What will happen to Bowen Marsh?

fIt has been my intention from the start to gradually bring up the amount of magic in each successive volume of A Song of Ice and Fire, and that will continue. I will not rule out the possibility of a certain amount of “behind the scenes” magic, either. But while sorcerous events may impact on my characters, as with Renly or Lord Beric or Dany, their choices must ultimately remain their own. –George R.R. Martin

Grab your popcorn and sody-pop because this is a highly speculative piece of writing you have stumbled upon. That is not to say it is without merit because this idea remains completely in-line with George R.R. Martin’s plot style. As usual, I will list the companion stories to read for full scope, but I can add a few book quotes if asked.

For this idea, I recommend reading past GRRM stories such as, but not limited to:
  1. Nightflyers
  2. Unsound Variations
  3. Portraits of his Children
  4. Weekend in a Warzone
  5. Fevre Dream, as noted with a text picture below.
  6. Armageddon Rag, because while Edan Morse is primarily a strong prototype for Stannis Baratheon, there are also elements that show the heart/chest being cut/carved/burned away for a “god”.
  7. A few brief examples in The Skin Trade, Bitterblooms, and A Song for Lya
  8. Most importantly, This Tower of Ashes gives strong details and hints that Bowen is being used by an “Other”.

Among several other repeated GRRM themes, such as three horn blasts that hurt the body, ever-watching gem eyes, three “sacrifices”, each of these stories deals with a fiery “god” that controls and manipulates the other characters within the story, giving each a death or ending that is situated, or “customized”, to the individual.

This is related to the fiery religions in all of Martinworld.

The Gist

Bowen Marsh, the old pomegranate, is about to be consumed by a dragon god (ice or fire), and it will possibly look like a heart attack. Pomegranates have diverse cultural-religious significance, as a symbol of life and fertility owing to their many seeds but also as a symbol of power (imperial orb), blood and death. And taking into consideration the ASOIAF theme of dragons & fire always consumes trees, and that the Night’s Watch brothers are symbolic tree-terran archetypes, this follows the style of GRRM rather closely. Fire Hand

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    “The bones protect you,” she reminded him. “The black brothers do not love you. Devan tells me that only yesterday you had words with some of them over supper.”

    “A few. I was eating bean-and-bacon soup whilst Bowen Marsh was going on about the high ground. The Old Pomegranate thought that I was spying on him and announced that he would not suffer murderers listening to their councils. I told him that if that was true, maybe they shouldn’t have them by the fire. Bowen turned red and made some choking sounds, but that was as far as it went.” The wildling sat on the edge of the window, slid his dagger from its sheath. “If some crow wants to slip a knife between my ribs whilst I’m spooning up some supper, he’s welcome to try. Hobb’s gruel would taste better with a drop of blood to spice it.”

    Melisandre paid the naked steel no mind. If the wildling had meant her harm, she would have seen it in her flames. Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire. “It is their eyes that should concern you, not their knives,” she warned him.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Tyrion IV

    Duck was hooting, and Young Griff too. Haldon came out on deck to learn the cause of the commotion … but too late. The giant turtle had vanished below the water once again. “What was the cause of all that noise?” the Halfmaester asked.”A turtle,” said Tyrion. “A turtle bigger than this boat.””It was him,” cried Yandry. “The Old Man of the River.”

    And why not? Tyrion grinned. Gods and wonders always appear, to attend the birth of kings.

We have the Ironborn with a religion whose life and death is based around breath and breathing, and so Cragorn has his lungs burnt out during a Kingsmoot where Iron “king” Euron is made (essentially one part of two as Dagon come again from H.P. Lovecraft inspiration). The Euron and Cragorn “magical winds” situation at the Kingsmoot(an idea GRRM stole from his and Lisa Tuttle’s story Windhaven) also served as foreshadowing of what is happening at the wall with Jon. Therefore, I speculate we might see Marsh have his heart/chest burnt out in a similar manner to Cragorn’s lungs being burnt.

“The sound it made … it burned, somehow. As if my bones were on fire, searing my flesh from within. Those writings glowed red-hot, then white-hot and painful to look upon. It seemed as if the sound would never end. It was like some long scream. A thousand screams, all melted into one.” -Victarion I, ADWD

“…maybe they shouldn’t have them by the fire. Bowen turned red and made some choking sounds, but that was as far as it went.” – Mance in Melisandre I, ADWD

It may be time to expand our ideas as to what the pomegranate symbolizes in this ASOIAF story. It isn’t limited to the Persephone underworld exclusively, but also to seeds, trees, and hearts such as symbolising fertility, beauty and eternal life, in Greek and Persian mythology. A dragon plants no seeds because a dragon does not sow, but dragons do consume.

I do fully expect that each of the stabbing mutineers (Wyck, Marsh, third knife) will die this way as well, as Victarion gives hint to in his The Winds of Winter chapter below, but for the sake of this theory I will just refer to Bowen Marsh as the catch-all representative of the collective as he is more of  main character to the plot.

A parallel glimpse from the other side of the story… under the sea and all.

  • A Storm of Swords – Daenerys I

    Viserion’s scales were the color of fresh cream, his horns, wing bones, and spinal crest a dark gold that flashed bright as metal in the sun. Rhaegal was made of the green of summer and the bronze of fall. They soared above the ships in wide circles, higher and higher, each trying to climb above the other.

    Dragons always preferred to attack from above, Dany had learned. Should either get between the other and the sun, he would fold his wings and dive screaming, and they would tumble from the sky locked together in a tangled scaly ball, jaws snapping and tails lashing. The first time they had done it, she feared that they meant to kill each other, but it was only sport. No sooner would they splash into the sea than they would break apart and rise again, shrieking and hissing, the salt water steaming off them as their wings clawed at the air. Drogon was aloft as well, though not in sight; he would be miles ahead, or miles behind, hunting.

