Game of Thrones is a sprawling fantasy epic that carefully blends grounded medieval realpolitik with magic and supernatural elements. George RR Martin has gone on record about his inspiration for the politics of the series: the real-world dynastic battles of the War of the Roses, with Starks and Lannisters being analogues for ye olde Englande’s northern Yorks and rich Lancasters.
But what is the origin of the supernatural mono-myth that seems to dominate the story? I’m talking about the story of Azor Ahai and related myths that are so prevalent in Westeros and Essos.
For those who just have a passing familiarity with Azor Ahai from Game of Thrones or the source book series A Song of Ice and Fire, we mostly hear about the legend from the sorceress Melisandre of Asshai. She often declared that Stannis Baratheon was Azor Ahai reborn. (Until Stannis died. Then Melisandre shifted over to the viewpoint that the resurrected Jon Snow was really this prince that was promised.)
To summarize the legend, in the distant past age around the time of the first Long Night, the hero Azor Ahai forged Lightbringer, a flaming sword that was used (somehow) to dispel the evil of the Long Night. After some early failed attempts at forging the sword, Azor Ahai’s wife Nissa Nissa sacrificed herself to enable her husband to finally temper the blade. As the hero plunged the sword into his wife’s breast (for reasons) her cry was so powerful that it broke the moon.
Azor Ahai is an important figure in the mythology of R’hllor, the Lord of Light that Melisandre serves. This idea of Azor Ahai reborn, a prophesied reincarnation of the flaming sword wielder, is a significant one now that the White Walkers north of the Wall are active again. Their return signals the approach of another Long Night, and Azor Ahai has the ghostbusting rep to take them on.
Along with the establishment of this archetypal hero, the cracking of the moon from Nissa Nissa’s death cry ties dragons into Azor Ahai’s story.
In A Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen’s handmaiden Doreah tells the Khaleesi a tale that once upon a time there were two moons. One ventured too close to the sun and cracked, releasing a thousand dragons who fell to Earth. And that one day in the future, the remaining moon will likewise crack and bring dragons again.
It’s not a hard stretch to identify the cracked second moon with the moon likewise cracked by Nissa Nissa’s cry.
If anyone is interested in a more in-depth discussion of the influences that the myth and symbolism of Azor Ahai has on the narrative of A Song of Ice and Fire, I’d recommend reading The Mythical Astronomy of Ice and Fire blog – or listen to its attendant podcast
The first installment in that series goes into great detail about Azor Ahai, the existence of the doomed dragon-incubating second moon, a catastrophic cometary impact that shattered the moon, the resultant rain of meteors that are symbolically dragons and caused tremendous geological and meteorological effects of legendary significance.
Be prepared to learn about symbolic sun kings and metaphorical moon maidens at the very least. And how comets can be the same thing as stellar swords, in a manner of speaking.
You can also find endless posts on the subject on Reddit. It’s bottomless.
I’m not particularly interested in rehashing the symbolisms of Azor Ahai within the story of Game of Thrones, but instead want to talk about the clear inspiration that George RR Martin used in crafting the Azor Ahai myth. Much like the War of the Roses influenced the feudal maneuverings in the story, something must have influenced the comprehensive umbrella mono-myth which has echoes in so many of the characters’ stories.
This meta-mono-myth would have to be something that fell into Martin’s known interests, that featured astronomical destructions, that included advanced but vanished civilizations, that had things falling from the sky, and that identified a savior hero who is killed but comes again (because he’s Azor Ahai reborn.) It would be very convenient if it had dragons, because of the dragons from the cracking moon. Even if the dragons were metaphorical.
I think it’s quite obvious that the source of Azor Ahai and how that myth plays out in Game of Thrones can only come from one fictional property.
From one of the greatest story cycles of modern times.
Superman. The Last Son of Krypton.
Krypton, the Long Night, and Dragons.
Where to begin? Krypton, obviously.
