Melisandre of Asshai, by John Picacio ©
The red woman|
The king's red shadow
|Allegiance||Faith of R'hllor|
A Clash of Kings (appears)|
A Storm of Swords (appears)
A Feast for Crows (mentioned)
A Dance with Dragons (POV)
|Played by||Carice van Houten|
|TV series||Season 2 | Season 3 | Season 4 | Season 5 | Season 6 | Season 7 | Season 8|
Melisandre is a red priestess of R'hllor and a shadowbinder, hailing from the city of Asshai in the Further East of Essos. She has joined the court of Stannis Baratheon, Lord of Dragonstone, believing him to be Azor Ahai reborn, a hero destined to defeat the Great Other. She has become an influential advisor to him and his family. In the television adaptation Game of Thrones she is portrayed by Carice van Houten. She becomes a POV character in A Dance with Dragons.
Appearance and Character
- See also: Images of Melisandre
Melisandre is regarded as a beautiful woman by many. She has long hair the color of deep burnished copper, unsettling red eyes,} and pale, unblemished skin. The priestess is slender, graceful, and taller than most knights. Melisandre has full breasts, a narrow waist, and a heart-shaped face. She has a deep voice which sounds melodic and might make a listener envision anise, nutmeg, and cloves. Melisandre speaks the Common Tongue with rich accents of the Jade Sea and Essos. She sings loudly and clearly.
As is the custom of the red priests of her faith, Melisandre always dresses in long red fabric. She wears bloodred fabric underneath a silk gown the color of bright fire on one occasion, and robes of scarlet satin and blood velvet on another. The priestess also wears a scarlet cloak. She is never without a red gold choker containing a ruby which fits tightly around her neck. When Melisandre works magic, the ruby setting glows with power, and it may be able to burn her if the magic worked is particularly demanding. The priestess claims to never be cold, despite weather conditions, and she gives off noticeable heat.
Melisandre has the ability to see visions in the flames, and completely trusts in the power of her god, R'hllor. Although she acknowledges that visions can be misinterpreted, she has faith in her ability to correctly interpret visions, even if the vision does not entirely agree with the proposed interpretation. Melisandre is careful to present herself as mysterious, serene and powerful, and pretends that several acts of magic are much easier than they are in truth. Although she is genuinely skilled with magic, she enhances this with various smokes and powders that she keeps concealed in her robes. The priestess always keeps candles burning in her chambers at night.
Melisandre has practiced her art for "years beyond count".
Melisandre travels to Dragonstone on her own in search of a prophesied prince, Azor Ahai, who will lead the war for the dawn against the Great Other, the enemy to her god, R'hllor. She is convinced that Dragonstone is the place of smoke and salt amidst which Azor Ahai shall be reborn. Melisandre comes to believe that Stannis Baratheon, the Lord of Dragonstone, is Azor Ahai reborn, and becomes a confidant to Stannis's wife, Selyse Florent.
A Game of Thrones
At the crossroads inn Lord Tywin Lannister tells his son Tyrion that according to one of the rumors Lord Varys has heard, Lord Stannis Baratheon is bringing a shadowbinder from Asshai to Dragonstone, possibly in reference to Melisandre, although she had arrived on Dragonstone some years ago.
A Clash of Kings
Melisandre resides at Dragonstone, where she has converted Lady Selyse Florent to the faith of R'hllor. She is feared by most of the servants, who call her "the red woman" as they do not dare to say her name. Melisandre believes that Stannis fulfills an ancient prophecy from Asshai, and is Azor Ahai reborn. Determined to stop Melisandre's "madness" from spreading beyond Dragonstone, Stannis's maester, Cressen, proposes a toast between himself and Melisandre, using poisoned wine. Melisandre drinks most of the wine and remains unharmed, but Cressen dies drinking the remaining fluid.
Although Stannis is not as committed to R'hllor as his wife and the queen's men in his court, Melisandre convinces him to burn the statues of the Seven from the castle sept of Dragonstone in sacrifice to R'hllor. Outside of Dragonstone's gates, Melisandre proclaims Stannis to be Azor Ahai reborn and has him pull a burning sword from the fire, declaring it to be the legendary sword Lightbringer. He eventually creates a new sigil for himself, the fiery heart of the Lord of Light.
