Part I of V in a collection of writings regarding the mysterious and ‘late’ Ashara Dayne, her potential effect on narrative, and compelling arguments for and against her fate. Part I explores House Dayne and Ashara’s timeline during the Rebellion and other perspectives surrounding her character.
Naught Like a Tourney to Make the Blood Run Hot
“There was one knight,” said Meera, “in the year of the false spring. The Knight of the Laughing Tree, they called him. He might have been a crannogman, that one.”
“Or not.” Jojen’s face was dappled with green shadows. “Prince Bran has heard that tale a hundred times, I’m sure.”
“No,” said Bran. “I haven’t. And if I have it doesn’t matter. Sometimes Old Nan would tell the same story she’d told before, but we never minded, if it was a good story. Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.”
-Bran II, ASOS
Fleeting recollections of Robert’s Rebellion hit the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire… and dissipate almost immediately. The blazing heat of romance between Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark casts a shadow throughout the plot, while secondary tragic romances fill in the cracks created by war, loss and rising tensions. 279 – 283 AC were complete blockbuster years: Westerosi A-Listers, action packed war scenes, and as we pry tape off corners and remove neatly laid packaging materials, we reveal a story that more than exceeds its genre’s expectations.
Where other authors retcon plots to accommodate twists and suspension of disbelief, (looking at you, Orson Scott Card), details planted by George RR Martin don’t scream ‘trickery’; he doesn’t cheapen the original package. Instead, each twist is organically grown, supported by established character motivations, and carefully precedented in the pages.
Through PTSD-riddled unreliable narrators, we hurdle into a tale of heightened catastrophe and romance. The ringing of steel, maidens in silk, heated urgency of young lovers linger in the air; and a bone-chilling refrain of death (promise me, she cried).
The kidnapping of Lyanna Stark remains the focus of the Rebellion, but in that story’s telling, we are introduced to several other key players. The most prominent establishing is offered up in A Storm of Swords. Where Martin builds the mystery surrounding Robert’s Rebellion in the first two books, Bran II offers us a deeper look at everyone involved:
“That evening there was to be a feast in Harrenhal, to mark the opening of the tourney, and the she-wolf insisted that the lad attend. He was of high birth, with as much a right to a place on the bench as any other man. She was not easy to refuse, this wolf maid, so he let the young pup find him garb suitable to a king’s feast, and went up to the great castle.
“Under Harren’s roof he ate and drank with the wolves, and many of their sworn swords besides, barrowdown men and moose and bears and mermen. The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. A black brother spoke, asking the knights to join the Night’s Watch. The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war. The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf … but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench.
-Bran II ASOS
Our first glimpse at Harrenhal players arrive through the eyes of Howland Reed, echoed in his daughter’s voice. From the Stark family to Yoren, Robert Baratheon to Richard Lonmouth, we find a vibrant distraction from the melancholy centerpiece: a beautiful, dancing maid with purple eyes.
The first daughter of an ancient Dornish house, Ashara Dayne materializes in and out of pages like stardust. A beautiful young woman with a seemingly brighter future, sent to the capital to further her station and serve her liege lords of House Martell. She ends in the summer sea, buried beneath rumors of a fatal tragedy; suicide, losing a child and brother in the war.
So, Ashara’s voice is taken from the narrative before readers chance to hear it. Instead, secondhand rumors from point of view characters detail her character. Where we search for a single grain of truth in Ashara’s story, theories and ideas tend to crop up out of nowhere.
The Mysterious Life of House Dayne
The family with strangely hued eyes and lineage supposedly dates back to the Dawn Age. Through various speculation and soft facts, the closest thing to a Dayne Rebellion family timeline I could create while deciphering Ned Dayne’s parentage was born (That theory is originally found at link, but for the time being, explanation helps this updated timeline go down smoothly).
**note: Gerold Dayne was left out of the table, due to lack of effect on Ashara and as a cadet branch of House Dayne. While we may get House Dayne exposition from him in The Winds of Winter, it is not likely his timeline of birth is relevant to this piece.
