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


Sandy Clegg
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On 9/14/2022 at 6:08 PM, Evolett said:

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.

I feel there's not quite enough complexity and alternative interpretation here, so I'm going to throw in another possibility. ;)

Coins are heads. They usually have the image of a monarch on one side and a sigil on the other side - dragon, stag, etc.

The Faceless Men are closely associated with coins because of the nearby (if not connected) Iron Bank. Arya also receives a coin from Jaqen and uses a coin as a murder weapon in her first contract killing. Also, the Faceless Men can wear another person's face and enter into that person's thoughts and memories - not too much different from wearing the person's head. 

What if the game of cyvasse requires the winner to acquire three heads? It's not just dragon heads that need to appear in triplicate, it's every winner of the game who needs three heads.

Some years ago, there was an insightful post in this forum suggesting that Mollender is the son of Ser Dontos. I found it persuasive and have held onto that probability in subsequent visits to this preface. Ser Dontos represents several important lines of symbolism or archetypes from GRRM's pantheon. One of them is "the boy who lived" (yes, I know that phrase is associated with a different fantasy series). We see several examples where an entire family was wiped out except for one child - Last Lord Tarbeck, Rhaegar at Summerhall, Jon Snow of House Targaryen, maybe Lollys Stokeworth, and maybe Sweetrobin of House Arryn.

Ser Barristan Selmy asks Aerys to spare Dontos Hollard so he is the sole survivor of, essentially, House Darklyn. That surviving child (or descendants of the child) may come back to avenge his family's enemies. The surviving child also goes to the fertility motif and may represent seeds being saved for the spring planting. Mollender is the one throwing the apples up to be shot - does this symbolize the revenge of House Darklyn? 

I think the third apple, that Alleras fails to hit, may represent the next "boy who lived." There will be one child left whole to serve as the seed for the next generation. 

But wait, there's more.

The name "Pate" means head. That's one. 

Pate wanted a gold dragon. That would be two.

The Alchemist had at least one face (of his own?). He also had the gold dragon and he (apparently) used it to kill Pate. He apparently took Pate's face. The Alchemist has three faces. He wins the key and moves on to the next round of the game.

So look for which characters successfully collect three heads. The Martells recently collected Gregor Clegane's head. They also eat dessert out of sugar skulls.

Lem Lemoncloak seems to have The Hound's helmet (head). Daario has his own head plus weapons with the heads of women. Joffrey mounted the heads of Ned Stark and Septa Mordane on the wall of the Red Keep. Ned said that Gared was the fourth deserter he had beheaded that year. 

(For anagram fans: "Citadel" is one of the words hidden in "Alchemists Guild." Two heads of the same coin?)

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OK, back to the 3 dragonriders again. We've seen that sphinxes and gargoyles can be seen as very similar to each other, at least in the way they are used in ASOIAF architecture. Then I was reading the ACOK prologue when the first paragraph struck me as extremely significant (as prologue openings tend to be, with GRRM):

Quote
The maester stood on the windswept balcony outside his chambers. It was here the ravens came, after long flight. Their droppings speckled the gargoyles that rose twelve feet tall on either side of him, a hellhound and a wyvern, two of the thousand that brooded over the walls of the ancient fortress. When first he came to Dragonstone, the army of stone grotesques had made him uneasy, but as the years passed he had grown used to them. Now he thought of them as old friends. The three of them watched the sky together with foreboding.
The maester did not believe in omens. And yet ...

Three figures atop a balcony, regarding a red comet. Two giant ones, twice the size (more or less) of the one in the centre. And we're kind of back to sphinxes again - or at least their gargoyle cousins. But here I think it's the characters they are standing in for we are meant to focus on, not any issues of blood or heritage. It's way back in book two, so GRRM is laying much more basic groundwork here.

Now, I did do a search for previous mentions of this on other threads but couldn't find much, so apologies if this is digging up old news. My reading of this is this:

  1. the hound = Jon (wolf symbolism)
  2. the Wyvern = Daenerys (dragon symbolism)
  3. the 'short' figure in the middle is our de facto third dragon-rider, Tyrion. He is metaphorically 'dwarfed' on both sides by the 12-foot statues. Not entirely subtle.

Now, the raven droppings representing snow, also rather unambiguously in my opinion, suggests we are foreshadowing a Winter scene, so sometime near the end of TWOW or in ADOS, when we can expect our three riders to hopefully be actively riding their dragons. The windswept nature suggests this must be a fairly high balcony too, suggesting that the three figures will be in flight in this future scene, facing the 'red comet' which we could take to be a generic symbol for 'threat'.

Just a snippet that I thought I would post to keep the thread humming, as it were. Any thoughts?

Edited by Sandy Clegg
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5 hours ago, Seams said:

Ser Barristan Selmy asks Aerys to spare Dontos Hollard so he is the sole survivor of, essentially, House Darklyn. That surviving child (or descendants of the child) may come back to avenge his family's enemies. The surviving child also goes to the fertility motif and may represent seeds being saved for the spring planting. Mollender is the one throwing the apples up to be shot - does this symbolize the revenge of House Darklyn? 

I think the third apple, that Alleras fails to hit, may represent the next "boy who lived." There will be one child left whole to serve as the seed for the next generation. 

An interesting angle. How would you interpret Allera's role as the Sphinx in relation to this idea?

5 hours ago, Seams said:

The name "Pate" means head. That's one. 

