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 that 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 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



Bluetiger by Sanrixian



The Advent Calendar 2018 – Eärendil, Bearer of Light

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

The following verses deeply moved Tolkien:

Eálá Earendel engla beorhtast/ Ofer middangeard monnum sended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lightbringer: The Child of the Sun and the Moon

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

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

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

As The Silmarillion tells us:

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

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

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

Elsewhere The Silmarillion says:

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

The Eldar (Elves) called the Younger Children of Iluvatar (Men) the Children of the Sun. Meanwhile, the Elves are often associated with ‘cold stars’ and the Moon: when Fingolfin, the High King of the Noldor, arrived in Beleriand after leaving Valinor, 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: The Brief History of Gondor

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire Extra by Bluetiger

The 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

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II

The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire, Episode II

Bluetiger presents The Wayward Moons of Planetos and Arda



Table of Contents

Click on the link – the headline – of the chapter you would like to read or revisit, or scroll down to reach the Introduction and Part I of the second episode of Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire. Sections which are marked with * are optional – but I encourage you to read them if you have the time, as whilst not directly relevant to the ASOIAF discussion in this essay, they provide context for events, concepts and characters of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Legendarium.

The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire by LML: A Summary by Archmaester Aemma
George R.R. Martin and Tolkien

Part I: The Cosmology of Arda
Unreliable Chroniclers, History versus Myth, the Round World and the Flat
The Cuivienyarna*
Tolkienic Caveat
Valar Morghulis
The Valar
Ainulindalë: A Summary by Archmaester Aemma
Lords and Queens of the Valar
The Maiar
The Valar and the Seven
The Two Lamps of the Valar and the Spring of Arda*
The Two Trees of Valinor
The Stars and Constellations of Arda*
Orion: The Swordsman of the Sky
The Stars and Constellations of Arda Continued*
Morningstar before Earendil?*
GRRM and Tolkienic Symbolism
The Elves*
The Chronology of Arda*
The Teleri*
The Noldor and the Darkening of Valinor
The Long Night
The Sun and the Moon

Part II: The Family of Ice and Fire
Fëanor: House of Fire
Fingolfin: House of Ice
The Battles of Beleriand*
Fingolfin and his Children
Maeglin and the Fall of Gondolin*
House of Finarfin*
Gil-galad was an Elven-king…

Part III: The Song of the Sun and the Moon
House of Thingol, Elwing*
The Voyage of Eärendil and Elwing to Valinor
The Dúnedain
The Glory and Downfall of Númenórë
The Unity of the Sun and the Moon
The South: Gondor
The North: Arnor
Minas Ithil, Minar Morgul



Before I came across LML’s Mythical Astronomy essays I cared little about astronomy, my knowledge was scant at best, and probably even worse, and I saw no reason to become acquainted with this vast field of science. And symbolism based on the observation of the ‘vault of heavens’, changes in the length of day and night, falling stars, constellations and their creation myths, and so on… I saw no use to it. To any symbolism, to be honest. That was something to be discussed during literature classes at school boring, terribly boring. Something to learn by heart one evening, pass the test, preferably with good marks, and forget on the morrow.

Open the books on page 129, and read the table with various symbols and their meanings in Late Medieval literature. ‘The Thesaurus of Medieval Allegories and Symbols’. Old, dry-as-bone facts, and totally useless. Unicorn stands for virginity, lion for pride, wolf for greed, ebony is for persistence, sword for power and strength and justice and punishment and who cares. Black signifies sin and darkness, white purity, red blood and power and love and yellow is for Judas and all traitors in general.

Greek myths, as explained in the textbooks, were nonsensical, silly old stories written or compiled by men who probably never existed (thanks for this ‘fun fact’ beloved textbook). In the beginning there was Chaos, and somehow it begot Eros and Gaia, whose husband was Uranos who gave birth to the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handers and the Titans. More names! Demeter, Hades (hey, I know this dark guy from the cartoon), Poseidon (cool trident, a sculpture of this ridiculous fishman stands at our city square), Hera, Zeus… and all his children and love interests. Leto, Maia, Dione, Semele, Mnemosyne. Athena, Hermes, Artemis, Apollo, Dionysus, Heracles… Chaos indeed. But not just primordial. Everlasting.

Now that I’ve read about the characters, I can read about the point of those stories (if any exists). Myth tells a sacred story. Well, those stories I’ve read are either funny or stupid or scary. It explains the beginning of the world, natural phenomena, it shows that the universe exists for a reason. Yes, to contain all that chaos. The heroes of myth are beings with extraordinary powers. OK, extraordinary. And bizzare. Women with snakes in their hair turning people to stone, flying horses, flying dudes carried by wings of feathers and wax… I’ve had enough. And the history book tells me they really believed all of this was true. Well… ‘They were dumber back then’.

Now, some terminology. Myth. Mythology. Cosmogonic myths. Theogonic. Anthropogenic. Etiological. Heroic. Myths can show us important truths about the world. Of course. How to interpret myths… hmm, maybe this section will tell me how to make sense of this… weird mythology thing. Demeter myth explains why the seasons change. Because some made-up guy stole a nonexistent girl? Cool, the ground split open and a black chariot pulled by stallions dark as night rode forth. Because someone plucked the wrong flower. Thank you sir.

Archetypes. Short text on a sidebar. Ancient symbols hidden in the collective unconscious (hey, you should have warned me there will be hard words!). Father, Mother, Old Man, Night, Day. Carl Gustav Jung. Literary topos. Journey, Odyssey, Homer, blind man who may have not lived at all, as the sidebar rushes to explain. Modern myths. Someone compiles a retelling of twoscore ancient myths, and suddenly they become less nonsensical. Now, that’s a fine trick. Homework – draw a tree of the gods and goddesses, heroes, monsters, Hundred-Hands, hellhounds, three-headed dogs… and whatever else appears in those outlandish tales. No, thank you. Let me read Tolkien.

Now, the account of my experiences with mythology is somewhat exaggerated. My personal contact with myths and symbolism was that bad only in the beginning. In my later school years, I took part in some contest for school children, and the topic was mythology. I had to borrow one of those compilations from the library and read it, and it was surprisingly good. But still, those tales were little more than pointless fables to me.

Then I started reading Tolkien, not realising I’m reading myths, but of course I was, just a different kind than I was used to. Now, those were the stories I could fall in love with, and I did. The Silmarillion first, then LOTR and The Hobbit… and all other texts by Professor Tolkien I could get my hands on. The Children of Hurin, borrowed from library as I was returning home on the last school day before my winter break, mere days away from Christmas. That day we had our class Christmas Eve ‘supper’ (in the morning, of course). I remember that day in 2012, December the 21st, the day some said the world would end. I hoped it won’t, I wanted to read about Turin and Beleg, tragic misunderstandings and long-lost sisters, about black meteoric iron talking swords and golden dragons. Then The Unfinished Tales, The Tales from the Perilous Realm, later books about books. A book analysing the deeper meanings and clues hidden in songs and poems of The Hobbit were among first literary analyses I actually liked.

As I grew older, I understood more. Tolkien wanted to create a mythology for England, a Legendarium of stories ranging from historical chronicles, through epics and heroic poems, to romantic ballads, walking songs and Hobbit rhymes. Those stories were rooted in languages, those of our world Tolkien came to love, and those tongues of his own. They were inspired by old Anglo-Saxons histories and songs, by Norse myths of Scandinavia, tales I never heard before, but now liked better than those of the Greeks and the Romans. Nevertheless, I failed to see any myths based on astronomy, or those with symbolic meaning.

Then in 2014, during second holiday month and half of September, I read A Song of Ice and Fire, and thus I found the first tale as captivating as those of Tolkien’s. In October The World of Ice and Fire was published, and further kindled this passion. I joined the Westeros forums, and spent some time bumbling around in there. I had few (to be generous) interesting ideas and theories of my own, my posts seem so silly and generic now that I read them again. But that did not matter, as long as I could read those fascinating essays and theories of other posters. In 2015, LML started his Mythical Astronomy (back then Astronomy of Planetos) project. I read the first essays, understood little, but still enjoyed them. But as weeks and months went on, I digested all of it and discovered the amazing world of symbolism and mythology anew.

The myths are not nonsense, they simply speak to us in a language different from the one we use daily. The language of symbolism. And I saw that symbolism is more than reading long lists of plants, animals and colours, with their symbolic or allegorical meanings explained. Symbolism is an intellectual game, as engaging as any sport, or even more. A way to communicate truths over centuries and millennia, as the languages change and evolve, as peoples and nations rise and fall. Some things are unchanging. The nights are always dark, though today filled with dim electrical lights for those of us who live in cities, which dim out the stars… but its enough to leave them for some time, go to the mountains or visit a more rural area, and the stars are still there, arrayed in their constellations. The sun always rises, and sets. The same stars blaze in the night sky, their apparent movement changing slowly in the great precessional cycle. The same constellations can be observed, though we might give them different names than those who lived thousands of years ago in lands far away. But human nature remains unchanged, and although we have things like electricity, the internet and wield the power of fossil fuels and nuclear fusion we’re still only human, like those who lived thousands of years ago. Although we appear to be looming over them like giants, with our medicine, technology and culture, ultimately, we’re not so different from our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors. Love, hate, friendship, tears, laughter, wars, disasters, joy, births, deaths. We may have better technology and – theoretically – better understanding of nature. Yet we live on the same planet, under the same sky. There is wisdom to be learned from those ages drifting ever further away. Myths speak to us about human nature, growing up, fatherhood and motherhood, dealing with the loss of our loved ones, making sense of this beautiful but often harsh world… speaking of natural events here on Earth and in the sky, whispering words of wisdom in the language of symbols.

Previously, I cared little about stars, waxing moons, waning moons, full moons, new moons, eclipses and changes in day length. The sky in my city is often hidden, by clouds or smog, and light pollution is so heavy that stars can be seen rarely, and even then, only the brightest. I couldn’t name any constellations, nor see those imaginary shapes in the sky. This January I saw Orion’s Belt for the first time. Alnitak, Alnilam, Mintaka. Mentioned in the Bible and Kalevala. Known to Babylonians, ancient Egyptians, Armenians and Finns, the peoples of Siberia, the Seri people, the Lakota, even in the distant Polynesia. But unknown to me. I don’t claim to be an expert in this field even today, but I’ve read about the basic stars and constellations, their appearances in myths and stories. I know that myths describing those stars exist. One step, and small, but at least forward. Knowing the stars and astronomical phenomena, we can uncode the hidden meaning of some myths. In other cases we’ll need knowledge about historical context, plants of that region, traditions and customs, invasions and migrations, the cycle of seasons, and numerous other things. But now we realise that myths are not pointless, stupid fables. They have purpose, and meaning. We simply have to uncode it. That’s a small price to pay to gain the access to wisdom and lore and knowledge and history of countless generations.

Thanks to LML’s Mythical Astronomy, I saw not only those ancient patterns, but also how some modern artists use that symbolism to weave their own stories. And his essays convinced me George R.R. Martin is one of them.

The ancient fables of the Known World of ASOIAF, from places we get to know in the opening chapters of the first book, and places of which we hear only rumours, are based on actual events. The Long Night is this world’s global myth, while the Great Flood is ours. Azor Ahai and the forging of Lightbringer the Red Sword of Heroes cycle are the monomyth of Westeros and Essos. Astronomy explains those stories, the legends of ice and fire. Just like in our world, the observation of heavens was of crucial importance to the ancients. Few changes in the usually fixed pattern of stars and planets would go unnoticed if you can see the night sky clearly almost every day. And what they saw, they’d attempt to explain and pass down, in the universal language of myth. Sea-dragons might be meteors or comets landing in the sea. Storm deities personify the wrathful forces of nature. Other tales speak of the changing of seasons and climate, of isles sinking in the ocean and new land rising from the depths. And in the world of ice and fire, there surely will be tales explaining the Long Night.

As LML discovered, the Qartheen myth, the story about two moons in the sky, one of which wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat, with thousand thousand dragons flying out, so implausible at first glance, might be the key to unlock this world’s greatest secret. Planetos – as many fans call the planet on which Westeros and Essos are located – probably really had two moons, not unlike Arrakis-Dune. The red comet pierced this Second Moon, by accident or guided by malicious, nasty sorcerer. The comet, blazing in the sky like a bleeding star or burning brand, is the Red Sword of Heroes. Or villains. The moon was Nissa Nissa from the forging of Lightbringer story, and the sun was Azor Ahai. And the dragons? Moon-meteors, hitting Planetos on the onset of the Long Night. Rising ash and smoke would blot out the sun, causing the prolonged period of darkness.


The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire by LML: A Summary by Archmaester Aemma

I’ll give you a little context and a taste for how this type of analysis works, I’ll briefly summarise LmL’s main thesis. First, a quick refresher on the Qartheen origin of dragons myth. (This is the legend Dany hears from her handmaiden Doreah in A Game of Thrones).

Once there were two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. A thousand thousand dragons poured forth, and drank the fire of the sun. That is why dragons breathe flame. One day the other moon will kiss the sun too, and then it will crack and the dragons will return.

Now let’s compare with the key “third forging of Lightbringer” from the the Azor Ahai myth:

A hundred days and a hundred nights he labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.

Although it may not seem like it at first glance, there is a surprising amount of overlap in these tales. Note how the moon “wanders too close to the sun” and that the Dothraki calls the moon a wife and the sun her husband. Compare this to Azor Ahai calling over his wife, Nissa Nissa – this implies Azor Ahai as the sun and Nissa Nissa, his wife-moon, ‘wanders too close to him’. What then happens in each of these tales? Well Nissa Nissa gets stabbed and her cry leaves ‘a crack across the face of the moon’, and the Qartheen myth implies the moon being destroyed as well. Finally, the moon releases dragons and Nissa Nissa forges flaming sword Lightbringer. And, would ya know it, Xaro Xhoan Daxos calls dragons ‘flaming swords above the world’ – implying that the result of Nissa Nissa’s death and the Qartheen moon destruction myth are symbolically equivalent.

In addition to this, The World of Ice and Fire gives us the myth of the Bloodstone Emperor, a man who killed his sister (like Azor Ahai killing Nissa Nissa because incest is a thing we know royals do in Planetos), and worshipped a black stone that fell from the sky (probably a meteor from the moon destruction of Qartheen myth), a crime so repugnant that the world was cast into darkness. This sounds like the Long Night, potentially caused by an impact winter that resulted from the moon destruction event raining down meteors on earth – implying Azor Ahai as the villain, not the hero. For more on this check out LmL’s Bloodstone Compendium.


George R.R. Martin and Tolkien

Thus myth and legend tell us about the cause of the most important ancient event of this world. This is one of the crucial things to understand about ASOIAF. Myths of Westeros, Essos and other lands describe, making use of symbolism, often based on symbolism and mythology of our world, the ancient astronomical and earthly events. But hints can be found in the ‘main story’ as well. Characters such as Daenerys Targaryen, Robb Stark, Jon Snow, Stannis Baratheon and Theon Greyjoy play the archetypal roles established in the age of heroes. Nissa Nissa and Azor Ahai. The Last Hero and the Grey King. Night’s King and his Queen. Events from that time are enacted once more, once symbolically. Thus, by looking at the present we can fill up holes in the histories we know, and by looking at the past, we can predict the future.

I trust most of you are familiar with LML’s great ideas anyway. I’ll be using LML’s ideas and research quote heavily in this essay so, whilst I provided a precis above that should allow you to grasp most of this essay, it may be a little less intuitive for people unfamiliar with LML’s ideas.

With Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire episode one, I tried to stick with references to Tolkien found in ASOIAF and related material which are easy to see and understand without knowing Mythical Astronomy. Things like references in names, places, descriptions, sigils, historical events and such. This time, we’ll deal with ‘mythical astronomy’ of Tolkien. While I don’t think Tolkien wanted to hide, using symbolism based on astronomy, a second story behind the story he was telling, The Lord of the Rings and his other works are full of such symbolism, and references to various stars and constellations, as many characters and places are symbolically connected with astronomy. Themes such as the duality of sun and the moon, of day and night, of light and darkness, and of ice and fire can be found there as well.

In fact, it seems to me that some parts of George R.R. Martin’s mythical astronomy symbolism were inspired by Tolkien’s usage of this tool. But while Tolkien’s goal was to write a mythology, GRRM wanted to hide his mythology in the background of the fantasy story he was writing. This goes well with what numerous other fans and authors wrote about ASOIAF and its influences. GRRM often incorporates symbolism and traditions from our world’s cultures into his own world. Weirwood trees as Yggdrasil, Kings of Winter and wicker men, Garth Greenhand and sacrificed sacred kings… It is truly amazing how GRRM reconciles all that source material and weaves one consistent story of his own. H.P. Lovecraft, Frank Herbert, Jack Vance, Roger Zelazny… and J.R.R. Tolkien.

In the first chapter of the first episode of this series I explained how, in my opinion many people misunderstood GRRM’s approach to Tolkien. Unlike many authors who just copy-and-paste Tolkien’s ideas, GRRM rethinks those ideas, rejects some he doesn’t agree with, develops or adds others… In his own words:

When I read fantasy books by other writers, particularly Tolkien and some of the other people who followed Tolkien, there’s always this desire in the back of my head to reply to them: “That’s good, but I’d do this part differently,” or, “No, I think you got that wrong.” I’m not specifically criticizing Tolkien here — I don’t want to be portrayed as blasting Tolkien. People are always trying to set up this me-vs.-Tolkien thing, which I find very frustrating because I worship Tolkien, he’s the father of all modern fantasy, and my world would never exist had he not come first! Nevertheless, I am not Tolkien, and I am doing things differently than he did, despite the fact that I think Lord of the Rings was one of the great books of the 20th century. But there is that dialogue that’s going on between me and Tolkien, and between me and some of the other people who follow Tolkien, and it’s a dialogue that’s continuing.

With this episode, I’ll try to show you how Tolkien used symbolism based on astronomy, and how GRRM might have been inspired by it. This means we’ll discuss the cosmology of Arda, the Two Lamps and the Two Trees, the Sun and the Moon, swords like Narsil/Anduril and Gurthang and characters such as Galadriel, Fingon, Feanor, Nerdanel, Feanor’s Seven Sons. We’ll also take a look at an interesting ice and fire split in the House of Finwe, Morningstar and Evenstar related symbolism of Earendil and his sons Elrond and Elros (and their descendants), and of the Numenoreans. I’ll also expand on the connections and parallels I’ve found between the story of the Downfall of Numenor and the Great Empire of the Dawn legend found in The World of Ice and Fire. I only alluded to it in the first essay, as it was already over 20 000 words long, and to fully explore this topic I’d need… well, who knows how much space. And that can be hard to digest, especially for readers not well-versed in the meanders of Tolkien-lore. But I hope that together, we’ll manage to decode some of the hints GRRM has left for us!

This time I’d like to pay more attention to new terms, concepts and characters I’ll be talking about. TolkienicASOIAF Episode I was but an introduction to my series, where we explored some basic references to Tolkien that GRRM is making. Thus, no lengthy analysis of things like symbolism was needed. For example, you could agree that Ser Gladden Wylde is a reference to the Gladden Fields from LOTR, or not. There wasn’t much to discuss. With this piece, it’s going to be different. Well, I can’t wait to show you all those fine samples of Tolkien’s beautiful prose, and point out to the symbolism hidden in there.

We’ll revisit Numenor, and the realms the survivors of its downfall founded in Middle-earth, Arnor in the north and Gondor in the south, paying more attention to Elendil and his sons, Isildur and Anarion, the city of Osgiliath, the palantiri stones, the sword Narsil… and Minas Morgul, once Ithil. We’ll look out for flaming swords, dragons and other fell beasts, corrupted moons, Long Nights and other fun stuff.

There will be some sections where I’ll summarise the most important events of The Silmarillion. While they are not directly relevant to our ASOIAF discussion today, they provide the context for those characters, events and places that are very important. I encourage you to read them, but if you’d rather jump straight into ASOIAF analysis, or are a huge Tolkien familiar with all this lore, feel free to skip them – their headlines are underlined.


But before we move on, I’d like to express my gratitude to LML, host of The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire blog and podcast, my dear friend, without whose encouragement Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire would never come to be. And to all fellow Mythical Astronomers and members of the ASOIAF community on Twitter (Twitteros) and many forums and fansties, authors of many excellent essays, videos and podcasts. Let me name Crowfood’s Daughter of The Disputed Lands, Joe Magician of YouTube and The Clanking Dragon, Patrick of I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All The Time, Archmaester Aemma of Red Mice at Play, Maester Merry of Up From Under Winterfell, Melanie Lot Seven, Sweetsunray of The Mythological Weave of Ice & Fire, Darry Man of Plowman’s Keep, Ravenous Reader. Their essays and videos and podcasts I wholeheartedly recommend. Thanks to all who took part in Twitter discussions that helped to forge and temper the ideas hereby presented, and for bearing with me, as I spammed your inboxes with messages about obscure details of Tolkien’s masterful worldbuilding.

Thanks to all who read my first essay, and helped to spread the word. Thank You for coming here today!

And finally, my undying gratitude belongs to the two great authors, J.R.R. Tolkien and George R.R. Martin, often so different in their ideas and style, yet so similar in that they both created worlds that countless readers came to love.


Part I: The Cosmology of Arda

In this section I’ll discuss how peoples of Middle-earth envisioned the world they lived in, its beginning, structure and history. I’ll also explain who Eru Iluvatar is, talk about the Valar and the Maiar, and ancient history of Arda, with special consideration for events such as the destruction of the Two Lamps and the Two Trees, the Long Night and Darkening of Valinor, and the creation myth of the Sun and the Moon. I’d like to dedicate this chapter to LML, without whose encouragement this essay, and the first one, would most likely never come to be, and if it weren’t for his amazing Mythical Astronomy series, I’d have never noticed – nor deciphered – all this astronomical symbolism. Thank you my friend!

Unreliable Chroniclers, History versus Myth, the Round World and the Flat

Now, one of the most crucial things to understand about Tolkien’s mythos, commonly known as The Legendarium, is that those stories were in the making for decades. J.R.R. Tolkien made constant rewrites and changes. Some were minor, for example changing ‘tomatoes’ for ‘pickles’ in the opening chapter of The Hobbit. (To this day, fans speculate why he did it. Some believe that when Tolkien decided that this tale is set in the same universe as The Silmarillion, he wanted to erase this reference to a New World plant – although such plants – like potatoes – appear in The Lord of the Rings, and it is explained that they were brought to Middle-earth by Numenorean sailors. Others are of different opinion – that Tolkien, a well-known perfectionist – came to the conclusion that in April, when The Unexpected Party takes place, it’d be too early for fresh tomatoes).

But other differences between earlier and later versions of the Legendarium are more drastic and explicit – for example, in the one of the elder accounts of the story of Beren and Luthien, Sauron appears as Tevildo, the Prince of Cats, while in The Silmarillion version, he is one of the evil Maiar serving Morgoth the Dark Lord. Another major change was in the very shape of Arda, the world in which all stories of the Legendarium take place. Although in the earlier versions the world was indeed flat, and the perception the Numenoreans and other peoples had was correct – Arda was one hemisphere surrounded by ‘airs’ where the stars and other celestial bodies resided. That is known as the Flat World version of The Silmarillion.

And there is the Round World version, which Tolkien experimented with in his later writings. Here the account of Flat Arda is a myth of the Numenoreans, and the world was always a round planet. Also, it seems that the term ‘Arda’ was supposed to refer to the Solar System as a whole. The Two Lamps, which we’ll soon discuss, never truly existed, and the Sun and the Moon were not a fruit and a flower of the Two Trees of Valinor, but celestial bodies that have existed for eons, like in our world. In this continuity, nearly all more magical and mythical elements of the setting were explained as myths of the peoples inhabiting Middle-earth. The Silmarillion (meaning, the book we can read) was still an in-universe text, but not perfectly accurate, as is the case in the Flat World version of The Silmarillion, but sometimes erroneous. Fans of many works of fantasy might find this strange, but A Song of Ice and Fire fans probably won’t, as they’re well accustomed to the unreliable narrator.

If you think of The Silmarillion as Tolkienic equivalent of The World of Ice and Fire, than in the Flat World version the narrator is infallible and everything happened just as he describes it, but in the Round World continuity the narrator is more like Maester Yandel. Just Yandel’s Westerosi history gets more fantastic as we go back in time, The Silmarillion is mostly correct when describing events of the Third Age, Second Age is also nearly perfectly remembered, although some details about Numenor and distant continents visited by its sailors were lost when Numenorean archives were lost to the waves, with Elendil and his sons saving a fraction of that knowledge. Meanwhile, some First Age events can be questioned – ancient history of mankind, events where nearly all who took part in them died. But the most ancient histories should be taken with a very big grain of salt, especially those that took place before the Elves woke and met with the Valar.

Even in the Flat World version we are invited to question the oldest Elven legends. Of those Cuivienyarna is the most ancient. It describes how the first of the Elven kind woke on the shores of lake Cuiviénen in the far east of Middle-earth (Cuiviénen wasn’t a true lake, but a bay of the inland Sea of Helcar, in the foothills of the Red Mountains – not of Dorne).


