Friday, April 3, 2015

When Women Play the Game: The Seers (Maggy the Frog, The Lady of the Leaves, Mother Mole, Teora Toland)

Women tend to be prophetic in A Song of Ice and Fire. If men are, they tend to be greenseers, like Bran Stark and Jojen Reed. However, this is not a new concept. History and legend have had many women as precognitives, usually vessels of a mother goddess’ words, although they were typically known as witches or hags during the Middle Ages, most definitely denotations. During Christianity’s battle for control of the entire world, they demonized women, and men who had the gift of prophecy were known as holy prophets. 

Prior to this, women of foresight were respected and revered. Oracles such as Cassandra of Troy would be highly regarded, but her story was one of great tragedy, for she was cursed by Apollo after declining his advances. Her curse was that she would see the future, but no one would ever believe her. A madness-inducing gift such as foresight would only be exacerbated by the thought that no one believes you, and you have the power to facilitate the change of an outcome.

The Delphic Oracle, Kylix by Kodros the Painter, c440-430 BC
Oracles at Delphi held great power and respect. In reality, they were getting high and spouting nonsense while a male interpreter would tell the audience what she said. These interpreters held great sway over kings and queens. They would start or end wars. Whatever words they used must be said with care, for they must be somewhat vague and open to interpretation. Maester Yandel recounts of greenseers:
“Legend further holds that the greenseers could also delve into the past and see far into the future. But as all our learning has shown us, the higher mysteries that claim this power also claim that their visions of the things to come are unclear and often misleading—a useful thing to say when seeking to fool the unwary with fortune-telling. Though the children had arts of their own, the truth must always be separated from superstition, and knowledge must be tested and made sure. The higher mysteries, the arts of magic, were and are beyond the boundaries of our mortal ability to examine." 1
Mother Shipton was an ugly old crone, who lived in Yorkshire and foretold many events that came to pass, though these later are admittedly fabricated, likely to create media attention for a certain individual or even renew faith in a given religion. Like the historical and legendary figures, are the women in ASOIAF oracles, or are they simply misconstrued as “women’s intuition”, a chance to instill fear and control in those of power, or even just the ability to know a person’s strengths and weaknesses?


Maggy the Frog by cabins
Maggy the Frog is a heavy presence in the books, despite her not being an active character in present times. She exists as a core motivator in Cersei Lannister’s increasing madness. Despite not looking like Maggy, Lady Olenna always takes her back to Maggy’s tent with the smell of eastern spices. Maggy’s prophecy comes from a blood magic, it seems, as she pricked Cersei’s finger and sucked her blood. But to Cersei, she sucked her life away, sucked her sanity away. Cersei obsesses over her every prophetical word: “Queen you shall be [...] until there comes another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear.” Maggy’s prophecy shapes Cersei’s every decision in life, which motivates her to be untrustworthy of other women around her, especially Margaery, who is the biggest threat to her at present. 3 This led to Cersei’s decision to have Margaery killed, so that she herself would be Queen, rather than Margaery. 7

Cersei  could have told her father of Maggy’s prophecy, which would have led to Maggy’s tongue cut out, 5 but it seems Cersei was led by fear, despite being led to Maggy’s tent by attempting to prove to her friends that a lioness does not fear. 6 Her childhood friend Melara, present during the prophecy, told her that if prophecies were forgotten and not spoken of, then they would not become true, so Cersei never told a soul. 5 But that didn’t hide the haunting fear that crept on her skin still. She considered the encounter with Maggy first a false joke, laughing at her prophetic words and soon came to see it as a curse. 6 However, Cersei, later, after being so consumed with thoughts of Maggy’s curse lately, confided in Qyburn. 

