One of the biggest differences between Game of Thrones the TV show and A Song of Ice and Fire the book series is that the white walkers on the TV show are led by this charismatic fellow called the Night King, while the white walkers of the books seem to do their white walking on their own, without a discernible leader. (“I told you, we don’t have a lord, we’re an anarcho-syndichist commune…”)
The thing is, there are ample signs in the books that the ancient enemy known as the Others are in fact looking for a leader… or if not exactly a “leader,” they’re at least looking for a certain special someone who may be the key to unlocking their deepest magic, someone who allows them to white walk their way down past the Wall and into Westeros… someone that can help trigger the New Long Night which is surely coming.
As we discussed in the “A New Night’s King?” video, there are really only two choices here, and both have ample symbolic evidence to support them: Euron Crowseye and Jon Snow. Euron is the one who wants the job, but Jon Snow might be the one who gets stuck with it. I outlined the case for Euron in my videos “Night’s King Crowseye” and “Euron, King of the Apocalypse,” and today it’s time to talk about the possibility of Jon Snow becoming some sort of new Night’s King.
I can actually see two completely different ways for this to happen: first off, the Others might steal Jon’s dead body, fill it with holy blue fire of the cold gods, and use him to lead their invasion of Westeros. There’s a lot of symbolism to suggest that, as I’ll show you today, and much of it has to do with Jon’s resurrection being somehow tied to the fall of the Wall and the fall of a new Long Night, which we all know is coming. Then there’s the Prince That Was Promised to the Others theory, which is the idea that at the very end of the story, Jon might have to give himself to the white walkers to be Otherized as a means of resolving the ancient conflict of ice and fire. I’ll cover each of these intriguing – and by no means mutually exclusive – possibilities in their own video; today it’s “the Others will steal Jon’s body,” and in another video we’ll talk about Jon Snow, ice Jesus.
So hey there friends, it’s LmL, and in case you haven’t heard, I’m writing my first book! It’s going to be called “Paradise Gained: Christianity, Sacred Symbolism, and Freedom from Dogma.” It would mean a lot to me if you sign up for the Indiegogo mailing list, which you can find linked below or by searching “Paradise Gained by David Beers” on Indiegogo. My last video, “Eve Did Nothing Wrong,” is actually the seed idea from which the book is grown, so check that video out if you haven’t already to see what this is all about! Alright, let’s turn Jon Snow into a popsicle and slap and ice crown on his frozen noggin.
In my 6 years of analyzing ASOIAF, I’ve thought a lot about Jon Snow and his symbolism, as he’s one of my favorite characters and his symbolism is some of the most interesting anywhere in the books. The clues that his destiny might involve a pair of shiny blue star eyes have been apparent from the beginning – I mean we’re talking about a guy whose name is synonymous with Jack Frost, after all, since Jack is a nickname for people named Jon, for reasons of German etymology, and the words snow and frost are more or less synonymous. Jack Frost is essentially a personification of the frosty chill of winter – just as the Others are – and so no one should be shocked if a character named Jon Snow becomes some sort of frosty king of the ice people.
Others clues about Jon’s icy destiny which popped up right at the beginning of the story abound. As soon as he gets to castle Black, Alliser Thorne mockingly dubs him “Lord Snow,” but the name sticks (that’s a snow joke) and pretty much the entire Watch calls him Lord Snow through the rest of the books. Much like the name Jon Snow equating to Jack Frost, the title “Lord Snow” sounds like it should belong to.. well.. the king of the Others.
To make matters worse, book two has Jon journeying north of the Wall and meeting Ygritte (Jon and Ygritte are by the best love story in ASOIAF by the way, so far at least, I mean it was so good the actors playing those parts got married, right?), and Ygritte promptly tells Jon upon hearing his name that Snow “is an evil name.” That’s an understandable take on Ygritte’s part, since the wildlings live north of the Wall under constant fear of the ice wights and the Others, but consider what she’s really saying: she’s directly implying that Jon’s name evokes the evil of the Others. Lord Snow, right?
And let’s not forget he comes from the line of the Kings of Winter, who sport such white-walker-esque nicknames as “Ice Eyes” and “Snowbeard.” I’ve often speculated that there may been Starks in the ancient past who learned to use ice magic as Melisandre uses fire magic – after all, the Wall is built to keep the Others out, and yet is made of ice, so it’s always seemed possible that someone who fights for the living may have been able to wield magical ice as the Others do. This person could only have been a Stark, so if Jon gets ice-transformed, he might not even be the first of his line to do so.
Oh yeah, and Night’s King was supposedly a Stark, so there’s that.
There’s also the precedent of Coldhands, who is unquestionably an ice wight, a popsicled zombie, and yet does not have blue star eyes and fights against the Others. One wonders how that happened – was a dead man wighted by the Others, but then set free of bondage somehow, along the lines of what we saw on the TV show? That’s more or less the scenario I am talking about when I say “the Others will steal Jon’s body,” and I think Coldhands is just as much a precedent for Jon as Beric is. I went into in detail in the Sacred Order of Green Zombies series, but the bottom line is that the most logical explanation for Coldhands is that he was Otherized and then set free, and if so, that seems like an obvious foreshadowing for what could happen to Jon. Just a couple of frozen Night’s Watch zombie brothers trying to make their way in the world, ya know?
George Martin often likes to give us readers a glimpse into the true natures of his characters whenever we see them in dream or vision form, and the first time we see Jon this way is in Bran’s iconic greenseer coma dream from AGOT:
Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him.
Everyone gets cold at the Wall, obviously, but Jon’s just been murdered at the end of ADWD, with Jon never feeling the fourth knife stab, but “only the cold,” so it could well be that Bran is foreseeing Jon’s death, or even his cold resurrection. Skin growing pale and hard sounds a bit like the frozen skin of an ice wight, or perhaps even like Jon’s appearance in another dream vision that makes Jon sound like a white walker?
Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again.
Defending the Wall like Azor Ahai… yet armored in ice, like a white walker. But here’s the thing – I’ve thrown a fair amount of my ASOIAF street cred down on the idea that Azor Ahai became the figure remembered as Night’s King and created the first white walkers with Night’s Queen. Now before you brand me heretic and throw stone-like YouTube comments at me – well I am a heretic, but hold the stones – please do check out my full argument on that theory in the Night’s King Azor Ahai and Origin of the Others: Night’s Queen videos. At the very least, one has to wonder what all this business about Jon wearing ice armor or having his skin grow pale and hard as the memory of warmth fled from him is about – it sure sounds like Jon’s resurrected body is going to have something to do with ice magic. By the time he’s defending the Wall again, he will in fact be undead, it’s worth noting. He may well be a Coldhands by then.
Perhaps the funniest white walker Jon foreshadowing comes not from a dream vision, but from a prank that Arya recalls Robb and Jon playing on them. This is from the Arya chapter of AGOT where she is hiding in the dark corridors below Kings Landing and recalling the crypts of Winterfell to summon her bravery:
She’d been just a little girl the first time she saw them. Her brother Robb had taken them down, her and Sansa and baby Bran, who’d been no bigger than Rickon was now. They’d only had one candle between them, and Bran’s eyes had gotten as big as saucers as he stared at the stone faces of the Kings of Winter, with their wolves at their feet and their iron swords across their laps.
Robb took them all the way down to the end, past Grandfather and Brandon and Lyanna, to show them their own tombs. Sansa kept looking at the stubby little candle, anxious that it might go out. Old Nan had told her there were spiders down here, and rats as big as dogs. Robb smiled when she said that. “There are worse things than spiders and rats,” he whispered. “This is where the dead walk.” That was when they heard the sound, low and deep and shivery. Baby Bran had clutched at Arya’s hand.
When the spirit stepped out of the open tomb, pale white and moaning for blood, Sansa ran shrieking for the stairs, and Bran wrapped himself around Robb’s leg, sobbing. Arya stood her ground and gave the spirit a punch. It was only Jon, covered with flour. “You stupid,” she told him, “you scared the baby,” but Jon and Robb just laughed and laughed, and pretty soon Bran and Arya were laughing too.
It’s Jon, our special winter flower, covered in flour and pretending to be a pale, shivery spirit – a white walker in other words. Note the mention of spiders and rats as big as dogs to make us think of “ice spiders as big as hounds,” and yes, I’m absolutely always looking for an excuse to show off all the great ice spider artwork. Ah, here’s a nice one. And cute little fella too. Those icy mandibles can reach up to twelve inches in length.
Anywho, not only does Jon pretend to be a white walker here, we also have two ideas that tie to Jon’s death. One, this is taking place in the crypts of Winterfell, where Jon’s spirit will likely roam while his body lies cold in the snow – Jon has had the recurring crypts dream that he can never finish, and I’d bet several moon meteors that Jon will finish that dream before he is ultimately resurrected. Enter Lyanna’s ghost stage left, I’m thinking.
The second thing that ties this funny memory of Arya’s to Jon’s death is the fact that Arya, upon realizing that the spirit was Jon, “gave the spirit a punch.” Now here’s Bowen marsh, stabbing Jon in ADWD:
Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. “For the Watch.” He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.
This is how foreshadowing works: in for a penny, in for a pound. If you’re going to hint at Jon actually becoming a cold white spirit, then you also toss in a couple of other items of death and resurrection foreshadowing, and here we have that very thing. Arya mimics his eventual murder, the crypts are where Jon’s spirit will visit at some point (and where dead spirits belong, anyway), and the walking dead will be what Jon is when he’s raised. But Jon will only be a cold undead spirit if he’s raised by the white walkers, right? None of this foreshadowing about Jon turning cold when he comes back from the dead can make any sense unless ice magic plays some part in his resurrection, and unless there’s a secret ice wizard or ice witch lurking about, the only way ice magic plays a part in Jon’s resurrection is if the Others steal Jon’s body.
As I mentioned, the clues that the Others have their eyes on Jon come at us right from the beginning of the story – and right from the beginning of Jon’s story, in fact. See if you can spot the Others here at the scene of Jon’s birth:
He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood. ( . . . )
Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three. “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.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. “Eddard!” she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.
I’ve talked about the symbolism here many times and so I won’t belabor the point, but consider the blue rose petals that dream Ned is seeing blowing across the sky. Those are Lyanna’s trademark blue winter roses, and a storm of them is blowing across the sky. It’s a winter storm at the birth of our special snowflake, in other words, which makes sense – and then Martin drives the point home by comparing the blue rose petals in the sky to the blue eyes of death. The blue eyes of death.. are found inside the frozen heads of the Others, typically, and that’s surely what the author is intending to evoke here. Martin even places the blue rose petals that are like the eyes of the Others in the sky, where you usually find stars, so they really do seem like a symbol of the Others. What we have here in terms of symbolism is nothing less than the suggestion that the Others are watching Jon’s birth, or watching for Jon’s birth.
In fact I believe that’s exactly what’s going on, in the sense that Jon’s birth is the thing which made the Others begin to stir. That’s long been a question in the fandom, since the Others seem to have been stirring for over a decade, according to Mance Raydar and taking in to account Craster’s practice of giving his male children to the Others which seems to have been going on for a while now. Jon’s birth fits that timeline, and my theory that the Others are on the look-out for a new Night King of some sort is correct, then it figures that they might be aware of his birth. That’s also true if we simply think Jon is The Prince That Was Promised, a savior born to confront the Others – just as the R’hllorists and others have prophecies of Azor Ahai’s rebirth, many have long speculated that the Others might have some equivalent prophecy. Either way, I have believed that Jon’s birth was the signal for the Others to stir ever since I decoded this symbolism which implies the Others as watching over Jon’s birth at the Tower of Joy, and I think it makes the most sense in the context of the overall plot. Leave your comments though and tell me what you think!
Now, the same line about the storm of blue rose petals which I just said implies a snowstorm also implies a meteor shower, because the rose petals look like the eyes of the Others, which are blue stars. A storm of blue bleeding stars in other words – and don’t fail to notice that blood-streaked sky; Martin is basically spelling out the idea of a storm of bleeding stars that has something to do with the Others right here. Here, at Jon’s birth.
Why a meteor shower? Well, if you know anything about my channel you know that my first theory was about a magical moon cracking event being the cause of the original Long Night, which is when the Others came for the first time according to Old Nan. The meteor storm brought the snowstorm, in other words – the snowstorm of the Long Night and the invasion of the Others. If this theory is correct – and the leaks from the cancelled Blood Moon trailer appear to add strong confirmation, as I documented in the appropriately titled video, “Blood Moon Leaks Confirm My Theories!” – then it seems likely that the new Long Night which is surely coming might also be brought on by a moon meteor event. So whether Jon is destined to confront the Others during this new Long Night, or to become a new Night’s King – or both, at different times, as I suspect will be the case – it makes sense to see the symbols of the fall of the Long Night at his birth. And that’s what we have: Martin has painted a portrait of the Others in the sky while implying snow storms and showers of bleeding stars. I think the message is that Jon’s birth is the sign the Others have been watching for, and that Jon’s rebirth – his resurrection, that is – is somehow key to the fall of the new Long Night.
To put it even more simply: I think the Others want to possess Jon’s body in order to bring about the new Long Night. That may be the reason they haven’t yet tried to cross the Wall or summon a night without end, if they have the ability to do such – they need their Lord Snow to lead them, or to enable some sort of deep white walker magic.
Jon’s resurrection being tied to a new long Night – one connected to snow storms and moon meteor storms – is spelled out fairly clearly in a wolf dream Jon has in ADWD. I analyzed the full quote in an older podcast episode called Moons of Ice and Fire: Ice Moon Apocalypse, so I’ll summarize a bit here to keep it moving. The chapter opens with these paragraphs:
The white wolf raced through a black wood, beneath a pale cliff as tall as the sky. The moon ran with him, slipping through a tangle of bare branches overhead, across the starry sky.
“Snow,” the moon murmured. The wolf made no answer. Snow crunched beneath his paws. The wind sighed through the trees.
The wolf dream proceeds in a pattern with each subsequent paragraph repeating this last one, where it starts with moon crying “snow” and then a line about what Ghost is doing running beneath the moon, but with the moon growing more aggressive about the snow until Jon wakes. First it “murmurs “Snow,” then we read “Snow,” the moon called down again, cackling..” and then its “Snow,” the moon insisted,” and then we get this paragraph as Jon wakes:
“Snow.” An icicle tumbled from a branch. The white wolf turned and bared his teeth. “Snow!” His fur rose bristling, as the woods dissolved around him. “Snow, snow, snow!” He heard the beat of wings. Through the gloom a raven flew.
It landed on Jon Snow’s chest with a thump and a scrabbling of claws. “SNOW!” it screamed into his face.
You can see what’s happening here – Jon is having a wolf dream when the raven in his chambers starts calling his name – snow, snow. Inside the dream, it seems like the moon is talking with the raven’s voice, yelling snow down at Jon. Then as he wakes, the moon becomes that raven and quite literally lands on Jon’s chest, as if the moon had landed on top of Jon – crying snow all the way, even screaming it in his face.
Better yet, there’s a pretty direct suggestion of something hitting the Wall – presumably a piece of moon. As Jon wakes, angry at the raven, he attacks it:
Jon wriggled an arm out from under his blankets to shoo the raven off. It was a big bird, old and bold and scruffy, utterly without fear. “Snow,” it cried, flapping to his bedpost. “Snow, snow.” Jon filled his fist with a pillow and let fly, but the bird took to the air. The pillow struck the wall and burst, scattering stuffing everywhere just as Dolorous Edd Tollett poked his head through the door. “Beg pardon,” he said, ignoring the flurry of feathers, “shall I fetch m’lord some breakfast?”
Jon throws a feather pillow at the moon raven but hits the wall, and then it explodes in a “flurry” of feathers, with flurry being chosen to evoke a snowstorm – just as the raven promised. The flurry of feathers comes from the exploded feather pillow, not the feathered raven, but works to imply the moon as having blown up, since the moon was the raven a moment ago. Plus, a white pillow stuffed with feathers is more or less analogous to the white moon having a raven’s voice. Jon throws his feather pillow at a wall, obviously, which is a lot like Jon throwing the moon at the Wall.
Put it all together, and what do you have: an exploding moon, bits of moon crashing down, a snowstorm, and the destruction of the Wall. At the risk of stating the obvious – a meteor could be just the thing to smash the Wall into pieces. And somehow this has to to do with Jon.
As it happens, there’s a terrific match to this scene back in AGOT. This is near the end of the book where Jon kills the wighted Othor in Mormont’s chambers:
The hooded man lifted his pale moon face, and Jon slashed at it without hesitation. The sword laid the intruder open to the bone, taking off half his nose and opening a gash cheek to cheek under those eyes, eyes, eyes like blue stars burning.
Jon once again “destroys the moon,” as it were, and this unleashes the blue stars. Even worse are the lines that follow soon after which depict the shattered moon face hitting the earth:
Dead Othor slammed into him, knocking him off his feet. Jon’s breath went out of him as the fallen table caught him between his shoulder blades. The sword, where was the sword? He’d lost the damned sword! When he opened his mouth to scream, the wight jammed its black corpse fingers into Jon’s mouth. Gagging, he tried to shove it off, but the dead man was too heavy. Its hand forced itself farther down his throat, icy cold, choking him. Its face was against his own, filling the world. Frost covered its eyes, sparkling blue.
Othor’s face is like the moon, and now it’s filling the world, as if falling out of the sky. That sounds bad – it sounds like a moon meteor attack. And indeed, right after this line, Othor’s blue star eyes are described. Shooting stars that come from a broken moon will signal the attack of the Others, that’s the message here. The fact that Othor’s name is one letter from Other seems intentional, like a way to make us think about him as representing the Others as a whole.
Now the messed up thing here is that Jon seems to be the one destroying the moon! Which would bring on a new Long Night… and while I don’t see Jon himself knowing how to crack a moon, or wanting to, he might be Azor Ahai reborn, and the original Azor Ahai broke the moon when he stabbed Nissa Nissa through the heart to forge Lightbringer, according to legend. More to the point, it’s possible the Others may know something about cracking moons – not only because the Others seem to be able to use the Long Night to their advantage, but because Azor Ahai may have become Night’s King, creator of the Others, and he was, again, the original moon-breaker. If there’s any remnant of Azor Ahai’s spirit or his knowledge alive in the collective intelligence that animates the Others, they may know what is needed to crack the moon again and blot out the sun. Could Jon be some sort of new Nissa Nissa figure, whose death magic can be harnessed to break moons? Or is simply making him a new Night’s King – a new Azor Ahai reborn, but frozen – enough to enable Jon to break the moon with some sort of magic? Maybe the Others have the real Horn of Winter locked away somewhere for this purpose.
Consider the lines of one of the moon-cracking myths from the past, which actually prophesied this future moon meteor apocalypse event before I did:
“He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said. “Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.”
One day the ‘other’ moon will crack open too, huh? The Other moon, did you say? And if those dragons coming from the moon were actually just broken pieces of moon turned into falling objects, well then what’s being suggested here is another moon meteor apocalypse. Such an event would surely be the trigger for a new Long Night, unleashing the invasion of the Others and probably knocking down the Wall in the process.
One thing is for sure: in addition to breaking the moon, Jon thinks about breaking the Wall quite a bit, and usually in conjunction with the end of the world.
I mean, look, it’s actually really bad, Jon’s obsession with knocking down the Wall. Starts as soon as he sees the damn thing. This is from AGOT:
You could see it from miles off, a pale blue line across the northern horizon, stretching away to the east and west and vanishing in the far distance, immense and unbroken. This is the end of the world, it seemed to say.
Jon means that it’s the line that marks the end of the civilized world, but still. The Wall will be the end of the world… if it ever gets knocked over. This is from the same chapter:
It was older than the Seven Kingdoms, and when he stood beneath it and looked up, it made Jon dizzy. He could feel the great weight of all that ice pressing down on him, as if it were about to topple, and somehow Jon knew that if it fell, the world fell with it.
Right, got it. If someone knocked it over, that would be bad. I wonder who would do such a thing?
Outside, Jon looked up at the Wall shining in the sun, the melting ice creeping down its side in a hundred thin fingers. Jon’s rage was such that he would have smashed it all in an instant, and the world be damned.
To which I can only say, “whoa, settle down there Beavis.” This is the line in particular that I thinking of when I read the scene with Jon slashing Othor’s moon face, or the scene where Jon wakes from the wolf-dream and smashes his feather pillow against the wall while trying to kill the raven that was the voice of the moon. I don’t know how Jon will smash the moon, but it’s being repeatedly suggested, you know what I mean? The Othor scene and all these quotes about the Wall we’ve just read are all in the first book of the series, so it’s been on George’s mind from the outset.
This next one is from ACOK:
The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world.
To make matters worse, the next paragraph mentions the red comet, and of course I believe that it was a comet which was thing that actually cracked the moon open last time – Jon pantomimes this by slashing the moon-faced Othor with his sword, if you recall. This is how you make an end to the world, and the Wall.
One last one, and this one seems to use Jon’s walking through the tunnel beneath the Wall and out the other side as a metaphor for Jon dying and being resurrected – with a key line about the Wall falling coming just as he emerges on the other side. Check it out:
Jon nodded weakly. The door swung open. Pyp led them in, followed by Clydas and the lantern. It was all Jon could do to keep up with Maester Aemon. The ice pressed close around them, and he could feel the cold seeping into his bones, the weight of the Wall above his head. It felt like walking down the gullet of an ice dragon.
He felt the cold seeping into his bones – that sounds a lot like Bran’s vision of Jon growing pale and hard as the memory of warmth fled from him. Being swallowed by an ice dragon is an interesting metaphor, as the Wall is often compared to an ice dragon, and as Jon is an ice dragon himself, being half Targaryen yet having all this ice symbolism. Therefore any sort of wall-smashing event related to Jon’s resurrection would be kind would mirror the idea of the moon cracking to birth dragons; the Wall would be cracking open to birth Jon the ice dragon. Check out the rest of the quote, lest you have any doubt:
He needed sun then. It was too cold and dark inside the tunnel, and the stench of blood and death was suffocating. Jon gave the lantern back to Clydas, squeezed around the bodies and through the twisted bars, and walked toward the daylight to see what lay beyond the splintered door.
The huge carcass of a dead mammoth partially blocked the way. One of the beast’s tusks snagged his cloak and tore it as he edged past. Three more giants lay outside, half buried beneath stone and slush and hardened pitch. He could see where the fire had melted the Wall, where great sheets of ice had come sloughing off in the heat to shatter on the blackened ground. He looked up at where they’d come from. When you stand here it seems immense, as if it were about to crush you.
See what I mean? The cold and dark tunnel smells of blood and death, and to escape it, Jon squeezes past bodies and iron bars, which suggests Jon as escaping the prison of death as he emerges from the Wall. Then he looks up, and yeah – it feels like the Wall is about to crush you. There’s even a mention of fire having melted the Wall – the fire of a huge flaming moon meteor, that’s what I’d look out for.
Of course the entire point of knocking down the Wall, however it’s accomplished, is to let the Others through.
And when Jon lets the wildlings through the Wall in ADWD, the entire chapter turns out to be an exercise in foreshadowing Jon letting the Others through the Wall. (dun dun dun).
I saved this scene for the climax of the video, so you who have watched this far will be mightily rewarded. The first thing to note is that Jon and Val did an entire detailed Night’s King and Queen reenactment bit when they discussed this deal to let the wildlings through the Wall. I broke that down in the Night’s Queen video, but if you recall the gist of it was that it sets up Jon and Val as Night’s King and Queen figures, specifically when they arrange to let the wildlings through the Wall. The wildlings will play the role of the Others, as you’re about to see, so Jon and Val are showing us Night’s King and Queen engineering the invasion of Westeros.
First of all, the chapter opens with Jon’s Azor Ahai dream- the one we quotes earlier where his swords burns red in his fist while he defends the Wall, armored in black ice. He wakes from the dream the same way he woke from the wolf dream where the raven was screaming snow at him through the moon’s face: it says he “woke with a raven pecking at his chest. ‘Snow,’ the bird cried,” just like the other wolf dream chapter. The author is using a repeating set of symbols through Jon’s chapters in this book as a way of building up a specific line of foreshadowing, and everything is about Jon’s resurrection. Bottom line: Jon will wake from death to the sight of snow – lots and lots of snow.
A moment later the raven identifies Jon as a corn king, one of my favorite wink-and-a-nods to the clever reader anywhere in the series (and no I didn’t find this one, that credit goes to Schmendrick of R+L=Lightbringer fame):
He rose and dressed in darkness, as Mormont’s raven muttered across the room. “Corn,” the bird said, and, “King,” and, “Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow.” That was queer. The bird had never said his full name before, as best Jon could recall.
Yes well “Corn King Jon Snow” is apparently Jon’s full name, and that’s quite meaningful. As we discussed in the green zombie series, the phrase “corn king” is comparative mythology term created to describe the recurring presence of a nature god who dies and resurrects in imitation of the cycle of the seasons. That’s not to say all these “corn king” deities and figures share a common origin; just that many people have seen the cycle of nature losing its green in the Fall and getting it back in the Spring as the face of a dying and resurrecting nature god. It’s easy to see how Jon fits this mold, since he’s just now died right as winter was coming on, and since he will eventually play a role in ending the winter and getting the seasons to turn once more.
But what if he’s a reverse corn king? A King of Winter? I mean that is the title of his ancestors. What if his resurrection coincides with the full onset of the unholy winter of the Long Night? Because in this chapter, Jon is essentially signing his death warrant – sacrificing himself, like a corn king – to shelter and feed the wildlings… and the wildlings are going to symbolize the Others. The suggestion here is that Jon’s death and resurrection will made to serve the purpose of letting the Others through the Wall.
So let’s watch him act that out, shall we?
First, Jon observes the hostages – 100 boys between eight and sixteen:
The boys were going to a place that none had ever been before, to serve an order that had been the enemy of their kith and kin for thousands of years, yet Jon saw no tears, heard no wailing mothers. These are winter’s people, he reminded himself. Tears freeze upon your cheeks where they come from. Not a single hostage balked or tried to slink away when his turn came to enter that gloomy tunnel. Almost all the boys were thin, some past the point of gauntness, with spindly shanks and arms like twigs.
Alright, so winter’s people, with frozen tears and no fear. Winter’s people are gaunt, like the Others, with “spindly shanks and arms like twigs,” which is a nice clue about the weirwood origins of the white walkers of the wood, as their full name describes them. Anyway, now begins the parade of double entendres with the word “other”:
Other lads had bear- paws on their boots and walked on top of the same drifts, never sinking through the crust.
That part about not sinking through the crust of the snow is noteworthy because, according to this copy of “The Quoteable Coldhands” that I picked up in a trendy Berkley bookstore, “The white walkers go lightly on the snow, you’ll find no prints to mark their passage.” We’ll see this again in a moment.
Other hostages were named as sons of Howd Wanderer, of Brogg, of Devyn Sealskinner, Kyleg of the Wooden Ear, Morna White Mask, the Great Walrus … “The Great Walrus? Truly?”
“They have queer names along the Frozen Shore.”
The Other hostages were from the frozen shore, and TWOIAF tells us that the wildlings of the frozen shore worship “gods of snow and ice,” which sounds like white walker worship, perhaps along the lines of what we see with Craster. Thus it makes sense to label their children as ‘Others,’ just as the Craster’s wives call the Others “Craster’s sons.” Notice also that these are the sons of at least two people with names that allude to weirwoods or tree-people: Morna Whitemask, who wears a white weirwood mask, and Kyleg of the Wooden Ear, with a wooden ear kind of implying a wooden face. We actually see the rest of the folk from the Frozen Shore a moment later, and again we have an others double entendre:
After the riders came the men of the Frozen Shore. Jon watched a dozen of their big bone chariots roll past him one by one, clattering like Rattleshirt. Half still rolled as before; others had replaced their wheels with runners. They slid across the snowdrifts smoothly, where the wheeled chariots were foundering and sinking. The dogs that drew the chariots were fearsome beasts, as big as direwolves.
Once again we see it is the chariots labelled as the others which go lightly on the snow, without breaking the surface, like the Others. The implication of direwolves pulling the chariots of the Others is pretty cool, perhaps implying a link between Starks and the Others, which is like, tell me something I don’t know, right? I’ll also mention that Rattleshirt, whom the bone chariots are compared to, seems to symbolize a white walker himself – he has bone white armor, just as the Other have bone white flesh, and his outfit and “Lord ‘o’ Bones” title imply him as a lord of death.
The next Others wordplay again mentions Rattleshirt:
A few were clad in stolen steel, dinted oddments of armor looted from the corpses of fallen rangers. Others had armored themselves in bones, like Rattleshirt. All wore fur and leather.
This is all from the same chapter, let me remind you. The next one is, frankly, disturbing:
Amongst the stream of warriors were the fathers of many of Jon’s hostages. Some stared with cold dead eyes as they went by, fingering their sword hilts. Others smiled at him like long- lost kin, though a few of those smiles discomfited Jon Snow more than any glare. None knelt, but many gave him their oaths.
Weird, Jon and the Others are long-lost kin? Well, yeah, if there is any sort of connection between House Stark and the Others, then yes, Jon and the Others are like long lost kin. In fact I’d call this line a pretty good clue about the others having a blood tie to House Stark… and you can find more about that in the “Blood of the Other” podcast series, of course, since that’s literally the meaning of the title, “Blood of the Other.”
If you’re keeping count, that’s five ‘Other’ double entendres with strong supporting clues around them. Here are number 6 and 7:
By afternoon the sun had gone, and the day turned grey and gusty. “A snow sky,” Tormund announced grimly. Others had seen the same omen in those flat white clouds. It seemed to spur them on to haste. Tempers began to fray. One man was stabbed when he tried to slip in ahead of others who had been hours in the column. Toregg wrenched the knife away from his attacker, dragged both men from the press, and sent them back to the wildling camp to start again.
The second others line – One man was stabbed when he tried to slip in ahead of others – simply labels the wildlings in line as the symbolizing the Others, which we have already established anyway. The first one is especially creepy – while Jon and Tormund are looking at a “snow sky,” we are told that “Others had seen the same omen in those flat white clouds.” You bet the Others see a snow sky as a time to attack! There might be a clue about Jon’s birth triggering the awakening of the Others – they see a grey “snow sky” as an omen which spurs them on to haste. Well, relative haste. Like hasty for a glacier. Anyway. We did see them watching Jon’s birth, so again, I believe that’s the snow sky which is an omen for the Others.
Long video, huh? Well, there wasn’t a good place to chop it up, and I can’t think of anything I could have cut out. In fact, there’s one last tidbit I can’t resist doling out, since it kind of drives the point home. Cast your mind back to Jon and Qhorin Halfhand fleeing from the wildlings out of the Frostfangs Mountains. They pass through a cold waterfall into a hidden cave, spend the night, and come out the other side only to confront Rattleshirt’s band, whereupon Jon tragically slew Qhorin and joined the wildlings.
And joined the wildlings – who we just saw symbolizing the Others. Jon’s passage through the waterfall cave symbolizes his death and resurrection, just as his passing beneath the Wall and out again did in the scene we quoted a moment ago. That time, Jon emerges from the iron bars and corpses to see the Wall looming over him as if to crush him; this time Jon emerges from the symbolic cave of death and joins the symbolic Others. I mean good lord.
The big spearwife narrowed her eyes and said, “If the crow would join the free folk, let him show us his prowess and prove the truth of him.”
“I’ll do whatever you ask.” The words came hard, but Jon said them. Rattleshirt’s bone armor clattered loudly as he laughed. “Then kill the Halfhand, bastard.”
“As if he could,” said Qhorin. “Turn, Snow, and die.”
Actually, it looks like it’s going to be “die, Snow, then turn,” if Jon rises from the dead and joins the Others. In fact, the death wound Jon delivers Qhorin mimics and foreshadows Jon being sliced through the jugular vein when he is assassinated:
The ranger was leaning away, and for an instant it seemed that Jon’s slash had not touched him. Then a string of red tears appeared across the big man’s throat, bright as a ruby necklace, and the blood gushed out of him, and Qhorin Halfhand fell. Ghost’s muzzle was dripping red, but only the point of the bastard blade was stained, the last half inch.