Pate wanted a gold dragon. That would be two.

The Alchemist had at least one face (of his own?). He also had the gold dragon and he (apparently) used it to kill Pate. He apparently took Pate's face. The Alchemist has three faces. He wins the key and moves on to the next round of the game.

I've also thought of Pate who wants to "ride"  Rosey who is a symbolic dragon because she's worth one as a symbolic contender for one of the three heads. Lazy Leo another because he ungraciously tells Pate he will "break her in," after which her worth will fall so that even pig boys can afford her. The third contender would be the Alchemist with Pate's face. This last would match with the wormy half of the apple (the worm in the kindly man's eye socket, eaten by Arya). Or the scenario involving the two Pates could be a reference to the second apple. One half just simply disappears (essentially like Pate does) with Alchemist Pate, an imposter, taking his place. 

 

1 hour ago, Sandy Clegg said:

My reading of this is this:

  1. the hound = Jon (wolf symbolism)
  2. the Wyvern = Daenerys (dragon symbolism)
  3. the 'short' figure in the middle is our de facto third dragon-rider, Tyrion. He is metaphorically 'dwarfed' on both sides by the 12-foot statues. Not entirely subtle.

Now, the raven droppings representing snow, also rather unambiguously in my opinion, suggests we are foreshadowing a Winter scene, so sometime near the end of TWOW or in ADOS, when we can expect our three riders to hopefully be actively riding their dragons. The windswept nature suggests this must be a fairly high balcony too, suggesting that the three figures will be in flight in this future scene, facing the 'red comet' which we could take to be a generic symbol for 'threat'.

Nice catch! I can see these as relevant clues to the three riders. I kind of intepreted  the gargoyles in terms of shadows (in relation to the shadows that Patchface says are coming to dance. I'll have to go over that chapter again. 

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2 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

the gargoyles that rose twelve feet tall on either side of him, a hellhound and a wyvern

Very nice catch. I had to look up the description of a wyvern when I was first trying to understand Cressen's role and I found that it was, essentially, a dragon without arms. So kind of a bird-like dragon. 

If the wyvern is bird-like, that makes if a fowl. The hound may represent a wolf, as you point out. And I believe that "maester" is wordplay around the word "stream," which is a kind of flow. So we may not be seeing three dragon riders here; we may be seeing wolf-flow-fowl, which is Stark symbolism (with Catelyn representing flow). 

I don't know if it departs from analysis of the three apples, but Cressen representing a symbolic "flow" would be interesting because the Cressen / Melisandre conflict then becomes a Catelyn / Melisandre conflict. In other threads, I have theorized that Catelyn and Melisandre are opposites because Catelyn's worship involves rainbows (refracted light) and Melisandre's religion involves shadows (images cast by fire light but also representing the absence of light). 

I do like your "half man" notion about Cressen here, though. 

So many possibilities!

48 minutes ago, Evolett said:

An interesting angle. How would you interpret Allera's role as the Sphinx in relation to this idea?

We know that Prince Doran has sent Quentyn to Dany with the hope of a revised marriage alliance with this surviving Targaryen.  And Quentyn tries to ride a dragon when his marriage proposal is rejected. So the Martells don't want dragons to die out; they just want to ensure that they are partners with them. 

The "sand snake" symbolism suggests that they are already part of the dragon (wyrm, serpent) symbolism.

So I'm guessing that Alleras wants to preserve the seed (dragon seed) and he/she would approve of allowing one child to live. 

Or is that not the question? 

Here's another way of, perhaps, deciphering the Martell motives in the Old Town / Citadel scenes: Arianne was called The Princess in the Tower when Prince Doran locked her up as punishment for her role in trying to steal Myrcella. In the Hightower of House Hightower, rumor says that the Lord and his magical daughter are locked away, casting spells or something along those lines. Is Arianne parallel to the magical Hightower daughter? If so, does that explain why Prince Doran allowed Sarella to continue her secret mission in the Citadel when all of her sisters were locked up? As a Martell "princess," is Sarella a parallel to, or extension of, both Arianne and the Hightower daughter? 

We know that House Hightower had big ambitions that were a factor in the Dance of the Dragons. Will we see a replay of that Dance as a result of the Martell ambitions in the current generation? 

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9 hours ago, Seams said:

 

If the wyvern is bird-like, that makes if a fowl. The hound may represent a wolf, as you point out. And I believe that "maester" is wordplay around the word "stream," which is a kind of flow. So we may not be seeing three dragon riders here; we may be seeing wolf-flow-fowl, which is Stark symbolism (with Catelyn representing flow). 

 

I have an anagram theory of my own involving a key character which I am VERY unwilling to share as I suspect I will get laughed out of the community forever :) 

In general, though, I would say GRRM has to err on the side of caution with regard to using anagrams for foreshadowing, as they simply wouldn't work for the huge amount of readers in other languages. Names like Arellas/Sarella which read identically no matter the language (as long as they use A-Z scripts of course) would be fair enough. And Bael/Abel.

(Side note for e.g. Chinese/Arabic readers: How is the 'Alleras/Sarella' trick portrayed in the translations you have read? I'd genuinely love to know!)

If we consider that GRRM maybe has different 'tiers' of clues/foreshadowing, then perhaps he does include some anagram stuff purely as Easter eggs for readers in English language (and I hope he has done so, personally), but I suspect most of the 'big clues' are probably less language-based, and rely on symbolism that works regardless of the language ASOIF is being read in.

