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Alleras and the 3 apples - building on the symbolism from AFFC's prologue.


Sandy Clegg
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This builds on previous readings of the the AFFC prologue scene, specifically when Alleras 'the Sphinx’ shoots three apples, or “Dragons” (GRRM is not subtle here as it’s literally the first word of the book). Essentially, it is suggested that they foreshadow the upcoming fates of 3 Targaryens. A 2015 post on this forum got close, but a more recent one is what I am drawing on. Reddit link here:

https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/4177hm/spoilers_all_the_meaning_of_the_three_apples_in/

For the purposes of this reading, we’re only considering Targaryens that are still alive as of the start of AFFC, not ones that have already died (otherwise it’s hardly foreshadowing!) First, a summary of the symbolism:

  • Apple no. 1 = withered, and as such can be read as Master Aemon. It flies over the river and is cored (killed) but this is merely heard, not seen, due to the mist. Aemon also travels across the water (the Narrow Sea) and dies. I might add here that he dies ‘between chapters’ as Sam reveals details in flashback. We hear about his death, but do not ‘see’ it firsthand.
  • Apple no. 2 =  wormy, and is purported to represent Bloodraven (he is repeatedly associated with white worms or wormy roots). Alleras shoots the apple cleanly in two. “If you cut a worm in two, you make two worms,” says Armen. The original poster is unclear on what this might represent. 
  • Apple no.3  = plucked from the tree, i.e. fresh, and is supposedly Danaerys. Alleras misses, and the apple falls untouched into the river, suggesting that Dany may have a close call with death, perhaps during her crossing of the sea to Westeros, but will emerge unscathed? 

I liked this reading and wanted to see if I could find anything to support it, and actually found that if you keep reading after the apples' various fates have been described, Pate, the narrator, goes on some interesting tangents that seem to have more relevance - if we consider the above symbolism to be accurate.

Here are Pate's thoughts after each apple:

Apple one (Aemon) is cored. Then we get:

Quote
Mollander whistled. "You cored it. Sweet."
Not half as sweet as Rosey. Pate loved her hazel eyes and budding breasts, and the way she smiled every time she saw him. He loved the dimples in her cheeks. Sometimes she went barefoot as she served, to feel the grass beneath her feet. He loved that too. He loved the clean fresh smell of her, the way her hair curled behind her ears. He even loved her toes. One night she'd let him rub her feet and play with them, and he'd made up a funny tale for every toe to keep her giggling.

He essentially embarks on a horny reverie about the barmaid he fancies. What happens subsequent to Maester Aemon's death? Sam and GIlly indulge in a heavy 'romantic interlude' which I won't go into further here as this a family post. So, it appears we have a correlation.

Apple two (Bloodraven) is sliced in two. As of the end of ADWD, this character is still alive. However, let's see where Pate's mind goes after this apple's demise:

Quote
"This one's wormy," he complained, but he threw it anyway. The arrow caught the apple as it began to fall and sliced it clean in two. One half landed on a turret roof, tumbled to a lower roof, bounced, and missed Armen by a foot. "If you cut a worm in two, you make two worms," the acolyte informed them.
"If only it worked that way with apples, no one would ever need go hungry," said Alleras with one of his soft smiles. The Sphinx was always smiling, as if he knew some secret jape. It gave him a wicked look that went well with his pointed chin, widow's peak, and dense mat of close-cropped jet-black curls.
Alleras would make a maester. He had only been at the Citadel for a year, yet already he had forged three links of his maester's chain. Armen might have more, but each of his had taken him a year to earn. Still, he would make a maester too. Roone and Mollander remained pink-necked novices, but Roone was very young and Mollander preferred drinking to reading.

If we follow the pattern, we can take this to be a hint at what will follow Bloodraven's death. Here, rather than drifting to thoughts of Rosey, Pate focuses on the process of learning, of mastering skills in the form of Maester's chains. Bran, too, is currently undergoing his own form of training by Bloodraven, albeit in a more mystical form - greenseer power. Will the death of this one greenseer mean two more will take his place? If we follow the parallels, then we should have our two worms:

  • greenseer (1)  - a natural learner who has been studying only for a short time but has already made great strides (we can surely take this to be Bran). 
  • greenseer (2)  - one who has been studying the art far longer, has been slower to progress perhaps, but has achieved much nonetheless. Personally, I would be surprised if we don't see another rival greenseer as a foil for Bran, and Euron Greyjoy has been suggested as having dark magic powers by many. He even mentions having had similar 'flying' dreams as a boy, to those experienced by Bran. This is a good read for those wanting to know more about Euron's 'anti-Bloodraven' potential: 

https://madeinmyr.wordpress.com/2015/02/21/a-black-eye-shining-with-malice-thoughts-concerning-eurons-black-magic-and-potential-dark-powers/

Apple three (Danaerys) goes unharmed. Here is Pate's interior monologue immediately afterwards:

Quote
The apple splashed down into the river, untouched.
"See?" said Roone.
"The day you make them all is the day you stop improving." Alleras unstrung his longbow and eased it into its leather case. The bow was carved from goldenheart, a rare and fabled wood from the Summer Isles. Pate had tried to bend it once, and failed. The Sphinx looks slight, but there's strength in those slim arms, he reflected, as Alleras threw a leg across the bench and reached for his wine cup. "The dragon has three heads," he announced in his soft Dornish drawl.

