Silas Barbarossa

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  1. Thanks a lot for checking it out, @King Merrett I Frey [email protected] Its like Euron is just too evil to just be a regular evil human, though in the World of Ice and Fire that is pretty hard to achieve.
  2. Nyarlathotep, the Many-Faced God In researching the Lovecraft (Cthulhu) Mythos for the inspirations of the terrible Gods of Terros, one name keeps popping up as a central agent of chaos, who appears on Earth to perform the bidding of the Outer Gods: the Outer God know as Nyarlathotep. Nyarlathotep. The Crawling Chaos, the Faceless God, the Sphinx, the Haunter of the Dark. Who is this mysterious Outer God? Why is he central to the plans of the Outer Gods, whom he openly mocks? Why does he enjoy spreading fear, chaos and terror in the hearts of humans? In this essay I will argue that the Many-Faced God of the House of Black and White of Braavos is none other than Nyarlathotep. To further the whim of the Outer Gods, a group of powerful cosmic beings that have mostly been banished from Earth, the Faceless God Nyarlathotep roams the world in many forms. His evil aims will become central to the main story of A Song of Ice and Fire in The Winds of Winter, as his one of his avatars mocks both the Gods and humans and bespeaks the end of the world by hastening the return of the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones (the two main groups of gods in the Cthulhu Mythos - note that the distinction did not originate with Lovecraft but with his successor August Derleth). I will follow this up in the next few days with a second part, which will contain my speculation on what this means for the story. For now, let’s review the roles and forms of Nyarlathotep and correlate them with both gods and humans in A Song of Ice and Fire. Nyarlathotep Background Developed by HP Lovecraft in 1920, Nyarlathotep is first described as man of strange powers who has come from the ancient lands of Egypt. He gives demonstrations of his powers that awe and frighten the people, but his reputation spreads quickly, as do the night screams and nightmares of the populace in the lands he visits. HP Lovecraft wrote 4 stories and one poem where an avatar of Nyarlathotep appears directly: “Nyarlathotep”, “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath”, “The Dreams of the Witch House”, “The Haunter of the Dark” and the poem “Fungi from Yuggoth”, where he appears in 2 stanzas. Though relative to other gods, Nyarlathotep has a large percentage of Lovecraft’s writings, as far as direct references we see him appear in 5 different forms: a tall and swarthy man, who hails from Egypt and gives presentations of strange and powerful instruments while spreading fear and discord among the populace. (“Nyarlathotep”) a dreamy, god-like Pharaoh. (“The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath”) a demon satyr (goat-man) with skin as black as night. (“The Dreams of the Witch House”) a three-lobed burning eye with wings (“The Haunter of the Dark”) the idiot Chaos, who takes the author on a tour of the universe, and through his actions, destroys Earth (“Fungi From Yuggoth”) Quickly adopted by the many other writers who shared the Cthulhu Mythos with Lovecraft (Block, Price, Derleth, Carter, and more), and even other authors who are not known as Mythos writers (such as Stephen King), the role and archetype of Nyarlathotep has been employed to introduce a mocking, malevolent being who takes many forms (or wears many masks, according to some of the Mythos writers) and has many avatars on Earth. It’s worth noting that there is a famous RPG called Masks of Nyarlathotep that also helped spread his fame and infamy. After Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep is the most referenced of Lovecraft’s creations. Let’s explore the appearances of Nyarlathotep in some of these stories, and how this will affect the endgame of A Song of Ice and Fire, as well as the numerous avatars of Nyarlathotep present in A Song of Ice and Fire. First, however, to gain understanding of the archetype, let’s review the role of Nyarlathotep from another, familiar story: Stephen King’s The Stand. Randall Flagg (Stephen King) Stephen King, long inspired by the Mythos, used the Nyarlathotep archetype to introduce Randall Flagg. In fact, the language describing Randall Flagg is evocative of the language HP Lovecraft uses to introduce Nyarlathotep. Compare these passages: With two very different styles, both King and Lovecraft invoke a being who radiates power and evil that inspires nightmares and terror wherever he goes. A good-looking man (“horrible handsome warmth” vs. “swarthy, slender, and sinister”) with evil intentions (“hatefully happy” vs. “capricious humor”) who brings pain and terror wherever he goes. Technically, in universe, he is referred to as “Nyarlahotep”, but this is referencing the same character, a man-like being who serves terrible gods but does so mockingly, while tricking humans into following him with “strange instruments of glass and metal” and “exhibitions of power which sent his followers away speechless”. So with that established, let’s now review some of the forms of Nyarlathotep. The God of the Thousand Forms Nyarlathotep has a true form, but this form is horrifying to humans. He is most frequently encountered as a tall, swarthy man who takes joy in spreading chaos and suffering. In early stories he was encountered as an Egyptian pharaoh-like being, who inspires legions of followers with demonstrations of magical and terrible new technologies. Through rich rewards and magical deception, these followers lose awareness of their surroundings as Nyarlathotep, ambassador of the banished Outer Gods, spreads despair and terror. It’s postulated that he has so many forms because of the many gods that he serves - that each of them, while banished from Earth, can take the form of Nyarlathotep and so the many roles he must play on Earth can represent separate and even disparate missions. Let’s review some of the Cthulhu Mythos forms and roles fulfilled by the many faces of Nyarlathotep. The Faceless God Here is the earliest and most direct reference to the Faceless God by Lovecraft himself. Lovecraft had developed the character of Nyarlathotep from the initial mysterious man from Egypt into a god, and encouraged other writers to do so as well. This story does not focus on Nyarlathotep, but mentions him as “the mad faceless god” that horrible beings worship. The Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep takes great pride in driving men mad and causing chaos. Instead of just torturing people, he aims to drive them mad. In fact, another name or title of Nyarlathotep is The Crawling Chaos. This name partially derives from his role as the messenger (and soul) of the being Azathoth, which is basically a “chaotic” nuclear being that is both “beyond angled space” (i.e. outside of our universe and space-time) while also the creator of the universe, who dreamed it into being. It is also speculated that the Crawling Chaos is another name for the end of the world, that will be initiated by Nyarlathotep. If Azathoth were to wake, the universe would be blown to dust, so the Outer Gods dance around him to flutes, hoping to ensure that Azathoth does not wake. This overwhelming amount of power is what leads me to believe that Azathoth, while the most powerful of all the gods, is not the Great Other. Azathoth is too important to the universe to involve himself in the squabbles over Earth. Hastur, in my opinion, is the more likely candidate to be the Great Other. The Black Man of the Witch Cult In “The Dreams in the Witch House”, the protagonist meets the Black Man of the Witch Cult by sleeping in a haunted Salem attic where a witch disappeared centuries before. This is not a man of African descent; instead, he has midnight black skin, hairless and wearing a black robe. He represents the collusion of the witches with an evil worthy of Satan, and even has a satyr-like legs: The Black Man/Dark Man of the Witch Cult was a Christian vision of the being that sealed agreements between witches and Satan; Lovecraft adopted the idea and replaced Satan with Nyarlathotep. Nephren-Ka The story of Nephren-Ka gives evidence that human characters can be directly controlled by Nyarlathotep, as Nephren-Ka is directed by Nyarlathotep to build a lightless temple to house the Shining Trapezohedron. It is in the darkness of the temple that blood sacrifices are used to call the Haunter of the Dark. The Sphinx Nyarlathotep is also known as the Sphinx, and loves to tease humans with riddles, much like the mythical Sphinx of ancient Egyptian lore. Having been created by Lovecraft with a pseudo-Egyptian name (“-thotep” being an Egyptian honorific meaning “honored”), the reference to the mysterious Sphinx, also without a face, was unavoidable. One story concerning Nyarlathotep is called “The Faceless God”. Written by Robert Bloch in 1933, this avatar of Nyarlathotep took the form of a faceless sphinx idol, buried in the Egyptian desert and uncovered by a ruthless archaeologist. The idol, made of a curious black stone, inspires great fear in the native Egyptians hired to uncover and haul the idol. They desert the corrupt archaeologist to his doom that very night, and the sphinx comes alive to hunt him down. The Dweller in Darkness In this August Derleth story, a professor studying a haunted lake in Wisconsin disappears and his friend sets out to find him. What he discovers is that the lake and the woods are inhabited by an avatar of Nyarlathotep. To drive him away, the friend is helped by