#SundayReview: Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire by Lucifer Means Lightbringer
Allow me to tell you about a…podcast?
Revamping this blog has made me a better human being, I think. I find myself thinking critically about everything going on in my life and wondering if my experiences are going to be the subject of my next blog post. Honestly, I had a hard time figuring out whether to do this podcast or the new anime I’m working through, and ultimately I decided to go with the podcast because it’s more relevant to my #SamWIP post tomorrow (I’ll tell you about that…tomorrow).
As you know, I recently obtained my first smart phone. Previously, I’d never been much for podcasts, so when a friend told me about this one I kind of shrugged it off like I do with most movie/anime/book/game/song recommendations. However, right now the radio is a bunch of garbage I don’t like to listen to and even the talk radio is flooded with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the Orlando shooting, so I end up turning the radio off more often than not. Music and news are just sorely lacking in America right now, sadly.
What it means is that suddenly the PODCAST has value to my life, and since this recommended podcast was the only one I could even think of, I subscribed. I have, on occasion, a three and a half hour drive around the state as part of my job, and since it’s road construction season….entertainment was necessary.
What this podcast is about
If you’re a fan of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and have copious amounts of listening time, this is a good podcast for you. The podcaster examines the mythology, religion, prophecy, and above all, the symbolism of the book series, an does so in great detail. He provides numerous examples of his findings, draws parallels, asks provocative questions, and overall does a fantastic job of laying bare the complicated mind of the author. Mainly, he has investigated the origin of the Lightbringer theory and speculated on Azor Ahai’s identity, as well as identified a number of motifs and symbols throughout the story.
Why I initially cringed
Honestly, I grew up disdainful of teachers making us dissect the symbolism in storytelling, or ‘what the author meant.’ I thought it was disrespectful to pull apart the plot like this, as it brings low a work of art into a more clinical examination of its pieces and parts. To me, that wasn’t what the author intended for you to do. Perhaps they intended to put hidden gems like symbols and parallels into the story, but I didn’t think they intended for us to rip them from the pages and drop them onto a dissection tray.
For the most part, I still hold to this belief, but we’ll get there in this blog post.
What the podcast touches upon
I don’t want to spend a lot of time summarizing the podcast for you. For starters, it’s MASSIVE. I’m guessing that it’s about 15 hours or so, and it’s incredibly detailed and heavy for me to try to serve it up to you in text. I will instead lay out a bulleted list, and if you’re a fan of ASOIAF, you can find it yourself. The podcaster also has a wordpress.
Here are some of the themes he investigates:
- Blood and Fire
- Who/What is Lightbringer?
- Who is Azor Ahai?
- Who built Asshai by the Shadow?
- What was the cause of The Long Night?
- What does the appearance of the red comet mean?
- Where did dragons come from?
- Whose version of the past/whose legend is correct?
- Symbolism in colors, crows, blood, fire, natural disasters, names, the stars, solar eclipses and celestial phenomena, tides, iron, roses
- Is Azor Ahai the hero that was promised or the Prince of Darkness?
- Gods and goddesses
- Heroic and villainous figures of history
- The fight between the Mountain and the Red Viper
- Bloodlines and parentage, family names and relationships, crests, and colors
- The origin of magic/blood magic/fire magic
- The religions of the world of Ice and Fire
- …and so much more…
Why this podcast may have just changed my life
Honestly, I think listening to this podcast just shook the way I look at worldbuilding. While I can’t say I’m fully on board with every single symbol or every single parallel the podcaster points out, I fully agree with most of them. There are too many coincidences to discount otherwise. Here are the major points I’ve taken out of this:
I already love using lies as tools. I enjoy misleading the reader, misleading the characters, and outright proliferating lies as a means to cause conflict in the story. However, this podcast flagged other important aspects of lies that I hadn’t fully considered before, namely distortion and parallels.