In King's Landing, Lord Petyr Baelish reminds the small council that some years past, Varys had reported that Selyse had taken up with a red priest. The councilors decide to use Melisandre's religion and the greyscale of Princess Shireen Baratheon to discredit Stannis.
Stannis's brother Renly, Lord of Storm's End, has also declared himself king, and has gathered the support from most stormlanders and men from the Reach. When Stannis sets sail from Dragonstone to besiege Storm's End, Melisandre accompanies him. She urges Stannis to meet with Renly and give him a last chance to swear his loyalty to Stannis. During the meeting, she serves as Stannis's standard bearer. Melisandre had previously seen Renly's death in her flames, and outside the walls of Storm's End creates a shadow assassin looking like Stannis which kills Renly the morning he is to march to battle against Stannis.
Stannis begins to have terrible nightmares after Renly's death, and only Melisandre can soothe him to sleep. Although many stormlords join Stannis after Renly's death, some loyal forces continue to hold Storm's End, while Ser Loras Tyrell returns to Bitterbridge to take control over eighty thousand men Renly had left behind. The castellan of Storm's End, Ser Cortnay Penrose, refuses to yield. Stannis tells Ser Davos Seaworth that Melisandre has fore that Cortnay will die within a day. He also reveals that she has seen Renly smashing Stannis's forces beneath the walls of King's Landing, but Stannis believes that Renly's death has prevented that scenario from happening. At night Stannis has Davos sail Melisandre underneath Storm's End, where she births a shadow assassin which slays Cortnay. After Lord Elwood Meadows surrenders Storm's End to Stannis, Melisandre has her king burn the castle's ancient godswood.
With Storm's End taken, Stannis is ready to march on King's Landing. By stating that men might say Stannis owes his crown to Melisandre's spells if he allows her to take part in the battle to come, Lord Bryce Caron convinces Stannis to send Melisandre back to Dragonstone, where she resides while Stannis and his forces fight at the capital. Stannis is defeated in the Battle of the Blackwater, however, after the arrival of the armies of Lords Tywin Lannister and Mace Tyrell. Ser Garlan Tyrell, leading Tywin's vanguard, wears Renly's green armor during the charge of the newcomers, making Melisandre's vision of Renly in his green armor defeating Stannis's forces underneath the walls of King's Landing come true, after a fashion.
A Storm of Swords
When Davos returns to Dragonstone from Blackwater Bay, Stannis refuses to see anyone but Melisandre. Davos is determined to kill Melisandre, believing her to be responsible for the defeat on the Blackwater and subsequently the deaths of his four eldest sons. According to Melisandre, she learned of this plan through her flames, and Davos is arrested. She later visits Davos in the dungeon, and admits to him that she dare not make another shadow son with him, as it might kill Stannis. Melisandre suggests making one with Davos, but Davos refuses.
Melisandre tells Stannis there is power in a king's blood, and she wishes to sacrifice Edric Storm, the acknowledged bastard son of the late King Robert I Baratheon, to "wake the stone dragon". Both Melisandre and Stannis are convinced of the need to quickly unite the Seven Kingdoms under one king, in preparation for the battle against the Great Other, about whom Melisandre has shown Stannis visions in the flames. Stannis refuses to allow Melisandre to sacrifice Edric, however, and the king instead throws leeches filled with Edric's blood into the flames while stating the names of the "three false kings:" Balon Greyjoy, Robb Stark, and Joffrey Baratheon.
In time, Balon falls from Pyke and Robb is killed at the Red Wedding. Melisandre claims it was R'hllor's doing and warns that "false kings" will take up the crowns of those who have fallen. When Davos points out that Joffrey is still alive, Stannis refuses Melisandre once more. However, Stannis implies to Davos that he will be willing to sacrifice Edric should Joffrey die. When Davos learns that Joffrey has died at his own royal wedding, he enlists the help of some king's men to smuggle Edric from Dragonstone. Davos reads Stannis and Melisandre a letter from Maester Aemon at Castle Black, informing the realm of the threats the Night's Watch is facing and asking for aid, which neither Stannis nor Melisandre knew about.
When Stannis sails for the Wall, Melisandre sacrifices Lord Alester Florent to her god to gain favorable winds for the voyage north. Riding west from Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, Melisandre kills Orell's eagle with fire, making the skinchanger Varamyr go mad from pain and lose control of his other animals during the battle beneath the Wall.
