Throughout A Song of Ice and Fire there are a number of notable love triangles. Rhaegar-Robert-Lyanna sets up a huge part of the plot of the series before they even start. Robert-Jaime-Cersei sets off the fireworks as the beginning. The original version of the series was going to prominently feature a Jon-Tyrion-Arya love triangle (which, I mean, I like to think George had a plan for that but damn I cannot imagine a version of it that isn’t horrible). These are very central to the plot and repeat over and over. That begs a question we ask a lot here, is this an echo of an event that led to the first Long Night and has an ancient analog? After some closer inspection, I think it does. Let’s go through some examples, looking at the archetypes we can get from the players involved, and see what themes fall out for us. Before we start, I want to make sure we all know what I mean by “archetypes”. George has his own that are connected to external mythology, but also original in certain ways. The World Book is the best source for the archetypes, but they are spread all over. All the ancient Age of Heroes people are archetypes. Garth the Green, Bran the Builder, Lann the Clever, the Bloodstone Emperor, the Grey King, and others are the ones I am referring to. People can also have certain aspects to them, like Daenerys being fiery or Lyanna being wintery for example. This is not something complex I am referring to. Let’s get started and if you are still a little confused it will become more clear as we see it in action.
We are going to start with the most iconic love triangle in the series. We are told about this one early and often. Many of our later examples will connect back to it, in particular we will be able to see Robert in a lot of the men we talk about. So, what archetypes do these three play?
Robert is easy. He is a Garth the Green figure. Both Robert and Garth have children all over Westeros. Garth is a fertility god of some flavor. He is associated with growing things and reproduction. They are both particularly horny horned lords. What I mean is that Garth, as a lot of nature gods do, is said to have horns or antlers growing from his head. Google “Cernunnos” if this is new information to you and go read Lucifer means Lightbringer’s Green Zombie series on the green man in A Song of Ice and Fire. Robert wears horns on his helmet in a clear allusion to this type of god who goes by the name Garth in this story. In addition to the clear fertility references you get from Robert’s love of sex and many children, he constantly speaks about food, wine, and the comforts of the warm and fertile south when we first see him.
“You need to come south,” Robert told him. “You need a taste of summer before it flees. In Highgarden there are fields of golden roses that stretch away as far as the eye can see. The fruits are so ripe they explode in your mouth—melons, peaches, fireplums, you’ve never tasted such sweetness. You’ll see, I brought you some. Even at Storm’s End, with that good wind off the bay, the days are so hot you can barely move. And you ought to see the towns, Ned! Flowers everywhere, the markets bursting with food, the summerwines so cheap and so good that you can get drunk just breathing the air. Everyone is fat and drunk and rich.” He laughed and slapped his own ample stomach a thump. “And the girls, Ned!” he exclaimed, his eyes sparkling. “I swear, women lose all modesty in the heat. They swim naked in the river, right beneath the castle. Even in the streets, it’s too damn hot for wool or fur, so they go around in these short gowns, silk if they have the silver and cotton if not, but it’s all the same when they start sweating and the cloth sticks to their skin, they might as well be naked.” The king laughed happily.
And sex. He talks about sex when we first see him too. Did I mention that he likes it? Robert is all Garth the Green, all fertility, and all summer. He takes his pleasures. This smaller quote spells out in no uncertain terms that Robert is meant to bring to mind Garth and the idea of a horned god like Cernunnos.
He found himself thinking of Robert more and more. He saw the king as he had been in the flower of his youth, tall and handsome, his great antlered helm on his head, his warhammer in hand, sitting his horse like a horned god.
This is a well documented early example of George being really unsubtle about a particular archetype someone plays. There are a couple other things we should make note of regarding real world green man mythology that George is using on Robert before we move on. We don’t need these to see that Robert is a Garth the Green figure, but we will need it later.
First, Robert is an avid hunter. He likes it almost as much as sex, eating, and drinking. We see him go hunting twice, and die on the second trip. When he goes hunting is the only time we see him actually wear green, his “hunting greens” he calls them. This ups his already impressive amount of green man symbolism even further. The reason this works so well for us is that “the Hunstman” is a version of the green man myth. We all know stories about huntsmen don’t we? Snow White comes to mind. Herne the Hunter is an old mythological figure who is a hunter, woodsman, and is tied to the larger green man myth. Later in the story we learn of a wildling named Harle the Huntsman who is a clear allusion to this mythological figure. Harle the Huntsman is in a feud with Harle the Handsome over a woman they both have had children with which is exactly the sort of thing I am talking about today. The green man above all else is a lord of nature and the hunter is the master of the woods. It is a pretty logical thing to connect. Robert’s love of hunting is another green man trait.
Second is Robert’s storm god traits. The green man and the storm god are not necessarily the same thing in real world mythology, but they are sometimes related. They are especially related when you go very old. Baal and/or Hadad was a storm and fertility god worshiped in the in the area around what is today Israel and North Africa. He was both a storm god and a fertility god for the obvious reason that storms bring rain which brings fertility to the land. He also had horns as a very important trait. Baal was associated with the bull and the goat. One epithet he had translated to Lord of Two Horns. One place he was worshiped near Carthage is known as Two Horns Hill. In the novels Horn Hill is the seat of House Tarly and a place where two men tried to share a woman (which never works out). They were the House founders. One was Harlon the Hunter and the other was Herndon of the Horn. They both married the same wood’s witch and as long as they lay with her when the moon was full they were immortal. We don’t hear about them fighting each other, but they aren’t still running Horn Hill so something went wrong. Just another example of of a Hunter fighting over a woman.
