Fiery Religion Throughout Martin’s Work

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Stannis contemplates his “Lightbringer”. Artist: Magali Villeneuve

“. . . a horror.” Davos retreated from her. “I want no part of you, my lady. Or your god. May the Seven protect me.”

Melisandre sighed. “They did not protect Guncer Sunglass. He prayed thrice each day, and bore seven seven-pointed stars upon his shield, but when R’hllor reached out his hand his prayers turned to screams, and he burned. Why cling to these false gods?”

“I have worshiped them all my life.”

A Storm of Swords – Davos III


This page is going to be a little different than the other pages. I want to both show the reader on a larger scale the repeated dialogue and themes George RR Martin uses when establishing his fire religions, as well as have a “base” page to link to when referencing these fiery religions. And by fiery, I don’t mean strictly dragons per se, but sometimes a dragon is involved.

You will, however, see plenty of repeating themes such as fiery, sharp hands that try to kill the protagonist. Shadows, great winged beasts or banshees. Masses of people flocking to the “fire god” whose name varies based on geographic/cultural location. Spices. There is always a spicy flavor or smell going on at the same time. And one of the most important and oft repeated is the consumption of trees/water-old gods types by the (usually) black and red fire types. Consumptions of hearts usually goes along with this idea. And visions- there is always some sort of a vision screen and the images change and ideas are manipulated. Sometimes the visions are tv view screens (Unsound Variations), sometimes they are entire viewing walls (Bitterblooms, Lonely Songs of Laren Dorr), sometimes the visions are in the fires themselves.

One thing is for sure, in many a George RR Martin story he has the characters make rather similar statements as is repeated in Fevre Dream:

  • … they must be trustworthy, since I will give all management over into his hands. He must have courage. I do not want a weakling, or a superstitious man, or one who is overly religious. Are you a religious man, Captain?” “No,” said Marsh. “Never cared for bible-thumpers, nor them for me.”
  • When the Fevre Dream steams up the bayou, I want her manned only by our best and most reliable, the bare minimum needed to run her. No religious fanatics, no one who is easily frightened, no one prone to rashness.” “Hairy Mike and I will do the pickin’,” Marsh said.

It is not that GRRM is against anyone keeping a faith or a religious view, even though he is rather neutral himself. No, it is that when it goes to extremism then it becomes an issue. Religious zealots sink ships, no matter the vessel.

Clearly George RR Martin is not against the concept of good versus evil, as many times as he says he writes grey characters- from the whitest grey to the darkest grey, those are his extremes because they do exist.

  • And Seven Times Never Kill Man

Do you believe in evil?” Arik neKrol asked Jannis Ryther as they looked down on the City of the Steel Angels from the crest of a nearby hill. Anger was written across every line of his flat yellow-brown face, as he squatted among the broken shards of what once had been a Jaenshi worship pyramid.
“Evil?” Ryther murmured in a distracted way. Her eyes never left the redstone walls below, where the dark bodies of the children were outlined starkly. The sun was going down, the fat red globe that the Steel Angels called the Heart of Bakkalon, and the valley beneath them seemed to swim in bloody mists.
Evil,” neKrol repeated. The trader was a short, pudgy man, his features decidedly mongoloid except for the flame-red hair that fell nearly to his waist. “It is a religious concept, and I am not a religious man. Long ago, when I was a very child growing up on ai-Emerel, I decided that there was no good or evil, only different ways of thinking.” His small, soft hands felt around in the dust until he had a large, jagged shard that filled his fist. He stood and offered it to Ryther. “The Steel Angels have made me believe in evil again,” he said.


    • A Game of Thrones – Daenerys X

      Only death can pay for life.

      And there came a second crack, loud and sharp as thunder, and the smoke stirred and whirled around her and the pyre shifted, the logs exploding as the fire touched their secret hearts. She heard the screams of frightened horses, and the voices of the Dothraki raised in shouts of fear and terror, and Ser Jorah calling her name and cursing. No, she wanted to shout to him, no, my good knight, do not fear for me. The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of dragons, mother of dragons, don’t you see? Don’t you SEE? With a belch of flame and smoke that reached thirty feet into the sky, the pyre collapsed and came down around her. Unafraid, Dany stepped forward into the firestorm, calling to her children.

      The third crack was as loud and sharp as the breaking of the world.

