The second season of Game of Thrones introduced Melisandre to the series. She is the mysterious advisor to Stannis Baratheon, who seems to invoke a religious fervor in his followers.
In the books, Melisandre believes Stannis is Azor Ahai, who was the hero who defeated the white walkers in the past and was prophesied to return some day.
Lady Melisandre is quickly revealed to be one of the few characters in Game of Thrones who possesses genuine magical abilities. She uses her sorcery to further Stannis’ cause– though the viewer is left with the question of whether she truly believes that he is the one destined to rule, or if she is just trying to put Stannis on the throne as part of a plan to control the Seven Kingdoms.
We are here today to unveil the truth behind one of the most mysterious characters in Game of Thrones. From the multiple times she gave birth to shadow monsters, to her ability to see (and misinterpret) the future, here are the 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Melisandre (And Her Magic).
15. She Made Two Shadow Children In The Books
One of the most shocking moments in the second season of Game of Thrones happened at the end of the “Garden of Bones” episode when Melisandre gave birth to a monster.
Davos Seaworth smuggles Melisandre to a cave near Renly Baratheon’s camp, where she gives birth to a monster made of shadows, who then proceeds to assassinate Renly.
The reveal of the shadow monster was one of the highlights of the show, though it did raise many questions, such as: why doesn’t she create more of them to kill Joffrey or Tywin Lannister?
In A Song of Ice and Fire, Melisandre actually births a second shadow kin. After Renly is killed, Stannis marches his army to the Stormlands, where they intend to take the castle of Storm’s End. The castellan of Storm’s End is a knight, named Ser Cortnay Penrose, who refuses to yield the castle to Stannis.
Melisandre then births a shadow monster, who pushes Ser Penrose from a tower window. It is this second birth that Davos witnesses in the book, which answers the question of what exactly killed Renly earlier on in the story.
14. The Ruby Retcon
The first episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones answered a long running fan theory concerning Melisandre. At the end of the episode, she removes the ruby necklace from around her neck. When she does this, we see that Melisandre is actually an ancient old woman, and that her beautiful appearance is the result of a glamour.
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, it is possible for some Red Priests to create illusions (known as glamours), which can change someone’s appearance. Melisandre had made many remarks in the past which suggested that she is a lot older than she seems, which we now know is the truth.
In season four of Game of Thrones, we see Melisandre having a bath in the episode called “Mockingbird”, where she has removed the ruby necklace in order to bathe, yet still retains her youthful looks.
The reason for this inconsistency might be due to the fact that the creators weren’t sure if they were going to spoil the secret of Melisandre’s age. It is also likely that they didn’t want to risk damaging the ruby prop.
13. Carice Van Houten Played The Old Version Of Melisandre
At the end of “The Red Woman”, Melisandre is filled with doubt in her beliefs. She realizes that she was wrong to support Stannis Baratheon and that her actions led to the deaths of thousands.
Melisandre removes her ruby necklace, which reveals her true form. The ruby had been acting as a permanent glamour, which allowed her to look young and beautiful.
There are those who would say that the best special effects in Game of Thrones belong to the dragons, the dire wolves, or the white walkers. However, a strong argument could be made for the effects used in showing Melisandre’s true age, which are extremely impressive. Carice van Houten was made up with prosthetics and makeup to look like an old woman in the scene, and had her head transferred onto the naked body of a real old woman using special effects.
12. She Saved Mance Rayder’s Life
The storyline in Game of Thrones where Sansa returned to Winterfell to marry Ramsay Bolton was an invention of the TV show. In the books, it is actually a girl named Jeyne Poole (who grew up alongside Sansa) who is sent to Winterfell, as the Boltons are pretending that she is Arya Stark.
Also in Game of Thrones, Mance Rayder is executed for his crimes at Castle Black, but this is not the case in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. Melisandre reveals to Jon Snow that she spared Mance from death. It was actually one of Mance’s commanders who died in his place (whilst under the effect of a glamour).
Mance is sent on a mission to Winterfell, where he is expected to try and free the girl they think is Arya Stark from her Bolton captives. Jon Snow supports this plan, as he wants to see his sister free.
11. She Can Throw Fireballs
In the third season of Game of Thrones, we are introduced to a wildling named Orell. He is the warg who travels with Jon, Ygritte, and Tormund as they climb over the wall. Jon kills Orell, but he manages to cheat death by shifting his consciousness into his eagle, which then attacks Jon and scars his face.