    He was always hungry, her Drogon. Hungry and growing fast. Another year, or perhaps two, and he may be large enough to ride. Then I shall have no need of ships to cross the great salt sea.

  • A Storm of Swords – Catelyn VII

    Catelyn slapped him so hard she broke his lip. Olyvar, she thought, and Perwyn, Alesander, all absent. And Roslin wept . . .

    Edwyn Frey shoved her aside. The music drowned all other sound, echoing off the walls as if the stones themselves were playing. Robb gave Edwyn an angry look and moved to block his way . . . and staggered suddenly as a quarrel sprouted from his side, just beneath the shoulder. If he screamed then, the sound was swallowed by the pipes and horns and fiddles. Catelyn saw a second bolt pierce his leg, saw him fall. Up in the gallery, half the musicians had crossbows in their hands instead of drums or lutes. She ran toward her son, until something punched in the small of the back and the hard stone floor came up to slap her. “Robb!” she screamed. She saw Smalljon Umber wrestle a table off its trestles. Crossbow bolts thudded into the wood, one two three, as he flung it down on top of his king. Robin Flint was ringed by Freys, their daggers rising and falling. Ser Wendel Manderly rose ponderously to his feet, holding his leg of lamb. A quarrel went in his open mouth and came out the back of his neck. Ser Wendel crashed forward, knocking the table off its trestles and sending cups, flagons, trenchers, platters, turnips, beets, and wine bouncing, spilling, and sliding across the floor.

    Catelyn’s back was on fire. I have to reach him. The Smalljon bludgeoned Ser Raymund Frey across the face with a leg of mutton. But when he reached for his swordbelt a crossbow bolt drove him to his knees. In a coat of gold or a coat of red, a lion still has claws. She saw Lucas Blackwood cut down by Ser Hosteen Frey. One of the Vances was hamstrung by Black Walder as he was wrestling with Ser Harys Haigh. And mine are long and sharp, my lord, as long and sharp as yours. The crossbows took Donnel Locke, Owen Norrey, and half a dozen more. Young Ser Benfrey had seized Dacey Mormont by the arm, but Catelyn saw her grab up a flagon of wine with her other hand, smash it full in his face, and run for the door. It flew open before she reached it. Ser Ryman Frey pushed into the hall, clad in steel from helm to heel. A dozen Frey men-at-arms packed the door behind him. They were armed with heavy longaxes.

In the midst of slaughter, the Lord of the Crossing sat on his carved oaken throne, watching greedily.

(and then…)

Finally someone took the knife away from her. The tears burned like vinegar as they ran down her cheeks. Ten fierce ravens were raking her face with sharp talons and tearing off strips of flesh, leaving deep furrows that ran red with blood. She could taste it on her lips.

It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb . . . Robb . . . please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting . . . The white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown. Slow red worms crawled along her arms and under her clothes. It tickles. That made her laugh until she screamed. “Mad,” someone said, “she’s lost her wits,” and someone else said, “Make an end,” and a hand grabbed her scalp just as she’d done with Jinglebell, and she thought, No, don’t, don’t cut my hair, Ned loves my hair. Then the steel was at her throat, and its bite was red and cold.

  • A Feast for Crows – The Prophet

    His drowned men formed a circle around the dead boy, praying. Norjen worked his arms whilst Rus knelt astride him, pumping on his chest, but all moved aside for Aeron. He pried apart the boy’s cold lips with his fingers and gave Emmond the kiss of life, and again, and again, until the sea came gushing from his mouth. The boy began to cough and spit, and his eyes blinked open, full of fear.

What’s for dinner?

Pomegranate Heart- by; Strangely Rose

Why, heart is for dinner.

To consume is to eat is to consume. Over and over again the various fiery people are in a position where they are consuming a heart. Not just in the way that fire consumes, but actually eating a life-blood pumping heart. And it is often related directly to a human-horse figure. Lyanna was a horse and Rhaegar’s fire consumed her. Because of Lyanna, Jon also carries a horse totem, and Ygritte burned Jon at Queenscrown in that Tower of Joy replay. Let’s look at a few more examples, shall we. Be forewarned, there is a ton of (speculated) foreshadowing in these examples, and some you may not have considered before.

Again, I do recommend reading This Tower of Ashes by Martin, which I have ever so helpfully transcribed and noted for you.

  • A Game of Thrones – Daenerys V

The heart was steaming in the cool evening air when Khal Drogo set it before her, raw and bloody. His arms were red to the elbow. Behind him, his bloodriders knelt on the sand beside the corpse of the wild stallion, stone knives in their hands. The stallion’s blood looked black in the flickering orange glare of the torches that ringed the high chalk walls of the pit.

Dany touched the soft swell of her belly… I am the blood of the dragon, she told herself as she took the stallion’s heart in both hands, lifted it to her mouth, and plunged her teeth into the tough, stringy flesh.

Warm blood filled her mouth and ran down over her chin. The taste threatened to gag her, but she made herself chew and swallow. The heart of a stallion would make her son strong and swift and fearless, or so the Dothraki believed, but only if the mother could eat it all. If she choked on the blood or retched up the flesh, the omens were less favorable; the child might be stillborn, or come forth weak, deformed, or female.