The root of Superman’s origin story is in his exodus from the doomed planet Krypton. His father, the scientist Jor-El, had desperately tried to convince the planetary ruling council that there was an impending catastrophe. Ignored by those in power, Jor-El resigned himself to his fate but planned on sending his wife Lara and their newborn son Kal-El in a small rocketship through interstellar space. To Earth.
Lara opted to not leave her husband, sacrificing herself so that the small rocket would be less encumbered and therefore better ensuring baby Kal-El’s safe journey.
Lara’s sacrifice is clearly the template for Nissa Nissa’s action, with Jor-El in the role as Azor Ahai forging Lightbringer, or in this case the rocketship that carried their child Kal-El to Earth – creating a savior archetype. Jor-El’s name is even similar to Azor Ahai, and to make the similarity even clearer, Jor-El’s brother Zor-El also sent his child, Kal’s cousin Kara, in a rocketship. (I won’t talk much about Kara in this post, but I think she’s a clear source of inspiration for A Song of Ice and Fire‘s female version of Azor Ahai, Daenerys Targaryen.)
Krypton’s explosion is the inspiration for the destruction of the mythical second moon of Planetos. From a symbolic-astronomical perspective, suns, moons, and planets are all the same thing, basically. Don’t get hung up on that. To the ancients, planets were called wandering stars and comets were called bad stars. (Check out the etymology of the word disaster.)
Wait? Can Jor-El be an Azor Ahai archetype if he blows up on Krypton? Shouldn’t Kal-El be Azor Ahai in this scenario? They both can be. And Kal-El can represent Lightbringer as well, even though the spaceship is also a Lightbringer symbol, since Kal-El was forged by Jor-El and Lara too. If you know what I mean.
Krypton not only serves as an elemental feature in the creation of Lightbringer, it also provides the general template for the lost race of the Valyrians. Both Kryptonians and Valyrians were part of ancient and advanced civilizations that were wiped out by a doom (one that they might have brought on themselves, accounts vary.) Heck, Krypton, the inspiration for Valyria, even had dragons.
Azor Ahai is not considered to be a Valyrian in the myth, but the cracking moon gives birth to dragons, which eventually work their way in as a signature aspect of Valyrian might. Dragons == Valyrians, so the birth of dragons in the cracking moon is essentially the birth of Valyria.
Speaking of dragons, the associated physical aspect of the moon’s destruction, the meteors (symbolic dragons, dammit, don’t forget) that fell across Planetos are echoes not only of Kal-El’s ship journeying through space to crash onto Kansas, but also of the deadly kryptonite meteors that followed in the ship’s wake to Earth.
Krypton’s sun Rao is a red sun. On Earth, we see a red sun in our own sky at sunset, right before nightfall. So one can suggest that a reddish sun is symbolic for an approaching night. The Kryptonian sun is always red, so this prolonged symbolic sunset is therefore heralding the Long Night.
Superman was born on a world orbiting a star as red as blood. The Prince that was Promised had been prophesied to be “born under a bleeding star.” Sounds pretty solid to me.
Kryptonians as a species not only represent an inspiration for Valyrians, but also their most famous asset: Valyria’s dragons. After all, a fully powered Kryptonian can fly, is super-strong, is incredibly hard to kill, and possesses the ability to naturally generate tremendous heat. Just like dragons.
But let’s get back on track with Azor Ahai, specifically.
Jon Snow, the Last Son of Rhaegar
Book readers familiar with the Azor Ahai myth already know that Jon Snow is the likely representation of Azor Ahai reborn. He’s not quite the only representation since other characters, like undead Lightning Lord Beric Dondarrion, possess similar characteristics of Azor Ahai. (In Lord Beric’s case, being resurrected by Thoros of Myr and wielding a flaming sword is quite significant.)
Stannis Baratheon and to a lesser extent Oberyn Martell are also often considered possessing Azor Ahai characteristics, but neither can really step into the role of a classical heroic archetype. Not like Jon Snow.
