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No children in Asshai

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Something that jumped out to me concerning Asshai is that it doesn't seem to be a place people are born and raised. It is not a city in the sense that men or women inhabit it from cradle to grave,

True...

going to shops,

but who carry out the trade of food for precious metals and gems?

The taint must have been brought onto it by something else - a result of war seems reasonable. In the process of this war, Asshai was hit with some kind of disaster - something akin to magical radiation - that not only massively depopulated the city but made it noxious, toxic, and incapable of sustaining life. A similar process happened in Yeen.

But Yeen is usually uninhabited. Rhoynar lasted only a year - then every man, woman and child vanished. There have been other attempts to resettle Yeen, all of which ended in tragedy, but it still is a few times in a thousand years. Asshai is continuously inhabited even though nobody is born there like nobody is born at Wall.

The magic causes life to die, but it also sustains the people who it calls - Melisandre, having lived in Asshai for much of her life, requires little to no food to live.

And yet Asshai imports food and pays gold and gems for it.

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Going off at a tangent, I wonder if Lady Rohanne's sudden disappearance had anything to do with her alleged fondness for the dark arts. Maybe a spell went wrong and killed her; or maybe she gave some entity a claim on her soul, in return for becoming Lady of Casterly Rock.

I think that is one of the things George left to future D&E novellas. She was an ambitious woman and Gerold's ascension (with the accusations of kinslaying) suggests that they probably did some foul stuff.

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My crazy out there theory is that perhaps there are Others in the East and the babies of Asshai are given to the others. Asshai is close to Stygai,


said to be a haunted corpse city. Little is known of Stygai, bar that its byname comes from the fact it only sees the light of the sun for a brief period of time each day, around noon. It is in a valley in the mountains and likely cold. The Others shun the sun so could Stygai be their outpost in the East?


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The name Stygai is based on the River Styx, I think, the river that led into the Underworld.

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Something that jumped out to me concerning Asshai is that it doesn't seem to be a place people are born and raised. It is not a city in the sense that men or women inhabit it from cradle to grave, going to shops, having friends, being ruled by a lord or a mayor or something. It seems more like a place that people just... go to. There are no children because no one is born there, but rather they hear about it from another place, they hear about the mystery and darkness, and then they wonder about what it is.

Asshai is a huge city, but with no people. I think that the idea that children cannot be born there due to some magical interference is almost certainly the case: in the past, some magical calamity happened that rendered the once great city completely intolerable to life. Animals die, plants die, children die. It seems to me that the original builders of the city, probably the Deep Ones or some other pre-human race, were involved in some kind of catastrophic war in the distant past - the mazemakers were wiped out by life that came from the sea, and then the Deep Ones themselves were driven off land by something else. The stone itself is not dangerous on its own: if it were, then places like the Five Forts, Pyke, and the Isle of Toads would be uninhabitable as well. The taint must have been brought onto it by something else - a result of war seems reasonable. In the process of this war, Asshai was hit with some kind of disaster - something akin to magical radiation - that not only massively depopulated the city but made it noxious, toxic, and incapable of sustaining life. A similar process happened in Yeen.

So no one is born in Asshai. Why, then, are there people there? It makes sense to me that they are "called" in a certain sense. Some are brought as slaves, as shown by Melisandre, but I think it likely that the magical nature of Asshai causes certain people to just gravitate towards it. Asshai issues some kind of "pull" to those involved in the dark arts, and they flock to it to learn more, drawing them further and further into the Shadow. I think that the magical nature of Asshai prevents children from being born, but also causes it to be filled with people: the sorcerers, the shadow-binders, the dancers in the dark. It doesn't seem like a place that is "ruled" by anyone: it just is and the people there simply are, without any regard for one another. The magic causes life to die, but it also sustains the people who it calls - Melisandre, having lived in Asshai for much of her life, requires little to no food to live. It's a nightmare city, no doubt, at the very edge of sense and sanity, so unnatural and evil that the very land around it is completely poisonous.

And yet... there are always people there.

