The Advent Calendar 2018 – Aenar’s Aeneid

Aenar’s Aeneid
a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger
The Advent Calendar 2018, Week Four


Arma virumque cano…
Of Arms, and the Man I sing…

– Publius Vergilius Maro (Vergil), The Aeneid

The Targaryens were of pure Valyrian blood, dragonlords of ancient lineage. Twelve years before the Doom of Valyria (114 BC), Aenar Targaryen sold his holdings in the Freehold and the Lands of the Long Summer and moved with all his wives, wealth, slaves, dragons, siblings, kin, and children to Dragonstone, a bleak island citadel beneath a smoking mountain in the narrow sea.
(…) The Targaryens were far from the most powerful of the dragonlords, and their rivals saw their flight to Dragonstone as an act of surrender, as cowardice. But Lord Aenar’s maiden daughter Daenys, known forever afterward as Daenys the Dreamer, had foreseen the destruction of Valyria by fire. And when the Doom came twelve years later, the Targaryens were the only dragonlords to survive.

– George R.R. Martin, The World of Ice and Fire, The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest


Many ASOIAF readers have pointed out that the story about Aenar “The Exile” Targaryen bears some remarkable resemblance to the story of Aeneas of Troy, as described by the Roman poet Vergil (Publius Vergilius Maro), in his epic The Aeneid, written between 29 and 19 BC (predominantly during the reign of Emperor Augustus). This poem, divided into twelve books, is in a way a sequel to Homer’s Iliad (where Aeneas is also a character), and Vergil’s poetic answer to Odyssey – rivaling his great predecessor was his greatest ambition.

The twelve books detail how Trojan prince and hero Aeneas managed to escape the burning city during its sack by Greek forces, and after long wanderings arrived in Italy, where his followers settled and became the ancestors of the Romans.

We can easily see several parallels between Aenar Targaryen and Aeneas:

  • both were survivors of an earlier civilization that was violently destroyed – Old Valyria and Troy
  • both led their followers in a migration and settled in a distant land already inhabited by warring tribes (Westeros and Italy)
  • the descendants of both became mighty kings (Targaryen monarchs and Kings of Rome)
  • the names of both heroes are similar (Aenar and Aeneas)

I’ll also point out that Aenar’s actions were (supposedly) guided by his daughter Daenys the Dreamer’s prophecy, while Aeneas’ destiny was revealed in a prophecy made by Trojan princess Cassandra (the oracle who was cursed by Apollo, so her prophecies would always be accurate, but other people would never believe in them). Daenys was Aenar’s daughter, while Aeneas was married to Cassandra’s sister Creusa (daughter of King Priam of Troy and Queen Hecuba). There are many references to Cassandra in ASOIAF – in names (for example, there’s Cassandra Baratheon) and in actions (Daenys the Dreamer, Malora Hightower, Melisandre of Asshai).

Aeneas was a member of the royal house of Troy himself, as his father Anchises was King Priam’s cousin, whereas his mother was the goddess Venus (Aphrodite) herself. It’s possible (though I’m by no means sure about this parallel, while the others are more obvious) that House Targaryen being one of the minor Valyrian dragonlord houses is a reference to Aeneas’ house being a cadet branch of the royal house of Troy. And Aeneas’ demigod status might have inspired Targaryens being viewed as ‘gods’ by the Westerosi, for: “On Dragonstone, where the Targaryens had long ruled, the common folk had seen their beautiful, foreign rulers almost as gods” (TWOIAF) and “[On Dragonstone] Targaryens were rightly regarded as being closer to gods than the common run of men” (The Princess and the Queen). In a later section I’ll explain why in my view it is extremely important that Aeneas was the son of Venus, not just any goddess, and how this might be important for ASOIAF (and Tolkien).

It can hardly be denied that GRRM was thinking about Aeneas when creating his own exiled hero who founded a great dynasty. But is there more to this? Is it nothing more than just another off-hand reference to literature and mythology? I’d suggest otherwise. The parallels between Aenar and Aeneas are so obvious, because GRRM wanted the reader to notice them. He wanted to give us a proof that he’s familiar with The Aeneid, and that he’s using it as a source of inspiration, and not just for House Targaryen, but for other aspects of his fictional world as well. In this essay, we’ll attempt to identify other elements of ASOIAF (and its backstory, i.e. TWOIAF), that were influenced by Vergil’s epic. For this purpose, we’ll go through The Aeneid and look for themes, events and characters familiar from A Song of Ice and Fire. Full speed ahead!


* Although the poet’s name is often spelled “Virgil”, I’ll use “Vergil”, as his real name was Publius Vergilius Maro, and “Virgil” comes from medieval Virgilius, whereas Vergilius was the correct Latin form. Some scholars suggests this discrepancy is due to some medieval scribe’s error while transcribing, others point out that in medieval folklore Vergil was depicted as a wizard an miracle worker rather than a poet – he was seen as a prophet, and his Eclogue IV was interpreted as a prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, making Vergil a proto-Christian prophet. For this reason, people came to believe that his name comes from the word virga (magical wand), while in truth, the etymology of “Vergilius” is unknown, but it’s been suggested that it comes from Latin vigilia (watch) or vigil (awake), and thus is related to English words like vigil and vigilant or Polish Wigilia (Christmas Eve) and wigilia (eve of some liturgical holiday).


The Aeneid begins in medias res (in the middle of things) – in the midst of the plot, and the reader is slowly acquainted with past events and the backstory from conversations between characters.

In Book One, as Aeneas’ fleet is sailing across the Mediterranean, we find out that although Troy has fallen, the goddess Juno (Roman equivalent of Greek Hera, Zeus’s sister-wife), has heard a prophecy that her beloved city of Carthage will one day be destroyed by the descendants of Trojan survivors (Vergil is referencing the Punic Wars from Rome’s history here). Juno already hates the Trojans – it seems there are more reasons for this enmity than there are royal titles of TV show Daenerys – we can try to enumerate several reasons:

  • she mislikes her husbands’ young and handsome cupbearer Ganymede (who came from Troy) – by the way, you can read more about Ganymede-Aquarius and how this constellation figures in ASOIAF symbolism by reading LML’s amazing Zodiac Children of Garth the Green essay
  • she’s angry because Trojan prince Paris chose Venus over herself during the Judgement of Paris, where King Priam’s son was asked to decide which of the three goddesses – Juno (Hera), Minerva (Athena) and Venus (Aphrodite) – is the most beautiful
  • she hates the Trojans because their ancestor Dardanus was her husband Zeus’ illegitimate son with Electra the Pleiade (“Amber”), one of his numerous mistresses

Well, now Juno has another reason – she knows her beloved city will one day be destroyed by a nation founded by survivors from Troy. To prevent his from happening, she visits Aeolus, King of Winds, and promises him the hand of the nymph Deiopea for his assistance in scattering Aeneas’ fleet. A fierce storm caused by winds unleashed by Aeolus ravages the Trojan armada, but Neptune (Poseidon), the god of the seas, appears to calm the winds, angry that the lord of winds dared to trespass his dominion. Meanwhile, Aeneas’ mother pleads with Jupiter to allow her son to fulfill his destiny of founding Rome. Jupiter confirms that Aeneas’ fill be the founder of a great nation, and his descendants will reign over many lands (The poet includes a reference to his patron Augustus Caesar, The Aeneid is full of political references that were quite obvious for Vergil’s audience).

Aeneas’ ship lands in Libya in Northern Africa, where he realises that he’s been separated from a large portion of his fleet. While wandering in a wood, Aeneas comes across his mother Venus, disguised as a huntress from Carthage, who recounts to him the history of Carthage and its Queen Dido.

Carthage was founded by followers of the queen who fled from the Phoenician city of Tyre. (In ASOIAF, the Free City of Tyrosh is based on Tyre – the main export product of both cities is the same – Tyre was famed for its Tyrian purple dye, produced from sea snails, while Tyrosh is famed for its dye made from ‘a certain variety of sea snail). Dido (this name means either “The Beloved” or “The Wanderer”), also known as Elissa (some scholars suggest Elissa comes from Elishat/Elisha, with the ‘el’ meaning ‘god’ and ‘issa’ meaning either ‘fire’ or ‘goddess’. So Elissa would mean (more or less) “fire goddess” or “goddess”.

Elissa and her brother Pygmalion were joint rulers of Tyre, but Elissa fled the city with her loyalists when it was revealed that Pygmalion wanted to seize all the power for himself and has murdered her husband Sychaeus (Acerbas), the priest of Heracles. Elissa and her followers sailed away on a fleet of ships, and after a long and perilous voyage landed in Northern Africa, where they established the New City of Tyre, or Qart-hadasht in the Punic language, which became Carthage. This name of course reminds me of Qarth, whereas the story of Elissa and her usurper brother reminds me of the Amethyst Empress and the Bloodstone Emperor, who was her younger envious brother. Even before I came across this parallel, I was speculating that a group of the Empress’ loyalists have left the Great Empire of the Dawn and settled in some other area, perhaps at what is now Oldtown.

It seems that Qarth is that place, or at the very least, one of the places where those who despised Bloodstone Emperor’s tyranny fled. This agrees with what LML wrote about Qarth being symbolically connected with “The Jade Empress Nissa Nissa” figure in Daenerys the Sea Dreamer. The connection between Elissa’ homeland, Tyre, and purple dye might parallel Amethyst’ Empress purple association via her name, and Dany’s purple eyes, for Dany is the Amethyst Empress/Nissa Nissa figure in our story.

Queen Nymeria of the Rhoynar might be another figure based on Queen Elissa, just like Elissa Farman from Fire and Blood. Lady Elissa Farman, alias Alys Westhill, left her ancestral seat of Fair Isle because her brother, young Lord Franklyn Farman, wanted to force her to marry a man of his choice and thus bring political benefits to his house. This might be an echo of the conflict between Elissa and her brother Pygmalion. Elissa, just like her mythological namesake, was a sailor who organised an expedition to the west (Lady Farman wanted to circumnavigate the globe by sailing across the Sunset Sea) in search for new lands and opportunities.

Meanwhile, Queen Nymeria’s ship burning might be a reference to another event from The Aeneid, where some Trojan women (incited by Juno, who tried to prevent the prophecy from coming true), set Aeneas’ ships ablaze, believing this act will force him to settle down in Sicily and bring their wanderings to an end. In TWOIAF, it is said that:

To (…) make certain her people could not again retreat to the sea, Nymeria burned the Rhoynish ships. “Our wanderings are at an end,” she declared. “We have found a new home, and here we shall live and die.”

Asha Greyjoy, who fled from the Iron Islands and attempted to establish a realm for herself at Sea Dragon Point might be another figure based on Elissa. Is it a coincidence that Aenar Targaryen, the most obvious ASOIAF reference to The Aeneid, the epic where Elissa’s deeds are described, is first mentioned in her chapter in A Feast for Crows?

Let us return to Aeneas speaking with his mother Venus in the wilderness on the shores of Libya. Venus creates a magical mist/cloud that surrounds Aeneas, making him invisible, as to allow him to safely visit Carthage and assess whether it is wise to land there and ask for help. Our hero sees the grandeur and power of Carthage. Finally, at the Temple of Juno, he sees how the queen receives a group of Trojans (you might remember that many of Aeneas’ ships were separated from the main fleet during the storm, and now one of those ships has found its way to Carthage). The Queen offers them assistance, and expresses her pity that Aeneas, that great warrior, is not there, promising to dispatch her guards to find him and his lost men. At this moment, Aeneas’ reveals himself and gains her favour. But Venus is still afraid that Juno, her rival and Aeneas’ nemesis, will attempt to drive a wedge between Elissa and her son, and thus, sends her other son, Cupid (Aeneas’ half-brother and god of attraction and desire) to make Dido fall in love with Aeneas. Cupid attends a banquet in honour of the Trojans organised by the Queen, disguised as Aeneas’ young son Ascanius. At one point, Elissa cradles the boy in her arms, and Cupid uses is powers to enchant the Queen. She falls in love with Aeneas, although she has sworn to never again enter a relationship with any man, out of respect for her late husband, the priest of Heracles murdered by her usurping brother.

In Book Two, Aeneas recount the story of the Sack of Troy and his wanderings to the Queens. Various events of the Trojan war are mentioned – Ulysses’ idea to create the Trojan horse, the treachery of Greek warrior Sinon, who pretended that he deserted the Greek army and convinced the Trojans to bring the Horse into their city, how Cassandra and Laocoon the priest attempted to warn their countrymen but were not heeded, how Greek warriors came out the Horse in the dead of night and opened the gates, how King Priam and his people were slaughtered, how Aeneas and other prominent warriors of Troy valiantly defended the city and how Aeneas managed to escape with his elderly father Anchises and young son, but his wife Creusa was lost in the chaos.

Aeneas’ tale continues in Book Three, where he describes how his followers built a fleet and how they were wandering in the Mediterranean, visiting Andromache, the wife of Trojan hero hector, and Priam’s son Helenus, how they landed on an isle inhabited by harpies, with whom they warred and finally, how they visited the isle of the Cyclopes (the same where Ulysses lands in The Odyssey) and rescued one of Ulysses’ men who was accidentally left behind. Meanwhile, Aeneas’ father Anchises dies of old age.

Now, this incident with harpies reminds me of the wars between Valyria (which parallels Rome, founded by Aeneas) and the Ghiscari Empire, which used a harpy as its emblem. The Ghiscari wars are probably based on the Punic Wars as well, and because of this, some fans concluded that Old Ghis is Essos’ Carthage, while in my view, Qarth is Essos’ true Carthage.

In Book Four, Juno wants to make a deal with Venus – Aeneas will marry Elissa and his Trojans will settle down in Carthage. This of course, would prevent him from founding Rome. And of course, that’s precisely what Juno wants. When Aeneas and the Queen go on a hunting trip, Juno sends stormy clouds. In this torrent, they are separated from their party and guards and seek refugee in a nearby cave. You can imagine what happens next if I tell you that it seems likely that Jon Snow and Ygritte’s cave scene is based on this passage from The Aeneid.

Anyway, Elissa and Aeneas are now in love, but the Queen is still torn between her feelings for the Trojan hero and loyalty to her late husband. In the end, the feelings win and Aeneas and Elissa are about to become a happily married couple. But Jupiter has other plans. He dispatches Mercury, his messenger, to Aeneas to remind him of his destiny. Aeneas has to establish Rome, and this won’t happen if he stays in Carthage. Aeneas makes the decision and – in secret – has his fleet prepared for departure.

The Queen realises what Aeneas is plotting and falls into despair. This exile whom she received in her own palace, this man for whose sake she broke her vows to her late husband’s shade, this Aeneas of Troy proved a traitor at last. Elissa confronts him, pleading with him to stay, but Aeneas rejects the offer, speaking of his Fate and destiny in Italy. Aeneas promises that he’ll never forget her kindness and help, but there is no other way, as it has been long foretold that he will establish Rome. The Queen, in fury, calls him a traitor and swears vengeance. Then, she faints. Aeneas feels pity, but ultimately, he decides that Fate can not be denied. He orders his people to board their ships, and prepare to set off.

Elissa wakes and asks her sister Anna to go to Aeneas and beseech him to come to her one last time, until she finds a way to soothe her grief and reconcile with prospect of life without her lover. Aeneas, however, remains stalwart and is unmoved by Anna’s tears and Elissa’s pleas. Upon hearing that he rejected her once more, the Queen goes mad and wants to end her life. She claims that she can’t bear the sight of Aeneas’ belongings and gifts left in her palace, and the sight of their bed. She has her servants gather those items in the courtyard, and build a pyre.

The pyre is an enormous construction, built from oaken wood, decorated with wreaths, surrounded by altars to Erebos, Chaos, threefold Hecate, triple-faced Diana and a hundred other gods. The wood she sprinks with water from the river Avernus. Then she prepares herbs trickling black venom, cut by moonlight with brazen sickles. Her sister and her retainers think she’ll simply burn Aeneas’ belongings left in the city, but the Queen has other plans. Meanwhile, Aeneas is sleeping on board of his ship. Suddenly, Mercury appears in front of him again, and warns that unless he leaves at once, the people of Carthage will seize their fleet and burn the ships. Aeneas wakes and gives the order to embark.

Elissa sees this from her tower. In her final moments, she calls upon Hecate, Avenging Furies and ‘gods of dying Elissa’. She curses that ‘wretch’ Aeneas. Let him come to Italy, if Jupiter will so. But never allow him to find peace there. Let his men be slaughtered, let his nation be forced to war with all their neighbours. Let him be king, but make him die young and cruelly. This she says, is her final utterance she pours out with her blood. She bids her Tyrian people to persecute Aeneas’ descendants with hate, so there may never be any alliance or treaty between them. Then she says the famous line: “Arise from my ashes, Unknown Avenger, to harass the Trojan settlers with fire and sword!”. (Vergil is referencing Hannibal here).

Then, in agony, Elissa climbs the pyre, unsheathes Aeneas’ sword that was left behind, and falls upon the blade. The people of Carthage lament their Queen’s demise, with all streets filled with wailing and cries. Now it is Elissa’s sister Anna who falls into despair, and climbs the pyre, embracing the Queen’s bloodied body. Juno sees this, and dispatches Iris, the goddess of the dawn, to end her suffering. The goddess descends, and the pyre burst into flames. Out in the ocean, Aeneas sees the glow of Elissa’s funeral pyre.

Those events remind me of the Nissa Nissa and Azor Ahai myth, where the ‘hero’ pierces his wife with a sword. Here Elissa commits suicide, but it was Aeneas who brought it about. In both cases, it is the ‘hero’s sword that is used to kill his lover. I’ll also point out that the names “Nissa” and “Elissa” are quite similar, and “Elissa” might mean “fire of the gods”/”god-woman” or “godly fire”.

The pyre of Queen Elissa reminds me of Khal Drogo’s funeral pyre, which also gets a detailed description at the end of AGOT. Just like in The Aeneid, the woman who builds the pyre doesn’t share her true intentions – of climbing the pyre – with her retainers. I’d suggest that the Azor Ahai myth was at least partially inspired by this event from Vergil’s epic. Thus, we’d get more evidence that Amethyst Empress and Nissa Nissa were the same person, or at least, are based on the same archetypal pattern – Amethyst Empress’ story seems to be based on Elissa’ life until she met Aeneas, while Nissa Nissa’s death, as echoed by Dany’s fire transformation in Drogo’s pyre, parallels Elissa’ final moments.

The “unknown avenger” who is supposed to rise from Elissa’s ashes might have been the inspiration behind GRRM’s ‘weirwood assassin” figures, described by LML in It’s an Arya Thing which avenge Nissa Nissa (assassin, by the way, if read backwards, contains the word ‘nissa’).

But if Amethyst Empress/Nissa Nissa is Elissa who fled from her homeland (Great Empire of the Dawn would play the role of Tyre in this case) and founded a new city (Qarth/Carthage), that’d make the Bloodstone Emperor/Azor Ahai an Aeneas figure. Aeneas was famous for establishing a great civilization. Where is this nation founded by Azor Ahai?

Well, I’d suggest Valyria was that nation. If GRRM decided to follow The Aeneid, his Aeneas figure would arrive in a land that was already inhabited by many tribes, ally himself with one of them, make war against the others, defeat them in battle and finally have his followers settle down as assimilate with the locals. And think about this – there are so many parallels between Old Valyria and Rome. Surely, the founder of Valyria would be based on Aeneas? Yes, Aenar Targaryen who fled from Valyria and established House Targaryen in Westeros is based on that Trojan hero. But Aenar can be an echo of some earlier hero, just like Dany, Euron, Jon Snow and so many other ASOIAF characters. Many historical characters play into archetypal roles from the Dawn Age and GEOTD. Rhaenyra echoes the Amethyst Empress, Aegon the Elder (Aegon II) parallels the Bloodstone Emperor. Thus, Aenar might be but an echo of some earlier hero also based on Aeneas, not the wellspring of The Aeneid symbolism and references in ASOIAF. Here, I’d suggest that Azor Ahai (or his direct descendant or follower) was that original ASOIAF Aeneas. It was him who led a group of GEOTD people into exile, and finally arrived in the Lands of the Long Summer, where his group was assimilated and merged with the locals. Those locals were those proto-Valyrian shepherds who supposedly tamed the first dragons.

