Melisandre is the mysterious and beautiful Red Woman in Game of Thrones. The character is played to perfection by Dutch actress Carice Van Houten, and has become one of the most talked about characters on the show. While we know a bit more about her in the books and can put together some potential theories, we still know very little. In the show, Melisandre’s backstory is one of the vaguest of any character. We’ve seen her display some incredible power and she seems to have a direct line to a higher godlike power, but no one knows for sure what to believe. Are we being deceived or is she really as powerful as she seems? What is her history? What is her future? These are the questions everyone’s been dying to have answered. No, we can’t answer anything for sure, but we can start filling in some of the blanks for you.
There is a clear division between the books, The Song of Ice and Fire and the television show, Game of Thrones. Since these two have started to separate, much of the foresight given to us from the books has become useless, but not everything. Knowing who Melisandre is in the books can still inform what might happen in the show. We don’t want to only focus on what “could happen” but it is fun to try and connect the dots in her story. Plus, within each of the theories and unsolved mysteries is accurate information that many do not know, information that is intimately connected to Melisandre. Maybe you can take this information and build your own theories or draw your own conclusions. Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About GoT’s Melisandre.
15. Who is She?
We’ll get into her powers a little later on, but in order to make all this information make sense, we have to start with what we know. In season six, we finally learned something specific about Melisandre. Up to this point, the show had been very secretive about who the woman truly was. When she took off her necklace, however, we saw Melisandre’s beauty and youth fade away. In her place was a very old woman, some of the writers say she’s centuries old. van Houten herself said she’s 400 years old. We know from the books, that the magic she’s using to change her image is called a glamor. She’s used it in other places in the books and the ruby necklace seems to be a key component. This means that Melisandre is likely someone important from another time. After all, why give her the ability to live through the ages if that’s not going to be something of note later on? We have some ideas.
14. Tools of Her Trade
It’s important to recognize that Melisandre doesn’t perform magic on her own, or at least that’s what it seems. She requires tools, like the glamor necklace, to change her appearance. Like other sorceresses in history, Melisandre uses her beauty to manipulate others. We’ve seen her seduce multiple men, even trying to seduce Jon Snow, to gain their favor. She changes her appearance to appear beautiful in order to weaken the wills of man. At one point, Selyse, Stannis’ wife, walks in on Melisandre in the bath. Though the necklace is off, we still see Melisandre’s beauty. But Selyse is acting weird. Can she see Melisandre’s true form already? When Melisandre asks Selyse to hand her a blue vial, which could be another tool used for glamoring, she says to Selyse, “Most of these powders and potions are lies. Deceptions to make men think they witnessed our Lord’s power. Once they step into his light, they’ll see the lie for what it was – a trick that led them to the truth.” The necklace she wears also glows red when it performs complex magic, like stifling the effects of poison from very early on.
13. Melisandre The Slave
Though it may prove that Melisandre does not have the same history in the show as she does the books, it’s likely that they are the same. In the books, we learn that Melisandre was once a slave named Melony. We know that she was from the city of Asshai and was sold to temple of the Lord of Light as a little girl. In one of her memories, she recalls a woman’s voice yelling her name. This might have been her mother. One of the trademarks of slaves of the Lord of Light is a teardrop tattoo, but we don’t see this on Melisandre, though it could be glamored off or hidden. Her roots as a slave could become very important at some point, so hold onto that nugget of information.
12. Who Are The Red Priests and Priestesses?
We’ve met a couple of red priests in the show and a few more in the books, but who are they exactly? In the show, we know Thoros of Myr, the priest with the flaming sword who brought Beric Dondarrion back to life several times. We know he’s done the same with others as well. We know the Red Priests, Priestesses and other followers of the Lord of Light are much more fanatical than most, but we have seen them demonstrate powerful magic as well, like springing fire from blood, raising the dead and seeing prophecies come true. There are questions with how this is actually happening. These magical users have shown doubt in their abilities and they’ve been wrong before, seeing visions that were close but not exact to the events that would take place. We know a few things for sure. One, Melisandre is very high ranking. When we see her with Thoros, we see that she is his superior. We also know that she is at the forefront of the Lord of Light’s mission, as if she is the leader of her order. All of the priests and priestesses are linked through clothing (hexagonal patterns) and/or jewelry—many wear jewels or similar necklaces to Melisandre’s.