The Cuivienyarna

In that tale, the first elves to awake are Imin (First), Tata (Second) and Enel (Third). Then three first elven women awake, Iminyë, Tatië and Enelyë. Their names also come from the words for first, second and third. Imin marries Iminyë, Tata Tatië and so on. The three first elven couples live their little lakeshore dell and begin exploring its surroundings. Not long after they find six sleeping pairs. By the right of his seniority, Imin chooses those 12 newly-awoken elves as his companions. At this point, there are 18 elves. In another valley, they see nine sleeping pairs, and Tata the Second chooses them for his tribe. Now there are 36 elves. A bit further, in a birch grove, they come across twelve pairs, and those 24 become Enel’s companions. Now that there are 60 elves, Imin sees that his tribe is by far the smallest, with only 12 members. When another group, of 18 pairs, is found in a fir-wood, Imin withholds from choice, believing that each group they find will be more numerous, and thus if he chooses the final, his tribe will be the most populous. Thus those 36 become Tata’s companions. Later, the 96 elves find 24 pairs, and Imin lets them join Enel’s tribe. But Imin’s hopes are mocked, and no further sleeping elves are found. According to the legend, all elves come from those 144 awoken elves, 72 fathers and 72 mothers.

This story explains how three main elven tribes came to be – those 14 Minyar (the Firsts), people of Imin and Iminyë’s tribe, became the Vanyar, half of the 56 Tatyar became the Noldor, and about three in five of the 74 Nelyar became the Teleri. In the Flat World continuity this tale might be true, but in the Round World version, the version with less mythical continuity, such histories are almost certainly fairytales. Here Cuivienyarna is not a historical account, but a tale for elven children, so they can learn the basics of the duodecimal counting system used by the elves.


Tolkienic Caveat


I’ll have more to say about the various sunderings and tribes of the elves later. I brought up this topic here to better demonstrate how drastic the division between the Round and Flat World continuities are. J.R.R. Tolkien died before The Silmarillion was published, so we don’t know how the final versions of his myths would look like. But for some fans, myself included, all those different accounts really enhance the mythical feel of those stories. After all, in the real world, we often have different and sometimes even conflicting versions of the same myths. The Silmarillion as we know it presents one consistent story, compiled by Tolkien’s son Christopher. But to achieve this consistency some later ideas of Tolkien had to be dropped, or not mentioned, as they weren’t developed enough to decide what the author intended. Many stories were rewritten to fit the Round World continuity, but numerous others were not, and no one knew how Tolkien would have changed them. In the end, The Silmarillion, as published in 1977, is written from the Flat World perspective, and we can read about the other possibilities in the monumental The History of Middle-earth 12-volume series.

In this essay, for the sake of clarity, I’ll mostly stick to the published version of The Silmarillion, as it’s the one most Tolkien readers are familiar with, and which George R.R. Martin has surely read. I mean, we can’t rule out that he’s familiar with all those other versions, but I think that if he were to include references to Tolkien’s stories in his own books, he’d choose the ‘official’ version, the one more people know. Still, when discussing things like cosmology, I’ll mention how they were supposed to look like in other continuities.

With that caveat given, let us delve into the most ancient history of Arda.


Valar Morghulis

Valar morghulis.

I imagine every fan of A Song of Ice and Fire is familiar with these words, the creed of the Faceless Men of Braavos. But fewer realise that that both parts of this phrase come from J.R.R. Tolkien’s languages, the first one from Quenya of the High Elves (as I’ve said, we’ll get to those divisions and terms shortly) and the latter comes from Sindarin of the Grey Elves. Minas Morgul is a thing of the Third Age of the Sun, the fortress guarding one of the few entrances to Mordor, and the seat of the Witch-king, Lord of the Nazgul (Ringwraiths). I think every person who has seen the LOTR movies or read the books knows this place, even if he or she doesn’t recognise the name. Minas Tirith’s twin city, the fortress of corpse-pale stone, surrounded by ominous green glow. Gargoyles grimacing where the bridge begins, the polluted stream of river Morgulduin silently flowing below it. The stronghold of Dark Sorcery, its sigil being the corrupted moon and skull. Frodo and Sam crawling past the bridge with Gollum, a beam of green flame suddenly sprouting and piercing the clouds and vapours like one of the poisoned Morgul-blades. The enormous gate opening, and hosts of the Dark Lord under the Witch-king and his cruel lieutenants pouring forth like a dark wave. A dragon-like Fell Beast spreading its wings from the battlements overlooking the bridge and the gate, its shriek dartling the ears of the two Hobbits. An army marching on Minas Tirith. Haunting images indeed.

But morghulis is the latter part of the Braavosi proverb. As I said, Minas Morgul is a thing of the Third Age. I saw it fitting that we shall discuss it in the final part of this episode, for the sake of chronology, but also because that section will rely most heavily on mythical astronomy and speculation. And thus, we begin with the Valar and the beginning of Arda, the centuries before even the First Age – from past so distant and inconceivable, when there was no time, through the Years of the Lamps, then the Years of the Trees, and finally the Long Night (yes, this term, so important in ASOIAF, appears in Tolkien’s writing as well).

The Valar

I said that the myths of The Silmarillion become more and more unreliable as we go back in time. But this isn’t always the case. In both versions of the Legendarium, the most ancient tale – Ainulindalë – is true. Or at the very least, describes real events, the creation of the world by Eru Iluvatar using symbolism. The book published as The Silmarillion contains not only Quenta Silmarillion, The Tale of the Silmarils, but also four shorter texts. Quenta is in the middle, followed by the Akallabêth, which tells of the rise and fall of Numenor in the Second Age, and Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age, which describes the major events which took place after the Downfall of Numenor – the founding of Gondor and Arnor, the return of Sauron and the War of the Ring.

Before the chronicle of the wars of the Noldor and Morgoth over Feanor’s three precious jewels, come two texts. Ainulindalë, the account of the creation of the world by Iluvatar, and Valaquenta, the compilation of elven lore about the might beings known as the Valar, with some consideration for the Maiar and Morgoth’s servants like Sauron and the Balrogs.

Although there were no elven nor humans to witness the creation of Arda, the history described in Ainulindalë is true, in essence if not in details. The full account of the Music of the Ainur (as that’s what this title means in Quenya) that preceded the beginning of time is incomprehensible to humans of Middle-earth, and even the elves turned to symbolism and metaphor to describe the grandiose song that shaped the universe. But unlike our own creation myths, in Tolkien’s world, there can be no doubt that there was indeed Eru Iluvatar the God, who first created the angelic beings known as the Ainur. While the reader can speculate whether the Lord and Ladies of the Valar really literally shaped Arda like a craftsman shapes his works, or if the descriptions of those might beings raising mountain ranges and moving stars and performing many other marvellous acts are what elven chroniclers understood of natural processes overlooked by the Valar, it is certain that Eru Iluvatar and the Valar are real.



Ainulindalë describes how Eru Iluvatar (The God) created many spiritual beings called the Ainur, which in the language of the High Elves, Quenya, signifies the Holy Ones. In many letters, Tolkien would describe them as angels of his Catholic faith. Each of the Ainur wielded great power, but as the Great Ones tower over other beings, Iluvatar transcended them infinitely, as each Ainu (singular form of ‘Ainur’) could comprehend only that part of Eru’s mind from which he came. (While talking of the Ainur it is hard to determine which pronouns to use, as they are spiritual beings who don’t require physical bodies, but still, they have genders, which affect the physical forms in which they appear to better communicate with humans and elves).

Eru means ‘He Who Is Alone’, while Iluvatar signifies ‘The Father of All’ (Allfather). I’ll describe the principal of the Ainur a bit later, while discussing the Valar and the Maiar, who belong to this group of beings.

The greatest of the Ainur was Melkor, which means ‘he who arises in might’. If you’re familiar with Morningstar and Evenstar based symbolism, and I guess most Mythical Astronomy fans are, then you can probably see where this is going, even if you have never read Tolkien’s books.

Iluvatar gathered all of the Ainur, and presented to them a musical theme, and the Ainur started their famed song, the Music of the Ainur. But because of Melkor, a discord entered this melody, and it was no longer a beautiful tune, but a turbulent sea of sounds. Then Iluvatar gave the Ainur his second theme, but again, Melkor’s discord rose again. As the third theme played, it seemed that there is not one music, but two songs played at once, once deep and beautiful, but full of sorrow, the second loud, but vain and clamorous, and without rhythm. Iluvatar rose, and the music died out, and no such music was heard again anywhere in the universe. According to prophecy, the world will end in the same manner as it has began, with another song, the Second Music, in which elves and humans will take part as well.

After the third theme ended, there came silence, and Iluvatar showed the Ainur a vision, telling them to behold their music. And they saw the history of the world as it unfolded before their eyes, and for the first time, glimpsed the Children of Iluvatar, Men and Elves, which Iluvatar sung personally into the third theme. Then Iluvatar said ‘Eä! Let these things Be!’, and this word, Eä, became the name of the Universe as a whole. And in the darkness of the primordial Void, the Ainur saw light appear, like ‘a living heart of flame’. Eru sent his Flame Imperishable into this created universe, and it became real.

Iluvatar permitted those of the Ainur who willed so to enter this physical world. And in this way, although Ainur beyond count remain with Eru in his Timeless Halls beyond the world, many entered Eä. The mightiest of those where the Valar, the Powers of the World, whom humans often called gods, but in reality, the Fifteen Valar were emissaries of Iluvatar, and guides to his Children. All were true to this mission, with the exception of Melkor, who later lost his Valar status.

There are seven Lords of the Valar, and seven Queens, also knowns as the Valier. They form the Tolkienic ‘pantheon’, as they seem to be heavily inspired by the Greek and Norse gods, but adapted to Tolkien’s Christian perception of the world. They are not truly gods, though some inhabitants of Arda know them by this name, but the true God’s emissaries. I’ll describe the Fourteen of the Valar, not only because I like talking about Tolkien’s works, as you’ve surely noticed, but also because by using the term ‘Valar’ in A Song of Ice and Fire GRRM might be trying to show us that he was inspired by the Powers of Arda while creating pantheons and religions and myths for his fictional universe.

With Melkor no longer a Valar, we will start this description of the Valar by looking at his brother Manwe.


Ainulindalë: A Summary by Archmaester Aemma

Here follows a summary of Ainulindalë, the account of the creation of the world, for those of you who chose to skip this section, where I narrated the tale of the Music of the Ainur.

The Ainulindalë describes how Eru Iluvatar (The God) created many spiritual beings called the Ainur, which in the language of the High Elves, Quenya, signifies the Holy Ones. In many letters, Tolkien would describe them as angels of his Catholic faith. In Quenya, Eru means ‘He Who Is Alone’, while Iluvatar signifies ‘The Father of All’ (Allfather). Iluvatar gathered all of the Ainur, and presented to them a musical theme, and the Ainur started their famed song, the Music of the Ainur. The greatest of the Ainur was Melkor, which means ‘he who arises in might’, and he introduced a discord to this melody, so that it was no longer a beautiful tune, but a turbulent sea of sounds. This happened a second and a third time, with the Ainur creating beautiful music and Melkor introducing disharmony. After silence that followed the third song, Eru Iluvatar used this music to create the universe, Eä, and permitted those of the Ainur who willed so to enter this physical world. And in this way, although Ainur beyond count remain with Eru in his Timeless Halls beyond the world, many entered Eä. The mightiest of those where the Valar, the Powers of the World, whom humans often called gods, but in reality, the Fifteen Valar were emissaries of Iluvatar, and guides to his Children (Elves and Men). All were true to this mission, with the exception of Melkor, who later lost his Valar status and became known as Morgoth, the Dark Tyrant.


Lords and Queens of the Valar

* Manwë, also known as Súlimo (Breather), has many titles: High King of Arda, Lord of the Breath of Arda, Elder King and Vice-regent of Eru. His sceptre is made of sapphire, his robes are blue, and ‘blue is the fire of his eyes’, as The Silmarillion tells us. Manwe’s ‘area of expertise’ is wind, from the most faint whiffs in the meadow to the winds blowing in the Veil of Arda, the upper atmosphere. One of his closest friends was Ulmo, the Valar ruling all waters, and together they created clouds. As I’ll show in a later section about Numenor, Manwe shares some similarities with the Storm God of the Ironborn religion, which is not surprising, as both are sky deities. But it’s possible that this is not merely an accidental similarity, and I think some of the language used to describe the foe of Iron Islanders suggests that GRRM made an intentional parallel here.

For those of you who are not familiar with this character, I think the easiest way to imagine him is to think of all the ‘sky-father’/’storm god’ mythological figures, but also of Archangel Michael of Christian faith. (In fact, the Valar can very well be thought of as Archangels, and the rest of the Ainur as angels).

Manwe’s seat is Ilmarin, the tallest of the towers built on the highest peak of all Arda, Taniquetil the White Mountain, Amon Uilos, Oiolossë the Everwhite, Elerrína Crowned with Stars. If his wife Varda sits beside him, Manwe can see all that happens across the world, his sight piercing mist and darkness alike, and she could hear all. The Great Eagles are Manwe’s servants.

* Manwe’s wife Varda was given many titles and epithets by the elves, just like her husband. Those who spoke Quenya of the High Elves called her Elentári, Queen of the Stars, and Tintallë, the Kindler. For the Grey Elves, she was Elbereth, The Star-queen, Gilthoniel the Strakindler and Fanuilos the Everwhite. In the beginning, Melkor who would become the Dark Lord desired light, but could not control it. He turned to Varda, but she rejected him, and thus Melkor hated her and feared her more than any other of the Valar. It was Varda who filled the Two Lamps with light, and made many of the stars of Arda, arranging them into constellations.

* Ulmo is the Lord of Waters, Dweller in the Deep and King of the Sea. Normally I’d ask you to imagine him as a Poseidon-like figure, but since we’re talking ASOIAF there is no such need, for the Drowned God is also remarkably similar. The Valaquenta describes him in those words: Arising of the King of the Sea was terrible, as a mounting wave that strides to the land, with dark helm foam-crested and raiment of mail shimmering from silver down into shadows of green. Nevertheless, Ulmo loves the Children of Iluvatar and never forsook them. As you might remember, in LOTR the Nazgul are afraid of water, and some fans speculate that this is because they fear the Lord of Waters, not only seas and oceans, but also the smallest stream. Among Ulmo’s attributes are the Ulumúri, the great horns of the sea made of white shells. It is said that when one hears them, longing for the sea will awake in his heart. But the true voice of Ulmo is the tongue of the waves: 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 description reminds me of that scene in A Feast for Crows where Aeron mentions that his Drowned God speaks to his faithful in the language of the leviathan and in the waves hammering on the shore.

One of the most well-known depictions of this Vala is the scene where King of the Sea appears before Turin’s cousin Tuor and bids him to go and find the Hidden City of Gondolin. Its author is Ted Nasmith, who illustrated parts of The World of Ice and Fire as well. It’s curious that GRRM chose this artist famous for his works related to Tolkien’s Legendarium, don’t you think? Ted Nasmith was also the illustrator of his 2011 ASOIAF calendar, so I think this speaks of deep admiration GRRM has for his works. And I suggest this admiration comes from the time when George enjoyed his Tolkienic graphics in The Silmarillion.

* Aulë is the Smith of the Valar, the master craftsman and expert in all matters connected with gemstones, jewels, metallurgy, forging and rocks. He desired to create a sentient race, who would be his children. And so he did, creating the first seven dwarves. But nothing can remain hidden from Iluvatar, and Eru spoke to Aulë, pointing out that his ‘children’ are merely mindless puppets, who do only what Aulë tells them to do. The Vala repented and lifted his hammer to destroy the dwarves, but Iluvatar told him to stop. Then Aulë realised that the dwarves showed fear and flinched, although he gave them no such command. It was Iluvatar who took pity and gave them sentience and granted them true life, which the Valar could not do. This the dwarves became ‘adopted’ Children of Iluvatar.

* Yavanna, Giver of Fruits, was Aulë’s wife. She was also called Kementári, which means Queen of Earth. She took care of all things growing, from moss to giant trees, and made them bloom and rippen when harvest-time came. The Valaquenta describes some of her many forms: In the form of a woman she is tall, and robed in green; but at times she takes other shapes. Some there are who have seen her standing like a tree under heaven, crowned with the Sun; and from all its branches there spilled a golden dew upon the barren earth, and it grew green with corn; but the roots of the tree were in the waters of Ulmo, and the winds of Manwë spoke in its leaves. When she heard of the Dwarves, she was afraid that they would fell all the woods of Arda to feed their furnaces and forges. In response to her prayer, Iluvatar sent spirits that became the Shepherds of the Trees, better known as the Ents. How Tolkien’s ideas connected with trees influenced GRRM is a fascinating topic, explored – among others – by JoeMagician in his essay Weirwoods: The Wight Trees.

* Mandos is the keeper of the Houses of the Dead, the Judge and Doomsman of the Valar. His true name is Námo, but few used that name, calling him Mandos after the Halls of Mandos which were his seat. When Melkor was captured by the Valar, he was placed in Mandos’ custody. But generally, Mandos is more similar to those psychopomp figures from mythology who are not evil or malicious.

* His wife is Vairë, the Weaver, whose tapestries chronicle all history of Arda.

* Irmo, also known as Lórien, is Mandos’ younger brother. Together they are called the Fëanturi, Masters of the Spirits. But while his brother is responsible for summoning the spirits of the dead to his halls – so Elves can be re-embodied and return, and Men prepare for their journey beyond the world to Iluvatar – Irmo’s domain are visions and dreams.

* Estë the Gentle is the healer of weariness and hurts. She wears grey, and her greatest gift is rest. Even other Valar visit her gardens to repose from their burdens of ruling Arda.

* Nienna is the sister of the Fëanturi brothers. She is well acquainted with grief and sorrow, and she mourns all wounds the world suffered because of Melkor. But she teaches strength and endurance as well, and those willing to learn from her gain new courage. Among her students was Olórin, who would become Gandalf. Similarly to him, Nienna wore a grey hood.

* Tulkas the Strong was the last of the Valar to enter Arda, but his help in wars with Melkor was great. He needs no weapon, only his fists, but even as he fights, Tulkas is always laughing. This Vala reminds me Lyonel Baratheon the Laughing Storm… or of King Robert, as it is noted that Tulkas isn’t the best counsellor, but can be relied on as fierce warrior and hardy friend.

* Nessa, called the Dancer and the Swift, was his wife. She is swift as an arrow, and deers of the woods are her companions. Still, she can outrun them.

* Oromë the Hornblower is Nessa’s brother. This Vala was known as The Huntsman of the Valar, Great Rider, Aldaron and Tauron, Lord of the Forests. Where Tulkas is cheerful even in battle, Oromë is dreadful in anger. His delight is hunting monsters and other dark creatures, and riding on Nahar, his great horse. His horn is Valaróma the sound of which is like the upgoing of the Sun in scarlet, or the sheer lightning cleaving the clouds. In the elder days he would ride across Middle-earth’s woods, and shadows would flee before him. It was Oromë who first came across awakened elves.

* His wife is Vána the Ever-young, Yavanna’s younger sister who took care of animals and plants both.

As a fun fact, I’ll mention that in older versions of Tolkien’s Legendarium, the Valar had children, known as the Valarindi. And there are the so-called ‘Lost Valar’, characters Tolkien abandoned – Nielíqui (daughter of Oromë and Vána), Telimektar (Tulkas’ son), Ómar (who knew all languages), the warrior Makar and his sister, the spear-wielding Meássë, also known as Rávi (ravennë means lioness). (Shout out to Ravenous Reader!)

Melkor who betrayed Eru and fought other Valar is no longer counted among them. He became known as Morgoth, the Dark Tyrant, and the Dark Lord.


The Maiar

Besides the Valar, less mighty Ainur spirits entered Arda. Those became known as the Maiar. Some helped the Valar in their efforts, while others joined Melkor.

The principal of the Maiar were Eönwë, Manwe’s herald and commander of his armies, and Varda’s handmaiden Ilmarë. The Balrogs were Maiar associated with fire who became corrupted by the Dark Lord. Their lord was Gothmog, Melkor’s High-captain.

In memory of this Balrog (or in mockery), a member of Sauron’s army in the Third Age bore this name as well. That Gothmog was a Lieutenant of Minas Morgul who was second in command during the Siege of Minas Tirith. Sometimes, Sauron is like the First Order from new Star Wars movies. The second Dark Lord, a Morgoth wannabe, who just names stuff after First Age artifacts (for example, the battering ram that broke the gate of Minas Tirith was named after Morgoth’s warhammer).

Other important Maiar were Arien and Tilion, who guided the Sun and the Moon respectively (I’ll have much more to say about them when we reach a section about the tale of the creation of the sun and the moon). The group known to the people as the Wizards were all Maiar as well, sent by the Valar to undermine Sauron’s influence: Alatar and Pallando (the Blue Wizards), Curumo (Saruman), Aiwendil (Radagast) and Olórin (Gandalf). Sauron, once called Mairon, which means the admirable, was a Maiar as well. In the beginning he served Aulë the Smith, but later joined Melkor. Melian, who later married the elven king Thingol and gave birth to Luthien was of the Maiar as well.

The final named Maiar were Ulmo’s vassals – Salmar who made his conches and Ossë who rules the coasts and isles of the Middle-earth. He joined Melkor, but later repented thanks to the efforts of his wife Uinen, and was pardoned by the Valar. Uinen is the Lady of the Sea, and to her all sailors cry for protection.


The Valar and the Seven

Now, it is possible that some of the Ainur influenced the deities GRRM created for his world – the Storm God has much in common with Manwe, Ulmo with the Drowned God, and Uinen with the Lady of the Waves worshipped by the people of the Three Sisters, to name a few. But recently, I began to wonder whether the Faith of the Seven itself might have been inspired by the Valar. Of course, it is largely based on Catholicism and the Holy Trinity, but the Valar might have played a role as well. There were seven Lords of the Valar, and seven Queens after all.

And there are some similarities between the Seven and the Aratar (The High Ones of Arda, The Exalted Ones), a group of the Eight greatest Valar. I’m not entirely convinced about this theory, but still, some similarities are there. The Aratar are: Manwe, Varda, Ulmo, Yavanna, Aule, Mandos, Nienna and Orome.

If I were to match each of them with one of the Seven, the list would look like this: Manwe-Father, Varda-Mother, Orome-Warrior, Aule-Smith, Nienna-Crone, Yavanna-Maiden and Mandos-Stranger. Ulmo would be left out, but it’s possible that GRRM left him out because he has already used him to create the Drowned God… and there’s this weird story in The World of Ice and Fire where one of the Hoare kings of the Iron Islands decrees that the Drowned God is one of the ‘Eight Gods’. This might be a reference to the Aratar. Now, the matches for Manwe, Aule, Mandos and Nienna fit nicely, but I’m not so sure about the others. Yavanna might be considered a Mother, as in ‘Mother-Nature’, but also a maiden, as in ‘Corn-maiden’. The Maiden of the Faith ‘dances through the sky’ according to The Song of the Seven, so maybe we should connect her with Varda. Although Tulkas is the ‘main’ warrior of the Valar, Orome’s area of expertise is also martial – riding, hunting and slaying monsters, so I associated him with the Warrior.

As I’ve said, I’m not entirely convinced about those correlations. But it is surely no coincidence that GRRM picked the word ‘Valar’, so they probably were among his inspirations. As Archmaester Aemma pointed out, GRRM might be referencing the Valar, and to be more specific – Mandos – when he has the Kindly Man ask Arya ‘And are you a god, to decide who should live and who should die?’. Valar morghulis…


The Two Lamps of the Valar and the Spring of Arda

With this basic introduction to the Valar completed, we can move on to the real main topic of this section, the cosmology of Arda.

According to The Silmarillion, when the Valar completed their task of shaping and decorating Arda, they settled on the Isle of Almaren in the middle of the Great Lake in the middle of the entire world – back then, Arda was perfectly symmetrical. Melkor was gone, or so it seemed, as he fled in the aftermath of the First War, when Tulkas the Valiant descended to Arda. Melkor descended to Arda like the other Valar – in power and majesty greater than any other of the Valar, as a mountain that wades in the sea and has its head above the clouds and is clad in ice and crowned with smoke and fire; and the light of the eyes of Melkor was like a flame that withers with heat and pierces with a deadly cold. But when the others built, Melkor destroyed and corrupted. The Valar battled him, but could not overcome him, until Tulkas joined them in their efforts. Then Melkor passed the Walls of Night that surrounded the world and hid in the void.

The world was at peace, but darkness covered it. To bring light, so plants of Yavanna can flourish, the Valar constructed the Two Lamps. Aule raised the high pillars upon which they were placed, sky-blue Illuin in the north, and golden Ormal in the south. Varda filled them with light, and Arda became covered in trees, grasses and moss. A long period of happiness called the Spring of Arda began.