The Princess and the Queen and Fire and Blood seem to provide evidence for this scenario. There, Daemon Targaryen, who has once crowned himself King of the Stepstones and the Narrow Sea and reigned from his seat Bloodstone, and thus can symbolise the Bloodstone Emperor, becomes the companion and teacher of Nettles, the rider of the dragon Sheepstealer. The Valyrians, we are told in ASOIAF, were originally shepherds, who came across dragons living in the Fourteen Flames and tamed them. In my view, Nettles echoes those proto-Valyrians. It may be true that proto-Valyrians somehow managed to discover a way of controlling dragons on their own, but their methods were primitive (Nettles supposedly tamed Sheepstealer by bringing him mutton every day) and inferior to techniques available to the GEOTD dragonlords – horns similar to Dragonbinder, special saddles and whips, and most of all, magic. It is possible that the Bloodstone Emperor Azor Ahai knew about this taming, or even secretly enabled it. Then, with his surviving followers, he came to the Lands of the Long Summer, where he took over the proto-Valyrian shepherds and founded his new empire, Old Valyria. In TPATQ, Nettles found a way to tame Sheepstealer, but it was Daemon who shared his advanced dragonlore with her.

It is also possible that Queen Rhaenyra’s hatred of Nettles is an echo of the original enmity between Amethyst Empress Nissa Nissa’s new civilization, Qarth, and Azor Ahai’s Valyria (Rhaenyra symbolises Amethyst Empress because her conflict with Aegon the Elder echoes AE’s rivalry with her usurping brother the Bloodstone Emperor, and Daemon even gave her a jade tiara that has once belonged to a Lengi Empress).

Alternatively, our ancient GEOTD Aeneas-Azor Ahai might have founded a city in Westeros itself, perhaps Oldtown. After all, there are legends about dragons and ancient mariners visiting that region. Oldtown already has numerous parallels with Minas Tirith and Osgiliath in Gondor, and those cities were founded by Tolkien’s Aeneas figure, Elendil the Faithful who fled from Numenor.

To finish off our summary of The Aeneid, I’ll quickly present the major events of Books Five to Twelve (it appears that GRRM was chiefly referencing the first four books, as I haven’t found any interesting parallels between ASOIAF and the remainder of the poem).

In Book Five Aeneas’ fleet lands in Sicily where they organise funeral games in honour of Aeneas’ late father Anchises. During the games, Juno attempts to prevent Aeneas from fulfilling his destiny once again, by inciting the Trojan women to set their ships ablaze, to force Aeneas’ to settle down in Sicily and bring their wanderings to an end. However, Jupiter intervenes, causing a rainstorm, and thus Aeneas’ fleet is saved. In the aftermath, Aeneas’ heart is filled with doubts again, but a shade of his father appears before him, and bids him go to the Underworld to see a vision of Rome’s future, which will reassure him that his mission has to be completed.

In Book Six, Aeneas visits the oracle Sibyl, who agrees to be his guide in the Underworld. Before they can enter Hades, however, Aeneas has to find the magical Golden Bough in the nearby wood. The Golden Bough is a token that will allow them to safely venture into Hades and come back from it. (The title of Sir James George Frazer’s book on comparative mythology and religion, which greatly inspired J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and – at least in my view – was also GRRM’s source of inspiration – is a reference to this item from Vergil’s epic). Aeneas and Sibyl travel through Hades, seeing the great rivers of the Underworld, Acheront, Styx, Phlegethon, Cocytus and Lethe. At one point, Aeneas’ sees Elissa’s shade wandering in a great wood, her wound still fresh. He tries to excuse himself, but she doesn’t want to even listen to him and instead flees from him into the sacred grove where her husband awaits.

Finally, Aeneas’ finds his father in the Elysian Fields. Anchises shows him a vision of the future history of Rome and all valiant deeds of Aeneas’ descendants. His son Silvius, who will reign as King of Alba Longa, and his successors. Romulus, the founder of Rome proper. Lucius Junius Brutus who overthrew King Tarquin the Proud and founder the Roman Republic, Tiberius Gracchus and his brother Gaius, the Roman reformers, Scipio Africanus the Elder, who defeated Hannibal, and Scipio Aemilianius who destroyed Carthage during the Third Punic war, Quintus Fabius Maximus the Cunctator, who led Romans in guerilla warfare against Hannibal, and of course, Gaius Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus. Aeneas’ spirit is lifted, and our hero leaves the Underworld to continue his quest.

Books Seven to Twelve describe Aeneas’ wars in Italy. Our hero lands in Latium, where he plans to marry Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus who has received him warmly. Juno sends Alecto the Fury to rouse the neighbouring tribes and spark a war against the Trojans. King Latinus’ wife turns against Aeneas and wants to marry her daughter to King Turnus of the Rutuli, a powerful local tribe. Aeneas allies himself with King Evander of Arcadia and befriends his son Pallas. While Aeneas is away, seeking other allies, Turnus and his host attacks the Trojan camp and a siege begins. Turnus’ soldiers attempt to burn Aeneas’ fleet, but goddess Cybele turns them into water nymphs. Turnus managed to cut his way into the Trojan fort, but the defenders greatly outnumber him and thus, he has to jump into the river to save himself.

Meanwhile, King Tarchon of the Etruscans agrees to ally his people with the Trojans and gives Aeneas ships and warriors. As Aeneas’ new fleet sails downriver to his camp, his old ships (now turned into nymphs) appear, to warn him that his people are besieged. Turnus divides his host in two, with one part sent to storm the camp and the other dispatched to prevent Aeneas’ from landing on the shore. In the ensuing battle, Turnus kills Aeneas’ friend Pallas and our hero swears bloody revenge. Juno sees that Turnus is unwilling to unchivalrously flee from the scene, but she wants to save him so he might fight another day. Thus, she conjures a phantom shaped like Aeneas. Turnus pursues this fAeneas, who lures him on board of one of the empty ships. The ships sails away and thus Turnus is saved again (though his people call him a coward and a traitor).

In Book Eleven, both sides of the conflict agree to a truce to bury their dead and attend to the wounded. King Latinus’ advisors want to make peace with the Trojans, but Turnus enters the hall and gives a fiery speech against this proposal. When the truce comes to an end, Aeneas’ host marches against the capital. In Book Twelve, Turnus and Aeneas consent to a trial by combat-style duel between them, but Juno provokes an overall battle. During this bloody clash, Aeneas and Turnus come face-to-face. Our hero defeats his rival in a duel. Turnus begs for mercy, and Aeneas is about to give it, but then, he realises that Turnus is wearing an ornate belt he stole from Pallas’ corpse. Aeneas, in rage, avenges his friend by slaying Turnus.

The Aeneid ends here, but from other sources, we know that in Roman mythology, Aeneas married Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, and thus, the Trojans and the Latins became one people. Their son Silvius was an ancestor of King Numitor, mother of Rhea Silvia. Numitor’s brother Amulius usurped the throne. Rhea Silvia was forced to become a Vestal Virgin, which would prevent her from bearing children who could one day overthrow the usurper. However, she gave birth to two children, twins Romulus and Remus, and she claimed that Mars, god of war, was their father. Amulius the usurper had her imprisoned. The children were to be killed, but the soldiers sent to do the task felt pity and instead set them adrift on the river Tiber. They were rescued by Tiberinus, the river god, and raised by a she-wolf. Years later, Romulus and Remus overthrew their uncle and Romulus (after killing his brother in a quarrel) founded Rome proper.

Now, I believe there are two ways in which elements of The Aeneid have influenced GRRM – some came directly from the poem itself, while others came into ASOIAF via J.R.R. Tolkien. How Vergil inspired Tolkien is a topic for an entire essay, but for now, I’ll simply list several parallels between JRRT’s universe and the story of Aeneas:

  • in The Aeneid Aeneas, the founder of Rome, is the son of Venus. In The Silmarillion, Elros, the founder of Numenor, is the son of Eärendil (please check out my essay on Morningstar/Evenstar symbolism in Tolkien’s writing – Eärendil, Bearer of Light, whose ship became Planet Venus, and Eärendil served as its steersman.
  • Aeneas fled from burning Troy on a fleet of ships, while Elendil and his followers (a descendant of Eärendil) fled from doomed Numenor on nine ships
  • Survivors from Troy founded Rome, survivors from Numenor founded Gondor, which is partially based on Rome
  • Eärendil himself is similar to Aeneas, because he was a leader of survivors from the fall of Gondolin, the Hidden City, which is the closest thing Middle-earth has to Troy. It’s also possible that his father Tuor, who fled from burning Gondolin (which has tons of parallels with Troy) is in some degree based on Aeneas, but he might play the role of Aeneas’ father Anchises as well.
  • Eärendil’s twin sons with Elwing, Elros and Elrond, parallel Romulus and Remus. Elros and Elrond were left to die in the woods by soldiers of the servants of Fëanor, but they were saved by Maglor and Maedhros. Elros founded Numenor, the greatest human civilization in Tolkien’s universe.
  • Elwing parallels Rhea Silvia, who was saved from death by Tiberinus the river god. When soldiers in service of Fëanor’s sons came for her, she threw himself into the sea, but she was saved by Ulmo of the Valar, lord of the seas and thus an equivalent of a sea deity.
  • We might see an echo of Queen Elissa in Queen Tar-Miriel of Numenor, whose throne was stolen by her cousin Ar-Pharazon.

Thus, there are actually two Aeneas figures in Tolkien’s writing – Eärendil, ancestor of the Kings of Numenor, and Elendil the Faithful, founder of Arnor and Gondor after the Downfall of Numenor. GRRM might be recreating this pattern by having two major Aeneas figures as well – Azor Ahai, who founded Valyria (Rome + Numenor) and Aenar Targaryen (a Valyrian lord, whereas Elendil was a Numenorean nobleman) who fled from the realm founded by the original Aeneas figure and established his own kingdom (Westeros under Targaryens, Gondor and Arnor).

With that said, our essay, and with it, our Advent Calendar 2018 series, comes to an end. I hope you have enjoyed my four essays – The Return of the Queen, Eärendil, Bearer of Light, The Jade Empire and Aenar’s Aeneid. If so, please spread the word about them with your friends and fellow ASOIAF fans. We’ve explored many different themes and aspects of ASOIAF, tracing their origins to various works of literature – Tolkien’s Legendarium, C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, Vergil’s The Aeneid, and The Bible. It always amazes me how many parallels and references to those great masterpieces GRRM included in his series, how many themes he explores, how many myths, books, poems, stories and religious texts he uses as sources of inspiration. Thanks to ASOIAF, his readers’ attention turns towards those works. He’s showing us how important and fascinating literature, mythology, symbolism and religion are. And that’s simply magnificent.

My friends, as I bid you farewell – sadly, I won’t be able to write and publish new essays in the following months – I hope we’ll meet again in the future, in the approaching 2019, to discuss and explore fantasy worlds of GRRM and J.R.R. Tolkien, and other awesome books.

I want to say ‘thank you’ to all the wonderful people in our ASOIAF community, and to all the amazing content creators, bloggers, podcasters, theory-makers, artists, youtubers, members of Mythical Astronomy Twitteros and other groups. Good luck in 2019, may that year bring you many new ideas and topics! And of course, good luck to our marvellous author, George R.R. Martin, the man thanks to whom all of us came together. Thank you for all your past works, thanks for Fire and Blood you gave us in 2018, and may your pen flow ever freely, no matter what kind of a project you pursue in the future!

Namárië! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year! Gloria in excelsis Deo! Radosnych Świąt Bożego Narodzenia! Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!

– Bluetiger

 

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The Advent Calendar 2018 – The Jade Empire

The Jade Empire
a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger
The Advent Calendar 2018, Week Three

Another Advent week has passed and thus, on Gaudete (“Rejoice”) Sunday, we meet once more. Welcome to the third instalment in our Advent Calendar 2018 series, where we explore parallels between A Song of Ice and Fire and various other literary works. Two weeks ago, in the first episode, we took a closer look at the return of the king motif in LOTR and The Silmarillion and tracked its origins to The Bible. Last week, in Eärendil, Bearer of Light, we’ve discussed symbolism based on the observation of planet Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s writing and its likely impact on ASOIAF.

This time, our main focus won’t be on LOTR or The Silmarillion. We’ll be talking about another fantasy world altogether – about Narnia from the works of Tolkien’s great friend C.S. Lewis.

The parallels between Narnia and ASOIAF are numerous and there are many essays on this topic. The creation of some ‘grand unified theory of Narnia in ASOIAF’ is not my intent, and I can’t claim that I’ve identified every single reference to The Chronicles of Narnia. Instead, I’ll point out several parallels I’ve noticed myself and which are relevant to Mythical Astronomy. I believe most of you are already familiar with LML’s theories and analysis, and to those of you who aren’t that well-versed as far as Mythical Astronomy is concerned, I highly recommend reading those essays, especially recent Daenerys the Sea Dreamer episode and most of all, its section The Jade Empress Nissa Nissa.

In this essay, I’ll discuss several aspects of C.S. Lewis’ fantasy universe that might have inspired GRRM’s own worldbuilding and symbolism. This means there will be spoilers for several Narnia books, especially The Magician’s Nephew, The Silver Chair and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. I’ll also refer to new content from GRRM’s Fire and Blood Targaryen history chronicle, as that’s where many of those Narnia parallels come from. And because this is Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, I simply can’t restrain myself from mentioning some LOTR and The Silmarillion references in this wonderful new book.

With that said, let us proceed. Our destination is a dying city, once the capital of the king of kings, the wonder of all worlds, the greatest city that ever was or will be. Once, in the dawn of days, the seat of Emperors and Empresses of the mightiest civilization. Now, a crumbling ruin under a blazing red sun…

The Jade Empire

Low in the horizon hangs a red dying star that was once the sun of this world. In this eternal twilit, the sky is always dark blue, almost black. Once, thousands of stars illuminated this heaven, now only one companion to the sun remains, a lonely star, very big and very bright. Under this sullen sky, there stands a magnificent city of many palaces, towers, halls, pyramids and domed temples. One building dwarfs all the rest, once a royal palace, now only a silent mausoleum. In its great hall, rows of chairs can be seen. Hundreds of people in royal attire sit motionless on carved thrones. Their faces are still, forever showing the same emotion. Some faces are solemn, some seem to be happy, others are sad. Then there are the cruel ones. Upon the last throne, the last Empress keeps her silent vigil. She is the last of her line, the last monarch of this fallen empire. She waged war on her sibling who once tried to usurp her throne, and she proved triumphant, but at a terrible price. She reigns over rivers of dried blood, streets of ash, empty cities under this expiring sun. At first glance, she appears to be a waxwork, a faithful effigy, or a perfectly preserved body. The other Kings and Queens in this hall are just that.

Yet she is not dead. But she is not alive either. She sleeps, pondering on her past deeds, dreaming about revenge and former glory. Soon, she will wake, and traveling through a magical portal, a wood that is more than a wood, arrive at distant place. There she will make use of her magic and the power of the trees once again. Her hand will reach for the Tree of Life and she will touch and steal the fire of the gods. Thus, she will become immortal. But she will undergo a transformation of ice as well. As long as that tree lives, she will be exiled to the far north. But when it dies, she will return and unleash eternal winter against those who wronged her.

Who is she?

Amethyst Empress of the Great Empire of the Dawn, whose brother stole her throne. Amethyst Empress who may have been Nissa Nissa, who later turned into Night’s Queen?

Well… I’d suggest that this Empress is one of the major sources of inspiration behind the ASOIAF character (or characters) I’ve mentioned.

We’re talking about “Her Imperial Majesty Jadis, Queen of Narnia, Chatelaine of Cair Paravel, Empress of the Lone Islands”, more commonly known as the White Witch of Narnia. But before she came to Narnia, she ruled over another realm in a different universe. That’s where we have to travel first.

Now, it first occurred to me that Empress Jadis might have inspired GRRM’s Amethyst Empress/Nissa Nissa when I was reading LML’s essay Daenerys the Sea Dreamer, The Jade Empress Nissa Nissa section, where he points out that ‘The Jade Sea’ is an important metaphor for the weirnet aka ‘The Green Sea’ of the Greenseers (shout out to Ravenous Reader!). Thus, Nissa Nissa, Queen of the Green Sea, Empress of the Weirnet, can be named Jade Empress. Melisandre of Asshai (which is located on the shores of the Jade Sea) is another such figure, and as we’ll see, she has some parallels to Queen Jadis as well. Anyway, as I was reading that chapter, I realised that ‘Jade Empress’ is inverted ‘Empress Jadis’. Of course, no good theory could be built upon one possibly random connection like this. But having investigated the matter further, I concluded that there are more parallels between GRRM’s concept of the Jade Empress of the Weirnet and Lewis’ Jadis.

In The Magician’s Nephew, two children, Digory Kirke and his friend Polly Plummer, find out that Digory’s eccentric Uncle Andrew, an ameteur magician, has managed to forge magic rings made from the ashes of Atlantis (which “in the very dawn of time Atlantis was already a great city”). Polly touches one of the Rings and vanishes, and Uncle Andrew forces Digory to use the remaining Rings to follow her. The children awake in a in-between realm, the timeless dimension called The Wood between the Worlds.

The way in which Lewis describes his in-between realm reminds me of the weirnet, which bestows similar powers upon the person entering it.

Then, for a moment, everything became muddled. The next thing Digory knew was that there was a soft green light coming down on him from above, and darkness below. He didn’t seem to be standing on anything, or sitting, or lying. Nothing appeared to be touching him. “I believe I’m in water,” said Digory. “Or underwater.” This frightened him for a second, but almost at once he could feel that he was rushing upwards. Then his head suddenly came out into the air and he found himself scrambling ashore, out on to smooth grassy ground at the edge of a pool.

As he rose to his feet he noticed that he was neither dripping nor panting for breath as anyone would expect after being under water. His clothes were perfectly dry. He was standing by the edge of a small pool—not more than ten feet from side to side—in a wood. The trees grew close together and were so leafy that he could get no glimpse of the sky. All the light was green light that came through the leaves: but there must have been a very strong sun overhead, for this green daylight was bright and warm. It was the quietest wood you could possibly imagine. There were no birds, no insects, no animals, and no wind. You could almost feel the trees growing. The pool he had just got out of was not the only pool. There were dozens of others—a pool every few yards as far as his eyes could reach. You could almost feel the trees drinking the water up with their roots. This wood was very much alive.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This magical wood contains countless pools that are in fact portals to many different dimensions – our world and Narnia, for example. This reminds me of ASOIAF Green Sea, the Weirnet, that allows its users to glimpse events from the past and see over long distances. Also, crossing a portal being described as being submerged in a green pool is very suggestive of all ASOIAF passages where a character like Jon or Varamyr is ‘plunged into some icy lake’ as their symbolic passage from one dimension to another takes place.

Digory and Polly try to jump into one of the pools (and they fail, because that’s the empty pool that will one day become the portal to Narnia – The Magician’s Nephew details the events surrounding the creation of this world by Aslan, so at the beginning of the book, Narnia hasn’t been founded yet). Then they locate the portal that leads to London, but Digory decides that they should take advantage of the opportunity to see some alien worlds, and thus, they jump into another portal. That portal leads to Asshai-by-the-Shadow, if it was indeed the capital of the Great Empire of the Dawn… well, not exactly, but the parallels are strong.

This pool takes them to the dying world of Charn, to the very doorstep of what once was its capital most magnificent palace, the seat of the Emperors and Empresses of this realm. But all rivers are dry, and a great fountain shaped like “a great stone monster with wide-spread wings stood with its mouth open” pour no water. The streets and hallways are silent, and there are no living beings in sight.

When Digory and Polly enter the great hall of the royal palace, they behold hundreds of people sitting on thrones. But the people are motionless as waxwork – they are dead, and have been dead for centuries and millennia beyond count.

I can hardly describe the clothes. The figures were all robed and had crowns on their heads. Their robes were of crimson and silvery grey and deep purple and vivid green: and there were patterns, and pictures of flowers and strange beasts, in needlework all over them. Precious stones of astonishing size and brightness stared from their crowns and hung in chains round their necks and peeped out from all the places where anything was fastened.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

Yet the robes haven’t rotted away – Digory concludes that they were enchanted. The figures (or mummies, who knows what they were precisely) sat upon their thrones on each side of the room, and as the children were walking down this Hall of Images, they took note that figures closer to the door, the early the Kings and Queens of this world, had happy faces, that they looked kind and wise. But later monarchs had solemn expressions, then strong and prideful, and in the end, even cruel.