Pate focuses on the Sphinx himself.  I think GRRM probably doesn't want to give too much away here, but we could take this as an allusion to Dany's inner strength and determination, despite her being a 'slight' young girl to outward appearances. Then there is the direct reference to the Targaryen prophecy which is at the heart of Dany's story: the dragon has three heads. So, she is a good fit. But something is missing ....

We haven't touched on Jon Snow yet! The one other remaining Targaryen in the story - and not an insignificant one at that. Would GRRM just ignore him in this riddle? Perhaps he hasn't, after all. Alleras is famously known to be Sarella, of Dorne, in disguise. Thus, the sphinx is a two-in-one figure, even down to his/her curly black hair, which has a white streak. We're back to Jon and Dany again, in terms of hair colour.  Could Alleras be a symbol of their eventual coming together? Ice and Fire, guys. Ice and Fire. 

Edited by Sandy Clegg
I misunderstood the term Widow's peak - Alleras has no white streak, clearly!
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Well firstly, I thought this was a fantastic read. So many years after the last book and I’m still being introduced to new finds (even if the original post was awhile back, respect to both original poster and new analysis from you). 
I want to comment more bit I need to let this sink in and see if any thoughts bubble up. Thanks for the new perspective and intelligent post.

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Nice analysis but while all observations are spot on, I think the premise that the prologue foreshadows the fates of particular Targaryens still living in the story at the beginning of aFfC isn't quite right. I suspect the answer to the riddle of the sphinx is hidden within this prologue chapter. In aFfC, Samwell IV we learn of "the riddle of the sphinx" through Sam's recollection of Maester Aemon's jumbled ravings and it's connected to "the dragon must have three heads."

Quote

Even when he did recall, his talk was all a jumble. He spoke of dreams and never named the dreamer, of a glass candle that could not be lit and eggs that would not hatch. He said the sphinx was the riddle, not the riddler, whatever that meant. He asked Sam to read for him from a book by Septon Barth, whose writings had been burned during the reign of Baelor the Blessed. Once he woke up weeping. “The dragon must have three heads,” he wailed, “but I am too old and frail to be one of them. I should be with her, showing her the way, but my body has betrayed me.”

 

Besides opening with "dragons" the prologue chapter immediately introduces us to Alleras, nicknamed the Sphinx and as you point out, we soon learn that a Sphinx is "a bit of this and a bit of that," basically a person of mixed heritage. What's more, we suspect Alleras to be Oberyn's daughter Sarella which adds to the "sphinx's" image - Sarella/Alleras is both male and female. Sam meets Alleras in the last chapter of aFfC and upon learning the nickname, is immediately reminded of Aemon's riddle:

Quote

Sam fumbled for a penny. “Are you a novice?” “An acolyte. Alleras, by some called Sphinx.” The name gave Sam a jolt. “The sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler,” he blurted. “Do you know what that means?” “No. Is it a riddle?” “I wish I knew. I’m Samwell Tarly. Sam.”

So aFfC begins with the Sphinx (of which there are also two, male and female, flanking the gates to the Citadel in Oldtown) and ends with another reference to the riddle. Also important: the sphinx itself is the riddle and Alleras/Sarella is one of the clues to the riddle. Thus, I would offer a somewhat different interpretation of the chapter. I think the "flying apples" represent Dany's three dragons while the rest of the text tells us something about their fates and their riders. The last apple represents Drogon and this dragon is the "sphinx" itself, the riddle. I'll get back to that further down. 

Rosey is worth a gold dragon to Pate. She symbolizes the dragon that Pate wants to "ride" - he is willing to pay a dragon for her virginity, for the privilage of "riding" her. That's what's on his mind throughout the chapter and she's introduced right at the beginning, soon after the apple. Incidentally, apples belong to the rose family of plants. Rosey thus leads us to the "riding" aspect of the riddle. The first apple is Viserion, the "white" dragon. I suspect there is wordplay on "wither" and "whiter" as a hint. Brown Ben Plumm is a candidate rider for Viserion, the dragon is fond of him. He is an older man and "withered." He however loses several games of cyvasse to Tyrion. 

