Monthly Archives: August 2017

Part II: The alchemists’ delight

In my previous essay, I tried to show that Martin uses the words “fire” and “flame” in slightly different ways, which appears to reflect the benevolent/procreative and the treacherous/destructive aspects of fire symbolism respectively. Moving forward, I will be analysing the colours of fire and flame. It doesn’t seem as though the fire colours are more or less associated with either fire or flame, so I will be combining the fire and flame colour search terms to give us more to go on. I am going to be approaching each colour on an individual basis before using these interpretations to investigate the symbolism of colour combinations at a later date, kind of like assessing each jigsaw piece in a puzzle before building the overall picture. In this particular essay, I am investigating yellow-, gold- and green- coloured fires and flames.

TL;DR: Yellow coloured fire or flame symbolises the second sun, an imitation sun, the second moon as it imbibes the sun’s fire. Imbibing this fire causes a transformation, i.e. births Lightbringer/Azor Ahai Reborn, representing transformation by the “fire of the gods” and this is symbolised by gold fire. Green fire is the manifestation of this “fire of the gods”, and seems to represent the extraordinary powers of greenseeing and resurrection.

Contents:

Alchemy: yellow + godly fire = gold
Imitating the sun
A Golden Lightbringer
– Dragons
– Flaming Swords
– Fiery Harts
Pyromancer’s Piss
– Lightbringer
– Resurrection and Roman Candles
Conclusion

Brief summary of LucifermeansLightbringer’s theory:

LmL’s theory suggests that there were once two moons in the sky and that the second moon was struck and destroyed by a comet whilst in eclipse position, causing thousands of meteors to rain down on Planetos/Terros/ASOIAF earth. The debris from this collision and the collisions of the moon meteors with the planet collected in the atmosphere and caused the darkness remembered as the Long Night. These events are reflected in a variety of in-world myths. One example is the Qartheen myth of the origin of dragons, where the moon wanders too close to the sun, i.e. the eclipse, and hatches dragons (with dragons being a real-life mythological depiction of meteors). The myth of Lightbringer’s forging is another key example, with Azor Ahai (the sun) wielding Lightbringer (the comet) against Nissa Nissa (the second moon) to create a flaming sword (another real-world depiction of meteors and comets); Nissa Nissa’s cry even leaves a crack across the face of the moon, implying the destruction of the moon. This sequence of events also appears to have played out on earth too, with an Azor Ahai figure sacrificing a Nissa Nissa figure to enter the weirwood trees and become a greenseer. Given that both myself and LmL are looking at Martin’s use of symbolism generally (although granted from different perspectives and with different aims), there are many crossovers and my interpretations are therefore heavily influenced by LmL’s.

So, moving on to my essay:

Having collected the quotes for “yellow fire” and “yellow flame”, I’ve found that there’s not actually that many. In the entirety of the extended publications, from a total of 75 hits, only 11 solely dealt with the colour yellow. Which leaves us with a slight interpretation problem: how on earth do you decide if the symbolism is actually meaningful from such a small pool of quotes? So, I expanded the search to cover gold or golden fire (because gold and yellow look practically the same, right), increasing our pool of quotes from 11 to 27: so less than I’d like but a lot better.

Whilst it seemed logical to me that yellow and gold fires look like one another, I found out that it does not necessarily mean that gold and yellow actually have the same symbolism in Martin’s writing. (For instance, we all know that there are many brilliant colours in real-world sunsets, but Martin chooses to almost exclusively describe sunsets as red, and yes, this is a shameless plug for my future essay on red.) So let’s review the evidence.

Alchemy: yellow + godly fire = gold

We can see that yellow and gold are related through certain phrases, like this:

As the long fingers of dawn fanned across the fields, color was returning to the world. Where grey men had sat grey horses armed with shadow spears, the points of ten thousand lances now glinted silverly cold, and on the myriad flapping banners Catelyn saw the blush of red and pink and orange, the richness of blues and browns, the blaze of gold and yellow. (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

Sansa rode to the Hand’s tourney with Septa Mordane and Jeyne Poole, in a litter with curtains of yellow silk so fine she could see right through them. They turned the whole world gold. (Sansa II, AGOT)

The candle was unpleasantly bright. There was something queer about it. The flame did not flicker, even when Archmaester Marwyn closed the door so hard that papers blew off a nearby table. The light did something strange to colors too. Whites were bright as fresh-fallen snow, yellow shone like gold, reds turned to flame, but the shadows were so black they looked like holes in the world. (Sam V, AFFC)

“Regal,” Magister Illyrio said, stepping through an archway. He moved with surprising delicacy for such a massive man. Beneath loose garments of flame-colored silk, rolls of fat jiggled as he walked. Gemstones glittered on every finger, and his man had oiled his forked yellow beard until it shone like real gold. (Daenerys I, AGOT)

Illyrio smiled through his forked yellow beard. Oiled every morning to make it gleam like gold, Tyrion suspected. (Tyrion I, ADWD)

Each of these quotes implies some kind of transformation. For instance, the yellow silk transforms the world Sansa views to gold; the glass candle turns yellows into golds; and the oil on Illyrio’s beard turns the yellow into gold.

asoiaf___lannisters_by_spoonybards
A Lannister Family Portrait, by spoonybards

If Martin’s use of yellow-gold as a descriptor is meant to imply a transformation, the Lannisters hair just got a whole lot more symbolic:

Glinting gold in the lamplight, the whiskers made [Jaime Lannister] look like some great yellow beast, magnificent even in chains. (Catelyn VII, ACOK)

Cersei’s gown was snowy linen, white as the cloaks of the Kingsguard. Her long dagged sleeves showed a lining of gold satin. Masses of bright yellow hair tumbled to her bare shoulders in thick curls. (Sansa V, ACOK)

Cersei was reclining on a pile of cushions. Her feet were bare, her golden hair artfully tousled, her robe a green-and-gold samite that caught the light of the candles and shimmered as she looked up. (Tyrion VI, ACOK)

The main Lannister family famously has golden hair. In fact, their golden hair is often likened to the sun, or transformed by the sun.

“Leave her alone,” Joffrey said. He stood over her, beautiful in blue wool and black leather, his golden curls shining in the sun like a crown. (Sansa I, AGOT)

“Their mothers were copper and honey, chestnut and butter, yet the babes were all black as ravens . . . and as ill-omened, it would seem. So when Joffrey, Myrcella, and Tommen slid out between your sister’s thighs, each as golden as the sun, the truth was not hard to glimpse.” (Varys talking about Robert’s and “Robert’s” children; Tyrion III, ACOK)

Jaime hugged her, his good hand pressing against the small of her back. He smelled of ash, but the morning sun was in his hair, giving it a golden glow. (Cersei I, AFFC)

The woman bared the queen’s head first. Cersei sat as still as a stone statue as the shears clicked. Drifts of golden hair fell to the floor. She had not been allowed to tend it properly penned up in this cell, but even unwashed and tangled it shone where the sun touched it. My crown, the queen thought. They took the other crown away from me, and now they are stealing this one as well.  (Cersei II, ADWD)

This is exactly what we’re looking for. And three of these four quotes reference crowns: directly in the cases of Joff’s and Cersei’s hair, and indirectly in the case of Varys describing the children “crowning” in the birthing bed. This suggests that something about this process of acquiring the sun’s fire is about crowning oneself, or becoming king of… something.

Just so you know, from here on out, we are diving headlong into LmL’s theory so, if you aren’t already familiar with his work and you skipped past my summary of it, I’d suggest at least reading that summary, because otherwise this essay won’t make a lot of sense.

It seems like all of this yellow-gold/transformation symbolism can be traced back to Lann the Clever:

The Lannisters were an old family, tracing their descent back to Lann the Clever, a trickster from the Age of Heroes who was no doubt as legendary as Bran the Builder, though far more beloved of singers and taletellers. In the songs, Lann was the fellow who winkled the Casterlys out of Casterly Rock with no weapon but his wits, and stole gold from the sun to brighten his curly hair. (Eddard VI, AGOT)

World mythology often considers the sun as a god, thus Lann is here stealing the golden fire of the sun god. The fire of the gods is a term that describes the knowledge and power of the gods, and Lann has used this power to create a golden crown for himself and his descendants. This is exactly our depiction of Azor Ahai; a hubristic man who used the moon as a vessel to bring down the fire of the gods to earth (via the “dragons that drank the fire of the sun” of Qartheen myth). In another myth, Lann is said to have driven the Casterlys out of Casterly Rock by using lions and or rats, indicating that he may have had the power to control animals. This suggests he may have been a skinchanger, and maybe even a greenseer, with skinchanging being an exceptionally powerful magical tool which could be called the fire of the gods in some sense. In which case, Lann (at least symbolically) appears to have two aspects of the fire of the gods: the fire of the sun god, brought to earth and used as a crown, and skinchanger/greenseer abilities.

It would be a mistake from just these few quotes to conclude that golden hair is a marker of the fire of the gods. Inspired to do a bit of digging, I searched “gold(en) hair” and found consistent Lightbringer symbolism surrounding each character or group of characters. (NB: Lightbringer is essentially a metaphor for the fire of the gods.) The full account of this can be found over on westeros.org, but I’ll provide a brief summary here.

Obviously, the most common occurrence of golden hair was with reference to the Lannisters, which has a lot of commonalities with the Azor Ahai mythos. The others are:
1) Silver-gold hair: this was primarily related to the blood of Old Valyria and Great Empire of the Dawn types. This indicates dragonriding (here’s History of Westeros and LmL discussing the Great Empire of the Dawn as pre-Valyrian dragonriders), and dragons are clearly related to the acquisition of the fire of the gods/Lightbringer as the dragon moon meteors “drank the fire of the sun” (more of this type of analysis is in LmL’s first essay).
2) Red-gold hair: This is a hallmark of House Dondarrion. House Dondarrion has a ton of Azor Ahai symbolism because they have a “bloody lightning bolt” as their sigil, with the lightning bolt as another symbol of the moon meteors. In the novels, our main exposure to House Dondarrion is via Lord Beric, who runs around Westeros with a burning sword and sits in a tangle of weirwood roots like its a weirwood throne and he’s a greenseer – all Azor Ahai symbolism.
4) There are a few others, like Tyene Sand, with more tangential and slightly irrelevant symbolism. For our analysis here, the most important of these other characters with golden hair is Rowan Gold-tree. As the daughter of Garth Greenhand, she is essentially the daughter of the Summer King (i.e. a fertility god), with a few characters in the series echoing this symbolism e.g. Renly. The primary legend involving Rowan is that she was abandoned by her lover whilst she was pregnant so she wrapped an apple in her golden hair and a golden tree grew. You will be unsurprised to learn that apples can be considered moon meteor symbols, so an apple wrapped in golden hair is like a moon meteor of the fire of the gods aka Lightbringer. The resulting golden tree would then be a tree burning with the fire of the gods: a weirwood tree is a tree with leaves like “a blaze of flame” which confers extraordinary powers on the greenseer, with greenseers literally becoming the old gods. Rowan Gold-tree is also the potential mother of Lann the Clever, meaning that he may have inherited his golden hair from her. This is yet another way of reading the eclipse/moon destruction event, with the moon-mother (Rowan) being impregnated by the sun-father (who disappears during the Long Night) and giving birth to Lightbringer/Azor Ahai Reborn (both giving birth to Lann and planting a tree).

That was a pretty whistle-stop tour but it seems to me that golden hair is one of the markers of having acquired the fire of the gods (aka Lightbringer) and been transformed by it.

In a similar vein, the sun also transforms the eyes of the direwolves on a couple of occasions.

Nymeria nipped eagerly at her hand as Arya untied her. She had yellow eyes. When they caught the sunlight, they gleamed like two golden coins. (Arya I, AGOT)

Here, the sun transforms Nymeria’s yellow eyes into golden coins. In Westeros, golden cois are called dragons, so that Nymeria is here a fusion of multiple symbols of the fire of the gods: the dragon meteors, the hellhound meteors and the skinchanging/greenseer bond.

This symbolism is replicated in Summer, but it is even more potent because he is bonded to Bran, the already enormously powerful greenseeing child. Interestingly, you can actually track the progression of fire of the gods transformation as it occurs over the course of multiple, sequential chapters in A Game of Thrones. Prior to Bran’s fall, Summer’s eyes are described as yellow:

Bran looked back down. His wolf fell silent, staring up at him through slitted yellow eyes. A strange chill went through him. He began to climb again. Once more the wolf howled. (Bran II, AGOT)

Summer’s howls are probably a callout to Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy that broke the moon, which marks this scene as a Lightbringer forging metaphor. In fact, a later nightmare version of this climb has Bran climbing into the heavens to meet the golden Lannister twins, like Lann the Clever reached into the heavens to steal gold from the sun. This passage also contains a lot of death imagery, with another direwolf’s howl described as what death sounds like (Catelyn V, AGOT). Summer’s eyes also send a strange chill through Bran, and Varamyr describes true death as “a shock of cold, as if he had been plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake” (Prologue, ADWD). This is all in line with death being the first stage of the Hero’s Journey in ASOIAF, and implies transcendence of death as part of the fire of the gods transformation.

