Symbolism of the Others: the Kingsguard

One of my favorite things about ASOIAF is the way that George R. R. Martin uses symbolism to give us clues about secret things. Take the Others for example, the mysterious white walkers of the woods. We only see them on-page twice in the entire series: we see six of them in the prologue of AGOT, and Sam kills one with a dragonglass knife in ASOS. That really is amazing when you consider the long, pale shadow they cast over the entire story.

This is good writing on Martin’s part – he likes his magic to remain mysterious, and things like Asshai-by-the-Shadow or the Others would loose some of their mystique if we saw too much of them. Luckily for us though, Martin is quite the clever writer and has thoughtfully hidden clues about the Others in the story. One of the ways he does this is through the use of a symbolic proxy, which in this case would be the Kingsguard.

By using the same descriptive language for both the Others and the White Knights of the Kingsguard, our author is creating an intentional symbolic parallel which encourages us to think about the Kingsguard as stand-ins for the Others. First we’ll take a take a look at the basic set of descriptions of the Others, and then compare those to the Kingsguard and you will quickly see what I mean.


The AGOT prologue is where we get most of our descriptions of the Others, and here is the very first one:

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.

The term “white shadow” is the most common description of the Others, and sometimes it’s “cold shadow” or just “shadow.” For example, Lord Commander Mormont speaks of “white shadows in the woods” to describe the rising threat of the Others, and when Gilly speaks with Jon about saving her baby from being given to the Others, they both use the “white shadow” moniker. In AFFC, Sam reports that  “Maester Aemon’s woken up and wants to hear about these dragons. He’s talking about bleeding stars and white shadows and dreams…”, and clearly Aemon is catching visions of the end times here, so these white shadows can only be the white walkers.

Sam thinks of the Others as “The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows”, and Tormund uses similar language to describe them, calling them “shadows with teeth,” and shadows that “never go away” but are always “clinging to your heels” – think about the way your shadow on the sidewalk appears to cling to your heels, but imagine that shadow is a white walker… and now you know how Tormund was feeling.

The basic meaning of the term ‘white shadow’ seems apparent: the Others are shades in some sense, some sort of icy ghost-like entity. It’s also a delightful sort of marriage of opposites: shadows are usually thought of as dark, but these shadows are white and pale.

The second glimpse of the Others in the prologue reinforces all of these ideas:

A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.

These white shadows from the woods have pale, milk white flesh and reflective ice armor, and they’re compared to old bones, which are also white. When we see Sam stab one ASOS, we catch sight of the actual bones of the Others, which are “like milkglass, pale and shiny,” and it also has “bone white hands” in that scene.  Again we see the same set of words – milk-pale, bone white, snow white. Only a moment earlier, when the Other dismounted its dead horse to face Sam, we got this line:

The Other slid gracefully from the saddle to stand upon the snow. Sword-slim it was, and milky white.

In a manner of speaking, the Others are like milky white ice people, and the sword symbolism: their bones look like milkglass, which reminds us of Dawn, a shiny white sword, and now the Others themselves are milky white and sword slim. The swords of the Others themselves are called “pale swords” as well, among other things, so we can say that the Others are milky white sword people who wield pale swords and have bones that look like pale swords. Combine all of that with the persistent ‘white shadow’ moniker and the idea of armor made of ice – and those cold blue star eyes, of course – and we have a good basic idea of the language used to bring the Others to life.


And now let’s have a look at those magnificent white knights in the Kingsguard, whose sterling honor is beyond reproach, as we all know. Here’s Tyrion observing Joffrey in ACOK:

Joffrey was galloping at his side, whey-faced, with Ser Mandon Moore a white shadow on his left.

Oh my! What’s a white shadow doing so close to the king? Someone better warn him! Now, recalling that George describes the Others as ‘beautiful’ in interviews, check out Tyrion looking at Joffrey in ACOK:

His two white shadows were always with him; Balon Swann and Mandon Moore, beautiful in their pale plate.

This is terrible – the white shadows have him surrounded! Beautiful they may be, but I wouldn’t trust them. Then at the Battle of the Blackwater, on the bridge of ships, a fallen Tyrion looks up at Ser Mandon:

Finally he rolled over the side and lay breathless and exhausted, flat on his back. Balls of green and orange flame crackled overhead, leaving streaks between the stars. He had a moment to think how pretty it was before Ser Mandon blocked out the view. The knight was a white steel shadow, his eyes shining darkly behind his helm.

I’d love to talk about the meteor-like fiery streaks between the stars, but that’s a different video I’m afraid. Our attention turns to yet another white shadow Kingsguard, and this one certainly has bad intent. This is becoming a theme.

In AFFC, a paranoid Cersei Lannister runs a small council meeting and perceives “shadows closing in around her” as she sees treason lurking everywhere. One of those treasonous shadows is the Kingsguard knight Ser Loras Tyrell, who is standing “behind his little sister, a pale shadow with a longsword on his hip.” Cersei may be paranoid and a bit mad, she’s probably right not to trust Loras, lurking like a pale shadow as he is.

Even when the Kingsguard is looking glorious in the daylight, they manage to look like they are impersonating the Others. This is Sansa’s view of the Hand’s Tourney at Kings Landing during AGOT.

They watched the heroes of a hundred songs ride forth, each more fabulous than the last. The seven knights of the Kingsguard took the field, all but Jaime Lannister in scaled armor the color of milk, their cloaks as white as fresh-fallen snow.

In the AGOT, the ice armor of the Other reflects their surroundings, and in places looks like “as white as new fallen snow,” while here the Kingsguard knights “take the field” with cloaks “as white as fresh-fallen snow.” And when we first meet Ser Barristan Selmy in AGOT, his white enameled scale armor is “as brilliant as a field of new-fallen snow.” Snowy cloaks and snowy armor, I’m telling you, something is up with those white shadow Kingsguard. Also, take notice of the fact that Kingsguard here at the tourney have “scaled armor the color of milk,” which reminds us of the flesh of the Others, which is “as pale as milk.”


Speaking of milky white things, another component of Other’s symbolism is of course the moon. The real Others only come out in the moonlight, and thus we see that the shifting patterns on their ice armor “ran like moonlight on water” and that their pale swords are “alive with moonlight.” We might even think of Night’s King’s corpse queen of legend, who had blue star eyes like the Others and “skin as white as the moon.” With all that in mind, let’s continue looking at descriptions of the Kingsguard. This is Sansa in ACOK:

Below, she could see a short knight in moon-pale armor and a heavy white cloak pacing the drawbridge. From his height, it could only be Ser Preston Greenfield.

Ser Greenfield is wearing the same cloak that was just described as “white as a new-fallen field of snow,” so I guess he’s a whitefield now? But check out that moon-pale armor! That’s the kind of stuff the Others would like to wear, I’m thinking. Now back in AGOT, Ned sees a Kingsguard on that same bridge and the description again fits the Others, but in a slightly different way:

Ser Boros Blount guarded the far end of the bridge, white steel armor ghostly in the moonlight.

Just a moment ago I said that the Others are like white swords themselves, being milky white sword-slim creatures with milkglass-like bones, and the same is true of the knights of the Kingsguard, who are called “the White Swords.” That’s cool, but what’s even cooler is that Boros Blount the white sword has ghostly moonlight playing about him in this scene. And haven’t we seen a pale sword with ghost light and moonlight playing about it?

The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

It’s a pale sword looking ghostly in the moonlight, just as Ser Boros is a white sword looking ghostly in the moonlight. Boros is lacking only the faint blue shimmer!

You may recall Jaime Lannister’s weirwood stump dream from ASOS, where he sees not one ghostly white swords, but five.

They were armored all in snow, it seemed to him, and ribbons of mist swirled back from their shoulders.

It’s the snow armor motif again! Now they really sound like white walkers – ghostly white knights armored in snow, with mist swirling from their shoulders? It’s even mentioned that they make no sound when they walk, just as “the Others make no sound.” I mean this is really on the nose. George clearly wants us to think about the Others when we see the Kingsguard.

It’s like one of those “there are two answers” things:

“I’m a milk-pale, ice-armored white shadow, looking ghostly and beautiful in the moonlight. Who am I? There are two answers.”

It could be Others or the Kingsguard!

And we’ve barely even begun to talk about Barristan Selmy!


Let us turn our attention to the last living legend of the Kingsguard, Ser Barristan Selmy. For whatever reason, Barristan has by far the most clues about the Kingsguard working as symbolic stand-ins for the Others. First, his white shadow street cred, and this is from ADWD:

Dany glimpsed Ser Barristan sliding closer, a white shadow at her side.

SO there’s Barry the white shadow, and then when Barristan meets with Skahaz the Shavepate in the dark corridors of the Great Pyramid of Meereen, the text describes them as “A pale shadow and a dark,” with Barristan being the pale shadow. You can take the Kingsguard out of Kings Landing, but he’s still a white shadow, it would seem. Ser Barristan is basically a model example of how to look like an Other, from AGOT through ADWD. Here’s the rest of that quote about Barry’s snow-white armor when Sansa meets him on the road to King’s Landing:

One knight wore an intricate suit of white enameled scales, brilliant as a field of new-fallen snow, with silver chasings and clasps that glittered in the sun. When he removed his helm, Sansa saw that he was an old man with hair as pale as his armor, yet he seemed strong and graceful for all that. From his shoulders hung the pure white cloak of the Kingsguard.

That is one snowy dude! His armor is like a field of new-fallen snow, and his hair matches. Sure sounds like a white walker to me! He’s even graceful, like the Other Sam faced who slid gracefully from its saddle. And did I mention Barry has blue eyes? It’s true. Sweet baby blues to go along with his snowy hair and armor.

Later he grows his beard out and takes the false name “Arstan Whitebeard,” and that thing is made of snow too:

His name was Arstan, but Strong Belwas had named him Whitebeard for his pale whiskers, and most everyone called him that now. He was taller than Ser Jorah, though not so muscular; his eyes were a pale blue, his long beard as white as snow and as fine as silk.

Let me put it this way – if Barristan wanted to dress up as a white walker for Halloween, he’d barely have to do anything at all. Give the man an ice spear and a wee bit of face paint and he’s all set.

When Dany meets him as Whitebeard in ACOK, he’s introduced as an Otherish type of guy:

The other man wore a traveler’s cloak of undyed wool, the hood thrown back. Long white hair fell to his shoulders, and a silky white beard covered the lower half of his face.

The Other man! Ah ha! That explains the snowy hair, beard, and armor. Barristan the ‘other man’ also has a cloak of undyed wool – meaning whitish or milky-white wool – and his white hair and beard are highlighted. The white wool cloak seems a clue that Arstan used to wear a white cloak of the Kingsguard, and indeed, Barry steps right into his classic role and introduces himself to Dany by saving her from the basilisk that the Sorrowful Man was trying kill her with. Later in ADWD, Barristan again saves her life, this time from the warlord Mero, and it’s pretty awesome. Mero has emerged from the crowd of freed slaves to menace Dany, with no protection in sight, untill…

Dany was dimly aware of Missandei shouting for help. A freedman edged forward, but only a step. One quick slash, and he was on his knees, blood running down his face. Mero wiped his sword on his breeches. “Who’s next?”

“I am.” Arstan Whitebeard leapt from his horse and stood over her, the salt wind riffling through his snowy hair, both hands on his tall hardwood staff.

This is Barristan’s big Hollywood moment here, complete with authoritative one-liner and hair blowing gloriously in the wind. It’s snowy white hair, which is cool, but what’s even better is that the way he ends the fight with Mero is a close match to the way the white walker finished off Waymar in the AGOT prologue. If you recall, when the Other shattered Waymar’s sword and wounded his eye, it said that “The Other’s parry was almost lazy,” and after that, the Others waiting in the woods advanced and all stabbed Waymar in “cold butchery.” Now here’s the fight with Barristan and Mero:

Whitebeard put Dany behind him. Mero slashed at his face. The old man jerked back, cat-quick. The staff thumped Mero’s ribs, sending him reeling. Arstan splashed sideways, parried a looping cut, danced away from a second, checked a third mid-swing. The moves were so fast she could hardly follow. Missandei was pulling Dany to her feet when she heard a crack. She thought Arstan’s staff had snapped until she saw the jagged bone jutting from Mero’s calf. As he fell, the Titan’s Bastard twisted and lunged, sending his point straight at the old man’s chest. Whitebeard swept the blade aside almost contemptuously and smashed the other end of his staff against the big man’s temple. Mero went sprawling, blood bubbling from his mouth as the waves washed over him. A moment later the freedmen washed over him too, knives and stones and angry fists rising and falling in a frenzy.

Barristan is “dancing” away from Mero’s strikes, as the Others danced with Ser Waymar. Barristan “thumps” Mero in the ribs before delivering the killing blow, just as the Other first stabs Waymar’s side before shattering his sword and killing him. Mero dies gushing blood from his ruined face, just as Waymar does. Most obviously, the almost contemptuous parry that finishes Mero is followed by the freedmen rushing in to stab him, just as the almost lazy parry of the Other that finished Waymar was followed by the other Others rushing in to stab Waymar. The “knives and stones and angry fists” of the mob are “rising in falling in a frenzy,” which compares very well to the rising and falling swords of Waymar’s cold butchery:

The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. 

Ser Barristan not only looks like a white walker, he’s even reenacting one of their famous battles in exquisite detail! And for this deed and other find service, Dany rewards with a suit of ice armor. First he’ll need to scrub off that pesky flesh though:

The water, when it came, was only lukewarm, but Selmy lingered in the bath until it had grown cold and scrubbed his skin till it was raw. Clean as he had ever been, he rose, dried himself, and clad himself in whites. Stockings, smallclothes, silken tunic, padded jerkin, all fresh-washed and bleached. Over that he donned the armor that the queen had given him as a token of her esteem. The mail was gilded, finely wrought, the links as supple as good leather, the plate enameled, hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow.

So, he scrubs off his skin in the cold bath, leaving him a cold skeleton, then suits up into his snow-white ice armor. Once again I say that this is pretty on the nose, since the Others quite literally wear armor made of ice that reflects “as white as new-fallen snow.” Barristan has snow white armor in book one, and here he is in book five with armor “hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow.”

Hopefully it should be clear by now that the Kingsguard are symbolic parallels to the Others. Barristan shows it the most clearly, but all of these white shadows are consistently wearing some sort of Others symbolism, as you can see. The big question is… what does it mean?

Well, we’ve already made a mockery of the idea of a thirteen minute time limit, so you will have to wait for part 2 for my answer, or you can check out the full theory in the Moons of Ice and Fire series, which you can find in the mythical Astronomy Podcast feed and on my YouTube page. In the meantime, I’d invite you to speculate on what you think this Others / Kingsguard parallel means, because that’s part of the fun! Then join me next time and see what you think of my analysis!

Dawn is the Original Ice: the Pale Sword

In part one, we discussed the basic theory that the sword now known as Dawn, the giant white ancestral sword of House Dayne, was once wielded by a Stark and was once called Ice. The theory goes that the sword now known as Dawn was once the “dragonsteel” sword of the last hero, who may have been a Stark. The ancient Stark tradition of calling their ancestral swords “Ice” would have been done in remembrance of the time when a Stark last hero carried a big, shiny white sword in battle against the Others and ended the Long Night, bringing the dawn once again. For one reason or another, they sent their white sword south to Starfall for safe-keeping after the War for the Dawn was over, but continued to call their swords Ice thereafter.

That’s the theory anyway, or at least the basics of it. To bolster the idea of a Stark wielding Dawn, we took a look at the strange tendency of Stark swords to be described as running or shining with morning light, specially when the Starks holding them are doing especially Starky things, like Robb posing as a King of Winter statue with his wolf at his side and his sword in his lap, or Jon when he is executing a rogue Night’s Watchmen like his father before him. Today we are going to add more evidence for the theory by taking a look at the symbolism of Dawn, House Dayne, House Stark, and the Others – specifically, the symbolism relating to those things that suggests that Dawn is the original Ice of House Stark.

So let’s get to it!


Everyone recalls the famous and consistent description of Dawn; it’s “pale as milkglass, alive with light.” Real milkglass is a type of opaque or semi-opaque white glass which is very shiny, and almost wet-looking. When Martin describes Dawn as alive with light, he may be saying that it glows, or he may just be referring to the way milkglass is shiny and reflective. I’d lean towards it having a faint magical glow, but either way you can pretty well picture it: it’s a giant, shiny white sword that either plays with reflected light or even glows a little bit.

Apart from the way it looks, the maesters say that it is identical to Valyrian steel – ultra light and unbreakable. It should be noted that the appearance of Dawn an Valyrian steel really are total opposites; where Dawn is “alive with light,” Valyrian steel is often described as “smoke dark” or “a grey so dark it’s almost black,” and when Tobho Mott attempts to color Ned’s Ice a nice Lannister Crimson, he reports back that “the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it.” The dark swords drink the sunlight, and the white sword is alive with light, in other words.

The dark swords – the Valyrian steel ones – are associated with fire and dragons, so it possible the white sword, Dawn, is associated with ice and the Others? Well, I wouldn’t base a theory on something so simple as that, though the symmetry is attractive. Here’s the thing though: the language used to describe Dawn is, for whatever reason, also used to describe the Others.

Here’s what I mean. Dawn is pale as milkglass, right? Well, so are the bones of the Others. This is from ASOS, right after Sam stabs the Other and it begins to melt:

In twenty heartbeats its flesh was gone, swirling away in a fine white mist. Beneath were bones like milkglass, pale and shiny, and they were melting too.

I want to be clear – neither the bones of the Others nor the white steel of Dawn is actually made of milkglass, but are simply pale and shiny and so are compared to milkglass. Real, conventional milkglass does make a couple of appearances in ASOIAF, but Dawn and the Others are both magical things, with magical compositions: the bones of the Others are surely made of ice, and Dawn is seemingly made of some kind of magical meteoric steel. That said, you do have to wonder at the fact that Martin uses the same language to describe Dawn and the bones of the Others, especially if you have a theory about Dawn being the original Ice of House Stark.

At the very least, we can say that in Martin’s mind, icy Other bones and the sword Dawn basically look the same, and can be described with the same words. Thus you can see the logic of a character in Martin’s world seeing a big, shiny white sword that resembles milkglass and thinking that it looks like a sword made of unbreakable ice.

So Dawn probably isn’t made from the shinbone of an Other, but it does look like one. Similarly, I’m pretty certain that Dawn is not the same thing as the sword of an Other, but they sure are described with a lot of the same language:

The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge- on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost- light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

Dawn is alive with light, while the Other’s sword is alive with moonlight and shimmers with ghost-light. No human metal went into the forging of the Other’s sword, and the same is true of Dawn if it was made from a meteor. Dawn is made from a pale stone of magic powers, and at Starfall, the main tower is called “The Palestone Sword” – meanwhile, the swords of the Others are “pale swords” and “pale blades” that “dance with pale blue light.”

So while they don’t seem to be the same thing exactly, both Dawn and the swords of the Others are “pale blades” that are “alive with light.” Dawn lacks the blue shimmer of the Others’ swords and seems to look more like opaque milkglass than translucent ice crystal, but Dawn does look like the bones of the Others, which are made of ice.

The comparison continues with the wielders of these two types of pale swords, both of whom mirror the swords they carry. Dawn is only wielded by a knight of Starfall who is declared “the Sword of the Morning,” a title which draws its name from the sword itself.  The word “dawn” is more or less synonymous with “morning” – so both the sword and the wielder are the “sword of the morning.”

The most famous Sword of the Morning, Arthur Dayne, took the idea of being a white sword person carrying a white sword one step further when he became a white knight of the Kingsguard, who are themselves called “the white swords” and who often wear white steel armor. He was a white sword person twice over, in other words, and in both Starfall and Kings Landing, he also lived in a tower named for a white sword – the Palestone Sword Tower at Starfall, and the White Sword Tower in Kings Landing that all Kingsguard live in.

The important message is that the wielder of Dawn the milky white sword is a white sword himself. The same is true of the Others, who wield pale swords but are described as if they were milky white swords themselves, and this is from a Sam chapter of ASOS:

The Other slid gracefully from the saddle to stand upon the snow. Sword-slim it was, and milky white.

The Other is like a milky white sword, and it’s “sliding” from its saddle like a sword sliding from its scabbard. Milky white swords have to make us think of Dawn, the white sword that looks like milkglass. And we know what’s inside of this milky-white, sword-slim Other – bones as pale as milkglass! And in the AGOT prologue, the flesh of the Other is called “as pale as milk,” which just needs a -glass tagged on the end of it to become “as pale as milkglass.”

It gets worse when you consider Arthur Dayne again, the white sword person who carries a white sword and always lives in a tower named for a white sword. Because the cloaks and armor of the Kingsguard are consistently described as being as white as snow or even as hard as ice, Arthur Dayne becoming a white sword of the Kingsguard is actually akin to him becoming a symbolic white ice sword! That’s exactly what I am proposing Dawn is, a white sword that used to be called Ice, whose origin may have some connection to ice magic that is tied to the Others and the Starks. The Sword of the Morning is like a white ice sword person wielding a white ice sword, the way I see it.

So as you can see, Dawn and the Others are dressed in the same symbolic language. Well, I found one other very conspicuous thing which uses all of the same language, pretty much word for word. It’s of ice and magic, but looks a lot like Dawn. Can you guess what it is?

It’s the Wall. That’s right, the giant, 700-foot tall Wall of ice is described in language which is interchangeable with the descriptions of the Others and of Dawn.


The Wall is not made of milkglass, and it is not a sword. However once again we look to the descriptive language applied to it to see what messages Martin is sending us.

The first quote of note is the one that describes it as a snake sword, and this is from a Jon chapter of AGOT:

He had once heard his uncle Benjen say that the Wall was a sword east of Castle Black, but a snake to the west. It was true.

Benjen is talking about how the Wall runs straight over level ground to the east, but has to bend and snake around the “knife edge” of many hills to the west. But in terms of symbolism, Benjen just equated the Wall with a snake sword, a phrase which makes us think of “dragon steel,” since dragons are like winged snakes, and swords are made of steel.

Unless they are made of ice, that is:

The sun had broken through the clouds. He turned his back on it and lifted his eyes to the Wall, blazing blue and crystalline in the sunlight. Even after all these weeks, the sight of it still gave him the shivers. Centuries of windblown dirt had pocked and scoured it, covering it like a film, and it often seemed a pale grey, the color of an overcast sky … but when the sun caught it fair on a bright day, it shone, alive with light, a colossal blue-white cliff that filled up half the sky.

Ok, so now the Wall is like a snake sword that shines “alive with light” in the sun. That makes us think of Dawn, obviously, but of course the Wall is made of ice, like the swords of the Others are. The Wall blazes blue and crystalline in this quote, and in another quote, the Wall is “shining like blue crystal,” both of which remind us of how the swords of the Others are described as “a shard of crystal” with a “faint blue shimmer.” So like I said, the Wall matches both Dawn and the swords of the Others. It’s like a giant icy crystal sword with a blue shimmer, but it’s also like a sun-blazing snake sword, alive with light.

Consider also that the Wall is manned by the Night’s Watch as a bulwark against the Others, because the Night’s Watch declare themselves “the sword in the darkness” and “the light that brings the dawn,” both of which sounds like the things that the Sword of the Morning might say.

In other words, the people who are uniquely dedicated to fighting the Others and ending any potential Long Nights are sitting on a huge symbol of an alive-with-light ice sword. This might be a clue that the real sword in the darkness that the Night’s Watch needs to wield is a magical ice sword that is alive with light. Jon is the leader of the Watch, and in many ways an echo of the last hero, and as a Stark, he may well be the man to wield the original magical ice sword, the one that is alive with light.

In fact, it’s almost like our author hangs a giant sign about Jon’s future in the sky when he’s north of the Wall and observing the dawn:

The eastern sky was pink near the horizon and pale grey higher up. The Sword of the Morning still hung in the south, the bright white star in its hilt blazing like a diamond in the dawn, but the blacks and greys of the darkling forest were turning once again to greens and golds, reds and russets. And above the soldier pines and oaks and ash and sentinels stood the Wall, the ice pale and glimmering beneath the dust and dirt that pocked its surface.

There’s the Sword of the Morning constellation hanging in the dawn sky; a celestial star sword to match the earthly star-sword known as Dawn. It’s hanging right above the pale and glimmering ice of the Wall, and they may well be intended as parallel symbols, given all the symbolism they share. The bright white star in the hilt of the Sword of the Morning constellation blazes like a diamond in the dawn, just to make sure we get think of Dawn and flaming star swords. We even have to wonder if Dawn might be able to blaze with white fire, like this blazing white star in its celestial counterpart, or like the alive-with-light ice sword that is the Wall will blazes in the sunlight. Now we are like Bran after he’s heard the story of Ser Arthur Dayne and Dawn, who “went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire.”

Starfire is where we end this, because it’s the one thing Dawn and the Others have in common that we haven’t discussed. That’s right, think about it  – Dawn was supposedly made from a pale meteorite stone, the heart of a fallen star. The Others and their wights, more than anything else, are known by their blue star eyes! Recall that the Others themselves are milky white and sword slim, and have bones like milkglass, so… we can call them icy milkglass sword people with cold stars in their eyes. Dawn is a sword as pale as milkglass, made from a falling star. To put it bluntly, that’s a lot of pale, icy star sword symbolism shared between Dawn and the Others…. for whatever reason. Perhaps the answer is that Dawn is in some sense an ice sword with a connection to the Others.

What about the fire part of “star-fire?” Not only do tales of Dawn fill Bran’s head with dreams of swords shining like starfire, there’s also a Samwell “Starfire” Dayne in the history books to make us wonder if Dawn can catch on fire. If Dawn is Lightbringer, then it should be able to catch on fire – but if it is the original Ice, and if it has an actual tie to ice magic and the Others, then it can’t burn with regular fire, right? Well, have another look at those blue star eyes of the Others – Gilly says they burn as bright and cold as blue stars, so maybe cold starfire is the ticket. Right in the AGOT prologue, we are first warned by Gared that “nothing burns like the cold” shortly before getting a glimpse of the eyes of the Others which were “a blue that burned like ice.” Perhaps that’s what we will see if Dawn catches fire – a pale or white flame or maybe even a silvery-blue flame, one that burns like the cold. After all, we just saw that the Wall parallels Dawn as an alive with light sword, and the Wall blazes blue and crystalline in the sunlight, as if it were lit up with cold blue sun fire.

You’ve heard of fighting fire with fire – well, perhaps you have to fight the burning cold with the burning cold. We know that dragonglass, called frozen fire, can kill the Others, and that kind of sends the same message – fire that is turned cold or frozen is a potent weapon. And after all, nothing burns like the cold. Nothing burns like Ice, on fire.

Dawn is the Original Ice: the Last Hero

Hey guys, LmL here with the thirteen minute version of why ancestral sword of House Dayne, known as Dawn, might actually be the original “Ice” of House Stark. It’s a possibility that occurred to me when I first began analyzing ASOIAF in earnest, and I soon discovered that it’s actually a very old idea which has been floating around on the margins of the fandom for along time. It’s a fun theory and worth exploring, so let’s do it.

Let’s start by explaining what I mean when I say “the original Ice of House Stark.” This is from the second chapter of Game of Thrones, when Catelyn comes upon Ned cleaning Ice in the godswood.

Catelyn had no love for swords, but she could not deny that Ice had its own beauty. It had been forged in Valyria, before the Doom had come to the old Freehold, when the ironsmiths had worked their metal with spells as well as hammers. Four hundred years old it was, and as sharp as the day it was forged. The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes, when the Starks were Kings in the North.

In other words, the Valyrian steel sword named Ice that Ned carries is about four hundred years old, but the tradition of the Starks naming a sword Ice is actually thousands of years old, dating to back to the “age of heroes.” The age of heroes is a term that the maesters and the people of Westeros use to refer to the centuries and millennia leading up to the Long Night, a time marked by stories of legendary heroes such as Lann the Clever, Garth the Green, Durran Godsgrief, and of course Bran the Builder. Thus we can infer that the tradition of Starks naming their sword Ice pretty much goes back to the origins of House Stark, or at the very least, to the time before the Long Night.

All of this begs the question: how did this tradition begin? Why do the Starks name their swords Ice? Did they once wield swords of actual ice, like the Others? What was the original Ice, and what happened to it?

Well, there is good reason to think it somehow ended up down at Starfall, renamed Dawn and placed there for safekeeping. Dawn is a huge white sword after all, what better name for it than Ice?

The theory goes like this: the last hero is said to have won the War for the Dawn by “slaying Others with a blade of dragonsteel” which they supposedly could not stand against. That sword may have been Dawn or Lightbringer or even both – either name would make perfect sense as the name for a sword that helped to end the Long Night, which amounts to bringing the dawn and bringing the light. Now, who was the last hero? Well, the most likely answer is that he was a Stark, right? There are other possibilities, sure, but I think most would agree that’s the likely answer.

In other words, there is a very plausible scenario where the Long Night was ended by a Stark last hero wielding Dawn. But it may not have been named Dawn yet – the oldest northern myth of the last hero names his sword as dragonsteel, though that seems more like a description than a name. It’s possible that the Stark last hero named this huge, magical white sword Ice, and assuming they had some reason to give it up to the Daynes after the War for the Dawn was over, it would make sense if the Starks began a tradition of naming their primary sword “Ice” in remembrance of the original Ice… which is now called Dawn.

Think of Aragorn of Lord of the Rings, who is destined to wield Narsil, the reforged sword of his ancestors which had been out of their possession ever since the last big battle with the great evil thousands of years in the past. Similarly, it may be that Dawn was originally a Stark sword and is destined to be once again wielded by a Stark for the last battle. It makes a certain amount of sense.

So, let’s back up and take this one step at a time.

The legend of the last hero slaying the Others with a blade of “dragonsteel” comes from the oldest records Sam can find at Castle Black. Jon and Sam wonder if the term dragonsteel might mean Valyrian steel, but all the information we have indicates that Valyria only arose after the Long Night, and thus did not exist to provide the last hero with any of their prized steel. Dawn, however, is said  be very similar to Valyrian steel, and it is also said to be old enough to have been the last hero’s sword. This is from TWOIAF:

The Daynes of Starfall are one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms, though their fame largely rests on their ancestral sword, called Dawn, and the men who wielded it. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. Those who have had the honor of examining it say it looks like no Valyrian steel they know, being pale as milkglass but in all other respects it seems to share the properties of Valyrian blades, being incredibly strong and sharp.

Dawn is like white Valyrian steel, as best as the maesters can tell, so it would potentially make sense as a sword that could stand against the Others in the way that dragonglass can and Valyrian steel probably can (show canon says yes, book canon says probably yes, but not proven yet). Dawn may well have been around at the time of the Long Night, too – here it says that the Daynes are an ancient First Men house, one of the oldest in the Seven Kingdoms, and in AFFC Gerold Darkstar Dayne says that “my House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days.”

Not only do the Daynes supposedly go back to the dawn of days – the sword does too, according to legend. This is again from TWOIAF:

At the mouth of the Torrentine, House Dayne raised its castle on an island where that roaring, tumultuous river broadens to meet the sea. Legend says the first Dayne was led to the site when he followed the track of a falling star and there found a stone of magical powers. His descendants ruled over the western mountains for centuries thereafter as Kings of the Torrentine and Lords of Starfall.

Now we have no way of knowing how much of this tale is true of course, but the point is that the legend of House Dayne ties the creation of this magic sword to the origins of their house and places these events in the most remote ancient history.

It even makes sense to describe Dawn as “dragonsteel,” because it is believed to have been forged from a meteorite. Throughout real world history, meteors and comets, burning brightly in the sky with their long tails, have been remembered in myth as dragons or flying, fire-breathing serpents, and George R. R. Martin makes use of this comets / dragons analogy many times in ASOIAF. Therefore, the idea of describing a sword made from a meteor as ‘dragonsteel’ actually makes a ton of sense – if meteors can be dragons, then meteorite steel would be dragon-steel.

