The Citadel

The Archive of 'A Song of Ice and Fire' Lore

So Spake Martin

Correspondence with Fans

Brienne as Sansa

Sorry to inconvenience you. I'm a longtime fan of your book series, and I'm working on a character study for school. I recently came across a quotation that's been attributed to you, but unfortunately the original source is no longer available, and I wanted to confirm it's something you’ve actually said in the past. In 2014 at the Edinburgh Book Festival, multiple fans quoted you as saying that Brienne of Tarth is "Sansa with a sword," with regards to certain personality traits. Is that an accurate quotation?

I don't remember saying that, but it could be. It has been six years.

On Maegor III and the Night’s King

[NOTE: This is in response to a query on LiveJournal in which the submitter, The Dragon Demands, queried GRRM on details in recent episodes of the TV show Game of Thrones]

I suspect that "Maegor III" was a mistake, though I cannot say for certain. Perhaps a flubbed line, as you suggest. It is true that the Targaryen succession on the series is different than the one in the novels; most notably, the Mad King's father Jaehaerys II was dropped, as was established way back in season one. In much the same way as the Rhoynar have been dropped from the royal titles, "King of Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men," etc.

These changes were simplifications, however. The books are very complex, but the practical limits of a television series call for a bit more simplicity. Dropping a king or two accomplishes that.

ADDING kings, however, would be a step in the opposite direction, which is why I think "Maegor III" had to be a mistake. And not one that was in the scripts, I would guess. Bryan Cogman, who is the Keeper of the Continuity on the series, knows the names of the Targaryen kings as well as I do.

Of course, it could also be a subtle bit of characterization, as you suggest, intended to show that Mace is an idiot who does not know his Westerosi history. (Not a mistake that Book Mace would make, but the character in the show combines Mace with Harys Swyft, and actually seems more like the latter).

All this, of course, is surmise on my part. You would have to ask David or Dan or Bryan for a more definitive answer.

In the book canon, of course, there has only been only King Maegor, the reputation of Maegor the Cruel being so black. England has had only one King John, for much the same reasons. (Prince Aerion Brightflame did name his son Maegor, but that was meant as a provocation, and in any case the boy never sat the Iron Throne).

As for the Night's King (the form I prefer), in the books he is a legendary figure, akin to Lann the Clever and Brandon the Builder, and no more likely to have survived to the present day than they have.

Thomax’s Book

I'm a huge fan of A Song of Ice and Fire, and I have a bet with a fellow fan that I was hoping you could settle. Samwell mentions a book he found at Castle Black in AFFC:

The book appeared undamaged. Maester Thomax’s Dragonkin, Being a History of House Targaryen from Exile to Apotheosis, with a Consideration of the Life and Death of Dragons had not been so fortunate. It had come open as it fell, and a few pages had gotten muddy, including one with a rather nice picture of Balerion the Black Dread done in colored inks.

Tyrion later mentions a book while on the Shy Maid:

And of course there was even less chance of his coming on the fragmentary, anonymous, blood-soaked tome sometimes called Blood and Fire and sometimes The Death of Dragons, the only surviving copy of which was supposedly hidden away in a locked vault beneath the Citadel.

Both books contain the words "Death of Dragons", are these two books the same?

No. Different books.

On Arakhs and Dawn

[Note: The following information comes from a post

by a representative of Valyrian Steel, licensed creators of replica weapons and armor based on A Song of Ice and Fire and HBO's Game of Thrones.

Actually... GRRM doesn't like HBO's arakhs. I thought, and HBO thought (I suppose), and many people thought, that because of the kh consonant group and the descriptions, he modeled arakhs after khopeshes, which is not an invented type of sword. HBO arakhs are basically khopeshes. It seemed to me personally these shape of sword would do well from horseback.I thought for sure I had it pegged down, all while reading I always pictured a khopesh.

I told as much to GRRM and he corrected me, in his book version, arakhs are more like scimitars, though what you may think of as a scimitar is far less than what he explained. Something more like this. A very significant curve.

