All posts by ArchmaesterAemma

The true villains of ASOIAF: thoughts from the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’

Hi again everyone, I’m back again with Game of Thrones thoughts – who knew I had it in me to write so quickly? Anyways, I will be chatting all things Game of Thrones so if you are not up to date with the latest episode (Season 8, Episode 3) and do not want to be spoiled, turn away now! (There’s also a teensy TWOW, The Forsaken spoiler, as well.)

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Yes, I am re-using gifs – you can never have too much Carice

Continue reading The true villains of ASOIAF: thoughts from the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’

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To go forward, you must go back

Hi guys, I hope you guys are all doing well and that you’re enjoying the final season of Game of Thrones – squeeee it’s so exciting. However, I know some of you out there are trying to avoid Game of Thrones, so you might want to sit this one out if you do because I’m going to be going full spoilers up in here – proceed at your own peril!

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As many people noticed, the new season has a beautiful new title sequence, but that they also noticed something slightly different – they seem to go backwards compared to previous seasons. This has led me to re-watch the last two episodes (at the time of writing) to work out what is happening and why the producers would choose to do this. We’ll weave in some bits of book analysis and analysis of previous shows and ultimately try to work out what the show and George may be implying.

The beginning of the end

As many eagle-eyed viewers noticed, the title sequence for Season 8 has been thoroughly overhauled to include lots of new details and there have already been many excellent analyses of the new titles, e.g. SaraSmartist’s on Twitter. Moreover, the art director of the Season 8 credits, Kirk Shintani, told Buzzfeed that:

From episode to episode, pay attention, because there’s lots of hints scattered around.

With this in mind, we know that we should probably pay attention to the credits for any potential clues.

Starting at the beginning of the titles, the astrolabe previously showed the Doom of Valyria, then Robert’s Rebellion and the Baratheon victory on the Trident, in that order as you can see in the screenshots below (pulled from the wikia).

In the new season’s title sequence, the astrolabe has been revamped and now shows the fall of the Wall, the Red Wedding and the birth of Dany’s dragons, respectively:

This demonstrates a reversed chronological order in comparison to the events in the show and in the way that the astrolabe events were previously depicted.

In addition to this, the direction of the camera panning Westeros now goes from the broken Wall down to King’s Landing in the south, so far stopping at the Last Hearth and Winterfell en route. Once again, this is a reversal of the title directions compared to previous seasons.

Another thing that wallops you over the head when watching the first episode of Season 8 is how many parallels to Season 1 there are. So many, in fact, that Maisie Williams said that every viewer should go back and re-watch Season 1 in an interview with Entertainment Weekly.

This parallel starts right from the get-go, with a small child running through crowds to get a better look at the army arriving at Winterfell, with the monarch arriving to the sounds of the House Baratheon soundtrack:

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It is continued with the line-ups in the Winterfell courtyard, with the representative of House Stark giving Winterfell to the monarch:

These are really strong visual parallels that viewers cannot fail to recognise, and this is scattered throughout many of the scenes that we see in Season 8 so far. So, what is the point of this reversal and the similarities between Season 1 and Season 8?

I think the showrunners could be tapping into a deeper motif that is present within the episodes and A Song of Ice and Fire itself – the idea of starting back.

“We should start back”

“We should start back” is the opening line of the A Game of Thrones Prologue and it is the opening to an ominous chapter and our first glimpse of the Others. This is uttered by the hardened old ranger, Gared, to ask the arrogant lordling Waymar Royce to reconsider their ranging. It is a call to stop and take stock of the unnatural stillness surrounding the rangers on their northern wanderings. By not starting back, the rangers are attacked by the Others and killed to a man (either by the Others or by Ned Stark).

Similarly, Sansa and Joffrey on their tour of the Riverlands come across Mycah and Arya playing at swords – “We should start back” says Sansa, but Joffrey continues on regardless and causes the deaths of poor Mycah and Lady and the abandonment of Nymeria.

In contrast, Tyrion Lannister faces his own start back moment when jailed in the Eyrie. Having talked his way into a sky cell, he finds himself staring into the bloody blue, a call to jump to his death or start back. He chooses to talk his way back out of the sky cell, a mirror image of his entrance there, so starting back in a sense. His brother Jaime does something similar, leaving Harrenhal, receiving a strange weirwood dream, and starting back to Harrenhal to save Brienne.

We also see the start back motif in some of the common refrains of the series, such as Quaithe’s cryptic:

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

Dany’s catchphrase of “if I look back, I am lost”and even Tyrion’s “wherever wh*res go” (referring back to Tyrion’s formative experience with Tysha taht has coloured all of his interactions with women since) also allude to starting back.

This is all over the books and it is something that has been explored by great analysts like Rusted Revolver, Ravenous Reader and Lucifer means Lightbringer, amongst others. Moreover, as is pointed out over and over again, we see many parallels between historical characters and the present characters, as well as repeated symbolic motifs and archetypes throughout history. Importantly, I think this speaks to patterns not only of an individual’s behaviour (e.g. Tyrion’s mouth getting him into trouble, Waymar’s arrogance getting the rangers into trouble) but also of the patterns of behaviour on a societal level in Westeros, that also need changing – we should all start back.

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Dance with me then by sanrixian

This is why I believe the reversal of the title sequence and parallels to Season 1 are important clues, as very literal depictions of this motif. Now we are reaching the climax of the series, I think this motif is coming at us thick and fast and I’ll explore a few of the ways I think the show is, er, showing this and how some of this plays out in the books.

Redemption arcs

Importantly, it seems that starting back is the means by which one begins to redeem themselves in a sense. A clear example of this can be seen in Lucifer means Lightbringer’s reverse reading of the Prologue; by reading the Prologue forwards, the symbolic narrative depicts the start of the Long Night, but in reverse, the Prologue shows the end of the Long Night. By starting back, the character who (symbolically) caused the Long Night can reverse their actions and redeem themselves.

This idea gets a direct callout in the Season 8, Episode 2:

Tyrion: I remember the first time we were here The first time I saws this hall. You were a golden lion. I was a drunken wh*remonger. It was all so simple.
Jaime: It wasn’t so simple. I was sleeping with my sister and you had one friend in the world, who was sleeping with his sister.
Tyrion: I was speaking in relative terms.
Jaime: Do you miss it?
Tyrion: Of course I miss it.
Jaime: Well, my golden lion days are done, but wh*remongering is still an option for you.
Tyrion: It’s not. Things would be easier if it were. The perils of self-betterment.

Jaime and Tyrion both reference their first appearance in the series so strengthen the idea that they have started back, while showing how much they have changed as characters. Notice that the starting back is specifically associated with the perils of self-betterment, which speaks to this redemption idea of starting back as a necessary element of moving forward. How pertinent that this is called out in Winterfell, the episode where both of these character were introduced doing the activities they now repudiate.

As is implied above, Jamie Lannister has something of a redemption arc although, personally, I feel it’s far from satisfying in the show but whatever, this isn’t an episode review, don’t at me 😛 In the narrative, Jaime goes from throwing a small boy from a Winterfell tower window so he isn’t discovered banging his twin sister to abandoning his sister in King’s Landing to return to Winterfell and fight the undead. He also at least acknowledges attempting to kill a child was wrong in the show and apologises to Bran in the godswood, so gold star, Jaime, for having the basics of a moral compass now.

Theon is another prime example of starting back as a redemption arc – in earlier seasons, he had the opportunity to fight with the Starks and chose to betray his foster family by attacking Winterfell instead. This was despite serious misgivings on his part, internally – this is similar to Waymar ignoring warnings and carrying on with the ranging, instead of starting back. Now, having been presented with another chance, Theon and the ironborn stand poised to protect Bran in the heart of Winterfell. Given the strong parallels to Season 1, I wonder if Theon’s lifesaving archery skills will be necessary to save Bran’s life from undead wildlings and former Night’s Watchmen, in a parallel to being saved from Osha and the deserters.

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One important aspect that I think is highlighted in Jaime and Bran’s interactions in the godswood and with Sansa’s reaction to Theon is the theme of forgiveness. While Theon/Jaime/others atoning for their crimes is a necessary part of a redemption arc, it is not sufficient – the victim’s forgiveness and choice of peace over vengeance is also essential to allow both characters to move on.

This is exemplified beautifully by (book) Ellaria’s comments to the older Sand Snakes in ADWD:

“A start?” said Ellaria Sand, incredulous. “Gods forbid. I would it were a finish. Tywin Lannister is dead. So are Robert Baratheon, Amory Lorch, and now Gregor Clegane, all those who had a hand in murdering Elia and her children. Even Joffrey, who was not yet born when Elia died. I saw the boy perish with mine own eyes, clawing at his throat as he tried to draw a breath. Who else is there to kill? Do Myrcella and Tommen need to die so the shades of Rhaenys and Aegon can be at rest? Where does it end?”
“Oberyn wanted vengeance for Elia. Now the three of you want vengeance for him. I have four daughters, I remind you. Your sisters. My Elia is fourteen, almost a woman. Obella is twelve, on the brink of maidenhood. They worship you, as Dorea and Loreza worship them. If you should die, must El and Obella seek vengeance for you, then Dorea and Loree for them? Is that how it goes, round and round forever? I ask again, where does it end?” Ellaria Sand laid her hand on the Mountain’s head. “I saw your father die. Here is his killer. Can I take a skull to bed with me, to give me comfort in the night? Will it make me laugh, write me songs, care for me when I am old and sick?”

This is the cycle of violence that is perpetuated in Westerosi society and, as elucidated by Ellaria here, it cannot be stopped with more violence. Instead, peace and forgiveness is the only way to break this cycle. This theme is one that has been explored well by  Bronsterys, Melanie, Lot Seven and others in the first episode of NOWIE so I recommend you all check that out too.

Fall is coming

The fall of the patriarchy that is! (Yes, my British sensibilities are offended by using ‘fall’ that pun, but it just had to be done.)

Another example of starting back that we see comes in the form of changes in the face of larger societal norms. For example, Brienne finally receives the honour and recognition of a knighthood, regardless of her gender, prefaced with this:

Tormund: She’s not a ser? You’re not a knight?
Brienne: Women can’t be knights.
Tormund: Why not?
Brienne: Tradition.
Tormund: Fuck tradition.

In addition to being some of the best Braime shipping material we’ve had access to in years, this speaks to an important aspect of starting back. Society’s framework, which disenfranchises women systematically from positions of power and strength relative to men, is something that had not been questioned until this point. Specifically, tradition here is the societal expectations of women in Westerosi society imposed on every member of that society, over and over and over again. By encouraging Brienne and Jaime to abandon tradition, Tormund is asking them to return to their ideas of what can be done and what should be done, ensuring that they do not repeat the errors of their ancestors. This is the culmination of Brienne and Jaime’s dynamic and honestly I could not be happier.

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Me, a Braime shipper, watching this scene

It is not only that women were disenfranchised from traditional male activities – they were also systematically disenfranchised from power. Historically, Westeros never had a Queen ruling in her own right, despite many instances of the oldest Targaryen being a woman – Queen Visenya was older than Aegon the Conqueror, for instance, and Queen Rhaenyra was declared heir by every lord in Westeros but her younger half-sibling Aegon II usurped her in the civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. There’s even a Princess Rhaenys, the “Queen Who Never Was”, who everyone agrees was totally amazing and she totally should have been queen instead of King Viserys I. This motif can even be found in the myths of the far east,specifically the Blood Betrayal, where the Amethyst Empress was usurped and killed by her younger brother, the Bloodstone Emperor, a crime so terrible it brought on the Long Night. Ba’al the Bard has done excellent work on this so far and I, for one, am looking forward to the next instalments, so go and check that out once you’re done here :D.

Now, in contrast to these historical precedents (or lack thereof), we see queens everywhere – Queen Daenerys, Queen Cersei, Queen Yara, queen (of my heart) Sansa.

Daenerys: We have other things in common. We both know what it is like to lead people who aren’t inclined to accept a woman’s rule, and we’ve both done a damn good job of it from what I can tell.

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I’m also a fully fledged Dansa shipper now

In addition to this, Season 6 and 7 brought many more women ruling the various kingdoms – Dorne gained Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes, and the Reach was ruled by Olenna Tyrell. This somewhat parallels the end of the Targaryen civil war, the Dance of the Dragons. We got a lot more information about this in the Fire and Blood history that was published last year but, most interestingly for this analysis, Cregan Stark was planning to continue the war but the women ruling preferred peace and that is how the war ended (woot, go Black Aly Blackwood!!). This re-instatement of women’s political powers helps to protect lives and break the cycle of vengeance, hearkening back to Ellaria’s quote earlier.

Jerry Springer, RLJ edition

And the scrolls from the Citadel show… Ned is NOT the father! Dun dun duuuuuuun….

Much like the angry parentage reveals on trashy reality TV shows (that I secretly love), origin stories could be another example of a start back motif, given that the characters have to reconsider who they are and where they come from in light of new information.

The prime example of this is Jon who is just learning about his Targaryen heritage. I’m not entirely sure what impact this is having on him, but his first thought was to reevaluate Ned’s actions. Given that Jon has modeled himself on Ned so thoroughly (Season 6’s costume change is a strong visual example of this), the fact that Ned’s actions can now be seen in a totally different light is as much of a start back moment as learning Rhaegar was the baby daddy. Moreover, the his is the song of ice and fire reveal will presumably be a key aspect of the end of the Long Night.

We can also see that this information is causing Dany to reassess her life, having grown up as one of two Targaryens in the world, and witnessing the demise of the other one. Now, up pops another one from out of left field with potentially some of the worst timing possible and Dany’s stony face here is meant to make us think of Mad King Aerys’ paranoia about treasons. This is especially pertinent given that we are being reminded frequently of her burning of the Tarlys and that this act was directly compared to the Mad King by Varys and Tyrion in Season 7. As Tyrion says in the books:

It all goes back and back, Tyrion thought, to our mothers and fathers and theirs before them. We are puppets dancing on the strings of those who came before us, and one day our own children will take up our strings and dance on in our steads.

This is Daenerys’ start back moment – does she continue her father’s legacy of burning anyone who could challenger her, or does she break that cycle by choosing peace, forgiveness and compromise? Given that I think broken cycles are kind of a theme this season, I’m going to guess the latter on her part. As we discussed above, I also think that Sam’s forgiveness will be an essential and necessary as part of Dany turning back from the Mad Queen brink.

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tfw you’re pissed at bae but have to face the zombie apocalypse

Ending the Night without End

As we learn in Season 8 Episode 2, the Night King and Three Eyed Raven have been in eternal conflict with one another, epitomising a cycle of warfare and violence again. This is highly reminiscent of the description of R’hllorism:

The red priests believed in two gods, she had heard, but two who were eternally at war. (ASOS, Daenerys VI)

Now, as was hinted at by Bran in the episode – no one has ever tried dragonflame before. I think this is a strong clue that dragonflame may be able to stop the Night King and this could be backed up by continuing the above quote:

The red priests believed in two gods, she had heard, but two who were eternally at war. Dany liked that even less. She would not want to be eternally at war.

Eyooo, that’s the saviour choosing the idea of peace, and not a continuing cycle of violence. Again, this ties directly into the themes we have been talking about so far.

Those of you who are familiar with Lucifer means Lightbringer may have noticed him churning out the endgame analysis over the past couple of weeks – Parts One, Two and Three are uploaded already and we are looking forward to whatever brilliant ideas this week’s episode may trigger.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with his work, the most relevant analysis here is the idea of the weirwood trees being ‘set on fire’, which LmL explores throughout Weirwood Compendium A. In the Iron Islands, myths of the Grey King abound and one of these includes him taunting the Storm God so much that the Storm God throws a thunderbolt, which sets fire to a tree that the Grey King then possesses. Interestingly, Theon (i.e. the ironborn guy in Winterfell) describes the leaves of the Winterfell heart tree as like a blaze of flame among the green and anyone who has read my fire colour analyses knows that burning trees are a staple symbol of greenseer activity. This myth of the Grey King also ties in to a large number of other symbols that seem to be associated with the start of the Long Night, which are detailed by LmL here.

In the first part of his endgame analysis, Lucifer means Lightbringer breaks down *that* Ned Umber scene:NedUmber

Lots of analysts have done amazing work on this so far (s/o GrayArea, JoeMagician and Smokescreen), but I think Lucifer means Lightrbinger’s analysis is most appropriate for our start back analysis here. As many have noted, the spiral and Ned are very reminiscent of the weirwood spiral where the Night King was transformed and, hey, we have a heroic Azor Ahai wielding a fiery sword to set this tree symbol on fire. As we just outlined, this can be a symbol of the start of the Long Night but here, with the fire driving out the icy power of the White Walkers from Ned Umber’s corpse, it seems to be the end of the Long Night too. That the same action can cause and end the Long Night seems to be the start back motif in action – think of Tyrion both talking his way into and out of the Eyrie’s sky cells, or the reverse reading of the Prologue where the same actions that symbolically led to the Long Night appear to symbolically end the Long Night when reversed.

Conclusion/TL;DR

The showrunners seem to be tapping into a motif that present in the books, starting backThis is represented through the reversal of the title sequence, strong parallels to Season 1, individual redemption arcs, societal change and potentially the event of the endgame. As Daenerys says:

I’m not going to stop the wheel, I’m going to break the wheel.


I hope you enjoyed this foray into show analysis, it was lots of fun to write and will hopefully cure me of this red fire writer’s block.

Thanks as always to George RR Martin, and to all my friends and mythenthusiasts on the Twitteros. Thanks to HBO (images from them, unless otherwise specified) and thanks to you, dear reader, for hanging out with me today. If you have any thoughts, feel free to comment below or find me on Twitter as @ELSmith1994.

Speak soon ❤

  • Archmaester Aemma

A Study in Scarlet: Melisandre’s role in Maester Cressen’s death

I think most of us like Davos as a character and would, in general, trust his judgement. So, when we see statements like this…

“Maester Cressen was your faithful servant. She slew him, as she killed Ser Cortnay Penrose and your brother Renly.” (ASOS, Davos IV)

…I don’t think many of us would argue with that assessment.

However, as I was mosying along with my analysis of red fire symbolsim, I noticed something a little odd in Maester Cressen’s actions in the ACOK Prologue, and I wondered if there might not have been… something else at work.

We start the ACOK Prologue in inauspicious circumstances. The Red Comet hangs ominously over the smoking volcanic island of Dragonstone, King Stannis is sequestered in his dark tower, brooding over past insults and plotting fratricide with a sorceress, and Maester Cressen, old and frail as he is, has decided that his last act will be a desperate assassination to save the soul of his king, this man whom he has loved like a son.

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Dragonstone by saphirewings

The target?

Melisandre, whose madness must not be allowed to spread beyond Dragonstone.

His chambers seemed dim and gloomy after the brightness of the morning.

And so Cressen searches out his murder weapon – a small indigo vial of seed-like crystals, the poison called the Strangler.

My hands must not shake, nor my courage flag. It is a dreadful thing I do, yet it must be done. If there are gods, they will forgive me. He had slept so poorly of late. A nap would refresh him for the ordeal ahead. Wearily, he tottered off to bed.

I mean, that makes sense. If you’re an 80 year old planning a murder, you need to make sure you don’t muck it up because you didn’t have a quick nap.