Jon hasn’t yet wielded a flaming sword (unless we want to squint and count Longclaw, his Valyrian steel/dragonsteel sword that can destroy icy White Walkers) but he was resurrected, presumably by the will and favor of R’hllor the Lord of Light. That’s pretty convincing in nominating Jon to be a candidate for Azor Ahai reborn, but does Jon have any similarities to Superman?
Well, he can’t fly and he’s not bulletproof, but we’re not talking about the physical properties and abilities of Superman, but instead similarities to him as an archetype.
- Like Kal-El, Jon is an orphan who was raised by someone other than his father, someone who raised him as his own. We’ll allow that Martha Kent was a billion times the better step-mom than Catelyn Stark was, but George RR Martin isn’t above tweaking a happily-raised orphan story into something a bit harsher.
- Jon Snow, like Clark Kent, literally has a super secret identity.
- Both are associated with an icy fortress in the far north.
In some ways, George doubled-down on a Fortress of Solitude for Jon, not only Castle Black at the Wall, but also Winterfell.
Winterfell is not only a location of “solitude” for Jon (I’m referring to his outsider status and solo-emo tendencies) but it’s a relatively high tech and exotic place with the hot spring fed pipes running through the walls and the incredible glass gardens.
The weirwood heart tree of Winterfell is even an excellent reminder of the Fortress of Solitude’s omnipresent statue of Jor-El and Lara holding aloft a globe of Krypton, with the red leaves of the weirwood representing either the planet exploding or Krypton’s red sun Rao.
Hmmm Rao … R’hllor. Hmmmm.
- Both have faithful white-furred canine companions.
- Both heroes died, and both came back to life.
In 1992, four years before A Game of Thrones was published, Superman fought against Doomsday, a seemingly unbeatable foe. Doomsday kills Superman but after a brief period of time lounging about dead, the Kryptonian came back to life. Wearing a suit black as anything Jon Snow wore in service to the Night’s Watch. And having fabulous hair.
Superman was resurrected because the Eradicator, a Kryptonian entity, was using the fallen hero’s body as a collector of solar radiation which over time did the trick. The show has gotten ahead of the books, so we’re yet to definitively see how Jon Snow will resurrected, but if we take cues from Game of Thrones, Jon will be brought back by Melisandre of Asshai, a servant of R’hllor the Lord of Light (arguably a solar god) and therefore connected to Azor Ahai.
Come on. It’s like George isn’t even trying to obscure the parallels.
Well, I suppose he did try a bit. Jon being assassinated by his brothers of the Night’s Watch doesn’t sound quite like Superman’s fatal battle with Doomsday, but Doomsday was not some random alien monster. It originated ages ago as an experiment on Krypton. So in a sense, Superman was killed by his own kind, just like Jon being killed by his treacherous brothers.
And isn’t the return of the Long Night essentially a doomsday? An apocalyptic event?
This clear association between Jon Snow and Kal-El reinforces the Kryptonian/Valyrian connection, as if it really needed to be reinforced. After all, Jon is a Targaryen (a family from Valyria) and Superman is a Kryptonian. It all fits.
Starks, Superman, and the Supernatural
The Superman mythos even explains some of the more esoteric analyses that’s come from examining mythic tropes in A Song of Ice and Fire. The Starks themselves are often interpreted by myth scholars as being Lords of the Dead archetypes. There’s entirely a strong Hades/Persephone vibe to Rhaegar and Lyanna, and the dead kings of winter who are memorialized in the vast crypts under Winterfell are clearly an indicator of the Starks as metaphorical rulers of the underworld.
There are even connections alleged between the Starks of old and the Others, aka the White Walkers. The thirteenth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was reportedly a Stark. He’s the one who fell in love with a pale, cold sorceress with blue eyes, and became known as the Night’s King. This Otherly connection of course brings in an association with the hordes of undead wights. That’s a lot of dead references.
So, is there any evidence that this is inspired from Superman lore? Of course there is (or else I wouldn’t be bringing it up.)