If we have our way we'll do both versions.

As for Dawn, in the books it has a milky white blade. We do not know a way to mimic that without using paint, and GRRM doesn't like paint.

On Ethnicities

[NOTE: From this reply by GRRM at "Not a Blog".]

The Dothraki were actually fashioned as an amalgam of a number of steppe and plains cultures... Mongols and Huns, certainly, but also Alans, Sioux, Cheyenne, and various other Amerindian tribes... seasoned with a dash of pure fantasy. So any resemblance to Arabs or Turks is coincidental. Well, except to the extent that the Turks were also originally horsemen of the steppes, not unlike the Alans, Huns, and the rest.

There do exist many other cultures and civilizations in my world, to be sure. The peoples of Yi Ti have been mentioned, as have the Jogos Nhai. I am not sure to what extent those peoples will ever enter this present story, however... their lands are very far away.

(I also have peoples and tribes that are pure fantasy constructs, like the Qartheen and the brindled men of Sothoryos).

In general, though, while I do draw inspiration from history, I try to avoid direct one-for-one transplants, whether of individuals or of entire cultures. Just as it not correct to say that Robert was Henry VIII or Edward IV, it would not be correct to say that the Dothraki are Mongols.

IMNSHO, anyway.

The Sword of the Morning vs. Barristan the Bold

[NOTE: This is from private correspondence without the usual header information we use to verify. However, a screenshot of the message can be seen here, with the name of the respondee redacted.]

Who would win in a fight, Barristan Selmy or Arthur Dayne (in their best days)?

Dayne... if he was armed with Dawn.

If both men had equivalent weaponry, it might be a toss-up.

Melisandre and the Black Gate

Hope you're doing well! I hope this is a somewhat innocuous email that you might answer for me. Melisandre mentions that she expects Sam to show her (and Stannis, if I recall) the Black Gate under the Nightfort. There's no mention of Sam's having left Castle Black before taking ship to Braavos, so am I correct in assuming that he never returned to the Nightfort to show the gate to Melisandre?

I am sure she found it on her own.

On Valyrian Steel and Twist Endings

[Note: For an example of Valyrian steel used for something other than a weapon, see the passing mention of Aegon the Conqueror's crown here]

How was Valyrian Steel thought of? Was it considered as precious before the Doom as it is "now"? Did they ever make non-weapons out of it (e.g. forks, jewelry, etc.)?

Valyrian steel was always costly, but it became considerably more so when there was no more Valyria, and the secret of its making were lost.

Mostly it was used for weapons, but there are undoubtedly a few items like those you mention floating about.

How do you feel about "twist endings"? Is this a sign of a weak storyline or effective sometimes?

Depends on the story.

Shadowcats and Clegane Lands

Are shadowcats closer in size to tigers or mountain lions?

Somewhere in between.

Where are the Clegane lands located in the Westerlands?

South and east of Lannisport.

Weirwood Leaves

I need to know what the leaves look like to a Weirwood as the only description I have is that they are red and look like hands. Some Oaks have smooth edged leaves while other Oaks have jagged edges. I was thinking them looking like a Maple leaf but having that smooth oak leaf edge. Can you help me please? I just need to put the leaves on and I'm done.

Well, when I used the "hands" metaphor, I was thinking that each leaf was divided into five "fingers," smaller ones on the ends, three longer ones toward the middle. Spread your hand on a piece of paper and trace around it, and there's your shape.

Never gave much thought as to whether the edges would be smooth of jagged. Whatever works best,

Three Maidens in the Tower

[Note: The following continues GRRM's series of descriptions of notable Targaryens (and Targaryen bastards) for Amoka.]

Writing out those descriptions of Queens Alysanne and Rhaenyra somehow got me thinking about the ladies of House Targaryen. Of course, to beat two queens you need three princesses, so here are



The eldest daughter of King Aegon III was sixteen when her brother Baelor ascended the Iron Throne, dissolved his marriage to her (which had been celebrated but never consummated), and confined her and her sisters to their own apartments in the Red Keep, soon known as the Maidenvault.

