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Daggers in the Dark: What Did Melisandre Really See?


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#1 Apple Martini

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 09:53 PM

First off, this is not me — it's Butterbumps, who brought this point up in the thread asking if Jon's assassination was premeditated. I just happen to think it's very interesting and worth its own topic.

At issue here is, of course, the vision(s) that Melisandre has of Jon surrounded by skulls and the references to "daggers in the dark." Many people, probably even most people, assume that this is a vision of Jon's impending death, to the point where several commenters give Jon grief for not believing in Melisandre's visions and heeding her warning.

But what did she actually see?

The thing about Melisandre's visions, repeatedly, is that what she sees is technically accurate, but her interpretation is rarely if ever correct. For instance: Yes, she sees "Renly" taking King's Landing, but it's not actually Renly. She sees a girl on a horse, but it's not Arya. She sees towers falling, but (you can surmise) it's not actually Eastwatch. So if Melisandre sees skulls and daggers around Jon and concludes that that vision represents danger to him, shouldn't that be kind of a red flag, given her track record, that that might not be what she's actually seeing?

Butterbumps, in the assassination thread, suggested that this vision might have to do with the Winterfell crypt, which is dark (was it actually even dark when Jon was stabbed?) and contains actual skulls and daggers (well, swords). Given the theory that something of tangible or symbolic significance to Jon is in the crypts, it would be ironic if the vision that Melisandre thought pointed to Jon's demise was actually something affirmative for him — proof of his parentage, some sort of information or weapon, etc.

#2 Lion of Judah

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:10 PM

I took it more literal in truth. I believe it to be in reference to the assassination attempt, I don't have the text here but I believe Mel also told him to keep his wolf close because of her vision. That to me is evidence that her vision was of a more immediate threat.

As for the crypts of Winterfell revealing something to Jon; I have heard this before, but I'm not sold on it just yet. Other than a letter of some sort, what physical relic can possibly reveal Jon's parentage?

#3 Ser Wun Wun

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:43 PM

Does she actually see Skulls and Daggers surrounding him at the same time? Or are they two seperate visions? I got the impression that they are separate. If so, then I believe her vision of him surrounded by daggers does represent his assassination. She got that part right imo.

ADWD-Melisandre, pg. 408
His long face floated before her, limned in tongues of red and orange (fire), appearing and dissapearing again, a shadow half seen behind a fluttering curtain. Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again. But the skulls were here as well, the skulls were all around him.


This vision I think represents his resurrection. Going off you're idea that Mel's visions are literal, I believe that they will try to burn Jon's body. That's why she sees his face limned in tongues of fire. I think the Skulls will come from his funeral pyre raging out control (this is initiated by someone, BR or perhaps even Mel) killing many of the people at Castle Black. Their deaths will pay for Jon's life, and when Jon "wakes up" he will find himself surrounded by their (burnt) skulls.

Shireen had a vision of a dragon eating her, no? If she dies in said fire, then her dream of being eaten by a dragon (Jon) will have come true I'd think...

#4 Fire Eater

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 11:55 PM

Changed my mind

Edited by Fire Eater, 13 January 2013 - 09:50 PM.


#5 Apple Martini

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:14 AM

I think she did see daggers in the fires, as Jon is later stabbed.

The skulls around Jon indicate some kind of death for him. I have read about people being deemed medically dead by doctors only to wake up later. Jon will spend some time in Ghost before he goes back to his own body (he was a man, and now a wolf, and a man again). This is something everyone can agree upon.


Isn't this also just a simplified explanation for warging, which Jon can do whether he's "dead" or not?

It's also kind of expasperating that I made a point of showing that Melisandre is usually WRONG about her interpretations, and yet most people who've answered say she's obviously right. Well no, that's the point.

Edited by Apple Martini, 29 November 2012 - 12:19 AM.


