Ghost was tricked by Melisandre- not trust

“Ghost.” Melisandre made the word a song.

Stannis contemplates his “Lightbringer”. Artist: Magali Villeneuve

In my readings throughout the fandom, many readers tend to assume that Ghost legitimately likes Melisandre in the A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI scene when Ghost sniffs Melisandre’s hand and Jon is amazed. This leads to the misguided idea that Melisandre is to be trusted by Jon (and the reader). I am not going to claim that Melisandre is a outright villain (so far), but that she is the GRRM dreaded religious zealot that does eventually become obsessed with their own prophecies coming to light, at any expense.

To jump ahead slightly, we have a case of Melisandre possibly contributing the mutiny stabbing part herself, or rather, as a vessel of the fire “god” to exact his will. The men at the mutiny were acting very strange by holding their hands up and exclaiming, “it wasn’t me.” And let’s not forget Marsh with his tears, and what could happen to him in The Winds of Winter.

To get you going, here is a TL;DR version: Melisandre used glamour and magic to trick Ghost, and therefore Jon, into trusting her. Mel uses her magics and scents to disrupt Jon mentally, and since the Direwolves act out what their handler feels, Ghost is also disrupted. This is something she tries again when she is searching the flames for the “girl in grey“. But it only fooled Jon for a half a minute because he saw right through the ruse. The only other person Ghost naturally bonds to are Samwell and Val.

Full chapter excerpt at the end for length.

To understand how GRRM is repeating this Melisandre trickery, I recommend reading the stories:

  1. Bitterblooms– because the main villain, Morgan Le Fay, IS a direct Melisandre prototype in description, dialogue, motivation, trickery, visions, she lives in a giant brazier, etc. Too many details to list here, however, fell free to ask for quotes in comments section. Some of the other names Morgan goes by are Morgan full of magic, and Morgan full of lies. The story between the hero, Shawn, and Morgan starts when Morgan thrusts a “fiery hand” to have Shawn severely hurt so that Morgan can take care of her, entrance her with sex, in order to reenact some past experience/new prophecy. The quote from Bitterblooms, “Shawn is my lover… every tenthyear at gathering.” And Shawn replies, “No… that was some other person.” This follows right along with Melisandre using Stannis for sex, attempting sex with Davos and Jon, all to bring about some replay of Azor Ahai. Both Melisandre and Morgan got it wrong. I did go breakdown more of the details about the hero girl Shawn on this page here. Highly recommended to read the fully transcribed and noted book club story here.
  2. In the Lost Lands– again because the story is set in motion when a witch is sent on a mission to bring back the skin of a (were)wolf. The witch, Lady Melange, who is fiery in symbolism, even uses a taloned death blow from the sky as her kill strike upon the icy symbolized werewolf. While the Lady Melange is a more sophisticated Melisandre, she is also a protoype of another fire woman in ASOIAF, Daenerys. Read here how Daenerys is the Night Lion to get a large breakdown of In the Lost Lands.
  3. Armageddon Rag– in the villain Ananda. She is a fiery extremist that is highly involved with bring on a new global “movement”. The thing is, this could also bring about a type of Armageddon, but she is such an extremist/zealot that she is willing to sacrifice it all. During the story, she gets sexually involved with, and blatantly tricks the main hero, the “icy” Sandy Blair. Another huge subtext of this story is how the meditation on music, the feel and the words of such, can bring about peace. The flower children had it right.
  4. A Song for LyaFull story transcribed and book club noted here. This story is all about the religious calling of a fiery god called the Greeshka. This includes the use of red priests to spread the word, the use of smaller greeshka that attach to the heads like slugs (directly from Have Space Suit, Will Travel), these brain greeshka provide a sense of pleasure and give visions as they slowly consume their hosts, and the process always starts with eating a specially spiced meat stick and moves on to the sound of bells. Remember, in ASOIAF we are repeatedly told that fire is a hungry god. The fiery mother Greeshka wants to consume the tree-symbol telepath Lya most urgently because of her rather strong telepathic powers, being referred to by Robb as a “major talent” (a là Bran).
  5. Fevre Dream– where there are plenty of discussions on page where the captain of the ship specifically requests for no religious zealots allowed on board, because they always bring some type of downfall.
  6. There are plenty of other George RR Martin stories that put the symbolic fire figure against the symbolic ice figure. Plenty. And in them, the fiery symbol is always associated with a fiery hand of some sort. This page here breaks down the stories.
  7. I would add that having some knowledge of the fact that Jon and Val together are acting as the new Nymeria, especially against the “dragon” Selyse, will also fill you in on many details. Selyse and Melisandre are both coming at Jon from different angles.
Morgan le Fay from Arthurian legend. The basis for many of GRRM’s more devious-style witchy women.