Orell’s eagle has more of a role in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. He comes into the possession of another warg, named Varamyr Sixskins, who uses him to scout Castle Black when the wildlings are preparing to attack.
The eagle is then killed by Melisandre, who throws a ball of fire that consumes Orell. This causes Varamyr to lose his mind, as he experiences death through the mind of Orell’s eagle.
10. She Hasn’t Sacrificed Shireen In The Books… Yet
One of the most heartwrenching moments in Game of Thrones happened in “The Gift”, when Stannis Baratheon agreed to allow Melisandre sacrifice his daughter. His army was being devastated by the cold weather and Melisandre promised to end the storm.
In order to do so, she required a sacrifice of king’s blood, which Shireen possessed as the daughter of Stannis and the niece of Robert.
However, Shireen Baratheon is still alive in the A Song of Ice and Fire series. She is still at Castle Black with her mother and Melisandre. The writers of Game of Thrones actually spoiled an upcoming storyline from the books, as they revealed that George R. R. Martin had told them that Melisandre was going to sacrifice Shireen at some point.
9. Her Journey To Find Gendry In The Riverlands Was Created For The Show
In Game of Thrones, Arya travels with a blacksmith’s apprentice named Gendry. The two of them become friends as they journey across the war-torn Riverlands.
Gendry joins the Brotherhood Without Banners, and then proceed to sell him to Melisandre, who traveled from Dragonstone in search of the boy. She brings him back to Stannis, as she requires his king’s blood for a sacrifice.
This storyline is different in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels. The reason Stannis attacked Storm’s End was so he could get his hands on a boy named Edric Storm, who is one of Robert Baratheon’s bastard children.
It was Edric who was going to be sacrificed in the books, before being freed by Davos. The creators of the show decided to put Gendry into Edric’s role, as he was about to leave the story anyway. This saved them from having to introduce a new character, who was only going to disappear in a few episodes.
8. She Is Connected To Quaithe
In A Clash of Kings and the second season of Game of Thrones, Daenerys travels to the city of Quarth, where she is welcomed by the peculiar rulers of the city.
She encounters a woman named Quaithe, who wears a mask made of lacquered wood. Quaithe mainly speaks in cryptic riddles, which are intended to warn Daenerys of the enemies that she may face in the future. Daenerys has dreams of Quaithe after she leaves Quarth, where she is told more prophecies and given more warnings.
Quaithe is said to be a shadowbinder from Asshai– the same as Melisandre. The costume designers of the Game of Thrones TV show decided to highlight this connection in the outfits of both characters, who both debuted in the second season.
The hexagon pattern of Quaithe’s mask also appears on her jewelry and in the design of her clothes. This same pattern can be seen in Melisandre’s clothes, as well as on the ruby she wears around her neck.
7. Carice Van Houten Was Asked To Audition For Cersei
Melisandre is played by Carice van Houten, who is one of the most famous actresses to come from the Netherlands. She has won the Golden Calf award on numerous occasions, which is the most prestigious film and television award in her homeland.
Carice van Houten has appeared in projects like Brimstone, Black Book, Valkyrie, Stricken, and Repo Men, though she is now best known for her role as Melisandre. This extends to her personal life, as she followed up her pregnancy announcement on Twitter with an “ok. I’m ready for your shadowbaby jokes.”
It seems that the producers of Game of Thrones had Carice van Houten in mind from the start, as she was originally asked to audition for the role of Cersei Lannister.
6. She Warned Jon Snow About His Imminent Death
Jon Snow is killed by his fellow brothers in the Night’s Watch. In the TV show, it is an act of retribution for allowing the wildlings through the wall. The circumstances of his betrayal are different in the novels, as he is killed for breaking the laws of the Watch.
Jon receives a letter from Ramsay Bolton, which convinces him to announce that he plans to march on Winterfell and oust the Boltons from power.
Melisandre actually warns Jon about the attack in the books. She tells Jon about a vision she has of daggers in the darkness and of the skulls that are often linked to death. Jon Snow knows nothing, however, and he dismisses these visions.
It is suggested in Melisandre’s visions that Jon actually wargs into his dire wolf before death, which may be what allows him to be revived in the books. We won’t know for sure until The Winds of Winter is finally released.
