- "Lord of Light! Come to us in our darkness. We offer you these false gods. Take them and cast your light upon us. For the night is dark and full of terrors."
- ―Melisandre prays to R'hllor
R'hllor, alternatively known as the Lord of Light (High Valyrian: Āeksios Ōño), is a deity widely worshiped on the continent of Essos. The Lord of Light has been described as a "fire god" and its clergy "fire priests", as His worship centers around fire and light.
He is also known as the Red God, the Heart of Fire, and the God of Flame and Shadow.
The religion of the Lord of Light is centered on belief in the existence of two deities, in the words of Melisandre: "A god of light and love and joy, and a god of darkness, evil, and fear, eternally at war." R'hllor is the god of fire, which provides light, heat, and life, and struggles against darkness, cold, and death, represented by an opposing deity, the Great Other.
Due to the dualistic worldview of this religion, its more fanatical followers believe the Lord of Light is the "one true god", and all other gods from other religions - the Old Gods of the Forest, the Seven-Faced God, the Drowned God, etc. - are demons and false idols that must be cast down and burned.
The Lord of Light's worship involves the idolization of fire and light. Shadows are important too as they are "created by light". The religion is very focused on prophecy, and on ecstatic visions that are received through communion with the flames. Melisandre claims to receive visions about the future from the Lord of Light by staring into fires.
While the Faith of the Seven believes in Seven Heavens and Seven Hells, this religion states that the current world that everyone lives in now is considered to be "hell", the only hell, but the Lord of Light will save his faithful adherents from this darkness.
The followers of the Lord of Light also believe in the coming of a chosen warrior to combat the coming darkness, the Prince That Was Promised, who is prophesied to be reborn "amidst smoke and salt" and wield the sword Lightbringer.
- "The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned."
- ―Tyrion Lannister
Most of the worship practices of the Lord of Light involve fire. This can range from simple bonfires, to some extreme cases advocating the sacrifice of nonbelievers by immolation. The symbol of the Lord of Light is a fiery heart. The religion is led by the "Red Priests", though both men and women can join the priesthood.
The common prayer of the followers of the Lord of Light begins, "The night is dark and full of terrors", followed by the response line, "Lord, cast your light upon us." When interacting with each other, Red Priests tend to speak High Valyrian and greet each other with the traditional Valyrian exchange valar morghulis/valar dohaeris, although this probably has more to do with the cultural background of most Red Priests than the religion itself.
Melisandre, a Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, has installed herself at the court on Dragonstone and has won the trust of King Stannis Baratheon. Under her influence Stannis has converted to the Lord of Light's religion. She believes that Stannis is the chosen servant of the Lord of Light who will destroy his enemies with the flaming sword Lightbringer. She also wins over many converts among Stannis's household, including Matthos Seaworth, though his father Ser Davos remains skeptical. Stannis has also taken the flaming heart, the symbol of the Lord of Light, as part of his personal sigil.
At a ceremony on the beach under the castle, Melisandre burns sacred religious artifacts from the Faith of the Seven, icon statues representing the Seven-Faced God, despite Maester Cressen's objections. Later, he tries to poison Melisandre by tainting his own cup of wine with the strangler and sharing it with her. As he lies dying, Melisandre reveals she is unaffected by the poison due to the protection of the Lord of Light.
Melisandre later seduces Stannis, promising to give him a son. She does become pregnant, but not with a human child. After the failed parley with Renly, she "gives birth" to a monstrous shadow creature in the caves below Renly's camp.
"Jaqen H'ghar", a Faceless Man, refers to the Red God as an aspect of the god of Death. He tells Arya Stark that she has stolen three deaths from the Red God: himself, Rorge, and Biter, likely because she had saved them from a death by fire. However, none of the assassinations performed thereafter are done by fire, leaving Jaqen's reasons for naming "the Red God" unclear, though it may refer to the blood shed often in killing.Beric Dondarrion, along with the members of the Brotherhood Without Banners, has converted to the religion of the Lord of Light. Dondarrion has died six times since he was sent to fight Gregor Clegane, and each time, Thoros of Myr has brought him back by praying to the Lord of Light. Melisandre reveals that Thoros of Myr was first sent to the Seven Kingdoms to convert Robert Baratheon to the Lord of Light's religion. Thoros admits he failed, rather unapologetically.