A thousand smells…

Before we get to the extended scene of Melisandre using some combination of glamours, spells, and powders to trick both Jon and Ghost, lets first take a look at glamour clues in Martinworld. As often happens, clues to one character arc are played out in the point of view of another. We learn a few chapters after the Melisandre trickery incident what happens to “wise men” when artifice is used. This Arya section even starts out with her being given some potion to help with the transition, and then Arya is living the girl’s life through an imprinted blood memory:

  • A Dance with Dragons – The Ugly Little Girl

    “Bring me the face,” said the kindly man. The waif made no answer, but she could hear her slippers whispering over the stone floor. To the girl he said, “Drink this,” and pressed a cup into her hand. She drank it down at once. It was very tart, like biting into a lemon. A thousand years ago, she had known a girl who loved lemon cakes. No, that was not me, that was only Arya.

    Mummers change their faces with artifice,” the kindly man was saying, “and sorcerers use glamors, weaving light and shadow and desire to make illusions that trick the eye. These arts you shall learn, but what we do here goes deeper. Wise men can see through artifice, and glamors dissolve before sharp eyes, but the face you are about to don will be as true and solid as that face you were born with. Keep your eyes closed.” She felt his fingers brushing back her hair. “Stay still. This will feel queer. You may be dizzy, but you must not move.”

    Then came a tug and a soft rustling as the new face was pulled down over the old. The leather scraped across her brow, dry and stiff, but as her blood soaked into it, it softened and turned supple. Her cheeks grew warm, flushed. She could feel her heart fluttering beneath her breast, and for one long moment she could not catch her breath. Hands closed around her throat, hard as stone, choking her. Her own hands shot up to claw at the arms of her attacker, but there was no one there. A terrible sense of fear filled her, and she heard a noise, a hideous crunching noise, accompanied by blinding pain. A face floated in front of her, fat, bearded, brutal, his mouth twisted with rage. She heard the priest say, “Breathe, child. Breathe out the fear. Shake off the shadows. He is dead. She is dead. Her pain is gone. Breathe.”

The description of spices and aromas seem to always be present in the act of a fire & blood magic ritual. We also see this happen when Daenerys orders the fire & blood ritual to try and revive Khal Drogo within the tent with Mirri Maz Duur. Some other examples of spices at fire & blood rituals include the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, and I expect to see a small issue between Sansa and Harry the Heir and Saffron coming to play in the Winds of Winter (but maybe not so sinister).

  • A Game of Thrones – Daenerys VIII

    When they let the stallion fall, the bath was a dark red, and nothing showed of Drogo but his face. Mirri Maz Duur had no use for the carcass. “Burn it,” Dany told them. It was what they did, she knew. When a man died, his mount was killed and placed beneath him on the funeral pyre, to carry him to the night lands. The men of her khas dragged the carcass from the tent. The blood had gone everywhere. Even the sandsilk walls were spotted with red, and the rugs underfoot were black and wet.

But we readers know that these spices have always followed Daenerys in key scenes of the story. Funny enough is much of the time when Daenerys is associated with these spices it has to do with some sort of fertility association, mainly the hatching of eggs and dragons. Fire and blood. I have already speculated that the Valyrian/Targaryen practice of incest to “keep the dragon blood pure” is in truth candy coating the control of females in the family. Controlling the female dragon/moon blood.

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon VII

    He found Quort dead, and Stone Thumbs dying. He found some dead and dying Thenns he had never truly known. He found Big Boil, weak from all the blood he’d lost but still alive.

    He found Ygritte sprawled across a patch of old snow beneath the Lord Commander’s Tower, with an arrow between her breasts. The ice crystals had settled over her face, and in the moonlight it looked as though she wore a glittering silver mask.

    The arrow was black, Jon saw, but it was fletched with white duck feathers. Not mine, he told himself, not one of mine. But he felt as if it were.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon III

    He was walking beneath the shell of the Lord Commander’s Tower, past the spot where Ygritte had died in his arms, when Ghost appeared beside him, his warm breath steaming in the cold. In the moonlight, his red eyes glowed like pools of fire. The taste of hot blood filled Jon’s mouth, and he knew that Ghost had killed that night. No, he thought. I am a man, not a wolf. He rubbed his mouth with the back of a gloved hand and spat.