It’s almost like George is explaining to us that even a very shallow wound to the jugular can be fatal; in fact that’s what is probably is doing, because again, this is exactly what happens to Jon. Wick Whittlestick grazes his neck with his knife, but the bloods wells immediately beneath Jon’s fingers, indicting a jugular wound. That’s why Jon collapses, unable to make his sword hand grip his sword; Qhorin even dies “lifting his maimed fingers” on his famous halfhand in yet another parallel to Jon’s death.
Jon’s next thoughts are “Who was he now? What was he?” as if he has been transformed into something different. And indeed, his transformation into symbolic Other is completed when Mance raydar gives him a sheepskin cloak upon meeting Jon – sheep are white, obviously, so this is a sneaky way to give Jon an Other-like white winter cloak, and of course Craster, who gives up his sons to create Others, always wears nothing but sheepskin (and even gives sheep to the Others when he lacks sons). There’s alos a cute “wolf in sheep’s clothing” joke here, but the point is that Jon will for a time be a wolf in Other’s clothing – though I’m sure he’ll eventually end up back on the side of the Watch, as he does after leaving the wildlings.
Ygriite names him Jon Snow to the other wildlings, and of course the wildlings do get Other double-etendres; when Ygritte tells Rattleshirt the wildlings have no reason to fear Jon’s warging ability, it says “Others shouted agreement.” Then a moment later, it says “Afterward Rattleshirt claimed some charred bones, while the others threw dice for the ranger’s gear.”
Right after that, Jon asks if they will now return to the wildling base beyond the Frostfangs from whence they came. Ygritte’s answer seems to line up with what I think Jon will do if the Others steal his body:
“No,” she said. “There’s nothing behind us.” The look she gave him was sad. “By now Mance is well down the Milkwater, marching on your Wall.”
Ah ha! So Jon joins the symbolic Others right as they’re marching on the Wall. Well there you have it folks. Jon does of course cross the Wall before the army in an advance party, so he really does lead the symbolic others over the Wall and into Westeros.. three books before he also symbolically leads the Others through the Wall and into Westeros.
And now you know why the Others will steal Jon’s body.
Hey there friends, it’s LucifermeansLightbringer, and I’m back with part 2 of our Euron extravaganza. If you haven’t watched part 1, I recommend pausing here and watching that one first, because we’re picking up right where we left off and there’s far too much to summarize in an intro here. That first video covered Euron as evil Azor Ahai reborn and aspiring king of the apocalypse, and today we are diving into the specific evidence suggesting he will become a new Night’s King figure and a leader of the Others in some capacity. I’d like to quickly say thank you to all of our patreon sponsors, and thanks to all of you watching right now for clicking the like button, subbing to the channel, leaving comments and sharing my videos. It really means a ton. All the links to support the channel are in the video description, so let’s get started!
Symbolic evidence comes in a lot of forms – sometimes it’s esoteric and complex, bouncing parallel symbols off of people’s faces and celestial objects alike while making use of abstract concepts from various world mythologies. Sometimes it’s just a mater of clever wordplay though, and I have found a few key instances of Martin using the very simple word “others” to refer to THE Others. For example, in the quote we read at the end of Euron Part 1, Tyrion asked Morqorro, “have you seen these others in your fires?” and he answers, “only their shadows, one most of all,” and then he describes Euron. Because we know the Others are often referred to as shadows, our eyebrows perk up here at seeing the words “other” and “shadow” together and wonder, is Martin trying to imply Euron as an Other, or more likely, a King of the Others?
This is hardly a counterintuitive hypothesis at this point, and of course Euron fits the symbolic archetype of Night’s King that we outlined in “A New Night’s King” – he has the blue version of one-eyed Odin wizard symbolism, and of course Euron is a kind of actual wizard, drinking warlock wine, using blood magic to control the winds, and even seeking ways to become a god-man.
As we saw in part 1, Euron is probably using the name “Urrathon Nightwalker” as his alias when he’s in Qarth playing with glass candles… and that’s like one letter away from Urrathon Whitewalker, so, you know, case closed.
And then there all of these… other quotes:
“On that we can agree.” Euron lifted two fingers to the patch that covered his left eye, and took his leave. The others followed at his heels like mongrel dogs.
Ah ha! I told you the Others should follow Euron. These mongrel dog others following him are actually his captains, and here they are again as the Others in Victarion’s internal monologue in AFFC:
Aye, he thought, a great victory for the Crow’s Eye and his wizards. The other captains would shout his brother’s name anew when the tidings reached Oakenshield.
Other captains can only sail Other ships, right?
When the Crow’s Eye took the fleet to sea Tris had simply lagged behind, changing course only when the other ships were lost to sight.
Those are Euron’s “other ships,” to be sure. Euron’s fleet is ready for war, as we know, and what kind of wars do Other captains fight with Other ships?
“The kingswood crowned his brother Euron, and the Crow’s Eye has other wars to fight.”
Yes, the Crow’s Eye has other wars to fight. Very interesting, Sounds like good material for The Winds of Winter.
It’s actually not just the captains on Euron’s ships who are the Others, check out the crew of The Silence:
On her decks a motley crew of mutes and mongrels spoke no word as the Iron Victory drew nigh. Men black as tar stared out at him, and others squat and hairy as the apes of Sothoros. Monsters, Victarion thought.
There are Others on Euron’s ship, which by now should come as no surprise. The Others came for the first time in the darkness of the Long Night, and here they are sailing a ship with a sail like a starless sky. Now the Others aren’t squat and hairy of course, but they are monsters, like the “others” on Euron’s ship, and the nickname of Gilly’s baby who was supposed to be turned into an Other is… Monster. And although the real Others aren’t quite mutes like Euron’s Others on the ship here, the Others do not break the snow when the walk and thus it is said of them that “the Others make no sound” (Will repeats these words to himself in the AGOT prologue).
Besides all these Others following Euron and sailing his ships, we also have the more obvious idea of the Ironborn warriors being called “Drowned Men” and being symbolically resurrected with the words “what is dead can never die, but rises harder and stronger.” Many have noticed that this slogan of the Drowned Men also pretty well describes the ice wights, who rise with ice-hard hands, unnatural strength, and unnatural life. In other words, Euron is leading dead people who have risen again in his conquest of Westeros, and that sounds like Night’s King business. Check out this quote from Aeron Greyjoy’s “The Prophet” chapter of AFFC as Aeron is greeted by one of the soft, mainlander Ironborn who were only ever sprinkled with a few drops of saltwater and not actually drowned and resuscitated like a real fanatic.
“Such tidings as we bear are for your ears alone, Damphair,” the Sparr said. “These are not matters I would speak of here before these others.”
“These others are my drowned men, god’s servants, just as I am. I have no secrets from them, nor from our god, beside whose holy sea I stand.”
It’s pretty great how they repeat it twice – these others are the drowned men. Now the Drowned Man credo makes them wights, and this wordplay calls them Others, but I think that’s okay – the point is that they represent the combined forces of Night’s King, the Others and their wights. There’s even more Drowned Men-as-Others wordplay in the chapter:
“You belong to the god now,” Aeron told him. The other drowned men gathered round and each gave him a punch and a kiss to welcome him to the brotherhood.
The Others are of course a brotherhood, being all male and many of them sons of the same man, be that Craster or the original Night’s King. And now we know what the white walker hazing routine is like! A punch and a kiss, that’s not too bad. A lot of people actually enjoy that kind of thing. Anyway… Just a moment before telling this newly drowned man that he belongs to the god now, Aeron thinks to himself “Another one returned,” and that “other priests lost a man from time to time,” but not Aeron of course.
Aeron himself makes a great Other priest, which makes sense because he’s the one “raising the dead,” so to speak. Check out this scene from AFFC where he walks into the cold sea to counsel with his god:
Aeron crept from his little shelter into the chill of the night. Naked he stood, pale and gaunt and tall, and naked he walked into the black salt sea. The water was icy cold, yet he did not flinch from his god’s caress.
So the sea from which the Drowned Men are reborn is icy cold, which makes you think of all the icy lake symbolism of the Others, such as their voices being like the cracking of ice on a winter lake or Milton’s notion of Lucifer the dragon being imprisoned in a frozen lake in the ninth circle of hell from Paradise Lost which Martin seems to be making good use of. Aeron himself is “pale and gaunt and tall,” which are all words used to describe the Others in the AGOT prologue, and then after emerging from the sea he is with his body steaming in the cold night air, like an Other with icy mists pouring off of him. The moment of his divine insight in the ocean comes with this line:
That man is drowned, and the god has made me strong. The cold salt sea surrounded him, embraced him, reached down through his weak man’s flesh and touched his bones. Bones, he thought. The bones of the soul.
The cold touch of Aeron’s god is reaching into his body and touching Aeron’s bones and soul as he is reborn – doesn’t this sound like an icy, Otherish transformation here? Now that’s he’s an icy Other priest, he can set about raising the dead into an army… only for Euron to sail in from Asshai and take control over it.
Euron steals control of the Drowned Men at the Kingsmoot of course, and check out the passage where the Damphair, standing beneath the arch of Nagga’s Bones, issues the summons for the Kingsmoot:
The drowned men took up their driftwood cudgels and began to beat them one against the other as they walked back down the hill. Others joined them, and the clangor spread along the strand. Such a fearful clacking and a clattering it made, as if a hundred trees were pummeling one another with their limbs.
Three uses of the word “other,” and the weirwood origins of the Others are even suggested as the Other-like drowned men’s clacking of their wooden cudgels is compared to trees – not just trees actually, trees that are “pummeling one another” as if they were tree warriors fighting. I’ll remind you again that there is an entire weirwood side of the symbolism of the “White Walkers of the Wood,” as they are known, which we will explore in a video very soon, but let’s stick to Euron’s Night’s King and Otherish symbolism for now.
In case the skeptically-minded amongst you are wondering if you can find this sort of pregnant use of the word “other” anywhere and use it to construe a theory about the Others if you smoke enough cannabis, the answer is no. There are only a small handful of scenes which repeatedly use the word other like this, and those scenes have a context in which the wordplay makes sense, as it does here to see the people following and serving Euron being suggested as Others. One of the next videos will be the Jon Snow Night’s King video, and he has a chapter at the Wall where the term is use no less than seven times alongside copious white walker symbolism of all kinds, and it’s going to make a damn lot of sense when I show it you, I promise. Those of you who watched my recent livestream called “Journey to the Heart of Winter” also saw the same wordplay trick used at Daznak’s pit to symbolically imply Dany and Drogon as fighting Others and wights instead of the slave masters of Meereen.
Another way in which Euron is suggested as an icy white walker king is through his Warlock and Shade of the Evening symbolism. Shade of the Evening is a third-eye-opening, psychotropic brew, so just like the weirwood paste, we can see this substance as a trigger for an Odin-like expansion of magical sight and consciousness – but one associated with darkness and nightfall, as implied by the name “shade of the evening.” That fits very well with the core of Euron’s character as expressed in the quote we opened the Euron part 1 video with – Euron sees himself as a god-king rising from the graves here at the end of days, and he’s opening his third eye with liquid darkness.
Better still, there are specific ice associations that come with this dark blue “warlock wine.” It leaves those who drink it with blue lips – and blue lips are normally seen on people who are extremely cold, who have caught frotbite. More specific is Dany’s nightmare of Hizdahr zo Lorak turning into a warlock:
Beneath her coverlets she tossed and turned, dreaming that Hizdahr was kissing her … but his lips were blue and bruised, and when he thrust himself inside her, his manhood was cold as ice. She sat up with her hair disheveled and the bedclothes atangle.
Yikes! Naughty bits are one thing, icy bits quite another (see what I did there). This may also be foreshadowing for Dany and Euron… ah.. well.. participating in a scene that will make us all very uncomfortable, let’s just leave it at that. We will talk about Dany’s relationship to Euron a different time, but as you can see here, this nightmare at the very least creates an association between blue-lipped people and… icy body parts.
As we discussed in the “Born to Burn the Others” video, the actual Undying Ones themselves seem like dead ringers for symbolic white walker stand-ins and they became this way by drinking the Shade of the Evening, which Euron is now basically doing kegstands with. I don’t want to cite all the quotes at length since we already did that, but you will recall that the Undying Ones are referred to as “no more than blue shadows” and “blue and cold” with blue skin, hair, and eyes, and “dry cold hands.” They gather around a floating corrupt blue heart, which I take as a symbol for the Heart of Winter and a reference to the Shade of the Evening trees as a kind of corrupted weirwood heart tree (and check out “Journey to the Heart of Winter for more on the Shade trees). Pyatt Pree even describes a meeting with the Undying as an honor “as rare as summer snows.”
That scene also describes the Undying Ones needing Dany’s fire and life, hinting at a desire to give Dany a cold transformation. If these Undying are representing the Others as they seem to be, then it could imply the Others would like to possess Dany, that they want to make Dany a Night’s Queen (video forthcoming) or perhaps just suck off of her life away like icy vampires. One of cold Undying shadows is even is even sucking or biting at one of Dany’s eyes, hinting at the idea of Odin-like magical transformation, but of course this would be the cold kind.
Needless to say, all of this could certainly end up dovetailing with Euron’s desire to marry / possess Dany as Euron draws closer to actual Night’s King status. Of course Drogon turns the blue shadows and the blue heart into kindling, and Dany is not possessed, which I’d also like to think is some kind of more hopeful foreshadowing.
So as you can see, the warlock / shade of the evening line of symbolism runs towards the icy end of things, and thus Euron drinking the warlock wine and acquiring blue lips casts him as an icy wizard who draws power from darkness. A new Night’s King to lead the Others and those can never die, having died already.
Now when we talk about the Undying wanting to take Dany’s life and fire, and how that foreshadows Euron and / or the Others wanting to do this, we have to talk about hands of white fire lady. Namely, I mean this shadow figure that appears alongside Euron in Damphair’s nightmare vision of enthroned Euron, the one where his face turns into a writhing mass of tentacles that we just read:
Beside him stood a shadow in woman’s form, long and tall and terrible, her hands alive with pale white fire. Dwarves capered for their amusement, male and female, naked and misshapen, locked in carnal embrace, biting and tearing at each other as Euron and his mate laughed and laughed and laughed …
There has been much speculation over the identity of this shadow lady with hands of white fire, and I’m honestly not sure who it will be – perhaps Melisandre or Dany, or maybe Cersei, or perhaps even Malora Hightower. Ba’al the Bard thinks the shadow may even represent Viserion, whose fires are described as pale, and who has some amount of ice dragon symbolism (we’ll cover that when we discuss Visenya & Vhagar, actually) and therefore seems like the one Euron will get, assuming he gets a dragon.
For the purposes of archetypal analysis however, hands of white fire lady – who is a tall shadow – sounds kinda like a Night’s Queen figure, doesn’t she? Perhaps a fiery woman like Melisandre or Daenerys becoming frozen, or turned into a shadow? Or perhaps it means this magical woman is a mother of shadows, like Melisandre and Night’s Queen. The white fire is the kind which could be revealed as the cold fire of the Others, so this shadow lady really could be just about anyone, ice or fire. One thing is clear though – she wields magical fire and has something to do with shadows, and the vision suggests her as Euron’s queen of the apocalypse. That pretty much makes her some kind of Night’s Queen figure, at the very least, so we will have to keep out eyes out for this person.
One person to keep an eye on is Cersei – even granted that there are huge differences between the show and the books where it concerns Euron and Cersei, it’s still pretty easy to see how she could rise to a level of villainy becoming of Euron’s mate. Cersei’s symbolism is a topic too big to open up here, but even at a quick glance, she appears to have some Night’s Queen clues – Jon sees her at WInterfell in AGOT and thinks “the queen seemed as cold as an ice sculpture,” for example, and she does a lot of ice transformation symbolism while imprisoned in the Sept of Baelor. She’s associated with green fire as opposed to white fire, but the potential for her to blow stuff up with wildfire in Kings Landing does seem high.
I might also mention that the name Euron seems drawn from Europa, which is an ice-covered moon of Jupiter and a Greek moon goddess. That reminds us of Night’s Queen, whose skin is as pale as the moon and as cold as ice. Euron is Night’s Queen confirmed – no no, of course the implication here is that Euron is a Night’s King who needs an icy, moon pale Night’s Queen standing at his side. The only question is who.
We can also find more clues about Euron becoming a new Night’s King when we look at his sigil again in the context of Night’s King ideas. We’ve already discussed the black crown as a Night’s King / king of a darkened sun symbol, but consider the fact that on Euron’s sigil, the black crown above the blood eye is held up by two crows – and Night’s King was supposedly a black crow of the Night’s Watch who declared himself king. A King Crow, in other words, and the wildlings to this day even refer to the Lord Commander of the Watch as “Lord Crow.” Of course it’s not just the crows holding aloft Euron’s black crown that says he’s a Crow King – his nickname is Crowseye, and after becoming King, he’s called “King Crowseye.” He’s already dressing all in black, although I’m definitely waiting for him to wear the Blacktyde sable cloak along with the Valyrian steel armor and the black iron sharkstooth crown to really cut a distinctive figure.
Crows are also eaters of the dead, and this is the sense in which Martin employs the word in the title “A Feast for Crows,” a book which chronicles the fallout of the War of the Five Kings. That certainly fits Euron as a king rising from the graves and charnel pits during a time of death and destruction, or even Euron as an avatar of the god of death. The crows who feast on the dead hold up Euron’s crown – thematically, this is clear enough. Euron is the King Crow, the blackest of the crows who’s feasting on the dead and growing fat more than any other.
As a matter of fact, the line in A Feast for Crows that spells out the meaning of the title actually refers to Euron:
“Carrion crows make their feasts upon the carcasses of the dead and dying,” said Grand Maester Pycelle. “They do not descend upon hale and healthy animals. Lord Euron will gorge himself on gold and plunder, aye, but as soon as we move against him he will back to Pyke, as Lord Dagon was wont to do in his day.”
“You are wrong,” said Margaery Tyrell. “Reavers do not come in such strength. A thousand ships! Lord Hewett and Lord Chester are slain, as well as Lord Serry’s son and heir. Serry has fled to Highgarden with what few ships remain him, and Lord Grimm is a prisoner in his own castle. Willas says that the iron king has raised up four lords of his own in their places.”
Indeed, Margarey is right – Pycelle is underestimating Euron here, clearly. Euron won’t be content to feed off of scraps, because ultimately, he’s no mere reaver, no common crow. Euron has much bigger ambitions – a dragon, all of Westeros, and maybe just maybe… and army of the undead.
I’ve said a few times now that Euron is very like an alt-Bloodraven, with both of them taking after Odin, but with Bloodraven having fiery red symbolism and aligning with the Night’s Watch and the armies of the living and Euron having the icy blue symbolism and aligning with the Others and the army of the dead. Bloodraven is the “three-eyed crow,” and Euron is a three-eyed crow too, since he’s called Crow’s Eye and is opening his third eye, like Odin. Euron opens his third eye with the Shade of the Evening trees, and Bloodraven with the weirwoods, so you can see that in all ways, they are similar, but inverted archetypes. I went into this idea at length in the “Feast for Krackens” livestream, where I talked about the potential for Euron to have a transcendent, obtaining-the-fire-of-the-gods seen at the top of the Hightower which parallels Bran’s experience climbing the tower of Winterfell and opening his third eye inside the coma dream, and I might come back to Euron’s alt-greenseer symbolism in the future.
We should have no doubt that some sort of actual magical transformation scene is coming for Euron, and I’d guess this should coincide with the fall of the Long Night. Old Nan says Night’s King “was only a man by light of day, but the night was his to rule,” which I’ve always taken as a clue about Night’s King transforming himself into something more than a man when the Long Night fell – and indeed, that’s exactly what Euron is set to do, likely near the conclusion of The Winds of Winter. I expect Euron to take Oldtown and declare himself king there, and probably set up shop for while, so he could well be atop the Hightower when the Long Night falls, which Is have to think will happen before the end of Winds.
There’s yet another Night King implication to be drawn from Euron’s one-eye sigil and the idea of his having a black “crow’s eye” which Theon thinks of as “a black eye shining with malice,” as well as Moqorro seeing Euron in his flame visions as “a tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms.” Namely, Melisandre thinks of the Great Other as having one black eye in this passage from ACOK. Davos is arguing theology with Melisandre – who is a red priest like Moqorro – and making the point that it was darkness hiding them from detection as they rowed beneath Storm’s End, saying:
The god of darkness protects us now, my lady. Even you.”
The flames of her eyes seemed to burn a little brighter at that. “Speak not that name, ser. Lest you draw his black eye upon us. He protects no man, I promise you. He is the enemy of all that lives.
Euron Crowseye, enemy of all that lives: yep, that checks out. The main point is that according to the R’hllorists, Euron just might be the Great Other, or perhaps an avatar of the Great Other.
So the final question is how: how can Euron become an actual Night’s King? How does he come to lead the Others? Well it could be that he doesn’t actually lead the Others, but that he’s simply the one to trigger the Long Night and the invasion of the white walkers by blowing his horn one too many times or performing some other powerful magic. Euron may be intending to bring about the apocalypse with such an action, or he could be simply trying to do something else and screw everything up accidentally, but either way he’s one of the few human beings capable of wielding apocalypse-level sorcery. But there are two general ways he could actually lead the army of the dead that I can see – and leave your ideas in the comments below, by all means.
First, it may be that some remnant of Night’s King / Azor Ahai’s spirit is alive somewhere on the ethereal plane, or inside the weirwoodnet, and that this spirit will take over Euron’s mind and effectively steal his body. Euron is fearless and heedless in his quest to become a god-man, and quite often in classic mythology, such figures usually get more than they bargained for. In particular, the works of H. P. Lovecraft often have ambitious people like this end up doormats and temporary host bodies for incomprehensible entities like the Great Old Ones. This “Night’s King snatches Euron’s body” idea would also be a very close parallel to what happens to Inneluki, the Azor Ahai / Night’s King figure of Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn, who reemerges from the ethereal plane after being dead for centuries to become the villain of the story. I’ll again refer you both to Gray Area MS&T / ASOIAF playlist and a Between Two Weirwoods video I did with Gray on my channel for more on that, but the point is that George has named Tad Williams and MS&T as being highly influential on ASOIAF, so this potential parallel is something to keep an eye on.
Another thing to consider about Euron contacting the spirit of a dead person that’s trapped in the weirwoodnet or anywhere else is that in ASOIAF, there only seems to be one astral plane, no mater what magic is used to access it. Melisandre gazes into the flames and sees Bloodraven and Bran because they can project their spirits out of their bodies and on to the astral plane, even though they’re using weirwood magic and Melisandre fire magic. You saw in the passage we quoted earlier that Moqorro can see all kinds of important folks in shadow form when he looks into the fires, and I don’t doubt Bloodraven can see other magic users in a similar fashion if he puts his mind to it.
In other words, if Euron is using shade of the evening, glass candles, and whatever else, there’s no telling what kinds of spirit entities he could run into and interact with. They might give him power and knowledge, and they may well be seeking to use him for their own agenda. The most likely candidate would be the spirit of dead Azor Ahai-turned-Night’s King, which also be the entity people perceive as the great Other in my opinion. Perhaps Euron will open one door too many and zap – dead Azor Ahai takes over his mind like Bran takes over Hodor. This would be Azor Ahai reborn in a more literal sense, which would actually, at this point in the story, be a huge subversion of what we all expect that to mean.
But what about Night’s Queen? Might she still exist inside the weirwoodnet or on some sort of ethereal plane? Maybe that’s who ‘hands of white fire lady’ is; perhaps Night’s Queen has been tutoring Euron in the nether-realm this whole time in preparation to transform him into a new Night’s King. Probably not, but who knows – ‘hands of white fire lady’ is hard to figure out with what we know now. This would almost be like a weird version of the “alien spirit entity girlfriend” trope, and doesn’t Euron seem like the type..
The second option for Euron as an actual leader of the Others is kind of a more literal variation on the last idea, and basically I’m thinking, what if Euron sees the ice magic of the Others as a power he can grasp and directly attempts to do so? For example, there’s a theory out there that Jon blowing on the cracked horn he found at the Fist of the First Men actually called the Others to the Fist. If the dragonbinder horn makes dragons obey you, perhaps the “Horn of Winter” does the same with the Others or the wights. Sam has that horn in Oldtown, where Euron is attacking right now, so he could well get his hands on it.
Euron has also been gathering all manner of arcane knowledge, so it’s actually possible Euron knows more about the Others at this moment than we do. With or without Sam’s potential “horn of Winter,” Euron may think he has a way of controlling the Others through sorcery. Although I’ve never heard anyone suggest this, I think it’s possible that Euron may find a way to directly access ice magic and transform himself – just as Melisandre is in the process of transforming herself into an entity sustained by fire magic through her use of fire magic. It may be that he needs to go to the north to do this, or perhaps not – we don’t know if you have to live any specific place to worship R’hllor and access fire magic, for example. It’s worth noting that Melisandre calls the Wall a “hinge of the world” and says that it will amplify her fire and shadow magic, even though the Wall is made of ice and is in the north, so it may be that at a certain level magic is magic and the location doesn’t determine how a user may channel that magic.
In any case, it’s not impossible that Euron will literally replay the Waymar prologue of A Game of Thrones in some fashion, that he will physically journey north and attempt to confront the Others in a clearing of the Haunter Forest, but with more magical resources and bona fides than Waymar could ever dream of. Heck, riding a dragon is probably the fastest way to get north, so, maybe we will see the idea of Night’s King Euron and ice dragon Viserion all come together at once. It could even be that part of his wanting to acquire a dragon has to do with his ideas about commanding the Others.
So there you have it, several ways in which all of this Night’s King Euron symbolism could play out at the conclusion of the story. Again, I’d love to hear your ideas on this in the comments below – my main job is to point at and decode the symbolism and present it to you guys; drawing conclusions from the symbolism is a fun activity for all of us.
Hey guys it’s LmL and I’m back to squeeze in Weirwood Compendium 10 before the end of the month! Real life has kept me away from you for the last two weeks, but I got up early on West Coast time to make you guys some myth head breakfast. Thanks to all of our patreon supporters and to everyone who likes and shares the videos, and I’d like to welcome those of you who have subscribed to the channel recently. This is Weirwood Compendium 10, and we’re picking up where we left on in WC9, so make sure you watch that video and probably the “Weirwood Magic and Lore” video from a couple weeks back if you haven’t done the whole Weirwood Compendium or forget what it was about. That said, it’s time for our trippiest episode yet, perhaps, although there was that 3 hour Rhymes and Riddles of Patchface the Fool halloween livestream form a couple years ago…
By now I have gotten to know a few of you listeners and patreon supporters, and I know you all are a clever bunch. When you hear me talking about a horse which allows the rider to travel the universe, you might be thinking of the phrase “the Stallion Who Mounts the World.” If you were, give yourself a big pat on the back and wear that smile of self-satisfaction, because you got that one exactly right – at least, I think so. To the extent that the weirwood functions as an astral projection horse like Yggdrasil, it is a horse which mounts the world and the cosmos. This is what Bloodraven alludes to when he tells Bran that he will fly, and that is the meaning of all of Bran’s dreams of flying – his ultimate flight will be through the use of the weirwoods.
Of course the tree-horse and the rider are one, and the greenseer mounts the cosmos by becoming the weirwood, by slipping into its skin. The greenseer becomes part of the horse that ‘mounts’ or ‘rides’ the world, and this is one of the ways in which I believe Azor Ahai’s group of naughty greenseers brought down the moon – I mean it starts with them having some mechanism for effecting the course of celestial bodies, does it not? Some way to go up to the stars? Riding the astral projection horse could be part of it, and mounting the world seems like the right idea too.
We saw a clue about this is Drogo’s funeral pyre, which we’ve talked about the last several episodes – Dany perceives Drogo as seeming to mount a grey stallion made of smoke and fire which he rides up to the stars, at which time time he exchanges the grey horse for his celestial mount, the red comet, which is seen as a fiery horse. That’s not one but two horses which seem to help Drogo to “mount the world.” The grey stallion is a call-out to Sleipnir and thus to astral travel, while the column of smoke and ash the horse is made of is expressing the ash tree and burning tree weirwood symbolism, and thus more astral travel. Are the weirwoods a way to “ride the comet,” as Drogo seems to do? We’ll come back to this scene later in the podcast, but it seems as though something along these lines is true.
Now lest I confuse anyone too badly too early in the program, let me say that it seems also certain that the most direct fulfillment of the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy will turn out to be Dany riding Drogon, high above the world – I’m certainly a believer in this. So which is it? Is the Stallion Who Mounts a greenseer mounting the weirwood – meaning Bran – or is it Dany and Drogon? Well, think about it this way. The original Stallion Who Mounted the World was Azor Ahai breaking into and stealing the power of the weirwoods – a dragonlord-turned-greenseer, essentially – and our modern incarnations are each showing us one half of that picture. Bran is the greenseer, Dany the dragonlord, and I have a feeling that Martin is implying that their arcs will intersect at some key moment of high magic near the conclusion of the story.
Dany and Bran have parallel arcs in many ways – they’re both separated form the rest of the story, with Bran sojourning in the coldest outskirts of the land and Dany the hottest, and they’re the two POV characters most heavily associated with magic. They’re both classic fantasy tropes, with their arcs clearly aimed at magical climaxes, and of course many have noticed that Dany’s House of the Undying / Shade of the Evening experience has many parallels to Bran’s greenseer cave / weirwood paste scenes. Dany and Bran are both a couple of young trippers, in other words, and most importantly, they are the two characters who consistently seem to think about flying in the sky and even touching heavenly bodies. Dany has already flown literally, and Bran astrally, so one wonders if their powers might be combined for some key moment.. I’m going to lay out the Stallion Who Mounts symbolism as best I can, and then we’ll have a discussion session to talk about what it might mean – and as always, leave your comments below and tell me what you think!
Alright. So like I said, we have to think about the “Stallion Who Mounts” as referring to both the general idea of a dragon greenseer like Azor Ahai as well as an archetypal role which will be manifested by Dany and Bran. Dany and Drogon will be the more literal fullfillment of the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy, but we’ll find tons of clues about greenseer things that probably apply to Bran when we look at Dany’s scenes that in any way involve the Stallion Who Mounts ideas. We’ve already seen a ton of horse greenseer symbolism in Dany’s arc, of course – the silver sea horse stuff which incorporates the idea of Sleipnir as a great grey stallion as well as the “ships as winged horses” symbolism – and the Stallion Who Mounts set of ideas will follow this pattern as well.
Now originally it was believed that the Stallion Who Mounts would be Rhaego, Dany and Drogo’s unborn child, and we already know that Rhaego is the vehicle for a lot of dragon greenseer symbolism / Azor Ahai the greeneer symbolism. The vision Dany has of a grown Rhaego has him being consumed by ash, of course this is invoking the dual symbolism of the weirwood as a burning, ashy tree and the weirwood as a stand-in for the ash tree Yggdrasil. Beric is resurrected by fire in both a weirwood cave and a grove of ash trees at different times, Dany hatches her dragons and is reborn “covered in ash” and “amidst the ashes,” and of course Azor Ahai waiting to be reborn is called “an ember in the ashes” by Melisandre. Dany named Rhaego after Rhaegar, and there are several instances of Rhaegar being said to be “reborn from the ashes,” naturally. Rhaegar also has a lot dragon greenseer symbolism, if you recall – he dies “on the green banks of the River Trident,” but then is symbolically reborn as the people Dany names after him – not only Rhaego, but also later Rhaegal, the green dragon who is more or less entirely fashioned of dragon-greenseer symbolism. I don’t want to recap all of Weirwood Compendium 6, but the point is baby Rhaego leads to all the greenseer dragon symbolism of Rhaegal and Rhaegar, before we even consider the idea of a stallion who can mount the entire earth.
When we think of Rhaego as a merging of the animal mascots of his parents, horse and dragon, that also says dragon greenseer; think of Bloodraven the dragon merging with the weirwood, which is his astral projection horse. All the stuff about Rhaego riding in the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy… think of a dragon riding a horse, but the horse is a weirwood. Azor Ahai mounts the weirwoodnet.
