Dany (Part II) – Saint George’s True Dragon

(Top illustration:A dragon herself, by Rossdraws)

In Dany Part I – The Slaying of Saint George’s Dragon, I started out with analysing Dany’s first five chapters of aGoT through the conventional lens to establish how much George alludes to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. On the surface, GRRM manages to reenact the legend across three chapters with the killing of the dragon. Except that dragon turned out not to be a dragon after all, just a cruel small-minded and abusive man claiming wrongly to be a dragon. Certainly the knight in the chapters is no true knight. Meanwhile, we could sense in that essay already that Dany did not truly match this “helpless princess” image of the legend. Most of the time, the re-enactment only “works” because some characters refer to her as princess, despite the fact she is neither behaving or dressed like a princess. And it becomes more and more a struggle to attain, when we simultaneously pick apart details and double layers of every other character, events or items used, but ignore the many layers of Dany and insist as seeing her only as a “princess in distress”. And yet the allusions and evolution of the story fits the Saint George legend, step by step. GRRM is too experienced a writer to do this merely for window dressing. The issue is that George deceived us: Dany is the true (last) dragon!

By itself that is a statement that makes readers (both fans as well as sceptics) fist pump. But I do not just mean this in the same way like a fan of a sport’s team would shout “Go dragons!”. When I say Dany is the true dragon, I mean that Dany is like a dragon soul trapped in a human body. This essay will show you that Dany’s arc does not start out with a princess, but a dragon egg dreaming to be born and grow up in the wilderness. That she hatches during her wedding amidst salt and smoke when gifted with dragonbone, whipping tail, flashing teeth and silver-smoke wings. From the Dothraki Sea until Qarth she is a hatchling, learning to use her tail, teeth and claws to defend herself. She is a draken from Astapor until Meereen who’s grown a belly,  with now larger teeth and claws and of course deadly firepower. That Dany is a full grown adult dragon-queen who can make Drogon bow to her and the two become one. I will show you that Dany being a dragon is the reason why she thrives and grows in the Dothraki Sea. Along the way, I will discuss the prophecies to argue that in High Valyrian there is no word for prince or princess, but that is the common tongue translation of the Valyrian word for dragon. And yes, I will discuss Dany’s dragon dreams, and point out the two crucial aspects on how Dany managed to hatch them.

Whether you are a fan or a critic of Dany, I hope you will love this essay for all what I will point out to be evidence of Dany as dragon throughout her arc, for making you look at certain scenes and attributes through a dragon lens. It is plain impossible to discuss every scene, but with the examples from this essay, you will discover many more scenes with the dragon jumping from the page yourself.

The Dreamtime (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Aprilis420_targaryen_dany_viserys_Dragon
Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen, by Aprilis420
A Captive Dragon

Imagine that you are a dragon in an egg, waiting for that moment until you can hatch. Perhaps you are an old reincarnated soul. Perhaps your dragon soul came into being when your mother laid you as an egg.

A princess, Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

It does not matter. All that matters is the moment you are born, where you are born, when you are born. And until then you dream, a captive in your shell.

When he was gone, Dany went to her window and looked out wistfully on the waters of the bay. The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. ( aGoT, Daenerys I)

The fires are lit. And the red priests sing.

Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires and the shouts of ragged children playing games beyond the walls of the estate.

What would you as a dragon dream of during your dreamtime? Would you dream this?

For a moment she wished she could be out there with them, barefoot and breathless and dressed in tatters, with no past and no future and no feast to attend at Khal Drogo’s manse. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

I quoted both paragraphs in the first essay as well to illustrate how much Dany feels like a captive. I deliberately glossed over certain details then, to now highlight them. I did not make you pause at the mention of the red priests lighting fires and singing. I did not dwell on the weird paradox of a princess wishing to play beyond walls, barefoot and in tatters. Nor did I then show you how much that wish or dream compared to the moment when Dany sets first foot in the grasses of the Dothraki Sea.

The air was rich with the scents of earth and grass, mixed with the smell of horseflesh and Dany’s sweat and the oil in her hair. Dothraki smells. They seemed to belong here. Dany breathed it all in, laughing. She had a sudden urge to feel the ground beneath her, to curl her toes in that thick black soil. Swinging down from her saddle, she let the silver graze while she pulled off her high boots. […] Dany did not need to look. She was barefoot, with oiled hair, wearing Dothraki riding leathers and a painted vest given her as a bride gift. She looked as though she belonged here. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

When Viserys confronts Dany in the Dothraki Sea, her wish of the first chapter has just come true. Why is that relevant? Well, what happens to dragons kept in captivity? What does a dragon require to grow large and keep growing?

“[…] A dragon never stops growing, Your Grace, so long as he has food and freedom.” […]
Freedom?” asked Dany, curious. “What do you mean?”
“In King’s Landing, your ancestors raised an immense domed castle for their dragons. The Dragonpit, it is called. It still stands atop the Hill of Rhaenys, though all in ruins now. That was where the royal dragons dwelt in days of yore, and a cavernous dwelling it was, with iron doors so wide that thirty knights could ride through them abreast. Yet even so, it was noted that none of the pit dragons ever reached the size of their ancestors. The maesters say it was because of the walls around them, and the great dome above their heads.”
“If walls could keep us small, peasants would all be tiny and kings as large as giants,” said Ser Jorah. “I’ve seen huge men born in hovels, and dwarfs who dwelt in castles.” (aSoS, Daenerys I)

They need freedom. Walls keep them small. Jorah’s side comment actually hints at the double meaning of what George is telling the reader: Jorah applies it physically to humans, but we ought to apply it metaphorically onto human dragons. So, in aGoT, Dany I, we do not have a captive princess, but a captive, chained, walled-in dragon wishing for the life of a wild dragon.

Together, the three quotes of what Dany wishes for, her dream coming true in the Dothraki Sea, and Selmy’s revelation about the dragonpit make clear why the Dothraki Sea, the Dothraki people and their way of life are such a match for Dany. The Dothraki Sea is as far beyond the walls as one can be. Not even Vaes Dothrak, the sole city of the Dothraki, has walls.

Vaes Dothrak was at once the largest city and the smallest that she had ever known. She thought it must be ten times as large as Pentos, a vastness without walls or limits, its broad windswept streets paved in grass and mud and carpeted with wildflowers. In the Free Cities of the west, towers and manses and hovels and bridges and shops and halls all crowded in on one another, but Vaes Dothrak sprawled languorously, baking in the warm sun, ancient, arrogant, and empty. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Nor is it any coincidence that Drogon makes his castle (lair) in the Dothraki Sea and takes Dany there to remind her what it is to be free, to remind her who she is.

Remember who you are, Daenerys,” the stars whispered in a woman’s voice. “The dragons know. Do you?” (aDwD, Daenerys X)

This mirrors Viserys’s words trying to tell her she forgot who she was, during their confrontation in the Dothraki Sea. Except during aDwD, Dany locked up two of her dragons, fed on fruit and lambs, wore tokars that limited her movement, and forgot what it was like to be a dragon.

But we are straying ahead. I will often have to, as I must use Dany’s eggs and dragons to illustrate the dragon nature of Dany that George hints at. So, let us return to the dreamtime (chapter 1).

Egg or Hatchling
dragon in egg_blye dragon demon
Dragon in Egg, by Blue Dragon Demon

Is Dany an as of yet unborn dragon in an egg, or a captive newborn hatchling?

Each evenfall as the khalasar set out, she would choose a dragon to ride upon her shoulder. Irri and Jhiqui carried the others in a cage of woven wood slung between their mounts, and rode close behind her, so Dany was never out of their sight. It was the only way to keep them quiescent. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

A shell is as much a prison as a cage or chain are. Of course a shell or cage are necessary to protect the defenceless unborn or toddler dragon inside. Whatever your interpretation does not matter in relation to what follows in later chapters, but I myself lean towards an as of unborn dragon soul inside an egg.

For example take the bathing scene.

They filled her bath with hot water brought up from the kitchen and scented it with fragrant oils. The girl pulled the rough cotton tunic over Dany’s head and helped her into the tub. The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

It compares to the information we are given about the eggs.

She touched one, the largest of the three, running her hand lightly over the shell. […] The stone felt strangely warm beneath her fingers … or was she still dreaming? […] As she let the door flap close behind her, Dany saw a finger of dusty red light reach out to touch her dragon’s eggs across the tent. For an instant a thousand droplets of scarlet flame swam before her eyes. She blinked, and they were gone. […] She put her palm against the black egg, fingers spread gently across the curve of the shell. The stone was warm. Almost hot. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Was it madness that seized her then, born of fear? Or some strange wisdom buried in her blood? Dany could not have said. She heard her own voice saying, “Ser Jorah, light the brazier.” […] Cradling the egg with both hands, she carried it to the fire and pushed it down amongst the burning coals. The black scales seemed to glow as they drank the heat. Flames licked against the stone with small red tongues. Dany placed the other two eggs beside the black one in the fire. As she stepped back from the brazier, the breath trembled in her throat. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

When heated by the sun or fire, the eggs like the heat and they give off heat. Just like Dany loves a scalding hot bath, while resenting being sold.

Viserys selling off Dany also compares to selling dragon eggs, a far more easier feat than selling a hatchling let alone a draken.

Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

For a moment Dany was so shocked she had no words. “My eggs … but they’re mine, Magister Illyrio gave them to me, a bride gift, why would Viserys want … they’re only stones …”
“The same could be said of rubies and diamonds and fire opals, Princess … and dragon’s eggs are rarer by far. Those traders he’s been drinking with would sell their own manhoods for even one of those stones, and with all three Viserys could buy as many sellswords as he might need.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

They crowded around Kraznys and the dragon, shouting advice. Though the Astapori yanked and tugged, Drogon would not budge off the litter. Smoke rose grey from his open jaws, and his long neck curled and straightened as he snapped at the slaver’s face. It is time to cross the Trident, Dany thought, as she wheeled and rode her silver back. Her bloodriders moved in close around her. “You are in difficulty,” she observed.
He will not come,” Kraznys said.
“There is a reason. A dragon is no slave.” (aSoS, Daenerys III)

Notice too how it is not a parallel between the selling, but what Viserys believes he bought by selling Dany and what he hopes to buy by selling Dany’s three dragon eggs – an army. Dany too bought an army, without selling, because her draken would not let himself be sold. And she knew he would not.

Finally, towards the end of the chapter, Dany is announced at Drogo’s manse as Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. I ask you: what else is a dragonstone but a dragon egg?

She lifted it delicately, expecting that it would be made of some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, or even blown glass, but it was much heavier than that, as if it were all of solid stone. The surface of the shell was covered with tiny scales, and as she turned the egg between her fingers, they shimmered like polished metal in the light of the setting sun. One egg was a deep green, with burnished bronze flecks that came and went depending on how Dany turned it. Another was pale cream streaked with gold. The last was black, as black as a midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls. “What are they?” she asked, her voice hushed and full of wonder.
Dragon’s eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai,” said Magister Illyrio. “The eons have turned them to stone, yet still they burn bright with beauty.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Birthing Song

Twice singing is featured in the first chapter. First there is the singing of the red priests as Dany dreams of being a free dragon playing in the wilderness.

The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires […] ( aGoT, Daenerys I)

And then there is the eunuch who SINGS Dany’s announcement at Drogo’s mansion.

Inside the manse, the air was heavy with the scent of spices, pinchfire and sweet lemon and cinnamon. They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls. Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. His honorable host, Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of the Free City of Pentos.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Firstly, notice that the singing is precluded by the black-red color scheme of House Targaryen and the color scheme of the dragon Drogon, which is eventually the dragon that Dany unifies with in a way by the end of aDwD. After all a sunset and a depiction of the Doom would look blood and fiery red. The scent of spices at the manse replaces the nightfires of the red priests, because in GRRM-lingo spices = fire. For example his short story A Song For Lya of 1974 has people and Shkeen voluntarily sacrifice themselves to a giant red fungus in a process where they first put a minor sized part of the fungus on their skull in a ceremony called joining. Over time the fungus grows and survives on their body, until eventually one such Joined individual goes to the caves where the humongous fungus resides and simply walks into the blob of jelly to be consumed there. Early in the story, the protagonist meets such a volunteer who hands him a spiced meatroll.

The meatroll was still in my hand, its crust burning my fingers. “Should I eat this?” I asked Lya.
She took a bite out of hers. “Why not? We had them last night in the restaurant, right? And I’m sure Valcarenghi would’ve warned us if the native food was poisonous.”
That made sense, so I lifted the roll to my mouth and took a bite as I walked. It was hot, and also hot, and it wasn’t a bit like the meatrolls we’d sampled the previous night. Those had been golden, flaky things, seasoned gently with orangespice from Baldur. The Shkeen version was crunchy, and the meat inside dripped grease and burned my mouth. (Dreamsongs Part 1, A Song For Lya; transcription and observations by the Fattest Leech)

While the eunuch announces Visery and Illyrio along with Dany, she is the sole one directly tied to the word dragon here (twice actually – see later) via being of Dragonstone, or coming from a dragon egg.

Take note that the announcer at the manse is a eunuch. Being emasculated, eunuchs are considered genderless. Dragons too are considered genderless, because nobody can ever be sure whether they are male or female, until one lays a clutch of those dragonstones. Meanwhile Septon Barth and maester Aemon believe that dragons can change their gender with need.

Maester Aemon: “Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame.” (aFfC, Samwell IV)

Much later in aGoT we learn of a thing called birthing song.

“Before,” Dany said to the ugly Lhazareen woman, “I heard you speak of birthing songs …”
“I know every secret of the bloody bed, Silver Lady, nor have I ever lost a babe,” Mirri Maz Duur replied. (aGoT, Daenerys VII)

And as MMD burns, she sings during the birthing event of the dragons from the three dragon stones.

Mirri Maz Duur began to sing in a shrill, ululating voice. The flames whirled and writhed, racing each other up the platform. The dusk shimmered as the air itself seemed to liquefy from the heat. Dany heard logs spit and crack. The fires swept over Mirri Maz Duur. Her song grew louder, shriller … then she gasped, again and again, and her song became a shuddering wail, thin and high and full of agony. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

As the Fattest Leech has pointed out in Waking the Last Dragon, on twitter and westeros.org posts, Mirri Maz Duur’s song should be interpreted as a birthing song. If Mirri’s singing symbolizes the birthing of the beasty-dragons at the end of aGoT, then the eunuch singing Daenerys’s entrance on the stage of Drogo’s manse, symbolizes the birth of dragon Daenerys.

So, Dany’s first chapter is structured with red priests lighting the fires and singing a birthing song to kick-off the hatching. She then gets a scalding hot bath to promote the hatching. And as the eunuch sings his announcement of Dany, she is about to hatch.

The Dragon that was Promised

No, this is not a section where I will show evidence of Dany being the Prince that was Promised or Azor Ahai come again. This section is about the word for prince and princess in High Valyrian, or rather that there is no word for prince and princess in High Valyrian. Instead I propose the High Valyrian title for a dragonrider is dragon.

There is no direct confirmation of this yet, but maester Aemon’s words to Samwell heavily suggest this.

“No one ever looked for a girl,” he said. “It was a prince that was promised, not a princess. […] What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years. […].” (aFfC, Samwell IV)

From these sentences, we can deduce several facts about the prophecy and its title.

  1. The prince that was promised was translated from another language.
  2. The original word in the other language means dragon, but was translated into prince.
  3. Even in the original language the word dragon was misleading, as that specific word is genderless, since dragons are considered genderless. And for thousand years the promised hero was presumed to be male.

The question now becomes which language was the other language. It is either the language of Asshai or High Valyrian. We know the word or name for the hero in the language of Asshai is Azor Ahai (come again). Does that mean dragon? Possible. Not known. We do not know the actual word for dragon in High Valyrian, except that the word for dragonfire is dracarys. But we can exclude there being a word for prince or princess in High Valyrian: Old Valyria had neither king nor emperor, and therefore no princes or princesses.

Valyria at the zenith of its power was neither a kingdom nor an empire… or at least it had neither a king nor an emperor. It was more akin to the old Roman Republic, I suppose. In theory, the franchise included all “free holders,” that is freeborn landowners. Of course in practice wealthy, highborn, and sorcerously powerful families came to dominate. (SSM – SF, Targaryens, Valyria, Sansa, Martells, and more; June 26 2001)

Or I must say it more nuanced. If Valyrian has a word for prince or princess, it would be a loan-word from another language, not an original Valyrian word.

“Wait a minute, SSR!” I hear you thinking. “Are you sure that AA = tPtwP?” Well, there is sufficient evidence in the books to determine that the prophecies contain the same elements and that one is a translation of the other.

We first learn of the prophecy of Azor Ahai come again via Melisandre in aCoK, Davos.

Melisandre: “In ancient books of Asshai it is written that there will come a day after a long summer when the stars bleed and the cold breath of darkness falls heavy on the world. In this dread hour a warrior shall draw from the fire a burning sword. And that sword shall be Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and he who clasps it shall be Azor Ahai come again, and the darkness shall flee before him.” (aCoK, Davos I)

Melisandre: “It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. (aSoS, Davos III)

According to the above the prophecy about Azor Ahai come again includes several signs:

  • a red star bleeding,
  • cold darkness coming
  • warrior
  • will draw from fire a burning sword, Lightbringer
  • born again amidst smoke and salt
  • to wake dragons out of stone

The vision of Rhaegar in the HotU mentions the prophecy of the prince that was promised to Elia Martell, believing his son Aegon to be this prince.

“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He looked up when he said it and his eyes met Dany’s, and it seemed as if he saw her standing there beyond the door. (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

Maester Aemon later reveals to Samwell that Rhaegar believed his son Aegon was tPtwP: a comet was seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived.

[…] but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. (aFfC, Samwell IV)

Note that Rhaegar referred to the wording of the bleeding star.

Maester Aemon believed Rhaegar was tPtwP, because he was born during the tragedy of Summerhall, amidst smoke (from the fire) and salt (from tears).

Rhaegar, I thought . . . the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, […] (aFfC, Samwell IV)

And Selmy tells Dany that when Rhaegar started out bookish, but one day came out as a young boy wanting to be trained into becoming a warrior, as he believed he was supposed to become one.

Barristan Selmy: “As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again. Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.‘” (aSoS, Daenerys I)

Evidently, Selmy does not know what it was that made Rhaegar believe this, but maester Aemon does.

And upon learning about Dany, maester Aemon ends up believing she is tPtwP, for she too was born amidst salt and smoke, and hatched dragons.

“Daenerys is the one, born amidst salt and smoke. The dragons prove it.” (aFfC, Samwell IV)

The mystery knight confirms that even as a boy, Aegon V (aka Egg) knew of the prophecy involving the return of dragons, because his uncle King Aerys I read it in the books or scrolls he read. Aerys is the likely rediscoverer of the prophecy in modern times.

Egg lowered his voice. “Someday the dragons will return. My brother Daeron’s dreamed of it, and King Aerys read it in a prophecy. Maybe it will be my egg that hatches. That would be splendid.” (The Mystery Knight)

All of Maekar I’s sons dreamed of it: Aerion Brightflame, Daeron, Aemon and Aegon V. And not once, or twice, but throughout their life. Maester Aemon describes his dream to Samwell.

“I see [dragons] in my dreams, Sam. I see a red star bleeding in the sky. I still remember red. I see their shadows on the snow, hear the crack of leathern wings, feel their hot breath. My brothers dreamed of dragons too, and the dreams killed them, every one.” (aFfC, Samwell III)

A word of caution on interpreting this dream – dragons in dragon dreams may represent a person with Targaryen blood as much as an actual beastly dragon. In the Mystery Knight, Daemon II Blackfyre dreams of a dragon hatching from an egg at Whitewalls, and it turns out to be Egg coming out to be Aegon Targaryen.

“A dragon will hatch? A living dragon? What, here?”
“I dreamed it. This pale white castle, you, a dragon bursting from an egg, I dreamed it all, just as I once dreamed of my brothers lying dead. They were twelve and I was only seven, so they laughed at me, and died. I am two-and-twenty now, and I trust my dreams.” Dunk was remembering another tourney, remembering how he had walked through the soft spring rains with another princeling. I dreamed of you and a dead dragon, Egg’s brother Daeron said to him. A great beast, huge, with wings so large, they could cover this meadow. It had fallen on top of you, but you were alive and the dragon was dead. And so he was, poor Baelor. Dreams were a treacherous ground on which to build. “As you say, m’lord,” he told the Fiddler. (The Mystery Knight)

Regardless, even those who dream and know the dragons they see are not necessarily beastly dragons, but kindred with dragon blood, still can come to believe it is about beastly dragons after all, if they have the dreams enough, certainly the generations after the last beastly dragon died and no egg hatched anymore. And if those dreams such as Aemon’s include red bleeding stars, we can see how the Targaryens since King Aerys I came to believe in the prophecies written down such as in the Jade Compendium. The last years of Aegon V’s reign were focused on uncovering ancient lore to hatch dragons. These would be the same years when Aegon V’s son Duncan’s wife Jenny of Oldstones brought a woods witch (possibly the Ghost of High Heart) who prophesied that tPtwP would be born of the line of Aerys and Rhaella Targaryen.

Barristan Selmy: “Your grandsire commanded it. A woods witch had told him that the prince was promised would be born of their [Aerys’s and Rhaella’s] line.” (aDwD, Daenerys IV)

Jaehaerys, son of Aegon V, wanted his son and daughter to be wed, even though they had no specific liking for one another. Aegon V was agaiinst incestuous marriages. He had promised his own children to sons and daughters of other lords of Westeros, and Jaehaerys only managed to wed his sister in secret. And yet, Aegon V allowed Jaeharys to arrange the marriage between Aerys and Rhaella.

Aegon V’s focus may not have been so much on promoting the birth of tPtwP as it was on hatching dragons. And yet, the return of dragons seemed tied to the coming of the promised hero.

Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. (aSoS, Davos III)

While the prophecy line does not explicitly state that the birth of the hero and the return of dragons will occur simultaneously, it is not abnormal that those who believe in the prophecy would expect it to be a simultaneous event. It could be read as the birth of the hero will trigger the return of dragons. And while some readers presume Rhaegar’s birth was triggered because of Rhaella’s distress during the unfolding of the tragedy, Aegon V’s actions point to the birth to be expected around this time.

In the fateful year 259 AC, the king summoned many of those closest to him to Summerhall, his favorite castle, there to celebrate the impending birth of his first great-grandchild, a boy later named Rhaegar, to his grandson Aerys and granddaughter Rhaella, the children of Prince Jaehaerys. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

Not only did Aegon V invite those closest to him to celebrate the coming birth of Rhaegar. He also had seven dragon eggs brought and gathered in the palace of Summerhall. At the time these Targaryens were presumed to be alive before the tragic took place: Aegon V, his children Duncan, Jaehaerys, Shaera, and his grandchildren Aerys and Rhaella, with Rhaegar about to be born. His youngest son Daeron had died in 251 AC. We do not know when his youngest daughter Rhaelle died, but she was wed to Ormund Baratheon and Aegon V would have been unlikely willing to gift a dragon to the wife of the son of the Lord Baratheon who had attempted to rebel against Aegon V. So, we have seven eggs and six Targaryens with one expected to be born, and believed at the time to be this prophesied hero. It seems very much that Aegon V attempted to use the expected moment of Rhaegar’s birth to hatch seven dragons in order to gift all of his family hatchling dragons.

Marc_Simonetti_The_fire_at_the_summer_palace
The Fire at the Summer Palace, by Marc Simonetti

Finally, maester Aemon links tPtwP to the war for the dawn.

But all of them seemed surprised to hear Maester Aemon murmur, “It is the war for the dawn you speak of, my lady. But where is the prince that was promised?”

So, according to Aemon, Rhaegar and Aegon V’s efforts at Summerhall the Prince that was Promised prophecy includes the following elements:

  • a bleeding star
  • the war for the dawn
  • warrior
  • born amidst smoke and salt
  • hatching dragons
  • the song of ice and fire
  • born of the line of Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen

This all compares to the Azor Ahai prophecy. The sole thing that is missing is the magical sword Lightbringer. And the last two elements of the list came from seers or poets who added to the tPtwP prophecy.

While yes, one could argue that the Targaryens may have glued tPtwP prophecy onto what they found about the Azor Ahai prophecy, we should not dismiss the fact that Aemon explicitly dreamed of a red bleeding star in his dragon dreams, as well as dragons in the snow. So, while we might be sceptic of Melisandre believing the prophecies about Azor Ahai and tPtwP are one and the same. Aemon’s agreement with this assumption lends credibility to it.

So, we have two primary sources for tPtwP so far – dragon dreams and the woods witch. Maester Aemon also confirms the use of secondary sources tied to the Asshai Azor Ahai prophecy with asking Samwell to fetch the Jade Compendium and leaving it for Jon.

[Sam] had to get down on his knees to gather up the books he’d dropped. I should not have brought so many, he told himself as he brushed the dirt off Colloquo Votar’s Jade Compendium, a thick volume of tales and legends from the east that Maester Aemon had commanded him to find. The book appeared undamaged. Maester Thomax’s Dragonkin,
[…]
“Lord Snow,” Maester Aemon called, “I left a book for you in my chambers. The Jade Compendium. It was written by the Volantene adventurer Colloquo Votar, who traveled to the east and visited all the lands of the Jade Sea. There is a passage you may find of interest. I’ve told Clydas to mark it for you.” (aFfC, Samwell I)

But since the prophecy is five thousand years old and maester Yandel claims the Rhllorists spread it westward from Asshai, it is unlikely that the prophecy passed by the ears of the Valyrians.

It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R’hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: the Long Night)

Ignoring readers’ timeline debates, we can conclude that this would mean the prophecy was written down between one to three millenia after the Long Night. In Essos, Old Ghis rose after the Long Night. As they enslaved the people they conquered and expanded their empire, the Valyrians at the peninsula began to tame dragons that roamed amidst the Fourteen Flames. Valyria and Old Ghis warred five times, after which the Valyrians conquered Old Ghis and enslaved them. Valyria began to expand its conquest and military influence westward, until eventually the Andals migrated across the Narrow Sea to escape Valyria’s hunger for slaves and land. The Andals landed in Westeros depending on sources and Long Night timing you use either 6000 AC, 4000 AC or 2000 AC. Commonly 4000 AC is accepted. This means that the prophecy about AA or tPtwP was written around the time Valyria defeated Old Ghis, and High Valyrian became the standard language in Essos.

Meanwhile the World Book informs us of opposing claims regarding the origin of dragons:

  • The Valyrians claimed the dragons sprang forth as the children of the Fourteen Flames. The issue with the Valyrian claim is that dragons existed outside of Valyria and this since before the rise of Valyria. Dragonbones have been found in Westeros, in Ib. There are legends predating Old Valyria about dragonslayers in Westeros, such as a Hightower and of course Serwyn. Wild dragons lived already on the island of Dragonstone prior to the Targaryens moved there, and they were the sole dragonriding family of Valyria settling in Westeros. Of course,  the Valyrian claim may have been made in good faith. It is possible that an isolated Valyria (in the beginning at least) would not know of Ib or Westeros or Asshai and therefore not of the existence of dragons there.
  • There is the Qartheen claim dragons were born from the second moon coming too close to the sun, leading to speculations of a cataclysmic event about meteors hitting Planetos and causing the Long Night (such as LmL’s), or even continental drift (Ser Jaemes).
  • Ancient Asshai texts claim that dragons came from the Shadow. That a lost civilisation or people learned to tame them in the Shadow and then brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians the arts. More, Asshai claims that even now there still are dragons in the Shadow. We do know at least, via Bran’s vision during his coma, before waking up, that dragons indeed still stir there.

In Asshai, the tales are many and confused, but certain texts—all impossibly ancient—claim that dragons first came from the Shadow, a place where all of our learning fails us. These Asshai’i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals. Yet if men in the Shadow had tamed dragons first, why did they not conquer as the Valyrians did? (tWoIaF – Ancient History: The Rise of Valyria)

[Bran] lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise. 

While a hypothesis such as Ser Jaemes’s that a cataclysm broke the proto-Essos continent and sent Asshai, Dorne and Oldtown to drift away from what became the Valyrian peninsula could explain the opposing claims of where dragons first appeared, it would not necessarily explain how Valyrians learned to tame the dragons, especially since there are thousand to three thousand years between Valyria rising and the Long Night. There certainly are structures on Planetos in Asshai, Yi Ti, Lorath and Oldtown that predate Old Valyria and even Asshai’s knowledge, suggesting that there was an earlier advanced civilisation. So, let us for a moment entertain the notion that the Asshai claim that a people taught the Valyrians is true.

Maester Yandel’s critical question to downplay the Asshai claim is based on the assumption that anyone who knows how to tame dragons (or any civilisation) will want to conquer other people. We can dismiss the truth of that assumption based on real world history. While many civilisations would and did conquer and colonise others once they have the military means for it, some have not. Ancient dynastic China for example did not colonize for centuries on end, despite the fact they had superior armies and technologies. And despite all the alleged necromancing happening at Asshai, and shadowbinders being the most sinister, for thousands of years shadowbinders never have shown any interest to conquer anyone. In a way, Asshai is the magical university, like Oldtown is the anti-magical university – more interested in learning, experimenting and teaching, than conquering the world.

The question here should not be, “If this is true, then why did they not conquer Valyria?”, but

  • “Why would they have wanted to gift dragons to Valyrians and teach the Valyrians how to tame the dragons?”,
  • as well as “Why the Valyrians and not the Ghiscari?”

There might be several answers, but a likely candidate is that prophecy drove these people of the Shadow to teach the Valyrians. If prophecy drove Aegon V to try to hatch seven eggs at the birth celebration of Rhaegar, it could certainly drive people and seers to teach Valyrians how to tame and hatch dragon eggs. We have plenty of people in the present of the novels who can accurately predict and see events to come –

  • Melisandre, Thoros and Benerro by looking into flames
  • Ghost of High Heart, the woods witch, Jojen and Bran in green dreams
  • Targaryens via dragon dreams
  • Moonsingers

If they can do this now, there is no reason to doubt this could not have been done five thousand years ago. What is exceptional is that they could see thousands of years ahead in time. But they may not necessarily have known that themselves: only that at some point in the future these events would coalesce. And just like the woods witch could see from which specific Targaryens tPtwP would be born, there could have been seers who may have seen which type of people, the promised hero would be born from, namely Valyrians.

  • If they were ancient shadowbinders, they may have seen the Valyrian looking Aerys and Rhaella in their visions and how they were dragonless, or may have seen that the promised hero would have Valyrian blood, and so they went in search of a people having those looks and stumbling upon them in the Valyrian peninsula. Note: I do not claim the seer saw AA as having Valyrian features, simply that one day AA would be born again from a people looking like Valyrians. This would explain why they picked the Valyrians and not for example Ghiscari.
  • If they were an ancient lost people who knew how to tame dragons, they themselves might have had dragon dreams and even have been proto-Valyrians in appearance, who settled at the peninsula because the Fourteen Flames would guarantee a good environment to hatch eggs. Genetic drift in an isolated peninsula did the rest. The move would be then similar to Daenys the Dreamer Targaryen having foreseen the Doom and, upon her urging, the Targaryens moving to the island of Dragonstone where they ended up spreading their dragonriding genes with the Velaryons and amongst bastards. The lost people became Valyrians in a sense, as so many migrated historical people, explaining how they ended up being “lost”. The volcanoes would explain the choice of the location to resettle over say Old Ghis.

Noteworthy is that both origin claims regarding Asshai – dragons and the prophecy of Azor Ahai –  somehow seem to go hand in hand. Even within the prophecy itself, dragons and the legend come together. This is true even with Aegon V’s efforts. He had people journey to Asshai to look for texts and knowledge on how to breed dragons.

The last years of Aegon’s reign were consumed by a search for ancient lore about the dragon breeding of Valyria, and it was said that Aegon commissioned journeys to places as far away as Asshai-by-the-Shadow with the hopes of finding texts and knowledge that had not been preserved in Westeros. (tWoIaF – The Targaryen Kings: Aegon V)

Aegon V at least seems to have put credence in the claim of Asshai.

The next question would be, “Did the Valyrians know of the prophecy, and specifically that it would be someone of Valyrian blood?” In order to try to answer this question, we must investigate whether the Valyrian society, their focus, social structure fits that of a people believing in the prophecy. Characters or people who know and believe a prophecy can respond in three ways:

  • they promote events to happen, such as:
    • Aegon V’s Summerhall actions
    • Rhaegar training for warrior
    • Daemon II Blackfyre coming to the Whitehall tourney in the Mystery Knight
    • Aerion Brightflame drinking wildfire
    • Melisandre’s Lightbringer theater, trying to make the dragon statues of Dragonstone become real
  • they aim to prevent a prophecy from occuring, such as:
    • Cersei Lannister trying to prevent the Valonqar prophecy from happening, but actually thereby likely ensuring it by making so many enemies;
    • and Melisandre trying to prevent Stannis from losing the battle for King’s Landing by getting Renly killed with shadow magic, except Garlan wears Renly’s armor in alliance with Tywin and routing Stannis’s forces because of it.
  • they accept it as inevitable and take actions to profit or survive:
    • Daenys the Dreamer and her family move to Dragonstone
    • The Brotherhood Without Banners

The World Book informs us that according to Septon Barth, the Valyrians had a prophecy that the gold of Casterly Rock would destroy them.

The wealth of the westerlands was matched, in ancient times, with the hunger of the Freehold of Valyria for precious metals, yet there seems no evidence that the dragonlords ever made contact with the lords of the Rock, Casterly or Lannister. Septon Barth speculated on the matter, referring to a Valyrian text that has since been lost, suggesting that the Freehold’s sorcerers foretold that the gold of Casterly Rock would destroy them. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands)

The cursed gold of Casterly Rock

The Casterlys nor the Lannisters destroyed Old Valyria, but the Lannister gold did play a part in destroying the Targaryen dynasty. Jaime killed Aerys II while wearing his golden (well gilded) armor with his gilded sword, sat on the Iron Throne, with a helmet in the shape of a lion’s head.

“I cannot answer for the gods, Your Grace … only for what I found when I rode into the throne room that day,” Ned said. “Aerys was dead on the floor, drowned in his own blood. His dragon skulls stared down from the walls. Lannister’s men were everywhere. Jaime wore the white cloak of the Kingsguard over his golden armor. I can see him still. Even his sword was gilded. He was seated on the Iron Throne, high above his knights, wearing a helm fashioned in the shape of a lion’s head. How he glittered!” (aGoT, Eddard II)

Jaime Lannister having killed Aerys 2
Ser Jaime Lannister slays King Aerys II Targaryen – by artist Michael Komarck

It is a very evocative image that Ned Stark describes here, with enough identifications there for sorcerers of Old Valyria to warn against dealing with the rulers of Casterly Rock if they saw this event as a prophesying vision. How else could Valyrians have attempted to prevent such a vision to come true? They could for example avoid having a singular Valyrian amongst them being king or emperors, despite their strong oppressive empirical tendencies. George compares Old Valyria to the Roman Republic. But Rome first was a kingdom, then a republic for less than five centuries, and eventually an empire with an emperor. Given the various dictatorial tendencies surfacing amongst almost each generation of Targaryens since Aegon conquered Westeros, even if it meant in-fighting with kindred who also rode dragons, it is hard to believe that no dragonrider amongst them never had dictatorial hopes, nor the personality to proclaim himself king or emperor in the four thousand years that followed after the Rise of Valyria. George is prone to the realism of such figures existing, trying and often succeeding in grabbing power. But a prophecy involving a Valyrian looking king would be murdered by Casterly Rock gold and the lords of Casterly Rock would seize (seemingly) the throne might have helped in this, especially when the surroundings and that king himself shows a decline of Valyrian culture – nineteen dragon skulls but no living one, an unkept madman, swords melded into a throne, inferior architecture.

jaime lannister on the throne 2
The kingslayer, by Martina Cecilia

So, that is an example on how we can relate a curious aspect of Old Valyria to prophecy related behavior – in the above case, to avoid a prophecy of coming true in particular.

It follows that if a society behaves to prevent a certain foresight vision of coming about, they would also behave to help a prophecy along, like Melisandre attempts both. They are most famous as a scourge across Essos, conquering the whole continent and enslaving many various people. But what prompted them to do this? They did not make slaves to sell them and grow rich on coin with it. They used them to mine the Fourteen Flames.

The Valyrians learned one deplorable thing from the Ghiscari: slavery. The Ghiscari whom they conquered were the first to be thus enslaved, but not the last. The burning mountains of the Fourteen Flames were rich with ore, and the Valyrians hungered for it: copper and tin for the bronze of their weapons and monuments; later iron for the steel of their legendary blades; and always gold and silver to pay for it all. […] None can say how many perished, toiling in the Valyrian mines, but the number was so large as to surely defy comprehension. As Valyria grew, its need for ore increased, which led to ever more conquests to keep the mines stocked with slaves. The Valyrians expanded in all directions, stretching out east beyond the Ghiscari cities and west to the very shores of Essos, where even the Ghiscari had not made inroads. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: Valyria’s Children)

With the destruction of the Rhoynar, Valyria soon achieved complete domination of the western half of Essos, from the narrow sea to Slaver’s Bay, and from the Summer Sea to the Shivering Sea. Slaves poured into the Freehold and were quickly dispatched beneath the Fourteen Flames to mine the precious gold and silver the freeholders loved so well. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: The Doom of Valyria)

Mining for ore so extensively to maintain rule over an empire thatt large makes sense at first glance, well for an empire without dragons. But Valyria had several families with enough dragons for any of their major kindred. While they may have needed defense or standing armies to make sure the Freeholds remained suppressed, dragons and their riders could surely conquer cities swifter than armies could. Their mining seems weirdly excessive, while they had WMDs.

Initially they forged bronze swords, but eventually managed to forge steel and what is more magical Valyrian Steel.

The properties of Valyrian steel are well-known, and are the result of both folding iron many times to balance and remove impurities, and the use of spellsor at least arts we do not know—to give unnatural strength to the resulting steel. Those arts are now lost, though the smiths of Qohor claim to still know magics for reworking Valyriansteel without losing its strength or unsurpassed ability to hold an edge. The Valyrian steel blades that remain in the world might number in the thousands, but in the Seven Kingdoms there are only 227 such weapons according to Archmaester Thurgood’s Inventories, some of which have since been lost or have disappeared from the annals of history. (tWoIaF – Ancient History: Valyria’s Children)

Even now, after the Doom, their magically crafted Valyrian Steel, remains a sought after legacy. While I do suspect the “magic” is actually using Valyrian dragonrider bone coal to carbonize the steel enough with extra iron (from the dragonrider’s bones), and why Valyrian practice the burning of their dead, it cannot be denied that the Valyrians had highly specialised armorers experimenting with techniques and apparently spells.

To me the combo of excessive mining and forging “magical” swords sounds like a society striving to forge a new Lightbringer sword themselves. 

And finally there are the Rh’llorists. Their religion is that of a dualistic fire god, Rh’llor or Lord of Light versus the Great Other, or Soul of Ice. This is not a Valyrian religion in origin, since the Valyrians had a pantheon of gods they named their dragons after, such as Balerion, Meraxes, Vhagar and Syrax. Or rather, perhaps their dragons were their gods. Beyond that they tolerated other religions and promoted this tolerance and did not seem to care what religion the commoners or slaves followed. They even allowed certain religions to set up a Freehold away from the peninsula to practice their religion away from others, such as Norvos and Lorath. However, a people riding dragons and having their capital amidst fourteen volcanoes would logically attract Rh’llorists. Believing in the prophecy of Azor Ahai they would have expected such a hero to be born there. They may have temples in every city of Essos, but the largest one after the Doom is at Volantis, the last city where Volantene nobility claims the most noble blood surviving from Old Valyria. Nor would they have been silent about their beliefs. One of their features is their habbit to clamor about Azor Ahai whenever they can. They might be the source on how Valyrians would have learned of the prophecy, if not their own dragon dreams, sorcerers or teachers did.

So, while none of these are confirming evidence, we do see a society that seems to act and make choices in support of the prophecy, or in an effort to bring it about. They would have had multiple sources for the prophecy – their own dragon dreams, the potential teachers from Asshai and the Red Priests. And the main written material on the prophecy would have been written in High Valyrian, which was the main language from Pentos to Asshai.

Since they had no kings, they also would not have had princes nor princesses. Any such title would have been a loan word from a people in Essos they destroyed and enslaved, and not something they would have applied to themselves if they believed the prophesied hero would be born amongst them. Prince is a word that the Targaryens adopted from the Common Tongue of Westeros after Aegon I conquered Westeros and proclaimed himself King of all Westeros. So, what would old Valyrians have called themselves in High Valyrian to distinguish themselves from the Valyrian smallfolk and non-dragonriding nobility? What do Targaryens call themselves? Dragons! In High Valyrian the prophecy of tPtwP would be the Dragon that was Promised.

Some readers erronously claim that none of the High Valyrian words have no gender. This leads to plenty of speculations on the High Valyrian word Valonqar being a female character, a little sister, instead of little brother. But there is no evidence for that whatsoever. The quote by Aemon regarding the translation mistake solely arguments that dragons are considered as genderless! And thus that the word dragon is genderless. Since Aemon mentions the genderless dragons directly after his proclamation that the error crept in the translation, this implies that the High Valyrian word dragon was translated to the Common Tongue prince, after Aegon’s conquest, for the simple reason that any dragons left were Targaryens, and the Targaryens of significance were princes. And of course the presumption that the Dragon that was Promised would be male would precede the Targaryen dynasty amongst Valyrians, because the legendary Azor Ahai is supposed to be male.

So, the prophecy title should actually be the Dragon that was Promised. We know this Dragon must have Targaryen blood, and that the dragons has three heads.

“There must be one more,” [Rhaegar] said, though whether he was speaking to her [Dany] or the woman in the bed she could not say. “The dragon has three heads.” (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

The prophecy therefore is the three-headed Dragon that was Promised. Hence, I personally believe that Azor Ahai is a triad of people with Targaryen blood: Dany, Aegon and Jon. Each of them will fulfill part of the prophecy literally, and the rest metaphorically. For example,

  • Aegon was conceived when a red bleeding star (comet) streaked the sky,
  • Dany hatched dragons from petrified eggs,
  • and then Jon would wield the sword Lightbringer.

It does not mean that they will not fulfill the other requirements, but will do so metaphorically. Dany cannot be said to have been born beneath the comet, but she did have a type of rebirth experience. When Jon survives/returns from the assassination attempt, he will have been reborn metaphorically beneath a red bleeding star, or the ripped and bleeding Patrek of King’s Mountain who wears a blue star on his chest. When Dany rides Drogon and has him burn stuff on her command, she wields a type of Lightbringer. In the case of Aegon he might end up waking the dragon within Dany, and thus in Viserys’s meaning, etc…

Anyhow, since the word princess/prince is a translation from the High Valyrian word for dragon, whenever someone calls Dany princess, we should read this as her understanding it to mean dragon, for Valyrian is the language she is actually most familiar with. You will see how correcting this “translation error” throughout the text from the get go makes the underlying meaning more clear, or will fit better with her behavior and choices in later events, once she has hatched, than the image we have in our head when we read the word princess in Dany’s chapters.

I will show you with the quotes from her first chapter in aGoT,

“A gift from the Magister Illyrio,” Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. “The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess.”
A [dragon], Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

I did not translate Viserys’s use of the word princess here, because the dress-up reveals that Viserys means princess in the classic way. By translating the word princess into dragon here, we can see how it stirs her soul, and to the prophecy about the Dragon to be born again, but not sure anymore how it feels to hatch into a human body once more.

“Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A [dragon], she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. She felt a sudden chill, and gooseflesh pimpled her bare arms. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The dresser means princess in the conventional way of course, but when we translate Dany’s use of the word in thought to dragon, we now can compare her fear of being sold and ending up a chained and enslaved dragon.

Finally, when we translate princess into dragon when the eunuch sings her announcement, we fully have the fitting birthing song of a dragon about to be born from a stone egg.

Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, [Dragon] of Dragonstone. His honorable host, Illyrio Mopatis, Magister of the Free City of Pentos.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The Hatching of Dany the Dragon (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Hah, you likely expected I would analyse Dany’s dragon dream in the Dreamtime section! No, because Dany’s dreams do not occur until just before she actually hatches, at her wedding. First, I will show you why I regard her wedding as Dany’s actual hatching.

There are various names for the stages of growth for dragons. A hatchling is a newly born to young dragon that cannot yet survive or hunt on its own. Dany’s dragons are hatchlings up until the end of aCoK.

The dragons were no larger than the scrawny cats she had once seen skulking along the walls of Magister Illyrio’s estate in Pentos . . . until they unfolded their wings. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Dany has been to places. She visited all the Free Cities. There would be scrawny cats in Tyrosh, Myr, Braavos and Volantis too. And yet, Dany specifically thinks of Illyrio’s estate in Pentos, or rather the outside of the estate’s walls. George therefore refers to the wedding chapter of Dany, that takes place outside of Pentosi walls and where Dany also unfolds her wings for the first time.

Daenerys Targaryen wed Khal Drogo with fear and barbaric splendor in a field beyond the walls of Pentos, for the Dothraki believed that all things of importance in a man’s life must be done beneath the open sky. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

The Bride Gifts

George describes Dany’s dragons in aCoK as neck, tail and wing, with their wings the most notable feature, including the dragonbones in them.

Their [wing] span was three times their length, each wing a delicate fan of translucent skin, gorgeously colored, stretched taut between long thin bones. When you looked hard, you could see that most of their body was neck, tail, and wing. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

At Dany’s wedding, she is gifted with tail, teeth, dragonbone and wings.

The khal’s bloodriders offered her the traditional three weapons, and splendid weapons they were. Haggo gave her a great leather whip with a silver handle, Cohollo a magnificent arakh chased in gold, and Qotho a double-curved dragonbone bow taller than she was. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

In other words, I’m saying here that a whip acts like Dany’s dragon tail; that arakhs are her teeth, while the the bows are her dragonbones and the arrows shot from it are her firepower. I will show you with quotes from later chapters in subsections, but first I simply wish to give you an overall picture, before I show you the many quotes for each weapon to plead my case.

You might argue, Dany is not meant to carry or even wield these weapons personally, and instead she has to pass the gifts onto her husband. This is true, for now. Regardless of that argument, they are initially given to her and not Drogo directly. More, after Drogo’s death, Dany claims these specific gifts as hers, and her khas do not protest against her keeping them.

On the platform they piled Khal Drogo’s treasures: his great tent, his painted vests, his saddles and harness, the whip his father had given him when he came to manhood, the arakh he had used to slay Khal Ogo and his son, a mighty dragonbone bow. Aggo would have added the weapons Drogo’s bloodriders had given Dany for bride gifts as well, but she forbade it. “Those are mine,” she told him, “and I mean to keep them.” (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Finally, her silver serves for her wings.

She was a young filly, spirited and splendid. Dany knew just enough about horses to know that this was no ordinary animal. There was something about her that took the breath away. She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke. Hesitantly she reached out and stroked the horse’s neck, ran her fingers through the silver of her mane. Khal Drogo said something in Dothraki and Magister Illyrio translated. “Silver for the silver of your hair, the khal says.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

This becomes quite clear during Dany’s first ride on her silver then and there. Dany unfolds her wings in that ride.

Smirtouille_The_Silver_Steed
Dany’s Silver, by Smirtouille

The silver-grey filly moved with a smooth and silken gait, and the crowd parted for her, every eye upon them. Dany found herself moving faster than she had intended, yet somehow it was exciting rather than terrifying. The horse broke into a trot, and she smiled. Dothraki scrambled to clear a path. The slightest pressure with her legs, the lightest touch on the reins, and the filly responded. She sent it into a gallop, and now the Dothraki were hooting and laughing and shouting at her as they jumped out of her way. As she turned to ride back, a firepit loomed ahead, directly in her path. They were hemmed in on either side, with no room to stop. A daring she had never known filled Daenerys then, and she gave the filly her head. The silver horse leapt the flames as if she had wings. When she pulled up before Magister Illyrio, she said, “Tell Khal Drogo that he has given me the wind.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

While Illyrio and Visery considered Dany but a fearful, furtive thing, her true joy for adventure and excitement reveals itself during her first ride on her silver. Anyone who has ever ridden horse and enjoyed it knows how exciting it can be, especially the moment the horse alters from trot into gallop, and the sensation is certainly worthy to wax poetic about wings and wind. By itself horseriding does not make a dragon’s wings. Arya is a fan of horseriding for example, but she is no dragon.Nor does she Arya jump across a firepit or leap the flames on horseback. Within the context of fire and flames, the mention of wings implies dragon wings, silver dragon wings in this case.

Remember how I argued earlier that princess = dragon? This becomes quite evident when we have Dany telling us in the third chapter that she first felt like a princess since riding her silver.

The descent was steep and rocky, but Dany rode fearlessly, and the joy and the danger of it were a song in her heart. All her life Viserys had told her she was a princess, but not until she rode her silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

That quote without the preceding descent of a steep and rocky slope, taken out of the context with what Dany is actually wearing or how she rides her silver the first time, might make you insist that she is a princess on a horse, rather than a dragon with silver invisible wings. The word princess is so strongly connotated to certain looks and behaviour, that we easily imagine Dany riding stately on her silver in her wedding dress, like the left image, or the way the show portrayed it.

Dany on her silver first ride_ by qini and VeronicaVJones
Danaerys on her silver, by Qini (left) and Veronica V. Jones (right)

While a beautiful image that matches our preconceptoins on how a princess rides a horse, this is a false image. Unlike the show, the books tell us of a daring young woman jumping the flames of a firepit in her wedding dress, like the right image by Veronica V. Jones. How jarring it is to our expectations is evidenced by the scene that was filmed for the disastrous pilot with Dany riding her silver with brevity. As a consequence, the original wedding scene was rewritten to fit it more to the viewer’s mental expectation. Sure, it does not fit the image we have in our head, but perhaps we should abandon that picture and adjust it to what actually happened. The left erronous mental image is that of a classic princess. The right is that of a princess where princess means dragon.

“All her life Viserys had told her she was a [dragon], but not until she rode her silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one.”

This becomes an even more fitting image, in the context of Dany descending the steep and rocky slope into the grasses of the Dothraki Sea in her leather khaleesi garb, such as her painted vest.

dany_khaleesi_7
Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, by John Picacio

Unfortunately, the fanart that depicts a non-pregnant, Dany just on her silver in khaleesi garb (without her dragons added to it) is almost non-existent. Because the word princess does not jive in the fan’s mind with what is actually happening, the majority of fanart superimposes the stereotype of the princess image and behavior onto the horseriding. So, for those who love to draft fanart of just Dany on her silver – please abandon the classic princess image.

She was barefoot, with oiled hair, wearing Dothraki riding leathers and a painted vest given her as a bride gift. She looked as though she belonged here. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Oiled, leathery and a painted vest. Together the khaleesi costume make for a hatchling’s leathery smooth skin and scales.

Dany marveled at the smoothness of their scales, […] (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Born amidst salt and smoke

Now, how do I know the wedding ceremony during the gifting is the actual hatching scene? First, we have Dany’s salty tears.

Dany had never felt so alone as she did seated in the midst of that vast horde. Her brother had told her to smile, and so she smiled until her face ached and the tears came unbidden to her eyes. She did her best to hide them, knowing how angry Viserys would be if he saw her crying, terrified of how Khal Drogo might react. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Then look at the description of her silver again.

She was grey as the winter sea, with a mane like silver smoke. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

The sea is also salt water, but more interestingly her silver looks like smoke. We have our combo of salt and smoke! So, the gifting at the wedding is a rebirth scene of Dany into the prophesied dragon, albeit a hatchling! After all, her silver is a filly, not a mare yet.

“What about the eggs!” you ask? “You skipped the eggs! Do they not signal that at least she is already a dragon at fertile age?”

Magister Illyrio murmured a command, and four burly slaves hurried forward, bearing between them a great cedar chest bound in bronze. When she opened it, she found piles of the finest velvets and damasks the Free Cities could produce … and resting on top, nestled in the soft cloth, three huge eggs. Dany gasped. They were the most beautiful things she had ever seen, each different than the others, patterned in such rich colors that at first she thought they were crusted with jewels, and so large it took both of her hands to hold one. She lifted it delicately, expecting that it would be made of some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, or even blown glass, but it was much heavier than that, as if it were all of solid stone. The surface of the shell was covered with tiny scales, and as she turned the egg between her fingers, they shimmered like polished metal in the light of the setting sun. One egg was a deep green, with burnished bronze flecks that came and went depending on how Dany turned it. Another was pale cream streaked with gold. The last was black, as black as a midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls. […] “Dragon’s eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai,” said Magister Illyrio. “The eons have turned them to stone, yet still they burn bright with beauty.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

No, the eggs being gifted in Dany’s scene being reborn as a dragon is not a contradiction. Women and female animals are born with their eggs intact already. They are all already there, waiting until menarch and they start to ripen. This even means that a woman pregnant of the foetus of her daughter already carries half of the genetic material of her grandchildren within her, via that daughter.

Together with the salty tears and silver-smoke manes of her silver, the egg gift is the completed image of “born again amidst salt and smoke to wake dragons from stone”, since Dany is reborn as dragon with dragon eggs amidst salty tears and smokey manes.

This hatching event of Dany herself is why George has Dany recite to herself that she is the blood of the dragon over and over in this chapter, but not her first chapter.

So she sat in her wedding silks, nursing a cup of honeyed wine, afraid to eat, talking silently to herself. I am blood of the dragon, she told herself. I am Daenerys Stormborn, [Dragon] of Dragonstone, of the blood and seed of Aegon the Conqueror. […] I am the blood of the dragon, she told herself again. […] “I am the blood of the dragon,” she whispered aloud as she followed, trying to keep her courage up. “I am the blood of the dragon. I am the blood of the dragon.” The dragon was never afraid. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

It is like George is hammering it into our minds – Dany is a dragon!

Dany’s Dragon Dreams

Now, we finally can discuss her dream. Readers and the wiki of ice and fire, claim the dreams that Dany has in chapter two and three are prophetic in nature about hatching the eggs by the end of the novel, or the eggs instructing or influencing Dany. I think this interpretation overlooks certain issues and oversimplifies it. As prophetic dream it fails to show Dany hatching three dragons. And certainly the first dream is problematic as the eggs instructing her, since she does not even have received the eggs then.

  • The first dream is included in the wedding chapter, which is a rebirthing event of Dany into a dragon.
  • The second chapter is not even chronologically written. It starts with telling us that it is her wedding day, that it takes place outside the city walls, then goes back in time to reveal to us she had the dragon dream, and then jumps ahead again to the wedding events. This especially points out that the dream by itself has meaning to the wedding/rebirth chapter.
  • dragons in dreams often tend to represent a Targaryen

There are no more dragons, Dany thought, staring at her brother, though she did not dare say it aloud. Yet that night she dreamt of one. Viserys was hitting her, hurting her. She was naked, clumsy with fear. She ran from him, but her body seemed thick and ungainly. He struck her again. She stumbled and fell. “You woke the dragon,” he screamed as he kicked her. “You woke the dragon, you woke the dragon.” Her thighs were slick with blood. She closed her eyes and whimpered. As if in answer, there was a hideous ripping sound and the crackling of some great fire. When she looked again, Viserys was gone, great columns of flame rose all around, and in the midst of them was the dragon. It turned its great head slowly. When its molten eyes found hers, she woke, shaking and covered with a fine sheen of sweat. She had never been so afraid … (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Fire_Made_Flesh_by_Jake_Murray
Fire Made Flesh, by Jake Murray

On the one hand we have Dany being portrayed here as pregnant and birthing a dragon from her body. Especially this is what seems to imply that Dany will birth a beastly dragon. Since she does eventually ends up hatching dragons from her eggs, people stop looking for any other meaning, and wave off inconsistencies as dream-weirdness they can make head nor tail off.

The dream weirdness is as weird as having a human girl of thirteen go through a rebirth into a dragon at her wedding. In other words, once we recognize that Dany hatches into a dragon at her wedding ceremony, we realize that the dragon Dany births in the dream is herself – a dragon in spirit. And that explains Viserys’s disappearance. Once wed and reborn into a hatched dragon, Dany will have already gained freedom from her brother. So, yes, it is a prophetic dream, because she has it before the wedding ceremony, but it does not prophesy Dany hatching the three eggs at the end of the novel.

Which brings me to her second dream a chapter later.

Yet when she slept that night, she dreamt the dragon dream again. Viserys was not in it this time. There was only her and the dragon. Its scales were black as night, wet and slick with blood. Her blood, Dany sensed. Its eyes were pools of molten magma, and when it opened its mouth, the flame came roaring out in a hot jet. She could hear it singing to her. She opened her arms to the fire, embraced it, let it swallow her whole, let it cleanse her and temper her and scour her clean. She could feel her flesh sear and blacken and slough away, could feel her blood boil and turn to steam, and yet there was no pain. She felt strong and new and fierce. And the next day, strangely, she did not seem to hurt quite so much. It was as if the gods had heard her and taken pity. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Danys_2nd_Dragon_dream_melanie
Dragon Dream, by Underdog Mike

Since we understand that Dany has long hatched into a dragon, while Viserys is not a true dragon, it is only logical her second dream does not feature him anymore.

She dreams this dream on the long journey to the Dothraki Sea, somewhere between Pentos and Norvos. The physical ordeal of riding horse every day for a full day, along with the impersonal and rough sexual relation with Drogo she has on top of it takes her to the brink of despair. It is not unusual for a person to have a spiritual experience when they reach the pit … You either discover your resilience or … you don’t. This dream directly acts like Dany finding her resilience. The day after this dream, her body hurt less. Her continued strengtening and enjoyment of the lands and environments she crosses, including the Dothraki Sea, follows from this dream.

Visually we get hints that the dragon in this dream is the same one as the first dream. It is still slick with Dany’s blood after birthing it in her first dream. The text emphasises it is her blood, and not just the blood sticking to the dragon. As a stand alone sentence, it implies that the dragon = her blood. In other words the dragon is Dany herself. It is black-red, because Dany has the blood of the Targaryen dragon.

Some readers think that because the black-and-scarlet dragon egg is warm to the touch the next morning, that it might have been the dragon dreaming inside the egg communicating with her, supporting her, instructing her.

She touched one [of  the dragon eggs], the largest of the three, running her hand lightly over the shell. Black-and-scarlet, she thought, like the dragon in my dream. The stone felt strangely warm beneath her fingers … or was she still dreaming? She pulled her hand back nervously. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

But since we have details linking the dragon in her second dream to the first and Dany dreamt the first before being given the eggs that is a problematic interpretation. So, how did the egg end up feeling warm?

The rebirth event at her wedding is of importance here. I already pointed out that females are born with all of their eggs in their ovaries. They are not manufactured during their lifetime. A female’s eggs only need to ripen. Magically, the gift of the dragon eggs at Dany’s wedding – which was a rebirth event of Dany as a dragon – are like Dany’s ovary eggs. So, when the dream-dragon enflames Dany, by extension so are her ovary eggs, which are her dragon eggs. Since the dream-dragon is Dany herself, she heated her own body while dreaming, and that is why the dragon eggs are warm to the touch the next day.

This interpretation we can test to later egg-related events. For example, when Dany gets emotionally fired up, or hot and bothered, then the dragon eggs would feel warm as well. In her third chapter we have Dany’s first confrontation with Viserys. While it is not explicitly stated that she feels rage or anger in that scene, her instinctive response follows from a righteous rage of being assaulted and she is angry enough to want to teach Viserys a lesson by taking his horse away. Moreover, Jorah referencing Dany as child several times also enflames her. She is so hot and bothered by the events of the day, she races faster and faster. And thus when she arrives back at her tent with the khalasar, she finds the eggs warm once more.

“I am no child,” she told him fiercely. Her heels pressed into the sides of her mount, rousing the silver to a gallop. Faster and faster she raced, leaving Jorah and Irri and the others far behind, the warm wind in her hair and the setting sun red on her face. By the time she reached the khalasar, it was dusk. […] As she let the door flap close behind her, Dany saw a finger of dusty red light reach out to touch her dragon’s eggs across the tent. For an instant a thousand droplets of scarlet flame swam before her eyes. She blinked, and they were gone. […] She put her palm against the black egg, fingers spread gently across the curve of the shell. The stone was warm. Almost hot. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Notice that the droplets of scarlet flame swimming before her eyes fits with the wordplay of rage and anger. We say that enraged people see blood or red before their eyes. You may even have experienced this sensation during a debate yourself.  Except, you are not a dragon and have no dragon eggs.

Meanwhile, after the assassination attempt, Dany aims to hatch the dragon eggs by heating them in a brazier. But this method does nothing.

The Usurper has woken the dragon now, she told herself … and her eyes went to the dragon’s eggs resting in their nest of dark velvet. The shifting lamplight limned their stony scales, and shimmering motes of jade and scarlet and gold swam in the air around them, like courtiers around a king. Was it madness that seized her then, born of fear? Or some strange wisdom buried in her blood? Dany could not have said. She heard her own voice saying, “Ser Jorah, light the brazier.” […] When the coals were afire, Dany sent Ser Jorah from her. She had to be alone to do what she must do. This is madness, she told herself as she lifted the black-and-scarlet egg from the velvet. It will only crack and burn, and it’s so beautiful, Ser Jorah will call me a fool if I ruin it, and yet, and yet … Cradling the egg with both hands, she carried it to the fire and pushed it down amongst the burning coals. The black scales seemed to glow as they drank the heat. Flames licked against the stone with small red tongues. Dany placed the other two eggs beside the black one in the fire. As she stepped back from the brazier, the breath trembled in her throat. She watched until the coals had turned to ashes. Drifting sparks floated up and out of the smokehole. Heat shimmered in waves around the dragon’s eggs. And that was all. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

And then Dany succeeds by the end of aGoT. While it is by no means the sole reason that the dragon eggs hatch, one of the crucial features is that Dany steps close enough to the raging pyre that it burns off her hair.

She had sensed the truth of it long ago, Dany thought as she took a step closer to the conflagration, but the brazier had not been hot enough. 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. […] Another step, and Dany could feel the heat of the sand on the soles of her feet, even through her sandals. Sweat ran down her thighs and between her breasts and in rivulets over her cheeks, where tears had once run. […] Her vest had begun to smolder, so Dany shrugged it off and let it fall to the ground. The painted leather burst into sudden flame as she skipped closer to the fire, her breasts bare to the blaze, streams of milk flowing from her red and swollen nipples. Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing. She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

dany_mother of dragons
Daenerys the Unburned, by Michael Kormack

Dany thinks initially that the amount of heat makes the difference, but we know that even Summerhall’s wildfire was not enough. So, while a big fire may be important, it is not crucial for success. We do see that when fully Dany joins the fire and heat, when she lets it wash over her, like in the second dream, the eggs finally hatch, amidst the salt of Dany’s sweat and the smoke of the pyre.

Not so incidentally, Dany refers to her successful hatching attempt as a wedding, even though it is far from a wedding. So, George points the reader to the wedding chapter and understand what happened there: Dany hatched as a Targaryen dragon during her wedding, and so the hatching event of the dragons is referred to as a wedding. Does that mean dragons can only be hatched during weddings? No, of course not. It simply means that both Dany’s wedding and the pyre include a hatching of a dragon. Does that mean that Drogo is a crucial component here? Not as Drogo necessarily, nor as husband.

What else do Danny’s wedding and the burial have in common? A dragonbone bow, arakh and whip are laid on the pyre. These are Drogo’s in the burial case.

On the platform they piled Khal Drogo’s treasures: his great tent, his painted vests, his saddles and harness, the whip his father had given him when he came to manhood, the arakh he had used to slay Khal Ogo and his son, a mighty dragonbone bow. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

And then there is one more commonality – the dead. The hint that dragons hatch via the dead or dying is given through the bloodflies.

Dany watched the flies. They were as large as bees, gross, purplish, glistening. The Dothraki called them bloodflies. They lived in marshes and stagnant pools, sucked blood from man and horse alike, and laid their eggs in the dead and dying. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Bloodflies combine the concept of blood and flying. And they have a purplish color. While fire is not part of these concepts, it does fit with a Targaryen dragon, who cannot truly breathe fire personally. And their eggs hatch in the dead or dying.

During Dany’s wedding Dothraki are dropping like flies (pun intended).

Magister Illyrio had warned Dany about this too. “A Dothraki wedding without at least three deaths is deemed a dull affair,” he had said. Her wedding must have been especially blessed; before the day was over, a dozen men had died. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

And how many dead do we have before the hatching of the dragons in Dany’s last chapter in aGoT? Dany’s khas Quaro; Drogo’s kos Qotho, Cohollo and Haggo; Dany’s child Rhaego, her slave Eroeh, her husband Drogo, his red stallion and finally Mirri Maz Duur. Together they make 8-9. And where does Dany place the eggs? Strewn about Drogo’s body.

dany_khaleesi_12
Drogo’s burial, by Magali Villeneuve

She climbed the pyre herself to place the eggs around her sun-and-stars. The black beside his heart, under his arm. The green beside his head, his braid coiled around it. The cream-and-gold down between his legs. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

She suffocated Drogo with a pillow herself, to hatch, like a purple bloodfly does.