When he woke it was full dark, his bedchamber was black and every joint in his body ached.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up a second there. It was full dark?! But, the last we saw, Cressen entered his workroom from the bright sunshine of morning, after a meeting with Stannis shortly after dawn. And it’s not like he faffed around in the meeting, being dismissed after a brief conversation. Nor did he spend ages in his workroom – he found a vial of poison, gave some exposition about it and then went for a nap. It was morning. Mid-morning by the latest, I imagine. Meaning that he must have slept for a minimum of 6 hours, probably more like 8-10. The old man, who has literally just told us he’s been having a lot of trouble sleeping and who has just decided to kill someone in a battle over the very soul of his surrogate son, overslept? By 6-8 hours?! I don’t know about you but that strikes me as faintly ridiculous, to say the least.

Then there’s this.

He was always summoned for feasts, seated near the salt, close to Lord Stannis.

So this is something unusual and unexpected – he is not wanted there, for the first time in decades of service.

Moreover, Cressen’s usual carer is also taken away from him so that he is unable to easily get ready for the feast. Indeed, Cressen even points out to us how weird this is:

He secreted the strangler seeds in one of them [his sleeve pockets], threw open his door, and called, “Pylos? Where are you?” When he heard no reply, he called again, louder. “Pylos, I need help.” Still there came no answer. That was queer; the young maester had his cell only a half turn down the stair, within easy earshot.

And it just so happens that all of this happens for the first time at the feast he’s planning a murder at… Coincidence…? I think not! I mean, it’s like some has put a lot of obstacles in Cressen’s way to stop him attending this feast.

So what was the reason for leaving Cressen sleeping? Ostensibly, it was his frailty.

His Grace commanded me to let you rest.Pylos had at least the grace to blush. “He told me you were not needed here.”

[…]

“You are too ill and too confused to be of use to me, old man.” It sounded so like Lord Stannis’s voice, but it could not be, it could not. “Pylos will counsel me henceforth. Already he works with the ravens, since you can no longer climb to the rookery. I will not have you kill yourself in my service.

Foreshadowing alert! I think this turn of phrase is particularly interesting. Now this could easily be George trolling us because Cressen’s about to die, but I think it could also be a case of Melisandre using tricksy language with Stannis when notifying him of what she’s seen in the flames. Indeed, this is something that Steven Attewell has suggested that Melisandre did regarding the shadow baby assassinations.

After all, we are talking about a sorceress who can see the future especially well when it involves, say, plots to murder her:

Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire. (ADWD, Melisandre)

So it’s pretty obvious that Cressen’s mission was doomed to fail the moment he conceived of it. In which case, she had definitely seen what Cressen was planning that day. Potentially, she could have seen it even earlier – it depends on how long Cressen had been toying with this idea prior to the day the Prologue events occur. I have a sneaking suspicion that frail, loyal, old men don’t just decide to kill people on a grumpy whim, so Cressen has probably been thinking of this or something like it for quite some time.

With advance planning, be it hours or days, Melisandre could easily take steps to prevent her death. She could also try to prevent Cressen’s. Personally, I’m imagining a conversation emphasising that Cressen is old and frail and it is such hard and demanding work to advise a king, “he’s killing himself for you”, and creatively omitting a mention of what she’d seen in her flames.

So, Step 1: involve Stannis, by suggesting to him that his Maester was old, frail and needed rest. Step 2: get a sorceress to induce said rest?

With this in mind, the way Cressen wakes up seems… off.

When he woke it was full dark, his bedchamber was black, and every joint in his body ached. Cressen pushed himself up, his head throbbing. Clutching for his cane, he rose unsteady to his feet.

This reads like someone who was drugged, but we do not see Cressen ingest anything in that Prologue chapter. Indeed, the reason Cressen meets with Stannis is because Pylos overheard some kitchen servants, which stops him eating breakfast, so it’s hard to see how Cressen could have been drugged. Instead, maybe some powerful sorceress cast a spell cast on him? Speculative I know, as we don’t see sleeping spells cast, but this detail in conjunction with everything else seems suspicious.

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Melisandre by SirHeartsalot

During the actual poisoning sequence, Melisandre offers Cressen a last opportunity to stop the poisoning and save himself:

She met him beneath the high table with every man’s eyes upon them. But Cressen saw only her. Red silk, red eyes, the ruby red at her throat, red lips curled in a faint smile as she put her hand atop his own, around the cup. Her skin felt hot, feverish. “It is not too late to spill the wine, Maester.”

After then, she also downs the vast majority of the glass of wine before handing it back. This indicates to Cressen (or should) that she is confident of surviving the poisoning, kind of implying that there is no point for Cressen to drink the remainder and he could spill the wine, as suggested earlier. Again, Cressen could choose not to drink the wine but no chance and no choice is a theme we come across a lot in ASOIAF.

After this, she even seems sad about Cressen’s death while it’s happening, with the pity in her eyes an exact match for the way Davos also looks at Cressen earlier in the chapter.

Only Ser Davos dressed simply, in brown doublet and green wool mantle, and only Ser Davos met his gaze, with pity in his eyes.

[…]

And the cowbells peeled in his antlers, singing fool, fool, fool while the red woman looked down on him in pity, the candle flames dancing in her red red eyes.

This leads me to suggest that Melisandre’s actions throughout the Prologue demonstrate that she doesn’t bear any ill will towards Cressen, as alluded to by the pity in her eyes in the above quote. During Melisandre’s first interactions with Cressen, she is quite respectful to him. She is the one to help him get up after he is knocked over by Patchface and it is made explicit that she speaks to him courteously:

He felt strong hands grasp him under the arms and lift him back to his feet. “Thank you, ser,” he murmured, turning to see which knight had come to his aid . . .

“Maester,” said Lady Melisandre, her deep voice flavored with the music of the Jade Sea. “You ought take more care.” […]

“A man your age must look to where he steps,” Melisandre said courteously. “The night is dark and full of terrors.”

These aren’t the actions of a vengeful witch planning to get rid of Cressen and I would argue that her actions suggest there is an underlying respect for Cressen, much like the one she has for Davos and Jon. I think this means that she would do what she could to prevent killing Cressen. A similar thing happens with Davos after he is arrested for planning to kill her – it is Melisandre who advocates on his behalf:

“And it was Melisandre who told me to send for you when Ser Axell wished to give you to R’hllor.” He smiled thinly. “Does that surprise you?” (ASOS Davos III)

This respect, and the trust that Mel has in Davos’ loyalty even in the face of his open hostility towards her, does lead her to take actions to protect his family.

In truth, he [Devan Seaworth] was here because Melisandre had asked for him. The four eldest sons of Davos Seaworth had perished in the battle on the Blackwater, when the king’s fleet had been consumed by green fire. Devan was the fifthborn and safer here with her than at the king’s side. Lord Davos would not thank her for it, no more than the boy himself, but it seemed to her that Seaworth had suffered enough grief. Misguided as he was, his loyalty to Stannis could not be doubted. She had seen that in her flames.

The relationship between Melisandre and Cressen shares the same dynamic as the one between Davos and Mel – they are both men who are loyal to Stannis, almost to a fault, but with a deep suspicion of the magic he has employed in his quest to become king. However, Mel will always prioritise their loyalty to Stannis the Savior above their loyalty to her – after all, she can see any plots against her person in the flames, so she is always safe from them.

Melisandre also has a track record of trying to save people, even though she has seen their deaths in the flames:

“She would have spared Renly if she could. It was Melisandre who urged me to meet with him, and give him one last chance to amend his treason.”

Thus it is well within the realms of possibility that she employed this philosophy with Cressen – having seen his death in the flames, she did what she thought she could to try to save him but, ultimately, left it to R’hllor to decide (in her mind, at least).

To avoid being a total Mel apologist, I also want to note that she is also quite cruel to him in some ways. However, I would argue that (within the Prologue) this cruelty is provoked by Cressen patronising her deeply held religious beliefs, calling her a fearful child and belittling the power of R’hllor.

He knew the phrase, some prayer of her faith. It makes no matter, I have a faith of my own.Only children fear the dark,” he told her. Yet even as he said the words, he heard Patchface take up his song again. “The shadows come to dance, my lord, dance my lord, dance my lord.”

“Now here is a riddle,” Melisandre said. “A clever fool and a foolish wise man.” Bending, she picked up Patchface’s helm from where it had fallen and set it on Cressen’s head. The cowbells rang softly as the tin bucket slid down over his ears. “A crown to match your chain, Lord Maester,” she announced. All around them, men were laughing.

[…]

“Gods make uncertain allies at best,” the old man insisted, “and that one has no power here.

“You think not?” The ruby at Melisandre’s throat caught the light as she turned her head, and for an instant it seemed to glow bright as the comet. “If you will speak such folly, Maester, you ought to wear your crown again.”

In addition to this, she also… y’know… doesn’t actually save his life, even though that’s clearly in her power (because she survived). So that’s a bit mean, to employ an understatement. And that’s before we get on to the horrors of fratricide by shadow baby and human sacrifice, including children.

Nevertheless, I do think there is a large enough collection of slightly weird things happening within this Prologue to support the premise of this essay: that, having seen this situation in the flames, Melisandre had a hand in influencing context and events surrounding Cressen to prevent him attending the feast and, thus, prevent him dying. In summary, these events are:

  • He sleeps for a ridiculously long time, despite sleeping poorly recently
  • When he wakes, his head throbs, like he’s been under a spell (presumably cast by Melisandre)
  • Pylos-as-carer is removed from Cressen’s side, meaning that Cressen cannot ready himself for the feast, adding further obstacles to him getting to the feast

When these actions fail, Melisandre offers Cressen two clear opportunities to choose not to ingest the poison, one explicit and one implicit, in a more passive attempt to prevent his death. Moreover, from the respect (in general) that Melisandre accords Cressen and from extrapolating from the parallels to the Mel-Davos dynamic, I think it is clear that she bears no ill will towards the maester. Finally, she also has a track record of giving people chances to repent their treasons and save themselves from their fate, so it is not beyond the pale to think that she would have done the same here.

If true, this sequence of events would also support George’s statement that Melisandre is one of the most misunderstood characters within the series. It would appear that she doesn’t want to kill people and that she will try to prevent deaths where she can. Ultimately though, what is the life of one old maester against a kingdom?

 


Thanks for reading this essay, your support is greatly appreciated. This is the only character/plot based piece of writing that I have attempted to date, but if you liked it, I’ll make sure that I prioritise writing these in future whenever I see the inspiration. If you liked my style, then you may want to try some of my other symbolic analyses – I have a couple of one-off essays (about Tobho Mott and the Forsaken TWOW spoiler chapter) as well as a longer series about the symbolism of fire, which you can find listed here.

Hugest of thanks to the Twitteros community, for all the fun chats and encouragement. In particular, thanks to @Crowfood_sD, @RRavenousReader and @MelanieLot7 for their comments on the first draft.

The extraordinary symbolism of Tobho Mott

So, as is usually the case when I analyse ASOIAF, I was looking at the symbolism behind different fire colours and I noticed that Tobho Mott crops up in some very important places, specifically around Lightbringer symbolism. So I decided to file it away for future consideration. When I read Darry Man’s brilliant essay comparing weirwood and ebony and relating that to the persimmon tree (you should read it, it’s awesome) and, lo and behold, up pops Tobho Mott again. So, “future consideration” is now “today”.

Before I begin, I must say that I am a devoted acolyte of Lucifer means Lightbringer’s Church of Starry Wisdom. I think I can get through this essay without relying on his ideas too heavily, but I might mention something without thinking so here is a brief precis of his major thesis: 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) wields 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”.

Even though you hopefully won’t need to know more of his ideas to understand this essay, I would highly recommend reading or listening to his work anyway (he produces a podcast version of his essays which has greatly improved my commute), because it is really interesting and has revealed a lot of interesting connections I had never thought about before. He even has a video discussing his major theory in brief, with excellent animation from Michael Klarfeld, whose work you should definitely check out.

Unpaid advertising for someone else over, let’s dive into the deep well that is Tobho Mott’s symbolism.

Contents

– Ice, Ice, Baby
– A Doorway to… Magic?
– Tobho Mott and Lightbringer
– Smithing for the Saviour
– The Icy Knight of the Rose
– A Direwolf’s Head for the King of Winter
– Concluding Remarks

Ice, Ice Baby

We first meet Tobho Mott during Ned’s murder mystery tour of the capital, when he’s following the path set out by Jon Arryn’s servants. This is how Tobho Mott appears:

He wore a black velvet coat with hammers embroidered on the sleeves in silver thread. Around his neck was a heavy silver chain and a sapphire as large as a pigeon’s egg. (Eddard VI, AGOT)

So that’s a lot of silver and some sapphires, which are consistently associated with ice – think blue and white, like the Wall and the Others.

In fact, let’s take a look at that sapphire as large as a pigeon’s egg. It turns out that people’s eyes are described as eggs on many occasions:

Even Mord had scarcely believed it when Tyrion tossed him the leather purse. The gaoler’s eyes had gone big as boiled eggs as he yanked open the drawstring and beheld the glint of gold. (Tyrion VI, AGOT)

Ghost raced ahead at first scent of them. Jon squatted to let the direwolf close his jaws around his wrist, tugging his hand back and forth. It was a game they played. But when he glanced up, he saw Ygritte watching with eyes as wide and white as hen’s eggs. (Jon VI, ACOK)

Elmar’s eyes got as big as boiled eggs. Leeches terrified him, especially the big pale ones that looked like jelly until they filled up with blood. (Arya X, ACOK)

At the sound of her voice, the fat man opened his eyes. The skin around them was so red they looked like boiled eggs floating in a dish of blood. (Arya V, ASOS)

Ser Hyle Hunt laughed. “Now you’ve done it, septon. Poor Podrick’s eyes are big as boiled eggs.” (Brienne V, AFFC)

So this is could be implying that Tobho Mott has a third, massive eye, made of sapphire. You know what else has massive sapphire eyes?

Jon remembered Othor; he had been the one bellowing the bawdy song as the rangers rode out. His singing days were done. His flesh was blanched white as milk, everywhere but his hands. His hands were black like Jafer’s. Blossoms of hard cracked blood decorated the mortal wounds that covered him like a rash, breast and groin and throat. Yet his eyes were still open. They stared up at the sky, blue as sapphires. (Jon VII, AGOT)

Other- I mean, wighted OthOr – has sapphire eyes. It seems like George might be sneakily implying that Tobho Mott has a symbolic connection to the Others, with a third icy eye dangling round his neck and we all know that third eyes are related to magic. Or I could be reading way too much in to a description of a jewel.

I don’t think so though, because Mott does have other icy connections. The Street of Steel where he lives is based on Visenya’s hill and, as LmL shows in Visenya Draconis, Visenya and her hill are heavily ice associated. Just to give you a small sample, consider the Great Sept of Baelor which stands atop Visenya’s Hill, home to the Faith of the Seven.  It is a magnificence of marble that is described as “cold” by Cersei before her walk of shame. Another white marble building is the Eyrie, which is also described as extremely cold.

The High Hall of the Arryns was long and austere, with a forbidding coldness to its walls of blue-veined white marble, but the faces around him had been colder by far. (Tyrion V, AGOT)

Sansa walked down the blue silk carpet between rows of fluted pillars slim as lances. The floors and walls of the High Hall were made of milk-white marble veined with blue. Shafts of pale daylight slanted down through narrow arched windows along the eastern wall. Between the windows were torches, mounted in high iron sconces, but none of them was lit. Her footsteps fell softly on the carpet. Outside the wind blew cold and lonely.

Amidst so much white marble even the sunlight looked chilly, somehow … though not half so chilly as her aunt. Lady Lysa had dressed in a gown of cream-colored velvet and a necklace of sapphires and moon-stones. (Sansa VII, ASOS)

The High Hall had been closed since Lady Lysa’s fall, and it gave Sansa a chill to enter it again. The hall was long and grand and beautiful, she supposed, but she did not like it here. It was a pale cold place at the best of times. The slender pillars looked like fingerbones, and the blue veins in the white marble brought to mind the veins in an old crone’s legs. Though fifty silver sconces lined the walls, less than a dozen torches had been lit, so shadows danced upon the floors and pooled in every corner. (Sansa I AFFC)

Heck, the iciest manmade structure of them all, the Wall, is described as “as smooth and white as polished marble and shining in the sun” at one point (Jon IV, ASOS). So the fact that white marble appears to share a lot of icy symbolism and that a huge building of cold white marble crowns Visenya’s Hill would appear to suggest that Visenya’s Hill is symbolically icy. That is just one example, but LmL details a whole load over at his essay, so I’d go check that out if you want some more convincing/just want to appreciate his awesome theorising.

So, not only does Tobho Mott wear a sapphire like a surprised Other’s eye around his neck, he also lives on a hill heavily associated with iciness. He is the most successful person on the street, having the largest building on the Street of Steel right at the pinnacle of the Street of Steel: that’s a status symbol that life really doesn’t get much better for the ice forger. The fact that it is at the top of the hill places it in the celestial realm. Think of the Greek gods living at the top of Mount Olympus, it’s a similar concept. This, in turn, suggests Tobho Mott as having some kind of dominion over ice.

official_map_of_king_s_landing_by_torstan-d5ykop3
Map of King’s Landing

So Tobho Mott has symbolism that suggests he is icy and godly – sounds rather like he’s a smith for the Others or something. I imagine smithing for the Others would require magic, so let’s see what we have here…

A Doorway to… Magic?

The man they wanted was all the way at the top of the hill, in a huge house of timber and plaster whose upper stories loomed over the narrow street. The double doors showed a hunting scene carved in ebony and weirwood. (Ned VI, AGOT)

Sounds relatively innocuous, right? Other than the weirwood, there’s not much magic obviously there. Until you remember where else has ebony and weirwood doors.

 To her right, a set of wide wooden doors had been thrown open. They were fashioned of ebony and weirwood, the black and white grains swirling and twisting in strange interwoven patterns. They were very beautiful, yet somehow frightening. The blood of the dragon must not be afraid. Dany said a quick prayer, begging the Warrior for courage and the Dothraki horse god for strength. She made herself walk forward.

 Beyond the doors was a great hall and a splendor of wizards.

She took a step forward. But then Drogon leapt from her shoulder. He flew to the top of the ebony-and-weirwood door, perched there, and began to bite at the carved wood. (Daenerys IV, ACOK)

At the top she found a set of carved wooden doors twelve feet high. The left-hand door was made of weirwood pale as bone, the right of gleaming ebony. In their center was a carved moon face; ebony on the weirwood side, weirwood on the ebony. The look of it reminded her somehow of the heart tree in the godswood at Winterfell. The doors are watching me, she thought. (Arya I, AFFC)

These are some of the most inherently magical places in ASOIAF – the House of the Undying, a rollercoaster of trippy magic drug prophecies revealed by Shade of the Evening junkies, and the House of Black and White, which teaches people magical disguises and is likened to the really very magical weirwood tree. So what on earth are they doing on the door of an armourer’s building?

valarmorghulis_linneart_by_bleuphoria-d8ncr8g
Valar Morghulis by bleuphoria

I think it’s there to telegraph that what happens inside Tobho Mott’s forge is magical, at least symbolically. He does know how to reforge Valyrian steel and he can do some magic to change the colours of the steel, as he did when splitting Ice – ICE! – down in to Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail, so there is even some literal magic going on behind the scenes. Moreover, his forge has associations with dragons, as Ned describes it as walking into a dragon’s mouth and says that it “stank of smoke and sulfur – the exact same description of the Dragonpit under Meereen. That’s a score for the dragon locked in ice motif that LmL has been exploring recently.

