Snarks and Grumkins


“Stop it,” Jon Snow said, his face dark with anger. “The Night’s Watch is a noble calling!”

Tyrion laughed. “You’re too smart to believe that. The Night’s Watch is a midden heap for all the misfits of the realm. I’ve seen you looking at Yoren and his boys. Those are your new brothers, Jon Snow, how do you like them? Sullen peasants, debtors, poachers, rapers, thieves, and bastards like you all wind up on the Wall, watching for grumkins and snarks and all the other monsters your wet nurse warned you about. The good part is there are no grumkins or snarks, so it’s scarcely dangerous work. The bad part is you freeze your balls off, but since you’re not allowed to breed anyway, I don’t suppose that matters.”

A Game of Thrones – Tyrion II

Wow, I never noticed that Melisandre and Selyse are grumkins and snarks! And oh the irony in that AGOT Tyrion quote. This post is carry-over support for The Fourth Hand at Jon’s Mutiny and Selyse and Melisandre burn Shireen. Additionally, I added a quote from Black and White and Red All Over that shows Martin using the “bearded dragon” of Selyse in another situation.

Run, Shireen, run!

  • A Clash of Kings – Prologue

An ugly little girl and a sad fool, and maester makes three . . . now there is a tale to make men weep. “Sit with me, child.” Cressen beckoned her closer. “This is early to come calling, scarce past dawn. You should be snug in your bed.”“I had bad dreams,” Shireen told him. “About the dragons. They were coming to eat me.”The child had been plagued by nightmares as far back as Maester Cressen could recall. “We have talked of this before,” he said gently. “The dragons cannot come to life. They are carved of stone, child. In olden days, our island was the westernmost outpost of the great Freehold of Valyria. It was the Valyrians who raised this citadel, and they had ways of shaping stone since lost to us. A castle must have towers wherever two walls meet at an angle, for defense. The Valyrians fashioned these towers in the shape of dragons to make their fortress seem more fearsome, just as they crowned their walls with a thousand gargoyles instead of simple crenellations.” He took her small pink hand in his own frail spotted one and gave it a gentle squeeze. “So you see, there is nothing to fear.”



Grumkins- Melisandre are mythical creatures that appear in Westerosi folktales. They are associated with granting wishes, either by crafting magical objects which make wishes come true, or by directly giving people a number of wishes, of which the third wish is the last and must be used carefully. Grumkins are implied to be of short stature or otherwise of very small size and may also steal and replace children. Reference.

  • A Game of Thrones – Jon IX Are you such a mighty warrior, or do you carry a grumkin in your pocket to magic up your sword?”
  • A Feast for Crows – Samwell IVI remembered that, so I allowed myself to hope . . . perhaps I wanted to . . . we all deceive ourselves, when we want to believe. Melisandre most of all, I think. The sword is wrong, she has to know that . . . light without heat . . . an empty glamor . . . the sword is wrong, and the false light can only lead us deeper into darkness, Sam.
  • A Storm of Swords – Davos IV“Say the name,” Melisandre commanded.The leech was twisting in the king’s grip, trying to attach itself to one of his fingers. “The usurper,” he said. “Joffrey Baratheon.” When he tossed the leech into the fire, it curled up like an autumn leaf amidst the coals, and burned.Stannis grasped the second. “The usurper,” he declared, louder this time. “Balon Greyjoy.” He flipped it lightly onto the brazier, and its flesh split and cracked. The blood burst from it, hissing and smoking.
  • A Storm of Swords – Davos V“They will not.” Melisandre’s voice was soft. “I am sorry, Your Grace. This is not an end. More false kings will soon rise to take up the crowns of those who’ve died.””More?” Stannis looked as though he would gladly have throttled her. “More usurpers? More traitors?””I have seen it in the flames.”

[and then]

“Edric—” he started.

“—is one boy! He may be the best boy who ever drew breath and it would not matter. My duty is to the realm.” His hand swept across the Painted Table. “How many boys dwell in Westeros? How many girls? How many men, how many women? The darkness will devour them all, she says. The night that never ends. She talks of prophecies . . . a hero reborn in the sea, living dragons hatched from dead stone . . . she speaks of signs and swears they point to me. I never asked for this, no more than I asked to be king. Yet dare I disregard her?” He ground his teeth. “We do not choose our destinies. Yet we must . . . we must do our duty, no? Great or small, we must do our duty. Melisandre swears that she has seen me in her flames, facing the dark with Lightbringer raised on high. Lightbringer!” Stannis gave a derisive snort. “It glimmers prettily, I’ll grant you, but on the Blackwater this magic sword served me no better than any common steel. A dragon would have turned that battle. Aegon once stood here as I do, looking down on this table. Do you think we would name him Aegon the Conqueror today if he had not had dragons?”