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11 hours ago, Evolett said:

I've also thought of Pate who wants to "ride"  Rosey who is a symbolic dragon because she's worth one as a symbolic contender for one of the three heads. Lazy Leo another because he ungraciously tells Pate he will "break her in," after which her worth will fall so that even pig boys can afford her.

Rosey being 'ridden' is such a sleazy image, but then that's ASOIAF I guess? I do agree that our attention is intentionally being drawn to the usage of "Dragon" as type of coin, though - if only to point us towards thinking of symbolic dragons rather than purely literal ones.

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17 hours ago, Seams said:

So I'm guessing that Alleras wants to preserve the seed (dragon seed) and he/she would approve of allowing one child to live. 

But why then would Alleras be presented as a Sphinx? In the scenario you suggest, it would be sufficient to point out that the dragon has three heads without Alleras being a Sphinx. I do think the chapter relates to Maester Aemon's "the sphinx is the riddle, not the riddler." Alleras is compared to the green sphinxes flanking the Citadel's gates. Male and female, an amalgam of a human head and three body parts (body of a lion, wings of an eagle and tail of a serpent). The Targaryen dragon however has three heads in heraldry, all of which Alleras strives to shoot down. If the third "head" is spared at all it's because Alleras misses the shot. So I'd definitely see Alleras the Sphinx in opposition to the three heads. In straightforward symbolism, Doran and Arianne may want to partner with dragons but Sarella's goal might be to throw a spanner in the works. 

Mollander throwing the apples (the symbolic dragons) also had me thinking of Quentyn. He may have aimed at stealing and riding a dragon but ended up releasing them in the Harpy's stronghold where a bold hero might take a shot at them (another reason I suspect Alleras is a symbolic "Harpy-Sphinx").  

 

7 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

If we consider that GRRM maybe has different 'tiers' of clues/foreshadowing, then perhaps he does include some anagram stuff purely as Easter eggs for readers in English language (and I hope he has done so, personally), but I suspect most of the 'big clues' are probably less language-based, and rely on symbolism that works regardless of the language ASOIF is being read in.

This is true. I can however imagine GRRM using coded English anagrams or wordplay with words borrowed from other languages to keep track of his characters and the connections between them.  With such an epic work spanning so many books written over a couple of decades, a writer would benefit from his own personal codes and memory aids. It's these that the reader willing to invest time can discover and try to decipher. 

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1 hour ago, Evolett said:

The Targaryen dragon however has three heads in heraldry, all of which Alleras strives to shoot down. If the third "head" is spared at all it's because Alleras misses the shot. So I'd definitely see Alleras the Sphinx in opposition to the three heads. In straightforward symbolism, Doran and Arianne may want to partner with dragons but Sarella's goal might be to throw a spanner in the works.

Perhaps opposition to dragons is implied as an overall theme for Alleras. But if the first apple is Aemon, then I'm not entirely sure opposition really applies here as Alleras is nowhere around when he dies, so then I have trouble reconciling the 2nd and 3rd apples to this view.

Ok, Alleras might be going rogue on this, sure. Maesters are known to be very 'anti-dragon', and he/she wants to graduate from the Citadel. He/she is a fascinating character with lots of potential. I'm on the fence about Alleras the character's true motives, though, just because we haven't seen enough of him/her in action yet. It certainly seems as though they will befriend Sam, however, and let's not forget Euron is coming which means Oldtown needs all the allies it can get against him. So Alleras needs to survive Euron's attack before coming into contact with any actual dragons (although Aeron does see sphinxes, along with dragons and krakens, 'bowing down' before Euron). 

This is really just my personal taste at the moment, but in the end I do think the apples episode should be seen primarily as a self-contained allegory, and as such it's hard to determine its relevance to the motives of the characters within it. For me, that would muddy the waters. I think GRRM is chiefly using the apples scene to set out some key foreshadowing for the next few books, and more importantly to delve deeper into the crucial 'heads of the dragon' mystery and the riddle of Aemon's sphinx. 

Edited by Sandy Clegg
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1 hour ago, Evolett said:

I can however imagine GRRM using coded English anagrams or wordplay with words borrowed from other languages to keep track of his characters and the connections between them.  With such an epic work spanning so many books written over a couple of decades, a writer would benefit from his own personal codes and memory aids. It's these that the reader willing to invest time can discover and try to decipher. 

I'm so on board with this. If I can find just a smidgeon more support for my own anagram theory I'll post it, but man at the moment it reeks of tinfoil.

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22 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:
Quote
The maester stood on the windswept balcony outside his chambers. It was here the ravens came, after long flight. Their droppings speckled the gargoyles that rose twelve feet tall on either side of him, a hellhound and a wyvern, two of the thousand that brooded over the walls of the ancient fortress. When first he came to Dragonstone, the army of stone grotesques had made him uneasy, but as the years passed he had grown used to them. Now he thought of them as old friends. The three of them watched the sky together with foreboding.
The maester did not believe in omens. And yet ...

Three figures atop a balcony, regarding a red comet. Two giant ones, twice the size (more or less) of the one in the centre. And we're kind of back to sphinxes again - or at least their gargoyle cousins

 

The first "gargoyle" mentioned in the narrative is in fact Tyrion, asking Jon about his "hellhound":

Quote

Tyrion Lannister was sitting on the ledge above the door to the Great Hall, looking for all the world like a gargoyle. The dwarf grinned down at him. “Is that animal a wolf??” “A direwolf,” Jon said. “His name is Ghost.”

