The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sailing to the Uttermost West

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sailing To The Uttermost West

by Bluetiger



In the final episode of Game of Thrones Arya Stark makes the choice of leaving Westeros and sailing west, into uncharted waters of the Sunset Sea and whatever seas and oceans might lay further. Many fans made a connection between this conclusion to Arya’s story and the ending of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, where several characters, such as Frodo, Bilbo, Elrond, Galadriel and Gandalf also sail west from the Grey Havens.

Considering there were so many visual and storywise references and similarities to LOTR, I believe it is quite likely that the GOT screenwriters included this parallel intentionally. From a certain point of view, I think Arya’s ending in the ASOIAF novels could be generally the same. Perhaps different events will lead to it, but I can see Arya doing such a thing. After all she always admired Nymeria, the warrior queen of the Rhoynar who led the famous fleet of ten thousand ships, to the point where she named her direwolf pup after her. Actually, it is in Arya’s chapter where the reader first hears about Queen Nymeria and what she did, early in A Game of Thrones.

Maybe the story of Elissa Farman from Fire & Blood is also supposed to foreshadow Arya’s fate. After all, both characters have a connection to Braavos – Arya travels there and becomes a Faceless Man in the making, Elissa flees there after stealing three dragon eggs from Dragonstone. In fact, both heroines have abandoned their name and surname in this Free City and assumed a new identity – Arya became the Cat of the Canals, No One, the Blind Girl and Mercedene “Mercy”, Elissa Farman became Alys Westhill. It’s also quite curious that of all the names, GRRM made the choice to make Elissa’s alias “Alys” – after all, in ASOIAF, that’s the name of Arya’s lookalike Alys Karstark, who might be the grey girl on a dying horse Melisandre saw in a vision.

The name Elissa also holds special significance and deep symbolic meaning, I believe – several months ago, I wrote an essay about parallels between ASOIAF and Vergil’s The Aeneid: Aenar’s Aeneid a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger; The Advent Calendar 2018, Week Four. It turns out that the mythological Elissa was a Queen of Tyre who was forced to flee from her city when her younger brother made an attempt to usurp the throne, and she led her faithful followers on a fleet of ships across the Mediterranean Sea, until they reached the coast of Northern Africa, where they founded the city of Carthage. There is more to this story, and if you’re interested in such topics, please check out my original essay.

House Stark also has a connection with sailing west into the unknown beyond the Sunset Sea – after all, it was King Brandon the Shipwright who made the first recorded attempt to explore lands to the west of Westeros. He never returned and his son and heir Brandon the Burner famously put the entire northern fleet to torch out of grief. It is worth mentioning that in the real-world folklore, Saint Brendan the Navigator, a 6th century monk from Ireland, supposedly sailed across the Atlantic – and thus west from his homeland – and reached places like Iceland, Greenland, Northern America and various legendary islands inhabited by strange creatures and tribes.

The motif of the hero sailing away from the known world at the end of his arc features prominently in Arthurian legends – the final resting place of King Arthur himself is the Isle of Avalon, where the mortally wounded monarch is taken by ship.

Thanks to Tolkien, who gave his heroes Frodo and Bilbo “an Arthurian ending” sailing towards the Uttermost West will forever hold an important meaning in fantasy literature. In this essay, I’ll explain what it means in LOTR and more generally in Tolkien’s Legendarium. I’ll explore what the White Ship actually saved towards, why that place was so special, what was the ultimate fate of those who traveled there, and also list all major characters who made this voyage over thousands of years.


The Uttermost West: Valinor

The Uttermost West was another name of the continent of Aman, also known as the Undying Lands and the Blessed Realm, where the realm of Valinor was located. Calling Valinor “LOTR Heaven” would not be correct and actually quite misleading, but this land was the closest thing Arda – the planet where LOTR takes place – had to Heaven (understood as a place similar to Heaven of the Christian faith). Another analogue we could use would be to call it Earthly Paradise (the Divine Comedy one), though this comparison is also imperfect.

Eons before the events of the War of the Ring, Arda and the entire Universe was created by Eru Iluvatar, the God. The Ainur (Holy Ones) are basically Angels, “offspring of Iluvatar’s thought” and first sentient beings created by him. During the Music of the Ainur, choirs of the Holy Ones made a song that created a vision of Arda. This Vision of the World showed the Ainur how its history will unfold, its very nature and ultimate fate. They gained great wisdom and knowledge, but they were not fully omniscient, for that is the attribute of Iluvatar alone. After the Music faded, Iluvatar pronounced the word , which means Be! (as in Let it Be!). This turned the Vision into something real, and the Created World manifested itself within the Void.

According to Ainulindalë, which is the first part of The Silmarillion and recounts the creation of the world by Iluvatar, the Universe which came to be referred also by the word Eä, is a vast place of “wheeling fires” – stars, systems and galaxies surrounded by the Void. Within this Created World, Arda is the only place where the Children of Iluvatar – the races of Elves and Men – lived.

In those primeval times, some of the Ainur decided to enter the physical world instead of staying with Iluvatar in the Timeless Halls beyond the Deeps of Time. They would become bound to it until its final end, and serve as its guardians and shapers. The greatest of those Ainur were the Valar, the Powers of Arda. Those mighty angelic beings were later mistaken for gods by many peoples. There are fourteen Valar, seven Lords and seven Queens. However, there once were fifteen. The greatest of the Valar and all the Ainur was Melkor, but he fell and became Morgoth, the first Dark Lord. It was Morgoth who is the main antagonist of The Silmarillion. Sauron, the second Dark Lord after Morgoth’s defeat, was his chief lieutenant and most powerful servant in the First Age.

Sauron was initially one of the lesser Ainur, not counted among the Valar, who also entered the Created World and were supposed to provide help to the Powers of Arda. Those Ainur were known as the Maiar (Beautiful Ones). The most prominent Maiar are: Eönwë (banner-bearer and herald of Manwë, Melkor’s brother and King of the Valar), Ilmarë (handmaiden of Varda, Manwë’s wife and Queen of the Valar), Melian (mother of Luthien from the Lay of Beren and Luthien), Arien and Tilion (guardians of the Sun and the Moon, respectively), the fallen Maiar who served Morgoth such as the Balrogs, Mairon (who fell and became Sauron) and the Five Istari (Wizards) – Curumo (Saruman the White), Aiwendil (Radagast the Brown), Olorin (Gandalf the Grey) and the Blue Wizards Alatar and Pallando.


The Ainur and their Sub-groups, chart by Bluetiger

In the earlies millenia of Arda’s existence, Melkor made an attempt to claim it for his own, but the other Valar defied him during the First War. It was a cataclysmic era, for as the Valar tried to shape the world, the Dark Lord would constantly undo their progress – the lowered the mountain ranges they raised, he erected new mountains and hills in places where they intended valleys, he spilled the water from their seas and poured it in places where they wanted to have dry land. The initial design for Arda was forever lost and the perfect world the Valar tried to create would never come to be. In the end, Melkor was defeated and escaped beyond the Walls of Night, and Arda could finally enjoy some peace and tranquility.

In this time, the Valar made their dwellings at the very midpoint of the perfectly symmetrical world they made. This mindpoint was the beautiful and hallowed Isle of Almaren in the middle of the Great Lake in the center of Middle-earth, the central continent of Arda. To illuminate the world, the Valar built the Two Lamps, Illuin and Ormal, one in the northern part of Middle-earth and one in the south.


Arda during the Years of the Lamps, chart by Bluetiger

The Spring of Arda came to an end when Melkor suddenly returned, taking the unsuspecting Valar by surprise. The Dark Lord’s hosts of fallen Maiar attacked both Lamps and brought them down. Their downfall was catastrophic, the lands were shaken and the primeval symmetry was gone. The layout and shape of all continents and seas was shaped. The Isle of Almaren was completely destroyed and the Valar withdrew to the western reaches of Arda – to the Uttermost West that would be associated with them henceforth. The Valar came to the continent of Aman, where they founded the realm of Valinor. It was separated from Middle-earth and other lands by the vast Sundering Seas of Belegaer (though in the far north, there was a land bridge made of ice, in the frozen wastes of Helcaraxë). The Valar also raised the mountain wall of Pelóri, Mountains of Defence, on the eastern shore, to shield their new lands from the Dark Lord’s incursions.


Arda during the Years of the Trees, chart by Bluetiger

Valinor was a hallowed land where the Deathless dwelt, and this made the entire realm free from sickness, withering, corruption or any stain. The Blessed Realm was the most beautiful place on Arda, almost incomparable to Middle-earth.

The most notable landmarks were: the Pastures of Yavanna (the Valië called the Giver of Fruit and Queen of Earth), the sprawling fields of golden wheat; Woods of Oromë the Huntsman, rich in all kinds of wildlife; the Halls of Nienna (the Lady of Pity and Mourning, whose student Gandalf once was) with windows looking outward the Walls of the World; the Halls of Mandos, where the Vala of the same name lived and where the souls of the dead were summoned (Elves to be re-embodied after some time, humans to prepare for their final journey out of the world, to face Iluvatar). The Halls of Mandos were ornamented with tapestries woven by Mandos’ wife Vairë, whose works chronicled the entire history of Arda.

In Valinor there were also the Gardens of Lorien, the fairest of all places, inhabited by Irmo, the Vala of dreams and visions, and his wife Estë, the healer of hurts and weariness. There were also the Mansions of Aulë, Smith of the Valar, filled with forges, furnaces and smithies. The place where the Lords and Queen of the Valar gathered when a council was convened was called Máhanaxar, Ring of Doom. Meanwhile, Varda (who had many names and epithets in Elven poetry, such as: Elentári Queen of Stars, Tintallë the Kindler, Elbereth the Star-queen and Gilthoniel the Star-kindler) and Manwë (Súlimo the Breather, Lord of Breath of Arda, High King of Arda, Elder King, Vice-regent of Eru Iluvatar) lived in the palace Ilmarin, atop the highest peak in all of Arda, Taniquetil, also named: the White Mountain, Amon Uilos, Oiolossë the Everwhite and Elerrína Crowned with Stars.

Only Ulmo – Lord of Waters, King of the Sea and Dweller in the Deep – chose to have to permanent abode and instead live in the oceans, the seas and the rivers of Arda. As The Silmarillion explains: “Ulmo speaks to those who dwell in Middle-earth with voices that are heard only as the music of water. For all seas, lakes, rivers, fountains and springs are in his government; so that the Elves say that the spirit of Ulmo runs in all the veins of the world”. This might be why creatures of evil such as the Nazgul are afraid of crossing water.

The remaining Valar are: Tulkas the Valiant, the mightiest warrior of Arda; his wife Nessa the Dancer; and Yavanna’s younger sister Vána.

The major city of Valinor was Valmar, the City of Many Bells. The greatest wonder of the Blessed Realm, the Two Trees of Valinor – silver Telperion and golden Laurelin – grew on the green mound of Ezellohar or Corollairë near its gates. Later, when the Elves settled in Valinor, their own cities were built: Tirion upon the Hill of Túna, capital of the Noldor; Feanor’s stronghold of Formenos in the north; and Alqualondë, the Swanhaven, on the eastern shore.

All in all, Valinor was the most beautiful, the most peaceful and the most hallowed place on Arda. Over the ages, numerous characters and sometimes entire peoples would journey towards it. Their motives, however, varied greatly. Some were invited by the Valar, some sought the Powers of Arda to plead for forgiveness or ask for help. Others had darker purposes in mind. In the following section I’ll explore the most important of them.


The Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri

The first beings invited to Valinor were the Elves. The Firstborn Children of Iluvatar first awoke in the eastern region of Middle-earth, on the shores of Lake Cuiviénen (which means Waters of Awakening), which was in reality a bay of the inland Sea of Helcar. Morgoth – I’ll use the Dark Lord’s later name to describe him, though in the era I’m about to discuss this would be an anachronism, as it was given to him as an insult by Feanor much later – learned about this sooner than the Valar and dispatched evil beasts and shadows to harass the Elves, and even capture some. According to some legends, orcs descends from those first Elves corrupted by the Dark Lord. Some time later, one of the Valar – Oromë the Huntsman, who would often hunt in the vast woods covering Middle-earth in this age – came across the Elves and shared the news with the others. Oromë also gave a name to this first race of the Children of Iluvatar – he called them the Eldar, People of the Stars, because when he found them, they were contemplating the night-sky and admiring the stars of Varda. The Elves initially called their own kind the Quendi, Those Who Speak With Voices, as they knew no other species which possessed this ability.

When the Valar learned that Morgoth was attacking the Elves, they gathered their host of faithful Maiar and besieged the Dark Lord’s fortress of Utumno in the northern region of Middle-earth (previously, this continent was all but abandoned by the Valar, who moved to Valinor and had no business in this part of the world). Little about this War for the Sake of Elves survived in Elven chronicles or legends, but they remember seeing bright flashing lights in the north and the glow of great fires. Morgoth was captured and taken to Valinor, where he was imprisoned, but the Valar believed Middle-earth to be still too dangerous to be the place where the Elven-kind would flourish. Thus, they invited them all to Valinor. The Elves were uncertain if they should accept, and three envoys were sent to Valinor to survey that realm. Their names were: Ingwë, Finwë and Elwë. All would become kings. The messengers witnessed the glory of the Undying Lands and returned to their fellow Elves, urging them to begin the Great Journey to Valinor.

Not all agreed to this, however, and the Elves became sundered for the first time. The one group were the Avari (Refusers), who wanted to stay in Middle-earth and never set off on the Great Journey. Their leaders were named Morwë and Nurwë.

The Elves who began the long westward voyage were the Eldar (this name originally referred to all Elves). They were divided into three tribes or kindreds.

The Vanyar (Light-elves, Fair-elves) had pale skin and golden hair, in battle their weapon of choice was spear and their king was Ingwë, who was also granted the title of the High King of the Elves. The Vanyar were the least numerous tribe and they arrived in Valinor first.

The Noldor (Deep-elves) had dark hair – though some of the sons of Feanor famously had copper hair of their mother Nerdanel, and Feanor’s mother Miriel had silver hair. Their skills in craftsmanship and smithing were unequalled, their weapon of choice was sword and their king was Finwë.

The Teleri (Lindar, the Singers) were the largest group, so they had two leaders, brothers Elwë (one of the three envoys) and Olwë. Their hair was either dark or silver, and they fought with bows. In contrast to the Vanyar and the Noldor, not all of the Teleri who set off on the Great Journey arrived in Valinor.

The first group to split were the Nandor (Those Who Go Back). They were disheartened upon seeking the towering peaks of the Misty Mountains and settled in the Vales of Anduin. The Silvan Elves of the Third Age, people of Mirkwood and Lorien, were their descendants. When the remaining Teleri crossed the Misty Mountains, then the Blue Mountains and entered the region of Middle-earth by the Bay of Balar, Beleriand – where the events of The Silmarillion unfold and which at the time of LOTR has been submerged under the sea for millennia – they discovered that the Vanyar and the Noldor arrived so long in advance that the Valar decided to bring them to Valinor first and then return for the Teleri.


Arda in the First Age

For the purpose of transporting the Elves across the sea, the Vala Ulmo used a sizeable island originally located in the middle of the Great Sea, halfway from Middle-earth to the Blessed Realm and thus far away from any other land. That is why it was called Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Island. Ulmo used this isle as a ferry, pushing it back and forth between Aman and Beleriand. Awaiting this ferry, the Elves set up camps in Beleriand, with the Vanyar and the Noldor arriving first and the Teleri lingering behind.

It was in the woodlands of Beleriand that the Telerin king and one of co-leaders, Elwë, would meet Melian the Maia while wandering alone in the forest of Nan Elmoth. They fell in love and stood there entranced for many years, looking into one another’s eyes as if under some spell or enchantment. The Teleri searched for their lost lord, but when this seemed to be in vain, Ulmo refused to wait for longer and ferried the Vanyar and the Noldor to Valinor. Elwë’s brother Olwë continued the search, but when Ulmo returned with Tol Eressëa many years later, he agreed to abandon the futile quest and bring his people to Valinor.

However, some refused to forsake their king and thus the Teleri were once again divided, into those who sailed west and those who stayed in Beleriand. Another group which made camp on the shores of the Great Sea became enamoured with it and befriended the Maia of the Inner Seas and one of Ulmo’s subjects, Ossë. When those Elves were supposed to sail west, Ossë persuaded them to stay and they became the Falathrim, Elves of the Coastland of Falas in Middle-earth. Their lord was Nowë, who became known as Círdan, the Shipwright. He would play a crucial role in providing vessels for future voyages to Valinor.

When Elwë re-appeared before his people many years later, they welcomed him as their king and his wife Melian and their queen. Elwë and Melian founded the Kingdom of Doriath in Beleriand, and soon Elwë became the High King of the Sindar – the Grey Elves, as his followers came to be known. Meanwhile, the Teleri who sailed to Valinor lived for some time on the Isle of Tol Eressëa, now placed by Ulmo close to the shores of the Undying Lands, in the Bay of Eldamar. Some time later the Teleri of Aman, now referred to as the Falmari, Folk of the Waves, moved to Valinor proper and built their port city of Alqualondë, the Swanhaven.


Thus, the first to sail westward from Middle-earth, to Valinor, were the three kindreds of the Eldar – the Vanyar, the Noldor and the Teleri (though not all). They were invited there by the Valar, who believed Middle-earth to be too perilous for this newly awakened race of the Children of Iluvatar. The Undying Lands were supposed to be the place where their kind would flourish in peace, and for some time, they did just that. But it would not last.


Flight of the Noldor

To explore the later attempts of crossing the Great Sea – Belgaer – and reaching Valinor I have to briefly summarise some of the incredibly complex events of The Silmarillion. Obviously, much and more will go unmentioned.

The Teleri finally settled in Aman in the Valian Year 4661. Unfortunately, at different stages of his work on the Legendarium, J.R.R. Tolkien used different figures for how many solar years are there in one Valian Year. In the early texts, one Valian Year amounted to around 10 solar years, which was changed to around 9,58 solar year. Later, he wanted to rewrite the entire First Age chronology, using the 1 Valian Year = 144 solar years figure.

We know that the First War with Morgoth ended in V.Y. 1500, that the Two Trees of Valinor were created in V.Y. 3500 and that the first Elves awoke in V.Y. 4550. The Great Journey of the Eldar commenced in 4605, the Vanyar and the Noldor were ferried to Valinor in 4632 and the Teleri were taken there in 4651. The Valar started working on the Sun and the Moon in V.Y. 4997, and the Moon first rose in 5000, and this event marked the end of the Years of the Trees and the beginning of the Years of the Sun.

Then there were 590 solar years of the First Age, 3441 solar years of the Second Age, 3021 solar years of the Third Age and at least 220 solar years of the Fourth Age. Thus, Tolkien’s works are set over a period of at least 7272 solar years and 5000 Valian Years (as long as 47 910 solar years using the 9,582 years figure, 720 000 years using the 144 solar years number).

The Eldar lived in Valinor in peace for centuries (363 Valian Years, so either around 3478 solar years or over 52 272 solar years). In this time their kind flourished, and many great feats of science, linguistics, craft and art were accomplished. For example, a Noldorin Loremaster named Rúmil from the city of Trion invented the first Elvish alphabet, the Sarati. This sage also penned invaluable historical documents, such as the in-universe Ainulindalë (the first part of The Silmarillion), the geographical work known as Ambarkanta: The Shape of the World, various linguistic texts on the Elvish languages and the Annals of Aman, a chronological list of all major events from the creation of the world. Later, Fëanor created his own writing system which gained great popularity and was used in all four ages, the Tengwar. However, his most notable creation were the three jewels containing the light of the Two Trees of Valinor, known as the Silmarils.

This peaceful era would come to an end in 4995, when Morgoth found a way to treacherously assault Valinor, destroy the Two Trees and steal the Silmarils. King of the Noldor, Finwë, was also killed by him. When his son Feanor found out about this, he was overcome with rage and, gathering his seven sons in the city of Tirion, made the solemn and dreadful Oath of Fëanor – that they would not rest until the Silmarils are recovered, and woe to any of the Valar, the Maiar, the Eldar, Men or Morgoth’s creatures who would try to stand in their way.

Feanor also gave a fiery speech, rebelling against the Valar who forbade the Noldor to leave the Blessed Realm and chace after the Dark Lord. He blamed the Valar alongside Morgoth for what had happened, and asked why the Noldor should serve those who were unable to defend even their own land. Feanor urged his followers to return to the vast lands of Middle-earth – which were, according to him, denied to them by the Valar, who would rather keep the Elves in their golden cage. The Noldor, the most valiant of all peoples of Arda, should instead come back to the continent of their awakening and carve out kingdoms for themselves. Upon hearing those words, similar desires awoke in the hearts of many, and one of those was Galadriel, the daughter of Feanor’s half-brother Finarfin.

