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tze

Serwyn of the Mirror Shield

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Serwyn of the Mirror Shield has been mentioned in every book thus far (save for AFFC), and as the only (named) dragonslayer in ASOIAF, I think his story contains a number of hints relevant to the future of the dragons and of House Targaryen. As other threads have pointed out, it's impossible to "date" Serwyn's story because it contains clear post-Conquest elements (Serwyn as a Kingsguard, a princess with the Targ-ish name of Daeryssa) right alongside clearly pre-Conquest elements (saving that princess from savage giants, being lauded as a hero for killing what was, post-Conquest, a symbol of royal authority). And we know the story can't be 100% accurate because a person who tried to copy it (Ser Byron Swann) during the Dance was roasted for his trouble.

The combination of pre-and-post-Conquest elements, coupled with the discussion that immediately follows Tyrion's recitation of Serwyn's story---that is, his analysis of clues showing that parts of Ser Byron Swann's dragonslaying attempt have been altered---leads me to conclude that readers are being shown that the "current" story wasn't passed directly down from the Age of Heroes, but has been actively (or passively) altered over the centuries, particularly post-Conquest. On the one hand, I think we as readers have to look at clues elsewhere in the text to figure out what part (if any) of Serwyn's dragonslaying technique is accurate (just as Tyrion looked at the Byron Swann situation and decided one element, the dragon being targeted, could not be accurate); and on the other hand, I think we have to look at the "whole" story as presented by GRRM to see what literary hints we can take from it for the future of our various "dragons" (literal and Targaryen).

The first time we get the "full" story of Serwyn's dragonslaying is via Tyrion in ADWD:

How did Serwyn of the Mirror Shield slay the dragon Urrax?”
“He approached behind his shield. Urrax saw only his own reflection until Serwyn had plunged his spear through his eye.

From comments made elsewhere, it's clear that Tyrion believes Serwyn's choice to target a dragon's eye is the correct way to kill a dragon:

The eyes were where a dragon was most vulnerable. The eyes, and the brain behind them. Not the underbelly, as certain old tales would have it. The scales there were just as tough as those along a dragon’s back and flanks. And not down the gullet either. That was madness.

But it raises my hackles that Tyrion, whose dragon-knowledge is entirely secondhand (and thirdhand), firmly believes he knows the "correct" body part to target when killing a dragon. In Daznak's Pit, stabbing at Drogon's eyes did no good:

Another attacker stabbed at [Drogon's] eyes until the dragon caught him in his jaws and tore his belly out.

To stab a dragon in the eye, chances are you're going to have to stand right in front of the dragon's mouth, which . . . is obviously problematic.

The myth of Perseus, who killed the Gorgon Medusa by using a mirrored shield, clearly inspired the story of Serwyn, and it's possible that there's a clue for readers hidden there. Perseus kills Medusa by cutting off her head, and the dragons in ASOIAF have been shown to be clearly vulnerable at one particular body part:

Drogon raised his head, blood dripping from his teeth. The hero leapt onto his back and drove the iron spearpoint down at the base of the dragon’s long scaled neck.

The fool was all that [Quentyn] had time to think as the quarrel caromed off Viserion’s neck to vanish in the gloom. A line of fire gleamed in its wake—dragon’s blood, glowing gold and red.

In ADWD, we see two separate dragons injured, both at the same body part: the neck. Dragons, clearly, are vulnerable at the neck (why else would the author have the only two dragon injuries in the series occur to that particular body part?) And in a literary sense, we have seen one "dragon" stabbed in the eye who is still alive (Bloodraven), while "the last dragonking" (Aerys) was explicitly killed by slashing his throat. So could this be a part that was altered---i.e., did an "original" story of Serwyn exist that had the dragonslayer stabbing Urrax in the neck, not the eye? (And as a side note: if dragons are vulnerable at the neck . . . how do we think the dragons, and House Targaryen, will fare at the Neck? As I'll discuss below, poison is a relevant factor here, and the Neck is known for its particularly deadly poisons.)

And as a general matter, could this explain why the story was seemingly altered to include post-Conquest elements? In other words, if there was a widely-publicized story that accurately depicted their dragons' weaknesses when Aegon landed, it would be in the Targaryens' interests to hire some singers (and bribe some maesters?) to start spreading a different version of that story to their new subjects, one which altered the manner of the dragon Urrax's death. That would go a long way toward explaining how post-Conquest elements could have creeped into the narrative, especially since you'd think "dragonslaying" stories/songs would not have been looked kindly upon by the dragonriding Targs.

