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Jon Snow at the Crossroads of Resurrection Mythology


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#1 Apple Martini

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:17 PM

Most of these ideas have been loosely thrown around here before. This is a curation of them, and a way to look at aspects of resurrection instances in various mythologies. I believe that, considering all of them, we can find portions of each one in Jon's story.

ETA: And yes this assumes that Jon is probably the ultimate hero or one of the ultimate heroes, so if you're on the Dany-is-it train, I doubt you'll find much here that you'll like.

In the Belly of the Whale

This is a very old trope, so named for the Biblical story of Jonah. According to Joseph Campbell, this development marks a turning point for the hero, who is sent into the "unknown." It can correspond to death and entering the Underworld. Typically, the hero will face something in the abyss and return with a boon — literal or figurative — necessary to complete his overall mission. It is also what causes the hero to accept the inevitability of his overall mission — the "event horizon," "crossing the Rubicon" portion of his quest. There is no going back.

Jon's speech in the Shield Hall, with its wooden beams resembling (whale) ribs, marks the beginning of his "belly of the whale" sequence, wherein it is assumed he will die (or else otherwise enter an abyss, possibly a coma) and return with his "boon," and continue on with his mission.

Greek Mythology

Much emphasis is put on seasonal shifts in ASOIAF. The seasons are out of joint, they aren't even, they can be overly harsh. There is a story in Greek myth wherein Hades, the god of the underworld, steals Persephone, the daughter of the harvest goddess Demeter. Demeter, anguished over losing her daughter, causes an unending winter. The other gods encourage Hades to give Persephone back, and he agrees. But not before she has eaten the seeds of a pomegranate in the underworld. Because of this, she must stay in the underworld for one month of every year for each seed she ate. The time that she spends in the underworld is winter (because of Demeter's sadness), and her return marks spring. In this way, the pomegranate is tied to unwilling entry into the underworld and the prevention of spring and catharsis.

Who is the pomegranate in our story? Bowen Marsh.

The Corn King

This is a figure in Celtic mythology who must be sacrificed in winter in order to usher in spring. When spring arrives, he is resurrected in turn. It's a pretty straightforward allusion, made more so in that Mormont's warged raven repeatedly caws "king" and "corn" to Jon in varying combinations and at various times. In this sense, Jon is the Corn King who must be sacrificed in order to bring spring, and who will eventually be resurrected.

Norse Mythology

This is the big one and probably the one most discussed in relation to the northern arc and the fight against the Others. Specifically, it ties into the possibility of Ragnorak, wherein many of the gods in the world now (including our one-eyed Odin stand-in, Bloodraven) die, and the world is born again after.

Where this ties into resurrection is what happens when warriors die. The Valkyries (perhaps represented in our own story by Val and the spearwives in general) select fallen warriors to enter the shield hall of Valhalla. They are associated with ravens and horses specifically. Once there, the fallen warriors drink mead and prepare to fight in Ragnorak. The implication is that these fallen warriors will rise again for Ragnorak. In ADWD, the red priests in Volantis describe people who die in Azor Ahai's service as rising from death. Is this a PR move (Melisandre, for instance, doesn't speak of such a thing), or is it something we'll see actually happen with fallen warriors when Ragnorak (the ultimate battle) begins?

Standing above the hall of Valhalla are a stag and a goat. The stag's horns release water that forms rivers, while the goat produces the mead on which the fallen soldiers feast. What these might symbolize, if anything, I'm not sure, apart from the obvious stag allusion to Stannis or another Baratheon.

There are also a couple of in-story anecdotes that suggest that Jon has some attributes of a berserker, both of them in Storm of Swords. When he is extremely enraged and/or emotionally distressed, he is able to lift Alliser Thorne up by the throat (when it's implied he's a turncloak and a traitor), and also able to overpower Iron Emmett to the point where he has to be pulled away (when he is remembering Robb saying that Catelyn told him Jon was a bastard who would never get Winterfell). This strength is not standard (see Mance kicking Jon's ass), but is accompanied by rage. Berserkers were known to go into battle wearing wolf pelts.

