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R + L = Lightbringer -- Updated with Part II


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I think Jon is Lightbringer. I'm not the first to suggest this, but I've never seen much solid evidence in support of the idea. My goal here is to provide the evidence (from the text and other relevant sources).

Part I of III

The “hero’s magical sword” is one of the biggest clichés in fantasy. We all know that George doesn’t like clichés. He likes to avoid or subvert them. George presents Lightbringer to us as a typical magical sword, but he also subtly hints that it is actually something more … unexpected. Lightbringer is a person, not a sword.

It may be that the original Lightbringer was a person, too, and that over the millennia, the true story of the Lightbringer changed incrementally in the telling (and retelling, and re-retelling) until it became the legend of a magical sword instead – at least in the Red Religion’s version of the tale. Or perhaps the first Lightbringer actually was a sword (likely Dawn). Either way, this time around, it’s a person. And I think the person is Jon.

In this post, I’ll be presenting some of the general evidence in support of the idea that Lightbringer is a person. I’ll tie the evidence to Jon where appropriate, but I plan on presenting the bulk of the evidence in favor of Jon as Lightbringer in a week or two. I decided to split things up because one post with everything would have been far far too long. When I refer to Part II below, I’m referring to the follow-up I’ll be posting. Edit: Now that I'm doing a Part III as well, some of what I say below will be in Part II is actually going to wind up in Part III instead.

Of course, if Jon is the blade, then he isn’t the wielder. I don’t think Jon is Azor Ahai Reborn. You’ll notice that I (sometimes conspicuously) leave any discussion of AAR out of what follows. Sorry about that, but my theory on the identity of AAR is a bit too involved to go into here. Feel free to speculate in the comments, though. Edit: I write a little bit about my theory on AAR in this post and the second half of this post, for anyone who's interested. Edit 2: I'm going to address the identity of Azor Ahai in Part III.

Please note that I will be assuming that Lyanna and Rhaegar are Jon’s parents, and that Lyanna died as a (direct or indirect) result of giving birth to Jon. In other words, I will be assuming that R+L=J.

Also, a big thank you to J. Stargaryen for his very helpful proofreading and advice.

San Gréal, Sang Réal

George partially based the Red Religion of R’hllor on Zoroastrianism and Catharism. Connections to Zoroastrianism are immediately obvious (a good god of fire and light versus an evil god of darkness). But what did Catharism contribute?

Catharism was a dualist Christian movement that began in France in the 12th century. Through a series of “Inquisitions,” the Catholic Church more or less eradicated what it called the “Cathar Heresy” by the 14th century. As a result of the Inquisitions, most Cathar texts were destroyed, so we know comparatively little about Cathar teachings. One thing we do know is that, like the Red Religion and Zoroastrianism, Cathars believed in two gods – one good, one bad – but Zoroastrianism features dualism plus all of the fire and light stuff. Why does George gives Catharism equal billing in discussing his inspirations for the Red Religion? The answer to that question is our first big clue that Lightbringer is a person, not a sword.

In 1982, authors Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln published a book called Holy Blood, Holy Grail. The controversial book purported to unravel a grand conspiracy involving, among others, the Cathar. It was an international bestseller. The claims made in the book have been largely debunked and dismissed by scholars, but since we’re looking at inspirations for a work of fantasy fiction, that doesn't much matter for present purposes.

The authors asserted that Jesus of Nazareth did not die on the cross, but rather went on to wed Mary Magdalene and father a child. They proposed that Jesus’ bloodline lived on, in secret, as the bloodline of the Merovingian kings of France, who were deposed in the 8th century (with the Catholic Pope’s blessing). The Cathar supposedly became the secret protectors of Jesus’ royal bloodline.

Just before the last Cathar stronghold was overrun by Catholic forces in 1325, there is some legitimate historical evidence that Cathar agents managed to smuggle out … something. At the time, it was believed to be gold or holy relics. Fortune hunters attempted to find the secret Cathar treasure, to no avail. Some even claimed that among the smuggled holy relics was the Holy Grail itself.

The authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail claimed that the Cathar were actually smuggling out the then-current Merovingian heir. The legend of the Holy Grail, they claimed, was partly based on a misreading of Old French texts. Instead of San Gréal (“Holy Grail”), they asserted that the Old French texts spoke of the Sang Réal (“Royal Blood”). In other words, to quote Maester Aemon’s revelation about the Prince that was Promised, “[t]he error crept in from the translation.” AFfC, Sam IV. The authors concluded that the Grail was not a cup that was used to catch Jesus’ blood, as the legends say, but an amalgam of Mary Magdalene (who “carried” Jesus’ blood by carrying his child) and Jesus’ heirs – the royal bloodline of the Merovingian kings.

In sum, one of George’s two main inspirations for the Red Religion is a historical religious group that famously became part of a conspiracy theory about a major holy relic actually being a living bloodline of kings. I think that Lightbringer – a major holy relic of the Red Religion – is George’s take on that idea.