a sullen local Native American who is haunted by the long history of the lake and the terrible Great Old One. This is also a notable story as it both introduces Derleth’s major addition to the Mythos, Cthugha, and sees Cthugha invoked to scare away the avatar of Nyarlathotep. From the beginning, then, Cthugha, the Lord of Light, is at war with Nyarlathotep. I will cover Cthugha more completely in a future essay, as i believe that he is a major component of the pantheon of the Gods of Terror - he is the god of the Red Religion. The Haunter of the Dark This is really interesting, as it relates directly to the Church of Starry Wisdom, which exists in Westeros and Essos and has a sinister reputation, according to Master Yandel. In “The Haunter of the Dark”, written by Lovecraft in 1935, the diaries of the Spoiler (dead) protagonist are discussed and analyzed for truth. Robert Blake, the protagonist, is a writer in Providence, Rhode Island. He described his fascination with a dark church: He becomes obsessed with the church and its dark presence. He decides to investigate it finally and what he finds horrifies him: A note in the man’s tattered pocket contained a sordid history of the presence of the Church of Starry Wisdom in the town. It describes how its cultists use an ancient Egyptian “box” that “can’t exist in light”, and that these cultists used this “box”, which they called the Shining Trapezohedron, as a window to see all of space and time. This window, and the knowledge that could be gained by looking into it, came at a terrible price. For Nyarlathotep, in his avatar The Haunter of the Dark, demanded monstrous blood sacrifices for the use of the Shining Trapezohedron. What form does this avatar take? A three-lobed burning eye with wings. Does that remind you of anyone’s sigil, just a little? (Euron. It’s Euron.) The many roles of Nyarlathotep To understand Nyarlathotep, you must understand the roles he plays in the Mythos stories. Much like his forms, they are varied and sometimes confusing or conflicting. The Messenger of the Gods Because Nyarlathotep can walk among mortals, Lovecraft and the other Mythos writers employ Nyarlathotep as the interface between humans and the Outer Gods. He appears in more stories than most of the Other Gods (that is, the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones, which are not exactly distinct as there is no real order to the Mythos, but that is an issue for another day). Bringer of Chaos Nyarlathotep spreads not just doom but chaos as well, to help spread fear and distress within the populace. In the first story, HP Lovecraft describes how screams and nightmares filled each city visited by Nyarlathotep as he gave his demonstrations of power. Harbinger of Doom The Gods of Terros are terrible. Their indifference to the suffering of humanity, and the even more sinister enjoyment of suffering shown by Nyarlathotep, are not even the worst part of their plans. According to Derleth, the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones were banished from Earth in an ancient war with the Elder Gods of Earth. Some of the Outer Gods/Great Old Ones are sleeping on Earth, like Cthulhu, and others were banished into outer space, but they want to return to take their revenge. However, they are prevented from doing so without outside help. Only Nyarlathotep is free to roam the earth and interact with mortals, doing the bidding of the Gods. He is working to reverse the banishment, and to awaken the sleeping gods. And it’s for this reason that he appears in A Song of Ice and Fire. Nyarlathotep in A Song of Ice and Fire If you have been reading my Gods of Terror theory series, you understand that George RR Martin is a huge Cthulhu Mythos fan. I have already identified two major Mythos gods in the pantheon of Gods present in A Song of Ice and Fire (Hastur is The Great Other and Tsathoggua is the Toad God), and Cthulhu is so generally seen as the Drowned God that I haven’t had to write it up yet. Dagon is another The Many-Faced God and the representations of Death This connection is at the heart of the relationship between Nyarlathotep and mortals. In fact, it is the main role that Nyarlathotep takes in A Song of Ice and Fire: that of the God of Death. From the beginning, the roots of the cult of the Faceless Men is about Death. The story told by the Kindly Man to Arya about the beginnings of the cult of the Many-Faced God in the House of Black and White indicates that The Many-Faced God gave the first “gift” of death to a slave. Where was he encountered? Deep in the earth where slaves of Valyria toiled for the dragon masters. But before he gave the gift, he trained this first Faceless Man in the ways of the masks. And from this interact came the cult of the Faceless Men and the religion of the Many-Faced God. Not every god represented in the House of Black and White is directly associated with the Cthulhu Mythos. The Pale Child of Bakkalon is a call out to an older GRRM story, though I don’t know what to make of that yet. The Faceless Men In the Cthulhu Mythos there is a group of cultists called the Dark Brotherhood or Black Brotherhood, who are dedicated to hastening the return of the Great Old Ones. They are an international group of assassins, made of people of all ethnicities and all ways of life, who adopt a mask to disguise themselves. Now, this being an August Derleth story (while it’s credited to both him and Lovecraft, it’s his story from HP’s rough idea), all of the assassins wear a mask that stupidly looks like Edgar Allen Poe. Yes, the writer. It’s also worth noting that Poe wrote a story called “The Sphinx” which may have influenced Nyarlathotep’s background. However stupid the origin, the Faceless Men fit this model closely. And their presence throughout the story, and especially in Oldtown, speaks to their importance to the endgame of the gods. The Stranger The representations of the Stranger - a man with a veiled face - correlate closely to the King in Yellow and the High Priest Not To Be Described. It is easy to make the connection to Nyarlathotep, who is often associated with the King in Yellow and the High Priest Not To Be Described. Most importantly, however, is the association with Death. The Black Goat? The association of the Black Goat with the Many-Faced God at the House of Black and White is a bit confusing, as Shub-Niggurath is seen as female, and the Black Goat is seen as male in the World of Ice and Fire. However, this confusion is usually resolved by picturing this Black Goat (of a Thousand Young), a Pan-like satyr or half-man/half-goat, as the incarnation of Shub-Niggurath on Earth. This horned ‘Lord of the Woods’ copulates with worshipers to produce horrible offspring. And he demands blood sacrifices from beasts and man alike. It is very possible that the Black Man of the Witch Cult avatar of Nyarlathotep, who appears as a pitch-black satyr in “The Dreams of the Witch House”, might be the same being as the Black Goat. If so, that would mean that Shub-Niggurath sends Nyarlathotep to Earth to interact with her followers and to father her “thousand young”. The Black Goat, then, may not be one of Nyarlathotep’s forms, but she/he is definitely a god of Death and is one of the avatars of an Outer God. Lion of Night Because the Many-Faced God is directly associated with the Lion of Night, and Nyarlathotep is associated with the Many-Faced God, then Nyarlathotep may be directly associated with the coming of the Long Night as described in the Yi Ti story of the Great Empire of the Dawn, from The World of Ice and Fire. Yhoundeh, the Wife of Nyarlathotep I’m not sure exactly how this fits in yet, but it’s worth noting that Nyarlathotep has a wife, the horned elk-goddess Yhoundeh. She was worshiped in ancient times in Hyperboria after her priests banned the worship of Tsathoggua. However, the fall of the Hyperborean civilization lead to the abandonment of the religion of Yhoundeh. She is mainly mentioned in the The Door to Saturn by Derleth. Apparently, Yhoundeh had an affair with Darkness, which birthed Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young. The Black Goat is worshiped in Qohor, of course, and this means that Yhoundeh could exist in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire. In fact, she is my vote for the Maiden Made of Light (while of course, the Maiden Made of Light represents the Sun, she might also be a Mythos God). The Bloodstone Emperor? I’ll cover this more in part two of this essay, but the story of the Bloodstone Emperor of the Great Empire of the Dawn is full of Nyarlathotep allusions. The Bloodstone Emperor worshiped a black stone that fell from the sky. This is a direct allusion to the Shining Trapezohedron worshiped by the Church of Starry Wisdom in “The Haunter of the Dark”. In fact, the Yi Ti legend states explicitly that the Bloodstone Emperor was the first priest of the “sinister” Church of Starry Wisdom, which exists in the main story throughout the port cities of Essos and Sothoryos and Westeros. What could this mean? Well, in “The Haunter of the Dark”, the protagonist discovers that the Church performs human sacrifices over the Shining Trapezohedron to call the Haunter of the Dark, who gives them visions of the future in exchange for that most terrible of coin: blood. I’ll have a lot more on this in the second part of this essay, where I will postulate as to what this reference will mean for A Song of Ice and Fire. In The Main Story??? Faceless Men and Braavos It’s clear that there is more to the story of the first Faceless Man and the cult that was formed to worship the Faceless God (excuse