***Mom/Dad are complete speculation- there is no canonical information in the books to go off besides Ashara’s semi-solid birth parameters, and the vague idea that the mom would probably birth their first son between the ages of 15-25
Mom and Dad Dayne: 230-240 AC Birth, 280-294 AC Death
For the Eldest Dayne to become Lord of Starfall, and Edric’s birth in 287 AC, the parents would die between 280-294 – allowing Eldest Dayne to act as Lord (betrothals/political moves for Edric and Allyria). If Allyria is the daughter of the Mom/Dad Dayne, they had to be alive 279-283 AC (see below). Birth dates are speculated from the latest birth dates for the Eldest Dayne, aging them 15-25 at Eldest Dayne’s birth and 33-43 at Allyria’s. This fits Mom Dayne to a similar age as Joanna Lannister and unnamed Martell mother, although that doesn’t denote canon. We may never get a clear view on the Dayne Parents in the narrative, although Elio Garcia confirmed we will at least find out more on the Dayne Family Tree in the future books.
*Note: Though unnamed in ASOIAF canon, a Game of Thrones Easter Egg names the Dayne father “Beric” – talk about Daddy Issues for Allyria, huh?
Eldest Dayne: 250-255 AC Birth (Lord of Starfall 287 AC – 297) 294-297 AC Death
With nothing to go on besides “Edric’s father was the Lord of Starfall until Edric was”, the Eldest Dayne clocks in at 10 or fewer years between Arthur and him. I speculate if someone were to create a betrothal for Allyria in 294 (which, if you hit the Ned Dayne Parentage theory, would make sense to bind the Marcher Lords to the Daynes, keeping behavior in line regarding the Fowlers) the Eldest Dayne was still alive – putting him 39-44 years old in 294 AC. If Ned Dayne is 7 in 294 AC, the Eldest Dayne would be around 32-37 when Ned was born. If Ned Dayne is the current Lord of Starfall, his father was Lord before him, even if brief. His father would be dead between 294-297 AC; something Ned seems to have come to terms with in ASOS, where he meets Arya in 299/300 AC. Four to six years later seems appropriate, as Ned would have gone off to page for Beric in 294 AC.
Arthur: 255-260 AC Birth, 283 AC Death
Not as much to decipher here, so I’ll give you a break:if Jaime Lannister was the youngest KG at 15, that indicates Arthur Dayne had to be at least 16 years old in 276 AC, if not older. Arthur was born, at latest, 260 AC.
Ashara: 260-265 AC Birth, 283 AC “Death” (speculated off of SSM, Rebellion timeline, and Martells visiting Starfall on their Marriage Journey (ASOS) )
In a 2002 SSM, Martin stated Ashara, if alive, would be in her thirties. Operating in Storm of Swords time, 299-300 AC, this puts her birth before 270 AC. 270 AC puts Ashara at 12 during the Tourney at Harrenhal; earlier than 260 AC puts her at 22+. A narrower age range would be appropriate at 260-265 AC. Following Oberyn’s notion that “a difference of five or six years is little enough.” (Tyrion X, ASOS) and his age being 16-17 at the time of their visit, Ashara was likely in her pre/early teens during 273 AC. Elia Martell was born about five to ten years before Ashara – logically, we can assume Ashara is born closer to 260-265 AC than 270 AC. Having Ashara born in 260-265 AC leaves her within the range of the ‘tragic teen romance’ role given to the Rebellion Ladies – any younger doesn’t quite fit.
Allyria: 279-283 AC Birth
According to AWOIAF, Allyria Dayne is the younger sister of Eldest, Arthur and Ashara Dayne. Allyria is betrothed to Beric Dondarrion in 294 AC. Betrothals generally occur for highborn young woman between the ages of eleven to fifteen, if not before the girl flowers (Lyanna at thirteen, Sansa at eleven, Myrcella at ten, Margaery thirteen/fourteen). Allyria was probably born about 279 AC earliest and latest 283 AC. She would currently be at oldest 21, and youngest 17.