  • A Storm of Swords – Arya VIII

“Nay,” said the dwarf. “You’re not. The black fish holds the rivers now. If it’s the mother you want, seek her at the Twins. For there’s to be a wedding.” She cackled again. “Look in your fires, pink priest, and you will see. Not now, though, not here, you’ll see nothing here. This place belongs to the old gods still . . . they linger here as I do, shrunken and feeble but not yet dead. Nor do they love the flames. For the oak recalls the acorn, the acorn dreams the oak, the stump lives in them both. And they remember when the First Men came with fire in their fists.” She drank the last of the wine in four long swallows, flung the skin aside, and pointed her stick at Lord Beric. “I’ll have my payment now. I’ll have the song you promised me.”

And so Lem woke Tom Sevenstrings beneath his furs, and brought him yawning to the fireside with his woodharp in hand. “The same song as before?” he asked.

  • A Clash of Kings – Arya IV

A column of riders moved between the burning buildings toward the holdfast. Firelight glittered off metal helms and spattered their mail and plate with orange and yellow highlights. One carried a banner on a tall lance. She thought it was red, but it was hard to tell in the night, with the fires roaring all around. Everything seemed red or black or orange.

The fire leapt from one house to another. Arya saw a tree consumed, the flames creeping across its branches until it stood against the night in robes of living orange. Everyone was awake now, manning the catwalks or struggling with the frightened animals below. She could hear Yoren shouting commands. Something bumped against her leg, and she glanced down to discover the crying girl clutching her. “Get away!” She wrenched her leg free. “What are you doing up here? Run and hide someplace, you stupid.” She shoved the girl away.

The riders reined up before the gates. “You in the holdfast!” shouted a knight in a tall helm with a spiked crest. “Open, in the name of the king!”

This makes sense that Arya, a Children of the Forest stand-in, should notice these fire consuming flames images. Additionally, fire people in GRRM’s work tend to have a connection with gates. Melisandre and Selyse will most likely burn Shireen in front of a gate,  as the Queen’s Men like Corliss Penny, like all of the in-world fiery people, are near exact recreations of GRRM’s military religious Steel Angels.

As of this writing (before the release of Winds of Winter), even Sansa is in the fiery grasp of Petyr Littlefinger Baelish while in his puppet-like control in his home on the Fingers, and then later at the Eyrie, and then Gates of the Moon. Detailed a little more in the Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark page. So, Sansa is placed by a fire-eyed finger-man at a hearth/altar and then at gates… that girl better ruuuun!


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ves·sel
ˈvesəl/
noun
noun: vessel; plural noun: vessels
    1. a ship or large boat.
    1. a hollow container, especially one used to hold liquid, such as a bowl or cask.
  1. a duct or canal holding or conveying blood or other fluid. Any of the tubular structures in the vascular system of a plant, serving to conduct water and mineral nutrients from the root.

Another trick Martin uses is the use of vessels as being an avatar of the character and holder of their soul. In most all cases, the character has to use this vessel to escape the hunt of the antagonist. These vessels include:

  • Aircars that look like wolves, manta rays, etc.
  • Actual boats like the Fevre Dream (that is consumed and turned black).
  • Other living bodies (human and alien alike) that are stolen in the game of mind.
  • Corpses of dead men that are used for physical labor, fighting pit entertainment, and sex work.

  • Fevre Dream (descriptions of the boat Fevre Dream when it is built in the beginning)

The mists gave way for them, and there she stood, high and proud, dwarfing all the other boats around her. Her cabins and rails gleamed with fresh paint pale as snow, bright even in the gray shroud of fog. Way up on her texas roof, halfway to the stars, her pilot house seemed to glitter; a glass temple, its ornate cupola decorated all around with fancy woodwork as intricate as Irish lace. Her chimneys, twin pillars that stood just forward of the texas deck, rose up a hundred feet, black and straight and haughty. Their feathered tops bloomed like two dark metal flowers. Her hull was slender and seemed to go on forever, with her stern obscured by the fog. Like all the first-class boats, she was a side-wheeler. Set amidship, the huge curved wheelhouses loomed gigantic, hinting at the vast power of the paddle wheels concealed within them. They seemed all the larger for want of the name that would soon be emblazoned across them.

[and then]

“Course, she’s not finished. Trim needs to be painted, goin’ do it up mostly in blue and silver, to go with all that silver you wanted in the saloon. And we’re still waitin’ on some of the fancy furniture and mirrors you ordered from Philadelphia, and such things. But mostly she’s done, Joshua, mostly she’s ready. Come, I’ll show you.”

