The Language Of Prophecy: Daenerys’ Journey Into The Underworld

To Go North You Must Go South

Throughout ASOIAF we see a handful of cryptic words of warning in the guise of prophecy, threats, and songs. Daenerys is suitably introduced to much of these in her story, as she after the death of her brother, is the last scion of once great and noble house Targaryen. But what function in the story do these concepts play? Are they simply the language of fantasy, magic, wizards, witches, etc? Are they riddles and wordplay that may unlock a deeper meaning about her destiny or the fate of the series as a whole? Or, do they simply depict metaphor and describe obstacles and hardships in her way through the hero’s journey? I tend to think probably all three, but the main one I am interested in looking at here is the second option.

“When the sun rises in the west and sets in the east,” said Mirri Maz Duur. “When the seas go dry and mountains blow in the wind like leaves. When your womb quickens again, and you bear a living child. Then he will return, and not before.”

A Game of Thrones – Daenerys IX

This curse from A Game of Thrones has been taken apart by others in the past, so I won’t spend too much time on it other than to highlight that this may be a reference to Drogon as a stand-in for Drogo. The wordplay here alludes to various events that have occurred by the time the Drogon returns to Meereen. Drogon is named for Drogo afterall, and so symbolically “Drogo” has returned by the end of A Dance With Dragons. However, instead I’m concerned with the language of this passage. The way this is structured is to draw attention to how these events are all opposite what you expect. Mountains are massive and heavy, the sun rises in the east; all of these images are reversed from their reality. And, of course, it is poetic language to intend an absolute impossibility but it’s also a literal curse from a woman who practices dark arts. What is a curse, or a hex, if not magic? Those with magical ability have tapped into some forgotten or hidden knowledge that, arguably, humans should not have. But why the reversal?

“To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

A Clash of Kings – Daenerys III

Quaithe is perhaps the master of reversed imagery. In her warnings to Dany she speaks in these backwards riddles which confound the reader and Daenerys alike. In the hero’s myth this is a typical trope. The idea is that the protagonist must work out the puzzle for him or herself. Not only does this up the dramatic tension, but often the journey and trials to find the answer are just as, if not more important, than the answer itself.  In this way, Quaithe is hoping to illicit a response from Dany and instigate her search for deeper personal meaning. Thus the hero will feel more responsible for the task that must be done, rather than have some smug sorcerer dump destiny directly in their lap. This is especially crucial when the task requires sacrifice. Dany’s story, even from before the very beginning pages of AGOT, is one of sacrifice. She lost her mother, she lost her family’s dynasty and home, she lost any normal childhood, she lost one protector/father figure in Willem Darry and then later lost what agency she had when she became a pawn in Varys’ and Illyrio’s web of conspiracy. As ASOIAF kicks off she loses her freedom, her maidenhead, her brother, her child, her husband, etc. etc. Dany has been forced to sacrifice so much, yet sadly she still has more to go. This is the tragedy of the hero’s journey. To go north you must go south.

The upsidedown

Odin and Norse mythology feature prominently in ASOIAF, and many people before me have discussed this in depth (including Lucifer Means Lightbringer, Joe Magician, Crowfood’s Daughter, etc.). One of the most well-known features of Odin’s mythology is the story where he plucked his eye out, tossed it into the well underneath Yggdrasil, hung himself in its branches, and took no food or water in order to discover the runes and to attain divine wisdom. The message of this particular myth is that through self-sacrifice other-worldy knowledge or power can be realized.

Some people consider the hanging in this tale to be analogous to Jesus Christ, or a typical gallows noose. However, it’s important to understand that many believe that Odin hung himself upside down. This symbolism can be seen in the tarot card the Hanged Man

Hanged Man Tarot Card, from Wikipedia
From Wikipedia

Though this punishment was common in Europe, particularly Italy, the meaning of this card is typically associated with self-sacrifice and self-improvement. Thus, Odin hung from the tree, looking down into the well (up from his perspective), searching for wisdom.

“Under the sea, it snows up,” said the fool, “and the rain is dry as bone. I know, I know, oh, oh, oh.”

