So recently I was going through some of my old posts back at the Westeros.Org forum when I cam across this old gem. I always liked this idea, and knew there was more to it, but had never really touched on it after I made this post almost three years ago (about 1,000 in internet years). I am welcoming any new discussion and ideas to this blip I had. It could be rather interesting to make some new literary connections.
My original post touched on the wordplay of sow-sew-dragons-Greyjoys. This basic idea was this:
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Totally random speculation and I am not even sure if this is the thread for it, but, could the Greyjoy words “We Do Not Sow” be a moment of foreshadowing to Euron or Vic not controlling or riding a dragon??? I know there are some other possibilities as to why they could not, but I wonder if the fact that George added this bit of information in TPatQ actually gives a hint.
At one point during the Dance of Dragons, there were too many dragons compared to riders (kinda like now). So to help his mother Rhaenyra, Prince Jacarys held a tournament called the Sowing to test for any other dragon riders from the pool of dragonseed that existed. If I remember correctly, the tournament was a disaster and no new dragon riders came from it
So, could the Greyjoy words mean We do not ride dragons?
- Prince Jacaerys announced (with the prompting of Mushroom, if his Testimony is to be believed) that any man or woman who could ride one of these dragons would be ennobled.
- Even on Dragonstone, long Queen Rhaenyra’s seat and stronghold, they found many who misliked the queen for reasons both good and ill. Some grieved for brothers, sons, and fathers slain during the Sowing or…
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As I reread what I wrote back then, I can see that there is a lot more to this and it is not limited to the Greyjoys. Both Daenerys and Euron share the use of traditional signs in the representation of both beings creature of the Leviathan. And maybe this idea of being a “reaver” will come in to play here? Feel free to speculate the hell out of it.
I have in no way been able to include every instance for this idea. Feel free to add them as needed in comments.
It may be useful, or not, if you read the Forsaken/Aeron Greyjoy chapter that GRRM read at Balticon in 2016.
A Clash of Kings – Daenerys IV
She took a step forward. But then Drogon leapt from her shoulder. He flew to the top of the ebony-and-weirwood door, perched there, and began to bite at the carved wood.
“A willful beast,” laughed a handsome young man. “Shall we teach you the secret speech of dragonkind? Come, come.”
Doubt seized her. The great door was so heavy it took all of Dany’s strength to budge it, but finally it began to move. Behind was another door, hidden. It was old grey wood, splintery and plain . . . but it stood to the right of the door through which she’d entered. The wizards were beckoning her with voices sweeter than song. She ran from them, Drogon flying back down to her. Through the narrow door she passed, into a chamber awash in gloom. […and then…] The mold-eaten carpet under her feet had once been gorgeously colored, and whorls of gold could still be seen in the fabric, glinting broken amidst the faded grey and mottled green. What remained served to muffle her footfalls, but that was not all to the good. Dany could hear sounds within the walls, a faint scurrying and scrabbling that made her think of rats. Drogon heard them too. His head moved as he followed the sounds, and when they stopped he gave an angry scream. Other sounds, even more disturbing, came through some of the closed doors. One shook and thumped, as if someone were trying to break through. From another came a dissonant piping that made the dragon lash his tail wildly from side to side. Dany hurried quickly past.
A Clash of Kings – Daenerys IV
Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. “Mother!” they cried. “Mother, mother!” They were reaching for her, touching her, tugging at her cloak, the hem of her skirt, her foot, her leg, her breast. They wanted her, needed her, the fire, the life, and Dany gasped and opened her arms to give herself to them . . .
But then black wings buffeted her round the head, and a scream of fury cut the indigo air, and suddenly the visions were gone, ripped away, and Dany’s gasp turned to horror. The Undying were all around her, blue and cold, whispering as they reached for her, pulling, stroking, tugging at her clothes, touching her with their dry cold hands, twining their fingers through her hair. All the strength had left her limbs. She could not move. Even her heart had ceased to beat. She felt a hand on her bare breast, twisting her nipple. Teeth found the soft skin of her throat. A mouth descended on one eye, licking, sucking, biting . . .
In Greek myth, dragon’s teeth (Greek: οδόντες (του) δράκοντος, odontes (tou) drakontos) feature prominently in the legends of the Phoenician prince Cadmus and in Jason‘s quest for the Golden Fleece. In each case, the dragons are real and breathe fire. Their teeth, once planted, would grow into fully armed warriors.
Cadmus, the bringer of literacy and civilization, killed the sacred dragon that guarded the spring of Ares (the war god). The goddess Athena told him to sow the teeth, from which sprang a group of ferocious warriors called the spartoi. He threw a precious jewel into the midst of the warriors, who turned on each other in an attempt to seize the stone for themselves. The five survivors joined with Cadmus to found the city of Thebes.