Edric: 287 AC Birth, Lord of Starfall somewhere in 294-297 AC
“How long have you been Lord Beric’s squire?” she asked, to take his mind from his misery.
“He took me for his page when he espoused my aunt.” He coughed. “I was seven, but when I turned ten he raised me to squire. I won a prize once, riding at rings.”
“I never learned the lance, but I could beat you with a sword,” said Arya. “Have you killed anyone?”
That seemed to startle him. “I’m only twelve.”
I killed a boy when I was eight, Arya almost said, but she thought she’d better not.
-Arya VIII, ASOS
If Ned Dayne was seven when Allyria was betrothed (294 AC), he would have to be eleven turning twelve in 299 AC, placing his birth in 287 AC.
While Martin has slipped up with subtle details in the past – Jeyne Westerling’s hips, Tyrion’s majestic tumbling, Renly’s eye color, currency value, gender-changing horses – there’s reason to believe that these subtle details in the House Dayne plot are important. The family with a famed, apocalypse ending sword has to come into play eventually – like Martin has said, “you don’t hang a giant wolf pack on the wall unless you intend to use it”. Logically, if they hold Dawn – and have held Dawn – House Dayne has a major part to play in the story to come. Why introduce Ned Dayne and Dawn lore, if not? And further, why introduce and consistently reintroduce Ashara Dayne?
She Who Treads on the Sea
Ashara Dayne’s Personal Timeline
“As to your speculations about Catelyn and Ashara Dayne… sigh… needless to say, All Will Be Revealed in Good Time. I will give you this much, however; Ashara Dayne was not nailed to the floor in Starfall, as some of the fans who write me seem to assume. They have horses in Dorne too, you know. And boats (though not many of their own). As a matter of fact (a tiny tidbit from SOS), she was one of Princess Elia’s lady companions in King’s Landing, in the first few years after Elia married Rhaegar. The rest I will save for the books.” (SSM)
If you found the Dayne rebellion timeline tedious, this next one is easier to digest. Poring over each minute detail in order to speculate ages… is not something you glance and ‘catch’. Actually, speculation of most Rebellion moments tend to be composed of exactly that. The true problem remains: we don’t know what Martin’s true canon is. Are the timelines off on purpose, or simply blurred from normal inconsistencies in narration? With the importance of House Dayne in the wars to come, I don’t see Martin leaving their mystery alone. Ashara’s personal timeline during the rebellion isn’t quite as complicated to keep track of, but with so little canon available, it’s a reasonable amount of information to absorb.
273 AC – The Martell visit
The Marriage Search
“Do you recall the tale I told you of our first meeting, Imp?” Prince Oberyn asked, as the Bastard of Godsgrace knelt before him to fasten his greaves. “It was not for your tail alone that my sister and I came to Casterly Rock. We were on a quest of sorts. A quest that took us to Starfall, the Arbor, Oldtown, the Shield Islands, Crakehall, and finally Casterly Rock … but our true destination was marriage. Doran was betrothed to Lady Mellario of Norvos, so he had been left behind as castellan of Sunspear. My sister and I were yet unpromised.”
-Tyrion X, ASOS
Elia and I were older, to be sure. Your brother and sister could not have been more than eight or nine. Still, a difference of five or six years is little enough. And there was an empty cabin on our ship, a very nice cabin, such as might be kept for a person of high birth. As if it were intended that we take someone back to Sunspear. A young page, perhaps. Or a companion for Elia. Your lady mother meant to betroth Jaime to my sister, or Cersei to me. Perhaps both.”
-Tyrion X, ASOS
In a mighty Dornish exposition drop, Oberyn Martell gives more than us a few interesting moments to review. A few assumptions can be made from even the smallest of sentences. The Martell Marriage Search sent Oberyn and Elia to find proper and advantageous alliances in Westeros. While we know the eventual doom Elia’s marriage evoked, it is worth noting that their first stop was Starfall. Were Ashara born between 260-265, she would have been between the age of eight and 13 during the visit, with Arthur at least thirteen by this meeting. Oberyn and Elia were about 16 and 15 during the Martell Marriage Search, and more than likely within the five to six year age range of the Dayne siblings.