#6 Apple Martini

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:18 AM

This vision I think represents his resurrection. Going off you're idea that Mel's visions are literal, I believe that they will try to burn Jon's body. That's why she sees his face limned in tongues of fire. I think the Skulls will come from his funeral pyre raging out control (this is initiated by someone, BR or perhaps even Mel) killing many of the people at Castle Black. Their deaths will pay for Jon's life, and when Jon "wakes up" he will find himself surrounded by their (burnt) skulls.

Shireen had a vision of a dragon eating her, no? If she dies in said fire, then her dream of being eaten by a dragon (Jon) will have come true I'd think...


I think that this is an extremely interesting take on it. As much as I despise the idea of fireproof Targs, I've seen the idea tossed around that Jon might well walk out of his own funeral pyre — unlike Dany's literal dragons that rose out of a funeral pyre, Jon is himself a "dragon" rising out of a funeral pyre. It's fun to think about and also adds some complexity to the idea that there are "dragons" in the Targaryen family that are "above and beyond" the others.

It would also be kind of a twist if Shireen's dragon vision came true in such a way.

#7 Fire Eater

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:23 AM

Isn't this also just a simplified explanation for warging, which Jon can do whether he's "dead" or not?

It's also kind of expasperating that I made a point of showing that Melisandre is usually WRONG about her interpretations, and yet most people who've answered say she's obviously right. Well no, that's the point.


As for the simplified explanation for warging, that is originally what I thought too. We will see how it turns out in TWoW.

Edited by Fire Eater, 13 January 2013 - 09:51 PM.


#8 OberynBlackfyre

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:26 AM

I actually thought that her "daggers in the dark" may have shown something that was going on at Kings Landing...aka the death of Pycelle and Kevan at the hands of Varys.


"They were all around him, half a dozen of them, white faced children with dark eyes, boys and girls together.
And in their hands, the daggers."


The representation of the children sounds skull like (pale faces and dark eyes, etc) plus the daggers are clearly pointed out, and we know that the room was dark except for the moon

#9 Fire Eater

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:30 AM

I actually thought that her "daggers in the dark" may have shown something that was going on at Kings Landing...aka the death of Pycelle and Kevan at the hands of Varys.


"They were all around him, half a dozen of them, white faced children with dark eyes, boys and girls together.
And in their hands, the daggers."


The representation of the children sounds skull like (pale faces and dark eyes, etc) plus the daggers are clearly pointed out, and we know that the room was dark except for the moon


That's an idea I never heard. We all don't know what Mel actually saw, but otherwise that could be a reasonable assumption, as the final word of Kevan's chapter was "daggers"; which may have been an emphasis that that was the fulfillment of Mel's prophecy.

Edited by Fire Eater, 29 November 2012 - 12:54 AM.


#10 Ser Wun Wun

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:33 AM

She explicitly sees Jon in the vision with the daggers though doesn't she? As the OP states, her visions all seem to be of actual events that have yet to happen. Contrast this with the Ghost of High Hearts highly symbolic visions/dreams.

Has Mel had any visions that proved to be symbolic like that? I can't think of any.

#11 Apple Martini

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:33 AM

I actually thought that her "daggers in the dark" may have shown something that was going on at Kings Landing...aka the death of Pycelle and Kevan at the hands of Varys.


"They were all around him, half a dozen of them, white faced children with dark eyes, boys and girls together.
And in their hands, the daggers."


The representation of the children sounds skull like (pale faces and dark eyes, etc) plus the daggers are clearly pointed out, and we know that the room was dark except for the moon


That's interesting, too. It could be that she saw the skulls around Jon, and later saw daggers, and drew a connection where there isn't any. Or maybe we're the ones drawing the connection. *shrugs*

#12 OberynBlackfyre

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:33 AM

That's an idea I never heard. We all don't know what Mel actually saw, but otherwise that could be a reasonable assumption, as the final word was "daggers"; which may have been an emphasis that that was the fulfillment of Mel's prophecy.


