We are only days away from the seventh season of Game of Thrones, which means the HBO series is everywhere. There are new images, new information, and new hot takes. Most importantly, there’s a new interview with author George R.R. Martin from Time that’s wide-ranging and full of interesting tidbits. But, between Martin discussing how Daenerys’ wedding scene was originally filmed for the show and lamenting the loss of Lady Stoneheart due to budget and time constraints, GRRM casually dropped a piece of information that completely upends the worldview of who the Song of Ice and Fire is about.
Are you ready to have your minds’ collectively blown?
[P]oor Beric Dondarrion, who was set up as the foreshadowing of all this, every time he’s a little less Beric. His memories are fading, he’s got all these scars, he’s becoming more and more physically hideous, because he’s not a living human being anymore. His heart isn’t beating, his blood isn’t flowing in his veins, he’s a wight, but a wight animated by fire instead of by ice, now we’re getting back to the whole fire and ice thing.
Fire wights. Fire. Wights.
If you’re wondering why I’m freaking out, it’s because the show has spent seven years (and Martin has spent over two decades) talking about the Night King and his White Walkers and wights and how these unholy ice abominations are a threat to everything humanity holds dear. Now Martin is just casually dropping into conversation that Beric Dondarrion is a fire wight. How did no one see this until now? It’s like being smacked in the face with a “Captain Obvious” sword.
Not sure who Beric Dondarrion (Richard Dormer) is? Real quick(ish): He’s the guy with the magic flaming sword called Lightbringer. He fights The Hound (Rory McCann) in the Season 3 episode “Kissed by Fire.” Dondarrion enters the story as a knight tasked by Eddard Stark to bring the rogue knight known as The Mountain to justice. Somewhere along the way, Beric gets killed by The Mountain via a giant lance through his chest cavity. When Thoros of Myr (a Red Priest of the same religion as Melisandre) performs last rites over Beric’s corpse, he accidentally resurrects him. Then he just keeps resurrecting him every time Beric falls in battle. But each time Lord Dondarrion returns, he is less human. His scars don’t heal. He loses memories. He’s a walking corpse. In A Feast For Crows, Beric Dondarrion dies for real when he passes his “gift” to the corpse of Catyln Stark, resurrecting her as Lady Stoneheart.
What exactly does this new information that Dondarrion is a wight of fire change? A lot, but in subtle ways. It’s like you were staring at a Magic Eye painting you thought you understood but then a brand-new section popped into focus. For example, a look back at Dondarrion’s interaction with Thoros over Catlyn Stark’s remains takes on a new tone with this knowledge. Dondarrion didn’t want to give up his life to bring back Lady Stoneheart; he wanted Thoros to just perform the same ritual on her. However, Thoros refused so Beric instead passes his power to Lady Stark via the “last kiss.”* Beric isn’t some accidental one-off. He believes Thoros could make more like him, a hypothesis proven on the show when Melisandre resurrects Jon Snow. How many other priests of the Lord of Light have accidentally discovered their new zombie-raising powers? If a former cynical priest such as Thoros can do it, anyone with even the hint of R’hllor’s blessing should be able to. Heck, in A Dance With Dragons, the Red Priest Moqorro uses the same blood and fire magic to “heal” Victarion Greyjoy’s arm. However, the wound is still blackened and charred, so is it really “healed” or simply the first step to Greyjoy becoming another fire wight?
*The “last kiss” is a funerary rite among the Red Priests. The priest fills their mouth with fire and breathes a stream of flame into the deceased body of a Lord of Light follower to help cleanse their soul. It’s extremely plausible however that this ritual is a leftover from a magical practice that would literally bring the dead back to life. It is also similar to the “Grey Kiss” allegedly given by the Shrouded Lord of Old Volantis to those afflicted with greyscale, turning them into Stone Men. Interestingly enough, the Red Priests originated in Old Volantis. Hmmmmm.
Looking at Game of Thrones from the perspective of a literal fire army vs. an ice army also changes the concept of the Lightbringer. If you’ve been taking the prophecy literally, right now Beric Dondarrion has a sword that might be the Lightbringer. However, what if the sword itself doesn’t matter? Beric uses his own blood to ignite his sword. Could it be the fire wights themselves are the mythical Lightbringers, using their unnatural life to set their weapons aflame? If so, how long until Jon Snow realizes he can light up Longclaw for extra effectiveness against the minors of the Night King?
Speaking of the Night King, if he’s in charge of the White Walker army, who is ultimately responsible for the fire wights? Is there a Dawn King out there? Or perhaps a Dawn Queen, as hinted at in some of the ancient mythologies of Martin’s world? Or is the Night King simply one of the more powerful “priests” of whatever shadowy god the ice creatures owe their allegiance to? That might make the most sense, as it would be a full-time job for the Night King to be resurrecting corpses up and down The Wall constantly.