As Above, So Below
The premise: just like the mythology of Planet Earth, the mythology of Planetos has astronomical events at its core. It has always been human nature to fashion myths and legends to explain the most significant natural phenomena, be it earthquakes, floods, meteor showers or volcanic eruptions. The most significant morals and culture-defining ideas of a people are then grafted on to these myths and become multi-layered, esoteric fables. The story of Azor Ahai, Nissa Nissa, Lightbringer, and Long Night, and all of its variants, is the central myth of Planetos.
I believe it is a description of a world-shaking astronomical event which happened in the ancient past. I also believe that everything that happens in the celestial realm in turn manifests on Planetos in an interconnected relationship. Thus, the symbols and patterns of this central myth of Planetos play out on multiple levels, in multiple ways, in a mind-blowingly complex tapestry of interrelationships. This explains why the concept of 'Lightbringer' seems to fit such a wide range of things: several characters, a comet, a sword, the Wall, the dragons, etc. They are all reflecting a pattern first initiated by this significant astronomical event.
Comets, Dragons, Flaming Swords
Here's the central part of the AA / Nissa Nissa / Lightbringer myth, from the mouth of Salladhor Saan (ACOK, Davos):
A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.
With that in mind, the story of the second moon, from TWOIAF:
...while in Quarth, the tales state that there was once a second moon in the sky. One day this moon was scalded by the sun and cracked like an egg, and one million dragons poured forth.
Now, one more version of that same story, this time from a Dothraki handmaiden:
“A trader from Qarth once told me that dragons came from the moon,” blond Doreah said as she warmed a towel over the fire ….
Silvery-wet hair tumbled across her eyes as Dany turned her head, curious. “The moon?”
"He told me the moon was an egg, Khaleesi,” the Lysene girl said. "Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.”
The two Dothraki girls giggled and laughed. “You are foolish strawhead slave,” Irri said. “Moon is no egg. Moon is god, woman wife of sun. It is known.”
“It is known,” Jhiqui agreed.
Here we have an association between the forging of Lightbringer and the origins of dragons. Now a quote from Xaro Xoan Daxos, to Dany in ADWD:
"When your dragons were small, they were a wonder. Grown, they are death and devastation, a flaming sword above the world."
So, dragons can be flaming swords. Has anything else been compared to a flaming sword above the world? Gendry, speaking to Arya in ACOK:
It was splendid and scary all at once. "The red sword," the bull named it. He claimed it looked like a sword, the blade still red-hot from the forge. When Arya squinted the right way, she could see the sword too, only it wasn't a new sword, it was Ice, her father's great sword, all ripply Valerian steel and the red was Lord Eddard's blood on the blade after Ser Ilyn the King's Justice head cut off his head.
Of course Melissandre sees the comet and Lightbringer as being connected (ACOK, Davos):
"Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai come again, the warrior of fire. In him the prophecies are fulfilled. The red comet blazed across the sky to herald his coming and he bears Lightbringer, the red sword of heroes."
Mellissandre again, from a Jon chapter in ADWD:
"I have seen it in the flames, read of it in ancient prophecy. 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. Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt.”
Naturally, we have to hear from the most reliable source in Westeros, Old Nan:
“Dragons,” she said, lifting her head and sniffing. She was near blind and could not see the comet, yet she claimed she could smell it. “It be dragons, boy,” she insisted.
And finally, lest we find ourselves short on comets-as-dragons metaphors, we get this interpretation from Osha, again in ACOK. She’s just heard the master’s suggestion that the wolves think the comet is the moon, and suddenly finds the words of house Targaryen on her lips:
“Your wolves have more sense than your master,” the willing 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."
So - comets, dragons, flaming swords - they all seem related. Specifically, the original forging of Lightbringer seems to be associated with the cracking of the second moon and the origin of dragons; the comet is compared to dragons, Lightbringer, and signals Azor Ahai's return. There's more quotations along these lines, but lets return to the idea of the the second moon cracking like an egg after a scalding from the sun, and the subsequent pouring forth of a million dragons.
