Tag Archives: ASOIAF

Outlaws and broken men

Broken men, she realized, dregs from a dozen armies, the leavings of the lords.

[…] Swollen in death, with faces gnawed and rotten, they all looked the same. On the gallows tree, all men are brothers. (AFFC, Brienne VII)

Hello everyone and welcome again to Red Mice at Play. I’m here with the next instalment of the Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things series, and we’re continuing our exploration of broken men.

Before we begin, a lot of real-world has been happening (and is finally gaining traction in the media and online) so I wanted to take this time to encourage any readers to support the Black Lives Matter movement wherever they are based – learn more about anti-racism, sign as many petitions as possible, email or call your representatives on a local and national level (and supra-national where possible, e.g. if you’re an EU citizen) and donate if you can and/or watch this video with adverts if you don’t have the finances to donate right now (comments are on the video for instructions on how to maximise the ad revenue from that video). There’s a lot of primarily US Black Lives Matter resources out there (this is one of the more comprehensive ones, and further petitions and resources are still all over Twitter) but please also make sure to research your local area too, to promote Black Lives Matter and police accountability in your region – the Black Lives Matters carrd includes BLM materials for the UK, Canada and Australia. For instance, organisations in the UK you may want to support include Black Lives Matter UK, UK Black Pride (supporting Black LGBTQIA+ folx), Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (who offer legal advice to immigrants and campaign for a fairer and more humane immigration system), the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust (which supports young BPOC in the community) and Stop Watch UK (promoting police accountability in the UK); petitions you may want to support include Justice for Belly Mujinga, Justice for Shukri Abdi, Add education on diversity and racism to all school curriculums, Include Black British history on the national curriculum, Improve maternal mortality rates and health care for black women. Please note that any petition you sign on the Government petitions website is only open to UK citizens and is a two step process – you will need to give them your email address and then click the link in the email you get, otherwise your signature won’t be counted. Any petition with over 10,000 signatures gets a response from the government and over 100,000 is debated in parliament. Last but definitely not least, support BIPOC artists, writers and content creators in whatever fandoms or genres you love. In the A Song of Ice and Fire community, this includes (but again, is definitely not limited to) The Hype’s Watch, A Don of Ice and Fire, Alicia Kingston, Teflon TV, Quinn’s Ideas, Chrissy of Oldstones, AquaVenatus, A Thousand Eyes and One podcast and Lady Diligence.

Before you continue reading the essay, it would be amazing if you could do just one thing to support anti-racism in your community – sign a petition, write to your MP or senator, subscribe to BIPOC content creators, download an anti-racism e-book, whatever you want.

Now that you have done a thing for today, it’s time to dive in to the essay.

As I stated earlier, we’re going to continue our investigation into the broken motif. So far, we have noticed that there are lots of overlapping motifs between broken swords and broken men, namely that these all appear to be associated with the Last Hero, Lightbringer and greenseeing. We also found that broken men appear to be “broken” by the Others (or their symbolic counterparts), which causes the Last Hero to undergo some kind of ice-to-fire kind of transformation. With that in mind, we concluded the last essay by noting that the Others are associated with dawn, and that the Last Hero appears to have come from the Others while also being a broken man – this suggests that the Last Hero is the dawn that brokewhich absolutely fits with the idea of the Last Hero ending the Long Night. After all, night only ends when dawn breaks.

Today, we’ll be building on those conclusions, focussing on outlaws and broken men. That means the Brotherhood without Banners, the Kingswood Brotherhood, the Night’s Watch deserters and finally (finally!) that Septon Meribald speech.

Now before we dive into that, thanks as usual to George RR Martin for writing this series, to all of the myth and symbolism friends I’ve made, to the wonderful Bronsterys for all of his comments and suggestions and to you, dear reader, for spending your time with me today.


That fearsome outlaw band
The Last Hero and his merry men
The leavings of lords
Jon Snow and the seventy-nine sentinels
And the man breaks…

That fearsome outlaw band

Throughout our analysis of the cripples, bastards and broken things motif, the Brotherhood without Banners have been reappearing frequently, firstly with the creation of a broken sword:

Smooth as summer silk, Lord Beric slid close to make an end of the man before him. The Hound gave a rasping scream, raised his sword in both hands and brought it crashing down with all his strength. Lord Beric blocked the cut easily . . .

“Noooooo,” Arya shrieked.

. . . but the burning sword snapped in two, and the Hound’s cold steel plowed into Lord Beric’s flesh where his shoulder joined his neck and clove him clean down to the breastbone. The blood came rushing out in a hot black gush. (ASOS, Arya VI)

Then with a broken man as their leader:

“He’s our god too, and you owe us for your bloody lives. And what’s false about him? Might be your Smith can mend a broken sword, but can he heal a broken man?” (ASOS, Arya VII)

Throughout this analysis, we noticed that the Brotherhood Without Banners shares a ton of overlapping symbolism with all of the broken motifs: in particular, greenseeing and resurrection, embodied spectacularly in the undead Beric Dondarrion seated in his weirwood throne:

The voice came from the man seated amongst the weirwood roots halfway up the wall. (ASOS, Arya VI)

Rather obviously, the band of outlaws stars in this essay as well:

“The brotherhood without banners.” Tom Sevenstrings plucked a string. “The knights of the hollow hill.”

“Knights?” Clegane made the word a sneer. “Dondarrion’s a knight, but the rest of you are the sorriest lot of outlaws and broken men I’ve ever seen. I shit better men than you.” (ASOS, Arya VI)

Importantly, this quote directly equates outlaws to broken men, which would suggest that outlaws are also folded into this cripples, bastards and broken things motif. Indeed, outlaws and broken men are mentioned in the same breath pretty frequently:

“‘Twixt here and Duskendale is safe enough,” one man told her, “but past Duskendale there’s outlaws, and broken men in the woods.(AFFC, Brienne I)

“Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. “Is a broken man an outlaw?”

“More or less,” Brienne answered. (AFFC, Brienne V)

If outlaws do fit into the broken man motif, we should see similar imagery and symbolism in other descriptions of outlaws. Notably, Jorah Mormont’s speech to the men about to take the Night’s Watch vows places outlaws as the foremost description of the people joining:

Mormont stood before the altar, the rainbow shining on his broad bald head. “You came to us outlaws,” he began, “poachers, rapers, debtors, killers, and thieves. You came to us children. You came to us alone, in chains, with neither friends nor honor. You came to us rich, and you came to us poor. Some of you bear the names of proud houses. Others have only bastards’ names, or no names at all. It makes no matter. All that is past now. On the Wall, we are all one house.” (AGOT, Jon IV)

This statement is even broken off from the rest of the speech, as if emphasising the importance of outlaws to the Night’s Watch, and thus the Last Hero archetype. This would suggest that we can expect to see the Last Hero “cripples, bastards and broken things” symbolism throughout the outlaws of the series, such as the Kingswood Brotherhood. Notably, the Brotherhood without Banners is compared to the Kingswood Brotherhood on a couple of occasions:

Sometimes she thought she might go back to Sharna’s inn, if the floods hadn’t washed it away. She could stay with Hot Pie, or maybe Lord Beric would find her there. Anguy would teach her to use a bow, and she could ride with Gendry and be an outlaw, like Wenda the White Fawn in the songs. (ASOS, Arya XII)

“The peasants denied seeing them, but when questioned sharply they sang a different song. They spoke of a one-eyed man and another who wore a yellow cloak . . . and a woman, cloaked and hooded.

“A woman?” He would have thought that the White Fawn would have taught Merrett to stay clear of outlaw wenches. “There was a woman in the Kingswood Brotherhood as well.” (AFFC, Jaime IV)

While this could just be due to the fact that they are two outlaw bands, it could also indicate some deeper shared symbolism – I feel that the latter option is quite likely, especially as we’ve already come across the Kingswood Brotherhood before:

What a fight that was, and what a foe. The Smiling Knight was a madman, cruelty and chivalry all jumbled up together, but he did not know the meaning of fear. And Dayne, with Dawn in hand . . . The outlaw’s longsword had so many notches by the end that Ser Arthur had stopped to let him fetch a new one. “It’s that white sword of yours I want,” the robber knight told him as they resumed, though he was bleeding from a dozen wounds by then. “Then you shall have it, ser,” the Sword of the Morning replied, and made an end of it. (ASOS, Jaime VIII)

As you may recall, we analysed this scene in a lot of detail in the broken swords essay, and found a bunch of interesting Last Hero vs. Others duelling symbolism. For starters, we see the Smiling Knight’s sword is so notched that it needs to be replaced, indicating that he is the wielder of the broken sword i.e. an archetypal Last Hero figure. This places Ser Arthur Dayne in the role of the symbolic Other, which fits with all of the icy symbolism of the Kingsguard. Moreover, this duel is framed as a fight over Ser Arthur Dayne’s sword, called Dawn… A War for the Dawn, if you will… (I know I’m repeating myself, but I love that pun too much!) We also saw that there were parallels between this duel and the Ser Waymar Royce vs. the actual literal Others duel, in that the Smiling Knight and Ser Waymar Royce both end up with broken swords and a dozen wounds. Again, this places the Smiling Knight in the role of the symbolic Last Hero. 

Given these parallels, it suggests that the Smiling Knight – and, by extension, the Kingswood Brotherhood and outlaws more generally – are symbolically acting as Last Hero figures in the cripples, bastards and broken things motif. Similarly, key leaders of the Kingswood Brotherhood end up in the Night’s Watch, the institution supposedly established by the Last Hero:

Every man at Castle Black had heard Ulmer’s tales of the great outlaw band of yore; of Simon Toyne and the Smiling Knight, Oswyn Longneck the Thrice-Hanged, Wenda the White Fawn, Fletcher Dick, Big Belly Ben, and all the rest. (ASOS, Samwell II)

Ulmer was thought to be one of the best archers in the land (for what it’s worth, this is another point of comparison with the Brotherhood Without Banners’ Anguy, another incredible archer). Importantly, Ulmer was one of the few who stayed true to the Watch after the mutiny at Craster’s:

“I saw the Fist,” he said, after a long swallow. “The blood, and the dead horses . . . Noye said a dozen made it back . . . who?”

“Dywen did. Giant, Dolorous Edd, Sweet Donnel Hill, Ulmer, Left Hand Lew, Garth Greyfeather. Four or five more. Me.” (ASOS, Jon VI)

This may suggest another link between the Kingswood Brotherhood (and thus, outlaws) and the loyal members of the Night’s Watch, which would in turn suggest a connection to the archetypal Last Hero.

The Kingswood Brotherhood also has some greenseeing connections, which is to be expected from the symbolism we have been seeing throughout these essays. Most obviously, the Kingswood Brotherhood are literally named after a forest – the Kingswood. This self-evidently associates them with trees and thus greenseeing. Indeed, in the song about the Brotherhood, their relationship to the forest is one of the aspects notable enough to be worth mentioning:

The brothers of the Kingswood,
they were an outlaw band.
The forest was their castle,
but they roamed across the land.
No man’s gold was safe from them,
nor any maiden’s hand.
Oh, the brothers of the Kingswood,
that fearsome outlaw band … (ASOS, Arya III)

In addition, there is some evidence that weirwoods are connected with royalty – for instance there are a ton of implications of greenseer kings historically, such as Garth Greenhand, and it seems that the burning tree created by the Grey King of Ironborn myth is likely a reference to the weirwood trees, thus making it a king’s wood. 

This connection with trees and woods appears to be relatively common throughout the outlaw motif:

“The man took too great an interest in our choice of route, and those woods . . . such places are notorious haunts of outlaws. He may have been urging us into a trap.” (ASOS, Jaime II)

He could send Podrick Payne questing after Shagga, he supposed, but there were so many hiding places in the deep of the kingswood that outlaws often evaded capture for decades. (ASOS, Tyrion IX)

“’Twixt here and Duskendale is safe enough,” one man told her, “but past Duskendale there’s outlaws, and broken men in the woods.(AFFC, Brienne I)

“Stay quiet, Podrick. There may still be outlaws in these woods.(AFFC, Brienne III)

Symbolically, this would suggest to me that the outlaw motif is quite closely connected with trees, which in turn suggests a link to forests and greenseeing. Of particular note is that the woods are the “haunts” of outlaws, implying that the outlaws are ghosts. Ghosts appears to be a clear symbol of skinchanging and/or greenseeing – think for instance of the Ghost of High Heart who receives visions from the weirwoods or of Jon’s wolf, Ghost, who is red and white like a weirwood tree. In addition to this, it suggests that the outlaws themselves are some form of undead, if they are “haunting” the woods, implying resurrection.

Which brings us back to the members of the Kingswood Brotherhood for clues, where we see a mention of Oswyn Longneck the Thrice-Hanged. As has been covered by others in great detail, hanging is a core motif of greenseeing as it is a reference to Odin hanging himself on Yggdrasil. This also implies the idea of resurrection, as Oswyn is hanged three times, which is comparable to Beric Dondarrion’s multiple deaths. As such, it would seem to indicate that the outlaw band has some connections to greenseeing, as would be anticipated from the symbolism we see associated with the cripples, bastards and broken things motif.

In addition, hanging seems to be the typical treatment for outlaws:

“I was hanging outlaws and robber knights when you were still shitting in your swaddling clothes.” (AFFC, Jaime II)

We’ve hanged dozens of outlaws, but the leaders still elude us. Clegane, Dondarrion, the red priest, and now this woman Stoneheart . . .” (AFFC, Brienne V)

“It could be they were in some outlaw band.” At Dosk, they’d heard a harper sing “The Day They Hanged Black Robin.” Ever since, Egg had been seeing gallant outlaws behind every bush. (D&E, The Sworn Sword)

This would suggest that the outlaw motif is quite tightly linked to hanging which itself appears to be linked to greenseeing. As a slight aside, the song mentioned by Dunk indicates outlaws may be associated with black, given the name of the song: the Day they Hanged Black Robin. This could imply some further Night’s Watch symbolism for the outlaw, given that the Night’s Watch are renowned for wearing black, thus tying the outlaw motif to the Last Hero archetype.

So there are clear parallels between the two Brotherhoods and that this (and other outlaw quotes) appear to be closely linked to some of the main symbolic motifs we’ve been seeing – but what of the real world influences? The song quotes above, “The Day they Hanged Black Robin” I think gives us our main clue…

The Last Hero and his merry men

The most archetypal “real-world” outlaw hero in a medieval setting is Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. As with most legends from several hundred years ago, the myth and legend of Robin Hood varies massively and changes over time.

The comparison between the Brotherhood Without Banners and Robin Hood has been made by others. For instance, both groups contain skilled archers (Robin and Anguy), religious figures (Friar Tuck and Thoros of Myr), bard fighters (Alan-a-Dale and Tom O’ Sevenstreams) and prominent women (Maid Marian and Lady Stoneheart), indicating that these groups are probably meant to be compared. From our symbolic perspective, this may mean that there are themes and features of the Robin Hood mythology that may shed light on our interpretation of the outlaws in the “cripples, bastards and broken things” motif, and thus the archetypal Last Hero.

Rhead, Louis. “Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band: Their Famous Exploits in Sherwood Forest“. New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1912. Public domain. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons 6th May 2020.

For our analysis here, it is important to note that Robin Hood is tightly linked to Sherwood Forest, with him and his band of Merry Men inhabiting the forest. This is very reminiscent of the Kingswood Brotherhood in particular, who are self-evidently associated with a forest, and which we outlined as a metaphor for greenseeing earlier. Similarly, Beric Dondarrion is associated with weirwood trees, as he is introduced to us sitting in a weirwood throne:

The voice came from the man seated amongst the weirwood roots halfway up the wall. (ASOS, Arya VI)

This ties in with our exploration of the broken motif so far, with greenseeing being one of the more frequent associations.

Importantly for the Last Hero archetype, Robin Hood is renowned for stealing and it seems that this is being applied to the outlaws in A Song of Ice and Fire. For instance, Beric Dondarrion is called a robber knight:

“It wasn’t for the pleasure of looking at your face, Dondarrion, I’ll tell you that. You’re uglier than me now. And a robber knight besides, it seems.”

“I gave you a note for your gold,” Lord Beric said calmly. “A promise to pay, when the war’s done.” (ASOS, Arya VII)

This occurs as Beric Dondarrion steals Sandor Clegane’s money and, notably, he has also ‘stolen’ Arya in order to obtain ransom money. Ransoming rich prisoners also appears to be connected enough to outlaws in Westeros that this is used to threaten Bran into behaving:

“The wolfswood is full of danger; your last ride should have taught you that. Would you want some outlaw to take you captive and sell you to the Lannisters?” (ACOK, Bran I)

Again, note that the outlaws are linked to a forest, this time the wolfswood, and kidnapping (i.e. stealing a person). This is much like Robin Hood in the early ballads, kidnapping and ransoming rich knights in Sherwood Forest.

The Smiling Knight, who we’ve been considering as a part of the Last Hero archetype, is also named a robber knight:

The outlaw’s longsword had so many notches by the end that Ser Arthur had stopped to let him fetch a new one. “It’s that white sword of yours I want,” the robber knight told him as they resumed, though he was bleeding from a dozen wounds by then. “Then you shall have it, ser,” the Sword of the Morning replied, and made an end of it. (ASOS, Jaime VIII)

Similarly, a prominent part of the ballad about the Kingswood Brotherhood is that they are thieves:

No man’s gold was safe from them,
nor any maiden’s hand.
Oh, the brothers of the Kingswood,
that fearsome outlaw band … (ASOS, Arya III)

Moreover, robber knights are equated with outlaws and broken men as well:

“I was hanging outlaws and robber knights when you were still shitting in your swaddling clothes. I am not like to go off and face Clegane and Dondarrion by myself, if that is what you fear, ser.” (AFFC, Jaime II)

Five hundred knights, blooded and seasoned veterans of the Stepstones, were formed into a new company under the command of Ser Tywin’s brother Ser Kevan, and charged with ridding the west of robber knights and outlaws. (TWOIAF, The Westerlands: House Lannister Under the Dragons)


Shunned and forgotten since Daemon Targaryen and his nephew Aemond had met there for their final flight, Black Harren’s accursed seat had become a haunt of outlaws, robber knights and broken men, who sallied forth from behind its walls to prey upon travelers, fisherfolk and farmers. (F&B Vol. I, Under the Regents: the Hooded Hand)

The suggestion of the Last Hero as a thief of some kind is not a new one, but it seems important to note this theme as it appears in relation to Robin Hood. 

Some of the other Robin Hood parallels that we can draw with the various brotherhoods speak to the somewhat paradoxical nature of the symbolism of the Last Hero. We touched on this ‘paradoxical’ symbolism a little with the broken sword essay, in that the breaking of the sword and the forging of the sword appear to be the same event, such as Ice being broken and re-forged into Oathkeeper and Widow’s Wail. Similarly, the ‘breaking’ of the man appeared to be the catalyst for their Last Hero transformation, as in the case of Bran’s fall or Jaime’s maiming. 