Arda during the Years of the Lamps, chart by BT

But unbeknownst to the Valar, Melkor returned from beyond the Walls of Night, and settled in the northern region of Arda, where the raised his stronghold called Utumno. From this fortress his hosts assailed the Two Lamps, and destroyed them. The lands were shattered upon their fall, and their flame poured over the earth. Seas rushed inlands, and the primordial symmetry the Valar have designed was lost. The world was once again enshrouded in darkness.

The collapse of the towers changes the layout of all lands, seas and mountains. The Sea of Ringil formed where Ormal once stood, and the Sea of Helcar where Illuin fell. In older versions of this myth, Tolkien wrote that the Lamps were made of ice and Melkor and his Balrogs were able to melt them. In yet another version, Melkor feigned friendship with the Valar and provided them with material from which they constructed the Lamps – ice.

In this era there were three continents that we know of. The Land of the Sun was located in the far east, with its mountain range being the Walls of the Sun. In some texts this continent is called Oronto, The East (Uttermost East), and the highest peak of the Walls of the Sun is called Kalormë, The Crest over Which Sun Rises.


Arda during the Years of the Trees, chart by BT

In the middle was Endor, or Middle-earth, with its Blue, Grey, Yellow and Red Mountains, and the Iron Mountains which protected Melkor’s stronghold of Utumno in the frozen north.

The Great Sea, Balegaer, separated Middle-earth from the Uttermost West. It was there the Valar settled after abandoning ruined Almaren. This continent became known as Aman, the Blessed Realm. The Valar raised the range of Pelóri, the Mountains of Defence, on the eastern shore. There they founded the realm of Valinor, fabled in history and songs.

Now, it is important to note that Aman and Valinor are not synonymous, as apart from Valinor surrounded by the Mountains of Defence, this continent had several other realms. In the south, there was a coastal strip of land between the Mountains and the sea called Avathar, a place of eternal darkness which will play an important role shortly before the Long Night. In the north, beyond Pelóri, lay the land of Araman, a frozen waste connected to Middle-earth by the frozen icy waste shrouded in mists called Helcaraxë, the Grinding Ice or the Narrow Ice.


The Two Trees of Valinor

Of the marvels of Valinor much can be said, and here I’ll merely mention the most important areas and places. In the south there were the Pastures of Yavanna, vast sprawling fields ornamented with golden wheat. In the Woods of Oromë animals and beasts of all kind were numerous, and the Vala enjoyed riding and hunting in this grand forest. In the west of the Uttermost West Nienna lived in her Halls, with windows looking outward of Walls of the World. To the Halls of Mandos the spirits of the dead were summoned, immortal Elves to await to be re-embodied, and mortal Men in preparation for their final journey out of this world. Vairë wove the threads of time and decorated the falls of Mandos with tapestries which chronicled the history of Arda. To the Gardens of Lórien all who were weary could come to rest, as their keeper Irmo was the Vala of dreams and visions. Apart from Irmo, Estë the Healer dwelt in the gardens as well. Aulë’s mansions were filled with forges and furnaces.

The place where the Valar gathered to convene was called Máhanaxar the Ring of Doom. Varda and Manwë lived in Ilmarin, atop the highest peak of both Aman and Arda, Taniquetil.

When the Elves came to Valinor, they built many cities and towers. Tirion upon Túna, the seat of the King of the Noldor. Fëanor’s stronghold of Formenos in the north, to which he was exiled for threatening his brother with a sword. Valmar of Many Bells, where some of the Vanyar elves lived, although others dwelt on Taniquetil – one of those was Ingwë, the King of the Vanyar, and High King of the Elves.

The Valar left only one pass in the Mountains of Defense, Calacirya, the Cleft of Light, so people of Valinor could travel to Alqualondë the Swanhaven, seat of the Falmari elves, the people of the waves.

But of all wonders of Valinor, the Two Trees were the greatest. To bring light to the world shattered in the aftermath of the fall of the Two Lamps, Yavanna planted silver Telperion and golden Laurelin on the green mound of Ezellohar, or Corollairë.

The Valar knew that the firstborn Children of Iluvatar will awake shortly, but where they could not tell, and they were afraid that if they were to reshape Arda in similar manner as they once had, the Children might be hurt. This is the tragedy of the Valar – they rarely could use their full power and might to combat Melkor, and later Sauron, as that could harm the Elves, and especially the vulnerable mortal Men. And because Melkor took part both in the Song of the Ainur and the shaping of Arda, his evil influence can’t be truly banished without destroying the world. The tenth volume of The History of Middle-earth is entitled Morgoth’s Ring in reference to this. Sauron bound the Three Rings and all great deeds achieved with their use to his will and fate by forging the Great Ring… but Melkor, who was the greatest of the Valar, marred the very fabric of Arda in its most ancient past.

In the Third Age, the Valar could have attacked Sauron directly, and easily defeat him. But in such war, the entire Middle-earth or its large parts could be destroyed. After the War of Wrath, the final confrontation with Morgoth, the entire realm of Beleriand was shattered and sank. That’s why the Valar elected to send five Maiar emissaries instead of an army, Aiwendil, Curumo, Alatar, Pallando and Olorin. The people of Middle-earth called them Istari, Wizards. They were forbidden to use their full power, and from using fear or force to influence Men and Elves. They were to assist and encourage, but avoid domination, as the will to dominate and forge order with force was what lead to Sauron’s fall in the first place.

But that concerns the Third Age, and we have still the Years of the Trees, the Long Night and two ages ahead of us.


The Stars and Constellations of Arda

The Valar felt that the firstborn Children of Iluvatar, known as the Elves, would awake shortly, but the exact time was not revealed to them. And neither was the place. The Valar saw that while Valinor enjoys light, the Middle-earth is largely dark. As Quenta Silmarillion tells us:

Then Varda went forth from the council, and she looked out from the height of Taniquetil, and beheld the darkness of Middle-earth beneath the innumerable stars, faint and far. Then she began a great labour, greatest of all the works of the Valar since their coming into Arda. She took the silver dews from the vats of Telperion, and therewith she made new stars and brighter against the coming of the Firstborn; wherefore she whose name out of the deeps of time and the labours of Eä was Tintallë, the Kindler, was called after by the Elves Elentári, Queen of the Stars. Carnil and Luinil, Nénar and Lumbar, Alcarinquë and Elemmírë she wrought in that time, and many other of the ancient stars she gathered together and set as signs in the heavens of Arda: Wilwarin, Telumendil, Soronúmë, and Anarríma; and Menelmacar with his shining belt, that forebodes the Last Battle that shall be at the end of days. And high in the north as a challenge to Melkor she set the crown of seven mighty stars to swing, Valacirca, the Sickle of the Valar and sign of doom.

The text then goes on to explain that when ‘first Menelmacar strode up the sky and the blue fire of Helluin flickered in the mists above the world […] the Children of Earth awoke, the Ilúvatar’ on the shores of lake Cuiviénen, which was truly a bay of the Sea of Helcar, in the foothills of the Red Mountains, or Orocarni. And thus the first sight their eyes beheld were the stars of Varda. For this reason since the day they have learned who made the stars and constellations, they revered Varda, the Queen of Stars, more than any other Valar. Even in the Third Age they would sing of Elbereth, as many poems found in the Lord of the Rings demonstrate. The Silmarillion then explains that now the world is changed, and those seas and mountains were broken and remade, and ‘to Cuiviénen there is no returning’. But the first of the Elves lived there, and just as the stars were the first thing the saw, the water flowing and falling over stone was the first sound their ears heard.

Now, I will talk about the elves and their tribes, so you understand who the Noldor, the Grey Elves, Green Elves and others were. But before we move on to that, I’d like to pause to talk about those stars and constellations The Silmarillion mentions.


This chart shows how the ancient peoples of Middle-earth perceived the world they lived in. In the Flat World continuity the world was really like this, but in the Round World version it was just how people imagined it. Some readers consider the Round World version to be ‘canonical’, because it was the one Tolkien developed in his later writings, although there is no complete book of myths adjusted to this conception. It is worth to mention that it seems that the name ‘Arda’ sometimes refers to the entire Solar System, while ‘Ambar’ refers to Earth alone.


Arda and the Airs in the Flat World version of The Silmarillion, chart by BT

Aman is located in the west of Ambar, and Land of the Syn in the east, with Middle-earth in the middle (surprise). The Earth is surrounded by ‘airs’, which can be understood as layers of the atmosphere. Aiwenórë is the air which living beings can breathe, and its name can be translated as Bird-land, as those animals can fly across it. Above Aiwenórë was Fanyamar, Cloudhome. Together with Bird-air, Cloudhome forms Vista, the atmosphere. Above Vista is Ilmen, where the stars are and flesh can not survive. Menel is the firmament or vault of heavens. Above Menel is Vaia (also called Ekkaia), the Encircling Sea, a dark ocean surrounding the entire world. Vaia is globed by Ilurambar, the Walls of the World, or Walls of Night, which have only two heavily guarded gates – the Door of Night in the west, and the Gates of the Morning in the east. Beyond Ilurambar lies The Outer Void, Avakúma.

Just like George R.R. Martin does, Tolkien describes the constellations and stars in some detail. Westerosi know seven ‘Wanderers’, which appear to be planets of the Solar System, those known to the ancient Greeks. (The word planet comes from ‘wanderer’). We know several constellations as well – Moonmaid, Shadowcat, Sow, Stallion-Horned Lord, Sword of the Morning, Crone’s Lantern, Ghost, Galley, King’s Crown and the Ice Dragon.

Some fans attempted to match those constellations with our own. Even if Westeros’ astronomy is different from ours, it seems that at least some stars were inspired by those visible from Earth – in Visenya Draconis LML speculates that the Ice Dragon is Draco, and the bright blue star that forms his eye is Alpha Draconis, spiced with some Vega symbolism, and in the sixth episode of the Bloodstone Compendium, he identifies the Sword of the Morning as Orion, but with some influence of Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar.

Tolkien’s constellations are most likely the same as our own, as Arda is supposed to be Earth in ancient past (at least in some versions of the mythos). But just like for the Westerosi, peoples of Middle-earth often called planets ‘stars’. Here I’ll present the most widely accepted matches for Arda’s stars, planets and constellations:

  • Carnil – describes as a ‘red star’ – Mars
  • Alcarinquë the Glorious – most likely Jupiter
  • Elemmírë the ‘star-jewel’ – Mercury
  • Luinil the blue shining star – probably Uranus (other possibilities: Rigel, Regulus)
  • Lumbar – Saturn
  • Nénar – most likely Neptune
  • The Star of Eärendil Venus (I’ll discuss its history and symbolism later, as according to The Silmarillion, it was created later than the others)
  • Borgil – a bright red star, a ‘red jewel’, which according to LOTR is close to the Swordsman of the Sky (Orion) – in this case Borgil would be most likely Aldebaran

In his linguistic writings, Tolkien names several other stars, but those are the most important ones, which appear in the narrative of the books.

Now, the constellations. Wilwarin the Butterfly is Cassiopeia (according to The Silmarillion‘s Index of Names). Sadly, we are unable to identify Telumendil, the Lover of Heavens. Soronúmë, the Eagle of the West, is most likely Aquila. Anarríma the Sun-border might be Corona Borealis (Tolkien Gateway suggests that it might be the Great Square of Pegasus).


Orion: The Swordsman of the Sky

Menelmacar the Swordsman of the Sky is Orion (this is confirmed by The Silmarillion index). The Grey Elves called it Menelvagor, and under this name it is mentioned in The Lord of the Rings:

The Elves sat on the grass and spoke together in soft voices; they seemed to take no further notice of the hobbits. Frodo and his companions wrapped themselves in cloaks and blankets, and drowsiness stole over them. The night grew on, and the lights in the valley went out. Pippin fell asleep, pillowed on a green hillock.

Away high in the East swung Remmirath, the Netted Stars, and slowly above the mists red Borgil rose, glowing like a jewel of fire. Then by some shift of airs all the mist was drawn away like a veil, and there leaned up, as he climbed over the rim of the world, the Swordsman of the Sky, Menelvagor with his shining belt. The Elves all burst into song. Suddenly under the trees a fire sprang up with a red light.

In one stage of the development of his mythos, Tolkien considered Menelmacar the celestial image of the great Edain hero of the First Age, Turin called the Blacksword. The Silmarillion never mentions this, but still gives us hints, saying that ‘Menelmacar with his shining belt forebodes the Last Battle that shall be at the end of days’. This Last Battle is Dagor Dagorath, the Battle of Battles, Arda’s Ragnarok or Apocalypse, when Morgoth will return and once again lead his hosts against the Valar, but will be slain by Turin Turambar come again. According to Mandos’ prophecy, Hurin’s son will pierce the Dark Lord’s heart with his famed sword Gurthang, which Eol the Dark Elf made from ‘the heart of a fallen star’, a black iron meteorite. Initially it was called Anglachel and had its twin in Anguirel, which was later stolen by Eol by his son Maeglin, the traitor who revealed the location of the Hidden City of Gondolin to Morgoth. With this sword, Turin accidentally slew his friend Beleg, Glaurung the golden dragon and a certain Brandir the Lame. Gurthang is described in this way: ‘though ever black its edges shone with pale fire’. Dark Lightbringer? (LML suggests that Lightbringer the literal sword might have been a black sword, possibly forged from one of the fallen black moon meteors).

That’s interesting, since in ASOIAF we have Azor Ahai, and as LML suggests, his sword Lightbringer might have been black. This fits with the duality we see in House Dayne, where we get the Swords of the Morning and the Swords of the Evening. This is of course based on Venus, which is both Evenstar and Morningstar, and plays an important role in many mythologies. But GRRM’s Sword of the Morning/Evening might be based on Orion as well, and maybe on Tolkien’s version of this constellation as well… Turin the Blacksword is one of the most morally complex characters in the Legendarium, rivaling maybe Feanor, so I could see why GRRM would make references to him. (Barthogan Stark, called Barth the Blacksword might be another nod to Turin).

It is worth to mention that in order to fight in the Last Battle, Turin would have to be reborn and raise from his tomb under the Stone of the Hapless (no doubt named by Dolorous Edd). After the War of Wrath, when the Valar defeated Morgoth at the end of the First Age, the entire realm of Beleriand in Middle-earth where most of The Silmarillion takes place was drowned by the Great Sea. But the Stone remained above water, as a tiny island called Tol Morwen. And Azor Ahai shall be reborn from the sea…


The Stars and Constellations of Arda Continued

In the LOTR passage I’ve just quoted, we were introduced to another constellation, Remmirath the Netted Stars, known to us as the Pleiades. Then there are the seven stars forming Durin’s Crown, which the first dwarf saw over the crystal clear lake called Mirrormere when the world was still young. It became an important symbol for the Dwarves of Khazad-dûm (Moria), who ornamented the Doors of Durin, their eastern gate, with its likeness.

The final constellation of Arda that we know of is Valacrica, the Sickle of the Valar. In The Hobbit Bilbo calls it the Wain, and its other name was Burning Briar. To us it is Ursa Major, the Great Bear.

Although I’m not sure if GRRM was directly inspired by what Tolkien has done when he decided to base his fantasy constellations on those from real-world astronomy (and giving them new names and mythical backstories), the fact that both authors have thought about constellations alone shows the attention to detail and the depth of their world-building.

Now, the most important ‘star’ of Tolkien’s Legendarium is no doubt the Star of Earendil, Venus. But we will discuss it later, as according to the mythos, it was put on the firmament by Varda at the end of the First Age, and its symbolism appears very often in the Second Age and the Third. But the Sun and the Moon deserve out equal attention, as I believe that some myths found in ASOIAF were directly influenced by their creation story found in The Silmarillion. While the Swordsman of the Sky/Orion’s correlation with the pyramids of Giza! – I’m kidding of course – I mean Turin is a bit obscure, this Sun and Moon story is right there in The Silmarillion, which GRRM has surely read – ASOIAF contains many references to this book.

I listed some of those in the first episode, but quick recap might come in handy. We have names like Daeron/Dareon, Beren and Berena. One of the rumours that emerge after the Purple Wedding seems to be a reference to Tolkien – 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.’ Luthien skinchanged into a bat, and Beren into a wolf when they were about to infiltrate Morgoth’s fortress of Angband. We have Lady Meliana of Mole’s Town, a likely reference to Queen Melian of Doriath, the only of the Maiar who married and elf, and gave birth to Luthien.

Marillion the singer might be named after Tolkien’s book. We have ship-burnings of King Brandon Stark and Nymeria, possibly based on Feanor’s famous burning of the swanships stolen in Valinor. And we have Maedhros and Jaime, both obsessed with oaths… who both were captured and lost their swordhands.


Morningstar before Earendil?

Now, since we’re talking about astronomy, it’s interesting that Luthien is called the Morning Star of the Elves, in contrast to Arwen, the Evenstar of the Elves. Arwen is Earendil’s granddaughter, and he is the Morningstar/Evenstar (both ‘stars’ are Venus, but in different position) character and steersman of ‘star’ Venus. But when Luthien lived, there was no Venus yet. So either some later chronicler granted her this epithet – or Arda had another morningstar before Venus, which wasn’t evenstar as well, as Venus/Star of Earendil is. It might have been Mercury/Elemmírë, which wouldn’t be overshadowed by Venus’s brightness back then, or Sirius the Dog Star, famous for its heliacal rising (above eastern horizon just before sunrise, after a period when it was not visible at all). Luthien has a strong connection with dogs, courtesy of Huan the Hound of the Valar who was her companion. (And I suggest this Hound might have been the inspiration behind Joffrey’s Hound, Sandor Clegane. Both were forced to serve cruel masters, King Joff and Celegorm Feanor’s son). Whilst not directly relevant, I think it illustrates the relationship between astronomy and Tolkien’s mythology nicely, before we dive deeply into the topic.


GRRM and Tolkienic Symbolism

Before we discuss the Long Night of Arda, and the creation of the Sun and the Moon, I think I owe you an explanation of how, at least in my opinion, GRRM’s references to Tolkien work.

As LML details in his essays, GRRM is heavily inspired by real-world mythology when writing his books. When at some point in his writing process he decides he wants to insert a flaming sword or a meteoric sword, he goes through all those mythologies and looks for such swords. Then he picks those bits of symbolism that suit him. So we have references to Elric of Melnibone, Turin Turambar, Excalibur, the flaming sword from the Garden of Eden narrative and all those other swords from fantasy and myth (which are often the same, as it turns out). Then he leaves some clues so we can see what inspired him, so his reader can go and read those stories or decode the symbolism of his story.

So, GRRM decides he wants to have this situation where there was this long period of darkness. Then he looks for similar ideas in other books and myths. In The Silmarillion, he notices the Long Night of Valinor, about which I’ll shortly talk, and in LOTR he might have noticed the ‘days without dawn’ where vapour and clouds sent from Mordor darkened Gondor.

At some point, he decides he wants to use Morningstar/Evenstar symbolism, so he looks at Earendil, the tale of Numenor (which could also surface, pun intended, if he researched ancient lost civilizations similar to Atlantis, the basis for the Great Empire of the Dawn and Old Valyria), the Edain, Narsil/Anduril, Isildur, Anarion, Elendil.

And if he researched the theme of corrupted moon, he could have come across Minas Ithil turned into Minas Morgul and all the dead moon, corpse light and fell beast symbolism related with it and the Nazgul, shadows that come from this corrupted Moon-city. And he leaves hints so the reader can see what he’s doing with those inspirations, for example by naming one of his dragons Morghul. LML would tell you that dragons can symbolise moon meteors coming from the destroyed moon – and while Minas Morgul is not a destroyed moon, it comes pretty close as it’s a corrupted moon, from which Nazgul come forth, sometimes riding the dragon-like fell beasts, and wielding poisoned Morgul-blades. Comets, dragons and flaming swords.

No matter how, I believe that at some point in his writing process, GRRM noticed that Tolkien’s symbolism and language connected with Suns, Moons, stars and flaming swords. So he has used it as a source of inspiration, just like all those other mythologies. There are so many fans dedicated to exploring how myths from our world influenced ASOIAF – Greek, Norse, Persian, Arthurian legends and so many others. For GRRM, it seems, Tolkien’s Legendarium deserves equal homage. And I certainly agree with him on that.


The Elves

Now, the Sun and the Moon… Well, not now. But in a moment. First we have to explore the origins of the Elves, and how some of them came to Valinor.

This chart shows how Arda looked like in this period:


Cuiviénen, where the first elves woke under the stars of Varda was in the far east of Middle-earth. It is often called ‘Lake Cuiviénen’, but in reality it was a bay of the inland ‘Sea of Helcar’. Harad lays no larger role in this time period, and the Dark Land and the Land of the Sun are never prominent in the myths of the Legendarium, which largely concern the north of Middle-earth, with some consideration for Valinor, and in the Second Age – Numenor. This map doesn’t show Númenórë, which was an isle in the Great Sea. But it was raised from the depths in the Second Age. Other major change between the First Age and the Second is the drowning of Beleriand after the War of Wrath. Hildórien is the region where first Men woke at the beginning of the First Age.

Now, first Elves woke by the Waters of Awakening, but the Valar knew not of this. But Melkor learned of this, and sent ‘shadows’ and evil beasts to harass the elves, and kidnapped many, and as some legends tell us, turned them into first orcs. (Though it is suggested that some of the mightier orcs were fallen Maiar who assumed such shapes).

But Oromë the Huntsman would ride across Middle-earth (though Melkor tried to stop his journeys by raising the Hithaeglir, the Towers of Mists, later known as the Misty Mountains. Oromë was relentless, and finally, by pure chance, happened across the elves. He called them the Eldar, People of the Stars, as they were gazing into the night sky as he saw them. But they called themselves Quendi, Those Who Speak With Voices. Their legends spoke of two monsters, the Hunter and the Rider. Whether those were vague memories of those shadows Melkor sent to catch Quendi, or lies spread by the Dark Lord, so the elves would flee from Oromë when he happened on them during his voyages, no one can tell.

But in this way the Valar learned of the elves, and of Melkor’s new foul deeds. A host of the Valar attacked Morgoth’s stronghold of Utumno, and soon bright lights flashing and raging fires were seen by the elves in the north. Melkor was captured, and taken to Valinor, where Mandos imprisoned him in his halls, from which no being can escape.

Meanwhile, the Valar gathered for a council, and although some disagreed, decided to bring elves to Valinor. But the elves were reluctant, and even afraid, remembering the Hunter and the Rider, and the recent Battle of Powers they have glimpsed from afar.

Three envoys were dispatched to Valinor, to survey that realm. Those were Finwe, Ingwe and Elwe, who would become kings. They witnessed the glory of the Blessed Realm, and saw the light of the Two Trees. Then they returned to Cuiviénen, and the elves prepared for their Great Journey to Valinor. But not all.


The Sundering of the Elves, chart by BT

The criterion of the first major division of the elves is whether they set off on the Great Journey to Valinor, or not. Although Oromë named all elves ‘Eldar’, this name came to apply only to those that began the Journey. The other group were the Avari, the Refusers, who stayed at Cuiviénen (although some later migrated and mingled with other tribes). Their leaders were Morwe and Nurwe. The Eldar were divided into three tribes.

The Vanyar had golden hair and pale skin, and their weapon of choice was spear. Their king was Ingwe, one of the emissaries to Valinor. The Vanyar were the smallest tribe, but all arrived in the Blessed Realm. Some legends suggest that the Vanyar came from those Imin the First, his wife Iminyë and their 12 companions.

The Noldor claimed descent from Tata, the second of elven fathers, his wife Tatië and their 54 companions. But only half of Tata’s tribe set off on the Great Journey, and 28 joined the Avari. Their hair was usually dark, though Feanor’s sons had the red hair of their mother Nerdanel and her father Mahtan. (And Feanor’s mother Miriel had silver hair). They fought with swords, and their skills in smithing and crafts were great. All of them arrived in Valinor, but some would later rebel and return to Middle-earth under Feanor. Their first king was Finwe.

The Teleri (or the Lindar, Singers) were the largest group. They claimed descent from the tribe of Enel, the third elf and his wife Enelyë, who had 72 companions. But 28 of them joined the Avari. The Teleri usually fought using bows, and their hair was silver or dark. Not all of them arrived in Valinor.


The Chronology of Arda

It is unclear whether there really were 144 elves at the time when Oromë found them – supposedly Melkor kidnapped some, and Cuivienyarna might be just a legend. But whatever the case, it seems that all members of the First Tribe became the Vanyar, and half of the Second Tribe became the Noldor, while some of the Third Tribe became the Teleri. It seems that the Great Journey took many years, and perhaps even generations. According to Annals of Aman the Eldar set off on the Journey in the Year of the Trees 1105, and those of the Teleri who arrived in Valinor did so in the Year of the Trees 1150. The Year of the Trees 1105 was the 4605th Valian year (as reckoned from the beginning of the First War between Melkor and the Valar, how many years passed between the creation of the world and the First War no one can tell, but in the Round World continuity, this period most likely lasted for billions of world, when the stars and planets formed like in our world).