Serwyn of the Mirror Shield was supposedly "haunted by the ghosts of all the knights he’d killed". Is this a hint as to the identity of a person who will slay a literal dragon, or who will perhaps kill a Targaryen? I can think of a number of characters haunted by "ghosts" of one form or another, but they tend to be "haunted" by people they didn't actually kill. Who do we know who has been "haunted" by everyone they've killed? Cersei, during her Walk of Shame is the closest I can think of, and even with her it's incomplete. Or is this a more general hint, in that the people Serwyn kills "come back from the dead"? I don't think we've ever seen any of the Others carrying a shield, but their armor could be described as "mirrored", in the sense that it seems to reflect its surroundings in order to blend in with them:

Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.

Humans don't carry shields made of the same substance as their armor, clearly, but we don't know what sort of shields, if any, the Others use (or even if the story referred to an actual shield---might it have originally referred to armor, but slowly been altered to a "shield" after being passed down over the centuries?) If Serwyn's story originated pre-Conquest, well, it might have originated way pre-Conquest. GRRM has said there were dragons all over once, and there's been a lot of speculation that dragons, as you'd expect with reptiles, thrive in heat but die in cold. The dragonslayer being haunted by the knights he'd killed could potentially be a remnant from an earlier version of the story in which "the dragonslayer" was raising wights, which would hint that the Others (or even just the wights---we know they can hunt by heat) were killing off the dragons during the Long Night.

For that matter, in Serwyn's story, the "mirrored shield" that hides the dragonslayer essentially "reflects" the dragon. What are mirrors usually made of? Glass. A "mirror" that reflects a dragon could very easily serve as a metaphor for dragonglass. In ADWD, we saw Bloodraven (via a tree) use snow to hide Bran from the cold-associated wights---there would be a certain symmetry in the idea that dragonglass, something born in volcanoes, would provide some protection against dragons. Particularly given the example of the obsidian candles, which "burn without being consumed". A shield that can't be consumed by dragonfire could theoretically be particularly useful in going up against a dragon (it would still have to deal with the whole "burning" part, obviously, but I'm thinking out loud here).

Interestingly, the attempted assassination of Dany at the Qartheen docks clearly evokes the Serwyn/Urrax story, and there might be some clues buried there as to how actual dragons can (or will) die, as well as how our Targaryens might end up dying:

“This is a noble work, my queen,” [Jorah] proclaimed loudly, lifting a large platter for her inspection. “See how it shines in the sun?”
The brass was polished to a high sheen. Dany could see her face in it... and when Ser Jorah angled it to the right, she could see behind her. “I see a fat brown man and an older man with a staff. Which is it?”
“Both of them,” Ser Jorah said. “They have been following us since we left Quicksilver.”

[snip]

The old man had the look of Westeros about him, and the brown-skinned one must weigh twenty stone. The Usurper offered a lordship to the man who kills me, and these two are far from home. Or could they be creatures of the warlocks, meant to take me unawares?
“Ten, Khaleesi, because you are so lovely. Use it for a looking glass. Only brass this fine could capture such beauty.”

[snip]

“Do they follow?”
“Lift that up a little higher,” the knight told the merchant. “Yes. The old man pretends to linger at a potter’s stall, but the brown one has eyes only for you.”
“Two honors! Two! Two!” The merchant was panting heavily from the effort of running backward.
“Pay him before he kills himself,” Dany told Ser Jorah, wondering what she was going to do with a huge brass platter. She turned back as he reached for his coins, intending to put an end to this mummer’s farce. The blood of the dragon would not be herded through the bazaar by an old man and a fat eunuch.
A Qartheen stepped into her path. “Mother of Dragons, for you.” He knelt and thrust a jewel box into her face.

Dany took it almost by reflex.

The story of Serwyn and Urrax is reenacted here: because the "dragon" (Dany) is distracted by what she sees (Barristan and Strong Belwas) in the "mirror" (the brass platter), she's blindsided when the "dragonslayer" (the Sorrowful Man with the manticore) attacks.