me, the Many-Faced God). For instance, how did the moon singers of the Jogos Nhai receive the visions of the lagoon that was to become Braavos? How does the House of Black and White relate to the Iron Bank of Braavos? Did they cause the Doom of Valyria? And if so, why? The obvious Cthulhu Mythos comparison is the Dark Brotherhood, even with it’s Derleth-imposed limitations. The idea of an international brotherhood of assassins that wear masks and are working to bring back the banished Gods seems to be a direct inspiration for the Faceless Men (without the Poe bullshit to hold it down). Littlefinger? The emphasis on causing chaos, and his background in Braavos where they worship the Many-Faced God among other gods, makes me suspect that Petyr Baelish might be some form of Nyarlathotep, but in the end I don’t think he fits the archetype. He’s just a scheming man (though no ordinary schemer, to be sure), and not a god intent on the destruction of humanity. However, I do wonder exactly which gods Varys is referencing in this quote from Arya III: Given that it hasn’t been established exactly which gods Varys prays to, and the fact that he is talking privately (he thinks) to Illyrio, this should not just be taken as a reference to the Seven. Is it a reference to the Outer Gods? I don’t know. But I don’t think that Petyr is a Nyarlathotep avatar. Moroqqo This is my choice for a second avatar of Nyarlathotep. His description is very close to the Dark Man or Black Man of the Witch Cults version of Nyarlathotep. When we first meet him, he is with Tyrion on the Selaesori Qhoran. His skin is not brown or tan, but is instead coal black, as black as night: When he joins Victarion, the crew is incredibly afraid of him, much like the natives of Egypt who fear the black stone Sphinx from “The Dweller In Darkness”. He is not the same man that Tyrion encountered on the Selaesori Qhoran. When he is fished from the sea and brought to Victarion, he is wearing a faded red garment. Later, in an attempt to make him seem less evil, Victarion has a new robe made for Moroqqo from black cloth. However, this does not help to inspire the ship’s crew to trust him: Note that the flame tattoos on his face have change from yellow and orange to red and orange. Here is the description of the Black Man of the Witch Cult: So does this mean that Moroqqo is working with Euron? It’s hard to say exactly, given the confusion surrounding the relationship of Nyarlathotep and the other gods of the Cthulhu Mythos. Moroqqo is an adherent to the red religion, and Nyarlathotep is seen to be in opposition to my choice for the Lord of Light, Cthugha. But it is hard for us humans to understand the motives of these gods, so I can’t be sure of why Moroqqo would be helping Victarion. I do think that it is part of the plot to bring Dany and her dragons to Westeros for Euron. I don’t believe that Moroqqo is helping Victarion for Victarion’s sake. But there remains the possibility that different Outer Gods can invoke their own avatar of Nyarlathotep to do their bidding on Earth, and that Moroqqo is now an avatar of the Lord of Light who opposes the other, more important avatar of Nyarlathotep: Euron. Euron Greyjoy It’s clear that the Ironborn have the most direct relationship with the Cthulhu Mythos. Beyond just the similarities of the quotes above, the Greyjoy family name Dagon is directly taken from the Cthulhu Mythos. The Ironborn believe that they are the descendants of the Mer-people. In fact, in The World of Ice and Fire, the Deep Ones are directly referenced as the ancestors of the Ironborn (though Maester Yandal dismisses it). So is it a surprise that the worst Ironborn of all is now in the thrall of Nyarlathotep, or has even been replaced directly by the tall, swarthy man? Who in the story is the seed of evil, the spreader of chaos and lies, who tricks men into following him to their doom using strange instruments of glass and metal? Who sees himself as both better than humans and the gods, but at the same time is performing the will of the gods using blood rituals? Euron has returned from his banishment, but he is not fully human anymore, if he ever was. His visit to Valyria was his own doom, and he has become an avatar of Nyarlathotep. And he is here to torture, to kill, to drive men mad, as we see when he is alone with Aeron in The Winds of Winter sample chapter. But torturing and killing humans isn’t the purpose of Nyarlathotep, nor of Euron: instead, he has come to start the process of awakening the Gods from their slumber to remake the world. Leader of Men Though he is a terrible person, Euron inspires legions of followers by demonstrating great powers using strange and wonderful technologies. The dragon horn Dragonbinder, which he claims to have gotten from the ruins of Valyria, are used to establish his claim to the kingship of the Iron Islands. The suit of Valyrian armor he wears in “The Forsaken” serves to increase his stature. But more than just the powerful instruments and armor that he controls is the ability to forgo any reward for himself when they capture castles and land. He gives out riches and titles like candy. He cares little for the earthly riches that others desire; instead, he Tormentor of Men Euron’s treatment of Aeron, and of the 4 warlocks of Qarth, are perfect examples of his ability to torture men to madness. He kills one of them, to show that he meant business, and then chained them up and made them eat the dead warlock (and probably themselves). In “The Forsaken”, we see what’s left of Pyat Pree: a man without legs, who has clearly been driven mad: But his ultimate goal is not just to drive men mad and to spread chaos and fear. He is the harbinger of doom, Death, the Lion of Night, here to remake the world again. And he will do this by calling back from the dead the terrible Gods of Terror using blood sacrifices, and the collusion of a famous family in Westeros, which I will cover in part 2 of this essay. Messenger of the Gods This is a famous quote, which I have always loved. And at first I saw the “served ten thousand gods” line as only relating to the fear he inspires in his victims and their pleas for help from their gods. But in the light of the role that he is to play in the story, and the role of Nyarlathotep as the messenger of the gods, it’s clear that it has two meanings. It’s clear that, while Euron has little respect for the gods, a la Nyarlathotep, he also is their messenger. He is the ultimate evil of A Song of Ice and Fire, and it’s him and his minions that Job and Bran and Dany will be fighting, in a quest to save the world from Doom. Harbinger of Doom Euron makes blood sacrifices to the Storm God (who I believe to be Hastur), according to the whispers of sailors, to receive favorable winds. At the end of The Forsaken, he is preparing to make an even greater sacrifice. This is the first part of his plan to bring back the Gods of Terror. For the banished gods cannot release themselves from their imprisonment. My Conclusions: Nyarlathotep, the Faceless God, he of a thousand terrible forms, has been present throughout the stories in many forms - all representing death and despair. And currently he has taken over two humans and is using them to help bring back the banished Other Gods. The Long Night was started by the Bloodstone Emperor, who worshiped the Shining Trapezohedron, and used it to call the Haunter of the Dark (Nyarlathotep), or the Lion of Night as the Yi Tish call him. This direct link between the horror of the Long Night, and the Church of Starry Wisdom, which was founded by the Bloodstone Emperor, spells ill omens for the future of the story, and especially Dany, who may be the return of the Amethyst Empress. Euron is no longer the brother of Aeron and Balon. He has been taken over by the Crawling Chaos, the god of a thousand faces, the tall, swarthy pharaoh-like man who brings chaos and wins legions of followers through demonstrations of terrible, magical technology. And it is Euron, who serves the Gods, who will awaken them from their slumber. When the Ghost of High Heart sees a man without a face on a bridge, with a crow on his shoulder, she’s not describing a Faceless Man. She is talking about the Faceless God. She is describing Nyarlathotep, who has become Euron. And its through Euron that Nyarlathotep will fulfill his role of harbinger of doom, and awaken the sleeping Outer Gods. While Euron denies his direct involvement in “The Forsaken”, Nyarlathotep, in one of his forms, was responsible. Moroqqo, after he was washed into the sea and taken on board the Iron Fleet, is no longer human (if he ever was), but has instead become one with Nyarlathotep. His power and visions are derived from his new association with the god of death. Nyarlathotep is directly associated with masks, and has himself many faces and forms. While they call him the Many-Faced God, the Faceless Men serve Nyarlathotep, the Faceless God, and are working to hasten the return of the gods and the end of the world. All men must serve, they say…. and all men must die. The main question out of all of this is: Why? Why does Nyarlathotep have to use Euron and Moroqqo? Why do the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones need to be present in A Song of Ice and Fire? I will answer that, and more, in part 2 of this essay.
  3. Calling out to some people who enjoyed earlier Gods of Terror posts - @YOVMO, @Lucifer Lightbringer, @The Dew, @mediterraneo, @King Merrett I Frey, @Maelys I Blackfyre, @Arya_Stupid!, @M_Tootles. If nothing else, this background is fascinating and might help your theories in the future. Hope you all enjoy!