The Annals explain that one Valian Year is equal in length to 9 years 212 days and 18 hours.

The timeline of ancient Arda looks more or less like this (in Valian Years):

1-1499 – The First War
1500 – Tulkas the Strong descends to Arda, Melkor flees
1900 – The Two Lamps completed (The Years of the Lamps are reckoned from this point)
1900 – 3450 – The Spring of Arda
3450 – Melkor destroys the Two Lamps
3500 – The Two Trees are made by Yavanna (The Years of the Trees are reckoned from this point)

3500 Valian Years (1900 years + Years of the Lamps) = around 33 530 solar years

4550 – Varda creates the constellations and new stars, the first elves wake
4600 – Melkor is taken to Valinor
4605 – The Great Journey begins
4625 – The Vanyar and the Noldor arrive in Valinor
4650 – some of the Teleri are ferried across the Great Sea by Ulmo
4995 – Melkor destroys the Two Trees, The Long Night begins
5000 – The Moon first rises, followed by the sun

Now, although some fans use the term ‘First Age of the Sun’, it is not stated in the books that the First Age began with the first sunrise. The first 590 solar years, during which most of The Silmarillion takes place, were part of this age, but this does not mean that the First Age was 590 years long. For some, the First Age ‘of the Children of Iluvatar’ began with the awakening of the Elves in Valian Year 4550. In this case, the First Age would be about 4901 solar years long (450 Valian Years times 9,58 + 590 sun years).

The Second Age length is less complicated, as it includes 3441 years, while the Third Age had 3021 years, and Tolkien’s abandoned story The Ned Shadow was to be set in the year 220 of the Fourth Age.

With this talk of timelines, I wanted to show the grandeur of Tolkien’s myths, spanning 7 272 years of the sun, and 5000 Valian years (about 47 900 solar years), 55 172 years in total, with the addition of eons beyond count before the First War.

Anyway, the Great Journey lasted close to 431 solar years, and the number of living elves was vastly multiplied. Meanwhile, Melkor remained in custody, sentenced to three Valian ages of imprisonment (300 Valian years, from Year 4600 to Year 4900), which is about 2874 solar years.

I will explain the Long Night of Arda shortly, but for now, you can note that it was 5 Valian Years long, which is about 48 years of our reckoning. A night that lasted for generations… I’ve heard that before.

The Teleri

Let’s return to the Teleri, so lonely on their Journey across Middle-earth, as the Vanyar and the Noldor were long gone, and their host, the largest, lagged behind. The Teleri were the largest tribe, so they had two kings, brothers Olwe and Elwe, one of three emissaries to Valinor). But upon reaching the Vales of Anduin, and seeing the peaks of the Misty Mountains towering high in the distance, many members of this clan were frightened and reluctant to go any further. They settled there, in the Vales, and became known as the Nandor, Those Who Go Back. Their leader was Lenwë.

The Silvan Elves of the Third Age, the people of Lorien and Mirkwood, were their descendants. But many of their rulers were not, as the Wood-elves of Mirkwood were ruled by King Amdír of the Grey Elves, who perished in the War of the Last Alliance, then by his son Amroth, and finally by Galadriel (of the Noldor) and her husband Celeborn of the Grey Elves. Similarly, Oropher became the king of Wood-elves of the Woodland Realm, in Greenwood the Great, later renamed Mirkwood. Oropher was killed during the Battle of Dagorlad, just like Amdír. (The Silvan Elves were unwilling to accept the orders of Gil-galad, the High King of the Noldor, or Elendil, the High King of the Dúnedain, the Last Alliance’s supreme commanders. Brave they were, but lightly armored and ill-armed, unlike the Noldor or the Dúnedain. Sauron’s forces slaughtered most of them, as they charged before the main allied host was ready. Kings Amdír and Oropher were forced to retreat to the Dead Marshes, where both perished, besides thousands of their warriors. Because of all those corpses that have sunk in the bog, this area was known afterwards as the Dead Marshes. Frodo, Sam and Gollum would pass through them over three thousand years later.

Thranduil, the Elvenking from The Hobbit was Oropher’s son, and Legolas his grandson. How did it happen that Grey Elves became rulers of the Silvan Elves, the Nandor? Well, to explain this, let’s follow that part of the Teleri who passed the Misty Mountains, and later the Blue, and entered a realm called Beleriand, the vast region around the Bay of Balar.

There they found out that the Vanyar and the Noldor were already being ferried to Valinor by Ulmo, who used the Lonely Island, Tol Eressëa as a giant ship. It was named so because initially, it was placed in the middle of the Great Sea, halfway from Valinor to Middle-earth. Later, when all willing elves were transported upon it, it was anchored just off the coast of Valinor, in the Bay of Eldamar. It was surrounded by the Enchanted Isles, the vast uncharted archipelago, permanently shrouded in mists, created by the Valar to stop anyone trying to land on the shores of Valinor without their permission.

Thus the Teleri had to set up camps in Beleriand, and wait till Ulmo returned. (They arrived in Beleriand in the Valian Year 4628, and were ferried in 4651, so they’ve spent about 220 solar years there). Elwe, one of their two leaders (the other being his brother Olwe) would often wander around in the primordial woods that covered Middle-earth in those days. And as the explored the forest of Nan Elmoth, he happened on Melian of the Maiar, and they well in love, and stood there under trees growing ever higher around there, as if enchanted for many years. But Elwe’s people knew nothing of this, and searched for him relentlessly. Meanwhile, Ulmo returned and was unwilling to wait until Elwe’s return. Some of the Teleri agreed, and sailed to Valinor, naming Elwe’s brother Olwe their king. There they built Alqualondë, the Swanhaven. Because of their mastery in shipwrighting, and their love for the sea, they became known as the Falmari, the folk of the waves.

But some stayed in Beleriand, unwilling to abandon their king. They called themselves Eglath, the Forsaken. Yet another group of the Teleri became enamoured by the beauty of the coast of this land, and settled there. Their leader was Nowë, later known as Círdan the Shipwright. They were called the Falathrim, the coast people.

When after many years Elwe returned with Melian, now his wife, his faithful friends and retainers became the Sindar, the Grey Elves, or Elves of Twilight. Their realm was the might kingdom of Doriath, and its capital Menegroth, the Thousand Caves. There Elwe, now called Elu Thingol the Greycloak reigned as King and Melian as Queen. Círdan’s people accepted him as their lord.

The elves who arrived in Valinor when the Two Trees still shone there were called Calaquendi, the Elves of the Light, or the High Elves. They were also known as the High Elves, and Quenya was their language. Those who never saw the light of the Trees were called Moriquendi, Elves of the Darkness. But Elwe’s people were somewhere in the middle, as their lord has seen the light of the Trees, as the was among the first three envoys to Valinor… and their queen was Melian of the Maiar, who shared some of the knowledge of Valinor. Thus they were the Grey Elves, the Sindar, and their tongue was Sindarin, the most popular Tolkienic language besides Quenya.

Some of the Nandor who lingered in the Vales of Anduin ultimately passed the Misty Mountains, and entered Beleriand under Denethor, Lenwë’s son. They settled in a woodland region called Ossiriand, and became Laiquendi, the Green Elves.

Now, when Beleriand sank at the end of the First Age, some of the Sindar still refused to travel to Valinor, and instead fled eastward, where they joined the Silvan Elves in their realms. The natives respected their knowledge and wisdom, and thus accepted Sindarin rulers.

Tolkienic elves are a large and diverse group, which makes me wonder – are GRRM’s Children of the Forest really so homogenous? Do they have tribes and clans and nations? Are the Ifequevron of Essos similar to the Green Elves or Wood Elves? Are the Westerosi Children more like the Eldar, and the Ifequevron Avari? Or maybe, it were the Children who were left behind, and somewhere in the marvellous lands of the east, there is some more advanced civilization of this people? The Children are, after all, Those Who Sing the Song of Earth, and another name of the Teleri is Lindar, the Singers, while the Elves are Quendi, Those Who Speak With Voices. It seems the Elves played at least a tiny role in the creation those who lived in Westeros’ woods before First Men came from the east.


The Noldor and the Darkening of Valinor

With this basic explanation of the major elven tribes and nations, we can move on to the events that led to the Long Night of Valinor.

After the War for the Sake of Elves, Melkor was imprisoned in Mandos for three Valian ages, which is about 2 874 solar years – a long sentence, but I guess turning Elves into Orcs is one of the worst crimes imaginable. When this time passed, he was released, and saw the glory of Valinor, and Elves who prospered in the Blessed Realm. He was jealous, and above all else, furious. But he masked his feelings, and asked the Valar to be pardoned. The Valar granted his request, and thus Melkor walked freely in Valinor and was counted among the Valar. Now he was helpful and smiling, but secretly, he began planning his revenge.

The Vanyar he found not interesting, as they were a peaceful people, enjoying poetry and singing, and besides that, they were too close to Manwe and Varda to corrupt. The Teleri with their sea and ships also weren’t suitable for his goals. But the Noldor… now they were numerous, and restless, and ever hungry for knowledge. Which Melkor was happy to provide. And as he got to know them better, he took special interest in their royal house, seeing the conflict in the making that required only a spark to go off.

Finwe, the King of the Noldor, married Miriel the Broideress. She gave birth to Feanor, the Spirit of Fire, the greatest of all smiths and craftsmen of Arda. But giving birth to Feanor took all her strength, and she went to the Gardens of Lórien. But even there she couldn’t find peace, and her body dwindled. That was the first time an elf died in the Blessed Realm. But in the beginning, few were worried, assuming she will return from Mandos shortly, re-embodied. Yet she refused, wishing no everlasting life.

Finwe remarried, this time to Indis of the Vanyar, the High King Ingwe’s kinswoman. With his second wife, he had four children: Findis, Fingolfin, Írimë and Finarfin. We will discuss this house in detail in a later section, as it has some really interested ice-and-fire split, supported with interesting symbolism. For now, suffice to say that there was little love between Feanor and his half-brothers. Of course, Melkor was about to make use that.

Melkor spread rumours and lies, and some of the Noldor came to believe that Valinor is but a golden cage, and the elves will never truly flourish lest they flee from the Valar and return to Middle-earth. And Feanor liked Fingolfin and Finarfin even less, and then came to hate them, believing that they were trying to usurp his birthright as Finwe’s firstborn son, to steal his rightful place as the heir to the King of the Noldor.

Feanor, as I’ve said, was the greatest craftsman and artist of Arda. Many precious artifacts he created, and among them were the famed palantiri seeing-stones. But his greatest work were the three jewels, the Silmarils, which contained the unsullied light of the Two Trees.

Melkor desired them, and worked even more than before to create unrest among the Noldor. In the end, Feanor threatened his half-brother Fingolfin with a sword. The Valar gathered for a trial, and it was revealed that Melkor was behind all of this. But when guards were dispatched to apprehend him, he was nowhere to be found. Yet for the Valar Melkor’s influence was no excuse for Feanor’s actions, and he was exiled from the Noldor city of Tirion, and moved to Formenos, a stronghold in the northern part of the Blessed Realm. King Finwe went there as well, unwilling to abandon his son and heir, and Feanor’s seven sons, taking the Silmarils with them.

I know it’s been some time since we’ve last talked something directly connected with A Song of Ice and Fire. But don’t worry, we’re about to do just that.


The Long Night

Melkor fled from Valinor, but not to Middle-earth. As I’ve mentioned, Valinor is not synonymous with the continent of Aman, as there were two regions beyond the Mountains of Defence. In their shadow, in a valley between the Mountains and the coast, there lived a creature, similar in shape to a giant spider. Her name was Ungoliant, and just like her realm of Avathar, her origins remain hidden in the shadow. Fans speculate that she was one of the fallen Ainur, one of the Maiar who rebelled against the Valar, but unlike the Balrogs and Sauron, she never joined Melkor and served no one but herself. Shelob, the spider from LOTR, is supposedly her daughter. Melkor made a pact with Ungoliant, promising great treasures for her help in his plot. Then she wove a cloak of darkness, the Unlight, around them, and hidden from the eyes of the watchers, they climbed the ‘Wall’ of Valinor, formed by the adjacent peaks of the Mountains of Defence, in which there were no passes save for Calacirya (which was heavily guarded, but left open so Elves of Valinor can visit the Teleri in their port city of Swanhaven).

Now, this spider climbing a wall to enter a heavily guarded realm reminds me of the Others with their spiders (BIG AS HOUNDS!) climbing the Wall of Westeros.

Melkor picked a perfect day for his assault, a great holiday where the Valar, the Maiar and the Elves would gather in Manwe and Varda’s halls upon Mount Taniquetil. And this year’s high feast in praise of Eru, organised to celebrate the first gathering of fruits, marked the end of Feanor’s exile. Valmar, Tirion and all other cities were silent and empty, and unnoticed, Melkor and Ungoliant arrived at Ezellohar where the Two Trees stood. And as Feanor and Fingolfin shook hands, with all Valar, Maiar and many Elves standing in witness, Melkor got his revenge.

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.

Darkness fell heavy on Valinor, and all Arda. The Silmarillion tells us that ‘The Light failed’. But it was no ordinary darkness that followed. That Darkness seemed to be ‘a being of its own’, piercing eyes, entering hearts and minds, and strangling will.

From Taniquetil, the Valar saw a Shadow above the city of Valmar, and darkness spreading like ‘a deep sea of night‘ and all lands foundered in it, and in the end, Taniquetil stood alone, an island in a world drowned in Darkness.

Then Manwe beheld a Cloud of Unlight flying fast above Valinor, and though even his sight could not pierce it, he knew it was Melkor in his disguise. Orome pursued him, on his great horse Nahar, sparks glowing between his hooves. But as they came closer to the Cloud of Unlight, Orome and his riders were blinded, and even his horn Valarome failed. Even Tulkas the Strong was caught by this darkness, a net of night, and could only stand and blindly beat the air. Melkor was gone and the Long Night began.

But that was not the end of his revenge, and on this very day, the dealt the people of Valinor another grievous word. The Valar examined the Trees, and saw that they were dying and could not be saved, unless Feanor agreed to break the Silmarils and give their light to the trees. But he was unwilling to destroy his greatest works. But even as they spoke, a messenger arrived from Formenos. Melkor attacked Feanor’s stronghold, and all defenders fled, all but King Finwe who was killed. The vault was opened, and all treasures of the House of Feanor robbed, the Silmarils among them. Upon hearing this, Feanor cursed Melkor, calling him Morgoth, the Dark Tyrant.

Furious, Feanor gathered the Noldor and urged them to pursue Melkor wherever he went and avenge their king and retrieve the jewels. The Valar forbade them to leave the Blessed Realm, but Feanor would not listen. At Tirion, Feanor and his Seven Sons swore a terrible Oath, naming Eru Iluvatar as witness and calling the Everlasting Darkness to consume them should they ever break it. Thus, some of the Noldor joined Feanor in rebellion.

But Melkor fled across the Great Sea and joined his army in Angband (Hell of Iron), which was one of the strongholds guarding his main seat at Utumno in the north, should the Valar attack from the west. It was largely destroyed when the Valar sacked it during the War for the Sake of Elves. But during Morgoth’s captivity, some of his servants that evaded capture returned to it, rebuilding and expanding the fortress. Among them was Sauron and many Balrogs.

The Noldor who followed Feanor wanted to chase after Morgoth, but they had no ships of their own, and the Teleri of Alqualondë (Swanhaven) refused to give their own white swan ships to them. And this led to one of the darkest chapters in the history of the elves, as in that hour Feanor ordered his troops to sack the havens and steal the ships. The Teleri tried to resist, and thus the streets and harbours of Swanhaven were sprinkled with blood of elves slain by elves. That was the First Kinslaying.

For some time, the Teleri managed to fight back, but so far, only Feanor’s followers and retainers arrived at Alqualondë. The hosts of Fingolfin and Finarfin were still on their way. Fingolfin was not as hot-headed as his half-brother, and Finarfin was married to Eärwen, King Olwë’s daughter. Most likely, they would have never joined the battle had they knew it was Feanor who attacked. But from what they understood at the time, the Teleri attempted to stop the Noldor with force on the orders of the Valar.

In the end, the Sea-elves were slaughtered and their ships stolen. Some of Feanor’s soldiers steered them northward, sailing parallel to the shore. The rest of the Noldor host marched along them on the shore. But as they were about to leave Swanhaven, an envoy of the Valar appeared, a dark figure high on the rocks overlooking the beach. Some say it was Mandos himself. He spoke the Doom of the Noldor, the Prophecy of the North, cursing them for the blood they’ve spilled, and promising that they will die in Middle-earth, their spirits returning to Mandos, where they will remain for long, yearning for their bodies.

Then Finarfin and some of his followers turned back and returned to Valinor, and asked the Valar for forgiveness. Thus Finarfin became the King of the Noldor in Valinor. But Feanor was relentless and the rest of the Noldor continued on.

When they reached Helcaraxë, a frozen ice bay where the Great Sea met the Encircling Seas, a land of grinding icebergs and cold mists, he saw that many of the Noldor would die should they choose to cross this ‘land’ bridge to Middle-earth. Feanor didn’t trust his half-brother Fingolfin, and in secret, he had his own followers man and board the swanships. And they sailed away, leaving Fingolfin. Feanor didn’t care if he’d try to return to Valinor and face the Doom, or die crossing the frozen waste. When ‘his’ ships arrived in Middle-earth, his eldest son Maedhros, who was a friend of Fingolfin’s son Fingon asked his father:

‘Now what ships and rowers will you spare to return, and whom shall they bear hither first? Fingon the valiant?’
Then Fëanor laughed as one fey, and he cried: ‘None and none! What I have left behind I count now no loss; needless baggage on the road it has proved. Let those that cursed my name, curse me still, and whine their way back to the cages of the Valar! Let the ships burn!
Then Maedhros alone stood aside, but Fëanor caused fire to be set to the white ships of the Teleri. So in that place which was called Losgar at the outlet of the Firth of Drengist ended the fairest vessels that ever sailed the sea, in a great burning, bright and terrible. And Fingolfin and his people saw the light afar off, red beneath the clouds; and they knew that they were betrayed. This was the firstfruits of the Kinslaying and the Doom of the Noldor.

But Fingolfin began the perilous journey through Helcaraxë with his followers. Many perished, but ultimately, they’ve reached Middle-earth.


The Sun and the Moon

In the first episode of Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire I suggested that the ‘burnings of the ships’ we see in ASOIAF were based on Feanor’s dark deed. Brandon the Burner set his father’s fleet afire when King Brandon the Shipwright (a possible reference to Cirdan the Shipwright) didn’t return from his voyage across the Sunset Sea. The second massive ship burning we hear about is Nymeria’s. When the Rhoynish warrior-princess landed in Dorne, she had her famed Ten Thousand Ships burned, proclaiming that ‘Our wanderings are at an end. We have found a new home, and here we shall live and die’. This might be a nod to another landing from Tolkien’s novels, the scene where Elendil arrives in Middle-earth after the Downfall of Numenor. His famous words were: ‘Et Eärello Endorenna utúlien. Sinome maruvan ar Hildinyar tenn’ Ambar-metta’ – Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place will I abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world. Aragorn spoke them during his coronation at the end of The Return of the King.

Interestingly, although Feanor burned swanships of the Teleri, and Nymeria’s ships were Rhoynar ships, not swan-ships of the Summer Islands, she has arrived from those Isles, so the connection is still there. Maybe GRRM didn’t want to make it too obvious.

Now, I think those two references to The Silmarillion really serve to support the theory I’m about to share with you – that the Qartheen legend about dragons coming from the moon, and Dothraki belief that sun and moon are lovers were inspired by Tolkien. And that GRRM had those chapters about the Darkening of Valinor and Flight of the Noldor in mind when writing ASOIAF.

As I’ve mentioned, this long period of darkness, caused by Melkor and Ungoliant, was called the Long Night. GRRM uses the same term in ASOIAF. It might be nothing more than a coincidence, but with all those other references, I find it hard to believe. And as you’ll see, the similarities don’t end here.

I’m not sure if Tolkien’s Long Night was the main inspiration behind GRRM’s. It’s just as likely that GRRM came up with this name independently, or has drawn his inspiration from some other fantasy series or mythology. But at some point in his writing process, he returned to The Silmarillion – maybe it was just a re-read, maybe he was researching how Tolkien uses some different motif or theme – dragons, flaming swords, meteoric swords, lost civilizations… who knows – but he noticed the Long Night. And maybe incorporated its elements into his own myth and symbolism.

In Mythical Astronomy terms, a Dark Lord piercing the Two Trees is quite similar to LML’s idea about the comet striking the Second Moon of Planetos, as it was in an eclipse alignment, in front of the sun. The Two Trees aren’t the Sun and the Moon, but they play their role, and as you’ll see very soon, they are the ‘parents’ of the Sun and the Moon, proto-Sun and proto-Moon if you will. And they stood on the green mound of Ezellohar, where their light mingled. And when does the ‘light’ of the Sun and the Moon mingle? When they’re in eclipse alignment. So we have the ‘god’s eye’ image, where a Dark Lord, an Azor Ahai-like fallen Morningstar figure, Morgoth, pierces the ‘Sun’ and the ‘Moon’, and a dark spider poisons them. Then he steals the Silmarils, which contain the mixed light of the Trees, the fire of the gods (the Valar aren’t truly gods, but people of Middle-earth often called them gods, and Eru ‘God’ with capital g). Then the Long Night begins.

The fire of the gods is a recurring symbol in mythology – a character steals the ‘fire’ from a deity or some other powerful being, and in some cases, is severely punished, like Prometheus. The fire doesn’t have to be literal fire – sometimes it’s just a symbol of divine knowledge or power. In The Silmarillion, we have Morgoth who steals the Silmarils, which contain light of the Two Trees, and at the same time, steals the light from Valinor by killing the Trees. LML calls this fractal symbolism – causing a Long Night by killing the trees (stealing light) is not so different from stealing the light of the Valar in form of the Silmarils.

Now, how Arda’s Sun and the Moon were created? The chapter Of the Sun and the Moon and the Hiding of Valinor, which comes right after the burning of the ships (which GRRM has references twice, at least according to my theory), describes this. Laurelin, the golden tree, gave one final fruit, and the silver tree Telperion the last silver flower.

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.

The name of Aragorn’s sword Narsil seems to be a reference to this Song of the Sun and the Moon- this will be important later.

A paragraph later, The Silmarillion tells us that:

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.

Elves cherish the Moon, but the Sun is a sign of Men… This symbolism will be important, but later on – we have much else to discuss before we get to the section about Earendil. Don’t worry, I’ll quote this passage again, so we all have it fresh in our minds.

The Valar chose two of the Maiar to steer, guide and defend the newly-made celestial bodies. Tilion, who became the Steersman of the Moon, was one of Oromë’s hunters, but was also associated with Estë. He loved all things silver and even his bow was made of this metal. Tilion pleaded with the Valar to let him guide the last Silver Fruit of Telperion the silver tree, which was turned into the Moon.

Arien the maiden was mightier than he, and she was chosen because she had not feared the heats of Laurelin, and was unhurt by them, being from the beginning a spirit of fire, whom Melkor had not deceived nor drawn to his service. Too bright were the eyes of Arien for even the Eldar to look on, and leaving Valinor she forsook the form and raiment which like the Valar she had worn there, and she was as a naked flame, terrible in the fullness of her splendour.

Arien was one of the spirits of fire, a sister of the Balrogs. But when they sided with Melkor, she was not deceived. Before the Long Night, she tended to golden flowers in gardens of Vána, Orome’s wife and Yavanna’s sister.

The Moon was ready before the Valar made the final Golden Flower of Laurelin the golden tree into the Sun, thus it rose first, and would rise for seven times before the first sunrise. The Elves looked into the sky, and were delighted. At the very moment of the first Moonrise, Fingolfin and his host finally arrived in the northern part of Middle-earth, having crossed the Grinding Ice, Helcaraxë. His men blew silver trumpets as they marched forward, towards Beleriand.

Then the Vessel of Arien, the Sun, rose first in Valinor. And thus the first sunrise was in the west. ‘And the first dawn of the Sun was like a great fire upon the towers of the Pelóri’. Morgoth and his minions trembled, and the Dark Lord sent clouds and vapours out of his stronghold to hide them from the Daystar.

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.

For me, this language is strikingly similar to the wording GRRM uses in A Game of Thrones, where Doreah tells Dany that in Qarth legends claim that there were once two moons in the sky, but one wandered too close to the sun and cracked from the heat. And the moon being the sun’s lover is quite similar to the Dothraki belief that the moon is a goddess and wife of the sun. Yeah, in Tolkien’s Legendarium the ‘sun deity’ is female, and the ‘lunar deity’ is male, like in the Norse Mythology (where we have goddess Sol and god Mani). But in other popular mythologies the sun is a god and the moon a goddess, so maybe GRRM has already decided to use this symbolism, and only later decided to use those Tolkienic ideas. But as Archmaester Aemma noted, GRRM’s world has a female solar deity – the Maiden-Made-Of-Light paired with a male Lion of the Night, who might be a lunar deity. It’s possible those two characters from the legends of the Far East of Essos are an homage to Arien and Tilion.