Building on this, we see that the outlaws are frequently the ones dispensing true justice, while those who are acting within the law and with the power of the law are also depicted as unjust. For example, Robin Hood is renowned for stealing from the rich to give to the poor, in contrast to the avaricious Sheriff of Nottingham; Beric Dondarrion gives a trial to the Brave Companions and Sandor Clegane and protects the smallfolk of the riverlands from the occupying armies of Stark and Lannister where possible; and the Kingswood Brotherhood begin by protecting the smallfolk as well, as is implied by the following quote:

“If you want [the smallfolk’s] help, you need to make them love you. That was how Arthur Dayne did it, when we rode against the Kingswood Brotherhood. He paid the smallfolk for the food we ate, brought their grievances to King Aerys, expanded the grazing lands around their villages, even won them the right to fell a certain number of trees each year and take a few of the king’s deer during the autumn. The forest folk had looked to Toyne to defend them, but Ser Arthur did more for them than the Brotherhood could ever hope to do, and won them to our side.” (AFFC, Jaime V)

This suggests that the Last Hero could be someone thought of as an outlaw, but who actually tries to uphold justice and protect the population in some way. The Night’s Watch as an organisation would seem to embody this – they operate outside of the normal feudal system of Westeros (and thus its laws) and currently operate as a penal colony (and thus is full of people who have always operated outside of Westerosi law); however, they are also a defensive, protective force for the Seven Kingdoms.

In a similar vein, Robin Hood is also associated with supporting the true king, King Richard I, against the usurper, King John. This is quite similar to Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood without Banners, who assert that they remain King Robert’s men, despite the (many and various) other claimants to the throne:

“The king is dead,” the scarecrow knight admitted, “but we are still king’s men, though the royal banner we bore was lost at the Mummer’s Ford when your brother’s butchers fell upon us.” He touched his breast with a fist. “Robert is slain, but his realm remains. And we defend her.” (ASOS, Arya VI)

This could be considered paradoxical symbolism, in that the Brotherhood remain loyal to the king, whilst being named traitors; meanwhile the Lannisters (who name the Brotherhood traitors) are busy fighting on behalf of King Joffrey, who is illegitimate. This appears to be tied to the Last Hero motif, in that the Lannisters name the Brotherhood traitors and rebels when they are, in fact, talking to Yoren of the Night’s Watch:

“And who are you, old man? One of Lord Beric’s cravens?” called the knight in the spiked helm. “If that fat fool Thoros is in there, ask him how he likes these fires.”

“Got no such man here,” Yoren shouted back. “Only some lads for the Watch. Got no part o’ your war.” He hoisted up the staff, so they could all see the color of his cloak. “Have a look. That’s black, for the Night’s Watch.”

Or black for House Dondarrion,” called the man who bore the enemy banner. 

[…] “Open, or we’ll know you for outlaws in league with the king’s enemies.

[…] “If you are no traitors, open your gates,” Ser Amory called. “We’ll make certain you’re telling it true and be on our way.”

[…] “So be it. You defy the king’s command, and so proclaim yourselves rebels, black cloaks or no.” (ACOK, Arya IV)

As the Night’s Watch are being mistaken for Beric Dondarrion’s brotherhood, this reinforces the already prominent symbolic connections we have seen between the two groups previously, as well as directly connecting the outlaw motif to the Night’s Watch and thus the Last Hero archetype. Importantly for our Robin Hood comparisons, we see that the Last Hero analogues are proclaimed as the traitors, despite not being involved in the war; whereas the Lannister forces are naming others as traitors, despite fighting for a usurper. Indeed, I think there are a number of Last Hero figures who stand accused of being traitors and turncloaks at points in the series (stares at Theon), but I’ll save that for another essay. However, it seems to fit in quite well with our discussion of Robin Hood and outlaws, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

I think this covers the Robin Hood parallels that are applicable to the cripples, bastards and broken things motif that I wanted to mention. But, where do these broken men and outlaws come from?

The leavings of lords

One of the quotes I briefly mentioned above linked robber knights, outlaws and broken men:

Shunned and forgotten since Daemon Targaryen and his nephew Aemond had met there for their final flight, Black Harren’s accursed seat had become a haunt of outlaws, robber knights and broken men, who sallied forth from behind its walls to prey upon travelers, fisherfolk and farmers. (F&B Vol I, Under the Regents: The Hooded Hand)

Again we see that these men are “haunting” Harrenhal and the surrounding area, implicating ghosts and thus greenseeing again, tying us back to the themes and motifs we’ve been covering throughout. 

For this section, though, it is important to note that these men are the broken men from the remnants of the Dance of the Dragons. This suggests that the defeated armies or deserters from armies can be considered a part of the cripples, bastards and broken things motif. This is something that we also saw as a part of the broken swords essay when the Blackfyre army was routed by a pincer movement from the Targaryens, called the Hammer and the Anvil. We use that event to support the idea that, symbolically, the event that causes the “breaking” is also the event that “forges” something new – the Hammer and Anvil used to forge a sword also breaks the army named after a sword. Now, we can tie this event into the broken men motif, as well as the broken sword motif, because they are a defeated army.

Another key example of defeated armies as broken men is King Stannis Baratheon’s defeat during the Battle of the Blackwater. Building upon the ice-to-fire transformation we discussed in the last essay, Stannis appears to have a number of clear Night’s King symbols in the run up to the Battle of the Blackwater, such as kinslaying, (apparent!) usurpation of a relative, and the creation of shadows, to name a few; however, he and his army are broken upon the Blackwater:

“It’s done! Done! Done! The city is saved. Lord Stannis is dead, Lord Stannis is fled, no one knows, no one cares, his host is broken, the danger’s done. Slaughtered, scattered, or gone over, they say.” (ACOK, Sansa VII)

With Stannis broken and Renly dead, only a Stark victory can save [Vargo Hoat] from Lord Tywin’s vengeance, but the chances of that grow perishingly slim.” (ASOS, Jaime V)

Importantly, Stannis is described as “dead” and “broken” here: once again, this ties the idea of death (and resurrection) to the breaking event, as we have seen throughout the broken series. Nessie, aka @1QuestingBeast on Twitter and The Unspun Yarn on YouTube, has suggested that the term “host” in A Song of Ice and Fire could be a reference to the host as in the body of Christ during the Eucharist. As the Last Hero is a kind of saviour figure, we have been tracking a fair amount of Christian imagery throughout these essays and I thought it was important to note its use here, given that the breaking event appears to be Stannis’ transformation into a Last Hero archetype. After all, once Stannis’ army is broken, Stannis then heads north to defend the Night’s Watch from the wildling invasion – suggesting that Stannis is now (at least in this part) fulfilling the archetypal role of the Last Hero, protecting the Wall from an invasion from the north. We also know that the breaking of a body is a euphemism for the greenseer transformation, most explicitly with Bran the broken – we covered more examples of physical disability as the “breaking” event in the previous essay. As such, the breaking of Stannis’ host could be an allusion to the symbolic “breaking” of his body and this could be acting as a code for his (at least partial) Last Hero transformation.

We also see that this symbolism can apply to broken men as individuals from armies, in addition to the broken armies as a whole:

After that, hardly a hundred yards went by without a corpse. They dangled under ash and alder, beech and birch, larch and elm, hoary old willows and stately chestnut trees. Each man wore a noose around his neck, and swung from a length of hempen rope, and each man’s mouth was packed with salt. Some wore cloaks of grey or blue or crimson, though rain and sun had faded them so badly that it was hard to tell one color from another. Others had badges sewn on their breasts. Brienne spied axes, arrows, several salmon, a pine tree, an oak leaf, beetles, bantams, a boar’s head, half a dozen tridents. Broken men, she realized, dregs from a dozen armies, the leavings of the lords.

Some of the dead men had been bald and some bearded, some young and some old, some short, some tall, some fat, some thin. Swollen in death, with faces gnawed and rotten, they all looked the same. On the gallows tree, all men are brothers. (AFFC, Brienne VII)

These men are called broken men and are clearly from multiple armies, given the variety of cloak colors and sigils. Importantly, as they have been hanged, these broken men have undergone a death transformation, which has been a consistent part of the motif we have explored so far. As has been explained elsewhere, death by hanging can be considered an allusion to greenseeing as it is an allusion to Odin hanging on Yggdrasil and greenseer symbolism frequently draws from this aspect of Norse myth. Indeed, these broken men share symbolism with Bloodraven, a literal greenseer, as both are depicted as corpses amongst the trees, again suggesting that these broken men are being depicted as symbolic greenseers.

Importantly, Brienne thinks that “on the gallows tree, all men are brothers” – one translation of Yggdrasil refers to this as the gallows horse, again referring to Odin hanging on Yggdrasil so this acts as another reference to greenseeing. More importantly, these men are referred to as brothers, which reminds us of the Brotherhood without Banners or the Kingswood Brotherhood. This suggests that these broken men are likely symbolic outlaws as well. Another brotherhood we’ve tied into the broken man motif is the Night’s Watch, who refer to the members of their organisation as brothers. Indeed, these broken men are described as “improved by death”

The sun will soon be setting, and corpses make poor company by night. These were dark and dangerous men, alive. I doubt that death will have improved them.

“There we disagree,” said Ser Hyle. “These are just the sort of fellows who are most improved by death.(AFFC, Brienne VII)

This quote has been used elsewhere to suggest that the improvement is likely a reference to the undead Night’s Watch – an implication that is supported by the sunset, i.e. the start of the (Long) night.

So, how exactly are these men improved by becoming corpses? This, I think, goes back to our discussion of ice-to-fire transformations, as we covered in the last essay. These men were hanged for their role in the raid on Saltpans, the description of which sounds like an archetypal Others attack: 

He [the Hound] was seen,” Ser Arwood said. “That helm of his is not easily mistaken, nor forgotten, and there were a few who survived to tell the tale. The girl he raped, some boys who hid, a woman we found trapped beneath a blackened beam, the fisherfolk who watched the butchery from their boats . . .”

“Do not call it butchery,” Lady Mariya said softly. “That gives insult to honest butchers everywhere. Saltpans was the work of some fell beast in human skin.” (AFFC, Jaime IV)

The word butchery is closely related to the actions of the Others (the killing of Ser Waymar Royce is called “cold butchery”, for instance). Moreover, “some fell beast in human skin” sounds a lot like human skinchanging. In fact, the blame falls on the Hound, but at this point of the story Brienne and company have been told that the Hound is dead. We know those facts aren’t true, but facts don’t matter in 2020 with symbolism. As such, this suggests that wighting a corpse is being symbolised, something that is most associated with the Others. We later learn that it is Rorge who is wearing the helm of the Hound, again suggesting this kind of wighting and therefore Others symbolism. It also suggests that Rorge is using “The Hound” or the image of the Hound as a scapegoat for his own crimes – as Bronsterys is alluding to in his excellent essay about the Others. In case that wasn’t enough Others symbolism, we know that Rorge and company are remnants of the Brave Companions, the sellsword company formerly led by Vargo Hoat. We have done a mini-dive into the Brave Companions with reference to their symbolism when they maimed Jaime, and again we found a ton of Others symbolism with the Brave Companions, such as the lazy slap imitating the lazy parry of the Others (AGOT Prologue) or the arakh “shivering” down to cut off Jaime’s hand. As such, it seems likely that the company as a whole may continue to have Others symbolism as they raid Saltpans.

Altogether, this suggests that these broken men acted like Others during the raid on Saltpans and became Last Hero archetypes, as symbolised by their hanging on the gallows tree. Importantly, with their faded cloaks of many colours and sigils from many houses, these broken men who are now symbolically Night’s Watch men are implied as deserters, which leads us on to our next section.

Jon Snow and the seventy-nine sentinels

We find that the Night’s Watch as an organisation is consistently associated with desertion. For instance, we see Gared executed for desertion in the very first main chapter of A Song of Ice and Fire:

The deserter died bravely,” Robb said. (AGOT, Bran I)

Given that desertion appears to be one aspect of the broken man motif, it seems important to note that the first deserter we hear of is a deserter from the Night’s Watch who faced the Others. Moreover, we are told time and time again that desertion from the Night’s Watch means death:

“In truth, the man was an oathbreaker, a deserter from the Night’s Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will not flinch from any crime, no matter how vile.” (AGOT, Bran I)

“You have learned the words of the vow. Think carefully before you say them, for once you have taken the black, there is no turning back. The penalty for desertion is death.(AGOT, Jon VI)

And how does Gared die? Well, he dies very much like a sacrifice to a tree:

Finally his lord father gave a command, and two of his guardsmen dragged the ragged man to the ironwood stump in the center of the square. They forced his head down onto the hard black wood.


His father took off the man’s head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched. (AGOT, Bran I)

This implies that deserters are sacrificed to the tree as a part of their punishment for desertion, with the blood presented as a sacrifice to the weirwood trees. Hey, doesn’t that sound a lot like our Last Hero’s death transformation? Like when Waymar Royce was killed in a grove of trees with blood in the snow (AGOT, Prologue)? And when Beric Dondarrion died in the trial by combat in a hollow hill with weirwood roots and the dirt drank his blood (ASOS, Arya VII)? And when the unnamed captive is sacrificed to the weirwood tree in Bran’s vision and Bran thinks he could taste the blood (ADWD, Bran III)? I think this shows that the execution of the deserter symbolises their return to (or transformation into) the Last Hero.

One of the more famous examples of Night’s Watch deserters is the story of the seventy-nine sentinels:

“There are ghosts here,” Bran said. Hodor had heard all the stories before, but Jojen might not have. “Old ghosts, from before the Old King, even before Aegon the Dragon, seventy-nine deserters who went south to be outlaws. One was Lord Ryswell’s youngest son, so when they reached the barrowlands they sought shelter at his castle, but Lord Ryswell took them captive and returned them to the Nightfort. The Lord Commander had holes hewn in the top of the Wall and he put the deserters in them and sealed them up alive in the ice. They have spears and horns and they all face north. The seventy-nine sentinels, they’re called. They left their posts in life, so in death their watch goes on forever. Years later, when Lord Ryswell was old and dying, he had himself carried to the Nightfort so he could take the black and stand beside his son. He’d sent him back to the Wall for honor’s sake, but he loved him still, so he came to share his watch.” (ASOS, Bran IV)

These are Night’s Watch men who desert the Wall to go south, indicating that the motif of desertion is so important to the Watch symbolism that it gets its own mythology. These deserters end up in the barrowlands, which implies that these characters symbolically die when they go south – after all, the barrowlands are so named for the number of graves in the region, giving it huge symbolic underworld vibes. After this symbolic death, the deserters are returned to the Wall and literally are transformed into guards for the Night’s Watch forever. This fits with the idea of the undead Night’s Watch, that has been proposed elsewhere. They also get their own greenseer symbolism, being linked to ghosts and to sentinels i.e. sentinel trees. This suggests that their death transformation is also a symbolic greenseer transformation, which we have been tracking as a part of the broken series. 

Now, the eagle-eyed amongst you (like my good friend, Bronsterys, noted when he proof-read the essay) will have spotted that these Night’s Watch men are called outlaws when they go south. This isn’t quite in line with the outlaw symbolism we looked at earlier in the essay – after all, deserting the Watch is not a particularly Last Hero thing to do. I have some ideas as to why this may be, building on the idea of usurping or corrupting a protective force but those will take us on a very long tangent so we’ll save that for another time. In the meantime, I think the main take-home point is that the seventy-nine sentinels are deserters, who are returned to the Wall and act like undead greenseer Night’s Watch figures, just like our Last Hero.

Speaking of undead greenseer folks, Bloodraven is a greenseer who looks like a corpse:

Seated on his throne of roots in the great cavern, half-corpse and half-tree, Lord Brynden seemed less a man than some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone, and rotted wool. The only thing that looked alive in the pale ruin that was his face was his one red eye, burning like the last coal in a dead fire, surrounded by twisted roots and tatters of leathery white skin hanging off a yellowed skull. (ADWD, Bran III)

This is important to mention here, because Bloodraven appears to be one of the few people aware of the imminent Long Night 2.0 and is working against that by working with Coldhands, the children of the forest and Bran. It’s important to mention Bloodraven here because he is a Night’s Watch deserter.

Bloodraven would rise to become Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch in 239 AC, serving until his disappearance during a ranging beyond the Wall in 252 AC. (TWOIAF, The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

This again pits a true Last Hero greenseer type figure, Bloodraven, as a Night’s Watch deserter.

This desertion symbolism is also reinforced by prime Last Hero figure Jon Snow, who just will not stop deserting. First, he starts to ride south to be with Robb in A Game of Thrones; then he joins the wildlings in Storm; and then he decides to march on Winterfell in Dance – and each of these desertions includes a symbolic breaking event. To date, two of three result in him returning to the Watch (I presume we’ll be three for three at some point in Winds or Dream, when we see the resolution of events after Jon’s death). 

We have already analysed one of Jon’s breaking events; that of Jon’s thigh wound:

Long hours later, the rain stopped. Jon found himself alone in a sea of tall black grass. There was a deep throbbing ache in his right thigh. When he looked down, he was surprised to see an arrow jutting out the back of it. When did that happen?  (ASOS, Jon V)

In the previous essay, we noted that this was a symbolic castration as per the Fisher King mythology, with the Fisher King receiving a thigh wound as a santised symbol of their castration. As you may recall, the Fisher King mythology appears to be a piece of real-world mythology being utilised as a part of the greenseer collection of symbols. This arrow wound to the thigh therefore suggests that Jon has acquired some greenseer symbolism here as a part of his symbolic Last Hero transformation.

More importantly for our essay, Jon acquires this wound when deciding to return to the Watch, after playing the deserter with the wildlings:

“You’ve been charged with oathbreaking, cowardice, and desertion, Jon Snow. Do you deny that you abandoned your brothers to die on the Fist of the First Men and joined the wildling Mance Rayder, this self-styled King-beyond-the-Wall?” (ASOS, Jon IX)

As has been noted elsewhere, the wildlings frequently symbolise the Others  and, as such, Jon’s fake desertion from the Watch is a symbolic transformation into an Other. His return to the Watch is therefore his transformation (back?) into the Last Hero archetype, and is accompanied by the breaking event, i.e. his symbolic castration. As you may recall from the last essay, the healing of Jon’s symbolic castration is described in language a lot like the forging of Lightbringer, suggesting some Azor Ahai-as-hero vibes. In addition, Aemon defends Jon by saying he took the Wall, and held it, against all the fury of the north (ASOS, Jon IX), which again sounds like a very Last Hero thing to do. Altogether then, this faux-desertion and real-return to the Watch is very reminiscent of the seventy-nine sentinels who, upon being returned to the Wall, symbolically become the very best Night’s Watch men – eternally guarding the Walls, facing North to defend the Wall.

Similarly, although we haven’t seen the full ramifications of this play out yet, Jon Snow was all set to desert at the end of his final ADWD chapter:

Jon flexed the fingers of his sword hand. The Night’s Watch takes no part. He closed his fist and opened it again. What you propose is nothing less than treason. 


“No. I ride south.


“The Night’s Watch takes no part in the wars of the Seven Kingdoms,” Jon reminded them when some semblance of quiet had returned. “It is not for us to oppose the Bastard of Bolton, to avenge Stannis Baratheon, to defend his widow and his daughter. This creature who makes cloaks from the skins of women has sworn to cut my heart out, and I mean to make him answer for those words … but I will not ask my brothers to forswear their vows.

“The Night’s Watch will make for Hardhome. I ride to Winterfell alone, unless …” Jon paused. “… is there any man here who will come stand with me?” (ADWD, Jon XII)

As a result of his desertion (in word if not yet in deed), Jon is killed by his own men at the Wall. Importantly, the very first wound is a neck wound, very much like a sacrifice – for instance, the sacrifice of animals as a part of real-world religious rituals – and occurs just after Jon Snow, the Lord Commander, thinks that he needs a horn. The sacrificed horned lord imagery depicted here is a huge part of A Song of Ice and Fire symbolism, and so it seems very important to note that this imagery appears right as our traditional Last Hero figure forswears their vows. To me, it seems highly reminiscent of Gared, the deserter executed on the stump of a tree which then drank his blood – again, we’re seeing similar death and sacrifice imagery around the deserters.