Spoiler

In tWoW sample chapter, Tyrion is associated with the white dragon game piece which falls to the ground, suggesting Tyrion will lose his dragon. 

Also, Pate dies at the hands of the alchemist and will never "ride" Rosey. The cored apple thusforeshadows the dragon's death, possibly without having been ridden at all. 

The second wormy apple, divided in two:

On 9/9/2022 at 1:51 AM, Sandy Clegg said:
  • greenseer (1)  - a natural learner who has been studying only for a short time but has already made great strides (we can surely take this to be Bran). 
  • greenseer (2)  - one who has been studying the art far longer, has been slower to progress perhaps, but has achieved much nonetheless. Personally, I would be surprised if we don't see another rival greenseer as a foil for Bran, and Euron Greyjoy has been suggested as having dark magic powers by many. He even mentions having had similar 'flying' dreams as a boy, to those experienced by Bran

The second dragon, Rhaegal, will have two separate riders (one worm becoming two). One rider will naturally bond with the dragon (the natural learner who has only been studying for a short time), possibly  (f)Aegon. After the first rider's death, a second rider will claim the dragon but will have to work harder to successfully claim the beast. Euron Greyjoy is a distinct possibilty here. Alternatively, Arya also has prospects. She's assoicated with eating a worm which she pulled out of the kindly man's eye socket, she's courageous and resourceful enough to accomplish such a feat, and her taming a dragon would parallel Nettles' taming of Sheepstealer (Arya rather reminds me of Nettles). 

So now to Drogon and the riddle of the Sphinx: From the text we learned that a dragon will only accomodate one rider at a time and will only accept a new rider after the death of the first. I think Drogon is different. He, the "Sphinx" is the "riddle" because he will accept two riders, interchangable, within the same time frame, male and female, Dany and Jon: 

On 9/9/2022 at 1:51 AM, Sandy Clegg said:

Alleras is famously known to be Sarella, of Dorne, in disguise. Thus, the sphinx is a two-in-one figure, even down to his/her curly black hair, which has a white streak. We're back to Jon and Dany again, in terms of hair colour.

Another hint may be "salt and smoke." Adding to Alleras the sphinx as a two-in-one figure is her "salty" Dornish heritage (the Martells are "salty" Dornish coupled with her Summer Island roots. The people of the isles are black and can be considered "smokey." 
Ultimately, I think Khal Drogo is the clue to the riddle. "The dragon has three heads" -  Drogon was named after Drogo and Drogo had three bloodriders (three heads). The question is, does the dragon's own head count as one head or will there be three simultaneous riders?

Edited by Evolett
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I don't agree with any of it but killing Bloodraven's human form (and I believe Summer will tear him apart) will result in a second life, and possibly more than just the one. A simple skinchanger like Varamyr manages a simple second life in a wolf, Bloodraven's will likely be far more complex (just following the rules being established in Bran chapters by Bloodraven). Basically killing him won't be the end of him, it may multiple his power.

I believe the apples represent Dany's 3 "mounts", which are the 3 second lives of Drogon, which is what the sphinx is, the mix of different bloodlines of second lifers required to create a dragon. I've never gone through it thoroughly but there's some obvious big ticket items.

The first is Drogo, whom she loves and so the Rosey reference, over the water for the Narrow Sea. His death is not really his death as he takes a second life, it's ambiguous.

The second Euron, and so corrupted and will bring a plague and starvation to Westeros. This form is also the great stone beast and the turret roof is reference to the tall tower Euron must leap from (suicide of his human form) the same as the stone beast will take wing from. That's where GRRM throws in the description of Alleras's appearance, wicked, always smiling as Euron has his smiling eye, and holding some secret as Euron understands the second lifing process and seems to have a general clue how magic works.

The last is Jon. Dany will think she will need Jon to second life the stone beast to turn it back into a dragon, Jon's pure Targ blood fixing the corruption caused by Euron's. But she'll be wrong, it won't happen (and that's the point of the Alleras/Sarella/Sphinx, it's not Jon who has to do it, not a man, it's Dany herself), hence the miss, and the series will end with Jon thrusting a flaming sword into the blue crystal eye of the ice dragon, and falling to his presumed death in a body of water below (Daemon/Aemond end of the Dance is direct foreshadowing), and so the apple falls into water.

Edited by chrisdaw
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I interpret the story as the Sphinx being a creature of contradictions.  It disguised its gender and enters a male world.  It descends from the family who brought down Rhaenys and her dragon, yet it is also carrying Targaryen genes.  The Sphinx is part Martell supposedly carrying out the Sand Snake plot but it likely has a script of its own that it is playing.  It hungers for and seeks knowledge, just like our Dany.  It lives in a man's world, just like Dany had to do in the past in Drogo's khalasar.  This Alleras will become one of the three dragon riders.  It will be one of Dany's wingman to protect her flanks. 