Anguish and Ecstasy

Below is a bit from the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, as told to Davos by Salladhor Saan. As you read it, imagine that instead of a story about a husband forging a sword and then using it to kill his wife, it is instead a story about a husband and wife conceiving a child and the wife dying in (or as a result of) childbirth:

“A hundred days and a hundred nights [Azor Ahai] labored on the third blade, and as it glowed white-hot in the sacred fires, he summoned his wife. ‘Nissa Nissa,’ he said to her, for that was her name, ‘bare your breast, and know that I love you best of all that is in this world.’ She did this thing, why I cannot say, and Azor Ahai thrust the smoking sword through her living heart. It is said that her cry of anguish and ecstasy left a crack across the face of the moon, but her blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel. Such is the tale of the forging of Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes.

ACoK, Davos I.

Why did Nissa Nissa willingly allow Azor Ahai to “thrust” his sword into her? Because we’re dealing in metaphor, here. The husband was impregnating his wife, not “thrust[ing]” a literal “sword” into her. The sword “thrust” into Nissa Nissa represents her husband literally and figuratively “thrust[ing]” himself inside her. Lightbringer, the “sword” he draws out, is their child – a combination of the father’s “fire[]” and “steel” and the mother’s “blood and her soul and her strength and her courage.” The word “blood” is often used to refer to familial lineage in the ASoIaF books. Any child of Nissa Nissa would be said to have her “blood,” just as the sword is said to.

Speaking of blood, babies are often covered in it when they are born (see, e.g., references in Dany’s chapters to midwifery and “the bloody bed” and Ned’s thoughts about Lyanna in her “bed of blood”). Thus, a newborn Lightbringer would be a “Red” (bloody) Sword. Nissa Nissa’s true sacrifice was her death on the “bloody bed” of childbirth.

There are clues hidden throughout the text about the true nature of Lightbringer’s “forging.” For example, George uses the image of a man stabbing a woman with his “sword” as a metaphor for sex elsewhere in the books. Here’s part of a conversation between Theon and Barbrey Dustin. It is worth keeping in mind that this conversation occurs inside the Crypts of Winterfell, which hold so much mysterious importance for Jon:

Brandon loved his sword. He loved to hone it. ‘I want it sharp enough to shave the hair from a woman’s cunt,’ he used to say. And how he loved to use it. ‘A bloody sword is a beautiful thing,’ he told me once.”

“You knew him,” Theon said.

The lantern light in her eyes made them seem as if they were afire. “Brandon was fostered at Barrowton with old Lord Dustin, the father of the one I’d later wed, but he spent most of his time riding the Rills. He loved to ride. His little sister took after him in that. A pair of centaurs, those two …. Brandon was never shy about taking what he wanted. I am old now, a dried-up thing, too long a widow, but I still remember the look of my maiden’s blood on his cock the night he claimed me. I think Brandon liked the sight as well. A bloody sword is a beautiful thing, yes. It hurt, but it was a sweet pain.

ADwD, The Turncloak.

George begins by referencing Brandon’s actual, literal sword – but even in that reference, there’s a sexual undertone (“sharp enough to shave the hair from a woman’s cunt ….”). Next, we’re told that Lady Dustin’s eyes appear “afire.” After that, George draws a parallel between Brandon and Lyanna (both “loved to ride” horses). Finally, Lady Dustin uses “sword” as a metaphor for the male sexual organ and describes her sexual experience with Brandon’s “sword” as “sweet pain.”

I submit that George is giving us a big hint about the “forging” of Lightbringer with this passage. Look at the conversation in the abstract: Literal sword -> fire -> Lyanna reference -> sex -> metaphorical sword -> “sweet pain.”

The “sweet pain” bit is especially interesting, because it immediately calls to mind some similar wording in the Lightbringer story. After Azor Ahai “thrust” his sword into Nissa Nissa, we are told that she let out a “cry of anguish and ecstasy.” “[A]nguish” and “ecstasy” … pain and pleasure … “sweet pain.”

There are some other interesting references to “anguish and ecstasy” in the books. Every single one (aside from the one in the story of Nissa Nissa) is overtly related to either sex or pregnancy, suggesting that Nissa Nissa’s “cry of anguish and ecstasy” is related to sex/pregnancy too. Here’s another example:

The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. Shimmers of heat traced patterns on her skin, insistent as a lover’s hand ….

Melisandre I, ADwD.

The sexual subtext here is obvious. For starters, after a reference to blood on a woman’s thigh (evoking menstruation or childbirth or loss of virginity) we are told that “the fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her ….” And George follows that up with reference to “a lover’s hand ….”

Shortly after this passage, Mel has a vision of Jon Snow in her flames. As we shall see, references to Jon (direct or indirect) seem to pop up a lot in the vicinity of Lightbringer-related clues in the text. I’ll come back to the vision when I post Part II.

Let’s turn to another “agony” and “ecstasy” reference. Like the last one, this is courtesy of Melisandre:

“… we can go no farther. The portcullis goes all the way to the bottom. And the bars are too closely spaced for even a child to squeeze through.”

There was no answer but a soft rustling. And then a light bloomed amidst the darkness.

Davos raised a hand to shield his eyes, and his breath caught in his throat. Melisandre had thrown back her cowl and shrugged out of the smothering robe. Beneath, she was naked, and huge with child. Swollen breasts hung heavy against her chest, and her belly bulged as if near to bursting. “Gods preserve us,” he whispered, and heard her answering laugh, deep and throaty. Her eyes were hot coals, and the sweat that dappled her skin seemed to glow with a light of its own. Melisandre shone.