Dany compares cinders from the pyre to newborn fireflies.

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. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Though named differently by Dany during the burial pyre as fireflies, it is clear that GRRM is referring to an anology of hatched bloodflies. Because next, Dany compares flames to the women dancing at her wedding. It were those dancing women the Dothraki fought and killed one another over during her 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. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

So, the recipe during Dany’s wedding to hatch Dany’s dragon blood is the recipe we see reappear at the end of the first novel when the eggs truly hatch (an event that Dany compares to a wedding), that and Dany’s own body heat. The recipe seems to be:

  • at least 3 dead
  • the gift of dragonbone with the bow, a symbolical dragontail with the whip and teeth with the arakh
  • a horse for wings
  • extreme heat
  • a hatched female Targaryen stepping in that extreme heat and surviving it

Now, I am not claiming that every hatching of a dragon egg requires this recipe. Wild dragons managed to be born without any Targaryen’s help. Plenty of Targaryen dragon eggs hatched without such rituals. Before the Targaryen dragons died out, female beastly dragons who managed to produce their own firepower and therefore heat would have been enough. The sole she-dragon who failed at hatching the clutch of eggs would have been the last dragon. Why she could not, I will explain in the third essay.

The Dragon that Mounts the World

While I have provided evidence how GRRM points out that Dany’s silver functions as Dany’s wings, I have only so far claimed that the other Dothraki weapons stand for other dragon parts of the body without providing textual evidence or hints for this. In this section I will select certain scenes to show you that indeed Dany has her own tail, teeth, claws, firepower and even belly. These features of a dragon are not only present at her wedding, but persist and grow over time. After all, a dragon starts out as a hatchling, then becomes a draken, next a full grown dragon, and in Dany’s case one so sizable it can mount the world.

The Wingspan

Initially, Dany starts out with a filly, perfect for a hatchling, but Dany’s silver grows in time into a mare as Dany herself matures.

She called her people together and mounted her silver mare. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

The Dothraki would esteem her all the more for a few bells in her hair. She chimed as she mounted her silver mare, and again with every stride, but neither Ser Jorah nor her bloodriders made mention of it. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

As you notice, Dany’s silver is only called a mare from a Clash of Kings onwards. Dany’s dragons may only be hatchlings then, but Dany is a draken by then. It is not just her silver growing into a mare that signifies Dany’s growth as dragon. Her khas are blood of her blood, and therefore a “bodily” extension of Dany.

The men of her khas came up behind [Jorah]. Jhogo was the first to lay his arakh at her feet. “Blood of my blood,” he murmured, pushing his face to the smoking earth. “Blood of my blood,” she heard Aggo echo. “Blood of my blood,” Rakharo shouted. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

No, Dany thought. I have four. The rest are women, old sick men, and boys whose hair has never been braided. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

“Make way, you Milk Men, make way for the Mother of Dragons,” Jhogo cried, and the Qartheen moved aside, though perhaps the oxen had more to do with that than his voice. Through the swaying draperies, Dany caught glimpses of him astride his grey stallion. From time to time he gave one of the oxen a flick with the silver-handled whip she had given him. Aggo guarded on her other side, while Rakharo rode behind the procession, watching the faces in the crowd for any sign of danger. (aCoK, Daenerys III)

And as you notice, Jhogo is said to ride a grey stallion, while wielding the silver-handed whip. Both the grey and silver are a visual extension of Dany’s silver. And since Dany sends her khas in all directions, they represent the four wind directions and are a first step to that dragon mounting the world.

By the end of aCoK though, Dany counts a khalasar of hundred, beyond her khas, and three ships that Illyrio sent her.

Joy bloomed in her heart, but Dany kept it from her face. “I have three dragons,” she said, “and more than a hundred in my khalasar, with all their goods and horses.”
“It is no matter,” boomed Belwas. “We take all. The fat man hires three ships for his little silverhair queen.”
[…]
Three heads has the dragon, Dany thought, wondering. “I shall tell my people to make ready to depart at once. But the ships that bring me home must bear different names.” […] “Vhagar,” Daenerys told him. “Meraxes. And Balerion. Paint the names on their hulls in golden letters three feet high, Arstan. I want every man who sees them to know the dragons are returned.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

In other words, I’m saying that the people guarding her, fighting for her represent part of her dragon body, while the horses and vessels carrying them are the wings. Although this should be nuanced. A ship serves as Dany’s wings as long as it has sails. And there is but one ship  that has sails – Balerion.

[…], two of the ships that Magister Illyrio had sent after her were trading galleys, with two hundred oars apiece and crews of strong-armed oarsmen to row them. But the great cog Balerion was a song of a different key; a ponderous broad-beamed sow of a ship with immense holds and huge sails, but helpless in a calm. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

The ship with sails, is compared to Balerion and a sow. Balerion is a black dragon, like the dragon in Dany’s second dream. A sow is a noun used to indicate a female animal.

The captain appeared at her elbow. “Would that this Balerion could soar as her namesake did, Your Grace,” he said in bastard Valyrian heavily flavored with accents of Pentos. “Then we should not need to row, nor tow, nor pray for wind.” (aSoS, Daenerys I)

So, Dany’s dragon size at the start of aSoS is that of the cog.

Dany referenced the three heads of the dragon in connection to the ships. Since, other two ships have no sails, this implies there are two wingless dragons. If they are wingless, this likely implies unhatched dragons. Notice too that Dany’s song has a different key than these two.

Initially, Dany aims to sail for Pentos, but ends up becalmed. Even though the galleys can pull the cog it goes only creepily slow. This is comparable to Dany trying to use Drogon’s wings to return to Meereen from the Dothraki Sea in her last chapter of aDwD, but Drogon refusing to do so.

The wood and the canvas had served her well enough so far, but the fickle wind had turned traitor. For six days and six nights they had been becalmed, and now a seventh day had come, and still no breath of air to fill their sails. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

She would sooner have returned to Meereen on dragon’s wings, to be sure. But that was a desire Drogon did not seem to share. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

Dany persists to return to Meereen from the Dothraki Sea on her own two feet, a slow going venture, as much as the two galleys attempt to pull the heavy Balerion.

Vhagar and Meraxes had let out lines to tow her, but it made for painfully slow going. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

As she walked, she tapped her thigh with the pitmaster’s whip. That, and the rags on her back, were all she had taken from Meereen. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

Only when she starts to contemplate the danger in pursuing the route for Pentos in aSoS does the wind pick up again.

Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. The Usurper on his Iron Throne had offered land and lordship to any man who killed her. One attempt had been made already, with a cup of poisoned wine. The closer she came to Westeros, the more likely another attack became. […] In time, the dragons would be her most formidable guardians, just as they had been for Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters three hundred years ago. Just now, though, they brought her more danger than protection. In all the world there were but three living dragons, and those were hers; they were a wonder, and a terror, and beyond price.
She was pondering her next words when she felt a cool breath on the back of her neck, and a loose strand of her silver-gold hair stirred against her brow. Above, the canvas creaked and moved, and suddenly a great cry went up from all over Balerion. “Wind!” the sailors shouted. “The wind returns, the wind!” Dany looked up to where the great cog’s sails rippled and belled as the lines thrummed and tightened and sang the sweet song they had missed so for six long days. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

Of course, once she conquers Slaver’s Bay overland, she has to exchange the ship back for horses to represent her wings.

Poor Groleo. He still grieved for his ship, she knew. If a war galley could ram another ship, why not a gate? That had been her thought when she commanded the captains to drive their ships ashore. Their masts had become her battering rams, and swarms of freedmen had torn their hulls apart to build mantlets, turtles, catapults, and ladders. The sellswords had given each ram a bawdy name, and it had been the mainmast of Meraxes—formerly Joso’s Prank—that had broken the eastern gate. Joso’s Cock, they called it. The fighting had raged bitter and bloody for most of a day and well into the night before the wood began to splinter and Meraxes’ iron figurehead, a laughing jester’s face, came crashing through. (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

Notice however, Dany does not do this before reaching Meereen. While she still keeps her sail-wings after Astapor, despite enlarging her army tremendously with the Unsullied. The Unsullied,  however, have no horses. It is with the addition of the sellswords that Dany has gained a sizable amount of horses to replace the size of the wings Balerion’s sail represents.

The loss of the sail-wings also precludes Dany’s decision to “clip her wings” by remaining within the walls of Meereen, living in a pyramid, wearing a tokar that restricts even her freedom in movement when walking.

She watched Viserion climb in widening circles until he was lost to sight beyond the muddy waters of the Skahazadhan. Only then did Dany go back inside the pyramid, where Irri and Jhiqui were waiting to brush the tangles from her hair and garb her as befit the Queen of Meereen, in a Ghiscari tokar. The garment was a clumsy thing, a long loose shapeless sheet that had to be wound around her hips and under an arm and over a shoulder, its dangling fringes carefully layered and displayed. Wound too loose, it was like to fall off; wound too tight, it would tangle, trip, and bind. Even wound properly, the tokar required its wearer to hold it in place with the left hand. Walking in a tokar demanded small, mincing steps and exquisite balance, lest one tread upon those heavy trailing fringes. (aDwD, Daenerys I)

The loss of freedom is palbable from the start in aDwD, contrasted with her longingly watching her dragons fly off. It is a parallel to Dany once longing to play beyond the walls in rags in her first chapter of aGoT, except this time Dany chose to do this for all the right reasons.

It is not enough. Next, she locks Viserion and Rhaegal into a pyramid if she wants to prevent innocent people ending up as their meal.

At her command, one produced an iron key. The door opened, hinges shrieking. Daenerys Targaryen stepped into the hot heart of darkness and stopped at the lip of a deep pit. Forty feet below, her dragons raised their heads. Four eyes burned through the shadows—two of molten gold and two of bronze.[…] Viserion’s claws scrabbled against the stones, and the huge chains rattled as he tried to make his way to her again. When he could not, he gave a roar, twisted his head back as far as he was able, and spat golden flame at the wall behind him. […] He had been the first chained up. Daenerys had led him to the pit herself and shut him up inside with several oxen. Once he had gorged himself he grew drowsy. They had chained him whilst he slept. Rhaegal had been harder. Perhaps he could hear his brother raging in the pit, despite the walls of brick and stone between them. In the end, they had to cover him with a net of heavy iron chain as he basked on her terrace, and he fought so fiercely that it had taken three days to carry him down the servants’ steps, twisting and snapping. Six men had been burned in the struggle. (aDwD, Daenerys II)

Ultimately this is the reason why the Second Sons go over to the Yunkai.

She rides her silver once to parade through the camp of the refugees from Astapor. Likewise most of the horse of her armies are kept within the city.

“Even so,” the old knight said, “I would feel better if Your Grace would return to the city.” The many-colored brick walls of Meereen were half a mile back. “The bloody flux has been the bane of every army since the Dawn Age. Let us distribute the food, Your Grace.”
“On the morrow. I am here now. I want to see.” She put her heels into her silver. The others trotted after her. Jhogo rode before her, Aggo and Rakharo just behind, long Dothraki whips in hand to keep away the sick and dying. Ser Barristan was at her right, mounted on a dapple grey. To her left was Symon Stripeback of the Free Brothers and Marselen of the Mother’s Men. Three score soldiers followed close behind the captains, to protect the food wagons. Mounted men all, Dothraki and Brazen Beasts and freedmen, they were united only by their distaste for this duty. (aDwD, Daenerys VI)

At Meereen, Dany is still a dragon with wings, but shrinking and losing her freedom and enjoyment in flying. As proud as a reader can be for Dany to try this, for all the right reasons, it is likewise deeply frustrating to read her so stifled with only a meagre compromize and a poisoning attempt as a result. And yet, this can be called a successful peace, until Drogon visits Daznak’s Pit.

Above them all the dragon turned, dark against the sun. His scales were black, his eyes and horns and spinal plates blood red. Ever the largest of her three, in the wild Drogon had grown larger still. His wings stretched twenty feet from tip to tip, black as jet. He flapped them once as he swept back above the sands, and the sound was like a clap of thunder. The boar raised his head, snorting … and flame engulfed him, black fire shot with red. Dany felt the wash of heat thirty feet away. The beast’s dying scream sounded almost human. Drogon landed on the carcass and sank his claws into the smoking flesh. As he began to feed, he made no distinction between Barsena and the boar.
Oh, gods,” moaned Reznak, “he’s eating her!” The seneschal covered his mouth. Strong Belwas was retching noisily. A queer look passed across Hizdahr zo Loraq’s long, pale face—part fear, part lust, part rapture. He licked his lips. Dany could see the Pahls streaming up the steps, clutching their tokars and tripping over the fringes in their haste to be away. Others followed. Some ran, shoving at one another. More stayed in their seats.
One man took it on himself to be a hero. He was one of the spearmen sent out to drive the boar back to his pen. Perhaps he was drunk, or mad. Perhaps he had loved Barsena Blackhair from afar or had heard some whisper of the girl Hazzea. Perhaps he was just some common man who wanted bards to sing of him. He darted forward, his boar spear in his hands. Red sand kicked up beneath his heels, and shouts rang out from the seats. Drogon raised his head, blood dripping from his teeth. The hero leapt onto his back and drove the iron spearpoint down at the base of the dragon’s long scaled neck. Dany and Drogon screamed as one.
The hero leaned into his spear, using his weight to twist the point in deeper. Drogon arched upward with a hiss of pain. His tail lashed sideways. She watched his head crane around at the end of that long serpentine neck, saw his black wings unfold. The dragonslayer lost his footing and went tumbling to the sand. He was trying to struggle back to his feet when the dragon’s teeth closed hard around his forearm. “No” was all the man had time to shout. Drogon wrenched his arm from his shoulder and tossed it aside as a dog might toss a rodent in a rat pit.
“Kill it,” Hizdahr zo Loraq shouted to the other spearmen. “Kill the beast!” (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

It is only logical that her people wish to have Drogon killed. He hunted their sheep, a little girl, is attracted by the blood at Daznak’s pit and both humans and animal are meat to him. He has grown too big and is as close to a wild dragon as can be. Would Drogon ever tolerate being put away safely in a dragonpit, whenever Dany cannot fly him? Ultimately, this scene puts a choice forward – Dany can be the human queen of Meereen or a queen-dragon (adult she-dragons are sometimes referred to as queens, such as Princess Rhaenys’s dragon Meleys, the Red Queen). Dany cannot be the first without killing the later.

And this should be recognized: Dany will have to do clip her wings and therefore freedom if she wishes to rule Westeros. Like the Targaryens before her, she will have to lock up the dragons again. Drogon would be attracted to a melee at a tourney as much as he would to Daznak’s Pit with freedmen fighting one another or animals.

Even if villains like the Boltons and Freys are cleared off the gaming board, Cersei disarmed and removed to Casterly Rock before Dany’s arrival, she will have to rebuild Westeros with

  • children of families she perceives as her family’s enemies
  • former allies who have moved on and chose to side with Aegon VI
  • Lords and Ladies who do care about their smallfolk but are apprehensive of a dragonriding conquerer in alliance with Dothraki hordes and a giant fleet of Ironborn, after Euron’s pillaging of the Reach
  • the other two dragons in order to have a family to back her.

If it was tedious and difficult to dispense justice for all in one city, then it is even more so for an entire continent. The Houses ensure regional justice and therefore she cannot easily rid herself of them, nor their power. Even on the back of a dragon it is too large a continent, especially if you are the sole dragonrider, to fly hither and thither to play judge wherever needed. And if a peasant has to journey from say the North to King’s Landing to lay their grievances at her dainty feet this threatens the expediency of justice. Nor can she replace these Houses with any of her allies (Ironborn and Dothraki) who will be culturally rejected by both nobles and smallfolk alike, and for good and understandable reasons.

I am NOT saying that Dany is incapable of clipping her own dragon wings. She proved in Meereen that she can, despite rebellion and an assassination attempt. Rebellion and assassination attempts is to be expected, for both selfish as well as righteous reasons, regardless of who rules. A bad crop, a religious fanatic becoming popular, an epidemic… Even with good leaders making the best of it, these are events promoting rebellious feelings and resentment. What I AM saying is that it will not be a process that will be less frustrating and painful to Dany the Dragon, just because it is Westeros. More, it would be tedious and frustrating for anyone. The difference between say Dany or Aegon VI would be that the latter may not have this innate need to roam the wilderness, in rags, away from walls, free to hunt whatever game is about as much as Dany does. In Daznak’s Pit we see what it ultimately would cost her to maintain peace and protect her city – not just the life of Drogon, but her own dragon spirit, if not ultimately her life. Who would wish that on her? Nor can anyone who cares about Westeros wish it to turn into a continental sized Astapor, just so she sits the Iron Throne?

In Daznak’s Pit, Dany chooses to save Drogon and earns herself true beastly dragon wings.

Then all of that had faded, the sounds dwindling, the people shrinking, the spears and arrows falling back beneath them as Drogon clawed his way into the sky. Up and up and up he’d borne her, high above the pyramids and pits, his wings outstretched to catch the warm air rising from the city’s sun baked bricks. If I fall and die, it will still have been worth it, she had thought. North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army. Dany glimpsed the shores of Slaver’s Bay and the old Valyrian road that ran beside it through sand and desolation until it vanished in the west. The road home. Then there was nothing beneath them but grass rippling in the wind. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

First_Flight_by_Jake_Murray
First Flight, by Jake Murray

But Dany’s growth of wings will not stop with Drogon’s wings. After all, if the sail of Balerion the ship represents Dany’s wings at the start of aSoS, what does a fleet of Kraken sails flying dragon banners on Dany’s side represent?

Victarion sets sails from the Shields with ninety-three sails.At the Stepstones, he catches a fat merchant cog, and three more cogs, a galleas and galley, bringing the number to ninety-nine ships, but only ninety-eight sails (I’m discounting the galley). But the storms after the Stepstones wreck part of the fleet to forty-five. He did take nine more prizes, making it a total of fifty-four. These ships are cogs, fishing boats and slavers (presumably galleys). None of them are warships. So, Victarion’s fleet shrinking reflects Dany’s clipping of her wings while she stays in Meereen, and instead of continuing to conquer decides to plant trees. Victarion sails from the Island of Cedars with fifty-three ships, leaving one behind to inform lagging ships where he sailed off to. Along the way, he captures more ships, totalling sixty-one. Since at least one of them is a galley, we have to round it to a maximum of sixty sails. But we can expect the numbers of sails to increase from the Winds of Winter onwards.

Victarion Greyjoy turned back toward the prow, his gaze sweeping across his fleet. Longships filled the sea, sails furled and oars shipped, floating at anchor or run up on the pale sand shore. (aDwD, The Iron Suitor)

Of note specifically is the cog the Noble Lady.

The Noble Lady was a tub of a ship, as fat and wallowing as the noble ladies of the green lands.Her holds were huge, and Victarion packed them with armed men. With her would sail the other, lesser prizes that the Iron Fleet had taken on its long voyage to Slaver’s Bay, a lubberly assortment of cogs, great cogs,carracks, and trading galleys salted here and there with fishing boats. (tWoW excerpt, Victarion I)

It may not bemore opposite a physical description to Dany’s human form, but a dragon is not dainty except as hatchling.

Likewise, as Victarion is about to join Dany’s forces at Meereen with his fleet, so do the Windblown (2000 mounted horses) of the Tattered Prince after Barristan Selmy agrees to the deal to acquire Pentos for them.

DiegoGisbertLlorens_tattered_princeII
The Tattered Prince, by Diego Gisbert Llorens

The name alone of the company ties them to dragons and wings, or if you will sailing ships, which I pointed out represent dragons at sea. Remember that Dany complimented Drogo after he gifted her the silver filly, by saying he had given her “the wind”. And then there is the name of the Tattered Prince. Rags and tatters remind us of Dany’s dragon wish to play barefoot in rags outside the walls of Pentos – to be wild – as well as her appearance by the end of aDwD.

Even the commander of the Windblown kept his true name to himself. […] The Windblown went back thirty years, and had known but one commander, the soft-spoken, sad-eyed Pentoshi nobleman called the Tattered Prince. His hair and mail were silver-grey, but his ragged cloak was made of twists of cloth of many colors, blue and grey and purple, red and gold and green, magenta and vermilion and cerulean, all faded by the sun. When the Tattered Prince was three-and-twenty, as Dick Straw told the story, the magisters of Pentos had chosen him to be their new prince, hours after beheading their old prince. Instead he’d buckled on a sword, mounted his favorite horse, and fled to the Disputed Lands, never to return. (aDwD, The Windblown)

Dany’s clothes were hardly more than rags, and offered little in the way of warmth. One of her sandals had slipped off during her wild flight from Meereen and she had left the other up by Drogon’s cave, preferring to go barefoot rather than half-shod. Her tokar and veils she had abandoned in the pit, and her linen undertunic had never been made to withstand the hot days and cold nights of the Dothraki sea. Sweat and grass and dirt had stained it, and Dany had torn a strip off the hem to make a bandage for her shin. I must look a ragged thing, and starved, she thought, but if the days stay warm, I will not freeze. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

The Tattered Prince was a man who left Pentos after being selected their ceremonial prince, with the potential to be sacrificed. And of course, in High Valyrian we could translate the title Tattered Prince into the Tattered Dragon.

There have been numerous proposals regarding the identity of the Tattered Prince through the years, since aDwD was published, many of them involving parallels to Targaryens. Some readers propose he has some Targaryen ancestry, like Brown Ben Plumm does, others identify him as a tangential unnaccounted non-Targaryen historical character based on Targaryen historical ties and stories. At the very least these proposals over the years show that readers pick up on dragon-related ties to this figure. And I do think that is because George wrote him to be compared to a dragon on a meta-level at least.

In the yellow candlelight his silver-grey hair seemed almost golden, though the pouches underneath his eyes were etched as large as saddlebags. […] “My ragged raiment?” The Pentoshi gave a shrug. “A poor thing … yet those tatters fill my foes with fear, and on the battlefield the sight of my rags blowing in the wind emboldens my men more than any banner. […] Tattered and twisty, what a rogue I am.” (aDwD, The Spurned Suitor)

His tattered cloak has a similar impact as a dragon’s wings. In fact, Drogon’s wings were tattered and torn in part at Daznak’s Pit.

North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

Initially the Windblown fight alongside the side of the Yunkai, at least at Astapor, but the Tattered Prince sends Quentyn and his friends into Meereen to offer Dany a deal, so the Tattered Prince and Windblown can join her side.

“Your Grace. We set the woman Meris free, as you commanded. Before she went, she asked to speak with you. I met with her instead. She claims this Tattered Prince meant to bring the Windblown over to your cause from the beginning. That he sent her here to treat with you secretly, but the Dornishmen unmasked them and betrayed them before she could make her own approach.” […] “The Tattered Prince will want more than coin, Your Grace. Meris says that he wants Pentos.” […] “He would be willing to wait, the woman Meris suggested. Until we march for Westeros.” (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

At the time, Dany rejects the offer, since she regards Illyrio as an ally and benefactor. Later, when Dany is still lost to Meereen at the Dothraki Sea, Selmy agrees to the deal with the Tattered Prince in return for the Windblown rescuing the hostages such as Daario in Yunkai’s camp.

“What did Prince Quentyn promise the Tattered Prince in return for all this help?” He got no answer. Ser Gerris looked at Ser Archibald. Ser Archibald looked at his hands, the floor, the door. “Pentos,” said Ser Barristan. “He promised him Pentos. Say it. No words of yours can help or harm Prince Quentyn now.”
“Aye,” said Ser Archibald unhappily. “It was Pentos. They made marks on a paper, the two of them.”
There is a chance here. “We still have Windblown in the dungeons. Those feigned deserters.” […] “I mean to send them back to the Tattered Prince. And you with them. You will be two amongst thousands. Your presence in the Yunkish camps should pass unnoticed. I want you to deliver a message to the Tattered Prince. Tell him that I sent you, that I speak with the queen’s voice. Tell him that we’ll pay his price if he delivers us our hostages, unharmed and whole.” (aDwD, The Queen’s Hand)

In the ninth chapter of aDwD, we may imagine Dany would not be pleased whatsoever with Selmy for making such an agreement with the Tattered Prince on her behalf. The tattered and ragged Dany on Drogon’s back who realized the locusts were poisoned might consider it at least out of necessity. Once she learns from Tyrion that Illyrio had Aegon taken care of for over a decade (with guard, halfmaester and fallen septa) and got the Golden Company for him, Dany is unlikely to still have issues with gifting Pentos to the Tattered Prince. Illyrio had her married off to a horselord for an uncertain army like the Dothraki for her now dead brother. They never had any guards before being taken in, no maester, no septa. The discrepancies would make Dany – already more suspicous against betrayal and treason – not think kindly of Illyrio anymore, even perhaps eager to destroy Pentos. So, in that sense the Tattered Prince ensures the rest of Dany’s dragon body will already prepare to take Pentos mentally, while she is absent.

Through Quentyn’s failed plan, the Tattered Prince is also responsible for freeing Viserion and Rhaegal from their captivity.

This is not the sole sellsword company allied to Dany. There are the Second Sons too. Initially they are led by the Braavosi Mero, nicknamed the Titan’s Bastard. The Second Sons are hired by Yunkai to defend the city against Dany’s army in aSoS. She invites him for parlay, but he goes no further than to agree to mull Dany’s proposal over a casket of wine. That night, Dany has her men attack the companies and Mero “flees”. Brown Ben Plumm is chosen to lead the Second Sons after this. And of him we know he has at least one drop of Targaryen dragon blood, if not two.

But as Brown Ben was leaving, Viserion spread his pale white wings and flapped lazily at his head. One of the wings buffeted the sellsword in his face. The white dragon landed awkwardly with one foot on the man’s head and one on his shoulder, shrieked, and flew off again. “He likes you, Ben,” said Dany.
“And well he might.” Brown Ben laughed. “I have me a drop of the dragon blood myself, you know.” […] “Well,” said Brown Ben, “there was some old Plumm in the Sunset Kingdoms who wed a dragon princess. My grandmama told me the tale. He lived in King Aegon’s day.” (aSoS, Daenerys V)

And we learn of this as Viserion pointedly and repeatedly flaps his wings into Brown Benn’s face. It is as if Viserion is indicating here – this guy here represents dragon’s wings. And now we can even sympathize with Brown Benn for deciding to leave Dany’s side at Meereen after she locked her dragons in chains in one of the pyramids. It would have been to him as if he had been chained and wingclipped himself. Ben effectively remains neutral when Selmy performs his sortie in the excerpts of tWoW, playing cyvasse with Tyrion instead and ignoring the Yunkai orders. But once Viserion and Rhaegal are flying free, and the Tattered “Dragon” has turned his cloak to Dany’s side, so does Brown Ben.

And then finally we have the Stormcrows, led by Daario Naharys, of 500 horse. With the Stormcrows we already have a wing anology, not to mention the storm-tie to Daenerys Stormborn. Birds may not be dragons, but twice we have a bird analogy to a dragon. The latest is the most obvious one:

Thrice that day she caught sight of Drogon. Once he was so far off that he might have been an eagle, slipping in and out of distant clouds, but Dany knew the look of him by now, even when he was no more than a speck. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

The first time is in Dany’s third chapter of aGoT. When she decides to explore the Dothraki Sea by herself, ordering Jorah to command those riding with her to remain behind, she notices a falcon circling above her.

The sky was a deep blue, and high above them a hunting hawk circled. The grass sea swayed and sighed with each breath of wind, the air was warm on her face, and Dany felt at peace. She would not let Viserys spoil it. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

In the bear-stuff (see the bear and maiden fair essays), George uses birds as spirit companions of bear characters. He may not have restricted to bears alone, but to dragon characters as well. With black bears of the Night’s Watch the ravens are vegetarians, since black bears are vegetarian. The nature of a dragon is that of a hunter, a predator, and thus we get birds that hunt here. This is exemplified in the ending of Dany’s last chapter of aDwD, after she abandons any mental concept of being a queen of Meereen and commits to hunting horsemeat (and perhaps scout).

Dany leapt onto [Drogon’s] back. She stank of blood and sweat and fear, but none of that mattered. “To go forward I must go back,” she said. Her bare legs tightened around the dragon’s neck. She kicked him, and Drogon threw himself into the sky. Her whip was gone, so she used her hands and feet and turned him north by east, the way the scout had gone. Drogon went willingly enough; perhaps he smelled the rider’s fear. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

She ends up eating charred horsemeat alongside Drogon like an animal, on the same spot where it died, surrounded by burning grass.

The carcass was too heavy for [Drogon] to bear back to his lair, so Drogon consumed his kill there, tearing at the charred flesh as the grasses burned around them, the air thick with drifting smoke and the smell of burnt horsehair. Dany, starved, slid off his back and ate with him, ripping chunks of smoking meat from the dead horse with bare, burned hands. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

And so yes, the Stormcrows certainly may represent wings of Dany the Dragon, as well as her spirit. While I take Old Nan’s words about crows being liars and how it is used amongst the fandom with a grain of salt for a man who forgot the many names he once had, the choice of the name Stormcrows by George is no accident here. No, I do not mean to say that Dany has the spirit of a liar, though she does use deception and lies as a war tactic at Astapor and Yunkai. What I mean is that it implies that the leader of the Stormcrows is not who he claims to be – just a Tyroshi. If Ben Plumm is a dragon, and the Tattered Prince at the very least symbolically a Tattered Dragon, then so must be Daario Naharis. Who or which line is still up for speculation. Personally, I believe Daario to be the Blackfyre descendant in the novels, over Aegon (see House Blackfyre and Lady Blizzardborn’s case on it.). And thus Daario’s “nature” or “spirit” is Dany’s dragon-nature too, which is a sellsword nature over that of a Serwyn-nature. Hence a part of her wingspan is made up from three sellsword companies at the beginning of tWoW.

If in thought we add the Dothraki brought to heel to Dany and Drogon, and see all of her army spread across the land, the fleet sail across the sees, all the way to Pentos, we can see how Dany becomes the Dragon that Mounts the World. After all, a stallion or mare are but the wings of a dragon.

The Whipping Tail
Sara_Biddle_Harpy's_ScourgeII
The Harpy’s Scourge, by Sara Biddle

A dragon is not solely wings. Especially with hatchlings their tail is noticeable as well. Flying away or whipping a threat with their tail is all they can do in the beginning. Their teeth and claws are but tiny needles, and they have no firepower yet. And so it is too with Dany after she hatched at her wedding to Khal Drogo. She has wings with her silver and a tail in Jhogo’s whip. Let that just be the sole weapon used against Viserys during Dany’s confrontation with him at the Dothraki Sea.

Crack. The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking. […] Her brother was on his knees, his fingers digging under the leather coils, crying incoherently, struggling for breath. The whip was tight around his windpipe. […] Jhogo gave a pull on the whip, yanking Viserys around like a puppet on a string. He went sprawling again, freed from the leather embrace, a thin line of blood under his chin where the whip had cut deep. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Notice the mention of leather coils, and how the scene becomes the image of a dragon tail catching prey or attacker, or simply used to hold on.

The cream-colored dragon sunk sharp black claws into the lion’s mane and coiled its tail around her arm, while Ser Jorah took his accustomed place by her side. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

In Part I – The Slaying Saint George’s Dragon, I argued Jhogo’s whip was an extension of a girdle in Dany’s third chapter of aGoT. In the other two confrontations between Dany and Viserys in the consecutive chapters, we have only belts and no whip anymore. The reason George used belts in the other scenes was to explicitly have pinpointers to the re-enactment of the Saint George legend. In the scene in the Dothraki Sea, however, the whip serves two purposes:

  • as an extension of a girdle,
  • but also to reflect Dany’s physical dragon features. In that scene Dany compares visibly best to a young dragon of tail, wings and bones in the wilderness.

In Part I, I also argued that since Jhogo is one of her khas, and later on her ko (blood of my blood), Jhogo’s whip is actually Dany’s whip or girdle.

She turned to the three young warriors of her khas. “Jhogo, to you I give the silver-handled whip that was my bride gift, and name you ko, and ask your oath, that you will live and die as blood of my blood, riding at my side to keep me safe from harm.” (aGoT, Daenerys X)

However as an extension, we must see not just the whip, but Jhogo as a functioning part of Dany’s dragon body. Jhogo himself functions as Dany’s tail here, like the sellsword commanders and their companies on horseback represent her wingspan.

The next scene that involves Dany’s tail is the capture of the wine seller after he betrays himself to be false.

The wineseller shrugged, reached for the cup … and grabbed the cask instead, flinging it at her with both hands. Ser Jorah bulled into her, knocking her out of the way. The cask bounced off his shoulder and smashed open on the ground. Dany stumbled and lost her feet. “No,” she screamed, thrusting her hands out to break her fall … and Doreah caught her by the arm and wrenched her backward, so she landed on her legs and not her belly. The trader vaulted over the stall, darting between Aggo and Rakharo. Quaro reached for an arakh that was not there as the blond man slammed him aside. He raced down the aisle. Dany heard the snap of Jhogo’s whip, saw the leather lick out and coil around the wineseller’s leg. The man sprawled face first in the dirt. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Notice that while several men try to capture the wine seller, the sole one who is successful is Jhogo with his whip. Why the others fail in capturing him, we will explore in later sections, but basically this is because they all represent a dragon body part that hatchling Dany has not yet under control or is underdeveloped. All she has at this point are her wings and tail.

When Jhogo whipped the tail during the confrontation with Viserys at the Dothraki Sea, this was an instinctive reaction of which Dany had little control over, except to let him go in the end, not unlike Dany’s later dragon hatchlings lash their tails in anger.

Across the tent, Rhaegal unfolded green wings to flap and flutter a half foot before thumping to the carpet. When he landed, his tail lashed back and forth in fury, and he raised his head and screamed. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

But by the time, Jorah hints that the wine seller may have the intention to poison Dany, she has more control over her tail.

Jhogo reached for the whip coiled at his belt, but Dany stopped him with a light touch on the arm. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

The end of the chapter dispells any notion that Jhogo and the whip are a seperate entity from Dany: the captive is chained to Dany’s silver (her wings).

Khal Drogo led [the khalasar] on his great red stallion, with Daenerys beside him on her silver. The wineseller hurried behind them, naked, on foot, chained at throat and wrists. His chains were fastened to the halter of Dany’s silver. As she rode, he ran after her, barefoot and stumbling. No harm would come to him … so long as he kept up. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

As a princess, Dany rides the would-be assassin out of the city to his death by a secure girdle. As a dragon, she flies off with the wineseller forced to hang on to her tail.

As we have had before, in this chapter too, we see references to the Saint George legend as well as Dany acting like a true dragon, albeit a hatchling. This seems odd, since Viserys is dead already. But when we focus on the description of the wineseller, we discover hints to regard him as a ghost of Voserys.

He was a small man, slender and handsome, his flaxen hair curled and perfumed after the fashion of Lys. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

The combination of being handsome, flaxen hair and smells of Lys implies he is meant to be seen as a shadow of Viserys. While Volantis claims to have preserved Valyrian nobility after the Doom, it is in Lys that the Valyrian features are the most prevalent.

The Lyseni themselves are beautiful as well, for here more than anywhere else in the known world the old Valyrian bloodlines still run strong. […] The Lyseni are also great breeders of slaves, mating beauty with beauty in hopes of producing ever more refined and lovely courtesans and bedslaves. The blood of Valyria still runs strong in Lys, where even the smallfolk oft boast pale skin, silver-gold hair, and the purple, lilac, and pale blue eyes of the dragonlords of old. (tWoIaF – The Free Cities: The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys and Tyrosh)

In other words, Lys is full of common men and women who may look like dragonlords of old, but none of them are “dragons”. And so, when Dany decides that Viserys is not a dragon at the end of her fifth chapter in aGoT, she determines he is no more different than a Lyseni: Valyrian looks, but no dragonrider blood. Notice how the world book mentions lilac eyes amongst the Lyseni. In the novels only two Valyrian looking men have lilac eyes: Viserys and the Lyseni spymaster of the Golden Company Lysono Maar.

The spymaster was new to Griff, a Lyseni named Lysono Maar, with lilac eyes and white-gold hair and lips that would have been the envy of a whore. (aDwD, The Lost Lord (Jon Connington I))

[…] Arianne’s company was met by a column of sellswords down from Griffin’s Roost, led by the most exotic creature that the princess had ever laid her eyes on, with painted fingernails and gemstones sparkling in his ears. Lysono Maar spoke the Common Tongue very well. “I have the honor to be the eyes and ears of the Golden Company, princess.”
You look…” She hesitated.[…] “…like a Targaryen,” Arianne insisted. His eyes were a pale lilac, his hair a waterfall of white and gold. All the same, something about him made her skin crawl. Was this what Viserys looked like? she found herself wondering. If so perhaps it is a good thing he is dead. (tWoW excerpt, Arianne II)

Lysono Maar may look like a Targaryen, like Viserys, but he is no dragon. He is just a man, as was Viserys.

George did not give us the color of eyes of the wine merchant. It does not matter. The Lyseni perfume links the merchant in a similar manner to Viserys as George does with Lysono Maar with the lilac eyes, just less explicitly as GRRM does in Arianne’s excerpt of tWoW.

“Tell me,” she commanded as she lowered herself onto her cushions. “Was it the Usurper?”
“Yes.” The knight drew out a folded parchment. “A letter to Viserys, from Magister Illyrio. Robert Baratheon offers lands and lordships for your death, or your brother’s.
My brother?” Her sob was half a laugh. “He does not know yet, does he? The Usurper owes Drogo a lordship.” This time her laugh was half a sob. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Important here is that as I showed in Part 1 of Dany’s essays related to Serwyn and Saint George is that now we have four chapters that allude to the Saint George legend, in which Dany is the actual dragon, each time trumping Viserys or a reminder/ghost/shadow of him. Only in two of those chaptures, the whip is specifically featured, rather than the belt. And now that we know the whip is not just a stand-in girdle, but a dragon’s tail, we have to look what else these particular whip-chapters have in common.  The answer is that in both chapters Dany manages to convert someone’s mind to do what she wishes.

  • In the Dothraki Sea, the capture of Viserys with Dany’s tail converts Jorah enough to obey Dany’s command over that of Viserys, despite the fact he swore his sword to Viserys. And while Jorah may not swear his sword to Dany until the end of aGoT, and he continues to spy on Dany until Qarth, he does as she commands when it comes to Viserys afterwards.
  • In the sixth chapter, Dany converts Jorah to get Drogo to agree into taking the Iron Throne, even though Viserys is dead.

Many readers remember the chapter structure as Dany fails at convincing Drogo to take the Iron Throne for their unborn son, but Drogo changes his mind after the assassination attempt. At best, some remember that Jorah said something that helped Drogo in changing his mind. Most readers forget though that Dany attempts to recruit Jorah for this goal.

Let us go through the chapter’s structure. It starts with Drogo dismissing Dany’s efforts to convince him to take the Iron Throne.

The khal’s mouth twisted in a frown beneath the droop of his long mustachio. “The stallion who mounts the world has no need of iron chairs.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

This is how the dialogue begins for the reader, but it is evident there was a dialogue before Drogo’s rejection of the idea. Except we get to read the end of a love-making scene. So, Dany first introduced the idea to Drogo, then they made love, and Dany and Drogo continued the discussion after.

Nor was it the first time that Dany brought up the subject.

“In the Free Cities, there are ships by the thousand,” Dany told him, as she had told him before. “Wooden horses with a hundred legs, that fly across the sea on wings full of wind.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Though Drogo decrees the subject closed and Dany predends to acquiesce, she has no such intention.

Khal Drogo did not want to hear it. “We will speak no more of wooden horses and iron chairs.” He dropped the cloth and began to dress. “This day I will go to the grass and hunt, woman wife,” he announced as he shrugged into a painted vest and buckled on a wide belt with heavy medallions of silver, gold, and bronze.
Yes, my sun-and-stars,” Dany said. Drogo would take his bloodriders and ride in search of hrakkar, the great white lion of the plains. If they returned triumphant, her lord husband’s joy would be fierce, and he might be willing to hear her out. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

She intends to bring it up again the moment he returns from his hunt and feels triumphant and joyful.

From these paragraphs we glean the following:

  • Initially, she tried to convince Drogo with rational arguments;
  • when that failed, she aimed to use love-making to bring Drogo into an emotional state where he would overcome his objections. (this is not uncommon in relations).
  • That failed as well, but she has no intention of giving up, and hopes Drogo’s emotional state after a successful hunt will do the trick.

So, the chapter sets Dany up as using Drogo’s emotional state to get her wish granted. All she requires is the right opportunity that would make Drogo vulnerable to making a decision based on emotions rather than rationale.

Dany also comes to the realisation that she cannot convince Drogo by herself alone. And so, she attempts to recruit Jorah to help her in this.

As Doreah combed out her hair, she sent Jhiqui to find Ser Jorah Mormont. The knight came at once. He wore horsehair leggings and painted vest, like a rider. Coarse black hair covered his thick chest and muscular arms. “My princess. How may I serve you?”
You must talk to my lord husband,” Dany said. “Drogo says the stallion who mounts the world will have all the lands of the earth to rule, and no need to cross the poison water. He talks of leading his khalasar east after Rhaego is born, to plunder the lands around the Jade Sea.”
The knight looked thoughtful. “The khal has never seen the Seven Kingdoms,” he said. “They are nothing to him. If he thinks of them at all, no doubt he thinks of islands, a few small cities clinging to rocks in the manner of Lorath or Lys, surrounded by stormy seas. The riches of the east must seem a more tempting prospect.”
“But he must ride west,” Dany said, despairing. “Please, help me make him understand.” […]
“The Dothraki do things in their own time, for their own reasons,” the knight answered. “Have patience, Princess. Do not make your brother’s mistake. We will go home, I promise you.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Jorah does not acquiesce here. Not yet. At this point, he is still hoping to get news from Illyrio about Robert’s potential pardon of him. Perhaps he believes Robert Baratheon is the easiest and safest bet to get back home to Bear Island and be Lord Mormont again. And with Viserys dead, it is doubtful he feared for Dany’s life. So, during the above conversation it is in Jorah’s self-interest to not change Drogo’s mind. But after the assassination attempt, after the whip snapped (again), Jorah does exactly what she asked of him.

Drogo returns in a good mood from his successful hunt, feeling invincible, as Dany had hoped earlier that day.

Cohollo was leading a packhorse behind him, with the carcass of a great white lion slung across its back. Above, the stars were coming out. The khal laughed as he swung down off his stallion and showed her the scars on his leg where the hrakkar had raked him through his leggings. “I shall make you a cloak of its skin, moon of my life,” he swore. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

While he feels invincible, Dany informs Drogo of the events at the market.

When Dany told him what had happened at the market, all laughter stopped, and Khal Drogo grew very quiet.

Remember, that her third chapter in aGoT already establishes as Dany having the legal power over life and death over anyone who threatens her, when Jhogo asked her whether he should kill Viserys for her (see Dany I). And that she also covered for Viserys twice about informing her husband about a threat to her life. So, Dany does not reveal the poisoning attempt to just see the poisoner punished, but to steer Drogo into an emotional state against Robert Baratheon – namely anger.

Meanwhile, Jorah’s argument is the deal breaker. He claims that more assassins will come.

This poisoner was the first,” Ser Jorah Mormont warned him, “but he will not be the last. Men will risk much for a lordship.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Jorah implies that executing the assassin will not suffice; there will be more until either Robert gets the news that Dany is dead or until Robert is dead. He knew very well that this argument would make a proud khal – who feels himself invincible, who loves his wife, who is looking forward to his son being born – decide to invade Westeros and try and take the throne of Robert Baratheon. Jorah knew this, because he’s been smitten with a woman himself and made foolish choices for her – he won a tourney for her; he got himself into debt for her; he sold poachers into slavery for her; he fled into exile for her.

Now, Drogo’s first decision – the wine seller’s fate, horse gifts for Jhogo and Jorah – would have happened whether Jorah spoke up or not.

Drogo was silent for a time. Finally he said, “This seller of poisons ran from the moon of my life. Better he should run after her. So he will. Jhogo, Jorah the Andal, to each of you I say, choose any horse you wish from my herds, and it is yours. Any horse save my red and the silver that was my bride gift to the moon of my life. I make this gift to you for what you did. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Drogo would not however have decided to try and invade Westeros without Jorah’s argument.

“And to Rhaego son of Drogo, the stallion who will mount the world, to him I also pledge a gift. To him I will give this iron chair his mother’s father sat in. I will give him Seven Kingdoms. I, Drogo, khal, will do this thing.” His voice rose, and he lifted his fist to the sky. “I will take my khalasar west to where the world ends, and ride the wooden horses across the black salt water as no khal has done before. I will kill the men in the iron suits and tear down their stone houses. I will rape their women, take their children as slaves, and bring their broken gods back to Vaes Dothrak to bow down beneath the Mother of Mountains. This I vow, I, Drogo son of Bharbo. This I swear before the Mother of Mountains, as the stars look down in witness.” (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

And Jorah would not have made the argument without Dany’s request earlier that day.

Since this chapter ends with Dany personally dragging the shadow of her brother (a prince) in the form of the wine seller out of the city Vaes Dothrak, girdled to her wings, we thus have a sinister turn-around of the Saint George legend. In this version, the true dragon starts to convert the citizens slowly but surely into following her wishes.

Such as her khas, as I brought up earlier. She gives them her bride gifts, declaring them to be her kos, before the hatching of her dragon eggs. Initially they refuse, insisting they will accompany her back to Vaes Dothrak as her khas. But after the hatching of the dragon eggs, they accept their new role as khas. Plotwise of course, it is the hatching event and her surviving the fire that alters their mind. But visually, the dragon eggs hatch just after the image of the whip of flame lashes out.

Now, she thought, now, and for an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand. He smiled, and the whip snaked down at the pyre, hissing. She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Crack. The whip made a sound like thunder. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And her tail is stronger here, for she announces she is a woman now, instead of a child.

You will be my khalasar,” she told them. “I see the faces of slaves. I free you. Take off your collars. Go if you wish, no one shall harm you. If you stay, it will be as brothers and sisters, husbands and wives.” The black eyes watched her, wary, expressionless. “I see the children, women, the wrinkled faces of the aged. I was a child yesterday. Today I am a woman. Tomorrow I will be old. To each of you I say, give me your hands and your hearts, and there will always be a place for you.” (aGoT, Daenerys X)

Much later in Dany’s arc, several significant events include a whip, growing in size and sound, as she claims people for herself, such as the Harpy’s Scourge.

Dany handed the slaver the end of Drogon’s chain. In return he presented her with the whip. The handle was black dragonbone, elaborately carved and inlaid with gold. Nine long thin leather lashes trailed from it, each one tipped by a gilded claw. The gold pommel was a woman’s head, with pointed ivory teeth. “The harpy’s fingers,” Kraznys named the scourge.
Dany turned the whip in her hand. Such a light thing, to bear such weight. “Is it done, then? Do they belong to me?
“It is done,” he agreed, giving the chain a sharp pull to bring Drogon down from the litter.
Dany mounted her silver. She could feel her heart thumping in her chest. […] She stood in her stirrups and raised the harpy’s fingers above her head for all the Unsullied to see. “IT IS DONE!” she cried at the top of her lungs. “YOU ARE MINE!” She gave the mare her heels and galloped along the first rank, holding the fingers high. “YOU ARE THE DRAGON’S NOW! YOU’RE BOUGHT AND PAID FOR! IT IS DONE! IT IS DONE!” (aSoS, Daenerys II)

A handle of dragonbone, several lashes bound together, each tipped with a claw and the pommel a woman’s head with pointy teeth. The scourge symbolizes every she-dragon attribute. A picture says so much more than thousand words, now that you know her silver are her wings and the whip her tail.

SaraWintersDaenerys
Daenerys (on her wings and tail in hand), by Sara Winters.

Yes, Dany tosses it aside after lashing Kraznys’s face with it and having Drogon set him aflame. And yes, Dany gives the Unsullied their freedom. But she first claimed them to be the dragon’s with her tail, and if whips are a dragon’s tail, then what are lances? Teeth? Claws? For a moment she held the Harpy’s Scourge and made the Unsullied part of her dragon-body, before she told them they were free. The teeth and claws of a dragon cannot practically choose to go their own way from the rest of its body.

And then finally, Dany uses a whip to cow Drogon at the pit.

She scrabbled in the sand, pushing against the pitmaster’s corpse, and her fingers brushed against the handle of his whip. Touching it made her feel braver. The leather was warm, alive. Drogon roared again, the sound so loud that she almost dropped the whip. His teeth snapped at her. Dany hit him. “No,” she screamed, swinging the lash with all the strength that she had in her. The dragon jerked his head back. “No,” she screamed again. “NO!” The barbs raked along his snout. Drogon rose, his wings covering her in shadow. Dany swung the lash at his scaled belly, back and forth until her arm began to ache. His long serpentine neck bent like an archer’s bow. With a hisssssss, he spat black fire down at her. Dany darted underneath the flames, swinging the whip and shouting, “No, no, no. Get DOWN!” His answering roar was full of fear and fury, full of pain. His wings beat once, twice … and folded. The dragon gave one last hiss and stretched out flat upon his belly. (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

Like the wings, the whips also grow and mature in size. First we had Jhogo’s single whip, then we have the Harpy’s Scourge. Finally, the whip at the pit has barbs on it, just like an adult dragon’s tail has spikes on it. By cowing Drogon with her own barbed tail, Dany makes him hers.

Marc_Simonetti_mother_and_son
Mother and Son, by Marc Simonetti
Teeth, claws and firepower

If the whip is Dany’s tail and her silver her hatchling wings, then what are her teeth, claws and firepower? Well, George has swords named as teeth and claws.

[Joffrey] drew his sword and showed it to her; a longsword adroitly shrunken to suit a boy of twelve, gleaming blue steel, castle-forged and double-edged, with a leather grip and a lion’s-head pommel in gold. Sansa exclaimed over it admiringly, and Joffrey looked pleased. “I call it Lion’s Tooth,” he said. (aGoT, Sansa I)

Longclaw is an apt name.” Jon tried a practice cut. He was clumsy and uncomfortable with his left hand, yet even so the steel seemed to flow through the air, as if it had a will of its own. “Wolves have claws, as much as bears.” (aGoT, Jon VIII)

And so do dragons, Jon!

We thus can deduce that arakhs represent the teeth, as their shape can be likened most to teeth.

The teeth [of the dragon skulls] were long, curving knives of black diamond. (aGoT, Tyrion II)

[Dany] heard a shout, saw a shove, and in the blink of an eye the arakhs were out, long razor-sharp blades, half sword and half scythe. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

drogosarakh-jbcasacop
Drogo’s arakh, by JB Casacop

Meanwhile Jorah’s prior Valyrian sword was Longclaw. He might not fight with that particular sword anymore, but we can still regard his swordfighting as an extension of a claw – a dragonclaw.

Finally, a dragon has firepower at some point. While by the end of aCoK actual dragonfire is used in protection of Dany in the House of the Undying, she also had dragonfire in another form – namely, arrows from bows.

However, in their early hatchling stages, dragons mostly have to rely on their wings and tail to protect themselves from coming to harm. Initially, their teeth and claws are nothing but tiny black needles.

Initially, solely steam will rise from their nostrils. Others have to char the meat for Dany’s hatchlings.

Such little things, she thought as she fed them by hand. Or rather, tried to feed them, for the dragons would not eat. They would hiss and spit at each bloody morsel of horsemeat, steam rising from their nostrils, yet they would not take the food . . . until Dany recalled something Viserys had told her when they were children. Only dragons and men eat cooked meat, he had said. When she had her handmaids char the horsemeat black, the dragons ripped at it eagerly, their heads striking like snakes. So long as the meat was seared, they gulped down several times their own weight every day, and at last began to grow larger and tronger. (aCoK, Daenerys I)

With this we get the reference of Dany taking steam baths.

They filled her bath with hot water brought up from the kitchen and scented it with fragrant oils. The girl pulled the rough cotton tunic over Dany’s head and helped her into the tub. The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. “Ours is the house of the dragon,” he would say. “The fire is in our blood.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

She commanded her handmaids to prepare her a bath. Doreah built a fire outside the tent, while Irri and Jhiqui fetched the big copper tub—another bride gift—from the packhorses and carried water from the pool. When the bath was steaming, Irri helped her into it and climbed in after her. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

“Jhiqui, a bath, please,” she commanded, to wash the dust of travel from her skin and soak her weary bones. It was pleasant to know that they would linger here for a while, that she would not need to climb back on her silver on the morrow. The water was scalding hot, as she liked it. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

In the first chapter then, Dany is the egg heating up, while in the third and fourth chapter we have the picture of Dany steaming, but not yet producing flame. In the sixth chapter and after she orders fires being built – but does not do so herself, not until the pyre – when she sets it aflame after taking a hot steaming bath.

Her bath was scalding hot when Irri helped her into the tub, but Dany did not flinch or cry aloud. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Jhiqui had scented the water with the oils she had found in the market in Vaes Dothrak; the steam rose moist and fragrant. […] Dany took the torch from Aggo’s hand and thrust it between the logs. The oil took the fire at once, the brush and dried grass a heartbeat later. Tiny flames went darting up the wood like swift red mice, skating over the oil and leaping from bark to branch to leaf. A rising heat puffed at her face, soft and sudden as a lover’s breath, but in seconds it had grown too hot to bear. (aGoT, Daenerys X)

It takes almost a whole novel (aCoK), before Dany’s hatchlings can produce flame of their own and use their claws and teeths to rip at a living enemy.

Drogon’s long neck snaked out and he opened his mouth to scream, steam rising from between his teeth. […] Then indigo turned to orange, and whispers turned to screams. […] Perched above her, the dragon spread his wings and tore at the terrible dark heart, ripping the rotten flesh to ribbons, and when his head snapped forward, fire flew from his open jaws, bright and hot. She could hear the shrieks of the Undying as they burned, their high thin papery voices crying out in tongues long dead. Their flesh was crumbling parchment, their bones dry wood soaked in tallow. They danced as the flames consumed them; they staggered and writhed and spun and raised blazing hands on high, their fingers bright as torches. (aCoK, Daenerys IV)

Dany in the House of the Undying Mike S Miller
Dany in the House of the Undying, by Mike S. Miller

Hence, if my proposal to regard Dany’s human guards and their weapons as a part of her dragon’s body is correct, we should not see those guards being able to use the arakhs, swords and bows successfully towards the end of aGoT, almost a complete novel after she was hatched at her wedding.

Remember the scene where Jhogo captures the wine seller? All but Jhogo of her khas failed at stopping him.

The trader vaulted over the stall, darting between Aggo and Rakharo. Quaro reached for an arakh that was not there as the blond man slammed him aside. He raced down the aisle. Dany heard the snap of Jhogo’s whip, saw the leather lick out and coil around the wineseller’s leg. The man sprawled face first in the dirt. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Neither Aggo or Rhakaro have time to respond. Solely Quaro makes the attempt, but finds his arakh missing. Aggo’s weapon is the bow, Rakharo’s and Quaro’s are the arakhs. In-world, they cannot carry their weapons, because in Vaes Dothrak it is forbidden to draw blood. But in the meta-layer, the absence of their weapons works since a hatchling’s teeth and claws are nothing but tiny black needles.

But when we turn towards the fighting scenes during Mirri Maz Dur working her ritual to save Drogo from death, Dany has grown as dragon, and therefore is able to use her “teeth”, “claws” and “firepower” in unison to defend herself from physical harm.

Drogo’s kos arrive at the scene and want to stop the ritual. A fight breaks out between Drogo’s kos and Dany’s khas plus Jorah. Now, if we regard Dany’s khas and Jorah as her teeth, claws and firepower, then we can regard Drogo’s blood-of-his-blood as his teeth and claws. I do not claim here that we ought to regard Drogon as a dragon too, but we certainly can view him (and his people) as a fiery predator. And while Dany is nearly a drake (half-grown dragon), Drogo is a grown predator. Dothraki have a predatory culture after all, even hunting other predators (such as the white lion or attacking and enslaving other khalasars). Meanwhile many readers have grown more convinced that Danny or Drogon will end up being “the stallion that mounts the world”, which is a Dothraki prophecy, and long time viewed by them as a prophecy of their own. George might describe the Dothraki as dragonlike if we were to ask him, in the same vein that Jon Snow considers giants to be bearlike.

This take also implies we should regard the fighting between Dany’s khas and and Drogo’s kos not just as a battle between Dany and her husband’s close-minded bodyguards, but as a battle of wills between Dany and Drogo themselves.

This must not be,” Qotho thundered. She had not seen the bloodrider return. Haggo and Cohollo were with him. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

It would mean that while at death’s door, Drogo is an unwilling patient to Mirri treating him.

Now let us inspect the fighting scene itself.

You will die, maegi,” Qotho promised, “but the other must die first.” He drew his arakh and made for the tent. “No,” she shouted, “you mustn’t.” She caught him by the shoulder, but Qotho shoved her aside. Dany fell to her knees, crossing her arms over her belly to protect the child within. “Stop him,” she commanded her khas, “kill him.” (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Upon, Dany’s command, Quaro reaches for the handle of his whip. This is Dany using her tail.

Rakharo and Quaro stood beside the tent flap. Quaro took a step forward, reaching for the handle of his whip, but Qotho spun graceful as a dancer, the curved arakh rising. It caught Quaro low under the arm, the bright sharp steel biting up through leather and skin, through muscle and rib bone. Blood fountained as the young rider reeled backward, gasping. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

A hatchling’s tail alone is no match against a predator’s mature teeth. And so, Drogo’s teeth rips or chews off the tip of Dany’s tail here. And chopped off bodyparts die off.

The Dothraki were shouting, Mirri Maz Duur wailing inside the tent like nothing human, Quaro pleading for water as he died. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

At this point Jorah jumps in to take on Qotho.

Qotho wrenched the blade free. “Horselord,” Ser Jorah Mormont called. “Try me.” His longsword slid from its scabbard. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Jorah here acts as Dany’s claws, while his chainmail represents Dany’s now tougher dragon skin around the limbs and throat.

The knight was clad in chainmail, with gauntlets and greaves of lobstered steel and a heavy gorget around his throat, but he had not thought to don his helm. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Jorah is an accomplished and experienced fighter. He fought in Robert’s Rebellion for Ned Stark, was one of the first men who broke through the defences of the Greyjoys at Pyke during their rebellion, and a longtime sellsword in Essos. And yet, despite this George has him written as a fighter who nearly lost against Qotho.

Qotho danced backward, arakh whirling around his head in a shining blur, flickering out like lightning as the knight came on in a rush. Ser Jorah parried as best he could, but the slashes came so fast that it seemed to Dany that Qotho had four arakhs and as many arms. She heard the crunch of sword on mail, saw sparks fly as the long curved blade glanced off a gauntlet. Suddenly it was Mormont stumbling backward, and Qotho leaping to the attack. The left side of the knight’s face ran red with blood, and a cut to the hip opened a gash in his mail and left him limping. Qotho screamed taunts at him, calling him a craven, a milk man, a eunuch in an iron suit. “You die now!” he promised, arakh shivering through the red twilight. […] The curved blade slipped past the straight one and bit deep into the knight’s hip where the mail gaped open. Mormont grunted, stumbled. […] Qotho shrieked triumph, but his arakh had found bone, and for half a heartbeat it caught. It was enough. Ser Jorah brought his longsword down with all the strength left him, through flesh and muscle and bone, and Qotho’s forearm dangled loose, flopping on a thin cord of skin and sinew. The knight’s next cut was at the Dothraki’s ear, so savage that Qotho’s face seemed almost to explode. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

That he makes Jorah end up being wounded that severely seems to make little sense with regards his swordskill and experience. It does make far more sense if he is Dany’s juvenile legs and claws.

Notice how Qotho’s arakh is associated with verbs such as slashing and biting. This matches with the idea of the arakh as teeth. If Qotho and his arakh represent Drogo’s teeth they would slash and bite in a fight with another animal. Meanwhile the image of the four arms imagery and the verb leaping matches with Qotho acting like a four legged predator. Or rather, Drogo is the four legged predator and Qotho is one of the limbs in the fight. We do not have the same imagery for Jorah, because George’s dragons do not have four legs – they have only two legs with the wings being the other two limbs.

Next, pay attention to the wounds. Jorah is cut at the face, but despite him not wearing a helm that cut is never life threatening. Instead Qotho manages to deal two cuts to the hip. The first is severe enough to cause Jorah to limp. The second time it is deep enough to hit the hip bone. Claws are attached to the legs of a dragon, and thus it makes sense for Qotho to majorly wound Jorah at the location where legs are attached to the body. This is further emphasized with Dany not being able to walk or stand by herself during this scene, and Jorah literally being her legs to carry her to Mirri when she goes into labor.

An arm went under her waist, and then Ser Jorah was lifting her off her feet. […] She was being carried. Her eyes opened to gaze up at a flat dead sky, black and bleak and starless. Please, no. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur’s voice grew louder, until it filled the world. The shapes! she screamed. The dancers! Ser Jorah carried her inside the tent. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

In contrast, Jorah’s most destructive harm to Qotho is to the face, where the teeth are. Jorah also cut off Qotho’s arm: by slaying Qotho, Jorah has taken down one of Drogo’s four limbs.

After Jorah slays Qotho, the fight continues between Rakharo and Haggo. Both use the arakh. And then Jhogo’s whip comes into play. So these are teeth clashing with teeth, until the dragon tail destabilizes the other. Teeth and (remaining) tail were used in unison.

Rakharo was fighting Haggo, arakh dancing with arakh until Jhogo’s whip cracked, loud as thunder, the lash coiling around Haggo’s throat. A yank, and the bloodrider stumbled backward, losing his feet and his sword. Rakharo sprang forward, howling, swinging his arakh down with both hands through the top of Haggo’s head. The point caught between his eyes, red and quivering. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Once more, the head is injured, where the teeth are. And Drogo’s sole defense left is Cohollo and his khalasar body: blunt stones and Cohollo’s tiny claw as a knife.

She tried to crawl toward the tent, but Cohollo caught her. Fingers in her hair, he pulled her head back and she felt the cold touch of his knife at her throat. “My baby,” she screamed, and perhaps the gods heard, for as quick as that, Cohollo was dead. Aggo’s arrow took him under the arm, to pierce his lungs and heart. (aGoT, Daenerys IX)

The last limb is taken down with Dany’s first firebolt.

Aggo_by_Cloudninja9
Aggo, by Cloudninja9

So, why the lungs and heart then? It was Drogo’s heart that had blackened that kicked off Dany pleading for Mirri to use magic to save Drogo.

When they were alone, Ser Jorah drew his dagger. Deftly, with a delicacy surprising in such a big man, he began to scrape away the black leaves and dried blue mud from Drogo’s chest. The plaster had caked hard as the mud walls of the Lamb Men, and like those walls it cracked easily. Ser Jorah broke the dry mud with his knife, pried the chunks from the flesh, peeled off the leaves one by one. A foul, sweet smell rose from the wound, so thick it almost choked her. The leaves were crusted with blood and pus, Drogo’s breast black and glistening with corruption. (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Drogo fought through his kos from that happening to save his soul. But Dany the dragon won that battle once Cohollo goes down. It kills Drogo’s last resistence, his last breath and soul, only to be a healed shell of a body. In a way, Dany the dragon shred and charred Drogo’s heart.  This chapter links to her eating the raw horse heart in Vaes Dothrak and is analogous to Drogon’s later destruction of the rotten indigo “black” heart of the Undying. George makes sure in the relevant ritual chapter that “this is the same”!

“This is bloodmagic,” he said. “It is forbidden.”
“I am khaleesi, and I say it is not forbidden. In Vaes Dothrak, Khal Drogo slew a stallion and I ate his heart, to give our son strength and courage. This is the same. The same.” (aGoT, Daenerys VIII)

Though the heart of the stallion in Dany’s fifth chapter was raw, its blood looks black to Dany.

The heart was steaming in the cool evening air when Khal Drogo set it before her, raw and bloody. […] The stallion’s blood looked black in the flickering orange glare of the torches that ringed the high chalk walls of the pit. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

How Dany as a dragon managed to eat and  keep the raw horse heart down, and what the recurrence of this image means we will explore in part III.

Similar analysis of the fighting scene outside the tent during Mirri’s ritual can be done for Dany’s khas and Jorah acting on command to stop the rapes of some of the Lamb women in her seventh chapter. Jhogo uses the arakh to behead a rapist, Jorah claws another while Aggo finishes him with an arrow, aka firebolt.

The rapers laughed at him. One man shouted back. Jhogo’s arakh flashed, and the man’s head went tumbling from his shoulders. Laughter turned to curses as the horsemen reached for weapons, but by then Quaro and Aggo and Rakharo were there. She saw Aggo point across the road to where she sat upon her silver. […] All the while the man atop the lamb girl continued to plunge in and out of her, so intent on his pleasure that he seemed unaware of what was going on around him. Ser Jorah dismounted and wrenched him off with a mailed hand. The Dothraki went sprawling in the mud, bounced up with a knife in hand, and died with Aggo’s arrow through his throat. (aGoT, Daenerys VII)

I have shown in the prior sections how Dany’s wingspan and tail grew in aSoS. This is true for her teeth, claws and firepower. With the grown tail the Harpy’s fingers she claims the Unsullied – 8000 fully trained plus those still in training. This whip features pointy teeth on the woman’s head as pommel and nine claws at each end of the “fingers”.  So, this alone suggests that we ought to see the Unsullied as Dany’s extra teeth and claws.

