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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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

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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)

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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)

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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?

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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

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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)

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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)

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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.