Game of Thrones Season 8 Teaser Analysis: The Forks in the River

In case you missed it, today we got our first teaser trailer from the upcoming final season of Game of Thrones and it has lit the fandom on fire speculating about the details contained in the 55-second animation. Relatively short, no actors or scenes from the upcoming season actually appeared in it. We in this community have a reputation of overanalyzing every little thing that comes out of HBO, and I’m here to uphold that fine tradition. Let’s dive right in and see what we can tease out of the upcoming season in this animation.

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Flaming Lion and Frozen Direwolf

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The teaser begins with an image of the Painted Table of Aegon the Conqueror at Dragonstone where we last saw Daenerys and her small council making war plans. A slow mist rolls out of the North freezing figurines of a direwolf, a dragon and then the entire North as its fingers of frost reach south. In response, a fire appears in the South and begins sweeping North to meet the mist. The flames engulf a Lannister lion and eventually the entire southern part of the map.

The meanings here are clear, the White Walkers are represented by the mist rolling from the Wall freezing everything in their path. The frozen dragon representing Viserion. The implication for the Starks though is rather grim. The direwolf represents Winterfell, so this implies that the castle will fall before the armies of the dead.

And if the symbolism of Viserion holds, perhaps some of the Starks may even join the army of the damned. An often forgotten fact of Winterfell is that the Crypts of Winterfell contain thousands of years of Stark corpses. Kings of Winter, Wardens of the North, brothers and sisters of house Stark all buried in tombs. Should the White Walkers breach the Walls and the Crypts, the long dead Kings of Winter may join the army of the Night King. Or perhaps more recent members of the family, such as Rickon or Lyanna Stark- or some of the remaining Stark living like Bran, Sansa, Arya, or Jon.

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The blazing lion figurine as well likely spells doom for its signature house. By the end of last season, Cersei is alone. Jaime has deserted her when she indicated she would break her bargain with Dany and Tyrion. Her armies are severely reduced after Drogon and the Dothraki destroyed them in the Loot Train battle. If Dany suspects treachery out of the sitting Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, Casterly Rock or the Red keep may get the Harrenhal treatment. In addition, while Jaime has become a formidable general his own battle prowess is still pitiful without his dominant hand. And he’s still reviled across the kingdom as the Kingslayer, the man without Honor as well as having Bran Stark’s attempted murder looming over him like it did for Littlefinger. Tyrion isn’t safe either going into this conflict, his primary weapon remains his mind and as he’s joked in the past he hasn’t found a way to kill anyone with it yet. The fiery doom of House Lannister in this teaser looms as ever present as it does for the Starks.
2. The Wall of Glass

The climax of the trailer is when the waves of fire and ice meet in the middle of Westeros. They crash into each other like a horse charge slamming into a shield wall and from that some sort of crystal erupts from the ground. The first thought is that this is dragonglass, or obsidian, being formed from the collision of the opposing primal forces. Dragonglass is often called frozen fire for good reason, it is magma from volcanoes that rapidly cools before it has a chance to form crystals. Such as when magma erupts from the ground and slams into water, which works for this symbolic collision. It is unclear if this is meant to be taken literally, that as Daenerys and her forces meet the Night King in combat and fissures will open up, and dragonglass will be formed in large amounts.
Some fans are taking this as a “new wall” to replace the previously destroyed one. Seeing as the White Walkers are destroyed by the substance at a touch, this would be a very effective barrier for them.

The less tinfoily view of this is that their battleground will be destructive in a way that only natural disasters can produce. A battle front hundreds of miles long, dragons laying down swathes of fire, the freshly slain rising against their own comrades, total destruction of the landscape. Even if the armies of the living win, all of Westeros will never be the same. For perhaps another 5000-1000 years. Either way, a cataclysm of some sort is being hinted at strongly.
3. The Trident

The most intriguing part of this epic scene showing ice and fire clashing is where the fight is happening. Because this is the painted table of Aegon, the same one used as a model in the opening sequences of the show and by Stannis and later Dany, we can actually pick out where this clash is happening on the map. Just by eyeballing it, the two appear to meet right in the middle of Westeors which is in the Riverlands around the Trident, Harrenhal, Riverrun, and the Twins. Taking a closer look and we can actually see the three forks of the river Trident acting as a boundary between ice and fire. And this is no accident or a convenient place for the animations to meet. The Trident and its forks have enormous foreshadowing and history behind them as the battleground between life and death.