The last Jon Snow desertion we’ll cover today (although the first chronologically) occurs in A Game of Thrones, Jon IX, shortly after Ned’s execution and it’s a doozy so we’ll be covering it in a lot of detail. (Huge thanks to Bronsterys for pointing this chapter out to me!!)

We start the chapter with one of the clearest symbols of the Long Night:

Wind whispered through the stable, a cold dead breath on his face, but Jon paid it no mind. (AGOT, Jon IX)

The “cold winds” are a clear indication of the Others, as is mentioned in the common phrase “the cold winds are rising” alluding to the return of the Others. Moreover, the Others are depicted as being the avatars of death in a sense, as the antithesis to the warmth of life (ACOK, Jon VII). This should therefore give us a clue that much of what is happening in this chapter pertains to symbolism surrounding the Long Night.

The first thing that happens is that deserter, Jon Snow, rides down Sam Tarly:

For an instant Sam stood his ground, his face as round and pale as the moon behind him, his mouth a widening O of surprise. At the last moment, when they were almost on him, he jumped aside as Jon had known he would, stumbled, and fell. The mare leapt over him, out into the night. (AGOT, Jon IX)

Sam accrues some hella Last Hero vibes during the series, like being the only member of the Night’s Watch to kill an Other and being the last of 13 to arrive back from Craster’s Keep, reminding us of the Last Hero and his twelve companions. Moreover, Jon thinks soon after that Sam may have broken his wrist in the fall:

He hoped Sam hadn’t hurt himself, falling like that. He was so heavy and so ungainly, it would be just like him to break a wrist or twist his ankle getting out of the way. (AGOT, Jon IX)

This suggests that Sam is acting like the Night’s Watch/Last Hero figure, as he is being broken by Jon (yes, this does place Jon as an archetypal Other/Night’s King character in this particular exchange). In addition, Sam is described as a moon figure here (“his face as round and pale as the moon behind him”), so Jon thinking that Sam may have broken his wrist makes Sam a symbolic broken moon, a huge signifier of Long Night symbolism.

As Jon rides south, he muses on the potential consequences of his actions and, as with any deserter from the Night’s Watch, he thinks that he will die:

He was clad in black from head to heel […] Any bit of it could mean his death if he were taken. (AGOT, Jon IX)

He found himself thinking of the deserter his father had beheaded the day they’d found the direwolves. “You said the words,” Lord Eddard had told him. “You took a vow, before your brothers, before the old gods and the new.” Desmond and Fat Tom had dragged the man to the stump. Bran’s eyes had been wide as saucers, and Jon had to remind him to keep his pony in hand. He remembered the look on Father’s face when Theon Greyjoy brought forth Ice, the spray of blood on the snow, the way Theon had kicked the head when it came rolling at his feet. (AGOT Jon IX)

This symbolically reminds us of the sacrificial imagery around Gared’s execution. As such, we can see that Jon (kind of) symbolically died the moment he chose to desert the Watch. Importantly, Jon thinks he would prefer not to die “trussed and bound and beheaded like a common brigand” – again, this ties the deserter imagery to the outlaw imagery, and thus to the “cripples, bastards and broken things” motif as we have seen throughout this essay so far.

Unsurprisingly (if you’ve read been reading any of the broken essays), we also see a ton of greenseer imagery. For starters, Jon has Ghost the wolf with him throughout this scene, who has white fur and red eyes exactly like a weirwood tree, and whose name appears to be a symbolic reference to greenseers. In another example, Jon takes a break from his ride to sit under a tree and eat an apple:

Jon sat under the trees and ate his biscuit and cheese while his mare grazed along the kingsroad. He kept the apple for last. It had gone a little soft, but the flesh was still tart and juicy. He was down to the core when he heard the sounds: horses, and from the north. (AGOT, Jon IX)

As has been outlined in this Twitter thread, people sitting under trees frequently appears to be a greenseer reference. We saw one example of this in the previous essay, when Lommy Greenhands was sat underneath the oak tree with a leg wound and killed, very much like a sacrifice to the tree. More obviously, Bloodraven, an actual literal greenseer, sits underneath a weirwood tree entangled in its roots, so Jon sitting under the tree would appear to be a representation of him symbolically becoming a greenseer. Importantly, Jon sits under the tree to eat an apple, which is likely a reference to the Garden of Eden myth – the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is often depicted as an apple, thus associating apples with the fire of the gods (aka the knowledge and power of the gods). In A Song of Ice and Fire, the knowledge and power of the gods is greenseeing and is acquired by eating the seeds of the weirwood tree (and potentially a good friend *coughJojenPastecough*, but that bit is less important here). As such, symbolically, Jon sitting beneath a tree and eating an apple can be considered as him becoming a greenseer.

Similarly, Jon uses the trees to hide himself from his black brother friends who’ve come to find him:

He led the mare off the road, behind a thick stand of grey-green sentinels. “Quiet now,” he said in a hushed voice, crouching down to peer through the branches. (AGOT, Jon IX)

Jon is hiding behind some sentinel trees, reminding us of the seventy-nine sentinels who deserted from the Nightfort, and he is peering through the branches, which sounds like he is using the tree to see, again providing us with some of those greenseer vibes. 

Despite his best efforts, Jon’s friends find him (thanks in no small part to Ghost having none of Jon’s shit). This leads to a confrontation between Jon and his friends, where we get this interesting description:

“Stay back,” Jon warned him, brandishing his sword. “I mean it, Pyp.” They weren’t even wearing armor, he could cut them to pieces if he had to. (AGOT, Jon IX)

As Bronsterys has brilliantly described in this essay, the lack of armour is a clear Last Hero reference. Again, we can see this as Jon-Night’s King confronting a group of Night’s Watch-Last Hero figures – unlike the start of this chapter, where Jon-Night’s King rides down Sam-Last Hero, the Last Hero figures manage to surround and subdue Jon. They do this by reciting the vows of the Night’s Watch at Jon, which is kind of like they are re-inducting him to the order. I noted in the previous essay that broken oaths and broken words  At the end of the passage, Ghost emerges:

Ghost moved out from under the trees and Jon glared at him. “Small help you were,” he said. The deep red eyes looked at him knowingly. (AGOT, Jon IX)

While there is not a literal weirwood tree for Jon to say his oath to, Ghost symbolically acts like the weirwood tree, via his coloring, his name and his appearance from “under the trees”. This “re-induction” is a lot like what we see with the seventy-nine sentinels, who are returned to the Wall and become eternal watchmen, buried in the ice, and suggests that Jon is (for the time being) an archetypal Last Hero figure. This is in line with the Other-to-Last Hero transformation which we saw in the previous essay.

Honor is another point of comparison between the seventy nine sentinels and Jon’s desertion in this chapter:

The Old Bear snorted. “Do you think they chose me Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch because I’m dumb as a stump, Snow? Aemon told me you’d go. I told him you’d be back. I know my men … and my boys too. Honor set you on the kingsroad … and honor brought you back.”

My friends brought me back, Jon said.

Did I say it was your honor?” (AGOT, Jon IX)

“Years later, when Lord Ryswell was old and dying, he had himself carried to the Nightfort so he could take the black and stand beside his son. He’d sent him back to the Wall for honor’s sake, but he loved him still, so he came to share his watch.” (ASOS, Bran IV)

Here, we see that honour returns the deserters to the Night’s Watch but, importantly, it is someone else’s honour; Jon’s friends’ honour in the first case and Lord Ryswell’s honour in the second. Indeed, throughout this chapter, Jon is obsessed with his honour, and doing the honourable thing, and leaving Longclaw behind because he isn’t “lost to honour” and trying to work out whether Aemon’s choice to stay at the Wall in the face of the complete destruction of his family was honourable. It’s almost like honour is a theme George is exploring or something. I don’t have any firm conclusions on honour symbolism as yet (it’s on the very long to-do list), but I wanted to note that the Night’s Watch pledge their life and honour to the Night’s Watch, and Qhorin tells Jon that our honor means no more than our lives, so long as the realm is safe (ACOK, Jon VIII). In context, this is Qhorin telling Jon to fake his desertion to the wildlings, meaning that Jon will be considered as a traitor and an oathbreaker by many, thus sacrificing his honour by all appearances (even though he’s actually keeping his vows). In contrast, Jon as intended true deserter here (and thus symbolic Night’s King) is obsessed with keeping his honour, even as the acts he engages in are dishonourable. Again, it seems like we could be dealing with that same paradoxical symbolism we have seen throughout these essays – the breaking event is also the (re-)forging event; the outlaws dispense justice, while the lawful rulers act unjustly (link section); the Night’s Watch men most willing to sacrifice the outward appearance of their own honour are actually the most honorable (side eyes Jaime, the sometime Last Hero with “shit for honour”).

Altogether, this would appear to depict Jon Snow deserting the Watch at the start of the (Long) night, in a kind of Night’s King transformation, and then being transformed into the Last Hero at the end of the (Long) night. This is exactly the kind of ice-to-fire transformation we discussed in the previous essay. This is reinforced by the language around dawn:

When day broke, Jon walked to the kitchens as he did every dawn. (AGOT, Jon IX)

Importantly, we see daybreak. As we discussed in the broken swords essay, the sword Dawn does not break in the duel between Ser Arthur Dayne (symbolic Other) and the Smiling Knight (symbolic Last Hero), which we interpreted as a metaphor for the Long Night – the night is long because dawn never breaks. So Jon’s return to the Wall being accompanied with daybreak would, symbolically, appear to be a good sign. Indeed, after a brief chat with Jeor Mormont, Jon re-affirms his commitment to the Watch because he is reminded of the wights and the true war:

The cold winds are rising, Snow. Beyond the Wall, the shadows lengthen.” 

[…] “When dead men come hunting in the night, do you think it matters who sits the Iron Throne?”

[…] “All I know is that the blood of the First Men flows in the veins of the Starks. The First Men built the Wall, and it’s said they remember things otherwise forgotten. And that beast of yours … he led us to the wights, warned you of the dead man on the steps. Ser Jaremy would doubtless call that happenstance, yet Ser Jaremy is dead and I’m not.” 

[…] “So I will have an answer from you, Lord Snow, and I will have it now. Are you a brother of the Night’s Watch or only a bastard boy who wants to play at war?”

Jon Snow straightened himself and took a long deep breath. Forgive me, Father. Robb, Arya, Bran … forgive me, I cannot help you. He has the truth of it. This is my place.I am … yours, my lord. Your man. I swear it. I will not run again.” (AGOT, Jon IX)

This again reinforces the idea of Jon as an archetypal Last Hero, heading north into the deadlands to face the Others. 

And it wouldn’t be a good chapter of Long Night symbolism without an allusion to Lightbringer, of course:

“Your brother is in the field with all the power of the north behind him. Any one of his lords bannermen commands more swords than you’ll find in all the Night’s Watch. Why do you imagine that they need your help? Are you such a mighty warrior, or do you carry a grumkin in your pocket to magic up your sword?” (AGOT, Jon IX)

The term “magic sword” is used almost exclusively to refer to Stannis’ Lightbringer or the myth of Lightbringer’s forging, so Jon having a grumkin in his pocket to “magic up his sword” is likely an allusion to Lightbringer.

So, I think that about does it for Jon’s desertions, and I think this demonstrates that a core part of the archetypal Last Hero’s transformation is that they are a deserter at some point, and their return to the Wall sees them executed (or symbolically sacrificed) to turn them into the best defense against the Others

And now, it’s the broken man moment we’ve all been waiting for…

And the man breaks…

The arch-desertion story is Septon Meribald’s broken man speech (and S/O to the fabulous Scad for his performance of this speech at Ice and Fire Con a few years ago). As you may recall the prelude to this speech is another reference equating outlaws and broken men:

“Lord Randyll has better ways to deal with broken mensteel and hempen rope.”

“Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. Is a broken man an outlaw?”

“More or less,” Brienne answered. (AFFC, Brienne V)

Again, we see this link between broken men and outlaws, with the death-by-hanging greenseer metaphor as a core part of the cripples, bastards and broken men motif. This segues into Septon Meribald’s description of broken men, which I just cannot cut:

Broken men are more deserving of our pity, though they may be just as dangerous. Almost all are common-born, simple folk who had never been more than a mile from the house where they were born until the day some lord came round to take them off to war. Poorly shod and poorly clad, they march away beneath his banners, ofttimes with no better arms than a sickle or a sharpened hoe, or a maul they made themselves by lashing a stone to a stick with strips of hide. Brothers march with brothers, sons with fathers, friends with friends. They’ve heard the songs and stories, so they go off with eager hearts, dreaming of the wonders they will see, of the wealth and glory they will win. War seems a fine adventure, the greatest most of them will ever know.

“Then they get a taste of battle.

“For some, that one taste is enough to break them. Others go on for years, until they lose count of all the battles they have fought in, but even a man who has survived a hundred fights can break in his hundred-and-first. Brothers watch their brothers die, fathers lose their sons, friends see their friends trying to hold their entrails in after they’ve been gutted by an axe.

“They see the lord who led them there cut down, and some other lord shouts that they are his now.”(AFFC, Brienne V)

We see that the smallfolk being mentioned by Septon Meribald are very much like green boys when they begin the war; notably, they begin the war by seeking “glory”. This should give us an early heads-up that the man before he breaks does not fit into the Night’s Watch/Last Hero archetype, as the Night’s Watch specifically swear to “win no glory”. Importantly, the men who have tasted battle and not broken also have subtle Other or ice-wight symbolism – they are described as “Others [who] go on for years” and serve “some other lord”, which seems like it could be another “other”/Others double entendre. This symbolism would seem to be reinforced by the “fathers los[ing] their sons”, which is very reminiscent of Craster sacrificing his sons to the Others. Sons dying before fathers would also seem to imply an upturning of the natural order of the world, which is a motif that recurs a lot around symbolic Long Night events.

The pre-broken men also appear to engage in acts that seem very similar to the raid on Saltpans:

“If they want new boots or a warmer cloak or maybe a rusted iron halfhelm, they need to take them from a corpse, and before long they are stealing from the living too, from the smallfolk whose lands they’re fighting in, men very like the men they used to be. They slaughter their sheep and steal their chickens, and from there it’s just a short step to carrying off their daughters too.” (AFFC, Brienne V)

Again, we see the Others symbolism here in the slaughtering of sheep again reminds us of Craster, sacrificing his sheep to the Others once he has run out of sons. In addition, these pre-broken men carry off daughters, which is a signature move of the wildling raiders, who frequently appear to represent the Others themselves. I’m sure some of you are pointing out the apparently contradictory thief symbolism here – these pre-broken men that I’m pitching as Others are stealing, but I previously indicated that was a Last Hero thing (link section). However, I think there is an important distinction here: these pre-broken men are stealing from the smallfolk, which is the opposite of Robin Hood-esque outlaws stealing from the rich to give to the poor.

Septon Meribald and Co (part of Jaime and Brienne AFFC) by pojypojy (retrieved from A Wiki of Ice and Fire, 6 May 2020)

And then we get the all-important breaking event:

“And one day they look around and realize all their friends and kin are gone, that they are fighting beside strangers beneath a banner that they hardly recognize. They don’t know where they are or how to get back home and the lord they’re fighting for does not know their names, yet here he comes, shouting for them to form up, to make a line with their spears and scythes and sharpened hoes, to stand their ground. And the knights come down on them, faceless men clad all in steel, and the iron thunder of their charge seems to fill the world . . .

“And the man breaks.” (AFFC, Brienne V)

The knights themselves are the ones who cause the man to break, and they have a ton of Others symbolism which has been described by Bronsterys: they are knights, charging forward, heavily armoured and so on. As we have discussed in a couple of places so far in this series, the Others figure appears to be the one who breaks the sword, so it seems fitting that the Others archetype is the one who breaks the man.

He turns and runs, or crawls off afterward over the corpses of the slain, or steals away in the black of night, and he finds someplace to hide. All thought of home is gone by then, and kings and lords and gods mean less to him than a haunch of spoiled meat that will let him live another day, or a skin of bad wine that might drown his fear for a few hours. The broken man lives from day to day, from meal to meal, more beast than man.” (AFFC, Brienne V)

The broken man is depicted here as a deserter and a coward, motifs that both appear to be related to the Night’s Watch and Last Hero archetype – I have a number of ideas about cowardice and bravery as it pertains to the Last Hero and Others, but those will take some extra essays to explain, so I’m afraid you’ll have to take me on trust here. Importantly, after the breaking event, the broken man lives “more beast than man”, which is suggestive of a skinchanger and potentially a symbolic second life within their animal. This is likely to parallel Jon Snow’s death at the hands of the Night’s Watch, one of Jon’s breaking events. In addition, the broken man forgets about his home, which appears to parallel the resurrected Beric Dondarrion’s loss of memory:

“Can I dwell on what I scarce remember? I held a castle on the Marches once, and there was a woman I was pledged to marry, but I could not find that castle today, nor tell you the color of that woman’s hair.” (ASOS, Arya VII)

Returning to Septon Meribald’s speech, we then learn that he speaks so powerfully and eloquently of broken men because he fought in the War of the Ninepenny Kings and likely was a broken man himself:

“The War of the Ninepenny Kings?” asked Hyle Hunt.

“So they called it, though I never saw a king, nor earned a penny. It was a war, though. That it was.” (AFFC, Brienne V)

*shiver* ooh, I get chills every time, it’s so good.

Anyway, with the idea of Septon Meribald as a broken man, we can use what we know of the rest of his life to work out more about the Last Hero motif. Notably, Septon Meribald is a lone wanderer with animal companions (his donkey and his dog), which sounds a lot like a skinchanger type – the Last Hero of course setting out in his travels with his dozen companions, his horse and his dog. It is also highly reminiscent of Coldhands (an undead Night’s Watch man and probable skinchanger), wandering alone north of the Wall with his elk and ravens as companions. Septon Meribald indicates that his wandering is a penance for his sins earlier in life, reminding us of the Night’s Watch’s purpose as a penal colony and the truest of the Night’s Watch characters (symbolically) being those who were punished for desertion. Moreover, when Septon Meribald and company encounter the Brotherhood without Banners, Septon Meribald is allowed to travel onwards in his circuit of the Riverlands, which suggests (at least symbolically) a level of collaboration between the Brotherhood and the septon. Given the seemingly never-ending connections between the Brotherhood without Banners and the cripples, bastards and broken things motif, this symbolism may also transfer onto Septon Meribald, himself a likely broken man. It also ties the outlaws to the broken man motif once more, in case you hadn’t .

Overall, Septon Meribald and the broken man speech appears to show, quite clearly, a transformation process – from naïve green boy, to an Other soldier, and then the breaking event catalysing the Last Hero transformation. 

As we covered in the last essay, the Last Hero appears to have come from the Others and symbolically is a broken man, as we covered in the last essay. Septon Meribald’s speech gives us a clear indication of one of the Last Hero’s breaking events – they deserted the Others.


Wow, I feel like we have covered a lot in this essay, so let’s recap.

We started off by discussing the Brotherhood without Banners and the Kingswood Brotherhood, and worked out that the outlaw motif is connected to the cripples, bastards and broken things motif. In turn, we (re-)discovered that the outlaws are connected to the Night’s Watch and Last Hero archetype, via the many references to greenseeing and death/resurrection. We also noted that there are many parallels between the legends of Robin Hood and some of the patterns we’re seeing around our outlaw Last Hero archetypes. 