Feanor’s host then marched towards the coastal city of the Teleri, Alqualondë. There they demanded to be given the famed swan-ships, as they had no fleet of their own and a great number of vessels was necessary to transport the Noldor to Middle-earth. The Teleri refused to do so, as that was against the will of the Valar. Furious upon this denial, the Noldor sacked Alqualondë, massacred its people and took their ships by force. In consequence, the Valar cursed the Noldor and banned them from ever returning to the Undying Lands. Mandos, the Doomsman of the Valar, made the following prophecy:

“Tears unnumbered ye shall shed; and the Valar will fence Valinor against you, and shut you out, so that not even the echo of your lamentation shall pass over the mountains. On the House of Fëanor the wrath of the Valar lieth from the West unto the uttermost East, and upon all that will follow them it shall be laid also. Their Oath shall drive them, and yet betray them, and ever snatch away the very treasures that they have sworn to pursue. To evil end shall all things turn that they begin well; and by treason of kin unto kin, and the fear of treason, shall this come to pass. The Dispossessed shall they be for ever”. (from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)

When Feanor’s followers landed in Beleriand, the westernmost region of Middle-earth, he had all the stolen Teleri swan-ships put to torch (in ASOIAF, both Nymeria’s and Brandon the Burner’s ship-burnings might be references to this event). For over 500 years, the Noldor and their allies (human tribes known as the Edain, and the Grey Elves) battled Morgoth in Beleriand.

In the end, all those efforts were in vain. Feanor was slain in the early battle of Dagor-nuin-Giliath (Battle-under-Stars). The Noldor defeated Morgoth’s forces in the third great battle of Beleriand, Dagor Aglareb (the Glorious Battle), which led to the Siege of Angband, the Dark Lord’s stronghold in the north. The siege was broken after about 400 years and two catastrophic battles followed – Dagor Bragollach (Battle of Sudden Flame), during which Morgoth dueled and killed Fingolfin, the High King of the Noldor; and Nirnaeth Arnoediad (Battle of Unnumbered Tears), in which fell Fingolfin’s son Fingon, the second High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth. Kingdoms of Beleriand – Nargothrond, Doriath, Gondolin and others – fell one by one.


Voronwë and Turgon’s Emissaries

At one point, when the situation of the Noldor was plainly dire, King Turgon of Gondolin commissioned Cirdan the Shipwright to construct a number of ships, which were then used to sail westward and attempt to reach Aman, where the emissaries would plead with the Valar for forgiveness and help. All those ships were lost at sea, however, as Valinor was now defended by mists, shadow covering the sea and a treacherous archipelago of uncharted the Enchanted Isles. Only one of Turgon’s mariners would wash on shore of Beleriand many years later.

His name was Voronwë, and he was saved by the grace of Ulmo, who gave him the mission to guide a human warrior named Tuor to the Hidden City of Gondolin, where he was supposed to warn King Turgon against the danger that would soon come to his realm (foreshadowing Morgoth’s invasion and sack of the city). Turgon would not listen to this prophecy and instead of abandoning his marvellous Gondolin, chose to make it even more isolated and heavily guarded.


Tuor and Idril

Tuor remained in Gondolin, where he fell in love and later married Turgon’s daughter Idril Celebrindal. Their son Eärendil was the second child born from an union of the Eldar and the Edain. The family managed to escape from the Sack of Gondolin in First Age year 510. Tuor and Idril fled to the coastal Havens of Sirion, which at that time were the only place in Beleriand not overrun by Morgoth’s legions.

In 525 Tuor felt strange sea-longing and having constructed a ship named Eärrámë (Sea-wing) sailed west with Idril. No news concerning their fate ever reached Middle-earth, but according to legend told among the Elves and Men, by the grace of Ulmo or perhaps Iluvatar himself, Tuor and Idril were allowed to bypass all the dangers of the Great Sea and arrive in Valinor, where Tuor was granted immortality as the only human ever, and would be henceforth counted among the Eldar. How much of that story is true, no one can tell.


Elwing and Eärendil

Beleriand, as I have already mention, was almost fully conquered by Morgoth. Some Elves managed to flee to the Isle of Balar in the of the same name (according to some traditions, this isle was in fact a chunk of Tol Eressëa which was once anchored in this place when Ulmo used it as a ferry for the Eldar. Among them were Círdan the Shipwright and young Ereinion Gil-galad, the new High King of the Noldor following King Turgon’s death during the Fall of Gondolin.

Another group of refugees settled in the coastal land of Arvernien, in the Havens of Sirion. Their leaders were Tuor and Idril’s son Eärendil and his wife Elwing, daughter of the Half-elven Dior, son of the famous Beren and Luthien. With the aid of Círdan, Eärendil built a magnificent ship called Vingilótë, the Foam-flower, the fairest vessel to ever sail the seas.

The surviving Sons of Feanor wished to fulfill their Oath and claim one of the Silmarils, which has been recovered from Morgoth’s crown by Beren and Luthien and passed to their grand-daughter Elwing. For this reason they sacked the Havens of Sirion, slew its inhabitants and tried to seize Elwing, but she instead jumped into the sea. She was saved by Ulmo and transformed into a giant white bird, and in this guise she reached her husband’s ship far in the ocean.

Earendil and Elwing thought their twin sons Elrond and Elros were slain, while in reality they were saved by Maedhros, one of Feanor’s sons, who took pity on the children and raised them as his own sons. Thus, believing they have nothing to lose, they chose to break the ban of the Valar and sail west to Valinor, and there beg the Valar to forgive the Elves and provide aid to the Eldar and the Edain of Beleriand, now doomed to be subjugated by Morgoth. Thanks to the power of the Silmaril, Vingilótë was able to avoid all the obstacles and reach the shores of the Undying Lands. The Valar have foreseen this and dispatched their herald Eönwë to greet Earendil:

‘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!’. (from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)

The Valar decided Earendil and Elwing should not be punished for coming to Valinor, as they came not for their own sake, but for the sake of all Men and Elves. They were allowed to settle in the Blessed Realm, and Earendil became the steersman of Vingilótë, now hallowed and transformed into a star known to us as Venus. To read more about Venus-related symbolism in Tolkien’s works please check out my essay Eärendil, Bearer of Light – a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger; The Advent Calendar 2018, Week Two. The Valar also sent a great host of the Vanyar and the Maiar to Beleriand, on a fleet built by the Teleri of Alqualondë. During this War of Wrath Morgoth was defeated, though Beleriand was shattered and sunk beneath the sea as a result of the struggles between so powerful beings. The first Dark Lord was defeated and cast beyond the Walls of Night, but at a great cost. Also, his second-in-command Sauron was able to escape to the east with many of Morgoth’s former followers.


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


The Elves after the War of Wrath

The Valar allowed the Noldor to return to Valinor, and once again invited those Elves who never voyaged there to come. Many chose to do so and left Middle-earth forever. Others, chiefly the Noldor and the Sindar, desired to stay on that continent. As Beleriand was sinking into the Great Sea, and all its realms were destroyed anyway, many would migrate west, into the lands known from The Lord of Rings.

A group of the Sindar (Grey Elves) arrived in Greenwood the Great (later called Mirkwood), where they mingled with Silvan Elves of Nandorin descent. One of those Sindar, Oropher, became the King of the Woodland Realm. Thranduil, the Elven-king from The Hobbit, was his son, and Legolas his grandson. Another Grey Elf, Amdír Malgalad, came to Lorien and became its king, as the Silvan Elves living there had no ruler or prince of their own. Ereinion Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor, also stayed in Middle-earth and established the Kingdom of Lindon (to the west of the Shire). He was accompanied by Elrond, Feanor’s grandson Celebrimbor, Círdan the Shipwright, Galadriel and her husband Celeborn.


The Grey Havens in the Second Age

The Second Age was, unfortunately, not peaceful, as Sauron would slowly but steadily grow his power in Mordor, and threaten the Elves and Men of Middle-earth. The Elves were growing weary in the mortal lands, their kind was dwindling and fading away and the Dominion of Men, the time where Middle-earth would belong to humans entirely, was nearing. Círdan the Shipwright established the Grey Havens in Lindon, where ships would be waiting for the Elves willing to leave for Valinor. During the Second Age, many Elves chose to do so – some Noldorin, some Sindarin, but also numerous Silvan Elves, finishing their Great Journey at last. Ships were sailing westward from Lindon especially in times when Sauron’s power would grow, during the Dark Days before the Last Alliance of Men and Elves defeated the second Dark Lord, though not for good.


Ar-Pharazôn and the Numenoreans

We’ll return to the Elves and their voyages a bit later, but first we have to discuss another group that would make an attempt to travel to the Undying Lands in the Second Age – the Numenoreans. The Numenoreans were an advanced civilization descended from the Edain of the First Age, humans who sided with the Elves against Morgoth and were rewarded by the Valar after the War of Wrath.

They received the isle of Elenna-nórë (Starwards-land), shortened to Elenna (Starwards), also called Andor (Land of the Gift), Westernesse (Númenórë in Quenya, and Anadûnê in Adûnaic, the language of the Numenoreans). It was raised from the depths of the Great Sea by the Valar and placed in the Great Sea, but closer to Valinor than to Middle-earth. The Numenoreans, or Dúnedain, were blessed with longevity (they had lifespans of at least 300 years), and their first king was Elrond Half-elven’s twin brother Elros.

In their early days, they were the greatest friends the Elves had among mankind, and they had great respect and reverence to the Valar. However, even the mightiest of mortals were not allowed to set foot in the Undying Lands. The Numenoreans never truly understand why it was so, but they abode by the Ban of the Valar, that no ship from their isle may sail further west than to the point where it would no longer see the Numenorean coast. The Valar dispatched envoys to Numenor who attempted to explain why the Ban was necessary:

‘The Doom of the World,’ they said, ‘One alone can change who made it. And were you so to voyage that escaping all deceits and snares you came indeed to Aman, the Blessed Realm, little would it profit you. For it is not the land of Manwë that makes its people deathless, but the Deathless that dwell therein have hallowed the land; and there you would but wither and grow weary the sooner, as moths in a light too strong and steadfast.’ (from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Thus, staying in the Undying Lands will not make a mortal live forever, which we should keep in mind when we’ll discuss what happened to mortals, such as Frodo, Bilbo and Sam, who would sail to Valinor thousands of years later.

The early kings of Numenor respected the wishes of the Valar, but beginning with Tar-Atanamir the Great, they would grow more and more displeased with them. In the end, the last king of Numenor, Ar-Pharazon the Golden, was manipulated by Sauron into believing that conquering the Blessed Realm would make him and his people immortal.

For this purpose, he assembled the largest armada ever seen, loaded the ships with knights, soldiers and weapons of war, and sailed west, breaking the Ban. The situation was so dire that even the Valar did not know what to do and for the first time ever, gave up governance of Arda and asked Iluvatar to intervene. And He did.

The Numenorean fleet was crashed, Ar-Pharazon and his mortal soldiers who landed in Valinor were buried under hills that collapsed on them. A great rift opened in the sea-floor and Numenor sank beneath the waves. Only Elendil and his followers, who remained faithful to the Valar and Iluvatar were spared and fled to Middle-earth on their ships. There they founded the Dunedain realms of Arnor and Gondor.



Elendil himself was the son of Amandil, a Numenorean noble and 18th Lord of Andúnië – this line descended from Silmariën, daughter of one of the early Numenorean monarchs and thus was a cadet branch of the Royal House of Elros. To learn more about this topic and its possible significance to ASOIAF please check out my essay The Return of the Queen – a Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire essay by Bluetiger The Advent Calendar 2018, Week One.

Amandil was once King Ar-Pharazon’s close friend and principal advisor with a seat on the Royal Council. However, when Sauron, though brought to Numenor as a captive (allowing Ar-Pharazon to take him prisoner on a campaign in Middle-earth was a ploy), rose to great prominence by manipulating the king and his court, Amandil was dismissed from court and withdrew to his port city, where he and his son Elendil oversaw the construction of ships later used to abandon the dying isle.

It seems Lord Amandil initially wanted to sail to Middle-earth with his son Elendil and grandsons Isildur and Anarion, where many members of their party known as the Faithful or the Elf-friends have already moved. But when he somehow found out that the purpose for which Ar-Pharazon and Sauron, now his chief advisor, were gathering ships and troops was to assault Valinor, Amandil was horrified.

Instead of sailing east to Middle-earth, he would sail west towards the Undying Lands, to warn the Valar and plead for them to forgive Numenoreans and not punish them for their king’s folly. Amandil set off with one ship and three trusted companions, but his fate remains unknown. The last Lord of Andúnië wanted to to the same thing his ancestors Earendil and Elwing had done – break the Ban of the Valar, but for a higher purpose. As he said himself: “as for the Ban, I will suffer in myself the penalty, lest all my people should become guilty”. However, his sacrifice was in vain – “Men could not a second time be saved by any such embassy, and for the treason of Númenor there was no easy absolving”.


The Straight Road

To make any other invasion of Valinor impossible, following the Downfall of Numenor, the Undying Lands were removed from “The Circles of the World” and it was no longer possible to reach them by simply sailing west from Middle-earth. Arda was now made round (though it being originally flat might be an Elvish legend, and in some versions of Tolkien’s myths the planet was round since the beginning), and new continents appeared in the west. If some bold sailor made an attempt to sail west, he would simply reach those new lands, and if he continued ever westward, he would end up in the same place where he began his voyage.

But even in those later ages, though Valinor was now removed from Arda, the Elves could sail there. The Eldar were still able to depart from places such as Cirdan’s Grey Havens and sail west, via the Straight Road – an invisible “bridge” still connecting the Hither Lands with the Undying Lands. This Straight Road ultimately reached the harbour of Avallónë on the isle Tol Eressëa in the Bay of Eldamar in Valinor, the Ancient and True West.


The Straight Road, chart by Bluetiger

What exactly the Straight Road was we sadly do not know, but The Akallabêth part of The Silmarillion, citing Dunedain sages, describes it as “a mighty bridge invisible that passed through the air of breath and of flight (…), and traversed Ilmen which flesh unaided cannot endure, until it came to Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, and maybe even beyond, to Valinor, where the Valar still dwell and watch the unfolding of the story of the world”.


Arda and the Airs according to Numenorean tradition, chart by Bluetiger

In later times, stories and legends would be told among humans, especially those living by the coast and mariners, about lost sailors, who by some chance, fate or grace of the Valar entered upon the Straight Road and saw “the face of the world sink beneath them” (which might be a reference to traveling into outer space, just like the “Ilmen which flesh unaided cannot endure” sentence – Ilmen was the name of the region of the Firmament where the stars were located). “And so had come to the lamplit quays of Avallónë, or verily to the last beaches on the margin of Aman, and there had looked upon the White Mountain, dreadful and beautiful, before they died”. Thus ends The Akallabêth, a tragic story of Numenor’s rise and downfall.


The Lost Road & The Notion Club Papers:

Éadwine & Ælfwine, Edwin Lowdham & Alwin Arundel Lowdham

In Tolkien’s The Lost Road, which belongs to a version of his tales in which the events of The Silmarillion, LOTR and all other stories took place in our Earth’s distant past, it was revealed that throughout history, for some mysterious reason there would appear pairs of father and son, descended from the Numenoreans and from Elendil himself, where the father would have a name with a meaning similar to Amandil, and the son with a name referencing Elendil, Elf-friend.

In the Anglo-Saxon England there was Éadwine, a sailor who captained the ship Éarendel. Both the mariner and his vessel disappeared in the Atlantic in Anno Domini 878. Éadwine was the first man in millenia to find the Straight Road, repeating Amandil’s journey – it is implied he never actually reached Aman, as Amandil seemingly was lost at sea before the arrived there.

His son Ælfwine also felt strong sea-longing, like all descendants of Elendil, and also sailed westward from Britain, then passed Ireland and voyaged into the open ocean. His ship entered the Straight Road and Ælfwine washed on the shore of Tol Eressëa. He befriended the Elves living there, learned their language and became a student of the great loremaster Pengolodh, chronicler of the First Age. This historian told him about the earliest days of Arda, described in the Ainulindalë, and showed him his own writings on Elvish linguistics, the Quenta Silmarillion (Tale of the Silmarils), Narn i Chîn Húrin (Tale of the Children of Hurin), the Annals of Beleriand and Rumil’s the Annals of Aman.

Ælfwine translated all those extensive works into Old English, and then returned to his homeland. In this way the history of the First, Second and Third Age was not lost to mankind.

Tolkien’s abandoned novel The Notion Club Papers describes how those father-son pairs appear even to our present day. Its protagonist, the English language lecturer at Oxford, Alwin Arundel Lowdham, plays the archetypal role of Elendil, and his father Edwin Lowdham (who was lost at sea many years prior) is the present-day Amandil.

There are many versions of Tolkien’s tales, from different stages of his Legendarium’s development. We don’t know what the ultimate continuity would be – if there would be references to Arda being our Earth and LOTR and The Silmarillion being our world’s distant past. Perhaps all those references to the Red Book of Westmarch (which contained the in-universe The Hobbit by Bilbo Baggins, and Frodo’s The Downfall of the Lord of the Rings and the Return of the King) and Bilbo’s The Translations from the Elvish were supposed to be among the texts presented to Ælfwine by the Elves of the Lonely Island, and he would translate them into Old English. Then they would be preserved in some library or monastery, until found and translated by J.R.R. Tolkien. This version of events sounds likely, but we can not be sure if Tolkien, had he made all planned revisions to his works, would retain the Ælfwine plotline and make his voyage the framing story of all his legends.


The Straight Road as described in Tolkien’s Letters

As to the Straight Road, there exists a letter, published in The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, where the author goes into some detail about it. He mentions that the “immortals” (the Elves) who wished to sail west (after the Downfall of Numenor, when Valinor was removed from Arda), would have to use specially made and hallowed ships. They would set sail only after sunset and steer their vessels West, towards the place where the Undying Lands once were located.

If one were to observe such a ship form the shore, he would realise that it never became hull-down and dwindled only because of distance, and then it would vanish in the twilight. (It sounds that for an onshore watcher, the ship would appear to “sail” due West in the air). The ship followed the Straight Road to the Ancient West instead of, like a normal vessel would, following the “bent road” – the curvature of Earth’s surface. The moment the ship vanished, it left the physical world and there would be no returning. Tolkien goes on to say that the Elves and the few mortals who were allowed to enter upon the Straight Road abandoned the “History of the world” and could not play any further part in it.


Celebrimbor, Annatar and the Rings of Power

Following the War of Wrath, the Noldor were allowed to return to Valinor, and all other Elves, even those whose ancestors never arrived there on the Great Journey, were encouraged to also come there, as their time in Middle-earth was coming to an end and the Dominion of Men was nearing. However, some refused the call. Some of the Noldor still wanted to make Feanor’s dream of the Noldor flourishing in the vastness of Middle-earth a reality. Many of the Grey and Silvan Elves also still desired to stay.

While the major Noldorin kingdom of the Second Age was Lindon, governed by Ereinion Gil-galad, the fourth High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth, a group of Elven craftsmen from this kindred moved the land of Eregion where they founded a separate realm. Hollin (Land of Holly), as it was also called, was located west of the Misty Mountains, close to the Walls of Moria. Its capital was the city of Ost-in-Edhil, founded by Galadriel. When she and her husband Celeborn moved to Lorien, on the eastern side of the Misty Mountains, Feanor’s grandson Celebrimbor became its Lord. (In one version, Celebrimbor seized power and Galadriel had to flee).

Celebrimbor was the greatest craftsman and smith since the days of Feanor. His people worked closely with their allies and friends, the Dwarves of Durin’s Folk from the nearby Khazad-dûm. Celebrimbor and his fellow Noldorin smiths established the famed brotherhood of Gwaith-i-Mírdain, the People of the Jewel-smiths. This guild excelled in working with mithril, but their greatest creations were the Ring of Power.

The Noldor, as I have mentioned, still wanted to remain in Middle-earth, yet they also knew that the Elven-kind was fading, growing weary with the mortal lands and the Dominion of Men was nigh. They would not accept this and stand idly waiting for it to happen, or leave for the Ancient West.

It was at that time that a mysterious being arrived. He introduced himself as Annatar (which means “Lord of Gifts”), and presented himself as an envoy of the Valar. This Annatar offered his assistance in making Middle-earth as beautiful as Valinor, in turning it into another Undying Lands. Cirdan the Shipwright and High King Gil-galad were sceptical of those claims and would not let this stranger within their borders. Galadriel also mistrusted of this supposed emissary.

The craftsmen of Gwaith-i-Mírdain, under Celebrimbor, readily welcomed him. Annatar shared with them many secrets and great knowledge. The Jewel-smiths collaborated with him for centuries, and once he had their full trust, Annatar provided them with instructions as to how create the Rings of Power. There were multiple Lesser Rings of Power, which – although powerful enough to be extremely dangerous to mortals – were but trifles to the Noldor master smiths. The true power rested in the nineteen Great Rings. Sixteen, seven of which were later given to the Dwarves and nine to great human kings, sorcerers and warriors, were forged directly under Annatar’s influence. Three, the Elven Rings, were created by Celebrimbor alone.