Even the most casual of readers may have noticed Robert’s Thor-like attributes. He is lord of the Stormlands and wields a hammer. This is not George at his most subtle. The important takeaway is that the green man/fertility god and the storm god do have a history of being linked together that is referenced in the books. Even if they were not, George is free to mix and match whatever external myths he wants to create his own archetypes and one he is clearly using is a blended horned, green, stag-man combined with thunder god. No one shows this more clearly than Robert Baratheon.
That was an extremely long description of Robert’s personal symbolism. It was needed and they rest will not be this long. Just remember, Robert = green man of nature, horns, fertility, summer, food, sex, and hammer wielding storm god figure. There will be different combinations of this going forward. Now we can finally move on.
Rhaegar can be tackled next. He is Robert’s opposite in so many ways. Robert is outgoing and charismatic. Rhaegar is melancholy. Robert loves to fight. Rhaegar sadly told his master at arms that “it seems I must be a warrior” to start his training at war. Barristan tells us he took no pride or joy in it. Rhaegar does not care for food or wine like Robert. We see Robert frequent brothels. We don’t know Rhaegar that well, but Ned did and Ned thinks that Rhaegar probably did not visit them meaning he lacks Robert’s fertility symbolism in every way. The phrase “a dragon plants no trees” comes to mind. Garth the Green planted things all across Westeros including at least three weirwood trees in Highgarden. It seems dragons and Garth people are some sort of opposites sometimes. If Robert represents summer, life, and green things, that must mean Rhaegar represents death and winter. Which is exactly right.
I have to take another detour through external real world mythology again. There are versions of the green many myth where the green man is split in two. Instead of one green man sometimes there are two. One is the king of summer and the other is the king of winter. In this version of the myth, which is seen in many versions all over Europe and the surrounding areas, the two brothers fight twice a year. On the Winter solstice the days begin to get longer. This was seen by some ancient people as a king of summer defeating a king of winter and turning the tide back toward light and day. Then on the summer solstice, the winter king would defeat the summer king and the days would begin to grow shorter. Sometimes these old holidays were near the spring or fall equinoxes instead of the solstices, but the idea is the same: a god won a victory and changed the seasons.
I would like to list a bunch of clean, clear examples of this in real world mythology, but they don’ exist as such. The idea of a summer and winter king is really a speculative theory among early scholars who studied myths from all over. Among them were Robert Graves and James George Frazer who are giants in the field even if most of what they wrote is not considered correct today. GRRM is certainly using their theories which is what matters for us here today. Gwyn and Gwythyr are my favorite version theorized by Graves. That is because they are brothers, they were ordered to fight every May Day until the end of the world, and best of all for us, they fought over a woman named Creiddylad. We are all about men with opposite symbolism fighting over women today.
May Day is an ancient holiday celebrating the return of summer and the changing of the seasons in case you didn’t know. It is usually celebrated on May 1st around the beginning of Spring. Christians today celebrate Easter right around this time. Easter is about the rebirth of Jesus, and it is not a coincidence that this holiday is celebrated just as nature is being reborn from winter. The beginning of spring has always been celebrated for different reasons. Those rabbits and eggs are obvious fertility symbols you know. Did you know people celebrate Christmas on December 25th because that is the day originally celebrated for a Sun god named Sol Invictus which means “unconquered Sun” (..cough..House Martell..cough)? Because we do. December 25th is really close to the winter solstice which is when the summer king defeats the winter king according to the old theory George is working from. Sol Invictus day celebrated a sun god’s victory over the darkness and the return of light. Then it became Jesus’ day resulting in some of those ideas being transferred to Jesus. But that is something for another day. The point is that the idea of a summer and winter king fighting and changing the season depending on who wins is an old and well know idea with some real backup evidence. George is using it and we will see many of the places where today.
Knowing all that, we can see that Robert fighting Rheagar is a summer vs winter king fight. A Song of Ice and Fire is all about he changing of the seasons. We should expect to see references like this in there. Upon closer inspection when Rheagar leaves to go on his trip that ends with his abducting Lyanna, it is a terrible winter. The Mad King lit fires to drive off the cold it was so bad. When Robert kills Rheagar he becomes king himself and then rules over a long and very hot summer. It is one of the longest and hottest anyone can remember according to Pycelle who really should know these sorts of things. I am not saying that Robert’s victory at the Trident actually caused the seasons to change, but the way George wrote it there can be no doubt that the battle is meant to be seen as a summer king defeating a winter king in battle and bringing summer.
Now that we have the two men squared away, what about the woman they fight over, Lyanna? Don’t worry, I am not going to use her as a launching point to go into a huge speech about another real world mythological thing. My analysis of the women in these examples is going to stay pretty short. Lyanna is a daughter of Winterfell. She is a wild, wintery lady. Knowing what we do now about Robert and Rheagar and their archetypes, which one would a wintery lady prefer? Rheagar of course. He represents the winter king in the fight opposite Robert’s huge amount of summer symbolism. Lyanna abandons Robert to chase her heart and go to the person she is a much better match for (or whatever happened).
Remember when I said hunt-loving Robert was like Harle the Huntsman locked in a fight with another man for a woman? Well, that makes Rheagar like Harle the Handsome. And it turns out Rheagar was handsome.