And what does Melisandre list as the key ingredients to her singer’s stew? Melisandre has the bloodied spot of Ygritte, the scents in the air, and the memory from Jon, all more powerful than boots. Melisandre has to resort to using such potent ingredients because throughout A Dance with Dragons, Jon has shown and made known his dislike and distrust of Melisandre.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    Mance Rayder chuckled. “I had my doubts as well, Snow, but why not let her try? It was that, or let Stannis roast me.”

    “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.”

  • A Storm of Swords – Bran II

    “Some people hurt others just because they can,” said Jojen.

    “And it wasn’t Theon who did the killing at Winterfell,” said Meera. “Too many of the dead were ironmen.” She shifted her frog spear to her other hand. “Remember Old Nan’s stories, Bran. Remember the way she told them, the sound of her voice. So long as you do that, part of her will always be alive in you.”

And we are shown from Melisandre’s own POV that she is taking stock of her magical inventory levels, on all levels. From powders to the fire within her, she is checking her balances.

However, the physical and metaphysical are not the only forms of magic in ASOIAF. No. There are also an abundance of spell songs, birthing songs, songs the dead men sing, etc. In the Jon chapter (below) one of the clues we readers get the the trickery is the use of song. Melisandre has to work triple hard to trick the wolf.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I

    While the boy was gone, Melisandre washed herself and changed her robes. Her sleeves were full of hidden pockets, and she checked them carefully as she did every morning to make certain all her powders were in place. Powders to turn fire green or blue or silver, powders to make a flame roar and hiss and leap up higher than a man is tall, powders to make smoke. A smoke for truth, a smoke for lust, a smoke for fear, and the thick black smoke that could kill a man outright. The red priestess armed herself with a pinch of each of them.

    The carved chest that she had brought across the narrow sea was more than three-quarters empty now. And while Melisandre had the knowledge to make more powders, she lacked many rare ingredients. My spells should suffice. She was stronger at the Wall, stronger even than in Asshai. Her every word and gesture was more potent, and she could do things that she had never done before. Such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them. With such sorceries at her command, she should soon have no more need of the feeble tricks of alchemists and pyromancers.

And we have seen these scenty spices before when she visits Davos in the dungeons on Dragonstone, where she speaks of Azor Ahai.

  • A Storm of Swords – Davos III

    Then one night as he was finishing his supper, Davos felt a queer flush come over him. He glanced up through the bars, and there she stood in shimmering scarlet with her great ruby at her throat, her red eyes gleaming as bright as the torch that bathed her. “Melisandre,” he said, with a calm he did not feel.

    “Onion Knight,” she replied, just as calmly, as if the two of them had met on a stair or in the yard, and were exchanging polite greetings. “Are you well?”

    “It is night in your Seven Kingdoms now,” the red woman went on, “but soon the sun will rise again. The war continues, Davos Seaworth, and some will soon learn that even an ember in the ashes can still ignite a great blaze. The old maester looked at Stannis and saw only a man. You see a king. You are both wrong. He is the Lord’s chosen, the warrior of fire. I have seen him leading the fight against the dark, I have seen it in the flames. The flames do not lie, else you would not be here. It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone. The bleeding star has come and gone, and Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt. Stannis Baratheon is Azor Ahai reborn!” Her red eyes blazed like twin fires, and seemed to stare deep into his soul. “You do not believe me. You doubt the truth of R’hllor even now . . . yet have served him all the same, and will serve him again. I shall leave you here to think on all that I have told you. And because R’hllor is the source of all good, I shall leave the torch as well.”

    With a smile and swirl of scarlet skirts, she was gone. Only her scent lingered after. That, and the torch.

This all comes to a head as Melisandre and Selyse together is Jon’s version of the perfumed seneschal that readers are told to beware. This post here in another thread describes how. The two are a pair of stinky stewards!

