Several theorists have published analyses dedicated to the symbolism of blue winter roses over the years. While I subscribe to many of them (great stuff), most deal with their significance in respect of Lyanna’s presumed relationship with Rhaegar and by extension, her child Jon. I do not recall reading a theory dealing with their significance in terms of inheritance, or what that might mean. My study thus aims to fill this gap.
Chapters: The Blue Winter Rose as a Species | Male and Female Units of Inheritance | Tracking Down Wolf Blood | Lyanna’s Genetic Inheritance | Frozen Fire – Jon Snow’s Inheritance
- The Blue Winter Rose as a Species
- Male and Female Units of Inheritance
- Tracking Down Wolf Blood
- Lyanna’s Genetic Inheritance
- Frozen Fire – Jon Snow’s Inheritance
BLUE WINTER ROSES AS A SPECIES
Natural environments do not yield blue roses; in the real world, the colour is only achieved by artificial methods of cultivation. As such, as a sub-species, the blue winter rose is rather unique. Simple approaches to changing a flower’s natural hue range from merely sticking a white rose in coloured ink to injecting a dye into its roots. More complicated methods include photoperiodism, which involves artificially regulating light and dark hours to induce colour changes in the leaves and petals of various plants. Many readers doubt the significance of the blue winter rose’s status as a specially cultivated plant, preferring to see it as just another winter-hardy flower that probably grows in the wild. The text however indicates that this is absolutely not so. The only time we ever see a blue winter rose growing in the wild is in Dany’s HotU vision, where she sees a blue rose growing in a chink of the Wall. Now, that was a vision, not reality, and determining what that vision meant was relatively straightforward. The truth is, blue winter roses grow only in the glass gardens of Winterfell. They are never ever mentioned anywhere else, not even in the grounds of Highgarden where roses of all kinds abound.
The ancient tale of Bael the Bard suggests the Starks have been cultivating this species for quite a while. The story also highlights how exceptional this flower is. According to Ygritte, who tells the tale, no flower is so rare or precious.
“Now as it happened the winter roses had only then come into bloom, and no flower is so rare nor precious. So the Stark sent to his glass gardens and commanded that the most beautiful o’ the winter roses be plucked for the singer’s payment.
In the narrative, both the Stark daughter in question here and Lyanna are represented by the blue winter rose. We therefore cannot overlook the implication of ‘rare and precious’. These are no ordinary flowers and in terms of genetic heritage, those women were no ordinary women. As with all efforts to alter the biological features of a plant, breeding and cultivation takes time and we are probably not wrong in assuming that like the ‘most beautiful of the winter roses’, the Stark daughter in question represented the most perfectly cultivated ‘specimen’ at the time. Over the centuries, the Starks continued to grow these roses and Lyanna probably represents the final perfect (genetic) version of this flower.
THE GLASS GARDENS
Blue winter roses are cultivated in Winterfell’s glass gardens. For a winter rose, this is remarkable in itself. There are genuine winter plants out there, evergreen trees that remain viable in the wild during harsh cold conditions, or flowering plants such as the crocus that pushes through the snow and heralds the transition from winter to spring. In contrast, our blue winter rose grows in the warmth of the glass gardens, well sheltered from the cold, snow and ice.
Water from the hot springs is piped through the walls to warm them, and inside the glass gardens it was always like the hottest day of summer.” ASOS, Sansa
The hottest day of summer – that’s quite hot for a winter rose! Could it be that the rose actually stands for some ‘fiery’ biological characteristic? Perhaps it stands for the wolf-blood that brings out the ‘wildness’ in persons of this blood? Well, as we shall see, the winter roses do not represent the wolf-blood, but they are indeed related to fire.
After the destruction of Winterfell, the glass gardens are shattered, the plants within left to die:
The green and yellow panes of the glass gardens were all in shards, the trees and fruits and flowers torn up or left exposed to die.
Like Lyanna, who suffers a difficult childbirth and lies in a bed of blood, the flowers are torn up and like her, they die. Interesting is the phrasing – left exposed to die – it should make us wonder even more about the circumstances of her death. Could she literally have been left to die? Was she deprived of a midwife, of medical assistance? The thorough destruction of the glass gardens also suggests the end of the cultivated roses. Perhaps Lyanna was the first and last perfect blue winter rose.
All these observations give both Lyanna and the winter rose an air of exclusivity and considering Rhaegar presumably deemed her bloodline important enough to risk abducting her to father one of his ‘heads of the dragon’ on, it’s seems appropriate to investigate just what a painstakingly cultivated winter rose represents in terms of inheritance.
MALE AND FEMALE UNITS OF INHERITANCE
Stark genealogy is the best place to begin the search for answers. The author does not divulge much in terms of Stark wives, however. They are mysteriously absent and not often talked about by family members themselves, but they represent the most important part of the investigation because I believe that rare traits such as the wolf-blood and the blood of the dragon are handed down via maternal inheritance. There are numerous hints that this is so – from Craster’s example of marrying and fathering children on his daughters to Varamyr, who regrets that none of his children ever showed signs of having inherited the gift of warging.