By night the prince played his silver harp and made her weep. When she had been presented to him, Cersei had almost drowned in the depths of his sad purple eyes. He has been wounded, she recalled thinking, but I will mend his hurt when we are wed. Next to Rhaegar, even her beautiful Jaime had seemed no more than a callow boy.
Rheagar makes even Jaime look plain and Jaime looks good even half dead in a bath and/or covered in shit locked in a Riverrun cell according to Catelyn and Brienne. I like this quote even more because it highlights Rheagar’s being a night person. I could almost imagine him saying “I am of the night” bragging about how dark and mysterious he is like Darkstar, but Rhaegar probably deserves more credit than that. Rhaegar is also mentioned as sad which illustrates his being a night/wintery-death figure and the opposite of all things happy and summery. Here is the contrast we are going to focus on for the remainder of today. Harle the Handsome vs Harle the Huntsman fighting over a woman and Robert vs Rheagar over Lyanna are both parts of an archetypal battle of men over women that goes through the whole story in different versions. One man has green nature traits. The other has dragon symbolism or some other traits that pass for an opposite of a man of nature. One will be summery and the other will be wintery, but which is which will not always be the same. Then we will see the woman they fight over pick the one she like better, which will match up with her own symbolism in ways I will show.
Next I am going to go to love triangle that is lesser in stature before going back up to the one we are probably all be thinking about. This one has many things reversed from the last example, but as we will see it still fits the pattern just as an inversion.
First up is Jorah. What type of symbolism does he have? We know we are looking for him to match up as either a green man or a dragon and also as either summer and fire or ice and winter. These quotes are separated in different books, but are very similar. They show us Jorah Imagry and Symbolism.
“My home . . . you must understand that to understand the rest. Bear Island is beautiful, but remote. Imagine old gnarled oaks and tall pines, flowering thornbushes, grey stones bearded with moss, little creeks running icy down steep hillsides. The hall of the Mormonts is built of huge logs and surrounded by an earthen palisade.
Let him go home.” Dany pictured Jorah moving amongst old gnarled oaks and tall pines, past flowering thornbushes, grey stones bearded with moss, and little creeks running icy down steep hillsides. She saw him entering a hall built of huge logs, where dogs slept by the hearth and the smell of meat and mead hung thick in the smoky air.
Jorah comes from nature. He comes from oaks and pines and stone covered in moss. Remember his original crime was selling poachers into slavery. In a roundabout way that makes him a hunter. He hunts hunters. He is the lord of the wood any no one goes there without his permission. Bears are woodland creatures. They rule the woods like the green man and like Jorah. He definitely falls on the green man Garth side of things. Like Robert, he is undesirable to the woman he wants, in this case Dany but his ex-wife Lynesse Hightower also left him. Robert and Jorah also both share the trait of being hairy which will be important in a moment and seems to be a Garth trait.
Beyond that however, Jorah and Robert diverge symbolically. Where Robert is all summer, fun, and sex, Jorah is a northerner. His imagery I quoted above involves icy streams. He is wintery. He takes no joy in anything we have seen in the novels. He wants things sure, but have we seen anything make him happy? No, we haven’t. He certainly has no sense of humor or joy.
Then on to Daario. He is Jorah’s opposite in every way. He is introduced as Jorah’s opposite when we first see him.
When the exile knight delivered him, she asked herself whether two men had ever been so different. The Tyroshi was fair where Ser Jorah was swarthy; lithe where the knight was brawny; graced with flowing locks where the other was balding, yet smooth-skinned where Mormont was hairy. And her knight dressed plainly while this other made a peacock look drab
This quote shows a clear split of two different archetypes. These two are polar opposites. Those if you who have read my Lann the Clever: Golden Rogue essay know what archetype Daario plays. He is Lann the Clever. As a refresher and/or first introduction, here is the description of Lann’s children in the World Book,
Lann the Clever supposedly lived to the age of 312, and sired a hundred bold sons and a hundred lissome daughters, all fair of face, clean of limb, and blessed with hair “as golden as the sun.”
They and Daario are lithe, smooth skinned, fair of complexion, and golden (due to Daario’s all yellow clothing since his hair is dyed). These are the traits Daario has and Jorah does not. In the Golden Rogue I made the case that Lann was a dragon person. If Jorah is a Garth the Green nature figure then it would be nice if Daario was a dragon person like Rhaegar.
Daario had plundered himself a whole new wardrobe in Meereen, and to match it he had redyed his trident beard and curly hair a deep rich purple. It made his eyes look almost purple too, as if he were some lost Valyrian.
Daario probably has no dragon blood. There is not much to suggest he does. However, he can play the role of a dragon because of things like this. And this…
If her dragons discomfited Daario Naharis, he hid it well. For all the mind he paid them, they might have been three kittens playing with a mouse.
And this from when Dany is eating horse meat charred by Drogon…
Daario takes a lot of joy in eating, fighting, and sex. He wears all yellow, which is a summery color. It is the color of the sun and of House Baratheon. He definitely has summer symbolism to oppose Jorah’s morose, miserable, wintery personality.
Then Daenerys herself. She is obviously fiery by nature. Literally fire made flesh. She is the opposite of Lyanna’s wintery aspect. Accordingly, Dany prefers the fiery, summer suitor Daario. This is what Barristan says of her.