So, Dawn is probably old enough to be the sword of the last hero, and it seems to be the kind of unbreakable magic sword that might be able to slay the Others. The term “dragonsteel” could describe Dawn, and the names “Dawn” and “Sword of the Morning” sound like names that might have origins in the ending of the Long Night. And as we said a moment ago, if you ran a fandom poll asking people what bloodline the last hero was a member of, House Stark would surely win in a landslide. Therefore the idea of a Stark last hero wielding Dawn is not far-fetched in the slightest – I’m simply alleging that it wasn’t called Dawn yet, and that the ancient Stark tradition of naming their swords Ice dates back to this one crucial time when a Stark hero wielded a giant shiny white sword that looked as though it is made of unbreakable ice.

Unfortunately, Dawn, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, has always been kept at Starfall, which is about as far away from Winterfell as you can possible get inside of Westeros, and there are no overt clues that Dawn originally belonged to the Starks. Still, a lot of people think Dawn might have been the last hero’s sword, and if so, it would have had to go north and come back south again somehow. I think it’s safe to assume that “The Sword of Destiny,” whatever and wherever it was, managed to find a way to show up at the last battle.

Here, however, the trail sort of runs cold (no pun intended), at least as far as direct evidence and logic goes. It’s a bunch of maybes and probablys and this might make sense if. It’s not bad as theories go, but I crave more evidence – and it’s there to be found, though to find it we have to analyze the symbolism surrounding Dawn and House Dayne, House Stark, and the Others, and we have to look for potential parallels to the War for the Dawn in other historical events. That’s exactly the sort of analysis we do around here, so this is actually where this theory begins, not where it ends.

“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.

“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” 

No, now it begins.


The first thing I want to tell you is that I don’t know if we will see anyone wielding Dawn against the Others at the conclusion of the story. What I do know is that if someone is going to swing that thing at the Others, Jon Snow is by far the most likely candidate. The Daynes we know of won’t work – Darkstar is too evil and vein, and young Edric, though valiant, is only 13 and not large enough or strong enough to wield Dawn. Both of them are also fairly minor characters, and would not make sense as a focal point of the last battle. I do think one or both of these characters will be involved in bringing Dawn out of Starfall – Darkstar seems primed to steal it, for one thing – but neither are fit to wield it in a meaningful way against the Others.

Jon, however, would be a great candidate to wield Dawn, except that he’s not a Dayne. He does have some Dayne blood, actually – assuming he is the child of Rhaegar and Lyanna, his Targaryen half has a not-insignificant amount of Dayne blood going back a few generations to Maekar Targaryen and Dyanna Dayne. I’d be surprised if this lineage is used to name Jon the Sword of the Morning in the usual fashion though, as he’s not in any sense “a knight of House Dayne.”

But here’s the thing – Jon doesn’t need to be a Dayne to wield Dawn, not if Dawn is the original Ice of House Stark. The real “sword of the morning” is the person who actually brings the dawn, right? The person who ends the Long Night? And if there is one person who will play the warrior role against the Others, it’s most certainly Jon. If Dawn is the sword that needs to be wielded against the Others… it seems like Jon will wield it, one way or the other.

As it happens, there is specific foreshadowing of the idea of a Stark wielding Dawn through some thinly-disguised wordplay. Four times in the published novels, Martin describes a sword as running, glimmering, or shimmering with “morning light” – i.e. dawn light – and all four times, it is tied to the Starks. Three of the four occurrences have a Stark holding the sword, and the one time it isn’t a Stark swordsman, it’s a Stark sword.

The settings we get these morning light swords in are amazing too. Robb Stark is the first one to wield morning light, and it occurs during the only time we see Robb enthroned as the King in the North. He’s actually doing a very detailed impression of the stone statues of the Kings of Winter from the Winterfell crypts – he has his direwolf at his side, and his sword across his lap, “a threat plain for all to see.” Catelyn observes her boy transforming into the icy King in the North and it says

Her son’s voice was not as icy as his father’s would have been, but he did not sound a boy of fifteen either. War had made a man of him before his time. Morning light glimmered faintly against the edge of the steel across his knees.

As you can see, Robb is specifically enthroned in the archetypal manner of the Stark Kings of old, and it is then that the author paints the edge of his sword with morning light. He’s actually demanding the return of his father’s sword, Ice, which has unfortunately been melted down and reforged as two swords, Oathkeeper and Widows Wail. Funny thing about Widow’s Wail though..

The ballroom fell silent as Joffrey unsheathed the blade and thrust the sword above his head. Red and black ripples in the steel shimmered in the morning light.

Joffrey is unfit to wield Stark steel, and indeed, he dies later that day at his own wedding feast. But those Stark swords, they sure do seem to glimmer and shimmer with morning light.

The other two times it happens, the swordsman is none other than our boy Jon Snow. It happens twice in one chapter actually, and it’s the chapter from ADWD where Jon imitates his father Ned as the lord who passes the sentence and swings the sword. The first time, he’s even thinking about the way Ned taught his sons to care for their swords:

Half the morning passed before Lord Janos reported as commanded. Jon was cleaning Longclaw. Some men would have given that task to a steward or a squire, but Lord Eddard had taught his sons to care for their own weapons. When Kegs and Dolorous Edd arrived with Slynt, Jon thanked them and bid Lord Janos sit.

That he did, albeit with poor grace, crossing his arms, scowling, and ignoring the naked steel in his lord commander’s hands. Jon slid the oilcloth down his bastard sword, watching the play of morning light across the ripples, thinking how easily the blade would slide through skin and fat and sinew to part Slynt’s ugly head from his body. 

Saying that the morning light is playing across the ripples is almost as good as saying it’s alive with light, and it’s morning light. Jon goes on to think about how this man killed his father, and at the end of the chapter, he does of course end up executing Janos in the famous “Ed, fetch me a block” scene. And once again, his sword runs with morning light:

The pale morning sunlight ran up and down his blade as Jon clasped the hilt of the bastard sword with both hands and raised it high.

The morning light is even pale, like Dawn is as pale as milkglass and alive with light. Jon is executing a renegade Night’s Watchmen, just as Ned did to open the story, and thinking about doing things the way Ned did. And when he does, his sword runs with morning light, the light of dawn.

Why? Because a Stark named Jon Snow may be destined to wield Dawn as the sword in the darkness, bringing the light of morning to the land once again with the ancient Ice sword of his ancestors.

If you liked this one, be sure to watch part 2, where we examine the symbolic evidence that Dawn was once called Ice.

 

Great Empire of the Dawn: Westeros

In Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai – which you all seem to have liked, thanks so much for all the great comments – we made the case that the Great Empire of the Dawn is really just another name for the ancient, pre-Valyrian dragonlord civilization that many of us, including Septon Barth himself, have long suspected once existed in Asshai. Seemingly with the use of their dragons, the Great Empire of the Dawn ruled pretty much all of Far Eastern Essos, an empire as big as Valyria – but they apparently weren’t content to stop there. A Song of Ice and Fire is a story about Westeros, and for the millennia-old events in Asshai and Eastern Essos to be more than just fun trivia, they need to have a connection to ancient Westeros. I’m here today to show you that not only did the ancient dragonlords of the Great Empire of the Dawn make contact with Westeros, they had a hand in shaping some of the most important events related to Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, the last hero, and the Long Night.


Hello there friends, it’s LmL and I am back with part 2 of my revamped Great Empire of the Dawn theory, which me and my friend Durran Durrandon came up with 5 years ago before anyone else blah blah blah blah. If you like these Mythical Astronomy video essays, please like and share them, subscribe to the channel, and if you have the means, consider tossing a coin to you dragon via our patreon campaign, which you can find at lucifermeanslightbringer.com. Thanks to all our patrons, and be sure to check out our Patreon Appreciation music video that I made on our YouTube channel if you haven’t already.


Let’s start with the hard evidence, as we did last time. One of the best, most-concrete clues about the great Empire of the Dawn being a dragonlord civilization was the fused stone that was used to build the enormous walls of the Five Forts. The Five Forts are pretty firmly dated to “before the Long Night,” while Valyria is firmly dated to “after the Long Night,” and the Five Forts are in the Far East, where Valyria was never known to come, so they are pretty much smoking-gun evidence that history has lost track of an empire of dragonlords that existed before the Long Night. Rather, history didn’t lose track of them – they are remembered as the Great Empire of the Dawn in Yi Tish history – but the historians lost track of the fact that they were dragonlords. They also failed to link them to the long-vanished people who built Asshai – the ones Septon Barth talks about reading of in an ancient Asshai text, which states that..

…a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals.

It’s hard to say if Septon Barth knew about the existence of the Five Forts when he wrote this, but they sure do bolster his case for an Asshai race of dragonlords who came before Valyria. Nearly a thousand vertical feet of fused stone fortress wall, rendered in the form of five separate monstrous “forts,” the Five Forts have stood “undisturbed by time” for thousands of years, as only fused stone can. They can only have been built by dragonlords with a purpose, and we think we’ve found those dragonlords.

Even more exciting is the fact that we find something similar in Westeros – a fused stone fortress which can be reliably dated to “before the Long Night.” Though not nearly as large and imposing as the Five Forts, it is, like the Forts, hard evidence which sends a clear message that “dragonlords were here.” In Westeros. In the Dawn Age. Making fortresses.

So where is this mysterious fused stone fortress of Westeros? Well, it’s in Oldtown, right under the High Tower:

The stony island where the Hightower stands is known as Battle Isle even in our oldest records, but why? What battle was fought there? When? Between which lords, which kings, which races? Even the singers are largely silent on these matters.

Even more enigmatic to scholars and historians is the great square fortress of black stone that dominates that isle. For most of recorded history, this monumental edifice has served as the foundation and lowest level of the Hightower, yet we know for a certainty that it predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years.

Alright, so the famous High Tower of Oldtown stands on a little island in the Whispering Sound, which is where the Honeywine River meets the sea, and there’s a fortress at the base of the tower – literally underneath of it – which is made of black stone and predates even the oldest version of the High Tower (of which there were said to have been five). What kind of black stone was it, you ask? Here’s the next paragraph from TWOIAF:

Who built it? When? Why? Most maesters accept the common wisdom that declares it to be of Valyrian construction, for its massive walls and labyrinthine interiors are all of solid rock, with no hint of joins or mortar, no chisel marks of any kind, a type of construction that is seen elsewhere, most notably in the dragonroads of the Freehold of Valyria, and the Black Walls that protect the heart of Old Volantis. The dragonlords of Valryia, as is well-known, possessed the art of turning stone to liquid with dragonflame, shaping it as they would, then fusing it harder than iron, steel, or granite.

Okay, so it’s the fused stone that is the hallmark of the dragonlords, which is why the maesters think it could be Valyrian. There are timeline issues with that however – more on this in a moment – and the style doesn’t seem to match either, which is why the maesters go on to consider the possibility that the fortress is not Valyrian:

More troubling, and more worthy of consideration, are the arguments put forth by those who claim that the first fortress is not Valyrian at all.

The fused black stone of which it is made suggests Valyria, but the plain, unadorned style of architecture does not, for the dragonlords loved little more than twisting stone into strange, fanciful, and ornate shapes. Within, the narrow, twisting, windowless passages strike many as being tunnels rather than halls; it is very easy to get lost amongst their turnings. Mayhaps this is no more than a defensive measure designed to confound attackers, but it too is singularly un-Valyrian. 

The plain, unadorned style of fused stone construction might be a match for the Five Forts, which are described as having straight slabs of fused stone and are not described as having ornamentation (though we can certainly all forgive a bit of artist interpretation with all the amazing Five Forts artwork from Martin H. Matthes that we’ve been featuring in these episodes). That’s by no means a conclusive match, but as I mentioned, the timeline suggests this Battle Isle fortress is too old to be Valyrian, so it’s not surprising the style doesn’t match theirs.

As to those tunnels, well, they can’t have been carved by men, because, well, you can’t carve fused stone – that’s kind of the whole point of it being magically indestructible. Tunnels carved by men is also the boring explanation here; it’s far more likely those tunnels were made by the same dragons! (which is the Grandpa Simpson “now we’re talking!” explanation). We know that dragons can bore into rock to some extent like their fire wyrm brethren, as we see Viserion carve out a hollow in the brick of the Meereenese pyramid where he is confined: “Viserion had dug himself a hole in them with flame and claw, a hole big enough to sleep in.” If a young dragon like Viserion can do that, then it’s possible that the more extensive tunnels in the Battle Isle fortress could have been made by dragons – and after all, the fortress itself can only have been made by dragons, so it’s probable that those same dragons created the tunnels.

Incredibly, but perhaps not unexpectedly, there are actually rumors that dragons did once roost on this fused stone fortress:

How old is Oldtown, truly? Many a maester has pondered that question, but we simply do not know. The origins of the city are lost in the mists of time and clouded by legend. Some ignorant septons claim that the Seven themselves laid out its boundaries, other men that dragons once roosted on the Battle Isle until the first Hightower put an end to them.

This is a case of the rumors being pretty much dead accurate, I believe. It’s made of fused stone, which requires dragons and dragonlords, and, accordingly, there is a hazy memory of dragons literally chilling on the walls of the fortress. This brings us to our next question: did the ancestors of the Hightowers slay those dragons, as this passage suggests… or did they perhaps ride them and use them to make their fortress?


The maesters tell us that “men have lived at the mouth of the Honeywine since the Dawn Age” and suggest that “the first settlement at the top of Whispering Sound may have began as a trading post” for seafaring traders. Seafaring traders – you mean people who came to Westeros by ship? …in the Dawn Age? …and they may be the ones who built a fused stone fortress, which requires dragonfire and sorcery? Sounds like the Great Empire of the Dawn to me!

And the Hightowers might descend from these people?

The reasons for the abandonment of the fortress and the fate of its builders, whoever they might have been, are likewise lost to us, but at some point we know that Battle Isle and its great stronghold came into the possession of the ancestors of House Hightower. Were they First Men, as most scholars believe today? Or did they mayhaps descend from the seafarers and traders who had settled at the top of Whispering Sound in earlier epochs, the men who came before the First Men? We cannot know.

Men who came before the First Men? That is way before the Long Night, and way, way before the 14 Flames of Valyria were even a glimmer in a shepherd’s fire. These folks came by sea, and built with fused stone – if we were starting our exploration with this mystery, we would have the same question arise that we did with the Five Forts; there seems to be a missing, pre-Long Night dragonlord culture that we need to find. We already found it though, in the far east, and the fact that the maesters are so convinced that “seafaring traders” who came “before the First Men” were a part of the origins of Oldtown gives us the clue we need to understand that the dragonlords who built here came from far away, by sea.

The bit about “maybe the Hightowers descend from these seafaring folk, who knows” indicates they may be descended from dragonlords, as outrageous as that may seem. Here is the next part of that passage:

When first glimpsed in the pages of history, the Hightowers are already kings, ruling Oldtown from Battle Isle. The first “high tower,” the chroniclers tell us, was made of wood and rose some fifty feet above the ancient fortress that was its foundation. Neither it, nor the taller timber towers that followed in the centuries to come, were meant to be a dwelling; they were purely beacon towers, built to light a path for trading ships up the fog-shrouded waters of Whispering Sound. The early Hightowers lived amidst the gloomy halls, vaults, and chambers of the strange stone below. It was only with the building of the fifth tower, the first to be made entirely of stone, that the Hightower became a seat worthy of a great house. That tower, we are told, rose two hundred feet above the harbor. Some say it was designed by Brandon the Builder, whilst others name his son, another Brandon; the king who demanded it, and paid for it, is remembered as Uthor of the High Tower.

Once again I will point out the timeline – if the fifth iteration of the tower is still dated to the time of Brandon the Builder and Uthor Hightower – two figures from the Age of Heroes / Dawn Age – then we are indeed talking ‘before the Long Night’ and ‘before Valyria.’

Now it’s kind of strange that the first Hightowers would live on Battle Isle in the gloomy halls and chambers of the fused stone fortress… although it would certainly make more sense if they were related to the dragonlords who built it. That would also explain why they would be accepted as kings by the first First Men, and why they would have started off wealthy.

There’s also a slick naming clue being fed to us here with Uthor Hightower’s name. Uther Pendragon was the father of King Arthur, and the word “Pendragon” means “head dragon.” The word dragon also implies “warrior” here, so Uther was being called a figurative dragon and a warrior chief. The coolest part is that, according to Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, Uther acquired the “Pendragon” epithet when he witnessed a portentous dragon-shaped comet, which inspired him to use dragons on his standards. Yikes! And this is the name George chose for the first named Hightower? A name associated with comets, dragons, kings, and even shining swords like Arthur’s Excalibur? These clues make a ton of sense if the Hightowers are descended from the the dragonlords of the Great Empire.

It’s really not as crazy as it sounds. The Hightowers have a long tradition of magic and interest in the occult, as Quinn and I discussed at length in our Winds of Winter predictions video about The Hightower, and that tower itself just reeks of Sauroman / Orthanc / Palantir symbolism. There are even signs that the Church of Starry Wisdom – which was founded by the Bloodstone Emperor and is known to operate in port cities around the world – may have some strange dockside temples in Oldtown. Those are those ones visited by Marwyn the Mage, an Archmaester of the Citadel who has been to Asshai and likes to play with glass candles. I plan on doing a full video about the on the potential rising influence of Starry Wisdom Cult in A Song of Ice and Fire, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Another reason it’s not crazy to think the Hightowers descend from Great Empire of the Dawn people are their looks. We don’t get a glimpse of many Hightowers in the books to judge their appearance, but we do get a couple clues that they may have dragonlord features. Alicent Hightower married King Viserys Targaryen and gave him four children, all of whom had the trademark Valyrian look, and we have seen many times that darker haired genetics tend to overrun the silver-and-gold haired blood-of-the-dragon genetics. That means Alicent was at least fair haired and blue eyed, else her children would have some darker looks and eyes other than purple or blue. As a young girl, Alicent was the nursemaid for the old King Jaehaerys, and in Fire and Blood we read that “it is said that, at times, the king thought her to be one of his own daughters.” That would only happen if she looked like one of his daughters – meaning, if she looked Valyrian or at least close to it.

Alerie Hightower, meanwhile, who is between age 36 and 43 at the time of the main story, is twice described as having silver hair – in one place she’s called “silver-haired and handsome” and another time it says her “long silvery braid was bound with jeweled rings.” Now some people do get silver hair early in life, but the description of long silver hair implies it’s fully silver and has been that that way for at least the couple years it takes to grow hair that long. It might not be the silver of age, but of genetics.

Finally, we have Jorah comparing Lynesse Hightower, Alerie’s sister, to Daenerys, saying “Why, she looked a bit like you, Daenerys,” when asked. That’s interesting, right? Jorah’s Aunt, Lady Maege Mormont, says that “She had hair like spun gold, that Lynesse. Skin like cream.” Valyrians are known for hair of silver and gold and platinum white, so this is a potential match – and she looks a bit like Daenerys. The explanation may be that House Hightower has a bit of latent dragonlord blood in their veins. Heck, Lynesse’s father, Lord Leyton Hightower, may be in on the secret, having given two of his children dragon names, Baelor and Alysanne. I’ll also mention that Alicent Hightower wasn’t the only Hightower to marry a Targaryen; Garmund Hightower married Rhaena Targaryen (Rhaena of Pentos, rider of Morning, the last Targaryen dragon before Dany hatched her three).

While none of these three examples are conclusive, I do expect to see more from House Hightower in The Winds of Winter, what with Sam and Euron both at Oldtown, so perhaps we’ll get an answer on this. Personally, I find the Uthor Hightower / Uther Pendragon clue pretty convincing, but here’s the thing: whether or not the Hightowers are descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn is an interesting question, but it’s secondary to my main point in this section, which is that the presence of the fused stone fortress reliably dated to before the Long Night indicates that a pre-Valyrian dragonlord culture came to ancient Westeros and founded the first settlements at Oldtown, Westeros’s oldest city. That can only have been the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Why did they come? What did they do? Is this where the name of Battle Isle comes from, which is as old as anyone can remember? Well, to the last question, yes, I do believe the Battle Isle name must stem from some ancient conflict where native Westerosi resisted the dragonlords – after all, the dragonlords didn’t conquer Westeros at this time, and whatever mark they left has been obscured by history. As to why they came and what they did, I think we can find some big clues with the Westerosi House that is most obviously descended from the Great Empire of the Dawn… say it with me now… “House Dayne.”


The Daynes of Starfall are one of the most ancient houses in the Seven Kingdoms, though their fame largely rests on their ancestral sword, called Dawn, and the men who wielded it. Its origins are lost to legend, but it seems likely that the Daynes have carried it for thousands of years. Those who have had the honor of examining it say it looks like no Valyrian steel they know, being pale as milkglass but in all other respects it seems to share the properties of Valyrian blades, being incredibly strong and sharp.

Yes, where did they get that sword? It’s almost too easy to say “they got the sword Dawn from the Great Empire of the Dawn,” but yeah, it does make a certain amount of sense. Dawn is basically white Valyrian steel, and something that advanced has absolutely no business being in ancient Westeros thousands of years ago, which was firmly stuck in the Bronze Age at that time. The Daynes are counted First Men, and in AFFC Gerold Darkstar Dayne says that “My House goes back ten thousand years, unto the dawn of days,” so we are indeed talking remote Westerosi history, almost certainly well before the Long Night.

Not only was the raw steel-working needed to make Dawn beyond the skill of the First Men at that time, Dawn is clearly an unbreakable magic sword along the lines of Valyrian steel which presumably required powerful sorcery to fashion. If anyone around in the time before the Long Night had the know-how and magical ability to make some kind of forerunner to Valyrian steel from a magical meteorite, wouldn’t it be the Great Empire of the Dawn? We don’t know if Dawn was made with dragonfire, but Valyrian steel is, so if Dawn was too then it would have been something only the dragonlords of the Great Empire could have made.

Consider again those kingly ghosts with gemstone eyes that Daenerys sees in her “wake the dragon” dream: they were holding swords of pale fire. We don’t know if the sword Dawn can catch on fire, but it is described as pale as milkglass and as being made from a pale stone, so pale fire is what you’d expect if it were to blaze up. Dawn does glow a bit, and the fire seems to be implied; when Ned tells Bran the story of Arthur Dayne and Dawn, afterword it says that Bran “went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire.”

None of this stuff about Dawn is conclusive, but a Great Empire of the Dawn origin for it does fit everything we known about Dawn pretty well. Obviously the symbolism of Dawn suggests Lightbringer; “son of the morning” and “light-bringer” are both translations of the Latin word for Venus, which is Lucifer. Although Venus is a planet, it appears to us on earth as the largest star in the sky, and it’s called the Morningstar because it rises just before the dawn during half of its celestial cycle. In other words, the ASOIAF terms “Lightbringer,” “Sword of the Morning,” and “Dawn” all derive from the same Venus-based mythology. I don’t know if Dawn is “the” Lightbringer, or if perhaps any flaming sword is considered a Lightbringer, but there does seem to be a strong link between the sword Dawn, which resides at Starfall in Westeros, and Lightbringer, a myth from Asshai and the far east.

Gee, how could a magic sword myth from the far east be connected to a magic sword in Westeros, I wonder… they’re so far away, what could possibly link them togeth– okay I’ll stop. You get the picture. The presence of the Great Empire of the Dawn at nearby Oldtown (nearby relatively speaking) makes it very plausible that either the sword Dawn itself or the knowledge and technology needed to make it came to Westeros via the Great Empire, and the mythology and symbolism of Dawn and Lightbringer suggest a link. People have always wondered if Dawn might not be Lightbringer, but there’s always been that huge gap between Asshai, where the Azor Ahai / Lightbringer myth comes from, and Starfall, where House Dayne lives. The Great Empire of the Dawn theory, as promised, solves that puzzle.

Even the symbolism of House Hightower fits in this family: their sigil is a white lighthouse crowned with red flame, and their words are “we light the way.” I mean, compare: a white glowing sword or flaming red sword which brings the dawn and the morning vs a white lighthouse tower which lights the way with a crown of flame (and a book of spells, ha ha). The flaming lighthouse tower is even set on a field of grey smoke… just like the meteor-induced smoke, ash, and debris that caused the darkness of the Long Night. Whatever the Dayne house words turn out to be, they will no doubt be complementary to “we light the way” and the link between Dayne and Hightower will be even more obvious.

Like the first Hightowers living and building on Battle Isle, an island at the mouth of a river (the Honeywine), so too did the first Daynes, who built Starfall on an island at the mouth of the Torrentine River. The Hightowers are thought to descend from ancient mariners who came to Westeros in ancient day, and the first Daynes do indeed sound like they too migrated to Starfall:

At the mouth of the Torrentine, House Dayne raised its castle on an island where that roaring, tumultuous river broadens to meet the sea. Legend says the first Dayne was led to the site when he followed the track of a falling star and there found a stone of magical powers. His descendants ruled over the western mountains for centuries thereafter as Kings of the Torrentine and Lords of Starfall.

It doesn’t say where the Daynes came from, but they seem to have come here by following signs in the heavens, driven by the need to make a magical meteor sword. Lightbringer is associated with comets, and the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped that black meteorite, so we are seeing a familiar set of idea here.

We’re also seeing some familiar dragonlord looks amongst the members of House Dayne, even more so than House Hightower…


Everyone remembers the tall and fair Ashara Dayne’s famous “haunting violet eyes,” which we hear of early on in AGOT, but even more telling are Barristan’s words in ADWD:

Even after all these years, Ser Barristan could still recall Ashara’s smile, the sound of her laughter. He had only to close his eyes to see her, with her long dark hair tumbling about her shoulders and those haunting purple eyes. Daenerys has the same eyes. Sometimes when the queen looked at him, he felt as if he were looking at Ashara’s daughter…

That’s quite the resemblance, no? Ashara has dark hair instead of light, but her eyes and features are enough that Daenerys reminds Barristan of Ashara. It’s very like Dany reminding Jorah of Lynesse… the reason Lynesse Hightower and Ashara Dayne remind people of Dany may be that they have an ancient common ancestor, and because in ASOIAF these kinds of magical bloodline traits persist far longer than they should.

And it’s not just Ashara by any means. Gerold Darkstar Dayne is even easier to spot:

Arianne watched him warily. He is highborn enough to make a worthy consort, she thought. Father would question my good sense, but our children would be as beautiful as dragonlords. If there was a handsomer man in Dorne, she did not know him. Ser Gerold Dayne had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. He kept his face clean- shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry.

Purple eyes and silver hair would be obvious enough, but then Arianne flat out compares his look to that of dragonlords. Okay, message received. Something is up here with House Dayne.

In case you’re wondering if some Targaryen may have married into House Dayne in the past, there is no record of such anywhere, I checked. Dyanna Dayne married Maeker Targaryen, but no Targaryen has married into House Dayne that we have been told of. George has also said the Daynes are not related to the Targaryens, and the Daynes are not named among the Westerosi houses descended from Valyria (which are Targaryen, Velaryon, and Celtigar). I believe the answer is instead that House Dayne shares a common ancestor with Valyria, which is of course the Great Empire of the Dayne–I mean Dawn.

So far we are two for two with Daynes whose physical descriptions have been given having some sort of dragonlord look with Ashara and Darkstar Dayne (we unfortunately never get a description of Arthur Dayne). There’s one more Dayne that gets a physical description, and a closer look at him brings us to three for three:

She had always heard that Dornishmen were small and swarthy, with black hair and small black eyes, but Ned had big blue eyes, so dark that they looked almost purple. And his hair was a pale blond, more ash than honey.

Alright, so this one isn’t as obvious, but remember that Targaryens have eyes that range from purple to blue, in both light and dark shades, and their silver and gold hair can run to blonde and ash, which is like a pale, metallic straw color. Valar Targaryen, for example, had “cool blue eyes,” and fAegon / Young Griff (who is likely a Blackfyre) has eyes which are dark blue in daylight, purple by light of dusk, and black in lamplight (and lashes as long as any woman, according to Tyrion, for what it’s worth). Egg of Dunk and Egg has eyes very similar to Young Griff; they’re described as large eyes which are dark blue, almost purple in one passage, and in another Dunk thinks “In the dimness of the lamplit cellar they looked black, but in better light their true color could be seen: deep and dark and purple. Valyrian eyes, thought Dunk.”

Ned Dayne compares very well to Egg and fAegon, and I can’t help but notice that George arranged to make him the squire of Beric Dondarrion, who famously wields a magical flaming sword that reminds us of Lightbringer. Ned ended up Beric’s quire because his aunt Allyria Dayne (who I like to call Allyria Valyria) was engaged to Beric, and I can’t help but think it’s a nod from the author to think of Lightbringer together with House Dayne.

Speaking of Allyria Dayne, I noticed a couple of naming crossovers between Dayne and Hightower; Allyria Dayne and Alerie Hightower, Gerold Dayne and Gerold Hightower, and perhaps even Vorian Dayne and Dorian Hightower. Oh, and of course there’s Uthor Hightower and Arthur Dayne, haha, might want to mention that one, since that represents the author connecting both House Dayne and House Hightower to King Arthur and Excalibur, an obvious influence on Lightbringer.

I mentioned a moment ago that that Egg’s father Maekar Targaryen married Dyanna Dayne, and though we are not given Dyanna’ physical description, there are reasons to think she had dragonlord looks. Even though Maekar’s mother was Mariah Martell, who passed on her dark-haired genetics to some of Maekar’s siblings like Baelor Breakspear, all of Maekar and Dyanna Dayne’s children came out with standard Valyrian looks, save for one who has sandy brown hair (Daeron the Drunkard). Daeron’s hair is no doubt a legacy of his grandmother Mariah Martell, but the point is that if she had had dark looks, her and Maekar’s children wouldn’t have come out almost completely Valyrian-looking. Instead, it seems like Dyanna may have injected a fresh batch of dragonlord looks into the line, giving Maekar a batch of mostly Valyrian looking kids. Egg later married the dark-haired Black Betha Blackwood, and their kids had incest for two generations leading up to Aerys and Rhaella, who look prototypically Valyrian, and their kids, Rhaegar, Viserys, and Daenerys, who also all look Valyrian. This means that Dyanna almost certainly had some silver hair and purple / blue eye genetics in her veins – and in fact, that would actually be a potential reason for Maekar, a prince of the blood royal, to marry a woman from a relatively obscure house like Dayne, since the Targaryens are always trying to maintain their signature look. (Hat-tip to Aziz from History of Westeros for that analysis)

By the way, because Dyanna’s Dayne blood was only watered down once by Egg’s marriage to the Blackwoods (it was all incest from there to Aerys and Rhaella), both Jon and Dany have a significant amount of Dayne blood.

Just in case, you know, someone heroic needed to wield Dawn for the last battle. Ned Dayne is too young and Darkstar unworthy, so Jon or Dany’s Dayne lineage could actually be relevant at some point.


Speaking of Azor Ahai and last hero matters, you may recall that in the first Great Empire video, I mentioned that out of the five given names for Azor Ahai, we can trace four of them to places in the east (Neferion to Nefer, Hyrkoon the Hero to Hyrkoon, and Yin Tar to Yi Ti, and Azor Ahai to Asshai), but that Eldric Shadowchaser was kind of an oddball. It has no matches in the east, but it does find derivatives in both House Dayne and House Stark… which are the two houses most likely to be associated with last hero; the Daynes because of Dawn and their symbolism, and the Starks because, well, they’re the Starks, and the Others seem to be mainly their problem.

Alright, so first off we can observe that “shadow-chaser” is a great title for someone who fights the Others, who are called white shadows, pale shadows, cold shadows, shadows with teeth, and so on. The name Eldric is a nod to Michael Morcock’s Elric of Melnibone, who wields a magical (and cursed) black sword called Stormbringer and basically looks like a young Bloodraven. He has a ton of parallels to Bloodraven, Jon Snow, and Azor Ahai, and George has cited this series and author as a big influence of his many times. The name Hyrkoon is also from Elric of Melnibone; Elric’s cousin Yrkoon wields a magic sword called the “Mournblade,” which, I know – Sword of the Morning, Galladon of Morne and his magic sword, yes sir. Finally, the name Eldrick itself is German and means “sage ruler,” making it a good name for an Azor Ahai or Elric of Melnibone-type figure.