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Well, I do seem to have opened a can of wyrms, as it were (not sorry for that pun by the way). OK, I’m a keeper of the peace by nature, so many thanks to these replies, in particular to Evolett as your post inspired me to go down some very interesting rabbit holes. 

Whenever I see a theory post that sparks contrary opinions my first thought is always this: ‘What itch has this not scratched, and how can we scratch it?’ I find this more useful than simply standing my ground. Clearly, I failed to address the ‘three dragon riders’ issue in my initial post. I think there’s a way to reconcile many of our differing views, though.

You want dragons/riders resolved? Let’s go.

First off, I will say that I don't intend to address disagreement with my readings of the first two apples, as I believe the third apple alone is sufficient to resolve the identity of all THREE dragon riders with some degree of certainty. I still don’t believe, however, we will learn much regarding the matching up of rider to specific dragon (Drogo, Rhaegal, Viserion). For what it's worth, I'm not sure it entirely matters who sits on which giant flying lizard, but that's just me.

So yes, I kind of ignored the deeper significance of the sphinx before, but after some investigation I realise now that this is indeed the key, or ‘riddle’ itself to The Three Heads of the Dragon (ominous caps free of charge).

Alleras is of mixed blood, a 'bit of this and a bit of that', having a Dornish father and a Summer Islander mother. Sphinxes may also be symbolic of bastards, for this reason. As the third apple has been correlated to Alleras (the uber-sphinx, it seems) then we should indeed take Alleras to be the riddle that is to be solved. Our final apple therefore points to ' three identities in one'. Three dragons. But not pure dragons- rather, ‘three dragon sphinxes’. They will each need to have only one Targaryen parent for this symbolism to be consistent.

At this point, some crediting to this reddit post is in order: https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/2h5xh7/spoilers_all_breaking_it_down_the_definitive/

In brief, the three sphinxes (and therefore dragon riders) are:

  • Jon Snow. The least controversial perhaps, with R+L=J being practically canon at this point. Note that it is not his status as bastard that is relevant here, only that he be half-Targaryen, not 100%.
  • Tyrion. I have no issue with the King Aerys + Joanna Lannister theory turning out to be true, considering all the hints GRRM gives us, but I’m aware that there is a schism in ASOIAF fandom about this. Let’s keep an open mind. However, a search on this forum should provide you with multiple sources for this if you haven't come across it before.
  • Daenerys. So here I had to do some digging, as there are so few hints of her parentage being different to what we have been led to believe. Theories were thin on the ground. And I was sceptical, too, believe me, until I found some interesting support from the text.

Daenerys the 'Storm' born

Credit goes here for the groundwork (which to be fair is about 75% of this section):

https://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/2h9cth/spoilers_all_the_queen_of_love_and_beauty_the/

In the above post, Daenerys’ genetic father is purported to be Bonifer Hasty, whose profile can be found here: https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Bonifer_Hasty. Worth a read before going any further, seriously.

Suffice to say, he is a withered, solemn, pious ‘stork’ of  man, as seen by Jaime. A man who has embraced the seven, especially the Maiden, living a life of seeming chastity. A man with regrets, it seems. On taking up temporary home at Harrenhall, he is especially keen that Jaime take with him Pia, a poor girl that has been brutalised by the Mountain. We may soon find out why the presence of this girl, who is around Dany's age, fills Bonifer with feelings of (self?) loathing. She serves as a reminder of a possible daughter he has long since abandoned.

The theory in summary: as a young man, Bonifer, of the Stormlands, crowned Dany’s mother, Rhaella, as queen of love and beauty at a tourney. Too low-born to be worthy of a Targ princess, this love match naturally never blossomed into anything official. But in ADWD Barristan Selmy, choosing his words carefully, tells Dany that Bonifer would have been her mother Rhaella’s choice, if she had been free to make one. When Rhaella flees to Dragonstone, this would have been the window for the two ex-lovers to rekindle their love and conceive Dany. Big 'if', right?

I won’t go into the details of timings regarding Dany’s conception here, as much of what happened to Rhaella in this period is beyond our traditional POV character’s knowledge. The reddit post contains a little too much ’speculation’ into the destruction of the Targaryen fleet during the storm that gave Dany her title. However, I recommend reading it, if only  to get a feel for the general timeline. Personally, I feel that Bonifer being a close supporter of Aerys' former Hand of the King and the Stormlands being close to Dragonstone are connection enough. It's not like he's just some random lord who trekked across from Highgarden.

In any case, assuming the two ex-lovers were able to somehow meet, let’s look at some of the key clues connecting Dany and Bonifer Hasty, or ‘Baelor’s Butthole’ as Jaime dubs him.