Christian mythology

Sorry, you knew it was coming.

Some of the aspects of Jon's stabbing and the events immediately preceding it tie into the betrayal and death of Christ, often in the same way they tie into Ragnorak. Three roosters signal the beginning of Ragnorak. Crowing roosters also play into the betrayal of Christ, namely where Peter's denials of him are concerned.

When Jon arrives in the Shield Hall, the men are there eating. This is, for all intents and purposes, our Last Supper. Wyk's stunned disbelief when he backs away from Jon echoes the statement, "Forgive them, they know not what they do." Christ spent three days in hell before his resurrection, and it is a cornerstone of the Christian faith that Christ died for the sins of mankind. God's intent for Christ to die could tie into an eventually epiphany that Melisandre or Bloodraven were behind Jon's own assassination.

Certain Christian denominations also believe in an eventual literal Armageddon, a Christian variation of Ragnorak. This is, basically, the final battle between Christ and his followers and the forces of Satan. While I doubt that the final showdown in ASOIAF is that clean cut (Jesus good, Satan bad), it does align nicely with Ragnorak. There is also a belief that the souls of dead Christians will rise again (like the fallen soldiers of Valhalla) and participate in the final battle against evil, so again, this ties into the scattered phrases about the resurrection of followers we've seen.

These are the major mythological allusions that I've seen in Jon's story. Some aspects of one are used, and some aspects of another, and some aspects are used simultaneously. The overarching point is that Jon's arc seems to borrow so heavily from these mythological tropes, particularly where death, sacrifice and resurrection are concerned, that I would be surprised if at least one of them didn't fully play out to the conclusion.

Edited by Apple Martini, 26 July 2012 - 01:31 PM.


#2 The Taupe Grace

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:28 PM

And, I suppose, the very obvious allusions to the assassination of Julius Caesar. No resurrection there, but it might indicate what will become of the Watch afterwards - the ostracisation and eventual punishment of Marsh and others, the dissolving of the Watch into factions and perhaps the formation or strengthening of the institution under a new (perhaps temporary) leadership of an Octavian Caesar. Until, one hopes, Jon returns.

the Ragnarok scenario is most reminiscent in the whole asoiaf arc, especially with the introduction of Bloodraven, the zombie end of days etc.. Love the reference of Val = Valkryies in your analysis. Read that and mouth went /ohmy.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':o' />

Great post. Need to chew over it more before a more formulated response.

#3 The Mother of The Others

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:32 PM

The Corn King ;Celtic ; sacrificed in winter in order to usher in spring.


what's sleazy and hot about this is it dovetails with the other little scraps of prophecy we've got.
We've got the knowing crow proclaiming him, and that vision about someone sleeping in ice inside the wall like a blue flower (which is already linked to JonJon i believe).
So that would mean the corn king sleeps for a bit and then awakens when it's time to blossom and usher in the change of seasons.
And I like Jon being the source of all corn for the kingdom somehow. That's the kind of thing that can get you named king. (Without his true heritage EVER coming out, even!)

Edited by The Mother of The Others, 26 July 2012 - 01:35 PM.


#4 Apple Martini

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:34 PM

what's sleazy and hot about this is it dovetails with the other little scraps of prophecy we've got.
We've got the knowing crow proclaiming him, and that vision about someone sleeping in ice inside the wall like a blue flower (which is already linked to JonJon i believe).
So that would mean the corn king sleeps for a bit and then awakens when it's time for the change of seasons to be ushered in.
And I like Jon being the source of all corn. That's the kind of thing that can get you named king. (Without his true heritage EVER coming out, even!)


Might the blue rose bear some similarity to a cornflower?

#5 theguyfromtheVale

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:35 PM

What a great post, Apple Martini!

With regards to Norse mythology, the beginning of Ragnarök is pretty significant, too: it starts when the sun god Baldr is killed by his brother Höthr. Apparently, Baldr will be reborn in the spring; but he's dead for the entirety of Ragnarök. Until recently, I thought Bran was the most probably candidate for Baldr, since his direwolf is called Summer, and he's accompanied by Hodor. But the parallel of Baldr being killed by is brother (even if accidentally) and Jon being killed by his brothers is also something to keep in mind.

