17

Minor 'A Dance with Dragons' spoilers ahead.


While crossing the Rhoyne, the Shy Maid encounters some trouble in the ruins of Chroyane. Just before the attack of the living slaves (to Greyscale), the Stone Men, something rather odd happens.

'The Bridge of Dream,' said Tyrion. 'Inconceivable,' said Haldon Halfmaester. 'We’ve left the bridge behind. Rivers only run one way'

A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion V

I haven't the foggiest what happened here. From my reading the Shy Maid ends up passing the Bridge of Dream twice, is it known how and why this happens?

  • 3
    A very, very, very good question. GRRM has alluded to the 'strangeness' of this scene, and yes, it's on purpose! – Möoz May 26 '15 at 23:28
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This scene is a remnant of a larger chapter than GRRM excised from the book. It's meant to be spooky and confusing, and is almost certainly the result of magical interference.

During the trip down the river, Tyrion thinks about a mysterious creature called The Shrouded Lord. In the novel, we never see this person, and Tyrion starts thinking of him as a symbolic representation of his father.

From what I've heard of the original scene, Tyrion meets the Shrouded Lord; he is similar to other legendary beings we've met and/or heard of, in that he can make things happen that appear magical. In this case, he really did make the river behave unnaturally without anyone on the boat seeing it.

Martin claims he didn't like where this particular interaction took Tyrion's character, so he took most of the scene out:

When that happens, maybe my heirs will decide to publish a book of fragments and deleted chapters, and you'll all get to read about Tyrion's meeting with the Shrouded Lord. It's a swell, spooky, evocative chapter, but you won't read it in DANCE. It took me down a road I decided I did not want to travel, so I went back and ripped it out.

However, remnants of the unnatural nature of the river are left in, making the scene intentionally surreal. Besides the obvious fact that Tyrion passes the same point on the river twice (not just the Bridge, but the entire surrounding scenery), there's also this remark from Yandry:

"Mother Rhoyne runs how she will" murmured Yandry

(A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 18: Tyrion V)

Rhoynish magic is all about water magic; this is intended to evoke that kind of idea that the river itself is magical, though the reasons why it happens are left to the imagination.


There's a lot of speculation about what was in this original chapter; while we'll never know, there are some other narrative bits that seem to go nowhere that may have set up this encounter. First, we have this bit about The Shrouded Lord:

They say that the Shrouded Lord will grant a boon to any man who can make him laugh.

(A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 14: Tyrion IV)

We also learn that The Shrouded Lord might be

The still living prince Garin,

and might be the cause of greyscale, as described in The World of Ice And Fire:

And so, that very night, the Rhoyne flooded out of season and with greater force than was known in living memory. A thick fog full of evil humors fell, and the Valyrian conquerors began to die of greyscale.

(The World of Ice and Fire, "Ten Thousand Ships")

One popular theory says that, in the original scene, the Rhoynish magic of the river was reacting to the presence of

the Valyrians -- specifically, Aegon

on the boat, making them sail under the bridge a second time so the stone men could attack. After being pulled underwater, Tyrion meets the Shrouded Lord and makes him laugh. In exchange, he's granted a boon" of not catching greyscale, but only if Tyrion

talks Aegon out of seeking out Dany for himself.

  • 1
    +1 Well done, but can you add references for the quotes, especially the GRRM one please? – Möoz May 27 '15 at 3:06
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    /me wants a critical edition of ASoIaF. :-) – Martin Schröder May 27 '15 at 5:52
  • @MartinSchröder - Maybe when the series is done. One day. – System Down May 27 '15 at 6:15
  • Holy mother of god, I just realized I knew nothing about ASOIAF, I passed by this passage without taking notice of anything. Great answer @MichaelEdenfield +1 – yondaime008 May 27 '15 at 9:16
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    @Mooz and thanks to GRRM speed of writing, we have the whole time in the world for that :D – yondaime008 May 27 '15 at 12:58
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@MichaelEdenfield gave a very considered and resourced answer.

I only want to add, as someone who only seeks out a magical explanation when no mundane one will suffice, that this can be explained as a result of four interacting factors: the hydrological peculiarities of a river as immense as the Rhoyne, even as far upstream as where this incident takes place; climatic conditions at that area; the generally unknown architectural landscape of the sorrows; and good ol' human error.


A look at this map of the rhoyne watershed reveals that by this point in its course the rhoyne has been cutting through the golden fields for quite some distance, at some times 'hugging' the rolling banks of the velvet hills. Yandry, the captain of the Shy Maid, lets Tyrion know that ahead of them a relatively short distance, where the Volaena joins the Rhoyne, it is too wide to see either bank from the middle.1 The physicist who answers this quora query in somewhat excruciating detail says that on a clear day a human being can see 5 km over flat terrain before the curvature of the earth creates the image of the horizon. We then have a general idea that the Rhoyne at this point is at least 7-8 km wide. Since we know that, looking westward, one should see the tops of the southern velvet hills as they rise from the plain, and a man can't even see that from the middle of the river, the Rhoyne must be incredibly wide indeed. Though ostensibly easily discernible, the distinction between lakes and rivers becomes thorny, even for hydrologists, when the river is wide and the current slow enough, and the currents of a lake system operate differently than those of a river system.


Moving along, when the Shy Maid passes through the sorrows the whole area is blanketed by fog. I don't recall any other scenes where the sorrows are encountered first-hand, so we don't know for sure that the area is always befogged like the legends say. What we do know is that heavy fog like that means no wind (as any wind would have blown the fog away, or sped along its dissolution). Without wind, in thick fog, it is easy to get disoriented and lose sense of direction. Especially when...


sailing through an unmapped, little-known area. The sorrows are a ruin, and have been for hundreds of years. There are not likely to be an ordered, easily graspable system of streets, causeways and landmarks. Do we know for a fact there isn't a second bridge? Maybe there are the remains of a structure, like an island redoubt or a lighthouse, that would have been functional before the fall of the city but, in the thick fog and suggestible mental state the boatriders may have been in due to the foreboding atmosphere of the stone men and shrouded lord legends, was mistaken for the bridge of dream. And the last thing to consider is...


the pilot(s) of the boat themselves. Yandry and Ysilla are not native Rhoynish river dwellers. They were raised and trained on the greenblood,2 a much more docile waterway, and they may simply be overwhelmed in light of all of the other factors. Given everything, it's even possible they were, unwittingly, headed north and approached the bridge from the southerly direction.


I know there are the legends of the curse of the Rhoyne and the water sorcerers of the Rhoynar and the shrouded lord. But what is more likely, all of that supernatural, eerie stuff occurring, or what essentially amounts to a leper colony using the existing folktales to buttress the misgivings of those who, like the pirates and slavers, may come to do them harm. a few torches lit here, a couple of bridge jumps there, and instead of a city's remains you have a cursed ruin.


  1. ADwD p. 213
  2. ADwD p. 259

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