In Serwyn's story, the end effect of the dragon/reflection/mirrored shield combination is that the dragonslayer essentially bears a shield that "reflects" the dragon he slays. Who would bear a shield that "reflects" the Targaryen sigil? A Blackfyre. And look at what Dany sees in her "mirror": a eunuch and an old man---perhaps representing Varys the eunuch and Illyrio "I am an old man, grown weary of this world and its treacheries" Mopatis, whom many readers believe to be championing House Blackfyre? The Perseus reference I mentioned above would also track with that idea, given the number of parallels between Perseus and Daemon Blackfyre (both of their mothers were "mysteriously" impregnated while imprisoned by the King, both ended up crossing the sea, both were associated with a "winged horse" (Pegasus/Bittersteel)).

Interestingly, the "dragonslayer" in Dany's particular encounter is not the person actually bearing the "mirror shield" (the brass merchant appears quite innocent in all of this). And Dany is distracted from the true threat because she perceives a threat reflected in that brass platter (Barristan/Belwas), a threat which did not actually exist---the whole situation which reminds me quite a lot of Quaithe's "sun's son, mummer's dragon, trust none of them" warning. In other words, Dany here mistakenly thinks the people coming to help her actually mean her harm, and because of that, she's unprepared for the source of the true attack. The same thing could end up happening with the "threats" Quaithe warns her of: they don't actually mean her harm, but her belief otherwise distracts her from the source of the true threat she'll encounter. For that matter, this could indicate Dany's future with the (presumably) Blackfyre continent: she'll be so concerned with the "threat" they pose that she'll end up blindsided by the "true" source of danger to her. The Sorrowful Man is a Qartheen, an ethnicity known for their extremely pale skin, and sent by the warlocks, a group heavily associated with the color blue. A hint that Dany will be so concerned with the threat posed by Aegon and his backers that she'll end up blindsided by the Others?

Moreover, the Sorrowful Man tries to kill Dany with poison (well, venom). Could this be a literary hint that Marwyn's accusations were at least partially correct, and the Targaryens' dragons were in fact poisoned? (It is interesting how many times people try to specifically poison Dany, rather than trying to shoot/stab/strangle her.) This could be a literary hint that the dragons will be poisoned, or that Dany will die of poison . . . though it should be taken into account that these poisoning attempts never succeed, which could indicate the opposite. Moreover, a "manticore" did successfully murder the last Targaryen princess---Ser Amory Lorch, whose sigil was a manticore, successfully murdered Dany's niece Rhaenys. But he did it with "half a hundred" stabbings instead of poison (and instead of the "soft silk pillow" that Tywin claimed to want him to use), which could be relevant, foreshadowing-wise.

The "dragonslayer" hands Dany a box, and inside it is "a glittering green scarab carved from onyx and emerald". Onyx is black, emerald is green---green and black are (as other threads have pointed out) likely to denote the factions in the upcoming Dance. A hint that the Dance will destroy Dany, or that the second Dance will kill off the dragons just as the first Dance did? Or perhaps a hint that the "true" threat to Dany is associated with both black and green---not just the Dance, but also the black and green associated contingent in the North? Bloodraven is a greenseer and a member of the Night's Watch, and his skin is known for its extreme whiteness, rather like a Qartheen. Futhermore, the manticore itself has "a malign black face, almost human"---so it has a face associated with another entity. Rather like a Faceless Man, perhaps?

Perhaps it's also relevant what body part the Sorrowful Man targets: Dany's hand. A hint that destroying Dany means targeting her hand---or rather, her Hand?

Does anybody else see any hints for the future, or the past, in the story of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield?

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tze, I've been lurking this board for a while and your analysis always blows me away. I think you may be on to something with the dragons, however I think the eyes will also be a weakness to the dragons. i think you should have stopped there. Obviously, it will be dangerous to go at a dragon's eyes because going against a dragon isn't easy. The dragon isn't going to let you blind it. However, if you can manage to blind it you have increased your chances tenfold. I would also imagine that clipping it's wings would help in the fight (if Skyrim has taught me anything!)


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I'm still digesting this, but two things immediately stick out.



1. I've said before that it wouldn't surprise me at all if the Targs deliberately spread misinformation about how to kill their dragons. Septon Barth is the guy who "wrote the book" on the subject, the book Tyrion draws his information from. Barth was also on the Targ payroll as Jaehaerys I's Hand. If your power base rests on your possession and control of giant fire lizards, you're not going to let this guy write on the topic of what actually kills them. This is why I think the Death of Dragons book in the Citadel is so important; it's under lock and key because it tells the real story, whatever that might be. And yes, it wouldn't surprise me if the Serwyn story was such a legend that has been co-opted and bastardized. This is also, by the way, why I'm leery of people painting Tyrion as some dragon expert. It doesn't do him much good if his sources are wrong.