So, let’s look at the women in the Stark family tree first. Since we know next to nothing about them, some detective work is required. The first reasonable course of action is an interpretation of their names. I provide a chart below to help you visualize familial connections and the transfer of traits through various descendants. I begin with the branches that offer the best clues. Piecing together the elements is like putting together a complex puzzle so pay attention, try to follow and bear with me 🙂
STARK WOMEN – THE LADIES OF WINTERFELL
Arya Flint, Melantha Blackwood and Marna Locke
- Arya Flint: of House Flint of the northern mountain clans (First Men Blood)
Flint – a piece of stone used for striking a fire
- Locke – a lock of hair: hair is suitable as tinder or kindling to start a fire *
- Blackwood – Burnt wood / Weirwood
Overall, the Starks tended to choose women with First Men ancestry. In the past, these included the Royces, Glovers, Blackwoods and the Lockes, most of whom were kings after the Long Night. This is significant in itself because FM-bloodlines are likely to harbour rare genetic units of inheritance that go way back in time, perhaps from before the migrations of FM from Essos to Westeros.
* The choice of a lock of hair as kindling is appropriate in the context of flint and burnt wood. A spark will not ignite a solid log of wood. Suitable kindling consisting of inflammable fine organic material such as dry leaves, grass, straw, paper and even hair quickly catches a spark to start a fire. Additionally, the Locke sigil depicts a pair of bronze keys, suggesting the Lock(e) bloodline might be the key to unlocking some power or old secret. The above collection of hints thus suggests the following scenario:
The flint strikes a spark, hair serves as kindling, we end up with charred wood.
The concentration of fire imagery suggests Stark men lack fire but they need it, so they choose wives with genetic traits associated with creating a fire.
Indeed, King Robert suggests both warmth and women to Ned in the crypts of Winterfell:
“The winters are hard,” Ned admitted. “But the Starks will endure. We always have.”
“You need to come south,” Robert told him. “You need a taste of summer before it flees […]
And the girls, Ned!” he exclaimed, his eyes sparkling. “I swear, women lose all modesty in the heat. AGOT, Eddard I
Also interesting is this regard is the Karstark cadet branch; the Karstarks have a white sunburst as their sigil. Their words are “The Sun of Winter.” ‘Sun of Winter’ also suggests a weaker form of sunlight, as opposed to the strong warming sunlight of summer. Overall, we could say the sun (and thus the fire) left the current Stark line, leaving them devoid of fire. Indeed, as Theon Greyjoy observes the Karstarks he notes that one has ‘flinty eyes’ likens his face to winter frost, which gives us a combination of ice and fire.
At the high table the Bastard of Bolton sat in his lord father’s seat, drinking from his father’s cup. Two old men shared the high table with him, and Reek knew at a glance that both were lords. One was gaunt, with flinty eyes, a long white beard, and a face as hard as a winter frost. ADWD, Reek I
These are our female traits:
- Burnt wood
All belong to a collection of female traits we shall track through the Stark family tree. I shall treat them as genetic units of inheritance linked to the female X-chromosome (maternal / X-linked inheritance).
Starks are associated with the north, with snow and ice. They were once Kings of Winter. We will make an assumption here:
If Stark men lack fire, then Stark men probably have what we will call ‘ice genes’; it makes sense for them to balance ice with fire genes.
Rodrik Stark is important in this context because he is the ‘Wandering Wolf’ – wandering relates to the theme of pearls I am currently studying, to which the Starks belong. Pearls stem from oysters – creatures of water. Wandering could also be a reference to a comet and comets have an ice core. Further, the white walkers, an race of ice humanoids suspected to be mysteriously connected to the Starks in some way, are male, there appear to be no females. More convincingly, we get several references to the “ice-eyes” of the Starks:
Brandon Stark this was, Edrick Snowbeard’s great-grandson, him that men called Ice Eyes.
He was walking through the crypts beneath Winterfell, as he had walked a thousand times before. The Kings of Winter watched him pass with eyes of ice, and the direwolves at their feet turned their great stone heads and snarled.
The probability that ‘ice’ is a trait specific to Stark males is therefore high.
Male traits: Ice is the genetic unit specific to males. I consign it to the male Y-chromosome.
TRACKING DOWN WOLF-BLOOD
Three of the Starks we read of have the so-called wolf-blood. How they acquired this special trait is not disclosed but the daughters of the Warg King, taken as prizes by the Kings of Winter after they defeated the king, his sons, greenseers and beasts, could be a source of the trait. According to the World Book, the Warg King was a skinchanger and we know the wolf-blood tends to show up in the genealogy of the Starks every now and then. The stone direwolves seated at the tombs of the Kings of Winter also suggest that warging has been part of the Stark heritage for thousands of years. Perhaps significant in this context are the extinct Houses Greenwood, Towers, Amber and Frost, which are said to have met ends similar to the Warg King. The Warg King may have headed any one of these houses. Seeing as he entertained greenseers and Children of the Forest, House Greenwood is probably a good bet. Marrying the daughters of the Warg King may have introduced or replenished traits related to warging or the wolf-blood in the Stark bloodline.
