*Note – Wizz-the-Smith over on the Westeros forums has written about this similarly, and I urge you to check it out if you’re over there!
Before I delve too deep into this, this little diddy relies on the very popular (and …pretty much canon) theory that in The Mystery Knight, Maynard Plumm, a hedge knight camped out by Whitewalls, was actually Bloodraven, disguised using a glamour. There are many textual references to infer from but here are the ones that sold me:
This close, there was something queer about the cast of Ser Maynard’s features. The longer Dunk looked, the less he seemed to see. – The Mystery Knight
Dunk whirled. Through the rain, all he could make out was a hooded shape and a single pale white eye. It was only when the man came forward that the shadowed face beneath the cowl took on the familiar features of Ser Maynard Plumm, the pale eye no more than the moonstone brooch that pinned his cloak at the shoulder. . – The Mystery Knight
Where else do we see a glamour in ASOIAF? Let’s turn the page forward to ADWD for a minute.
The wildling wore a sleeveless jerkin of boiled leather dotted with bronze studs beneath a worn cloak mottled in shades of green and brown. No bones. He was cloaked in shadows too, in wisps of ragged grey mist, half-seen, sliding across his face and form with every step he took. Ugly things. As ugly as his bones. A widow’s peak, close-set dark eyes, pinched cheeks, a mustache wriggling like a worm above a mouthful of broken brown teeth. – ADWD, Melisandre I
Jon Snow turned to Melisandre. “What sorcery is this?” “Call it what you will. Glamor, seeming, illusion. R’hllor is Lord of Light, Jon Snow, and it is given to his servants to weave with it, as others weave with thread.” – ADWD, Melisandre I
Interesting. So on both sides we have a gemstone (Plumm’s moonstone, Mel’s ruby), a lack of ‘focus’ upon looking at the person, and cloaked in shadows. But wait! I’ve noticed something that I’ve bolded above, so let’s revisit that.
He was cloaked in shadows too, in wisps of ragged grey mist
I see a grey mist risin!’
Wisps of ragged grey mist. Grey mist is a very specific mist, very specific indeed. And, it turns out, grey mist is utilized in the text pretty often, and especially when a certain great bastard of Westeros is involved.
How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? the riddle ran. A thousand eyes, and one. Some claimed the King’s Hand was a student of the dark arts who could change his face, put on the likeness of a one-eyed dog, even turn into a mist. Packs of gaunt gray wolves hunted down his foes, men said, and carrion crows spied for him and whispered secrets in his ear. Most of the tales were only tales, Dunk did not doubt, but no one could doubt that Bloodraven had informers everywhere. – The Mystery Knight
In fact, in the Mystery Knight, right before Bloodraven descends onto Whitewalls, we are given another reference to grey mist.
Beyond the field, grey mist was rising, sending ghostly fingers up the pale stone walls to grasp the castle battlements. Many of the wedding guests had vanished during the intervening hours, but those who remained climbed the viewing stand again and settled themselves on planks of rain-soaked pine. Amongst them stood Ser Gormon Peake, surrounded by a knot of lesser lords and household knights. – The Mystery Knight
So, with the knowledge we have that Bloodraven can turn into mist; specifically, a grey mist, we can assume that any time grey mist is mentioned in text (regular mist is not quite as specific, though I wouldn’t doubt some of the mentions involve him, grey or not), Bloodraven is either interfering or watching this moment.
Sweet Dreams are Made of These
The first mentions of Grey Mist that we as readers receive in the main ASOIAF series come from no other than Bran chapters in A Game of Thrones.
The ground was so far below him he could barely make it out through the grey mists that whirled around him, but he could feel how fast he was falling, and he knew what was waiting for him down there. Even in dreams, you could not fall forever. He would wake up in the instant before he hit the ground, he knew. You always woke up in the instant before you hit the ground. And if you don’t? the voice asked. The ground was closer now, still far far away, a thousand miles away, but closer than it had been. It was cold here in the darkness. There was no sun, no stars, only the ground below coming up to smash him, and the grey mists, and the whispering voice. He wanted to cry. – Bran III, AGOT
Bran was staring at his arms, his legs. He was so skinny, just skin stretched taut over bones. Had he always been so thin? He tried to remember. A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. “The things I do for love,” it said. – Bran III, AGOT
Bran was falling faster than ever. The grey mists howled around him as he plunged toward the earth below. “What are you doing to me?” he asked the crow, tearful. – Bran III, AGOT
The crow opened its beak and cawed at him, a shrill scream of fear, and the grey mists shuddered and swirled around him and ripped away like a veil, and he saw that the crow was really a woman, a serving woman with long black hair, and he knew her from somewhere, from Winterfell, yes, that was it, he remembered her now, and then he realized that he was in Winterfell, in a bed high in some chilly tower room, and the black-haired woman dropped a basin of water to shatter on the floor and ran down the steps, shouting, “He’s awake, he’s awake, he’s awake.” – Bran III, AGOT
But Bran isn’t the only Westerosi visited by Bloodraven via dream, and not the only one watched, either. In fact, after doing a little counting, there are 23 instances of grey mists in POV chapters in ASOIAF that can be assumed to have Bloodraven meddling in them. 13 of these chapters are Stark chapters, interestingly enough. While not every moment shrouded in grey mist is a pivotal point in the story, they are definitely some interesting moments to explore.
