Melisandre dies after the Battle of Winterfell in Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3, but just how old is the Red Woman at this point?
Melisandre dies after the Battle of Winterfell in Game of Thrones season 8, but how old is the Red Woman at the point of her death? First introduced in season 2, Melisandre is among Game of Thrones‘ most mysterious characters, with several aspects of her backstory unknown. Likewise, the Red Woman has a tendency to speak in terms of visions and prophecies, all in service of the Lord of Light, itself something of an unknown quantity to many in Westeros.
When Melisandre was first introduced, it was assumed that, while powerful, she wasn’t abnormally old. Actress Carice van Houten was in her mid-30s when she debuted in the role, so it could have been assumed that Mel was around that same age. But over time, Game of Thrones revealed more about her character’s age, hinting that the Red Woman was indeed centuries old. This was all but confirmed in Game of Thrones season 6, when Melisandre took off her necklace and showed her true form to be that of an old crone. That appearance returned after the Battle of Winterfell when, her true purpose fulfilled, a visibly aged Melisandre wandered out into the snow and allowed herself to die.
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With the real appearance of Melisandre contrasting so heavily with the younger, more attractive vision of herself she presents to others, it begs the question of just how old the Red Woman really is. Like with most character ages, Game of Thrones doesn’t explicitly reveal it, but there are hints within the show and book, as well as from members of the cast and crew that allow a picture to be painted for just how long Melisandre lived. Even just going by her true appearance, it is clear that Melisandre is older than any human ought to be. One of the other oldest characters in Game of Thrones was Old Nan (the late Margaret John), who was believed to be around 100. There’s a clear difference between Old Nan and Old Mel, with the latter’s hair and body looking decayed and decrepit, suggesting she is much, much older than 100.
The A Song of Ice and Fire books take this idea even further, with A Dance with Dragons revealing that, “Melisandre had practiced her art for years beyond count, and she had paid the price.” Again, “years beyond count” strongly implies that the Red Woman is well past any perceivable mortal age, and should be into her hundreds. There’s a fan theory that Melisandre is the secret lovechild of Brynden Rivers and Shiera Seastar, two of King Aegon IV Targaryens Great Bastards. Although it’s believed that Brynden went on to become the Three-Eyed Raven, so himself becoming an almost immortal being, Shiera was born around 178-184 AC and died in or after 211 A.C. If Melisandre is her daughter, then by the time of the Battle of Winterfell, which happened in 305 AC, Melisandre couldn’t be much older than 100. While it doesn’t debunk it, her appearance does make it unlikely, though it’s possible that her years serving R’hllor have aged her more than a normal human. As noted above, “she paid the price.”
Still, it’s more likely that Mel is into her hundreds. Van Houten herself told Access Hollywood that she is “way over 100”, while co-showrunner David Benioff said on an Inside the Episode after Game of Thrones season 6, episode 1 that she is “several centuries old.” Actor Oliver Ford Davies, who played Maester Cressen, told Flicks & the City (via YouTube) that van Houten had explained to him Melisandre was “400-years-old.” That idea, while unconfirmed, aligns with what Benioff says and what Game of Thrones shows, although there’s obviously no true Earthly idea of what a 400-year-old would look like. If Mel was exactly 400 in season 2, then by the time of her death at the Battle of Winterfell, she’d be around 406.
What is more clear than her age is that Melisandre is essentially immortal thanks to the Lord of Light. While she was a slave as a child, so was a regular human at one point, she was seemingly granted extended life for as long as it took to fulfil her purpose. That moment came in Game of Thrones season 8, episode 3, “The Long Night”, after Arya killed the Night King and the White Walkers were defeated. It was because of that Melisandre could finally become her “true” age, which is why she then almost immediately died after removing her glamor.
Next: Game Of Thrones’ Ending & Real Meaning Explained (In Detail)
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