The last figure of all was the most interesting—a woman even more richly dressed than the others, very tall (but every figure in that room was taller than the people of our world), with a look of such fierceness and pride that it took your breath away. Yet she was beautiful too.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

This woman, the last Empress of Charn, is Jadis.

As in any adventure story or Lovecraftian story, Digory can’t refrain from touching the artifact that just screams ‘don’t touch me’. In the middle of the Hall, there stood a square pillar with an arch beneath it. From that arch, a golden bell was hung, with golden hammer beneath it. Of course, Digory had to struck it, and of course, the final motionless statue moved, and Jadis came back to life,

Queen Jadis gives the children a history lesson – the city they’re in is Charn, the capital of Kings, the greatest city there was or ever will be, to paraphrase the Qartheen.

Low down and near the horizon hung a great, red sun, far bigger than our sun. Digory felt at once that it was also older than ours: a sun near the end of its life, weary of looking down upon that world. To the left of the sun, and higher up, there was a single star, big and bright. Those were the only two things to be seen in the dark sky; they made a dismal group. And on the earth, in every direction, as far as the eye could reach, there spread a vast city in which there was no living thing to be seen. And all the temples, towers, palaces, pyramids, and bridges cast long, disastrous-looking shadows in the light of that withered sun. Once a great river had flowed through the city, but the water had long since vanished, and it was now only a wide ditch of grey dust.

“Look well on that which no eyes will ever see again,” said the Queen. “Such was Charn, that great city, the city of the King of Kings, the wonder of the world, perhaps of all worlds.

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis

GRRM loved stories about dying worlds and dying stars… as his stories like Dying of the Light, In the House of the Worm and the anthologies he’s edited clearly demonstrate. Charn sounds just like something he’d like and want to include in his own books.

This dying city with its river of grey dust is strikingly similar to Asshai-by-the-Shadow and its River Ash, and the decline of Charn sounds a lot like the downfall of the Great Empire. Qarth, another decadent city of Essos, also owes something to C.S. Lewis’ dying empire, it seems. (By the way, it seems this lonely star that is the only object visible in the sky besides the red sun is most likely that world’s Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar). I’ll also point out that it is implied that the nobles of Charn were dragonlords, because Empress Jadis demands “a well-trained dragon, or whatever is usual for royal and noble persons in your land” – when the children accidentally bring her to London upon their return. There she forces Uncle Andrew to become her servant and begins planning her conquest of Earth, but that’s not relevant to our topic today. Anyway, Emperors of Charn most likely were dragonlords, which is yet another parallel between that realm and GEOTD.

The Undying in their magnificent enchanted robes that conceal the truth – they they’ve been dead for ages, and the only thing they rule is a Palace of Dust – might have been inspired by the Kings and Queens of Charn in their Hall of Images (just like the stone kings in the crypts of Winterfell – there we have Lewis’ pattern of kind faces in the beginning and stern faces in the end reversed – the ancient Kings of Winter were cruel men, while the more recent Lords of Winterfell were kinder).

Please compare the description of the Undying Ones Dany sees in ACOK to the Hall of Images Digory and Polly visit:

Beyond the doors was a great hall and a splendor of wizards. Some wore sumptuous robes of ermine, ruby velvet, and cloth of gold. Others fancied elaborate armor studded with gemstones, or tall pointed hats speckled with stars. There were women among them, dressed in gowns of surpassing loveliness. Shafts of sunlight slanted through windows of stained glass, and the air was alive with the most beautiful music she had ever heard.

Or to the figures from Dany’s dream in AGOT, who may have been GEOTD rulers or nobles:

Ghosts lined the hallway, dressed in the faded raiment of kings. In their hands were swords of pale fire. They had hair of silver and hair of gold and hair of platinum white, and their eyes were opal and amethyst, tourmaline and jade. “Faster,” they cried, “faster, faster.”

Or to the Enthroned Pureborn of Qarth who receive Dany in their Hall of a Thousand Thrones:

Descendants of the ancient kings and queens of Qarth, the Pureborn commanded the Civic Guard and the fleet of ornate galleys that ruled the straits between the seas. (…)

The Pureborn heard her pleas from the great wooden seats of their ancestors, rising in curved tiers from a marble floor to a high-domed ceiling painted with scenes of Qarth’s vanished glory. The chairs were immense, fantastically carved, bright with goldwork and studded with amber, onyx, lapis, and jade, each one different from all the others, and each striving to be the most fabulous. Yet the men who sat in them seemed so listless and world-weary that they might have been asleep.

It’s the same motif over and over again – magnificent kings and queens sit in a hall of thrones, but their glory is merely an illusion and their cities crumble to dust. Only the Jade Empress is still alive.

We find another familiar theme when we turn to Ravenous Reader’s Killing Word idea. In ASOIAF, the Killing Word is a ‘prayer’ or ‘incantation’ uttered by dying Nissa Nissa, “a kind of magical invocation which has called down the fire of the gods” in LML’s words. In ASOIAF, Nissa Nissa’s cry breaks the moon, in Narnia, Jadis’ Deplorable World dooms her entire universe.

In The Magician’s Nephew Queen Jadis explains that the Deplorable Word was ‘the secret of secrets’, the ultimate magical weapon of the Emperors and Empresses of her house. That word, if spoken with the proper ceremonies, would kill all living beings with the exception of the speaker. Jadis claims that her ancestors were weak and soft-hearted, and thus made vows never to learn nor use this spell. But she learned it (though she paid a terrible price for it, just like Melisandre had to pay dearly for her magic, and just like all magic in ASOIAF comes at a cost).

Jadis warred with her sister for the throne of Charn, and both sides broke their oath to never use magical warfare (Jadis claims that her sister broke it first, but I guess she’s not the most reliable narrator). Aa great battle was fought in the streets of the capital, and in the end, Jadis’ hosts were decimated and people whom she calls ‘rebels’ (though it seems that it was Jadis who usurped the throne) led by her sister were climbing the stairs of the palace. Jadis confronted them standing at the terrace before the great gate. Then she spoke the Deplorable Word and one heartbeat later, Empress Jadis was the unchallenged, as there was no one left in the world.

Nissa Nissa’s Killing Word caused the Long Night, Jadis’ Deplorable World caused the end of her world, it’s a pretty similar concept, I’d say. Also, please note that sibling rivalry is an important aspect of Jadis’ story, just like in Amethyst Empress’ case, where her throne was stolen by her brother. Of course, the story of Ar-Pharazon the Golden and his cousin-wife Tar-Miriel of Numenor was also a major influence on GRRM, but we know that our author likes to weave many ideas from different works of literature into one ASOIAF concept.

In The Rogue Prince we might see another reference to Empress Jadis when Daemon Targaryen gives Rhaenyra a ‘jade tiara’ that once belonged to a Lengi Empress. Jadis’ tiara? Jadis is described as exceptionally tall, and the Lengii are the tallest humans in GRRM’s world. Just like Jadis’, Rhaenyra fought her sibling in a bloody civil war.

Princess Rhaenyra was a different matter. Daemon spent long hours in her company, enthralling her with tales of her journeys and battles. He gave her pearls and silks and books and a jade tiara said once to have belonged to the Empress of Leng…

The Tolkien fan inside me has to point out that Aegon the Elder’s dragon Sunfyre the Golden and his golden dragon on black field sigil are most likely references to Ar-Pharazon the Golden, the Numenorean king who stole his cousin’s throne, and to Glaurung the Golden, the most famous dragon from The Silmarillion. Well, Ancalagon the Black, the greatest winged dragon of Middle-earth was also famous, and indeed, it has found its way into ASOIAF as well, as Balerion the Black Dread.

What happens with Jadis after she leaves Charn with Digory and Polly is also quite similar to Nissa Nissa’s fate – she ends up in Narnia, where she witnesses its creation, and then, she picks one fruit from the Narnian Tree of Life. That makes her immortal and allows her to return centuries later and conquer all Narnia. The Hundred Years Winter begins and lasts until the events of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But when she ate the apple, her skin turned as white and salt, and the was Empress Jadis no more, but turned into the White Witch.

This of course reminds me of Nissa Nissa’s transformation into Night’s Queen who ruled over the Long Night, the equivalent of Narnia’s Hundred Years Winter. In my view, all parallels between Narnia and ASOIAF I’ve mentioned strengthen the theory that Nissa Nissa and Amethyst Empress were the same person, and that she later turned into Night’s Queen.

Euron’s comments that “A new god shall be born from the graves and charnel pits.” might be a clue that GRRM was really thinking about Lewis’ Charn and Jadis when he was creating his own ancient fallen empire.

But that’s not all.

For more Narnia-ASOIAF parallels we have to look at another book in Lewis’ series, The Silver Chair. There we are introduced to the Lady in the Green Kirtle, another of the ‘northern witches’. Many fans speculate that she’s the same person as Jadis, or at the very least, that they’re related. Whatever the case, GRRM might have easily based his Jade Empress figures on both.

The Lady in the Green Kirtle was a powerful enchantress who could transform into an enormous green snake “as green as poison” (please remember that according to Mythical Astronomy the green serpent/dragon is an important symbol of the Jade Empress). In this form, she killed the wife of King Caspian X (the one from Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader). Her son, Prince Rilian, would wander alone in the wilderness searching for the beast to exact his revenge, but instead, he met a mysterious woman in “tall and great, shining, and wrapped in a thin garment as green as poison”. The prince falls in love with her, and she lures him to her underworld realm (as she’s the Queen of the Underland and Queen of the Deep Realm), where she binds him to her will and convinces him that it is him who turns into a green serpent every night. To ‘help’ him, she devises the Silver Chair. Every night, the prince is bound to the chair that supposedly prevents him from turning into a beast (in reality, it enables the Green Lady to control him). The Witch wants to invade Narnia via an deep tunnel her minions are digging, and to use the Black Knight Rilian as her general. In the climax of the novel, Eustace Scrubb and Jill Pole release him and the prince cuts the nefarious chair to pieces. The Lady in the Green Kirtle suddenly enters the chamber and attack him and the children in her green serpent form. Still, the prince and his companion manage to kill the monster and the Witch is defeated.

In ASOIAF terms, the weirwoods might play the role of the Silver Chair – Nissa Nissa (the Green Lady) uses it to entrap Azor Ahai the greenseer, and weirnet plays the role of the “Deep Realm”.

I’ll point out that in The Hedge Knight graphic novel, the puppeteers Dunk watches stage a play about ‘Ser Rilian’ who slays a serpent. That’s a clear reference to Prince Rilian of Narnia and the Lady in the Green Kirtle in her serpent form. Sadly, we don’t know who chose to include this detail – GRRM or the illustrator. Still, I hope the parallels I’ve demonstrated have convinced you that our author had Narnia in mind when creating his own symbolism.

We find another reference to The Chronicles in GRRM’s recently released Fire and Blood If you haven’t read this book yet and you would rather avoid all spoilers, even minor, please stop reading now, as the following paragraphs will be all about Fire and Blood. If this is the case, I hope you’ve enjoyed this essay and please come back next week for the final instalment in The Advent Calendar 2018 series, Aenar’s Aeneid. There will be spoilers in that episode as well, but I guess there’s a difference between spoiling a book that came out few weeks ago and spoiling a book that is over two thousand years old 😉 See you later!

For those of you who’ve already burned through GRRM’s Targaryen history book, here are several literary references I’ve noticed.

The voyage of Elissa Farman (aka Alys Westhill) across the Sunset Sea is most likely an homage to Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, where King Caspian X attempts to reach the Uttermost East and find Seven Great Lords of Narnia. The Lost Lords were loyalists of the late King Caspian IX, who was secretly murdered by his brother Miraz. Miraz named himself Lord Protector and set about removing all lords who could oppose him. Lord Belisar (named after Belisarius, Emperor Justinian’s general) and Lord Uvilas were ‘accidentally’ shot with arrows during a hunting trip – after all, the forest is the abattoir of the gods, as Varys declares to Ned Stark. Lords from the House of Passarids were sent to battle giants in the borderlands, where they all died. Lords Arlian and Erimon, and ‘a dozen more’, were executed for treason on false charges. The final seven lords (Bern, Octesian, Restimar, Rhoop, Mavramorn, Revilian and Argoz) were sent on a mission to seek new lands beyond the Eastern Ocean. After his evil uncle was overthrown, as described in Prince Caspian, the young king sails eastward aboard his flagship, Dawn Treader, to find his father’s loyal friends.

Lady Elissa’s ship, Sun Chaser, is likely based on Caspian’s ship. It was built in Braavos, and ship built in that Free City have purple sails. Just like Dawn Treader.

It was a picture of a ship—a ship sailing nearly straight towards you. Her prow was gilded and shaped like the head of a dragon with wide open mouth. She had only one mast and one large, square sail which was a rich purple. The sides of the ship—what you could see of them where the gilded wings of the dragon ended—were green. She had just run up to the top of one glorious blue wave, and the nearer slope of that wave came down towards you, with streaks and bubbles on it. She was obviously running fast before a gay wind, listing over a little on her port side. (…) All the sunlight fell on her from that side, and the water on that side was full of greens and purples. On the other, it was darker blue from the shadow of the ship.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis

The names of both ships follow the same theme – chasing the sun. Dawn Treader sails towards the Uttermost East, Sun Chaser sails westward, but – if Corlys Velaryon the Sea Snake can be believed – it ends up in the Uttermost East, in Asshai-by-the-Shadow. (The Uttermost West from Elissa Farman’s story might be a reference to the Uttermost West, Valinor, from Tolkien’s writing.

Unlike Dawn Treader, Sun Chaser was accompanied by two other ships on her voyage – Ser Norman Hightower’s Autumn Moon and Ser Eustace Hightower’s Lady Meredith. It’s possible “Ser Norman” is a reference to the Vikings and their exploration of Greenland and perhaps North America hundreds of years before Columbus, while Lady Meredith might be named after Columbus’ flagship on his great voyage in 1492, Santa María. The admiral sailed with three ships, just like Elissa, it should be noted. Meanwhile, Ser Eustace seems to be named after Eustace Scrubb, one of King Caspian’s companions on his voyage east.

There is also another major literary reference in the story of Elissa Farman, which will we’ll explore in detail in the next episode.

Another reference I’ll point out comes from one of the chapters about the Regency of Aegon III. There, as the White Fever ravaged King’s Landing, young Aegon suddenly proved himself a hero…

To the horror of his Kingsguard, Aegon spent his days visiting the sick, and often sat with them for hours, sometimes holding their hands in his own, or soothing their fevered brows will cool, damp cloths. Though His Grace seldom spoke, he shared his silences with them, and listened as they told him stories of their lives, begged him for forgiveness, or boasted of conquests, kindness and children. Most of those he visited died, but those who lived would afterward attribute their survival to the touch of the king’s “healing hands”.

Yet if indeed there is some magic in a king’s touch, as many smallfolk believe, it failed when it was needed most. (…)

Fire and Blood, Under the Regents: The Hooded Hand by George R.R. Martin

This is almost certainly a reference to The Return of the King scene where Aragorn visits the wounded from the Battle of Pelennor Fields in the Houses of Healing in Minas Tirith. Merry, Faramir and Eowyn of Rohan are among those suffering from a disease known as the Black Breath, which was spread by the Ringwraiths who used it as a weapon. One of the healers, Ioreth, remembered an old rhyme claiming that “The hands of the king are the hands of a healer, and so shall the rightful king be known”. Aragorn used a plant called athelas (Kingsfoil), which was considered to be but a useless weed. In reality, it was an extremely potent healing herb brought to Middle-earth by the Numenoreans. According to ancient herblore of Gondor, it was especially powerful when used by a rightful king:

When the black breath blows
and death’s shadow grows
and all lights pass,
come athelas! come athelas!
Life to the dying
In the king’s hand lying!

Aragorn succeeded in saving the wounded, and thus, the people of Minas Tirith were convinced that the king has truly returned. GRRM might be intending a wordplay when he writes that even the touch of the king’s healing hand was unable to save Ser Tyland Lannister, the Hand of the King.

The final reference we’ll discuss today is connected with cats, and not just any cats, but the infamous cats of Queen Berúthiel. In Fire and Blood we learn about some rumours about Lady Larra Rogare, the Lysene wife of Viserys Targaryen (the later King Viserys II), that were spreading during the Regency period. She was not a worshipper of the Seven, nor of the old gods. Instead, she prayed to ‘the manifold gods of Lys’: the cat goddess Pantera, Yndros of the Twilight, Bakkalon of the Sword and Saagael.

Her ladies, her servants, and her guards would all join Lady Larra at certain times in performing obeisances to these queer, ancient deities. 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. It was even said that Larra herself could transform into a cat, to prowl the gutters and rooftops of the city.

This appears to be a reference to Queen Berúthiel of Gondor, a historical figure briefly mentioned in LOTR by Aragorn (when the Fellowship travels through the Mines of Moria, Aragorn notes that Gandalf is “surer of finding the way home in a blind night than the cats of Queen Berúthiel”).

Berúthiel came from the nation of the Black Numenoreans. The Black Numenoreans were the descendants of Numenorean settlers who colonised the area south of the Great River Anduin – they came from the King’s Men faction, which was hostile towards the Elves, who still lived in the north-west (for example in Lothlorien and Grey Havens in Lindon), and thus they made built their ports and cities as far from the Elves as possible. Meanwhile, the Faithful (who were friends of the Elves and the Valar) settled north of the River – in Dol Amroth and the area that would later become Gondor and Arnor. When Elendil and his sons fled from Numenor shortly before its downfall, the Faithful colonists accepted Elendil as their High King, and thus the Dunedain Realms in Exile, Gondor and Arnor, were founded.

The colonists from the King’s Men faction also survived, but they fell under the influence of Sauron (who was one their king’s principal advisor). Their main city and haven was Umbar. From this might stronghold they troubled Gondor with raids and invasions for thousands of years. Even in the late Third Age, those Numenoreans saved Sauron – the Mouth of Sauron who treated with Gandalf and Aragorn before Morannon, the Black Gate of Mordor, was one of them. The Black Numenoreans of old were cruel conquerors who sought to subjugate and enslave the natives of Middle-earth, while the Dunedain often allied themselves with less developed nations, like the Rohirrim and other Northmen with whom they often intermarried. The Black Numenoreans were obsessed with blood purity (just like the Lysene, it should be noted).

King Tarannon Falastur of Gondor, the twelfth monarch of that realm, attempted to make peace with them, and thus, for political reasons, married a lady of that nation named Berúthiel. Their marriage was loveless and childless, and the queen was widely hated by her new subjects. In The Unfinished Tales it is said that:

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. No man in Gondor dared touch them; all were afraid of them, and cursed when they saw them pass.

In the end, King Tarannon and his wife were estranged, and he sent her back to Umbar:

The ship was last seen flying past Umbar under a sickle moon, with a cat at the masthead and another as a figure-head on the prow.

Soon after King Tarannon’s death, a war broke out between Gondor and Umbar, and some fans speculate that its cause was the anger at how Berúthiel was treated by the Gondorians. You can read more about early history of Gondor in my essay A Brief History of Gondor.

Now, there are several parallels between Berúthiel and Larra Rogare:

  • both were married to a king (Tarannon and Viserys II)
  • both were hated by their subjects because of their foreign origin
  • both had a connection with cats
  • both were rumoured to be sorceresses who used cats as spies
  • Berúthiel was a Black Numenorean and married a king from another nation, (Tarannon was a Gondorian and a Dunedain), but both the Dunedain and the Black Numenoreans were descendants of Numenoreans, Larra was a Lysene lady who married a Targaryen prince, House Rogare and House Targaryen were both of Valyrian descent.

The feline deity Larra supposedly worshipped might be a reference to one of the early version of Tolkien’s myths, where Sauron appeared in the form of a great black cat named Tevildo (Prince of Cats) – and Black Numenoreans worshipped the Dark Lord.

Of course, there are numerous other Tolkienic and literary references in Fire and Blood – for example, Ben Buttercakes, the innkeep of Bitterbridge, might be named after Barliman Butterbur, the innkeep of The Prancing Pony inn at Bree, Isembard Arryn of Gulltown might be named after Isembard Took, the seventh child of the famous Gerontius Took (aka The Old Took), the Thain of the Shire. Isembard was the father of Belladonna Took, the mother of Bilbo Baggins. It seems that GRRM enjoys making jokes about Tolkien’s detailed genealogies of the Hobbit families – for example, Khal Drogo shares his name with Drogo Baggins, Frodo’s dad. Archmaester Umbert is likely named after Umberto Eco, the author of The Name of the Rose. There’s a reference to this book and its central mystery in The Sons of the Dragon, but for now, I’ll not name it for the sake of spoilers.