Distortion–In the podcast, the podcaster suggests that there are multiple versions of the same story, that of Nissa Nissa, Azor Ahai, and the forging of Lightbringer. There’s a scene in ASOIAF where Dany is talking to her maids and they disagree about the origin of dragons. The podcaster theorizes that they’re actually both right if you consider the symbolism. They’ve merely interpreted an event different ways, carried on down through the storytelling of the ages. This is important, as it reminds us as writers that two characters can look at one event and see different things, then tell the story again and again until it looks almost completely different from the original event. In this case, ‘a thousand thousand dragons’ may or may not be a meteor shower, and the moon is the birther of fire (wife of sun, egg of a dragon, etc).
Parallels help to create structure in a text. This forging of Lightbringer appears multiple times throughout ASOIAF, so that when you see it–assuming you know what you’re looking for–you can extrapolate the meanings hidden in the characters and their position in the parallel. Who’s the sun? Who’s the moon? What or who is Lightbringer?
Dragons can be meteors. Moons can be women or eggs. Blood can be symbolic. Swords can literally be dicks. Gods and men alike can be born of blood or of fire. Prophecy is murky and easy to mess up. Different characters can interpret things a different way. Maybe there’s more than one Azor Ahai.
Worldbuilding is my weakest skill and one I am actively working on. I’ve mentioned before that I’m working on the origin and mythology of the world of Achillea, because I fully intend to expand this story again and again and use this world for future works. Stella pointed out that I had some work to do on this, and this podcast really hammered her point home. There’s a richness that my world is just missing. There’s a sense that my world is a new world and not an old one steeped in magic like I wanted. I can do better.
George R.R. Martin appears to have used the mythology of dozens of different cultures. Egyptian myth, Greek and Roman myth, Christianity, Norse mythology, even Native American spiritualism. Again, I’m not sure how fully I believe that, but if you want to make this argument, it’s easy to do. The fact that he’s done this reminded me that I’m a fantasy writer. My world has magic and myth and I can let my imagination run rampant. Are gods really born from blood and starlight? Truthfully, no. That’s not possible. But in my world, it can be. And in legend and mythology, often ordinary events like the beginning of the earth are explained in ridiculously fantastic ways.
Since listening to this podcast, I’ve been humbled. I have a lot of work to do to make the world of Achillea as strong as it needs to be to support the books I intend to write for it. It means for you, unfortunately, that I’m taking yet another step back. But GRRM spends five years per book to make an extraordinary tale, and I’m hoping that taking the time to do this right overshadows the sorrow of waiting.
The thought never crossed my mind that Azor Ahai was a villain, not a hero. I suppose it probably should have. The Lord of Light thirsts for blood and sacrifice. Melisandre isn’t my favorite person. Lightbringer was forged in innocent heart’s blood.
But throughout the story you hear how Azor Ahai would come again and wield the red sword of heroes and bring love and light and endless summer to a dark world ‘full of terrors.’
What I learned from the podcast rather shocked me. Basically the podcaster said, “Consider the source.” Melisandre is from Asshai by the Shadow, a massive, mostly-empty city devoid of light and love. All of the foulest magicians go there to study and experiment. Dastardly beings like Melisandre and others that use blood magic. In fact, if you learn anything about Asshai, it sounds like the pit of hell. So if the Asshaii and the Red Priest(ess)es are anxiously awaiting Azor Ahai reborn, Azor Ahai might be an asshole. “Endless summer” might be the world on fire.
This reminds me that storytelling is rife with the bias of the storyteller, and as stories get told through history, changing from storyteller to storyteller, there’s no telling what the actual truth is, is there?
Anyway. If you’re a fan of the ASOIAF books, or even just the TV show, I think you’ll enjoy this podcast. Be willing to invest the time, though. I highly recommend it for multitasking with something tedious or for a long car-ride.
Thanks for reading!
S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS.
Posted on June 19, 2016, in #SundayReview and tagged A Song of Ice and Fire, ASOIAF, Astronomy, Bloodstone, Game of Thrones, GoT, GRRM, Lightbringer, Mythology, podcast, review, stories, Storytelling, Symbolism, Worldbuilding, writing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.