2. The idea of obsidian burning without being consumed is interesting. It makes me wonder if obsidian — itself the dual embodiment of ice and fire, "frozen fire" — can be used to kill both Others and dragons. As in, it represents the balance between two warring extremes.



And yes, it's interesting to see that black-and-green motif spring up again.


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@ dragons vulnerability... IIRC there was a mummers show in the Hedge Knight which involved a dragon being killed by beheading. Also Gregor cutting the horses head off in aGoT struck me as possible foreshadowing, with the larger Robert Strong in mind for the larger task of a dragon.



@ dragonglass - isn't it very cold to the touch or am I misremembering? Meaning it has fire and 'icy' properties (in a sense), 'frozen fire' i think it's called. So the notion of dragons vs dragonglass is curious. Dragonglass does seem to be a rather important material, and differing from our real world equivalent. Ive always wondered what Quaithe meant by this, because i'm thinking the timeline means it cant be glasscandles. I thought nobody could light glass candles six months prior. I'm just contemplating what properties dragonglass has, exactly, and what can be done with it.




“Half a year gone, that man could scarcely wake fire from dragonglass




Nice idea with regards to the glass candles not being consumed.



Sorry I haven't thought about Serwyn much, so I wouldn't like to wade in any further, but a good thread I'll come back to.


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Wow. I had caught the Medusa similarities but thanks for detailing the Dany/Dragon assassination attempt similarities. A lot to think about!

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2. The idea of obsidian burning without being consumed is interesting. It makes me wonder if obsidian — itself the dual embodiment of ice and fire, "frozen fire" — can be used to kill both Others and dragons. As in, it represents the balance between two warring extremes.

.

More WOW( as in Wow! Not the next book)

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Oh Apple reminded me, the dragon glass was genius. It would only make sense for the material that hurts the white walkers also hurts dragons. Unless someone could get their hands on a white walker's sword? Nailed it there, tze.


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Wow! You really think outside the box. I just reread the fighting pit scene n Merreen and the fact that the "hero" stabbed Drogon in the neck is a significant clue to fighting dragons as a species of animal. The point you make of Persius slaying Medusa is spot on. When Drogon is appeared his wound appears to smoke and blood from the wound reminds me of Medusa' s poisonous blood. Wasn't her severed head dripping smoking blood? I can't remember if that's the way the myth read or maybe how Hollywood portrays it in cinema.

When Dany pulls the spear out of Drogon the iron spearhead is mostly dissolved. I find that interesting as well.

It's posts like yours that keep me looking at this forum once in a while. Great work, keep it up.

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<snip> For that matter, this could indicate Dany's future with the (presumably) Blackfyre continent: she'll be so concerned with the "threat" they pose that she'll end up blindsided by the "true" source of danger to her. The Sorrowful Man is a Qartheen, an ethnicity known for their extremely pale skin, and sent by the warlocks, a group heavily associated with the color blue. A hint that Dany will be so concerned with the threat posed by Aegon and his backers that she'll end up blindsided by the Others? <snip>

I wonder if this doesn't possibly tie into a discussion we were having in the Moments of Foreshadowing thread. Lady Arya's Song mentioned one of Patchface's jingles.

ACoK, Davos I:

Stannis Baratheon strode forward like a soldier marching into battle. His squires stepped up to attend him. Davos watched as his son Devan pulled a long padded glove over the king’s right hand. The boy wore a cream-colored doublet with a fiery heart sewn on the breast. Bryen Farring was similarly garbed as he tied a stiff leather cape around His Grace’s neck. Behind, Davos heard a faint clank and clatter of bells. “Under the sea, smoke rises in bubbles, and flames burn green and blue and black,” Patchface sang somewhere. “I know, I know, oh, oh, oh.”

We know that the Dance of the Dragons was fought between two factions otherwise known as the blacks and greens. We're on the verge of that happening again supposedly, with Dany and Aegon.

That would still leave the color blue to be explained. Since green and black are tied to dragons both literally and figuratively, then the blue ought to be as well. It just so happens that Jon Snow is heavily associated with the color blue, via winter roses.

Now, back to the Patchface song: this passage is from when Melisandre burned the Seven on Dragonstone. Let's imagine for a second that the seven gods of the Faith are a stand in for the Seven Kingdoms. The symbolism need not be anymore specific than F7=7K. So, the Seven Kingdoms are burning + (f)Aegon, Jon and Dany.