So like I said a moment ago, we now think the stallion prophecy will be fulfilled by Dany riding Drogon, and Drogon, like Rhaego, is Dany’s child. So the idea here is that Dany is the mother of the Stallion, the mother of Rhaego and Drogon, but she herself can also be the Stallion because she becomes reborn in the funeral pyre, which we can see as her dying to give birth to a new self. She’s the mother of herself, just as Odin sacrificed himself to himself. It’s the same for Drogo – he would have been the father of Rhaego the Stallion Who Mounts, but when he dies, he seems to transcend death by riding stallions who mount the world by flying in space. Even Rhaego seems to be burnt and consumed by ash in Dany’s vision, so you can see that there’s always a “death and rebirth through the weirwoods” message with any incarnation of our dragon-stallion who mounts.
In the last episode, I explained how the rhythmic beating of the shaman’s drums which enable the trance-like state came to be thought of as the hoofbeats of an unseen horse which the shaman rides into the spirit world, and that this is what is behind the idea of Odin riding Sleipnir the eight legged stallion or Odin riding Yggdrasil like a horse by being hung upon it and using it for astral projection. We saw Martin uses this metaphor in several weirwood scenes, but we saved the best for today, because the invisible-yet-thundering shamanic horse makes a strong appearance at the scene where the prophecy of the Stallion Who Mounts is given, as you might expect.
Here’s the setup for the scene: Daenerys the moon maiden has just eaten the bloody heart of a wild stallion as a part of a Dothraki ritual to foretell the virility of her unborn child. There layers of symbolism here, and the first is classic mythical astronomy: this is a depiction of the moon (Dany) ingesting the Lightbringer comet (the bloody heart) right before giving birth to a version of Azor Ahai reborn and his dragons. Think about the horse heart as a symbol – we’ve seen that comets are bleeding stars and that meteors can be the hearts of fallen stars, so a bloody heart already works well as a comet or meteor symbol. But it’s not just a heart, it’s a horse heart, and we know that the Dothraki believe that the stars are fiery horses and that Dany equates the bleeding red comet with Drogo mounted on his fiery stallion. Ergo, a bloody stallion heart being eaten by a moon maiden works very well as a symbol of the moon ingesting a red Lightbringer comet. It’s very similar to the scene from Weirwood Compendium 9, Shamanic Thunder Horse, where we saw Aerion Targaryen telling Dunk to “eat this” and then hitting him with the bloody morningstar.
The other thing going on, symbolically, as Dany eats the horse heart is that she is getting heavy-duty weirwood stigmata: “Warm blood filled her mouth and ran down over her chin,” “..her face smeared with the heartsblood that sometimes seemed to explode against her lips,” and then “Her cheeks and fingers were sticky as she forced down the last of it.” Dany is like weirwood tree, with blood red hands and mouth, and the Prince inside her is like the greenseer inside the tree:
“Khalakka dothrae mr’anha!” she proclaimed in her best Dothraki. A prince rides inside me! She had practiced the phrase for days with her handmaid Jhiqui.
The oldest of the crones, a bent and shriveled stick of a woman with a single black eye, raised her arms on high. “Khalakka dothrae!” She shrieked. The prince is riding!
Okay, so we have a one eyed seer – a seeress in this case – and that is a sure sign of Odin symbolism at play. Calling her a shriveled old stick of a woman makes us think of Bloodraven, a shriveled old stick of a man, and wicker men and tree-people in general.
The prince is riding, riding inside Dany – this is a great visualization of the dragon greenseer riding inside the weirwood tree. It’s also a picture of the moon dragons waiting to be born inside the moon, and it echoes a line from the Hedge Knight, right before the trial of the seven, where Dunk is looking for a seventh man for his side:
Dunk left them there, feeling as relieved as he was guilty. We are still one short, he thought as Egg held Thunder for him. Where will I find another man?
“As egg held Thunder” – that’s a pretty nice one. Astronomy -wise, the moon-egg held thunderous dragon meteors, just as Dany “gives birth” to dragons whose eggs crack like thunder. But also consider that the “Thunder” young Egg Targaryen is holding is a horse – it’s just like Dany as a moon figure holding the Stallion Who Mounts, a prince who is riding the world like a horse. Dunk does find a seventh man of course, and he turns out to be a greenseer dragon symbol who looks like he hatched from a moon egg – I’m talking about Baelor Targaryen, dressed in black dragon armor and riding on a horse. Yes, a dragon riding a horse, just like Rhaego’s symbolism, and just like Drogon being considered as the Stallion Who Mounts. You’ll even recall Dunk telling a dying Baelor to rise with the command “UP!”, just as he had to Thunder in the melee… “Rise like Thunder, oh Azor Ahai,” lol.
The scene in Vaes Dothrak continues:
“He is riding!” the other women answered. “Rakh! Rakh! Rakh haj!” they proclaimed. A boy, a boy, a strong boy. Bells rang, a sudden clangor of bronze birds. A deep-throated warhorn sounded its long low note.
Hold everything. A deep throated warhorn? That is exactly the sort of thing to wake whatever is sleeping inside the moon, they should really be careful. The bells sound like bronze birds, and bronze birds sounds like meteors – flying metal objects that make noise. My pal Lady Evolett of the Blue Winter Roses blog thinks the gold, silver, and bronze bells worn in the Dothraki’s night-black hair represent stars, which make sense to me. The paragraph continues:
The old women began to chant. Underneath their painted leather vests, their withered dugs swayed back and forth, shiny with oil and sweat. The eunuchs who served them threw bundles of dried grasses into a great bronze brazier, and clouds of fragrant smoke rose up toward the moon and the stars. The Dothraki believed the stars were horses made of fire, a great herd that galloped across the sky by night.
The herd galloping across the sky sounds a lot like the wild hunt, which is sometimes seen as a sky-procession (again, think Santa Claus and his comet, lightning, and thunder reindeer). The fact that it is a procession of horses flying through the stars, deeeehhfinitely makes us think of the astral projection horse – and that is the one which the prince is riding. We definitely notice the all important symbol of the rising smoke column – that represents the burning ash tree, which is the weirwood, and it is rising up to the moon and stars, just as with Drogo’s bonfire, where the column of smoke and ash became a horse that he rode up to the stars. Martin is showing us that the weirwood, which can be pictured as a column of smoke and ash or a grey horse, can convey the rider to the stars, and he’s showing that this becomes possible because of the sacrifice of Nissa Nissa.
To put it really simply, we can observe that Dany with her stigmata represents a weirwood tree, and right next to her is a column of smoke rising to heaven, which can also represent the weirwood tree. Dany’s baby is riding inside her, and Drogo was riding inside the smoke column coming from his pyre.
Returning to the one-eyed crone giving the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy, notice how the chanting really drives home the shamanistic vibe of this whole ceremony. Horse sacrifice was a very common occurrence among shamans in northeast Asia, which is where the specific word shaman originates from (the Tungus people to be specific).
As the smoke ascended, the chanting died away and the ancient crone closed her single eye, the better to peer into the future.
That’s very consistent with the concept of Odin’s sacrifice of his eye – cutting off physical sight to aid in third eye sight. Peering into the future is specifically what the runes are about – they even give Odin the power to see and even alter the future. The well of Urd where he sees the runes is also where the three Norns weave the fates of all mankind, and the crones here might remind us a bit of them.
The silence that fell was complete. Dany could hear the distant call of night birds, the hiss and crackle of the torches, the gentle lapping of water from the lake. The Dothraki stared at her with eyes of night, waiting.
The lapping of the lake is a nice inclusion, as it gives us the watery element of the well, and actually I should clarify that a “well” in Norse myth really refers to the spring itself, whether or not there is an actual well there. This is important because the well in the Nightfort is not the only dark, bottomless body of water which is meant to parallel the idea of a Norse well such as the well of Mimir or Urd. The other ones, which are both black bodies of water said to be bottomless, are the cold black pond under the heart tree in the Winterfell godswood, the Womb of the World whose cool black waters we can hear lapping in this scene, and that black river in Bloodraven’s cave. Honorable mention goes to the pool of deadly liquid Arya serves people from in the House of Black and White when they are ready to set their burdens down.
Picking up right where we left off, we come to the important part:
Finally the crone opened her eye and lifted her arms. “I have seen his face, and heard the thunder of his hooves,” she proclaimed in a thin, wavery voice.
“The thunder of his hooves!” the others chorused.
We have a one-eyed seer, in a trance, hearing the thunder of hooves where there are no horses – this is the shamanic horse, the astral projection horse. It’s the one the prince – Azor Ahai reborn – is riding.
“As swift as the wind he rides, and behind him his khalasar covers the earth, men without number, with arakhs shining in their hands like blades of razor grass. Fierce as a storm this prince will be. His enemies will tremble before him, and their wives will weep tears of blood and rend their flesh in grief. The bells in his hair will sing his coming, and the milk men in the stone tents will fear his name.” The old woman trembled and looked at Dany almost as if she were afraid. “The prince is riding, and he shall be the stallion who mounts the world.”
Fierce as a storm he will be, and like the wind he will ride – here we think of the Baratheon Storm Lords and Durrandon Storm Kings of Westeros, with all their horned lord and green man symbolism. We also think of the Grey King myth of the Storm God’s thunderbolt which set a tree ablaze, especially since that burning tree represents the weirwood tree, which is a horse that a greenseer can mount to fly over the world.
The other implication of the Prince riding like a storm is that he’s a summoner of moon meteors. The Storm God’s ‘thunderbolt’ is probably a moon meteor, and all of Robert’s hammer symbolism seems to point to moon meteors as an explanation for the Hammer of the Waters. Dany is the Stormborn, and of course her death and rebirth is accompanied by a firestorm… with both events symbolizing the explosion of the moon to make moon meteor dragons. We know one of the symbolic motifs George likes to use for the moon meteors is the “storm of swords,” and that sounds a lot like what the seeress is talking about when she speaks of the khalasar of this thunderous stallion who mounts the world covering the earth and wielding shining arakhs.
Arakhs are curved blades, like the lunar crescent, so the notion of shining arakhs covering the world makes me think of think of fiery pieces of crescent moon covering the world. When Dany hatched the dragons, the first egg cracked open and “a chunk of curved rock, pale and veined with gold, broken and smoking” landed at her feet, just to give you an example of George using a crescent shaped thing to symbolize a moon meteor. Setting aside the curved part, shining blades are a pretty basic moon meteor symbol as it is. On top of that, the Dothraki believe the stars are a fiery khalasar in the sky, so again a khalasar that covers the earth with shining blades sounds a lot like a storm of falling stars, which the Dothraki would perceive as a fiery host of ancestors riding out of the sky and down to earth in fury and terror… covering the world with their shining blades and making everyone tremble, if you will. The Stallion Who Mounts being inside Dany is akin to the moon meteors waiting to be born inside the moon, so of course the coming of the Stallion would be accompanied by a khalasar of bleeding stars.
This is all starting to come together in an interesting way: the Stallion Who Mounts also seems to be Azor Ahai reborn; the Stallion Who Mounts is foretold to bring down what sounds like a moon meteor storm, and we’ve long believed that Azor Ahai called down the moon meteor shower the first time around. We’ve longed believed that Azor Ahai ‘mounts the world’ by using the weirwoodnet, and that seems to be the implication of surrounding the Stallion Who Mounts the World with all of this greenseer symbolism, that in one sense, when Martin talks about a stallion that can mount the world, he’s talking about the weirwood trees and the greenseer who use them to fly.
I say to you: this form of Azor Ahai reborn who rides the world like a stallion and brings with him a thundering herd of bleeding stars is none other than the horned lord riding the astral projection horse, weir-drasil. The big clue about this actually come back in Westeros, from ASOS. It’s the familiar passage where Jon is doing his astronomy review, talking about how he knows the twelve houses of heaven (the zodiac) and recognizes constellations such as the Ice Dragon, Shadowcat, Moonmaid, and Sword of the Morning. Then we get this curious line:
We look up at the same stars, and see such different things. The King’s Crown was the Cradle, to hear her tell it; the Stallion was the Horned Lord; the red wanderer that septons preached was sacred to their Smith up here was called the Thief. And when the Thief was in the Moonmaid, that was a propitious time for a man to steal a woman, Ygritte insisted.
Saayyyyyy what?? The Stallion is the Horned Lord? You don’t f—in’ say. That makes perfect sense – the Stallion Who Mounts the World is the horned lord Azor Ahai hooked up to the weirwoodnet. That’s also the same fellow who is a thieving red wanderer, a stealer of moon maidens. The Horned Lord is a celestial stallion, a constellation that gallops across the sky, or you might say the horned lord rides the celestial stallion, just as the greenseer both rides the weirwood tree and becomes the weirwood tree. There’s a similar quote to this one which we examined in the scarecrow section of the Green Zombie series:
The west had gone the color of a blood bruise, but the sky above was cobalt blue, deepening to purple, and the stars were coming out. Jon sat between two merlons with only a scarecrow for company and watched the Stallion gallop up the sky. Or was it the Horned Lord?
The sky is bruised, the stars are ‘coming out’ (kind of like the Sam scene where the stars were coming out and they might get a bit of moon), Jon the King of Winter sits with his scarecrow brothers preparing for a fight… and the Horned Lord is galloping up the sky like a celestial stallion mounting the world. Notice that it’s galloping ‘up’ the sky – it’s rising. It’s flying upwards into space.
Now think of Drogo and the fact that Daenerys perceives the red comet as Drogo mounted on his fiery steed, galloping up the sky and riding into the Nightlands. Reborn Drogo is of course a manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn.. and he’s riding a horse.. into space. Repeat: Azor Ahai reborn is riding a fiery horse into space, whereupon he is seen to mount the red comet as his fiery steed. This takes place when the moon wanders too close to the fire of the sun and gives birth to dragons, just like Dany declares that “a prince is riding” inside her after reenacting the moon eating the comet with her horse heart ritual.
In case you haven’t noticed, we are sneaking up to the answer to how a magician might provoke a moon disaster, intentionally or unintentionally – they need to use the power of the weirwoodnet. After all, right after Drogo mounts the smokey stallion in the pyre, we get the first moon destruction symbol:
Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing.
She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. The platform of wood and brush and grass began to shift and collapse in upon itself. Bits of burning wood slid down at her, and Dany was showered with ash and cinders.
As Dany is covered in ash, implying her as a dying Nissa Nissa entering the sacred ash tree, we see that fiery spirit Drogo literally hops on the grey horse and then promptly cracks the first dragon egg open with his comet-like fiery lash. To me this seems like a picture of Azor Ahai mounting the weirwoodnet in order to steer the comet into the moon. It’s the same thing was just saw implied by the idea of the Stallion Who Mounts covering the world in moon-meteor-like shining arakhs – using the weirwoodnet to bring down the moon meteors. Think back to Dunk, mounted on his thunder horse and thinking about his lance as his long wooden finger with which he can touch the dragons on Aerion’s shield- he does indeed touch those dragons, and in doing so brings them crashing down on his head.
And here we go one more time back to Bran at the Nightfort:
Outside the wind was sending armies of dead leaves marching across the courtyards to scratch faintly at the doors and windows. The sounds made him think of Old Nan’s stories. He could almost hear the ghostly sentinels calling to each other atop the Wall and winding their ghostly warhorns. Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well. Old gods, Bran prayed, if you hear me, don’t send a dream tonight. Or if you do, make it a good dream. The gods made no answer.
There’s the horn again, and there is the weirwood tree trying to pull down the moon. Praying to the old gods might have been part of how it happened, and the same goes for horns. Think also of Asha’s Wayward Bride chapter, which is full of moon-drowning ideas, where we get this passage:
Asha was not ready to die, not here, not yet. “A living man can find the sea more easily than a dead one. Let the wolves keep their gloomy woods. We are making for the ships.”
She wondered who was in command of her foes. If it were me, I would take the strand and put our longships to the torch before attacking Deepwood. The wolves would not find that easy, though, not without longships of their own. Asha never beached more than half her ships. The other half stood safely off to sea, with orders to raise sail and make for Sea Dragon Point if the northmen took the strand. “Hagen, blow your horn and make the forest shake. Tris, don some mail, it’s time you tried out that sweet sword of yours.” When she saw how pale he was, she pinched his cheek.
“Splash some blood upon the moon with me, and I promise you a kiss for every kill.”
Alright, so they’re trying to find the see by running through the woods – and by blowing a horn that makes the forest shake and splashing blood on the moon. There’s talk of Sea Dragon Point, a place dedicated to greenseer dragon symbolism, as well as burning ships, which are symbols of weirwoods as burning trees that sail the green see and the river of time. This is of course also the chapter where the branches of the threatening trees of the Wolfswood “scratched at the face of the moon” and Asha the “weirwood” bride is almost killed by a lightning-like blow while she’s pinned against a tree and tangled in its roots.
Jumping back to Dany’s chapter in Vaes Dothrak, we see that the idea of drowning the moon is also depicted there. Right after the crone gives the Stallion Who Mounts prophecy, they proceed to the Womb of the World where this happens:
They rode to the lake the Dothraki called the Womb of the World, surrounded by a fringe of reeds, its water still and calm. A thousand thousand years ago, Jhiqui told her, the first man had emerged from its depths, riding upon the back of the first horse.
The procession waited on the grassy shore as Dany stripped and let her soiled clothing fall to the ground. Naked, she stepped gingerly into the water. Irri said the lake had no bottom, but Dany felt soft mud squishing between her toes as she pushed through the tall reeds. The moon floated on the still black waters, shattering and re-forming as her ripples washed over it. Goose pimples rose on her pale skin as the coldness crept up her thighs and kissed her lower lips. The stallion’s blood had dried on her hands and around her mouth.
So the Stallion Who Mounts is riding, Dany has the weirwood stigmata, and the moon is shattering and drowning in the supposedly bottomless lake as Dany the moon maiden immerses herself. The moon is also reforming, and Dany reemerges from the lake, reborn. Thus we can see that once again, the weirwood stallion is implied as a way to reach, shatter, and drown the moon.
To touch the moon with a comet, you need to be able to first steer the comet – to be able to touch it, in other words. In ACOK, Daenerys and her small khalasar wander in the red waste, following the red comet. She is musing that she should perhaps wear her hair in a braid like the Khals do to “remind them that Drogo’s strength lives within me now,” indicating that Daenerys is a moon maiden who has received the fire of the sun and is now transformed into Azor Ahai reborn. Then we get this:
Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter a half foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, his tail lashed back and forth in fury, and he raised his head and screamed. If I had wings, I would want to fly too, Dany thought. The Targaryens of old had ridden upon dragonback when they went to war. She tried to imagine what it would feel like, to straddle a dragon’s neck and soar high into the air. It would be like standing on a mountaintop, only better. The whole world would be spread out below. If I flew high enough, I could even see the Seven Kingdoms, and reach up and touch the comet.
You see how well Rhaegal works as a symbol now, showing us that a dragon person can use greenseer magic to fly and touch comets. Once again I will remind you that it was Rhaegal’s egg which hatched with a crack “as loud and sharp as thunder,” like the thunderous boom DOOM drums we’ve seen in all those scenes from the last episode and like the thunderous hooves of the Stallion Who Mounts. Rhaegal makes Dany want to mount the world and reach up into the stars, because Rhaegal’s symbolic purpose is to tell us about dragon using greenseer magic to fly.
Now is probably the right time to point out that when Dany rides Drogon at the end of ADWD – when they become the Stallion Who Mounts the World together – she thinks about touching the moon. Pay attention to the wording which makes it sound as though she is walking with the clouds and above the clouds:
Memories walked with her. Clouds seen from above. Horses small as ants thundering through the grass. A silver moon, almost close enough to touch. Rivers running bright and blue below, glimmering in the sun. Will I ever see such sights again? On Drogon’s back she felt whole. Up in the sky the woes of this world could not touch her. How could she abandon that?
Did you catch the cloud walking? It said, “memories walked with her, clouds seen from above” – it’s like the clouds are walking with her, implying Dany as sky walking. Inded, Dany is physically walking through the green grass sea, but seeing all her memories of flight in her mind’s eye – having dreams of flying in the green see, in other words. It’s great how Martin slips in the thunderous horses while Dany recalls flying up so high she could almost touch the moon, just to be consistent and continue his interweaving of Sleipnir flying hose symbolism and dragon symbolism. He wants us to know that yes, Dany is actually flying on her dragon, but that’s not how you touch moons and comets – that is done through the wooden thunder horse that is the weirwood tree.
Just to reinforce the idea of her touching the moon, we get this rather poetic line later in the chapter:
Once I dreamt of flying, she thought, and now I’ve flown, and dream of stealing eggs.
Egads. Flying and stealing eggs? Who would do such a thing? The Stallion Who Mounts the World, of course, flying into space to steal the moon dragons by cracking open the moon egg.
As Dany walks with her memories of dragonriding, her thoughts turn to the flight from Daznak’s pit, a scene which symbolizes the the landing of a moon meteor (Drogon in this instance). The fact that Dany takes flight from this spot of blood, fire, and carnage makes this a mirror of Drogo appearing to take flight from his funeral pyre on his own world-mounting stallion. Here are the highlights: she loses her veils and tokar, a clue about the moon losing its covering or crust, and there are two references to Dany wearing rags or looking like a “ragged thing.” As she recalls looking down at some of the people engulfed by Drogon’s black flame at Daznak’s, we see the fiery dancers which signify the rebirth of Azor Ahai as a tree sorcerer that we’ve seen so many times:
Below, she saw men whirling, wreathed in flame, hands up in the air as if caught in the throws of some mad dance.
Then it says
North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army.
Whoa! What’s that now? Seems like forshadowing of Dany flying north to fight a ghostly army, right? Going “beyond the river” works a s a metaphor for going beyond death as well as going north of the Wall, so this is really does seem like foreshadowing of Dany’s endgame. That’s a good way for her and Bran’s plot to intersect, right?
Now there are reslly some great clues about Drogon being the Stallion Who Mounts in this chapter, and they all come with greenseer symbolism. Dany learns that Drogon has built a lair in a rocky bluff rising from the Dothraki Sea, which reminds Daenerys of her favorite rocky bluff that rises from the Narrow Sea, and so she names it dragonstone. It says that “the air smelled of ash, every rock and tree in sight was burned and blackened.” Very cool, very cool – the black dragon’s island in the green sea is a monument to weirwood symbols – burning trees and ash. This is mirrored in the line about Dany glimpsing “places where the grass was burned and ashen. Drogon has come this way before, she realized. Like a chain of grey islands, the marks of his hunting dotted the green grass sea.” Also, this new Dragonstone gets the rising fist description which alludes to the mushroom cloud / burning tree symbolism, as it is said to rise “above the grasslands like a clenched fist.” All of this sends the same message – the “Stallion Who Mounts the World” is a black dragon making a home in the green see, inside the weirwoods.
Drogon’s stallion status is further reinforced by the bowing grass, a motif which appears thrice in rapid succession in this chapter. First, as Dany is growing famished, sick, and delirious, we get this:
If I stay here, I will die. I may be dying now . Would the horse god of the Dothraki part the grass and claim her for his starry khalasar , so she might ride the nightlands with Khal Drogo? In Westeros the dead of House Targaryen were given to the flames, but who would light her pyre here? My flesh will feed the wolves and carrion crows , she thought sadly, and worms will burrow through my womb.
So, the Dothraki Horse God parts the grass and carries Dany to the Nightlands – this role was played at the Alchemical Wedding first by Drogo’s smoky stallion in the bonfire, and then by the red comet. Shortly after Dany has this thought about her death and the Horse God parting the grass, the grass starts acting funny. Specifically, it’s swaying mysteriously, very like the rustling of the weirwood leaves that constitutes greenseer communication:
The wind, she told herself, the wind shakes the stalks and makes them sway . Only no wind was blowing. The sun was overhead, the world still and hot. Midges swarmed in the air, and a dragonfly floated over the stream, darting here and there. And the grass was moving when it had no cause to move.
Compare that to this line which comes from one of Theon’s chapters in Winterfell in ADWD, which is actually the line that comes right after the doom BOOM drums make it sound like distant thunder was coming from the black air of the godswood:
The night was windless, the snow drifting straight down out of a cold black sky, yet the leaves of the heart tree were rustling his name. “Theon,” they seemed to whisper, “Theon.”
The rustling leaves and thunder in the Godswood announced the coming of Bran the lightning struck greenseer, and the grass here in Dany’s chapter announces the coming of a Dothraki riding a horse who is given a very grand entrance:
From the corner of her eye Dany saw the grass move again, off to her right. The grass swayed and bowed low, as if before a king, but no king appeared to her.
No king appeared, just a rider. But then the grass bows low a third time, and we can see the pattern:
The dragon was a mile off, and yet the scout stood frozen until his stallion began to whicker in fear. Then he woke as if from a dream, wheeled his mount about, and raced off through the tall grass at a gallop. Dany watched him go. When the sound of his hooves had faded away to silence, she began to shout. She called until her voice was hoarse … and Drogon came, snorting plumes of smoke. The grass bowed down before him. Dany leapt onto his back. She stank of blood and sweat and fear, but none of that mattered. “To go forward I must go back,” she said. Her bare legs tightened around the dragon’s neck. She kicked him, and Drogon threw himself into the sky.
Three things parting the grass and making it bow low: the Dothraki Horse God, a dreaming rider who stands frozen in place, and finally, the Drogon that mounts the world. Again I say they are all meant to tell a story together about flying horses and dragons – the horse god is tied to the grey stallion and the red comet, and then we have the dreaming rider to parallel the grey stallion and King Drogon to parallel the red comet. The chapter closes with her and Drogon picking off one of the horses in the herd for Drogon to roast, because as Dany notes, “as swift as they were, they could not fly.” No of course not! Who ever heard of a flying horse! Drogon sets the horse ablaze, which leads to a horse which is still running even as it burns, just so we have all the symbolism. Drogon lands on it, breaking its back, but really that’s just a slightly comical way of literally depicting a dragon riding a horse.
Would you believe there’s a well in this chapter too? Yep, it’s true. While walking through the grass back towards the Skahazadan River and Meereen, Dany comes across the ruins of a low stone wall, a well, and the remnants of eight huts. You will recall that at the octagon-shaped Nightfort kitchen, there were eight hearths around the well. We hadn’t talked about Sleipnir yet last time, so I didn’t say anything about the number eight, but now we can see that these are call-outs to eight legged Sleipnir. We found a weirwood reaching for the moon by one eight legged well, and by this one, Daenerys dreams of flying:
She dreamed. All her cares fell away from her, and all her pains as well, and she seemed to float upward into the sky. She was flying once again, spinning, laughing, dancing, as the stars wheeled around her and whispered secrets in her ear.
Picture the stars wheeling around Dany – she is acting as a cosmic axis, as a cosmic world tree around which the heavens turn. She’s receiving the wisdom of the cosmos – the starry wisdom, if you will – as she flies in her dreams. By a well. Surrounded by eight ruined huts. This is the scene where she wakes up to find the ants biting her, says that the little stone Wall the ants climbed over to get her must seem like the Wall of Westeros to them, and then proceeds to crush them with enthusiasm. This reads as an easy foreshadowing of her inevitable conflict with the Others of course, and best of all, she recalls Viserys telling her tales of “knights so poor they had to sleep beneath the ancient hedges the grew along the byways of the Seven Kingdoms,” and then remarks that she would have given much and more for a nice thick hedge to sleep under.
Let’s see, sleeping under trees and dreaming of flying, where have we…
“Go,” Bran whispered to his own horse. He touched her neck lightly, and the small chestnut filly started forward. Bran had named her Dancer. She was two years old, and Joseth said she was smarter than any horse had a right to be. They had trained her special, to respond to rein and voice and touch. Up to now, Bran had only ridden her around the yard. At first Joseth or Hodor would lead her, while Bran sat strapped to her back in the oversize saddle the Imp had drawn up for him, but for the past fortnight he had been riding her on his own, trotting her round and round, and growing bolder with every circuit.
Robb smiled. “As you will.” He sent his gelding into a trot. The wolves raced after him. Bran snapped the reins sharply, and Dancer picked up her pace. He heard a shout from Theon Greyjoy, and the hoofbeats of the other horses behind him.
Bran’s cloak billowed out, rippling in the wind, and the snow seemed to rush at his face. Robb was well ahead, glancing back over his shoulder from time to time to make sure Bran and the others were following. He snapped the reins again. Smooth as silk, Dancer slid into a gallop. The distance closed. By the time he caught Robb on the edge of the wolfswood, two miles beyond the winter town, they had left the others well behind. “I can ride!” Bran shouted, grinning. It felt almost as good as flying.
The stream was running high and fast. Robb dismounted and led his gelding across the ford. In the deepest part of the crossing, the water came up to midthigh. He tied his horse to a tree on the far side, and waded back across for Bran and Dancer. The current foamed around rock and root, and Bran could feel the spray on his face as Robb led him over. It made him smile. For a moment he felt strong again, and whole. He looked up at the trees and dreamed of climbing them, right up to the very top, with the whole forest spread out beneath him.
They were on the far side when they heard the howl, a long rising wail that moved through the trees like a cold wind. Bran raised his head to listen. “Summer,” he said. No sooner had he spoken than a second voice joined the first.
“Put down your steel now, and I promise you shall have a quick and painless death,” Robb called out.
Bran looked up in desperate hope, and there he was. The strength of the words were undercut by the way his voice cracked with strain. He was mounted, the bloody carcass of an elk slung across the back of his horse, his sword in a gloved hand.
“The brother,” said the man with the grey stubbly face.
Hodor hummed tunelessly as he went down hand under hand, Bran bouncing against his back in the wicker seat that Maester Luwin had fashioned for him. Luwin had gotten the idea from the baskets the women used to carry firewood on their backs; after that it had been a simple matter of cutting legholes and attaching some new straps to spread Bran’s weight more evenly. It was not as good as riding Dancer, but there were places Dancer could not go, and this did not shame Bran the way it did when Hodor carried him in his arms like a baby. Hodor seemed to like it too, though with Hodor it was hard to tell. The only tricky part was doors. Sometimes Hodor forgot that he had Bran on his back, and that could be painful when he went through a door.
For near a fortnight there had been so many comings and goings that Robb ordered both portcullises kept up and the drawbridge down between them, even in the dead of night.
Little Walder cast his splintered lance aside, spied Bran, and reined up. “Now there’s an ugly horse,” he said of Hodor.
“Hodor’s no horse,” Bran said.
“Hodor,” said Hodor.
It took the rest of the morning to make a slow circuit of the castle. The great granite walls remained, blackened here and there by fire but otherwise untouched. But within, all was death and destruction. The doors of the Great Hall were charred and smoldering, and inside the rafters had given way and the whole roof had crashed down onto the floor. The green and yellow panes of the glass gardens were all in shards, the trees and fruits and flowers torn up or left exposed to die. Of the stables, made of wood and thatch, nothing remained but ashes, embers, and dead horses. Bran thought of his Dancer, and wanted to weep
Daenerys Targaryen was born to burn the Others with dragonfire, let it be known. By the end of the first book, we can see that it was, at the very least, her destiny to wake dragons from stone, and what are dragons good for? Burning the Others, I say – let’s not overthink this one. Using dragons to conquer other men is essentially the temptation Dany must avoid – it’s one thing to use the dragons to burn slave masters and free slaves, which I fully endorse, but it seems clear to me that using the dragons to reconquer the land of her ancestors by force is a trap and path to destruction.
But here’s the thing – Dany’s habit of using her dragons to free slaves and protect the weak is not only only one of her best qualities and a great reason why she could never become a butcher of innocent civilians, it’s also one of the key foreshadowings of her ultimate destiny, which is using her dragon power to help defeat the Others. The Others, as you may have noticed, hold the dead in eternal bondage… which you could certainly consider magical slavery. Indeed, the wights as called the “thralls” of the Others, with the implication being that some part of the dead person’s soul is trapped inside their enchanted corpse, unable to find eternal peace and perhaps even condemned to watch the horror being wrought with their own dead hands. It’s quite the abomination, a problem in search of a solution – and then along comes Daenerys Targaryen, with her dragons and her penchant for burning slave masters with dragonfire. It seems like a good match, an abolitionist dragonlord and ice demons who make the dead their slaves… and yea, i say unto thee, burning the Others and freeing the wights from icy servitude would make a most fitting climax to the strong abolitionist arc of Dany’s story. And when I took a look, I found that it’s in Dany’s most important scenes of freeing slaves and protecting the weak that we find the foreshadowing of Dany using the dragons to burn – or more likely melt – the Others. We’ll take a look at those scenes today, and you’ll see how nicely these two ideas have been woven together to foreshadow the true destiny of Daenerys Targaryen.
