Daenerys stands before the House of the Undying Ones, which appears no more than a ruin. Drogon is on her shoulder. Most of those with her, Jhogo, Ser Jorah, Xaro, and Aggo, tell her she should turn back, but she will not. Pyat Pree comes up to take her to the building. As they near the entrance, Pyat gives her some instructions. She must always take the door to her right, and if she comes to any stairs she must go up. Within other rooms she will see visions of the past and future, and some may speak to her as she goes, but she must keep her path until she reaches the Undying themselves. At the door, a dwarf gives her a glass of shade of the evening to prepare her for the truths within. She enters with Drogon. As she goes through room after room, she begins to see visions through some of the open doors on her left. In one, a woman is being worked over by four little men with rat-like faces. In another, she sees a multitude of slaughtered feasters, above whom sits a dead king with the head of a wolf. In the next room, Ser Willem beckons her to the house with the red door. Another door near the end of the hall reveals an old man with dark eyes and long, silver-grey hair on a barbed throne proclaiming to a man at the foot, “Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat. Let him be the king of ashes.” After several more doors, she sees a man that looks like Viserys, but taller and with eyes of a darker purple. He turns to a woman nursing a babe and names the child Aegon. The woman asks if he will write a song, and the man replies, “He has a song. He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” He turns to Daenerys then, and almost seems to see her before adding, “There must be one more. The dragon has three heads.”
At the end of a hall, Daenerys finds no door on her right and sees the torches going out behind her. She suddenly realizes that the last door on the left is also the first door on the right, and she steps through. After several more rooms, an apparition of Pyat tries to lure her left, but she is not fooled. At the top of a staircase, she opens a door and sees a beautiful room full of people with perfect features. One of them says they are the Undying and bids her to enter. Drogon recoils and Daenerys realizes there is actually a narrow door to the right. She flees and passes through this one instead. She enters a gloomy room dominated by a long stone table above which floats a human heart, blue and corrupt. A voice hails her as “mother of dragons”. She can make out the Undying at the table. They are old, wizened, and blue. They appear dead, but just as she thinks that, the voice calls again and says they live. They call her “child of three” and give several foretellings based on that theme. They say she will light three fires, “one for life and one for death and one to love.” They say she will ride three mounts, “one to bed and one to dread and one to love.” Finally, they say that she will know three treasons, “once for blood and once for gold and once for love.” Next, a series of visions comes to her faster and faster: Viserys covered in molten gold; her stillborn son Rhaego as a man with a burning city behind him; Rhaegar dying on the Trident; Stannis holding aloft a flaming sword but casting no shadow; a cloth dragon swaying on poles amidst a cheering crowd; a great stone beast taking wing from a smoking tower; her silver riding towards a stream beneath a sea of stars; a corpse with bright eyes and gray lips smiling sadly on the prow of a ship; a blue flower growing in a chink of ice; Mirri Maz Duur performing her shadow magic; a young Daenerys outside the house with the red door; Mirri Maz Duur dying as Daenerys’s dragons hatch; a bloody corpse, naked, bound and dragged behind her silver; a white lion, taller than a man, running through grass; a line of naked crones coming out of a great lake and kneeling before her; and ten thousand slaves reaching out to touch her and crying “mother” as she rides past. Suddenly, Daenerys realizes that the Undying are all around her, touching, clawing, and biting. She cannot move. Drogon belches forth flame and soon the whole room is ablaze. Daenerys runs out of the room and down a long hallway that finally ends in a door leading outside. Pyat Pree is there gibbering in a strange tongue. He lunges at her with a knife, but Drogon flies at his face. Jhogo and Rakharo subdue him as Ser Jorah comes to Daenerys’s aid.
The House of the Undying is one of my favourite chapters from the series, for exactly the reasons you would expect. I feel like this is the one chapter where Martin can really lay down the foreshadowing and tease the readers with what is to come without it feeling too forced and inorganic. In any case, prophecy and foretellings are one of the tropes in fantasy that I can never tire of and this chapter is a great example of why. There is an incredible amount of foreshadowing in this chapter alone along with what could and should be red herrings.