And in the scene in question, Jon notices here ruby eyes start shining. We see throughout the books that whenever Melisandre works some greater magic, such as the glamour of Rattleshirt as Mance during the fire execution of the man, Melisandre’s ruby pules/shines with light. Melisandre’s eyes are often referred to as stars, and the ruby at her throat is a third eye, so the imagery is established to be interchangeable with each other (as well as the ruby marking Mel as a slave to a greater being). Here we read about the spicy smells, burning of weirwood bones, and the ruby pulsing, which she later says, “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.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon III

    Beneath the weeping Wall, Lady Melisandre raised her pale white hands. “We all must choose,” she proclaimed. “Man or woman, young or old, lord or peasant, our choices are the same.” Her voice made Jon Snow think of anise and nutmeg and cloves. She stood at the king’s side on a wooden scaffold raised above the pit. “We choose light or we choose darkness. We choose good or we choose evil. We choose the true god or the false.”

    Mance Rayder’s thick grey-brown hair blew about his face as he walked. He pushed it from his eyes with bound hands, smiling. But when he saw the cage, his courage failed him. The queen’s men had made it from the trees of the haunted forest, from saplings and supple branches, pine boughs sticky with sap, and the bone-white fingers of the weirwoods. They’d bent them and twisted them around and through each other to weave a wooden lattice, then hung it high above a deep pit filled with logs, leaves, and kindling. [and then…]

    “The Horn of Joramun?” Melisandre said. “No. Call it the Horn of Darkness. If the Wall falls, night falls as well, the long night that never ends. It must not happen, will not happen! The Lord of Light has seen his children in their peril and sent a champion to them, Azor Ahai reborn.” She swept a hand toward Stannis, and the great ruby at her throat pulsed with light.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

    Jon let out a white breath. “He is not always so …”

    “… warm? Warmth calls to warmth, Jon Snow.” Her eyes were two red stars, shining in the dark. At her throat, her ruby gleamed, a third eye glowing brighter than the others. Jon had seen Ghost’s eyes blazing red the same way, when they caught the light just right. “Ghost,” he called. “To me.”

Always listen to your dog

The one person we see on page that does have a natural bond with Ghost is Val. At this point in the story, there is a very clear development in the relationship and symbolism between Jon and Val, who shows up with the rescued free folk looking like a weirwood goddess. We didn’t even see Ygritte and Ghost have this sort of relationship, aside from Jon putting Ghost between he and Ygritte to keep her out of his pants.5f275608efc0591301779c0e2e7ba548--long-braids-white-tunic

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI

    “Did you follow me as well?” Jon reached to shoo the bird away but ended up stroking its feathers. The raven cocked its eye at him. “Snow,” it muttered, bobbing its head knowingly. Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.

    They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.

    “Have you been trying to steal my wolf?” he asked her.

‘Stealing’ is the souhtron mis-labeled custom of free folk courtship. In marriage, the men are expected to be quite forceful with women, going so far as stealing them from their home or clan. The women, in turn, are expected to put up a fight every step of the way. It is believed that a true man will steal a woman from afar to strengthen the clan. Women who wed brothers, fathers, or clan kin are believed to offend the gods, and are cursed with weak and sickly children. Men must steal daughters, but not wives of other men. When the red wanderer is within the Moonmaid, it is considered a propitious time for a man to steal a woman. This is something he goes in to a little more depth about during his TusCon 43 event.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI

    She [Selyse] is not my queen, he might have said. If truth be told, the day of her departure cannot come too fast for me. And if the gods are good, she will take Melisandre with her.

    They rode the rest of the way in silence, Ghost loping at their heels. Mormont’s raven followed them as far as the gate, then flapped upward as the rest of them dismounted. Horse went ahead with a brand to light the way through the icy tunnel.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XI

    “Do. You owe me a debt, Jon Snow.”

    Jon watched her [Val] stride away. She is wrong. She must be wrong. Greyscale is not so deadly as she claims, not in children.

    Ghost was gone again. The sun was low in the west.

I have gone on at great length to the importance of Val and how Martin has developed and reused the near exact character in the same way as ASOIAF Val may times over.

A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI: The Magics of Melisandre

“No. I just need a breath of air.” Jon stepped out into the night. The sky was full of stars, and the wind was gusting along the Wall. Even the moon looked cold; there were goosebumps all across its face. Then the first gust caught him, slicing through his layers of wool and leather to set his teeth to chattering. He stalked across the yard, into the teeth of that wind. His cloak flapped loudly from his shoulders. Ghost came after. Where am I going? What am I doing? Castle Black was still and silent, its halls and towers dark. My seat, Jon Snow reflected. My hall, my home, my command. A ruin.

In the shadow of the Wall, the direwolf brushed up against his fingers. For half a heartbeat the night came alive with a thousand smells, and Jon Snow heard the crackle of the crust breaking on a patch of old snow. Someone was behind him, he realized suddenly. Someone who smelled warm as a summer day.

