Bluetiger’s Advent Calendar 2019
The First Week of Advent 2019
1 December (First Sunday)
In my Polish Taniec z Mitami: G(r)endel and Gorne (A Dance with Myths…) essay I suggest that the Free Folk legend of Gendel and Gorne is a reference to the Old English epic poem “Beowulf”. Gendel parallels Grendel the monster, and the Starks who defeated and chased him away are a reference to Beowulf (Bee-wolf), the heroic warrior who defeats Grendel: “Gendel did not die. He cut his way free, through the crows, and led his people back north with the wolves howling at their heels” (A Storm of Swords, Jon III).
Following his encounter with Beowulf, Grendel flees to his underwater cave, whereas Gendel also escapes and enters the caverns underneath the Wall (made of frozen water). Neither Grendel nor Gendel ever emerge alive.
The Shire Calendar: The first month in the Shire Calendar from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” is Afteryule, which corresponds to the period between 23 December and 21 January in the Gregorian Calendar. The name comes from Old English month Æfterra Gēola, = “after Yule”, with Yule being the Midwinter festival. Modern “after” descends from “æfter”, and “gēola” is Yule. In Saint Bede the Venerable’s account this month is called Giuli and the scholar gives “Januarius” as its Latin equivalent. It appears that Bede ommits “after” and “before” in all month names which have them.
2 December (Monday)
The legend in which king Rodrik Stark wins Bear Island from the Ironborn in a wrestling match is possibly another reference to “Beowulf”. Here the Stark King parallels Beowulf (Bee-wolf) and his Ironborn rival would be Grendel, the accursed descendant of Cain.
In the epic Beowulf defends King Hrothgar’s magnificent mead-hall Heorot, located on one of the Danish islands, and wrestles with the monster. It is also worth to mention that according to J.R.R. Tolkien “Beowulf” – wolf of the bees – might be a poetic description, a kenning, for “bear”. Thus, Bear Island is the perfect place for GRRM to include yet another reference to the Old English poem.
The Shire Calendar: The second month bears the name Solmath and is based on the Old English Sol-mōnaþ, which means “mud-month”. This second month of the hobbits corresponds to the period between our 22 January and 20 February. Saint Bede writes that to Anglo-Saxons, “Sol-monath” was the equivalent of Latin “Februarius”.
3 December (Tuesday)
The surname Mormont might originate from Irish mormónta, a borrowing from Middle English wermode, which in turn comes from Old English wermōd. Mormónta means “wormwood”, as in the plant, but also the star Wormwood mentioned in the Book of Revelation, where it turns a third of the waters bitter.
Elsewhere in ASOIAF we find House Wormwood, with only one known member, Ser Julian. This Julian Wormwood was a knight who supported Aegon II during the Dance of the Dragons, and in the final days of the claimant’s reign was dispatched across the Narrow Sea to hire sellswords for his monarch’s cause. It should be noted that wormwood oil is green in colour, which might be what GRRM is referencing here.
The Shire Calendar: The name of Rethe (21 February – 22 March), the third month in this calendar, comes from the Old English Hrēþ-mōnaþ, which – according to Bede – was named after the pagan goddess Rheda (Hretha). The scholar gives “Martius” as its Latin equivalent.
4 December (Wednesday)
Brandor the Shipwright, the Stark king who tried to sail across the Sunest Sea and never returned might be a reference to Saint Brendan the Navigator who – according to legend – had sailed across the Atlantic and encountered many wondrous islands and phenomena.
The Shire Calendar: The fourth month is Astron, which begins on our 23 March and ends on 21 April. Its equivalent in the Anglo-Saxon calendar was Ēosturmōnaþ (or Easter-mōnaþ), which according to Bede was named after the pagan goddess Ēostre. The monk gave “Aprilis” as its Latin counterpart. In later times the name might have meant “Easter-month”. The word “Ēostre” is related to such words as “east” and “Easter”, which ultimately derive from Proto-Indo-European word for “dawn”.