Let’s start with the basics. Does dragonfire melt Others? HBO says no, but that doesn’t make any sense, frankly. Their Night King was impervious to Drogon’s full furnace blast, but popped like a porcelain statue dropped from a third-story balcony the moment a small dragonglass dagger touched his icy skin… even though he already has an identical dragonglass knife lodged in his chest. So yeah, like I said, none of this shit really made sense, and without beating the dead horse any further, I’ll just say that we can’t let the things that happened on the show overly influence what we think about the books, especially where it concerns magical elements like the white walkers and the dragons, because the showrunners frankly didn’t have any appreciation or understanding of those things, by their own admission.
Returning to question of whether dragonfire might be a potent weapon against the Others, it’s hard to draw any other conclusion from Dany’s dream in ASOS, which she has aboard the ship named after Balerion the Black Dread, the dragon of Aegon the Conqueror:
That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened.
Enemies armored in ice are obviously meant to represent the Others, and melting them with dragonfire is “how it was meant to be.” It’s likely this dream is partially or fully implanted by Quaithe, who appears in the cabin of Balerion via glass candle astral projection the moment Dany wakes from this dream. Quaithe is consistently encouraging Dany to embrace her dragon nature, so it makes sense that Quaithe is trying to plant in Dany’s mind the notion of using her dragons to melt “enemies armored in ice,” trying to ‘warm her up’ to the idea, if you will. She’s also constantly telling Dany “to go north, you must go south,” and why would Dany need to go north? To melt Others with her dragons, presumably. It seems unlikely Quaithe would just be wrong about dragonfire being effective against the white walkers, I mean that would be kind of stupid. What would even be the point of the dragons in that case? No, I think that what’s likely to be true is that if dragonglass slays white walkers, as we’ve seen it do in the hands of “Sam the Slayer,” and if the last hero’s ‘dragonsteel’ sword slew the Others as legends say it did, then the unbelievably hot fire of a full-grown dragon should definitely do the trick. I do think the Others will have weapons to hurt the dragons, be that weapons made of magical ice or those nasty cold winds, so I’m expecting a good fight, but if the dragons can’t melt Others, there wouldn’t be a fight at all and Dany might as well save herself a lot of trouble and fly her dragons to the Summer Isles and retire.
Returning to Dany’s dream of fighting the Battle of the Trident on dragonback, it’s easy to see how the archetypal struggle against the Others would be grafted on to Rhaegar’s fateful battle with the dreaded “Usurper” at the Trident in Dany’s mind. She compares herself to Rhaegar often, especially in key moments, such as her climatic “wake the dragon” dream in AGOT:
And saw her brother Rhaegar, mounted on a stallion as black as his armor. Fire glimmered red through the narrow eye slit of his helm. “The last dragon,” Ser Jorah’s voice whispered faintly. “The last, the last.” Dany lifted his polished black visor. The face within was her own.
After that, for a long time, there was only the pain, the fire within her, and the whisperings of stars.
The whisperings of stars, aye? Hi Quaithe! In any case, we can see that Dany’s transformation into the “last dragon” is conceptualized as her becoming Rhaegar, as stepping into his fiery shoes and armor, so to speak. In another vision from this “wake the dragon dream,” Dany even sprouts dragon wings and flies herself, so she’s “becoming the dragon” in every sense here. Then two books later, after having hatched the dragons, she’s dreaming of fighting Rhaegar’s famous battle, but as a dragonlord confronting enemies armored in ice. The message being sent is clear: Dany was born to wake dragons and to become the dragon specifically so she can do battle with the Others. That will be here Battle of the trident, her defining and penultimate battle.
Dany dreaming of bathing the Others in dragonfire is certainly sweet, but what’s really insightful is that she has this Rhaegar / Trident dragon dream the night before she frees the Unsullied and burns the so-called ‘Wise Masters’ of Astapor. Here are the lines leading up to the Rhaegar dream:
“I was alone for a long time, Jorah. All alone but for my brother. I was such a small scared thing. Viserys should have protected me, but instead he hurt me and scared me worse. He shouldn’t have done that. He wasn’t just my brother, he was my king. Why do the gods make kings and queens, if not to protect the ones who can’t protect themselves?”
“Some kings make themselves. Robert did.”
“He was no true king,” Dany said scornfully. “He did no justice. Justice … that’s what kings are for.” Ser Jorah had no answer. He only smiled, and touched her hair, so lightly. It was enough.
Dany is reflecting upon one of the central questions of ASOIAF, which is ‘how to do justice as a leader,’ and arrives at the answer that she must protect the weak. This is the thinking which underlies her decision to turn the Unsullied against the slave masters; it’s not enough for her to buy the Unsullied and treat them better, she decides she must end the practice entirely and deliver a death sentence to the masters, so that no young boys are ever again made to strangle puppies or kill infants in front of their mothers. I think it will be the same when she faces the Others; Dany will be going for the jugular and trying to make sure no one is ever again turned into a wight, that no women like Gilly have their sons taken from them by men like Craster and given to the Others.
So after talking of justice and defending the weak, Queen Daenerys dreams of fighting the Others on dragonback as Rhaegar, and the next day when she burns the slave masters, she once again sees herself as Rhaegar:
Dany mounted her silver. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest. She felt desperately afraid. Was this what my brother would have done? She wondered if Prince Rhaegar had been this anxious when he saw the Usurper’s host formed up across the Trident with all their banners floating on the wind.
On the way to meet the masters, Dany also thinks about having a Targaryen banner sewn, “a banner such as Rhaegar might have borne.” Then, after taking command of the Unsullied and turning to face the slave masters, she thinks “it is time to cross the Trident.” All of these quotes invite the reader to draw a comparison between Dany’s burning of the slave masters and Rhaegar’s battle of the Trident, just as Daenerys herself is doing… and more specifically, we’re being encouraged to think about Dany burning the ice armored foes in her Trident dream when she burns the Masters and frees the Unsullied.
It’s certainly easy to see the Unsullied as stand-ins for wights. Dany flat out thinks of them as “eight thousand brick eunuchs with dead eyes that never move,” which makes the Unsullied sound very wight-like. Going further, we can observe that they’ve had their names taken from them and their personality suppressed to the point of being almost erased, very like a person’s soul being trapped inside their own corpse but unable to have any agency. The Unsullied are presented as robotically obedient, with slave master Kraznys mo Nakloz saying “tell her that these have been standing here for a day and a night, with no food nor water. Tell her that they will stand until they drop if I should command it,” which is exactly what the how the wights behave, remaining completely motionless until their masters command. Kraznys goes on to call them “absolutely obedient, absolutely loyal, and utterly without fear” and says that “death means nothing to them, and maiming less than nothing.” Those descriptions could once again apply equally well to the ice wights, as you can can see.
Finally, we can never forget that the Unsullied are of course victims of unbelievable atrocity, and the same is true of the dead people turned into wights. Once again I will point out that Dany frees the Unsullied and gives them a choice to go their own way. The Unsullied also reclaim names and self-identity, which are important thematic nods to the idea of freeing the wights from bondage so that their souls can find peace.
As for the Wise Masters of Astapor, well, they aren’t armored in ice, but they do sweat profusely all through the scenes their in, so I suppose we should think about melting white walkers. I mean they are encrusted in jewelry, so we can say that they “came through drippin’ (drip drip),” but that’s neither here nor there. More importantly, we have the chilling fact that slave masters steal children to make into soldiers, just as the Others do. And finally, there’s the matter of what they were trying to get from Dany – her dragon.
And get her dragon they did:
The black dragon spread his wings and roared.
A lance of swirling dark flame took Kraznys full in the face. His eyes melted and ran down his cheeks, and the oil in his hair and beard burst so fiercely into fire that for an instant the slaver wore a burning crown twice as tall as his head. The sudden stench of charred meat overwhelmed even his perfume, and his wail seemed to drown all other sound.
You’ll note that the slaver’s eyes melt here, just as Dany melted her icy foes in her dream the night before. As for that tall fiery crown, well that’s a clear symbol of Azor Ahai, which might seem weird unless you’ve seen my videos about how Azor Ahai became the first Night’s King and created the Others with Night’s Queen. This is similar to the way the “eyes like cold blue stars” and “burning ice” language used to describe the Others gives a clue about their having been created from the seed of a fiery dragonlord, but let’s stay on topic and move on to our next group of symbolic Others trying to harass Dany and steal her fire.
Our next scene of foreshadowing brings us to the Undying Ones of Qarth, and they’re pretty easy to identify as symbolic Others. When Dany enters their inner sanctum, she addresses them as “those who have conquered death,” as their Undying monicker implies, and certainly the same is true of the Others. They’re even presented as living shadows, like the Others:
A long stone table filled this room. Above it floated a human heart, swollen and blue with corruption, yet still alive. It beat, a deep ponderous throb of sound, and each pulse sent out a wash of indigo light. The figures around the table were no more than blue shadows.
The Others are white shadows or pale shadows with blue eyes and blue swords, while the Undying are blue shadows with, well, blue everything, including their eyes. These blue shadows are gathered around a corrupt blue heart, which I think makes for a terrific symbol of the Heart of Winter. The Heart of Winter seems to serve as a focal point for the threat of the Others in Bran’s coma dream vision from AGOT, so it makes sense to see the Other-like, blue shadow Undying gathered around it.
Most tellingly, these blue shadows are in fact cold, and this line comes as her Shade of the Evening visions dissolve into a physical attack by the Undying:
But then black wings buffeted her round the head, and a scream of fury cut the indigo air, and suddenly the visions were gone, ripped away, and Dany’s gasp turned to horror. The Undying were all around her, blue and cold, whispering as they reached for her, pulling, stroking, tugging at her clothes, touching her with their dry cold hands, twining their fingers through her hair.
This all seems like pretty clear symbolism – these blue and cold undying shadows are attacking Dany and trying to steal “her fire, her life.” Fortunately Drogon is nearby once again, and he knows just what to do:
Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. Her heart was pounding, racing, the hands and mouths were gone, heat washed over her skin, and Dany blinked at a sudden glare. Perched above her, the dragon spread his wings and tore at the terrible dark heart, ripping the rotten flesh to ribbons, and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his open jaws, bright and hot. She could hear the shrieks of the Undying as they burned, their high thin papery voices crying out in tongues long dead. Their flesh was crumbling parchment, their bones dry wood soaked in tallow. They danced as the flames consumed them; they staggered and writhed and spun and raised blazing hands on high, their fingers bright as torches.
It sure is fun to read this as Drogon whooping ass on the Others at the Heart of Winter, and I think we can. The Undying Ones don’t melt like Kraznys the slaver, but the description of them burning like crumbling parchment, dry wood, or candle wax or tallow, as well as staggering and dancing around while on fire, matches the description of wights catching on fire. Consider Jon’s memory of the wight he and Ghost fought in Lord Commander Mormont’s chambers in AGOT:
Truly, the gods had heard Jon’s prayer that night; the fire had caught in the dead man’s clothing and consumed him as if his flesh were candle wax and his bones old dry wood. Jon had only to close his eyes to see the thing staggering across the solar, crashing against the furniture and flailing at the flames. It was the face that haunted him most; surrounded by a nimbus of fire, hair blazing like straw, the dead flesh melting away and sloughing off its skull to reveal the gleam of bone beneath.
Bones like old dry wood, candle wax or tallow, straw this time instead of parchment, staggering and flailing and writhing, hair blazing and hands raised. When Bran sees a wight burn in ADWD, the dancing descriptor is brought in, and there are scenes with fiery dancers that link to this idea which we don’t have time for today (but check out the Weirwood Compendium for the scoop on that). The point for now is that the burning of the Undying is meant to evoke both the idea of melting the Others and freeing the wights from bondage, because burning the Others will have the effect of freeing the wights.
Additionally, it seems like burning the wights is also a way of freeing them from bondage – that’s why they’re dancing and raising their hands! Seriously though, have a look at this scene from ASOS featuring Samwell Tarly – Sam the Slayer! – setting fire to a wighted Small Paul, his former brother of the Night’s Watch:
Sam sucked in air, and rolled feebly away. The wight was burning, hoarfrost dripping from his beard as the flesh beneath blackened. Sam heard the raven shriek, but Paul himself made no sound. When his mouth opened, only flames came out. And his eyes . . . It’s gone, the blue glow is gone.
This is especially meaningful because Small Paul was the only one who helped Sam when he was ready to give in a death by frostbite after the Fist of the First Men, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking for Sam to see him wighted – he attempts to plead with the wighted Paul for Mercy when he first appears, saying “Small Paul. Do you know me? I’m Sam, fat Sam, Sam the Scared, you saved me in the woods. You carried me when I couldn’t walk another step. No one else could have done that, but you did.” The emotional beat is important here, because it’s showing us the human tragedy of the cold wighting phenomena, thus emphasizing the need for a fiery abolitionist like Daenerys Targaryen (and maybe Jon too, of course).
As for the idea of burning the wights to save their souls, this is also suggested by the religious beliefs of the R’hllorists, twisted as they are:
“R’hllor,” Ser Godry sang, “we give you now four evil men. With glad hearts and true, we give them to your cleansing fires, that the darkness in their souls might be burned away. Let their vile flesh be seared and blackened, that their spirits might rise free and pure to ascend into the light. Accept their blood, Oh lord, and melt the icy chains that bind your servants.”
Really interesting wording here: fire is offered as a cleansing agent, purifying the flesh and releasing the soul, and this also involves melting icy chains that bind servants. Ser Godry is referring to the winter snows as icy chains that are bogging down Stannis’s army, but the potential double-meaning makes a lot of sense when we think about the wights as the ones who need purification by fire, because they are enslaved by icy chains, so to speak.
Daenerys herself already understands magical fire to have the power to purify, because she’s undergone just such a process! This is her second “dragon dream” from AGOT:
There was only her and the dragon. Its scales were black as night, wet and slick with blood. Her blood, Dany sensed. Its eyes were pools of molten magma, and when it opened its mouth, the flame came roaring out in a hot jet. She could hear it singing to her. She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole, let it cleanse her and temper her and scour her clean. She could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam, and yet there was no pain. She felt strong and new and fierce.
Not only does dragonfire seem to cleanse and renew Daenerys in this dream, she actually does wake the next morning with renewed strength and spirit. This language is also echoed when Daenerys walks into the pyre to fulfill the prophecy of Azor Ahai’s rebirth and wake the dragons from their stone eggs, and I can’t help but wonder if these experiences with cleansing dragonfire might clue her in to the idea of freeing the wights from magical bondage with fire. At the very least, the reader is being presented early on with the general idea that dragonfire can purify, and even if Dany’s dragon dream is primarily poetic language, it’s only a book and a half later that we see Sam actually drive “the blue glow” from a wight’s eyes with fire.
Returning to that shady house of wine-drinking warlocks, there’s one other important way that Dany burning the Undying foreshadows her freeing the wights. Check out Dany’s very last Shade of the Evening vision before waking to the Undying’s attack:
Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. “Mother!” they cried. “Mother, mother!” They were reaching for her, touching her, tugging at her cloak, the hem of her skirt, her foot, her leg, her breast. They wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life, and Dany gasped and opened her arms to give herself to them …
This is a prophetic glimpse of her freeing the slaves in Slaver’s Bay and being recognized as Mhysa, the mother, but notice the specific language about the “ten thousand bloodstained hands” of the slaves. The wights, famously, have hands which turn black with congealed blood, which runs into the extremities upon death, thus sayeth the living wight known as Coldhands. Ergo, the slaves with bloody hands sound a lot like the wights, calling out to Dany for freedom. They need her fire to be free, and perhaps Dany’s life – and I fully expect Dany’s story to end with heroic self-sacrifice, by the way. And as you can see, Dany is fully prepared to give herself up to save those who cry out to her. That’s true in this scene and in countless other scenes which I outlined in my “True Character of Daenerys Targaryen”series.
Setting aside her death foreshadowing for now, Dany’s fire will indeed set the wights free, and immediately upon being woken from the vision by Drogon, Drogon proceeds to burn the Undying and their rotten blue heart to ashes. That’s very like the sequence of events in Astapor; once again we have the idea of melting the Others with dragonfire combined with the idea of freeing slaves who are described like wights. That’s what I call grade A foreshadowing, and it all points to the very sensible idea that Daenerys was given three dragons so that she can fight the Others.
One bonus round clue about the Undying as stand-ins for the Others: when Pyatt Pree first greets Dany, he promises to petition the Undying Ones for an audience, which he refers to as “A honor rare as summer snows.” Meeting the Undying is like getting snow in the summer – this really makes Dany’s confrontation with the Undying seem even more like her giving battle to the Others during the Long Night. It also reminds me of this famous exchange between Ned and Robert where the Others are invoked:
“Late summer snows are common enough,” Ned said. “I hope they did not trouble you. They are usually mild.”
“The Others take your mild snows,” Robert swore. “What will this place be like in winter? I shudder to think.”
The Others don’t take Summer Snows, they give them. Hopefully we have some dragonlords around by that time! I think the chances are good.
The final thing I’d like to show you is the where of Dany’s impending confrontation with the Others. Her Trident / Rhaegar dream has her fighting the Others at the Trident, but I suspect that is simply because Rhaegar fought at the Trident. If the blue heart in the House of the Undying Ones is meant to represent the Heart of Winter, that could indicate Dany journeying north – very far north. Of course the “Heart of Winter” could merely be representing “the power of the Others” here as opposed to suggesting Dany has to go to the North pole, so it’s still not clear.
But then we have this scene from A Dance with Dragons, and this is from Dany’s final chapter of that book where she wanders the Dothraki Sea after riding Drogon out of Daznak’s Pit in Meereen. She lies down to sleep by a low stone wall and has a Quaithe dream – Dany finds herself flying amongst the stars with all her cares and burdens falling away, and through a mask made of starlight, Quaithe is once more telling her that “to go north, you must journey south,” and then “remember who you are Daenerys… the dragons know, do you?” It seems that once again again Quaithe is trying to link the idea of going north to embracing the power of her dragons, and when she wakes up, we see that idea acted out in miniature:
The next morning she woke stiff and sore and aching, with ants crawling on her arms and legs and face. When she realized what they were, she kicked aside the stalks of dry brown grass that had served as her bed and blanket and struggled to her feet. She had bites all over her, little red bumps, itchy and inflamed. Where did all the ants come from? Dany brushed them from her arms and legs and belly. She ran a hand across her stubbly scalp where her hair had burned away, and felt more ants on her head, and one crawling down the back of her neck. She knocked them off and crushed them under her bare feet. There were so many …
It turned out that their anthill was on the other side of her wall. She wondered how the ants had managed to climb over it and find her. To them these tumbledown stones must loom as huge as the Wall of Westeros.
Alright, so an army comes over a wall that is like the Wall of Westeros and attacks Dany, which prompts her to cross over the Wall to their side to find their source, their home. I think this is exactly what will happen in Westeros proper; the Others will invade Westeros, but Dany and probably Jon will have to journey north – perhaps to the heart of Winter itself – to do something of critical importance to defeating or neutralizing the Others. It’s definitely promising how Dany has no problem brushing off the ants and crushing them underfoot, just as she had no problem roasting the Undying once they presented a danger to her.
Now if the ants are the Others, they Dany is like some sort of giant mech-warrior here, which is of course a little silly – I mean it would be fun to see her go supersized like Dr. Manhattan, but that’s not going to happen. I’m pretty sure we are supposed to see Dany crushing the ants as Dany fighting the Others from dragonback, because earlier in the chapter, she remembers flying on Drogon’s back and seeing horses far below, but they look like ants to her. Ergo, when Dany’s looking down at these ant enemies pouring over the “Wall,” we should no doubt imagine her on dragonback looking down at the Others and wights somewhere near the Wall, or beyond it.
There’s another line from this chapter that points the same direction – north.
North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army.
So Dany is on her dragon and going north, and look, it’s the banners of some ghost army – I wonder who that could be. Taken together with the scene with the ants at the “Wall,” it seems this chapter is showing us quite a bit of what the “to go north” part of Quaithe’s mysterious instructions is all about – bringing fire and blood to the Others.
So there you have it my friends. Dany’s journey to the Heart of Winter to deal with the threat of the Others for once and all will be the ultimate realization of her “burn the masters and free the slaves” ethos. It’s likely that this monumental task will require her dragons, her fire, and her very life – but she’ll be both saving the world and freeing tens of thousands of souls from magical bondage. We’ve seen that Dany is always willing to commit everything she has to protecting and saving her people, always ready to lay her own life on the line for what she believes in, so I can think of no more heroic and honorable conclusion to her story than this. Think about it – by using the dragons she was given to melt the Others, she will be protecting every living AND dead soul in Westeros. It’s the perfect harmonization of her “mhysa” and “dragon” identities… and quite frankly, melting the ice demons really is the only thing to do with huge fire breathing dragons.
In Symbolism of the Others: Kingsguard, we saw how the white knights of the Kingsuard are described with the same language as the white walkers, being white shadows armored in ice and snow and ghostly moonlight and all the rest, and thereby serve as symbolic stand-ins for the Others. The first implication of this seems to be that the Others were created in part as a kind of Kingsuard for some sort of royalty, a King and / or Queen of the Others. We began our attempt to explore what this means in Origin of the Others: Night’s Queen, where I made the case that Night’s King and Queen were the ones who created the Others during the Long Night and led their invasion of Westeros. I feel pretty solid about that, and I hope you do too, lest we fall through the ice and drown, only to have our corpses hauled out of the ice lake by the Night King’s mysterious icy chains and turned into an ice dragon.
Okay, so let’s say Night’s King fathered the Others with Night’s Queen, who was some sort of magical, ice-transformed woman kind of like Melisandre, but cold. I mentioned last time that Melisandre’s shadow beings are actually shadow clones of King Stannis, and that the Others appear to be clones as well, since the six of them that we see in the AGOT prologue are all named as twins to one another. The clear implication here is that the original Others would have been shadow clones of Night’s King, made from his seed and soul which he gave to Night’s Queen, and this brings us to today’s big question: so who was Night’s King, then? Who was this person from whom the Others were cloned?
Well, let’s go back to the Kingsguard as symbolic proxies for the Others. Who created the Kingsguard? Who did the Kingsguard guard, for almost all of their history?
The answer is: dragons. (Old Nan: “it be dragons, boy”)The Other-like Kingsguard was created by the dragon kings and queens to guard the dragon kings and queens, and their dragon-spawn as well. Try to picture the throne room of the Red Keep as the people of Westeros would have seen it for nearly three centuries: a dragon king and queen, dressed in black, surrounded by white shadow knights with armor like ice and snowy cloaks swirling about them. Night’s King was said to be a man of the Night’s Watch at first, which puts him in black, and of course the very name “Night’s King” implies darkness and shadow. The picture fits pretty well, doesn’t it? Suddenly the throne room of Kings Landing looks like the Heart of Winter.
Thus we can see that one of the main purposes of our author choosing to dress the Kingsguard in the exact symbolic language of the Others may be to imply their creator, Night’s King, as a dragon king. I’ll say that another way: there’s really no way that George R. R. Martin created this vivid, detailed symbolic parallel between the Kingsguard and the Others if he didn’t want us to compare Night’s King and Queen to the dragon kings and queens who made the Kingsguard. In another video in this series, we’ll actually take a detailed look at Aegon and Visenya, the dragons they rode, and the things they did as symbolic parallels to Night’s King and Queen business, but today we are going to just start with the basic idea of the Others descending from a “blood of the dragon” person.
I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that this dragon king who made the Others can be none other than Azor Ahai himself, and I’m not the first person to suggest this. Anyone who’s listened to my older podcasts knows I’ve held this belief for a long time, Gray Area has done a great video about this, and I remember the idea being bandied about the old Westeros.org forums in days of yore. There’s a ton of evidence for this theory, lots more than can fit in this one video (so check out the Moons of Ice and Fire podcast series), but let’s start with the Stannis and Melisandre parallel to Night’s King and Queen that we just laid out in the origins of the Others video.
It should be obvious that Stannis is playing into the Azor Ahai archetype. He may not be the “real” Azor Ahai reborn like Jon or Dany, but like Beric Dondarrion, Bloodraven, Euron, and many characters from the past such as Daemon Targaryen or the Red Kraken Dalton Greyjoy, Stannis is wearing the symbolism of Azor Ahai, he’s doing Azor Ahai things, and therefore he’s “manifesting the archetype” as I like to say, much in the way the Kingsguard are manifesting the archetype of the Others. This is one of the primary ways George uses symbolism to feed us clues about secret things, so it’s important to understand how it works. Stannis is “manifesting the Azor Ahai archetype” by waving around a flaming sword he calls Lightbringer, worshiping the god of fire, showing a willingness to commit human sacrifice to try to gain magical weapons, being concerned with defeating the Others, rallying and strengthening the Night’s Watch and manning their castles, and last but not least, by calling himself Azor Ahai reborn. Even the fiery heart on his sigil calls to mind the heart of Nissa Nissa, set on fire when Azor Ahai tempered Lightbringer in her living heart.
Crucially, Stannis is also implied as a kind of honorary dragon king: he makes his home on Dragonstone, ancestral seat of House Targaryen; he’s trying everything he can to wake a dragon from stone or anywhere else, and he and Robert kinda sorta used their Targaryen grandmother to aid their claim to the throne. Put it this way: Stannis has more dragonblood than Brown Ben Plumm, okay?
So Stannis is basically cosplaying Azor Ahai as a dragonlord, but on the Other hand… Stannis is also doing Night’s King things. It starts with him giving his seed and soul to Melisandre make magical shadow children in a process that parallels Night’s King and Queen creating the Others, as we discussed last time, but it continues with… well, this:
“The Nightfort is the largest and oldest of the castles on the Wall,” the king said. “That is where I intend to make my seat, whilst I fight this war.”
Azor Ahai, king of the Nightfort, everyone. First it was Azor Ahai, father of shadows, now it’s Azor Ahai, King of the Nightfort. Stannis is specifically a rebel king taking the Nightfort as his seat, a great match to Night’s King being a rebel king at the Nightfort. Night’s King was the Lord Commander of the Watch, and though Stannis isn’t (yet, anyway, some think he could end up that), Stannis does come to the Wall and start telling the Watch what to do and taking over and manning some of their castles as if he was the Lord Commander.
After that, he even leads his armies south to enforce his claim over Westeros, just like a Night King leading the Others down from the north to invade Westeros! Specifically, Stannis is starting that campaign by attacking Winterfell, and one thing that I think the books and show ill have in common is a major showdown with the white walkers at Winterfell, right? It probably happened in the past, and it’ll probably happen in the future. We can find another Stannis – Night’s King correlation in the part of the Night’s King legend where he was was thrown down by the combination of a Stark of Winterfell and a King Beyond the Wall, because Stannis has warred against those same two forces, first defeating the King Beyond the Wall, Mance Raydar, at the Wall, and now Stannis headed down to war against the Boltons, who have claimed the title of Lord of Winterfell. Heck, Mance is still hanging out in Winterfell, so maybe he’ll run into Stannis before it’s all said and done and they can talk symbolism.
As for using sorcery to win friends and influence people – Night’s King was said to bind his brothers to his will with stranger sorceries, remember – Stannis does do that, albeit indirectly. Stannis is well known for using the power of Melisandre’s sorcery to command fear and respect, from both his subjects and his enemies, and though he’s not exactly bewitching anyone and controlling anyone’s minds, he is sort of dazzling and mesmerizing with his use of sorcery and ritual. This is a good thematic parallel if nothing else, but it’s also possible that Night’s King didn’t hypnotize anyone either, but instead just commanded fear and respect by virtue of his demonstration of sorcery.
Now if we have a look at the symbolic language used to describe Stannis the first time we see him on page, well… just have look:
Though he was not yet five-and-thirty, only a fringe of thin black hair remained on his head, circling behind his ears like the shadow of a crown.
Hmm, okay, a shadow crown – what is he, some sort of king of shadows? King of night? The passage continues:
Stannis kept his own whiskers cropped tight and short. They lay like a blue-black shadow across his square jaw and the bony hollows of his cheeks. His eyes were open wounds beneath his heavy brows, a blue as dark as the sea by night.
A blue-black shadow, and blue eyes “as dark as a sea by night?” It’s just descriptive language, but why is George evoking so much night, darkness, and shadow when describing Stannis? His eyes are open wounds, as if he were undead, and he’s gaunt to the point of skeletal as well, having bony hollows in his cheeks, and leathery skin like steel in a line I didn’t quote. This only gets more exaggerated after he spawns a shadow or two, such as when the sight of him “shocks” Davos in ASOS:
He had never been a fleshy man, but now the bones moved beneath his skin like spears, fighting to cut free. Even his crown seemed too large for his head. His eyes were blue pits lost in deep hollows, and the shape of a skull could be seen beneath his face.
A blue-black, shadowy skeleton king with blue eyes of night who spawns shadows and takes the Nightfort as his seat, who leads armies down on Westeros from the north. Notice that it is specifically Stannis’s giving his seed to his witch queen that is transforming him; along the same lines, I suspect Night’s King was transformed in some way as he gave his seed and soul to the magical and icy Night’s Queen.
The stark juxtaposition of Azor Ahai and Night’s King ideas which defines Stannis symbolism also makes an appearance when Daenerys catches a glimpse of Stannis in her House of the Undying visions:
Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow.
Stannis no longer casts a shadow in this vision because he’s made so many shadow babies and his life-fires now burn low. The red sword is an unmistakable reference to Lightbringer; sunset makes sense as a reference to the Long Night, when Lightbringer, Azor Ahai, and (according to me) Night’s King existed; and the blue-eyes thing refers to… what, Stannis’s natural eye color? That’s the other detail that’s so important about Stannis that it manifests in the dream realm? No, of course not; blue eyes are the signature mark of the Others. Perhaps Stannis will be wighted and get actual blue star eyes, but I think what’s going on here is that George is giving us the picture of the joint Azor Ahai – Night’s King archetype, especially since all of Stannis’s symbolism seems dedicated to showing us an Azor Ahai person turning into a Night’s King person. A blue-eyed king with a red sword who comes out at sunset and whose shadow has been peeled away to make demon warriors – that’s our Night’s King Azor Ahai, I believe.
As I alluded to last time, Stannis isn’t the only one who combines Azor Ahai and Night’s King symbolism – Jon Snow, Euron Crowseye, Aegon the Conqueror, and several other characters do it as well. That’s the magic of using symbolic archetypes as George does – all we have to do is put all the figures corresponding to a given archetype in a pile and then compare them to one another, and the commonalities begin to emerge right away. All of our Night King Azor Ahai figures will paint a similar symbolic picture, and that’s how we can feel confident about drawing a few conclusions from such analysis.
For the remainder of this video, we shall consider Jon Snow, since he, along with Dany, is the most obvious Azor Ahai reborn person in the story. Dany has already checked all the prophetic boxes, and although Jon hasn’t yet, I expect Jon’s resurrection to complete the picture for him. Even still, we have two majors indicators that Jon is in fact Azor Ahai reborn in some real sense, completely separate and apart from his R+L=J bloodline and the Prince That Was Promised prophecy. The first one is the fact that Melisandre has begun to see Jon when she asks the flames for glimpses of Azor Ahai reborn:
“What do you see, my lady?” the boy asked, softly.
Skulls. A thousand skulls, and the bastard boy again. Jon Snow. ( . . . )
I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow.
The capital S snow and the reference to Jon a couple lines earlier make it clear: Mel is focusing her intent on seeing “Azor Ahai reborn” in the flames, expecting to see Stannis, but is seeing Jon Snow instead. By the time she helps resurrect Jon or helps put his spirit back in his body, she’ll have figured this out I would guess, but right now it’s still confusing her. Now if Jon does at some point become powered by R’hllor, like Beric, then he should be able to light his own sword on fire with his own blood, just like Beric does. I love pointing that out – you don’t actually need to kill anyone to make a flaming sword, you just need to be powered by R’hllor.