The purpose of the Rings of Power was to slow or postpone indefinitely the fading of the Elves. As J.R.R. Tolkien explained in one of his letters:

The chief power (of all the rings alike) was the prevention or slowing of decay (i.e. ‘change’ viewed as a regrettable thing), the preservation of what is desired or loved, or its semblance — this is more or less an Elvish motive. But also they enhanced the natural powers of a possessor — thus approaching ‘magic’, a motive easily corruptible into evil, a lust for domination. [Letter 131]

And in The Silmarillion it is written that:

Now these were the Three that had last been made, and they possessed the greatest powers. Narya, Nenya, and Vilya, they were named, the Rings of Fire, and of Water, and of Air, set with ruby and adamant and sapphire; and of all the Elven-rings Sauron most desired to possess them, for those who had them in their keeping could ward off the decays of time and postpone the weariness of the world. (from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Tolkien also wrote that the Noldor who lingered in Middle-earth into the Second Age “were enamoured of Middle-earth and yet desired the unchanging beauty of the Land of the Valar. Hence the making of the Rings; for the Three Rings were precisely endowed with the power of preservation, not of birth” [Letter 144].

And elsewhere, that in LOTR:

“The Elves are not wholly good or in the right. Not so much because they had flirted with Sauron, as because with or without his influence they were ’embalmers’. (…) They wanted to have their cake and eat it: to live in the mortal historical Middle-earth because they had become fond of it (or because they there had the advantages of superior caste), and so tried to stop its change and history, stop its growth… and they were overburdened with sadness and nostalgic regret”

This is what the Noldor of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain guild desired, the purpose for which they desired all that secret knowledge Annatar was providing. Celebrimbor created the Three Rings of the Elves: Narya, the Ring of Fire set with a ruby; Nenya, the Ring of Water, made of mithril and embedded with a stone of adamant; and Vilya – the greatest of the Three Rings – Vilya, the Ring of Air, made of gold and set with a sapphire stone. Overall, the Noldor made nineteen Rings of Power.

But Annatar forged another in the land of Mordor: the One Ring able to control all the rest, to dominate the wills of those who wore the other Rings and to reveal to its Lord all deeds ever done with the power of the rest. But at that moment, as Sauron – for he was the one calling himself Annatar – pronounced the words of the One Ring’s spell (the Ring-verse: One Ring to rule them all etc.), in Eregion, far from Mount Doom in Mordor, the Jewel-smiths heard his voice in their heads and realised they were betrayed. They took off their rings and refused to wear them as long as Annatar, now revealed to be Morgoth’s servant Sauron, possessed the One Ring.

Furious that his true intentions were now known, Sauron assembled his hosts and marched across Middle-earth. Eregion was sacked and all artifacts stored in the vaults of the guildhall of the Gwaith-i-Mírdain fell into the Dark Lord’s hands. Sauron took the sixteen rings, and later gave nine to mortal men, and seven to the Dwarves (though among Durin’s Folk of Khazad-dûm there existed a tradition that King Durin III received his ring before the Sack from Celebrimbor himself).

Celebrimbor was captured and tortured into revealing the location of the sixteen, but would not tell Sauron where the Three were hidden. When Feanor’s grandson expired, Sauron took his body and had it put on a pike, and then marched before his advancing armies as a banner. Sauron was unable to conquer the final remaining Noldor holdings in Middle-earth – Lindon and Imladris (Rivendell), the hidden refugee founded by Elrond who led some survivors away from the Sack of Ost-in-Edhil. Both were besieged, but at that time the Elves still had powerful allies – the Numenoreans. Tar-Minastir, the 11th monarch of that mighty realm, sent a grand armada under Admiral Ciryatur. In those days the Numenoreans were so powerful that even Sauron and all his legions were defeated. The Dark Lord’s army was completely routed and he hardly managed to fall back to Mordor with only a tiny personal guard left.

After some time, when the Numenorean army returned home, and the Numenorean kings who followed Tar-Minastir were less friendly towards the Elves, Sauron slowly regained his strength and the Dark Years began – it was a time when orcs from Mordor roamed freely across Middle-earth, many human tribes were forced to hide in the deep woods or in the mountains, other tribes of men worshipped Sauron as god and only Lindon, Rivendell, Lorien and Khazad-dûm remained truly free. For the Elves these were the “Days of Flight”, when great many ships sailed west from Cirdan’s havens in Lindon, never to return.

When Sauron’s long-term scheme to destroy Numenor worked, he attacked the Free Peoples of Middle-earth once again. However, although the might of Numenor was now gone, there was heavy resistance in the form of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves. Thanks to the sacrifice of High King of the Noldor Gil-galad and High King of the Dunedain Elendil, Sauron was defeated, though once again not forever. Yet the One Ring was lost (few knew it was taken by Elendil’s son Isildur and later lost in the Gladden River when Isildur’s party of knights was ambushed by a remnant of Sauron’s shattered army hiding in the mountains).

The Elves thought it was safe to use the Three Rings once again, and they did. When Celebrimbor learned of Annatar-Sauron’s true intentions, he gave the Three to three powerful Elves for safekeeping, Vilya, the greatest of the Rings, he gave to Gil-galad, but the High King believed it would be safer with his Vice-regent and Herald, Elrond of Imladris. Nenya, the Ring of Water, was given to Galadriel, who used it to make Lorien the most fair place in Middle-earth. There are two accounts of what Celebrimbor did with Narya, the Ring of Fire, but in both scenarios the ring ended up with Cirdan the Shipwright. (In one, it was first given to Gil-galad together with Vilya, but the High King granted it to Cirdan, in the other Cirdan received it directly from Celebrimbor). In this way, the Rings were saved from Sauron and in the Third Age thanks to them Elven realms like Rivendell and Lorien still flourished.

When emissaries from the Valar known as the Istari (Wizards) arrived from Valinor in the Third Age, Cirdan was perhaps the only person to witness that and know whom the Wizards truly were – five of the Maiar entrusted with a special task. Although it seems the Wizards arrived separately, with Gandalf coming only after Saruman and the Blue Wizards, Círdan gave Narya, the Ring of Fire, to him, perhaps sensing that Gandalf was the wisest and most trustworthy of them all.

When he first met Gandalf, he greeted him with the following words:

“Take this ring, Master, for your labours will be heavy; but it will support you in the weariness that you have taken upon yourself. For this is the Ring of Fire, and with it you may rekindle hearts in a world that grows chill. But as for me, my heart is with the Sea, and I will dwell by the grey shores until the last ship sails. I will await you.” (from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)


Círdan the Shipwright

Cirdan was the eldest of all the Elves remaining in Middle-earth. He was once named Nowë, and the original kings of the Teleri, Elwë and Olwë, were related to him. He took part in the Great Journey, and though he had a strong desire to sail across the Great Sea and reach Valinor, he stayed behind with a group of Elves who refused to leave their lost king Elwë.

Even when the king’s own brother Olwë concluded that there is no hope of finding him, Cirdan wanted to continue the search. When he finally came to the shore of the Great Sea, he saw only the isle of Tol Eressëa sailing west and disappearing in the distance. Cirdan stood alone on the beach and, overcome with grief, cried that he would sail to Valinor alone, on the crude first ship he built.

But in that moment he had a vision from the Valar – a voice told him that his ship would not survive the journey, and only many years later his skills in shipcraft boatbuilding would enable him to make such a vessel. The Valar gave him another mission – “Abide now that time, for when it comes then will your work be of utmost worth, and it will be remembered in song for many ages after”. Cirdan answered with simple “I obey”, and then saw a ship that sailed west through the air. That was most likely a vision of Earendil’s ship Vingilótë, in the building of which he would play a part many years later.

Cirdan remained faithful to his mission for millenia beyond count. Though he desired to see the light of Valinor, he stayed on the shores of Middle-earth and would provide ships for those willing to cross. Only when the days of the Eldar would be over, he would sail west on the last white ship, and his Great Journey would be concluded at last.

At the time of LOTR, Cirdan was the oldest Elf in Middle-earth. He lived through the Years of the Sun in the First Age, the Second Age and the Third Age. 7052 solar years… but Cirdan was born (it is also possible that he was among the first Elves who awoke on the shores of Lake Cuivienen) long before the Sun and the Moon were created. The first Elves awoke in the Valian Year 4550, and Cirdan had his vision the same year the Teleri were ferried to Valinor, 4651. Thus, we know for sure Cirdan lived through at least 349 Valian Years (around 3344 solar years using the 9,582 solar years figure for a Valian Year, 50 256 years using the 144 solar years number). At the very least, Cirdan was 10 396 solar years old at the time of LOTR. If he was among the original Elves awakened in 4550, he would be either 11 363 or 71 852 solar years old.

Whatever calculation we use, he was very old. In fact, his age was so advanced that he had a beard, which was uncommon among the Elves, but was possible in their third cycle of life, among those who still remained in the mortal lands of Middle-earth. The Elven-kind was fading – some refused to accept this, created Rings of Power to prevent it… but it was not in their power to change this fate. Cirdan knew it and fulfilled his duty to stay, build new white ships and leave only on board of the Last Ship.


Amroth and Nimrodel

Here I would like to briefly mention two notable characters who left Middle-earth for Valinor during the Third Age. The first was King Amroth, son of Amdir of Lorien (who fell in the Dead Marshes during the War of the Last Alliance). Amroth fell in love with a maid of the Silvan Elves named Nimrodel, and she loved him back, but would not marry him unless they could leave in peace.

In Middle-earth this was now impossible (as the Balrog recently awoke in the nearby Moria). Thus, Amroth and Nimrodel agreed they would sail to Valinor from Edhellhond in Gondor, the only Elven haven in the south. But during the journey, they became separated and Amroth reached the harbour first. There he found out only one white ship was left, and the sailors were eager to embark. However, they agreed to wait till Nimrodel’s party arrived.

One night a great storm hit the coast and wind swept the ship out the haven. When Amroth, who had been sleeping onboard, realised the ship would soon enter the Straight Road, he jumped into the sea and tried to swim to the shore, but the current was too strong and he drowned. Nimrodel’s fate remains unknown, though the pair was presumably reunited in Valinor.

In this part of Gondor, called Dol Amroth in Amroth’s honour, there existed a legend concerning an Elven handmaiden accompanying Nimrodel. Her name was Mithrellas, and she supposedly got lost in the woods but a Numenorean lord, Imrazôr, found her and they fell in love. They married and had two children. The son became the first Prince of Dol Amorth, a noble house of Gondor which survived into the Fourth Age. When Mithrellas gave birth to a daughter, she ran away one night and vanished, never to be seen again. We do not know if this tale is true, but centuries later, Legolas recognised that the current Prince of Dol Amroth, Imrahil, had elven blood in his veins. (This legend reminds me of the swan-maiden stories found from real-world folklore).



Another prominent person to leave Middle-earth for Valinor in the Third Age was Celebrían, daughter of Galadriel and Celeborn, wife of Elrond and mother of Elrohir, Elladan and Arwen. In the year 2509 of the Third Age, while traveling from Rivendell to Lorien, to visit her parents, Celebrían was ambushed by orcs at the Redhorn Pass (the one Fellowship of the Ring attempted to cross but had to turn back because of snow storm). She was tortured and wounded with a poisoned weapon. Her sons Elladan and Elrohir tracked the orcs down and rescued Celebrían. She was brought to Rivendell, where Elrond healed her body, but she did not recover in mind – there was no cure for that in Middle-earth, and left for the Undying Lands one year later.


The Keepers of the Three Rings: Galadriel, Elrond, Gandalf

The Ring-bearers: Frodo, Bilbo and Samwise

After the One Ring was destroyed and Sauron was defeated, the Three Rings lost their power. The Elves accepted their time in Middle-earth was over, and that the time of men had came. Their keepers would return to Valinor. Tolkien wrote that “with the downfall of ‘Power’ their little efforts at preserving the past fell to bits. There was nothing more in Middle-earth for them, but weariness. So Elrond and Galadriel depart”.

Thus, in the Autumn of Third Age 3021, Elrond and Galadriel rode to the Grey Havens, where Cirdan had a ship prepared for them. They were accompanied by many Elves from Rivendell, such as Gildor, and from Lorien. Gandalf (and his horse Shadowfax) were also departing.

Bilbo and Frodo, who were Ring-bearers of the One Ring, were – by the grace of the Valar – allowed to accompany them, as they were both affected by the Ring and would not find peace and happiness in Middle-earth because of it. Frodo also suffered from the Morgul-wound the Witch-king gave him at the Weathertop. Sam Gamgee was also granted this right, as he had been a Ring-bearer too, though for a short time.

However, Sam sailed only many years later, after he had 13 children with Rose Cotton and was elected Mayor of Michel Delving in the Shire for seven terms. Sam sailed west in the year 61 of the Fourth Age, but before his departure he entrusted the Red Book (containing The Hobbit and LOTR) to his daughter Elanor.

Hobbits were human, so coming to the Undying Lands would not make them immortal – but Frodo, Bilbo and Sam would live there for a long time, in happiness they would never find in Middle-earth. Gandalf was returning home, his mission complete. Elrond would be reunited with his father Earendil, his mother Elwing and his wife Celebrian. Galadriel would meet her father Finarfin and her long-unseen siblings. Galadriel, the last leader of the Noldor rebellion remaining in Middle-earth would finally accept the days of the Elves are over and that the Elves have to let go of the past. When Frodo brought the One Ring to Lorien, Galadriel faced one final temptation – if she took it, perhaps she would achieve what the Noldor had always desired?

‘And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”

She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad. ‘I pass the test’, she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.’ (from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)

Galadriel passed this one final test and finally could return home.

Besides Frodo, Sam and Gandalf two other members of the Fellowship would also sail West – Legolas and Gimli, who did so after Aragorn’s death. The first one felt strong sea-longing that would touch all Elves in those final days of their kind, as the Eldar were fading away. The second one accompanied him out of friendship, and reached Valinor as first and perhaps the only of the Dwarves. Perhaps he met Aulë, the Smith of the Valar, who created the Dwarven kind.

With the departure of Frodo’s White Ship on September 29, 3021, the Third Age came to an end. The Lord of the Rings describes this event as follows:

Then Frodo kissed Merry and Pippin, and last of all Sam, and went aboard; and the sails were drawn up, and the wind blew, and slowly the ship slipped away down the long grey firth; and the light of the glass of Galadriel that Frodo bore glimmered and was lost. And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. (from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien)

At some point in the Fourth Age, the Last Ship sailed West from the Grey Havens. On its board was Galadriel’s husband Celeborn, and Cirdan the Shipwright himself, about to finish his Great Journey at last. With their passing the last remaining witnesses of the Elder Days left Middle-earth forever.

The Silmarillion ends with another description of the passage of the White Ship Bilbo, Frodo, Galadriel, Elrond and Gandalf sailed on. I think it is is a very fitting conclusion to this essay.

White was that ship and long was it a-building, and long it awaited the end of which Círdan had spoken. But when all these things were done, and the Heir of Isildur had taken up the lordship of Men and the dominion of the West had passed to him, then it was made plain that the power of the Three Rings also was ended, and to the Firstborn the world grew old and grey. In that time the last of the Noldor set sail from the Havens and left Middle-earth for ever. And latest of all the Keepers of the Three Rings rode to the Sea, and Master Elrond too there the ship that Círdan had made ready. In the twilight of autumn it sailed out of Mithlond, until the seas of the Bent World fell away beneath it, and the winds of the round sky troubled it no more, and borne upon the high airs above the mists of the world it passed into the Ancient West, and an end was come for the Eldar of story and of song. (from The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien)

I hope now you understand a little better what it means to “sail west” in a fantasy story. Thank you for reading! Namárië!



photo by BT


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


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 Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire – Table of Contents

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire

by Bluetiger

A series which explores how works of J.R.R. Tolkien have influenced George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire

List of Episodes

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Main Series

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode I – Part One of this instalment discusses GRRM’s approach to Tolkien, Part Two explores numerous references to LOTR and other JRRT works in ASOIAF, Part Three focuses on my theory about Numenor and the Great Empire of the Dawn

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II – in Part One (The Cosmology of Arda) I discuss how Tolkien’s astronomical myths might have inspired GRRM’s legends (like the Qartheen tale about the second moon of Planetos), and explain how ASOIAF Long Night might be a reference to The Long Night of Valinor from The Silmarillion. In Part Two (The Family of Ice and Fire) I explore the fire and ice dichotomy in the Royal House of the Noldor banches, and how it might have inspired GRRM’s ‘solar king with two lunar wives’ symbolic pattern. In Part Three (The Song of the Sun and the Moon) I explain how Tolkien’s symbolism based on Venus works, and how it might have influenced GRRM’s own symbolism and wordlbuilding. My GEOTD-Numenor theory is also discussed, with some new supporting evidence given.

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Appendices – posts containing material by Bluetiger like family trees for Elven and Edain houses, charts and maps.

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa & Lúthien  – a standalone essay that explores the parallels between Sansa Stark and Luthien & between Sandor Clegane and Huan the Hound of the Valar.

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: The Brief History of Gondor – a supplementary essay summarising the history of Gondor from LOTR.

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Minas Tirith and the Hightower – an essay where I explore the parallels between ASOIAF Oldtown and the Hightower & LOTR Osgiliath and Minas Tirith.

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Argonath and the Titan of Braavos – an essay where I focus on the similarities between ASOIAF Titan of Braavos and LOTR Pillars of Kings at Argonath.

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sailing to the Uttermost West – after a long break, The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire returns with a brand new essay on the motif of “sailing west” and The Undying Lands

The Advent Calendar Series

The Advent Calendar 2018 series – four posts originally published on Four Sundays of Advent in 2018

The Advent Calendar 2018 – Introduction – post explaining what The Advent Calendar series is all about.

The Advent Calendar 2018 – The Return of the Queen – an essay where I explore ‘the return of the king’ motif in ASOIAF, LOTR and The Bible.

The Advent Calendar 2018 – Eärendil, Bearer of Light – an essay that summarises all my research and theories concerning Tolkien’s astronomical symbolism and how it might have inspired GRRM’s symbolism.

The Advent Calendar 2018 – The Jade Empire – an essay about some Narnia references and parallels in ASOIAF, one bonus section about Tolkienic references in Fire and Blood.

The Advent Calendar 2018 – Aenar’s Aeneid – an essay discussing parallels between Vergil’s The Aeneid and ASOIAF.

The Advent Calendar 2017 series – 22 short posts about Tolkien, ASOIAF and mythology originally published during Advent in 2017

The Advent Calendar 2017 – Introduction

The Advent Calendar – list of episodes




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. – 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 he used the same name as the Old English 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, 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’?


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.


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!


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 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.


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.


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:


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



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 Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Argonath and the Titan of Braavos

‘Seek for the Sword that was broken’

– J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

This extra episode of The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, the series where I explore the parallels between George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and various aspects of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium, will provide my thoughts on the theme of broken swords, giant statues and the characters of the Grey King of Ironborn legend and Azor Ahai. Before you read it, I heavily recommend watching Ironborn Myth and Legend: Broken Swords, the latest episode of The Disputed Lands series by Crowfood’s Daughter.

If you’re familiar with my blog, you’ll probably remember the Sansa & Lúthien episode from August 2018, where I shared my ruminations on the topic of Sansa and bats, and how that connects her to Luthien from The Silmarillion. That short post was inspired by LML’s Sansa Locked in Ice essay. Similarly, this time I’ll explore how GRRM’s motif of the Grey King and the Titan of Braavos, with his broken sword, might have been inspired by certain aspects of Professor Tolkien’s world building.

In her great video on the Grey King and Azor Ahai monomyth, Crowfood’s Daughter presents multiple scenes from ASOIAF books where broken swords make an appearance, such as:

  • the legend of the forging of Lightbringer, which Salladhor Saan shares with Davos in A Clash of Kings. According to that tale Azor Ahai desired a perfect weapon, a ‘hero’s blade’, fit to oppose the darkness which ‘lay heavy on the world’. Thus, he labored for thirty days and thirty nights. But when the sword was done and the smith attempted to temper it, it broke: ‘when he plunged it into water to temper the steel it burst asunder’. Then the hero labored for another fifty days and fifty nights, but again, as he was about to temper it, in a lion’s red heart, ‘the steel shattered and split’.
  • the story of the Last Hero, as retold by Old Nan, where his sword ‘froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it’.
  • the duel between Ser Waymar Royce and the Other from AGOT Prologue: ‘The Other’s parry was almost lazy. When the blades touched, the steel shattered. (…) He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof’.
  • the trial by combat between Lord Beric Dondarrion and Sandor Clegane the Hound: ‘Lord Beric blocked the cut easily . . .”Noooooo,” Arya shrieked. … but the burning sword snapped in two, and the Hound’s cold steel plowed into Lord Beric’s flesh’.

Many fans came to the conclusion that broken swords, and especially broken flaming swords, are strong symbols of Azor Ahai and Lightbringer. Crowfood’s Daughter points out that at various points in the story, weapons other than swords break and play a similar symbolic role. For example, at the Battle of Blackwater, Tyrion uses a broken spear: ‘Men came at him. Some he killed, some he wounded, and some went away, but always there were more. He lost his knife and gained a broken spear.

Crowfood’s Daughter presents another instance where the broken sword symbol appears. From A Feast for Crows:

But dead ahead the sea had broken through, and there above the open water the Titan towered, with his eyes blazing and his long green hair blowing in the wind.
His legs bestrode the gap, one foot planted on each mountain, his shoulders looming tall above the jagged crests. His legs were carved of solid stone, the same black granite as the sea monts on which he stood, though around his hips he wore an armored skirt of greenish bronze. His breastplate was bronze as well, and his head in his crested halfhelm. His blowing hair was made of hempen ropes dyed green, and huge fires burned in the caves that were his eyes. One hand rested atop the ridge to his left, bronze fingers coiled about a knob of stone; the other thrust up into the air, clasping the hilt of a broken sword.

