Fan speculation about the prophecies in “A Song of Ice and Fire” is almost as popular, if not more, as theories about the mysteries in the story. To be blunt, all of it is a mistake. There are no prophecies in “A Song of Ice and Fire”. There are several reasons for this. But, the key reason is that George R. R. Martin, the author, does not believe in them except as a tool for motivating his characters. He has said so in interviews where he has noted their misleading, obscure nature, and asserted his own doubt in fate. In the two time travelling tales available in his collection, Dreamsongs, “Under Siege” and “Unsound Variations”, the take-away message is that there are multiple timelines all delineated by human choice. (Incidentally, this is one of the fundamental points about Roman Catholic theology in which God has given humanity free will.) It is the same message that is in the “Terminator 2” film: There is no fate but what we make. If the preceding is insufficient to convince you, we should look at the prophecies one by one. What we will find is that none of them are actually prophetic.
The House of the Undying
In Qarth, Daenerys (with Drogon) goes on a magical mystery tour of the House of the Undying, from the outside an unprepossessing, dilapidated structure, but on the inside a vast reservoir of images and predictions. Or, is it? In point of fact, none of the visions and auditory hallucinations are the future, but instead are the creations of Daenerys’ mind after her draught of Shade of the Evening. In other words, she has dropped acid and is on the electric kool-aid acid trip. Martin’s baby boomer experiences are never more pronounced than in this psychedelic kaleidoscope of suggestions and real-time telepathy. There is magic in this world, but it is not supernatural spells or glimpses of the future. It is the gathering of information through suggestion and telepathy.
For example, Daenerys sees Aerys the Mad King ordering “Burn them. Burn them all.” She was not present. It was not widely reported. Jaime Lannister is our only known source for this scene. How does Daenerys access this? The answer lies in Jaime’s sleeping on the stump of a heartwood tree before having his dream of being beneath Casterly Rock with Brienne, which prompts him to go back to rescue her from Harrenhal and the Brave Companions. The heartwood trees are a set of interlocking repositories of memories from the Children of the Forest and those who have perished by them, their blood carrying their beings into the hive mind of what some writers have dubbed the weirwood net. The doors to the House of the Undying are weirwood. Daenerys has become connected to the weirwood net as a result of her opening her mind’s eye (a concept taken from Buddhist and Hindu traditions, more recently featured in the MCU’s “Doctor Strange”). She has downloaded, as it were, this memory from its source, Jaime. It is the same with the war of the Five Kings, the Red Wedding, the birth of Aegon (“There is one more. The dragon has three heads.”), the battle at the Trident and so forth. All of these visions are actually constructed versions of either past events or present happenings.
The other category of visions are those Daenerys interprets as predictions but are actually fixations on threes combined with mundane, fortune teller prognostications. That is, they are vague, unverifiable, and contain an element of wish fulfillment. The three mounts, fires, and lies are all descriptions of present possibilities or the past. She has married Drogo, lit his funeral pyre, and hatched her dragon eggs. She has ridden her Silver to marriage, will make an unpleasant marriage alliance, and will ride Drogon. She has three marriages: Drogo, Hizdahr, and Euron/Daario (Euron is Daario. See You Tube channel Alt Shift X for details.) with Jon Snow (the blue flower in the chink of the wall of ice) as a potential suitor. The three betrayals for money, blood, and love are similarly vague and easily anticipated as any leader is likely to suffer from all three. Again, all of these represent either the past or the present. Euron/Daario has learned of the dragon queen and is seeking her. Jon is at the Wall. Drogon and Hizdahr are past and present respectively with Hizdahr as the specific arranged marriage instead of the general idea, which is commonplace enough so it is a no brainer of a prediction. The three lies are of a similar nature – reporting on known conspiracies that are rivals for the Iron Throne (Stannis, fAegon, and Jon Connington or Euron).
These prophecies are of the same value as the horoscope in a newspaper. They affect Daenerys’ decision-making, they occupy our time, and they are of little value in determining much of anything except that there is a lot of glass candle usage in planetos/terros. Using them to forecast a Daenerys/Jon Snow alliance to destroy the White Walkers is a bit like saying that a marriage will not last because of ill omens. You are right and wrong no matter what occurs. The excuse – I just didn’t read the signs right. – is always there.
Although we do not know why, Quaithe, the Red Priestess behind a weirwood mask, wants to help Daenerys. Because simply stating straightforward relationship, military, and political advice would be as boring as someone reading from the phonebook, Martin has Quaithe speak in riddles although, in point of fact, the messages are fairly simple truisms like “Know thyself,” “Wait for your dragons to reach adult size,” “Learn how to control at least one of them,” “Stop piddling around in Qarth, Meereen, etc.”, and “Don’t trust Martells or Greyjoys or Lannisters or Illyrio-backed teenagers.” The information about specific persons is likely gained through the weirwood net and/or a glass candle. For example, beware the “perfumed seneschal” is likely the ship Tyrion and company are on (Tyrion’s translation: “the stinky steward”) and not the Shavepate, although he too is not to be trusted.
One of the more misinterpreted pieces of advice is Quaithe’s direction to “pass beneath the shadow” etc. in order to gain what Daenerys wants. Daenerys thinks to herself, without vocalizing, that Quaithe must mean the literal trip through the lands of the shadow to Asshai. When Quaithe answers the follow-up question of “What will I find in Asshai?” with “Truth”, Quaithe is responding to a different line of questioning rather than a fuller explanation of the previous riddle. In other words, Quaithe has told Daenerys to muster her forces, gain control of the Dothraki using Drogon as her “stallion who will mount the world”, and both physically retrace her steps and gain self-knowledge.
Quaithe is attempting to do what she has been doing since the beginning – sending telepathic confidence to Daenerys before each of her trials. It is as if Quaithe is a mother to Daenerys leading some to speculate that Quaithe is Rhaella in disguise. Actually, it is much more likely that Rhaella died in childbirth making the special sacrifice – blood sacrifice, life for life – that is a recurring theme of our special Targaryens such as Jon and Tyrion. (Tyrion is part Targaryen. See previous post.) Rather, Quaithe is mother to that other child who was bought and trained as a shadow binder and priestess of R’hllor, Melisandre, whose name was Melody when she was a girl on the auction block. (The literal Greek translation of Sandre’s origins, Alessandre, means “protector of man”. Put them together and you have a song that protects mankind.) Melisandre’s mother is Shiera Seastar, one of the great bastards of Aegon IV the Unworthy, half-sister and lover of Brynden Rivers (Bloodraven, the three eyed crow), which likely makes Bloodraven Melisandre’s father. (Incidentally, this means that Melisandre is Melody Seastar, so her black blooded menstruation makes her a “bleeding star” for Jon’s revival as an Azor Ahai. See below.) Quaithe’s teary look and concern for Daenerys are for her little girl, Melisandre, whose hair is not the flaming red of her ruby-created visage, but the silver and white of her parents. Thus, Daenerys is Quaithe’s surrogate daughter.
The Associated Press of Westeros
The little person or dwarf albino woman Arya meets twice, the Ghost of High Heart (and likely Jenny of Oldstone’s woodwitch) is another one of Martin’s Michael Moorcock inspired important personages, like Bloodraven and Melisandre. Again, her predictions are truly nothing more than current and past events. The rhyming fool, Patchface, is another conveyor of news and vague conveyor of doom.
Maggie the Frog’s educated guesses at the children Cersei and her future king husband will parent, Cersei’s children’s demise, and Cersei’s own death at the hands of her valonqar are self-fulfilling predictions at best. Cersei is bringing about the circumstances that will kill all her children and cause Tyrion (her half Valyrian brother) to kill her. From the poisoned topping of the pie intended for Tyrion that Joffrey ate prior to quaffing the wine, to Tommen’s impending doom at the behest of any number of Cersei’s growing list of enemies including the Faith Militant, and Myrcella’s likely disappearance, to Cersei constantly trying to kill him, Cersei is busily fulfilling prophecy not avoiding it.
Melisandre herself dabbles in predictions that are nothing more than past events, current news, and symbology. Much has been made of a man turning into a wolf turning into a man, but associating Jon with his direwolf is not a revelation so much as an observation. Seeing “Snow” as Azor Ahai is her linking Jon to that prophecy just as Maester Aemon concludes Daenerys is “the prince who was promised” because the “dragons prove it”. But there is something eerie about the prophecies in “A Song of Ice and Fire” and it is not just their spooky delivery.
Prophecy as Tool
Very few of the actions of many of our characters make sense unless we strip away the idea of forecasting and see the greendreams and prophetic visions for what they are – messages. Bran’s dreams bring him to Bloodraven, their source. Jojen, Theon, and Ramsay are all moved by dreams to destroy the Starks’ hold on Winterfell, which prompts Bran and company to flee north, to Bloodraven. Catelyn frees Jaime after a troubled dream, defying her son and king, and doing great damage to her cause for no reason at all. A rather clever, astute player in the game of thrones becomes another pawn in someone else’s game. Jaime goes to rescue Brienne. Melisandre seeks out Stannis in a mistaken attempt to find Azor Ahai reborn. The Dosh Khaleen anticipate the “stallion who will mount the world”. The Targaryens are seeking “the prince who was promised”. If we go back even further, Daenys the Dreamer prophesies the Doom leading to the salvation of the Targaryens and their dragons alone among the Valyrians, and convinces them of the truth of prophecy. It all smacks of scheming on a massive scale, particularly when we reinterpret the visions more accurately.
The “stallion who will mount the world” of the Dothraki is a cultural miscue. It was not a rider of stallions who will mount the world, but a “stallion” – that which is ridden. The Dothraki have been convinced to accept a stallion and, thus, its rider by an unseen force. When we translate the Dothraki understanding of a mount from what they know, a stallion, into a great mount, or dragon, we find the Dothraki have been prepared to serve as the light cavalry of a dragon rider. As it turns out, this will be Daenerys on Drogon.
The Azor Ahai prophecy is similarly mistranslated. Originating in the hot, arid world of flame that is Asshai, the vision is of a warrior with a sword of flame born under a “bleeding star” amidst “salt” and smoke. None of our contenders – Daenerys, Jon Snow, Tyrion, Stannis – have been born under these conditions. Yet. However, when Melisandre burns Shireen (the human sacrifice), Ghost (the animal sacrifice), and a corpse (Jon Snow), and walks into the fire (Daenerys) to wake dragons from stone as Daenerys supposedly did (See Preston Jacobs’ “The Genetics of Ice and Fire” for how it actually happened.), we will have the blood sacrifice necessary for a reborn Jon Snow – a hidden dragon as the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna. Melisandre is Melody Seastar, a bleeding star. The smoke is from the flames of the pyre. The “salt” is the denizens of Asshai’s interpretation of snow, which they have never seen but could easily mistake as a white powder like salt. Longclaw is Valyrian steel – dragon steel, made through blood magic, that is, human sacrifice. With the addition of a virgin, young, and innocent human sacrifice, Shireen, Longclaw will be aflame.
Someone or something has gone through a lot of trouble to put all these pieces into place.
The Chess Master
George R. R. Martin was president of the chess club in high school, played competitively for Northwestern at college, and ran chess tournaments while in graduate school. Besides introducing a chess equivalent – cyvasse – into the novels, he has also used various kinds of chess players as his protagonists in the story as well. Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, Doran Martell, and Illyrio Morpatis are all chess players who talk about their plans in chess-like terms. Besides the grand master in charge of it all – Martin himself, there is another player who is also manipulating the pieces for their very own endgame: the collective mind of the Children of the Forest, also known as the Singers of the Earth.
During the Cold War that shaped Martin and his world, the Soviet Union was renowned for its chess dominance. It had a disproportionate share of the Grand Masters who were virtually unbeaten and unbeatable in the competitive chess world. Their collective society would identify chess prodigies at early ages, separate them out for special training and schooling, and unleash them on the rest of the world as they did with their Olympic athletes. It is not hard to spot the inspiration behind science fiction’s collective, hive-minded societies who generally are opposed by the USA’s stand-ins in stories like Asimov’s Foundation series, Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”, and many others. But, for Martin and other like-minded baby boomers, the Vietnam War was an eye-opening experience of its own. The collective Vietnamese Viet Cong or Viet Minh were not the mindless drones of an evil empire, but could very easily be viewed as an independence movement fighting against an aggressive, imperial, and highly environmentally destructive foreign power, namely, the USA. In other words, the communists are the Hrangans and the USA with its biological warfare is the Federal Empire of Martin’s 1000 Worlds science fiction stories.
Like the Children of the Forest, the Viet Cong lived there long before the Americans arrived with their superior weaponry and great numbers. It would be understandable if the Children hid away in their version of the tunnels of the Viet Cong and plotted their comeback against the First Men and the Andals. Like the collective minds of the Soviets and the Vietnamese and the Chinese, the Children would utilize chess-like strategies against the invading enemy. Weaken them with internal struggles. Eliminate their dragons. Set them against other human groups like the White Walkers. Position their pieces around the board, the Faceless Men (Serve the many faced god – the heartwood trees and whose mottoes are “All men must die,” and “All men must serve.”). Prepare for checkmating humanity. There are no prophecies, only messages that ensorcel and enslave.
Will our protagonists understand the truth in time? We shall see, said the Zen master.
Note: The foregoing is almost entirely derived from others including Preston Jacobs’ You Tube videos, Dorian the Historian’s blog, Radio Westeros’ podcasts, and Yolkboy’s webpage for Shiera Seastar as the mother of Melisandre.