This essay (which is also a YT video and available on my blog) is in follow up to my prior work, “Kingblood, Magic, Elitism, and 10,000 Years of Sex in Westeros,” (also a YT video) where I focused on how widespread I think Kingsblood is in GRRM’s TWoIaF.
This time, I’ll focus more on why I think the texts are hinting at the widespread magical ability / potential hinted at in that essay. I think the best pieces of evidence we have for this are a connection between an obscure passage about the far east in The World of Ice and Fire and a vision / dream from Dany late in A Game of Thrones.
A Bloody Betrayal, a Vision and a Plan
In the aftermath of Jorah carrying Dany into Drogo’s tent while Mirri Maz Duur was in the middle of performing blood magic to “save” Drogo, Dany has several dreams / visions. The visions on start with the mantra of “you don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” As I discussed in my first Dragon Bonds essay, this repeated concept is first introduced to induce fear in Dany, fear of Viserys mistreating her; however, as she self-actualizes throughout the story, she begins to adopt her own identity as a dragon to instead give herself courage.
In a parallel manner, this mantra shortens through her dream to “want to wake the dragon” and “wake the dragon,” which could be symbolic of Dany embracing her dragon identity or even unleashing her own anger, but it also literally suggests that she will wake her dragons from stone … by hatching them. This identity as a dragon was earlier tied directly to the term “kingsblood” in the very first Daenerys chapter, even as Drogo is also compared to Aegon the conqueror.
In this context she sees a vision of four ghosts / kings who egg her on (pun intended) to go faster toward the climax of the dream, where she flies. Here is the passage:
She then, in the next two chapters, proceeds to literally wake the dragons, but I believe that at that moment she metaphorically or spiritually further woke the magic within herself, her inheritance from her kingsblood.
Because of the dragon context, one of these ghosts having the same eye color as Dany, and all of them having some Valyrian features, many think that these people are her ancestors, Valyrians or those people who came before them, “proto-Valyrians.” I believe that this is mostly correct; however, when GRRM published TWoIaF we get a description of the gemstone emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn (GEotD) with matches for each of these ghost kings, plus a few spares. I believe that Dany’s dream from AGOT is a direct link from the recent historical Valyrian empire to this prehistoric, but advanced, ancient empire. Here’s the applicable passage:
Some speculate that the link I make between these two passages is somehow not the correct conclusion to make, citing the missing pearl, amber, and onyx emperors in the AGoT passage. I disagree. To address the missing emperors, one only needs consider that George hadn’t conceived of the GEotD when writing AGoT. If the publishing order were reversed, that criticism might be apt. GRRM learned about the history himself organically (see the second half of this vid), while writing the first few books and Dunk and Egg novellas, only later deciding to give these mysterious ancestors of Dany a more full backstory in TWoIaF once he understood who they really were. Tales grow in the telling, so he decided it necessary to add a few colors to his rainbow of magical forebears along the way. Under that light, the more important thing to consider is the ones that do match, not the ones missing in the earlier work. All four from the earlier work match a gemstone emperor or empress from the GEotD.
The Kingsblood and Magical Inheritance from the GEotD
So, what is the significance of the first four, from Dany’s dream? I see a relatively basic implication for them. They are meant to imply a common ancestry (and magical genetic inheritance) in our four major houses in the story as of AGoT, The Starks (Grey Eyes ~= Opal Emperor), The Baratheons (Blue eyes ~= Tourmaline Emperor), The Lannisters (Green Eyes ~= Jade Emperor), and the Targaryens (Purple/Violet eyes ~= Amethyst Empress). Certainly we are also meant at the time to recognize that the first men House Dayne also shares the amethyst eyes even as others houses may fit the pattern as well. While the tourmaline connection is debatable, given the wide range of colors that tourmaline can display, I don’t think there is any other strong explanation for the passage in considering AGoT alone.
Likely, by the time he went to flesh-out this backstory, GRRM decided that with the larger world he had created, he wanted to extend that magical inheritance to more families and cultures, so he invented the rest of the emperors. I can’t claim to fully know why he chose the order that he did; however, there may be some more import at the tail end of the succession. I notice that both the bloodstone emperor and the amethyst empress were direct descendents of the opal emperor, and I think that might mean that the start of the line of Starks and the line of Valyrians and Daynes were very closely related, not long before or possible coinciding with the long night.