Also, the name ‘Arien’ sounds a bit like Arianne, who has the sun in her sigil and is one of the Martells, whose seat are the Sunspear and the Sandship. Arien means ‘Maiden of Sunlight’, but she’s also called ‘The Maiden of Sunship’.

The flame of Anar, the Sun, scorches the Moon, and it becomes darkened. It seems that this myth is supposed to explain whence the moon craters come. But in ASOIAF, we might have a description which is based on Tolkien’s language here, yet adjusted to GRRM’s own mythos, where one moon was truly destroyed. So it was ‘darkened’ as in ‘annihilated’ and became a ‘black hole in the sky’. And craters on the surviving moon might come from debris from the second moon striking it – in his essays LML speaks of the possibilty of one of those meteors hitting the surviving icy moon and becoming a ‘dragon lockied in ice’, waiting to be released. (This dragon’s human counterpart, in terms of symbolism, is Jon Snow, who is most likely Rhaegar Targaryen’s son hidden at the Wall).

I’ll also point out that Tolkien uses the word ‘wayward’ here, and a paragraph later, where it talks of Tilion’s ‘waywardness’. In his essays LML points out that the moon ‘wandering too close to the sun’ can be called wayward, and that’s why a ‘moon maiden’ character, Asha, is called ‘the wayward bride‘ in one of her A Dance with Dragons chapters.

And now, from the same The Silmarillion chapter, an example of how Tolkien describes 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.

Again, the moon wanders too close to the sun, and we get darkness. I think that GRRM’s Qartheen legend might merge those two Tolkienic myths (which are mentioned really close to each other in The Silmarillion) – the moon wandered too close to the sun, and we got an eclipse, but at the same time, it was ‘darkened’ by its fire – destroyed.

And the Long Night is mentioned one paragraph later:

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.

I think that GRRM decided that the Two Trees can be used to symbolise the Sun and the Moon because they’ve played the same role, and are their ‘parents’. So in his mythos, he mixed those three Tolkienic legends – the Darkening of Valinor, where Melkor the Dark Lord pierces the Trees with his black spear, the darkening of the Moon and the origins of eclipses narrative. And most likely, the Tolkienic inspiration behind the Long Night is only one of several mythological influences on GRRM.

A Dark Lord, Bloodstone Emperor/Azor Ahai causes the Long Night by piercing the trees (remember that as LML explains in his Weirwood Goddess series, Nissa Nissa can be symbolised by a weirwood tree) and then steals the Silmarils, the fire of the gods. And what do they contain? Light that comes from intermingling of the light of the golden tree (proto-Sun) and the silver (proto-Moon). So in ASOIAF terms, the ‘Silmarils’ are three things that appear when the light of the Sun and the Second Moon mingles -moon meteors, which come out of the moon eclipse. An eclipse is when the light of the sun and the moon appear to mix.

Returning to The Silmarillion, Morgoth sends ‘spirits of shadow’ against Tilion and there is a ‘strife in Ilmen beneath the paths of the stars‘. But ultimately, the Moon is victorious. Morgoth feared Arien and would not come near her, so he surrounded his fortress with shadows, sending fumes and dark clouds.

But according to prophecy, one day Morgoth will succeed in destroying the Sun and the Moon, and there will be new darkness. And then the final battle, Dagor Dagorath will be fought, and Morgoth will be killed by Turin, wielding the shining black meteoric iron sword Gurthang (which reminds me of Dawn, also created from the heart of a fallen ‘star’, and possibly Lightbringer, if LML’s theories are correct).

In the Round World, less mythical version of the Legendarium, the Sun and the Moon were always there, but the Trees stored their unsullied light, as Melkor corrupted the sun and the moon. Later he destroyed the trees as well, and that’s why the Silmarils were so important. In Morgoth’s Ring, one of The History of Middle-earth volumes it is said that Melkor desired Arien and wanted to marry her, but she refused and he attempted to ravish her and was burned. This attack caused uneven seasons. This detail is really obscure, so it’s a bit unlikely that this was the inspiration behind GRRM’s wacky seasons – but who knows. At the very least, we have an unintentional similarity in themes here, and that’s still interesting. After all, many of us would seek parallels in completely unconnected texts during literature classes.

To finish up this chapter, I think that it is quite probable that the Long Night from The Silmarillion, a book GRRM is certainly familiar with, was among his influences when he set out to create his own celestial catastrophe in his world’s distant past.

Here ends the first part of the second episode of Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire. Part two will start just where we’ve finished in this one.

Part II: The Family of Ice and Fire

This section I would like to dedicate to those, who first gave me The Silmarillion, which sparked my passion for J.R.R. Tolkien’s works. Thank you for everything Mum and Dad. In this chapter, we’ll talk about some really interesting fire-and-ice symbolic split in the Royal House of the Noldor, the House of Finwë – its cadet branches, the House of Fëanor, the House of Fingolfin and the House of Finarfin.

One of the most important mythical astronomy concepts LML wrote about is the the ‘solar king with two lunar wives‘, with the king symbolising the sun, while one wife stands for the fire moon, and the other for the ice moon. For example, Aegon the Conqueror and his sisters, Visenya and Rhaenys. Interestingly, in The Silmarillion a similar family can be found – the Royal House of the Noldor, the House of king Finwë.

This family tree shows this house and its cadet branches:


As you can see, Finwe, the King of the Noldor, had two wives (but not at the same time). His first wife was silver-haired Míriel called Þerindë (Serindë), which means the Broideress. Their only child was Feanor, the Spirit of Fire, who would later create the three Silmarils and lead the rebellious Noldor to Middle-earth. But ‘in the bearing of her son Míriel was consumed in spirit and body’, and wanted to live no more, and said to Finwe that into this one child, a strength that would have been able to nourish many lives has gone. But the king wanted to have many children, and after consulting Manwe, sent Míriel to the gardens of Lorien. There they lay her down, and it seemed that she was only sleeping. But her spirit left the body and went to Mandos. Míriel refused to be re-embodied, and in this unprecedented situation Finwe decided to remarry.

Finwe’s second wife was Indis the Fair, of the Vanyar and of High King Ingwe’s close kin. She and Finwe had four children: Findis, Fingolfin, Írimë and Finarfin.

It turns out that one branch, Feanor’s, is constantly associated with fire (heat, flames, red, blood, burned things, fiery temper, being rash, etc.), while the branches founded by Indis’ children – with ice (cold, snow, white, moon, pale stars, blue stars, blue, being calm). Actually, there were two houses descended from Finwe and Indis, but since Finarfin repented after Kinslaying at Swanhaven and returned to Valinor, his children followed their uncle Fingolfin into exile, and often have the symbolism of his house. And interestingly, the sigil of King Finwe was golden sun.

This is curious, as the Sun was created after Finwe has died… but who knows, maybe this is another case of later chroniclers ‘granting’ coats of arms to historical and legendary figures – like King Arthur or various Biblical characters. Well, whatever the case, it fits my theory very well.

Fëanor: House of Fire

Míriel has silver hair, which kinda goes against this proposed pattern – but I don’t think that silver hair always gives some character ice symbolism. Think of Valyrians who built their city by the Fourteen Flames and rode fire-breathing dragons, yet had silver hair. Or of Daenerys Targaryen, the mother if fire-breathing dragons. And Míriel was ‘consumed’ by fire inside her, Fëanor. (As LML explains in his essays, ‘having fire inside’ is one of the most important metaphors in the books, speaking of some kind of fire transformation, like the one Melisandre undergoes in A Dance with Dragons – there the line was The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Dany, the mother of fiery children, is described using similar language: ‘After that, for a long time, there was only the pain, the fire within her, and the whisperings of stars.’. Interestingly, Dany’s ‘fire inside’ is often connected with Rhaego in the womb. This is Khal Drogo speaking: ‘See how fierce she grows!” he said. “It is my son inside her, the stallion who mounts the world, filling her with his fire. LML suggests that this metaphor refers to the Second Moon of Planetos, which Daenerys and Melisandre represent, the moon which was struck by the fiery comet.

Fëanor means Spirit of Fire. The Silmarillion tells us thata bright flame was in him. He was the greatest smith and craftsman of Arda. He was rash and quick to anger – he was banished from Tirion for attacking his half-brother and threatening him with a sword, thinking that Fingolfin was plotting to usurp his place as Finwe’s heir. In other chapter Tolkien says that ‘his spirit burned as flame’. He led the Noldor in rebellion against the Valar, and ordered his troops to sack Swanhaven and slaughter its people. (In TWOIAF we hear an old Pentoshi legend about hero called Hukko, who slew swan-maidens. This might be a reference to Feanor the smith who slaughtered the Telerin elves of Swanhaven). When he have a speech in the Noldor city of Tirion, and urged his people to flee Valinor, the golden cage, and carve out kingdoms in Middle-earth, his words set the Noldor ‘aflame’.

Later he had the stolen swan-ships put to torch, in a fire so great that Fingolfin and his followers saw it on the other shore, ‘red beneath the clouds’. Feanor was so furious that he charged at Morgoth’s armies with little planning, and although his vanguard fought bravely, he was ultimately surrounded. He stood his ground for long, although his men fell all around him, and in the end he was ‘wrapped in fire’, as Balrogs (fallen Maiar associated with fire) arrived. His sons arrived with reinforcements and the Balrogs retreated, but Feanor was mortally wounded. When he died, his body self-combusted, ‘for so fiery was his spirit that as it sped his body fell to ash, and was borne away like smoke. Think of Targaryens, whe fire-people, who were burned at their funerals, or Khal Drogo burned on a pyre. ‘For an instant she glimpsed Khal Drogo before her, mounted on his smoky stallion, a flaming lash in his hand’.

This reminds me of Aerion Brightflame, the Targaryen princeling who drank wildfire and got burned. While Aerion didn’t self-combust like Feanor, unless you count choosing to ingest wildfire as self-combustion, he still died in flames. And both had the ‘bright flame’ epithet.

Feanor’s wife was Nerdanel known as ‘the Wise’, a craftswoman and sculptress. She was noted to be calmer than her husband, more patient, but also strong-willed. She tried to convince Feanor to end his rebellion, but was unsuccessful. In the end, they became estranged, as Feanor took their youngest sons with him to Middle-earth, although she pleaded with him to let them stay in Aman. Her father was Mahtan, a smith (a person associated with flames, fire and melting metal) and Aule’s student. His favourite metal was copper, and had red-brown hair unusual among the Noldor (this is noted several times). The Silmarillion isn’t clear about Nerdanel’s hair colour, and some of her children inherited the unusual copper hair of their grandfather. For this reasons people drawing Tolkienic fanart often picture her with red/reddish brown hair.

The Seven Sons of Feanor were: Maedhros (copper red hair), Maglor, Celegorm, Caranthir, Curufin, Amrod (copper red hair) and Amras (copper red hair). Think of ASOIAF where they say that people with red hair are ‘kissed by fire’ – and copper is a metal associated with fire because of its colour. In ASOIAF, it is specially linked with fire – Drogo, who is Dany’s ‘sun-and-stars’ has copper skin, and bronze (which is an alloy where copper is the main ingredient) is constantly associated with fire and the sun – when Alys Karstark marries Sigorn of Thenn, the newly-founded House Thenn uses a bronze sunburst surrounded by red flames as their sigil.

When Feanor’s sons swore their infamous Oath, red as blood shone their drawn swords in the glare of the torches’.

When Feanor was dead, his eldest son Maedhros assumed command over the Noldorin army. But Morgoth dispatched messengers and claimed that he was willing to negotiate. There is a scene in The Silmarillion where Maedhros rides to meet the Dark Lord’s envoys and both parties bring more soldiers than they’ve agreed on. But Morgoth has sent Balrogs and Maedhros’ guards were slaughtered. He was captured and taken to Angband. Morgoth had him tortured and hung by his right hand from Thangorodrim, the triple volcanic peak above his subterranean fortress.

None of Feanor’s sons had any children, with the exception of Curufin who was the father of Celebrimbor, a famed smith who created the Rings of Power in the Second Age. Although Celebrimbor means something along the lines of ‘Silver-fisted’, he has some fire symbolism by virtue of being a smith, nearly as skilled as his grandfather.

Now, we will talk about Fingolfin’s branch and its members.

Fingolfin: House of Ice

Finwe’s second wife was Indis the Fair of the Vanyar. She had golden hair of her tribe, and this trait was passed down to some of her descendants. Gold is often associated with the Sun and heat and fire, but this isn’t necessarily the case. Think of Val who has hair the colour of honey, yet is constantly associated with cold and ice and snow. And the Vanyar lived upon Mount Taniquetil, the Everwhite, Crowned With Stars, The White Mountain…

Fingolfin is noted to be calmer and more serene than his elder brother. When Feanor gave his speech and urged the Noldor to abandon Valinor, it was him who tried to calm them down. But so great was the wrath of Feanor and unrest among the Noldor that it nearly came to swords.

Later Feanor abandoned Fingolfin in Araman, and thus his followers were forced to cross the Grinding Ice of Helcaraxë, the ‘land’ bridge between Aman and Middle-earth – it is unlikely there was any land at all, the description suggests nothing but frozen bay shadowed by cold mists. When this host finally arrived in Middle-earth, Fingolfin ‘let blow his silver trumpets and began his march into Middle-earth, and the shadows of his host went long and black before them’ at the first rising of the Moon. Later, as the Sun rose for the first time, he entered Beleriand and ‘unfurled his blue and silver banners, and blew his horns’.

We have more ice symbolism for Fingolfin to cover, but to fully understand it, I think we must cover the Battles of Beleriand first.

The Battles of Beleriand

Now I’ll briefly discuss the Battles of Beleriand. The First Battle took place even before the Noldor (those on stolen ships) landed. When Morgoth returned to Angband, fleeing from Valinor with the Silmarils, he ordered his army to attack Cirdan in his havens and King Thingol of the Grey Elves in Doriath. One host attempted to attack Doriath from the east, but it was met at Amon Ereb by Denethor of the Green Elves, and although the king was slain, his soldiers bought King Thingol time to arrive with his army. The orcs were defeated. But concurrently, another large host besieged Cirdan’s ports. But before they could be taken, Morgoth was forced to lift the siege and move his troops to stop the Noldor who were advancing on Angband under Feanor.

Dagor-nuin-Giliath, the Battle-under-Stars, was the second battle of Beleriand (this term is used loosely, as some of those battles were in fact longer campaigns, and even wars). It was during this battle that Feanor’s vanguard was cut off from the main host and annihilated. Shortly afterwards, Maedhros who was now the supreme Noldor commander (Feanor claimed Kingship over the Noldor after Morgoth slew his father, but it was disputed because of his rebellion, and Maedhros never had the time to be formally crowned). Morgoth dispatched a sizeable army to attack the leaderless Noldor in the rear… but by happenstance, it ran into Fingolfin’s host which was entering Beleriand from the northwest.

When Fingolfin’s Noldor met with the remnants of Feanor’s group, Fingolfin’s son Fingon heard that his friend Maedhros was Morgoth’s captive. (As you might remember, Maedhros was asking which ships should be sent back across the sea to ferry Fingon, when Feanor decreed that the ships would be burned). Alone, Fingon climbed Thangorodrim, and with assistance from Thorondor, the leader of the Great Eagles, freed Maedhros (who lost his swordhand in the process, at there was no other way to free him from his chains). Grateful, Feanor’s heir accepted Fingolfin as the one true High King of the Noldor, although some of his brothers disagreed with this decision.

United Noldor forces annihilated Morgoth’s armies in Dagor Aglareb, the Glorious Battle in the 60th year of the Sun. This victory was followed by a 400-years long period of relative peace, when Angband was besieged (although the Noldor could do little to prevent it from being resupplied from the north). In this time, the Noldor prospered and founded their famed realms in Beleriand – Nargothrond, Gondolin the Hidden City, Nevrast and the March of Maedhros.

But during the winter of 455, Morgoth sent rivers of flame that annihilated the forces surrounding his fortress. The battle that followed was known as Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of the Sudden Flame. When defeat of the Noldor was certain, Fingolfin rode alone to the gates of Angband and challenged Morgoth to a duel. He was killed, and his Fingon became the new High King.

In 472, Maedhros decided that the Noldor and their allies are ready to strike again. For this purpose he assembled the largest army the elves ever gathered, the Union of Maedhros. Apart from the Noldor, the Dwarves provided weapons and soldiers, and the Edain houses sent sizeable hosts as well. (The Edain were those humans who settled in Beleriand during the Siege of Angband and allied themselves with the elves). The Easterlings answered the call as well. Even King Turgon left his Hidden City of Gondolin – the location of which was kept secret even from the other Noldor – leading 10 000 spearmen. This was Nirnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears (this name is a reference to the prophecy of Mandos, where he tells the Noldor: ‘Tears unnumbered ye shall shed’).

The initial battle plan of the allied forces was spoiled when one of the elven commanders from Nargothrond, Gwindor, was provoked by Morgoth’s emissaries who brought his brother captured during Bragollach. They had him maimed and brutally slain in the plain view of the Noldor army. Gwindor charged, and large part of the cavalry, which had an entirely different role battle, followed him. For a moment, it seemed that the vanguard will defeat Morgoth’s forces in that area. The charge broke through the main line of defense and reached the main gate of Angband. But this was, of course, a trap.

Thousands of orcs, so far hidden in the fortress, stormed out of hidden doors and gates and surrounded Gwindor’s men. Of those none survived but Gwindor himself, who was captured. Meanwhile, some of the Easterling tribes turned their cloaks and attack the allies from the rear. But other tribes remained loyal and bravely fought. Still, the Eldar-Edain army was scattered. Then Morgoth unleashed his dragons, led by Glaurung the Golden. If it weren’t for the Dwarves who kept them at bay, the Sons of Feanor and their soldiers would never manage to retreat. The High King of the Noldor, Fingon, was surrounded by Balrogs and killed after a valiant last stand. The army from Gondolin began to retreat, shielded by Edain of Dor-lómin commanded by Hurin and his brother Huor. Because of their sacrifice, King Turgon safely reached Gondolin and its location was not compromised. All Men of Dor-lómin were killed, but Hurin was taken alive. Morgoth’s revenge was fearsome to behold, as from this day onward, he did all he could to bring as much misery and pain to Hurin’s family as he could.

Following Nirnaeth Arnoediad, all elven and Edain realms in Beleriand fell, and in the end their situation was hopeless.


Fingolfin and his Children

With this basic explanation of the Wars of Beleriand given, we can continue our hunt for ice symbolism in the House of Fingolfin. Without it, I’d have to pause every now and then, and discuss the battles and other events. That wouldn’t be very efficient, I think.

At the beginning of the Dagor Bragollach chapter Fingolfin is called ‘King of the North’, and some really interesting ice symbolism makes an appearance when the High King duels Morgoth. (As I’ve explained in our first episode, the language there reminds me of the Mountain vs. Oberyn the Red Viper scene in ASOS). There 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. In Quenya, Ringil means cold or chilly. An ice-sword, like the swords of the Others.

Morgoth rises from his subterranean throne, and the rumour of his feet was like thunder. The Dark Lord’s armour was black, and he loomed over Fingolfin like some iron-crowned tower. His shield was blazoned only with sable, and the shadow it cast was like that of an stormcloud.

It’s interesting that Tolkien gives Morgoth this ‘storm deity’ symbolism – if I were to guess, it’s because before he rebelled, Melkor was supposed to play the role Manwe the ‘storm god’ of the Valar plays, as he was the mightiest of the Fifteen Valar. After his fall, he can only imitate Manwe (for example, by taking the dark volcanic mountains of Thangorodrim for his seat, in mockery of Manwe’s White Mountain Taniquetil). In The Children of Hurin Morgoth tells Hurin that he is the Elder King of Arda, usurping Manwe’s title.

In his duel with Morgoth, Fingolfin fought with Ringil, but Morgoth’s weapon was Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld. Where it landed, pits opened in the ground, with smoke and fire darting high. But Fingolfin fought valiantly and when Morgoth would swing with his hammer, he would leap away, like a ‘lightning shoots from under a dark cloud; and he wounded Morgoth with seven wounds, and seven times Morgoth gave a cry of anguish, whereat the hosts of Angband fell upon their faces in dismay, and the cries echoed in the Northlands’. But in the end the High King stumbled and fell into one of those deep rents in the earth. Then Morgoth crushed him with his foot, which was like heavy as some fallen hill. Fingolfin slashed at his foot with Ringil, and henceforth Morgoth would limp, not walk. But ‘the blood gashed forth black and smoking and filled the pits of Grond’. Thus died Fingolfin.

The Dark Lord raised his body and broke it, and was about to throw it to his wolves. But Thorondor the Great Eagle came rushing and caught the body with his talons. Then he marred Morgoth’s face, and the wounds would never truly heal, leaving painful scars. Thanks to Thorondor, Fingolfin’s body was not profaned, for the eagle carried it to Gondolin the Hidden City, where Fingolfin’s son Turgon buried it under a high cairn.

Fingolfin had four children with his wife Anairë (her name means ‘the Holiest’). She never left Valinor when the other Noldor fled, but her children have done so.

Fingon the Valiant became the High King of the North after his father. He had no children, although in some editions of The Silmarillion Gil-galad is presented as his son. Although at one point Fingon and his brother Turgon are described as ‘fiery of heart’, but this was shortly after Feanor’s speech and later they appear to be calmer than Feanor’s sons. Those who followed Fingolfin into exile – his closest kin among them – crossed the Grinding Ice. The High Kings made their seat in the land of Hithlum, the Land of Mist. I think we can safely associate mist with ice, like in ASOIAF where the Others bring cold mists whenever they are near. Tormund tells us that: ‘A man can fight the dead, but when their masters come, when the white mists rise up … how do you fight a mist, crow? Shadows with teeth … air so cold it hurts to breathe, like a knife inside your chest …’

In Hithlum, the air was always cool, and winters were long and cold, but it was a fair land until Morgoth defeated the Noldor at Nirnaeth Arnoediad and granted those lands to the Easterlings. (In doing this, he betrayed them, as they were promised the fertile and warm lands in the south). Hithlum was divided into Mithrim, where the High Kings governed and Dor-lómin, which was granted to the Edain from the House of Hador (the house of Hurin and Turin) as a fief. That’s why Fingolfin was referred to as the King of the North.

King Fingon was killed during the Battle of Unnumbered Tears. In the end he stood alone, with his entire guard dead around him. The dueled Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs. But another Balrog came from behind and cast a thong of fire (a thong is basically a whip) about him. ‘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’.

I find it interesting that Nirnaeth takes part on the morning of Midsummer. This might suggest that the battle is – symbolically – one of those battles between forces of summer and forces of winter, which take place either on midsummer or midwinter and cause the turning of the seasons, as outlined by Sir James George Frazer in The Golden Bough.

It’s a bit hard to say who is whom. Morgoth attacks from Angband to the north of Beleriand, but his above his stronghold towers the triple peak of Thangorodrim, a volcano. And his weapon in this battle is fire, represented by Balrogs and dragons. Fingon has ice symbolism – white flame, blue and silver banners, being the King of the North… and if Fingon was the King of Winter figure, Morgoth would be the King of Summer. But at the same time, Fingon commands the Edain of the north as well, and their battle cry is: ‘Lacho calad! Flame Light! Drego morn! Flee Night!’. But as explained earlier, the elves are associated with stars and the Moon, and humans with Sun – at one point, they’re called Children of the Sun, as they woke when it first rose.

And at the beginning of the battle, the battle-cry of the allied host of the Eldar, the Edain, the Easterlings and the Dwarves is ‘Utúlie’n aurë! Aiya Eldalië ar Atanatári, utúlie’n aurë! The day has come! Behold, people of the Eldar and Fathers of Men, the day has come!’ and the answer is ‘Auta i lómë! The night is passing!’. Well, maybe it’d be too weird to have Elves and men cry about darkness and cold and winter, and Morgoth about light and summer.

Fingolfin’s second son was Turgon, who followed his brother Fingon as High King. His sword was Glamdring, one of the famed elven blades that glowed blue when orcs were present. His wife Elenwë (elen means ‘star) died when Fingolfin’s host crossed Helcaraxë. Turgon founded the Hidden City of Gondolin, which was built from white stone and full of towers and fountains. But in the end, a traitor in his own household revealed its location to Morgoth, and the city was sacked by a large contingent of orcs, dragons and Balrogs. Interestingly, the Fall of Gondolin began on the day of the great holiday called the Gates of Summer… And Fingon died during Nirnaeth Arnoediad which began on the morning of Midsummer.

