here according to Dothraki beliefs and Dany’s perceptions is that Drogo is riding the smokey stallion into space, where he then rides the red comet as his celestial stallion. And all this is enabled by Daenerys and Drogo creating the alchemical wedding bonfire in the green sea, just as the fire mage in Qarth is only able to climb the fiery ladder because Dany has brought magic back into the world by creating the alchemical wedding bonfire.

Of course we know that Daenerys becomes Azor Ahai reborn herself after the alchemical wedding, and accordingly, she shares the same astral projection and comet-riding symbolism we see with with post-death transformation Drogo. For example, we see Dany riding Drogon, just as reborn Drogo rode the comet. We see her riding her grey horse with a mane like silver smoke in the green see, just as reborn Drogo rides the grey smoky stallion. And at the end of the green dragon episode, we dropped that quote about touching the comet that I am going to keep quoting until we can fully wrap our brains around it:

Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter a half foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, his tail lashed back and forth in fury, and he raised his head and screamed. If I had wings, I would want to fly too, Dany thought. The Targaryens of old had ridden upon dragonback when they went to war. She tried to imagine what it would feel like, to straddle a dragon’s neck and soar high into the air. It would be like standing on a mountaintop, only better. The whole world would be spread out below. If I flew high enough, I could even see the Seven Kingdoms, and reach up and touch the comet.

Inspired by the green dragon’s attempt at flight, Dany muses: if she could just fly high enough, she could see better and even touch the comet. This passage reads a lot like Bran’s vision of flying over the world and seeing the dragons beneath the sunrise in Asshai and then all the way to the Heart of Winter in Westeros, I have to say. That’s something we are going to see as we continue to follow Dany’s greenseer symbolism, a convergence with Bran’s symbolism. It stands to reason, right? Many have already picked out Dany’s House of the Undying experience as running in parallel with bran’s weirwood paste session in Bloodraven’s cave, and I am here to tell you that is where it starts, not where it ends.

This is where this episode ends, however, as going any further with the astral projection horse ideas will lead to another ten thousand words, easy. We’ve covered a lot of ground today, and the simple idea of Daenerys manifesting so much greenseer symbolism is a stunning revelation in and of itself which gives us a lot to discuss. So thanks for joining me, and I will see you again soon with Weirwood Compendium 8: The Silver Sea Horse.

B2WW #6: Religion Redux

Part 2 of our panel on religion and its influences and manifestations in ASOIAF, featuring Gretchen Ellis (Fandomentalist, History is Gay), Brynden B-Fish (Not-a-Cast, Wars and Politics oIaF), and Sanrixian (Sanrixian Art)! Hosted by Lucifer means Lightbringer (Mythical Astronomy oIaF).

Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire:
History is Gay:
Sanrixian merch:
Sanrixian artwork:
Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire:

Zodiac Children of Garth the Green

Hey there friends, patrons, and fellow mythical astronomers! It’s your starry host LmL, and I’m here with a very special edition episode, once which exists outside the confines of any compendium. Once, a long time ago, when I created the Patreon page for mythical astronomy and named my top tier of patrons after the 12 constellations of the zodiac, I promised an episode explaining how George was using the constellations in the story. Well, I am here today to fulfill my holy oath, sworn in the sight of gods and men, and to pay homage to those stalwart patrons known as the earthly avatars of the twelve houses of heaven.

So many stars, he thought as he trudged up the slope through pines and firs and ash. Maester Luwin had taught him his stars as a boy in Winterfell; he had learned the names of the twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each; he could find the seven wanderers sacred to the Faith; he was old friends with the Ice Dragon, the Shadowcat, the Moonmaid, and the Sword of the Morning. All those he shared with Ygritte, but not some of the others. We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King’s Crown was the Cradle, to hear her tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Thief. And when the Thief was in the Moonmaid, that was a propitious time for a man to steal a woman, Ygritte insisted. “Like the night you stole me. The Thief was bright that night.”

This scene from ASOS shows us that Jon Snow has a fairly decent knowledge of the stars, and of course it’s easy to figure that when he speaks of “twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each,” he’s speaking not only of the twelve zodiac constellations – the rulers – but of the idea that each constellation rules a section or zone of sky along path of the ecliptic, which would be the house. It’s a detailed explanation of the function of the zodiac as a naming convention, in other words, which helps us come to the definitive conclusion that the zodiac is what he’s talking about here.

Unfortunately, we don’t get any other information on these twelve houses in the series proper – but then we got The World of Ice and Fire. In fact, this episode will also double as a great example of one of the many reasons why TWOIAF is far, far more than they typical “worldbook” that we often see in fantasy. TWOIAF is packed with puzzles and symbolism and clues about important mysteries in the main plot, and there’s one in particular that is specifically based on the zodiac. It’s a single page – page 208, to be exact – which contains a sidebar that takes up 90% of the page, and it’s titled “Some celebrated children of Garth Greenhand.” As you might guess, there are twelve children listed, although one of those children is actually a pair of twins, which – spoiler alert – will represent Gemini.

Those famous Garth kiddos

Bloodstone Compendium
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

Sacred Order of Green Zombies A
I: The Last Hero & the King of Corn
II: King of Winter, Lord of Death
III: The Long Night’s Watch

Great Empire of the Dawn
I: History and Lore of House Dayne
II: Asshai-by-the-Shadow
III: The Great Empire of the Dawn
IV: Flight of the Bones

Moons of Ice and Fire
I: Shadow Heart Mother
II: Dawn of the Others
III: Visenya Draconis
IV: The Long Night Was His to Rule
V: R+L=J, A Recipe for Ice Dragons

The Blood of the Other
–  Prelude to a Chill
I: A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
II: The Stark that Brings the Dawn
III: Eldric Shadowchaser
IV: Prose Eddard
V: Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
I: The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
II: A Burning Brandon
III: Garth of the Gallows
IV: In a Grove of Ash

Weirwood Goddess
I: Venus of the Woods
II: It’s an Arya Thing
III: The Cat Woman Nissa Nissa

Weirwood Compendium B
V: To Ride the Green Dragon
VI: The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
VII: Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
VIII: A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
I: Veil of Frozen Tears
II: Sansa Locked in Ice

Sacred Order of Green Zombies B
IV: The Zodiac Children of Garth the Green
V: The Great Old Ones
VI: The Horned Lords
VII: Cold Gods and Old Bones

We Should Start Back
I: AGOT Prologue

Now in PODCAST form!

Click to open in iTunes

Here’s the full passage:

 John the Oak, the First Knight, who brought chivalry to Westeros (a huge man, all agree, eight feet tall in some tales, ten or twelve feet tall in others, sired by Garth Greenhand on a giantess). His own descendants became the Oakhearts of Old Oak.

Gilbert of the Vines, who taught the men of the Arbor to make sweet wine from the grapes that grew so fat and lush across their island, and who founded House Redwyne.

Florys the Fox, the cleverest of Garth’s children, who kept three husbands, each ignorant of the existence of the others. (From their sons sprang HouseFlorent, House Ball, and House Peake).

Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros. (The victor was the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin, but Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her, and Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.)

Foss the Archer, renowned for shooting apples off the head of any maid who took his fancy, from whom both the red apple and green apple Fossoways trace their descent.

Brandon of the Bloody Blade, who drove the giants from the Reach and warred against the children of the forest, slaying so many at Blue Lake that it has been known as Red Lake ever since.

Owen Oakenshield, who conquered the Shield Islands, driving the selkies and merlings back into the sea.

Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn, twin brothers who built their castle atop Horn Hill and took to wife the beautiful woods witch who dwelled there, sharing her favors for a hundred years (for the brothers did not age so long as they embraced her whenever the moon was full).

Bors the Breaker, who gained the strength of twenty men by drinking only bull’s blood, and founded House Bulwer of Blackcrown. (Some tales claim Borsdrank so much bull’s blood he grew a pair of shiny black horns.)

Rose of Red Lake, a skinchanger, able to transform into a crane at will—a power some say still manifests from time to time in the women of House Crane, her descendants.

Ellyn Ever Sweet, the girl who loved honey so much she sought out the King of the Bees in his vast mountain hive and made a pact with him, to care for his children and his children’s children for all time. She was the first beekeeper, and the mother to House Beesbury.

Rowan Gold-Tree, who was so bereft when her lover left her for a rich rival that she wrapped an apple in her golden hair, planted it upon a hill, and grew a tree whose bark and leaves and fruit were gleaming yellow gold, and to whose daughters the Rowans of Goldengrove trace their roots.

At a glance, several of these appear to have an obvious correlation to a zodiac sign: the twins would be Gemini as I mentioned, Bors the Breaker who drank bull’s blood and founder House Bulwer would be Taurus, Maris the Most Fair Maid might be Virgo “the Virgin,” Foss the Archer would be Sagittarius, a centaur with a bow and arrow, and… well, after that, it’s less obvious. Maybe Gilbert of the Vines who founded House Redwyne could be Aquarius, the water-bearer, of you turn the water into wine, but there’s no fox in the zodiac, nor a crane, no bee-keepers, no gold trees, and where do you even start with John the Oak, Owen Oakenshield, or Brandon of the Bloody Blade? I imagine many people saw the list of twelve colorful characters and thought “zodiac,” but since it appears to peter out after five or six correlations, I imagine nobody wrote any theories about it.

Well. Today we are going to do the detective work and figure this thing out. Additional clues can be gleaned from scenes in the book which either involve a character from a given house descended of Garth or symbolism related to the sigil of one of those houses, and also by diving a little deeper into the mythology behind each zodiac sign.  Which is what we’re about to do! We will start with the more obvious matches and work our way to the cryptic ones, including the one everyone wants to hear about, Brandon of the Bloody Blade.

This is a Patreon supporter special episode, and so our first thanks must go to our loyal and generous patrons, without whom the thing you know as Mythical Astronomy would not exist. In particular, I’d like to thank three patrons who recently bumped up their level of support, which is always greatly appreciated: JoJo Lady Dayne the Twilight Star, the born mouth, Daughter of Frost Giants and official secret-keeper of starry wisdom; Christine of House Dayne, Helmswoman of the Cinnamon Wind; Mollienissa, Keeper of the Moonsinger’s Law; and Jonnel “Blackheel” of House Thompson, wielder of a Valyrian steel tray of phish food and kraken tacos/

One of the first things to understand about the zodiacal constellations is all of them except Libra, the scales, are either animals or people who were placed in the heavens in honor of some dead they did before they died. They are memorials to dead people and animals, in other words, ones died bravely. I am speaking in the context of Greek myth here, because the Greek myths about the zodiac are the most well known and definitive in terms of western civilization – although it must be pointed out that we have thorough records of Sumerian astronomy incorporating the concept of a zodiac and some of the same constellations we use today. There’s also a very strong case to be made that Taurus is depicted with the Pleiades correctly placed over its shoulder in the cave paintings at Lascaux, France, which would have been painted before 10,000 BCE at the very earliest, and perhaps thousands of years earlier.

So, while the zodiac is very old, it is mainly Greek myth which defines our modern idea of the zodiac. And in Greek myth, the legends behind 11 of the 12 figures of the zodiac are memorials to the valiant dead. They’re heroes of one sort or another who have attained a second life in the amongst the stars, or we might say they now rule one of the twelve houses of heaven. The other main thing that kind of leaps out at you in these Greek myths about the zodiac is that there is a lot of human-animal transformation going on.

So think about this: a dozen heroes associated with human-animal transformation who died and were resurrected as star people? And these twelve somehow correlate with the twelve notable children of Garth the Green, the preeminent horned god figure in ASOIAF mythology? Garth the Green, whose description matches that of the green men on the Isle of Faces? I think you can see where this is going.

The most important symbolism attached to the number twelve in ASOIAF is the last hero’s twelve companions who died, but whom I theorize to have been resurrected as “green zombies,” the first Night’s Watch brothers. You know the theory: they were skinchangers or greenseers, like Jon, and this would have enabled them to be resurrected in a better way that Beric or Lady Stoneheart, as we expect Jon to be, and as Coldhands seems to already have been. Since the zodiac myths are already loaded with human-animal transformation and starry resurrection, they make a natural parallel to the idea of the last hero’s dozen resurrected skinchanger companions, and in fact it may have been part of George’s inspiration to give the last hero a dozen green zombies, assuming the green zombie is correct.

That’s kind of the point, actually, the “purpose” of hiding this zodiac puzzle in TWOIAF: it’s more evidence for the green zombie theory. We’ve already spent a bunch of time in the green zombie series tracing out the staggering amount of horned god / stag man / green man symbolism amongst the members of the Night’s Watch, and we know that resurrection and the cycle of the seasons is the dominant theme of all such corn king figures. That is the point of associating the Night’s Watch with cork king / green man mythology: it implies the dozen green zombie Night’s Watch brothers as stag men and skinchangers. Ergo, disguising this zodiac puzzle as the children of Garth the Green makes a ton of sense and simply reemphasizes the last hero’s dozen as human-animal hybrid people who died heroically and were resurrected as star people.

Accordingly, as we go through the twelve houses of the zodiac and their correlations in ASOIAF, we will find symbols of horned lords, the Night’s Watch, resurrection, weirwood blood drinking stuff, Long Night and War for the Dawn, and of course, lots of moon-related activity.

Bors the Breaker

This section is brought to you by our newest Guardian of the Galaxy patron Rickard Stargaryen, the Steelheart, Father of the Morning and Guardian of the Celestial Moonmaid; and by our priesthood of Starry Wisdom: Nyessa the Water Nymph, Goddess of Pain and Mercy; Jancylee, Lady of the Waves, Bear-Mama of the Sacred Den; Crowfood’s Daughter of the Disputed Lands YouTube channel; and The Bloody Tide, Lord of the Greenblood, the Merling-slayer of the Seven Sees

Bors the Breaker, Who gained the strength of 20 men by drinking only bull’s blood and founded House Bulwer of Blackcrown. (Some tales claim Bors drank so much bull’s blood that he grew a pair of shiny black horns.)

