In Game of Thrones S08E05 The Bells, after Daenerys starts

burning King's Landing to the ground, we follow the destruction through Arya's eyes, how she manages to evade death multiple times. She takes the responsibility of saving a few women and children through this ordeal but ultimately fails.

At the end, when she gets up and everything around her is ashes, a white horse appears out of nowhere and it's just standing there. Arya moves towards the horse as ashes fall from the sky like snow and rides the horse out of King's Landing.

Is there any deeper thematic meaning to the white horse? Or is it just a lucky coincidence? The scene looked beautiful, yet odd and contrasting from the rest of the episode.

  • 11
    I don't think there's a deeper meaning to it unless it's Shadowfax from TLOTR. Truth be told, A Pale mare, with bloody sides is a symbol associated with the Bloody Flux. Maybe King's Landing is in for an epidemic I don't know.
    – Aegon
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 16:54
  • 1
    @Aegon I don't know LOTR man Commented May 14, 2019 at 17:00
  • 15
    @Aegon: maybe the next episode will reveal that the entire show was a dream Arya had after falling asleep during a particularly intense game of Oregon Trail. Commented May 14, 2019 at 17:33
  • 2
    Try not to look too much into it hehe much of the last season is fanservice, fanfiction, subverting expectations and red herrings
    – nodws
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 23:43
  • 2
    @PaulD.Waite Yes - Arya will wake up back in her room at Winterfell as a young girl and sigh in relief that it was all a dream. Then a servant knocks at the door - her brother Bran has fallen from a tower window and is severely injured!
    – RobertF
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 20:48

8 Answers 8


It's (symbolically) the toy horse of the girl Arya tries to save

Credit for this observation to this Reddit user.

Toy horse Burnt toy horse Real horse

It's unclear to me what the meaning of this symbolism is. If I had to guess, I would say that perhaps the horse being a child's toy means that it represents innocence, and hence Arya's lost innocence which she is reclaiming. This would fit with the earlier scene in which Arya chooses not to accompany Sandor on his mission of revenge, and with the fact that Arya's list has been completed by Cersei's death.

  • 9
    As someone on that thread noted, Basically Dragonfire + Wooden horse = Real horse? :D
    – Aegon
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:45
  • 5
    I strongly agree with this answer, although Aeg feels the need to be satirical about it I cannot see the reasoning for providing half a dozen shots of a toy horse which turns out to look exactly like (white horse red legs) the horse that comes for Arya without there being a relation. (Although I'm sure someone will, also satirically point out that the show's budget was slashed as the reason for these shots).
    – Edlothiad
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:47
  • 5
    I don't know about innocence. The Arya's expression as she witnessed the death of innocents was revenge. She has added Dany to her list. I almost expected her to say "Daenerys" at the end there. She is in KL in preview. Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:51
  • 5
    Edlothiad I merely find the whole idea and fixation of show runners on the horse absurd, not the answer itself. Was the first upvote and all ;) Frankly I don't see any reason why it has to mean anything but as you say, the show runners apparently really really want it to mean something. Which is both sad and funny given how they simply didn't give any attention to important details like Idk the long night, Dany/Jon dynamics etc but they have time for the meaningless horseshots and king Daeron's nephew.
    – Aegon
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 7:02
  • 13
    @zibadawatimmy nah, the horse will turn out to be Jaqen H'ghar in disguise!! : D Commented May 15, 2019 at 8:36

That white horse is drawing comparisons to this verse from the Bible:

Revelation 6:8

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.

Refers to the 4th horse of the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse. It is said that the rider of that horse is Death itself.

  • 68
    While this seems plausible, is it anything more than your own speculation? Without some confirmation from someone associated with the show, it's no more than a guess.
    – iayork
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 18:28
  • 19
    Not to mention that Arya is a disciple of the death god (the one with many faces back in Bravos) and an assassin. Commented May 14, 2019 at 18:43
  • 7
    @knightscharge or it could be referring to her possible new mission... theringer.com/game-of-thrones/2019/5/13/18617922/…
    – kuhl
    Commented May 14, 2019 at 19:58
  • 13
    One problem with this theory is that in Revelation it's the first horseman, Conquest, who is said to ride a white horse. Therefore it's important that Death's horse is "pale" and not white, and Arya's is definitely white. (In fact the word used in the original Greek is "chloros" which would usually be translated as "green" (like chlorophyll, chlorine) but in this case it's usually translated as "pale" or "ashen" since green isn't a colour that horses are. Another interpretation is that the horse is a sickly green colour. In any case it's not white.) Commented May 15, 2019 at 0:13
  • 5
    @OscarCunningham It's an ash-covered Arabian Grey, I think. Pretty sure that "covered in ash" covers the "ashen" interpretation pretty well. Commented May 15, 2019 at 5:25

It may be a reference to the prophecy said by Quaithe in A Dance with Dragons (though not in the show):

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.