So back over at House Dayne, we have the tale of an Ulrick Dayne, who was of course a Sword of the Morning and was considered one of the greatest knights of his time. We just mentioned young Ned Dayne – his full name is Edric. Edric “Shadowchaser” Dayne, squire of Beric “don’t call me Azor Ahai” Dondarrion. The thing is, Edric Dayne is considered to be named after Eddard Stark – hence the shared Ned nickname – which demonstrates that in Westeros (as in the real world), you can honor a naming tradition with slight variations. That’s exactly what we find with House Stark, which serves up two Edric Starks – one Edric with a ‘c’ and an Edrick Snowbeard Stark with a ‘ck.’ If Edric is a variant of Eddard, then that means Eddard can be a variant of Edric, so we have to count all the Eddard and  Edwyle and Edwyn Starks, and even the uber-fantasy sounding Edderion Stark. Then we have Ned’s great great great grandfather, Elric Stark, who I like to call Elric of Winterfellnibone.

I’ll give you a second to recover from that, apologies. But there’s also an Alaric Stark – the one who may have had a thing with Good Queen Alysanne Targaryen, which is why I call him Fly Alaric. (groan) Bad jokes aside, you can see what I am pointing at here with all this Eldric / Elric / Edric stuff: Eldric Shadowchaser may have been the Westerosi name for Azor Ahai or the last hero, who may or may not have been the same person, and if so, it makes sense to see the two houses associated with last hero ideas carrying on an Eldric naming tradition. In the case of the Daynes, it may be basically the same story as the other four Azor Ahai names: a people formerly part of the Great Empire of the Dawn who fled the destruction of its downfall, started a new kingdom, and retained their own version of the flaming sword hero myth. The Daynes just went farther, perhaps following the established route to Westeros which we know existed due to the fused stone fortress at Oldtown, and the surround evidence regarding it.

Another of George’s big influences is of course J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and its surrounding lore (George has definitely read the Silmarillion, let me tell you). Remember how I called the Great Empire of the Dawn like finding a long lost Numenor? That’s more true than you may realize. For any who do not know, Numenor was absolutely Tolkien’s Atlantis; it’s a once-glorious and now-vanished star shaped island in the middle of the ‘Atlantic Sea equivalent’ in Tolkien’s world from which the most fabled race of men came from. You may recall Aragorn saying that the blood of Numenor flows in his veins; that’s what we’re talking about. Aragorn’s ancestor’ Elendil and Isildur, who combined to defeat Sauron in his physical form, are also of this line – Elendil was the one who led his people away from Numenor for Middle Earth in the nick of time (Numenor, as an Atlantis parallel, grew prideful and corrupt and met a violent and sudden end, naturally).

So the name of Aragorn and Isildur’s ancestors? On Numenor, they were called the Edain, and in Middle Earth, the Dunedain. Edain, Dunedain, Dayne, yes that’s right. And it gets worse: you may recall that Aragorn was given a reforged sword by the elves called Narsil, which was the one Isildur used to cut the one ring from Sauron’s hand. Narsil means “red and white flame” in the elvish language, so now our eyebrows are raised right off our foreheads. Dawn is a glowing white sword, and Lightbringer was said to burn red, so these correlations are very strong. If the Daynes fled the Great Empire of the Dawn and came to Westeros with the sword Dawn, then they’d be mirroring the Edain and Dunedain quite closely. Given that Dawn seems like a “last battle” kind of sword, and given that Jon Snow – who has Dayne blood even assuming RLJ is true – has very strong Aragorn vibes, this all makes a ton of sense.

George also seems to have transferred some of the Dunedain lore on to House Hightower, which is a nice piece of evidence for our theory. So check this out – when those Dunedain fled Numenor and came to Middle Earth, it turns out they built some stuff. One thing they built was the Orthanc, the Tower of Isenguard which you may remember from the Lord of the Rings as Saruman’s tower – the one at which Gandalf is held captive and then rescued from by eagles, and later Orthanc is surrounded by tree ents and flooded. The notable thing about Orthanc being built by the Dunedain is that

“it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one…”

In other words, it sounds a lot like fused black stone, such as we find at Battle Isle! Dunedain coming to a new land and building a fused black stone tower sounds a lot like the Daynes and their fellow Hightower refugees from the Great Empire building the fused black stone fortress which would become the base of the Hightower. Orthanc and the Hightower also compare well to one another because atop Orthanc, Saruman sits in isolation, watching the world through the palantir stone, and atop the Hightower, from which you can supposedly see clear to the Wall, we find Lord Leyton Hightower and his daughter Malora Hightower, the Mad Maid, “consulting books of spells.” Euron’s goal may be to perform dark magic atop the Hightower, some have speculated, which would be an even better correlation.

Well I hope you enjoyed that little dose of Lord of the Rings – thanks to my friend Blue Tiger for picking up on those clues ages ago, and check out his blog for more Tolkien / ASOIAF parallels. I think we can be fairly confident that House Dayne and House Hightower descend from the people of the Great Empire of the Dawn just based on the ASOIAF evidence – which is why I presented those first – but the parallels to the Dunedain of LOTR and Uther Pendragon of Arthurian myth are the sort of clever literary clues that seal the deal of authorial intent for me. They’re a nice cherry on top of an already strong theory.

And heck, here’s another cherry that takes the form of a literary clue. Think about the Tower of Joy scene, the place where baby Jon Snow was born. Who’s there outside the tower, fighting Ned and his six grey wraiths (as his 6 companions appeared to him in his fever dream)? Why it’s Arthur Dayne and Gerold Hightower… come to witness the birth of the promised prince, who may be the culmination of whatever business the Great Empire was up to when it first came to Westeros – business that probably involves both Dawn and the Others.


So let’s see if we can’t pull this all together. At some point before the Long Night, the Great Empire of the Dawn, who counted dragonlords among their number, used their arcane arts to raise a fused stone fortress on Battle Isle, most likely with the purpose of establishing trade with the children of the forest and / or the first First Men. They don’t seem to have had a large presence, as we have not found fused stone anywhere else as of yet and there are only a few tales of dragons to be found in Westeros, almost all tied to Oldtown (with the others being a couple one-off tales of dragon-slayers like Davos Dragonslayer, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, or Galladon of Morne). The Great Empire of the Dawn did however leave a small genetic fingerprint on the land that would become the Seven Kingdoms in the form of House Dayne and House Hightower, at the very least, and they may have left one of their magic swords behind.

That’s actually the heart of the matter: Lightbringer, Dawn, Azor Ahai, the last hero, and the idea of beating back the Others during the first Long Night. Many people have connected the Asshai’i tale of Azor Ahai defeating the forces of darkness to end the Long Night with the Westerosi tale of the last hero slaying the Others with an unbreakable sword of “dragonsteel,” which makes a lot of sense – both heroes are using a magic sword associated with dragons to defeat the minions of the Long Night and thereby the Long Night itself. Many people have also looked at Dawn, an unbreakable, glowing magic sword called “the sword of the morning” and thought “perhaps this is the magic sword which ended the long night and brought the morning,” and again I say this is both logical and intuitive. Dawn could be thought of as “dragonsteel” simply based on its meteoric origin, since we know comets and meteors can be seen as dragons in both the real world and within ASOIAF mythology, and if it is Lightbringer, then it’s even more strongly associated with dragons, since Azor Ahai reborn is prophesied to wake dragons from stone.

So now in light of the Great Empire of the Dawn theory, we can sort of fill in these gaps: the sword Dawn was most likely the “dragonsteel” sword the last hero used to defeat the Others, and it was most likely similar in nature to whatever magic sword was used by the various ‘flaming sword heroes’ of the further east (Azor Ahai, Neferion, Hyrkoon the Hero, Yin Tar). We don’t know whether there was only one flaming sword, only one “Lightbringer,” or whether this was more of a technology that could be duplicated, but I think we can say that Dawn is either the Lightbringer or at the very least, a Lightbringer. I tend to think Dany’s vision of the Gemstone Emperor ghosts each holding swords of pale fire is a strong clue that it’s the latter, but the important thing is simply to connect Lightbringer, Dawn, and the last hero’s dragonsteel, and realize that the origin for all of this magical flaming sword business was the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Further corroboration lies in comparing the Night’s Watch oaths to the symbolism of Dawn, House Dayne, and Lightbringer. Remember how “Sword of the Morning” is taken from “son of the morning,” a translation of Lucifer, the Latin word for Venus, while another translation of Lucifer is “light-bringer?” Surely you do. Venus is called the son of the morning and the light-bringer because as the Morningstar, it rises just before the sun, heralding the dawn. So now, those Night’s Watch vows: I am the light that brings the dawn…? The sword in the darkness…? Yes, it’s more Venus symbolism, and it’s also obvious Lightbringer talk when we toss in “I am the fire that burns against the cold.” A warrior who is a flaming sword that brings the dawn? Does anyone know that guy?

In other words, the Nights Watch oaths, the names Dawn and Sword of the Morning, and everything related to Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer all come from the same Venus mythology, and I have to think this is done to reinforce the basic conclusion the reader wants to intuit: these things are all related to one another. Somehow, Dawn was Lightbringer and the last hero’s dragonsteel.

Here’s one final bit of proof that this was the case, and here I’m drawing from another video of mine called “Dawn is the Original Ice: the Last Hero.” The first time we see Ned Stark polishing his Valyrian steel greatsword, Ice, in the Winterfell godswood, we see it through Catelyn’s eyes, and she informs the reader that although that sword is 400 years old and forged in Valyria before the Doom, “The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes.” In other words, the Starks have been naming their ancestral swords “Ice” for thousands of years, long before they acquired the current Valyrian steel sword called “Ice.” Where could this tradition have started, I ask you?

Well, the answer is surprisingly easy to come to. We just established that the last hero probably wielded Dawn against the Others. Setting aside the fact that Dawn is thought of as belonging to House Dayne, who do you think the last hero was? Probably a Stark, right? This story of ice and fire has two poles: the Starks and the Others on one end, and the Targaryens and the dragons on the other. The Others are obviously tied to the Starks, and the last hero myth is a northern myth, one we first hear told to Bran early on in AGOT. Thus most people have always assumed the last hero was be a Stark, and the two characters who seem to be echoing the last hero in the current story are Starks (Bran and Jon).

So where does that leave us? With a Stark last hero, wielding Dawn and leading the Night’s Watch into battle against the Others in the Battle for the …Dawn. Ah. There’s that word again. Try to picture it in your mind – a Stark last hero, leading the Night’s Watch against the white walkers, and in his hand, a big white sword that can withstand the cold of the Others. A big. White. Sword.

So where did the Stark tradition of calling their most important sword “Ice” come from?

Yes, that’s right, it can only have come from the last hero’s use of Dawn, a big unbreakable white sword. It isn’t made of ice, but it kinda looks like it is – “as pale as milkglass” is the description of both the sword Dawn as well as the bones of the melting white walker that Sam kills in ASOS. I go into further detail on all the symbolism linking Dawn to the Starks and the idea of an “ice sword” in the “Dawn is the Original Ice” videos, but here’s the important part: this mythical memory of a Stark wielding a sword of “ice” is actually just a corroboration of the hypothesis that the last hero, almost certainly a Stark, wielded Dawn, the unbreakable big white sword.

As to why Dawn ended up residing in Starfall with House Dayne, the answer now suggests itself: because it belonged to them in the first place; because the sword Dawn was Great Empire of the Dawn technology that came to Westeros in the hands of the ancestors of House Dayne. They must have loaned it to the Starks, or perhaps some other circumstances arose to put Dawn in the hands of the last hero at the right time. Heck, perhaps the Stark last hero killed a Dayne and took Dawn – after all, we see Ned do that at the tower of Joy: killing a Dayne, taking Dawn, and then after a great war is over, Ned returns Dawn to Starfall. Could this be an echo of history here, with a Stark having used Dawn for a short time and then returned it to Starfall after the Battle for the Dawn was over? However it happened that the last hero got his hands on Dawn, we’ve said from the first that the Great Empire of the Dawn is really the only plausible source for the technology needed to forge Dawn at that time, which was long before the rise of Valyria or even the arrival of the Andals, who brought the art of making steel to Westeros. Thus it makes sense to find it in the hands of the Daynes, who are the most obvious descendants of the Great Empire of the Dawn.

Here’s the best part: all of this may happen again. The Daynes may once again loan out their magic sword to a Stark last hero, which would of course be Johnny boy, the special snowflake. Or perhaps it won’t be a loan – perhaps Darkstar will have stolen it by then and someone will straight up kill him and take it, again echoing the tower of Joy where Dawn was taken from Arthur Dayne after he was slain. There is actually ample symbolic foreshadowing for Jon Snow to wield Dawn, so check out the Dawn is Original ice videos for more on that. Assuming R+L=J will be true in the books, as I do, I really like how all this could come together, with Jon echoing the Stark last hero and leading the Night’s Watch against the Others with Dawn in his hands, but with Jon having the bloodlines of Stark, Targaryen, and Dayne in his veins.

Daenerys, the other major incarnation of “Azor Ahai reborn,” will be right there with him, throwing her dragons into the fight, and she’ll be bringing with her not only the blood of Targaryen and Dayne, but the the secret knowledge of the Great Empire of the Dawn that waits for her in Asshai. With Marwyn the Mage almost certainly bringing Daenerys a glass candle, and with further contact with Quaithe the Shadowbinder seeming inevitable, Dany will no doubt learn whatever truth there is to be gleaned about these Dawn Age dragonlords from Asshai, and it’s probably going to be one of the key pieces of information which leads Daenerys to make her all-important, arc-defining choice to turn away from her quest for the Iron Throne to confront the Others. Whenever she meets Jon and hears about the Others and the threat of a new Long Night, she’ll be putting that together with the prophetic words of Quaithe and the Undying, as well as whatever she learns about the Great Empire of the Dawn and why they came to Westeros at the time of the first Long Night. As the final scions of the morning, it will be up to Jon and Dany put the pieces together and right the wrongs of the past, bringing this long chapter of Ice and Fire to a close – a chapter which started in Asshai, in a little old kingdom called the Great Empire of the Dawn.

The Timeline: Pre-Andal Westeros

 


The Motherfuggin Andals

The first thing we must understand about trying to sort out the timeline of pre-Andal Westeros is that we are going off of myth and legend related by word-of-mouth and the occasional runic record. George has intentionally written ASOIAF history so that pre-Andal Westeros was illiterate – basically an early Bronze Age society. When the Andals came, they started writing things down as they conquered, and so we have a somewhat dramatic line of demarcation between written history and word-of-mouth history. Additionally, everything they wrote down was heavily shaped by the politics of trying to conquer and assimilate a foreign land, and so we must always bear that in mind. It’s somewhat like trying to suss out the state of the American continents before Europeans arrived – many native peoples had limited writing, relying instead on oral tradition, and those that did, like the Mayans, had most of their scrolls and carvings burned and erased. Disease, war, and genocide erased even more, and we are only now beginning to realize how populous and developed the Americas were pre-Columbus; I highly recommend the award-winning book 1491 for more on that. Point being – when an entire continent is conquered by a foreign people, much history is lost and replaced with the infamous “fog of history.”

Or, expressed in musical form, we can say that

If you’re lost you can look at Andal history
Time after time
They will lie, we will catch them, we’ll be waiting
Time after time
History’s lost, you can look, but there’s no writing
Time after time
Long Night falls, we can guess when, it’s spit-balling
Time after time

One of my favorite examples of Andal bias on Westerosi history is the term “First Men.” It’s not a name like “Egyptians” or “Pentoshi” – there’s no “FirstManlandia” or “FirstManos.” The term “first men” is descriptive – I think it’s literally what the Andals called everyone living in Westeros already when they arrived, and nothing more! This doesn’t seem like something the people of Westeros would call themselves, and there’s ample reason to believe there were in fact different kinds of people that got lumped together by the Andals as “First Men.” Think about it – Westeros is supposed to be about the size of Europe, and the people from the various parts of Westeros do indeed show different physical characteristics; perhaps not to the extent people from various corners of Europe do, but the Lannisters have their own look and so do the men from the North, the Stormlands, or the Reach.

Additionally, there’s very strong evidence that ancestors of House Dayne and Hightower descend from the Great Empire of the Dawn, a fabled empire from the Further East which existed before the Long Night with ties to Asshai and dragons and the origins of Valyria. The Lannisters  – Lann the Clever at least – many also come from this fabled Great Empire, though the evidence is more sketchy. Then we have the Iron Islanders, who have many clues about a non-Westerosi origin, and certainly that’s the way I lean.

We also have the issue of religion to consider, because the religious diversity of pre-Andal Westeros is more evidence that not all First Men were the same. The First Men worship trees, at least after the Pact with the children of the forest, but what about before that? There are some weird aquatic religions on both coasts of Westeros, whatever was involved with the cult of Garth the Green, and some wildlings even worship the Others… and who knows how many other religions may have died out when the conversion to Old Gods worship happened.

Finally, the oldest tales of the migration of the first “First Men” to Westeros have them trekking over land from some undetermined point in Essos, perhaps from as far as the fabled Silver Sea which once existed where the Dothraki Grass Sea is now. This migration seems less a one-time exodus like the Biblical story of the Israelites fleeing Egypt, and more the gradual dispersal of people over many centuries, so plenty of intermarriage and warfare would have happened along the way. Ergo, there would have been plenty of exchange of genetics and culture, and the “First Men” who began tricking into Westeros over the land bridge between Dorne and Essos would almost certainly not have been culturally and racially homogenous.

In other words, the lumping together of all the peoples of pre-Andal Westeros into the conglomerate term “First Men” is highly reflective of the way we have to view pre-Andal history – as overly summarized, heavily truncated, and written with Andal bias. And as a Cyndi Lauper song. Anyway.  It’s too much to say “it’s all up for grabs,” but when are talking about sorting out events that are thought of as taking place some 5,000 – 10,000 years ago during “the Dawn Age” and “The Age of Heroes,” we shouldn’t view the consensus timeline the maesters have arrived at as being very solid. The maesters themselves question it frequently:

“The Others.” Sam licked his lips. “They are mentioned in the annals, though not as often as I would have thought. The annals I’ve found and looked at, that is. There’s more I haven’t found, I know. Some of the older books are falling to pieces. The pages crumble when I try and turn them. And the really old books . . . either they have crumbled all away or they are buried somewhere that I haven’t looked yet or . . . well, it could be that there are no such books, and never were. The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it. Those old histories are full of kings who reigned for hundreds of years, and knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights. You know the tales, Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-Eyes, Night’s King . . . we say that you’re the nine hundred and ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but the oldest list I’ve found shows six hundred seventy-four commanders, which suggests that it was written during . . .”

“Long ago,” Jon broke in.

One of the worsting break-ins in the series; let Sam finish, Jon, it was just getting good! Anyway, this quote gives us a good framework for interpreting the consensus history – it was laid down by the Andals, and it’s highly questionable. The arrival of the Andals itself is somewhat up for debate, but because they began writing things down and because the historical events they recorded can be cross referenced against records from the Iron Islands, Riverlands, Reach, and elsewhere, it can be set with a range of sorts. It seems the earliest possible date is about 4500 years ago, and more likely the date is closer to 2500 years.

That’s an entirely different line of research, and I know you Andal truthers are out there, but look – there’s absolutely no narrative reason or payoff for the Andals to have been in Westeros during the Long Night, and the evidence people hold up for this regarding iron is misconstrued in my opinion. Bronze Age, Pre-Andal Westeros, just like Bronze Age cultures in the real world, had the capability to make crude iron long before they could make steel, and crude iron is inferior to bronze for making weapons.  We see crude iron ceremonial swords in the Winterfell crypts, and plenty of iron on the Iron Islands, and most likely it would have been used for horseshoes and other basic things – again, just like in the Bronze Age in the real world. What the Andals brought was steel – very highly refined iron, essentially – which was much better than bronze weapons and armor and light years beyond the crude iron the First Men possessed. Thus the presence of some crude iron in ancient Westeros is in no way evidence of Andal presence. Not even a little bit.

In any case, narrative logic always comes first, and putting the Andals in Westeros at the time of the Long Night strikes me as pointless. The few things in ancient Westeros which seem too advanced for first men, such as the sword Dawn or the last hero’s “dragonsteel,” the fused stone fortress at Oldtown, Moat Cailin, Castle Pyke, the Wall, and more are better attributed to the Great Empire of the Dawn, or in a few cases, to some sort of vanished race of Deep Ones. None of it points to the Andals, who do not make fused stone or magic swords, who do not set spells in the walls of their fortresses, and who do not build in oily black stone or megalithic stone of any kind.

The theory that the Andals were in Westeros during the Long Night also requires an implausibly giant conspiracy by all of the Andal record keepers to obscure both the Long Night and the Andal conquest of Westeros, and that’s the opposite of what we see – the Andals are quite proud of their conquest and wrote down every detail of it. These details can be matched against the word of mouth and runic records of the various Westerosi First Men houses they interacted with, and the result is a pretty good historical record of the Andal conquest which sounds nothing like the fantastical tales of the Long Night and Age of Heroes.

In other words, I think it is a very safe and solid conclusion to say that there seems to have been a significant chunk of time between the Long Night and the arrival of the Andals. If the Andals had been in Westeros for the Long Night and the invasion of the Others, it would be written down as fact by first-hand witnesses, or by people living in the immediate aftermath. Instead they regard all the specific events and people of the Long Night stories as fable… because that’s how they heard about things like the Others and the last hero, as a fable. If the ancestors of the Andals in Essos witnessed the Long Night, they would have seen only a long winter, and not the Others, as there are no tales of Others in Essos. Thus, the Andals largely don’t believe in the Others. They are outside their historical record.

An that’s basically the point of this first section: when the Andals arrived in Westeros, they slapped the label “First Men” on all the “primitives” that lived there and the label “myth and fable” on pretty much all of their word of mouth and runic records. The history that comes after is fairly reliable, but what the current historians of the Citadel have to say about anything before that ranges from educated guesswork to very biased revisionist history – and all of the events we want to concern ourselves with today fall before this line of reliable history.


The Long Night Bottleneck

The next thing to realize about the timeline is that Long Night itself is really the only firm line of demarcation in the Westerosi history that comes before the Andal invasion. The Long Night was global or semi-global event, witnessed from Westeros to Asshai, so we know for a fact that it happened – even the maesters accept this. We can also deduce that it would have acted as a gigantic cultural and genetic bottleneck if it lasted anything longer than a couple of years, because any sort of worldwide darkness would quickly lead to famine, and thus to lawlessness, chaos, and anarchy. And not the good kind of theoretical anarchy, where everyone sort of polices themselves – we’re talking a bare-knuckles fight over the last helpings of meat or vegetables available (and yes I’m sure there was plenty of cannibalism). The Westerosi tales say the Long Night lasted “a generation,” while Colloquo Votar reports on the legend of the Long Night from Yi Ti, which says it lasted “a lifetime.” Descendants of the Rhoynar have “tales of a darkness that made the Rhoyne dwindle and disappear, her waters frozen as far south as the joining of the Selhoru,” which is a level of severity that speaks to semi-permanent winter. The Rhoyne is the biggest river we’ve seen anywhere in this world, and to freeze a large portion of it would require a Long Night that lasted more than a few weeks – more likely it was measured in years.

Here’s what this means: the Long Night would have been years of unbelievable starvation, war, and mass death. It would have meant the total collapse of any institutions or power structures that existed at that time – for nobody can maintain power over a population of human beings when there is no food to be had. Nobody cares about libraries or the crown jewels when everyone is starving, you know? It’s every man for himself, and the simple fact is that a Long Night lasting more than a couple of years is an event that would have shrunk the world’s population down to a very small number, as happened in the real world in 70,000 BCE when Mount Toba erupted and blew 650,000 miles of vaporized rock into the air, dimming the sun for at least 6 years. Human population dipped down to less than a thousand males of breeding age, and perhaps as low as 40!

Ergo, we don’t have to pin down the exact length of the Long Night to understand that it was a huge cultural and genetic bottleneck through which a lot of things did not pass. Much of mankind’s memory of the past up to that point would have been wiped clean, whole clans or tribes of people would have been wiped out, and many or most of the cultural traditions would have changed or disappeared altogether. In other words, if we have to take everything before the arrival of the Andals with a grain of salt, we have to take everything said to occur “before the Long Night” with an entire Lot’s wife-sized pillar of salt. It’s not all bad though – knowing that the Long Night existed, and that it would have killed almost everyone living at the time, actually helps us place certain events as likely to have happened either before or after it.

It is for this reason that we will start from the Long Night and work outward in both directions to establish a likely timeline for the major events which seem to have some basis in fact. Most legends do have a basis in fact, actually, because ancient man memorialized important events through myth and legend – it’s just a matter of sorting out metaphor and symbol from historical memory.


The Pact and the Long Night

And now I’d like to propose my first major reorganization of the timeline, my first timeline heresy, if you will: the Age of Heroes refers to events that took place right after the Long Night, while the Dawn Age occurs to events before it. Along the same lines, the Pact between humans and the children of the forest, which supposedly divides the Dawn Age from the subsequent Age of Heroes, occurred at the time of the Long Night, not thousands of years before as is commonly believed. In other words, I do think the Pact separates the Dawn Age from the Age of Heroes, but I think that Pact and that separation occurred at the time of the Long Night, not before. The Dawn Age , then the Long Night and the Pact, then the Age of Heroes.

There are so many reasons to think this, starting with the simple logic of the Long Night bottleneck, which dictates that the vast majority of the many Great Houses which claim to have existed since the Age of Heroes could only have been established after the Long Night, and not before. There’s just no way so many powerful families could have survived through the anarchy and death of the Long Night, let alone held on to their seats of power and their authority to rule. It makes far more sense that we would have had new centers of authority establishing themselves in the aftermath of the Long Night as humanity began to pick itself off the mat and rebuild. A few of those new authorities may have been peoples who survived through the Long Night, retained their cultural identity and ancestral lands, and returned to them and set up their power base again, but more of them would be heroes of the Long Night and groups of strangers that somehow banded together to survive the Long Night in various little pockets – and again, this is what happened on Earth after Toba.

It’s also what happened in the east to the Great Empire of the Dawn after the Long Night:

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…

That’s more or less what I was proposing earlier for the rest of the world: established power structures were toppled, and the scattered survivors created new cultures and societies.

This, by the way, is probably the answer to the big question of “why did the First Men adopt the religion of the children of the forest wholesale, who had been their enemies?” Nearly every First Man house apparently adopted Old Gods worship and maintained it until the Andals came, and in the North, they practice it to this day. The Long Night provides just the sort of circumstance for this to happen: the existing population of Westeros is whittled down to a fraction, with the survivors desperate and traumatized and perhaps thinking of themselves as “abandoned” or “cursed” by their former gods. The Westerosi tales of the last hero and the Night’s Watch winning the War for the Dawn to end the Long Night speak of the children of the forest coming to the aid of humanity, and that’s the other piece of the puzzle here. This is the reason why the survivors of the Long Night would have been so grateful and impressed with the children of the forest that they would adopt their religion. If the weirwood nature magic of the greenseers was the thing that saved humanity’s bacon during the Long Night, you can see why they would take up enthusiastic worship of the weirwood trees and the power behind them.

In my opinion, placing the Pact between men and children at the time of the Long Night makes everything else make a lot more sense. The mysterious switch of religion is explained. The very basic question of why the First Men would make a pact at all with a foe they were largely defeating and driving back is also neatly explained – that has perplexed the fandom for years, but I think the answer is right here. They stopped warring on the children because the Long Night wiped out most of humanity, and the survivors made peace with the children because they only survived with the help of the children.

More evidence comes from thinking about the origins of the Night’s Watch. Most of Westeros now worships the Andal Faith of the Seven, and so most Nights Watch recruits say their vows in the Sept these days, but we see in AGOT that Night’s Watch recruits who come from houses that still worship the Old Gods may choose to swear their vows in front of a heart tree, as Jon Snow does. But think about it – before the Andals came to Westeros, almost every Night’s Watch recruit would have been a worshipper of the Old Gods, and thus would have sworn their oaths to protect the realm and never leave their post etc etc to the weirwood trees – to the greenseers, in other words.

I’ll say that again: before the Andals came, almost every Night’s Watch recruit swore their vows to the greenseers. That makes sense, because the children of the forest helped establish the Night’s Watch. This is from TWOIAF concerning the last hero:

Alone he finally reached the children, despite the efforts of the white walkers, and all the tales agree this was a turning point. Thanks to the children, the first men of the Night’s Watch banded together and were able to fight—and win—the Battle for the Dawn: the last battle that broke the endless winter and sent the Others fleeing to the icy north.

The children helped the last hero, and we also know the children once had a custom of providing dragonglass to the Night’s Watch as well – so this is all adding up. The children of the forest helped mankind defeat the Others – that’s very clear – and the children helped man set up a new institution, the “first men of the Night’s Watch,” which involved mankind swearing a bunch of stuff to the greenseers in return. The vows might as well say “thanks a ton for showing us how to defeat the Others, oh greenseers, and we swear upon our graves that we will maintain the practices you have shown so that we will always be ready when they come again,” more or less.

Gosh, that pretty much sounds like a pact to me – the children help man, man swears a bunch of stuff to the children in return, and a common goal is achieved. Doesn’t it makes sense that this is the same pact where man swore to stop fighting the children and instead take up their religion, or at least a similar pact made around the same time and for the same basic reasons?

If this is the case, then the Age of Heroes, which is supposed to follow The Pact, does indeed come right after the Long Night – and the Age of Heroes is basically a collection of origin stories for most of the first great houses of Westeros. This is exactly what you’d expect to find after a cultural reset button the size and severity of the Long Night.

The collection of stories the maesters group into “the Dawn Age,” then, essentially represents the time before the Long Night – which is why everything we hear about that time sounds extremely fantastical and fairy-tale like. These are the very hazy memories that a few of the survivors of the Long Night carried with them through the darkness and then told to their children and grandchildren. Those tales would quickly take on the air of legend, because the post-Long Night world would have been so different. But the new history being created by the new First Men houses – the heroes of the Age of Heroes – would be carried on through direct transmission to the time of the Andals with at least some amount of clarity, since so many of those houses seem to have maintained power in a continuous fashion for centuries leading up to the arrival of the Andals. That’s what we we find in the historical record – many of the First Men houses kept records of their ruling monarchs which the Andal historians treated as somewhat historical, as opposed to primarily mythical.


You can find clues about this proposed alternate timeline of mine in the origin myths of some of the Great Houses – specifically in the fact that so many of them seem to have natural disasters which sound like they could be references to the Long Night built in to the beginning, and trace the expansion of their line to the time after. Although the main Westerosi Long Night story says nothing about what could have caused the sun to disappear, most of you watching will know that I believe the answer to that riddle is spelled out in three eastern myths. And once we have that fuller picture of the compound disaster that was remembered as the Long Night, we can then see that there are references to the Long Night in the origin stories of most of the Great Houses – because that’s when all of the Great Houses sprang up, after the Long Night. The Long Night, or some mythicized version of it, will often be the oldest thing anyone remembers.

Those three myths are the Azor Ahai forging of Lightbringer myth, which is from Asshai, the second moon / origin of dragon myth, which is from Qarth, and the Bloodstone Emperor Long Night myth, which was recorded by Yi Tish scribes. The Azor Ahai myth and the Qarthine myth speak of a moon cracking; it happens when Lightbringer is forged in the first, and in the second, there’s a once-existent “second moon” which “wandered too close to the sun” and cracked open to give birth to fiery dragons. The products of these two moon cracking myths – a flaming sword and fire-breathing dragons – are both classic mythical symbols for comets and meteors, and the third Long Night myth straight up tells us about a meteor falling at the time of the Long Night. That last legend is the Bloodstone Emperor myth, and it’s implied that he draws magical power from this black meteorite which he worshipped.

In other words, the Long Night was caused by a probably-magical moon meteor impact, or more likely a series of probably-magical moon meteor impacts, which threw up enough ash, smoke, and debris (think thousands of cubic miles of vaporized rock, dirt, and plants) to blot out the sun and cause a prolonged darkness. In addition to that, the moon meteor impacts could or would have set off raging wildfires, earthquakes, and most of all, floods if any of them landed in the water. We’ll find references to all of those things scattered throughout the Westerosi origin stories, and we’ll also see that Prometheus-like Azor Ahai component of mankind obtaining the “fire of the gods” in many or most of these myths as well. Though I won’t focus on that angle today, I will point it out as a corroboration that these myths are speaking of the same related set of events.