A Clash of Kings – Prologue

Patchface, like Quaithe and to a lesser extent Mirri Maz Duur with her one curse, always speaks in riddles and songs. While Quaithe’s words seem to denote warnings or advice, Patchface’s are often shown to be prophetic in some way, describing events that have not yet happened or are happening halfway across the world that no mortal being should know. And again the pattern of the language is the same: inverted imagery. Patchface rather infamously seemed to gain these powers by drowning and then returning to life. In other words, he has passed into the realm of the dead, and then returned. So, it can be inferred that speaking this type of wisdom is almost incomprehensible to mortal ears. Try as these characters might, these warnings are not easily conveyed to those lacking the fire of the gods.

Further it seems that as his experience has transformed him, his mind suffered. Where he once was clever and funny, and sung in four languages, he now has lost most of his human faculties and gained a morbid third sight instead. So, in a way he’s tossed his intelligence, even his identity, into the well, and hung upside down to gain precognitive foresight.

“He thrashed, trying to claw his way back to the surface, but instead his face bumped the bottom of the canal. I’m upside down, he realized, I’m drowning.”

A Feast For Crows — Samwell III

“Only Gendel did not know the caves as Gorne had, and took a wrong turn.” She swept the torch back and forth, so the shadows jumped and moved. “Deeper he went, and deeper, and when he tried t’ turn back the ways that seemed familiar ended in stone rather than sky.”

A Storm of Swords — Jon III

“Once the hatch was closed behind them, the wood surrounded them on all sides. Only the top was open. It is best that way, she told herself, we can’t look down. Below them was only Sky and sky.”

A Feast For Crows — Alayne II

GRRM plays often with expectation, down is up, sky is below. It’s especially clear when things become disorienting and perspectives are lost. I think his intent is an allusion to this self-sacrifice, literally changing one’s perspective to gain divine wisdom. Being underwater inherently lends itself to being confusing because when there is a feeling of weightlessness, especially down in the dark, it becomes harder to orient yourself; and there is no virtually no influence of gravity to offer a clue which way is down. Similarly, being underwater is a common metaphor for entering the Underworld, one that is especially poignant here within ASOIAF if you consider Ravenous Reader’s brilliant Green Sea/Green See theory (which I assume most people are familiar with at this point so I won’t waste time rehashing here, hat tip Ravenous). Regardless, I think that otherworldly, upside down sensation is important. Rather than fight against it, a hero may need to embrace those inversions and accept them in order to progress in understanding. Go south to go north.

Beneath one of the hinges of the world

The concept of Axis Mundi is that of the cosmic axis of the universe. The Norse believed that this axis was literally a giant World Tree Yggdrasil whose roots connected the nine realms. Odin’s hanging on the tree was an attempt to gain access to the runes, ancient symbols of power, and unlock control of the universe. He stared into this abyss for nine days in a literal suspended state of animation, straddling the line between life and death. GRRM references this both by metaphorically describing crossing over the boundary between life and death, but also literally calling out hinges in his story, places where magic is stronger and the gods reach out to claim wisdom. The etymology of the word hinge, interestingly enough, stems from the verb to hang.

“Qarth is the greatest city that ever was or ever will be,” Pyat Pree had told her, back amongst the bones of Vaes Tolorro. “It is the center of the world, the gate between north and south, the bridge between east and west, ancient beyond memory of man.”

A Clash of Kings – Daenerys II

She made the traditional sacrifice in the Temple of Memory, offered the traditional bribe to the Keeper of the Long List, sent the traditional persimmon to the Opener of the Door, and finally received the traditional blue silk slippers summoning her to the Hall of a Thousand Thrones.

A Clash of Kings – Daenerys III

Quaithe comes from a city described as a gate, as a nexus between all the cardinal directions, perhaps one of Melisandre’s “hinges of the world,” if only symbolically. A place where it may be possible to pass between the realms, and perhaps bring back knowledge from the otherside. While in this magnificent city Dany offers a persimmon to the Opener of the Door, which is a queer sort of title to be sure. It seems significant that a door has been opened in this city that sits at the veritable crossroads. She’s also made a sacrifice to Memory, which sounds a bit like Patchface in a roundabout way sacrificing his wit and identity to gain a cryptic third sight. And, she’s been summoned to the Thousand Thrones, which could be a stand-in for the the weirwood net with greenseers all seated in the roots of weirwood thrones. In my opinion this all seems to be imagery that Dany is about to cross over some kind of threshold from the land of mortals into the underworld, and it may be this path, this way south by north, east by west that Quaithe is attempting to urge Dany toward.