Bors Bulwer, who drank bull’s blood and according to some tales, grew a pair of bull’s horns, is obviously a match for Taurus. Taurus is perhaps the oldest constellation known to man; as I said, it is widely accepted to date back to the Bronze Age and and may date back to whenever the Lascaux caves were painted, again because over the shoulder of the one of the painted bulls in the cave, seven stars are painted in the shape of the Pleiades, in roughly the same location the Pleiades have to the constellation of Taurus. The Pleiades themselves are worth noting, because they appear to the naked eye as a cluster of seven stars, reminding us of the Faith of the Seven and their seven-pointed star. Before we even get into House Bulwer and bull-related affairs, I actually found the ASOIAF appearance of the Pleiades, which comes, fittingly, in the Battle of Seven Stars, which was the great conflict of legend between the Andal invaders and the First Men kingdoms of the Vale. Check out all the super heavy War for the Dawn language here.

After describing the emotions of the soldiers on the night before the big battle, we get this:

Clouds blew in from the east, hiding the moon and stars, so the night was dark indeed. The only light came from hundreds of campfires burning in the camps, with a river of darkness between them. 

That’s Long Night symbolism, clearly, and the men are the lights in the darkness like the Night’s Watch. The river of darkness / black river symbol makes an appearance, and it’s acting like a barrier or wall between the two fighters, like the Wall divides the Others and Night’s Watch. Think of Jon seeing the rivers of black ice in the cracks of the weeping Wall, perhaps. Then:

As the east began to lighten, men rose from their stony beds, donned their armor, and prepared for the battle. Then a shout rang through the Andal camp. There to the west, a sign had been seen: seven stars, gleaming in the grey dawn sky. “The gods are with us,” went up the cry from a thousand throats. “Victory is ours.” As trumpets blew, the vanguard of the Andals charged up the slope, banners streaming. Yet the First Men showed no dismay at the sign that had appeared in the sky; they held their ground and battle was joined, as savage and bloody a fight as any in the long history of the Vale.

So there is the Pleiades, probably, and it’s a signal to begin the War for the Dawn. Here’s the cool thing: the Pleiades do indeed sometimes rise just before the sun, although they rise in the eastern sky and not the western. Still, it’s a cool detail. Anyway, we won’t go into the rest of the fight, except to highlight a specific call-out the the Night’s Watch, Night’s King, Nissa Nissa, and the weirwood stigmata:

Seven times the Andals charged, the singers say; six times the First Men threw them back. But the seventh attack, led by a fearsome giant of a man named Torgold Tollett, broke through. Torgold the Grim, this man was called, but even his name was a jape, for it is written that he went into battle laughing, naked above the waist, with a bloody seven-pointed star carved across his chest and an axe in each hand.

The songs say that Torgold knew no fear and felt no pain. Though bleeding from a score of wounds, he cut a red swathe through Lord Redfort’s staunchest warriors, then took his lordship’s arm off at the shoulder with a single cut. Nor was he dismayed when the sorceress Ursula Upcliff appeared upon a bloodred horse to curse him. By then he was bare-handed, having left both of his axes buried in a foe’s chest, but the singers say he leapt upon the witch’s horse, grasped her face between two bloody hands, and tore her head from her shoulders as she screamed for succor.

A warrior who knew no fear – the Night’s King, in other words, who I believe to be closely connected to Azor Ahai or even Azor Ahai himself. He is of House Tollet, the same as our beloved Dolorous Edd, which associates Torgold with the Night’s Watch, like Night’s King. Ursula Upcliffe is a sea-with name, making her a goddess of the sea and thus a potential Nissa Nissa figure via the green see symbolism. She’s a sorceress on a red horse, which certainly lends itself to fire moon maiden symbolism. Indeed, the warrior who knew no fear, with bloody weirwood leaf hands, leaps on to her red horse and rips her moon head off as she screams for succor like Nissa Nissa crying out to crack the face of the moon.

Alright, so that was cool, a little bonus constellation for you there in the Pleiades – although they are actually not a constellation, but a “star cluster” or “open cluster.” They are also called “The Seven Sisters,” for what it’s worth, and since George actually has someone sight them in this War-for-the-Dawn-like battle, I thought it would make a good warm-up. But let’s talk about Taurus!

“Taurus”, plate 17 in Urania’s Mirror, a set of celestial cards accompanied by A familiar treatise on astronomy … by Jehoshaphat Aspin. London. Astronomical chart, 1 print on layered paper board : etching, hand-colored.

Taurus is a constellation from which we get a very famous, bi-annual meteor shower: the Taurids. Only one shower is observable, which falls in November. That’s a pretty good start; meteor showers! The brightest star in Taurus is Aldebaran – Aldebaran, not Alderan – which is drawn from Arabic and means “the follower,” probably because it appears to follow the Pleiades across the night sky. According to how most peoples have viewed Taurus, this red star is one of the eyes of the bull. You can see how Martin might be able to work with that, right?

The red eye of Taurus is said to glare menacingly at Orion, the Hunter. Orion is easy to spot in ASOIAF as the Sword of the Morning constellation, which I have discussed elsewhere – I believe it was Blood of the Other 2: The Stark that Brings the Dawn. So – a bull with a red eye glaring at Orion, a.k.a. the Sword the Morning – yep, we got it:

“My lady?” Ned looked embarrassed. “I’m Edric Dayne, the . . . the Lord of Starfall.”

Behind them, Gendry groaned. “Lords and ladies,” he proclaimed in a disgusted tone. Arya plucked a withered crabapple off a passing branch and whipped it at him, bouncing it off his thick bull head. “Ow,” he said. “That hurt.” He felt the skin above his eye. “What kind of lady throws crabapples at people?”

“The bad kind,” said Arya, suddenly contrite. She turned back to Ned. “I’m sorry I didn’t know who you were. My lord.”

I mean, it could be a coincidence… but we have a bull with a presumably swollen eye glaring at Arya and the Sword of the Morning, do we not? Even the crabapple might be a Taurus reference, because Taurus contains the crab nebula.

The Taurus Bull, by Sanrixian

More important than this sort of Taurus-trivia are the bull-man figures like the members of House Bulwer or Gendry here. Gendry has a ton of important symbolism, too much to even go into here in detail, and we’ve touched on a lot of it already. In brief, he’s the son of Robert the Horned God, he wears the bull helm and is called “the bull,” and even has the fire reflecting off his helm at the battle in the abandoned holdfast near the Gods Eye, the one where Arya sees the burning tree and escapes through the tunnel in the burning barn. He’s a smith, as Azor Ahai was, meaning he works with fire and iron and he makes swords, which is like making meteors (again think of the Taurid meteor shower, which makes Taurus a kind of meteor sword smith).

Gendry also has eyes like blue ice – in fact he is the first person to get the ice eyes description after we see the Others in the prologue with their ice-cold blue star eyes. This kind of ice-and-fire juxtaposition is common to the stolen Other figure we tracked in the Blood of the Other series, and indeed, Gendry never knew his father and his mother died when he was young, and was then fostered out. Arya also offers him a place at Wintefell, another match to the stolen Other baby profile. Most importantly, he was set to join the Night’s Watch, which matches both the stolen Other baby archetype as well as the green zombie description. That figures, as all the stolen Other baby figures had green zombie Night’s Watch symbolism going on.

Even better is Gendry swearing allegiance to Beric as one of the “Knights of the Hollow Hill” (who parallel the Night’s Watch). It doubles down on the symbolism of Gendry joining the Watch, and adds in the Azor Ahai figure of Beric.

Put all that together, in light of the green zombie theory and the zodiac children idea: just as Bors the Breaker was the son of Garth the Green, Gendry is the son of Robert, the primary avatar of Garth in the main story. Gendry is a fire and ice horned lord himself who first means to join the Night’s Watch, then joins a group that parallels the watch, lives in a weirwood cave (as the first Night’s Watch might have hid in the caves of the children of the forest), and serves an Azor Ahai dude with a flaming sword and one eye. Gendry absolutely fits the profile of a green zombie as I have described them, and also absolutely fits the profile of one of Garth’s zodiac children.

So too for the members of House Bulwer in the story. Bors the Breaker himself is an interesting fellow – growing a pair of bull’s horns out of his head makes him a horned lord figure and a therianthrope, like his father Garth. It also sounds painful, but whatever, it’s a fable. Bors the Breaker is also quite the name, isn’t it since the only other person we know of named “the Breaker” was “Brandon the Breaker,” who supposedly teamed up with the first Joramun, a King Beyond the Wall, to overthrow Night’s King. So now Bors is a horned lord drinking blood and battling the Night’s King, okay, I see where this is going. Someone get Jon a glass of mulled bull’s blood for his final battle, huh? Yeah? No? Okay. Never mind.

Back in the Weirwood Compendium, we discussed a member of House Bulwer who actually did join the Night’s Watch, a ranger named black Jack Bulwer. The Bulwer name implies Black jack as a horned lord figure, and the name Jack makes him a green man, a la “Jack in the Green” – but instead of a green jack, he’s a black Jack, associating him with the winter king line of symbolism and implying him as a dead green man, just as a green zombie should be.

This symbolism really came to life when Black Jack died. It was in Weirwood Compendium 4: In a Grove of Ash that we specifically talked about poor old Black Jack Bulwer, and how he ended up killed by the Weeper, with his severed, eyeless head being mounted on an ash wood spear just north of the Wall at castle Black. The planted ash wood spear creates the symbolism of the ash tree, a reference to Yggdrasil and thus to weirwoods, while the bloody, carved faces of the three rangers create the image of the bloody, carved weirwood face. It’s a symbolic mock-up of a weirwood, in other words, a bloody totem which depicts Black Jack as a horned lord gone into the weirwood trees upon his death.

One of the other unfortunate rangers was of course Garth Greyfeather, who’s name expresses the same ideas as Black Jack Bulwer: he’s a Garth, but he’s grey, implying death and winter. We know that fishing weirs are called garths, and thus the weirwood tree is really a garth-tree, and here we have a Garth weirwood totem alongside Black Jack… I mean it’s a family portrait of Garth and his son Bors, is it not? And at the risk of stating the obvious… Bors and Garth (and Hairy Hal) died while venturing north of the Wall into the frozen dead lands, like the last hero.

That brings us to the sigil of House Bulwer: “a bull’s skull, bone over blood.” Blood and bone is the famous and oft-used description of the weirwood’s coloring, so this is simply another clue about a dead bull-man going into the weirwoodnet. There’s no question this is a blood red color we are talking about, as it is based on the tale of Bors drinking the bull’s blood. Obviously, this reminds us of blood sacrifice to weirwood trees and the fact that Bran cast taste the blood of the slain victim he sees through the eyes of the heart tree in his last weirwood vision in ADWD. That’s a scene which may well be showing us part of the green zombie process, sacrificing the would-be green zombie in front of the heart tree.

The place that House Bulwer calls home is a little old castle called “Blackcrown.” That’s a dark solar king symbol, as we know well, the calling card of the evil, undead version of Azor Ahai. That’s what the entire body of Bulwer symbolism is showing us, essentially- the dark version of the horned god figure, very similar to the dark horned god known as the Black Goat of Qohor and it’s “avatar” on earth, Vargo Hoat, “the Goat,” who is from Qohor. It’s also reminiscent of the darker version of Garth in the older legends, where he demands sacrifice instead of being sacrificed himself.

While we are speaking of Azor Ahai reborn, I would be remiss if I did not mention that Black Jack gets a bit of the Last Hero math in ADWD:

Outside the world was black and still. Cold, but not dangerously cold. Not yet. It will be warmer when the sun comes up. If the gods are good, the Wall may weep. When they reached the lichyard, the column had already formed up. Jon had given Black Jack Bulwer command of the escort, with a dozen mounted rangers under him, and two wayns. 

As with all examples of last hero math, I will remind you that George throws the word “dozen” around a lot, and so these clues are only ever to be read as complimentary to an already established idea. Black Jack’s horned lord symbolism, etc., is well established already, so finding him with last hero math is no surprise and holds with the larger pattern of the people who seem to be associated with last hero math.

Across the Narrow Sea in Braavos, we hear of more bulls and more blood sacrifice and more last hero math as Arya recalls being given a tour of the various temples in the city by the woman known as the Sailor’s Wife. Arya hears of three-headed Trios and the Patternmaker’s Maze, and then when she’s about to fall asleep, she’s offered a red bull:

“Beyond it, by the canal, that’s the temple of Aquan the Red Bull. Every thirteenth day, his priests slit the throat of a pure white calf, and offer bowls of blood to beggars.”

Today was not the thirteenth day, it seemed; the Red Bull’s steps were empty. 

Oh ok, not that red bull, an actual red bull. Point being, the thirteenth day marks the time when a blood sacrifice shall be made, and this time it’s child of a bull, a white calf, which reminds us of the white lunar bull that Mithras has to slay to be reborn. Compare this 13-associated bull blood drinking ritual to Black Jack being the thirteenth ranger on the mission, and then later being made into a gory weirwood-sacrifice symbol, and of course he’s carrying the blood-drinking symbolism of his ancestor Bors with him to enhance the parallel. Again, all this simply  adds to the treasure-trove of clues about Azor Ahai and the last hero being death-associated horned lord figures.

Here’s a cool House Bulwer snippet. It’s from The Mystery Knight, as Dunk listens to Kyle the Cat talk to Bloodraven in disguise about the contestants at the tourney at Whitewalls:

“Do not slight Ser Buford Bulwer,” said Kyle the Cat. “The Old Ox slew forty men upon the Redgrass Field.”

“And every year his count grows higher,” said Ser Maynard. “Bulwer’s day is done. Look at him. Past sixty, soft and fat, and his right eye is good as blind.”