The wild stallion’s heart was all muscle, and Dany had to worry it with her teeth and chew each mouthful a long time. No steel was permitted within the sacred confines of Vaes Dothrak, beneath the shadow of the Mother of Mountains; she had to rip the heart apart with teeth and nails. Her stomach roiled and heaved, yet she kept on, her face smeared with the heartsblood that sometimes seemed to explode against her lips.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Prologue

    Leagues away, in a one-room hut of mud and straw with a thatched roof and a smoke hole and a floor of hard-packed earth, Varamyr shivered and coughed and licked his lips. His eyes were red, his lips cracked, his throat dry and parched, but the taste of blood and fat filled his mouth, even as his swollen belly cried for nourishment. A child’s flesh, he thought, remembering Bump. Human meat. Had he sunk so low as to hunger after human meat? He could almost hear Haggon growling at him. “Men may eat the flesh of beasts and beasts the flesh of men, but the man who eats the flesh of man is an abomination.”

    Abomination. That had always been Haggon’s favorite word. Abomination, abomination, abomination. To eat of human meat was abomination, to mate as wolf with wolf was abomination, and to seize the body of another man was the worst abomination of all. Haggon was weak, afraid of his own power. He died weeping and alone when I ripped his second life from him. Varamyr had devoured his heart himself. He taught me much and more, and the last thing I learned from him was the taste of human flesh.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII

I will have my bride back. If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.

I want my bride back. I want the false king’s queen. I want his daughter and his red witch. I want his wildling princess. I want his little prince, the wildling babe. And I want my Reek. Send them to me, bastard, and I will not trouble you or your black crows. Keep them from me, and I will cut out your bastard’s heart and eat it.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys VI

    Daario’s announcement had sparked an uproar. Reznak was wailing, the Shavepate was muttering darkly, her bloodriders were swearing vengeance. Strong Belwas thumped his scarred belly with his fist and swore to eat Brown Ben’s heart with plums and onions. “Please,” Dany said, but only Missandei seemed to hear. The queen got to her feet. “Be quiet! I have heard enough.”

Note: Brown Ben Plumm is the Bowen Pomegranate Marsh of Essos. Both have similar arcs in addition to names.

Rethinking the Pomegranate

Many readers already know of the pomegranate and its link in myth to being the fruit of the dead as well as representing fertility, or, fruitfulness. I highly recommend reading the essays by SweetSunRay where she discusses how Martin has brought this theme in to A Song of Ice and Fire (and SSR is much smarter than I am- heehee). The main connections are to the crypts of Winterfell and Lyanna. This makes sense that the pomegranate also appears in Jon Snow’s plotline since Jon also has horse symbolism surrounding him (aka: weirwood, greenseeing,skinchanging, etc) that was gifted from Lyanna. And many readers know that the word crown comes from corona, which also means the sun, and Jon is the Sun’s son, as another meaning is garland or wreath. Khal Drogo was Danerys’s “sun and stars” until she performed her blood and fire ritual on him, effectively removing his crown and taking it as her own.

  • A Game of Thrones – Tyrion III

    “Not so,” objected the Lord Steward, Bowen Marsh, a man as round and red as a pomegranate. “You ought to hear the droll names he gives the lads he trains.”

From the first time we meet Bowen Marsh we learn he is a pomegranate in sight, as well as nicknamed the “old pomegranate”.  Many readers in the fandom have discussed how the pomegranate is a symbol for being duplicitous, or a turncloak, but maybe the symbolism is more traditionally related to sexuality (Lyanna, Sansa) as well as being marked for death. Maybe in both Cragorn and Marsh’s (and Khal Drogo and Lyanna’s) case it is even more specific to them giving up their “crown” to create a king? Birth and rebirth. 

In the 5th century BC, Polycleitus took ivory and gold to sculpt the seated Argive Hera in her temple. She held a scepter in one hand and offered a pomegranate, like a “royal orb“, in the other. “About the pomegranate I must say nothing,” whispered the traveller Pausanias in the 2nd century, “for its story is somewhat of a holy mystery.” The pomegranate has a calyx shaped like a crown. In Jewish tradition, it has been seen as the original “design” for the proper crown. Calyx refers to the sepals of a flower, typically forming a whorl that encloses the petals and forms a protective layer around a flower in bud. Again, more connections from Lyanna to Jon and that meaning of crown (give birth) and laureal crown.

  • A Game of Thrones – Eddard XV

    Robert had been jesting with Jon and old Lord Hunter as the prince circled the field after unhorsing Ser Barristan in the final tilt to claim the champion’s crown. Ned remembered the moment when all the smiles died, when Prince Rhaegar Targaryen urged his horse past his own wife, the Dornish princess Elia Martell, to lay the queen of beauty’s laurel in Lyanna’s lap. He could see it still: a crown of winter roses, blue as frost.

    Ned Stark reached out his hand to grasp the flowery crown, but beneath the pale blue petals the thorns lay hidden. He felt them clawing at his skin, sharp and cruel, saw the slow trickle of blood run down his fingers, and woke, trembling, in the dark.

We know Lyanna died, and we know Cragorn died. I speculate that Bowen Marsh (and co.) are next, and it will happen in the front portion of The Winds of Winter. Bowen was marked for death at the battle on the Bridge of Skulls; a transitional place where one travels in and out of the “greensea”, walking a line between life and death. Bowen fought with death and is healed at the Shadow Tower. Maybe death wants its due?

This next scene is actually a bit sad in retrospect. Here we see Bowen looking almost like a pomegranate that is in decay. Dying fruit that is then burnt by a dragon is also something we see in the plot line of Doran Martell sending Quentyn Martell to Daenerys, where he ultimately gets burned to death.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon III

    Having knelt, the wildlings shuffled past the ranks of the black brothers to the gate. Jon had detailed Horse and Satin and half a dozen others to lead them through the Wall with torches. On the far side, bowls of hot onion soup awaited them, and chunks of black bread and sausage. Clothes as well: cloaks, breeches, boots, tunics, good leather gloves. They would sleep on piles of clean straw, with fires blazing to keep the chill of night at bay. This king was nothing if not methodical. Soon or late, however, Tormund Giantsbane would assault the Wall again, and when that hour came Jon wondered whose side Stannis’s new-made subjects would choose. You can give them land and mercy, but the free folk choose their own kings, and it was Mance they chose, not you.