Further, in an SSM recorded in 2006, George Martin referred to some Ladies of Winterfell as “the Wolf Women”. These hints offer additional support for my hypothesis of traits handed down through the female line.
Getting back to the family tree, Rodrik Stark marries Arya Flint of First Men blood. Their line eventually gives rise to Brandon and Lyanna, both of whom have wolf-blood so it is worth looking at this branch in more depth.
In this context, Old Nan says it was Arya Flint’s blood that made Bran climb so foolishly, implying the rash behaviour associated with wolf-blood. Also, as another hint, little Arya Stark, a known wolf-blood, shares the same first name with her Flint great-grandmother.
The probability that Arya Flint contributed to Brandon’s and Lyanna’s wolf-blood is thus high.
Note that Meera’s Knight of the Laughing Tree story refers to the Starks her father meets at the Tourney of Harrenhal in terms of wolves. Hot wolf-blooded Brandon is the ‘wild wolf’, calm Ned is the ‘quiet wolf’, Benjen is the ‘pup’ and Lyanna is the ‘she-wolf’. This is quite helpful in terms of categorizing units of inheritance. Ned the quiet wolf and his brother Benjen are not said to have wolf blood. We must therefore find out why some siblings have wolf-blood (wild wolves) and others do not (quiet wolves).
Genetic theory helps to sort this out. Note: this is nothing too complicated. We shall look at this in terms of Mendelian Genetics, concentrating on the sex chromosomes (X and Y). Previously, I mention maternal inheritance – by this I mean X-linked inheritance, i.e. the traits identified above (flintstone, kindling, burnt wood) are carried on the female X chromosome.
(Refer to chart for guidance)
LYARRA STARK’S GENETIC INHERITANCE
Arya Flint’s daughter Lyarra marries Rickard Stark. Of their children, only two have wolf-blood. How does this come about?
A male child always receives the Y chromosome from his father and one of two X chromosomes from his mother (50% chance of receiving the wolf-blood/flintstone gene from a mother).
A female child receives one X chromosome from the father and another from the mother (100% chance of receiving a female-X-gene from a father and 50% chance of receiving a wolf-blood gene from the mother.)
All male siblings inherit the Y-ice unit of inheritance from their fathers. This is the only constant throughout the Stark inheritance jungle.
Since males with wolf-blood have only one X-female gene, we can also infer that the wolf-blood gene is dominant. It will be expressed in the progeny regardless of the accompanying X or Y gene.
Since Brandon and Lyanna are wolf-blooded while Ned and Benjen are not, Lyarra must have inherited one wolf-blood gene from Arya Flint and one ‘quiet’ gene from her father Rodrik Stark. Lyarra’s inheritance therefore includes traits for wild wolves and quiet wolves.
To summarize: as Brandon has wolf-blood, we can safely say he receives the determining X-wolf chromosome from his mother Lyarra, who had it from Arya Flint.
Ned and Benjen inherit their father’s Y-ice gene and receive the ’quiet’ gene from Lyarra instead.
Keep in mind that the wolfblood-gene we’re talking about here is synonymous with the flintstone required to create a spark.
DIREWOLF LADY AND THE QUIET GENE
Ned’s and Benjen’s quiet gene – There’s something special about this particular trait. It contrasts with the wilder wolf-blood. It is very much associated with ‘quietness’ and in my opinion with Lady, whom Ned notices is the most gentle of the direwolves. The association becomes clear when we take the efforts to instil well-mannered, lady-like behaviour in girls into consideration. Sansa and Arya best demonstrate this wild-wolf/quiet wolf dichotomy.
Ned (the quiet wolf) sat beside her for a while. “Lady,” he said, tasting the name. He had never paid much attention to the names the children had picked, but looking at her now, he knew that Sansa had chosen well. She was the smallest of the litter, the prettiest, the most gentle and trusting.
Note that in contrast to the other direwolves, Lady is gentle and trusting (indeed we do not witness her violently attacking anyone). Like Ned, she is a quiet wolf. Quiet also evokes the secret nature of warging, of a warg’s silent and unnoticable presence in his familiar animal. Meera’s definition of the Stark wolves also suggests a link between Benjen and Sansa’s direwolf Lady. Benjen, the smallest and youngest of the siblings is the pup of the litter while Lady is the smallest of the direwolf litter. By association, Benjen is also a quiet wolf. If you’ve managed to follow the genetics so far, you’ll realize we have not accounted for the gift of warging. The probability that the quiet trait confers the gift of warging into wolves is high. Note that not all wargs are able to skinchange other animals and that the more versatile ‘greenseeing’ trait appears to include warging wolves and skinchanging other creatures.
On a side note: when Benjen teases Lyanna over sniffling after Rhaegar’s song, she pours wine over his head. Just as I believe Lady’s death woke Bran, I fear this act foreshadows Benjen’s death and that both deaths are in reality a sacrifice.