The three eastern myths I just named set the template – moons are cracked, meteors or symbols of meteors are born and fall to earth, darkness ensues, and some sort of wizard or king gains power. Azor Ahai gains Lightbringer, the Bloodstone Emperor gains the magic meteor and many dark sorcerous powers, and the Qarthine tale simply speaks of the moment dragons came to the earth, which are themselves a great magical power harnessed by the Valyrians and Targaryens and according to me, the Great Empire of the Dawn.


Hammer Time

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s Hammer Time, because the most conspicuous Westerosi match might be the Hammer of the Waters legend. The unbelievable destruction recorded in this legend was supposedly the work of the children of the forest – although I have my doubts, as you’ll see. The following is the maesterly recounting of Westerosi fable in TWOIAF, and it begins by talking about how the First Men were winning the war against the children, saying

Finally, driven by desperation, the little people turned to sorcery and beseeched their greenseers to stem the tide of these invaders.

And so they did, gathering in their hundreds (some say on the Isle of Faces), and calling on their old gods with song and prayer and grisly sacrifice (a thousand captive men were fed to the weirwood, one version of the tale goes, whilst another claims the children used the blood of their own young). And the old gods stirred, and giants awoke in the earth, and all of Westeros shook and trembled. Great cracks appeared in the earth, and hills and mountains collapsed and were swallowed up. And then the seas came rushing in, and the Arm of Dorne was broken and shattered by the force of the water, until only a few bare rocky islands remained above the waves. The Summer Sea joined the narrow sea, and the bridge between Essos and Westeros vanished for all time.

Or so the legend says.

So the legend says something “hammered” the land bridge, and it collapsed, causing huge floods? Usually a hammer falls and strikes; that’s an odd name for an earthquake, which rises up from underground. It’s a great description of a meteor strike though, and meteors can in fact cause that sort of massive land collapse such as is described in the Hammer of the Waters tale. As the maesters go on to point out, it doesn’t make any sense for the children to have done this to stop the First Men from warring on them; thousands of First Men had already been crossing the land bridge for centuries and stopping more from coming wasn’t help them win the war they were losing against the First Men that were already there. It’s very much a “closing the barn door after the horses have escaped” situation, which, spoiler alert for those of you not raised with horses and barns… closing the barn doors after the horses have escaped doesn’t do a whole lot of good. They are gone already.

Additionally, do the children really have the power to cause earthquakes? If so, they sure used it in a weird way. The titanic scale of the Hammer of the Waters event supposedly required massive blood sacrifice, but wasn’t very effective, as I pointed out. Why not try a much smaller hammer on a couple of the First Man ringforts or primitive castles? That would have sent the First Men running, and presumably the smaller scale would require less blood sacrifice.

Try to picture it. You’re a First Man sentry looking over the moss-bearded crenelations of your ringfort, peering into the dark, primal forest for any sign of the creepy little elves you’ve been warring against. You see a group of them at the edge of the woods, slitting the throats of a few captives, then suddenly the ground begins to shake, rents open up and a few of your best drinking buddies fall in, your fort collapses… and the elves never even came within bowshot? How discouraged would you be? How are you supposed to fight that?

In other words, if the children had any sort of “make the ground shake” magic, they’d have used it much differently, and should have been able to use it to defeat the First Men long before resorting to destroying an entire land mass. I think we are being invited to question the official story…  …and then to realize that the Hammer of the Waters sounds like a perfect mythical memory of a meteor impact event.

Whether or not the children caused the “hammer” to “fall,” the idea that it required blood magic murder to initiate matches the story template of the myths we are comparing to. Both the Azor Ahai fable and the Bloodstone Emperor fable speak of a blood magic murder – Azor murders Nissa Nissa, which cracks the moon, and the Bloodstone Emperor murders the Amethyst Empress, which causes the sun to hide its face because it just such an evil thing to do. Compare that to the Hammer legend, we have the Hammer being called down by mass blood sacrifice on the Isle of Faces – only death can pay for moon meteors, it seems.

George left us a nice literary clue about all this when he decided to name one of the Stepstones Islands, which are all that remains of the land bridge, Bloodstone Island. The Bloodstone Emperor supposedly caused the Long Night by calling down a meteor – a bleeding star or bloody stone in ASOIAF speak – and here where the Hammer of the Waters struck, we have a Bloodstone Island, like a giant “The Bloodstone Emperor did it!” sign. In more recent history, Bloodstone Island is taken as the royal seat of Daemon Targaryen when he declares himself King of the Narrow Sea, and Daemon is a terrific Azor Ahai-parallel figure who spends thirteen days carving wounds into a heart tree with a Valyrian steel sword before dying in a dragon-vs-dragon fight over the Gods Eye and Isle of Faces… where the Hammer of the Waters was supposedly called down. But that’s a symbolism for another day.

Now, if the Hammer of the Waters was a moon meteor event as I propose, that means it fell at the time of the Long Night, not thousands of years before – and this is also what I am saying about the Pact. In fact, the official story is the Pact followed soon after the Hammer, that the Hammer drove the First Men to sign the Pact. Basically, I’m keeping those two events together, but moving them to the time of the Long Night. It makes a lot of sense that way – dark magic was performed, all the tales agree; then the meteors fell like hammers and dragons, causing the Long Night; in that darkness came the Others, and mankind allied with the children to stop them, forming a pact and the first Night’s Watch. When the sun rose again, the heroes and survivors of the Long Night established new centers of power that persisted for centuries, all of which were built around a godswood with a weirwood heart tree to honor their new worship of the Old Gods.

Compare that to the official story, which quite intentionally makes no sense at several key moments. The official story is that centuries or millennia before the Long Night, the First Men were kicking the children of the forest’s ass in a war of conquest, leading the little forest elves to use all of their magical power to destroy the land bridge the humans had already crossed. This did nothing to stop the humans, who kept kicking ass, but then the humans inexplicably ceased warring on the children and signed a Pact with them, and on top of that, the humans decided to toss out their old religion and adopt the religion of the elves they had been trying to exterminate… for no reason anyone can remember, seemingly.

None of that makes sense, and again, it’s written as a fog-of-history type puzzle that we are supposed to pull on the threads of. My proposed timeline resolves all the issues here… why did the children drop the Hammer when it was way too late? Well, they didn’t, that was a Long Night-causing moon meteor. Why did the First Men stop warring on the children? They got hit by a meteor, then the Others. Why did the First Men sign the Pact and adopt Old Gods worship? Because the children helped the first men of the Night’s Watch defeat the Others, saving humanity, and because so much of human culture would have been lost during the Long Night. Why did the Night’s Watch originally swear their vows to the weirwood trees and the greenseers? Because that’s who helped them survive. It’s a delightfully straightforward answer, to be honest, and to me it just makes a ton of sense.

Alright, my proposed timeline so far says that the Hammer of the Waters was an account of a meteor impact that occurred when the Long Night fell, that the pact or pacts between humans and children would have happened shortly after, probably a few years into the Long Night, that the Night’s Watch would have been set up at this time as well, and finally that the “Dawn Age” refers to everything before the Long Night, and the “Age of heroes” to the era right after the Long Night but still well before the Andals arrived and started writing things down.


Good Grief, Durran, What a Mess You’ve Made

We find pretty much the whole story, including references to the Hammer of the Waters, in the Stormlands legends – namely, that of Durran Godsgrief, fair Elenei, and the founding of Storm’s End and House Durrandon.

The songs said that Storm’s End had been raised in ancient days by Durran, the first Storm King, who had won the love of the fair Elenei, daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind. On the night of their wedding, Elenei had yielded her maidenhood to a mortal’s love and thus doomed herself to a mortal’s death, and her grieving parents had unleashed their wrath and sent the winds and waters to batter down Durran’s hold. His friends and brothers and wedding guests were crushed beneath collapsing walls or blown out to sea, but Elenei sheltered Durran within her arms so he took no harm, and when the dawn came at last he declared war upon the gods and vowed to rebuild.

Five more castles he built, each larger and stronger than the last, only to see them smashed asunder when the gale winds came howling up Shipbreaker Bay, driving great walls of water before them. His lords pleaded with him to build inland; his priests told him he must placate the gods by giving Elenei back to the sea; even his smallfolk begged him to relent. Durran would have none of it. A seventh castle he raised, most massive of all. Some said the children of the forest helped him build it, shaping the stones with magic; others claimed that a small boy told him what he must do, a boy who would grow to be Bran the Builder. No matter how the tale was told, the end was the same. Though the angry gods threw storm after storm against it, the seventh castle stood defiant, and Durran Godsgrief and fair Elenei dwelt there together until the end of their days.

Durran Godsgrief, founder of House Durrandon, is supposed to have lived in the Age of Heroes, which I am saying began right after the Long Night. Here’s the thing – Storm’s End is right up the coast from the Stepstones and the broken Arm of Dorne, and this legend of a great storm and flood wiping out everyone in Durran’s family except Durran and Elenei is almost certainly an account of the Hammer of the Waters event. Any sort of sudden collapse of land which resulted in the sudden joining of two oceans would have resulted in unbelievable tsunamis racing up the newly created Narrow Sea to punish anyone near the coastline… and this is exactly what we see in the Durran Godsgrief story. The weather of the area would change forever after this “hammer” event as the ocean currents readjusted to the joining of the Summer Sea and the Narrow Sea – and this is also exactly what we see in the Durran Godsgrief legend, which stipulates that the weather of the Narrow Sea changed forever after to be much more stormy.

This is a really nice fit, folks – the Hammer of the Waters event would have created deadly tsunamis, and when we look in that area, we do indeed find an ancient account of a deadly tsunami that almost killed the friends and family of the main character in the story.

Which, by the way, sounds like a cultural bottleneck event – everyone dies save for one man and his divine wife, who sheltered him. This is just the way I am describing the Long Night bottleneck! If Durran’s floods are the Hammer of the Waters floods, then they should happen at the time of the Long Night, and indeed, we hear of mass death striking at this time. Durran’s line was established in the aftermath of these events, a match for my theory that the great houses of the “Age of Heroes” would have mostly been established right after the Long Night.

The mythical themes of the story are a match to our other myths as well – Durran is the Azor Ahai figure who is trying to obtain something that belongs to the gods; in this case, the daughter of the wind and sea gods. This brings about the great devastation, and there’s even the implication of Elenei dying like Nissa Nissa in that she doomed herself to a mortal’s death by choosing to wed Durran. In some tales, Durran receives help from the children of the forest to stymie the wrath of the gods, kind of like how the last hero and mankind makes a pact with the children and receives their aid.

We also see echoes of the Hammer of the Waters myth here. The Hammer of the Waters was supposedly called down by “the greenseers” on the Isle of faces, but the greenseers on the Isle of Faces are probably the “Sacred Order of Green Men,” who are described as being green-skinned men with antlers on their heads, like a stag. This is the same description that we get of the legendary Garth the Green, supposedly the first man in Westeros, and here’s the kicker – the Durrandon Storm Kings (and the Baratheons after them) have been wearing something called “the stag crown” and putting antlers on their helms for as long as we are aware of. Dressing up like green men, in other words – like the people who dropped the Hammer of the Waters. In mythical terms, both legends have a stag man or men bringing on the apocalyptic floods, and that may because these myths are referring to the same events.

Interestingly, there also seems to have been a shift in the way the First Men of the Stormlands viewed the children that took place at this time. Durran Godsgrief originally warred against the children, taking the Rainwood from them, but as we just mentioned, he may have later allied with them to build his castle, which is built around a godswood and heart tree as the other First Men castles were. Even more clear is the story of his son, called “Durran the Devout,” who returned the Rainwood to the children – and I think the name “Devout” probably implies that he worshipped the gods of the children, the Old Gods the First Men are known for worshipping. This too tracks with my alternate timeline – the shift from warring against the children to adopting their religion should happen in the aftermath of the Long Night, which is when I am saying Durran Godsgrief and then his son Durran the Devout lived.

Now it’s also true that a century later, it’s said that another Durrandon Storm King took the Rainwood back from the children again, but this is a pattern we see all over Westeros.. even after the First Men adopted the religion of the children, there was still warring and conquest going on, right up to the arrival of the Andals, which kind of finished off the children in all but the most remote places.


Galladon of Morning

Now before we move on from the Stormlands, there is one more local legend to take a look at which has many parallels to the Azor Ahai story, and that’s the legend of Galladon of Morne.

“Ser Galladon was a champion of such valor that the Maiden herself lost her heart to him. She gave 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.”

There are just so many parallels to the Lightbringer story here. To wit: Azor Ahai received a magic sword when Nissa Nissa sacrificed her very heart to temper Lightbringer… and Galladon of Morne received his magic sword when the “Maiden herself” lost her heart to him. Galladon used the Just Maid only three times, while Lightbringer had to be forged three times. The name “Just Maid” is derived from “the Maiden herself,” and plays on the real-world astronomy of the constellation Virgo, which appears to holding aloft the scales of Libra – this is where our image of blind lady justice comes from. Point being – the sword is named for the essence of the woman who lost her heart to create it, and that’s very similar to Nissa Nissa having poured her strength and soul into Lightbringer. And don’t forget that the word “Lightbringer” is synonymous with Venus or Aphrodite, so it too is a goddess sword, like the Just Maid. Galladon and the Just Maid are even associated with dragons too – it’s said that Galladon slew a dragon with the Just Maid. The name “Morne” obviously makes us think of “Sword of the Morning,” especially when Galladon is described as “the perfect knight” and a “champion of such valor,” since Dawn is only given out to knights of House Dayne who prove themselves worthy.

There’s even an implication of the Just Maid as a star sword or meteor sword, because “the Maiden herself” is kind of implied as a star lady. As I mentioned, the phrase “Just Maid” refers to Virgo holding Libra, so Martin is making intentional reference to a zodiacal constellation in the name of the sword. Consider this: each of the Seven Gods of the Faith (which uses a lot of astronomy by the way) is associated with one of the seven “celestial wanderers,” a phrase which refers to the 5 planets visible from earth and the sun and moon. If we had to guess which wanderer was associated with “the Maiden,” the only two choices really would be Venus or the moon… and then we recall that the Dawn meteorite is called “the heart of a fallen star,” so now reading about this celestial maiden losing her heart to the Knight of Morne to make a magic sword… really starts to sound like just another version of the Lightbringer story. A remix, if you will.

The Galladon story is given to us by Brienne of Tarth, because Morne was an ancient castle on the Isle of Tarth and Galladon is a local hero there. As if to emphasize the morning / evening symbolism, Morne is complemented by Evenfall Hall on the other side of Tarth, where the Lord is called “The Evenstar.” Thus we are definitely meant to read Galladon of Morne as tapping into the Morningstar symbolism of Venus, which means that the Just Maid, Lightbringer, and Dawn all draw their symbolism from Venus mythology. Brienne herself carries around a magic sword, Oathkeeper, which she compared to the Just Maid, and that’s important because Oathkeeper used to be Ned’s Ice, and Arya compared a blood-soaked Ice to the red comet; Oathkeeper meanwhile has been colored blood red, making it a very good symbolic stand-in for Lightbringer.

Ergo, you have the daughter of the Evenstar carrying around a magic red sword and thinking of Galladon of Morne, who had a sword with an origin story that sounds like Lightbringer and Dawn. I don’t know why there’s a weird version of the Azor Ahai myth floating around on the Isle of Tarth, but that appears to be the case, and Tarth is very close to Storm’s End, lying due west of the Storm’s End in Shipbreaker Bay. Between the mythology of Durran Godsgrief and Galladon of Morne, we pretty much have the whole Mythical Astronomy Long Night story.


The Weirdest Place in Westeros

But let’s do move on. Many of you might be fidgeting in your seat to ask ‘what about the other Hammer of the Waters that fell on the Neck,’ and that’s a good question. It seems clear Westeros remembers two destructive flooding and land-subsidence events associated with the “hammer of the Waters” – one on the Arm of Dorne, and one on the Neck – but the author is intentionally being vague as to whether or not they fell at the same time or not. Most people tend to think they were two different events, based on the logic that the children were dropping the Hammers to try to stop the First Men, and tried to drop the second one on the Neck after the first one failed to stop them in the south. But the first time we hear of the Hammer, the story comes from Old nan, and it doesn’t sound like they dropped two different hammers:

“But some twelve thousand years ago, the First Men appeared from the east, crossing the Broken Arm of Dorne before it was broken. They came with bronze swords and great leathern shields, riding horses. No horse had ever been seen on this side of the narrow sea. No doubt the children were as frightened by the horses as the First Men were by the faces in the trees. As the First Men carved out holdfasts and farms, they cut down the faces and gave them to the fire. Horror-struck, the children went to war. The old songs say that the greenseers used dark magics to make the seas rise and sweep away the land, shattering the Arm, but it was too late to close the door. The wars went on until the earth ran red with blood of men and children both, but more children than men, for men were bigger and stronger, and wood and stone and obsidian make a poor match for bronze. Finally the wise of both races prevailed, and the chiefs and heroes of the First Men met the greenseers and wood dancers amidst the weirwood groves of a small island in the great lake called Gods Eye. There they forged the Pact.”

Obviously this is a mythical account of whatever happened back then, but as you can see there is only one hammer event in this story. There’s no reference to the Neck here at all – and I suspect that is because all the flooding happened at the same time, and so it suffices to refer to them both at once. I mean it does stand to reason that the low-lying lands of the Neck would have been flooded by those same tsunamis that ravaged Storm’s End, just not as severely.

The maesterly summary in TWOIAF makes it sound like the flooding at the Neck and the Arm of Dorne are thought of as one event as well:

The hunters among the children—their wood dancers—became their warriors as well, but for all their secret arts of tree and leaf, they could only slow the First Men in their advance. The greenseers employed their arts, and tales say that they could call the beasts of marsh, forest, and air to fight on their behalf: direwolves and monstrous snowbears, cave lions and eagles, mammoths and serpents, and more. But the First Men proved too powerful, and the children are said to have been driven to a desperate act.

Legend says that the great floods that broke the land bridge that is now the Broken Arm and made the Neck a swamp were the work of the greenseers, who gathered at Moat Cailin to work dark magic. Some contest this, however: the First Men were already in Westeros when this occurred, and stemming the tide from the east would do little more than slow their progress. Moreover, such power is beyond even what the greenseers are traditionally said to have been capable of…and even those accounts appear exaggerated.

Basically, it’s the same story Old Nan told, only the location of the summoning is moved from the Isle of Faces to Moat Cailin. You can see the maesters making the same argument I did about closing the barn door after the horses have escaped too, almost as if George Martin is begging us to question the official story of the children causing the Hammer. In any case, there’s really no evidence that there were two separate events, save for the confusion about where it was called down from, and that’s the part of the myth that is the most questionable to begin with.

So like I said, it could well be that the Neck was flooded by the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, but there’s actually a good amount of evidence that more than one moon meteor struck Westeros, or, alternately, that the impact on the Arm of Dorne was so severe that it caused earthquakes throughout Westeros… because there’s really no question that the entire midsection of Westeros, from the Neck to the Iron Islands, shook with a tremendous violence at some point in the past. The Neck isn’t just flooded, after all, as we see when we have a look at one of my very favorite places in ASOIAF, which is of course the very weird Moat Cailin. This is Catleyn catching sight of the gargantuan, abandoned fortress in AGOT:

Just beyond, through the mists, she glimpsed the walls and towers of Moat Cailin … or what remained of them. Immense blocks of black basalt, each as large as a crofter’s cottage, lay scattered and tumbled like a child’s wooden blocks, half-sunk in the soft boggy soil. Nothing else remained of a curtain wall that had once stood as high as Winterfell’s. The wooden keep was gone entirely, rotted away a thousand years past, with not so much as a timber to mark where it had stood. All that was left of the great stronghold of the First Men were three towers … three where there had once been twenty, if the taletellers could be believed.

The Gatehouse Tower looked sound enough, and even boasted a few feet of standing wall to either side of it. The Drunkard’s Tower, off in the bog where the south and west walls had once met, leaned like a man about to spew a bellyful of wine into the gutter. And the tall, slender Children’s Tower, where legend said the children of the forest had once called upon their nameless gods to send the hammer of the waters, had lost half its crown. It looked as if some great beast had taken a bite out of the crenellations along the tower top, and spit the rubble across the bog. All three towers were green with moss.

Try to picture it, if you can: blocks of black basalt as big as a cottage; those would weigh many tons. And they used to be stacked up fifty to eighty feet high to make a wall! This is true megalithic construction here, almost as if the castle were built on a scale intended for giants. The level of difficulty involved is far, far beyond the ringforts and primitive castles of the First Men, and indeed, we do not see anything remotely close to this type of construction anywhere else in Westeros, period. The only possible match is actually Yeen, on Sothoryos, which is made of oily black stone in “massive blocks so heavy that it would require a dozen elephants to move them.” When Theon sees Moat Cailin in ADWD, George seems to be teasing with the idea that these block of black basalt are actually the dreaded oily black stone:

Where once a mighty curtain wall had stood, only scattered stones remained, blocks of black basalt so large it must once have taken a hundred men to hoist them into place. Some had sunk so deep into the bog that only a corner showed; others lay strewn about like some god’s abandoned toys, cracked and crumbling, spotted with lichen. Last night’s rain had left the huge stones wet and glistening, and the morning sunlight made them look as if they were coated in some fine black oil.

There’s the fine black oil quote; make of it what you will. Like I said, the building styles of Moat Cailin and Yeen match, they’re both built in swampy jungles, and Moat Cailin is abandoned and damned almost like Yeen is – so if Moat Cailin’s black basalt turns out to be oily black stone, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise. Whether or not it’s oily stone, I think the easy conclusion is that Moat Cailin was built… a very long time ago. Quite possibly Yeen and Moat Cailin are Martin’s way of telling us that Deep Ones used to rule the earth, tens of thousands of years ago, or perhaps these places are connected to the Great Empire of the Dawn, but… Moat Cailin wasn’t built by no First Men that we know of, is what I’m saying, and as such it is almost certainly a pre-Long Night structure. Quite possibly very pre-Long Night.

And that makes sense, because it’s built in a damn swamp. Swamps are not where you build castles, usually. How exactly would one gain the leverage to stack cottage-sized blocks of rock eighty feet into the air… in a swamp? Where you put the giant cranes and pulleys, or the ramps solid enough to bear the weight of such blocks? Building Moat Cailin on solid, dry ground is already a task well beyond the First Men we know of; doing so miles into an uninhabitable swamp is just unthinkable. It’s far, far more likely that Moat Cailin was built when the Neck was solid ground, before it was inundted by the Hammer of the Waters event.

This too makes a lot of sense, because this place is pretty messed up. These unbelievably large and heavy stone blocks that used to comprise the fortress are strewn all about the bog like a child’s wooden blocks, or like a god’s toys. That sounds like more that just the land subsiding under the fortress and causing a collapse – both descriptions make it sound like they were hurled around the bog. If one moon meteor caused the tremendous violence of the breaking of the Arm of Dorne, then this kind of destruction could certainly be attributed to either the same meteor impact or a similar one that fell somewhere nearby. And after all – the destruction here at the Neck and down south at the Arm of Dorne are both attributed to the same thing. I’m just saying that thing was a moon meteor, which was remembered as a hammer that fell from the sky and struck the waters and earth.

If you think about it, these tales of the children of the forest being the ones to call the Hammer down from Moat Cailin are even more dubious than the ones of them calling it down from the Isle of Faces. So the children.. gathered at the top of a dark tower in a giant castle made of black stone to work their nature-based greenseer magic? Does that even sound like the children, who are never found in castles or towers, but rather tree-towns and caves and the deep woods? Azor Ahai working dark sorcery in a dark tower, sure, that I can buy, but the children of the forest?

As I mentioned, the flooding and land subsidence in this area extends to the iron Islands as well, and we find a lot of the same elements there: a castle that might be older than the First Men, massive land collapse, and even oily black stone.

Oh, and something about a dragon, we can’t forget that.


Castle Pyke and the Seastone Chair

The IronIslands mythology is the most developed of any region or culture in ASOIAF, at least in terms of what we get as readers. George really had fun with it, and I’ve written about it extensively as its highly symbolic – check out Weirwood Compendium 1, the Grey King and the Sea Dragon. Fortunately we don’t need to go into that level of depth today – we don’t have an extra two hours – but there are a few basic things to notice. First off, Castle Pyke. It’s very old – so old nobody actually knows who built it:

Pyke is so ancient that no one can say with certainty when it was built, nor name the lord who built it. Like the Seastone Chair, its origins are lost in mystery.

Once, centuries ago, Pyke was as other castles: built upon solid stone on a cliff overlooking the sea, with a wall and keeps and towers. But the cliffs it rested upon were not as solid as they seemed, and beneath the endless pounding of the waves, they began to crumble. Walls fell, the ground gave way, outer buildings were lost.
What remains of Pyke today is a complex of towers and keeps scattered across half a dozen islets and sea stacks above the booming waves. A section of curtain wall, with a great gatehouse and defensive towers, stretches across the headland, the only access to the castle, and is all that remains of the original fortress. A stone bridge from the headland leads to the first and largest islets and Great Keep of Pyke.

What’s interesting is that there are no records of Pyke being built, or of the disaster that struck it. True, it’s possible that the state of the castle could be the result of erosion by the waves, as the maesters suggest, but it’s also possible that this land collapse could have happened all at once. It’s not just a little erosion, after all, but the collapse of most of the land that the castle sits on.

My thinking here is that Castle Pyke was built before the Long Night, was nearly destroyed by the floods and earthquakes brought on by the meteor impacts, and then was later rediscovered by the first people to reinhabit the Iron Islands after the Long Night. A couple of things point to this – the Seastone Chair, and the round tower design of the castle. Round towers are supposedly something that was beyond the capabilities of the First Men and early Andals, and this idea has been used by the maesters to date castles throughout Westeros, as we see when the maesters discuss Winterfell’s First Keep:

The oldest of these—a long-abandoned tower, round and squat and covered with gargoyles—has become known as the First Keep. Some take this to mean that it was built by the First Men, but Maester Kennet has definitively proved that it could not have existed before the arrival of the Andals since the First Men and the early Andals raised square towers and keeps. Round towers came sometime later.

The First Keep is thought to have been rebuilt more than once, and it seems likely that the only original part of Winterfell is the complex of crypts below. But this can not be said for the Sea Tower of Pyke:

The Sea Tower rose from the outmost island at the point of the broken sword, the oldest part of the castle, round and tall, the sheer-sided pillar on which it stood half-eaten through by the endless battering of the waves. 

The peninsula of land that Castle Pyke sits on is compared to a broken sword here, and that’s another clue that the land here might have been shattered in one violent incident (and I can’t help but notice George places the red comet in the sky right above the castle in this scene – it’s the one where Theon returns home to the Iron Islands – as if to say “gee, I wonder what could break the land in such a violent way, oh hey look at that huge comet.”

Symbolism aside though, Pyke’s outer curtain wall and the Sea Tower, both named as original parts of the castle, are clearly round – but they are far too old to be Andal construction. The clash between Andals and Iron Islanders came late in the Andal conquest and is a matter of historical record, while Pyke is so damn old nobody remembers building it. This raises questions about Storm’s End too, since it is comprised of one giant round tower and is thought of as being built before the Andals arrived, although it’s unclear if perhaps it was rebuilt over the years like Winterfell’s First Keep. When we take a look at Pyke, we can see that, like Moat Cailin, the building techniques here are hard to attribute to the First Men. They instead have to make us wonder about “men who came before the First Men,” or perhaps the similar idea that there were multiple groups of people that later got lumped together under the homogenous term “First Men.”

And after all, there are stories that someone was here on the islands long before the First Men. We first hear of this in ACOK when Theon first sees the Seastone Chair:

Lord Balon occupied the Seastone Chair, carved in the shape of a great kraken from an immense block of oily black stone. Legend said that the First Men had found it standing on the shore of Old Wyk when they came to the Iron Islands. 

More detail about this comes in TWOIAF:

A possibility arises for a third race to have inhabited the Seven Kingdoms in the Dawn Age, but it is so speculative that it need only be dealt with briefly. Among the ironborn, it is said that the first of the First Men to come to the Iron Isles found the famous Seastone Chair on Old Wyk, but that the isles were uninhabited. If true, the nature and origins of the chair’s makers are a mystery. Maester Kirth in his collection of ironborn legends, Songs the Drowned Men Sing, has suggested that the chair was left by visitors from across the Sunset Sea, but there is no evidence for this, only speculation.

Okay, so clearly the Great Empire of the Deep Ones came here first, and they left the Seastone Chair behind when they left because it was just too big and heavy to fit on the ship. Or maybe they just have tons of kraken-shaped chairs and they just left one by mistake. Whatever the case, the Seastone Chair is definitely oily black stone, and it’s definitely something pulled straight from Lovecraft. George is quite intentionally evoking the idea of the Deep Ones here, which fits well with the idea of Moat Cailin as a match for Yeen that may also be made of oily black stone. Put that together with the abundant legends of Deep Ones, Merlings, and Squishers that spread across the midsection of Westeros from the Iron Islands to the Riverlands to the Neck to Crackclaw Point and Driftmark, and you can see the author hinting at a previous cycle of existence, ruled by fish people. The Great Empire of the Squishers, more or less.

I don’t think that is anything George will ever confirm; this is only supposed to be a hint of a previous civilization from the remotest history – in Lovecraft’s universe, there are races of elder beings that vanished from the earth hundreds of thousands of years ago or more, and that’s what Martin is trying to evoke here I think. But for our purposes, consider that the Seastone Chair was supposedly found on the beach of Old Wyk, by people who found the Iron Islands uninhabited.

That’s interesting – someone must have moved it from Old Wyk to Pyke, and then to the Great Keep. Who in the hell did that exactly? Was that before or after Pyke was damaged? Whomever found it on the beach, did they find it already carved into a kraken shape, or was that done later? Nobody seems to know, just as nobody seems to know who built Pyke, or when. There’s also no specific record mentioned of the land Pyke is built on falling into the sea – it’s presumed that it happened, but it’s never mentioned that like half the King’s family died one time because part of the castle gave way during a feast or something. In other words, there’s a huge historical blind spot around everything concerning the Seastone Chair and Castle Pyke, and the most likely reason for this is that they were made before the Long Night. The massive land collapse at Pyke and the Iron Islands in general was in turn most likely caused during the Long Night.

The fact that the maesters and Ironborn alike keep talking about a lost race of men that once existed on the Iron Islands may also be explained by the Long Night bottleneck. This could be no more than a foggy memory of life before the Long Night:

Archmaester Haereg once advanced the interesting notion that the ancestors of the ironborn came from some unknown land west of the Sunset Sea, citing the legend of the Seastone Chair. The throne of the Greyjoys, carved into the shape of a kraken from an oily black stone, was said to have been found by the First Men when they first came to Old Wyk. Haereg argued that the chair was a product of the first inhabitants of the islands, and only the later histories of maesters and septons alike began to claim that they were in fact descended of the First Men.

Oh, hey look, it’s the Andals, lumping things together again and calling it “First Men.” Someone else noticed! Anyway, the passage finishes with this fun line:

But this is the purest speculation and, in the end, Haereg himself dismissed the idea, and so must we.

Any time TWOIAF says “oh well we have to dismiss that idea, of course,” it reads very like a hint to do the opposite. We have Archmaester Haereg here as well as Maester Kirth from the last quote are both suggesting that there might have been a lost epoch of Ironborn history, that today’s Ironborn may have an older, non-First Men ancestor. This argument is bolstered by the fact the the Ironborn have always been skilled seafarers, while the First Men were decidedly not, and both other cultural practices that set the Ironborn apart. And thats to say nothing of Maester Theron, author of “Strange Stone,” who apparently believes in the Great Empire of the Deep Ones; he suggested that a race of half-humans sired by Deep Ones were lurking around Westeros in the ancient past and may be responsible for the Seastone Chair, and that the Ironborn may descend from these fishy folk.

So look – we don’t know what’s going on here exactly, but that’s kind of the point. After Galon Whitestaff organizes the first Kingsmoot, we start getting list of kings from Houses we know of and semi-historical records that can be cross referenced against other histories from other regions, but before that there’s this super-foggy period where we kinda think somebody was there, but we don’t know if they were First Men or Fish People or foreigners from across the Sunset Sea. Whomever they were, they left only the oily black stone carved in the shape of a kraken and perhaps the Castle Pyke to remember them by, and nearly all other records of them have been erased – and this is just the sort of thing that is neatly explained by a cultural reset like the Long Night.