Placed alongside Bloodraven in disguise as Maynard Plumm, this one-eye symbolism for Buford “The Old Ox” Bulwer is telling, and of course what it is telling us that Odin was here. It’s contributing to the Bulwer archetype, and it combines with the blood and bone coloring of their bull skull sigil to scream “weirwoods! greenseers!” It’s funny because ‘BloodMaynard Plummraven’ is a one-eyed greenseer, and he’s basically spotting another guy with horned lord / greenseer symbolism and identifying him as a fellow one-eyed dude. It’s also a probable reference to the one red eye of the constellation Taurus.

When Lord Buford, who is also called Theomore, takes the field, the description is worth quoting:

“Ser Uthor Underleaf,” the herald boomed. A shadow crept across Dunk’s face as the sun was swallowed by a cloud. “Ser Theomore of House Bulwer, the Old Ox, a knight of Blackcrown. Come forth and prove your valor.”

The Old Ox made a fearsome sight in his blood red armor, with black bull’s horns rising from his helm. He needed the help of a brawny squire to get onto his horse, though, and the way his head was always turning as he rode suggested that Ser Maynard had been right about his eye. Still, the man received a lusty cheer as he took the field.

There’s your requisite sun-swallowing Long Night language which often occurs right before a battle or fight meant to serve as an analog to the War for the Dawn, such as we saw with the Battle of Seven Stars. And then when he finally loses to Ser Uthor, who had been feigning a struggle to affect the gambling odds:

The Old Ox fell on fifth pass, knocked sideways by a coronal that slipped deftly off his shield to take him in the chest. His foot tangled in his stirrup as he fell, and he was dragged forty yards across the field before his men could get his horse under control. Again the litter came out, to bear him to the maester. A few drops of rain began to fall as Bulwer was carried away and darkened his surcoat where they fell.

This is notable because a bull character falling down is probably a symbol of the moon being knocked from the sky, coming here after the sun was swallowed by clouds as it was, and the rain which commences immediately after his fall is said to darken his blood-red surcoat, implying the rain as blood. Now we are in business, because the rain of moon blood is an easily recognizable moon death symbol.

It’s also a bit of detailed Odin symbolism, because Odin is hung upside-down from his tree, Yggdrasil, and Yggdrasil is also considered Odin’s horse in a more metaphorical sense… so the Old Ox is mimicking Odin be being hung upside-down from his horse. Taken with his blind eye, there can be no doubt that Odin symbolism is being applied, and in ASOIAF terms, that means greenseers and death transformation.

Ok, last tidbit for Bors, and by the way, not every section will be this long. There is quite simply a damn lot of bull symbolism in ASOIAF. There is other bull symbolism I am not including for sake of brevity, in fact.

So as to that last point about our buddy Bors the Breaker, it’s said that he drank so much bull’s blood that he grew a pair of shiny black horns. As it happens, we see two very similar black horns in the story, and you might know the two I am speaking of. The first is the supposedly fake Horn of Joramun that Mance and the wildlings bring to the Wall. Jon sees it first in Mance’s tent before they battle:

And there were other weapons in the tent, daggers and dirks, a bow and a quiver of arrows, a bronze-headed spear lying beside that big black . .

. . . horn. Jon sucked in his breath. A warhorn, a bloody great warhorn.

“Yes,” Mance said. “The Horn of Winter, that Joramun once blew to wake giants from the earth.”

The horn was huge, eight feet along the curve and so wide at the mouth that he could have put his arm inside up to the elbow. If this came from an aurochs, it was the biggest that ever lived. At first he thought the bands around it were bronze, but when he moved closer he realized they were gold. Old gold, more brown than yellow, and graven with runes.

Later, when Melisandre burns the horn alongside Rattleshirt disguised as Mance Raydar in a partially weirwood cage, we are told that these runes are in fact the runes of the First Men. Fake Mance is playing the role of a burning horned lord figure dying and being trapped in the weirwoodnet here, and that was the same thing being symbolized by Black Jack Bulwer’s severed head on the ash wood spear, or the Old Ox being hung upside down from his horse. Mel calls the horn “the horn of darkness” before throwing it into the fire, which kind of fits the overall theme of the dark version of the horned god being equivalent to the dark solar king, the horned lord of darkness.

By the way, in case you weren’t sure, an aurochs is essentially hairy extinct species of cattle, so when it talks of Mance’s huge horn coming from the biggest aurochs who ever lived, this is George telling us to think of this as a black bull’s horn, just like the ones Bors grew, though obviously a person wouldn’t have horns this huge on his head.

The other shiny black horn in the story is the one that Euron Crow’s Eye shows up to the Kingsmoot with, which is nearly a perfect match to Mance’s horn.

The horn he blew was shiny black and twisted, and taller than a man as he held it with both hands. It was bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled.

Mance’s horn is eight feet long, and this one is taller than a man, which sounds like they’re about the same size. Mance’s horn had bands of old gold with First Men runes, while dragonbinder here has bands of red gold and Valyrian steel incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs which glow redly at first, then a moment later it says they were “burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire.” Mance’s horn’s runes didn’t glow themselves, but the entire horn was burned, and so we have the burning horn idea present with both black horns. Dragonbinder is called “the horn of hell” by Aeron Damphair, which compares well to the “horn of darkness” label Mel gave the fake horn of Joramun.

So look – I don’t have a good theory about how these horns were both from Azor Ahai’s black dragon which were made into matching magical horns, with one being sent to Valyria with the very first Valyrians to help them tame dragons while the other was sent north of the Wall and given First Men runes so that it… could be burned by Melisandre for no good reason. Nope, don’t have a crackpot theory about that at all.

What I think is actually going on here is that our dark horn lord figure should be associated with magical horns, ones which may have been used to help bring on the great darkness of the Long Night. That’s kind of it’s own theory that I need to write, so I’ll kind of leave it at that, but if you’re a regular listener or reader of Mythical Astronomy, then you know I have been hinting at the idea of a magical horn being part of the recipe for breaking the moon for a while now. I DO have a very specific theory about that, and that will be forthcoming, but for now we can observe that there is some mystery to these magical horns, the horn of Joramun and dragonbinder, and the clues linking these two huge black shiny horns back to Bors seem to hint that the dark horned lord figure has something to do with magical horns… horns as in ones that make sounds… god this triple entendre horns thing can be confusing. “So, he has horns on his head, and he blows horns, and he’s horny – anything else?”

Bottom line is that as with all the other Bulwer and Gendry symbolism, every last bit of this connects to the Night’s Watch and the War for the Dawn, which was won by green zombies according to our theory.

Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn

This section is brought to you by our newest Zodiac patron: OuterPanda, the Pan-Doubter, the man in the mirror man and earthly avatar of Heavenly House Gemini; as well as our priests and priestesses of Starry Wisdom: Yang Tar, the Midnight Light, shadowskin-master of the lands of always Bjork; Stone Dancer, The Mind’s Eye, Whorl-Master of the Trident; and Codfish the Steelbender, who words are “Under the Sea, all the metalworkers are codfish”

Next up, for our correlation to Gemini, we have the twins Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn. It’s not clear if House Tarly officially claims descent from these brothers, but it is likely that they do, as they are considered one of the oldest houses in the reach and live on Horn Hill, the legendary home of these twin brothers:

Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn, twin brothers who built their castle atop Horn Hill and took to wife the beautiful woods witch who dwelled there, sharing her favors for a hundred years (for the brothers did not age so long as they embraced her whenever the moon was full).

Oh god, not more horned god stuff! Herndon of the Horn, huh? I can see where this is going, you say. Well, you know where this is going because you already read the earlier Green Zombies episodes and you remember that this pair of twins, Harlon the Hunter and Herndon of the Horn, is basically just a word scramble of a famous horned lord figure from English folklore known as Herne the Hunter. Herne is an undead, guardian of the woods figure, less of a god and more of fallen man who has become something more. His was disgraced in life and hung himself from an oak (called Herne’s Oak), but his shade became the guardian of the woods, a stag-antlered, cloaked man man riding a horse and leading a procession of other dead or enthralled creatures.

Herne with his steed, hounds and owl, observed by the Duke of Richmond and the Earl of Surrey, in Harrison Ainsworth’s Windsor Castle, illustrated by George Cruikshank, c.1843.

Herne has a lot in common with Coldhands, and indeed, the two places Herne’s influence are felt the strongest are with Coldhands and House Tarly, who made their home on Horn Hill and took the huntsman as their sigil. That’s highly sensible, since Sam meets up with Coldhands and shares a lot of symbolism with him. As we know already from our earlier exploration of these ideas, all of this symbolism gives strong testimony to the green zombies theory in general. Sam and Coldhands show us what kind of fellow belongs in the Night’s Watch, and I believe the more detailed message is about the original Night’s Watch and their fundamental relationship to greenseers and weirwoods. Coldhands apparently teaches Sam to recite a shorter and presumably much older version of the Night’s Watch oath to the Black Gate weirwood face beneath the Nightfort, while Coldhands shows us what the first Watchmen were like, according to the Green Zombies theory: undead, speaking the old tongue, riding elks and other beasts, and receiving aid from the greenseers and their ravens.

In a sense, all of these original green zombie Night’s Watchmen would be like Herne; they are undead, and they are “guardians of the woods” in the sense that they guard the realm of the living from the vengeful ice demons who (reportedly) seek to ride down on the cold winds of winter and exterminate all warm blooded life.

Again I will point out that before the Andals brought the Faith of the Seven to Westeros, all Night’s Watchmen would have been Old Gods-worshiping First Men, with the small exception of those who worshiped the Drowned God or the sea & sky god duo worshiped in the Stormlands and on the Three Sisters. This helps bring their guardian of the woods role into focus – the Night’s Watch swear their oath to protect the realm of the living to the immortal sentient trees. The fact that Herne’s Oak is the tree he died on – via hanging, a la Odin – implies that the Night’s Watch may have also died in front of their sacred tree, the weirwood, and of course that’s exactly what the Green Zombies theory stipulates, that the original watch was ritually sacrificed before heart trees, only to be resurrected and swear their Night’s Watch vows.

We just talked about Mance’s fake horn of Joramun and Euron’s dragonbinder, and of course Sam has that old cracked warhorn Jon found with the dragonglass at the Fist of the First Men which some people believe to be the original horn of Joramun. Jon may have even given it a toot!

He had made a dagger for Grenn as well, and another for the Lord Commander. The warhorn he had given to Sam. On closer examination the horn had proved cracked, and even after he had cleaned all the dirt out, Jon had been unable to get any sound from it. The rim was chipped as well, but Sam liked old things, even worthless old things. “Make a drinking horn out of it,” Jon told him, “and every time you take a drink you’ll remember how you ranged beyond the Wall, all the way to the Fist of the First Men.” He gave Sam a spearhead and a dozen arrowheads as well, and passed the rest out among his other friends for luck.

I can’t help but notice Sam being given a last hero dragonglass kit: one spearhead and twelve arrowheads. As with Bors Bulwer, seeing last hero math around horned lord figures who are Night’s Watchmen essentially just reinforces the basic premise of the Green Zombies theory, and it makes sense to equate the Night’s Watch with dragonglass in a general sense, because the brothers themselves are like black swords in the darkness who use fire to kill the Others. It’s also worth remembering that House Tarly does possess a Valyrian steel greatsword, Heartsbane, which like dragonglass may come in handy before too much longer.

And just like Black Jack, seeing a potential magical horn in the midst of these symbols again makes us think that the story of Azor Ahai and the last hero have something to do with magical horns, potentially the horn of Joramun. Sam continues to carry this old warhorn around as he sails to Braavos and then to Oldtown, despite the fact that he loses damn near everything else, which is one of the things that makes people think it may prove to be important, despite it’s unassuming status. Anyone who has seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade remembers the grail chamber, filled with elaborate chalices and goblets, but of course the true “holy grail” turns out to be the simple wooden cup – because Jesus was a carpenter, of course. Point being, perhaps these these gigantic, flashy magic horns we are shown – Dragonbinder and the fake horn of Joramun – are decoys, and maybe it’s really the old broken one Sam has that is important.

I have to say, I am seduced by the power of Dragonbinder, and I think that’s the one to watch – even if Sam’s was the original horn of Joramun. We’ll have to wait and see, and it’s fun to speculate, but the main point for our purposes is that our first two zodiac children of Garth are strongly connected to horns of basically every type.

As for the legend of Harlon and Herndon, a pair of twins who prolonged their life by some sort of sex magic ritual with a woods witch when the moon was full, this story has clear parallels to the Greek and Roman mythology behind Gemini, which is that of Castor and Pollux, also known as the Dioscuri. They were twin brothers who had the same mothe, Leda, but different fathers (Castor was the son of the King of Sparta, Tyndareus, while Pollux was the divine son of Zeus, who had transofrmed into a swan to impregnate Leda). They are sometimes said to be born from eggs, and they are often said to be born with their sisters as well, Helen of Troy and Clytemnestra.

Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces, as he is called in Greek) were indeed hunters, as Herndon and Harlon were, and they are almost always depicted on horseback. They have circular caps to symbolize the egg they were born from, and frequently are depicted with stars above them to symbolize Gemini. They are very strongly associated with horses in particular, and even marry two sisters who are known as “the daughters of the white horse.” Between their being the children of a swan borne form an egg and marrying the daughters of a horse, you can see that the therianthrope / human-animal mythology is once again present with this zodiac sign.

Pair of Roman statuettes (3rd century AD) depicting the Dioscuri as horsemen, with their characteristic skullcaps (Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Another parallel to Harlon and Herndon is found in the story of Pollux’s death. The circumstances of his death aren’t important, but as he lay dying in Castor’s arms, Zeus offered Castor a choice: he could remain immortal and spend all of his time on Mount Olympus, or give half of his immortality to his brother. He chose the later, and so the twins alternated between Hades and Olympus. They became the two brightest stars in the constellation Gemini, thereby gaining a sort of eternal life after death, as with most of the zodiacal figures.