LYANNA’S GENETIC INHERITANCE
As a she-wolf, Lyanna also inherits one X-wolf/flint-gene, which determines her wolf-blood, but is there any evidence in the narrative linking flint to Lyanna?
Consider this passage regarding Arya’s attempt to escape the Brotherhood without Banners:
Then up a gentle slope and down the other side, slowing and speeding up again, her horse’s shoes striking sparks off the flintstones underfoot “You ride like a northman, milady,” Harwin said when he’d drawn them to a halt. “Your aunt was the same. Lady Lyanna. ASOS, Arya III
Arya often mirrors Lyanna in the narrative. Here we have the steel of Arya’s horse’s shoes striking flint, all cleverly packaged to include a reference to Lyanna as well. As we know, both are she-wolves with wolf-blood.
Lyarra thus passes on one wolf-blood chromosome to Lyanna. Now that we have identified the source of Lyanna’s wolf-blood, it’s time to find out what trait her second X-chromosome carries.
KINDLING AND BLUE WINTER ROSES
Since Lyanna is associated with blue winter roses, it’s reasonable to assign blue winter roses to her second X-gene. Because they are winter roses, they code for an ice gene as well, but this appears to be a unique kind of ice gene, different from the Y-male ice gene. The winter roses grow in a hot environment, suggesting that the trait is transformed in some way; they are related to heat.
As we’ve already dealt with the wolf-blood unit coming from Lyarra, the unique winter rose X-gene must come from Rickard’s branch of the family tree.
George Martin makes things easy for us here because Willam and Edwyle Stark only had one son each, from whom the current Stark line descend.
Edwyle gets his Y-ice gene from his father Willam and a wood gene from Melantha Blackwood.
Edwyle marries Marna Locke, however – and she has the kindling genes. Rickard thus has one Y-Ice gene and one X-kindling gene to pass on to his children. Note – all girls would receive this kindling gene but Lyanna is Rickard’s only daughter.
Moreover, the kindling trait is equivalent to the winter rose trait.
Lyanna thus inherits one X-wolf/flint gene from Lyarra and one X-kindling gene from Rickard.
How does kindling relate to blue winter roses?
Well, think of it this way: remember this trait comes from Marna Locke (lock = hair). Flowers are often placed in a woman’s hair and Lyanna wears a crown of BWR in the crypts. Jenny of Oldstones also has ‘flowers in her hair’. Indeed, hair is often associated with crowns in the narrative. Cersei is proud of her golden crown of hair and the maegi who foretells her future states ‘gold will be their crowns’ in reference to her children’s hair. Hair and crowns are thus linked to one another. Hair also happens to be good kindling!
When flowers dry, their petals also become great ‘kindling’. Like any other finer organic material, flower petals will respond to a few sparks by igniting. This is one purpose of ‘blue winter roses’ and we shall see why this is important in a minute.
LIGHTING AN INTERNAL FIRE
FLINT AND STEEL
Lyanna has both the flintstone (wolf-gene) for striking a spark and the kindling to get the fire going. Consider Melantha Blackwood now. At the moment, she is only clue – she of the charred wood represents the possible end-result of a metaphorical fire – she is vital to the Targaryen side of things.
What’s missing in between is the fire that develops from the kindling to burn the wood. To the fire going, we need steel* (a knife for example), on which the flint is struck to create the spark. Then we want a gust of wind (air, bellows etc.) to get the kindling burning sufficiently enough to ignite the wood.
* Note: in the narrative, flint is always struck on steel to produce the spark.
The steel and the wind are important to the Targaryen side – Rhaegar, as most believe.
The Targs need women with flint and kindling, while they supply the counterpart steel and ventilation to fire up the reaction. Varamyr’s frustrating experience with starting a fire sums this up nicely: in a parallel to the analogy above, he fails to get his fire going by himself and realizes he needs a woman’s help (Thistle) to get it going again:
Already the little hut was growing colder. Varamyr had no flint, no tinder, no dry kindling. He would never get the fire burning again, not by himself. “Thistle,” he called out, his voice hoarse and edged with pain. “Thistle!” ADWD, Prologue
Further, Varamyr cuts a lock of hair from the women brought to him by his shadowcat. Seen in the above context, this suggests Varamyr is looking for kindling from these women as well. Considering that he deplores not having fathered any children with the gift of warging, it is possible that ‘kindling’ might also be a trait that confers skinchanging on the recipient.
STEEL AND WIND
What evidence do we have for steel and wind from the Targaryen side of things, I hear you ask?
Remember Rhaegar spent his childhood with his nose firmly embedded in books and scrolls, reading for all he was worth? He also composed songs and sung them accompanied by the harp with silver strings. Well, that’s the WIND. Rhaegar was preoccupied with words and “WORDS ARE WIND”. This saying occurs so often in the books that I’ll refrain from quoting – Words are Wind.
