Thursday, April 30, 2015

When Women Play the Game: Melisandre of Asshai

Melisandre of Asshai by Elia Mervi
Warranting her own entry separate from other seers, Melisandre is a bold character that commands respect and fear. Known as the Red Woman, The Red Priestess, The King’s Red Shadow, and Lady Red, Melisandre remains resolute in her belief that her visions hold truth, that her prophecies are correct because her god R’hllor is the one true god. Melisandre may not be a priestess of a real god, but she may be a witch or a seer. She may simply be someone who reads people and their outcomes well. She may know how to manipulate people, using religion and fear. That she does quite well.

The Red Woman is a brilliant tactician, leader, and actress. She is a goddess incarnate, exceeding any typical priestess. Just as her male priest counterparts do, Melisandre wears red clothing head to toe with unnaturally red hair. Her whole image was unnatural, evoking a sense of mystery and fear. Maester Cressen notes, “Many called her beautiful. She was not beautiful. She was red, and terrible, and red.”1  Melisandre, though equal to a priest in status, is able to do what the priests cannot: give birth to shadow demons. 3

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