“What I did not tell you was that my mother waited as long as was decent, and then broached your father about our purpose. Years later, on her deathbed, she told me that Lord Tywin had refused us brusquely. His daughter was meant for Prince Rhaegar, he informed her. And when she asked for Jaime, to espouse Elia, he offered her you instead.”
-Tyrion X, ASOS
So why no Dayne match? If you subscribe to the Southron Ambitions theory by Stefan Sasse, you’ll already know and believe that the older generation of parent figures and players in Robert’s Rebellion (Rickard Stark, Hoster Tully, Jon Arryn, Tywin Lannister, Steffon Baratheon) were obsessed with finding politically beneficial matches for their children and family. The ruling Princess of Dorne, a long-time friend and fellow Lady-in-waiting to Rhaella Targaryen, Joanna Lannister, had her own plans that went awry; including a Lannister match.
Late 280 AC – Spring of 281 AC
King’s Landing: Lady-in-waiting
Rhaegar had chosen Lyanna Stark of Winterfell. Barristan Selmy would have made a different choice. Not the queen, who was not present. Nor Elia of Dorne, though she was good and gentle; had she been chosen, much war and woe might have been avoided. His choice would have been a young maiden not long at court, one of Elia’s companions … though compared to Ashara Dayne, the Dornish princess was a kitchen drab.
-The Kingbreaker, ADWD
Elia Martell married Prince Rhaegar Targaryen in early 280 AC, in King’s Landing. They moved to Dragonstone after the wedding, and later in 280 AC, Elia had their first child, Princess Rhaenys. They presented the baby to King Aerys II and Rhaella after she was born. With the tourney right around the corner in the false spring, and Elia and Rhaegar both returning to Dragonstone after the tourney, we can assume that Ashara Dayne came to King’s Landing as a companion to Elia when they presented Princess Rhaenys to the royal family.
So, what exactly would the job description of Elia Martell’s lady-in-waiting entail? Historically, a court lady is someone of noble but lower social birth of their attended who acts almost like an assistant. A lady in today’s more feudal societies, such as Kate Middleton’s attendees, would find themselves tasked with acting like a social auxiliary, managing correspondences and helping entertain notable luminaries. In the feudal ASOIAF society, ladies participate in queenly pastimes; wardrobe care/dressing, highborn activities (needlework, riding, music), supervision over servants, and even as messenger for discreet communications. Overall, ladies at court offer friendship for a woman who can’t exactly go out and make friends with just any common human. (History Revealed, Lordsandladies.org)
If, as Barristan states, Ashara accompanied Elia to King’s Landing but didn’t stay long (The Kingbreaker, ADWD), then she probably wasn’t running around the castle playing hopscotch all day. Elia was bedridden for half a year after giving birth to Rhaenys. Had Ashara come to court when Rhaenys was presented – and stayed until the Tourney of Harrenhal was over – she would probably miss out on a lot of the normal lady-in-waiting activities; she may not have had a friendly and loving relationship as most would think with Elia. A 13-20 year old daughter, pulled from the sandy coasts of the summer sea to attend court and create opportunities for herself and her family ended up alone in a great keep, where madness, prophecy, and a hint of wildfire circled the royal family. Dornish weren’t exactly made to feel like welcome guests in the castle – the king refused to touch Rhaenys when she was presented to him (TWOIAF) and grew increasingly hostile and paranoid against Dorne and its allies as time went on. Aerys even went as far as holding Elia and her children hostage in the war to keep Lewyn and her family (and their armies) under control.
Like other girls who come to the capital with heads full of sparkling knights and ladies, King’s Landing probably wasn’t fun and games for Ashara. There truly isn’t textual basis in Ashara/Elia slumber parties, staying up ‘til 3 AM and braiding each other’s hair every night. Elia would have been at least 4-5 years Ashara’s senior, if not more. Her duties to Elia would have, more than likely, been tedious. Imagine walking into court each day, knowing exactly how the current king felt about your ethnicity and culture – even openly insulting his grandchildren and daughter-in-law. Aerys II’s court didn’t exactly sound like the songs; there was no romance, no fun.