Yeah I actually wanted to make a thread about it, however there is so much speculation about what is going on with Jon and that Mel's prophecy CLEARLY had to be about him, that I just didn't feel like arguing with people haha. However, if you look at the situation, it fits her vision COMPLETELY.

#13 OberynBlackfyre

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:35 AM

That's interesting, too. It could be that she saw the skulls around Jon, and later saw daggers, and drew a connection where there isn't any. Or maybe we're the ones drawing the connection. *shrugs*


I agree. I feel that Mel kind of grasps too much for a vision to be about a person. She could be willing to see Jon, get an ACTUAL vision of something about to go down, then incorrectly state that something is going to happen. However the visions are so ambiguous we could very well be wrong as well like you said!

#14 Little Wing

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 07:44 AM

Hm... maybe the skulls around him are a foreshadowing of Jon going berserker after he comes back and the death that will surround him. We'll get a darker Jon mayhaps /devil.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':devil:' />

#15 butterbumps!

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:11 AM

Here's some passages:

First we have this, which she says to Jon just before her own POV chapter:

“Do not be so certain.” The ruby at Melisandre’s throat gleamed red. “It is not the foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back. You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you. Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold.”


Then in her POV:

"Snowflakes swirled from a dark sky and ashes rose to meet them, the grey and the white whirling around each other as flaming arrows arced above a wooden wall and dead things shambled silent through the cold, beneath a great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves. Then the wind rose and the white mist came sweeping in, impossibly cold, and one by one the fires went out. Afterward only the skulls remained.


Death, thought Melisandre. The skulls are death.

The flames crackled softly, and in their crackling she heard the whispered name Jon Snow. His long face floated before her, limned in tongues of red and orange, appearing and disappearing again, a shadow half-seen behind a fluttering curtain. Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again. But the skulls were here as well, the skulls were all around him. Melisandre had seen his danger before, had tried to warn the boy of it. Enemies all around him, daggers in the dark. He would not listen.

Unbelievers never listened until it was too late."




My reasons for questioning this is because in Mel's POV, she makes a few leaps in logical interpretation. She sees skulls and automatically thinks that they are "death," so I think that she is forcing expectation on her visions. We also see that she sees Towers by the Sea, but under questioning she says they are Eastwatch, despite the fact that both she and we know they are definitely not that castle.

She does claim to have seen the "naked steel" earlier in DwD, but I can't help but wonder if this is truly a vision, or one of her patented leaps in logic. Ironically, to the point Apple makes in the OP, Jon does repeat Mel's initial warning to himself while dealing with King Scum just before the wildings pass:

"...Sort it all, count it, see that it reaches Eastwatch safely.”

“Yes, Lord Snow,” said Bowen Marsh.

And Jon thought, “Ice,” she said, “and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel.” His sword hand flexed. The wind was rising.

Still, I'm not certain that she had precisely seen this vision given the untrustworthy way she interprets her visions when describing them to others. She knows that Bowen and a few other men are conspiring; she's known that for more than half of DwD. If all that she's seeing are skulls around Jon, I think "daggers in the dark" is exactly the way she'd describe the vision so that it seemed more actionable and relevant, especially given that she knows there is a conspiracy forming against of his own men.

I concede that Mel could have had two very separate visions about Jon, but there is undeniably something off in the way Mel interprets and then verbalizes what she is seeing (it reminds me of Prof Trelawney's stupid Tea Leaves analysis).

Apple, I think it was evenfall by the time they got out of the Shieldhall, so it was dark.

#16 alienarea

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:16 AM

This vision with Jon being man, than wolf, than man again and the flames is quite similar to MMD in the tent with shades of a burning man and a wolf, isn't it?

Thoughts:

- man, wolf, man: Jon is seriously wounded on the edge of dying; i.e. stuck in Ghost; but finally survives without resurrection and is man again

- Melisandre, MMD: will Melisandre walk into Jon's funeral pyre to burn like MMD? She states she has little of her powders left, i.e. her time is running out. If MMD was crucial for hatching dragons, is Melisandre hatching Jon in black ice armor with flaming sword?