That’s all I have for you today, but please join me next Sunday for the final episode of The Advent Calendar 2018. Have a nice week, thanks for visiting The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire today and see you next time, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent!

– Bluetiger

 

The Advent Calendar 2018 – Eärendil, Bearer of Light

Eärendil, Bearer of Light
a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger
The Advent Calendar 2018, Week Two

Welcome back! One week has passed and thus, I return to you with the second installment in The Advent Calendar 2018 series. Last time I left you with with a promise – that we’ll learn what is the symbolic meaning of the Silmarils, why is it important that Eärendil the Mariner is Aragorn’s ancestor, and why Morningstar mythology is so crucial to understand Tolkien’s symbolism in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. And of course, we’ll also discuss how Tolkien’s Venus-based mythology inspired GRRM.

This essay built on the premise that the reader has knowledge of LML’s Mythical Astronomy. I don’t think it’s possible to fully comprehend those complex symbolic ideas without it – for this reason, I encourage those of you who are not well-versed in this theory to check out LML’s blog or podcast.

Another caveat: nearly all ideas and research concerning the Lightbringer motif in Tolkien’s works presented here are not completely new – but previously, they were scattered across many different essays and sections, making it hard to consult or promote this theory. The major source on my ideas on this topic was the The Unity of the Sun and the Moon chapter from Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Episode 2.

With this essay, my intent is to gather all those thoughts in one place, and explain this motif as concisely as possible, but at the same time, explore this topic in a way that will give the reader a deep understanding of how Tolkien’s Venus-based symbolism works.

You can treat this essay as a resource book on what I call ‘Tolkien’s Mythical Astronomy’, and in a way, it is an appendix to ASOIAF Mythical Astronomy by LML. Here I study the Tolkienic origins of themes, motifs and patterns GRRM chose to include in his books.

***

If we were to name J.R.R. Tolkien’s first character from the Legendarium, we should probably chose Earendil. In-universe and to be more precise, in Quenya, the tongue of the High Elves, Eärendil means ‘Devoted to the Sea’. But this etymology is secondary and the world actually predates both Tolkien and the modern English language itself.

In his book J.R.R. Tolkien. A Biography Humphrey Carpenter describes the very beginning of Tolkien’s myth-making process. When young Tolkien was studying English Philology, one of his reads was a collection of Old English poems from the 8th or 9th century A.D. attributed to Anglo-Saxon poet Cynewulf – The Advent Lyrics or Crist. As the name suggests, the main theme of the poems is in fact very similar to the theme of this essay series, for their main focus is Advent, the Coming of Christ.

The following verses deeply moved Tolkien:

Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast/ Ofer middangeard monnum sended.

Which means: Hail Earendel brightest of angels, over Middle Earth sent to men.

The term for the major continent of his secondary world, the setting of his many stories, ‘Middle-earth’, comes from this poem (where it refers to the world inhabited by humans, akin to Norse Midgard), so you can see how important it was for him.

In Old English Earendel means ‘shining light, ray’. Here Tolkien interpreted is as a reference to St. John the Baptist, the herald of Christ’s coming, but he believed the originally, it referred to the ‘star that heralds the dawn’, Venus.

In 1914, young J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his own poem – with this line from The Advent Lyrics as its epigraph – Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast!

Éarendel sprang up from the Ocean’s cup
In the gloom of the mid-world’s rim;
From the door of Night as a ray of light
Leapt over the twilight brim,
And launching his bark like a silver spark
From the golden-fading sand;
Down the sunlit breath of Day’s fiery Death
He sped from Westerland.

from The Voyage of Earendel the Evening Star by J.R.R. Tolkien

Although the he used the same name as the anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, JRRT created his own backstory and came up with adventures for his hero. Thus, the first seed was planted, and from that seed, his entire personal mythology, The Legendarium also known as the Tolkien Mythos, has grown over the years. Earendil is that important.

Earendil the the Mariner, Earendil Halfelven, Bright Earendil, Earendil Bearer of Light… Who was he, and what does he symbolise?

***

Now, there are many different accounts of the deeds of Earendil, as Tolkien was constantly rewriting and editing his myths. Here I’ll focus on the story of Earendil and the Silmarils as written down in The Silmarillion, the published version.

Earendil was born in the 503rd year of the sun of the First Age, in the Hidden City of Gondolin. His mother was Elven princess Idril Celebrindal, daughter of Turgon, King of Gondolin, and his father was Tuor, one of the most renowned Edain warriors and cousin to the famous Turin Blacksword. Thus, Earendil was Half-elven, which will prove extremely important for his symbolism.

In 510 Gondolin, the last surviving great Elven realm of the First Age, fell due to the treachery of Maeglin, the son of King Turgon’s late sister Aredhel. Maeglin conspired with Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, and revealed the location of the Hidden City and valuable information about its defences. For his part in the sack of the city, Maeglin would receive Gondolin and the hand of princess Idril, whom Maeglin long desired but could not marry, as she chose the Edain hero Tuor over her cousin. Besides, marriages between cousins were never accepted among the Elves and the Edain.

During the valiant last stand of the people of Gondolin, King Turgon and his lords and knights fell to Balrogs, dragons and hordes of orcs. In the chaos of that accursed day, Maeglin tried to kill young Earendil and carry away princess Idril. He was, however, stopped by Tuor who dueled the traitor and in the end cast him down from the walls of Gondolin.

As the doomed city burned, Idril and Tuor led away a small group of survivors and after a long and perilous voyage, they settled in the land of Arvernien on the shores of the Great Sea. There they were joined by survivors from the fall of another Elven kingdom, Doriath where famed Queen Melian and King Thingol one ruled. After Thingol’s death at the hands of the Dwarves (the ensuing sack of Thingol’s capital and the war of bloody revenge waged by the Grey Elves and their allied was one of the reasons for the enmity between Elves and Dwarves in later ages), his grandson Dior was proclaimed king. Dior, being the son of Thingol’s daughter Luthien and Edain hero Beren, was also Half-elven.

With his wife Nimloth, Dior had two sons, twins Eluréd and Elurín, and daughter Elwing. King Dior never had the chance to fully rebuild his realm after the war with the Dwarves when it was sacked again, this time by the Noldorin Elves under Sons of Feanor, not by Morgoth and his minions.

It should be explained that the Noldor (one of the three High Elven tribes) used to live in Valinor, the Undying Lands across the Great Sea from Middle-earth. There the son of their King Finwe, Feanor, created the most precious gems in history, the three Silmarils. When they were stolen by the fallen Vala Morgoth, who also killed Feanor’s father who was the only one who stood in his way, the Noldor swore a bloody revenge. But the Valar, the ‘gods’ who governed the world in the name of Iluvatar the God, would not hear about that. Morgoth fled to Middle-earth, and they would not allow the Noldor to pursue him.

But Feanor rebelled against the Valar, and after massacring another Elven tribe – the Teleri who were famed for their white Swan-ships – and stealing the aforementioned fleet, used it to ferry his followers to Middle-earth. There, in a northern region of Middle-earth called Beleriand, they waged war against Morgoth, but also forged new realms for themselves, the great Noldor kingdoms of the First Age.

The Sons of Feanor and their father once swore a vow that they’ll never allow any being, good or evil, to keep the Silmarils away from them, and this Oath of Feanor would doom them to eternal darkness and oblivion if they ever broke it.

Thus, they had to try to fulfill it at all cost. For this reason, in the year 506, the Sons of Feanor invaded Doriath, the realm of the Grey Elves, and sacked it – the Silmaril which Beren and Luthien once recovered from Morgoth’s fortress was still held there. King Dior and his queen were slain, just like their twins sons, who were left in the wilderness to die. But the royal daughter, who was now the only heir of King Thingol and Melian, and the only descendant of Beren and Luthien left in the world, managed to escape with some survivors from the sack. She saved the Silmaril, and thus, the Sons of Feanor (three out of seven fell in the battle with King Dior’s forces) have not achieved their goal.

Elwing and the survivors of Doriath mingled with the refugees from Gondolin and become one people, ruled by Elwing and Earendil, who soon married. There their twin sons Elros and Elrond (it seems twin were common in this family) were born.

With the aid of Cirdan the Shipwright, Earendil constructed his famous ship Vingilótë, the Flower of the Sea Foam. On this vessel, he journeyed far and wide, in hopes of finding a way to Valinor – due to the actions of Feanor and his followers, the Noldor who rebelled against the Valar, and their descendants, were forbidden from ever returning. But Earendil did not care that the punishment for sailing to Valinor was death. His plan was to reach the Undying Lands and there beg the Valar to forgive the Noldor and deliver the Elves and the Edain of Middle-earth from Morgoth – all realms of Beleriand have fallen and Morgoth’s power was unmatched.

Meanwhile, his wife Elwing and their children remained in the land of Arvernien, in the Havens of Sirion (Sirion was the great river of Beleriand and Earendil’s people lived in its delta). The Sons of Feanor learned that she still lives, and still the Silmaril is still in her possession. Thus, for the third time, Elves fought Elves in a bloody Sack of the Havens of Sirion, also known as the Third Kinslaying (the sack of Doriath was the second, and Feanor’s massacre of the Teleri in Valinor was the first). Earendil’s sons were captured, but Maedhros, the eldest son of Feanor, spared them and later raised as his own sons. Maedhros was the wisest and most peaceful of Feanor’s children, and without the cursed Oath, he would never participate in those events.

When Noldor warriors came for Elwing, she jumped into the sea, still holding the Silmaril. But Ulmo, the Vala of the Seas, took pity and transformed her into a giant white bird. The bird flew over the waves and after long flight, found Earendil’s ship on the Great Sea and became an Elf-woman once again. When Earendil heard the news of the fate of his havens, he concluded that his sons were slain just like Elwing’s brothers once were. Having nothing to lose anymore, Earendil and Elwing sailed to Valinor and thanks to the power of the Silmaril, their ship finally found the way to the Undying Lands. Daring all perils of the voyage – Valinor was turned into one giant stronghold after Feanor’s escape: it was surrounded by an uncharted archipelago of the Enchanted Isles, where nearly all ships would crash, and the seas around it were turned into the Shadowy Seas, eternally filled with mists – Vingilótë, the fairest ship in the history of Arda, came to the shores of Valinor.

There Earendil bid his crew farewell, saying that he alone should risk the wrath of the Valar. But Elwing would not leave him, and thus, those Half-elven descendants of the Eldar and the Edain were the first living beings to set foot in the Undying Lands in centuries. But later, Earendil pleaded with his wife to stay behind, and alone, he set off to fulfill his destiny.

As he journeyed into the Blessed Lands, he found them empty. He saw Tirion upon the Hill of Tuna, which was once the royal capital of King Finwe of the Noldor, but now was abandoned. Then he heard a might voice calling him from afar. The Valar knew about his arrival and they sent Eönwë, the herald of Manwe, Lord of the Valar, to greet him.

‘Hail Eärendil, of mariners most renowned, the looked for that cometh at unawares, the longed for that cometh beyond hope! Hail Eärendil, bearer of light before the Sun and Moon! Splendour of the Children of Earth, star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset, radiant in the morning!’

Thus, Earendil was allowed to stand before the Valar and there he petitioned them to aid the Eldar and the Edain in their struggles against Morgoth. Mandos, the Doomsman of the Valar, asked whether someone who broke the ban and dared to come to the Undying Lands should be allowed to live. But Manwe said that Earendil and Elwing should not be punished, as they came to Valinor not for their own sake, but for the sake of all Men and Elves, and were willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of the people of Beleriand.

The Valar dispatched a great host under the leadership of Eonwe. In the War of Wrath, as that is how later chroniclers called this final conflict between the Valar and their fallen brother, the Dark Lord was defeated and cast beyond the Walls of Night, out of the physical universe.

Earendil and Elwing were allowed to settle in Valinor, and Earendil’s famed ship Vingilótë was hallowed by the Valar, and Varda, Queen of Stars, placed it on the vault of heavens. It became the Morningstar and the Evenstar, planet Venus, and it was the brightest object in the night-sky, for it shone with the light from before the Sun and the Moon, with the radiance of a Silmaril. Earendil became its steersman.

The Half-elven sons of Earendil and Elwing were allowed to chose to which race they want to belong, and as I have explained in The Return of the Queen essay, Elrond became one of the Eldar while his twin brother Elros became Lord of the Edain and later first king of Numenor.

Now that we have quickly recapped the story of Earendil, we can begin to unravel his symbolic significance, which has has some interesting implications of ASOIAF and especially Mythical Astronomy.

***

Lightbringer: The Child of the Sun and the Moon

As explained by LML in his Mythical Astronomy essays, in A Song of Ice and Fire, Lightbringer can be viewed as the child of the Sun and the Moon, the child of Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa. Interestingly, this pattern appears in Tolkien’s writing as well, and symbolism based on this theme is very important for the story. In real-world mythology, Venus is often viewed as the child of the Sun. But situations where it is the child of both the sun and the moon are more scarce. I find it unlikely that GRRM would include the exact same pattern as Tolkien if he wasn’t drawing inspiration from his astronomical symbolism. In this section, we will discuss this Lightbringer = Unity of the Sun and the Moon motif in LOTR and The Silmarillion.

In the process of my research and theory-making, I made the following conclusions:

1. In Tolkien’s writing, the Elves have lunar symbolism, while humans, and specifically the Edain (the three human tribes that allied themselves with the Elves in their wars against Morgoth in the First Age, from whom the Numenoreans and the Dunedain came), have solar symbolism.

As The Silmarillion tells us:

Isil the Sheen the Vanyar of old named the Moon, flower of Telperion in Valinor; and Anar the Fire-golden, fruit of Laurelin, they named the Sun. But the Noldor named them also Rána, the Wayward, and Vása, the Heart of Fire, that awakens and consumes; for the Sun was set as a sign for the awakening of Men and the waning of the Elves, but the Moon cherishes their memory.

We’ll discuss the Two Trees of Valinor and their symbolism in a moment, but for now let’s check what this passage actually says. The Vanyar (one of the three High Elven tribes, with the other two being the Noldor and the Falmari aka. Teleri of Valinor) were still living in Valinor after the Long Night – a catastrophe caused by Morgoth the Dark Lord, which we’ll also discuss a bit later – so they saw how the Valar created the Sun from a fruit of Laurelin, the Golden Tree, and the Moon from Telperion, the Silver Tree. But the Noldor, who left Valinor during the Long Night and, until Earendil’s voyage centuries later, were banned from returning to the Undying Lands, had to come up with their own named for the newly created celestial bodies.

By naming the Moon ‘Rána’ the Wayward they were referring, as we’ll learn from another astronomical myth, to solar eclipses caused by the ‘wayward’ Moon that wanders too close to the Sun. Right now, it is important that ‘the Moon cherishes’ the memory of the Elves, but they don’t like the Sun that much, because it reminds them that Men, whose arrival meant the fading of the Elves, first appeared when the Sun was created.

Elsewhere The Silmarillion says:

At the first rising of the Sun the Younger Children of Ilúvatar awoke in the land of Hildórien in the eastward regions of Middle-earth; but the first Sun arose in the West, and the opening eyes of Men were turned towards it, and their feet as they wandered over the Earth for the most part strayed that way. The Atani they were named by the Eldar, the Second People; but they called them also Hildor, the Followers, and many other names: Apanónar, the After-born, Engwar, the Sickly, and Fírimar, the Mortals; and they named them the Usurpers, the Strangers, and the Inscrutable, the Self-cursed, the Heavy-handed, the Night-fearers, the Children of the Sun.

The Eldar (Elves) called the Younger Children of Iluvatar (Men) the Children of the Sun. Meanwhile, the Elves are often associated with ‘cold stars’ and the Moon: when Fingolfin, the High King of the Noldor, arrived in Beleriand after leaving Valinor, he.at the first rising of the Moon, he ‘let blow his silver trumpets and began his march into Middle-earth, and the shadows of his host went long and black before them’. Later, when Fingolfin duels Morgoth, it is said that the Morgoth looked like a thunderous cloud, but the king ‘gleamed beneath it as a star; for his mail was overlaid with silver, and his blue shield was set with crystals; and he drew his sword Ringil, that glittered like ice‘. When Fingolfin’s son Fingon, the next High King of the Noldor, dueled Gothmog, Lord of the Balrogs (fire demons who served Morgoth), his death was described in the following manner:

‘Then Gothmog hewed him with his black axe, and a white flame sprang up from the helm of Fingon as it was cloven. Thus fell the High King of the Noldor; and they beat him into the dust with their maces, and his banner, blue and silver, they trod into the mire of his blood’.

And this is how Galadriel, who was also a member of the Noldor royal house, is described in LOTR:

Elrond wore a mantle of grey and had a star upon his forehead, and a silver harp was in his hand, and upon his finger was a ring of gold with a great blue stone, Vilya, mightiest of the Three. But Galadriel sat upon a white palfrey and was robed all in glimmering white, like clouds about the Moon; for she herself seemed to shine with a soft light. On her finger was Nenya, the ring wrought of mithril, that bore a single white stone flickering like a frosty star.

Therefore, in terms of symbolism, Elves (not always, but usually) = the Moon and Humans = the Sun.

So, what happens when we have a union of the two races?

2. A marriage between members of these two races symbolises the unity of the Sun and the Moon, and Half-elven children symbolise Venus, Lightbringer. Venus is both the Morningstar and the Evenstar, a thing of day but also of night, so it makes sense to view it as a child of the celestial body that rules the day, Sun, and the one that rules over night.

Earendil, who literally became Venus is the prime example here, but his descendants also share this unity of the sun and the moon symbolism.

If we recall the words with which the envoy of the Valar greeted Earendil when he landed in Valinor:

‘Hail Eärendil, of mariners most renowned, the looked for that cometh at unawares, the longed for that cometh beyond hope! Hail Eärendil, bearer of light before the Sun and Moon! Splendour of the Children of Earth, star in the darkness, jewel in the sunset, radiant in the morning!’

We can see how Tolkien viewed his ‘Venus’, the Star of Earendil. It is the ‘bearer of light’ (a reference to the Latin word for Venus, from which our ‘Lightbringer’ comes from). Mythical Astronomy fans know this etymology very well. But not just any light – the light ‘before the Sun and the Moon’ – this, as we’re about to see, is a reference to the Silmaril which Earendil wore on his brow and because of which his Star is the brightest object in the sky, after the Sun.

‘Lightbringer’ is a common term in real-world mythology and also fantasy. GRRM could have used any myth where it appears as source of inspiration. And he most likely has researched many such astronomical stories. But his Lightbringer is not simply a Child of the Sun. ASOIAF Lightbringer has very specific Child of the Sun and the Moon symbolism, just like Tolkien’s ‘Bearer of Light’ and ‘Flammifer of Westernesse’ (that’s how Bilbo Baggins calls Earendil in his poem cited in Fellowship of the Ring). Flammifer, it seems, was a Latin word coined by Tolkien, which means either ‘Light-bearer’ or ‘Torch-bearer’. And Westernesse is another name for Numenor, which has tons of Venus-based symbolism. All in all, taking all parallels between GRRM’s Great Empire of the Dawn and Tolkien’s Numenor into consideration, and looking at the similarities between Lightbringer the sword and Tolkien’s Narsil-Anduril, I think we can safely to conclude that Tolkien’s Lightbringer symbolism was at least one of GRRM’s inspirations.

3. There is a Long Night in both ASOIAF and The Silmarillion.

LML suggests that GRRM’s Long Night was caused by a Azor Ahai who somehow destroyed the Second Moon of Planetos with the Lightbringer Comet. Tolkien’s Long Night follows a similar pattern.

There, the Long Night of Valinor was caused by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. This fallen Vala allied himself with Ungoliant, a malicious evil being shaped like a gargantuan spider, and together, they sneaked into the Undying Lands, where they killed the Two Trees of Valinor:

Then the Unlight of Ungoliant rose up even to the roots of the Trees, and Melkor sprang upon the mound; and with his black spear he smote each Tree to its core, wounded them deep, and their sap poured forth as it were their blood, and was spilled upon the ground. But Ungoliant sucked it up, and going then from Tree to Tree she set her black beak to their wounds, till they were drained; and the poison of Death that was in her went into their tissues and withered them, root, branch, and leaf; and they died. And still she thirsted, and going to the Wells of Varda she drank them dry; but Ungoliant belched forth black vapours as she drank, and swelled to a shape so vast and hideous that Melkor was afraid.