Smoking the Silver Seaweed

Saving the best for last, we actually do have an Ironborn legend – the oldest one, actually – which describes both a long lost golden age and its destruction by flood.  That’s right; the legends of the Grey King are extensive and heavily laced with symbolism, but if we boil down the timeline of the story, that’s what they describe. If you squint a little, you can even see moon meteors! But we’ll get to that. This is the inner monologue of Aeron Damphair from AFFC:

But that was in the dawn of days, when mighty men still dwelt on earth and sea. The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall. On its walls hung tapestries woven from silver seaweed most pleasing to the eyes. The Grey King’s warriors had feasted on the bounty of the sea at a table in the shape of a great starfish, whilst seated upon thrones carved from mother-of-pearl. Gone, all the glory gone. Men were smaller now. Their lives had grown short. The Storm God drowned Nagga’s fire after the Grey King’s death, the chairs and tapestries had been stolen, the roof and walls had rotted away. Even the Grey King’s great throne of fangs had been swallowed by the sea. Only Nagga’s bones endured to remind the Ironborn of all the wonder that had been.

Like I was saying, there’s a glorious golden age full of mighty men and very impressive furniture and wall hangings which was washed away by a great flood. This lines up well with my proposed timeline, where the destruction of the Long Night acts as a line of demarcation between the barely-remembered, fairy-tale-like Dawn Age and the far-more historical, but still mythicized Age of Heroes. Additionally, we are told that after the Grey King’s death, which is when the floods came, we had tremendous war and strife:

The Grey King was king over all the Iron Islands, but he left a hundred sons behind him, and upon his death they began to quarrel over who would succeed him. Brother killed brother in an orgy of kinslaying until only sixteen remained. These last survivors divided up the islands between them. All the great houses of the ironborn claim descent from the Grey King and his sons save, curiously, the Goodbrothers of Old Wyk and Great Wyk, who supposedly derive from the Grey King’s leal eldest brother.

So after the Grey King’s death, great floods wash away his kingdom and his works… and then we have “an orgy of kinslaying.” This is remembered as a simple contest over the kingdom, which seems a bit over the top – the guy ruled for a thousand years, but didn’t leave anything stable behind? His sons just tore his kingdom apart for greed, and didn’t stop until 84 out of 100 brothers were dead? Perhaps this time of total anarchy and war described as following after the great flood is simply their memory of the desperate fight for resources that would have occurred as the Long Night wore on. On the other side of this chaos, some sort of new cultural equilibrium was reached, with 16 regional kings or lords holding power, and this sounds a lot like human society reasserting itself after the total anarchy of the Long Night.

Interestingly, the man who organized the very first Kingsmoot and forbade Ironborn to do that whole “orgy of kinslaying” thing was Galon WhiteStaff, whose white staff was said to be made either from weirwood or one of Naga’s bones… which are actually weirwood. He had a weirwood staff, in other words, and he helped organize the nascent Ironborn culture, and that reminds me a bit of the children of the forest helping mankind to survive the Long Night and shaping subsequent First Man culture.

As many of you will know, the Grey King himself is an obvious Prometheus / Lucifer figure who compares well to Azor Ahai, and his myths contain tantalizing hints of moon meteors.  The Grey King is credited for bringing the fire of the gods to man as Prometheus did, and he did this in two ways: by slaying the Sea Dragon Nagga as well as by taunting the Storm God into setting a tree ablaze with a thunderbolt. Meteorites have been referred to as “thunder-stones” in world mythology, and thought of as a terrifying sort of lightning strike, so it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to realize this account of a great thunderbolt from the Storm God may well be the local mythicization of one of the meteor strikes. Lightbringer is definitely a “fire of the gods” symbol, and the same goes for stars that fall out of the sky to earth, so the idea that this thunderbolt is thought of as bringing heavenly fire to mankind makes a lot of sense. The Storm God myth actually has Grey King directly challenging the Storm God, which reminds us of Durran Godsgrief stealing the daughter of the Wind and Sea gods, for sure, but also of the Bloodstone Emperor’s apostasy when he “cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky.” The Bloodstone Emperor’s fire of the gods was an actual meteorite, and the same may be true of the Grey King.

As for that sea dragon, well. If a fiery meteor falling out of the sky can be seen as a dragon, what do we call a meteor which lands in the sea and causes giant tsunamis?

The Grey King’s greatest feat, however, was the slaying of Nagga, largest of the sea dragons, a beast so colossal that she was said to feed on leviathans and giant krakens and drown whole islands in her wroth.

Now there may or not be fire-breathing sea monsters in ASOIAF; we just don’t know. But I’m pretty sure about the moon meteors – I think they definitely existed – and this fire-breathing “sea dragon” drowns whole islands! That’s exactly what a meteor landing offshore or just near the shore would do, and this is exactly what happened at the Arm of Dorne, where large swaths of land were drowned. If there was a meteor impact somewhere near here which triggered the collapse of land we see at Pyke, it could very well be remembered in legend as a “dragon” which lives in the sea and drowns the land, causing it to collapse into the sea.

The Grey King was said to possess nagga’s fire, and if Nagga was actually a meteor impact near the Iron Islands… well it might be the Seastone Chair. It’s not too big to be a meteorite, and one of the best theories for the “oily” look of the oily black stone is vitrification, such as is found on meteorites. That’s nothing I can prove, but I just thought I’d mention it. It’s one of the few ways we can make sense of the idea of the Grey King possessing the fire of the sea dragon; after all, we know making magic sword from magic meteorites is a thing in ASOIAF. The Bloodstone Emperor “worshipped” his black meteor, implying that he may have used it for magic power.

Finally, and I can’t even go into this in any depth here, I will tell you that there are certain clues that the Grey King was some sort of greenseer, or that he tapped into those powers somehow. The famous “bones of Nagga” that formed his great hall seem to be petrified weirwood, perhaps the ribbing of an ancient ship that was flipped over and made into a longhall, and more importantly, his throne and crown may have been made from weirwood, implying him as a greenseer. If the Storm God’s thunderbolt was a Long Night moon meteor, and it was called down by the Grey King, a possible greenseer – well it’s the Hammer of the Waters myth all over again, isn’t it?

The Storm God’s thunderbolt supposedly set a tree ablaze, thereby imparting the fire of the gods to man – but as I’ve pointed out in the Weirwood Compendium series and elsewhere, the weirwoods are implied as a symbolic flaming tree by virtue of their red leaf canopy being described as a “blaze of flame among the green,” and they obviously impart a form of the power of the gods to mankind just like the Grey King’s burning tree (and of course all of this divine burning tree imagery is borrowing from Moses’s burning bush). Ergo, if the Grey King is possessing the fire of the gods through a “burning tree,” well, that’s probably a weirwood. In other words, the Storm God’s thunderbolt legend and the Sea Dragon legend each seem to have references to both moon meteors and weirwood magic, and those are basically the two elements of the Hammer of the Waters event.

So, to sum up everything since we started talking about Moat Cailin and the Hammer of the Waters falling on the Neck… I think the Long Night moon meteors were the thing which broke and flooded Westeros in various places, from the Arm of Dorne to the Neck to the IronIslands. I think possibly Castle Pyke and definitely Moat Cailin were built before the Long Night, and I think their heavily damaged state reflects the devastating power of that disaster. Almost all record of the people (or fish-people) who built these structures was erased by the Long Night cultural bottleneck, leaving only vague rumors and folktales behind to explain their mighty works. When humans began to repopulate the Iron Islands, they found the Seastone Chair and Castle Pyke, and maybe a few weird looking locals with webbed fingers and very strange stories about where it all came from. From this point on began a period of somewhat historical record, with ruling houses and lineages arising that still exist today. Everything that came before – the previous culture of high magic, the floods and meteor impacts that washed it all away – are remembered in fantastical, mythical language, just like all the other stuff from the “Dawn Age.”


At this point, depending on how many of my Mythical Astronomy podcasts you’ve consumed, you may be wondering about the cause of these moon meteor hammers. Meaning, the official Hammer of the Waters legend places blame with “the greenseers” performing blood sacrifice either on the Isle of Faces or at Moat Cailin, the eastern legends says it was Azor Ahai / the Bloodstone Emperor murdering a woman that did it, and the Grey King and Durran Godsgrief legends say the destructive floods came when the first and greatest king in their cultural history challenged or stole from the gods. Is there a universal truth here to be sussed out?

Well, yes, I believe so. There is abundant evidence that Azor Ahai was himself either a greenseer, or one who stole the power of the greenseers, and that Nissa Nissa was part child of the forest. The Weirwood Compendium has the full breakdown there – and check out my two scripted Great Empire of the Dawn videos, “Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai” and “Westeros” as well – but the basic idea is that the Great Empire of the Dawn, who controlled dragons before the Valyrians did and probably built Asshai, came to Westeros in the Dawn Age, before the Long Night, and the purpose had something to do with the magic of the children of the forest.

We don’t know how long this cross-cultural contact was going on for, but what seems the most clear is that Nissa Nissa was sacrificed by Azor Ahai because she was part child of the forest, or like a female Green Man or something, and her magical connection to the weirwoodnet was used by Azor Ahai to gain access to the powers of the weirwoods. I have a feeling this blood magic rite did go down on the Isle of Faces, and thus we have the conflation of two stories about blood magic ritual sacrifice which brought about incredible devastation – the murder of Nissa Nissa which broke the moon, and the sacrifice of either humans or children of the forest on the Isle of Faces to call down the Hammer of the Waters.

Now, is there a way to steer a comet into a moon and blow it up using weirwood magic? Or did Azor Ahai time his blood magic ritual to the moment of celestial doom as a way of harnessing magical power? Perhaps he merely performed his dark deed.. .sometime during the Long Night, and as the legend developed, the murder itself began to be thought of as the thing which broke the moon, or caused the sun to hide its face. We probably won’t be able to answer that question until we see what Euron does to call down the moon meteor that causes the new Long Night in The Winds of Winter… lol. We’ll see.

But the last question I can answer concerns the Others, and here I’m pulling from Sacred Order of Green Zombies 5, 6, and 7. The evidence seems to point to the Others, the white walkers of the wood, being some sort of emanations from the weirwood tree. I first heard this idea on Quinn’s Ideas, formerly Ideas of Ice and Fire, and he points out that when George Martin describes the Others as icy sidhe, he’s actually telling us a lot about them; that they are like frozen nature spirits, essentially. I’ve tracked the symbolism further to the point where I am now quite convinced that the Others were the original spirits of the weirwood trees who were driven out when the first human greenseer invaded the weirwoods – a man named Azor Ahai.

Thus Azor Ahai’s murder of Nissa Nissa, a child of the forest, perhaps along with other green men or children, had the side effect of creating the Others. Or perhaps that was the intended effect – I tend to think of the Others as a reaction or defense mechanism from the weirwoods to being invaded, but we are deep into the land of the theoretical here, so who knows. I think this makes a lot more sense that what we saw on the show, where the children created the Night King and by extension the White Walkers to defend themselves against humans, but then somehow lost control of them or something (it isn’t said). Instead, it’s mankind who is directly responsible for creating the white walkers, and I always felt like it should man who is responsible for the major evils of the story, be it causing the Long Night or creating the White Walkers – you can’t pass that off on the little elves, man – man has to be responsible for those things, in my opinion.

 

 

 

Continuing on with this quote from The World of Ice and Fire, which is supposed to be thought of as “written by the maesters”:

It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey’s tail.

Okay, so the YiTish records, which are among the very oldest in the world, speak of the darkness lasting “a lifetime,” which is similar to “a generation.” Here’s what I am driving at: if the Long Night lasted

Great Empire of the Dawn: Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai

In the back pages of The World of Ice and Fire – and I mean the very back pages – there’s a curious tale of an ancient kingdom of the Far East called “The Great Empire of the Dawn.” It reads very like A Song of Ice and Fire’s “Atlantis” legend – it was a fabled society of immense wealth, knowledge, power, and of course, hubris, and it met a sudden end in a world-shaping cataclysm. While it seems like some extra world-building with a few Lovecraft references thrown in, the Great Empire of the Dawn is actually nothing less than the story of the long lost people who built Asshai – and who likely tamed dragons before the Valyrians did.

That’s pretty interesting on its own – the origins of dragons and dragonlord magic is the sort of delightful mystery all fantasy fans are drawn to. But the Great Empire of the Dawn theory is more than that, because there is virtually irrefutable proof that these ancient, pre-Valyrian dragonlords actually came to Westeros in ancient days! This is the most important part of the theory, because I believe that it helps solve some of the deepest mysteries of the story, such as why House Dayne has a mysterious, highly anachronistic 10,000 year-old unbreakable magic sword and a tendency to manifest Valyrian looks from time to time; why the legend of Azor Ahai, an ancient myth from the far east, is important to a story primarily about Westeros; why the last hero’s final sword was said to be made from “dragonsteel”; and why Targaryens are needed at the Wall to face the Others. The Great Empire of the Dawn theory also sheds light on a few more obscure mysteries such as the non-Westerosi origins of the first Hightowers, Ironborn, and perhaps even Lannisters; why there are legends of dragons and dragonslayers in ancient Westeros; and who may have built some of the mysteriously-advanced structures around Westeros like Storms End, Moat Cailin, and even the Wall. But first, we have to figure out just what is going on over in the east with the fabled empire of the Dawn Age.


Hey there friends and fellow myth heads, its Lucifer means Lightbringer and I am here with newly polished version of one of my very oldest theories. That’s right, although there have been many good videos and essays on the Great Empire of the Dawn, including the collaboration History of Westeros and I did a couple years back which most of you are probably familiar with, my essay outlining this theory on the Westeros.org forums from April 2nd, 2015, is to the best of my knowledge the first appearance of the theory. I know, I know, no one cares, but thank you for allowing me a brief moment of nostalgia and flag-planting. With the crucial help of my friend Durran Durrandon, I came up with this right after my main Long Night / moon meteors theory, and it’s always been a favorite topic of mine… it’s like finding a secret Numenor in the history of ASOIAF, and it’s actually ancient Asshai, so it’s pretty damn fun. Anyway, this video is brought to you by my Patreon community and all the myth heads who like, share, and comment on my videos, so a big thanks to all of you. Check out lucifermeanslightbringer.com for the Patreon link as well as the text version of all of my video essays.


In late 2014, George R. R. Martin, along with co-writers Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson, who run Westeros.org, released a vast and delightful treasure box masquerading as a coffee-table style worldbook companion, being also known by the name The World of Ice and Fire. It dropped into the Westeros.org forums like bloody chum into shark-infested waters; old friends like Ravenous Reader and Durran Durrandon remember the feeding frenzy of theorizing that went down at the time. All the stuff from the far east stood out right away, especially this strange story of a fabled lost empire whose ending involved both the Long Night and Azor Ahai. We find it in the history of Yi Ti, though it is actually a predecessor:

In ancient days, the god-emperors of Yi Ti were as powerful as any ruler on earth, with wealth that exceeded even that of Valyria at its height and armies of almost unimaginable size.

In the beginning, the priestly scribes of Yin declare, all the land between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng), formed a single realm ruled by the God-on-Earth, the only begotten son of the Lion of Night and Maiden-Made of Light, who traveled about his domains in a palanquin carved from a single pearl and carried by a hundred queens, his wives. For ten thousand years the Great Empire of the Dawn flourished in peace and plenty under the God on earth, until at last he ascended to the stars to join his forbearers.

Dominion over mankind then passed to his eldest son, who was known as the pearl Emperor and ruled for 1000 years. The Jade Emperor, the Tourmaline Emperor, the Onyx Emperor, the Topaz Emperor, and the Opal Emperor followed in turn, each reigning for centuries… Yet every rain was shorter and more troubled than the one preceding it, for wild man and baleful beasts pressed at the borders of the Great Empire, lesser kings grew prideful and rebellious, and the common people gave themselves over to avarice, envy, lust, murder, incest, gluttony, and sloth.

Breaking in here for a moment, we can see so far that this is a very standard tale of a high civilization which eventually grows corrupt and prideful before its great downfall – again, think of Atlantis or Numenor form Lord of the Rings. The God-Emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn apparently started with some sort of divine mandate, but then lost their way… Let’s see what happens next!

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. (Many scholars count the Bloodstone Emperor as the first High Priest of the sinister Church of Starry Wisdom, which persists to this day in many port cities throughout the known world).

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. Despairing of the evil that had been unleashed on earth, the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back upon the world, and the Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth to punish the wickedness of men.

How long the darkness endured no man can say, but all agree that it was only when a great warrior—known variously as Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser—arose to give courage to the race of men and lead the virtuous into battle with his blazing sword Lightbringer that the darkness was put to rout, and light and love returned once more to the world.

Alright, well, that was pretty bad – torture, necromancy, meteor worship, an age of darkness so full of evil the gods themselves despair… this is the eastern version of the Long Night story, and I can definitely picture Old Nan telling this story to Bran one dark and stormy night: “…darks arts, torture and necromancy. Is this the sort of story you like, boy?”

The place to start with this myth is the presence of the Long Night, despite the fact that Tiger Woman sounds pretty damn cool (that’s probably a reference to the God-Empresses of Leng, actually, as it is known as the land of 10,000 tigers). As you can see from this very legend, the Long Night was a global cataclysm felt from Westeros to Yi Ti, and thus it acts as a universal line of demarcation in history. If the Great Empire of the Dawn ended with the Long Night, then it existed before – during the Dawn Age, appropriately enough. The Azor Ahai myth is always attached to the Long Night, and he pops up in this story too, so all of that agrees chronologically – as much as it can for history this ancient. Yi Ti itself is regarded as one of the first civilizations to arise in the wake of the Long Night, and although they consider themselves descendants of the Great Empire, we can be sure that there was a break between the two civilizations because of the next paragraph in that TWIOAF passage we were quoting from:

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.

So Yi Ti arose some time after the chaos and strife of the Great Empire’s collapse, controlling a large part – but not all – of their former territory. The Yi Tish scribes preserve the memory of this older empire in their most ancient histories (the Yi Tish, along with the Asshai’i, are said to have been the world’s first record keepers), but considers their nation to have ended with the Long Night.

The plot thickens quite a bit, like molten magma hardening into stone, when we read about one of the great achievements of the Great Empire of the Dawn, known as the Five Forts. One note: the “Golden Empire” referred to here is Yi Ti, whose full name is the Golden Empire of Yi Ti.

No discussion of Yi Ti would be complete without a mention of the Five Forts, a line of hulking ancient citadels that stand along the far northeastern frontiers of the Golden Empire, between the Bleeding Sea (named for the characteristic hue of its deep waters, supposedly a result of a plant that grows only there) and the Mountains of the Morn. The Five Forts are very old, older than the Golden Empire itself; some claim they were raised by the Pearl Emperor during the morning of the Great Empire to keep the Lion of Night and his demons from the realms of men…and indeed, there is something godlike, or demonic, about the monstrous size of the forts, for each of the five is large enough to house ten thousand men, and their massive walls stand almost a thousand feet high.

I’m not sure if the Five Forts were built by “the Pearl Emperor,” or if there was one specific person called “The Pearl Emperor,” but it is certain that the Forts must predate Yi Ti, for reasons of simple logic: Yi Ti has kept unbroken records since the beginning of their empire, and they would definitely know if they had undertaken the massive, massive civic works project of building those “hulking citadels” with walls hundreds of feet high. They’d be eager to take credit for them, so the fact that they do not tells us that they must not have built them.

Here’s why it’s so important to date the Five Forts: they seem to have been built by dragonlords.

Certain scholars from the west have suggested Valyrian involvement in the construction of the Five Forts, for the great walls are single slabs of fused black stone that resemble certain Valyrian citadels in the west…but this seems unlikely, for the Forts predate the Freehold’s rise, and there is no record of any dragonlords ever coming so far east.

Thus the Five Forts must remain a mystery. They still stand today, unmarked by time, guarding the marches of the Golden Empire against raiders out of the Grey Waste.

Fused stone, as far as we know, can only be created with dragonfire (to melt the stone) and sorcery (both to control the dragons and shape and harden the stone in place). That’s why the maesters say that the Five Forts seems like Valyrian work; however they also rightly point out that Valyria arose after the Long Night and was never known to have come this far east, and so they can only shrug their shoulders. What they don’t come right out and say is that we essentially have a case of a missing, pre-Long Night dragonlord civilization in the far east!

Could that civilization be the Great Empire of the Dawn? Certainly I wondered if that might be the case when I read this passage about the Five Forts. But we’ve been getting clues for a long time about dragons having first originated somewhere else in the far east before Valyria existed for a long time now – ever since book one. That would be Asshai, of course – for example, in Bran’s coma dream in AGOT, he looks east to the lands of Asshai, “where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise,” while Daenerys “had heard that the first dragons had come from the east, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai and the islands of the Jade Sea” and thinks that “perhaps some were still living there, in realms strange and wild.” Dany’s dragon eggs are said to come from Asshai, and even if Illyrio was lying about this, it shows that Asshai is a place where people expect dragon’s eggs to come from.

Septon Barth refers to the same stories of an Asshai’i origin for dragons that Dany has heard in his seminal work  entitled Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns: Their Unnatural History:

In such fragments of Barth’s Unnatural History as remain, the septon appears to have considered various legends examining the origins of dragons and how they came to be controlled by the Valyrians. ( . . . ) 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? 

Perhaps these “men in the Shadow” of Asshai did use dragons to conquer as the Valyrians did – their empire was called “The Great Empire of the Dawn” and it was indeed quite large. Think about it – the Five Forts are said to have built by the Great Empire of the Dawn, but the fused stone building technique used there requires the presence of dragonlords. Asshai is thought by some to be the place where dragons came from… so if the ancient Ashai’i and the nation known as the Great Empire are one and the same, this all fits together very nicely. It’s just that it’s ten-thousand year old history which has passed through the cultural bottleneck of the Long Night, and so the information we have is very fragmented.

This is where Durran Durrandon’s key find comes in.


So… dragons may have first come from Asshai, and if the Great Empire of the Dawn did in fact build the Five Forts, then they must have counted dragonlords among their people. There’s a good logistical case for Asshai having been built by the Great Empire, and I’ll make that in a second. But there’s actually a huge, flaming-sword-in-the-darkness level clue about the Great Empire people having been dragonlords that comes all the way back in AGOT, and this is the thing that the estimable Durran Durrandon found. This passage comes at the end of Dany’s “wake the dragon” dream that she has while lying unconscious in Mirri Maz Duur’s tent of dancing shadows:

“… want to wake the dragon …”

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. “Faster,” they cried, “faster, faster.” She raced, her feet melting the stone wherever they touched. “Faster!” the ghosts cried as one, and she screamed and threw herself forward. A great knife of pain ripped down her back, and she felt her skin tear open and smelled the stench of burning blood and saw the shadow of wings. And Daenerys Targaryen flew.

“… wake the dragon …”

Hair of silver and gold and platinum white mark these people as Valyrians, or at least as blood of the dragon people, and most readers have always assumed these kingly ghosts to be Dany’s Valyrian ancestors. I do think they are Dany’s ancestors, and the one with amethyst eyes does indeed looks like a model Valyrian – but the rest do not. However, opal, amethyst, tourmaline and jade are no random grouping of four gemstones – those are four of the eight gemstones attributed to the rulers of the Great Empire of the Dawn (which were pearl, jade, tourmaline, onyx, topaz, opal, amethyst, and bloodstone). Now I don’t necessarily think that George had the details of the “Great Empire of the Dawn” planned out when he wrote AGOT, but we can tell from the clues about dragons and Asshai that he left in AGOT that he definitely did have a general idea about their being some lost pre-Valyrian dragonlord people from Asshai. All this stuff about the great Empire of the Dawn in TWOIAF is basically just George filling out those details, or said in the parlance of gardener-style writers like George, ‘watering the seeds of world-building’ that he had planted in book one. And when he did, he chose those same four gemstones that he used in the eyes of Dany’s ghostly ancestors as four of the eight gemstones that represent the rulers of the Great Empire.

Therefore, we can be relatively sure that George is now thinking of these gemstone-eyed kingly ghosts with dragonlord hair as Great Empire of the Dawn people. They look like dragonlords, they tell Dany to wake the dragon, and in their hands are swords of pale fire. That’s certainly interesting, since the one flaming sword we hear of, Lightbringer, was supposedly used to defeat the armies of darkness during the Long Night right after the collapse of the Great Empire. If the Great Empire people were dragonlords, it’s possible that flaming sword technology was something they had as well, but the main point is more of a literary one – in ASOIAF, we associate flaming swords with Lightbringer, which is a part of the end of the Great Empire of the Dawn story, and with Azor Ahai, whose myth comes from Asshai.  Lightbringer and Azor Ahai are in turn strongly linked to dragons, and here in Dany’s dream, she sees the gemstone people as dragonlords holding Lightbringer swords who cheer her on to wake the dragon.

So again, you can see how all these details fit together nicely if the Great Empire of the Dawn was a civilization of dragonlords who created a vast empire before the Long Night, one that included Asshai, the place where dragons seem to originate from. Their empire ended in disaster – and certainly Asshai looks like it was the epicenter of a huge magical disaster of some kind, on the scale of the Doom of Valyria or worse (one thinks of the black meteor that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped when the Long Night fell). Flaming swords seem to have been a part of their magical arsenal, hence the many tales of a hero fighting the darkness with Lightbringer at the sunset of their kingdom.

The apparent fact that Dany is seeing the ghosts of the kings and emperors who ruled the Great Empire empire as dragonlords with flaming swords, right at the climax of her wake the dragon dream, speaks to their importance. If these folks don’t know something about what it means for Dany to be Azor Ahai reborn, I don’t know who does. It seems obvious that if these are the gemstone emperor ghosts, the one with amethyst eyes indicates that the Valyrians directly descend from the people of the Great Empire, as opposed to the scenario Septon Barth imagines where men from Asshai simply taught the first Valyrians their arts before disappearing from the pages of history. These kingly ghosts are Dany’s ancestors, her most ancient blood, and these are the people who first bonded with dragons, who in all likelihood first created “the blood of the dragon.” When Dany gets her hands on the glass candle that Marwyn the Mage is almost certainly bringing to Slaver’s Bay, I suspect these gemstone-eyed  folks may put in another appearance. One also wonders about the truth that Quaithe keeps saying waits for Dany in Asshai – we’ve always imagined it had to do with Azor Ahai and dragonlord stuff, and now we can connect that idea to these kingly ghosts with dragonlord hair and flaming swords who were contacting Dany in her all-important wake the dragon dream. They may well have ruled their Great Empire from Asshai, as we are about to see.


Alright, now I want to make the more practically-minded folks in the audience happy. You know I love the symbolism and the literary clues like the gemstone thing, but figuring out that Asshai was part of the Great Empire of the Dawn can be achieved through logic as well. First, let’s talk about the territory said to be included in the Great Empire of the Dawn, which is somewhat loosely described as “all the land between the Bones and the freezing desert called the Grey Waste, from the Shivering Sea to the Jade Sea (including even the great and holy isle of Leng). As you can see on the map, that description could arguably include Asshai. If the Great Empire conquered Leng, that means they were a maritime power, and Asshai would have been well within their reach. Asshai can also be reached over land by caravan even to this day, as we hear from Mirri Maz Duur in AGOT, so it’s actually kind of difficult to imagine a huge, powerful kingdom like the Great Empire existing right next to Asshai but not including it.

Another clue about this comes from following the path of the Azor Ahai legend. We are told that this hero appears in at least five forms – Hyrkoon the Hero, Azor Ahai, Yin Tar, Neferion, and Eldric Shadowchaser, and three of those names are easily traceable to lands within the Great Empire. Hyrkoon the Hero comes from Hyrkoon, a now-vanished empire which existed within the lands fo the great Empire. Yin Tar is obviously from Yi Ti, whose lands were a part of the Great Empire, and the same is true of the city of Nefer, chief city of the people called the N’ghai, presumably the place where “Neferion” comes from. This all makes sense, because these kingdoms would all have sprung up in the wake of the Great Empire’s downfall, preserving their own memory of the flaming sword hero who ended the Long Night, but changing the name and probably other details of the story over time to match their specific culture, as happens in the real world with the evolution of mythology. The name Azor Ahai fits this pattern – it comes from the Asshai’i version of the story, and the word Azor Ahai is similar to the word Asshai as Yin Tar is to Yi Ti – so perhaps Asshai was part of the Great Empire as the ancestors of the people of Hyrkoon, Yi Ti, and Nefer. In fact, the -ai suffix of Azor Ahai and Asshai can be found all through the lands that were once a part of the Great Empire: the N’ghai people of Nefer, the Jogos Nhai, the city of Stygai upriver from Asshai, and the nearby volcanic island of Marhai.

The ‘Eldric Shadowchaser’ name is a total wildcard, matching nothing in Essos, although we find Eldric name variants in House Stark and House Dayne… and you better believe that is a clue we will follow up on when we talk about the Westerosi side of things. But for now, it’s sufficient to observe that peoples formerly part of the Great Empire all seem to retain a version of the flaming sword hero myth, and Asshai has that myth as well.

The better evidence comes from looking at Asshai itself, freaky place that it is. Today, Asshai is heavily depopulated and and inhabited mostly by various types of mages and sorcerers who come to study the dark arts:

Easternmost and southern most of the great cities of the known world, the ancient port of Asshai stands at the end of a long wedge of land, on the point where the Jade Sea meets the Saffron Straights. It’s origin are lost in the mists of time. Even the Asshai’i do not claim to know who built their city; they will say only that a city has stood here since the world began and will stand here until it ends.
[…]
Asshai is a large city, sprawling out for leagues on both banks of the black river Ash. Behind its enormous land walls is ground enough for Volantis, Quarth, and King’s Landing to stand side by side and still have enough room for Oldtown.

Yet the population of Asshai is no greater than that of a good sized market town. By night the streets are deserted, and only one building in ten shows a light.

Asshai is not just a large city; it’s the largest city in the known world, and it’s not close. Volantis, Qarth, Oldtown, and Kings Landing are among the larger cities that we know of, and Asshai is bigger than all of them put together. That’s huge. Enormous. Gargantuan. Nothing less than a Dawn Age metropolis. The exact details of the glory and height of the Great Empire may be shrouded in myth, but the raw size of Asshai is undeniable.

And huge cities and built by… huge empires. Large urban populations have to be supported by farmlands outside the city, and the wealth and manpower needed to build a large city always comes from a large, thriving population. It is obvious that Asshai did not need to be so big if its original purpose was as super-evil Hogwarts for shadowbinders and dark mages; that’s just the way it used now. And what about those enormous land walls that surround the city? They’re totally unnecessary now, but would have made sense in a time when Asshai was fully populated.

The question that arises at this point concerns the state of Asshai. The Shadowlands peninsula on which it sits, and the very city itself, seems magically blighted in significant way. It’s not the type of place a large civilization would thrive – but was it always like this?

Few places in the known world are as remote as Asshai, and fewer are as forbidding. Travelers tell us that the city is built entirely of black stone: halls, hovels, temples, palaces, streets, walls, bazaars, all. Some say as well that the stone of Asshai has a greasy, unpleasant feel to it, that it seems to drink the light, dimming tapers and torches and hearth fires alike. The nights are very black in Asshai, all agree, and even the brightest days of summer are  somehow grey and gloomy.

It seems clear to me that something happened here; it really feels a lot like the Doom of Valyria, which left the lands of the Long Summer blighted and cursed and toxic some 4000 years later. Whatever happened in Asshai would have happened 8,000 years ago or whenever the Long Night occurred, so it’s had longer to cool off, but the point is when we see this sort of magical darkness lingering in one place and making the stone sick and evil… this isn’t a natural occurrence, you know? Something is causing this.

It’s not just the stone and the dark skies, but the land around the city:

Despite its forbidding aspects, Asshai-by-the-Shadow has for many centuries been a thriving port, where ships from all over the known world come to trade, crossing vast and stormy seas. Most arrive laden with foodstuffs and wine, for beyond the walls of Asshai little grows save ghost grass, whose glassy, glowing stalks are inedible. If not for the food brought in from across the sea, the Asshai’i would have starved.

The ships bring casks of freshwater too. The waters of the Ash glisten black beneath the noonday sun and glimmer with a pale green phosphorescence by night, and such fish as swim in the river are blind and twisted, so deformed and hideous to look upon that only fools and shadowbinders will eat of their flesh.