We saw that many of the “outlaws and broken men” quotes refer to defeated armies or deserters. With that in mind, we found that the Night’s Watch as an organisation is renowned for desertion, given that we are introduced to a deserter of the Night’s Watch in the first main chapter of the series and we see Jon Snow deserting constantly. Importantly, the execution of the Night’s Watch men often represent a symbolic sacrifice and a transformation into the Last Hero, as is demonstrated by the execution of Gared and the seventy-nine sentinels.

This led to our discussion of the broken man speech from Septon Meribald, which recounts the hypothetical smallfolk deserting their armies. In this speech, we see a clear transformation into an Other-like ravenous figure of destruction, the breaking event and the transformation in to the Last Hero archetype.

Together, the analysis of Jon Snow’s desertions, the seventy-nine sentinels and the broken man speech suggests another way that the Last Hero could have broken – the Last Hero may have deserted from the Others.

So where to next?

I think this essay has opened up a couple of avenues of research within the Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things series. Firstly, the outlaws and desertion motifs introduces the idea that turncloaks, traitors and rebels may also be involved in this constellation of symbolism – think here of Theon Turncloak, or the outlaw groups and Night’s Watch men being accused of being traitors and rebels. Secondly, this suggests that oathbreakers and broken words may be closely tied to this symbolism – Jon stands accused of oathbreaking, for instance, and we saw last time that oathbreaking is very associated with Jaime. I’m not sure which of these analyses I’ll do first, but they’re coming (hopefully) soon.

In addition, I want to compare bravery and cowardice in the series, as I believe there is some of that great paradoxical Others/Last Hero symbolism buried in there. I might use what we’ve learned about the Brave Companions over the past couple of essays to dive a little bit into that and take a break (lol) from some of this broken symbolism.

Thanks as always for your time in reading this essay! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this essay – you can add a comment on the essay below, or say hi to me over on Twitter @elsmith1994. If you enjoyed this essay and would like to check out more like it, a list of my essays can be found here and my good friend, Bronsterys, has some amazing essays which can be found here.

See you soon and continue supporting Black Lives Matter!

Archmaester Emma x


Broken men and broken boys

Broken men, he thought. The wights are not the only sort of living dead. (ADWD, Jon V)

Hi again everyone, and welcome once more to the Red Mice at Play blog, home to my little corner of the A Song of Ice and Fire analysis community! As you may recall, last time we chatted about the broken swords of A Song of Ice and Fire in the first installment of my new series, Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things. In that essay, we noted that the broken sword motif was related to a lot of interwoven ideas: kingship, the Last Hero, greenseeing, magic and Lightbringer. 

This  post is the next installment of that series and today we will be focusing on the broken men of the series. Well, some of them. As per usual, I found out there were a few different broken men in the series and the essay suddenly became much longer than I planned, so we’ll be focusing on just one type of broken man today – the disabled characters of the series, aka the cripples of the “cripples, bastards and broken things” series title (so no Septon Meribald speech today). First, we’ll compare the symbolism of broken men and broken swords, just to make sure we’re on the right track, before diving into some of the “broken” characters of A Song of Ice and Fire, touching on the mythology of the Fisher King and Norse God Tyr along the way. Finally, we’ll be uncovering what I think is a phenomenal piece of wordplay which shows an important connection between the Last Hero and the Others.

Before we get started, there’s a couple of housekeeping details. First, a lot of the symbolism in this essay relies on some ableist and cissexist premises, e.g. Bran acquiring “the Broken” as a moniker as a result of his disability, or castration as a loss of manhood. It goes without saying that that’s bullshirt, but a fair few mythological ideas (and thus some of the symbolic motifs) do utilise these notions, so I’ll be referencing them a lot. I won’t be doing any analysis of ableism or gender identity, but there are a lot of great analysts out there working on these topics, if you’re interested (especially on tumblr, I’ve found e.g. lo-lynx has been churning out some awesome gender identity analysis recently, and there’s some great analysis of Tyrion and ableism). The second housekeeping note is a Game of Thrones Season 8 spoiler warning – it turns out a couple of events in there have implications for this analysis. For those of you trying to avoid spoilers, I’ve added them to the end of the essay with a teasing note about something in Season 8 being relevant; for those of you who don’t mind a teensy bit of Season 8 chat, I’ve provided jump links that (hopefully!) work so you should be able to easily get to and from the spoiler section without having to scroll for days (yeah, this is a monster essay again).

As always, huge thanks to George RR martin himself for creating this world we all love so much, plus to the large Twitter fam who, as ever, have been wonderful. In particular, thanks to the amazing Bronsterys, who has acted as contributor, sound board, editor and general provider of loveliness and self-esteem boosts – I couldn’t have done this without him. Last, but not least, thanks to you, dear reader, for kindly spending your time diving into ASOIAF with me.

Without further ado…


Broken swords and broken men
Then I took a spear to the leg…
The Last Hero, God of War
Broken… ahem… swords
From ice to fire (ish)

Broken swords and broken men

So, why am I talking about broken men now? What does that really have to do with anything? 

Well, there are certain occasions in which men are described as swords. One which we covered in the last essay was the Others being described as “sword-slim” and their symbolic counterparts (the Kingsguard, as is outlined in detail elsewhere) being described as “the White Swords”. In one of the classic inverted symbolic parallels of the series, the Night’s Watch (aka black brothers) are also known as swords: the swords in the darkness. This idea of people themselves being swords is also evident in Syrio’s training of Arya and in the descriptions of guards:

It was the third time he had called her “boy.” “I’m a girl,” Arya objected.

“Boy, girl,” Syrio Forel said. “You are a sword, that is all.” (AGOT, Arya II)

Ned turned back to Janos Slynt. “I will also give you twenty good swords from my own household guard, to serve with the Watch until the crowds have left.” (AGOT, Eddard VI)

With that in mind, it suggests that there may be parallels between people and swords and, that being the case, broken swords and broken men may carry a lot of the same symbolism. Given the strong symbolic motifs associated with broken swords, this potential overlap suggests that an analysis of broken men could reveal some interesting information about Azor Ahai, the Last Hero and the end of the Long Night (2.0).

Brotherhood Without Banners by sir-heartsalot

Importantly, we do see some evidence of broken men and broken swords sharing symbolism. One example is the Brotherhood Without Banners. Throughout a lot of the broken swords essay, we mentioned the Brotherhood Without Banners and, more specifically, Beric Dondarrion’s sword breaking in the midst of his duel with Sandor Clegane in Arya VI, A Storm of Swords. We demonstrated how this scene was a lot like a symbolic duel between the Night’s Watch and the Others, and we know that Beric Dondarrion had some hella undead greenseer vibes going on throughout the chapter – all symbolism associated with the broken sword motif. So, in tying broken swords and broken men together, these quotes really jumped out at me:

“The brotherhood without banners.” Tom Sevenstrings plucked a string. “The knights of the hollow hill.”

“Knights?” Clegane made the word a sneer. “Dondarrion’s a knight, but the rest of you are the sorriest lot of outlaws and broken men I’ve ever seen. I shit better men than you.” (ASOS, Arya VI)

“We were king’s men when we began,” the man told her, “but king’s men must have a king, and we have none. We were brothers too, but now our brotherhood is broken. I do not know who we are, if truth be told, nor where we might be going. I only know the road is dark. The fires have not shown me what lies at its end.” (AFFC, Brienne VIII)

In addition to this, Beric Dondarrion himself is described as a broken man:

One brother, a young novice, was bold enough to tell the red priest not to pray to his false god so long as he was under their roof. “Bugger that,” said Lem Lemoncloak. “He’s our god too, and you owe us for your bloody lives. And what’s false about him? Might be your Smith can mend a broken sword, but can he heal a broken man?” (ASOS, Arya VII)

As we saw previously, Beric Dondarrion and the Brotherhood Without Banners are heavily associated with broken swords and now it appears that they are described as broken men on multiple occasions. Lem Lemoncloak also appears to equate the mending of a broken sword as healing a broken man, suggesting some equivalence between these motifs. Taken together, this suggests to me that there is an overlap in the symbolism of these two motifs.

With that in mind, it is interesting to note that the reforging of a sword is linked to Beric Dondarrion’s resurrection. As you may recall, the people who wielded broken swords (Waymar Royce, Beric Dondarrion and the Smiling Knight) all died when their swords broke. They were also all resurrected (either literally or symbolically) after their death. We tied this to the slightly paradoxical idea that the event that breaks the sword is also the event that forges it meaning the broken sword is also the reforged sword, a play on the traditional fantasy trope of the broken/reforged sword. If this idea extends to men, as may be implied in Lem’s quote above, then death and resurrection can be tied to broken men as well as broken swords.

I can hear the skeptics among you saying “this all sounds fancy, but Lem is actually saying they aren’t the same, because he’s disbelieving the power of the Smith, so I don’t think they can be equated”. I can see that argument, but Lem is instead attributing this power to R’hllor whose messiah is most renowned for, well, forging a sword – Lightbringer… which we linked to the broken sword motif previously. So, he is still attributing the power of resurrection to a smith of sorts, just a smith of a different religion. In either case, the fact that a smith is associated with the healing of broken men suggests that there is an equivalence between broken men and broken swords.

All of which leads us to one of the most renowned broken men in the series…

Or perhaps broken boy might be the better description. Building upon the quote from Lem above, Catelyn also prays to the Smith on behalf of her best boy, Bran:

Lost and weary, Catelyn Stark gave herself over to her gods. She knelt before the Smith, who fixed things that were broken, and asked that he give her sweet Bran his protection. (ACOK, Catelyn IV)

This again fits neatly into the idea of broken men and broken swords being symbolically equivalent, and suggests we should see a lot of the broken sword symbolism for Bran. The first thing I wanted to note is that he [redacted for S8 spoilers, jump here if you want to read it *wink*], which matches one of the aspects of the broken sword essay. 

Secondly, he is a greenseer, which we tied closely to broken swords last time, given the description of Waymar’s broken sword looking like a “lightning struck tree”. Of particular interest for this essay is how frequently the description “broken” is given in the chapter that Bran becomes a greenseer:

Under the hill, the broken boy sat upon a weirwood throne, listening to whispers in the dark as ravens walked up and down his arms. 

He chose one bird, and then another, without success, but the third raven looked at him with shrewd black eyes, tilted its head, and gave a quork, and quick as that he was not a boy looking at a raven but a raven looking at a boy. The song of the river suddenly grew louder, the torches burned a little brighter than before, and the air was full of strange smells. When he tried to speak it came out in a scream, and his first flight ended when he crashed into a wall and ended back inside his own broken body

Bran did not want to be married to a tree … but who else would wed a broken boy like him? 

And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man’s feet drummed against the earth … but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood. (ADWD, Bran III)

So, Bran the Broken is greenseer and [that S8 redacted spoiler], so we are two for two on broken sword motifs being associated with a broken boy at the moment. 

Another important motif from the broken sword essay was that the breaking of the sword and re-forging of the sword appeared to be the same event. In Bran’s case, this seems to be his Jaime-assisted fall from the window being the thing that both ‘breaks’ him and ‘forges’ him into a greenseer. (Recall that the weirwoods were one of the key associations with a broken sword, so it would make sense that the broken men be associated with greenseeing.) After all, the three-eyed crow first showed up in Bran’s coma dream and showed Bran that he could access some kind of magical power. 

“When I was little I almost died of greywater fever. That was when the crow came to me.”

“He came to me after I fell,” Bran blurted. “I was asleep for a long time. He said I had to fly or die, and I woke up, only I was broken and I couldn’t fly after all.” (ACOK, Bran IV)

That Jojen also had a childhood illness that led to him meeting the three-eyed crow and receiving greendreams implies that a (near-)death experience is some kind of pre-requisite for access to magical powers. This fits in with the Odin motifs that are associated with greenseeing (as is outlined in more detail here and here), i.e. the idea of physical sacrifice to gain magical or otherworldly knowledge.

Bran Stark by IrenHorrors (CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Moreover, the idea that disability in general can be linked to “broken things” is evident from this much-quoted Tyrion line:

“And I have a tender spot in my heart for cripples and bastards and broken things.” (AGOT, Bran IV)

This explicitly links physical disability to “broken things”, which suggests characters with disabilities in the series may have some of the relevant “broken” symbolism. Of these, Bran is the most obvious and he does indeed share a lot of symbolism with the broken sword motif.

So, having established the symbolic equivalence of broken men and broken swords, let’s delve into Bran the Broken and some Arthurian myth…

Then I took a spear to the leg…

Bad Skyrim allusions aside, the myth of the Fisher King – or the Maimed King, depending on the tale – appears to tie into a lot of the broken man symbolism and, in particular, Bran. For those of you who aren’t aware of the Fisher King, he is a disabled character from Arthurian legend who protects the Holy Grail – as with all Arthurian legend this means there are about fifteen different versions of the character and Grail quest. Heck, even Sir Thomas Malory reports two different injuries in the same book – firstly, the Fisher King is injured by Sir Balin wielding the Spear of Longinus; later, the Maimed King (either the grandfather or great-grandfather of the Fisher King) receives a leg wound by picking up a broken sword (and isn’t that a juicy tidbit for our purposes here). 

Sir Percival arrives at the Grail Castle, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons (image in public domain)

In comparing this myth to A Song of Ice and Fire, the first and most obvious of the parallels between Bran and the Fisher King is their disabilities. The Fisher King has a wound in the leg that prevents him from hunting and walking – a big deal in ye olde times – which parallels Bran’s disability. So, rather than go hunting, the Fisher King sits in the river all day, fishing. This seems to parallel Bloodraven’s description of the weirwood trees:

“A man must know how to look before he can hope to see,” said Lord Brynden. “Those were shadows of days past that you saw, Bran. You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man. Sun and soil and water, these are the things a weirwood understands, not days and years and centuries. For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. The oak is the acorn, the acorn is the oak. And the weirwood … a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past.” (ADWD, Bran III)

In essence, by becoming a greenseer, Bran is also spending all day in the river, ‘fishing’ for memories. Moreover, Ravenous Reader made the amazing find there is some greenSEE/green SEA wordplay, outlined in more detail here, meaning that water symbolism can effectively be folded into the greenseer constellation of symbolism. Moreover, the motif of a fisherman or fish-catcher has been associated with greenseeing and the weirwood trees, as the trees effectively trap the greenseer so they can access the weirnet. 

This would suggest that the Holy Grail in the Fisher King myths may be compared to the weirwood trees in A Song of Ice and Fire. The Holy Grail itself is frequently depicted as the chalice from the Last Supper that was used to receive Christ’s blood during the crucifixion. As we saw in the previous essay, the broken sword motif was associated with prayer-like or religious imagery, (self-)sacrifice to the trees and resurrection. For instance, when Waymar Royce is fighting the Others in a grove of trees north of the Wall:

Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow.  […] A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers. (AGOT, Prologue)

Or when Beric is killed during the trial by combat in the Hollow Hill, filled with weirwood roots:

Lord Beric’s knees folded slowly, as if for prayer. When his mouth opened only blood came out. The Hound’s sword was still in him as he toppled face forward. The dirt drank his blood. (ASOS, Arya VII)

In each of these cases, the characters are killed amongst trees and we see the ground (and therefore the trees) drinking their blood. This is made explicit in Bran’s weirwood vision:

Then, as he watched, a bearded man forced a captive down onto his knees before the heart tree. A white-haired woman stepped toward them through a drift of dark red leaves, a bronze sickle in her hand.

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

This suggests that the weirwoods do contain the blood of the sacrificed, much like the Holy Grail collected the blood of Christ on the cross. Given the symbolism we covered last time, it is likely that at least one of these victims was the Last Hero. Moreover, each of the characters with the broken sword then went on to be resurrected, adding more of the Christ-like sacrificial saviour vibe to this symbolism. This implies that the Last Hero is a wight of some description, as has been covered by others.  

King Arthur off to find the nearest weirwood tree

Importantly, it is the blood of the Christ still dripping from the Spear of Longinus that heals the Maimed King:

“Also I woll that ye take with you off thys bloode of thys speare for to anoynte the Maymed Kynge, both his legges and hys body, and he shall have hys heale.” […] And Sir Galahad wente anone to the speare which lay uppon the table and towched the bloode with hys fyngirs, and cam aftir to the Maymed Kynge and anoynted his legges and hys body. And therewith he clothed him anone, and sterte uppon hys feete oute of his bedde as an hole man, and thanked God that He had heled hym […]” (Le Morte D’arthur, Sir Thomas Malory, ed. Stephen H. A. Shepherd 2004, p. 584)

As that passage probably demonstrates, reading Malory has made me forever grateful for the advent of the printing press and the standardisation of English spelling. Anywho, applying this symbolism to the A Song of Ice and Fire symbolism we have seen so far, the weirwoods could be implied as healing in a sense – here the blood of Christ has healed the Fisher King and the weirwoods likely contain the blood of the sacrificed Last Hero figure, with Bran’s journey to becoming a greenseer strongly tied to his desire to be healed and be able to walk again:

“I’m here,” Bran said, “only I’m broken. Will you … will you fix me … my legs, I mean?(ADWD, Bran III)

All of this suggests that there are parallels with the Fisher King mythology that can be drawn upon in our analysis of broken men – specifically, we can see a link between the physical disability and the possession of something more magical. As such, we should see similar symbolism around other disabled characters, one of whom is Willas Tyrell. We don’t really know that much about Willas, but Cersei offers this summary:

“The Tyrell heir would be my choice,” Lord Tywin concluded, “but if you would prefer another, I will hear your reasons.”

“That is so very kind of you, Father,” Cersei said with icy courtesy. “It is such a difficult choice you give me. Who would I sooner take to bed, the old squid or the crippled dog boy?(ASOS, Tyrion III)

To my ears, “crippled dog boy” sounds like a description of Bran with his pet direwolf and both of the characters are crippled by sun figures – Bran by Jaime Lannister, who is “armored like the sun” in AGOT, Bran III; Willas by Oberyn Martell, whose sigil is a sun. This parallel suggests that Willas Tyrell may have some of the broken man symbolism we have touched on briefly here.

Willas Tyrell by Ozneral-1516

Indeed, he is symbolically represented as a skinchanger via his passion for animals:

“Willas has the best birds in the Seven Kingdoms,” Margaery said when the two of them were briefly alone. “He flies an eagle sometimes.(ASOS, Sansa II)

“Willas is heir to Highgarden, and by all reports a mild and courtly young man, fond of reading books and looking at the stars. He has a passion for breeding animals as well, and owns the finest hounds, hawks, and horses in the Seven Kingdoms.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)

As Margaery says to Sansa, he flies an eagle which is very reminiscent of Orell, the eagle-skinchanger, as well as the three-eyed crow telling Bran that he must fly. In addition, Ravenous Reader has pointed out the symbolic similarity between the weirwoods and libraries as repositories of knowledge. As such, Willas being a bookish character may be meant to invoke this link between the libraries and the weirwood trees, thus symbolically implying him as a greenseer.