Bran climbs the tower of the First Keep using gargoyles as climbing aids. Later after his fall, he dreams of these gargoyles pursuing him and they are shaped like lions and like Tyrion, they are twisted and grotesque:

Quote

Their eyes glowed red as hot coals in a brazier. Perhaps once they had been lions, but now they were twisted and grotesque. 

There are even more links between these particular gargoyles and Tyrion but I think we are meant to see them in terms of the supernatural, as shades or shadows watching over castles. Cressens prologue chapter is riddled with allusions to shadows and undeath. There is Patchface repeatedly singing:

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 “The shadows come to dance, my lord, dance my lord, dance my lord,” he sang, hopping from one foot to the other and back again. “The shadows come to stay, my lord, stay my lord, stay my lord.”

We hear his story, how he survived two days at sea, apparently returned from death. Maester Cressen then saves his life again by refusing to put him to sleep. Stannis' hair is like "the shadow of a crown," his whiskers a "blue-black shadow" across his jaw. Melisandre is introduced, she who will birth "shadow-babies" that kill. Shireen is afraid the stone-dragons will come to life and dreams of dragons eating her. 

But back to the gargoyles. If I recall correctly, Dragonstone and Winterfell are the only Westerosi castles to have gargoyles. Historically, gargoyles were mounted on buildings to facilitate water run-off but they also served as symbolic guardians to ward off evil spirits. Interestingly, they were often fashioned in a likeness of the very evil they were supposed to ward against. 

Bran must have used these gargoyles hundreds of times before falling but after that, at the beginning of his spiritual journey, the lion-gargoyles beome hostile, haunting him in his dreams. This might just be foreshadowing the feud between Stark and Lannister but I presume there is more to it than that because it's so specific to Bran. Tyrion does help Bran out with the special saddle which becomes obsolete, Bran "rides" Hodor instead, both physically and spritiually. All the direwolves are inexplicably hostile to Tyrion, reflecting perhaps the antagonism between "hellhounds" and lions, sensing that Tyrion the leonine "gargoyle" in fact harbours ancenstral "shadows" or souls that the direwolves sniff out. 

The hellhound gargoyles are probably a reference to direwolves / wolf/hound characters, as you note.
In myth Cerberus is the three-headed hellhound guarding the underworld, hellhounds are usually black. Shaggy especially comes across as a typical hellhound. One of Old Nan's tales talks about Symeon Star-Eyes seeing two hellhounds fighting at the Nightfort which could be a reference to two Starks fighting at the Nightfort - or a clue to the NK himself. In the narrative, the direwolves fight in the Crypts of Winterfell, an underworld place. Each time it's Shaggy that needs to be subdued. Clegane and Ramsay also fall under the hellhound symbolism. It kind of makes sense for Dragonstone to be warded against hellhounds.

Maester Cressen as symbolic of Tyrion (or the shade or shades that inhabit Tyrion) as you suggest is something I've been pondering for a while. Cressen is made to wear Patchface's fool's hat and is ridiculed for a fool during the feast. Tyrion has plenty of fool imagery himself. If Cressen is a symbolic gargoyle and fool and as such a symbolic ward as well, then he is guilty of breaching Dragonstone's spiritual defences by saving Patchface's life and allowing the grotesque fool (a potential undead spirit) to live and have the run of the castle. Perhaps this is what causes Shireen to contract Greyscale and opens the gates for Melisandre. 

Another thought on Cressen as the "lion-gargoyle" inbetween the hellhound and the wyvern. I wonder if he was born a Lannister? Cressen might be a play on "crimson," the typical Lannister colour. Alternatively, we also have the parallel between Cressen and Joffery (a pure Lannister), both murdered by the strangler poison.  

The wyvern gargoyles are still a bit of a mystery to me. The most feared is the shadow-wing, a nocturnal creature with black scales that is invisible in the dark. Septon Barth speculates that Valyrian blood mages engineered dragons from wyvern stock. Drogon is also called the "winged shadow" perhaps linking the two. So I'm not quite sure why Dragonstone needs to be warded against wyvern "spirits" or those associated with wyverns unless this wyvern is the "stone beast breathing shadow fire" of Dany's visions. We assume it's a dragon but that's not what the text says. It could be a wyvern ;).

 

 

 

Edited by Evolett
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17 minutes ago, Sandy Clegg said:

I'm so on board with this. If I can find just a smidgeon more support for my own anagram theory I'll post it, but man at the moment it reeks of tinfoil.

Oh, please do. There's probably a grain of truth in every bit of tinfoil :D

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27 minutes ago, Evolett said:

Another thought on Cressen as the "lion-gargoyle" inbetween the hellhound and the wyvern. I wonder if he was born a Lannister? Cressen might be a play on "crimson," the typical Lannister colour. Alternatively, we also have the parallel between Cressen and Joffery (a pure Lannister), both murdered by the strangler poison.  