The weapons of the Unsullied are short spears and swords.

“All the world knows that the Unsullied are masters of spear and shield and shortsword.” […] “They begin their training at five. Every day they train from dawn to dusk, until they have mastered the shortsword, the shield, and the three spears. […]” (aSoS, Daenerys II)

Swords certainly can be either teeth or claws. But then there are also the spears. They can function in two ways – held to stab orthrown. In other words, the spears can act like teeth or claws when used to stab, but function as firepower when thrown. In the later case, they are just large and long arrows. Their shields can be seen as a dragon’s hardened scales.

Unsullied Phalanx by Lincoln Renall
Unsullied Phalanx, by Lincoln Renall

That we are about to see a new set of teeth, claws and firepower, before Dany acquires the Unsullied, is illustrated by Dany noticing Rhakaro and Aggo sharpening the arakh and fitting a new string to the dragonbone bow respectively.

Outside her door she found Aggo fitting a new string to his bow by the light of a swinging oil lamp. Rakharo sat crosslegged on the deck beside him, sharpening his arakh with a whetstone. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

Think of baby animals that start out with milk teeth, but over time these are replaced with larger and stronger ones when they are juveniles, or the vocal chords of boys altering so their voice drops.

In the above quote you can notice how the bow is associated to fire as it is Aggo who is said to work by the light of an oil lamp. This brings us to Dany’s increased dragonfire power. First, her dragons’ fire is hers to command.

She took a chunk of salt pork out of the bowl in her lap and held it up for her dragons to see. All three of them eyed it hungrily. Rhaegal spread green wings and stirred the air, and Viserion’s neck swayed back and forth like a long pale snake’s as he followed the movement of her hand. “Drogon,” Dany said softly, “dracarys.” And she tossed the pork in the air. Drogon moved quicker than a striking cobra. Flame roared from his mouth, orange and scarlet and black, searing the meat before it began to fall. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

The Fall of Astapor is heralded by her double attack on Kraznys. First she slashes his face with the Harpy’s fingers and then orders Drogon to set him aflame.

“There is a reason. A dragon is no slave.” And Dany swept the lash down as hard as she could across the slaver’s face. Kraznys screamed and staggered back, the blood running red down his cheeks into his perfumed beard. The harpy’s fingers had torn his features half to pieces with one slash, but she did not pause to contemplate the ruin. “Drogon,” she sang out loudly, sweetly, all her fear forgotten. “Dracarys.” The black dragon spread his wings and roared. A lance of swirling dark flame took Kraznys full in the face. His eyes melted and ran down his cheeks, and the oil in his hair and beard burst so fiercely into fire that for an instant the slaver wore a burning crown twice as tall as his head. The sudden stench of charred meat overwhelmed even his perfume, and his wail seemed to drown all other sound. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

Notice how GRRM compares the flame to a lance, which is an alternative word for spear, or a particular type of spear.

Shortly after, she commands the Unsullied to attack, and does so by using the dracarys command, a command they echo.

“Unsullied!” Dany galloped before them, her silver-gold braid flying behind her, her bell chiming with every stride. “Slay the Good Masters, slay the soldiers, slay every man who wears a tokar or holds a whip, but harm no child under twelve, and strike the chains off every slave you see.” She raised the harpy’s fingers in the air . . . and then she flung the scourge aside. “Freedom!” she sang out. “Dracarys! Dracarys!
Dracarys!” they shouted back, the sweetest word she’d ever heard. “Dracarys! Dracarys!” And all around them slavers ran and sobbed and begged and died, and the dusty air was filled with spears and fire. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

But Astapor is not won solely with the Unsullied. After Dany let Drogon loose on Kraznys en before she orders the Unsullied to attack with her Dracarys-command, we see all of her dragons in action along with Jhogo and his whip, Rakhara using both arakh and bow, and Aggo shooting down many slavers in tokars.

Then the Plaza of Punishment blew apart into blood and chaos. The Good Masters were shrieking, stumbling, shoving one another aside and tripping over the fringes of their tokars in their haste. Drogon flew almost lazily at Kraznys, black wings beating. As he gave the slaver another taste of fire, Irri and Jhiqui unchained Viserion and Rhaegal, and suddenly there were three dragons in the air. When Dany turned to look, a third of Astapor’s proud demon-horned warriors were fighting to stay atop their terrified mounts, and another third were fleeing in a bright blaze of shiny copper. One man kept his saddle long enough to draw a sword, but Jhogo’s whip coiled about his neck and cut off his shout. Another lost a hand to Rakharo’s arakh and rode off reeling and spurting blood. Aggo sat calmly notching arrows to his bowstring and sending them at tokars. Silver, gold, or plain, he cared nothing for the fringe. Strong Belwas had his arakh out as well, and he spun it as he charged.
“Spears!” Dany heard one Astapori shout. It was Grazdan, old Grazdan in his tokar heavy with pearls. “Unsullied! Defend us, stop them, defend your masters! Spears! Swords!” When Rakharo put an arrow through his mouth, the slaves holding his sedan chair broke and ran, dumping him unceremoniously on the ground. The old man crawled to the first rank of eunuchs, his blood pooling on the bricks. (aSoS, Daenerys III)

We notice that there is more emphasis on people being killed by arrows in the above scene.

So, we can conclude that just like Dany’s khas combined are tail, teeth and firepower on wings, the Unsullied are a combo of teeth, claws and firepower and tougher scales. And as eunuchs they have the genderlesness aspect of dragons.

Of course the sellswords in the sellsword companies that join Dany after Yunkai wield swords, bows and arakhs, and thus also add to these dragon features. Daario Naharis is of interest here, since we learn early on that he has two beloved blades – an arakh and a stiletto.

He stood with his hands crossed at the wrists, his palms resting on the pommels of his blades; a curving Dothraki arakh on his left hip, a Myrish stiletto on his right. Their hilts were a matched pair of golden women, naked and wanton. (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

While one may question the sincerity of the Myrish stiletto (Myrish objects are often tied to a liar or deceiver, similar to someone offering Arbor Gold), it is the Dothraki arakh that Daario uses to swear his allegiance to Dany.

In a blink, Daario’s arakh was free of its sheath. His submission was as outrageous as the rest of him, a great swoop that brought his face down to her toes. “My sword is yours. My life is yours. My love is yours. My blood, my body, my songs, you own them all. I live and die at your command, fair queen.” (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

One of Daario’s (many) visual features is his golden tooth. So, it is safe to say that the arakh and Daario’s teeth are Dany’s. And when he goes over to Yunkai as voluntarily hostage, he leaves his arakh teeth and stiletto with Dany.

The expected addition of all of the Dothraki united in The Winds of Winter will only enlargen her teeth, tail and firepower.

The Belly

So far, I skipped Strong Belwas and Selmy. It is time to specify Belwas’s role. In short, he is Dany’s dragon belly. Unlike beautiful human females aged between 14 to 16, real dragons grow a belly. And the larger and older they get, the bigger the belly.

The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it . . . and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. “I see a fat brown man and an older man with a staff. Which is it?” […] The old man had the look of Westeros about him, and the brown-skinned one must weigh twenty stone. […] The brown man was near as wide as he’d looked in the platter, with a gleaming bald head and the smooth cheeks of a eunuch. A long curving arakh was thrust through the sweat-stained yellow silk of his bellyband. Above the silk, he was naked but for an absurdly tiny iron-studded vest. Old scars crisscrossed his tree-trunk arms, huge chest, and massive belly, pale against his nut-brown skin. […] The huge brown eunuch swaggered forward, sheathing his arakh. “I am Belwas. Strong Belwas they name me in the fighting pits of Meereen. Never did I lose.” He slapped his belly, covered with scars. “I let each man cut me once, before I kill him. Count the cuts and you will know how many Strong Belwas has slain.” […] “From Meereen I am sold to Qohor, and then to Pentos and the fat man with sweet stink in his hair. He it was who send Strong Belwas back across the sea, and old Whitebeard to serve him.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Belwas_by_David_Sondered_FFG
Belwas, by David Sondered for Fantasy Flight Games

Belwas seems an amusing sidekick, some comic relief with Arstan as Selmy the more significant aid to Dany. From the get go his usability is put into question.

Strong Belwas was an ex-slave, bred and trained in the fighting pits of Meereen. Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. […] Ser Jorah saved me from the poisoner, and Arstan Whitebeard from the manticore. Perhaps Strong Belwas will save me from the next. He was huge enough, with arms like small trees and a great curved arakh so sharp he might have shaved with it, in the unlikely event of hair sprouting on those smooth brown cheeks. Yet he was childlike as well. As a protector, he leaves much to be desired. (aSoS, Daenerys I)

We might suspect him to be an extra dragon tooth, because of his arakh, but the fact he is gap-toothed actually belies this. It is a contradiction to his arakh. In aSoS, his greatest action on page is defeating and killing Oznak zo Pahl. Meereen sends out Oznak to challenge Dany to send a champion. It is nothing but a PR stunt by Meereen to demoralize Dany’s army with insults. It has no actual combat strategy, since even if Dany’s champion wins, Meereen will not surrender to her. Hence, Dany elects to send Belwas, because she believes his potential death against Oznak would cost her the least.

“Strong Belwas was a slave here in the fighting pits. If this highborn Oznak should fall to such the Great Masters will be shamed, while if he wins . . . well, it is a poor victory for one so noble, one that Meereen can take no pride in.” And unlike Ser Jorah, Daario, Brown Ben, and her three bloodriders, the eunuch did not lead troops, plan battles, or give her counsel. He does nothing but eat and boast and bellow at Arstan. Belwas was the man she could most easily spare. And it was time she learned what sort of protector Magister Illyrio had sent her. (aSoS, Daenerys V)

George spends a lot of  writing on this scene, relatively to the weight its outcome has – Belwas wins, but Dany’s army still has to conquer the city by night. It is as Jorah says to Dany, “Putting up a show“.

“A victory without meaning,” Ser Jorah cautioned. “We will not win Meereen by killing its defenders one at a time.” (aSoS, Daenerys V)

His best war act though is off-page in aSoS: he sets the pit-fighter slaves free to help overtake Meereen from within.

They took some wrong turnings, but once they found the surface Strong Belwas led them to the nearest fighting pit, where they surprised a few guards and struck the chains off the slaves. Within an hour, half the fighting slaves in Meereen had risen. (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

George also “tips” us off that it will not be Belwas’s arakh that will ultimately matter to Dany, before he faces Meereen’s champion Oznak.

The aged squire honed Belwas’s arakh every evening and rubbed it down with bright red oil. (aSoS, Daenerys V)

George uses red to alert the reader that this is not the person or thing to bet on. Those who ride red stallions, like Drogo, or have red hair, like Ygritte, will end up dead or disappearing for example. (See the Trail of the Red Stallion)Red is different from Arbor Gold though in that often these people are sincere in their intentions, sometimes protagonists who are good people in George’s prior writing.

Another example that is far more useful for Belwas’s arakh being rubbed in bright red oil is the dragon Meleys, who had two dragonriders – Alyssa Targaryen and her niece Rhaenys Targaryen. Both were in line to be queen of Westeros. Alyssa was Jaehaerys I’s daughter wed to her brother Baelon Targaryen who was the second in line male to the Iron Throne in case the Old King died. When their elder brother Aemon Targaryen died, Baelon became the expected future king and his sister-wife the future queen of course. But she died giving birth to her third son before such a thing could happen. Meanwhile Rhaenys was the granddaughter of the Old King Jaehaerys I and the sole child of Aemon Targaryen. Her father’s death had caused some friction on whether her uncle Baelon or she were Jaehaerys’s heir, as it was not made explicit at the time that the Targaryen dynasty would prefer male heirs over female heirs, and thus an uncle would inherit before a daughter. With Jaehaerys still alive he had the freedom to appoint his son Baelon as heir. But then Baelon died before Jaehaerys. Rhaenys had given Jaehaerys a great-grandson in Laenor Velaryon, while Baelon and Alyssa had gifted Jaehaerys with two grandsons, Viserys and Daemon Targaryen. Hence, Rhaenys and Viserys were in the competing running to be Jaehaerys’s heir in the great council of 101 AC. The council chose Viserys and Rhaenys became known as the queen-who-never-was. And here is the tidbit about the dragon Meleys – she was nicknamed the Red Queen.

So, on the one hand Belwas would not be able to deceive someone even if he tried. And his skill with the arakh is proven to be considerable in the actual duel between Oznak and Belwas.

Oznak leapt clear of his horse and managed to draw his sword before Strong Belwas was on him. Steel sang against steel, too fast and furious for Dany to follow the blows. It could not have been a dozen heartbeats before Belwas’s chest was awash in blood from a slice below his breasts, and Oznak zo Pahl had an arakh planted right between his ram’s horns. The eunuch wrenched the blade loose and parted the hero’s head from his body with three savage blows to the neck. He held it up high for the Meereenese to see, then flung it toward the city gates and let it bounce and roll across the sand. (aSoS, Daenerys V)

Then why does George warn the reader not to bet on Belwas’s arakh by having it being taken care of daily with red oil? Well, early on Dany speculated that Belwas’s arakh might one day save her. So, it seems that George warns us that saving Dany with his arakh is not the answer or Belwas’s use or role.

George does not reveal Belwas’s use until the near end of aDwD, when Belwas saved Dany, unwittingly, from a third poisoning attempt when he ate all the locusts at Daznak’s Pit.

Hizdahr had stocked their box with flagons of chilled wine and sweetwater, with figs, dates, melons, and pomegranates, with pecans and peppers and a big bowl of honeyed locusts. Strong Belwas bellowed, “Locusts!” as he seized the bowl and began to crunch them by the handful. […] He had finished all the honeyed locusts. He gave a belch and took a swig of wine. […] “Strong Belwas ate too many locusts.” There was a queasy look on Belwas’s broad brown face. “Strong Belwas needs milk.” […] Strong Belwas gave a moan, stumbled from his seat, and fell to his knees. […] Strong Belwas was retching noisily. […] Strong Belwas was still vomiting. (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

“That day at Daznak’s Pit, some of the food in the royal box was poisoned. It was only chance that Strong Belwas ate it all. The Blue Graces say that only his size and freakish strength have saved him, but it was a near thing. He may yet die.” (aDwD, the Discarded Knight)

Belwas even manages to survive it.

Last to come, Strong Belwas lumbered into the hall. The eunuch had looked death in the face, so near he might have kissed her on the lips. It had marked him. He looked to have lost two stone of weight, and the dark brown skin that had once stretched tight across a massive chest and belly, crossed by a hundred faded scars, now hung on him in loose folds, sagging and wobbling, like a robe cut three sizes too large. His step had slowed as well, and seemed a bit uncertain. […] “Whitebeard.” Belwas smiled. “Where is liver and onions? Strong Belwas is not so strong as before, he must eat, get big again. They made Strong Belwas sick. Someone must die.” (aDwD, The Queen’s Hand)

It was Belwas’s belly that saved him and Dany. George tipped us from the get go, every time he had Belwas eat and slap his belly, and with the name of one of the ships that Dany visits at the Qartheen harbor, before Belwas enters in the sight of Dany’s mirror. The captain has no liking to Dothraki, while Belwas mocks them after Selmy saves Dany from the manticore.

The owner of Lord Faro’s Belly would risk dragons, but not Dothraki. “I’ll have no such godless savages in my Belly, I’ll not.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

Notice too how the owner’s name is Faro, which seems a reference to fire: faro in Italian and Spanish means lighthouse, and a lighthouse on Planetos would use fire for a beacon.

Aegon_on_Balerion by Jordi Gonzalez
Aegon the Conquerer on Balerion, the Black Dread, by Jordi Gonzalez

Belwas’s belly matches the depiction of an adult dragon, including the scars. The belly tends to be the most vulnerable area of an animal, and would be so too with dragon hatchlings the size of a cat. It therefore tends to be often targeted by a predator. But as a dragon grows larger and older, its scales thicken, including around the belly area. While some spears and other arms could pierce the scales of an adult dragon around the belly area, it would only enrage them.

We know not of any adult dragon having been successfully killed that way. Take for instance the four dragons in the dragonpit that were killed by the mob that attacked them the night that Rhaenyra was forced to flee King’s  Landing after her disastrous reign. The dragon Shrykos of about seven years old was the first to die, through repeated axe blows to the head. Morghul was of the same age and killed by a spear in the eye. Tyraxes was thirteen. It is claimed he was killed by several blows while entangled in a web of steel chains that limited his movement. Dreamfyre was ninety eight years old. She had managed to tear herself free from her chains and flew to the top of the dome of the dragonpit to rain dragonfire on the mob, thereby exposing her belly. Here we are told …

Even at the apex of the dome, the dragon was within easy reach of archer and crossbowman, and arrows and quarrels flew at Dreamfyre wherever she went, at such close range that some few even punched through her scales. (Fire and Blood, The Dying of the Dragons – Rhaenyra Overthrown)

But none of these managed to kill Dreamfyre. As with Morghul, Dreamfyre was killed with a crossbow bolt into her eye.

And so it is with Belwas. His belly and chest have been nicked and slashed by any opponent he faced in the pit and Oznak, but never was this a mortal wound. Instead it allowed him to get close enough to kill his opponent in the meantime.

One of the consequences to Belwas being Dany’s dragon belly is that now you may wonder what the significance is of Dany having had a pregnant belly as a hatchling in aGoT. Of course, her pregnancy is a crucial plot arc in aGoT for the human Dany, but yes it is entirely possible that it visually was meant to signify Dany as a hatchling starting to grow its initial dragon belly. Too much of a stretch? How about this scene?

[Viserys] laid the point of his sword between Daenerys’s breasts and slid it downward, over the curve of her belly. “I want what I came for,” he told her. “I want the crown he promised me. He bought you, but he never paid for you. Tell him I want what I bargained for, or I’m taking you back. You and the eggs both. He can keep his bloody foal. I’ll cut the bastard out and leave it for him.” The sword point pushed through her silks and pricked at her navel. Viserys was weeping, she saw; weeping and laughing, both at the same time, this man who had once been her brother. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Viserys did not just threaten Dany verbally. He pricked her belly with his sword point. George crafted Belwas’s scars on his belly after this scene. And like it means death to Belwas’s opponents, it meant death here too for Viserys.

Distantly, as from far away, Dany heard her handmaid Jhiqui sobbing in fear, pleading that she dared not translate, that the khal would bind her and drag her behind his horse all the way up the Mother of Mountains. She put her arm around the girl. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I shall tell him.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

And there is another commonality between pregnant Danny and Belwas: Jorah’s clumsiness causing Dany to fall and nearly hurting her belly.

The wineseller shrugged, reached for the cup … and grabbed the cask instead, flinging it at her with both hands. Ser Jorah bulled into her, knocking her out of the way. The cask bounced off his shoulder and smashed open on the ground. Dany stumbled and lost her feet. “No,” she screamed, thrusting her hands out to break her fall … and Doreah caught her by the arm and wrenched her backward, so she landed on her legs and not her belly. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Ser Jorah slammed past her, and Dany stumbled to one knee. She heard the hiss again. The old man drove the butt of his staff into the ground, Aggo came riding through an eggseller’s stall and vaulted from his saddle, Jhogo’s whip cracked overhead, Ser Jorah slammed the eunuch over the head with the brass platter, sailors and whores and merchants were fleeing or shouting or both . . .

Dany tending to stumble and “lose her feet” likely has to do with Jorah being or acting as Dany’s legs in those moments. However, it also twice endangers her belly. And while one may argue that in the second scene Dany has not yet claimed Belwas officially, had no idea yet who or what he is, notice how just before Jorah bangs the platter onto the eunuch’s head, Jhogo cracked his whip, signaling an acquisition to Dany’s dragon body.

So, why is there an absence of a belly in aCoK, or after Dany’s flight on Drogon? In both periods, Dany goes through a near starvation period in the red waste and again in the Dothraki Sea.

There was little forage in the red waste, and less water. It was a sere and desolate land of low hills and barren windswept plains. The rivers they crossed were dry as dead men’s bones. Their mounts subsisted on the tough brown devilgrass that grew in clumps at the base of rocks and dead trees. […] The deeper they rode into the waste, the smaller the pools became, while the distance between them grew. […] Wine gave out first, and soon thereafter the clotted mare’s milk the horselords loved better than mead. Then their stores of flatbread and dried meat were exhausted as well. Their hunters found no game, and only the flesh of their dead horses filled their bellies. […] Dany hungered and thirsted with the rest of them. The milk in her breasts dried up, her nipples cracked and bled, and the flesh fell away from her day by day until she was lean and hard as a stick, […] (aCoK, Daenerys I)

Hers had been a lonely sojourn, and for most of it she had been hurt and hungry … yet despite it all she had been strangely happy here. A few aches, an empty belly, chills by night […] She was hungry too. One morning she had found some wild onions growing halfway down the south slope, and later that same day a leafy reddish vegetable that might have been some queer sort of cabbage. Whatever it was, it had not made her sick. Aside from that, and one fish that she had caught in the spring-fed pool outside of Drogon’s cave, she had survived as best she could on the dragon’s leavings, on burned bones and chunks of smoking meat, half-charred and half-raw. She needed more, she knew. […] She had no other drink but the morning dew that glistened on the tall grass, and no food at all unless she cared to eat the grass. I could try eating ants. The little yellow ones were too small to provide much in the way of nourishment, but there were red ants in the grass, and those were bigger. (aDwD, Daenerys X)

It takes a while before enough reserve is rebuilt to form a belly while still growing, and Dany managed that by the end of aCoK, when Belwas steps into her mirrow view.

That Dany sees Belwas (and Selmy) in the bronze mirroring platter is of importance in relation to the Serwyn tale – no, I did not forget about Serwyn or Saint George. There are several instances where Dany looks into a mirror.

Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A princess, she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. She felt a sudden chill, and gooseflesh pimpled her bare arms. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it . . . and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. “I see a fat brown man and an older man with a staff. Which is it?”
[…]
“Ten, Khaleesi, because you are so lovely. Use it for a looking glass. Only brass this fine could capture such beauty.” (aCoK, Daenerys V)

When she was dressed, Missandei brought her a polished silver glass so she could see how she looked. Dany stared at herself in silence. Is this the face of a conqueror? So far as she could tell, she still looked like a little girl. (aSoS, Daenerys VI)

In the smoldering red pits of Drogon’s eyes, Dany saw her own reflection. How small she looked, how weak and frail and scared. (aDwD, Daenerys IX)

Notice that in all instances she sees her own reflection, looks at herself. In the Serwyn legend a mirror shield is used to distract a dragon by having it stare at its own reflection. And this is what happens here, each time: Dany looks into the mirror and stares at her own dragon reflection. I have argued how princess ought to be translated into dragon in relation to Targaryens. In the third instance, Dany has conquered and given in to her violent dragon instincts, but recognizes her humanity and ends up giving into it to try and rule Meereen. The last reflection is in the eyes of a dragon, matching the soul dragon in her dragon dreams. Eyes are said to be the mirror of the soul. Whether Drogon’s soul is that of a fearful, frail little human girl or the Dany’s soul is that of a black-red dragon, or even both at once I will leave as a thought to ponder. But certainly within the context of Serwyn’s mirror shield it visualizes Dany staring at a dragon through a mirror. And so, it is likewise with the brass platter: Dany sees herself and then Belwas and Selmy. In all three other instances after Dany sees her own reflection she ponders about a part of herself that she sees. Why would Belwas and Selmy be an exception to this? On the contrary, Dany seeing Belwas and Selmy while looking into a mirror would mean they are a part of her dragon body, an extension of her, not a separate duo of individuals she is spying on.

Conclusion or tl;tr

This concludes the second essay in the Dany series in relation to the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. We cannot but conclude that she is the true dragon in the story. In her very first chapter she is like a dragon still in the egg about to hatch. She hatches during her wedding ceremony, between salt tears and jumping a firepit on a smoking silver horse. She is gifted dragonbone, a bow without firepower (not until later), arakh teeth, a whip of a tail and her silver for wings. Out in the Dothraki Sea, the wilderness, free from walls and ceilings, Dany grows and with her whipping tail acquires Jorah to become her advizing claw and legs. Her dragon size is not just restricted to the size of her actual dragons or Drogon once she becomes his rider. The more she grows, the bigger her wings become with the addition of shipsails and sellsword companies, as well as teeth, claws and firepower in the form of the Unsullied. With the expectation that the Windblown, Victarion’s fleet and all the Dothraki will end up joining her, she will become a dragon large enough to cover a continent and ocean, and thus a Dragon that can mount the world.

I have argued that we should translate the word princess and prince into dragon based on a deeper inspection of the history of the prophecy known as The Prince that was Promised and Azor Ahai returned. I do believe that the commonalities between both prophecies lean towards them being about the same person(s). I suggested that the seeming contradicting claims and a maester’s objections about the origin of the dragons being the shadowlands of Asshai may be resolved via:

  • the people of the shadow (with Valyrian features) migrating to the Valyrian peninsula with dragons and dragon eggs after some cataclysm that made the hinterland of Asshai barren and degenerative, in search of a perfect volcanic area and led by prophetic dragon dreams. Once there they spread their genes amongst the local people where the features now referred to as Valyrian became a dominant phenotype in a few centuries through genetic drift at an isolated location, as happened at Lys, Dragonstone, potentially Oldtown, the island of the Daynes and seems to have been happening the past century at Sapphire Isle.
  • Or through shadowbinders who had prophetic visions  that made them believe that Azor Ahai returned would be born someday from a dragonriding descendent of the then dragonless sheepherders living at the Valyrian peninsula. And that the desire of the shadowbinders to make the prophecy come about motivated them to bring eggs and knowledge about rearing dragons to the Valyrian peninsula.

Whichever actually happened, my point is that prophecy was a major motivation and that the Azor Ahai legend and prophecy was known to the dragonriding families at Valyria. Over time this knowledge may have been lost after the Doom, but before the Doom their extensive mining that required them to enslave a whole continent as big as Essos from Ghis to Pentos and development of Valyrian steel suggests they tried to make their own magical Lightbringer. That the Valyrians could be led by belief in prophecy as a society is suggested by a prophecy about the gold of Casterly Rock possibly being their ending. Despite their lust of gold, the Valyrians stayed away from Westeros and certainly Casterly Rock. Prophecies are of course annoying pesky things, and it turns out that Jaime of Casterly Rock in golden armor killed the last dynastic Targaryen king (with Valyrian features) on the Iron Throne. Ironically, this event may have been the potential prophetic vision some Valyrian wizard saw centuries or millenia before the Doom, and might be a reason why the rising empire of Valyria chose to never have a king or emperor. Regardless of the reason why they had no kings or emperors, the Valyrian language would only have a loan word for such a leader, not an actual Valyrian original word for it. So, the Azor Ahai prophecy was called the Dragon that was Promised amongst them. When this prophecy resurfaces centuries after the Doom both in old scrolls at Dragonstone and via dragon dreams amongst the generation of Maekar and Aegon V, the Targaryens who were kings and princes translated it into the Prince that was Promised, since princes were often nicknamed dragon. I will go even further than that. Since actual female dragons sometimes were nicknamed queen as well as lady all the titles Dany is addressed with (see Part I) can be translated into dragon.

I argued that the inconsistencies regarding Dany’s dragon dreams are best resolved by regarding the dragon in the dreams as her personal dragon spirit within, rather than Drogon in his egg. And while Dany and consequentionally the reader is led to believe that it is extreme heat that will help hatch dragon eggs, as did Aegon V before her did, I point out that her second dragon dream and the actual hatching event in her last chapter of aGoT point out that it was Dany who needed to be heated. Since the eggs are gifted to her at her wedding ceremony and she herself was hatched as a dragon during that ceremony, she is born a female with her eggs in her ovaries in readiness, and her own body heat incubates the eggs. Aside from Dany’s body heat being crucial, so are the dead. Her own wedding, where she herself hatched as dragon, included several people dying during the festivities. And of course the hatching of the dragons at the end of aGoT is also preceded by many deaths. What we learn on how the purple bloodflies hatch their eggs – place them in the dead or dying – reveals that it is the second necessity. I must stress I consider this transferring incubation heat from Dany to the eggs and the many deaths as necessary only after the demise of the dragons more than hundred fifty years ago and all that was left were petrified dragon eggs.

Dany has plenty of “saviors”, but as I have shown they are also her dragon claws, teeth, belly and tail. And she claims them all via the cracking of a whip. If these men are body parts of Dany’s dragon body, can we then still regard them as saviors? It seems more correct to say then that as a dragon Dany saves herself. “Ah, but you left out Selmy Barristan!” you might protest. Yes, I did, so far. I am only keeping the best for last.

In the third essay I will cover certain recurring cycles and events in Dany’s arc: the repetitive looking into a mirror, her switch between green dragon and black-red dragon, the black heart devouring or destroying, the poisoning attempts. And more importantly we will investigate what this implies for Dany’s arc that is still to be published, since we will see her look at her own reflection again, switch colors and far more heart eating.

Dany (Part I) – Slaying Saint George’s Dragon

(Top Illustration: Viserys Crowned, by fanpo)

In Mirror Mirror – Serwyn of the Mirror Shield I summarized the in-world feats of the historical hero Serwyn and showed in quotes that whenever he is mentioned he serves as an example to compare a character with. I outlined how this suggests that we must be on the look-out for a hero or heroine who does indeed compare to him; that his feats and legends are a blueprint to help us find him. I used that blueprint to strike off Joffrey and Byron Swann from that list, more as examples on how this works, since most readers would not consider them as Serwyns reborn.

The first character who mentions Serwyn and wants to be like him, is Bran. In Bran Stark (Part 1) – Serwyn Reversed I provided the evidence that in aCoK, Bran IV we have one scene that does match Serwyn’s feat of saving a princess from a giant, except that there it was all in reverse – a giant saved a sworn shield from the wrath of a prince. The same chapter also includes a reference scene to one of the real world legends that can be seen as an inspiration on which George models Serwyn: Saint George and the dragon, which is one of the many legends that falls in the general category of the “princess and the dragon” myths, legends and fairytales.

But Bran Stark is not the sole character comparatively tied to Serwyn. Tyrion compares Serwyn to Selmy Barristan.

“Ser Barristan was the Lord Commander of Robert Baratheon’s Kingsguard,” Tyrion reminded her pointedly. “He and Jaime are the only survivors of Aerys Targaryen’s seven. The smallfolk talk of him in the same way they talk of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. What do you imagine they’ll think when they see Barristan the Bold riding beside Robb Stark or Stannis Baratheon?” (aCoK, Tyrion I)

A History of Westeros episode of late May 2020 delved into Serwyn, proposing Selmy to be the answer we are looking for (also going into Joffrey and Byron Swann and the paradox and mystery which dragon he aimed to kill as I did in Mirror Mirror – Serwyn of the Mirror Shield). Perhaps. We shall see. I do not consider the answer to be that easily pinpointed. We might make Sansa’s mistake if we only go by first appearances. For example, the princess Selmy saves and fights for is also a dragon, and not just one who happened to be a dragon but the “mother of dragons”. If we can eliminate Byron Swann from the Serwyn-candidate list because he got killed by a dragon, then surely we must do the same for the runner up who fights on the dragon’s side. We cannot research Selmy or any other man tripping over their feet to be Dany’s hero, without investigating Dany herself. So, ultimately this essay series is not as much about Serwyn, but about Dany, as princess, as khaleesi, as dragon and what it means to be a dragon.

But I am getting ahead of myself. This first essay of Dany’s series in relation to the Serwyn legend is not about Dany as dragon. In this essay, I will take the traditional approach, looking for a captive princess in distress and appearing to be in need of saving from a giant. And we uncover Dany as such in her very first chapter of aGoT. Except, even on this we are fooled. It is not the giant she needs to be saved from, but a dragon. A princess versus a dragon is not a Serwyn legend, but the Saint George legend. In what follows I analyse the first five chapters of Dany in aGoT.

CHAPTER 1 – Role Playing

When I analyse scenes for motifs or legends I tend to be careful to extend the scene role of a character beyond that scene. But since Dany was born a princess, born of the blood of the dragon; since she continues to use the titles she picks up throughout her arc; since the Serwyn and Saint George scenes are so numerous throughout her story, Dany taking a role goes way beyond a mere scene. Across her arc, Dany takes on several roles: princess, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Mhysa, Queen, … And with every role comes a particular costume or dress. It is almost as if Dany is cos-playing within the novels.

Take for instance, Dany being a princess. It is one of the first things we ever learn about Dany – that she is a princess.

They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls. Beneath an arch of twining stone leaves, a eunuch sang their coming. “Viserys of the House Targaryen, the Third of his Name,” he called in a high, sweet voice, “King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. His sister, Daenerys Stormborn, Princess of Dragonstone. […]” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

This is important since Serwyn’s famous feats is saving a princess from a giant, and in the Saint George legend the saint saves a princess from a dragon. But the same chapter starts with Dany not knowing what it is like to be a princess.

“A gift from the Magister Illyrio,” Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. “The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess.” A princess, Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

In fact, the first chapter is written akin to the process of an actor showing up in the morning of an extra the morning of a shoot, and learns upon arrival what their part will be in the scene that will be performed at Drogo’s manse. In acting terms, Dany has no speaking part in her own POV! She speaks 47 words in total for the whole of it, 8 lines in total, mostly off-stage comments.

In the above paragraph, it is as if after some initial assessment the background casting director, Viserys, decides Dany will have the role of the princess, who only has to smile and stand straight to show off her breasts some more on stage. After her role is decided on, she’s ushered to the wardrobe department, and left in the skilled hands of the dressers, costumers and make-up artists to make her look the part.

They dressed her in the wisps that Magister Illyrio had sent up, and then the gown, a deep plum silk to bring out the violet in her eyes. The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. […] “Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

dany_princess
Looking like a princess, “Daenerys Targaryen” by /u/arenzio

Note on chosen illustrations: there is a lot of beautiful artwork, both inspired on the TV-series as well as the books. Rather than conforming to the image we are used to by now (Emilia Clarke), I selected imagery of Dany that matches both her age and book description for the chapter in question. The above illustration of Dany has the violet eyes, light eyebrows to match her hair, and actually looks like a 14-year old, and adds the details of what she wore in her first chapter – a torc and tiara. To the artist – my compliments, you managed to capture a real looking 13-year-old Dany who wears all the right princess symbols, but equally makes us uncomfortable since she lacks sexual appeal at this stage, and does not seem to feel like a princess yet.

Before she gets to be in the scene, the stage manager Illyrio must approve her appearance. The background casting director Viserys is not entirely convinced, but the stage manager is.

Her brother was waiting in the cool of the entry hall, seated on the edge of the pool, his hand trailing in the water. He rose when she appeared and looked her over critically. “Stand there,” he told her. “Turn around. Yes. Good. You look …”
Regal,” Magister Illyrio said, stepping through an archway. […] “May the Lord of Light shower you with blessings on this most fortunate day, Princess Daenerys,” the magister said as he took her hand. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Upon the arrival at the manse, the cameras start to roll and Dany is announced to be a princess before she steps on stage where she has five lines, the maximum number of lines to have no larger part than a bit part. She even produces cinematic tears.

Dressing the part is something that returns several times in Dany’s arc. It is the concept of what Brown Ben Plumm refers to as floppy ears.

“You must excuse me, ser. The petitioners will soon be at my gates. I must don my floppy ears and become their queen again.[…]”
[…]
Brown Ben Plumm, the captain of the Second Sons, had put it more succinctly. “Man wants to be the king o’ the rabbits, he best wear a pair o’ floppy ears.” (aDwD, Daenerys I)

In Qarth we see Dany done another pair of floppy ears – the ears to play the savage (khaleesi) part.

She was breaking her fast on a bowl of cold shrimp-and-persimmon soup when Irri brought her a Qartheen gown, an airy confection of ivory samite patterned with seed pearls. “Take it away,” Dany said. “The docks are no place for lady’s finery.”
If the Milk Men thought her such a savage, she would dress the part for them. When she went to the stables, she wore faded sandsilk pants and woven grass sandals. Her small breasts moved freely beneath a painted Dothraki vest, and a curved dagger hung from her medallion belt. Jhiqui had braided her hair Dothraki fashion, and fastened a silver bell to the end of the braid. (aCoK, Daenerys V)

In other words, even though she was born a princess and recognized as such by the reader and other in-world characters no matter what floppy ears she wears, for Dany her princess-identity is a role or part that she becomes after change of clothes. The same is true for her identity as khaleesi or queen of Meereen. She gathers the costumes and roles, the same way as her titles in truth.

This has several implications when we will be assessing her role in a potential Serwyn-related scene:

  • we will have to check the clothing she wears in that scene,
  • but also how other characters address her, revealing how they perceive her.

Her role depends both on who she truly is, which part she dressed for, but just as well on the eye of the beholder. Even if Dany may perceive herself to play one part in a scene, such as a savage khaleesi for example, her wannabe-savior may address her as princess at the time, revealing his vision of her, which drives and motivates his actions. It is therefore no coincidence that Illyrio refers to Dany as a vision.

“She is a vision, Your Grace, a vision,” he told her brother. “Drogo will be enraptured.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

This is commonly read to mean a pretty picture, or a sight to behold. However, the word vision is also a wordplay on the meaning of an illusion. A vision is the type of illusion that the one having it very much wants to believe in as true or as coming true. So, we should always keep it in the back of our mind that while Dany plays one role, the saviors want their illusion of her to be a true one even if it is another role than the one she is playing.

You will see that in each and every scene where Dany is “saved”, George juxtaposes her cos-play costume to that of the saviors’ vision of her, and at times includes several saviors all at once who each perceive her differently, or even regularly switch in the title they endow her with. In short, since Dany’s role or identity as princess, khaleesi or queen is a big mess, maybe she is none of those. However, ultimately the Serwyn and Saint George related scenes can be our guide in unraveling her true identity beneath the costumes, and therefore her true role.

CHAPTER 2 – Wedded to a Giant

This will be our trial run in analysing a potential Serwyn-related situation. According to Sansa, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield saved the princess from giants. So, we need a captive princess who feels threatened by a giant and seems to be in need of saving.

Dany’s first chapter sets up her need to be saved from being sold as bride to a barbarian.

The girl scrubbed her back and her feet and told her how lucky she was. “Drogo is so rich that even his slaves wear golden collars. A hundred thousand men ride in his khalasar, and his palace in Vaes Dothrak has two hundred rooms and doors of solid silver.” There was more like that, so much more, what a handsome man the khal was, so tall and fierce, fearless in battle, the best rider ever to mount a horse, a demon archer. Daenerys said nothing. She had always assumed that she would wed Viserys when she came of age. For centuries the Targaryens had married brother to sister, since Aegon the Conqueror had taken his sisters to bride. The line must be kept pure, Viserys had told her a thousand times; theirs was the kingsblood, the golden blood of old Valyria, the blood of the dragon. Dragons did not mate with the beasts of the field, and Targaryens did not mingle their blood with that of lesser men. Yet now Viserys schemed to sell her to a stranger, a barbarian. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Now, let us revisit that princess-dressing scene:

The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. Last of all came the collar, a heavy golden torc emblazoned with ancient Valyrian glyphs.

“Now you look all a princess,” the girl said breathlessly when they were done. Dany glanced at her image in the silvered looking glass that Illyrio had so thoughtfully provided. A princess, she thought, but she remembered what the girl had said, how Khal Drogo was so rich even his slaves wore golden collars. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

In Bran’s Serwyn Reversed essay I argued how the chains that maesters wear around their neck are a sign that their minds are enslaved. In that essay I also discuss Osha, a wildling kept as a prisoner. She is chained in manackles around wrists and feet. George features the same concept in Dany’s torc and bracelets. They are a sign that she feels like a prisoner. They may look like jewelry, but are nothing more than a beautified slave collar or a prisoner’s manackles in Dany’s mind.

Are there any more imprisonment symbols? Well, Drogo’s manse has nine towers, high walls, and so when Dany and her brother move into his manse, she becomes a princess imprisoned in a tower.

The nine-towered manse of Khal Drogo sat beside the waters of the bay, its high brick walls overgrown with pale ivy. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

The khal had joined his khalasar, his estate given over to Daenerys and her brother until the wedding. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Notice too, the added detail of a tower overgrown with ivy, reminding us of the typical imagery of a fairytale tower where the princess is kept a prisoner or asleep for years. In fact, all of Pentos has towers and thus serves as a prison to Dany as she wistfully “looks out of a window” to the sea for freedom.

When he was gone, Dany went to her window and looked out wistfully on the waters of the bay. The square brick towers of Pentos were black silhouettes outlined against the setting sun. Dany could hear the singing of the red priests as they lit their night fires and the shouts of ragged children playing games beyond the walls of the estate. For a moment she wished she could be out there with them, barefoot and breathless and dressed in tatters, with no past and no future and no feast to attend at Khal Drogo’s manse. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

So, now we have a captive princess imprisoned in a tower.

Khal Drogo – the slave owner – is to be her husband, and he towers a head over anyone else, a hulking giant.

Khal Drogo was a head taller than the tallest man in the room, yet somehow light on his feet, as graceful as the panther in Illyrio’s menagerie. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Most of all, she was afraid of what would happen tonight under the stars, when her brother gave her up to the hulking giant who sat drinking beside her with a face as still and cruel as a bronze mask. […]He put his finger under her chin and lifted her head, so she was looking up into his eyes. Drogo towered over her as he towered over everyone. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

There we have our giant. More, Dany’s POV makes clear that she is terrified of him. He scares her more than her abusive brother.

Dany looked at Khal Drogo. His face was hard and cruel, his eyes as cold and dark as onyx. Her brother hurt her sometimes, when she woke the dragon, but he did not frighten her the way this man frightened her. “I don’t want to be his queen,” she heard herself say in a small, thin voice. “Please, please, Viserys, I don’t want to, I want to go home.”

Clearly, we have an imprisoned princess in need of saving from a giant, no? Do we have a knight at hand? Oh, yes, a true knight!

Illyrio whispered to them. “Those three are Drogo’s bloodriders, there,” he said. “By the pillar is Khal Moro, with his son Rhogoro. The man with the green beard is brother to the Archon of Tyrosh, and the man behind him is Ser Jorah Mormont.”
The last name caught Daenerys. “A knight?”
No less.” Illyrio smiled through his beard. “Anointed with the seven oils by the High Septon himself.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Well, Sandor Clegane has something to say about the anointment by the High Septon and how little it proves true knighthood. His brother was anointed too and is no true knight. Neither is Ser Jorah, alas.

“What is he doing here?” [Dany] blurted.
“The Usurper wanted his head,” Illyrio told them. “Some trifling affront. He sold some poachers to a Tyroshi slaver instead of giving them to the Night’s Watch. Absurd law. A man should be able to do as he likes with his own chattel.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

We can forgive Dany of not realizing then that is a sign against Jorah. She herself does not question slavery yet, despite the fact that she feels she is being sold like a slave to Khal Drogo. Anyway, Dany’s sudden interest in Ser Jorah at least suggests that on a certain level Dany hopes that Jorah might be a Serwyn saving an imprisoned princess from a giant. But for this no-true-knight Dany cannot be wedded off to Khal Drogo soon enough:

“Best we get Princess Daenerys wedded quickly before [the Dothraki] hand half the wealth of Pentos away to sellswords and bravos,” Ser Jorah Mormont jested. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Notice too, how Jorah mentions the fear that Pentos will hand its wealth to sellswords and bravos, an ironic phrase when the exiled Jorah sold his sword for years and magister Illyrio was once a bravo.

On top of that, Jorah swears his sword to her brother, the one who abuses and sells her to the giant.

The exile had offered her brother his sword the night Dany had been sold to Khal Drogo; Viserys had accepted eagerly. Mormont had been their constant companion ever since. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

So, no, Jorah is at the very least not a Serwyn character here. Jorah may hope to become a Serwyn for her. But at this point though, he does not even make a tiny effort for it. And it needs to be asked: can a man be said to be a Serwyn when he only saves the princess when he lusts after her, but would not otherwise?

In the end, Dany does not need saving from her hulking giant. And instead of enslavement, Dany finds freedom from the abuse of her brother.

So, what was the point then of this Serwyn-situation? Well, perhaps it was written this way to look beyond titles, to scratch off the surface and discover what is there. Let us go through the dressing quote, once more.

The girl slid the gilded sandals onto her feet, while the old woman fixed the tiara in her hair, and slid golden bracelets crusted with amethysts around her wrists. Last of all came the collar, a heavy golden torc emblazoned with ancient Valyrian glyphs.

Dany is not Drogo’s slave. She is Viserys’s captive. Even when she moves into Drogo’s manse until the wedding, with its nine towers, she is Viserys’s captive there, since Drogo moved out to join his khalasar.

The khal had joined his khalasar, his estate given over to Daenerys and her brother until the wedding. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

And what does Viserys claim himself to be? The dragon.

CHAPTER 3 to 5 – Khaleesi and the Dragon

Viserys refers to himself as the dragon and his abusive rage “waking the dragon”.

His anger was a terrible thing when roused. Viserys called it “waking the dragon.” […] His fingers brushed lightly over her budding breasts and tightened on a nipple. “You will not fail me tonight. If you do, it will go hard for you. You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” His fingers twisted her, the pinch cruelly hard through the rough fabric of her tunic. “Do you?” he repeated.
[…]
“Our land,” he called it. The words were like a prayer with him. If he said them enough, the gods were sure to hear. “Ours by blood right, taken from us by treachery, but ours still, ours forever. You do not steal from the dragon, oh, no. The dragon remembers.” […] “Oh, yes,” Viserys said darkly. “He has tried, Illyrio, I promise you that. His hired knives follow us everywhere. I am the last dragon, and he will not sleep easy while I live.” (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Viserys bristled. “Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I’ll have it out. I am no lesser man, I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg.” (aGoT, Daenerys II)

Another legend of Serwyn is the claim that he killed a dragon using his mirroring shield. Although there is no specific mention of saving a princess, George got his inspiration for this from the legend of Saint George and the Dragon and the legendary heroes such as Perseus who were his predecessor. (See more on this in Mirror Mirror – Serwyn of the Mirror Shield). There are various versions of the legend, with the most famous one coming from The Golden Legend or Lives of the Saints. The manuscript is a collection of hagiographies (biographies of saints) mostly written down by Jacobus de Varagine around 1259 – 1266. Saint George himself is believed to have been a Roman soldier and member of the Praetorian Guard in the 3rd century. He refused to kill Christians, since he was a Christian himself. When he refused to renounce his faith, he was put to death in 303, and thus an early accepted martyr since the 4th century already and gaining fame in the 5th. It is not until the 11th century that the slaying of a dragon gets added to this martyr’s lifestory.

The legend is not only told as it was written down by Jacobus the Varagine. Even to this day, the legend is regularly reenacted in locations all over the world and that for centuries. In order to keep the peace and please important families within the local community, such reenactments ended up having processions where everyone of some importance of the place got to have a costume role, beside the lead role of the saint, the monster or devil and the damsel to be rescued. Hence the oral legend traditions surrounding a reenactment often include the claim that Saint George came upon the princess being led towards the dragon’s cave in a procession before he intervened and killed the dragon. For example here:

When [Saint George] drew near he saw a little procession of women, headed by a beautiful girl dressed in pure Arabian silk.

Well, that is exactly what Illyrio calls the journey to Vaes Dothrak – a procession.

“He will have the girl first, and after they are wed he must make his procession across the plains and present her to the dosh khaleen at Vaes Dothrak.[…]”

And it is in the three consecutive chapters, of this procession to Vaes Dothrak, inside the cavernous dwelling of Vaes Dothrak and with all Dothraki present inside the city that Viserys and Dany end up in a confrontation with each other. In each chapter, Viserys reiterates his claim to being the dragon, while other characters address Dany with princess, my lady and Khaleesi respectively. Each time Viserys assaults her and threatens to do severe harm. And each time Viserys is kept from doing his worst with the help of a belt or girdle.

Especially this is one of the interesting details that points to GRRM having made sure to allude to the Golden Legend version of Saint George and the Dragon. In that version, Saint George wounds the dragon to protect the princess and then has her use her girdle or belt to bind the dragon and lead him back to her city, where the dragon is eventually slain. The girdling was also discussed in the essay Bran I – Serwyn reversed.

He struck him with his spear, injuring him severely. Then he said to the maid, “Tie your belt around the dragon’s neck, and be not afraid.”
When she had done so the dragon followed her meekly. She led him into the city, and the people fled in fear.
Saint George said to them, “Doubt not. Believe in God and Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and I shall slay the dragon.” (Saint George and the Dragon, The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints)

In the Dothraki Sea

The first confrontation occurs in the Dothraki Sea, when Dany wishes to explore the grass environment by herself and orders Ser Jorah to tell her retinue to remain where they are.

Dany realized that she did not want to listen to any of her brother’s complaints right now. The day was too perfect. The sky was a deep blue, and high above them a hunting hawk circled. The grass sea swayed and sighed with each breath of wind, the air was warm on her face, and Dany felt at peace. She would not let Viserys spoil it.
“Wait here,” Dany told Ser Jorah. “Tell them all to stay. Tell them I command it.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

But before long, Viserys disobeyes the order, resenting being commanded by the sister who has been his prisoner until but shortly.

Viserys came upon her as sudden as a summer storm, his horse rearing beneath him as he reined up too hard. “You dare!” he screamed at her. “You give commands to me? To me?” He vaulted off the horse, stumbling as he landed. His face was flushed as he struggled back to his feet. He grabbed her, shook her. “Have you forgotten who you are? Look at you. Look at you!” […] He was still screaming. “You do not command the dragon. Do you understand? I am the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, I will not hear orders from some horselord’s slut, do you hear me?” His hand went under her vest, his fingers digging painfully into her breast. “Do you hear me?” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Viserys clearly claims to be the dragon in this scene and assaults Dany as he has done all of his life, as if she still is his possession.

What role does Dany have in this scene? On the one hand, she wears the costume of a khaleesi.

Dany did not need to look. She was barefoot, with oiled hair, wearing Dothraki riding leathers and a painted vest given her as a bride gift. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

dany_khaleesi_10
Daenerys Targaryen, by Find Mirror

On the other hand, Viserys is clearly treating her as if she is his captive princess still.

He grabbed her, shook her. “Have you forgotten who you are? Look at you. Look at you!” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

To him she is and foremostly remains the Targaryen princess who is his possession. Even if she may have forgotten that, “the dragon remembers”. And actually, Dany feels like a princess as well, even if she does not look like one.

All her life Viserys had told her she was a princess, but not until she rode her silver had Daenerys Targaryen ever felt like one. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And we learn of Dany feeling like one, in between her command to Ser Jorah and Viserys storming at her.

Since Dany has gained freedom in her status as khaleesi, she instinctively pushes him away, but through conditioning resulting of the years of abuse, the “captive princess” role is ready to resurface immediately after.

Dany shoved him away, hard.
Viserys stared at her, his lilac eyes incredulous. She had never defied him. Never fought back. Rage twisted his features. He would hurt her now, and badly, she knew that. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Never having been stopped before by Dany or anyone else, Viserys is not solely shocked but enraged. And we cannot but accept Dany’s assumption that Viserys is ready to trash her completely. Before Viserys can do so, Jhogo of Dany’s khas intervenes with his whip.

Crack.
The whip made a sound like thunder. The coil took Viserys around the throat and yanked him backward. He went sprawling in the grass, stunned and choking. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

The whip coils “around the throat” like a girdle or belt. Guess where Jhogo usually wears it?

Jhogo reached for the whip coiled at his belt, […] (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

Since Jhogo wears the whip at his belt, just like Meera wears her net there, the whip is an extension of his belt. If in Bran I – Serwyn reserved, I identified Meera’s net catching Summer as a type of girdling action, then Jhogo girdled Viserys the self-proclaimed dragon. More, Jhogo wounded him with the whip.

Jhogo gave a pull on the whip, yanking Viserys around like a puppet on a string. He went sprawling again, freed from the leather embrace, a thin line of blood under his chin where the whip had cut deep. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Nex, Jhogo asks whether Dany wants to have the dragon killed.

The one with the whip, young Jhogo, rasped a question. Dany did not understand his words, but by then Irri was there, and Ser Jorah, and the rest of her khas. “Jhogo asks if you would have him dead, Khaleesi,” Irri said. (aGoT, Daenerys VI)

We thus have Jhogo acting like Saint George. Since he is one of her khas, akin to a queensguard, this also makes him a Serwyn.

At least at this point, Dany stops anyone from killing or harming the dragon.

“No,” Dany replied. “No.”
Jhogo understood that. One of the others barked out a comment, and the Dothraki laughed. Irri told her, “Quaro thinks you should take an ear to teach him respect.”
Her brother was on his knees, his fingers digging under the leather coils, crying incoherently, struggling for breath. The whip was tight around his windpipe.
“Tell them I do not wish him harmed,” Dany said. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Instead, Dany decides and commands that “the dragon” must walk behind them back to the khalasar.

He lay on the ground, sucking in air noisily, red-faced and sobbing. He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been.
Take his horse,” Dany commanded Ser Jorah. Viserys gaped at her. He could not believe what he was hearing; nor could Dany quite believe what she was saying. Yet the words came. “Let my brother walk behind us back to the khalasar.” Among the Dothraki, the man who does not ride was no man at all, the lowest of the low, without honor or pride. “Let everyone see him as he is.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Meanwhile, the khalasar is likened to a city.

The khalasar was like a city on the march, […] (aGoT, Daenerys III)

So, in a sense we have a girdled dragon being led back to the city. Even if Jhogo released Viserys from his whip’s grip, the wounds around Viserys’s neck are a reminder of the girdling.

This confrontation is also important, since Jorah betrays his sworn sword to Viserys and switches allegiance to Dany by executing her command. It is however, not a true knight’s decision as much as it is a sellsword one. First of all, Jorah did not intervene at the height of the confrontation, despite knowing that Viserys was livid and stormed off to teach Dany that she could not command him. After all, Jorah tried to tell him what would happen if he disobeyed.

“I warned him what would happen, my lady,” Ser Jorah Mormont said. “I told him to stay on the ridge, as you commanded.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And then there is Jorah’s choice after Dany commanded him to take Viserys’s horse and Viserys counters it with the order to hurt Dany and kill Jhogo and other Dothraki warriors there present.

“No!” Viserys screamed. He turned to Ser Jorah, pleading in the Common Tongue with words the horsemen would not understand. “Hit her, Mormont. Hurt her. Your king commands it. Kill these Dothraki dogs and teach her.”
The exile knight looked from Dany to her brother; she barefoot, with dirt between her toes and oil in her hair, he with his silks and steel. Dany could see the decision on his face. “He shall walk, Khaleesi,” he said. He took her brother’s horse in hand while Dany remounted her silver. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Sure, Viserys’s command is morally wrong, but Jorah’s choice to ignore Viserys’s wish therefore is not necessarily motivated by morality. The command is also suicidal and it is evident who has the most power in that confrontation. After all, Jorah swore his sword to Viserys to dupe him into trusting Jorah, so he could spy on both Viserys and Dany and earn himself a pardon from Robert Baratheon.

“Ser Jorah is now in Pentos, anxious to earn a royal pardon that would allow him to return from exile,” Robert explained. “Lord Varys makes good use of him.” (aGoT, Eddard II)

And Jorah also sent a message to warn Illyrio and Varys that Dany was with child.

“Ser Jorah would not dare deceive me,” Varys said with a sly smile. “Rely on it, my lord. The princess is with child.” (aGoT, Eddard VIII)

And since Dany only finds herself with child at the end of the third chapter, weeks after the day of the confrontation, we know that Jorah has not yet altered his main interest during the confrontation:

They were on the far side of the Dothraki sea when Jhiqui brushed the soft swell of Dany’s stomach with her fingers and said, “Khaleesi, you are with child.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Jorah’s decision is that of a sellsword who chooses the winning side, the side that will help him survive.

Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less.” (aCoK, Tyrion II)

“Now that’s a harsh way o’ putting it, if you don’t mind me saying.” Brown Ben scratched at his speckled grey-and-white whiskers. “We went over to the winning side, is all. Same as we done before. It weren’t all me, neither. I put it to my men.”
“So they betrayed me, is that what you are saying? Why? Did I mistreat the Second Sons? Did I cheat you on your pay?”
“Never that,” said Brown Ben, “but it’s not all about the coin, Your High-and-Mightiness. I learned that a long time back, at my first battle. Morning after the fight, I was rooting through the dead, looking for the odd bit o’ plunder, as it were. Came upon this one corpse, some axeman had taken his whole arm off at the shoulder. He was covered with flies, all crusty with dried blood, might be why no one else had touched him, but under them he wore this studded jerkin, looked to be good leather. I figured it might fit me well enough, so I chased away the flies and cut it off him. The damn thing was heavier than it had any right to be, though. Under the lining, he’d sewn a fortune in coin. Gold, Your Worship, sweet yellow gold. Enough for any man to live like a lord for the rest o’ his days. But what good did it do him? There he was with all his coin, lying in the blood and mud with his fucking arm cut off. And that’s the lesson, see? Silver’s sweet and gold’s our mother, but once you’re dead they’re worth less than that last shit you take as you lie dying. I told you once, there are old sellswords and there are bold sellswords, but there are no old bold sellswords. My boys didn’t care to die, that’s all, and when I told them that you couldn’t unleash them dragons against the Yunkishmen, well …” (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

Why does he want to survive and earn himself a pardon?

“What do you pray for, Ser Jorah?” she asked him.
Home,” he said. His voice was thick with longing. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

He wants to be able to go home to Bear Island as Lord Mormont.

Further evidence that Jorah Mormont regards Dany as the more powerful is in the way he addresses Dany. Jorah addresses Dany with several different titles and words. He calls her child, girl, khaleesi, a queen, my lady and Daenerys. But we can discern a pattern in when he addresses her with any of these. He addresses her as child and girl when acting as a type of tutor:

“You ought to see it when it blooms, all dark red flowers from horizon to horizon, like a sea of blood. Come the dry season, and the world turns the color of old bronze. And this is only hranna, child. […]”
[…]
Jorah laughed. “Where else should he go? If he cannot find the khalasar, the khalasar will most surely find him. It is hard to drown in the Dothraki sea, child.”
[…]
“He could not lead an army even if my lord husband gave him one,” Dany said. “He has no coin and the only knight who follows him reviles him as less than a snake. The Dothraki make mock of his weakness. He will never take us home.”
Wise child.” The knight smiled.
I am no child,” she told him fiercely. Her heels pressed into the sides of her mount, rousing the silver to a gallop. Faster and faster she raced, leaving Jorah and Irri and the others far behind, the warm wind in her hair and the setting sun red on her face. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Despite Dany’s denial of still being a child, her public sexual life under the open sky for everyone to see that same evening, and her pregnancy, Ser Jorah will continue to refer to her as child, until she birthed the stillborn Rhaego. Since Ser Jorah says it so often, this is likely his personal perception of Dany until she wakes after the stillbirth.

When Dany sounds insecure about her brother’s reaction or expresses a form of loyalty to Viserys, while Jorah is bitter, he addresses her as girl.

“I hit him,” she said, wonder in her voice. Now that it was over, it seemed like some strange dream that she had dreamed. “Ser Jorah, do you think … he’ll be so angry when he gets back …” She shivered. “I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”
Ser Jorah snorted. “Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.”
His blunt words startled her. It seemed as though all the things she had always believed were suddenly called into question. “You … you swore him your sword …”
“That I did, girl,” Ser Jorah said. “And if your brother is the shadow of a snake, what does that make his servants?” His voice was bitter. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Jorah calls her khaleesi, when she commands him.

That thought gave Dany the shivers. “I don’t want to talk about that now,” she said. “It’s so beautiful here, I don’t want to think about everything dying.”
“As you will, Khaleesi,” Ser Jorah said respectfully.
[…]
“He shall walk, Khaleesi,” he said. He took her brother’s horse in hand while Dany remounted her silver. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

He compares her to a queen once, while addressing her as Daenerys.

“You are learning to talk like a queen, Daenerys.
“Not a queen,” said Dany. “A khaleesi.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

And finally, he addresses her as my lady, in front of her brother, before Dany commanded him to take Viserys’s horse and Jorah made his sellsword choice to perceived power. He likely did so to still appear the sworn sword to Viserys and avoid upsetting him more. But then Dany gave a direct order to Ser Jorah as khaleesi, and forced him to choose.

“I warned him what would happen, my lady,” Ser Jorah Mormont said. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Now, why are Jorah’s various ways of addressing Dany important? Because of the feeling this chapter is supposed to invoke with the reader – Dany’s self-empowerment. It is one of the features of her arc that make so many readers fan of her. Readers start to root for her from this chapter onwards. The strange thing is that in discussions of later events in aGoT, I see the same fans argue that Dany is in fact powerless as khaleesi. Some argue that Dany was lucky to have such a husband as she had in Khal Drogo; that she only has as much power as Khal Drogo allows her to have. But can Dany be self-empowered and a powerless lucky girl at the same time?

Khal Drogo ignored her when they rode, even as he had ignored her during their wedding, and spent his evenings drinking with his warriors and bloodriders, racing his prize horses, watching women dance and men die. Dany had no place in these parts of his life. She was left to sup alone, or with Ser Jorah and her brother, and afterward to cry herself to sleep. Yet every night, some time before the dawn, Drogo would come to her tent and wake her in the dark, to ride her as relentlessly as he rode his stallion. […] Khal Drogo came to her only after the sun went down, but her handmaids fed her and bathed her and slept by the door of her tent, Drogo’s bloodriders and the men of her khas were never far, and her brother was an unwelcome shadow, day and night. (aGoT, Daenerys III)

  • We learn explicitly that Khal Drogo is far away doing his own thing, except at night, near dawn. She thus lives mostly independently from Drogo.
  • As khaleesi, Dany is the instant judge over the incident with the power to decide over life and death, without conferring with her husband. Technically this is more power than any wife of lord of king in Westeros.
  • GRRM could have written Jhogo to use the whip, while Viserys grabbed her breast. But he wrote it, so that Dany had a chance to start to defend herself first, by pushing Viserys away.
  • Dany may have been silent about her opinions on Viserys in the first two chapters, but she thought them nevertheless. The sole difference is that in this chapter she voices them aloud.

So, certainly this chapter and incident was written to display Dany as self-empowered.

Varys argued that power is a thing of perception, not something static. Nor is it physical alone. In psychological terms, power is equated to taking initiative. Someone who does not express their wish, follows along meekly or gladly, does not take initiative and is therefore powerless. When someone expresses their wish, gives advice, decides or acts independently from others they are empowered. This may vary for the same person from situation to situation. But then you also have people who are fine with being followers, while others are naturally prone to take initiative as soon as they have the room to do so. This is one of the main aspects observers watch for in an assessment exercise for a position or job where someone has to lead a team or group of people. Who speaks up first, not necessarily with a solution, but a proposal on how to organize the brainstorm, discussion, etc.? Who dares to interject a discussion going nowhere, make a proposal and somehow manages it in such a way that someone else convinces the rest of the proposal? Who verbalizes the conclusion and consensus? People who do this naturally are strong influential initiative takers and therefore powerful, and all they require is the mental room to do so. The journey as khaleesi thus far gave Dany the mental room to take initiative and therefore become powerful.

Why does he give us so much?” she asked. “What does he want from us?” For nigh on half a year, they had lived in the magister’s house, eating his food, pampered by his servants. Dany was thirteen, old enough to know that such gifts seldom come without their price, here in the free city of Pentos.
“Illyrio is no fool,” Viserys said. He was a gaunt young man with nervous hands and a feverish look in his pale lilac eyes. “The magister knows that I will not forget my friends when I come into my throne.”
Dany said nothing. Magister Illyrio was a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, and other, less savory things. He had friends in all of the Nine Free Cities, it was said, and even beyond, in Vaes Dothrak and the fabled lands beside the Jade Sea. It was also said that he’d never had a friend he wouldn’t cheerfully sell for the right price. Dany listened to the talk in the streets, and she heard these things, but she knew better than to question her brother when he wove his webs of dream. […] His fingers toyed with the hilt of his borrowed blade, though Dany knew he had never used a sword in earnest. (aGoT, Daenerys I)

Viserys bristled. “Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I’ll have it out. I am no lesser man, I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg.”
Ser Jorah lowered his eyes respectfully. Illyrio smiled enigmatically and tore a wing from the duck. Honey and grease ran over his fingers and dripped down into his beard as he nibbled at the tender meat. There are no more dragons, Dany thought, staring at her brother, though she did not dare say it aloud. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

When it comes to psychological and relational dynamics on the Rose of Leary (yes Leary who is most famous for his experimental testing of LSD), we have a powerless cynical anti-relation from Dany to Illyrio and a powerless torpedo anti-relation to the pathological and dictatorial Viserys. In such relations, once Dany gains the freedom to take initiative and thus become empowered, her behavior will become either aggressive or rivaling to Viserys. It is called a torpedo, because the one with the power initially never saw it coming, assuming erronously she is a natural meek follower.