Indeed, after Bran ‘falls’ and Bloodraven incepts his coma with terrifying dreams, Summer’s eyes are likened to the sun:

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

This is like Summer has drunk the fire of the sun, like the Qartheen origin of dragons story, with hellhounds another prominent symbol of the moon meteors. And because a skinchanger and their animal are like one, Bran has the fire of the sun/gods too. This heavily implies Summer as a moon meteor/Lightbringer type figure and lo and behold Summer now gives off warmth, whereas previously he had made Bran chilled: this is akin to Lightbringer becoming warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm. Having acquired this fire, Bran is associated with leaf imagery, indicating he has become a tree-person i.e. a greenseer: in other words, the moon meteor and the greenseeing versions of the Lightbringer/fire of the gods are both present.

Summer using wyndbain wolf generator
Summer, using wyndbain’s wolf generator

In the next chapter we see that, having drunk the fire of the sun, Summer’s eyes are no longer yellow, but gold:

Bran’s Summer came last. He was silver and smoke, with eyes of yellow gold that saw all there was to see. Smaller than Grey Wind, and more wary. Bran thought he was the smartest of the litter. (Bran IV, AGOT)

This is the finale of the alchemical transformation: what was yellow is now gold and Bran has transcended death, with “immortality/avoiding death” being pretty high on the “power of the gods” scale. However, doing this has burned him; Summer is now warier and smarter than his compatriots who haven’t tasted the heavenly fire.

In summary, following the colour transformation of Summer’s eyes, we see the chilly hand of death, the transcendence of that death by using the fire of the (sun) gods, and smarter but warier transformed being. This sounds exactly like the transformation of Azor Ahai into Azor Ahai Reborn.

That being said, the transformation between yellow and gold does not indicate that yellow is the same as gold. Comparing Renly and Stannis’ banners as they meet near Storm’s End is about as direct a contrast as you can get.

Catelyn watched them come. Stannis it must be, yet that is not the Baratheon banner. It was a bright yellow, not the rich gold of Renly’s standards, and the device it bore was red, though she could not make out its shape. (Catelyn III, ACOK)

Note that Catelyn specifically distinguishes between the rich gold of the traditional Baratheon standard and Stannis’ bright sun-yellow banner. However, this yellow colour transforms after the death of Renly Baratheon (a scene which is rich with Azor Ahai/Lightbringer forging symbolism, which we will be touching upon later).

It was a soldier’s tent of heavy canvas, dyed the dark yellow that sometimes passed for gold. Only the royal banner that streamed atop the center pole marked it as a king’s. (Davos II, ACOK)

Here, the bright sun-yellow previously associated with Stannis is darkened, much like the sun was darkened in the aftermath of the moon’s destruction. And look, it is attempting to become gold. In this case, the transformation was not a true success, with the tent only “passing for gold“, but I believe this is more of an indicator that Stannis is an Azor Ahai Reborn pretender, rather than a stumbling block to my theory. I look at it in the same light as the “burning of the Seven to forge Lightbringer” scene: the Red Sword of Heroes looked a proper mess, as Davos says, the fake ceremony producing a burned, not burning, sword. However, that does not mean there is not important symbolism about the true Azor Ahai to be found there. Reflecting that ideology here, we see that, as an Azor Ahai symbol and wielder of blood magic against his own brother (with all the symbolism attending that scene), Stannis’ tent undergoes a yellow-to-gold transformation when sacrificing Renly the summer stag to become king (more on this later), but it is undercut by Martin’s need to show us that, no, Stannis is not the real deal.

Well, that completes my digression demonstrating that yellow and gold, whilst not exact equivalents, do share a close relationship with yellows frequently transforming into gold. Now, as advertised earlier, I shall actually get around to analysing fire colours.

Imitating the sun

Most of the time, a lot of inference and piecing together of clues is required to put together a coherent interpretation of the massive web of symbolism Martin is busy weaving in ASOIAF. However, in this case, yellow fire is a flashing neon light that may as well say “this is an imitation sun, a Second Sun! Second Sun! geddit?!”

Seeing as we’ve just been discussing them, consider the description of Stannis’ sun-yellow banner outside of King’s Landing.

But it was the pale yellow banners that worried the city. Long ragged tails streamed behind them like flickering flames, and in place of a lord’s sigil they bore the device of a god: the burning heart of the Lord of Light. (Sansa IV, ACOK)

So the sun-yellow banners are also flickering yellow flames. Check one for sun-yellow and yellow fires being equated.

This connotation of yellow fire being associated with the sun is even contained in seemingly throwaway lines such as this:

When Rhaegal roared, a gout of yellow flame turned darkness into day for half a heartbeat. (Daenerys II, ADWD)

Obviously, the sun determines whether it is day or night, so the presence of yellow flame turning darkness into day is a clear indicator that yellow flame is sun-like. Plus, the transience of this daytime indicates that it is not a true sun. This is the only time that a dragon breathes solely yellow fire within the extended publications, but I will explain why I believe this is the case in the next section, discussing gold fires *tease tease*.

More blatantly still, the burning of the Dragonpit is described like this in The Princess and the Queen:

A thousand shrieks and shouts echoed across the city, mingling with the dragon’s roar. Atop the Hill of Rhaenys, the Dragonpit wore a crown of yellow fire, burning so bright it seemed as if the sun was rising. (The Princess and the Queen)

This scene has a strong mythical astronomy element to it which LmL goes in to much more detail about here. For instance, this little section has the Nissa Nissa cry of anguish and ecstasy in the form of “a thousand shrieks and shouts”, with a thousand being a key moon meteor number as well – think of the thousand thousand dragons that poured forth from the moon in the Qartheen myth. 

The main thing I wanted to point out here is that the yellow fire is like a rising sun. Note the use of simile here, rather than metaphor: Martin has taken pains to ensure that the fire only “seemed” like the sun. It is also interesting that this sun-like fire gives the Hill a crown of fire, which reminds us of the Lann the Clever myth that I’ve been so keen to talk about today, with Lann stealing the sun’s gold to brighten his hair and with this bright sun hair being like a crown. In fact, the crown of fire is kind of what is created when the moon eclipses the sun, which is the alignment that the sun and moon were probably in when the comet struck the moon and destroyed it. This may suggest that yellow sun-like fire is acting as the second sun aka the moon as it gives birth to the sun’s son aka the moon at the moment of impact.

eclipse
Solar eclipse by Takeshi Kuboki – can you see the fiery crown?

Another common occurrence of yellow fire is that of lamp or lantern light. This makes sense given that the purpose of lamps and lanterns is to continue to function at nighttime as though the sun has not set, making them tiny imitation suns. Based on the conclusion we have just reached, we should see these yellow lamps or lanterns heralding the start of some sort of Lightbringer forging event, so let’s have a look:

Dany sprung from the bed and threw open the door. Pale yellow lantern light flooded the cabin, and Irri and Jhiqui sat up sleepily. (Daenerys III, ASOS)

Here, Dany has just woken up from her dream of burning an ice army at the Trident, and listens to prophetic guidance from Quaithe. After this double-whammy of foreshadowing and prophecy, we get the pale yellow lantern light waking the sleepers, Irri and Jhiqui. Waking the sleepers appears to be akin to waking giants in the earth, with both phrases referencing Lightbringer’s forging. After this prophetic sequence and the yellow lantern light, Dany takes control of the Unsullied. She does this by commanding her black dragon!Lightbringer, Drogon, who represents the darkened sun of the eclipse in this moment. “A lance of swirling dark flame” gives Kraznys mo Nakloz a burning crown twice as tall as his head, which is akin to the darkened sun bestowing its fire upon the hubristic man who thought he could possess god’s fire without suffering the consequences aka Azor Ahai Reborn wields Lightbringer.

“Must be cold down there,” said Noye. “What say we warm them up, lads?” A dozen jars of lamp oil had been lined up on the precipice. Pyp ran down the line with a torch, setting them alight. Owen the Oaf followed, shoving them over the edge one by one. Tongues of pale yellow fire swirled around the jars as they plunged downward. When the last was gone, Grenn kicked loose the chocks on a barrel of pitch and sent it rumbling and rolling over the edge as well. The sounds below changed to shouts and screams, sweet music to their ears. (Jon VIII, ASOS)

Mance Rayder as the King Beyond the Wall is acting as the King of Winter, trying to get the wildlings (who are later described as Others) south below the Wall. In doing so, said King of Winter triggers a response from the smithy that includes creating yellow lamp light (i.e. creating a second sun) and sending that fire down to earth from the top of the Wall (i.e. the heavens). Remember that the myth of Azor Ahai forging Lightbringer is essentially that of a smith forging a magical blade by creating a second sun, so this yellow lamp oil lit atop the Wall and sent to earth is just a reenactment of this.

Waddling to the door, he listened a moment, then eased it open slowly. A lamp burned in a stone niche, casting wanyellow light over the empty hallway. Only the flame was moving. Tyrion slid out, holding the crossbow down against his leg. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

Here, Tyrion has just killed his lover, Shae, sex and swordplay style, and is about to kill his father, the solar king character, in a typical Azor Ahai father-son destructive relationship. To do so, he has climbed to the top of a tall tower (the Tower of the Hand), like Lann the Clever reaching into the heavens. This yellow light is the paragraph before Tyrion meets his father, Tywin-as-solar-king, to kill him. This act is a clear Lightbringer forging event, with the second son using an arrow to “darken” the solar king, heralded by light of the yellow lantern second sun.

Given these quotes, it seems that the sun-like yellow fire is the immediate precursor to the sun’s death aka the moon becoming impregnated with the sun’s fire in the moment before it births the moon meteors. With this in mind, consider this piece of mythology about the Crone, bearer of the godly lantern of wisdom:

…[Catelyn lit] a second [candle] to the Crone, who had let the first raven into the world when she peered through the door of death… (Catelyn I, ASOS)

It seems like transcending death was part of the goal of Azor Ahai in forging Ligthbringer, and this is something we have already seen in the alchemical transformation of Summer during Bran’s induction to the mystical world via the coma dream he had when, by all rights, he ought to have died. So, the Crone peering through death’s door without dying represents this transcendence of death: death holds no power over her so she can stare through death’s door with impudence and she does so using the power of the second sun lamp. However, doing so releases the raven!moon meteors, the consequence of challenging the natural order and creating/wielding the second sun.

One of the best demonstrations of the yellow fire second sun being the moment of the moon’s destruction comes during the Battle of the Blackwater.

It was Swordfish, her two banks of oars lifting and falling. She had never brought down her sails, and some burning pitch had caught in her rigging. The flames spread as Davos watched, creeping out over ropes and sails until she trailed a head of yellow flame. Her ungainly iron ram, fashioned after the likeness of the fish from which she took her name, parted the surface of the river before her. (Davos III, ACOK)

A swordfish is a relatively apt metaphor for the comet that caused the moon’s destruction: the Red Comet (another incarnation of Lightbringer and likely a remnant of the initial destructive comet) is likened to both a flaming-hot and a bloody sword (Arya I, ACOK) as well as the Tully trout (Catelyn I, ACOK), so the fiery Swordfish captures all of these ideas. Furthermore, it has a “head of yellow flame”, simultaneously invoking the idea of the head of a comet, the part that would look most like a second sun, and the crown of fire motif that is being consistently raised.

swordfish
Swordfish says “Oh shit!” by opus moreschl

And what does this flaming yellow comet ship do?

With a grinding, splintering, tearing crash, Swordfish split the rotted hulk asunder. She burst like an overripe fruit, but no fruit had ever screamed that shattering wooden scream. From inside her Davos saw green gushing from a thousand broken jars, poison from the entrails of a dying beast, glistening, shining, spreading across the surface of the river . . .

Swordfish and the hulk were gone, blackened bodies were floating downstream beside him, and choking men clinging to bits of smoking wood. Fifty feet high, a swirling demon of green flame danced upon the river. It had a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire. He saw Black Betha burning, and White Hart and Loyal Man to either side. Piety, Cat, Courageous, Sceptre, Red Raven, Harridan, Faithful, Fury, they had all gone up, Kingslander and Godsgrace as well, the demon was eating his own. Lord Velaryon’s shining Pride of Driftmark was trying to turn, but the demon ran a lazy green finger across her silvery oars and they flared up like so many tapers.  (Davos III, ACOK)

We will be talking about the wildfire in this scene in a bit more detail later, as wildfire has a lot to do with alchemical reactions – it is made by the Guild of the Alchemists, after all. For now, I’ll just highlight the mythical astronomy. Firstly, the yellow fiery Swordfish comet heads straight for the wildfire bomb, the captain intent on impregnating the hulk with fire, and this causes the ship to scream in a Nissa Nissa cry of anguish and ecstasy: that’s the Lightbringer comet sword being forged in the moon-wife. This releases poison from a thousand broken jars, a reference to the thousand poisonous moon meteors that emerged from the sun. There’s also a reference to the weirwoods, in that the Nissa Nissa scream is a wooden one, like the screaming wooden faces that are often carved on heart trees which in turn implicates the greenseeing element of the fire of the gods. This is the same implication as the direwolves having sun-gold-dragon eyes. In essence, by impregnating the wildfire bomb and unleashing the power of the thousand poisonous jars, the yellow fiery Swordfish is attempting to acquire the many forms of the fire of the gods. And boy, does that captain get more than he bargained for.