The hunting scene also suggests magic because it is a depiction of the Wild Hunt. Now, I’m not a mythology expert and my knowledge of the Wild Hunt is restricted to what I’ve learnt from LmL’s mentions of it and a quick Google search so if anyone has more info, it would be a great addition. The Wild Hunt appears to have been a hunt led by spectral figures and Odin. Odin is heavily tied to the development of Martin’s ideas of greenseeing and weirwoods (see LmL and sweetsunray’s essays on this), so we immediately see a magical link here. The Wild Hunt was also, apparently, something that happened in midwinter, “the coldest, darkest part of the year”. In Martin’s world, we can equate this to the Long Night and the coming of the Others. Needless to say, the fact that a guy heavily associated with magic and ice has a magical scene that occurs in midwinter carved into his magical doors seems pretty suggestive of ice magic.

Behind said magical doors, Tobho Mott’s forge is in a “cavernous stone barn”. Wizz-the-SmithWizz-the-Smith has a truly excellent piece on the westeros.org forums linking caves and hollow hills to places of magic: think Bloodraven’s cavern system under the weirwood or the Hollow Hill where Beric Dondarrion acts like Azor Ahai, wielding a burning sword and all that jazz. So, seeing Tobho Mott’s forge being like a dragon hiding in a magical cave on a hill symbolising ice with an entrance designed like doors to other magical building… welp, it’s hella suspicious, is all I’m saying.

So, all very interesting, but let’s have a look at what Tobho Mott actually does, and that’s smithing.

Tobho Mott and Lightbringer

“A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.” (Davos I, ACOK)

In essence, what Azor Ahai did was create a bloody and burning sword here. And, would you look at that? So does Tobho Mott.

First, the really basic stuff: Tobho Mott is working with Ice. He is literally using Ice to make swords. Ice-swords. Sound likes the Others, right?

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

Second, the bloody sword stuff. After Ice is stolen by the Lannisters, it gets split into the swords, Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail. Look at this description:

Most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black, as was true here as well. But blended into the folds was a red as deep as the grey. The two colors lapped over one another without ever touching, each ripple distinct, like waves of night and blood upon some steely shore. “How did you get this patterning? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Nor I, my lord,” said the armorer [Tobho Mott]. “I confess, these colors were not what I intended, and I do not know that I could duplicate them. Your lord father had asked for the crimson of your House, and it was that color I set out to infuse into the metal. But Valyrian steel is stubborn. These old swords remember, it is said, and they do not change easily. I worked half a hundred spells and brightened the red time and time again, but always the color would darken, as if the blade was drinking the sun from it.” (Tyrion IV, ASOS)

This next paragraph relies on the basic premise of LmL’s theory, that I outlined right at the start of the essay. If you skipped past that, I recommend checking it out first, because otherwise this next paragraph might not make much sense.

Oh, hey again! Are you back and ready for more? Yes? Good.

So, Tobho Mott actually uses spells to turn the Valyrian steel blood red – accidentally, yes, but he still made a bloody sword. The fact it turns red from drinking the sun is important, because that is part of the Qartheen “origin of dragons” legend.

“Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun.” (Dany III, AGOT)

LmL theorises that this is a mythological memory of the breaking of the second moon, and look! the moon meteors dragons drink the sun just like Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper do. This means they can kind of symbolise dragons too, making them bloody and burning swords – just like Lightbringer! And Tobho Mott (re)forged them! And he did it with Ice.

Tobho Mott has also done some more explicit Lightbringer forging, as he made Thoros of Myr’s burning swords.

[Gendry] “I was ‘prenticed to the master armorer Tobho Mott, on the Street of Steel. You used to buy your swords from him.”

“Just so. He charged me twice what they were worth, then scolded me for setting them afire.” Thoros laughed. (Arya VIII, ASOS)

More than being any old burning sword, Davos directly compares Thoros’s burning sword to Stannis’ Lightbringer.

A year ago, he had been with Stannis in King’s Landing when King Robert staged a tourney for Prince Joffrey’s name day. 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.

A true sword of fire, now, that would be a wonder to behold. Yet at such a cost . . . (Davos I, ACOK)

So that’s Tobho Mott implicated in forging Lightbringer, again. So if we’re seeing Lightbringer, do we also see Azor Ahai?

beric_dondarion_and_thoros_of_myr_by_taka0801-dbm06ra
Beric Dondarrion and Thoros of Myr, by taka0801

 

Smithing for the Saviour

When Ned first goes to meet Tobho Mott, the armourer does a bit of name-dropping so that Ned can get a feel for the calibre of the clientele at Mott’s Magical Metalworking. Specifically, he names Renly’s green-and-gold armour and all of Loras Tyrell’s armour.

Renly wears his green and gold armour a fair amount, but probably one of the most important scenes he wears it in is for his own death. So let’s take a look at that description:

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 armour drinks the candlelight, just like Widow’s Wail and Oathkeeper drank the sun, and just like the now extinct second moon drank the sun to create ‘dragons’. Tobho Mott has essentially forged Lightbringer in armour form. It’s even described as being on fire here (Gold highlights gleamed … like distant fires in that wood.”), burning like Lightbringer. If you have read much of LmL’s work, you may recognise the ember in the ashes motif here, but an explanation of that requires quite an off-topic divergence, so I’ll just recommend you read these essays for more information. So, Renly’s armour is clearly mimicking some aspects of Lightbringer, and we all know what happens next…

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)

“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)

Renly’s armour gets covered in blood, like Lightbringer gets covered in Nissa Nissa’s blood when Azor Ahai kills her, in circumstances similar to the eastern myth of the Blood Betrayal that was said to usher in the Long Night. Later in the book, Renly reappears to us, seemingly resurrected, much like Azor Ahai was reborn, and his Lightbringer-esque armour is now on fire, like the burning sword Lightbringer. Tobho Mott just can’t help smithing stuff that gets set on fire, it’s incredible.

Tobho Mott also brags about making all of Loras’ armour, but that ended up being a longer analysis than I thought it would be so SECTION BREAK!

The Icy Knight of the Rose

I want to discuss Loras himself before moving onto his Mott-forged armour because he has some relevant personal symbolism. As the third Tyrell son, he has chosen to have three golden roses on green as his personal sigil. The unfurling of a rose is another metaphor for the moon meteor disaster, and three is a key moon meteor number: think the Targaryen 3-headed dragon sigil, with dragons representing the moon meteors in the Qartheen myth. So, with Loras Tyrell having personal symbolism relating to the moon disaster, which in turn relates to the Azor Ahai myth, it makes sense that Tobho Mott would decide to smith for him. “Hey, you seem to be representing Azor Ahai. Just wanted to introduce myself, I make magical weapons, thought you might like some? Or some magic armour? Call me anytime!

I could find two suits of armour that Loras wears before entering the Kingsguard, which will be where the meaningful symbolism lives as it relates to Tobho Mott. Loras wears both of these suits of armour whilst jousting during the Hand’s Tourney. On the first day’s jousting, Sansa describes his armour like this:

“His plate was intricately fashioned and enamelled as a bouquet of a thousand different flowers, and his snow-white stallion was draped in a blanket of red and white roses.” (Sansa II, AGOT)

We’ve got the flowers as moon meteors motif again here, this time with the key “thousand” moon meteors (that number comes from the Qartheen myth of a thousand thousand dragons pouring forth from the moon). So, Loras Tyrell’s armour here is a fusion of these two ideas, with a thousand flowers, instead of a thousand dragons. And if Loras is wearing symbolically magic armour in this scene, like I’m proposing, then he should do something Azor Ahai-ish. The primary thing that is noted is that he gives Sansa a rose.

To the other maidens he had given white roses, but the one he plucked for her was red. “Sweet lady,” he said, “no victory is half so beautiful as you.” Sansa took the flower timidly, struck dumb by his gallantry. His hair was a mass of lazy brown curls, his eyes like liquid gold. (Sansa II, AGOT)

Sansa is one of the more important “moon maidens” in the series, i.e. characters who act like Nissa Nissa in some ways, or plays into the Nissa Nissa archetype. The fact that he gives her a red rose is an allusion to wooing or romancing Nissa Nissa, so that she wanders too close to the sun, and this plays into the love/pain inherent in Azor Ahai’s destruction of Nissa Nissa (indicated by her cry of anguish and ecstasy). Sansa receives this rose “timidly” and she is “struck dumb”, which plays into the shy maid motif that LmL has identified here. I won’t get into too much detail about it because, again, it is slightly off topic, but it is related to the ember in the ashes motif I mentioned earlier when talking about Renly’s armour. Needless to say, it’s Azor Ahai doing something to Nissa Nissa and making magic happen.

loras_tyrell_by_vesea-d7wnaqy
Ser Loras Tyrell, by Vesea

The second suit of armour Tobho Mott made for Loras that we know about is the one worn in his joust against the Mountain, again at the Hand’s Tourney. Man, it’s fancy.

Ser Loras Tyrell was slender as a reed, dressed in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen and filigreed with twining black vines and tiny blue forget-me-nots. The commons realized in the same instant as Ned that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires; a gasp went up from a thousand throats. (Ned VII, AGOT)

Much like when we’re introduced to Tobho Mott, Loras Tyrell is decked out in all the iciness of silver and sapphire. Loras even rides a snow-white courser in the first day’s events (with the rose-giving), which lends him a bit of iciness in that scene too. Note that this icy armour causes “a gasp from a thousand throats, or a thousand tiny Nissa Nissa cries swelling the crowd.

There is also an indication that Loras Tyrell wields magic here. He’s wearing vines and flowers, a direct allusion to the clothing of the children of the forest, who are renowned for their magic. He’s also described as slender as a reed. If you capitalise that, to become slender as a Reed, it reminds us of the crannogman, their children of the forest-like descriptions and their magic, i.e. greenseeing.  Finally, Loras is described as having golden eyes by Sansa twice: first in the scene where Loras gives her the rose at the Hand’s Tourney, and again when she sees him as a member of the Kingsguard as he escorts her to her meeting with Margaery Tyrell and Olenna Redwyne. There are not many things or people that get the golden eye description and all are distinctly magical: the direwolves, Viserion, the Naathi (who appear to have magical protection against the butterfly illness), the Lengii (who appear to have a skinchanger-esque bond with tigers and who practice blood sacrifice to the Old Ones) and, most importantly, the children of the forest. Needless to say, I think general associations with magic and the three specific associations with children of the forest in these scenes demonstrate that Loras has magical symbolism, specifically tied to the children of the forest which is a by-word for greenseeing.

So once again, we see icy magical stuff a-happening. I’ve been implying that this means Azor Ahai stuff is also a-happening, so where is the Lightbringer forging?

And suddenly it began. The Mountain’s stallion broke in a hard gallop, plunging forward wildly, while the mare charged as smooth as a flow of silk. Ser Gregor wrenched his shield into position, juggled with his lance, and all the while fought to hold his unruly mount on a straight line, and suddenly Loras Tyrell was on him, placing the point of his lance just there, and in an eye blink the Mountain was falling. (Eddard VII, AGOT)

Ser Loras Tyrell brings down the (Moon) Mountain that rides. This is a depiction of Azor Ahai breaking the moon and bringing it down to earth. There’s a few different lines of symbolism in this paragraph that I want to bring up.

Firstly, Loras Tyrell rigs the game by riding a mare in heat. This is gamesmanship and trickery that sounds a lot like Lann the Clever. Lann too has Azor Ahai symbolism, mainly by virtue of stealing the fire of the sun and using that to “crown” himself with. Trickery, betrayal and deception are also themes we have seen in the Renly scene, in which Renly’s act of treason is greeted with a magical fratricidal cold shadow willing to commit the cardinal sin of kinslaying – again, I point to the Blood Betrayal.

I also think Martin is doing a bit of tricky wordplay in this particular phrase, which he likes to do sometimes.

“…and suddenly Loras Tyrell was on him, placing the point of his lance just there, and in an eye blink the Mountain was falling.” (Eddard VII, AGOT)

“…in an eye blink” is kind of an odd turn of phrase, more usually worded as “in the blink of an eye”. To me, this suggests that Martin has changes it on purpose and I believe it is an allusion to one of the most prominent images of the Lightbringer disaster, the God’s Eye. So, remember when the moon wandered too close to the sun in the Qartheen myth (if not, just pop back to the start of the essay and quickly read my summary of LmL’s main thesis), and how this is probably a mythological representation of the eclipse? That is the God’s Eye: imagine the silhouette of the second moon against the sun as the pupil and fiery iris up in the sky, like the eye of god. Sauron’s eye is a similar thing (although you’re gonna have to look up BlueTiger for proper LOTR analysis, because LOTR just does not stay in my mind). In which case, just there, and in an eye” is a reference to Loras lance piercing the God’s Eye, which is just another depiction of the comet hitting the moon and destroying it.

This is followed up by the Mountain’s fall, a depiction of the pieces of the broken moon falling to earth after being struck by the comet.

The Knight of Flowers reined up at the end of the lists. His lance was not even broken. His sapphires winked in the sun as he raised his visor, smiling. The commons went mad for him. (Eddard VII, AGOT)

And the comet doesn’t even appear to be broken! That’s the now transformed Red Comet whizzing past the disaster zone, wielded by Azor Ahai reborn. Note how the sapphires now wink in the sun, an allusion to one eye being blinded. (Holla to the one-eyed people of the story that also represent magical beings in ASOIAF and other world myths *cough*Odin*cough*.)

But then the Mountain rises again. Dun dun duuuuuuun….

In the middle of the field, Ser Gregor Clegane disentangled himself and came boiling to his feet. He wrenched off his helm and slammed it down onto the ground. His face was dark with fury and his hair fell down into his eyes. “My sword,” he shouted to his squire, and the boy ran it out to him. By then his stallion was back on its feet as well. (Eddard VII, AGOT)

Ser Gregor’s face is now dark, a depiction of the now darkened face of the destroyed moon (dark because it is no longer there) and of the rising cloud of smoke and ash that blotted out the sun to cause the Long Night. Loras Tyrell has to be our solar figure, because he wielded a lance against the Mountain of the Moon, so the Mountain should come after Loras. And that is precisely what he does.

Gregor Clegane killed the horse with a single blow of such ferocity that it half severed the animal’s neck. Cheers turned to shrieks in a heartbeat. The stallion went to its knees, screaming as it died. By then Gregor was striding down the lists toward Ser Loras Tyrell, his bloody sword clutched in his fist. (Eddard VII, AGOT)

Ser Gregor wields a bloody sword against the man that brought him low. We have already seen the bloody sword symbol this essay, when Tobho Mott forged one in imitation of Lightbringer. So we have a Lightbringer symbol being wielded by… technically Nissa Nissa Reborn I guess, but Lightbringer and its wielder are a product of both the sun and the moon, so saying “Nissa Nissa Reborn” is akin to saying “Azor Ahai Reborn”. They’re both beings transformed by the moons destruction and the fire of the gods coming to earth. This rebirth is accompanied by the classic Nissa Nissa cry of anguish and ecstasy, as the crowd’s cheers turn to shrieks. The same crowd that gasped from a thousand throats at the sight of the sapphire forget-me-nots.

Lastly:

The courser dashed away in panic as Ser Loras lay stunned in the dirt. But as Gregor lifted his sword for the killing blow, a rasping voice warned, “Leave him be,” and a steel-clad hand wrenched him away from the boy.

The Mountain pivoted in wordless fury, swinging his longsword in a killing arc with all his massive strength behind it, but the Hound caught the blow and turned it, and for what seemed an eternity the two brothers stood hammering at each other as a dazed Loras Tyrell was helped to safety. (Eddard VII, AGOT)

This is gonna be a bit info-dumpy because it’s not entirely relevant to Tobho Mott, other than being a “look what the man in Tobho Mott’s armour caused”. So, the (Hell)Hound turns up to save the day and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that hellhounds can also represent the moon meteors. I also think the fact that the two brothers hammer at each other is likely reference to the Hammer of the Waters, which LmL proposes as being a result of the moon meteors landing on or near the Arm of Dorne. Brother vs brother conflict is evident throughout ASOIAF, and probably reflecting the turning of the seasons nature mythology.

After the Hand’s Tourney, Loras Tyrell then only appears in the armour of the Kingsguard, as Lord Commander of Renly’s Rainbow Guard and as a member of the Kingsguard. These are probably not made by Tobho Mott, given that Renly made his claim to the kingdom when in the Reach and given the standardised armour of the Kingsguard. However, they do play into this motif of Loras wearing icy armour which appears prominently so, here goes.

This is a description of Loras’ armour during the melee at Bitterbridge, after he has been named Lord Commander of Renly’s Kingsguard:

She had never met Ser Loras Tyrell, but even in the distant north one heard tales of the prowess of the young Knight of Flowers. Ser Loras rode a tall white stallion in silver mail, and fought with a long-handled axe. A crest of golden roses ran down the center of his helm. 

Two of the other survivors had made common cause. They spurred their mounts toward the knight in the cobalt armor. As they closed to either side, the blue knight reined hard, smashing one man full in the face with his splintered shield while his black destrier lashed out with a steel-shod hoof at the other. In a blink, one combatant was unhorsed, the other reeling. The blue knight let his broken shield drop to the ground to free his left arm, and then the Knight of Flowers was on him. The weight of his steel seemed to hardly diminish the grace and quickness with which Ser Loras moved, his rainbow cloak swirling about him. (Catelyn II, ACOK)

Given that Loras is wearing his rainbow cloak, we can suppose that he is also wearing with RainbowGuard armour. And it’s silver, just like his other armour (his Other armour *ba dun tss*). This makes him a match for the Warrior’s Sons, the defenders of the Faith and stand-ins for the Others.

The Warrior’s Sons wore rainbow cloaks and inlaid silver armor over hair shirts, and bore star-shaped crystals in the pommels of their longswords. (Cersei VI, AFFC)

Loras is also graceful and quick in his fight with Brienne, a match for the description of the Others in the Prologue of AGOT. All in all, pretty icy stuff.

Then he joins the Kingsguard, whose armour is described in terms like this:

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

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. (Sansa II, AGOT)

She glimpsed Ser Preston near the stables with three others of the Kingsguard, white cloaks bright as the moon as they helped Joffrey into his armor. (Sansa II, ACOK)

Ser Mandon Moore rode at his side, white steel icy bright. (Sansa V, ACOK)

Clean as he had ever been, he rose, dried himself, and clad himself in whites. Stockings, smallclothes, silken tunic, padded jerkin, all fresh-washed and bleached. Over that he donned the armor that the queen had given him as a token of her esteem. The mail was gilded, finely wrought, the links as supple as good leather, the plate enameled, hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow. His dagger went on one hip, his longsword on the other, hung from a white leather belt with golden buckles. Last of all he took down his long white cloak and fastened it about his shoulders. (The Kingbreaker, ADWD)

Once again, this armour has all the connotations of ice and snow as befits the guy who seems to just be wearing armour devoted to icy symbolism. And did you spot the sneaky reference to the Kingsguard being Others? Sansa glimpsing Ser Preston near “three Others of the Kingsguard”? LmL has written quite a bit on the Other symbolism of the Kingsguard, which I recommend you checking out, but that was a little sneaky one that I wanted to point out to you. In any case, this now suggests Loras has joined the other men of the KIngsguard and has become armoured in a different type of ice armour.

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Barristan, by Edriss

So, to summarise Loras Tyrell’s symbolism , he seems to be singularly dedicated to representing an icy, greenseeing/child-of-the-forest magical being who brings down the moon and romances the moon maiden (which is the same thing, symbolically). He does this all while wearing armour with very symbolic connotations, some of which is forged by an ice man atop the ice hill, whose forge is guarded by magical doors, who also spent his time forging Lightbringer symbols and who knows how to magically reforge Valyrian steel, the closest thing we have to Lightbringer in OTL. That is a LOT of symbolism.

