R'hllor

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Fiery Heart.svg

R'hllor, also known as the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow,[1] is a prominent god in Essos, but has only a few followers in Westeros, where he is more commonly known as the red god.[2][3] His symbol is a fiery heart.[4] Red priests lead prayers to R'hllor at red temples.[5]

R'hllor

The Lord of Light by Dejan Delic © 2013

The religion is based on a dualistic, manichean view of the world: R'hllor, the god of light, heat, and life, and R'hllor's antithesis the Great Other, the god of ice and death.[6] They are locked in an eternal struggle over the fate of the world; a struggle that, according the ancient prophecies from the books of Asshai, will only end when Azor Ahai, the messianic figure, returns wielding a flaming sword called Lightbringer, the Red Sword of Heroes, and raises dragons from stone.[6]

R’hllor is also called the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow.[1][6] His nemesis, the Great Other, whose name may not be spoken, is known as the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror.[6][7]

The red priests of R'hllor associate fire with life. They see shadows as creations of the Lord of Light, who are the servants of light and the children of fire.[8] According to the priestess Melisandre, the Lord of Light cherishes innocent and beautiful people and items, making them the most precious sacrifice.[9][10]

The religion of the Lord of Light is found primarily in Essos.[4] R'hllor is worshipped in Asshai[11][12] and red temples can be found in most of the Free Cities, including Braavos,[13][14] Lys,[9] Myr,[15] Pentos,[16] Qohor,[17] Tyrosh,[18][19] and Volantis.[20] The town of Selhorys, ruled by Volantis,[20] contains a red temple as well.[5] The Temple of the Lord of Light in Volantis is exceptionally large, said to be the greatest in all the world. According to Archmaester Gramyon, it is about three times the size of the Great Sept of Baelor in King's Landing.[20]

There are few followers of the Lord of Light in Westeros.[4] Red priests can be found in Dorne,[21] Dragonstone,[1] King's Landing,[22] and Oldtown.[23]

Organization

Priests

Red priests are taught prayers and spells, and are trained to see things in fires. It takes many years of training to see the shapes beyond the flames, and even more years to learn how to interpret them.[15][24] Numerous priests, both male and female, are trained in their red temples. The priests of the Lord of Light wear loose red robes.[22][1][9][25]

Temple of the Lord of Light

Red priestess performing the night ritual by Jen Zee©

The Temple of the Lord of Light in Volantis has been called the greatest temple in the known world.[20] All those who serve there are slaves who were bought as children and trained.[26] Whether this is also the case at temples in other cities is unknown. Thoros, a priest from Myr, states he was given over to the red temple as a young child.[15]

Benerro, the High Priest of R'hllor in Volantis, also holds the titles Flame of Truth, Light of Wisdom, First Servant of the Lord of Light, and Slave of R'hllor.[5] As is the custom of that city, the red priests of the Volantene temple, all slaves, have flames tattooed across their cheeks, chin and forehead.[26][27][28][29] Red priests from other places, such as Thoros or Melisandre, are not known to have such tattoos.

The Fiery Hand are a thousand slave soldiers who guard the Temple of the Lord of Light.[30] The Volantene temple also trains some of their slaves to become temple prostitutes.[20][26]

Many worshippers in Volantis pin scraps of red cloth to their sleeves or tie them around their brow.[26]

Practices

Prayers

Followers of R'hllor pray before a nightfire, thanking R'hllor for ending the day, while beseeching him to bring the dawn and banish the darkness.[24] The nightfires are lit at sunset, and the prayers continue for more than an hour afterwards.[24][31] Fires are also lit each morning at first light, where the red priests welcome the sun.[23] Other priests might attend to their fires during the entire night.[27] A common phrase of prayer is "the night is dark and full of terrors".[1][23]

An example of a prayer sequence is:

Call: Lead us from the darkness, O my Lord. Fill our hearts with fire, so we may walk your shining path. R'hllor, you are the light in our eyes, the fire in our hearts, the heat in our loins. Yours is the sun that warms our days, yours the stars that guard us in the dark of night.