Panting, she squatted and spread her legs. Blood ran down her thighs, black as ink. Her cry might have been agony or ecstasy or both. And Davos saw the crown of the child’s head push its way out of her. Two arms wriggled free, grasping, black fingers coiling around Melisandre’s straining thighs, pushing, until the whole of the shadow slid out into the world and rose taller than Davos, tall as the tunnel, towering above the boat.

ACoK, Davos II.

First Davos references a literal child. Then Mel begins to shine with light. Mel’s “cry” of “agony or ecstasy or both” as she gives birth sounds an awful lot like Nissa Nissa’s “cry of anguish and ecstasy.” And light “bloom[ing] amidst the darkness” sounds a lot like a Lightbringer reference.

Notably, this passage is from Davos’ second chapter in ACoK. His first chapter is the one in which we initially hear the story of Lightbringer. So, hot on the heels of introducing the story of Nissa Nissa’s sacrifice and the forging of Lightbringer, George shows us a pregnant woman giving birth to a magical baby as she literally shines with light while employing some functionally identical wording (“agony” and “ecstasy”) to directly tie Nissa Nissa’s story to Mel giving birth. *Cough hint hint cough.*

But, if this is supposed to be a hint about Lightbringer being Nissa Nissa’s child, shouldn’t the baby (our Lightbringer stand-in) be the one shining instead of the mother? Consider the tale of Lightbringer’s forging again: “[Nissa Nissa’s] blood and her soul and her strength and her courage all went into the steel.” Nissa Nissa’s qualities went into Lightbringer. The mother’s qualities went into the child. So, if the mother “shone” ….

There are a couple of Jon references in the above passage, but I’m going to skip over them for now because I haven’t introduced the text that ties them to Jon, yet.

While we’re on the subject of Nissa Nissa’s qualities being inherited by her child, let’s take a quick look at the Jade Compendium:

The Jade Compendium. The pages that told of Azor Ahai. Lightbringer was his sword. Tempered with his wife’s blood if Votar can be believed. Thereafter Lightbringer was never cold to the touch, but warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm. In battle the blade burned fiery hot. Once Azor Ahai fought a monster. When he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast, its blood began to boil. Smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame.”

Clydas blinked. “A sword that makes its own heat …”

“… would be a fine thing on the Wall.” Jon put aside his wine cup and drew on his black moleskin gloves.

ADwD, Jon III.

Lightbringer was “warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm.” And how is a person warm? Natural human body heat, of course. And if Lightbringer was warm in the same way Nissa Nissa was … well, you get the idea.

Earlier on the same page (at least in my e-book version), Clydas offers Jon some wine:

“When Clydas poured, Jon held the cup with both hands, sniffed the spices, swallowed. The warmth spread through his chest.”

Alcohol doesn’t actually make you warmer (in fact, it lowers your body temperature). But it can make you feel warmer because it causes your own warm blood to flow more heavily closer to your skin. In other words, this is a reference to Jon’s own body heat, on the same page where we learn that Lightbringer was “warm as Nissa Nissa had been warm.”

Interestingly, the mention of the Jade Compendium quoted above is immediately preceded by a sentence referencing Maester Aemon Targaryen’s family history: “[Aemon] had been a king’s son, a king’s brother, a king’s uncle.” Given R+L=J, that’s a reference to Jon’s family too. George is slyly tying Jon’s heritage to the story of Lightbringer.

One last thought on the Jade Compendium. When Aemon marks the passage quoted above for Jon, he tells him:

Knowledge is a weapon, Jon. Arm yourself well before you ride forth to battle.”

ADwD, Jon II.

So, the passage about Lightbringer having Nissa Nissa’s warmth is prefaced by Aemon’s use of “weapon” as a metaphor. Another one of Geroge’s subtle hints.

We have one last example of “anguish and ecstasy” to look at. This one immediately follows a discussion of Bronn’s son, whom Cersei repeatedly refers to as a “bastard":

Jaime knew the look in his sister’s eyes. He had seen it before, most recently on the night of Tommen’s wedding, when she burned the Tower of the Hand …. Even in the baleful glow, Cersei had been beautiful to look upon. She’d stood with one hand on her breast, her lips parted, her green eyes shining. She is crying, Jaime had realized, but whether it was from grief or ecstasy he could not have said.

The sight had filled him with disquiet, reminding him of Aerys Targaryen and the way a burning would arouse him. A king has no secrets from his Kingsguard. Relations between Aerys and his queen had been strained during the last years of his reign. They slept apart and did their best to avoid each other during the waking hours. But whenever Aerys gave a man to the flames, Queen Rhaella would have a visitor in the night.

AFfC, Jaime II.

Cersei’s look of “grief or ecstasy” puts Jaime in mind of Aerys and how he would be sexually aroused by burning people. Jaime remembers Aerys raping his wife after such burnings. It is heavily hinted in the books that Dany was conceived on one such occasion.

Cersei's repeated references to Bronn's "bastard" subtly remind the reader of Jon. And of course, the burning of the Hand’s Tower also brings Jon, with is burned hand, to mind.