Superman has long been a Hades-like character, a cosmic warden who is in charge of essentially a vast prison-realm of ghosts. I’m talking of course about the Phantom Zone, and Superman’s possession of the Phantom Zone projector that he can use to banish villains, forcing them to exist indefinitely as immaterial wraiths. (And in the case of his friend Mon-El, can be used to preserve someone in the Phantom Zone until their lethal condition can be cured. He’s literally a lord of life and death!)
So Jon Snow has symbolic Kryptonian attributes not only from his Targaryen ancestry, but from the Stark side of the family as well.
This association with the realm of the dead does bring along a rather negative connotation to the otherwise positive story of Superman. But it’s all thematic and consistent. Especially if we examine the dark side of Azor Ahai…
Azor Ahai. Bizarro. Hi!
Although Azor Ahai is reportedly a figure who ended the Long Night, there’s speculation that in reality, he caused the catastrophic event.
If one assumes that he’s associated with the moon cracking and raining meteors down on Planetos… that sounds like something that would cause the Long Night.
In Old Nan’s tales, the Long Night and the Others were stopped by someone called the Last Hero (remember, Superman is known as the Last Son of Krypton, and is a hero.) This Last Hero might be Azor Ahai, or the hero might be someone (like maybe the son of the guy that caused the problem?) cleaning up Azor Ahai’s mess. This dual look at Azor Ahai, as both hero and villain is very consistent with many characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, since often people’s motivations are on a spectrum between the concepts of good and evil.
This is not absent in Superman lore. In some interpretations of the stories (especially the television show Smallville) Jor-El is presented as expecting his son Kal-El to conquer humanity, thanks to the boy’s superior gifts and powers. If not for the honorable upbringing given by
Ned Stark Jonathan Kent, this Kryptonian superiority complex might have taken root. But there is a more definitive example of a dark-aspected Superman.
Bizarro may be the imperfect duplicate of Superman, but he is the perfect inspirational example of Azor Ahai’s legend being viewed in a cracked mirror. And to be honest his complexion and skin texture certainly remind me of the Stone Men and their greyscale disease. The show specifically draws a connection between the Stone Men and Valyria by having the ruined civilization’s home be a kind of leper colony for the afflicted, but in the source books greyscale is rumored to be part of a curse put on the Rhoynar’s original home for fighting against the Valyrians. So Bizarro works as an inspiration in multiple ways.
Hmmm. Azor Ahai. Bizarro. If that “h” in Ahai was a “b” the two names would almost be anagrams for one another. Very clever, George.
I’ll come back to Bizarro one more time in a moment.
Dark Wings, Dark Words
Okay, the Kryptonian/Targaryen connection is evident, and there’s a symbolic association between the more supernatural aspects of the Starks and Superman. But there’s more to Jon Snow than his shared Targaryen/Stark heritage. Jon has a specific role in the books, as an outsider who freely gave up his association with the Starks, his acknowledged semi-high birth to be a defender of the realm in service to the Night’s Watch. (Especially when Jon turns down Stannis Baratheon’s offer of ennoblement and legitimacy.)
Sure, the association between the Wall and Superman’s Fortress of Solitude has already been mentioned, but isn’t that just a chunk of ice being compared to another chunk of ice? I’d expect there to be more of an inspiration in the Superman mythos for the Night’s Watch, the sacrifice Jon makes, something.
Well, what do you know? There is.
Members of the Night’s Watch are referred to as crows, because of the dark clothing they wear. They are men of Westeros, but because of their vows they stand apart. Should they fall in the line of duty, no songs will be made for them. They are essentially anonymous nobodies, yet they serve and protect.
In Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, kept safe from harm is the Bottle City of Kandor. Kandor was a city on Krypton before being miniaturized and stored in a bottle by the alien computer-entity Brainiac.