More info

  • 37
    Except it's obvious the writers haven't read the books, so i doubt they're referencing a prophecy from the book Commented May 14, 2019 at 22:14
  • 13
    And the pale mare was the plague during the seige of meereen
    – Paul
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 3:17
  • 6
    I strongly doubt this. This prophecy does not appear in the show, and the Glass Candles, Kraken (Victarion Greyjoy), Griffin (Jon Connington), Sun's Son (Quentyn Martell), and Mummer's Dragon (fAegon) are all written out of the show. Plus, as Paul says, the pale mare is clearly the plague in Meereen.
    – kuhl
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 14:40
  • @AzorAhai: The omission of book story elements does not prove that they haven't read the books. Screentime is finite and not everything can make it into the show. There are also several cases of the show diverging from the books, and some of these changes are due to the difference between readers and viewers (e.g. Tyrion's severe disfigurement would have a dramatic impact on every Tyrion scene, whereas the books can ignore his disfigurement when it's an unnecessary distraction. A show cannot visually avoid it)
    – Flater
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 9:50

Came across another interpretation on r/asoiaf by u/roadsiderose connecting it to Melisandre's vision in the books (unedited, emphasis mine)

When Melisandre asks R'hllor for a vision of Azor Ahai, she sees a vision of a girl as grey as ash fleeing on a dying horse.

I don't know if you noticed this in the last episode, but I was shocked to finally see Melisandre's vision in S8E5, when Arya flees King's Landing on that pale horse. Arya is the grey girl.

The girl. I must find the girl again, the grey girl on the dying horse. Jon Snow would expect that of her, and soon. It would not be enough to say the girl was fleeing. He would want more, he would want the when and where, and she did not have that for him. She had seen the girl only once. A girl as grey as ash, and even as I watched she crumbled and blew away. ~ Melisandre (ADWD)

This vision in the books, has been misinterpreted as Alys Karstark fleeing, was infact Arya at the end of Episode 5, when she mounts the pale mare covered in ash.

  • 5
    Did Melisandre make that prophecy in the show? I don't believe she did. In the books, she actually mistook Alys for Arya, not the other way around. It was misinterpreted, but only in the sense that she thought the girl was Arya. Books won't have the same ridiculous plot as the last few seasons, you may rest assured.
    – Aegon
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:51
  • @Aegon i haven't read the books so I can't say. It's just a theory I came across that was relevant. That vision wasn't in the show afaik. Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:54
  • 3
    Well theories which are built on books material but are supposed to answer for show events are better left...on reddit I'd say. But that's of course my personal preference :)
    – Aegon
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 6:59
  • 1
    @Aegon since other answers also relied on book only theories, I thought one more wouldn't harm anyone :-) Commented May 15, 2019 at 7:19
  • It's a parallel, to be sure.
    – Möoz
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 9:24

Fact: It is symbolic of her hope and new mission
The horse appearing, against all odds, at the most opportune time and ready to carry her, is a symbol of a new beginning.

Whether it's the beginning of a new mission to assassinate Daenerys for what she did, or a mission to escape and find solace is yet to be determined.

Possibility: It is a symbol of the 'Pale Mare' prophecy
Daenerys had a prophecy (in the books) where a 'Pale Mare' would come forth, carrying death towards her. This hasn't been payed out in the show (and I'm not sure it was alluded to), but it certainly is a potential symbol.

In the books, the 'Pale Mare' carried a deadly flu (as mentioned in StarHawk's answer); in this case, it would be carrying Arya, the personification of death.

Improbability: It is Dany's own horse, her beloved 'Silver'
In my mind, it is Daenerys' own horse 'The Silver'. It's so pissed off about what Dany did, that it decided to leave and go over to Arya.