So, no, this is not an exact replica of the actual Azor Ahai myth: Tobho Mott isn’t a smith and a warrior, like Azor Ahai supposedly was. However, he does seem singularly dedicated to forging Lightbringer symbols that are then wielded by Azor Ahai figures in very Lightbringer-y ways. What we’re seeing is two aspects of Azor Ahai embodied as two different characters, but because they’re representing the same overall archetype, they share some key symbolism.

Which ultimately begs the question: why?

A Direwolf’s Head for the King of Winter

After dropping names like a flurry of summer snow, Tobho Mott offers to forge Ned a fearsome new helm:

“I could fashion a direwolf helm so real that children will run from you in the street.” (Eddard VI, AGOT)

We now know what that means: some antics related to Azor Ahai must be afoot!

To understand the full implication of this, we have to understand Ned’s role as a King of Winter. In the story, the King of Winter is the ruler in the North, and this is a title that Robb, Ned’s son and heir, picks up later in the novel. However, there is a bunch of mythological symbolism that is also represented in this title, beautifully outlined by LmL here. One real-world ritual involves taking some leaves at the end of autumn (Samhain, actually) and fashioning a little man out of them. This man is known as the King of Winter, and you keep him in your house during winter to protect the essence of life (I think, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). The King of Winter then gets burned to death to bring the spring, at the Bealtaine festival. It’s a particularly loaded role for the Lord of Winterfell to play into, I’m sure you can agree.

Now, back to the direwolf helm. Given what we have seen of icy Tobho Mott forging armour for icy Azor Ahai re-enactor, Loras Tyrell, in some kind of symbiotic relationship, it is unsurprising that Mott is trying to encourage the King of Winter to commission some work. We later learn that a King of Winter with a direwolf’s head is a dead King of Winter – think of Robb’s posthumous head transplant thanks to the treacherous Freys.

We also know what happens to a King who gets killed wearing Tobho Mott’s armour because we’ve covered it already this essay:

“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)

He gets set on fire. This is exactly how a King of Winter should die – by being burned. But, this death is also a resurrection, much like Azor Ahai was reborn. Which implies Azor Ahai as an icy magical greenseeing being who sought after the fire (of the gods), like Loras Tyrell wearing his icy armour when he romances the moon maiden and brings down the Moon Mountain, who has three dogs – er, hellhounds, as a sigil.  What are the closest approximation to hellhounds in ASOIAF? Direwolves, of course.

Which brings us back full circle. So when Tobho Mott wants to give Ned a direwolf’s helm, what he’s really saying is that he wants the icy king to die and be resurrected again in the fire of the Lightbringer moon meteors, slaying left and right”. And just after he makes this offer to Ned, Tobho Mott leads him down into the forge that is described “as though he [Ned] were walking into a dragon’s mouth: that’s Tobho Mott leading the King of Winter into the dragon!moon meteor’s transformative fire. Tobho Mott wants Azor Ahai Reborn.

Concluding Remarks

I’ve rattled through a lot of symbolism there and I am once again astounded at how much symbolism George can pack into such a small space. After all, Tobho Mott only makes two on-screen appearances and I have analysed only five pieces of his smithing work.

So, what do we appear to have learned?

  • Tobho Mott has a ton of icy, magical smith symbolism
  • Tobho Mott possesses the fire of the gods aka a dragon in his forge
  • Tobho Mott uses this fire to create Azor Ahai’s armour and Lightbringer
  • Tobho Mott spends his time trying to convince the icy King of Winter to be transformed by his fire of the gods powers

And this is where I get a tiny bit confused, because you can read this symbolism in multiple ways and I’m not sure where I stand.

  • Tobho Mott is a man who forges weapons for the villain who broke the moon
  • Tobho Mott is a man who forges armour for an ice prince or ice lordling
  • Tobho Mott is a man who forges armour for the Last Hero/King of Winter figure

Initially, I was thinking more along the lines of the second bullet point, but I’m now leaning more towards bullet point 3 after reading LmL’s recent essays exploring the dragon-locked-in-ice motif (check out his The Blood of the Other series for more on this), given Mott’s attempt to resurrect the King of Winter with a direwolf’s head and his dragon-esque forge buried in the ice hill. Let me know which bullet point you think is more likely, or feel free to add your own ideas!

I hope you’ve enjoyed that coverage of Tobho Mott’s surprisingly extensive symbolism. If you enjoyed it, please do check out my other essays here and the essays I’ve referenced throughout: I truly am standing on the shoulders of giants with this analysis so all credit and thanks to them for their ideas.

  • Archmaester Aemma

Part III: A Thousand Orange Torches in the Dark

If you have been following my previous essays, you will know that I focus on the symbolism surrounding the specifics of word choices and the potential implications of this. My first essay highlighted the distinct usage of the words fire and flame, which appeared to represent the benevolent/creative and treacherous/destructive forces of fire respectively. My second essay started the series of fiery colour analyses and discussed yellow and gold colour fires/flames: there appeared to be some kind of alchemical transformation from a yellow second sun into the gold fire of the gods. This essay, as the title hints at, focuses on orange coloured fire/flames.

TL;DR: Orange coloured fire/flame is primarily associated with the moon meteors or transformation by moon meteor. It is often paired with darkness or the colour black, indicating the two halves of the moon meteor: the fiery orange moon meteor falling to earth and the rising column of smoke and ash that blotted out the sun when the meteors landed. The idea of transformation by moon meteor is then used to create symbols like the warrior of fire, the person who sets the weirwood tree on fire. By setting the tree on fire, we also have the transformation of Nissa Nissa characters into weirwood trees. Finally, orange fire is associated with the casting of shadows and the transformation of gods, which is in turn associated with resurrecting dead greenseers.

Contents:
The Lights that Caused the Dark
The King’s Banner
The Livery of the Fire Knight
The Burning Tree (again)
The Tiger Bride
Casting Shadows
The Morningstar Monkey
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 was once a second moon in the sky, and that this was struck and destroyed by a comet (probably manipulated by ‘naughty greenseers’) when in eclipse position, raining down moon meteors on Planetos, and the debris from the resulting impacts caused the Long Night. This is reflected in a variety of in-world myths and legendary heroes, most notably Azor Ahai (the sun) wielding Lightbringer (the comet) against his wife Nissa Nissa (the second moon), whose death leaves a crack across the face of the moon and creates a flaming sword (releasing the moon meteors/transforming the original comet red), thus giving Azor Ahai access to the fire of the gods.  On earth, this equates to Azor Ahai (the naughty greenseer) sacrificing Nissa Nissa (likely a child of the forest) to gain access to the weirnet aka the tree that burns without being consumed aka fire of the gods 2. This sequence of events is reflected in a variety of in-world myths and legendary heroes, such as the forging of Lightbringer, The Blood Betrayal, The Grey King and the slaying of the sea dragon, Garth Greenhand, the Qartheen legend of the second moon giving birth to dragons, and Durran Godsgrief and his marriage to Elenei, to name but a few. Martin alludes to these events throughout the novels using some pretty densely packed symbolism. 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 the main body of my essay. As usual, the associated appendix of the quotes I collated throughout the writing of this essay can be found on my Appendices page.

It is always difficult to know where to begin when trying to coherently analyse Martin’s symbolism – all of the dots seem to connect to one another, so that there is no natural beginning or ending. This time, I have found it easier to begin with my assertion and not the evidence that has led me there. So, I will begin with my assertion: that orange-coloured fire/flame is solely related to the falling moon meteors and the result of the meteor impacts. As such, we should see orange fire/flame occurring around moon meteors symbols: so things like flaming swords, flying torches, rising columns of smoke and ash, wielded by Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai types, that kind of thing. And that is just what we find. You will need to settle in for the long haul on this one, because there is a lot of orange fire imagery to cover.

The Lights that Caused the Dark

Most of the time, George likes to give us subtle hints and clues about symbolism. Other times, he likes to smack us in the face with a symbolism brick:

Full dark had fallen by the time the Yunkai’i departed from her camp. It promised to be a gloomy night; moonless, starless, with a chill wet wind blowing from the west. A fine black night, thought Dany. The fires burned all around her, small orange stars strewn across hill and field. (Dany IV, ASOS)

Small orange stars, you say? Fallen stars are an exceptionally obvious clue about meteors and comets, and this metaphor of “army campfires as a field of fallen stars” has been employed before.

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)

This was analysed as a moon meteor metaphor by LmL, so to see the imagery continued in association with orange is one clear piece of evidence associating the moon meteors with the colour orange. Moreover, it occurs as dark is falling to give a starless, moonless night sky: the moon was destroyed when it produced the moon meteors that blotted out the sun and stars, so seeing fallen stars at the moment that a moonless, starless, night begins heavily symbolises the onset of the Long Night.

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Dragonstone by saphirewings (DA, tumblr)

Another symbolism brick comes from Tyrion during the Battle of the Blackwater:

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. (Tyrion XIV, ACOK)

Any image of a meteor shower shows that this is what one looks like: streaks of fire between the stars. Again, this is associated with the colour orange. It is also associated with green, the colour of the greenseeing fire of the gods i.e. gaining the power to enter the weirnet. This ties together as the moon meteors are another aspect of the fire of the gods, the rain of bloodstone meteors possibly used to forge black, soul-drinking weapons: this is a concept that we will be covering in more detail later in this essay. Once again, the Battle of the Blackwater is fought at dusk, i.e. at the beginning of (the Long) Night. In fact, darkness, dusk and night-time are so ubiquitous in the orange fire/flame quotes that I’m not going to mention it now unless it’s really important to that scene: having said that, I have included it as a subsection of the appendix if you want to check.

One of the more vivid depictions of the devastation wrought by the falling moon meteors comes in Arya IV, ACOK, as the Night’s Watch recruits are taken unawares by Ser Amory Lorch’s men.

For a moment she thought the town was full of lantern bugs. Then she realized they were men with torches, galloping between the houses. She saw a roof go up, flames licking at the belly of the night with hot orange tongues as the thatch caught. (Arya IV, ACOK)

We have already gone into some detail analysing this scene, and LmL also analyses it here, so I will only provide a brief recap. The torch as lanternbug implies numerous meteors falling to earth, and they cause flames to lick at the night sky upon landing (with flame licking implying the destructive procreation, or sex and swordplay, motif). More importantly for this analysis, these tongues are orange: the extent of the moon meteor symbolism surrounding this quote only serves to reinforce my argument that the colour “orange” is associated with this as well.

Indeed, the torch is the metaphor that appears to be utilised most often with respect to the colour orange.

The stallion’s blood looked black in the flickering orange glare of the torches that ringed the high chalk walls of the pit. (Daenerys V, AGOT)

Flickering torchlight danced across the walls, making the faces seem half-alive, twisting them, changing them. The statues in the great septs of the cities wore the faces the stonemasons had given them, but these charcoal scratchings were so crude they might be anyone. The Father’s face made her think of her own father, dying in his bed at Riverrun. The Warrior was Renly and Stannis, Robb and Robert, Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow. She even glimpsed Arya in those lines, just for an instant. Then a gust of wind through the door made the torch sputter, and the semblance was gone, washed away in orange glare. (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

A dozen ironmen hemmed them in, torches in one hand and weapons in the other. The wind was gusting, and the flickering orange light reflected dully off steel helms, thick beards, and unsmiling eyes. (Theon IV, ACOK)

Flickering orange light fell through the ancient iron bars from the torch in the sconce on the wall outside, but the back half of the cell remained drenched in gloom. (Davos III, ASOS)

In and of itself, the torch is a moon meteor metaphor: however, I have chosen some examples that show orange torchlight tends to be flickering. (A complete collection of the orange torch quotes can, as always, be found in the associated appendix.) As I outlined in a previous essay, flickering is often associated with moon meteors by virtue of being equated to fallen stars, Lightbringer weaponry and fiery dancing. All of these images relate to the rain of moon meteors that showered the earth: to see this imagery consistently related to orange torches once again reinforces the idea of orange fire/flames being associated with moon meteors.

Moreover, each of these quotes has other moon meteor associations as well. I’ll go through each one individually. First, I’ll talk about The Last Hero Theon and his twelve companions imitating Rock-born Mithras:

A dozen ironmen hemmed them in, torches in one hand and weapons in the other. The wind was gusting, and the flickering orange light reflected dully off steel helms, thick beards, and unsmiling eyes. (Theon IV, ACOK)

As Schmendrick and LmL go into a lot of detail analysing, a key influence on the Lightbringer and Azor Ahai myth is Mithraism. Rock-born Mithras is a depiction of his birth, or re-birth, where he emerges from a stone egg wielding a torch in one hand and a sword in the other. In the above passage, we can see a similarity in the ironmen holding a torch in one hand and a weapon in the other. There are even allusions to Winterfell being a stone egg, in that it is described as a stone tree (Bran II, AGOT) that cracks open during the Sack, with a fiery winged snake hovering sinisterly above the castle (Bran VII, ACOK). And, as I alluded to in the precursor to this quote, we can see Last Hero maths, as there’s Theon (the Last Hero) and his dozen companions, making the traditional 12 + 1 pattern. So, once again, flickering orange torchlight is associated with the extensive symbolism surrounding the events of the Long Night.

 

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A troubled Theon Greyjoy by gibilynx

Moving on to the Davos quote:

Flickering orange light fell through the ancient iron bars from the torch in the sconce on the wall outside, but the back half of the cell remained drenched in gloom. (Davos III, ASOS)

Here we see the flickering orange torchlight falling, implying the moon meteors that fell to earth. Note that half of the cell remains drenched in gloom, such that it is half black and half orange. I believe this references the two aspects of the moon meteors – the “orange” meteors streaking to earth and the darkness that was the rising cloud of smoke and ash that blotted out the sun. This is a colour pairing that we will see repeatedly today, so I will keep pointing it out where it crops up.

This duality is echoed in the Dany quote as well:

The heart was steaming in the cool evening air when Khal Drogo set it before her, raw and bloody. His arms were red to the elbow. Behind him, his bloodriders knelt on the sand beside the corpse of the wild stallion, stone knives in their hands. The stallion’s blood looked black in the flickering orange glare of the torches that ringed the high chalk walls of the pit. (Daenerys V, AGOT)

Here, the flickering orange torchlight transforms the stallion’s heart’s blood black. As analysed by LmL, blackened blood is a well-established mark of fire transformation (e.g. both Melisandre and Beric have black blood): especially relevant for this analysis, black blood invokes the image of the rain of black bloodstones that fell from the sky as moon meteors. In this scene, the transformation of the blood to black occurs due to the orange torches that I believe represent the meteors falling to earth, so again we have this pairing of the orange light and blackness or darkness, the two halves of the moon meteor.

Finally, the orange torchlight is associated with twisting the faces of gods.

Flickering torchlight danced across the walls, making the faces seem half-alive, twisting them, changing them. The statues in the great septs of the cities wore the faces the stonemasons had given them, but these charcoal scratchings were so crude they might be anyone. The Father’s face made her think of her own father, dying in his bed at Riverrun. The Warrior was Renly and Stannis, Robb and Robert, Jaime Lannister and Jon Snow. She even glimpsed Arya in those lines, just for an instant. Then a gust of wind through the door made the torch sputter, and the semblance was gone, washed away in orange glare.

The smoke was making her eyes burn. She rubbed at them with the heels of her scarred hands.  (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

The flickering orange moon meteor torchlight dances, like the fiery dancers that always show at fire transformation parties, which twists and changes the faces of the Seven. That the gods are only half-alive would reflect the death and resurrection cycle that appears to be a key part of Azor Ahai’s and the Last Hero’s story, and a description of the greenseers. And of course, this happens just before a shadow baby birthed by Melisandre (a weirwood figure) sacrifices the horned lord Renly Baratheon, in his magic armour and his magic castle. Note that these orange torches are smoky, like the orange moon meteors that caused the rising cloud of smoke and ash that blotted out the sun: again, it’s another instance the two halves of the moon meteors.

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A somewhat grander sept – The Great Sept of Baelor by inSOLense

Indeed, this is a motif we see occur over and over again: orange fires smoke.

And now the flames reached her Drogo, and now they were all around him. His clothing took fire, and for an instant the khal was clad in wisps of floating orange silk and tendrils of curling smoke, grey and greasy. (Daenerys X, AGOT)

Dany chose the rightmost, and entered a long, dim, high-ceilinged hall. Along the right hand was a row of torches burning with a smoky orange light, but the only doors were to her left. Drogon unfolded wide black wings and beat the stale air. He flew twenty feet before thudding to an undignified crash. (Daenerys IV, ACOK)

A flight of flickering orange birds took wing from the castle, twenty or thirty of them; pots of burning pitch, arcing out over the river trailing threads of flame. The waters ate most, but a few found the decks of galleys in the first line of battle, spreading flame when they shattered. Men-at-arms were scrambling on Queen Alysanne’s deck, and he could see smoke rising from three different spots on Dragonsbane, nearest the bank. (Davos III, ACOK)

Outside the sun went down. Darkness gathered beyond the walls, but inside the torches burned with a ruddy orange glow, and their smoke gathered under the rafters like a grey cloud. Drunken men began to dance the finger dance. (The Reaver, AFFC)

Note that each of these events appears to be related to the result of the moon meteor impacts. In Dany’s first quote, Drogo is clothed in orange fire and smoke during the birth of Dany’s dragons, one of the more potent manifestations of the Lightbringer moon meteors. In Dany’s second quote, the black dragon, Drogon, crashes to the floor i.e. a black dragon meteor crashes to the ground in the light of the orange smoking torch meteors. In Davos’ chapter, the flickering orange burning pitch pots (which act as moon meteor metaphors, like the torches) cause smoke to rise in three spots, three being a key moon meteor number, as in Dany’s three dragons. And in The Reaver, the smoke rises like a cloud, as in it rises into the celestial realm to blot out the face of the sun and cause the Long Night, with some drunken dancers to go along with it.

The orange-and-smoke pattern is even expressed in sigils:

Ser Addam Marbrand had the command. Tyrion saw his banner unfurl as his standard-bearer shook it out; a burning treeorange and smoke(Tyrion VIII, AGOT)

That it is orange (for the moon meteors) and smoke (for the rising cloud of smoke and ash that blotted out the sun) lends support to my idea of the duality of the moon meteors as both fire and darkness. It also sends us onto another line of “orange fire” symbolism which leads us on to more and more places, so I’ll call a section break now.

The King’s Banner

I’ll return again to that quote about Ser Addam Marbrand’s sigil:

Ser Addam Marbrand had the command. Tyrion saw his banner unfurl as his standard-bearer shook it out; a burning tree, orange and smoke(Tyrion VIII, AGOT)

That particular line, about the unfurling banners, reminds me of this:

Huge orange gouts of fire unfurled their banners in that hellish wind, the logs hissing and cracking, glowing cinders rising on the smoke to float away into the dark like so many newborn fireflies. (Daenerys X, AGOT)

Note that once the orange fire unfurls its banner, cinders begin floating in the air, carried on the rising smoke cloud, a depiction of the moon meteor storm.