The Two Trees of Valinor were golden Laurelin and silver Telperion. As you’ll see, Laurelin symbolises the Sun (although the Sun was created later, Laurelin played its role), just like Telperion is the proto-Moon, if you will. If you read this story like Mythical Astronomy, we have two objects that symbolise the Sun and the Moon. The Dark Lord figure arrives and pierces them with his black spear. Then they are poisoned and wither. The Trees stood side by side on the green mound of Ezellohar in Valinor, where their light mingled – and when does the the ‘light’ of the Sun and the Moon mingle? During eclipses. It’s quite similar to the ‘God’s Eye’ image from ASOIAF.

The Long Night of Valinor begins, but Morgoth has other dark deeds in mind. Taking advantage of the chaos he’s just caused, Morgoth sacks the stronghold of Finwe, the High King of the Noldor and Feanor’s father, kills the king and steals all three Silmarils. The Silmarils created by Feanor contained the unsullied light of the Two Trees (that’s what made them so valuable after the Trees were destroyed by Morgoth). They contained the light of Valinor, the ‘fire of the gods’ – the Valar are not ‘Gods’, but humans of Middle-earth often called them ‘gods’. And whether they are truly ‘Gods’ isn’t that important. What matters is that they are a group of truly powerful beings from whom someone stole their light.

Symbolically, both foul deeds of Morgoth are the same. Stealing the Silmarils which contain the light of the Two Trees, the fire of the gods, is not that different from stealing the light from Valinor by causing the Long Night.

The Long Night of Valinor came to an end when the Valar created the Sun and the Moon. The Sun was formed from the last golden fruit of Laurelin the Golden Tree, and the Moon was the last silver flower of Telperion the Silver Tree.

These Yavanna took; and then the Trees died, and their lifeless stems stand yet in Valinor, a memorial of vanished joy. But the flower and the fruit Yavanna gave to Aulë, and Manwë hallowed them, and Aulë and his people made vessels to hold them and preserve their radiance: as is said in the Narsilion, the Song of the Sun and Moon. These vessels the Valar gave to Varda, that they might become lamps of heaven, outshining the ancient stars, being nearer to Arda; and she gave them power to traverse the lower regions of Ilmen, and set them to voyage upon appointed courses above the girdle of the Earth from the West unto the East and to return.

Narsilion is ‘the Song of the Sun and the Moon’. That’s interesting, because in LOTR, we have a sword named Narsil, the blade that was broken, the sword of Elendil which was later reforged and renamed Anduril, the Flame of the West. The sword of Aragorn.

The Valar were afraid that Morgoth will in some way attempt to harm the newly created celestial bodies, so they provided both with a guardian. Tilion, a Maia (the Maiar are also angelic beings like the Valar, but of lesser power) became the steersman of the Moon, while Arien, a spirit of fire akin to the Balrogs but not corrupted by Morgoth, became the steerswoman of the Sun.

Thus the first of the new days were reckoned after the manner of the Trees, from the mingling of the lights when Arien and Tilion passed in their courses, above the middle of the Earth. But Tilion was wayward and uncertain in speed, and held not to his appointed path; and he sought to come near to Arien, being drawn by her splendour, though the flame of Anar scorched him, and the island of the Moon was darkened.

This tale is an astronomical myth, similar to the Qartheen legend about the second moon Dany hears from Doreah in AGOT. The language is very similar – the Moon is wayward (like Asha the moonmaiden, the Wayward Bride) and wanders too close to the Sun, which scorches him. But Middle-earth doesn’t have a spare moon like Planetos, do the Moon can’t be destroyed. It simply becomes darkened – which seems to refer to the lunar craters.

(Arianne Martell might be named after Arien, the Maiden of the Sunlight, also called the Maiden of the Sunship. Arianne has the sun in her sigil, and her family seats are the Sunspear Tower and the Sandship, mix them and you get the Sunship).

Another myth found in The Silmarillion explains the eclipses:

Varda commanded the Moon to journey in like manner, and passing under Earth to arise in the east, but only after the Sun had descended from heaven. But Tilion went with uncertain pace, as yet he goes, and was still drawn towards Arien, as he shall ever be; so that often both may be seen above the Earth together, or at times it will chance that he comes so nigh that his shadow cuts off her brightness and there is a darkness amid the day.

It appears that GRRM’s Qartheen tale was at least partially inspired by those two Tolkienic astronomical myths. In ASOIAF, they might have been combined – in Doreah’s story we have the wayward Moon wandering too close to the Sun and becoming scorched, but LML suggests that a solar eclipse is also implied there. That’d be the ‘darkness amid the the day’ from Tolkien’s myth about the causes of eclipses.

In the same chapter as those two tales, ‘the Long Night’ term makes an appearance:

Still therefore, after the Long Night, the light of Valinor was greater and fairer than upon Middle-earth; for the Sun rested there, and the lights of heaven drew nearer to Earth in that region. But neither the Sun nor the Moon can recall the light that was of old, that came from the Trees before they were touched by the poison of Ungoliant That light lives now in the Silmarils alone.

4. The Silmarils, just like Half-elven children (i.e. Earendil), symbolise the unity of the Sun and the Moon (and they’re also ‘the fire of the gods’).

Feanor’s gems were filled with the intermingling light of the Golden Tree, the proto-Sun, and the Silver Tree, the proto-Moon. That makes them extremely potent symbols of this unity. I imagine that’s why Tolkien decided that his Venus, the Evenstar and the Morningstar, was one of the Silmarils placed in the heavens by the Valar. The Silmarils contain the light that shone during the day, the golden light of Laurelin, but also the light that illuminated the night, the silvery light of Telperion.

5. I believe that Tolkien decided to make his Lightbringer a symbolic child of both the Sun and the Moon because he wanted to highlight the unique double role of Venus as both the Morningstar, the herald the dawn and sunrise and the Evenstar, the herald of nightfall and moonrise. This allowed him to include both good Morningstar characters like Earendil, Elendil and Aragorn, and evil usurpers like Ar-Pharazon the Golden, and Morgoth, who also has some Venus-based symbolism. The Morningstar can be interpreted as a faithful herald of the Sun, but also as a wannabe sun, a usurper. I guess that’s why there are so many usurpations in the history of the Numenoreans and the Dunedain.

6. Descendants of Earendil share his symbolism.

His son Elrond (whose name means ‘Star-Dome’) becomes the herald of Ereinion Gil-galad, the last High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. Gil-galad means Star of Bright Light/Star of Great Radiance, thus we can, in this specific case (please remember that the Elves tend to have lunar symbolism, or are associated with blue/silver/frosty/cold stars), view Gil-galad as the Sun (because monarchs generally have solar symbolism). Thus, Elrond, as his ‘herald, banner-bearer and Vice-regent’ plays the role of the Morningstar as the faithful herald of the Sun-King. Meanwhile, Elrond’s daughter Arwen has the epithet ‘Evenstar’, because she’s a descendant of Luthien, the Morningstar of the Elves, but she lives in an age when the Elven-kind is fading.

Elrond’s twin Elros, who became one of the mortal Edain, led his people on a fleet of ships. They sailed following the Star of Earendil (that reminds me of the legendary founder of House Dayne, who supposedly followed a falling star) and arrived at Numenor, the isle which the Valar raised from the depths of the Great Sea and awarded to the Edain for their valiant efforts during the wars with Morgoth in Beleriand.

It is said that during this voyage, Venus was exceptionally bright: ‘But so bright was Rothinzil that even at morning Men could see it glimmering in the West, and in the cloudless night it shone alone, for no other star could stand beside it’.

Rothinzil is the name under which the Star of Earendil was known to the Numenoreans.

The Isle of Numenor itself has connections to Venus. Just like the Greek goddess Aphrodite, whom the Romans called Venus, it rose from the sea (Aphrodite was born from the sea foam impregnated by the blood of Uranos that fell into the sea). Centuries later, Numenor was submerged by the sea again, which might parallel Venus that appears to descend lower and lower each day in its Morningstar alignment. For a people living on an island, it’d appear that Venus is falling into the sea, and then disappears beneath the waves.

In fact, Elros means Star-foam or ‘Elf of the spray’ – supposedly, because Feanor’s son Maedhros found him playing in a waterfall when he came to save him from the other Noldor during the sack of the Havens of Sirion. This might be another reference to the Aphrodite-Venus story.

Numenoreans are also described in the following manner: ‘‘the light of their eyes was like the bright stars’’. So, the people of Westernesse had eyes like Morningstars.

Their isle brought up from the Great Sea was closer to the Undying Lands than to Middle-earth. Its people gave it many names: Elenna-nórë (Starwards-land) and Elenna (Starwards) – because their ancestors followed the Star of Earendil when they first sailed towards it, Andor (Land of the Gift) – because it was a gift from the Valar to the Edain, and Westernesse, which is Númenórë in Quenya and Anadûnê in Adûnaic, the tongue of the Numenoreans.

The isle of Numenor was shaped like a five-rayed star, a symbol of Venus in real-world mythology.

Also, as I explained in The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Episode 2:

Earendel or Aurvandil is considered to be the Germanic name of Venus, Morningstar and Evenstar. Interestingly, according to some scholars, such as R. Much, the real-world Germanic tribe called the Vandals had an origin myth in which their kings were Earendil’s descendants, and that the name ‘Vandals’ comes from the same root as Aurvandil, *wand, ‘to wander’. In this case, the seven-pointed star of the Andals might be in fact a depiction of Venus, but with seven rays in place of five or eight, more commonly associated with Morningstar and Evenstar in real-world myths. For what it’s worth, the Andal legends speak of ‘a golden land amidst towering mountains’ which the Seven promised to Hugor of the Hill. If the Seven are based on the High Ones of Arda, the most powerful of the Valar (as I suggested in Part I of this essay), then this ‘golden land’ might be a reference to Numenor which the Valar granted to the Edain – the land which the Edain first saw ‘shimmering in a golden haze’.

The names of some of the Numenorean monarchs also seem to be references to Venus. I have already discussed this at length in The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Episode 2, so here I’ll simply quote an abridged version of that section.


Tar-Anárion, Son of the Sun. – Think of Christian symbolism, where Christ is associated with Morningstar because He is the son of God the Father, who came down to earth (like Venus appears to do fall down from the sky at the beginning of its cycle) and later ascended to heaven (like Venus appears to gradually rise in the sky at the end of its cycle). Thus, Venus was the perfect heavenly body to represent Christ, to be His symbol in art, hymns and literature.

That’s why in Exsultet we read the following lines: ‘May this flame be found still burning
by the Morning Star/the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son’. In Latin text the old world for the Morningstar is used here, which later became associated with the devil: ‘Flammas eius lúcifer matutínus invéniat: ille, inquam, lúcifer, qui nescit occásum.
Christus Fílius tuus’. This is because while there are two ways to interpret Venus which appears to fall from the sky and is visible shortly before dawn – it can be seen as a faithful servant of the Sun, its herald. But also as a ‘wannabe’ sun, an usurper. In this case, Venus isn’t ‘descending’ from the heavens to earth, it is being cast down by the sun. The ‘end’ of the cycle becomes the beginning – first, Venus rises higher and higher, trying to usurp the sun. Then it falls. For this reason, we get evil figures that have Morningstar symbolism as well. LML discusses this in detail in one of his essays.

And then we have monarchs like: Tar-Ancalimon, the Most Bright. Tar-Ancalimë, the Most Bright or Radiance – Venus is the brightest ‘star’ in the sky. Tar-Calmacil, Sword of Light. Ar-Gimilzôr, the Starflame. Ar-Pharazôn Tar-Calion – the Golden, Son of Light. This is not surprising, since the Royal House of Numenor descended from Elros who was Earendil’s son.


And as I’ve explained in The Return of the Queen, Numenor had two usurper kings. Ar-Pharazon was the second one, but the first one also has some interesting symbolism – that was Herucalmo (Lord of Light), who was married to Ruling Queen Tar-Vanimeldë, and after her death, usurped the throne from his own son Tar-Alcarin, and reigned as Tar-Anducal, Lord of the West.

Lord of Light as an usurper… we’ll according to LML, the champion of the ASOIAF Lord of Light, the ‘valiant’ Azor Ahai, was in fact a usurper and a villain.

In Part One of this Advent Calendar, we discussed Silmarien, the eldest daughter of Tar-Elendil, who couldn’t inherit the throne because Numenor followed agnatic primogeniture at that time. Now we can see that her name is a reference to Silmarils for a good reason – thanks to her Earendil’s line survived when Ar-Pharazon and the royal branch of the House of Elros died out. Elendil, who was her descendant, managed to escape the doomed isle in time and with his sons Isildur and Anarion founded Gondor and Arnor in Middle-earth.

Elendil means ‘Devoted to the Stars’… we’ll all celestial bodies were once considered stars, with the planets being ‘wandering stars’. Elendil, whose sword was Narsil (which we’ll discuss in a moment), might also represent the unity of the Sun and the Moon. But in his sons and the houses they founded we see a split.

Isildur means ‘Devoted to the Moon’, while his brother Anarion is the one ‘Devoted to the Sun’. Isildur built Minas Ithil (which was later sacked by Sauron and turned into the dreaded Minas Morgul), The Tower of the Rising Moon in the land of Ithilien, the Land of the Moon. Meanwhile, his brother Anarion constructed Minas Anor (later renamed Minas Tirith), the Tower of the Sun. One son and his line is associated with the Moon, the other with the Sun. It is as if Earendil’s ‘Unity of the Sun and the Moon’ symbolism was passed to Silmarien from his line, who in turn passed this symbolism to her descendant Elendil, and in Elendil’s sons, this symbolism splits in half, and the House of Isildur of Arnor inherits all lunar symbolism, while the House of Anarion of Gondor inherits the solar symbolism. Then those symbolic lines meet again when Firiel, daughter of King Ondoher of Gondor marries Arvedui of Arthedain, Heir of Isildur. From this line comes Aragorn, the Heir of Isildur and Anarion, first king of the Reunited Kingdom of Arnor and Gondor.

It appears that both Tolkien and GRRM want to give their ‘savior’ figures based on Christ His Morningstar symbolism, thus they have to make those figures symbolic children of the Sun and the Moon, which works very well when the parents of those children come from two different branches of some ancient royal house with Venus-based symbolism, where one branch has lunar symbolism and the other solar symbolism.

7. Only this Unity of the Sun and the Moon can bring an end to the Long Night.

I believe that’s the reason for all those splits in royal dynasties, civil wars and usurpations where the usurped line return to power after centuries – the symbolism demands it, the savior figure, the Lightbringer figure, has to come from a house with Venus-based symbolism. Because all those characters are references to Christ, who had such symbolism – Revelation 22:16 tells us that much: ‘I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’.

To defeat a Dark Lord, or a terrible Long Night of prolonged darkness, the unity of the Sun and the Moon is necessary.

When Morgoth destroyed the Two Lamps of the Valar which illuminated the world before the Trees, this darkness was defeated when the Valar created the Two Trees, the proto-Sun and the proto-Moon.

The Long Night of Valinor came to an end when the Valar created both the Sun and the Moon, as is described in Narsilion, the Song of the Sun and the Moon.

The darkest time in Elven and Edain history, the period after the fall of Gondolin and other realms of Beleriand, where Morgoth was in control of the entire region, came to an end when Earendil and Elwing, both Half-elven, journeyed to Valinor and arrived there safely thanks to the power of the Silmaril, which contained the united light of the Two Trees.

During the War of Wrath, where the Host of the Valar fought Morgoth in Beleriand, the Dark Lord sent his greatest dragon against them, the terrible best known as Ancalagon the Black. It was Earendil, the Half-elven the Child of the Sun and the Moon, who defeated the monster when his ship flew towards the beast and cast him down. The dragon shattered the lands upon his downfall – this reminds me of LML’s moon meteors as symbolic dragons.

At the end of the Second Age, in the chaos caused by the Doom of Numenor, the Dunedain allied themselves with the Elves and defeated Sauron:

The host of Gil-galad and Elendil had the victory, for the might of the Elves was still great in those days, and the Númenóreans were strong and tall, and terrible in their wrath. Against Aeglos the spear of Gil-galad none could stand; and the sword of Elendil filled Orcs and Men with fear, for it shone with the light of the sun and of the moon, and it was named Narsil.

I believe ‘the Last Alliance of Men and Elves’ is symbolically the same thing as a union between two members of these two races. Sauron was brought down by Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor (who fought with a spear named Aeglos, which means Icicle or Snow-point, and reminds)… Gil-galad, the heir of the Noldor royal line, with all their lunar symbolism and frosty/cold/blue/silver star language… and Elendil, with his two sons, Isildur of the Moon and Anarion of the Sun. Only this alliance was able to defeat the second Dark Lord, Sauron.

And notice how beautifully this symbolism comes together – Narsil delivers the final blow to Sauron, and later Isildur uses it to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand. Narsil, that shone with the light of the sun and the moon… and was named after Narsilion, the Song of the Sun and the Moon which describes how the First Long Night came to an end.

At the end of the Third Age, Sauron reveals himself once more, and his hosts come forth from Mordor. But against this darkness (it is also a literal darkness, because in the books Sauron sends clouds and poisonous vapours to cover the sky, and the Sun isn’t even visible during the so-called Day without Dawn – March 10 3019, Third Age).

Aragorn leads the war effort against this darkness, and his sword is in fact Narsil, which was broken but reforged. From The Fellowship of the Ring:

The Sword of Elendil was forged anew by Elvish smiths, and on its blade was traced a device of seven stars set between the crescent Moon and the rayed Sun, and about them was written many runes; for Aragorn son of Arathorn was going to war upon the marches of Mordor. Very bright was that sword when it was made whole again; the light of the sun shone redly in it, and the light of the moon shone cold, and its edge was hard and keen. And Aragorn gave it a new name and called it Andúril, Flame of the West.

I don’t know how any sword could be more similar to Venus, Child of the Sun and the Moon. And those seven stars on its blade – that’s the device of Elendil. It doesn’t show some constellation with seven stars. No, it shows the same five-rayed Star of Earendil multiplied seven times – when Elendil sailed to Middle-earth, fleeing the Doom of Numenor, his fleet consisted of nine ships, but only seven carried palantiri seeing-stones. Those ships had the Numenorean five-pointed star emblazoned on their sails, and thus, Elendil took seven stars for his sigil.

Tolkien explains this in the LOTR Index:

[Seven Stars of Elendil and his captains, had five rays, originally represented the single stars on the banners of each of seven ships (of 9) that bore a palantir; in Gondor the seven stars were set about a white-flowered tree, over which the Kings set a winged crown]

Thus, those seven stars of Narsil-Anduril serve to highlight its dual solar and lunar symbolism. Anduril is the perfect candidate for the predecessor and inspiration for GRRM’s Lightbringer. As Tolkien explains in one of his letters, the name of Narsil referred to the Sun and the Moon, as ‘chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness’. It’s basically the same thing. I think GRRM chose to include this ‘Lightbringer-Venus = the Unity of the Sun and the Moon’ in his own story because it fits so well with his message about harmony. After all, the entire series is entitled ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. Fire isn’t enough to win, and neither is ice. Only their unity. That’s very similar to Tolkien’s message. Men and Elves had to stand together in order to defeat Morgoth and Sauron.

This is how I concluded The Unity of the Sun and the Moon section in my second episode, and I still believe this is the most important thing to understand about the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien’s astronomical symbolism on ASOIAF.

Only the unity of the Sun and the Moon – and possibly an alliance of Men and Elves (in ASOIAF the Children of the Forest) – can bring an end to the Long Night. This is Narsilion, the Song of the Sun and the Moon, the Song of Ice and Fire… And, as I’m happy to announce, it’s quite likely that this concept of GRRM’s was heavily inspired by the works of his great predecessor, J.R.R. Tolkien.

However, there is a danger. Not all characters with symbolism based on Venus are good. No, even a Morningstar figure can fall, becoming a usurper like Ar-Pharazon, Tar-Anducal or Azor Ahai. Lightbringer can fall into wrong hands and plunge the world deeper into darkness.

Also, I’d like to point out that Earendil-Lightbringer being Half-elven might imply that in ASOIAF, as LML suggests, one parent of the Lightbringer figure, most likely Nissa Nissa, was a Child of the Forest or came from some related race – notice how in LOTR timeline, Aragorn marries Arwen and their son Eldarion and daughters were Half-elven. Aragorn was the Heir of Isildur and Anarion, but also the Heir of Elros, while Arwen Evenstar was the daughter of Elros’ twin brother Elrond. So many family reunions! And great symbolism.