Taken together, I think there’s a very strong case laid out here that yellow fire and flame is to be associated with an imitation sun, that of the moon at the moment of impact/impregnation. So if yellow fire is the moon breaking, and yellows frequently transform into gold…

A Golden Lightbringer: Dragons, Stags and Swords

…then gold fire should be the result of that second sun transformation, which would be was Lightbringer, or the fire of the gods coming down to earth.

Here be dragons

As is made clear in the first of LmL’s essays, dragons represent the meteors born of the union between the sun and the moon and, as such, are one of the most potent symbols of Lightbringer. On no fewer than nine occasions do dragons breathe golden fire or flames, including on the Targaryen banner.

The Targaryen sigil is an excellent representations of the moon meteors, being a dragon (i.e. moon meteor) with three heads (a key moon meteor number, like a thousand). The Targaryen banner breathes golden flames on three occasions: twice in Aerion Brightflame’s sigil and once in Daenerys’ imagination.

I ought to have a banner sewn, she thought as she led her tattered band up along Astapor’s meandering river. She closed her eyes to imagine how it would look: all flowing black silk, and on it the red three-headed dragon of Targaryen, breathing golden flames. (Daenerys III, ASOS)

Aerion bore a three-headed dragon on his shield, but it was rendered in colors much more vivid than Valarr’s; one head was orange, one yellow, one red, and the flames they breathed had the sheen of gold leaf. (The Hedge Knight)

Dany’s symbolism is pretty obvious – she hatches dragon from stone eggs, walked into a fire that should have killed her and didn’t die, is heralded as the Saviour by the Red Priests. As a herald of Azor Ahai Reborn and wielder of the three-headed dragon!Lightbringer, her sigil should breathe the golden fire of Lightbringer.

Aerion Brightflame’s symbolism is slightly harder to find but it is there. Aerion Brightflame is the Targaryen who died by drinking wildfire in an attempt to turn into a dragon: that is an attempt to transcend death by transforming into something else and dragons are a symbol of moon meteors and an avatar of Azor Ahai Reborn. As we’ll be discussing later, wildfire is manufactured by the pyromancer’s who are officially called the Alchemists. The official definition of alchemy is  “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination”, which would suggest that the pyromancers are specialists in fire transformation: this is the exact process that we are discussing at the moment. So, Aerion Brightflame died in an attempt to use fire sorcery to transform himself into a dragon i.e. an attempt to forge Lightbringer. As such, it is only fitting that his sigil depicts the Targaryen Lightbringer dragon breathing golden Lightbringer fire..

Sunfyre_art1
Sunfyre, by Robert O’Leary

Another important golden fire dragon is Sunfyre, King Aegon II’s dragon, who fought during the Dance of the Dragons. Again, as a dragon, he is an obvious moon meteor symbol. As a golden dragon, he is a golden fire made flesh, or the sun god’s fire made flesh – hence the name Sunfyre – and thus a physical manifestation of godly fire. During his first battle in the Dance, Sunfyre and Vhagar team up against Meleys which is a depiction of the sun and still existent moon destroying the second moon (as analysed recently by LmL). As a result, Sunfyre is crippled and spends a long time on the ground: this represents the fire of the gods come to earth aka Lightbringer.

The king’s dragon, Sunfyre, too huge and heavy to be moved, and unable to fly with his injured wing, remained in the fields beyond Rook’s Rest, crawling through the ashes like some great golden wyrm. In the early days, he fed himself upon the burned carcasses of the slain. When those were gone, the men Ser Criston had left behind to guard him brought him calves and sheep. (The Princess and the Queen)

When he is on the ground, Sunfyre “crawls through the ashes”, which is a reference to the ash tree of Norse myth, Yggdrasil, which is a major influence on Martin’s depiction of the weirwood trees. As such, Sunfyre is a straight-up depiction of the sun’s fire inside the weirwood tree aka Azor Ahai inside the weirnet. This is reminiscent of Rowan Gold-tree using her golden hair and an apple to create the golden tree as a symbol of a weirwood tree.

And he then has a long battle with a dragon called “Moondancer”:

They met amidst the darkness that comes before the dawn, shadows in the sky lighting the night with their fires. Moondancer eluded Sunfyre’s flames, eluded his jaws, darted beneath his grasping claws, then came around and raked the larger dragon from above, opening a long smoking wound down his back and tearing at his injured wing. Watchers below said that Sunfyre lurched drunkenly in the air, fighting to stay aloft, whilst Moondancer turned and came back at him, spitting fire. Sunfyre answered with a furnace blast of golden flame so bright it lit the yard below like a second sun, a blast that took Moondancer full in the eyes. Like as not, the young dragon was blinded in that instant, yet still she flew on, slamming into Sunfyre in a tangle of wings and claws. As they fell, Moondancer struck at Sunfyre’s neck repeatedly, tearing out mouthfuls of flesh, whilst the elder dragon sank his claws into her underbelly. Robed in fire and smoke, blind and bleeding, Moondancer’s wings beat desperately as she tried to break away, but all her efforts did was slow their fall.

The watchers in the yard scrambled for safety as the dragons slammed into the hard stone, still fighting. On the ground, Moondancer’s quickness proved of little use against Sunfyre’s size and weight. The green dragon soon lay still. The golden dragon screamed his victory and tried to rise again, only to collapse back to the ground with hot blood pouring from his wounds. (The Princess and the Queen)

I won’t elaborate on all the Lightbringer forging symbolism here because LmL has already done it here, but I just wanted to include that juiciness because it would be a crime not to include at least one of the awesome dragon fights I’m referring to. I also wanted to explain why the second sun is here represented as golden fire when I have spent most of this essay saying why that was yellow fire and that yellow and gold are related but different. I have recently changed my mind about this: previously I thought it was a reference to to the return of the Red Comet or the Battle for the Dawn. However, I now believe this to be mythical astronomy with the primary focus being the acquisition of the second fire of the gods power i.e. accessing the weirnet, in contrast to the first battle which focused on the celestial sequence of events with a side of greenseeing. Consider that Sunfyre is really struggling in this battle, “lurching drunkenly in the air” during the fight – he is already the sun’s fire come down to earth, hence the gold. The dragon he is fighting, Moondancer, is a green dragon, making it green fire made flesh. I believe this to be a reference to weirwood trees and greenseeing, which I will explain more fully in our green fire section later on but for now you’ll just have to take my word for it. So, golden second sun fire flying through the air and blinding the greenseeing dragon is another iteration of the Storm God’s lightning bolt striking the tree, a depiction of the moon meteors creating/activating the weirwoods. From Bran’s various dreams, we know that greenseers must be blinded to open their third eye, so Sunfyre blinding Moondancer the greenseer dragon is exactly how you would create a greenseer. Plus, when you think of gouging someone’s eyes out, or blinding them, you create bloody eyes… but that’s just how a weirwood looks, so it’s another version of carving a face on a weirwood tree, which is probably the same as activating it. Again, what we are seeing is the pairing of the golden fire of the gods and the green(seeing) fire of the gods – we are seeing a lot of that, if you hadn’t noticed already, but we’ll be doing a deeper dive on green fire in just a moment.

Until then, we’ll talk about the final dragon that breathes gold flame, Viserion, who produces pale gold fire and has eyes likelakes of molten gold (The Dragontamer, ADWD). As one of Daenerys’ dragons, he is a potent symbol of Lightbringer, because he is a dragon and he was born in the transformative fire of Drogo’s pyre. Moreover, he is named after Viserys, the king who was killed by a crown of fiery molten gold: Viserion is, therefore, a tribute to a king crowned with gold (and) fire. Viserion’s colouring also indicates something interesting:

Viserion’s scales were the color of fresh cream, his horns, wing bones, and spinal crest a dark gold that flashed bright as metal in the sun(Daenerys I, ASOS)

Cream is a colour that is consistently associated with the moon, like the cream crescent moon on sky blue sigil of the Arryns. So Viserion is a cream and gold dragon, which is the colour of the moon and of the sun’s fire respectively. In essence, Viserion is an avatar of LmL’s sun + moon = Lightbringer equation.

This interpretation of Viserion’s colouring is the reason why I believe Rhaegal is the only dragon to breathe yellow fire in the quote I pulled earlier. This is the paragraph in full:

When Rhaegal roared, a gout of yellow flame turned darkness into day for half a heartbeat. The fire licked along the walls, and Dany felt the heat upon her face, like the blast from an oven. Across the pit, Viserion’s wings unfolded, stirring the stale air. He tried to fly to her, but the chains snapped taut as he rose and slammed him down onto his belly. (Daenerys II, ADWD)

As Dany opens the door to see her dragons, green dragon (= green fire of the gods = greenseer) Rhaegal unleashes his sun-and-moon-‘impact’ yellow flame. At which point, Viserion, who represents the fusion of sun-and-moon, tries to fly to Azor Ahai Reborn figure, Daenerys. That is to say, the naughty greenseer peeps explode the moon, create the second sun, and the resulting sun-moon offspring tries to reach Azor Ahai Reborn.

viserion_by_yutyrannus-dbk2qz8 RTF2
Viserion, by Yutyrannus (using HBO dragon design)

In conclusion, these dragons (themselves Lightbringer/moon meteor symbols) have an extra helping of Lightbringer symbolism, for instance, by representing Targaryens who underwent fire transformation (not always successful *Aerion*) or through the actions of gold-coloured dragons.

Flaming gold swords

One of the many motifs of Lightbringer is that of the flaming sword: Jon bearing a burning sword in his dream atop the Wall; resurrected Beric lighting his sword on fire with his burning black blood; Thoros of Myr wielding his burning sword at the Siege of Pyke; the list goes on.

Only one of these swords is directly associated with golden fire.

A bundle of oilcloth lay on the table between them, and Lord Tywin had a longsword in his hand. “A wedding gift for Joffrey,” he told Tyrion. The light streaming through the diamond-shaped panes of glass made the blade shimmer black and red as Lord Tywin turned it to inspect the edge, while the pommel and crossguard flamed gold. “With this fool’s jabber of Stannis and his magic sword, it seemed to me that we had best give Joffrey something extraordinary as well.” (Tyrion IV, ASOS)

widow__s_wail_by_feliciacano
Widow’s Wail by feliciacano © Fantasy Flight Games. 

LmL provides a long analysis of why Widow’s Wail (and its sister sword, Oathkeeper) represent Lightbringer: smoke dark Valyrian steel that drinks the light; the waves of night and blood; it’s descended from Ice, another Lightbringer symbol, and directly compared to Stannis’ magic sword, which is explicitly named Lightbringer. Now we can add flaming gold to that pile of symbolism. It’s interesting that it is the pommel and crossguard that flame gold: if you imagine the sword planted point down in the ground this creates a crown of fire symbol. This may sound far-fetched, but it is actually how we are introduced to Lightbringer.

Stannis untied his singed leather cape and listened in silence. Thrust in the ground, Lightbringer still glowed ruddy hot, but the flames that clung to the sword were dwindling and dying.

By the time the song was done, only charwood remained of the gods, and the king’s patience had run its course. He took the queen by the elbow and escorted her back into Dragonstone, leaving Lightbringer where it stood(Davos I, ACOK)

This sword’s crown of fire/a flaming gold pommel also emphasises the cost of magic. This is the sword with no safe way to hold it, the sword without a hilt, the sword with a burning pommel that, if grasped, burns the hand of those who grasp it (shout out here to Jon’s burned hand and the Red Hands of the Burned Men in the Mountains of the Moon).

The only other golden sword in the series is Jaime Lannister’s sword.

The seven knights of the Kingsguard took the field, all but Jaime Lannister in scaled armor the color of milk, their cloaks as white as fresh-fallen snow. Ser Jaime wore the white cloak as well, but beneath it he was shining gold from head to foot, with a lion’s-head helm and a golden sword.  (Sansa II, AGOT)

No, this sword doesn’t have any direct golden burning going on but Jaime does describe his sword like this:

The Warrior had been Jaime’s god since he was old enough to hold a sword. Other men might be fathers, sons, husbands, but never Jaime Lannister, whose sword was as golden as his hair. (Jaime I, AFFC)

As I argued above and in my supplementary essay, the Lannister’s hair is golden because Lann stole the sun’s fire to crown himself and it is therefore an indicator of someone having acquired the fire of the gods. By equating his sword to his hair, Jaime transfers this “fire of the gods” symbolism onto his golden sword. And what did this sword do?

“Kingslayer,” he pronounced carefully. “And such a king he was!” He lifted his cup. “To Aerys Targaryen, the Second of His Name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. And to the sword that opened his throat. A golden sword, don’t you know. Until his blood ran red down the blade. Those are the Lannister colors, red and gold.” (Catelyn VII, ACOK)

It kills the solar king who was planning on destroying everything with wildfire in the hopes of being reborn a dragon. (Spot the shades of Aerion Brightflame’s death in Aerys’ planned death.) The sword itself then becomes a bloody sword, yet another motif of the Red Comet!Lightbringer.