Like all good queens she put her people first—else she would never have wed Hizdahr zo Loraq—but the girl in her still yearned for poetry, passion, and laughter. She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud.
Now yes, I know Barristan is wrong about pretty much everything and not a very good person when it is all put together especially when it comes to his thoughts on young women. However, he is not entirely wrong about what Dany “wants”. What he misses on is what she will choose. He doesn’t give her enough credit and assumes she will make the selfish choice to go after what she wants instead of doing what she thinks is her duty. We know this is all wrong because Dany marries Hizdahr. She still wants fire on some level though, which is what Daario gives her.
Speaking of Hizdahr, he is another man that Dany is uninterested in. In Barristan’s chapter where he deposes Hizdahr, we learn Hizdahr is jealous of Daario and Dany’s affection for him. So might there be some symbolism attached to Hizdahr that makes him a wintery, green man as well?
The nobleman had wings of wiry red-black hair sprouting from his temples. They made him look as if his head were about to take flight.
This is Hizdahr the first time we meet him. Now we know that having horns is prime green man symbolism and we see them on Robert’s helmet. These are not horns, but we do have something sprouting from his temples. Other Meereenese wear their hair in horns, maybe someone can give Hizdahr some?
He[Daario] climbed from her bed. “Marry Hizdahr, then. I will give him a nice set of horns for his wedding gift. Ghiscari men like to prance about in horns. They make them from their own hair, with combs and wax and irons.” Daario found his breeches and pulled them on.
There you go. Daario is going to give Hizdahr horns. At the risk of telling everyone something they already know, “giving someone horns” is a phrase used to describe sleeping with their wife. You will notice on today’s essay the green man does not do very well with the opposite sex. A lot of them are given horns, which works because mythical green man have horns. Here is Robert, Jaime, and Cersei at Greenstone.
There had been a female cousin too, a chunky little widow with breasts as big as melons whose husband and father had both died at Storm’s End during the siege. “Her father was good to me,” Robert told her, “and she and I would play together when the two of us were small.” It did not take him long to start playing with her again. As soon as Cersei closed her eyes, the king would steal off to console the poor lonely creature. One night she had Jaime follow him, to confirm her suspicions. When her brother returned he asked her if she wanted Robert dead. “No,” she had replied, “I want him horned.” She liked to think that was the night when Joffrey was conceived.
Jaime is giving horns to the horny horned god from the last example. No one is horny in as many ways as Robert. We are talking about Hizdahr right now though. Having established that he is being given horns is he also on the cold and wintery side of things like Jorah?
Beneath her coverlets she tossed and turned, dreaming that Hizdahr was kissing her … but his lips were blue and bruised, and when he thrust himself inside her, his manhood was cold as ice.
Dreams are prime symbolism territory. Everything is surreal and full of hidden truth. In addition to this there is the first time Dany asks Hizdahr to kiss her. He does, but he seems to hold back and doesn’t commit. This prompts Dany to think of him as “Hizdahr of the tepid kisses” thereafter. This is a bit of anti-fertility symbolism. Daario and Robert would not kiss anyone in a tepid way ever.
It reminds me of when Xaro visits Dany in Meereen. She puts on her dress with one exposed breast in the Qartheen fashion in his honor. Dany notes that all the men steal a look except Xaro, which is about the 100th time we are told he is not into women. When the two of them are alone Xaro reaches out to touch her and offers sex. She is half tempted to sleep with him and pretend he is Daario, but she decides against it much to Xaro’s relief. It is similar to the scene where Hizdahr kisses Dany because, like Xaro, he is there for reasons of state, power, and politics and winds up in a sexual situation as an after thought. Its a little funny that this keeps happening to the most beautiful woman in the world. Xaro is from Qarth which is the home of the warlocks. They are the ones with icy, blue lips that Dany is familiar with. This dream begs us to compare Hizdahr to the Qartheen. All Qartheen including Xaro have milk pale skin. Milk is an icy symbol, most white things are. Think about the milkglass bones of the Other Sam kills. The Undying of Qarth are some sort of Other and evil greenseer stand-in anyway. All of this applies more to Hizdahr’s wintery, anti-fertility symbolism.
There is a short story about the distant history of Westeros that is a parallel to all of this. Argoth Stone-skin called the Grey Giant won the first ever Tourney in Westeros. As a prize he was supposed to get to marry Maris the Maid. However, Uthor of the High Tower stole her away before Argoth could marry her. Argoth spent the rest of his life roaring outside of Oldtown for his bride back. When you look at the men so far who lose out for women, a lot of them are big strong guys. Robert certainly was. Jorah is big. Our third we will see in a couple of examples is as big as both combined. That their ancient equivalent was a grey giant possibly with stone skin fits the pattern really well.
Jorah matches up with Argoth Stone-skin best of all. He was married to a Hightower woman named Lynesse. Jorah says he thought Lynesse was the Maid come down to earth furthering her comparison to Maris the Maid. He proposed the marriage to her father after winning a tourney. Unlike Argoth, he did get to marry Lynesse, but not for long before she left. Now he is spending the rest of his life trying to marry Dany, who Jorah says looks like Lynesse. When we first see a decent amount of Jorah it is out on the Dothraki sea. The Dothraki wear no armor and Jorah sticks out like a sore thumb in his grey steel head to toe. The name “stone-skin” and “grey giant” would apply very well to him relative to the people around him.