Occasionally, Superman shrinks himself down to enter Kandor, where he has no powers (the bottle interior duplicates Krypton’s environment.) Sometimes, he is there for official visits, but often he’s there secretly to be a hero. Superman, despite his lack of powers, patrols Kandor as Nightwing, often with the assistance of his sidekick, Flamebird. (That’s Jimmy Olsen to you and me, but don’t tell anyone.)
As Nightwing, Superman keeps his identity a secret which helps foster the legend of Nightwing. After all, if any ne’er-do-well Kandorians knew Superman was Nightwing, and that Superman was currently active in the outside world, they’d know they could operate without fear of heroic interference.
So to sum up, Superman on occasion sacrifices his super-ness to serve anonymously as a watchman. In Kandor he’s symbolically a bird as black as night. Just like a crow.
Flamebird the sidekick, the fiery shadow version of Nightwing, is the inspiration for multiple symbolic elements. Most clearly it speaks again to the dragon-associations of the Valyrians, who were brought into being by the Azor Ahai-influenced destruction of the moon. A flame-bird might as well be an alternative name for the famous Valyrian beasts. (The same could be said of Nightwing as well.) I specifically called the sidekick a “fiery shadow” to suggest the shadowbinding magic of those that serve R’hllor, which we remember is an allusion to the red sun of Krypton, Rao.
I don’t know if George is suggesting some kind of romantic relationship between Superman and Jimmy Olsen, but the red-haired Jimmy seems somewhat echoed in Jon Snow’s Ygritte, with her hair that’s kissed-by-fire. It’s as if GRRM had taken the Nightwing/Flamebird dynamic and added dramatic stakes. After all, it’s rare in the comics for anyone to truly be at risk. Jimmy or Lois might be in danger at times, but we can feel confident that Superman will save them. Ygritte is an example of Martin subverting the trope where the hero always saves the beloved companion.
But is Kandor really a good representation of the realm being protected by the Night’s Watch? We have to think a bit laterally here. It’s true that Nightwing defends the city of Kandor from its own bad elements, as a sort of Batman guarding Gotham City, but that’s not the proper parallel. Imagine the surface of the bottle that contains Kandor as The Wall. Inside the bottle is what’s analogous to the lands beyond the Wall in Westeros. Superman as Nightwing, acts as the Night’s Watch who guards the realm. In this case, the realm is the world outside of the bottle.
Kandor’s citizens could represent a danger to the outside (this has been an actual plot point in Superman mythos, where Kandorian criminals have escaped to wreak havoc) and it ties in with the Azor Ahai aspect that the legendary hero is also associated with causing the dangers of the Long Night. (This is also echoed with the Phantom Zone, so there’s an undead connection that can be associated with Kandor, since both the bottle and the zone are symbols of dangers from Krypton. Just like the Long Night is a danger associated with Azor Ahai.)
Brandon the Builder created the Wall, and Brynden Rivers/Bloodraven has a similar symbolic role to Brandon as someone connected/in opposition to the dangerous elements in the far north.
Could their roles of Wall-builder and greenseer been inspired by Brainiac, the green skinned android who created Kandor’s bottle prison? It’s not a far leap to go from the name Brainiac to Brandon and Brynden. Really, just drop that “c” and sub in a “d’, jumble the letters just a bit – we all know how GRRM likes to tweak names in his books.
With the publication of A Dance with Dragons in 2011, readers were introduced to the lich-like greenseer Bloodraven, physically connected to his weirwood throne which acts like a huge surveillance network and storage “device” of memories. From this throne, Bloodraven commands flocks of ravens and just does lots of mysterious greenseer magic.
A few years before that in 2008, Geoff Johns’ run in Action Comics presented a chilling version of Brainiac, physically connected as the central node in a vast computer network, which no doubt offered unbelievable storage. Brainiac from his network-creche coordinated the actions of flocks of robotic, all-seeing drones. That’s not all that different from being in a weirwood with lots of raven servitors.
(Obviously, Brainiac has been around in the Superman comics for years and years, but the 2008 version really has a Bloodraven aspect about him. Or more properly, Bloodraven appearance years after the Johns run had a strong similarity to this particular Brainiac.)