  1. Barristan’s testimony itself, which possibly holds back on many details to spare his/Dany’s blushes. 
  2. Both Dany and Bonifer Hasty command soldiers who are ‘gelded’. Literally in Dany’s case (the Unsullied), metaphorically in that of Bonifer:
    Quote

    Hasty hailed from the stormlands, so had neither friends nor foes along the Trident; no blood feuds, no debts to pay, no cronies to reward. He was sober, just, and dutiful, and his Holy Eighty-Six were as well disciplined as any soldiers in the Seven Kingdoms, and made a lovely sight as they wheeled and pranced their tall grey geldings. Littlefinger had once quipped that Ser Bonifer must have gelded the riders too, so spotless was their repute. - Jaime III)

  3. The numbers of these soldiers. Dany has 8,600 Unsullied, not the 10,000 as promised.
    Quote

    “… eight thousand and six hundred in the spiked bronze caps of fully trained Unsullied, and five thousand odd behind them, bareheaded, yet armed with spears and shortswords. The ones farthest to the back were only boys, she saw, but they stood as straight and still as all the rest.” - Danaerys III. 

     Meanwhile Bonifer has 86 pious knights remaining out of the initial Holy 100. Too much similarity here to be mere coincidence, in my opinion.

At this point , I will add my own findings to the above, and here we will require some examination of heraldry.

4. In Danaerys VI (ASOS) we get this description of Dany’s attire, when she is trying to achieve an official, queenly look:

Quote

Jhiqui helped Missandei bathe her while Irri was laying out her clothes. Today she wore a robe of purple samite and a silver sash, and on her head the three-headed dragon crown the Tourmaline Brotherhood had given her in Qarth. Her slippers were silver as well, with heels so high that she was always half afraid she was about to topple over.

Purple, with a silver sash, in high heels. Now take another look at Bonifer Hasty’s house colours:

https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Bonifer_Hasty

Purple, with a diagonal white streak, as described in AFFC, Jaime III:

Quote

He took his own supper in Hunter's Hall with Ser Bonifer Hasty, a solemn stork of a man prone to salting his speech with appeals to the Seven. "I want none of Ser Gregor's followers," he declared as he was cutting up a pear as withered as he was, so as to make certain that its nonexistent juice did not stain his pristine purple doublet, embroidered with the white bend cotised of his House.

For those not familiar with heraldry terms, just do a web search for ‘white bend cotised’ and notice the diagonal pattern. Does this remind anyone of Dany’s silver sash on purple?

Note also that Dany’s heels are so high that she about to topple over, giving her stork-like symbolism.

She is her father writ small.

5. [EDIT] I wasn't going to include this, but as there is so little information Jaime gives us about Bonifer, every detail looms suddenly large with importance. Jaime notes in AFFC that Bonifer is 

Quote

cutting up a pear as withered as he was

and then in ADWD, in Dany's first chapter, Viserion smacks a pear tree with his tail ...

Quote

 ... thumping the trunk of the tree so hard that a pear came tumbling down to land at Dany's feet

Clues literally falling at her feet.

Now, regardless of any inconsistencies with timings about Rhaella’s pregnancy with Dany, I feel as though we have built a strong case, at the very least, for GRRM heavily hinting at Bonifer being Dany’s genetic father, which would make her: our third sphinx.

This brings us back to Alleras, Pate’s focus following the third apple. If you want to supplement the Dany/Jon imagery I mentioned in my first post with that of Tyrion, then let’s not forget Alleras’ other qualities: he is wealthy, likes to drink, and knows things. Alleras the sphinx is the riddle indeed. And by seeking out our three fellow sphinxes, we may have reached the heart of the riddle, summarised by Alleras’ drawling words, brimming with meaning: ‘The dragon has three heads.’

Ok, let my lynching resume :)

Edited by Sandy Clegg
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Lovely theories, thanks for sharing. Hope they're all true - then chances of Dany inheriting the 'taint' from Aerys drop to zero.

The only thing is, at the end of the day, there's got to be some consistency in grrm's use of coded imagery - can't have some apples that are loaded with meaning, and others that are just apples. I think 'all the apples' is the correct take, but the story is so huge and the hints are so obscure - when the fans look for patterns in food, the ideas go off in all directions. So far in the books people have been likened to: animals and fish, fruit and root vegetables, ants and bees, and trees. That's a lot to make sense of.

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It's great that everyone sees different aspects of the chapter. There are several insights that I know are important and relevant, the thing is how do they fit together. Anyway while pondering all this my perspective suddenly shifted. We’ve been looking at the apples in terms of dragons, both literally and as the three heads/riders. We have included the symbolism of Alleras as Sphinx in the mix of “the three heads.” But what if we’ve been looking at this the wrong way?
What if the “Sphinx” represents the antagonist that needs to be overcome by the three-headed dragon?