  4. A Song of Ice and Fire is one of the best fantasy series ever written. George RR Martin is a master of creating compelling characters and weaving rich, descriptive imagery with political intrigue, magic, and even cosmic horror. Best of all, the deeper one dives into the background details of the stories, the more rich it becomes. Thousands of theories have been spawned from the interwoven details that George masterfully builds his world upon. In appreciation of this richness, and to seek more information about the world of Terros, I have begun the exploration of the influences on A Song of Ice and Fire, and in doing so I discovered that George has borrow liberally from a deep well: the powerful shared literary universe created by HP Lovecraft and his friends, which he called the Yog-Sothoth, but is known better as the Cthulhu Mythos. Huge fan of the Mythos It’s important to understand that George RR Martin is a huge Lovecraft Mythos fan, in all its many and varied forms. The strong and early influence of HP Lovecraft and his collaborators on fantasy as a genre, and on George in specific, can be traced back to the first fantasy book George ever read. According to a great essay he wrote in his “Starter Kit” collection of stories, his love of fantasy began in 1963, when he purchased Swords and Sorcery, edited by the famous writer and polymath, L. Sprague de Camp. With a story of Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard, bundled with other stories of fantasy and terror by Poul Anderson, Henry Kuttner,Clark Aston Smith, C.L. Moore, Lord Dunsany, and H.P. Lovecraft (emphasis mine on writers who both borrowed and extended the Mythos), this first fantasy series inspired his great love for the genre. It also influenced A Song of Ice and Fire, especially the terribleGods of Terros. Themes of the stories Throughout the fabulous, fun, and sometimes boring stories of the Cthulhu Mythos, there are multiple reoccuring themes that resonate strongly throughout A Song of Ice and Fire. Terrible Gods Snake gods, toad gods, gods of fire, gods of cold, gods of cruelty and revenge, gods of darkness and chaos: these are the terrible gods of the Yog-Sothoth or Cthulhu Mythos. Throughout the varied stories by the Friends of HP (Lovecraft himself, Derleth, Smith, Howard, Bloch, Camp and more), the gods are ancient and terrible cosmic demons who care nothing for humans and little for their worship. These human worshipers, craving power and understanding little of the true nature of the gods, invoke their presence with secret rites designed to capture their power. However, the humans usually find out that they can’t control what they call, with terrible results. There was a later divergence from the strong trait of cosmic indifference by these beings after the death of Lovecraft in 1937, when August Derleth introduced a controversial morality as he published and expanded Lovecraft’s works posthumously. This did not reduce the sheer terror that the Outer Ones, the Great Old Ones, and the Elder Ones, induced in humans. Gods and man interacting Because the “gods” are cosmic demons who inhabit Earth when it was younger, they interacted directly with humans. While (most of) the gods are now sleeping or banished into outer space, and can’t interact with modern humans, these ancient interactions and demonstrations of the powers of the gods spawned human religions. Humans, unable to control their lust for power, worked mysterious and ancient rites to borrow the power of the gods, without understanding the true nature of the space demons they are invoking. Ancient and lost civilizations and continents Atlantis, Hyberborea, Thule, Lemuria: these are all famous mythical lands with lost civilizations that are used throughout the stories of the Mythos to both set the stage of the story and root them in lost ages that are beyond the memory of modern man. A Homeric reference, Hyberborea was a mythical place to the ancient Greeks where a paradise awaited “beyond the North Wind” (the literal translation of Hyperborea). It was said to be a warm, winterless place in the midst of the winds and snows of the north. It has been associated with Greenland, as well as mythical lands north of Ireland and Britain. Famous Atlantis was first described by Plato in ancient Greek times, but became famous through the writings of the Romantics of the 19th century. Thule was a mythical land in the far north of classical cartography, identified at times with Norway or the Shetlands but mainly indicating a land beyond the borders of the known world. Lemuria was a later addition to the mythical cartography, an Indian Ocean continent that was lost in the ancient past. Conan the Barbarian and the love of fantasy Conan the Barbarian was George’s first love, and its worth a refresher on the story to see how Howard developed Conan and drew from the Mythos to create his world and gods, and the peoples that worship them. The time is ancient and the place is a mystical land full of peoples both similar and different than modern humans. Known as the Hyborian Age, it is a violent Iron Age setting with swordsmen, mysterious sorcerers, and religions with terrible gods that demand blood sacrifices, set 10,000 years or more before Caesar (though some editors placed it even further back to before the last Ice Age). Hyborians The Hyborian Age began after the sinking of the ancient civilizations of Atlantis and Lemuria, which set back humanity to a primitive state “hardly above Neanderthal”. These people, the Hyborians, escaped the destruction of the ancient civilizations and fled to the north, where they fought a race of snow apes. Defeating the snow apes and driving them north of the Arctic Circle, they adapt to the land and multiply. Eventually, the Hyborians begin return to lands south of them, and wars between the dispersing tribes of Hyborians became frequent. A thousand years having past, the snow apes of the Arctic Circle had become fair-haired and tall men, who return to attack the Hyborians, setting the stage for the stories of Conan the Barbarian. Conan the Cimmerian Conan was a Cimmerian, one of the many peoples of the Hyborian Age. Based on Celtic and/or Gaelic influences, the Cimmerians descended from the Hyborians and are a hard people with black hair and gray eyes (and are probably white, as most of these early — and recent — fantasy stories tended to be). They are located about where Ireland or Scotland would be in the map of the world developed by Howard. Born the son of a blacksmith, he eventually becomes a great warrior and even the King of Aquilonia. No man is stronger, and the giant man uses his strength and his cunning to improve his lot in the hard world. He speaks many languages and is a born leader, with a humor and wit streaked with “grim” irony. His great love was the woman Valeria, a pirate and adventuress and a member of the Red Brotherhood of pirates. She is a superior swordswoman who can even best Conan, being faster and more agile. She is his love in the 1982 movie Conan the Barbarian. Gods of the Hyborian Age There are a great many gods worshiped by the many cultures of the Hyborian Age. They are at war with each other, just like the gods of Terros. These wars take form through their followers and through direct intervention by the gods, to destroy the territories of the followers of rival gods. The major gods of the Hyborian Age were a mix of mythical ancestors such as Crom for the Cimmerians and Bori for the Hyperboreans, figures of sacrifices, and evil demons and snake gods. This is linked to the ancient gods of the Nordics and/or the Celtics by geography and rituals. Crom is seen to judge warriors before they are allowed into Valhalla in later stories. In the major kingdoms of Aquilonia, Argos, Nemedia, and Zingara were Mitra and Father Set. The diety called Mitra is worshiped as a cross between a Christ-figure and Mitra/Mithras of the Zoroastrian and Vedic, and later Roman, mythos. Mitra even speaks directly to a love interest of Conan’s to help her and him defeat their enemies and lead Conan to become King of Aquilonia. Notably, there are no blood sacrifices to Mitra, and his adherents spread his religion to other lands at great personal peril. Father Set is a seven-headed snake god, mainly worshiped in the dark lands of the Stygians. His dark followers offer Set human sacrifices “and sorcerous obscenities”. In previous ages (discussed below), Set created a race of Serpent Men to serve him, but they were defeated by humans and disappeared. Even so, his worship continues and was even featured in the first Conan movie. Father Set is identified with the Great Old One Yig, and was either directly borrowed by Howard for Conan or was a major influence on Set. Naga the Sea Snake In the Marvel Comics version of the Conan universe, there is a sea man/snake god known as Naga. First published in 1969, Naga is the ruler of the Homo mermanus or water-breathing merpeople who live in the remains of Lemuria, which had sunk into the sea before the Hyborian Age. He finds in the ancient ruins of Lemuria the ancient Serpent Crown of the followers of Set. Through this crown, Set controls Naga though he has been banished to another dimension. Nageis transformed into a snake-like merman, with green, scaly skin instead of the blue skin common to the merpeople. Naga gains immortality and control over his people, whom he converts to the worship of Set. Naga’s people become green in color and also have scales. The idea of the Nāga is an ancient one that dates back even to the Mahabharata of India, but the best story of the Nāga is from Cambodia: Other Gods Multiple other gods, from the Cthulhu Mythos or inspired by it, appear throughout the Conan stories. Nyarlathotep is one of the gods worshiped in the mythos of the Hyborian Age. Dagon, a Fish or Water God with a long history, was added to the Conan universe by Marvel in the 1970s. He can raise the dead as zombies and uses them as servants - a common motif in Mythos stories. Tsathoggua Tsathoggua, the Toad God, or Seven-Eyed Tsathoggua, makes an early appearance (1932) in the Conan stories, where he forms an alliance with Set and his minions. Conan is his enemy, or one of them, but Tsathoggua has his worshipers as well. In the Conan stories, he carries all of the back story from the Mythos, where he is related to Cthulhu and other Great Old Ones. Tsathoggua was created by Clark Ashton Smith, who created the Hyperborean Cycle discussed below. Development of Conan Robert E. Howard wrote 21 short stories and 1 novel about Conan the Barbarian before his suicide in 1936. After Howard’s unfortunate death, the copyright passed to a few different men. L. Sprague de Camp, the editor of the Swords and Sorcery anthology that welcomed George to the world of fantasy, was one. Another was Lin Carter, who became one of George’s editors and