5 December (Thursday)
In my essay Taniec z Mitami: Krew Kvasira (A Dance with Myths: Kvasir’s Blood) I have suggested that the so called “Jojen paste” Bran drinks in ADWD is based on the Mead of Poetry (which turns the one who drinks it into a poet or a scholar) from Norse Mythology. This beverage was created when honey was mixed with the blood of the sage Kvasir, after he had been killed by the dwarves Fjalar and Gjalar. (Jojen Reed parallels Kvasir, and the Children of the Forest would be the dwarfs). It is also worth to mention that Bran’s paste tastes of honey as well: It tasted of honey, of new-fallen snow, of pepper and cinnamon and the last kiss his mother ever gave him. I have also noted that Tyrion’s “singer’s stew” – which tastes so good that it makes him want to sing – symbolizes both weirwood paste and the Mead of Poetry.
The Shire Calendar: The fifth month is Thrimidge, which begins on our 22 April and lasts until 21 May. Its Old English precursor was Þrimilcemōnaþ, which Bede provides as the equivalent of Latin “Maius”. Thrimylchi (or þrimilce) stands for “three milkings”, and thus the name of the fifth month meant “Month of Three Milkings”, apparently because it was believed that at that time cows could give milk three times a day.
6 December (Friday)
I have suggested that the character of Larra Rogare (the wife of King Viserys II) is based on Queen Berúthiel of Gondor. Both were foreign spouses of a monarch, and both were rumored to use cats as spies. Please compare the following passage:
Cats were seen coming and going from her chambers so often that men begun to say they were her spies, purring at her in soft voices of all the doings of the Red Keep. (Fire and Blood by GRRM)
She had nine black cats and one white, her slaves, with whom she conversed, or read their memories, setting them to discover all the dark secrets of Gondor, so that she knew those things ‘that men wish most to keep hidden’, setting the white cat to spy upon the black, and tormenting them. (The Unfinished Tales by JRRT, edited by Christopher Tolkien)
If you want to find out more about Berúthiel and her connections with Larra, please check out one of the later sections of my essay The Jade Empire.
The Shire Calendar: The sixth month (22 May – 20 June) bears the name Forelithe and is based on Old English Ærra Līþa. Lithe was the Midsummer festival which had its winter counterpart in Yule. Bede includes the month of Ærra Līþa as Lida and pairs it with Latin Junius. (As I have mentioned, Bede omits “Ærra” (before, ere) and “Æfterra” (after) in those month names which have them.
7 December (Saturday)
The actions of Aegon III during the Winter Fever are most likely a reference to Aragorn and the hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known motif from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (which in turn was based on a real custom practised in some European monarchies, to which GRRM might be also alluding). In Fire and Blood we read that:
To the horror of his Kingsguard, Aegon spent his days visiting the sick, and often sat with them for hours (…) Most of those he visited died, but those who lived would afterward attribute their survival to the touch of the king’s “healing hands”.
The Shire Calendar: Following Forelithe there come the Lithedays (Midsummer festivities), which do not belong to any month. 1 Lithe falls on our 21 June. Then comes the Mid-year’s Day itself, with its Gregorian calendar counterpart in 22 June. In leap years Mid-year’s Day is followed by the extra day of Overlithe. Finally, there is 2 Lithe (23 June). In Old English calendar, we find the word Līþa (which Tolkien developed into Lithe) in two month names.
The Second Week of Advent 2019
8 December (Second Sunday)
In The Fate of Frey I explored the possible influence of one element of the Ragnarök story on the upcoming battle between Stannis Baratheon and Ser Hosteen Frey.
The Shire Calendar: The seventh month is Afterlithe, which begins on 24 June and lasts 23 July. Its name refers to the Old English Æftera Līþa, which Bede includes in his list as simply “Lida”, providing “Julius” as its Latin equivalent.
9 December (Monday)
This entry and the following four will be concerned with “the hinges of the world” which are mentioned in Melisandre’s ADWD chapter. Apparently, those hinges are places where magic is the strongest.
I have suggested that there are most likely four such hinges, and that each is linked with one of the four cardinal directions, that is: North, East, South and West. The word “cardinal” comes from “cardo”, which is Latin for “hinge”. The metaphor (and wordplay) of the four principal directions as four hinges was used by poets such as Thomas Creech and John Milton (who in Paradise Regained wrote: nor slept the winds / Within their stony caves, but rushed abroad / From the four hinges of the world, and fell / On the vexed wilderness).