The wyvern gargoyles are still a bit of a mystery to me. The most feared is the shadow-wing, a nocturnal creature with black scales that is invisible in the dark. Septon Barth speculates that Valyrian blood mages engineered dragons from wyvern stock. Drogon is also called the "winged shadow" perhaps linking the two. So I'm not quite sure why Dragonstone needs to be warded against wyvern "spirits" or those associated with wyverns unless this wyvern is the "stone beast breathing shadow fire" of Dany's visions. We assume it's a dragon but that's not what the text says. It could be a wyvern

Wow, this is deeper rabbit hole stuff than I'm willing to go down but great job. All I got was "dog-thing, dragon-thing and small man thing" :) 

Re: the types of gargoyles on Dragonstone (from the Wiki of Ice and Fire):

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Instead of merlons, gargoyles and grotesques serve as brooding crenellations along the three curtain walls.[2][7] Designs include basilisks, cockatrices, demons, griffins, hellhounds, manticores, minotaurs, wyverns, and other creatures.[12] Statues in the shape of dragons can be found all over the castle.

So it looks like the fortress is well guarded against pretty much every house of Westeros! The mystery, or prophecy, of 'waking dragons from stone' is one of my favourite in the books because it seems to be the one that is still most open to interpretation when you read the various ASOIAF community boards. Not much to add to that other than: if Greyscale can turn men into stone, couldn't the reverse be true, with regard to gargoyles?

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11 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

I'm so on board with this. If I can find just a smidgeon more support for my own anagram theory I'll post it, but man at the moment it reeks of tinfoil.

There is a lot of guessing involved in the anagrams, especially when they have multiple solutions and Grrm uses several of them. 

If you would feel more comfortable sharing your idea among people who are interested in sorting out wordplay clues, this thread is miraculously still open for comments:

 

 

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15 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

Re: the types of gargoyles on Dragonstone (from the Wiki of Ice and Fire):

Quote

Instead of merlons, gargoyles and grotesques serve as brooding crenellations along the three curtain walls.[2][7] Designs include basilisks, cockatrices, demons, griffins, hellhounds, manticores, minotaurs, wyverns, and other creatures.[12] Statues in the shape of dragons can be found all over the castle.

I just noticed in this listing that the basilisks, griffins, hellhounds etc. are designs particular to gargoyles and grotesques. They are distinguished from the dragons which are statues, suggesting a difference between the two groups of stone figures. Perhaps the stone dragons are there to keep gargoyles that may "turn their cloak" in check. The feast at Dragonstone is held in hall fashioned after a dragon's mouth. Kind of odd to feast within the jaws of the dragon, but we've seen that feasts can be dangerous affairs for guests or hosts so perhaps this room is meant to counteract such actions.  Cressen enters the "dragon's maw" with the  

Quote

The doors to the Great Hall were set in the mouth of a stone dragon. He told the servants to leave him outside. It would be better to enter alone; he must not appear feeble. Leaning heavily on his cane, Cressen climbed the last few steps and hobbled beneath the gateway teeth. A pair of guardsmen opened the heavy red doors before him, unleashing a sudden blast of noise and light. Cressen stepped down into the dragon’s maw. 

intention of poisoning Melisandre, indeed, of violating guest right because Mel is a guest, valued at this point by Selyse. If Cressen is a symbolic "gargoyle ward," he's now turned as hostile as the gargoyle lions that pursue Bran in his dreams. Being in the dragon's maw, Cressen is symbolically "eaten" and eliminated by the dragon. Poor Shireen with part of her face turned stoney on account of greyscale and considered by many to be grotesque, dreams of being eaten by a dragon. So perhaps the lesson here is there's no guarantee that gargoyles meant to ward off evil become hostile themselves and in this case the dragon is there to keep them in check. In this context, it is intersting that Bran/Summer see a dragon-like beast flying off overhead as Winterfell burns. The symbolism then suggesting that Winterfell is left entirely without internal defences against attacks, supernatual or otherwise. 

 

16 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

Not much to add to that other than: if Greyscale can turn men into stone, couldn't the reverse be true, with regard to gargoyles?

In one tale, the Shrouded Lord was said to be a statue brought back by the kiss of a "grey" woman. 

 

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Another thought on the "Sphinx" or the nature of the sphinx. As noted before, Alleras is compared  to the green sphinxes of the Citadel:

Quote

And like the green marble sphinxes that flanked the Citadel’s main gate, Alleras had eyes of onyx. 

Those sphinxes are composed of body-parts of lion, eagle and serpent. What if the sphinx represents a master skinchanger, one capable of taking over and using several living bodies, one much more powerful than Varamyr Sixskins who inhabited the bodies of a total of 7 animals but failed to take over Thistle? This skinchanger sphinx would have forced him or herself on human victims symbolized by lion, eagle and serpent and in doing so, absorbed their strongest attributes, perhaps even knowledge. From Varamyr we learn that skinchangers can become like the beasts they skinchange, suggesting certain qualities are picked up by the invading soul: 

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Elk and deer were prey; wear their skins too long, and even the bravest man became a coward. Bears, boars, badgers, weasels … Haggon did not hold with such. “Some skins you never want to wear, boy. You won’t like what you’d become.” 

This could hold true for a skinchanger repeatedly inhabiting a person, perhaps more so because in this case, consciousness and emotion are bound to be more compatible with that of the skinchanger on account of the element of humanity. We see how even the shadow of a soul (of the remains of Orell within his eagle) can affect the emotions of a skinchanger. Varamyr found himself hating Jon Snow almost as much as Orell hated him. Alleras/Sarella being both male and female could indicate that the master skinchanger has violated both men and women. Note too that as animals go, the lion, eagle and serpent are formidable in their own right. 
I'm not saying Alleras is the "Sphinx" but a clue to its nature and identity. 