As you can see, this is somewhat similar to the notion of Harlon and Herndon extending their lives by laying with the woods witch. It’s not an exact match – castor and Pollux marry sisters, instead of the same woman, and their semi-immortality is not granted by their wives, but by Zeus. Still, given that both sets of twins are hunters who sort of ‘share’ their fountain of long life with one another, and given the starry resurrection similarities to the green zombies, it’s enough to see that Martin has essentially spun his own version of the Dioscuri in Herndon and Harlon.

One last bit of Castor and Pollux lore… they are associated with something called St. Elmo’s fire. What is St. Elmo’s fire? Well, and this is borrowing the Wikipedia definition, it’s “a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere (such as those generated by thunderstorms or created by a volcanic eruption).” Because it appeared most often on the end of a ship’s mast during a thunderstorm, it is named for St. Erasmus of Formia (also called St. Elmo), who is the patron saint of sailors.

Here’s where Castor and Pollux come in: In ancient Greece, the appearance of a single Elmo flame was called a Helene, as in Helen of Troy and the name the Greeks took for themselves, the Helenes, and this word literally means torch as saw in Weirwood Compendium 3: Garth of the Gallows when we talked about Durran and Elenei. Helen is the sister of Castor and Pollux, and indeed, if there were two flames, they were called Kastor and Polydeuces. The reason I mention any of this is mainly because the flame of St. Elmo’s fire is usually blue!

“Ironborn Ghost Ship Witnessing St. Elmo’s Fire” by Sanrixian

Gilbert of the Vines

This section is brought to you by Direliz, the Alpha Patron, a descendant of Gilbert of the Vines and Garth the Green, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Aquarius; as well as our priesthoo dof Starry Wisdom: Lady Silverwing, last child of the forest, Keeper of all leeward shores; John, called St. Baptiste, Apprentice of Satyrs, Cupbearer of Leopards, and The thief of Sometimes; Ash Rose, Queen of Sevens, Mistress of Mythology; and Stefanie Storm Strummer, the Gift-bringer, Raven Minstrel of the Mountains

Gilbert of the Vines, Who taught the men of the Arbor to make sweet wine from the grapes that grew so fat and lush across their island, and who founded House Redwyne.

Aquarius, the water-bearer, is the best match for Gilbert of the Vines.  Even though Aquarius is called “the water-bearer,” the most popular Aquarius myth involves a cup-bearer who serves wine as well as water. This would be Ganymede, a very handsome young prince of Troy who is thought to be the most beautiful man in the world.  One day while Ganymede was tending his father’s sheep, Zeus abducted him, either by transforming into an eagle himself or sending an eagle, so that Ganymede would be his cup-bearer and according to most versions of the tale, it’s implied that he’s taken as Zeus’s lover as well. Ganymede is often depicted with a golden cup, out of which he served Zeus water, wine, and ambrosia.  But one day Ganymede has had enough of serving Zeus, and instead pours out his cup, causing days of rains heavy enough to flood the entire world. Ganymede is eventually put into the sky by Zeus as the constellation Aquarius.

The Abduction of Ganymede (ca. 1650), by Eustache Le Sueur

The symbolism of Ganymede being taken to Olympus and being placed in the heavens as a constellation is similar to the Castor and Pollux living at Olympus (well, half the time anyway) and also being placed in the stars. Going to live with the gods is like ascending to heaven and like moving on to the afterlife, so it’s essentially a death transformation. The animal transformation element is here again, though it is not Ganymede transforming but Zeus, who, you know, does that kind of thing all the time (he changed into a swan to seduce Ledo, for example). Ganymede is usually depicted with an eagle.

Ganymede the Moon

So, here’s where it gets interesting. Ganymede, in addition to being Aquarius, is also the largest moon of Jupiter! That’s right, Ganymede is a moon figure who is taken captive. George makes a reference to this in the form of the name Gilbert – Gilbert is a Germanic name made up of the root words gisil (“pledge, hostage”) and beraht “bright”. So, bright hostage or bright pledge – a captive moon, or captive moon prince, in other words. Ganymede is the bright captive moon person who pours out the wine and ambrosia of the gods… and that’s starting to sound a lot like a moon being stolen from the sky and unleashing waves of moon blood. And when we look back to House Redwyne, we realize that wine and blood are virtually interchangeable as symbols, and so we are right back to blood drinking and full moons and other occult shit.

In the main story, we have a pair of Redwyne twins who are basically hostages of the crown after Cersei and Joffrey seize the throne – hostages, just like Ganymede. They do make an attempt at escape, which goes as follows, and this is Varys reporting to Tyrion:

Varys made a mark on the parchment. “Ser Horas and Ser Hobber Redwyne have bribed a guard to let them out a postern gate, the night after next. Arrangements have been made for them to sail on the Pentoshi galley Moonrunner, disguised as oarsmen.”

“Can we keep them on those oars for a few years, see how they fancy it?” He smiled. “No, my sister would be distraught to lose such treasured guests. Inform Ser Jacelyn. Seize the man they bribed and explain what an honor it is to serve as a brother of the Night’s Watch. And have men posted around the Moonrunner, in case the Redwynes find a second guard short of coin.”

Hilarious, right? This is what makes it so rewarding to follow George’s rabbit trails… he leaves these wonderful clues which don’t reveal themselves until you know just what you are looking for. These captive princes who descend from Gilbert the “bright captive,” should be left on the moon boat for a few years to see how they like it. meanwhile, the treacherous man from the moon boat shall be sent to the Night’s Watch.

It’s good stuff, and the treasons Varys names right before and after this Redwyne plot reinforce the message. First, Varys tells of the captain of the “King’s Galley White Heart,” who plans to go over to Stannis, to which Tyrion responds “I suppose we must make some sort of bloody lesson out of the man?” So that’s the bloody sacrifice of a solar king stag man, and what does Varys mention right after the Redwyne’s Moonrunner plot? Why, the red comet:

“We also have a sudden plague of holy men. The comet has brought forth all manner of queer priests, preachers, and prophets, it would seem. They beg in the winesinks and pot-shops and foretell doom and destruction to anyone who stops to listen.”

That’s interesting – the comet has brought on a wave of prophets who hang out in winesinks preaching doom, with the captive Redwyne twins attempting to escape on Moonrunner right in the middle of it in a scrambled tribute to the Ganymede myth.

We also saw moon associations with our first two zodiac constellation figures: Bors the Breaker’s moon symbolism came via the nods to Mithras slaying the lunar bull, Harlon and Herndon embraced their woods witch when the moon was full to gain eternal life, while their probably descendant Samwell Tarly has a moon face on four separate occasions. What’s going on here is that the Night’s Watch brothers are basically symbols of black moon meteors, and are synonymous with other black meteor symbols like dragonglass knives, burning brands, and the like. We should expect to find moon and moon meteor symbolism with all of our zodiac children and their extended symbolism.

Speaking of Night’s Watch brothers, there was a famous ranger of the Night’s Watch who, while not of House Redwyne, was named “Redwyn,” and his tale seems to fit the themes we’ve explored so far. See if you can spot the cryptic last her math, and this is Jon speaking to open the passage:

“Did you find the maps?”

“Oh, yes.” Sam’s hand swept over the table, fingers plump as sausages indicating the clutter of books and scrolls before him. “A dozen, at the least.” He unfolded a square of parchment. “The paint has faded, but you can see where the mapmaker marked the sites of wildling villages, and there’s another book . . . where is it now? I was reading it a moment ago.” He shoved some scrolls aside to reveal a dusty volume bound in rotted leather. “This,” he said reverently, “is the account of a journey from the Shadow Tower all the way to Lorn Point on the Frozen Shore, written by a ranger named Redwyn. It’s not dated, but he mentions a Dorren Stark as King in the North, so it must be from before the Conquest. Jon, they fought giants! Redwyn even traded with the children of the forest, it’s all here.” Ever so delicately, he turned pages with a finger. “He drew maps as well, see . . .”

“Maybe you could write an account of our ranging, Sam.”

The last hero math was with the maps – there are a dozen scrolls, then another book written by Redwyn, making Redwyn’s book the thirteenth and thus Redwyn the symbolic last hero. He’s journeying far into the cold dead lands of the north, like the last hero, and trading with the children of the forest, very like the last hero receiving some type of mysterious aid from the children in his tale. Jon finishes by drawing an analogy between Redwyn and Sam by suggesting Sam write an account of their ranging like Redwyn did his, and that makes sense because Sam plays the last hero on other occasions, as we have seen.

Maris the Maid, the Most Fair

This section is brought to you by the faithful Patreon support of Ser Dionysus of House Galladon, wielder of the milkglass blade the Just Maid, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Virgo and Libra; as well as members of our Starry Wisdom Priesthood: Matthar o’ Moontown, fisher of the Shining Sea; and Ser Aenus Frey of the Loudwater

Someone named Maris the Most Fair Maid can only be Virgo. It would seem so on first glance, and further digging confirms it without a doubt. Here’s the passage on Maris:

Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros. (The victor was the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin, but Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her, and Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.

From the Bear and the Maiden Fair to Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, there are many a fair maiden running around the lands of Westeros.  But in what sense are we using the word “fair?”  Are we talking about pretty maidens, or just maidens?  Are they good-looking, or even-handed? Or maybe both? The answer lies in some very clever wordplay at work in the story of an ancient hero, Ser Galladon of Morne, and this story is told to us by Brienne of Tarth in AFFC:

Ser Galladon was a champion of such valor that the Maiden herself lost her heart to him. She have him an enchanted sword as a token of her love. The Just Maid, it was called. No common sword could check her. Nor any shield withstand her kiss.
Ser Galladon bore the Just Maid proudly, but only thrice did he unsheathe her. He would not use the maid against a mortal man, for she was so potent as to make any fight unfair.

Surely, there is no fairer maiden that the Maiden herself, even Maris the Most Fair would have to admit that. You can’t compete with a goddess! But the sword the Maiden herself gives out is called the Just Maid, and Galladon won’t use it against mortal men because it would be unfair, emphasizing the theme of justice, as opposed to Maris the Most Fair Maid who is renowned for her beauty. This is more than a clever pun on the word “fair,” however.

The oldest scientific manuscript in the National Library the volume contains various Latin texts on astronomy. The volume, written in Caroline minuscule, consists of two sections, the first (ff. 1-26) copied c. 1000, in the Limoges area of France, probably in the milieu of Adémar de Chabannes (989-1034), whilst the second (ff. 27-50), from a scriptorium in the same region, may be dated c. 1150.

The constellation Virgo, the celestial virgin, has long been perceived as holding aloft the scales of Libra, because of their positioning in the sky. Thus, Virgo (or Astraea as she was known to the ancients, whose name means “star maiden”) is the original “just” or “fair” maiden. The goddess-form of Astraea is likewise associated with justice, just as you would think. This is also where we get the concept of blind lady justice, holding up her scales, a familiar sight inside all United States courtrooms. That’s right, lady justice is essentially mythical astronomy. It’s Virgo, holding Libra!

Lady Justice with sword, scales and blindfold on the Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen in Berne, Switzerland—1543

Libra is the only zodiacal constellation which is a thing instead of an animal or person, and thus wouldn’t really work very well with the whole ‘zodiac children of Garth’ puzzle. Therefore, it makes a great deal of sense for George to combine Libra and Virgo to create the concept of the maiden fair. That’s certainly what the ancients did, at least when perceiving Virgo as Astraea, the star maiden associated with justice. She was said to be the last of the immortals to linger on earth during the golden age, only choosing to finally leave the earth when the iron age fell, due to the  wickedness of man. She ascended to the stars and became Virgo, matching the pattern of the other zodiac figures we have discussed so far. She is prophesied to return, actually, and to bring a return of the golden age with her.

And yes, combining Virgo and Libra means we now have eleven constellations instead of twelve – yes, that’s true. I’ll explain that in the next section!

As for Ser Galladon and his sword named the Just Maid, let’s consider. This is really just another version of the Azor Ahai fable, isn’t it? Galladon is our magic sword hero, obviously. The Maiden herself, one of the Seven and therefore a Goddess, plays the role of the moon maiden, which means she represents both Nissa Nissa giving birth to Lightbringer and the moon giving birth to Lightbringer meteors. When she loses her heart to Galladon and gives him a sword, that is simply the moon exploding into meteors which are the hearts of a fallen star, the type of thing you can make a magic sword out of, a sword too amazing to even use against mortal men.

Ser Galladon the Perfect Knight is from Morne, a place on the Isle of Tarth which is now only ruins. A champion knight carrying the name Morne and a magic sword? That has to remind us of the Sword of the Morning and Dawn, right? Indeed, there is Venus based Morningstar and Evenstar symbolism around Galladon; on the opposite part of the island of Tarth from the ruins of Morne is Evenfall Hall, the seat of House Tarth, whose lord is known as the Evenstar. Starfall vs. The Evenstar at Evenfall Hall, A Knight of Morne with a magic sword, the Sword of the Morning with a magic sword…. That’s clear enough, and now coincidence is starting to seem impossible. The Galladon / Just Maid myth is just a mash-up of the Dawn and Lightbringer legends.

One of the things said about Ser Galladon, as Brienne tells us in AFFC, is that he once supposedly used the Just Maid to slay a dragon. This is certainly interesting – since Valyrian steel can kill Others, I’ve offered the wild speculation that Dawn, which is like white Valyrian steel, can kill dragons. Think of the ice spear the Night King on the HBO show uses – Dawn might work something like that, perhaps.

In terms of the narrative, the tale of Ser Galladon the Perfect Knight who was reluctant to use his magic sword is used as a device to help Brienne of Tarth realize she needs to be willing to do whatever it takes to win, and not let the sort of stiff honor of Galladon or Ned Stark get in the way. Brienne is using her cheap sword at first, thinks of the Galladon tale, and thinks, I better go get Oathkeeper, which is technically a magic sword, as all Valyrian steel swords are. It’s a good thing she did, as she is soon using Oathkeeper to slay the bloody mummers. Needless to say, the point here is that Oathkeeper is a prime Lightbringer / comet sword symbol, and so the parallel between Oathkeeper and the Just Maid helps tighten up the conclusion that Galladon’s story is another version of our sword hero and his magic meteor sword which was made of a piece of a goddess.

