Game Of Thrones: The Rules of Magic in the Seven Kingdoms

Resurrections. Photoshop face-swaps. Shadow babies. Mystical Kevlar. What exactly can and can’t magic do in Game Of Thrones?

This article originally appeared on Den of Geek UK.

Spoilers for anyone not up-to-date with Game of Thrones.

The greatest exchange in Star Wars: The Force Awakens is as follows:

Desperate, optimistic Finn: “We’ll figure it out! We’ll use the Force!”

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Withering Han: “That’s not how the Force works.”

Finn’s line is so funny because it’s preposterous. We’re right there with Han, shaking our heads and tsking “That’s not how the Force works, dummy. Jeez, what a prong.”

Except, Finn isn’t a prong. Having led what we can only assume to have been the fairly sheltered life of a career Stormtrooper, he just doesn’t know the rules. Finn lives in a universe where magic—call The Force what you like but that’s what it is—legitimately exists, but he hasn’t read the terms and conditions.

When you know the rules of a universe’s magic, all becomes clear. You understand why Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix couldn’t just borrow Charlie’s dragons to rain fiery hell from above all Voldemort’s crew (animal rights?) You see why Frodo didn’t whip that ring over to Mount Doom on the back of an eagle and get back in time for second breakfast (same). Know the rules and you understand the parameters.

Game Of Thrones has thus far been pretty hazy about the parameters where magic is concerned. We know that magic is definitely a thing in the Seven Kingdoms. Unburnt Dany, Jon Snow’s resurrection, and the murderous smoke monster that squeezed its way out of Melisandre’s nethers like the slyest of farts and did for Renly is proof of that. But what are the rules? We attempt to pin them down…

All men must die. But some men are more dead than others

There appear to be three ways to return from the dead on Game Of Thrones: resurrection by the Lord of Light; reanimation by the Night’s King, and Frankensteinism by Maester Qyburn.

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The first of these is the preferable option as you more or less come back as your old self, albeit “a bit less” in the words of Beric Dondarrion, whose resurrection loyalty card has been stamped so many times he gets his next go free. “Pieces of you get chipped away”, Ser Beric told Arya. We can assume he was speaking metaphorically but as this is Game Of Thrones, clarification would be useful.

From him, we know that the newly resurrected Jon Snow is still technically vulnerable to death, but as long as the Red Woman is still around to give his hair a trim, we can also assume it’s no biggie.

The Night’s King is Game Of Thrones’ most powerful player reanimation-wise, and he appears to be gaining in strength. In season four he converted a single baby from living to undead by laying a gnarled fingernail on its cheek, by season five he only had to slowly raise both arms and an entire bay of corpses awoke with the cold blue eyes of a contestant on The Apprentice. Him and his lot are basically unstoppable, unless you’re armed with Dragonglass or, say, three massive dragons.

Thus far, Maester Qyburn’s spooky basement laboratory has produced only one reanimated fellow: Frankenmountain, a Shrek-sized monster created from the fearsome corpse of Gregor Clegane and the even more fearsome vengeance of Cersei Lannister.

Not all women must die, as it happens

Melisandre, Priestess of the God of Light, is really old. Centuries old by some accounts. We know this because we saw her remove her ruby necklace at the end of the season six opener and turn instantly into Grandma Death from Donnie Darko. “That’s magic” her eyes seemed to say as she surveilled her ancient form in the looking glass and folded herself into bed. (Is that just how she sleeps? Her equivalent of taking off a tight bra at the end of a long day?)

The ruby necklace we conclude, is a magical artefact, explaining why it glows whenever Melisandre does a trick. It may well be the source of her rejuvenating glamor. Yes, there was that one time she took a bath not wearing it and remained as taut and perky as a member of The Saturdays, but that can be explained away because… look! A massive bird just flew past! Did you see? Right past the window. Ah, you must have missed it. Where were we?

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That’s right, poison. Seeing as she drank some and didn’t die in the season two opener, Melisandre is also either immune to poison, able to magic it into Ribena while nobody’s looking, or just plain invulnerable. The latter would explain why she’s all ‘whevs’ about personal security when it comes to galloping solo about the rape and murder hot spots of the Seven Kingdoms.  

Predicting the future is about as reliable as a coin toss

Melisandre’s confidence in what she sees in the flames has taken a knocking ever since Stannis didn’t, in fact, ride to victory at Winterfell but met with the pointy end of Brienne’s sword. Does that mean the rest of her predictions are all to be taken with a pinch of salt too? When she told Arya that they would meet again, or that Davos would play an important role in the coming battle between the living and the dead, or that the seas will freeze, was she right or wrong?

read more: Game of Thrones Season 8 Predictions and Theories

The Red Woman isn’t the only Cassandra in the Seven Kingdoms of course. As a tween, Cersei visited a witch who predicted the deaths of her three children as well as her own demise. So far, she’s two for three on the sprog-death, but as we’re about to see, in a world where all men must die, prophesying someone’s death is akin to prophesying that their hair will get longer.

