I want to write a fun, explorative piece: more idea-fuel and moderate insights than it is ‘epic theory’—an essay full of rhetorical sleight-of-hand that reads like a series of magic tricks and less like rote historiography. So here’s an attempt.
- What would it take for you to distrust any prediction a character makes?
Obviously a mistaken interpretation or two will hurt someone’s belief. But what about an admission that they’re just guessing in the first place, something like this:
“Some may.” Could the skulls in her vision have signified this bridge? Somehow Melisandre did not think so. “If it comes, that attack will be no more than a diversion. I saw towers by the sea, submerged beneath a black and bloody tide. That is where the heaviest blow will fall.”
Was it? Melisandre had seen Eastwatch-by-the-Sea with King Stannis. That was where His Grace left Queen Selyse and their daughter Shireen when he assembled his knights for the march to Castle Black. The towers in her fire had been different, but that was oft the way with visions. “Yes. Eastwatch, my lord.”
MELISANDRE, A DANCE WITH DRAGONS
In our haste to zip through Melisandre’s chapter and find the juicy details, we seem to have overlooked what I now think is perhaps the choicest morsel of all. Why?
It means that Melisandre often interprets her visions as applying to things other than literally what she sees.
This is hardly surprising though—we all know she makes mistakes. Even she admits it. But on the other hand, there’s really only one way to broadly interpret Melisandre’s statement:
Visions often show one thing, but are in truth about another.
If this is the case, then when Melisandre wrongly interprets a specific detail in a vision, she’s not only making mistakes, she is almost certainly misleading readers who trust her words or thoughts.
I know it sounds ridiculous: that her own thoughts would fool us. After all, if she saw Jon… she saw Jon. Why would the text in her own POV mislead us, the readers who are free from the supposed perils of bias that afflict the characters?
The assumption about what Melisandre sees being precisely what she thinks (or more accurately being what is on the page) is ignoring that we are reading words set out by an author who has no strict obligation to give us full, accurate information at all times. There have been several occasions where a character’s thoughts seem to omit details that readers could benefit from and have no real reason not to exist. Tyrion’s chain, Victarion’s ‘surgery’, and more, are all examples of when Martin’s words have deftly avoided the ‘whole truth’ in favor of a more compelling story. And as noted, Melisandre herself admitted that her visions may not apply to the exact objects, places or people she envisions… so even if you disagree and think her thoughts aren’t erroneous and that she actually saw Jon, the vision could still instead apply to someone else—by her own admission!
Anyways, It’s one thing to say this, its another to show you just how misleading a bad prediction can be. Like me, you almost certainly never realized that Melisandre’s first bad vision in A Dance with Dragons happens in Jon’s first chapter.
- Ready for a magic trick?