So, once again, we have Jon and fire and the conception of a child all tied together along with a variation of “anguish and ecstasy.” This example also directly references Aerys and Rhaella, from whose line the Prince that was Promised was prophesied to be born. The fact that Dany is also (possibly) evoked here makes sense in light of her unique relationship to Lightbringer, which we’ll look at in Part II.

The Burning of the Seven

Of course, Aerys and Cersei aren’t the only characters in the books who like to burn things. Let’s turn to one of the biggest, best clues in the text that Nissa Nissa is the mother of Lightbringer: The burning of the Seven. This is from the same chapter that contains the first mentions of Lightbringer and Nissa Nissa:

The Maiden lay athwart the Warrior, her arms widespread as if to embrace him. The Mother seemed almost to shudder as the flames came licking up her face. A longsword had been thrust through her heart, and its leather grip was alive with flame. The Father was on the bottom, the first to fall. Davos watched the hand of the Stranger writhe and curl as the fingers blackened and fell away one by one, reduced to so much glowing charcoal.

ACoK, Davos I.

I didn't bother to bold any portion of the above passage, because it’s all important. It seems patently obvious that there’s hidden meaning here. There have been plenty of threads over the years attempting to analyze what’s going on beneath the surface in this little bit of text. This is my take:

The Warrior is Rhaegar, who famously told Ser Willem Darry: “It seems I must be a warrior” after finding “something in his scrolls that changed him.” ASoS, Dany I.

The Maiden is Lyanna. George gives us some potential hints about Lyanna being the Maiden when he describes Westeros’ Maiden’s Day holiday. On Maiden’s Day, maids wearing white dresses place paper “garlands” on the Maiden’s statue and light tall candles at her feet. AFfC, Cersei IX. The “garlands” placed on the Maiden put us in mind of the “garland of pale blue roses” (AGoT, Ned XIII) Rhaegar placed on Lyanna’s lap when he crowned her the Queen of Love and Beauty. AGoT, Ned XV. For that matter, the image of the young women themselves, dressed in white with their garlands in hand brings Lyanna to mind: “The slim, sad girl who wore a crown of pale blue roses and a white gown spattered with gore could only be Lyanna.” ACoK, Theon V. Lastly, the many tall candles aflame at the feet of the statue of the Maiden gives us an image that brings us full circle back to the Maiden’s statue burning outside Dragonstone.

The Maiden and the Warrior are paired in the passage, lying with one “athwart” the other, the Maiden seeming “to embrace” the Warrior. In other words, the Maiden and the Warrior represent lovers (Rhaegar and Lyanna) lying together in a passionate embrace. That the Maiden is lying “athwart” (crosswise) her lover, the two statues burning as they embrace, points to the strife and suffering that Lyanna’s and Rhaegar’s relationship caused.

The passage transitions from the Maiden and the Warrior to the Mother and the Father. George is telling us that the Maiden and the Warrior – that Lyanna and Rhaegar – became a mother and a father.

The Father was “the first to fall.” So was Rhaegar. He died on the Trident, while Lyanna was at the Tower of Joy, pregnant with Jon (or maybe having just given birth to him).

The Mother – Lyanna – “seemed almost to shudder as the flames came licking up her face.” The description of the Mother burning is reminiscent of the description of Mel “shudder[ing]” as “lood trickled down her thigh” while the fire was “inside her …. insistent as a lover’s hand.” Both involve “shudder[ing]” in response to sexualized fire. The Mel passage connects back to Nissa Nissa because of the “agony” and “ecstasy” language. And it connects to childbirth via the other Mel passage – the birthing of the shadow baby – which also features “agony” and “ecstasy” language.

Tellingly, the Mother’s statue is set up as a direct reference to Nissa Nissa: “A longsword had been thrust through her heart, and its leather grip was alive with flame.” So, George is flat-out telling us that Nissa Nissa is “the Mother.” And the grip of the sword that had been “thrust” through her heart was “alive” with flame. What kind of sword is “alive?” The kind that’s a metaphor for a living person, of course.

In the paragraph following the one quoted above, Davos’ thoughts briefly turn to Lord Velaryon, whose “house had thrice provided brides for Targaryen princes,” so we get an almost immediate, direct reference to the Targaryen bloodline (which Jon is a part of) as well as a potential hint that Lyanna was secretly Rhaegar's bride. Davos’ thoughts then turn to his own sons (putting the reader in mind of parenthood). Then King Stannis walks “straight to the Mother” and draws “Lightbringer” out of her. The king thrusts “Lightbringer” into the ground and returns to his castle, leaving the sword behind while:

The red woman remained a moment to watch as Devan knelt with Byren Farring and rolled up the burnt and blackened sword in the king’s leather cloak. The Red Sword of Heroes looks a proper mess, thought Davos.

So, we are left with an image of two men bundling up the sword as if they’re swaddling a baby, after “the Mother” has burned up. Davos thinks that the “Red Swordlooks a proper mess.” If he saw a newborn baby, fresh from its mother’s “bed of blood,” he might think the same.

After Lyanna died of a fever (a different kind of “burning”), many R+L=J adherents believe that two men (Ned and Howland Reed) left the ToJ with baby Jon. Perhaps Jon was swaddled in a cloak just as Lightbringer is here.