One of Brainiac’s signature moves is to create replacements for himself, so upon destruction a new version would be available. This seems repeated in Bloodraven’s grooming of young Brandon Stark, the next generation of greenseer wargs.
I find the Brainiac/Bloodraven/Bran connection interesting, because it suggests that Bloodraven might not necessarily be on the side of “good”, or not on the side of Azor Ahai. This might hint at some sort of conflict brewing between Jon Snow and his cousin Bran as they try to deal with the Others in their own ways.
Since we’re identifying hints of future plot elements in A Song of Ice and Fire, lets dive right in and see what we can glean, based on the symbolic framework we’ve been handed.
Predictions for the Future! (Because Superman is also called the Man of Tomorrow. Because… tomorrow … future… I shouldn’t explain my jokes… I’m sorry.)
So, now that it’s clear that GRRM took inspiration from the Superman mythos in creating his Azor Ahai mythic spine for the story, what can we deduce for the future of the books? I mean, the Superman comic hasn’t ended, it’s still an ongoing thing. But we can still gather some insight.
What will the story of A Song of Ice and Fire be about? Well, Jon Snow will be important of course, as well as Daenerys who probably deserves her own lengthy article associating her with Kara Zor-El. But what will be the big endgame conflict? Who is going to be the antagonist that will try to destroy Jon Snow, our Azor Ahai/Superman archetype?
The Others? Well, they’re going to be a problem, but like Doomsday they’ll be dealt with as the aggressive yet-hard-to-relate-to threat that they are. Daenerys? Although Superman has fought Supergirl when she’d been under control of Darkseid for example, I don’t think that’s a plot point that echoes through the Superman mythos and therefore won’t be a major conflict for A Song of Ice and Fire.
Euron Greyjoy? He’ll be a danger sure, but just like Metallo or the Atomic Skull, he’ll fall just short of achieving big time numero uno villain status.
Let’s go to the source, and think about this. Who is Superman’s number one antagonist? The Man of (Valyrian) Steel has a large number of enemies, but I doubt Terra-Man and the Toy-Man are going to qualify. Superman has many alien opponents (including other Kryptonians) but I think it’s well understood who his primary nemesis is.
If anyone deserves the honor of being stubborn enough to continuously go up against Superman to claim the nemesis title, it would be Lex Luthor.
Lex has many defining qualities. He’s brilliant, ruthless, and ambitious. Often he’s presented as a man of wealth. Depending on which Superman continuity you follow, he has a long-standing grudge with Superman. He hates Superman and yet wants to replace him, he aspires almost to be him in a way.
Who do we know in Westeros who is brilliant, ruthless, and driven by ambition? If we’re going to have Jon Snow as our Superman/Azor Ahai analog, is there anyone who has a long standing grudge against Jon Snow? Or maybe his family?
Petyr Baelish is just a haircut and a suit of powered armor away from literally being Lex Luthor. He’s rich, power-hungry, and has harbored a long seated resentment for the Starks ever since Ned’s older brother Brandon defeated Baelish in a physical battle of prowess for Catelyn Tully’s hand.
But shouldn’t he be bald? That’s also a signature Lex Luthor attribute.
Well, I’m sure George didn’t want to be too on the nose with Baelish being a Lex reference, but he kind of signaled Littlefinger’s Luthor-like nature by having another character who is very similar to Baelish in the story. There’s one person connected to Lord Baelish who is super-bald.
Lord Varys is possibly even more bald than Lex Luthor. His association with Baelish as rival political operatives is all the connection we need.
Baelish is driven, much like Lex Luthor’s motivation towards Superman, to target and then occupy the position of the Starks. Baelish wanted to replace Brandon Stark as Catelyn’s fiance, managed to bump off Warden of the North Ned Stark to eventually claim that title himself (if we acknowledge Lannister-authority) and has designs on his Catelyn 2.0, Sansa Stark.
