Ashara exists in the story as an idea that no one has a grasp upon. She exists as a construct, as a lady in a song; famed, varied accounts, no one quite knows the truth.
One of the best songs of any OST is “Why does someone have to die?” by Philip Glass from the Hours. The swell of sadness, the cascading melancholy notes, the strings vibrating to resonate what words can not. We face the summer sea, and are at once filled with grief. As the waves roll in to sweep us away with what we are told is Ashara’s ending, we ask the question: why does someone have to die? Because, well, you see, that’s the way the song goes. That’s what we’ve always been told. That’s always been the refrain, haunting, sickly, crawling up you like an insect. Someone has to die. That’s what the recipe calls for, and it’s always Ashara, no matter which way we bend the story. The innocent, the lovers, these are the first condemned in the fire blazed by romance, tragedy, the journey to the savior’s birth. The sad girl in the tower in songs exists to throw herself off of the tower. The arc must be complete, whether the truth of it matters or not.
George introduces us to the conflict of the tower arc in Arya’s Storm chapters with Ned Dayne.
“Sansa would have sighed and shed a tear for true love, but Arya just thought it was stupid.”
“He sang about some stupid lady throwing herself off some stupid tower because her stupid prince was dead.”
George dangles the threads to the plot in front of our faces, but just enough that we can’t quite grasp at them; precisely what he’s done with Ashara the whole series. He tells us to look. Look closer, he says. Things are never what they seem.
The rebellion highlights just that. The rebellion tells us to look closer at the stories that we’re told. Arya thinks finds the stories stupid, which is easily empathized with- we all remember being young, we all remember things before they became so intricately complicated. Those caught in the wrong side of the war, whether by choice or force, showcase some of true tragedy of the rebellion. Elia Martell, stuck in the capital with her children, unable to leave or protect them, having done every single thing asked of her; marry the crown prince, bear his children, say yes, yes, yes. The princess in the tower trope is scattered all throughout the story- from Sansa, to Arianne, to Ashara, GRRM continues to twist the trope, never letting it turn out how you think it will.
“The lady should go kill the ones who killed her prince. And the singer should be on the wall.”
Were it that easy, little one. Were it that easy, wolf girl. Things are never quite that easy, which is a lesson driven home repeatedly. Arya displays the classic wolf blood through this, willfully shoving the story away, rejecting its romantic layers and in turn, its true nature.
The princess in the tower couldn’t kill her prince. Her prince was promised to another, and she lied and kept secrets for his cause. But she was stuck on the other side of the war, and “someone had to die.”