An Azor Ahai with the name Snow kind of hints at the the Azor Ahai Night’s King thing too, doesn’t it? He’s like a snowy, cold version of Azor Ahai or something. I’ll also point out that the name “Jon Snow” roughly translates to “Jack Frost,” since Jack is a nickname for John and frost and snow are very similar. Just to jog your memory, wikipedia describes the figure of Jack Frost as “a personification of frost, ice, snow, sleet, winter, and freezing cold. He is a variant of Old Man Winter who is held responsible for frosty weather, nipping the fingers and toes in such weather.” So Jon is somehow.. that guy… but also Azor Ahai? You see what I mean about Jon having a similar “frozen Azor Ahai” symbolism to Stannis.
Think also of Bran’s coma dream from AGOT, where he sees “his bastard brother Jon, sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him.” True, life at the Wall is cold, but might not this line be foreshadowing even more cold transformation for Jon? It’s definitely foreshadowing for his becoming a cold corpse, and remember when he died, “he never felt the fourth knife, only the cold.” But I’ve also suggested many times that Jon could be temporarily resurrected by the ice magic of the Others before Melisandre gets involved – that’s the “Jon becomes a leader of the others for a time” scenario, basically – so it’s possible Jon’s body will literally be covered in ice and frost.
Then there is the fact that the other big clue about Jon being Azor Ahai reborn – his dream of defending the Wall with a burning red sword – dresses him up in ice armor, like an Other! It’s a pretty good match to that vision of Stannis as a blue-eyed king with a red sword that glows like sunset, in that it’s implying an Otherized, frozen Azor Ahai:
Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared.
The world dissolved into a red mist. Jon stabbed and slashed and cut. He hacked down Donal Noye and gutted Deaf Dick Follard. Qhorin Halfhand stumbled to his knees, trying in vain to staunch the flow of blood from his neck. “I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed. It was Robb before him now, his hair wet with melting snow. Longclaw took his head off.
So here it is, Jon’s big “Azor Ahai reborn” dream – his sword burns red just as Lightbringer was said to burn red, so that’s hard to miss. You’ll notice that Jon’s internalized guilt for Ygritte’s death manifests itself here in Jon’s nightmare as him killing her with his flaming red sword, which… is a clear echo of Azor Ahai killing Nissa Nissa with Lightbringer. As I’ve pointed out, the fact that Azor Ahai murders his wife is a big clue that he isn’t a hero, even before he turned into Night’s King if that’s what he did, so check out “Azor Ahai” The Bad Guy” for more on that, but the point here is that Jon dreaming of killing Ygritte, his true love, with his burning red sword, simply nails down this sequence as a depiction of the famous deeds of Azor Ahai. Jon doesn’t kill Ygritte in real life – he’d never kill his girlfriend in real life, that’s just ridiculous, I mean – but he does feel responsible, and he does find her as she lies dying with a Night’s Watch arrow through her chest in yet another echo of Nissa Nissa’s death.
Notably, Lightbringer-wielding Jon is defending the Wall against the forces of the Others: living dead men who need to “die again” and foes who “scuttle up the ice like spiders,” a line clearly meant to evoke the idea of ice spiders scuttling up the Wall. Which, by the way, yikes. Can you even imagine? Anyway, defending the Wall against the forces of the Others is what Jon thinks Azor Ahai reborn is supposed to do, and even with my heretical idea that Azor Ahai became Night’s King, leader of the Others, I’m suggesting that his brother, son, or perhaps nephew became the last hero who lead the Watch against the Others with his own magic sword of “dragonsteel,” so it’s very much a cyclical, family affair with magic swords to go around. I’ve even referred to the Azor Ahai archetype as being split in two – the Night’s King version is villainous (think Euron), and last hero version is the heroic form of Azor Ahai.
Point being, the part of Jon’s dream that has him defending the Wall with a burning red sword, later named in the dream as the Valyrian steel sword Longclaw, correlates to the last hero version of the flaming sword hero. Another specific last hero correlation for Jon can be found in the fact that Jon starts off the dream by realizing that he’s all alone against the Others, just as the last hero’s companions all died and he was left fleeing the Others on his own. Jon’s not totally alone though, as the scarecrow knights the Watch made in the fight against the Mance Raydar make an appearance in Jon’s dream, but those scarecrow knights ended up being named after the black brothers who died in the fight, so this is just another way of implying Jon as the last hero who companions have died.
All in all, Jon is hitting both Azor Ahai and last hero beats in this dream, but he’s very conspicuously sporting that ice armor as his blade burns red, and of course ice armor is one of the defining characteristics of the Others. Talk about his body growing cold and hard. You’ll also notice that Jon kills his brother Robb with his red sword… and Night’s King was said to have been cast down, in part, by Brandon the Breaker Stark, who was Night’s King’s brother, according to some versions of the story. Think about it – Night’s King was supposedly Lord Commander of the Watch while his brother was the King of Winter / King in the North, just as Robb was King in the North right before Jon became Lord Commander, so Jon fighting Robb in this dream is a good parallel.
Getting back to Jon’s ice armor, you will notice that it is specifically black ice armor, as opposed to the white and pale look of the Others and their ice. That could be a reference to Night’s King as a black brother of the Watch who became “armored in ice,” but there’s another possibility that’s interesting too. The Stark ancestral Valyrian steel sword is called Ice, and it’s so dark grey as to look black; Ned’s ancestor Barth Blacksword got his nickname because he carried Ice, for example. Thus Ned’s sword can be thought of as black ice, and by extension, Jon’s black ice armor might represent Valyrian steel armor, which would be a good thing to have while fighting the Others with a flaming sword. Euron has a suit; maybe Jon can kill him and take it or something.
So just like Stannis is a blue eyed, shadow making king with a burning red sword, Jon Snow is combining obvious symbols of the Others and Night’s King with symbols of Azor Ahai in this dream / nightmare. He’s doing it at the Wall too, which is where Azor Ahai would have found Night’s Queen, made the Others, and declared himself Night’s King.
And I can’t help but notice… Jon is kind of a rebel Lord Commander who has broken almost all of the Night’s Watch oaths to some extent. According to wildling custom, he married Ygritte by “stealing her” and sleeping with her, which is both a sorta kinda breaking of his vows and an echo of Night’s King finding a wife beyond the Wall. Jon is named a rebel to the throne by Cersei as well, and when he decides to lead a wildling army against Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell, he becomes an actual rebel Lord Commander, clearly breaking his vow not to meddle in the affairs of the realm. Then we have this passage that comes in ASOS when he’s sent to try to kill Mance Raydar, King beyond the Wall, against his will. He’s in the iron cage that goes up and down the Wall at castle Black here:
A grim day. Jon Snow wrapped gloved hands around the bars and held tight as the wind hammered at the cage once more. When he looked straight down past his feet, the ground was lost in shadow, as if he were being lowered into some bottomless pit. Well, death is a bottomless pit of sorts, he reflected, and when this day’s work is done my name will be shadowed forever.
Bastard children were born from lust and lies, men said; their nature was wanton and treacherous. Once Jon had meant to prove them wrong, to show his lord father that he could be as good and true a son as Robb. I made a botch of that. Robb had become a hero king; if Jon was remembered at all, it would be as a turncloak, an oathbreaker, and a murderer. He was glad that Lord Eddard was not alive to see his shame.
Turncloak, oathbreaker, murderer, wanton and treacherous, name forever shadowed: this could be the Night’s King we are talking about as Jon is lowered into the abyss. Don’t forget Night’s King’s name was supposedly erased from the record, which is why we don’t have the name “Azor Ahai” in Westeros, by the way (Homer: it’s funny because it’s true).
As for Jon’s brother Robb, he’s again suggested as a Brandon the Breaker / last hero figure, being named as a hero king and King in the North. This is in contrast to Jon, who is shamed and lowered into the abyss and all that. I’ll also point out that just as Stannis emulates Night’s King by warring against a King in the North and a King Beyond the Wall, Jon is on his way to try to kill the King Beyond the Wall while thinking of Robb, whom he kills in the dream we just read. Right before he died, Jon was about to lead a force south against a different lord of Winterfell, Ramsay Bolton, and of course Jon actually commanded the defense of the Wall against Mance’s initial attack. He’s got those parallels covered, in other words.
Since we’re talking about Night’s King and Brandon the Breaker, I’ll go ahead an address the obvious timeline heresy question that arises from my theorycrafting – namely, “if Night’s King is Azor Ahai, then how is Night’s King also the brother of the Lord of Winterfell / King in the North, Brandon the Breaker?” Well, first of all, I’m think that the last hero was Brandon the Breaker – he broke the hold of the Long Night, and named his castle “Winterfell” in memory of slaying the winter, perhaps. I suspect that Azor Ahai might have had children before he transformed into Night’s King, and he probably has brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews as well, and I think it was one of these people who became the last hero / Brandon the Breaker. It’s hard to say when the name Stark came into use, or when Winterfell was founded, but having already looked at all the Azor Ahai and Night’s King and last hero parallel figures in my older podcasts, I can tell you that the relationship between Night’s King, leader of the Others, and last hero, leader of the Watch, is always suggested as father-son, uncle-nephew, or brother-brother. If it was one of these scenarios, then House Stark is either related to Night’s King or directly descended from him, and I’ve always believed something like that had to be the case, that the Starks are actually related to both Night’s King and the Others themselves.
Getting back to Jon, well, he just needs to wander north of the Wall and give his seed and soul to a moon pale, icy woman, and his journey to the dark side will be complete.
Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.
They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.
“Have you been trying to steal my wolf?” he asked her.
But Jon’s wolf is named Ghost, so Jon is asking Val if she’s stealing his ghost! That’s next best thing to taking someone’s soul, I think. Night’s King spied his lovely Night’s Queen from atop the Wall, while Jon is standing in front of the Wall on the north side here, but he’s certainly captivated with Val’s beauty as she possess his ghost. He’ll later be accused of keeping her locked up and hidden at Castle Black, echoing Night’s King taking Night’s Queen back to the Nightfort and making her his queen. Along the same lines, when Stannis offers to make Jon Lord of Winterfell, marrying Val is part of the proposal again implying Val as Jon’s potential queen and wife. Val herself makes a great winter queen, dressed in all white with a snowbear cloak and a weirwood broach, and with her blue eyes. The scene we just quoted is Val returning from making contact with Tormund and the wildlings; and when she left on this trip two weeks earlier, the Night’s Queen symbolism is even more obvious:
When they emerged north of the Wall, through a thick door made of freshly hewn green wood, the wildling princess paused for a moment to gaze out across the snow-covered field where King Stannis had won his battle. Beyond, the haunted forest waited, dark and silent. The light of the half-moon turned Val’s honey-blond hair a pale silver and left her cheeks as white as snow. She took a deep breath. “The air tastes sweet.”
“My tongue is too numb to tell. All I can taste is cold.”
“Cold?” Val laughed lightly. “No. When it is cold it will hurt to breathe. When the Others come …”
Okay, well, blue eyes are one thing, lots of people have blue eyes, but skin as white as snow is clear Night’s Queen language. Val’s also acting as if she’s untroubled by the cold which makes Dolorous Edd so cold as to be numb, and warning about them about the Others as if she knows them. Val also has no fear of the Haunted Forest and is able to come and go as she pleases, so she really comes across as some sort of icy queen of the north in these scenes.
And she’s stealing Jon’s Ghost.
Which, by the way, is already a white shadow anyway, and this is from ADWD:
Ahead he glimpsed a pale white trunk that could only be a weirwood, crowned with a head of dark red leaves. Jon Snow reached back and pulled Longclaw from his sheath. He looked to right and left, gave Satin and Horse a nod, watched them pass it on to the men beyond. They rushed the grove together, kicking through drifts of old snow with no sound but their breathing. Ghost ran with them, a white shadow at Jon’s side.
Another less dramatic scene in ADWD also describes Ghost as “a white shadow at his side,” and a scene in ACOK describes him as “a pale shadow moving through the night.” Although Ghost has burning red eyes like two red suns and not blue star eyes, this is nevertheless disturbing. I’ve always wondered about what this means, to be honest, why George would describe Ghost with the white shadow and pale shadow language of the Others. Now it makes sense though, and I actually just put together writing this script – Jon is playing the role of Azor Ahai turned Night’s King, and he’s giving his Ghost to a Night’s Queen to make white shadows. His ghost is a white shadow! This is an absolutely fabulous confirmation of our theorizing… both of the idea that Night’s King made white shadows with Night’s Queen, and that Night’s King was Azor Ahai and a dragon person.
Indeed, Ghost’s eyes, which “shone like two red suns” in ACOK, reflect the fiery nature of Azor Ahai’s seed and soul, which was then given to Night’s Queen and used to create the Others… and in a future video, we’ll dive into how that all that temperature conversion works and what if means that the Others were potentially fathered by a dragon.
I’m almost skipping over the obvious things here – naming Ghost a white shadow at Jon’s side basically implies Jon as both a dragon king and a Night’s King, even before Val enters into it, because the white shadow term has been applied the most to the Kingsguard and the Others, by far. The kings of Westeros are well known for having white shadows at their side, and Jon is a potential candidate for King of Westeros via his Targaryen blood. If we see a white shadow at Jon’s side and think “the Others,” then Jon looks a Night’s Watch commander with an Other following him around, which can really only be an image of Night’s King.
And that, dear friends brings us full circle: Jon, like Stannis, is playing the combined role of Azor Ahai person and Night’s King person. Like Stannis, he’s implied both a dragon king and a symbolic father of the Others. At the risk of stating the obvious, I believe George did this is because someone thought of as “Azor Ahai” did in fact become the “Night’s King” of Westerosi legend.
From a thematic perspective, I don’t think it should be too hard to accept that the “hero” who slew his wife to work blood magic and broke the moon in doing so turned into the villain who created the Others. As most of you know, I have always thought that it was the moon breaking in the Azor Ahai myth which led to the Long Night, by virtue of the cracking moon shedding moon meteors that impacted on the Planetos. Thus, the man who caused the Long Night, Azor Ahai, would have become the King of the Long Night, which makes perfect sense to me. If you want the story about how Azor Ahai, who is from Asshai, came to Westeros and eventually north to the Wall, I’ll refer you to my Great Empire of the Dawn videos titled “Dragonlords of Ancient Asshai” and “Westeros,” but suffice to say there is abundant evidence that Azor Ahai did just that, and that his story does end in the north, in the frozen lands. What I am suggesting is that at some point, he became the figure known as Night’s King, the original father of the Others.
Only to have his stupid son or nephew or whatever come and spoil things, the brat. The brat hero, that’s what he should be called.
The primary job of the first scene in any book is to hook the reader into the action, and the A Game of Thrones prologue certainly does the trick, dropping us right into the middle of the haunted forest only moments before three rangers of the Night’s Watch encounter the Others. It’s also well known that skilled authors usually try to use the first scene of a book to foreshadow as much as they can about the major themes and arcs of their story, and once again the AGOT prologue comes through with flying colors. Many folks have done fine analysis on this all-important chapter, and you can find a 3 hour deep-dive on the mythical symbolism therein on my channel here in the video “We Should Start Back.” But I’m here today to show you how Ser Waymar Royce’s confrontation with the Others actually spells out the beginning of the white walker endgame and sheds light on their mysterious motives.
Hey there friends and fellow myth heads, it’s LmL. I have to apologize to you all, for it seems that following the path of symbol and archetype has led us to pile heresy on top of heresy of late. That’s right, all we did was innocently follow the rabbit trail of the Kingsguard symbolizing the Others and pretty soon we are reordering the events of the Long Night and claiming to have discovered the very origins of the Others. Well, let the haters hate, because we’ve only begun exploring the ramifications of Azor Ahai the dragonlord having become Night’s King and, along with Night’s Queen, the creator of the Others, and there’s lots more to discover. If you like these videos and you want to keep the heresy rolling, please make sure you have clicked on that red subscribe button below, and I know this is asking a lot but please also click the like button, and maybe leave a comment if you’re really feeling it. You can support the program through a monthly Patreon pleadge or through a one-time donation at paypal.me/mythicalastronomy, and thanks to everyone who has already done so, you’re the reason I can make these videos.
Alright, let’s rip into the exciting notion of a new Night’s King arising to lead the Others!
Our first clue that the White Walkers are at the very least “looking for someone special” comes in the AGOT prologue, where we see six white walkers murder brave Ser Waymar Royce in cold butchery after he loses the duel to the first one. That’s actually the first part of the clue, right there, the sequence of the entire exchange. The Others almost certainly could have murdered Waymar and his company at any time, as they did the wildling party Waymar, Gared, and Will were tracking, but instead they exhibited intentional strategy and timing by killing the wildlings and then removing the bodies, luring the rangers further along to specific place where they chose to emerge and confront.
Then, one Other only stepped forward to challenge Waymar, while the other five remained standing back:
Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. Yet they made no move to interfere.
Again we see the Others refusing to simply kill Waymar as quickly as they can, so they must have some other objective, pun intended. If their goal isn’t to simply kill the Night’s Watch, what is it? Are they testing Ser Waymar and thereby the Watch for skill, just to assess their foe? Or are they perhaps testing him to see if he’s some sort of prophesied figure – someone like the dreaded Azor Ahai reborn, nemesis of the Others? Or might they, as the title of this video suggests, be looking for someone to make into a Night’s King, a new leader of the Others? After all, if the greenseers and Targaryens have prophesies about Azor Ahai and the Prince That Was Promised emerging to fight the Others, it stands to reason that the Others may be on the lookout for him too. They can certainly see that bloody red comet, you know? And if the Others are looking for a new Night’s King, that also be a matter of prophesy or of qualifications.
Whatever the case, what can observe is that the other Others continue to watch, motionless, until…
Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.
The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.
Ser Waymar Royce found his fury. “For Robert!” he shouted, and he came up snarling, lifting the frost-covered longsword with both hands and swinging it around in a flat sidearm slash with all his weight behind it. The Other’s parry was almost lazy.
When the blades touched, the steel shattered.
A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.
The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk. Will closed his eyes. Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles.
Alright, so the five Others in the woods moved forward together, as if a signal had been given, and they did it right after the Other chose to shatter Waymar’s sword. Some have interpreted this to be about the sword – the Other did take a nice long look at Waymar’s sword right before the fight, after all, and the thinking is that when it broke, that proved it wasn’t Valyrian steel. After that, the Others no longer respected Waymar as a threat, and disposed of him with all due disrespect.
But here’s the thing – Waymar’s sword didn’t break the very first time it touched the icy Other blade, and it didn’t break at some random point in the sword-fight, and it certainly didn’t break from the vicious force of the “almost lazy” parry of the Other. Rather, it seems to me that the Other chose to break his sword because he had already dismissed Waymar as a threat. If we look closely, we can see that the real change in behavior came when Waymar took the first wound from the Other’s sword and bled on to the snow with blood droplets that “seemed red as fire.” It is at this point that the Other first speaks in his mocking tone, which implies dismissal, and then the next move is the lazy parry which breaks the sword – in other words, Waymar is being dismissed by the sword break, not after the sword break.
What’s so important about Waymar bleeding? Do the Others simply play by one-hit-kill rules? Was they icy laughter basically Otherish for “you lose” or “game over?” or perhaps… perhaps they were looking for someone who doesn’t bleed. Someone who’s undead, perhaps, like Jon Snow will be by the time he ever confronts his first Other.
Here’s the thing: I don’t hate the idea that the sword breaking was a key sign to the Others that Waymar could be easily dismissed, and actually the the sword idea might well compliment the idea that his bleeding was a key sign. After all, by the time Jon meets the Others, it will be both as an undead person and with Valyrian steel in his hand. The Others may well be lookout for an undead person with a Valyrian steel sword, in other words, because that’s who’s ultimately going to face them.
Whatever it was about Ser Waymar that caused him to fail his test with the Others, fail he did, and it’s clear that the Others rapidly shifted from giving Waymar the respect of a ritual-like, one-on-one sword duel to dispatching him with “cold butchery” and “mocking” laughter.
So here’s the question: what were they planning on doing if Waymar had measured up, or if he had been some sort of prophesied figure whom the Others were watching for? Something other than kill him, obviously, since that’s what they did when he failed. What was it? We have two choices, essentially. If the Others are looking out for a threat, then it’s possible that all the other Others would have attacked if, say, Waymar’s sword had caught fire or if he had killed the first Other, or perhaps they would call in the reinforcements of ice spiders and wights to deal with this more serious foe.
The other possibility is that the Others, as I suggest in the title of the video, are looking for someone whom they can make into a new Night’s King, a new leader of the Others. Not only does this make sense for all narrative reasons and symbolic reasons that we’ve covered in the last few videos that suggest the Others should have a king, and that that person should be some sort of frozen Azor Ahai figure… I believe George is feeding us a very nice symbolic clue about the Others wanting to make a new Night’s King in the fate of Ser Waymar, because George basically turns him into a frozen Azor Ahai Night’s King person at the end of the chapter.
To whit: let’s have a look at the horror that George has fashioned at the conclusion of the first chapter of ASOIAF:
Royce’s body lay facedown in the snow, one arm out-flung. The thick sable cloak had been slashed in a dozen places. Lying dead like that, you saw how young he was. A boy.
He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof. Gared would know what to make of it, and if not him, then surely that old bear Mormont or Maester Aemon. Would Gared still be waiting with the horses? He had to hurry.
Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.
His fine clothes were a tatter, his face a ruin. A shard from his sword transfixed the blind white pupil of his left eye.
The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.
The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray. Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.
Alright, so I know that Waymar is in actuality just a common ice wight here, but what I want to talk about is the symbolism. Waymar is implied both specifically as a Night’s King figure and more generally as some kind of ice wizard who has transcended death and obtaining new icy magical powers… which is how we should think of someone who “becomes” a Night’s King, whether that’s the original Azor Ahai or Jon Snow or Euron or anyone else.
There are two ways in which Royce is implied as having obtained an icy version of the fire of the gods: the one-eye symbolism and the “broken tree struck by lightning symbolism.” The one-eyed symbol is easy to recognize as a call-out to the Norse god of shamanic magic, Odin, as George Martin made liberal use of Odin mythology and the related mythology of Yggdrasil, Odin’s magical tree, when he fashioned his own weirwood trees and greenseer wizards. I’ve explored this at length in the Weirwood Compendium, but the main thing to know here is having one-eye is Odin’s chief calling card; he appears in countless forms, even those of animals, but always with one eye. He lost that eye in exchange for “opening his third eye,” so to speak – he traded it for a drink from the well of Mimir, which (speaking in general terms) gave Odin increased magical knowledge and power.
Therefore, the one-eye symbol is not only Odin’s calling card, but specifically represents the concept of sacrificing your physical body or life to gain magic power. Along the same lines, the other very famous way that Odin gained magical power was by being hanged from the ash tree Yggdasil for nine days, after which he was able to transcend death and “see the runes.” Enter Bloodraven, the living tree statue, who has both symbols: he’s lost one physical eye but has pried open his third eye all the way to gain magical sight, like Odin. Bloodraven is also is “hung on the tree,” only in the root zone, quite literally tied to the weirwood by its roots and even pierced by them, just as Odin was tied to Yggdrasil and pierced to the tree with his spear. On a thematic level, Bloodraven has certainly sacrificed much to gain the power of greenseer magic, and if you think about it, the same is true of Bran and Daenerys and the Undying of Qarth and everyone else who seeks magical power in this story.
So, getting back to Waymar, we see that one of the shards of broken sword has blinded his left eye, and that his right eye now burns blue. This blue is of course literally burning with magical fire, the same magical fire that animates his resurrected body, so Waymar has kind of done the Odin trick here – he’s become one-eyed, but gained magical power, and he did this while defeating death, just as Odin is thought to have died and then transcended death when he hung from Yggdrasil. That’s why I say that Martin is implying Waymar as possessing an icy version of the fire of the gods – he’s become an Odin figure, but unlike Bloodraven, he’s coded in the language of ice.
This is confirmed by the broken sword symbol; the end of which is “splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning.” Lightning is a classic symbol of the fire and power of the gods throughout mythology, and George has specifically made use of this idea in his Grey King mythology. Check this out:
It was the Grey King who brought fire to the earth by taunting the Storm God until he lashed down with a thunderbolt, setting a tree ablaze.
This isn’t to say the Grey King has anything to do with this specifically, rather, I am showing you that Martin has used the symbol of a tree struck by lighting to embody the Promethean concept of bringing the fire of the gods from the heavens to the earth. The Others are also described as moving and striking like lightning, so this broken sword twisted like a lightning-blasted tree is specifically a symbol of the icy fire of the gods which animates the Others. Thus, we see two symbols of obtaining the fire or power of the gods appear with Waymar’s death and resurrection: Waymar is given the icy blue version of the one-eye Odin symbolism at the same time that his sword is transformed into the tree-struck-by-lightning symbol.
That’s why I say that when undead Waymar rises from the snow to kill his fellow Night’s Watch brother, Will, he’s showing us more than our first ice wight. Unpacking this symbolism allows us to see that resurrected Waymar is being presented as an ice-Odin figure, as some sort of powerful ice magic wizard. Who could this be guys, what do you think? Who is it that goes through some sort of death transformation, bleeding out in drops “red as fire” only to gain the power of icy white walker magic? This can only be our Night’s King Azor Ahai figure, right? Waymar is manifesting this archetype right after the Others gave him that test, and as I alluded to a minute ago, I think that’s a clue about who they are really seeking here: someone who can become a new Night’s King, a new ice magic wizard who has defeated death.
I’ll put it like this: in terms of the surface level plot, Waymar fails and is killed; but in terms of symbolism, the Others have transformed him into a white walker king.
As it happens, Waymar has plenty of Night’s King symbolism about him, beginning with him killing his brother Will as soon as he is resurrected. Night’s King broke his vows and turned against the realms of men, according to legend, and transformed Waymar now seems to have adopted the Others policy of snuffing out all warm-blooded life. Night’s King was also thought to bind his brothers to his will with strange sorceries, and here in this scene Waymar is binding his brother Will to him with sorcery in the sense that Waymar is making Will into a magical ice wight who now takes orders from the Others.
The entire first half of the prologue is dedicated to portraying Waymar as reckless, bold, heedless, and foolish as he insists on pressing on deeper into the haunted forest against the advice of his two seasoned ranger companions and the very woods themselves, which are written as actively hostile to Waymar. You could say Waymar is.. a man who knew no fear, and in truth we can actually say that that is Waymar’s defining characteristic, right up to his having the courage to stand and face the Other boldly before he died. If we look at this chapter in totality, we can see that it was Waymar’s fearless incursion into the woods which brought the Others down upon them, which is an echo of Night’s King quest for magical power having ended in the creation of the Others.
One thing that all Night King figures due is blot out the stars in various symbolic ways, and Waymar does this in grand style:
“Gods!” he heard behind him. A sword slashed at a branch as Ser Waymar Royce gained the ridge. He stood there beside the sentinel, longsword in hand, his cloak billowing behind him as the wind came up, outlined nobly against the stars for all to see.
Outlined against the stars means that his silhouette is blotting out the stars behind him, and specifically it’s his black cloak that is doing so:
His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin.
A thick, sinful black cloak which “billows” out and blots out the stars: this is a little bit mythical astronomy here, because (according to my grand theory) it was the clouds of smoke, ash and debris billowing out from the meteor impacts which blotted out the sun and stars. Thus Night King figures tend to have these black cloaks or some other equivalent symbol – Euron has an identical black sable cloak to Waymar’s and a ship with black sails; Stannis sets fire to King’s Landing and fills the sky with smoke that blots out the stars; Darkstar… is called Darkstar, and in one scene he stands outlined against a dying sun in a similarly grandiose fashion as Ser Waymar on the ridge here; Jon Snow of course wears a black cloak of the Night’s Watch and wears black ice armor in his dream, and we see “night black” armor on Jon’s daddy Rhaegar as well as Aemond One Eye Targaryen.
Waymar’s star-blotting sable cloak, all important symbol of the darkness of the Long Night, is named as his crowning glory here. This is simply a way of telling us that he’s a night king figure; sinful darkness is his crown. That’s not too hard to understand as far as symbolism goes, right? The golden crown kings have worn all throughout history symbolize the sun’s rays and the divine favor of the sun god thought to be conferred on the king. Inverting that golden crown symbol into a black crown is therefore a perfect symbol for someone who is king of the Long Night, a time when the sun’s face was darkened. Stannis was described as looking like he wore a shadow crown in the first scene we saw him as covered last video; Euron wears a black iron crown, and Aemond One Eye wore the black crown of Aegon the Conqueror, who is himself another Night’s King Azor Ahai figure. Even the Stark Kings of Winter have a black crown – which makes sense because the Starks seem to have a connection to both Night’s King and the Others, and because the title “King of Winter” is similar to the idea of a “King of Night.” The Long Night was also a Long Winter, and either way we’re talking about the idea of someone who is king when the sun is weakened or gone – hence the black crown symbol. Regarding Waymar, his version of the black crown symbol is specifically a sinful cloak of billowing darkness, which seems easy to interpret as a symbol of the Long Night.
So as you can see, I’m not haphazardly slapping the Night’s King label on Waymar just because he looks like undead ice Odin. He fits very well, and he has the same symbolism as other Night’s King figures. So why does George Martin have Waymar manifest this Night’s King ice wizard archetype here at the end of this chapter? I think the answer is that he’s trying to foreshadow where the story arc of the Others is going by showing us that the Others are waiting for someone special, someone who can pass their test and not get laughed out of the room, so to speak. Someone who fits this one-eyed ice wizard, king of night archetype.
And there’s really only two choices: Euron or Jon Snow. Euron already has the blue one eye symbolism: he famously has one “blood eye” which he keeps hidden under an eye patch and one blue “smiling eye.” Euron is actively seeking magic of all kinds and talks openly of becoming a god and bringing on the apocalypse, so this really isn’t some sort of wild counter-intuitive notion here. It’s backed up by specific Night’s King symbolism though too, and we will do a dedicated Night’s King Euron symbolism video very soon, perhaps next in this series. Euron is currently a long way from the north, but I think he’s going to be around for awhile, and he’s very intent on riding a dragon, so I think the idea of Euron’s story tying him in to the final events in the north makes a lot of sense. He’s certainly shaping up to be the final villain in a narrative sense, and it would be hard for him to do that if he has nothing to do with the Others.
As for Jon, well. He too is going to get his own video in this series solely dedicated to showing the foreshadowing for his becoming a new Night’s King and leader of the Others, but I can give you a brief run-down of what it involves before we call it a wrap here.
First, Jon compares well to Waymar, physically – from an ancient First Man house, dark hair, long face, grey eyes, and moleskin gloves (Jon and Waymar are the only two people to ever wear those in the series). This is actually important because it could explain why the Others might have thought Waymar was Jon – because of the Moleskin glove prophecy— no I’m kidding, it’s because Waymar literally looked like Jon and was about the same age. There have even been several somewhat recent Stark – Royce intermarriages, so Jon and Waymar are actually very distant relatives.
The second thing foreshadowing Night’s King Jon is that the Starks may be related Night’s King, according to Old Nan, so it may be that the Others need a Stark for their king in the way that Azor Ahai reborn should be a dragonrider and a Targaryen. The first Stark kings were called Kings of Winter as we just mentioned, and those kings bore nicknames like “ice eyes” and “snowbeard” in addition to the black iron crown of swords.
Then there is the possibility that the Others may be owed a Stark baby by some ancient, unholy pact – this is “Prince That Was promised to the Others” theory, which is the idea that a child of Night’s King and Queen was somehow not turned into an Other but was stolen and raised as a Stark, just as Gilly and Sam stole baby Monster from Craster before he could give him to the Others and brought him south of the Wall. If the Starks do descend from such a child, then it’s possible Jon must be “given” back to the Others as part of pacifying their ancient enmity for mankind.
And then there is the symbolic foreshadowing, like Jon’s ice armor, Bran seeing him growing hard and cold at the Wall, and the implied presence of the Others at the Tower of Joy scene. This is all topped off by the absolute avalanche of symbolism tying Jon to the fall of the Wall, which figures to be a key element of the fall of the new Long Night and the invasion of the Others.
As for that one-eye Odin symbolism, Jon has it too, in sneaky fashion. It comes in ACOK when Orell’s eagle attacks Jon, clawing his face around one of his eyes:
Half his world was black. “My eye,” he said in sudden panic, raising a hand to his face.