The lioness found the Myrish Lady Merryweather another reminder of Maggy, due to the eastern accent. Soon she took Taena as a close confidant and a bedfellow. Whether this was a subconscious need to be close to Maggy, to covet Maggy, to hold power over Maggy, to keep her enemy nearer than her friends, is arguable. And it’s most certainly a way to assuage and even overcome her fears of Maggy but to no avail. 3

Maggy the Frog by Matt Olson
Maggy is from Essos, having an eastern accent and a tent smelling like eastern spices, being the wife of a spice trader and the mother of the founder of House Spicer. 8 Like the Dornish, those from Essos hold a certain exoticism and mystery for those from Westeros, just as our Western Civilization historically held about the Middle East, Far East, and Africa, a people of foreign culture and of dark magic. Her perfume, though, held notes of moss, earth, and wildflowers, 3 like it might of the Reeds from the Neck, giving her a natural air about her, a connection to the earth, like the greenseers of Westeros. Maggy is almost definitely not a seer, but she sure knows how to fool the gullible people of Westeros, where magic has long been forgotten or not believed. She likely couldn’t pull this gig off in Essos. Cersei’s trusted advisor Qyburn had corrected Cersei in that Maggy’s name is indicative of a derivative of “Maegi”, which is a woman of Essos who practices blood magic. 7

The more Cersei thought of Maggy, the uglier and foul Maggy got, and the line between dreams and reality concerning Maggy became blurred. If Cersei’s dreams were any indication of reality, Maggy’s prophecies would have come true, but this could be Cersei’s own twisted insertion into reality. In her confessions to Qyburn, she relates events as they unfolded in her dreams. It’s hard to distinguish fact from fiction in Cersei’s case. Maggy’s name is even lost on Cersei at this point, so it became less of reality and history and more of a legend. 7 Is Maggy more of a figment of Cersei’s increasingly unstable mind? Is she a legend? Is she an excuse for Cersei to justify her own actions?

Residing in a hidden village nested in the Riverlands treetops, the Lady of the Leaves is the source of all knowledge in the Riverlands. The Brotherhood without Banners sought her to find Lord Beric Dondarrion, but she broke the news to them that he was dead, a dagger through his eye by the Mountain’s hand. Her intel was not by her own foresight but by word of mouth, and she was soon proven wrong.

Lady of the Leaves by Sara K. Diesel
She is, however, dying, as Arya noted. It could be her fading life due to greenseeing, like Jojen Reed, but it could also be her old age. 2 The Children and their leaders, the greenseers, are noted as residing “in the woods, in crannogs, in bogs and marshes, and even in caverns and hollow hills. It is said that, in the woods, they made shelters of leaves and withes up in the branches of trees—secret tree “towns”. 1 The Lady of the Leaves is noting, however, the Red God, which no Child of the Forest would worship, and the Warrior, an aspect of the Seven. The Lady of the Leaves is likely residing in their abandoned village, perhaps having lived among them. She is most certainly held in high regard her connection to nature unknown because she only seems to be temporarily squatting. She could only be a leader with far reaches of knowledge and knowledge that the Children of the Forest or a greenseer had handed down to her. If anything, she is, or was, a priestess of the Red God, like Melisandre. This would be in line with Melisandre’s foresight, as they both have been wrong. 2

After the battle at the Wall, the Wildlings that did not go south of the Wall dispersed among other leaders. One was Mother Mole, a prophetic old wildling woman, dubbed a woods witch, who saw ships taking them across the narrow sea by the eastern shore at Hardhome. 9 Again the theme of nature-based magic is a major factor in foresight, as Mother Mole lives beneath a hollowed tree, just as the Children live in the Great Weirwood’s roots. 10

In an attempt to both gain more for their army, to save thousands of people, and to prevent more wights from attacking the Wall, Jon Snow ordered Mother Mole’s people to be saved, hiring Braavos ships led by Cotter Pyke to collect them. 10 11 These ships were waylaid by storms, however, and Cotter Pyke sent word that he was stranded at Hardhome with Mother Mole refusing, thinking them slavers. Her people had taken to eating the dead for survival. At least some of the dead wouldn’t turn into wights, as Jon feared. Tormund Giantsbane was sent by land to collect the survivors. Unbeknownst to Jon Snow, two of the Braavosi ships left the bay at Hardhome, which held wildling women and children. One the ships had been too damaged to continue on and stopped at Braavos, apparently mistaken for slavers, and, since slavery is illegal in Braavos, the ship and its crew were apprehended. Perhaps the Tychosi captains had deceived Jon Snow and Stannis Baratheon and led a slave trade, seeing more value in that than returning to the dangerous north. If Mother Mole had been on the ship is unknown at this time, but it’s likely that she survived and led to safety, as she predicted. 12 13 Will Mother Mole’s prophecy come true and all her people be saved by ship at sea? Whatever the outcome, it is clear that Mother Mole has foresight, handed down by generations of greenseers in the wildling lineage.