Turgon’s only daughter was Idril who had golden hair, but her name means Sparkling Brilliance and she was called Celebrindal, Silver-foot, as she always walked barefoot. The princess of Gondolin fell in love with the Edain warrior Turon (Turin Blacksword’s cousin) who came to the Hidden City as an envoy of Ulmo, the Lord of Waters with a mission to warn the king that his city will soon fall and he should flee. But Turgon was unwilling to abandon the marvellous Gondolin, and believed that no foe will ever reach his city, surrounded by the Encircling Mountains, with only one long and narrow tunnel leading through them, a bed of a dry river. To reach the Vale of Tumladen where the city stood on a high hill, one would have to pass seven heavily guarded gates: of Wood, of Stone, of Bronze, of Writhen Iron, of Silver, of Gold and of Steel.

Fingolfin had one daughter, Aredhel Ar-Feiniel, called the White Lady of the Noldor – as ‘she was pale though her hair was dark, and she was never arrayed but in silver and white‘. She loved hunting and riding in the woods, and during one of her lone travels, she wandered into the woods of Nan Elmoth, where King Thingol first met Melian. But now the forest was a dark place and only Eöl the Dark Elf dwelt there. King Thingol would rather see him gone from Nan Elmoth, which was still within the borders of his realm. But the cunning smith paid for the royal leave to remain there with Anglachel, one of the twin black shining swords forged from the heart of a fallen star which Turin had reforged into Gurthang. But he left the other sword, Anguirel, for himself.

Maeglin and the Fall of Gondolin

This Eöl took Aredhel to wife and they had a son called Maeglin. But as the time passed, the Dark Elf forbade her to visit her kin, and in the end to even leave his woods. But in secret, the shared the stories about Gondolin and Noldor with her son, and when he was old enough, they fled, taking Anguriel. Eöl followed them to Gondolin, but when they rode through the First Gate, the Dark Elf couldn’t follow them, as he knew nothing about the dry river passing through the mountains or the Seven Gates. But Turgon’s guards saw him and wouldn’t risk that even the approximate location of the Hidden City would be compromised. He was caught and taken before the king. There he explained whom he was and why he came – to get his wife back, and failing at that, his son. But both refused to come with him. Then Eöl threw a hidden drik at Maeglin, but Aredhel shielded her son and was hit instead. The blade was poisoned and no one could save her. Turgon was furious and had Eöl condemned as a murderer and kinslayer. The Dark Elf was taken to the battlements of Gondolin and cast down from the high walls.

Maeglin stayed in Gondolin, and was counted among the princes of the Noldor. But in secret, he desired princess Idril, although he knew Turgon would never allow him to marry her, as they were too close relatives. And besides that, the princess didn’t share his love. Maeglin became especially furious after she wed Tuor, a human. One day, as Maeglin was searching for new metal ores in the mountains (in secret, as King Turgon forbade his people to leave the city, as Morgoth’s spies were always nearby), he was caught by orc sentries and taken before Morgoth. There he revealed all he knew, including the location of the Hidden City. But not because of fear or torture – because Morgoth promised him the hand of princess Idril. After the sack, Maeglin was too be installed as a puppet ruler of Gondolin. When Morgoth’s armies were ready, the city was sacked indeed, but Morgoth cared little about his promises. Maeglin acted as a mole inside the city, ironically, as he was the leader of the House of the Mole, one of the Twelve Houses of Gondolin. As the battle raged all around him, Maeglin attempted to seize Idril and kill her son Eärendil. But Tuor fought him, and cast the traitor from the walls. Thus, he died just like his father promised he would, when Maeglin did nothing as Turgon’s guards carried the Dark Elf to his execution.

In The Stark that Brings the Dawn LML notes that Maeglin’s story is quite similar to that scene where Rhaena Targaryen, who was forced to marry Maegor the Cruel, fled from King’s Landing and stole the sword Blakcfyre for her son Jaehaerys. And that scene where Eöl throws a poisoned dirk at Maeglin but misses and hits Aredhel is quite similar to the ‘Azor Ahai killing Nissa Nissa with a comet’ pattern, as a dirk or a spear can easily be viewed as a comet symbol. Also, Eöl the Dark Elf who imprisons Aredhel, who sounds a lot like the Night’s Queen, in his woods, might be one of the influences behind GRRM’s pattern proposed by LML, where the Night’s King is the same person as Azor Ahai, and Night’s Queen is the betrayed Nissa Nissa. Aredhel was imprisoned in the woods – does this mean that Nissa Nissa was trapped inside the wierwoodnet (‘inside a dark wood’).


The fourth child of Fingolfin was Argon of whom little is known, as he fell during that battle where orcs rushing to attack Feanor’s host from the rear accidentally met Fingolfin’s host entering Beleriand from the north.

Of Fingolfin’s sister Írimë little is known other than that she followed her brother across the Grinding Ice to Beleriand. Their siblings, Findis and Finarfin remained in Valinor, and followed neither Fingolfin across Helcaraxë nor sailed with Feanor. Finarfin was calmer and more peaceful than Feanor (and probably even Fingolfin), and spoke against the Noldor rebellion. He ruled the Noldor who stayed in the Blessed Realm, and led their host marching under white banners during the War of Wrath at the end of the First Age, when the Valar finally intervened.

Finarfin’s wife was Eärwen (Sea-maiden), daughter of King Olwë, known as the Swan-maiden of Alqualondë. According to The Unfinished Tales, her hair was ‘starlike silver’. The Telerin elves of Swanhaven were attacked by Feanor’s soldiers. In TWOIAF, we might be seeing an echo of this event when we hear that Pentoshi legends speak of a hero called Hukko (who might be the same person as Hugor of the Hill) slaying swan-maidens (Eärwen wasn’t slain by the Noldor, but many people of the city were slaughtered).

The youngest of Finwe’s children stayed in Valinor, yet his own children followed their uncles Feanor and Fingolfin to Middle-earth.


House of Finarfin

Finrod called Felagund, Hewer of Caves, founded the Kingdom of Nargothrond, and ruled from his fortress delved in stone, in the likeness of King Thingol’s Menegroth, the Thousand Caves. (Generally, members of the House of Finarfin had better relationships with Thingol than the rest of the Noldor, as they were half-Teleri, and their mother was Eärwen, the daughter of Thingol’s brother Olwë. There was little love between King Greycloak and the Sons of Feanor, as he found out about the Kinslaying at Swanhaven. And although the Sindar were separated from their Telerin kin in Valinor for centuries, bonds of blood are never forgotten.

Finrod was the greatest friend the Edain had among the elves, and died sacrificing his life for Beren’s during the Quest for Silmaril. Felagund remembered that Beren’s life Barahir saved his life during the Battle of the Sudden Flame, and agreed to journey with him to Angband. But Feanor’s sons Celegorm and Curufin roused the people of Nargothrond against them, plotting to usurp his crown as soon as he was gone (preferably, never to return). Thus Beren and Finrod set off with only ten companions, and all but Beren died in Sauron’s dungeons when he intercepted their party. Finrod gave his life to save Beren from a werewolf, and thus the Edain hero survived long enough for Luthien and Huan the Hound to arrive and free him.

King Finrod never married, as his lover Amarië of the Vanyar remained in Valinor. But after his death, he was allowed to return to life, and lived with her in the Blessed Realm.

Finarfin’s second son was Angrod, of whom little is known except that he died in fire during Dagor Bragollach. With his wife Eldalótë he had one son, Orodreth.

Orodreth was left in Nargothrond as Finrod’s regent, but Curufin and Celegorm plotted to take over by marrying Curufin to Luthien (whom they took captive), and thus forcing the mighty King Thingol of Doriath to support their claim. But when the people of the city learned that Feanor’s sons let Finrod die in Sauron’s dungeons, they exiled them from Nargothrond and Orodreth became the new king. Earlier, he served as Warden of Minas Tirith, the island fortress that guarded the strategically vital Pass of Sirion. Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard from the Third Age shared its name. But Sauron conquered it and took for his seat Thus Finrod died in the dungeons of the stronghold he built.

Orodreth’s daughter was Finduilas, the princess of Nargothrond who was betrothed to Gwindor, the elf who charged during Nirnaeth and was captured. He was forced to work in Morgoth’s mines under Angband for years, but later escaped and met Turin. Together they came to Nargothrond, where Turin introduced himself as Agarwaen son of Úmarth (Bloodstained, Son of Ill-fate). There he became a famous warrior and commander, and tales about the Black Sword of Nargothrond spread far and wife.

Thus Morgoth learned where Hurin’s son went. As you might remember, the Dark Lord captured Hurin and forced him to watch with Morgoth’s own eyes as he brought doom upon his house, in revenge for shielding Turgon’s retreat to Gondolin. If it weren’t for the valiant last stand of the Edain, Hurin and Tuor’s father Huor among them, Gondolin would fall sooner.

A great host was dispatched from Angband under Glaurung the dragon. Some of Orodreth’s advisors urged him to destroy the only bridge leading to the city carved in rock. But Turin called that cowardice and rode forth, taking all soldiers but few. In the battle that ensued Orodreth was killed and his warriors slaughtered, Gwindor among them. Turin rushed back to the city, but he found its gates broken and all defenders slain. Glaurung stunned him with a spell, so the famed Black Sword, the greatest warrior of the First Age could only watch as princess Finduilas was being taken as a slave to Angband. Such was the price for Hurin defying Morgoth, and for Turin’s pride.

Later, some of the Edain from the Forest of Brethil attempted to rescue the prisoners orcs took captive Nargothrond. The orcs were slaughtered, but no one was saved, as they received orders to put all captives to sword in case of any attack. Orodreth’s daughter was pinned to a tree with a spear.


Gil-galad was an Elven-king…

But Orodreth’s son Ereinion Gil-galad (which means Scion of Kings, Star of Great Radiance, respectively) survived. As the heir to the High Kingship, he was sent to Cirdan’s havens, and when news of Turgon’s death and the Fall of Gondolin reached them, they sailed to the Isle of Balar where they remained in the following years. After the drowning of Beleriand at the end of the First Age, Gil-galad founded the Kingdom of Lindon, where some of the surviving elves settled (others returned to Valinor, as the curse placed upon the Noldor by Mandos was lifted).

Now, Gil-galad is interesting for two reasons: he had the ice symbolism similar to Fingolfin and Fingon. I’m not sure if this is because the House of Finarfin has the same symbolism as Fingolfin’s family, because they were both sons of Finwe by Indis, or because he was the High King of the Noldor like they. Whatever the case, at the end of the Second Age Gil-galad was one of the leaders of the Last Alliance that defeated Sauron. ‘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’. Aeglos means ‘snow-point‘ (The Silmarillion index of names), but it can also mean ‘icicle’ (LOTR appendix).

Again, we see the High King of the Noldor – with ice symbolism – fighting against a Dark Lord, in this case Sauron, lord of the fiery land of Mordor. This convinced me that some pattern really exists here.

Also, GRRM is certainly familiar with Gil-galad, because he mentions him in RRetrospective, where he remembers reading LOTR for the first time: ‘Things got more interesting in the barrow downs, though, and even more so in Bree, where Strider strode onto the scene. By the time we got to Weathertop, Tolkien had me. ‘Gil-galad was an elven king’, Sam Gamgee recited, ‘of him the harpers sadly sing’. A chill went through me, such as Conan and Kull had never evoked’.

GRRM quotes the song The Fall of Gil-galad which contains this stanza as well:

His sword was long, his lance was keen.
His shining helm afar was seen;
the countless stars of heaven’s field
were mirrored in his silver shield.

I think it’s likely that he’s familiar with Ereinion Gil-galad’s famous spear Aegols as well. And the Others are like icy elves (GRRM called them icy sídhe, and those beings might be based on legendary Tuatha Dé Danann, who burn their ships upon landing in Ireland, just like the Noldor burn their ships when they arrive in Beleriand). And that ‘silver shield’ which is also a mirror might have been the inspiration behind Serwyn of the Mirror Shield.

Besides Finrod and Angrod, Finarfin had two children: Aegnor and Galadriel.

Aegnor‘s name means Fell Fire, and he died during Dagor Bragollach, the Battle of the Sudden Flame. In The Peoples of Middle-earth hid eyes are described as fiery, so he disturbs the pattern I proposed. But as I’ve said, the members of the House of Fingolfin proper have the strongest ice symbolism, and some of Finarfin’s children have it. Aegnor fell in love with a human woman called Andreth, but according to elven law, no marriages could be made during wars, and technically, the Siege of Angband was a war. If she were an elven woman, they could have just waited. But the Edain were mortal, and aged quickly. Aegnor never married.

Galadriel was famous for her golden hair, sparkling with the light of Laurelin the golden tree. But in LOTR she is described in the following manner:

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.

Galadriel married Celeborn, a lord of the Sindar, whose name contains ‘celeb’, silver. In Fellowship of the Rings they are described in these words:

They were clad wholly in white; and the hair of the Lady was of deep gold, and the hair of the Lord Celeborn was of silver long and bright; but no sign of age was upon them, unless it were in the depths of their eyes; for these were keen as lances in the starlight, and yet profound, the wells of deep memory.

Their daughter was Celebrían, who married Elrond of Rivendell. Their children were the twins Elladan and Elrohir, and Arwen the Evenstar. Celebrían was captured by orcs as she was crossing the Redhorn Pass in the Misty Mountains. She was imprisoned and tortured, and given a poisoned wound. Her sons rescued her, and Elrond healed her physical wounds, but some wounds to mind and spirit can never recover in the mortal land of Middle-earth. Thus she set sail from Cirdan’s Grey Havens the next year, and passed over Belegaer to Valinor.

As I have discussed in this part, The Silmarillion contains a possible precedent, and maybe even the inspiration, for GRRM’s pattern of solar king with two lunar queens, one associated with fire, and one with ice.

Part III: The Song of the Sun and the Moon

In this final chapter we’ll talk about Eärendil the Mariner and Elwing, and their sons Elrond and Elros. We’ll also discuss Númenor, its rise and fall, and the deeds King Ar-Pharazôn the Golden and Queen Tar-Míriel. And how all of this related to A Song of Ice and Fire, House Dayne, the Great Empire of the Dawn and its downfall, and House Hightower and the North.

I’d like to dedicate this chapter to the members of ASOIAF community on Twitter, or Twitteros as we call it, and especially, to Archmaester Aemma of the Red Mice at Play.

Unfortunately in this essay, I lack the time to give justice to the story of the War of the Jewels and the Battles of Beleriand in their entirety. Yet, I have to provide a summary of those events, brief as it may be, so those of you who are not that well-versed in the events of the First Age can understand the theories concerning A Song of Ice and Fire I’ll introduce.

A bit earlier, as I was talking about the House of Fingolfin, I mentioned King Turgon of Gondolin and his daughter Idril Celebrindal, who married the Edain warrior Tuor. Their son Earendil played an important role in the events that led to the end of the First Age, and Morgoth’s defeat.


House of Thingol, Elwing

But another important character has yet to be introduced.


House of Thingol family tree, chart by BT

Elu Thingol, King of Doriath had one daughter with Lady Melian of the Maiar, the famous Luthien. Sadly, today we don’t have the time to recount the full story of Beren and Luthien and their Quest for the Silmarils. Suffice to say, in the end one of Feanor’s jewels was recovered from Morgoth’s Iron Crown, and it came into the possession of Thingol. The king hired dwarven jewelsmiths to fasten the Silmaril in Nauglamír, the Necklace of the Dwarves.

But when their work was finished, the dwarves insulted the king and demanded it as their payment. When Thingol refused to give the Silmarils and the Necklace, they murdered him in his own vault. Grey Elves avenged their lord by killing all but two of the smiths. Those two arrived in Nogrod, their grand subterranean city (similar to Moria in the days of its glory), and claimed that the elven king ordered his troops to slaughter their friends to avoid paying them for their work. A great host assembled and marched on Menegroth, the capital of Doriath. The city was sacked and its people slaughtered and scattered. The Silmaril was stolen, though the king’s captain and warden Mablung (important to the story of Turin) gave a valiant last stand at the gates of the vault.

The dwarves were returning to their eastern strongholds, but slowly, as they carried an enormous loot robbed in Menegroth. But Beren and Luthien, who were living among the Green Elves in Ossiriand learned of this, and the dwarven host was annihilated when the Green Elves led by Beren ambushed them as they were crossing the ford of Sarn Athrad. Few survivors fled to the mountains, but none survived to carry the news to their city, as ents came down upon them as they climbed.

Beren and Luthien’s son Dior, the first of the Half-elven, returned to Doriath and restored order, reigning as king. His wife was Nimloth, and their children were Elwing and the twin brothers Eluréd and Elurín.

But Feanor’s sons learned that the Silmaril is in Doriath again, and although previously they were afraid to attack Luthien and Beren, now they remembered their oath and marched on Menegroth with their retainers. The Thousand Caves were sacked again. This was the Second Kinslaying between elves.

Three sons of Feanor fell in this battle: Celegorm, Curufin and Caranthir. But Dior and Nimloth were slain as well, and all but a few of the Sindar dwelling in Menegroth. Celegorm’s troops took Dior’s twins and left them to die in the woods. Maedhros was ashamed, and searched for the boys, but they were never seen again.

But when Menegroth was searched, the Silmaril was not found, and neither was Dior’s daughter Elwing.

The survivors of Doriath led by Elwing fled to the Havens of Sirion, in the mouth of Beleriand’s great river. There they were joined by the survivors of the Fall of Gondolin and among them were Idril and Tuor and their son Earendil. Elwing fell in love with him, and they married. Their twin sons were Elrond and Elros.

The situation of the Eldar and the Edain of Beleriand seemed hopeless. All kingdoms of the Noldor and the Sindar were destroyed, and the lands were overrun by Morgoth’s orcs, save for the coast and the Isle of Balar where Cirdan took Ereinion Gil-galad, the new High King.

Tuor and Idril built a ship and sailed across the sea, and according to legends, though the Noldor were forbidden from returning to the Blessed Realm because of Feanor’s rebellion, and none of the mortals was allowed to set foot there, with the penalty being death, they reached Aman and settled there because of the grace of the Valar, and notably Ulmo (after all it was Ulmo whom Tuor served faithfully when he traveled to Gondolin to warn that the fall was nigh). And tales stranger still claim that Tuor’s fate was different than those of all other humans, and that he was numbered among the Noldor whom he loved.


The Voyage of Eärendil and Elwing to Valinor

With the help of Cirdan the Shipwright, Earendil constructed his famous ship Vingilótë, the Foam-flower. On this ship, he ventured far across the ocean, but the road to Valinor he could not find. Meanwhile, the surviving sons of Feanor finally learned where the Silmaril was taken after the Sack of Menegroth. Thus, the Third Kinslaying, the most cruel of all, took place. In a bloody battle, two sons of Feanor – the youngest, Amras and Amrod – were killed by the defenders. Yet in the end, the Feanorians won.

Elrond and Elros were captured, but when soldiers came for Elwing, she jumped into the sea, the Silmaril on her neck. (Which reminds me of Ashara Dayne who jumped into the sea from a tower at Starfall. I think that the Silmaril Elwing caries, and which would later become a star in the sky, gives her the ‘falling star’ symbolism that we see in House Dayne as well). But Ulmo who never abandoned the elves, saved Elwing from the waves, and turned into a great white bird. In this form she found Earendil’s ship far at sea, and there returned to her normal appearance. Earendil grieved for his sons, whom the thought to be dead, remembering what happened to Elwing’s brothers. In reality, Maglor took pity upon them and raised them as if they were his own children.

But believing that they have nothing to lose, Earendil and Elwing sailed to Valinor guided by the Silmaril, planning to plead with the Valar to aid the Eldar and the Edain of Beleriand. In doing this they broke the ban placed on the Noldor. Yet when they landed in Aman, they were not killed, but taken before the thrones of the Valar. Manwe decreed that they would not be punished in any way, for they traveled to Valinor not for their own sake, but on the behalf of the elves and men, and were willing to sacrifice their own lives in the process.

The Valar assembled a mighty host, with Manwe’s herald Eönwë being its supreme commander. The Vanyar left the Blessed Realm for the first time, and those of the Noldor who refused to take part in Feanor’s rebellion joined them. The Teleri of Swanhaven provided an enormous fleet and sailors, as they heeded Elwing who was related to their king, but refused to set foot in Beleriand and send any warriors, remembering the First Kinslaying, and now hearing about the two later. Edain warriors of Beleriand joined the Valar army, while other tribes fought for Morgoth. The war of this host against the countless legions of Morgoth was remembered as the War of Wrath.

The Valar took Earendil’s ship and hallowed it and then placed high in the heavens.

Now fair and marvellous was that vessel made, and it was filled with a wavering flame, pure and bright; and Eärendil the Mariner sat at the helm, glistening with dust of elven-gems, and the Silmaril was bound upon his brow. Far he journeyed in that ship, even into the starless voids; but most often was he seen at morning or at evening, glimmering in sunrise or sunset, as he came back to Valinor from voyages beyond the confines of the world.

Thus was created the Star of Eärendil, to us known as Venus, the Morningstar and the Evenstar.

The War of Wrath lasted for many years, but in the end, the Host of the Valar annihilated Morgoth’s armies. Only few survivors fled to the north, but among them was Sauron and one of the Balrogs (the one whom the dwarves would later wake in Moria). In the end, the Dark Lord sent all his dragons against his foes, and for a moment the tide turned against the elves. But Earendil joined the battle and cast down Ancalagon the Black, the greatest of all winged dragons, from the sky. The beast shattered the three peaks of Thangorodrim upon its fall, and all Beleriand shook. In the end, Morgoth himself was captured and thrown beyond the Walls of Night into the Void.

I believe that some aspects of GRRM’s ‘moon meteors’ proposed by LML might have been inspired by Ancalagon the Black and his fall – just like Balerion the Black Dread’s epithet. So, we have a dragon that falls from the sky, after the Morningstar-Evenstar characters kills him. And upon his fall, he shatters the land, which later sinks in the sea. Yes, the death of the great dragon was only one of the causes of the drowning of Beleriand – the entire War of Wrath, the great battles between the Host of the Valar and Morgoth’s dragons, Balrogs and countless orcs laid the land waste as well. (Such is the result of all battles between the Valar and Dark Lords, and for this reason the Valar were afraid to intervene directly in the Third Age when Sauron returned). But the shattering of the triple volcanic peak of Thangorodrim caused by grand dragon’s downfall certainly stands out, and I don’t think that a huge fan of dragons like GRRM would miss this, especially if he had his Mythical Astronomy pattern of meteors-as-dragons in mind during some reread of The Silmarillion. Tolkien wrote that: ‘In the Great Battle and the tumults of the fall of Thangorodrim there were mighty convulsions in the earth, and Beleriand was broken and laid waste’, which could just as well describe the effect of the impact of the Hammer of Waters.

Two Silmarils were recovered from Angband, and Eönwë had them placed under guard. But Maedhros and Maglor sneaked into the camp at night, killed the guards and stole the jewels. This was their last desperate attempt to fulfill their accursed Oath. There were two Silmarils left, they thought, one for each of Feanor’s surviving sons (the third was beyond their reach, shining in the sky). But when they touched the jewels, their sacred light burned their hands, bloodstained after all their foul deeds. Then Maedhros, maddened by the pain, jumped into a deep fiery chasm. But Maglor cast his Silmaril into the sea and wandered on the shores, singing laments. In some legends, he wanders even to this day. Thus in the end one of the Silmarils ended up in the sky, one deep inside the earth and one in the depths of the sea.


The Dúnedain

The War of Wrath left Beleriand shattered and aflame, and soon the Great Sea rushed inward and drowned the land. Of this vast realm only a handful of small isles survived into the Third Age. The doom placed upon the Noldor was lifted by the Valar, and many of them sailed west. The Vanyar army returned to Aman as well, and many of the elves who never arrived in the Blessed Realm in the first place – like the Sindar. But others traveled eastward and joined Wood Elves in their realms in Greenwood and Lorien. And some of the Noldor still unwilling to return settled in Lindon (which is the land to the west of the Shire on Third Age maps). Their leader was Gil-galad, the last High King of the Noldor in Middle-earth.

The Valar allowed Earendil and Elwing to choose whether they want to share the fate of elves or men, and they choose to be counted among the Eldar. Their sons were given the same chose. And thus of the twin brothers, Elrond was considered to an elf, and Elros a human.

The Eldar could flee to the east or sail across the sea, but the Edain could not, and their realms and settlements in Beleriand were now under water, or about to drown. To reward their efforts in the wars with Morgoth, the Valar gave them a special gift.

They brought up an isle from the Great Sea and it was closer to the Undying Lands than to Middle-earth. It had many names: Elenna-nórë (Starwards-land), Elenna (Starwards), Andor (Land of the Gift) and Westernesse, which is Númenórë in Quenya and Anadûnê in Adûnaic, the tongue of the Numenoreans.

The Edain who settled there became known as the Numenoreans, or Dúnedain, Men of the West. They were blessed with longer lifespans than other mortals, of 300 years and even more in the royal house of Elros who became their first king.

The Edain, and some of the Drúedain (Woses, or Wild Men of the Woods, who were stalwart elven and Edain allies in the First Age) built ships and followed the Star of Earendil, Venus until they’ve reached the isle, ‘shimmering in a golden haze’.