In Greek mythology, the Sphinx is a female monster sent by the gods to plague the town of Thebes for some ancient crime. It preyed upon the people and devoured those who failed to solve her riddle. The sphinx had the head and breast of a woman, the body of a lion, eagle's wings and, according to some, a serpent's tail.    

If the interpretation of the apple symbolism is correct, we’re overlooking the fact that by shooting the symbolic apples out of the sky, Alleras the Sphinx is actually being presented as a danger to the Targaryen three headed dragon, its nemesis. He brings down two apples. When he misses the last apple, he says:

“The day you make them all is the day you stop improving.”

Our Sphinx is practicing taking dragons down and intends to improve on these skills. This suggests that the sphinx and three-headed dragon are two completely different symbols. Also, in contrast   to  the three-headed feature of the dragon, the mythological sphinx has only one head and body parts made of different species. In Alleras case, his biological make-up includes two distinct nationalities and two faces – male and female. Perhaps the two sphinxes flanking the gates of Oldtown are meant to be a clue to the nature of the Sphinx in question:

Quote

The gates of the Citadel were flanked by a pair of towering green sphinxes with the bodies of lions, the wings of eagles, and the tails of serpents. One had a man’s face, one a woman’s.

Their description matches that of the mythological sphinx.

And there is another matching sphinx in the narrative, not named as such, but it’s a sphinx by definition nevertheless – the Harpy:

 

Quote

In the center of the Plaza of Pride stood a red brick fountain whose waters smelled of brimstone, and in the center of the fountain a monstrous harpy made of hammered bronze. Twenty feet tall she reared. She had a woman’s face, with gilded hair, ivory eyes, and pointed ivory teeth. Water gushed yellow from her heavy breasts. But in place of arms she had the wings of a bat or a dragon, her legs were the legs of an eagle, and behind she wore a scorpion’s curled and venomous tail.

The 20 ft tall Harpy of Slaver’s Bay has much in common with the mythological monstrous harpy that GRRM has obviously chosen as a template as well as with the towering green sphinxes of the Citadel. The original Harpy of Ghis was said to hold a thunderbolt, while that of Astapor dangles a heavy chain with open manacles from her talons. The harpy of Yunkai has talons grasping a whip and an iron collar. While the thunderbolt alludes to a storm and to punishment (Zeus), the others symbolize the yoke of slavery. This Harpy-Sphinx is also very hostile to Daenerys, we know – at least her “Sons,”  Sons of the Harpy, are giving her a lot of trouble in Meereen. They are definitely opposed to the dragon of which Dany is one head – as the Undying also chant in tHotU, Dany is a “child of three,” or one of the three heads of the dragon.

Granted, the narrative also gives us examples of Valyrian sphinxes:

Quote

The next evening they came upon a huge Valyrian sphinx crouched beside the road. It had a dragon’s body and a woman’s face. “A dragon queen,” said Tyrion. “A pleasant omen.” “Her king is missing.” Illyrio pointed out the smooth stone plinth on which the second sphinx once stood, now grown over with moss and flowering vines. “The horselords built wooden wheels beneath him and dragged him back to Vaes Dothrak.”

Notice this has a whole dragon’s body and is crouching instead of towering and it’s a queen, missing her king, which is a likely nod at Daenerys. This sphinx is reminiscent of the Egyptian Sphinx which has a lion’s body and man’s head is quite different from the Greek sphinx in its function and lore.  

It's difficult to equate Alleras with the Harpy, I know. The green sphinxes however, are an important symbol of the Citadel, guarding its entrance so to speak, and the maesters there are suspected to have had a hand in eliminating dragons in the past. Like the green sphinxes, Alleras / Sarella represents both sexes. Ultimately, if Alleras the Sphinx is meant to characterize someone in opposition to the three headed dragon,  I’m thinking of someone else altogether, namely Euron.   

As a symbolic “Son of  the Harpy,” Euron embodies the storm (he claims to be the storm, the first and the last), echoing the thunderbolt-carrying Harpy of Ghis. He has reinstated slavey and is poised to be a formidable opponent bent on destroying the kingdom, taking the Iron Throne, becoming a god, whatever diabolical things we can imagine. It’s in the chapter after the prologue titled “The Prophet” that Aeron learns of Balon Greyjoy’s death and that Euron has claimed the seastone chair as king. The Alchemist, faceless man who appears in the prologue and now wears Pate’s face could also be responsible for Balon’s death, tying those two chapters together. We know hardly anything about Sarella but there is one thing that caught my attention: she/he achieved the copper link for history and has a profound interest in ruins:

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“My uncle brought me here, with Tyene and Sarella.” The memory made Arianne smile. “He caught some vipers and showed Tyene the safest way to milk them for their venom. Sarella turned over rocks, brushed sand off the mosaics, and wanted to know everything there was to know about the people who had lived here.”