Response: Lord of Light, defend us. The night is dark and full of terrors. Lord of Light, protect us.

Call: R'hllor who gave us breath, we thank you. R'hllor who gave us day, we thank you.

Response: We thank you for the sun that warms us. We thank you for the stars that watch us. We thank you for our hearths and for our torches, that keep the savage dark at bay.[24]

Red priests might also pray before a trial by combat:

Call: Lord of Light, look down upon us.

Response: Lord of Light, defend us.

Call: Lord of Light, protect us in the darkness.

Response: Lord of Light, shine your face upon us.

Call: Light your flame among us, R'hllor. Show us the truth or falseness of this man. Strike him down if he is guilty, and give strength to his sword if he is true. Lord of Light, give us wisdom.

Response: For the night is dark and full of terrors.[32]

Marriage customs

During one example of a wedding ceremony, a red priest or priestess recites ceremonial prayers, which are answered by the wedding guests. The priest and groom await the bride by a ditchfire. The bride is escorted to the priest, who first asks the bride to identify herself, and next asks who comes to claim the bride. Both bride and groom are asked whether they will share their fire with their spouse-to-be, to warm him/her "when the night is dark and full of terrors". Bride and groom are to leap over the ditchfire together, to emerge as one. Following this, the groom removes the maiden’s cloak and places the bride's cloak around the bride’s shoulders. Following the ceremony is the wedding feast.[33]

Death

Priests of R'hllor believe that "life is warmth, and warmth is fire, and fire is God's and God's alone."[34] When a person has died, he is said to have "ascended to the Hall of Light, to sit beside the Lord".[10]

The death rite administered by priests to the deceased is known as the last kiss. The priest fills his mouth with fire and breaths the flames inside the deceased person, down his throat to his lungs, heart, and soul. All red priests are required to perform the rite.[34]

Visions and Magic

Worshippers asking R'hllor to bring back the dawn - by Magali Villeneuve © Fantasy Flight Games

Red priests are trained to see visions in the flames of their nightfires. These visions could be about the past, the future, or things happening far away from the location of the priest.[15] Visions cannot always be seen in the flames,[35][15][9] however, and even though they believe their visions are never wrong,[6] it is not always easy to see the vision.[2]

It takes years of training to see the shapes beyond the flames, and even longer to learn to distinguish visions about the past from visions about a certain future and a possible future.[24] Even after such long training, it remains difficult,[24] and priests might still err in their interpretation;[10][33] many priests have been brought down by such incorrect interpretations.[36]

R'hllor is also said to give his priests the power to see through falsehoods, as "the Other's servants oft hide black hearts in gaudy light".[6]

The priestess Melisandre claims that shadows are servants of light and children of fire.[8] She does not feel the need to eat food, believing that R'hllor provides her with all the nourishment she needs.[36] Melisandre claims that glamors are given by the Lord of Light to his servants for them to use.[36]

History

Followers of R'hllor believe that he made the sun and the stars.[5]

A prophecy found in ancient books of Asshai claims that after a long summer an evil cold darkness shall fall on the world. Azor Ahai, wielding the sword Lightbringer, shall be reborn to combat this darkness.[9]

In an attempt to gain more followers in Westeros, the red priest Thoros of Myr was sent to the royal court at King's Landing to convert the fire-obsessed King Aerys II Targaryen. Thoros was unsuccessful, however, and started to question his own faith.[15] Thoros remained in King's Landing, and as such was present during the immediate aftermath of the Sack of King’s Landing.[32] He remained at court during the reign of King Robert I Baratheon, becoming the king's frequent drinking companion.[15]