Incidentally, the title that I skipped in that quote is the Keeper of the Long List. I can’t say for certain is this is his inspiration, but the etymology of the word list includes a reference to a boundary or border. A keeper of a long boundary. Where in Westeros could we find something like that?

Oh, right… That epitomical hinge of the world. In addition to being a hinge or axis, the Wall is also literally a boundary between realms, a demarcation built of ice and sorcery. The spells and lore locked within the ice ensure that Others and wights cannot cross into the human world. The “Long List” separates the dead from the living, and following my previous logic you can view the Keeper of the Long List as a Watcher on the Wall, a Shield the Guards the Realms of Men. The exception for this is a psychopomp, a figure like Quaithe, who can walk between the worlds. One that would say, drag dead frozen bodies of rangers into Castle Black, or help Bran and company cross through the Black Gate. Similarly, departed souls must cross the River Styx to go to the underworld, ferried by Charon. So, it’s possible to see the Wall as a river as well, which is a common demarcation line. If we view the Wall like a river, the forts would all become “fords,” natural crossings in a river, and perfect places to cross through the veil of tears between realms. And we know that, aside from the magical weirwood face of the Black Gate, the 19 “fords” along the Wall do in fact include tunnels and oak and iron gates that allow the Night’s Watch to cross, and pass between the realms. Thus we see GRRM consistently use language that describes going through or under the Wall as going into the realm of the dead. Underwater, underground, underworld.

She dreamed. All her cares fell away from her, and all her pains as well, and she seemed to float upward into the sky. She was flying once again, spinning, laughing, dancing, as the stars wheeled around her and whispered secrets in her ear. “To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward, you must go back. To touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

“Quaithe?” Dany called. “Where are you, Quaithe?”

Then she saw. Her mask is made of starlight.

A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys X

“The Stranger was neither male nor female, yet both, ever the outcast, the wanderer from far places, less and more than human, unknown and unknowable. Here the face was a black oval, a shadow with stars for eyes.”

A Clash of Kings — Catelyn IV

A shadow with stars for eyes, the very image of a god of death and perhaps the ASOIAF equivalent of Charon or the Grim Reaper waiting patiently to ferry souls to the underworld. Quaithe is herself a shadowbinder so she and The Stranger very much seem to occupy the same space as the bind the shades or spirits of the departer to the realm of the dead. Thus this idea of the gate or axis between the realm of the living and dead and Quaithe’s desire for Dany to awaken some hidden knowledge takes on a potentially sinister quality. Quaithe likely doesn’t mean Dany harm per se, yet what we’ve seen from others in the story, those that have passed beyond the veil of tears into the afterlife have had to endure deep personal sacrifice to themselves. Those that have returned come back changed. Wisdom of the gods is attained only through sacrifice because that power is fire, and fire consumes.

In a gadda da vida

The persimmon makes a few appearances in Dany’s story, aside from the aforementioned offering to “Open the Door.” Most notably is the appearance on the terrace of her pyramid in Meereen where a tree grows. Persimmon trees are a dark ebony wood with reddish orange fruits. In Greek, the name diospyros literally means “Zeus’s wheat” but more generally implies “divine fruit” or “fruit of the gods,” therefore a persimmon (belonging to the genus diospyros) can be said to be a stand-in for ambrosia or nectar, the “Fire of the Gods,” and may impart divine knowledge.

Dany broke her fast under the persimmon tree that grew in the terrace garden… Up here in her garden Dany sometimes felt like a god, living atop the highest mountain in the world.

A Storm of Swords – Daenerys VI

Dany, quite literally, sits on the top of the world with a persimmon tree bearing its fruit of divine wisdom outside her bedroom, and feels very much like a god. And, what else comes from this tree? Quaithe.

‘A woman stood under the persimmon tree, clad in a hooded robe that brushed the grass. Beneath the hood, her face seemed hard and shiny. She is wearing a mask, Dany knew, a wooden mask finished in dark red lacquer. “Quaithe? Am I dreaming?”’