Even Petyr Baelish’s name is a give-away. No, not his actual name, but his nickname. Littlefinger. Hear me out.
Lex Luthor’s name is one of the famous double-L names in the Superman canon.
- Lex Luthor.
- Lois Lane.
- Lucy Lane.
- Lana Lang.
- Lori Lemaris.
- Lena Thorul. (Okay, Lena is really a Luthor, but she wanted to hide from her dad Lex, so went by this undetectable alias… look, it counts.)
Littlefinger starts with an L. But that’s only one L, I hear you say. I could be lazy and say he’s “Lord Littlefinger” but George is more sneaky than that. The word “Littlefinger” is made up of twelve letters. What’s the twelfth letter of the alphabet?
L. Coincidence? I think not.
Lex Luthor is (in most continuities) the creator of Bizarro, the imperfect duplicate of Superman. It’s not even enough for Luthor to destroy and replace Superman, but he has to create a mockery of him as well. Let me remind you that Baelish’s personal sigil is the mockingbird.
So it’s pretty clear that double-L’d, ambitious, murderous, brilliant, Stark-destroying, Stark-replacing, power-hungry, Lex-Luthor analog Petyr Baelish is going to be the ultimate antagonist in Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire. Symbolically, it makes the most sense and really as Occam’s razor will tell you, the simplest explanation is often the correct one.
GRRM – Big Fan of Comics
Despite my theory’s iron clad evidence, one might question the validity of the premise if George RR Martin was not a fan of comics. I mean, it would be very unlikely for all of these similarities to exist if George was known to dismiss comic books as something childish. Unlikely, but not impossible.
But that’s not the case. George RR Martin is famously known for his love of comic books and superhero properties. His letter-to-the-editor submissions from when he was a child, writing in support of his favorite comics and comic authors, are circulated as Game of Thrones news items online. His shared-world anthology Wild Cards is based on a superhero role-playing campaign that Martin and his friends played. (The system was Superworld, which was a Chaosium role playing game, similar in spirit to the classic superhero RPG Champions.)
His association with comic books is therefore well established, and is one of the pillars of my revelation that Azor Ahai’s secret identity is Superman.
This site is Comparative Geeks, and my effort here is largely a work comparing A Song of Ice and Fire to its source inspiration, the Superman mythos. I’m sure that other similarities can be pulled out of George’s work and their inspiration identified in DC Comics. Feel free to add to my work in the comments.
(I mean, I haven’t even had a chance to pull in the Batman influences that are evident in A Song of Ice and Fire. Maybe I’ll do that next year.)
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this revelatory and planet-shattering expose on the roots of Azor Ahai. I just have one more thing to address.
Happy April 1st
Okay, before we get too carried away, either in looking for Game of Thrones material in Superman, or (more appropriately) excoriating me for this post, let me come clean.
In no way do I believe that the Superman comics is the inspiration for anything in A Song of Ice and Fire, nor do I think any of my work above, in any way, makes a reasonable case.
George RR Martin might be a Superman fan; I do know that he likes comics. But the letters-to-the-editor reference I mentioned above proves that he was a Marvel Comics enthusiast, not necessarily DC Comics. He was a big fan of the Fantastic Four, but I’ve never seen any comments from him in regards to Superman. I omitted that information earlier because its presence would not necessarily help support my extraordinary and probably bogus claim.
I do a lot of cherry picking in this post. A lot. It’s easy, mostly because there are eighty years worth of Superman comics for me to pull from. It’s ridiculously easy.
Let’s say for example that I need to find inspirations for Jaime and Cersei Lannister in the Superman milieu. Off the top of my head, I wasn’t coming up with any good reference from Superman, but I could from Superboy, who would occasionally travel to the future because he was a member of the futuristic Legion of Superheroes. Now I can focus on two blond twin legionnaires: Lightning Lad and Lightning Lass (sometimes she’s Light Lass, depending on the continuity.)