  • 1
    Didn't Silver die a few seasons ago?
    – berry120
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 0:16
  • @berry120 You're right it did.
    – Möoz
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 0:19
  • 3
    Plot-twistability: the horse is dead, just like Arya is also dead. She just happens to be able to wander among the living because the NK touched her in 8x3.
    – walen
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 8:05
  • 1
    @walen I like it, but it's too deep for this show :-p
    – Möoz
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 22:08

I have come across two explanations for the horse appearing for Arya:

  1. Shadowfax is taking her to heal at the house of Elrond

  2. Bran rescuing her via warg

  • 11
    This would be better if you kept the LOTR joke answer out of it and instead focused on the Bran warging to rescue her.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented May 15, 2019 at 13:36
  • 4
    @TheLethalCarrot Problem is either option seems equally likely at this point. Commented May 15, 2019 at 17:10
  • What is the evidence in S8 E5 that Bran warged into that horse? (Or any horse?) And how would that constitute deeper meaning?
    – user89356
    Commented Oct 18, 2020 at 21:05

Probably not, or there's at least no evidence suggesting it.

Thematically, a white horse means plague. The Pale Mare is the epithet of a disease known as the Bloody Flux, which appears in the books but not in the show.

If we abandon fantastic conspiracy theories with no evidence, then there's this:

Horses tend to panic when they smell smoke or get exposed to flames. Or dragons, presumably. So one can perhaps assume that this is a combat trained horse.

There is a commander of the Golden Company riding a white horse earlier in the same episode. He is in fact the only defender on horse, so it is probably his horse.

Or it could have belonged to a fallen dothraki.

  • Looking at the pattern on it's muzzle I think the two horses are being played by the same actor. They also have the same bridle. But I don't think they're supposed to be the same horse because there is also a shot of Strickland's horse lying dead in the mud. Commented May 15, 2019 at 18:20
  • 1
    @OscarCunningham Arya's found horse looks a bit bruised up though. Are you sure the first white horse actually died and didn't just get knocked out? :)
    – Amarth
    Commented May 16, 2019 at 15:44

Arya has been killing people since Season 1 Episode 8 (the stable boy), subsequently creating a "kill list" and training to become an assassin.

In Season 8 Episode 5, she enters King's Landing with the intention of killing Cersei, but Sandor Clegane convinces her to abandon that plan. After that, she gets caught in the chaos caused by Daenerys's destruction of the city. At a certain point, she starts helping people to get out of this death trap. In the process, she almost gets killed by Dothraki riders, who kill the mother who had previously helped her get up so she wouldn't get trampled, after which she almost gets burned to death by Drogon. This is the closest that Arya gets to a death experience and "purification by fire". (Note that in these scenes of destruction, she is the only main character who experiences these events like the "smallfolk".)

Purification by fire is mentioned, for example, in Numbers 31:23 (King James Version:

Every thing that may abide the fire, ye shall make it go through the fire, and it shall be clean: nevertheless it shall be purified with the water of separation: and all that abideth not the fire ye shall make go through the water.

The horse's white colour represents purity or innocence. Whiteness as a symbol of purity as mentioned, for example, in Isaiah 1:18 (King James Version):

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Arya's sins were as scarlet as the blood she shed. After surviving the dragon's fire (she is covered in ash), she is released from those sins, which is when the white horse appears to carry her away from the death pit that King's Landing has become.

This interpretation may not represent what George R. R. Martin or David Benioff & D. B. Weiss intended, but meaning or interpretation is not restricted by authorial intent.

The above is not intended as a "Biblical" interpretation of the scene with the white horse. The Bible quotes are used to give existing examples of connotations, in this case from Judeo-Christian writings with which both George R. R. Martin and screenwriters may be familiar, so the connotations give here should not come across as far-fetched. George R. R. Martin said in an interview published in The Guardian on 16 August 2014 that users may see their own meanings:

Oh, sure. And those meanings may very well be there. An author is not necessarily infallible when discussing his own work because so much takes place in the subconscious.

P.S.: Based on the above, I reject the interpretation, offered by one of the other answers, that the white horse refers to the pale horse of one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. First of all, the horse does not have a rider when it appears. Second, it appears when the killing has ended. Finally, the riders that bring death in that scene are the Dothraki horsemen (at least three of them; one might count Daenerys as the "fourth rider" here) from which she barely escapes and who kill the mother she was trying to help.

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