    Bowen Marsh edged his mount up next to Jon’s. “This is a day I never thought to see.” The Lord Steward had thinned notably since suffering a head wound at the Bridge of Skulls. Part of one ear was gone. He no longer looks much like a pomegranate, Jon thought. Marsh said, “We bled to stop the wildlings at the Gorge. Good men were slain there, friends and brothers. For what?”

  • A Feast for Crows – The Captain Of Guards

    The blood oranges are well past ripe,” the prince observed in a weary voice, when the captain rolled him onto the terrace.

    After that he did not speak again for hours.

It was true about the oranges. A few had fallen to burst open on the pale pink marble. The sharp sweet smell of them filled Hotah’s nostrils each time he took a breath. No doubt the prince could smell them too, as he sat beneath the trees in the rolling chair Maester Caleotte had made for him, with its goose-down cushions and rumbling wheels of ebony and iron.  

And speaking of Martin’s style of a pomegranate in decay, he also gave us this archetype that has been “Reekified” as a hand to a fiery dragon in his character Sour Billy Tipton from Fevre Dream. A slight rework Martin seems to have made is Sour Billy Tipton is a near exact model for the racists Janos Slynt, and we know Jon Snow is the one who off’s Janos’ head, but Bowen Marsh is still a black brother only he is being “Reekified” by a different fire god. At the end of Sour Billy’s life, he is completely broken and shattered inside, his face has turned red, he’s lost a ton of weight and looks sickly… and he wants to kill Joshua York who is a Jon Snow prototype.

Fevre Dream Fattest Leech Reekified Bowen Marsh
Selection from ending of George R.R. Martin’s story Fevre Dream. This shows the interior damage done to a “hand” at the hands of a fiery “god” being.

Act 1

I provide more details in two other posts of mine. The first being the fiery hand of R’hllor is the fourth hand Jon did not feel in his mutiny, and why Marsh was crying, is because Marsh was being used as a vessel to kill Jon. Melisandre and/or R’hllor made thralls of Marsh and the mutineers. This actually follows to a ‘T’ the idea of the “Skinner” in the Martin story The Skin Trade, and “the thing that hunts the hunters” coming out from a broken mirror (the Wall). The second post where I speculate this idea is in the Tormund is the horn of winter… as in King of Winter.

Some of the repeated occurrences that happen in each of these scenes are:

  • the announcement of a “king”
  • the sound of horns
  • blood and fire ritual
  • the watching glamour eye, aye!
  • brothers being used as slave/pawns
  • calling of a dragon/other/Other
  • a burning religious action
  • a religious zealot that misunderstands the situation
  • fiery hands or talons
  • repetition of three- three horns blowers, three mutineers that stab Jon “for the watch”, three horn blasts, etc.
  • and punching?

Just as Cragorn was a vessel-servant (slave) of a “god” who announced his arrival as a king with fire, and he gets burnt out for it, I am speculating that Bowen Marsh will also be burnt up after the fiery hand of R’hllor and/via Melisandre uses him to stab John. Possibly his heart will be blackened in his case. The cold that Jon feels is not from death, but the arrival of a cold king.

Dragon horn. Cropped image of the Dragon Horn card. Illustrated by Yoann Boissonnet.
  • A Feast for Crows – The Reaver

“Woe.” The Crow’s Eye sipped from his silver cup. “I once held a dragon’s egg in this hand, brother. This Myrish wizard swore he could hatch it if I gave him a year and all the gold that he required. When I grew bored with his excuses, I slew him. As he watched his entrails sliding through his fingers he said, ‘But it has not been a year.'” He laughed. “Cragorn’s died, you know.”


“The man who blew my dragon horn. When the maester cut him open, his lungs were charred as black as soot.”

Victarion shuddered. “Show me this dragon’s egg.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Victarion I

“Much and more.” The black priest pointed to one golden band. “Here the horn is named. ‘I am Dragonbinder,’ it says. Have you ever heard it sound?”

“Once.” One of his brother’s mongrels had sounded the hellhorn at the kingsmoot on Old Wyk. A monster of a man he had been, huge and shaven-headed, with rings of gold and jet and jade around arms thick with muscle, and a great hawk tattooed across his chest. “The sound it made … it burned, somehow. As if my bones were on fire, searing my flesh from within. Those writings glowed red-hot, then white-hot and painful to look upon. It seemed as if the sound would never end. It was like some long scream. A thousand screams, all melted into one.”

“And the man who blew the horn, what of him?”

He died. There were blisters on his lips, after. His bird was bleeding too.” The captain thumped his chest. “The hawk, just here. Every feather dripping blood. I heard the man was all burned up inside, but that might just have been some tale.”


Remember these?

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon II

    Jon turned at the sudden sound of wings. Blue-grey feathers filled his eyes, as sharp talons buried themselves in his face. Red pain lanced through him sudden and fierce as pinions beat round his head. He saw the beak, but there was no time to get a hand up or reach for a weapon. Jon reeled backward, his foot lost the stirrup, his garron broke in panic, and then he was falling. And still the eagle clung to his face, its talons tearing at him as it flapped and shrieked and pecked. The world turned upside down in a chaos of feathers and horseflesh and blood, and then the ground came up to smash him.

    The next he knew, he was on his face with the taste of mud and blood in his mouth and Ygritte kneeling over him protectively, a bone dagger in her hand. He could still hear wings, though the eagle was not in sight. Half his world was black. “My eye,” he said in sudden panic, raising a hand to his face.