Tourney at Harrenhal: Early/Mid Mid 281 AC
The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf … but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench.
The first night of the Tourney, a great feast was held. Meera Reed details the feast to Bran Stark, and we are posed on the walls of Harrenhal, watching Ashara Dayne dance with several dance partners – a white sword (Barristan Selmy or her brother, Arthur), a red snake (Oberyn Martell), the lord of griffins (Jon Connington) and the quiet wolf (Ned Stark) at the wild wolf(Brandon Stark)’s request.
Where Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell were present at the Tourney at Harrenhal, Ashara Dayne was not far behind. There to attend Elia (also seen in official art depicted by Paolo Puggioni in The World of Ice and Fire) – Ashara likely spent time comforting her after the public embarrassment of Rhaegar honoring Lyanna.
And that’s where Ashara’s timeline begins to trail off. Barristan states Ashara was dishonored at Harrenhal (“Ashara’s daughter had been stillborn, and his fair lady had thrown herself from a tower soon after, mad with grief for the child she had lost, and perhaps for the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal as well.”- The Kingbreaker, ADWD), which plants the seed in our minds: Ashara had sex at the Tourney of Harrenhal, popped out a stillborn baby nine months later, and sequentially… threw herself off of a tower.
But that timeline doesn’t quite add up. Barristan says ‘soon after’ – which, left vague, could mean any number of days, weeks, or months, but certainly soon after in this text couldn’t mean one to two years. Whether this is unreliable narration, perspective change, or even just Barristan being clueless – it isn’t necessarily a new concept concerning him (Aerys/Joanna and Rhaegar exposition, intricacies of politics in Meereen, etc).
Elia almost dead; Ashara returned to Starfall: 282 AC
Jon Connington remembered Prince Rhaegar’s wedding all too well. Elia was never worthy of him. She was frail and sickly from the first, and childbirth only left her weaker. After the birth of Princess Rhaenys, her mother had been bedridden for half a year, and Prince Aegon’s birth had almost been the death of her. She would bear no more children, the maesters told Prince Rhaegar afterward.
-The Griffin Reborn, ADWD
When the Tourney concluded, Elia and Rhaegar returned home to Dragonstone, where Elia would give birth to Aegon VI Targaryen, and Rhaegar would soon take to the road with companions before falling upon and ‘kidnapping’ Lyanna Stark (The Fall of the Dragons: The Year of the False Spring, TWOIAF)
Drowning: 283 AC
“My father was Ser Arthur’s elder brother. Lady Ashara was my aunt. I never knew her, though. She threw herself into the sea from atop the Palestone Sword before I was born.”
“Why would she do that?” said Arya, startled.
Ned looked wary. Maybe he was afraid that she was going to throw something at him. “Your lord father never spoke of her?” he said. “The Lady Ashara Dayne, of Starfall?”
-Arya VIII, ASOS
Words pause on the page; waters devour the first-born daughter of House Dayne. The news is presented to us through Cersei Lannister, Barristan the Bold, Ned Dayne and Catelyn Stark: Ned Stark slew Ashara’s brother (“They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed.” – Bran III, ACOK), brought home her ancestral family sword (“Ned had carried Ser Arthur’s sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall”- Catelyn II, ACOK), and she jumped off of the Palestone Sword Tower (“Her heart was broken”- Arya VIII, ASOS). Ashara is buried beneath the oceans of Planetos.
But why is she brought up so often as we travel through ASOIAF?
The Purple Herring: Why Does Someone Have to Die?
“The death of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world.”
– Edgar Allan Poe
Ashara Dayne exists as an abstract notion that no one has grasped in the books; a construct, a lady in a tower, in a song. Nothing to describe her varied accounts, no one holding the real truth – and those that do hold that truth, have been moved off of the pages.
What begins as a distraction from the truth, readers are led away from the mystery of Rhaegar and Lyanna; but Ashara’s story slowly devolves into its own tragedy. What is implemented as a Dornish scapegoat; valyrian features, purple eyes, a fake-out, in case the savior emerged more Targaryen than Stark, turns into a simple blame game.