This “banner” image is repeated a few times in the series when orange flames are involved:

“Swiftly,” Ser Brynden said. He nocked an arrow, held it steady for the brand, drew and released before Catelyn was quite sure that the fire had caught . . . but as the shot rose, she saw the flames trailing through the air, a pale orange pennon. The boat had vanished in the mists. (Catelyn IV, ASOS)

This would look a lot like a meteor falling to earth: the head of the meteor is a flaming arrow that streaks through the air, bearing a banner (aka pennon) that is the tail of the meteor.

Jon slipped sideways between two sharpened stakes while Ghost slid beneath them. A torch had been thrust down into a crevice, its flames flying pale orange banners when the gusts came. He snatched it up as he squeezed through the gap between the stones. (Jon IV, ACOK)

The cold was so bitter that Sam felt naked. He looked for the other torches, but they were gone, every one of them. There was only the one Grenn carried, the flames rising from it like pale orange silks. He could see through them, to the black beyond. (Sam I, ASOS)

And here we have the torch motif again, two torches wielded by black brothers fly banners (banners, of course, being made of silk). I emphasised the fact that these men are black brothers because that gives us the orange and black colour pairing, yet again.

But whose banner are they all bearing?

“Look out your windows, my lord. There is the sign you have waited for, blazoned on the sky. Red, it is, the red of flame, red for the fiery heart of the true god. It is his banner—and yours! See how it unfurls across the heavens like a dragon’s hot breath, and you the Lord of Dragonstone.” (Prologue, ACOK)

Azor Ahai’s, of course! The wisdom of Lady Selyse says that The Red Comet is the banner of R’hllor and his chosen one. It also unfurls, like Marbrand’s banner and the orange fiery banners in Drogo’s pyre/Dany’s alchemical wedding/Lightbringer’s birth, so the similarity in language suggests that there is a similarity in symbolism. This is reinforced when “unfurl banner” produced seven results all of which pertain to moon meteors in some sense – but most of them are red, so I’m likely to end up covering it in the next essay. So, whilst the banners aren’t all orange, there is a conclusive link that the Red Comet!Lightbringer can be described as a banner, in which case the moon meteor!Lightbringer is likely to carry this symbolism too.

So, who carries the fiery banner for R’hllor? His Fire Knights, of course.

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The Red Comet by aunjuli

The Livery of the Fire Knights

The fire knights are the warriors of fire, warriors who fight on behalf of fire and warriors who are the literal incarnations of fire.

“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.” (Davos III, ASOS)

So, who would be better to bear the banner of R’hllor than the class of slave warriors literally dedicated to defending R’hllor’s temples?

“The red temple buys them as children and makes them priests or temple prostitutes or warriors. Look there.” He 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)

As LmL goes in to some detail explaining, the Fiery Hand is a fantastic representation of the moon meteors that fell to earth because there’s a thousand of them and they are clasping fiery spears, weapons that are literally designed to look like meteors. What I want to point out is that they are cloaked in orange. This serves to strengthen my original argument, that orange fire is related to the moon meteors, as these thousand men that represent moon meteors are literally designed to look like orange fire. Ser Jorah even calls them warriors, aligning them even better to the warriors of fire that Mel talks about.

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The Braavosi Temple of the Lord of Light, retrieved from GoT wikia 17/03/2018

It then suggests that we ought to look for orange coloured fiery clothing as an indicator of someone undergoing a fire transformation by meteor. It would be really great if this happened in a Lightbringer forging scene, because that is the definition of transformation by moon meteor. If only…

His clothing took fire, and for an instant the khal was clad in wisps of floating orange silk and tendrils of curling smoke, grey and greasy. (Daenerys X, AGOT)

Drogo is the avatar of Azor Ahai in this moment, is identified with the Red Comet and is undergoing a fire transformation to boot. He is (symbolically) becoming Azor Ahai Reborn and he appears to Dany to be wearing orange fire and smoke: he is a mighty warrior robed in dual motif of the moon meteors. This is actually replicated in Hoster Tully’s funeral: the boat is wreathed in leaping flames” with a flaming arrow (moon meteor), trailing a “pale orange pennon (Catelyn IV, ASOS), the banner of R’hllor. And Tully was a warrior who fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings and had the famed kissed-by-fire Tully red hair: Hoster Tully is Azor Ahai! You heard it here first! In all seriousness though, the warrior transformed in death by the fire of the gods moon meteors is an idea that keeps recurring.

If you have been following my previous essays, you will know that I have discussed the warriors of fire motif before, and I suggested that firelight reflecting off of armour might be an indication that these men are fire knights or warriors of fire. One of the prime examples of this is during the Night’s Watch battle against Ser Amory Lorch’s men:

Firelight glittered off metal helms and spattered their mail and plate with orange and yellow highlights. (Arya IV, ACOK)

Yes, this is yellow as well, but we know that yellow fire is related to the second sun idea, that of attempting to acquire the fire of the gods, or attempting to be transformed by fire. So, not only are these men wielding orange torches like moon meteors, they are wearing armour that is a reflection of an attempt to acquire the fire of the gods and the orange moon meteors, which is the fire of the gods on its way down to earth.

In the very same chapter we have the son of the horned god with horns like orange fire:

…but Gendry came back, the fire shining so bright on his polished helm that the horns seemed to glow orange. (Arya IV, ACOK)

Fiery horned lords are something that LmL goes in to great detail analysing in his Green Zombies series, referencing the myths of the corn king figures, a term used to describe the very common mythological archetype of a sacrificed male god or king whose death brings about the turning of the seasons (Sacred Order of Green Zombies I, LmL). Gendry is called the Bull, a typical sacrificial animal and the animal that Mithr-Azor Ahai himself sacrifices; he is the son of Robert Baratheon, who is explicitly called a horned god; and he is here representing the Night’s Watch, who may well have been sacrificed horned lord figures. So, who better to wear the moon meteor fire of the gods than the sacrificed and resurrected horned god? This likely ties in to the image I analysed previously, that of resurrected Renly of the flaming golden antlers, as antlers on a stag and horns on a bull are both symbols representative of the horned god figure. This would then offer some kind of equivalence between orange fire and golden fire: this is to be expected if gold fire represents the acquisition of the fire of the gods and orange fire represents the moon meteors that are an example of the fire of the gods come to earth.

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Gendry by chenoan

This fiery armour motif is also seen in the armour of Theon’s dozen ironborn, as it reflects the orange torchlight:

A dozen ironmen hemmed them in, torches in one hand and weapons in the other. The wind was gusting, and the flickering orange light reflected dully off steel helms, thick beards, and unsmiling eyes. (Theon IV, ACOK)

I mentioned earlier that these ironborn are being depicted as the Last Hero’s twelve companions and Mithras, with Mithraism being a large influence on GRRM’s conception of Azor Ahai (Reborn). Unsurprisingly, we are seeing the orange flames from their moon meteor torches being reflected in their armour, suggesting that they are playing in to the warriors of fire motif: exactly what we would expect of people imitating a key influence on the Azor Ahai myth. If these ironborn are meant to represent the Last Hero’s twelve, as the 12 + 1 maths would suggest, then this suggests that the Last Hero and his companions may have undergone some kind of fire transformation. This fits rather nicely into LmL’s Green Zombies series, in which he suggests that the original Night’s Watch, aka the Last Hero + 12, were actually undead: yet again, this is another indication that the warrior of fire underwent some kind of death transformation by the moon meteor fire.

To be clear, I am depicting Azor Ahai being armoured in fire as part of this warrior of fire motif. That’s all very well and good, I hear you say, but fiery armour isn’t a thing that is associated with Azor Ahai or moon meteors. That’s true, there is no explicit mention of that. But we know that Azor Ahai wielded a fiery sword… but that’s just too much to ask for, right?

Jon drew Longclaw from its sheath. Rain washed the steel, and the firelight traced a sullen orange line along the edge. Such a small fire, to cost a man his life. He remembered what Qhorin Halfhand had said when they spied the fire in the Skirling Pass. Fire is life up here, he told them, but it can be death as well. (Jon V, ASOS)

Apparently not! Which is good news for my essay, because it shows that this symbolism is actually related to each other and it’s not just me ranting about something completely random. And Jon is the one holding this flaming sword – Azor Ahai Reborn candidate numero uno. In the section I have bolded, it appears that the rain transforms the steel to make it look like a fiery sword. And what is this rain from?

Toward sunset, however, clouds began to threaten in the west. They soon engulfed the orange sun, and Lenn foretold a bad storm coming. (Jon V, ASOS)

The orange sun within the storm is creating orange fiery swords. Note that this is the only time an orange sun is mentioned in the series proper, so I think its choice here is especially telling: when the sun is swallowed, the thing doing the swallowing tends to undergo a fiery transformation. In this case, it transformed the storm into The Storm of Fiery Swords i.e. the moon meteors that rained down upon earth. The only other occurrence of orange suns that I can see (but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong) is in the sigil of House Kenning of Kayce: two orange suns on black and two black suns on orange, countercharged. The old friends, the moon meteors and the darkness. (I do have a further analysis of the Kenning sigil on a comment of one of LmL’s essays.)

Jon wielding a sword set on fire by moon meteor rain gives us the idea of the warriors of fire wielding the moon meteors as weapons. We also see this in the way that Lorch and his men use torches to decimate the town and the holdfast in Arya IV, ACOK. Another way that moon meteors can be weaponised is to make physical swords: think of Dawn being forged from the heart of a fallen star. Obviously Dawn is white, but we do have tales of black soul-drinking swords:

… the men of the green lands told each other that the Ironborn were demons risen from some watery hell, protected by fell sorceries and possessed of foul black weapons that drank the very souls of those they slew. (The Iron Islands, The World of Ice and Fire)

As LmL analyses in ‘The Grey King and the Sea Dragon’, there is ample evidence of a moon meteor landing in the sea very near to the Iron Islands, and there is a suggestion that the Ironborn actually harvested this material in order to forge weapons from it. Moreover, the ironborn as magical demons emerging from some watery hell with moon meteor swords sounds a lot like the Drowned God emerging from the sea to give the ironborn the burning brand, the burning brand being a moon meteor torch metaphor. Think of Theon and his twelve companions in their Mithras pose, bearing the orange torches in one hand, weapons in the other, armoured in fire. This then equates the black soul-drinking swords with the fiery torch, giving us the two halves of the moon meteor again: the (orange) fiery torch and the black sword.

Given that the meteors are frequently symbolised by dragons, what the Ironborn have done is create steel from dragons, i.e. dragonsteel.

“Dragonsteel?” Jon frowned. “Valyrian steel?” (Sam I, AFFC)

This is the first Valyrian steel sword we meet:

Lord Eddard Stark dismounted and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. “Ice,” that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man’s hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke. Nothing held an edge like Valyrian steel. (Bran I, AGOT)

Ice – one of the best Lightbringer symbols going – is dragonsteel and smoke-dark. Smoke, like the smoky counterpart of an orange moon meteor. This is later repeated when Tyrion says that “most Valyrian steel was a grey so dark it looked almost black” (Tyrion IV, ASOS), while describing Oathkeeper – one of the other best Lightbringer symbols going.

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Like father, like son – Eddard Stark by feydrautha81 (DA, facebook, insta) and Jon Snow by liayso

Borrowing yet another idea from LmL, if the sword Ice is so dark it is almost black, then that makes it black ice like Jon’s Azor Ahai dream’ armour:

Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. (Jon XII, ADWD)

Following the logic backwards, to be armoured in black ice is to be armoured in Valyrian steel, by virtue of the shared descriptions of the Valyrian steel sword, Ice. If Valyrian Steel is dragonsteel, then we can equate Jon wearing black Ice/Valyrian steel armour to Jon wearing armour made from moon meteorite material, as moon meteors can be called dragons. This leads to the quite frankly bizarre notion that to be armoured in fire is parallel to being armoured in ice: then again, I suppose the clue has been in the title all along. And it also fits with this quote: [Jon] watched the cracks along the Wall go from red to grey to black, from streaks of fire to rivers of black ice. (Jon XII, ADWD)

There is another depiction of someone armoured in ice wielding a fiery sword:

Ser Barristan pulled his sword from the scabbard. Its sharp edge caught the light from the brazier, became a line of orange fire. (The Kingbreaker, ADWD)

Ser Barristan wears the white armour of the Kingsguard, which he describes earlier in the chapter as hard as ice and bright as new-fallen snow (The Kingbreaker, ADWD). So it appears that being armoured in ice and wielding a burning sword are things that go together. Moreover, as a knight fighting on behalf of the dragon queen, he could be cast as a fire knight or warrior of fire.

So, it seems that the warrior of fire motif is associated with warriors using the fire of the moon meteors as armour and weapons, specifically an Azor Ahai type wearing fiery armour or wielding a fiery sword. But what else is the warrior of fire? Melisandre, take it away:

“The war continues, Davos Seaworth, and some will soon learn that even an ember in the ashes can still ignite a great blaze. 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.” (Davos III, ASOS)

The warrior of fire is the ember in the ashes, and the ember in the ashes is the life in the weirnet.

 

The Burning Tree (again)

Anybody with familiarity with LmL’s essays will know of the “ember in the ashes” motif, as he analysed it extensively in In A Grove of Ash’. For those who are not familiar or LmL readers who want a recap, I’ll try to provide a decent precis of relevant concepts from his Weirwood Compendium series, so that this essay can be at least somewhat coherent, because I am going to be applying these ideas liberally to my orange fire = moon meteor hypothesis.

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A depiction of Yggdrasil (copyright-free image)

Weirwood trees, as many in the fandom have noted, are a blatant reference to the mythical Norse tree, Yggdrasil, that connected the various worlds of the cosmos. Yggdrasil is an ash tree, which then means that weirwoods can be considered as ash trees. Furthermore, the leaves of the weirwood tree are described as a blaze of flame (Theon V, ACOK), making it a burning ash tree.

We have already seen the burning tree a couple of times this essay. Remember Ser Addam Marbrand’s sigil, the orange burning tree on a field of smoke-grey? Remember how the banner bearing that sigil unfurled like the Red Comet, which is in turn the herald of fake Azor Ahai, Stannis Baratheon? To me, that suggests that the burning tree is the banner of Azor Ahai too, which fits with everything that LmL has been saying in his Weirwood Compendium: the two forms of the fire of the gods are Fiery Sword!Lightbringer and the Burning Tree!Lightbringer and the forging of both co-occur.

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by LiquidSoulDesign

With this is mind, we can return to the burning tree in Arya IV, ACOK:

The fire leapt from one house to another. 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)

The tree is wearing orange fiery robes, like a tree being transformed by moon meteor fire. Moreover, it is Ser Amory Lorch and his men, playing in to the warriors of fire motif by bearing their moon meteor torches and wearing their fiery armour, that create the burning tree.

Now, to quote the same Melisandre statement yet again:

“The war continues, Davos Seaworth, and some will soon learn that even an ember in the ashes can still ignite a great blaze. 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.” (Davos III, ASOS)

To Melisandre, the ember in the ashes is the same as the warrior of fire, who is in turn Azor Ahai Reborn. This fits perfectly with the Arya IV, ACOK scene: the warriors of fire who are armoured in fire and wield fiery moon meteors create the fiery tree, or the ember in the ashes. This is yet another manifestation of LmL’s key thesis from the Weirwood Compendium: Azor Ahai was a greenseer who set the tree on fire by entering the weirnet.

Obviously, the most important weirwood tree is the heart tree, the trees that have been activated or ‘set on fire’ by the warriors of fire imbuing them with their fiery consciousness. With that in mind, consider Stannis’ sigil:

The device on his sun-yellow banner showed a red heart surrounded by a blaze of orange fire. The crowned stag was there, yes . . . shrunken and enclosed within the heart. (Catelyn III, ACOK)

It is the red heart, for the red-leaved, red-faced heart tree, fiery like the fiery heart of R’hllor. Note that the heart is burning orange: orange for the moon meteors that set it on fire, like Ser Amory Lorch’s men using the moon meteor torches to set fire to the tree in Arya IV, ACOK. Moreover, it is a blaze of orange fire”, like the weirwood is a “blaze of flame” (Theon V, ACOK), the similarity in language echoing a similarity in symbolism. It’s yet another manifestation of the weirwood tree struck by the meteor.

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Speaking of more symbolic manifestations of the weirwood tree, LmL has gone into a lot of detail analysing the fire that Osha lights when under the crypts of Winterfell.

Bran heard fingers fumbling at leather, followed by the sound of steel on flint. Then again. A spark flew, caught. Osha blew softly. A long pale flame awoke, stretching upward like a girl on her toes. Osha’s face floated above it. She touched the flame with the head of a torch. Bran had to squint as the pitch began to burn, filling the world with orange glare. (Bran VII, ACOK)

It’s that pesky orange meteor again, transforming the world with its orange glare. More importantly, this fire fits the shy maid motif, the symbolic manifestation of the burning weirwood dryad. LmL analyses this scene, and I’ll quote his analysis as I can’t precis it:

Osha’s face floats above like the moon, and the long, pale flame girl on her toes acts as the fiery body under her floating head. Take a picture everyone – that’s our Asshai maiden, the lady of the burning ash tree. She is a moon figure, a living flame, and an ash tree all in one. She may be a shy maiden, but you’ll notice that she’s “filling the world with orange glare.” The fiery weirwood woman does that by lightning up in fiery dragon childbirth, and by facilitating the rebirth of Azor Ahai, the ember in the ashes waiting to spark the great conflagration. (LucifermeansLightbringer, Weirwood Goddess 1: The Venus of The Woods: Asshai Maiden)

This is exactly what we have predicted so far, purely from analysing the colour orange: orange for the moon meteors (“fiery dragon childbirth”) that create the burning tree using the spirit of the warrior of fire, who in turn becomes the ember in the ashes.

There are many more examples of people turning into weirwood trees due to the fire of the moon meteors. One of the prime examples is the burning of the Undying Ones by Drogon.

Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. Her heart was pounding, racing, the hands and mouths were gone, heat washed over her skin, and Dany blinked in the sudden glare. Perched above her, the dragon spread his wings and tore at the terrible dark heart, ripping the rotten flesh to ribbons, and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his jaws, bright and hot. She could hear the shrieks of the Undying as they burned, their high thin papery voices crying out in tongues long dead. Their flesh was a crumbling parchment, their bones dry wood soaked in tallow. They danced as the flames consumed them, they staggered and writhed and spun and raised their blazing hands on high, their fingers bright as torches. (Daenerys IV, ACOK)

A lot happens in this paragraph so let’s break it down. Firstly, there are the moon meteor references. Most obviously, orange fire comes from a black dragon (meteor). However, Drogon usually breathes black flame shot through with red and it’s well-established in universe that dragonflame is the colour of the dragon, and Drogon is definitely not orange. I would argue, therefore, that the reason it is orange in this scene is that the symbolism requires it. If the moon meteors create the burning tree, then we need the black dragon to breathe orange and give us that moon meteor colour pairing. In addition to this, there is also linguistic similarity between Drogon’s fire here and the fire in the Winterfell crypts. Drogon’s fire flew from his jaws to set the Undying Ones on fire and, in the other fire, a spark flew, caught to create the shy maid. Moreover, in doing so, both create an orange glare: “a sudden glare in this case and “filling the world with orange glare in the other.