#6 fwest

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:35 PM

Great post, very interesting. One thing to think about though is how often Martin subverts or plays straight tropes common in mythology or fantasy. In fact, I'd say that's what makes this such a genius piece of work and one that basically deconstructs the entire genres.

There are just countless examples where Martin sets up a trope that we have seen played out time and time again only to completely topple it with a hefty dose of realism. I think the only real solid evidence anyone would have of Jon surviving is that we have seen character in Martin's work​ "resurrected" before (i.e. readers were simply led to believe they were dead when they weren't).

All in all, it's hard to look at past tropes to predict where Martin will go. In fact, I would say these tropes might rather indicate where he won't go.

#7 Associate Maester

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:36 PM

Fun additional anecdote. In Zoroastrian eschatology bodily resurrection of individuals (then followed by all of humanity) signals the start of the last battle between Ahura Mazda (and his followers\heroes) against the forces of Angra Mainyu.

#8 Apple Martini

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:40 PM

Fun additional anecdote. In Zoroastrian eschatology bodily resurrection of individuals (then followed by all of humanity) signals the start of the last battle between Ahura Mazda (and his followers\heroes) against the forces of Angra Mainyu.


Cool! /biggrin.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':D' />

Yeah, my background is mainly in Greek mythology (I'm ashamed it took me that long to tie Bowen to his pomegranate nickname, eesh) and Christian mythology, with Norse mythology coming further down the list. So any additional insight about other mythologies is very welcome.

#9 theguyfromtheVale

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:46 PM

Cool! /biggrin.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':D' />

Yeah, my background is mainly in Greek mythology (I'm ashamed it took me that long to tie Bowen to his pomegranate nickname, eesh) and Christian mythology, with Norse mythology coming further down the list. So any additional insight about other mythologies is very welcome.


Yes, the pomegrenade connection is really quite stunning; and I had quite a "d'oh!" moment when I read your thoughts about it, simply because I couldn't believe I didn't get that one before.

Again a tidbit about Ragnarök: There's the leader of the fire giants, Surtr, who wields a flaming sword (Azor Ahai, anyone?). The ultimate destruction of the world arrives with these fire giants, who proceed to kill almost all the gods. I find it really interesting that while Ragnarok is associated with Winter, the actual destruction is brought forth by fire.

Edit: spelling

Edited by theguyfromtheVale, 26 July 2012 - 01:48 PM.


#10 Winter's Knight

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:49 PM

And, I suppose, the very obvious allusions to the assassination of Julius Caesar. No resurrection there, but it might indicate what will become of the Watch afterwards - the ostracisation and eventual punishment of Marsh and others, the dissolving of the Watch into factions and perhaps the formation or strengthening of the institution under a new (perhaps temporary) leadership of an Octavian Caesar. Until, one hopes, Jon returns.


Will Dolorous Edd "Cry havoc! and unleash the dogs of war"?

As usual AM, your non-Dany based posts are sound of fact and logical.
This is what a cornflower looks like as opposed to a blue rose.

Wiki tells me that blue roses symbolise royal blood, In Chinese folklore, they symbolise hope in the face of unattainable love. Due to the absence in nature of blue roses they have come to symbolise mystery and longing to attain the impossible with some cultures go so far as to say that the holder of a blue rose will have his wishes granted.

#11 Jabronius Maximus

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:49 PM

All in all, it's hard to look at past tropes to predict where Martin will go. In fact, I would say these tropes might rather indicate where he won't go.


I see him going as far as mimicking the resurrection stuff...after that, who knows

#12 Jon Snows Ghost

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:51 PM

Thank you that was a very interesting read

#13 butterbumps!

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:52 PM

ETA: And yes this assumes that Jon is probably the ultimate hero or one of the ultimate heroes, so if you're on the Dany-is-it train, I doubt you'll find much here that you'll like.

Actually, I think Dany's wandering through the Waste might be a kind of "Last Temptation," and in her case, it seems like she may have given in.

