“Visions danced before her, gold and scarlet, flickering, forming and melting and dissolving into one another, shapes strange and terrifying and seductive. She saw the eyeless faces again, staring out at her from sockets weeping blood.”
– Melisandre I, ADWD
In “A Dance With Dragons” we get our first POV chapter from Melisandre and it’s quite an interesting one. The chapter begins with her staring into her fire. The above quote is the beginning of many of the visions she has during this time. The eyeless faces are later revealed to be three rangers Jon sent out beyond the wall; Black Jack Bulwer, Hairy Hal and Garth Greyfeather would eventually be found just north of The Wall with their heads on spears and their eyes gouged out. It’s assumed this is the work of the wilding known as The Weeper.
She has many more visions, which I’ll get to, but I want to focus on this one for a bit. There’s a part earlier in the book when Jon travels south to Mole’s Town in an attempt to recruit men and women to help guard the wall. During his trip, he and Edd come across three newly carved weirwood trees, and I’ve always felt Martin was trying to tell us something with these trees. The first is described as such:
“The drunkard was an ash tree, twisted sideways by centuries of wind. And now it had a face. A solemn mouth, a broken branch for a nose, two eyes carved deep into the trunk, gazing north up the Kingsroad, toward the castle and The Wall.”
They then come across the second described as such:
“The chestnut was leafless and skeletal, but its bare brown limbs were not empty. On a low branch overhanging the stream a raven sat hunched, its feathers ruffled up against the cold.”
Then the third weirwood:
“…but the great oak looked especially angry, as if it were about to tear its roots from the earth and come roaring after them. Its wounds are as fresh as the men who carved it.”
We now jump ahead to when the heads of the three rangers are discovered. Half the people at Castle Black come out to see the carnage.
“The spears were eight feet long and made of ash. The one on the left had a slight crook, but the other two were smooth and straight. At the top of each was impaled a severed head. Their beards were full of ice, and the fallen snow had given them white hoods. Where their eyes had been, only empty sockets remained, black and bloody holes that stared down in silent accusation.”
On a current side note, remember that phrase: “black and bloody”. It’s also interesting how the “beards full of ice” and “white hoods” from fallen snow seem to remind one of a tree after a snowfall. Bowen Marsh then announces who they are and says:
“The ground is half-frozen. It must have taken the wildings half the night to bury them so deep.”
Ghost then pisses on the spear holding the head of Black Jack Bulwer as he’s prowling around. Then there’s this:
“Jon Snow grasped the spear that bore the head of Garth Greyfeather’s head and wrenched it violently from the ground. ‘Pull down the other two,’ he commanded, and four of the crows hurried to obey.”
I’m sure you see where I’m going with this: I believe those three weirwood trees represent the three rangers. The first spear has a slight crook in it while the others were straight. Strange thing to mention until you remember the first tree was twisted sideways and had a broken stick as a nose. In a humorous side note, Ghost pisses on that spear while the tree was referred to as a drunkard. This was the spear holding the head of Black Jack Bulwer.
Then there’s that especially angry third tree. The one Jon thought was about to tear its roots from the ground and come roaring after them. And it’s the third spear, belonging to Garth Greyfeather, that Jon “wrenched violently from the ground”. He somehow managed to do this with one hand after we’ve heard how deep they’re buried, how frozen the ground is, and that it took four people to remove the other two. His anger rooted it from the ground.
I’ve tried to find as much information regarding the three rangers but there’s not a lot of mention of them. The only things I found that could prove meaningful (and I’m grasping at straws here) is Black Jack Bulwer was appointed First Ranger by Jon, which may explain why his tree’s eyes are staring at The Wall. Garth Greyweather went through some serious travails. He survived the Battle At The Fist of The First Men only to end up at Craster’s when the mutineers killed Lord Jeor. He finally made it back to the wall to fight the battle against the wildings. All this might explain the anger.
When I write prediction or theory posts I often do so half-heartedly. I have no concrete evidence to backup what I say and I’m not about to assume what I think must be right while others are wrong. The three weirwood trees have been driving me nuts for years and I do believe they serve a purpose. The question is this: are they a form of Martin’s legendary foreshadowing, or are they another mistaken vision by Melisandre? In other words, did Mel misinterpret the three weirwoods for the three rangers. I believe they’re foreshadowing, but we have plenty of evidence that proves Mel is prone to misinterpreting her visions. Her theory about Stannis only being one of many.