With these similarities, we can extrapolate that Drogon, as a moon meteor, is setting some weirwood trees on fire here, and that is what the Undying Ones are symbolising in this moment. The most obvious call outs to this is that they are described as papery, like parchment and like dry wood, all products of trees. By likening the Undying Ones to paper and parchment, Martin invokes the idea of the burning book or burning library as outlined by Ravenous Reader: greenseers in the weirnet act as repositories of knowledge, just as books and libraries do, thus something or someone that is equated to a book being set on fire is symbolically equivalent to setting the tree on fire. Additionally, the Undying Ones’ “whispers turned to screams: that’s the greenseers in the whispering weirnet screaming in the moment of their fiery resurrection (presumably this is equivalent to the face carving, given the frequently angry or screaming faces carved on to the trees). The screams and shrieks are also evocative of Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy at the moment of Lightbringer’s forging. Finally, after being set on fire, they do what all fiery tree sorcerors should do: they dance like the fiery dancers that crop up at Lightbringer forging parties and they do so by “raising their blazing hands on high i.e. by striking a tree pose. Their hands in this instance would be like the leaves of the weirwood tree, which look like hands and a blaze of flame, so that matches.

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Essentially what happens in The House of the Undying – by floraltattoo

This also gives us the fractal imagery that is so prevalent in Martin’s work. The Undying Ones now have fiery hands, like the Fiery Hand of R’hllor, the warriors of fire. This is exactly what we should be seeing: sorcerors attempting to acquire the fire of the gods, getting their hands burned by it, and being transformed. Martin describes the fingers as torches, circling back around to the nigh ubiquitous moon meteor as torches motif. Let’s recap the description of the Fiery Hand:

He 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)

As I recounted earlier, the fire knights here are acting as moon meteor symbols, clasping fiery spears and cloaked in the colour of the moon meteors. Note that each of the guards are called fingers, which equates fingers to moon meteors. This is exactly what we are seeing in the House of the Undying: the Undying Ones’ fiery fingers are orange torches, a key moon meteor symbol.

Another weirwood symbol is the rising cloud of smoke and ash. As LmL points out, a rising column of ash looks like the trunk of an ash tree, the weirwood in A Song of Ice and Fire. As I pointed out earlier in the essay, the orange moon meteor torches are often depicted as smoky, so you can visualise the image of a moon meteor giving rise to the column of smoke weirwood. Drogon’s destruction of the Undying does actually lead to this rising smoke symbol:

When Dany looked behind her, she saw thin tendrils of smoke forcing their way through cracks in the ancient stone walls of the Palace of Dust, and rising from between the black tiles of the roof. (Daenerys IV, ACOK)

Within, we have the fiery sorcerors and fiery dancers enacting the image of the weirwood tree being set on fire by the black-and-orange moon meteor Drogon and without we have the rising cloud of smoke and ash that simultaneously depicts the weirwood tree and the darkening of the sun.

In other scenes, the smoke is the cause of the weirwood stigmata, rather than the consequence (the weirwood stigmata is a term LmL uses to describe characters who acquire symbolism that makes them look like weirwoods such as bleeding eyes, a bloody mouth and bloody hands).

Then a gust of wind through the door made the torch sputter, and the semblance was gone, washed away in orange glare.

The smoke was making her eyes burn. She rubbed at them with the heels of her scarred hands. (Catelyn IV, ACOK)

LmL analyses the two most important scenes in which Catelyn acquires weirwood symbolism in ‘Venus of the Woods’: when she defends Bran from the catspaw assassin and when she dies at the Red Wedding. This scene is but a minor echo of the others but we can still see some of the weirwood stigmata being expressed. Catelyn’s eyes burn, like they burn at the Red Wedding when she is simultaneously crying and clawing at her own eyes, associating these burning-from-smoke eyes with carving a face on the weirwood tree. It also invokes the idea that the face carving is the moment that the weirwood tree is set ablaze i.e. the carving of the face is the key moment in the activation of the weirwood tree. Martin also makes sure to reference Catelyn’s scarred hands, reminding us that she acquired those scars during her fight with the catspaw assassin and so referencing the bloody hands symbol, even if he can’t actually make her hands bleed at this point in time. This gives her the bloody hand symbolism in addition to the burning/bloody eyes, completing the weirwood transformation for this scene. Once again, this is effected by the orange fire of the moon meteors and note that it heralds an army of shadow knights and the sacrifice of a green man stag king wearing magic armour. The confluence of associated imagery is astoundingly consistent.

The weirwood stigmata also occurs in another scene rich with moon meteor references, and it occurs with one of the best incarnations of Azor Ahai Reborn.

The heart was steaming in the cool evening air when Khal Drogo set it before her, raw and bloody. His arms were red to the elbow. Behind him, his bloodriders knelt on the sand beside the corpse of the wild stallion, stone knives in their hands. The stallion’s blood looked black in the flickering orange glare of the torches that ringed the high chalk walls of the pit. (Daenerys V, AGOT)

In the very same chapter, it is mentioned that horses and stallions represent stars in Dothraki culture; in which case, Daenerys is eating the heart of a fallen star. As she eats the horse heart, warm blood filled her mouth and ran down over her chin” and “her cheeks and fingers were sticky with blood giving her the bloody mouth/bloody hands symbolism of a weirwood tree. Some of that heartsblood even seemed to explode against her lips (Daenerys V, AGOT), giving us the idea of the exploding moon that resulted in the moon meteors. In essence, Martin is describing the warrior of fire bringing down a star to turn a moon maiden into a weirwood tree. Consider the fact that Drogo is red to the elbow when he gives Dany the heart: he is caught red-handed pulling down a star, as it were. In doing this, he and his bloodriders also create black bloodstone weapons, extending their warrior of fire symbolism, as the stone knives they use to cut open the stallion are coated in blood that has turned black in the light of the moon meteor torches. This implies that it is the heart of a black bloodstone meteor that is giving Dany the weirwood stigmata, which is exactly what we acolytes of LmL’s Church of Starry Wisdom believe: remember it is the Storm God’s lightning bolt that set the tree ablaze. The fact that the heart steams also references one of Daenerys’ fire transformation dreams, in which a dragon bathes her in fire and she could feel her blood boil and turn to steam (Daenerys III, AGOT). This equates being transformed by dragon with being transformed by the heart of a fallen star horse, thus equating transformation by blood with transformation by fire: given that both dragons and this horse are representing the rain of fiery bloodstone moon meteors, this is an unsurprising link.

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Daenerys’ special protein diet by inthearmsofundertow

Let’s review the picture being painted once again. The warrior of fire uses his bloody, fiery moon meteors to set trees on fire, creating a weirwood, and to give moon maidens the weirwood stigmata. This is a clear reference to Azor Ahai sacrificing Nissa Nissa to open his way into the weirwood tree and may be a specific reference to weapons forged from the moon meteors being the weapons that carved the first faces on the weirwood trees. But, as Bloodraven espouses, to truly become a greenseer as Azor Ahai was, one must first wed the tree.

The Tiger Bride

I have some relevant thoughts about how marriage relates to this essay, but to cover it, we are going to have to meander through fictional time and space, across half a world and almost to the dawn of days.

The Bloodstone Emperor is first introduced to us in The World of Ice and Fire, as part of a rendition of some eastern myths about the Great Empire of the Dawn.

When the daughter of the Opal Emperor succeeded him as the Amethyst Empress, her envious younger brother cast her down and slew her, proclaiming himself the Bloodstone Emperor and beginning a reign of terror. He practiced dark arts, torture, and necromancy, enslaved his people, took a tiger-woman for his bride, feasted on human flesh, and cast down the true gods to worship a black stone that had fallen from the sky. (Many scholars count the Bloodstone Emperor as the first High Priest of the sinister Church of Starry Wisdom, which persists to this day in many port cities throughout the known world).

In the annals of the Further East, it was the Blood Betrayal, as his usurpation is named, that ushered in the age of darkness called the Long Night. Despairing of the evil that had been unleashed on earth, the Maiden-Made-of-Light turned her back upon the world, and the Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth to punish the wickedness of men. (The Bones and Beyond: Yi Ti, The World of Ice and Fire)

In his second Bloodstone Compendium essay, LmL equates this myth to that of the forging of Lightbringer and the breaking of the second moon, and comes to the conclusion that the myth of Azor Ahai is the same as the myth of the Bloodstone Emperor. This assumption forms the basis of the next section.

I want to focus on the tiger woman the Bloodstone Emperor marries. I believe she is an avatar of Nissa Nissa, for multiple reasons. Firstly, she is likened to the children of the forest by virtue of being a cat or cat-like. LmL has recently released an essay looking at all the cat symbolism surrounding children of the forest and Nissa Nissa so go check that out of you want more details on that front. However, it is symbolism that many people picked up on quickly.

Moreover, the tiger woman is linked with skinchanging beyond her links to the children. As many in the fandom have noticed, the further east you go, the more Martin draws his influences from eastern mythology in the real world. So, a tiger woman is highly suggestive of the concept of the were-tiger (hat-tip to Blue Tiger), a concept prevalent in mainland Asia and Indonesia. There are many variations of the myth, but they all boil down to humans shape-shifting into tigers; this mythological phenomena is replicated in Martin’s skinchangers in ASOIAF. So, we can assume the tiger woman is able to skinchange, again reinforcing her connections to the children.

The Isle of Leng is home to ten-thousand tigers and is ruled by a god-empress: if the Bloodstone Emperor, last of the god-emperors, took a tiger-woman to wife, she would become a god-empress, so perhaps their ruler’s titles are an archaic memory of ancient history.

Finally, in Chinese mythology, the tiger aligns with yin and is also associated with the female and the moon: the female moon figure is, of course, the Nissa Nissa moon maiden archetype. And the counterpart? Why it’s the yang, male sun dragon – Azor Ahai in other words.

So, the tiger woman plays in to a lot of ideas that we can recognise in Nissa Nissa: child of the forest archetypes, skinchanging ability and links to being like a moon goddess. Which leads my theorising into a bit of a problem. If Azor Ahai killed Nissa Nissa and brought on the Long Night, and the Bloodstone Emperor killed the Amethyst Empress to bring on the Long Night, that aligns the Amethyst Empress with Nissa Nissa, not the tiger-woman. This is true, but let’s look at the Amethyst Empress Reborn, Daenerys Targaryen.

Daenerys Targaryen marries Khal Drogo, and their relationship has a lot of parallels to the Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa’s. Moreover, there are plans afoot to try to kidnap her and marry her to Euron Crow’s-Eye, who may as well be called the Bloodstone Emperor Reborn. So, she has (potential) marital links to two Azor Ahai/Bloodstone Emperor types, suggesting that the Bloodstone Emperor may have married his sister, the Amethyst Empress. That is not beyond the realms of possibility, given that the Great Empire of the Dawn is set up as a proto-Valyrian civilisation and the Valyrians married brother-to-sister, so they may have gotten their marital traditions from the Great Empire like they got their dragon-riding skills.

Moreover, Daenerys picks up some cat symbolism in her transformation in Drogo’s pyre. I’ll give you the subtle one first, because it’s my favourite and it’s how I named my blog.

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

Tiny flames went darting up the wood like swift red mice, skating over the oil and leaping from bark to branch to leaf. (Daenerys X, AGOT)

A cat staring in to the fire sees red mice playing, and that is indeed the first thing Daenerys sees in the pyre, making Daenerys a cat. After the dragons are born, she goes on her messianic trek through the Red Waste wearing Drogo’s white lion’s skin pelt. She’s wearing a big cat’s skin, like a skinchanger. Whilst not exactly a tiger, the lion is still a big-cat, and places with lions have legends about were-lions much like the eastern parts of the world have legends about were-tigers. Assuming that the lion and the tiger have this kind of equivalency in Martin’s symbolism, Daenerys is wearing a white tiger. The white tiger symbolises autumn and the west which, as Blue Tiger points out on the Westeros.org forum, could indicate the Bloodstone Emperor’s move West to try to find a child of the forest to do his whole challenging the gods thang.

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Daenerys as a big cat by Muffinpoodle

Now, to relate this all back to the essay I’m supposed to be writing on orange and orange fire. I have spent most of this essay trying to convince you that orange and black are the two colours of the moon-meteors, and orange and black are of course the colours of the tiger. I believe this means that the tiger woman represents the moon meteors, or the transformed Nissa Nissa. Given that the Bloodstone Emperor is an inverted solar figure, a dragon who brought darkness, this suggests that we should invert the other half of the traditional Chinese yin-yang dichotomy; this would make his bride the tiger-woman an inverted moon figure, or the destroyed moon. So, the tiger-woman is less Nissa Nissa, more Nissa Nissa Reborn, which actually fits better with the cat-woman symbolism outlined by LmL.

The Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai marries this Nissa Nissa Reborn tiger-woman, and I think he would do that because the Nissa Nissa Reborn tiger-woman is the person he uses to create the weirwood tree. Think of how often we have mentioned cat-like women representing weirwoods in the light of the moon meteors: Cat in the sept before Renly’s sacrifice by shadow (Catelyn IV, ACOK), Osha the wildling, described as cat quick and quiet as a cat, is the shy weirwood moon maid in the crypts of Winterfell, and Daenerys acquires the bloody hands/bloody mouth weirwood stigmata when she eats the heart of a fallen star- I mean, the heart of a wild stallion.  More wedding symbolism occurs in Drogo’s pyre, which has led LmL to dub it the Alchemical Wedding:

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, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. Dany opened her arms to them, her skin flushed and glowing. This is a wedding, too, she thought. Mirri Maz Duur had fallen silent. (Daenerys X, AGOT)

In other words, Daenerys shifts from Nissa Nissa to Nissa Nissa Reborn during a transformative wedding that symbolises the moon’s destruction and the creation of the weirwood tree (“logs exploded as the fire touched their secret hearts; Daenerys X, AGOT), and she becomes cat-like in the process.

In which case, the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai marrying the tiger woman Nissa Nissa Reborn is symbolically equivalent to saying that the greenseer used orange fire moon meteors (and blood sacrifice) to wed the weirwood tree. So, do we see wedding symbolism associated with the weirwood creation? There’s a roundabout piece of symbolism contained in the idea of the warrior of fire or fire knights motif. Consider the Fiery Hand of R’hllor:

He 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. (Tyrion VIII, ADWD)

Their cloaks are designed to look like orange fire. I have spent a lot of time arguing that Ser Amory Lorch and his men play in to this fire knight motif, so we can give them symbolic orange cloaks too as they create a weirwood tree:

The fire leapt from one house to another. 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)

Specifically, they robe the tree in orange moon meteor fire. Almost like the fire knights have used their orange fire cloaks to cloak the tree as part of a wedding ceremony or something.

We do actually see a fire marriage in the wedding of Alys Karstark and Sigorn, Magnar of the Thenns, by Melisandre, weirwood maiden extraordinaire. I had actually forgotten this existed (I’ve not read ADWD recently, sue me 😛) until I had a closer look at cloaking ceremonies in marriages on the wiki, and I got to wondering whether there was some orange fire involved there, because that’s what my theory would predict. Lo and behold:

“Sigorn,” asked Melisandre, “will you share your fire with Alys, and warm her when the night is dark and full of terrors?”

“I swear me.” The Magnar’s promise was a white cloud in the air. Snow dappled his shoulders. His ears were red. “By the red god’s flames, I warm her all her days.”

“Alys, do you swear to share your fire with Sigorn, and warm him when the night is dark and full of terrors?”

Till his blood is boiling.” Her maiden’s cloak was the black wool of the Night’s Watch. The Karstark sunburst sewn on its back was made of the same white fur that lined it.

Melisandre’s eyes shone as bright as the ruby at her throat. “Then come to me and be as one.” As she beckoned, a wall of flames roared upward, licking at the snowflakes with hot orange tongues. Alys Karstark took her Magnar by the hand.

Side by side they leapt the ditch.

Two went into the flames. A gust of wind lifted the red woman’s scarlet skirts till she pressed them down again. “One emerges.” Her coppery hair danced about her head. “What fire joins, none may put asunder.” (Jon X, ADWD)

I’ve highlighted some of the important language choices in this section. The Magnar of Thenn is “dappled by snow, a key child of the forest descriptor. Alys Karstark’s vow to stay with him “till his blood is boiling is a callout to the dragon moon meteor that made Daenerys blood boil and turn to steam (Daenerys III, AGOT): so, we can see that Alys is promising to stick around until her husband is transformed by fire. This fire transformation is brought about by jumping through a wall of hot orange tongues, licking up at the snowflakes. Every single word of that description evokes imagery associated with fire transformation by moon meteor: the colour orange, the flames that lick, specifically licking at the night sky, suggesting a challenge to the gods and so on and so forth.

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Red Hot Wildling Wedding by caffeine2

The weirwood imagery here is twofold, from both of the women present. Firstly, Alys Karstark is an ashy maiden, by virtue of her association to the grey girl prophecy:

She had seen the girl only once. A girl as grey as ash, and even as I watched she crumbled and blew away. (Melisandre, ADWD)

No, I’m not saying that Alys Karstark *is* the prophesied girl, I’m just saying that she is close enough to carry the symbolism, in much the same way that Beric Dondarrion is not Azor Ahai Reborn but he carries the symbolism. So Alys is associated with an ashy maid, thus playing in to the shy maid ash-tree weirwood woman symbolism: specifically, she is an avatar Nissa Nissa Reborn. This matches with the Karstark sigil, a white sunburst on black, as the colourings of the shadowcat, thus giving her a bit of cat symbolism in marriage and invoking the idea of the Bloodstone Emperor’s tiger bride. As such, her union in the fire of the moon meteors is exactly what we would expect.

Then Sigorn and Alys leap the ditch, becoming symbolically transformed by moon meteor fire.  From a plot perspective, it’s their big moment, they’re together, the wildlings have a major foothold in the south and Alys has been saved from her uncle. All things considered, we ought to be focusing on them. Instead, we get Melisandre, and I think that’s because, as a weirwood tree with a heart face, the post-moon-meteor transformation is all about entering the weirwood tree. So, let’s break down that final paragraph a little more:

Two went into the flames.” A gust of wind lifted the red woman’s scarlet skirts till she pressed them down again.

Read as two people were transformed by the moon meteors and are entering the weirwood tree. And yes, I do think that lifting Melisandre’s skirts is an “entering the weirwood woman” sex joke: after all, creating the weirwood tree is a forging of Lightbringer, which is one massive sexual metaphor. Moreover, the weirwood tree acts like a womb, so it needs to be ‘impregnated’ somehow to create the warrior of fire. If that’s a slightly disturbing image, you can just imagine that they are going under the tree, into the caves below the weirwood trees where the greenseers live. Note that it is the wind that does this, wind being the method of communication of the greenseers, their ghostly hand manipulating the world. Given that it seems likely that greenseers were initially sacrificed to enter the weirwood trees, a ghostly weirwind lifting the skirts of the weirwood tree maiden to enter her seems relevant, especially after a man and wife have undergone the traditional moon meteor fire transformation that often associates with death (e.g. Drogo’s pyre and Hoster Tully’s funeral boat).

After entering the tree, what happens to the weirwood?

One emerges.” Her coppery hair danced about her head.

This is like in Drogo’s pyre: Drogo and Dany entered it, but Drogo’s fire filled Daenerys and she emerges as a merged Azor Ahai/Nissa Nissa Reborn character. Here, Alys Karstark and Sigorn of the Thenns have entered the moon meteor fire and the weirwood tree, and now the focus is on Melisandre, the burning tree woman, the one. This is reinforced by describing her hair as dancing. The hair that is blood and flame (Jon I, ADWD) dances like the fiery dancers that are always present at Lightbringer forging parties, and when trees are set on fire then dancers wake in them (Jon VIII, ACOK). As I have argued in the past (although for a different hair colour), having hair equated to fire gives the crown of fire motif that symbolises the acquisition of the fire of the gods: this is an obvious motif that we should see upon the activation of a weirwood tree, given that the power of greenseeing is a potent manifestation of the fire of the gods.

Azor Ahai, the Bloodstone Emperor and warrior of fire, has used his ill-gotten moon meteor powers to sacrifice Nissa Nissa, the Amethyst Empress and tiger woman, and he has successfully married the resulting weirwood tree. What comes after marriage? Babies, only these aren’t the cute kind.

Casting Shadows

We have seen what happens when weirwood maidens and Azor Ahai types hook up.

Panting, she squatted and spread her legs. Blood ran down her thighs, black as ink. Her cry might have been agony or ecstasy or both. And Davos saw the crown of the child’s head push its way out of her. Two arms wriggled free, grasping, black fingers coiling around Melisandre’s straining thighs, pushing, until the whole of the shadow slid out into the world and rose taller than Davos, tall as the tunnel, towering above the boat. (Davos II, ACOK)

[The Ghost of High Heart] “I dreamt I saw a shadow with a burning heart butchering a golden stag, aye.” (Arya IV, ASOS)

But we know that the burning heart is the symbol of R’hllor, the King’s Banner. In which case, this shadow fits in to the warrior of fire/fire knight motif, as he is carrying the banner of R’hllor. Moreover, he is a dark mirror to Stannis, the result of Stannis’s life-fires being diminished: in which case, this warrior of fire is less the child of Azor Ahai, but a clone of him, his second half. The two halves of the warrior of fire: the flame and the shadow.

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Melisandre by dalisacg

 

To verify this, we should see “shadow” references around key warrior of fire quotes I’ve referenced. So, yet again, returning to Ser Amory Lorch’s men:

Arya looked past him, and saw steel shadows running through the holdfast, firelight shining off mail and blades, and she knew that they’d gotten over the wall somewhere, or broken through at the postern. (Arya IV, ACOK)

These warriors of fire, as marked by their fiery blades and fiery armour, are actually shadows. Arya has the misfortune of meeting steel shadows later in ASOIAF and, again, she meets them in the light of the orange fire of the moon meteors.

When Arya looked around, she saw that there were only two of the huge feast tents where once there had been three. The one in the middle had collapsed. For a moment she did not understand what she was seeing. Then the flames went licking up from the fallen tent, and now the other two were collapsing, heavy oiled cloth settling down on the men beneath. A flight of fire arrows streaked through the air. The second tent took fire, and then the third. The screams grew so loud she could hear words through the music. Dark shapes moved in front of the flames, the steel of their armor shining orange from afar. (Arya XI, ASOS)

These dark shapes are armoured in orange fire again: the two halves of the moon meteor, flame and shadow, the warriors of fire. And, as you may recognise, this is the Red Wedding. That is to say that the warriors of fire are born during a marriage ceremony used to disguise a major betrayal that is considered an affront to the gods… I don’t know about you, but that sounds a lot like the Bloodstone Emperor’s Blood Betrayal to me. On top of that, this paragraph is full of other moon meteor references. The fire is caused by fire arrows, which are moon meteor references. Moreover, these fire arrows streak through the air, like the pitch pots at the Battle of the Blackwater left streaks between the stars (Tyrion XIV, ACOK). The landing of the moon meteor fire arrows cause the flames to lick up at the night sky, a language choice specific to moon meteors as we’ve already referenced in this essay and as I have analysed before. The three tents falling gives us the key “three moon meteor landings” that crops up elsewhere e.g. the three columns of smoke rising from the Dragonsbane (Davos III, ACOK).

I think these tents are meant to represent the inside of the weirnet, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the concept of arrows setting things on fire is reiterated elsewhere in the Red Wedding – on a weirwood maiden in fact.

Up in the gallery, half the musicians had crossbows in their hands instead of drums or lutes. She ran toward her son, until something punched in the small of the back and the hard stone floor came up to slap her. … Catelyn’s back was on fire. (Catelyn VII, ASOS)

George R. R. Martin has been known to represent the same sequence of events in multiple ways over different chapters if the chapters occur at the same place and time. For instance, Quentyn Martell is roasted when unleashing the dragons on the same night that Barristan Selmy, armoured in ice, uses a fiery sword to give kissed-by-fire heart-eater, Khrazz, some moon meteor injuries (The Kingbreaker, ADWD). Another example is Daenerys gaining the weirwood stigmata when eating the heart of the star stallion (Daenerys V, AGOT), which is the same chapter that Viserys receives his crown of gold from Khal Drogo. So, it makes sense for a fire arrow setting the tents on fire and creating the warrior of fire to be replicated in Catelyn’s back being set on fire with a crossbow bolt before she sacrifices the fool and gives herself the weirwood stigmata: they are symbolic parallels.

Moreover, we have previously seen the shadowy warrior of fire inside of a tent with the moon meteors raining down all around outside.

Fires burned throughout the khalasar, great orange blazes that crackled with fury and spit embers at the sky. She tried to rise, and agony seized her and squeezed her like a giant’s fist. The breath went out of her; it was all she could do to gasp. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s voice was like a funeral dirge. Inside the tent, the shadows whirled.

Inside the tent the shapes were dancing, circling the brazier and the bloody bath, dark against the sandsilk, and some did not look human. She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames. (Daenerys VIII, AGOT)

The shadow wreathed in flames is the warrior of fire, dancing like it’s a Lightbringer forging party. The sequence of events fits this perfectly. We have the orange blazes of fire, like the orange blaze of flame around the red heart of Stannis’ banner, spitting embers at the sky, simultaneously evoking the image of challenging the gods and of the moon meteors falling to earth. Unsurprisingly, this marks Daenerys’ first contraction: the moon maiden (Daenerys) has to give birth to the moon meteors after all. Moreover, the start of the birth is heralded by Mirri Maz Duur’s voice like a funeral dirge, because the birth of the moon meteors necessitates the death of the moon maiden and her solar husband. This birth-funeral creates the shadows, including the warrior of fire shadow: he is a fiery dancer who has been awoken by blood magic. And we all know where fiery dancers wake:

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)

Inside of burning trees, of course: fire and blood and all that jazz. Once again, we see that the dancing is associated with death, this time with a dead tree. In case, there is any doubt as to what the shadows inside Dany and Drogo’s tent are:

“Death was in that tent, Khaleesi.”

Only shadows,” Ser Jorah husked, but Dany could hear the doubt in his voice. “I saw, maegi. I saw you, alone, dancing with the shadows.”

The grave casts long shadows, Iron Lord,” Mirri said. (Daenerys IX, AGOT)

The shadows are literally the dancing dead, which resonates with the description of Mirri Maz Duur’s voice like a funeral dirge. The shadow of a man wreathed in flames would therefore make him a dead warrior of fire awoken once inside the weirnet. Remember that this is indeed what happens to Khal Drogo: “clad in wisps of orange silk and tendrils of smoke, he mounts “his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand and is reborn as a merged Azor Ahai/Nissa Nissa Reborn character, Drogon and Daenerys (Daenerys X, AGOT).

Another example of moon meteor fire creating resurrected shadows comes from the crypts of Winterfell.

A spark flew, caught. Osha blew softly. A long pale flame awoke, stretching upward like a girl on her toes. Osha’s face floated above it. She touched the flame with the head of a torch. Bran had to squint as the pitch began to burn, filling the world with orange glare. The light woke Rickon, who sat up yawning.

When the shadows moved, it looked for an instant as if the dead were rising as well. (Bran VII, ACOK)

The shy maid weirwood/moon meteor fire that fills the world causes the Stark dead to rise in shadowy form. The Starks have skinchanging/greenseeing blood, so that means that these are greenseers risen from the dead by the light of the moon meteors/in the presences of a weirwood maiden. As I have argued before, Bran emerging from the crypts is a representation of a resurrected greenseer, by virtue of emerging from the underworld of the monstrous stone tree that is Winterfell. And now we see what caused that resurrection: the moon meteor/weirwood fire sparking a great blaze (“filling the world with sudden glare).

Similarly, a nightfire on Dragonstone awakens the gargoyles:

Their voices rose like cinders, swirling up into purple evening sky. “Lead us from the darkness, O my Lord. Fill our hearts with fire, so we may walk your shining path.”

The nightfire burned against the gathering dark, a great bright beast whose shifting orange light threw shadows twenty feet tall across the yard. All along the walls of Dragonstone the army of gargoyles and grotesques seemed to stir and shift. (Davos VI, ASOS)

The nightfire is a great bright beast, reminding us of the descriptions of the fire in Drogo’s pyre and Arya IV, ACOK, where fire knights create a burning tree with moon meteors. Because apparently orange coloured fires get sad when there aren’t many moon meteors around, the prayerful voices linger in the air like cinders, that typical description of moon meteors (Daenerys X, AGOT; Arya IV, ACOK). As we have been seeing, this moon meteor fire casts shadows and brings an army of a thousand (Davos V, ASOS) gargoyles and grotesques to life. Gargoyles themselves have been associated to moon meteors by falling from the top of the First Keep of Winterfell, so this ties in to transformation by moon meteor.

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Nightfires starring Selyse Baratheon by jubah

Moreover, consistently associated with grotesque is the idea of death and rotting:

Halfway along the route, a wailing woman forced her way between two watchmen and ran out into the street in front of the king and his companions, holding the corpse of her dead baby above her head. It was blue and swollen, grotesque, but the real horror was the mother’s eyes. (Tyrion IX, ACOK)

His eyes were fever bright when he said that, and Arya could tell that it was true. His shoulder was swollen grotesquely, and pus and blood had stained his whole left side. There was a stink to him too. He smells like a corpse. (Arya XII, ASOS)

Above him loomed a grotesque fat man with a forked yellow beard, holding a wooden mallet and an iron chisel. His bedrobe was large enough to serve as a tourney pavilion, but its loosely knotted belt had come undone, exposing a huge white belly and a pair of heavy breasts that sagged like sacks of suet covered with coarse yellow hair. He reminded Tyrion of a dead sea cow that had once washed up in the caverns under Casterly Rock. (Tyrion I, ADWD)

Ralf was rotting too. Beneath the furs he was naked and feverish, his pale puffy flesh covered with weeping sores and scabs. His head was misshapen, one cheek grotesquely swollen, his neck so engorged with blood that it threatened to swallow his face. The arm on that same side was big as a log and crawling with white worms. (Reek II, ADWD)

Unsurprisingly, we have an occurrence of grotesque corpses coming back to life:

[Ser Criston Cole’s march south from Harrenhal] In every brook and pool and village well, he found death: dead horses, dead cows, dead men, swollen and stinking, befouling the waters. Elsewhere his scouts came across ghastly tableaux where armored corpses sat beneath the trees in rotting raiment, in a grotesque mockery of a feast. The feasters were men who had fallen in battle, skulls grinning under rusted helms as their green and rotted flesh sloughed off their bones.

… In the village commons at Crossed Elms, another of the ghastly feasts was found. Familiar with such sights by now, Ser Criston’s outriders grimaced and rode past, paying no heed to the rotting dead … until the corpses sprang up and fell upon them. A dozen died before they realized it had all been a ploy. (The Princess and the Queen)

By placing the grotesque corpses under the tree, we can identify them as dead greenseers, and I am reminded of LmL’s suggestion that the Sacred Order of Green Men may have been so-called due to the green of their rotted, undead flesh. From this, we can infer that the grotesque gargoyles on Dragonstone are akin to dead and rotting knights. Given that they are sculptures on Dragonstone, we can assume these are grotesque dragons, which thus makes them fire made flesh and thus fire knights: as expected of a warrior of fire, they are being resurrected by the moon meteor fire as shadows.

Tyrion Lannister carries both “grotesque” and “gargoyle” symbolism. A more comprehensive review of Tyrion’s gargoyle symbolism can be found elsewhere, but few have investigated what his “grotesque” symbolism may entail. Now we have a framework – he is dead and rotting. Bearing that in mind, let’s reconsider the symbolism brick that Martin used Tyrion to deliver:

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. (Tyrion XIV, ACOK)

As these moon meteors rain down, Tyrion is described as a rag doll. As LmL describes, rags are things that can be burnt, which gives Tyrion the burning man symbolism that underpins much of the symbolism in the Green Zombies series. In other words, Tyrion is being depicted as the dead and rotting gargoyle awaiting resurrection by moon meteor fire. As he waits, a white steel shadow (Ser Mandon Moore) is about to kill him or, rather, is about to slit his throat and leave him for the jade demon: this is essentially a depiction of sacrifice to the greenseers and weirwood trees, which is the method of resurrection for green men. Luckily for the plot, Tyrion is saved by his squire, Podrick Payne. Symbolically, this works just as well. The sigil of House Payne consists primarily of golden coins, which are called dragons in Westeros, and thus Tyrion’s life is “returned” to him by a golden dragon aka the fire of the gods.

Whoo, we’re nearly at the end of this marathon, but seeing as we’re talking about Tyrion, there is one more (extended) scene of his that summarises this essay beautifully, and it is laden with orange fire moon meteor references.

The Morningstar Monkey

The scene I want to cover in more detail is Tyrion’s escape from King’s Landing. More specifically, Tyrion in the Tower of the Hand. This all fits with themes and tropes we have seen come up time and time again. The morningstar figure (Tyrion) climbs up to the gods and kills the sun king (Tywin) and the moon maiden (Shae) before falling back to earth. This scene is so obviously a metaphor for the celestial forging of Lightbringer that it would be surprising if we didn’t see orange fire cropping up all over the place. I’m going to try to run through this as quickly as possible as it is mainly referring to symbols that we’ve covered above, but I thought it laid out the sequence of events quite nicely.

Tyrion_madguida
Star of this section, Tyrion Lannister, by MadGuida

The first occurrence is of the dim light given off by a brazier at the base of the Tower of the Hand.

An ornate brazier stood to one side, fashioned in the shape of a dragon’s head. The coals in the beast’s yawning mouth had burnt down to embers, but they still glowed with a sullen orange light. Dim as it was, the light was welcome after the blackness of the tunnel. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

It’s the ember in the ashes motif, but in the shape of a dragon’s head. This is the dragonriding, greenseeing Azor Ahai, an ember in the ashy underworld waiting to ignite a great blaze. Indeed, those embers cast just enough light for Tyrion to see the Targaryen sigil mosaic on the floor and remember Shae’s description of the secret entrance to the Tower of the Hand. This memory and his now burning desire for vengeance lead him on his quest.

Rung by rung, he ascended into darkness. At first he could see the dim outline of each rung as he grasped it, and the rough grey texture of the stone behind, but as he climbed the black grew thicker. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

The two halves of the moon meteor, the orange light and the darkness it causes. That Tyrion’s ascent is into darkness symbolises just what challenging the gods results in: the Long Night and the darkness that never ends.

At two hundred and thirty, the shaft was black as pitch, but he could feel the warm air flowing from the tunnel to his left, like the breath of some great beast. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

At the top of the ladder, ie in the celestial realm, we have the familiar great beast. We met it during Drogo’s pyre, when the flames roar like some great beast (Daenerys X, AGOT), and the fire roars “like some monstrous beast during Arya IV, ACOK, and the orange nightfire on Dragonstone that casts shadows and resurrects the dead gargoyles is “a great bright beast (Davos VI, ASOS). It is unsurprising that the breath of the great beast should appear as a morningstar figure attempts to challenge the gods.

As he wanders along the tunnel, Tyrion overhears the two guardsmen and realises that this is a key part of Varys’ information gathering system:

Small wonder Varys did not want me to climb the bloody ladder, Tyrion thought, smiling in the dark. Little birds indeed. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

The story has heavily equated fire and blood, so we can assume that a bloody ladder is akin to a fiery ladder. And what colour is a fiery ladder?

The firemage had conjured a ladder in the air, a crackling orange ladder of swirling flame that rose unsupported from the floor of the bazaar, reaching toward the high latticed roof.

… When the fiery ladder stood forty feet high, the mage leapt forward and began to climb it, scrambling up hand over hand as quick as a monkey. Each rung he touched dissolved behind him, leaving no more than a wisp of silver smoke. (Daenerys III, ACOK)

It is orange and smoke of the moon meteors, yet again, demonstrating that the moon meteors are a key part of the challenging the gods sequence of events. This is obvious really: the Bloodstone Emperor, Azor Ahai, pulled the moon goddess down to earth in the form of meteors so the moon metoers are the result of challenging the gods. There is also a common description between the firemage and Tyrion: the firemage is described as as quick as a monkey, and Tyrion is repeatedly described as a twisted little monkey demon. I would suggest that this commonality suggests Tyrion as a firemage, or fire sorcerer, remembering that fiery sorcerors are the fiery dancers that wake within the burning tree. If this is the case, we should see some weirwood imagery around Tyrion in this moment and I believe we do. Consider that by climbing a bloody fiery ladder, Tyrion would be giving himself the bloody and burning hand aspect of the weirwood stigmata, like Drogo acquiring the steaming heart for Daenerys (Daenerys V, AGOT) and like the Undying Ones being burnt by Drogon (Daenerys IV, ACOK). In addition to the bloody hands, Tyrion starts the chapter with the bloody mouth of a weirwood tree:

I can still bite and kick. I’ll die with the taste of blood in mouth, that’s something. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

So, in addition to his grotesque-(un)dead symbolism, Tyrion has acquired the weirwood stigmata. This labels him as an undead greenseer, as we identified in his “rag man about to be sacrificed a white shadow but ends up being saved by a dragon/dragons” scene.

Having identified Tyrion as the Morningstar figure, we should expect him to emerge from the weirwood trees in some sense.

He came to the third door and fumbled about for a long time before his fingers brushed a small iron hook set between two stones. When he pulled down on it, there was a soft rumble that sounded loud as an avalanche in the stillness, and a square of dull orange light opened a foot to his left.

The hearth! He almost laughed. The fireplace was full of hot ash, and a black log with a hot orange heart burning within. He edged past gingerly, taking quick steps so as not to burn his boots, the warm cinders crunching softly under his heels. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

Let’s play a little game of “How many times can Martin reference a weirwood tree in one paragraph?” Firstly, the fireplaces is full of hot ash: as a weirwood tree can be called an ash tree, having a hearth full of hot ashes is akin to having a hearth full of burning trees, ie. weirwoods. Martin doubles-down on this symbolism by referring to the black log with an orange heart, a reference to heart trees and the warrior of fire/ember in the ashes/tree shadow with a burning heart. And, of course, all of this is in the hearth, which contains the word heart, just in case we didn’t get that this is supposed to be Tyrion, the undead greenseeing gargoyle, emerging from a heart tree. Before I forget, I probably ought to mention that the twisted little monkey demon nickname is actually a reference to Sun Wukong, who has some stunning mythical astronomy attached to him that matches what we see in ASOIAF with Azor Ahai – this is covered in great depth by LmL in his Tyrion Targaryen essay.

As a slight aside, I believe this is a strong piece of evidence to support my equating these two motifs: the black log with a burning heart is a match for Stannis’s shadow baby, a shadow with a burning heart. It is also a match for the two colours of the moon meteor, again supporting my theory that the warrior of fire was transformed by the moon meteors. The fact that this symbolism is yet again converging around weirwood symbolism demonstrates the warrior‘s use of the moon meteor to create the burning tree.

As Tyrion emerges, he steps through cinders. This imagery was rife during and after the Battle of the Blackwater.

He led them through the guttering fires and the soot and ash of the riverfront, pounding down a long stone quay with his own men and Ser Balon’s behind him. Ser Mandon fell in with them, his shield a ragged ruin. Smoke and cinders swirled through the air, and the foe broke before their charge … (Tyrion XIV, ACOK)

They came up the roseroad and along the riverbank, through all the fields Stannis had burned, the ashes puffing up around their boots and turning all their armor grey, but oh! the banners must have been bright, the golden rose and golden lion and all the others, the Marbrand tree and the Rowan, Tarly’s huntsman and Redwyne’s grapes and Lady Oakheart’s leaf. (Sansa VII, ACOK)

From here to the river, only bare black trees remained, a legacy of his battle. Too many banners, he thought sourly, as he watched the ashes kick up under the hooves of the approaching horses, as they had beneath the hooves of the Tyrell van as it smashed Stannis in the flank.  (Tyrion V, ASOS)

The first quote is from the same chapter that Tyrion is equated to a rag doll and thus a burning man. This then makes him play in to the warrior of fire archetype, especially given that he is saved from a white shadow by a dragon person.  The second image is of another resurrected burning green man figure, Renly Baratheon, riding through the ashes and cinders to defeat a dark Azor Ahai type, Stannis Baratheon. Finally, Oberyn Martell and his men ride through the post-battle wasteland, and Oberyn plays in to the warrior of fire archetype as well, by virtue of being the Sun’s snake warrior. Returning to Tyrion’s scene, this indicates that Tyrion is fulfilling the warrior of fire role as he steps through the warm cinders, as expected of one who climbs the fiery ladder to emerge into the celestial realm.

That is the last occurrence of orange fire within the chapter. We do however have a couple of other colours referenced that we have discussed before. Firstly, Tyrion kills Shae with the chain of golden hands:

Tyrion slid a hand under his father’s chain, and twisted. The links tightened, digging into her neck. “For hands of gold are always cold, but a woman’s hands are warm,” he said. He gave cold hands another twist as the warm ones beat away his tears. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

As I discussed in a supplementary essay, golden hands are akin to fiery hands and thus Tyrion is wielding the fiery hand against the moon maiden who betrayed him. Secondly, we also have some yellow light just before he sees Tywin:

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

He found his father where he knew he’d find him, seated in the dimness of the privy tower, bedrobe hiked up around his hips. At the sound of steps, Lord Tywin raised his eyes. (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

Again, as discussed in a previous essay, the yellow flame is a motif of the second sun, the attempt to acquire the fire of the gods. Having killed the moon maiden with a fiery hand, Tyrion now seeks to darken or kill the solar figure, Tywin: he is Tywin’s (nominal) second sun, attempting to become the second sun. In case we are in any doubt about this:

You . . . you are no . . . no son of mine.”

“Now that’s where you’re wrong, Father. Why, I believe I’m you writ small.” (Tyrion XI, ASOS)

He is a smaller version of the sun, in other words, the Morningstar figure or Lightbringer the comet in-universe, coming to challenge his father’s power.

Altogether, this scene shows the orange moon meteor on the ground that leads to the discovery of the fiery ladder. Climbing the fiery ladder leads to an undead (grotesque) gargoyle emerging from the weirwood tree. In emerging, the moon maiden has her face darkened and the solar father is killed by his second son. The undead gargoyle then uses the weirwood to escape.

Conclusion

Thanks for staying with me through my longest ever essay. Unlike previous essays, I wasn’t able to break anything off of this one into a separate, supplementary essay, but I think that just demonstrates how tightly woven are the threads of Martin’s symbolism.

I believe I have demonstrated that orange-and-black is a pairing typically associated with the moon meteor dragons that fell to earth, and that the most frequent manifestation of this symbol is torchlight. This then led to the idea of the warrior of fire archetype using the moon meteors to set the tree on fire i.e. to create a weirwood. Finally, the concept of marriage and birth were woven in to the orange-and-black symbolism, by virtue of the warrior of fire, Azor Ahai the greenseer, wedding the tree to become the ember in the ashes and a shadow with a burning heart.

Next time will hopefully not be such a monstrous long essay – we’ll be discussing all things red fire so tune in for some hefty R’hllor action.

 

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.

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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.

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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..

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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!

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Fiery shadows: An analysis of “the shadow woman” from The Forsaken preview chapter

This is an analysis of a quote from a spoiler chapter of The Winds of Winter. I don’t provide context for the quote, but if you’re aiming for a TWOW blackout then you might want to avoid this.

This is a re-write of my published post on reddit.

Although I have not studied literature formally for a long time, I love investigating the interwoven textures of symbolism within a piece of literature. As we all know, George RR Martin loves his symbolism, which is probably one of the reasons I fell in love with this series and his prophecies.

So, when I heard about the reading at Balticon, this quote just jumped out at me.

TWOW, The Forsaken – “Beside him stood a shadow in woman’s form, long and tall and terrible, her hands alive with pale white fire.”

This appears to me to be a string of symbols that we might possibly be able to decipher, if we break it down. As such, I divided the description into the following terms:

  • A long shadow
  • A tall shadow
  • A terrible shadow
  • Alive with…
  • Pale fire
  • White fire

These terms were entered into asearchoficeandfire.com and the extracts produced were then compiled into a list and I attempted to discover whether there were specific symbolic patterns associated with each of these terms. This list is available on the Appendix page.

Long shadows: dusk and death

The sunset was a common motif that associated with long shadows: 10 of 18 “long shadows” were references to the setting sun or to dusk.

ACoK, Arya IV – “The sun was low to the west, and the houses cast long dark shadows.”

ASoS, Bran II – “But late on the afternoon of that second day, as the shadows grew long, a mystery knight appeared in the lists.”

AFFC, Capt of the Guards – “The shadows of the afternoon were long and dark and the sun was as red and swollen as the prince’s joints before they glimpsed the towers of Sunspear to the east.”

ADWD, Bran I – “Ahead, shadows began to steal between the trees, the long fingers of the dusk. Dark came early this far north.”

ADWD, Jon IX – “Finally, as the shadows of the afternoon grew long outside the tent, Tormund Giantsbane—Tall-Talker, Horn-Blower, and Breaker of Ice, Tormund Thunderfist, Husband to Bears, Mead-King of Ruddy Hall, Speaker to Gods and Father of Hosts—thrust out his hand.”

So, as you can see, this is pretty consistent imagery of long shadows being equated with sunset. It is also interesting to note how many of these occurrences coincide with occurrences of death or triggers for events that caused death. For instance, the ACOK, Arya chapter is the same chapter that Ser Amory Lorch and his band of thugs attack the Night’s Watch group, killing Yoren amongst others. The Bran quote occurs in the re-telling of the Tourney at Harrenhal, the trigger for Robert’s Rebellion: many of the major characters within this story are now dead, mostly through events surrounding this rebellion. I have provided further explanations for associations with death in each of the compiled quotes in the associated Appendix.

Further indirect links are created between long shadows and death, either utilising objects or people associated with death. For instance:

AGoT, Arya III – “Huge empty eyes stared at her hungrily through the gloom, and dimly she saw the jagged shadows of long teeth.”

Here, Arya is looking at the long shadows of dragons’ teeth: as Xaro Xhoan Daxos says, dragons are “death and devastation, a flaming sword above the world” (Dany III, ADWD). Keep this quote in mind, as I will be referring back to it later.

ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell – “Lord Stark had not treated him cruelly, but the long steel shadow of his greatsword had always been between them.”

Given Theon’s hostage/ward situation, the threat of death was ever-present, embodied in Ned’s greatsword, Ice.

Finally,

AGoT, Tyrion I – “Clegane cast a long shadow across the hard-packed earth as his squire lowered the black helm over his head. “I could silence the creature, if it please you,” he said through his open visor.”

So, Sandor Clegane casts a long shadow when threatening to kill the direwolves; a kind of doggy Grim Reaper if you will. As I hope this evidence demonstrates, objects and people cast long shadows when personifying death in some way, strengthening indirect links between death and long shadows.

Finally, we get this direct assertion from Mirri Maz Duur:

AGoT, Dany IX – “The grave casts long shadows, Iron Lord,” Mirri said. “Long and dark, and in the end no light can hold them back.”

So, yet again, death is casting a long shadow.

Applying this symbolism to The Forsaken quote, we can infer that the shadow by Euron’s side is a herald of night and death.

Tall shadows: Kings and kingmaking

The only direct reference to tall shadows being kings is this simile from AGOT:

AGOT, Jon I – “When he opened the door, the light from within threw his shadow clear across the yard, and for just a moment Tyrion Lannister stood tall as a king.”

More consistently, tall shadows are associated with kingmaking. For instance, when Arya gets lost in the bowels of the Red Keep, she overhears Varys and Illyrio making plans to seat King Aegon VI on the Iron Throne. Importantly, they are described as casting tall shadows twice.

AGOT, Arya III – “Arya peered over the edge and felt the cold black breath on her face. Far below, she saw the light of a single torch, small as the flame of a candle. Two men, she made out. Their shadows writhed against the sides of the well, tall as giants. …  Flames licked at the cold air. The tall shadows were almost on top of her.”

When Davos sees Melisandre birth the shadow baby, it is described as tall as well:

ACOK, Davos II – “Two arms wriggled free, grasping, black fingers coiling around Melisandre’s straining thighs, pushing, until the whole of the shadow slid out into the world and rose taller than Davos, tall as the tunnel, towering above the boat.”

This tall shadow is birthed as part of the campaign to seat Stannis on the Iron Throne, thus is associated with kingmaking.

Davos himself also casts a tall shadow.

ASOS, Davos VI – “When Davos left the window his shadow went before him, tall and thin, and fell across the Painted Table like a sword.”

This happens as he reads Stannis plea for help from the Night’s Watch, which Stannis makes a play to become king – he should save the kingdom to win the throne, as it were.

Applying this to the TWOW chapter, it is noteworthy that Euron is described as having a tall shadow by Moqorro.

ADWD, Tyrion VIII – “Only their shadows,” Moqorro said. “One most of all. A tall and twisted thing with one black eye and ten long arms, sailing on a sea of blood.”

So, from this we can assume that Moqorro is seeing Euron as a king.

In summary, Euron’s shadowy herald of night and death will likely make him king.

Terrible shadows: the abominable shadowbinder

There are a grand total of 4 references to terrible shadows in the entirety of ASOIAF, so I might as well interpret them all.

AGOT, Dany IV – Some of the statues were so lovely they took her breath away, others so misshapen and terrible that Dany could scarcely bear to look at them. Those, Ser Jorah said, had likely come from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai.

These statues cast long shadows earlier in the same chapter, so the Asshai’i statues cast long, terrible statues. And Asshai is, of course, the shadowbinding capital of the world.

ACOK, Dany IVShadows whirled and danced inside a tent, boneless and terrible.

Here, Dany is remembering Mirri Maz Duur’s ‘healing’ of Khal Drogo. Mirri used a spell she learned in Asshai, home of shadowbinders.

ASOS, Jaime II – “Oh, very good.” Jaime laughed. “Your wits are quicker than mine, I confess it. When they found me standing over my dead king, I never thought to say, ‘No, no, it wasn’t me, it was a shadow, a terrible cold shadow.'”

This mockery of Brienne invokes the memory of Renly’s death, which we know was caused by Melisandre’s shadow baby i.e. shadowbinding.

ADWD, Mel – Such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them.

Mel the shadowbinder actually calls her shadows terrible: can’t get much more of a direct link there.

Every single terrible shadow in the series is linked to shadowbinding. So, we can assume that Euron’s king-making herald of night and death is a shadow captured by shadowbinding.

Alive with: Swords sing death

A lot of special swords are described as being alive with light:

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

  • The Others’ blades: AGOT, Prologue – “No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on.”

  • Stannis’ Lightbringer: ADWD, Jon III – The sword glowed red and yellow and orange, alive with light.

“Alive with” also precedes descriptions associated with dragons. For instance, Drogo’s egg is described as “alive with scarlet ripples and swirls in Dany II, AGOT. Moreover, on Drogo’s funeral pyre when these eggs hatch:

AGOT, Dany X – “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, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat.”

And then:

AGOT, Dany X – “The night came alive with the music of dragons.”

Remember that quote I used earlier from Xaro Xhoan Daxos? “[Dragons] are death and devastation, a flaming sword above the world.” So, we have now added “dragons” to our special sword collection.

As was alluded to in the last Dany quote, the “night came alive with the music of dragons.” Other musical “alive withs” are as follows:

  • The penultimate room in the House of the Undying is “alive with the most beautiful music she had ever heard” (Dany IV, ACOK).
  • Ny Sar was “alive with song” before its destruction by the Valyrians (The World of Ice and Fire)
  • Wolves howling make the air come alive, in the wolfswood on the journey to the Wall (Tyrion II, AGOT) and in the Riverlands (Jaime III, ASOS). NB: wolves howling is a “terrible sound”, “yet there was music in it too” and it is “what death sounds like” (Cat V, AGOT) – all things that we have been associating with this strange shadow woman.

All of these musical “alive withs” herald something unpleasant. The room in the House of the Undying was a trap that led to the greater horror of the blue corpses that the Undying Ones truly were: Ny Sar was utterly destroyed by the Valyrians in their conquest of Essos; the musical howling of wolves is the sound of death; and the music of dragons is nothing more than a reminder that they are death and devastation.

In the interest of full disclosure, there are a lot of other instances of “alive with” imagery that does not fit quite so neatly into this sword/music/death pattern. However, these do occur in chapters or around people with extended Lightbringer/Azor Ahai symbolism, as defined by Lucifer Means Lightbringer on his blog. I have placed these quotes in the Appendix, and I’ll explain why Lightbringer is cropping up towards the end of this post.

For now though, we’ll interpret the new evidence in light of the original Forsaken quote. It appears that Euron’s woman is likely to be a shadowbound herald of night, death and destruction, a special sword or dragon that he will use to make himself king.

Pale fire: Pale flaming swords = pale dragonfire

There are very few occurrences of pale fire in the text, and they refer to two things: a flaming sword and Viserion.

The first quote requires a bit of inference. During their fight against the wildlings, lamp oils is lit and thrown from the Wall.

ASOS, Jon VIII – “Tongues of pale yellow fire swirled around the jars as they plunged downward.”

It is only by recalling the Night’s Watch vows that we can make sense of this: “We are the swords in the darkness” and “the fire that burns against the cold”. So, the Night’s Watch is a fiery sword.

The other references to pale fire swords are much simpler.

ACOK, Davos I – “The man [Thoros] had made for a colorful spectacle, his red robes flapping while his blade writhed with pale green flames

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

So here we have the fiery sword that is the Night’s Watch, Thoro’s of Myr’s flaming sword (which is being compared to Stannis’ Lightbringer) and the swords of long-dead kings (or Emperors) all producing pale fire.

The other pale fires are more associated with Viserion, in particular.

ADWD, The Dragontamer – The dragon knew his name. His head turned, and his gaze lingered on the Dornish prince for three long heartbeats. Pale fires burned behind the shining black daggers of his teeth. His eyes were lakes of molten gold, and smoke rose from his nostrils.

TWOW, Tyrion I – The dragon caught one burning body just as it began to fall, crunching it between his jaws as pale fires ran across his teeth. White wings cracked against the morning air, and the beast began to climb again.

So, much like the flaming swords above, Viserion produces pale fire. And remember, dragons are “flaming swords above the world”, so we are able to equate these two.

To summarise, Euron’s shadowbound herald of night, death and destruction is a pale fiery sword/Viserion, which will make him king.

White fire: R’hllor and Dragonbinder and tying it all together

Once again, there are very few occurrences of white fire: just two, in fact.

The first is uttered by Melisandre with respect to R’hllor:

ASOS, Davos VI – “Melisandre cried, “We thank you for Stannis, by your grace our king. We thank you for the pure white fire of his goodness, for the red sword of justice in his hand, for the love he bears his leal people. Guide him and defend him, R’hllor, and grant him strength to smite his foes.”

The second is with respect to the Dragonbinder horn, owned by… Euron!

AFFC, The Drowned Man – “And now the glyphs were burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire.”

Notably, Dragonbinder is black and red and Valyrian steel, with glyphs that glow red and then white-hot – white-hot being the temperature of Lightbringer when tempered in Nissa-Nissa’s breast. This also belies Melisandre’s assertion that white fire is R’hllor’s goodness: not only is it the perfect temperature for wife-sacrificing weapon-forging, but Dragonbinder horrifically kills the man the blows the horn as the glyphs become white fire.

So, the association with R’hllor narrows down the fiery sword to a very particular fiery sword: Lightbringer. Whilst there are quite a few contenders for who or what Lightbringer is in the series (and there may not necessarily be just one), the passage being analysed has consistently produced associations with dragons. To my mind, that means that here it is heavily implied that Euron gets a dragon. The pale fire appears to me to narrow the dragon down to Viserion, as he is the only one of Daenerys’ dragons to produce pale fire (Drogon’s fire is black with red streaks, and Rhaegal’s is orange/yellow with green streaks).

How will Viserion be shadowbound? Well, dragons are pretty consistently associated with shadows:

ACOK, Dany I – “Balerion . . . his fire was as black as his scales, his wings so vast that whole towns were swallowed up in their shadow when he passed overhead.”

ASOS, Davos VI – “The wings of the stone dragons cast great black shadows in the light from the nightfire.”

ADWD, Dany X – “Dany followed his eyes, and there the shadow flew, with wings spread wide. The dragon was a mile off, and yet the scout stood frozen until his stallion began to whicker in fear.”

The Princess and the Queen – “They (Moondancer and Sunfyre) met amidst the darkness that comes before the dawn, shadows in the sky lighting the night with their fires.”

Moreover, the first dragons are assumed to have come from the Shadowlands beyond Asshai and the Asshai’i may have taught the Valyrians to ride dragons (whilst this is disputed in ‘The World of Ice and Fire’, I believe this is the version of history Septon Barth subscribed to and I’m always going to defer to him). Given that dragons are equated to shadows, Asshai is home to shadowbinders, and the Asshai’i may have taught the Valyrians what they know about dragons, I don’t believe it is a stretch to assume that the Valyrian Dragonbinder horn works using some kind of shadowbinding magic. It also explains why Dragonbinder kills the man who blows the horn: think of the life force that was stripped away from Stannis by Melisandre’s two shadowbinding experiences.

Yet another reason I believe that this is Viserion is that the shadow is in “woman’s form”. This implies that the shadow can change genders: interestingly, George has never gendered any sword in the novel, nor have any of the characters, so it is not likely that an actual sword is the Lightbringer referenced here. The Night’s Watch is made up exclusively of men who can’t change their genders. Leaving dragons. Importantly, “dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame” (AFFC, Sam IV): I assume that this means Viserion happens to be female at the time she is captured by Euron.

‘Wait, but isn’t Lightbringer supposed to be the sword that saved mankind?’ I hear you cry. Well, maybe not. Lightbringer is the product of Azor Ahai murdering his wife in a blood magic ritual, after all. Furthermore, as proposed by Lucifer Means Lightbringer, it seems apparent that this ritual may have actually caused the Long Night, rather than finishing it. If this is true (and, boy, there is a lot of symbolism that suggests it is), then that would explain why we found a lot of symbolism surrounding sunsets, death and destruction: sunsets and death invoke images of the Long Night, which was caused by Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer.

In conclusion, Euron will capture Viserion using Dragonbinder (which may work on the principles of shadowbinding). He will then use her to capture the Iron Throne. Viserion, as an incarnation of Lightbringer, is a herald of night, death and destruction.

 Thanks for taking the time to read this. I hope you enjoyed it and please feel free to comment below.

Archmaester Aemma