Alleras' black onyx eyes are probably also significant so I shall venture some ideas on that: three characters besides Alleras have black onyx eyes - Khal Drogo, Oberyn Martell and Alliser Thorne. They could be clues to the attributes of the Sphinx. Oberyn could represent the attributes of the serpent. He is the Viper, trained at the Citadel, a deadly opponent and purported to be familiar with the black arts. Khal Drogo was a formidable leader who never lost a battle. He had three "bloodriders" which could have a double meaning relating to the sphinx. He also killed the great white lion and so is assoicated with the lion. Alliser Thorne is more difficult to place as the "eagle" but in reference to the eagle, perhaps his hatred of Jon Snow is the key  (Orell within his eagle hating Jon Snow). 

Speaking of Jon Snow. In a dream, he is armoured in black ice, maybe a pun on black eyes. Is black ice the antidote to the "black eye"? Or are they the same? The former, methinks. 

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54 minutes ago, Evolett said:

What if the sphinx represents a master skinchanger, one capable of taking over and using several living bodies, one much more powerful than Varamyr Sixskins who inhabited the bodies of a total of 7 animals but failed to take over Thistle?

Then we are looking at Euron, if anybody. Especially if we are taking this skinchanger to be a major antagonist. I firmly believe that Euron is and has been skin changing his crew of mutes, who are unable to bite out their tongues to repel him as Thistle was able to do.

Again, I'm perfectly ok with there being  "heroic" and "villainous" sphinxes on the ASOIAF chessboard, as it were. But now, with skinchangers, animals being used as heraldry symbols, Targs being called dragons, not to mention bastards ..... it seems as though there are just so many ways to interpret the term 'sphinx' that the riddle must somehow point to which interpretation is correct.
But if my reading of the second apple is correct, Euron has already been covered. If we stick with the three likeliest candidates for heads of the dragon (Jon, Dany, Tyrion) then I still think we need to see how a definition of sphinx could apply to all three, then work backwards from there.

 

1 hour ago, Evolett said:

Khal Drogo was a formidable leader who never lost a battle. He had three "bloodriders" which could have a double meaning relating to the sphinx

The three bloodriders is definitely GRRM cluing us in to the idea that BLOOD is somehow connected to dragon RIDERS, but beyond this I wouldn't like to venture any more. Erring on the side of caution here :) 

1 hour ago, Evolett said:

Speaking of Jon Snow. In a dream, he is armoured in black ice, maybe a pun on black eyes. Is black ice the antidote to the "black eye"? Or are they the same? The former, methinks. 

I think this might be too subtle a linguistic connection for most people.

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1 hour ago, Sandy Clegg said:

Then we are looking at Euron, if anybody.

Definitely my number one suspect too. 

1 hour ago, Sandy Clegg said:

I think this might be too subtle a linguistic connection for most people.

Doubting Thomas :D

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23 hours ago, Evolett said:

Alleras' black onyx eyes are probably also significant so I shall venture some ideas on that: three characters besides Alleras have black onyx eyes - Khal Drogo, Oberyn Martell and Alliser Thorne.

This is very interesting. My latest (not studied in depth) theory about the color black is that it represents the presence of all colors. So these characters could have special powers because of their all-color eyes. 

I am also interested in the notion of these chimera creatures - griffin, sphinx, harpy, etc. - as a different kind of skinchanger.

Maybe the author wants us to think about the animals or sigils that have attacked or interacted with some of our key characters and to associate them with these hybrids. As a "griffin," Jon Connington would be associated with both lions and eagles. Because Orell's eagle attacked Jon Snow, maybe we are supposed to see Jon Connington as a foil for Jon Snow - this would make sense, because the boy he has raised as Young Griff is supposed to be Rhaegar's son, but Jon Snow is also believed by many readers to be Rhaegar's son. If only one can be king, there would be a natural rivalry here. The lion combination might imply Lannister symbolism or alliance except I think that lions may go further back than the Lannisters - just as House Baratheon took over the stag sigil when they married into the Durrandon family, I suspect that the Lannisters "usurped" the lion sigil for their own use. 

But Melisandre seemed to defeat the eagle, magically setting it on fire. This may bring us back to the Cressen confrontation, in the usual roundabout way. The poison Cressen brought to the feast at Dragonstone was in an indigo bottle. GRRM does not often use indigo but it is an eye color (there is "indigo murk" in the House of the Undying and I believe a man Dany encounters in one of her visions there - often presumed to be Rhaegar - has indigo eyes). Another place where the author uses indigo is in the sigil of House Mallister, which also includes an eagle. Perhaps Melisandre's ability to ingest the indigo poison without suffering harm is connected to her ability to destroy Orell's eagle. (Except that we are told that Orell lives on in Varamyr after the eagle is burned.) 

In the recent post where I finally realized that the two halves of the rainbow represent fire (red, orange, yellow) and ice/eyes (blue, indigo, violet), I could start to make sense of Renly's work to create a rainbow guard. He wore the green cloak at his wedding and his lover and bride (perhaps, like Sarella / Alleras, both male and female) are associated with green. So he was the uniter and fulcrum of the fire / eyes (ice) spectrum. But Renly did not have an indigo guard. He was trying to complete the set (and he had used up all of his cloaks when Brienne joined the team) but he didn't quite make it. 