This rather reminds me of Euron and his alleged visit to the ruins of Valyria.  
Well, what do you think? Is Alleras a Valyrian Sphinx or a Harpy-Sphinx?

Edited by Evolett
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Also, in contrast   to  the three-headed feature of the dragon, the mythological sphinx has only one head and body parts made of different species. In Alleras case, his biological make-up includes two distinct nationalities and two faces – male and female. 

This part has also had me tied up in knots. Personally, I take the sphinx to be symbolic of the 'prerequisite' for the dragon-riders. But that doesn't preclude another type of sphinx - like the Harpy - from being antagonists. So, you could be on to something. 

Anyway, I'm fascinated by this idea of how the sphinx's are 'made up' of either three parts or two parts, depending on which variety we are talking about. And it's a tough one to interpret because GRRM likes to throw so many red herrings at us, or at least alternate solutions. It begs the question: how can one person be made up of three separate parts? If we take the example that Pate gives us, for example:

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It had been Lazy Leo who dubbed Alleras "the Sphinx." A sphinx is a bit of this, a bit of that: a human face, the body of a lion, the wings of a hawk.

He offers a Trinity of three as his classic sphinx example. Man, lion, hawk. But then he goes on to say:

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Alleras was the same: his father was a Dornishman, his mother a black-skinned Summer Islander. His own skin was dark as teak. And like the green marble sphinxes that flanked the Citadel's main gate, Alleras had eyes of onyx.

The same, yet not the same, as we are missing an element. Naturally we do not imagine humans as having 'three' parts. Two, yes. Mother + father. Even four is fine - four different ethnicities of grandparents, for example (I myself am a quarter Welsh, look you boyo :)). Metaphorically speaking, three could work. Say, a half-Dornish, half-Ironborn child being adopted by Northmen. Three-in-one. This has no bearing on that all-important magical ASOIAF ingredient, however. Blood. 

Still, genetically speaking, three 'in your blood' somehow doesn't work, unless we turn to an extremely esoteric subject: Chimaeras. But I want to do some more research into this before I make another post, as that would be approaching uber-tinfoil.

 

 

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On 9/8/2022 at 7:51 PM, Sandy Clegg said:

This builds on previous readings of the the AFFC prologue scene,

snip 

Nicely done. On a more practical level, though, if Alleras had any notion of shooting a dragon in the eye, like they did at Hellholt, I can't think of a better way to practice than aiming at falling apples.

 

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On 9/14/2022 at 11:08 PM, Evolett said:

This rather reminds me of Euron and his alleged visit to the ruins of Valyria.  
Well, what do you think? Is Alleras a Valyrian Sphinx or a Harpy-Sphinx?

Fantastic. I never considered the matter of types of sphinxes before. But this is a great question, and this has led my thoughts down a new path. What if the point of Alleras is precisely this:

He/she embodies the wrong kind of sphinx! 

Alleras is a two-in one sphinx, yet Pate also gives us the example of one with three parts (human, lion, hawk). So clearly we are being led to make an important distinction here, perhaps to help us decipher Maester Aemon's message: "the sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler".

So how might GRRM be encoding this message? Well, as has been discussed above, Alleras only hits 2 out of 3 apples. With the last one, he misses. If the pre-requisite for our Dragons/Dragonriders is a "three-in-one" sphinx then Alleras fails to fulfil the criteria, being merely half-Dornish and half Summer Islander. He "misses" by one and therefore falls short. Close, but no cigar.

To make that last apple, and fulfil the "three heads of the dragon" criteria, Alleras would have needed to be a "three-in-one" type sphinx. Hence his words: "The dragon has three heads." He might as well have finished off and continued " ... three heads .... not just two". But that would have made things too easy. By showing us how he fails (or "misses") to ultimately fulfil the prophecy (missing that last apple), maybe he has also shown us how we can identify those who will

Children born of three. One mother and two fathers. In other words, our dragon sphinxes need to be genetic Chimeras. Rare enough in real life. Just about possible in a fantasy book, I would have thought. If this reading is plausible, then it means GRRM has had a far more twisted (some might say kinky) vision than we may have thought!

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1 hour ago, Sandy Clegg said:

So how might GRRM be encoding this message? Well, as has been discussed above, Alleras only hits 2 out of 3 apples. With the last one, he misses. If the pre-requisite for our Dragons/Dragonriders is a "three-in-one" sphinx then Alleras fails to fulfil the criteria, being merely half-Dornish and half Summer Islander. He "misses" by one and therefore falls short. Close, but no cigar.