Jon ultimately ends up with a scar running across his eye, but as you can see he is initially blinded by the wound. The lines are also written to match the eye-wounding scene at the end of the Waymar prologue, tying Jon to these ideas about defeating death and obtaining the frozen fire of the gods. Jon’s chapter says this:
The blood kept running down into his right eye, and his cheek was a blaze of pain. When he touched it his black gloves came away stained with red.
Those are Jon’s black moleskin gloves stained with red blood, to be exact, so now check out Waymar checking out his first wound against the Other:
Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.
It’s almost the same line: “his black gloves came away stained with red” vs. “His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.” And then here’s the end of Waymar’s chapter as he strangles Will:
Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.
Jon touches his own cheek, staining his gloves red, and here Waymar’s bloody gloves touches Will’s cheek. I hope the reason why Martin would create parallels between these two eye-wounding scenes is obvious by now: it implies that Jon should be in the Waymar role, that he is destined to acquire the icy fire of the Others as Waymar and Night’s King did.
There are several ways that could manifest in the story though, and we’ll cover all that in the Night’s King Jon video, so start getting pumped for that. The same goes for Night’s King Euron – there are a couple of different ways it could play out, I’ll make a video about that, and you should be getting pumped like Arnold for that too. You can also get a head start by diving into the podcast playlists titled Moons of Ice and Fire and Blood of the Other which you can find under the playlist tab on this YT channel, as I’ve talked about some of this there.
Hey there friends! It’s LmL, and it’s time for the good stuff. That’s right, it’s a special occasion and we’re breaking out the rare vintage! We left off last time talking about the the idea of the Others looking for a new Night’s King, and today we are going to talk about that person being Euron Greyjoy, “the Crowseye.” Sounds straightforward, right? Well it’s not! Euron’s face is full of esoteric symbolism, and when you clicked this video, the needed dose of shade of the evening for you to understand all this sh*t was secreted from your mouse or trackpad or phone case and onto your hands, and now it’s about to get real weird. If you haven’t read the Winds of Winter early release chapter “The Forsaken,” then heads up, because we are going to discuss it in depth here, as it’s key to understanding Euron’s coming role as “King of the Apocalypse.” I’d also recommend watching my last few videos to lead up to this one (I would say that, right) as they propose a series of exciting premises which build upon one another.
These exciting premises are based on a combination of symbolic / archetypal analysis and good old fashioned logic, and they include such heresies as: I think Night’s King and Queen lived at the beginning of the Long Night and created the first Others. I think Azor Azor Ahai became the Night’s King, and that it was his seed and soul taken by Night’s Queen and used to make the Others. And in my last video, “A New Night’s King,” I proposed that the Others are currently looking for someone to lead them, to make into a new Night’s King. Based on the symbolism contained in the AGOT prologue and elsewhere, it seems that in archetypal terms, this person should be a one-eyed, Odin-like ice wizard who seeks to or has transcended death, who seeks to or has attained an icy version of the “fire of the gods.” Some kind of icy cross between Bloodraven and Azor Ahai, in other words – that’s the kind of person the Others seem to be looking for.
I left off suggesting that our two main candidates to become such a “A New Night’s King” figure are Euron and Jon Snow, for different reasons and with different implications. For example, if Jon plays a Night King role, it will be either because the Others have stolen and animated his corpse, likely in an attempt to use it to help them cross the Wall or something like that, or because the very end game of the story may require Jon to become Otherized as part of pacifying the Others and their ancient enmity. Night’s King Jon Snow will have to wait for his own video though, because today it’s time to talk about Night’s King Crowseye, Euron of the Graves and Charnel Pits. If Euron becomes a new Night’s King, it will be because he seriously wants to fck sht up, or because he opened one magical door too many without knowing what the f— he was doing.
Behold Aeron Damphair’s shade of the evening-induced nightmare form that Forsaken chapter:
“The bleeding star bespoke the end,” he said to Aeron. “These are the last days, when the world shall be broken and remade. A new god shall be born from the graves and charnel pits.”
Then Euron lifted a great horn to his lips and blew, and dragons and krakens and sphinxes came at his command and bowed before him. “Kneel, brother,” the Crow’s Eye commanded. “I am your king, I am your god. Worship me, and I will raise you up to be my priest.”
The basic case for Euron as a new Night’s King figure is actually pretty straightforward – he’s someone who’s quite literally thrilled about the idea of the world being destroyed, and he thinks this presents him with the opportunity to become some sort of god-on-earth. He sees himself as a god-king “born from the graves and charnel pits” after the “bleeding star” has signaled “the end” and “the last days” – or, said another way, he wants to become a god of death who rules over the new Long Night. He wants to be the Beast from Revelations, the King of the Apocalypse. Not only does this cast Euron as the third-act villain of ASOIAF, it also lines up very well with my interpretation of Azor Ahai as someone who first causes the Long Night by breaking the moon and killing Nissa Nissa in a blood magic ritual, comes to power during the Long Night, and eventually comes to Westeros and becomes Night’s King, creator and leader of the Others. Euron is actually going to show us every step of that path, all the way from Asshai to the cozy saddle of an ice dragon. We’ll start with the Azor Ahai / Asshai end of things and work our way west and north to Night’s King territory. We will however be splitting this expedition in two – what started as one Euron script got over an hour in length, so today we are actually going to talk about Euron as an evil version of Azor Ahai reborn – or even a Bloodstone Emperor reborn, perhaps – and in part two we will look at his specific Night’s King symbolism.
Let me quickly say thank you to all of you watching, liking and commenting on my videos lately, and thanks especially to everyone subscribing to the channel via the red button below. The channel is growing rapidly towards our next goal of 30,000 subs and it’s all thanks to you! Thanks to everyone who has joined our Patreon campaign which you can find out more about at Lucifermeanslightbringer.com, and thanks to everyone sending in one-time donations at Paypal.me – and don’t forget that you can ask a question with your Paypal! Alright, let’s down some shade of the evening and get to having some nightmares of the apocalypse!
As you just saw, Euron believes the red comet was the herald of his apotheosis (and thanks for that 10 dollar word, Quinn’s Ideas). Now it’s true that everyone in ASOIAF did kinda think the red comet was meant for them, but it’s also true that the prophecy of Azor Ahai’s rebirth says that he will appear when the cold darkness gathers and the bleeding star streaks through the sky. The bleeding star has come and gone, the winds of winter are getting set to blow, and… here is Euron, reaching as high and as hard as he can for any kind of fire of the gods he can put his hands on. Azor Ahai reborn is supposed to be a hero of course, and I fully expect Jon and Dany to fulfill that role, but as I’ve said many times, there’s abundant evidence that the original Azor Ahai was a villainous figure who caused the Long Night – he did murder his wife in a horrific blood magic ritual, after all, and it’s said that he cracked the moon when he did so. Cracking the moon… seems bad in general, and in particular, it’s exactly the sort of thing that could cause a Long Night event, because any sort of lunar catastrophe along these lines would result in pieces of moon raining down on ye old Planetos as “moon meteors” whose impacts might be sufficient to cause an impact winter, a cloaking of the skies with dust, ash, and debris that can last several years.
Indeed, that is of course exactly what I think happened – I believe the moon cracking recorded in both the Azor Ahai myth and the Qarthine “origin of dragons” myth refers to a celestial catastrophe involving moon meteors which created a magical version of an impact winter. Thus, the Azor Ahai myth begins to read more like the tale of man who committed blood sacrifice to gain magical power, but caused great damage to the world when he did so… and that sounds a damn like like Euron’s future, doesn’t it?
In other words, the idea that one manifestation of Azor Ahai reborn might actually be a heinous villain who seeks to gain power through the death and chaos of a new Long Night – or even seeks to bring about that new Long Night – isn’t so strange. In fact, I think Euron will ultimately prove to be the “third head of the dragon,” though obviously he’ll be an evil dragon head and will likely end up opposing Dany and Jon in some sort of epic dragon battle. In fact when we look at the TV show events, where the Night King stole Viserion and fought Dany and Jon on dragonback, it’s pretty easy to see that we need something similar to happen in the book so we can have a good old fashioned dragon fight – one of the dragons must get turned against team Dany somehow. I think it’s similarly easy to see that that “steal Viserion and oppose Jon and Dany” role played by the TV show Night King will be almost certainly played by Euron in the books. If Euron is to both ride a dragon and become the most powerful villain of the new Long Night, then he will rightfully be seen as both an Azor Ahai person and a Night’s King person. That’s certainly how Euron sees himself, and how he wants to be seen.
Euron has of course (according to him anyway) been to both Valyria and Asshai, the two places in the world which are stated to be places where dragons come from – and the two places most strongly associated with Azor Ahai. Asshai is where the Azor Ahai myth comes from, and as you all probably know, I think the ancient Asshai texts about a pre-Valyrian dragonlord culture existing in Asshai are accurate:
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.
I think this ancient Asshai dragonlord kingdom was actually the one remembered as the Great Empire of the Dawn, and it seems that Euron very much wants to cast himself in their image – more on this in a moment. The point for now, and really the entire point of figuring out that there were ancient dragonlords in Asshai, is that Azor Ahai himself was almost certainly a dragonlord of their lineage. Thus when we think of Azor Ahai coming to Westeros from Asshai during the Long Night, we should think of a dragonlord – quite possibly an evil dragonlord. Like Euron will be.
As for Doomed Valyria, to which Euron claims to have sailed, they were of course a dragonlord empire whose magic is rooted in fire and blood. In fact, all of their magic seems taken straight from the Azor Ahai mythology- they make magic swords with blood magic and human sacrifice, they ride dragons, they use fire magic, and they possess all the weapons needed to defeat the Others, from dragonglass to Valyrian steel to dragons themselves. According to some prophecies, Azor Ahai reborn should come from the blood of Valyria by way of House Targaryen, and if Valyria does in fact descend from the ancient Asshai dragonlords of the Great Empire of the Dawn, then there may be a continuous bloodline from Azor Ahai to, say, Jon and Dany.
Euron may not have Valyrian blood, but he’s sure trying to dress up like a Valyrian! This is from the Forsaken Winds of Winter chapter:
Euron Crow’s Eye stood upon the deck of Silence, clad in a suit of black scale armor like nothing Aeron had ever seen before. Dark as smoke it was, but Euron wore it as easily as if it was the thinnest silk. The scales were edged in red gold, and gleamed and shimmered when they moved. Patterns could be seen within the metal, whorls and glyphs and arcane symbols folded into the steel.
Valyrian steel, the Damphair knew. His armor is Valyrian steel. In all the Seven Kingdoms, no man owned a suit of Valyrian steel. Such things had been known 400 years ago, in the days before the Doom, but even then, they would’ve cost a kingdom.
Euron did not lie. He has been to Valyria. No wonder he was mad.
We don’t really know for sure where Euron got that Valyrian steel suit of armor – if not from Valyria, it would have to have been some place like Qarth or Asshai – but that’s kind of beside the point in the context of interpreting Euron’s archetype. He’s presenting himself as a Valyrian warrior and sorcerer, and he’s even suggesting he can survive that which the Valyrians could not by claiming to have sailed into Doomed Valyria and back out again, something nobody else has apparently ever done.
So he’s wearing Valyrian armor, he’s claiming the comet as his herald – but Azor Ahai reborn is most famous for his flaming sword and his dragons, and Euron has neither of those things. However it’s no secret he has plans to acquire a dragon, and the magical talisman he’s going to use to do it is described in very strong Lightbringer terminology. I am of course talking about the Valyrian dragonbinder horn:
Sharp as a swordthrust, the sound of a horn split the air. Bright and baneful was its voice, a shivering hot scream that made a man’s bones seem to thrum within him. The cry lingered in the damp sea air: aaaaRREEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.
The sound of the horn is as “sharp as a swordthrust” and “splits” the air, suggesting the horn’s sound as a sword, and the phrase “shivering hot” gives the idea of it being a flaming sword, or perhaps a “sword of ice and fire,” you might say. The horn itself actually burns as it is blown, with its glyphs glowing redly at first and then finally burning and shimmering with white fire. The horn compares very well to a Valyrian steel sword physically – it’s a horn from an actual dragon, it’s black and pointy, and it’s even banded in Valyrian steel. And again, it lights up with magical fire and is described as a burning sword here, author’s words, not mine.
Now when Nissa Nissa was stabbed with Lightbringer, she famously let loose with a cry of agony and ecstasy which left a crack across the face of the moon, and that idea is clearly and deliberately evoked when dragonbinder is blown. The horn’s sound, besides being described as a sword thrust, also sounds like a person’s ultimate cry of pain and suffering; it’s described as a “scream,” a “cry,” a “shriek,” a “baneful voice,” and “a wail of pain and fury that burns the ears,” and this terrible screaming sound went “on and on and on until it filled the whole wet world.” And again, it’s not just that this sounds like the sort of scream that could crack a moon open – the thing causing this scream is described as a burning dragon sword! Heck, even the idea of the horn calling dragons alludes to the moon cracking, since Nissa Nissa’s cry summoned moon meteor dragons, so to speak.
We can also observe that according to the Valyrian glyphs etched on the bands of the horn, it seems to operate on the same magic principle that powered Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer: “blood for fire, fire for blood.” Nissa Nissa’s blood is what set Lightbringer on fire, while here it is the hornblower’s life that is demanded in payment fo the horn’s use – he bled as he blew the horn, and his lungs were found to have been burnt black after he died, which he did shortly after tooting on the hellhorn.
So in summation, the Valyrian dragon horn is described like a flaming sword, sounds like Nissa Nissa’s cry that broke the moon, uses the same magical mechanics as Lightbringer, and is supposed to bind to Euron’s will the dragons that will certify him as Azor Ahai reborn. For now, this is Euron’s Lightbringer symbol, though I wouldn’t rule out his whipping out a Valyrian steel sword at some point, especially since two of his Ironborn subjects currently posses one. House Harlaw has one called Nightfall, House Drumm has Red Rain – and oh wouldn’t you know it, those are both good Lightbringer / Long Night sword names, since it was a magical Nightfall caused by a red rain of bleeding stars which were remembered as dragons and flaming swords when they fell to earth.
Bonus round entry for Euron as a pseudo-Valyrian: he might be using glass candles already. In Qarth in ACOK, Xaro Xhoan Daxos tells Daenerys about several odd things that have started happening around Qarth lately, one of which sounds like Euron using an alias:
“It is said that the glass candles are burning in the house of Urrathon Night-Walker, that have not burned in a hundred years.”
There are some who think that Urrathon Night-Walker is just the name Euron uses when he stays in Qarth, which certainly wouldn’t be far-fetched. There’s an Ironborn king whom Euron may parallel named Urrathon Goodbrother, nicknamed “badbrother” for his evil deeds. He’s thrown down in favor of Torgon the Latecomer, who appears to be foreshadowing for the Theon the Latecomer theory which speculates on Theon being king of the Iron Islands at the end after not having been present for Euron’s kingsmoot, as Torgon was not present for Urrathon Badbrother’s. If Urrathon Night-Walker is Euron’s alias – and certainly the Night’Walker part makes a ton of sense for Euron – then Euron has been playing with glass candles. He’s been to Asshai and maybe Valyria, so again this wouldn’t be far-fetched in the slightest.
Extra bonus Euron dragonlord clue: a possible parallel to the first and last “Emperor of Valyria”:
The histories of Qohor likewise claim that a visiting dragonlord, Aurion, raised forces from the Qohorik colonists and proclaimed himself the first Emperor of Valyria. He flew away on the back of his great dragon, with thirty thousand men following behind afoot, to lay claim to what remained of Valyria and to reestablish the Freehold. But neither Emperor Aurion nor his host were ever seen again.
The name Aurion sounds like Euron, and like Aurion, Euron is attempting to lay claim to the mantle of the Doomed Valyrians. Aurion did this in the immediate aftermath of the Doom, and Euron will be doing so during a new Long Night, so they are both attempting to level up in the wake of great destruction. Finally, I think Euron’s end could parallel Aurion’s to the common memory of Westeros, only Euron would be flying north to the heart of Winter on his great dragon, only to never be seen again. We the reader will get to see his epic dragon-fight with Jon and Dany, but to the histories… Euron may end up being known as the first and last God-Emperor of Westeros who flew north on the back of his great dragon and was never seen again. It could be coincidence that some of that lines up, but there’s enough there to make worth mentioning.
Alright, so that covers Euron the pseudo-Valyrian, but like I said, he’s also been to Asshai-by-the-Shadow, home of Azor Ahai. He introduces himself at the Kingsmoot by saying that “only one has sailed to Asshai by the Shadow, and seen wonders and terrors beyond imagining,” and word about this has spread rapidly, with Robb Stark receiving this report from a fisherman who fled the Iron Isles right after Euron arrived:
“Euron. Crow’s Eye, they call him, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail. He’s been gone for years, but Lord Balon was no sooner cold than there he was, sailing into Lordsport in his Silence. Black sails and a red hull, and crewed by mutes. He’d been to Asshai and back, I heard.”
If Euron has been to Asshai – and I see no reason to doubt him, as people do sail there with regularity – then he certainly will have seen wonders and terrors beyond imagining. Actually, they’re not quite beyond our imagining, because we do have an inkling of what kind of knowledge Euron might have acquired there – he probably learned about the Great Empire of the Dawn and Azor Ahai. I used the phrase “god-on-earth” a minute ago to describe Euron’s ambitions, and that’s no accident – “The God-on-Earth” is the title of the mythical first ruler of the Great Empire of the Dawn, and it is in this most ancient sense that Euron sees himself as a “god-king.” There are several clues about this.
First of all, recall that the rulers who came after the God-on-Earth had titles based on gemstones – Opal Emperor, Amethyst Empress, etc – and when Dany sees a vision of them as ghosts in her “wake the dragon” dream, they appear with gemstones in their eyes. The line there was
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.
So now listen to Euron brag about his exploits around the world:
“As it happens I have oft sat upon the Seastone Chair of late. It raises no objections.” His smiling eye was glittering. “Who knows more of gods than I? Horse gods and fire gods, gods made of gold with gemstone eyes, gods carved of cedar wood, gods chiseled into mountains, gods of empty air . . . I know them all.”
Golden statues with gemstone eyes – sounds like he’s seen some leftover idols of the God-Emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn, either in Yi Ti or Asshai. Euron’s blue smiling eye is “glittering” in this passage, which suggests Euron’s eye as a blue gem or a blue star – thereby drawing a similarity between Euron and those gemstone-eyed “god-emperors.” Later in this quote, Euron also calls himself “the godliest man ever to raise sail,” because he makes everyone pray in fear of him. Euron is the god, in other words; he’s the godliest man in that he seeks to be a god-on-earth.
Similarly, Euron seems to be the only one besides me and my friend Durran Durrandon who sees Daenerys as the Amethyst Empress reborn:
“The last of her line. They say she is the fairest woman in the world. Her hair is silver-gold, and her eyes are amethysts . . .”
Now you don’t have to be a rocket-scientist or a greenseer wizard to predict that Euron doesn’t want to just marry Dany and feed her figs and wine – well, he might give her some “wine,” but the point is his intentions are likely to steer closer to blood magic sacrifice than wedded bliss. Dany is the strongest modern version of both the Amethyst Empress and Nissa Nissa, and they both met a similar end. Nissa Nissa was murdered by Azor Ahai to forge Lightbringer, and the original Amethyst Empress was murdered by her brother, the usurping Bloodstone Emperor. According to legend, this Bloodstone Emperor fellow murdering the Amethyst Empress was an act so heinous that it caused the Long Night and — wait. A blood magic murder that caused the Long Night? Gosh, that sounds like Azor Ahai causing the Long Night by cracking open the moon with Nissa Nissa’s murder. And indeed that’s exactly what I have proposed many times of course, that the Bloodstone Emperor was Azor Ahai, and Nissa Nissa the Amethyst Empress. That’s why Daenerys echoes both Nissa Nissa and the Amethyst Empress, for example, and it seems clear that Euron is very much a Bloodstone Emperor type of Azor Ahai figure – someone who cause the Long Night and then takes power. Indeed, I would expect that Euron’s plan for Daenerys involves using her to work dark magic, just as the Bloodstone Emperor and Azor Ahai both did with their female counterparts. There’s hope for Daenerys though, more on this in a moment.
Other Euron – Bloodstone Emperor parallels: Euron murdered his sibling, who was the rightful monarch, and usurped their throne, just like the Bloodstone Emperor did to his sister. The Bloodstone Emperor worshiped a black stone that fell from the sky, and Euron sits the oily black stone Seastone Chair, which reads very like a Lovecraftian black meteorite itself. The Bloodstone Emperor is also potentially tied to the fused stone fortress and Oldtown, and there are clues that he launched an invasion of Westeros from there. Euron is of course about to attack Oldtown, and from there, the rest of Westeros. I even think the ancient legend of a pirate lord setting up shop on the Isle of ravens at Oldtown may be a foggy memory of the Bloodstone Emperor, who would have sailed to Westeros as a “pirate from Asshai,” so to speak. A lot of Azor Ahai people are pirates or sea captains actually – Stannis, Daemon Targaryen who ruled from Bloodstone Island in the Stepstones, Dalton Greyjoy the Red Kraken, and of course Euron.
Getting back to the idea of Euron wanting to murder Dany as his version of the Amethyst Empress and Nissa Nissa, we see that he’s already planning to do this with poor Falia Flowers, a bastard daughter of Lord Hewitt, who’s castle Euron has taken. Euron wined her and dined for hot second, but then at the end of the Forsaken chapter, we see that’s she’s been tied to the prow of the ship alongside the Damphair, with both of them seemingly intended as a blood sacrifice to power Euron’s dark magic in the coming battle with Oldtown. In that sense both Aeron Damphair and Falia Flowers are playing the Nissa Nissa role here. Here’s the first part:
This time, the mutes did not drag him below. Instead, they lashed him to the prow of the Silence, beside her figurehead, a naked maiden slim and strong with outstretched arms and windblown hair … but no mouth below her nose.
Aeron’s blood is desired by Euron for what abomination he’s going to work because Aeron is a priest, and therefore is thought to have “holy blood” – Euron says to Aeron “No, I’ll not kill you tonight. A holy man with holy blood. I may have need of that that blood … later.” Euron has also been imprisoning priests of other religions to use in this same ritual as well – three septons, a red priest, a two warlocks -so it’s clearly a big part of his plan.
As for Falia, she is placed in the Nissa Nissa role by virtue of being Euron’s wife, and it turns out… and this gets pretty dark, let me just warn you, that Falia is pregnant with Euron’s child:
He beckoned, and two of his bastard sons dragged the woman forward and bound her to the prow on the other side of the figurehead. Naked as the mouthless maiden, her smooth belly just beginning to swell with the child she was carrying, her cheeks red with tears, she did not struggle as the boys tightened her bonds. Her hair hung down in front of her face, but Aeron knew her all the same.
Falia’s tongue has actually been torn out, making her a grisly symbolic match to the mouthless maiden on Euron’s ship, for whom “The Silence” is named. That’s important because the iron maiden of the Silence is actually Euron’s primary Nissa Nissa symbol, as she essentially represents all of the sacrificed people tied to the prow of Euron’s ships. Together with the blood ship Silence which follows behind, the Iron Maiden is telling Nissa Nissa’s story, which means we’re about to dissect the lyrics to The Iron Maiden’s “Number of the Beast” — no no, I’m kidding, I’m kidding, although the Forsaken chapter does open with the line “It was always midnight in the belly of the beast,” referring to the hold of the Silence where is held captive. No, when I compare the Silence and its iron maiden to Nissa Nissa, what I mean is that we’re about to go full mythical astronomy analysis. I’ve been trying to keep the mythical astronomy stuff limited in these recent videos about the Others to sort of ease some of you new myth heads into things, but that’s all going out the window now, because Euron’s symbolism is pure Long Night moon-meteor apocalypse all the way. So buckle up and down some more Shade of the Evening, and we’ll swim in the oceans of blood and darkness inside Euron’s twisted mind.
So like I said, the women and holy men Euron murders and the iron maiden on the prow of the Silence are symbols of murdered Nissa Nissa and her celestial analog, the cracked moon, and indeed, Nissa Nissa’s tragic tale – and the moon’s tragic tale – is told through the waves of blood and night symbolism of the ship. The idea here is the one I mentioned with Red Rain and Nightfall; the Long Night darkness was caused by a shower of moon meteors, a rainfall of bleeding stars. It’s very much an “as above, so below” type of symbolism – on the ground, Nissa Nissa’s blood consecrates Lightbringer, and in the sky, the moon’s “moon blood” of bleeding stars become the flaming sword meteors which bring the fall of the Long Night.
Now look at Euron’s ship. On the front is the sacrificed maiden made of black iron, whose eyes are mother of pearl, with pearls being universally regarded as moon symbols throughout world mythology. She’s a symbol of both dead Nissa Nissa and the pieces of dead moon which became bleeding stars, in other words, and trailing behind her is a ship stained red as blood, like the fiery, blood red tail of a “bleeding star.” Euron is perceived in multiple visions as sailing on a sea of blood, or even sailing on a burning and boiling sea of blood, so you can pretty much picture Euron surfing the sky on the back of the red comet if you want – or you can say that evil Azor Ahai rides to power on the back of Nissa Nissa’s blood sacrifice when the stars bleed.
That covers the blood side of the “Red Rain and Nightfall” symbolism, and the darkness is found in the sail, which is “black as a starless sky.” That’s unmistakable “blotting out the stars” language,” and thus the Long Night sequence is complete: Euron’s ship shows us a celestial moon maiden turning into waves of bleeding stars which brought the darkness. This is Euron’s chariot, because he’s evil Azor Ahai reborn.
This waves of bleeding stars and darkness symbolism is by no means confined to the Silence; it’s actually Euron’s defining symbolism. We see it all over his physical appearance; for example, we see the darkness of the black iron maiden and the “black as a starless sky” sails also depicted by Euron’s black iron crown, symbol of the darkened sun, as well as his black sable cloak. You’ll remember from the last video that Waymar Royce’s identical black sable cloak did the “blotting out the stars” routine in the scene where he was about to become a symbolic Night King, so Euron’s cloak is one that can cover the sky. Euron stole that black sable cloak from Baelor Blacktyde, whom he killed, and the phrase “black tide” suggests an ocean of darkness – think of the cosmic ocean of the sky, but robbed of its stars, like his black sail. Euron’s black hair is an ocean of darkness too – it’s called “black as a midnight sea” in a Victarion chapter. Then we have the Valyrian steel suit of armor he wears, which is called “dark as smoke,” evoking the smoke from impacts of the meteor dragons which created the starless sky of the Long Night.
That’s a lot of darkness, and we should be sure that it is symbolically implied as flowing from the moon, because Euron’s face is compared to the moon by Aeron Damphair in the Forsaken. He recalls in one scene that “he had seen the moon floating on a black wine sea with a leering face that reminded him of Euron,” which is both terrible and fantastic. Aeron is either describing the moon’s reflection seeming to float on a black ocean or he’s simply referring to a black sky around the moon as a sea, but either way it’s the same ‘sea of darkness’ symbolism surrounding the Euron-like moon face here that we see in Euron’s “black tide” cloak, starless sky black sails, or his “black as a midnight sea” hair. Think about the mythical astronomy picture of Euron’s face here – it’s a moon face surrounded by hair, crown, armor, and cloak made of smoke and darkness, which matches Aeron’s vision of a moon face floating on a black wine sea.
A black wine sea alludes to the Shade of the Evening that Euron pours into his moon face, and indeed, all of this symbolism portrays the moon as essentially drowning in a sea of darkness. The shade of the long night came from the moon, friends, I don’t know how many ways you want the author to show us that.
Actually, George Martin did in fact come up with an even cooler way of showing us that in the Forsaken chapter: have Euron’s face explode in tentacles of inky darkness.
He saw the longships of the Ironborn adrift and burning on a boiling blood-red sea. He saw his brother on the Iron Throne again, but Euron was no longer human. He seemed more squid than man, a monster fathered by a kraken of the deep, his face a mass of writhing tentacles.
Euron’s moon face has become a mass of writhing tentacles, and of course squids shoot out jets of black ink as a defense mechanism, so it seems that the tentacles are yet another depiction of clouds of darkness emanating from the moon explosion. Alongside Euron’s squid-face, we see the burning sea of blood symbol to suggest waves of burning and bleeding stars, so once again we have the entire “Red Rain and Nightfall” moon disaster symbolism present.
Look, I know standing close to creepy Euron is uncomfortable, especially when he’s wearing the sable cloak and the eyepatch and nothing else like in that one Victarion scene where Vic tells him to jump out a window, but we actually do have to look even closer at Euron’s moon face to find the ultimate blood and night symbolism. I’m talking about Euron’s blood eye, both his actual eye and his blood eye sigil, and they’re spewing forth waves of blood and darkness too, just like his face. The eye itself is suggested as blood red by the name blood eye, and in Aeron’s shade of the evening nightmare vision of Euron talking about the bleeding star signaling the end times, it says “He showed the world his blood eye now, dark and terrible,” associating his blood eye with the apocalypse and the bleeding star. The blood eye is also implied as black though; Theon thinks of it as “black and full of malice,” and calling it a crow’s eye suggests it as black as well. Euron wears two kinds of patches over his eye – one of blood red leather, and one black, of course.
The blood eye on Euron’s sigil is blood red with a black pupil, and above it is the black crown darkened sun symbol – so again, the blood eye is suggested a symbol of the apocalypse. Indeed, the blood eye of the sigil is actually a detailed visual depiction of the Long Night disaster, and it’s one of my very favorite symbols, so check this out. The Qarthine myth seems to describe a solar eclipse alignment at the moment of the moon cracking; it says that the second moon “wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat.” The only way you can see a moon when it’s close to the sun in the sky is during a solar eclipse, when they are superimposed; so picture the black pupil of the Blood Eye sigil as the moon, and the surrounding red eye as the ring of the eclipsed sun. Seeing the sun and moon as the eyes of god is a classic mythical notion, and in the sky above Planetos, this sun-moon eclipse alignment might well have been perceived as a great eye of doom, or a one-eyed god.
To help us put all this together, Martin has given us the lake called “The Gods Eye” which has a pupil-like island in the middle of it. He then describes the lake as appearing to be on fire and shining like the sun a few times so that we know to associate it with the sun, and an island full of weirwood trees naturally correlates to the moon, because weirwood faces are associated with the moon in several key places – the weirwood face black gate which glows with milk and moonlight; the weirwood moon door int he Eyrie, and the half-weirwood doors of the House of Black and White, which have a giant moon face carved in them. Additionally, the moon has always been seen as having a face inside of it, and many people in ASOIAF, including Euron, have moon faces. Ergo, when we look at the Gods Eye and the Isle of Faces, we can see it as a reflection of the sky on the ground – it’s a moon pupil island on a lake of fire, oh yeah. The fire of the gods, of course, since the trees on the Isle of Faces literally have the eyes of the Old Gods on them.
Sorry to blast you with symbolism like that, but I did warn you. I hope you’re having a good time! Here’s the point – the sun / moon alignment in the sky is like the celestial eye of god, and the thing that kicks off the Long Night is a giant comet sword poking out and blinding that gods eye by crashing into the moon while it stands in front of the sun. Think of Waymar’s eye being stabbed by the rain of needle-like sword shards; that depicts this celestial gods eye-poking, and then right after, his other eye lights up blue to symbolize the rise of Night’s King and the Others during the Long Night. Euron’s face is the same – one eye is full of blood and darkness, and the other one is blue and shining. He shows the world his blood eye when the red comet comes and the apocalypse is at hand, because the blood eye represents the moon destruction.
Then we have Aemond One-Eye Targaryen, who like Euron is a one-eyed dragonriding Night’s King figure. One of his eyes was blinded with a knife when he claimed his dragon, but he replaced it with a blue star sapphire, so again we have an eye blinding, the acquiring of magical power, and a blue star eye opening. Then one day Aemond One Eye got on his dragon, battled with Daemon Targaryen, and had a Valyrian steel sword shoved through his blue star eye, only to have both dragons and riders plunge down into the Gods Eye lake for yet another “dragon comets pierce the Gods Eye” symbol. We’ll return to this epic aerial dragon fight soon to break it down in full, don’t you worry.