Blond twin siblings! I’m done. Wait! Any incest? Errr, not that I’m aware of, but if I was trying to my case, I’d ignore that detail and lean in with something else like this:
Just like Jaime Lannister, Lightning Lad also ended up with a metal prosthetic in place of his right hand. (Well, his right arm, technically. And eventually a scientist grows the arm back, but I’d totally sit on those facts.) Since Jaime has that connection with Lightning Lad, this builds the case for his twin to be the Cersei source. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to find similarities, and sometimes it’s not even required to actually find things that are similar.
Let’s say I need to find an inspiration in the Superman mythos for not just Jaime and Cersei, but Tyrion as well. Rather than looking for a good match, I’ll deliberately do the opposite.
If we want to pretend that the Kryptonian trio of villains who oppose Superman in Superman II: Zod, Ursa, and Non the giant are the inspiration for the Lannister siblings, it’s not too difficult. We just imply that George wanted to conceal the obvious reference by making his versions all blond.
Ursa (at this point, I’d allege that her name is similar sounding to Cersei, in a brute force kind of way) was famously a danger to children (it’s a thing) so she becomes the inspiration for Cersei losing her children while trying to protect them. Non is a huge, mute, and dim-witted giant, so he is the mirror-image inspiration for short, loquacious, and brilliant Tyrion. (Extra points for also implying that he’s an inspiration for the character of Hodor.)
(Then I’d pretend that I’d already made some kind Jaime-Zod connection and move on.)
Even the ominous red comet that showed up in book 2/season 2 can be used to “prove” the Kryptonian source material, since it’s obviously a reference to the red spaceship that brought Kal-El to Earth.
Except that the ship is really mostly blue. (I deliberately chose an image to be used in the Krypton section near the top of the post that was predominantly red, on the chance that I was going to use the red comet as a point of evidence.)
Hopefully, people reading my post recognized all the the fallacies I was falling over.
It’s fun to find connections and positive comparisons, but as I said before I’m cherry picking from such a huge corpus of data, it is possible to support and confirm almost anything superficially. Once I get enough assumptions quasi-validated, they start to cross-validate one another. As if I was making some wild statement on the Internet and then quoting someone quoting me as corroborating evidence to my initial claim.
It’s very presumptuous of me to imply throughout that these are connections GRRM is actually working from, but regardless of any lack of evidence or citation, just invoking his name makes things seem more legitimate. But it’s unseemly to do so.
I think that’s true even if I was using some other large collection of mythology to cherry pick from, or better yet every mythology ever. George RR Martin probably does draw inspiration from the worlds of literature and history. But only he’s the definitive source on what was inspiration, what was an homage, and what was crafted from his own imagination. It seems a lot to assume that he must be beholden to some existing work or is somehow required to weave consistent metaphorical connections throughout his massive works. GRRM says he’s a gardener, not an architect, and consciously trying to create a symbolic masterpiece seems unlikely if he’s also trying to create a prosaic one.
Now, this is a pretty weak April Fools prank. I doubt anyone was really convinced following along that Superman was the source of the mythical material in Game of Thrones. But I maintain that my work here is not that much different from some of the more popular meta-theorycraft, detailing symbology and metaphor in A Song of Ice and Fire.
The A Song of Ice and Fire subreddits are full of such articles, and some of them are very well written, well-researched, and replete with fascinating literary examples. I just tend to believe that these efforts are more coincidental curiosities than relevant revelations.
If you like that type of in-depth symbolic analysis (I swear that I also like that stuff, but you’ll just have to trust me on that) then I merely ask that you keep this essay in mind as you read complicated connections between A Song of Ice and Fire, myth, and various metaphorical grammars. It’s fun and interesting to engage with the books this way, but I humbly suggest that you not take these examinations too seriously. A healthy skepticism is always recommended.
Sometimes, heads mounted on spears are just heads mounted on spears. Sometimes, someone stabbing someone is just that. Sometimes, a comet is just a comet. (But maybe sometimes it’s a spaceship from an exploded planet. Maybe?)