It is interesting to note that we see a gold to yellow transformation in the lion’s head pommel of Widow’s Wail’s sister sword, Oathkeeper.

Gold glimmered yellow in the candlelight and rubies smoldered red. When she slid Oathkeeper from the ornate scabbard, Brienne’s breath caught in her throat. Black and red the ripples ran, deep within the steel. Valyrian steel, spell-forged. It was a sword fit for a hero. (Brienne I, AFFC)

The tiny imitation sun candle transforms the gold into yellow, which is the opposite direction to that which I have been saying for most of this essay. I believe this can be
correlated to the people who own these swords. Joffrey is the solar king, crowned with the Lannister’s golden fire hair, whereas Brienne is the virginal, icy, moon maiden warrior. So, whereas Joffrey is the result of the sun impregnating the moon with his fiery seed, Brienne has yet to be touched by the sun’s fire and thus her Lightbringer sword stand-in has yet to become the golden fire of the gods.

brienne_ii_by_sir_heartsalot
Brienne with Oathkeeper, by Sir-Heartsalot

However, we also see “ember in the ashes” symbolism via the ruby eyes smouldering red in the hilt of the sword. I searched “smolder” and saw these similarities:

In the smoldering red pits of Drogon’s eyes, Dany saw her own reflection. How small she looked, how weak and frail and scared. I cannot let him see my fear. (Daenerys IX, ADWD)

He tried not to flinch as Hodor ducked through a low door. They walked down a long dim hallway, Summer padding easily beside them. The wolf glanced up from time to time, eyes smoldering like liquid gold. (Bran VI, AGOT)

Both Summer and Drogon are archetypes of Lightbringer, i.e. greenseer/skinchanger, hellhounds and dragon meteors, and in both of these quotes, their bonded persons have not yet fully realised their power: Bran has yet to consciously skinchange, and Dany has backed away from the “Fire and Blood” words of her House. As such, both Bran and Dany are the embers in the ashes of their respective animals, waiting to ignite a great blaze (this is Mel’s description of Azor Ahai Reborn to Davos in Davos III, ASOS). Oathkeeper, in its former life as Ice, has been tempered with Ned’s blood already. As such, there is an ember in this sword, waiting to transform the yellow into gold in a blaze of godly fire.

I could also very easily go off on a tangent here about “glimmering” and “smouldering”, but most of that refers to red fires, so I’m going to be good and restrain myself for now, and move on to the final occurrence of gold fires and flames.

The Usurper’s Fiery Hart

Gold fire occurs with reference to Renly on three different occasions and all with reference to green fire, so I’ll weave in some of the green fire concepts too. The first description of Renly and fire occurs in the description of his armour, just before he is killed:

The king’s armor was a deep green, the green of leaves in a summer wood, so dark it drank the candlelight. Gold highlights gleamed from inlay and fastenings like distant fires in that wood, winking every time he moved. (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

This is another example of the “ember in the ashes” motif that we’ve just traced out in the stranded Sunfyre and in the sword Oathkeeper. In this case, it is small golden fires hidden within the trees of a summer wood. Note how this deep green is likened to Lightbringer, in that it drinks the candlelight, like the moon meteor dragons drink the light of the sun: we have the summer wood imbibing the light of the second sun candle. Presumably imbibing this fire would cause a slight problem for trees because wood and fire don’t tend to mix that well and it may create some burning trees. As I mentioned in passing during the discussion of Rowan Gold-tree’s golden tree, the weirwood trees can be equated to burning trees because their leaves are described as “a blaze of flame”, so Renly’s gold-and-green forest-and-fire armour is a physical manifestation of this.

One of the key things that happens to this armour is that is bathed in sacrificial blood:

The king stumbled into her arms, a sheet of blood creeping down the front of his armor, a dark red tide that drowned his green and gold. (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

This sacrificial blood is the blood of a king, and there is supposedly magical power in King’s blood.

On the ground, Renly’s head rolled sickeningly to one side, and a second mouth yawned wide, the blood coming from him now in slow pulses. (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

“King Renly’s shade was seen as well,” the captain said, “slaying right and left as he led the lion lord’s van. It’s said his green armor took a ghostly glow from the wildfire, and his antlers ran with golden flames.” (Davos II, ASOS)

Slitting someone’s throat in this fashion is a ritual sacrifice by giving someone a “red smile”, akin to the carving of the bloody faces onto the weirwood tree and thus this scene can be said to represent the activation of a heart tree. Presumably, the activation of a heart tree is related to being entered by a greenseer and, as I mentioned before, greenseeing magic is an exceptionally potent form of the fire of the gods making the user close to omniscient. Renly’s sudden reappearance during the Battle of the Blackwater is an indication that he has (symbolically) transcended death, another trademark of the fire of the gods that we have tracked throughout this essay. How is this fire of the gods double whammy represented? Renly’s antlers are running with golden flames, and he is now wearing fiery armour, giving us the fire knight or warrior of fire motif from my first essay, which is itself linked to Azor Ahai acquiring the fire of the gods. Assuming that green fire is akin to the greenseeing fire of the gods, this means that the warrior of fire is a greenseer – this has been LmL’s thesis for months now.

Pyromancer’s piss

As you have probably noticed, we have been tripping over green fire all through this essay: Aerion Brightflame of the gold-fire breathing dragon sigil dies drinking wildfire; the Swordfish sets off a wildfire bomb; Renly’s wildfire armour; The Mad King is a dragonlord obsessed with wildfire who has his throat opened, just like Renly, to save King’s Landing from wildfire… It’s all over the place.

As you can see, all of that imagery is bouncing off of the idea of wildfire. Why is wildfire cropping up in an essay about transformation? Well, as I mentioned earlier, it is made by the Alchemists. And how can I have an essay called The Alchemists’ Delight without actually talking about the Alchemists? (Like an idiot, I nearly did: I finished this essay a few months ago and I’ve only just added this section – so editing has been fun).

Lightbringer (again): Dragons, Swords and Trees

So, let’s start at the beginning. If green fire has something to do with fire transformations then Lightbringer references should be popping up all over the place. And what better Lightbringer reference than, well, Lightbringer?

Somewhat surprisingly for a sword with a name like “the Red Sword of Heroes”, our introduction to Lightbringer is of a sword burning with green fire.

The king plunged into the fire with his teeth clenched, holding the leather cloak before him to keep off the flames. He went straight to the Mother, grasped the sword with his gloved hand, and wrenched it free of the burning wood with a single hard jerk. Then he was retreating, the sword held high, jade-green flames swirling around cherry-red steel. Guards rushed to beat out the cinders that clung to the king’s clothing. (Davos I, ACOK)

Given that this is our introduction to the Lightbringer myth, having the sword burn with “jade-green flames” suggests that green fire is a fundamental part of that myth.

So, how did Lightbringer become green? Davos handily provides us with a description of another flaming sword in the very next paragraph.

He remembered the red priest Thoros of Myr, and the flaming sword he had wielded in the melee. The man had made for a colorful spectacle, his red robes flapping while his blade writhed with pale green flames, but everyone knew there was no true magic to it, and in the end his fire had guttered out and Bronze Yohn Royce had brained him with a common mace. (Davos I, ACOK)

Thoros’ sword has these “pale green flames from using a thin coating of wildfire on the steel. Like I said, green fire references all seem to bounce off of wildfire imagery.

“My master always scolded him about his flaming swords. It was no way to treat good steel, he’d say, but this Thoros never used good steel. He’d just dip some cheap sword in wildfire and set it alight. It was only an alchemist’s trick, my master said, but it scared the horses and some of the greener knights.” (Arya IV, ACOK)

The green flames around a burning sword are nothing but “an alchemist’s trickor sleight of hand, an idea which transfers on to Stannis’ Lightbringer quite well, knowing that Mel likes to encourage reality to bow to her own beliefs. This is part of the burned, not burning, sword idea of Stannis’ blade being not quite right, part of the same idea that the dark-yellow-but-not-quite-gold tent evokes. However, there may also be some slight wordplay here too: it is an alchemists’ trick in that it is a secret known only to those who know the secrets of (fire) transformation. This reinforces the Lightbringer-as-fire-transformed idea that we have been tracking throughout this essay.

Given the equivalence between flaming swords and dragons, it would be very helpful to have some king of dragon breathing green fire or flame. It would be really helpful if, I don’t know, that dragon had been born in some kind of metaphor for Lightbringer’s forging, or something.

Rhaegal took [a sheep] in the air. His head snapped round, and from between his jaws a lance of flame erupted, a swirling storm of orange-and-yellow fire shot through with veins of green. (The Dragontamer, ADWD)

Hey there, Rhaegal! The reference to a green dragon unleashing a storm of fire is another iteration of the greenseers unleashing the Storm of Sword moon meteors, as proposed by LmL. This is backed up with the colour mixture: we already know that yellow fire is associated with the second sun or the moon at the moment of impact, unleashing the fiery dragon meteors. Orange is the subject of next essay in the series and, as I will demonstrate, appears to be solely related to the moon meteors flying through the air and landing to kick up the debris that caused the Long Night. This is exactly what you’d expect after the yellow of the moon and comet!Lightbringer collision.

beeps_by_noaharkensaw-dbmi97j
Rhaegal + storm = greenseeing symbolism by NoahArkensaw

The description of the green within this fire as “green veins” invokes the idea of green blood, which is exactly how unlit wildfire has been described:

Directly ahead [of Swordfish], drifting toward her and swinging around to present a tempting plump target, was one of the Lannister hulks, floating low in the water. Slow green blood was leaking out between her boards. (Davos III, ACOK)

It turns out that even dragons generating their own flames are beholden to the symbolism of wildfire. Actually, this scene is really interesting and I briefly mentioned it earlier as a foundation for green fire being greenseeing fire, before detailing all of the evidence. So let’s take a longer look at this scene:

With a grinding, splintering, tearing crash, Swordfish split the rotted hulk asunder. She burst like an overripe fruit, but no fruit had ever screamed that shattering wooden scream. From inside her Davos saw green gushing from a thousand broken jars, poison from the entrails of a dying beast, glistening, shining, spreading across the surface of the river . . .

Swordfish and the hulk were gone, blackened bodies were floating downstream beside him, and choking men clinging to bits of smoking wood. Fifty feet high, a swirling demon of green flame danced upon the river. It had a dozen hands, in each a whip, and whatever they touched burst into fire. He saw Black Betha burning, and White Hart and Loyal Man to either side. Piety, Cat, Courageous, Sceptre, Red Raven, Harridan, Faithful, Fury, they had all gone up, Kingslander and Godsgrace as well, the demon was eating his own. Lord Velaryon’s shining Pride of Driftmark was trying to turn, but the demon ran a lazy green finger across her silvery oars and they flared up like so many tapers.  (Davos III, ACOK)

I mentioned earlier that this had a lot of elements as regards the sun stabbing the moon with a comet to unleash a thousand poisonous moon meteors and I gave you a little tease of weirwood. Now is a perfect time to mention that there is actually way, way more weirwood/greenseer action going on here than just that.

  1. Ships and trees share a lot of symbolism, meaning that this ship is a tree burning with greenseeing fire, aka a weirwood tree.
  2. Weirwood trees have leaves described as bits of flame (Theon V, ACOK), making them burning greenseer trees: this ship burns with greenseeing fire.
  3. The ship is described as bleeding, much like the faces and leaves of the weirwood trees are described as bloody.
  4. The ship is one of the few unnamed ships of the Battle of the Blackwater, reminiscent of the “nameless faceless gods of the greenwood” (Catelyn I, AGOT). This suggests a link between the old gods, who are the greenseers, and this ship alight with greenseer fire.
  5. It unleashes a dancing demon, a depiction of the greenseer in Odin-esque shamonic ecstasy. A great comparison would be Thistle’s grotesque dance before the weirwood tree in the Prologue of ADWD as Varamyr becomes an abomination (or a demon?) by attempting to skinchange her.
  6. By calling the result of the wildfire bomb a “demon” that “eat[s] his own”, we are encouraged to think of the Ironborn myth of the Grey King making a boat out of the hard pale wood of Ygg, a demon tree who fed on human flesh”. The name “Ygg” is another reference to Yggdrasil, the world tree of Norse myth and one of the inspirations for the weirwood trees (read more in LmL’s Weirwood Compendium series), so we can assume this demon tree fed on human flesh is a depiction of a weirwood. We know that humans sacrificed to the weirwood trees, with some very visceral depictions of heart trees drinking blood, which implies cannibalism on the part of the greenseers within the tree. So, a green fire demon eating his own is essentially a depiction of the cannibalistic greenseers within the weirwood tree. Before moving on, does anybody want some Jojen paste?

The greenseeing demon of the Blackwater wields a dozen burning whips, potentially a reference to the Last Hero and his twelve companions. This is relevant to our green veins Rhaegal quote because Rhaegal creates a fiery whip wielder too:

Quentyn turned and threw his left arm across his face to shield his eyes from the furnace wind. Rhaegal, he reminded himself, the green one is Rhaegal.

When he raised his whip, he saw that the lash was burning. His hand as well. All of him, all of him was burning. (The Dragontamer, ADWD)

So not only does Rhaegal’s fire have veins of green, equating it to the slow green blood of the wildfire bomb, it creates a burning, lash wielding greenseer symbol, just as lighting the wildfire bomb did.