Blood curses involving leeches might work

But they’re really slow to take effect. Towards the end of season three, the Red Priestess and Stannis cursed three usurpers using fire, worms, and Chris from Skins. Robb Stark died in the next episode, King Joffrey caught it in four episodes’ time, but it took Balon Greyjoy over two seasons to tumble off that rope bridge into the sea.

What does this tell us? Either the leech thing works with a highly unpredictable lead-time, or that given long enough, everyone in the Seven Kingdoms is destined to meet a grisly death anyway so leech-cursing them is the equivalent of flourishing your arms in front of the automatic doors at Morrisons to ‘make’ them open. It looks cool, undeniably, but it doesn’t mean you’re a wizard.

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Blood curses involving horses definitely work

Daenerys might be the Mhysa and mother of dragons, but thanks to a dodgy vengeful midwife and a dead horse, we’re told she won’t ever have her own biological kids (which poses the question of what happens further down the line should she be the one to end up on the Iron Throne. With no biological heir, are they going to have to start this whole thing again from the top?).

Exacting revenge for Dothraki violence, maegi Mirri Maz Duur used blood magic to curse Dany and Khal Drogo’s unborn son, who was prophesied to be the Stallion that Mounts the World. (Though seeing as he had wings, the prophesy should more properly have foretold his arrival as the Seagull that Flaps at the World. Or dragon. Let’s go with dragon.)

Smoking kills

Self-explanatory, really.

Magic gave Dany mystical Kevlar

Which is why she’s known as Daenerys the Unburnt, not Daenerys that pile of charred bones next to the recycling. Targaryens, as GRRM himself has settled, are not immune to fire. It was magic that meant that Dany didn’t burn her hands when handling her dragon eggs and it was definitely magic that meant only her clothes, and not her hair and eyebrows were burnt off when they hatched. Showrunner magic.

Dragons are magic signal boosters

Over two hundred years ago in the Seven Kingdoms, the last dragon died out, and with it went nearly all the magic. The relative lack of magic around in the intervening years is why most people in Westeros are so sniffy about it, as if trials by combat and enormous novelty pies make them the height of sophistication.

When Dany hatched her dragons though, the world got a magical boost. The warlocks of Qarth’s House of the Undying started being able to pull rabbits out of hats and unlink metal circles again. Maggy the Frog was able to predict twice the number of infant deaths. Melisandre’s mystical boob job was yanked north an inch or two. Probably.

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read more: Game of Thrones Season 8 – Everything We Know

But if the dragons are responsible for the magic, then where did the magic come from to hatch the dragons? Simply put, what came first, the magic or the (dragon) egg?

Magic has always existed beyond the wall

Which is why if you need to know something about magic, ask a Wildling.

Followers of the Lord of Light would say that the magic beyond the wall belongs to The Great Other “whose name must not be spoken” but who actually seems to have more names than Snoop Dogg. He’s known as the Lord of Darkness aka Soul of Ice aka The God of Night and Terror. His worshippers are the Cold Ones aka the White Walkers aka the subjects of the Night’s King.

It’s logical, if logic has a role to play here, that fire magic, which is to do with dragons and human sacrifice, and ice magic, which is to do with the blue-eyed freaks beyond the Wall and human sacrifice, are two elemental forces destined to battle one another.

Another separate elemental force also exists in the Seven Kingdoms, in the form of…

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Greenseer magic: like Netflix, but more immersive

Following the loss of the use of his legs, Bran’s other senses got stronger to compensate, like they say doesn’t really happen to people who lose the use of things. Specifically, it was Bran’s warging, green-seeing senses that got stronger.

Bran is currently sat under a tree binge-watching episodes of a Game Of Thrones prequel in which his dad’s head is still attached to his shoulders and Hodor’s name is Willis. All of this is preparation for him to warg into one of Dany’s dragons and burn up loads of White Walkers, we presume. He’s just doing the the theory element before his practical exam.

Other users of Greenseer magic are the Children Of The Forest, who are thousands of years old and look a bit like CITV’s Riddlers. They can throw fireballs that repel Harryhausen skeletons but the rest of their magical skill-set is yet to be confirmed.

The House of Black and White can do real-time Photoshop face-swaps but that’s about it

Have you seen Jaqen H’ghar do anything magical beyond swapping faces? Me neither.

So, some firm, set-in-stone rules to be going along with then. Glad that’s all cleared up.

Next mystery: Whatchoo talking about, Willis?

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