Moreover, the Tyrells are currently the lords of the Reach, taking over from House Gardener, who are swimming in so much symbolism they should be called House Greenseer. In particular, the progenitor of basically every house in the Reach (but in particular House Gardener) is Garth the Green and, as the name would suggest, he has an abundance of green man symbolism. For those of you who are unaware, green man symbolism is pretty ubiquitous in Northern European myth and, as my history teacher told me back in t’ day, it’s a fun game to try and spot a carving in any old cathedrals or churches you go to. More importantly for our purposes here, the green man mythology has tons of implications for the mythology surrounding greenseers. For instance, the green man is heavily associated with life and rebirth, mimicking the seasonal changes of the trees, and frequently tied to nature (or vegetative) deities. This sounds like a version of the weirwoods as home to the old gods, aka greenseers. In particular, Garth the Green is depicted as bringing fertility to the land (and to women) which ties into this life and vitality aspect of the green man persona. Garth is even depicted as a god in some tales, one who demands blood sacrifice sometimes which sounds a lot like the weirwoods drinking blood again. Even the name Garth appears to have a ton of ties to greenseer symbolism – this has been outlined in great detail elsewhere, so I won’t derail the present essay to paraphrase that, but trust me it exists and is pretty overwhelming.

Highgarden itself contains a lot of greenseer/weirwood symbolism too, as expected from the histories of the Reach. Firstly, there are three weirwood trees in its godswood, which appears to be highly unusual:

Even in the wolfswood, you never found more than two or three of the white trees growing together; a grove of nine was unheard of. (AGOT, Jon VI)

That is, even in the wolfswood in the heart of the North where the worship of the old gods remains strong, you would – maybe – see a trio of trees. The wolfswood is such a strong greenseer symbol that Bran claims dominion over the wolfswood as “prince of the green, prince of the wolfswood” (ASOS, Bran I) when warging into Summer, implying his greenseer power is symbolically reflected in the wolfswood. And we see the greensee/green sea wordplay being used in reference to the wolfswood:

The wolfswood, the northmen named the forest. Most nights you could hear the wolves, calling to each other through the dark. An ocean of leaves. Would it were an ocean of water. (ADWD, The Wayward Bride)

Still, you only see a maximum of a trio of weirwoods there. This suggests that Highgarden’s trio of weirwoods is a place with a high level of greenseer activity (either symbolically or in ASOIAF history), which accords with that we know of Garth Greenhand. Second, Highgarden is guarded by three walls:

Highgarden is girded by three concentric rings of crenellated curtain walls,  made of finely dressed white stone and protected by towers as slender and graceful as maidens. Each wall is higher and thicker than the one below it. Between the outermost wall that girdles the foot of the hill and the middle wall above it can be found Highgarden’s famed briar maze, a vast and complicated labyrinth of thorns and hedges maintained for centuries for the pleasure and delight of the castle’s occupants and guests…and for defensive purposes, for intruders unfamiliar with the maze cannot easily find their way through its traps and dead ends to the castle gates. (TWOIAF, The Reach: Highgarden)

This imagery is highly alchemical in nature: indeed, in one famous picture (see below), three walls protect a flaming tree that produces the elixir of youth. As the weirwood trees are depicted as flaming trees (ACOK, Theon V), three walls protecting three weirwood trees seems like a fun kind of parallel, especially given the power that is contained in the weirwoodnet seems to give longevity to the greenseers, much like this alchemical elixir of youth. 

Pretosia Margarita
Red Queen in a tree (spot the fire at the base of the tree). From Pretiosa Margarita novella, Janus Lacinius.

Third, as I highlighted in the quote above, Higharden is renowned throughout Westeros for its briar maze. Maze imagery has a lot in common with Winterfell:

To a boy, Winterfell was a grey stone labyrinth of walls and towers and courtyards and tunnels spreading out in all directions. In the older parts of the castle, the halls slanted up and down so that you couldn’t even be sure what floor you were on. The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree, Maester Luwin told him once, and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth. (AGOT, Bran II)

Somewhere in the great stone maze of Winterfell, a wolf howled. (AGOT, Tyrion I)

The snowmen the squires had built had grown into monstrous giants, ten feet tall and hideously misshapen. White walls rose to either side as he and Rowan made their way to the godswood; the paths between keep and tower and hall had turned into a maze of icy trenches, shoveled out hourly to keep them clear. It was easy to get lost in that frozen labyrinth, but Theon Greyjoy knew every twist and turning. (ADWD, Theon I)

Winterfell is a labyrinthine stone tree, Highgarden has a maze of trees (well, hedges). So it seems that both Bran Stark and Willas Tyrell are both heirs to maze castles, and we’ll just bypass all of the maze/labyrinth symbolism of the weirwoods themselves, which enhances the greenseer symbolism of these two broken characters.

These similarities would suggest that Willas Tyrell should have some Last Hero type shenanigans coming up, and that’s exactly the set up we see in Feast-Dance, as Willas Tyrell rallies the Reach to defend against the Ironborn. Of course, the Ironborn at this time are being led by Euron Greyjoy, Night’s King archetype extraordinaire. This positions Willas Tyrell as the Last Hero-type figure, which would be a match for the broken man symbolism that he appears to have.

Another person with a leg wound is poor young Night’s Watch recruit, Lommy Greenhands. Giving Lommy the nickname “Greenhands” evokes images of Garth Greenhands and thus all of that greenseer symbolism, so again we have the overlapping Night’s Watch and greenseer symbolism. When travelling North around the God’s Eye, Lommy sustains a leg injury as Lorch and his men war crime their way across the Riverlands at the behest of Tywin Lannister: 

Arya grabbed Gendry by the arm. “He said go,” she shouted, “the barn, the way out.” Through the slits of his helm, the Bull’s eyes shone with reflected fire. He nodded. They called Hot Pie down from the wall and found Lommy Greenhands where he lay bleeding from a spear thrust through his calf. (ACOK, Arya IV)

This is an especially important representation of the Fisher King as, in Malory’s version of the tale (one of them, anyway), Sir Balin delivers the “Dolorous Stroke” (or leg wound) to the Fisher King using the Spear of Longinus. (Yeah, don’t ask me why the blood of Christ is still on the spear later, but that doesn’t get a mention here – Arthurian legends and narrative continuity aren’t great friends.) Lommy’s wound here is clearly reflective of that and suggests that he has the Fisher King/broken man symbolism too. At the time the “Dolorous Stroke” is delivered, the Fisher King’s castle falls down and this supposedly transforms his lands into a wasteland. We’ll be going into this in a lot more detail later, but for now, I wanted to point out how similar this sounds to the results of the Long Night and also to the riverlands as Tywin performs his Grand Chevauchee (war crimes).

In fact, the entire massacre at the holdfast has a lot of Long Night imagery (as has been analysed by myself and others), with some particularly strong parallels in the language with the birth of Dany’s dragons and thus the forging of Lightbringer. As we discovered last essay, the forging of Lightbringer is akin to the creation of the broken sword and so it seems important to note that we see the creation of a broken boy here at the same time. This parallels an analysis of Bran Stark Moreover, as with the broken sword/broken man symbolism, we see poor Lommy sacrificed to the trees:

Lommy Greenhands sat propped up between two thick roots at the foot of an oak. A spear had taken him through his left calf during the fight at the holdfast. By the end of the next day, he had to limp along one-legged with an arm around Gendry, and now he couldn’t even do that. They’d hacked branches off trees to make a litter for him, but it was slow, hard work carrying him along, and he whimpered every time they jounced him.


They found Lommy where they’d left him, under the oak. “I yield,” he called out at once when he saw them. He’d flung away his own spear and raised his hands, splotchy green with old dye. “I yield. Please.” 


“Can you walk?” He sounded concerned.

“No,” said Lommy. “You got to carry me.”

“Think so?” The man lifted his spear casually and drove the point through the boy’s soft throat. Lommy never even had time to yield again. He jerked once, and that was all. When the man pulled his spear loose, blood sprayed out in a dark fountain. (ACOK, Arya V)

Sorry to make you read some casual child murder there, but this language does show the sacrifice of a young greenseer child with a leg wound, so it does seem important for this essay. For example, Lommy is called Lommy Greenhands, which reminds us of Garth the Green whose alternative nickname was “Garth Greenhands”. The other children also make Lommy a litter from tree branches, which sounds like it could be an allusion to a weirwood throne. The oak tree frequently stands in as a symbol of the weirwood tree (as is neatly demonstrated in these three essays), as world mythology often picks oak trees as a kind of cosmic world tree which is also what the weirwoods represent and it ties back into the green man mytholgy mentioned earlier. As such, Lommy being placed under an oak and being killed under it too would seem to represent a symbolic sacrifice to the weirwoods. That his leg wound and his death are both inflicted by spears may be an allusion to the breaking event also being death (actual or symbolic), as appeared to be the case in the broken sword essay

Jon Snow and Ghost by Douglasbot

In the last essay, we tied a lot of the broken sword imagery to the Last Hero, and to start this essay, we linked the idea of broken swords with broken men. So, while it is fun to look at the symbolism of ancillary randos like Willas Tyrell and Lommy Greenhands, really we should be seeing some broken man symbolism from the big hitters of the Last Hero archetypes:

Long hours later, the rain stopped. Jon found himself alone in a sea of tall black grass. There was a deep throbbing ache in his right thigh. When he looked down, he was surprised to see an arrow jutting out the back of it. When did that happen?  (ASOS, Jon V)

Now, you can’t get much more archetypal Last Hero than Jon Snow, leader of the Night’s Watch who is killed (ahem, sacrificed) at the end of the written books (and presumably soon to be resurrected). This scene occurs just after Jon Snow has left the wildlings who climbed the Wall and chose to stay true to the Night’s Watch instead. This implies that Jon choosing to rejoin the Watch was directly involved in him being given a leg wound, again linking the Last Hero archetype with the broken man. Importantly, the Fisher King’s wound is frequently said to be in the thigh – this has some medieval connotations that we’ll talk about in a bit (or skip ahead here for essay spoilers ;P ), but I wanted to note this now to reinforce the parallels between these leg wounds and the broken man motif in A Song of Ice and Fire.

In addition, we see a link made between Jon’s leg wound and the tale of Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa and the forging of 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.” (ACOK, Davos I)

Maester Aemon sniffed Jon’s wound again. Then he put the bloody cloth back in the basin and said, “Donal, the hot knife, if you please. I shall need you to hold him still.”

I will not scream, Jon told himself when he saw the blade glowing red hot. But he broke that vow as well. Donal Noye held him down, while Clydas helped guide the maester’s hand. Jon did not move, except to pound his fist against the table, again and again and again. The pain was so huge he felt small and weak and helpless inside it, a child whimpering in the dark. Ygritte, he thought, when the stench of burning flesh was in his nose and his own shriek echoing in her ears. Ygritte, I had to. For half a heartbeat the agony started to ebb. But then the iron touched him once again, and he fainted. (ASOS, Jon VI)

The parallels here seem quite clear. We have an armourer (Donal Noye) bringing the hot knife – this sounds a lot like the forging of a fiery sword. Then we have a scream accompanying the hot blade touching flesh – this is akin to Nissa Nissa’s scream and the scream that accompanied the breaking of the sword. Jon then evokes Ygritte’s memory as he smells “the stench of burning flesh”, which sounds a lot like the invocation of a Nissa Nissa type sacrifice, reinforced with “Ygritte, I had to.” Jon even pounds his fist against the table three times, potentially alluding to the three attempts to forge Lightbringer. As we covered in the last essay, much of the broken sword symbolism overlaps with Lightbringer and, given that the broken man and broken sword motifs appear to be very similar, it is almost inevitable that there would be Lightbringer symbolism associated with the broken man motif. 

We’ll be touching on some more Jon-as-broken symbolism throughout this essay but for now, I think we’ve covered enough leg wounds. Now, on to more broken man symbolism of the violent and horrendous maiming depicted in the series… Hurray! (For the symbolism, not maiming, of course – I’m not Joffrey.)

The Last Hero, God of War

As seen on a few occasions, some of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fire are called “crippled” if they have lost an arm or a hand. So, in addition to these characters tying in to all of the symbolic associations of the broken man, we can also see some ties to Tyr, the Norse god of war, law and justice. For those of you who aren’t that familiar with Norse myth, one of the most important Tyr myths is when the gods are trying to chain up Fenrir, the massive wolf prophesied to do a ton of destruction during Ragnarok. Fenrir, being the savvy son of Loki the trickster-god, senses a trap and refuses to be placed in chains unless one of the gods places their hand in his mouth. Tyr is the only god to step forward and place his hand in Fenrir’s mouth. Inevitably, when Fenrir is trapped, Fenrir chomps down and Tyr loses his hand.

Tyr feeds Fenrir (public domain, retrieved from Wikimedia Commons)

We can see how this broken man symbolism applies to everyone’s second favorite Baratheon armourer, Donal Noye:

“Life,” Jon repeated bitterly. The armorer could talk about life. He’d had one. He’d only taken the black after he’d lost an arm at the siege of Storm’s End. Before that he’d smithed for Stannis Baratheon, the king’s brother. He’d seen the Seven Kingdoms from one end to the other; he’d feasted and wenched and fought in a hundred battles. They said it was Donal Noye who’d forged King Robert’s warhammer, the one that crushed the life from Rhaegar Targaryen on the Trident. He’d done all the things that Jon would never do, and then when he was old, well past thirty, he’d taken a glancing blow from an axe and the wound had festered until the whole arm had to come off. Only then, crippled, had Donal Noye come to the Wall, when his life was all but over. (AGOT, Jon III)

Loving that Jon defines old as “well past thirty”, yay for bratty teenagers. Anyways, back to Donal Noye. For starters, we have literally just spoken about him symbolically creating the hot knife that was used in the healing of Jon’s leg wound, which itself acted as a parallel to the forging of Lightbringer, a symbolic broken sword. In addition, he is a man of the Night’s Watch, which we previously noted as potentially being associated with broken swords, and as such the institution itself may also be associated with broken men. Indeed, this is the description of the Night’s Watch that Noye rallies against the wildlings attacking from the south:

“How many men are left here?”

“Forty odd,” said Donal Noye. “The crippled and infirm, and some green boys still in training.” (ASOS, Jon VI)

This suggests the Night’s Watch as fitting the “cripples, bastards and broken things” outline. Noye himself is a smith and armourer for the Watch, so his role in the watch invokes the idea of a broken/reforged sword. Noye also finds himself leading the Watch against the wildling invasion from the north, which gives Noye some serious Azor Ahai/Last Hero vibes – leader of the Night’s Watch, making weapons and fighting the icy northern invaders, anyone? 

In addition, throughout the battle, there is a ton of War for the Dawn imagery, not least of which is Donal Noye ordering fire to be flung at the wildlings during their nighttime attack:

“How do we fight them if we can’t see them?” Horse asked.

Donal Noye turned toward the two great trebuchets that Bowen Marsh had restored to working order. “Give me light!” he roared.

Barrels of pitch were loaded hastily into the slings and set afire with a torch. The wind fanned the flames to a brisk red fury. “NOW!” Noye bellowed. The counterweights plunged downward, the throwing arms rose to thud against the padded crossbars. The burning pitch went tumbling through the darkness, casting an eerie flickering light upon the ground below.  Jon caught a glimpse of mammoths moving ponderously through the half-light, and just as quickly lost them again. A dozen, maybe more. The barrels struck the earth and burst. They heard a deep bass trumpeting, and a giant roared something in the Old Tongue, his voice an ancient thunder that sent shivers up Jon’s spine.

“Again!” Noye shouted, and the trebuchets were loaded once more. Two more barrels of burning pitch went crackling through the gloom to come crashing down amongst the foe. This time one of them struck a dead tree, enveloping it in flame. Not a dozen mammoths, Jon saw, a hundred. (ASOS, Jon VIII)

I don’t know about you but the call for light in the midst of darkness sounds distinctly God-like (“Let there be light”, Genesis 1:3). Indeed, this call for light goes on to create the burning tree, invoking the idea of Moses and the burning bush as well as the weirwood trees like a blaze of flame, aka the home of the old gods. As such, Donal Noye requesting light sounds a lot like he is acting as a god (symbolically). This light then burns trees, which creates imagery tied to the weirwoods and thus the old gods, which in turn implies Noye as a greenseer: the broken smith has forged the broken sword. This is not quite in line with one of the conclusions we drew last time – that the Others were key in the breaking (and therefore forging) of the sword – but is in line with the more traditional interpretation of a heroic Azor Ahai figure forging Lightbringer. 

donal Noye v Mag the Mighty Sirheartsalot
Donal Noye v Mag the Mighty by Sir-Heartsalot

Much as with the symbolism we saw with broken swords and have seen so far with broken men, Donal Noye eventually sacrifices himself during this battle to defend the gate below the Wall, which builds upon the Last Hero self-sacrifice themes we’ve been tracking so far:

“Are they all dead?” Maester Aemon asked softly.

“Yes. Donal was the last.” Noye’s sword was sunk deep in the giant’s throat, halfway to the hilt. The armorer had always seemed such a big man to Jon, but locked in the giant’s massive arms he looked almost like a child. “The giant crushed his spine. I don’t know who died first.” (ASOS, Jon VIII)

The crushing of Donal Noye’s spine may be a parallel to Bran’s fall and subsequent paralysis, thus invoking additional Fisher King/broken man symbolism for Noye at the moment of his sacrifice. In addition, eagle-eyed Bronsterys noticed that Donal is described as “the last”, probably an allusion to Donal Noye being a representation of the Last Hero archetype. There are a couple of potential greenseer clues here: namely Donal Noye is giving a “red smile” to a giant. As has been noted elsewhere, the weirwoods are compared to giants on a couple of occasions, so the throat wound of the giant may represent the face carving of the weirwood trees. Moreover, we see that the weirwoods often make people look like children, and this is directly linked to the image of a greenseer:

Before them a pale lord in ebon finery sat dreaming in a tangled nest of roots, a woven weirwood throne that embraced his withered limbs as a mother does a child. (ADWD, Bran II)

His father and the black pool and the godswood faded and were gone and he was back in the cavern, the pale thick roots of his weirwood throne cradling his limbs as a mother does a child. (ADWD, Bran III)

As such, Donal Noye looking like a child in the arms of a giant may symbolise him becoming a greenseer at the moment of his death – exactly the symbolism we’d be looking for in the broken man.

So, what of the Tyr symbolism? Well, we see Donal Noye lead the Night’s Watch into battle, a distinctly warrior-like aspect. Moreover, as described above, Noye acquires a ton of greenseer (and thus god) symbolism, which combined would seem to suggest he is representing a god of war aspect here. Noye is also the one to counsel Jon about his bullying of the other Watch recruits, which may lend itself to the law and justice aspect of Tyr’s mythology. Lastly, Tyr is prophesied to die during Ragnarok; while it is not quite the end of the world in this battle, there is a lot of War for the Dawn imagery here. Given the “last battle” nature of Ragnarok and the War for the Dawn, it seems like there could be some parallels there.

Ser Jacelyn Bywater is another character who fits into the hand loss version of the broken man symbolism:

Lord Janos Slynt took a gulp of wine and sloshed it around in his mouth for a moment before swallowing. “Bywater. Well. Brave man, to be sure, yet . . . he’s rigid, that one. A queer dog. The men don’t like him. A cripple too, lost his hand at Pyke, that’s what got him knighted. A poor trade, if you ask me, a hand for a ser.” (ACOK, Tyrion II)

By becoming the Lord Commander of the City Watch, Ser Jacelyn Bywater is now the head of the proto-police force in the capital city, so there we have our Tyr, god of law and justice symbolism. Importantly, Bywater was elevated to Lord Commander having been captain of the Mud Gate, aka the River Gate. Hello again, greenSEE/SEA and river of time! Add to that, gates also have some weirwood symbolism: gates are the means of passing from one side to another, much as the weirwoods are the means of passing from the physical realm into a spiritual one. This kind of gate metaphor is pretty ubiquitous in both myth (e.g. the pearly gates into heaven) and A Song of Ice and Fire (e.g. the weirwood tree known as the Black Gate under the Nightfort).