Oh, and here’s another dragon that breathes green fire:

[Moqorro’s] iron staff was as tall as he was and crowned with a dragon’s head; when he stamped its butt upon the deck, the dragon’s maw spat crackling green flame. (Tyrion VIII, ADWD)

Note that the staff is “crowned” with this dragon’s head breathing green fire, again reinforcing the crown of fire motif we have been investigating in this essay. As such, we ought to see it associated with the attempt to acquire the fire of the gods. So, does this green flame breathing dragon staff appear to have any special powers?

The wind returned as a whispered threat, cold and damp, brushing over his cheek, flapping the wet sail, swirling and tugging at Moqorro’s scarlet robes. Some instinct made Tyrion grab hold of the nearest rail, just in time. In the space of three heartbeats the little breeze became a howling gale. Moqorro shouted something, and green flames leapt from the dragon’s maw atop his staff to vanish in the night. Then the rains came, black and blinding, and forecastle and sterncastle both vanished behind a wall of water. Something huge flapped overhead, and Tyrion glanced up in time to see the sail taking wing, with two men still dangling from the lines. Then he heard a crack. Oh, bloody hell, he had time to think, that had to be the mast. (Tyrion IX, ADWD)

The green flame initiates the Storm (of Swords)! This is pretty clearly referenced in the “black and blinding” rain, the rain of black bloodstone meteors, and the sail flapping overhead like a dragon, again referencing the moon meteors. This fits neatly with Rhaegal’s swirling storm of orange-and-yellow fire shot through with veins of green (The Dragontamer, ADWD), in that both instances of dragon-related green fire are associated with storms. Interestingly, Moqorro’s magical firestorm is heralded by the whispering wind, which is the communication of the greenseers. This is very much in line with LmL’s theory that it was the naughty greenseers who broke the moon somehow: the green flame leaping from the dragon’s maw and vanishing in to the night just prior to the black bloodstone meteor rain is just another manifestation of this.

moqorro_by_abend86-d8e7f2r
Moqorro by Abend86

 

So, we have seen green fiery swords, and green fire breathing dragons as representatives of the greenseeing fire of the gods. We aren’t seeing much tree action though, to say we’re talking about greenseers. I wished for a green Lightbringer dragon earlier and got Rhaegal so maybe wishing for a wooden dragon would be useful. Fingers crossed!

This was far from the greatest folly of Aegon IV’s stillborn invasion of Dorne, however, for His Grace had also turned to the dubious pyromancers of the ancient Guild of Alchemists, commanding them to “build me dragons.” These wood-and-iron monstrosities, fitted with pumps that shot jets of wildfire, might perhaps have been of some use in a siege. (The Targaryen Kings: Aegon IV, The World of Ice and Fire)

Would you look at that?! It worked again! We have wooden dragons, with the wood implying trees. Tree dragons, if you will. It is also iron and breathes green flame like Moqorro’s staff. And Aegon IV (aka Aegon the Unworthy) is sending these dragons to go and conquer Dorne. That’s the bad dragon king sending some wooden greenseer dragons to gain the power of the sun and its spear. It’s the start of the Long Night again folks and speaks of a greedy king seeking after the fire of the gods. Moreover, Aegon IV commissioned these from the pyromancers, which once again suggests an alchemist’s trick and thus that these wooden dragons are a product of sorcerers specialising in fire transformation.

And what happens to these wooden dragons?

“Nine mages crossed the sea to hatch Aegon the Third’s cache of eggs. Baelor the Blessed prayed over his for half a year. Aegon the Fourth built dragons of wood and iron. Aerion Brightflame drank wildfire to transform himself. The mages failed, King Baelor’s prayers went unanswered, the wooden dragons burned, and Prince Aerion died screaming.” (Davos V, ASOS)

They catch on fire, so that they become burning wooden dragons, making them even better depictions of the burning tree weirwoods, whose leaves are “a blaze of flame”. This also suggests that the weirwood trees being set on fire is due to the fire sorcerors, which sounds almost exactly like the theory that LmL has been outlining in his Weirwood Compendium series: Azor Ahai transformed himself with fire, entered the weirwood tree and filled it with his fiery consciousness to symbolically set it on fire.

In the analysis of green fire and flame so far, it seems to show that the wildfire (which is representing greenseeing ability) changes and transforms objects representing Lightbringer, like the swords, whips, trees and so on. But what of the man who wields them? What of Azor Ahai?

Resurrection and Roman Candles

One of our earliest explicit references to wildfire (as opposed to just green fire) comes in ACOK and refers to Aerion Brightflame.

Roman Papusev He_thinks_he_is_a_dragon
Aerion drinks wildfire by Roman Papusev. 

“The very one, though he named himself Aerion Brightflame. One night, in his cups, he drank a jar of wildfire, after telling his friends it would transform him into a dragon, but the gods were kind and it transformed him into a corpse.” (Jon I, ACOK)

Explicit reference to transformation? Check. Explicit reference to trying to acquire a dragon? Check. Explicit reference to wildfire and thus greenseeing? Check, and check. George is literally telling us, to our faces, not even particularly subtly, that those who wield greenseeing magic are trying to create dragons: that’s Azor Ahai being reborn as the moon meteors. This transformation didn’t quite go to plan, as Aerion was transformed into a corpse instead, implying that Azor Ahai’s transformation was a deathly one. This fits with our analysis of Summer’s eyes related to Bran’s transformation into a skinchanger: the first stage of that transformation was Summer “chilling” Bran with a direwolf’s howl of death.

In fact, this deathly connotation of wildfire is mentioned elsewhere.

The green light of the wildfire had bathed the face of the watchers, so they looked like nothing so much as rotting corpses, a pack of gleeful ghouls, but some of the corpses were prettier than others. Even in the baleful glow, Cersei had been beautiful to look upon. She’d stood with one hand on her breast, her lips parted, her green eyes shining. She is crying, Jaime had realized, but whether it was from grief or ecstasy he could not have said. (Jaime II, AFFC)

As LmL outlines, the language used in this scene is exceptionally similar to that of Daenerys’ Alchemical Wedding aka Drogo’s Pyre aka Lightbringer forging bonfire: Cersei is being depicted in anguish and ecstasy, like Nissa Nissa, and Cersei herself describes it is cleansing her, burning away all her rage and fear” like Drogo’s pyre cleanses Daenerys, during a symbolic death and resurrection scene. This is implied as the green light transforms the watchers into living rotting corpses, which sounds just delightful and very similar to the wildfire transforming Aerion Brightflame into a corpse. The fact that this occurs during such a phenomenal Lightbringer forging scene indicates that being transformed into a living corpse is an all-important factor in the transformation of Azor Ahai.

Speaking of transforming corpses, wildfire is also used to send people to the afterlife.

[Septon Sefton on the Great Spring Sickness] “Strong men would wake healthy at the break of day and be dead by evenfall. So many died so quickly there was no time to bury them. They piled them in the Dragonpit instead, and when the corpses were ten feet deep, Lord Rivers commanded the pyromancers to burn them. The light of the fires shone through the windows, as it did of yore when living dragons still nested beneath the dome. By night you could see the glow all through the city, the dark green glow of wildfire. The color green still haunts me to this day.” (The Sworn Sword)

The greenseeing fire sets some corpses on fire and creates living dragons: that’s Azor Ahai being reborn as the moon meteors right there. The fact that it is occurring in the Dragonpit, an excellent symbol of the now extinct fire moon, is just more of the moon breaking symbolism. And it shouldn’t really surprise you to find that this happens at the behest of Bloodraven, a dragon-man who looks like a corpse and who is currently sat in a weirwood tree and is known as the Last Greenseer.

The idea of life after death is also heavily implied in the wildfire during the Battle of the Blackwater.

The kiss of wildfire turned proud ships into funeral pyres and men into living torches. The air was full of smoke and arrows and screams. (Tyrion XIII, ACOK)

This is exactly the same sentence structure as the Septon Sefton quote and it implies the same thing: you give dead men the greenseeing fire of the gods in a funeral pyre and that creates living moon meteor people. Given that ships can be likened to trees, a ship burning with greenseeing fire is akin to a weirwood being activated by a greenseer, creating a further link between these funeral pyre ships and the weirwood trees. Once again, this sounds a heck of a lot like the theory proposed by LmL in his Weirwood Compendium and Green Zombies series, in that the first greenseers may have had to be sacrificed to enter the tree.

battle_of_blackwater___game_of_thrones_by_darthtemoc-d638ukk
The Battle of the Blackwater by darthtemoc

Returning to the Septon Sefton quote, we can see that a life after death is implied because the colour green “haunts” the poor Septon, implying the spirits of the dead are lingering behind. It seems this wildfire pyre may have created a few ghosts, and ghosts are pretty heavily linked to greenseers (as is very concisely outlined by JoeMagician for Watchers on the Wall). If wildfire is greenseeing fire and if greenseers are ghosts, then we should see wildfire having some ghostly descriptions too.

The Guildhall of the Alchemists was an imposing warren of black stone, but Hallyne led him through the twists and turns until they reached the Gallery of the Iron Torches, a long echoing chamber where columns of green fire danced around black metal columns twenty feet tall. Ghostly flames shimmered off the polished black marble of the walls and floor and bathed the hall in an emerald radiance. (Tyrion V, ACOK)

The sky outside was darker by then, with only a few pale green ghosts dancing against the stars. (Sansa VII, ACOK)

“King Renly’s shade was seen as well,” the captain said, “slaying right and left as he led the lion lord’s van. It’s said his green armor took a ghostly glow from the wildfire, and his antlers ran with golden flames.” (Davos II, ASOS)

In all cases, the reference to ghosts in the descriptions of wildfire appears to reference greenseers, with the labyrinthine nature of the Guildhall in particular conveying some of the connotations of being trapped that is suggested with the weirwood trees.

We covered some of the symbolism of Renly’s armour earlier in this essay: he has light-drinking forest green armour that gets bathed in king’s blood, like Renly is being sacrificed before the trees. After this point, he is ‘resurrected’ with flaming golden antlers, indicating he has acquired the fire of the gods i.e.he has ‘trascended’ death (air quotes abound because this is yet another trick). Now we also have the green wildfire making his armour appear like a forest full of fiery ghosts, a depiction of Azor Ahai Reborn in the weirnet if I ever heard one.

Also, remember how I said this armour “drank the candlelight” like Lightbringer items seem to drink the sun? It turns out that this armour was forged by Tobho Mott, the same guy that split Ice into Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail. These swords also “drink the light of the sun” to turn blood red instead of Lannister crimson, giving them yet more Lightbringer symbolism: Tobho Mott really likes to forge these Lightbringer symbols. So not only has this guy made Lightbringer swords, he also appears to have made Lightbringer armour. Kinda makes you think of Jon’s dream atop the wall:

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. (Jon XII, ADWD)

But pfff, I don’t imagine that’s too important, so we’ll move on. (Actually, it is pretty important – I have an essay forthcoming based on this twitter thread, all about the ridiculously extravagant symbolism of Tobho Mott.)

Returning to the motif of the fire knight, armoured in fire, we do actually have another knight that wears green fire armour.

There on the deck of the next ship, across a widening gulf of black water, stood Ser Mandon Moore, a hand extended. Yellow and green fire shone against the white of his armor, and his lobstered gauntlet was sticky with blood, but Tyrion reached for it all the same, wishing his arms were longer. (Tyrion XIV, ACOK)

As we discussed earlier, the yellow fire indicates an attempt to acquire the fire of the gods and the green indicates greenseeing magic: yet again this is the naughty greenseer attempting to acquire the fire of the gods, and doing so with blood soaked hands. Returning to the weirwoods again, their leaves are not only a blaze of flame” (Theon V, ACOK) but also like “a thousand bloodstained hands (Catelyn I, AGOT), so a fire knight attempting to acquire the fire of the gods using greenseeing magic is exactly the right person to have bloodstained hands.

In fact, Ser Mandon Moore actually appears to make a weirwood tree in this scene (long, juicy quote warning):

The point slashed just beneath his eyes, and he felt its cold hard touch and then a blaze of pain. His head spun around as if he’d been slapped. The shock of the cold water was a second slap more jolting than the first. He flailed for something to grab on to, knowing that once he went down he was not like to come back up. Somehow his hand found the splintered end of a broken oar. Clutching it tight as a desperate lover, he shinnied up foot by foot. His eyes were full of water, his mouth was full of blood and his head throbbed horribly. Gods, give me the strength to reach the deck… Nothing else mattered, only the oar, the water, the deck.

Finally he rolled over the side and lay breathless and exhausted, flat on his back. Balls of green and orange flame crackled overhead, leaving streaks between the stars. He had a moment to think how pretty it was before Ser Mandon blocked out the view. The knight was a white steel shadow, his eyes shining darkly behind his helm. Tyrion had no more strength than a rag doll. Ser Mandon put the point of his sword to the hollow of his throat and curled both hands around the hilt.