[and then much later after Damon Julian (fire) takes over and consumes the Fevre Dream, renaming it Ozymandius, changing the color from white/grey/silver/blue to black and red. However, the main owner, Josh York, does not turn his cloak, so to speak, but rather he stays on with the “good” fight. Essentially, the Fevre Dream dies.]

… of men you can hire from Natchez-under-the-hill.”

Abner Marsh knew all right. Sour Billy Tipton had scared off Marsh’s crew and replaced them with a gang of cutthroats like himself. “Steamboatmen?” he asked.

The bald man nodded. “There’s more. This Tipton visited Fork-in-the-Road.” “It’s a big slave mart,” the black partner said. “He bought a mess of slaves. Paid with gold.” The bald man pulled a twenty-dollar gold piece from his pocket and set it on the table. “Like this. Bought some other stuff back in Natchez, too. Paid the same way.”

“What kind of stuff?” Marsh asked.

“Slaver’s stuff,” the black man said. “Manacles. Chains. Hammers.”

“Some paint, too,” said the other. And suddenly the truth of it burst on Abner Marsh like a shower of fireworks. “Jesus God,” he swore. “Paint! No wonder no one has seen her. Goddamn. They’re smarter than I thought, and I’m an eggsuckin’ fool not to have seen it straight off!” He slammed his big fist down on the table hard enough to make the coffee cups jump.

“We figure just what you’re thinkin’,” the bald man said. “They painted her. Changed her name.”

[and then]

“A poem,” said Abner Marsh. “It’s a goddamn poem.” “But what does it mean?” “It means,” said Marsh, closing the book, “that Joshua is feelin’ sorry and beaten. You wouldn’t understand why, though, Mister Grove. The important thing that it means is that we’re lookin’ for a steamboat name of Ozymandias.”

[and then]

Karl Framm pushed through the crowd, a brandy in his hand. “I know a story,” he said, sounding a little drunk. “ ’S true. There’s this steamboat named the Ozymandias, y’see …”

“Never heard of it,” somebody said.

Framm smiled thinly. “Y’better hope you never see it,” he said, “cause them what does is done for. She only runs by night, this boat. And she’s dark, all dark. Painted black as her stacks, every inch of her, except that inside she’s got a main cabin with a carpet the color of blood, and silver mirrors everywhere that don’t reflect nothing. Them mirrors is always empty, even though she’s got lots of folks aboard her, pale-looking folks in fine clothes. They smile a lot. Only they don’t show in the mirrors.”

Someone shivered. They had all gone silent. “Why not?” asked an engineer Marsh knew slightly.

“Cause they’re dead,” Framm said. “Ever’ damn one of ’em, dead. Only they won’t lie down. They’re sinners, and they got to ride that boat forever, that black boat with the red carpets and the empty mirrors, all up and down the river, never touching port, no sir.”

“Phantoms,” somebody said.

“Ha’nts,” added a woman, “like that Raccourci boat.”

“Hell no,” said Karl Framm. “You can pass right through a ha’nt, but not the Ozymandias. She’s real enough, and you’ll learn it quick and to your sorrow if you come on her at night. Them dead folks is hungry. They drink blood, y’know. Hot red blood. They hide in the dark and when they see the lights of another steamer, they set out after her, and if they catch’er they come swarming aboard, all those dead white faces, smiling, dressed so fine. And they sink the boat afterward, or burn her, and the next mornin’ there’s nothing to see but a couple stacks stickin’ up out of the river, or maybe a wrecked boat full of corpses. Except for the sinners. The sinners go aboard that Ozymandias, and ride on her forever.”

In short, Weirwoods/water magic = the ship Fevre Dream; Iron Throne and fire magic = the ship Ozymandius.

Martin does use this allegory in his worldbuilding backstory as well. A repaeated theme of a blue rose being overtaken by the red. In the case of the ship Fevre Dream, and then here in the story of Rose of Red Lake, it is the bloodlust that corrupts… which brings us back to the Iron Throne.


My plan, should I accept this enormous mission, is to post either the entire story, or large swathes of, and then to bullet point supporting information along the way.

The stories being covered are listed here, and will be linked to when that respective page is up:

  1. Only Kids are Afraid of the Dark – link here
  2. Fevre Dream
  3. A Song for Lya
  4. And Seven Times Never Kill Man
  5. Armageddon Rag
  6. and some other one I can’t think of at the moment…

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Thanks for reading along with to the jumbles of the Fattest Leech blog. If you want extra book quotes, just ask.