Speaking of Jon, we have one last statue to discuss. The text moves from the Mother and Father to the Stranger with his burning hand, the fingers “glowing” as they fall away. Most readers seem to agree that Stannis’ sword (the one actually thrust in the Mother) is not the real Lightbringer. The Stranger is a hint about the identity of the true Lightbringer. The child of the Mother (Lyanna/Nissa Nissa) and the Father (Rhaegar) isn't Stannis' "burnt sword." It's the Stranger. It’s Jon, with his burned hand; Jon, who always seems to feel like an outsider -- a stranger -- no matter the company. Even Jon's name -- Jon Snow -- sounds a lot like Jon Doe ... a catchall name used for strangers.

At the risk of over-simplifying, the Stranger is essentially the Seven’s version of the Grim Reaper. He’s death. A sword is an instrument of death, so it’s not surprising that George chose the Stranger to represent his metaphorical Lightbringer. If Lyanna died of childbirth complications, then Jon caused death merely by coming into the world. The metaphorical sword killed Nissa Nissa just as effectively as a real one.

Jon's burned hand (and the Stranger's) are probably references the the biblical concept of the vengeful hand of an angry god, the "red right hand" of vengeance that John Milton wrote about (and that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds sang a badass song about):

What if the breath that kindled those grim fires,

Awaked, should blow them into sevenfold rage,

And plunge us in the flames; or from above

Should intermitted vengeance arm again

His red right hand to plague us?

John Milton, Paradise Lost

Perhaps George is referencing the "Red Right Hand" of vengeance by calling Lightbringer the "Red Sword of Heroes." Interestingly, George has been throwing out textual clues equating Jon with death since the very first chapter of AGoT:

“A ruler who hides behind paid executioners soon forgets what death is.”

That was when Jon reappeared on the crest of the hill before them.

AGoT, Bran I.

So, there you have it. Jon is “what death is.” Jon is the freaking Grim Reaper. I have plenty more to say, but I think that’s a nice, ominous note to leave things on for now.

In Part II, I’ll highlight more evidence that Jon is Lightbringer. I’ll take a closer look at Jon’s relationship with death, with dragons, and with other characters. Part II will end with a look at what Jon being Lightbringer means for his story arc, and for the overarching plot of ASoIaF.

Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think.

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This is fairly well established theory.

Nicely detailed and presented post however.

Something to think about is there is evidence of flaming swords being wielded in the text, more specifically beric who used his blood to light the sword.

So although a trope that GRRM wishes to subvert-'the magic sword' is still in his text...

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I did not read all of that, but if Jon is LB then Rhaegar was AA reborn? So we are doomed after all?

I don't actually think Rhaegar is AAR, although I know it's a natural conclusion to draw. I think that AAR's identity is ... complicated.

This is fairly well established theory.

Nicely detailed and presented post however.

Something to think about is there is evidence of flaming swords being wielded in the text, more specifically beric who used his blood to light the sword.

So although a trope that GRRM wishes to subvert-'the magic sword' is still in his text...

Thanks for reading. :)

I know I'm not the very first person to suggest that Jon might be Lightbringer. Honestly, though, I haven't seen much evidence to support the idea before. The evidence in support is what I'm hoping to add.

I'm not sure whether I'd consider Beric's sword to be magic, since the magic seems to come from his blood and not the steel, but I wouldn't be surprised if we see a more traditional magical sword before the series ends. It might even be a flaming sword. I don't think George is always trying to be subversive.

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What about the attempts to forge in water and lion? You've kinda just skipped right to Nissa Nissa.

IMO there will be multiple things that fit as Lightbringer by the end so this(or something similar) could be one.

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“It’s just a sword,” she said, aloud this time...

...but it wasn’t.

Needle was Jon Snow’s smile.

She padded up the steps as naked as her name day, clutching Needle. Halfway up, one of the stones rocked beneath her feet. Arya knelt and dug around its edges with her fingers. It would not move at first, but she persisted, picking at the crumbling mortar with her nails. Finally, the stone shifted. She grunted and got both hands in and pulled. A crack opened before her.

“You’ll be safe here,” she told Needle. “No one will know where you are but me.” She pushed the sword and sheath behind the step, then shoved the stone back into place, so it looked like all the other stones. As she climbed back to the temple, she counted steps, so she would know where to find the sword again. One day she might have need of it. “One day,” she whispered to herself.

House of Black and White is the closest thing to afterlife. The difference between black and white is like the difference between life and death. So the steps of HoB&W is practically the purgatory, where one should be purified in order to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the heavens. So we basically have the following structure:

Braavos (realm of the living) – steps (purgatory) – HoB&W (realm of the dead)

Now compare it to this:

Westeros (realm of the living) – Wall (purgatory) – LoAW (realm of the dead)

That is quite intriguing because purgatory is for those who are not pure enough to be accepted to the heavens. The Wall is the final destination for most of the killers, rapists, thieves and other criminals who are taking their last chance to purify themselves from their sins. The brothers of the NW are called crows all over the realm. That must be a very old name with origins most likely forgotten. Crows and ravens eat the dead. So they are part of the natural purification cycle.