It is also my belief that GRRM’s four hinges might be connected with seasons as well. In The Golden Bough Sir James George Frazer uses the metaphor of “the four hinges of the year” when he mentions: the four great hinges on which the solar year revolves, to wit, the solstices and the equinoxes.
Thanks to Melisandre we know that the Wall is one of the hinges, and in my view it is associated with the North and winter.
The Shire Calendar: Wedmath, the eight month in this calendar, corresponds to the period between 24 July and 22 August. Its Old English counterpart is Weōdmōnaþ, the month of weed/grass. In Old English, weōd referred to plants in general, but its descendant – the word weed – has a more specific meaning. Bede explains that Vueod-Monath is called so because it is the time when weeds (grasses, plants) grow most abundant. The monk gives “Augustus” as its Latin name.
10 December (Tuesday)
As for the hinge of the East, I believe Asshai is the place. Melisandre directly compares a confirmed hinge (the Wall) with it, and the City by the Shadow is one of the easternmost locations in the Known World. It is probably the hinge of spring as well. It might be hard to see what Asshai as we know it has to do with this season, but I believe we should turn our attention to Asshai’s Dawn Age past, when it may have been part of the Great Empire of the Dawn.
English “east” is a cognate of such words as Latin aurora (dawn), Easter and Ēostre, (goddess of dawn and spring in Anglo-Saxon paganism), so it makes perfect sense to associate the hinge of the East with spring as well. Possibly, Asshai is a “broken” hinge, and thus the seasons of the World of Ice and Fire are unhinged.
The Shire Calendar: The ninth month is Halimath (23 August – 21 September), with a name that comes from Old English Hālig-mōnaþ – “the holy month”. Bede calls it Haleg-monath and explains that the name is derived from the times when Anglo-Saxons were still pagan and would sacrifice to their gods (which he calls idols) during this month. Its Latin equivalent he names as “September”.
11 December (Wednesday)
For the hinge of the South and summer I propose Valyria in the Lands of the Long Summer.
The Shire Calendar: Halmath is followed by the tenth month, Winterfilth, which is based on Old English Winterfylleth (Winterfylleþ). It corresponds to the period between 22 September and 21 October. Its name contains “winter” and “filling” (of the moon, that is a fool moon). According to Bede the Vuinter-fylleth was called so because the first full moon in that month marked the beginning of winter. Its Latin counterpart is “Oktober”.
12 December (Thursday)
The hinge of the West and autumn is, in my view, located on the shores of the Sunest Sea. I have suggested two most likely candidates. The first of those is Pyke, seat of the Lord Reaper of Pyke (a figure evoking harvest), it is also where we hear about Aeron Greyjoy’s “rusted hinge”. The other strong possibility is Oldtown, whence in ACOK came the ravens bringing the news about the arrival of autumn. In Fire and Blood a Hightower ship called Autumn Moon is mentioned.
I will also note that GRRM directly associates sunset with autumn in The Seasons of My Love song: I loved a maid as red as autumn with sunset in her hair. You might remember that we are never told the verse concerning the spring, I believe it goes more or less like this: I loved a maid as … as spring, with dawn-light in her hair.
The Shire Calendar: The eleventh month in this calendar is Blotmath, which begins on 22 October and lasts until 20 November. Its Old English predecessor is Blōtmōnaþ, the month of blót (sacrifices). Bede writes that Blod-monath (“November”) was the time when cattle would be slaughtered and some of the meat would be offered to pagan gods.
13 December (Friday)
In The Golden Bough Frazer writes that there are two major festivals which do not fall on any of the four great hinges of the year. Those are Allhallows’ Even and May Day. If GRRM is familiar with this book, he might have included two extra “hinges of the world” connected with the two. Winterfell would be the hinge of Allhallows’ Even (think of the crypts underneath the castle, the place where “the dead walk” according to Old Nan). The hinge of May Day (if such concept exists at all) is probably Highgarden, the old seat of Garth Greenhand with the enormous three-trunked weirwood tree. Just like Allhallows’ is the opposite of May Day and falls six months later, so Highgarden would be the inversed mirror image of Winterfell.