And suddenly he lurched to the left, staggering into the rail. Wood split, and Ser Mandon Moore vanished with a shout and a splash. An instant later, the hulls came slamming together again, so hard the deck seemed to jump. Then someone was kneeling over him. “Jaime?” he croaked, almost choking on the blood that filled his mouth. Who else would save him, if not his brother?

“Be still, my lord, you’re hurt bad.” A boy’s voice, that makes no sense, thought Tyrion. It sounded almost like Pod. (Tyrion XIV, ACOK)

Ser Mandon. He saw the dead empty eyes, the reaching hand, the green fire shining against the white enamel plate. Fear swept over him in a cold rush; beneath the sheets he could feel his bladder letting go. He would have cried out, if he’d had a mouth. (Tyrion XV, ACOK)

Oh my days, so much symbolism. Ser Mandon Moore carves Tyrion’s face, like Azor Ahai carving the face of the weirwood tree, and that sets Tyrion’s face on fire: “a blaze of pain” to compare to leaves that were “a blaze of flame“. This is like the carving of the faces in the trees presumably led to the greenseer’s fiery soul entering the weirwood tree. Tyrion also ends up with bloody mouth and, presumably, a bloody hand from reaching for Ser Mandon’s bloody hands: this gives him the bloody hand and bloody mouth symbolism of a weirwood tree, something LmL terms the weirwood stigmata. When he finally reaches the deck of the ship, Tyrion describes the orange and green fire streaking between the stars, which is a pretty perfect metaphor for the moon meteors raining down upon Westeros the moment before Mandon Moore is supposed to sacrifice him with a sword thrust to the throat i.e. creating a red smile second mouth. And, during his fever dream, Tyrion then dreams that he does not have a mouth and silently screams like many of the weirwood trees are depicted. This is all part of the mutual injury or mutual destruction of the creation of the weirwood tree, the sacrifice and the sacrificer sharing the same symbolism during the creation of the burning/bloody tree.

tyrion_at_the_blackwater_by_cececlock-daez6r0
Tyrion at the Blackwater, attacked by the ghostly Mandon Moore. Artwork by artofc3

 

Note too how the fire knight Ser Mandon Moore has “dead empty eyes possibly relating to the greenseers being dead in the first instance. It is also interesting that Podrick Payne saves Tyrion’s life. The Payne’s sigil is golden coins on purple and white chequy, and golden coins are, of course, dragons. That’s right – the fire knight reaches for the fire of the gods and a dragon appears out of nowhere to turn him into a corpse. Wildfire does that to people, it seems.

As a potentially tinfoil-y aside, I have to wonder if this is telling us something about the Others. LmL has very nicely broken down the relationship between the Kingsguard and the Others, demonstrating that they are likely to be symbolic parallels. The fact that Mandon Moore is called a white shadow” as he prepares to slit Tyrion’s throat like a good weirwood sacrifice reinforces this, given the frequency with which the Others are referred to as white shadows. If Moore is representing an Other here, this would suggest that the Others are greenseers (implied by LmL in the Moons of Ice and Fire series and by Moore wearing the green fiery ice armour) and that they attempted to acquire the fire of the gods (implied by the yellow fire on the ice armour) and created the first weirwood tree (implied by carving Tyrion’s face).

Anyway, moving away from the mild tinfoil, the fire knight motif keeps cropping up a lot, so let’s delve in to that in slightly more detail. In essence, these are warriors who wear fire or are robed in fire, making them burning men, like Mandon Moore wearing armour the colour of fire: it’s akin to priests and priestesses of R’hllor wearing clothes to look like fire as well as being in the process of being transformed by fire. Another term would be warrior of fire that Mel bandies around to describe Azor Ahai Reborn (Davos III, ASOS). There are many instances of this motif relating to green fire but one of the more important green fire knights is Lord Rickard Stark, so I’ll pull the quote:

[Jaime speaking] “The pyromancers roasted Lord Rickard slowly, banking and fanning that fire carefully to get a nice even heat. His cloak caught first, and then his surcoat, and soon he wore nothing but metal and ashes. Next he would start to cook, Aerys promised . . . unless his son could free him. Brandon tried, but the more he struggled, the tighter the cord constricted around his throat. In the end he strangled himself.

“As for Lord Rickard, the steel of his breastplate turned cherry-red before the end, and his gold melted off his spurs and dripped down into the fire.” (Catelyn VII, ACOK)

Lord Rickard is here donned in armour and wreathed in fire, making him a fire knight. As the Lord of Winterfell, Lord Rickard is playing in to the King of Winter archetype here too. Moreover, the pyromancers create the fire suggesting wildfire and thus greenseer tranformation. Alongside this, we get a lovely helping of hanging symbolism as Brandon strangles himself in front of the wildfire pyre: this is probably a reference to Odin hanging himself on the tree Yggdrasil, a motif Martin does seem to be playing with. What I want to call special attention to is the colours that we see here: cherry red steel and green fire. Not many items have the “cherry red” and only one other thing pairs it with green fire – Lightbringer.

He went straight to the Mother, grasped the sword with his gloved hand, and wrenched it free of the burning wood with a single hard jerk. Then he was retreating, the sword held high, jade-green flames swirling around cherry-red steel. (Davos I, ACOK)

So the colour pairing found in our very first depiction of the forging of Lightbringer is an exact match for the fiery transformation of a King of Winter into a fire knight because of dragon(lord)s. This may be another iteration of my tinfoil of the Others being transformed by fire, but this is something I need to investigate more thoroughly before I come to any firm conclusions. However, even removing potential links with the Others, we still have the interesting story of Lightbringer’s forging being akin to someone gaining the greenseeing fire of the gods.

There are quite a few references to executing people with wildfire, and most of them appear to have this very particular turn of phrase:

The horn-of-plenty Hand and the dancing griffins Hand had both been exiled, the mace-and-dagger Hand dipped in wildfire and burned alive. Lord Rossart had been the last. His sigil had been a burning torch; an unfortunate choice, given the fate of his predecessor, but the alchemist had been elevated largely because he shared the king’s passion for fire. (Jaime II, ASOS)

[Discussing the restoration of Pycelle to the Small Council; Varys to Tyrion]”Thank the archmaesters of Oldtown, those who wished to insist on Pycelle’s restoration on the grounds that only the Conclave may make or unmake a Grand Maester.”

Bloody fools, thought Tyrion. “I seem to recall that Maegor the Cruel’s headsman unmade three with his axe.”

“Quite true,” Varys said. “And the second Aegon fed Grand Maester Gerardys to his dragon.”

“Alas, I am quite dragonless. I suppose I could have dipped Pycelle in wildfire and set him ablaze. Would the Citadel have preferred that?” (Tyrion II, ASOS)

The Hound sat on the bench closest to the door. His mouth twitched, but only the burned side. “She ought to dip him in wildfire and cook him. Or tickle him till the moon turns black.” (Arya XIII, ASOS)

All of them make reference to dipping someone in wildfire. Thoros’ Lightbringer-esque burning sword was also dipped in wildfire, FYI. Fun fact: candles used to be made by dipping wicks in wax, as demonstrated in this rather therapeutic video, so executing people in wildfire is akin to making a candle. This reminded me of the execution method of the Roman Candle. I know that the Roman Candle as a method of execution is considered historically dubious but it seemed an interesting link and, with the use of the term “dipping” people in wildfire seeming to imply candles, there’s no reason why factual accuracy has to prevent George R.R. Martin using it to build some symbolic relationships. Anyway, here is a full description of what a Roman Candle execution may have been like:

A rumored favorite of the mad Roman Emperor Nero, this method saw the subject tied to a stake and smeared with flammable pitch (tree or plant resin), then set ablaze, slowly burning to death from the feet up. (http://all-that-is-interesting.com/worst-execution-methods/4 retrieved 10/11/17)

Smeared with tree resin, you say? Sound like you’re trying to turn them into a fiery tree person aka a greenseer. Being burnt from the feet up is also exactly what happened to Rickard Stark and there are a few other creating a burning man scenes where particular emphasis is placed on the burning from the feet up. My personal favourite is this one:

Bran saw eyes like green fire, a flash of teeth, fur as black as the pit around them. Maester Luwin yelled and threw up his hands. The torch went flying from his fingers, caromed off the stone face of Brandon Stark, and tumbled to the statue’s feet, the flames licking up his legs. (Bran VII, AGOT)

The green fire (greenseeing magic) causes a torch (moon meteor) to fly through the air, and it lands at the foot of the statue of Brandon Stark. Old Nan’s mixing up of all the Brans suggests that we are allowed to conflate the different Brans too, if the symbolism calls for it. In which case, the torch landing at the foot of dead uncle Brandon’s may also be a metaphor our Bran’s loss of the use of his legs to gain the greenseeing fire of the gods, especially when we consider it in conjunction with the hanging Odin symbolism of uncle Brandon. To summarise, the greenseer fire looses the moon meteors, which sets the hanged man on fire.

Fun fact 2: there is also a firework known as the Roman Candle. According to wikipedia, each of shot within the Roman Candle firework is called a “star”, with really massive Roman Candle shots being called “comets”. Applying that symbolism to the wildfire-burning man-Roman Candle shows us that greenseer burning men created falling stars and comets: again, this is another iteration of the naughty greenseer trying to acquire the fire of the gods and destroying the moon and forging Lightbringer in the process in the process.

roman-candle-2422471_1280
Roman Candle or Moon Explosion?


Conclusion

To summarise this essay, yellow frequently transforms into gold, usually with the help from some kind of fire, be it the fire of the sun or a candle. I took this to mean that the fire of the gods transforms yellow things into golden things. I believe that yellow and gold colour fires reflects this idea perfectly. The yellow flame embodies the imitation sun, or the moon at the moment of impact. Then, the fire of the gods is unleashed, with green(seeing) fire and golden flame running rampant.

Thanks for sticking with me through this enormous undertaking; next time I’ll be unpeeling the symbolism of orange fires *ba dun tss*. See you then!

Advertisements

Part I: fire vs flame

Any cat may stare into the fire and see red mice at play,
Melisandre (Davos VI, ASOS)

This is part one of a series of essays investigating the symbolism surrounding fire, hopefully finding consistent lines of symbolism attached to particular words. I’m probably not going to make any major predictions for a little while into this series, because we need to build up our definitions for Martin’s symbolic vocabulary. If you’re looking for immediate plot predictions, I also have an essay about one of the visions from a TWOW spoiler chapter which I analyse using the same technique I’m about to use for fire and I have been able to make a firm prediction for one particular character’s arcs, so feel free to check that out.

TL;DR: “Fire” tends to be used to describe the (pro)creative process and “flame” the destructive. This is echoed within magical processes (such as resurrection), characters points of view and within extended Lightbringer forging metaphors. This is not entirely a one-to-one relationship as descriptors (e.g. “flickering” relates to destructive moon meteors) or context (e.g. fire destroys during Ramsay’s sack of Winterfell but is associated with the re-birth of Bran as a greenseer) can clarify the “fire” or “flame”.

Contents

Resurrection by fire and by flame
Westeros: Points of View
The Burning Tree
The Grey Spaces
Conclusion

NB: I am a devoted acolyte of Lucifer means Lightbringer’s (LmL’s) Church of Starry Wisdom, and as such, my interpretations are filtered through his “mythical astronomy” lens. In brief, he suggests that there were once two moons in the sky and that the (now extinct) second moon was struck and destroyed by a comet whilst in eclipse position, causing thousands of moon meteors to rain down upon Planetos. The resulting debris from the meteors landing was kicked up into the atmosphere causing the worldwide darkness remembered as the Long Night. These events are depicted in the in-world myths: the Qartheen myth of the origin of dragons describes the moon as wandering too close to the sun (that’s the eclipse position) and hatching dragons (those would be the moon meteors). The myth of Lightbringer’s forging also reflects the astronomical phenomena as Azor Ahai (the sun) wielded Lightbringer (the comet) against Nissa Nissa (the second moon) to create a flaming sword (the moon meteors and the now-transformed Red Comet). There’s even moon breaking implied in the Azor Ahai myth, as Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy “left a crack across the face of the moon”. This sequence of events also appears to have played out on earth too, with the Azor Ahai figure sacrificing a Nissa Nissa figure to enter the weirwood trees and become a greenseer. Given that both myself and LmL are looking at Martin’s use of symbolism generally (although granted from different perspectives and with different aims), there are many crossovers and my interpretations are therefore heavily influenced by LmL’s.

So, on to my essay (quotes are compiled in the appendix, which you can find here):

I believe there is a fundamental difference in the way George R.R. Martin utilises the words “fire” and “flame” in ASOIAF, one that mirrors the traditional duality of a protective or creative force and a treacherous or destructive force, respectively.