The classical legends of Cadmus and Jason have given rise to the phrase “to sow dragon’s teeth.” This is used as a metaphor to refer to doing something that has the effect of fomenting disputes.
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys III
I was a beggar queen and you were Xaro of the Thirteen, Dany thought, and all you wanted were my dragons. “Your slaves seemed well treated and content. It was not till Astapor that my eyes were opened. Do you know how Unsullied are made and trained?”
“Cruelly, I have no doubt. When a smith makes a sword, he thrusts the blade into the fire, beats on it with a hammer, then plunges it into iced water to temper the steel. If you would savor the sweet taste of the fruit, you must water the tree.”
“This tree has been watered with blood.”
“How else, to grow a soldier? Your Radiance enjoyed my dancers. Would it surprise you to know that they are slaves, bred and trained in Yunkai? They have been dancing since they were old enough to walk. How else to achieve such perfection?” He took a swallow of his wine. “They are expert in all the erotic arts as well. I had thought to make Your Grace a gift of them.”
A Dance with Dragons – Tyrion XII
His pets, thought Tyrion. And he loved us so much that he sent us to the pit, to be devoured by lions.
She was not all wrong. Yezzan’s slaves ate better than many peasants back in the Seven Kingdoms and were less like to starve to death come winter. Slaves were chattels, aye. They could be bought and sold, whipped and branded, used for the carnal pleasure of their owners, bred to make more slaves. In that sense they were no more than dogs or horses. But most lords treated their dogs and horses well enough. Proud men might shout that they would sooner die free than live as slaves, but pride was cheap. When the steel struck the flint, such men were rare as dragon’s teeth; elsewise the world would not have been so full of slaves. There has never been a slave who did not choose to be a slave, the dwarf reflected. Their choice may be between bondage and death, but the choice is always there.
This smithing of a sword is told in the tale of Azor Ahai, as well as GRRM’s own Martinworld and ASOIAF zealous figure The Pale Child Bakkalon, of which Daenerys represents in the human form on earth. The main tenet of Bakkalon is put down your peaceful ploughshares and take up the war sword instead.
Sewing tales, sowing discourse, sowing seeds, and sow (as in pig)
The term I used above is actually called, in full, The Sowing of the Seeds, as named by Grand Maester Munkun, also known as “the Red Sowing“, was an event in the Dance of the Dragons. This is detailed most recently in the fake history book Fire & Blood, vol.1.
- Mushroom, the fool at Rhaenyra‘s court, who attempted to ride Silverwing
- Ser Steffon Darklyn, burned to death while attempting to mount Seasmoke
- Lord Gormon Massey, burned to death while attempting to mount Vermithor
- Silver Denys, claimed to descend from a bastard, son of Maegor the Cruel, had an arm torn off while attempting to mount Sheepstealer and got devoured along with his sons by the Cannibal.
- Alyn of Hull, burned while trying to tame Sheepstealer, survived thanks to the intervention of Addam.
And here we are back again to the sowing of seeds and red dragons, this time from the tales of Greyjoys…
A Clash of Kings – Theon I
Aegon the Dragon had destroyed the Old Way when he burned Black Harren, gave Harren’s kingdom back to the weakling rivermen, and reduced the Iron Islands to an insignificant backwater of a much greater realm. Yet the old red tales were still told around driftwood fires and smoky hearths all across the islands, even behind the high stone halls of Pyke. Theon’s father numbered among his titles the style of Lord Reaper, and the Greyjoy words boasted that We Do Not Sow.
A Feast for Crows – The Iron Captain
The priest raised a bony finger. “They pray to trees and golden idols and goat-headed abominations. False gods . . .”
“Just so,” said Euron, “and for that sin I kill them all. I spill their blood upon the sea and sow their screaming women with my seed. Their little gods cannot stop me, so plainly they are false gods. I am more devout than even you, Aeron. Perhaps it should be you who kneels to me for blessing.”
The Red Oarsman laughed loudly at that, and the others took their lead from him.
- The Forsaken
Beyond them, a host of merchant ships floated on a tranquil, turquoise sea. Cogs, carracks, fishing boats, even a great cog, a swollen sow of a ship as big as the Leviathan. Prizes of war, the Damphair knew. Euron Crow’s Eye stood upon the deck of Silence, clad in a suit of black scale armor like nothing Aeron had ever seen before. Dark as smoke it was, but Euron wore it as easily as if it was the thinnest silk. The scales were edged in red gold, and gleamed and shimmered when they moved. Patterns could be seen within the metal, whorls and glyphs and arcane symbols folded into the steel.
Red Dragon Queen
Since the first chapter of book 1, A Game of Thrones, Martin has been teasing readers with the sewing/sowing of dragons. This quote is a lie told by Illyrio to Viserys in order to keep Viserys hot and bothered about invading Westeros. But the following quote from the World of Ice and Fire shows that it was someone else, a different people from the Targaryens, that sewed the first three-headed dragon sigil.