It shows that Dany is meek out of survival choice. Viserys’s kingdom and power never extended beyond his sister, a child younger than thirteen with noone to defend her physically against his abuse. In such a situation, Dany is only physically powerless. Because Viserys’s sense of being a king depends entirely on Dany acting like a king’s subject, she in actuality has the power of placating his feelings or denying him. Dany believes Viserys resents her, because their mother died birthing her, but it is far more likely this is because he resents the inherent power of denial she has. And in her third chapter that is exactly what she does publically: deny his manhood and his kingship. By then Dany realizes she is inherently stronger and more empowered than Viserys.

He lay on the ground, sucking in air noisily, red-faced and sobbing. He was a pitiful thing. He had always been a pitiful thing. Why had she never seen that before? There was a hollow place inside her where her fear had been. “Take his horse,” Dany commanded Ser Jorah. Viserys gaped at her. He could not believe what he was hearing; nor could Dany quite believe what she was saying. Yet the words came. “Let my brother walk behind us back to the khalasar.” Among the Dothraki, the man who does not ride was no man at all, the lowest of the low, without honor or pride. “Let everyone see him as he is.
[…]
“My brother will never take back the Seven Kingdoms,” Dany said. She had known that for a long time, she realized. She had known it all her life. Only she had never let herself say the words, even in a whisper, but now she said them for Jorah Mormont and all the world to hear. […] “He could not lead an army even if my lord husband gave him one,” Dany said. “He has no coin and the only knight who follows him reviles him as less than a snake. The Dothraki make mock of his weakness. He will never take us home.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Now, let us imagine that Dany was wed to a man with judicial power in Tyrosh, Braavos, or Westeros. She would be the mistress of the household, including the guards. Would Viserys have been allowed to behave like that in the home of his brother-in-law? Of course not. Would Dany have had the mental room to take initiative in that situation and become empowered? She would have the same freedom and room as say Catelyn Tully. This is why we have Jorah address her with various titles such as queen, my lady and khaleesi.

Only if her husband was a Ramsay, Gregor Clegane, Craster, Aerys II, or Joffrey would Dany have remained powerless. While George writes about some serious abusive sickos in the novels, they are still an exception, not the rule. And it was not mere luck that the Khal she would wed would be an open-minded man. Drogo was picked by Illyrio to be Dany’s husband, since Illyrio needed a Khal with an interest for other cultures and the potential to be persuaded to overcome the fear of crossing the Narrow Sea.

So, let us put this “she was powerless/lucky” idea to rest. All of Dany’s arc revolves around her coming into her own natural power as well as influencing other characters of her wishes and opinions since her first ride on her silver, and how that power and following expands.

Bakkalon the Pale Child

Jorah and others referring to Dany as child does not indicate a view of her being powerless, since George incorporated Bakkalon the Pale Child into the aSoIaF world. This is a warrior god first mentioned in his short story And Seven Times Never Kill a Man (one of my favourites), who renounced farming and hammered plowshares into swords to rebel against Hrangan minds who make people their mindslaves. Dany is a pale child. She influences slaves into throwing away their tools and take up arms instead. Various symbols and characters surrounding Dany point towards Bakkalon as well. William Darry’s house sigil is a man with plows. The Lhazarene are farmers and peaceful, but also easy targets. The former Lhazarene slave, the Red Lamb, goes into training to be Selmy’s squire in aDwD and says the following,

“I am not afraid. Should I die, I will go before the Great Shepherd of Lhazar, break his crook across my knee, and say to him, “Why did you make your people lambs, when the world is full of wolves?” Then I will spit into his eye.” (tWoW, Barristan I)

Where And Seven Times Never Kill a Man tells what becomes of the cult following this god centuries later, Dany’s story seems to tell a tale of how such a child comes into being and gains a cult following. For more on this godhead and the short story and how it relates to Dany, I refer to the Fattest Leech’s essays on both:

In the Cave

The next confrontation between Dany and the dragon Viserys occurs in her “room” of Drogo’s “palace” within Vaes Dothrak. Some versions of the legend of Saint George and the Dragon have the killing or girdling occur within the dragon’s lair, a cave. Dany describes Drogo’s palace as cavernous and her room a hollow hill.

Dany smiled as she recalled Magister Illyrio’s slave girl and her talk of a palace with two hundred rooms and doors of solid silver. The “palace” was a cavernous wooden feasting hall, its rough-hewn timbered walls rising forty feet, its roof sewn silk, a vast billowing tent that could be raised to keep out the rare rains, or lowered to admit the endless sky.  […] Doreah led her to the hollow hill that had been prepared for her and her khal. It was cool and dim within, like a tent made of earth. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Thus the setting befits the reenactment of the legend. We also get the dragon-princess references.

“They are my people now,” Dany said. “You should not call them savages, brother.”
The dragon speaks as he likes,” Viserys said … in the Common Tongue. He glanced over his shoulder at Aggo and Rakharo, riding behind them, and favored them with a mocking smile. “See, the savages lack the wit to understand the speech of civilized men.” A moss-eaten stone monolith loomed over the road, fifty feet tall. Viserys gazed at it with boredom in his eyes. “How long must we linger amidst these ruins before Drogo gives me my army? I grow tired of waiting.”
The princess must be presented to the dosh khaleen …” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

We know these references are related to the confrontation, because the conversation between Viserys, Jorah and Dany includes Dany’s observation how all of Viserys’s clothes are worn and dusty.

“The crones, yes,” her brother interrupted, “and there’s to be some mummer’s show of a prophecy for the whelp in her belly, you told me. What is that to me? I’m tired of eating horsemeat and I’m sick of the stink of these savages.” He sniffed at the wide, floppy sleeve of his tunic, where it was his custom to keep a sachet. It could not have helped much. The tunic was filthy. All the silk and heavy wools that Viserys had worn out of Pentos were stained by hard travel and rotted from sweat.
Ser Jorah Mormont said, “The Western Market will have food more to your taste, Your Grace. The traders from the Free Cities come there to sell their wares. The khal will honor his promise in his own time.”
“He had better,” Viserys said grimly. “I was promised a crown, and I mean to have it. The dragon is not mocked.” Spying an obscene likeness of a woman with six breasts and a ferret’s head, he rode off to inspect it more closely. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

The actual confrontation between the two of them occurs when Dany invited him to her hollow hill to gift him new clothes that she had made for him on the journey to fit in better amongst the Dothraki.

“I will give my brother his gifts tonight,” she decided as Jhiqui was washing her hair. “He should look a king in the sacred city. Doreah, run and find him and invite him to sup with me.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Before we visit the scene of confrontation itself, let us examine the way Jorah addresses Dany, once Viserys wanders off and leaves them by themselves. Initially, Jorah addresses her as khaleesi.

Ser Jorah grunted. “Yes, Khaleesi, but … the Dothraki look on these things differently than we do in the west. I have told [Viserys] as much, as Illyrio told him, but your brother does not listen. The horselords are no traders. Viserys thinks he sold you, and now he wants his price. Yet Khal Drogo would say he had you as a gift. He will give Viserys a gift in return, yes … in his own time. You do not demand a gift, not of a khal. You do not demand anything of a khal.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

But once she asks whether Westeros could be conquered with the Dothraki if someone stronger than Viserys led such an army, Jorah begins to address her as princess or my lady, the titles that would be used in Westeros.

Ser Jorah’s face grew thoughtful as their horses trod together down the godsway. “When I first went into exile, I looked at the Dothraki and saw half-naked barbarians, as wild as their horses. If you had asked me then, Princess, I should have told you that a thousand good knights would have no trouble putting to flight a hundred times as many Dothraki.”
[…]
“Now,” the knight said, “I am less certain. They are better riders than any knight, utterly fearless, and their bows outrange ours. In the Seven Kingdoms, most archers fight on foot, from behind a shieldwall or a barricade of sharpened stakes. The Dothraki fire from horseback, charging or retreating, it makes no matter, they are full as deadly … and there are so many of them, my lady. Your lord husband alone counts forty thousand mounted warriors in his khalasar.”
[…]
“Mind you, Princess, if the lords of the Seven Kingdoms have the wit the gods gave a goose, it will never come to that. The riders have no taste for siegecraft. I doubt they could take even the weakest castle in the Seven Kingdoms, but if Robert Baratheon were fool enough to give them battle …” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Here, Jorah uses the address princess where before he used child to explain or tutor her. He does not use it in a sense where he seems to think her weak-hearted, or a captive, but simply uninformed and requesting for that information.

And already upon arrival Viserys acts the threat.

She was arranging the last of his gifts—a sandsilk cloak, green as grass, with a pale grey border that would bring out the silver in his hair—when Viserys arrived, dragging Doreah by the arm. Her eye was red where he’d hit her. “How dare you send this whore to give me commands,” he said. He shoved the handmaid roughly to the carpet. […] “No one commands the dragon,” Viserys snarled. “I am your king! I should have sent you back her head!” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

I wish to point out the color of the cloak here – green. Green (combined with grey) is hystorically the color of peace that George uses in his color codes, since his very earliest writing, even as a teen already, whereas black and red are demonic or monstrous colors. The earliest published story of George revealing this pattern is Only Kids are Afraid in the Dark. And in Dreamsongs I, George prefaces this story and others with background information in the making and writing of these stories that is titled Color Codes. Red by itself just means either wrong or erronous – false messenger, false path, or someone well meaning who ends up dead (see also Trail of the Red Stallion essays). George has never deviated from these color codes: not in aSoIaF scenes, nor in the stories of A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. And how fitting is it for Dany to be inspired to offer peace while inside a hollow hill.

The green cloak here symbolizes Dany’s peace offer to her brother Viserys, after she publically humiliated him. She hopes to rebuild his reputation for the better amongst the Dothraki and acknowledge to him and to others that he is the King of the Seven Kingdoms. Basically, she hopes that if he wears Dothraki floppy ears, he will regain status, and perhaps even discovers the same self-empowerment that she feels with hers. However, while a peace offering is the set-up of the confrontation scene. Instead the dragon arrives aggressive.

The Lysene girl quailed, but Dany calmed her with a touch. “Don’t be afraid, he won’t hurt you. Sweet brother, please, forgive her, the girl misspoke herself, I told her to ask you to sup with me, if it pleases Your Grace.” She took him by the hand and drew him across the room. “Look. These are for you.” […] “New raiment. I had it made for you.” Dany smiled shyly.
He looked at her and sneered. “Dothraki rags. Do you presume to dress me now?”
“Please … you’ll be cooler and more comfortable, and I thought … maybe if you dressed like them, the Dothraki …” Dany did not know how to say it without waking his dragon.
“Next you’ll want to braid my hair.”
“I’d never …” Why was he always so cruel? She had only wanted to help.You have no right to a braid, you have won no victories yet.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Dany exercises patience, placating respectful language. While Viserys seems to regard this behavior as weakness, her opening sentence to Doreah that she should not fear Viserys makes clear that Dany offers peace not out of fear, but because she believes it is the right thing to do, even if she does not believe that Viserys can lead an army. But she meets with nothing but resistance and paranoid pathology. Unfortunately pathologies cannot be truly placated. Green and grey may symbolize peace, but not the kind of the Lhazarene. Instead it is peace from a strength position, allowing for self-defense against uninvited aggression. While her initial patience for peace deflects the threat, eventually she responds with verbal aggression by denying him the right to a braid.

It was the wrong thing to say. Fury shone from his lilac eyes, yet he dared not strike her, not with her handmaids watching and the warriors of her khas outside. Viserys picked up the cloak and sniffed at it. “This stinks of manure. Perhaps I shall use it as a horse blanket.”
“I had Doreah sew it specially for you,” she told him, wounded. “These are garments fit for a khal.”
“I am the Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, not some grass-stained savage with bells in his hair,” Viserys spat back at her. He grabbed her arm. “You forget yourself, slut. Do you think that big belly will protect you if you wake the dragon?
His fingers dug into her arm painfully and for an instant Dany felt like a child again, quailing in the face of his rage. She reached out with her other hand and grabbed the first thing she touched, the belt she’d hoped to give him, a heavy chain of ornate bronze medallions. She swung it with all her strength. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Dany erronously believes that Viserys would not dare strike her anymore, but he grabs her and hurts her, enough to wake the conditioned fear of the captive princess. And yet, it cannot drown out her self-empowerment, and she defends herself with…. a belt! The belt is a chain. She had hoped to gift it, but now she belts “the dragon” with it, even wounding him.

It caught him full in the face. Viserys let go of her. Blood ran down his cheek where the edge of one of the medallions had sliced it open. “You are the one who forgets himself,” Dany said to him. “Didn’t you learn anything that day in the grass? Leave me now, before I summon my khas to drag you out. And pray that Khal Drogo does not hear of this, or he will cut open your belly and feed you your own entrails.” (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

The important aspect of this confrontation is that Dany is entirely alone, except for Doreah as helpless witness. Dany saves herself here without any help or support of anyone. There is NO Serwyn figure whatsoever present or coming to her aid. Her khas is outside and stays outside. Her husband is off climbing the Mother of Mountains and will not come down before dawn.

“Khaleesi,” Cohollo said to her, in Dothraki. “Drogo, who is blood of my blood, commands me to tell you that he must ascend the Mother of Mountains this night, to sacrifice to the gods for his safe return.” Only men were allowed to set foot on the Mother, Dany knew. The khal’s bloodriders would go with him, and return at dawn. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

The fact that Dany faces Viserys physically by herself, further highlights how self-empowered she is.

Another feature of the overall narrative regarding the Saint George and the Dragon legend is the detail on how Viserys journeyed to Vaes Dothrak: in a cart.

After the day in the grass when she had left him to walk back to the khalasar, the Dothraki had laughingly called him Khal Rhae Mhar, the Sorefoot King. Khal Drogo had offered him a place in a cart the next day, and Viserys had accepted. In his stubborn ignorance, he had not even known he was being mocked; the carts were for eunuchs, cripples, women giving birth, the very young and the very old. That won him yet another name: Khal Rhaggat, the Cart King. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

In relation to the outcome of the previous chapter, we thus had a girdled dragon carted meekly at the back of the line towards the princess’s city, Vaes Dothrak. As Ser Jorah pointed out in the previous chapter – the Dothraki Sea is her new home now.

“I pray for home too,” she told him, believing it.
Ser Jorah laughed. “Look around you then, Khaleesi.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

In the legend, the dragon trails the princess back to her city, where he eventually will be killed, if the citizens agree to be converted. Here it is done by cart at the back of the marching city, or procession. Meanwhile it is Dany who is converted to the acknowledgment that

  • her brother is no worthy king and will not be able to lead an army (in Daenerys III)
  • she cannot have a healthy, normal relationship with her brother (in Daenerys IV)

Hence, she had to make her peace offer in this chapter from her self-empowered position, in a way hoping to convert Viserys so that he comes to value and trust what he could achieve, before being able to let go of this hope. The peace offer completely derailed, she belted him aggressively, binding him once more to his fate. Meanwhile the green peace-cloak ending up bloodied.

Gabrielle_Portal_Dragon_EggIII
Dany with the green sandcloak and dragon egg, by Gabrielle Portal

Drops of his blood had spattered the beautiful [green] sandsilk cloak. Dany clutched the soft cloth to her cheek and sat cross-legged on her sleeping mats. […] “I’m not hungry,” Dany said sadly. She was suddenly very tired. “Share the food among yourselves, and send some to Ser Jorah, if you would.” After a moment she added, “Please, bring me one of the dragon’s eggs.” Irri fetched the egg with the deep green shell, bronze flecks shining amid its scales as she turned it in her small hands. Dany curled up on her side, pulling the sandsilk cloak across her and cradling the egg in the hollow between her swollen belly and small, tender breasts. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Notice how Irri brought Dany the green dragon egg, and thus the peaceful color once more. As Dany curls up beneath the peace-cloak and the peace-egg, she mourns her failed relation with her brother, but is rewarded with the movement of Rhaego and a new family bond replacing the toxic one with her brother.

She was lying there, holding the egg, when she felt the child move within her … as if he were reaching out, brother to brother, blood to blood. “You are the dragon,” Dany whispered to him, “the true dragon. I know it. I know it.” And she smiled, and went to sleep dreaming of home. (aGoT, Daenerys IV)

Killing the dragon

We now come to the final chapter of Dany’s arc with Viserys, in which he ends up slain, inside the city. The slaying of the dragon in the legend of Saint George in some versions occurs after a procession of the princess accompanied by the older women to the location where she is supposed to be sacrificed to the dragon.

A procession followed them out onto the godsway, the broad grassy road that ran through the heart of Vaes Dothrak, from the horse gate to the Mother of Mountains. The crones of the dosh khaleen came first, with their eunuchs and slaves. Some supported themselves with tall carved staffs as they struggled along on ancient, shaking legs, while others walked as proud as any horselord. Each of the old women had been a khaleesi once. When their lord husbands died and a new khal took his place at the front of his riders, with a new khaleesi mounted beside him, they were sent here, to reign over the vast Dothraki nation. Even the mightiest of khals bowed to the wisdom and authority of the dosh khaleen. […] Behind the wise women came the others; Khal Ogo and his son, the khalakka Fogo, Khal Jommo and his wives, the chief men of Drogo’s khalasar, Dany’s handmaids, the khal’s servants and slaves, and more. Bells rang and drums beat a stately cadence as they marched along the godsway. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

At the feast, Dany invites Jorah to sit with her, where he addresses her as khaleesi and princess, until Doreah points out to my lady that a drunk Viserys has arrived.

Mormont came at once, and went to one knee before her. “Khaleesi,” he said, “I am yours to command.”
She patted the stuffed horsehide cushion beside her. “Sit and talk with me.”
[…]
Ser Jorah wiped the grease off his mouth with the back of his hand and leaned close over the table. “He had planned to take your dragon’s eggs, until I warned him that I’d cut off his hand if he so much as touched them.”
For a moment Dany was so shocked she had no words. “My eggs … but they’re mine, Magister Illyrio gave them to me, a bride gift, why would Viserys want … they’re only stones …”
“The same could be said of rubies and diamonds and fire opals, Princess … and dragon’s eggs are rarer by far. Those traders he’s been drinking with would sell their own manhoods for even one of those stones, and with all three Viserys could buy as many sellswords as he might need.”
[…]
Suddenly Doreah was tugging at her elbow. “My lady,” the handmaid whispered urgently, “your brother …”
Dany looked down the length of the long, roofless hall and there he was, striding toward her. From the lurch in his step, she could tell at once that Viserys had found his wine … and something that passed for courage. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

The dragon arrives in the Targaryen dragon attire, placing himself next to the firepits spitting flames ten feet high in search of Dany specifically. Even if Viserys cannot breathe fire, GRRM is trying to evoke the image of a fire breathing predator searching for his intended victim, the princess.

He was wearing his scarlet silks, soiled and travel-stained. His cloak and gloves were black velvet, faded from the sun. His boots were dry and cracked, his silver-blond hair matted and tangled. A longsword swung from his belt in a leather scabbard.[…] “Where is my sister?” Viserys shouted, his voice thick with wine. “I’ve come for her feast. How dare you presume to eat without me? No one eats before the king. Where is she? The whore can’t hide from the dragon.” He stopped beside the largest of the three firepits, peering around at the faces of the Dothraki. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Dany sent Jorah to stop the dragon, therefore pushing him into a Saint George role.

A sense of dread closed around her heart. “Go to him,” she commanded Ser Jorah. “Stop him. Bring him here. Tell him he can have the dragon’s eggs if that is what he wants.”
The knight rose swiftly to his feet. […] Ser Jorah went to him swiftly, whispered something in his ear, and took him by the arm, but Viserys wrenched free. “Keep your hands off me! No one touches the dragon without leave.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Except Jorah fails at his attempts of stopping the dragon. As the men shout at each other, this scene is accompanied by a thunderous roar and when Viserys speaks he hisses.

Ser Jorah was standing beside Viserys, screaming in his ear, but the roar in the hall was so thunderous that Dany could not hear what he was saying. Her brother shouted back and the two men grappled, until Mormont knocked Viserys bodily to the floor. Her brother drew his sword. The bared steel shone a fearful red in the glare from the firepits. “Keep away from me!” Viserys hissed. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

This is as dragonesque as Viserys can manage.

Dothraki were shrieking at him from all sides, screaming vile curses. Dany gave a wordless cry of terror. She knew what a drawn sword meant here, even if her brother did not. Her voice made Viserys turn his head, and he saw her for the first time. “There she is,” he said, smiling. He stalked toward her, slashing at the air as if to cut a path through a wall of enemies, though no one tried to bar his way. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

To us readers, none of the Dothraki, nor Dany are afraid OF Viserys. Dany is afraid FOR what will befall Viserys. But to the delusional drunk Viserys – who appears like a dragon, slashing the sword as if it were a tail, stalking towards his intended victim – the shrieking and cry of terror must have sounded as if he was scaring the living daylights out of them and making an actual threatening impression.

He laid the point of his sword between Daenerys’s breasts and slid it downward, over the curve of her belly. “I want what I came for,” he told her. “I want the crown he promised me. He bought you, but he never paid for you. Tell him I want what I bargained for, or I’m taking you back. You and the eggs both. He can keep his bloody foal. I’ll cut the bastard out and leave it for him.” The sword point pushed through her silks and pricked at her navel. Viserys was weeping, she saw; weeping and laughing, both at the same time, this man who had once been her brother. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

And with this threat and action, Viserys sealed his fate. He convinced Dany that there is no saving her brother from his own suicidal behavior; that he is a dead man walking. And so it is she, who translates the self-condemning threat of the dragon to her husband.

Distantly, as from far away, Dany heard her handmaid Jhiqui sobbing in fear, pleading that she dared not translate, that the khal would bind her and drag her behind his horse all the way up the Mother of Mountains. She put her arm around the girl. “Don’t be afraid,” she said. “I shall tell him.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Now, it is clear that Dany dissociates here emotionally in the scene, the moment she thinks of Viserys as the “man who was once her brother”. This is sometimes used as an argument by some to push their opinion that Dany is a psychopath. To this I disagree. Dissociating from a traumatic, horrific event you know is coming is not abnormal for an emotional empathic human being. We are all capable of this natural emotionally protective mental trick. The difference between a pathology and normality is not that a certain specific behaviour or emotional repsonse of someone with a pathology is abnormal. It is that someone with a pathology is incapable of displaying a variation or spectrum of behaviours and/or emotional responses. We all dissociate in rare situations. A psychopath dissociates all the time.

GRRM made sure to include a retrospective emotion of Dany in what follows.

Viserys smiled and lowered his sword. That was the saddest thing, the thing that tore at her afterward … the way he smiled. “That was all I wanted,” he said. “What was promised.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Someone with a pathology such as a psychopath would not feel torn afterward.

I will however point out that up to some level, George wrote Dany to be complicit in the execution of Viserys, in part being responsible, by the simple fact that she:

  • volunteered to translate Viserys’ threat, knowing it would be the death of him
  • she made no effort to warn him of the ruse

If Dany had wanted to save him, as she had done before, she could have tried as she tried mere minutes before, but refrained to do so. Let me be clear: I am only making an analytical observation, and not a moral condemnation. Yes, Viserys would have been killed without Dany’s translation. There were five thousand witnesses who saw him draw the sword and threaten Drogo’s wife and her unborn child with it, even if they did not understand the actual words. The point is that Dany chose to act in a manner that she became part of it. I do not condemn it, because Viserys was unsalvageable. He was so far gone he had become an actual threat, and Dany has the right to safeguard her life and that of her child.

It is, however, analytically important that Dany becomes one of the few directly responsible to Viserys’ fate, because of the Saint George legend, and this for two reasons.

First, in the Golden Legend version, the princess attempts to dissuade Saint George from saving her from the dragon twice.

When she was there Saint George passed by, and seeing the lady, he asked her what she was doing there.
She said, “Go your way, fair young man, lest you perish as well.”
Then he said, “Tell me why you are weeping.”
When she saw that he insisted on knowing, she told him how she had been delivered to the dragon.
Then Saint George said, “Fair daughter, doubt not, for I shall help you in the name of Jesus Christ.”
She said, “For God’s sake, good knight, go your way, for you cannot save me.”
While they were thus talking together the dragon appeared and came running toward them. Saint George, who was on his horse, drew his sword, made the sign of the cross, then rode swiftly toward the dragon. He struck him with his spear, injuring him severely. (Saint George and the Dragon, The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints)

Dany twice confronted Viserys before without imploring Drogo to protect her from Viserys. Instead she even used every bed trick Doreah taught her to persuade Drogo to allow Viserys to ride into Vaes Dothrak on horseback in the time between her third and fourth chapter. But with the third confrontation, Drogo is present and becomes the personal killer of Viserys and Dany volunteered to be part of it.

Secondly, the actual killing of the dragon in the legend is related to a conversion. After the princess leads the dragon into the city with her girdle or belt, Saint George promises to slay the dragon, but only if the citizens convert.

Saint George said to them, “Doubt not. Believe in God and Jesus Christ, and be baptized, and I shall slay the dragon.” Then the king and all his people were baptized, whereupon Saint George killed the dragon and cut off his head. (Saint George and the Dragon, The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints)

Take note that the conversion is a requisite and performed before the slaying of the dragon. Now, of course in this scene, none of the five thousand Dothraki are converted, but Dany is. She converts to Dothraki law, belief and authority over the regal authority of her brother that she still insisted on during her conversation with Jorah earlier.

Dany had not known, had not even suspected. “Then … he should have them. He does not need to steal them. He had only to ask. He is my brother … and my true king.” […] “You do not understand, ser,” she said. “My mother died giving me birth, and my father and my brother Rhaegar even before that. I would never have known so much as their names if Viserys had not been there to tell me. He was the only one left. The only one. He is all I have.”
“Once,” said Ser Jorah. “No longer, Khaleesi. You belong to the Dothraki now. In your womb rides the stallion who mounts the world.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

While she intended to gift the dragon eggs to Viserys before he made his threat, because she recognizes him as her true king, Dany converts after his threat completely and sees herself as belonging to the Dothraki, as subtly indicated when Drogo joins her after he decrees Viserys’s fate and Dany slides her arm around him.

When the sun of her life [Drogo] reached her, Dany slid an arm around his waist. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Dany here is signaling to Drogo that she is fine with what he plans to do to her brother. So, while Jhogo took up the Saint George role in the first confrontation, Dany took the role in the second confrontation protecting herself and Doreah, in this scene Drogo takes the Saint George part. And it starts with a feign.

It had grown so silent in the hall that she could hear the bells in Khal Drogo’s hair, chiming softly with each step he took. His bloodriders followed him, like three copper shadows. Daenerys had gone cold all over. “He says you shall have a splendid golden crown that men shall tremble to behold.” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

Drogo seems to accede to Viserys’s demand, and once Viserys hears it, he lowers his sword, not realizing yet this specific crown will be the death of him. When Serwyn fights the dragon he uses his mirror shield to distract the dragon with its own reflection, before striking. Drogo and Dany here use a feign to distract Viserys before striking.

The khal said a word, and his bloodriders leapt forward. Qotho seized the man who had been her brother by the arms. Haggo shattered his wrist with a single, sharp twist of his huge hands. Cohollo pulled the sword from his limp fingers. Even now Viserys did not understand. “No,” he shouted, “you cannot touch me, I am the dragon, the dragon, and I will be crowned!” (aGoT, Daenerys V)

And what does Drogo slay the dragon with? A BELT!

Khal Drogo unfastened his belt. The medallions were pure gold, massive and ornate, each one as large as a man’s hand. […] Drogo tossed in the belt and watched without expression as the medallions turned red and began to lose their shape. […] When the gold was half-melted and starting to run, Drogo reached into the flames, snatched out the pot. “Crown!” he roared. “Here. A crown for Cart King!” And upended the pot over the head of the man who had been her brother. The sound Viserys Targaryen made when that hideous iron helmet covered his face was like nothing human. His feet hammered a frantic beat against the dirt floor, slowed, stopped. Thick globs of molten gold dripped down onto his chest, setting the scarlet silk to smoldering … yet no drop of blood was spilled. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

That was the end of the last dragon, while the converted princess watched.

Ser Jorah had made his way to Dany’s side. He put a hand on her shoulder. “Turn away, my princess, I beg you.”
“No.” She folded her arms across the swell of her belly, protectively. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

GOTCHA – Not a True Dragon

So, our Saint George legend re-enactment that spanned three chapters has come to its conclusion and ticks all the boxes, several times. Except … Viserys turns out not to be a dragon!

He was no dragon, Dany thought, curiously calm. Fire cannot kill a dragon. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

GRRM has been pulling the wool over our eyes, and he warned us through Dany’s thoughts and Jorah’s words since the very moment he set up the anology to the Saint George legend that Viserys was not the dragon.

Viserys bristled. “Guard your tongue, Mormont, or I’ll have it out. I am no lesser man, I am the rightful Lord of the Seven Kingdoms. The dragon does not beg.” […] There are no more dragons, Dany thought, staring at her brother, though she did not dare say it aloud. (aGoT, Daenerys II)

“I hit him,” she said, wonder in her voice. Now that it was over, it seemed like some strange dream that she had dreamed. “Ser Jorah, do you think … he’ll be so angry when he gets back …” She shivered. “I woke the dragon, didn’t I?”
Ser Jorah snorted. “Can you wake the dead, girl? Your brother Rhaegar was the last dragon, and he died on the Trident. Viserys is less than the shadow of a snake.” (aGoT, Daenerys III)

Well, perhaps Viserys was a dragon. He was of the blood of the dragon. But the last Targaryen dragon that died was no bigger than a dog, a mastiff.

There were nineteen [dragon] skulls. The oldest was more than three thousand years old; the youngest a mere century and a half. The most recent were also the smallest; a matched pair no bigger than mastiff’s skulls, and oddly misshapen, all that remained of the last two hatchlings born on Dragonstone. They were the last of the Targaryen dragons, perhaps the last dragons anywhere, and they had not lived very long. (aGoT, Tyrion II)

Viserys began to scream the high, wordless scream of the coward facing death. He kicked and twisted, whimpered like a dog and wept like a child, but the Dothraki held him tight between them. (aGoT, Daenerys V)

In a way, Viserys matches one of these last two hatchlings. There is the comparison to being like a dog. And then Viserys’s skull ends up misshapen by his crown belt. There is one caveat in this comparison to the last hatchlings that Tyrion thinks of: they were born on Dragonstone and Viserys was born in King’s Landing. I will come back to this in the later essays on Dany in relation to the Serwyn and Saint George legend.

Conclusion

For now the main question rising in your mind ought to be: WTF, why does George spend setting up and re-enacting the legend of Saint George and the dragon across Dany’s first five chapters so elaborately and then the slain dragon turns out not to be a dragon. More, our supposed helpless princess in need of saving, seems to be able to save herself quite well and is not helpless at all anymore. And what to make of Dany feeling like a princess for the first time when she rides her silver, in the chapter where she wears Dothraki garb and plays with her toes in the mud of the Dothraki Sea? The answer to these issues is that Dany was the dragon all along, and if that is true then the legend was turned on its head: the dragon got the prince slain and the citizens sacrificed the prince for the she-dragon. The evidence that GRRM piles up from early on that Dany is the true dragon of Saint George’s legend will be discussed in Dany II: Saint George’s True Dragon.

Bran Stark (Part 1) – Serwyn Reversed

(Top Illustration: a cutout from Bran Stark, by Richey Beckett).

Bran was going to be a knight himself someday, one of the Kingsguard. Old Nan said they were the finest swords in all the realm. There were only seven of them, and they wore white armor and had no wives or children, but lived only to serve the king. Bran knew all the stories. Their names were like music to him. Serwyn of the Mirror Shield. Ser Ryam Redwyne. Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. (aGoT, Bran II)

The very first POV where Serwyn is mentioned is Bran’s, so naturally, he is the first character to examine in that respect. In this essay, we will focus mostly on several scenes in Bran’s POV of aCoK that include elements of St. George and the dragon, combined with Serwyn’s legend. In the Serwyn introduction, we speculated how  St. George and the dragon is the likely inspirations to GRRM’s Serwyn of the Mirror Shield. That speculation seems correct with the clear tableau-scenes for both in Bran’s chapters. That does not mean these scenes are an exact parallel. Quite the opposite, they are mirror images, meaning a reversal of the original legends, both in-world and real world. This occurs so consistently, that George has a reason for it.

“Your blood makes you a greenseer,” said Lord Brynden. “This will help awaken your gifts and wed you to the trees.” Bran did not want to be married to a tree … but who else would wed a broken boy like him? A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. A greenseer. He ate. (aDwD, Bran III)

Bran’s arc is not just that of a boy discovering he has rare magical abilities, but in a larger sense, an arc of conversion. While, St. George converts the pagans he saves from the scurge of the dragon to Christianity, Bran converts from the Faith (Planetos’s version of Christianity) to the Old Gods over the course of the first five books, but in the last act will convert others too.

But before we get into this, let us first inspect the two significant scenes of aCoK, Bran IV.

Index

Tableau 1 – A Giant, a Prince and a Damsel in Distress

hodor_is_coming_i___restoring_faith_in_winterfell_by_gumshorts-d5t8t0g
Hodor is Coming, Restoring Faith in Winterfell by Gumshorts

One of the easiest ways to look for potential Serwyn related scenes is to search for “damsel in distress” scenes. In Bran’s fourth chapter of aCoK, Meera Reed (and her brother) ends up in a distress situation. As Jojen questioned Bran about the dreams he has and his warging, Bran gets so upset that his anger flows over into Summer who threatens the Reed siblings. Sensing Summer’s rage, Shaggy joins in. To keep out of harm’s way and wolf teeth, Jojen and Meera climb the weirwood in the godswood.

Summer rushed forward, but Meera blocked him, jabbing with the three-pronged spear. The wolf twisted aside, circling, stalking. Meera turned to face him. […] The direwolf lunged again, and again Meera’s spear darted out. Summer dodged, circled back. The bushes rustled, and a lean black shape came padding from behind the weirwood, teeth bared. The scent was strong; his brother had smelled his rage. Bran felt hairs rise on the back of his neck. Meera stood beside her brother, with wolves to either side. […] her brother scrambled up the trunk of the weirwood, using the face for his handholds. The direwolves closed. Meera abandoned spear and net, jumped up, and grabbed the branch above her head. Shaggy’s jaws snapped shut beneath her ankle as she swung up and over the limb. Summer sat back on his haunches and howled, while Shaggydog worried the net, shaking it in his teeth. (aCoK, Bran IV)

Meanwhile, on Meera’s urging Bran tried to call Summer and Shaggy back from attacking them, but Summer ignores Bran’s summons.

“Bran, call them off.”
“I can’t!” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Then Bran realizes that Hodor – a human giant- is in the godswood and he calls for him to help chase off Summer and Shaggy. Ever helpful, Hodor waves his arms and stamps his feet and succeeds.

A few moments passed before they heard a tuneless humming. Hodor arrived half-dressed and mud-spattered from his visit to the hot pools, but Bran had never been so glad to see him. “Hodor, help me. Chase off the wolves. Chase them off.”
Hodor went to it gleefully, waving his arms and stamping his huge feet, shouting “Hodor, Hodor,” running first at one wolf and then the other. Shaggydog was the first to flee, slinking back into the foliage with a final snarl. When Summer had enough, he came back to Bran and lay down beside him. (aCoK, Bran IV)

What we have here is a reversal of Serwyn saving his princess from a giant. In the original we have a knight who saves a princess from a giant. But in this scene we have a sworn shield saved by a giant from a prince.

The Prince in the tower

Bran may have wished to be a knight like Serwyn one day, but before long he ends up being the Prince of Winterfell instead.

[Hayhead] peered in, saw Bran howling out the window, and said, “What’s this, my prince?” It made Bran feel queer when they called him prince, though he was Robb’s heir, and Robb was King in the North now. (aCoK, Bran I)

Bran had never asked to be a prince. It was knighthood he had always dreamed of; bright armor and streaming banners, lance and sword, a warhorse between his legs. (aCoK, Bran II)

Better yet, a prince in a tower behind bars and shuttered windows, with Winterfell as his prison.

Bran preferred the hard stone of the window seat to the comforts of his featherbed and blankets. Abed, the walls pressed close and the ceiling hung heavy above him; abed, the room was his cell, and Winterfell his prison. (aCoK, Bran I)

Hodor carried him up the winding steps to his tower and knelt beside one of the iron bars that Mikken had driven into the wall. Bran used the bars to move himself to the bed, and Hodor pulled off his boots and breeches.[…] When he blew out his bedside candle, darkness covered him like a soft, familiar blanket. The faint sound of music drifted through his shuttered window. (aCoK, Bran III)

The prince is even mentally a prisoner (on so many levels at the time as I will show later), with his direwolf locked behind iron bars in the godswood. And yes this seems a deliberate description of the tower-like-prison for a “prince”, because as soon as Bran lies down to sleep, he remembers the conversation he had with Ned Stark about knights, in gleaming armor, marvels who are a shining lesson to the world.

Something his father had told him once when he was little came back to him suddenly. He had asked Lord Eddard if the Kingsguard were truly the finest knights in the Seven Kingdoms. “No longer,” he answered, “but once they were a marvel, a shining lesson to the world.” […] [Bran] went to sleep with his head full of knights in gleaming armor, fighting with swords that shone like starfire, […] (aCoK, Bran III)

And earlier in the chapter, towards the end of the harvest feast, we are of course reminded of Bran not being a knight, when he thinks he wants to be a knight.

“You have done well, Bran. Here, and at the audiences. You will be an especial fine lord one day, I think.”
I want to be a knight. Bran took another sip of the spiced honey wine from his father’s goblet, grateful for something to clutch. (aCoK, Bran III)

Bran often reflects on everyone calling him prince, and how he wants to be a knight in shining armor instead, how they call him prince but do not heed his wishes, such as locking the direwolves into the godswood or not allowing him to ride beyond the gate with Dancer. And yet, just before Bran becomes the actual threat in the Serwyn-tableau scene, through Summer, Bran actually declares himself the Prince of Winterfell for once.

[Jojen] was making Bran angry. “I don’t have to tell you my dreams. I’m the prince. I’m the Stark in Winterfell.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Serwyna of the shield.

Meanwhile, the main female character in Bran’s arc, Meera, is not a princess, but his sworn shield. The very same night that Meera and Jojen arrived at Winterfell, they swore themselves to him. Officially their vow is to the King in the North, Robb, and Winterfell, but they say the words to Bran, and it is emphasized even then that their vow is mostly meant to benefit Bran himself.

“My lords of Stark,” the girl said [on her knees]. “The years have passed in their hundreds and their thousands since my folk first swore their fealty to the King in the North. My lord father has sent us here to say the words again, for all our people.”
She is looking at me, Bran realized. He had to make some answer. “My brother Robb is fighting in the south,” he said, “but you can say your words to me, if you like.”
“To Winterfell we pledge the faith of Greywater,” they said together. “Hearth and heart and harvest we yield up to you, my lord. Our swords and spears and arrows are yours to command. Grant mercy to our weak, help to our helpless, and justice to all, and we shall never fail you.”
“I swear it by earth and water,” said the boy in green.
“I swear it by bronze and iron,” his sister said.
“We swear it by ice and fire,” they finished together. (aCoK, Bran III)

“[…] You are only a boy, I know, but you are our prince as well, our lord’s son and our king’s true heir. We have sworn you our faith by earth and water, bronze and iron, ice and fire. The risk is yours, Bran, as is the gift. The choice should be yours too, I think. We are your servants to command.” She grinned. “At least in this.”
“You mean,” Bran said, “you’ll do what I say? Truly?”
“Truly, my prince,” the girl replied, “so consider well.” (aSoS, Bran I)

Many people refer to Bran as “my prince” in aCoK. For most it is but a courtesy, while they dictatee Bran where to go, where he cannot go, what he must do then or later, and even what he must dream. Meera is the sole one who treats Bran as a minor with some power over his own body, when calling him her prince. In aCoK, Meera refers to Bran as her prince once – in the chapter that features the reversed Serwyn scene.

Bran had never heard of a moving castle before. He looked at  [Meera] uncertainly, but he couldn’t tell whether she was teasing him or not. “I wish I could see it. Do you think your lord father would let me come visit when the war is over?”
“You would be most welcome, my prince. Then or now.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Therefore, not only is there a role reversal in the Serwyn related scene, between whom saves whom from whom, but also a gender reversal: the princess has become a prince, the warrior a girl. Jojen also swears the same vows, but of the siblings, only Meera is described as a warrior as they would have looked during the era of heroes of legends such as Serwyn.

As the newcomers walked the length of the hall, Bran saw that one was indeed a girl, though he would never have known it by her dress. She wore lambskin breeches soft with long use, and a sleeveless jerkin armored in bronze scales. Though near Robb’s age, she was slim as a boy, with long brown hair knotted behind her head and only the barest suggestion of breasts. A woven net hung from one slim hip, a long bronze knife from the other; under her arm she carried an old iron greathelm spotted with rust; a frog spear and round leathern shield were strapped to her back. Her brother was several years younger and bore no weapons. (aCoK, Bran III)

Since she carries no sword at the time, only a knife, her vows do not make her a sworn sword. She does however carry a shield, which makes her a sworn shield. It’s not a mirroring shield, but the bronze scales of her armor would make her a sworn mirroring shield (see Mirror Mirror – Brass Alchemism and Mirror Mirror – Behind the Mirror). And since the chapter nearly ends with Bran remembering his father making a favorable comment about Howland Reed, Meera’s father, as saving Ned’s life from the greatest knight that Ned had ever seen, Arthur Dayne, this sets Meera up to have the potential to be the greatest sworn shield he could wish for.

“The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.” ( aCoK, Bran III)

Howland Reed is not a knight, and we do not even know exactly in what manner Howland saved Ned. Nor does he sound to have been a sword fighter. This puts Howland more in the defensive “sworn shield” role, rather than the offensive “sworn sword” role. We should regard the legendary Serwyn in the same sense. It is not his sword skill or sword that is the legend’s subject, but the shield.

And yes, by the end of aCoK, Meera does carry Lord Rickard Stark’s grave-sword. But the paragraph makes clear that we still should not regard Meera a sworn sword. Meera complains it is too heavy for her and Bran summarizes the sword carrying a game.

Osha carried her long oaken spear in one hand and the torch in the other. A naked sword hung down her back, one of the last to bear Mikken’s mark. He had forged it for Lord Eddard’s tomb, to keep his ghost at rest. But with Mikken slain and the ironmen guarding the armory, good steel had been hard to resist, even if it meant grave-robbing. Meera had claimed Lord Rickard’s blade, though she complained that it was too heavy. Brandon took his namesake’s, the sword made for the uncle he had never known. He knew he would not be much use in a fight, but even so the blade felt good in his hand. But it was only a game, and Bran knew it. (aCoK, Bran VI)

George did not have them carry swords to turn any of these three into knights or sworn swords, even symbolically. He needed those swords to be gone as evidence for visitors of the crypts that any rumor of Bran or Rickon being alive was corroborated at their hide-out, as Lady Dustin seems to be doing when down in the crypts with Theon.

While many readers focus on the Arthur Dayne-versus-Howland Reed quote to speculate on Arthur Dayne, the main use about this paragraph in Bran’s third chapter of aCoK is how we should see Meera as the closest thing to a legend of the age of heroes walking into his life and swearing to be his protector. After all, garbed in Age of Heroes gear, Meera is the daughter of the man who somehow bested the already legendary Arthur Dayne. Hence the chapter ends not just with Bran dreaming of knights in shining armor, but instead the Reed siblings entering the godswood and Meera acting protectively of her brother.

The Giant

Our giant in the Serwyn tableau is the good-hearted Hodor who measures nearly seven feet. There are several quotes for this, such as Bran referring to Hodor as a simple giant in aGoT or Osha speculating that Hodor’s size may be due to giant’s blood, but I chose two quotes from aCoK instead that precede Hodor rescuing Meera from Summer and Shaggydog and set Hodor up to be a protective giant.

[Osha] gave him a sour grin. “That it’s a fool boy who mocks a giant, and a mad world when a cripple has to defend him.”
“Hodor never knew they were mocking him,” Bran said. “Anyhow he never fights.” […] “Septon Chayle says he has a gentle spirit.”
“Aye,” she said, “and hands strong enough to twist a man’s head off his shoulders, if he takes a mind to. […] (aCoK, Bran II)

Here we have Osha refer to Hodor as a giant, but simultaneously alerting the reader of small seemingly unimportant events where people have unexpected roles. First, a cripple (Bran) has to defend a giant (Hodor) when the Walders mock Hodor, and two chapters later a giant (Hodor) has to defend a sworn shield (Meera) from her prince’s direwolf, because Luwin shamed Bran about his wolf dreams. A mad world indeed.

The singer sang good songs, “Iron Lances” and “The Burning of the Ships” and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” but only Hodor seemed to be listening. He stood beside the piper, hopping from one foot to the other. (aCoK, Bran III)

Finally, Hodor becoming a protector is heralded with the song The Bear and Maiden Fair. For more extensive insight on this song and the theme in the series, please read the introduction and essays on Bears and Maidens. But to summarize the important connection here is the fact that in aGoT, George planted the seeds of association between giants and bears through Tyrion at the Wall. There Aemon called Tyrion a giant, while Jon thinks of him as a small bear when huddled in the bearskin Benjen loaned him. In aSoS, George reaffirms this association when Jon thinks of the giants he sees as bearlike. So, when George puts a human giant in the same paragraph along with several songs, including The Bear and the Maiden Fair, then he intends to associate Hodor to that song in particular. This is affirmed with Hodor’s dancing style – a simple hopping from one foot to the other – which is similar to that of dancing bears.

The harvest feast at Winterfell is the first time that George ever mentions the song The Bear and the Maiden Fair. Its hokum lyrics were only introduced in aSoS, so we will ignore its deeper bear hunt-ritual meaning as well as its sexual innuendo. On the surface though it is about a bear dancing with a maiden fair, or at least wishing it. And when the actual dancing begins during the harvest feast, Bran notes that Hodor dances all by himself. In other words, the maiden fair is absent in this dancing scene.

The bear’s folkloristic roles vary: avenger, destroyer, but also groom, lover and protector. Osha highlighted how Hodor has the potential to be a destroyer when she mentions he has the hands to twist a man’s head off, but also implied he should be the protector. The reference to the bear-maiden song sets up Hodor to be a protective bear towards a maiden fair, which he becomes in the godswood scene, when he saves Meera from the direwolves.

Tableau 2 – Netting a wolf

meera_reed_elera
Meera Reed, by Elera

The same godswood chapter also features a scene of the legend of Saint George and the dragon. In that legend people chose people to be sacrificed to a poisonous dragon by a lake or well by lot. And eventually, the lot fell on the king’s daughter. She was sent out to the lake, dressed as a bride, to be the dragon’s next meal. By happenstance, Saint George passed and when the dragon emerged, he charged and wounded it with his lance, but did not kill it. Instead Saint George throws the princess’ girdle around the dragon and it followed the princess meekly back to the city. Once inside the city, Saint George makes an offer to the citizens – he will kill the dragon for them, but only if they all convert to Christianity.

Bran’s fourth chapter starts with Meera capturing Summer in her net.

“Yai!” the girl shouted, the spear darting out. The wolf slid to the left and leapt before she could draw back the spear. Meera cast her net, the tangles unfolding in the air before her. Summer’s leap carried him into it. He dragged it with him as he slammed into her chest and knocked her over backward. Her spear went spinning away. The damp grass cushioned her fall but the breath went out of her in an “Oof.” The wolf crouched atop her.
Bran hooted. “You lose.”
“She wins,” her brother Jojen said. “Summer’s snared.
He was right, Bran saw. Thrashing and growling at the net, trying to rip free, Summer was only ensnaring himself worse. Nor could he bite through. (aCoK, Bran IV)

The above scene is a reference to the girdling of the dragon. While a net is not exactly a girdle, Meera wears it like a girdle, from her hip.

A woven net hung from one slim hip, a long bronze knife from the other; […] (aCoK, Bran III)

Though Meera is not a princess, as a Serwyn figure she can perform the girdling. This is highlighted in her manner of capturing Summer.

Meera moved in a wary circle, her net dangling loose in her left hand, the slender three-pronged frog spear poised in her right. Summer followed her with his golden eyes, turning, his tail held stiff and tall. Watching, watching . . . (aCoK, Bran IV)

Serwyn uses a feign to kill  a dragon. As the dragon is distracted by the shield, he never sees Serwyn’s spear coming.  Meera uses the same feign with her frog spear and the net, except her spear is the decoy, while the net is her true weapon. Did you notice that is another reversal?

More, the outcome of the capture scene is yet another reversal. After its capture, the citizens want the dragon killed. Saint George tells them he will only do so if they all agree to convert from paganism to Christianity, otherwise he will set the dragon free again. Unlike the citizens in Saint George’s legen, Bran demands Summer’s release.

Let him out.”
Laughing, the Reed girl threw her arms around the tangled wolf and rolled them both. Summer gave a piteous whine, his legs kicking against the cords that bound them. Meera knelt, undid a twist, pulled at a corner, tugged deftly here and there, and suddenly the direwolf was bounding free. (aCoK, Bran IV)

Setting Summer free, rather than kill  him can be seen as a foreshadowing that the Reed siblings and Bran are essential to ensure summer will follow after winter. But from the angle of the Saint George legend, it means Bran chooses the Old Gods over the Faith, and that in fact this conversion is necessary to end winter. Hence, Jojen’s inquiry after Bran’s dreams and explanation of Bran’s abilities, which Bran denies, begins right after Summer is set free. These are conversion attempts that Bran initially resists, clinging to the maester’s beliefs (in contrast to aCoK, Bran I).

The Winged Wolf Chained

“I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains,” he said. “It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them.” […] “You are the winged wolf, Bran,” said Jojen. “I wasn’t sure when we first came, but now I am. The crow sent us here to break your chains.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Kristina_Carroll_greendream_chained winged wolf
Greendream “the chained winged wolf” by Kristina Caroll

Jojen relates his dream, after we saw Meera Reed girdle Summer and before Hodor ends up having to save Meera and Jojen from the direwolves. In Jojen’s dream the image of a girdled wolf is repeated, now in chains, with yet another tie to Saint George’s legend: the wolf has wings, like a dragon.

But as with Meera netting of the wolf, the reversel repeats itself here – like Summer was set free, the Reed siblings and the Three Eyed Crow want to set Bran free, before outside forces (such as Theon’s Drowned God or Ramsay Bolton’s desire to wear the skin of Lord of Winterfell) can kill him.

fly or die
Bran Stark and his dreams by Teilku

Fly or die!” cried the three-eyed crow as it pecked at him. He wept and pleaded but the crow had no pity. (aCoK, Bran II)

In Bloodraven’s “fly or die”, we recognize Saint George’s choice put to the people of Selene – kill the dragon or free the dragon, and just as in the legend it requires conversion. Except of course, here the desired choice is freedom, the choice to live, and a conversion towards the paganistic Old Gods, not the Christian-like Faith. This makes Bloodraven a saint for the same reasons that Meera is a sworn shield.

Bran’s dreams of the three-eyed-crow are often regarded as cruel, or as implying that the dreamer can die while dreaming, in a similar way as dreamers die in Nightmare on Elm Street. But there is a far more mundane reason for Bloodraven doing everything he can to push for Bran to reach and accept his talents.

“I dreamed that the sea was lapping all around Winterfell. I saw black waves crashing against the gates and towers, and then the salt water came flowing over the walls and filled the castle. Drowned men were floating in the yard. When I first dreamed the dream, back at Greywater, I didn’t know their faces, but now I do. That Alebelly is one, the guard who called our names at the feast. Your septon’s another. Your smith as well.” […] “In the dark of night the salt sea will flow over these walls,” said Jojen. “I saw the dead, bloated and drowned.” (aCoK, Bran V)

And it is not just Theon and Ironborn who poses a danger to Bran, but Reek (Ramsay in disguise).

“Did you see me in a green dream?” he asked Jojen nervously. “Was I drowned?”
“Not drowned.” Jojen spoke as if every word pained him. “I dreamed of the man who came today, the one they call Reek. You and your brother lay dead at his feet, and he was skinning off your faces with a long red blade.” (aCoK, Bran V)

And you would think that if Bloodraven had the power to kill someone in a dream like Freddy Kruger, that he would actually use that power. The ability to kill someone in a dream is the type of magical powers that GRRM is not keen on including in stories, because it leads to the paradox of the magician not using that power more often and solve the issue, before it becomes a threat or a problem. Hence the “die” is not a physical threat to Bran during his dream, at least not after he came out of his coma, but a warning of a physical threat by an enemy that could get Bran killed in the near future, unless he starts to use his abilities and believes in oracle dreams.

It put out his left eye and then his right, and when he was blind in the dark it pecked at his brow, driving its terrible sharp beak deep into his skull. He screamed until he was certain his lungs must burst. The pain was an axe splitting his head apart, but when the crow wrenched out its beak all slimy with bits of bone and brain, Bran could see again. (aCoK, Bran II)

The “fly or die” dream is featured only twice in the series. The first time during his coma, after his mother has left Winterfell. Catelyn held vigil day and night beside him, making sure that even during his coma he had sufficient nourishment. Neither Robb, maester Luwin or Old Nan would be this meticulous, and with a physical state lingering between death and survival, this situation risked to become one where Bran would waste away and maester Luwin eventually would decide that the Starks should prepare to let Bran’s life go. It was time for Bran to wake up and eat. Apart from all the threats surrounding Sansa and Arya, the threat to Westeros coming both from Essos and the North, this is what the crow shows to Bran as being his immediate threat to his life – how skinny he is.

Bran was staring at his arms, his legs. He was so skinny, just skin stretched taut over bones. Had he always been so thin? (aGoT, Bran III)

BTW if you think Old Nan would not let Bran waste away, I must remind you that she was hired as a young woman to wet nurse a baby Brandon Stark, whose mother had died, and that Brandon Stark died at the age of three from a “summer chill”.

Nan had come to the castle as a wet nurse for a Brandon Stark whose mother had died birthing him. He had been an older brother of Lord Rickard, Bran’s grandfather, or perhaps a younger brother, or a brother to Lord Rickard’s father. Sometimes Old Nan told it one way and sometimes another. In all the stories the little boy died at three of a summer chill, but Old Nan stayed on at Winterfell with her own children. (aGoT, Bran IV)

Per the Stark family tree published by George in tWoIaF, this must have been the firstborn son of Willam Stark, Rickard’s grandfather, and Lyanne Glover who died in childbirth. Rickard is recorded in the family tree as only child of Edwyle Stark – second son of Willam – and Marna Locke. A “summer chill” does not sound as a heavy epidemic or disease, and summer is not the worst of seasons. So, for a child that young to die in the summer from a chill, after Old Non was its wet nurse, this sort of reflects badly on her actual caring abilities for another woman’s child.

The second time the dream is featured is at the end of Bran’s second chapter in aCoK, just after Donnella Hornwood’s case is brought to Luwin’s attention, who decides it is not a presseing matter of urgency that can be resolved in the future. This dream also occurs after Theon has learned of his father’s plans to invade the North. Off-page, Ramsay is preparing to seize Hornwood and inevitably weaken the peace and safety within the North, while Theon is manipulated into proving to his father he is a Greyjoy by turning against the family who raised him. That the threath for death is one of an assassination, instead of physical weakness this time around is made clear by one major change in the dream in aCoK to the one during his coma.

A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. “The things I do for love,” it said. Bran screamed. The crow took to the air, cawing. Not that, it shrieked at him. Forget that, you do not need it now, put it aside, put it away. It landed on Bran’s shoulder, and pecked at him, and the shining golden face was gone.  (aGoT, Bran I)

What he saw made him gasp in fear. He was clinging to a tower miles high, and his fingers were slipping, nails scrabbling at the stone, his legs dragging him down, stupid useless dead legs. “Help me!” he cried. A golden man appeared in the sky above him and pulled him up. “The things I do for love,” he murmured softly as he tossed him out kicking into empty air. (aCoK, Bran II)

In aCoK, Bloodraven makes no attempt to keep Bran from seeing the truth of what befell (pun intended) him, as he did when Bran was in his coma. Now, he does want Bran to know that men might want to kill him. Of course, Jaime is not a threat to Bran anymore, but Ramsay and Theon are both motivated to act in their own twisted way to earn the respect and regard of a father – another type of “love”.

It seems strange that Bloodraven seems to think it necessary to peck open Bran’s third eye again, when he seemed succesful enough previously, enough for Bran to dream about his father’s death ahead of the dark wings bringing the news, enough for him to not only have wolf dreams, but weirwood dreams as well.

The mention of dreams reminded him. “I dreamed about the crow again last night. The one with three eyes. He flew into my bedchamber and told me to come with him, so I did. We went down to the crypts. Father was there, and we talked. He was sad.” […] “It was something to do about Jon, I think.” The dream had been deeply disturbing, more so than any of the other crow dreams. (aGoT, Bran VII)

Of late, he often dreamed of wolves. They are talking to me, brother to brother, he told himself when the direwolves howled. He could almost understand them . . . not quite, not truly, but almost . . . as if they were singing in a language he had once known and somehow forgotten. […] “When I sleep I turn into a wolf.” Bran turned his face away and looked back out into the night. “Do wolves dream?” […] “Do trees dream?”
“Trees? No . . .”
“They do,” Bran said with sudden certainty. “They dream tree dreams. I dream of a tree sometimes. A weirwood, like the one in the godswood. It calls to me. The wolf dreams are better. I smell things, and sometimes I can taste the blood.” (aCoK, Bran I)

This does not sound like a boy who is chained. It sounds a like a wolf with wings, who can fly, who enjoys it, who does not seem to need to go through an enlightenment ordeal again.

He thought of the golden man and the three-eyed crow, remembered the crunch of bones between his jaws and the coppery taste of blood. “I don’t have dreams. Maester Luwin gives me sleeping draughts.”
“Do they help?”
“Sometimes.”
Meera said, “All of Winterfell knows you wake at night shouting and sweating, Bran. The women talk of it at the well, and the guards in their hall.”
“Tell us what frightens you so much,” said Jojen.
“I don’t want to. Anyway, it’s only dreams. Maester Luwin says dreams might mean anything or nothing.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

In the course of three chapters, Bran has turned from a boy daring to freely speak about his dreams, challenging maester Luwin’s claims, enjoying most of the dreams, even the crow dreams, before the latest “fly or die” dream, into a boy who sounds more and more like a mini maester Luwin, citing him constantly with “maester Luwin says…”.  So Bran changed, but why and when?

A Maester’s Chains

Jojen’s dream about the winged wolf mentions how grey stone chains weigh him down. That creates the question who or what those chains symbolize. The answer is layered:

  • Bran’s fears,
  • Bran’s disappointment that he cannot fly in waking life,
  • beliefs that Brans cling to in order to prevent him from facing his fears and feed on his disappointment,
  • sleeping drugs given to him to try and give Bran dreamless sleep

The last two items on this list stem from the same source: maester Luwin. All in all, the reasons why the Winged Wolf is chained are both internal as well as external, and thus two culprits – Bran himself and maester Luwin.

maester luwin all in grey
Donals Sumpter as maester Luwin in GOT

Grey chains are an apt symbolic representation of maester Luwin. While Lady Dustin refers to maesters in general as “grey rats“, Luwin in particular is grey all over.

The maester was a small grey man. His eyes were grey, and quick, and saw much. His hair was grey, what little the years had left him. His robe was grey wool, trimmed with white fur, the Stark colors. (aGoT, Catelyn II)

“We have no steward,” Maester Luwin reminded her. Like a little grey rat, she thought, he would not let go. “Poole went south to establish Lord Eddard’s household at King’s Landing.”  (aGoT, Catelyn III)

And of course, maesters are “collared”. They wear their chain, day and night, even when sleeping. While all maesters wear their chains, and more than maester Luwin is featured throughout the series, Luwin in particular is regularly featured as tugging his chain.

The maester tugged at the chain around his neck, as he often did when he was uncomfortable. “Bran, sweet child, one day Lord Eddard will sit below in stone, beside his father and his father’s father and all the Starks back to the old Kings in the North … but that will not be for many years, gods be good. Your father is a prisoner of the queen in King’s Landing. You will not find him in the crypts.”
[…]
Maester Luwin tugged at his chain collar where it chafed against his neck. “They were people of the Dawn Age, the very first, before kings and kingdoms,” he said. “In those days, there were no castles or holdfasts, no cities, not so much as a market town to be found between here and the sea of Dorne. There were no men at all. Only the children of the forest dwelt in the lands we now call the Seven Kingdoms. (aGoT, Bran VII)

When he came back, Maester Luwin was with him, all in grey, his chain tight about his neck. “Bran, those beasts make sufficient noise without your help.” He crossed the room and put his hand on the boy’s brow. “The hour grows late, you ought to be fast asleep.”
[…]
“They do,” Bran said with sudden certainty. “They dream tree dreams. I dream of a tree sometimes. A weirwood, like the one in the godswood. It calls to me. The wolf dreams are better. I smell things, and sometimes I can taste the blood.”
Maester Luwin tugged at his chain where it chafed his neck. “If you would only spend more time with the other children—” (aCoK, Bran I)

“The sea is coming here,” Bran said. “Jojen saw it in a green dream. Alebelly is going to drown.”
Maester Luwin tugged at his chain collar. “The Reed boy believes he sees the future in his dreams, Ser Rodrik. I’ve spoken to Bran about the uncertainty of such prophecies, but if truth be told, there is trouble along the Stony Shore. Raiders in longships, plundering fishing villages. Raping and burning. Leobald Tallhart has sent his nephew Benfred to deal with them, but I expect they’ll take to their ships and flee at the first sight of armed men.” (aCoK, Bran V)

Officially, the chain represents the reminder to a maester that he serves the realm and the household where he lives. And each chain stands for the subject of knowledge he mastered.

Bran thought for a moment, trying to remember. “A maester forges his chain in the Citadel of Oldtown. It’s a chain because you swear to serve, and it’s made of different metals because you serve the realm and the realm has different sorts of people. Every time you learn something you get another link. Black iron is for ravenry, silver for healing, gold for sums and numbers. I don’t remember them all.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

But with Luwin it symbolizes not so much “knowledge” as it does the Citadel’s beliefs that enslaved Luwin into spreading them. Notice how Luwin touches and tugs the chain whenever he is confronted with a controversial subject, and how he recites or answers in a manner that stems from the Citadel’s indoctrination. And in all the instances where he tugged his chain in answer to dreams, maester Luwin’s beliefs turn out to be wrong.

Maesters are called “knights of the mind“. But in the series, knights are mostly featured as “shields”. And thus maesters are meant to shield people’s minds, which is the opposite from learning whatever there is to learn. In Bran’s arc maester Luwin attempts to shield Bran’s mind from having green, wolf and tree dreams by drugging him. Maester Luwin is responsible for the sudden change in Bran’s attitude towards the dreams he has.

The door to his bedchamber opened. Maester Luwin was carrying a green jar, and this time Osha and Hayhead came with him. “I’ve made you a sleeping draught, Bran.” […] “This will give you dreamless sleep,” Maester Luwin said as he pulled the stopper from the jar. “Sweet, dreamless sleep.”
“It will?” Bran said, wanting to believe.
“Yes. Drink.” Bran drank. The potion was thick and chalky, but there was honey in it, so it went down easy. “Come the morn, you’ll feel better.” Luwin gave Bran a smile and a pat as he took his leave. (aCoK, Bran I)

And not just by giving him something physical to stop Bran from having dreams. Luwin also shames Bran, after they have a heated exchange over Summer and Shaggy being locked into the godswood.

“We should put the Walders in the godswood. They could play lord of the crossing all they want, and Summer could sleep with me again.[…]” […] He howled. “Ooo-ooo-oooooooooooo.”
Luwin raised his voice. “A true prince would welcome—”
“AAHOOOOOOO,” Bran howled, louder. “OOOO-OOOO-OOOO.”
The maester surrendered. “As you will, child.” With a look that was part grief and part disgust, he left the bedchamber.
Howling lost its savor once Bran was alone. After a time he quieted. I did welcome them, he told himself, resentful. I was the lord in Winterfell, a true lord, he can’t say I wasn’t. […] He had offered [the Walders] meat and mead and a seat by the fire, and even Maester Luwin had said afterward that he’d done well. (aCoK, Bran I)

Sure, Bran behaved childish, but he is a boy of eight, who has nothing left to entertain himself but his dreams. He cannot partake in play with the Walders, and the wolves are locked away. His rebellious behavior was a howl for acceptance of who or what he may be, and understanding of his pain of being shut out from what a boy his age should be doing – play. And it resulted in Luwin making a face of disgust. Luwin’s rebuke and expression of disgust stung deeply and reveals how Bran wants to please the maester. It is no accident, that Luwin pats Bran like a “good boy” (dog) after drinking the drug Luwin gave him to stop his dreaming. Inevitably, the drugging taught Bran to feel like a freak, to hide and negate what is going on, and to run away from his fears.

Just as much as Luwin is featured with tugging his own chain, he is often seen suggesting or reminding people and wolves should be chained.