Now we were just comparing the Just Maid to Dawn, and now we have Brienne comparing Just Maid to a black Valyrian steel sword, but it’s possible that level of delineation just isn’t important for the parallels Martin is creating, and it’s also possible that Dawn was the original Ice of House Stark, and thus Oathkeeper, made from the steel of Ned’s Ice, is intended to make is think of Ice and therefore Dawn. As you all know, we are eternally trying to sort out which color sword was wielded by the last hero and Night’s King or whoever else. I would simply say, as I have from the beginning, that there were two “Lightbringer swords” in the War for the Dawn; a big white one called ‘Ice’ which is now known as ‘Dawn,’ and the black sword made from the Bloodstone Emperor’s black meteor which would essentially be a prototype for Valyrian steel swords which came after. Thus it works just fine for me to see parallels being drawn from the Just Maid to both Dawn and a black Valyrian steel sword with a ton of Lightbringer symbolism like Oathkeeper.

As it happens, Brienne the Beauty, the Most Fair Maid of Tarth, parallels both Galladon and the ‘Maiden herself’. So far, we’ve seen that Brienne compares the magic sword she was given, Oathkeeper, to the one Galladon was given, the Just Maid, and she also compares her honor to Galladon’s, both which place Brienne in the Galladon role, and makes Brienne a fair maid in the sense of being just. But Brienne does indeed also compare very well to the Maiden herself; Brienne’s technically a maiden, and though she isn’t regarded as beautiful save for her eyes (and her character, of course!), her ironic nickname is “Brienne the Beauty!” That name is in turn a reference to Venus mythology (she’s the daughter of the Evenstar, after all), and makes Brienne an avatar of Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, if you will.

Ergo, in addition to being just and comparing her sword to the Just Maid, Brienne is also a fair maiden in the sense of Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, who was renowned for her beauty. Brienne hits both side of the “fair maiden” joke, isn’t that lovely. On top of that, she wanders around looking for Sansa saying “I am looking for my sister, a fair maid of three-and-ten,” simply because Martin cannot resist layering his jokes as thickly as possible.

Prediction time: Brienne the fair maid played the Galladon role when Jaime gave her the magic sword, and though I doubt Brienne will “lose her heart” to anyone but Jaime, I wouldn’t be surprised if circumstances have Brienne play the Maiden herself role and give out her magic sword to a worthy champion of great valor – Jon Snow, of course, since he’s been thinking of his father’s sword, Ice, for five books now, despite having Longclaw. Maybe they can trade.. all I know is that I have always thought it would make the most sense for Jon to get his hands on Oathkeeper, since it is the sword of his true father, Ned Stark, and bears the colors and symbolism of his genetic father, Rhaegar.

Bringing the focus back to Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, we see that her story has parallels to the story of Galladon and the Maiden of the Seven. I believe that the Hightowers are most likely descended of the dragonlords from Asshai who would have been part of the Great Empire of the Dawn, and Uthor has an especially dragony name, only one letter off from that of Uther Pendragon, the father of King Arthur of Excalibur fame, with Pendragon translating to “head of the dragon.” He’s playing the Galladon / Azor Ahai role, in other words, and he wins the hand of Maris the Most Fair Maid just as the Maiden herself loses her heart to Galladon.

As many of you know, the word “Maris” means sea, and is often heard in the phrase “stella maris,” which means star of the sea and is a name for both the pole star and… drumroll… the Virgin Mary. Virgo Maris, Virgin Mary. That’s right – Maris’s name does indeed allude to stars and the sea, as well as virginity. She makes a great Nissa Nissa figure. George has given us another stella maris woman as well, and that would be Shierra Sea Star, the lover of Bloodraven. Stella Maris means sea-star, and even the name Shierra is starry, because the Dothraki name for the comet is shierak qiya, the bleeding star. Even better, just as Uthor and Argoth fought over Maris’ hand, Bloodraven and his half-brother Bittersteel hated each other and warred against each other – and were both in love with Shiera Seastar. All of this related wordplay and symbolism simply enhances Maris the Most Fair as our Nissa Nissa to Uthor Hightower’s Azor Ahai.

Considering that Maris was a daughter of Garth, and that there are abundant clues that Nissa Nissa was at least part children of the forest, an elf woman with a connection to the weirwoods, this tale of Uthor of the High Tower building the first Hightower and marrying Maris the Maid seems like something of an echo of Azor Ahai coming to Westeros to marry a child of the forest or a human with child of the forest blood. Such a forest lass could have been remembered as a daughter of Garth the Green, a forest king in his own right. At the very least, we can see a tale which speaks of dragonblooded people coming to Westeros by sea and marrying into the bloodline of the First Men, as Uthor does by taking Maris the daughter of Garth to wife.

I found an echo of Uthor Hightower which suggests him as a greenseer, as I believe Azor Ahai to be. You remeber Uthor Underleaf from the jousting scene earlier, the one with the Old Ox Bford Bulwer from the Hedge Knight? That joust took place at a tourney at Whitewalls, and Uthor Underleaf is really a great character. He’s basically Woodey Harrelson from White Men Can’t Jump; he’s the ultimate ringer who makes bets on himself and then punks his opponents. Woody Harrelson’s character intentionally dressed like a sort of rumpled shut-in who didn’t look like he had any sort of game, which was of course part of a con he was running, and Uthor, a short fellow, uses the humble and unassuming sigil of the snail to encourage people to underestimate him. It’s a great con and Uthor, who Dunk thinks looks more like a merchant than a knight, is hiding abundant wealth in his shabby-looking tent.

More importantly, Uthor under-leaf is a name that implies a greenseer living under a tree, and Uthor kindly wears green enamel armor, carries a green shield, and has silver-snail-on-green sigil to help us think of him as a green knight. And just as Uthor Hightower’s rival was the Grey Giant Argoth Stone-Skin, the winner of the tourney, Uthor Underleaf fights against Dunk – a giant in grey armor with a grey gallows knight sigil in this joust. Dunk is not the champion of the tourney, though he was a tragic kind of champion at the tourney of Ashford Meadow. It’s the grey stone giant thing which really makes it a match though – Dunk is indeed a grey giant with grey iron plate armor. This tourney is at a place called Whitewalls, whereas Uthor took Maris to the white Hightower. Uthor Underleaf doesn’t steal a woman from Dunk as Uthor is implied to – although really, it just says “..but she wed Uthor of the High Tower..” which does not imply an abduction. Maybe Maris didn’t want to marry no stinkin’ stone giant, who can blame her. But the point is, Dunk the grey giant doesn’t come to Uthor Underleaf roaring for his bride back – no, what Uthor has of Dunk’s is not a bride, but a horse, Thunder. Sorry to compare Maris the Most Fair Maid to a horse, but there it is. The Storm God’s thunderbolt was really a piece of the moon goddess falling like a star, so it sort of works.

Kidding aside, Maris and Thunder needn’t be parallel themselves; the parallel is Uthor and Dunk vs Uthor Hightower and Argoth Stone-Skin, and in both cases the Uthor character takes something the grey giant character wants back very badly. Point being, Uthor Underleaf is an intentional parallel to Uthor Hightower, and he’s a green knight who leaves “under leaf,” like a green seer. Uthor Hightower might be able to see even more than we think from his high tower! Again, this simply means he’s the Azor Ahai figure, stealing moon maidens and becoming a greenseer.

Since we’ve talked about Maris and Uthor, let’s tackle the grey Giant himself, Argoth Stone-Skin, even though he seems super heavy and hard to tackle. In all seriousness, Argoth is a pretty mysterious element – I mean we hear of “stone giants” called the Jhogwin in far off eastern Essos, but apart from that it’s hard to figure out what to make of Argoth Stone-Skin. It’s unlikely someone with greyscale would be allowed to compete in a tournament to marry the Most Fair maiden, nor likely someone so afflicted could be the champion of a tourney.

Much to my delight, I have found that this tale is a scrambled version of the tale of Argus, Hermes, and Io,a myth which serves as a possible inspiration for part of the ASOIAF moon disaster. Argoth is essentially a version of Argus, who is also a giant, and his stone skin symbolism is there for purposes of mythical astronomy. Let me explain. Better yet, let me borrow the summary of the Io myth from

Io was the princess of Argos, who Zeus fell in love with. To try to keep Hera from noticing, he covered the world with a thick blanket of clouds. However, as soon as Hera saw that, she immediately became suspicious. She came down from Mount Olympus and began dispersing the clouds. Zeus did some quick thinking and changed Io’s form from a lovely maiden; so, as the clouds dispersed, Hera found Zeus standing next to a white heifer. He then swore that he had never seen the cow before and that it had just sprang right out of the earth. Seeing right through this, Hera faked liking the cow so much that she wanted to have it as a present. As turning such a reasonable request down would have given the whole thing away, Zeus presented her with the cow. She sent the cow away and arranged Argus Panoptes to watch over it. Since Argus had a hundred eyes and could have some of them sleep while keeping others awake, he made for a fine watchman.

Pieter Lastman Juno Discovering Jupiter with Io

Ok, let me cut in here for a moment to point out a few things. Io is a moon maiden – in fact, one of Jupiter’s moons is named after her. As we discussed in the Moons of Ice and Fire series, Io is the logical moon for George to use as a prototype for a magical ‘fire moon,’ because it is entirely made up of magma and silicate rock – meaning that it’s a floating volcano, basically – and Io is also one of the most famous moons in our solar system. The ancient Greeks associated the goddess Io with the moon, and in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound, Io encounters a bound Prometheus and refers to herself as “the horned virgin”, which is understood to refer to both lunar horns and bovine horns. Notice the virgin part – Io is another fair maiden, like Maris the Maid and Virgo and the Virgin Mary and Brienne the Beauty.

This entire myth grafts onto the AOSIAF moon disaster myth very well, beginning with Zeus covering the world in clouds to hide his love of Io, which reminds us of the Long Night, when the sun and moon kissed and birthed meteor children who covered the earth with clouds of ash and smoke. When Io is transformed into the lunar cow, she is actually tethered to an olive tree in the temple of Hera. It’s important to remember that the Greek myth-makers here understood Io to represent the moon, so this is actually some Greek mythical astronomy – Io the lunar cow walking circles around the olive tree in the temple is a depiction of the moon orbiting the earth’s axis, which his regarded as the cosmic axis by ancient man, observing the stars from earth’s vantage point as they were. Maris the Most Fair Maid is the Io of the story, and she ends up sort of locked away in the Hightower while Argos rages outside, which is kind of like being tied to a tree.

Mercury and Argus by Peter Paul Rubens (between 1635 and 1638)

So who is Argus, translated into mythical astronomy? Meaning, what role is Argoth Stone-Skin playing? Well, I think we can see him as the moon’s stone skin! Argus ‘Panoptes’ is the many-eyed giant, and we’ve seen moon meteors symbolized as eyes many times. Therefore I think Maris is like the heart of the moon, and her rightful husband, Argoth Stone-Skin, the Grey Giant, is the moon’s stony crust. The moon is a grey giant with stone skin, and Io is a moon with stone skin, so there you go. Also, consider that Io started off as a priest of Hera in the town of Argos, which was also a region, so she is implied as being “of Argus” in a sense already, even before Argus the Giant became her guardian. The tale continues:

Desperate, Zeus sent Hermes to fetch Io. Disguised as a shepherd, Hermes had to employ all his skill as a musician and storyteller to gain Argus’ confidence and lull him to sleep. Once asleep, Hermes killed Argus; later, Hera took his eyes and set them into the tail of her favorite bird, the peacock.

Cutting in again for a moment, I will point out that Hermes, “the messenger,” would certainly equate to the red comet, the red messenger. In these sun-kill-moon metaphor scenes, the comet is usually depicted as being the sword of the solar king that stabs the moon goddess. Here, Zeus sends Hermes to slay Argus, just as the sun sends the comet to slay the moon. Not sure what peacocks have to do with anything, but let’s continue with the story:

While Io was now free, Hera sent the mother of all gadflies to sting the still bovine Io. The ghost of Argus pursued her as well. This pushed her towards madness and in her efforts to escape, she wandered the world. During her journeys, she came across Prometheus while chained, who gave her hope. He predicted that although she would have to wander for many years, she would eventually be changed back into human form and would bear a child. He predicted that a descendant of this child would be a great hero and would set him free; his predictions came true. Because of her journeys, many geographical features were named after her, including the Ionian Sea, and the Bosporus (which means ford of the cow). She eventually reached the Nile where Zeus restored her human form. She bore Epaphus and eleven generations later, her descendant Heracles would set Prometheus free.

The part about Io wandering when her guardian is slain is the Greek myth-maker implying a moon which has wandered off of its course, untethered somehow from its cosmic axis tree. In ASOIAF terms, George has given us a moon goddess that wanders too close to the sun, cracks from the heat, and drops her stone skin from the sky in the form of dragon-like meteors. The detail about the ghost of Argus pursuing Io made its way into the ASOIAF version of the story as Argoth Stone-Skin raging outside the walls of Oldtown for his bride, I think it’s easy to see. Argus and Argoth can both eat their hearts out, though, because Io turned back into a beautiful women a bore Zeus’s baby, and Maris presumably helped Uthor found House Hightower by having some Hightower babies.

Meanwhile, Uthor of the High Tower who is possibly descended of dragon people, and he now ‘possess’ the heart of the moon maiden. If Argoth is the stone skin, Maris the Most Fair is the “heart of the fallen star” which represents the fire of the gods, or the special meteor to make a sword with. Either way, Uthor now possess the fire of the gods, as Galladon does, having been given the heart of the moon maiden. Hence that crown of red flame that burns atop the white tower in the Hightower sigil.

Interestingly, Uther Pendragon of the Arthurian legend actually kills almost all the living dragons, and TWOAIF tells us there are stories of the first Hightowers finding dragons roosting on the fused stone fortress on Battle Isle when they got there – dragons they had to kill:

How old is Oldtown, truly? Many a maester has pondered that question, but we simply do not know. The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend. Some ignorant septons claim that the Seven themselves laid out its boundaries, other men that dragons once roosted on the Battle Isle until the first Hightower put an end to them.