Thus, the question with which I’ve left you at the end of The Return of the Queen is answered – the point of all those usurped queens, reunited royal lines and unity of the Sun and the Moon symbolism is creating parallels between fictional saviour figures and Christ, the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star. We’ll have to wait to see how this theme plays out in ASOIAF, but we just saw how Tolkien used in in Tolkien. Bearer of Light, Star of Earendil, Bright Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar, Narsil the Sword of Elendil… only it can defeat the Dark Lord and end the Long Night. (It seems Tolkien believed so because Christ, who in Christian art and scripture often has Morningstar symbolism, defeated evil and sin, when he died on the cross – during great darkness during the day – and rose from the dead after three days).

I strongly believe that this astronomical symbolism found in LOTR and The Silmarillion heavily inspired GRRM’s own Mythical Astronomy. This essay doesn’t reveal anything new for Mythical Astronomy readers. However, it helps to better understand the point of all those parallels between the Great Empire of the Dawn and Numenor, Amethyst Empress and Tar-Miriel, Bloodstone Emperor and Ar-Pharazon (which I have detailed in other essays, chiefly The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II). And all those parallels I have discovered since, like the similarities between House Hightower and House Dayne and the Dunedain, The Hightower and Minas Tirith, Oldtown and Osgiliath, which I have explored in The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Minas Tirith and the Hightower.

And most of all, what’s the point of parallels between Lightbringer and Narsil, Jon Snow (and Daenerys & Aegon VI) and Aragorn, and why the return of the king/the return of the queen motif is so important.

Well, the time to say farewell has come – but I hope you’ll return to The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire next week, on Sunday December the 16th, when in the third instalment in the 2018 Advent Calendar, we’ll discuss the parallels between C.S. Lewis Charn from The Chronicles of Narnia and GRRM’s Great Empire of the Dawn. It’ll be another episode where knowledge of LML’s theories will be necessary. Thus, I encourage you to read Daenerys the Sea Dreamer, and especially The Jade Empress Nissa Nissa section.

Thanks for visiting us today and see you next time!

– Bluetiger

 

The Advent Calendar 2018 – The Return of the Queen

The Return of the Queen
a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger
The Advent Calendar 2018, Week One

Welcome, it’s your host Bluetiger and we’re about to embark on our 2018 Advent journey of literary analysis and theory-making. I know many of you have been following my project from its early days, and I’m grateful for your steadfast support – but I hope that this new format will bring new readers to my blog, and for their sake, I’ll briefly explain what The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire (previously known as The Amber Compendium of Myth) is about.

TolkienicSOIAF is a series of essays, in which I explore the themes and motifs in A Song of Ice and Fire (commonly abbreviated ASOIAF), the saga written by George R.R. Martin upon which the TV show Game of Thrones is based. There are many podcasters, bloggers and video-creators who analyse various aspects of the books, searching for hidden meanings, wordplays, metaphors and literary references. Notable among those is the community centered around LML of The Mythical Astronomy and other amazing content creators: Crowfood’s Daughter, MelanieLotSeven, Darry Man, Painkiller Jane, Archmaester Aemma, JoeMagician, Bronsterys, Wizz the Smith, Maester Merry, Rusted Revolver, Sanrixian, Ravenous Reader, Durran Durrandon, Isobel Harper, Ba’al the Bard, and many many other great people. I’m honoured to belong to the same fandom they do. To those dear friends I’d like to dedicate this entire tetralogy of essays. You’re great!

Now, many ASOIAF bloggers and podcasters have their specific area of focus – the parallels between the works of J.R.R. Tolkien, my favourite author, and ASOIAF are mine. The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire is the result of my passion for those two secondary universes, Arda of The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion and other books, and the Known World of Mr. Martin’s imagination. In my series, I explore those parallels, in themes and symbolism, craft theories based on the conclusions from such analysis, and search for Tolkienic references in the text of the novels. Apart from that, I often attempt to analyse Tolkien’s symbolism on its own, and try to find his influences in real-world mythology and literature. It often turns out that GRRM. and JRRT have drawn inspiration from the very same myths and stories.

If you’re interested in reading more on this topic, please check out my previous essays, like Episode I – in which I discuss George R.R. Martin’s attitude towards Tolkien and then proceed to list multiple references to Tolkien’s Legendarium – as that’s how fans refer to his works set in the universe of Arda – in ASOIAF and related stories, like The World of Ice and Fire worldbook or the historical novellas. In the final section of that essay, I introduce my theory about Numenor and its Tolkienic parallel, the Great Empire of the Dawn. In Episode II, from July 2018, I explore how astronomical myths from The Silmarillion influenced GRRM’s own legends and examine the impact of Tolkien’s symbolism on ASOIAF metaphors and archetypes.

Besides those two essays, I have written several shorter pieces, each focusing on one specific theory or discovery. In Sansa and Luthien I discuss how the Tale of Beren and Luthien influences Sansa Stark’s storyline, in Minas Tirith and the Hightower I point out the parallels between the iconic White City of Gondor and Oldtown from ASOIAF and in Argonath and the Titan of Braavos, I look at the similarities between the monumental statue from one of the Free Cities of Essos and Argonath, the famous Pillars of Kings from LOTR.

The essay you’re currently reading is the first part of a series called The Advent Calendar 2018. You can read about the premise and origins of this format from my introductory post, but in a nutshell, it’s a series inspired by the concept of the calendar used to count down the days from the beginning of the Christian liturgical period known as Advent – the time of preparation and awaiting for Christmas which consists of four weeks preceding this holiday. On each day of Advent, I post one tweet at my @lordbluetiger profile on Twitter, which summarises one of my theories or discoveries concerning Tolkienic parallels in ASOIAF. The tweets also include a link to a relevant section in one of my older posts, for further reading. On each of the four Advent Sundays (December: 2nd, 9th, 16th and 23rd), I’m going to release one brand new essays. The Return of the Queen which you’re reading right now is the first in this succession.

The topics of the essays vary greatly – this first one deals with… well, you’re about to see, but for now I’ll simply say it’s about a very prominent theme in both LOTR and ASOIAF. The second entry is – in a way – a continuation of this essay, but it deals with a different theme, a motif equally important for LOTR and ASOIAF symbolism. Another one is in fact not about Tolkien, but about his great friend C.S. Lewis and how one crumbling empire of a dying world from one of his novels may have inspired GRRM’s own ancient empire. The final one is about how a certain great poet of Antiquity and his magnum opus inspired some elements of GRRM’s worldbuilding (hint, hint: Aenar Targaryen).

If I were a poet as talented as the aforementioned author, I’d write some invocation to loftily commence the first essay of the TolkienicSOIAF Advent Calendar, 2018 edition. Well, I guess it is only fitting that we begin this journey with a quote from Professor Tolkien himself…

Please, imagine reading it in Gandalf voice, for it is in his letter to Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring that we find this poem:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes, a fire shall be woken;
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall the blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

The crownless again shall be king. Or is it ‘Queen’?

THE RETURN OF THE QUEEN

First, we will discuss how the return of the king motif functions in Tolkien’s works, in real-world folklore, and of course, in A Song of Ice and Fire. In many fantasy stories, we have a situation where some realm is in the state of prolonged interregnum, where there is no apparent heir in sight. Years and decades pass, yet the kingdom still remains without a monarch. In many cases, hundreds or even thousands of years went by, and the people of the realm in question only hazily remember that there ever was a king (or a queen regnant).

In her recent essay Melanie Lot Seven explores a mythological and folkloric phenomena of the King Under the Mountain. In those legends, we have a king or some hero of great renown who at the end of his life, in his old age, or having suffered a mortal wound in battle, is miraculously removed from the world of the living, and people begin to whisper that he still lives in some forgotten cave or dwells on some magical island, waiting to return when his service will be the most needed, in a time where great peril will fall upon his country.

The eponymous character from Arthurian legend is one of such figures, as after his final battle with treacherous kinsman Mordred, the dying king is mysteriously dispatched to the faerie isle of Avalon, to heal his wounds and wait there for such a time that England shall need him the most.

Legendary Czech King Wenceslas, widely known thanks to the Christmas carol about him, is another example of this theme, just like three of the Seven Great Lords of Narnia whom young King Caspian the Tenth seeks during The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis (we’re going to talk about certain character and location from Narnia in another episode of this series, by the way). In medieval Christian text, The Golden Legend, St. John (one of the four Evangelists) never truly dies, and instead sleeps to this day in some unknown location. In Polish folklore, there are legends about sleeping knights of Mt. Giewont in the Tatra Mountains. For many, the very massif looks like some giant resting knight – see: this photo. To read about more examples of this theme, and amazing analysis of its influence on George R.R. Martin’s stories, please check out Melanie’s blog.

Now, in many cases, the ‘sleeping knight/wizard/historical figure’ theme is not exactly synonymous with the return of the king motif. In others, it is so. If King Arthur was to sail back to England from Avalon, his homecoming would be a return of a king. It’s also possible that the returning historical or legendary figure is not a monarch at all.

Sometimes, it’s not that simple as some ancient king from centuries past coming back to claim his empty throne – it’s not uncommon to see stories where it is not the same monarch who returns to bring an end to the interregnum – it might just as well be some descendant thereof.

In Professor Tolkien’s works, those two, often interchangeable motifs – that of the King In the Mountain and the Return of the King – play out in various ways.

We don’t have to look at the book entitled The Return of the King to find this theme. It can be found everywhere in Tolkien’s writing. For example, in The Hobbit. Thorin Oakenshield’s reappearance at Erebor, the Lonely Mountain is in fact a return of the king. Thorin (actually Thorin the Second of His Name, to use ASOIAF-style royal title), is the heir of the House of Durin and leader of Durin’s Folk, also known as the Longbeards – the eldest and most renowned of the seven dwarven nations.

The very founder of this dynasty, Durin the Deathless, the first of the Seven Fathers of the Dwarves created by Aulë, the Smith of the Valar, has some King In the Mountain symbolism. Famed for his longevity, Durin reigned in Khazad-dûm, later known as the Mines of Moria, for millennia. After his death, his folk believed that King Durin will be re-incarnated seven times, and in each of his lives, shall rule their nation. Whether this tradition was correct, no one can say, but it is a fact that there were, indeed, six Durins who reigned in Moria before it was taken over by the Balrog, and another Durin, Durin VII, led his people back to Khazad-dûm in the Fourth Age, and there they remained, until their race dwindled..

Durin the Deathless’ name comes from Völuspá in Poetic Edda, and signifies ‘the Sleepy One’. As you see, that’s a fitting name for a King in the Mountain figure who supposedly reincarnates over and over again to rule over his nation.

When Khazad-dûm had to be abandoned because of the monstrous Balrog, a forgotten survivor from the Battles of Beleriand in the First Age, Durin’s Folk went into exile. Under King Thráin I, they founded the Kingdom Under the Mountain, Erebor, a wonder of Middle-earth, but only a shade of once was, of the splendour of Khazad-dûm. His son Thorin (Thorin the First, not Oakenshield), moved to the Grey Mountains and his four successors, kings: Glóin, Óin, Náin II and Dáin I, remained there. Their realm in Ered Mithrin, the Grey Mountains in the north, were plagued by dragons, and after King Dain was killed by one of those cold-drakes (dragons who lacked the ability to breathe fire) at his very doorstep, his son and heir Thrór returned to Erebor and became the new King Under the Mountain.

His reign was the revival, the renaissance of the kingdom beneath the Lonely Mountain, yet as all good things, it came to an end, when Smaug the dragon sacked Erebor. Well, I’ve said ‘quickly’, but this revived kingdom lasted for over 180 years – but compared to Moria which survived for millenia, it was nothing.

King Thrór died in exile, beheaded by Azog, the Orc warlord. He was followed by Thorin Oakenshield’s father, Thráin II, who was in turn captured by Sauron (who at that time was still working in shadows as the Necromancer), and died in the dungeons of Dol Guldur.

Thorin II Oakenshield was the returning king of Durin’s Folk, and he fulfilled his role by reviving the fallen realm. After his death, his cousin Dain II Ironfoot, Lord of the Iron Halls, claimed the throne, and the Kingdom Under the Mountain was there to stay, at least until the Fourth Age, when Dain’s descendant Durin VII, became another returning king figure, when he re-established the Kingdom of Khazad-dûm.

In ASOIAF, and in The World of Ice and Fire, there are certain things that might be references to Tolkien’s House of Durin – like King Urras Ironfoot of the Iron Islands, likely named after Dain, and House Durrandon.

Durran Godsgrief from the Elenei myth might be a nod to Durin the Deathless himself, as maester Yandel mentions that:

Such a life span seems most unlikely, even for a hero married to the daughter of two gods. Archmaester Glaive, himself a stormlander by birth, once suggested that this King of a Thousand Years was in truth a succession of monarchs all bearing the same name, which seems plausible but must forever remain unproved.

For me, this looks like a reference to King Durin and his seven supposed incarnations. And when we read about Durrandon monarch known as ‘the Ravenfriend’, we probably should think about Dwarves of Erebor, who were allied with sentient ravens of the Lonely Mountain, whose chieftain Roäc son of Carc was dispatched as a messenger to inform Dain about Smaug’s death, which reminds me of how ravens are used to deliver letters in ASOIAF.

Bringing this Dwarven tangent to a close, let us examine other returning or sleeping kings in Tolkien’s mythology. For one of those, we don’t have to look far from Erebor. Bard the Bowman is another such figure, as this descendant of Girion, who was Lord of Dale, the city nearby the Lonely Mountain also sacked by Smaug, becomes the king of revived Dale at the end of The Hobbit. With Bard, we see an example of a situation where it is not the old king himself who returns, but his descendant, blood of his blood.

Ar-Pharazon the Golden, the last King of Numenor who defied the Valar and sailed to their realm, Valinor, to fight for and win his immortality, is another King in the Mountain figure, as The Silmarillion tells us that this proud monarch was punished for his crimes by becoming trapped in the Cave of the Forgotten deep under Valinor for all eternity, until the Last Battle.

The departure of members of the Fellowship of the Ring from Middle-earth also seems to be based on Arthurian theme of Avalone, the otherworldly isle which becomes the place of eternal rest for the wounded king. In LOTR, Frodo, Sam, Bilbo and other heroes leave the mortal lands for ever and sail to Valinor, the Undying Lands – where they will most likely die anyway, as even the Valar can’t change their destiny as mortals – but first, they’ll live in happiness, and their wounds, physical and mental, will heal. An Arthurian conclusion, so it probably won’t surprise you that the isle close to the coast of Valinor where their White Ship arrived was named… Avallónë. Well, Ar-Pharazon and his enormous armada sailed past this Lonely Isle on their way to Valinor as well. But Ar-Pharazon was no King Arthur, and didn’t deserve to happily dwell on Avalon, I guess.

Aragorn is, of course, the ultimate returning king in Tolkien’s writing, and probably in all fantasy. I imagine that it’s mostly because of him that we see this theme everywhere. In ASOIAF, it is represented by Aegon VI (fAegon?), probably Jon Snow, and of course, Daenerys, the returning queen. We all hope that she will actually begin her return in The Winds of Winter, don’t we? Westeros needs those dragons, it seems. But who knows. Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice…

Returning to Aragorn, the returning king, how many readers have asked themselves: “Wait a moment, why is Gondor kingless? What happened? Where is the king? How this great royal dynasty died out? Why is Aragorn wandering in the wilderness?”.

And I mean, why exactly. At the Council of Elrond we hear that “the line of Meneldil son of Anárion failed”. But how? We will examine the history of Gondor and Arnor to find out what happened, but before that, let me tell you that among the principal causes of this prolonged interregnum which lasted for nearly ten centuries was the same thing that was the reason behind so many wars and miseries in A Song of Ice and Fire – usurpation of female heires.

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For the purpose of my essay, I’ll consider situations where the royal heiress is outright usurped (and by this I mean, this act is illegal under the law of that land, be it Westeros, Numenor or Gondor), but also those instances where the law itself validates what I’d call usurpation. Sometimes, those in power manipulate the already existing laws to ‘steal’ the throne from a woman, for example in The Princess and the Queen historical novella, where Lord Jasper ”Ironrod” Wylde, the master of laws to the late King Viserys I, conspires with other Greens at court to crown Aegon II instead of Rhaenyra.

Ironrod, the master of laws, cited the Great Council of 101 and the Old King’s choice of Baelon rather than Rhaenys in 92, then discoursed at length about Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters, and the hallowed Andal tradition wherein the rights of a trueborn son always came before the rights of a mere daughter.

Then, just to show how much they care about the law, Ser Criston Cole seizes the elderly master of coin Lord Beesbury, who protested, and opens his throat with a dagger.

Here, we have a group of conspirators who make use of existing precedents and loopholes to achieve their goal. Elsewhere, those who don’t want to have a female ruler, create new laws. The Great Council of 101, mentioned by law-abiding Lord Ironrod, is an example of such an event.

As The World of Ice and Fire tells us:

In the eyes of many, the Great Council of 101 AC thereby established an iron precedent on matters of succession: regardless of seniority, the Iron Throne of Westeros could not pass to a woman, nor through a woman to her male descendents.

Well, King Viserys I himself, the monarch who came to power over Princess Rhaenys, The Queen Who Never Was, challenged this supposed precedent by naming his daughter Rhaenyra Princess of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne. Nevertheless, where there’s a will, there’s a way, and in many future succession crises, the Great Council’s verdict from 101 was cited. For example, when King Viserys II took power after Daeron’s death in Dorne, the claim of the Young Dragon’s sister Princess Daena was rejected due to the 101 Precedent:

The precedents of the Great Council of 101 and the Dance of the Dragons were therefore cited, and the claims of Baelor’s sisters were set aside. Instead the crown passed to his uncle, the King’s Hand, Prince Viserys.

In fact, there are very few outright usurpations of women in ASOIAF… Amethyst Empress of the Great Empire of the Dawn was murdered by her younger brother, but usually, the exclusion of women from the line of succession is not outside the law. However, in my view, it is always wrong to steal someone’s inheritance because of their gender, even if the law of the land accepts it or even encourages. It appears that GRRM and JRRT believed just that, and when it comes to symbolism, I think all those situations are usurpations.

For detailed analysis of this theme in ASOIAF, please read Gretchen’s amazing essay Queen’s Crown. It is thanks to her research that I’ve noticed multiple situations, other then the very obvious usurpation of Tar-Miriel by Ar-Pharazon of Numenor, where women are usurped in Tolkien’s writing. Even when I was writing A Brief History of Gondor, where all those queens and princesses whose inheritance is stolen, I was not aware of this wider theme and its importance.

But now, I see that there is in fact a pattern, an archetypal role, a theme that manifests over and over again. As Gretchen says:

I would call Westeros (excepting Dorne) a ‘usurping’ society because it systematically robs female heirs of their potential power in favor of male heirs. (…) [GRRM] has gone out of his way in external materials to show that systemic disempowerment of female heirs is a function of Westerosi society in particular.

In Tolkien’s writing, the systemic disempowerment of female heirs is also a function of human societies. With Elves, it’s more complex – there are powerful women like Idril of Gondolin, Galadriel and Melian the Maia – and even among humans, we sometimes see female leaders, who nevertheless had to endure a lot of suffering to achieve their position of power, and were forced to fight to retain their status. But overall, realms with female monarchs are the exception rather than the norm.

One could say that proves nothing more than Professor’s sexism and patriarchal views. But this can’t be true, as this usurpation is never portrayed as something good or proper, and always brings negative consequences – when Ar-Pharazon usurps Tar-Miriel’s power and forces her to marry him, he brings about the downfall of Numenor, when Feanor’s sons Curufin and Celegorm take Luthien hostage and plan to force her to marry Celegorm because she’s the heiress of King Thingol and Queen Melian of Doriath, they’re clearly the villains. And when certain Steward of Gondor rejected the claim of the late king’s only surviving child, his daughter, he brought about the greatest catastrophe in the history of Gondor, the resulting interregnum which lasted for centuries, and inadvertently doomed the other Dunedain realm in exile, Arnor. Well, of course, the actions of Sauron and the Witch-king of Angmar also played a role here, but this rejection of the LOTR Queen Who Never Was, Fíriel, was an important factor, and all those tragedies would probably not happen without it. Soon, I’ll tell you about the defining moment in Gondorian and Arnorian history, that liminal moment where both realms could have been saved with one decision, but they were both doomed and the chance was wasted – because some Steward simply couldn’t accept a woman as his rightful queen.