In one of her previous episodes, (Garth Greenhand & The Grey King: Fratricidal Clues), Crowfood’s Daughter explained that there are multiple hints that the Grey King and Garth Greenhand were in fact brothers – and not just any brothers, but rival siblings. Garth the Green seems to be based on the archetypal Oak King figure, the ruler of the fertile half of the year, while the Grey King shares the characteristics of the Holly King, lord of winter and death. In many myths that follow this archetypal pattern, one brother slays the other, and thus the seasons turn. But in some legends, the fratricidal ‘Cain’ brother, who kills his ‘Abel’, is cursed and becomes a Grim Reaper figure.

Crowfood’s Daughter proposes that we see the same theme played out in ASOIAF – for example, when Stannis kills Renly (or at least has some role in his demise’, and becomes ‘half a corpse’. When we read that:

A curse was placed on the Great Barrow that would allow no living man to rival the First King. This curse made these pretenders to the title grow corpselike in their appearance as it sucked away their vitality and life.

in The World of Ice and Fire, we might hear about the origins of the Grey King, who – in legends – is described thusly:

His hair and beard and eyes were as grey as a winter sea, and from these he took his name. (…) He ruled the Iron Islands for a thousand years, until his very skin had turned as grey as his hair and beard.

Crowfood’s explains that this curse might be seen as punishment inflicted on the Grey King for killing his brother Garth.

Thus, the Titan can be seen as an image of the Grey King (and Azor Ahai, if the two are the same person or archetype, as LML suggests in The Grey King and the Sea Dragon essay).

Later in the Broken Swords episode, Crowfood’s explores real-world giant statues that might have been the inspiration behind the Titan of Braavos: Colossus of Rhodes, the enormous image of Helios, the Greek sun god, and Talos, the giant bronze statue from Argonautica.

In Ironborn Myth and Legend: The Grey King’s Merling Wife Crowfood’s presents another archetypal figure connected with the Grey King monomyth – that of Nissa Nissa as his mermaid wife. Maris the Most Fair from TWOIAF is one of such characters:

Maris the Maid, the Most Fair, whose beauty was so renowned that fifty lords vied for her hand at the first tourney ever to be held in Westeros. (The victor was the Grey Giant, Argoth Stone-Skin, but Maris wed King Uthor of the High Tower before he could claim her, and Argoth spent the rest of his days raging outside the walls of Oldtown, roaring for his bride.)

Argoth Stone-Skin, the Grey Giant unites the Titan of Braavos parallels with Talos from Greek mythology, as that bronze giant appears in the Argonautica. Thus, we can see that Grey King, Azor Ahai the Warrior of the Sun (keep in mind that Helios, on whom the Titan of Braavos is based, was a sun deity), and Talos comes from the Cretan dialect word for sun, talôs. Azor Ahai is the Titan of Braavos, and the Titan’s broken sword is Lightbringer. But the Titan looks exactly like an aquatic deity, like the Storm God of Ironborn legend, or the Grey King.

‘The Merling King’ figure is simply another name for this monomyth. From A Dance with Dragons:

Inside was a cobbled square with a fountain at its center. A stone merman rose from its waters, twenty feet tall from tail to crown. His curly beard was green and white with lichen, and one of the prongs of his trident had broken off before Davos had been born, yet somehow he still managed to impress. Old Fishfoot was what the locals called him. The square was named for some dead lord, but no one ever called it anything but Fishfoot Yard.

Petyr Baelish, whose house sigil depicts the Titan’s head, also has a connection with broken swords. From A Storm of Sword, the description of Petyr’s ancestral seat, the damp tower by the sea known as the Drearfort:

Above the hearth hung a broken longsword and a battered oaken shield, its paint cracked and flaking.
The device painted on the shield was one Sansa did not know; a grey stone head with fiery eyes, upon a light green field. “My grandfather’s shield,” Petyr explained when he saw her gazing at it. “His own father was born in Braavos and came to the Vale as a sellsword in the hire of Lord Corbray, so my grandfather took the head of the Titan as his sigil when he was knighted.”

To bring the point home, GRRM decided to name the ship on which Littlefinger sails… ‘The Merling King’. As you can see, Crowfood’s Daughter is one of the smartest and most knowledgeable people in the fandom, and all her essays and videos offer such deep insights into the deeper meaning of ASOIAF scenes and legends. And again, I wholeheartedly recommend watching all episodes of The Disputed Lands.

Few days ago Crowfood’s has sent me this question:

Hey BT awhile back we were talking about we were talking about Talos, the Colossus of Rhodes and you mentioned The Statues of Argonath… what connections did you see between the three and how would you say the statue might relate to Azor Ahai or the Grey King?

And of course, she was right. It appears that Argonath (note the similarity to ‘Argoth’ the Grey Giant), the Pillars of Kings from The Lord of the Rings were another source of inspiration for GRRM, when he was crafting his Grey King monomyth.




Argonath by Kreetak at Deviantart

In LOTR, Argonath, the Gate of Kings, or the Pillars of Kings, was famous for its two monumental statues, carved into rock in the likenesses of Elendil’s sons, Isildur and Anarion. They were built by Minalcar Rómendacil II, the 19th monarch of Gondor, on the northernmost border of Gondor. The statues stood on the opposite sides of Anduin, the Great River, which flowed between them. Each king held an axe in his right hand, while his left hand rose, pointing north, in defiance of the enemies of the realm of Gondor.

The scene from The Fellowship of the Ring, where our heroes sail between the two pillars, is quite similar to the chapter where Arya sails into Braavos, underneath the Titan.

In the mid-morning the clouds drew down lower, and it began to rain heavily. They drew the skin-covers over their boats to prevent them from being flooded, and drifted on: little could be seen before them or about them through the grey falling curtains.

The rain, however, did not last long. Slowly the sky above grew lighter, and then suddenly the clouds broke, and their draggled fringes trailed away northward up the River. The fogs and mists were gone. Before the travellers lay a wide ravine, with great rocky sides to which clung, upon shelves and in narrow crevices, a few thrawn trees. The channel grew narrower and the River swifter. Now they were speeding along with little hope of stopping or turning, whatever they might meet ahead. Over them was a lane of pale-blue sky, around them the dark overshadowed River, and before them black, shutting out the sun, the hills of Emyn Muil, in which no opening could be seen.

Frodo peering forward saw in the distance two great rocks approaching: like great pinnacles or pillars of stone they seemed. Tall and sheer and ominous they stood upon either side of the stream. A narrow gap appeared between them, and the River swept the boats towards it.

`Behold the Argonath, the Pillars of the Kings! ‘ cried Aragorn. `We shall pass them soon. Keep the boats in line, and as far apart as you can! Hold the middle of the stream!

As Frodo was borne towards them the great pillars rose like towers to meet him. Giants they seemed to him, vast grey figures silent but threatening. Then he saw that they were indeed shaped and fashioned: the craft and power of old had wrought upon them, and still they preserved through the suns and rains of forgotten years the mighty likenesses in which they had been hewn. Upon great pedestals founded in the deep waters stood two great kings of stone: still with blurred eyes and crannied brows they frowned upon the North. The left hand of each was raised palm outwards in gesture of warning; in each right hand there was an axe; upon each head there was a crumbling helm and crown. Great power and majesty they still wore, the silent wardens of a long-vanished kingdom. Awe and fear fell upon Frodo, and he cowered down, shutting his eyes and not daring to look up as the boat drew near. Even Boromir bowed his head as the boats whirled by. frail and fleeting as little leaves, under the enduring shadow of the sentinels of Númenor. So they passed into the dark chasm of the Gates.

Sheer rose the dreadful cliffs to unguessed heights on either side. Far off was the dim sky. The black waters roared and echoed, and a wind screamed over them. Frodo crouching over his knees heard Sam in front muttering and groaning: `What a place! What a horrible place! Just let me get out of this boat, and I’ll never wet my toes in a puddle again, let alone a river! ‘

`Fear not! ‘ said a strange voice behind him. Frodo turned and saw Strider, and yet not Strider; for the weatherworn Ranger was no longer there. In the stern sat Aragorn son of Arathorn, proud and erect, guiding the boat with skilful strokes; his hood was cast back, and his dark hair was blowing in the wind, a light was in his eyes: a king returning from exile to his own land.

‘Fear not! ‘ he said. `Long have I desired to look upon the likenesses of Isildur and Anárion, my sires of old. Under their shadow Elessar, the Elfstone son of Arathorn of the House of Valandil Isildur’s son heir of Elendil, has nought to dread! ‘

Then the light of his eyes faded, and he spoke to himself: `Would that Gandalf were here! How my heart yearns for Minas Anor and the walls of my own city! But whither now shall I go? ‘

As you see, the similarities to the Titan of Braavos are quite apparent.

Now, Crowfood’s Daughter asked me whether the two brothers, whose likenesses were for ever engraved at Argonath quarreled. Well, Tolkien never mentions any feuds between the two, and it seems they got along quite well.

When Elendil the Faithful and his loyal followers fled from the drowning Numenor, they founded two Dunedain realms in exile, Arnor in the North and Gondor in the South. Elendil reigned as King of Arnor, and the High King of the Dunedain. Meanwhile, Isildur and Anarion ruled Gondor together, and their thrones stood side by side in the Great Hall of Osgiliath, under the famed Dome of Stars.

But Anarion (whose name means Devoted to the Sun, by the way, so again, we have a gigantic statue of a solar figure, like with the Colossus of Helios or Talos) was slain during the siege of Barad-dur, Sauron’s Dark Tower in the land of Mordor – and Elendil was killed when he and Gil-gald, the High King of the Noldor, fought Sauron together, and defeated him, but at the cost of their own lives.

After the war eneded, Isildur returned to Gondor, where he proclaimed himself the High King of both Arnor and Gondor, ignoring the claim of Anarion’s son Meneldil. So in a way, Isildur betrayed the memory of his brother, and usurped his son’s throne. But then Isildur deiced to ride north, and as he was crossing the Great River Anduin at the Gladden Fields, his party of knights was ambushed by orcs. Isildur tried to escape, using the One Ring’s power of making its bearer invisible. But the Ring betrayed him, and slipped of his finger. You can find out more about the origins of Gondor and Arnor, and their history by reading my The Brief History of Gondor, Its Rise, Zenith, Decline and Fall of Kingship.

At the Council of Elrond, this story is retold:

‘But the Ring was lost. It fell into the Great River, Anduin, and vanished. For Isildur was marching north along the east banks of the River, and near the Gladden Fields he was waylaid by the Orcs of the Mountains, and almost all his folk were slain. He leaped into the waters, but the Ring slipped from his finger as he swam, and then the Orcs saw him and killed him with arrows.’

Gandalf paused. ‘And there in the dark pools amid the Gladden Fields,’ he said, ‘the Ring passed out of knowledge and legend’.

Now, GRRM might be hinting that we should look into the Disaster of the Gladden Fields story from Tolkien, as he named one of his characters Ser Gladden Wylde. This knight was Beric Dondarrion’s companion, when the Lightning Lord rode west at Ned Stark’s command. It will come as no surprise that this party was, just like Isildur’s men, ambushed nearby a river, at Mummer’s Ford. And Isildur drowns, which probably should remind us of the Grey King and his connection with the Drowned God.

Thus far, we’ve uncovered some hints that GRRM’s Titan of Braavos, and the entire Grey King/Azor Ahai monomyth might be at least partially inspired by LOTR. But it goes much deeper than that, as Isildur, just like the Titan and Azor Ahai, has a connection with a broken sword!

As Elrond tells us in LOTR:

I was the herald of Gil-galad and marched with his host. I was at the Battle of Dagorlad before the Black Gate of Mordor, where we had the mastery: for the Spear of Gil-galad and the Sword of Elendil, Aiglos and Narsil, none could withstand. I beheld the last combat on the slopes of Orodruin, where Gil-galad died, and Elendil fell, and Narsil broke beneath him; but Sauron himself was overthrown, and Isildur cut the Ring from his hand with the hilt-shard of his father’s sword, and took it for his own.’ (…)

From the ruin of the Gladden Fields, where Isildur perished, three men only came ever back over the mountains after long wandering. One of these was Ohtar, the esquire of Isildur, who bore the shards of the sword of Elendil; and he brought them to Valandil, the heir of Isildur, who being but a child had remained here in Rivendell. But Narsil was broken and its light extinguished, and it has not yet been forged again.

And Narsil is not just some random sword. Oh no… it’s special.

Its name is an in-universe reference to en elven poem entitled Narsilion, The Song of the Sun and the Moon, which describes how the Valar (angelic powers, whom men often called ‘gods’) created the Sun and the Moon to end the Long Night of Valinor, which was caused by Morgoth, the first Dark Lord.

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. (…)

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.

As I explained in my The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Episode II essay, the unity of the sun and the moon is a very important theme in Tolkien’s writing. Basically, to defeat the darkness of the Dark Lord like Morgoth and Sauron, one has to wield (at least symbolically) the united power of the Sun and the Moon ‘the chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness’. For further reading on this topic, which is very interesting, and in my view, crucial to understand GRRM’s own symbolism, I recommend my The Unity of the Sun and the Moon section.

Basically, Elves are always connected with the Moon and Stars, and Humans with the Sun. Thus, a child that is half-elven, half-human, unites their symbolism, and becomes… Lightbringer. This is how Eärendil, the son of Tuor, a mortal warrior, and Idril, the elven princess of Gondolin, is greeted upon his arrival 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!’

Later, Eärendil becomes the steersman of Venus, the Mornigstar and the Evenstar. In Tolkien’s mythology, Venus was created by the Valar from Eärendil’s famous ship Vingilótë, and it shone so brightly, because Eärendil wore one of the Silmarili jewels on his brow.

Now, the Silmarils are, symbolically, the same thing as Eärendil, as they were created from mingled light of the Two Trees of Valinor – one of them had solar symbolism, and the Sun was created from its fruit, and the other was lunar, and the Moon is its flower. Thus, in Tolkien’s writings, Venus is the ‘child’ of the Sun and the Moon, their union.

Narsil, the broken sword of Isildur, was named to honor this unity. In fact, Isildur was a descendant of Eärendil, via Eärendil’s son Elros (who was Elrond’s twin brother and the first King of Numenor). The device of seven stars traced on the reforged blade of Narsil, is another reference to Venus, as the ‘Seven Stars of Elendil’ had five rays, and originally, symbolised the stars on the banners of Elendil’s ships that bore a palantir when Elendil and his sons fled from the drowning Numenor. Numenor has tons of Venus-based symbolism, as I explained in my second essay.

As I wrote in TolkienicSOIAF Episode II:

It’s easy to see why GRRM would choose to draw from this ‘unity of the Sun and the Moon = Lightbringer/Venus’ theme in Tolkien’s writing. After all, the title of his series speaks of harmony and unity, of Ice and Fire, which is not that far away from ‘A Song of the Moon and the Sun’. (…)

And if LML’s theory is true, and I think it is, then his own Lightbringer is the child of the Sun and the Moon as well, and the child of Azor Ahai and Nissa Nissa. Only this child or weapon can bring peace and harmony and end the Long Night – the Long Night of Valinor ends when the Sun and the Moon are created, the darkness that followed the fall of the Two Lamps ends when the Two Trees are created, Morgoth’s reign to terror comes to and end when Earendil, the Child of the Sun and the Moon, sails to Valinor. And in the darkness, the days ‘without dawn’ caused by Sauron sending clouds, smoke and vapours, Aragorn fought with Anduril, which was once Narsil. And as Tolkien explains in one of his letters, Narsil referred to the Sun and the Moon, as ‘chief heavenly lights, as enemies of darkness’.

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.

Yet, even a Morningstar/Evenstar figure can fall, and Lightbringer can be used to work dark deeds, and plunge the world deeper into darkness. Who will prevail in A Song of Ice and Fire? People like Jon Snow and Daenerys? Or someone like Euron, the Bloodstone Emperor come again? A faithful and honorable leader like Elendil or a bloody tyrant like Ar-Pharazon?

(The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Episode II: The Unity of the Sun and the Moon)

It seems that Isildur and Narsil, the Sword that was Broken, were the inspiration (one of many inspirations) behind GRRM’s Azor Ahai and Lightbringer… and it’s also likely, that the Titan of Braavos – a reference to Argonath, where statues of Anarion and Isildur stood side by side – is in fact a statue of Azor Ahai the Grey King, with his broken sword being a nod to Narsil. Although at Argonath Isildur was depicted with an axe, his most famous weapon was Narsil, the sword with which he cut the One Ring off Sauron’s hand.

Crowfood’s Daughter suggests that ‘the Titan represents BOTH brothers, Isildur and Anarion, which is why he roars at both sunset and dawn’. What this means for ASOIAF? Well, CD’s decided that Argonath stuff should be featured in another episode of The Disputed Lands… Be sure to subscribe to that awesome channel, so you won’t miss that video when it comes out. You can find the link here.

Thanks for visiting The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please check out my other episodes. You can find a list at the top of my page. Have a nice day!

– Bluetiger

* Another important sword from Tolkien lore, Gurthang, the black blade of Turn Turambar, forged of meteoric iron, also breaks, upon Turin’s funeral pyre. You can read more about this sword in TolkienicSOIAF Episode II section Orion: The Swordsman of the Sky.

** As I was watching Crowfood’s video about the Grey King and Garth, I remembered a scene from LOTR, where a ‘Cain’ figure kills his relative ‘Abel’ and turns into a miserable creature – Gollum.


Gollum kills his friend and kinsman, and just like Cain, is forced to flee. Maybe that’s why Theon Greyjoy, the ‘kinslayer’ and turncloak, who echoes the Grey King in the main story, becomes Reek, so similar to Gollum?

*** Another broken sword belongs to Boromir. As Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli prepare their friend for his final journey, down Anduin in a funeral boat, we get this line: ”His helm they set beside him, and across his lap they laid the cloven horn and the hilts and shards of his sword; beneath his feet they put the swords of his enemies.”

Just like Isildur’s body, Boromir ends up in water. From the Lament for Boromir:

‘Beneath Amon Hen I heard his cry. There many foes he fought.
His cloven shield, his broken sword, they to the water brought.
His head so proud, his face so fair, his limbs they laid to rest;
And Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, bore him upon its breast.’
‘O Boromir! The Tower of Guard shall ever northward gaze
To Rauros, golden Rauros-falls, until the end of days.’

Another stanza of that song provides more aquatic death symbolism for Boromir:

From the mouths of the Sea the South Wind flies, from the sandhills and the stones;
The wailing of the gulls it bears, and at the gate it moans.
‘What news from the South, O sighing wind, do you bring to me at eve?
Where now is Boromir the Fair? He tarries and I grieve.’
‘Ask not of me where he doth dwell –so many bones there lie
On the white shores and the dark shores under the stormy sky;
So many have passed down Anduin to find the flowing Sea.
Ask of the North Wind news of them the North Wind sends to me!’
‘O Boromir! Beyond the gate the seaward road runs south,
But you came not with the wailing gulls from the grey sea’s mouth.’

By the way, I really recommend the amazing rendition of this J.R.R. Tolkien poem by Clamavi de Profundis.

Boromir had a younger brother named Faramir, and it’s possible that they follow the Holly King/Oak King pattern, which manifests in ASOIAF as the Grey King and Garth the Green. Although Boromir and Faramir are not rivals, their father Lord Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, favours Boromir and neglects Faramir, so maybe we can view them as ‘rival brothers’ in the sense that they compete for their father’s favour (at least in Denethor’s view).

Here’s Boromir’s description from The Fellowship of the Ring:

‘There was a tall man with a fair and noble face, dark-haired and grey-eyed, proud and stern of glance. His garments were rich, and his cloak was lined with fur and he had a collar of silver in which a single white stone was set; his locks were shorn about his shoulders. On a baldric he wore a great horn tipped with silver that now was laid upon his knees’.

And here’s Faramir’s introduction from The Two Towers:

‘If they [Frodo and Sam] were astonished at what they saw, their captors were even more astonished. Four tall Men stood there. Two had spears in their hands with broad bright heads. Two had great bows, almost of their own height, and great quivers of long green-feathered arrows. All had swords at their sides, and were clad in green and brown of varied hues, as if the better to walk unseen in the glades of Ithilien. Green gauntlets covered their hands, and their faces were hooded and masked with green, except for their eyes, which were very keen and bright. At once Frodo thought of Boromir, for these Men were like him in stature and bearing, and in their manner of speech’.


The tall green man laughed grimly. `I am Faramir, Captain of Gondor,’ he said. `But there are no travellers in this land: only the servants of the Dark Tower, or of the White.’

`But we are neither,’ said Frodo. `And travellers we are, whatever Captain Faramir may say.’


The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Minas Tirith and the Hightower

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Minas Tirith and Osgiliath – The Hightower and Oldtown

by Bluetiger


photo by BT

The best fantasy is written in the language of dreams. It is alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake.

Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end. Reality is the strip malls of Burbank, the smokestacks of Cleveland, a parking garage in Newark. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines. Why do our dreams become so much smaller when they finally come true?

We read fantasy to find the colors again, I think. To taste strong spices and hear the songs the sirens sang. There is something old and true in fantasy that speaks to something deep within us, to the child who dreamt that one day he would hunt the forests of the night, and feast beneath the hollow hills, and find a love to last forever somewhere south of Oz and north of Shangri-La.

They can keep their heaven. When I die, I’d sooner go to middle Earth.

George R.R. Martin, On Fantasy

Minas Tirith, the marvellous City of Gondor, with its seven levels, High Court, the Citadel and the White Tower of Ecthelion piercing the sky like a spire, is the hallmark of high fantasy and certainly deserves its place among its most recognisable locations… Surely, this famous and significant place from one of George R.R. Martin’s favourite novels, The Lord of the Rings would have found its way into his own fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire?

Indeed, like so many ideas from Tolkien’s works, it has had a profound effect on some aspects of GRRM’s own worldbuilding. In this short essay, a standalone episode of my The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, the series in which I explore how The Legendarium of Professor Tolkien influenced the world of ice and fire, I’ll present my theory that certain tower of remarkable height and the ancient city in which it stands are references to Minas Tirith and its Tower, and were also partially inspired by the another major city of Gondor and its former capital, Osgiliath.


When I initially set out to put down those ideas on paper, albeit the virtual one, my draft included a short section about the history of Gondor and my intent was to provide you with some context to Minas Tirith and Gondor in general, discussing the major events from its history, its most notable kings and stewards, fiefdoms and provinces, battles, plagues and so on… But as I was writing, I suddenly realised that I have written over two thousand words, and yet, I have only just began writing about actual Gondorian history, as thus far I was just detailing the origins of the Dúnedain, the people who founded Gondor (and its twin realm, Arnor, in the north), having survived the Downfall of Numenor. But still, I wrote on. By the time I finally finished the sections about the 33 Kings and 26 Ruling Stewards of Gondor, that short section was nearing eight thousand words.

Thus, I decided to cut it from this essay, as I wanted to keep it relatively short and easy to digest, focusing only on this one thread of LOTR parallels in ASOIAF. If you want to, you can read this section, which – supplemented with maps – became an essay of its own, dedicated only to Tolkien, The Brief History of Gondor, Its Rise, Zenith, Decline and Fall of Kingship. It summarises over three millennia of Gondorian history, explaining how this realm was founded, chronicling its territorial expansion and zenith followed by slow but steady decline and talking about the problems it faced (such as civil war over succession, conflict with the Corsairs of Umbar and the Haradrim, the looming threat of Sauron and his Ringwraiths). Furthermore, it discusses how Gondor came to be kingless and explains the origins of the Stewards who governed the realm for 969 years, until the king returned. From this extra episode, you can also find out how Arnor, the northern Dunedain realm, fell and whence comes Aragorn’s claim to the throne of Gondor. If you have the time, I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out.


And now, Minas Tirith.

As I’ve said, Gondorian history is very rich and described by Tolkien in some detail. Some periods, the most eventful ones, are discussed to a greater degree in the Appendix of LOTR, and we can learn much about the others from The History of Middle-earth, the monumental series edited by Professor Tolkien’s son Christopher, and stories such as Disaster of Gladden Fields (which describes the first years after the War of the Last Alliance, which is the opening scene of The Fellowship movie adaptation, and the valiant last stand of Isildur’s knights at Gladden) and Cirion and Eorl and the Friendship of Gondor and Rohan which is set during the reign of the 12th Ruling Steward and explain how Rohan, the realm of the horselords, was founded.

Those books and stories provided invaluable help for me while writing The Brief History of Gondor. Interesting and rich in detail as they might be, those texts are relatively unknown to most fantasy fans, and thus with this essay, I’ll stick with what the narrative of The Lord of the Rings tells us about Minas Tirith. I’ll refer to some information from the appendixes as well. Sadly, we can’t be sure to which of those less known Tolkien books GRRM has read, and which he knew at the time when he was writing his first Ice and Fire novels. What we know for sure is that he’s read LOTR and it’s one of his favourite fantasy books. I think it is safe assume that he knows The Silmarillion as well, since his own books contain many references to it, for example names like Beren, Berena, Meliana and Daeron.

But fortunately, all concepts from Tolkien’s world that have – at least in my view – inspired GRRM’s Oldtown, the Citadel and the Hightower, appear in LOTR and thus, they are things about which GRRM has surely read about, most likely several times, not some obscure details from little-known stories. The question is: are those parallels intentional or not. Well, I hope that after reading this episode, you’ll decide on your own.


When it was founded at the end of the Second Age, Minas Tirith wasn’t the capital city of Gondor. It wasn’t even named Minas Tirith.

Elendil the Faithful, son of Lord Amandil of Andúnië, fled from the Downfall of Númenor with his sons Isildur and Anarion, their families and trusted retainers. Numenor, also called Westernesse was the mighty advanced civilization of Arda that was destroyed because of Sauron’s intrigues, and manipulation of its arrogant 25th King Ar-Pharazôn the Golden. Ar-Pharazôn turned against the Valar (the angelic powers ruling Arda in the name of Eru Iluvatar the God) and the Elves, and his party, called the King’s Men, persecuted another group called the Faithful who wanted friendship with the Elves and peace.

Both groups founded colonies in Middle-earth, but where the Faithful shared their knowledge with the natives and sought peaceful coexistence, the King’s Men wanted to enslave and subjugate the nations they deemed lesser, conquering their lands. In the end, Ar-Pharazon sailed to the Undying Lands in the West with his Grand Armada and invaded the realm of the Valar, which led to Iluvatar’s intervention and the drowning of Numenor.

Elendil and his followers fled the doomed isle on nine ships and landed in Middle-earth, where they were reunited with Faithful colonists who accepted Elendil as their High King. He founded the Northern Kingdom of the Dunedain (which means Men of the West and refers to Numenoreans and their descendants) called Arnor, while his sons Isildur and Anarion founded Gondor where they ruled together, while Elendil reigned as High King of both Arnor and Gondor. But some of the King’s Men, who happened to be in their havens and cities in Middle-earth, survived the Downfall as well. And worst of all, Sauron managed to escape as well. He returned to Mordor and soon was ready to make war on the Dunedain.

Thus, to defend their capital city of Osgiliath, Elendil’s sons raised two great strongholds. Isildur built Minas Ithil (the Tower of the Moon) in the land of Ithilien east of the Great River Anduin. Osgiliath was built on its both shores, with a long bridge spanning the river. In its midst stood the Great Hall containing Isildur and Anarion’s thrones. On the western Anarion built Minas Anor (the Tower of the Sun) in the land of Anorien west of Anduin. It was Minas Anor that would become known as Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard.

When Sauron’s armies finally marched from Mordor, Minas Ithil was sacked and Isildur had to flee to Arnor, where he joined his father. Meanwhile, Anarion’s soldiers remained besieged in Osgiliath and Minas Anor for five years, until the host of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves came down from the north and relieved them.

In the war that followed the leaders of the Alliance, Elendil and Gil-galad, the last High King of the Noldor, both died in Mordor, but Sauron was defeated, though not forever as it was thought at the time. Since Anarion was slain during the siege of Barad-dûr, Sauron’s Dark Tower, Isildur became the sole ruler of Gondor and succeeded his father as High King of Two Realms.

But soon, Isildur was killed by orcs in an ambush as he was returning to Arnor with his knights, and the One Ring he cut off from Sauron’s hand proved his bane. In that battle, remembered as the Disaster of Gladden Fields, three sons of Isildur were killed as well. Thus, his only surviving son, Valandil (who was left at Rivendell with his mother when the Last Alliance army marched as he was still a babe) followed his father as King of Arnor. But not of King of Gondor, nor the High King, for Anarion’s son Meneldil who was left by Isildur in Gondor to govern in his name declared his realm independent.

Thus, the Dunedain realms separated and were not reunited until Aragorn’s coronation thousands of years later. You can read more about those events, and the reigns of the Kings of Gondor who followed Meneldil, in my essay I linked above. Here I’ll simply present the major events involving Minas Anor/Minas Tirith.

The seventh monarch, Ostoher, rebuilt Minas Anor, but Osgiliath was still the official seat of the Royal House and Gondorian capital. But since the days of Ostoher, the kings would move their courts to Minas Anor for summers. Osgiliath was badly damaged when it was besieged and then sacked by the forces of Castamir the Usurper, who claimed the crown as the 22nd king after forcing King Eldacar to flee the realm. It was then that the Great Hall of the city, known as the Dome of Stars, was broken. Tarondor, the 27th king, relocated the capital to Minas Anor permanently after Osgiliath was depopulated and deserted in the aftermath of the Great Plague of 1636, which killed the previous king, his children and tens of thousands of Gondorians.

During the reign of Eärnil II, the 32nd king, Minas Ithil was sacked and corrupted by the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgul, who took it for his seat. It became known as Minas Morgul, the Tower of Dark Sorcery. In defiance, Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard, as it defended the realm against raids from Morgul. Eärnur, the 33rd king, was challenged by the Witch-king to a duel, and rode to Minas Morgul with only few companions. He was never seen again, but his ultimate fate could not be confirmed. Thus, his Steward (basically the Hand of the King) Mardil Voronwë governed in his name for years, and later became the first Ruling Steward. Ruling Stewards ruled Gondor for 969, waiting for ‘the return of the king’, though in later centuries few believed in it.

Ecthelion I, the 17th Ruling Steward, rebuilt the White Tower of Minas Tirith which stood atop the Citadel, the city’s seventh level, and for this reason, it was widely known as the Tower of Ecthelion. (The construction of the first White Tower was ordered by Calimehtar, the 30th king, to house the palantir seeing-stone. The easiest way to explain the palantiri stones to ASOIAF fan is too liken it to the glass candles. Indeed, glass candles are among the most obvious references to Tolkien, as they’re basically palantiri stones, but shaped like candles, not orbs). Minas Tirith was famously besieged by the Witch-king of Angmar during the War of the Ring, and the Battle of the Pelennor Fields was fought beneath its walls. Later it became the seat of King Aragorn II Elessar, the first monarch of both Gondor and Arnor in centuries.


Minas Tirith was built upon the hill of Amon Tirith (the Hill of Guard), which was described as an ‘out-thrust knee’ of Mindolluin, with which the easternmost peak of the White Mountains of Gondor, also known as Ered Nimrais. Amon Tirith was connected with the main massif of the mountain by a narrow ‘shoulder’.

The city consisted of seven concentric levels, with the Citadel crowning the seventh. The Citadel contained the Court of the Fountain where the White Tree grew, barracks of the Guard, royal apartments and residence of the Steward, and of course the famed Tower of Ecthelion, which is described thusly when Pippin and Gandalf arrive at the city:

Even as Pippin gazed in wonder the walls passed from looming grey to white, blushing faintly in the dawn; and suddenly the sun climbed over the eastern shadow and sent forth a shaft that smote the face of the City. Then Pippin cried aloud, for the Tower of Ecthelion, standing high within the topmost walls shone out against the sky, glimmering like a spike of pearl and silver, tall and fair and shapely, and its pinnacle glittered as if it were wrought of crystals; and white banners broke and fluttered from the battlements in the morning breeze and high and far he heard a clear ringing as of silver trumpets.

Rath Celerdain, or the Lampwright’s Steet, was located on the first level, while the sixth contained the Houses of Healing, where Eowyn and Faramir were sent after the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Fen Hollen, the Closed Door, were embedded in the western wall of this level, and opened to Rath Dínen, the Silent Street, which led to the necropolis of Minas Tirith, the Hallows, where Kings and Stewards rested in their stone tombs.

But perhaps the most recognisable feature of Minas Tirith was its ship-like bastion, shaped like some giant keel. This is the description of the city from the opening chapter of Book V (The Return of the King contains Books V and VI):

For the fashion of Minas Tirith was such that it was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each was set a wall, and in each wall was a gate. But the gates were not set in a line: the Great Gate in the City Wall was at the east point of the circuit, but the next faced half south, and the third half north, and so to and fro upwards; so that the paved way that climbed towards the Citadel turned first this way and then that across the face of the hill. And each time that it passed the line of the Great Gate it went through an arched tunnel, piercing a vast pier of rock whose huge out-thrust bulk divided in two all the circles of the City save the first. For partly in the primeval shaping of the hill, partly by the mighty craft and labour of old, there stood up from the rear of the wide court behind the Gate a towering bastion of stone, its edge sharp as a ship-keel facing east. Up it rose, even to the level of the topmost circle, and there was crowned by a battlement; so that those in the Citadel might, like mariners in a mountainous ship, look from its peak sheer down upon the Gate seven hundred feet below. The entrance to the Citadel also looked eastward, but was delved in the heart of the rock; thence a long lamp-lit slope ran up to the seventh gate. Thus men reached at last the High Court, and the Place of the Fountain before the feet of the White Tower: tall and shapely, fifty fathoms from its base to the pinnacle, where the banner of the Stewards floated a thousand feet above the plain.

A strong citadel it was indeed, and not to be taken by a host of enemies, if there were any within that could hold weapons; unless some foe could come behind and scale the lower skirts of Mindolluin, and so come upon the narrow shoulder that joined the Hill of Guard to the mountain mass. But that shoulder, which rose to the height of the fifth wall, was hedged with great ramparts right up to the precipice that overhung its western end; and in that space stood the houses and domed tombs of bygone kings and lords, for ever silent between the mountain and the tower.

(The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Volume III: The Return of the King, Book V, Chapter I: Minas Tirith)

Outside the city’s Great Gate, the Pelennor Fields began, a vast area of orchards, fields, brooks and pastures. They were enclosed within the great wall of Rammas Echor. To the south, stood the haven of Harlond, Minas Tirith’s port built on the western banks of Anduin.

My drawing of Minas Tirith is obviously imperfect, but I hope it’ll help to visualise the layout of the city:


Minas Tirith by BT


Now, there’s obviously no city with seven concentric levels built into a mountain in ASOIAF. But there are some places which show signs of being inspired by Minas Tirith. Like the Hightower of Oldtown.

The seat of House Hightower is described as a stepped structure, and that’s basically the same idea as with Minas Tirith, though on a smaller scale. Although we can’t be sure if GRRM decided that the Hightower has seven levels, it’s possible that this the case, because of the possibility that the current Hightower was built after the Faith of the Seven became the dominant religion in the Reach. There have been several wooden Hightowers, and supposedly King Uthor’s Hightower of stone was 200 feet high, thus it can’t be the same Hightower we see in ASOIAF. The Hightower at Oldtown artwork by Ted Nasmith in The World of Ice and Fire shows a tower with seven levels… and Ted Nasmith was famous for his Tolkienic illustrations, like those in The Silmarillion, long before he was commissioned to create ASOIAF art…

It might be a mere coincidence, but the Hightower is described as being higher than the 700-feet high Wall. Each of Minas Tirith’s levels towered 100 feet above the one below, and thus the seventh level rose 700 feet above Pelennor Fields. The Tower of Ecthelion which crowned the Citadel on this level was 300 feet high, and thus at its highest point, Minas Tirith was 1000 feet high.

Now, some more interesting connections. Although in the movie adaptation all seven walls are made of white stone, in the books, the first wall, also called the City Wall or Othram, was made of black stone. And not just any black stone…

This description comes to us in The Siege of Gondor chapter, where Minas Morgul army brings siege engines to the walls of the city, as first projectiles rain down upon Minas Tirith, its defenders are not impressed:

At first men laughed and did not greatly fear such devices. For the main wall of the City was of great height and marvellous thickness, built ere the power and craft of Númenor waned in exile; and its outward face was like to the Tower of Orthanc, hard and dark and smooth, unconquerable by steel or fire, unbreakable except by some convulsion that would rend the very earth on which it stood.

Minas Tirith’s base level is made of black stone… the same black stone that was used at Orthanc in Isengard. At the time of LOTR, that mighty fortress was held by Saruman. But it was originally built by the Dunedain after Gondor and Arnor have been founded by survivors of the Downfall of Numenor. The Tower of Orthanc is described in this manner in The Two Towers:

To the centre all the roads ran between their chains. There stood a tower of marvellous shape. It was fashioned by the builders of old, who smoothed the Ring of Isengard, and yet it seemed a thing not made by the craft of Men, but riven from the bones of the earth in the ancient torment of the hills. A peak and isle of rock it was, black and gleaming hard: four mighty piers of many-sided stone were welded into one, but near the summit they opened into gaping horns, their pinnacles sharp as the points of spears, keen-edged as knives. Between them was a narrow space, and there upon a floor of polished stone, written with strange signs, a man might stand five hundred feet above the plain. This was Orthanc, the citadel of Saruman, the name of which had (by design or chance) a twofold meaning; for in the Elvish speech orthanc signifies Mount Fang, but in the language of the Mark of old the Cunning Mind.

And in another chapter we read:

They came now to the foot of Orthanc. It was black, and the rock gleamed as if it were wet. The many faces of the stone had sharp edges as though they had been newly chiselled.

It seems that the Dunedain, survivors of an ancient lost civilization, have a curious habit of building megalithic structures of black stone… just like GRRM’s own lost ancient civilization seems to have, be it the Great Empire of the Dawn on some yet unnamed culture. The Known World is filled with structures made of oily black stone, and similar type of material was used at Moat Cailin and other mysterious strongholds whose origins are lost in the mist of time.

I agree that this black oily stone is most likely a reference to the works of H.P. Lovecraft… but so often, we see how GRRM combines many influences to create something new. Mayhaps this black stone, that gleams as if it were wet, partially inspired Moat Cailin, Asshai, the Five Ports and other places? Is it a hint that just like in LOTR black stone is the hallmark of Numenorean constructions, in ASOIAF black stone was the material some lost advanced culture used?

And now, here’s where it gets really interesting.

Just like with Minas Tirith, the foundations of the Hightower are made of black stone…

From The World of Ice and Fire section on Oldtown:

Even more enigmatic to scholars and historians is the great square fortress of black stone that dominates that isle. For most of recorded history, this monumental edifice has served as the foundation and lowest level of the Hightower, yet we know for a certainty that it predates the upper levels of the tower by thousands of years.
Who built it? When? Why? Most maesters accept the common wisdom that declares it to be of Valyrian construction, for its massive walls and labyrinthine interiors are all of solid rock, with no hint of joins or mortar, no chisel marks of any kind, a type of construction that is seen elsewhere, most notably in the dragonroads of the Freehold of Valyria, and the Black Walls that protect the heart of Old Volantis. The dragonlords of Valyria, as is well-known, possessed the art of turning stone to liquid with dragonflame, shaping it as they would, then fusing it harder than iron, steel, or granite.

If indeed this first fortress is Valyrian, it suggests that the dragonlords came to Westeros thousands of years before they carved out their outpost on Dragonstone, long before the coming of the Andals, or even the First Men. If so, did they come seeking trade? Were they slavers, mayhaps seeking after giants? Did they seek to learn the magic of the children of the forest, with their greenseers and their weirwoods? Or was there some darker purpose?

If I were to guess, they were refugees from the Great Empire of the Dawn, Numenor’s ASOIAF equivalent (as I explain in my other essays, there are numerous parallels between House Dayne and the Great Empire and the Dunedain and Numenor). Or perhaps exiles, loyal followers of the Amethyst Empress, the Faithful, whom evil Ar-Pharazon lookalike, the Bloodstone Emperor, forced to flee.

In fact, Minas Tirith (or rather, Minas Anor) was described as a ‘High-tower’ by Elrond in The Fellowship of the Ring:

In the South the realm of Gondor long endured; and for a while its splendour grew, recalling somewhat of the might of Númenor, ere it fell. High towers that people built, and strong places. and havens of many ships; and the winged crown of the Kings of Men was held in awe by folk of many tongues. Their chief city was Osgiliath, Citadel of the Stars, through the midst of which the River flowed. And Minas Ithil they built, Tower of the Rising Moon, eastward upon a shoulder of the Mountains of Shadow; and westward at the feet of the White Mountains Minas Anor they made, Tower of the Setting Sun.

Oldtown is filled with references to Gondorian cities. We have the Citadel of Oldtown which lies on the River Honeywine and its towers and domes are connected with bridges. This is Pate, the point-of-view character from A Feast for Crows prologue, describing the city:

Oldtown was built in stone, and all its streets were cobbled, down to the meanest alley. The city was never more beautiful than at break of day. West of the Honeywine, the Guildhalls lined the bank like a row of palaces. Upriver, the domes and towers of the Citadel rose on both sides of the river, connected by stone bridges crowded with halls and houses. Downstream, below the black marble walls and arched windows of the Starry Sept, the manses of the pious clustered like children gathered round the feet of an old dowager.

Osgiliath means Citadel of the Stars or Citadel of the Starry Host. And just like the Citadel of Oldtown, and the city itself, it was built on both sides of a river, with a great bridge spanning Anduin’s midst. Although Osgiliath was located further upriver than Pelargir, the principal port of Gondor, seafaring ships arrived there as well, as the city was equipped with many quays. The famed Dome of Stars was built in the middle of the Great Bridge of Osgiliath, and there, the greatest of the palantiri seeing-stones was set. In ASOIAF we have the Citadel, also built upon the river, where glass candles are famously stored.