My brothers. My pack. Many a cold night he had slept with his wolves, their shaggy bodies piled up around him to help keep him warm. When I die they will feast upon my flesh and leave only bones to greet the thaw come spring. The thought was queerly comforting. His wolves had often foraged for him as they roamed; it seemed only fitting that he should feed them in the end. He might well begin his second life tearing at the warm dead flesh of his own corpse.

Varamyr felt queerly comforting with the idea of eating his own corpse with his pack at the start of his second life. That queer comfort is another way of saying purification. I think there is much and more about cannibalism, eating the dead, purification, deadly sins (Rat Cook) etc. but that is enough for now.

In order to be accepted to the HoB&W (the realm of the dead), Arya had to sacrifice all her belongings and enter the house as naked as her name day. This is a symbolic way of dying. Arya’s strong resemblance of Lyanna is known.

So it is tempting to read this scene as Lyanna sacrificing herself and hiding the sword (Jon) in the purgatory (Wall). Needle was pushed to a crack in the steps. Jon will be pushed to an ice cell (a crack) in the Wall. Jon will go under a purification process.

GRRM uses Dywen to foreshadow important things.

The red woman remained a moment to watch as Devan knelt with Byren Farring and rolled up the burnt and blackened sword in the king’s leather cloak. The Red Sword of Heroes looks a proper mess, thought Davos.

When I saw this quote, I immediately recalled this:

Dywen clacked his wooden teeth and said, “Gods be good, our Lord Commander’s still in swaddling clothes.”

This is how the Lightbringer killed the monster:

Once Azor Ahai fought a monster. When he thrust the sword through the belly of the beast, its blood began to boil. Smoke and steam poured from its mouth, its eyes melted and dribbled down its cheeks, and its body burst into flame.

That seems queerly similar to Varamyr’s death while inside the eagle

His last death had been by fire. I burned. At first, in his confusion, he thought some archer on the Wall had pierced him with a flaming arrow … but the fire had been inside him, consuming him. And the pain …

Varamyr had died nine times before. He had died once from a spear thrust, once with a bear’s teeth in his throat, and once in a wash of blood as he brought forth a stillborn cub. He died his first death when he was only six, as his father’s axe crashed through his skull. Even that had not been so agonizing as the fire in his guts, crackling along his wings, devouring him. When he tried to fly from it, his terror fanned the flames and made them burn hotter. One moment he had been soaring above the Wall, his eagle’s eyes marking the movements of the men below. Then the flames had turned his heart into a blackened cinder and sent his spirit screaming back into his own skin, and for a little while he’d gone mad. Even the memory was enough to make him shudder.

Mel took the credit for burning the eagle but she is a known liar. She foresaw the deaths of the kings and played a mummer’s show to impress Stannis by burning the leeches full of Edric’s blood. Hence, if no one is taking the credit of burning the eagle and everybody is assuming that was Mel’s work, why should she deny it when Jon asked? In fact, what Mel exactly said is this:

“Dalla died.” Jon was saddened by that still. “Val is her sister. She and the babe did not require much capturing, Your Grace. You had put the wildlings to flight, and the skinchanger Mance had left to guard his queen went mad when the eagle burned.” Jon looked at Melisandre. “Some say that was your doing.

”She smiled, her long copper hair tumbling across her face. “The Lord of Light has fiery talons, Jon Snow.”

I think the death of the eagle was Jon’s doing (but he does not know that of course). Remember the eagle had tasted the blood of Jon and Ghost. What is that supposed to mean?

Unsmiling, Lord Beric laid the edge of his longsword against the palm of his left hand, and drew it slowly down. Blood ran dark from the gash he made, and washed over the steel.

And then the sword took fire.

It is the blood of the Lightbringer that makes it awfully strong and burning. Note that Varamyr was guarding Mance’s tent and his shadowcat was longing to rip Jon apart in that scene. Varamyr was inside the eagle, telling what he was seeing and then the eagle was suddenly burned and Varamyr went mad. I think the Lightbringer (Jon) destroyed the monstrous beast (Varamyr).

The following matter is intriguing and I can’t decipher it yet.

It was Dalla who answered him, Dalla great with child, lying on her pile of furs beside the brazier. “We free folk know things you kneelers have forgotten. Sometimes the short road is not the safest, Jon Snow. The Horned Lord once said that sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”

“Dalla told me something once. Val’s sister, Mance Rayder’s wife. She said that sorcery was a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.”

“A wise woman.” Melisandre rose, her red robes stirring in the wind. “A sword without a hilt is still a sword, though, and a sword is a fine thing to have when foes are all about.”

“Do you remember what my sister told you?”

“Yes.” A sword without a hilt, with no safe way to hold it. But Melisandre had the right of it. Even a sword without a hilt is better than an empty hand when foes are all around you.

ETA: Sam always says (in a way similar to Jon says Val is not a princess) the obsidian knife killed the Other not him. Obsidian is also called frozen fire, a strange union of fire and ice, which reminds me of Jon

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Nice work, Schmendrick! I admit I'm still far from fully convinced, but then I don't think I will be until the story is over. Too much still hinges on how it all plays out in the end ;)

As for "dangerous" or even "villainous" carriers of flaming swords, I refer you to Surtr - a giant from Norse mythology whose name means "the black one". During Ragnarök, Surtr will lead the forces of fire against the Gods, slaying the fertility god Freyr (heh!) in the process.