Daena was Targaryen to the bone; strong, beautiful, wilful. Her silver-gold hair was thick and curly, a wild untamed mane that tumbled down across her shoulders and framed a heart-shaped face, a pair of sparling purple eyes, and a fearless "I'll dare anything" smile. She was a wild almost from birth, lithe and athletic, a runner, a climber, and an expert horsewoman. "I was born to ride a dragon," she liked to say, but the dragons were dead. Daena was expert at riding at the rings, though she was never allowed to joust in an actual tourney. She was also a hunter, and a fine archer with her short recurved bow. She worshipped her father and idolized her brother Daeron, the Young Dragon.

Daena's dress was often as dramatic as she was. As a child she often dressed all in black, like her father King Aegon III. After her brother Baelor failed to consummate their marriage, she changed to all white, and vowed to wear nothing else until she had been properly bedded, in hopes of shaming him. (It did not work. Baelor liked her in white, feeling that it made her look more innocent). Later, as a pampered prisoner in her brother's court, Daena made several escapes, usually by dressing as a washerwoman or serving girl (once with the connivance of her cousin, Aegon).

You could legimately depict her in the simple brown skirt and laced bodice of a peasant girl -- in her hunting leathers, with her bow and quiver -- in her white post-wedding court clothes -- even in the blacks she wore as a child. No matter how she was dressed, however, she always wore the golden three-headed dragon pendant she had inherited from her father. At court she wore it on a fine golden chain; when in disguise, she hung it on a leather thong and hid it beneath her clothes. Supposedly she even wore it when bathing, and when making love.

She became known as "Daena the Defiant" when she turned up pregnant, and refused to name the father. Her son was born robust and healthy, with the purple eyes and silver-gold hair of the Targaryens. Daena named him Daemon. Years later, when he distinguished himself as a squire, his father (who by that time was the king) presented him the sword of Aegon the Conquerer, and from time forth he was known as Daemon Blackfyre.


Two years younger than her sister Daena, Rhaena had a very different personality. Where Daena was wilful, wild, and adventurous, Rhaena was dutiful, meek, and passive. When older she was heavily influenced by her brother Baelor, the Blessed, and became very pious. Unlike her sisters, she never chafed at her confinement in the Maidenvault, and in later life she joined the Faith and became a septa.

At fourteen, Rhaena was just as lovely as her sister, but hers was a softer, sweeter, more feminine beauty. She loved to dress in white and gold and was very fond of lace trim on her sleeves and bodice. She loved to sew and do needlework, and often embroidered religious scenes on her own clothing (the Mother's glowing face, the Maiden and a white hart, etc). Though by no means plump, her body was more rounded than Daena's. Her breasts were larger, her lips fuller, her hair more gold than silver and always carefully coiffed and combed. She had soft, kind eyes and a shy, sweet smile.


Princess Elaena was only eleven when locked away in the Maidenvault. At that age she was a skinny thing, the runt of the litter, but she had more than a little of her sister Daena's wilfullness even then, as she would prove when she grew older. She liked to dress in black as a girl, because her big sister Daena had done it. Her eyes were a soft lilac, her mouth thin-lipped and often angry. Her hair was a platinum white with a bright golden streak down the middle, an unusual color even for the Targaryens. She wore it long, pulled back, and braided, and was always being told it was her crowning beauty.

When Baelor the Blessed confined his sisters to the Maidenvault, he said it was because they were so beautiful that just seeing them would tempt the men of his court to sin. Elaena hated the imprisonment, so she cut her braid off and sent it to her brother, hoping that if she rid herself of her beauty her brother might let her out. (He didn't). For years after, however, Princess Elaena wore her hair short. Elaena's most cherished possession was a dragon's egg whose stony shell showed the same colors as her hair.