- I have a feeling Melisandre needs to die for Jon to live. If so, what will this mean for Stannis' and Mance's glamours?

- maybe this vision is also a test for Jon? If he would have asked for the names he would have failed, but not wanting to know qualifies him for AAR, i.e. he accepts his fate of dying to be reborn?

- I have a bad feeling on the outcome for Ghost

#17 The Idiots Lantern

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 08:31 AM

Didn't Aemon tell Jon that "the boy must die for the man to live?" That's some foreshadowing as well for what happens to Jon.

I think the "daggers in the dark" probably IS what Melisande saw, but it was the blackness of the Black Brothers of the Night's Watch she was seeing, not actual darkness.

Remember in Lord of the Rings how dangerous the seeing stones were because they always showed you the truth, but they showed it in such a way as to encourage you to draw the wrong conclusion from it. They drove Sauroman and the Steward of Gondor crazy because they SEEMED to show Mordor's impending victory.

Melisande, in the grand tradition of seers everywhere, often has no idea what she's actually looking at.

#18 Budj

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 09:15 AM

I think the vision Mel sees wasn't a death omen, but more of a transformation of Jon in death. To Apple's point she is typically missing a huge piece of information in her biased fire reading. And while the situation in the OP is certainly something I find possible and would be a desirable outcome I have a different take on the vision.

To me the fluttering curtain concealing Jon's face is a symbol of half of his identity being hidden. The tongues of flame sound very similar to the description of colors Targ's wear on occassion in conjunction with their black armor. This hints at the hidden (Targ) half of his identity. The man wolf man signifies the transformation and happens to also be the literal and likely way he manages to find a loop hole in death. I do think she happened to get the skulls right. Daggers in the dark will catalyze this revelation through his 'death.'

I also want to second the epicness of Jon the unburnt....and to the Shireen dream I always had a creepy feeling that Patchface will snap and eat her. This is maybe so call my crazy.

#19 Little Wing

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 09:35 AM

Doesn't Mel also confuse the locations sometimes - seeing Stannis but interpreting it as the Wall and vice versa?

“Do not be so certain.” The ruby at Melisandre’s throat gleamed red. “It is not the foes who curse you to your face that you must fear, but those who smile when you are looking and sharpen their knives when you turn your back. You would do well to keep your wolf close beside you. Ice, I see, and daggers in the dark. Blood frozen red and hard, and naked steel. It was very cold.”

The bold part reminds me of Little Walder being murdered in WF and the detail of his blood being frozen when they find him but not on his brother, who finds him first (I think...):

The murdered body of Little Walder is discovered in Winterfell. Hosteen Frey transports the corpse to the Great Hall. Big Walder follows Hosteen into the Hall. Theon notes that the chest, arms, and cloak of Big Walder are spattered with blood. His gloves are covered with blood. While the corpse of Little Walder and its blood are frozen.


About this:

"Snowflakes swirled from a dark sky and ashes rose to meet them, the grey and the white whirling around each other as flaming arrows arced above a wooden wall and dead things shambled silent through the cold, beneath a great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves. Then the wind rose and the white mist came sweeping in, impossibly cold, and one by one the fires went out. Afterward only the skulls remained.


Are the snowflakes mixing with ashes Stannis' pyres of his own men in the snows? Are the caves with the skulls the Children's caves? /dunno.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':dunno:' />

#20 butterbumps!

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 09:50 AM

Are the snowflakes mixing with ashes Stannis' pyres of his own men in the snows? Are the caves with the skulls the Children's caves? /dunno.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':dunno:' />


I thought the Children's caves rather than Hardome on its own as a possibility for that vision too. Unless "wooden wall" is figurative for a wall of trees, or the pile of shipwrecks that are said to be there, I don't think there's wooden walls there that we know of. Hardhome was burned badly to the ground in that "mini-doom" that happened, so I don't think wooden walls could have survived that.