The Shire Calendar: The twelfth and final month in the calendar of the Shire-hobbits was Foreyule, which comes from Old English Ærra Gēola (before-Yule). Bede calls it Giuli (“December”) and then uses the same name for the first month of the New Year. As I have explained in the daily entry from 1 December, Bede omits Ærra (before) and Æfterra (after) before those month names which actually have them. Foreyule of the Shire Calendar begins on Gregorian 21 November and ends on 20 December.
14 December (Saturday)
I have suggested that one of the inspirations behind the name Winterfell might have been the tenth month in the Old English calendar, Winterfylleth, named so because winter began on the first “filling of the moon” during that month (on the first full moon to fall within it). It should be noted that Winterfilth (which I wrote about in my daily entry from 11 December), a month in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Shire Calendar, is based on the Anglo-Saxon month, and perhaps it is from LOTR that GRRM found out about this name. In “Appendix D” of that book it is mentioned that Winterfilth was the filling of the year before winter.
The Shire Calendar: Following Foreyule we have two days which, just like the Lithedays, are not numbered among any of the twelve month. These Yuledays – midwinter festivities – were 1 Yule and 2 Yule. festivities. 1 Yule (which falls on 21 December) was the final day of the Old Year, whereas 2 Yule (22 December) was the New Year’s Day. Yuledays were the central point of a longer holiday season (celebrating winter solstice as well as the transition to the next year), the Yule-tide, which began on 29 Foreyule (19 December) and lasted until 2 Afterfule (24 December).
The Third Week of Advent 2019
15 December (Third Sunday)
Lady Ashara Dayne’s first name might be a reference to the Canaanite goddess of the sea shore, Asherah, whose titles include Lady of the Sea and She Who Walks on the Sea. Perhaps this is why in AGOT Ashara is first mentioned in the following lines: And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes.
The Bree Calendar: Now me move on from the Shire Calendar to the Bree Calendar, which was used in Bree-land (which included the town of Bree – with the famed The Prancing Pony Inn – as well as the neighboring settlements of Archet, Combe and Staddle). In many regards it was similar to the calendar used by the hobbits of the Shire, and the names of many months are the same.
In this calendar, the first month was called Frery, not Afteryule. Its name most likely comes from the Old English word frēorig, which means “frozen”, “freezing” and “cold”. Frery begins on 23 December and lasts until 21 January.
16 December (Monday)
Ashara Dayne might have been also inspired by another goddess – Astarte, worshiped by the Canaanites and the Phoenicians, who was often identified with Venus and Ishtar. In The Golden Bough Sir James George Frazer mentions that the spring festival of Adonis (Astarte’s lover) would begin once Venus (the planet) appeared in the sky. Most curious for us is his description of a tradition observed in a certain temple of Astarte, where the holiday would commence once a meteor seemingly fell form atop Mount Lebanon into the river called Adonis. It was believed that the meteor was in fact the goddess Astarte herself, coming down from heaven to greet her returning lover.
This custom might have inspired GRRM to create the story about Lady Ashara throwing herself into the sea from a tower at Starfall (we should keep in mind that Castle Starfall stands on an isle where the river Torrentine meets the Sunset Sea, and thus it can be said that Lady Dayne jumped into a river). A meteor can, of course, be described as a falling star – which we see in the Dayne coat-of-arms.
The Bree Calendar: The second month is Solmath, just like in the Shire. As I have explained in the entry from 2 December, Tolkien was probably inspired by the Old English month Solmónaþ (mud-month) here. Solmath corresponds to the period between 22 January and 20 February.
17 December (Tuesday)
In one of my Polish essays I have explored the possible influence of the Ishtar and Tammuz myth on ASOIAF – or rather, its Greek version, where the pair are called Aphrodite and Adonis. The tale goes that in order to protect her lover, Aphrodite put Adonis inside a chest and gave it to Persephone, queen of the underworld, for safekeeping. The later had no clue as to the contents of the trunk, and when she opened it out of curiosity, we found the handsome young Adonis inside and fell in love with him.