Getting back to your analysis, this would probably mean something along the lines of: Dany views Aegon as the (primary) threat when it's really Jon. This could even work on a couple of levels:

First, Dany thinks Aegon is the true heir, but it's really Jon, or maybe something like; Dany views the "greens" as more of a military threat, but it's the "blues" that get her in the end. Maybe even under the guise of friendship.

If there is going to be a "blue" team, I think it could include Sansa and Arya. (There is a certain amount of blue rose symbolism attached to them, as well; e.g., maidens of Winterfell.) If so, one or the other could well be the source of the arguably foreshadowed death(-by-poisoning); aka, "sweetness."

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As always, a fascinating read, Tze.

I don't know if dragons are so vulnerable at the neck, though. Drogon was hurt by the spear, but not seriously injured. And, he's far from full-grown.

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Really interesting topic!


Adding some random thoughts:


-Iirc it was in AFfC: Sam lets some tomes fall into the ground at the Wall, dirtying a good illustration of a black dragon.


Drogon hitting the ground/dying?



-While Serwyn is known for killing a dragon and a shield is expressely mentioned, no one says anything about the weapon used.


All the important swords are always mentioned and the books tokae their time to descript any relevant sword that comes around, I believe that if Serwyn had used a sword people would have remembered it...



-Viserios claws Daenerys' white lion skin, also he generally looks as the weakest of the three



-Being able to stab a dragon's eye means be within range of his sharp teeth, but that doesn't mean that you can't die while killing the dragon at the same time!



My personal candidates to be dragonslayer are currently Theon, Sam, Jaime and Tyrion.


Here are the weak reasons of why, I hope to find something more concrete.


-Theon: he's said to be a hell of an archer, yet the two times he killed someone were lucky shots so we didn't get to see his full display of power.


Plus, in his condition he's still able to use a bow.


-Tyrion: is the only character who actually hid behind a shield! (AGoT, against the mountains' clans)


-Jaime: Viserion seems to have a thing against lions, plus Cerwyn was of the Kingsguard. Am I right?


-Sam: he kills the others out of luck, why not dragons as well


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[quote name="coil" post="5025052" timestamp="1381143571"

-Tyrion: is the only character who actually hid behind a shield! (AGoT, against the mountains' clans)

-ll

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Some one wrote that death exits the dragon's mouth but doesn't go in that way. Maesters killed the dragons. Maester Cressen used poison to try and kill Mel. Pycelle has extensive knowledge of poisons. Maester Coleman is unintentionally poisoning Sweetrobin with Sweetsleep. So, Maester's prefered weapon to kill is poison. Dragons were most likely poisoned. So that book is wrong as well. Death enters into the mouth.

A pale skinned man associated with warlocks who has been drinking Shade of the Evening and has blue lips and has been touted as the greatest threat to Dany: Euron is the dragonslayer or dragontamer/stealer

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Very interesting analysis tze! I think I lost you there with the poisons, but I believe everything before that is plausible.



Thinking of Harry Potter (again), I think that the eyes are actually a weakness. In HP Sirius tells Harry to use a spell and aim between the dragon's eyes, which is what Viktor Krum actually did. Krum got burned by the dragon as he made him angry, but he still managed to get the golden egg. Harry emerged unscathed because he chose to distract the dragon (interestingly reflecting Dany being distracted by the people following her). Also, in the final book it is shown that the goblins at Gringotts controls the dragons by partially blinding them.



I realise I am using canon from another book here, but I think it is telling that both authors chose to mention the eyes as a weak point of a dragon. Also interestingly, in the Hobbit, the weak part is indeed the underbelly, the one that Tyrion dismisses as false. I found it amusing that GRRM appears to 'side' with Rowling instead of Tolkien on this one, and would actually rather he stuck to it. The reason why the people attempting to attack the eyes failed could be that, even though the eyes are a weakness, a dragon is still a dragon, and requires great skill and cunning to defeat, even when one knows how to do it.



I do see the neck as a weak point too though. Perhaps a combination of the two will be what finally brings a dragon (animal or Targ) down.



Edit: Harry did NOT emerge unscathed, he got hit by the dragon's horned tail. Dear me how could I make that mistake. Apologies.


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I wonder if this doesn't possibly tie into a discussion we were having in the Moments of Foreshadowing thread. Lady Arya's Song mentioned one of Patchface's jingles.