The most recent example is the fateful duel between the rebel Robert Baratheon and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. The royal army led by Rhaegar finally met Robert in battle just east of the three forks of the Trident at what would be known as the Ruby Ford. It was named not only for the rubies that erupted from Rhaegar’s breastplate when Robert’s warhammer caved it in, but the enormous amounts of blood spilled into the river from the battle. Interestingly this moment is one that swayed history in a major way away from Rhaegar’s plans.
Unbeknownst to most people in the realm, Rhaegar was heavily interested in prophecy and the return of dragons. Related from Maester Aemon in the books,
Rhaegar, I thought . . . the smoke was from the fire that devoured Summerhall on the day of his birth, the salt from the tears shed for those who died. He shared my belief when he was young, but later he became persuaded that it was his own son who fulfilled the prophecy, for a comet had been seen above King’s Landing on the night Aegon was conceived, and Rhaegar was certain the bleeding star had to be a comet. What fools we were, who thought ourselves so wise! – A Feast for Crows, Samwell IV
He believed that Rhaegar would return from the Trident, depose the Mad King in a Great Council, and make sure the realm was prepared for the inevitable return of the darkness and the Long Night. As was related to Jaime Lannister:
Rhaegar had put his hand on Jaime’s shoulder. “When this battle’s done I mean to call a council. Changes will be made. I meant to do it long ago, but . . . well, it does no good to speak of roads not taken. We shall talk when I return.” A Feast for Crows, Jaime I
Had Rhaegar won the day and returned victorious, the White Walkers may never have invaded. This is the nature of the Trident and the surrounding areas like Harrenhal, the God’s Eye, the Isle of Faces, High Heart, and the Inn at the Crossroads. Long before Rhaegar, the fate of kings and wars and Westeros itself swung wildly.
Harrenhal was the seat of Black Harren Hoare and the single largest castle ever constructed in Westeros. Aegon the Conqueror burned the castle and roasted its owners alive from Balerion as a show of force for what happens when you resist the Dragon.
King Maegor the Cruel secured his throne in a battle known as the “Battle Beneath the Gods Eye” where he lead his army from Balerion the Black Dread’s back against his nephew Prince Aegon Targaryen. When Maegor killed Aegon and his dragon, it secured his rule for another five bloody and horrific years. Similarly Prince Daemon Targaryen and Prince Aemond “One-Eye” Targaryen fought another battle on dragonback in what was known as the “Battle Above the Gods Eye” for control of Westeros. In this battle though, both riders and dragons died and fell into the sacred waters of the Gods Eye.
The Inn at the Crossroads is the very same inn where the Starks and Lannisters were staying on their way back from Winterfell when Arya and Joffrey fought, and Mycah and Lady were killed. It’s the inn where Catelyn and Ser Rodrik run into Tyrion Lannister and place him under arrest for the attempted murder of Bran Stark. Also where Hot Pie ends up working and Arya decides between murdering Cersei and returning home to Winterfell.
But the most important historical event, especially with this teaser in mind, is the surrender of King Torrhen Stark. Aegon, his sisters, their dragons, and their enormous army stood on one side of the Trident and King Torrhen’s Northern army stood on the other. Torrhen heard from his scouts the smoking ruin of Harrenhal and the enormous loss of life at the Field of Fire, but he had fateful choices in front of him. With the might of Aegon, the smart move for the North was a surrender. However the Northern Lords behind him urged that they fight against Aegon anyway, they were Northerners and tough and they wouldn’t surrender their lands easily. And then one final option from Torrhen’s bastard brother, Brandon Snow. Brandon offered to kill all three dragons, almost assuredly with weirwood arrows, and then they would try and beat the Targaryens and their new allies on the field of battle.
Torrhen chose wisely and knelt, however this is the original conflict of ice and fire at the Trident. A moment of destiny, a fork in the river, a single choice. If you recognize the name Torrhen Stark it’s because he was brought up last season prominently in the scene between Daenerys and Jon where she demands Jon kneel. The parallels between Torrhen and Aegon, Jon and Daenerys, and the dragons and the White Walkers are very intriguing as we head into the last season. Especially with this curious dream from Dany in the books.
That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened. – A Storm of Swords, Daenerys III
The stage is set for fire and ice to meet once again at the Trident. The names of the Forks foreshadow the conflict itself. The Red, Blue, and Green Forks are the three branches of the river. Red being fire, blue being ice, green being life. The Trident splits between these three choices and concepts, and as does fate itself. How will it play out this time?
Will the King of Winter kneel again to the dragons? Will we get another Battle above and beneath the Gods Eye? A Targaryen prince dying in the river with his love’s name on his lips? The Trident is where the fate of Westeros will be decided. And to quote the poem that inspired the name of the series “A Song of Ice and Fire”, Fire and Ice by Robert Frost:

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

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