    “It’s only blood, Jon Snow. He missed the eye, just ripped your skin up some.”

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon XI

Dalla died.” Jon was saddened by that still. “Val is her sister. She and the babe did not require much capturing, Your Grace. You had put the wildlings to flight, and the skinchanger Mance had left to guard his queen went mad when the eagle burned.” Jon looked at Melisandre. “Some say that was your doing.”

She smiled, her long copper hair tumbling across her face. “The Lord of Light has fiery talons, Jon Snow.”

Jon nodded, and turned back to the king. “Your Grace, you spoke of Val. She has asked to see Mance Rayder, to bring his son to him. It would be a . . . a kindness.”

Martin in an SSM regarding Dalla and her birth of her son:

  • Also, though I don’t go into details, something was obviously amiss during Dalla’s labor, since it killed her. Childbirth isn’t quite the killer in Westeros that it was in medieval Europe in the real world, since Westeros has the maesters, who are a considerable improvement over medieval barber/surgeons…

Revisiting the Kingsmoot- The Drowned Man

Sharp as a swordthrust, the sound of a horn split the air.

Bright and baneful was its voice, a shivering hot scream that made a man’s bones seem to thrum within him. The cry lingered in the damp sea air: aaaaRREEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

All eyes turned toward the sound. It was one of Euron’s mongrels winding the call, a monstrous man with a shaved head. Rings of gold and jade and jet glistened on his arms, and on his broad chest was tattooed some bird of prey, talons dripping blood.


The horn he blew was shiny black and twisted, and taller than a man as he held it with both hands. It was bound about with bands of red gold and dark steel, incised with ancient Valyrian glyphs that seemed to glow redly as the sound swelled.


It was a terrible sound, a wail of pain and fury that seemed to burn the ears. Aeron Damphair covered his, and prayed for the Drowned God to raise a mighty wave and smash the horn to silence, yet still the shriek went on and on. It is the horn of hell, he wanted to scream, though no man would have heard him. The cheeks of the tattooed man were so puffed out they looked about to burst, and the muscles in his chest twitched in a way that it made it seem as if the bird were about to rip free of his flesh and take wing. And now the glyphs were burning brightly, every line and letter shimmering with white fire. On and on and on the sound went, echoing amongst the howling hills behind them and across the waters of Nagga’s Cradle to ring against the mountains of Great Wyk, on and on and on until it filled the whole wet world.

And when it seemed the sound would never end, it did.

The hornblower’s breath failed at last. He staggered and almost fell. The priest saw Orkwood of Orkmont catch him by one arm to hold him up, whilst Left-Hand Lucas Codd took the twisted black horn from his hands. A thin wisp of smoke was rising from the horn, and the priest saw blood and blisters upon the lips of the man who’d sounded it. The bird on his chest was bleeding too.

Euron Greyjoy climbed the hill slowly, with every eye upon him. Above the gull screamed and screamed again. No godless man may sit the Seastone Chair, Aeron thought, but he knew that he must let his brother speak. His lips moved silently in prayer.

Asha’s champions stepped aside, and Victarion’s as well. The priest took a step backward and put one hand upon the cold rough stone of Nagga’s ribs. The Crow’s Eye stopped atop the steps, at the doors of the Grey King’s Hall, and turned his smiling eye upon the captains and the kings, but Aeron could feel his other eye as well, the one that he kept hidden.

What’s in a name?

Cragorn = crag+horn. According to that wordsmith Webster, a crag (or craig) is a steep, rugged rock cliff, or neck/throat. Just as I speculate that Tormund is, in his own plot way, a bodily horn to Winter, Cragorn is himself a horn to call dragons and burns, just as Marsh may be.

Eagle Crag from Stonethwaithe valley

Additionally, a crag is a common place where raptor birds nest. There is even a location in England called Eagle Crag. Read about it here.

And Bowen?

Bowen Name Meaning; English, of Welsh origin: Anglicized form of Welsh ap Owain ‘son of Owain’ (see Owen). Irish: Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Buadhacháin ‘descendant of Buadhachán’, a diminutive of Buadhach ‘victorious’ (see Bohan). This is another possible link between Bowen and Victarion, horns, and burning. Victarion does have a hand that was transformed into a volcano/fiery hand at this point in the story.

  • A Dance with Dragons – The Iron Suitor

    Moqorro bowed, his dark eyes shining. “So be it.”

    The iron captain was not seen again that day, but as the hours passed the crew of his Iron Victory reported hearing the sound of wild laughter coming from the captain’s cabin, laughter deep and dark and mad, and when Longwater Pyke and Wulfe One-Eye tried the cabin door they found it barred. Later singing was heard, a strange high wailing song in a tongue the maester said was High Valyrian. That was when the monkeys left the ship, screeching as they leapt into the water.

    Come sunset, as the sea turned black as ink and the swollen sun tinted the sky a deep and bloody red, Victarion came back on deck. He was naked from the waist up, his left arm blood to the elbow. As his crew gathered, whispering and trading glances, he raised a charred and blackened hand. Wisps of dark smoke rose from his fingers as he pointed at the maester. “That one. Cut his throat and throw him in the sea, and the winds will favor us all the way to Meereen.” Moqorro had seen that in his fires. He had seen the wench wed too, but what of it? She would not be the first woman Victarion Greyjoy had made a widow.

Victarion Greyjoy examining his hand. Using magic, Moqorro managed to cure Victarion’s wound. – by Lukasz Jaskolski. © Fantasy Flight Games (FFG)

Why not Melisandre?


Simply put, the author still needs Melisandre around to burn Shireen along with Selyse. Read about Shireen here, which includes the commentary by David Nutter and Benioff & Weiss. This makes sense, the story is rolling into place, because in addition to all else, Melisandre and Selyse are actual snarks and grumkins.