Every land beneath the sun has need of fruits and grains and vegetables, so one might ask why any mariner would sail to the ends of the earth when he might more easily sell his cargo to markets closer to home. The answer is gold. Beyond the walls of Asshai, food is scarce, but gold and gems are common…though some will say that the gold of the Shadow Lands is as unhealthy in its own way as the fruits that grow there.

The ships come nonetheless. For gold, for gems, and for other treasures, for certain things spoken of only in whispers, things that cannot be found anywhere upon the earth save in the black bazaars of Asshai.

So, almost nothing grows near Asshai save for the Ghost Grass, which is why the city requires food to be brought in by ship. This works well enough for the very small population of wizards that live there now, but if this city were full, it could not subsist solely on trade. You don’t build an ancient metropolis in a blighted land with no food, you know? Additionally, there’s a passage which tells us that there are no children or animals in Asshai, presumably because they do not last long in such a toxic environment.

All of this points to an ancient Asshai and Shadowlands peninsula which were not blighted and shadowed, once upon a time. Without the magical shadow and the toxic magic that infects the land there, Asshai might have been a prosperous city on the tip of a verdant peninsula guarding a valuable trade route – the Saffron Straights – with lots of gold and gems to be found in the hills. That sounds more like the recipe for a Dawn Age metropolis, but again, it would require Asshai to also control massive amounts of land beyond their city… which runs them right up against the Great Empire of the Dawn.

So let’s think… Asshai must have been a large, prosperous city at one point before the Long Night, one that controlled great territory… and the Great Empire of the Dawn was a large, prosperous empire that existed in roughly the same place and time. The easiest explanation is that Asshai was not only part of the Great Empire, but its capital. The largest and greatest empire that existed before the Long Night… built the largest and greatest city that existed before the Long Night. Makes sense, right? What other explanation is there for a city so ridiculously damn large?

The Great Empire and Asshai being one and the same also explains the fused stone found at the Five Forts, and Dany’s dream of Valyrian looking kingly ghosts with gemstone eyes that match the rules of the Great Empire. The Great Empire built in fused stone and appear to Dany as Lightbringer-wielding dragonlords… because they were Lightbringer-wielding dragonlords.


Speaking of Strange Stone (that’s actually the title of a Maester’s Book about the fused stone and greasy black stone), let’s talk about that greasy black stone Asshai is built from in more detail. This is different from fused stone, which is also black; fused stone is made by dragolords with dragonfire and sorcery, does not seem to be cursed, and is found in places like Valyria, Dragonstone, Volantis, and on the Valyrian roads spanning Essos. Black stone which is “greasy” or “oily” and which “drinks the light” is a specific substance which George has scattered around the world in a few places in addition to Asshai – we find it at the ancient jungle city of Yeen in Sothoryos, on Toad Isle in the Basilisk Isles, and in the form of the Seastone Chair on the Iron Islands for sure, and the black basalt blocks of Moat Cailin may also be the same substance based on an unclear quote in ADWD. Check out the quote from TWOIAF about Yeen:

Maesters and other scholars alike have puzzled over the greatest of the engimas of Sothoryos, the ancient city of Yeen. A ruin older than time, built of oily black stone, in massive blocks so heavy that it would require a dozen elephants to move them, Yeen has remained a desolation for many thousands of years, yet the jungle that surrounds it on every side has scarce touched it. (“A city so evil that even the jungle will not enter,” Nymeria is supposed to have said when she laid eyes on it, if the tales are true). Every attempt to rebuild or resettle Yeen has ended in horror.

This sounds a lot like the oily black stone at Asshai; plants won’t grow near it, it reeks of evil and sorcery, and it’s so old no one knows its origins. My point isn’t to solve the mystery of Yeen, but to demonstrate that the oily black stone substance is associated with curses and evil magic at Yeen and Asshai – Toad Isle may well be cursed as well, and the same goes for the Seastone Chair in my opinion. Now when we consider that Asshai, a city bigger than anything the world has produced since, is made entirely of this oily black stone, we are left with two possibilities: either it was built out of cursed stone to begin with, or it was built out of regular stone (or perhaps fused stone) and then later cursed and blighted. The second option makes far more sense to me; a large thriving population wouldn’t build its wealthy capital out of evil cursed stone. And as we said, a large population couldn’t have even existed there with the land being so cursed, so the logical answer is that the land and the stone of the city were cursed and blighted in the same incident, likely during the calamity known as the Long Night.

Think back to the Bloodstone Emperor, the ruler of the Great Empire who is remembered as having brought on their downfall and the Long Night itself through dark magic and murder. Doesn’t that all fit with the state of Asshai now? Asshai and the surrounding lands may have been blighted with dark magic during the Long Night, and the guy who is thought to be responsible for the Long Night is famous for practicing dark magic. Can’t you picture this guy at Stygai working his spells? I sure can. And the best part is that the Bloodstone Emperor worshipped a black meteorite that fell from the sky – as we all know for an absolute fact, the Long Night was caused by the smoke, ash, and debris thrown up from an ancient meteor strike. Well, that’s my theory anyway, and it would certainly explain things – and one notes that comets and meteors are referred to as bleeding stars in ASOIAF, so a meteorite could be thought of as a blood-stone. The Bloodstone Emperor, who brought on the Long Night and worshipped the evil black rock that caused it – sounds plausible, right?

Whether or not you like my meteor theory as an explanation for the desolation around the Shadowlands and Asshai, I still think it is an inescapable conclusion that it’s far more likely that Asshai was built out of regular stone or fused stone and then later cursed rather than having been built from cursed stone to begin with. Otherwise we have to picture a huge city populated entirely by squishers who eat nothing  but ghost grass and stolen human babies for food, and I just don’t think that’s the explanation Martin is insinuating here. But please do comment below with your squisher empire of the dawn fanfic, I’m here for that.

Instead, I think we can simply picture Asshai as the once-glorious capital of the long lost dragonlord empire also known as the Great Empire of the Dawn. Azor Ahai, Lightbringer, the origins of the Long Night, the magical art of dragonriding – all of it started here.

“To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

Asshai, Dany thought. She would have me go to Asshai. “Will the Asshai’i give me an army?” she demanded. “Will there be gold for me in Asshai? Will there be ships? What is there in Asshai that I will not find in Qarth?”

“Truth,” said the woman in the mask. And bowing, she faded back into the crowd.


Alright! Now that we’ve glimpsed a bit of the hidden truth of Asshai, we are ready to go to Westeros in part 2, because we have an equally mysterious, pre-Long Night fused stone construction over there as we found in the Five Forts. And if you think about it, that’s no surprise – of course all this Azor Ahai stuff has to connect to Westeros, right? Why would there be so much about Jon and Daenerys fulfilling the prophesied rebirth of a hero from Asshai if the original hadn’t come to Westeros? Everyone’s always wondered if Azor Ahai is connected to the Westerosi myth of the last hero ending the Long Night with a sword of dragonsteel, or to House Dayne and Dawn, but for that to work we need some sort of plausible connection between pre-Long Night Westeros and pre-Long Night Asshai… and in part 2 I will show you where it is and what it means.

Thanks so much for watching everyone, please leave a comment and a like on your way out, make sure you breathe fire on the notification bell next to the subscribe button, and most of all, thanks to all of our patrons..

 

 

The God on Earth

Hey there friends and fellow myth heads, it’s your starry host LmL, and I’m back with the third installment of our videographic ode to King Brandon Stark I, future wizard-king of whatever blighted ruin is left of Westeros after George R. R. Martin has finished having his way with it. So far we’ve figured out that King Bran is best viewed as a sort of mythical god-king, a figure torn right out of the pages of legend and placed on the throne of Westeros. King Bran will be a throwback to the Age of Heroes – he’ll be a warg king and a greenseer king in the tradition of the ancient First Men and Stark Kings of Winter. He’ll play the role of a green man / summer king who helps the seasons turn again in the tradition of the First King of Westeros, Garth the Green. King Bran will be both a reprisal and a culmination of these legendary roles, in other words, a veritable god-on-earth. Not a vegetable god – although, yeah kinda – a veritable god on earth.

Viewed in this mythical context, King Bran begins to make sense – more sense than it did when Tyrion-the-prisoner started talking about the importance of stories and just sort of convinced everyone that Bran should be king, cut scene, drop curtain. As we’ve discussed, the magical elements of the book series ASOIAF are greatly simplified and reduced in the TV show Game of Thrones, which is why we expect both Bran as a character and Bran as a king to make more sense in the book version. There’s an even wider gulf between the presence and importance of myth and symbol in the books versus the show, and here again we find reason to believe that King Bran will make a good deal more sense on printed page than on the TV screen. Magic and myth – these things are the primary context in which George imagined the idea of King Bran, and so that is how we have to consider him.

Fortunately for you, magic and myth just happens to be exactly what we do around here! Fable and symbol are bread and salt to we mythical astronomers, and that’s why you won’t find this analysis of King Bran anywhere else. And by the way – if you’re enjoying the series so far, whether that be on our YouTube channel, through the Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire podcast feed, or via text at lucifermeanslightbringer.com, please consider joining our myth head Patreon community. It’s addictive, but won’t cause you to lose teeth or get you arrested. Best of all, you’ll be supporting the podcast and ensuring its continued existence. Thanks to our Patrons for bringing this video to life; they’re a swell bunch with swell nicknames, and I’ll be thanking them throughout.

So, King Bran is a mythical king and a freaking tree-wizard – not bad for a boy pushed out of a tall tower window at age seven. What he really is is the culmination of an archetype George has building up in the background of the story, one which you could indeed refer to as “tree-wizard-king.” We saw in the first King Bran video that there is good historical precedent for greenseer and warg kings in the Age of Heroes – the precedent for King Bran, in other words – and we took a look at what these sort of wizard-kings can do with their magic to get the basic idea of what Bran might look like when he comes back to Winterfell as a more accomplished tree-wizard. In the second video, we saw that George conceives of a weirwood king as a sort of nature god, and that Bran’s ascent to the throne is closely tied to the idea of the the return of summer and life to Westeros after the cold and death of the Long Night.

These ideas begins to answer the question of why King Bran, with the answers being because we are going to need some mighty strong warging magic and weirwoodnet knowledge to defeat the Others, and then because summer must come again. Today, we add to these answers one more reason why Bran must be king: because he is the one who has possessed – and hopefully mastered – the fire of the gods, and (important caveat here), in a way that can benefit mankind.

Just as Bran’s summer king symbolism is passed down to him from Garth the Green and echoed in the current story by King Robert Baratheon, Bran’s fire of the gods symbolism is echoed in the story by our favorite tree-wizard, Bloodraven, and descends down to Bran from yet another towering figure of the Age of Heroes.  The legend is extremely old and strange and it contains everything from pirates to dragon-slaying to weirwood boats, but it foreshadows Bran’s destiny as much if not more so than the legends of Garth the Green or Bran the Builder.

I’m talking about the legend of the Grey King, and in my opinion, this is George’s magnum opus of writing internal mythology, and serves as the very best example of the way a skilled author can uses these sorts of internal legends and myths to reveal the deeper truths of the central mysteries of the story. In this case, the truth revealed by the Grey King mythos is the nature of greenseeing, and of greenseer kings— er, excuse me, tree-wizard-kings. To put it simply, the premise of this essay is that the Grey King legend describes a greenseer king who grasps the fire of the gods and brings it down to mankind, and we find that everything about his mythology is paralleled in Bran’s story as he grabs hold of the fire of the gods and, apparently, grows up to be a greenseer king. Ergo, this is not only King Bran foreshadowing, so-to-speak, but rather the author giving us insight into just what it is that he wants to explore with the concept of god kings and tree-wizards.

I have a longer breakdown of the Grey King mythology and what it means for greenseeing called Weirwood Compendium 1: The Grey King and the Sea Dragon, but today I’ll be serving up the main points and correlating everything more specifically with Bran. It’s going to be a couple of minutes we get to the Bran part, so you’ll have to indulge a brief wade into ancient Ironborn mythology, but did I mention the Grey King is a dragon-slaying pirate who (I believe) sat on a weirwood throne? Trust me, it’ll be worth it.


Figuring out that the Grey King sat on a weirwood throne isn’t too hard, but you have to read all of the handful of legendary deeds attributed to him and consider them in relation to one another. There are essentially two layers to the Grey King story: on one level, he’s the towering figure of Ironborn legend, ‘the first pirate’ who essentially gave the Ironborn their culture; while on another level, the Grey King is a Promethian wizard-king whose stories function as a symbolic playground for the author to talk about greenseeing as mankind’s way of grasping at god-like power. I will let the High Priest of the Drowned god himself, Aeron Damphair, lay out the Grey King’s impressive resume, and this comes from AFFC:

On the crown of the hill four- and- forty monstrous stone ribs rose from the earth like the trunks of great pale trees.  The sight made Aeron’s heart beat faster.  Nagga had been the first sea dragon, the mightiest ever to rise from the waves.  She fed on krakens and leviathans and drowned whole islands in her wrath, yet the Grey King had slain her and the Drowned God had changed her bones to stone so that men might never cease to wonder at the courage of the first of kings.  Nagga’s ribs became the beams and pillars of his longhall, just as her jaws became his throne.  For a thousand years and seven he reigned here, Aeron recalled.  Here he took his mermaid wife and planned his wars against the Storm God.  From here he ruled both stone and salt, wearing robes of woven seaweed and a tall pale crown made from Nagga’s teeth.  

Let’s start with Nagga’s Ribs.  As cool as it is to imagine a longhall and throne made from the skeleton and jaws of a sea monster, I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on here. I don’t know whether such things as sea dragons exist in the Ice and Fire universe, but Martin is giving us a lot of reasons to think these ribs, as well as the throne and crown of the Grey King, are not made from sea dragon bones, but from bone-white weirwood that has petrified and turned to stone, which is what weirwoods do after a few centuries – turn to stone.

King Bran
Greenseer Kings of Ancient Westeros
Return of the Summer King
The God-on-Earth

End of Ice and Fire
Burn Them All
The Sword in the Tree
The Cold God’s Eye
The Battle of Winterfell

Bloodstone Compendium
Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
Waves of Night & Moon Blood
The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
Tyrion Targaryen
Lucifer means Lightbringer

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

Great Empire of the Dawn
History and Lore of House Dayne
Asshai-by-the-Shadow
The Great Empire of the Dawn
Flight of the Bones

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

The Blood of the Other
Prelude to a Chill
A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
The Stark that Brings the Dawn
Eldric Shadowchaser
Prose Eddard
Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
A Burning Brandon
Garth of the Gallows
In a Grove of Ash

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

Weirwood Compendium B
To Ride the Green Dragon
The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
Veil of Frozen Tears
Sansa Locked in Ice

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

We Should Start Back
AGOT Prologue

Now in PODCAST form!

Click to open in iTunes

For example, you will notice that in the quote we just read, the “four-and-forty monstrous stone ribs rose from the earth like great pale trees.” This language is repeated almost exactly in a Victarion chapter of AFFC where he sees “the ribs of Nagga rose from the earth like the trunks of great white trees, as wide around as a dromond’s mast and twice as tall.” Great pale trees, great white trees – these phrases can only make us think of weirwoods. Martin adds an extra layer of weirwood imagery through wordplay here when Aeron sees the ribs; it says “the sight made Aeron’s heart beat faster,” a clever way to suggest “heart trees” and “the sight,” or greensight” in conjunction with the visual of the rib bones looking like pale trees.

George throws us yet another bone when he tells about the very first drowned priest of the Ironborn, a man named Galon Whitestaff, whose tale we hear in TWOIAF:

The greatest of the priests was the towering prophet Galon Whitestaff, so-called for the tall, carved staff he carried everywhere to smite the ungodly.  (In some tales his staff was made of weirwood, in others from one of Nagga’s bones.) 

That’s practically a give-away there; we are being repeatedly encouraged to think of weirwood trees when discussing the bones of the sea dragon Nagga. And again, we know for a fact that the white-as-bone weirwood wood does eventually petrify and turn to pale stone if the tree is cut down or killed, so it could explain what we see here quite well. Personally, I think it just makes more sense to make a staff, a throne, a crown, and certainly the pillars and beams of a longhall from weirwood, as opposed to sea dragon bone. Still, shout-out to Tad Williams; it’s the sea-dragonbone chair! Kidding aside, I do want to point out that the High Septon of the Faith of the Seven carries a weirwood staff, and although it doesn’t have anything to do with the Grey King or Galon Whitestaff, it does show that the idea of making a holy staff from weirwood is out there, and that it’s a logical thing to do based on the long-held reverence for weirwoods throughout Westeros.

Let’s talk about how those ribs look for a second. You may be picturing the ribcage of a huge sea monster, simply hauled ashore and used as the framework for a longhall, and that’s approximately right. An Aeron Damphair chapter of AFFC speaks of him standing “beneath the arch of Nagga’s ribs,” implying that that the ribs arch together at the top, like a ribcage…

…or like the ribbing of the over-turned hull of a huge boat made from weirwood. After all, we are flat-out told in TWOIAF that the Grey King made the first longship from a tree that sounds a lot like a weirwood tree:

The Grey King also taught men to weave nets and sails and carved the first longship from the hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh. 

“Ygg” is a very thinly-veiled reference to Yggdrasil, the magic world tree of Norse myth that was without-a-doubt the primary inspiration for George’s weirwood trees. The Ygg in this Grey King legend is a tree with pale wood that devours human flesh, and that’s another give-away, since we know that the First Men did indeed sacrifice people to their weirwood trees, which, in case you haven’t noticed, have huge bloody mouths on them. We also hear the “demon tree” epithet used to describe weirwoods by a southerner in Stannis’s army in ADWD, so together with the rest, there’s little doubt that this Ygg the demon tree was a weirwood, and thus it would seem that the Grey King did indeed make himself a weirwood boat.

And then here on Nagga’s Hill, we find something that absolutely could be the ribbing of a huge boat made of weirwood, flipped over and used as the framework for a longhall some time far enough in the past for it to have petrified into pale stone. Seems like a good fit, I have to say. Using the hull of a boat you no longer need as the framework of a longhall makes a ton of sense – why waste resources, right? Weirwood boats would have a limited shelf-life anyway; after a few centuries, it would become a stone boat, which isn’t as buoyant, to say the least.

We don’t even have to look outside the books of ASOIAF to find the idea that flipped-over boat hulls can look like a longhall, because Jon tells us all about that when the wildlings attack the Wall in ASOS. This comes as Jon looks down on the wildling army, who have made a kind of covered battering-ram called a turtle:

The turtle had a rounded top and eight huge wheels, and under the hides was a stout wooden frame. When the wildlings had begun knocking it together, Satin thought they were building a ship. Not far wrong. The turtle was a hull turned upside down and opened fore and aft; a longhall on wheels.

It’s a wooden hull flipped upside-down, and it looks like a longhall – and then just for emphasis, there’s another line a few pages later where it says “the turtle was almost as wide as a longhall.” Bonus points for it being named after a sea creature – a turtle isn’t quite a sea dragon, but still, there it is. It’s part boat, part longhall, and part sea-creature.

As you can see, the “Nagga’s Ribs are really a flipped over weirwood boat hull” theory is based on sound logic; multiple references to pale trees when the ribs are mentioned; Galon’s white staff that could be either sea dragon bone or weirwood, depending on the tale; the fact that weirwood is always described as “white as bone” and turns to pale stone over time; the knowledge that Martin equates flipped-over boat hulls and wooden longhalls; and the very basic fact the Grey King is remembered as having made a weirwood boat. Bonus clue: there’s even a House Stonetree on the Iron Islands, which at the very least demonstrates a local cultural memory of the fact that weirwoods turn to stone, since only weirwoods petrify in-place and above-ground as the tree on their sigil is depicted. House Stonetree’s sigil was likely created back when some people still knew what Naggas’s ribs and all the rest was really made out of.

Overall, it’s a solid theory as theories go, and having sold you on it being plausible without using any overly tricky, hidden-meaning wordplay for supporting evidence… I’d like to now use some overly tricky, hidden meaning, Illuminati / Bible Code / Room 237-level wordplay as supporting evidence, and this is from AFFC, Asha Greyjoy speaking to Tris Botley:

“And there is still Sea Dragon Point … if I cannot have my father’s kingdom, why not make one of my own?” Sea Dragon Point had not always been as thinly peopled as it was now. Old ruins could still be found amongst its hills and bogs, the remains of ancient strongholds of the First Men. In the high places, there were weirwood circles left by the children of the forest.

“You are clinging to Sea Dragon Point the way a drowning man clings to a bit of wreckage. What does sea dragon have that anyone could ever want?”
. . . 
“What’s there? I’ll tell you… tall pines for building ships.”

Sea Dragon Point is a peninsula in the north – it’s actually the place where the Starks fought the Warg King, as it happens. No wonder there are weirwood circles there; this was a place of the children of the forest. But it’s also named after the sea dragon – a place with weirwood circles, named after the sea dragon. It’s called a clue, people. And what else do we find there? Tall pines for building ships. Just to make sure we think of ship-building while we hear about sea dragon point and weirwood circles. And look, there’s a line about Asha clinging to Sea Dragon point like a drowning man clinging to wreckage… are you saying sea dragons are like shipwrecks, George? (I think that’s what he’s saying).

In another Ironborn POV-chapter (which is where we get most of the best clues about the Grey King riddles, along with Bran’s chapters) we get another shipwreck-sea dragon comparison. This scene takes place as Theon is first returning to the Iron Islands in ACOK:

When last he’d seen Lordsport, it had been a smoking wasteland, the skeletons of burnt longships and smashed galleys littering the stony shore like the bones of dead leviathans, the houses no more than broken walls and cold ashes.  

Leviathan is a term which can be used for any large sea creature, such as a whale, but the Biblical Leviathan is specifically a sea dragon, comparable to the Canaanite Lotan or Mesopotamian Tiamat. Ergo, what we have is Theon looking at wrecked ships and seeing the bones of dead sea dragons here at the Iron Islands, which goes along well with the line we just read about Asha clinging to Sea Dragon Point, with its weirwood circles, like a bit of ship wreckage.

Well, now I’m satisfied – weirwood boat theory is supported by logic, reason, evidence, and tricky symbolic wordplay. Nagga’s Bones do seem to be petrified weirwood, in all probability, and this leaves us with a Grey King sitting on a weirwood throne. After all, if Nagga’s Ribs are really weirwood, then the Grey King’s crown and throne of “Sea Dragon jaws and teeth” are probably made from weirwood as well. We know that the Ironborn have an ancient tradition of wearing wooden crowns – the driftwood crowns, of course – so perhaps this tradition started with the weirwooden crown of the Grey King? And because the Grey King is associated with a weirwood boat, you could even consider that weirwood to be driftwood, or at least “wood that comes from the sea.”

More important would be the idea of a weirwood throne, as that might imply the Grey King as a greenseer. If we picture the Grey King as a greenseer sitting on a weirwood throne, then the legend of the weirwood crown could even be no more than a memory of the way weirwood roots wrap around the head and body of a greenseer who grows old on his throne, as we have seen with Bloodraven. The Grey King did grow very old, after all – one thousand years and seven, he was said to reign. That could just be total flim-flam, but it could also be the memory of a greenseer who extended his life by sitting on a weirwood throne. Growing so old that you turn entirely grey makes him sound vaguely corpse-like, and indeed, Bran sees Bloodraven as a “corpse-lord,” and “half-corpse, half-tree.”

Then there is the Black Gate talking weirwood face beneath the Nightfort, another half-corpse, half-tree which again reminds us of the Grey King. This is from a Bran chapter of ASOS:

The face was old and pale, wrinkled and shrunken. It looks dead. Its mouth was closed, and its eyes; its cheeks were sunken, its brow withered, its chin sagging. If a man could live for a thousand years and never die but just grow older, his face might come to look like that.

Mystery solved – they Grey King is buried beneath the Wall, where he can eat bad little children like Bran. Thanks for coming everyone. Seriously though, the Grey King’s throne was probably some kind of weirwood throne, and he was remembered to live for a thousand years (and seven), so it’s interesting to note that this very ancient and mysterious talking weirwood face is described as a thousand year-old corpse man. That’s all; it’s just interesting. Suggestive, perhaps.

We find something closer to hard evidence when we consider House Farwynd, who seem to be Ironborn skinchangers, just maybe:

Aeron knew some Farwynds, a queer folk who held lands on the westernmost shores of Great Wyk and the scattered isles beyond, rocks so small that most could support but a single household. Of those, the Lonely Light was the most distant, eight days’ sail to the northwest amongst rookeries of seals and sea lions and the boundless grey oceans. The Farwynds there were even queerer than the rest. Some said they were skinchangers, unholy creatures who could take on the forms of sea lions, walruses, even spotted whales, the wolves of the wild sea.

I don’t want to make too much of this, save to say that there could be a little bit more to the most ancient Ironborn culture than is commonly thought. They are against all religions other than worship of the Drowned God now, and have been for a long time, but back in the day of the Grey King, things may have been different. It’s just possible that the Farwynds have a bit of skinchanger blood from that ancient day, back when the ancestors of the Ironborn were ruled by a greenseer king.

Even stronger evidence that the Grey King was a greenseer king who reigned for centuries was his possession of the “the fire of the gods,” and this is what brings us back to Bran.


Without going all Joseph Campbell on you, let me say that the “fire of the gods” is one of those nearly universal mythological concepts which is utilized by many authors on down through the ages. It usually means “the knowledge and power of the gods,” or something that serves as a metaphor for that. It could be powerful technology, like the ability to split atoms and create either atomic power or atomic bomb, or perhaps genetic engineering. In the context of a fantasy story, the fire of the gods is likely to be a powerful magic like greenseeing, or possession of dragons, or the ability to defy death. The Garden of Eden myth is a fire of the gods story, because the fruit Adam and Eve weren’t supposed to eat was from the consciousness-expanding “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” but by far the best-known fire-of the gods story is the Greek myth of Prometheus.

Prometheus was credited for both creating mankind from clay and stealing fire – actual, literal fire – and giving it to humanity, so that mankind might advance and progress. He suffered a nasty punishment for it, which George would approve of since no magic is obtained without great cost. Prometheus is paralleled by the Biblical Lucifer of course, who as the snake acted as the conduit for mankind to gain the knowledge of the tree and was in turn punished, and the more obscure tale of him as an angel who challenges God and gets thrown out of heaven follows a similar course of challenging the gods and paying the price.

Enter the Grey King, fire-stealer extraordinaire. He stole the fire of the gods twice over, and both times, the legend seems to be talking about weirwood trees. First, the lightning-blasted tree:

The deeds attributed to the Grey King by the priests and singers of the Iron Islands are many and marvelous. It was the Grey King who brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God until he lashed down with a thunderbolt, setting a tree ablaze. The Grey King also taught men to weave nets and sails and carved the first longship from the hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh.

I repeated the bit about making a longship from Ygg because I want to highlight the fact that all the aspects of the fire of the gods concept are being touched on – not only did he somehow bring fire to the earth, he also spread knowledge, teaching the ancient Ironborn to make ships, weave nets and sails, etc.

So was the Grey King punished like Prometheus? Maybe – I mean, living for a thousand years and turning grey from head to heel actually doesn’t sound fun, let alone with the burden of kingship placed upon you the whole time. If he really was an inhuman greenseer king, well… that might be the only way such a thing were possible. In any case, I promised that this story of the Storm God’s thunderbolt setting the tree ablaze had to with weirwoods, and indeed it does.

It should be obvious that the power of the weirwoodnet which a greenseer gains access too is the purest manifestation of the fire of the gods concept in ASOIAF. It’s literally the knowledge and power of the Old Gods. And look at the Grey King myth – the means by which he stole the fire of the gods was a tree. Can a burning tree be a symbol for a weirwood tree, somehow?

Well yes, absolutely. The blood-red leaves of the weirwood, which are usually described as looking like bloody hands, look like they are on fire when Theon sees the Winterfell heart tree in the light of the rising sun in ACOK:

The red leaves of the weirwood were a blaze of flame among the green. Ned Stark’s tree, he thought, and Stark’s wood, Stark’s castle, Stark’s sword, Stark’s gods. 

Notice that the heart tree is emphasized as the tree of the gods when it is described as a blaze of flame. Now the burning bush of Moses is being invoked, as this is a burning tree which speaks with the voice of god. That’s surely no accident; Martin was raised Catholic and loves to re-purpose or reinterpret powerful symbols like this whenever he can. Besides speaking the voice of god, the miraculous thing about Moses’s burning bush was that it burned without being consumed, and this is implied as being true for the weirwood – if its red leaves make it look like it’s on fire, well, it lives forever and its leaves are always red, so it is like an eternally burning tree that speaks with the knowledge of the gods.

Ergo, when we look at that Grey King myth about bringing fire to mankind via a burning tree – well, this is the same guy who probably sat on a weirwood throne, you know? The same guy who already has weirwood involved in another myth, that of carving the first longship from Ygg. Therefore, I think it makes a lot of sense to interpret that burning tree as a weirwood. The fact that the Grey King tree was set ablaze by the Storm God’s thunderbolt is meaningful too, and relates to Bran’s symbolism, but we will come back to that.

The other manner in which the Grey King stole the fire of the gods was as a part of his “slaying of the sea dragon.” We’ve already figured out that at the very least, the supposed bones of the sea dragon are weirwood, so it’s interesting that in that passage describing the Grey King’s hall, we read that…

The hall had been warmed by Nagga’s living fire, which the Grey King had made his thrall. 

Ah ha. Nagga the sea dragon isn’t exactly a god, but if it has living fire that you can somehow possess and make into your servant, well… that is something magical, any way you slice it. Now if the sea dragon lore refers at least in part to weirwood, then we can interpret the Grey King possessing this living fire as possession of the weirwood gift, the power and magic of the Old Gods. Think about that – first we have the Grey King using the burning tree to possess the power of the gods, but the burning tree is actually a symbol of a weirwood tree. Now we have the Grey King possessing magical fire through the sea dragon – but the sea dragon, too, refers to weirwood things. To me, it sounds like he’s doing exactly what Bloodraven and Bran are doing in their weirwood thrones – using greenseer magic, which represents the “fire of the gods” in ASOIAF.

So, the Grey King was, in theory, a greenseer king. Like Garth the Green, he founded many great houses – he was said to have a hundred sons, and all the Iron Island houses save for one claim their descent from him. I believe this bolsters the general theory that greenseer and skinchangers did often become powerful kings and rulers in the days of yore, which is exciting because it helps us paint a fuller picture of what ancient, wild Westeros might have been like (one hopes for some good warg king action in the new Game of Thrones prequel, Bloodmoon, but we’ll have to see). More importantly though, as we go over Bran’s most important greenseer awakening scenes, we will see that George is constantly making reference to the greenseer symbols of the Grey King mythology that we just sketched out. The most important one is the lightning-blasted tree, which turns out to be one of Bran’s central symbolic motifs.


The plot arc of young Brandon Stark through the five books we have so far is almost completely taken up with his quest to obtain the fire of the gods. After his fall from the tower at the beginning of the story, he spends most of his journey struggling to reach the three-eyed crow, with that journey culminating in the awakening of his greenseer powers in Bloodraven’s weirwood cave. Bran’s questing for the fire of the gods really is the dominant theme of his character, which makes sense, since he’s the only greenseer we have among the POV characters. Accordingly, Bran gets a Prometheus-like myth hung on him early in the story as a clue about his destiny. It’s the story of the bad little boy who climbed too high, and Bran calls it to mind as he is, of course, climbing a tower towards his fateful encounter with Jaime and Cersei:

Old Nan told him a story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes. Bran was not impressed. There were crows’ nests atop the broken tower, where no one ever went but him, and sometimes he filled his pockets with corn before he climbed up there and the crows ate it right out of his hand. None of them had ever shown the slightest bit of interest in pecking out his eyes.

The language about climbing too high and being struck down immediately reminds us of characters like Lucifer and Prometheus who challenged the gods in heaven – I’d even add that Martin chose the phrase “climbing too high” to evoke the rising star aspect of the Venus-based mythology from which Lucifer and Prometheus descend. Now right after Bran thinks of the story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, he thinks about the broken tower of Winterfell, and there’s a good reason for that – the broken tower was broken when it was struck by lightning and set afire. This is actually the place that Bran was climbing to when he overhead Jaime and Cersei:

His favorite haunt was the broken tower. Once it had been a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell. A long time ago, a hundred years before even his father had been born, a lightning strike had set it afire. The top third of the structure had collapsed inward, and the tower had never been rebuilt. Sometimes his father sent ratters into the base of the tower, to clean out the nests they always found among the jumble of fallen stones and charred and rotten beams. But no one ever got up to the jagged top of the structure now except for Bran and the crows.