And note how GRRM goes out of his way to contrast Oldtown with King’s Landing, the city of wood and daub-and-wattle. Oldtown is made entirely of stone. Just like Minas Tirith. In fact, Stone-land, and names of this realm in tongues of various nations neighbouring Gondor reflected the fact that the Dunedain built mainly of stone, as their architecture was on a very high level. The Rohirrim called Gondor Stoningland, and the Drúedain, the Woses or the Wild Men of the Woods. They were not featured in the movies, but in the book they play a crucial role, as their chieftain Ghân-buri-Ghân shows secret paths to King Theoden, and thus the Riders of Rohan can arrive just in time to save Minas Tirith besieged by Sauron’s army.

When talking of Gondor, Ghân-buri-Ghân speaks of ‘Stone-houses’, ‘Stone-city’, ‘Stone-folk’. The path through the Druadan Forest that led to Minas Tirith was called ‘Stonewain Valley’, as it was once used by Gondorians to transport stone from their quarries in the White Mountains. The Chieftain notes how in older days so many wains filled with stone were sent to the city that some of his folk thought that ‘they ate stone for food’.

Now, let’s take a closer look at House Hightower. Their banner shows a white tower crowned with flame on smoke grey. This white tower might be a reference to the White Tower of Ecthelion in Minas Tirith, and the crown of some might be a nod to the famous Beacons of Gondor.

When Gondor was founded, its kings and lords had no need for messengers or beacons as they could easily communicate over long distances using the palantiri stones. But Elendil brought only seven of them to Middle-earth from Numenor. Three were kept in Arnor. One was kept in the White Tower of Elostirion west of the Shire, but this stone was unique in that Elendil used it to search for drowned Numenor, but he failed. One stone was kept at Amon Sûl (Weathertop) and another at Annúminas, Arnorian capital. Both were lost where Arvedui, the last King of Arnor, was in shipwreck.

In Gondor, one stone was held at Minas Ithil and it was captured by Sauron. Orthanc had its own palantir as well, and this one was used by Saruman after he was granted Isengard by one of the Stewards of Gondor who was unable to garrison it. The stone of Minas Anor was kept in a secret room atop the White Tower of Minas Tirith, and it was this palantir Denethor used. The stone of Osgiliath was the greatest of all seven, but it was lost during the civil war between Castamir the Usurper and Eldacar.

Here I’ll note that Lord Leyton Hightower, head of the house, is quite similar to Denethor, Lord of Minas Tirith, as he never leaves his tower and studies the heavens and perhaps other mysteries. Since Denethor used the palantir of Minas Anor, this makes me wonder if Lord Leyton hold one of the glass candles as well. But Lord Leyton has much in common with Saruman as well, and his title ‘the Voice of Oldtown’ might be a reference to the powerful ‘Voice of Saruman’, which the wizard used to influence and even manipulate others.

And when I look at yet another epithet of Lord Hightower, the Beacon of the South, I immediately think of the Beacons of Gondor, which was the Southern Kingdom of the Dunedain.

This is Pippin speaking to Gandalf, as they ride into Gondor:

‘Look! Fire, red fire! Are there dragons in this land? Look, there is another!’

For answer Gandalf cried aloud to his horse. ‘On, Shadowfax! We must hasten. Time is short. See! The beacons of Gondor are alight, calling for aid. War is kindled. See, there is the fire on Amon Dîn, and flame on Eilenach; and there they go speeding west: Nardol, Erelas, Min-Rimmon, Calenhad, and the Halifirien on the borders of Rohan.’ (…)

Pippin became drowsy again and paid little attention to Gandalf telling him of the customs of Gondor, and how the Lord of the City had beacons built on the tops of outlying hills along both borders of the great range, and maintained posts at these points where fresh horses were always in readiness to bear his errand-riders to Rohan in the North, or to Belfalas in the South. ‘It is long since the beacons of the North were lit,’ he said; ‘and in the ancient days of Gondor they were not needed, for they had the Seven Stones.’ Pippin stirred uneasily.

The Hightower is one giant Beacon of the South. And since one of its purposes is to warn against the coming of the Ironborn, to guard the Reach from its foes, I’m wondering if this theme of guarding connecting with House Hightower, whose ancestral Valyrian steel sword is called Vigilance, is a reference to Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard.

What is the point of all those parallels and references? GRRM’s homage to one of his favourite fantasy locations? Or perhaps, a foreshadowing of future events in ASOIAF? Or, a hint about the past?

Was Oldtown founded by survivors or colonists from the Great Empire or some other ancient civilization? Was it attacked by Azor Ahai? After all, the first foe to ever to cut his way into Minas Tirith was none other than Lord of the Nazgul, the Witch-king of Angmar… Azor Ahai impersonator:

In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl. A great black shape against the fires beyond he loomed up, grown to a vast menace of despair. In rode the Lord of the Nazgûl, under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed, and all fled before his face.

All save Gandalf, who stood his ground and defied the Ringwraith:

‘You cannot enter here,’ said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. ‘Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!’

The Black Rider flung back his hood, and behold! he had a kingly crown; and yet upon no head visible was it set. The red fires shone between it and the mantled shoulders vast and dark. From a mouth unseen there came a deadly laughter.

‘Old fool!’ he said. ‘Old fool! This is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!’ And with that he lifted high his sword and flames ran down the blade.

Gandalf did not move.

And in that very moment, away behind in some courtyard of the City, a cock crowed. Shrill and clear he crowed, recking nothing of wizardry or war, welcoming only the morning that in the sky far above the shadows of death was coming with the dawn. And as if in answer there came from far away another note. Horns, horns, horns. In dark Mindolluin’s sides they dimly echoed. Great horns of the North wildly blowing. Rohan had come at last.

Do we see an echo of this scene in TWOIAF where Maester Yandel wonders who fought whom at the Battle Isle in what is now Oldtown? Was it invaded my some fellow with a flaming sword who was stopped by a wizard? A greenseer perhaps?

Or, is ASOIAF version of the Siege of Gondor yet to come, with Euron’s upcoming attack on Oldtown? After all, Euron’s sigil is basically the Eye of Sauron: ‘The remnants of a banner drooped from her stern, smoke-stained and ragged. The charge was one Sam had never seen before: a red eye with a black pupil, beneath a black iron crown supported by two crows’. Minas Tirith would have been assaulted by the Corsairs of Umbar fleet, but it was captured by Aragorn and his Grey Company and used to ferry his men to join the Battle of Pelennor Fields. (I’ll also note that Siege of Meereen might contain some nods to the Siege of Minas Tirith as well, since in LOTR orcs flung heads of Gondorian soldiers captured at Osgiliath over the walls to spread terror and lower the morale in the city, while in Meereen corpses are fired from trebuchets).

Maybe Oldtown will be saved by ‘returning king’ Aegon and his Golden Company, paralleling Aragorn and the Grey Company? Or will we have a twist, with Euron winning where Sauron lost? The Winds of Winter might answer some of those questions, but for now, we can only speculate and craft theories… but isn’t this possibility one of the things that make ASOIAF so great?

After all, what can be sweeter to us, fantasy fans, than immersing ourselves in those rich, beautiful words, that seem so real… or as George R.R. Martin said ‘alive as dreams are alive, more real than real … for a moment at least … that long magic moment before we wake’.

Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith


Thanks for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed this piece, you might also like my other essays where I explore parallels between the worlds of Martin and Tolkien, and search for references to The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion in ASOIAF. So far I’ve published Episode I which talks about how, in my opinion, GRRM approaches Tolkien and lists references to his Legendarium in ASOIAF names, events and places. Episode II talks about Long Nights which appear in works of both authors, and among many other things, how Lightbringer might have been inspired by certain swords of Middle-earth. Sansa & Lúthien is a standalone episode which focuses on parallels between the two, and there’s also my The Brief History of Gondor, Its Rise, Zenith, Decline and Fall of Kingship.


Bluetiger by Sanrixian

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: A Brief History of Gondor

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Extra by Bluetiger

A Brief History of Gondor, Its Rise, Zenith, Decline and Fall of Kingship


The history of Gondor proper begins with the arrival of Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anarion, to Middle-earth after the Downfall of Numenor, in the year 3319 of the Second Age. But to gain a better understanding of this kingdom’s remarkable success in its early days, when it quickly became the principal regional power, we have to go back in time as far as the sixth century of that age, when the first ship bearing the sails of Numenor landed in the Grey Havens. This ship was named Entulessë (Return) and its captain was Numenorean Lord Vëantur, the grand admiral. (In the Numenorean realm, the chief naval officer was named Captain of the King’s Ships). He was received by Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor and Círdan the Shipwright in the Grey Havens. Then, in the land of Eriador, between the Blue Mountains in the west and the Misty Mountains in the east, the admiral met twelve emissaries from the primitive (in comparison with the Numenoreans) tribes of Middle-earth, who came to see their distant Dunedain relatives, returned from the ‘death in the deeps of the sea’ after nearly six hundred years. For the first time in centuries, the Dunedain of Numenor, came into contact with other human cultures.

The Numenoreans descended from the Edain tribes and houses of the First Age, who entered the land of Beleriand in the north-east of Middle-earth, allied themselves with the Elves who were battling Morgoth, the first Dark Lord, there – and remained faithful, for some of the Easterling tribes followed the Edain and also joined the Elves in their efforts against Morgoth, only to turn their cloaks at the most crucial moment, on the offset of Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. There the Easterlings backstabbed the Edain and the Elves, though some of their kin attempted to stop them, and paid greatly for this loyalty, as they were later mostly wiped out by Morgoth in retaliation.

When the Valar dispatched their hosts to Beleriand at the end of the First Age to deal with their traitor brother Morgoth, the land was devastated in the ensuing conflict. The realm was shattered and broken, and soon the Great Sea rushed in to drown what remained of it, so in the end only several scattered isles remained of the mighty Beleriand. Now that Morgoth was defeated, his minions were fleeing to the east, led by his chief lieutenant Sauron. The Easterlings were fleeing as well. Many of their tribes came into Eriador and there chanced upon the Pre-Numenoreans nations related to the Edain. These tribes were primitive herders without any unity, thus Morgoth’s former allies easily conquered them, spreading terror and darkness in the eastern Middle-earth. Thus when admiral Vëantur met the twelve envoys of those Pre-Numenoreans, they were hardly recognisable as having any connection with the ancient Edain. Thousands of years later, the Steward Denethor II of Gondor (who came from an ancient house of Numenorean descent) spoke of those Pre-Numenoreans, when he mentioned that he will burn himself on a pyre, as was the custom of the ‘heathen kings before ever a ship sailed hither from the West’.

* Men of Darkness and Men of Shadow were the generic terms for human nations that fell under the influence of the Dark Lords, Morgoth in the First Age, and Sauron in the Second and Third. Among those tribes were the Easterlings, the Haradrim, the Dunlendings (who later allied themselves with Saruman), the Corsairs of Umbar and Sauron’s slaves in the land of Nurn in Mordor. But even some of the Numenoreans were considered Men of Shadow, like those of the King’s Men party who survived the Downfall and lived in the south, notably in the Haven of Umbar, and waged war on Gondor. Three of the Ringwraiths were once princes and lords of Numenor, the stories tell us.

The Valar rewarded the faithful Edain of Beleriand with an isle called Elenna, located closer to Valinor, the Undying Land, than to Middle-earth. There they founded the Kingdom of Numenor, and its rulers came from the dynasty started by Elros Tar-Minyatur, the twin brother of Elrond Half-elven. The sons of Earendil who had the blood of the Edain and of the Eldar in their veins were allowed to choose their fate – that of men, or that of the elves. Elrond chose the Eldar, and joined King Gil-galad in the realm of Lindon, to the east of drowned Beleriand, becoming his vice-regent and banner-bearer. Elros became a great lord among the Edain, and when they sailed westwards, following the bright Star of Earendil which showed them the way, he was their leader. Numenoreans were blessed with life spans several times longer than those of other humans, and members of the Royal House lived longer still due to their partially elven descent. Elros, for example, lived to the age of five hundred, though this was extraordinary even among the Numenoreans who usually lived for between 300 and 350 years (his was the longest lifespan of all Dunedain). As King Tar-Minyatur he ruled Numenor for 410 years, and when he died, his son and heir Vardamir was already 381 years old and soon abdicated in favour of his son Amandil. (Dúnedain – plural form of the word Dúnadan – means ‘Men of the West’ in Sindarin tongue, and was used to describe the people of Numenor. Later it referred to those of Numenorean descent, like Aragorn).

At first, the Numenoreans were great friends of the Elves, who shared their knowledge and lore with them, brining many gifts from Valinor on their ship, and the Valar blessed them with longevity, good health, wisdom, height greater than that of other humans. The Dunedain enjoyed peace and prosperity, far removed from the dangers of Middle-earth. Yet the Valar decided that even they should not come to the Undying Lands, which were not meant to be the dwelling place of the mortals. When the Valar found out about the unrest among the Numenoreans, they sent envoys to the isle, explaining that the Undying Lands will not make men immortal, and that death is not a punishment, but their fate as decreed by Eru Iluvatar, the God whose plans even the Valar do not fully understand. In their early centuries, Numenoreans accepted this Ban of the Valar – that no ship from Numenor shall so far to the west that they could not see the coast of their realm. Instead, they turned towards Middle-earth, and other lands, becoming great sailors and explorers.

The first of those mariners, as it was said a while ago, was Vëantur. In the following decades and centuries, many Numenorean ships landed in Middle-earth. At first, they were benevolent explorers, teachers and traders who shared their lore and knowledge with more primitive nations (now Numenor was the most advanced human civilization Arda has seen thus far). But by the time of the thirteenth king, Tar-Atanamir called the Great, the Numenoreans became greedy and prideful, exacting tribute from Middle-earth tribes, building coastal fortresses and fortifying their havens. Later, they sought to subjugate those nations which they deemed lesser. In The Peoples of Middle-earth, the 12th volume of the monumental book series The History of Middle-earth, a tale entitled Tal-Elmar can be found. It tells of a boy of one of those Pre-Numenorean tribes, who lived in the town of Agar in the Second Age. One day, he saw ships landing on the shore close to the town, was captured by taken before their captain (unbeknownst to the boy, they were Numenoreans) who revealed that his soldiers were about to conquer the land of Agar and kill anyone who would stand in their way.

The reign of Tar-Atanamir the Great was the zenith of Numenorean might and imperial dominance over Middle-earth. At the time of his successor Tar-Ancalimon, the Numenoreans grew so arrogant that they spoke against the Elves and the Valar, rejecting their friendship and believing that should they sail to the Undying Lands, they would become immortal themselves. Two parties were created, the King’s Men who supported the royal policy of hostility towards the Elves and military expansion, and the Faithful who were Elf-friends.

The Faithful had the support of the Lords of Andúnië, whose house was among the most prominent Numenorean noble families. This house was founded by Lord Valandil, whose mother Silmariën was the eldest daughter of Tar-Elendil, the fourth king. At that time Numenor followed agnatic primogeniture. (this was changed by Tar-Aldarion, the sixth king, who wanted his daughter Tar-Ancalimë to be his heiress. She became the first Ruling Queen of Numenor). Silmariën’s younger brother Tar-Meneldur became the fifth monarch instead. But although Tar-Elendil was unwilling to change the law of Numenor, which was highly respected, he sought to, in a way, compensate his daughter by giving her the Ring of Barahir, the famous heirloom that belonged to their house since the First Age, when it was given to Barahir, Beren’s father by King Finrod Felagund of Nargothrond. (I mentioned the Ring of Barahir and its role in the story of Beren and Luthien in my previous standalone essay). And for her son Valandil and his descendants, Tar-Elendil created the Lordship of Andúnië which was among the major ports and cities of Numenor. Its Lords were held in high regard, and sat on the Council of the Sceptre which consisted of lords from the six regions of the isle and the royal heir.

The eighteenth Lord of Andúnië was Amandil, who in his youth was a close friend of Ar-Pharazôn, the last King of Numenor. Pharazôn sailed to Middle-earth to take part in the wars the King’s Men faction was ever waging there and there became a famous general. When he returned after many victories, he was seen as a hero and quickly became popular among the Numenoreans. (He showed his generosity by sharing the wealth he accumulated in Middle-earth, and this certainly helped as well). At that time the king was Tar-Palantir, who rejected the ways of his predecessors and wanted to reform the isle, and regain the friendship of the Valar and the Elves. He accomplished little, though, for the King’s Men (this name now seemed ironic) opposed him. When he died, he left his daughter Míriel as the only heiress. By law she should have inherited the sceptre, but instead, her cousin Pharazôn married her (forcibly) and usurped the royal power for himself.

He kept Amandil on his council, though he was one of the Faithful and now their part was seen as traitors to Numenor who would sell it to the Elves. Ar-Pharazon the Golden, as he was called, sailed to Middle-earth with a vast fleet, and marched his army towards Mordor itself. It seemed that the military might of the Numenoreans was so great that even Sauron’s legions abandoned him, and he came alone to humble himself before the king and bend the knee. Ar-Pharazon took him to Numenor as a hostage, yet soon, Sauron sat on the Royal Council and ruled the isle in all but name, manipulating the king. The Faithful were persecuted, and some were sacrificed in the temple dedicated to Morgoth which Sauron had constructed. Now the Numenoreans were tyrants who conquered and enslaved the peoples of Middle-earth. Amandil, who was dismissed from the council, was horrified when he found out that Sauron convinced the king to invade Valinor itself and there win eternal life and wrestle the dominion of Arda from the Valar. He told his son Elendil to prepare ships, gather what remained of the Faithful and flee from Numenor. Then he boarded his own ship and sailed west, to ask the Valar for help and plead with them to forgive the rebellious Numenoreans. Amandil, the last Lord of Andúnië, was never seen again.

In the end, a Great Armada sailed westwards from Numenor, led by King Ar-Pharazon the Golden. They landed in the Undying Lands, but then the Valar asked Iluvatar himself to intervene. And thus, the mighty Numenor was drowned and is no more. But Elendil and his sons Isildur and Anarion were delivered from the Downfall, and their nine ships landed in Middle-earth. There they settled and sought to preserve what remained of the Numenorean civilization.


Elendil founded the Arnor, the Northern Kingdom of the Dunedain, in the land of Eriador. It already had a considerable Numenorean population, the descendants of colonists who settled there over centuries. One of their havens was Vinyalondë (New Haven) also called Lond Daer. Eriador was close to the elven realm of Lindon, and thus the King’s Men, who hated the elves, built their own havens far in the south. Their principal port was built around the natural haven of Umbar, south of Gondor. The lands that would become Gondor were very fertile, but too close to the elven settlements for the liking of the King’s Men. Thus, its population consisted mainly the Faithful who also founded colonies in Middle-earth during the Second Age, especially after the kings of Numenor have began to persecute them. Yet unlike the King’s Men, they never sought to conquer and oppress the natives. Their chief port city was Pelargir, the Garth of the Royal Ships. When Elendil landed in Middle-earth, those Faithful colonists accepted him as their ruler, the High King of the Two Kingdoms, Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south. But the former King’s Men who survived the Downfall of Numenor in their havens, were still hostile towards the Dunedain realms, and this enmity would never cease.

Isildur and Anarion ruled the realm of Gondor together. Isildur’s city was Minas Ithil (Tower of the Moon) close to the border with Mordor, in the land of Ithilien (of the Moon). Anarion built Ithil’s twin city, Minas Anor (Tower of the Sun), in the land of Anorien. The capital of Gondor was Osgiliath, the city built on both sides of the Great River Anduin. The river was spanned with a great bridge, and in its midst stood the great hall known as the Dome of Stars, where the thrones of Isildur and Anarion stood side by side. The Dome housed one of the palantíri seeing-stones as well. Minas Ithil guarded Osgiliath from the east, and Anor from the west.


Map of Gondor by Smeagol, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Gondor consisted of many regions and fiefdoms, such as: Ithilien, Anorien, Ethir Anduin (the Mouths of Anduin, the Great River’s delta), Lamedon (the valleys through which rivers Ringló and Ciril ran) and its sub-region Ringló Vale, Morthond (the narrow vale of the River Morthond – Blackroot – which flowed south of Erech), Pinnath Gelin (the Green Hills between rivers Morthond and Lefnui), Lebennin (the land of the Fiver Rivers between Anduin and Gilrain, where the port of Pelargir was located), Lossarnach (the fiefdom closest to Minas Tirith in Anorien, known as the Vale of Flowers), Anfalas (also known as Langstrand, the coastal region in the western part of the realm), Belfalas and Dor-en-Ernil, The Land of the Prince, ruled by princes of Numenorean descent. The land which became the Kingdom of Rohan was a Gondorian province as well, and its name was Calenardhon, the Green Province. At the zenith of its territorial expansion Gondor held many other lands as well, and many lesser kings and princes became its tributaries. But the lands listed above were what made Gondor proper.