A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys II

A tree bearing godly wisdom with a shadowy figure who appears underneath to impart knowledge and instruct Dany on her path, I don’t think I am the only person to notice a striking similarity here to Bloodraven living underground in the roots of a weirwood tree mentoring Bran. Though we don’t know the mechanism and can speculate it is related to glass candles in some way, both Bloodraven and Quaithe seem to share an affinity for astral projection, and in this scene their powers may be connected to, or at least amplified by, trees. So now we’ve seen two of the few appearances of Quaithe in the series and both times she seems to come from the underworld, or at least a strong symbol for a liminal space. But to return to to the contrast between her and Bloodraven and persimmons and weirwoods, the obvious difference between them is the color of the wood: one dark and one white. The absence of bloody leaves is notable, but one could argue that the reddish-orange persimmons themselves are a stand-in for this symbolism. Therefore instead of white trees with fiery red leaves, we have black trees with fiery red fruit. In either case, the tree is still on fire with the power of the gods.

The light of the rising sun shimmered on the water, broken by the shadow of the persimmon tree.

Dance with Dragons – Daenerys IX

This image is an inverse of what we’ve seen with white weirwoods and dark cold pools of water, like in the godswood in Winterfell. Here we have a dark tree growing above a shining bright pool instead, with its black shadow marking a sharp contrast to the warmth and light of the pool. Additionally, I’d like to highlight the shadow of the tree reflected in the pool should evoke the image of roots underneath, very much like the roots of the weirwoods. It is in between the branches and the reflected “roots” that Quaithe appears, seemingly coming from the tree itself, and it is this boundary between the two worlds – this axis, hinge, or veil – that I am most interested in.

Alone again, Dany went all the way around the pyramid in hopes of finding Quaithe, past the burned trees and scorched earth where her men had tried to capture Drogon. But the only sound was the wind in the fruit trees, and the only creatures in the gardens were a few pale moths.

A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys II

Quaithe seems to show up at a whim. Shifting between the underworld and the overworld when it suits her to offer advice. However, when Dany wants her to appear she’s only met with the whispering of the trees and pale moths. The wind in the trees certainly does seem to evoke the same feeling of old gods making themselves known to characters in the north, but it’s interesting too to consider that moths are considered in some cultures to be messengers of the dead. In Appalachian folklore specifically, a white moth was seen as a message of love and protection from one’s ancestors. I won’t speculate here if Quaithe is related to the Targaryens or not, but the very idea that Dany’s searching for Quaithe results in whispering trees and pale moths—potential symbols of old gods and ancestors watching over her—is worth noting.

To show you the way

When she does appear, Quaithe speaks in the language of gods, inverted riddles that humans are unable to parse with their limited brains. My argument is that this type of language is a repeated theme, and not only do other omniscient (or at least partially omniscient) characters share this quirk, but their patterns of speech are quite similar and equally confounding to both in-world characters and readers alike.  The message she seems to want to convey to Dany is to tap into her Targaryen identity, remember who she is, wake the dragon, find the runes.

Odin, from Wikipedia
From Wikipedia

So in a roundabout way, we’re back at Odin again who hung himself on Yggdrasil, the Axis of the nine worlds, and peered down into the well to unlock his potential. Odin’s name itself is derived from words meaning “prophet,” and “madness” (Hat tip here to LML’s many references to shamanic ecstasy). And, in the final chapter of ADWD we see Dany not only wandering into the green Dothraki Sea, symbolic of the underworld and the weirwood net, but also experiencing fever dreams and hallucinations. The impetus for this journey starts as she sits on “dragonstone,” Drogon’s lair up on a high hill in the middle of the Sea.

One day she kicked at a cracked sheep’s skull with the side of a bare foot and sent it bouncing over the edge of the hill. And as she watched it tumble down the steep slope toward the sea of grass, she realized she must follow.

A Dance With Dragons – Daenerys X

Hodor looked startled. Then he laughed, and bent to scoop a broken piece of slate off the floor.

“Hodor, don’t!” said Bran, but too late. Hodor tossed the slate over the edge. “You shouldn’t have done that. You don’t know what’s down there. You might have hurt something, or…  or woken something up.”

A Storm Of Swords – Bran IV

Dany kicks a broken skull into the sea, just as in a matching earlier event Hodor tosses a broken piece of slate literally into a well (hashtag: moon meteors—everyone drink, hat tip again LML), and so the symbolism of Odin plucking out one eye to throw it into the Well of Urd is quite apparent. Additionally the parallel journeys between Dany and Bran both journeying to the underworld, going south to go north, as well as another potential link between Quaithe and Bloodraven as mentors on this journey are jumping right off the page at us. Yet another repeated bit of symbolism which reinforces this parallel is Hodor’s unprecedented laughter in this scene, corresponding to Dany’s eventual fevered state. Madness. Shamanic ecstasy. As the third eye opens these characters see what fools they are, but since they’ve passed the event horizon it’s best just to lean into it now and enjoy the ride.

‘Dany rose from the pool. Water trickled down her legs, and gooseflesh covered her arms in the cool night air. “If you have some warning for me, speak plainly. What do you want of me, Quaithe?”

Moonlight shone in the woman’s eyes. “To show you the way.”’

A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys II

So now it’s seems crystal clear (or is that glass candle clear?) that all this time Quaithe has wanted to send Dany to the underworld either literally or symbolically. She wants to show her the way, and it’s not until she’s reclaimed Drogon, in a sense hinting at remembering who she is, that she realizes she must follow. In fact, as she does descend into hunger and madness in the grasses she settles into sleep leaning against a stone wall, that she compares directly to the Wall, the hinge of the world itself. As she lays dreaming she ultimately experiences a vision where she floats above herself, spinning, laughing, dancing, all of which recall again the visions from shamanic ritual and then finally she sees Quaithe urging her to remember, pressing her on her way.

The bells on his hat rang. “Away, away,” the fool sang. “Come with me beneath the sea, away, away, away.” He took the little princess by one hand and drew her from the room, skipping.

A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI

Here Patchface echoes a very similar statement to Jon and Shireen. Come with me, I’ll show you the way (the way, a way, away)  to the underworld. Bells ringing, signalling memories of royal funeral rites as we’ve seen before, are present with a psychopomp figure. Like Quaithe, Patchface here is intending to guide a princess through the veil. His constant enthusiasm and gleeful nature also seem to be a perfect analog to the madness that we see paired with the other-worldly ability. But while Quaithe and Patchface are potential the psychopomp figures, there too must be an archetype for the hero reborn, the Azor Ahai figure born in the sea amidst salt and smoke.

A good analog here is Beric. An undead person who sits a weirwood throne and who also has passed beyond mortal life into death and returned, Beric is a similarly afflicted character, cursed by his self-sacrifice but seemingly granted immortality in return. He can’t remember where he lived or who he was betrothed to marry. His very identity has been supplanted by his afterlife and the foggy experiences he’s had since being called back from the land of the dead.

Sometimes I think I was born on the bloody grass in that grove of ash, with the taste of fire in my mouth and a hole in my chest.

A Storm of Swords – Arya VII

Beric’s rebirth from the underworld is marked by a bloody grass, among grey ashes, and with fire in his mouth. So if we can view Quaithe’s urging Dany toward the underworld, to sacrifice herself and return with the fire of the gods as either already happening here in the Dothraki Sea (or potentially yet to come at the Mother of Mountains near Vaes Dothrak, or even at the Wall itself after her return) I think Quaithe is imploring Dany to acknowledge that there is some larger potential for her and that this may require her to pass into death and return with god’s fire, to be reborn from the sea.

To the right and left, Dany glimpsed places where the grass was burned and ashen. Drogon has come this way before, she realized. Like a chain of grey islands, the marks of his hunting dotted the green grass sea…

Drogon consumed his kill there, tearing at the charred flesh as the grasses burned around them, the air thick with drifting smoke and the smell of burnt horsehair. Dany, starved, slid off his back and ate with him, ripping chunks of smoking meat from the dead horse with bare, burned hands.

A Dance With Dragons – Daenerys X

When she woke, gasping, her thighs were slick with blood.

If she had not been so sick and scared, that might have come as a relief. Instead she began to shiver violently. She rubbed her fingers through the dirt, and grabbed a handful of grass to wipe between her legs.

A Dance With Dragons – Daenerys X

Grey ashen islands and mouthfuls of fiery meat, and both after waking to her moonblood which she frantically mopped up with clumps of grass, literally making them bloody, Daenerys has symbolically entered the underworld and returned here all at Quaithe’s cryptic, inverted urgings. Reborn in the Dothraki Sea, salt from menstrual blood, and symbolically from the “Sea” itself, smoke from Drogon’s fire, all of this is clear language that matches what we’ve seen a dozen times. GRRM has indicated that this trope could well be applied to more than one character in the story, and while the main intent of this essay was never to prove conclusively that Daenerys is Azor Ahai, the idea that this self-sacrifice and grasping at the wisdom of the gods has an intended goal is certainly depicted in this potential candidate to fulfill the Prince(ss) That Was Promised prophecy. The riddles and wordplay inherent in all prophetic messages indicate a knowledge that goes beyond mere mortals understanding and may explain why the Targaryens, who styled themselves as dragons, and which in turn were named after gods (thus intimating that they saw themselves as gods), tragically obsessed with puzzling out these details, as they attempted to unlock the secrets of the runes.