Dragons are associated with comets and meteors the world round (that's here on planet earth we're talking). Chinese mythology is full of this, and the famous "plumed serpent" himself, Quetzalcoatl of various South American legends, also refers to a comet. The 'plume' refers to the head of the comet, like a lion's mane, and the serpent's tail is the comet's tail. It's easy to see why they are seen as dragons, particularly with falling meteors, as they ignite in the atmosphere on their descent to the planet. It's also easy to see why they are associated with the divine or supernatural, because they are literally 'stars' (meteorites) descending from the heavens to the earth.
With this in mind... a million dragons pouring forth, all at once, is a perfect mythological interpretation of a meteor shower. It must have been a hell of a meteor shower, but then we are told we used to have a second moon, which exploded. That makes sense - if you can come up with a way to explode a moon, much of the debris would reign down on the planet it orbits. Most pieces would burn up in the atmosphere, like flaming dragons... and a few big chunks would likely make it all the way down, causing huge detonations - ones capable of "drowning whole islands," like the Sea Dragon which the Grey King slew in the Dawn Age, or like the "Hammer of the Waters" that the children of the forest supposedly used to break the Arm of Dorne (I’m not sure the children did this, necessarily).
In fact, it only takes a decent sized meteor impact to cause quite a bit of damage, and if it's a larger impact, well, the lights go out - so much debris is thrown back into the atmosphere that the skies can go black for years... The Long Night. This explanation fits, but only if one or more fairly large chunks of exploded moon made it all the way to the surface of Planetos. There's definitely evidence for this, which we will show.
As for the unusual seasons of Westeros, they are best explained by some sort of wobble to the planetary axis, likely due to the loss of this second moon. This wobble overlays the various natural cycles of the planet's orbit in an irregular fashion. These discordant cycles produce a mostly symmetrical, if elongated pattern with asymmetrical fluctuations. That's why a long summer tends to equal a long winter, but occasionally we get those false springs and seasons of irregular length.
So, our theory so far is that the story of dragons pouring forth from an exploded moon is actually a clever mythological description for the destruction of a small moon exploding in the sky and reigning down objects onto the planet, some of which burn up in the atmosphere as a gigantic firestorm / meteorological shower, and some of which impacted the surface of Planetos. The resulting debris from the explosion and impacts darkened out the sky for several years, causing the event remembered as the Long Night. This event seems to be connected to the forging of Lightbringer, per Nissa Nissa's wail which cracked the moon as well as the general symbolic interchangeability of dragons, comets, and Lightbringer. We'll attempt to corroborate these connections further as we go.
The Helpful Elf Moon, (Grand)Mother of Dragons
The word 'Nissa' has interesting translations in the languages of Scandinavian and Native American peoples. The Natives Americans use the word 'Nissa' to refer to "Grandmother Moon" (or just "the moon"). 'Nissa' is also a Scandinavian word, which means "helpful elf." Now, not every name in ASOIAF has a real world translation that is intended, but with meanings like "helpful elf" and "grandmother moon," you do have to wonder. This would appear to be a very strong association between Nissa Nissa and the moon - in this case, the second moon which was destroyed to pour dragons forth into the world. Like this second moon, Nissa Nissa was absolutely destroyed by Lightbringer - not just killed, "her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel." She was fried. Just like the second moon - scalded, cracked like an egg. If this cracking of the elf moon had something to do with the origin of actual dragons, as I believe it might, then it was the original “mother of dragons,” which fits with the “ grandmother moon” translation, as well as the ‘egg’ metaphor applied to the moon in the Qarthine legend. Even if the elf moon was only the mother of meteorite ‘dragons’, the monicker still fits.
We've seen that Nissa Nissa's scream is tied to the moon cracking - indeed, in the astronomical version of this story, I believe Nissa Nissa represents that second moon, the 'helpful elf' moon. Moons are like miniature planets, so the 'elf' monicker makes a certain amount of sense. If Nissa Nissa's death helped to forge Lightbringer, then she was indeed quite helpful. In our story we have literal helpful elves, the children of the forest - who are basically elf-like and are at times very helpful themselves, such as in the case of the Last Hero and Brandon the Builder, or with Bloodraven and Bran. I'm not sure if George intended to imply a connection between the children of the forest and Nissa Nissa or the forging of Lightbringer, but we'll keep that idea in our back pocket. The fact that George has repeated the word Nissa twice in her name seems to imply the idea that there are two moons, or at least there were two moons. I also think the elf connotation may imply that this exploded moon was smaller than the remaining one, an idea which fits with the overall scenario I am proposing - a bigger moon would be harder to explode, or it would have caused too much damage for anything on Planetos to survive. I am theorizing a smaller moon, and further away than the surviving one.