The warlock Pyat Pree stepped out from under the trees. Has he been there all along? Dany wondered.
Talk about being unnecessarily creepy. We ought to be having a discussion about the warlock’s special brand of magic but the truth is, we have such little information that any discussion we have would be a very short one. One thing to note is that the warlocks’ motivations are never explicitly stated. Why did Pyat Pree want Dany in the House of the Undying? Did he ever have any real magic of his own? In the end, was he nothing more than a thrall of the Undying? We will probably never know.
“The front way leads in, but never out again. Heed my words, my queen. The House of the Undying Ones was not made for mortal men. If you value your soul, take care and do just as I tell you.”
Clearly, the warlocks’ magic is one of the stranger magic systems in ASOIAF but I’m taken by how remarkably similar it is to your typical, traditional magic systems from more conventional fantasy. The wording surrounding it, at least, is very reminiscent of it. The other question here is whether Pyat Pree is being disingenuous here in the instructions he gives to Dany. I lean towards not – he would seem to want her to reach the final chamber and meet the Undying but whether or not he is being truthful about the way in not being the opposite of the way out is up for debate. Again, I tend to lean towards him being honest here simply because it would be a pretty nifty spatial mindfuck for the way in and way out to be entirely different.
“Sights and sounds of days gone by and days to come and days that never were.”
In interpreting the multitude of visions that are about to hit us, it is important to remember that not everything we see here will necessarily come true. It’s essentially a warning from Martin to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves on stony tinfoiled shores.
In one room, a beautiful woman sprawled naked on the floor while four little men crawled over her.
The most obvious interpretation of this is that the woman is Westeros and the dwarves are the four kings currently savaging her with their wars. It’s an odd metaphor, I’ve always felt, just because of how trite the idea of Westeros being this beautiful, unspoiled land is. Westeros was a fucked up place long before the four kings – whether under Robert or the Targaryens, life in Westeros has never been kind and easy. So while I won’t contest that the four kings made things worse, I do question the idea that Westeros is an innocent being harmed. The metaphor does work better if the woman is a representation of the innocents of Westeros however – by definitions they are blameless and suffer the most at the hands of the kings.
In a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf.
This is very clearly foreshadowing of the Red Wedding and a sign that Martin’s central mental image of the Wedding was a defeated and humiliated Robb Stark. The best part is that even if someone pieced together exactly what this vision meant, they could still convince themselves into thinking that it would not come true thanks to Martin’s earlier disclaimer.
Upon a towering barbed throne sat an old man in rich robes, an old man with dark eyes and long silver-grey hair. “Let him be king over charred bones and cooked meat,” he said to a man below him. “Let him be the king of ashes.”
Does she ever realize that she just saw her father for the first time? It is a surprisingly big moment, when you think about it in those terms. It would be amazing if she ever makes the connection but these first few visions she has in the House very rarely, if at all, reappear in her mind after this chapter. More’s the shame – she has first-hand proof here that her dad wasn’t what she wants to believe he was.
“He has a song,” the man replied. “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.”
Ah, the first and only name drop in the series. I’ve never really been sure whether the song is question is actually a song or if the song is a metaphor for something else. Neither explanation is really as ridiculous as it sounds – songs have had power in fantasy before and the idea that the chosen one for this series is one who has elements of both ice and fire isn’t the most absurd thing ever suggested. The meaning of the series’ title is less important, however, than the identity of this prince that was promised. The most obvious choice would be Jon Snow – if the theories tell it true, he is the son of Lyanna and Rhaegar then his song really be the song of ice and fire. Not to be close-minded, but I haven’t heard a compelling case made for any other candidates, including Daenerys, Tyrion and Stannis. In my head, Jon Snow is the Prince but whether or not the Prince is the same person as Azor Ahai remains to be seen. If you think you have any strong evidence that Jon Snow isn’t the Prince, feel free to let me know.
They were fashioned of ebony and weirwood, the black and white grains swirling and twisting in strange interwoven patterns.
