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Asshai by the Shadow - © René Aigner

Asshai is a port city located in the far south-east of Essos, where the Ash meets the Jade Sea at its eastern exit, the Saffron Straits.[1] Asshai is on the southernmost edge of a mountainous peninsula known as the Shadow Lands, thus the city is often called Asshai-by-the-Shadow and to go to Asshai can be described as to "pass beneath the shadow". The area of the Shadow Lands and Asshai are sometimes referred to simply as "the Shadow".

The origins of Asshai are lost in time, even the Asshai'i do not claim to know who built it, stating only a city stood there since the world began and will stand there until it ends.[2]


The buildings of Asshai are made out of a black stone that can feel greasy to the touch. The stone seems to drink in light, dimming toches and hearth fires alike, making the city have a dark and gloomy appearance. Asshai sprawls for leagues across both sides of the Ash, and its great walls allegedly could contain Volantis, Qarth, King's Landing, and Oldtown combined. The population of Asshai, however, is no more than that of a good-sized market town. By night only one building in ten shows a light.

Trading destination

Asshai is a popular trading destination for ships traders' circle in the Jade Sea, and it exports such goods as amber and dragonglass. The city is usually travelled to by ship, but it can also be reached overland by caravans.[3] Westerosi trading ships bound for Asshai go east through the Summer Sea and the Jade Sea, which are connected by the straits at Qarth, the Jade Gates.[4] Gold and gems are also a common export, though some say the gold of the Shadow Lands is as unhealthy as the fruits that grow there.

Aside from merchant traders, few from Westeros visit Asshai and little is known about it. Lomas Longstrider may have visited Asshai.

All foodstuff and freshwater is brought in by ship, as animals brought into the city soon die and the waters of the Ash river glisten black beneath the noonday sun and glimmer with green phosphoresence by night. The only fish that dwell in its water are blind and deformed, with only fools and shadowbinders daring to eat of their flesh.[2]

People of Asshai

Melisandre is from Asshai - © 2012 John Picacio

Asshai and its few people have an ominous reputation in other lands. Asshai'i are described as having a dark and solemn appearance.[5] The Dothraki believe that Asshai'i are "spawn of shadows".[6]

There are no children in Asshai, and all who dwell there wear masks or veils and, oft as not, walk alone or ride in palanquins of ebony an iron, hidden behind dark curtains and carried upon the backs of slaves. Only the shadowbinders of Asshai dare to travel upriver and even they fear to tread before the doors of the Stygai, the corpse city.[2]


The Asshai'i are well versed in witchcraft and wizardry and have a language of their own, used in their spells (as done by the Valyrians). Mirri Maz Duur, who learned in Asshai, sang in a foreign tongue as a knife appeared in her hand, her voice described as "shrill" and "ululating".[7] Furthermore Melisandre has been noted to pray to R'hllor once in the speech of Asshai, once in High Valyrian, and once in the Common Tongue."[8]

Esoteric Knowledge

Asshai holds a significant amount of arcane knowledge. Of any current location, it is the most likely to have dragonlore.[9] Ancient books of Asshai also record the Azor Ahai prophecy followed by members of the R'hllor faith.[10] It is rumoured the spellsingers, aeromancers and warlocks practice their arts openly in Asshai.[11]

Recent Events

A Game of Thrones

In the Eastern Market of Vaes Dothrak Daenerys Targaryen spies dark and solemn Asshai'i people.[5]

During Tywin Lannister's council meeting, after news of Jaime Lannister's capture at the Whispering Wood reaches them, talk eventually turns to Stannis Baratheon. Among other reports he has received from Varys of Stannis's activities on Dragonstone, Tywin mentions that one of them is that Stannis is bringing a shadowbinder from Asshai.[12]

A Clash of Kings

Melisandre of Asshai is on Dragonstone to serve Stannis Baratheon.

Quaithe of the Shadow is one of the three representatives from Qarth who return to Vaes Tolorro with Jhogo in search of dragons. Later in Qarth Quaithe urges Daenerys to leave the city as soon as possible. When Daenerys what she means Quaithe gives a cryptic answer,

To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.[6]

Daenerys takes the word "shadow" to be a reference to the Shadow Lands and, by implication, Asshai. Concluding that Quaithe wants her to head towards Asshai, she asks whether the Asshai'i would offer her an army, gold, or ships. She further asks what could be available for her in Asshai that is not in Qarth. Quaithe offers a laconic answer, "Truth." She then bows and fades back into the crowd. Daenerys later heads west of Qarth, ending up in Slaver's Bay.

A Feast for Crows

Euron Greyjoy tells his brother Aeron that from Ib to Asshai when men see his sails, they pray.

A Dance with Dragons

In Illyrio's manse in Pentos Tyrion Lannister finds wines from Asshai in his stock. Illyrio Mopatis later assures Tyrion that the galley that delivered him to Pentos is on her way to Asshai. It will be two years before she returns, if the seas are kind.

Prince Quentyn Martell notes that there are even masked shadow-binders from Asshai by the Shadow at the Merchant's House in Volantis.

In Meereen Xaro Xhoan Daxos informs Daenerys Targaryen that when she smashed the slave trade, the blow was felt from Westeros to Asshai.

At the Wall Melisandre notes that she is stronger there, stronger even than in Asshai. She also recalls a lesson she had learned long before Asshai - the more effortless the sorcery appears, the more men fear the sorcerer.

Notable Characters from Asshai

  • Melisandre
  • Quaithe of the Shadow, a shadowbinder who seeks out Daenerys Targaryen and counsels her to go to Asshai.[6] She wears a red-lacquered mask much like natives of the Shadow Lands.

Quotes about Asshai

Crows Eye, did you leave your wits at Asshai?[13]

Asha Greyjoy to Euron Greyjoy

References and Notes

  1. The Lands of Ice and Fire.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 The World of Ice & Fire, Asshai-by-the-Shadow.
  3. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 36, Daenerys IV.
  4. So Spake Martin: Trade with Asshai
  5. 5.0 5.1 A Game of Thrones, Chapter 54, Daenerys VI.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 A Clash of Kings, Chapter 40, Daenerys III.
  7. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.
  8. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 12, Daenerys I.
  9. Dragon Lore. May 19, 2000 So Spake Martin
  10. A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
  11. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 23, Daenerys III.
  12. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 69, Tyrion IX.
  13. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 19, The Drowned Man.

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