So think about the awesome symbolic synergy Martin has created with the combined one-eye symbol – when the gods eye is blinded in the sky, the wizard known as Azor Ahai / Night’s King does an Odin-like transformation, transcending death and gaining great magic. That’s pretty great stuff, and you can further exploration of all of this symbolism in my older podcasts, but what it boils down to is that Euron is a walking symbol of the Long Night moon disaster and the waves of bleeding stars and oceans of darkness which filled the sky thereafter. His ship, his face, his eyes, his hair, his cape, his armor and his dragonhorn, they all tell the story of fire, blood, and darkness emanating from this great celestial eye.
Here’s a gnarly Euron quote that shows his blood eye in action, and it’s similar to the one where his moon face turns into squid tentacles.This one from ADWD where Tyrion is asking Moqorro about what he sees in his fires:
“Have you seen these others in your fires?” he asked, warily.
“Only their shadows,” Moqorro said. “One most of all. A tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood.”
Euron’s black “blood eye” eye represents the blinding of the celestial gods eye sun/moon alignment, and those black arms are reaching out from it, just as they did from Euron’s moon face in Aeron’s vision. Once again we see the sea of blood to complete the picture, and once again we see Euron sailing on it to power like he was surfing the sky on the red comet. Feel free to draw that, anyone.
As you can see, the Red Rain and Nightfall symbolism is very consistent with Euron and the picture it paints is a dark one – it’s the Long Night moon disaster, spelled step by step. The blood magic human sacrifice, the symbols of Lightbringer’s forging, the bleeding stars and waves of darkness, and a magical wizard king of the apocalypse who seems like the darkest, twisted form of Azor Ahai imaginable.
Euron isn’t just an aspiring King of the Long Night though – he’s also specifically a Night’s King figure too. Originally I had planned to cover his Night’s King symbolism in the same episode as all this evil Azor Ahai stuff we just went over, but I think all that symbolism may have splatted a few brains out there, so we’ll go ahead and call this part 1 and wrap it here. We’ll pick up right where we left off next time, and the evidence for Euron as a leader of the Others is going to come hot and heavy. So like this video and give it a share, and make sure you’re subscribed to the channel here – a lot of you watching aren’t subscribed yet, but I have seen it in the flames that you will be very soon, so just give in to fate and go with it. Thanks for watching everyone, and thanks most of all to our patreon sponsors who fuel the fires around here…
Hey there friends, patrons, and myth heads of the land, it’s Lucifer means Lightbringer, and today is a big day. We’re going to resurrect the Weirwood Compendium, which we haven’t added to since late 2018! If you’re watching this live, I hope that you’ve ether watched the Weirwoods: Magic and Lore stream from a couple days ago or listened to the original Weirwood Compendium podcasts, as things will make a lot more sense that way.
The majority of the series so far has essentially revolved around the connection between Azor Ahai and the weirwoods. More specifically, we’ve been looking at the symbolism which seems to be showing us Azor Ahai breaking into the weirwoodnet through his magical sacrifice of Nissa Nissa, who seems to be some sort of elf woman with a magical connection to the weirwoods, probably a human – child of the forest hybrid. The implication, from the first, is that weirwood magic was involved in the cause of the Long Night – Azor Ahai was trying to harness that weirwood magic when he broke the moon, and Nissa Nissa, whose death coincides with the moon cracking, was a weirwood woman, chosen for that very reason. I’ve talked about how nicely this overlays with the Hammer of the Waters legend, one version of which has the blood sacrifice of children of the forest on the Isle of Faces as the thing that causes the Hammer of the Waters to fall – but all the evidence points to the Hammer event being a mythicized memory of a moon meteor impact, so we are left with the idea that ritual sacrifice of children of the forest called down moon meteors… somehow.
It’s a little like the underpants gnomes, who know that phase 1 is collecting underpants and that phase 3 is collecting profits, but have no idea what comes between. In our case, we know that Azor Ahai kills Nissa Nissa in an act of blood magic, and somehow, the moon gets struck with a comet, cracks off some meteors, and causes the Long Night. What we do’t understand is what killing Nissa Nissa or invading the weirwoodnet has to do with comets crashing into moons. Today, we’re going to try to shed light on that by talking about the primary function of the weirwood trees, which is astral projection – the ability of the spirit to leave the body for a period of time and then return to it.
We’ve touched on this before, but today we are going to spread our wings and fly. I mean, not literally, this isn’t some sort of hypnosis tape or something, you’re totally safe driving motor vehicles while listening. The other thing this episode will about is horses – yes, more horses! Horses were the topic of the last Weirwood Compendium episode as you may recall – we talked about all the amazing greenseer symbolism of Dany’s silver “sea-horse” which gallops around the green Dothraki Sea, the idea of ships as winged horses that ride on water, and the idea of the stars as fiery steads of the dead Dothraki warriors. The thing is, the idea of using “riding horses” as a metaphor for astral travel is really all about Odin, Yggdrasil, and Sleipnir, and in that last episode I actually went to great lengths to show all the ways Martin is using riding horses as a metaphor for greenseeing without mentioning any of that Odin stuff just so we could save that for today, and so I could show you the internal ASOIAF horse symbolism before revealing the Norse mythology origin for the basic concept. That way you had the chance to see that Martin is definitely, definitely using the silver and grey horse to talk about greenseeing and flying and weirwood stuff without even dipping your toe in Norse mythology parallels, which kind of hog the spotlight once they are introduced. That being done, we can now mount our astral projection horse and fly amongst the stars – but again, in a safe, non-Aleister Crowley kind of way.
Before we go into horses and astral travel, let’s briefly look at the first clues we got that the weirwood and greenseers were the ones to pull down the moon. It was at the Nightfort, for example, where Bran saw this:
Pale moonlight slanted down through the hole in the dome, painting the branches of the weirwood as they strained up toward the roof. It looked as if the tree was trying to catch the moon and drag it down into the well. Old gods, Bran prayed, if you hear me, don’t send a dream tonight. Or if you do, make it a good dream. The gods made no answer.
The weirwood is attacking the moon, trying to pull it for the very sky – right as Bran is praying to the Old Gods careful Bran, praying to the Old Gods is how you mess with the moon… oh. And all this at the Nightfort, home of Night’s King. Earlier in the day, the same weirwood was “reaching for the sun,” and I’ll go ahead and say that it was with bad intent. Bran is on his way to see Bloodraven here, and wouldn’t you know it, the weirwood tree at his ancestral home of Raventree Hall has up-jumped ideas about reaching into the heavens too:
Inside the castle walls, however, a bit of the forest still remained. House Blackwood kept the old gods, and worshiped as the First Men had in the days before the Andals came to Westeros. Some of the trees in their godswood were said to be as old as Raventree’s square towers, especially the heart tree, a weirwood of colossal size whose upper branches could be seen from leagues away, like bony fingers scratching at the sky.
Scratching the sky, reaching for the sun, pulling down the moon – these weirwoods really seem to think they reach all the way to the heavens, but then Yggdrasil spans all nine realms, so this makes a certain amount of sense.
Another place we saw trees attacking the moon was when Asha Greyjoy took Deepwood Motte in the Wolfswood:
Tall soldier pines and gnarled old oaks closed in around them. Deepwood was aptly named. The trees were huge and dark, somehow threatening. Their limbs wove through one another and creaked with every breath of wind, and their higher branches scratched at the face of the moon. The sooner we are shut of here, the better I will like it, Asha thought. The trees hate us all, deep in their wooden hearts.
So these aren’t weirwoods – although there are weirwoods in the Wolfswood – but they are symbolizes as weirwoods by having “wooden hearts” and by being described as sentient. They’re dark and threatening, and trying to scratch at the face of the moon, or we might say threatening to make everything dark by pulling down the moon and blotting out the sun. And those same Wolfswood trees do have it in for the sun as well, and this line is form the same chapter:
The sun was sinking behind the tall pines of the wolfswood as Asha climbed the wooden steps to the bedchamber that had once been Galbart Glover’s.
While this quote might seem innocuous on its own, I see these trees swallowing the sun and remember that they are also the same trees trying to scratch up the face of the moon. To start a Long Night, you need to swallow both the sun and moon with darkness, and of course many of you Norse mythology fans will know that it is the wolves Skol and Hati who swallow the sun and moon at the beginning of Ragnarok – and the name of this forest of hostile forest of trees swallowing the sun and trying to scratch the face of the moon is… the Wolfswood. Martin uses the same Skol and Hati ideas at the Nightfort, where Bran the wolf watched the weirwood tree reach for both sun and moon. It seems the ASOIAF version of these wolves eating the sun and moon is the weirwoods being used to cause the Long Night… again, somehow. Somehow, there’s a way to reach through the weirwoods to the stars, it seems like.
The Nightfort weirwood reaching for the moon is actually mentioned a second time in Bran’s chapter after Sam comes out of the well and tells them about Coldhands, and the quote is full of ominous foreboding about what should happen if the moon is blotted from the sky:
“The Wall. The Wall is more than just ice and stone, he said. There are spells woven into it . . . old ones, and strong. He cannot pass beyond the Wall.”
It grew very quiet in the castle kitchen then. Bran could hear the soft crackle of the flames, the wind stirring the leaves in the night, the creak of the skinny weirwood reaching for the moon. Beyond the gates the monsters live, and the giants and the ghouls, he remembered Old Nan saying, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong.
The flow of the writing here is great:
- there are spells in the Wall to stop the monsters and dead things
- look, a weirwood reaching for the moon
- we are totally safe from monsters as long as the Wall is standing
When the Wall falls and the monsters and dead things invade, that will be when the new Long Night falls – and making a Long Nights seems to involve reaching into the heavens with weirwood magic.
Last quote along these lines comes from Sam’s scene where he and Gilly are rescued by Coldhands from a pack of wights, who have backed them up against a weirwood tree like sacrificial victims. Then this happens:
He heard the dark red leaves of the weirwood rustling, whispering to one another in a tongue he did not know. The starlight itself seemed to stir, and all around them the trees groaned and creaked. Sam Tarly turned the color of curdled milk, and his eyes went wide as plates. Ravens! They were in the weirwood, hundreds of them, thousands, perched on the bone-white branches, peering between the leaves. He saw their beaks open as they screamed, saw them spread their black wings. Shrieking, flapping, they descended on the wights in angry clouds. They swarmed round Chett’s face and pecked at his blue eyes, they covered the Sisterman like flies, they plucked gobbets from inside Hake’s shattered head. There were so many that when Sam looked up, he could not see the moon.
So first the weirwoods rustle, and the starlight stirs. Then we see clouds of ravens blot out the moon – and since we know that ravens are the tools of greenseers, it seems like the trees have reached into the stars and blotted out the moon with dark clouds in this scene. The black ravens also work as meteor symbols, since the meteor symbols are always black, the ravens descend from the sky and attack in a swarm, and then blot out the sky with the spreading black wings, just like Drogon is wont to do with his black wings. Thus the greenseers are implied as calling down the swarm of black meteors, just as they are implied as attacking the moon and sun in all these other scenes – and just as the greenseers called down the Hammer of the Waters.
Recalling that the sacrifice of either humans or children of the forest was required to drop the Hammer, take note of the child sacrifice theme in both the Bran Nightfort scene, where Bran is being given to the Old Gods and Gilly babe saved from the cold gods, and the scene with Gilly and Sam rescued by Coldhands from the wights, who were coming for Gilly’s baby. In the Wayward Bride chapter where Asha sees the Wolfswood attacking the moon, Asha is the sacrifice, as she ends the chapter getting knocked out cold while backed up against a tree, just like Gilly and Sam were. The title of the chapter – Wayward Bride – seems a wordplay reference to the idea of “weirwood bride,” who is of course Nissa Nissa. Oh yes, and one other thing – the man striking her the final blow is dressed up like a tree. So yeah – weirwood trees seem to have a way to inflict harm on the moon, given the blood sacrifice of the right people.
Flying. It’s presented to us as the expected culmination of Bran’s arc – his coma dream is all about learning to fly, which is equated with harnessing his budding greenseer powers and opening his third eye. When Bran finally meets “the wizard” and asks if he is going to heal is legs so he can walk again, Bloodraven answers “no, but you will fly.” Bran won’t be able to walk and ride like a knight, but as a greenseer, he will fly through the cosmos. Bran seems to have caught a glimpse of this power during his coma dream, where he was first falling and then flying high above the earth itself, and we will take a closer look at that dream later in this episode.
Now it’s actually a misconception that greenseers can only see through the eyes of the weirwoods, as Lord Bloodraven tells us, and this is a key point:
“Nor will your sight be limited to your godswood. The singers carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use… but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves.”
What Bloodraven is talking about here is astral projection: the ability to cast your spirit out of your body and travel elsewhere. Skinchanging itself is a kind of astral travel, limited to the perceptions of the person and the animal familiar, but it seems that a greenseer can do something much more powerful, having the ability to cast his awareness across time and space, and this could certainly be thought of as flying. It does seem to be a part of what Bloodraven is talking about when he promises Bran he will fly. This is kind of an under-appreciated detail – the greenseers can actually see anything, anywhere, anytime. Not just the things that happen in front of heart trees, though those seem to be important.
As we know, Odin can do something like this by riding his gallows tree-horse known as Yggdrasil through the cosmos. The most common translation of Yggdrasil is “Odin’s horse,” because Ygg is a name for Odin and drasil means horse, and you’ll remember that the gallows tree was known as the horse of the hanged, and Odin was hanged upon Yggdrasil to gain the power of the runes, thus making it his tree and his horse. However there’s also a hint about spirit-walking in the etymology of Yggdrasil as well. Drasil, in addition to meaning “horse,” can also mean “walk” or “to pioneer.” Accordingly, Yggdrasil can also be translated as “Odinwalker,” as in spirit walking, the term often used for shamanic astral projection. The mythical world tree concept is usually seen as a kind of Jacob’s ladder – a stairway to heaven if you will, very like the fiery ladder in Qarth – and riding this tree horse gives one the run of the cosmos. Yggdrasil is like the skeleton of the universe which all nine realms of Norse cosmology connect with, so it’s essentially a vehicle which enables spirit walking, just like the weirwood trees.
But Odin has another horse, one more strictly used for astral projection, and this is where shit gets a little weird. That other horse is the eight-legged grey steed called Sleipnir, the “best of all horses,” and instead of a tree that is called a horse, Sleipnir is actually depicted as a horse, but he too is “not really a horse.” To put it simply, Sleipnir is a powerful vehicle for astral projection, and here I will quote from “Norse Mythology for Smart People,” nose-mythology.org:
The eight-legged horse as a means of transportation used by shamans in their ecstatic travels throughout the cosmos is a motif that can be found in a staggering number of indigenous traditions from all over the world. Sleipnir is “the shamanic horse par excellence,” just as Odin is the shamanic god par excellence.
Odin rides Sleipnir to move between the nine worlds of the Norse cosmos, which are loosely divided between the three levels of Yggdrasil as I mentioned, even allowing him to ride into the heavens or the pit of hell and back out again. It’s an astral-projection horse, I don’t know what else to call it. I know this sounds strange, but here’s how it makes sense. The drums used in shamanic rituals are a central tool that the shaman uses to alter his consciousness and pry open his third eye. This hypnotizing beat is likened to the thunder of horses’ hooves, and thus we get the idea of a thunderous horse which conveys the rider through time and space – the astral projection horse that is not a horse. A horse is a horse, a horse of course, unless of course, the name of that horse is the famous Mr. Sleipnir. Jokes aside, I recommend Mircea Eliade’s authoritative (though controversial) work titled “Shamanism” for further reading about this.
The eight legs of Sleipnir are thought to represent both the unusual gate of Icelandic horses (something called Flying Pace,’ which is a ‘2-beat lateral gait used for racing’) which make them looks as though they have eight legs. There’s another explanation, too, one which piques our interest. According to some (and there is dispute about this), this is a reference to the eight legs of the four pallbearers that carry a coffin, with a coffin being Odin’s true means of astral projection because he dies in order to gain magic power when he hangs on Yggdrasil. Odin is the Lord of the Gallows and the Lord of the Dead, something like Hades, so it makes sense to see the coffin as his vehicle of transformation. However, the Vikings didn’t use coffins, so this idea is highly disputed… however as I mentioned, the shamanic horse idea is very old and is spread throughout Europe, in places where coffins are used, so this could be an older association.
Whether this is what was intended by the original authors of Norse myth is almost beside the point in terms of looking for things that Martin may have drawn inspiration from; as a student of Norse myth, Martin would be familiar with the legend, and it sure seems like he is using it. The weirwoods are sacred trees which are very like coffins for greenseers and also vehicles for astral projection, so you can see how they tie in nicely to several layers of Odin horse mythology.
We are about to break down three scenes with pounding drums and weirwood symbolism that demonstrate the concept of the shamanic horse very well, but we saw one already at the Battle of the Blackwater. It’s especially tasty because it brings in the symbol of the winged sea horse. I’ll read part of it again for you:
A hundred blades dipped down into the water as the oarmaster’s drum began to boom. The sound was like the beating of a great slow heart, and the oars moved at every stroke, a hundred men pulling as one.
Wooden wings had sprouted from the Wraith and Lady Marya as well.
We mentioned this quote last time to point out the wooden sea dragons and seahorse ships sprouting wooden wings in time with the great wooden heartbeat. Seahorse ships and sea dragon ships are both well-established as weirwood symbols, and when they sprout wooden wings shortly before burning with green fire, we can sure that the subject matter is greenseeing, i.e. flying through the weirwoods. The fire of the green gods. The wooden heartbeat that makes all the oars pull as one seems a good representation of the hive mind behind the heart trees – and it comes from a great booming drum. This a representation of the wooden heartbeat of the weirwoods, which is also the hoofbeat of the shamanic horse.
That these drumbeats are also hoofbeats is spelled out by the seahorse symbolism; Pride of Driftmark and Seahorse are two of the ships in the fleet, and we know that all of Dany’s silver seahorse symbolism bounces of Velaryon symbolism. Velaryon’s ship is also painted silver, an approximate match for Sleipnir’s grey (recall Dany’s horse has both silver and grey). The wooden seahorse ships sprouting wooden wings in this scene are a direct call-out to Dany speaking to Drogo of “wooden horses with a hundred legs, that fly across the sea on wings full of wind,” so of course these boats can have have hoofbeats. The point I really want to hammer home today is that George is specifically associating all these greenseer metaphors with flying by having the ships sprout wooden wings. Winged ships, winged horses, winged wooden horses as a name for ships… it’s all talking about greenseeing as flying, and about the weirwood being a wooden vessel, horse, or ship that the greenseer uses to fly… via astral projection. With drumming at the heart of it.
One of the very best scenes where Martin lays shamanic drumming symbolism over use of the weirwood tree comes from A Theon chapter of ADWD. This happens as he wanders into the godswood at Winterfell at the hour of the wolf:
And in the heart of the wood the weirwood waited with its knowing red eyes. Theon stopped by the edge of the pool and bowed his head before its carved red face. Even here he could hear the drumming, boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM. Like distant thunder, the sound seemed to come from everywhere at once. The night was windless, the snow drifting straight down out of a cold black sky, yet the leaves of the heart tree were rustling his name. “Theon,” they seemed to whisper, “Theon.”
The old gods, he thought. They know me. They know my name.
Theon pleads with the weirwood tree, and then it says
A leaf drifted down from above, brushed his brow, and landed in the pool. It floated on the water, red, five-fingered, like a bloody hand. “… Bran,” the tree murmured.
They know. The gods know. They saw what I did. And for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran’s face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood, staring down at him with eyes red and wise and sad.
I love how George uses the bloody red hand symbolism of the weirwood leaves to point out Theon as being caught “red-handed” and guilty. It’s very funny, but more important is the apparent fact that Bran is using the weirwood to speak to Theon here. Bran is, at this very moment, mounting the astral projection horse of the weirwoods to communicate with and see Theon. We hear thunder, and it is literally the thunder of drums booming outside Winterfell, but it seems to come from everywhere at once, which sort of dislocates from physical space and makes it omnipresent. In another line from this chapter it says “the drumming seemed to be coming from the wolfswood beyond the Hunter’s Gate,” which implies the drumming as coming from the wood itself.
To put it simply, the thunderous drumming leads directly into Bran’s speaking through the rustling weirwood leaves, a major clue to associate the thunder drums with using the weirwood. There’s also a nice tie to the Grey King myth of the thunderbolt setting the tree ablaze, as basically all the elements of the myth are present: the burning tree is represented by the weirwood, there’s thunder coming from the wood and the air itself, and Bran is accessing the fire of the gods to reach Theon.
The person beating the drums and blowing horns in the woods is none other than Mors Crowfood Umber and his crew of “green boys!” Mors’s green boys are mentioned three times, just to make sure we notice, and of course green boys make us think of the children of the forest. The children play a facilitator role for the greenseer as the drummers do for a shaman entering a trance; they both do things to aid the magician’s entrance into the astral plane, be that serving up weirwood paste and strange advice or playing the drums for hours on end. Here we have green boys playing drums and blowing horns, and far away in a cave, little green ‘children’ are helping Bran use the weirwood trees to fly, so this all makes a lot of sense.
As for Mors himself, well, we have to mention him. He is introduced to us in ACOK with the Odin makeover, and more horn blowing:
The blast of horns woke him. Bran pushed himself onto his side, grateful for the reprieve. He heard horses and boisterous shouting. More guests have come, and half-drunk by the noise of them. Grasping his bars he pulled himself from the bed and over to the window seat. On their banner was a giant in shattered chains that told him that these were Umber men, down from the northlands beyond the Last River.
The next day two of them came together to audience; the Greatjon’s uncles, blustery men in the winter of their days with beards as white as the bearskin cloaks they wore. A crow had once taken Mors for dead and pecked out his eye, so he wore a chunk of dragonglass in its stead. As Old Nan told the tale, he’d grabbed the crow in his fist and bitten its head off, so they named him Crowfood.
That’s right, the man blowing horns outside Winterfell in ADWD and beating drums to make thunder seem to come from the black air of the godswood as Bran accesses the weirwoodnet is a one-eyed man associated with dragonglass and waking giants in the earth (the Umber sigil). The crows pecked out his eye, which calls out to the tale of the bad little boy who climbed to high and was struck by lightning, with the crows eating his eyes out afterward. That story is meant as a companion to Bran’s own climb and fall and essentially combines the lightning striking the tower or tree motifs with the Odin-esque idea of losing an eye to open your third eye. This gives Mors what you might call redundant layers of Odin symbolism which nicely parallels that of Bran and Bloodraven. Indeed, he’s almost like an avatar of Bloodraven with his dragonglass eye. Think about that – a dragonglass eye implies the concept of seeing through a glass candle, as a Valyrian sorcerer would, and combined with all of Mors’s greenseer symbolism, it really gives you the same “dragons and greenseeing” combination that is Bloodraven.
Think about it like this: we have interpreted people with one blue eye to be Night’s King figures: Aemond One Eye, Euron Crows Eye, and Waymar Royce. Bloodraven, meanwhile, works against the Others and has the blood of the dragon, and he has a fiery red eye. If we could describe Bloodraven’s archetype – call it the Three-Eyed Crow, I suppose – we can say that the Three Eyed Crow is aligned with the Night’s Watch and stands directly against the Night’s King and the Others. To the extent we have been speaking of a frozen half of the green see inhabited by the Others and a “hot underworld” portion of the weirwoodnet inhabited by the greenseers, the Three Eyed Crow is like the King of the living half of the weirwoodnet, as opposed to the Night’s King or Great Other figure, if such a being actually exists. Accordingly, “A Burning Brandon’s” symbolism is all fiery, as we have seen, and he’s going to be taking the place of Bloodraven. Bran means both raven and burning brand, so I’ve joked that he will be Burnraven to Bran’s Bloodraven, so that they can keep all the monogrammed bath towels the same down in the cave.
Beric is the same type of figure, combining a ton of greenseer symbolism that mirrors Bloodraven with all the Azor Ahai / resurrected by fire magic stuff. These figures always need to be either very old or resurrected, as you can see. Heck even Ghost the direwolf fits, since he’s a walking ghost with fiery eyes who looks like a weirwood… but again I think Ghost is a walking picture of what Jon will be when he comes back as the wolf-man with white hair and red eyes, fingers crossed.
These two figures – the Greenseer King and the Night’s King – are like the two opposite versions of what Azor Ahai can end up like. Some Azor Ahai figures end up a Night’s King after resurrection, and some end up like a Beric or Bloodraven or Mors. Mors may be a good hint about Jon, too, if Jon comes back to life with snow white hair as I predict. Crowfood may have a dragonglass eye, but Jon’s eyes are “a grey so dark they seemed almost black,” which matches not dragonglass, but Valyrian steel: “most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black,” as we read elsewhere. Valyrian steel is symbolically very similar to dragonglass, so perhaps this is good foreshadowing for Jon that he won’t end up as the new Night’s King. I’d like to see him with snow white hair like Mors Umber here though, or like Elric of Melnibone.
All of which is to say, Mors Crowfood of the dragonglass eye is clearly aligned with Bran and Bloodraven and our other fiery Three-Eyed Crow figures. So now you can see the whole picture – Mors, a Bloodraven / Beric type, leads green boys who symbolize children of the forest, and then are credited with waking sleepers with horns and beating the drums which aid Bran to mount his weirwood tree stallion.
A couple of last notes on the Umbers which pertain to Odin that I have to mention: this bit from ACOK where Bran is woken by a horn blast also introduces the Umbers as coming down from ‘beyond the Last River,’ a good euphemism for coming back from death. Odin is a psychopomp figure who defeats death himself. And speaking of horns, Mors Crowfood is notoriously drunk (“Mors Crowfood is a drunken brute” according to Lady Hornwood) and enters Winterfell half drunk. Odin is often depicted drinking from a horn while riding Sleipnir; he’s drinking the mead of poetry which is of course another way to gain magical knowledge.
Those “boom-DOOM” drums turn out to be a good thing to key in on if we are looking for shamanic drumming. We find them in two other places, the first of which is the Red Wedding. Yikes! That is Catelyn’s weirwood stigmata scene, where she dies and symbolically merges with and becomes the weirwood tree, acquiring bloody tears, bloody red hands, and mouth full of blood, and even a “red smile” throat cutting, mimicking both the bloody carved smile of the weirwoods and the silence of the weirwoods. The shamanic boom DOOM drums are woven all through the Red Wedding, occurring no less than four separate times. We won’t quote it all, but here’s the first occurrence:
Then the tabletop that the Smalljon had flung over Robb shifted, and her son struggled to his knees. He had an arrow in his side, a second in his leg, a third through his chest. Lord Walder raised a hand, and the music stopped, all but one drum. Catelyn heard the crash of distant battle, and closer the wild howling of a wolf. Grey Wind, she remembered too late. “Heh,” Lord Walder cackled at Robb, “the King in the North arises. Seems we killed some of your men, Your Grace. Oh, but I’ll make you an apology, that will mend them all again, heh.”
Catelyn grabbed a handful of Jinglebell Frey’s long grey hair and dragged him out of his hiding place. “Lord Walder!” she shouted. “LORD WALDER!” The drum beat slow and sonorous, doom boom doom. “Enough,” said Catelyn. “Enough, I say. You have repaid betrayal with betrayal, let it end.” When she pressed her dagger to Jinglebell’s throat, the memory of Bran’s sickroom came back to her, with the feel of steel at her own throat. The drum went boom doom boom doom boom doom.
Catleyn is the weirwood goddess figure, and her son Robb is like a dying last hero figure, sprouting quarrels like a tree sprouting limbs. The give-away line is Walder offering to apologize and mend Robb’s dead men, just as the green zombie theory calls for the last hero’s dozen dead companions to be ritually killed and resurrected. The booming drums add to that feel here – people are being sacrificed, Catleyn is becoming the weirwood tree, and the drums boom away. Bran’s near-sacrifice at the hand of the catspaw assassin is recalled, which happened while Bran was flying around in his coma dream.
Last hero Robb’s resurrection is represented by the macabre act of mounting Grey Wind’s head on Robb’s body, I would say. Dark as it is, it’s an image of the undead wolf-man, which is exactly what I think resurrected Jon will be like after his spirit hypothetically merges with that of Ghost, his wolf. The Freys, as “Lords of the Crossing,” have obvious psychopomp symbolism, and they make wolfman Robb, so there you go.
The other three occurrences of the repeated “boom doom” at the Red Wedding come interspersed with the dialogue as Cat offers to trade Aegon Jinglebell’s life for Robb’s, Walder says no, Roose kills Robb with a sword through the heart, and Cat gives Jinglebell a red smile of his own. The last one comes right as Cat gives and receives stigmata, beginning with her cutting the fool’s throat:
Blood ran hot over her fingers. His little bells were ringing, ringing, ringing, and the drum went boom doom boom.
Finally someone took the knife away from her. The tears burned like vinegar as they ran down her cheeks. Ten fierce ravens were raking her face with sharp talons and tearing off strips of flesh, leaving deep furrows that ran red with blood. She could taste it on her lips.
These are ritualistic sacrifices – Cat is becoming the weirwood goddess, getting all of her stigmata; a Stark King of Winter / last hero figure, Robb, gets a Nissa Nissa-like sword to the heart, and a fool named Aegon gets sliced across the throat like a weirwood sacrifice. The booming drums during this scene simply add to the dark blood ritual vibe, certainly, but the idea of shamanic drumming fits with the meaning of all this death symbolism, which has to do with these Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa figures entering the weirwoodnet. Robb and Aegon Jinglebell are presented as parallel figures at the beginning of the scene, with Catelyn regarding the fool’s crown Aegon Jinglebell wears as a mockery of Robb’s crown. Martin is inviting us to consider Robb’s foolishness in thinking he could cheat “The Lord of the Crossing,” i.e. the Lord of Death, and he’s giving us Robb and Aegon dying simultaneously. What’s funny is that you put Robb and Jinglebell Aegon’s names together to get “Aegon Stark,” which might end up being Jon Snow’s name by the time all is said and done. That makes sense, because Jon is the actual green zombie that we will get in the story for sure.
Although there are no horses inside the Red Wedding, George works them in via Arya’s perspective from outside the wedding:
It was only then that she heard the riders pouring out the castle gate in a river of steel and fire, the thunder of their destriers crossing the drawbridge almost lost beneath the drumming from the castles.
That’s a nice merging of the thunderous hoofbeats and the drumming, and the fact that the drumming from the castles is almost loud enough to cover up horses’ hoofbeats outside really drives home the point about how loud they were. These horses are “pouring out of the castle in a river of steel and fire,” and fiery horses make you think of the Dothraki and their beliefs that the stars above are a celestial khalasar of fiery horses, and a river of fiery horses and steel pouring out of a place where Nissa Nissa is being sacrificed makes you think of the exploding moon – the waves of night and blood which was a storm of swords and a shower of bleeding stars. Needless to say, “The Twins” is a two moons clue in my book, but we will have to do a total Frey symbolism blowout another time.
When you think about it, there are some serious Hammer of the Waters vibes going on here. Thousands of captive men are slaughtered, and Catelyn the weirwood goddess has her face carved and gets the entire stigmata. This is when the moon should be broken and the hammer dropped, and indeed we get the river of fiery horses and steel pouring out and the giant burning tents, covered in oil, to simulate the burning skin of the moon. We also see the last hero killed, but the suggestion of mending the dead men is made and Robb is symbolically resurrected as the wolf-man – and all the while, the drums boom and the horses’s hooves pound.
The last boom DOOMing comes… in Jon’s Azor Ahai dream! Yes, that’s right, and this is the opening of this ADWD Jon chapter:
That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns and the roll of drums. Boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM came the sound, a thousand hearts with a single beat. Some had spears and some had bows and some had axes. Others rode on chariots made of bones, drawn by teams of dogs as big as ponies. Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.
“Stand fast,” Jon Snow called. “Throw them back.” He stood atop the Wall, alone. “Flame,” he cried, “feed them flame,” but there was no one to pay heed.
As we know, these wildling attackers will eventually transform, in the manner of dreams, into the army of the undead and invading ice spiders, scuttling up the ice. Jon will meet them with armor made of black ice and a blade that burns red in his fist, even though he defends the lands of the living alone. This is Jon as Azor Ahai and the last hero – and amidst it all, we find the drums rolling like “a thousand hearts with a single beat.”