The Return of the King gives us some information about those fiefdoms when it describes their lords and their levies they have sent to strengthen the defense of Minas Tirith. Forlong, called the Fat, was the Lord of Lossarnach who entered the city with two hundred well-armed soldiers bearing battle-axes. Hirluin came from Pinnath Gelin with three hundred men. Duinhir, Lord of the Blackroot Vale, and his sons Duilin and Derufin brought five hundred bowmen. Dervorin, the son of the Lord of Ringló Vale, arrived with three hundred men, all foot. Golsagil, Lord of Anfalas, entered the city leading a long line of men, but they were herdsmen and hunters and villagers, poorly armed, with the exception of Lord Golsagil household guards. Hillmen from Lamedon arrived without any captain (as Angbor, Lord of Lamedon remained in his land to defend it from the Corsairs) and from Ethir Anduin only hundred sailors came. Other fiefdoms were unable to spare any soldiers to the defence of the capital, as they were themselves threatened by Sauron’s southern allies, the Corsairs of Umbar and the Haradrim. And even those fiefdoms which sent some aid could dispatch only a fraction of their strength (for example, the people of Minas Tirith expected Forlong to come with 2000 soldiers, not 200). But Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, came to the aid of Minas Tirith with a company of knights and seven hundred men-at-arms. Still, the army of Gondor at the end of the Third Age was but a shadow of its former strength. Prince Imrahil noted that the Army of the West with which Aragorn marched against Sauron would be considered only a vanguard of the Gondorian army in the elder days. This host consisted of 6000 men on foot and 1000 horsemen (and was fielded by two kingdoms, Gondor and Rohan).



Shield of Gondor by Kaiser 16, Wikimedia Commons, (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Elendil the Faithful, the High King of the Two Kingdoms, was considered the first King of Gondor. But because he remained in the north and directly ruled over Arnor from his capital at the city of Annúminas, his sons Isildur and Anarion co-ruled the southern realm. In the year 3429 of the Second Age Sauron decided that his armies are ready to combat the Dunedain, who arrived in Middle-earth after fleeing Numenor in the year 3319. (Sauron, being immortal, survived the Downfall of Numenor and his spirit flew over the waves to Mordor, where he was reunited with the Great Ring). Minas Ithil was sacked and Isildur was forced to flee, sailing down Anduin, and then to Arnor where he joined his father and King Gil-galad. Meanwhile, Anarion’s forces were besieged in Minas Anor and Osgiliath for five years until the army of the Last Alliance of Men and Elves marched east and relieved them. Later Anarion joined the siege of Barad-dûr in Mordor, where he was killed. Elendil and Gil-galad were slain but Sauron was defeated, at last temporarily, and Isildur cut the One Ring from the Dark Lord’s hand.

As Elendil’s heir, Isildur claimed the High Kingship of the Dunedain realms, thus he is numbered as second among the Kings of Gondor. Isildur stayed in Gondor for some time, as evidenced by the scroll describing the properties of the Great Ring. As he explained in the foreword: ‘The Great Ring shall go now to be an heirloom of the North Kingdom; but records of it shall be left in Gondor, where also dwell the heirs of Elendil, lest a time come when the memory of these great matters shall grow dim’. Gandalf later found that scroll in the library of Minas Tirith, and the knowledge he gained from Isildur’s writing confirmed his suspicions that Bilbo’s ring was in fact the One.

Then Isildur left Gondor with his three sons, leaving the governance of the realm in the hands of Isildur’s son Meneldil. Isildur and his sons were killed during the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, where orcs ambushed his party as it was riding north. Isildur’s youngest son Valandil, who was a small child when the Last Alliance war started and was left with his mother at Rivendell was crowned the next King of Arnor when the news of Isildur’s death arrived in the north.

But in Gondor, Meneldil claimed full kingship and royal power, and thus the Dunedain realms were united no more. The fourth king of Gondor was his son Cemendur, who was in turn followed by Eärendil (5th) and then by Earendil’s heir Anardil (6th). At this time Gondor enjoyed peace, as Sauron was gone (only for a time, as it was later revealed, and Gondor’s enemies were weakened after their defeat during the Last Alliance campaign).

The seventh monarch, Ostoher, rebuilt Minas Anor and ever since, the royal court would move there in summer, though Osgiliath was still the capital. It was during his reign that the realm was troubled by invaders – the Easterlings – again. His son Tarostar repelled this invasion, and thus he was known as Rómendacil (Victor of the East) when he succeeded Ostoher as king. After one-and-forty years have passed since his great triumph, he was slain battling another Easterling horde. His son, the eight king Turambar (who was most likely named in honor of the Edain hero of the First Age, Túrin Turambar) avenged his father’s death and in his days, the border of Gondor was pushed further east. Turambar was followed by his son Atanatar I, and then by grandson Siriondil. Of their reigns little is known.

Siriondil’s son was Tarannon who extended Gondor’s dominion on the coasts and developed the Gondorian navy. As king, he assumed the royal name of Falastur (Lord of the Coasts) to commemorate his conquests. It appears that Tarannun Falastur attempted to reconcile the Dunedain of Gondor with the so-called Black Numenoreans, the descendants of colonists from the King’s Men faction in the far south. He married a woman of that nation named Berúthiel. Theirs was a loveless marriage for political reasons, and in the end, sent her back to Umbar as an exile. Aragorn mentions a legend about Queen Berúthiel’s cats the folk of Gondor still remembered at the end of the Third Age. According to that tale, the Queen hated cats, yet they would always follow her. She used nine black cats to spy on the people of Gondor, and one white to spy on the others. Tarannon Falastur, the first of the four Sea-kings (named so because their relied on Gondorian navy, which they greatly expanded, to conquer the lands of the south) died childless and was followed by the son of his brother Tarciryan named Eärnil I, the second Sea-king.

Eärnil repaired the ancient (and already crumbling) haven of Pelargir and besieged the Haven of Umbar, the principal holdout of the Black Numenoreans by land and sea. (It seems that the people of Umbar were not pleased with how Tarannon treated his wife Berúthiel, who was one of them as the war broke out soon after Tarannon’s death). Eärnil managed to conquer Umbar and turned it into major naval port for Gondorian royal fleet, but he was soon lost at sea where a great storm hit his ships close to the shores of Umbar. His heir was Ciryandil, the fourteenth King of Gondor and third of the Ship-kings. Ciryandil’s reign was troubled by wars with the people of Umbar who fled their city when Eärnil took it and hid among the Haradrim tribes in the south. Now they led large hosts of Haradrim warriors again Gondorian soldiers at Umbar. The haven was besieged and the king died fighting the Haradrim in their land of Haradwaith.

Ciryandil’s son Ciryaher waited until a new army was trained in Gondor and only then sailed to Umbar, landing his great hosts and scattering the Haradrim who were besieging the fortress for years. Then he marched into Harad itself, crushed the Haradrim armies and forced their kings and princes to become tributaries of Gondor. Their sons were taken to Gondor where they remained as hostages. Thus Ciryaher became known as Hyarmendacil, Victor of the South. He was the last of the Ship-kings. Hyarmendacil’s reign was the zenith of Gondor’s power. The map placed below shows the vastness of the Southern Kingdom at this time:


Map of Gondor by Smeagol, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Hyarmendacil’s son was Atanatar II Alcarin (the Glorious). His reign was a period of splendour and luxury for Gondor, but it was largely thanks to his father’s efforts. Atanatar cared little about the governance of the realm, indulging in earthly pleasures. This was the zenith of Gondorian power, and the beginning of its decline. For the first time, the watch upon the border with Mordor, which seemed abandoned and defeated, was neglected.

Atanatar II was followed by his son Narmacil, who was similar to his father in this respect that he preferred luxury and pleasures to his royal duty. Thus, he named Prince Minalcar, the energetic son of his younger brother Calmacil, Regent of Gondor. It was Minalcar who led the army against the Easterlings and dealt them a crushing defeat. After this victory, Regent Minalcar was called Rómendacil, Victor of the East. (Which was also the title of Tarostar, the eight king).

When Narmacil died, childless, he was succeeded by his brother Calmacil who became the eighteenth King of Gondor. Calmacil was too old to assume full royal duties, and thus his son Minalcar still served as Regent of Gondor. When he died, Minalcar Rómendacil II was proclaimed nineteenth monarch of the Southern Kingdom. It was him who built the monumental statues of Anarion and Isildur known as the Pillars of Kings at Argonath, under which the Fellowship of the Ring would sail centuries later.

Rómendacil II wanted to strengthen the bonds between his people and the Northmen, who were descendants of those of the Edain of the First Age who never sailed to Numenor. These Northmen settled in the land of Rhovanion, in the Vales of Anduin, and later would found the realms of Rohan and Dale. Rómendacil II allowed many of their warriors to join the Gondorian army, even as high officers (although some Gondorians looked down on them).

He sent his son and heir, prince Valacar as an ambassador to prince Vidugavia of the Northmen, who called himself King of Rhovanion. There Valacar fell in love Vidugavia’s daughter Vidumavi and they were married. (It is worth to mention that King Vidugavia’s descendant Marhwini became the first Lord of the Éothéod, and this people later came to settle in the Gondorian province of Calenardhon, which became known as the Kingdom of Rohan).

Valacar followed his father as King of Gondor, and he was the twentieth monarch of that realm. When he returned to Gondor, his wife went with him, just like their son named Vinitharya in the tongue of the Northmen. Many nobles of Gondor were unwilling to accept such child as the heir to the throne, as they were afraid that by mingling with ‘lesser men’ the longevity and majesty of the monarchs will be diminished. Thus when Valacar died and Vinitharya, bearing the royal name of Eldacar, became the twenty-first ruler of Gondor, the civil war remembered as the Kin-strife began. Eldacar was besieged in Osgiliath, and the rebels under Castamir (grandson of Calimehtar who was the younger brother of the eighteenth king, Calmacil) burned down the city. The great Dome of Stars was broken, and its palantir was lost in the river. Eldacar managed to escape from the burning city and hid among the Northmen in Rhovanion. Meanwhile, Castamir (later remembered as Castamir the Usurper) was crowned in Gondor.

Castamir, the twenty-second king, had the support of the people of the coast and the great Gondorian havens of Pelargir and Umbar, as he was the Captain of Ships (basically grand admiral). Yet soon it became apparent that Castamir was a vain and cruel men – the slaughter he ordered in Osgiliath was seen as ‘beyond the demands of war’, and later he cruelly executed Eldacar’s son Ornendil. He lost popularity among the folk of Minas Anor and other fiefdoms as well, since he cared little about anything but his fleet, and even planned to move the royal capital to Pelargir. After ten years of Castamir’s misrule Eldacar returned, leading a great army of the Northmen and many Gondorians joined him. In the land of Lebennin Castamir’s host met them, and in the bloody battle that ensued, Eldacar reclaimed the kingship and avenged his son by personally slaying the usurper. But Castamir’s sons hid in Pelargir, and later sailed to Umbar which became a lair of corsairs, pirates, outlaws and all enemies of Gondor.

In the aftermath of the civil war, many regions of Gondor were depopulated and thus many Northmen came from Rhovanion to replenish the Southern Kingdom’s population. As it turned out, mingling with ‘lesser men’ did not weaken the Dunedain, and it was concluded that their lifespans became gradually shorter because so many centuries have passed since Numenor, their blessed land, was lost.

Eldacar’s younger son Aldamir became the twenty-third monarch, since Eldacar’s oldest son and heir Ornendil was slain by the Usurper. As king, Aldamir warred with the Haradrim who, influenced by the Corsairs who once again held Umbar, rebelled against the crown. He died in battle in the year 1540 of the Third Age. The twenty-fourth king of Gondor was Vinyarion, Aldamir’s son, who avenged his father and won a great victory against the Haradrim. For this reason he was called Hyarmendacil II, The Victor of the South, just like Ciryaher who was the fifteenth king.

Vinyarion’s son Minardil was slain while visiting the haven of Pelargir. The Corsairs of Umbar found out about this from their spies and unexpectedly attacked the port city. Their leaders were Castamir’s grandsons Angamaitë and Sangahyando. Minardil’s son, the twenty-sixth king Telemnar was still preparing the royal fleet to combat the Corsairs and avenge his father when the Great Plague of 1636, brought by the ‘evil wind from the east’. In Rhovanion, half of the population died and thus in later centuries the realm was unable to defend itself from invaders from the east. Lands as far as Shire were affected. In Gondor, tens of thousands, and perhaps even hundred of thousands, perished. The king and all his children were among them and the capital city of Osgiliath was depopulated and deserted. For the first time since the War of the Last Alliance, the watch over the borders of Gondor was fully abandoned, as the army was decimated.

Telemnar was followed by Tarandor, who was the son of the late king’s younger brother Minastan. It was whim who relocated the capital of the realm from the devastated Osgiliath, which never truly recovered from damage caused by its siege and sack by Castamir the Usurper and now suffered heavily from the plague, to Minas Anor. His son was Telumehtar, who remembered the death of Minardil and the danger posed by the Corsairs, now led by the vengeful pretenders from the line of Castamir.

In the year 1810 Telumehtar stormed Umbar. Castamir’s last descendants were killed and the city was one again part of Gondor, though not for long. After his victory the king named himself Telumehtar Umbardacil, The Victor over Umbar. As long as he lived, the haven remained loyal to the crown, but soon after his death it was captured by the Haradrim.

Umbardacil’s son Narmacil II faced a new threat from the east, a confederacy of tribes known as the Wainriders, who were secretly stirred by Sauron’s envoys. The king rode forth to meet them, and was slain in the Battle of the Plains, where the Wainriders overcame the joint forces of Gondor and the Northmen. Gondorian border was withdrawn to Anduin the Great River and the hills of Emyn Muil. The people of Rhovanion were enslaved but during the reign of Narmacil’s son Calimehtar, they rose in rebellion.

The Wainriders were defeated in the Battle of Dagorlad, where Gondorian army joined the Northmen warriors of Marhwini, Lord of the Éothéod who were the ancestors of Rohirrim horselords. This victory won Gondor over four decades of peace. It was king Calimehtar who built the first White Tower atop Minas Tirith’s seventh level.

Calimehtar’s son Ondoher, the thirty-first king of Gondor, sought to strengthen the bonds between Gondor and the Dunedain kingdom of the north, and thus his daughter Fíriel married prince Arvedui, the heir of king Araphant of Arthedain.

In the north, Arnor remained united for ten generations. Its first king was Elendil, followed by Isildur. Both of them retained the title of the High King of the Two Kingdoms. But after Isildur’s death at Gladden, the son of his brother Anarion, Meneldil of Gondor, declared his realm fully independent. Thus, Isildur’s young son Valandil became the third King of Arnor, but not the third High King of both realms. After Valandil, seven kings from the line of Isildur reigned: Eldacar, Arantar, Tarcil, Tarondor, Valandur, Elendur and Eärendur.

After Eärendur’s death in the year 861 of the Third Age, the realm was divided into three smaller kingdoms, Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur, each ruled by one of his sons. The eldest son, Amlaith, became the first King of Arthedain. After Amlaith, fourteen kings from his line ruled over Arthedain: Beleg, Mallor, Celepharn, Celebrimbor, Malvegil, Argeleb I, Arveleg I, Araphor, Argeleb II, Arvegil, Arveleg II, Araval, Araphant and Arvedui. By the time of king Argeleb I the royal lines of both Cardolan and Rhudaur died out. Cardolan remained an ally of Arthedain, but Rhudaur fell under the control of warlords who supported Angmar, the realm to the north of Arnor where the Witch-king reigned. It was later revealed that this Witch-king was in fact one of the Ringwraiths, dispatched to the north by Sauron with a mission to slowly erode the power of the Northern Kingdom, so it would be unable to aid Gondor when Sauron openly returned to Mordor.

Thus, Argeleb, the seventh king of Arthedain, and all his successors claimed the royal title of the King of Arnor once again and added the royal prefix ‘Ar-‘ to their names. King Ondoher of Gondor realised that there was some dark power secretly manipulating the events, causing plagues and invasions to weaken the Dunedain and Gondor and Arnor have to fight together if they meant to survive. But when Angmar invaded Arthedain, Ondoher was unable to send help as at that very time a grand horde of the Wainriders attacked his own borders. The Wainriders were attacking Gondor’s northern marches while the Haradrim and other tribes harassed the southern border. Thus, the royal army had to be split to meet both enemies. Ondoher assumed the command of the Northern Army and rode forth with his sons Artamir and Faramir. Prince Adrahil of Dol Amroth commanded his right wing, while the son of Ondher’s sister Minohtar was Captain of the Right Wing. In the year 1944 the Northern Army was crushed and slaughtered, in the battle remembered as the Disaster of the Morannon. In the end, the king and his sons were slain, just like Minohtar who would have claimed the crown had he lived long enough.

But concurrently, the Southern Army led by general Eärnil, won a great victory, annihilating the Haradrim forces in Ithilien. When he got word about the disaster in the north from Prince Adrahil, he rushed to Morannon, gathered the survivors of the Northern Army and attacked the Wainriders. They were completely unaware of his coming, busy with plundering and celebrating. In the Battle of the Camps, Eärnil’s vanguard was enough to crush the enemy. Their wains and tents were put to torch and even those who managed to slip through the encircling Gondorian army, drowned in the Dead Marshes.

With the realm kingless and with no obvious heirs in sight, it was up to the Steward Pelendur and the Council to determine who was to follow Ondoher. King Arvedui of Arthedain wrote the Steward, pointing out that his wife Fíriel was Ondoher’s only surviving child, and by the right and ancient law of Numenor, she should be crowned Ruling Queen of Gondor, and Arvedui its king. But under Pelendur’s influence, the council responded that in Gondor, only males from the line of Anarion could inherit the throne. Arvedui disagreed, claiming that while it was true that this ancient law of absolute primogeniture was not always followed in Gondor, it nevertheless existed and was known among their Numenorean ancestors as well.

Speaking to the council, Steward Pelendur explained that in his view, in Numenor it was peaceful enough to have women as rulers, but in Gondor, a male king to command the armies was needed. But to Arvedui, they sent no response. It is worth to mention that Aragorn Elessar’s claim to the throne came from the fact that he was a descendant of Arvedui and Fíriel’s son Aranarth, the first Chieftain of the Dunedain.

In the end, the victorious general Eärnil was crowned king Eärnil II. He came from the royal House of Anarion, as his father was Siriondil, son of Calimmacil, son of Arciryas who was the younger brother of Narmacil II, the twenty-ninth monarch. Eärnil was a wise man, thus he sent envoys to Arvedui of Arthedain, explaining that his ascension to the throne was in the best interest of Gondor, but he would not forget the brotherhood of Gondor and Arnor, nor deny help to the Northern Realm. When he heard that the Witch-king of Angmar was marching against Arthedain, to destroy it once and for all, he gathered a great fleet and sent all soldiers he could spare north under the command of his son and heir Eärnur.

Yet when Eärnur landed in the Grey Havens, leading a great host, he found out that he has arrived too late. Arvedui’s capital of Fornost was sacked, and the king was forced to flee and seek shelter among Lossoth, a tribe living on the shores of the Ice-bay of Forochel. There he survived the cruel winter, but when Círdan the Shipwright dispatched a ship to bring the king to the safety of the Grey Havens, a mighty wind came from the north and the ship broke upon ice. All on board, king Arvedui among them, were lost.

Upon hearing this, Eärnur and his soldiers joined forces with Círdan and marched against the Witch-king, who now made his seat in Fornost which he conquered. There, a great battle was fought. Angmar’s army was smashed and the Witch-king fled north, to hide behind the walls of his fortress at Carn Dûm. But Gondorian cavalry led by Eärnur pursued him, and an elven host from Rivendell led by Glorfindel joined him.

Then, the Witch-king turned back to confront the riders. He charged at Eärnur, but the Captain of Gondor bravely waited to meet him. But at that very moment, Eärnur’s horse panicked and raced away. When he managed to calm his steed and return to the battlefield, the Witch-king laughed at him. But then Glorfindel rode forth from among the ranks and the Ringwraith fled, disappearing in the darkness. Eärnur wanted to chase him, but Glorfindel looked at him thoughtfully, and seeing a day yet to come, said: ‘Do not pursue him! He will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall‘.

Thus, though the realm of Angmar was no more, Arnor, the Northern Kingdom of the Dunedain, was ruined as well. Arvedui’s son was but a lord of a scattered people, thus he called himself Chieftain of the Dunedain, not a king. Aragorn II was the most famous of those chieftains from his line, the sixteenth and the last.

During the reign of king Eärnil II another heavy blow fell upon Gondor. The Witch-king secretly returned to Mordor and there marshalled a host with which he attacked Minas Ithil. It was besieged for two years and then sacked and corrupted. Its palantir was captured, and men spoke of Minas Ithil no more, but of Minas Morgul, The Tower of Dark Sorcery. In defiance, Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, The Tower of Guard.

When Eärnil died in the year 2043 and Eärnur became the thirty-third king of Gondor, the Witch-king reminded him of their encounter in the north, and mocked him for running away. Then he challenged the king to a single combat. If not for Mardil the Steward, Eärnur would rush to the gates of Minas Morgul to answer the call. Seven years later the Witch-king issued another challenge, taunting the king and spreading tales about how even in his youth Eärnur had the heart of a craven, and now he was just an old craven. Eärnur rode to Minas Morgul in rage, with only few companions, and was never seen again. Though many suspected that the king was treacherously taken alive, tortured and then slain, the tale could not be confirmed and thus, Steward Mardil ruled in Eärnur’s name for many years. There were still people of royal descent in Gondor, but no one could tell which claims were legitimate, and thus, to avoid another civil war, the Ruling Stewards governed ‘until the return of the king’.