Elaena lived a much longer life than her sister Daena, and a much more tumultuous one than her sister Rhaena. The great love of her life was her cousin, Alyn Velaryon, the seafarer and admiral known as Oakenfist, to whom she bore a bastard son and daughter, Jon and Jeyne Waters. She married thrice in later years, twice at a king's behest and once for passion. She gave birth to seven children, then declared that if seven was sufficient for the gods it would do for her as well.

Never regarded as a great beauty like her sisters, Elaena proved to be one of those women whose features improve with age, and men said she was more beautiful at seventy than she had been at seventeen. She was shrewd and intelligent as well, especially with money. Though her second husband sat on the king's small council as master of coin, it was widely known that it was Elaena who actually performed all the duties of the office.

All that lies in her future, though. When sent to the Maidenvault, she was only a girl of eleven, awkward and angular, shy and charming by turns.

Good Queen Alysanne and Rhaenyra

[Note: The following continues GRRM's series of descriptions of notable Targaryens (and Targaryen bastards) for Amoka.]


Alysanne was the queen, consort, and sister of King Jaehaerys I, the Old King, and like him she lived a long life. Since you pictured him as an old man at the end of his reign, I figure it would be most appropriate to do her the same way, rather than as the young woman she was when Jaehaerys first ascended the Iron Throne.

You might consider Alysanne as the Eleanor of Aquitaine of Westeros, and model her on Katherine Hepburn's portrayal of Eleanor in the film THE LION IS WINTER. Tall and straight, unbowed by time, she had high cheekbones, clear blue eyes. Age left crow's feet around her eyes and laugh lines about her mouth, but her face never lost its strength. She was a fine archer and hunter in her youth, and loved to fly atop her dragon to all the distant parts of the realm. Alysanne was slim of waist and small of breast, with a long neck, a fair complexion, a high forehead. In old age her hair turned white as snow. She wore it in a bun, pulled back and pinned behind her hear.

Her relationship with King Jaehaerys was always very close. She was his most trusted counselor and his right hand, and often wore a slimmer, more feminine version of his crown at court. Beloved by the common people of Westeros, she loved them in return, and was renowned for her charities.


The first-born child of King Viserys I, Rhaenyra Targaryen was almost ten years older than her half-brother Aegon. She was the king's only living child (two siblings having died in infancy) by his first wife, an Arryn of the Vale, and grew up expecting to become the first ruling queen of Westeros. When the second of her brothers died soon after being born, Viserys himself began to treat Rhaenyra as his heir, keeping her by his side in court and at council meetings. Many of the nobles of the realm took nte, so the young princess was surrounded by flatterers and favor-seekers all through her childhood.

Her mother's death and her father's second marriage did little to disturb her expectations, but when his new Hightower queen gave the king three healthy sons and a daughter in rapid succession, the seeds of the Dance of the Dragons were sown.

You will probably want to paint Rhaenyra as she was at her father's death, when she laid claim to the Iron Throne. Pampered from an early age, she was a pudgy girl and a stout woman, with a thick waist and a very large bosom. She was very proud and stubborn, and there was a certain petulance to her small mouth. Rhaenyra did have the silver-gold hair of the Targaryens, which she wore long and braided in the manner of Aegon the First's warrior wife Visenya. Rhaenyra was no warrior herself. She always dressed richly, favoring purple and maroon velvets and golden Myrish lace in intricate patterns. Her bodice often glittered with pearls and diamonds, and there were always rings on her fingers. Whenever she was anxious, she would turn them compulsively, round and round. Though Rhaenyra could be charming, she was quick to anger and never forgot a slight. During the Dance of the Dragons, she wore her father's crown.

The Three Stooges

Dear George, I'm new to your work and just started reading A Game of Thrones. I just ran across the names Kurleket, Lharys and Mohor. I'm sure I'm not the first to make the connection to the Three Stooges but, I did want you to know that I nearly fell on the floor with laughter. Thanks for the laughs! Are there more hidden characters? (I'm looking forward to the cameo appearances of Shempus and Kurle Johor.)