A bit of in-speculation speculation: It is possible that Melisandre uses Marsh as her fiery “hand” because she does not want to burn up. We see how she reacts to her own ruby pulsing when the magics come through more strongly at certain events:

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

The wildling wore a sleeveless jerkin of boiled leather dotted with bronze studs beneath a worn cloak mottled in shades of green and brown. No bones. He was cloaked in shadows too, in wisps of ragged grey mist, half-seen, sliding across his face and form with every step he took. Ugly things. As ugly as his bones. A widow’s peak, close-set dark eyes, pinched cheeks, a mustache wriggling like a worm above a mouthful of broken brown teeth.

Melisandre felt the warmth in the hollow of her throat as her ruby stirred at the closeness of its slave. “You have put aside your suit of bones,” she observed.

“The clacking was like to drive me mad.”

[and then]

Melisandre paid the naked steel no mind. If the wildling had meant her harm, she would have seen it in her flames. Danger to her own person was the first thing she had learned to see, back when she was still half a child, a slave girl bound for life to the great red temple. It was still the first thing she looked for whenever she gazed into a fire. “It is their eyes that should concern you, not their knives,” she warned him.

“The glamor, aye.” In the black iron fetter about his wrist, the ruby seemed to pulse. He tapped it with the edge of his blade. The steel made a faint click against the stone. “I feel it when I sleep. Warm against my skin, even through the iron. Soft as a woman’s kiss. Your kiss. But sometimes in my dreams it starts to burn, and your lips turn into teeth. Every day I think how easy it would be to pry it out, and every day I don’t. Must I wear the bloody bones as well?”

“The spell is made of shadow and suggestion. Men see what they expect to see. The bones are part of that.” Was I wrong to spare this one? “If the glamor fails, they will kill you.”

[and then]

“The bones help,” said Melisandre. “The bones remember. The strongest glamors are built of such things. A dead man’s boots, a hank of hair, a bag of fingerbones. With whispered words and prayer, a man’s shadow can be drawn forth from such and draped about another like a cloak. The wearer’s essence does not change, only his seeming.”

She made it sound a simple thing, and easy. They need never know how difficult it had been, or how much it had cost her. That was a lesson Melisandre had learned long before Asshai; the more effortless the sorcery appears, the more men fear the sorcerer. When the flames had licked at Rattleshirt, the ruby at her throat had grown so hot that she had feared her own flesh might start to smoke and blacken. Thankfully Lord Snow had delivered her from that agony with his arrows. Whilst Stannis had seethed at the defiance, she had shuddered with relief.

  • A Feast for Crows – Samwell V

He was not a man to be refused. Sam hesitated a moment, then told his tale again as Marywn, Alleras, and the other novice listened. “Maester Aemon believed that Daenerys Targaryen was the fulfillment of a prophecy . . . her, not Stannis, nor Prince Rhaegar, nor the princeling whose head was dashed against the wall.”

“Born amidst salt and smoke, beneath a bleeding star. I know the prophecy.” Marwyn turned his head and spat a gob of red phlegm onto the floor. “Not that I would trust it. Gorghan of Old Ghis once wrote that a prophecy is like a treacherous woman. She takes your member in her mouth, and you moan with the pleasure of it and think, how sweet, how fine, how good this is . . . and then her teeth snap shut and your moans turn to screams. That is the nature of prophecy, said Gorghan. Prophecy will bite your prick off every time.” He chewed a bit. “Still . . .”

Compare to the descriptions we get from Moqorro and Victarion:

  • A Dance with Dragons – Victarion I

“A true tale.” Moqorro turned the hellhorn, examining the queer letters that crawled across a second of the golden bands. “Here it says, ‘No mortal man shall sound me and live.‘ “

Bitterly Victarion brooded on the treachery of brothers. Euron’s gifts are always poisoned. “The Crow’s Eye swore this horn would bind dragons to my will. But how will that serve me if the price is death?”

Your brother did not sound the horn himself. Nor must you.” Moqorro pointed to the band of steel. “Here. ‘Blood for fire, fire for blood.’ Who blows the hellhorn matters not. The dragons will come to the horn’s master. You must claim the horn. With blood.”

Why Marsh?

So it appears that there is a good chance Bowen Marsh will be burnt from inside, and probably at his heart, which would give reason to his tears at the mutiny stabbing. Tears are often present at the fiery consumption of a character; plenty in the Catelyn Red Wedding scene as well. It is possible that this hint was given to readers near the beginning of the story but we just did not quite know what it meant just then. The slow reveal of the plot is now revealing more web-like connections to the past.

  • A Game of Thrones – Bran III

    He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise.

    Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.

    Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

Bowen Marsh has already been shown since before Jon was voted Lord Commander to have a grudge against Jon, and even so far as plotting against the electoral system of choosing a new Lord Commander by playing politics with Tywin. Again, this election of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is parallel to the Kingsmoot for Euron, and both voting/moots were stolen from the highly recommended GRRM-Tuttle story Windhaven.

During Jon’s time as Lord Commander, Marsh maintains a professional courtesy with Jon, but he doesn’t approve of near any of Jon’s decisions. This is a literary setup as Marsh the patsy, the scapegoat, the week link that Melisandre or some dragon-god can manipulate as Marsh is the only one left of the four plotters discovered in A Storm of Swords- Jon XII.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VIII

    “Aye, m’lord. You’ll want to watch your sausages with this lot, though. They have a hungry look about them.”

    Hungry was not the word Jon would have used. Septon Cellador appeared confused and groggy and in dire need of some scales from the dragon that had flamed him, whilst First Builder Othell Yarwyck looked as if he had swallowed something he could not quite digest. Bowen Marsh was angry. Jon could see it in his eyes, the tightness around his mouth, the flush to those round cheeks. That red is not from cold. “Please sit,” he said. “May I offer you food or drink?”