So, Nissa Nissa is analogous to the the elf Moon that exploded. Lightbringer the sword killed Nissa Nissa, so what killed the elf moon? Lightbringer the comet, of course! But wait, the legend says the moon cracked because it got too close to the sun. That doesn't make sense though - moons don't just wander out of orbit. So how was the sun perceived as being responsible for cracking the moon? Well, Lightbringer the sword didn't just kill Nissa Nissa by itself - it was forged and wielded by Azor Ahai, 'Warrior of Fire.' If we place this warrior of fire, Azor Ahai, in the position of the sun, the picture begins to emerge. Depending on the positioning of the sun, the elf moon, and Planetos, the comet might have been coming from the direction of the sun when it struck the elf moon. If the elf moon was in eclipse position, it would really look like it cracked while too close to the sun. There's actually good evidence for just such an alignment in the tale of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield, which we will return to later, after we introduce other ideas that need to be understood to decode the tale of Serwyn and his mirror-shield.
The Treacherous Sun, Comet-Splitter
Can a comet impact cause a moon to explode? Well, it depends on how big the moon and the comet are, and what the moon is made of, but the basic answer is yes - a big enough comet or asteroid could wipe out a small moon. But here's the problem with that - if Lightbringer was a comet that struck the moon, how is it back? How has it returned? Presumably, it's the same comet, or else, why would it trigger the rebirth of Azor Ahai? Clearly, if it struck a moon last time, there wouldn't be anything left to return.
I think the answer lies hidden in the ice. Even though a comet appears to be a blazing fireball on the outside, it is basically a big ball of ice and rock (often containing iron) and dirt, often with a few useful trace elements and minerals, such as nickel and phosphorus. Far out in space, the comet is cold and dark, but when it enters the inner solar system it gains a tail (two tails, to be exact: the dust tail which appears white, and the ion tail, which appears blue). Sometimes, when comets pass close by a large celestial body, like a planet or a sun, they fragment due to the gravitational pull of the celestial body. Comets orbit the sun like planets, but have very elliptical orbits which take them far outside the solar system at their furthest point, and sometimes very close to the sun on their way back around. What if our Lightbringer comet split in two while orbiting around the sun, and on the way back, one half passed right by Planetos, and the other half slammed into the elf moon, shattering it? Again, depending on where the second moon was in its orbit, the comet would be seen to come from the sun, blazing with the sun's fire. It plunges into Nissa Nissa's (the elf moon's) heart, igniting everything in a blazing fireball, and pouring forth the thousand dragon meteor shower, along with a few large chunks of exploded elf moon.
Nice theory, but is there text corroboration? Again, in the Ice: Ned's sword. Arya thinks the comet is Ned's sword, red with blood. Ice was of course split in two by Tywin, the head lion (representing the sun here). The two new swords are Widow's Wail, referring to Nissa Nissa's wail of anguish and ecstasy, and Oathkeeper, which I think portends a fulfilled promise - the return of the half of the comet that survived. The Dothraki handmaiden claims the comet will return to destroy the other moon and return dragons to the world - that's a hell of an oath to keep!
I can't help but notice that Joffrey, owner of Widow's Wail, is dead, like the half of the comet that obliterated the elf moon, and like Nissa Nissa herself. Nissa Nissa wasn't a widow, but the theme of a dead spouse is there in her story. Brienne, on the other hand, bearer of Oathkeeper and keeper of oaths, is still alive, based on her very apropos last word: "sword," as GRRM confirmed in an interview. She's alive, just like the "Oathkeeper" half of the returning comet and the moon which survived.