When he turned he saw Ygritte.

She stood beneath the scorched stones of the Lord Commander’s Tower, cloaked in darkness and in memory. The light of the moon was in her hair, her red hair kissed by fire. When he saw that, Jon’s heart leapt into his mouth. “Ygritte,” he said.

“Lord Snow.” The voice was Melisandre’s.

Surprise made him recoil from her. “Lady Melisandre.” He took a step backwards. “I mistook you for someone else.” At night all robes are grey. Yet suddenly hers were red. He did not understand how he could have taken her for Ygritte. She was taller, thinner, older, though the moonlight washed years from her face. Mist rose from her nostrils, and from pale hands naked to the night. “You will freeze your fingers off,” Jon warned.

“If that is the will of R’hllor. Night’s powers cannot touch one whose heart is bathed in god’s holy fire.”

“Your heart does not concern me. Just your hands.”

“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?

Melisandre seemed amused. “What is her name, this little sister that you do not have?”

“Arya.” His voice was hoarse. “My half-sister, truly …”

“… for you are bastard born. I had not forgotten. I have seen your sister in my fires, fleeing from this marriage they have made for her. Coming here, to you. A girl in grey on a dying horse, I have seen it plain as day. It has not happened yet, but it will.” She gazed at Ghost. “May I touch your  wolf?”

The thought made Jon uneasy. “Best not.”

“He will not harm me. You call him Ghost, yes?”

“Yes, but …”

“Ghost.” Melisandre made the word a song.

The direwolf padded toward her. Wary, he stalked about her in a circle, sniffing. When she held out her hand he smelled that too, then shoved his nose against her fingers.

Jon let out a white breath. “He is not always so …”

“… warm? Warmth calls to warmth, Jon Snow.” Her eyes were two red stars, shining in the dark. At her throat, her ruby gleamed, a third eye glowing brighter than the others. Jon had seen Ghost’s eyes blazing red the same way, when they caught the light just right. “Ghost,” he called. “To me.”

The direwolf looked at him as if he were a stranger.

Jon frowned in disbelief. “That’s … queer.

“You think so?” She knelt and scratched Ghost behind his ear. “Your Wall is a queer place, but there is power here, if you will use it. Power in you, and in this beast. You resist it, and that is your mistake. Embrace it. Use it.”

I am not a wolf, he thought. “And how would I do that?”

“I can show you.” Melisandre draped one slender arm over Ghost, and the direwolf licked her face. “The Lord of Light in his wisdom made us male and female, two parts of a greater whole. In our joining there is power. Power to make life. Power to make light. Power to cast shadows.”

“Shadows.” The world seemed darker when he said it.

“Every man who walks the earth casts a shadow on the world. Some are thin and weak, others long and dark. You should look behind you, Lord Snow. The moon has kissed you and etched your shadow upon the ice twenty feet tall.”

Jon glanced over his shoulder. The shadow was there, just as she had said, etched in moonlight against the Wall. A girl in grey on a dying horse, he thought. Coming here, to you. Arya. He turned back to the red priestess. Jon could feel her warmth. She has power. The thought came unbidden, seizing him with iron teeth, but this was not a woman he cared to be indebted to, not even for his little sister. “Dalla told me something once. Val’s sister, Mance Rayder’s wife. She said that sorcery was a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”

“A wise woman.” Melisandre rose, her red robes stirring in the wind. “A sword without a hilt is still a sword, though, and a sword is a fine thing to have when foes are all about. Hear me now, Jon Snow. Nine crows flew into the white wood to find your foes for you. Three of them are dead. They have not died yet, but their death is out there waiting for them, and they ride to meet it. You sent them forth to be your eyes in the darkness, but they will be eyeless when they return to you. I have seen their pale dead faces in my flames. Empty sockets, weeping blood. She pushed her red hair back, and her red eyes shone. “You do not believe me. You will. The cost of that belief will be three lives. A small price to pay for wisdom, some might say … but not one you had to pay. Remember that when you behold the blind and ravaged faces of your dead. And come that day, take my hand.” The mist rose from her pale flesh, and for a moment it seemed as if pale, sorcerous flames were playing about her fingers. “Take my hand,” she said again, “and let me save your sister.” 


Thanks for reading along with the jambles and jumbles of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire blog. Please ask me in the comments section below for any additional book quotes you may want.

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