5. She Legitimized House Thenn
House Karstark is one of the most influential families in the North. They claim a shared descent from the Starks of Winterfell, and rule their lands from the castle of Karhold.
Things aren’t going well for House Karstark in the novels, however, as their Lord betrayed Robb Stark, which led to his execution. His daughter, Alys Karstark, flees to the Wall, as her uncle intends to marry her to his son, Cregan, as part of a plot to take control of Karhold.
She arrives at Castle Black in order to seek Jon’s help, as he is believed to be the last living son of Eddard Stark and the only person who can deliver her justice.
Jon Snow has a plan to help Alys, which involves Melisandre. He arranges Alys’ marriage to Sigorn, who is the leader of the wildling clan known as the Thenns.
Melisandre performs the marriage ritual, which leads to the creation of House Thenn. Alys now has an army of wildlings, who can help her retake her homeland.
4. She Created Stannis’ (Fake) Magical Sword
When we are first introduced to Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre, they are performing a ritual on the beach in front of the residents of Dragonstone. Melisandre is burning icons of the Faith of the Seven, which involves Stannis pulling a burning sword from the wooden idols.
Nothing more is made of this in Game of Thrones, as Stannis’ weapon never exhibits any magical abilities after this point. In the novels, however, Stannis’ sword is named Lightbringer, which was the name of Azor Ahai’s sword. It shines with a magical light at all times.
Stannis’ version of Lightbringer is believed to be just another one of Melisandre’s glamours. It has been pointed out by several people (Renly, Salladhor Saan, Maestor Aemon) that the sword doesn’t exhibit heat, which is something the original Lightbringer did.
3. She Claims To Be Able To Awaken Dragons From Stone
Stannis and his remaining forces retreat to Dragonstone after their failed assault on King’s Landing. It is here, when he is at his lowest point, that Melisandre raises the idea of waking dragons from stone.
Melisandre claims that she can use king’s blood to create a stone dragon for Stannis, which he could use to win his war. In the books, she intends to sacrifice Edric Storm for this purpose, which is why she kidnaps Gendry in the TV show. In both cases, the boys are freed by Davos.
We are still not sure if Melisandre is capable of creating a stone dragon. When Daenerys experiences her visions with the House of the Undying, she witnesses a great stone beast flying from a burning tower, which breathes shadow fire.
Could this vision be a glimpse of a stone dragon created by Melisandre? This might be the reason why she sacrifices Shireen Baratheon in the books. Stannis might lose his battle with the Boltons and be forced to turn to Melisandre for help, which could lead to the creation of a monstrous false dragon.
2. She May Have Stolen Davos’ Finger Bones
Davos Seaworth earned his knighthood by bringing food to Stannis at Storm’s End when it was under siege. Stannis offered Davos knighthood, at the cost of losing the fingers on one of his hands, as punishment for his time as a smuggler.
Davos agreed ,and he kept the removed finger bones in a bag that he hung around his neck. However, he loses this bag during the attack on Blackwater Bay.
When Melisandre reveals how glamours work, she lists human finger bones as one of the ingredients. This has led to speculation that she stole the bag at some point and was using it to aid her magic.
It might also mean that she is planning to create a glamour of Davos at some point, as possessing a piece of his body might make the illusion more effective. This raises the question of why Melisandre would need to create a copy of Davos?
1. She Can See The Future (But Can’t Take A Hint)
The true motives of Melisandre used to be one of the most asked questions in the A Song of Ice and Fire fandom. Everyone wondered if she truly believed that Stannis was Azor Ahai reborn, or if she was just manipulating him.
A Dance with Dragons finally answered this question, containing a chapter from Melisandre’s perspective. We see that she does indeed believe that Stannis is Azor Ahai and is dedicated to his cause. It is also revealed that her soothsaying abilities genuine and she can see truly see visions of the future.
Melisandre’s problem is that she has trouble interpreting the visions. This is because she is trying to make the visions match her own desires, rather than seeing them objectively.
When she asks the flames to show her Azor Ahai, she is sent visions of Jon Snow instead. However, Melisandre chooses to ignore the implications of these visions.
In Melisandre’s chapter, she claims that many members of her faith have misinterpreted visions. This seems like a sign that she is destined to do the same. Stannis will likely never become the king of Westeros, and Melisandre may be caught in his downfall.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Game of Thrones‘ mysterious Red Woman? Let us know in the comment section!
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