- "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, and the Red God, is a deity widely worshiped in the continent of Essos. The Lord of Light has been described as a "fire god" and its clergy "fire priests", as worship of the Lord of Light centers around fire and light. It is the majority religion in several of the Free Cities, and extends to Asshai in the distant east. Worship of the Lord of Light is almost unheard of in Westeros.
The religion of the Lord of Light is centered on belief in the existence of a single, all-powerful god. The Lord of Light is the god of fire, which provides light, heat, and life, and struggles against darkness, cold, and death.
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 Faith of the Seven, 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.
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.
Most of the worship practices of the Lord of Light involve fire. This can range from simple bonfires, to some extreme cases advocating human sacrifice 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.
In temples of the Lord of Light, Red Priests conduct bonfires and sing prayers each night, beseeching the Lord of Light to bring back the dawn.
The common prayer of the followers of the Lord of Light uses the line "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 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' household, including Matthos Seaworth, though his father Ser Davos remains sceptical. 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 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.
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. Thoros rather unapologetically admitted he failed.
In the books
In the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, the Lord of Light religion a strong dualistic belief, focused on the struggle between the Lord of Light, the one true god, and the evil false deity known as the "Great Other". The Lord of Light is the god of fire, which provides light, heat, and life. The Great Other, his eternal enemy, represents darkness, cold, ice, and death.
R'hllor is a popular deity in the continent of Essos, worshiped extensively in several of the Free Cities. His symbol is a heart surrounded by fire. The Temple of the Lord of Light in Volantis is larger than the Great Sept of Baelor. There are several different major religions in Essos, but unlike in Westeros few are very widespread, instead each nation or city possessing numerous local religions. However, the Lord of Light religion is probably the most widespread religion in Essos, with worship 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.
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. 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 worshippers 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.
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 and Manichaeism, which the R'hllor religion also resembles in some respects.
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'llor" 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' 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".
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. Embarrassingly, given that this was the first and only time within the first three seasons that the proper name "R'hllor" has been given, the name was mispelled in the on-screen subtitles as "R'hollor". Language creator David J. Peterson explained in a Twitter post 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 in the subtitles. However, Peterson stressed 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. It is hoped that the eventual Blu-ray release of Season 3 will correct this.
There is some confusion within the television show between R'hllor and the God of Death, a god worshipped by the Faceless Men and Syrio Forel. This stems from a piece of dialogue spoken in the show by Jaqen H'ghar. He refers to the god he worships (presumably the God of Death, as he is a Faceless Man) as the "Red God", another name for R'hllor. Later, the words "Valar Morghulis" and "Valar Dohaeris", which in the books are used by and to refer to Faceless Men, are instead used between worshippers of R'hllor. This confusion has yet to be cleared up within the show. A possible 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 just just another facet of the god of death.
- HBO viewers guide, season 2 appendix, Gods Old and New entry
- "The North Remembers"
- "The North Remembers"
- "The Climb"
- "Cripples, Bastards and Broken Things"
- "Garden of Bones"
- "The North Remembers"
- "The Night Lands"
- "Garden of Bones"
- "The Ghost of Harrenhal"
- "And Now His Watch is Ended"
- "Kissed by Fire"
- "The Climb"
- "Kissed by Fire"
- David J. Peterson's Twitter feed
- David J. Peterson's blog, May 8th, 2013.
- R'hllor at A Wiki of Ice and Fire (major spoilers from the books)
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