So, Galladon was a dragon-slayer, Uther Pendragon was a dragon-slayer, and the first Hightowers may have been dragon-slayers as well (and there are solid theories about the Hightowers being part of a plot to kill off the last Targaryen dragons, too, for what it’s worth). Building on my pet theory about Dawn being a dragon-killer sword like the Just Maid, consider that I have pointed out before that the Daynes and Hightowers seem to be in the same boat in a lot of ways, particularly as Westerosi “First Men” houses which actually descend from the Great Empire of the Dawn and who may have turned against the evil Azor Ahai and fought on team Westeros when he invaded, assuming that that is a thing which happened, as I theorize.

Starfall has the Palestone Sword tower and a glowing pale sword, while Starfall has the white tower crowned with flame sigil and the “we light the way” house words. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Ser Gerold Hightower, the White Bull, stands alongside Ser Arthur Dayne at the Tower of Joy – I think Dayne and Hightower have been playing on the same team for a long time now. We also have a Gerold Hightower – that’s Darkstar’s real name – which is like a mash-up of Gerold Hightower and Arthur Dayne.

All of this helps set up the triple parallel between Uthor Hightower, Galladon of Morne, and the first Dayne who followed the falling star and made Dawn from the pale stone meteorite of magic power that he found. Uthor possessed Maris the moon maiden in his flaming white tower; Galladon of Morne won the heart of the celestial Maiden and won a magic sword, the Just Maid; and the Daynes possessed the heart of a fallen star which they made into a magic sword. The Hightowers and Galladon are rumored dragon-slayers, can Dawn slay dragons? Another clue about this is that there is both a Davos Dayne in recent times and a Davos the Dragonslayer legend from the Age of Heroes.

I hope you guys are ready for someone to stab a dragon with Dawn, because you freaking heard it hear first.

Lest you think Maris the Most Fair Maid would wriggle out of some sort of Night’s Watch symbolism, think again! When the wildlings come through the Wall in ADWD, Jon stations the spearwives in their own castle, Long Barrow, so as to avoid any Dany Flint situations. Jon has to station a couple of actual Night’s Watch brothers there to  keep things running, and he chooses two he can trust, Dolorous Edd and Iron Emmet, the former master-at-arms at Castle Black. That leads to this funny line, when Dolorous Edd returns to Castle Black and reports back to Jon:

“Place was overrun with rats when we moved in. The spearwives killed the nasty buggers. Now the place is overrun with spearwives. There’s days I want the rats back.”

“How do you find serving under Iron Emmett?” Jon asked.

“Mostly it’s Black Maris serving under him, m’lord.”

She’s serving  ‘under’ Iron Emmett, very funny Edd. They are going very far to suggest Maris as a Night’s Watchman though – she’s “Black Maris,” she’s serving under the Lord Commander, and she’s manning one of the forts on the Wall. So once again, we see that Garth’s children are implied as joining the Night’s Watch in some way. We also had a Runcel Hightower who was Lord Commander of the Watch, but he disgraced himself by trying to make the position hereditary so he could pass it to his son. There’s also good old Garth of Oldtown, one of the three Garths who join the watch. He’s not a Hightower, but I thought I would mention him here anyway since he’s “Garth of Oldtown.”

There’s one other Maris, and she’s a fair maid too, although like Brienne, the name is somewhat ironic. I speak of Pretty Meris, the official torturer of the Windblown, a sellsword company from Essos that we meet in ADWD. She is said to be able to stretch out a man’s dying for a moon’s turn – very interesting. She has no ears and scars on her face, and she has survived countless horrors. As a result, she has “eyes as cold and dead as two grey stones” according to Quentyn. That sounds like moon meteor talk as well Night’s Queen / Corpse Queen talk, and hearkens to mind the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin as a description of the moon. Maris seems like a vengeful sort of moon meteor, in other words, and that in turns help with our identification of Maris the Most Fair as a moon maiden.

John the Oak

Shiera Luin Elen, the Blue Star of Heaven and resident linguist of the podcast; Esdue dei Liberi, called Islandsbane and The Silent Blade; ilas the Red Beard, Chief of the Redsmiths; Ser Therion Black, The Justiciar, bearer of the Valyrian steel sword Altarage; Greenfoot the Gorgeous; Meera of House Gardener, Keeper of the Glass Gardens and Bearer of the Sea Dragon’s Torch; and The Dread Pirate Barron, the Demon Deacon, whose direwolf is called Megantic

Alright, it’s John the Oak time. This was some of the most fun stuff that I turned up while researching this project. First of all, I have to tell you if you were trying to figure out this puzzle on the own, this was one of the hardest ones. It’s almost unfairly difficult, and I only figured out because I just happen to be a big fan of both the constellation Ophiuchus and the myth of Astraea. Astraea was the big tip-off that we are supposed to combine Virgo and Libra, which creates a hole in the zodiac. Let’s listen to the the tale of John the Oak and then I will tell you who I think that replacement is:

John the Oak, the First Knight, who brought chivalry to Westeros (a huge man, all agree, eight feet tall in some tales, ten or twelve feet tall in others, sired by Garth Greenhand on a giantess.) His own descendants became the Oakhearts of Old Oak.

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the constellation Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer, one of my favorite constellations. I have to say I was thrilled to discover George making use of Ophiuchus mythology. Ophiuchus is a giant dude wrestling a snake which is sort of wound behind his waist and around his wrists, and he can serve as a zodiac constellation because his feet stand astride the path of the ecliptic. He appears to stand on top of Scorpio, and was perceived as doing just that in some myths, so Ophiuchus is kind of a badass: he wrestles snakes and tramples scorpions.

Johannes Kepler’s drawing depicting Ophiuchus stepping on Scorpio

That’s one of the things which helps us identify Ophiuchus with John the Oak and House Oakheart: Ophiuchus is a giant who fights with snakes and scorpions, while John the Oak is half-giant, and House Oakheart has been mortal enemies of the snakes and scorpions from Dorne for thousands of years. Check out this passage from Arys Oakheart’s “The Soiled Knight” chapter of AFFC:

The Dornish garb was comfortable, but his father would have been aghast had he lived to see his son so dressed. He was a man of the Reach, and the Dornish were his ancient foes, as the tapestries at Old Oak bore witness. Arys only had to close his eyes to see them still. Lord Edgerran the Open- Handed, seated in splendor with the heads of a hundred Dornishmen piled round his feet. The Three Leaves in the Prince’s Pass, pierced by Dornish spears, Alester sounding his warhorn with his last breath. Ser Olyvar the Green Oak all in white, dying at the side of the Young Dragon. Dorne is no fit place for any Oakheart. 

The hostility is mutual, as we hear from the other side of the feud when Gerold “Darkstar” Dayne speaks of Arys and the Oakhearts, also in AFFC:

“No, my lady. What I know is that Daynes have been killing Oakhearts for several thousand years.”

His arrogance took her breath away. “It seems to me that Oakhearts have been killing Daynes for just as long.”

“We all have our family traditions.”

So there you go – this is a seriously old and hateful enmity, exceeding even that of the Blackwoods and Brackens, who have, after all, married into each other’s families on occasion. Of all the houses in the Reach, the Oakhearts have some sort of extra-special hatred for the Dornish – any Dornish, it would seem. This one liner from TOWIAF, referring to some mysteriously horrible events of Aegon’s Conquest, is perhaps the most ominous of all:

Worse occurred at the hands of the Wyl of Wyl, whose deeds we need not recount; they are infamous enough and still remembered, especially in Fawnton and Old Oak.

Nobody has any idea what these infamous deeds are; we just haven’t been told. If they’re too horrible to speak of in the context of a George R. R. martin story, then they must be really bad. Think about it. But then check out the sigil of House Wyl: a black adder biting a heel on yellow. Thus, we can see a correlation between House Oakheart (think John the Oak, the giant) being savaged by House Wyl (the snake biting his heel). It’s very similar to Ophiuchus, who wrestles a snake while a scorpion bites his heel – that’s right, he doesn’t get a free pass for trampling the scorpion, as many depictions of Ophiuchus have the scorpion stinging one of his heels.

There’s a bit more about Ophiuchus which is relevant to ASOIAF, and I’m paraphrasing this summary from wikipedia.  The older Greek myths saw Ophiuchus as the god Apollo wrestling a huge snake that guarded the Oracle of Delphi, while later myths identified Ophiuchus with Laocoön, the Trojan priest of Poseidon, who warned his fellow Trojans about the Trojan Horse and was later slain by a pair of sea serpents sent by the gods to punish him.

Apollo is actually seen in the form of Rhaegar and the Valyrians in general more than House Oakheart, but I’ll tell you a couple things about him. Apollo is a complex deity, but he is often merged with the figure of Helios, making Apollo the sun god. His chief epithet is Phoebus, which means bright, and whether or not he’s merged with Helios, he’s always considered the god of light, or dare we even say, the Lord of Light. Another of his titles is Apollo Phanaeus, which means “light-bringing.” Sometimes we’ll talk about the Rhaegar / Apollo parallels, as they’re pretty good.

The Trojan fellow, the priest of Poseidon who warned of the Trojan Horse, I don’t think he has any bearing on anything – I mention him mostly to point out that the Greeks did not have a super strong bead on Ophiuchus. However, the Romans, who adopted much of the Greek pantheon, remedied this with the most widely-known association of the Ophiuchus constellation: Asclepius.

Asclepius was a legendary healer who learned the secrets of keeping death at bay after observing one serpent bringing another healing herbs. Asclepius was a son of Apollo, and both bore the title “the Healer.” The familiar snake-wound-around-a-staff symbol which stands for healing is known as the rod of Asclepius, so you can see why the Romans might see Ophiuchus, the man wrestling a serpent, as Asclepius, and since he’s a son of Apollo anyway, it’s not even that much of a change. Apollo is already the sun god, so he didn’t need a constellation too I guess.

Anyway, the story of Asclepius turns when, to prevent the entire human race from becoming immortal under Asclepius’ care, Jupiter (Zeus) kills him with a bolt of lightning. Silver lining: Zeus later places his image in the heavens to honor his good works.

Think about that for a second: Asclepius’ healing skills were so good, he essentially obtained the grail of immortality, the keys to defeating death. As we know, that’s an especially grievous sin in the world of ASOIAF, and Zeus apparently thought so too, striking him down with lightning. This is somewhat similar to George’s Grey King myth of his obtaining fire by means of the Storm God setting a tree ablaze with a thunderbolt, but more importantly, this is the familiar Lucifarian / Promethean theme of challenging the gods by taking their power and seeking to become like them which defines the Azor Ahai archetype. You may recall the High Priest of the Red Temple saying something about “all those who die fighting” for Azor Ahai reborn shall themselves be reborn, which makes Azor Ahai reborn sound like a raiser of the dead, like Asclepius.

In Greek lore, the serpent was a sacred animal associated with wisdom, healing, and resurrection, and so the figure of a man successfully controlling and containing the serpent would indeed represent a kind of mastery over these things.  Again we are reminded of Azor Ahai possessing the fire of the gods in the form of Lightbringer, a sword which is symbolic of dragons and comets.

Interestingly, the notion of Ophiuchus as a tamer of snakes was found outside the Western world too – in medieval Islamic astronomy (Azophi’s Uranometry , 10th century), the constellation was known as Al-Ḥawwaʾ “the snake-charmer.”

Ophiuchus in a manuscript copy of Azophi’s Uranometry, 18th-century copy of a manuscript prepared for Ulugh Beg in 1417 (note that as in all pre-modern star charts, the constellation is mirrored, with Serpens Caput on the left and Serpens Cauda on the right)

So now let’s think about John the Oak and the Oakhearts who descend from him. John is half giant, and he’s called “the oak,” which makes him sound like a tree-person and obviously reminds us of a weirwood tree, especially since “Oakheart” also implies a tree with a heart, like a heart tree. Now since John the Oak is both tree and man, think for a moment about Ophiuchus as a tree with a snake wrapped around it instead of a man with a snake wrapped around him. You basically get the rod of asclepius – a snake wrapped around a staff. We’re going to start bringing Arys Oakheart into the mix here as well – and if you’ll forgive my juvenile humor, Arys had a snake wrapped around him as well… meaning Arianne Martell, who absolutely plays Arys like a fiddle, using his infatuation to manipulate him into committing treason and eventually, suicide. Take a look at Arianne where Arys goes to meet her in secret in his “The Soiled Knight” chapter of AFFC:

He saw patterned Myrish carpets underneath his sandals, a tapestry upon one wall, a bed. “My lady?” he called. “Where are you?”

“Here.” She stepped out from the shadow behind the door. An ornate snake coiled around her right forearm, its copper and gold scales glimmering when she moved. It was all she wore.

During their lovemaking, Arianne is put in the snake role, as it says “When she wrapped her legs around him, they felt as strong as steel.” She’s very like the metal snake she is wearing, in other words. In another scene, Areo Hotah observes Arianne wearing “snakeskin sandals laced up to her thighs,” which enhances the mental image of Arianne’s legs being like snakes as they wrestle Ser Arys. She also rakes his back, drawing blood – she”bit” him, in other words. ” Arys is a poor Ophiuchus, and he’s losing this wrestling match. Finally, Arianne offers to share Ser Arys with one of her sand snake cousins, which may be nothing it may be intended to complete the “snakes wrapping around Ser Arys” theme.