“As a young boy, the Prince of Dragonstone was bookish to a fault. He was reading so early that men said Queen Rhaella must have swallowed some books and a candle whilst he was in her womb. Rhaegar took no interest in the play of other children. The maesters were awed by his wits, but his father’s knights would jest sourly that Baelor the Blessed had been born again.
At some point, he decided he had to be a warrior. He put his books aside and asked for sword and armour and there we have the STEEL.
Until one day Prince Rhaegar found something in his scrolls that changed him. No one knows what it might have been, only that the boy suddenly appeared early one morning in the yard as the knights were donning their steel. He walked up to Ser Willem Darry, the master-at-arms, and said, ‘I will require sword and armor. It seems I must be a warrior.’ ” ASOS, Daenerys I
So Rhaegar is our clue here. There are also hints linking Rhaegar to hair (kindling) and wind. One such is concealed in the thoughts of Jon Connington as he remembers Rhaegar’s last words to him. In the next quote, Jon Connington stands on the roof of the highest tower at Griffin’s Roost, reminiscing on the past:
“Your father’s lands are beautiful,” he said [Jon Con, recalling Rhaegar]. His silvery hair was blowing in the wind, and his eyes were a deep purple, darker than this boy’s. ADWD, The Griffin Reborn
Note the reference to the tower and the clever incorporation of Rhaegar’s hair blowing in the wind, evoking the kindling, which is fanned to encourage the flame.
INHERITANCE OF STEEL AND WIND
If you look at Targaryen genealogy in the World Book, you’ll notice a Dayne. Dyanna Dayne married King Maekar Targaryen. By strong association with the Dayne family sword Dawn, she is identifiable as handing down the X-Steel-trait. Further, one of her sons is Aegon the Unlikely, whom George Martin has kindly labelled for us – he was otherwise known as Egg. You see, Steel really denotes the elusive ‘blood of the dragon’ trait or at least a component of it. I say only a component because Dawn is not a Valyrian Steel sword and a dragon Egg will only hatch if certain conditions are met. Note also that ‘Egg’ perishes in the Summerhall attempt to hatch dragons. Something was missing because neither he nor any others present are ‘unburnt’. To facilitate understanding, I shall label the trait ‘Steel’ nevertheless.
On the other side of the Targaryen family-tree we have Black Betha Blackwood. She’s responsible for the X-Wind-trait. Why her? George gives us two major tips – the Raventree weirwood and Davos’ ship, also named Black Betha. Both are associated with wind. The ship via the wind in the sails that drive it forward and the weirwood in its function as a repository of ethereal consciousness. Weirwoods harbour the spirits and consciousness (both wind/air/spirits of air) of the dead, all of which ‘go into the trees’, as both Varamyr and Leaf explain. Raventree also attracts hundreds of ravens every night. For some unknown reason, they love to roost there. Ravens are also associated with words – DARK WINGS, DARK WORDS and WORDS ARE WIND. The black birds also serve to qualify the type of wind with another adjective – dark. DARK WIND. We will come to the implications of that when we consider Targaryen inheritance in the next part of the series.
Putting all this together gives us the following picture of the internal fire lit within Lyanna at the point of Jon Snow’s conception:
Flint strikes steel to produce a spark. The spark ignites the kindling. Wind fans the flames to produce an internal fire.
Again, there’s supporting evidence for the notion of flint, steel and kindling in relation to the above. The following is one of my favourites; in a parallel to a Targaryen using Lyanna as ‘kindling’ here we have Tyrion thinking Daenerys might use him as kindling.
Daenerys is not the fool her brother was. She will make good use of you.”
As kindling? Tyrion thought, smiling pleasantly.
In Bran’s last chapter in aSoS, we find an even more elaborate allegory in the Crypts of Winterfell, in the vicinity of Lyanna’s statue:
Bran heard fingers fumbling at leather, followed by the sound of steel on flint. Then again. A spark flew, caught. Osha blew softly. A long pale flame awoke, stretching upwards like a girl on her toes. Osha’s face floated above it. She touched the flame with the head of a torch. Bran had to squint as the pitch began to burn, filling the world with orange glare. The light woke Rickon, who sat up yawning.
When the shadows moved, it looked for an instant as if the dead were rising as well. ASOS, Bran
Osha strikes a spark to light kindling which in turn lights the pitch torch. Osha’s floating face evokes a ghostly image of Lyanna’s face above the flames. Note also the link between the imagry of a flame stretching upwards like a girl on her toes and Bran’s vision, in which he sees a girl, slender as a spear (Osha is a spearwife), standing on her toes to kiss a tall knight. The orange glare which fills the world after the torch is lit reminds me of the blood-streaked sky that is part of Ned’s Tower of Joy dream. In allusion to Jon’s conception, we even have Rickon, baby of the family, waking up. Lastly, just as we expect Jon to rise, the dead appear to rise from the shadows as well.
Qhorin Halfhand’s portrayal of the flames that rise from Jon’s fire is really poetic. He applies very feminine imagery to the tender flames that ensue: they are fair, pretty and as shy as a maid on her wedding night. Pretty as the maid standing on her toes to kiss a tall knight? Look closely – you’ll see how all this symbolism is entwined.