Some time later Aphrodite demanded to have Adonis returned to her, but Persephone refused. When asked to mediate, Zeus decreed that Adonis would spend half a year in the underworld with Persephone and the other half on earth with Aphrodite. Each year Adonis would emerge from the underworld in spring, but Aphrodite’s bliss would not last, as her other lover – Ares – would turn himself into a boar and slay Adonis, thus sending him back to the world of the dead for the other six months.
According to Frazer Adonis symbolizes vegetation, and especially corn. Thus, when he goes to the underworld, Adonis symbolizes the seeded corn which is buried in the earth, and his return in spring can be interpreted as sprouting and growing of the new plant.
I have proposed that in ASOIAF, Ashara parallels Aphrodite, and her lover – Brandon Stark (Ned’s brother) evokes Adonis. The name “Brandon” contains “bran”, which can refer to the broken coat of a seed. Thus, I suspect that the legendary Brandon of the Bloody Blade, progenitor of the Stark line and Garth Greenhand’s son, is a wordplay on this meaning of “bran” and in his epithet “blade” is a wordplay on “blade of grass” and “cereal blade”. In fact, the word blade comes from Old English blæd, leaf (I suspect the later meaning of blade was originally a poetic metaphor in which a sharp edge of a weapon was likened to a leaf).
It is interesting that Barristan Selmy, who also loved Ashara, is also associated with corn – the seat of his house is Harvest Hall, and his sigil shows three stalks of yellow wheat. The name “Barristan” reminds me of the word “arista” (plural: aristae), which is also connected with corn and cereal, and comes from Latin word for awn or ear of grain.
The Bree Calendar: Following Solmath, there comes Rethe. And again, in this case the Bree Calendar uses the same name as the Shire Calendar. Rethe begins on 21 February and ends on 22 March.
18 December (Wednesday)
If Ashara Dayne is supposed to symbolize Aphrodite, and Brandon Stark Adonis, then Brandon’s other lover – Barbrey Dustin – parallels Persephone, queen of the underworld who refuses to return Adonis to Aphrodite.
The Bree Calendar: The fourth month is another case where there is a difference between the calendar of Bree and the one used in the Shire. In Bree we find Chithing, not Astron. This month covers the period between 23 March and 21 April and its name seems to be based on the Old English word ciðing, which means “budding” and “germinating”.
19 December (Thursday)
The tale of Ser Clarence Crabb who would bring heads of the men he killed back home, where his wife would bring them back to life, whereupon they would provide the hero with counsel, might be a reference to the Norse story of Mimir. Mimir, a sage widely renowned for his unequaled wisdom, was beheaded by the Vanir due to a misunderstanding. His friend Odin took the head and using herbs and secret arts, endued it with the power to speak – and thus when faced with a difficult choice, Odin could consult with Mimir.
The Bree Calendar: Chithing is followed by Thrimidge, exactly as in the Shire. This name of the fifth month comes from Old English þrimilce (three milking), as it was believed that during this month cows could me milked thrice a day. Thrimidge begins on 22 April and its last day falls on 21 May.
20 December (Friday)
Rickard Stark, who kills Willem Lannister and Tion Frey, two boys held by Robb Stark in Riverrun, is most likely based on Richard III (or rather, on how the monarch is presented by Shakespeare in his play). The Karstark sigil and words – the Sun of Winter – might be a reference to the opening lines of the Bard’s The Tragedy of Richard the Third: Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York.
The Bree Calendar: The Bree-landers call their sixth month (22 May – 20 June) Lithe, whereas in the Shire the name Forelithe is used. Old English liþa apparently has the meaning of “mild”, most likely in reference to weather conditions.
The month of Lithe is followed by the Summerdays (which parallel the Lithedays of the Shire). 1 Lithe falls on 21 June, Mid-year’s Day is 22 June. In leap years, an extra day is added after Mid-year’s Day, and it is known as Overlithe. 2 Lithe‘s Gregorian counterpart is 23 June.
The seventh month in the Bree Calendar is not called Afterlithe as in the Shire – Mede (“meadow”) appears in its place. It begins on 24 June and ends on 23 July.
