Warning: This post may contain spoilers for Game of Thrones Seasons 1–6 and George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire.
The world of Game of Thrones is not lacking in its theories. The books themselves are littered with clues to many of our burning questions, the most famous of which was, until Season 6's finale, "Who is Jon Snow’s mother?"
As much as I love the more thought-out, common theories, I also like to obsess over the theories where all of the pieces of the puzzle aren't yet in place. There are, for example, some theories that make sense thematically, but lack adequate facts and are unpopular among the masses. Personally, I like these theories, because apparently I’m a masochist and I like to torture myself!
This also leads me to wonder about the areas of the known world that are hardly ever mentioned. For example, what exactly is west of Westeros and what truth lies in Asshai?
Asshai, Dany thought. She would have me go to Asshai. “Will the Asshai’i give me an army?” she demanded. “Will there be gold for me in Asshai? Will there be ships? What is there in Asshai that I will not find in Qarth?”“Truth,” said the woman in the mask. And bowing, she faded back into the crowd. (Source: 'A Clash of Kings' 40: Daenerys III)
However, there are two areas that have peaked my interest more than any other in the world of Ice and Fire: Stygai, a ruined city near Asshai, and the Land of Always Winter in the far North. First, let’s look at what we know about the two areas and why fans should be interested in their significance.
The Land Of Always Winter
"I've seen how the land stretches much farther than any man knows, into the Land of Always Winter where the White Walkers came from during the Long Night." — Jon Snow, The North
The Land of Always Winter lies beyond the Wall and it is considered the point of origin of the Others during the period of the Long Night. Not many people, if any, have visited these lands.
All we ever hear about it in the books is that Bran Stark (pictured above) gets a glimpse of it when he is lying comatose after his fall. In his dream, Bran looks beyond the Wall and the curtain of light to a place he calls the heart of winter, and there he sees something that makes him cry out in fear.
The Shadow Lands are a mountainous region beyond Asshai and one of the most remote locations of the Known World. The ruins of Stygai, "the city of night" are found at its heart. GameofThrones.wikia.com
On the other side of the known world we have Stygai, an ancient, dark city that lies in the heart of the Shadow Lands near Asshai. Asshai itself is full of mystery and everything we know about it is through the word of mouth of a few characters. A land covered in a shadow, with buildings built with a mysterious black stone, no children of animals can be found in the Stygai.
To the Northeast of Asshai, on the river Ash, is the City of Night, also known as Stygai. It is called this because it only sees daylight for a brief period around noon. It is said that dark creatures such as demons and dragons dwell in the ruined city, thus it is not visited by anyone, including shadowbinders — the most sinister of all sorcerers.
What Could Lie In These Two Areas To Make People So Afraid?
Some think that Stygai and the heart of winter are the same place. A few reasons given is that they’re both associated with darkness and one is called the heart of winter while the other the heart of darkness. In Bran’s dream, he sees past a curtain of light and saw something that made him cry.
And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. North and north, and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks. Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live. 'Why?' Brain said, not understanding, falling, falling. Because winter is coming.
Could he have possibly gone past the North, all the way to the other side of the world and seen Stygai? Darkness and winter go hand in hand in the world of ice and fire, but if Stygai is said to be the dwelling of dragons, I highly doubt that they are the same place.
In Melisandre’s religion, she says that shadows are the servants of the light and Stygai is a city deep in the heart of the Shadow Lands. If that’s the case then can R’hllor the Lord of Light dwell in the city of Stygai? And if the dualist religion is to be believed, then the Great Other, arch nemesis of R’hllor, dwells in the heart of winter. I mean their strongest advocates — Melisandre and the White Walkers — come from these parts.
Maybe A Song of Ice and Fire isn’t just about Jon Snow, maybe it’s about how everyone in the known world is just a pawn in the never ending battle between two deities at odds with each other. I doubt we will ever know, since George R.R. Martin himself said we will never see the sides of Asshai. It is, however, an interesting theory I wanted to share.
Check out the video below to get an in-depth look at another Season 6 highlight — The Battle of the Bastards:
What do you think lies in the Land of Always Winter and Stygai? Let me know with a comment below.