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So far, there are over one million, seven hundred thousand words in the series A Song of Ice and Fire, written by George RR Martin. Not only that, but there are prequels, sequels, television shows, and a seemingly unending amount of lore about each and every character in the universe.
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Like the world of Star Wars, the sprawling universe of A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones features so many characters with detailed backstories that casual fans find it impossible to know everything. Even diehard fans, though, can miss small details, while trying to absorb all the information Martin gives them to read and watch. Melisandre, the Red Woman of Asshai, is fairly well-known, but there are some details of her life and character that many fans completely missed.
Melisandre is known by many names, which isn’t surprising, as she cuts an incredibly mysterious figure for both in-universe characters and audiences consuming the material. She is a red priestess of R’hllor, and she looks the part. In chapter 17 of A Dance with Dragons, she is even referred to as “the king’s red shadow,” as she is always at Stannis Baratheon’s side.
More than being a red priestess, she has red hair— specifically “deep burnished copper”— as well as red eyes, and always dresses in red, as a red priest of R’hllor must. She’s always wearing some variant of red, she is always radiating heat, and she uses flames to view her prophecies. Melisandre is the king’s red shadow in more ways than just being a red priestess.
Readers of A Song of Ice and Fire and viewers of A Game of Thrones know Melisandre almost exclusively as Melisandre. Otherwise, they know her as the red priestess, the red witch, the red woman, or the king’s red shadow— any variation of these names is often referring to Melisandre.
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However, Melisandre indicates in chapter 31 of A Dance with Dragons that this was not always the case. Martin writes that Melisandre doesn’t like to sleep for very long because she has memories in her sleep of her past. In her past, she remembers her own name— Melony— of “Lot Seven,” the group she was sold with as a slave to a red temple when she was a child.
While Melisandre’s first official appearance in the series A Song of Ice and Fire is in A Clash of Kings, fans speculate that she was actually mentioned earlier than that: In the very first book in the series. In A Game of Thrones chapter 69, Tyrion receives intel that seems to point to Melisandre.
Varys has brought news to Tywin Lannister that Stannis is not only building his fleet and his army, but also bringing in a shadowbinder from Asshai to Dragonstone to be his counselor. Though Melisandre should already be on Dragonstone, it seems that this is a reference to Melisandre, making her first appearance in the books earlier than it previously seemed to be.
7 Melisandre’s Voice Reminds Jon Snow Of Spices
Melisandre is deeply beautiful and alluring to everyone who sees her and describes her in the books. Her looks, her personality, and her aura are compelling, and people feel incredibly drawn to her. Not only is she described in the prologue A Clash of Kings as having a deep voice, and in A Dance with Dragons as sounding melodic when she speaks, but there’s more to her vocal tone.
In chapter 10 of A Dance with Dragons, Jon recognizes something unusual about Melisandre’s voice, or at least the way he perceives her voice. He describes it as reminding him of anise, nutmeg, and cloves, a number of plants, seeds, and spices with a particular kick to them.
While it’s true that Melisandre is the king’s red shadow, not everyone sees Melisandre’s place at Stannis Baratheon’s side as a positive thing. In fact, many see her as a threat, and her religion— as well as her status as a red priestess of R’hllor— is doubly concerning to them. In fact, Stannis’ detractors use Melisandre’s beliefs and position against Stannis on multiple occasions.
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In chapter 15 of A Clash of Kings, then the small council is trying to invalidate Stannis with rumors, some of those rumors involve Melisandre. Because of the rumors made up about Shireen and spread about Melisandre, Petyr Baelish— Littlefinger— is able to discredit Stannis to a certain extent.
5 There Are Truth To All Of Her Visions
Melisandre acknowledges that her visions can not only be vague, but that she herself can misinterpret them. She does have a great deal of confidence in her own ability to analyze her vision, but still, she frequently misreads the exact messages of her visions. There is still a hint of truth to everything she sees, though, even when she gets things wrong.
For example, she has a vision in A Clash of Kings that Renly will destroy Stannis’ forces. However, because Renly dies, Stannis believes he’s prevented this outcome. In the end, though, Ser Garlan Tyrell wears Renly’s armor and defeats Stannis’ forces, just as Melisandre saw in her vision. Later, in chapter 28 of A Dance with Dragons, Jon acknowledges that, while Melisandre’s prophecies are slightly skewed, her predictions to him do begin to come true.
While Melisandre does see visions and seeks to completely analyze them, she doesn’t distance herself from these prophecies. In fact, when she sees visions in the flames, she’ll often attempt to thwart their outcomes if she doesn’t favor them, or to ensure them if she does.
At one point, for example, Melisandre tells Stannis (who then tells Davos Seaworth) that Ser Cortnay Penrose will die within a day. In fact, it is the shadow assassin that Melisandre births that very night that ends up slaying Cortnay, shown in chapters 42 and 44 of A Clash of Kings. Melisandre is, in a way, her own form of self-fulfilling prophecy.
3 Stannis Will Only Have Melisandre At His Side
The fact that the king’s red shadow is always by his side reflects not only on that shadow, but on the king himself, as well. Stannis Baratheon, in some ways, considers Melisandre his most trusted confidant, and can only truly trust her. She sees him as the Azor Ahai, the prince that was promised, and so will do anything to see this vision realized.
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In A Clash of Kings, when Renly dies and Stannis continuously has horrible nightmares, only Melisandre can get him to sleep; in A Storm of Swords, when Davos finds Stannis after the Battle of the Blackwater, Stannis will see nobody except Melisandre. He seems to be as loyal to her as she is to him.
It’s true that Melisandre refuses to believe that Stannis isn’t Azor Ahai. For one, his sword can’t be the true burning sword, Lightbringer, because it doesn’t have the aura of magic that the sword should have. In chapter 78 of A Storm of Swords, Melisandre tells Maester Aemon that Stannis is Azor Ahai, and that she saw the prophecy that declares this to be so.
However, in A Dance with Dragons, Maester Aemon tells Sam that he believes Melisandre was wrong and misread her prophecy— he thinks that Daenerys Targaryen is Azor Ahai. However, the television show A Game of Thrones showed that the prophecy instead points to Jon as Azor Ahai.
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1 Melisandre Feels Bad For Davos
While a great deal of Davos Seaworth’s motivation for the latter half of his story is the loss of his sons, he eventually does pull back on seeking revenge. As four of Davos’ sons died at the Battle of the Blackwater, a fight that Davos believes Melisandre could have prevented, Davos blames Melisandre for the loss of his children. Despite this, however, Melisandre feels bad for Davos.
In chapter 31 of A Dance with Dragons, Melisandre makes a special request to Stannis that Devan Seaworth remain at Castle Black so that he would not be put in danger, and so Davos would not lose yet another son because of her.
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