The Star of Earendil guided them: ‘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’.

This reminds me of the founders of House Dayne, who followed a falling star until they reached the isle in the mouth of River Torrentine in Dorne where they founded their kingdom. And as Joe Magician noted in his essay, ‘Dayne’ sounds a bit like ‘Edain’. Strangely enough, I wrote an entire theory (Westernesse section) claiming that House Dayne is at least partially inspired by the Edain, yet I never saw this similarity in names.

The Numenoreans were tallers than other nations, and ‘the light of their eyes was like the bright stars’. The Elves shared much of their lore with the Dunedain, and gave them many gifts: the palantiri stones among them, an a sapling of the White Tree.

The first white tree was Galathilion, which grew in the Noldor city of Tirion, and was made in the likeness of Telperion, one of the Two Trees. A sapling of Galathilion was planted on Tol Eressëa, the Lonely Isle, and in turn, its seeds were brought to Numenor. The famed White Trees of Gondor descended from this tree, which in the royal court at Armenelos the Golden, the capital of Numenor.

As you can see, Numenor has plenty of Venus-related symbolism. In the beginning, it is raised from the sea (think of birth of Venus, where the newborn but fully grown goddess rises emerges from the sea, and of how the planet Venus appears in the sky after a period of being hidden behind the sun), but then it falls and sinks into the sea.

In fact, the entire isle was shaped like a five-pointed star, a Venus symbol par excellence. Thus Numenor had 5 ‘arms’ which were also provinces – Forostar, Andustar, Hyarnustar, Hyarrostar and Orrostar. In the midst of the isle, in the central province called Mittalmar, stood the Holy Mountain Meneltarma, which means Pillar of Heaven.

The first King of Numenor was Elros (Star-foam), Earendil’s son, who reigned as Tar-Minyatur, First King. Henceforth, all kings and queens used royal names in Quenya beginning with the prefix tar- (high). But the later kings turned against the Valar and prefered to use names in Adûnaic, their native tongue.

Both sons of Earendil share their father’s Morningstar/Evenstar symbolism. It’s easy to spot it with Elros, who followed the Star of Earendil to Numenor. But Elrond (Vault of Heavens or Star-dome) has it as well. In LOTR he mentions that he served as High King Gil-galad’s banner-bearer, vice-regent and herald. The Red Comet, which has a lot of symbolism connected with Venus, represents a similar idea, as it is the herald of Azor Ahai the solar king. Gil-galad means Star of Bright Light, so symbolically, we can look at him as a star or even the sun. And Venus heralds the coming of the sun in its Morningstar position, which Elrond as banner-bearer and herald would signify… Also, Elrond’s daughter Arwen was called Evenstar of the Elves, which highlights the overall Venus symbolism of Earendil’s house.

As a side note, in-universe Eärendil means ‘Devoted to the Sea’. But Tolkien borrowed this name from an Old English poem Christ I (The Advent Lyrics), which he has read in his youth and which deeply moved him. The poem contains this verse:

éala éarendel engla beorhtast/ ofer middangeard monnum sended

Hail Eärendel, brightest of angels / over middle-earth sent to men

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. In-universe, Earendil is also called the Mariner, the Bright, the Blessed, and in Bilbo’s song in LOTR his Star is called ‘the Flammifer of Westernesse’.


The Glory and Downfall of Númenórë

Venus-related symbolism of Numenor and its people becomes quite easy to spot if one knows how to look. Like Venus (the goddess of Greek mythology), the isle of Elenna rises from the waves. Like Venus the planet is rises, but then falls and is no more (LML discusses the Venus cycle in the sixth episode of his Bloodstone Compendium).

The entire island of Numenor is shaped like a giant five-pointed star, which is one of the most common symbols of Venus. The eyes of its people shone like bright stars. And if we look at Quenya and Aduinaic meanings of some of the royal names of Numenorean monarchs, we see even more such symbolism.

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.

Numenor is Arda’s ancient advanced civilization – similar to Atlantis – that was destroyed in a great cataclysm, In George R.R. Martin’s world, the Great Empire of the Dawn plays this role, and Old Valyria but to a lesser extent. It’s possible that ‘of the Dawn’ part in the Empire’s name might be a reference to Numenor, which has tons of Venus-related symbolism, and Venus is (sometimes) the Morningstar, the Star of the Dawn. But I’d go further and suggest that those similarities and parallels go deeper, and are surely intentional. For example, just like the Kings and Queen of Numenor, the monarchs of the Great Empire had abnormally long lifespans, but as the time passed, their lives grew shorter and shorter. But the really interesting parallels come to us when we explore the downfall of both civilizations. And certain similarities between survivors of both catastrophes are more interesting still.


Early generations of the House of Elros, chart by BT

This family tree shows the first generations of the House of Elros, the royal dynasty of Numenor. As you can see, Tar-Elendil, the fourth ruler of the isle, had three children: two daughters, Silmariën and Isilmë, and their younger brother. At that time, Numenor followed male-preference primogeniture, and thus Tar-Meneldur became the king after Tar-Elendil died. But when Silmariën married a nobleman called Elatan from the port city of Andúnië, Elendil created a title of the Lord of Andúnië for their first son Valandil. House of Andúnië became one of the most prominent Numenorean houses, with its head often serving on royal council. And as it later turned out, it became the most important dynasty of Middle-earth in the Third Age.

In the centuries immediately after they’ve settled the isle, the Edain never ventured far away from their homeland. But in the 600th year of the Second Age Vëantur, Tar-Elendil’s Captain of Ships (admiral of the navy, like Westerosi master of ships). This began the golden age of Numenorean discovery and exploration. At first, Numenorean ships sailed to Middle-earth, where Vëantur met Cirdan the Shipwright himself and Gil-galad the High King. But later they sailed all seas of the world and visited even the most distant continents. Yet they never sailed to the Uttermost West, as the Valar forbade any mortals to set foot in the Undying Lands.

Numenoreans saw that lives of the men of Middle-earth were miserable, so they shared their knowledge with them. They taught how to cultivate corn and wine, and brought seeds and saplings from their isle, and showed how to hew wood and shape stone, and how to sow and grind grain. And thus many tribes blessed the sight of ships with the Star of Earendil on their sails, and remembered the ‘tall Sea-kings’ in their legends. But as the time passed, the men of Numenor became full of pride, and spoke against the Valar and their ban – why shouldn’t the Kings of Men be allowed to visit Valinor. And thus the Numenoreans no longer welcomed elven ships coming from the West with gifts, distrusting them and calling them spies of the Valar. Yet even then they never dared to break the ban openly by sailing to the West.

Instead, their mighty ships returned to Middle-earth, but this time not as teachers. At first they exacted tribute in the name of their king, but later became conquerors, slavers and tyrants, building permanent landings and ports, and even fortresses.

Later kings abandoned using Quenya of the High Elves, preferring their native Adunaic, and in the end banned speaking elvish of any kind on their isle. Numenoreans, who once understood that death is the fate of all humans, now sought to prolong their lives, and discover the secrets of life and death. But the only thing they achieved was how to preserve flesh long after death. And in doing so, they filled their land with megalithic silent tombs.

This chart show the final generations of the Royal House of Numenor, and the House of Elendil (you can find the full family tree of Numenorean kings here).


House of Elros, and House of Elendil, chart by BT

Numenoreans became quarrelsome and distrusted one another. The most notable political parties were the King’s Men (which reminds me of Stannis’ followers), who were hostile to the Valar, the Elves and their allies, and sought to conquer and spread Numenorean rule over all of mankind. They were opposed by the Faithful, also called Elf-friends, as they sought friendship of the Valar and the Eldar. They were centered around the Lords of Andúnië, though later in secret.

Tar-Palantir, the 24th king of Numenor, supported the Faithful because of the teachings of his mother who came from the House of Andúnië, and attempted to reform the isle and reduce the damage done by his predecessors and their King’s Men. But he achieved little, as his subjects grew rebellious and prideful. When his daughter Tar-Miriel was supposed to inherit the throne, her cousin Ar-Pharazon took her too wife, although she was unwilling, and seized power. In a way, that was a Blood Betrayal, like the one we read about in TWOIAF. This was against both law and custom, as Tar-Aldarion the 5th king changed the law so elder daughter would inherit before younger brothers.

Ar-Pharazon the Golden became the greatest of all Kings of Westernesse, but at the same time, he was the bloodiest tyrant. When he heard that Sauron (once Morgoth’s lieutenant and now the new Dark Lord) rose again in Mordor, proclaiming himself King of Men and endangering Numenorean colonies, he amassed a great fleet and might host, and landed in Middle-earth. There the king made his camp, his host ‘ranged all about him, blue, golden, and white, as a field of tall flowers’. But the royal banners were blazoned with sable and gold. Then Ar-Pharazon sent envoys to Mordor, and commanded Sauron to bend the knee and swear him fealty.

And Sauron came, abandoning his armies and leaving the Great Ring in Barad-dur, his dark tower. The Dark Lord humbled himself before the king, and Ar-Pharazon felt pride. Then he had Sauron taken to Numenor as a hostage. But soon, the Dark Lord was sitting on his council and ruling the isle in all but name. His scheme to corrupt Numenor worked.

There he convinced Ar-Pharazon that the Valar were plotting to destroy his realm, and that Eru Iluvatar was but a fable they invented to fool mankind. Thus, the Numenoreans turned from Iluvatar whom they worshipped atop Meneltarma in the middle of their isle, and made sacrifices to Melkor as ‘Giver of Freedom’. Naturally, Sauron became the archpriest and prophet of this wicked cult.

The White Tree was cut down and burned on the altars in the Great Temple Sauron had built in Armenelos the Golden. But the Faithful still lived, though in secret, as Sauron’s henchmen searched for them and those they found they sacrificed to Morgoth. Their leader was Amandil, Lord of Andúnië, King Ar-Pharazon’s great friend in their youth. But Sauron had him dismissed from the royal council.

Amandil foresaw that Numenor will soon fall, for so great was the wickedness of its people. But he had ships prepared in secret, and gathered his kin and friends and what remained of the Faithful. Then he told his son and heir Elendil to escape should the doom come, and sailed westward, breaking the Ban of the Valar. He hoped to reach Valinor like his ancestor Earendil once did, and plead with the Lords of the West to save Numenor. Amandil was never seen again, and no word of his fate came from the West.

This is the description of the Temple Sauron built in Armenelos, the royal capital of Westernesse:

It was in the form of a circle at the base, and there the walls were fifty feet in thickness, and the width of the base was five hundred feet across the centre, and the walls rose from the ground five hundred feet, and they were crowned with a mighty dome. And that dome was roofed all with silver, and rose glittering in the sun, so that the light of it could be seen afar off; but soon the light was darkened, and the silver became black. For there was an altar of fire in the midst of the temple, and in the topmost of the dome there was a louver, whence there issued a great smoke. And the first fire upon the altar Sauron kindled with the hewn wood of Nimloth, and it crackled and was consumed; but men marvelled at the reek that went up from it, so that the land lay under a cloud for seven days, until slowly it passed into the west.

Nimloth was the White Tree of Numenor, made in the likeness of Telperion the Silver Tree of Valinor. The proto-Moon. Therefore, in the terms of Mythical Astronomy, we have a Dark Lord who burns the white tree which is also, in a way, the Moon. And this darkens the entire city. But, Elendil’s son Isildur sneaked into the royal court where it grew, and though it was heavily guarded by the King’s Men, he managed to steal one seedling, which Elendil hid on his ship.

Now there was no rescue for Numenor, as it became too wicked and full of gluttony and blood sacrifice was common. Warships of Westernesse sailed to Middle-earth again, but this time they weren’t colonists or conquerors or even tribute collectors. This time they sought to capture men and women and carry them to Numenor, where Sauron sacrificed them to Morgoth, claiming that by doing so the Numenoreans will be saved from death.

The Valar sent warnings, stormy clouds in the shaped like Great Eagles, ‘And out of the west there would come at times a great cloud in the evening, shaped as it were an eagle, with pinions spread to the north and the south; and slowly it would loom up, blotting out the sunset, and then uttermost night would fall upon Númenor. And some of the eagles bore lightning beneath their wings, and thunder echoed between sea and cloud’. And from the West came strong winds, and storms and hail. But the King never repented, and Sauron whispered in his ear that even the Valar were now afraid of his might, and the eagles were a declaration of war.

Now the lightnings increased and slew men upon the hills, and in the fields, and in the streets of the city; and a fiery bolt smote the dome of the Temple and shore it asunder, and it was wreathed in flame. But the Temple itself was unshaken, and Sauron stood there upon the pinnacle and defied the lightning and was unharmed; and in that hour men called him a god and did all that he would.

This reminds me of the Ironborn myth about the Grey King who taunted the Storm God into striking a tree with his thunderbolt. Manwe can be seen as a ‘storm god’, as he is the Vala associated with sky, air and lightning. And among the Ironborn priests, we find a certain Sauron Salt Tongue… And here, Sauron burns the White Tree, which can symbolise the moon, but also a weirwood, as weirwood leaves look like flames, thus giving us a tree set aflame. In his essay The Grey King and the Sea Dragon LML that this parallel is intentional, and in this way GRRM wants us to associate the Grey King with weirwoods and greenseers. And remember, Sauron was a smith just like Azor Ahai, which also fits Mythical Astronomy perfectly, as according to this theory Azor Ahas not only a dark lord, who caused the Long Night by breaking the Second Moon, but also the same person as the Grey King. Maybe this Grey King myth from the Iron Islands was inspired by this passage from the account of the Downfall of Numenor. And that wouldn’t be the only reference to this story we find in ASOIAF.

The Great Empire of the Dawn fell when the Opal Emperor’s daughter, the Amethyst Empress, was usurped by her brother who became known as the Bloodstone Emperor.

In The Silmarillion, we have a king of Numenor named Tar-Palantir, which brings to mind the palantiri seeing-stones (and opals are precious gems as well), whose daughter Tar-Miriel (Jewel-daughter) has a name connected with jewels as well. A cousin is not a brother, but the basic pattern is the same – the monarch has a daughter who should inherit the throne, but an ambitious family members usurps her, and begins a reign of terror.

Interestingly, many characters based on the Bloodstone Emperor archetype, of a villainous figure who breaks the moon, proposed in LML’s essays, have names connected with gold, while Ar-Pharazon means the Golden. Aurion the self-proclaimed Emperor of Valyria, Euron Greyjoy… aurum is Latin for gold, and Euron is a Welsh name which contains ‘Eur’ – gold, related to Latin ‘Aur’. And there’s Aurane Waters, the grand admiral, who might parallel Ar-Pharazon as well, since the king led the greatest fleet ever assembled… And in a way, Ar-Pharazon betrayed the rightful queen, and ‘stole’ her fleet, just like Aurane stole Cersei’s fleet. Well, I’m not sure we can call Cersei the ‘rightful queen’, but symbolically, it works.

The TWOIAF account of the Great Empire of the Dawn lists many sins of the people of the Empire and the Bloodstone Emperor: avarice, envy, lust, murder, incest, gluttony, and sloth, dark arts, torture, necromancy, enslavement of people, feasting on human flesh and casting down the true gods and worshipping a black stone that fell from heaven. Numenoreans and Ar-Pharazon committed most of these dark deeds as well. The king married Tar-Miriel against her will – and marriages between such close kin were forbidden. He turned away from the Valar and Iluvatar, and worshipped Morgoth. He was not a necromancer, though, but it turns out that Sauron was. In fact, in The Hobbit, Sauron is always referred to as ‘the Necromancer’. It’s possible that GRRM mixed Sauron with Ar-Pharazon and added some Lovecraftian influences as well to create his own Dark Lord, the Bloodstone Emperor.

Also, I’ll note that according to some theories, the Valyrians came from the Great Empire of the Dawn. At the very least, they have many similarities. If the Great Empire is the archetypal ‘lost advanced civilization’ of GRRM’s world, akin to our Atlantis, then Valyria might play into this archetype… Valyrians have silver hair, so its possible that – if those theories are correct – the Amethyst Empress had silver hair as well and that would fit well with The Silmarillion. Although Tar-Miriel most likely didn’t have silver hair, her namesake Miriel (Feanor’s mother), had silver hair. This is a description of Miriel, for what it’s worth: ‘And last of all the mounting wave, green and cold and plumed with foam, climbing over the land, took to its bosom Tar-Míriel the Queen, fairer than silver or ivory or pearls. Too late she strove to ascend the steep ways of the Meneltarma to the holy place; for the waters overtook her, and her cry was lost in the roaring of the wind’. This is like the opposite of the birth of Venus, where she rises from the sea clothed in foam. Think of Dany who wishes to be dressed in ‘Starlight and seafoam’. And as Durran Durrandon suggested, Daenerys can be seen as the new Amethyst Empress.

Here, with Tar-Miriel, we have a dark inversion of the birth of Venus – which perfectly fits the last Queen of Numenor, the Land Under the Star of Earendil which is Venus. Here I’ll note that the name of Elros, Miriel’s distant ancestor and the first King of Westernesse, can be translated as ‘Star-foam’, which again, might evoke the famous birth of Venus scene. When Elros led the Edain, Numenor rose from the sea like Venus (metaphorically but also because it had the shape of a five-pointed star). And now, to sea it returns.

That was the scene where the Queen drowns with all of Numenor. So, I guess, it’s the time to finish up the story of Westernesse. I hope that the parallels I’ve highlighted convinced you that GRRM’s Great Empire was truly inspired by Numenor. It’s always possible that they are similar because both Tolkien and Martin were inspired by Atlantis, but I think it’s more likely that GRRM was influenced directly by Numenor as well.

When Ar-Pharazon was old and felt that his death was near, he heeded Sauron who claimed that the Valar can be defeated, and if the Numenoreans conquer the Undying Lands, they’ll be immortal and godlike. For the purpose of this invasion, a great armada was assembled, and loaded with warriors, knights, horses, weapons and slaves to work the oars. Then Ar-Pharazon boarded his flagship, the golden and sable Alcondras, which means Castle of the Sea. The fleet sailed westward and breaking the Ban of the Valar, landed in Aman. The elves fled from the advancing army, but atop Taniquetil, Manwe called upon Iluvatar and laid down his regency and governance of the world.

And Iluvatar answered. The world shook, and was broken and made anew. From the peak of Mount Meneltarma in the middle of the isle, smoke and fire rose. Deep chasm opened in the seabed, and Numenor fell into it. Coastlines of other continents were changed, and mouths and deltas of many rivers. Entire islands drowned in an instant, and elsewhere new lands rose from the depths. The Numenorean fleet sank but Ar-Pharazon and his warriors who dared to attack Valinor were trapped deep below the ground, where they sleep in the Cave of the Forgotten. They shall not wake until the Last Battle, but on which side they’ll fight, no one can tell. Before that day was over, Numenor was no more.

In the Flat World continuity, it was at this point in time that Arda was made round.

Yet, not all Numenoreans perished, as thanks to Amandil’s foresight, Elendil had nine ships prepared – four for Elendil, three was his son Isildur, and two for Anarion, his second son. As the doom ranged around them, they set sail for Middle-earth. Numenor was lost, and no one spoke of it anymore, but of Akallabêth (the Downfallen), which in Quenya is Atalantë…

In Middle-earth, Elendil and his sons sought to preserve as much of the lore of Westernesse as they could. They founded two realms, the Kingdoms of the Dúnedain: Gondor in the south and Arnor in the north. But Sauron lived as well, though he was still in his temple in Armenelos when the isle fell into the depths. His spirit rose from the waters, and fled over the waves like black wind or shadow to Mordor, where the One Ring was hidden. His new appearance was that of ‘an image of malice and hatred made visible; and the Eye of Sauron the Terrible few could endure’. This reminds me of Euron Greyjoy’s sigil. And of course, I proposed that Euron is one the characters playing into the Bloodstone Emperor archetype – and that the Emperor is a combination of Sauron and Ar-Pharazon.


The Unity of the Sun and the Moon

At last, the time has come to introduce what might be the most important Tolkienic concept, that has found its way to ASOIAF as well – the unity of the Sun and the Moon. What do I mean?

To begin with, in the section about the Long Night I quoted a passage from The Silmarillion which contains this line:

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.

And elsewhere it is said that:

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.

Thus, I think that we can safely assume that when it comes to symbolism, the Elves can be associated with the stars and the Moon, and humans (notably, the Edain who entered Beleriand and allied themselves with the Eldar) with the Sun. And what happens when we have a union of those two peoples? (I won’t call them ‘species’ or ‘races’, as the difference between men and elves in Tolkien’s tales is spiritual in nature, and some minor biological differences are caused by their different natures and fate). What happens when we unite the Sun and the Moon?

Why, we get Lightbringer.

Listen how Manwe’s herald and banner-bearer greets Earendil 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!’

Earendil unites the symbolism of both the Edain and the Eldar because he is half-elven – his mother was princess Idril, daughter of King Turgon of Gondolin, and his father Tuor son of Huor. His sons were counted among the half-elven as well, as their mother Elwing was the granddaughter of Beren son of Barahir and Luthien, daughter of King Thingol of the Sindar and Melian of the Maiar. Thus Elrond and Elros descended from Men, Elves and the Maiar (who are Ainur as well).

In this way, Bright Earendil, Earendil the Blessed, Flammifer of Westernesse, the Morningstar and the Evenstar, is the child of the Sun and the Moon. If you’re familiar with LML’s Mythical Astronomy, please remember that according to this theory, Lightbringer, the red comet which appears to pierce the eclipse, the union of the sun and the moon, can be viewed as the child of the sun and the moon.

And since ‘Lightbringer’ is an epithet of Venus in real-world mythology, it makes perfect sense that Tolkien’s Venus figure is ‘Bearer of Light’ as well. But this similarity in names hardly proves that GRRM’s Lightbringer was inspired by Earendil. Lightbringer is a common term in mythology and fantasy, George could have easily found it elsewhere. What proves, or at the very least strongly suggests that his Lightbringer was truly influenced by Tolkien’s is that both authors view it as the child of the sun and the moon. (Venus is often called the ‘Son of the Sun’ in mythology and symbolism, but I’m not aware of any myths where it is the ‘Child of the Moon’).

(Also, I have a tiny crackpot theory that by making his Lightbringer a comet endowed with Venusian symbolism, GRRM might be making a joke about archaic language in Tolkien’s prose. Earendil, that ‘cometh beyond hope’. Lightbringer, the comet. As Maester Aemon tells us: Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Now, this is unlikely, but funny to think about. And there’s plenty of other evidence to back this theory that GRRM’s Lightbringer is based, at least partially, on Earendil).

If you want to see some of the best Venus-based symbolism in fantasy, please check out the Song of Eärendil which Aragorn and Bilbo wrote, and which was sang in Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring, a book GRRM has certainly read, and probably more than once.

If I were to say how Tolkien decided that Venus can be described as the child of the Sun and the Moon, I’d tell you that it was probably because of the unique double role this ‘star’ plays – it is both the Morningstar, the heralds the dawn and sunrise, and the Evenstar which heralds the nightfall and moonrise. That’s why we get ‘good’ Morningstar characters like Earendil and ‘bad’ Evenstar characters like Ar-Pharazon, the last King of the Land Under the Star of Earendil. And somewhere in the middle we have Morningstar character based on Venus viewed as ‘wannabe sun’, a usurper in place of a faithful herald – one of those was Tar-Anducal, a descendant of Tar-Atanamir the Great, the 13th king of Numenor.


Descendants of Tar-Anárion, chart by BT

Herucalmo (Lord of Light) married Tar-Vanimeldë, the 16th monarch of Numenor and the 3rd Ruling Queen. When his wife died, he usurped his own son’s throne, and reigned as Tar-Anducal, Light of the West. Only after two decades could the rightful king, Tar-Alcarin, begin his reign. That’s interesting – Lord of Light as an usurper? Well, if LML’s theory is true his champion Azor Ahai was a villainous usurper and dark lord.

In ASOIAF, as LML shows in his essay on this topic, the dichotomy of Venus manifests in House Dayne, where we have the honorable and true Swords of the Morning, and foul Swords of the Evening. In Tolkien’s writing, this dualism manifests even among the survivors of the Downfall of Numenor – Elendil the Faithful survives, like Noah or Aenar Targaryen, with his sons and retainers, but some of the King’s Men survive as well in their colonies in Middle-earth. The Mouth of Sauron, the Dark Lord’s envoy to Aragorn and ‘Lieutenant of the Tower of Barad-dûr’ was theirs descendant. And three of the Nazgul were lords of Numenor corrupted by Sauron.

Now, before we explore those faithful Numenorean survivors, the Dúnedain, another important concept connected with Venus has to be introduced.

Earendil is the steersman of Vingilótë, the most beautiful of all ships, which the Valar transformed into a ‘star’. But the Star of Earendil is the brightest thing in the sky because of the Silmaril Earendil wore on his brow, the Silmaril Beren and Luthien recovered from Angband and Elwing saved from both the Second and the Third Kinslaying.