Consider the color transformation. Ned's sword starts out the standard color for Valyrian steel, very dark and smoky grey, but two new swords made from Ned's Ice were red. The comet likely started out with a normal comet tail - blue and white (the colors of ice, incidentally). Considering that the remaining half of it is currently red, it is likely that the comet turned red when it was split. There appears to be a little fuzzy science here, since comets have never been observed to have red tails, but rather blue and white tails. This must be stated clearly: for scientific reasons, red comets do not, and cannot, exist. The red color of the comet indicates that it is a supernatural comet. In alchemy, red is the color of transformation, and so the transformed comet appears red. It’s still a fantasy novel, folks, don’t forget. In fact, that’s likely the point of George making it red: to tell us that this is not an ordinary comet..
Corroborations in the Text
There's a great little version of this comet splitting scenario in the epilogue of AFFC, where Sam is entering the gates of Oldtown for the first time.
The day was damp, so the cobblestones were wet and slippery underfoot, the alleys shrouded in mist and mystery. Sam avoided them as best he could and stayed on the river road that wound along beside the Honeywine through the heart of the old city.
The gates of the Citadel were flanked by a pair of towering green sphinxes with the bodies of lions, the wings of eagles, and the tails of serpents. One had a man’s face, one a woman’s. Just beyond stood Scribe’s Hearth, where Oldtowners came in search of acolytes to write their wills and read their letters. Half a dozen bored scribes sat in open stalls, waiting for some custom. At other stalls books were being bought and sold. Sam stopped at one that offered maps, and looked over a hand- drawn map of Citadel to ascertain the shortest way to the Seneschal’s Court.
The path divided where the statue of King Daeron the First sat astride his tall stone horse, his sword lifted toward Dorne. A seagull was perched on the Young Dragon’s head, and two more on the blade. Sam took the left fork, which ran beside the river. At the Weeping Dock, he watched two acolytes help an old man into a boat for the short voyage to the Bloody Isle. A young mother climbed in after him, a babe not much older than Gilly’s squalling in her arms. Beneath the dock, some cook’s boys waded in the shallows, gathering frogs. A stream of pink- cheeked novices hurried by him toward the septry.
The important things to note here: the river road runs to the "heart" of the city - that's a clue we are talking about the forging of Lightbringer in some fashion. The path splits at the sword of a mighty warrior - we've seen that a comet can be a flaming sword, and a warrior holding a sword is the very image of Azor Ahai holding Lightbringer. Just like Azor Ahai, the statue of King Daeron represents the sun - and here the path splits. The two seagulls perched on the blade further corroborates the idea of the comet splitting into two, with one half being tied to each moon. The one on the head could be the fragment of comet that landed at Starfall, an idea I will return to.
Going left, Sam encounters the "weeping dock" - 'weeping' being similar to 'wailing,' signifying the comet half which hit the elf moon, Nissa Nissa. Indeed, the woman getting in the boat may be a widow, since she and her babe are accompanied only by a old man, likely her father. They’re voyaging to the Bloody Isle, whatever that is, another death connotation. Remember that some of the scribes were there to write wills. Also, a grouping of three.
Another example of the comet splitting imagery occurs in the prologue of AFFC, again at Oldtown. Alleras the Sphinx is idly shooting apples from the sky with his bow and arrow while Pate nervously reviews his own life choices and thinks of Rosy. I’ve included some of the text before the apple splitting because it is loaded with talk of dragons, which is important in light of the astronomy being symbolized.
"Dragons,” said Mollander. He snatched a withered apple off the ground and tossed it hand to hand.
“Throw the apple,” urged Alleras the Sphinx. He slipped an arrow from his quiver and nocked it to his bowstring.
“I should like to see a dragon.” Roone was the youngest of them, a chunky boy still two years shy of manhood. “I should like that very much.”
After a bit more reflecting on the beautiful Rosy, Pate thinks:
He would have stood a better chance of hatching a real dragon than saving up enough coin to make a golden one.
“You were born too late for dragons, lad,” Armen the Acolyte told Roone. Armen wore a leather thong about his neck, strung with links of pewter, tin, lead, and copper, and like most acolytes he seemed to believe that novices had turnips growing from their shoulders in place of heads. “The last one perished during the reign of King Aegon the Third.”