“You are a surpassing clever boy when you work at it, Bran. Have you ever thought that you might wear a maester’s chain? There is no limit to what you might learn.”
I want to learn magic,” Bran told him. “The crow promised that I would fly.” (aGoT, Bran VI)

“That … that beast,” Luwin went on, “is supposed to be chained up in the kennels.”
Rickon patted Shaggydog’s muzzle, damp with blood. “I let him loose. He doesn’t like chains.” He licked at his fingers.
[…]
“Bran,” the maester said firmly, “I know you mean well, but Shaggydog is too wild to run loose. I’m the third man he’s savaged. Give him the freedom of the castle and it’s only a question of time before he kills someone. The truth is hard, but the wolf has to be chained, or …” He hesitated.
or killed, Bran thought, but what he said was, “He was not made for chains. We will wait in your tower, all of us.”
[…]
Maester Luwin sighed. “Woman, by rights you ought to be dead or in chains. The Starks have treated you more gently than you deserve. It is unkind to repay them for their kindness by filling the boys’ heads with folly.”  (aGoT, Bran VII)

Maester Luwin wants to chain Bran’s mind like that of a maester’s, and chain or kill anything wild – Shaggydog, Summer, Osha the wildling. Never does he even suggest to render the wolves their freedom, to their natural habitat. A wolf’s life chained inside a kennel 24/7 is a miserable life.

Bran’s first chapter in aCoK starts with him questioning Farlen, Gage, Luwin and Osha about the reason why the direwolves howl. Farlen says they howl for freedom, while Gage claims they howl to express their wish to hunt.

“It’s freedom they’re calling for,” declared Farlen, who was kennelmaster and had no more love for the direwolves than his hounds did. “They don’t like being walled up, and who’s to blame them? Wild things belong in the wild, not in a castle.”
They want to hunt,” agreed Gage the cook as he tossed cubes of suet in a great kettle of stew. “A wolf smells better’n any man. Like as not, they’ve caught the scent o’ prey.”
Maester Luwin did not think so. “Wolves often howl at the moon. These are howling at the comet. See how bright it is, Bran? Perchance they think it is the moon.”
When Bran repeated that to Osha, she laughed aloud. “Your wolves have more wit than your maester,” the wildling woman said. “They know truths the grey man has forgotten.” The way she said it made him shiver, and when he asked what the comet meant, she answered, “Blood and fire, boy, and nothing sweet.” (aCoK, Bran I)

Maester Luwin disagrees with Farlen and Gage, as well as paints the wolves as stupid – suggesting they mistake the comet for the moon – and that their howles are pointless. Meanwhile, Osha gives no straight answer, but she paints Luwin to be a fool who knows less truth than a direwolf.

As it turns out, Luwin is wrong, again. Farlen and Gage identify the needs of the direwolves correctly, but Osha’s answer comes closest to the truth. Bran’s wolf dream at the end of the first chapter, despite being drugged by Luwin, reveals us the answer.

  • Neither Summer or Shaggy howl at the comet. It is useful for light, but otherwise they ignore it.
  • Next, we learn Summer misses the hunt. Eating dead meat he did not kill himself gives him no joy, and yet he does not howl at the chittering squirrels out of his reach in the trees.
  • Then, we learn that Shaggy and Summer do feel walled in, but that gets answered with snarls, not howls.

The world had tightened around them, but beyond the walled wood still stood the great grey caves of man-rock. Winterfell, he remembered, the sound coming to him suddenly. Beyond its sky-tall man-cliffs the true world was calling, and he knew he must answer or die. (aCoK, Bran I)

In the last line of the chapter, George gives us the answer to Bran’s question – the direwolves answer the call of the “true” world beyond Winterfell. It seems as if Summer and Shaggy regard man’s world as an illusionary fabrication or unnatural, which would make the call of the “true” world, the call of of the wild.

The mention of dying might mean the threats outside of Winterfell’s protective walls. For all (Bran, Rickon, direwolves and Osha) it ultimately would mean death to remain chained, whereas the wilderness represents freedom and survival. The least wild and most docile direwolf of the pack, Lady, was killed as a precaution. If Bran and Rickon had not set the direwolves free from the godswood nor hid themselves, Theon or Ramsay as Reek would have killed them at some point. Osha would have been dragged to the Dreadfort by Ramsay, like so many other women, and one of the first used for hunting sport. And we can even expand this risk of death to that of the races and people trapped north of the Wall with the Others claiming dominion – – the giants, children of the forest, direwolves and wildlings.

Important is that George chose to identify the answer as a true world, while Osha’s explanation for the wolves’ howling was that they know truths that the maester has long forgotten. Neither Osha or GRRM specify what this truth or true world is, but it suffices to conclude that Osha came closest to the answer.

Jojen’s image of the chained winged wolf therefore represents the wonders of wild nature being held captive physically behind walls or in chains, emotionally through shame, and mentally through drug substance, kept in place until someone decides it is in their best interest to kill them. Ultimately, the chain represents a slow agonizing death. Even in a man who voluntarily forged the chain around his neck something died when he was still a green boy.

All those who study the higher mysteries try their own hand at spells, soon or late. I yielded to the temptation too, I must confess it. Well, I was a boy, and what boy does not secretly wish to find hidden powers in himself? I got no more for my efforts than a thousand boys before me, and a thousand since. Sad to say, magic does not work.” (aCoK, Bran VI)

Once, as a green boy, Luwin hoped and believed, and ended up disappointed. His denial of such powers not existing stems from a projection of his own disappointment. It is easier for him to say magic does not exist, that nobody can have such powers than to entertain the thought that he was not gifted with the abilities others were born with. When Luwin reprimanded Osha for repaying the Stark’s kindness by filling the boys’ heads with folly, perhaps he should reprimand himself for repaying the Starks’ kindness by filling Bran’s head with his own disappointments, bitterness – his mental poison – because he was not chosen, because he was not special.

Eventually, his chain prevents him from being trusted by Bran and the Reeds with their plan to hide, forces him to serve the conquerer Theon somehow, which will cost him his life in Bran’s last chapter in aCoK. Luwin was wounded by a spear thrown at him by one of Ramsay’s men when he ran towards Theon.

On the edge of the black pool, beneath the shelter of the heart tree, Maester Luwin lay on his belly in the dirt. A trail of blood twisted back through damp leaves where he had crawled. Summer stood over him, and Bran thought he was dead at first, but when Meera touched his throat, the maester moaned. […] Gently, they eased Luwin onto his back. He had grey eyes and grey hair, and once his robes had been grey as well, but they were darker now where the blood had soaked through. “Bran,” he said softly when he saw him sitting tall on Hodor’s back. “And Rickon too.” He smiled. “The gods are good. I knew . . .” […] The maester smiled. “Hush now, child, I’m much older than you. I can . . . die as I please.” […]
Osha gazed up at the weirwood, at the red face carved in the pale trunk. “And leave you for the gods?”
I beg . . .” The maester swallowed. “. . . a . . . a drink of water, and . . . another boon. If you would . . .” (aCoK, Bran VII)

Luwin failed to convert Bran into disbelieving in the Old Gods and greenseer magic, and was converted himself into seeking the Old Gods. His bloody trail and his request to the CotF stand-in Osha to give him mercy in front of the weirwood, where the Old Gods can see, then completes the image of a dying man offering his blood and life to the Old Gods voluntarily. It must have taken a strong will and desire to crawl all the way to the heart tree from Winterfell’s yard, and so Luwin did so with a purpose in mind – likely to prey and beg the Old Gods to look after Bran or let him know without a doubt that Bran and Rickon were not the children that Theon killed, perhaps even only shortly before Bran and Rickon show up at the weirwood. Hence he concludes the “gods are good”.

We even have an earlier hint in Theon’s chapter where he attempt to hunt down Bran and Rickon that maester Luwin is willing to change his mind on Jojen’s abilities.

Theon was about to tell [Frey] what he ought to do with his wet nurse’s fable when Maester Luwin spoke up. “The histories say the crannogmen grew close to the children of the forest in the days when the greenseers tried to bring the hammer of the waters down upon the Neck. It may be that they have secret knowledge.” (aCoK, Theon VI)

Measter Luwin cushioned it in histories say and it may be. But ultimately Luwin expressed the consideration here that Jojen had the greensight – a different kind of knowledge as he once put it to Bran. Luwin changed his tune.

In the end, despite his mind-enslaving chain, Lewin has gained the freedom in choosing his exact time of death, once it is inevitable, and where and by whom, begging the wildling woman (he believed earlier should be killed or chained; had been treated by the Starks gentler than she deserved) to gift him with mercy.

maester-luwin-death

Osha’s Support

In the second chapter of aCoK, Osha is the first to inquire after Bran’s dreams since Luwin began to drug him. During this inquiry we see how much Bran has changed when it comes to discussing his dreams.

She tied up her hair. “You have more of them wolf dreams?”
“No.” He did not like to talk about the dreams.
“A prince should lie better than that.” Osha laughed. “Well, your dreams are your business. Mine’s in the kitchens, and I’d best be getting back before Gage starts to shouting and waving that big wooden spoon of his. By your leave, my prince.”
She should never have talked about the wolf dreams, Bran thought as Hodor carried him up the steps to his bedchamber. (aCoK, Bran II)

Bran’s resentfulness towards Osha asking about it may seem inconsistent to his relation with Osha.

Osha lingered behind. “Is it the wolf dreams again?”
Bran nodded.
You should not fight so hard, boy. I see you talking to the heart tree. Might be the gods are trying to talk back.”
“The gods?” he murmured, drowsy already. Osha’s face grew blurry and grey. Sweet, dreamless sleep, Bran thought. (aCoK, Bran I)

However, in Bran’s eyes Osha became an accomplice to Luwin’s drugging. When maester Luwin comes to give Bran his draught, we are told that Osha and Hayhead are alongside him, and she “bore” him into bed. Osha likely came along with the best intentions, her own intentions – make sure those drugs would not harm Bran, to advize him on not fighting the wolf dreams, hinting at her belief that this is Old Gods stuff. But to Bran, she betrayed him and was maester Luwin’s accomplice or ally, possibly explaining why Bran resents Osha asking about the dreams a chapter after.

In truth, Osha aims to remain an independent source of support to Bran, and George depicts this support by having Osha literally carry him in her ams. Normally, Hodor carries Bran on his back for daily movement, but whenever the subject of a scene involves prophetic dreams or wolf dreams, Osha is summoned instead.

  • After Bran had his crypt dream revealing Ned Stark’s death to him, before the raven arrived with the confirming message in aGoT, Bran VII.
  • She carries him into dreambed, before he has his wolf dream that answers the question what wolves howl over in aCoK, Bran I.
  • She carries him after the letter arrives with Robb’s news of his victory at Oxcross and Stevron Frey’s death, confirming Jojen’s prophetic dream about the dishes served to the Walders and Bran will be appreciated differently.

In place of Hodor, the wildling woman Osha was summoned. She was tall and tough and uncomplaining, willing to go wherever she was commanded. “I lived my life beyond the Wall, a hole in the ground won’t fret me none, m’lords,” she said.
“Summer, come,” Bran called as she lifted him in wiry-strong arms. The direwolf left his bone and followed as Osha carried Bran across the yard and down the spiral steps to the cold vault under the earth. Maester Luwin went ahead with a torch. Bran did not even mind—too badly—that she carried him in her arms and not on her back. Ser Rodrik had ordered Osha’s chain struck off, since she had served faithfully and well since she had been at Winterfell. She still wore the heavy iron shackles around her ankles—a sign that she was not yet wholly trusted—but they did not hinder her sure strides down the steps. (aGoT, Bran VII)

Osha scooped him up in her bony arms. She was very tall for a woman, and wiry strong. She bore him effortlessly to his bed. (aCoK, Bran I)

Bran got a sick feeling in his belly. They like the taste of this dish better than I do. He asked Maester Luwin to be excused.
“Very well.” The maester rang for help. Hodor must have been busy in the stables. It was Osha who came. She was stronger than Alebelly, though, and had no trouble lifting Bran in her arms and carrying him down the steps. (aCoK, Bran V)

Before the Reeds arrived, Osha was the sole person at Winterfell who would often disagree with Luwin’s claims, point out how maester Luwin is wrong, talked of the Old Gods and attempted to support him when it came to his dreams.

She confirms the existence of giants and children of the forest north of the Wall, of the Others and wights, always opposing maester Luwin’s dismissals.

Maester Luwin says there are no more giants. He says they’re all dead, like the children of the forest. All that’s left of them are old bones in the earth that men turn up with plows from time to time.”
“Let Maester Luwin ride beyond the Wall,” Osha said. “He’ll find giants then, or they’ll find him. My brother killed one. Ten foot tall she was, and stunted at that. They’ve been known to grow big as twelve and thirteen feet. Fierce things they are too, all hair and teeth, and the wives have beards like their husbands, so there’s no telling them apart. The women take human men for lovers, and it’s from them the half bloods come. It goes harder on the women they catch. The men are so big they’ll rip a maid apart before they get her with child.”
[…]
[Hodor] was awfully big, Bran thought as he watched him go. “Are there truly giants beyond the Wall?” he asked Osha, uncertainly.
Giants and worse than giants, Lordling. I tried to tell your brother when he asked his questions, him and your maester and that smiley boy Greyjoy. The cold winds are rising, and men go out from their fires and never come back … or if they do, they’re not men no more, but only wights, with blue eyes and cold black hands. Why do you think I run south with Stiv and Hali and the rest of them fools? […]” (aGoT, Bran VI)

Bran’s fist curled around the shiny black arrowhead. “But the children of the forest are all gone now, you [Luwin] said.”
Here, they are,” said Osha, as she bit off the end of the last bandage with her teeth. “North of the Wall, things are different. That’s where the children went, and the giants, and the other old races.” (aGoT, Bran VII)

In aSoS, Jon’s POV confirms for the reader that Osha’s claim of the existence of giants is true. In aDwD, Bran’s own POV confirms the existence of the Children of the Forest for the reader.

Aside from being a supportive support character on Bran’s side, since her capture, Osha has been featured most often in godswood scenes, where she speaks of the children of the forest or the Old gods.

A faint wind sighed through the godswood and the red leaves stirred and whispered. Summer bared his teeth. “You hear them, boy?” a voice asked. Bran lifted his head. Osha stood across the pool, beneath an ancient oak, her face shadowed by leaves. Even in irons, the Wildling moved quiet as a cat. […] Her hair was growing out, brown and shaggy. (aGoT, Bran VI)

osha_weirwood
Natalia Tena as Osha in GOT

When Osha’s face is shadowed by leaves, her face would render a dappled skin effect. She may not have cat’s eyes, but she moves like a cat, while her hair is shaggy or atangle. Compare this to the description we have of Leaf.

And yet there she was, whirling, a scrawny thing, ragged, wild, her hair atangle. […] It was a girl, but smaller than Arya, her skin dappled like a doe’s beneath a cloak of leaves. Her eyes were queer—large and liquid, gold and green, slitted like a cat’s eyes. No one has eyes like that. Her hair was a tangle of brown and red and gold, autumn colors, with vines and twigs and withered flowers woven through it. (aDwD, Bran II)

cotf_zerochan anime
A Child of the Forest by Blu Oltramare

Osha is a stand-in for a child of the forest like Leaf, hence she is also stationed beneath a stand-in heart tree (see Winterfell and the North as Underworld), instructing him on how the Old Gods communicate via winds and rustling of leaves, teaching him to listen. The oracle’s priests and priestesses of Ancient Grecian Dodona would interprete the rustling of leaves as Zeus’s words.

“Who do you think sends the wind, if not the gods?” She seated herself across the pool from him, clinking faintly as she moved. […] “They see you, boy. They hear you talking. That rustling, that’s them talking back.” […] “They’re sad. Your lord brother will get no help from them, not where he’s going. The old gods have no power in the south. The weirwoods there were all cut down, thousands of years ago. How can they watch your brother when they have no eyes?” Bran had not thought of that. It frightened him. If even the gods could not help his brother, what hope was there? Maybe Osha wasn’t hearing them right. He cocked his head and tried to listen again. He thought he could hear the sadness now, but nothing more than that. (aGoT, Bran VI)

The Setting – A Well and a Tree

The setting of both tableau scenes, Luwin’s conversion and Osha’s oracling is Winterfell’s godswood, with a heart tree as old as the Age of Heroes, symbol and home of the Old Gods (Westeros’s paganism), and a pool. It is the most apt location to stage reverse parallels for Saint George’s legend as the dragon settled at a well or lake. Saint George’s dragon was not just a fire breathing dragon. It dripped poison that poisoned the land and threatened to poison Selene’s well. Hence, they sacrificed sheep, men, boys and the princess – to prevent the dragon from poisoning the well. And so, to witness an entrapment of Summer similar to Saint George’s dragon, to witness Summer scaring Meera and Jojen up into the weirwood raises the question whether we should consider the black pool of Winterfell’s godswood poisoned or not. If so, what is the poison at Winterfell? And what is required to purify it?

dotreesdream_idiacanthidae
Do trees dream, by idiacanthidae

From the onset, George ties the pool to the heart tree: the pool acts like a mirror reflecting the tree.

At the heart of the godswood, the great white weirwood brooded over its reflection in the black pool, its leaves rustling in a chill wind. When it felt Bran watching, it lifted its eyes from the still waters and stared back at him knowingly. (aGoT, Bran III)

By itself, the scene already matches the Serwyn story of the dragon looking at its own reflection. But instead of a dragon, the weirwood tree stares into the mirror. More, if Bran sees the eyes of the weirwood looking at him via the mirroring pool, then Bran himself is staring into the mirror. Combine this with Summer standing in for the dragon part in both scenes of aCoK, Bran IV, and we begin to wonder whether the weirwood and/or greenseer is a poisonous monster equivalent to a dragon? A section of the fandom believes this to be the case forwarding various theories:

  • children of the forest making the Others
  • Azor Ahai pushing tree spirits out of the tree, thereby creating the Others
  • First Men sacrificing people in front of the Winterfell heart tree
  • Bloodraven who has blood of the dragon in him living under the tree and this being compared to Niddhog gnawing at Yggdrasil’s roots.

However, we cannot just make the blanket claim that when George inserts a direwolf in the girdled position, or a weirwood and Bran staring into the pool-mirror, they therefore are as monstrous as the dragon. George did not simply replace the dragon with a greenseer or a direwolf here. He reversed the legends! Summer is released after capture, and Meera and Jojen needed to be saved by Hodor the giant, because Luwin had shamed Bran about the dreams he has, even drugs Bran against them.

And then there is the paradox of the weirwood staring into the mirror. In the various “Princess and dragon” tales, the mirror represents self-absorption: the dragons and Medusa are so captivated by their own reflection that they lose sight of their surroundings – the bigger picture – and therefore do not see the weapon aimed at them. A self-absorbed weirwood though is a paradox. It is a being that knows all of humanity’s history in Westeros since the Long Night at least. It has the biggest picture anyone can ever have. Take note that the paragraph reminds us that the tree stares back at Bran “knowingly”.

Creepy Trees and Good Guys

katie-hallaron-bloodraven-final-got

Much of the belief that weirwoods and green magic are evil amongst the fandom relies on quotes about chthonic elements regarding the weirwoods or the caves beneath the groves – skulls, slithering roots, scary faces with red bleeding eyes. These elements are culturally considered to be creepy and thus readers conclude that creepy equals evil (or tainted or poisoned). Both through the first POV and our cultural conditioning we have been set up to see any symbol related to death, forests and the wild as “evil”. One of my aims of the Chthonic Cycle essays was to make clear that death (and its symbols) does not equal evil, but instead is part of the natural cycle. Here are George’s own words on “good and evil”.

Too many contemporary Fantasies take the easy way out by externalizing the struggle [between good and evil], so the heroic protagonists need only smite the evil minions of the dark power to win the day. And you can tell the evil minions, because they’re inevitably ugly and they all wear black. I wanted to stand much of that on its head. In real life, the hardest aspect of the battle between good and evil is determining which is which. (Sunsets of High Renown, an interview with GRRM, by Nick Gevers)

The example George regularly gives to illustrate how he wants to turn prejudices about evil on its head is that of the Night’s Watch: they wear black, but George in general regards the institute the ‘good guys’, even if members of that institute may be malicious. A reader would be wrong to argument the Night’s Watch is an evil organization because they wear black. The same principles hold for weirwoods and hollow hills, or a black pool. George wrote them to look creepy so that the reader fears them, but not necessarily because the reader should fear them. Appearances can be deceiving, and this is just as true for trees with sinister faces and caves with disturbing skulls. In other words, “creepy” is an invalid argument, whether it is to evaluate weirwoods, Ilyn Payne, Sandor Clegane, Tyrion Lannister, Varys, and so many others.

A variant of the creepy-argument is how a POV or in-world characters or people consider them creepy, such as Catelyn, Bran, the initial First Men or the Andals. We first see a weirwood through Catelyn’s eyes and mind who grew up with the Andal bias that weirwoods should be cut down and she considers them creepy. The prologue of aGot describes trees as reaching or grabbing Waymar Royce’s sword, reminding anyone who ever watched Disney’s Snowwhite of the nightmarish trees during her flight from the hunter and evil queen. Likewise, in Bran’s first chapter in the godswood we learn the heart tree frightens him.

He raced across the godswood, taking the long way around to avoid the pool where the heart tree grew. The heart tree had always frightened him; trees ought not have eyes, Bran thought, or leaves that looked like hands. (aGoT, Bran II)

But if a POV’s fear – an emotion – is a valid argument, then what do we do if Bran comes to enjoy the same spot later on and finds it peaceful?

The godswood was an island of peace in the sea of chaos that Winterfell had become. […] Summer lapped at the water and settled down at Bran’s side. He rubbed the wolf under the jaw, and for a moment boy and beast both felt at peace. Bran had always liked the godswood, even before, but of late he found himself drawn to it more and more. Even the heart tree no longer scared him the way it used to. The deep red eyes carved into the pale trunk still watched him, yet somehow he took comfort from that now. The gods were looking over him, he told himself; the old gods, gods of the Starks and the First Men and the children of the forest, his father’s gods. He felt safe in their sight, and the deep silence of the trees helped him think. Bran had been thinking a lot since his fall; thinking, and dreaming, and talking with the gods. (aGoT, Bran VI)

Bran’s initial fear of the heart tree is comparable to Sansa’s early terror of the Hound, who barks more to her than he actually bites. These are the anxieties of children whose judgment is based on appearances, not intuitive insight. For in the same chapter that Bran still fears the heart tree, he considers Jaime Lannister what a knight is supposed to look like.

Ser Jaime Lannister looked more like the knights in the stories, and he was of the Kingsguard too, but Robb said he had killed the old mad king and shouldn’t count anymore. (aGoT, Bran II)

And yet, it is the good looking knight of the Kingsguard who pushes him out of a window at the end of the chapter. The golden handsome knight ends up being Bran’s enemy, whereas the scary weirwood has never done him harm. Hence, the feelings of in-world POVs based on appearance serve to illustrate George’s quoted point – do not determine good and evil on appearance alone.

The only time a man can be brave

George used the creepy stereotype, both in-world and for the reader as a perception that he gradually deconstructs, especially in Bran’s arc. Bran starts out as a 7-year old who on the one hand loves scary monster stories of Old Nan, but is also still afraid of the boogieman in his closet. As he grows up and gets older, he learns to conquer his childish fears for creepy looking things and horror stories and face the real life dangers instead. After all, his father did say the only time a man can be called brave is when he is afraid.

Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”
“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him. (aGoT, Bran I)

The earlier example of Bran being afraid of the weirwood, while golden knight Jaime is the man he ought to fear leads to a new fear that Bran in time needs to overcome. Bran’s coma was not the right time for it yet, but later when the immediate health danger has passed, there is physical and emotional room for Bran to confront the trauma and fear related to it. But Luwin’s sleeping drug takes that away from Bran. By itself it is nothing more than a band-aid, not a medicine or antisceptic to keep a wound from festering. As it turns out, the drug did not prevent Bran from dreaming whatsoever.

Fearing dreams

“Do they help?”
Sometimes.”
Meera said, “All of Winterfell knows you wake at night shouting and sweating, Bran. The women talk of it at the well, and the guards in their hall.”
“Tell us what frightens you so much,” said Jojen. (aCoK, Bran IV)

Worse, his fears fester.

After Jojen mentions the ability to see north beyond the Wall, Bran becomes nervous and wants to change the subject. Bran once saw into the heart of winter and it teriffied him.

“[…] With three you would gaze south to the Summer Sea and north beyond the Wall.”

Summer got to his feet. “I don’t need to see so far.” Bran made a nervous smile. “I’m tired of talking about crows. Let’s talk about wolves. Or lizard-lions. Have you ever hunted one, Meera? We don’t have them here.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. 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. (aGoT, Bran III)

So that is one fear Bran has – that which he saw in the heart of winter. As long as he can tell himself it are only dreams that do not mean anything, just a bad dream, then whatever he saw that scared the living daylight out of him does not exist, is not real. But, whatever monstrous thing is out there, it is very real.

Her brother interrupted. “Did you dream of a lizard-lion?”
“No,” said Bran. “I told you, I don’t want—”
“Did you dream of a wolf?”
He was making Bran angry. “I don’t have to tell you my dreams. I’m the prince. I’m the Stark in Winterfell.”
“Was it Summer?”
You be quiet.”
“The night of the harvest feast, you dreamed you were Summer in the godswood, didn’t you?”
Stop it!” Bran shouted. Summer slid toward the weirwood, his white teeth bared.
Jojen Reed took no mind. “When I touched Summer, I felt you in him. Just as you are in him now.”
“You couldn’t have. I was in bed. I was sleeping.”
“You were in the godswood, all in grey.”
“It was only a bad dream . . .”
Jojen stood. “I felt you. I felt you fall. Is that what scares you, the falling?” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Bran stark falling
Bran Stark “Now you know,” by aprilis420

Jojen hits on Bran’s other fear – his fall, and Jaime who pushed him. It is here we get the explicit reasoning for Bran’s silence: he wants to forget and imagine it is not true. And this reasoning also applied to what he saw in the heart of winter.

The falling, Bran thought, and the golden man, the queen’s brother, he scares me too, but mostly the falling. He did not say it, though. How could he? He had not been able to tell Ser Rodrik or Maester Luwin, and he could not tell the Reeds either. If he didn’t talk about it, maybe he would forget. He had never wanted to remember. It might not even be a true remembering. (aCoK, Bran IV)

Ultimately, the thing at the heart of the lands of always winter is what Bran should remain in fear of, while simultaneously proving himself brave by fighting it. All his other fears are merely lessons to become so brave. And his first lesson in bravery is to overcome the fear of what happened to him in the past – Jaime and his fall.

“Do you fall every night, Bran?” Jojen asked quietly.
A low rumbling growl rose from Summer’s throat, and there was no play in it. He stalked forward, all teeth and hot eyes. Meera stepped between the wolf and her brother, spear in hand. “Keep him back, Bran.”
“Jojen is making him angry.”
It’s your anger, Bran,” her brother said. “Your fear.”
“It isn’t. I’m not a wolf.” Yet he’d howled with them in the night, and tasted blood in his wolf dreams.
“Part of you is Summer, and part of Summer is you. You know that, Bran.”
Summer rushed forward, but Meera blocked him, jabbing with the three-pronged spear. The wolf twisted aside, circling, stalking. (aCoK, Bran IV)

Maester Luwin’s rationalisatons, shaming and drugging are the external chains applied to Bran, but it are his fears that make him embrace them. And it has the absolute opposite effect that Luwin intended – it makes Bran and Summer deadly dangerous for all the wrong reasons. Their warg link is unbroken, since Summer acts for Bran when Bran is angry, but with Bran denying his abilities, even to himself, he can neither control himself nor Summer. Luckily nobody is actually harmed.

Though Bran was reluctant and angry with the Reed siblings when they pressed him about his dreams, Jojen’s explanations and claims about greensight arm Bran with courage and knowledge to confront Luwin again.

“My brother has the greensight,” said Meera. “He dreams things that haven’t happened, but sometimes they do.”
“There is no sometimes, Meera.” A look passed between them; him sad, her defiant. (aCoK, Bran IV)

This enables Bran to inquire after the topic, armed with terms and explanations, without risking Luwin’s disapproval over his own wolf and crow dreams. Even if Luwin does not believe such powers are real and manages to convince Bran to suppose that Jojen lied to him, Bran also provoked Luwin into reciting tidbits of knowledge.

“Meera says her brother has the greensight.” […] [Bran] “You told me that the children of the forest had the greensight. I remember.”
“Some claimed to have that power. Their wise men were called greenseers.”
“Was it magic?”
“Call it [magic] for want of a better word, if you must. At heart it was only a different sort of knowledge.”
“What was it?”
Luwin set down his quill. “No one truly knows, Bran. The children are gone from the world, and their wisdom with them. It had to do with the faces in the trees, we think. The First Men believed that the greenseers could see through the eyes of the weirwoods. That was why they cut down the trees whenever they warred upon the children. Supposedly the greenseers also had power over the beasts of the wood and the birds in the trees. Even fish. Does the Reed boy claim such powers?” (aCoK, Bran IV)

For the very first time, maester Luwin divulges something close to the truth, including the admission that neither Luwin or his colleagues know the answers. Luwin confuses greensight (foretelling dreams) with greenseeing (skinchanging and green dreams), but with the information he surrenders, Bran can start to tie this against his own experiences – tree dreams, wolf dreams and the Reed siblings believing that Bran can mentally control Summer.

“No. I don’t think. But he has dreams that come true sometimes, Meera says.”
All of us have dreams that come true sometimes. You dreamed of your lord father in the crypts before we knew he was dead, remember?”
Rickon did too. We dreamed the same dream.”
“Call it greensight, if you wish . . . but remember as well all those tens of thousands of dreams that you and Rickon have dreamed that did not come true. Do you perchance recall what I taught you about the chain collar that every maester wears?” (aCoK, Bran IV)

When Luwin also discloses he studied the higher mysteries, magic, but found it did not work, he indirectly betrays his disbeliefs stems from his personal disappointment as a boy. This background story makes Luwin very human, and therefore fallible. This conversation and admittance by Luwin plant the seeds of doubt for Bran.

“No, my prince. Jojen Reed may have had a dream or two that he believes came true, but he does not have the greensight. No living man has that power.”
Bran said as much to Meera Reed when she came to him at dusk as he sat in his window seat watching the lights flicker to life. “I’m sorry for what happened with the wolves. Summer shouldn’t have tried to hurt Jojen, but Jojen shouldn’t have said all that about my dreams. The crow lied when he said I could fly, and your brother lied too.”
Or perhaps your maester is wrong.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

Bran initially defends maester Luwin, referring to his father relying on the maester’s counsel. But Meera points out that Ned Stark may have listened, yet made his own decisions.

“He isn’t. Even my father relied on his counsel.”
“Your father listened, I have no doubt. But in the end, he decided for himself.[…]” (aCoK, Bran IV)

After which she relates him one of Jojen’s dreams that Bran can treat like a test case in order to see whether Jojen does have a power to know future events through dreams or not. Once Jojen’s prophetic dream about the Walders liking their dish (news of the war) better than Bran’s turns out to come true, the first thing Bran does is search whose counsel he can listen to, apart from maester Luwin’s. He asks Osha, the wildling CotF stand-in, who also always told him that maester Luwin was wrong.

“Osha,” Bran asked as they crossed the yard. “Do you know the way north? To the Wall and . . . and even past?”
“The way’s easy. Look for the Ice Dragon, and chase the blue star in the rider’s eye.” She backed through a door and started up the winding steps.
And there are still giants there, and . . . the rest . . . the Others, and the children of the forest too?
The giants I’ve seen, the children I’ve heard tell of, and the white walkers . . . why do you want to know?”
Did you ever see a three-eyed crow?
No.” She laughed. “And I can’t say I’d want to.” Osha kicked open the door to his bedchamber and set him in his window seat, where he could watch the yard below. (aCoK, Bran V)

Osha confirms she has seen giants with her own eyes, but simultaneously admits the existence of the children is a hearsay claim. And when she answers she never saw the three-eyed crow, Bran also knows that Osha is not the one to seek out as a teacher about greensight or greenseeing. For this his sole nearby expert is Jojen.

I would also like to point out that George signals Bran is back at the point of the first chapter, when he was open to trees dreaming and his own wolf dreams. Osha carried Bran to his bedchamber to the window seat, where he could watch the yard below. And it is this window seat and yard watching that Bran’s first chapter in aCoK opens with.

Bran preferred the hard stone of the window seat to the comforts of his featherbed and blankets. Abed, the walls pressed close and the ceiling hung heavy above him; abed, the room was his cell, and Winterfell his prison. Yet outside his window, the wide world still called. He could not walk, nor climb nor hunt nor fight with a wooden sword as once he had, but he could still look. (aCoK, Bran I)

At the start of the fifth chapter, Bran has come full circle and came around. A window that is not shuttered (as it is in aCoK, Bran II) represents the ability to see, physically but also metaphorically. And it is not just any window, but a tower window. While on the one hand it represents a prison for a princess or prince, it also functions as a stand-in for a weirwood tree. And thus it hints at how greenseeing may in time be a joy for Bran that can replace his inability to become a knight, to walk with his own two legs.

Both the tower window and the greenseeing symbolize spiritual and intellectual enlightenment. In the spiritual sense it is often associated with clairvoyance, pre-cognition (greensight) and out-of-body experiences (flying, skinchanging). So, greensight stands for enlightenment in George’s world, a higher form of consciousness, a clearer and therefore purified view on issues, unclouded by fear and desire for the mundane. In order to have such an understanding one must be able to have a bird-like overview – exactly what a window looking over the yard provides. Being able to see all that happened in the past that led to the present as well as the consequences it may have in the future via weirnet accomplishes the same thing. And of course, the oriental symbol of enlightenment is the opened third eye.

“How would I break the chains, Jojen?” Bran asked.
Open your eye.”
“They are open. Can’t you see?”
“Two are open.” Jojen pointed. “One, two.”
“I only have two.”
You have three. The crow gave you the third, but you will not open it.” He had a slow soft way of speaking. “With two eyes you see my face. With three you could see my heart. With two you can see that oak tree there. With three you could see the acorn the oak grew from and the stump that it will one day become. With two you see no farther than your walls. With three you would gaze south to the Summer Sea and north beyond the Wall.” (aCoK, Bran IV)

bran 3rd eye julie kabbache
Three-Eyed-Crow giving “Bran Stark” his third eye (by Julie Kabbache)

George links this with the real world phenomenon of flying-dreams. Sometimes people do end up dreaming that they are flying, but it requires a specific set of conditions. First, it requires the dreamer to know that he or she is in fact dreaming. Most of the time when you have a dream, you live and experience that dream as if it is real, because you do not know that you are dreaming. There might be a flicker of realization where you suddenly think, “Oh, I’m dreaming,” but even that often soon passes and your mind is submerged into the experience once more as if it is real. If however you do preserve this insight and continue to dream all the while knowing it is a dream, you are having a lucid dream. Once you become fully aware that you are dreaming, you gain the power to choose what you will be doing in a dream. Hence, you can say, “I may not be able to fly in the real world, but this is a dream and gravity is not an actual thing here, so I can fly if I want to.”

Being lucid in a dream is not enough, though. It requires a great amount of confidence and awareness to fly in a dream, since the fear of falling is an instinctual one. In order to fly, even in a dream, the dreamer’s consciousness must overcome his instincts (the opposite of intuition). So, both the lucid state and the required consciousness imply an opened third eye.

And so, having come full circle, and with Osha admitting she cannot actually teach Bran about dreams, he is finally ready for Jojen as his first teacher.

It seemed only a few heartbeats after she took her leave that the door opened again, and Jojen Reed entered unbidden, with his sister Meera behind him. “You heard about the bird?” Bran asked. The other boy nodded. “It wasn’t a supper like you said. It was a letter from Robb, and we didn’t eat it, but—”
“The green dreams take strange shapes sometimes,” Jojen admitted. “The truth of them is not always easy to understand.”
“Tell me the bad thing you dreamed,” Bran said. “The bad thing that is coming to Winterfell.”
“Does my lord prince believe me now? Will he trust my words, no matter how queer they sound in his ears?”
Bran nodded.
“It is the sea that comes.” (aCoK, Bran V)

And though Bran is still afraid, he finally dares to tell Jojen and Meera about his own dreams.

Jojen sat on Bran’s bed. “Tell me what you dream.”
He was scared, even then, but he had sworn to trust them, and a Stark of Winterfell keeps his sworn word. “There’s different kinds,” he said slowly. “There’s the wolf dreams, those aren’t so bad as the others. I run and hunt and kill squirrels. And there’s dreams where the crow comes and tells me to fly. Sometimes the tree is in those dreams too, calling my name. That frightens me. But the worst dreams are when I fall.” He looked down into the yard, feeling miserable. “I never used to fall before. When I climbed. I went everyplace, up on the roofs and along the walls, I used to feed the crows in the Burned Tower. Mother was afraid that I would fall but I knew I never would. Only I did, and now when I sleep I fall all the time.”
Meera gave his shoulder a squeeze. “Is that all?”
I guess.” (aCoK, Bran V)

Sometimes, sharing, talking and describing something you fear can help you see it in another light, from another angle, and suddenly it is not as frightening anymore. Is it no surprise then, that no falling dream has ever been mentioned in Bran’s POVs ever again.

Next, Bran learns that he is a warg and that what he calls wolf dreams are not really dreams, but him acutally being awake and his soul inside Summer. Jojen also explains to him why Bran cannot freely tell people about his wolf dreams – it might motivate people to kill him – which is far more honest than Luwin’s attempt to drug Bran.

Warg,” said Jojen Reed. […] “Warg. Shapechanger. Beastling. That is what they will call you, if they should ever hear of your wolf dreams.”
The names made him afraid again. “Who will call me?”
“Your own folk. In fear. Some will hate you if they know what you are. Some will even try to kill you.”
Old Nan told scary stories of beastlings and shapechangers sometimes. In the stories they were always evil. “I’m not like that,” Bran said. “I’m not. It’s only dreams.”
“The wolf dreams are no true dreams. You have your eye closed tight whenever you’re awake, but as you drift off it flutters open and your soul seeks out its other half. The power is strong in you.” (aCoK, Bran V)

Once again, Jojen reminds Bran to open his third eye, explaining he needs to use his heart for that. After the sea has arrived at Winterfell with Theon and his Ironborn, after the three men that Jojen predicted would drown are indeed dead (Alebelly, Mikken and Septon Chayle), Bran hides inside the crypts, together with Rickon, Osha and the Reed siblings, while Summer and Shaggydog roam freein the Wolfswood.

Setting aside any speculation about the bending of spacetime*, Bran has managed to open his third eye while inside the crypts, and we learn of it while Jon wargs Ghost during his scouting mission with Qorin Halfhand in the Skirling Pass.

He sat on his haunches and lifted his head to the darkening sky, and his cry echoed through the forest, a long lonely mournful sound. As it died away, he pricked up his ears, listening for an answer, but the only sound was the sigh of blowing snow.
Jon?
The call came from behind him, softer than a whisper, but strong too. Can a shout be silent? He turned his head, searching for his brother, for a glimpse of a lean grey shape moving beneath the trees, but there was nothing, only . . .
A weirwood.
It seemed to sprout from solid rock, its pale roots twisting up from a myriad of fissures and hairline cracks. The tree was slender compared to other weirwoods he had seen, no more than a sapling, yet it was growing as he watched, its limbs thickening as they reached for the sky. Wary, he circled the smooth white trunk until he came to the face. Red eyes looked at him. Fierce eyes they were, yet glad to see him. The weirwood had his brother’s face. Had his brother always had three eyes?
Not always, came the silent shout. Not before the crow.
He sniffed at the bark, smelled wolf and tree and boy, but behind that there were other scents, the rich brown smell of warm earth and the hard grey smell of stone and something else, something terrible. Death, he knew. He was smelling death. He cringed back, his hair bristling, and bared his fangs.
Don’t be afraid, I like it in the dark. No one can see you, but you can see them. But first you have to open your eyes. See? Like this. And the tree reached down and touched him. (aCoK, Jon VII)

3 eyed Bran
Three Eyed Bran (author unknown)
Reaching out across time?

Some readers believe this can only be a future Bran who is already down in Bloodraven’s cave, because of Ghost smelling death and barring his fangs at it, and Bran mentioning “not before the crow” and Bran’s avatar being a weirwood tree. However, in Jon’s present time, Bran is down in the crypts and Theon has already wreaked havoc in Winterfell; the three-eyed-crow “gave” Bran his third eye already in the coma-dream, and Bran has had tree-dreams since the start of aCoK.

Moreover, the reference to death is important in this scene for George, because he wants to have the first-time reader believe that Theon killed Bran. He builds up the suggestion as follows, to then reveal the truth:

  • In Arya IX, Arya water dances in a tree and then prays before the weirwood tree of Winterfell. She hears the voice of her dead father speak via the weirwood tree. This puts the idea in the reader’s mind that the souls of dead Starks can still communicate via weirwoods.
  • In Theon IV, Theon goes in search for Bran and Rickon, the direwolves, Osha and the Reed siblings. Reek makes a veiled suggestion that Theon understands, but is left unexplained for the reader.
  • In Jon VII, in the Skirling Pass has this weird wolf-dream where Ghost sees his brother Summer/Bran in a weirwood tree and smells the stench of death. Because of Arya’s experience, this plants the idea that Bran must be dead.
  • In Catelyn VII, Catelyn shares the news to Brienne that Bran and Rickon were killed by Theon after he found them at the mill, before releasing Jaime.
  • At the very end of Theon V the hoax with the miller boys is revealed, while George and Theon’s thoughts keep up the pretense and suggestion that Theon did kill Bran and Rickon, in a manner that matched Jojen’s green dream. Moreover, the chapter starts with direwolves with the faces of Bran and Rickon, which ties in with Jon’s weird wolf/tree/Bran dream. 

Bran’s last chapter of aCoK confirms that Bran’s third eye opened while hiding down inside the crypts. He mostly uses it to warg, but one time, this must have converged into a tree dream, while he was warging Summer.

Here in the chill damp darkness of the tomb his third eye had finally opened. He could reach Summer whenever he wanted, and once he had even touched Ghost and talked to Jon. Though maybe he had only dreamed that. […] Bran had told himself a hundred times how much he hated hiding down here in the dark, how much he wanted to see the sun again, to ride his horse through wind and rain. But now that the moment was upon him, he was afraid. He’d felt safe in the darkness; when you could not even find your own hand in front of your face, it was easy to believe that no enemies could ever find you either. And the stone lords had given him courage. Even when he could not see them, he had known they were there. (aCoK, Bran VII)

And in a vision where Bran checks whether it is daylight or not for Osha to explore the surface, George snuck in a reference of broken chains.

Never moving his broken body, he reached out all the same, and for an instant he was seeing double. There stood Osha holding the torch, and Meera and Jojen and Hodor, and the double row of tall granite pillars and long dead lords behind them stretching away into darkness . . . but there was Winterfell as well, grey with drifting smoke, the massive oak-and-iron gates charred and askew, the drawbridge down in a tangle of broken chains and missing planks. Bodies floated in the moat, islands for the crows. (aCoK, Bran VII)

This particular visual event has only two purposes: proving that Bran can use his third eye at will, while fully awake, as well as signal the chains that bound the winged wolf are broken. The in-story purpose is pointless. The reader and Bran already knew it was daylight, because of the opening “wolf dream” of the chapter, and Osha never managed to venture out all by herself on the surface, since the doorway of the crypts was blocked and it required Hodor to push it open.

And hence, when Bran faces his fear of dreams in which he falls, just by sharing the experience with people who will not judge him for his wolf dreams, Bran rids himself of maester Luwin’s chains, opens his third eye and can see with it at will.

Ensnaring a Black Brother

In aSoS, Bran has to overcome yet another irrational fear – the fear of Old Nan’s horror stories. Where Bran’s arc in aCoK revolves around dreams and the fear of them, Bran’s arc in aSoS features storytelling, both heroic tales of smiling tree knights as well as Old Nan’s horror stories that have the Nightfort as their setting. Both type of stories reflect Bran’s growth. His initial fear of a weirwood as featured in aGoT, Bran II has evaporated completely. By aSoS, weirwoods may as well be smiling in his mind. But the bad people from which Old Nan’s horror stories originate still freak him out and he fear their ghosts may still linger. The ruin that the Nightfort has become feeds into the typical image of a haunted castle. This stereotype is so strong in the minds of the reader that most consider it to be a future setting where depraved, bad things will happen in tWoW, just like bad things happen at Harrenhal over and over.

But there is an immense difference between Harrenhal and the Nightfort. Nobody claims the Nightfort is cursed and it stands for thousands of years, while Harrenhal only stands for little over three hundred years. Why is that important? There will always be bad people, always be some murder or rape that occurs in some castle – just look at all the horror that occurred in Winterfell at the hands of Theon or Ramsay, or the horrors and murder for the building of the Red Keep. It would be far more significant if no murder, mayhem or rape occurred in a castle in Westeros. And over the course of thousands of years, perhaps even eight thousand years, a castle would gather multiple such stories. With the Nightfort you have a horror story per thousand or two thousand years. Harrenhal on the other hand has a horror story per generation since its very existence. So, the Nightfort actually has a rather good track record. Meanwhile the sole evidence for ghosts haunting anyone is in the dreams of people who are on an evil path themselves.

In fact, I believe that the Nightfort actually may be the safest haven at the Wall from the Others. But the actual argument for this will come up in the Mirror Mirror essay for Jon. For this essay, the Nightfort is of significance for two reasons. Bran needs to conquer his childhood fear for ghosts and horror stories, just as Arya did at Harrenhal. And this culminates in a similar scene as the one where Meera netted Summer in aCoK. In aSoS, Bran IV, Meera uses her net to capture Sam, at a well and weirwood in the Nightfort’s kitchen.

First, the Nightfort’s kitchen is the equivalent of Winterfell’s godswood: it has a well (a black pool) in the middle of it and a weirwood growing just beside it.

The Reeds decided that they would sleep in the kitchens, a stone octagon with a broken dome. It looked to offer better shelter than most of the other buildings, even though a crooked weirwood had burst up through the slate floor beside the huge central well, stretching slantwise toward the hole in the roof, its bone-white branches reaching for the sun. It was a queer kind of tree, skinnier than any other weirwood that Bran had ever seen and faceless as well, but it made him feel as if the old gods were with him here, at least. (aSoS, Bran IV)

While the weirwood makes Bran feel safe, he is wary of the well and horrified by the kitchen setting, constantly reminding Bran of the Rat Cook.

The Rat Cook had cooked the son of the Andal king in a big pie with onions, carrots, mushrooms, lots of pepper and salt, a rasher of bacon, and a dark red Dornish wine. Then he served him to his father, who praised the taste and had a second slice. Afterward the gods transformed the cook into a monstrous white rat who could only eat his own young. He had roamed the Nightfort ever since, devouring his children, but still his hunger was not sated. “It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”  (aSoS, Bran IV)

The kitchen and its ovens are akin to a forge, a symbolic setting where George has Jon’s character “forged”. So, in a way, just as aCoK, Bran IV is a chapter to herald Bran is about to “grow”, he too will take a further step in growth in aSoS, Bran IV, and the Rat Cook’s story takes a central place here. Why? Well, Bran is actually digesting and working through a very particular trauma – the Red Wedding. We learn at the start of the chapter that Bran saw it in a dream.

The dream he’d had . . . the dream Summer had had . . . No, I mustn’t think about that dream. He had not even told the Reeds, though Meera at least seemed to sense that something was wrong. If he never talked of it maybe he could forget he ever dreamed it, and then it wouldn’t have happened and Robb and Grey Wind would still be . . . (aSoS, Bran IV)

Bran knows what the Freys did to Robb and Grey Wind at the Twins. He dreamt it. He felt it. He saw it. He knows it. But the horror, the trauma and the grief of it is so enormous, that Bran does not want to dwell on it. Instead he clings to childish fears, on every horror story Old Nan ever told him set at the Nightfort – Mad Axe, Night’s King, the thing that comes in the night, Danny Flint and the Rat Cook. And as long as he has these tales on his mind, he does not have to consciously think of the events of the Red Wedding. Real life loss is scarier than any of Old Nan’s stories.

In this context, in this setting, Bran’s worst Old Nan nightmare almost seem to come to life.

Then he heard the noise. His eyes opened. What was that? He held his breath. Did I dream it? Was I having a stupid nightmare? He didn’t want to wake Meera and Jojen for a bad dream, but . . . there . . . a soft scuffling sound, far off . . . Leaves, it’s leaves rattling off the walls outside and rustling together . . . or the wind, it could be the wind . . . The sound wasn’t coming from outside, though. Bran felt the hairs on his arm start to rise. The sound’s inside, it’s in here with us, and it’s getting louder. He pushed himself up onto an elbow, listening. There was wind, and blowing leaves as well, but this was something else. Footsteps. Someone was coming this way. Something was coming this way. […] It’s coming from the well, he realized. That made him even more afraid. Something was coming up from under the ground, coming up out of the dark. Hodor woke it up. He woke it up with that stupid piece of slate, and now it’s coming. It was hard to hear over Hodor’s snores and the thumping of his own heart. Was that the sound blood made dripping from an axe? Or was it the faint, far-off rattling of ghostly chains? Bran listened harder. Footsteps. It was definitely footsteps, each one a little louder than the one before. He couldn’t tell how many, though. The well made the sounds echo. He didn’t hear any dripping, or chains either, but there was something else . . . a high thin whimpering sound, like someone in pain, and heavy muffled breathing. But the footsteps were loudest. The footsteps were coming closer. (aSoS, Bran IV)

He fears it’s Mad Axe or the thing that comes at night. He does not dare to make a noise, wants to hide his face behind his blanket, but wakes up Meera who prepares to capture it, while Bran slips in Hodor’s skin.

From the well came a wail, a piercing creech that went through him like a knife. A huge black shape heaved itself up into the darkness and lurched toward the moonlight, and the fear rose up in Bran so thick that before he could even think of drawing Hodor’s sword the way he’d meant to, he found himself back on the floor again with Hodor roaring “Hodor hodor HODOR,” the way he had in the lake tower whenever the lightning flashed. But the thing that came in the night was screaming too, and thrashing wildly in the folds of Meera’s net. Bran saw her spear dart out of the darkness to snap at it, and the thing staggered and fell, struggling with the net. The wailing was still coming from the well, even louder now. On the floor the black thing flopped and fought, screeching, “No, no, don’t, please, DON’T . . .”
Meera stood over him, the moonlight shining silver off the prongs of her frog spear. “Who are you?” she demanded.
“I’m SAM,” the black thing sobbed. “Sam, Sam, I’m Sam, let me out, you stabbed me . . .” He rolled through the puddle of moonlight, flailing and flopping in the tangles of Meera’s net. (aSoS, Bran IV)

Meera captures Sam, who emerged straight from the well. George used capitals and then repeated the name thrice over afterwards. Many readers tie Goerge’s choice of name for Sam to Tolkien’s Sam, comrade and friend throughout every ordeal of Frodo Baggins, the ring bearer who enters into Mordor to destroy the One Ring to rule them all. Bran believing Hodor woke something terrible up when he threw a slate into the well to check how deep it went certainly is a reference to Pipin’s mistake in Moria. But that is not who George is referring to in this scene. Instead, he refers to another Sam – Roger Zelazny’s Sam. Zelazny was a good friend of George, and one of the novels he wrote is “Lord of Light”. George considers this novel “One of the five best SF novels ever written.” The protagonist in the novel is a man called Sam, who is the Lord of Light, or the enlightened Buddha.

His Followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the -atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god. […] Thereafter to be portrayed in murals at the ends of countless corridors, carved upon the walls of Temples and painted onto the ceilings of numerous palaces, came the awakening of he who was variously known as Mahasamatman, Kalkin, Manjusri, Siddharta, Tathagata, Binder, Maitreya, the Enlightened One, Buddha and Sam. […]
“Hail, Lord of Light!” It was Ratri [goddess of the Night] who spoke these words. […]
“Hail, Mahasamatman – Buddha!” said Yama [god of Death]. […]
“Hello, Sam,” said Tak [the ape]. (Lord of Light, i, Roger Zelazny)

His full name is Mahasamatman, but if you drop the Maha- and the -atman, you get the shortened Sam, which is the name the Lord of Light prefers. Don’t believe that George is pointing to Sam, the Buddha? This is what George writes next, immediately after Samwell identies himself as SAM.

It was Jojen who fed the sticks to the fire and blew on them until the flames leapt up crackling. Then there was light, and Bran saw the pale thin-faced girl by the lip of the well, all bundled up in furs and skins beneath an enormous black cloak, trying to shush the screaming baby in her arms. (aSoS, Bran IV)

He even has Bran wonder whether Sam is the Three-eyed Crow – the “third eye” commonly a symbol of enlightenment.

Bran was suddenly uncertain. “Are you the three-eyed crow?” He can’t be the three-eyed crow.
“I don’t think so.” The fat man rolled his eyes, but there were only two of them. “I’m only Sam. Samwell Tarly. Let me out, it’s hurting me.” He began to struggle again. (aSoS, Bran IV)

“Are you truly he whom we have named?” asked Yama. […] “Who are you, man?”
“I? I am nothing,” replied the other, “A leaf caught in a whirlpool, perhaps. A feather in the wind…” […] “I am” – he squinted again – “Sam. I am Sam. Once – long ago … I did fight, didn’t I? Many times …”
“You were Great-Souled Sam, the Buddha. Do you remember?”
Maybe I was …” (Lord of Light, i, Roger Zelazny)

And of course there is the description of Sam’s corpulence – that of the fat Buddha.

“The Night’s Watch, yes.” The fat man was still breathing like a bellows. “I’m a brother of the Watch.” He had one cord under his chins, forcing his head up, and others digging deep into his cheeks. “I’m a crow, please. Let me out of this.” (aSoS, Bran IV)

Still not convinced? Then please read George’s Not a Blog “In Memoriam: Roger Zelazny” post of 1995.

And Sam. Him especially. “His followers called him Mahasamatman and said he was a god. He preferred to drop the Maha- and the atman, however, and called himself Sam. He never claimed to be a god. But then, he never claimed not to be a god.”

Lord of Light was the first Zelazny book I ever read. I was in college at the time, a long time reader who dreamed of writing himself one day. I’d been weaned on Andre Norton, cut my teeth on Heinlein juveniles, survived high school with the help of H.P. Lovecraft, Isaac Asimov, “Doc” Smith, Theodore Sturgeon, and J.R.R. Tolkien. I read Ace doubles and belonged to the Science Fiction Book Ciub, but I had not yet found the magazines. I’d never heard of this Zelazny guy. But when I read those words for the first time, a chill went through me, and I sensed that SF would never be the same. Nor was it. Like only a few before him, Roger left his mark on the genre. (GRRM, Not a Blog – In Memoriam: Roger Zelazny, June 1995)

If you’ve ever wondered how Jetboy’s last adventure came to be, who actually wrote his final words, or how H’ard pissed off Roger Zelazny, the world’s nicest man, this is the interview for you. (GRRM, Not a Blog – Brad and H’ard, 2 May 2020)

sam good guy
Sawell Tarly by Lidia Macov

But even if you did not know that George named Samwell in reference to Zelazny’s Sam, we do know Sam is squeamish, not even trying to be brave, loathes hunting and killing, scared of a stickfight, unable to sqaush a mouse with a book even. And when he does kill, he does it stumbling, fumbling, his hands before his eyes, almost by accident. There is not a more innocent man on the whole of Planetos, devoid of resentment, anger and hatred than Sam, who could have ended up in Meera’s net at a well and a weirwood. And on top of that he is a Black brother of the Night’s Watch.

The thing on the floor was pushing an arm through the net to reach his knife, but the loops wouldn’t let him. He wasn’t any monster beast, or even Mad Axe drenched in gore; only a big fat man dressed up in black wool, black fur, black leather, and black mail. “He’s a black brother,” said Bran. “Meera, he’s from the Night’s Watch.” (aSoS, Bran IV)

You know the “good guys” (excluding some misguided bad apples amongst the bunch) that George dressed in black to turn the easy identifiers to differentiate evil from good on its head. Having Meera catch this “good guy” (or as a reference to Zelazny, the world’s nicest man) in her net, in that setting, is a parallel to Meera catching Summer being unwittingly warged by Bran, and retroactively tells us that the weirwood is a good guy, that the black pool is a good guy, that greenseers and the Old Gods religion are the good guys, that Bran is one of the good guys.

Considering that George meticulously makes everything a reversal in the godswood scene with the Reed siblings to Serwyn’s and Saint George’s story, that they capture and release an enlightened Sam, a good guy at the Nightfort, and George uses creepiness as a stereotype to turn good and evil on its head, we believe the return to “worshiping” weirwoods as outcome is not a poisoning, but a purification. The poison then would be the Faith, the Citadel, the Drowned God, Rh’llor or dragon rule trying or establishing a root in Winterfell, each on their own trying to make the Starks and the North to turn their back on the Old Gods.

Conclusion – tl;tr

Bran is the very first POV who mentions Serwyn. In aCoK, we see two Serwyn related scenes in one and the same chapter in the godswood:

  • Hodor (the giant) saving Meera (a sworn shield) from Prince Bran angrily warging Summer: a reversal of Serwyn saving a princess from a giant.
  • Meera netting Summer and then setting him free: a reversal of Saint George girdling a dragon before killing him in return for the people converting from paganism to Christianity

Both scenes point out how Bran is not so much a Serwyn (yet), but needs saving from his tower prison, from the chains of maester Luwin and be once and for all a convert to George’s equivalent of paganism – the Old Gods.

In order to grow, become a responsible and able greenseer, Bran must conquer childish fears, and learn to be brave while he is afraid. Hence, as young as he is, throughout the series, Bran is often fearful of things he should not fear.

  • Creepy weirwood trees (aGoT)
  • Falling dreams (aCoK)
  • Ghosts at the Nightfort coming alive and wells (aSoS)

By facing those fears, he grows up a little, gains a new perspective, and therefore enlightenment. This is all in preparation for him to be brave when the time comes to face the monstrosity at the Heart of the Lands of Always Winter, as well as learn to recognize the monster within people’s hearts. And because we walk in Bran’s shoes as he must face each childish fear, George couches the trees, the dreams and the Nightfort in stereotypical creepy horror fashion. But in reality these are the things that provide shelter, protection and truth, while some of the worst things are done by people for love of people. Further evidence of the sheltering aspect of trees, despite their creepy outlook, is deferred to a Jon-Serwyn essay, but Meera and Jojen being safe in the weirwood tree and later Meera catching a converted “good guy” (black brother) Sam (reference to the nicest man that ever lived in George’s eyes – Roger Zelazny) heavily suggest that the pool, the weirwood and green magic has pure and right intentions.

This essay lays the groundwork for a concept of purification from the poisons threatening Winterfell, the Starks and Westeros as a whole: the Citadel, the Faith, Ironborn and Rh’lorr. It is not just Bran who requires conversion. But those who often unwittingly threaten to poison Winterfell are to be converted as well. We therefore expect Bran to be featured before the onset of the Battle of the Ice Lakes, in Riverrun during or after the Red Wedding 2.0, mayhaps Oldtown, each time converting non Old Gods followers into believers in various ways by providing help, mercy and even vengeance. What and who those poisoning agents are will be explained far more in depth in part 2. This will also contain potential suggestions on how Bran may be featured in Stannis’ and Theon’s arc in order to rid Winterfell from Ramsay’s poisonous blood without risking Stannis burning Winterfell’s weirwood, help kill both the Freys at the Ice Lakes and in the Riverlands and potentially strike in the heart of the Citadel at Oldtown.

Mirror Mirror: Serwyn of The Mirror Shield

(Top illustration: Desperate Measures, by Velinov)

This essay will not explore mirror armor to conclude how a mirror works in aSoIaF, or unveil potential clues about the nature of the Others. Instead it will focus on a legendary hero Serwyn of the Mirror Shield and explain George’s likeliest real world sources for it, such as the “Princess and the Dragon” and the legend of Saint George. We will also use a few minor non-POV characters that are compared to Serwyn to establish Serwyn as a template. These include Joffrey, Byron Swann and Daario Naharis. With Byron Swann we will take the time to explore which dragon Ser Byron did attempt to kill. In the Sellsword versus Sworn Sword subection we will explore Varys’s riddle about power and show how George illustrated this psychological principle with Aegon convincing the Golden Company to go west with him.

Serwyn of the Mirror Shield

The Age of Heroes has several heroes, but we know only a little about them. One of the few we do know different tales about is Serwyn of the Mirror Shield. He remained so popular with the smallfolk, that singers made him a knight of the kingsguard, though he lived thousands of years before the Andals arrived, before Aegon conquered Westeros and created a kingsguard, and served the Kings of House Gardener instead. While maester Yandel fulminates at the sacrilege to history and fact, it serves George to have Serwyn be an anachronistic kingsguard nevertheless.  It turns Serwyn into a usable mirror or parallel to sworn guards or sworn shields with a mirror in the current timeline.

These are the three feats Serwyn is known for.

The way [Joffrey] had rescued her from Ser Ilyn and the Hound, why, it was almost like the songs, like the time Serwyn of the Mirror Shield saved the Princess Daeryssa from the giants, or Prince Aemon the Dragonknight championing Queen Naerys’s honor against evil Ser Morgil’s slanders (aGoT, Sansa I)

“Well, Hugor Hill, answer me this. How did Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slay the dragon Urrax?”
“He approached behind his shield. Urrax saw only his own reflection until Serwyn had plunged his spear through his eye.” (aDwD, Tyrion III)

Legend has it that during the Age of Heroes, Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slew the dragon Urrax by crouching behind a shield so polished that the beast saw only his own reflection. By this ruse, the hero crept close enough to drive a spear through the dragon’s eye, earning the name by which we know him still. (Fire and Blood – The Dying of the Dragons, Rhaenyra Triumphant)

When Dany told him how Serwyn of the Mirror Shield was haunted by the ghosts of all the knights he’d killed, Daario only laughed. “If the ones I killed come bother me, I will kill them all again.” He has a sellsword’s conscience, she realized then. That is to say, none at all.  (aDwD, Daenerys VII)

St George and the dragon
Saint George and the dragon

George borrows from real world myth here and the common “the princess and the dragon” quest motif. The eldest known version of this is that of Perseus saving princess Andromeda from being sacrificed to the sea dragon Cretus. He uses his mirroring shield to defeat the Gorgon Medusa, chop off her head and then petrify Cretus when he comes to fetch Andromeda. And then there is Jason of the Argonauts who puts the sleepless dragon to sleep to get at the golden fleece hanging in the tree with the help of the princess-sorceresss Medea. The dragon’s teeth turn into soldiers when strewn across the land.

Perseus and his many fairytale hero versions often end up marrying the princess, who in some way always helps the hero in achieving her rescue. They are not just passive captive damsels in distress, but allies. They cannot free themselves, but only they can get to the information the hero needs to perform a task, which frees the princess. They form a team of brain and brawn so to speak. In some versions an imposter attempts to claim to be the hero and thus the reward of the princess’s hand in marriage, but the actual hero manages to show evidence that the princess can use publically to identify her true hero.

The most famous version is that of Saint George and the dragon (11th century)*. At Selene in Lybia (some of the Perseus tale occurs there too), a venom-spewing dragon poisons the countryside. To prevent worse, the citizens of Selene offer the dragon sacrifices by lottery, and then the lot fell to the king’s daughter. Saint George happens to pass by just as the princess, dressed as bride, was about to be fed to the dragon. He charges and lances or spears the dragon, wounding it. Then the princess threw her girdle around the dragon’s neck, effectively leashing the beast who follows her meekly back to Selene. There Saint George consented to kill the dragon if the people agreed to become Christians and be baptized. They converted, and Saint George beheaded the dragon with his sword. The immense difference between its origin and the later derivated Saint George is that the latter does not necessarily marry the princess (sometimes he does): conversion of people to Christiniaty is the reward here. For those interesed, you can read a translation of the version from The Golden Legend manuscript.

* During the publication event of Fire and Blood on Novemer 19 2018, George mentioned the Saint George legend during the conversation with John Hodges.

The “princess and the dragon” motif conflates partially with another fairytale type: that of the Bear’s Son, and Jean de L’Ours (John the Bear) in particular. We will ignore the bear-related hero motifs and identifiers in this essay, but instead focus on the relevant elements that Bear’s Son and John the Bear variations have in common with the “princess and the dragon”. During his journeys and adventures, the hero acquires companions and settles at a castle, with each daily taking turns at doing the house management as the others go about their business outside the castle. The castle houses a nemesis who assaults the one left behind. It can be a dwarf, a giant, a demon or dragon. When it is the hero’s turn, he defeats his assailant, and discovers a well that leads underground and three captive princesses. His comrades, either by cowardice or malice, betray the hero by leaving him in the hole, and take the princesses to their father themselves, falsely claiming they are the rescuers. And thus the king betrothes the hero’s false friends to his daughters. The hero manages to get there before the wedding, go through some tests or show evidence that he was the true rescuer, often with the aid of the eldest and most beautiful princess. His false companions are exposed and punished (sometimes executed), and the hero gets to choose a bride amongst the three princesses.

So, in Serwyn’s story we recognize Perseus’ method in defeating Medusa who is conflated with Saint George’s dragon. We have a princess being saved from a giant, which is the most common adversary in the Jean de L’ours tales. And finally we have a good man who is haunted by those he killed, who may or may not have been trusted friends once.