    “We broke our fast in the commons,” said Marsh.

In addition, Mel is already shown to have some interest, or knowledge, in the Steward of the Night’s Watch:

  • A Storm of Swords – Samwell V

    I have no place here, Sam thought anxiously, when her red eyes fell upon him. Someone had to help Maester Aemon up the steps. Don’t look at me, I’m just the maester’s steward. The others were contenders for the Old Bear’s command, all but Bowen Marsh, who had withdrawn from the contest but remained castellan and Lord Steward. Sam did not understand why Melisandre should seem so interested in him.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    “The bones protect you,” she reminded him. “The black brothers do not love you. Devan tells me that only yesterday you had words with some of them over supper.”

    “A few. I was eating bean-and-bacon soup whilst Bowen Marsh was going on about the high ground. The Old Pomegranate thought that I was spying on him and announced that he would not suffer murderers listening to their councils. I told him that if that was true, maybe they shouldn’t have them by the fire. Bowen turned red and made some choking sounds, but that was as far as it went.” The wildling sat on the edge of the window, slid his dagger from its sheath. “If some crow wants to slip a knife between my ribs whilst I’m spooning up some supper, he’s welcome to try. Hobb’s gruel would taste better with a drop of blood to spice it.”

  • A Storm of Swords – Daenerys I

    Dragons always preferred to attack from above, Dany had learned. Should either get between the other and the sun, he would fold his wings and dive screaming, and they would tumble from the sky locked together in a tangled scaly ball, jaws snapping and tails lashing. The first time they had done it, she feared that they meant to kill each other, but it was only sport. No sooner would they splash into the sea than they would break apart and rise again, shrieking and hissing, the salt water steaming off them as their wings clawed at the air. Drogon was aloft as well, though not in sight; he would be miles ahead, or miles behind, hunting.

Melisandre tends to sense/react to people based on their emotions, not unlike the psi-linked character Robb in the George RR Martin story A Song for Lya, or Queen Alysanne Targaryen from the ASOIAF history. She gets Stannis worked up in his wars by burning leeches- a way of her falsely displaying real talents, as she just manipulates Stannis based on her visions. Melisandre even manipulates Davos Seaworth by the control over his son Devan (and his whereabouts) that she has. And certainly she has won over the impressionable Selyse in body and soul. Melisandre even manipulates Jon by use of a promise of his sister.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

“The heart is all that matters. Do not despair, Lord Snow. Despair is a weapon of the enemy, whose name may not be spoken. Your sister is not lost to you.”

“I have no sister.” The words were knives. What do you know of my heart, priestess? What do you know of my sister?

It could be that R’hllor (or whatever) is sending Melisandre warnings of Jon, and that her mission is to kill Jon. GRRM has said that Melisandre is on her own mission. Melisandre ‘assigned’ to Jon in Westeros while the other red priests are ‘assigned’ to forging converts to Daenerys in Essos.

Q: Why did Melisandre seek out Stannis? Did she see him in her flames and decided to seek him out on her own, or is she on a mission on behalf of the red priests? It doesn’t seem at any point as if the latter is the case, when you compare to Moqorro who has been sent out by the priesthood.

GRRM: You’re right. Melisandre has gone to Stannis entirely on her own, and has her own agenda. source

From the first Jon chapter in A Dance with Dragons, Melisandre has told Jon (and the readers) that Jon is being watched. Just like Alaric Stark and Alysanne Targaryen had a strained relationship where she wooed Stark and the north, only to undermine her word as she took away the Gift and rearranged the Night’s Watch castles, effectively cutting off northern magics, the indigenous, and culture, Melisandre the new fire woman in the north is trying to flip around on Jon in the current story.

“For the watch”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon I

Jon could feel her heat, even through his wool and boiled leather. The sight of them arm in arm was drawing curious looks. They will be whispering in the barracks tonight. “If you can truly see the morrow in your flames, tell me when and where the next wildling attack will come.” He slipped his arm free.

R’hllor sends us what visions he will, but I shall seek for this man Tormund in the flames.” Melisandre’s red lips curled into a smile. “I have seen you in my fires, Jon Snow.”

“Is that a threat, my lady? Do you mean to burn me too?”

Act Break…

This is what GRRM has referred to in writing as his act break. That is an actual literary term used to describe a cliffhanger type moment between the acts. In TV land this is where the commercials interrupt the story, keeping the crave alive in order for the viewer to keep watching. George has said that writing for television really honed his skills in developing his act breaks. This is something I discussed and quoted here.

I think it all burns down to this scene here, which is a rather emotional scene of a brotherhood breaking. It is also reminiscent of Victarion explaining to the men that they have to take turns blowing the horn. [Sidenote: I theorize that Jon is not actually dead because of this mutiny, but he will be at the end of the series.]

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII

“For the Watch.” Wick slashed at him again. This time Jon caught his wrist and bent his arm back until he dropped the dagger. The gangling steward backed away, his hands upraised as if to say, Not me, it was not me. Men were screaming. Jon reached for Longclaw, but his fingers had grown stiff and clumsy. Somehow he could not seem to get the sword free of its scabbard.

Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. “For the Watch.” He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.

Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. “Ghost,” he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold …

  • The Winds of Winter – Victarion I

“My brother found this thing on Valyria,” Victarion told the thralls. “Think how big the dragon must’ve been to bear two of these upon his head. Bigger than Vhagar or Meraxes, bigger than Balerion the Black Dread.” He took the horn from Moqorro and ran his palm along its curves. “At the Kingsmoot on Old Wyk one of Euron’s mutes blew upon this horn. Some of you will remember. It was not a sound that any man who heard it will ever forget.”