This idea of the two "sides" of the rainbow might fit with Melisandre (definitely associated with fire and red) "defeating" both the eagle and Cressen's indigo poison. Stannis is not trying to achieve the balance of colors associated with Renly. He married a Florent (associated with green) but he is all-in for fire, allowing Melisandre to influence the religious beliefs of his followers and of the people he subjugates (wildlings). Even though Cressen was loyal to Stannis all his life, Stannis rejects him and replaces him with a different, younger maester. 

When Catelyn was trying to return to Winterfell, she saw the Mallisters on their way to the Hand's Tourney. Even though Jason Mallister had attended her wedding to Ned, he did not recognize her. Maybe this is another symbolic example of elusive indigo. 

For what it's worth, Denys Mallister is initially a strong candidate to replace Jeor Mormont as Lord Commander. He so dislikes Janos Slynt, however, that he joins with his enemy Cotter Pyke and is persuaded by Sam Tarly to support Jon Snow. This might mean that Jon Snow (and Sam Tarly?) do have indigo in their spectrum of supporters. Maybe surviving the eagle attack was a way of absorbing indigo into his system. (Jon Snow also survived the fire in Jeor Mormont's bedchamber.) 

[Note: GRRM tells us that Denys Mallister once defeated both of Sam Tarly's grandfathers - Florent and Tarly - in one tourney. So it is a major deal that Denys is now persuaded to back Sam's pal for Lord Commander. Something has happened to win over the indigo man, and I'm not sure what it is, other than Jon Snow surviving the eagle attack.]

Regarding the three apples in the original post. Setting aside sigils for the moment, the characters I associated with apples are:

  • Jon Snow. He eats an apple when he is planning to break his oath to the Night's Watch at the end of AGoT and he steps on rotten apples at the old inn where Ygritte kills the old man;
  • Littlefinger. He eats an apple when he leads Ned Stark down the secret path out of the Red Keep, including eating the seeds.
  • Davos Seaworth. He eats an apple when he arrives at White Harbor. The seller asks to have the apple core back because the seeds are good.
  • Boar / Robert / Robb. As Robert lies dying, he says the boar that killed him should be served at his funeral feast with an apple in its mouth. 

I think apples are part of this color rivalry. They can be red or green or rotten (brown). A number of the apples are withered or mealy, but I don't believe any of the characters eats a green apple. 

It may be very important that Alleras is shooting apples before Leo Tyrell arrives. Leo announces that he wasted his last stag - I think this is a symbolic way of saying that Robert (or possibly Joffrey) died. If the Tyrells always represent that green fulcrum for the rainbow, it is as if he is reporting back for duty to try to create another balanced rainbow. 

(BUT there are wine stains on his clothing and I usually assume that this is Bloodraven symbolism. Leo is also the name of the Tyrell who was in the Trial of Seven in The Hedge Knight, where the green apple Fossoways were created - by a Baratheon. I have also theorized that the Leo who joins the group at the tavern is the Alchemist in disguise. He promised Pate he would arrive at a certain time, and Leo arrives at that time although the Alchemist seems to arrive later. So this is all quite complex and interrelated.) 

So I think the three apples shot by Alleras go beyond representing dragon riders. I think they are part of the system of linked symbols of body parts, fruit and colors (as well as birds and insects) that are used throughout ASOIAF. 

One interesting thing I noticed while writing out this post is that there is a connection between apples and feet, which I had thought were usually associated with oranges. When Dunk sells his horse, Sweetfoot, in order to buy armor from Pate, he gives the buyer a penny and tells him to buy an apple for the horse. (He promises the horse that he will come back for her some day.) When Davos eats his apple at White Harbor, he is near a fountain with a merman statue called Fish Foot. Mollender has a club foot and the word "foot" comes up in other ways in the scene with Alleras. If Alleras is really a Sand Snake, she would have no feet of her own ...

23 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

Then we are looking at Euron, if anybody. Especially if we are taking this skinchanger to be a major antagonist. I firmly believe that Euron is and has been skin changing his crew of mutes, who are unable to bite out their tongues to repel him as Thistle was able to do.

This is a really cool observation. I have suspected that the "mute appeal" GRRM uses in key moments in the books is a thinly-veiled allusion to his "apple" symbolism. You may have hit on the connection that makes sense of the "mute" appeal. 

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Aemon Targaryen had studied books and prophecies for a very long time.  He could not have transferred all of his knowledge to Samwell in their short time together.  And we are only privy to the small window of Samwell's points of view.  Samwell has more information than what we are given from his chapters.  Here are the things they talked about:  Daenerys, Azor Ahai, dragons, sphinx, prophecy, Rhaegar.  The sphinx is at least part lion.  The numeral two is somehow tied to Alleras (Sarella).  In the Azor Ahai story, the second sacrifice was a lion.  Daenerys may have to sacrifice the sphinx in order to make a flaming sword.  The first tempering was related to water.  Which could mean an Ironborn, a bastard named Waters, or the most fascinating sacrifice of all, a Water Dancer.  

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9 hours ago, Seams said:

So I think the three apples shot by Alleras go beyond representing dragon riders. I think they are part of the system of linked symbols of body parts, fruit and colors (as well as birds and insects) that are used throughout ASOIAF.

Oh, I fully agree. I do see the apples as dragons, dragon riders and heads. The dragon has three heads after all. So far I've been looking at the three heads in terms of ancestry, three lines of heritage "grafted" onto the dragon. And in my view, there's a difference between a body composed of three body parts associated with the Alleras sphinx and one body with three separate heads as symbolized by the Targaryen dragon. 