Melisandre’s vision of a grey girl on a dying horse who she believes to be Arya, along with her prediction of the eyeless rangers presumably coming true, persuade Jon to unleash Mance Rayder in the hopes he’ll rescue his half-sister. Of course we know she was wrong again here. The grey girl turned out to be Alys Karstark. That brings me to the next part of her visions that drives me nuts:
“Then the towers by the sea, crumbling as the dark tide came sweeping over them, rising from the depths. Shadows in the shape of skulls, skulls that turn to mist, bodies locked together in lust, writhing and rolling and clawing. Through curtains of fire great winged shadows wheeled against a hard blue sky.”
We immediately think the towers belong to Eastwatch and the dark tide are the Others. So does Jon. However, this is the exchange we get:
Mel: “I saw towers by the sea, submerged beneath a black and bloody tide.”
Mel: Was it? Melisandre had seen Eastwatch-by-the-sea with King Stannis… The towers in her fires had been different, but that was oft the way with visions. “Yes. Eastwatch, my lord.”
Mel has just started to gain Jon’s trust and wants to prove herself useful, so she tells him what he wants to hear even though she doubts it herself. Also, the phrase black and bloody is used again. There are other locations in our story that might fit her description. My first thought goes to the Shield Islands under attack by Euron Greyjoy and the Ironborn.
Black and bloody describe the colors of Euron’s ship “Silence”, while mention of a tide referring to Ironborn is highly reminiscent of Bran’s dreams in “A Clash of Kings”. If you look at the chronology of “A Feast For Crows” and “A Dance With Dragons” combined, you’ll also see these chapters (the Mel chapter and the attack on the Shield Islands) occur almost simultaneously. Check out the website boiledleather.com for that.
The other possibility that comes to mind is occurring on the other side of Westeros, where Aegon VI (allegedly) has landed with The Golden Company. They’ve attacked the towers of Greenstone on Estermont and Connington’s seat, Griffen’s Roost. Once again, Aegon wears the Targaryen (or Blackfyre) colors of red and black. Another “black and bloody” tide.
Most of the rest of her visions seem fairly self explanatory. Jon being a man, then a wolf, then a man again seems to imply after his murder he’ll enter Ghost as eluded to in the Varamyr prologue. He’ll then be resurrected as Azor Ahai or one of the three heads of Azor Ahai.
“Flaming arrows arced above a wooden wall and dead things shambled silent through the cold, beneath a great grey cliff where fires burned inside a hundred caves” seems to be an obvious reference to Hardhome. In fact, you almost wonder how Mel’s lasted as long as she has when she can’t figure out Jon’s Azor Ahai with all the clues she’s given. Oh well. No one said being a Red Priestess was easy.
“That creature is dangerous. Many a time I have glimpsed him in my flames. Sometimes there are skulls about him, and his lips are red with blood.”
That brings us to this comment Mel makes about Patchface. Now, Patchface is a bit creepy, I’ll give you that, but this statement seems a bit extreme for a fool; a jester. For those that don’t know, Patchface was brought to Westeros by Lord Steffon Baratheon. The ship they were on sank not far from Storm’s End killing Lord Steffon and his wife.
Patchface also drowned but was revived only to make prophetic riddles typically referring to the sea. This sounds an awful lot like the Ironborn’s method of religious initiation where they drown a person then revive them. Is it possible Patchface is some sort of disciple to The Drowned God making him appear evil to Melisandre the same way Bran and Bloodraven did when she saw them? To take it a step further, we know nothing of his background or the reason Lord Steffon brought him to Westeros. Is there more to him than meets the eye? His prophecies have been spot on.
The biggest problem with Melisandre is she only views things in absolutes. Black or white. If it’s not her way of thinking then it must be wrong. If it doesn’t coincide with her principles then it must be evil. She’s an extremist, and that makes her an incredibly dangerous character.
Thanks so much for reading my gibberish and please offer any feedback you may have.