“They say he died,” the Boy said, “him who blew the horn.”

“Aye. The horn was smoking after. The mute had blisters on his lips, and the bird inked across his chest was bleeding. He died the next day. When they cut him open his lungs were black.”

“The horn is cursed,” said the Bastard’s Bastard.

“A dragon’s horn from Valyria,” said Victarion. “Aye, it’s cursed. I never said it wasn’t.” He brushed his hand across one of the red gold bands and the ancient glyph seemed to sing beneath his fingertips. For half a heartbeat he wanted nothing so much as to sound the horn himself. Euron was a fool to give me this, it is a precious thing, and powerful. With this I’ll win the Seastone Chair, and then the Iron Throne. With this I’ll win the world.

Cragorn blew the horn thrice and died for it. He was as big as any of you, and strong as me. So strong that he could twist a man’s head right off his shoulders with only his bare hands, and yet the horn killed him.”

“It will kill us too, then,” said the Boy.

Victarion did not oft forgive a thrall for talking out of turn, but the Boy was young, no more than twenty, and soon to die besides. He let it pass.

The mute sounded the horn three times. You three will sound it only once. Might be you’ll die, might be you won’t. All men die. The Iron Fleet is sailing into battle. Many on this very ship will be dead before the sun goes down – stabbed or slashed, gutted, drowned, burned aliveonly the Gods know which of us will still be here come the morrow. Sound the horn and live and I’ll make free men of you, one or two or all three. I’ll give you wives, a bit of land, a ship to sail, thralls of your own. Men will know your names.”

“Even you, Lord Captain?” asked the Bastard’s Bastard.


“I’ll do it then.”

“And me,” said the Boy.

The Brute crossed his arms and nodded.

If it made the three feel braver to believe they had a choice, let them cling to that. Victarion cared little what they believed, they were only thralls.

“You will sail with me on Iron Victory,” he told them, “but you will not join the battle. Boy, you’re the youngest – you’ll sound the horn first. When the time comes you will blow it long and loud. They say you are strong. Blow the horn until you are too weak to stand, until the last bit of breath has been squeezed from you, until your lungs are burning. Let the freedmen hear you in Meereen, the slavers in Yunkai, the ghosts in Astapor. Let the monkeys shit themselves at the sound when it rolls across the Isle of Cedars. Then pass the horn along to the next man. Do you hear me? Do you know what to do?”

The Boy and the Bastard’s Bastard tugged their forelocks; the Brute might’ve done the same, but he was bald.

“You may touch the horn. Then go.”

They left him one by one. The three thralls, and then Moqorro. Victarion would not let him take the hell-horn.

“I will keep it here with me, until it is needed.”

“As you command. Would you have me bleed you?”

Victarion seized the dusky woman by the wrist and pulled her to him. “She will do it. Go pray to your red god. Light your fire, and tell me what you see.”

Moqorro’s dark eyes seemed to shine. “I see dragons.”


Are you ready to read This Tower of Ashes by Martin, which I have ever so helpfully transcribed and noted for you?

Want more GRRMspreading?

I have started a book club re-read for the older works of George R.R. Martin for purposes such as research, scholarship, and teaching. I own all copies of material that is used for this book club. If you have not yet read a story listed, please check with your local bookstore for your own reading material to purchase (Indie Bookstore Finder or Bookshop.org). The full list of GRRM stories outside of the A Song of Ice and Fire series that I have read can be found on this page here.

books sculpture write reading

It takes a while to transcribe and then note each story for research purposes, even the really short ones, so this page will be quietly updated as each re-read is added. Make sure you subscribe for updates.

If there is a story in particular you would like to ask about, feel free to do so in comments below.

  1. Bitterblooms– In the dead of deep winter, a young girl named Shawn has to find the mental courage to escape a red fiery witch. Prototyping Val, Stannis, and Arya along with the red witch Melisandre.
  2. The Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr – Discarded Knights guards the gates as Sharra feels the Seven while searching for lost love. Many Sansa and Ashara Dayne prototyping here as well.
  3. …And Seven Times Never Kill Man– A look into a proto-Andal+Targaryen fiery world as the Jaenshi way of life is erased. But who is controlling these events? Black & Red Pyramids who merge with Bakkalon are on full display in this story.
  4. The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
  5. Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
  6. Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
  7. The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
  8. Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
  9. Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
  10. Fast-Friend transcribed and noted. Written in December 1973, this story is a precursor to skinchanging, Bran, Euron, Daenerys, and ways to scheme to reclaim lost love.
  11. The Steel Andal Invasion– A re-read of a partial section of  The World of Ice and Fire text compared to the story …And Seven Times Never Kill Man. This has to do with both fire and ice Others in ASOIAF.
  12. A Song for Lya– A novella about a psi-link couple investigating a fiery ‘god’. Very much a trees vs fire motif, and one of GRRM’s best stories out there.
  13. For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
  14. This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
  15. A Peripheral Affair (1973)When a Terran scout ship on a routine patrol through the Periphery suddenly disappears, a battle-hungry admiral prepares to renew the border war.
  16. The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
  17. Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
  18. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
  19. A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
  20. Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
  21. The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
  22. The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
  23. Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
  24. Fire & Blood excerpt; Alysanne in the north– not a full story, but transcribed and noted section of the book Fire & Blood, volume 1.

If you want to browse my own thoughts and speculations on the ASOIAF world using GRRM’s own work history, use the drop-down menu above for the most content, or click on the page that just shows recent posts -> Recent Posts Page.

Feature image: Bowen Marsh – by artist Aaron Riley

Pomegranate Heart image by StrangelyRose

Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!

Main Blog Page Home

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.