In addition, Bywater leads the goldcloaks into battle during the repelled invasion of Stannis. Not only does this invoke the idea of Tyr god of war leading men into battle again, it also creates some very strong parallels with Donal Noye, who was acting Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch during the repelled wildling invasion. Indeed, both men die in these attacks, suggesting some further parallels between the two characters and thus strengthening this broken man motif we’re constructing. The goldcloaks are therefore symbolising the Night’s Watch, at least insofar as the Battle of the Blackwater is concerned. Indeed, the goldcloaks are even alluded to as broken men prior to the battle:

The gold cloaks were almost as uncertain a weapon. […] “No man likes to look craven in the sight of his fellows, so they’ll fight brave enough at the start, when it’s all warhorns and blowing banners. But if the battle looks to be going sour they’ll break, and they’ll break bad. The first man to throw down his spear and run will have a thousand more trodding on his heels.” (ACOK, Tyrion XI)

So here, we have a weapon which is uncertain and likely to break – sounds a lot like some broken sword symbolism to me, again paired with some broken man symbolism. In addition, we are told that the goldcloaks mutinied and killed Bywater during the battle:

“During the battle. Your sister sent the Kettleblacks to fetch the king back to the Red Keep, the way I hear it. When the gold cloaks saw him leaving, half of them decided they’d leave with him. Ironhand put himself in their path and tried to order them back to the walls. They say Bywater was blistering them good and almost had ’em ready to turn when someone put an arrow through his neck. He didn’t seem so fearsome then, so they dragged him off his horse and killed him.” (ASOS Tyrion I)

This may be another parallel to the Night’s Watch, who mutinied against Jeor Mormont, leader of the Watch, and killed him. Much like the Battle at the Wall, the Battle of the Blackwater also has a strong War for the Dawn vibe, with the entire battle occurring at nighttime and lit with flame. Again, as with Donal Noye, Bywater dies during this battle, which may evoke the idea of Tyr dying during Ragnarok. Altogether, this suggests that there are some quite strong parallels between Ser Jacelyn Bywater and some of the leaders of the Night’s Watch, indicating Bywater may fall into this Last Hero/broken man archetype. 

The most prominent character to lose their hand in A Song of Ice and Fire so far is, of course, Ser Jaime Lannister. As you may recall from the previous essay, we touched on Jaime in the last essay as a wielder of the broken sword, Oathkeeper. In addition, we noted that he has some ties to the Smiling Knight vs. Ser Arthur Dayne duel. To briefly recap that duel:

The Smiling Knight was a madman, cruelty and chivalry all jumbled up together, but he did not know the meaning of fear. And Dayne, with Dawn in hand . . . The outlaw’s longsword had so many notches by the end that Ser Arthur had stopped to let him fetch a new one. “It’s that white sword of yours I want,” the robber knight told him as they resumed, though he was bleeding from a dozen wounds by then. “Then you shall have it, ser,” the Sword of the Morning replied, and made an end of it. (ASOS, Jaime VIII)

And me, that boy I was . . . when did he die, I wonder? When I donned the white cloak? When I opened Aerys’s throat? That boy had wanted to be Ser Arthur Dayne, but someplace along the way he had become the Smiling Knight instead. (ASOS, Jaime VIII)

In the above scene, the Smiling Knight wields a broken sword as part of the archetypal duel between the Last Hero and the Others. We noted that this conveys some death and resurrection symbolism, by the Smiling Knight being killed and Jaime then thinking of himself as the Smiling Knight. This fits with the death and resurrection symbolism we’ve tracked throughout these two essays. Moreover, in the very next chapter, Jaime Lannister is gifted the sword Oathkeeper, potentially tying the reflections about the broken sword of the Smiling Knight to the broken sword Oathkeeper.

Temperance by naomimakesart

In addition to the broken sword symbolism, Jaime also appears to have a lot of broken man imagery:

He looked at his stump and grimaced. I must do something about that. If the late Ser Jacelyn Bywater could wear an iron hand, he should have a gold one. Cersei might like that. A golden hand to stroke her golden hair, and hold her hard against me. (ASOS, Jaime VIII)

This quote implies a potential symbolic parallel between Ser Jacelyn Bywater and Jaime Lannister through this motif of the broken man. Indeed, both Jaime and Jacelyn lead men into war, invoking the idea of Tyr as the God of War. Jaime himself is a renowned warrior in Westeros, so much so that Tyrion prays to the Warrior to protect Jaime – symbolically, this suggests Jaime as under the protection of Tyr. We also find out in A Storm of Swords that Jaime Lannister has a deep connection to oaths – both oathkeeping and oathbreaking – which ties him to the God of Law and Justice aspect of Tyr’s godhood. I won’t delve into oaths too much, as I have an entire essay planned devoted to the broken words, but I just wanted to introduce this parallel here. 

To further connect Jaime to the broken man motif, he is explicitly described as broken and crippled after he loses his hand:

But Tywin Lannister endured, eternal as Casterly Rock. And now you have a cripple for a son as well as a dwarf, my lord. How you will hate that… (ASOS, Jamie VI)

His maiming had been monstrously cruel. It was one thing to slay a lion, another to hack his paw off and leave him broken and bewildered. (AFFC, Brienne I)

This ties Jaime into the cripples, bastards and broken things motif, as spelled out by Tyrion in A Game of Thrones. Importantly, the Brienne quote creates a link that we have been missing so far: namely that the act of losing the hand is the creation of the broken man. 

Given the parallels between Lightbringer and broken swords and the parallels between broken swords and broken men we’ve uncovered, we would expect there to be a connection between Lightbringer and broken men. As such, Jaime’s breaking event (losing his hand) should have some strong Lightbringer forging symbolism and, indeed, it does: 

“’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.” (ACOK, Davos I)

He was a Lannister of Casterly Rock, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard; no sellsword would make him scream.

Sunlight ran silver along the edge of the arakh as it came shivering down, almost too fast to see. And Jaime screamed. (ASOS, Jaime III)

After the second time he fell from the saddle, they bound him tight to Brienne of Tarth and made them share a horse again. One day, instead of back to front, they bound them face-to-face. The lovers, Shagwell sighed loudly, “and what a lovely sight they are. ‘Twould be cruel to separate the good knight and his lady.” Then he laughed that high shrill laugh of his, and said, “Ah, but which one is the knight and which one is the lady?”

If I had my hand, you’d learn that soon enough, Jaime thought. His arms ached and his legs were numb from the ropes, but after a while none of that mattered. His world shrunk to the throb of agony that was his phantom hand, and Brienne pressed against him. She’s warm, at least, he consoled himself, though the wench’s breath was as foul as his own.

His hand was always between them. Urswyck had hung it about his neck on a cord, so it dangled down against his chest, slapping Brienne’s breasts as Jaime slipped in and out of consciousness. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

I’ve colour-coded this so hopefully you can see how strong the parallels are. One example is Jaime screaming when he “breaks” i.e. loses his hand – a parallel to the Nissa Nissa’s cry of anguish and ecstasy, and a pattern we saw with the broken swords last essay. As is described in the myth (ACOK, Davos I), Azor Ahai is depicted as Nissa Nissa’s wife and therefore lover, much as Jaime and Brienne are mocked as being lovers in the above quotes. Azor Ahai thrusts Lightbringer into Nissa Nissa’s breast; similarly, Jaime’s hand keeps slapping Brienne’s breast. Notably, the lover imagery occurs after the second time he fell from his saddle in ASOS, Jaime IV, implying the three forgings of Lightbringer – two times he tried to ride unsuccessfully, but on the third time, with the help of Nissa Nissa… Skipping right past the horse imagery that is integral to greenseeing, we see Jaime highlight Brienne’s warmth, reminding us of Jon’s summary of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer:

The pages that told of Azor Ahai. Lightbringer was his sword. Tempered with his wife’s blood if Votar can be believed. Thereafter Lightbringer was never cold to the touch, but warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm. In battle the blade burned fiery hot.  (ADWD, Jon III)

So, along with the rest of the Lightbringer symbolism, Brienne is consistently linked to Nissa Nissa in this scene and she is emphasised as warm. As we’ve been outlining, Jaime losing his hand is akin to Azor Ahai forging Lightbringer, so it’s should come as no surprise that Jaime describes the loss of his hand like this:

His hand burned.

Still, still, long after they had snuffed out the torch they’d used to sear his bloody stump, days after, he could still feel the fire lancing up his arm, and his fingers twisting in the flames, the fingers he no longer had. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

Altogether, I think this reinforces all of the links we’ve seen so far: Lightbringer, broken swords and broken men.

Speaking of broken men, after the loss of his hand, a feverish Jaime engages in one of the more impressive sequences of symbolic motifs that can be crammed into one paragraph, all of which appear to relate to the broken man motif:

Jaime lay on his back afterward, staring at the night sky, trying not to feel the pain that snaked up his right arm every time he moved it. The night was strangely beautiful. The moon was a graceful crescent, and it seemed as though he had never seen so many stars. The King’s Crown was at the zenith, and he could see the Stallion rearing, and there the Swan. The Moonmaid, shy as ever, was half-hidden behind a pine tree. How can such a night be beautiful? he asked himself. Why would the stars want to look down on such as me?

“Jaime,” Brienne whispered, so faintly he thought he was dreaming it. “Jaime, what are you doing?”

Dying,” he whispered back. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

A detailed analysis of Jaime IV, A Storm of Swords, has been done elsewhere too, but given the importance of this chapter to the broken man analysis, I thought it was worth pointing out a few of the symbolic connections. The first thing I wanted to note is that this passage would seem to link Jaime losing his hand to his death: this ties in very neatly to the idea of the broken man as a sacrifice. Moreover, this passage is related to greenseeing in a number of ways. One of these is the whispering of Jaime and Brienne, as whispering is frequently associated with the communication of the old gods and therefore greenseers:

“Watch them and keep them safe, if it please you, gods. Help them defeat the Lannisters and save Father and bring them home.”

A faint wind sighed through the godswood and the red leaves stirred and whispered. (AGOT, Bran VI)

Red leaves whispered in the wind. […] Under the hill, the broken boy sat upon a weirwood throne, listening to whispers in the dark as ravens walked up and down his arms. (ADWD, Bran III)

Down here there was no wind, no snow, no ice, no dead things reaching out to grab you, only dreams and rushlight and the kisses of the ravens. And the whisperer in darkness.

The last greenseer, the singers called him, but in Bran’s dreams he was still a three-eyed crow. (ADWD, Bran III)

“But,” said Bran, “he heard me.”

He heard a whisper on the wind, a rustling amongst the leaves.” (ADWD, Bran III)

In addition to the whispering, Jaime thinks that he is dreaming, which also suggests that there is a symbolic connection to greenseeing or mystical visions here – for example, Bloodraven is first introduced to readers as “dreaming in a tangled nest of roots” so dreaming appears to be a core component of greenseeing symbolism. Jaime later describes that he continues to be tied to the trees in the evening by his captors, which reinforces the idea of broken man Jaime symbolically becoming a greenseer – think here of Bloodraven literally being trapped by the tree as its roots grow through and around him. Even the stars are getting in on the weirwood action:

The Moonmaid, shy as ever, was half-hidden behind a pine tree. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

As has been described elsewhere in great detail, the “shy maid” is a motif that is strongly related to the weirwoods themselves and here we have a shy (moon) maid connected to the trees.

Another point I wanted to raise here is that Jaime losing his hand is linked to his staring at the stars, as we can see from the opening sentence of this passage:

Jaime lay on his back afterward, staring at the night sky, trying not to feel the pain that snaked up his right arm every time he moved it. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

Symbolically (and especially when analysed with all of the greenseer motifs in mind), this suggests the idea of physical pain and sacrifice to transcend this plane of existence and gain access to astral plane, frequently tied to mystical powers. This is highly reminiscent of Odin, who we mentioned a lot in the last essay and whose symbolism manifests a lot in the greenseers of the series. In fact, Jaime even notes that his eye wound is hurting a few paragraphs later, a link to Odin who sacrificed his eye, reinforcing the Jaime-as-broken-man-symbolic-greenseer thing. Staring at the stars actually creates a link to another of the broken men we have analysed today – Willas Tyrell: 

Willas has a bad leg but a good heart,” said Margaery. “He used to read to me when I was a little girl, and draw me pictures of the stars. (ASOS, Sansa I)

“Willas is heir to Highgarden, and by all reports a mild and courtly young man, fond of reading books and looking at the stars. He has a passion for breeding animals as well, and owns the finest hounds, hawks, and horses in the Seven Kingdoms.” (ASOS, Tyrion III)

This reinforces the common connections between the broken men motifs we have been touching on so far, and I think it would be remiss of me to not point out how integral star symbolism is to the story of the Long Night. Indeed, “he had never seen so many stars” is a key hallmark of Long Night symbolism.

Jaime Lannister by chillyravenart

As with the other broken men of the series we’ve touched on so far, Jaime also acquires some death and rebirth/resurrection symbolism as a result of his breaking:

At Harrenhal the tubs had been huge, and made of stone. The bathhouse had been thick with the steam rising off the water, and Jaime had come walking through that mist naked as his name day, looking half a corpse and half a god. He climbed into the tub with me, she remembered, blushing. (AFFC, Brienne II)

“Robert’s beard was black. Mine is gold.”

“Gold? Or silver?” Cersei plucked a hair from beneath his chin and held it up. It was grey. “All the color is draining out of you, brother. You’ve become a ghost of what you were, a pale crippled thing. And so bloodless, always in white.” She flicked the hair away. “I prefer you garbed in crimson and gold.” (AFFC, Jaime III)

At Harrenhal, we see Jaime submerged in water (I told you, Ravenous Reader’s greensee/SEA pun is everywhere!), a depiction of Jaime entering the weirwoodnet. In these scenes, he is described as half a corpse and a ghost, suggesting death and resurrection. Specifically, Cersei links Jaime becoming a ghost to his becoming crippled, again tying death and the breaking event (losing his hand) together – this is the exact wounding-as-sacrifice imagery we have been following throughout. The half-corpse, half-god imagery is also highly reminiscent of our old friend, Bloodraven:

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

Obviously, the “half-tree” bit is a reference to the greenseers as the old gods of the weirwood tree, so Bloodraven is also a half-corpse, half-god. Altogether, this suggests that losing his hand has caused Jaime to acquire some greenseer symbolism, which is exactly what we would expect from the broken man motif. Harrenhal itself is likely to be pretty heavy on the old greenseer activity, as it sits right by the God’s Eye and Isle of Faces, some of the most mystical places in the series. Add to that, the castle is made from ancient weirwoods:

Every child of the Trident knew the tales told of Harrenhal, the vast fortress that King Harren the Black had raised beside the waters of God’s Eye three hundred years past, when the Seven Kingdoms had been seven kingdoms, and the riverlands were ruled by the ironmen from the islands. […] Weirwoods that had stood three thousand years were cut down for beams and rafters. (ACOK, Catelyn I)

Add to that, Jaime seems to experience some kind of magical dream when he falls asleep on a weirwood stump a little way from Harrenhal, which makes him go back to save Brienne. Regardless of whether there are actual magical implications from the chopped down weirwoods, symbolically this region (and Harrenhal in particular) is a hub of greenseer activity. Given the broken man motif, it seems appropriate and important that this is the first major place that Jaime visits when he is turned into a broken man.

Another reason it seems important for Jaime to visit Harrenhal is that this is the place where Jaime joined the Kingsguard:

King Aerys made a great show of Jaime’s investiture. He said his vows before the king’s pavilion, kneeling on the green grass in white armor while half the realm looked on. When Ser Gerold Hightower raised him up and put the white cloak about his shoulders, a roar went up that Jaime still remembered, all these years later. But that very night Aerys had turned sour, declaring that he had no need of seven Kingsguard here at Harrenhal. Jaime was commanded to return to King’s Landing to guard the queen and little Prince Viserys, who’d remained behind. Even when the White Bull offered to take that duty himself, so Jaime might compete in Lord Whent’s tourney, Aerys had refused. “He’ll win no glory here,” the king had said. (ASOS, Jaime VI)

The Tourney of Harrenhal took place in the Year of the False Spring, which reminds us of the idea of the False Dawn, that we touched on a little in the last essay – namely that dawn is associated with the Others because they are the avatar of a dawn that never breaks, i.e. day never arrives. The False Spring is imagery that is quite similar in nature, as it is a spring that does not lead to summer, like the Others are associated with a dawn that does not lead into day. 

Moreover, after the False Spring, winter returned to Westeros with a vengeance (The World of Ice and Fire, The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring), really emphasising the False Spring or False Dawn symbol as a precursor to the Long Night. Symbolically, this means that winter (here symbolising the Long Night) returned with two events: (1) Rhaegar kidnapping Lyanna in an archetypal recreation of the Night’s King catching the Night’s Queen to make Others and (2) the creation of a new member of the Kingsguard, which symbolically represents the creation of the Others (others (ha!) have covered the links between the Kingsguard and the Others). 

Notably, however, the Mad King states that Jaime will win no glory. This is one of the many vows of the Night’s Watch – hello there, early Last Hero symbolism for Jaime. And what is one of Jaime’s first acts as a member of the Kingsguard? Well, that would be betraying his vows to kill the king (Aerys II) who is presiding over a bitter winter in order to install a king who presides over one of the longest summers since records began (Robert). Symbolically, then, Jaime is symbolically killing the Night King to end the Long Night – sounds a lot like the Last Hero. This symbolism is reinforced by this remembered quote from Barristan Selmy:

Selmy had never approved of Jaime’s presence in his precious Kingsguard. Before the rebellion, the old knight thought him too young and untried; afterward, he had been known to say that the Kingslayer should exchange that white cloak for a black one. (ADWD, Tyrion XI)

Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner on the Last Hero/Night’s Watch symbolism, I think! 

The healing of Jaime’s arm wound also strongly parallels the healing of Jon’s leg wound that we discussed at the end of the Fisher King section. Let’s compare them side-by-side:

I will not scream, Jon told himself when he saw the blade glowing red hot. But he broke that vow as well. Donal Noye held him down, while Clydas helped guide the maester’s hand. Jon did not move, except to pound his fist against the table, again and again and again. The pain was so huge he felt small and weak and helpless inside it, a child whimpering in the dark. Ygritte, he thought, when the stench of burning flesh was in his nose and his own shriek echoing in her ears. Ygritte, I had to. For half a heartbeat the agony started to ebb. But then the iron touched him once again, and he fainted. (ASOS, Jon VI)

Nothing helped when the time came to pare away the rotten flesh. Jaime did scream then, and pounded his table with his good fist, over and over and over again. He screamed again when Qyburn poured boiling wine over what remained of his stump. Despite all his vows and all his fears, he lost consciousness for a time. When he woke, the maester was sewing at his arm with needle and catgut. “I left a flap of skin to fold back over your wrist.”

