Warning: Spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 6 Episode 10, "The Winds of Winter"!
While you might have missed a few things when the last episode of the antepenultimate season of Game of Thrones rolled around, there's one thing that definitely made its mark on our retinas: the cruel explosion of wildfire orchestrated by the mischievous Cersei Lannister. An explosion that might have been a step too far for Jaime, who didn't look so enamored when he arrived back in King's Landing.
So, we're all aware that wildfire is no joke, as every occasion it's been used has left no survivors. But do you know what it is, exactly? Where does it come from, who makes it and how? Here's a little guide to everything we know about the most powerful liquid in the Seven Kingdoms. Warning: Do not try to make this at home.
What Is Wildfire?
Wildfire is a flammable green liquid that can explode when put in contact with a flame, but even sunlight will do the trick. It can burn on water and will only be extinguished with sand. The older it gets, the more powerful its flames become. It's called "the Substance" by its producers, the Pyromancers (a.k.a. the Alchemist's Guild), but to some it's just pyromancer's piss.
Who Makes Wildfire?
The senior members of the Alchemist's Guild, of the "Wisdom" rank, oversee the production of wildfire. Called alchemists or pyromancers, they claim to master the use of magic and ancient spells — as opposed to the Order of Maesters, who are prone to a scientific approach to knowledge and have slowly been taking over from the alchemists, as much in numbers as in influence.
How Do You Make Wildfire?
In accordance with their belief in magic, the Alchemists have kept the recipe for wildfire secret for centuries. What we know, however, is that the material is extremely unstable and must be stored in ways that won't accidentally ignite it. The most common way is to keep the wildfire in jars of clay in an underground location, to transport it at night if needed, and of course, to have the jars surrounded by sand. In the books, the alchemists have even put a spell on a chamber of sand above the jars, which will empty itself should the smallest spark appear.
Where Have We Seen Wildfire On Game Of Thrones?
Apart from the destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor by Cersei, wildfire has been used a few times in Game of Thrones. Its first use can be seen in Season 2 during the Battle of the Blackwater, when Stannis Baratheon attacks King's Landing to take back the throne from King Joffrey. Although he doesn't believe in the powers of wildfire at first, Tyrion Lannister is impressed to see the Guild has prepared almost 8,000 jars under the orders of Cersei. As Hand of the King, he decides to empty the dangerous green liquid into the bay where Stannis's fleet is approaching — and sets it on fire. Although Stannis continues his march toward King's Landing despite the significant loss of men, he's eventually defeated with the help of Lord Tywin Lannister, Lord Mace and Ser Loras Tyrell.
Wildfire is then mentioned twice in Season 3, first by King Joffrey when he shows Margaery Tyrell the urn containing the ashes of Prince Aerion Targaryen. Similarly to the Mad King after him, Aerion believed wildfire would have the power to turn him into a dragon, but unsurprisingly he burned himself alive when he drank it.
We know Mad King Aerys held the same belief thanks to Jaime, who explains to Brienne that the King's plan was to burn all of King's Landing with wildfire while he would emerge from the ashes as a dragon. Not everyone can walk through fire, Aerys! Most importantly, this was a plan that the King had been concocting for some time, placing jars of wildfire all over the city that were only progressively recovered over the years. And that also explains why Jaime slew his own king: to avoid the death of an entire city.
Finally, Bran got an eyeful of the wildfire prepared by Cersei in his latest vision — but we got a much better view of it when it exploded.
Did You Know? Wildfire Is Similar To Greek Fire
Wildfire seems to be taking inspiration from Greek fire, a substance used by the Byzantine Empire in the 7th century. Just like wildfire, we still don't know to this day what Greek fire was made of, but it's believed to have included flammable elements such as naphtha — a broad term that can apply to kerosene — and calcium oxide, also known as quicklime. Greek fire was also famous for burning on water, providing the Empire with a significant advantage over their enemies in a great number of conflicts.