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What about the attempts to forge in water and lion? You've kinda just skipped right to Nissa Nissa.

IMO there will be multiple things that fit as Lightbringer by the end so this(or something similar) could be one.

if Nissa Nissa is Lyanna, then the Water could be Aurane waters that some people think is Rhaegars kid, and the Lion could be cersei his soon-to-be-but-failed betrothal. Wild speculation though :P

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I think it's an interesting theory and you've certainly accumulated some evidence in favor of it. While I think it's possible, I'm not quite convinced.

1) The fact Lightbringer is described as the Red Sword isn't adequately answered by your theory. I just don't see it being nicknamed as such unless it was more of a permanent feature of whatever Lightbringer was supposed to represent and not just an aspect of it as a newborn that would immediately get washed off as you said in reference to the blood. Maybe if Jon is brought back as a fire zombie or something and is running around in flames lol. Maybe it's even supposed to be Mel for all we know.

2) I believe Aemon and possibly other characters exclaim Lighbringer glows. I know Jon has been described as pale, but to the point he's glowing or that would be a major distinguishing feature when there is an albino in the story(Bloodraven) and Mel who is described in more this fashion? Perhaps it's a metaphor and the character is supposed to just get rid of whatever is causing the darkness(Others) and light the way, but I think at this point that is too vague of a metaphor that can fit too many potential people in too many situations.

3) The Stranger statue representing Jon also seems problematic. If his whole deal as Lightbringer is to save mankind from the Others and the undead, wouldn't this mean he is more of a device to prevent death by stopping these things that would cause so much? It also doesn't make sense in reference to the other statues and the way the symbolism seems inconsistent.

4) A lot of this can be applied to Dany and possibly other characters as well. Dany's father and mother are both dead with Aerys having died before Rhaella. Dany has already established a pretty strong relationship with fire thus far so much so she had a period when she was immune to being burned and birthed fire breathing creatures. She is also from a King's line. Maybe Drogon is even Lightbringer with its father being dead already(Drago) and maybe Dany will be killed by Victarion with the one Mqorro hand withering away over time so he's the stranger in this instance and Drago was the warrior and Dany the maiden prior to them meeting.

5) The statues being used as evidence is also problematic to me, but it may be more to do with my opinion of Martin's over-use of symbolism. Grrm has stated there's to be no direct interference from any of the purported dieties on Planetos. I find it hard to fathom how the statues could burn in the significant way to depict the AA prophecy by chance without some sort of intervention by a diety unless I missed it being stated somewhere that Mel saw a vision depicting this scene and set it all up to specifically mirror that vision. Perhaps there is no symbolism to be taken from it, but it really seems like the way it was described it is pointing to something significant. I don't know of any magic described so far that could make this occur in such a fashion without divine intervention. So I guess what I mean is, either there is no symbolism regarding AA/lightbringer to be taken from this or I think Martin kind of used symbolism in a way that doesn't adhere to the principles of this planet that have been introduced as of yet.

I just want to stress though I think you did a fantastic job presenting in book evidence along with meta textual stuff concerning the symbolism and you could very well be right, I just don't think there is enough concrete evidence given to us yet for me to be that conclusive about this.

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3) The Stranger statue representing Jon also seems problematic. If his whole deal as Lightbringer is to save mankind from the Others and the undead, wouldn't this mean he is more of a device to prevent death by stopping these things that would cause so much? It also doesn't make sense in reference to the other statues and the way the symbolism seems inconsistent.

That night he dreamt of wildlings howling from the woods, advancing to the moan of warhorns and the roll of drums. Boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM came the sound, a thousand hearts with a single beat. Some had spears and some had bows and some had axes. Others rode on chariots made of bones, drawn by teams of dogs as big as ponies. Giants lumbered amongst them, forty feet tall, with mauls the size of oak trees.

“Stand fast,” Jon Snow called. “Throw them back.” He stood atop the Wall, alone. “Flame,” he cried, “feed them flame,” but there was no one to pay heed.

They are all gone. They have abandoned me.

Burning shafts hissed upward, trailing tongues of fire. Scarecrow brothers tumbled down, black cloaks ablaze. “Snow,” an eagle cried, as foemen scuttled up the ice like spiders. Jon was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again. He slew a greybeard and a beardless boy, a giant, a gaunt man with filed teeth, a girl with thick red hair. Too late he recognized Ygritte. She was gone as quick as she’d appeared.

The world dissolved into a red mist. Jon stabbed and slashed and cut. He hacked down Donal Noye and gutted Deaf Dick Follard. Qhorin Halfhand stumbled to his knees, trying in vain to staunch the flow of blood from his neck. “I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed. It was Robb before him now, his hair wet with melting snow. Longclaw took his head off. Then a gnarled hand seized Jon roughly by the shoulder. He whirled …

Ghost slept at the foot of the bed that night, and for once Jon did not dream he was a wolf. Even so, he slept fitfully, tossing for hours before sliding down into a nightmare. Gilly was in it, weeping, pleading with him to leave her babes alone, but he ripped the children from her arms and hacked their heads off, then swapped the heads around and told her to sew them back in place.