Resurrection by fire and by flame

Firstly, let’s consider two of the known examples of fire resurrection we have in the series, Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart. Beric Dondarrion is resurrected with “fire”:

“I have no magic, child. Only prayers. That first time, his lordship had a hole right through him and blood in his mouth, I knew there was no hope. So when his poor torn chest stopped moving, I gave him the good god’s own kiss to send him on his way. I filled my mouth with fire and breathed the flames inside him, down his throat to lungs and heart and soul. The last kiss it is called, and many a time I saw the old priests bestow it on the Lord’s servants as they died. I had given it a time or two myself, as all priests must. But never before had I felt a dead man shudder as the fire filled him, nor seen his eyes come open. It was not me who raised him, my lady. It was the Lord. R’hllor is not done with him yet. Life is warmth, and warmth is fire, and fire is God’s and God’s alone.” (Arya VII, ASOS)

The only occurrence of the word “flame” is only used when Thoros is performing what he thinks just another death rite i.e. a ritual associated with the destructive force. These “flames” transform into “fire” as Beric Dondarrion’s life is restored to him, which comes about from a fiery kiss which causes Beric to shudder awake. In other words, sexy time imagery and so procreation, which is what we should see if my interpretation of “fire” is correct. This line of symbolism  is nothing new, so it’s not much of a stretch to see it here as well. This life-giving fire is from R’hllor, making it the fire of the gods, a term used to describe the knowledge and power of the gods. And what does Dondarrion do with that magic power? Well, he goes on to protect the Riverlands as a champion of the smallfolk, just what a benevolent fire wight should do.

mother_merciless__catelyn_tully_stark__finished_by_denkata5698
Mother Merciless, by denkata5698

In direct contrast, Lady Stoneheart is resurrected by “flames”. As Thoros tells Brienne:

“The Freys slashed her throat from ear to ear. When we found her by the river she was three days dead. Harwin begged me to give her the kiss of life, but it had been too long. I would not do it, so Lord Beric put his lips to hers instead, and the flame of life passed from him to her. And . . . she rose. May the Lord of Light protect us. She rose.” (Brienne VIII, ACOK)

What does Lady Stoneheart do with her flame of life? She becomes an avenging spirit wandering the Riverlands and hijacking the Brotherhood without Banners to wreak her bloodthirsty vengeance on all those connected to the death of her children. She’s essentially a poster girl for the destructive forces within the world, exactly what a flaming wight would be.

 

Westeros: Points of View

renly_baratheon_by_irrisor_immortalis RTF1
Renly Baratheon, by irrisor-immortalis

This fire/flame duality can also reflect the characters POV differences. A prime example is the arrival of “King Renly’s shade” at the Battle of Blackwater with his deep green armour and fiery antlers:

“It was Lord Renly! Lord Renly in his green armor, with the fires shimmering off his golden antlers! Lord Renly with his tall spear in his hand! They say he killed Ser Guyard Morrigen himself in single combat, and a dozen other great knights as well. It was Renly, it was Renly, it was Renly! Oh! the banners, darling Sansa! Oh! to be a knight!” (Sansa VII, ACOK)

Here, Renly the fiery resurrected horned lord is the saviour of the city, a benevolent protector of its residents i.e. Dontos and Sansa in this scene. So his antlers run with golden “fire”.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the battle:

“King Renly’s shade was seen as well,” the captain said, “slaying right and left as he led the lion lord’s van. It’s said his green armor took a ghostly glow from the wildfire, and his antlers ran with golden flames.” (Davos II, ACOK)

To the losing side, Renly’s appearance was catastrophic, and so his antlers were alive with the destructive “flame”. We have the exact same thing happening, just from two different standpoints and that viewpoint is the only difference in the scene. Dontos recounts the tale of repentant (now Lord) Renly’s antlers come to save King’s Landing from his brother’s attempted usurpation of the throne and protect the city from being sacked, and these antlers are described using the term “fire” which fits with its benevolence theme. In direct contast, usurping King Renly returns from the dead to treacherously attack the rightful King Stannis from the rear and encourage the defection and rout of Stannis’ men; this is exactly the kind of thing to expect from that “flaming” description.

The burning tree

Martin sometimes – ok, lots of the time – uses extended metaphors in his work. I think he has done this with some trees, and I have chosen two prime examples to highlight this fire/flame difference.

Fire…

This one just jumped out to me as soon as I saw it.

The tree had been dead a long time, but it seemed to live again in the fire, as fiery dancers woke within each stick of wood to whirl and spin in their glowing gowns of yellow, red and orange. (Jon VIII, ACOK)

This fire is built as Jon and Qhorin are attempting to outrun the wildlings back to the Fist of the First Men to let Mormont know about the wildlings. It is described as “fire” so it should have procreation symbolism draped all over it – and it does.

Firstly, the fire warms the black brothers like melting butter”; as Thoros explained, life is warmth, and warmth is fire, so a warming fire should be life. A quick look on asearchoficeandfire for all items within the extended publications showed the “warm fire” produced 76 results, of which 51 equated fire and warmth to some degree, whereas “warm flame” produced a mere 15, of which only 3 equated flames and warmth. Fro a umber perspective, this seems to like up with what I have been saying: fire is associated with warmth way more than flames are, which means that fire is associated with life way more than flames are.

Along the same vein, “fire” is used to oppose death. When the fire is dwindling, Qhorin states The fire will soon go out, but if the Wall should ever fall, all the fires will go out.”  If the Wall falls, then the Others will march south and the last time that happened cold and death filled the world (Bran IV, AGOT): a direct contrast to life is warmth, and warmth is fire. In fact, Melisandre makes this connection to Jon in ASOS:

“The Lord’s fire lives within me, Jon Snow. Feel.” She put her hand on his cheek, and held it there while he felt how warm she was. “That is how life should feel,” she told him. “Only death is cold.(Jon XI, ASOS)

Once again, R’hllor’s “fire” is equated to both life and fire, as Thoros too pointed out, and it is placed in opposition to death and cold.

And oh my word, the descriptions of the fire are littered with allusions to procreation and marriage, just to emphasise the life-giving nature of “fire”. For instance, Qhorin Halfhand describes the fire as as shy as a maid on her wedding night, and near as fair, despite the fact that he was not a man you’d expect to speak of maids and wedding nights”. George is holding up a flashing neon sign here by pointing out how out of character it is for Qhorin to speak like this, like “hey y’all, pay attention to this, I’m having to find a way to force this symbolism into this scene so y’know, do me a solid and notice it”. And we have.

Jon also wondersif ever a kiss had felt as good when warming his hands on the fire, reminding us of Beric’s fiery kiss of life and procreation. Jon then sees fiery dancerswhirl and spin in their glowing gowns of yellow, red and orange. These same fiery dancers were also hired for the alchemical wedding* in Drogo’s pyre: The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils” (Dany X, AGOT). There is a lot of overlap in these two descriptions, with the dancers, and the whirling,  and the spinning, and the same colours. I would say this is to invoke the image of weddings during the Jon VIII, ACOK chapter: again, reinforcing this message of procreation being related to the use of the word “fire“, as expected.
*This is the term LmL uses to describe Dany’s transformative experience in Drogo’s pyre.

crow__s_nest_by_sir_heartsalot
Crow’s Nest, starring Jon Snow and Qhorin Halfhand, by Sir-Heartsalot

I don’t want to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes so, in the interest of full disclosure, I want to point out that this fire is referred to as “flames” on four occasions. Firstly:

Qhorin came and stood over him as the first flame rose up flickering from the shavings of bark and pine needles. (p689, UK paperback)

I believe this occurs as part of an extended Lightbringer-forging metaphor. Firstly, these flames are rising up, presumably suggesting to us that they are rising up to challenge the gods. Importantly, they are doing this as the sun is setting and the moon rising, implying the Long Night. Why specifically the Long Night? Well, “flickering” is a very specific descriptor and this fire has that descriptor attached to it three times in the space of one chapter. So, what else does “flickering” describe?

Torches flickered along the walls of Dragonstone, and in the camp beyond, he could see hundreds of cookfires burning, as if a field of stars had fallen to the earth. (Prologue, ACOK)

A thousand flickering campfires burned around the castle, as the fires of the Tyrells and Redwynes had sixteen years before. But all the rest was different. (Davos II, ACOK)

Fog rose all around as she walked through the streets of Braavos. She was shivering a little by the time she pushed through the weirwood door into the House of Black and White. Only a few candles burned this evening, flickering like fallen stars. In the darkness all the gods were strangers. (Cat of the Canals, AFFC)

So, we have a thousand flickering falling star moon meteors that fell to earth when celestial Lightbringer was forged.

The Red Viper landed a quick thrust on the Mountain’s belly, to no effect. Gregor cut at him, and missed. The long spear lanced in above his sword. Like a serpent’s tongue it flickered in and out, feinting low and landing high, jabbing at groin, shield, eyes. (Tyrion X, ASOS)

As he raised the sword a finger of pale flame flickered at the point and crept up along the edge, stopping a hand’s breath from the hilt. (Jaime VI, ASOS)

We then have the weapon related imagery that matches with the comet/moon meteor Lightbringer imagery: the Red Viper acting as the solar figure wielding a poisoned spear against the Moon Mountain that Rides, and Jaime wielding a flaming sword in the caverns below Casterly Rock.

Flickering torchlight danced across the walls, making the faces [of the Seven] seem half-alive, twisting them, changing them. (Cat IV, ACOK)

Around their altars, scented candles flickered whilst deep shadows gathered in the transepts and crept silently across the marble floors. (Jaime I, AFFC)

The flickering light also transforms inanimate god-like figures and creates shadows that move and creep. All of this imagery relates to the forging of Lightbringer. More importantly for our analysis here, the flickering aspect is specific to the destruction caused by Lightbringer’s forging: the rain of flaming swords/falling stars that blotted out the sun and half-alive, half-dead twisted gods and creeping shadow emanations. I would argue that the consistency of the imagery surrounding the word “flickering” necessitates the use of the word “flame”, especially when it’s being paired with sunsets.

The next two uses of the term “flame” come in quick succession and, so I think the same explanation can be used for both:

When they were done [reciting the NW vows], there was no sound but the faint crackle of the flames and a distant sigh of wind. (p691)

The flames were burning low by then, the warmth fading. (p691)

The “warmth fades” from the fire and if life is warmth and warmth is fire, then a fire with fading warmth is a dying fire and so it is quite apt to use the word “flames” to describe it.

To prevent the fire dying, Jon feeds the flames with some broken branches, which fits the broken sword motif of Lightbringer.

Jon went to cut more branches, snapping each one in two before tossing it into the flames. (P692)

Jon feeding branches to the “flames” presumably turns them into flaming swords (so moon meteor) symbols. Again, this matches “flames” with the destructive aspects of Lightbringer’s forging. It is interesting that these destructive flaming broken sword branches lead us back to the quote that opened this section:

The tree had been dead a long time, but it seemed to live again in the fire, as fiery dancers woke within each stick of wood to whirl and spin in their glowing gowns of yellow, red and orange. (Jon VIII, ACOK)

The wording here suggests that the destructive flaming broken swords lead to the creation of burning trees (i.e. weirwoods) and the sorcerors within them (i.e. greenseers). Turns out that is pretty much the exact scenario LmL is laying out in his Weirwood Compendium series, so I think it bodes well for the accuracy of both of our interpretations that it is reflected in the details of Martin’s language choices as well as the larger scale symbolism that LmL analyses.

… and flame

This is only one side of the burning tree story.

Arya saw a tree consumed, the flames creeping across its branches until it stood against the night in robes of living orange. (Arya IV, ACOK)

This is the chapter Amory Lorch attacks the Night’s Watch as part of Tywin’s scorched earth policy against the Riverlands (Tell them I want to see the Riverlands afire from the God’s Eye to the Red Fork”: Tyrion IX, AGOT). As such, the “flames” are causing the destruction and death of the tree (in contrast to the fire in Jon’s scene), and this is consistent with Martin’s choice of words.

Other uses of “flame” within this chapter are mostly associated with “licking”:

She saw a roof go up, flames licking at the belly of the night with hot orange tongues as the thatch caught.

So, firstly the flames are reaching for the night sky. Then torches fly through the air, and these flying torches are described later as trailing long tongues of flame”, which should evoke images of flames licking the air. Finally:

The barn’s on fire, she thought. Flames were licking up its sides from where a torch had fallen on the straw, and she could hear the screaming of the animals trapped within.

Licking flames appear to have some very sexual connotations in ASOIAF:

Edmure cursed softly. “The wind,” he said, pulling a second arrow. “Again.” The brand kissed the oil-soaked rag behind the arrowhead, the flames went licking up, Edmure lifted, pulled, and released.” (Catelyn IV, ASOS)

“Down. Let it kiss you.”

Gilly lowered her hand. An inch. Another. When the flame licked her hand, she snatched her hand back and began to sob. (Jon II, ADWD)

Asha could hold her tongue no longer. “Why not Ser Clayton? Perhaps R’hllor would like one of his own. A faithful man who will sing his praises as the flames lick his cock.(The Sacrifice, ADWD)

That last quote is about as vivid and obvious as it gets, and also sounds hella painful, like the sex and swordplay motif. But doesn’t this kind of run counter to everything I’ve been saying this essay? Sex often leads to babies and so it’s procreative, but I’ve been arguing that “fire” is the creative/procreative word.