The Three Stooges? In my book? C'mon, you've got to be kidding. Would I do something like that? That's a very tense chapter, charged with menace, what are you laughing for? If I were to insist that the names were purely a coincidence, you'd buy it, wouldn't you?

Okay, okay, what can I say? Guilty as charged. I don't know what came over me. I'm not even that big a Stooges fan (that's my friend Howard Waldrop). I much prefer Abbott and Costello... hmmm...wonder if I can work in Bud and Lou somewhere...

Shemp and Curley Joe do not appear (yet), but there are indeed more "hidden characters," though I prefer to think of them as "homages" or "a tip of the hat." Writers, mostly -- fantasists or historical novelists whose names I borrow for background characters. A few funny book superheroes get mentioned in passing as well, and here and there you can spot places and people from some of my older books peeking through the bushes.

No, I won't tell you who they are or when to find them. Spotting them is half the fun.

Naerys Targaryen

[Note: The following continues GRRM's series of descriptions of notable Targaryens (and Targaryen bastards) for Amoka.]

The sister of King Aegon the Unworthy and Prince Aemon the Dragonknight was beautiful as well, but hers was a very fine and delicate beauty, almost unworldy. She was a wisp of a woman, smaller even than Dany (to whom she bears a certain resemblence), very slender, with big purple eyes and fine, pale, porcelain skin, near translucent. Naerys had none of Dany's strength, however. She was sickly as a child and almost died in the cradle; thereafter she found most physical activity to be very taxing. She loved music and poetry, played the harp very well, enjoyed sewing and embroidering. She was devout as well, and often found solace in the pages of The Seven-Pointed Star. After the birth of her son, she begged Aegon to have the Faith release her from her marriage vows so she could become a septa, but he refused. Naerys dressed well, but simply, and seldom wore her crown or any other jewelry. Though she had the silver-gold hair of the Targaryens, she often bound it up beneath a hair net or concealed it beneath a cowl. She ate but little and was painfully thin, almost emaciated. Her marriage was a very unhappy one, and it was said that only her son Daeron and her brother Aemon knew how to make her laugh. You will probably want to paint her sitting in a window seat, sewing or reading, with a sad and tired look on her face.

Shiera Seastar

[Note: The following continues GRRM's series of descriptions of notable Targaryens (and Targaryen bastards) for Amoka.]

Lady Shiera was the natural daughter of King Aegon IV by the ninth and last of his mistresses, Lady Serenei of Lys, the last daughter of an ancient but impoverished line of Valyrian nobility. "Sweet Serenei," Aegon called her, but about his court she was considered cold and haughty, and some said that she was much older than the king, and preserved her beauty by the practice of dark arts. Considered by many the most lovely of Aegon's mistresses, Sweet Serenei died in childbed, bringing forth the last of the king's "Great Bastards," the daughter she named Shiera, Star of the Sea.

Shiera was born with one dark blue eye and one bright green one, but the singers said that this flaw only accentuated her loveliness. She was the greatest beauty of her age, a slender and elegant woman, slim of waist and full of breast. She had the silver-gold hair of the Targaryens, thick and curling, and wore it very long. At some points in her life it fell well below her waist, almost to the back of her knees. She had a heart-shaped face, full lips, and her mismatched eyes were strangely large and full of mischief; her rivals said she used them to melt men's hearts. Even at an early age, she was a great reader. She spoke a dozen tongues and surrounded herself with ancient scrolls. Like her mother, she was reputed to practice the dark arts. Though she never wed, she had many offers, and several lovers through the years. Duels were fought over the right to sit beside her, men killed themselves after falling from her favor, poets outdid each other writing songs about her beauty. Her most ardent admirer was her half-brother, Bloodraven, who proposed marriage to her half a hundred times. Shiera gave him her bed, but never her hand. It amused her more to make him jealous.

As to how to paint her... she was fond of ivory and lace and cloth-of-silver (but not gold, which she considered too vulgar). Her favorite piece of jewelry was a heavy silver necklace of emeralds and star sapphires, alternating.