These two quotes are Strange enough for me.
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:bowdown: :bowdown: :bowdown:

I absolutely love this so far! especially the emphasis on the Cathar angle with the San greal and Sang real. It's great to see the evidence piled in one place

I suppose another clue linking Jon to lightbringer metaphor is in the Night Watch oath - "I am the sword in the darkness"

I posted this in the Jon re-read a few weeks back and it might be of some use here.

Jon - ASoS

"We free folk know things you kneelers have forgotten. Sometimes the short road is not the safest, Jon Snow. The Horned Lord once said that sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it."

Once I came upon this my mind recalled this passage way back in Jon X in ACOK

Jon slid his new dagger from its sheath and studied the flames as they played against the shiny black glass. He had fashioned the wooden hilt himself, and wound hempen twine around it to make a grip. Ugly, but it served.

I can't shake the feeling that these two are connected together.

Obsidian, as we find out, possesses some magic like qualities in the sense it is able to kill the ice-made-flesh others where man forged steel fails. Jon literally, albeit on a smaller scale, creates a workable hilt for the dagger out of simple materials in order to make it useful/serviceable for his needs, without making such a hilt he would cause himself injury, break the dagger or both. Also interesting to note is that Jon shares his improvised boon - a "newly hilted" dagger - to Grenn, which later saves his life (this incident with puddles)

Perhaps this second passage is subtle foreshadowing that Jon will find a way to fashion a metaphorical "hilt" for a sorcery-based weapon that can be used and shared with allies to fight against the long night While this "hilt" may be rough around the edges or "Ugly" in Jon's words, it would serve its purposes.

I suppose if we work along the lines of Jon being a metaphor for a lightbringer the "flaming sword" (or in the passage quoted above frozen fire), then I feel that the above "hilt" passages can be tied in. Perhaps, at the moment, Jon himself is the "sword" without a hilt - with no safe or practical way (or even the knowledge) to utilise himself just yet.

I wonder if any one else has noticed any other hilt related passages that can be tied into this, or am I just chasing ghosts? :dunno:

I cannot wait until part 2!

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Another clue in support of this theory is that Jon's story arc may be following the story arc of a magical sword from Norse mythology, Gram.

In Norse mythology, the sword Gram was forged by Wayland the Smith. Odin took the sword and stuck it into the tree Barnstokkr during a banquet in a King's hall. Odin told the assembled that whoever could pull the sword out would possess the sword. The only person who was able to pull the sword out was Sigmund (probably an inspiration for the Excalibur mythos).

However, during a battle Sigmund broke the sword against the spear of a soldier in a black hooded cloak. Sigmund gave the broken pieces to his wife, so it may later be reforged for their unborn son. The sword was reforged by the dwarf Regin, and once reforged was able to "cleave an anvil in twain". Sigmund's son, Sigurd, later used the sword to kill the dragon, Fafnir (originally a dwarf who was transformed into a dragon through his greed).

Likewise, after the King's banquet at Winterfell, Jon Snow was sent to the Wall. At the wall his primary tutor and role model becomes the smith, Donal Noye. Here we have the image of Jon being "forged" by a smith.

Then Lord Commander Mormont (like Odin associated with a Raven) makes Jon pledge to him that he will hold to his Night's Watch vows and take no part in the wars of men, thus he plays the part of Odin by symbolically imprisoning Jon into the Wall (as opposed to Barnstokkr) where other Lords are unable to make use of him.

I think Stannis plays the part of Sigmund (especially if Stannis is the one who sent the "pink letter" as some other posters have theorized) who is able to get Jon to break his vows and gets the NIghtswatch ready to march on Winterfell. However Jon is then symbolically "broken" against the spear of a black cloaked soldier, in that members of the NIght's Watch stab him to death (apparently).

What I think is going to happen is in the next book we will see that Jon has literally been split into two. My guess is he "warged" into Ghost right before his death. Further I believe that Melisandre will resurrect Jon's body. So we will have Jon/Ghost and we will have undead Jon both existing at the same time. Jon will be reforged when these two beings are reunited leading to Jon 2.0.

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Another interesting tidbit, if in fact Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, then he would be a direct descendant of a Targaryen dynasty that technically started when the Great Council anointed Aegon V as king over his older brothers. Two primary influences of Aegon V (in addition to Duncan the Tall) were his uncle Baelor the breakspear, and his father, Maekar I. What were Baelor and Maekar's nicknames? The hammer and anvil. Another imagery associated with the forging of a sword. Perhaps Jon's "forging" started not just with his birth but instead with the birth and the crowing of his ancestor Aegon V.

And interestingly enough, Brynden Rivers makes a comment that Aegon V was "born" as a dragon at the tournament of Whitehalls. Whitewalls, which was subsequently torn down and the ground sown with salt.

Aegon V then died at Summerhall, the castle which ended in flames and smoke. The same day that his grandson Rhaegar was born. Perhaps Azor Ahai the forger of Lightbringer is not a single person but represents Jon's dynastic line, Aegon V and Rhaegar who were born in salt and smoke.

And of course Jon would be Rhaegar's third child or third attempt at an heir.

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