“The last dragon in Westeros ,” insisted Mollander.
“Throw the apple,” Alleras urged again. He was a comely youth, their Sphinx. All the serving wenches doted on him. Even Rosey would sometimes touch him on the arm when she brought him wine, and Pate had to gnash his teeth and pretend not to see. “The last dragon in Westeros was the last dragon,” said Armen doggedly. “That is well known.”
“The apple ,” Alleras said. “Unless you mean to eat it.”
“Here.” Dragging his clubfoot, Mollander took a short hop, whirled, and whipped the apple sidearm into the mists that hung above the Honeywine. If not for his foot, he would have been a knight like his father. He had the strength for it in those thick arms and broad shoulders. Far and fast the apple flew … … but not as fast as the arrow that whistled after it, a yard- long shaft of golden wood fletched with scarlet feathers. Pate did not see the arrow catch the apple, but he heard it. A soft chunk echoed back across the river, followed by a splash. Mollander whistled. “You cored it. Sweet.”
Several pages later, we get the second apple. In between, there's some interesting talk of alchemy, changing iron into gold, and the golden coin 'shining in the candlelight' which the Alchemist showed Pate and which has a three headed dragon on one side, and 'some dead king' on the other. They also discuss the rumors of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. The second apple:
“There’s another apple near your foot,” Alleras called to Mollander, “and I still have two arrows in my quiver.”
“Fuck your quiver.” Mollander scooped up the windfall. “This one’s wormy,” he complained, but he threw it anyway.
The arrow caught the apple as it began to fall and sliced it clean in two. One half landed on a turret roof, tumbled to a lower roof, bounced, and missed Armen by a foot. “If you cut a worm in two, you make two worms,” the acolyte informed them.
When you split a comet in two, you do indeed get two comets. A worm can of course refer to a snake or a dragon, such as in the term "firewyrm." In the presence of all the talk of the last dragons and the new dragons, it make sense to reference the comet splitting here via clever metaphor. The point is driven home with the language - "sliced it clean in two." The fact that one half disappeared and one half hit a building (a tower no less - flaming towers are going to come into this) mirrors the two halves of the comet, one which hit something and one which kept going. A nice little detail is that Alleras hit the apple just as it begin to fall - right at the apex. That’s exactly when the comet would have split, at the point of its orbit when it was closest to the sun, as it came around the back side.
There are still more examples like this, but dear god, let's keep this thing moving somewhat. Suffice it to say, I think the comet splitting idea is pretty strong: it explains the proposed scenario perfectly, and seems to be corroborated by textual symbolism.
Three Attempts to Forge Lightbringer
Although we have been focusing on the successful forging of Lightbringer, the legend of Azor Ahai actually has a bit more to it, of course. Azor Ahai fails twice before achieving success, as a grape-chewing Saladhor Saan tells Davos in ACOK:
It was a time when darkness lay heavy on the world. To oppose it, the hero must have a hero’s blade, oh, like none that had ever been. And so for thirty days and thirty nights Azor Ahai labored sleepless in the temple, forging a blade in the sacred fires. Heat and hammer and fold, heat and hammer and fold, oh, yes, until the sword was done. Yet when he plunged it into water to temper the steel it burst asunder.
Being a hero, it was not for him to shrug and go in search of excellent grapes such as these, so again he began. The second time it took him fifty days and fifty nights, and this sword seemed even finer than the first. Azor Ahai captured a lion, to temper the blade by plunging it through the beast’s red heart, but once more the steel shattered and split.
This is followed by Nissa Nissa's sacrifice and the forging of Lightbringer. To fit the Azor Ahai myth fully, our celestial scenario should account for these three attempts to forge Lightbringer, and I believe it does. The last one is easy - the successful tempering of Lightbringer the sword in Nissa Nissa's heart is the comet half which struck the heart of the moon and created the fiery explosion. What about the other two, the water and the lion's heart? Well, first we're going to need a bit of information about the nature of meteor showers, which I have paraphrased and condensed from a couple different Wikipedia entries:
A normal meteor shower is the result of a planet passing through the stream of debris left by a comet. Comets can produce debris by water vapor drag, and by breakup. Comets are essentially 'dirty snowballs,' made up of rock embedded in ice, orbiting the Sun. The 'ice' may be water, methane, ammonia, or other volatiles, alone or in combination. The ‘rock’ often contains iron ore, as well as other trace minerals, including two which can be combined with iron to make or improve steel: nickel and phosphorus. The 'rock' may vary in size from that of a dust mote to that of a small boulder, with the pebble-sized rocks being far more common. When the ice warms and sublimates, the vapor can drag along dust, sand, and pebbles... and occasionally, those larger rocks.