11. She Could Be The Daughter of Sheira Seastar
The theory that Melisandre is the daughter of a sorceress called Sheira Seastar is one of the most prevalent Game of Thrones theories out there. Granted it is entirely founded in the books, so the show could just avoid it altogether, even if it is true. Sheira Seastar was the last bastard child to King Aegon IV Targaryen. She is said to have bathed in virgin blood to keep her youth. The major connection between Sheira and Melisandre is in their physical descriptions. Both are said to be incredibly beautiful with slender waists, full breasts and heart-shaped faces. This relation is important for a number of reasons, which we will get to shortly, but, if nothing else, it connects Melisandre to the Targaryen family.
10. She Could Be A Targaryen
Not only could Melisandre be a Targaryen through her mother’s side, but the Targaryen theory continues on through her potential father as well. In the legends of Sheira Seastar, it is known that “Her most ardent admirer was her half-brother, Bloodraven [Brynden Rivers/Targaryen], who proposed marriage to her half a hundred times. Shiera gave him her bed, but never her hand. It amused her more to make him jealous.” Though it is never explicitly stated whether Shiera and Bloodraven had a child, we do know they were together. Oh, Bloodraven, if you’re wondering, had another nickname, the three-eyed crow. This means that Melisandre could be the child of Bran’s mentor, the old greenseer beyond the wall.
9. Will Melisandre Be The Red Star Bleeding?
Now that we know who Melisandre could be, we might be able to understand her big prophecy better. The main thing Melisandre talks about is the return of Azor Ahai. Of this she says, “It is written in prophecy as well. When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” If Melisandre is the daughter of Sheira and the Bloodraven, it would certainly explain her looks. She seems to be the perfect balance between the two characters, tall, white skin, beautiful, wears red and hoods and is a sorceress with prophetic visions. Also, if these are her parents, Melisandre could be the “red star” from the prophecy. Melony Seastar would be her name. In some cases, when she sees a vision, she bleeds as well. She seems be a leading candidate for the “red star bleeding”? Might she need to die for Azor Ahai to be reborn?
8. Could Melisandre Be Maggy The Frog?
A long time ago, we heard that Cersei saw a witch when she was young. She learned from the witch (Maggy the Frog) that her children would have gold crowns and gold shrouds, which they all did have. The witch also said that her brother would end up killing her. Predictably, Cersei has always thought this would be Tyrion, but that’s not why we’re here. The fact that we were reminded of this prophecy in the same episode that we learned Melisandre could change her image has led many to believe these two women might be the same prophets. It is possible. Both women were said to come from the east and Asshai is known to be home to the dark arts. Still, many red priestesses seem to have power of prophecy, so nothing is for certain.
7. She Guest Starred in The Simpsons
Technically, the character Annika Van Houten in The Simpsons has only one thing in common with Melisandre; they’re both voiced by Carice Van Houten. It’s still amazing though. This guest appearance started as a little joke because Carice and Millhouse have the same last name. Carice was contacted by some of the writers on The Simpsons, who are apparently huge GoT fans. After talking for a while, someone pitched the idea that Carice come on and voice Millhouse’s cousin, Annika, and it was given the go-ahead. In the episode “Let’s Go Fly a Coot,” Annika comes to America from Amsterdam and Millhouse and Bart develop some feelings for her.
6. She Doesn’t Eat or Sleep
In the show, it’s left a little unclear, but the books tell us something strange about Melisandre, she rarely eats and barely sleeps. When she does sleep, it’s only for about an hour. We also know that she avoids sleep because of bad dreams. As for food, this is what was written from Mel’s point-of-view: “Food. Yes, I should eat. Some days she forgot. R’hllor provided her with all the nourishment her body needed, but that was something best concealed from mortal men.” This is oddly similar to Beric Dondarrion, a man who’s been brought back to life many times. Arya notes that she never sees him eat and when he sleeps, she’s not sure if he’s actually out or just closing his eyes. Also, note the point about “mortal men.”
