Speculations on A Song of Ice and Fire
Quaithe's Prophecies to Daenerys
Quaithe's relationship with Dany is complicated. The text is suggestive that she is far more familiar with Daenerys than their rather limited contact would allow.
There are two main predictions she has with Dany. The first is the most important: ‘To go north you must journey south. To reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back and to touch the light you have to pass beneath the shadow.’
This has caused all kinds of speculation, but I think the answer is not to assume they are a series of literal directions. Others have suggested that the directions actually refer to geographic locations rather than headings. This is highly likely. But they are also meant allegorically. What Quaithe is ultimately referring to is not just Dany taking the Iron Throne. This refers to her entire path to her future.
‘To reach the west you must go east.’
Here Quaithe is referring to geographic locations rather than directions. West means Kings Landing. East means Slavers Bay, which is west of Qarth where Dany hears the ditty, but is east of Kings Landing. This line refers specifically to Dany needing to acquire an army to retake the throne.
‘To go north you must journey south.’
This is easily the most confusing because it combines literal geography with allusion. North means Jon Snow. He represents the North. South means Dragonstone, which is where Dany will meet Jon. This line refers to her relationship/alliance/marriage to Jon.
‘To go forward you must go back.’
This is the easiest line of all. It has a double meaning, not only that she must embrace her Targaryen heritage, which she keeps rejecting. But also that she needs to return to Vaes Dothrak. I think the book is going to make a point of this. I believe the time will come when Dany will have the option of returning to Meereen, but she will make the conscious decision to return to Vaes Dothrak. In the show she wasn’t given the choice, but in the book she will.
‘To touch the light you will have to pass beneath the shadow.’
This is the most misunderstood because it doesn’t refer to geography at all. The shadow refers to the Long Night, although it can be interpreted as being the shadow caused by the volcanic cloud when Hardhome blows its top. The light of course is the final fulfillment of all her dreams. In other words, she must fight the War for the Dawn in order to achieve her goals. What her ultimate goals are, rule, domination, marriage, family, I let you decide.
Their second conversation is less useful even though it is less ambiguous.
Quaithe, like all prophets, speaks in riddles. This is because foresight is a very dangerous thing. Misinterpretation is very easy. Let me give you an example: let’s say you are Nostradamus. You look into your bowl and see two scenes. One is Gandhi making a speech before his followers. The second is the Luftwaffe bombing Warsaw. You don’t have any further information.
What is your interpretation? The most obvious and likely conclusion you will reach is that the first scene caused the second. But we know from history that it didn’t. Stripped of context a vision is just a picture. It conveys no information without knowing the background behind it. Oracles are ambiguous by definition, otherwise they wouldn’t be in business.
Quaithe’s second coming to Dany though isn’t a true prophecy. It is a straight up warning. This is because it isn’t from visions of the future, but knowledge of the present. It is what she sees in the here and now. We can tell this because it is inaccurate. Quaithe says a variety of people are coming, which is true at the moment she tells Dany. But some of those people, Young Griff and Old Griff notably, change their minds and go to Westeros instead. Dany never does meet them, nor will she. The explanation for this is likely that GRRM had originally intended for them to encounter Dany, but the story went in different directions.
So what is her warning?
'The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun's son and the mummer's dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.'
Who or what is she referring to?
Pale Mare: This is the disease which afflicts Meereen.
The Others: The reference to others is confusing. It could be a reference to the Others, or White Walkers. Or it could be a reference to the Slave Masters. Or it could just be talking about the others mentioned in her warning.
Kraken: This is obviously about Victarion and his Iron Fleet.
Dark Flame: This is Moqorro.
Lion: Tyrion (obviously).
Griffin: This is Old Griff because Young Griff is mentioned in the next line.
The Sun's Son: Dorian Martell's son Quentyn.
The Mummer's Dragon: As said, this is Young Griff. The Mummer is Varys.
What exactly is she saying here?
Her first reference is to glass candles. This is not just a warning that magic is now once again a force to be reckoned with. But also that people are watching.
She then warns Dany about the plague about to inflict Meereen and the coming of various people who have questionable motives. She specifically says to not trust any of them. With certain ones, kraken and lion, this is understandable because these are both people who have their own agendas which are not necessarily in her interest. Griffin, dark flame, and mummer's dragon are more questionable. Ostensibly these three are all on her side. We can infer that Quaithe believes their motives are not benevolent toward Daenerys. Of course, Quaithe's own motives are not above suspicion.
Since we don't know exactly who she is referring to when she says 'others' we will have to leave that for now.
Her comment to 'remember the undying' is a clear reminder of what Dany had seen within the House of the Undying. What is more curious is - how does Quaithe know about what Dany saw there? To the best of our knowledge she never spot about it to Quaithe.
Also, her warning about the perfumed seneschal. It is surprising so many people misinterpret this given that it is the most blatantly clear of any description possible. Raznak, who is not only Dany’s seneschal, but is also described as perfumed, is the one it has to be referring to. The only reason I can think of why so many people believe it refers to somebody else is because the reference is too obvious. Why she gives this warning is clear and is also a perfect example of why you can’t trust visions, even of present events. Quaithe almost certainly saw Raznak speaking to the harpies in her visions and this has led her to believe that he is the Harpy. But she’s wrong. Hizdahr is the Harpy. Raznak, along with the Green Grace, is merely his go-between who he uses to shield himself. This is discussed in its own article.
The final question regarding this communication is: what is its purpose? Quaithe is not sending this to Dany for the fun of it. She must feel there is a good chance Dany will trust one of them. What this means is that Dany is going to put faith in at least one of them. Probably Tyrion. And he is going to betray her in some fashion.
Its also a statement by GRRM to the readers that these are people to keep an eye on.