Now you can see the setup here: Bran is literally climbing towards a tower that was struck by lightning while thinking of a cautionary tale about a little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning. Bran isn’t struck down by lightning, but he is struck down in the sense that he is hurled from the tower by Jaime, so the basic parallel between Bran and the bad little boy is readily apparent.

Climbing too high is about reaching for the fire of the gods though, and this entire thing should be viewed as symbolism. The fire of the gods Bran is ultimately climbing towards is the greenseer magic of the weirwood tree, and when we take a look at the tower set ablaze by lightning motif in operation here, we are reminded of the Grey King’s tree which was set ablaze by a thunderbolt of the Storm God. Towers and trees make good symbolic analogues for one another, as they are both things that man can climb into the sky, and indeed, Bran notes that the best way to reach the broken tower was to climb a tree – you have to “start from the godswood” by climbing a sentinel tree that gave access to the rooftops of the castle.

More important is the idea of possessing magic through towers and trees – just as the Grey King obtained his fire of the gods through the lightning-struck tree, Bran’s fall from the tower is what leads to the awakening of his greenseer powers. Bran climbs the tower too high, in other words, and is then metaphorically struck down by lightning in that he is cast down from the tower and into his coma dream world, where he first connects to his greenseer abilities and is first contacted by the three-eyed crow.

The three-eyed crow always demands corn from Bran in his dreams, which is a metaphor for Bran giving himself to the Old Gods in return for magical power. When we look at the top of the broken tower, where the lightning struck and set it afire, we see that it’s the place where Bran regularly comes to feed the normal, two-eyed crows. This symbolically associates Bran’s magical awakening with the top of the tower and the lightning strike, again indicating that Bran’s greenseer magic is the ‘fire of the gods’ in ASOIAF. Along the same lines, we see that Bran also talks to the crows when he’s up there, which seems a clear foreshadowing of him talking to the three-eyed raven and learning to skinchange ravens, which he does in Bloodraven’s cave. Consider also that the tower used to be a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell, just as weirwoods are a vantage-point from which one can see far into the distance. All in all, we have several symbols of Bran’s greenseer magic placed atop the broken tower, where the lightning came down from heaven and brought fire to the earth.

Another way that we can know this entire tower-or-tree-struck-by-lightning metaphor is all about greenseeing is the part in the story about the bad little boy who climbed too high where his eyes are pecked out by crows. Bran’s eyes aren’t pecked out after his fall from the tower, but once in the coma dream, Bran dreams of the three-eyed crow pecking out his eyes, and then later pecking open his third eye right before he awakens from his coma. Opening your third eye is a common metaphor for gaining magical sight and knowledge, but more specifically, this seems a clear reference to the Odin mythology upon which weirwoods and greenseers are heavily based. Odin sacrificed one physical eye to gain magical knowledge, casting it into the well of Mimir in payment for a sip from the magical water of the well. Any time you lose a physical eye to gain magical vision, as Bran seems to do in his coma dream, that’s Odin talk, and in ASOIAF, Odin symbolism means greenseeing.  The idea of Bran losing the use of his legs but learning to fly through weirwood magic is simply a variation on this theme.

Since this series is all about King Bran, I suppose I should mention that Bran’s perching on the tower tops of Winterfell “made him feel like he was lord of the castle, in a way even Robb would never know.” This should probably be considered as King Bran foreshadowing, but again I will point out that it is symbolically associated with his greenseer powers. On top of everything else we’ve already looked at, Bran’s climbing the towers is further associated with greenseeing with lines about how climbing “taught him Winterfell’s secrets,” and “was almost like being invisible.” Greenseers looking out on the world are invisible of course, and the weirwoods teach Bran Westeros’s secrets, so these are nice wordplay clues. Winterfell itself actually seems to represent the weirwoods; besides being described as a grey stone labyrinth, we read that

The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree, Maester Luwin told him once, and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth.

Winterfell is a labyrinth and a monstrous stone tree, but weirwoods turn to stone trees and the weirwoodnet inside them is very comparable to a labyrinth. The idea of Winterfell as a stone tree is particularly evocative of the Grey King myth of course, since the weirwood beams of the Grey King’s ship have long ago turned to stone, and this only reinforces the weirwood symbolism of Winterfell. Look at it this way – both Bran and the Grey King are lords of a stone tree hall which is like a weirwood.

And there you have it – Bran’s climbing of the towers of Winterfell is a metaphor for his climbing the weirwood tree to obtain the knowledge and power of the old gods. His being cast down from the tower by Jaime is equated with the bad little boy being struck down by lighting, but also with the Grey King obtaining the fire of the gods through the lightning-struck tree. Climbing the towers of Winterfell makes him feel like the lord of the castle, but the castle represents a weirwood and Bran is ultimately going to be a weirwood king.

At the risk of stating the obvious, all of this symbolism which places the Grey King and Bran in parallel is also foreshadowing of Bran becoming a greenseer king, like the Grey King. Bran has a weirwood throne and a stone tree for a home, like the Grey King, and he possessing the living fire of the burning tree, as the Grey King did. Will Bran live an unusually long life span and reign as weirwood king? That’s what is being suggested.

Alright, now this is the part where I tell you that George is a big hippie and he didn’t invent this stuff from thin air. There’s a tarot card called “the tower,” or sometimes “the lightning,” and as you might guess, it has a picture of a tower struck by lightning and set afire – except that sometimes the tower is a tree struck by lighting and set afire. Pretty cool right? It goes to what I was saying about towers and trees being interchangeable symbols at times.

The meaning of this card is pretty on-the-nose for our discussion here. Depending on context, the tower card is associated with sudden, disruptive revelation, destructive change, higher learning, and liberation – does any of this sound relevant so far? Bran is essentially staring at an in-the-flesh version of the tarot card when he looks at the broken tower of Winterfell, and the same can be said of the weirwood tree itself, since it looks like a burning tree. The top part of the tower on the tarot card is collapsing, just as the top third of the Winterfell broken tower collapsed, and many versions of the card even have two people leaping from the burning tower (hey there, Bran and Euron!)

The important thing is the meaning – Bran’s fall from the tower and subsequent coma dream represent his sudden, destructive change and the beginning of his altered path towards higher learning, insight, and freedom through flight. The lightning-struck tower or tree, translated into ASOIAF terminology, is the weirwood tree. This is the means by which mankind becomes like god in this story, whether it be Bloodraven and Bran of the current story or ancient greenseer kings like the Grey King himself.


Now that you’ve got all that, we are ready to take a look at two scenes which parallel Bran’s fall from the tower. George employs the lightning and the tower motif two other times along Bran’s journey to the cave of the three-eyed crow; once at Queenscrown, and once at the Nightfort. At Queenscrown, it’s easy to spot, because the lightning literally strikes the top of the tower while Bran and company are inside it. Even better, the lightning is what causes Bran to skinchange Hodor for the first time, because it’s the only way he can think of to make Hodor keep quiet when the lightning strikes. That’s pretty explicit – Bran is in the top of the tower when lightning strikes, and he has a breakthrough with his greenseer abilities when it does.

As you may recall from our first Bran video, Bran also taps into his skinchanger powers while atop the tower. After body-snatching Hodor for a minute and quieting him down, Bran wargs into Summer and helps John escape the wildlings, which, by the way, is a promising sign for Bran being one who obtains the fire of the gods and, importantly, uses it to help others. In King Bran Part 1, we highlighted this scene as foreshadowing of Bran eventually becoming a full-on warg prince and greenseer king, and now we can see that George has overlaid the lightning-tower / obtaining the fire of the gods imagery on top of it.

In other words, we are once again seeing that the foreshadowing of Bran becoming king is totally entwined with Bran’s destiny to be a powerful greenseer, just like that line about Bran feeling like the Lord of the Winterfell in a way Robb never would when he climbs its towers, or the time when Bran declares himself prince of the green and prince of the wood when he is skinchanging Summer. Along these lines, hey look! There’s a golden crown at the top of the Queenscrown tower where Bran is accessing the fire of the gods. This too should be seen as a message that Bran’s destiny to climb high refers to his weirwood powers and the idea of wearing a crown.

The tower tarot card yields another jewel here. Many versions of the card depict a golden crown at the top of the tower, likely to highlight the knowledge / higher learning aspect of the card’s meaning; think about the crown of your skull and the crown chakra here. Thus, when lightning strikes the top of the Queenscrown tower, with its painted golden crown, once again the author is drawing a detailed picture of this tarot card. Once again, the meaning seems to be the same – the awakening of Bran’s weirwood powers is being depicted as his path to transformation and the awakening of his higher self.

I hope you’re getting a sense of the way George renders these scenes in mythical language in order to to enhance their meaning and weave the disparate threads of his story together. You wouldn’t think to understand Bran’s path as a greenseer by thinking about Grey King mythology, but once you recognize their common use of symbols, the message begins to emerge. ASOIAF is a series that simply begs to be read and reread with a watchful eye, to say the least.

The third scene in this series comes at the dreaded Nightfort, where Night’s King and Queen ruled for thirteen years and where countless other horrible things have happened. Instead of a tower, we have an actual weirwood tree this time, and it’s coupled with the well to give us the important symbol of the ascending and descending spiral staircase, which we actually had both at Queenscrown and at Winterfell. Especially notable is the fact that weirwood awaits at both the top and bottom of the staircase – the talking weirwood face known as the Black Gate lies in a passageway off of the well shaft down below, and up top we have the skinny young weirwood growing up through the floor of the Nightfort kitchens:

Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well. 

This grasping, moon-murderous weirwood supplies the ‘reaching for the heavens’ and ‘challenging the heavens’ thematic message of the Prometheus and Lucifer stories. The message seems to be that mankind obtains the fire of the gods through the weirwood, or said another way, it is through the weirwood that mankind hopes to reach into the heavenly realm and become like a god.

We already know that weirwoods bear a strong resemblance to Yggdrasil, so the placement of a weirwood tree next to a well is essentially hitting us over the head as a reference to Odin, Yggdrasil, and Mimir’s well. The point of doing this, as ever, is to use already-established mythemes and symbolic motifs to provide context and enhanced meaning to Bran’s journey to awaken his greenseer powers and come into full possession of the living fire of the Old Gods.

There is no lightning here, but George cleverly places the symbol in the scene by having Bran recall the lightning strike at Queenscrown:

From the well came a wail, a piercing creech that went through him like a knife. A huge black shape heaved itself up into the darkness and lurched toward the moonlight, and the fear rose up in Bran so thick that before he could even think of drawing Hodor’s sword the way he’d meant to, he found himself back on the floor again with Hodor roaring “Hodor hodor HODOR,” the way he had in the lake tower whenever the lightning flashed.

Alright, so there’s the lightning bolt in conjunction with Bran using his greenseer powers. The mighty Storm God’s thunderbolt may also be suggested by the idea of the weirwood trying to pull the moon down from out of the sky – and yes, I’m talking about moon meteors as thunderbolts here – and we might simply look at the hole in the broken dome as a symbolic suggestion of something having come crashing down from heavenly dome to earth. George even sneaks in a bit of sea monster language by hinting at something swimming down in the depths of the well when Hodor throws a stone down the well shaft.

Bran’s original fall from the tower is recreated here by Bran going down the well shaft after meeting Samwell, who came up out of the well. Bran gets swallowed by the black gate talking weirwood face that kind of looks like the Grey King, and then he’s on his way to Bloodraven’s cave. Ergo, just as with the previous two scenes, this scene represents an important step on the road to Bran becoming a full greenseer. I mean, as far as symbols go, Bran getting literally eaten by a weirwood mouth is not exactly cryptic – he is giving himself to the weirwoods, and entering the underground / underworld portion of his journey.


One of the fun things about finding a pattern like Bran and the lightning tower or lightning tree is trying to predict where we will see another iteration of the pattern. I think I have a strong contender for this – when Bran escapes Bloodraven’s cave, which has already happened in the show and will almost certainly happen in the books. I found it by thinking about themes, which by the way, aren’t just for high school book reports. I noticed that with all three of the scenes we are comparing to one another – the fall from Winterfell’s tower, Queenscrown, and the Nightfort – there is an element of Bran pulling an escape.  After he falls from the tower at Winterfell, he’s trapped in the coma dream, where he is condemned to repeatedly experience that fall, and right before he awakens from the coma, he is falling towards these terrifying icy spears which are populated by the impaled bodies of other failed dreamers. The three-eyed crow tells him to choose, fly or die, and Bran pulls up at the last moment, is not impaled, and instead rises on wings unseen to fly as the greenseers fly. In this way, he has escaped doom and the prison of the coma dream.

At Queenscrown, the escape factor is obvious – the wildlings outside the tower hear Hodor’s shouting, and in the end only fail to reach the tower because they do not know the secret of the submerged causeway that runs from the lake shore to the island in the middle where the tower is. Not only do Bran and his company escape the wildlings, Bran also facilitates Jon’s escape, so we see the theme played out twice here.

Although there is no imminent physical threat at the Nightfort (unless you count the few moments they think Sam is “The Thing That Came in the Night”), Bran is essentially escaping the world of the living. He’s escaping Westeros itself through the passage in the Wall, in other words, and he’s doing so in secret because if people knew his identity, he would be in danger.

Thinking about Bran escaping from weirwood places, especially ones that are being destroyed or are under attack, leads me to think about Bran escaping from the weirwood cave in the show. Indeed, I do think we will see a fourth iteration of the lightning-tower / lightning-tree pattern with Bloodraven’s weirwood tree and the cave below, for several reasons. All of these lightning-tower and lightning-tree scenes  are very clearly functioning as foreshadowing of Bran awakening his greenseer powers – which is what happens when he reaches Bloodraven’s weirwood cave. It’s what all those other scenes were building up to. At Bloodraven’s cave we can already see the idea of ascending and descending the tower manifested in the way that Bran sits down in the cave, and yet flies above the trees through his greenseer magic.

As for the lightning strike and burning tree components, well, I can think of two possibilities. The lightning strike may simply occur metaphorically here through Bran awakening his greenseer gifts of course, but an attack by the Others can also be like a lightning strike, as their movements and sword strikes are described as being lightning-quick in the books, especially in the all-important AGOT prologue. In that same prologue chapter, the Others ice sword breaks Ser Waymar Royce’s steel sword, and when Will finds it on the ground..

He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. 

This is not accident – even though we don’t hear of the Grey King and his tree until book 4, we can see that George has been using the lightning-blasted tree symbol from the very beginning to represent magical power. As I have discussed elsewhere, this is George tying the Others into the fire of the gods theme – their power is like the lightning that splinters trees, which implies that it is god-like power. It may also imply that the Others power has something to do with the trees that man can use to obtain the fire of the gods, and I think you guys know that I believe that to be the case, but that is a story for another day. The thing to take away here is that if we get something along the lines of the TV show scene where Bran is fleeing the cave while the white walkers attack, we will likely see George deploy the lightning-strike symbolism of the Others once again, thereby fitting the pattern he has already established. We may also see Bloodraven’s weirwood tree destroyed, or perhaps broken.

Perhaps we’ll even see a weirwood burning here, with Bloodraven’s tree going up in flames as Bran makes his escape. In the Grey King myth, the tree struck by lightning was set ablaze, and although this is primarily a metaphor for the fire of the gods, there’s also been a fair amount of foreshadowing of the weirwoods burning in some sense, which I have highlighted in throughout the End of Ice and Fire series. The golden crown painted on the crenelations at Queenscrown might suggest a burning tower, as golden crowns are symbols of the sun’s fire. Similarly, at Winterfell we see the burning tower suggested by the fact that the broken tower burned when it was struck by lightning, and also by the the library tower, which was set on fire by the catspaw assassin while Bran was lying in his coma. Library towers are especially good weirwood symbols, since weirwoods are essentially the ultimate library and books are made of paper, which comes from trees. Could this all be foreshadowing a burning of Bloodraven’s tree when Bran escapes the cave?

The most obvious foreshadowing for this could actually be the burning of Winterfell itself, great stone tree that it is. If you recall, Ramsay Bolton burned Winterfell at the end of ACOK, with Bran escaping as the fires cools. Before they escape, Bran is hiding down in the crypts, but warging into Summer up above to survey the damage, which is basically identical to the setup at Bloodraven’s cave, where Bran sits below in the darkness and controls animals above. Bran and Summer see “tall fires were eating up the stars,” the infamous “great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame,” and of course, burning towers, which described in wolf-talk as “great piles of man-rock stark against the swirling flames.” It’s yet another escape from a place with burning tower and burning tree symbols for Bran, and again I say that we may see this repeated at Bloodraven’s cave.


As we wrap up this video essay, I have one final note on the scene we just looked at where Bran is fleeing the burnt shell of Winterfell.  As he looks back to the only home he’s even known, we are given foreshadowing of his somewhat awkward Bran the Broken nickname:

The stone is strong, Bran told himself, the roots of the trees go deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought. I’m not dead either.

All hail Bran the Broken, Summer King of House Stark and perhaps all of Westeros. I love how George manages to compare Bran to Winterfell and the Kings of Winter while also evoking the concept of Winterfell as a tree with deep roots. It may be a broken and burned tree, but it’s full of the fire of the old gods… like King Bran. To me, it’s a message that the original role of the Stark Kings of Winterfell is that of greenseer king, and that this is the role Bran will reprise.

Now, unlike the dead stone statues of the Winter Kings who sit beneath the earth in the dark, Bran is not dead, and will not remain underground in the darkness – that seems to be something Bran only does during winter. Bran’s destiny is to reemerge from the darkness of the earth like a green shoot in the springtime, as we know, and this ties in to Bran’s role as the custodian of the fire of the gods. Like Prometheus and the Grey King before him, and like the snake in the Garden of Eden according the gnostic interpretation of that myth, Bran’s destiny is to be a lightbringer, one who brings light to mankind.

It’s not just a matter of possessing the fire of the gods, but bringing it to mankind. Otherwise, Euron might be the chosen one. When compared to Bran however, Euron’s quest for god-like power is one of self-aggrandizement and personal glorification. In order for Bran to succeed, he must not only grasp the fire of the gods, but use it to benefit mankind. As you can see, that dovetails nicely with his Summer King / green man directive to bring the nourishing summer sun and the green vitality of nature back to Westeros. It also meshes well with the simple idea of Bran becoming king after the destruction caused by the new Long Night we are about to get, and before that, the War of the Five Kings. The main job of anyone taking the throne after such a period of war and anarchy would be to rebuild and to restore order, so we will need Bran to tap into his “Bran the Builder” roots and help Westeros rebuild and heal.

I’ve explored this idea further in the last three livestreams that I did, entitled “God Kings and Abominations,” “Children of the Hollow Hills,” and “A Dream of Summer,” which can be found on both my YouTube channel as well as the Mythical Astronomy podcast feed. Be sure to check those out if you haven’t already if you’d like to hear more discussion on what George might be saying by placing a god-king like Bran on the throne to conclude the story, and I encourage to leave a comment on this video to add your thoughts to the hive mind! But don’t run just yet, I’ve got a bonus section coming up for you…


Now there’s just one fly in the ointment of my wonderful Bran – Grey King comparison. The Grey King was a pirate! He taught the Ironborn to weave nets and build longships – is Bran going to do that? Well, again, this is symbolism, at least on one level. George likes to fashion weirwood in the shape of symbols, and the weirwood ship is no different. For example, consider the idea of weirwoods as doors. We have three different weirwood doors in the story (at the Eyrie, at the House of Black and White, and under the Nightfort), and this is because the weirwoods are like doors to a different realm, and because they open the doors of perception.

So, while there does seem to have been a literal weirwood boat, think about this as a metaphor – how is a weirwood like a boat? Well, Bloodraven explains that time is different for trees and men, saying

For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them.

So, time is a river, and the weirwoods act as a vessel for the greenseer to sail the river of time. One also thinks of the more general concept of the cosmic ocean, which the greenseers sail via the astral projection powers of the weirwood. There’s actually a lot of ship and sea-based worplay that applies to greenseers via the idea of the weirwoodnet being like a “green sea” that the greenseers navigate, and I’ve explored that elsewhere in the Weirwood Compendium if you’re curious (huge hat-tip to Ravenous Reader who discovered this concept).

The point is this: suggesting that the Grey King sailed a weirwood boat is actually just another way of telling us that he was a greenseer who sailed the “green see” and the river of time and the cosmic ocean and whatever other metaphor you want to use. Bran is a greenseer too, and he sure likes the idea of building boats when it’s pitched to him in ACOK. This comes from that delightful Harvest Feast chapter that we dissected in King Bran 2, so you know it’s important:

In addition to a mint, Lord Manderly also proposed to build Robb a warfleet. “We have had no strength at sea for hundreds of years, since Brandon the Burner put the torch to his father’s ships. Grant me the gold and within the year I will float you sufficient galleys to take Dragonstone and King’s Landing both.”

Bran’s interest pricked up at talk of warships. No one asked him, but he thought Lord Wyman’s notion a splendid one. In his mind’s eye he could see them already. He wondered if a cripple had ever commanded a warship.

Not only does Prince Bran want to build ships, he even pictures himself captaining one! I told you he was just like the Grey King! Arrrr, matey! Forget ravens, get that boy a parrot. Seriously though, notice the line “in his mind’s eye he could see them already.” Weirwoods are ships of the mind’s eye, because they transport the awareness of the greenseer through time and space, so this is a very clever reference to greenseeing!

But what about this guy who burned the last fleet the Starks had, Brandon the Burner? Who’s that guy? Well, here’s the rest of that story, which we received from Bran’s mouth in AGOT as he tells Osha about the various Kings of Winter in the crypts:

That’s a Brandon, the tall one with the dreamy face, he was Brandon the Shipwright, because he loved the sea. His tomb is empty. He tried to sail west across the Sunset Sea and was never seen again. His son was Brandon the Burner, because he put the torch to all his father’s ships in grief. 

King Brandon the Shipwright is a dreamer, and he sailed into the Sunset Sea, never to be seen again, kind of like the way greenseers are absorbed into the green sea of the weirwoodnet when they die. If the idea of building ships is being used as a metaphor for building a connection to the weirwoods, this story sounds like it’s talking about a dreamer named Brandon who helped create the vessel humans use for greenseeing. Could this be an allusion to an original Stark greenseer king? This is very similar to the idea of the Grey King being an OG greenseer king who built the first weirwood boat, it seems to me. If this line about King Brandon the Shipwright is really an allusion to an original Stark greenseer, well, it may imply t hat  a connection to the weirwoodnet have been one of the things that Bran the Builder built? He was taken to a secret place to learn the language of the children, after all. Young Bran Stark is certainly building such a connection, and learning to sail the weirwood ship on the astral plane.

Then we have King Brandon the Burner, son of Brandon the Shipwright, who sets fire to the ships, shutting off access to the sea. To me this sounds like what I have been predicting for the end game – that the weirwoods will be burned and shut down, and that Bran really will be the last greenseer.

In other words, I can see Bran paralleling both the Shipwright Bran Stark and the Burner Bran Stark. He wants to build ships in his mind’s eye, and establishes a connection to the weirwoodnet that he can use to navigate the river of time… but as we know, there is ample foreshadowing of Bran being involved in some kind of burning and shut-down of the weirwoodnet. Interestingly, the Grey King parallels both Brandons as well: he builds ships like the Shipwright, but also sets fire to weirwoods in the Storm God’s thunderbolt myth.

Here’s another angle: if Bran the Builder was the first Stark greenseer, then you can see a parallel between the father-son relationship of Brandon the Shipwright and Brandon the Burner and the relationship between Brandon the Builder and our own Bran the Broken. Bran the Builder was the founder of House Stark and possibly its connection to the weirwoods, and Bran the Broken Stark seems fated to be the last weirwood king who may shut down mankind’s vehicle for sailing the green see.

If Bran really is the last greenseer, then I expect his job will be to take whatever knowledge he can from the weirwoodnet and use it to benefit mankind. I could see Samwell working as his scribe, transcribing Bran’s vast knowledge into a sort of Encyclopedia Brantanica…  groan


Thanks for reading everyone, and please – if you are enjoying our King Bran series, by all means, share them with your friends. A lot of people feel burnt out or let down after the last season of the show, but we have a ton to look forward to in The Winds of Winter, so help them fight off the doldrums and bring them into our myth head circle where the fire is warm. Until next time…

Return of the Summer King

Hello there friends! LmL here, in loyal service to his weirwooden majesty, King Brandon Stark, called the Broken, First of His Name; Lord of the Andals, the Rhoynar, the First Men, the direwolves and ravens, and the little bloodthirsty forest elves. We’re off to a good start in our quest to understand what the book version of King Bran will look like – he’s going to be a powerful greenseer, and to help defeat the Others, he’s going to have to tap into his terrifying magical abilities quite a bit more than what we saw on the show. But on a larger scale, what Bran and the forces of the living are seeking to defeat is actually the Long Night, an unnatural winter. He’s seeking to make the seasons turn again after they have become stuck, which is the traditional role of the folkloric green man. Indeed, when we search back through the five books of ASOIAF and look for that sweet, sweet King Bran foreshadowing, we find that George conceives of Bran not only as a greenseer king, but as a Summer King in the Oak King / Holly King tradition. The very first king of Westeros, Garth the Green, was crafted as the absolute epitome of a Summer Oak King, and the first king in the main story of ASOIAF is King Robert Baratheon, another Summer Oak King who is modeled after Garth himself. As we are going to see today, Bran’s ascension to the throne  as a new Summer King will amount to a completion of the cycle of the seasons in our story, a return to where it all began – Summer.

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Alright, it’s Garth time!


Garth the Green, Westeros’s version of the ubiquitous “green man” of European folklore, is regarded as the most ancient legendary figure of the First Men – he’s actually called “the First King” and the “High King of the First Men” who may have even been the one to lead the First Men across the Arm of Dorne into Westeros. There’s a lot to be said about old Garth, and I’ve said a lot about him in many podcasts, but we aren’t going to do a full breakdown of all Garth lore today. Rather, I want to specifically highlight the evidence that he and / or his offspring may have been greenseer kings – both simply to continue to prove that greenseer kings were a thing, and more specifically, to dig up some more juicy King Bran foreshadowing.

First off, George borrowed heavily from various green man and horned nature god folklore from the real world when he fashioned his “Garth the Green” legend, and these types of green nature gods always act as protectors of the woods and of nature as a whole and are often depicted as communing and communicating with animals. Consider the Gunderstrap Cauldron, which seems to be the earliest appearance of old Cernunnos: you can see all the animals gathered around him there, ready to eat clover from his hands, or perhaps to eviscerate the bowels of his enemies, as is warranted. In many traditions, the horned god is even regarded as an avatar or an embodiment of the primal forces of nature and the wood itself, so really, the idea of skinchanging and greenseeing – joining your spirit with animals and trees – seems like exactly the sort of power a green man like Garth should have.

Next up is the fact that the description of Garth the Green and the description of “the sacred order of green men” who guard the weirwoods on the Isle of Faces are more or less identical. According to Old Nan’s tales, as relayed to us by Bran, “the green men ride on elks,” and “sometimes they have antlers too.” Compare that to Garth, who “some stories say he had green hands, green hair, or green skin overall. (A few even give him antlers, like a stag.)” That’s pretty similar so far – Garth basically sounds like a lost member of the order of green men… and the green men guard weirwoods.

Garth the Green is regarded as a god or a god-man, and he is tied to the Old Gods specifically. Legend states that Garth planted three intertwining weirwoods, called the Three Singers, at the center of the godswood at Highgarden, which he also founded. Planting weirwoods is typically something you’d expect from a child of the forest – those who sing the song of earth –  or at least from one who is intimately familiar with weirwoods, like a greenseer or caretaker of weirwoods of some sort.

As for the green men, Bran says that “All the tales agreed that the green men had strange magic powers,” and it’s very likely that those are greenseer / weirwood powers. For one, you can’t ride an elk without magic – it’s just not possible. This is one of the reasons I believe Coldhands to be a resurrected skinchanger or greenseer, as Jon Snow will soon be, and although that’s a tale for another day, the point is obvious – there is no way to tame and ride a ten-feet-tall-at-the-shoulder great elk without magic. They just aren’t tamable animals.

King Bran
Greenseer Kings of Ancient Westeros
Return of the Summer King
The God-on-Earth

End of Ice and Fire
Burn Them All
The Sword in the Tree
The Cold God’s Eye
The Battle of Winterfell

Bloodstone Compendium
Astronomy Explains the Legends of I&F
The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai
Waves of Night & Moon Blood
The Mountain vs. the Viper & the Hammer of the Waters
Tyrion Targaryen
Lucifer means Lightbringer

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

Great Empire of the Dawn
History and Lore of House Dayne
Asshai-by-the-Shadow
The Great Empire of the Dawn
Flight of the Bones

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

The Blood of the Other
Prelude to a Chill
A Baelful Bard & a Promised Prince
The Stark that Brings the Dawn
Eldric Shadowchaser
Prose Eddard
Ice Moon Apocalypse

Weirwood Compendium A
The Grey King & the Sea Dragon
A Burning Brandon
Garth of the Gallows
In a Grove of Ash

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

Weirwood Compendium B
To Ride the Green Dragon
The Devil and the Deep Green Sea
Daenerys the Sea Dreamer
A Silver Seahorse

Signs and Portals
Veil of Frozen Tears
Sansa Locked in Ice

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

We Should Start Back
AGOT Prologue

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More to the point, the green men are explicitly tied to weirwoods, as we know. Quoting maester Luwin in AGOT:

So the gods might bear witness to the signing, every tree on the island was given a face, and afterward, the sacred order of green men was formed to keep watch over the Isle of Faces. 

It seems likely that the strange magic powers of these green men are tied to the weirwoods which they guard, no? To put it even more simply, we have on one hand a green-skinned, antlered man named Garth the Green planting weirwoods, and on the other, antlered green men guarding the most important weirwoods in Westeros. They both look like classic horned green nature gods, who in turn are known for protecting the woods and talking to animals. And maybe just a wee bit of human sacrifice.

Although the sacred order of green men were not kings, Garth the Green certainly was – as I said, he is widely remembered and titled as the “First King” of Westeros who established the longest running line of Kings in Westerosi history – those of House Gardener. A green-skinned, weirwood-planting, king of Westeros – and not just any king, but the very “First King.” Ergo, if Bran becomes a weirwood king of all Westeros, one could say he is actually following most closely in the footsteps of Garth the Green himself. George would most likely conceive of ending the story with a greenseer king like Bran on the throne of Westeros as a ‘return to roots,’ as bringing it all back around to where it started.

As we mentioned last time, there’s also a legend in the Riverlands of a “Green King of the Gods Eye,” which could be a mangled legend of Garth himself, who certainly makes sense as a king of the green men, as you can see. Or perhaps this is a memory of some greenseer who tried to set himself up as king, drawing on his magic powers and the reputation of the green men. Either way, what I see is George subtlety planting an image in the reader’s mind of a green king of the weirwoods – a greenseer king who rules with the powers of the old gods.

In the last video, we talked about how Bran declares himself “Prince of the Green,” “Prince of the Wolfswood,” and “Prince of the Woods” when he is warging into Summer and exalting in his wolfish power. Princes of the Green must grow up to be kings of the green, and so there is your foreshadowing – Bran’s destiny may be to be a Green King of the Old Gods, a Wolfish King of the Wood. Even better, there’s even a chance Bran will be a greenseer king who actually goes to the Isle of Faces.