Now, I’ll make some irresponsible speculation on who was begotten on some of the scions of the great empire. Doubtless around that time in history, there was a lot of migration. Also, given that the Great Empire spanned the Jade Sea, it was a seafaring nation, one of their early settlements may have been at Oldtown, a city whose founding predates history. So, that migration likely spanned the entire known world. I mentioned in the prior essay that I believe the magical bloodlines spread into many of the cultures across Essos and Westeros. Eye color patterns in Essos suggest that there are descendents of the Topaz emperor in Naath and Ghis, the Onyx Emperor in the Dothraki Sea and along the Rhoyne, Tourmaline in Qarth and the free cities, and the Amethyst Empress in Valyria and its daughter cities.
The Scions of the GEotD in Westeros
If we take my earlier assertion about descendents of the Tourmaline, Opal and Jade emperors to be among the first men (at least), that leaves only the Pearl Emperor. He was very early in GEotD history, reigning for a thousand years directly after the “God-on Earth.” One might suggest that we seek some of the earliest myths to “solve” this mystery. I think the answer may lie in the iron islands in the tale of the Grey King, although it may also be in Oldtown (we know very little about the color of the eyes of the Hightowers). We have one small piece of modern information about magical eyes in the Iron Islands. Gilbert Farwynd, who is heavily implied to be a skinchanger, has eyes described like this:
Those two colors and the fact that they are changeable are emblematic of pearls. Note also that the Grey King is first mentioned earlier in this same chapter, rounding the circle of the connection.
The Jade Emperor follows the pearl emperor. The most obvious suspect for a scion of the Jade emperor in Westeros is Garth. He was prolific, and certainly known to be one of the earliest first-men in Westeros to migrate by land. Lann the Clever, who founded house Lannister, is rumored to be of the line of Garth. Green eyes dominate the current members of many houses founded by the pair.
The Tourmaline Emperor, who followed the Jade Emperor, may be associated with the Baratheons, though this is more tenuous given the range of colors that Tourmaline can exhibit. The Baratheons all have deep blue eyes, but none of their forebears’ eye colors are mentioned. Tourmaline certainly can be blue. Then, Elenei’s status as “daughter of the sea god and the goddess of the wind” suggests that she was of the very highest birth, which, in the Dawn Age, suggests she was a daughter of the GEotD, perhaps related to the Tourmaline emperor. The timing fits, too, as the story of Elenei and Durran would need to have happened after the breaking in the arm of Dorne, which would follow Garth’s first men migration. Durran, himself, is likely descended from Garth.
Now we turn our focus to the Opal Emperor who was the last emperor before the blood betrayal and the ensuing long night. The Starks are generally reported to be of the first men, but I’d say they were founded by a descendent of the Opal Emperor and married into the first men. In my mind, the Starks and Daynes are both connected to the story of the last hero, The Dayne’s through their sword, Dawn, and I assume that the last hero was a Stark. For them to have migrated around the same time would make sense. Further, the stories of Stark conquest in TWoIaF suggest that they were relative latecomers to the north, possibly arriving during or not long before the time of the long night.
Might the original Stark last hero have gotten the sword Dawn from his Dayne cousin to allow him to defeat the others, only to then return the sword to Starfall once the war was over, something Ned reenacts years later? Might Jon be given the sword Dawn in TWoW by Ned Dayne, or perhaps take it from such, in the case of Darkstar, before taking up the role of last hero? I think the answer to both questions is YES!
Magic in the Eyes
To close this discussion, let’s contrast the eye colors of the gemstone emperors and empress with those of their hypothesized modern descendents. Most of these early royal gemstones have a depth to them associated with multiple colors, pearlescence or a cloudy / molten look inside of them, while the modern eyes are either described with solid colors or extremely clear gemstones. The only hint of magic in the modern eyes is in Gylbert Farwynd as discussed before or possibly in the mentions of eyes as “pools” or burning eyes signifying a depth or liquidity to them (for example Stannis, Cersei, others including the magical beasts).
Recall that the early gemstone emperors were also direct descendents of the “God-on-Earth”. No description is made of this deity-made-flesh, but I imagine eyes not only to be molten pools, but alive with light or exuding pure white light. These magical eyes would be successively diminished as the generations proceeded and “lesser kings” took their turns at the helm. This explains why Stark eyes are just grey, as opposed to Opal, or Lannister eyes green and not Jade; they are diminished from those of their forebears, just as their magic is diminished. The only exceptions to this in the text are that Onyx (Allisser, Drogo, Alleras) or Amethyst (Dany 2 times) are used a few times to describe eyes in the present.
In closing, early in A Game of Thrones, kingsblood is tied to the Valyrian blood of Targaryens, with hints that Drogo might somehow be equal. Then, later in that same volume, Valyrian blood is tied to other great houses through a vision of Dany’s forebears. Finally, in The World of Ice and Fire, those same forebears are given a back story that explains how they may have migrated all over the known world, sharing their magical genes, their kingsblood near and far.
Thanks to LML for helping to spark some of these ideas for me!