Selyse Florent, Stannis's wife and queen, is revealed to be a fanatical follower of the Lord of Light, to the point of taking pride and joy in her husband's infidelity with Melisandre as it was done in the service of their god."
Melisandre sacrifices three members of Stannis's household for their adamant refusal to tear down their "idols" of the Seven, Axell Florent among them. Despite being her brother, Queen Selyse watches the sacrifice with ecstatic delight, convinced she has seen their souls emerge from the bonfires and be taken by the Lord of Light. Later, Melisandre instructs Stannis's and Selyse's daughter, Shireen, on their religion, as Selyse believes the child is too stubborn and fears for her soul. Melisandre assures Shireen that her uncle Axell is in a better place now, though the child remains unconvinced, so the red woman tells her the Faith of the Seven and their Seven-Pointed Star is but a fable —there are only two gods, eternally at war: a god of light and love and joy, R'hllor, and a god of darkness, evil, and fear. Shireen asks whether there are seven heavens and seven hells, and Melisandre claims there is only one hell: the one they are living in right then and there, the life before death.
Melisandre sacrifices the princess Shireen Baratheon to the Lord of Light. She believes that sacrificing Shireen's life - which contains the power of a king's blood - will grant them the Lord of Light's favor, who in return will aid them in their time of need by lifting the blizzard. This act initially seems to work in their favor as the very next day the temperature climbs and the snow melts enough so that Stannis's army can march on Winterfell as planned. However, it is discovered that half of his forces deserted in the night and Selyse, who had a change of heart when her daughter was being sacrificed and tried to stop it (unlike before when her brother was being sacrificed), has since hanged herself. Stunned by these developments, Melisandre flees back to Castle Black while Stannis presses on toward Winterfell where he is ultimately defeated in battle.
After returning to Castle Black, Melisandre drops her glamour in a moment of privacy, revealing her true form as a withered, ancient woman. Later, at Ser Davos's urging, she prays for Jon Snow to be brought back to life. She is astonished to see that he is brought back, and tries to grill him about what he saw. Melisandre now believes that Jon, not Stannis, is the Prince That Was Promised.
Tyrion arranges a meeting with Kinvara, High Priestess of the Red Temple of Volantis and possibly one of the highest ranking of R'hllor's clerics. She firmly believes that Daenerys Targaryen is the Prince That Was Promised. Varys is more skeptical, being suspicious of any practitioners of magic, and points out that Melisandre had already declared Stannis Baratheon to be the Prince, only for him to be defeated twice.
Kinvara says that while the Lord of Light has a plan, the humans following him do occasionally make errors. Kinvara then assures Tyrion that she will send the preachers and priests best suited to the task at hand.
On the eve of the Battle of the Bastards, Jon asks Melisandre not to bring him back should he die again. Melisandre states that the Lord of Light is the one who brought him back and that she is just a conduit for his will. Thus, she makes it clear she wants to at least try, but will accept it if the Lord only wanted to bring Jon back the once.
Thoros proves R'hllor's power (or at least the existence of magical visions) to Sandor Clegane when he witnesses a vision in flames, of the Wall, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, and the wights. During the Wight Hunt, Sandor sees a mountain in the distance that he states is the same he saw within the flames. Eventually they find themselves being attacked by a wight snow bear and Thoros is injured. Though his wound is cauterized, he later dies during the frigid night while the group of men are seeking refuge in the center of a frozen lake; surrounded by the Night King's army of the dead. With Thoros now deceased, Beric is now aware that if he dies again, there will be no priest to bring him back to life.
Melisandre prays to R'hllor in High Valyrian to assist Winterfell in the Battle of Winterfell. After the first prayer, the arakhs of the Dothraki cavalry catch on fire, and after the second, the trench around Winterfell is lit.
After the battle, Davos ponders on the Lord of Light with Tyrion, expressing his frustration with how the Lord has apparently "fuck[ed] off" after defeating the White Walkers "for Him." Tyrion tells Davos that he would probably do better not thinking too much on the subject.
- "Stannis does not need to beg this lord or that lord for support. The Lord of Light stands behind him."