“Your Grace,” said Davos, “the cost . . .”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon VI

“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.”

  • A Dance with Dragons – Melisandre I“Me?” Snow sounded startled.”Who else, my lord? Only his life’s blood could pay for his crimes, your laws said, and Stannis Baratheon is not a man to go against the law … but as you said so sagely, the laws of men end at the Wall. I told you that the Lord of Light would hear your prayers. You wanted a way to save your little sister and still hold fast to the honor that means so much to you, to the vows you swore before your wooden god.” She pointed with a pale finger. “There he stands, Lord Snow. Arya’s deliverance. A gift from the Lord of Light … and me.”


But the widow’s peak dissolved. The brown mustache, the knobby chin, the sallow yellowed flesh and small dark eyes, all melted. Grey fingers crept through long brown hair. Laugh lines appeared at the corners of his mouth. All at once he was bigger than before, broader in the chest and shoulders, long-legged and lean, his face clean-shaved and windburnt.

Jon Snow’s grey eyes grew wider. “Mance?”


Selyse Florent-Baratheon, the new Night's *Queen*. artist Daria Tuzova

Snarks- Sleyse are creatures of folklore in the Seven Kingdoms. The snarks are supposed to live beyond the Wall with grumkins, monsters used in nursery tales to frighten children. In derision of the apparent futility of the Wall and the mission of the Night’s Watch, the snarks are often referenced as an improbable danger that is hiding in the haunted forest. They are known to be elusive and some may have beards. Reference.

Adults no longer believe in snarks and consider them imaginary beings, comparable to legendary animals and supernatural entities or the monsters which children’s nurses warn them against. As a result, several attempts to seek aid against the danger of the Others are met with mockery which ridicules the messenger as also fearing “snarks and grumkins,” which the speaker implies are similarly non-existent.

Selyse has just moved in to Castle Black as she awaits the residence of Nightfort, but she is chasing after her red priestess in the duration to be with her. The snark went to live with the grumkin. The Night’s Queen chased after her undead queen- history repeating, just revered within the mirror that is the wall. Dragons gender being as changeable as flame applies to many aspects of the series.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII

It was the answer that Jon Snow had expected. This queen never fails to disappoint. Somehow that did not soften the blow. “Your Grace,” he persisted stubbornly, “they are starving at Hardhome by the thousands. Many are women—”

“—and children, yes. Very sad.” The queen pulled her daughter closer to her and kissed her cheek. The cheek unmarred by greyscale, Jon did not fail to note. “We are sorry for the little ones, of course, but we must be sensible. We have no food for them, and they are too young to help the king my husband in his wars. Better that they be reborn into the light.”

That was just a softer way of saying let them die.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon X

He glanced at Queen Selyse. There must have been a blizzard the day she and Stannis wed.

  • A Clash of Kings – Prologue

    Lord Stannis scowled. “I do not beg. Of anyone. Mind you remember that, woman.”

    “I am pleased to hear it, my lord.” Lady Selyse was as tall as her husband, thin of body and thin of face, with prominent ears, a sharp nose, and the faintest hint of a mustache on her upper lip. She plucked it daily and cursed it regularly, yet it never failed to return. Her eyes were pale, her mouth stern, her voice a whip. She cracked it now. “Lady Arryn owes you her allegiance, as do the Starks, your brother Renly, and all the rest. You are their one true king. It would not be fitting to plead and bargain with them for what is rightfully yours by the grace of god.”

    God, she said, not gods. The red woman had won her, heart and soul, turning her from the gods of the Seven Kingdoms, both old and new, to worship the one they called the Lord of Light.

  • A Storm of Swords – Bran IV

    Yes, thought Bran, but it’s blocked by stone and ice.

    As the sun began to set the shadows of the towers lengthened and the wind blew harder, sending gusts of dry dead leaves rattling through the yards. The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.

    He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon XIII

    The chamber was crowded. Princess Shireen stood beside her mother’s seat, with Patchface cross-legged at her feet. Behind the queen loomed Ser Axell Florent. Melisandre of Asshai stood closer to the fire, the ruby at her throat pulsing with every breath she took. The red woman too had her attendants—the squire Devan Seaworth and two of the guardsmen the king had left her.