The red priestess Melisandre travels to Dragonstone on her own initiative[37] in search of the prophesied prince Azor Ahai.[38] She is convinced that Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt amidst which Azor Ahai shall be reborn.[6][39] She comes to believe that Stannis Baratheon, the Lord of Dragonstone, is Azor Ahai reborn,[38] and eventually becomes a confidant to Stannis's wife, Selyse Florent.[40]

Recent Events

A Clash of Kings

Melisandre of Asshai by John Picacio ©

At DragonstoneMelisandre survives an assassination attempt by Maester Cressen.[1] The red priestess convinces Stannis Baratheon to claim the mantle of Azor Ahai and wield Lightbringer. Followers of R'hllor at Stannis's court are known as queen's men.[9] The painted statues of the Seven from the sept of Dragonstone are burned outside the castle.[9]

Melisandre, who is also a shadowbinder, births shadow assassins to kill Lord Renly Baratheon[41] and Ser Cortnay Penrose[42] at the siege of Storm's End, telling Ser Davos Seaworth that shadows are servants of light.[8] The priestess has Stannis burn the godswood at Storm's End[43] as another sacrifice to R'hllor.[44]

A Storm of Swords

Ser Gerald Gower, one of the king's men, believes R'hllor is a feeble god after Stannis's defeat in the Battle of the Blackwater.[10] Melisandre and Selyse Florent, Stannis's wife, burn Lord Guncer Sunglass and the surviving sons of Ser Hubard Rambton for treason at Dragonstone, sacrificing them to the Lord of Light.[45][6] Ser Axell Florent attributes the death of Robb Stark at the Red Wedding to the hand of R'hllor.[10] Melisandre wants to sacrifice Edric Storm to R'hllor, believing that doing so would awaken a stone dragon at Dragonstone,[10] but Davos instead has the boy smuggled away from the island.[24]

Thoros of Myr explains to Arya Stark that he surprisingly resurrected Lord Beric Dondarrion by performing the last kiss after the battle at the Mummer's Ford, attributing Beric's revival to R'hllor.[34] Many of the brotherhood without banners now worship the Lord of Light.[32]

Following the battle beneath the Wall, Stannis offers to name Jon Snow as Lord of Winterfell. Jon declines, however, as Melisandre would require him to burn the heart tree in the godswood of Winterfell.[7][46]

A Feast for Crows

In Qohor, the followers of R'hllor try to burn the Black Goat.[17]

Ser Daven Lannister informs Ser Jaime Lannister that his scouts have spotted night fires in the high places and villages near the siege of Riverrun.[47]

A Dance with Dragons

In order to have strong winds for Stannis's voyage north to Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, Davos recalls that Melisandre had sacrificed Lord Alester Florent, who had been accused of treason, to R'hllor.[48] Free folk who have surrendered to Stannis are required by Melisandre to burn weirwood branches.[49] Jon Snow, now Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, observes at Castle Black that Stannis's sword, which is claimed to be Lightbringer, is cold instead of warm.[49] Melisandre believes that her power is stronger at the Wall than it had been in Asshai.[36]

Stannis's army is slowed by a blizzard during their march on Winterfell. Some of the queen's men desire to sacrifice Asha Greyjoy, a follower of the Drowned God, so that R'hllor will end the storm.[50][51] Four Peasebury men are burned after being accused of cannibalism.[51]

In Volantis, Tyrion Lannister witnesses Benerro preaching at the Temple of the Lord of Light that Daenerys Targaryen is Azor Ahai reborn and encouraging many to support her.[26] The High Priest of R'hllor sends Moqorro to convert the Queen of Meereen.[27] After Moqorro heals his wounded hand, Victarion Greyjoy decides to honor R'hllor in addition to his Drowned God. The iron captain sacrifices slave girls by burning them alive on a fishing ketch set adrift to burn and then sink in Slaver's Bay.[29]

According to the High Sparrow, the new High Septon, Stannis has turned from the truth of the Seven to worship a red demon, and his false faith has no place in the Seven Kingdoms.[52]