However, a closer look using asearchoficeandfire.com demonstrates that flames lick, not fire: of the 18 hits produced by “fire lick”, only 3 showed fire licking in contrast to 22 of 25 “flame lick” results. When analysing the “flame lick” quotes, they could usually be categorised as follows:

  • Direct “Lightbringer and its forging” metaphors = 9
  • Burning humans = 8 (10 if you count statues of humans/human-like figures)
  • Torches = 6
  • Battles/fighting = 6
  • Intentional human sacrifice = 5

So, other than “torches”, note how all of these categories are immediately, noticeably destructive. Blood sacrifice and the complete annihilation of Nissa Nissa was required to forge Lightbringer (…her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel…” Davos I, ACOK); burning humans is a destructive act and so is war. The “torches” category may seem benign, until you realise that torches are often metaphors for the moon meteors. Flying torches are the reason we are even analysing this passage, because a flying torch creates a flaming tree. As such, we can see that symbolism surrounding “licking flames” relates to the destructive act that was a necessary precursor to the creation of Lightbringer i.e. the mutual destruction of sun and moon, or the blood sacrifice of Nissa Nissa.

yoren__s_finest_by_scalpgoaty-AnebaronePleaseLinkPortfolio
Yoren’s Finest, starring Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie, by Anebarone

Given the destructive nature of events in this chapter, it was difficult to interpret occurrences of “fire” within this chapter. Most references to “fire” was of firelight reflecting on armour:

Firelight glittered off metal helms and spattered their mail and plate with orange and yellow highlights. [Ser Amory’s men]

The reflection of burning houses glimmered dully on the armour of his warhorse as the others parted to let him pass. [Ser Amory himself]

Arya looked past him and saw steel shadows running through the holdfast, firelight shining off mail and blades… [Ser Amory’s men]

…but Gendry came back, the fire shining so bright on his polished helm that the horns seemed to glow orange. [Gendry]

I believe this is related to the wider concept of fiery clothing as described by LmL in his essay, ‘The Grey King and the Sea Dragon’. He draws attention to the fact that the followers of R’hllor often try to look like fire themselves – think of Melisandre walking around in her scarlet silk and bloodred velvet dress, or Moqorro with his face tattooed with flames. If we extend this idea, it means that Lorch’s men are wearing fiery armour, which would make them the “warriors of fire” or “fire knights”.

[Melisandre] “The old maester looked at Stannis and saw only a man. You see a king. You are both wrong. He is the Lord’s chosen, the warrior of fire. I have seen him leading the fight against the dark, I have seen it in the flames.” (Davos III, ASOS)

He [Ser Jorah] pointed at the steps, where a line of men in ornate armor and orange cloaks stood before the temple’s doors, clasping spears with points like writhing flames. “The Fiery Hand. The Lord of Light’s sacred soldiers, defenders of the temple.”

Fire knights. “And how many fingers does this hand have, pray?”

“One thousand. Never more, and never less. A new flame is kindled for every one that gutters out.” (Tyrion VII, ADWD)

So the “warriors of fire” in the Arya chapter can be equated to Azor Ahai Reborn, via Mel naming Stannis a “warrior of fire” and via Tyrion calling the Fiery Hand “fire knights”, the Fiery Hand in turn representing the thousand moon meteors that fell from heaven. And Arya’s “warriors of fire” are the same guys loosing “flame-licking torches” (read: the same guys destroying the moon to release moon-meteors) to robe trees in flame like fire sorcerers. Sounds eerily reminiscent of Jon, with his flaming sword branches, resurrecting dancing fire sorcerers inside trees – you know, the scene we were talking about for the entirety of the last section. Now, given that these guys have AAR symbolism, armouring them in “fire” as part of a rebirth cycle would be… apt.

Another unexpected use of “fire” comes in the description of the barn being on fire, despite the fact that the barn and the animals within are being destroyed. I had a couple of potential justifications for this. Firstly, the fire means that the Night’s Watch recruits are able to escape from Ser Amory’s men using the tunnel in the barn; in essence, the fire is protecting them from death by Ser Amory Lorch et al.

Secondly, and more importantly for a symbolic analysis, this may be a continuation of the parallels between this chapter and Drogo’s pyre in Dany X, AGOT. Here are some of the running parallels between that Dany chapter and this Arya one:

For a moment she thought the town was full of lanternbugs. Then she realised they were men with torches… (Arya IV, ACOK)
…glowing cinders rising on the smoke … like so many newborn fireflies(Daenerys X, AGOT)

The fire beat at her back with hot red wings… (Arya IV, ACOK)
The heat beat at the air with great red wings(Daenerys X, AGOT)

The roof was gone up too, and things were falling down, pieces of flaming wood and bits of straw and hay. (Arya IV, ACOK)
The platform of wood and brush and grass began to collapse in on itself. Bits of burning wood slid down at her… (Daenerys X, AGOT)

 …she heard the sound, like the roar of some great beast… (Arya IV, ACOK)
She saw a roof go up, flames licking at the belly of the night(Arya IV, ACOK)
… more torches were flying, trailing long tongues of flame… (Arya IV, ACOK)
The pyre roared in the deepening dusk like some great beast, … and sending up long tongues of flame to lick at the belly of the night. (Dany X, AGOT)

As I hope this collection demonstrates, there are a lot of similarities in imagery here. All the flames licking at this town have clued us in to the fact that this Arya scene is Lightbringer-y, so it makes sense that there are symbolic parallels with the most obvious Lightbringer forging of all.

So, why might George use “fire” to describe the burning barn? Here’s the description of the dragons being born in Drogo’s pyre.

She heard a crack (1), the sound of shattering stone. … And then there came a second crack (2), loud and sharp as thunder The third crack (3) was as loud and sharp as the breaking of the world. (Dany X, AGOT)

Let’s compare that to the fiery barn in Arya’s chapter.

She threw the axe into the wagon. Rorge caught it and lifted it over his head, rivers of sooty sweat pouring down his noseless face. Arya was running, coughing. She heard the steel crash through the old wood (1), and again (2), and again (3). An instant later came a crack as loud as thunder, and the bottom of the wagon came ripping loose in an explosion of splinters. (Arya IV, ACOK)

In both chapters, we have three loud sounds associated with cracks and thunder (the cracks are even italicised), and with that three monsters are born into the world (“Mother of Dragons, Daenerys thought. Mother of monsters.” Dany II, ADWD; If they slept, they might open their eyes to find Vargo Hoat standing over them with Shagwell the Fool and Faithful Urswyck and Rorge and Biter and Septon Utt and all his other monsters.” Arya I, ASOS). Given the consistency of the parallels between Arya IV, ACOK, and Dany X, AGOT, this suggests that the dragons and the prisoners are symbolic brothers in some way. There’s even some Azor Ahai Reborn symbolism in there, Rorge and Biter linking them to hellhound meteors with their dog-fighting history and the acquisition of the Hound’s helm (and they also have a weird adoptive father-son relationship) and Jaqen, who ends up aligned to the old gods and in the service of the death goddess, Arya. In which case, each of these men undergoes a re-birth process in a sense, and so “fire” would be the more appropriate if I’m right about .

The grey spaces

This is a nice segue to highlight that, whilst “fire” may be associated more with protection and procreation, the result of this may not necessarily be good. “Fire is always hungry (Leaf to Bran; Bran II, ADWD) and it consumes, and when it is done there is nothing left” (Beric to Thoros; Arya VIII, ASOS). Fire births Daenerys’ dragons that are death and devastation, a flaming sword above the world (Dany III, ADWD), and Rorge and Biter led the horrific raid of Saltpans which was the work of some fell beast in human skin (Jaime IV, AFFC). And who knows what on earth Jaqen/Pate is up to at the Citadel, but it probably isn’t ‘good’.

Consider how it is “fire” that destroyed Winterfell during Ramsay Snow’s sack:

“Winterfell.” His tongue felt strange and thick in his mouth. One day when I come back I won’t know how to talk anymore. “It was Winterfell. It was all on fire. There were horse smells, and steel, and blood. They killed everyone, Meera.” (Bran VII, ACOK)

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. There was a shallow steaming lake beneath the Library Tower, and hot water gushing from a crack in its side. The bridge between the Bell Tower and the rookery had collapsed into the yard below, and Maester Luwin’s turret was gone. They saw a dull red glow shining up through the narrow cellar windows beneath the Great Keep, and a second fire still burning in one of the storehouses. (Bran VII, ACOK)

Here, “fire” has completely destroyed everything within the castle that will be useful for continuing to live. So, why is it associated with “fire”? Because Bran is born! Specifically Bran, one of the most powerful greenseers ever to exist, is born.

winterfell_by_irenhorrors
Winterfell, by IrenHorrors

Let me just unpack that a bit.
1) Maester Luwin equates Winterfell to a stone tree (Bran II, AGOT), so Winterfell on fire is like a stone tree on fire.
2) Weirwoods are trees with leaves like “bits of flame”, so they are burning trees that turn in to stone
3) So, Winterfell on fire is akin to a weirwood tree.
As Winterfell is set on fire, Bran is hiding in the crypts and it is here he learns to consciously skinchange Summer: in symbolic terms, Bran is in the realm of the dead, underneath a weirwood tree, and this facilitates the opening of his third eye. (The crypts are also associated with birth as it is here that Bael the Bard concealed the daughter of Lord Stark until she bore Bael’s child.) Then Hodor opens the door to the crypts, making enough noise to wake a dragon in the process (thus equating Bran’s emergence from the realm of the dead to the birth of Dany’s dragons), and the destruction of Winterfell is surveyed.

Stone and shattered gargoyles lay strewn across the yard. They fell just where I did, Bran thought when he saw them. Some of the gargoyles had broken into so many pieces it made him wonder how he was alive at all. Nearby some crows were pecking at a body crushed beneath the tumbled stone, but he lay facedown and Bran could not say who he was. (Bran VII, ACOK)

LmL goes in to some detail analysing these gargoyles in both his Tyrion Targaryen essay and his A Burning Brandon essay, but I will point out some of the symbolism here for those who haven’t read it (although I have no idea how you’re keeping up with this essay without that knowledge base – thanks for ploughing on, great to have you).
1) These are the gargoyles that Bran straddled to overhear Jaime and Cersei going at it in the First Keep, so he could be viewed as riding them.
2) These gargoyles subsequently gain moon meteor symbolism by falling in a nightmare that Bran has (Bran IV, AGOT) and in the quote above, so Bran has ridden the moon meteors.
3) The crows pecking at the corpse just where Bran was – implying Bran as the corpse – invokes the imagery of the little boy who climbed to high and had his eyes pecked out by crows. And, it just so happens that Bran symbolism matches perfectly this myth (Old Nan ftw!).
4) Bran wonders how he is alive at all, implying he has transcended death, which is fitting given that he has just emerged from some crypts after everyone (including the reader) thinks he’s dead.

In essence, what we are seeing is the creation of a greenseer which, according to LmL, likely requires the death and rebirth/resurrection of the greenseer. In the case of Winterfell’s destruction by “fire”, the entire scene is devoted to Bran’s rebirth as a powerful greenseer to be, and as such the procreative overtones lent to this scene by “fire” are necessary. However, consider the cost – Winterfell is an empty shell (holla, dragon eggs), with death and devastation all around, leaving nothing but an ember in the ashes”.

Along the same vein, the destructiveness of “flames” is not necessarily a bad thing. Obsidian is called “frozen flame and it destroys the Others. When I say “destroy”, I mean it completely annihilates them.

And then he was stumbling forward, falling more than running, really, closing his eyes and shoving the dagger blindly out before him with both hands. He heard a crack, like the sound ice makes when it breaks beneath a man’s foot, and then a screech so shrill and sharp that he went staggering backward with his hands over his muffled ears, and fell hard on his arse.

When he opened his eyes the Other’s armor was running down its legs in rivulets as pale blue blood hissed and steamed around the black dragonglass dagger in its throat. It reached down with two bone-white hands to pull out the knife, but where its fingers touched the obsidian they smoked.

Sam rolled onto his side, eyes wide as the Other shrank and puddled, dissolving away. In twenty heartbeats its flesh was gone, swirling away in a fine white mist. Beneath were bones like milkglass, pale and shiny, and they were melting too. Finally only the dragonglass dagger remained, wreathed in steam as if it were alive and sweating. Grenn bent to scoop it up and flung it down again at once. “Mother, that’s cold.” (Sam I, ASOS)

Here, you can see the destructive force of “flame” working to full effect: the Other just melts away into the ether/absorbed into the dragonglass, as if it never existed. Throughout Sam I, ASOS, “flame” is made use of to destroy the Others and the wights, as Mormont’s repeated shouting of Give them flame!” suggests. However, it would be difficult to argue that it is a mistake to use the destructive force of “flame” to destroy the legions of the undead and their masters.

Conclusion

So, hopefully I have provided enough evidence to demonstrate that “fire” and “flame” are used to represent different concepts by Martin. That is, “fire” tends to be associated with protection or procreation, and “flame” with destruction. As small asides, I demonstrated that adjectives can qualify a “fire” or “flame” noun choice: for instance, “flickering” is an adjective almost exclusively used to describe or represent moon meteor metaphors and the influence these have on creating or transforming god-like beings and that “flames licking” tends to be associated with the mutual destruction of the sun and moon to create the moon-meteors.

If all that hasn’t been enough to convince you, then tough luck – it’s taken me a year to get my act together enough to complete this, so I’m not hunting around for anything more. In subsequent parts, I will analyse the colours of fire and tell you what, if anything, this all actually means for the series.