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In the first book of "A Song of Ice And Fire" they mention "pinchfire":

"Inside the manse, the air was heavy with the scent of spices, pinchfire and sweet lemon and cinnamon. They were escorted across the entry hall, where a mosaic of colored glass depicted the Doom of Valyria. Oil burned in black iron lanterns all along the walls."

What do you think it is?

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Will be interested to see if anyone has an authoritative answer, I couldn't find one. Suspect it's somethin like a really hot capsicum or cumin that you only use a pinch of :) – Stan Feb 8 '14 at 20:25
up vote 15 down vote accepted

Pinchfire is one of several herbs and spices that were seemingly invented by GRRM for his various "Thrones" books to give it an 'other-worldly' feel.

There's a pretty complete list of all plants mentioned in the GoT book "A Song of Ice and Fire" here.

The more obviously fictional ones include;

  • Pinchfire
  • Firepods
  • Sting-me-not
  • Daggerleaf
  • Goldenheart
  • Sandbeggar
  • Sourleaf
  • Spiceflower
  • Waspwillow
  • Prickly Ben &
  • Harpy's Gold

As far as what it actually smells like, it's worth noting that before the advent of deodorant (and toilet paper) herbs and spices were used in great quantities to disguise human smells and to freshen clothing. My personal guess is that pinchfire would be in the same league as cloves or myrrh

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Are the herbs / spices themselves made up or are they just made up names for 'real world' ones ? Of course, there may be no way to tell. The name 'pinchfire' suggests something like a hot capsicum or cumin powder. – Stan Feb 8 '14 at 20:30
I've seen no canon explanation that they're based on real-world herbs and spices. I'm assuming the author must have had something in mind when he wrote it but some of the plants like Sourleaf (similar to tobacco except red) and Weirwood (a white-wooded tree with red leaves and sap) are clearly totally fictitious – Valorum Feb 8 '14 at 20:31
Agree that author had to have something in mind. Interesting that you guess pinchfire would be like cloves / myrrh while I guess (based on the name) a hot capsicum. Anyway +1 – Stan Feb 8 '14 at 20:35
I'm basing it on the sorts of herbs and spices that would have been burned in a medieval mansion house but it is, as I've noted, a complete shot-in-the-dark guess. For the record, burning capsicum would result in a sort of teargas that would choke and blind people who came into contact; – Valorum Feb 8 '14 at 20:36
Sourleaf is probably closer to betel leaf. From GRRM's other books, I know he likes to make compound names for various fictional things - lizard-lion, shadowcat, and yes, pinchfire are pretty typical of GRRM's favored naming conventions. Every writer has their quirks. – Joe L. Jul 17 '14 at 20:43

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