- "The night is dark and full of terrors."
- ―Common saying among worshipers of R'hllor.
- "Āeksios Ōño, aōhos ōñoso īlōn jehikās! Āeksios Ōño, īlōn mīsās! Kesrio syt bantis zōbrie issa se ossȳngnoti lēdys! (Lord of Light, cast your light upon us! Lord of Light, defend us! For the night is dark and full of terrors!)"
- ―Melisandre's High Valyrian prayer to R'hllor during the Battle of Winterfell
- Davos Seaworth: "Lord of Light. We play His game for Him, we fight His war and win, and then... He fucks off. No signs. No blessings. Who knows what He wants?"
- Tyrion Lannister: "I don't imagine thinking about that subject will leave you any happier than before."
- — Davos and Tyrion Lannister after the Battle of Winterfell[src]
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Lord of Light religion has a strong dualistic belief, focused on the struggle between the Lord of Light, the one true god, and the evil deity known as the "Great Other". The Lord of Light is the god of fire, which provides light, heat, and life. His symbol is a heart surrounded by fire. The Great Other, his eternal enemy, represents darkness, cold, ice, and death.
R'hllor is a popular deity throughout the continent of Essos, worshiped extensively in several of the Free Cities: The Temple of the Lord of Light in Volantis is said to be three times larger than the Great Sept of Baelor in King's Landing. There are many different religions throughout Essos, but few are very widespread, with each nation or city typically possessing numerous local religions (unlike the Faith of the Seven in Westeros). However, the Lord of Light religion is probably the most widespread religion in Essos, spanning from the Free Cities in the west to Asshai in the distant east. It isn't the majority religion in every city, i.e. it is a small minority in Braavos, but it is still present there. Nonetheless, it is in a plurality in many regions, and in the southern Free Cities such as Myr, Lys, and Volantis it is certainly the majority religion. When Jorah Mormont passes through Volantis a character known as the widow of the waterfront outright says to him that R'hllor has more followers in the city than the followers of all the other religions put together.
So far in the books, it isn't clear if the Lord of Light religion is controlled by one universal organization across the entire world, the way the Faith of the Seven is run by the hierarchy of the Most Devout and the High Septon, though there is a "High Priest" by the name of Benerro at the Temple in Volantis. There are clear leaders of the Lord of Light temples for each Free City, such as Volantis, but the relationship between the temples in Volantis, Lys, or Asshai is uncertain. Different "denominations" have not been stated to exist, but if Melisandre is any indication, adherents in Asshai are much more strict than worshipers in the Free Cities. Melisandre often advocates human sacrifice through immolation, but people from the Free Cities (such as Thoros of Myr) advocate a kinder and gentler version, stressing that the Lord of Light is a loving god.
The members of Stannis's court, who have converted to the faith of R'hllor, are known as the "Queen's men", alluding to the fact that Selyse was among the first in Dragonstone to convert, and is a vocal supporter of Melisandre and of her god, arguably more so than Stannis himself. By contrast, Davos and other members of Stannis's court who are also supporters of his cause but have kept the Faith of the Seven, are known as the "King's men".
Following the battle of the Blackwater, many of those who converted to R'hllor, nobles and commoners alike, renounce the new god and return to the gods they've known all their lives, figuring that R'hllor must be a feeble god to let his followers be chased off by a dwarf and a dead man.
According to George R.R. Martin, the R'hllor religion is strongly influenced by the real-life religion of Zoroastrianism. The central element it borrows is that it is a ditheistic religion: there is one true, "Good" God, locked in eternal combat with an evil deity. As part of this dualism R'hllor, who embodies light, fire, and heat, is opposed on the level of primordial forces by the "Great Other" who embodies cold and darkness. Zoroastrianism may have also influenced several later dualistic belief systems, such as Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Catharism, which the R'hllor religion also resembles in some respects. For example, in Gnostic belief, the material world was made by an evil, devil-like deity known as the Demiurge, who trapped the immaterial souls of humans in the physical world, while the true God is trying to free human souls from the evil physical world. Similarly, in the TV series Melisandre explained to Shireen that in the Lord of Light's religion, the current world of the living is essentially "hell", and the Lord of Light is trying to free his faithful followers from it. The Gnostic Demiurge is described in the Pistis Sophia as a being of "flame and shadow".