Each time a comet enters the inner solar system and approaches the sun, some of its ice vaporizes and a certain amount of meteoroids will be shed. The meteoroids spread out along the entire orbit of the comet to form a meteoroid stream, also known as a "dust trail" (as opposed to a comet's "dust tail" caused by the very small particles that are quickly blown away by solar radiation pressure). In addition to this water vapor drag, larger pieces of rock periodically break off due to disintegration of the ice.
The first forging of Lightbringer the comet was this initial melting of the ice, which coincides with the formation of its natural tails, dust and ion, as it's orbit brought it into the inner solar system and closer to the sun. The tail is what makes the comet look like a sword, so the logical way to think about the attempts to 'forge a sword’ with a comet is in regards to its tail. Tempering a steel blade in water is the "normal," non-magical method. This correlates with the natural tails of the comet, and the natural melting of the ice, which led to some initial break-up of the comet, just as the first attempt to forge Lightbringer let to it "bursting asunder." The comet didn't quite 'burst,' but it was melting a bit and releasing some of its material. As I mentioned earlier, I think the Dawn meteorite may have originated from a small piece of the comet which broke off during this initial forging.
The second attempt at tempering Lightbringer, in the heart of a lion, is depicted by the splitting of the comet by the sun. The sun represents the lion here, just as Tywin did when he split Ned's sword in two. It is likely each half of the comet turned red at this point, just as Ned's sword did when it was split by Tywin. Note the language of Azor Ahai's failed second attempt: the blade "shattered and SPLIT."
So there's our two failed attempts to temper Lightbringer, and of course the third and successful attempt was the obliteration of the elf moon, which we will need to examine more closely to figure out what exactly happened with the exploded pieces of moon when they hit Planetos. This pattern of the three forgings is repeated in many places throughout the series, so there's no doubt it is important. Ideally, the passages which hint at Lightbringer symbolism should reference this entire pattern.
Think back to the passage with Alleras the Sphinx shooting apples. The person throwing the apples (which represent the comet) should be the playing the role of the sun - and indeed, we learn that he is known for being the son of a knight. The first apple is thrown towards the river, which shrouded in mists (evaporated water, like the comet’s first forging). Alleras hits it and it falls into the river, just as Lightbringer the sword was plunged in to the water. Nobody saw Alleras hit the apple, but they knew it hit because they heard it, just as the initial tail of Lightbringer the comet likely formed when the comet was still far from Planetos. The language of a ‘cored’ apple sounds like an apple with an arrow shaft sticking out of the center of it, which in turn makes a pretty good image of a comet with a tail. It’s first tail, to match it’s first forging.
The second arrow splits the apple, and half of it strikes two buildings and lands at the foot of a person. This is actually the second and third forging, the splitting in two (2nd) and the impact of one half (3rd). The third apple, which I didn't include in the quote, Alleras misses intentionally to 'leave room for improvement.' This is probably a clue that the last impact of the comet, the re-forging or return of Lightbringer, is yet to come. It may even be associated with some kind of improvement, wouldn't that be hopeful?
Dany's sojourn at Vaes Tolloro in ACOK is loaded with comet / Lightbringer symbolism. After trudging endlessly in the Red Waste, Daenerys and company reach the ruins of an ancient city / town and recuperate for a bit. She sends out her three blood riders ("blood of my blood") each with three horses in three directions - southwest, south, and southeast, the last of which is in the direction of the comet, and as it turns out, Quarth.