While not the only herring to Jon’s parentage (see: Wylla, a serving woman from Starfall (Arya VIII, ASOS), as well as the Fisherman’s Daughter in Sisterton (Davos I, ADWD)), Ashara sits center stage as the most likely candidate. As a result, characters project failures, jealousy, and hunger for power on a dead girl with no voice, but sad, beautiful eyes.
Our first mention of Ashara splashes into an early POV during AGOT: a young woman finds what solace she can in being a sold pony, married to the Wolf in line for her father’s swords. Placing blame on a dead girl, Catelyn Stark escapes the shame of raising a child that wasn’t hers, and the pain of a husband who ‘cheated’.
That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. “Never ask me about Jon,” he said, cold as ice. “He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady.” She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne’s name was never heard in Winterfell again.
-Catelyn II, AGOT
A soiled Kingsguard member lays his feeling of failure at the foot of her grave. The girl he should have saved, too beautiful to live, becomes a place for him to rest his guilt; on the one who got away.
But Ashara’s daughter had been stillborn, and his fair lady had thrown herself from a tower soon after, mad with grief for the child she had lost, and perhaps for the man who had dishonored her at Harrenhal as well. She died never knowing that Ser Barristan had loved her. How could she? He was a knight of the Kingsguard, sworn to celibacy. No good could have come from telling her his feelings. No good came from silence either. If I had unhorsed Rhaegar and crowned Ashara queen of love and beauty, might she have looked to me instead of Stark?
He would never know. But of all his failures, none haunted Barristan Selmy so much as that.
– The Kingbreaker, ADWD
The scorned queen, jealous and prideful, grasping at rumored straws in an attempt to overpower and wound our protagonist.
“How dare you play the noble lord with me! What do you take me for? You’ve a bastard of your own, I’ve seen him. Who was the mother, I wonder? Some Dornish peasant you raped while her holdfast burned? A whore? Or was it the grieving sister, the Lady Ashara? She threw herself into the sea, I’m told. Why was that? For the brother you slew, or the child you stole? Tell me, my honorable Lord Eddard, how are you any different from Robert, or me, or Jaime?”
Ned allowing Ashara to be used as a herring for Jon’s birth suggests that Ned knew to cover his bases. Of the three leading choices for Jon’s ‘parentage’, Ashara had the most to lose; and the most to give. With House Dayne abetting Rhaegar – and even the slightest notion of Ashara being a link in finding the Tower of Joy – Robert Baratheon could find Ashara guilty in the kidnapping of Lyanna Stark. While Robert was a merciful ruler where loyalty lay, (seen with Barristan), Ned couldn’t risk that information leading Robert deeper – deeper being closer to Jon’s true parentage (“I see no babes. Only dragonspawn.” Eddard II, AGOT).
If Ashara lived, she would have to live quietly, or risk her own safety. As long as the Baratheons (and their supporters) held the Iron Throne and the Rhaegar/Lyanna myth held firm, Ashara Dayne was always going to be found guilty, no matter her true allegiance, no matter what her actions were – and careful, cautious Ned Stark couldn’t risk that.
Let me pull you out of these thoughts for a moment. If you have a free browser tab to spare, throw this song on while you read. It’s scored well for this next bit, and I’ve come to find that mood music always improves the overall sensation when Ashara is involved. “Why does someone have to die?” by Philip Glass from the Hours is a personal favorite soundtrack piece.
The Hours plants the viewer in the lives of three very different women, yearning for something more, linked by a common denominator of fear and strife – much like the late females of the rebellion. Their stories eventually intertwine, and Philip orchestrates the emotion of the piece: the swell of sadness, the cascading melancholy notes, the strings vibrating to resonate what words can not. We turn towards the summer sea; the cool, pale marble of the Palestone Sword Tower against our toes. We are at once filled with anguish. As the waves sweep us away with Ashara’s ending, we ask the question: why does someone have to die?