George did not reveal information on Serwyn’s feats in the same manner as he does with Night’s King for example. All that we know about Night’s King, we know through storytelling – Old Nan’s to Bran or maester Yandel’s in tWoIaF. In contrast, tWoIaF says very little about Serwyn. Measter Yandel only mentions that he was one of the warrior heroes serving his Gardener king in the Reach, and beyond that points out that singers telling tales of Serwyn as Kingsguard is an anomaly, for Serwyn lived during the Age of Heroes, thousands of years before there were knights, let alone a Kingsguard. Instead of acquiring a tale about Serwyn, we get bits and peaces of information on Serwyn as the characters make present situational comparisons.

  • Bran and Dunk want to be knights like Serwyn (or other knights of legend and prowess fame).
  • Sansa compares Joffrey’s rescue of her from Sandor and Illyn Payne to Serwyn saving the princess from a giant.
  • Tyrion compares Selmy Barristan’s popularity to Serwyn’s.
  • Haldon inquires with Tyrion which historical character during the Dance of the Dragons aimed to kill a dragon the same way Serwyn did.
  • Dany compares Serwyn being haunted by those he killed to Daario’s sellsword mentality. The later will not leave a wink’s sleep over the men he killed.

Whenever Serwyn is mentioned or thought of, it is always in the context of a comparison. We can therefore conclude that Serwyn is not meant to be taken as a world-building historical character, but as an exemplary hero. And George is gently pushing us to seek a valid present-timeline comparison, just in a far more subtle way than Azor Ahai returned. By the end of aDwD, we have the necessary nuggets of information about Serwyn to sniff the character out. Spoiler! So far, only one characters actually matches – Jon Snow.

There are two ways to start a search for a Serwyn-match. We investigate the characters that …

  1. are compared to Serwyn in the text by present day characters.
  2. possess a mirror shield.

Most of these characters do not end up being  a Serwyn mirror. Some are frauds. A few come close (but no cigar), yet end up being a reverse or a bent mirror. Most of these do not even own a mirror shield. And yet, some of them still might acquire one in the last books (those that are still alive that is), so we do still need to investigate their chances. And where we can, we will propose an alternative. George made that easy for us, since he rarely compares a character to Serwyn alone: we get a string of historical characters, such as Prince Aemon the Dragonknight and Ser Ryam Redwyne.

Joffrey Baratheon’s One Good Deed

The first and easiest to exclude from being a mirror to Serwyn is Joffrey. He was not a hero, but a monster. He sadistically enjoyed getting people killed and maimed, so the chance that he was haunted by these are nill. The closest he ever got to dragon symbolism, let alone an actual dragon, was handing his dad’s dragonsteel dagger into the hands of a catspaw. He never owned a mirror shield. He was a prince and king and never a guard, let alone serving a descendant of a Gardener. Joffrey is not a Baratheon in truth, but the son of Lannister twincest. And while George inserted a tie to Garth Greenhand with the Lannisters to serve as a connection to foxes (see: Mirror Mirror – Swords, Foxes and Beauty), this tie as Lann the Clever as grandson of Garth is simultaneously shrouded in a “maybe” and a bastard context.

Now, I could argue he did not save a princess from a giant. Not in any literal sense. The incident that provoked Sansa into making the comparison was never life threatening. There was no actual giant (species) in sight (though Joffrey felt he saved her from giant Sandor Clegane). And Sansa was not an actual princess (at the time). However, George pointed out how prophecies can end up coming true in ways that are not always how readers expect it to happen.

[Laughs] Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy… In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that. (Interview with Cedria’s News, October 2012)

There is no prophecy in the series about a “Serwyn Returned” as there is for Azor Ahai, but in-world characters only mentioning Serwyn as a comparative and propelling a man who died thousands of years ago into a more recent culture as a knight and Kingsguard suggests to the reader to look for a “Serwyn Returned”. And thus we should not treat the marking events “too literal”.

Joffrey saving Sansa, prompting her to make the comparison, is the one good thing we ever saw Joffrey do on page.

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. He gave her his hand, drew her to her feet. “What is it, sweet lady? Why are you afraid? No one will hurt you. Put away your swords, all of you. The wolf is her little pet, that’s all.” He looked at Sandor Clegane. “And you, dog, away with you, you’re scaring my betrothed.”(aGoT, Sansa I)

Yes, we already knew how much of a coward, bully and little shit Joffrey was at Winterfell in Arya’s and Tyrion’s chapters, and thus the above scene was a superficial act. None of that takes away from Sansa’s feelings of terror. Those were very real to her.

[…] Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man. […] Slowly he turned his head. Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. She stepped backward and bumped into someone.
Strong hands grasped her by the shoulders, and for a moment Sansa thought it was her father, but when she turned, it was the burned face of Sandor Clegane looking down at her, his mouth twisted in a terrible mockery of a smile. “You are shaking, girl,” he said, his voice rasping. “Do I frighten you so much?”
He did, and had since she had first laid eyes on the ruin that fire had made of his face, though it seemed to her now that he was not half so terrifying as the other. […] and Sansa realized that the two stranger knights were looking down on her and Lady, swords in their hands, and then she was frightened again, and ashamed. Tears filled her eyes. (aGoT, Sansa I)

Since her fear was a true feeling, so are her feelings of being rescued. This means that during an event that ties to Serwyn, we do not have to consider how deadly the threat was, but how much it was perceived as a threat by the princess.

Byron Swann and the dragon

Ser Byron Swann lived during the Dance of the Dragons and aimed to kill a dragon the same way that Serwyn did. We learn of this in aDwD, right after we were told that Serwyn killed a dragon and how.

Haldon was unimpressed. “Even Duck knows that tale. Can you tell me the name of the knight who tried the same ploy with Vhagar during the Dance of the Dragons?”
Tyrion grinned. “Ser Byron Swann. He was roasted for his troubleonly the dragon was Syrax, not Vhagar.”
“I fear that you’re mistaken. In The Dance of the Dragons, A True Telling, Maester Munkun writes—”
“—that it was Vhagar. Grand Maester Munkun errs. Ser Byron’s squire saw his master die, and wrote his daughter of the manner of it. His account says it was Syrax, Rhaenyra’s she-dragon, which makes more sense than Munken’s version. Swann was the son of a marcher lord, and Storm’s End was for Aegon. Vhagar was ridden by Prince Aemond, Aegon’s brother. Why should Swann want to slay her?” (aDwD, Tyrion III)

Obviously, Ser Byron Swann was not a successful mirror of Serwyn, since the dragon roasted him. And this tidbit is almost the sole thing we know of this Ser Byron. He is not mentioned in the short story The Princess and the Queen. But Fire and Blood, penned by Archmaester Gyldayn, gives us a slightly more extensive account.

That Ser Byron Swann, second son of the Lord of Stonehelm, had heard this tale we cannot doubt. Armed with spear and a shield of silvered steel and accompanied only by his squire, he set out to slay a dragon just as Serwyn did.
But here confusion arises, for Munkun says it was Vhagar that Swann meant to kill, to put an end to Prince Aemond’s raids … but it must be remembered that Munkun draws largely on Grand Maester Orwyle for his vresion of events, and Orwyle was in the dungeons when these things occurred. Mushroom, at the queen’s side in the Red Keep, says rather that it was Rhaenyra’s Syrax that Ser Byron approached. Septon Eustace does not note the incident at all in his own chronicle, but years later, in a letter, suggests this dragonslayer hoped to kill Sunfyre … but this is certainly mistaken, since Sunfyre’s whereabouts were unknown at this time. All three accounts agree that the ploy that won undying fame for Serwyn of the Mirror Shield brought only death for Ser Byron Swann. The dragon – whichever one it was – stirred at the knight’s approach and unleashed his fire, melting the mirrored shield and roasting the man crouched behind it. Ser Byron died screaming. (Fire and Blood – The Dying of the Dragons, Rhaenyra Triumphant)

Fire and Blood just seems to add more to the confusion. The timing of Prince Aemond raiding the Riverlands with Vhagar coincides with Syrax being chained in the stables of the Red Keep. From the moment Rhaenyra took King’s Landing and the attack on the Dragonpit, Syrax only had the freedom of the Red Keep’s yard. Syrax did not even land, until Prince Daemon Targaryen felt the city was secured. So, it could not have been Syrax. And if someone had been foolish enough to approach Syrax to kill her inside the Red Keep, as Mushroom basically suggests, then there would have been more witnesses to corroborate it at the time.

Tyrion cites a letter sent by Byron’s squire to his daughter. This is a supposed primary eye-witness account. But the only time for Ser Byron to have attempted to kill Syrax was when a mob of thousands attacked the dragonpit. Prince Joffrey Velaryon was foolish enough to unchain Syrax from the Red Keep’s yard and ride her himself to come to his own dragon’s aid. Syrax’s rider was Rhaenyra and Joffrey’s dragon was Tyraxes. Even though Syrax was familiar with Joffrey, she ended up throwing him off her back and he fell to his death in Flea Bottom. Likely attracted by the carnage at the dragonpit, Syrax arrived there riderless and unchained. By then all other dragons had been slaughtered. Despite her advantage of freedom, the mob managed to kill her. Various people claimed to have killed her, and it is impossible to determine who actually did. But we can safely conclude that there was a mob of people present, and Syrax arrived unexpectedly. None of this jives with Byron Swann “setting out” intent on killing Syrax, “only” taking his squire. The tale sounds more like a knight riding out by himself and his squire to confront a dragon in his (temporary) lair somewhere in the wilderness where there are no other witnesses. Both the multiple claims on who actually killed Syrax as well as the squire’s letter are examples that even primary sources may be untrustworthy – eye witnesses can lie.

If the squire lied to his daughter, then why did he? Tyrion’s arguments about Swann’s loyalties seem sound, except that we have an antecedent of House Swann dividing their loyalties when there are multiple claimants. Lord Swann’s heir Donnel backed Renly Baratheon and then fought for Stannis at the Blackwater, until he was captured and wounded. His younger brother Balon backed Joffrey Baratheon and became one of his kingsguard after the bread riots. Meanwhile Ravella Swann (Lady Smallwood) aids the Brotherhood without Banners. By dividing their allegiances, these marcher lords of the Red Watch seem to try and mimic the Night’s Watch neutrality, at least during the War of Five Kings (see also: The Trail of the Red Stallion – Sansa’s Tourneys). It is possible that Lord Swann and his heir were at Storm’s End to back the greens and Aegon II, while the younger son Ser Byron had joined the blacks and was fighting north of King’s Landing. This becomes more than likely when we also have the Black Swan ruling Lys in all but name, with Lyseni competing for her affection. Johanna Swann had been taken by Lyseni pirates decades before that, but her uncle, the then Lord Swann, refused to ransom her. Lys and thus Johanna Swann backed the Greens during the Dance of the Dragons. Add the ill feelings the Black Swan would have had toward House Swann, and the likelihood that at least some Ser Swann fought for the Blacks increases. If such was the case, Ser Byron could have tried to go after Vhagar or Sunfyre. Except, Byron failed and died. The rumors started to float about at a time smallfolk sentiment started to turn against Rhaenyra, Aemond and Vhagar had free reign in the Riverlands and Hightower had conquered most of the Reach. So, the squire’s motive to create a false eye-witness account would have served covering up Byron backing the Blacks*.

* This is likely one of the thematic reasons why Ser Byron Swann failed to be a Serwyn-come-again. Serwyn served a Gardener King, or well a ‘green man’.

The issue with Vhagar is that Prince-Regent Aemond Targaryen would unlikely have left Vhagar by himself while he scoured the Riverlands and it would have been folly to attempt to slay a dragon with a rider, unless he had a scorpion.This was not the manner in which Ser Byron Swann attempted to kill a dragon. Nor does riding out by himslef and just his squire, especially when nobody was able to predict where Vhagar and Aemond would appear.

So, that leaves us Sunfyre. He had been wounded and left at Rook’s Rest, north of Duskendale. Lord Mooton sent his bravest men to slay it. Both he and many of his unnamed men died in the attempt. The survivors fled. When Mooton’s brother arrived a fortnight later, he found the dead as well as Sunfyre gone. Eventually Sunfyre, unbeknowest to many, turned up on Dragonstone where Aegon II was hiding. The dragon made its lair at Dragonmont after killing the wild dragon Grey Ghost. But how long did Sunfyre linger at Rook’s Rest? And once he flew off, did he cross the bay to Dragonstone from Rook’s Rest directly? Or did the dragon journey and hide more north along Cracklaw Point first? The likeliest answer is that Byron may have been one of Mooton’s men (as their spear method alligns with Byron’s) or sought out Sunfyre on his own, while the dragon was still at Rook’s Rest or farther north along the coast, before Sunfyre finally flew off to Dragonmont. And since Sunfyre was Aegon II’s dragon, the squire would have even more motive to lie about Ser Byron’s target.

Of course the first name Byron is a peculiar choice by George. It instantly brings our historical 19th century Lord Byron to mind. He was a poet and one of the lead figures of the Romantic literary movement. It heavily hints that we ought to see Ser Byron Swann as a byronic hero, a variant of the romantic hero (see also Blue Eyed Wolf’s Shadrich, Morgarth and Byron) , and that the tale about him is full of poetic storytelling license. This puts the whole dragon quest and his method into question altogether and makes the claim an in-world fiction.

If Ser Byron did not even attempt to kill a dragon, then what purpose does he serve? For one, he served Tyrion by showing Haldon he does his source research, even if he got it wrong. Secondly, it helps George to emphasize that the legendary Serwyn serves as a template to compare current heroes against, and that we readers are to expect some byronic hero to be revealed in the upcoming dance of dragons between Dany, Aegon and/or Jon who aims to kill the other. And through George’s name choice we are given a hint of the personality of this Serwyn mirror.

As a romantic hero, it is someone who is set outside the structure of civilization, growing up or living estranged from his or her biological family. A romantic hero acts or is attractive like a force of nature almost, can be ruthless, and is a natural leader. He or she triumphs over theological and social conventions, is often prone to self-critical introspection and self-isolation, melancholic, and regrets his or her actions. The byronic variant is moody, cynical, proud, defiant, often miserable, but capable of strong deep affection.

Sellsword versus Sworn Sword

Dany’s citing of Serwyn highlights a personality trait that falls within the characteristics of the romantic hero.

When Dany told him how Serwyn of the Mirror Shield was haunted by the ghosts of all the knights he’d killed, Daario only laughed. “If the ones I killed come bother me, I will kill them all again.” He has a sellsword’s conscience, she realized then. That is to say, none at all.  (aDwD, Daenerys VII)

Serwyn is not just a chivalrous action hero who saves princesses and kills knights and dragons, but someone with a conscience. His morals do not solely reveal itself while the hero (or heroine) is given choices over which action to take, but also when they are alone; when they have to answer to no one but themselves, even long after those choices were made. In other words, it is someone with a high moral compass at all times.

This is why Dany contrasts it against a sellsword conscience. Let us examine what George means with a sellsword conscience: or rather what do sellswords want? Yoren says they follow the scent of blood or gold, which according to him smells the same in the end. This matches the example that Brown Ben Plumm relates to Dany.

[…] Morning after the fight, I was rooting through the dead, looking for the odd bit o’ plunder, as it were. Came upon this one corpse, some axeman had taken his whole arm off at the shoulder. He was covered with flies, all crusty with dried blood, might be why no one else had touched him, but under them he wore this studded jerkin, looked to be good leather. I figured it might fit me well enough, so I chased away the flies and cut it off him. The damn thing was heavier than it had any right to be, though. Under the lining, he’d sewn a fortune in coin. Gold, Your Worship, sweet yellow gold. Enough for any man to live like a lord for the rest o’ his days. […] (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

Despite that man being rich enough to live the life of a lord for the rest of his days, he still sold his sword for the scent of blood. It smells the same, because he also followed the scent of gold and lined his vest with it. In the end the blood was his.

Initially, Tyrion thinks it’s just gold, but learns to his grief that titles and castles are also something sellswords want. For a long time gold does seem to be the scent Bronn follows.

Tyrion was a little drunk, and very tired. “Tell me, Bronn. If I told you to kill a babe . . . an infant girl, say, still at her mother’s breast . . . would you do it? Without question?”
“Without question? No.” The sellsword rubbed thumb and forefinger together. “I’d ask how much.” (aCoK, Tyrion II)

But then when Tyrion hopes to acquire Bronn as his champion against the Mountain, Bronn does not want gold anymore.  Tyrion has to outbid Cersei on castles to give, and he has none to give.

The sellsword knight wore a jerkin studded with silver and a heavy riding cloak, with a pair of fine-tooled leather gloves thrust through his swordbelt. One look at Bronn’s face gave Tyrion a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. “It took you long enough.”
“The boy begged, or I wouldn’t have come at all. I am expected at Castle Stokeworth for supper.”
“Stokeworth?” Tyrion hopped from the bed. “And pray, what is there for you in Stokeworth?”
“A bride.” Bronn smiled like a wolf contemplating a lost lamb. “I’m to wed Lollys the day after next.” […] “And when she pops him out, I’ll get her big with mine.”
[…]
“Why are you here, then?”
Bronn shrugged. “You once told me that if anyone ever asked me to sell you out, you’d double the price.
Yes. “Is it two wives you want, or two castles?”
One of each would serve. But if you want me to kill Gregor Clegane for you, it had best be a damned big castle.”
[…] “I find myself woefully short of both castles and highborn maidens at the moment,” Tyrion admitted. “But I can offer you gold and gratitude, as before.”
I have gold. What can I buy with gratitude? (aSoS, Tyrion IX)

Vargo Hoat wanted a castle and bride as well. He hoped to acquire a ransom for Jaime from Tywin Lannister, but then send Jaime to Karstark anyway for Alys as a bride.

“I will thend it to hith lord father. I will tell him he muth pay one hundred thouthand dragonth, or we thall return the Kingthlayer to him pieth by pieth. And when we hath hith gold, we thall deliver Ther Jaime to Karthark, and collect a maiden too!” A roar of laughter went up from the Brave Companions.(aSoS, Jaime IV)

“Karhold is smaller and meaner than Harrenhal, but it lies well beyond the reach of the lion’s claws. Once wed to Alys Karstark, Hoat might be a lord in truth. If he could collect some gold from your father so much the better, but he would have delivered you to Lord Rickard no matter how much Lord Tywin paid. His price would be the maid, and safe refuge.” (aSoS, Jaime V)

Both Vargo Hoat and Bronn introduce another motive: survival. They and Plumm aim to survive, more than anything.

If he didn’t frighten me, I’d be a bloody fool.” Bronn gave a shrug. “Might be I could take him. Dance around him until he was so tired of hacking at me that he couldn’t lift his sword. Get him off his feet somehow. When they’re flat on their backs it don’t matter how tall they are. Even so, it’s chancy. One misstep and I’m dead. Why should I risk it? I like you well enough, ugly little whoreson that you are . . . but if I fight your battle, I lose either way. Either the Mountain spills my guts, or I kill him and lose Stokeworth. I sell my sword, I don’t give it away. I’m not your bloody brother.” (aSoS, Tyrion IX)

The sellsword [Plumm] was nearly as bad a player as the Yunkish lord had been, but his play was stolid and tenacious rather than bold. His opening arrays were different every time, yet all the same—conservative, defensive, passive. He does not play to win, Tyrion realized. He plays so as not to lose. (aDwD, Tyrion X)

“So they betrayed me, is that what you are saying? Why? Did I mistreat the Second Sons? Did I cheat you on your pay?”
“Never that,” said Brown Ben, “but it’s not all about the coin, Your High-and-Mightiness. […] But what good did it do him? There he was with all his coin, lying in the blood and mud with his fucking arm cut off. And that’s the lesson, see? Silver’s sweet and gold’s our mother, but once you’re dead they’re worth less than that last shit you take as you lie dying. I told you once, there are old sellswords and there are bold sellswords, but there are no old bold sellswords. My boys didn’t care to die, that’s all, and when I told them that you couldn’t unleash them dragons against the Yunkishmen, well …”
You saw me as defeated, Dany thought, and who am I to say that you were wrong? (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

And this important lesson was what Varys tried to teach Tyrion once in aCoK, when he presented him with the riddle.

“May I leave you with a bit of a riddle, Lord Tyrion?” He did not wait for an answer. “In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me—who lives and who dies?” (aCoK, Tyrion I)

Shae thinks it will be the rich man. Tyrion opines it will depend on the sellsword. Both are wrong. It depends on the situation, on who the sellsword thinks will win.

Varys smiled. “Here, then. Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less” (aCoK, Tyrion II)

So, when Pycelle argues that the sellsword Golden Company will fight for coin and with enough gold could be won over to fight on the Lannister-Tyrell side, he would be wrong. The Lannister-Tyrell coalition faces many issues in maintaining a united front: they lost credit with the Iron Bank, two oncoming trials of the queens, rebellion lurking in the Riverlands. Regardless, the Golden Company fights for coin in Essos only. In Westeros, they fight for lands lost, for home and for the man they want for a king.

And then Prince Aegon spoke. “Then put your hopes on me,” he said. “Daenerys is Prince Rhaegar’s sister, but I am Rhaegar’s son. I am the only dragon that you need.”
Griff put a black-gloved hand upon Prince Aegon’s shoulder. “Spoken boldly,” he said, “but think what you are saying.”
“I have,” the lad insisted. “Why should I go running to my aunt as if I were a beggar? My claim is better than her own. Let her come to me … in Westeros.”
Franklyn Flowers laughed. I like it. Sail west, not east. Leave the little queen to her olives and seat Prince Aegon upon the Iron Throne. The boy has stones, give him that.”
The captain-general looked as if someone had slapped his face. “Has the sun curdled your brains, Flowers? We need the girl. We need the marriage. If Daenerys accepts our princeling and takes him for her consort, the Seven Kingdoms will do the same. Without her, the lords will only mock his claim and brand him a fraud and a pretender. And how do you propose to get to Westeros? You heard Lysono. There are no ships to be had.” This man is afraid to fight, Griff realized. How could they have chosen him to take the Blackheart’s place? (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

In Jon Connington’s chapter of The Lost Lord we see this principle work excellently. Flowers is won over by Aegon’s boldness. For him it denotes power, much like Aegon the Conquerer, enough to argue the case. Harry Strickland is unconvinced and fears failure. He raises a practical issue that has little to do with the very fundamental choice put before them – no ships to be had. It is not so much the argument that is psychologically valuable here, but the fact that Harry appeals to Lysono Maar, inviting the Lyseni to join him and argue against Aegon’s proposal. That Strickland chooses Lysono for this is telling. The man’s home is Lys, not Westeros, and therefore his mind would not be clouded by sentimentality. It is the appeal of a sellsword-through-and-through to the only other one who is another sellsword-through-and-through.

Flowers brushes the minor issue aside.

No ships for Slaver’s Bay. Westeros is another matter. The east is closed to us, not the sea. The triarchs would be glad to see the back of us, I do not doubt. They might even help us arrange passage back to the Seven Kingdoms. No city wants an army on its doorstep.”
“He’s not wrong,” said Lysono Maar. (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

In answer to Harry’s appeal to the Lyseni, Lysono Maar signals both Harry and the rest of the Company that they should not regard him and Harry as a united front. Lysono’s particular phrase implies, “I’m not saying I ‘agree’ with Flowers on everything, yet. But I’m not disagreeing either. I’m open to be convinced of this.”

One of the Coles offers the first argument – Aegon will be a surprise and Westerosi can be expected to join them. There are two men who use Cole for their last name. They likely do speak for two. That would make it three sergeants who side with Aegon. The power balance is starting to lean over to Aegon.

“By now the lion surely has the dragon’s scent,” said one of the Coles, “but Cersei’s attentions will be fixed upon Meereen and this other queen. She knows nothing of our prince. Once we land and raise our banners, many and more will flock to join us.”
“Some,” allowed Homeless Harry, “not many. Rhaegar’s sister has dragons. Rhaegar’s son does not. We do not have the strength to take the realm without Daenerys and her army. Her Unsullied.”
“The first Aegon took Westeros without eunuchs,” said Lysono Maar. “Why shouldn’t the sixth Aegon do the same?”
The plan—” (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

One of the Coles arguing for Aegon’s proposal is enough for Lysono to join Aegon’s cause, despite the fact that Westeros is not his home. It is now four sergeants versus Homeless Harry. From hereon, Strickland will not be even allowed to finish a sentence anymore. Not only does he stand alone, he loses any status of authority when serjeants interrupt him. As a result Rivers joins those arguing for Aegon’s proposal, making a tally of five versus one.

“Which plan?” said Tristan Rivers. “The fat man’s plan? The one that changes every time the moon turns? First Viserys Targaryen was to join us with fifty thousand Dothraki screamers at his back. Then the Beggar King was dead, and it was to be the sister, a pliable young child queen who was on her way to Pentos with three new-hatched dragons. Instead the girl turns up on Slaver’s Bay and leaves a string of burning cities in her wake, and the fat man decides we should meet her by Volantis. Now that plan is in ruins as well.
“I have had enough of Illyrio’s plans. Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne without the benefit of dragons. We can do the same. And if I am wrong and the realm does not rise for us, we can always retreat back across the narrow sea, as Bittersteel once did, and others after him.”
Strickland shook his head stubbornly. “The risk—”
“—is not what it was, now that Tywin Lannister is dead. The Seven Kingdoms will never be more ripe for conquest. Another boy king sits the Iron Throne, this one even younger than the last, and rebels are thick upon the ground as autumn leaves.”
“Even so,” said Strickland, “alone, we cannot hope to—”
Griff had heard enough of the captain-general’s cowardice. “We will not be alone. Dorne will join us, must join us. Prince Aegon is Elia’s son as well as Rhaegar’s.”
“That’s so,” the boy said, “and who is there left in Westeros to oppose us? A woman.” (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

All the passionate pro-arguments make short work of Harry’s protests. But it is not just this alone. Rivers reframes “the plan” as those not being the Golden Company’s or Harry’s, but Illyrio’s. Simultaneously, he paints Illyrio as fickle, a man who does not seem to be knowing what he is about. So, when Harry continues to cling to Illyrio’s latest plan, he comes off as Illyrio’s puppet on a string, while Illyrio himself has been ridiculed. Hence, Harry loses all status and his voice. And without a voice, he has no power.

When the sixth sergeant, Peake, joins, that number is enough for Rivers to declare the matter settled.

Laswell Peake rapped his knuckles on the table. “Even after a century, some of us still have friends in the Reach. The power of Highgarden may not be what Mace Tyrell imagines.”
“Prince Aegon,” said Tristan Rivers, “we are your men. Is this your wish, that we sail west instead of east?”
“It is,” Aegon replied eagerly. “If my aunt wants Meereen, she’s welcome to it. I will claim the Iron Throne by myself, with your swords and your allegiance. Move fast and strike hard, and we can win some easy victories before the Lannisters even know that we have landed. That will bring others to our cause.” (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

Aegon’s reply is a repeat of his opening statement and summation of the arguments, and is met with silent approval by Rivers.

Rivers was smiling in approval. Others traded thoughtful looks. (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

Some still seem hesitant, but are not confident enough to speak up. They await a few more voices and arguments to join.

Then Peake said, “I would sooner die in Westeros than on the demon road,” and Marq Mandrake chuckled and responded, “Me, I’d sooner live, win lands and some great castle,” and Franklyn Flowers slapped his sword hilt and said, “So long as I can kill some Fossoways, I’m for it.”
One by one, the men of the Golden Company rose, knelt, and laid their swords at the feet of his young prince. The last to do so was Homeless Harry Strickland, blistered feet and all. (aDwD, The Lost Lord)

Did you notice that Aegon never had to argue his case, but that others did it for him? If you ever participated or will participate in some leadership assessment weekend where you have to present a consensus on a certain survival dilemma, then it is this dynamic the observers are looking for. They look for the one who took initiative, who made the proposal and how, not the arguments. They watch whether others will “follow” the initiator and plead his or her case. So, it does not matter much that Aegon only spoke to propose and summarize. Both are exactly the key verbal actions a “leader” must do, albeit in a manner that make the swordsmen think, “I can follow this guy and will defend him to my death.”

Dany displayed such an attitude as well, when she met with the captains of the Stormcrows. Hence, Daario Naharis beheaded his two colleagues and made the Stormcrows follow her.

“Khaleesi,” he cried, “I bring gifts and glad tidings. The Stormcrows are yours.” A golden tooth gleamed in his mouth when he smiled. “And so is Daario Naharis!” […] Daario upended the sack, and the heads of Sallor the Bald and Prendahl na Ghezn spilled out upon her carpets. “My gifts to the dragon queen.” (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

While Dany constantly reminds herself that Daario is a sellsword, he never actually sold it. He swore his arakh to her.

In a blink, Daario’s arakh was free of its sheath. His submission was as outrageous as the rest of him, a great swoop that brought his face down to her toes. “My sword is yours. My life is yours. My love is yours. My blood, my body, my songs, you own them all. I live and die at your command, fair queen.” (aSoS, Daenerys IV)

Yes, Daario is extravagant and over-the-top charming. Only fools would not watch that man closely to see whether his actions match his words. And as it turns out, they do. Not only does he agree to be a hostage of the Yunkai for a peace he personally does not want. He leaves her his arakh, his stiletto and his gold.

“I will leave my girls with you,” her captain had said, handing her his sword belt and its gilded wantons. “Keep them safe for me, beloved. We would not want them making bloody mischief amongst the Yunkai’i.” (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

He gave her his other “sword” as well (pun intended). Furthermore, he kills his own men when they suggested to him to turn his cloak and he expresses a deep resentment against Plumm for having turned his cloak to the Yunkai.

He shook his sleeve, spattering red droplets. “This blood is not mine. One of my serjeants said we should go over to the Yunkai’i, so I reached down his throat and pulled his heart out. I meant to bring it to you as a gift for my silver queen, but four of the Cats cut me off and came snarling and spitting after me. One almost caught me, so I threw the heart into his face.” […] “Ser Grandfather knows how to count. The Second Sons have gone over to the Yunkai’i.” Daario turned his head and spat. “That’s for Brown Ben Plumm. When next I see his ugly face I will open him from throat to groin and rip out his black heart.” (aDwD, Daenerys VI)

These are not the sentiments of a sellsword, but of a loyal sworn sword. In fact, his anger over Plumm’s betrayal reveals surprise, whereas an actual sellsword would expect it. This implies Daario has become a trusting man of those who join him.

“If it please Your Grace, we are all three knights.”
Dany glanced at Daario and saw anger flash across his face. He did not know. […] “Three liars,” Daario said darkly. “They deceived me.”  (aDwD, Daenerys VII)

Him giving into drinking and suicidal sorties as her marriage to Hizdahr approaches fit more with a desperate man affected by his emotions.

Daario had only grown wilder since her wedding. Her peace did not please him, her marriage pleased him less, and he had been furious at being deceived by the Dornishmen. When Prince Quentyn told them that the other Westerosi had come over to the Stormcrows at the command of the Tattered Prince, only the intercession of Grey Worm and his Unsullied prevented Daario from killing them all. The false deserters had been imprisoned safely in the bowels of the pyramid … but Daario’s rage continued to fester. (aDwD, Daenerys VIII)

Daario is not acting like a sellsword, but a sworn sword in love. Does this loyalty make him a moral man, however? It does not. Just like Jorah Mormont is an amoral man who does not think twice about child trafficking Lhazareen into slavery for rich pedophiles. He was a sellsword for years too, then swore it to Dany and in his heart is loyal to her. Though he proposes the Unsullied to please Dany’s scruples, Jorah’s own morals have remained unchanged so far.

Much of the innate moral compass in a person relies on their ability to empathize. Empathy is not just an on/off status, but varies on a spectrum. Pyschopaths have no empathy but for themselves. Narcissists can have a degree of empathy for siblings or children they consider to be a mirror of themselves. Then you have non disordered people with low empathy. Though often selfish and superficial, they can develop genuine feelings of love. Their empathy rarely extends beyond these loved ones – family and partner. Most mercenary hearts range across this low-end spectrum. At the other end, people can feel empathy with non loved ones, strangers, hypothetical cases, even enemies.

There is an intellectual cognitive compenent to morality, but when people lack or have low empathy, the higher there is a chance that they just do not care and will do wrong without losing sleep over it as long as they can get away with it. Jorah and Daario fall in this low empathy spectrum. They and most men of the Golden Company are the sellswords with a “heart of gold” but only for the very select few they love. Can they be Serwyn mirrors? No, they cannot, for clearly Serwyn had empathy for his opponents and enemies.

Serving a Gardener

A final aspect that requires some symbolic exploring is how Serwyn is said to have served under a Gardener King. Since he lived during the Age of Heroes, there is no actual requirement for a current Serwyn-mirror to be a knight. It suffices that he (or she) is a warrior and protector.

Of course, there is no House Gardener anymore, as Aegon the Conquerer’s Field of Fire finished that House. But theoretically speaking there are descendants of that house who still boast a tie to it, such as the Tyrells and the Florents. If George intends for us to recognize someone as a Serwyn-mirror who serves a Gardener descendant he is quite likely to let the reader know this, by inserting some reference to House Gardener within the text. For example Jon Snow declares he is at Princess Shireen’s service when he welcomes her to Castle Black. Meanwhile Axel Florent – Shireen’s uncle on her mother’s side – reminds Jon Snow, during the wedding feast between Alys and the Magnarr, that the Florents can boast a close tie to the Gardeners.

“Princess.” Jon inclined his head. Shireen was a homely child, made even uglier by the greyscale that had left her neck and part of her cheek stiff and grey and cracked. “My brothers and I are at your service,” he told the girl. (aDwD, Jon IX)

“Who better? We Florents have the blood of the old Gardener kings in our veins. Lady Melisandre could perform the rites, as she did for Lady Alys and the Magnar.” (aDwD, Jon X)

But the tie to a Gardener can also be expressed in a more symbolic way. While House Gardener may be extinct, the primordial figure Garth Greenhand allows us to symbolically widen whom a Serwyn-mirror may serve.

green-man-legend_lauren_raine
The Green Man, by Lauren Raine

Some tales make him out to be High King of the First Men, leading them into Westeros. Some make him a god. Others claim he preceded the First Men. Not only is Garth portrayed as a “wanderer” here, but also as a mediator between giants and the childfren of the forest.

 Yet other tales would have us believe that he preceded the arrival of the First Men by thousands of years, making him not only the First Man in Westeros, but the only man, wandering the length and breadth of the land alone and treating with the giants and the children of the forest. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

The quote says “treating with”, but since he was the sole man there would not have been any need to make treaties between himself and the giants, and himself and the children. The children refer to the giants as those who were once their bane and amongst the Free Folk there are legends of humans mediating between both species when they quarreled over a cave. At any rate, Garth here is protrayed as a diplomat, a peacemaker or going in peace.

The reference to a wanderer of the land reminds us of the wanderers in the sky. In the nightsky of Planetos, seven “stars” wander around. These are sacred to the Faith of the Seven. The word wanderer in Ancient Greek is planet. In ancient times, every celestial body that appeared to move independently from the “fixed” stars – seemingly wandering – was called a planet. If we apply this meaning of a god-like entity wandering the length and breadth of the land, then this tale simply refers to Planetos itself, or more precesily – the land. So, Garth the Greenhand is a representative symbolic figure of earth, nature and land – the realm. Hence, someone who serves the realm can be said to serve a Gardener.

That Garth is a symbolic representation of the land is further emphasized by his appearance as well as various names – Greenhair, the Green, recalling the real world Green Man.

Garth Greenhand, we call him, but in the oldest tales he is named Garth Greenhair, or simply Garth the Green. Some stories say he had green hands, green hair, or green skin overall. (A few even give him antlers, like a stag.) Others tell us that he dressed in green from head to foot, and certainly this is how he is most commonly depicted in paintings, tapestries, and sculptures. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

So, his hair is green, his hands and even his skin. And just like the pagan real-world god Cernunnos, Garth at times has antlers like a stag. It also matches the tales of the Isle of Faces in the Gods Eye where the Green Men live.

“Finally the wise of both races prevailed, and the chiefs and heroes of the First Men met the greenseers and wood dancers amidst the weirwood groves of a small island in the great lake called Gods Eye. There they forged the Pact. The First Men were given the coastlands, the high plains and bright meadows, the mountains and bogs, but the deep woods were to remain forever the children’s, and no more weirwoods were to be put to the axe anywhere in the realm. So the gods might bear witness to the signing, every tree on the island was given a face, and afterward, the sacred order of green men was formed to keep watch over the Isle of Faces.” (aGoT, Bran VII)

Green Men would be gardeners, but also greenseers and wood dancers. According to Bran they might ride elk, which have antlers. Anyway, the Green Men are an expansion on Garth Greenhand, or suggests that Garth was one of the Green Men. And most importantly, it makes Serwyn who served House Gardener, not just a warrior serving his king of a certain bloodline, but serving the green men, the greenseers, weirwoods and Old Gods.

The island at the lake was named after the faces carved in weirwoods to seal a pact of peace between the First Men and the children of the forest. This parallels to Garth treating with or mediating between giants and children. Therefore, Serwyn was a servant of peace.

More likely, his sobriquet derived from his gifts as a gardener and a tiller of the soil—the one trait on which all the tales agree. “Garth made the corn ripen, the trees fruit, and the flowers bloom,” the singers tell us. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

People who love to garden are said to have green hands. Garth’s primary name refers to this as does the color description of his hands. A gardener in the above means a ruler who focuses on farming, planting trees and corn – a farmer king or queen so to speak who provides for his people.

But we also get allusions to Garth’s darker god-side that match with pre-Christianized nature religions of human sacrifice as well as the pagan Oak and Holly King, a summer and winter king respectively. As one would die, the other would be born and rule two of the four seasons.

A few of the very oldest tales of Garth Greenhand present us with a considerably darker deity, one who demanded blood sacrifice from his worshippers to ensure a bountiful harvest. In some stories the green god dies every autumn when the trees lose their leaves, only to be reborn with the coming of spring. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

It is a speculative neopagan version to symbolize the same tale such as the Rape of Persephone by Hades to explain the coming of winter (see Persephone of the Winterfell Crypts), but one involving festivities where a man was sacrificed as a type of re-enactment. Pentos has a sacrificial practice that alludes to the same principal.

In Pentos we have a prince, my friend. He presides at ball and feast and rides about the city in a palanquin of ivory and gold. Three heralds go before him with the golden scales of trade, the iron sword of war, and the silver scourge of justice. On the first day of each new year he must deflower the maid of the fields and the maid of the seas.” Illyrio leaned forward, elbows on the table. “Yet should a crop fail or a war be lost, we cut his throat to appease the gods and choose a new prince from amongst the forty families.”  (aDwD, Tyrion I)

Alexandre_Dainche_Renly_Baratheon
Renly Baratheon by Alexandre Dainche

During the series, we witness an interval of murders of green men or green boys and old greybeards. Young Renly in his green armor and antler is slain at the onset of autumn. This certainly re-enacts the autumn-death of Garth Greenhand, especially with Catelyn referring to Renly’s army and knights as knights of summer, or better yet green boys.*

Beside the entrance, the king’s armor stood sentry; a suit of forest-green plate, its fittings chased with gold, the helm crowned by a great rack of golden antlers. The steel was polished to such a high sheen that she could see her reflection in the breastplate, gazing back at her as if from the bottom of a deep green pond. The face of a drowned woman, Catelyn thought. (aCoK, Catelyn II)

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. More candles guttered out. Renly tried to speak, but he was choking on his own blood. His legs collapsed, and only Brienne’s strength held him up. […] The shadow. Something dark and evil had happened here, she knew, something that she could not begin to understand. Renly never cast that shadow. Death came in that door and blew the life out of him as swift as the wind snuffed out his candles. (aCoK, Catelyn IV)

Did you notice that Renly Baratheon wears mirror armor? Catelyn sees a glimpse of her future in it.

Crowfood’s daughter set up Storm Gods and Garth as “green gods” with the Grey King of the Ironborn as a type of Holly King in The Grey King fought Garth the Greenhand. Rather than seeing them as historical figures, we (the three headed Ice Dragon) are more likely to regard Grey King and Greenhand as titles. The life of a greenseer such as Bloodraven is expanded, but not up to a thousand years. For the moment Bloodraven has lived 5 years longer than the genetical optimal maximum lifespan of 120 year. And he is on his last legs. A title is far more likely since for example human greenseers appear as an avatar in dreams that is different than their actual appearance. Thus there would have been several Grey Kings and several Greenhands, or rather several greybeards and several green boys. The green stag-horned Storm King aligns with Greenhand and is a variation of it. The underwater ruler of the dead is the Grey King. His land-locked variant is the King of Winter or presumably earlier Barrow King.

To make our point, while green man Renly is killed, the King of Winter Robb Stark keeps conquering land and winning battles, until he is killed as a guest by a very fertile old man (greybeard) and his castle taken by a grejoy, for ultimately Robb was still but a green boy when it came to politics. But then a greybeard Balon is murdered by a faceless man paid for by the fertile Euron “I am the storm” who is Balon’s brother. On and on it goes. You can believe this pattern is an echo pointing to an “original sin/event” or you can see it as “nature” (in overdrive). Regardless, Garth is a “summer king” who emerges as a green boy with spring, having overcome winter and death, but always remaining within the boundaries of nature’s cycle.

Garth is not only a gardener of the wild, but a farmer, “sowing his seeds” around, growing trees, orchards, fruits, providing for his people.

It was Garth who first taught men to farm, it is said. Before him, all men were hunters and gatherers, rootless wanderers forever in search of sustenance, until Garth gave them the gift of seed and showed them how to plant and sow, how to raise crops and reap the harvest. […] Where he walked, farms and villages and orchards sprouted up behind him. About his shoulders was slung a canvas bag, heavy with seed, which he scattered as he went along. As befits a god, his bag was inexhaustible; within were seeds for all the world’s trees and grains and fruits and flowers. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

And with the allusion of his inexhaustible bag heavy with seed to scatter, we of course recognize the “fertility” gift in him as well. Not only does he represent fertile land, but children and fertile women.

Garth Greenhand brought the gift of fertility with him. Nor was it only the earth that he made fecund, for the legends tell us that he could make barren women fruitful with a touch—even crones whose moon blood no longer flowed. Maidens ripened in his presence, mothers brought forth twins or even triplets when he blessed them, young girls flowered at his smile. Lords and common men alike offered up their virgin daughters to him wherever he went, that their crops might ripen and their trees grow heavy with fruit. There was never a maid that he deflowered who did not deliver a strong son or fair daughter nine moons later, or so the stories say. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

This fertility rounds back to Garth being father to all, and therefore all his descendants being kin, which ensured a peace (at least within the Reach), at a time where petty kingdoms sprouted like wildfire everywhere else, causing territorial wars amongst these petty kingdoms.

That Garth Greenhand had many children cannot be denied, given how many in the Reach claim descent from him. […] And yet there was a difference, in degree if not in kind, for almost all of the noble houses of the Reach shared a common ancestry, deriving as they did from Garth Greenhand and his many children. It was that kinship, many scholars have suggested, that gave House Gardener the primacy in the centuries that followed; no petty king could ever hope to rival the power of Highgarden, where Garth the Gardener’s descendants sat upon a living throne (the Oakenseat) that grew from an oak that Garth Greenhand himself had planted, and wore crowns of vines and flowers when at peace, and crowns of bronze thorns (later iron) when they rode to war. Others might style themselves kings, but the Gardeners were the unquestioned High Kings, and lesser monarchs did them honor, if not obeisance. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

Though Garth and Gardeners are heavily tied to peace and prosperity, in the above we note they did go to war at times. This is not so surprising, since George RR Martin himself is mostly a pacifist, but he feels there are certain situations where war is necessary and justified, such as WW II.

You know: Back then it was said then that most draft boards, and all the draft boards were local, would not give you a CO (Conciencious Objector) status if you only objected to Vietnam. They would only give it to you if you were a complete Pacifists and objected to All wars. And I was NOT a complete Pacifist you know. The the big question they would always ask you is would you have fought in World War II against the Nazi’s. Well YES I would have fought in World War II against the Nazi’s. But the Vietcong were not the Nazi’s and uh I didn’t think America had any business in Vietnam and so forth. So I was objecting that Particular war. […] I still think the Vietnam war was a terrible idea for America, but I STILL would have fought against the Nazi’s. (GRRM on war and pacifism)

So, when George frames the historical Gardeners and Garth the Greenhand as peacemakers and proponents of peace, he is unlikely to make them bend-over-backwards-pacifists-who-would-rather-lay-down-to-die-than-fight.

Not only is the peace insured through kinship, but also through adaptation and embracing the new without setting aside the old. Highgarden’s sept celebrates both the Andal Seven and the pagan Garth Greenhand, while they also maintain a godswood with three entangled weirwoods.

The gods, both old and new, are well served in Highgarden. The splendor of the castle sept, with its rows of stained-glass windows celebrating the Seven and the ubiquitous Garth Greenhand, is rivaled only by that of the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing and the Starry Sept of Oldtown. And Highgarden’s lush green godswood is almost as renowned, for in the place of a single heart tree it boasts three towering, graceful, ancient weirwoods whose limbs have grown so entangled over the centuries that they appear to be almost a single tree with three trunks, reaching for each other above a tranquil pool. Legend has it these trees, known in the Reach as the Three Singers, were planted by Garth Greenhand himself. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

With peace, unity, bountiful harvests and prosperity also comes culture – music, high arts, song, poetry, … And thus here we find the stories of heroes who are pure, honorable.

The greatest champions, men as pure and honorable and virtuous as they were skilled at arms, were honored with invitations to join the Order of the Green Hand. (tWoIaF – The Reach: Garth of the Greenhand)

Can it then be doubted that Serwyn was one of the Order of the Green Hand?

Since George refers to himself as a gardening writer, more than an architectural author, and Serwyn likely is an amalgam of real world fairytales and legends, the Serwyn-mirror character may take up the gauntlet of tasks (mediating, peace making, planting) that otherwise the Gardener superior would do.

Conclusion – tl;tr

In order to investigate characters and in how much they resemble the legendary hero Serwyn of the Mirror Shield the following is required:

  • The use or own a mirror shield or armor.
  • Saving a princess from a “giant”. The threat may be real or imagined, as long as the princess is fearful of the giant or the saviour considers the giant’s threat real.
  • Slaying of a “dragon” that is staring or was staring at its own reflection. The dragon may possibly lose an eye.
  • Serve a Gardener. This “Gardener” may be someone claiming descendance to the Gardeners, but also someone who is a peacemaker, conciliator, greenseer, a green man.
  • Associations with weirwoods, planting trees, harvest and/or summer.
  • It is someone highly moral, haunted by nightmares about those they killed.
  • Rather a sworn sword or shield than a sellsword. This may be a knight, kingsguard, but certainly a warrior.
  • Byronic and/or romantic hero or heroine.

Because GRRM likely based Serwyn on the fairytale type “The princess and the dragon” and a “Bear’s son” we should be looking out for the following potential elements:

  • Castle setting.
  • Three princesses, singers, or sisters requiring saving, and/or betrothed to pretender saviours.
  • A beautiful, smart princess who has her own agency and helps.
  • False friends who betray and abandon the hero.
  • A well that leads underground.
  • A nemesis that is not necessarily a dragon, but a (small) giant, dwarf or demon.

The other source we can expect George to weave into it are those of St. George’s legend. So we have to watch out for the following elements:

  • chains, a net or girdle to bind an animal
  • a dragon
  • poison
  • sacrifice and death of sheep, children, men and women due to war, disease or plagues
  • destroyed, infertile lands
  • poisoned wells or lands
  • conversions of religion

These elements do not necessarily have to appear in the arc of the Serwyn-like character, but should appear in a dragon’s arc.

Since George loves to play around with themes, we may see reversals not can we rule out a female Serwyn.

While we have already examined Joffrey and Byron Swann in this essay, as small examples, on how you can search for a potential Serwyn in the present day events, the others require far more in depth examination, and thus are examined in stand alone essay.

  • Bran Stark (Part 1) – Serwyn Reversed: Bran is the first POV to mention Serwyn, wanting to be like him. So, he is the first in depth character where we examine Serwyn and “princess and the dragon” motifs.
  • Dany (Part 1) – Slaying of Saint George’s Dragon: Tyrion compares Selmy to Serwyn and Selmy seems to fit Serwyn when he saves Dany from Mero. Dany is both princess and dragon, so we should expect to see Serwyn or Saint George allusions in her chapters. In this essay we examine the first five chapters of Dany’s full arc where GRRM sets up a conflict between seemingly Dany as princess and Viserys as dragon. But once he is slain, Dany reveals Viserys was not the dragon.

Mirror Mirror: Swords, Foxes and Beauty

(Top illustration: Warrior’s Sons escort, by Joshua Cairos)

Their armor was silver plate polished to a mirror sheen, but underneath, she knew, every man of them wore a hair shirt. (aDwD, Cersei II)

Next up are the Swords, the sworn shields of the Faith, also known as the Warrior’s Sons. This analysis will delve into the description of the Warrior’s Sons, and their attributes such as the crystal crests will uncannily remind us of the Others. This should be no surprise, as they are the soldiers of the High Sparrow, who evolves into Cersei’s enemy. Since Cersei is highly associated with “wild” fire symbolism, her enemy ought to have ice symbolism. George regularly creates these mini ice versus fire dynamics to hint at opposing sides. The essay the Plutonian Others discusses a few examples where the dyanmics feature red versus blue blood: Dany versus the Undying, Roose Bolton versus Ramsay Snow. Since the Warrior’s Sons are not just a parallel to the Others via mirror-armor alone, their appearance and how they are used may give us some clues about the Others.

With Areo Hotah we investigated the veracity of reveals in the chapter where George pointed out that Hotah wears mirror-armor (see Mirror Mirror – Behind the Mirror), but pretty much ignored his Captain of the Guards chapter of aFfC, though of course his copper disk armor would be as reflective there as well. George only tips the reader off about the Warrior’s Sons wearing mirror armor in Cersei’s last chapter of aDwD, shortly before she starts her Walk of Atonement. In this essay we will not do an in-depth analysis of that chapter as we did for the Watcher, but instead use George’s tip retroactively, and thus delve into Cersei’s arc as it relates to her growing enmity with the Faith, in particularly how she ends up being tricked. Blue-Eyed Wolf already mentioned how George works in the medieval story Of Reynaert the Fox in her essay on Shadrich, Morgarth and Byron for the Valed Ragtag Band. The tricks of the fox reappear in Cersei’s arc as she deals with the High Sparrow, Septon Reynard escorted by the Warrior’s Sons and Lancel. And on an aside it is also worked into Tywin Lannister’s backstory of the Reyne-Tarbeck rebellion. To trick a lion it is only apt for George to insert references to Reynaert the Fox, but when this also involves Warrior’s Sons we end up with an extra layered allusion to the Crystal Foxes, or a nod to Tad Williams’s White Foxes (the Norns) of his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn trilogy as well as the Dan’lai of the Stone City.

Cersei’s arc on page ends with her Walk of Shame, surrounded by an escort of Warrior’s Sons in their mirror-armor, or rather she walks through the city surrounded by truth telling mirrors where she not only has to face herself but the whole city sees her truly – an empress without clothes.

Index

The Swords

The Warrior’s Sons were an order of knights who gave up lands and gold and swore their swords to the High Septon. Those during Aegon’s Conquest wore rainbow cloaks, inlaid silver armor over hair shirts, had star-shaped crystals in the pommels of their longswords. Hence they were called the Swords, while the armed sparrows with a bad of a red and white seven-pointed star were dubbed the Stars.

“They date from before Aegon’s Conquest,” Cersei explained to [Lady Merryweather]. “The Warrior’s Sons were an order of knights who gave up their lands and gold and swore their swords to His High Holiness. The Poor Fellows . . . they were humbler, though far more numerous. Begging brothers of a sort, though they carried axes instead of bowls. They wandered the roads, escorting travelers from sept to sept and town to town. Their badge was the seven-pointed star, red on white, so the smallfolk named them Stars. 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. They were the Swords. Holy men, ascetics, fanatics, sorcerers, dragonslayers, demonhunters . . . there were many tales about them. But all agree that they were implacable in their hatred for all enemies of the Holy Faith.” (aFfC, Cersei VI)

When the High Sparrow became the newly elected High Septon and King’s Landing was flooded by sparrows, Cersei agreed to allow the Faith to arm itself once more, so she could get rid of the sparrows in the city. In return the High Sparrow would bless King Tommen and forgive the Crown’s debt to the Faith.

When the High Sparrow begins to preach against the brothels in King’s Landing, Cersei sends for him to inform him that brothels are a valued source of income for the crown. Instead of going himself, he sends Septon Raynard with a delegation of the Swords to court.

The delegation from the Faith was headed by her old friend Septon Raynard. Six of the Warrior’s Sons escorted him across the city; together they were seven, a holy and propitious number. The new High Septon—or High Sparrow, as Moon Boy had dubbed him—did everything by sevens. The knights wore swordbelts striped in the seven colors of the Faith. Crystals adorned the pommels of their longswords and the crests of their greathelms. They carried kite shields of a style not common since the Conquest, displaying a device not seen in the Seven Kingdoms for centuries: a rainbow sword shining bright upon a field of darkness. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

Cersei focuses on the number seven here, but Septon Raynard is not a Warrior’s Son, not a Sword. The number of significance here is six. This is the same number of Others that surrounded Waymar Royce in the prologue.

They emerged silently from the shadows, twins to the first. Three of them … four … five … Ser Waymar may have felt the cold that came with them, but he never saw them, never heard them. (aGoT, Prologue)

The first Other confronting Ser Waymar and the five extra make six in total. Watch out for that number, because the configuration of six mirror-armored guards surrounding another reappears several times. There is an inherent ambiguity and changeability in the relation between those six and the character they surround. In aGoT’s Prologue for example, the six Others start out as Ser Waymar’s mortal enemy, but towards the end of the Prologue Ser Waymar has become a wight and turned into a mortal tool by the Others.

Another striking example is the scene where Barristan Selmy has six Brazen Locusts with him to arrest Hizdahr.

Twelve levels down he found the Shavepate waiting, his coarse features still hidden by the mask he had worn that morning, the blood bat. Six Brazen Beasts were with him. All were masked as insects, identical to one another. Locusts, Selmy realized. “Groleo,” he said.
“Groleo,” one of the locusts replied.
I have more locusts if you need them,” said Skahaz.
Six should serve. What of the men on the doors?” (aDwD, The Kingbreaker)

Dany’s alchemistic brass arc commences with a brass platter used as a mirror that reveals Selmy as her ally. But the poisoning of the locusts and Dany’s disappearance in aDwD puts Selmy in a very ambiguous position. Superficial evidence points to Hizdahr as the culprit, but Shakaz – the master of the Brazen Beasts – cannot be excluded from being the culprit either (see Who Poisoned the Locusts on the Meereenese Blot). And thus Selmy may regard those six Brazen Locusts as his and Dany’s allies, but may have been cleverly turned by Shakaz to undo all the compromises that Dany made to ensure peace. While brass may be used as a material to mirror and reveal truth, when the material is twisted into beastly masks, the brass is as obscure as any other non-mirroring material.

So, the number six is an important “turning” numeral in the books, and of course we all know six-six-six is the number of the beast. And it begs the question whether Cersei can still consider Septon Reynard her old friend or whether he has been “turned”. We will examine the evidence in a bit, but first let us focus on the appearance of the Warrior’s Sons.

Initially, we merely get a historical, verbal description of Cersei to Lady Merrywheather how they appeared before Maegor’s laws and wars ended their existence. They wore rainbow cloaks, silver armor over hair shirts, and both their helms and pommels are adorned with crystal. By the second description, they have materialized as an escort of six. While we get crystal crests on the helms and pommels, we do not have rainbow cloaks in that scene. Instead we are informed their sword scabbard is rainbow-colored and so is the sword depiction shining bright upon a dark kite field. It are these depictions of swords the Warrior’s Sons got their nickname from – the Swords. George does not yet use the word rainbow-colored in the description of their first appearance, but instead mentions the “colors of the seven” and “rainbow sword”. From their first appearance, however, we can derive that both the scabbard and the sword depiction on the shield imply “our swords are rainbow-colored“. The term for this effect is irridescent. This is what we call any material – whether it are soap bubbles, crystal, pearls, shells or ice – that structurally can break the light into its different color wavelengths and produce a rainbow-color effect rippling across its surface. And an irridescent sword shining on a dark field sounds very close to a sword shining in the darkness – a lightbringer. Except these lightbringers are not made of steel set on flame like a torch, they are hinted to be crystal swords. George confirms this in the final description when the Warrior’s Sons await Cersei to escort her during her Walk of Shame.

In the Hall of Lamps, a dozen Warrior’s Sons awaited her coming. Rainbow cloaks hung down their backs, and the crystals that crested their greathelms glittered in the lamplight. Their armor was silver plate polished to a mirror sheen, but underneath, she knew, every man of them wore a hair shirt. Their kite shields all bore the same device: a crystal sword shining in the darkness, the ancient badge of those the smallfolk called Swords. (aDwD, Cersei II)

Several swords in the books are described to shine with light in the darkness. There is the Dayne sword Dawn, but also Jaime’s weirwood dream sword given to him by dream-Tywin.

“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. (aGoT, Eddard X)

Jaime groped under the water until his hand closed upon the hilt. Nothing can hurt me so long as I have a sword. 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. The fire took on the color of the steel itself so it burned with a silvery-blue light, and the gloom pulled back. […] In the cool silvery-blue light of the swords, the big wench looked pale and fierce. […] Their blades made a little island of light, but all around them stretched a sea of darkness, unending. (aSoS, Jaime VI)

Dawn and Jaime’s dream swords are far closer to the “lightbringers” that Others carry with them.

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. (aGoT, Prologue)

A rainbow-colored crystal sword of the Warrior’s Sons bringing light in the darkness is eerily close to the crystal swords that the Others use. We tend to focus of course on the blue ghost-light, but the moonlight hitting a crystal-translucent shard makes for an irridescent effect within the crystal, regardless of the extra surrounding ghost light. And yes, this is a very different type of lightbringer than the Red Sword of Heroes Mel or the Jade Compendium talks about. Hmmm, it turns out the “ice blue versus the hot red blood” theme even creeps up in the light swords bring. As mentioned in the introduction, George’s choice of steeping the Warrior’s Sons with parallels to the Others fits their role as men who oppose wildfire-Cersei and thus also Stannis drawing a flaming sword out of a pire of burning Seven.

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. […] The gods in the pyre were scarcely recognizable anymore. The head fell off the Smith with a puff of ash and embers. […] 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. The red woman remained a moment to watch as Devan knelt with Byren Farring and rolled up the burnt and blackened sword in the king’s leather cloak. The Red Sword of Heroes looks a proper mess, thought Davos. (aCoK, Davos I)

Anyhow, the Warrior’s Sons carry around symbols of crystal lightbringing swords. And at least Cersei’s escort is noted to have rainbow cloaks. Combine this with their armor being silver like moonlight, and you basically have a symbolic representation of icy crystal irridescent armor.

But beneath all that armor, the Swords wear a hairshirt. This is a real world undercloth worn foremostly by Christian followers as a way to do penance, though in Biblical times Jewish mourners would wear it as well (but not to self-harm). Skin imprint patterns and clothing representations in art indicate usage of hairshirts even at Catalhoyuk (a city; 7500 BC-5000BC) and Gobekli Tepe (religious constructions; 10th millenium BC). Both these Turkish cites predate written history and agriculture. The undergarment is made of coarse animal hair worn in direct contact with the skin. The friction against skin causes irritation and makes the skin raw, hence its serves as doing penance for sins like fasting does. On Planetos men of the Faith and the Bearded Priests of Norvos wear these, and thus George uses them in the same context as real world Christian followers did (and still do).

Aside from penance, the repeated mention of the Otherlike Warrior’s Sons in particular wearing hairshirts likely has a symbolic layer to it. Aside from sigils, George uses pelts and skins all the time to point out that a certain character falls within a certain animal-category. This is something I have pointed out several times in some of the bear-maiden essays. Even if a character does not have a bear sigil, him or her wearing a bear pelt implies they “skinchange” into a bear-character or (hope to) gain the power of the bear. This is also true for seal-skins and wolf cloaks. We could therefore regard the wearing of hairshirts as undergarment, directly to the skin, as George hinting at the nature of the Warrior’s Sons as well. Except in this case, the hair is not worn outward, but inward. As a symbol wearing a hairshirt implies that we are talking about an actual beast that wants to appear as a hairless human. And since the Warrior’s Sons are such a parallel to the Others via visual symbolism, the hairshirt symbolism should also apply to the Others: they seem and appear humanoid, but on the inside, they are rough haired beasts. In the Plutonian Others we argued that their true nature and origin is that of the hairy ice spider.

Crystal Crest

What then is the crystal crest on the helm about? And how could it relate to the Others? Judging by Cairos’ illustration that is some serious ornament on the helm. The Fattest Leech came up with the proposal that it relates to the idea of mind control. And indeed, when we see those huge seven crsytal spikes on the helm of the Warrior’s Sons, they almost remind us of some type of antennae, more than a crown. And especially in a hierarchical order where the Warrior’s Sons are mere soldiers, but are the sole ones to wear these crests (unlike septons) one can see why they might need antennae to receive orders.

Of course, with the Warrior’s Sons, the crystal antennae serve a purely symbolic ornamental purpose to show to us how these men are mind-controlled via religion. But as a parallel to the Others, it adds weight to the idea that the icy enemy does not just apply some form of mind control on wights, but are hive-mind-controlled as well. Hence we have five Others in the Prologue who move in for the kill simultaneously without requiring vocal communication.

The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. (aGoT, Prologue)

As of yesterday, the 2020 aSoIaF callendar has been published with illustrations by Jon Howe, and Treegirl took a picture of an illustration called Night’s King and revealed it on Twitter.

nightsking
Night’s King, by John Howe, aSoIaF Callendar 2020

As he did with his illustration of the Others on Ice Spiders, John Howe converted the subject of his illustration. With the Others riding Ice Spiders, he made a symbolical representation of the Others wearing cowls and carrying a scythe and mostly put the focus on the huge Ice Spiders. The above illustration Night’s King depicts the 13th Lord Commander in the background, while the Corpse Queen takes the center stage. Notice how her hair is like a giant crest of hundred of ice crystals and the irridescent effect John Howe managed to depict in it. Those are a bunch of ice crystal antennae. And does it not look like she has fangs?

The idea of seeing those crystal crests as antennaes by which the Warrior’s Sons are mind controlled stems from several 1000 world novellas and short stories of George. We will discuss several examples here.

The Greeshka

In the 1974 A Song for Lya you get to visit the planet of the native Shkeen. It is also the home of a mold-like parasite called Greeshka. For some reason the native Shkeen Join with a Greeshka.

On their heads rode the Greeshka. I’d expected to find the sight hideous. I didn’t. It was faintly disquieting, but only because I knew what it meant. The parasites were bright blobs of crimson goo, ranging in size from a pulsing wart on the back of one Shkeen skull to a great sheet of dripping, moving red that covered the head and shoulders of the smallest like a living cowl. The Greeshka lived by sharing nutrients in the Shkeen bloodstream, I knew. And also by slowly – oh so slowly – consuming its host. (A Song for Lya)

In time the Joined perform Final Union, a non-formal ritual that essentially comes down to voluntarily suicide, like a lemming. The Joined Shkeen seeks out a cave where a monstrously big Greeshka “lives”, steps right up to it, lays down against it and in a matter of days ends up consumed by it. Two telepathic talents (Robb and Lyanna) are hired to investigate this “religion”, because the past few years human settlers have converted and Joined. When they meet the above described Joined Shkeen, they discover that they are extremely happy, feel loved and love everyone deeply – how people describe being with God must feel like. The love and connection feeling is so intense that none of the Joined ever feel lonely anymore. This is the lie that the Greeshka feeds to Shkeen and humans, in order for them to be willing hosts and food. This is not the essay to figure out the enigma on how Greeshka manage to have such a mind control (it is not drug related), but to establish the fact that they do, and it starts with literally putting a Greeshka on the skull and ending up feeling continuous deep connecting love. That it is an illusion and a trap, we can gather from the fact that the Greeshka is red and the monstrous size ones in the caves are an entangled web of Greeshka texture. Anyway, here we a concept from George by putting something weird on your head and being mind-controlled.

Hrangan Minds

Other stories where the mind is influenced is And Seven Times Never Kill Man, also of 1974. In that novella, the fanatical Steel Angels who follow the pale child Bakkalon of the Sword (yes, the one and the same Bakkalon, the Pale Child that is featured in the House of Black and White) set up a city intent on colonising a planet in a valley they refer to as Sword Valley.

The natives are called the Jainshi, a grey furred humanoid species with golden eyes and no taller than five feet. They live in trees in clans or tribes of forty individuals, but after sunset they worhsip red pyramids that each house a god.

“Interesting,” [Ryther] said finally, after studying the shard for several minutes. It was as hard and smooth as glass, but stronger; colored a translucent red, yet so very dark it was almost black. “A plastic?” she asked, throwing it back to the ground.
NeKrol shrugged. “That was my very guess, but of course it is impossible. The Jainshi work in bone and wood and sometimes metal, but plastic is centuries beyond them.”
“Or behind them,” Ryther said. “You say these worship pyramids are scattered all through the forest?” (And Seven Times Never Kill Man)

The Jainshi are portrayed as pacifists, living in harmony with their environment. They do not hunt for meat, unless hogs and other animals become too numerous and require culling, nor do predators hunt the Jainshi. As the Steel Angels do not recognize any other god than Bakkalon and believe humans to be the sole species as having a soul they begin to destroy several of the pyramids and order the Jainshi to disperse.