friends in the 1970s. Howard’s original stories had more direct relationship to the Cthulhu Mythos, but many of the references were removed in the reworking and rewriting of the material by the later editors. However, these editors borrowed liberally for place names from the Hyberborian Cycle by Clark Aston Smith and kept many of the references to Mythos Gods. The crossover was not one direction. Lovecraft mentions “Crom-Ya, a Cimmerian chieftain” in The Shadow Out of Time in 1924. A great amount of development of the world of Conan also took place in the Marvel Comics version of the Hyborian Age. This should not be dismissed as an influence as it’s clear that George has had a love affair with comics that might still be ongoing. Other writings by Howard Howard wrote other stories that were similiarly set in a familiar fantasy setting. Thurian Age The Thurian Age was set in the epoch before the cataclysm that destroy Atlantis and Lemuria. It is, like A Song of Ice and Fire, a mixture of a fantasy Iron Age setting with Lovecraftian gods. Kull, an Atlantean barbarian, is one of the main heroes of the stories. Thuria is the dominant continent, home of the “Seven Empires”. There are six kingdoms in the Thurian Age: Commoria, Grondar, Kamelia, Thule and Valusia. Together with a seventh, unnamed kingdom, these kingdoms form the “Seven Empires”. There were three main tribes of “barbarian” men: Atlantis, Lemuria, and the Pictish Islands. Each represents an area in the “real” world, and the current inhabitants of those regions are the descendents of these ancient peoples. The Atlanteans, based mainly on a small continent to the west of Thuria, have colonies on Thuria. Lemuria is a large island chain east of Thuria. Valusia was founded and ruled initially by the Serpent Men. Finally overthrown by their human slaves, the Serpent Men tried to regain rule for centuries but were finally defeated by Kull the barbarian. The Thurian Age Cataclysms As mentioned above, marking the end of the Thurian Age was a great cataclysm that sunk the lands of Atlantis and Lemuria. This brought about the barbarism of the Hyborian Age and the stories of Conan: Basis of the Thurian Age Cataclysms The Kull stories in the Thurian Age reflect many of the lost continent theories that were popular in the early 20th century. Tales of Atlantis were ancient, certainly, and the loss of its fabled civilization has been discussed for centureis. Lemuria is a later invention of early paleo-biology, a lost continent used to explain the presense of primates (especially the Lemurs of Madagascar) on continent far apart. Red Sonja Red Sonja was developed from an original story by Howard called “The Shadow of the Vulture”, published in 1934. She was added to the Conan Universe in 1973 by Roy Thomas, a writer for Marvel Comics. Red Sonja was recast as a warrior woman from Hyrkania, an ancient, eastern land of steppes and forest, placed in modern day Ukraine. This Hyrkania is based on the real-world kingdom of Hyrcania that was located at the southern tip of the Caspian Sea. Bran Mak Morn Howard’s King of the Picts, Bran Mak Morn, was written about in 5 of his stories. Stories of the Picts overlapped with the Thurian Age and Hyborian Age stories, but the Bran Mak Morn stories borrow more from the “real” world. Throughout all of the stories, the Picts are seen as analogous to the Native Americans as well as ancient Celtic tribes. They are given the role of the noble savage, who lost technological know how with the fall of Atlantis. In some of the stories, the Picts are closer to a cave-man archetype than the noble savage. Their priests are known to burn people alive, a desire born of a twisted revenge mindset that takes place after they are driven from their original lands to the current Pictish territories. Notably, many Pictish warriors are werewolves. They could change into wolves of their own free will. Bran Mak Morn is a Pict but is less savage than his peers. He desires a peace with the other tribes of Briton, to create an alliance against the invading Romans. His name derives fromBrennus (the Gaul who sacked Rome) and from the Brittonic word meaning “Raven.” Mentions of Lovecraftian gods and locations are included throughout the Bran Mak Morn stories, and Lovecraft himself references Bran Mak Morn in The Whispers in the Darkness. Other stories in the Swords and Sorcery anthology L. Sprague de Camp’s Swords and Sorcery contained other stories that are even more deeply involved in the Cthulhu Mythos. Clark Aston Smith’s “The Testament of Athammaus”, set in fabled Hyberborea and concerning the outlaw Knygathin Zhaum. The Doom that Came to Sarnath, by HPL himself, describes the return of a Great Old One and the doom that commenced. C.L. Moore, one of the first women writing fantasy at the time, contributed “Hellsgarde”. While other early fantasy writers such as Poal Anderson and Lord Dunsany made strong impressions, the contributions by Lovecraft, Smith and Howard opened the door to the Cthulhu Mythos. Hyberborean Cycle Clark Aston Smith’s collections of Mythos stories are known collectively as the Hyperborean Cycle. With a solid Mythos universe background, Smith expanded the universe greatly to include important Great Old Ones such as Tsathoggua. Like the stories of Conan, they also portray an Iron Age setting with layers of cosmic horror. In the continent of Hyperborea, terrible gods demand blood sacrifices and prey on humans. Right there in Swords and Sorcery, that first fantasy collection, was one of the Hyberborean stories: The Testimony of Athammaus. It concerned the city of Commoriom, the capital of Hyberborea. An evil, outlaw descendent of Tsathoggua and a snake god is found and beheaded, only to return again and take what he desired. Eventually, due to the evil of the outlaw Knygathin Zhaum, Commoriom must be abandoned. Other Humanoids In Smith’s writings, he details two other humanoid peoples that have fought against humans in the past: the Voormi and the Gnophkeh. The Voormi, who were fleshed out much later by Lin Carter (one of George’s editors), are described as three-toed, umber-colored, fur-covered humanoids who communicate by dog-like howls. The Voormi live on the continent of Hyberborea, in caves deep within the Eiglophian mountians, under the extinct volcano called Mount Voormithadreth. Worshipers of Tsathoggua, they built a civilization on the surface of Hyberborea but it came to its demise through constant warfare with the Gnophkeh. Later, they were hunted by humans for sport and driven to the Eiglophian mountains. The Gnophkeh are their great enemy, especially before humans encroach on their land. Cannibals covered in hair with large noses, the Gnophkeh fought against the Voormi and later the humans. Pushed by war with the humans to the far north, they encounteredIthaqua, the Great Old One known as the Wind-Walker or Wendigo, and began to worship him instead of their original god, Rhan-Tegoth. The Gnophkeh were finally destroyed when Ithaqua and the god of the Cold Flame, Aphoom-Zhah, brought about the Ice Age. Sarnath and Bokrug One of the earliest short stories by Lovecraft is The Doom That Came to Sarnath, published in 1920. It’s a clear influence on The World of Ice and Fire and the main story, and it concerns an ancient war against inhuman beings who worship one of the Great Old Ones, Bokrug. It too was included in Swords and Sorcery. It concerns the people of Sarnath, a race of shepherd people who live along the river Ai in the land called Mnar. In a search for more lands, the people pushed their borders to a vast lake at the heart of Mnar. There they built the crowning glory, the metropolis of Sarnath. It was there that they encountered the people of Ib, a strange people who lived across the lake. The people of Ib were green of skin, with bulging eyes and curious ears and other odd features. They remind me of the people of the Thousand Islands in far Essos. Eventually, the people of Sarnath destroyed the city of Ib, and killed all its inhabitants. They also stole a statute from Ib, a sea-green stone idol of Bokrug (the great water lizard who was said to inhabit the lake) to celebrate their victory over both the people, and the old gods, of Ib. That night, something terrible happened. The next morning, the idol was gone, and the high priest of Sarnath was found dead in the scrolled “DOOM” on the temple floor. No murderer was ever found, nor was the idol. The incident was hushed-up and forgotten over time, though some priests of Sarnath swore they saw strange lights in the lake from their high tower. Ten centuries later, the civilization of Sarnath is at its height. To celebrate the conquering of Ib, one thousand years previous, the king of Sarnath has a grand celebration. Giant lake fish was served on plates inlayed with rubies and diamonds. Caravans of princes came from far and near to celebrate the glory of Sarnath. But strange shadows came down from the moon, and a green mist hovered over the lake. The foreign princes were allowed to escape, and as they left madness showed on each shocked face. A terrible and ancient being had returned to Sarnath. Did Bokrug come from another dimension or from the bottom of the lake - or both? Sarnath was subsumed by the nameless lake, and the King of Sarnath and feasters were turned into people with green skin and bulging eyes. The idol of Bokrug, thought forever lost, appeared again along the lake. These transformed residents of Sarnath, resembling the original inhabitants of Ib, began to worship Bokrug, the giant water lizard. The doom, long promised to Sarnath, had come. My Conclusions and Suppositions The role of the Cthulhu Mythos plays in A Song of Ice and Fire is still to be determined, but it is obvious that there are many great connections between the Mythos and a Song of Ice and Fire. Both the gods and the humanoid peoples of Terros are borrowed liberally from the Mythos. Influences on A Song of Ice and Fire It would be hard to recount all of the obvious influences of the Cthulhu Mythos upon A Song of Ice and Fire, but a few deserve to be highlighted explicitly. Cymmeri People of Essos In the World of Ice and Fire, the Cymmerians are included as an ancient people of Essos, who banded with the Tall Men of Sarnath, also known as the Sarnori. Known as the first people to work iron, the Cymmeri married into the Sarnori when the daughter of their king became one of Huzhor Amai’s three wives. Huzhor Amai Huzhor Amai (the Amazing) was said to be the first king of the Sarnori, and the descendent of the Fisher Queens. The Fisher Queens ruled the ancient inland sea that covered what is now the grasslands of the Dothraki Sea. Only three lakes remain of the Silver Sea, the great ancient inland sea, another sign that Terros is much drier than it used to be in the past.Huzhor bound together three tribes through his