Looking at Jorah some more, who was it that took his wife? It was a man named Tregar Ormollen, a merchant prince from Lys. Robert got his betrothed stolen by Rhaegar, Jorah by Tregar. Not a hard parallel to spot once you know what to look for. We are told several times throughout the series that there is still a lot of Valyrian blood in Lys. It is usually in reference to the sex workers there, but not always. I have no idea if Tregar is Valyrian like Rhaegar was, but he lives in the right place to have been and it would fit the pattern. It is hinted we may meet him in Winds when we are told the Hightowers are trying to hire sellsails from Lys to fight Euron. I am betting he looks either like a Valyrian or a Lannister since he is playing the Lann role and seducing the woman. Those of you who read Lann the Clever: Golden Rogue know I already pegged one Lyseni sellsail as a Lann figure, Salladhor Saan. Lys is also very close to Tyrosh the home of Daario, the dragon look-a-like who is sleeping with Jorah’s would-be replacement for Lynesse.
To summarize before moving on, Jorah has nature and green man symbolism. He is from the wild forest which he ruled like the green man rules nature. He is big and hairy like king Robert. And he has wintery symbolism due to his joyless personality, his being from the north, and the icy streams his home is said to have. Daario is a golden, summery dragon figure, which is what the Lann the Clever archetype is. He likes to laugh, he loves food, fighting, and sex. Plus he looks like an actual dragon person. Dany is fiery and at this point in the story is attracted to fire. She chooses the handsome suitor over the hunter suitor just like Lyanna. The only difference is that this time the hunter/green man suitor is the wintery suitor Jorah instead of the summery Robert. The preferred man is still the less hairy, dragon suitor.
Now we are ready to take on the one that you all were probably thinking of after the first example. This the other really important love triangle that sets the stage of the whole series. This one requires a different way of thinking about Robert and it is not quite as clean because of that. Lets start with him again.
Robert has had by far the most material covered here so far. Relative to Rhaegar he was a summery green man, but that was in his youth. The quote we used where Robert is speaking of the food, wine, and sex available in the south was his conversation with Ned, who is also a wintery, joyless person like Rhaegar. In this new example Robert is still a green man, but we will highlight the ways in which his summery traits are leaving him as summer in the real (fictional) world ends. His symbolism for the sake of this example will match that of Jorah, the wintery green man.
In mythology the fate of the divine king often tracks with the fate of the kingdom. The king was the land he ruled in human form. For example, in the famous myth of the Fisher King, the Fisher King suffers a genital wound and the whole kingdom loses its fertility as a result.
What we see with Robert is a summer king who defeats a winter king (the Targaryens) and brings the summer. But, then he begins to slowly turn into them as summer comes to a close. As the king, he cannot stay a summer figure as summer ends. For the sake of the symbolism matching up, he must either transform into a winter figure to reflect his land, or die. Robert does a little of both.
As so often is the case, colors play a part in this.
Rhaegar … Rhaegar won, damn him. I killed him, Ned, I drove the spike right through that black armor into his black heart, and he died at my feet.
Rhaegar is very much associated with the color black. He is a night, wintery figure like his son Jon who wears nothing but black. The thing is that black is also the color of the stag in the House Baratheon sigil which sits on a yellow background. Yellow is a warm color and a color of summer and the sun, but black is the opposite. The dragon on the House Targaryen sigil is red which is a warm color as well, but their main background color is black.
The duel between Robert and Rhaegar is a little more complex than it seems from a symbolic perspective. Robert’s black in yellow is a winter/death color trapped inside summer and life. Rhaegar’s red trapped inside the black is life trapped inside of winter and death. Together they make a Yin-Yang. That is the type of Ice and Fire battle theme George is all about. The thing about the Yin-Yang is that the white has black inside it and vise versa. Robert has a little dragon blood in him from his Targaryen grandmother. Rhaegar has Blackwood blood in him from Egg’s wife giving him a touch of tree person DNA. Both look like clear representations of either a dragon person or green man, but they contain a spark of the opposite. Robert’s black death symbolism comes out and takes over as he approaches death and the realm approaches winter.
There is one example in the books where the Yin and Yang idea really seems to jump out, the Tower of Joy. The fight Ned remembers in a dream is between the white knights of the Kingsguard and the “grey wraiths” Ned has around him. Arthur DAYne has a white sword called Dawn while Ned’s House sword is dark grey and called Ice. It is a clear light vs dark type of conflict with one side having day symbolism and the other darkness. Out of this event we of course get Jon Snow who represents all the elements combined into one person.
So what does this have to do with Robert transforming into a winter figure from a summer one? Two things, one is that it sets up the Yin and Yang idea so that in this same chapter when Ned wakes up and meets Robert we can attach some importance to his clothing.
Robert had taken time to dress. He wore a black velvet doublet with the crowned stag of Baratheon worked upon the breast in golden thread, and a golden mantle with a cloak of black and gold squares.
The Baratheon sigil is a black stag inside of yellow. We already pointed out how that can be seen as winter and darkness trapped inside of a mostly summer symbol. Well now here we have Robert wearing the colors reversed. A gold stag inside of black is like the red inside of black of his mortal enemy Rhaegar, who is a wintery figure. The quote from earlier in this example where Robert speaks of Rhaegar’s black armor and black heart is from this same chapter. Robert utters it while himself decked out in black just begging us to think about what it means.