ACoK, Davos I:

We know that the Dance of the Dragons was fought between two factions otherwise known as the blacks and greens. We're on the verge of that happening again supposedly, with Dany and Aegon.

That would still leave the color blue to be explained. Since green and black are tied to dragons both literally and figuratively, then the blue ought to be as well. It just so happens that Jon Snow is heavily associated with the color blue, via winter roses.

Now, back to the Patchface song: this passage is from when Melisandre burned the Seven on Dragonstone. Let's imagine for a second that the seven gods of the Faith are a stand in for the Seven Kingdoms. The symbolism need not be anymore specific than F7=7K. So, the Seven Kingdoms are burning + (f)Aegon, Jon and Dany.

Getting back to your analysis, this would probably mean something along the lines of: Dany views Aegon as the (primary) threat when it's really Jon. This could even work on a couple of levels:

First, Dany thinks Aegon is the true heir, but it's really Jon, or maybe something like; Dany views the "greens" as more of a military threat, but it's the "blues" that get her in the end. Maybe even under the guise of friendship.

If there is going to be a "blue" team, I think it could include Sansa and Arya. (There is a certain amount of blue rose symbolism attached to them, as well; e.g., maidens of Winterfell.) If so, one or the other could well be the source of the arguably foreshadowed death(-by-poisoning); aka, "sweetness."

I think that vision just refers to the wildfire at the Blackwater, BUT it might be one of those things where the details of one event (Blackwater) might be used to foreshadow another (DotD 2).

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Serwyn of the Mirror Shield has been mentioned in every book thus far (save for AFFC), and as the only (named) dragonslayer in ASOIAF, I think his story contains a number of hints relevant to the future of the dragons and of House Targaryen. As other threads have pointed out, it's impossible to "date" Serwyn's story because it contains clear post-Conquest elements (Serwyn as a Kingsguard, a princess with the Targ-ish name of Daeryssa) right alongside clearly pre-Conquest elements (saving that princess from savage giants, being lauded as a hero for killing what was, post-Conquest, a symbol of royal authority). And we know the story can't be 100% accurate because a person who tried to copy it (Ser Byron Swann) during the Dance was roasted for his trouble.

The combination of pre-and-post-Conquest elements, coupled with the discussion that immediately follows Tyrion's recitation of Serwyn's story---that is, his analysis of clues showing that parts of Ser Byron Swann's dragonslaying attempt have been altered---leads me to conclude that readers are being shown that the "current" story wasn't passed directly down from the Age of Heroes, but has been actively (or passively) altered over the centuries, particularly post-Conquest. On the one hand, I think we as readers have to look at clues elsewhere in the text to figure out what part (if any) of Serwyn's dragonslaying technique is accurate (just as Tyrion looked at the Byron Swann situation and decided one element, the dragon being targeted, could not be accurate); and on the other hand, I think we have to look at the "whole" story as presented by GRRM to see what literary hints we can take from it for the future of our various "dragons" (literal and Targaryen).

The first time we get the "full" story of Serwyn's dragonslaying is via Tyrion in ADWD:

From comments made elsewhere, it's clear that Tyrion believes Serwyn's choice to target a dragon's eye is the correct way to kill a dragon:

But it raises my hackles that Tyrion, whose dragon-knowledge is entirely secondhand (and thirdhand), firmly believes he knows the "correct" body part to target when killing a dragon. In Daznak's Pit, stabbing at Drogon's eyes did no good:

To stab a dragon in the eye, chances are you're going to have to stand right in front of the dragon's mouth, which . . . is obviously problematic.

The myth of Perseus, who killed the Gorgon Medusa by using a mirrored shield, clearly inspired the story of Serwyn, and it's possible that there's a clue for readers hidden there. Perseus kills Medusa by cutting off her head, and the dragons in ASOIAF have been shown to be clearly vulnerable at one particular body part:

In ADWD, we see two separate dragons injured, both at the same body part: the neck. Dragons, clearly, are vulnerable at the neck (why else would the author have the only two dragon injuries in the series occur to that particular body part?) And in a literary sense, we have seen one "dragon" stabbed in the eye who is still alive (Bloodraven), while "the last dragonking" (Aerys) was explicitly killed by slashing his throat. So could this be a part that was altered---i.e., did an "original" story of Serwyn exist that had the dragonslayer stabbing Urrax in the neck, not the eye? (And as a side note: if dragons are vulnerable at the neck . . . how do we think the dragons, and House Targaryen, will fare at the Neck? As I'll discuss below, poison is a relevant factor here, and the Neck is known for its particularly deadly poisons.)