Rakharo was the first to return. Due south the red waste stretched on and on, he reported, until it ended on a bleak shore beside the poison water. Between here and there lay only swirling sand, wind- scoured rocks, and plants bristly with sharp thorns. He had passed the bones of a dragon, he swore, so immense that he had ridden his horse through its great black jaws. Other than that, he had seen nothing. Dany gave him charge of a dozen of her strongest men, and set them to pulling up the plaza to get to the earth beneath. If devilgrass could grow between the paving stones, other grasses would grow when the stones were gone. They had wells enough, no lack of water. Given seed, they could make the plaza bloom.
Here we have two water associations to symbolize the first attempt to temper Lightbringer in water: Rakharo finding the ocean, and the talk of making the plaza bloom with their abundant water supply. The connotation of turning death into life is meaningful, particularly if the Dawn meteorite comes from this first breaking up of the comet. Rakharo sees the Jade Sea as poison water, and the plants as measly and thorny. But we know from characters who have been there that the Jade Sea is actually quite lovely, and we know that the Dothraki are strangely biased against all saltwater. Daenerys, meanwhile, sees the thorny plants as a positive thing - an indication that more useful plants may be grown here as well.
As for the huge dead dragon, I believe it references two things. First, the dormant state of the comet in the outer solar system - before it takes fire and gains a tail, it's cold and dark. Note that Rakharo saw the dead dragon before reaching the water. Secondly, building on the idea that the Dawn meteorite may have come from this first fragmentation due to melting, the 'tempering in water,' it may hint that Dawn was used to slay a dragon - or more generally, a champion of fire. I think there were likely two "Lightbringer-associated" swords, of which Dawn was one - something I will get to in part two or three. Also notable is the presence of the number thirteen, specifically in the form of twelve led by one (Rakharo was given twelve workers to help him). Stick these ideas in your back pocket as well, if you would be so kind.
Aggo was back next. The southwest was barren and burnt, he swore. He had found the ruins of two more cities, smaller than Vaes Tolorro but otherwise the same. One was warded by a ring of skulls mounted on rusted iron spears, so he dared not enter, but he had explored the second for as long as he could. He showed Dany an iron bracelet he had found, set with a uncut fire opal the size of her thumb. There were scrolls as well, but they were dry and crumbling and Aggo had left them where they lay. Dany thanked him and told him to see to the repair of the gates. If enemies had crossed the waste to destroy these cities in ancient days, they might well come again. “If so, we must be ready,” she declared.
The first thing to note is that the two cities are similar to Vaes Tolorro, but smaller. This should immediately make us think of the two moons, 'elf' versions of Planetos. If the pattern holds, one city should represent the exploded moon through some sort of death symbolism, and the other should reflect a bit more life or hope, and probably some kind of idea about something returning. That's exactly what we get - one city has skulls mounted on spears, and Aggo takes it as a warning not go near. That's our exploded moon - everyone there is dead. The other city is safe to explore, has a couple interesting objects (that fire opal bracelet sounds nice), and Dany somewhat oddly speaks of some ancient enemy returning, and the need to repair the gates. This represents the surviving moon and the promise of its imminent destruction signaled by the return of the comet (according to the Qarthine legend, at least).
Jhogo was gone so long that Dany feared him lost, but finally when they had all but ceased to look for him, he came riding up from the southeast. One of the guards that Aggo had posted saw him first and gave a shout, and Dany rushed to the walls to see for herself. It was true. Jhogo came, yet not alone. Behind him rode three queerly garbed strangers atop ugly humped creatures that dwarfed any horse.
They drew rein before the city gates, and looked up to see Dany on the wall above them. “Blood of my blood,” Jhogo called, “I have been to the great city Qarth, and returned with three who would look on you with their own eyes.”
Dany stared down at the strangers. “Here I stand. Look, if that is your pleasure … but first tell me your names.”
The pale man with the blue lips replied in guttural Dothraki, “I am Pyat Pree, the great warlock.”
The bald man with the jewels in his nose answered in the Valyrian of the Free Cities, “I am Xaro Xhoan Daxos of the Thirteen, a merchant prince of Qarth.”
The woman in the lacquered wooden mask said in the Common Tongue of the Seven Kingdoms, “I am Quaithe of the Shadow. We come seeking dragons.” “Seek no more,” Daenerys Targaryen told them. “You have found them.”