The moon was rising behind one mountain and the sun sinking behind another as Jon struck sparks from flint and dagger, until finally a wisp of smoke appeared. Qhorin came and stood over him as the first flame rose up flickering from the shavings of bark and dead dry pine needles. “As shy as a maid on her wedding night,” the big ranger said in a soft voice, “and near as fair. Sometimes a man forgets how pretty a fire can be.”
TRANSFORMING BLUE WINTER ROSES – THE CONCEPTION OF JON SNOW
We can follow the transformation that occurs within Lyanna by examining passages in the narrative relevant to the process. Ned’s dream offers a starting point to the mystical inner fire that initiates the conception of Jon Snow:
A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.
A great rush of wind, a veritable storm, blows rose petals across a blood-streaked sky, evoking a red sunset. Blood is as essential to Targaryens as fire and in the text, we find many associations between blood, fire, sapphires and flowers.
1] First, from Brienne we learn that the Sapphire Isle is named for its blue waters:
“Is every word you say a lie, Kingslayer? Tarth is called the Sapphire Isle for the blue of its waters.”
This identifies sapphires as a gemstone of the water element. Sapphires are solid of course, as solid as frozen water – ice.
2] In the next two passages, sapphires are directly associated with flowers and placed in relation to roses:
The commons realized in the same instant as Ned that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires; a gasp went up from a thousand throats. Across the boy’s shoulders his cloak hung heavy. It was woven of forget-me-nots, real ones, hundreds of fresh blooms sewn to a heavy woolen cape.
“Wed to Ser Loras, oh… Sansa’s breath caught in her throat. She remembered Ser Loras in his sparkling sapphire armor, tossing her a rose.”
The blue sapphire flowers thus allude to blue ice flowers. Loras essentially wears a cloak of ‘kindling’. Notice the subtle reference to ‘wind’ here as well – the crowd gasps and Sansa’s breath catches. Ser Loras tossing Sansa a rose also evokes Rhaegar giving Lyanna a crown of winter roses and Loras’ cloak woven of forget-me-nots may be a hint to readers to remember that fateful event. Overall, the blue ‘icy sapphire’ flowers therefore link to blue winter roses.
As the only female statue in the dark crypts of Winterfell, Lyanna, with her garland of winter roses reigns as a Queen of the Crypts (or a Night’s Queen) next to the Kings of Winter, Kings of the cold dark crypts – Night’s Kings.
3] Additionally, Lyanna’s eyes weep blood.
“She wore a garland of pale blue roses, and her eyes wept blood“
Bloody tears signify martyrdom and are often regarded as a miracle, especially when a holy statue begins to weep. Seeing as blue winter roses are rare and precious, a combination of ‘flint’ and ‘kindling’ in a woman’s inheritance must be very rare – a miracle in fact.
Our Lady of Atika, a wooden statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one such officially recognized (by the Roman Catholic Church) weeping figure. She is reported to have developed stigmata and wept on 101 occasions, also appearing as an apparition to a nun in the convent. Recall Lady Joanna appears to Jamie during his vigil over his Lord Tywin’s body in the Sept of Baelor. In this context, notice the similar theme of weeping blood in this quote pertaining to Cersei:
The queen wore a high-collared black silk gown, with a hundred dark-red rubies sewn into her bodice, covering her from neck to bosom. They were cut in the shape of teardrops, as if the queen were weeping blood.
Rubies help power Melissandre’s spells and are often associated with drops of blood in the narrative. I cannot help wondering if this foreshadows a similar meeting between Jon and Lyanna in the crypts of Winterfell. Lyanna bloody tears thus suggest a miracle, either in the form of the coming together of rare traits in one person or her appearance as an apparition or both.
4] The theme of blood, flowers and sapphires continues. In the next quote, Jafer Flowers lies undead, already wighted, but unknown to the Night’s Watch. Blood decorates his wounds in the form of blossoms, his dead eyes as blue as sapphires, which brings us back to Ned’s dream in which the the rose petals are as blue as the eyes of death. You realise we’re getting very ‘Othery’ now, don’t you? Jaffer Flowers is dead here – and his eyes, blue as sapphires, stare up at the sky.
“Blossoms of hard cracked blood decorated the mortal wounds that covered him like a rash, breast and groin and throat. Yet his eyes were still open. They stared up at the sky, blue as sapphires.“
As far as we know, Lyanna Stark is the only woman in the crypts of Winterfell to have been honoured with a statue. She is there because like the Kings and Lords of Winter, she is an ice-trait carrier. I don’t mean to be disenchanting. She wished to be buried there; perhaps Ned really wanted her to have a statue but the bottom line is, she is as much possessed of the ice inheritance as her ancestors in the crypt. From this point of view, she belongs there.
Recall I designate the male Y-chromosome as an ice trait. So are blue winter roses. Just to drive it home – the links GRRM has created between water, sapphires and winter roses also identify the blue winter roses as a female ice trait.
Ned’s thoughts reinforce this association as well: the feminine winter roses are blue as frost.