Melisandre holds her nightfires at Castle Black. She brings Jon Snow to Stannis, and when Stannis offers to make Jon Lord of Winterfell, she urges Jon to burn the weirwoods and accept Winterfell as a gift from R'hllor. Stannis claims to Jon that Melisandre has seen in her flames that the wildlings will return.
In a meeting with the high officers of the Night's Watch, Melisandre informs the black brothers that they have to hold nightfires at their gates as a way to battle their enemy. Maester Aemon recognizes she is speaking about the war for the dawn, and asks about the prince that was promised. Melisandre informs him Stannis is the prophesied prince.
A Feast for Crows
With Stannis intending to have Mance Rayder executed, Melisandre plans to sacrifice him to R'hllor to wake a dragon with the blood of Mance, the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Jon sends Maester Aemon to Oldtown, fearing that Melisandre might otherwise eventually give Aemon to the flames, since he is the son of King Maekar I Targaryen. Jon makes the wildling girl Gilly, who has been nursing both her own infant son and Mance's infant son, accompany Aemon. He secretly forces Gilly to take Mance's son with her, pretending he is her own child, to save Mance's son from Melisandre's flames.
While sailing on Cinnamon Wind, Aemon tells Sam that Melisandre has misread the signs and deceived herself into believing that Stannis is the prince that was promised. The dying maester now believes that Daenerys Targaryen fits the prophecy.
A Dance with Dragons
Melisandre walks atop the Wall every night with Stannis. She is present for a meeting between Stannis and Jon Snow, the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and walks Jon back to his chambers afterwards. Melisandre tells him that she will ask R'hllor for guidance about what to do with Mance, whom Stannis plans to burn, after Jon insists that Mance could be useful to them. She warns Jon to watch out for enemies, stating that she has seen him surrounded by enemies in her flames, and daggers in the dark.
Despite Jon's efforts to change the king's mind, Stannis is determined to sacrifice Mance. Melisandre places a glamor over him, making him appear to be the wildling Rattleshirt. Rattleshirt, in turn, is glamored to look like Mance, and killed in his place. Melisandre also destroys the so-called Horn of Joramun. She keeps Mance disguised at Castle Black, and offers his service to Jon Snow, who refuses in the impression that Mance is Rattleshirt. Stannis and Melisandre allow the wildlings south of the Wall, making them swear to R'hllor. The wildlings feign loyalty to R'hllor, however, and in secret keep faith in the old gods.
Melisandre remains at Castle Black when Stannis marches for the northern mountains, attended to by a dozen greybeards, cripples, and drunkards, including Merrel and Morgan. Although Melisandre feels safe without them, she keeps a pair of guards with her for appearances. Judging that Davos has lost enough sons, Melisandre requests Stannis to leave Devan Seaworth, Davos's eldest surviving son, at Castle Black as well, to keep him safe. The youth becomes fascinated with the beautiful woman.
Melisandre's powers are much stronger at the Wall, and she constantly searches her fires for visions. When she looks into the flames, she sees a “wooden face, corpse white” with a thousand red eyes, accompanied by a boy with a wolf's face. She assumes that they are servants of the Great Other. She asks to see Azor Ahai, hoping for Stannis, but sees only Jon surrounded by skulls, his face changing between that of a man and that of a wolf. She continues to hold her nightfires every evening, but as Stannis has taken most of his men with him, not many people attend.
Shortly after Jon receives a letter announcing the upcoming wedding of Ramsay Bolton and Arya Stark, Melisandre informs him that she has seen Arya in her flames, a grey girl, fleeing from her marriage on a dying horse. She tells Jon that she can show him how to use his "power", but he remains wary of her. She then warns Jon that she has seen that three of the nine rangers he has sent out will die, and that she has seen their faces with empty sockets, weeping blood.
Melisandre tells Mance they can only win Jon's trust by rescuing his sister. Melisandre finds Jon north of the Wall, where the heads of Black Jack Bulwer, Hairy Hal, and Garth Greyfeather have been impaled by the Weeper, making the first of her predictions come true. Jon asks her to look in her flames for the other six rangers. He informs her that Ser Denys Mallister at the Shadow Tower believes the wildlings might try to force their way across the Bridge of Skulls, and Melisandre tells him that she has seen towers by the sea submerged beneath a black and bloody tide. Though she acknowledges to herself that the towers in her vision do not look like those at Eastwatch, Melisandre claims the attack will fall there when asked by Jon. She takes Jon to her chambers, where she suggests sending "Rattleshirt" south to save Arya. When Jon protests, she reveals Mance's true identity to him. Claiming to be a bard named "Abel", Mance travels to Winterfell with six spearwives to rescue Arya.