The king’s pavilion was close by the water, and the morning mists off the river had wreathed it in wisps of grey. It was all of golden silk, the largest and grandest structure in the camp. Outside the entrance, Robert’s warhammer was displayed beside an immense iron shield blazoned with the crowned stag of House Baratheon. – Eddard VII
While nothing of extreme importance on the surface, I find it interesting that Bloodraven would possibly be watching Ned. Perhaps the mention of Robert’s Warhammer in the same paragraph is what he was looking for in this moment. But that isn’t the only time BR watches Ned. Chapters later, we get something that fits in with the dream motif above.
He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood. In the dream his friends rode with him, as they had in life. Proud Martyn Cassel, Jory’s father; faithful Theo Wull; Ethan Glover, who had been Brandon’s squire; Ser Mark Ryswell, soft of speech and gentle of heart; the crannogman, Howland Reed; Lord Dustin on his great red stallion. Ned had known their faces as well as he knew his own once, but the years leech at a man’s memories, even those he has vowed never to forget. In the dream they were only shadows, grey wraiths on horses made of mist. – Eddard X
Ah, Ned’s fever dream of the Tower of Joy. An ASOIAF Classic. Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly pull any more information from the Tower of Joy, there’s a bit more to it. Many theorize and believe, as both Show and Book have pointed to, that Brynden Rivers can hop into dreams, moments in time, etc., and this is an instance of it. Grey wraiths of horses made of mist- is this Bloodraven, implanting the Tower of Joy dream into Ned’s memory?
The mists of evening had begun to rise, sending grey fingers up the walls of the buildings that lined the old canal. “He promised he’d be back,” Sam said. “You heard him too.” – Samwell III, AFFC
We’ve heard almost this exact line- if you head towards the beginning, you’ll blink if you miss it- in the Mystery Knight. (grey mist was rising, sending ghostly fingers up the pale stone walls to grasp the castlebattlements) Bloodraven was almost certainly watching Samwell after he and Gilly meet Coldhands- that much is evident.
But we don’t only see the grey mists in our beloved Starklings & Friends POVs. We even see grey mist in King’s Landing, in none other than a dream from the Queen Regent Herself.
“The only breath we smell is yours,” said Cersei. There was a jar of some thick potion by her elbow, sitting on a table. She snatched it up and threw it into the old woman’s eyes. In life the crone had screamed at them in some queer foreign tongue, and cursed them as they fled her tent. But in the dream her face dissolved, melting away into ribbons of grey mist until all that remained were two squinting yellow eyes, the eyes of death. –Cersei VIII, AFFC
W o a h. Bloodraven’s in your dreams, messing with your head, Cersei, that’s for sure. A thousand eyes, and one.
And now we turn to Westeros’ favorite little squid-traitor. Our crickcracklykraken. Theon Greyjoy.
“Then do the deed yourself, Your Grace.” The chill in Asha’s voice made Theon shiver in his chains. “Take him out across the lake to the islet where the weirwood grows, and strike his head off with that sorcerous sword you bear. That is how Eddard Stark would have done it. Theon slew Lord Eddard’s sons. Give him to Lord Eddard’s gods. The old gods of the north. Give him to the tree.” And suddenly there came a wild thumping, as the maester’s ravens hopped and flapped inside their cages, their black feathers flying as they beat against the bars with loud and raucous caws. “The tree,” one squawked, “the tree, the tree,” whilst the second screamed only, “Theon, Theon, Theon.” –Theon, TWOW Sample Chapter
Many theorize that Bloodraven and Bran are watching Theon through the godswood in Winterfell, and lo and behold, we what do we find in ADWD The Prince of Winterfell? More of that dang grey mist. In fact, 6 mentions of Grey Mist in Theon’s chapters, almost half as many as Stark POVs in general.
He had never seen the godswood like this, though—grey and ghostly, filled with warm mists and floating lights and whispered voices that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Beneath the trees, the hot springs steamed. Warm vapors rose from the earth, shrouding the trees in their moist breath, creeping up the walls to draw grey curtains across the watching windows. –The Prince of Winterfell, ADWD
What can we grasp from these passages and the visual of grey mist? Pretty much any time you see grey mist in the story, it’s referencing Bloodraven, or the magic he utilizes to get around people’s dreams, memories, and present moments. We don’t know the cause, we don’t know if it’s ‘traces’ of the magic, we don’t know WE DON’T KNOW BUT
Grey Mist = Bloodraven
And an added bonus, something I found humorous while reading up for this: When Ben Plumm says he has a drop of the dragon blood in himself, he doesn’t know just how much dragon blood he had in him. In fact, he had a whole dragon glamoured in his bloodline for a hot minute!
“I have me a drop of the dragon blood myself, you know.”