marriages, the Cymmeri, the Gipps, and the Zoqora, and battled the Qaathi and Old Ghis. The people of Ib While the people of Ib in HPL’s story of Sarnath sound a lot more like the Deep Ones than the people of Ib in A Song of Ice and Fire, the name was obviously borrowed directly from HPL. The Patrimony of Hyrkoon The Patrimony of Hyrkoon is closely related to the stories of Hyrkania from both the Thurian Age stories and the Conan stories. They are located in roughly the same place in the world (east of the main kingdoms) as the Patrimony, and are even related to the ancient real-world civilization of Hyrcania, south of the Caspian Sea. Lemuria, Lemurs, and Little Valyrians Curiously, there is a lemur of the Forest of Qohor that is described in the World of Ice and Fire. Said to resemble Valyrians because of their silver hair, the lemurs are known as the Little Valyrians. A stuffed Little Valyrian is housed at the Citadel, where the students have rubbed it (for good luck) until the silver hair fell out. This is an interesting inclusion by George, and it makes me think that there could be a connection between the Valyrians and the Lemurians of the Thurian Age. The Gnophkeh and the Voormi While the Voormi change in description from their early appearances in the Clark Aston Smith stories, their form in the Lin Carter stories resembles the Children of the Forest: three-toed, fur-covered, and umber-colored. However, this itself is not a strong connection, though their residence in the cave system of the Eiglophian mountains reminds me strongly of the Children (the Children also have some similarities to the Picts of the Mythos). The Voormis sound more like mole people than the Children do. The Children do have some of the elements of the mythical Picts of the Thurian and Hyborian Ages. The Gnophkeh, on the other hand, are a dead ringer for the Giants of Westeros, as described in the World of Ice and Fire. Covered in hair, with large protruding ears and a “proboscidean” noses, the Gnophkeh were hunted by man and forced from their original lands. Similarly, the Giants are covered in hair and have large ears and noses. Hunted by man, they only exist in the far north and are a dying, nearly mythical species. The Hyborians and the Thenns The Hyborians sound a lot like the wildings of the North, specifically the Hyberborian tribe, who sound a lot like the Thenns. If you compare a map of the Hyperborean Cycle lands with a map of the North, it looks a lot like the lands beyond the Wall. In fact, The Frostfangs strongly resemble the Eiglophian mountians, and this comparison is bolstered by the presence of the vast cave system of the Children. The valley of the Thenns, a warm valley in a land were there should not be such a valley, is very reminiscent of the idea of Hyberborea (and of Thule), which were both ancient lands in the far north romanticisied by ancient writers. Red Sonja and the women of Hyrkoon It’s easy to sea a relationship between the Hyrkania of Conan and Red Sonja and the warrior women of the Patrimony of Hyrkoon in far Essos. Red Sonja will only love or have sex with a warrior who can defeat her in battle. Similarly, the warrior women of the Patrimony geld 99 of every 100 men born, with only the most powerful keep whole to mate with the warrior women. Mitra and Mithras The strong Mithraic symbolism that runs throughout the story arcs of Jon Snow and Bran was influenced by the religon of Mitra in Hyboria, and of real-world Mithraism. This symbolism is covered in great detail by a favorite writer of mine, Lucifer Means Lightbringer, and I can’t add much more too it. Check it out if you haven’t already. The Fisher Queens were Deep Ones or even Giant Water Lizards The Fisher Queens (who “were favored of the gods”, according to Maester Yandel), sound like hybrids of the god Bokrug (the giant water lizard) from the Lovecraft story, “The Doom of Sarnath”, and Deep Ones. These Queens might be the result of the couplings between the gods and human woman, like the warrior women of Hyrkoon. If Maester Yandel thinks that kings and other heroes visited them for their wise counsel, it makes me suspicious, as do all Citadel-inspired views on these ancient rulers. Cymmeri and Andals? The working of iron, and the similarity of the name Hugor (of the Hill) to Huzhor (Amai), and even to Mazor (Alexi), last king of the Sarnori, makes me suspect that there is some relationship between the Cymmeri and the Andals. Huzhor Amai and the Bloodstone Emperor Like the Bloodstone Emperor, Huzhor Amai was the last of a long line of royalty that descended from ancient rulers. Also, the similarities between Huzhor Amai (and Mazor Alexi) to Azor Ahai is really hard to dismiss. I’ll have a major follow-up to this theory in the future. Necromancy is commonplace in the Mythos Many of the stories in the Mythos involve the raising of the dead. Sometimes, depending on the perspective of the character we are experiencing the story from, this sounds almost normal, and just something that is a part of their culture, while others they encounter are fearful of this power. This makes me think that the raising of the dead by the White Walkers has a completely different context to them then to the humans of Westeros, and by extension, we the readers. Continents and islands, lost or found Throughout these stories there are instances of islands or even whole continents sinking beneath the sea, or rising from it. These cataclysms set the stage for later action and remove whole civilizations and their technological progress from history, making barbarism dominant. This reminds me greatly of the Hammer of the Waters, which caused the land bridge from Westeros to Essos to be subsumed by the Narrow Sea, as well as the submersion of the Neck. Naga the Sea Dragon? The stories of Naga, king of the Homo mermanus, remind me so much of the stories of Nagga the Sea Dragon on the Iron Islands, as well as the mythical Nāga of East Asia lore. The Nāga is a snake that can be a human or marry one to produce a people from a land that used to be under the sea. The fact that Naga was a selkie or merman is very telling about the origins of the Ironborn. They are not just worshipers of the Drowned God - they might be his descendents, much like the Cambodians. Did a nāga drink up water to expose the land for its people? Or try to drown the land somehow? I also wonder if the Nāga and Nagga the Sea Dragon are related to the idea of the Uktena, the Horned Serpent. In my theory The Dead Direwolf, I suppose that the direwolf mother that died in Bran I of Game of Thrones was not killed by a stag, but was instead killed by a uktena, which can turn into a man, and that there is a relationship to Garth the Green, who was a green-horned man like the greenmen of the Isle of Faces. Check it out, it’s a fun read. Sothoryos and the Yog-Sothoth Sothoryos, which sounds like south and therefore seems to fit nicely into the Westeros/Essos naming scheme, is not named after the direction. It is instead named after the Yog-Sothoth, which is the name that Lovecraft himself gave to the Cthulhu Mythos (a name later coined by Derleth). George is using Sothoryos as a literary Africa, where these fantastic beings and ideas are born. Bran Mak Morn The King of the Picts, Bran Mak Morn, has some deep influences on the character of Bran Stark, even beyond the name. The ability of the Picts to turn into wolves is one strong connection, and the psuedo-historical relationship of the Picts to real ancient Britons, especially as they resisted the Roman invaders, reminds me strongly of the First Men of the North. Overall, the joy that Howard took in writing about the Picts and Bran Mak Morn should be counted as a powerful influence on readers like George. The Gods of Terros are Eldritch Deities The Gods of Terros, worshiped by the people of Terros in its various religions, are all based on the terrible gods of the Cthulhu Mythos known as the The Great Old Ones. All, of course,except for the Old Gods of the Forest. They will be approached in an upcoming essay, which will discuss the role of August Derleth and L. Sprague de Camp in furthering the work of Lovecraft, and in introducing the idea of a war between the Great Old Ones and the Elder Gods. These eldritch deities are born of cosmic horror, and care little or nothing for the humanoids that worship them. In the current age, these monsters are mostly sleeping (like Cthulhu), or banished to outer space (like Hastur). Only Nyarlathotep roams the Earth, enacting the will of the Great Old Ones and the Outer Gods. But all have their worship, even Tsathoggua, who is worshipped on the Isle of Toads. The Drowned God of Ironborn, the Lord of Light, the Great Other, the Great Shepherd, and the Toad God of the Isle of Toads, among others, are all versions of these eldritch monsters. These Gods of Terror are not going to stay sleeping or banished forever. Instead, they will return, and humanity will suffer. George loves the Mythos George loves the Mythos, and his embrace of it is encoded deeply within A Song of Ice and Fire. From the very beginning of his love for fantasy writing, the Cthulhu Mythos and its many writers helped shaped what he expected from fantasy, and what he produced of it. The Lovecraftian elements in Terros are clearly not just homage; instead, these themes and characters are used intentionally to flesh out the background of the books, and to help guide the powers and magic that each god can access. The roles of magic and the gods from which it derives on the past, present and future of Terros are shaped deeply by the powers described in the Mythos. However, George, like all of the other Mythos writers, uses the shared universe as a starting point, and adds many details to flesh out both the gods and their roles. It’s not a paint-by-numbers operation; instead, George has used this set of ideas and characterizations that help guide the stories. We can, however, make a lot of use of this background within our theories, as the framework of the Mythos helps to guide our guesses. With this understanding of the deep literary universe that George is both borrowing and expanding, we can better understand what he is planning to do with our favorite characters. (Note: this is cross-posted from my blog, Gods of Terror)
  5. Also, @Danny Rivers, your post here was a fantastic find after I started looking for theories that approached the story in a similar manner as I am doing. Just wanted to see what you think about the Hastur Mythos being threaded throughout the story, as you caught onto as well. Also, I'm going to do more research into Cthugha's role, as well as Nyarlathotep and even Dagon. I think they're all influencing the story here, and that they are why magic exists on Terros. Not to metion Ghroth, Nodens, Aphoom Zhah and the Ylidheem... this will be a lot of writing hahaha.