I really like this perspective on the whole thing. These "new" ancient and mysterious civilisations and cultures introduced in TWoIaF really give depth to this world. And it is refreshing to see a perspective on the past (albeit a fictional one) where it is not something tamed and perfectly controlled - as our normal perspective on the past usually is.

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Who in their right mind would bring/keep a child in a place where human sacrifice is commonplace? That's reason enough for me.

I doubt if the magicians kidnap each other's children. But, those who use children for sacrificial purposes would probably purchase them.

There may even be cults in which people give up their own children for sacrifice.

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If there's some kind of magical radiation in Asshai, it could well be that said radiations render every living being who stays there long enough sterile.

And since the disasted happened so long ago, it might have been a bit like post-Doom Valyria earlier on, but now, the radiation level has decreased and people can live there without dying fast or mutating into freaks after some time. Basically, Asshai is what Valyria will be in a few thousands years - you can live there but you won't be able to have kids anymore and will be mildly irradiated.

As for why people go there, it's obviously another "hinge of the world", like the Wall according to Melisandre.

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The magic also may render people immortal in a way, so they do not have to give birth, this would explain how the Asshai'i have not yet been killed off by their own nature. The infertility issue may also explain how Asshai's population is so tiny.

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I think Asshai has no children simply because it's a centre of magical learning like a university town. It can't be because there's something specifically harmful to kids since that same thing would harm adults as well - we know of at least 2 human adults who have been to Asshai, Marwyn and Mirri Maz Duur.



I tend to doubt much of what is said about areas to the far east since most if not all of it appears to be mere hearsay. Maybe the person who informed the Citadel about the 'no kids' thing went to Asshai while the kids were on a long class trip to Yi-Ti or something? :)

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I think Asshai has no children simply because it's a centre of magical learning like a university town. It can't be because there's something specifically harmful to kids since that same thing would harm adults as well - we know of at least 2 human adults who have been to Asshai, Marwyn and Mirri Maz Duur.

I tend to doubt much of what is said about areas to the far east since most if not all of it appears to be mere hearsay. Maybe the person who informed the Citadel about the 'no kids' thing went to Asshai while the kids were on a long class trip to Yi-Ti or something? :)

My only issue with the first paragraph is the occassional reference of an Asshai'i language, this indicates that Asshai has a native culture, if Asshai is indeed more of a university than a city then it would not have a distinct culture, unless this language is infact a pidgin, formed by the mixing of two or more different languages.

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Yes. The allusion is clear.

It's a double allusion since it's a reference not to the River Styxx but Stygia the home of evil sorcerers in Conan the Barbarian.

Just like he's thrown plenty of other references to Pulp fiction in Essos.

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I doubt if the magicians kidnap each other's children. But, those who use children for sacrificial purposes would probably purchase them.

There may even be cults in which people give up their own children for sacrifice.

That would certainly be in line with both Mel and MMD's comments of "the price they had to pay" to learn the art of blood magic.

Nothing from Marwyn on the subject but if the ladies have to pay a steep price to join the shadow club, it stands to reason that the men do too. I wonder what that would be for an Archmaester of the Citadel?

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That would certainly be in line with both Mel and MMD's comments of "the price they had to pay" to learn the art of blood magic.

Nothing from Marwyn on the subject but if the ladies have to pay a steep price to join the shadow club, it stands to reason that the men do too. I wonder what that would be for an Archmaester of the Citadel?

Sterility/castration/a lifetime of asceticism/gradually ceasing to be human?

Mel's price is the gradual loss of her humanity, IMHO. She's now become like one of the Nazgul.

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I'm 51% in the "Only Death Can Pay For Life" camp. Kids get castrated, burnt alive, or sacrificed at some altar for sure.



I'm 49% in the "Asshai is basically Almogordo, New Mexico meets Chernobyl" camp.

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If it is something about the type of magic being performed that renders the people of asshai sterile, is it possible that stannis and selyse being so close to melisandre can explain the miscarriages. How long was selyse interested oin r'hllor stuff for before melissandre arrived?

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Yes, I don't have my books on hand but I'm about 90% certain there's a textual reference to her being from 'elsewhere' and earning that moniker after having spent...some time(?) in Asshai. I'll dig in a few hours when I get home. Cheers!


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