He could see it still: a crown of winter roses, blue as frost.
5] In the previous quote, Jafer Flowers’ blood blossoms are cracked and hard but that is going to change soon.
Our red blood blossoms finally transform into dark red dragon’s breath in this passage:
The heart tree there was a great oak, its ancient limbs overgrown with smokeberry vines; they knelt before it to offer their thanksgiving, as if it had been a weirwood. Sansa drifted to sleep as the moon rose, Arya several hours later, curling up in the grass under Ned’s cloak. All through the dark hours he kept his vigil alone. When dawn broke over the city, the dark red blooms of dragon’s breath surrounded the girls where they lay. AGOT, Eddard V
Notice also the smokeberry vines covering the great oak tree. Presumably, smokeberries are dark fruits, perhaps similar to blackberries. They recall the raventree weirwood of the Blackwoods.
6] At the Eyrie, Sansa thinks of Ser Loras and the red rose he gave her:
Ser Loras had given Sansa Stark a red rose once, but he had never kissed her …
She then recalls Sandor Cleagane who took a song, and apparently a kiss as well; but while wildfire rages on the Blackwater, he leaves her a nothing but a bloody cloak (instead of a rose):
He took a song and a kiss, and left me nothing but a bloody cloak.
Cloaks require yards and yards of material and are similar in size to a blanket or a large sheet when spread out. Think of the bloody, fire-stained cloak in terms of Ned’s blood-streaked sky.
This brings us back full circle to Ned’s dream:
A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.
7] Our rose petals are finally engulfed in bloody fire. They are still blue, but soon they will be black.
Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. AGOT, I
Dead, black petals fall from Lyanna’s hands in Ned’s dream – these represent the spent ‘kindling’ – the kindling burnt by the ensuing fire. At the same time, the black petals symbolize Lyanna’s death after the effort of bringing forth her child. The ‘fever takes her strength’, she’s consumed by the inner flames that slowly ravage her.
Lyanna was a maiden of ice, but she was also a warm summer rose. Robert was not wrong when he complained about her burial in the dark crypts of Winterfell:
“She deserved more than darkness …”
“She was a Stark of Winterfell,” Ned said quietly. “This is her place.”
“She should be on a hill somewhere, under a fruit tree, with the sun and clouds above her and the rain to wash her clean.”
In fact, both Ned and Robert had the right of it.
BLUE WINTER ROSES?
Blue winter roses are a unique genetic female ice-trait, cultivated to perfection over centuries. They are the kindling necessary to ignite an inner fire and the key to uniting ice with fire to form another type of frozen fire.
THE NATURE OF LYANNA’S INNER FIRE
Before I conclude this section, I would like to point out a few things regarding the nature of Lyanna’s inner fire that is the conception of Jon Snow. Again, a number of clues must be taken into consideration.
My premise is, in terms of metaphor, NO roaring flames develop during this inner fire. Instead, Lyanna’s kindling feeds a slow fire, one that burns moderately and takes time to consume. There are several reasons why I think this must be so:
- Blue winter roses are kindling but they also represent ice. We cannot expect a conflagration ensuing from burning ice.
- Ned sees a storm of petals against a blood-streaked sky. While this hints at a fiery sunset or sunrise, the emphasis is on blood. Though we see red blooms of dragon’s breath in the godswood of King’s Landing, fire is secondary to blood in this case because blooms and blossoms evoke something tender and slight, nothing bold or conspicuous. This is a slow fire. Jafer Flowers’ hard frozen blood blossoms are warmed and softened, liquified if you like, into warm living blood that spreads like the blooms of dragon’s breath or the blood-streaked sky.
- The death of Rickard Stark at the hands of Aerys the Mad King represents a major clue to the nature of Lyanna’s fire. Aerys chose wildfire as his champion. He did not burn Rickard at the stake. Instead, he ordered his pyromancers to literally cook the Lord of Winterfell to death, slowly and painfully, banking the fires all the while. This is nothing like Mel’s human sacrifices, which involve engulfing the victim in a conflagration fed by heaps of burning wood. In this context, remember also that as Lyanna’s father, it is Lord Rickard who provides the kindling gene located on his X-chromosome. He, as well as Lyanna and Jon are subject to the slow burning fire ignited by this special kindling.
Now think of Jojen’s statement – if ice can burn, then love and hate can mate.
Blue winter roses are the key to making ice burn and they are another form of frozen fire.
But if love and hate can mate, all is not well, I would say. And it isn’t. But that is another story, to be discussed in a follow-up essay on Targaryen inheritance.
FROZEN FIRE – JON SNOW’S INHERITANCE
Now that we’ve gone through Stark inheritance, it would be interesting to find out exactly which traits Jon inherits from his parents. Since Jon is male and his mother a Stark, he would have inherited one of her two X-genes. This means he inherits either the wolfblood/flint gene or the kindling fire gene from Lyanna. I tend toward the kindling gene because it is represented by blue winter roses, which both Lyanna and Jon are strongly associated with.