Oak and iron guard me well

The main intent of this essay was to attempt to bridge some minor yet important parts of show canon and book canon in a meaningful way. The television show is the television show and the book series is the book series, yet Dany’s journey beyond the Wall is a significant event and one that many have expected for years and years. As I began to write I noted that I wanted to connect this language of magic and prophecy to an actual intended outcome, beyond a figurative transformative journey into death and return. Throughout this essay I’ve fairly blatantly hinted at the Wall as being, not only a symbol for the division between life and death, but the specific boundary that I think that Dany is fated to cross over. The final season of Game of Thrones gave us a glimpse of what that may look like, though it’s possible that if certain revelations in Fire & Blood play out, it may occur quite differently in the books, and perhaps without her dragons. But why is the Wall and the North itself so important to Dany’s hero’s journey?

“The Others.” Sam licked his lips. “They are mentioned in the annals, though not as often as I would have thought. The annals I’ve found and looked at, that is. There’s more I haven’t found, I know. Some of the older books are falling to pieces. The pages crumble when I try and turn them. And the really old books . . . either they have crumbled all away or they are buried somewhere that I haven’t looked yet or . . . well, it could be that there are no such books, and never were. The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later.

A Feast For Crows – Samwell I

The runes. The First Men left runes. These symbols of power and lore are only mentioned a handful of times throughout the series, usually in reference to armor and ornamentation and crowns. However, this passage is a bit unique because, not only does it indicate the runes may be directly associated with the Long Night and wisdom of the Old Gods (and Odin himself of course), but this revelation is repeated verbatim in A Dance With Dragons – Jon II. That seems to indicate that George really wanted to be certain that we noticed it. (hat tip here to Rusted Revolver for the epiphany here.) So in seeking these runes, Dany must head north to go south to the underworld. But why would Dany care about the Wall? Why would it even enter her mind?

It turned out that their anthill was on the other side of her wall. She wondered how the ants had managed to climb over it and find her. To them these tumbledown stones must loom as huge as the Wall of Westeros. The biggest wall in all the world, her brother Viserys used to say, as proud as if he’d built it himself.

A Dance With Dragons – Daenerys X

In her wandering, Dany has come upon a low stone wall, with crawling ants swarming on the other side, eager to crawl over it to get to Dany. Is this a potential mirror to the vision in the House of the Undying with the woman ravaged and bitten by small creatures? It does seem to be a strong indication of the Others and their wight army amassing and marshaling and crawling out of hell to the land of the living. It is after this revelation that Dany starts to enter her fevered state and finally speaks to Quaithe one last time, who urges her onward. Dany must become Azor Ahai, reborn in the sea amidst salt and smoke and reach up/down to claim the runes.

In Season 2, we see a version of events that may hint at Dany’s ultimate journey as she enters the House of the Undying, which while abstract and disconnected from the source material, was striking all the same. The ruins of the capitol, her family’s legacy gone, destroyed, her passage through the Wall and reunion with her lost loved ones, it’s all very powerful and a little on the nose. What we are seeing is almost literally what I’ve been describing in this essay, a journey into darkness through the veil of tears, into death. Will Dany turn away from death and return to the living as she did here on the television show, remembering her own mantra—”If I look back I am lost”—or will she ultimately succumb to fate? Is this a hint at what George ultimately has planned for Daenerys Targaryen?

I’ve highlighted her potential as an Azor Ahai reborn figure, and it can be certainly argued she’s already fulfilled that archetype at least once or twice already in her arc. When I set out to write this essay, it was an attempt of my own to unlock some of George’s own possible runes, wordplay and foreshadowing, to determine if he’s already hinted at her fate. His language throughout her journey seem like strong indications to me that that Dany may sacrifice herself to bring back the dawn. Wielding her dragon(s) like a flaming sword, possessing the figurative fire of the gods, Daenerys must ride out into the heart of winter like the Last Hero of Northern Legend. She must pass beneath the shadow of death to bring back the light of dawn and let it touch the earth once more.

Copyright: HBO


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