The Four Seasons of My Love and the “Other Old Races” in “A Song of Ice and Fire”

Struck by nightmares and visions of their father’s ghost in the Winterfell crypts, Bran and Rickon seek comfort with Maester Luwin as Osha the Wildling tends to Luwin’s wounded arm. (Shaggydog has bitten him.) Bran then gets Luwin to tell the history of the Children of the Forest. It is a fairly long tale that does not agree with Nan’s tale of the Last Hero, but that is what we have come to expect of the maesters and their official histories. When Bran recalls that Luwin had declared the Children gone, Osha states something curious: “Here they are. North of the Wall, things are different. That’s where the children went, and the giants, and the other old races.” (A Game of Thrones, PB, 738, Bran) What did she mean by that? What “other old races”?

 

Keeping in mind Luwin tells her to keep her “folly” to herself, these other old races are a curiosity. If she meant races like direwolves, she is clearly right. There are two sitting in the room at the time. Luwin must be denying the continued existence of the Children, the giants, and some other beings. Who could they be? The answer that immediately comes to mind is “the others” or White Walkers. We learn from Tormund and Mance Rayder that the White Walkers have become active again after many, many years. We know from the destruction of many of the Night’s Watch in rangings large and small that the White Walkers are no myth. But, it would be strange for Osha not to mention them by name. It would add to her credibility. It would reinforce her message for Bran to give to Robb that his forces should be going north, not south. Yet, she stays mum on what races she means thanks in part to Luwin, who, with a Valyrian link to his maester’s chain, should know better.

 

From the World Book, we learn that there are three races that correspond to three of the four elements that make up what appears to be Martin’s version of the ancient cosmology of being and three of the four seasons along with their respective colors, that are in turn associated with the four women of the song, “Seasons of My Love”. We are most familiar with the Children of the Forest, or “those who sing the song of the earth” as they call themselves. They consider themselves earth’s caretakers, upload themselves upon death to the weirwood net, speak with animals, and have other telepathic abilities. It is unclear from the text about whether the ratios Jojen lays out for greenseers and skin changers applies to both Children and men. For men, it is one of a thousand who are skin changers, and one in a thousand of those who are greenseers. The greenseers of the Children receive either red or green eyes instead of the usual golden color. Jojen also notes that “for every song must have its balance.” (A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 34, Bran III) The heartwood trees’ leaves and sap are red (probably from blood sacrifice) and their bark is white. As such, the weirwoods are albinos themselves. It also means that the Children and the heartwood trees are autumn, the “earth” element with the color red.

 

The World Book also mentions merlings and sea serpents. Merlings are like mermaids and mermen. The sea serpents are the equivalent of water dragons. For example, Nagga, whose skull and bones comprise the Seastone Chair and hall on Old Pyke, was a sea serpent. Therefore, the merlings and sea serpents serve the water element and are associated with the spring season (the spring rains bring summer’s bloom).  Their color is brown.

 

Then, we have the creatures, now vanished, who taught the way of dragons to the Valyrians and occupied Asshai before its present inhabitants. There are two stories that are relevant here. The first is from Doreah, Daenerys’ handmaiden from the pleasure house in Lys. Her tale is that a second moon came too close to the sun and split open giving birth to all the dragons. While some take the tale literally, the interpretation I find most credible, given Martin’s desire to put magic into the story rather than science, is that it is a metaphor. The moon is associated with women such as the lunar cycle with the menstrual cycle, mother moon, and so forth. In “A Song of Ice and Fire”, we have Drogo referring to Daenerys as his moon and stars and Daenerys to Drogo as her sun.

 

Then, there is the Azor Ahai legend with Azor Ahai creating Lightbringer by steeling it in the heart of his love, Nissa Nissa, who pours her being, her soul, into the sword giving it her fire as it were. The common theme, other than blood sacrifice, is that, if you cleave woman or mother earth, you will produce fire. Fire, firewyrms, and dragons stem from this process as does the production of Valyrian steel, roads, and buildings. The black stone of the Dragonstone fortress is dragon fire roasted rock – obsidian, dragon glass. From the World Book we learn the original maze maker oily, black stone fortresses are from a giant people who antedated the First Men in both Essos and Westeros. While they are gone, they are the people of fire associated with the season summer and the spun gold or yellow color.

 

That leaves the fourth older race, other than the direwolves, as the Others, aka White Walkers. They are creatures of cold who are associated with the ice dragons we find references to in the World Book. However, as cold is not one of the ancient elements cosmology along with earth, water, and fire or Galen’s medicine, which was popular in the Middle Ages that provide much of Martin’s source material, we must surmise that this is the air/wind equivalent. The season is winter and its color is white or moon glow.

 

Interestingly enough, Jon’s love interests thus far also conform to this seasonal, elemental, and hair color sequence. His first love is Ygritte, whose hair has been “kissed by fire” – red. Val is his second interest who has blonde hair. Alys Karstark and he have a moment, and Jon and Arya have a special bond. Both girls have brown hair. All that remains is a girl with moon glow in her hair and we have the women of “Seasons of My Love”. I suppose silver gold would do although I am repulsed by the aunt/nephew pairing.

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