    Queen Selyse’s protectors stood along the walls, shining knights all in a row: Ser Malegorn, Ser Benethon, Ser Narbert, Ser Patrek, Ser Dorden, Ser Brus. With so many bloodthirsty wildlings infesting Castle Black, Selyse kept her sworn shields about her night and day. Tormund Giantsbane had roared to hear it. “Afraid of being carried off, is she? I hope you never said how big me member is, Jon Snow, that’d frighten any woman. I always wanted me one with a mustache.” Then he laughed and laughed.

  • A Dance with Dragons – Jon IX

Queen Selyse sniffed. “We are done with Eastwatch. We did not like it there. A queen should be mistress beneath her own roof. We found your Cotter Pyke to be an uncouth and unpleasant man, quarrelsome and niggardly.”You should hear what Cotter says of you. “I am sorry for that, but I fear Your Grace will find conditions at the Nightfort even less to your liking. We speak of a fortress, not a palace. A grim place, and cold. Whereas Eastwatch—””Eastwatch is not safe.” The queen put a hand on her daughter’s shoulder. “This is the king’s true heir. Shireen will one day sit the Iron Throne and rule the Seven Kingdoms. She must be kept from harm, and Eastwatch is where the attack will come. This Nightfort is the place my husband has chosen for our seat, and there we shall abide. We—oh!”

  • A Feast for Crows – Samwell IV

    …What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! The error crept in from the translation. Dragons are neither male nor female, Barth saw the truth of that, but now one and now the other, as changeable as flame. The language misled us all for a thousand years…

Bearded Bird of Prey

George R.R. Martin has a preferred writing and world-building style that he has crafted and perfected over his writing career (and the focus of this blog). Here again we see him cultivating his literary garden and planting his own GRRModified seeds. Bad joke. Sorry!

  1. fanatical and uncompromising pursuit of religious, political, or other ideals; fanaticism.
    “he expressed concern about religious zealotry playing an increasing role in politics”
    synonyms: fanaticism, zeal, zealousness, extremism, radicalism, militancy, dogmatism, bigotry, single-mindedness;

The idea that Selyse is a zealot full of fervor for Melisandre (and R’hllor, but that is probably secondary) and will do just about anything for Melisandre’s approval is also portrayed in another GRRM book, Black and White and Red All Over (started 1985). The character Sarah desperately wants to be the favorite mistress to the Commodore-tycoon James Gordon Bennett. One of the other mistresses, Suzanne, has an owl tattooed on the inside of her thigh and Sarah assumes this is why Bennett (supposedly) spends more time with the other girl. Willing to do anything it takes to be the Commodore‘s favorite, Sarah wants to tattoo her body to look like an owl. Zealotry. Owls are birds of prey, just as dragons are the birds of prey in fantasy, and GRRM has written the fiery hand several different ways that are all the same.

  • Black and White and Red All Over

…but if I’m going to help you decide about your owls, I really ought to have a good look at your breasts now.”

Sarah blushed and said, “You’ve seen them often enough, Mister Cullen.” but she did as he asked nonetheless.

[and then]

“Owls,” he repeated bemusedly. Although, come to think on it, her breasts were so round, he could see how a good tattoo artist could do up her whole torso as an owl. The breasts could be the bird’s eyes, big round owl eyes with wide rose-colored pupils, and he could tattoo feathers all over her skin, and put the beak down there, bright yellow with the soft pink showing inside when she moved her legs, a nice touch, although hair on a beak, he wasn’t sure about that, she’d have to shave. Ned drank some more champagne and decided not to mention the idea.

“Well?” Sarah asked. She cupped her breasts in her hands and looked down, studying them. “Should I do it?”

“Owls are very attractive,” Ned said carefully. “Your breasts are also attractive, however, and I understand tattoos are difficult to remove. I think I would leave your breasts just as they are.

She looked disappointed. “I thought Mister Bennett would like the idea. Two little owls on my titties, and he would spend more time with me. Suzanne has an owl tattoo on her inner thigh, you know.”

Always listen to your dog!


But maybe Ghost will make it all better? Ghost is “the bite”.

  • A Game of Thrones – Tyrion IIWhy did he attack me?” Tyrion asked with a sidelong glance at the direwolf. He wiped blood and dirt from his mouth with the back of his hand.”Maybe he thought you were a grumkin.”Tyrion glanced at him sharply. Then he laughed, a raw snort of amusement that came bursting out through his nose entirely without his permission. “Oh, gods,” he said, choking on his laughter and shaking his head, “I suppose I do rather look like a grumkin. What does he do to snarks?”