I can tell you now that Jon inherits Kingsblood from the male Targaryen bloodline but this isn’t synonymous with the ‘blood of the dragon’. Under the laws of Mendelian genetics, this is not possible: for him to have the blood of the dragon, his MOTHER would either have to be (a) a Targaryen carryin the trait or (b) a Dayne or (c) Lyanna would have had to have the blood of the dragon. There is another genetic condition that would allow Jon to inherit a component of the blood of the dragon however – chimerism, but that will be the subject of another essay.
We’ve talked about blue winter roses in terms of frozen fire above. Jon shares Lyanna’s blue winter rose inheritance, he gets this frozen kindling; when he rises, he will be frozen fire in its consummate human form, untouchable by Other or wight. That’s his destiny, that’s his mission. Daenerys is the Mother of Dragons but Jon Snow is Lord Snow and he ensures he keeps this title by refusing Stannis’ offer to become Lord of Winterfell. Perhaps we can call him the Father of Hosts.
In case you are not convinced, consider these quotes which highlight the rarity of Lord Snow’s traits and notice how the author relates them to the threat of Others and their undead thralls.
In the real world, getting frozen kindling to burn is nigh on impossible. Jon himself experiences this while he searches for tinder on a cold freezing day:
Every nightfall we’d ring our camps with fire. They don’t like fire much, and no mistake. When the snows came, though … snow and sleet and freezing rain, it’s bloody hard to find dry wood or get your kindling lit, and the cold … some nights our fires just seemed to shrivel up and die. Nights like that, you always find some dead come the morning. Jon went to gather fuel, digging down under deadfalls for the drier wood beneath and peeling back layers of sodden pine needles until he found likely kindling. Even then, it seemed to take forever for a spark to catch. He hung his cloak from the rock to keep the rain off his smoky little fire, making them a small snug alcove.
Jon has to dig deep to find likely kindling. Like the corresponding blue winter roses, it’s difficult to find, not quite dry, takes a while to catch and requires shelter from his cloak to keep going. The reference to a protective cloak is a pointer at Ghost, Jon’s white shadow. Note the importance of starting a fire, however small, despite the difficulty, for without it men are susceptible to the enemies from the cold.
When Jon houses nineteen girls and women from Mole’s Town in the abandoned Hardin’s Tower, trouble ensues. Some men of the Night’s Watch ‘mistake’ the tower for a brothel. Neither Iron Emmett nor Bowen Marsh are happy about the situation:
Iron Emmett grimaced. “Men are men, vows are words, and words are wind. You should put guards around the women.“ [..]
Bowen Marsh had not been all wrong. Hardin’s Tower was tinder waiting for a spark.
ADWD, Jon VII
In one short paragraph, the author relates words and wind to women in a tower and portrays these as tinder waiting for a spark. In terms of this analysis, this should immediately evoke Lyanna in the Tower of Joy who eventually gets her ‘spark’. It also highlights the connection between these metaphorical traits and women in particular. Notice also the reference to steel, disguised in the persona of the guards.
Hardin’s tower is a good place to keep looking. The analogy repeats itself on the fateful day of Jon Snow’s assassination, albeit in a different form. Recall that giants are often associated with stone or boulders. This especially applies to Wun Wun: his voice rumbles like a boulder or, when he moves it is as if a boulder has come to life.
In that scenario, Wun Wun represents the stone, the flint, while Ser Patrek of the Mountain is the knight with the steel. ‘Flint’ striking ‘steel’ produce the ‘sparks’ that ignite Bowen Marsh and co. who attack and treacherously murder Jon Snow.
Last but not least, consider also Tyrion’s thoughts as he ruminates on a slave’s lot:
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. ADWD, Tyrion
This splendid symbolic metaphor highlights the unique character of a man who is willing to put himself on the line for what he believes in, for the greater good. Jon has done this already by infiltrating the wildlings and by going against the Night Watch’s age old premise of regarding the wildlings as enemies.
Dragon’s teeth evoke a rare weapon, such as the dagger with the dragonbone hilt that strikes a spark in Catelyn (see next post) or an obsidian dagger of frozen fire that is effective against the Others. Like the thorns beneath Lyanna’s crown of blue winter roses, Lord Snow is just such a dagger – one of living frozen fire. Notice how Tyrion relates the lack of such rare men to the existence of slavery, as well as the significance of the entire statement in relation to the Others and their thralls. Will Jon break the chains of the Other’s undead thralls just as Dany breaks the chains of human chattel? I think so.
“Dragonglass.” The red woman’s laugh was music. “Frozen fire, in the tongue of old Valyria. Small wonder it is anathema to these cold children of the Other.”
Jon is dragonglass – perhaps we can think of him in terms of a new variety – frozen fire made flesh, the better to withstand the Others.
Blue Winter Roses – a unique kind of Frozen Fire. Jon Snow is frozen fire made flesh.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this essay. Thank you for reading and look out for the next in the series – Catelyn’s contribution to the Stark bloodline.
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Continue with this follow-up on Catelyn’s contribution to the current Stark line.