Specifically, why Ashara?
Because that’s the way the song goes. As she plummets to the bottom of the ocean and her life decrescendos, Ashara is dying, because that’s what we as the reader are told happens. The recipe calls for it, no matter which way we bend the story, or which variable we change. The innocent and the lovers are the first condemned in romance’s fire and tragedy.
Like any journey, the one to the savior’s birth is laced with sacrifice and loss. The sad girl, hair billowing behind her, standing on the edge of a tower in songs, will always throw herself off of the tower. But is that the way it always goes, or is that the way that it is being written? Is the audience simply comfortable with what we’ve been told, or do we press to find something deeper?
Martin allows readers to enter the “tower” in A Storm of Swords, without having to tell us that it is Ashara’s.
“Why did she jump into the sea though?”
“Her heart was broken.”
“Sansa would have sighed and shed a tear for true love, but Arya just thought it was stupid.” She couldn’t say that to Ned, though, not about his own aunt. “Did someone break it?”
-Arya VIII, ASOS
“He sang about some stupid lady throwing herself off some stupid tower because her stupid prince was dead.”
-Cat of the Canals, AFFC
Threads dangle in front of our faces, but we can’t quite clutch them; precisely how Ashara has been dangled in front of us in the series. We are told to look. Look closer. Things are not what they seem.
The Rebellion drills the reader to examine the stories in our hands, to probe between lines, while perspective tells us to remember who we are watching the story through. Arya finds the stories and songs stupid, which can be easily empathized with- remember being young, before things were so intricately complicated, so delicately woven? The girl who needed to enter a literal house of black and white to learn that things aren’t always black and white has no clue just how complicated this situation could and could not be.
While war and tragedy waged on through the Rebellion, those innocently stuck on the losing side assumed the saddest position. Elia Martell, stuck in the capital with her children was unable to leave or protect them, despite having done everything asked of her; marry the crown prince, bear his children, say yes, yes, yes. Rhaella, lured home through storms to Dragonstone in the dead of night, finding a bitter end to the years of abuse endured at the hands of her brother-husband. Ashara, the poeticized and mysterious young woman with an uncanny gaze further perpetuates the princess in the tower trope scattered throughout the story. Sansa, Arianne, and even Ashara are all stowed in this “tower”, stripped of choice and agency, each with different fates awaiting them.
“The lady should go kill the ones who killed her prince. And the singer should be on the wall.“
-Cat of the Canals, AFFC
Were it that easy, wolf girl. Things are never quite that easy, a lesson driven home repeatedly in cause-effect scenario. In this moment, the girl with winter in her blood resembles the reader; rejecting the overtly romantic sounding layers, the true nature of the plot, and refusing to see past the words on the page.
The princess in the tower can’t just call the banners and go off to war for her ‘prince’. Where most see in a range of color, songs of Westeros don’t offer that generous of a view. Ashara Dayne had to “die” for the cause.
Interlude: Panning Offscreen
In a simple, clean move, every scrap of narrative food disappears off of the table before we can get too greedy. Where do characters with knowledge of every uninterpretable secret go? Off the screen. They die. They’re never introduced to the POVs that feed us. They disappear. If they know too much, they are displaced from the page, at least until it’s deemed safe. Their secrets lie in the air, whispering through each line. Promise me, we hear, as Ned Stark’s head rolls. The reader resonates for 4 more books on the true meaning of the room that smelled of blood and roses. Why did she throw herself into the sea? We teeter on the edge of a bittersweet tragedy, moments from breaking through. A pause. Ned Dayne flits between the chapters of ASOS, details are inched into our view, but our almost-exposition drop evaporates before it’s given away.
When he slept, he dreamed: dark disturbing dreams of blood and broken promises.
– Eddard XV, AGOT
Thanks so much for taking the time to read, all! In part II, we’re going to talk about the Tower of Joy (and the stigma of silence surrounding it), identity and hidden identity in Westeros, and compelling arguments against theories about Ashara as Quaithe, Septa Lemore, Brandon Stark’s baby-mama and the-baby-swap.