But what are the Silmarils in terms of symbolism? As it turns out, in a way, they represent the same unity Earendil does, the union of the Sun and the Moon. Feanor filled them with the light of the Two Trees Valinor. I think we can see Laurelin the golden tree as a Sun or ‘proto-Sun’, and Telperion the silver tree as a Moon or a ‘proto-Moon’, because the Sun and the Moon were made from their fruit and flower, respectively. As such, the Silmarils, a gemstone made from the light of the two trees, represents this sun-moon unity exceptionally well

Thus, the Silmaril is a perfect lamp to shine as both the Morningstar and the Evenstar. At the same time, it contains the light that shines in the day, and the light that shines in the night. I think the story of Silmariën strongly implies that Tolkien invited the reader to see the Silmarils in this light. She was, as I explained a bit earlier, the eldest child of Tar-Elendil, the 4th monarch of Numenor. But at that time, the realm followed agnatic primogeniture, and thus the sceptre went to her younger brother who reigned as Tar-Meneldur. She married a nobleman called Elatan, from the port city of Andúnië (which means Sunset), and their son Valandil was the first Lord of Andúnië and founder of one of the greatest Numenorean houses.

And now look at this family tree of the last Lords of Andúnië, and the first Kings of Arnor and Gondor:


House of Elendil family tree, chart by BT

Elendil (Devoted to the Stars) fathers two sons, Isildur (Devoted to the Moon), and Anarion (Devoted to the Sun). After the Dunedain land in Middle-earth after the Downfall of Numenor, Isildur builds the city of Minas Ithil (Tower of the Moon) in the land of Ithilien (Land of the Moon), while Anarion builds Minar Anor (Tower of the Sun) in the land of Anorien (Land of the Sun). One son is constantly associated with the Moon, the other with the Moon. It is as if the ‘child of the Sun and the Moon’ symbolism of Earendil and his son Elros, transferred to the Royal House of Numenor was safely ‘stored’ in the House of Andúnië and has now sprouted in Elendil’s sons. And it is through Silmariën, whose name evokes the Silmarils that Elendil descends from Earendil. Pretty cool, right?

This reminds me of the technique LML calls ‘fractal symbolism’, where we have many symbols of the same thing in close proximity, so every one supports all the others. For example, all members of some house symbolise the same concept in different ways. Or situations where we have children who take on the symbolism of their father or mother, like Robb who becomes the new ‘King of Winter’ figure after Ned dies.

Even better, the Dunedain who landed in Middle-earth create an alliance with Gil-galad and other elves, and fight Sauron. The first Dark Lord, Morgoth, was defeated only when Earendil, the Child of the Sun and the Moon, the Child of the Eldar and the Edain, sailed to Valinor. It was him who cast down Ancalagon the Black, the greatest of Morgoth’s dragons and changed the tide of battle.

And now, at the end of the Second Age, the Dunedain, Earendil’s descendants, ally themselves with Elves again, and bring Sauron down, although only for some time.

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.

Aeglos, the spear of Gil-galad which means ‘Icicle’, wielded by the king who is the heir of the High Kings of the Noldor like Fingolfin and Fingon, with all their symbolism related to the Moon and the stars… Elendil and his sons, one of whom is constantly associated with the Moon, and the other with the Sun… and the Dunedain who come from Andúnië (Sunset, as in Sunset Lands) and Numenor, from Númenórë which means more or less ‘the land where the sun goes down’… only this alliance can defeat the Dark Lord.

And it was Narsil that dealt the final blow… And what does that name evoke?

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.

The Song of the Sun and the Moon, the Song of Fire and Ice.

When Sauron returns at the end of the Third Age, it is Aragorn who fights against him… A descendant of Earendil, Elros, Silmariën, Elendil, Isildur and Anarion, the heir to Arnor, the Northern Realm, and Gondor in the south. Which makes him a Morningstar figure – which makes sense when you look at the plot, where Aragorn leads the fight against Sauron and his return heralds the defeat of the Dark Lord. And what about the balde he wields in his battles against the darkness? Andúril, Flame of the West, the ‘West’ referring to ‘Numenor’… Andúril, which is Narsil reforged.

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.

Sword of the Sun and the Moon, a fitting weapon for the heir of Earendil. Lightbringer.

Aragorn marries Arwen, the Evenstar, who is Elrond’s daughter… and Earendil’s granddaughter. Thus, the two houses founded by Earendil’s twin sons are united after thousands of years, but so are the Eldar and the Edain.

His royal banner shows the white tree and seven stars… but those are not stars of Valacirca or some constellation. Instead, they are all Venus. As LOTR appendix explains:

[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, Aragorn banners shows seven five-pointed stars, Venusian symbols. And the fact that they were used as banners on Elendil’s ships supports that, as it’d make sense for Numenoreans, whose Edain ancestors sailed following the Star of Earendil, to place Venus on their banners.

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?

And yes, I think Ar-Pharazon, the likely inspiration behind the Bloodstone Emperor, is one of those fallen Lightbringer figures. This is how a monument commemorating his ‘victory’ over Sauron is described:’ on the highest hill of the headland above the Haven they (…) set a great white pillar as a monument. It was crowned with a globe of crystal that took the rays of the Sun and of the Moon and shone like a bright star that could be seen in clear weather even on the coasts of Gondor or far out upon the western sea.


The South: Gondor

Now, I’ll highlight how GRRM makes references to the story of Elendil and his sons, and the realms of Gondor and Arnor in his books, to corroborate the theory about Azor Ahai’s Lightbringer was influenced by Narsil, and the Great Empire – by Numenor. Also, I’ll present another theory of mine, that the Daynes and the Hightowers, and possibly the Starks, descend from the survivors of the Great Empire’s fall.

From 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. There in the courts of the King grew a white tree, from the seed of that tree which Isildur brought over the deep waters, and the seed of that tree before came from Eressëa, and before that out of the Uttermost West in the Day before days when the world was young.

But in the wearing of the swift years of Middle-earth the line of Meneldil son of Anárion failed, and the Tree withered, and the blood of the Númenoreans became mingled with that of lesser men. Then the watch upon the walls of Mordor slept, and dark things crept back to Gorgoroth. And on a time evil things came forth, and they took Minas Ithil and abode in it, and they made it into a place of dread; and it is called Minas Morgul, the Tower of Sorcery. Then Minas Anor was named anew – Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard; and these two cities were ever at war, but Osgiliath which lay between was deserted and in its ruins shadows walked.

High towers these people built… It turns out that many references to Tolkien can be found in Oldtown, and that it might be in fact be based on Osgiliath, which was once the capital of Gondor. The similarities are striking – a river (Anduin in LOTR, Honeywine in ASOIAF) flows through the midst of both cities. In both cases, a citadel was built on the river – The Citadel of Oldtown, the seat of the Order of Maesters, and Citadel of Osgiliath, where under the great hall called the Dome of Stars one of the palantiri seeing-stones was housed. Osgiliath is the Citadel of the Host of Stars, or Starry Host, in Sindarin – and in Oldtown, we find the Starry Sept. And the Citadel houses the ASOIAF ‘version’ of the palantiri – the glass candles.

The Hightower itself might be based on Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun, later renamed Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard. Alternatively, the Tower of the Sun at Sunspear of House Martell might be GRRM’s equivalent of Minas Anor. After all, when Nymeria landed in Dorne, the lines she spoke were quite similar to the famous ‘words of Elendil’ which Aragorn quoted during his own coronation thousands of years later. ‘Our wanderings are at an end. We have found a new home, and here we shall live and die’ versus ‘Out of the Great Sea to Middle-earth I am come. In this place will I abide, and my heirs, unto the ending of the world’.

On the other hand, the banner of Hightowers with its beacon might be a nod to the most famous beacons in fantasy, the Beacons of Gondor.

In the end, I don’t really it matters whether it’s the Hightower or Sunspear that is GRRM’s own personal Minas Tirith… What matters is that for some reason, we are meant to associate Dorne, and Oldtown, which is very close to Dorne, especially Castle Starfall, with Gondor.

House Dayne, besides having a name that is a bit similar to the word ‘Edain’, having a legend about following a star to the place where they have settled (and since Starfall sits on an island in the mouth of River Torrentine, I imagine they would have to follow their star on ships, like the Edain), and keeping a sword that is strikingly similar to Narsil, is also connected with Isildur – his death to be more specific.

After the War of the Last Alliance, Isildur spent some time in Gondor, as his brother Anarion’s son and heir was still very young, as the elder sons died in battle. But later he decided to return to Arnor in the north. But when he reached the Fields of Gladden in the Vale of Anduin the Great River, his party of knights and retainers was ambushed by an orcs. Isildur tried to escape by using the One Ring’s power of making its keeper invisible, but Sauron’s jewel betrayed him and slipped off his finger. Archers saw him trying to swim to the other shore, and he was shot.

But Isildur had a squire, remembered only as Ohtar (which was the name of his military rank), whom he dispatched to Rivendell with Narsil’s shards, and thus saved Elendil’s sword from orcs. In ASOIAF, we have a similar ambush, also by a river – at Mummer’s Ford. And it turns out that among the knights Ned Stark sent to bring Gregor Clegane to justice was certain Ser Gladden Wylde, most likely named after the Fields of Gladden. In this case, young Edric Dayne could play the role of the faithful squire, to Beric Dondarrion, just like Ohtar has to Isildur.

Curiously, the Dunedain of LOTR are associated with megalithic black stone strongholds – which might have been the inspiration behind Westeros’ mysterious black oily stone buildings. Here is a description of the Tower of Orthanc in Isengard, which later became the seat of Saruman. It appeared to be 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’. The road leading to the gate of Isengard was ‘paved with great flat stones, squared and laid with skill; no blade of grass was seen in any joint’ and when Theoden, Aragorn and Gandalf approach the Tower of Orthanc in The Two Towers, it is described in those words: ‘it was black, and the rock gleamed as if it were wet’.

Like the Dome of Stars of Osgiliath, Orthanc housed one of the seven palantiri Elendil saved when the Downfall came upon Numenor. And from its top, Saruman, one of the Wizards (The Istari), would watch stars, just like Lord Leyton Hightower (who is rumoured to dabble in the ‘higher mysteries’ and sorcery) does from his tower. I think that might be why the Hightower has black oily stone foundations – not only to suggest that it was built by some mysterious advanced civilization of ancient past, but also to clue us in to the fact that those ancient builders came from a civilization that was similar to the Dunedain who fled from Numenor. Among Lord Leyton’s titles we find ‘the Voice of Oldtown’… Saruman was famous for his voice that could convince those of lesser mental strength to do his bidding, sway hearts, make others agree with whatever he said and so on… The Voice of Saruman is the tenth chapter of LOTR.

In light of all those similarities between Houses Dayne and Hightower and the faithful Dunedain who survived the Downfall of Numenor, I suggest that they were survivors from the Great Empire of the Dawn who settled in Dorne and in the mouth of Honeywine. Of course, many other fans proposed such a scenario, but I’m not aware of theories that use the analysis of Tolkienic references in ASOIAF to support their claims.

But there is one other region of Westeros where references to the Dunedain are aplenty – the North. This makes sense, as with the Daynes and the Hightowers we get many references to the southern Dunedain realm, Gondor. In the North, we can expect references to the northern kingdom, Arnor. And indeed, we can find many of them.


The North: Arnor

The Barrowlands and the Great Barrow of Barrowton from ASOIAF are most likely a reference to the Barrow-downs from The Fellowship of the Ring, the land of hills where monoliths and barrows of the Edain from the First Age stood. When the Dunedain returned to Middle-earth following the Downfall of Numenor, some settled in the north and founded a kingdom called Arnor, Gondor’s twin. Because of their reverence for the hallowed graves of their ancestors, they began to bury their own kings, lords and notable warriors there. But the Northern Realm became divided into three kingdoms when the late king’s sons started a civil war between them. In its aftermath where once stood Arnor, the realms of Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhudaur appeared.

One by one they failed, as divided, the Dunedain of the North were unable to withstand the armies of the Witch-king of Angmar in the far north. It was later revealed that this Witch-king was in fact the Lord of the Nazgul (Ringwraiths) sent there to weaken the Dunedain and render them harmless to Sauron when he would return. The Witch-king profaned the Great Barrows and sent undead creatures animated by foul spirits to haunt the downs. One of those would capture Frodo and his companions in The Fellowship of the Ring.

The Crown of the Kings in the North – a circle of bronze surmounted with nine black longswords – might be a reference to Angmar, as there were nine Ringwraiths, and the ‘Iron Crown’ is a term Tolkien often uses to describe various evil factions (similarly to how in ASOIAF ‘The Iron Throne’ is a symbol of the realm). The Witch-king was able to control cold winds and send blizzards – that’s how the Chieftain of the Lossoth, snow-people of the frozen waste in the north describes him: ‘In summer his power wanes; but now his breath is deadly, and his cold arm is long.’ In a way, the Witch-king is a King of Winter.

In the North of Westeros we find direwolves, and legends speaking of wargs – the lands of former Arnor were infested with wargs and White Wolves who once crossed the frozen river Brandywine and attacked Shire during the so-called Fell Winter, one of the harshest and longest winter Middle-earth has witnessed.

Tom Bombadil lives in the Old Forest, close to the Barrow-downs – and ‘beyond the Hedge’ that separates Shire from this dangerous wood. As I’ve explained in the previous episode, I think that Coldhands of the Haunted Forest beyond the Wall is GRRM’s answer to this character. It is also possible that the lands granted to the Night’s Watch by Brandon Stark (which one no one can tell), and later expanded during the reign of King Jaehaerys the First, are Westeros’ version of the Shire, which one of the Kings of Arthedain granted to the Hobbits, and King Aragorn Elessar later expanded.

There are other Tolkienic references to be found in the North – Brandon the Shipwright and Brandon the Burner, Berena Stark, Lord Beron, Dareon and Elron of the Night’s Watch, Berena Tallart and her son Beren… Although these are not references to Arnor specifically, they are references to the Edain of the First Age, who were the ancestors of the Dunedain. I think that GRRM wants us to associate the North, and perhaps House Stark, with Arnor, since we already have Gondor in the south.

What this means? If I were to guess it has something to do with Lightbringer and ‘the return of the king’ theme. Maybe the hero who will lead humanity in the new Long Night will be a heir of both the North and the South of Westeros, literally or in some symbolical sense. After all, Aragorn, the ultimate returning king of fantasy was the heir to both Arnor and Gondor. At the very least, it proves that GRRM was thinking about Tolkien while creating the details of his own worldbuilding.


Minas Ithil, Minas Morgul

In this final section we’ll look into another common theme GRRM and Tolkien share, that of the corrupted moons. In A Song of Ice and Fire, this refers to the Second Moon of Planetos, which was destroyed – ‘ultimately corrupted’ in a way. Of course, there is no second moon in LOTR – yet moon corruption language and themes are still there. Dark Lords like Morgoth and Sauron attempt to defile the moon: to turn its beautiful light into something provoking fear – into pale corpse-light that evokes death and necromancy and dark magic.

In the First Age, Morgoth sent ‘spirits of shadow’ again the Moon, but its guardian Tilion managed to repel them. In the Second Age, Sauron burned the White Tree of Numenor which was made in the likeness of the ‘proto-Moon’, the silver tree Telperion. Later, he sacked Minas Ithil, the Tower of the Moon, the beautiful city built by Isildur. After the Last Alliance defeated the Dark Lord, Ithil was rebuilt.

But when Sauron was regaining his strength in the Third Age, he sent his most powerful servants, the nine Nazgul, the fearsome Ringwraiths. They besieged Minas Ithil, and sacked it. Henceforth it was known as Minas Morgul, the Tower of Dark Sorcery.

This is how the moon-city, now corrupted, is described in The Two Towers:

A long-tilted valley, a deep gulf of shadow, ran back far into the mountains. Upon the further side, some way within the valley’s arms high on a rocky seat upon the black knees of the Ephel Dúath, stood the walls and tower of Minas Morgul. All was dark about it, earth and sky, but it was lit with light. Not the imprisoned moonlight welling through the marble walls of Minas Ithil long ago, Tower of the Moon, fair and radiant in the hollow of the hills. Paler indeed than the moon ailing in some slow eclipse was the light of it now, wavering and blowing like a noisome exhalation of decay, a corpse-light, a light that illuminated nothing. In the walls and tower windows showed, like countless black holes looking inward into emptiness; but the topmost course of the tower revolved slowly, first one way and then another, a huge ghostly head leering into the night.

This language reminds me of how the moon is described in Bran’s final ADWD chapter: ‘The moon was a black hole in the sky’. And the ‘slow eclipse’ of the ‘god’s eye symbol’ from ASOIAF, where the moon and the sun are placed in an eclipse alignment. LML suggests that it was at that moment that the comet pierced the Second Moon. Here moonlight is imprisoned in an eclipse, and later becomes a ‘black hole’.

But some similarities in language between those two authors can be easily dismissed as mere happenstance. What makes me think it is more than that is the name GRRM chose for one of his dragons – Morghul.

According to the Mythical Astronomy, dragons and swords can symbolise the meteors coming from the destroyed second moon. In LOTR, an army comes forth from the corrupted moon-city, marching on Minas Tirith – which one was called Minas Anor, the Tower of the Sun. Their banners are described in this way: ‘Two liveries Sam noticed, one marked by the Red Eye, the other by a Moon disfigured with a ghastly face of death’. And besides orcs, a dragon-like beast is associated with Minas Morgul and its lord, the Witch-king, as well:

The great shadow descended like a falling cloud. And behold! it was a winged creature: if bird, then greater than all other birds, and it was naked, and neither quill nor feather did it bear, and its vast pinions were as webs of hide between horned fingers; and it stank. A creature of an older world maybe it was, whose kind, fingering in forgotten mountains cold beneath the Moon, outstayed their day, and in hideous eyrie bred this last untimely brood, apt to evil. And the Dark Lord took it, and nursed it with fell meats, until it grew beyond the measure of all other things that fly; and he gave it to his servant to be his steed. Down, down it came, and then, folding its fingered webs, it gave a croaking cry, and settled upon the body of Snowmane, digging in its claws, stooping its long naked neck.

I think that’s why GRRM chose to name one of his dragons Morghul, in an obvious references to Minas Morgul – to suggest that just like in LOTR, dragons come from the corrupted moon.

And here, we can see some ‘moon consumption’ language that appears in ASOIAF as well:

They were climbing steadily. At their first halt they looked back, and they could dimly perceive the roofs of the forest they had left behind lying like a vast dense shadow, a darker night under the dark blank sky. There seemed to be a great blackness looming slowly out of the East, eating up the faint blurred stars. Later the sinking moon escaped from the pursuing cloud, but it was ringed all about with a sickly yellow glare.

Sauron’s darkness sent from Mordor attempts to consume the Moon, and later causes the ‘day without dawn’ that heralds the Witch-king’s attack on Minas Tirith – which can symbolise the sun, as it was once the Tower of the Sun. Basically, Sauron seeks to recreate Morgoth’s Long Night. But he fails – just like in the First Age, the Long Night ended when the Sun and the Moon were created, in the Third Age, Aragorn fights against the darkness with Anduril, which once was Narsil. And Narsil is a reference to Narsilion, the song describing the ending of the first Long Night… but also, a symbol of the solar and lunar unity.

The Nazgul are often associated with the corrupted moon, as their Minas Morgul is their seat. In a way, they can be perceived as things that come from the destroyed moon. Dark creatures wielding poisoned Morgul-blades.

And when the Ringwraiths ride their Fell Beasts, as that’s how those dragon-like steeds are called, they have the same peculiar habit of flying in front of the Sun and the Moon ASOIAF dragons have:

Then Frodo and Sam staring at the sky, breathing deeply of the fresher air, saw it come: a small cloud flying from the accursed hills; a black shadow loosed from Mordor; a vast shape winged and ominous. It scudded across the moon, and with a deadly cry went away westward, outrunning the wind in its fell speed.

As an example, let’s compare this with the description of Aegon’s burning of Harrenhal:

Aegon Targaryen took Balerion up high, through the clouds, up and up until the dragon was no bigger than a fly upon the moon.

And this how the Nazgul are described in The Two Towers, when Gandalf and Pippin set off on their journey to Minas Tirith:

At that moment a shadow fell over them. The bright moonlight seemed to be suddenly cut off. Several of the Riders cried out, and crouched, holding their arms above their heads, as if to ward off a blow from above: a blind fear and a deadly cold fell on them. Cowering they looked up. A vast winged shape passed over the moon like a black cloud. It wheeled and went north, flying at a speed greater than any wind of Middle-earth. The stars fainted before it. It was gone.

The moonlight is ‘cut off’, as if the moon was destroyed, and then the Nazgul appear in front of the moon. I can easily see why GRRM would draw some inspiration from this language while creating his own moon destruction metaphors.

And now look at how the Nazgul and their Morgul-blades are described in the chapter entitled A Knife in the Dark (which GRRM might be referencing when he has Melisandre warn Jon against ‘knives in the dark’):

This is that scene at the Weathertop – please remember how GRRM described reading LOTR for the first time – ‘By the time we got to Weathertop, Tolkien had me’. This is the scene where the Ringwraiths attack Aragorn and the Hobbits who made their camp atop this ancient hill (where a palantir was once housed, by the way). Frodo puts on the One Ring and:

Immediately, though everything else remained as before, dim and dark, the shapes became terribly clear. He was able to see beneath their black wrappings. There were five tall figures: two standing on the lip of the dell, three advancing. In their white faces burned keen and merciless eyes; under their mantles were long grey robes; upon their grey hairs were helms of silver; in their haggard hands were swords of steel. Their eyes fell on him and pierced him, as they rushed towards him. Desperate, he drew his own sword, and it seemed to him that it flickered red, as if it was a firebrand. Two of the figures halted. The third was taller than the others: his hair was long and gleaming and on his helm was a crown. In one hand he held a long sword, and in the other a knife; both the knife and the hand that held it glowed with a pale light. He sprang forward and bore down on Frodo.

The Morgul-blades can be seen as things that come out of the corrupted moon, as they come from Minas Morgul, just like in ASOIAF swords can symbolise the moon meteors coming out of the broken Second Moon.

But why are the Nazgul so similar to the Others? Is it because just like the Ringwraiths come forth from Minas Morgul, the corrupted Tower of the Rising Moon, the Others come from the destroyed Second Moon, of course in symbolic sense? Or, do they symbolise the moon meteors yet to come, the children of the Surviving Moon that might be broken on the offset of the new Long Night? Only time will tell…

In this essay, we’ve explored the cosmology of Tolkien’s world, and how its various aspects might have influenced George R.R. Martin’s own symbolism and themes. Some of those parallels and similarities are almost certainly intended, others more vague. But I think that at the very least, it is obvious that Tolkienic ideas – notably, the motif of Lightbringer as the Child of the Sun and the Moon, and the Long Night – influenced GRRM one way or another.

But numerous other connections remain to be explored – and of course, I’ll continue The Tolkienic Song of Ice and Fire project in other essays. I think that – at least for some time – I’ll write shorter episodes, and perhaps, some essays devoted just to Tolkienic lore.

Now I’d like to once again say thank you to all those who encouraged me to write this essay, and helped in various ways, and to all those who form the wonderful community of A Song of Ice and Fire fans – especially, to my fellow Mythical Astronomers and ASOIAF bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers. LML of The Mythical Astronomy, Crowfood’s Daughter of The Disputed Lands, Joe Magician of YouTube, Patrick of I Can’t Possibly Be Wrong All The Time, Maester Merry of Up From Under Winterfell, Melanie Lot Seven, Sweetsunray of The Mythological Weave of Ice & Fire, Darry Man of Plowman’s Keep, Ravenous Reader and Archmaester Aemma of Red Mice at Play, who helped to greatly improve my initial draft and provided no fewer than 303 comments. Huge thanks! In addition to this, Aemma provided the summary of LML’s Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire theory, and of Ainulindalë. Without her help, this essay would be released much later.

And to George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien for writing their amazing books and creating those rich fantasy worlds… and finally to You! Thanks for checking out my essay. If you liked it, please, share you with other ASOIAF or Tolkien fans you know and who might enjoy this kind of analysis.

Farewell (in Quenya: Namárië!)

Yours, Matthew also known as Bluetiger

Obviously, the copyrights to all excerpts from books, interviews and other publications I have quoted, belong to their rightful owners.


by J.R.R. Tolkien

The Hobbit or There and Back Again
The Lord of the Rings
The Fellowship of the Ring
The Two Towers
The Return of the King
– The Appendixes
The Silmarillion, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Unfinished Tales, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The History of Middle-earth, edited by Christopher Tolkien
The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien

by George R.R. Martin

A Song of Ice and Fire
– A Game of Thrones
– A Clash of Kings
– A Storm of Swords
– A Feast for Crows
– A Dance with Dragons

The Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
– The Hedge Knight
– The Sworn Sword
– The Mystery Knight

The Princess and the Queen
The Rogue Prince
The Sons of the Dragon

The World of Ice and Fire, with Elio Garcia and Linda Antonsson

GRRM: A RRetrospective (Dreamsongs)