This is a very old trope, so named for the Biblical story of Jonah. According to Joseph Campbell, this development marks a turning point for the hero, who is sent into the "unknown." It can correspond to death and entering the Underworld. Typically, the hero will face something in the abyss and return with a boon — literal or figurative — necessary to complete his overall mission. It is also what causes the hero to accept the inevitability of his overall mission — the "event horizon," "crossing the Rubicon" portion of his quest. There is no going back.


I'm dying to know what boon the CotF gave to the Last Hero-- it is clear that this "gift" is what enabled the Battle of the Dawn. I think it makes the most sense in terms of how the story has progressed for Val and Tormund to abscond with Jon in attaining this "boon"-- perhaps finding himself with Bran or the CotF in some way? (I am operating from the idea that there is far more to Val than meets the eye, and is a kind of Valkyrie as you suggest). I definitely do not think that Melisandre's "resurrection" makes much sense from the subtext, and I truly don't see her fire magic yielding a "boon" that would be useful for what Jon must do. I think this reading makes far more sense. And anyway, I don't think he's mortally wounded- I sense that his "rebirth" will be of a figurative nature-- perhaps finding out about R+L, or going rogue with the Wildlings or something like that.


Who is the pomegranate in our story? Bowen Marsh.

As though we need more proof of Bowen's culpability /cool4.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':cool4:' />

#14 Apple Martini

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:52 PM

As usual AM, your non-Dany based posts are sound of fact and logical.


My Dany-based posts are sound of fact and logical, too. But thanks. /tongue.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':P' />

#15 Associate Maester

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:52 PM

Cool! /biggrin.png' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':D' />

Yeah, my background is mainly in Greek mythology (I'm ashamed it took me that long to tie Bowen to his pomegranate nickname, eesh) and Christian mythology, with Norse mythology coming further down the list. So any additional insight about other mythologies is very welcome.


I'm writing a whole big post related to Zoroastrian myth, theology, and eschatology as related to the Red Lot, prophecy, and eschatology. It seems to be one area not covered quite as much on this board (there truly is no new theory under the sun). My field is Near-Eastern Studies so this is right up my alley. I'm loving this stuff because I'm not near as familiar with Celtic and Norse mythology as I should be!

#16 Scipio Africanus

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:56 PM

My favourite would be the Corn king. If only for Mormont's raven. That rascal knows something.

#17 Lummel

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:57 PM

Fun additional anecdote. In Zoroastrian eschatology bodily resurrection of individuals (then followed by all of humanity) signals the start of the last battle between Ahura Mazda (and his followers\heroes) against the forces of Angra Mainyu.

The dualist belief of the R'hlloristas is also similar to zoroastrianism.

I feel the direct connection of the Jon story into myth is weakest with the Norse and strongest with the Corn King/Christian comparisons what's interesting is that the latter two are different from the two in-story examples of resurrection the wights and the undead servants of R'hllor. By contrast the corn king and Christian allusions tie us back to the annual cycle of death and renewal which is the backdrop to ASOIAF.

#18 theguyfromtheVale

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 01:58 PM

@Dreadfort: I'm really more about European (mainly Norse and Greek) mythology and some Christian mythology, but I always felt that R'hllorism was very close to Zoroastrianism, from the little I know (basically, mainly the dualism and the focus on fire and water/ice). So I'm really looking forward to your thoughts about that connection.

#19 Lummel

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 02:00 PM

And, I suppose, the very obvious allusions to the assassination of Julius Caesar. No resurrection there...

Although didn't officially Caesar become a God after his death?

#20 Associate Maester

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Posted 26 July 2012 - 02:01 PM

The dualist belief of the R'hlloristas is also similar to zoroastrianism.

I feel the direct connection of the Jon story into myth is weakest with the Norse and strongest with the Corn King/Christian comparisons what's interesting is that the latter two are different from the two in-story examples of resurrection the wights and the undead servants of R'hllor. By contrast the corn king and Christian allusions tie us back to the annual cycle of death and renewal which is the backdrop to ASOIAF.


Yeah Martin based a fair bit of R'hllorian faith etc on Zoroastrianism (that's a whole other discussion).