All Ruling Stewards came from the House of Húrin of Emyn Arnen, which was founded by one Húrin who was the Steward to King Minardil (the twenty-fifth monarch). Húrin was a nobleman of Numenorean descent, but not of royal blood. In Quenya, the office of the Steward was named Arandur, The Servant of the King. This office was established by king Rómendacil I, and initially their role was to govern the realm when the king went to war. For this reason, they were forbidden to leave Gondor while in office.

Húrin served so well that it became customary to choose Stewards from among his descendants, and after the death of Steward Pelendur (who served Ondoher and Eärnil II) it became hereditary, thus he was followed by his son Vorondil. Vorondil, who served Eärnil II, was called Vorondil the Hunter as he would hunt as far as the Sea of Rhûn. The Great Horn which became a heirloom in the House of Stewards and later belonged to Boromir son of Denethor II was made from the horn of one of the wild oxen he slew.

Vorondil was followed by Mardil Voronwë the Steadfast, who advised Eärnil II in the final years of his reign, and then his son Eärnur, only to become the first Ruling Steward. Upon his death he was succeeded by his son Eradan and thus began the dynasty of the Ruling Stewards and Lords of Minas Tirith, which lasted for 969 years, from the year 2050 to 3019, Third Age.

The rule of the first nine Ruling Stewards was known as the Watchful Peace, for though the threat of Minas Morgul and Mordor loomed ever close, there were no major wars. Those nine Ruling Stewards were: Mardil Voronwë, Eradan, Herion, Belegorn, Húrin I, Túrin I, Hador, Barahir and Dior.

Dior died childress and was followed by Denethor I, the son of his sister Rían. At the end of Denethor’s stewardship, a new tribe of Uruks, exceptionally strong orcs, appeared. Their horde invaded Ithilien and stormed Osgiliath. Denethor’s son Boromir defeated them and freed Ithilien, but the Great Bridge of Osgiliath was never rebuilt. As Steward, Boromir ruled only for twelve years as his life was shortened by a wound from a poisoned Morgul-blade he took in battle.

He was followed by Cirion, one of the most notable Ruling Stewards. His stewardship was troubled by raids by the Corsairs and attacks from the north. A new Easterling confederacy, the Balchoth, entered the deserted land of Rhovanion and threatened Gondor’s northernmost province, Calenardhon which had long been depopulated. Cirion sent envoys to Eorl the Young, King of the Éothéod, but before reinforcements could arrive, he was forced to face the invading Balchoth in battle.

Suddenly, the Balchoth crossed Anduin on rafts and cut off Cirion’s host advancing north. Then, orcs marched down from the Misty Mountains and pressed the Steward towards the very backs of Anduin. Yet in this darkest hour, the horns of the Rohirrim were heard, and Eorl the young charged upon the Balchoth with his riders. To reward Eorl, Cirion made a pact of eternal friendship between the Éothéod and Gondor, giving them the province of Calenardhon, which became the Kingdom of Rohan and Eorl’s people the Rohirrim. Gondor was saved, at least for some time, but from now on, war never truly ended.

Cirion was followed by his Ruling Stewards: Hallas, Húrin II, Belecthor I, Orodreth and Ecthelion I (who rebuilt the White Tower of Minas Tirith which housed the palantir, and thus it was later called the Tower of Ecthelion). Ecthelion died childless, so he was followed by Egalmoth, grandon of Morwen who was the sister of Belecthor I. During his term in office, Dunlendings captured and held the Ring of Isengard, which was once a major fortress of Gondor. His son Beren was forced to combat three enormous Corsair fleets of Umbar and Harad, and deal with the aftermath of the harsh Long Winter of 2758. It was Beren who granted Isengard to Saruman the wizard, glad that such staunch ally of Gondor would bring order to the fortress which Gondor was unable to garrison anymore. Beren’s son Beregond was a great commander who defeated the Corsairs. In the days of Steward Belecthor II, the White Tree of Minas Tirith withered and no sapling was found to replace it, thus only the dead trunk stood in the court of the Citadel. His successor was Thorondir, who ruled only for a decade and was followed by Túrin II.

During his reign Ithilien was largely abandoned and only a handful of rangers remained to defend it. His heir Turgon was the twenty-fourth of the Ruling Stewards and it was during his term that Sauron openly declared his return. Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, was rebuilt.

Turgon’s son Ecthelion II was a wise man who enjoyed the friendship of Mithrandir (Gandalf), who was a frequent guest at his court. He showed favour to a stranger who called himself Thorongil, Eagle of the Star. This Thorongil rose through the ranks and became a commander of great renown, and even led a surprise naval attack against Umbar, where he sailed into the harbour in the dead of the night and burned the Corsair fleet at anchor. Yet when the victorious fleet returned to Pelargir, Thorongil refused to return to Minas Tirith, where Ecthelion wanted to reward him and shower with honours. He sent a messenger to Ecthelion, explaining that his services were needed elsewhere, but if such is his fate, he would one day return to Gondor. It was later revealed that Thorongil was in fact young Aragorn on one of his great journeys (in The Fellowship of the Ring Aragorn mentions that he has visited many distant lands, even the far south, ‘where the stars are strange’). People of Gondor loved Thorongil and missed him greatly, with the exception of Ecthelion’s son, jealous of that stranger’s glory.

That son was Denethor II, the twenty-sixth Ruling Steward. He was a great leader, a wise and valiant man. But in his later years, he turned to despair, for Denethor used the palantir of Minas Tirith to expand his knowledge. Sauron, who held the captured seeing-stone of Minas Ithil, found out about this, and manipulated the visions Denethor saw to convince him that Gondor’s situation was even more dire than it seemed, and that there was no hope for the Dunedain.


Map of Gondor by Smeagol, Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

And indeed, it seemed that the days of Gondor were numbered. It has lost most of its southern provinces, its army was too small, and the population constantly declined. It was plagued by Corsair raid, threatened by Mordor and the Easterlings. At the end of the Third Age, the fall of Gondor was at hand… until the War of the Ring and return of the king changed everything.



The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire: Sansa & Lúthien 

Bluetiger’s commentary on LML’s latest essay, before Q&A livestream on Sunday, August the 8th, 2018

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire standalone essay: Sansa & Lúthien 


photo by BT

In Sansa Locked in Ice you’ve quoted this conversation between Sandor and Mountain’s Men:

The northern girl. Winterfell’s daughter. We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. (George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords)

It turns out that this passage might be yet another reference to Tolkien’s The Silmarillion – one of many, as I’ve explained in my two essays about parallels between ASOIAF and The Legendarium a.k.a. ‘Tolkien Mythos’.

And this one sentence guided me to the discovery of more similarities between Sansa’s arc and one of Silm. tales, the one Of Beren and Luthien.


We see that many names from this story make an appearance in ASOIAF. I’ll highlight those names as we go. First, Beren – we have Berena Stark, daughter of Lord Beron Stark and Lorra Royce (The She-wolves of Winterfell era), and in ASOIAF proper: Berena Tallhart née Hornwood and her son Beren. As you know, I have theorised that the North parallels the Northern Dúnedain realm, Arnor (Barrow-lands/downs, Bombadil/Coldhands, White Wolves/Direwolves, being the hidding place of the True King who has yet to return, and all others I discuss in The Song of the Sun and the Moon section The North: Arnor). Thus, it’s nice to see those northern homages to the Edain like Beren, as the Dúnedain of Arnor are descendants of the First Age Edain houses.

But I forget myself. This thing was supposed to be short.

Lúthien (Sindarin for Daughter of Flowers) was the most beautiful elven woman of the First Age, and many comsidered her the fairest woman to ever live. Arwen, who was her descendant, was called the Evenstar of the Elves, for she lived when the Elvenkind was dwindling. Luthien was their Morningstar. (I discuss this Venus related symbolism in my second essay).

Luthien’s father was Thingol (Greycloak) of Menegroth, The Thousand Caves, King of Doriath and liege lord of the Grey Elves (The Sindar). Her mother was Melian, of the Maiar. The Maiar are also Ainur – angelic beings – but lesser then the Valar, Powers of Arda and ‘gods’ and ‘goddesses’. This was the only case when one of the Maiar married an Elf and had a child.

Usually, the Ainur are incorporeal and their visual appearance is like a veil or robe they wear. But sometimes, they chose to be bound to the material world – to fulfill a mission, like Gandalf (Olorin) or Saruman or Radagast, Alatar and Pallando. Or because the Ainur in question desired to dominate the world like Sauron. Or simply because he ‘used up’ his power to empower his minions, like Morgoth did with dragons and other beasts. Melian’s case was exceptional, as she bound herself to a physical body because of love. (I guess the Istari/Wizards were also motivated by love, but of a different kind – for all Elves and Humans, and in Radagast’s case, for animals and plants)

Thus, Luthien inherited some of her mother’s power and skills we would call magic, but which were natural among the Maiar – enchanting, songs of power, spells. (GRRM might be referencing Queen Melian in ASOS when ‘Lady’ Meliana of Mole’s Town appears. Mole’s Town is located mostly underground, just like Menegroth of Thousand Caves).

Luthien’s best friend was Daeron the minstrel… Think of Dareon of the Night’s Watch, and this name appears in House Targaryen as well: we have the Young Dragon himself, and Daeron II from Dunk & Egg. The Silm. index of names speculates that this name is related to dae – Sindarin for shadow.

This Daeron fell in love with Luthien, but she felt nothing more than friendship for him. When he found out that she’s been meeting a mortal man, Beren son of Barahir, Daeron was so jealous and angry that he turned them in to King Thingol.

At this point in time Thingol was anti-human.

Later he changed, and even fostered Turin as his ward and treated him like a son. But now, he was furious that any mortal even dared to look at his daughter. The Edain (who allied themselves with the Noldor) have entered Beleriand only few generations ago. Some Elves didn’t trust them, not understanding human death, believing that Eru Iluvatar the God made them immortal, and they’ve angered him so much that he took eternal life from them… and even worse, some human tribes were on Morgoth’s side. Also, Thingol was not a great fan of beings who entered Beleriand without asking his leave… for centuries, only the Sindarin Grey Elves lived there and he was its High King… and all of the sudden, he has Morgoth coming back from Valinor, the Noldor pursuing him and estabilishing their own realms in Beleriand… and then, even mere mortals dared to infest his land. That was too much for Thingol.

So to get rid of Beren, he gave him an impossible task. ‘Of course, you can marry my daughter, just bring me a Silmaril’. Three Silmarils, ‘the fire of the gods’, stolen from Feanor Brightflame in Valinor were embedded in Morgoth’s Iron Crown, and to get near them one would have to venture into the heart of Dark Lord’s realm, to his cavernous throne room in Angband, The Hells of Iron, deep below the triple volcanic peak of ash and rock called Thangorodrim… never mind countless legions of orcs, dragons, werewolves, beasts and Balrogs…

Yet Beren accepted this quest and left Thousand Caves. But instead of going straight to Angband, he traveled to the Noldor kingdom of Nargothrond, as King Finrod (Galadriel’s brother) was the greatest friend the Edain had among Elves. And Beren’s father Barahir saved the king’s life in battle, and Finrod gave him his ring as a token of eternal friendship between their houses. This Ring of Barahir became the heirloom among Beren’s descendants, and Aragorn used it when he and Arwen were betrothed.

Now Beren stood in the throne room of Nargothrond and asked King Finrod for help… but two Sons of Feanor – Celegorm and Curufin – were present as well. They were afraid that with Finrod’s help Beren might really succeed, and their rights to Feanor’s Silmarils will be contested. And besides that, these very fine people decided that they like the Kingdom of Nargothrond and it’d be cool to take over it.

Because of their machinations, people of Nargothrond rejected their king, and in the end Finrod joined Beren on his quest with only ten loyal companions, not an army. Before they even reached Angband their small party was intercepted by Sauron, Morgoth’s principal lieutenant. They were taken to his seat at Tol-in-Gaurhoth, Isle of Werewolves. Ironically, it was once a Noldor fortress Finrod had built to guard the marches. It’s original name was Minas Tirith – The Tower of Guard. Minas Tirith of Gondor was named in its memory.

There Sauron locked them in a dungeon and sent his wolves to devour them one by one. In the end, only Finrod and Beren remained. The King sacrificed his life, fighting a great werewolf with his bare hands. He won, but was mortally wounded.

Meanwhile, Luthien was worried about Beren, as there were no news of his fate. She planned to leave Doriath and search for him, but Daeron was spying on her and again told the king. Thingol had a house built among the branches of the enormous beech tree Hírilorn, which had three trunks like the weirwood of Highgarden. There he imprisoned Luthien (Hey King Baelor!).

She still managed to escape, but while traveling in the woods near Nargothrond, Feanor’s sons Celegorm and Curufin accidentally found her while hunting. The captured her and took to the kingless Nargothrond. There they conspired to force Luthien to marry Celegorm, and hold her as hostage, which would force King Thingol to support their takeover of Nargothrond.

But Celegorm had a hunting dog named Huan and called The Hound of the Valar. This immortal greyhound was the size of a small horse, and capable of speech, though only thrice in his life. Oromë, the Vala of woods and hunt, gave the hound to Celegorm as a gift, and the faithful dog followed his master when the Noldor were exiled from Valinor. But now the Hound decided that he’s had enough of Celegorm’s foul deeds and abandoned him, escaping with Luthien.

In ASOIAF we have the Hound who abandons his evil master Joffrey.

They traveled to Sauron’s fortress, where the Hound killed all werewolves and beasts guarding the tower and dueled Sauron himself, when the future Dark Lord came forth in the form of a monstrous wolf. With a spell Luthien broke Sauron’s power over Minas Tirith and freed the prisoners. The Hound held Sauron with his jaws, even as he skinchanged into various foul beasts. In the end, Sauron escaped but was so ashamed that he was afraid to return to Morgoth and thus the Dark Lord knew nothing of Beren and Luthien’s quest until it was too late.

Then Sauron yielded himself, and Lúthien took the mastery of the isle and all that was there; and Huan released him. And immediately he took the form of a vampire, great as a dark cloud across the moon, and he fled, dripping blood from his throat upon the trees, and came to Tar-nu-Fuin, and dwelt there, filling it with horror. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Apart from Beren, Luthien freed many prisoners and as they returned to their realms, the treachery of Feanor’s sons and King Finrod’s death were revealed. Orodreth who was Finrod’s high steward (and the son of his late brother Angrod) was proclaimed King of Nargothrond and his first act was to exile Celegorm and Curufin.

Later they came across Beren and Luthien, and there’s this scene that reminds me of Viserys’ attack on Dany in AGOT, where Jorah the Dothraki stop him. The Hound defended Beren and Luthien even as his former master cursed him. Beren took their weapons and Curufin’s horse, and then the Hound chased them off, two riding on one horse.

Then Beren lifting Curufin flung him from him, and bade him walk now back to his noble kinsfolk, who might teach him to turn his valour to worthier use. ‘Your horse,’ he said, ‘I keep for the service of Lúthien, and it may be accounted happy to be free of such a master.’ (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Then Beren & Luthien set off on the final part of their quest. The Hound used his speech for second time and advised them to disguise as Morgoth’s creatures and infiltrate Angband unnoticed. That’s where we get the parallels with Sansa-as-a-wolf-bat:

Long he [the Hound] had pondered in his heart what counsel he could devise for the lightning of the peril of these two whom he loved. He turned aside therefore at Sauron’s isle, as they ran northward again, and he took thence the ghastly wolf-hame of Draugluin, and the bat-fell of Thuringwethil. She was the messenger of Sauron, and was wont to fly in vampire’s form to Angband; and her great fingered wings were barbed at each joint’s end with and iron claw. Clad in these dreadful garments Huan and Lúthien ran through Taur-nu-Fuin, and all things fled before them.

Beren seeing their approach was dismayed; and he wondered, for he had heard the voice of Tinúviel, and he thought it now a phantom for his ensnaring. But they halted and cast aside their disguise. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

And later Beren himself skinchanged into the werewolf:

By the counsel of Huan and the arts of Lúthien he was arrayed now in the hame of Draugluin, and she in the winged fell of Thuringwethil. Beren became in all things like a werewolf to look upon, save that in his eyes there shone a spirit grim indeed but clean; and horror was in his glance as he saw upon his flank a bat-like creature clinging with creased wings. Then howling under the moon he leaped down the hill, and the bat wheeled and flittered above him.

They passed through all perils, until they came with the dust of their long and weary road upon them to the drear dale that lay before the Gate of Angband. Black chasms opened beside the road, whence forms as of writhing serpents issued. On either hand the cliffs stood as embattled walls, and upon them sat carrion fowl crying with fell voices. Before them was the impregnable Gate, an arch wide and dark at the foot of the mountain; above it reared a thousand feet of precipice. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Compare with:

We heard she killed the king with a spell, and afterward changed into a wolf with big leather wings like a bat, and flew out a tower window. (George R.R. Martin, A Storm of Swords)

Then Beren and Lúthien went through the Gate, and down the labyrinthine stairs; and together wrought the greatest deed that has been dared by Elves or Men. For they came to the seat of Morgoth in his nethermost hall that was upheld by horror, lit by fire, and filled with weapons of death and torment. There Beren slunk in wolf’s form beneath his throne; but Lúthien was stripped of her disguise by the will of Morgoth, and he bent his gaze upon her. She was not daunted by his eyes; and she named her own name, and offered her service to sing before him, after the manner of a minstrel. Then Morgoth looking upon her beauty conceived in his thought an evil lust, and a design more dark than any that had yet come into his heart since he fled from Valinor. Thus he was beguiled by his own malice, for he watched her, leaving her free for awhile, and taking secret pleasure in his thought. Then suddenly she eluded his sight, and out of the shadows began a song of such surpassing loveliness, and of such blinding power, that he listened perforce; and a blindness came upon him, as his eyes roamed to and fro, seeking her. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

All his court were cast down in slumber, and all the fires faded and were quenched; but the Silmarils in the crown on Morgoth’s head blazed forth suddenly with a radiance of white flame; and the burden of that crown and of the jewels bowed down his head, as though the world were set upon it, laden with a weight of care, of fear, and of desire, that even the will of Morgoth could not support. Then Lúthien catching up her winged robe sprang into the air, and her voice came dropping down like rain into pools, profound and dark. She cast her cloak before his eyes, and set upon him a dream, dark as the outer Void where once he walked alone.

Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell. The iron crown rolled echoing from his head. All things were still.

As a dead beast Beren lay upon the ground; but Lúthien touching him with her hand aroused him, and he cast aside the wolf-hame. Then he drew forth the knife Angrist; and from the iron claws that held it he cut a Silmaril.  (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

That’s basically Petyr Baelish plans to do with Harrold ‘Arryn’. Sansa comes to the Eyrie, and strangely, Morgoth’s seat is an eyrie as well – the Great Eagles were sent to keep watch over Morgoth by the Valar, and for some time they made their nest upon the peaks of Thangorodrim. Petyr tells Sansa to charm and bewitch Harry – that’s what happens with Morgoth – and might happen with Littlefinger himself.

“I dreamt of a maid at a feast with purple serpents in her hair, venom dripping from their fangs. And later I dreamt that maid again, slaying a savage giant in a castle built of snow.”

“Suddenly he fell, as a hill sliding in avalanche, and hurled like thunder from his throne lay prone upon the floors of hell”

Azor Ahai is perfect Morgoth, as both stole ‘the fire of the gods’ and caused a Long Night (that’s the term Tolkien uses for the long period of darkness that followed the destruction of the Two Trees of Valinor by Morgoth and Ungoliant the spider). And they’re both inspired by Lucifer.

Morgoth is a savage giant as well:

Therefore Morgoth came, climbing slowly from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder underground. And he issued forth clad in black armour; and he stood before the King like a tower, iron-crowned, and his vast shield, sable on-blazoned, cast a shadow over him like a stormcloud. But Fingolfin 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. (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion)

Luthien defeated Morgoth, will Sansa defeat Littlefinger?

Petyr tells Sansa that life is not a song… but mayhaps hers is, the Lay of Beren and Luthien.

* Note how Huan the Hound can speak only three times in his lifetime, making him effectively mute, while Sandor the Hound most likely becomes the silent gravedigger of the Quiet Isle.

** Luthien’s epithet Tinúviel means ‘Daughter of Twilight’, and is poetic name of the nightingale. Luthien the Nightingale was the most beautiful woman of Arda, and in ASOIAF we get this from Arya in Braavos:

To Sam she said, “If they ask who is the most beautiful woman in the world, say the Nightingale or else they’ll challenge you”

For more see: The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode I and The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II: The Wayward Moons of Planetos and Arda by Bluetiger, Signs and Portals Episode II: Sansa Locked in Ice by LML of The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire and the follow-up livestream aired on August the 12th, 2018 – the Persansephone QnA Livestream. My Sansa & Luthien research is featured around 1 hour 7 minutes mark (link). Thanks LML!


Bluetiger by Sanrixian