You don’t want to know.” Jon picked up the wineskin and handed it to Tyrion.

When Jon is mutiny stabbed, something fiery more than Bowen Marsh was involved, and Jon thinks to himself, “Stick them with the pointy end,” it is actually an internal thought command to Ghost. Jon calls Ghost his sword, and the “pointy end” is the “bite”. People in this world lose extremities because of the bite. This, of course, isn’t happening at the exact same time as Jon is being stabbed as someone needs to release Ghost from being penned up in the armory.

Release the milkglass hound!

  • A Game of Thrones – Bran VII

    “Old Nan says the children knew the songs of the trees, that they could fly like birds and swim like fish and talk to the animals,” Bran said. “She says that they made music so beautiful that it made you cry like a little baby just to hear it.”

    “And all this they did with magic,” Maester Luwin said, distracted. “I wish they were here now. A spell would heal my arm less painfully, and they could talk to Shaggy dog and tell him not to bite.” He gave the big black wolf an angry glance out of the corner of his eye. “Take a lesson, Bran. The man who trusts in spells is dueling with a glass sword. As the children did. Here, let me show you something.” He stood abruptly, crossed the room, and returned with a green jar in his good hand. “Have a look at these,” he said as he pulled the stopper and shook out a handful of shiny black arrowheads.

    Bran picked one up. “It’s made of glass.” Curious, Rickon drifted closer to peer over the table.

  • A Game of Thrones – Eddard X

    Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three.

    “And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.

    “No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. “Eddard!” she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon II

    He spent most of his days in Ygritte’s company, and most nights as well. Mance Rayder had not been blind to Rattleshirt’s mistrust of the “crow-come-over,” so after he had given Jon his new sheepskin cloak he had suggested that he might want to ride with Tormund Giantsbane instead. Jon had happily agreed, and the very next day Ygritte and Longspear Ryk left Rattleshirt’s band for Tormund’s as well. “Free folk ride with who they want,” the girl told him, “and we had a bellyful of Bag o’ Bones.”

    Every night when they made camp, Ygritte threw her sleeping skins down beside his own, no matter if he was near the fire or well away from it. Once he woke to find her nestled against him, her arm across his chest. He lay listening to her breathe for a long time, trying to ignore the tension in his groin. Rangers often shared skins for warmth, but warmth was not all Ygritte wanted, he suspected. After that he had taken to using Ghost to keep her away. Old Nan used to tell stories about knights and their ladies who would sleep in a single bed with a blade between them for honor’s sake, but he thought this must be the first time where a direwolf took the place of the sword.

  • A Storm of Swords – Jon XII

    He wanted it, Jon knew then. He wanted it as much as he had ever wanted anything. I have always wanted it, he thought, guiltily. May the gods forgive me. It was a hunger inside him, sharp as a dragonglass blade. A hunger . . . he could feel it. It was food he needed, prey, a red deer that stank of fear or a great elk proud and defiant. He needed to kill and fill his belly with fresh meat and hot dark blood. His mouth began to water with the thought.

    It was a long moment before he understood what was happening. When he did, he bolted to his feet. “Ghost?” He turned toward the wood, and there he came, padding silently out of the green dusk, the breath coming warm and white from his open jaws. “Ghost!” he shouted, and the direwolf broke into a run. He was leaner than he had been, but bigger as well, and the only sound he made was the soft crunch of dead leaves beneath his paws. When he reached Jon he leapt, and they wrestled amidst brown grass and long shadows as the stars came out above them. “Gods, wolf, where have you been?” Jon said when Ghost stopped worrying at his forearm. “I thought you’d died on me, like Robb and Ygritte and all the rest. I’ve had no sense of you, not since I climbed the Wall, not even in dreams.” The direwolf had no answer, but he licked Jon’s face with a tongue like a wet rasp, and his eyes caught the last light and shone like two great red suns.

  • A Clash of Kings – Jon IV

    Once he’d put up the Lord Commander’s tent and seen to their horses, Jon Snow descended the hill in search of Ghost. The direwolf came at once, all in silence. One moment Jon was striding beneath the trees, whistling and shouting, alone in the green, pinecones and fallen leaves under his feet; the next, the great white direwolf was walking beside him, pale as morning mist.

Thanks for reading along with the ramblings of the Fattest Leech of Ice and Fire.

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