5. She’s One Of Several Shadowbinders
We’ve seen Melisandre do some remarkable things with shadows. In the show, we had two events from the books merged into one, but both accomplished the same task. The big moment was when Melisandre birthed Stannis’ shadow, which killed Renly Baratheon. We learn that some Red Priestesses are called shadowbinders, like Quaithe, whom Daenerys met in season two. This type of witchcraft is noted as one of the worst in all the lands. Also, note the connections between the different shadows, shadows that come from the Lord of Light, the shadow babies, and the White Walkers. In a number of places in the books and the show, the walkers are connected to shadows, even called “The white shadows” by Jon. It might be that the Red God and the Night’s King are more closely related than we think.
4. Her Powers of Resurrection
The powers of resurrection in the world of the Game of Thrones are probably the most powerful of all. Melisandre demonstrated that she has the power of resurrection, just as Thoros does. Each time someone is brought back, they appear to lose memories from their past lives. But keep in mind who brings people back from the dead. Again, we have a connection between the two major God-like powers, the Red God and the Others. Both are able to bring the dead back to life. In answer to the convenient deaths in comic books, George R.R. Martin wanted to create a story where death is more permanent and more impactful. Those that do come back still have physical damage, claiming they aren’t quite whole. This makes us wonder what will happen to those who have returned from the dead. Melisandre is unsure of her ability to bring Jon back, which makes it seem like she’s only able to do it because of the supercharged magic in the world.
3. Is She Being Controlled?
This observation relates to the mysterious power of resurrection that both the Lord of the Light followers and the Others have. In season 2, episode 10, we see Stannis strangling Melisandre. After she drops to the floor, she rises in a strange zombie-like way. Even the director of the episode commented that this made it look like she was coming back to life. When asked about this, Martin said, “My characters who come back from death are worse for wear. In some ways, they’re not even the same characters anymore. The body may be moving, but some aspect of the spirit is changed or transformed, and they’ve lost something.” So, it may be that those who are returned to life by Melisandre and friends may not be so different from white walkers. They too may even be controlled by someone or something else, maybe they just don’t know it yet.
2. Is Melisandre Good or Evil?
Nothing in Game of Thrones is black and white or good and evil. There are always multiple sides to every story and several shades of gray in every person. For this reason, we should expect the same from every person and being, even the so-called Gods. So, Melisandre is following the Lord of Light. Just the name alone suggests good, but we know that he requires sacrifices and has some black magic attached to him. What about the other major force, the Others? Well, their name suggests they should be evil, but this is the 21st century. We know that “othering” takes place out of misunderstanding and fear. Think about who the lord of light represents. There seems to be some Prometheus or Satanic imagery going on here. Hell, the name Lightbringer in Latin is Lucifer. Does this mean he’s bad? No. But for that reason, the Others should not be seen as pure evil either. That being said, Lucifer was known for tricks and manipulation, so it’s quite possible that Melisandre is simply a pawn for a greater power. But it’s a tricky question. Both Lucifer and Prometheus were, in a way, friends of man but the enemies of the Gods. Which side is evil?
1. Her Powers Are Stronger At The Wall
We learned something amazing in Melisandre’s point-of-view chapter in the books, but we haven’t necessarily seen it play out on screen yet. We learned that her powers are stronger at the wall than anywhere else, even in Asshai. What does that mean? It might mean that she’s growing stronger every day. It’s been said that since dragons have returned, fire and light-based magic have grown stronger, but it seems that all forms of magic have gotten stronger. Also, we know the wall is made from age-old magic, but we don’t know what it’s for. We’re told it was built to keep the Others out of Westeros, but what if it was built to keep something else out of the North? Maybe the Lord of Light and his power doesn’t originate in the West like we’ve been led to believe. What if Melisandre’s powers are getting stronger because she’s getting closer to the source? So many questions.