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Game of Thrones fans, this is why Podrick’s song is so vital to the plot

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
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Game of Thrones - Podrick Payne - Daniel Portman

The lyrics to Jenny’s Song tell us a lot about how HBO’s Game of Thrones is going to end…

The night is dark and full of spoilers, everybody. If you haven’t watched the second episode of Game of Thrones season eight yet, now is your chance to save yourself from learning more than you wish to know. Otherwise: read on.

Podrick Payne – Pod, to his friends – is known as many things in HBO’s Game of Thrones. He’s distant cousin of the more famous Ser Illyn Payne, for example, and an incredibly loyal friend to Tyrion Lannister. He’s squire to Ser Brienne of Tarth, Ser Mandon Moore’s murderer, and the sort of customer whom the prostitutes of King’s Landing refuse payment from (his bedroom skills are that good, apparently).

Most importantly of all? Well, as we learned from episode two of GOT’s eighth and final season, Pod is also a pretty incredible singer… and (possibly) a prophet to boot.

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Towards the end of ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) called for someone, anyone to sing a song and lift everyone’s spirits ahead of the oncoming Battle of Winterfell. Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) and the newly-knighted Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) promptly informed the self-styled ‘Imp’ that they would absolutely not be partaking in Westeros’ very own version of The X Factor. Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) did his best to look anywhere but directly at his brother. And Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) raised his eyebrows so high that they all but disappeared into his ruddy hairline.

As they squabbled, though, our sweet Podrick (Daniel Portman) proved he will always do what is within his power to keep Tyrion happy. Without lifting his head, the squire began singing a beautiful ballad – which was covered at the end of the episode by Florence + The Machine – entitled Jenny of Oldstones

Or, to give it the same name it has in George R R Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, Jenny’s Song.

Check it out:

For casual viewers, Podrick’s song served as nothing more than a haunting accompaniment to shots of lovers in Winterfell sharing what might be their last night together before the White Walkers lay siege to the Stark seat.

However, as is so often the case with Game of Thrones, there was far more to Pod’s song choice than that…

What are the lyrics to Jenny of Oldstones?

In the books, only one lyric from the song is known: “High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts.”

The show, however, has written in additional lyrics in the son, which include, “The ones she had lost and the ones she had found / And the ones who had loved her the most,” along with the repeated lyrics of “And she never wanted to leave / Never wanted to leave.”

Here is the song’s lyrics in full:

High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts
The ones she had lost and the ones she had found
And the ones who had loved her the most

The ones who’d been gone for so very long
She couldn’t remember their names
They spun her around on the damp old stones
Spun away all her sorrow and pain

And she never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave

They danced through the day and into the night
Through the snow that swept through the hall
From winter to summer then winter again
Til the walls did crumble and fall

And she never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave

And she never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave
Never wanted to leave

High in the halls of the kings who are gone
Jenny would dance with her ghosts
The ones she had lost and the ones she had found
And the ones who had loved her the most

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Why did they include Jenny’s Song in this Game of Thrones episode?

“We knew we wanted a song in this episode,” David Benioff says , according to The Hollywood Reporter. “We’ve had a song in several of the seasons and we haven’t had an original in a while, so this felt like the place for it, and Daniel [Portman] felt like the singer. The song I believe is in George’s books — at least, the first verse is — and [composer] Ramin [Djawadi] came up with the music for it.”

What role does Jenny’s Song play in the Game of Thrones books?

Arya Stark hears the song when the brotherhood without banners takes her to High Heart for the first time. There, they meet with the prophetic ghost of High Heart, who requests that Tom of Sevenstreams (a minor character who does not appear in the TV show) sing the song after telling them of her recent dreams. He does so quietly, which means Arya only catches handfuls of the lyrics at a time.

When the brotherhood go to High Heart a second time, the ghost requests they sing the song again. This time, though, she closes her eyes and rocks slowly back and forth, murmuring the lyrics and crying.

This is not the only time that Jenny’s Song appears in the books, however: when the late Robb Stark stops at Oldstones while en route to Walder Frey’s home, he recalls a song about Jenny of Oldstones to his mother, Catelyn Stark.

Robb: There’s a song. Jenny of Oldstones, with the flowers in her hair.
Catelyn: We’re all just songs in the end. If we are lucky.

After the horrific events of the Red Wedding, the brotherhood of banners waits for Merrett Frey to arrive at Oldstones with the ransom for his captured kin, Petyr Frey. As Merrett arrives, he hears Tom singing the words: “High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts …”

Who is the Jenny at the centre of Jenny’s Song?