“You have done this before,” muttered Jaime, weakly. He could taste blood in his mouth where he’d bitten his tongue. (ASOS Jaime IV)

As we can see highlighted in blue, both of these broken men wounds are accompanied with a scream, just as the broken sword was, and the healing leaves the men weak (as shown in orange). In addition, highlighted in green, both men pound their fist on the table three times, potentially invoking the three forgings to make Lightbringer. Each of these broken men scenes are also accompanied with broken vows (highlighted in pink), and yes, that is another tease for the future broken words series. Hopefully it shows just how integral promises and oaths are to this motif. Moreover, both Jon’s leg wound and the loss of Jaime’s hand seem to be symbolic depictions of the forging of Lightbringer, as we covered earlier. Heck, Jon even has a burning hand injury himself, after fighting the wight in A Game of Thrones:

Jon plunged his hand into the flames, grabbed a fistful of the burning drapes, and whipped them at the dead man. (AGOT, Jon VII)

At first it had felt as if his hand were still aflame, burning day and night. Only plunging it into basins of snow and shaved ice gave any relief at all. (AGOT, Jon VIII)

Given the quite strong “broken” imagery parallels between these two characters (and in the healing scenes in particular), this suggests that Jaime has some strong parallels with arch-Night’s Watch/Last Hero figure, Jon Snow, reinforcing these Night’s Watch/Last Hero connections for Jaime himself.

Ghost by Farynh

Another connection between these two characters is their symbolic castration – yup, I pulled the ol’ switcheroo, this essay has been a very elaborate dick joke. A very elaborate dick joke with some medieval euphemisms, which will take a new section to explain… 

Broken… ahem… swords

Anyone who has followed me on Twitter for a while knows that I’ve been looking at castration symbolism for a while, starting with the ridiculous eunuch horn/unicorn pun which actually turned out to be a thing, symbolically. Now, finally, I have a chance to weave this into a proper essay and I’m so excited! Before I get into this analysis proper, as I mentioned at the start of the essay, a lot of this symbolism conflates possession (or loss) of a penis with being a man (or not) and masculinity (or lack thereof), so this is just a warning in case you don’t want to deal with that right now. 🙂

The easiest way to introduce this idea is to return to the idea of the Fisher King. As I mentioned in passing, most tales of the Fisher King (or Maimed King, but I’ll say Fisher King just for convenience) indicate that the leg wound is actually a thigh wound, even delivered by a broken sword in some renditions. Importantly, thigh wounds in medieval literature were frequently a sanitised depiction of castration – a broken sword, if you will *eyebrow wiggle*. In addition to there being lots of real-world literary connections between penises and weaponry, we know that this sword-penis euphemism is being used in A Song of Ice and Fire from this quote:

“I am old now, a dried-up thing, too long a widow, but I still remember the look of my maiden’s blood on his cock the night he claimed me. I think Brandon liked the sight as well. A bloody sword is a beautiful thing, yes.” (ADWD, The Turncloak)

And there’s a bunch of other symbolic connections between swords and penises too, so I think we’re pretty safe on this trail of broken swords and castrated men. The tale of the Fisher King reinforces this castration imagery in a couple of other ways too. The Fisher King notably can’t hunt and hunting was an important medieval depiction of male virility, so this implies the Fisher King as infertile. In addition, the lands of the Fisher King are frequently depicted as blighted, utilising the idea of the fertility of the king being linked to the fertility of the land. Translated into A Song of Ice and Fire, King Robert is like the anti-Fisher King – very fertile, loves his hunting, and reigns over a land of peace and bounty.

Given that the broken man motif appears to have a lot of symbolism in common with the Fisher King, it seems interesting to note how many of these broken men characters share some infertility or castration symbolism. When Ned thinks of Bran, the archetypal broken character, he in particular notes that Bran may never be able to have children:

But [Bran] will never run beside his wolf again, [Ned] thought with a sadness too deep for words, or lie with a woman, or hold his own son in his arms. (AGOT, Eddard V)

While impotence is not necessarily true of disability in the real world, symbolically this reflects that Bran’s ‘breaking’ event is akin to a Fisher King wound and thus is, at least in part, equated to castration. In addition, the only other greenseer we see in the series, Bloodraven, also has a thigh wound that is directly connected to the weirwood trees:

Roots coiled around his legs like wooden serpents. One burrowed through his breeches into the desiccated flesh of his thigh, to emerge again from his shoulder. (ADWD, Bran II)

This would seem to reinforce the connection between the symbolic castration/breaking event, depicted via thigh wounds, and the symbolic acquisition of greenseer powers, exactly as predicted in our broken analysis.

Bloodraven and Bran by Luciferys

The thigh wound euphemism itself is also used with one of the broken men we have discussed today:

Long hours later, the rain stopped. Jon found himself alone in a sea of tall black grass. There was a deep throbbing ache in his right thigh. When he looked down, he was surprised to see an arrow jutting out the back of it. When did that happen?  (ASOS, Jon V)

Oh, hai there, Jon Snow, Last Hero extraordinaire, look at you with your symbolic castration in the style of the Fisher King, how intriguing. And this is the wound that leads to some pretty flagrant Lightbringer symbolism (see what I did there 😛 ), which ties us back to the Lightbringer-as-broken-sword motif. In addition to suffering this thigh wound, Jon’s symbolic castration is reinforced elsewhere:

“What are you doing up here tonight?” he asked. “Besides freezing your manhood off…

“I have drawn night guard,” Jon said. “Again.” (AGOT, Tyrion III)

This quote is from some of Jon’s earliest times at the Wall and he is apparently “freezing his manhood off” – that sounds like a particularly unpleasant form of castration, to be quite honest. Importantly, he is doing this because he’s on night guard… Well, I guess it would be too obvious if he was on the night watch… because on the Night Watch, you freeze your… ok you get it. Anyway, the implication here is that castration, in particular, is tied to becoming part of the Night’s Watch. Indeed, later, castration is linked to the Night’s Watch vows:

Val patted the long bone knife on her hip. “Lord Crow is welcome to steal into my bed any night he dares. Once he’s been gelded, keeping those vows will come much easier for him.” (ADWD, Jon XI)

Again, Jon is implied as a castrated figure, but in tying this to the Night’s Watch vows, it implies the entirety of the Night’s Watch as (symbolically) castrated (and yes, that is more vows symbolism). The vows even state that a man of the Watch should “take no wife and father no children” so it seems that this is acting as a symbolic castration, in effect. In addition, we see that others in the Seven Kingdoms think that castrated men should be sent to the Wall:

“Twenty,” said Lord Randyll Tarly, “and most of them Gregor Clegane’s old lot. Your nephew Jaime gave them to Connington. To rid himself of them, I’d wager. They had not been in Maidenpool a day before one killed a man and another was accused of rape. I had to hang the one and geld the other. If it were up to me, I would send them all to the Night’s Watch, and Connington with them.” (ADWD, Epilogue)

This is a particularly neat quote because it links castrated men to hanged men. On the basis of our analysis of broken men so far, we know that that broken men are tightly linked to greenseeing and, as others have pointed out, greenseeing itself is tightly linked to hanged men by symbolically invoking the idea of Odin hanging on Yggdrasil to acquire magical powers. This is entirely in keeping with what we know of the broken man/broken sword motif so far – the Last Hero as some kind of greenseer.

The Sacrifice of Odin by Frolich (retrieved from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain)

Another character that has some deep-seated castration symbolism, along with the rest of their broken man symbolism, is Jaime Lannister:

Jaime pushed her away with the stump of his right hand. “No. Not here, I said.” He forced himself to stand.

For an instant he could see confusion in her bright green eyes, and fear as well. Then rage replaced it. Cersei gathered herself together, got to her feet, straightened her skirts. Was it your hand they hacked off in Harrenhal, or your manhood? (ASOS, Jaime IX)

None of this euphemistic “thigh wound” nonsense for Queen Cersei; instead, Cersei directly and explicitly connects the loss of Jaime’s hand to castration. This is a connection that Jaime himself makes when first coming to terms with the loss of his hand:

They had taken his hand, they had taken his sword hand, and without it he was nothing. The other was no good to him. Since the time he could walk, his left arm had been his shield arm, no more. It was his right hand that made him a knight; his right arm that made him a man. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

This is emphasised by the mockery of the Bloody Mummers earlier in the chapter:

These quotes heavily implies that Jaime is somehow less of a man with the loss of his hand, which ties into the other castration imagery here, and in both instances Jaime’s hand is explicitly linked to his ability to wield a sword, which implicates the broken sword motif too. In the grand literary tradition of equating sex and violence, when his right hand returns to him in a dream, Jaime describes it like this:

He held his right hand up and flexed his fingers to feel the strength in them. It felt as good as sex. As good as swordplay. Four fingers and a thumb. He had dreamed that he was maimed, but it wasn’t so. (ASOS, Jaime VI)

That Jaime’s hand is linked to his sexuality again reinforces that Jaime’s hand can be thought of as a symbolic penis and the loss of it is therefore a symbolic castration event. Altogether, this is highly evocative of the broken man motif that we have discovered so far, in particular the Fisher King castration wound as it applies to Jaime.

So, that covers the major characters we’ve mentioned so far in this essay and discusses how the castration symbolism applies to their symbolism. I think that means it’s time to bring in some new blood (in a not-creepy, not-sacrificial way): step forward Reek, nee Theon Greyjoy.

“Lord Ramsay treats his captives honorably so long as they keep faith with him.” He has only taken toes and fingers and that other thing, when he might have had my tongue, or peeled the skin off my legs from heel to thigh. (ADWD, Reek II)

“My lord,” he said, “my place is here, with you. I’m your Reek. I only want to serve you. All I ask … a skin of wine, that would be reward enough for me … red wine, the strongest that you have, all the wine a man can drink …”

Lord Ramsay laughed. You’re not a man, Reek. You’re just my creature.” (ADWD, Reek II)

“M’lord. If I might ask … why did you want me? I’m no use to anyone, I’m not even a man, I’m broken, and … the smell …” (ADWD, Reek III)

Taken together, this suggests that Theon is likely to have been castrated by Ramsay (“and that other thing”) – it fits Ramsay’s sadistic nature to take away one of Theon’s psychological crutches. Moreover, Theon links his being broken to his being “not even a man”, again symbolically equating the broken man motif with castration. Theon also notes that toes, fingers and “that other thing” (likely his penis) have been taken, which lines up with the hand, leg and castration imagery we have discovered in this essay. Theon even has a broken smile:

“Him? Can it be? Stark’s ward. Smiling, always smiling.”

“He smiles less often now,” Lord Ramsay confessed. “I may have broken some of his pretty white teeth.”

“You would have done better to slit his throat,” said the lord in mail. (ADWD, Reek I)

As with the other broken men/broken sword imagery we have seen, Theon’s breaking at the hands of Ramsay is linked here to a sacrifice, by connecting the broken smile to the slitting of the throat. Importantly this sacrificial imagery is also linked to Theon’s rebirth:

“I am ironborn,” Reek answered, lying. The boy he’d been before had been ironborn, true enough, but Reek had come into this world in the dungeons of the Dreadfort. (ADWD, Reek II)

“Theon,” a voice seemed to whisper.

His head snapped up. “Who said that?” All he could see were the trees and the fog that covered them. The voice had been as faint as rustling leaves, as cold as hate. A god’s voice, or a ghost’s. How many died the day that he took Winterfell? How many more the day he lost it? The day that Theon Greyjoy died, to be reborn as Reek. (ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell)

As with the other breaking events of the series, this symbolism suggests the death and rebirth of Theon Greyjoy, much like Jon and Beric Dondarrion’s (more literal) death and resurrection. It is also very reminiscent of Bran’s breaking event transforming him into a greenseer. Indeed, the Prince of Winterfell quote includes a ton of greenseer metaphors – a whisper on the wind, rustling leaves, the voice of a god (or greenseers, as they are otherwise known) – and these appear right around the time that Theon starts reclaiming his identity as Theon Greyjoy and rejecting the identity of Reek. This culminates in additional greenseer-y goodness:

The old gods, he thought. They know me. They know my name. I was Theon of House Greyjoy. I was a ward of Eddard Stark, a friend and brother to his children. “Please.” He fell to his knees. “A sword, that’s all I ask. Let me die as Theon, not as Reek.” Tears trickled down his cheeks, impossibly warm. “I was ironborn. A son … a son of Pyke, of the islands.”

A leaf drifted down from above, brushed his brow, and landed in the pool. It floated on the water, red, five-fingered, like a bloody hand. “… Bran,” the tree murmured.

They know. The gods know. They saw what I did. And for one strange moment it seemed as if it were Bran’s face carved into the pale trunk of the weirwood, staring down at him with eyes red and wise and sad. Bran’s ghost, he thought, but that was madness. (ADWD, A Ghost in Winterfell)

That Theon is communicating with the old gods in this scene (in particular, Bran as a greenseer) suggests that Theon has (symbolically) acquired the ability to speak to the gods, implying magical powers. This ties in really closely with his death and rebirth symbolism, which appears to be connected to the death and rebirth symbolism of greenseers more generally. Interestingly, Theon is asking for a sword here – I wonder if this is connected to the broken sword motif, given the broken sword-weirwood-Lightbringer connection?

Speaking of Lightbringer, Theon’s reclamation of his identity in this scene is linked to “impossibly warm” tears, which reminds me of Melisandre’s tears of flame while looking into the fire (ADWD, Melisandre). This suggests to me that a part of Theon’s broken man transformation is related to a fiery transformation, a transformation that has been covered by others at length. Importantly, however, Theon’s emergence as a broken man in the early chapters is also linked to the cold, but to investigate this, I think we need a section break.


From ice to fire (ish)

So far, I’ve only been focusing on the potential Last Hero connotations of the broken man motif. However, Theon-as-Reek is first depicted as cold:

But the footsteps stopped just when they were loudest, and the keys clattered right outside the door. The rat fell from his fingers. He wiped his bloody fingers on his breeches. “No,” he mumbled, “noooo.” His heels scrabbled at the straw as he tried to push himself into the corner, into the cold damp stone walls. (ADWD, Reek I)

Little Walder led the way with torch in hand. Reek followed meekly, with Big Walder just behind him. The dogs in the kennels barked as they went by. Wind swirled through the yard, cutting through the thin cloth of the filthy rags he wore and raising gooseprickles on his skin. The night air was cold and damp, but he saw no sign of snow though surely winter was close at hand. (ADWD, Reek I)

“A bath?” Reek felt a clenching in his guts. “I … I would sooner not, m’lord. Please. I have … wounds, I … and these clothes, Lord Ramsay gave them to me, he … he said that I was never to take them off, save at his command …”

“You are wearing rags,” Lord Bolton said, quite patiently. “Filthy things, torn and stained and stinking of blood and urine. And thin. You must be cold.” (ADWD, Reek III)

So, this would suggest that at least a part of this broken man symbolism is an initial cold start (or an initial cold transformation but that’s a discussion for another time). In Theon’s case, this is not a surprise given that Roose and Ramsay have some Night King/Other symbolism which seems to have spawned the Bolt-On theory. This suggests that they are, in a sense, enacting some kind of ice transformation with Theon, implying the symbolic creation of a wight or an Other here. 

Theon Greyjoy by maryallen138

Over the course of A Dance with Dragons, Theon’s reclaims his identity and this is associated with his becoming gradually warmer:

They gave him a horse and a banner, a soft woolen doublet and a warm fur cloak, and set him loose.  (ADWD, Reek II)

“You are wearing rags,” Lord Bolton said, quite patiently. “Filthy things, torn and stained and stinking of blood and urine. And thin. You must be cold. We’ll put you in lambswool, soft and warm. Perhaps a fur-lined cloak.(ADWD, Reek III)

The hall was blessedly warm and bright with torchlight, as crowded as he had ever seen it. Theon let the heat wash over him, then made his way toward the front of the hall. (ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell)

He had always thought of the crypts as cold, and so they seemed in summer, but now as they descended the air grew warmer. Not warm, never warm, but warmer than above. (ADWD, The Turncloak)

In the godswood the snow was still dissolving as it touched the earth. Steam rose off the hot pools, fragrant with the smell of moss and mud and decay. A warm fog hung in the air, turning the trees into sentinels, tall soldiers shrouded in cloaks of gloom. […] Tears trickled down his cheeks, impossibly warm. (ADWD, A Ghost in Winterfell)

These quotes appear to link Theon becoming more of a Last Hero type with heat, which intuitively makes sense given the Last Hero appears to fight against the icy Others. Eagle-eyed readers will notice I have omitted one earlier quote of Theon experiencing heat after his Reek transformation:

The chamber at the top of the steps was dark, smoky, and oppressively hot. (ADWD, Reek II)

This quote occurs as Theon-as-Reek-pretending-to-be-Theon-again to reclaim the castles of Moat Cailin. This quote occurs much earlier in the chapter order, before Theon has fully reclaimed his identity, potentially throwing off this transformation idea. However, I think it’s important to note that the heat is still paired with Theon’s identity as Theon Greyjoy – after all, in this scene, Theon-as-Reek is pretending to be Theon in order to get the remaining ironborn to surrender. The horrible nature of the heat could be a reference to Reek!Theon’s discomfort as Theon and his desperate clinging to his Reek identity in the early portions of Dance

Notably the reclamation of Theon’s identity is also paired with his return to Winterfell, which could be a reference to the parallel breaking/forging event. Theon is captured during the sack of Winterfell, meaning that his breaking event (his transformation to Reek) is also paired with the breaking of Winterfell.

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

These events both occur because of Ramsay Bolton. In an inverse parallel to this destruction, Theon begins to reclaim (or reforge) his identity when he returns to Winterfell – indeed, Theon’s first not-Reek titled chapter occurs within the walls of Winterfell. A significant portion of Theon reclaiming his identity is also due to the Boltons, with the Boltons increasingly asking Reek!Theon to pretend to be Theon!Theon and thus triggering Theon remembering his identity. At the same time, the Boltons are trying to restore Winterfell that they had previously destroyed (ADWD, The Prince of Winterfell). To me, this suggests a mirroring of Theon and Winterfell’s fates as broken people and broken places which I find really interesting (so I hope you’ll forgive the slight tangent there). Crucially, the icy Other-like Boltons are integral to both transformations, which seems to be represent one of the more confusing aspects of the broken sword symbolism we covered last time – namely that the Others appear to have been involved in the breaking of the sword which therefore implicates them in the reforging of the sword. This led to the apparently contradictory implication that the Others were somehow (at least symbolically) involved in the forging of Lightbringer (discussed as a potential broken sword) – here we appear to see some symbolism that reinforces this conclusion, with the Boltons both ‘breaking’ and ‘re-forging’ Theon and Winterfell. 

Winterfell by IrenHorrors

It is not just Theon who undergoes this ice-to-fire transformation (or at the very least, Other-ice-to-not-Other-ice transformation). Jon Snow, for instance, acquires his broken man castration symbolism when defecting from the wildlings back to the Night’s Watch. Symbolically, Jon is leaving an invading force from beyond the Wall (wildlings as symbolic Others) to return to the Watch (it’s in the vows, after all – I am the fire that burns against the cold). This sequence of events is linked to the symbolism we’ve covered already in this essay – Jon’s symbolic castration (that’s the arrow wound to the thigh in ASOS, Jon V) and the forging of Lightbringer (that’s the healing of the arrow wound in ASOS, Jon VI) – and therefore seems to strongly implicate an ice-to-fire transformation during this aspect of Jon’s Last Hero/broken man symbolism.