The second reason to bring up the Yin and Yang aspect of the Tower of Joy is to show that a role reversal is happening. At the Tower of Joy Arthur Dayne famously says the words “Now it begins” to which Ned replies “Now it ends”. Arthur is the Sword of the Morning and here we see his association with beginnings, which of course is what a morning is. Ned plays the evening, dark, night time role with his saying that it is time for an ending. Ned finds himself in a different role when he wakes up.
“Whatever happens,” Ned said, “I want my daughters kept safe. I fear this is only the beginning.”
“No harm will come to them, Lord Eddard,” Alyn said. “I stake my life on that.”
This very well could have been similar to what was on Arthur’s mind when he said that this was a beginning. Just like Ned wants to protect Arya and Sansa Arthur was probably trying to protect Jon and the beginning he was referring to may have been Jon’s beginning which kicks off with Ned coming and taking him. Then we see this from Robert.
“No,” he said. “I want no more of this. Jaime slew three of your men, and you five of his. Now it ends.”
At the Tower of Joy Ned killed three of the other groups men and had five of his own killed. In the street fight with Jaime it was reversed. Now Robert is quoting Ned’s lines right back to him. The transformation is complete. Robert now plays a nighttime, evening, ending type of figure like Ned did at the Tower of Joy. It is in this chapter where we learn Robert is going on his hunting trip where he will die.
This is the second time we have spent a long time talking about Robert’s personal symbolism, but he is just such a good window to see what George is doing because Robert is a really pure example of the green man. Now that he has become a wintery green man like Jorah, we should expect to see him in a fight over a woman with a golden Lann figure like Daario.
Of course that is exactly what Jaime is. Again, if you have read my Golden rogue essay you know all about this. Lann became King of the Rock in one version of the story by having a child with the female heir. In another he does this while serving as a guard for the Casterlys. Jaime gets the female (eventual) heir to the Rock pregnant, she just happens to be his sister. He does this while serving as Kingsguard. In the original version of the story Jaime was going to kill his way to the throne which may have matched up with Lann a little better, but that was abandoned. I don’t think I need to spend a whole lot of time justifying that Jaime = Lann type. Jaime wears golden armor, has golden hair, and supposedly fights with a golden sword. Gold is the color of summer and the sun. Robert and Jorah both have beards, which Jaime lacks while Robert is alive. They are a symbol is aging more than anything. Those two are past their prime. Jaime is smooth skinned during the time frame we are concerned with here just as his ancestor Lann was said to have been, and also just like Daario.
In this never-ending cycle Jaime himself grows a beard and seemingly ages a lot while in captivity. Bearded Jaime completes his transformation into Robert and gets cheated on himself by Cersei with another Lann figure, Lancel Lannister, as well as the hairy, dark haired, big, strong, Robert look-a-like Osmund Kettleblack. Lancel then ages quite a bit when he is injured and is probably getting cheated on by his Frey wife and around and around it goes.
Cersei herself falls clearly on the fiery side of things. She is more Dany than Lyanna. Cersei loves wildfire. She enjoys wine and sex. She does not fight being a woman who is not suited for it, but she takes great pleasure in trying to outsmart people which is its own sort of combat. Again, it does not take a long explanation to show that she is fiery if given the choice between that and ice. She chooses Jaime over Robert and it is Jaime who matches her personal symbolism.
Asha-Qarl the Maid-Anvil Breaker
Next up is a much more obscure love triangle that really excels at showing our dynamic. Asha Greyjoy is engaged by Euron against her will to Erik Ironmaker aka the Anvil Breaker after she loses the Kingsmoot. Asha runs away from the marriage and we next see her having sex with Qarl the Maid at Deepwood Motte and thinking that she would like to marry him. To keep with the pattern, lets tackle Erik the undesirable, wintery green man first.
A great ruin of a man, twenty stones heavy and ninety years old, he was cloaked in a white bearskin. His own hair was snow white as well, and his huge beard covered him like a blanket from cheeks to thighs, so it was hard to tell where the beard ended and the pelt began.
Show them my hammer, Thormor.” One of his champions lifted it up for all to see; a monstrous thing it was, its haft wrapped in old leather, its head a brick of steel as large as a loaf of bread…. You want a king with heirs? I’ve more’n I can count. King Erik, aye, I like the sound o’ that. Come, say it with me. ERIK! ERIK ANVIL-BREAKER! ERIK KING!”
This all we really need. Erik is basically Robert Baratheon had he lived another 50 years and continued to transform into a wintery figure even more. He was a big, strong warrior in his youth, but that is long past. He fought with a hammer, but now he has to have a grandson carry it. That grandson is named THORmor by the way. That is a not subtle at all reference to everyone’s favorite storm god Thor. Thor the very same who King Robert Baratheon copies so well being an angry, hammer wielding, storm king himself. Erik wears a snow bear pelt. Robert once looks like a bear when he and Ned discuss matters of state in the Barrowlands.
Robert wore thick brown gloves and a heavy fur cloak with a hood that covered his ears, and looked for all the world like a bear sitting a horse. “Up, Stark!” he roared. “Up, up! We have matters of state to discuss.”
Robert dresses like a bear while he is in the North. Jorah is a bear and a northerner. Now, Erik Ironmaker is playing the green man role in our mini-drama and he is wearing a white bearskin. Bears clearly seem to be a symbol of a green man, and maybe specifically a wintery version although I am not certain of that. Erik himself wears a white bear pelt and his beard is snow white as well. He is a super wintery Robert Baratheon type for sure.