The snake and tree motif is important to pick up on for a couple of reasons. It suggests the Garden of Eden, which has all the same themes about immortality and man seeking to become like god and a wise serpent, and of course that’s a big influence on the overarching Azor Ahai myth. It also has the elements of the sea dragon meteor “setting the tree on fire,” if we think of the snake as the meteor. The meteor setting the tree on fire is of course primarily a metaphor for Azor Ahai, the dragon, entering the weirwoodnet. And although I’d say the weirwood tree is more wrapped around Bloodraven that the other way around, any time you snakes and trees together we also have to mention Yggdrasil with its Nidhogg serpent beneath it, and Bloodraven the dragon among the white serpent weirwood roots. And come to think about, if the weirwood roots are like white serpents, then we do indeed have the Ophiuchus symbolism of snakes wrapping around a person. That person being a greenseer, as John the Oak may have been.

I mentioned that statue of Apollo at the oracle of Delphi which has Apollo wrestling a snake, so the snake-wrapping and wrestling stuff can also work as a call-out to Apollo. Oddly enough, if we go back to that quote where Arys thinks of the tapestries at Old Oak depicting the death of Dornishman and whatnot, there is a line that I didn’t include that makes Arys an honorary sun god, like the form of Apollo who is merged with Helios:

His hand drifted down to brush lightly over the hilt on the longsword that hung half-hidden amongst the folds of his layered linen robes, the outer with its turquoise stripes and rows of golden suns, and the lighter orange one beneath. The Dornish garb was comfortable, but his father would have been aghast had he lived to see his son so dressed. 

Not only is Arys wearing suns on his clothes, George slyly mentions his father so that he can refer to Arys as his father’s “son,” reinforcing Arys as an Apollo Helios sun figure. I don’t want to break down the entire death scene at the boat on the Greenblood with Areo Hotah and Myrcella and Arianne and Darkstar and all that, but I will tell you that Arys is actually not playing the role of an Other there, despite his status as a white knight of the kingsguard. I hate to throw you such a curveball, but Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer was white hot and smoking before he stabbed Nissa Nissa with it, and that’s exactly what Arys Oakheart is leading up to his death as he’s led through the deserts sands of Dorne, being sunburned and reddened all the way, with Arianne wondering if he’ll cook in his armor. When he has sex with Arianne, a snakey Nissa Nissa figure who is hot to the touch, Arys can be imagined as the white hot sword “stabbing” Nissa Nissa, if you will. His sword will be “shining silver” in his death scene.

Speaking of his death scene, we find a different moon maiden is wounded across the face – Myrcella – by a dastardly dragonlord-looking dude, Darkstar. Arys himself dies a sort of sacrificial, foolish Azor Ahai death akin to Dontos or Viserys. The key line is when his head is cut off:

The white knight raised his blade, too slowly. Hotah’s longaxe took his right arm off at the shoulder, spun away spraying blood, and came flashing back again in a terrible two-handed slash that removed the head of Arys Oakheart and sent it spinning through the air. It landed amongst the reeds, and the Greenblood swallowed the red with a soft splash.

Alright, that’s hammer of the Waters injuries, arm and neck, and here in Dorne no less. They came from an axe as opposed to a hammer, but since the ancient Andals seem to have used them interchangeably as symbols, according to the maesters, and it’s certainly close enough. Of course we notice the green blood swallowing the red – that’s kind of the highlight and the clincher for identifying Arys as playing the Azor Aha. He’s losing his life to enter the weirwoodnet, and immediately following a Nissa Nissa moon maiden event (Myrcella’s wounding) and a sharp set of Hammer of the Waters injuries. This might make him a green zombie candidate, with the greenblood river that drinks his blood standing in for the pool before the Winterfell heart tree that drinks the blood of the victims sacrificed to it.

The boat Areo Hotah is standing on is itself is a weirwood symbol too; it’s a wooden boat that navigates the greenblood, very comparable to the symbolic idea of Grey King sailing a weirwood ship in the green see. Check out the quotes about the boat; first we find it “hidden beneath the drooping branches of a great green willow,” and then the boat itself is described:

This one was done in shades of green, with a curved wooden tiller shaped like a mermaid, and fish faces peering through her rails. Poles and ropes and jars of olive oil cluttered her decks, and iron lanterns swung fore and aft.

A green mermaid boat, with iron, oil, and fire on board: it’s a jumble of fire moon and sea dragon symbols, basically. Areo’s monstrous axe adds to the weirwood symbolism too: his “ash and iron wife,” because it has a pole of ash wood, and as we have discussed in the Weirwood Goddess series, this is a symbol of the ash tree, and thus Yggdrasil, and thus the weirwoods and the weirwood goddess – and again, Areo creepily calls the ash-and-iron axe his “wife”. Areo on the green mermaid boat dispensing justice to Azor Ahai is essentially a Nissa Nissa’s revenge scene.

There is another good clue about Arys trying to fly like a greenseer: as he charges the boat, his horse is “feathered” with crossbow bolts, making hit a winged horse.

It also seems symbolically appropriate that Arya Oakheart was cut down by an axe, since his sigil is three oak leaves on gold and he has “a spreading oak tree worked upon the breast of his tunic in shining gold thread.” These kind of make Arys himself an honorary oak tree… who was cut down by an axe.

Alright, to finish up with John the Oak and the Oakhearts, let’s talk about their Night’s Watch symbolism. It’s a bit cryptic, as we don’t have any Oakhearts in the Watch or anyone named John in the Wat– oh. Well we do have a Jon I suppose. But remembering that John the Oak was said have been fathered on a giantess, check out this scene:

But the gate was a crooked tunnel through the ice, smaller than any castle gate in the Seven Kingdoms, so narrow that rangers must lead their garrons through single file. Three iron grates closed the inner passage, each locked and chained and protected by a murder hole. The outer door was old oak, nine inches thick and studded with iron, not easy to break through. But Mance has mammoths, he reminded himself, and giants as well.

Old Oak is the place the Oakhearts are from, and this old oak gate is being pitted against giants. It’s like the giants coming to Old Oak and playing come-into-my-castle, which is an obvious euphemism for sex (as is “smashing my portcullis”). And look – it’s a guy named Jon inspecting the old oak, like John the Oak who established Old Oak. Here’s the old oak gate after the fight:

The last twenty feet of the tunnel was where they’d fought and died. The outer door of studded oak had been hacked and broken and finally torn off its hinges, and one of the giants had crawled in through the splinters. The lantern bathed the grisly scene in a sullen reddish light. Pyp turned aside to retch, and Jon found himself envying Maester Aemon his blindness.

It kind of reminds me of the horrific deeds of the Wyls being remembered at Old Oak – here the grisly scene at the old oak gate is so horrific that Pyp has to wretch and Jon wishes he was blind. The giant has come to old oak, so to speak.

Giants are often associated with oaks, as it happens; not only in that last scene, but in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream of defending the Wall with a burning red sword and a bunch of burning scarecrow brother! There’s a line that says  “Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.” It would be nice to get one of those giants on the Watch, so we could have a giant oak-wielding fellow on the Watch for symbolism’s sake… and indeed, Wun Wun does sort of join the watch in the sense that he comes to Castle Black and is put to work as a builder of sorts. Wun Wun also has a oaken weapon – a stone maul with an oaken shaft. When he wakes up in the weirwood grove of nine scene with Jon, it was like a “boulder coming to life,” sort of like a combination of giants waking in the earth and a stone moon exploding in to meteor childbirth, events which I think are related of course.

Finally, I will close by noting that oak trees are the second choice for heart trees when no weirwoods are available, as we see in the Kings Landing godswood when Ned prays there in ACOK. Oak-heart-tree, ha ha. Better still is the huge (meaning giant) oak tree that the wildlings carve a face into south of the Wall in ADWD:

Just north of Mole’s Town they came upon the third watcher, carved into the huge oak that marked the village perimeter, its deep eyes fixed upon the kingsroad. That is not a friendly face, Jon Snow reflected. The faces that the First Men and the children of the forest had carved into the weirwoods in eons past had stern or savage visages more oft than not, but the great oak looked especially angry, as if it were about to tear its roots from the earth and come roaring after them. Its wounds are as fresh as the wounds of the men who carved it.

It’s a huge oak, like John the Oak who was part giant. It’s a watcher, like the Watchers on the Wall or the Others, who are called watchers twice in the prologue of AGOT. It’s a heart tree, so it’s already kind of like a tree person, and this one is suggested as being ready tear up its roots and walk like an ent from the Lord of the Rings.

My favorite giant and oak quote is, fittingly, tied to the Night’s Watch, and it’s one we’ve read before:

Giant had crammed himself inside the hollow of a dead oak. “How d’ye like my castle, Lord Snow?”

A night’s Watch ranger wearing the skin of a dead oak? This is basically like saying an undead oak tree person became a Night’s Watch ranger – a green zombie, in other words. An undead tree person. Who is also a giant oak, since the ranger’s name is Giant and he’s living in an oak tree. On the most basic level, a Night’s Watch ranger living in a tree suggests a greenseer Night’s Watchmen anyway. Which is the entire point of this entire exercise! Ta-da!

Owen Oakenshield

This section is dedicated to the longtime Patreon support of Melanie Lot7, a.k.a. The child of the forest known as FeatherCrow, the Weircat Dryad, earthly avatar of Heavenly House Capricorn; as well as our acolytes of Starry Wisdom: Rupee the Funkateer, ArchMaester of Synesthesia; Edward Greenhand, the transplanting transplant with a history of history; Icarus Drowning, the Public Eye; Mystica Faery, Reddish Star of the North and Fire Jewel Faery Locked in Ice; Matanues, Alaskan God of Thunder and Sex. the Cookie-Burner; and Virginie the Selekarian, Master of Homingaway

Here’s a bit of a challenging one. There’s really not much to go on, and it’s hard to know what to make of it:

Owen Oakenshield, who conquered the Shield Islands, driving the selkies and merlings back into the sea.

What we have here is a case of reverse association. Capricorn is the sea goat, a creature which is basically a goat with a fish tail instead of hind legs, and some legends associate it with a man who can transform into a sea goat. That is rather merling-like, and Owen Oakenshield is the only child of Garth with fish people involved in their legends, so I think it’s a good match.

A closer look at a few of the myths associated with Capricorn make the links more apparent. One legend sometimes identified with Capricorn is t he tale of the goat-horned god Pan giving himself a fish’s tale so that he might escape the monster known as Typhon. That’s pretty on the nose, as it casts Capricorn as a horned green man figure who escaped into the sea. Right away you can see that this myth is a natural fit for Martin’s green sea / green see wordplay that Ravenous Reader discovered, which we explained in Weirwood Compendium 6: The Devil and the Deep Green See. The horned god transformed himself to enter the green see – I mean the story barely needs any alteration. It overlays with the story of Garth becoming trapped in the weir perfectly.

Capricornus as a sea-goat from Urania’s Mirror (1825).

Another Capricorn-related myth is that of Amalthea, the goat that suckled baby Zeus after his mother, Rhea, saved him from his father, Cronos, who wanted to eat him as a tasty snack. Best of all, the goat’s broken horn was transformed into the cornucopia, a.k.a. the horn of plenty, and between that and Amalthea suckling the baby Zeus, we can see the fertility and bounty of nature associations with the horned creature mythology. The other tale about the nurturing of baby Zeus was that of the Meliai, if you recall from the Weirwood Goddess series, and the Meliai are ash tree nymphs that seem to have influenced Martin’s idea of the children of the forest and the wildling spearwives as spear-maidens who defend the sacred ash tree, which is the weirwood in ASOIAF.

The most common sea-goat myth is that of Pricus, the god of sea-goats. He apparently has always been a sea-goat and will always be a sea-goat, as he’s immortal; no transformation needed. Pricus is the son of Chronos, and like his father he has power over time. This comes in handy because he has a bunch of sea goat children who tend to walk onto land, lose their tails, and eventually forget how to talk, and Pricus turns back time, repeatedly, to try to prevent this. The sea goats, it seems, are wise and kind, but they just kept walking ashore and turning to regular goats. Pricus’s efforts at turning back the clock are in vein, however, because the little sea goats just keep doing the same thing every time. Pricus eventually begs Chronus to take away his immortality and let him die, because he can’t bear to be the only sea goat (so sad, right?). But Pricus cannot die, and so Chronos places him in the sky as the constellation Capricorn so that he can watch over his goat children forever, even the ones high in the mountains (he can see them because he’s up in space).

The main takeaway here is that the Pricus story has much in common with selkie and mermaid mythology, where the main tension is built around the idea of an aquatic humanoid who is caught between land and sea, always doomed to love someone they cannot be with. Most mermaid myths are romantic in nature, while Pricus love his little sea goat children that keep wandering away, but it’s still a very similar theme. Thus, I think it’s safe to associate the merlings and selkies of the Owen Oakenshield story with Capricorn, the sea goat. We might imagine Owen Oakenshield, the son of a horned fellow, driving off Pricus’s little sea goat merling children.

So that’s interesting: Owen the son of Garth is pitted against the implied horned folk coming out of the sea, or we might simply regards the merlings as therianthropic monsters from the sea. We are already inclined to view the children of Garth as Night’s Watch figures, and indeed, there is a Night’s Watch castle named Oakenshield. Interestingly, Oakenshield is eventually given to Tormund Giantsbane to command, with Tormund being a horny Garth figure for sure, although he’s definitely a wintery version.

When Jon is defending the Wall against the Wildling attacks in ASOS and using the far-eye to spy on their camp, we get a cool line about Tormund, the future lord of Oakenshield, and check out what he’s eating:

He still saw no sign of Mance Rayder in the camp, but he spied Tormund Giantsbane and two of his sons around the turtle. The sons were struggling with the mammoth hide while Tormund gnawed on the roast leg of a goat and bellowed orders.

Not only is Tormund the future lord of Oakenshield gnawing on a goat, symbolizing Owen Oakenshield’s war against the merlings which stand in for the sea goats of the Capricorn myth, there is an implication of Tormund and his sons being under water here, as they are wrestling with a “turtle.” This idea continues when Jon speaks of Tormund again in ADWD to Bowen Marsh. Bowen begins this quote commenting on the likelihood of the wildling survivors from the battle climbing the Wall:

“Unlikely,” said Bowen Marsh. “These are not raiders, out to steal a wife and some plunder. Tormund will have old women with him, children, herds of sheep and goats, even mammoths. He needs a gate, and only three of those remain. And if he should send climbers up, well, defending against climbers is as simple as spearing fish in a kettle.”