The rider who followed the comet hit the home run, representing the successful forging of Lightbringer. Jogho returns with three fairly creepy strangers in tow, two of which turn out to have intentions of stealing Dany's dragons (Pyat Pree and Xaro Xoan Daxos) and the third, Quaithe, may be bad news as well (at least I certainly think so). I believe this idea of Lightbringer leading to three death-associated things is indicative of the exploded moon leading to three Planetos impacts, as well as the infamous "three heads has the dragon." We will see this pattern crop up several times. The fact that she is twice noted as standing above these three represents the fact that the elf moon, grandmother of dragons, was up in the sky, and the three chunks fell down to the planet. This also matches with the three directions the riders went: southeast, south, and southwest. South is an allusion to falling.
This last encounter may also symbolize the return of the comet, with it’s three people “under” Dany being a reference to her three dragons. These three came “seeking dragons.”
To sum up the hypothesis so far: the legend of the forging of Lightbringer originated with a celestial event of great magnitude which occurred in ancient times, the destruction of a second moon by a comet. Lightbringer is, among other things, a metaphor for the comet. It was forged in water and ice as it entered the inner solar system, it was forged by the lion when it was split in half as it rounded the sun, and it was forged in the heart of Nissa Nissa when it struck the elf moon and exploded in a truly gigantic fireball. The debris from the destruction of the second moon and it's impacts on Planetos triggered the Long Night, and is responsible for the irregular seasons. The remaining half of the comet is the red comet which we see in the current story, and it may be coming back to strike the remaining moon.
I also believe that there is an 'on-the-ground' counterpoint to this celestial drama. I do not think the myth of Lightbringer is ONLY referring to the celestial events, but rather that the celestial events created a pattern which in turn played out in a multitude of ways on the surface of Planetos. We will examine some of these in parts 2 and 3 and however many more it takes.
I will point out that only one half of the planet would have witnessed this celestial explosion event- the side facing the moon. Given that all the various "flaming sword guy" myths are in the east, it's a safe bet that that was the side of Planetos facing the explosion. The Azor Ahai myth is a likely description that an ancient human would invent to describe what they saw in the sky that day. But I think it goes further, as I said in my hypothesis: as above, so below. Whatever happens in the heavens manifests below.
I’m going to keep a running tally of things we’ve shoved in the back pocket, so that we don’t miss anything. I hope everyone has enjoyed this, there’s plenty more to come. We haven’t even began to examine how this celestial drama may have played out in ancient times through the characters remembered in the various legends of Westerns.. and yeah, that’s exactly where this is going.
A big thank you to Durran Durrandon, who’s been a big help though the drafting and editing process. He’s contributed ideas to this section and to future sections as well, and helped me refine my theory. That’s not to say he necessarily endorses everything in here, but I identified him early on as someone who was thinking along the same lines and could be a help, and he certainly was. Also helping to refine the early draft was Ramsay’s Penguins, and Cookiesbane, thanks guys. Folks who have been theorizing in this direction and gave me a clue or two along the way include Mithras, Lord Martin, Maester Sam, and Free Northman Reborn. The same goes for Barristan B and Lord Pepsi Cups in regards to material in future sections. Radio Westerns and History of Westerns podcasts also contributed greatly to this work. I gained inspiration from their ideas, but perhaps more valuable were their methods of literary analysis, which trained my eye for symbolism and clues. I highly recommend their podcasts.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to read this. Part Two is already drafted and should follow shortly. We will build on these ideas, show how the patterns manifest throughout the story, try to empty the back pocket, and dive into fun topics such as the Bloodstone Emperor, Dawn and Lightbringer, the composition of the two moons, the origins of magic, the Great Empire of the Dawn, the Night’s King, Garth the Green, more astronomy, and last but not least, we’re going to talk about the devil.
At least, some call him the devil...
THINGS IN THE BACK POCKET:
Nissa Nissa connected to CotF?
Two Lightbringer swords
Dawn comes form first comet forging
Dawn used to slay dragons?
Significance of 12+1
Serwyn of the Mirror Shield / Eclipse formation
Hammer of the Waters
Grey King / Sea Dragon