Qarl is next. If his rival for Asha is a hairy, wintery, green, bear man then he must be the opposite. He needs to be a smooth skinned, summer person, and that is exactly what we see.
When Asha had first met him, Qarl had been trying to raise a beard. “Peach fuzz,” she had called it, laughing. Qarl confessed that he had never seen a peach, so she told him he must join her on her next voyage south.
It had still been summer then; Robert sat the Iron Throne, Balon brooded on the Seastone Chair, and the Seven Kingdoms were at peace. Asha sailed the Black Wind down the coast, trading. They called at Fair Isle and Lannisport and a score of smaller ports before reaching the Arbor, where the peaches were always huge and sweet. “You see,” she’d said, the first time she’d held one up against Qarl’s cheek. When she made him try a bite, the juice ran down his chin, and she had to kiss it clean.
Qarl got his name of “the Maid” from his smooth skin. His name is also attached to the peach. His best attempt at growing a beard resulted in peach fuzz. Of all the summer symbols George uses the peach seems to be his favorite. Stannis and Renly’s fight is like a life and happiness summer king brother fighting a death and wintery brother. Renly wears green armor and is like a young version of his oldest brother Robert in symbolism terms. Stannis is grumpy, lacks joy, and is a wintery person who inhabits Rhaegar’s old castle. They don’t fight over a woman or they would have their own section in this. Renly eats a peach in front of Stannis to provoke him. Robert had a lot of sex in a place called the Peach before the battle of the Bells. The point is that peaches are a top level symbol of summer. This whole quote is about summer, fruit, and sex and this is how we learn about Qarl.
As I have mentioned, being smooth skinned and hairless is a trait of Lann figures. Lann figures are usually dragon people, in particular dragon people in their youth. Qarl has no dragon symbolism I am aware of. However, his explicitly smooth skin is important enough to name him after so I think we can safely say he is a Lann figure even without the dragon traits. Qarl’s inability to grow a beard places him in contrast with the super hairy Erik in exactly the same way Daario is with Jorah.
Asha has some seal and mermaid symbolism, but not a whole lot that jumps out at me as either icy or fiery. She is certainly not as easy as Lyanna or Dany to classify. Her name ASHa implies ash which means fire. She advocates for burning Winterfell when Theon takes it. It is enough to say she falls on the fiery side of things. Accordingly, she chooses a summery young man in Qarl. Qarl and Erik don’t actually have an epic duel like Rhaegar and Robert do, but for a moment there it looks like they might get a chance.
She broke off suddenly. When Tris tried to speak, she shushed him, listening. “That’s a warhorn. Hagen.” Her first thought was of her husband. Could Erik Ironmaker have come all this way to claim his wayward wife?
Erik coming to reclaim Asha from Qarl the Maid sounds a lot like Robert coming after Rhaegar and Lyanna as well as Argoth coming for Maris the Maid and Uthor. One of the people both Argoth and Erik are chasing down are known as “the Maid”.
Argoth is specifically mentioned as roaring at Oldtown after his bride. Robert’s voice was legendary according to Ned and we still see him being very loud in Game such as when he commands the Clegane brothers to stop fighting. Erik gets an image of arriving with a loud warhorn.
Jaime-Brienne-No Shit Actual Bear
This one made me laugh. It will also be very short so I absolutely had to include it. We have seen bears show up quite a few time already. In fact the named green man at the top of every single section, Robert, Jorah, Robert again, and Erik all have bear symbolism. For Robert it is only the once, but the only time we see Erik he is covered in bear skin and Jorah of course has one on his sigil. So what’s the best way to go up a notch?
A roar turned Jaime back around. The bear was eight feet tall. Gregor Clegane with a pelt, he thought, though likely smarter.
Argoth roared, Robert was loud, Erik had a warhorn, now we have another one that roars. The loud bear person is always the green man, the lord of the woods. Just like Argoth and Erik this bear is after a Maid. Not Qarl the Maid, or Maris the Maid, but everyone’s favorite Maid, Brienne the Maid of Tarth. We have seen this play enough times now to know what traits the bear’s rival for Brienne should have. They need to be the “Lann” traits. He should be smooth-skinned to the bear’s hairiness. He should be fast and lithe to the bear’s brawn, and if he happens to be an actual Lannister who has already played this role in a different example then all the better.
“You want her? Go get her.”
So he did.
He put his good hand on the marble rail and vaulted over, rolling as he hit the sand. The bear turned at the thump, sniffing, watching this new intruder warily. Jaime scrambled to one knee. Well, what in seven hells do I do now? He filled his fist with sand. “Kingslayer?” he heard Brienne say, astonished.
Brienne is Brienne the Blue when she joins the Rainbow Guard. She has what can be described as a “cold” personality due to the distance she keeps from others. Just like how Robert went from being a summery figure in his youth to a wintery one right before he goes off on his deadly hunting trip Jaime too transforms. I mentioned that earlier. The best clue is that Jaime himself gets cheated on by Cersei, with a younger Lannister. Jaime’s injury is like a loss of fertility. It is a symbolic castration that moves Jaime from summer fertility to wintery infertility.
I had hoped that by now you would have grown tired of that wretched beard. All that hair makes you look like Robert.” His sister had put aside her mourning for a jade-green gown with sleeves of silver Myrish lace. An emerald the size of a pigeon’s egg hung on a golden chain about her neck.
“Robert’s beard was black. Mine is gold.”