Known red priests

Quotes by believers

Axell: The Lady Melisandre tells us that sometimes R'hllor permits his faithful servants to glimpse the future in flames. It seemed to me as I watched the fire this morning that I was looking at a dozen beautiful dancers, maidens garbed in yellow silk spinning and swirling before a great king. I think it was a true vision, ser. A glimpse of the glory that awaits His Grace after we take King's Landing and the throne that is his by rights.
Davos: I saw only fire, but the smoke was making my eyes water.[9]

R'hllor is the source of all good.[6]

It was not me who raised him, my lady. It was the Lord. R'hllor is not done with him yet. Life is warmth, and warmth is fire, and fire is God's and God's alone.[34]

R'hllor chooses such instruments as he requires. His ways are mysterious, but no man may withstand his fiery will.[10]

R'hllor spoke to his chosen ones through blessed fire, in a language of ash and cinder and twisting flame that only a god could truly grasp.[36]

Melisandre's thoughts

Victarion: Your red god will have his due, but the seas are ruled by the Drowned God.
Moqorro: There are no gods but R'hllor and the Other, whose name may not be said.[29]

Quotes by non-believers

May the Others bugger your Lord of Light.[4]

Light our fire and protect us from the dark, blah, blah, light our way and keep us toasty warm, the night is full of terrors, save us from the scary thing, and blah blah blah some more.[27]

Tyrion Lannister's thoughts

Red Rahloo means nothing here.[51]

Corliss: You northmen brought these snows upon us. You and your demon trees. R'hllor will save us.
Artos: R'hllor will doom us.[51]

The red god's choir only knows a single song.[53]

Behind the Scenes

According to George R. R. Martin, the Lord of Light is inspired by the dualism in Zoroastrianism and Catharism.[54]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
  2. 2.0 2.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
  3. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 22, Tyrion VI.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 25, Davos III.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 76, Jon XI.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 42, Davos II.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
  11. So Spake MartinGods of Westeros, November 18, 1998
  12. The World of Ice & Fire, The Bones and Beyond: Asshai-by-the-Shadow.
  13. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 6, Arya I.
  14. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 45, The Blind Girl.
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 15.5 15.6 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 43, Arya VIII.
  16. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 1, Tyrion I.
  17. 17.0 17.1 A Feast for Crows, Chapter 21, The Queenmaker.
  18. The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: The Quarrelsome Daughters: Myr, Lys, and Tyrosh.
  19. Fire & Blood, The Year of the Three Brides - 49 AC.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 The World of Ice & Fire, The Free Cities: Volantis.
  21. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 2, The Captain Of Guards.
  22. 22.0 22.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 29, Sansa II.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 A Feast for Crows, Prologue.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 24.5 24.6 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 63, Davos VI.
  25. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 30, Arya VII.
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 26.3 26.4 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 27, Tyrion VII.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 33, Tyrion VIII.
  28. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 56, The Iron Suitor.
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 63, Victarion I.
  30. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 47, Tyrion X.
  31. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 3, Daenerys I.
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 34, Arya VI.
  33. 33.0 33.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 A Storm of Swords, Chapter 39, Arya VII.
  35. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 36.4 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
  37. So Spake Martin: Asshai.com Interview in Barcelona, July 28, 2012
  38. 38.0 38.1 George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Melisandre.
  39. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
  40. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 15, Tyrion III.
  41. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 33, Catelyn IV.
  42. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 44, Tyrion X.
  43. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 49, Tyrion XI.
  44. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 52, Sansa IV.
  45. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 10, Davos II.
  46. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 79, Jon XII.
  47. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 33, Jaime V.
  48. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
  49. 49.0 49.1 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
  50. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 42, The King's Prize.
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 51.3 A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 62, The Sacrifice.
  52. A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 54, Cersei I.
  53. The Winds of Winter, Theon I
  54. George R R Martin visiting SF-Bokhandeln, June 23, 2015