  6. @King Merrett I Frey - I love that quote by Euron. I have a lot of catching up to do w/r/t Lovecraftian and the Cthulhu Mythos, so I've started ordering a lot of Lovecraftian books to find more source material. Thanks for the new search material! @Maelys I Blackfyre - glad you enjoyed it. i think both of you would like my new post, which is a continuation of the exploration of the crossover between ASOIAF and the Cthulhu Mythos- check it out here
  7. Hey @M_Tootles, I wanted to call your attention to this theory (or set of theories and essays), as you recently discussed how the The Shephard has a connection here, and how the Lovecraftian lore is more than just window dressing in this post: Plus I really enjoy your theories and the deep dives you've been doing here and on Reddit, so thanks a lot!
  8. Thanks @mediterraneo - I'm glad you had a similar feeling. It's like Lovecraft and Deep Ones are just under the surface - pun intended of course - everywhere in the world book. Thanks to @YOVMO and @The Dew too!
  9. Hi all, I've posted another Gods of Terror theory here - check it out when you can.
  10. Gods of Terror This is another post on the Gods of Terror theory, which I am building and refining in real time. It looks to understand the gods of Terros, and the magic that derives from them. Inspired by a similar idea that I found in researching the Gods, I've decided to try to name the Gods of Terror by finding the Lovecraftian being that they represent. I've taken some time over the last two weeks to dig deep into Lovecraftian lore, and the multiple Mythos that resulted from HP Lovecraft's collaboration with fantasy greats such as Robert Howard, August Derleth, Clark Aston Smith, Robert Bloch, and later Lin Carter and others. From these collaborations came the Cthulhu Mythos and the lesser known Hastur Mythos, which I will explore below. As I have dived ever deeper into the web of lore that makes up the Mythos or the Yog-Sothoth as Lovecraft himself refered to his literary spawn, I have found more and more evidence of who the Gods of Terror are, and why they are at war. I am ready to present my findings, starting with a mysterious figure who has appeared along the edges of the novels, with the promise of an incredibly important role over the next two books. HASTUR: MAGNUM INNOMINANDUM, THE UNSPEAKABLE, THE GREAT NOT TO BE NAMED Hastur is a Great Old One, a group of alien beings that resemble what we humans call gods, and is known to have taken many forms on Earth. He is often referred to as The Great Not To Be Named or the Magnum Innominandum in Latin. He is known by other names as well: The Shephard, The King in Yellow, the Feaster from Afar, and the High Priest Not To Be Described. Hastur has his own Hastur Mythos where he is half-brother to Cthugha and Cthulhu, and spawn of Yog-Sothoth. While he is a part of the Cthulhu Mythos, he has his own interesting background that was created before Lovecraft, but his role as a Great Old One, and his powers over wind and humans in his thrall, have been fleshed out greatly after his inclusion into the Mythos. Originally a creation of Ambrose Bierce, in his story Haita the Shepard (1891), Hastur was a relatively benign god of shepards: Lovecraft, voracious reader that he was, devored the story in his youth and used Hastur as a reference in one of his earliest stories. The Hastur Mythos was expanded by Lovecraft to include the King in Yellow (1895), a creation of Robert Chambers. After Lovecraft read the King in Yellow in 1927, Hastur was mentioned by Lovecraft in the Whispers in the Darkness: The King In Yellow Hastur has been present in a few forms in the histories of Terros. The key is the story of the King in Yellow. The King in Yellow is both a play in the world of the Hastur Mythos which drives the reader mad, and the character described in the play, who can take over the reader's mind. The God-Emperors of Yi Ti In the World of Ice and Fire, the 69th Yellow Emperor of the Golden Empire of Yi Ti sounds a lot like the King in Yellow. Claiming to be from a dynasty said to have fallen a thousand years previous, this sorceror emperor rules from Carcosa along the shores of the Hidden Sea, northeast of Asshai by the Shadow and the Mountains of the Morn. This avatar of Hastur is his oldest known form on Earth. He is known to wear a yellow robe or cloak, but tentacles spill out from the robe, and he may wear a pale mask that is not a mask in this form. There is also an ancient Yi Ti emperor who reminds me of another form of Hastur: the Feaster from Afar. Lo Tho was the twenty-second scarlet emperor of Yi Ti. Like the 69th Yellow Emperor, he was a reputed sorcerer, but was also a cannibal, "...who is said to have supped upon the living brains of his enemies with a long pearl-handled spoon, after the tops of their skulls had been removed." The Feaster from Afar, is known for as a "black, shrivled flying monstrosity" that had tentacles with razor sharp talons, which were used to eat the brains of the living (or slurp them up to be exact). It's not hard to see the connection between the tentacles of the Feaster and the more "refined" pearl-handled long spoon used by Lo the Longspoon to "feast from afar" on the brains of his victims. He Who Shall Not Be Named Hastur may also be - the Lovecraftian literature has multiple accounts here - The High Priest Not To Be Described. In that form, the being appears to be wearing a yellow or pale mask that is not a mask, but his face, which freaks everyone out. Hastur has also been described as the Last Elder One. Due to the complexities of the relationships between the Great Old Ones, he is at war with other Great Old Ones, which could help explain the war(s) between the gods on Terros. There is also a relationship with Leng as the Tcho-Tcho Lama, or religious figure (which is different in most other Lovecraftian lore than GRRM has presented Leng in the World of Ice and Fire). He is also known to appear to those who chant his name, and cause terrible things to happen including madness and death. Because of this power, his name is protected, available only to initiates to his religion and those who fight against him (who refer to hims as "He who shall not be named"). The development of Hastur There is some disagreement in the world of Cthulhu scholars as to the relationship between Hastur, the King in Yellow, and Nyarlathotep, another Great Old One, who is also present on Terros as well as another God of Terror, which I will cover in depth soon. For Hastur, there is some disagreement as to whether Nyarlathotep is actually the King in Yellow, sent as a representation of Hastur (Nyarlathotep is known to represent the interests of the Great Old Ones on Earth) or if the King in Yellow is actually (one of) Hastur's avatar on Earth. Hastur is known to actually reside in the Hyades, another galaxy, but he is present on Earth in his many forms. This debate is tricky, as it is not clear from the Mythos literature as to exactly how the King in Yellow relates to Hastur or to Nyarlathotep. And within the world of Lovecraftian lore, there is a debate about the stories by August Derleth which introduced a good/evil component to the Mythos that Lovecraft himself had sought to avoid. At the same time, Derleth created the Elemental Theory, which assigned all of the Great Old Ones to the elements water, fire, ice, and air. He also expanded the role of Hastur, and introduced the idea of a war between Hastur and Cthulhu. So when forcasting the presence of Hastur in Terros, and the consequences on the story, a lot depends on how GRRM has interpreted this story and how he feels about Derleth's contributions - and how George decided to build his Mythos. Power Over the Winds Another major power that Hastur has is over winds. Hastur, to humans, is a wind god; in the "reality" of the Mythos, Hastur is in control of winds on Earth and in space. Hastur can create destructive, terrible hurricanes that can span continents or even solar systems, manipulating the winds to bend them to his whims. In fact, Hastur's power over the winds were used in his war with Cthulhu. War with Cthulhu According to Derleth and later writers, including GRRM's old editor Lin Carter, Cthulhu and Hastur are at war. Derleth, in his story "The Return of Hastur" (1939), has the two even meet face to face briefly. Some say that it is actually the minions of Hastur and Cthulhu who are at war, as Hastur may be restricted from visiting Earth in person. After an ancient treaty between Cthulhu and the Elder Things, Cthulhu went to sleep for an eon or more, and is dreaming powerful dreams that can influence humans. But Hastur has been working in the meanwhile to increase his presence on Earth. The Yellow Sign Hastur, as the King in Yellow, has a specific symbol that was included in the original story by Chambers in 1895. This symbol, The Yellow Sign, is known to cause madness or mind control over any who view the Sign. The Yellow Sign resembles a scorpion in the well-known interpretation of the symbol by Kevin Ross, from "Call of Cthulhu", a role-playing game released in 1989. GRRM and Lovecraft It's obvious that GRRM loves the Lovecraft lore, and that he has sprinkled it throughout the books and the Dunk and Egg novellas, and other cannon. However, it was not clear to me until recently how deeply GRRM has embraced the Mythos, and how it shaped his own writing (including having a famous Lovecraftian writer, Lin Carter, as one of his editors in the 1970s. I get the feeling that they were friendly as well). I will be following up on this connection soon, as there is a great essay by GRRM in his Dreamsongs compendium that goes deep into George's introduction to fantasy writing. Spoiler: The love of the Lovecraft lore goes deep. My Conclusions While it's hard to known exactly how GRRM is interpreting the many flavors of the Mythos, I have a few guesses: Hastur is present in the current story as his avatar The King in Yellow, sitting in Carcosa as the 69th Yellow Emperor. Hastur's powers are limited with him not being physically on Terros, but the Yellow Emperor is probably his strongest avatar. However, he is know to take many forms and may have minions strategically placed throughout the novels. The Shepherd Hastur, in his role as the god of shepherds, is the god of the Lamb Men (the Lhazar), and may be a god of the Jogos Nhai (who worship the gods of the plains, which probably includes worship of the god of winds). He was most likely the original god of the Valyrians, as they were initially shepards. (I also wonder if the Dothraki worship a form of Hastur, but that is just a guess). Hastur would be hurt by the loss of the worship by these former shepherds, who left his service when they discovered a greater power. The Valyrians likely abandoned the worship of Hastur to worship another Great Old One when they discovered the power of fire (more to come on that soon!). Hastur would not be pleased with the Valyrians for this, as he not friendly with the other Great Old Ones, and would hate to see the Lord of Light gain such powerful acolytes. The Valyrians in time became so powerful that they felt that they were almost themselves gods, which may have contributed to their doom. During the Dance of the Dragons, five Targaryen dragons were housed in the Dragonpit when it was stormed by the followers of a mysterious figure, whose name no one knew, but instead was called The Shepherd. This man (?) was a one-handed preacher of the Faith, who convinced his followers that the dragons were demons, and that Valyria was godless (which it would have been if they abandoned the worship of Hastur after becoming dragonlords). The crowd killed dragons on both sides of the civil war between the Greens and the Blacks. The Shepherd is one of Hastur's avatars, and his hate for the Valyrians and dragons would see no difference between green or black dragons. Instead he preached that all dragons must die. MAGNUM INNOMINANDUM Hastur is the Great Other to the followers of R'hllor. Melisandre refers to the Great Other as "He whose name may not be spoken". While Melisandre has her issues with recognizing the truths shown to her in the flames, she has been educated to know about the Lord of Light and the Great Other, and has a great fear of the power of He whose name may not be spoken. One part that detracts from this idea is that the Red Religion is dualistic, not allowing for other gods to exist, while we know that other gods exist within the Mythos and also within Terros. This does lead me to wonder if Aphoom-Zhah, the Cold Flame, spawn of Cthugha, is the Great Other - an idea I will follow up on later. I think that the Red Religion is wrong about the nature of the gods - there are many more than two. For instance, Mel describes the Drowned God as a "thrall" of the Great Other, which acknowledges that the Drowned God is some sort of powerful being. For the Great Other, Hastur's power and mystery and deep association with the Mythos and Terros, is a better fit. Norvos Hastur is the god of Norvos, whose name is only known to the initiates of their secretive religion. The founders of the current city of Norvos left Valyria to follow the "true faith", which was the original faith of the Valyrians. They founded Norvos on top of a city abandoned by an unknown group (who may have been Andals, but may also have been Deep Ones/squishers/other hybrids). Norvos has most importance in the Dorne sub-plot, as Quentyn Martell's mother is from Norvos. Perhaps her blood that flowed in his body was anathema to the dragons? The Yellow Sign While I don't know of any symbol in-story that has this same affect on people, I do think that it is such an interesting idea that I will be looking for some sort of sigil, introduced already or in the future, that resembles the Yellow Sign. The Storm God Hastur is the Storm God, at war with Cthulhu in the ancient past, and is now in control of the storms that pounded the Storm Lands in the past and the present. His war with Cthulhu has been suspended, while Cthulhu lays in hibernation in R'lyeh, probably in the Sunset Sea. But In the ancient past, Cthulhu was at war with the Elder Things, which are another crazy set of Lovecraftian beings. I think that Hastur sided with the Elder Things (perhaps due to his role as the Last Elder One, though this is a total guess) and used his powers over wind to bring storms against Cthulhu and his star-spawn and Deep One minions. Hastur as Storm God will need a follow-up essay, as I'd like to explore more the implications of this theory. If Hastur is the Storm God, who is Elenei? Is she the spawn of Hastur and Cthulhu? Or is she related to them more distantly? I'm excited to find out!
  11. I'm glad it's a fun topic and it's also something new for us to puzzle over. I'll add another thing to think about here. It's bugged me for years, and I think that GRRM is smarter than all of us readers when it comes to his world. GRRM has created a world where there is no pure Good and Evil, on purpose. He intentionally set out to create a grey morality in Terros. So so why would he intentionally do that, and yet create the Others, a race and a concept designed to be separate from men in intent and in morality. In fact, if we listen to Old Nan's stories, they are pure Evil. But if NOTHING IS PURE EVIL, then the OTHERS ARE NOT PURE EVIL. Old Nan is an unreliable narrator. She's wrong about the wildings, and she's wrong about the Others. GRRM is so smart, that he included a mystery so obvious, so overwhelmingly easy to piece together, but also so human, that it distracts from the greater mysteries of Terros. Of course I mean R+L=J - a mystery that is not a mystery, but a distraction. The true mysteries are the magic - where does it come from, how does it work, and who are the gods from which it derives - and how did the gods and humans interact in the Dawn Age. This is not a story about Others and Dragons, or Tits and Dragons, or human politics, or about Targaryen restoration. This is about the return of the Gods of Terros, and their horrible half human children, and the remaking of the world. It's so much bigger than we have been imagining the conclusion to be, that every theory so far has been wrong.
  12. Thanks, @Equilibrium - I appreciate the willingness to be challenged, even if it's a theory coming from a whole new place. As far as the Thousand Worlds theory, I think that there is some evidence for it - like Golden Thetas appearing in the show - but I don't see as many tight couplings between the histories in the Thousand Worlds as I do with the Cthulhu Mythos. But I've certainly enjoyed reading the older stories, and I enjoy mining them for clues about GRRM's thought processes.
  13. The theory that the runic armor was related to the fight against the Others is a long held one, and has one piece of strong evidence for it: the ancient runes, which are said to be of the First Men. Otherwise, the geography of the armor isn't right- the Vale not being near the North, and there is no connection made in any of the literature between the armor and its runes and the war in the North. However, the Lovecraftian nods are not just limited to Carcosa, although that is included in the Terros World Map. The squishers of AFFC are Deep Ones in action and description. Maester Theron in AWOIAF postulates about Deep Ones directly. In fact, Lovecraftian Deep Ones are all over the story, and the gods of at least some the Free Cities, and of the Far Easg are Great Old Ones, the fathers of the Deep Ones: The Black Goat of Qohor is Shub-Niggurath Leng worships the Old Ones, a major clue The Drowned God is probably Cthulhu The God of the Norvoshi is probably Hastur, He Who Shall No Be Named The Many-Faced God is the Faceless God of Death and Dismay, Nyarlathotep, who was also the 69th Yellow Emperor of the Golden Empire of Yi Ti The Fisher Queens of antiquity were probably related to Bokrug, as the Kingdom of Sarnath is related to the story "The Doom that Came to Sarnath". And my personal theory is that the Great Fathers of the Patrimony of Hyrkoon were Deep Ones Theres a lot more than just homagé here, is my belief, @Dorian Martell, and I'm having a lot of fun rereading the books through the framework of the Cthulhu Mythos. It's illuminating to say the least. That, plus the blog post by GRRM, is why I now believe that the runes are Elder Signs.
  14. Wow, thanks @Minotaur! I did find this amazing thread here recently, that you might enjoy, that touches on the GEotD in the Cthulhu Mythos, though I have some different ideas about the particulars. It's a really fun read, either way.
  15. Thanks, @Arya_Stupid! It's a growing theory, and I have at least a dozen more part of it planned, but there is some fun stuff in there already. I hope,you enjoy it!