This however puts it at odds with the Zoroastrian faith is is supposedly based on, which stresses a lack of dualism between the physicality and spirituality to the point of denying asceticism. Additionally, the faith of R'hllor seems to discard free will, claiming that all of humanity are the Lord of Light's slaves, while free will is one of the most important tenets of Zoroastrian practice.
The proper name of the deity is "R'hllor", though he is alternatively called the Lord of Light or Red R'hllor. "R'hllor" might simply be the word for "Lord of Light" in the language of Asshai. As for how "R'hllor" is pronounced, in the third novel, A Storm of Swords, Davos at one point complains to Stannis that some of his followers are uncomfortable with such a foreign religion, and says of R'hllor that "the very name sounds queer on Westerosi tongues" and difficult to pronounce. Stannis disagrees and responds "R'hllor. Why is that so hard?" Later in the same novel, when Arya Stark encounters the Brotherhood Without Banners and first hears of the Lord of Light they follow, she echoes Davos's confusion by interjecting, "Who's Rulore?" - the text points out "she couldn't even say it", indicating that "Ru-lore" is not how to properly pronounce "R'hllor".
Behind the Scenes
- There is some confusion between R'hllor and the God of Death, a god worshiped by the Faceless Men and Syrio Forel. It stems from a piece of dialogue spoken by Jaqen H'ghar, both in the books and in the television show, in which he refers to the god he worships (presumably the God of Death, as he is a Faceless Man) as the "Red God" — that is, R'hllor. Later, solely in the show, the words "Valar Morghulis" and "Valar Dohaeris", which in the books are used by Faceless Men, are used once between worshipers of R'hllor. While this confusion has yet to be cleared up, a likely explanation lies in the fact that the "Many-faced God of Death" is a syncretic religion, which holds that every god or set of gods is just another facet of the god of death. Appropriately to this interpretation, a statue of a fiery heart can be seen amongst the other statues in main sanctuary of the House of Black and White (which was admittedly not seen until much later in the series.)
- The name "R'hllor" was first used in the TV series in the Season 3 episode "The Climb", in an exchange between Melisandre and Thoros of Myr in High Valyrian. However, the name was misspelled in the English subtitles as "R'hollor"; as this was the first time in the show that the proper name "R'hllor" was given, the impression was created that this was the proper High Valyrian rendering of it, or that the spelling had been changed for the series. Language creator David J. Peterson explained in Twitter that this was simply a typo. Peterson also explained on his blog that "R'hllor" is a word from the language of Asshai, far off in the east of Essos where the religion originated. Logically, people speaking High Valyrian would slur the pronunciation of a foreign word, which is the reason why Thoros pronounces it as "Rulloro" - which might explain the mistake. However, Peterson made it clear that the name was spelled correctly in the original translation he handed in, and the typo was made at some later point in the production process. The Blu-ray release of Season 3 corrected this typo.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 HBO viewers guide, season 2 appendix, Gods Old and New entry
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 "The Lion and the Rose"
- ↑ David Benioff on the Lord of Light
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 "The North Remembers"
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 "The Climb"
- ↑ "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 "Garden of Bones"
- ↑ "The Night Lands"
- ↑ 9.0 9.1 "The Ghost of Harrenhal"
- ↑ "And Now His Watch Is Ended"
- ↑ 11.0 11.1 "Kissed by Fire"
- ↑ "The Dance of Dragons"
- ↑ "The Red Woman"
- ↑ "Home"
- ↑ "The Door"
- ↑ "Battle of the Bastards"
- ↑ "Beyond the Wall"
- ↑ "The Long Night"
- ↑ "The Last of the Starks"
- ↑ "In Zoroastrianism (founded by the Persian prophet Zoroaster, 7th century bc), there is officially no place for asceticism. In the Avesta, the sacred scriptures of Zoroastrianism, fasting and mortification are forbidden, but ascetics were not entirely absent even in Persia." article "Asceticism" in Encyclopædia Britannica accessed June 21, 2004
- ↑ David J. Peterson's Twitter feed
- ↑ David J. Peterson's blog, May 8th, 2013.