The idea of heads grafted onto a body had me thinking of House Rowan. From the Wiki:

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According to legend, Rowan Gold-Tree wrapped an apple in her golden hair, planted it, and from it grew a golden tree. The golden tree represented on the Rowans' heraldry may be an apple tree.

If apples represent dragons as well as their riders then this apple wrapped in a headful of golden hair could be a reference to the golden blood of old Valyria, as well as to an heir to this golden blood, one with a higher state of consciousness (the golden tree). So perhaps a hint at the Targaryen side of the equation for all dragons. Or maybe only one heir.

Then the red apple Fossoways:

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House Fossoway is an old noble house of First Men origin from the Age of Heroes. The Fossoways claim descent from Foss the Archer, a son of Garth Greenhand renowned for shooting apples off the head of any maid that took his fancy.[5]

And the founding of the green apples you've also mentioned above:

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Raymun, who was knighted minutes before the battle by Lyonel Baratheon, Lord of Storm's End, fought for his friend. Ser Duncan the Tall. To differentiate himself from his cousin fighting for the other side, Raymun painted the apple on his shield in green, playing at Steffon's oft-repeated jape that he was "still green". Raymun stated that he preferred to be green than rotten.[1]

The splitting of the apples into red and green and the reference to the rotten apple - here I would say that red apples can be good apples or bad apples (rotten, wormy, brown) while the green apples are fresh.  So perhaps the second apple Alleras shoots down (one half wormy) and the third, the green from the tree he misses. 

But it's this observation that has me thinking:

9 hours ago, Seams said:

Regarding the three apples in the original post. Setting aside sigils for the moment, the characters I associated with apples are:

  • Jon Snow. He eats an apple when he is planning to break his oath to the Night's Watch at the end of AGoT and he steps on rotten apples at the old inn where Ygritte kills the old man;
  • Littlefinger. He eats an apple when he leads Ned Stark down the secret path out of the Red Keep, including eating the seeds.
  • Davos Seaworth. He eats an apple when he arrives at White Harbor. The seller asks to have the apple core back because the seeds are good.
  • Boar / Robert / Robb. As Robert lies dying, he says the boar that killed him should be served at his funeral feast with an apple in its mouth. 

All these examples are associated with beheadings.

- Jon Snow beheads Janos Slynt

- LF's treachery ultimately leads to Ned's beheading

- A criminal is beheaded in place of Davos, with an onion in his mouth. 

- The dead boar symbolically eats the apple - Gregor/Robert Strong and Robb Stark are beheaded and Sweetrobin Robert Arryn's toy giant is beheaded in a struggle between Sansa and the little Lord. 

Of these heads the one with definite grafting on is Robb, or rather a direwolf's head grafted onto his body.

I haven't had time  to think this through yet but the idea that "three heads are better than one" comes to mind. And in this context, the whispering heads may be significant in the sense that they give advice. 

 

Another thought came to me regarding "the boy who lives" and how that might be connected to the three heads.

On 9/18/2022 at 7:29 PM, Seams said:

Ser Dontos represents several important lines of symbolism or archetypes from GRRM's pantheon. One of them is "the boy who lived" (yes, I know that phrase is associated with a different fantasy series). We see several examples where an entire family was wiped out except for one child - Last Lord Tarbeck, Rhaegar at Summerhall, Jon Snow of House Targaryen, maybe Lollys Stokeworth, and maybe Sweetrobin of House Arryn.

Let's assume the three headed dragon is the answer to the great threat - this could be the "Sphinx" or the Others or both and that this threat has its origins in "the Lion of Night," or in present day Westeros, the Lannisters. Lions. The "lions" are responsible for wiping out families but there is always a child survivor who in some way "infiltrates" the lions (I'm also thinking here of daughters of the vanquished married by the victors), until they evolve into "lizardlions" and then into dragons and finally into the Westerosi version - the dragon with three heads. Sounds simplistic but I hope you get my meaning.

Tyrion describes a Valyrian Sphinx he sees in Essos:

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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. 

Crouching is an odd expression for a dragon. Cats crouch, lions crouch, especially before the pounce. Balerion the dragon, Balerion the black cat at the Red Keep. Lizardlions. 

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“Ser Pounce caught a mouse,” he told her, “but Lady Whiskers stole it from him.” I was never so sweet and innocent, Cersei thought. How can he ever hope to rule in this cruel realm? The mother in her wanted only to protect him; the queen in her knew he must grow harder, or the Iron Throne was certain to devour him. “Ser Pounce must learn to defend his rights,” she told him. “In this world the weak are always the victims of the strong.” (affc)

Ser Pounce does learn to defend his rights - against Balerion the black cat, the bad cat:

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“The bad cat was outside my window last night,” he informed Kevan at one point, “but Ser Pounce hissed at him and he ran off across the roofs.” (adwd)

I think the "three headed dragon" is an improvement on the original Valyrian dragons. Tommen has three kittens, Ser Pounce, Lady Whiskers and Boots. He trains the kittens using a mouse made of scraps of fur.
Ser Pounce may allude to Drogon being more formidable than Balerion. The kitten scenes of course also allude to the "Rains of Castermere," only that this time the tables will be turned and no "rains shall weep over his halls." Anyway, the point is, I can see sole survivors coming together as the three heads of the dragon.

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