So yeah, dragons do not sew; neither tree nor banner. I suspect that after Daenerys’ considerable time with the Dothraki (who also do not sow), providing them a neo-religious experience as a type of Khal Dhako, Dragon of the North, that the crones who remain would sew Dany a new banner as the Mare who mounts the world would demand.
- A Game of Thrones – Daenerys I
Her brother, sprawled out on his pillows beside her, never noticed. His mind was away across the narrow sea. “We won’t need his whole khalasar,” Viserys said. His fingers toyed with the hilt of his borrowed blade, though Dany knew he had never used a sword in earnest. “Ten thousand, that would be enough, I could sweep the Seven Kingdoms with ten thousand Dothraki screamers. The realm will rise for its rightful king. Tyrell, Redwyne, Darry, Greyjoy, they have no more love for the Usurper than I do. The Dornishmen burn to avenge Elia and her children. And the smallfolk will be with us. They cry out for their king.” He looked at Illyrio anxiously. “They do, don’t they?”
“They are your people, and they love you well,” Magister Illyrio said amiably. “In holdfasts all across the realm, men lift secret toasts to your health while women sew dragon banners and hide them against the day of your return from across the water.” He gave a massive shrug. “Or so my agents tell me.”
Someone else made the Targaryen banner… but not everyone was happy about that:
The World of Ice and Fire – The Reign of the Dragons: The Conquest
Heraldic banners had long been a tradition amongst the lords of Westeros, but such had never been used by the dragonlords of old Valyria. When Aegon’s knights unfurled his great silken battle standard, with a red three-headed dragon breathing fire upon a black field, the lords took it for a sign that he was now truly one of them, a worthy high king for Westeros. When Queen Visenya placed a Valyrian steel circlet, studded with rubies, on her brother’s head and Queen Rhaenys hailed him as, “Aegon, First of His Name, King of All Westeros, and Shield of His People,” the dragons roared and the lords and knights sent up a cheer…but the smallfolk, the fisherman and field hands and goodwives, shouted loudest of all.
The seven kings that Aegon the Dragon meant to uncrown were not cheering, however. In Harrenhal and Storm’s End, Harren the Black and Argilac the Arrogant had already called their banners. In the west, King Mern of the Reach rode the Ocean Road north to Casterly Rock to meet with King Loren of House Lannister. The Princess of Dorne dispatched a raven to Dragonstone, offering to join Aegon against Argilac the Storm King…but as an equal and ally, not a subject. Another offer of alliance came from the boy king of the Eyrie, Ronnel Arryn, whose mother asked for all the lands east of the Green Fork of the Trident for the Vale’s support against Black Harren. Even in the North, King Torrhen Stark of Winterfell sat with his lords bannermen and counselors late into the night, discussing what was to be done about this would-be conqueror. The whole realm waited anxiously to see where Aegon would move next.
The sigil and banner that Daenerys dreams of:
A Storm of Swords – Daenerys III
I ought to have a banner sewn, she thought as she led her tattered band up along Astapor’s meandering river. She closed her eyes to imagine how it would look: all flowing black silk, and on it the red three-headed dragon of Targaryen, breathing golden flames. A banner such as Rhaegar might have borne. The river’s banks were strangely tranquil. The Worm, the Astapori called the stream. It was wide and slow and crooked, dotted with tiny wooded islands. She glimpsed children playing on one of them, darting amongst elegant marble statues. On another island two lovers kissed in the shade of tall green trees, with no more shame than Dothraki at a wedding. Without clothing, she could not tell if they were slave or free.
And of course, as Martin has said before, we have a new Dance of Dragons coming up. Who could it be between? I do believe this is one of many hints that the final Dance of Dragons will be between Jon-Bran and Daenerys. This skirmish in the fighting pits of Meereen in A Dance with Dragons– Daenerys IV, the new dragon pits like the historic Dance of Dragons, seems to show a hint of what is to come. Strong Belwas, basically Daenerys’ wise fool, even tells Dany that horsemeat (Jon) and Onions (Davos) will make her strong.
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys IX
“Horsemeat and onions makes you strong,” said Belwas.
The battle was followed by the day’s first folly, a tilt between a pair of jousting dwarfs, presented by one of the Yunkish lords that Hizdahr had invited to the games. One rode a hound, the other a sow. Their wooden armor had been freshly painted, so one bore the stag of the usurper Robert Baratheon, the other the golden lion of House Lannister. That was for her sake, plainly. Their antics soon had Belwas snorting laughter, though Dany’s smile was faint and forced. When the dwarf in red tumbled from the saddle and began to chase his sow across the sands, whilst the dwarf on the dog galloped after him, whapping at his buttocks with a wooden sword, she said, “This is sweet and silly, but …”
“Be patient, my sweet,” said Hizdahr. “They are about to loose the lions.”