The quiet, chunky Teora is prone to prophetic dreams, knowing that the Targaryens (“Dragons”) are invading and taking over the Stormlands. Her knowledge and haunted thoughts are likely to curse her with an inward demeanor and nervous attitude with an intense focus on one thing. Arianne notes that she is not at all distracted by the good-looking men at the table. Rather, she focuses on the food, but she is, after all, listening to the conversation about the unknown invaders of the Stormlands. Her mother Lady Nymella Toland, however, is quick to dismiss her dreams as sugar-induced nightmares. She probably stuffs her face as either a coping mechanism or something to focus on to help alleviate the mental pulls. It’s not the sugar at all, but perhaps she is connected to the defense against dragons as a descendant of the Tolands that helped defend the South against the Targaryens. 14 
House Toland Sigil
Because of this, the Toland banner is a dragon eating its own tail, symbolizing that time has no beginning and no end. 4 Hence, Teora could be representative of both, a seer with connections to defense against dragons that sees time in a non-linear manner. Maybe she sees her ancestral ghosts. It is after all Ghost Hill, and their former symbol was a ghost, not an ouroboral dragon. Teora could be the key to defending the Stormlands against the dragons or perhaps joining the dragons, as Dorne is wanting to do. Either way, Teora is key and is going unheeded by her family. Arianne, on the other hand, may take heed and act, using any source of intel to her family’s advantage.

Whatever the story holds for these seers, they surely will have an impact on the fates and decisions of others. The only questionable influence would be The Lady of the Leaves, but we know next to nothing about her or what role she might play in the Riverlands, perhaps assisting Lady Stoneheart, Lord Beric Dondarrion's heir. There is no doubt that Maggy the Frog holds great sway over Cersei Lannister, one of the major players in the Game of Thrones. Teora Toland just might be as major in the next couple books but for very different reasons.


1. Martin, George R.R., Elio M. GarcĂ­a, Jr, and Linda Antonsson. “The Dawn Age.” The World of Ice & Fire: The Untold History of Westeros and The Game of Thrones. 2014. Fantasy Flight Publishing.

2. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 22: Arya.” A Storm of Swords (Book III of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2000. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

3. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 12: Cersei.” A Feast for Crows (Book IV of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2005. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

4. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 13: The Soiled Knight.” A Feast for Crows (Book IV of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2005. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

5. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 17: Cersei.” A Feast for Crows (Book IV of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2005. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

6. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 24: Cersei.” A Feast for Crows (Book IV of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2005. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

7. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 36: Cersei.” A Feast for Crows (Book IV of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2005. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

8. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 44: Jaime.” A Feast for Crows (Book IV of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2005. Voyager Books/Bantam Spectra.

9. Martin, George R.R. “Prologue.” A Dance with Dragons (Book V of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2011. Voyager Books/Spectra Books.

10. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 39: Jon.” A Dance with Dragons (Book V of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2011. Voyager Books/Spectra Books.

11. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 44: Jon.” A Dance with Dragons (Book V of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2011. Voyager Books/Spectra Books.

12. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 45: The Blind Girl.” A Dance with Dragons (Book V of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2011. Voyager Books/Spectra Books.

13. Martin, George R.R. “Chapter 58: Jon.” A Dance with Dragons (Book V of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2011. Voyager Books/Spectra Books.

14. Martin, George R.R. “Arianne.” The Winds of Winter, Preview (Book VI of A Song of Ice & Fire). 2014.

Previously on When Women Play the Game...
Sansa Stark
Brienne Tarth
Daenerys Targaryen
Catelyn Tully Stark
Arya Stark
Lady Olenna Redwyne Tyrell and Margaery Tyrell
The She-Bears 
Lysa Tully Arryn 
Cersei Lannister 
The Martells, Part 1 (House Martell, Arianne)
The Martells, Part 2 (Sand Snakes)

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