“Gold? Or silver?” Cersei plucked a hair from beneath his chin and held it up. It was grey. “All the color is draining out of you, brother. You’ve become a ghost of what you were, a pale crippled thing. And so bloodless, always in white.” She flicked the hair away. “I prefer you garbed in crimson and gold.”
After his injury Jaime loses his color and vigor and his gold coloring that makes him a summery Lann the Clever figure. Now that Jaime has changed he can be a match for an icy woman like Brienne and no longer gets along with the fiery Cersei. I like how Cersei even implies Jaime is turning into Robert to an extent by growing this beard. It shows Jaime is becoming more like the person he used to cuckold. He is not exactly turning into Robert though. Robert was wintery green man toward the end of his life, but Jaime is not turning into a green man. He is transforming into an archetype that is more like Rhaegar who was a wintery, handsome dragon person. Jon Connington refers to Rhaegar as his “silver prince” and in this quote silver is the color Jaime is turning.
This little triangle looks like it will cause trouble when we first see it, but then Arys gets himself murdered before any fight can happen.
He must have felt her gaze upon him, for he looked up from his sword, met her eyes, and smiled. Arianne felt heat rushing to her face. I should never have brought him. If he gives me such a look when Arys is here, we will have blood on the sand. Whose, she could not say. By tradition the Kingsguard were the finest knights in all the Seven Kingdoms . . . but Darkstar was Darkstar.
Arianne and Arys have been having an affair for some time when we meet them in Feast. Arianne and Darkstar have at least a little sexual tension. Arianne thinks he is the most handsome man in Dorne and wants to make him her paramour. I have been told that the World of Ice and Fire app says explicitly that Darkstar and Arianne had sex right before Arys joins their party in the Queenmaker chapter. Take from that what you want. We have been starting with the green man so far and I don’t see why we should change now.
Arys is easy to label as a green man. He comes from House Oakheart. His House traces its ancestry to Garth the Green himself through John the Oak. His house sigil has leaves on it. In the Queen Maker chapter he wears a gold doublet with three green oak leaves on the chest. He has the clear fertility symbolism of being consumed by his sexual desire. It is a flaw that a lot of our green men have suffered from. Honestly, there is not a whole lot to say here. His green man and nature symbolism is clear and obvious when you look for it.
This means that Darkstar obviously is our dragon person/Lann figure.
Arianne watched him warily. He is highborn enough to make a worthy consort, she thought. Father would question my good sense, but our children would be as beautiful as dragonlords. If there was a handsomer man in Dorne, she did not know him. Ser Gerold Dayne had an aquiline nose, high cheekbones, a strong jaw. He kept his face clean-shaven, but his thick hair fell to his collar like a silver glacier, divided by a streak of midnight black. He has a cruel mouth, though, and a crueler tongue. His eyes seemed black as he sat outlined against the dying sun, sharpening his steel, but she had looked at them from a closer vantage and she knew that they were purple. Dark purple. Dark and angry.
This tells us all we need to know. Darkstar is Harle the Handsome to Arys’ Harle the Huntsman. He is the clean-shaven, smooth-skinned Lann the Clever to Arys’ Garth the Green. He looks like a dragonlord, but instead of fiery symbolism we see icy traits. His hair like a glacier makes that clear. Darkstar is “of the night” in his own words. He is like Rhaegar then, a wintery dragon. He says he is not like Arthur DAYne the Sword of the Morning. He is Arys’ opposite in every way. In the Queen Maker chapter all of Arianne’s companions drink wine while waiting on Myrcella. All except Darkstar. He prefers lemon water. Liking wine is a trait of summery people. Summery people enjoy life, but burn out quickly because of it. Robert loves wine more than anyone, and he ages quickly because of it. Daario is too drunk to stand on one occasion. Darkstar is different from them.
Arianne herself is clearly a fiery woman. Her House Martell sigil has a sun on it and uses the summery colors of red, yellow, and orange. She is a sexual person and has a charming personality. It is the complete opposite of the cold, reserved personality we see on wintery people. This example is a little different in that She actually like both men. She thinks Darkstar is the most attractive man in Dorne, she may have even slept with him. However, she hates Darkstar by the end of the Queen Maker chapter. It was a short fling/attraction.
There you have it. There is a theme running through all the books of a green man of either summery or wintery aspect fighting a dragon person with the opposite aspect over a woman. It is unlikley that this has no reason for existing. It is most likely a reflection of Dawn Age events. It is very commonly accepted that a dragon person from the far East landed at Oldtown and fought a battle for which Battle Isle is named today. Such a trip across the seas would have taken a lot of ships. The closest thing to this we see in the main series is Victarion sailing a fleet to Meereen to retrieve Dany. This has been correctly called out as a reference to the Illiad where Helen’s face “launched a 1000 ships”. I think that something like this happened in the lead up to the first Long Night and it is an important event. The dragon people sailed to Westeros for a reason and chasing after a woman was part of that reason. When they landed in Westeros they came into conflict with the Garth-like Green Men who were there. From that conflict the Long Night fell. These fights over a woman we see between handsome, smooth-skinned, dragon people and their Garth-like, nature oriented, green man rivals shows us that fight. That is my hypothesis anyway. That is what makes the most sense for me as the reason for this parallel series of events. Whether you think that or not these events are there for a reason and we should all keep them in our minds as we stare into the abyss that is George RR Martin’s mysteries.