Melisandre's second prediction comes true when Alys Karstark—not Arya—arrives at Castle Black, fleeing from her cousin Cregan, who wants to force a marriage between them as to lay claim on Karhold. Selyse Florent, who has arrived from Eastwatch, agrees to marry Alys to Sigorn, the Magnar of the Thenns, and Melisandre performs the ceremony. The priestess thinks that Patchface, the fool with Selyse, is dangerous.
When Jon plans to send men to Hardhome on a rescue mission, Melisandre urges him not to, claiming it is a lost cause and that she has seen that none of Cotter Pyke's rescue ships will return. Despite Melisandre's warnings to Jon, he is betrayed in the mutiny at Castle Black.
Quotes by Melisandre
Melisandre: The night is dark and full of terrors.
Cressen: Only children fear the dark.—Melisandre and Cressen
—Davos Seaworth and Melisandre
These little wars are no more than a scuffle of children before what is to come. The one whose name may not be spoken is marshaling his power, Davos Seaworth, a power fell and evil and strong beyond measure. Soon comes the cold, and the night that never ends. Unless true men find the courage to fight it. Men whose hearts are fire.—Melisandre to Davos Seaworth
—Melisandre to Davos Seaworth
Melisandre: When I gaze into the flames, I can see through stone and earth, and find the truth within men's souls. I can speak to kings long dead and children not yet born, and watch the years and seasons flicker past, until the end of days.
Jon: Are your fires never wrong?Melisandre: Never ... though we priests are mortal and sometimes err, mistaking this must come for this may come.
—Melisandre and Jon Snow
We all must choose. Man or woman, young or old, lord or peasant, our choices are the same. We choose light or we choose darkness.—Melisandre before the execution of "Mance Rayder"
With Stannis gone, her bed saw little use. She had no time for sleep, with the weight of the world upon her shoulders. And she feared to dream. Sleep is a little death, dreams the whisperings of the Other, who would drag us all into his eternal night. She would sooner sit bathed in the ruddy glow of her red lord's blessed flames, her cheeks flushed by the wash of heat as if by a lover's kisses.—Melisandre's thoughts
Quotes about Melisandre
Many called her beautiful. She was not beautiful. She was red, and terrible, and red.—Cressen's thoughts
Half my knights are afraid even to say her name, did you know? If she can do nothing else, a sorceress who can inspire such dread in grown men is not to be despised. A frightened man is a beaten man. And perhaps she can do more. I mean to find out.
She spoke to me. We called the fire, she said. We called the shadows too. I rowed Melisandre into the bowels of Storm's End and watched her birth a horror. She killed Cressen and Lord Renly and a brave man named Cortnay Penrose, and she killed my sons as well. Now it is time someone killed her.
—Jon Snow's thoughts
—Jon Snow's thoughts
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 10, Davos I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 17, Cersei IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 17, Jon IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 31, Melisandre I.
- A Clash of Kings, Prologue.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 54, Davos V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 75, Samwell IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 10, Jon III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 28, Jon VI.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 36, Davos IV.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 63, Davos VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 42, Davos II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 76, Jon XI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 31, Catelyn III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 3, Jon I.
- So Spake Martin: Asshai.com Interview in Barcelona, July 28, 2012
- George R. R. Martin's A World of Ice and Fire, Melisandre.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 25, Davos III.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 53, Jon XI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 15, Tyrion III.
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 69, Tyrion IX.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 33, Catelyn IV.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 44, Tyrion X.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 45, Catelyn VI.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 52, Sansa IV.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 58, Davos III.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 62, Sansa VII.
- A Clash of Kings, Chapter 65, Sansa VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 10, Davos II.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 67, Jaime VIII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 5, Davos I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 51, Catelyn VII.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 60, Tyrion VIII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 9, Davos I.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 73, Jon X.
- A Storm of Swords, Chapter 78, Samwell V.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 5, Samwell I.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 15, Samwell II.
- A Feast for Crows, Chapter 35, Samwell IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 35, Jon VII.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 21, Jon V.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 37, The Prince of Winterfell.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 44, Jon IX.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 49, Jon X.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 69, Jon XIII.
- A Clash of Kings, Prologue.