And as a general matter, could this explain why the story was seemingly altered to include post-Conquest elements? In other words, if there was a widely-publicized story that accurately depicted their dragons' weaknesses when Aegon landed, it would be in the Targaryens' interests to hire some singers (and bribe some maesters?) to start spreading a different version of that story to their new subjects, one which altered the manner of the dragon Urrax's death. That would go a long way toward explaining how post-Conquest elements could have creeped into the narrative, especially since you'd think "dragonslaying" stories/songs would not have been looked kindly upon by the dragonriding Targs.

Serwyn of the Mirror Shield was supposedly "haunted by the ghosts of all the knights he’d killed". Is this a hint as to the identity of a person who will slay a literal dragon, or who will perhaps kill a Targaryen? I can think of a number of characters haunted by "ghosts" of one form or another, but they tend to be "haunted" by people they didn't actually kill. Who do we know who has been "haunted" by everyone they've killed? Cersei, during her Walk of Shame is the closest I can think of, and even with her it's incomplete. Or is this a more general hint, in that the people Serwyn kills "come back from the dead"? I don't think we've ever seen any of the Others carrying a shield, but their armor could be described as "mirrored", in the sense that it seems to reflect its surroundings in order to blend in with them:

Humans don't carry shields made of the same substance as their armor, clearly, but we don't know what sort of shields, if any, the Others use (or even if the story referred to an actual shield---might it have originally referred to armor, but slowly been altered to a "shield" after being passed down over the centuries?) If Serwyn's story originated pre-Conquest, well, it might have originated way pre-Conquest. GRRM has said there were dragons all over once, and there's been a lot of speculation that dragons, as you'd expect with reptiles, thrive in heat but die in cold. The dragonslayer being haunted by the knights he'd killed could potentially be a remnant from an earlier version of the story in which "the dragonslayer" was raising wights, which would hint that the Others (or even just the wights---we know they can hunt by heat) were killing off the dragons during the Long Night.

For that matter, in Serwyn's story, the "mirrored shield" that hides the dragonslayer essentially "reflects" the dragon. What are mirrors usually made of? Glass. A "mirror" that reflects a dragon could very easily serve as a metaphor for dragonglass. In ADWD, we saw Bloodraven (via a tree) use snow to hide Bran from the cold-associated wights---there would be a certain symmetry in the idea that dragonglass, something born in volcanoes, would provide some protection against dragons. Particularly given the example of the obsidian candles, which "burn without being consumed". A shield that can't be consumed by dragonfire could theoretically be particularly useful in going up against a dragon (it would still have to deal with the whole "burning" part, obviously, but I'm thinking out loud here).

Interestingly, the attempted assassination of Dany at the Qartheen docks clearly evokes the Serwyn/Urrax story, and there might be some clues buried there as to how actual dragons can (or will) die, as well as how our Targaryens might end up dying:

The story of Serwyn and Urrax is reenacted here: because the "dragon" (Dany) is distracted by what she sees (Barristan and Strong Belwas) in the "mirror" (the brass platter), she's blindsided when the "dragonslayer" (the Sorrowful Man with the manticore) attacks.

In Serwyn's story, the end effect of the dragon/reflection/mirrored shield combination is that the dragonslayer essentially bears a shield that "reflects" the dragon he slays. Who would bear a shield that "reflects" the Targaryen sigil? A Blackfyre. And look at what Dany sees in her "mirror": a eunuch and an old man---perhaps representing Varys the eunuch and Illyrio "I am an old man, grown weary of this world and its treacheries" Mopatis, whom many readers believe to be championing House Blackfyre? The Perseus reference I mentioned above would also track with that idea, given the number of parallels between Perseus and Daemon Blackfyre (both of their mothers were "mysteriously" impregnated while imprisoned by the King, both ended up crossing the sea, both were associated with a "winged horse" (Pegasus/Bittersteel)).