And as readers are reminded at the end of A Dance with Dragons, dragons also do not sow, meaning, they do not plant trees…
A Dance with Dragons – Daenerys X
“It is such a long way,” she complained. “I was tired, Jorah. I was weary of war. I wanted to rest, to laugh, to plant trees and see them grow. I am only a young girl.”
No. You are the blood of the dragon. The whispering was growing fainter, as if Ser Jorah were falling farther behind. Dragons plant no trees. Remember that. Remember who you are, what you were made to be. Remember your words.
“Fire and Blood,” Daenerys told the swaying grass.
A Few Long-term Notes
Ok, so we all know that Martin said his 1993 Outline was full of filler because he was, “making shit up,” right. He was very clear about this back in 2016 at Balticon. If you want to read the outline that he threw together to try and pitch his books, here is a link.
- While the lion of Lannister and the direwolf of Stark snarl and scrap, however, a second and greater threat takes shape across the narrow sea, where the Dothraki horselords mass their barbarian hordes for a great invasion of the Seven Kingdoms, led by the fierce and beautiful Daenerys Stormborn, the last of the Targaryen dragonlords. The Dothraki invasion will be the central story of my second volume, A Dance with Dragons.
- Over across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen will discover that her new husband, the Dothraki Khal Drogo, has little interest in invading the Seven Kingdoms, much to her brother’s frustration. When Viserys presses his claims past the point of tact or wisdom, Khal Drogo will finally grow annoyed and kill him out of hand, eliminating the Targaryen pretender and leaving Daenerys as the last of her line. Danaerys [sic] will bide her time, but she will not forget. When the moment is right, she will kill her husband to avenge her brother, and then flee with a trusted friend into the wilderness beyond Vaes Dothrak. There, hunted by [unclear] of her life, she stumbles on a cache of [something about dragon eggs] a young dragon will give Daenerys power to bend the Dothraki to her will. Then she begins to plan for her invasion of the Seven Kingdoms.
While most of the outline has been drastically changed or omitted, there are some broad strokes we can see he still has planned and that are also part of his basic literary themes and motifs we see him rework over and over again (kinda the focus of this blog here). Martin has also stated that Daenerys and Tyrion will both be in Meereen for most of The Winds of Winter, will meet towards the end, and during this time Daenerys will spend much of it with the Dothraki… doing what?
- “Well, Tyrion and Dany will intersect, in a way, but for much of the book they’re still apart,” Martin said. “They both have quite large roles to play here. Tyrion has decided that he actually would like to live, for one thing, which he wasn’t entirely sure of during the last book, and he’s now working toward that end—if he can survive the battle that’s breaking out all around him. And Dany has embraced her heritage as a Targaryen and embraced the Targaryen words. So they’re both coming home.” —George R.R. Martin
And this does line up with how GRRM describes his initial intent for Daenerys in his ’93 outline.
As I mentioned when I started here, we see there are plenty of wordplay elements to work from. Interchangeable phrases that can be read this way, or that.
My purpose in this post is to start to bring the examples together (I have not listed all instances by any means), to maybe bring it all together to help us understand this huge quilt of A Song of Ice and Fire just a little better.
Looking for more GRRMspreading?
- 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.
- …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.
- The Last Super Bowl– Football meets SciFi tech with plenty of ASOIAF carryover battle elements.
- Nobody Leaves New Pittsburg– first in the Corpse Handler trio, and sets a lot of tone for future ASOIAF thematics.
- Closing Time– A short story that shows many precursor themes for future GRRM stories, including skinchanging, Sneaky Pete’s, catastrophic long nights…
- The Glass Flower– a tale of how the drive for perfection creates mindlords and mental slavery.
- Run to Starlight– A tale of coexistence and morality set to a high stakes game of football.
- Remembering Melody– A ghost tale written by GRRM in 1981 that tells of long nights, bloodbaths, and pancakes.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- For A Single Yesterday– A short story about learning from the past to rebuild the future.
- This Tower of Ashes– A story of how lost love, mother’s milk, and spiders don’t mix all too well.
- 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.
- The Stone City– a have-not surviving while stranded on a corporate planet. Practically a GRRM autobiography in itself.
- Slide Show– a story of putting the stars before the children.
- Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark– rubies, fire, blood sacrifice, and Saagael- oh my!
- A Night at the Tarn House– a magical game of life and death played at an inn at a crossroads.
- Men of Greywater Station– Is it the trees, the fungus, or is the real danger humans?
- The Computer Cried Charge!– what are we fighting for and is it worth it?
- The Needle Men– the fiery hand wields itself again, only, why are we looking for men?
- Black and White and Red All Over– a partial take on a partial story.
- 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.
Euron Greyjoy and his dragon horn – by Mathia Arkoniel
Thank you for reading the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire, by Gumbo!