Fish never climb out of the kettle and shove a spear through your belly. Jon had climbed the Wall himself.

Okay, so now the wildlings who climb the Wall are compared to fish climbing out of a kettle, reminiscent of the merlings and selkies coming out of the see to Battle Owen Oakenshield. Again we see Tormund paired with goats – Tormund has herds of goats and people who will be like fish when they climb the Wall. Sea goat ahoy!

More importantly, we’ve already tuned into the idea that the Wall symbolizes the surface of the icy lake which imprisons the Others, an imitation of Dante’s frozen lake which traps the beast form of Lucifer in the ninth circle of hell. Thus anyone “climbing out of the frozen lake” side of the Wall, like the Others when the finally invade, would be akin to Lucifer when he eventually breaks free of the icy lake in time for Armageddon, as is tradition.

Now that we know about the under the see symbolism, we can see a new layer to the Others and all there icy lake / frozen pond symbolism (recall that their voices are like the cracking of ice on a winter lake). The notion of the Others coming out of a frozen lake, or climbing the wall with their ice spiders like fish climbing out of a kettle, implies them as coming from the weirwoodnet… which is exactly what we think about them! They’re the “white walkers of the wood” who “emerge from the dark of the wood” whom George describes as being like icy versions of aes sidhe, the elf-like spirits or Irish folklore who are thought to be attached to certain mounds, which are called side. Icy elves, you say? Frozen spirits that walk the wood? There are many other clues about this which we still need to fully explore, but I think you can see already that merlings and squishers – monstrous white fish people who come out of the sea to steal and or eat human babies – function very well as analogs to the Others, who are monstrous white ice people who come out of the sea of the weirwoodnet.

So now think about the Owen Oakenshield myth again – here’s a son of Garth who shares a name with a Night’s Watch castle, warring against the monsters from the sea, who might represent the Others. Starts to make more sense, right? Check out that Jon scene at the Fist of the First Men where he compares the Haunted Forest to a Sea:

When the wind blew, he could hear the creak and groan of branches older than he was. A thousand leaves fluttered, and for a moment the forest seemed a deep green sea, storm-tossed and heaving, eternal and unknowable.

Ghost was not like to be alone down there, he thought. Anything could be moving under that sea, creeping toward the ringfort through the dark of the wood, concealed beneath those trees. Anything. How would they ever know? He stood there for a long time, until the sun vanished behind the saw-toothed mountains and darkness began to creep through the forest.

The forest is like a deep green sea, and the Others and their army of the dead are the shadows creeping through the dark of the wood which is like a sea. To attack the Night’s Watch, it should be noted! There’s a lot more to the Others / merlings symbolism, but I am again hoping that I’m giving you enough to go on here to see how it works. Passages like this make it easier to see how a man named Oakenshield battling merlings that come out of the sea makes a good symbolic reference to the Night’s Watch battling the Others, the white shadows who come from the dark wood that is like a sea.

Bouncing back to the Night’s Watch defending the Wall in ASOS, we find a black brother named Owen – not Owen Oakenshield, but rather Owen the Oaf. Check out this scene though:

But the gate was a crooked tunnel through the ice, smaller than any castle gate in the Seven Kingdoms, so narrow that rangers must lead their garrons through single file. Three iron grates closed the inner passage, each locked and chained and protected by a murder hole. The outer door was old oak, nine inches thick and studded with iron, not easy to break through. But Mance has mammoths, he reminded himself, and giants as well.

“Must be cold down there,” said Noye. “What say we warm them up, lads?” A dozen jars of lamp oil had been lined up on the precipice. Pyp ran down the line with a torch, setting them alight. Owen the Oaf followed, shoving them over the edge one by one. Tongues of pale yellow fire swirled around the jars as they plunged downward. When the last was gone, Grenn kicked loose the chocks on a barrel of pitch and sent it rumbling and rolling over the edge as well. The sounds below changed to shouts and screams, sweet music to their ears.

That’s some great moon meteor last hero math there – twelve jars of burning lamp oil (think of oily black stone moon meteors, on fire) and then for the +1, we have a barrel of pitch – more burning black oily stuff. Or perhaps we should think of Yin Tar, one of the five given names for Azor Ahai, whose name translates to “black tar.” Point is, like Sam’s dozen dragonsglass arrows and one spearhead, this is last hero math in the form of fiery black weaponry in the hands of the Night’s Watch. Owen the Oaf is the one who shoves the dozen burning lamps off the edge, indicating the symbolic place of an “Owen figure” in the last hero’s dozen, and hear I am referring to Owen Oakenshield of course.

Owen the Oaf is again shoving things off the edge of the Wall to kill wildlings a bit later in the battle, and he really seems to get a kick out killing the sea creatures trying to get through the well, a la Owen Oakenshield killing the merlings and selkies on the Shield Islands.

Grenn got behind a barrel, put his shoulder against it, grunted, and began to push. Owen and Mully moved to help him. They shoved the barrel out a foot, and then another. And suddenly it was gone.

They heard the thump as it struck the Wall on the way down, and then, much louder, the crash and crack of splintering wood, followed by shouts and screams. Satin whooped and Owen the Oaf danced in circles, while Pyp leaned out and called, “The turtle was stuffed full of rabbits! Look at them hop away!”

A turtle is not a sea goat, ’tis true, but again it’s close enough to the Owen Oakenshield myth that I had to mention it, plus the mental image of Owen the Oaf dancing in circles is pretty freakin funny.  Owen also takes up the fiddle when everyone at Castle Black parties down as a part of Alys Karstark’s wedding, so he’s quite the musical fellow. He even dances with Patchface, which everyone finds hysterically funny. Patchface is a horned person from the sea, very similar to the concept of a sea goat, so maybe there’s hope for healing the great Owen – sea creature divide. Patchface does offer to lead the Night’s Watch into the sea and out again, famously. Watch out for “dead things in the water,” though.

Now, regrettably, there aren’t not actual sea goats in ASOIAF. However, we get something very close in the Asha Wayward Bride chapter which has the matching green sea forest quotes to the Jon quote at the Fist of the First Men that we just read. You will surely recall the basics: Asha can’t see the sea, because of the forest, which she compares to the sea and calls “an ocean of leaves.” Then she compares the sighing of the leaves of the forest, also called whisperings, to the waves of the sea, thinking the sound they made was softer than the sea. Then we had the quote where Stannis’s allies in the Mountain Clans of the North cloak themselves in leaves and branches and sneak through the ocean-like forest, and here’s the pay-off paragraph:

Asha saw only trees and shadows, the moonlit hills and the snowy peaks beyond. Then she realized that trees were creeping closer. “Oho,” she laughed, “these mountain goats have cloaked themselves in pine boughs.” The woods were on the move, creeping toward the castle like a slow green tide. She thought back to a tale she had heard as a child, about the children of the forest and their battles with the First Men, when the greenseers turned the trees to warriors.

There’s your sea goats: the mountain goats have cloaked themselves in the green see so they might pass through undetected. They’re green see goats! I think they represent Others too, for the reasons I pointed out in Weirwood Compendium 6: before catching sight of the mountain goat warriors, she sees only trees, shadows, moonlight, and snow, which are all the things used to describe the Others, snowy white shadows who emerge from the trees, blades alive with moonlight. Then the mountain goats in service to a Night’s King figure, Stannis, emerge from the green see forest to attack Asha, their axes “shivering ” her shield. Then there’s that line about the children of the forest turning the trees to warriors which either applies to the creation of the Others or to the green zombies. Or maybe both, since weirwood magic seems to be involved in the creation of both.

So once again, we have the idea of cold monsters from the sea, this time associated with goats directly. The idea of the Others coming out of the sea or out of the frozen lake to menace and terrorize really does click in with Owen Oakenshield fighting off merlings from the Shield Islands, and since Oakenshield is a Night’s Watch castle… it really works. House Hewitt, the house that has held dominion of Oakenshield Island down south, has an interesting sigil: it’s an oak and iron shield on a field of blue and white wavy stripes. They are guarding against raiders from the sea – traditionally the Ironborn, whom we already know have a ton of Others symbolism, especially Euron and the Drowned Men. The blue and white coloring represents the ocean, but also matches the colors of the Others, who are the real monsters from the see.

‘Oak and iron’ rings a bell: it’s Dunk’s mantra of course. “Oak and iron, guard me well, or else I’m dead and doomed to hell.” Some have observed that oak and iron seems to have a symbolic role of guarding against evil in ASOIAF, building on this mantra and other appearances of iron and oak, and this takes on new meaning when you think about oak and iron shields defending against the Others… who come from a frozen hell, surely. Lucifer’s frozen lake in the ninth circle, to be exact!

Oak is the tree of the ‘summer king’ in the Oak and Holly King schema, and Garth is himself a solar deity and a summer king. He planted the living “Oakenseat” at Highgarden for the descendants of his firstborn son, Garth Gardener, to rule upon. Two other sons are John the Oak and Owen Oakenshield, so there’s a whole lotta oak goin on, is what I’m saying. It makes sense that oaken summer king people would defend against symbols of the Others.

As I mentioned, Oakenshield and the rest of the Shield Islands (Greenshield, Greyshield, and Southshield) are conquered by the Ironborn, who tend to symbolize the Others. Lord Hewitt and his family suffer badly at Euron’s hand, and Euron gives Oakenshield to Gnute the Barber. A newt is an aquatic animal, and Gnute spelled with a ‘g’ is almost like Goat the Barber. No? Okay, yeah I’m not sure about that last bit. But the Ironborn are like Others, and they rely on both goats and the sea for sustenance, according to TWOIAF:

The soil of the Iron Islands is thin and stony, more suitable for the grazing of goats than the raising of crops. The ironborn would surely suffer famine every winter but for the endless bounty of the sea and the fisherfolk who reap it.

They raise goats by the sea, just saying, and they invade like merlings. And they believe they descend from merlings for that matter, so there you have it.

The Dothraki are very much analogs to the Ironborn, and sometimes to the Others. They are pirates of the green Dothraki Sea that believe it’s literally wrong to plant crops in the ground (think, “we do not sew.”) Now check this line from TWOIAF about their sea goats:

The Dothraki remain nomads still, a savage and wild people who prefer tents to palaces. Seldom still, the khals drive their great herds of horses and goats endlessly across their “sea,” fighting one another when they meet and occasionally moving beyond the borders of their own lands for slaves and plunder… 

The idea of herding goats endlessly across the sea reminds of Pricus, who turned repeatedly back time to try to herd his sea goats and keep them from leaving the sea!

Alright, well, that will do it for the first half of our Zodiac constellations… now you can see why it took me so long to get this together. Twenty thousand words.. to do half of them. Each one is its own rabbit hole. I have lots of notes prepped for the other six, but it will take some time to follow all the trail sand write them. I will do my best not to leave it hanging so long, so hopefully you’ll get that one soon. Thanks everyone, especially to all our Mythical Astronomy Patrons, and especially especially our zodiac patrons… this one was for you.

B2WW #5: Religion in ASOIAF

Featuring Gretchen Ellis (Fandomentalist, History is Gay), Brynden B-Fish (Not-a-Cast, Wars and Politics oIaF), and Sanrixian (Sanrixian Art)! Hosted by Lucifer means Lightbringer (Mythical Astronomy oIaF).


Wars and Politics of Ice and Fire: https://warsandpoliticsoficeandfire.w…


History is Gay:

Sanrixian merch:

Sanrixian artwork:

Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire:

I mentioned a great church in San Francisco that does fantastic charity work, but said the wrong name.The church I was intending to refer to is St. Agnes:

B2WW #4: Sex Workers Speak

Featuring Jinx Lierre and Lola.

Jinx Lierre on Twitter: @JinxLierre


Select Resources on Sex Work, from Jinx:

TV Tropes: “Disposable Sex Worker”:
“Activists Campaign Against Philadelphia Judge Who Ruled Rape as Theft”:
Audio & transcript of speech from Philly Women’s March:

Amnesty International: “Sex Worker Rights are Human Rights”:
“How Dare They Do This Again: Stonewall Veteran Miss Major on the ‘Stonewall’ Movie”:
Honor Miss Major Griffin-Gracy by contributing to her retirement fund:

suggested online resources:
Tits and Sass: blog by (and for) sex workers:
“Sex Work Glossary part 1” and other comics by brothelgirl:

Ho Lover: a Zine on Dating & Friending Sex Workers (printable pdf):
International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers (December 17):
International Sex Workers’ Day (June 2) commemorating the 1975 occupation of the Église Saint-Nizier in Lyon, France:

St. James Infirmary: peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers and their families in San Francisco:
Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee: Indian collective of 65,000+ sex workers:
Free Speech Coalition: represents the adult industry in legal processes & public advocacy:
Women With a Vision: New Orleans-based harm reduction collective led by women of color:

Casa Ruby: bilingual multicultural organization in D.C. providing support for low-income trans, gender non-conforming, and LGBT community members:
Sylvia Rivera Law Project: supports political voices and visibility of low-income folks and people of color who are trans, intersex, or gender non-conforming:

The Whorecast: “Sharing stories, art, and voices of American sex workers”:
Winter is Coming On Your Face: Whorecast’s nerd/fandom spin-off:
“Sex Work is Work: the VICE Podcast 035”: interview with Melissa Gira Grant:

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson: documentary streaming on Netflix starting 10/6:
Major!: documentary exploring the life and campaigns of Miss Major Griffin-Gracy:

books (by people who have done sex work):
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock:

Coming Out Like a Porn Star: Essays on Pornography, Protection, and Privacy edited by Jiz Lee:
$pread: The Best of the Magazine that Illuminated the Sex Industry and Started a Media Revolution edited by Rachel Aimee, Eliyanna Kaiser, and Audacia Ray:
Prostitute Laundry by Charlotte Shane: