Reading the Flames

This is going to be an extensive multipart series investigating the colour symbolism surrounding fire and flames in ASOIAF – hence the pun in the title.

The essays will probably read something like an A-level English Literature essay, because that is the extent of my training in literary criticism, but I think it will be more fun, because it’s ASOIAF. In these essays, I will get very, very involved in the symbolism and patterns tied to Martin’s choice to use specific words or word pairs in relation to one another – colours being of primary importance for this series, but I have some other single-word or phrase patterns that I want to analyse. I think that this type of analysis is fruitful because it is the primary literary technique I got taught about in school and I’ve managed to write a hell of a lot of coherent material by doing so, but I know that not everyone likes to analyse ASOIAF that way. Of course, I am totally cool with that, but this is just fair warning that this is my approach and that if you don’t like that then you probably won’t like my essay(s) and I didn’t want you to feel let down that I’m not actually talking about prophecy or trying to pin down the explicit structure of magic (if such a thing exists).

Similarly, I don’t manage to get far in the way of plot predictions either, for two reasons. Reason One: individual words don’t tend to matter from a plot perspective. They can tell us a lot about particular scene dynamics and who is playing what role and what that means for Character A at that particular moment in time, but it doesn’t hold much predictive power for the series as a whole.

Reason Two: the colour symbolism only started making coherent sense after reading the theory proposed by LmL, linked here. As such, most of the predictions that I did find are also present in his theory and he does a far better job of presenting The Big Picture and the larger themes and real-world influences that feed in to that, so on cases where we agree, I will most likely just cite him.

However, as I said, we can learn a lot about the role of people within scenes by playing in to within each scene. We can learn about the importance of the scene itself to the narrative and how exactly that scene works in reference to character arcs and things like that: it may not have predictive power on an overarching narrative level, but sometimes important devils are hidden in those details.

With all that being said, strap yourself in for a stunning rollercoaster ride of symbol- I’m kidding, but please do enjoy and let me know what you think.

Part I: Fire vs Flames

Part II: The Alchemists’ Delight

Part III: A Thousand Orange Torches in the Dark

Part IV: That Terrible Colour of Blood and Flame and Sunsets