Similarly, utilising the wildlings as symbolic Others symbolism, it is interesting to note how the wildlings are described after they are defeated by Stannis:

The fighters had fared better. Three hundred men of fighting age, Justin Massey had claimed in council. Lord Harwood Fell had counted them. There will be spearwives too. Fifty, sixty, maybe as many as a hundred. Fell’s count had included men who had suffered wounds, Jon knew. He saw a score of those—men on crude crutches, men with empty sleeves and missing hands, men with one eye or half a face, a legless man carried between two friends. And every one grey-faced and gaunt. Broken men, he thought. The wights are not the only sort of living dead. (ADWD, Jon V)

So, after the battle at the Wall, the fighters are called broken men by Jon and have acquired some of the injuries that we’ve covered in this essay: namely arm and leg wounds. In addition, Jon calls these broken men a different type of living dead – to me this strongly implicates the death and resurrection of the Last Hero. Importantly, this is directly contrasted with the icy wights, symbolism that potentially indicates different alignments types of death and resurrection (for want of a better description). We may even meet just such a member of the Night’s Watch living dead: Coldhands. Notably, Coldhands stays away from fire like the wights (as noted by Bran in ADWD) but he rescues the living from the dead. “Not the only sort of living dead” also fits with George RR Martin’s description of Beric Dondarrion as a fire wight, which could be a revealing comparison given all the Last Hero symbolism of Beric Dondarrion. If you aren’t satisfied with that broken man symbolism, check out how Bowen Marsh described Tormund’s band of wildlings before they cross the Wall:

“Mance Rayder swore an oath as well,” Marsh went on. “He vowed to wear no crowns, take no wife, father no sons. Then he turned his cloak, did all those things, and led a fearsome host against the realm. It is the remnants of that host that waits beyond the Wall.”

Broken remnants.”

A broken sword can be reforged. A broken sword can kill.(ADWD, Jon XI)

Yep, we got us some broken swords again, folks. Again, this reinforces the connections between the broken man motif and the broken sword motif, both of which we have linked to the Last Hero archetype. Skipping quickly past yet more oathbreaking, Tormund is the leader of this particular band of broken men, and he also has some broken man symbolism – because why have just one symbol when you can layer up multiple variations of the same symbolic motif?

“Would that I could find her again. She was fine to lay with, that bear. Never was a woman gave me such a fight, nor such strong sons neither.”

“What could you do if you did find her?” Jon asked, smiling. “You said she bit your member off.

“Only half. And half me member is twice as long as any other man’s.” Tormund snorted. “Now as to you . . . is it true they cut your members off when they take you for the Wall?(ASOS, Jon II)

The leader of the broken sword with a broken sword, as it were, and this takes us back to the castration symbolism we saw earlier. It also reinforces the Night’s Watch as symbolically castrated on the whole, something we picked up on when analysing Jon’s castration symbolism. Moreover, as many in the fandom have noted, Tormund sounds a hell of a lot like Joramun… You know, Joramun, the King Beyond the Wall who worked with the Stark King to bring down the Night’s King. Heck, Tormund is even called Tormund Horn-Blower, symbolically linking him to Joramun’s famous Horn of Winter. Altogether, I would suggest that this symbolically depicts a formerly icy force (the wildlings-as-Others) defecting to the Night’s Watch, having been broken.

Our favourite broken boy, Bran Stark, is another such example of a breaking event being associated with an ice to fire transformation of sorts. As is noted when he begins his fateful climb, as yet unnamed Summer howls and leaves Bran feeling chilled:

The wolf did as he was told. Bran scratched him behind the ears, then turned away, jumped, grabbed a low branch, and pulled himself up. He was halfway up the tree, moving easily from limb to limb, when the wolf got to his feet and began to howl.

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. (AGOT, Bran II)

Bran is then thrown from the tower of the First Keep, which is his breaking event in the sense that this is the cause of his paralysis and the origin of his moniker “the Broken”. We see the cold theme continue in his coma dream of the next chapter:

It was cold here in the darkness. There was no sun, no stars, only the ground below coming up to smash him, and the grey mists, and the whispering voice. (AGOT, Bran III)

This is very near to the start of Bran’s coma dream as he is high in the air and falling swiftly. The coldness of this chapter is reinforced by the weird ice spikes of death and the reveal of the heart of winter:

North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.


There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. (AGOT, Bran III)

Altogether, this would seem to suggest some icy death transformation symbolism for Bran, especially given Varamyr’s description of true death as being “plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake”. However, in line with the ice/fire alignment of broken men, the surrounding cold and icy death symbolism is contrasted with Bran’s hot tears, suggesting a rejection of the ice and a move towards the more fiery symbolism: 

Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.

Death reached for him, screaming.

Bran spread his arms and flew. (AGOT, Bran III)

Here, we see Bran choose life which I think could be representative of (at least in this scene) the fire side of the ice and fire dichotomy. Similarly, upon waking, the coldness of the air in Winterfell is specifically contrasted to the warmth of Summer:

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. (AGOT, Bran III)

This again suggests that while there is something icy to Bran and/or his environment, he chooses his skinchanging/greenseeing abilities and this choice coincides with warmth.

There are also a couple of Kingsguard who make the jump from Kingsguard-as-Others symbol to Last Hero, and this is connected to them acquiring some broken man symbolism. In the first instance, as we have covered in detail in this essay, we see Jaime Lannister as a Kingsguard lose his hand and then acquire all of this archetypal symbolism: the Lightbringer forging metaphors, the castration symbolism, the symbolic connections with the weirwoods, etc. During his time as Kingsguard to Robert Baratheon, he fathers abominations on an ice queen, which sounds a lot like some kind of Night’s King/Night’s Queen symbolism:

Two seats away, the king had been drinking heavily all night. His broad face was flushed behind his great black beard. He made many a toast, laughed loudly at every jest, and attacked each dish like a starving man, but beside him the queen seemed as cold as an ice sculpture. (AGOT, Jon I)

The queen’s face was a mask, so bloodless that it might have been sculpted from snow. (AGOT, Sansa II)

“I declare upon the honor of my House that my beloved brother Robert, our late king, left no trueborn issue of his body, the boy Joffrey, the boy Tommen, and the girl Myrcella being abominations born of incest between Cersei Lannister and her brother Jaime the Kingslayer.(ACOK, Prologue)

“Her own father got this child on her?” Stannis sounded shocked. “We are well rid of her, then. I will not suffer such abominations here. This is not King’s Landing. (ADWD, Jon I)

There is some important symbolism here and I haven’t just included this Stannis quote because I think he’s hilarious. Notably the “abominations” of Jaime and Cersei’s incest are equated with the “abominations” of Craster’s incest via Stannis’ quote – see, told you it was important. Moreover, we know that Craster’s sons are given to the woods to become Others (this is made clear in ASOS, Sam I), so this symbolically implies Jaime and Cersei creating Others. 

Jaime Returning from Crakehall by naomimakesart

On a closer level, there could be a temperature contrast directly linked to Jaime’s breaking event i.e. the loss of his hand. In Jaime III, ASOS, there are multiple mentions of Jaime being chilled or cold, the first of which occurs in his fight with Brienne:

She is stronger than I am.

The realization chilled him. (ASOS, Jaime III)

During this fight, there is a lot of Azor Ahai/Nissa Nissa symbolism, including but not limited to the sex and swordplay motif (“His point scraped past her parry and bit into her upper thigh. A red flower blossomed…”; “She looks as if they caught us fucking instead of fighting.”), tree sacrifice (“He pinned her against an oak, cursed as she slipped away”) and the brook (i.e. the river of time, greensee/greenSEA pun). A fuller analysis of this fight scene is available elsewhere, but notably this scene includes a lot of references to death here too, which implies a kind of cold transformation, as demonstrated in this quote:

True death came suddenly; he felt a shock of cold, as if he had been plunged into the icy waters of a frozen lake. (ADWD, Prologue)

The fight ends with the arrival of the Bloody Mummers, in which Jaime again gets a few cold/chill descriptions:

Urswyck spread his hands. “What Timeon means to say is that the Brave Companions are no longer in the hire of House Lannister. We now serve Lord Bolton, and the King in the North.”

Jaime gave him a cold, contemptuous smile. “And men say I have shit for honor?”(ASOS Jaime III)

“Are you such a fool as to think the goat can outfight the lion?”

Urswyck leaned over and slapped him lazily across the face. The sheer casual insolence of it was worse than the blow itself. He does not fear me, Jaime realized, with a chill. (ASOS, Jaime III)

The goat wants me to piss my breeches and beg his mercy, but he’ll never have that pleasure. He was a Lannister of Casterly Rock, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard; no sellsword would make him scream.

Sunlight ran silver along the edge of the arakh as it came shivering down, almost too fast to see. And Jaime screamed. (ASOS Jaime III)

Altogether, this would appear to reinforce the idea of a symbolically cold Jaime before his breaking event. In contrast to this, and as touched upon in the previous section, Jaime after losing his hand is described as hot in a variety of ways:

His hand burned.

Still, still, long after they had snuffed out the torch they’d used to sear his bloody stump, days after, he could still feel the fire lancing up his arm, and his fingers twisting in the flames, the fingers he no longer had. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

Sometimes he even wept, until he heard the Mummers laughing. Then he made his eyes go dry and his heart go dead, and prayed for his fever to burn away his tears. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

His missing hand throbbed and burned and stank. (ASOS, Jaime IV)

Interestingly, the Bloody Mummers also appear to be playing the role of symbolic Others in this scene: the Bloody Mummers are currently working for the Boltons and thus are working for symbolic Others; Urswyck is known as the “Faithful”, evoking the idea of the Faith (who are symbolically icy); Urswyck slaps Jaime “lazily”, evoking the idea of the Other lazily parrying Ser Waymar Royce’s sword in the A Game of Thrones Prologue; and, the arakh that is used to cut off Jaime’s hand makes the sunlight silver, and “shivers” down, suggesting the cold weapons of the Others. This would appear to reinforce that odd piece of symbolism we saw in the broken sword essay and in this essay, that the Others appear to be involved in the creation of the broken sword/broken man or the Lightbringer/Last Hero archetypes.

In addition to this seeming ice-to-fire transformation, Jaime has also, in his past, killed a king who presided over a terrible winter in order to protect innocents, an act that should have earned him a black cloak according to Barristan Selmy. As discussed earlier, Jaime does therefore have some Last Hero symbolism, albeit from the Robert’s Rebellion era, as opposed to the current timeline. Whether Jaime recreates this Last Hero symbolism after acquiring his broken man symbolism remains to be seen, but given the broken man symbolism we’ve seen above, I strongly expect him to do so. In addition, there’s a little Season 8 info (below) which may support this idea.

Another example of a Kingsguard-Other turned Last Hero-broken man archetype is Ser Lucamore Strong, nicknamed “the Lusty” for fathering sixteen bastard children on 3 wives:

The amiable and well-loved Ser Lucamore Strong of the Kingsguard, a favorite of the smallfolk, was found to have been secretly wed, despite the vows he had sworn as a White Sword. Worse, he had taken not one but three wives, keeping each woman ignorant of the other two and fathering no fewer than sixteen children on the three of them.


Speaking for his Sworn Brothers, Ser Gyles Morrigen declared that Strong had dishonored all they stood for, and requested that he be put to death.

When dragged before the Iron Throne, Ser Lucamore fell to his knees, confessed his guilt, and begged the king for mercy. Jaehaerys might well have granted him some, but the errant knight made the fatal error of appending “for the sake of my wives and children” to his plea.


As the false knight’s wives and children wept or cursed or stood in silence, Jaehaerys commanded that Ser Lucamore be gelded forthwith, then clapped in irons and sent off to the Wall. “The Night’s Watch will require vows from you as well,” His Grace warned. “See that you keep them, or the next thing you lose will be your head.” (F&B, The Long Reign—Jaehaerys and Alysanne: Policy, Progeny and Pain)

I’ve tried to condense the scene down a bit – I didn’t think you’d want to read an entire two pages from Fire and Blood – but wanted to flag a few things here. First, let’s establish Lucamore as an Other. Ser Lucamore is a member of the Kingsguard, so he wears the icy armour and has all of the white sword symbolism that is associated with the Others. In addition to this, much as with Jaime, we see that Ser Lucamore has fathered illegitimate children with his wives. The children don’t have quite the same extravagant abomination symbolism as the twincest kids do, but there is an implication that these are unnatural children in a sense, via the illegality of their parents’ marriage. Some of Lucamore’s kids are even called “other children” at one point in the tale – I don’t want to make too much of a fuss over this, because “other” is quite an ubiquitous word, but it would make sense for these kids to be symbolic Others and other being used as an allusion to Others appears to be utilised elsewhere, so I thought it was worth a mention. Importantly, the wives and kids are weeping, cursing or silent – frequently these are symbols of a Night’s Queen figure (and H/T to Bronsterys for that catch). In any case, this suggests an icy Kingsguard-as-Other potentially creating more Others in unnatural unions. 

Upon the discovery of this symbolic Other creation his multiple marriages, Ser Lucamore experiences his breaking event. Namely he is punished by being gelded and sent to the Watch. There is also a suggestion that this breaking event is a symbolic death: the Lord Commander of the Kingsguard had recommended that Ser Lucamore be executed; Ser Lucamore makes a “fatal” error when begging the King for mercy; and the King notes that he will live his life at the Watch under the threat of execution. This would seem to invoke the death and resurrection aspect of the broken man/Last Hero archetype. There’s even the potential allusion to the role of the symbolic Others in the creation of the broken man archetype, with Ser Ryam Redwyne and Ser Gyles Morrigen of the Kingsguard being the ones to reveal Ser Lucamore’s crimes and, in the case of Ser Gyles, to call for his death. So, yet again, all of the broken man symbolism seems to revolve around this breaking event changing Ser Lucamore from a symbolic Other into a symbolic Last Hero. 

Coldhands by Luciferys

I also wanted to add a slight caveat to this analysis. I’ve been discussing ice-to-fire transformation throughout this section, but wanted to clarify that I don’t necessarily think that’s the case, mechanistically. I’m not pitching the Night’s King’s conversion to R’hllorism here. Instead, I’m discussing the “alignment” of the archetypes – what side is the Last Hero on? Ice or fire? I currently conceive of this as the distinction between the Others, who appear to represent burning ice, and the Night’s Watch, who are something like frozen fire.

This seems to match what we know of Coldhands, who we briefly mentioned earlier. Coldhands appears to be a very old member of the Night’s Watch, given that he wears faded black clothing and knows how to access the secret weirwood gate under the Nightfort. He is also physically a cold person, as Bran and Meera note during their travels north; he takes care to avoid the fire that would destroy the ice wights; and he cannot cross the Wall nor the entrance to Bloodraven’s cave, indicating he is likely to be undead. However, he also fights for the living, protecting Sam and Gilly as they escape south and leading Bran, Meera and Jojen to Bloodraven’s cave. Altogether, this would seem to suggest that, although he physically fits the icy description of the Others’ wights, he is fighting for humanity in his actions, potentially like the (likely) undead Last Hero.

Applying this to some of the broken men in the series, we see that Jaime remains a member of the Kingsguard (who usually act as symbolic Others) even after his breaking event. However, he loses some of his cynicism and tries to live up to the ideals of a true knight a little more after acquiring this broken man symbolism (YMMV on the success of this attempt, but the attempt is being made). Similarly, as Jon is killed by the Watch mutineers, his wound smokes indicating fire but “he did not feel the fourth knife, only the cold”. Again, we have this ice and fire pairing related to the Last Hero figure and, in particular, in association with a breaking event – the death (and likely future resurrection) of Jon Snow. 

So, having dealt with that caveat – that we’re talking alignment/priorities here, not (necessarily) some weird mechanism for magical transformation – I think there is a reasonable chance that this ice-to-fire pattern (or transformation or re-alignment) holds true for a lot of our broken man symbolism. Why is this relevant? Well, it would suggest that the Last Hero may have originally come from icy stock, potentially even the Others themselves. This is a hypothesis that has been put forward elsewhere, so hurray for converging symbolic analysis. This is in line with some proposals from the fandom suggesting that the Last Hero may have been the Night’s King – after all, the Last Hero is the last of a group of thirteen trekking through the wilderness, the Night’s King is the 13th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch… there’s potential there.

I also think this leads to some very fun wordplay tied directly to the symbolism we and others have covered in a lot of detail. Now, to set this up: 

  • The Others are associated with white, light and, most importantly, Dawn.
  • This seems counterintuitive but, as outlined in the previous essay, it makes sense when the Long Night is conceived as a dawn that does not break.
  • We’ve just (re-)learned that the Last Hero has ties to the Others.
  • This therefore means that the Last Hero is tied to Dawn.
  • As we have demonstrated this essay, the Last Hero is also a broken man
  • meaning the Last Hero is the Dawn that broke.

Cue celebratory air horn noises

The Last Hero – the founder of the Night’s Watch, the person who defeated the Others during the War for the Dawn, the hero who ended the Long Night – represents a broken dawn

And on that note, I think it’s time to close out this essay….


As always, we have covered a hell of a lot this essay so, time for a recap methinks – what have we learned this essay?

Firstly, we established that broken swords and broken men have a ton of overlapping symbolism, meaning there are close ties to the Last Hero archetype. We showed this, at least in part, by demonstrating that one of the key archetypal wielders of the broken sword – Beric Dondarrion – is himself a broken man. We also demonstrated that one of the key broken characters of the series – Bran the Broken – also shares all of the imagery we outlined as being associated with broken swords.

We then learned that leg, hand and castration wound imagery fit into the “broken man” constellation of symbolism, with many of the characters with these injuries having a ton of Lightbringer, greenseer and resurrection symbolism. Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow, Theon Greyjoy and Bran the Broken all have aspects (or all!) of this symbolism, suggesting that these are ubiquitous within the Last Hero archetype.

Most importantly, there seems to be some kind of realignment of priorities for the Last Hero archetype, changing them from being icy warriors of the Other-archetypes into icy warriors for life and humanity. Based on what we know of the Dawn symbolism of the Others, this led to the pun of epic proportions (if I do say so myself) that the Last Hero is the dawn who broke.

Next time, I think we’ll be building upon the idea of the Last Hero as the dawn who broke – namely, investigating the outlaws of the series and, as I teased last time, this means it’s nearly time for the broken man speech:

“Ser? My lady?” said Podrick. “Is a broken man an outlaw?”

“More or less,” Brienne answered.

Septon Meribald disagreed. “More less than more.” (AFFC, Brienne V)

See you soon!

Archmaester Aemma x

Season 8 spoilers


  • Subsection “Broken swords and broken men”: The first thing I wanted to note is that he becomes the king at the end of the series. This ties in with the idea of broken swords, at least in part, being related to monarchy, as we touched on right at the start of the broken swords essay – e.g., with the Iron Throne being made of broken swords. (Back to the essay)
  • Subsection “From ice to fire (ish)”: The show suggests that Jaime may be directly involved with the War for the Dawn, as he heads North in time for the Battle of Winterfell. YMMV on how important that tidbit is, but thought it was worth flagging given the Last Hero symbolism. (Back to the essay)

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.


– 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.

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?

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 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.

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.


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.

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.

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

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Ned_ice and Jon _Longclaw.png
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.

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.

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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

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.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swordfish says “Oh shit!” by opus moreschl

And what does this flaming yellow comet ship do?

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

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

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

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

A Golden Lightbringer: Dragons, Stags and Swords

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

Here be dragons

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunfyre, by Robert O’Leary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flaming gold swords

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

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

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

Widow’s Wail by feliciacano © Fantasy Flight Games. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brienne 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.

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


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.

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, attacked by the ghostly Mandon Moore. Artwork by artofc3


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roman Candle or Moon Explosion?


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”.


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

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

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

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

Resurrection by fire and by flame

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

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

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

Mother Merciless, by denkata5698

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

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

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

Westeros: Points of View

renly_baratheon_by_irrisor_immortalis RTF1
Renly Baratheon, by irrisor-immortalis

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

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

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

Meanwhile, on the other side of the battle:

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

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

The burning tree

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and flame

This is only one side of the burning tree story.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Down. Let it kiss you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yoren’s Finest, 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

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.


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.


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