In 237 AC, Prince Duncan was betrothed to a daughter of Lyonel Baratheon of Storm’s End, one of several advantageous betrothals arranged by his mother at that time. However, in 239 AC, while traveling in the riverlands, Duncan encountered and fell in love with and married a “strange, lovely, and mysterious” peasant woman known as Jenny of Oldstones, who claimed descent from long-vanished kings of the First Men.

His father, King Aegon, was positively furious and demanded that Duncan choose between his wife and the Iron Throne. Rather than give up Jenny, though, Duncan abdicated as Prince of Dragonstone, and gave up his claim to the throne in favor of his brother Jaehaerys. After this, Duncan became known as “the Prince of Dragonflies”

Does Jenny’s Song speak of a prophecy?

Not exactly, but Jenny was friends with a woods witch whom she considered one of the children of the forest. The dwarf woman, whom Jenny brought to court, prophesied that the prince that was promised (that’s Azor Ahai, to you and me) would be born from the line of Prince Aerys and Princess Rhaella Targaryen. And so, when Prince Jaehaerys heard the prophecy, he promptly arranged a marriage between his two children.

Who does the prophecy of Azor Ahai relate to?

Well, here’s where things get interesting. In ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms’ the song about Jenny is heard moments before Daenerys Targaryen learns of Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen’s secret claim to the throne. Indeed, the very last bar of Pod’s ballad is heard as the camera cuts to our Targaryen lovebirds standing in the Winterfell crypts.

According to the prophecy, a new Azor Ahai will rise, someone who will be reborn “amidst smoke and salt” brandishing a sword called Lightbringer to “awake dragons from stone” and defeat the evil White Walkers. In order to be reborn, Azor Ahai must sacrifice someone that they love and in that sacrifice forge Lightbringer. Azor Ahai will be descended from Aerys II and will bear Targaryen blood.

It’s long been thought that Jon or Dany could fulfill this prophecy. He is a secret Targaryen, the son of Aerys II’s son Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark. He is of both ice and fire. It was Jon, too, who spearheaded the mining of dragonglass in season seven, thus ‘awakening’ dragon from stone. Jon also ‘awakened’ Daenerys, the mother of dragons, through his love for her. And don’t forget that Jon has proven himself on the battlefield time and time again. 

Daenerys, likewise, is linked to Aerys II, has awakened literal dragons (duh) and was reborn on Drogo’s funeral pyre, which satisfied the smoke, salt and sacrifice clauses. 

Is this inclusion of Jenny’s Song, then, a nod at the prophetic words coming true? Or is it just a super fun Easter Egg for fans of the book?

What else could Jenny’s Song tell us about the fates of Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen?

If it’s not an Azor Ahai reference, it could be that we’re supposed to take the lyrics at face value. Could this song’s inclusion be a reference to the fact that Jon – much like their Targaryen ancestor before him– will forego his claim to the throne in the name of love? After all, why wouldn’t he set aside his crown for Daenerys, the love of his life, knowing how much she covets it? 

Daenerys, similarly, has admitted that she loves Jon Snow (she told Sansa as much) and is only in Winterfell because of him: might she come around to the idea that his claim to the Iron Throne, as the last surviving male Targaryen, is stronger than hers and… well, and step aside?

Does it mean that Jon Snow will die?

Duncan Targaryen was one of many in his family who died under mysterious circumstances in a fire at Summerhall. The new preview photos of The Battle of Winterfell have shown Jon (Kit Harington) bathed in the orange glow of flickering flames: could it be that Winterfell will be his final resting place? 

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What else could Jenny’s Song be about?

Of course, the song could simply be a foreshadowing of tragedies yet to come. High in the halls of the kings who are gone, it could be that Dany, not Jenny, will soon dance with her ghosts. The ones she had lost and the ones she had found, and the ones who had loved her the most. After all, in season two’s House of the Undying sequence, we saw Daenerys walk through the Great Hall of the Red Keep, which has a huge hole blown through the roof, wide enough to allow snow to fall upon the Iron Throne. 

According to THR, the full Jenny’s Song included a choice lyric which was cut from the episode:”They danced through the day and into the night, through the snow that swept through the hall.”

Could it be that Dany, in her quest for power, is set to lose everything? And could it be that, when she finally wins the Iron Throne, she will do so without her friends – not just Jon, but Jorah (Iain Glen), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and the others – at her side? They will be the ghosts at her ear and at her side, but as insubstantial as the smoke and fire of her (re)birth. 

Then again, could it be that Dany will learn from the mistakes of her ancestors, turn away from the Iron Throne and all of its allure, and forge a new path for herself and those she loves the most? We’d much prefer to see Dany dancing with the living than being pursued through King’s Landing by the ghosts of the fallen.

We guess we’ll have to wait and see, eh? Roll on the next episode, already!

Image: HBO

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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