The third clan this happens to attempts to defend their pyramid. Though their hunting arsenal is not a match against the advanced technological arms of the Steel Angels, they managed to kill a man. In revenge, the Steel Angels string up several Jainshi, including their children, as a message to the surviving soulless “animals” to never rebel against humans who have the god-given right to take whatever they want and dominate worlds as violent as they please.

“And the pale child heard, and came again, for the sound of battle is more pleasing to his ears than the sound of wails. And when He saw, He smiled. “Now you are my children again,” He said to the seed of Earth. ‘For you had turned against me to worship a god who calls himself a lamb, but did you not know that lambs go only to the slaughter? Yet now your eyes have cleared, and again you are the Wolves of God!” (And Seven Times Never Kill Man)

The Proctor of the Steel Angels (comparable to the High Sparrow’s status) communicates with Bakkalon through visions. During the first winter, he receives several visions and predicts the following miracle – Bakkalon has walked on this world and instructed the Jainshi on submitting to the will of the Steel Angels. And indeed when spring comes around and the Steel Angels move out of Sword Valley to expand their territory, the Jainshi allow them to destroy their pyramid, disperse to join other clans, and they leave a carved statuette for the Steel Angels – all Bakkalons with his sword.

As the evicted Jainshi join the Jainshi tribe at the Waterfall pyramid, the population outgrows sustainability. They are so numerous that the Steel Angels are unnerved by it, and decide to move on them with blast canons, ordering them to disperse. In their experience this works best when they destroy the pyramid. But before they can, the red pyramid transformed itself into a crystal pyramid with Bakkalon inside, before their very eyes.

NeKrol stood paralyzed. The pyramid on the rock was no longer a reddish slab. Now it sparkled in the sunlight, a canopy of transparent crystal. And below that canopy, perfect in every detail, the pale child Bakkalon stood smiling, with his Demon-Reaver in his hand. (And Seven Times Never Kill a Man)

Due to inner disagreements, a massacre between the two factions cannot be avoided – and many of the Jainshi get killed as well as do some Steel Angels, most importantly the suspicious DaHan –  but ultimately the Steel Angels take the pyramid back to their city.

Wyatt was twice as skeletal as[Ryther] remembered him. He had been standing outdoors, near the foot of a huge platform-altar that had been erected in the middle of the city. A startlingly lifelike statue of Bakkalon, encased in a glass pyramid and set atop a high redstone plinth, threw a long shadow over the wooden altar. (And Seven Times Never Kill a Man)

But on account of visions given to them by the Crystal Pyramid Bakkalon, the Steel Angels completely alter their way – they drop their weapons, burn their winter crop believing that henceforth there will be an eternal summer, and cull their own numbers in peace by hanging their own children from their walls this time.

Wyatt gestured toward the altar with a thin hand. “See? In tribute we burn our winter stores, for the pale child has promised that this year winter will not come. And He has taught us to cull ourselves in peace as once we were culled in war, so the seed of Earth grows even stronger. It is a time of great new Revelation!”
[…]
Outside the walls the Angel children hung, a row of small white-smocked bodies still and motionless at the end of long ropes. They had gone peacefully, all of them, but death is seldom peaceful; the older ones, at least, died quickly, necks broken with a sudden snap. But the small pale infants had the nooses round their waists, and it had seemed clear to Ryther that most of them had simply hung there till they starved.  (And Seven Times Never Kill a Man)

All the while, we have been given hints through the POV of an atheistic trader Arik neKrol and the doubts of the Steel Angel Weaponmaster DaHan that the forces that live within the pyramids are telepathic who can extract imagery, ideas and beliefs from minds, and then they have the tribe’s carver make that image to manipulate the one it is gifted to, until eventually they exert hive-mind control over their worshippers.

DaHan was not chief of Psychological Weaponry and Enemy Intelligence for nothing.

“Yet there is a tale, my Proctor – one that troubles me. Once, it is said, in the long centuries of war, the Sons of Hranga loosed upon the seed of Earth foul vampires of the mind, the creatures men called soul-sucks. Their touch was invisible, but it crept across kilometers, farther than a man could see, farther than a laser could fire, and it brought madness. Visions, my Proctor, visions! False gods and foolish plans were put in the minds of men, and ….” (And Seven Times Never Kill a Man)

And indeed the closer one is to a pyramid the easier it is for the pyramids to influence the target. So these are likely Minds of Hranga who survived the galactic wars on some far away colony of theirs.

It turns out that neither the hogs oor the Jainshi are by nature docile or pacifist. Both act far more aggressive after the initial pyramids are destroyed. These “godless” Jainshi also become sexually hyperactive (comparable to bonobos), can feel bitterness and anger, are fully willing to rush into martial conflict with the Steel Angels to protect the mind-controlled Jainshi. And then there is the hint given to us in the change of the color of the eyes. With the godless Jainshi it changed from golden to bronze. Whereas the Proctor’s eyes acquire golden flecks by the end of the story.

His eyes had burned as he spoke to her; eyes darting and fanatic, vast and dark yet strangely flecked with gold. (And Seven Times Never Kill a Man)

Not only do the forces within the pyramids inhibit sexual desire, they compell both the Jainshi and the Steel Angels to cull hogs, commit infanticide and most importantly prevent cultural learning. The pyramids decide which Jainshi will have which status or role within the tribe. Only one speaks. Only one carves. They lack knowledge and understanding on how another can do these things. It is comparable to bee- or ant-hives where it is decided which larva will be a worker, queen, soldier or fertilizing male. And once this is decided, that is all they can do. In contrast, the godless orphaned Jainshi become curious and critical.

This short story comes with a great recommendation as it is deeply layered and requires several rereads to figure out what is going on exactly. So, while in this story, none of the mind-controlled actually wear something on their head, we have a reference to the number seven right in the title, a crystal pyramid, dogmatic fanatical religious thinking and control over the sexuality of individuals. The Faith established itself in Westeros through the xenophobic zealots of Andalos and their military hierarchical structure is similar to that of the Steel Angels. Yes, the pyramids are red-almost-black initially (so is Proctor), but the change in color to translucent glass-like pyramids implies that such is just “form”; that it remains mind-control no matter who does it.

Despite the color red dominating in this story, we get a spiderweb reference for the waterfall of the pyramid that turns into Bakkalon, the corpse like appearance of the Proctor, the Jainshi having grey fur, worship at night (never by day), blue lights outside the steel walls of the Steel Angels, and the godless Bitter Speaker Jainshi (who is much like Arya) ends up wearing a blue scarf.

Less than two kilometers from his base, neKrol found the camp of the Jainshi he called the Waterfall folk. They lived up against the side of a heavy-wooded hill, where a stream of tumbling blue-white water came sliding and bouncing down, dividing and rejoining itself over and over, so the whole hillside was an intricate glittering web of waterfalls and rapids and shallow pools and spraying wet curtains. The clan’s worship pyramid sat in the bottommost pool, on a flat gray stone in the middle of the eddies: taller than most Jaenshi, coming up to neKrol’s chin, looking infinitely heavy and solid and immovable, a three-sided block of dark, dark red. (Seven Times Never Kill Man)

Meanwhile the Others demanding sacrifice of children and lambs from Craster (and other wildlings who worship the Cold Gods, such as of the Frozen Shore) is also a callback to the culling required by the mind-controlling forces of the pyramids.

Psi-boosters

Aside from the Greeshka and Minds of Hranga, George often includes characters with telephatic abilities, such as the Talents Lyanna and Robb in A Song for Lya or Tuff’s cats with psi-abilities in Tuf Voyaging. Most of these characters only use their abilities to read, not to control. But in Tuf Voyaging’s origin short story the Plague Star (1985) we get a character who uses a psi-booster to control animals mentally. The Plague Star is a biowar seedship, a space-arc so to speak.

A team of treasure hunters hoping to win the jackpot attempt to board it and gain control over it. The original human controllers of it are long dead, because of an accidental release of a certain plague on board. And when the team boards the seedship they inadevertently set off its defence program: aside from plagues, it starts to genetically clone several type of monsters of various worlds found all over the galaxy. One of those is a T-Rex. On top of it all, these treasure hunters turn on one another, to claim sole ownership over it. Towards the end only Tuf, green-eyed hireling Rica Dawnstar and the T-Rex. Rica aims to get Tuf killed, and for this she requires a device that allows her to control the T-Rex’s mind.

Hooked over one arm of the captain’s throne was a thin coronet of iridescent metal that Rica had earlier removed from a storage cabinet. She picked it up, ran it under a scanner briefly to check the circuitry, and slid it over her head at a rakish angle. (Tuf Voyaging, The Plague Star)

So this is a type of crown-like object, in iridescent metal, to put on your head. In the final confrontation, Rica explains and demonstrates it to Tuf.

The tyrannosaur took one step, two, three, and now it was directly behind her, its shadow casting her in darkness.
“How manipulated?” asked Haviland Tuf.
“I thought you’d never ask,” said Rica Dawnstar. The tyrannosaur leaned forward, roared, opened its massive jaws, engulfed her head. “Psionics,” she said from between its teeth.
“Indeed,” said Haviland Tuf.
“A simple psionic capacity,” Rica announced from inside the tyrannosaur’s jaws. She reached up and picked something from between its teeth, with a tsking sound. “Some of the monsters were close to mindless, all instinct. They got a basic instinctual aversion. The more complex monsters were made psionically submissive. The instruments of control were psi-boosters. Pretty little things, like crowns. I’m wearing one now. It doesn’t confer psi-powers or anything dramatic like that. It just makes some of the monsters avoid me, and other ones obey me.” She ducked out of the dinosaur’s mouth, and slapped the side of his jaw soundly. “Down, boy,” she said.
The tyrannosaur roared, and lowered its head. Rica Dawnstar untangled her harness and saddle and began to strap it into place. “I’ve been controlling him all the time we’ve been talking,” she said conversationally. “I called him here. He’s hungry. He ate Lion, but Lion was small, and dead, too, and he hasn’t had anything else for a thousand years.” (Tuf Voyaging, The Plague Star)

Rica Dawnstar even manages to ride the T-Rex, like a dragon. The difference to the Greeshka and the Warrior’s Sons, Rica wears a crown not to be controlled but to mentally control others, like the Minds of Hranga inside the pyramids do with those in reach.

If the High Sparrow had not sold the High Septon’s crown, we could say he would be wearing the control device to give orders to the Warrior’s Sons from a distance. But the High Sparrow is content with religious doctrinal control alone. We doubt the Corpse Queen sold her icy-spiked hair though.

The Tricks of the Fox

Let us return to the first scene where the Warrior’s Sons actually appear on page in Cersei’s POV.

The delegation from the Faith was headed by her old friend Septon Raynard. Six of the Warrior’s Sons escorted him across the city; together they were seven, a holy and propitious number. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

As I mentioned the number six is significant and we will examine in how much Septon Raynard is still to be considered a friend to Cersei in this scene.

Septon Raynard is one of the Most Devout. This is a conclave comparable to the Cardinals in the Catholic Church who elect a new Pope amongst the candidates, with that exception that in Westeros’s Faith the Mos Devout also include Septas and thus female worshippers also have a vote in who gets to be the new High Septon. Raynard was rumored to be in the running for the job, and Cersei seemed to be looking forward to that.

“No,” said Cersei, “but we must hope that his successor is more vigorous. My friends upon the other hill tell me that it will most like be Torbert or Raynard.”(aFfC, Cersei IV)

Instead the sparrows force the Most Devout’s hands and the High Sparrow is elected instead. We later learn why Cersei would have preferred Raynard or Torbert, when the High Sparrow has not yet come to bless King Tommen.

“Orton says it is the gold [the High Sparrow] really wants. That he means to withhold his blessing until the crown resumes its payments.”
“The Faith will have its gold as soon as we have peace.” Septon Torbert and Septon Raynard had been most understanding of her plight … (aFfC, Cersei VI)

Since the High Sparrow ignores Cersei’s summons, she ends up visiting the High Sparrow herself at the Sept of Baelor.

Two had the insolence to cross their spears and bar her way. “Is this how you receive your queen?” she demanded of them. “Pray, where are Raynard and Torbert?” It was not like those two to miss a chance to fawn on her. Torbert always made a show of getting down on his knees to wash her feet.
I do not know the men you speak of,” said one of the men with a red star on his surcoat, “but if they are of the Faith, no doubt the Seven had need of their service.”
Septon Raynard and Septon Torbert are of the Most Devout,” Cersei said, “and will be furious to learn that you obstructed me. Do you mean to deny me entrance to Baelor’s holy sept?” (aFfC, Cersei VI)

Once Cersei gains entry, to her shock she discovers Raynard scrubbing the floor while wearing a roughspun robe.

In the Hall of Lamps, Cersei found a score of septons on their knees, but not in prayer. They had pails of soap and water, and were scrubbing at the floor. Their roughspun robes and sandals led Cersei to take them for sparrows, until one raised his head. His face was red as a beet, and there were broken blisters on his hands, bleeding. “Your Grace.”
Septon Raynard?” The queen could scarce believe what she was seeing. “What are you doing on your knees?
He is cleaning the floor.” The speaker was shorter than the queen by several inches and as thin as a broom handle. “Work is a form of prayer, most pleasing to the Smith.” He stood, scrub brush in hand. “Your Grace. We have been expecting you.” (aFfC, Cersei VI)

In Septon Raynard we recognize a reference to Reyneart the Fox* and Cersei’s plot in aFfC is analogous to it.

* For clarity I will refer to the medieval literary character as Reynaert (and not the English Reynard) or the fox to differentiate from the septon’s name Raynard.

In the medieval plot, the fox fails the summons of King Nobel (a lion) to defend and explain himself several times against the crimes he is accused of. Eventually Reynaert is persuaded to appear. And when he does, the fox lies and slanders Noble’s allies (Brune the bear and Ysengrim the wolf) in such a way that he manages to make King Noble believe in a conspiracy as well as Reynaert having buried a treasure to foil the usurping plans of Brune and Ysengrim. Except, there is no treasure and no conspiracy. The anology is evident: Cersei believes her allies, the Tyrells, to be plotting to take the throne, and possibly even wanting to harm Tommen. Like King Noble, through her own actions and choices, she alienates her allies and creates enemies out of them. The sole difference to the Reynaert plot is that Cersei comes up with this all on her own, without needing a fox to feed her lies. Gold and treasure is also a constant reappearing want of hers. But instead of having Cersei go on an active treasure hunt, George has her break her repayment contract with the Iron Bank and the Faith, appropriate Rosby lands and castle, etc. And it is with the treasury in mind that Cersei arranges a deal with the High Sparrow in private, much like King Noble does with Reynaert the Fox, where she will enable the re-erection of the Faith Militant in exchange for the High Sparrow’s blessing of King Tommen and the crown’s debt to the Faith forgiven.

High Septon pondered that a moment. “As you wish. This debt shall be forgiven, and King Tommen will have his blessing. The Warrior’s Sons shall escort me to him, shining in the glory of their Faith, whilst my sparrows go forth to defend the meek and humble of the land, reborn as Poor Fellows as of old.” (aFfC, Cersei VI)

The actual mental fox character intending to trick Cersei in this plot is the High Sparrow. The issue for George is that the High Sparrow himself is a devout man, while the medieval Reynaert the fox is as corrupt as any of the other animals he tricks. Reynaert the fox is a noble vassal, who either pretends to go on a pilgrimage to Rome or to be a penitent preaching monk as a scam to commit murder. So, in order to suitably reference this historical work, George inserts a septon who is known by Cersei to be a corrupt clergyman and has him be called Raynard. Whenever we see septon Raynard, George evokes this false penitent image of Reynaert the fox through Cersei’s POV. Cersei’s recollections of septon Raynard fawning over her in the past fits the trickster’s MO as well – like any conman Reyneart first flatters, then hints to something his target desires, and once baited and shamed, the fox flatters his victim again to put salt on the wounded pride. Thus, George splits the analogies across two characters: the High Sparrow does the tricking, while Septon Raynard gets the characterization.

For example, the High Sparrow ignores the crown’s summons to court several times. Cersei has to come to him instead to make the deal about the debt and Tommen’s blessing.

Cersei let the curtain fall. “This is absurd.”
“It is, Your Grace,” Lady Merryweather agreed. “The High Septon should have come to you. And these wretched sparrows . . .” (aFfC, Cersei VI)

Where is the High Septon?” she demanded of Raynard. “It was him I summoned.” (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

Though Cersei has been scheming against Margaery before her visit to the High Sparrow, it is not until her return from Baelor’s Sept and feeling secure about the deal she struck over the gold the treasury owes the Faith, that Cersei conceives of a full blown conspiracy theory.

Every day in every way [Margaery] tries to steal [Tommen] from me. Joffrey would have seen through her schemer’s smile and let her know her place, but Tommen was more gullible. She knew Joff was too strong for her, Cersei thought, remembering the gold coin Qyburn had found. For House Tyrell to hope to rule, he had to be removed. It came back to her that Margaery and her hideous grandmother had once plotted to marry Sansa Stark to the little queen’s crippled brother Willas. Lord Tywin had forestalled that by stealing a march on them and wedding Sansa to Tyrion, but the link had been there. They are all in it together, she realized with a start. The Tyrells bribed the gaolers to free Tyrion, and whisked him down the roseroad to join his vile bride. By now the both of them are safe in Highgarden, hidden away behind a wall of roses. (aFfC, Cersei VI)

While the High Sparrow may ignore the personal summons, he at some points does send a delegation including a Reynaert representative via Septon Raynard, while simultaneously making the High Sparrow out to be on a most important mission for the Faith – battle wickedness. This is analogous to Reynaert’s excuse to King Noble that he cannot join King Noble for he has to go on pilgrimage to Rome to lift the ban on him.

Septon Raynard assumed a regretful tone. “His High Holiness sent me in his stead, and bade me tell Your Grace that the Seven have sent him forth to battle wickedness.” (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

This should alert the reader that we have come at the phase of the story where the fox effectively entices the lion to betray his allies. And indeed in the same chapter that Septon Raynard came to her summons of the High Sparrow, Cersei comes up with an active plan ready to be executed to get rid of Margaery.

A sudden sickness would be best, but the gods were seldom so obliging. How then? A knife, a pillow, a cup of heart’s bane? All of those posed problems. When an old man died in his sleep no one thought twice of it, but a girl of six-and-ten found dead in bed was certain to raise awkward questions. Besides, Margaery never slept alone. Even with Ser Loras dying, there were swords about her night and day. Swords have two edges, though. The very men who guard her could be used to bring her down. The evidence would need to be so overwhelming that even Margaery’s own lord father would have no choice but to consent to her execution. That would not be easy. Her lovers are not like to confess, knowing it would mean their heads as well as hers. Unless . . .

“If it came to it, could [Osney] defeat Ser Boros Blount?”
“Boros the Belly?” Ser Osmund chortled. “He’s what, forty? Fifty? Half-drunk half the time, fat even when he’s sober. If he ever had a taste for battle, he’s lost it. Aye, Your Grace, if Ser Boros wants for killing, Osney could do it easy enough. Why? Has Boros done some treason?”
No,” she said. But Osney has. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

However, while Cersei’s head is mostly occupied with coming up with a way to see Margaery dead, she fails to understand the subtextual warnings in her debate with Septon Raynard.

“How? By preaching chastity along the Street of Silk? Does he think praying over whores will turn them back to virgins?”
“Our bodies were shaped by our Father and Mother so we might join male to female and beget trueborn children,” Raynard replied. “It is base and sinful for women to sell their holy parts for coin.”
The pious sentiment would have been more convincing if the queen had not known that Septon Raynard had special friends in every brothel on the Street of Silk. No doubt he had decided that echoing the High Sparrow’s twitterings was preferable to scrubbing floors. “Do not presume to preach at me,” she told him. “The brothel keepers have been complaining, and rightly so.”
If sinners speak, why should the righteous listen?” (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

Cersei regards Septon Raynard as falsely devout and corrupt, an unwilling septon who is kept in line by the six Warrior’s Sons who escorted him and preferring to be the High Sparrow’s echo over scrubbing floors. Except one of those escorting Swords is Lancel.

And then there was Lancel. She had thought Qyburn must be japing when he had told her that her mooncalf cousin had forsaken castle, lands, and wife and wandered back to the city to join the Noble and Puissant Order of the Warrior’s Sons, yet there he stood with the other pious fools. Cersei liked that not at all. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

And in Lancel we have a third match to Reynaert the fox. When the first complaints and accusations against Reynaert are made at court about the fox, his badger nephew makes these assertions.

Since the king proclaimed his peace on pain of punishment, I know for a fact that he behaved no worse than if he were a hermit or a recluse. Next to his skin he wears a hair shirt. Within the past year he ate no meat, neither wild nor tame animals. So someone said who yesterday came from there. He has left Macroys, his castle, and has built a cell where he now lives. He surely has no other possessions or income than the alms given him. Pale he is and thin with doing penance. Hunger, thirst, sharp chastisement he suffers for his sins’. (Of Reynaert the Fox, King Noble Holds Court 264-281)

Where the original author “Willem who wrote Madocke” has the badger describe a false hearsay portrait of the fox, George actually has Lancel go through such a described self-penitence. Even at Tywin’s funeral, Lancel’s looks have greatly altered, while Jaime sees him even more harrowed at Darry’s.

Though only seventeen, he might have passed for seventy; grey-faced, gaunt, with hollow cheeks, sunken eyes, and hair as white and brittle as chalk. […] Lancel lingered, the very picture of a man with one foot in the grave. But is he climbing in or climbing out?[…] Her cousin’s voice was as wispy as the mustache on his upper lip. Though his hair had gone white, his mustache fuzz remained a sandy color. […] It looks like a smudge of dirt on his lip. (aFfC, Cersei II)

Lancel looked even thinner than he had at King’s Landing. He was barefoot, and dressed in a plain, roughspun tunic of undyed wool that made him look more like a beggar than a lord. The crown of his head had been shaved smooth, but his beard had grown out a little. To call it peach fuzz would have given insult to the peach. It went queerly with the white hair around his ears. (aFfC, Jaime IV)

At Darry, Jaime sees all the evidence of Lancel living and sleeping in the sept, instead of the castle.

“Lord Lancel has been sleeping in the sept.”
Sleeping with the Mother and the Maiden, when he has a warm wife just through that door? Jaime did not know whether to laugh or weep. […] The seven gods loomed above carved altars, the dark wood gleaming in the candlelight. A faint smell of incense hung in the air. “You sleep down here?
“Each night I make my bed beneath a different altar, and the Seven send me visions.” (aFfC, Jaime IV)

He learns from Amerei that Lancel fasts, and later Lancel admits it. Jaime’s efforts to extract a promise from Lancel that he will eat if he joins him in prayer is without result.

“My lord prefers to fast,” said Lancel’s wife, the Lady Amerei. “He’s sick with grief for the poor High Septon.” […] Fasting? He is an even bigger fool than I suspected. His cousin should be busy fathering a little weasel-faced heir on his widow instead of starving himself to death.

[…]

Baelor the Blessed once had visions too. Especially when he was fasting. “How long has it been since you’ve eaten?”
“My faith is all the nourishment I need.”
“Faith is like porridge. Better with milk and honey.”
“I dreamed that you would come. In the dream you knew what I had done. How I’d sinned. You killed me for it.”
“You’re more like to kill yourself with all this fasting. Didn’t Baelor the Blessed fast himself onto a bier?”
“Our lives are candle flames, says The Seven-Pointed Star. Any errant puff of wind can snuff us out. Death is never far in this world, and seven hells await sinners who do not repent their sins. Pray with me, Jaime.”
“If I do, will you eat a bowl of porridge?” (aFfC, Jaime IV)

And when Jaime puts his hand on Lancel’s shoulders he can feel that Lancel wears a hair shirt.

Jaime put his hand on his cousin’s shoulder. […] Jaime could feel the bones beneath his cousin’s skin . . . and something else as well. Lancel was wearing a hair shirt underneath his tunic. (aFfC, Jaime IV)

Their meeting ends with Lancel announcing his intention to leave “his castle and relinquish all possessions” to become a Warrior’s Son.

“Lancel, you’re a bloody fool.”
“You are not wrong,” said Lancel, “but my folly is behind me, ser. I have asked the Father Above to show me the way, and he has. I am renouncing this lordship and this wife. […] On the morrow I will return to King’s Landing and swear my sword to the new High Septon and the Seven. I mean to take vows and join the Warrior’s Sons.

Like the badger, Jaime can attest that “next to his skin [his cousin] wears a hair shirt. Within the past year he ate no meat, neither wild nor tame animals.” Except, in this case it is not hearsay, but a true account. So, in Cersei’s arc we have three Reynaerts: the High Sparrow who sets up a trap for a lion queen, Septon Raynard who is the flattering corrupt fox saving his own hide, and Lancel the pilgrim seeking penitence and salvation.

Jaime questions the motive behind Lancel’s wish to return King’s Landing though.

“Even if this is true . . . you are a lion of the Rock, a lord. You have a wife, a castle, lands to defend, people to protect. If the gods are good, you will have sons of your blood to follow you. Why would you throw all that away for . . . for some vow?”
Why did you?” asked Lancel softly.
For honor, Jaime might have said. For glory. That would have been a lie, though. Honor and glory had played their parts, but most of it had been for Cersei. A laugh escaped his lips. “Is it the High Septon you’re running to, or my sweet sister? Pray on that one, coz. Pray hard.” (aFfC, Jaime IV)

And this question has merit. Lancel’s praying at Darry does not come out of nowhere. It is not solely his guilt that compels him. Cersei actually told him to.

“When it seemed that I might die, my father brought the High Septon to pray for me. He is a good man.” Her cousin’s eyes were wet and shiny, a child’s eyes in an old man’s face. “He says the Mother spared me for some holy purpose, so I might atone for my sins.”
Cersei wondered how he intended to atone for her. Knighting him was a mistake, and bedding him a bigger one. Lancel was a weak reed, and she liked his newfound piety not at all; he had been much more amusing when he was trying to be Jaime. What has this mewling fool told the High Septon? […] If he confessed to bedding Cersei, well, she could weather that. […] If he sings of Robert and the strongwine, though . . . “Atonement is best achieved through prayer,” Cersei told him. “Silent prayer.” She left him to think about that and girded herself to face the Tyrell host. (aFfC, Cersei II)

Just as he went through with the marriage of Amerei as Cersei told him to.

A gloomy look passed across the young knight’s ravaged face. “A Frey girl, and not of my choosing. She is not even maiden. A widow, of Darry blood. My father says that will help me with the peasants, but the peasants are all dead.” He reached for her hand. “It is cruel, Cersei. Your Grace knows that I love—”
“—House Lannister,” she finished for him. “No one can doubt that, Lancel. May your wife give you strong sons.” Best not let her lord grandfather host the wedding, though. “I know you will do many noble deeds in Darry.”
Lancel nodded, plainly miserable. (aFfC, Cersei II)

To Jaime, Lancel reiterates that he did not want to be Lord of Darry, that he wanted to be Jaime and that he loved Cersei. He confesses all to Jaime.

When his coz did not answer, Jaime sighed. “You should be sleeping with your wife, not with the Maid. You need a son with Darry blood if you want to keep this castle.”
“A pile of cold stones. I never asked for it. I never wanted it. I only wanted . . .” Lancel shuddered. “Seven save me, but I wanted to be you.”
Jaime had to laugh. “Better me than Blessed Baelor […] In any case, you’re not like to be taken for Baelor the Blessed.”
“No,” Lancel allowed. “He was a rare spirit, pure and brave and innocent, untouched by all the evils of the world. I am a sinner, with much and more to atone for.”
Jaime put his hand on his cousin’s shoulder. “What do you know of sin, coz? I killed my king.”
“The brave man slays with a sword, the craven with a wineskin. We are both kingslayers, ser.”
“Robert was no true king. Some might even say that a stag is a lion’s natural prey.” […]”What else did you do, to require so much atonement? Tell me.”
His cousin bowed his head, tears running down his cheeks.
Those tears were all the answer Jaime needed. “You killed the king,” he said, “then you fucked the queen.” […] “Did you force her?”
“No! I loved her. I wanted to protect her.” […] “Do not think ill of the queen,” Lancel pleaded. “All flesh is weak, Jaime. No harm came of our sin. No . . . no bastard.” […] “I was angry with Her Grace after the battle, but the High Septon said I must forgive her.”
You confessed your sins to His High Holiness, did you?
“He prayed for me when I was wounded. He was a good man.”
He’s a dead man. They rang the bells for him. He wondered if his cousin had any notion what fruit his words had borne. (aFfC, Jaime IV)

There is a change in Lancel’s talk of feelings and desires than when he last spoke Cersei though. At Tywin’s funeral, Lancel is about to say that he loves Cersei still. In his exchange with Jaime he talks of (romantic) love and his anger in the past tense. At the time Lancel decides to join the Warrior’s Sons, he is not in love with Cersei anymore. Yet, he still feels protective of her and Jaime. He wants to “save” them, show them how to deal with the burden of guilt. But neither Jaime or Cersei feel guilt. Jaime feels he saved a city from being burned. His relationship with Cersei predates her marriage, always has been one of mutual consent and he was ever faithful to her. And Cersei of course is incapable of feeling guilt.

If Lancel’s feelings have evolved thus with distance, time and guilt, then how would the mute confrontation with Cersei be during a debate between Septon Raynard and Cersei over fornication from behind a truth-seeing mirror-armor have impacted Lancel? The fair conclusion is that Lancel’s last protective feelings towards Cersei would have crumbled. Like Areo Hotah can see objective truth, so would Lancel in this case. Whatever reserve we can imagine that may have held Lancel back from revealing the darkest of Cersei’s deeds (getting King Robert killed) to the High Sparrow, he certainly would have told all after this confrontation, and thus become an instrumental part for the High Sparrow to prey on a lion.

The question then becomes: how much Lancel had already told the High Sparrow by the time he escorts Septon Raynard, and how much did Septon Raynard knew of it? The High Sparrow’s initial dealings with Cersei are those of one who intends to prove he is independent and having the insight that the queen-regent needs something of him more than he needs of her. As the High Sparrow seems content with the deal struck between them, any issues he has with Cersei at this point only regard her vanity and pride. He humbles the Most Devout in similar ways, by having Septon Raynard scrub the floors and put Septon Torbert on a diet. Meanwhile, Lancel is living as a recluse in the sept of Darry.

Then off page, Lancel arrives in King’s Landing and joins the Warrior’s Sons. Even the High Sparrow’s curiosity would be peaked at a young man who has recently been made Lord, suddenly deciding to abandon castle, lands and new wife. Especially if this man is not Baelor the Blessed, but very much refers to himself as a sinner. And even more stunning is that this man is a Lannister of the main branch, the proud lions – a first cousin.

Close to a hundred knights had already come forth to pledge their lives and swords to the Warrior’s Sons, Qyburn claimed, and more turned up every day. […] Most had been household knights and hedge knights, but a handful were of high birth; younger sons, petty lords, old men wanting to atone for the old sins. And then there was Lancel. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

Which words first sparked Lancel to confess and share his personal story to the High Sparrow is not so important, but at the very least, the High Sparrow would have learned of Cersei’s affair with Lancel shortly after his arrival. Lancel had already confessed to the prior High Septon, whom he grieved over. He certainly held nothing back to Jaime. A kind urging from the High Sparrow would have helped Lancel spill the beans over his affair with Cersei at least and how the prior High Septon had helped him repent. Then, in the High Sparrow’s eyes, Cersei is not just some proud and vain queen-regent anymore who required a lesson on humility, but becomes a far more immoral and ruthless regent who will rule for seven years more. Hence, the High Sparrow makes sure to never set foot into the Red Keep himself anymore. And what he gaveth by forgiving the crown’s debt, he can taketh away again by hurting the crown’s revenue from the brothels. When the High Septon accompanied by his Warrior’s Sons preaches in front of the brothels, the customers stay away, for the men would not want to be caught dead seen entering a brothel. Simultaneously, he prepares the smallfolk’s opinion about chastity to chasticise Cersei herself. Lancel being amongst the Warrior’s Sons escorting Septon Raynard is not a coincidence.

Meanwhile our prior fawning and flattering Septon Raynard has turned into a man who can eloquently debate with Cersei, hinting he regards Cersei a sinner whose words are wind and what may be at stake here: the legitimacy of Cersei’s children. At this point it makes no sense for the informed High Sparrow to send a septon to be his voice to Cersei without being secure of Septon Raynard’s allegiance.  So, we can conclude that by then Septon Raynard is like wighted Ser Waymar – a turned man.

These allusions to Reyneart the Fox are entertaining and interesting, certainly in light of Cersei’s arc, but why go down this foxhole in an essay where we investigate mirror-armor wearing Warrior’s Sons to the Others? It is not as if anyone requires the Reynaert allusions to come to the same conclusion what the High Sparrow knows by the time Lancel joins the Swords or that Septon Raynard is turned, is it?

In the Plutonian Others, we mentioned Tad Williams’ trilogy Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. George has admitted it to be one of his inspirations that helped him believe it was possible to write epic fantasy that questioned or deconstructed the tropes.

Tad’s fantasy series, The Dragonbone Chair and the rest of his famous four-book trilogy was one of the things that inspired me to write my own seven-book trilogy. I read Tad and was impressed by him, but the imitators that followed — well, fantasy got a bad rep for being very formulaic and ritual. And I read The Dragonbone Chair and said, “My god, they can do something with this form,” and it’s Tad doing it. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series. (SSM: Redwood City Signing 2011)

When the American fantasy writer Tad Williams first met Game of Thrones author George RR Martin, Martin growled at him: “Get the hell out of here.” This was not yet another egoistic literary beef; Martin merely wanted his fellow author to get home and finish the next instalment of his Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series, which Martin had been patiently waiting to read. (Tropes, trolls and Trump: the fantasy writer who inspired George RR Martin, Interview by David Barnett of Tad Williams, The Guardian, 17 Jan 2017)

There the existential threat comes from a split of sithi race living in the icy north. They are called the Norns, but are also referred to as White Foxes.

One of the four standing figures raised an arm, the black sleeve falling away to reveal a wrist and hand as thin and white as bone. It spoke, voice silvery-cold, toneless as ice cracking. “We are here to fulfill the covenant.” […] Two of the robed figures moved to the wagon, carefully lifting down a long, dark object. […] The black robes billowed, and the hood on the nearest blew back, spilling a flurry of gleaming white hair. The face revealed in the brief moment was delicate as a mask of the thinnest, most exquisite ivory. An instant later the hood flapped back.
Who are these creatures? Witches? Ghosts? Behind the shielding rocks Simon brought a trembling hand up to make the sign of the Tree. The white foxes …. Morgenes said “white foxes” … (The Dragonbone Chair, 14 The Hill Fire, by Tad Williams)

Overall we have a shared concept between both authors – a humanoid sidhe-appearing species living in the icy north as an existential threat to humans. George himself explained to illustrator Tommy Patterson that the Others are like sidhe made of ice. Without giving away any spoilers, the master of the White Foxes, Storm King Ineluki, plays a fox’s trick on the protagonists of the MST series, and thus their nickname is aptly chosen by Tad Williams.

With Reynaert the fox worked into Cersei’s plot with the Faith and the Warrior’s Sons parallelled to the Others (in their rainbow cloaks, silver mirror-armor, crystal crests and crystal swords), George manages to conjoin the Others with the trickster fox figure into a nod to Tad Williams’ White Foxes. What I have done above is reverse engineer George’s decisions on how to world-build the appearance of the Warrior’s Sons. First, George worked out the plot for Cersei in aFfC. As these characters of the Faith oppose a wildfire queen-regent they require to be surrounded by ice-symbolism and George knew his High Sparrow plot would have analogies to Of Reyneart the Fox. And thus both the Reyneart references and the look of the Warrior’s Sons helped him to create a concept-reference to Williams’ White Foxes, without actually involving the Others.

How can we be so sure that the world-building of the Warrior’s Sons goes hand in hand with the High Sparrow’s fox-trickster plot? Because both are first mentioned in aFfC, which was published in 2005. Any of the other back-story sources that describe or reference the Warrior’s Sons were published after aFfC. tWoIaF was published in 2014 and the short story The Sons of the Dragon in 2017 (also part of Fire and Blood, part 1, published in 2018). It would not just be a nod to Williams though or to “Willem who wrote Madocke” (the medieval author), but a subtextual tip that the Others have trickster-figure qualities, that they are plotting and planning, setting traps.

An earlier attempt of George to work in Reynaert allusions occurs in aCoK, in Davos’s arc. See, The Lambs in the extra reading subsection about Hens and Lambs. Except here the foxes are alligned to fire through Selyse Florent and the queen’s men.

Stone City

But the link between foxes and Others can be made with the aGoT Prologue alone already. For this we recommend reading George’s 1977 story The Stone City (transcribed at the Fattest Leech’s blog). This story involves an alien species called the Dan’lai, or foxmen. Holt is stranded at a planet beyond the innermost spacezone where human technology can take them. He and his fellow crewmen managed to get there with their spaceship Pegasus using a Dan’lai jumpdrive technology. But the jump drive was so exhausted they required certain fluids to travel onwards.

The Dan’lai set up this kafkian bureauctratic administration on this planet, while the shipless crew has to wait for the right stamps and okay to leave the Stone City. The administrative torment drove several crewmembers, including the captain into going underground below the Stone City, and they never emerged. Meanwhile, the Dan’lai also control the trade within the city. In exchange for stuff, you can get certain colored chips (like in a casino) with which you can buy food, drinks, etc. To trade for these colored coins, Holt must raid and steal from other stranded Stone City residents, such as the dangerous larvae-worm like Cedran. Holt never manages to trade all he stole, because he is partially pickpocketed already. And the foxmen ultimately re-sell the stuff to the creatures Holt stole it from.

Around a year after arriving at the Stone City, Holt manages to procure a gate-pass for a berth on the same spaceship he arrived on, the Pegasus, only to learn from the foxman that he also requires a stamp of approval from the captain, who is missing for a year now. Holt flips and kills the particular foxman, which forces him to flee and hide below the Stone City. Beneath the city Holt discovers a hallway with doors. This scene reminds us a lot of the tricks played on Dany in the House of the Undying, where she peers into certain doorways and sees scenes from the past and present. Holt sees similary clue-scenes through “windows” where the Dan’lai appear in. One such scene reveals that the Dan’lai tampered with the fluids of the jump-drive of the Pegasus, and were thus the culprits for stranding the crew.

[Holt] stood before another window, or perhaps a viewscreen; on the far side of the round crystal port, chaos swirled and screamed. He watched it briefly, and just as his head was starting to hurt, the swirling view solidified. If you could call it solid. Beyond the port, four Dan’lai sat with jump-gun tubes around their brows and a cylinder before them. Except—except—the picture was blurred. Ghosts, there were ghosts, second images that almost overlapped the first, but not quite, not completely. And then Holt saw a third image, and a fourth, and suddenly the picture cracked and it was as though he was looking into an infinite array of mirrors. Long rows of Dan’lai sat on top of each other, blurring into one another, growing smaller and smaller until they dwindled into nothingness. In unison—no, no, almost in unison (for here one image did not move with his reflections, and here another fumbled)—they removed the drained jump-gun tubes and looked at each other and began to laugh. Wild, high barking laughs; they laughed and laughed and laughed and Holt watched as the fires of madness burned in their eyes, and the foxmen all (no, almost all) hunched their slim shoulders and seemed more feral and animal than he had ever seen them. (The Stone City)

This is the devestating truth revealed to Holt as he looks through a window or viewscreen, while George inserts the effect of an array of mirrors. So, here we have a scene of evil tricksy foxes trapping arrivals, combined with looking from behind the mirror.

Far earlier, one of the first scenes Holt witnesses through such a viewscreen is a scene where the foxmen kill a Cedran.

Holt was standing in a window in an oddly shaped gray stone building, looking out over the stone city. […] Below, near an octagonal pool, six Dan’lai surrounded a Cedran. They were laughing, quick barking laughs full of rage, and they were chattering to each other and clawing at the Cedran whenever it tried to move. It stood above them trapped in the circle, confused and moaning, swaying back and forth. The huge violet eyes glowed brightly, and the fighting-claws waved.
One of the Dan’lai had something. He unfolded it slowly; a long jag-toothed knife. A second appeared, a third; all the foxmen had them. They laughed to each other. One of them darted in at the Cedran from behind, and the silvered blade flashed, and Holt saw black ichor ooze slowly from a long cut in the milk-white Cedran flesh. There was a blood-curdling low moan and the worm turned slowly as the Dan’la danced back, and its fighting-claws moved quicker than Holt would have believed. The Dan’la with the dripping black knife was lifted, kicking, into the air. He barked furiously, and then the claw snapped together, and the foxman fell in two pieces to the ground. But the others closed in, laughing, and their knives wove patterns and the Cedran’s moan became a screech. It lashed out with its claws and a second Dan’la was knocked headless into the waters, but by then two others were cutting off its thrashing tentacles and yet another had driven his blade hilt-deep into the swaying wormlike torso. All the foxmen were wildly excited; Holt could not hear the Cedran over their frantic barking. (The Stone City)

Despite the fact that the Cedran look so hideous and are indeed deadly dangerous themselves at night, Holt sympathizes with the Cedran. He takes out his laser and fires at the foxmen, only to have a curtain drop before the window and when he shoves it aside, the view through the window has changed – the Cedran and foxmen are gone. He could not alter what happened, because it was a view on a past event.

This particular scene has little relevance to Holt’s plot. But it shows the callous violent nature of the Dan’lai in a manner we do not see otherwise in the story, how Holt can sympathize with other species in pain, and is the first reveal about the nature of the hallway beneath the city: altered laws of space-time continuum, where he can see the past but not travel to it or change it, but he can travel to other worlds in his present, which operates at an entirely different time-scale than the one on the surface of the Stone City.

While some of the foxmen die in the fight scene with the Cedran, the number is incorrect and all the foxmen slash at the Cedran, it still strikes as an origin scene for the Prologue of aGoT. There Waymar Royce is surrounded by Others, mocked and eventually butchered while the Others laugh.

Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. Yet they made no move to interfere.
Again and again the swords met, until Will wanted to cover his ears against the strange anguished keening of their clash. […] Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.
The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.
Ser Waymar Royce found his fury. “For Robert!” he shouted, and he came up snarling, lifting the frost-covered longsword with both hands and swinging it around in a flat sidearm slash with all his weight behind it. The Other’s parry was almost lazy. When the blades touched, the steel shattered.
A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers. The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk. Will closed his eyes. Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles. (aGoT, Prologue)

So, in the Prologue of aGoT, George already linked the Others’ tricksy callous nature to foxes by re-using a scene from his own 1977 The Stone City. Important here as a distinction between Stone City foxmen and the foxes of the Faith is that the Dan’lai story does not have plot allusions to Reynaert yet, but a far more general portrayal of foxes as evil tricksters or Reyneart beating up Isengrym or simple-minded Brune. Only in the Lannister plotlines does George make various far more subtle allusions to the medieval story that cemented the fox as a malignant conman in the minds of people for hundreds of years now.

The Hens

More allusions by George to the plot of the Reynaert the Fox tale is seen in the plot surrounding Margaery. In “Of Reynaert the Fox”, right after the badger defended the accusations about his nephew the fox, Cantecleir the cock joins the court, bringing with him his dead daughter Coppe who was ‘of great repute’ on a bier carried by her two brothers. All used to live safely in the courtyard, protected by dogs, and no matter how much Reynaert the fox tried with tricks and traps, he just could not get access to the chicks. Then, a long while later, he appears as a hermit with a writ with King Noble’s seal, where the king declared peace to all animals in his kingdom, including birds (the feudal contract). Reynaert also claimed he had done penance, showing his pilgrim’s staff, mantle and the hair shirt he wears. He swore that from now on Lord Cantecleir and his family can live without need to protect themselves against him, because he swore to abstain from meat and is more occupied with saving his soul, as old as he is, than eating. Cantecleir believed him and went outside of the yard with all his children. But Reynaert had lain in wait and cut off the access back into the gate of the safe castle, and splurges on Cantecleir’s children, killing a total of eleven – both sons and daughters. The dogs managed to save Coppe’s body of being eaten, but not her life. The court buries Coppe with great ceremony, and King Noble agrees that the fox must stand trial for his murders. Cersei continuously compares Margaery’s handmaidens to hens, a total of seven times.

They were crossing beneath the shadow of the broken Tower of the Hand when the sound of cheers swept over them. Across the yard, some squire had made a pass at the quintain and sent the crossarm spinning. The cheers were being led by Margaery Tyrell and her hens. (aFfC, Cersei V)

The first time that George uses “hens” as a reference is exactly as Margaery and her handmaidens are cheering in the courtyard of the Red Keep, where supposedly they are protected and safe. And indeed, at the time her brother Loras is still at the Red Keep. Nevertheless, the chapter before that Cersei convinced Ser Osney Kettleback to seduce Margaery and take her maidenhead so that Margaery could lose her head. The name Coppe in middle-Dutch means “head”. 

“The little . . . Margaery, you mean?” Ser Osney’s ardor was wilting in his breeches. “She’s the king’s wife. Wasn’t there some Kingsguard who lost his head for bedding the king’s wife?”
“Ages ago.” She was his king’s mistress, not his wife, and his head was the only thing he did not lose. […] Cersei did not want Osney dwelling on that ancient unpleasantness, however. “Tommen is not Aegon the Unworthy. Have no fear, he will do as I bid him. I mean for Margaery to lose her head, not you.”
That gave him pause. “Her maidenhead, you mean?”
That too. Assuming she has one still.” (aFfC, Cersei IV)

Except Margaery is not taking the bait and Margaery never meets Ser Osney without being in company.

“She likes his face. She touched his scars two days ago, he told me. ‘What woman gave you these?’ she asked. Osney never said it was a woman, but she knew. Might be someone told her. She’s always touching him when they talk, he says. Straightening the clasp on his cloak, brushing back his hair, and like that. One time at the archery butts she had him show her how to hold a longbow, so he had to put his arms around her. Osney tells her bawdy jests, and she laughs and comes back with ones that are even bawdier. No, she wants him, that’s plain, but . . .” […] “They are never alone. The king’s with them most all the time, and when he’s not, there’s someone else. Two of her ladies share her bed, different ones every night. Two others bring her breakfast and help her dress. She prays with her septa, reads with her cousin Elinor, sings with her cousin Alla, sews with her cousin Megga. When she’s not off hawking with Janna Fossoway and Merry Crane, she’s playing come-into-my-castle with that little Bulwer girl. She never goes riding but she takes a tail, four or five companions and a dozen guards at least. And there’s always men about her, even in the Maidenvault.”
“Men.” That was something. That had possibilities. “What men are these, pray tell?”
Ser Osmund shrugged. “Singers. She’s a fool for singers and jugglers and such. Knights, come round to moon over her cousins. Ser Tallad’s the worst, Osney says. That big oaf don’t seem to know if it’s Elinor or Alla he wants, but he knows he wants her awful bad. The Redwyne twins come calling too. Slobber brings flowers and fruit, and Horror’s taken up the lute. To hear Osney tell it, you could make a sweeter sound strangling a cat. The Summer Islander’s always underfoot as well.” (aFfC, Cersei V)

So, there is no access to Margaery, not even when she goes outside the courtyard.

A little foster brother might be just what Tommen needs to wean him away from Margaery and her hens. […] She was forever inviting him to accompany her and her hens on their adventures, and the boy was forever pleading with his mother for leave to go along. The queen had given her consent a few times, if only to allow Ser Osney to spend a few more hours in Margaery’s company. For all the good it has done. Osney has proved a grievous disappointment. (aFfC, Cersei VI)

Such wretched weather was enough to discourage even the little queen. Instead of riding with her hens and their retinue of guardsmen and admirers, she spent all day in the Maidenvault with her hens, listening to the Blue Bard sing. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

George solves Margaery going outside of the castle and staying safe in comparison to the chicks in Reyneart’s tale, by having Lady Merryweather explain that Margaery’s handmaidens are her castle walls, her courtyard.

“Margaery is too shrewd to be caught so easily,” said Lady Merryweather. “Her women are her castle walls. They sleep with her, dress her, pray with her, read with her, sew with her. When she is not hawking or riding she is playing come-into-my-castle with little Alysanne Bulwer. Whenever men are about, her septa will be with her, or her cousins.”
“She must rid herself of her hens sometime,” the queen insisted. (aFfC, Cersei IX)

But when Cersei learns that Margaery intends to visit Baelor’s Sept – the fox’s burrow – on the day that men and grown women are barred from it, she sees her chance. On Maiden’s Day, Margaery will enter the fox’s den, without any guards, her brother allegedly dying of burns at Dragonstone and her father Mace Tyrell far away besieging Storm’s End.

Fast and purify . . . oh, for Maiden’s Day. It had been years since Cersei had been required to observe that particular holy day. Thrice wed, yet she still would have us believe she is a maid. Demure in white, the little queen would lead her hens to Baelor’s Sept to light tall white candles at the Maiden’s feet and hang parchment garlands about her holy neck. A few of her hens, at least. On Maiden’s Day widows, mothers, and whores alike were barred from the septs, along with men, lest they profane the sacred songs of innocence. Only virgin maids could . . .  (aFfC, Cersei IX)

Margaery and her fellow hens are captured and apprehended outside of the Red Keep, after Cersei sent Osney Kettleback to “confess” his affair with Margaery and her cousins to the High Sparrow, while the Blue Bard sings a song accusing many of the courtiers visiting and hunting Margaery and her hens all thet ime. By the end of aDwD the following are still accused in relation to Margaery’s alleged treason: Margaery (of great repute), her cousins Elinor and Megga, Ser Tallad the Tall, Jalabhar Xho, Hamish the Harper (already dead), Hugh Clifton, Mark Mullendore, Bayard Norcross, Lambert Turnberry, and the Blue Bard. These are exactly eleven people.

Now while Cersei refers to them as “hens”, of course the Tyrell sigil is not that of a chicken nor of the others. But notice the response of Harys Swyft when the delegation of the Septas recount their physical findings of the examination of Margaery’s maidenhood.

At the council table Harys Swyft gasped, and Grand Maester Pycelle turned away. […] Harys Swyft appeared dazed. He stumbled at the door and might have fallen if Aurane Waters had not caught him by the arm. […] Ser Harys Swyft was so pale and damp he looked about to faint. “When word of this reaches Lord Tyrell, his fury will know no bounds. There will be blood in the streets . . .” The knight of the yellow chicken, Cersei mused. You ought to take a worm for your sigil, ser. A chicken is too bold for you. (aFfC, Cersei X)

Swyft is featured somewhat significantly in only two of Cersei chapters of aFfC, despite the fact that she made him her Hand: during the Small Council chapter Cersei IV, mostly to ask questions, and the one where the small council learns of Margaery’s arrest. Though he is no relation to any of the Tyrells of course – in fact, he is Lancel’s grandfather – his emotional responses to these accusations is almost that of a father, or indeed Cantecleir. And his sigil is not that of a yellow chicken, but a blue “rooster” on a yellow field.

And for her Hand, Ser Harys Swyft. Soft, bald, and obsequious, Swyft had an absurd little white puff of beard where most men had a chin. The blue bantam rooster of his House was worked across the front of his plush yellow doublet in beads of lapis. Over that he wore a mantle of blue velvet decorated with a hundred golden hands. Ser Harys had been thrilled by his appointment, too dim to realize that he was more hostage than Hand. His daughter was her uncle’s wife, and Kevan loved his chinless lady, flat-chested and chicken-legged as she was. So long as she had Ser Harys in hand, Kevan Lannister must needs think twice about opposing her. To be sure, a good-father is not the ideal hostage, but better a flimsy shield than none. (aFfC, Cersei IV)

The Lambs

Overall the story of Reynaert the Fox starts with a feudal society in harmony and peace, where solely the fox is the criminal. King Noble listens to his vassals, summons the fox for his crimes to be put on trial and has his vassals as fellow judges. He wants convincing evidence for the fox’s crimes and only targets Reynaert. Ned Stark’s scene ordering the arrest of the Mountain as Hand with kingly power in response to the Riverland supplicants is an example on such feudal workings of justice. Once the fox, however, mentions the treasure to King Noble, the lion takes Reynaert aside and forgives all his crimes without conferring with his vassals. Here, the king breaks the feudal contract for his own gain and makes enemies of his vassals who have been misused and abused by the fox, which is what we see Cersei doing.

While King Noble colludes with Reynaert, he orders Belin the ram to help Reynaert get the attributes he needs to start his pilgrimage to Rome. Reynaert manages to persuade the ram and Cuwaert the hare to accompany him part of the way. He invites the hare into his home and kills him, while leaving Belin the ram to wait outside. Then he sends Belin back to court with a letter in a bag and advizes Belin to claim authorship of the letter. Belin does so, but when the bag is opened it contains Cuwaert’s head. The innocent and unwitting Belin therefore proclaimed himself to be the murderer of Cuwaert. Finally, King Noble realizes that he was conned by Reyneart into making an enemy of his mightiest barons. Eventually, the leopard Fyrapeel reconciles King Noble with his two barons, for a price: both the bear and the wolf are forever allowed to pursue and kill all members and descendants of Belin’s and Reynaert’s families. This restores the peace, but at the cost of a broken feudalism and thus justice, as now all rams and lambs and any fox are forever outlawed. All can be hunted and killed without repercussion.

house_florent_rambtonWe witness two ram related houses going near extinct. In Mirror Mirror – Behind the Mirror, we pointed out Lord Guncer Sunglass’s demise after Stannis allows the queen’s men to destroy the sept of Dragonstone. But he was not the sole burned victim here, and at least his brother managed to sail for Volantis. But in the same quotes, Ser Hubard Rambton, whose house has a ram’s head for sigil, attempted to protect the sept alongside his three sons. He and one son died in the fight, the other two sons were burned at the stake alongside Lord Sunglass. So, here we have pious rams being killed, by queen’s men and later on the orders of Sylese herself. House Florent’s sigil is that of a fox-head surrounded by blue flowers. So the noble King Stannis, through the fox, got his rams and his descendants killed.

But then you have a Queen-regent and lioness who ends up getting House Stokeworth near extinct. The sigil of House Stokeworth is that of a lamb holding a chalice. Cersei is responsible in two ways. Firstly, she arranges Bronn to wed simple-minded Lollys Stokeworth who was pregnant after the gang rape during the riot in aCoK. Cersei did this to deprive Tyrion from an ally. But in aFfC, Bronn becomes a problem. He hires four upjumped sellswords and names Lollys’s son, a bastard, Tyrion Tanner. And the first of deadly mishaps befall the Stokeworths: someone tampered with Lady Tanda’s saddle girth.

“Sweet Falyse,” she exclaimed, kissing the woman’s cheek, “and brave Ser Balman. I was so distraught when I heard about your dear, dear mother. How fares our Lady Tanda?”
Lady Falyse looked as if she were about to cry. “Your Grace is good to ask. Mother’s hip was shattered by the fall, Maester Frenken says. He did what he could. Now we pray, but . . .”
Pray all you like, she will still be dead before the moon turns. Women as old as Tanda Stokeworth did not survive a broken hip. “I shall add my prayers to your own,” said Cersei. “Lord Qyburn tells me that Tanda was thrown from her horse.”
Her saddle girth burst whilst she was riding,” said Ser Balman Byrch. “The stableboy should have seen the strap was worn. He has been chastised.” (aFfC, Cersei V)

Three Cersei chapters later, the news is that she died of a chill in the chest brought on by her broken hip. Fearing that Bronn might turn against her after all, Cersei suggests Falyse’s husband to ensure Bronn gets killed in a hunting accident. And since Ser Balman is slow on the uptake, we can therefore conclude that Bronn had his upjumped sellswords arrange Lady Tanda’s saddle girth was so “worn”.

Cersei let her hand shake. “A child’s name is a small thing . . . but insolence unpunished breeds rebellion. And this man Bronn has been gathering sellswords to him, Qyburn has told me.”
“He has taken four knights into his household,” said Falyse.
Ser Balman snorted. “My good wife flatters them, to call them knights. They’re upjumped sellswords, with not a thimble of chivalry to be found amongst the four of them.”
“As I feared. Bronn is gathering swords for the dwarf. May the Seven save my little son. The Imp will kill him as he killed his brother.” She sobbed. “My friends, I put my honor in your hands . . . but what is a queen’s honor against a mother’s fears?”
“Say on, Your Grace,” Ser Balman assured her. “Your words shall ne’er leave this room.”
Cersei reached across the table and gave his hand a squeeze. “I . . . I would sleep more easily of a night if I were to hear that Ser Bronn had suffered a . . . a mishap . . . whilst hunting, perhaps.”
Ser Balman considered a moment. “A mortal mishap?
No, I desire you to break his little toe. She had to bite her lip. My enemies are everywhere and my friends are fools. “I beg you, ser,” she whispered, “do not make me say it . . .”
I understand.” Ser Balman raised a finger.
A turnip would have grasped it quicker. “You are a true knight indeed, ser. The answer to a frightened mother’s prayers.” Cersei kissed him. “Do it quickly, if you would. Bronn has only a few men about him now, but if we do not act, he will surely gather more.” (aFfC, Cersei V)

Except, Cersei’s plan backfires.

Lady Falyse’s face was bruised and swollen, her eyes red from her tears. Her lower lip was broken, her clothing soiled and torn. “Gods be good,” Cersei said as she ushered her into the solar and closed the door. “What has happened to your face?”
Falyse did not seem to hear the question. “He killed him,” she said in a quavery voice. “Mother have mercy, he . . . he . . .” She broke down sobbing, her whole body trembling. (aFfC, Cersei VII)

Chivalrous Balman did not arrange for some hunting mishap as Cersei had hinted, but instead challenged Bronn to single combat, because “Bronn was no true knight,” and Balman believed he could unhorse him before killing him. Indeed, Bronn has a sellsword mentality, and instead of aiming the lance at Balman he drove the lance through the chest of Balman’s horse. Balman’s legs were crushed beneath his horse and Bronn made Balman confess (and he did) before putting a dagger in his eye. He then ordered Falyse to leave, acting like Lord Stokeworth. She ran straight to Cersei asking for help. But Cersei offers her to Qyburn for his dark work in the black cells.

The queen took Qyburn aside and told him of Ser Balman’s folly. “I cannot have Falyse spreading tales about the city. Her grief has made her witless. Do you still need women for your . . . work?”
“I do, Your Grace. The puppeteers are quite used up.”
Take her and do with her as you will, then. But once she goes down into the black cells . . . need I say more?” (aFfC, Cersei VII)

Later, Cersei realizes it might have been better to help Falyse get rid of Bronn and make her Lady of Stokeworth, but while she is still alive, Qyburn admits the woman cannot even feed herself anymore.

“Is Lady Falyse still alive?”
“Alive, yes. Perhaps not entirely . . . comfortable.”
“I see.” Cersei considered a moment. “This man Bronn . . . I cannot say I like the notion of an enemy so close. His power all derives from Lollys. If we were to produce her elder sister . . .”
“Alas,” said Qyburn. “I fear that Lady Falyse is no longer capable of ruling Stokeworth. Or, indeed, of feeding herself. I have learned a great deal from her, I am pleased to say, but the lessons have not been entirely without cost. I hope I have not exceeded Your Grace’s instructions.”
“No.” Whatever she had intended, it was too late. There was no sense dwelling on such things. It is better if she dies, she told herself. (aFfC, Cersei VIII)

The appendix of aDwD confirms that Falyse died screaming in the black cells. This time it was not Bronn who got a lamb killed, but it happens on Cersei’s direct orders within the Red Keep, and to a woman who was an ally. Falyse may have been naive and her husband a fool, but Cersei’s callous willingness to let a woman be experimented on and tortured in her dungeons, while Falyse had shown absolute loyalty to her, sought her help in the dead of night without telling another soul is shocking. It is not even smart. Bronn is able to spread the tale himself, and it tactically would have been better to help Falyse become Lady of Stokeworth. Hence, imho it therefore makes Falyse’s ending the most depraved callous act of Cersei that completely undermines her credibility to be a ruler in a feudal society.

The Strong Counsel of Ellyn Reyne

But it is not only Cersei who fits the role of King Noble the lion who breaks the feudal contract. Tywin does the same in his dealing with the Reynes of Castamere, who end up with the role of the outlawed Reynaert and his descendants, and thus the foxes. Yes, their sigil is that of a Red Lion (for the general meaning of red in George’s writing see The trail of the Red Stallion), but the family name Reyne, the description of Castamere and the last Reyne standing, as well as the particulars of the downfall of House Reyne all nicely fit ‘Of Reynaert the Fox’ a bit too much to ignore.

Etymologically the fox’s name derives from Reginhard, or ‘strong counsel’, and this role in the Reyne backstory is taken by Ellyn Reyne, a strong-willed woman who wed into House Lannister with the ambition to become the Lady of Casterly Rock.

Tywald Lannister had long been betrothed to the Red Lion’s spirited young sister, Lady Ellyn. This strong-willed and hot-tempered maiden, who had for years anticipated becoming the Lady of Casterly Rock, was unwilling to forsake that dream. In the aftermath of her betrothed’s death, she persuaded his twin brother, Tion, to set aside his own betrothal to a daughter of Lord Rowan of Goldengrove and espouse her instead.
Lord Gerold, it is said, opposed this match, but grief and age and illness had left him a pale shadow of his former self, and in the end he gave way. In 235 AC, in a double wedding at Casterly Rock, Ser Tion Lannister took Ellyn Reyne to wife, whilst his younger brother Tytos wed Jeyne Marbrand, a daughter of Lord Alyn Marbrand of Ashemark.
Twice a widower, and ailing, Lord Gerold did not wed again, so after her marriage, Ellyn of House Reyne became the Lady of Casterly Rock in all but name. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

Notice how George portrays Ellyn as strong-willed and persuasive. She became an important influencer at Casterly Rock.

As her good-father retreated to his books and his bedchamber, Lady Ellyn held a splendid court, staging a series of magnificent tourneys and balls and filling the Rock with artists, mummers, musicians…and Reynes. Her brothers Roger and Reynard were ever at her side, and offices, honors, and lands were showered upon them, and upon her uncles, cousins, and nephews and nieces as well. Lord Gerold’s aged fool, an acerbic hunchback called Lord Toad, was heard to say, “Lady Ellyn must surely be a sorceress, for she has made it rain inside the Rock all year.” (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

We learn of her brothers, Roger Reyne, but most importantly a brother named after that famous medieval fox – Reynard, who was said to be charming and cunning.

Roger Reyne, the Red Lion, was widely feared for his skill at arms; many considered him the deadliest sword in the westerlands. His brother, Ser Reynard, was as charming and cunning as Ser Roger was swift and strong. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

Unfortunately, Tion died in the fourth Blackfyre rebellion. The widow-law required the Lannisters to still have her live at the Rock with them, but her influence waned, but not because of Ellyn’s lack of trying.

The “Reign of the Reynes” was at an end. Lady Ellyn’s brothers soon departed Casterly Rock for Castamere, accompanied by many of the other Reynes. Lady Ellyn remained, but her influence dwindled, while that of Lady Jeyne grew. […] Beldon tells us that in 239 AC, Ellyn Reyne was accused of bedding Tytos Lannister, urging him to set aside his wife and marry her instead. However, young Tytos (then nineteen) found his brother’s widow so intimidating that he was unable to perform. Humiliated, he ran back to his wife to confess and beg her forgiveness.
Lady Jeyne was willing to pardon her young husband but was less forgiving of her goodsister, and did not hesitate to inform Lord Gerold of the incident. Furious, his lordship resolved to rid Casterly Rock of Ellyn Reyne for good and all by finding her a new husband. […] Within the fortnight, Ellyn Reyne was wed to Walderan Tarbeck, Lord of Tarbeck Hall, the florid fifty-five-year-old widowed lord of an ancient, honorable, but impoverished house. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

818px-House_Tarbeck.svgOf interest here, is that the sigil of House Tarbeck is a silver-blue seven pointed star on a silver-blue field. So, in House Tarbeck we have the star of the Faith of the Seven and the ice color-scheme of blue and silver. Hence, we get a conflation of ice, the Faith and foxes once more. This color scheme is also all over the text in The Stone City, the 1977 short story with the foxmen.

After Lord Gerold’s death, Tytos became Lord of Casterly Rock. He wanted to be loved and liked and therefore was too generous and too forgiving to his vassals. During these times Ellyn used her influence once more.

As the Reynes rose, so too did their close allies, the Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall. After centuries of slow decline, this poor but ancient house had begun to flourish, thanks in large part to the new Lady Tarbeck, the former Ellyn Reyne. Though she herself remained unwelcome at the Rock, Lady Ellyn had contrived to extract large sums of gold from House Lannister through her brothers, for Lord Tytos found it very hard to refuse the Red Lion. Those funds she had used to restore the crumbling ruin that was Tarbeck Hall, rebuilding its curtain wall, strengthening its towers, and furnishing its keep in splendor to rival any castle in the west. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

But when Tytos’s heir, Tywin Lannister, returned from the War of the Ninepenny Kings, he acted independently from his father and demanded the lords of the Westerlands to pay back their debts and interests on the loans.