In ASOIAF, this motif ultimately goes back to Amethyst Empress, who might have been the same person as Nissa Nissa, the archetypal usurped female ruler. But this pattern appears in LOTR and other works of Tolkien as well. What is it talking about? What is its source? Something from real-world mythology, literature, culture or religion? Well, we’re about to find out.

With me, dear reader, let’s find out what happened in Gondor in the year 1944 of the Third Age, what might have been if it weren’t for that Steward! Who said that LOTR appendices are boring? I imagine that person has never actually read them. Or simply doesn’t like reading about history of fictional universes. But we, ASOIAF fans, love ‘fake history’, right? LOTR has its own fascinating backstory, its own Daemon Targaryens, Queen Rhaenyras, it’s own wars, conspiracies, weddings, love stories, royal houses, its own Blacks and Greens. Its own game of thrones. With me reader, let’s go!

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Now, I’m doing my best to make this essay understandable for everybody, not only for those of you who are deep into Tolkien-lore. Thus, I’ll summarise centuries of Middle-earth history, explaining important terms and detailing events that are of particular importance for this essay.

In a nutshell (I encourage you to read The Silmarillion, The LOTR Appendices and other JRRT texts to find out more!):

The Edain were those humans who allied themselves with the Eldar (Elves) in the First Age, and fought alongside them in the Wars of Beleriand in the First Age. In the end, the Valar, the god-like angelic beings whom Eru Iluvatar (God) entrusted with governance of Arda (Earth), intervened and the first Dark Lord, the fallen Valar Morgoth (the devil) was defeated.

But as a result of those wars between the immortals, the entire northern part of Middle-earth, one of the continents of Arda, was devastated, making it no longer habitable. To reward those faithful human tribes, the Valar used their great power to raise an island out of the Great Sea between Middle-earth and Valinor, the Undying Lands in the Uttermost West where the Valar dwelled.

The Edain, led by Elros Half-elven, their lord and brother of famous loremaster Elrond of Rivendell, settled on the isle and became a new nation, the Numenoreans. They were blessed with great physical endurance, height and longevity. They lived for over 300 years, and their monarchs, descendants of Half-elven Elros, could hope to reach the age of 500. Numenoreans spoke Adûnaic, which was their native language, but were also fluent in major Elven tongues, Quenya of the High Elves and Sindarin of the Grey Elves. Their kings and queens used titles in Quenya – ‘Tar’, which means noble or high, was added before their royal names. For example, Elros became King Tar-Minyatur, the High First Lord, referring to him being the first king of Numenor.

Later we’ll return to some events from Numenorean history, but for now, I’ll only say that the Numenoreans became the most advanced civilization of Arda, its equivalent of our legendary Atlantis and ASOIAF Great Empire of the Dawn. Their shipwrights were unmatched, their science on a high level. The Numenoreans were also great mapmakers, explorers and stargazers. But after centuries, when the glory of their realm was at its zenith, their kings began to question why despite all their glory and power, the Numenoreans have to die. They rejected the friendship of the Elves, who greatly helped them in their early days, and in the end, made it forbidden for Elven ships to come to Numenorean harbours. Some time later, speaking Elvish was also banned, and those who still met with the Elves in Middle-earth or semi-secretly allowed them to land in their ports on the isle, were viewed with suspicion, and later with hatred.

There were two major political factions, the King’s Men, who supported the royal policy of enmity towards the Valar and Elves, and the Faithful or the Elendili, the Elf-friends. Under the later monarchs, Numenor became a mighty empire which subjugated ‘lesser’ human nations and colonised Middle-earth and other lands.

The mightiest of those kings was Ar-Pharazon the Golden, an ambitious nobleman from the royal house (son of the younger brother to the late king) and powerful general, who forced his cousin Tar-Miriel, who would have been the Ruling Queen, to marry him and thus stole her power. Ar-Pharazon warred with Sauron himself, and even took him as hostage to Numenor. Sauron paid homage to the king, and soon became his most trusted advisor, and then, effectively, became the power behind the throne. Under Ar-Pharazon and Sauron, Numenoreans became bloody conquerors and slavers, who dabbled in human sacrifice and worshipped Morgoth, the Dark Lord.

In the end, Sauron convinced Ar-Pharazon to assault Valinor itself, and having assembled a gargantuan armada and grand army, the king sailed to the Uttermost West to wrestle his immortality from the ‘gods’. But when he landed on the shores of Valinor, Eru Iluvatar intervened, the God himself. Ar-Pharazon and his warriors were trapped in the Cave of the Forgotten, where they eternally wait for the end of the world (The King in the Mountain motif), their fleet was crushed, and the isle of Numenor was drowned, destroyed, doomed forever.

But there were some worthy of being rescued, and like Noah, they were warned in advance. Those were the surviving Elf-friends of Numenor, of whom very few remained due to persecution. Their leader was Elendil the Faithful, father of Isildur and Anarion. On nine ships, they fled from the collapsing Numenor with their families and retainers, and landed in Middle-earth.

There, they established the Realms in Exile, Gondor in the South and Arnor in the North. Elendil became the High King of the Dúnedain (Men of the West, Numenoreans and their descendants) and ruled from the city of Annúminas in Arnor. This map shows where these two kingdoms were located:

world_map_

World map by OffensiveArtist, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

The Dunedain Realms allied themselves with the Elves, and this Last Alliance fought against Sauron (who, being immortal, survived the Downfall of Numenor and returned to Mordor to marshal his armies, having achieved his secret goal – bringing about the fall of the Numenoreans). The opening sequence of The Fellowship of the Ring shows this very war, but unlike in the movie, it wasn’t Isildur who killed Sauron – Elendil and Elven-king Gil-galad sacrificed their lives to bring the Dark Lord down, and only then did Isildur cut the One Ring from his hand.

Although before the war Isildur and Anarion held the kingship of Gondor jointly, after his return from Mordor, Isildur proclaimed himself High King of the Dunedain, ignoring the claim of his brother Anarion’s son Meneldil (Anarion fell during the siege of Sauron’s Dark Tower Barad-dûr).

But Isildur’s reign was short, alas. When the king was returning to Arnor with his sons and knights (having installed Meneldil as governor of Gondor, who was to rule in Isildur’s name), his party was ambushed by some random Orc host left behind enemy lines and cut from Sauron’s main force when the Last Alliance army marched east. Those orcs hid in the Misty Mountains, but now, they came down and ambushed Isildur’s small host at the Fields of Gladden. In this disastrous battle, Isildur and his three eldest sons were slain, and the One Ring was lost.

Isildur’s line survived thanks to his youngest son Valandil, who was left behind in Arnor with his mother when his father marched east as he was just a babe. When news of Isildur’s news finally arrived in Rivendell, Valandil was crowned King of Arnor. But not High King of the Dunedain, as there was no united Dunedain realm anymore.

Gondor declared independence, and Meneldil was proclaimed its king. Thus, Arnor, where monarchs from the House of Isildur reigned, and Gondor, where kings from the House of Anarion ruled, were separated, and were not reunited until Aragorn’s return.

But wait a moment. If House of Isildur was the royal dynasty of Arnor, then why Aragorn, who is the heir of Isildur, was allowed to claim the crown of Gondor?

Well, it’s all about disinherited royal daughters.

To explain how this happened, we’ll need to move nineteen centuries forward, to the year 1940 of the Third Age. I won’t present the entire history of Gondor here, to find out more about it, please read the LOTR appendices or for a brief summary, my essay from August 2018.

But to understand the situation of Arnor, the Northern Kingdom, in the year 1940, some context is needed. Arnor remained united for 10 generations. Its kings were: Elendil and Isildur (both as High Kings of the Dunedain) and 8 Arnorian monarchs: Valandil, Eldacar, Arantar, Tarcil, Tarondor, Valandur, Elendur and Eärendur. When King Eärendur died in the year 861 of the Third Age, his quarrelsome sons split the realm into three kingdoms: Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur.

The royal line of Isildur survived in Arthedain, where descendants of King Eärendur’s eldest son Amlaith (who would have been the King of All Arnor, if that division never happened) reigned. But in Cardolan and Rhudaur this dynasty soon withered, and although Cardolan remained an ally of Arthedain until its destruction, Rhudaur fell under the control of evil warlords in league with the Witch-king of Angmar (the principal Ringwraith, who was sent to the north by Sauron, with a mission to create a puppet state, Angmar, and using its army, destroy the Northern Dunedain of Arnor, so they won’t be able to aid the Southern Dunedain of Gondor when Sauron finally regains his strength and marches against them).

Rhudaur and Angmar fought against Cardolan and Arthedain, and in those centuries, the war in the north was almost constant. In the year 1636, the remnants of the Cardolan people died from the Great Plague (secretly caused either by Sauron or by the Witch-king). The Barrow-downs infested by wights were all what remained of this realm.

When royal lines of Cardolan and Rhudaur were gone, Kings of Arthedain claimed dominion over all Arnor, and added the royal prefix ‘Ar-‘ to their names, to emphasize their claim to the lordship of all Arnor, although Rhudaur and Cardolan were still occupied by Angmar.

Ondoher, the 31st King of Gondor, was a wise man who realised that despite Sauron’s efforts to hide this fact, the same dark power was behind all attacks on the Dunedain Realms, that the same malicious entity was manipulating events to destroy the Numenorean survivors. That the same Dark Lord was behind Angmar and the Witch-king who troubled what remained of Arnor, and all those Easterling tribes who ravaged Gondor. After a long period where there was virtually no contact between Gondor and the North, a joint council was called and Gondor and Arthedain made an alliance.

HouseOfElendilByBluetiger

House of Elendil, Chart by BT

King Ondoher’s daughter, Fíriel, married Prince Arvedui, the heir to King Araphant of Arthedain, who also claimed to be King of Arnor. According to legend a prophet named Malbeth the Seer made the following prophecy about Arvedui, the Last King, when speaking to his father:

“Arvedui you shall call him, for he will be the last in Arthedain. Though a choice will come to the Dúnedain, and if they take the one that seems less hopeful, then your son will change his name and become king of a great realm. If not, then much sorrow and many lives of men shall pass, until the Dúnedain arise and are united again.”

Unfortunately, only a part of that prophecy came true. The one after ‘If not…’. The Dunedain had a chance to unite again, but it was wasted. Because of… Well, you’ve heard it like a hundred times before, but once again, because a female heir was rejected.

In the year 1944, a great horde of the Wainriders, a nomadic Easterling nation, invaded Gondor and the King himself marched against them. Ondoher and his sons Faramir and Artamir commanded the Northern Army, while general Eärnil, the king’s distant relative from the House of Anarion, commanded the Southern Army.

The Northern Army was the first to meet the enemy, and in a terrible battle known henceforth as the Disaster of Morannon, the king and his sons were slain. But concurrently, Eärnil and his host won a great victory against another band of the invaders. When he found out about the disaster, he rushed to Morannon with his own soldiers, and having gathered survivors from the royal host, he fell upon the oblivious Easterlings who were celebrating in their camp. The ensuing Battle of the Camps was one of the greatest victories in the history of Gondor.

But now, with the king dead, there was a succession crisis in the making, and it was up to the Steward of Gondor (this position is roughly equivalent to ASOIAF Hand of the King) to decide who should be crowned. Arvedui of Arthedain, who was married to the king’s only surviving child, Firiel, presented his own claim. Isildur and his heirs, he claimed, have never forgone their claim to the throne of Gondor (and Meneldil’s coronation was in their view, shall we say, fishy at best). And besides that, Arvedui was married to King Ondoher’s daughter.

According to ancient Numenorean Law of Succession, Firiel should have been crowned a Ruling Queen of Gondor.

But the Steward of Gondor, Pelendur, countered those claims by saying that in Numenor it was peaceful enough to have women as rulers, but Gondor, troubled by invasions, needed a male monarch to lead the armies. Arvedui responded that Isildur never relinquished his crown of Gondor, and never intended for the two Dunedain realms to become estranged. Meneldil, he argued, was but a governor by Isildur’s grace, but now, when an opportunity exists, the Dunedain should be reunited. When this petition was rejected, he argued that in Old Numenor, the crown would always pass to the king’s eldest child, regardless of its gender. This ancient law was not always heeded in the Realms in Exile, troubled by wars, that much was true, he agreed, but nevertheless, the law existed and was never abolished. Firiel should be crowned.

But the Steward never replied to this, and under his influence, the Council of Gondor crowned that victorious general, Eärnil (who reigned as Eärnil II). After Eärnil, there was only one king of Gondor, his son Eärnur, who was challenged to a duel by the Witch-king of Angmar. This childless monarch accepted the offer and rode into Minas Morgul, never to be seen again. The great interregnum of Gondor began, and hereditary Ruling Stewards governed the realm for 969 years, until Aragorn’s return.

I hope that after this explanation, it became a bit more clear what happened. House of Anarion died out in Gondor, but its branch survived thanks to Firiel, the daughter of King Ondoher.

Before we move on, I guess I should explain what ultimately happened with Arnor and Arvedui. Well. The Witch-king and his army invaded Arthedain and its capital was sacked. Arvedui had to flee north, and hid with small retinue among the Lossoith, the Snow-men who lived on the frozen shores of the Ice-bay of Forochel. That winter was especially cold, and this cold was unnatural, for it was sent by the Witch-king, who held great power.

When spring came, and it seemed that winter was in retreat, Círdan the Shipwright dispatched one of his ships (similar to the one on which Gandalf, Frodo and Bilbo sailed West centuries later). Arvedui and his men boarded the ship, and as they were about to sail away, mighty wind came from the north and the ship was broken on ice. Thus died the last King of Arnor.

But the line of Isildur survived. Arvedui’s son with Firiel, Aranarth, survived the fall of Arthedain in Rivendell. He refused to be called King of Arnor, as in his view, the realm was no more. Instead, he named himself Chieftain of the Dunedain. Aragorn was the 16th of those Chieftains, the heir of Isildur – but also of Anarion, thanks to Firiel.

So, Aragorn’s claim to the throne comes from that usurped female heir, King Ondoher’s daughter, Firiel, The Queen Who Never Was.

If her claim was not rejected by the Steward, Gondor and Arnor would be reunited under one royal pair, King Arvedui of Arnor and Queen Firiel of Gondor. Perhaps their son, who was the heir of both Anarion and Isildur, and in him, the two dynasties founded by Elendil’s sons, were rejoined, would be proclaimed High King of the Dunedain. As the Seer declared:

“Though a choice will come to the Dúnedain, and if they take the one that seems less hopeful, then your son will change his name and become king of a great realm. If not, then much sorrow and many lives of men shall pass, until the Dúnedain arise and are united again.”

Steward Pelendur made the wrong choice, the one that seemed more hopeful at the moment – of a general, because the realm needed, according to Pelendur, a male leader – but in the end it proved a disaster. Arnor fell, and Gondor became kingless. Only 969 years later, under exceptional circumstances, namely the War of the Ring, could Firiel’s heir Aragorn return. Symbolically, the return of the king is actually the return of the line of the queen who was once usurped.

***

But one situation does not make a pattern. To call it so, we have to find another such situation.

Luckily, to find our second example, we have to look at the very same house, the House of Elros, first King of Numenor. Elendil, his sons Anarion and Isildur, and their descendants, were in fact members of a cadet branch of the Royal Dynasty, House of Andúnië. And when we read about how this house came to be in The Silmarillion and other books, it’s easy to see the parallels with Firiel of Gondor and her line.

HouseOfElrosByBluetiger

Early generations of the House of Elros, chart by BT

Elros, son of Elwing and Eärendil (about whom we will talk in another episode) was Elrond’s twin brother. But when he was given a choice between two races, Men and Elves, unlike his sibling, Elros decided that he would rather be counted as one of the Edain. He rose to become Lord of the Edain and later, the founder and first monarch of Westernesse (Numenor).

Elros Tar-Minyatur reigned for 410 years, from S.A. (Second Age) 32 until 442, when he died at the age of 500 (it appears this extreme longevity, which dwarfed even the lifespans of the Numenoreans, was caused by his elven blood). The Sceptre (symbol of the royal power in Numenor, akin to the Westerosi Iron Throne) passed to his eldest child, Vardamir, who became Tar-Vardamir, but men also called him Nólimon, Man of Knowledge. Vardamir was a scholar and a loremaster who loved to study ancient scrolls and read about history. I imagine that if there was any institution similar to the Citadel of Oldtown in Numenor, Vardamir would become Archmaester Vardamir, whose ring, rod and mask were made from mithril. Basically, he was Numenorean version of Archmaester Vaegon (Targaryen), the son of Jaehaerys and Alysanne.

Mayhaps, if he was still in his youth, or middle age, or even senectitude, Vardamir would reign wisely, making good use of all his knowledge. But because of his father’s longevity, Vardamir was not 50, 60, 70 or even 80 years old. He was 381, a tired old man. Thus, in 442, Tar-Vardamir abdicated mere moments after he was proclaimed king. The Sceptre passed to his heir, Amandil, who ruled as King Tar-Amandil from 443 to 590, Second Age.

Still, Tar-Vardamir’s name was added to the Scroll of Kings, and he nominally reigned for one year, from 442 to 443. The old former king lived died at the age of 410 in the year 471.

Tar-Amandil had three children, sons Elendil and Eärendur and daughter Mairen. When he felt that the burdens of governance were to heavy for him, he abdicated in favour of his eldest child, Tar-Elendil (in whose memory Elendil, father of Isildur, might be named).

Tar-Elendil was the spitting image of his grandfather. His great passion was reading books and scrolls from the vast collection gathered by Tar-Vardamir. Numenoreans called him Parmaitë, Book Handed. Elendil’s reign was notable mainly for the exploits of his admiral Vëantur, the Captain of the King’s Ships (Numenorean equivalent of the Master of Ships or Grand Admiral). On his famous ship, Entulessë, which means Return, Lord Vëantur, the Numenorean Corlys Velaryon, became the first man of of Numenor who set foot in Middle-earth in nearly six centuries (before Veanutr, Numenorean shipbuilding was sixpenny at best, and their vessels were hardly seaworthy).

Veantur landed in the Grey Havens, where he befriended Elven shipbuilding master, Cirdan the Shipwright himself. (Cirdan was the one who built the White Ship which appears in the final LOTR chapter, where Frodo, Bilbo, Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel sailed on it to Valinor). Later, Veantur organised many voyages and explored distant lands east of Middle-earth, and elsewhere.

The admiral had a daughter, a lady famed for her beauty named Almarian. King Tar-Elendil allowed her to marry his son, Meneldur. His only son. But not the eldest child. Meneldur was actually his youngest child, born after Silmariën and Isilmë. But they were female, and at the time, Numenor followed agnatic primogeniture – women were not eligible to inherit.

Thus, Tar-Elendil named Meneldur his heir (well, I imagine that this was also somewhat influenced by the fact that his wife was the daughter of the greatest naval officer and explorer in Numenorean history, a powerful lord and one of the wealthiest men in Westernesse). But, in a true Aegon IV fashion, he gave one of the greatest heirlooms of his house – the Ring of Barahir, who was father of the Edain hero Beren himself – to his eldest daughter, not his son. Please don’t misunderstand me, Tar-Elendil was not malign or incompetent like Aegon the Unworthy, he was simply too peaceful and bookish to notice how this move could be interpreted. In a way, it’s like naming a younger son heir and Prince of Dragonstone, but giving Blackfyre or Aegon the Conqueror’s crown to a daughter who is actually older than that son, and some whisper she should be the next monarch.

Nevertheless, the Numenorean chronicles don’t tell us anything any conflicts or quarrels between the siblings. Tar-Meneldur was, like his sire, a peaceful man, whose great passion was astronomy. At birth, he was named Írimon, but later he chose the name Meneldur, Servant of Heavens. This stargazer king would spend more time in his observatory tower he had erected in the land of Forostar (where, according to the king, the sky was more clear and thus it was easier to track and map the stars from there). It appears that Meneldur spent more time in his tower than in his capital, the golden Armenelos.