That may end up being a clue that this is no ordinary dream Jon is having, but either what you might call a green dream or one straight up implanted or shared with him by Bloodraven. The dream ends with a mysterious “gnarled hand” seizing Jon by the shoulder and waking him up, which many speculate is the hand of Bloodraven, since gnarled is a word often used to describe trees and roots and Bloodraven kind of makes sense as the one to be reaching Jon in this dream.
If we think about the fact that it is the Other-like wildlings playing the booming drums in this scene, it could imply that the Others can attack via the weirwoodnet, via astral travel. The HBO show already depicted Night’s King as being able to confront Bran on the astral plane, and I suspect there is some related truth in the books waiting to be discovered.
Or it may be that we are not meant to think about who is playing the drums in Jon’s dream, since the dream doesn’t actually say who is playing them, but renders them as a disembodied booming like Theon’s scene in the Winterfell godswood. In this case the message may that the last hero must be aided in his battle by the power of the weirwoods – the greenseers and children of the forest, that is. That jibes with the story of the original last hero seeking and receiving help from the children of the forest. It could be that we are supposed to see Jon as a last hero who has to journey to the astral plane to do battle against the true enemy, though I would think that would be Bran’s job. I think it is more likely that Jon will be the physical avatar of the weirwoods, while Bran is their champion on the astral plane, with Jon needing the support of Bran and the weirwoodnet to win, and possibly to be resurrected in the first place.
One of the most tightly packed examples of this line of symbolism comes to us in the form of our friend Ser Duncan the Tall, who has a certain kind of Odin symbolism. As a hedge knight, he’s someone who lives under bushes, which are like small trees, just as a greenseer lives under a tree. He also refers to the elm tree under which he makes his camp at the beginning of the tournament as his pavilion, enhancing the symbolism. At the end of the Novella, Dunk has a conversation with Maekar Targaryen under the elm tree about talking to the trees: Dunk says he asks the tree why he lived, Maekar says “what answer does your tree give you?” and then speaks the High Septon saying that no man can understand the gods, but that maybe the High Septon should try sleeping under a tree – that way he’d better understand the gods, right? This is all talking about greenseers living and dreaming under weirwood trees.
In the Sword Sword, Dunk carries a shield with “a hanged man swinging grim and gray beneath a gallows tree,” and in the Mystery Knight, Dunk enters the tourney as “The Gallows Knight.” So, he lives under a tree, and he rides the gallows tree. His horse, if you recall, is named Thunder – a thundering shamanic horse for the hanged man on the gallows tree. That’s terrific – pretty clear references to Sleipnir alongside the gallows tree. This demonstrates that George is well familiar with the idea of a the gallows tree being a thunder horse, and as we’ll see, he’s riding it for all he’s got.
Dunk eventually paints over the gallows knight sigil with a new one: a falling star and elm tree on a field of sunset, giving us a terrific portrait of the thunderbolt meteor which set fire to the tree. It’s kind of like the moment before the falling star hits the tree, and appropriately, it’s happening as the sun is about to disappear (on a field of sunset).
In the Hedge Knight, the story takes place at the Tourney of Ashford meadow, and Dunk is the ash tree in the meadow, so to speak. It starts with a dream Daeron the Drunkard Targaryen had about Dunk’s deeds at Ashford:
My dreams are not like yours, Ser Duncan. Mine are true. They frighten me. You frighten me. I dreamed of you and a dead dragon, you see. A great beast, huge, with wings so large they could cover this meadow. It had fallen on top of you, but you were alive and the dragon was dead.”
The dead dragon is Baelor Targaryen, who tragically dies from a blow he took during the tourney, but in terms of mythical astronomy, that dead dragon is of course a black moon meteor, and Dunk, as the Odin figure, is the tree set ablaze by the thunderbolt meteor. This is reinforced when Dunk is squaring off lance-to-lance against Aerion Brightflame Targaryen at the trial of the seven held here to decide Dunk’s fate, where Aerion’s shield and Morningstar will play the role of the falling dragon and Dunk will be described in wooden, tree-person language.
Dunk is riding Thunder and repeating to himself,
I am Thunder and Thunder is me, we are one beast, we are joined, we are one.
He’s wedding the thunder tree, in other words, becoming the tree, and a moment later, it’s:
My lance is part of my arm. It’s my finger, a wooden finger. All I need do is touch him with my long wooden finger.
Dunk symbolizes a greenseer hooked up to the tree, mounted on the thunder horse, so wanting to reach out and touch the dragon with a wooden finger is very, very like the scene at the Nightfort where the twisted weirwood reaches out with bone white branches to drag the moon down into the well. Dragons come from the moon, when the greenseer reaches out to touch it, something he does with the astral projection tree horse.
Dunk reaches out with his wooden finger and does indeed touch the three headed dragon on Aerion’s shield, which as a circular shape containing three dragons, is a great symbol of the moon which gives birth to dragons. Dunk takes a wound as he does so to symbolize the death transformation of Azor Ahai the naughty greenseer, and it’s no ordinary wound – he gets impaled by Aerion’s lance. That’s right, it’s a similar lance wound to the one Beric suffers, except it pierces Dunk a little closer to his side than his heart and doesn’t kill him. He’s a hanged man, and now he is pierced while riding the thunder horse. The one eye wound is coming too, fear not. George doesn’t hold back with these things, because he doesn’t want us to be mired in doubt and confusion. This is about Odin, and he wants us to know it.
This is also about Jesus, I suppose I should mention – Jesus was of course hung on the cross, which is a gallows tree, and was also pierced to it. Jesus’s body, still hanging on the cross, was stabbed in the side by a centurion’s spear, and Dunk’s wound here seems to suggest that as well. Jesus’s hanging on the cross is of course a death and resurrection story, with Jesus rising stronger from the grave. I mean, don’t you remember that verse in Matthew Chapter 9 where it talks about Jesus seeing the runes? I kid, but it is a very similar image, Jesus on the cross and Odin on Yggdrasil. These and other similarities between norse myth and Christianity helped to facilitate the acceptance of Christianity by the Vikings. The preachers of the new religion were talking about a guy being hung on a cross who transcended death, and the Vikings were all like “oh yeah, I totally get that. Makes perfect sense! We’re supposed to drink his blood? Of course, how else to become like gods?” Or they might have just said, “so you guys call Odin what now? Jay-zeus?”
Returning to the impaled Ser Duncan, he pulls the lance out of his side and blood flows and it says “the world swam and he almost fell.” That’s a nice reference to global floods brought on by the moon meteor impacts. He tosses his star and elm shield to the ground, giving us the idea of planting a tree in the ground alongside a star falling to the earth, Dunk’s sigil come to life. He looks around for Aerion, having lost sight of him, and it says “the sound of drumming hooves behind him made Dunk turn his head sharply.” Aerion is personifying the dragon meteors themselves, so his coming can also include the shamanic horse drumming as well, and I have to say, if you had any doubt – the thunder of the horses hooves is indeed drumming, George is all about it. Also, Sleipnir is a grey horse, so Aerion’s drumming horse is even the right color.
Aerion knocks Dunk off his thunder horse properly this time, and Dunk’s longsword goes spinning from his grasp, giving us a flying sword symbol. There’s a bruising impact that jars Dunk’s bones and leaves him unable to breathe, reinforcing the strangulation symbolism, and pain stabs through him to give us another impalement idea. He also can’t see, because of the mud in his visor, giving us a hint of Odin’s eye being torn out, to be followed up on shortly. Dunk wipes the mud from his eyeslit, and..
Through his fingers, he glimpsed a dragon flying, and a spiked morningstar whirling on the end of a chain.
Through his wooden fingers – his tree fingers – he can glimpse the flying dragon and a morningstar, or maybe a flying morningstar dragon. That’s a clue about using the trees to see into space, I think. It’s also where I got the idea for the logo of the Weirwood Compendium videos: it’s staring upwards through a canopy of tree branches to a huge fireball falling to earth. 🙂 The action continues:
Then his head seemed to burst to pieces.
When his eyes opened he was on the ground again, sprawled on his back. The mud had all been knocked from his helm, but now one eye was closed by blood. Above was nothing but dark grey sky.
The Morningstar strikes Dunk and his head burst to pieces – this is a big clue that Dunk is also symbolizing the moon as well as the tree set on fire with the moon meteor. That’s what all Dunk’s crashing to earth is about, as well as his head bursting. The weirwood doors seem consistently moon-associated, so I think it’s safe to draw a general link between weirwoods and the moon, and thus it makes sense to see some people symbolize the moon and the weirwood struck by the moon meteor.
So Dunk’s exploding head suggests the moon, but it’s also the tree being struck by a morningstar dragon, a thunderbolt. As a tree-man riding the thunder horse who is knocked to earth by a flying dragon, we can see Dunk as the naughty boy who climbs too high and is struck down by lightning, the role that Bran plays. Sure enough, one of Dunk’s eyes is closed by blood – he’s had the Odin makeover. He’s pulled down the moon on top of his head and paid the price of possessing the fire of the gods. The closed eye represents the moon eye that torn out in the original Lightbringer forging, so these are good old ‘waves of moon blood’ flowing from the wounded moon eye.
And above, nothing but dark grey sky.
The sun is hidden. Waves of night too! A moment later…
The dragon appeared over him. Three heads it had, and wings bright as flame, red and yellow and orange. It was laughing. “Are you dead yet, hedge knight?” it asked. “Cry for quarter and admit your guilt, and perhaps I’ll only claim a hand and a foot. Oh, and those teeth, but what are a few teeth? A man like you can live years on pease porridge.” The dragon laughed again. “No? Eat this, then.” The spiked ball whirled round and round the sky, and fell toward his head as fast as a shooting star.
There’s our final confirmation that the flying dragon morningstar is indeed a falling star. I told you the Dunk and Egg symbolism is some of the best! Anyway, we see the implication of the naughtiness of the naughty greenseers as Dunk is told to declare his guilt. Aerion will only claim and hand and a foot, with the hand being an obvious call-out to the idea of the exploding moon as a fiery hand, as realized in the form of the weirwood leaves that look like bloody or burning hands, as well as hand wounds for many of our Azor Ahai reborn figures (Jaime’s amputated hand, Jon’s burned hand, Davos’s shortened fingers, and so on). The foot wound idea may be a nod to Bran’s crippled legs, but I don’t have a lockdown on foot symbolism yet so I am not sure. If Dunk had his teeth pulled as Aerion suggests, he would have a bloody, yet toothless mouth – just like a weirwood tree. He already has a bloody eye, something like the bloody, weeping eyes of the weirwoods, so what we are seeing is the “making you into a weirwood tree” part of the Odin makeover.
Finally, Aerion tells Dunk that a man like him could live for years on porridge, and I probably don’t have to tell you that this is an allusion to… come on, you got it… that’s right, the weirwood paste. You can live for years on that stuff! Dunk is the tree struck by the falling star, the Odin-esque greenseer. Of course he should eat paste and live for years.
The battle finishes with Dunk reaching up with his fist – just like Gregor at the Oberyn fight – and pulling down the Brightflame dragon into the mud. This rising fist is the “Fist of the First Men” symbol, and represents the rising smoke and ash that blots out the sun. That’s who Brightflame is, the sun – it’s his shield, bearing the three-headed red dragon on black sigil, that represents the moon. Aerion himself is a bright dragon, and thus a solar Azor Ahai figure who turns the moon into his weapon, into his dragons, just as the exploding moon is like the hand or weapon of the sun, which appears to stand behind the moon (remember the moon as a sock puppet animated by the sun analogy). So, Dunk’s rising fist is indeed pulling down the sun, after the moon shield has already fallen to pieces like a rain of morningstar dragons.
Dunk rolls on top of Aerion and thinks, “let him swing his bloody morningstar now,” giving us the bleeding star idea yet again. Just to demonstrate the idea of the moon having its revenge on the sun by darkening its face withe moon meteor smoke, Dunk takes Aerion’s three headed moon dragon shield and proceeds to bash his dragon helm in with it. Again, it’s very like Gregor bashing Oberyn’s solar face in after having fallen to the ground. By the end, “the Bright Prince was as brown as a privy.”
Just to cap things off, Dunk finally has Aerion at his mercy and..
His eyes were purple and full of terror. Dunk had a sudden urge to grab one and pop it like a grape between two steel fingers, but that would not be knightly.
Two Odin makeovers for the price of one, what a bargain. It emphasizes that the falling meteor dragon and the tree it strikes become one, and that sun and moon become one.
A couple of the people fighting on team Dunk are worth noting: Lyonel Baratheon, the laughing storm – a bonafide stag man horned lord storm king. Robin Rhysling, who has one eye missing (seriously, there are more one-eyed people in ASOIAF than you remember). There’s also a version of the summer king / winter king myth that uses a robin and a wren which I don’t have time to explain, but suffice it to say the name Robin can be used as a green man allusion.
The other notable member of Team Dunk was the dead dragon from Daeron’s dream, Baelor Breakspear. He wore the black armor and was the dragon who “fell on Dunk” and died, so he’s a falling moon dragon figure. Baelor took a blow from his brother’s mace, but didn’t die until he removed his helm and part of his skull fell out, a grisly depiction of the moon losing its shell. Right before that, he’s feeling dizzy, and says his fingers “feel like wood,” bringing us full circle back to Dunk’s wooden finger and showing us again that both Dunk the tree man and the dragon that falls on him become one in the same, the burning tree, and thus both can show burning tree symbolism. Dunk sees “red blood and pale bone” on the side of Baelor’s head, a bit of weirwood coloring applied to the dying dragon. As he dies, it says “a queer troubled look passed across Baelor Breakspear’s face, like a cloud passing before a sun,” reinforcing the idea of blotting out the sun by pulling down a dragon. There’s an initially strange-sounding line at the end which might make sense now, and this is right after Baelor starts to fall:
Dunk caught him. “Up,” they say he said, just as he had with Thunder in the melee, “up, up.” But he never remembered that afterward, and the prince did not rise.
In case you needed another clue about the falling dragon being the same as the thunderbolt… there you go. Also implied is the idea of raising fallen Azor Ahai from the dead.
Alright, so the moral of the story is, if you’re a naughty greenseer and you mount the thunder horse tree to pull down the moon, you’re going to set yourself hit on the head with a Morningstar dragon. This kind of gets back to a fundamental question that has been lingering for a while – how exactly does a greenseer pull down a moon? If it didn’t just happen by accident, we need a way for human sorcerers to reach up into the heavens. The idea of the weirwoods as a vehicle for astral projection seems like the beginning of an answer to this vexing question. We’ve seen the weirwoods reaching into the heavens and scratching at the moon, trying to pull it down, and we are being told they are a vehicle to enable your spirit to fly. Is there a connection?
One of the biggest differences between Game of Thrones the HBO show and A Song of Ice and Fire the book series by George R. R. Martin is the presence of a leader of the Others. Despite his disappointing death by knife-wielding trampoline assassin girl, the Night King was for a while a terrifying force leading the white walkers and the army of the living dead down from the north to snuff out all life in Westeros. For me, he was at his most terrifying when he was able to perceive Bran inside of Bran’s weirwoodnet vision and leave that ice mark on his arm… anything that can haunt your dreams is a different level of scary. Again, he went out like a chump – after showing himself impervious to raw dragonfire, he’s going to be shattered by a piece of obsidian? – but the simple fact of his presence on the show highlights the glaring absence of any sort of equivalent character in the books. There is of course an ancient tale of a “Night’s King” in Westerosi legend, which we’ll discuss, but he was supposedly a man who lived and died long ago, and no has seen any sign of him since.
Yes, the white walkers of the woods of Westeros that George Martin has written about appear to have no leader – but I’m here today to tell you that that was not always the case. Not only was there once a King and Queen of the Others, I believe that the first Night’s King and Queen were in fact the creators of the Others. Later in this video series, I’ll tell you who the original Night’s King was, and who might emerge as new Night’s King, a new “leader of the others.” So strap in and let’s dive back into the symbolism of the Others to find their origins.
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Alright, now at the end of Symbolism of the Others: the Kingsguard – which you’ve hopefully watched – I left you with a cliffhanger. After spending twenty minutes convincing you beyond the white shadow of a doubt that the white knights of the Kingsguard are serving as symbolic proxies for the Others, dressed in all the same descriptive icy language, I asked the question “why did George do this” and then ended the video. You all seem to have liked that; I got a ton of great comments and theories on what George is saying. Many of you zeroed in on the fact that the Kingsguard were created to guard the king, which implies the Others should have a king, just like they do on the show, or maybe even a queen, or both! I think the Others did have both a king and queen in the past, and will have one or both again soon. Of course we have to start with the original, the OG Night’s King and Queen.
Bran hears the legend of Night’s King from Old Nan of course, and he relays it to the reader in ASOS. It’s a slightly longer quote, but one of the best, and I’ve brought in a talented pinch voice actor:
The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.
He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.
The first thing that I want point out here is that “sacrificing to the Others” almost certainly means “making Others,” or more specifically, giving up your male children to be transformed into Others. Up north beyond the Wall, we meet a nasty old wildling named Craster who also “sacrifices to the Others,” which Jon describes as “giving his sons to the wood,” meaning the “white walkers of the wood.” Gilly, afraid for her own son, tells Jon that “he gives his boys to the gods,” going on to elaborate that she means “The cold gods, the ones in the night. The white shadows.”
Then, after Gilly asks Sam to help her escape with her son, saying “If you don’t take him, they will,” Sam asks who “they” are…
“The boy’s brothers,” said the old woman on the left. “Craster’s sons. The white cold’s rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don’t lie.”
As you can see, it’s pretty clear that sacrificing to the Others means giving your sons to be transformed into Others. We may not know what that transformation process entails, but we can see that Craster’s wives all think of the white walkers as Craster’s sons, as brothers to Gilly’s son and to one another. We can see a nice parallel to the Kingsguard here; the Kingsguard are a brotherhood of celibate knights, and so are the Others, since they are all male, with many of them being literal brothers, and the fact they require male babies from their worshippers implies that they cannot reproduce on their own.
Ergo, when we read about Night’s King and Queen “sacrificing to the Others,” we can assume they were creating sons to be turned into Others. But there’s one key difference from what Night’s King and Queen were doing and what Craster was doing with Gilly and his other “wives”: Night’s King’s “corpse queen” was not a mortal woman like Gilly and the other women at Craster’s Keep, but a magical woman. She had “skin as white as the moon” that was “as cold as ice,” and most tellingly, she has the signature “eyes like blue stars” which signifies her as a being animated by the cold ice magic of the Others. A child born by such a woman might already come out of the womb with an icy nature, perhaps already having begun the transformation into an Other. Honestly, a mortal human baby could never gestate in a womb “cold as ice,” so I think we have to assume the babies were magical entities themselves, animated by ice magic just like their mother.
Her “corpse queen” description is probably not literal, as it’s hard to imagine an undead being in this universe giving birth. But as my esteemed colleague Durran Durrandon points out, we have seen a magical woman who has far outlived her mortal span taking someone’s seed and soul to birth magical shadow entities before… it’s just that everything was coded in the language of fire instead of ice, and the shadows were the wrong color.
As I was saying, it is an established fact in this universe that magical women can take the seed of a mortal man and give birth to magical shadow entities:
“You are the mother of darkness. I saw that under Storm’s End, when you gave birth before my eyes.”
“Is the brave Ser Onions so frightened of a passing shadow? Take heart, then. Shadows only live when given birth by light, and the king’s fires burn so low I dare not draw off any more to make another son. It might well kill him.” Melisandre moved closer. “With another man, though . . . a man whose flames still burn hot and high . . . if you truly wish to serve your king’s cause, come to my chamber one night. I could give you pleasure such as you have never known, and with your life-fire I could make . . .”
“. . . a horror.” Davos retreated from her. “I want no part of you, my lady. Or your god. May the Seven protect me.”
Melisandre and Davos are of course referring to the “shadowbaby” that Mel birthed beneath Storm’s End, a shadow which Davos immediately recognized as Stannis. Stannis experiences the killing of Renly while dreaming, which was also done by shadowbaby, so we know that he remains linked to his shadow son and that it is made of his essence, his “life-fires” and Mel puts it.
This is more or less a perfect, temperature-inverted parallel here: Night’s Queen, a being animated by ice magic, the takes the seed and soul of Night’s King and creates magical white shadow beings, while Melisandre, animated by fire magic, draws from the life-fires of Stannis to make magical black shadow beings. These shadows do appear to be somewhat similar in nature though, as they are both created to kill and both are susceptible to magical wards – Mel says she has to birth the shadowbaby inside the walls of Storm’s End because
…this Storm’s End is an old place. There are spells woven into the stones. Dark walls that no shadow can pass—ancient, forgotten, yet still in place.”
Similarly, Samwell tells Bran what Coldhands told him about the Wall: it’s “more than just ice and stone,” and that “There are spells woven into it … old ones, and strong” that prevents Coldhands from passing. Presumably these spells are the ones which keep the Others out, and so we are left with Mel’s shadows and the white shadows of the north both being kept out by magical wards, and therefore similar types of entities on some level.
The primary difference, besides color and ice vs. fire, is that the shadowbabies Mel and Stannis make do not stick around like the Others do. However it’s easy to imagine that there might be some further sorcery involved in getting such a shadow child to have a semi-permanent body as the Others do. Some sort of shadow-binding perhaps, or further human sacrifice, or the involvement of weirwood magic, which also seems to be a part of the process of creating the Others (and I’ll have a “symbolism of the Others: the Weirwoods” video coming soon to talk about that).
“Sacrificing to the Others,” then, is essentially a euphemism; what Night’s King and Queen created at the Nightfort was a white shadow factory. They were creating their own Kingsguard of snowy white knights in ice armor. Their own white swords.
So that’s pretty cool, right? George is showing us a big secret about the creation of the Others by using Mel and Stannis’s shadowbaby creation as a symbolic proxy, just like the Kingsguard serve as symbolic proxies for the Others. George is showing us that a magical woman can, under the right circumstances, co-opt the normal human birthing process to create magical shadow entities, and all we have to do is flip fire for ice and we have a pretty viable method for creating the Others. We playfully call Mel and Stannis’s shadow child a “shadowbaby,” but it’s actually a full grown shadow clone of Stannis, so it stands to reason Night’s Queen was actually giving birth to full-grown Others. One thinks of the five Others in the prologue who emerged from the woods to support the one Waymar was fighting being named as “twins to the first.” They are shadow clones as well – and just as Mel’s shadows are clones of King Stannis, Night’s Queen’s white shadows would have been clones of Night’s King, from whose seed and soul she drew off of to make them.
All of this makes it likely that this is indeed the origin of the white walkers, that Night’s King and Queen made the first Others. Craster and Gilly can’t make them directly, because Gilly isn’t animated by blue star eye magic and her womb isn’t “cold as ice,” but Night’s King and Queen could have. They didn’t need white walkers to have already existed to make more, and what’s the point of showing us this if not to show us the origin of the first Others?
It’s important to understand that Melisandre is more than a magical woman; she’s a human being who has traded in her mortality to become fully “powered by R’hllor.” That means she no longer needs to eat to survive and barely needs to sleep, saying instead that “R’hllor provided her with all the nourishment her body needed,” but that that was something “best concealed from mortal men,” I guess because that would like freak everyone out or something to know she eats fire for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Davos and Jon both notice that Mel’s skin is hot to the touch and that warmth pours off of her like she was a human furnace, and that’s pretty comparable to the Night Queen having “skin as cold as ice.” And just as Night’s Queen’s “eyes like blue stars” are a tip-off that she is powered by ice magic, Melisandre has eyes like “two red stars shining in the dark.” Heck, George even had a blue and green version of a Melisandre table-top gaming piece commissioned… looks like Night’s Queen to me!
The point here is that if a mortal woman can somehow transform herself into a fire entity capable of birthing magical shadow beings, then the same must be true of ice magic, and indeed, my friend Durran Durrandon suggests that’s exactly what Night’s Queen was, some sort of ice priestess. This is another clue that Night’s Queen was the origin of the Others, because we can see the order of the process that’s implied: first, a human woman transforms themselves over time via ice or fire magic, and then at some point they become capable of birthing magical shadow clones via that ice or fire magic. Between Craster and his white walker sons and Stannis and Melisandre’s shadow children, we’ve been handed every step of the process to make a white walker – save for the weirwood magic element, which we have to save for another video – and thus Night’s King and Queen are revealed as the father and mother of the Others.
And now it’s time for timeline heresy!
Accordingly, I also tend to believe that Night’s King and Queen ruled during the Long Night, when all the white walkers attacked, not shortly after as is implied by the line about Night’s King being “the thirteenth man to lead the Watch.” There are so many ways around that line though – it’s about as solid as Ned Stark’s paper shield in the throne room of the Red Keep. Start with the fact that we are talking about 5,000 – 10,000 year-old history that wasn’t written down until thousands of years later, none of the details of which should be definitively taken as literal and factual. For example, the number thirteen may be symbolic – after all, Night’s King was also said to have ruled for thirteen years, and I suppose maybe it’s just a coincidence that he was the 13th Lord Commander who ruled for thirteen years… but then we have the last hero story, which occurs roughly in the same time and place and involves one guy with twelve companions for yet another thirteen. Some have speculated that the last hero and his dozen companions could have become Night’s King and the first Others, or it could be that Night’s King and Queen made twelve Others for their “Kingsguard.” For what it’s worth, the HBO show did give us twelve white walkers flanking the Night King when they took Craster’s son to the White Walker temple for transformation. Of course neither George nor HBO would be the first to make a weird version of Christ and the twelve disciples, and thus when I see all these thirteens in the Night’s King and last hero story, they strike me as a number chosen for symbolism more than anything else.
Consider also the part of the Night’s King myth where Old Nan says that “Night’s King was only a man by light of day, but the night was his to rule.” Is he some sort of werewolf or something? Did he transform into a powerful wizard at night only? Seems like you’d just go fight him in the day then. More likely, the night that he ruled was the Long Night, it seems to me. Night’s King… ruled the Long Night… think about it. It’s not that crazy, really. For what it’s worth, thirteen years seems like about the right length of time for the Long Night to me.
Here’s a good question: why would there be white walkers lurking close to the Nightfort to give babies to if the white walkers had just been defeated in the War for the Dawn fairly recently? If they’re back prowling again only a hundred years after they were defeated, I’d think we’d have been hearing about white walkers attacks all through Westerosi history – but instead, we hear about nothing about any white walker activity in between the Long Night and their recent stirrings gearing up for the new Long Night that is surely coming.
Then we have the fact that the Night’s Watch supposedly received gifts of dragonglass knives during the Age of Heroes, but the Age of heroes supposedly comes before the Long Night, when the Watch was supposedly established. Similarly, Bran the Builder supposedly built the Wall, but is thought of as having lived in the Age of Heroes too, before the Long Night. This type of mixed-up chronology is just what we should expect from 8,000 year-old word-of mouth history about magical events of course, and is intentional on the part of the author. Can’t truss it!
We also have to wonder about the part of the original Night’s Watch oath that talks about “I am the watcher on the walls” – note the ‘walls’ plural – because ever since the creation of the Wall, they would have been “the Watchers on the Wall,” really. This may mean nothing, or may indicate that the Night’s Watch may have been formed from a previous fighting force which guarded “walls,” plural, like the walls of a fortress, perhaps even before the Wall was made. If there was such a previous fighting force, perhaps they had twelve commanders, with Night’s King being the rebellious thirteenth.
Then we have the Nightfort, the place where Night’s King and Queen created their white shadows. It’s said to be the oldest castle on the Wall, which I think is true, but I think it may actually be older than the Wall, for two reasons. One, if any humans were involved in building the Wall – which is a big if, granted – they would have first needed a base of operations to work from. Perhaps it was some long-vanished ringfort or something, but if the Nightfort dates back thousands of years to the beginning of the Watch anyway, it may well have been that first human stronghold in the area.
The second reason I think the Nightfort may have come before the Wall is the highly unique weirwood organism we find there. Some fifty feet or more underground, Sam and Bran and company encounter the Black Gate, the peculiar talking weirwood face which guards a secret tunnel beneath the Wall and only opens for a Night’s Watchmen reciting his vows… but then on the surface above, we see a young weirwood sapling pushing up through the flagstones and growing towards the whole in the ceiling. Judging by the size, extent, and depth of the weirwood roots at Bloodraven’s cave, it seems that weirwood trees are better thought of a fungus-like organisms which exist primarily underground and occasionally sprout trees above ground. Thus it’s almost certain that the talking weirwood gate below the Nightfort and the young weirwood above are part of the same weirwood orgamism, which would make it extremely large, and therefore very old and very sacred to the children of the forest and those who worship the Old Gods.
Moreover, the talking weirwood face itself is possibly the weirdest and most unique magical thing we’ve seen anywhere in Westeros – it’s the only talking weirwood of any kind that we’ve ever seen! Chekov’s silent tree face finally spoke! Therefore it seems likely that the Nightfort would have been built around this special weirwood organism, which would have been here first… just as Winterfell was built around the heart tree and probably the crypts.
At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. “The heart tree,” Ned called it. The weirwood’s bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle’s granite walls rise around them.
It’s my belief that all the first First Men castles were built around weirwoods, not just Winterfell, as by the time these castles were built, the First Men would have been worshipping them, fully in awe of the power of the greenseers and weirwood trees. This is clearly the case for the warg family known as the Starks, and with something as old and unique as the talking weirwood face organism, it seems logical that the Nightfort would have been built around it. The same logic applies to the location of the Wall – if the weirwood organism is older than the Wall, then it’s likely the location of the Wall was dictated by the location of the Nightfort weirwood… thing.
So the order of events I am picturing is this: the Nightfort is built around the weirwood organism there for some magical reason, either by Night’s King or by someone before; at some point around the beginning of the Long Night, Night’s King takes the Nightfort as his seat and creates the white walkers with Night’s Queen (with the weirwood magic likely playing a role). They invade Westeros, the War for the Dawn is fought and won by the good guys, and the Wall was likely built soon after to keep the Others out like most people think, or perhaps repaired or rebuilt if some form of the Wall existed before the white walker invasion.
So what we have here is a bunch of fog of history, because our “history” has essentially become legend. The symbolism, however, all points towards the Night’s King and Queen being the creators of the Others who lived during the Long Night, as you’ve just seen. The white walker symbolism of the Kingsguard implies that the king and queen of the white walkers is an important thing, and it implies that the Others were created by Night’s King and Queen to guard Night’s Queen and King, just as the Kinguard was created by Visenya and Aegon to guard the royal family. Then, Stannis, Melisandre, and Craster show us how these implications translate in actual magical acts that can happen in this universe, how an ice priestess like Night’s Queen could potentially create the Others from scratch.
As I’ll explain in the next couple of videos, “Night’s King” is just as much an important ASOIAF archetype as Azor Ahai is, with multiple figures playing the symbolic role of Night’s King at various times, and Night’s King is always implied as a leader – and father – of the Others. King Stannis, for example, who does the shadow creation routine with Mel that mirrors Other creation, takes up residence at the Nightfort, where Night’s King lived. Tons more on Night King Stannis coming in the next video, don’t you fear (Night’s King was a man who knew no fear, and neither should you).
The same is true of Night’s Queen: it’s an archetype played by multiple people, and those people always do symbolic things that represent the creation of the Others. One of the reasons why the Moons of Ice and Fire podcast series is so may hours long is because I follow all of the Night’s King and Queen parallel characters, and there are a nice handful of them. I’m doing a more condensed thing here, but check out Moons of Ice and Fire if you like this topic and want to see how, say, Val, Gilly, Jeyne Pool, Alys Karstark, Sansa, or Lyanna play the Night’s Queen role. Lyanna’s the important one, she gives birth to the Prince That Was Promised to the Others, Jon Snow, who dreams of wearing ice armor and oh gosh I’m giving away a future video in this series.
Even more important than the symbolism – I know, I know, HERESY! – is the valley of the shadow of narrative sense through which all theories must pass. If the role of “Night’s King” really is to be some sort of “King of the White Walkers,” then it makes far more narrative sense for him to have existed during the Long Night, when the white walkers invaded Westeros for the one and only time in history. And if we are to see a new Night’s King rise to lead the Others – and believe is there ever a lot of foreshadowing for that – then it stands to reason that a Night’s King led their invasion of Westeros the first time around.