Lord Reyne reportedly laughed when his maester read him Ser Tywin’s edicts and counseled his friends and vassals to do nothing. Lord Walderan Tarbeck unwisely chose a different course. He rode to Casterly Rock to protest, confident in his ability to cow Lord Tytos and force him to rescind his son’s edicts. But he found himself facing Ser Tywin instead, who had him consigned to a dungeon.
With Lord Walderan in chains, Tywin Lannister no doubt expected the Tarbecks to yield. But Lady Tarbeck was quick to disabuse him of that notion. Instead that redoubtable woman sent forth her own knights and captured three Lannisters. Two of the captives were Lannisters of Lannisport, distant kin to the Lannisters of Casterly Rock, but the third was a young squire, Stafford Lannister, the eldest son and heir of Lord Tytos’s late brother, Ser Jason.
The resulting crisis drew Lord Tytos away from his wet nurse long enough to overrule his strong-willed heir. His lordship not only commanded that Lord Tarbeck be released, unharmed, but also went so far as to apologize to him and forgive him his debts.
To safeguard the exchange of hostages, Lord Tytos turned to Lady Tarbeck’s younger brother, Ser Reynard Reyne. The Red Lion’s formidable seat at Castamere was chosen to host the meet. Ser Tywin refused to attend, so it was Ser Kevan who returned Lord Walderan, whilst Lady Tarbeck herself delivered Stafford and his cousins. Lord Reyne feasted all the parties, and a great show of amity was staged, with Lannisters and Tarbecks toasting one another, exchanging gifts and kisses, and vowing to remain each other’s leal friends “through all eternity.” (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

So, Ellyn Reyne may not have had the actual name Reynaert (only the Regin- part) nor the fox sigil, but her personality and influence at the time certainly could have earned her the name Reginhard. Her strong counsel and actions overcame her misfortunes time and time again, if it had not been for Tywin Lannister completely ignoring his lord father’s actions and decisions.

Tywin Lannister, who had not been present at the Red Lion’s feast, had never weakened in his resolve to bring these overmighty vassals to heel. Late in the year 261 AC, he sent ravens to Castamere and Tarbeck Hall, demanding that Roger and Reynard Reyne and Lord and Lady Tarbeck present themselves at Casterly Rock “to answer for your crimes.” The Reynes and Tarbecks chose defiance instead, as Ser Tywin surely knew they would. Both houses rose in open revolt, renouncing their fealty to Casterly Rock. So Tywin Lannister called the banners. He did not seek his lord father’s leave, nor even inform him of his intent, but rode forth himself with five hundred knights and three thousand men-at-arms and crossbowmen behind him. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

Here, we have the lion summoning the fox to court. And of course, the foxes refused and went in open rebellion. Lord Roger Reyne’s rebellion against House Lannister is a callback to Reyneart’s claim to King Noble that his brother intended to help King Noble’s ‘false’ allies usurp the king.

It can be argued that the Tarbecks and Reynes had invited this doom upon themselves by their bold choices before. However, Tywin breaks the feudal contract here. Peace had been established nor was Tywin lord over the Westerlands, and he had been in breach prior by imprisoning Lord Tarbeck.

The Lannister host descended so quickly [on House Tarbeck] that Lord Walderan’s vassals and supporters had no time to gather. […] In a short, brutal battle, the Tarbecks were broken and butchered. Lord Walderan Tarbeck and his sons were beheaded, together with his nephews and cousins, his daughters’ husbands, and any man who displayed the seven-pointed blue-and silver star upon his shield or surcoat to boast of Tarbeck blood. […] At their approach, Lady Ellyn Tarbeck closed her gates and sent forth ravens to Castamere, summoning her brothers. Trusting in her walls, Lady Tarbeck no doubt anticipated a long siege, but siege engines were readied within a day, and those walls proved little help when one great stone flew over them and brought down the castle’s aged keep. Lady Ellyn and her son Tion the Red died in the keep’s sudden collapse. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

Tywin further annihilates the feudal contract by killing all Tarbecks. He killed Lord Tarbeck, his sons, his nephews, cousins, the husbands of his daughters, any man sporting the sigil, Ellyn and her son. Her daughters were forced to join the Silent Sisters, and Ellyn’s grandson was likely murdered by Amory Lorch, or alternatively ended up as a bard in Essos. Not only Ellyn’s line went extinct, but the rest of House Reyne was also extinguished at Castamere. Her brother Lord Roger Reyne arrived too late to her aid at Tarbeck Hell and was outnumbered. Not even a surprise attack could prevent the Reynes from being defeated. Wounded and fleeing, Lord Reyne had to be carried back to Castamere, where Ser Reynard Reyne took command of the defences. This brings us to Castamere itself.

Like Casterly Rock, the seat of House Reyne had begun as a mine. Rich veins of gold and silver had made the Reynes near as wealthy as the Lannisters during the Age of Heroes; to defend their riches, they had raised curtain walls about the entrance to their mine, closed it with an oak-and-iron gate, and flanked it with a pair of stout towers. Keeps and halls had followed, but all the while the mineshafts had gone deeper and deeper, and when at last the gold gave out, they had been widened into halls and galleries and snug bedchambers, a warren of tunnels and a vast, echoing ballroom. To the ignorant eye, Castamere seemed a modest holding, a fit seat for a landed knight or small lord, but those who knew its secrets knew that nine-tenths of the castle was beneath the ground. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

Thus aside from the castle and curtain walls on the surface, Castamere was mostly an underground castle. The house of a fox is an underground burrow of vast tunnels with several exits and entrances. In English this is called a ‘foxhole’. In Dutch, however, it is called a ‘burcht’, which in English means ‘castle’. Castamere being fabled for having been a gold mine, and thus a treasure, but now long gone, is also a parallel to Reyneart’s lie about having a treasure buried at home.

Like a fox’s burrow, Castamere has several entrances and exits. Ser Reynard Reyne counted on this being his advantage, when he had his people take refuge inside. It would have been a suicidal nightmare to send an army into the tunnels in order to conquer Castamere.

It was to those deep chambers that the Reynes retreated now. Feverish and weak from loss of blood, the Red Lion was in no fit state to lead. Ser Reynard, his brother, assumed command in his stead. Less headstrong but more cunning than his brother, Reynard knew he did not have the men to defend the castle walls, so he abandoned the surface entirely to the foe and fell back beneath the earth. Once all his folk were safe inside the tunnels, Ser Reynard sent word to Ser Tywin above, offering terms. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

How much Tywin ignores feudal code and law is show by the fact that Tywin does not even sends a reply back to the other. Instead, Tywin took a much tried method to kill and flush a fox out of its burrow. From the moment that Tywin sent his summons, he had already decided he would completely annihilate these two houses and their people (castle and smallfolk), regarding them all as outlaws basically.

But Tywin Lannister did not honor Ser Reynard’s offer with a reply. Instead he commanded that the mines be sealed. With pick and axe and torch, his own miners brought down tons of stone and soil, burying the great gates to the mines until there was no way in and no way out. Once that was done, he turned his attention to the small, swift stream that fed the crystalline blue pool beside the castle from which Castamere took its name. It took less than a day to dam the stream and only two to divert it to the nearest mine entrance. The earth and stone that sealed the mine had no gaps large enough to allow a squirrel to pass, let alone a man…but the water found its way down. Ser Reynard had taken more than three hundred men, women, and children into the mines, it is said. Not a one emerged. A few of the guards assigned to the smallest and most distant of the mine entrances reported hearing faint screams and shouts coming from beneath the earth one night, but by daybreak the stones had gone silent once again. (tWoIaF – The Westerlands: House Lannister under the Dragons)

The sole difference is that hunters use fire to prevent a fox from using certain exits and goad him into escaping from the sole exit left, where the hunter waits to capture and kill him.

So, do not let the red lion sigil of House Reyne mislead you. Ellyn Reyne’s personality and influence, Ser Reynard Reyne’s name, Castamere’s construction and House Reyne’s fate enacted by the Great Lion of Casterly Rock, Tywin Lannister, all contain references to Reyneart the Fox, and the way real world foxes live and many were hunted like vermin.

In fact, both the Reynes and Lannisters may have a fox origin. In the Reach, some stories claim that Lann the Clever – who hoodwinked the Rock from the Casterlys – was a bastard son of Florys the Fox, a daughter of Garth Greenhand. She was the cleverest of Garth’s children. She was so clever that she managed to have three husbands who were unaware of it. Not only does that make Florys cunning, but secret bygamy is a classic red alert you may be dealing with a psychopath. The children of those three marriages are the founders of House Florent, House Ball and House Peake. House Lannister is a potential fourth bastard line from Florys the Fox. House Reyne was one of the first allies of House Lannister through marriage. The first King Loreon Lannister married a Lady Reyne. And since both houses date back to the Age of Heroes it is very likely that the Lannisters and Reynes intermarried several times after, with blood of Florys the Fox ending up in House Reyne.

Though the fate of the Rains of Castamere is known to us in some poetic general way since aSoS, we do not get the particulars of the backstory until tWoIaF, years after George inserted the Reynaert allusions in Cersei’s arc in aFfC. It stresses how important it is to George to allude to Reynearts as enemies in the arcs of ruling Lannister lions. And as we now already have two arcs with a trinity of Reynaerts, we therefore should expect a third plotline with a trinity of foxes who ultimately operate against Cersei’s interests. The fox-faced Shadrich and his two companions point to events in the Vale and Sansa’s arc being the third, as Blue-Eyed Wolf has argued.

Now, the question for the Cersei-Faith arc is whether the Faith will go the Reyne way in tWoW (like the show did in the season 6 finale) or that Cersei will. After all, the lion king Noble outlaws the foxes for eternity. But then we also have Maggy the Frog’s prophecy intertwined throughout Cersei’s aFfC arc, prophesying the death of her three children and her own death. The odds that Lannister lions will go extinct like the Reynes and Tarbecks did are low, when you have Lannisters of Lannisport, and a chance that Tyrion Lannister will survive the series. Still, it should be noted that George deliberately inserted a potential connection to the Lannisters being descendants of Florys the Fox. He has Cersei go through the same ordeal that Tywin put his father’s mistress through after Lord Tytos died.

Cersei had been a year old when her grandfather died. The first thing her father had done on his ascension was to expel his own father’s grasping, lowborn mistress from Casterly Rock. The silks and velvets Lord Tytos had lavished on her and the jewelry she had taken for herself had been stripped from her, and she had been sent forth naked to walk through the streets of Lannisport, so the west could see her for what she was.
Though she had been too young to witness the spectacle herself, Cersei had heard the stories growing up from the mouths of washerwomen and guardsmen who had been there. They spoke of how the woman had wept and begged, of the desperate way she clung to her garments when she was commanded to disrobe, of her futile efforts to cover her breasts and her sex with her hands as she hobbled barefoot and naked through the streets to exile. “Vain and proud she was, before,” she remembered one guard saying, “so haughty you’d think she’d forgot she come from dirt. Once we got her clothes off her, though, she was just another whore.” (aDwD, Cersei II)

This potentially hints that Cersei may end up going the way of Ellyn Reyne, her house literally or figuratively crumbling about her. Cersei’s Walk of Shame brings us to the last subsection of this essay.

The Naked Empress

Magali_Villeneuve_Walk_of_Shame
Walk of Shame, by Magali Villeneuve

Cersei ends up being thrown into a cell and is arrested for regicide, high treason, murder of the prior High Septon, adultery and fornication by the end of aFfC. Her arc in aDwD picks up where we left off, with Cersei working and attempting to manipulate the Septas and the High Sparrow in releasing her back to the Red Keep to be with her son, while she awaits hers and Margaery’s trial. She denies all charges, except those that will preserve her head, especially faced with the confessions of Osney Kettleback and the understanding (finally) that Lancel confessed all to the High Sparrow.The High Sparrow allows Cersei to return to the Red Keep, if she shows public penance for her fornication by performing a walk of atonement (dubbed the Walk of Shame) naked and head shaven through the streets of the capital. It is in this scene that a dozen mirror wearing Warrior’s Sons are to be her safekeeping escort and that George informs us that their armor acts like a mirror.

Their captain knelt before her. “Perhaps Your Grace will recall me. I am Ser Theodan the True, and His High Holiness has given me command of your escort. My brothers and I will see you safely through the city.” (aDwD, Cersei II)

We are only informed by George of the mirroring capacity of the Swords’ armor at this point, as this is the chapter where Cersei mentally and emotionally faces her mistakes (in as much as a narcissistic personality as Cersei is capable of): that she does not have the body of a goddess anymore, but a woman who bore three children and age, diet choices, nursing and gravity doing its work; that she is a mere mortal woman and physically no different than a common woman. George stresses Cersei facing certain truths in this chapter of past events and herself by having the captain of these escorting mirrors be nicknamed the True. Theodan is of House Wells originally, either of Dorne or the North. Both regions have a House Wells, but we have no confirmation which of the two Ser Theodian alludes to. Important here though is the immediate connection to the noun well. A well is a water source and could otherwise referred to as a pool or a pond. Both well and pools often have magical properties with fortune telling and truth seeing nymphs, Fates or norse norns. There are several scenes in which a character is told a truth from a woman emerging or swimming in a pool or well or pond. Remember that George compared the Others’ armor not just to a mirror but as a pond.

Theodan as name reminds us of King Theoden in Tolkien’s trilogy Lord of the Rings. For years he was fed lies by his servant Wormtongue, who actually was an agent of Saruman. It had turned Theoden in a fearful, indecisive man who grew suspicious of his own family. Gandalf manages to lift the spell, helping Theoden see true once more and regain his valor and bravery. Tolkien likely based the name Theoden on the old English word peoden, which means prince, king or leader. Once again, it ties George’s Ser Theodan the True to a character who is not blinded by lies anymore.

How much Cersei ultimately cannot face the truth about her mistakes towards others is figuratively revealed after she fell a first time via Ser Theodan the True. Cersei even forgot his name, and thus cannot recognnize the whole truth.

“Your Grace.” The captain of her escort stepped up beside her. Cersei had forgotten his name. “You must continue. The crowd is growing unruly.”
Yes, she thought. Unruly. “I am not afraid—”
“You should be.” He yanked at her arm, pulling her along beside him. She staggered down the hill—downward, ever downward—wincing with every step, letting him support her.

The truth yanks her forth, pulls her, and for a short moment, Cersei allows it for support, as truth makes her stagger and wince in pain. But when the truth cares not one jot that she is queen, and when she can see the Red Keep again, Cersei wrenches herself free from truth’s grasp. In the end she runs to the safety of lies again, foreshadowing the bloody trail Cersei is willing to leave behind in order to cling to false beliefs.

The knight wrenched at her arm again, as if she were some common serving wench. Has he forgotten who I am? She was the queen of Westeros; he had no right to lay rough hands on her. Near the bottom of the hill, the slope gentled and the street began to widen. Cersei could see the Red Keep again, shining crimson in the morning sun atop Aegon’s High Hill. I must keep walking. She wrenched free of Ser Theodan’s grasp. “You do not need to drag me, ser.” She limped on, leaving a trail of bloody footprints on the stones behind her.

And of course, Lancel is one of the Swords assigned to escort her.

Cersei’s gaze swept across the faces of the men behind [Ser Theodan]. And there he was: Lancel, her cousin, Ser Kevan’s son, who had once professed to love her, before he decided that he loved the gods more. My blood and my betrayer. She would not forget him. (aDwD, Cersei II)

As mirrors surrounding Cersei, the Warrior’s Sons do not function in the same way as it does with Areo Hotah’s POV – huge reveals – but instead function to make Cersei reflect back on the past and herself. Lancel is the first man she faces and reflects back on about the past in the face of mirrors. Here, she twists the truth as Lancel betraying her, incapable of recognizing how she might have wronged a young boy who she used as a tool for her own ends and discarded after. Next, she faces the spot where Ned Stark lost his head. We learn a few general details about Cersei’s plans and hopes at the time, and who worked out the terms (including Littlefinger). It is somewhat more truthful about the past, but Cersei puts all the blame on Joffrey.

It came to her suddenly that she had stood in this very spot before, on the day Lord Eddard Stark had lost his head. That was not supposed to happen. Joff was supposed to spare his life and send him to the Wall. Stark’s eldest son would have followed him as Lord of Winterfell, but Sansa would have stayed at court, a hostage. Varys and Littlefinger had worked out the terms, and Ned Stark had swallowed his precious honor and confessed his treason to save his daughter’s empty little head. I would have made Sansa a good marriage. A Lannister marriage. Not Joff, of course, but Lancel might have suited, or one of his younger brothers. Petyr Baelish had offered to wed the girl himself, she recalled, but of course that was impossible; he was much too lowborn. If Joff had only done as he was told, Winterfell would never have gone to war, and Father would have dealt with Robert’s brothers. Instead Joff had commanded that Stark’s head be struck off, and Lord Slynt and Ser Ilyn Payne had hastened to obey. It was just there, the queen recalled, gazing at the spot. Janos Slynt had lifted Ned Stark’s head by the hair as his life’s blood flowed down the steps, and after that there was no turning back. (aDwD, Cersei II)

If only Joff had done as he was told, but Cersei fails to recognize how she failed. She was the queen-regent, having the legal power, whereas Joff did not have any. She allowed Joff free reign. She raised and admired him to do as he please, nurturing his worst tendencies. She put him on the stage and allowed him to decide. Then we get Theoden the True dragging and supporting her towards the truth, which she frees herself from, before she reaches the bottom of Vysenia’s Hill. Right after a child exclaims she can’t be the queen, because she looks saggy like his mum, Cersei is met by those she failed and wronged, but without mentally recognizing her culpability, without ever voicing it in her head.

The queen began to see familiar faces. A bald man with bushy side-whiskers frowned down from a window with her father’s frown, and for an instant looked so much like Lord Tywin that she stumbled. A young girl sat beneath a fountain, drenched in spray, and stared at her with Melara Hetherspoon’s accusing eyes. She saw Ned Stark, and beside him little Sansa with her auburn hair and a shaggy grey dog that might have been her wolf. Every child squirming through the crowd became her brother Tyrion, jeering at her as he had jeered when Joffrey died. And there was Joff as well, her son, her firstborn, her beautiful bright boy with his golden curls and his sweet smile, he had such lovely lips, he … (aDwD, Cersei II)

She failed her father, killed Melara, betrayed Ned Stark who had given her a chance; Sansa who lost her wolf, because Cersei wanted some wolf dead to pay the price, guilty or not; and by not heeding Ned Stark’s offer to seek security for her children in Essos, Cersei got her eldest son killed. These are the implied mistakes, but a narcissist cannot admit to themselves that they were wrong. And neither can Cersei.

The sole mistake that she can admit to herself is agreeing to the Walk of Shame and the truth of age and altered appearance, but no more.

She did not feel beautiful, though. She felt old, used, filthy, ugly. There were stretch marks on her belly from the children she had borne, and her breasts were not as firm as they had been when she was younger. Without a gown to hold them up, they sagged against her chest. I should not have done this. I was their queen, but now they’ve seen, they’ve seen, they’ve seen. I should never have let them see. Gowned and crowned, she was a queen. Naked, bloody, limping, she was only a woman, not so very different from their wives, more like their mothers than their pretty little maiden daughters. What have I done?  (aDwD, Cersei II)

Not only Cersei is forced to face her reflection, the smallfolk too get to see the proud, vain queen-regent in a manner they have never before seen a queen: naked, stripped from all her symbolism, and without rich clothes hiding her imperfections. The smallfolk seeing Cersei naked and Cersei enduring her Walk of Atonement concludes with a similar truth as that of Christian Anderson’s fairytale The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Alasti_keiser,_Edward_von_Lõnguse_töö_Tartus
Edward von Lõnguse, graffiti by Tartus

In this tale, two weavers (conmen) claim to be able to make a magical garment that is only invisible to the stupid and illequippred. In truth they make no clothes at all, while both the emperor and those who serve him pretend to see the cloth and garments for fear of being outed as stupid. The emperor ends up parading through the city, stark naked, with nobody daring to state the obvious, except for a child blurting out that the Emperor is not wearing any clothes.

“That can’t be the queen,” a boy said, “she’s saggy as my mum.” (aDwD, Cersei II)

Truth comes from a child’s mouth. The cry of truth by the child is taken up by others until eventually the emperor realizes the truth of the scam. Nevertheless he continues his parade naked.

Septa Moelle moved up on the queen’s right. “This sinner has confessed her sins and begged for absolution and forgiveness. His High Holiness has commanded her to demonstrate her repentance by putting aside all pride and artifice and presenting herself as the gods made her before the good people of the city.”
Septa Scolera finished. “So now this sinner comes before you with a humble heart, shorn of secrets and concealments, naked before the eyes of gods and men, to make her walk of atonement.” (aDwD, Cersei II)

There is an obvious inversion of Anderson’s tale when George uses it in Cersei’s arc. The Emperor begins his  parade believing he wears clothes on that are only invisible to him. He learns the truth during his walk, but finds the dignity within himself to overcome his shame of being so stupid he could not see the clothes or later that he was conned. Cersei on the other hand starts out her walk, trying to keep her pride and head high, fully knowing she is naked.

She bared herself in one smooth, unhurried motion, as if she were back in her own chambers disrobing for her bath with no one but her bedmaids looking on. […] It took all her strength of will not to try and hide herself with her hands, as her grandfather’s whore had done. Her fingers tightened into fists, her nails digging into her palms. They were looking at her, all the hungry eyes. But what were they seeing? I am beautiful, she reminded herself. […] She had to move. Naked, shorn, barefoot, Cersei made a slow descent down the broad marble steps. […] She held her chin high, as a queen should, and her escort fanned out ahead of her. (aDwD, Cersei II)

But it ends up on her knees, shamed and vulnerable, running towards the castle from prying eyes, shamed.

And then there was no stopping the tears. They burned down the queen’s cheeks like acid. Cersei gave a sharp cry, covered her nipples with one arm, slid her other hand down to hide her slit, and began to run, shoving her way past the line of Poor Fellows, crouching as she scrambled crab-legged up the hill. Partway up she stumbled and fell, rose, then fell again ten yards farther on. The next thing she knew she was crawling, scrambling uphill on all fours like a dog as the good folks of King’s Landing made way for her, laughing and jeering and applauding her. (aDwD, Cersei II)

The Emperor reconciles himself with the fact that now all his subjects know he is a human like them. Like a narcissist, Cersei cannot, nor can she ultimately recognize her responsibilities into how she wronged others. Cersei breaks, not because of the vision of Maggy foretelling the death of her children, but instead how she will be cast down by a younger and more beautiful queen, and therefore reducing her to the Evil Queen of Snowwhite.

And suddenly the hag was there, standing in the crowd with her pendulous teats and her warty greenish skin, leering with the rest, with malice shining from her crusty yellow eyes. “Queen you shall be,” she hissed, “until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all you hold most dear.” (aDwD, Cersei II)

So, in Cersei’s Walk of Shame we have a subverted Emperor’s New Clothes tale, especially since Cersei does end up in a whole new style choice of her wardrobe in aDwD’s epilogue.

The queen was dressed as modestly as any matron, in a dark brown gown that buttoned up to her throat and a hooded green mantle that covered her shaved head. Before her walk she would have flaunted her baldness beneath a golden crown. (aDwD, Epilogue)

The story does not originate with Anderson, however. There is also a 13th and 14th century Indian and Spanish version respectively of this fairytale, but the meaning of the invisible clothes varies. The Spanish Tales of Count Lucanor has a source version where the tailors claim they can make clothing that is only invisible to a man who is not the son of his father. The Indian tale has the same implication. Anderson altered it to to focus on pride and vanity rather than adulterous paternity. In the figure of Cersei we have both – on the surface her vanity and pride ends up a smoking rubble at the end of the walk, but throughout one of the jeers that people throw at her, aside from whore is brotherfucker. The implication that her children are illigitemate is a constant subtext during her Walk of Shame.

Anderson made the decision to alter the meaning of the clothes and its climax with the child crying out the truth, when the tale was ready to go to print. Many theories exist what inspired Anderson. One of these is how he himself as a child once went to see a parade of King Frederick VI and exclaimed, “Oh, he’s nothing more than a human being!”

Because of the inversion, George humanizes Cersei’s appearance, but mentally maps out her narcissistic inability to face the truth when she has her vision of Ned Stark, Sansa, the wolf, Tywin, Tyrion and Joffrey. He also implies she is stupid, ill-equipped to be a ruler and that the king, her son, is illigitemate. The reason why the timing of the inversion of the Emperor’s New Clothes tale matches so well with the previous Reyneart arc of aFfC is not only because the Faith’s foxes managed to trick her, but she broke the feudal contract in every way possible, including with her allies. Feudal societies have kings and queens. Post-feudal societies have emperors and empresses. Cersei behaves as if she has the might of an empress, while she lives in a society where she is mightily dependent on the Faith’s recognition and her vassals supporting her military. Clothes make the woman, or not.

Suggested Reading

Introduction “Of Reynaert the Fox”, edited by Andre Bouwman and Bart Besamusca, English translation of the middle-Dutch “Van den Vos Reynaerde” by Thea Summerfield, Amsterdam University Press, 2009.

The Stone City, GRRM, 1977, transcribed online by The Fattest Leech, audio-read by Martin Serur on youtube, reviewed by Preston Jacobs in his youtube book club, easily found as one of the short stories in GRRM’s collection book Dreamsongs Part 1, The Light of Distant Stars, 2003

A Song for Lya, GRRM, 1974, easily found as one of the short stories in GRRM’s collection book Dreamsongs Part 1, The Light of Distant Stars, 2003

Seven Times Never Kill Man, GRRM, 1974, easily found as one of the short stories in GRRM’s collection book Dreamsongs Part 1, The Light of Distant Stars, 2003, quotes discussing Bakkalon of Seven Times Never Kill Man by The Fattest Leech.

Mirror Mirror – Behind the Mirror

(Top Illustration: Maester Caleotte revealing Gregor’s skull, by Joshua Cairos)

The Watcher

A quite interesting chapter that actually involves mirroring armor is that of Areo Hotah’s The Watcher in aDwD.

Areo Hotah had polished his shirt of copper scales mirror-bright so he would blaze in the candlelight as well. (aDwD, The Watcher)

Areo Hotah
Areo Hotah, by Henning Ludvigsen, Copyrighted to Fantasy Flight Games

Hotah is the sole character with his own POV in the books who wears mirror armor. The chapter’s name The Watcher is a reference that Will uses in relation to the five Others surrounding Waymar Royce who do not interfere with the duel, until he bleeds.

Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. […] The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. (aGoT, Prologue)

So, what we can learn from Hotah’s abilities as a watcher might give us important clues to the Others’ abilities who also wear mirror armor and watch.

The Watcher is the chapter where Kingsguard Balon Swann presents the skull of Gregor Clegane to Prince Doran Martell, Oberyn’s mistress Elaria Sand makes a speech against further “revenge”, Doran manages to make the Sand Snakes swear loyalty to him, and each of the missions of the three eldest Sand Snakes is laid out. Many a reader wondered why George could not just have written this from an Arianne POV. After all, she is present almost the entire time, and Areo Hotah’s private mind is not the most entertaining. We propose it has to do with using a reliable narrator, instead of an unreliable narrator. George relies heavily on the latter technique in his POVs. Most often we need to read between the lines to decide which is fact, which may be an act, and what may be the meaning, or reread a chapter to figure out what actually happened for the POV lacks objectivity. For example, even in an observant POV such as Arya’s, the Weasel soup chapter of aCoK may read as confusing, because just like Arya we are not in the know yet that Vargo Hoat made a deal with Roose Bolton to switch sides at the time. George’s use of the unreliable narrator is such an accepted fact by the reader by the time aDwD rolls around, we are ready to question every claim, every emotional scene and every opinion. But as a bodyguard with intimate knowledge of the household, with decades of experience in a region where people conspire and plot, weary of any person who may mean harm to Prince Doran (including the Sand Snakes), Areo Hotah is a living, breathing lie detector.

Areo Hotah ran his hand along the smooth shaft of his longaxe, his ash-and-iron wife, all the while watching. He watched the white knight, Ser Balon Swann, and the others who had come with him. He watched the Sand Snakes, each at a different table. He watched the lords and ladies, the serving men, the old blind seneschal, and the young maester Myles, with his silky beard and servile smile. Standing half in light and half in shadow, he saw all of them. Serve. Protect. Obey. That was his task. (aDwD, The Watcher)

Objective reliable narration  is the reason why George chose to write this chapter from Areo’s POV, not Arianne’s. If he had used Arianne’s POV and wanted to convince the reader that all the information George condences and reveals in that chapter is the truth, he would have had to include multiple chapters to prove it, since Arianne’s chapters in aFfC already showed her to make quite some mistakes in character assessment, in who to trust, and to even figure out after the fact that nobody actively betrayed her, but it was most likely Garin who bragged and blabbed a bit too much to his cousins about his mission. After all Garin would have been the man to enlist Orphans with a boat to meet them at an unnamed location at the river, hidden behind a willow. (see Arianne’s Snitch for more discussion on Westeros.org)

So, let us examine the reveals of the Watcher chapter and the evidence that would confirm the veracity of these reveals to help you see why George needed a lie-truth detector POV here.

The Mountain’s Skull

The first issue is the skull that Balon Swann gifts. Is it truly Gregor’s skull or another? Even the Sand Snakes question amongt themselves whether it is Gregor’s skull or not.

Obara Sand plucked the skull from [Maester Caleotte] and held it at arm’s length. “What did the Mountain look like? How do we know that this is him? They could have dipped the head in tar. Why strip it to the bone?
“Tar would have ruined the box,” suggested Lady Nym, as Maester Caleotte scurried off. “No one saw the Mountain die, and no one saw his head removed. That troubles me, I confess, but what could the bitch queen hope to accomplish by deceiving us? If Gregor Clegane is alive, soon or late the truth will out. The man was eight feet tall, there is not another like him in all of Westeros. If any such appears again, Cersei Lannister will be exposed as a liar before all the Seven Kingdoms. She would be an utter fool to risk that. What could she hope to gain?”
The skull is large enough, no doubt,” said the prince. “And we know that Oberyn wounded Gregor grievously. Every report we have had since claims that Clegane died slowly, in great pain.”
“Just as Father intended,” said Tyene. “Sisters, truly, I know the poison Father used. If his spear so much as broke the Mountain’s skin, Clegane is dead, I do not care how big he was. Doubt your little sister if you like, but never doubt our sire.” (aDwD, The Watcher)

The skull that Hotah sees certainly fits Gregor’s size.

He allowed himself a brief glance at the chest. The skull rested on a bed of black felt, grinning. All skulls grinned, but this one seemed happier than most. And bigger. The captain of guards had never seen a larger skull. Its brow shelf was thick and heavy, its jaw massive. (aDwD, the Watcher)

Qyburn made clear to Cersei that he could not save Gregor from dying from Oberyn’s poison, but he perhaps could use Gregor in some dark arts way to continue to serve Cersei.

“He is dying of the venom, but slowly, and in exquisite agony. My efforts to ease his pain have proved as fruitless as Pycelle’s. […] Be that as it may, his veins have turned black from head to heel, his water is clouded with pus, and the venom has eaten a hole in his side as large as my fist. It is a wonder that the man is still alive, if truth be told.” (aFfC, Cersei II)

Even then, when Cersei consents to this, she still demands his head to be gifted to Dorne as her father had promised.

“Very well. The Mountain is yours. Do what you will with him, but confine your studies to the black cells. When he dies, bring me his head. My father promised it to Dorne. Prince Doran would no doubt prefer to kill Gregor himself, but we all must suffer disappointments in this life.” (aFfC, Cersei II)

Qyburn mentions it took beetles hours to clean the large skull from flesh. The conversation between Cersei and Qyburn does not confirm a deception on their part, and Cersei thinks of the Mountain’s screams in the next paragraph. It is not impossible for the duo to have used someone else’s skull in theory, but there is no solid evidence for it. And in fact, a resurrected ice wight for example does not require a skull to keep functioning. Gregor’s skull could have been gifted to Doran, and the rest of his body could still function as Robert Strong.

My champion will need a new name as well as a new face. (aDwD, Cersei I)

Eight feet tall or maybe taller, with legs as thick around as trees, he had a chest worthy of a plow horse and shoulders that would not disgrace an ox. His armor was plate steel, enameled white and bright as a maiden’s hopes, and worn over gilded mail. A greathelm hid his face. (aDwD, Cersei II)

And indeed Bran’s vision of three knights looming over Arya and Sansa in aGoT indicates a headless Gregor.

He saw Sansa crying herself to sleep at night, and he saw Arya watching in silence and holding her secrets hard in her heart. There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood. (aGoT, Bran III)

The first shadow contains symbolic references to Sandor Clegane (ash, a terrible face of a “hound”), the second to Jaime Lannister (golden armor, beautiful, sun-gold) and the third to Gregor Clegane (a giant, armor of stone for someone nicknamed the Mountain, black thickened blood).

So, the skull gifted to Doran is indeed Gregor Clegane’s. Note that if the Sand Snakes may suspect deception, Areo Hotah does not seem to.

Cersei’s Plan

In aFfC Cersei alludes in thought of a special task she intends to give Balon Swann during the small council.

A tiresome creature, this prince. “His long wait is almost done. I am sending Balon Swann to Sunspear, to deliver him the head of Gregor Clegane.” Ser Balon would have another task as well, but that part was best left unsaid. (aFfC, Cersei IV)

Cersei’s POV never betrays this task to the reader. Instead we, the Sand Snakes and Areo Hotah learn of it directly from Prince Doran, during a private meeting in his solar, after the dinner with Balon Swann.

Prince Doran took a jagged breath. “Dorne still has friends at court. Friends who tell us things we were not meant to know. This invitation Cersei sent us is a ruse. Trystane is never meant to reach King’s Landing. On the road back, somewhere in the kingswood, Ser Balon’s party will be attacked by outlaws, and my son will die. I am asked to court only so that I may witness this attack with my own eyes and thereby absolve the queen of any blame. Oh, and these outlaws? They will be shouting, ‘Halfman, Halfman,’ as they attack. Ser Balon may even catch a quick glimpse of the Imp, though no one else will.” (aDwD, The Watcher)

So, Cersei wants the Stone Crows of the Vale who remained in the Kingswood after the Battle of the Blackwater to kill Trystane, thereby liberating Princess Myrcella of her betrothal that Tyrion once arranged, and Balon will blame Tyrion for the attack. Important for this essay here is how Areo Hotah already picked up signs about Balon Swann that he was nervous about something during the feast earlier.

Ser Balon gave a nod and sipped his wine. This one is not so easily seduced [by Arianne] as was his Sworn Brother, Hotah thought. Ser Arys was a boy, despite his years. This one is a man, and wary. The captain had only to look at him to see that the white knight was ill at ease. This place is strange to him, and little to his liking. […] And now that they had reached Sunspear, neither Princess Myrcella nor Ser Arys Oakheart was on hand to greet them. The white knight knows that something is amiss, Hotah could tell, but it is more than that. Perhaps the presence of the Sand Snakes unnerved him. (aDwD, The Watcher)

Notice how George stresses often that Areo notices this about Balon just by ‘looking’ at him. Hotah does not know the reason for it yet though. And he lists several rational explanations for it: the strangeness of Dorne, not liking Dorne, anxious about Myrcella and Arys not being at the feast. And yet Hotah can see that Balon’s discomfort goes beyond that. Having run out of explanations, Hotah temporarily settles on the knight being nervous about the presence of the Sand Snakes. It is around this time that Prince Doran mentions Cersei’s letter where the request Myrcella’s return to King’s Landing and invites Prince Doran to sit on the small council.

Midnight was close at hand when Prince Doran turned to the white knight and said, “Ser Balon, I have read the letter that you brought me from our gracious queen. Might I assume that you are familiar with its contents, ser?” Hotah saw the knight tense.(aDwD, The Watcher)

And as the knight extends the invitation to include Trystane, saying how King’s Landing would welcome him, Hotah notices that Balon has started to sweat.

Why is he sweating now? the captain wondered, watching. The hall is cool enough, and he never touched the stew. (aDwD, The Watcher)

In fact, far earlier during the feast, Hotah had noticed that Balon had eaten very little of the fiery food. He did eat one small spoon of the stew and broke out in sweat because of it then, but only the spoonful and not any more since.

[Ser Balon] ate little, Hotah observed: a spoon of soup, a bite of the pepper, the leg off a capon, some fish. He shunned the lamprey pie and tried only one small spoonful of the stew. Even that made his brow break out in sweat. Hotah could sympathize. When first he came to Dorne, the fiery food would tie his bowels in knots and burn his tongue. (aDwD, The Watcher)

So, Hotah picked up on Balon’s body signs like a lie detector, while he did not yet know of Cersei’s murderous plan and what role Balon plays in it. Once Doran explained it to the Sand Snakes and the reader, we come to understand in retrospect that Balon was ordered to extend the invite to Trystane, knowing full well he has to guide the boy right into the planned ambush. Balon is nearly panicking when Prince Doran suggests they travel by ship to King’s Landing, instead of overland.

“By ship?” Ser Balon seemed taken aback. “That … would that be safe, my prince? Autumn is a bad season for storms, or so I’ve heard, and … the pirates in the Stepstones, they …” (aDwD, The Watcher)

Doran refers to Balon’s feeble attempt at dissuading Prince Doran from going to King’s Landing by ship when he revealed Cersei’s plan to the Sand Snakes.

“This is monstrous,” said Lady Nym. “I would not have believed it, not of a Kingsguard knight.”
“They are sworn to obey, just as my captain is,” the prince said. “I had my doubts as well, but you all saw how Ser Balon balked when I suggested that we go by sea. A ship would have disturbed all the queen’s arrangements.” (aDwD, The Watcher)

818px-House_Swann.svg
Sigil of House Swann

aFfC already acquainted us with Cersei’s shocking ways to get people murdered, and the Kettlebacks have been known to the reader since aCoK to have low morals. Balon Swann, however, has not yet been known by the reader to be an amoral man. Both Tyrion and Jaime approve of Balon’s appointment as Kingsguard.

[Tyrion] approved of his sister’s choice of Ser Balon Swann to take the place of the slain Preston Greenfield. The Swanns were Marcher lords, proud, powerful, and cautious. Pleading illness, Lord Gulian Swann had remained in his castle, taking no part in the war, but his eldest son had ridden with Renly and now Stannis, while Balon, the younger, served at King’s Landing. If he’d had a third son, Tyrion suspected he’d be off with Robb Stark. It was not perhaps the most honorable course, but it showed good sense; whoever won the Iron Throne, the Swanns intended to survive. In addition to being well born, young Ser Balon was valiant, courtly, and skilled at arms; good with a lance, better with a morningstar, superb with the bow. He would serve with honor and courage. (aCoK, Tyrion XI)

Jaime had served with Meryn Trant and Boros Blount for years; adequate fighters, but Trant was sly and cruel, and Blount a bag of growly air. Ser Balon Swann was better suited to his cloak, and of course the Knight of Flowers was supposedly all a knight should be. The fifth man was a stranger to him, this Osmund Kettleblack. […] “The king is dead,” Jaime began. “My sister’s son, a boy of thirteen, murdered at his own wedding feast in his own hall. All five of you were present. All five of you were protecting him. And yet he’s dead.” He waited to see what they would say to that, but none of them so much as cleared a throat. The Tyrell boy is angry, and Balon Swann’s ashamed, he judged. From the other three Jaime sensed only indifference. (aSoS, Jaime VIII)

He felt ashamed over Joffrey dying, despite the fact he once jested they would need three glasses to toast to the health of the King, during the War of the Five Kings. He testified during Tyrion’s trial that he believed Tyrion to be innocent of murdering Joffrey.

Ser Addam had told it true; the first man ushered in was Ser Balon Swann of the Kingsguard. “Lord Hand,” he began, after the High Septon had sworn him to speak only truth, “I had the honor to fight beside your son on the bridge of ships. He is a brave man for all his size, and I will not believe he did this thing.” A murmur went through the hall, and Tyrion wondered what mad game Cersei was playing. Why offer a witness that believes me innocent? He soon learned. Ser Balon spoke reluctantly of how he had pulled Tyrion away from Joffrey on the day of the riot. “He did strike His Grace, that’s so. It was a fit of wroth, no more. A summer storm. The mob near killed us all.” (aSoS, Tyrion IX)

He is invulnerable to Arianne’s attempts of seduction. He is affronted on principle by the manner in which Gregor died – poison.

“That is as it may be, my lady,” said Balon Swann, “but Ser Gregor was a knight, and a knight should die with sword in hand. Poison is a foul and filthy way to kill.” (aDwD, The Watcher)

Whether he would have participated without protest in beating Sansa or would have objected like Ser Arys, we do not know. Ser Balon only became a kingsguard after the riot, and by then Tyrion had already made sure Sansa’s physical abuse had ceased.

Symbollically, George linked him to the honorable side of the Night’s Watch, for his home was Stonehelm overseeing the Red Watch, and George pitted him against Slynt’s son during Joffrey’s nameday tourney as a foreshadowing parallel to Slynt’s fate at the Night’s Watch (see The Trail of the Red Stallion – Sansa’s tourneys). Hence, the reader has plenty of reasons to doubt Balon’s knowing participation in the plot, and therefore reason to doubt Prince Doran’s assertions about the plot.

And indeed, if the reader had learned of this through Arianne’s POV there would be debate about the veracity of the plot. We never actually heard it verified in Cersei’s POV. She only hinted at something unsavory, beyond delivering the skull. And Arianne already knew of this plot before the feast, so any observation she would have made of Balon Swann would come across as prejudiced. This is the foremost reason why George chose Areo Hotah to be the POV. Hotah did not yet know of the plot and independently gives the reader all the body sign clues about Balon Swann that verify the knight has been ordered to get a Lord’s innocent son killed. Add the fact that his sigil are a white and black swan fighting, and we know Balon Swann must be at inner conflict with his vows.*

His snowy cloak was clasped at the throat by two swans on a silver brooch. One was ivory, the other onyx, and it seemed to Areo Hotah as if the two of them were fighting. (aDwD, the Watcher)

So many vows . . . they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.” (aFfC, Catelyn VII)

“My lord.” Ser Balon drew himself up. “On my sword, on my honor, on my father’s name, I swear . . . I shall not do as you did.” (aSoS, Jaime VIII)

* Yes this raises the question where George is going with Balon Swann, the “little brother” of Donnel Swann, heir to Stonehelm. Balon swears to Jaime he will not be a kingslayer, in response to Jaime’s inquiry of Donnel Swann’s loyalty, after Donnel first rallied to Renly, then fought for Stannis at the Blackwater, got captured and bent the knee to Joffrey and after Joffrey’s death swore fealty to Tommen. Though I myself tend to lean to Jaime or Tyrion as the Valonqar in Cersei’s prophecy, I cannot exclude the possibility that George has bigger plans for Balon and that he might end up as a Queenslayer. (See here for further discussion: Balon as Valonquar?)

We can conclude that Doran’s reveal of Cersei’s plot is indeed what Cersei had planned.

Doran’s Plan and Myrish Lies

The chapter also informed us and the Sand Snakes on Doran’s response plan and it is meant to solve two issues. Obara points out that Balon meeting with Myrcella is dangerous: Ser Balon will see how Myrcella is short an ear and can reveal that Areo Hotah killed Arys Oakheart, a fellow Kingsguard of Ser Balon.

“Procrastinate, obscure, prevaricate, dissemble, and delay all you like, Uncle, Ser Balon must still come face-to-face with Myrcella at the Water Gardens, and when he does he’s like to see she’s short an ear. And when the girl tells him how your captain cut Arys Oakheart from neck to groin with that steel wife of his, well …” (aDwD, the Watcher)

This is indeed an issue. But Doran and Arianne prepared for it: they will blame Gerold Dayne for all of it, both the maiming of Myrcella as well as killing Gerold Dayne.

“No.” Princess Arianne unfolded from the cushion where she sat and put a hand on Hotah’s arm. “That wasn’t how it happened, Cousin. Ser Arys was slain by Gerold Dayne.”
The Sand Snakes looked at one another. “Darkstar?”
Darkstar did it,” [Hotah’s] little princess said. “He tried to kill Princess Myrcella too. As she will tell Ser Balon.”
Nym smiled. “That part at least is true.”
It is all true,” said the prince, with a wince of pain. Is it his gout that hurts him, or the lie? “And now Ser Gerold has fled back to High Hermitage, beyond our reach.” (aDwD, the Watcher)

All will lie, including Myrcella, to Ser Balon. It is an obvious lie to all people present and the reader. The man who killed Ser Arys is the POV. Arianne saw it happen, and we read it in Arianne’s chapter. The person who likely did not see it happen was Myrcella, for she was attacked at the same time by Dayne.

Still, George makes a point of it to have Hotah, the lie detector wearing mirroring armor, identify it as a lie in his POV. This serves to relay the objectivity of the narrator to the reader. Areo Hotah is not someone to sugar coat his prince’s lies when he is lying. The lie also ties to a symbol that George tends to use to warn the reader about deception and lies. That Arbor gold represents lies is well known*. The same is true for everything Myrish: Doran uses a Myrish blanket to cover his gouted legs.

* see Lies and Arbor Gold at Westeros.org (2013), All Lies and Arbor Gold on reddit (2015), and examples on Quora.

Not until the doors of his solar were safely closed behind them did he wheel his chair about to face the women. Even that effort left him breathless, and the Myrish blanket that covered his legs caught between two spokes as he rolled, so he had to clutch it to keep it from being torn away. Beneath the coverlet, his legs were pale, soft, ghastly. Both of his knees were red and swollen, and his toes were almost purple, twice the size they should have been. (aDwD, the Watcher)

When Areo wonders whether Doran winces from the lie or the gout, both relate to the blanket, as the blanket is Myrish (lies) and hides his hideous gouted legs.

I will not present all the examples of Myrish lies in this essay. There are so many examples it requires a whole essay of its own. Maybe one day I will write it, for I have not yet encountered such a one. Or perhaps someone else will write it. But I will highlight two here that are relevant to mirrors and spying. The first one is Arya’s mirror at the House of Black and White.

“Puff up your cheeks.” She did. “Lift your eyebrows. No, higher.” She did that too. “Good. See how long you can hold that. It will not be long. Try it again on the morrow. You will find a Myrish mirror in the vaults. Train before it for an hour every day. Eyes, nostrils, cheeks, ears, lips, learn to rule them all.” He cupped her chin. “Who are you?”
“No one.”
A lie. A sad little lie, child.”
She found the Myrish mirror the next day, and every morn and every night she sat before it with a candle on each side of her, making faces. Rule your face, she told herself, and you can lie. (aFfC, Arya II)

Mirrors reveal the truth. They do not reflect lies. But Arya specifically uses a metaphorical lie detector to train her face in order to learn to lie. As a real world concept it is rather simple. Symbolically though it is a twisted form of training. And while several characters look at their reflection in mirrors, the sole time we are told a mirror is Myrish mirror is in Arya’s POV, and only to train to lie.

Another example are Myrish lenses, especially lens tubes. This is actually the very first Myrish object that appears in the series, and the one I used on the home page to illustrate the concept of symbolism. But that Myrish lens contained a letter with Lysa’s lie claiming that Cersei had killed Jon Arryn. Furthermore in optics the terms real and virtual (false) are scientifically used in relation to the type of image a lens produces. A so called real image is an upside-down image, whereas a virtual image is a produced image that looks straight up. lensesmirrors01

For example, the image projected on the back of our eye, after reflected light of an object passes through the lens of our eye is a real upside-down image. Our nerve system and brain turns it back up. A lens tube produces a virtual image, which looks closer and/or bigger than they are, and thus it technically creates an illusion. Hence a real world spyglass is a lying glass, and only Myr makes desired spyglasses on Planetos.

Now, Doran’s Myrish blanket slips from his lap, exposing his legs. So, basically George makes Doran out to be a liar most of the time, someone who keeps up an illusion of being a pacifist, but the mask slips here. For the first time in their lives, the Sand Snakes get to know the real Prince Doran. Not only do get they the shock of a lifetime when they hear about Cersei’s plan for Trystane, they end up genuinely humbled by how far ahead he is of them when it comes to being prepared, and they all embrace their tasks. Note how this slippping of the blanket occurs before Doran commences to make his reveals and only when Hotah puts him to bed does a blanket fully cover him again.

Later, when Arianne had gone, he put down his longaxe and lifted Prince Doran into his bed. “Until the Mountain crushed my brother’s skull, no Dornishmen had died in this War of the Five Kings,” the prince murmured softly, as Hotah pulled a blanket over him. “Tell me, Captain, is that my shame or my glory?” (aDwD, the Watcher)

More importantly, the blanket actually emphasizes that Doran is not lying to the Sand Snakes and Hotah about what he reveals, when it slips away and he pulls it free from his wheelchair.

While his plan to have Myrcella lie to Balon the next day may work for a little while, Obara points out that sooner or later Myrcella will reveal the truth and that Ser Balon cannot be allowed to carry tales back to King’s Landing. Tyene proposes to kill him. After learning of Cersei’s plot to kill Trystane, Obara demands her spear back. But Doran has another idea.

Prince Doran raised a hand. His knuckles were as dark as cherries and near as big. “Ser Balon is a guest beneath my roof. He has eaten of my bread and salt. I will not do him harm. No. We will travel to the Water Gardens, where he will hear Myrcella’s story and send a raven to his queen. The girl will ask him to hunt down the man who hurt her. If he is the man I judge, Swann will not be able to refuse. Obara, you will lead him to High Hermitage to beard Darkstar in his den. The time is not yet come for Dorne to openly defy the Iron Throne, so we must needs return Myrcella to her mother, but I will not be accompanying her. That task will be yours, Nymeria. The Lannisters will not like it, no more than they liked it when I sent them Oberyn, but they dare not refuse. We need a voice in council, an ear at court. Be careful, though. King’s Landing is a pit of snakes.” […]
“And what of me?” asked Tyene.
“Your mother was a septa. Oberyn once told me that she read to you in the cradle from the Seven-Pointed Star. I want you in King’s Landing too, but on the other hill. The Swords and the Stars have been re-formed, and this new High Septon is not the puppet that the others were. Try and get close to him.” (aDwD, the Watcher)

And so far, all these plans have been executed. Kevan visits Cersei in her cell and relays the news that Balon wrote to King’s Landing – Myrcella accused Gerold Dayne of both maiming her and slaying Ser Arys. Meanwhile Kevan’s POV in the epilogue confirms that King’s Landing is expecting to welcome Myrcella in the company of Lady Nym who will take the seventh seat at the small council, and that Balon Swann is hunting after Darkstar. Meanwhile Arianne’s excerpt of tWoW, reveals that Areo Hotah is hunting Gerold Dayne together with Obara and Balon.

Balon’s Fate

The following is the first observation that Hotah has about Balon.

Ser Balon Swann was taut as a drawn bow, the captain of guards observed. This new white knight was not so tall nor comely as the old one, but he was bigger across the chest, burlier, his arms thick with muscle. […] The man who wore [the fighting swans] looked a fighter too. This one will not die so easy as the other. He will not charge into my axe the way Ser Arys did. He will stand behind his shield and make me come at him. If it came to that, Hotah would be ready. (aDwD, the Watcher)

It reminds instantly of Hotah’s foreshadowing thoughts on Ser Arys Oakheart in Hotah’s POV chapter of aFfC.

“Hotah had felt a certain sadness whenever he saw the man in the long snowy cloak, […]. One day, he sensed, the two of them would fight; on that day Oakheart would die, with the captain’s longaxe crashing through his skull.” (aFfC, The Captain of the Guards)

Hotah notes several differences between Balon and Arys. For example Balon is not that easily seduced by Arianne, but he also expects them to fight very differently, with Balon being the more difficult fighter. Because Areo’s thoughts on Arys foreshadowed Oakheart’s fate, it is tempting to the reader to see the same POV’s thoughts on Balon also as a foreshadowing – that one day Balon and Hotah will fight one another and one of them will die. And certainly on the surface it seems as if Doran is setting up an excellent trap for Balon to die, when he sends Obara with him. After all, she argued Balon was to never leave Dorne alive and demanded her spear back to kill him once she learned of the plot about Trystane. If both Balon and Darkstar were to die in confrontation, Doran succeeds in getting rid of two problems: Gerold Dayne and Balon.

But there are three remarks that suggest this idea that Doran wishes Balon’s death may be a red herring. First of all, Doran “defended” Balon as having sworn to obey, just like his own captain of the guards, when it comes to Balon’s involvement in the plot to kill Trystane. At the very least, Doran’s “defense” of Balon reveals that Prince Doran does not deem the Kingsguard knight as immoral per se. In fact, he later also says “If he is the man I judge, Swann will not be able to to refuse” Myrcella’s request to hunt Gerold Dayne. Furthermore, Arianne’s seduction of Ser Arys Oakheart opened Doran’s eyes to the possibility that a Kingsguard knight could be “turned”.

Let us consider Doran’s “if he is the man I judge” more closely. Doran suspected Balon to be of such a character that he would accept Myrcella’s request. This brings us back to three historical Kingsguards – Arthur Dayne, Gerold Hightower and Oswald Whent. In his “Tower of Joy” dream, Ned Stark questions them about their choice not to be with Prince Rhaegar at the Trident, not with King Aerys II, not with Viserys on Dragonstone and not surrendering like the Tyrells and Selmy to Robert Baratheon. To this, Ser Gerold Hightower answered, “We swore a vow.” This recall to Gerold Hightower, may be why George chose to give Darkstar the name Gerold. Even the Lord Commander Gerold who was a stickler to rules and not intervening when Aerys abused his own wife made clear that all three had sworn a vow that was more important than anything else. Whatever that vow was, whatever the order they had been given, they stuck to it, even after Rhaegar’s death. In a way they found moral freedom from Aerys to follow their own consciousness while remaining a Kingsguard.

In the Dornish plot, Myrcella serves a similar purpose to Ser Arys and Ser Balon as Rhaegar does with the three Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy. Myrcella is not yet an adult like Rhaegar, nor is she a warrior. She is King Tommen’s heir though. Arianne hoped to use her to dethrone Tommen by crowning her, which echoes the Whents vying to set up a great council to make Rhaegar the regent over his own mad father, and also echoes Tywin’s suspected hope to get Aerys killed in Duskendale so he could crown Rhaegar.

Doran uses Myrcella to give an order to Balon Swann that will effectively derail Cersei’s plot for Trystane. Myrcella is not the king nor the regent, and in fact she was not under direct threat for her life anymore. Ser Balon certainly had wriggle room to not obey her, but to pack her up and carry her back to King’s Landing kicking and screaming. Except, Ser Balon was conflicted about the mission that Cersei had given him (hence the Swann sigil), and he grabbed the excuse that Myrcella gave him with both hands, even knowingly allow Myrcella to be escorted back to King’s Landing without him guarding her. This is why Cersei’s choice of Ser Balon for this Trystane ambush task is so stunning. If Cersei had sent Meryn Trant instead of Ser Balon, Trant would have ignored Myrcella’s request.

It seems as if Prince Doran knew what he was doing with Balon Swann when he offered him an alternative to be a heroic Kingsguard, instead of a villainous one, and may be counting on the confrontation having an impact on Balon where he survives, and returns to King’s Landing a changed Kingsguard who lets his own consciousness outweigh immoral orders given to him by Cersei. So, Hotah’s “if it comes to that” may be a hint that unlike Ser Arys, Balon and Hotah will not fight one another at all.

Ricasso’s Toast

Seneschal_RicassoAM
Ricasso’s toast to King Tommen

Another aspect of Hotah’s chapter is the toast to King Tommen. Some do toast, others do not. Areo takes specific note who does not, because he expects these to potentially cause issues for house Martell. We can divide these non-toasters into several groups.

  • There are those who are closely allied or tied to Oberyn Martell, and Gregor’s skull does not satisfy their thirst for revenge.
    • the three eldest Sand Snakes – Obara, Lady Nym and Tyene – who are Oberyn’s daughters;
    • Ser Daemon Sand was Oberyn’s squire, knighted by Oberyn, rumored to also have been Oberyn’s lover and he sent a letter to Lady Nym about Oberyn and the Mountain;
    • the Fowler twins are close friends of Lady Nym;
    • Lord Uller is the grandfather of the four youngest Sand Snakes, through his natural daughter Ellaria Sand;
    • Dagos Manwoody also helped Oberyn arm up agains the Mountain, like Daemon Sand; so his sentiments are likely due to a personal tie to Oberyn.
  • As with any region of Westeros, you also always have houses who disagree with their liege and vie for an opportunity. They have a political motive to seek war for war’s sake and to oppose seeming peace efforts by Prince Doran.
    • House Uller has a personal connection with Oberyn, via Ellaria Sand, but they are reputed for being mad or worse (violent and aggressive). Arianne contemplated sending a letter for aid to the Ullers, but refrains from reaching out to them: she does not want to bring anymore lives in danger. This “mad or worse” impression is emphasised by the fact that Prince Doran has Ellaria’s children by Oberyn in his grasp at the Water Gardens. If the Ullers refuse the toast it is not because they care for Oberyn’s children.
  • We should expect some pretending to be openly disagreeing with Prince Doran’s public policy, in order to gain the trust of those houses that seek war, but are actually in league with Prince Doran. Think of Corbray being Littlefinger’s agent with the Lord Declarant in the Vale. This would help them and Doran in learning what true troublemakers plan.
    • Prince Doran squired for Lord Gargalen. Not only do squires feel a personal loyalty towards the lord or knight they serve, the lords and knights tend to feel like a foster parent to their squires. By the tale how Lord Gargalen attempted to ease Doran’s mind about the early birth of his sister Elia, we get a glimpse of Lord Gargalen’s fostering feelings. The fact that Prince Doran fostered Quentyn to House Yronwood hoping for a personal bond of loyalty to grow between Quentyn and Lord Yronwood indicates Doran experienced something similar with Lord Gargalen.
    • The Wyls entertained Balon Swann for over a week with hunting and hawking in the Boneway to delay his arrival to Sunspear. They did Doran’s bidding while they were far out of reach of Sunspear’s wrath, but do not toast to King Tommen in Doran’ face? That certainly seems odd.
  • Those who do toast are
    • Princess Arianne, who is in Doran’s confidence since the end of aFfC. Not having been a witness to the conversation that brought Doran and Arianne closer together, Hotah takes note that Arianne and Doran share a secret.
    • Lady Jordayne of the Tor and Lady Nymella Toland of Ghost Hill both arranged games for Balon Swann to delay him (like the Wyls). Lady Toland is not in Doran’s closest confidence. Lady Nymella seems an anxious woman who is dutifully loyal to House Martell. It is likely that Lady Jordayne is similarly loyal: Nymella and Jordayne are compared by Doran when he says Lady Toland would attempt to outmatch Lady Jordayne in entertaining Balon Swann with games.
    • The Lord of Godsgrace would be Ser Ryon Allyrion, the heir of Lady Delonne Allyrion, and father of Daemon Sand (the bastard of Godsgrace). In aFfC, Doran had Daemon Sand imprisoned upon his return from King’s Landing, for Daemon demanded the release of the Sand Snakes. Ryon’s motivation to toast would be an apology for his natural son’s potential treasonous actions and prove to Prince Doran they are loyal to him. Though Daemon Sand is not in a cell anymore, he can still be considered a hostage.
    • Ser Deziel Dalt, the knight of Lemonwood, is brother to Ser Andrey “Drey” Dalt (one of Arianne’s conspiritors in the attempt to crown Myrcella). Ser Deziel has a reason to prove himself loyal to whatever Doran wishes, especially since Prince Doran let Drey off with three years service of Lady Mellario in Norvos, instead of wasting away in Ghaston Grey. On top of that Arianne considers him utterly dutiful to Prince Doran.

    We conclude that the toasters, aside from Arianne, are of little to no consequence in this chapter’s revelations or Doran’s intentions. He trusts them to be loyal. There is no need to persuade them nor confide his actual plans with them.

Doran does not confide in those who toast, except for Arianne, but instead in those who did not, such as the Sand Snakes and Areo Hotah later that same evening. He confides in Daemon Sand who is to accompany Arianne as her shield on her mission to meet with Jon Connington. Prince Doran ordered two hosts to amass in the Boneway and the Prince’s Pass. They are led by the Yronwoods and Wyls who control the Boneway, whereas House Fowler is warden of the Prince’s Pass where the Manwoodys have their seat Kingsgrave. House Yronwood was not present at the feast of this chapter, and the other three did not toast. So they too have been confided in by Prince Doran for his war plans. Hence, Areo Hotah’s thought to watch the non-toasters in particular is the advice the reader should go by, not so much because the reader should fear them causing trouble for Prince Doran, but because Doran uses those people to execute his war plans.

Armageddon’s Mirrors

Armageddon RagSince the role is so small, we will not devote a stand alone essay on the character called Mirrors of George’s novel The Armageddon Rag of 1983. Unlike Areo Hotah, Mirrors is not a POV whatsoever and appears in the novel but a few times. But both have a similar status and like Hotah, George uses Mirrors to tip off the reader to what is really going on. (spoiler warning ahead)

This novel is not set in a world of epic fantasy, but on earth in the early eighties of the 20th century. It is part a rock novel, part a murder mystery, part ghost story and includes winks to Tolkien – what George’s father would dub “weird stuff”.  The protagonist is former hippie journalist Sandy Blair who begins to investigate the bizarre and brutal murder of rock promotor Jamie Lynch. One of the bands Lynch once promoted were the Nazgûl (there is the wink to Tolkien). This band split ten years earlier to the day in 1971, after their lead singer Patrick Henry “Hobbit” Hobbins (someone with absolute albinism) was shot while on stage during a concert at West Mesa. The murder of Jamie Lynch and several other disastrous events push the three surviving band members to reunite with the rich Edan Morse as promotor. Edan is rumored to have had ties and sympathies with radical-and-violent left revolutionists in the 70s.  This promotor manages to procure a doppleganger of the dead Hobbins (but not having the same voice abilities) – Larry Richmond. Investigating the murder of Jamie Lynch and Edan Morse’s role and motivation to promote the reunion tour of the Nazgûl, Sandy ends up being the band’s press agent and starts a love affair with Edan’s fanatical aid, Ananda. As occult events occur where it seems that the dead Hobbins manages to possess Larry Richmond on stage, Sandy fears and suspects Morse intends to perform an occult sacrificial ritual that will unleash a dark supernatural power upon the world to make the radical-left revolution happen after all.

Mirrors is one of the roadie bodyguards hired on the tour. Sandy and Ananda call him Mirrors because he is recognizable by the pair of mirroring sunglasses he wears. So, like Areo Hotah, Mirrors is a guard and he watches the events, characters and the world from behind a mirror. He appears for the first time in chapter nineteen of the book.

The road manager was a veteran hired for his experience, and he did his job well enough, but the roadies were like no other roadies Sandy had ever encountered. They were quiet, distant, humorless. They never got drunk, never got stoned. […] One of the men wore silvered sunglasses everywhere and carried a nunchaku. […] But when Gort gave them an order – Gort had been put in charge of the roadies – they obeyed with an almost military precision. (The Armageddon Rag, Nineteen)

Hotah too is a quiet character, a watcher, detached, humorless, dry. He never drinks on duty. He has no lover. “Serve. Protect. Obey.” That is Areo’s task as it is Mirrors. George stresses the military discipline of the roadies, including Mirrors, during a discussion between Sandy and Ananda.

Ten days before Chicago, Sandy had a brief discussion with Ananda about the orcs. “They’re Edan’s people, aren’t they?” he asked her. “Alfies or worse? That’s why they seem so damned, I don’t know … disciplined, I guess.”
She smiled. “So? I’m one of Edan’s people too, remember?”
“Not like them. There’s something wrong with them, ‘Nanda. I think they’re hearing things on the Jim Jones/Charlie Manson wavelength if you know what I mean. I think they’d do anything Gort told them to do. Anything.”
They would.”
“And that doesn’t bother you?”
They’re soldiers,” she told him. (The Armageddon Rag, Nineteen)

The first time it seems as if Hobbins managed to pass through and possess Larry Richmond during the Nazgul’s first actual reunion concert, Larry’s dog Balrog becomes aggressive and wants to attack Larry-turned-Hobbins (who hated dogs) back stage at the after-party. The dog only calms down again, once Larry becomes himself again. Ananda has Gort take the dog outside. Needing air after a couple of screwdrivers, Sandy wanders outside.

He went out the back door. One of the roadies was there, the man with the silver mirrored shades. He stared at Sandy and said not a word. Balrog was there too, tied up just outside the door. He barked, and Sandy patted his head before making his way to the street. (The Armageddon Rag, Twenty One)

But when Sandy returns, he finds the roadie gone, the door locked and Balrog’s head nearly severed off. That night, Sandy confronts Edan Morse over the butchered dog. This is when Ananda first refers to the roadie with sunglasses as Mirrors.

Sandy held out his hands. “I … the dog.” His voice was thick. “They butchered the dog. Richmond’s dog.”
Morse feigned astonishment. “You know anything about this, ‘Nanda?”
Mirrors was out watching the dog. He went inside for a couple minutes to <