As we’ve discussed a few times, it’s absolutely possible that the books will have the Isle of Faces playing a part in the white walker end game showdown (as opposed to everything happening exclusively at Winterfell). It could be the place the white walkers want to reach in order to well and truly freeze over Westeros, if indeed they have the same hatred for the greenseers as they do on the show. And what about all the weirwoodnet shutdown foreshadowing we found in the End of Ice and Fire series? That may come to a head on the astral plane, but if there’s a physical location where such a shut-down occurs, it would probably be the Isle of Faces. Any way you slice it, Bran is the one person in the story who consistently thinks about and brings up the green men, so if anyone is going there, it’s probably Bran. Consider this line from ASOS, which comes after Jojen and Meera have just told Bran the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, which includes their father Howland paddling out to the Isle of Faces in a little boat to meet the green men. Bran thinks to himself:

The day was growing old by then, and long shadows were creeping down the mountainsides to send black fingers through the pines. If the little crannogman could visit the Isle of Faces, maybe I could too. All the tales agreed that the green men had strange magic powers. 

Will Bran go to the Isle of Faces? George has said that it will figure into the end of the story, and as you can see, Bran seems to be the guy to interface with all the weirwoods and green men there. If Kings Landing  does end up in ruins – which I think it will – perhaps it could even make sense for Bran to be crowned on the Isle of Faces, making him a “Green King of the Gods Eye” in a more literal fashion. Ac  t the very least, I’d expect George to find more ways to tie Bran’s kingship back to Garth and the green men when he is crowned, so be on the lookout for that. Whatever happens, it seems that we are going to see the Isle of Faces before the story is over, and Bran will surely be involved.


Another strong clue that Garth the Green should be associated with greenseeing and skinchanging is the fact that several of his children sound like skinchangers! One is outright labelled as a skinchanger, and that would be

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.

Technically if she was a skinchanger she would have been inhabiting the flesh of cranes or other animals as opposed to transforming into them, but this seems like the typical sort of distortion that happens over time with folklore and fable, as from the non-magician’s perspective, there’s not a big difference between a sorcerer who can change into an animal vs one who can inhabit their minds and control them. Bottom line, Garth’s daughter Rose is labelled as a skinchanger, and history seems to confirm this, as some descendants of House Crane have reportedly manifested the gift from time to time.

Rose’s brother also had an animal transformation. He was

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 Bors drank so much bull’s blood he grew a pair of shiny black horns.)

Just as with Rose of Red Lake, what I think we are talking about is a confused tale of a man inhabiting an animal’s skin – a skinchanger. Those horns also make Bors a sort of horned lord figure, like his daddy Garth, and of course the real world folklore George is riffing off of here includes both people with stag antlers as well as people with animal horns like that of a bull, goat, or ram.

Even the blood-drinking part of the Bors legend sounds like it could be skinchanger activity. Varamyr Sixskins ate the heart of some of the foes he killed, perhaps believing it would make him stronger, so that sort of magical thinking is potentially part of greenseer and skinchanger culture. One certainly thinks of the the tradition of sacrificing humans to heart trees, especially the one Bran saw in a vision where he could actually taste the blood of the sacrifice. If Jojen Paste theory is right – meaning, if the weirwood paste Bran ate to awaken his powers contained Jojen’s blood or flesh, as is strongly hinted at, then Bran also drank blood / practiced cannibalism to come into his greenseer power. I should also mention that older tales of Garth the Green involve Garth demanding human sacrifice from his worshipers, and similarly, there are tales of the greenseers sacrificing either captive humans or their own offspring to the weirwoods in order to bring down the Hammer of the Waters.

I mean, look – these are bleeding trees we are talking about. They have bloody faces, leaves like bloody hands, and their bark looks like bone. Of course their history is drenched in blood and human sacrifice.

Continuing along with Garth’s possible skinchanger offspring, we have:

Ellyn Eversweet, 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.

Here again we have what could be a confused account of skinchanging – I’m not saying Ellyn was skinchanging bees, but rather that the idea that people can communicate with animals and make pacts with them may well stem from the very real phenomena of skinchanging and greenseeing. Skinchanging bees would be a good way to spy on people though, just saying, and actually, you could send swarms of bees into the little eye slits of all those armored Andals and do pretty well… On a more thematic note, honey is frequently used to symbolize the food of the gods (another version of the fire of the gods), and Ellyn is obtaining it by climbing a mountain, so this tale has all the hallmarks of the universal mytheme we know well: “mankind questing for the power of the gods or challenging the heavens.” 

The tale of Rowan Goldtree also makes use of the fire of the gods motif, and specifically in conjunction with people-trees:

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.

It’s hard to know what to make of this myth in literal terms, but the symbolism here is very suggestive. The golden apple is a well-known food of the gods symbol, and here we have a broken-hearted woman growing such a god-tree from a part of herself. This is highly evocative of everything we know about Nissa Nissa, who seems to have been an elf woman whose sacrifice and merging with the weirwoods may have been the key to opening up the weirwoodnet to human greenseers.

The fact that Martin chose a rowan tree for this legend is another clue that he’s actually talking about weirwoods – as I mentioned in the Venus of the Woods podcast, the Rowan tree is also called the “Mountain Ash” tree, although they are not related to actual ash trees. Symbolically, however, Martin has made good use of ash, mountain ash, and rowan trees all three to make reference to Yggdrasil, which is always thought of as a great ash tree. We know the weirwoods are largely modeled after Yggdrasil, so what we have here is a legend about a woman’s sacrifice and a weirwood tree, and about man obtaining the food and fire of the gods. Again, this is all symbolism, but all of it points to weirwoods, and this is a legend about a daughter of Garth.

Then there’s

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.

This doesn’t make anyone a skinchanger, but it does show you that Garth was, you know, “open-minded.” Human woman, giantess, child of the forest woman… Garth’s fertility knew no bounds, apparently. But don’t forget – Garth is sometimes said to have been the very first man in Westeros, so he may have had little choice but to broaden his horizons. This is also is yet another presentation of the tree-people idea; “John the Oak” kinda sounds like someone named their oak tree “John.” The name “Oakheart” implies a tree with a heart or a wooden heart, and that of course reminds us of heart trees.

And finally, rounding out the possible skinchanger children of Garth the Green, we have

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.

As I mentioned last time, some tales also have him as a likely ancestor of Bran the Builder, and the symbolism here implies Brandon may have actually been impregnating children of the forest as opposed to warring on them. The idea here, which is spelled out by Barbrey Dustin in ADWD when talking about Bran’s uncle Brandon Stark,  is that an impregnating penis can been seen a as a bloody blade. Taken together with the idea that a child of the forest woman is likely to die giving birth to a human baby, Brandon may have been both impregnating and ‘killing’ child of the forest here at Red Lake – a place where we have confirmed skinchanger activity already, via Rose of Red Lake. Ergo, Brandon Bloody Blade himself may not have been a human-child hybrid, but he may have sired some of them, and they may have even been proto-Starks after a fashion.

So, we have Rose of Red Lake for sure, and a few other offspring with more subtle clues about skinchanging and greenseeing. Was Garth the one whose genes had “the gift?” Or was it the women he copulated with, who may have been of different humanoid species like giants or children of the forest? Either one is interesting, but I think the most straightforward explanation of all these fables is that it all starts with Garth. I think we can conclude that green men exist, or used to, that they are greenseers, and Garth was one of them who made himself a king and who founded many great houses. There could have been more than one green man king, or just Garth and his descendants, but what I see here is that the “First King” of Westeros was a greenseer king, and it seems almost certain that the last king of Westeros that we will ever read about will be one too.


There’s another piece to the Garth the Green / greenseer mystery, and that’s the fabled Oakenseat, the living wooden throne upon which the ruling kings of the Reach from House Gardener always sat their royal behinds. It’s not a weirwooden throne, but it is a wooden throne, and a living one at that. TWOIAF tells us that

No petty king could ever hope to rival the power of Highgarden, where Garth the Gardener’s descendants sat upon a living throne (the Oakenseat) that grew from an oak that Garth Greenhand himself had planted.

Now if this were a living weirwood throne, we’d all have no doubt about what was going on here; the descendants of the green man king sit on a weirwood throne, of course. They’re greenseer kings. But it’s not weirwood; it’s oak, so what’s going on here? There’s actually some really cool green man mythology at play here – that of the oak king and holly king – which I think helps makes sense of this, and please check out the Sacred Order of Green Zombies podcast series for the full breakdown on that.

The gist of it is that this mythology is all about the turning of the seasons, with the horned green nature god split into two halves – an Oak King to represent the Summer, and the Holly King to represent the winter, with the two kings supplanting one another every six months to mimic the cycle of the seasons. In ASOIAF, George seems to have swapped the weirwoods in for the holly tree as the tree of the Winter King, and one of the big clues about that (besides weirwoods being found almost only in the north) is that the Holly King is in fact often called “the Winter King” – and in ASOIAF, the “Kings of Winter” worship the weirwoods. On the other hand, Garth, House Gardener, and everything from the Reach exemplify summer, and so George has outfitted the legends and figures from the Reach in oaken, Summer King symbolism.

The relevant point for ASOIAF is that if there is one tree that greenseers might be able to use besides weirwood trees, it is the oak. For example, Bloodraven uses the concept of the acorn and the oak remembering one another as a metaphor for the way weirwoods stand outside of time, which makes one wonder. The heart tree at Kings Landing, which Ned, Sansa, and Arya pray to all night in AGOT, is an oak tree instead of a weirwood, complete with carved face, which kind of sends the message that hey, if you don’t have a weirwood available, an oak is the next best thing. When the wildlings come south of the wall in ADWD, they carve faces in three trees on the way to Molestown. The third one is an oak, and it sounds a bit like a tree Ent from Lord of the Rings:

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.

I won’t belabor the point; we don’t know what exactly is up with the Oakenseat, but it is a living tree throne sat upon by the very oldest kings of Westeros, and according to legend, it was planted by someone who also planted weirwoods, and who was in all likelihood the first greenseer king of Westeros. It’s just hard for me to believe that this tale of a living tree throne planted by a green man king has nothing to do with greenseers and their magic, even though it’s made of oak and not weirwood.

When we examine the inglorious end of the Oakenseat, which came at the conclusion of the 89-year reign of Garth X “the Greybeard” Gardener, we find some potential ASOIAF end-game foreshadowing:

One Dornish king besieged Oldtown, whilst another crossed the Mander and sacked Highgarden. The Oakenseat, the living throne that had been the pride of House Gardener for years beyond count, was chopped to pieces and burned, and the senile King Garth X was found tied to his bed, whimpering and covered in his own filth. The Dornish cut his throat (“a mercy,” one of them said later), then put Highgarden to the torch after stripping it of all its wealth.

Ah, so the Oakenseat and Highgarden itself was… burned, did you say? Very interesting… and even the idea of an old man Garth being tied to his bed has to remind us of old man Bloodraven, tied to his weirwood dreaming nest. The TV show gave us the white walkers infiltrating Bloodraven’s cave and putting him to the sword in his weirwood throne, so perhaps this passage about Garth Greybeard’s death and the burning of the Oakenseat is simply foreshadowing for the destruction of Bloodraven’s weirwood cave and the potential burning of his tree or of the weirwoodnet as a whole, as I have been talking about for the last few videos.


We’re all done partying on with Garth – well, we’re never really done partying with Garth, but still – it’s time to bring the focus squarely back to King Bran and what his job will be. Bran’s destiny is to be greenseer king, absolutely, but Bran is also to be seen as a summer king in the Oak King / Holly King sense. While his brother Jon exemplifies the King of Winter and Winter King vein of mythology, Bran’s early chapters are peppered with declarations of his status as a summer child, such as this legendary, truly epic quote from Old Nan in AGOT:

“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Old Nan said quietly, “what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.”

Not only is Bran a Summer child who stands in opposition to the white walkers, he also names his wolf… Summer. This is from AGOT, right after Bran wakes from his coma dream after finally having chosen to fly instead of die:

And then there was movement beside the bed, and something landed lightly on his legs. He felt nothing. A pair of yellow eyes looked into his own, shining like the sun. The window was open and it was cold in the room, but the warmth that came off the wolf enfolded him like a hot bath. His pup, Bran realized … or was it? He was so big now. He reached out to pet him, his hand trembling like a leaf.

Summer’s eyes are like suns, and his warmth enfolds Bran in a hot, baptismal-like bath. This is Bran’s great awakening, and it is wrapped up in the language of Summer. Notice too that all of the summer symbolism in this scene is channeled through his wolf; this informs us that Bran’s destiny as Summer King and Warg King are one in the same, just as it did when he gave himself the Prince of the Wood and Prince of the Green nicknames while skinchanging Summer.

Interestingly, Bran the reawakened Prince of the Green has a hand like a leaf here… just as weirwood leaves look like hands. Is our leafy summer prince turning into a tree here? Branch Stark? It’s not literally true yet, but we know he will eventually wed the tree and see through its eyes, and Bran does actually get to rustle those hand-shaped leaves at Theon in ADWD. A few chapters before Bran’s awakening that we just quoted from, Jon came to visit comatose Bran and it says that “his skin stretched tight over bones like sticks,” and that Bran “looked half a leaf.” There’s more to that line of symbolism, but it should come as no surprise that Martin chooses to describe Bran with leafy tree language like a classic green man, since he went and labelled him as a summer prince of the greenwood and all the rest. It especially makes sense to do so in the scene where Bran has just begun to awaken to his greenseer powers, or in a scene where Bran lies comatose and dreaming of the three-eyed crow, who in turn is really a tree-man with bones like sticks, just like Bran:

Seated on his throne of roots in the great cavern, half-corpse and half-tree, Lord Brynden seemed less a man than some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone, and rotted wool. 

And then, a paragraph later, Bran thinks, “One day I will be like him.” But as you can see, even before we reach Bloodraven’s cave, Martin seems to be showing us this tree-man greenseer destiny for Bran in these early scenes, and the point I want to make here is that it’s all intertwined with his summer king symbolism. Bran drifts in his coma, receives instruction from the three-eyed crow, opens his third eye and chooses to fly, then awakens to life and warmth and promptly names his wolf a summer wolf.

So if Bran is a summer child with a Summer wolf destined to be a leafy Summer King, what happens when he goes underground? Nighttime, right? Of course, ancient man sometimes thought of the sun as going underground at nighttime, and Martin has a lot of fun playing with this idea. George sketches out the underground sun metaphor during one of Jon’s wolf dreams inside of Ghost:

“Snow,” the moon insisted.

The white wolf ran from it, racing toward the cave of night where the sun had hidden, his breath frosting in the air. On starless nights the great cliff was as black as stone, a darkness towering high above the wide world, but when the moon came out it shimmered pale and icy as a frozen stream. The wolf’s pelt was thick and shaggy, but when the wind blew along the ice no fur could keep the chill out. On the other side the wind was colder still, the wolf sensed. That was where his brother was, the grey brother who smelled of summer.

Prince Bran and his wolf Summer do indeed go into a cave of night as winter falls – a pitch-black cave where Bloodraven tells him to embrace the darkness as mother’s milk and all that. You’ll notice that in this passage, Jon and Ghost think of Summer (who is not only named Summer but actually smells like Summer), and about how Summer is trapped on the other side of a huge icy cliff. The sun is in a dark cave; Summer is behind an icy cliff; this is all a metaphor for the Long Night, of course. Look at how well it works: when Bran comes out of the dark cave, it will be to confront the Others and end whatever new Long Night has fallen… he’ll be the emerging Summer King of Westeros. The sun will have returned to the land, winter will be over… and Bran will be the green king the land of Westeros needs to heal and recover.

This all compares very well the Garth the Green / Green Man cycle, where “the green god dies every autumn when the trees lose their leaves, only to be reborn with the coming of spring.” Bran’s going down into the well at the Nightfort and through the Black Gate weirwood mouth, and then underground to Bloodraven’s cave all spells out the sun’s death journey through the cave of night as well as the idea of green nature hibernating through the winter – and again, Bran goes underground right as winter falls. When Bran eventually emerges from the cave, it will be like the rebirth of the sun as well as the rebirth of the green vitality of nature. And because the word “bran” can refer to a part of a cereal grain, we can even see Bran himself as a seed planted underground which is ready to bloom with the spring (hat-tip Ba’al the Bard).

Here is where we find Martin telling us what Bran’s role is, on the most fundamental level – to make the seasons turn, to make sure the dream of spring gives birth to a bountiful summer, just as the very First King of Westeros did. This is actually the only logical end to the story, from a mythical perspective, because the big problem everyone has to solve is the Long Night, which is simply a freezing and stopping of the cycle of the seasons.

As I mentioned at the top, it’s not only Dawn Age Westeros that begins its story with an antlered, stag-man summer king – the main story of ASOIAF does too. Robert Baratheon is no greenseer (although his ancient Storm King ancestors may have been), but he is most certainly a Garth the Green parallel and a Summer King figure. Nowhere is Robert spelled more clearly as a Summer King than in his monologue to Ned about Summer in King’s Landing, delivered to Ned within minutes of Robert’s arrival at Winterfell:

“The winters are hard,” Ned admitted. “But the Starks will endure. We always have.”

“You need to come south,” Robert told him. “You need a taste of summer before it flees. In Highgarden there are fields of golden roses that stretch away as far as the eye can see. The fruits are so ripe they explode in your mouth—melons, peaches, fireplums, you’ve never tasted such sweetness. You’ll see, I brought you some. Even at Storm’s End, with that good wind off the bay, the days are so hot you can barely move. And you ought to see the towns, Ned! Flowers everywhere, the markets bursting with food, the summerwines so cheap and so good that you can get drunk just breathing the air. Everyone is fat and drunk and rich.” He laughed and slapped his own ample stomach a thump. “And the girls, Ned!” he exclaimed, his eyes sparkling. “I swear, women lose all modesty in the heat. They swim naked in the river, right beneath the castle. Even in the streets, it’s too damn hot for wool or fur, so they go around in these short gowns, silk if they have the silver and cotton if not, but it’s all the same when they start sweating and the cloth sticks to their skin, they might as well be naked.” The king laughed happily.
Robert Baratheon had always been a man of huge appetites, a man who knew how to take his pleasures. 

If Garth the Green could give a monologue, this is what it would sound like. I have to think the point of putting such an over-the-top Summer King on the throne to begin the story proper is to highlight the role that the cycle of the seasons plays in the story. Look at the journey the story takes: we began AGOT with the end of a long summer and the death of Robert the Summer King; the story tracks through fall and winter when summer kings lie underground either in their grave or in a creepy weirwood cave; and the story will end with a dream of spring and a new Summer King, thus bringing us back to where we started. I’m not sure if Bran will get a set of antler horns – I get mine at the Halloween Store, if anyone is curious – but I think it’s no coincidence that Martin made both the first king in our main story as well as the First King of Westeros stag man summer kings. It’s a message about where story “begins,” and thus where the cycle must return to. “The return of the Summer King” is what Bran’s kingship is really about on a mythical level.


ACOK brings us a marvellous chapter in which Bran’s Summer King and greenseer king roles are spelled out in symbolic, even ritualistic fashion: it’s the harvest feast at Winterfell. This is during the time that Robb, now King in the North, has gone south with his army, and Bran has to preside as Prince of Winterfell in the official capacity as the  Northern lords arrive at Winterfell for the feast. Before the feast day, however, Bran has to sit as prince while the northern lords come to discuss important matters of the realm, and even then the green man  / summer prince symbolism begins.

Bran is carried to the audience chamber by Hodor in the wicker basket I alluded to previously:

Hodor hummed tunelessly as he went down hand under hand, Bran bouncing against his back in the wicker seat that Maester Luwin had fashioned for him. Luwin had gotten the idea from the baskets the women used to carry firewood on their backs; after that it had been a simple matter of cutting legholes and attaching some new straps to spread Bran’s weight more evenly.

The wicker man is a variant of the green man, speaking in a general sense, and the wicker man folklore has to do with turning the seasons, sacrificing to bring a good harvest, and other such witchy goodness. In particular, the wicker man is burned in the spring time, and because of Julius Caesar’s scurrilous spreading of rumors about the druids, it was long believed that human sacrifices were placed inside the wicker man – though again, there is no other evidence to corroborate this. In any case, Bran being placed inside a firewood basket made of wicker is clear and consistent foreshadowing of Bran’s burning – a topic we will get into more as this series goes along.

For now, the takeaway is that Bran is heavily implied as a green man who will sacrifice himself in some sense to turn the seasons. The Summer King is traditionally sacrificed in the autumn, and rises again in the spring, and this is the autumn harvest feast, so…

When Bran arrives at the audience chamber, Bran is placed “in his father’s oak chair with the grey velvet cushions, behind a long plank-and-trestle table,” reinforcing Bran’s role as a Summer Oak King. The maesters have just proclaimed the first of autumn, and most of the talk Bran attends to is discussion of the harvest and storing away food for the winter, so again everything is thematic. It’s very… harvest-feasty.

At the end of the second day of playing lord, Bran has a few hours left to visit with Summer in the godswood, and George foreshadows his eventual Summer King-like reemergence from Bloodraven’s cave:

No sooner had Hodor entered the godswood than Summer emerged from under an oak, almost as if he had known they were coming.

Summer emerging from beneath an oak – its the return of the Oak King and of summer itself. And it’s coming from beneath a tree! It’s nice that George drops this foreshadowing in during this harvest feast chapter, just to remind us that Bran’s sacrificial symbolism is only one stop on his journey, and the sacrifices he and his friends make will be for a worthy cause. Summer will come again, in other words, and it will be thanks in large part to Bran the Summer King and all those who helped make him the three-eyed raven he will someday become.

Did I mention sacrificial symbolism? How about this dream that comes a couple pages after the last quote:

On this night he dreamed of the weirwood. It was looking at him with its deep red eyes, calling to him with its twisted wooden mouth, and from its pale branches the three-eyed crow came flapping, pecking at his face and crying his name in a voice as sharp as swords.

This is also the implication of the three-eyed crow always asking Bran for corn; Bran is being asked for his seed; his life: his very self. Bran, after all, is a cereal grain, so asking Bran for corn is the next best thing to asking Bran for himself. Of course Martin also seems to be riffing on the phrase “corn king,” a more modern expression to characterize all the green nature gods who die and resurrect to depict the cycle of the seasons. The green man is a corn king, Garth would be a corn king, and so on. Martin is just hitting different notes in the same song here, and this is the song from the wood. In this last quote, the three-eyed crow flies from the weirwood’s branches to attack Bran with its sword-like voice and buffeting wings, implying Bran’s giving of himself to the tree, as he eventually does in Bloodraven’s cave, and the ever-silent weirwood is even calling to Bran here, the only time we ever read of any sort of sound emerging from a weirwood mouth.

When the day of the harvest feast arrives, we see that Bran is mounted on Dancer, his horse, getting set to enter the feast hall. Ser Rodrick has been unyielding in his refusal to allow Bran’s wolf to enter with him – this is the harvest feast, marking the end of summer, so of course Bran can’t bring his wolf Summer with him, lol. As Bran enters the great hall on Dancer, the guests rise and cry out “Stark!” and “Winterfell!” and we read..

He was old enough to know that it was not truly him they shouted for—it was the harvest they cheered, it was Robb and his victories, it was his lord father and his grandfather and all the Starks going back eight thousand years. Still, it made him swell with pride.

It wasn’t Bran they cheered for, but the harvest – but Bran represents the harvest, as a dying green man often does. He must give his own corn for the people, that they might eat. Bran is also representing the entire Stark heritage, which is that of greenseer kings, warg kings, and sacrificing oneself to end the long winter.

He’s once again placed in his father’s high seat – the oaken one – and speaks the ritual words of the harvest feast: he bids them “welcome in the name of his brother, the King in the North, and asked them to thank the gods old and new for Robb’s victories and the bounty of the harvest.” He finishes by saying “may there be a hundred more,” thereby offering his princely blessing. This done, he drinks the ritualistic glass of summerwine, with all its blood drinking implications, and as its hot, snaky fingers wiggle through Bran’s chest, we think of the very last words of the very last Bran chapter in ADWD, which bring us his last weirwood vision:

“No,” said Bran, “no, don’t,” but they could not hear him, no more than his father had. The woman grabbed the captive by the hair, hooked the sickle round his throat, and slashed. And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man’s feet drummed against the earth … but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood.

Bran’s ADWD chapters amount to a crash-course on what it means to be a greenseer, and represent Bran facing his fears and embracing his destiny head-on. George chooses to end his ADWD chapters with this vision, and not just to be creepy – he’s showing us that at its core, this greenseer stuff is blood magic. It’s about ritual sacrifice, symbolic and even real cannibalism, and the most primal nature magic. Recall the darker side of the Garth the Green myth:

A few of the very oldest tales of Garth Greenhand present us with a considerably darker deity, one who demanded blood sacrifice from his worshippers to ensure a bountiful harvest. In some stories the green god dies every autumn when the trees lose their leaves, only to be reborn with the coming of spring. 

Bran has a bit of both going on at the harvest feast; he’s the symbolic sacrificial summer king, but he’s also the one ensuring bountiful harvests for the future through his benedictions and drinking the offered wine, which stands in for blood. His ultimate destiny is to wed the tree and become a greenseer king, and so his weirwood dream of drinking the blood offered to the tree juxtaposes well with the harvest feast.

Speaking of juxtaposition.. while Bran sits in his father’s oak chair and drinks more of the spiced summerwine from his father’s silver direwolf goblet, he recalls the last time he had seen his father drink from it:

It had been the night of the welcoming feast, when King Robert had brought his court to Winterfell. Summer still reigned then. His parents had shared the dais with Robert and his queen, with her brothers beside her.

Bran goes on to recall all the people who had been alive back “when summer still reigned,” all of whom are now gone. You can see how summer and King Robert are treated interchangeably here, as summer is said to have reigned when Robert did. Robert died just before the end of summer, and Bran now commemorates his death in memory here at the feast that marks summer’s end, all while performing the green man duties himself.

During the feast, Bran actually does tap into his greenseer powers, having an unprompted and unexpected waking dream where he momentarily skinchanges Summer in the godswood. When he comes back, it says that “The waking dream had been so vivid, for a moment Bran had not known where he was.” That’s a nice overlay of drinking the symbolic wine-blood and tapping into the powers of the old gods, here at the Harvest Feast as Bran sits in the oaken seat of his father and his father’s father. Again this makes us think of Bran, sitting on his weirwood throne in Bloodraven’s cave and drinking the blood of an ancient human sacrifice through the Winterfell heart tree – the same heart tree that he just visited during his waking dream from the dais after drinking the summerwine. This entire chapter spells out Bran’s very Garth-like weirwood king role and the importance that the cycle of the seasons plays in Bran’s arc in particular.

This Harvest Feast chapter also features the arrival of Jojen and Meera, and the little ritual they play out again spells out Bran’s Garth-like, nature god role:

“My lords of Stark,” the girl said. “The years have passed in their hundreds and their thousands since my folk first swore their fealty to the King in the North. My lord father has sent us here to say the words again, for all our people.”

She is looking at me, Bran realized. He had to make some answer. “My brother Robb is fighting in the south,” he said, “but you can say your words to me, if you like.”

“To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater,” they said together. “Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.”

“I swear it by earth and water,” said the boy in green.

“I swear it by bronze and iron,” his sister said.

“We swear it by ice and fire,” they finished together.

Bran groped for words. Was he supposed to swear something back to them? Their oath was not one he had been taught. “May your winters be short and your summers bountiful,” he said. That was usually a good thing to say. “Rise. I’m Brandon Stark.”

I know it seems like I pull very long quotes from the books sometimes, but that’s because some of these passages are just so loaded with import that summarizing them would actually take longer. Also, the books feature something the TV show ran short of, especially in the last seasons – a little something called dialogue! oh! …sorry about that. Low blow, low blow. Anyway, this quote is great. First off, we have the basic ritual of Bran’s subjects offering up a portion of their harvest to him in return for a blessing of a bountiful summer, with extra points to the Reeds for including the eponymous “ice and fire” phraseology.

Second of all, Jojen and Meera are specifically making a reference to the last Marsh King of the crannogmen and his defeat at the hands of Rickard Stark, who was either a King in the North or a King of Winter. As we mentioned last time, the Marsh Kings were often greenseers, and King Rickard took the daughter of the one he defeated as a wife, thus ensuring the submission of the crannogmen to Winterfell. That’s what Jojen and Meera are talking about when they say “The years have passed in their hundreds and their thousands since my folk first swore their fealty to the King in the North,” and when they renew their promise that “Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command.”

I just love how all of this sets up Bran as a greenseer king and warg king who is ready to go to battle with his “beasts and greenseers,” as the original Warg King did. The first thing Jojen and Meera ask about after their greeting ritual is the direwolves, the chapter ends with Bran slipping in to the wolf dream and meeting Jojen and Meera in the godswood as a wolf, and of course it is Jojen and Meera who shepherd Bran to Bloodraven’s cave and his destiny.  Even Bran’s very young, sort-of crush on Meera reenacts history in that it mimics the daughter of the Marsh King who married a Stark King. Even though all the players here are very young, one does get a sense of George “getting the gang back together” from the Age of Heroes in this scene, which is both endlessly cool and clear foreshadowing of Bran as a Stark greenseer king.

There are two nice symbolic clues that Bran’s journey as a fallen and risen Summer King is tied to the classic struggle against the Others. The first one is one of my favs, just for sake of those drunken, yet endearing Umbers:

Much later, after all the sweets had been served and washed down with gallons of summerwine, the food was cleared and the tables shoved back against the walls to make room for the dancing. The music grew wilder, the drummers joined in, and Hother Umber brought forth a huge curved warhorn banded in silver. When the singer reached the part in “The Night That Ended” where the Night’s Watch rode forth to meet the Others in the Battle for the Dawn, he blew a blast that set all the dogs to barking.

That’s pretty straightforward – Martin is evoking the defeat of the Others, the Battle for the Dawn, and the end of the Long Night, all right smack-dab in the middle of the harvest feast that spells out Bran as a greenseer king and Summer King and features him getting tipsy on summerwine and warging out accidentally in the oaken seat of the Starks. Very cool.

Next we have the moment of Bran’s falling asleep at the end of the chapter, where George somewhat randomly inserts talk of flaming star swords and Dawn before Bran jumps to the godswood:

When he blew out his bedside candle, darkness covered him like a soft, familiar blanket. The faint sound of music drifted through his shuttered window. Something his father had told him once when he was little came back to him suddenly. He had asked Lord Eddard if the Kingsguard were truly the finest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. “No longer,” he answered, “but once they were a marvel, a shining lesson to the world.”

“Was there one who was best of all?”

“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.” Father had gotten sad then, and he would say no more. Bran wished he had asked him what he meant.

He went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire, but when the dream came he was in the godswood again. The smells from the kitchen and the Great Hall were so strong that it was almost as if he had never left the feast. He prowled beneath the trees, his brother close behind him.

Quite honestly, this sounds a lot like foreshadowing of the Battle of Winterfell against the Others that we saw on TV and will see some version of in the books: Bran is dreaming in the godswood, knights are fighting with fiery star swords, and the direwolves are prowling beneath the trees. On top of that, the fight between Eddard and his group of seven and the three kingsguard knights at the Tower of Joy that Bran references here is actually a scene which mimics an important part of the War for the Dawn, with Eddard as a Stark last hero figure and the snow-white armored Kingsguard playing the role of the Others. I’ve talked about that elsewhere in the Moons of Ice and Fire podcast series if you’d like to hear more about that, but for now the basic point is that the Tower of Joy reference works to enhance the “last battle” vibe of this scene, and quite possibly to insert the idea of flaming swords into the godswood along with Bran warging into his direwolf.

It reminds me of that opening scene in the Winterfell Godswood, where Ned slowly and lustily polished his huge dragon sword while discussing the Others and direwolves with Catelyn – George is spelling out the primary elements of the final showdown in the place where it will occur. In that first Winterfell scene, the message was very basic: the others are coming, and the Starks (specifically Ned and Lyanna’s children) will need to be there with dragon swords and direwolves when they do. This time, the emphasis is on Bran and his role as the eventual Summer King of Westeros who will rise not only to help to defeat the Others and make the seasons turn once again, but also to reign over a new summer that – let’s face it – anyone who survives this story richly deserves. Hopefully, Bran won’t be too drunk on the summerwine when the time comes… just enough to warg out a bit.


Alright everyone, we hope you’ve enjoyed the second installment in our King Bran series, and don’t worry, part 3 is already written and will be coming your way soon. Thanks once again to Martin Lewis for his vocal performances, thanks to George R. R. Martin for writing the novels, and thanks to our Patreon community, which you can check out at lucifermeanslightbringer.com. Thanks to everyone who leaves a comment or shares this video, it really helps a ton. Until next time..