Interestingly, the "dragonslayer" in Dany's particular encounter is not the person actually bearing the "mirror shield" (the brass merchant appears quite innocent in all of this). And Dany is distracted from the true threat because she perceives a threat reflected in that brass platter (Barristan/Belwas), a threat which did not actually exist---the whole situation which reminds me quite a lot of Quaithe's "sun's son, mummer's dragon, trust none of them" warning. In other words, Dany here mistakenly thinks the people coming to help her actually mean her harm, and because of that, she's unprepared for the source of the true attack. The same thing could end up happening with the "threats" Quaithe warns her of: they don't actually mean her harm, but her belief otherwise distracts her from the source of the true threat she'll encounter. For that matter, this could indicate Dany's future with the (presumably) Blackfyre continent: she'll be so concerned with the "threat" they pose that she'll end up blindsided by the "true" source of danger to her. The Sorrowful Man is a Qartheen, an ethnicity known for their extremely pale skin, and sent by the warlocks, a group heavily associated with the color blue. A hint that Dany will be so concerned with the threat posed by Aegon and his backers that she'll end up blindsided by the Others?

Moreover, the Sorrowful Man tries to kill Dany with poison (well, venom). Could this be a literary hint that Marwyn's accusations were at least partially correct, and the Targaryens' dragons were in fact poisoned? (It is interesting how many times people try to specifically poison Dany, rather than trying to shoot/stab/strangle her.) This could be a literary hint that the dragons will be poisoned, or that Dany will die of poison . . . though it should be taken into account that these poisoning attempts never succeed, which could indicate the opposite. Moreover, a "manticore" did successfully murder the last Targaryen princess---Ser Amory Lorch, whose sigil was a manticore, successfully murdered Dany's niece Rhaenys. But he did it with "half a hundred" stabbings instead of poison (and instead of the "soft silk pillow" that Tywin claimed to want him to use), which could be relevant, foreshadowing-wise.

The "dragonslayer" hands Dany a box, and inside it is "a glittering green scarab carved from onyx and emerald". Onyx is black, emerald is green---green and black are (as other threads have pointed out) likely to denote the factions in the upcoming Dance. A hint that the Dance will destroy Dany, or that the second Dance will kill off the dragons just as the first Dance did? Or perhaps a hint that the "true" threat to Dany is associated with both black and green---not just the Dance, but also the black and green associated contingent in the North? Bloodraven is a greenseer and a member of the Night's Watch, and his skin is known for its extreme whiteness, rather like a Qartheen. Futhermore, the manticore itself has "a malign black face, almost human"---so it has a face associated with another entity. Rather like a Faceless Man, perhaps?

Perhaps it's also relevant what body part the Sorrowful Man targets: Dany's hand. A hint that destroying Dany means targeting her hand---or rather, her Hand?

Does anybody else see any hints for the future, or the past, in the story of Serwyn of the Mirror Shield?

This is incredible and gives a lot of food for thought, makes for good reading as well. I previously only got the medusa reference, so thanks.

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Really interesting post tze.




I need to go do a re-read of the parts you mentioned. Lately the forum has been so full of really great threads. I especially am wondering now about the "dragon" Jon Snow who was cut in the neck..another subtle hint by Martin regarding a vulnerable place to strike at a dragon? It appears that Jon was not cut deeply but just an interesting additional point.



Also with Yolkboy and J Stargaryen's threads on Melisandre perhaps being a dragon and the fact that poison did not affect her. So much to consider.



I want to consider the mirror symbol in regard to my favorite dragon Jon.

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OK, so I've thought about this a little more, from the mythology perspective.



Here's a hypothetical question.



I certainly agree that the inspiration for all of this is Perseus killing Medusa. Medusa is one of the worst, most feared monsters in all of Greek mythology. By using her means of destruction as an allusion to a way to kill dragons (or a legend about killing dragons), is this GRRM's way of hinting that dragons really are monsters? Are dragons the "Medusa" of this story?



Another thing to consider — even after Perseus killed Medusa, he was still able to use her head to turn his enemies to stone. He basically co-opted the monster he had defeated. Is a hero going to co-opt the dragons?


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Fascinating thread. I had picked up on the Perseus Daemon connection (even both character's mothers almost have the same name) and I picked up on the Serwyn Perseus connection but I never did take the next step connecting the two. Interestingly enough just like Byron Swann tried to play the part of Perseus to disastrous results, I believe a descendant of his, Balon Swann is about to attempt to play the part of Theseus to Darkstar's minatour with an equally disastrous outcome.

Gerold (named after the White Bull) Dayne (Star) akin to the Minotaur also named Asterik whose symbol is the star inside the labyrinth. Children were sacraficed to the Minatour just as Gerold tried to sacrafice Myrcella. The Cretian king's daughter leads Theseus to the Minotaur's lair in the labarynth just as Doran's niece is leading Balon to Gerold's lair in High Hermitage.

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