I can go with this, though in terms of inheritance I think we are looking at the ancestry of the elder races rather than a mother and two fathers. Lol, I've actually written two very long posts on the subject and never got round to finishing the third. A quote from the original post, written in 2016:

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In my first investigation of the genetics of ice and fire, I examined the principal features of Valyrians – purple eyes, and silver-gold hair. That groundwork study led me to suspect these features represent three separate genetic units of inheritance and I asked myself how they might have originated.
Given the author’s use of multi-layered symbolism, we can build on this idea by reading their statement in another way: the Undying could (also) be telling us that the dragonheads represent three different ancient ancestors within Targaryen lineage and that Daenerys herself is a descendant child of these three ancestral heads . This idea is plausible, especially considering the special “blood of the dragon” inheritance of Daenerys and other persons of Valyrian descent. After extensive research, I finally came to some conclusions and put forward the following hypotheses:

 

The three heads of the dragon represent three different ancestral races, specifically the ancestral mothers of the Elder Races.

The sphinx symbolizes the perfected genetic heritage of the three ancestral races (represented by serpent, eagle and lion respectively) merged with the human race.

My three ancestral races are the CotF, the Giants and the "Merlings." Feel free to check out 

Three Heads has the Dragon 1 – The Elder Races and

Three Heads has the Dragon 2 – Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things

 

We do have a few obvious chimeras, genetically, Tyrion for one (his two eyes of different colours being a sign as well as his dream of having two heads). Being associated with the Griffin, Aegon - Young Griff may be another obvious one. 

And I'm convinced this is very important:

On 9/12/2022 at 5:12 PM, Kalikrates said:

Wisdom, Warrior, and Leader

The three heads of the dragon must embody these attributes - wisdom/knowledge both mundane and arcane, warriorship or prowess in battle and leadership. I'm not sure whether it's enough for each "child" to exhibit all traits or if the attributes can be divided amongst the three but I suspect each must emobdy all three. Think of Rhaegar - he started off as an avid seeker of knowledge, then he discovered something in his scrolls that convinced him he must be a warrior. Lastly, he was destined to be king.  

Jon is an obvious warrior and leader but "he knows nothing" (you know nothing, Jon Snow). I suspect his brush with death will reveal what he has to know. 

Dany is Queen and leader and is associated with "knowing" (it  is known). She isn't a classic warrior in her own right though she has her Dothraki and Unsullied. Well, with Drogon as her weapon, she might be considered a warrior. 

Tyrion is the chief "reader" amongst the three, heavily associated with acquiring knowledge. Can we call him a warrior on account of his orchestrating and participating in the Battle of the Blackwater? How about leadership?

Young Griff is promising. He has been extensively tutored, he is on his way to becoming a warrior and may become king. 

Yet we still have the Harpy to consider, definitely an opposing sphinx and if she is the symbolic antagonist (though I would place Euron in this role), then she/he is so powerful as to require three separate valyrian sphinxes to bring her down. And Euron already fulfills the above three requirements of knowledge, warriorship and leadership - he has acquired arcane knowledge, is a warrior and a king. Just some extra thoughts on the subject. 

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6 hours ago, Evolett said:

... I think we are looking at the ancestry of the elder races rather than a mother and two fathers.

I can go along with this, after all this whole thread has been me bouncing from idea to idea, evolving as I go. Just the way my mind works I guess :) I'm kind of going back to a re-read right now, I've got too many thoughts to reconcile.

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Very interesting post that I have only just found. On first reading, I only have doubts about whether the wormy apple will produce two new greenseers. Perhaps it simply splits into Brynden Rivers and Bran - Brynden has reproduced a greenseer, something he has been working very hard at, communicating with Bran in dreams and summoning him northward.

 

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6 hours ago, Castellan said:

Very interesting post that I have only just found. On first reading, I only have doubts about whether the wormy apple will produce two new greenseers. Perhaps it simply splits into Brynden Rivers and Bran - Brynden has reproduced a greenseer, something he has been working very hard at, communicating with Bran in dreams and summoning him northward.

 

Thanks, I'm not sure the second worm needs to be Euron either tbh. I just remember I'd been reading a lot of posts that were theorising about his skin-changing powers.

The only part I'm now debating is the meaning of the 'missed' third apple, as I've revised my thoughts about this a few times since I made the OP.

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my only other thought, quite banal, is that the apples represent the dragons not the targs, since Dany has one healthy dragon bonded to her and flying free at the moment, the other two have suffered from imprisonment  (and not have having their own exclusive targ to bond to?) and can be considered withered and wormy in that respect. Although withered implies age rather than stunted growth.

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