Well, since this is an essay on usurpations, I probably should point out that Tar-Meneldur was not a vicious usurper who stole his sisters crown. He received the Sceptre because agnatic primogeniture was a law at that time. If Numenor followed absolute primogeniture back then, I don’t see him starting a civil war with his elder sister. He would abide by the law. But still, I believe this situation was unfair was Silmarien, even if her brother was not to blame here. The law itself was unfair. Also, Silmarien’s descendants were generally better people than Meneldur’s, and I’d suggest that if she became the Ruling Queen, all foul deeds of all those wicked later kings of Numenor, especially Ar-Pharazon, could avoided. Silmarien’s house became the centre of the Elf-friend party.

Basically, in place of Ar-Pharazon the Golden (Ar-Pharazon the Monster, rather), there would have been King Elendil the Faithful, then King Isildur, and Numenor would not fall. Or it’d fall much later.

Lady Silmariën married a nobleman named Elatan, and to honour her, Tar-Elendil, his grandfather, created their son Valandil first Lord of Andúnië, one of the most important port cities in the realm. This House of Andúnië was second only to the Royal House, and kings and their heirs often took maidens from Silmariën’s line to wives. If we picture House of Elros as House Targaryen, House of Andúnië would be its House Velaryon.

There were 18 Lords of Andunie, and Elendil would have been the 19th, had Numenor not fallen. Isildur, Anarion, Ondoher, Arvedui, Firiel and Aragorn were all Silmarien’s descendants. Just like Tar-Miriel and Ar-Pharazon.

Eärendur was the 15th Lord of Andunie at a time when the anti-elven King’s Men party was growing in power. His beautiful sister Lindórië gave birth to Inzilbêth, who later married Ar-Gimilzôr, the 23rd King of Numenor and became his queen. Secretly, she belonged to the Elf-friend party, now named the Faithful, and she taught their beliefs to her son Inziladûn. Thus, even though his father outlawed using Elven speech and persecuted the Faithful, his heir became one of them. The king was displeased with this, and even considered naming his younger son, whose mindset was more similar to his own, his heir. Nevertheless, when Ar-Gimilzôr died, he was followed by his eldest son, Inziladûn, more widely known as Tar-Palantir the Farsighted.

Palantir wanted to reconcile his people with the Elves and the Valar, but his reforms brought no results, as his every decision was opposed by the King’s Men party (its name was now ironic, as they hated the king), led by his younger brother Gimilkhâd (the one whom their father wanted to name his heir), and Gimilkhâd’s son, young ambitious general named Pharazôn.

Tar-Palantir grew more and more disillusioned, and feeling powerless, his mind turned to sorrow. The king often journeyed to the western coast of Numenor, and there, from a high tower, looked into the Uttermost West, in hopes of catching but a glimpse of Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, and perhaps even the Valinor beyond it.

Palantir had only one child, a daughter named Míriel, ‘fairer than silver or ivory or pearls’, and he officially named her his heiress. He decreed that she will be the next Ruling Queen of Numenor when he dies. But when he died, Ar-Pharazon stole her Sceptre and usurped her throne, when he forced her to marry him and thus became the 25th (and final) King of Numenor. His reign of terror ultimately brought about the fall of Numenor.

Ar-Pharazon’s usurpation, upon which the Blood Betrayal from TWOIAF is based, at least according to my theory (with Bloodstone Emperor being Pharazon and Amethyst Empress being Miriel), was illegal in three different ways: first, it disrespected the late king Palantir’s wishes and decrees, second, marriages between cousins were forbidden, and no forced marriage is legal. Finally, it broke King Tar-Aldarion’s Law of Succession.

Until that law, Numenor followed agnatic primogeniture. But Aldarion, the sixth king of Numenor (son of Tar-Meneldur and Almarian, Veantur’s daughter), changed it to absolute primogeniture, in order to allow his only child, daughter Tar-Ancalimë, to become the first Ruling Queen of Numenor. Aldarion’s story is fascinating in its own right, and the history of his quarrels and reconciliations with his wife Erendis is detailed in The Unfinished Tales: Aldarion and Erendis: The Mariner’s Wife (Aldarion inherited his grandfather Veantur’s passion of ships and voyages). Sadly, today there is no time to explore it.

Tar-Ancalimë, the seventh ruler of Numenor and its first Ruling Queen was followed by her son Tar-Anárion, who was in turn followed by Tar-Súrion, who had two elder sisters, but strangely, both supposedly refused the throne, because they were afraid of the Old Queen Tar-Ancalimë, their grandmother. Surion was followed by his eldest child, Tar-Telperiën, the second Ruling Queen. This proud queen refused to marry, and thus, the son of her younger brother became the 11th ruler of Numenor as Tar-Minastir.

The final Ruling Queen was Tar-Vanimeldë, the 16th ruler of Westernesse. Supposedly, she cared little about the affairs of the realm, leaving those matters to her husband Herucalmo (who was a descendant of Tar-Atanamir the Great, the 13th king). During her reign, he ruled in all but name (this makes me wonder whether she truly gave up all her power to him). When Vanimeldë died, Herucalmo (which means Lord of Light) usurped the throne from his own son, and reigned for 20 years as Tar-Anducal, Light of the West. His son Tar-Alcarin was able to reclaim the throne only after his father’s death.

Tar-Miriel would have been the fourth Ruling Queen of Numenor, but her birthright was stolen by Ar-Pharazon.

The Royal House of Elros died out with Ar-Pharazon – but Elendil renewed the kingship when he was crowned the High King of the Dunedain in Middle-earth, overlord of Gondor and Arnor. There was an interregnum, the line of the (symbolic) usurper Tar-Meneldur died out, but Silmarien’s line lived on, and now claimed the empty throne.

Elendil was the son of Amandil, the 18th Lord of Andunie who attempted to sail to Valinor and plead with the Valar to forgive Numenoreans and spare them. He sailed west on his ship, but was never seen again. Thus, Elendil was a direct descendant of Silmarien and her heir. In a way, he was also the heir of the true Queen of Numenor, Tar-Miriel – she had no children, and Elendil was her close kinsman (as her father Tar-Palantir was a son of Inzilbêth, who was a member of the House of Andunie).

Her fillet, made from mithril and adorned with a white star-shaped jewel, became known as the Elendilmir, the Star of the North. Elendil wore it in place of a crown, just like his son Isildur after him. When Isildur died during the Disaster of the Fields of Gladden, the jewel was lost – the king was wearing it when he put on the One Ring. Isildur became invisible, but Silmarien’s jewel would not submit to the power of Sauron’s precious gem, blazing like a red star. It was lost for centuries, until treacherous Saruman, who was seeking the One Ring, knowing the approximate location of the place where Isildur’s final battle took place, found it and took to Isengard. After his fall, it was discovered among his possessions, kept in a secret chamber, and given to King Aragorn.

Isildur’s son Valandil had a copy of the lost jewel made for himself, and it became a prized heirloom in the House of Isildur. Thus, in the end, both Stars of Elendil came into the possession of Aragorn, the heir of Silmarien, Elendil, Isildur, Anarion, Firiel and Arvedui. In him, two branches of the House of Elendil were reunited, the lines of Isildur and Anarion. The reverence Aragorn showed to the Elendilmir, which once belonged to Silmarien, is a symbol of his descent from Elendil, but also from earlier Numenorean monarchs and lords.

Thus, we see that in both situations where the Dunedain have to deal with an interregnum, the returning king proves to be a descendant of a royal daughter whose claim was once rejected. Why is it so important that the ‘returning king’ figure’s claim comes from one of his female ancestors, and why at least in Aragorn’s case, the returning king is the heir of both branches of the Royal House, which split in two many centuries earlier? Why the return of the king always happens thanks to a woman?

Well, after researching the topic, I came to the conclusion that it’s a reference to the ultimate Returning King, a heir to an ancient royal line foreseen in a prophecy. Jesus Christ.

***

To understand how this parallel between Jesus and Aragorn works, we have to look at something called the Tree of Jesse. The Tree of Jesse is an artistic depiction of the lineage of Christ. Its name comes from Jesse, who was the father of King David, founder of the House of David and refers to this quote from Prophet Isaiah: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).

In medieval art, the Tree usually looks like this:

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Der Stammbaum Christi from Hortus Deliciarum by Herrad of Landsberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Or:

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Tree of Jesse, Jan Mostaert (Wikimedia Commons)

The White Tree of Gondor is basically the same concept. It’s also a symbol of the royal house, it withers when the dynasty of Anarion dwindled in Gondor, and a new sapling is found by Gandalf when Aragorn is crowned. But that’s not where similarities between Jesus and Aragorn end. The coming of both was foreseen in prophecies. Jesus is called ‘Son of David’ – his heir. Aragorn is called the Heir of Isildur. Both came to end a long interregnum, and established a new kingdom. Aragorn’s genealogy is presented to the reader with details, just like Christ’s. Deep roots are not reached by the frost and ‘And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots’.

Gondor and Arnor have multiple similarities with Israel – in the beginning they are one unified realm, but then they split. King David’s unified kingdom was inherited by his son Salomon, but Salomon’s heir was unable to deal with a rebellion of the northern tribes who proclaimed Jeroboam their king. The realm was divided into Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom. In LOTR, Elendil (who like David faced a giant warrior, Goliath-Sauron, but also has some similarities to Noah) left one Dunedain realm to his son Isildur, who also reigned as High King. But Isildur’s son Valandil (Solomon’s son Rehoboam) lost Gondor, where Meneldil declared independence. Now, in the Bible, it’s the north that rebels, but I don’t think that geography is that important for symbolism. The basic idea is the same. There was one grand realm, which was later divided.

Tolkien might be referencing Rehoboam, the monarch who was not from the line of David, when he writes that Arnor split again, and in Rhudaur, warlords who were not from the line of Isildur came to power.

There are two accounts of the genealogy of Jesus. One in St. Matthew’s version, and one in St. Luke’s. Matthew’s version is read in churches on Monday of the Third Week of Advent.

It lists:

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and Tamar, Perez, Hezron, Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon and Rachab, Boaz and Ruth, Obed, Jesse, David and Bathsheba, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, Jeconiah, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, Joseph, Jesus

St. Luke mentions:

God, Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Maleleel, Jared, Enoch, Mathusala, Lamech, Noah, Shem, Arphaxad, Cainan, Sala, Heber, Phalec, Ragau, Saruch, Nachor, Thara, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Juda, Phares, Esrom, Aram, Aminadab, Naasson, Salmon, Boaz, Obed, Jesse, David, Nathan, Mattatha, Menan, Melea, Eliakim, Jonam, Joseph, Judah, Simeon, Levi, Matthat, Jorim, Eliezer, Jose, Er, Elmodam, Cosam, Addi, Melchi, Neri, Salathiel, Zorobabel, Rhesa, Joannan, Juda, Joseph, Semei, Mattathias, Maath, Nagge, Esli, Naum, Amos, Mattathias, Joseph, Jannai, Melchi, Levi, Matthat, Heli, Joseph, Jesus

As you see, there are many differences between those two accounts. There are many theories trying to explain them. One of them asserts that St. Matthew’s version follows the lineage of Joseph, Jesus’ foster father, while St. Luke’s shows the ancestors of his mother, Mary. (Or, that St. Matthew gives us Mary’s lineage, and St. Luke Joseph’s). Other scholars suggest that both Joseph and Mary were King David’s descendants, but from different branches. For authors like St. Augustine, the fact that Jesus was Joseph’s adoptive child is enough to assert that he was, from a legal point of view, a heir of King David. But several early Christian thinkers believed otherwise. In De Carne Christi Tertullian of Carthage declares that Jesus was a descendant of David by blood, and thus, Mary must have been a descendant of King David. In Romans 1:3 St. Paul writes about Christ ‘who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh’.

I believe that J.R.R. Tolkien was familiar with those theories, and might have accepted them, as it appears that in his ‘return of the prophesied king’ scenario the hero’s royal claim comes from a woman in his line – Jesus is the Son of David because his mother Mary was from David’s line, and Aragorn can claim the throne of Gondor because of Firiel. Aragorn was also the heir of two houses founded by Elendil’s descendants, House of Isildur and Anarion – this might be a reference to the theory that Joseph and Mary were both descendants of David, but from two different branches. I’ll also point out that Aragorn married Arwen, daughter of Elrond, who was the twin brother of Elros Tar-Minyatur, the first king of Numenor and Aragorn’s ancestor (as Silmarien came from Elros’ line, and Elendil was her heir 18 generations later). Apart from the ‘return of the line of the queen’ theme, it appears that there’s a second important side to the ‘return of the king’ coin – in that king, two branches of a royal dynasty that were separated long ago are reunited.

I’ll also mention that in Quenya of the High Elves, Fíriel means ‘mortal woman’, so Aragorn being the ‘heir of Fíriel’ might be akin to saying he is the ‘Son of Eve’ or ‘Son of Woman’, which might be a reference to the ‘Son of Man’ title of Christ.

The name Silmariën is also important – it evokes the Silmarils, and especially, the Silmaril that came into the possession of her ancestor, Elros’ father, Eärendil the Mariner. Eärendil, steersman of Planet Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar. Eärendil Lightbringer. If we follow this lead, it might tell us why is it so important that Aragorn, Elendil and some ‘saviour figures’ in ASOIAF, like Jon Snow and Daenerys have Lightbringer symbolism based on Venus. Because, as Revelation 22:16 tells us, Christ was the Morningstar.

‘I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star’

Christ being a descendant of David is mentioned in the same sentence as Him being the bright Morningstar.

In Tolkien’s world, Planet Venus – which is both the Morningstar and the Evenstar – was in fact Eärendil’s ship Vingilótë transformed into a star by the Valar. It shines so bright, because one of the Silmarils was its lantern. Following this lodestar, Eärendil’s son Elros sailed to Westernesse, the Isle of Numenor, and there founded his realm. Numenoreans and the Dunedain are inseparable from Venus. And when we realise what the Silmarils symbolise… But that’s a topic for another day.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece, and please come back next Sunday, on December the 9th 2018. Our Advent journey continues in ‘Eärendil, Bearer of Light’.

And now, I’ll leave you with one final thought. Advent is a liturgical period of waiting and preparation for Christmas, but also for the Second Coming of Christ. In fact, ‘advent’ comes from Latin ‘adventus’ – arrival, approach, coming. In its essence, Advent is waiting for the return of the coming King. Next time, I’ll demonstrate that there would be no Middle-earth, and in turn modern fantasy, without certain Advent poem from the 8th or 9th century A.D. That poem inspired Tolkien’s symbolism based on Venus, and in turn – I believe – many aspects of GRRM’s own worldbuilding. Like Lightbringer.

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

– Bluetiger

 

The Advent Calendar 2018 – Introduction

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire
2018 Advent Calendar
by Bluetiger

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Bluetiger by Sanrixian

INTRODUCTION

It’s this time of the year again… Winter is coming swiftly, and with it, Christmas.

When I hear this beloved word, I think of gingerbread, St. Nicholas, the Christmas Tree, pierogi dumplings (I’m Polish, and trust me, there are few things in this world that are better than traditional Polish Christmas), Borscht soup, the entire Christmas Eve Supper with its 12 courses, gazing into the dark sky to spot the first ‘star’ of that nightfall… and a multitude of other traditions and customs.

I remember that ‘Christmas Eve Supper’, which took place on December the 21st, not 24th, and in the morning, not in the evening, the Christmas Eve organised at school, where I sat with all my friends and teachers… precious memories, may they never fade… it was on that day, that I borrowed The Children of Hurin from the library, and for the first time read this heartbreaking Tolkienic tale. It was on different Christmas, few years earlier, that my parents gifted me perhaps with the most important gift I’ve ever received, a copy of The Silmarillion, which sparked my passion for Tolkien’s amazing secondary world and all the stories set inside it, The Legendarium. Without them, this blog and this essay would never come to be. Thank you, Mum & Dad.

Well, I simply love Christmas, the holiday, the traditions, the customs. I especially adore Polish Christmas, but in recent years, I’ve read a lot on Christmastide customs in other countries and regions, and those, I also find fascinating and great. And since I’m religious person, a Roman Catholic, this time is doubly important and beloved for me.

And even before Christmastide proper begins, there is this wonderful four-weeks long period of Advent. The memories this one word brings to my mind… The daily Rorate Masses at 5:30 in the evening from Monday to Friday, and early in the Saturday morning… Walking to the church, guiding my way through the dark streets with the Advent lantern…

Now, there’s this tradition here in Poland, that also exists in some other countries, of the Advent Calendar. The specifics may vary, even from one household to another, but generally, the Calendar is used to count down the Advent days left until Christmas. You open the first ‘window’ on the First Advent Sunday, and then, one by one, you open the rest, as days and weeks pass.

In my family, my brother and I had our Advent Calendars containing about 24 (as the length of Advent varies from one year to another). chocolates, which came in many different shapes, of toys, snowmen, Christmas trees and so on. We’d open one ‘window’ open every day as we came back from the church after the Rorate Mass which began at 5:30 p.m. and lasted for about one hour.

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Logo of The Advent Calendar 2017

THE ADVENT CALENDAR 2017

Last year, in late November 2017, and idea dawned on me that I could create something similar to an Advent Calendar, devoted to Tolkien and A Song of Ice and Fire. Thus, I wrote 22 daily posts, as Advent had 22 days that year (having began on Sunday Dec. the 3rd). Each contained one of my theories in a nutshell, some analysis or other piece of my ASOIAF research… besides essays on Tolkienic influences in ASOIAF, there were posts about Sir James George Frazer’s The Golden Bough, and Robert Graves’ Oak and Holly King seasonal mythology. That series encompassed nearly all my theories and research from the 2014-2017 period (I’ve first read ASOIAF in 2014, and joined the fandom in the autumn of that year).

Coldhands the ranger as George R.R. Martin’s own Tom Bombadil figure, Queen Nymeria’s burning of the Rhoynar fleet as a reference to the Noldor setting their ships ablaze upon landing in Middle-earth, Daeron the Targaryen King and Dareon the singer as references to Daeron of Doriath, the courtier and minstrel of King Thingol of Doriath from Beren and Luthien, The Great Empire of the Dawn as Numenor, The Bloodstone Emperor as Ar-Pharazon and the Amethyst Empress as Tar-Miriel… so many theories.

In May 2018, I’ve started The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire project, and in the following months, I wrote several essays exploring how J.R.R. Tolkien inspired George R.R. Martin. But looking at those posts, I see that every single one of them simply further develops and builds upon the ideas from The Advent Calendar 2017. I believe deciding to write those 22 essays was probably the turning post in my ‘career’ in the ASOIAF fandom. Before the Calendar, my ideas were scattered between dozens of posts, in various threads at WesterosOrg forums. After the Calendar, I had something to quote, to share with others, I saw clearly what ideas I have, what clues I’ve found in the text and now can follow… Without that December 2017 series, there’d be no TolkienicSOIAF. I owe all I’ve done in 2018, as far as ASOIAF research is concerned, to the Calendar.

THE ADVENT CALENDAR 2018 – TOPICS and SCHEDULE

Thus, this Advent, I return to this project. I’ve changed the format a bit, wiser thanks to my 2017 experience – I saw that for many people, it’s hard to find the time to read one essay every day for several weeks. For this reason, this time there’ll be 23 daily tweets, not posts. (The 2018 Advent begins on Sunday, Dec. the 2nd, and I’’ll post the final entry on Dec. the 24th – on Christmas Eve). Please follow @lordbluetiger on Twitter to get the daily updates.

Each daily tweet will contain one of my recent Tolkienic theories concerning ASOIAF in a nutshell, and contain a link to relevant sections or essays from The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, for further reading.

But that’s not all.

Besides tweets and links, there will be four essays, with one released on every Advent Sunday – on Dec. the 2nd, Dec. the 9th, Dec. the 16th, and the final one on Dec. the 23rd, just before Christmas Eve. Those essays will largely contain new theories or analysis. The first one is entitled The Return of the Queen and focuses on the theme of usurped female royal line returning to power. Eärendil, Bearer of Light explores Tolkien’s Morningstar and Evenstar symbolism, which in my view has heavily influenced GRRM’s ideas like Lightbringer. In another essay, probably the shortest of the tetralogy, we’ll return to the Great Empire of the Dawn, but this time, we won’t look for its Tolkienic inspirations. Instead, in The Jade Empire we’ll analyse how this ancient empire parallels Charn, the dying world of Empress Jadis, commonly known as the White Witch of Narnia, from the works of Professor Tolkien’s close friend C.S. Lewis. Aenar’s Aeneid explores the influence of Vergil’s The Aeneid on ASOIAF.

With that said, The 2018 Advent Calendar of Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire begins!
I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Merry Christmas ASOIAF Twitteros!

Yours, Bluetiger