This is clearly a reference to the House of Black and White and the Faceless Men. The Faceless Men believe in the Many-Faced God, a deity representing death, with the idea being that no matter what god people follow, in the end, all men must submit to the Many-Faced God. It would be interesting if all forms of magic were connected in some form to that faith or if not to the faith then to the ancient Valyrian magic from which the Faceless Men were inadvertently created.
“…three fires must you light…one for life and one for death and one to love…”
The first fire for life should quite clearly be the fire that brought her dragons to life. The second fire might well be the fire that she lights (via Drogon) to bring some sort of order to Slaver’s Bay. There will be a good deal of bloodshed in the resolution of the military tensions in Slaver’s Bay and it’s highly likely that the three dragons will be involved. The last fire…well, that’s a hard one but it could be that Dany’s final husband (see below) must be burned in order to be saved – this could be due to the Azor Ahai prophecy or just to prevent him from becoming a wight but I’m currently favouring Dany having to sacrifice someone she loves for the final fire – especially because almost all magical power in ASOIAF comes from sacrifice. No pain,no gain and all that good stuff.
“…one to bed and one to dread and one to love…”
Essentially, this is a marriage out of fear (Drogo?), a marriage for duty (Hizdhar Zo Loraq) and a marriage for love (yet to happen?). The trouble with these prophecies is that they allow for a great many permutations and combinations. Drogo and Hizdhar could easily swap places but it still leaves the third slot wide open.
“…once for blood and once for gold and once for love…”
Of the lot, the three betrayals fascinate me the most. I think it’s safe to say that Mirri Maz Duur was the betrayal for blood and that Jorah’s was for gold. Again, thus leaves us with that vital third spot wide open. Jorah’s betrayal was for gold, more or less. It would be fallacious to assume that all three of these final spots refer to the same person or involve the same person but at the same time, there is a certain appeal to all these prophecies neatly congregating on this one individual. As to who this individual is, there aren’t a whole of suggestions and even the suggestions we do get are bound to be problematic. The most common answer is Jon Snow. The notion of Jon and Dany meeting and falling in love is far too idealistic for a series like this but depending on who you ask, not completely lacking either merit or appeal. The biggest point in Jon’s favour is that the symbolic value that their marriage would have – it would represent a union of Ice and Fire and if Jon is really the Prince That Was Promised and Dany is, as is popularly believed, Azor Ahai, it would make for nice and tidy ending. Of course, generally speaking, Martin doesn’t do neat and tidy and neither does he do cliched romances. It is unlikely that Martin would end his two biggest characters’ arcs by marrying them. This is all idle speculation for now however, and depending on how the events of the next books pan out, it might not be the worst thing ever.
Let’s wrap this crazy long post up with a quick roundup of the remaining visions. A surprising number of them have been resolved actually:
A tall lord with copper skin and silver-gold hair stood beneath the banner of a fiery stallion, a burning city behind him.
This is clearly Rhaego, Dany’s deformed, malformed first and only child, or rather, what he could have been.
Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman’s name
This is Rhaegar dying and whispering Lyanna’s name. It’s unclear if Dany knows of Lyanna and her role in the war or if she even
Glowing like sunset, a red sword was raised in the hand of a blue-eyed king who cast no shadow.
I can’t see how this could be anyone but Stannis. If not, it’s at least the Night’s King.
A cloth dragon swayed on poles amidst a cheering crowd.
Aegon VI, the mummer’s dragon.
A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly.
Jon Connington, infected with greyscale?
A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness.
Jon Snow, a flower born of Lyanna Stark (who loved blue roses) on the icy Wall.
Beneath the Mother of Mountains, a line of naked crones crept from a great lake and knelt shivering before her, their grey heads bowed.
This could be a red herring but if Dany does manage to convince the Dothraki to fight for her cause, they the above scene could very well be a possibility.
Ten thousand slaves lifted bloodstained hands as she raced by on her silver, riding like the wind. “Mother!” they cried. “Mother, mother!”
Her status after freeing the slaves of Slaver’s Bay.