21 December (Saturday)
In Oak King, Holly King and Renly (the 9 December episode in my 2017 Advent Calendar) and the Polish essay W(r)enly I have theorized that Renly Baratheon’s first name is a reference to wren (Renly = Wren-ly, “wren-like”), and to be more precise – to the robin and wren folktale described by Robert Graves. On winter solstice robin would seek his rival, the wren, and cruelly slay the bird hiding in his green bush. According to Graves, wren symbolizes the Holly King (personification of winter), whereas robin is the Oak King (lord of summer). (The Green Knight from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight who duels Sir Gawain, is another such figure – he even holds a holly bough in his hand in the scene where he enters King Arthur’s hall at Camelot).
In The Golden Bough Frazer mentions the Wren Day custom, where on St. Stephen’s Day (26 December) people would hunt for the wren, either symbolically or literally. This might have been originally connected with the “wren as king of winter called on midwinter” tradition mentioned by Graves. As it happens, Renly and Stannis’ father was Steffon Baratheon, and the name Steffon, which is most likely based on Steffan, a variant of Stephen, as in the saint’s name.
The Bree Calendar: The eight month (24 July – 22 August) is called Wedmath, just like in the Shire. However, in Bree the following month (23 August – 21 September) is not called Halimath, but the name Harvestmath is used (the word itself was most likely developed from Old English Hærfestmonaþ). Harvestmath is followed by Wintring – “the wintry month” – (in the Shire the tenth month is Winterfilth). Wintring corresponds to the time between 22 September and 21 October.
The Fourth Week of Advent 2019
22 December (Fourth Sunday)
Elements of Daenerys’ AGOT plot concerning her marriage to khal Drogo might be loosely based on the legend of Ildico, the last wife of Attila the Hun. In some versions, the mighty warrior dies because of nosebleed on the night of his wedding with Ildico, who might have been a Germanic princess. In other accounts she kills him to avenge her kinsmen who were slain by the Hun.
In some Norse sources Gudrun from the Sigurd and Brynhild story plays the role of Ildico. Gudrun is forced to marry king Atli (Attila), who later murders her brothers to steal their treasure. Taking her vengeance, Gudrun serves Atli the flesh of his sons, then kills him in his bed and at last, sets the entire hall ablaze.
The Bree Calendar: In the Shire the eleventh month is called Blotmath, but in Bree the term is Blooting. Both come from Old English Blōtmōnaþ, the month of sacrifices. Blooting begins on 22 October and lasts until 20 November.
23 December (Monday)
Khal Drogo’s fear of the sea (for which we could use the fancy term thalassophobia) might be a reference to his LOTR namesake, Frodo Baggins’ father, Drogo. The hobbits, just like the Dothraki, are suspicious of large bodies of water. Not Drogo Baggins, alas! Drogo and his wife Primula Brandybuck had the curious hobby of boating. In the year 1380 of the Third Age (when Frodo was twelve), Drogo and Primula drowned while boating on the Brandywine River. Presumably, having this other Drogo’s fate in mind, the khal mindfully keeps away from boats and ships.
The Bree Calendar: The final month bears the name Yulemath (in the Shire it’s Foreyule). Yulemath – the month of Yule (midwinter) – begins on 21 November and comes to an end on 20 December.
24 December (Tuesday, Christmas Eve)
I have noted some parallels between the thirteen children of Jaehaerys and Alysanne and the children of Garth Greenhand, though I am by no means certain they are intentional (please check out Children of Jaehaerys and Alysanne & Children of Garth Greenhand to find out more on this topic).
The Bree Calendar: Just like in the Shire, the midwinter festival consist of two days which do not belong to any of the twelve months. 1 Yule (21 December) is the last day of the Old Year and the New Year begins on 2 Yule (22 December). Thus we have covered all the months in both calendars, the one used by the hobbits of the Shire and the one followed in Bree.
Yule is mentioned in The Hobbit:
Anyway by midwinter Gandalf and Bilbo had come all the way back, along both edges of the Forest, to the doors of Beorn’s house; and there for a while they both stayed. Yule-tide was warm and merry there; and men came from far and wide to feast at Beorn’s bidding.
May Christmas be merrier still!
“Gode sȳ wuldor on hēahnesse and on eorðan sybb mannum gōdes willan” (from the West-Saxon Gospels, Luke 2:14)
With best wishes, yours