What Is Greyscale: Its Symptoms, Cure, History And Significance In Game of Thrones


You must have seen Jorah Mormont suffering from an incurable disease in Game of Thrones. Before Jorah, it was Stannis Baratheon daughter Shireen who suffered from the same disease and couldn’t find any cure in her lifetime. The disease often termed as Greyscale has garnered a lot of attention off-late and prompted many medicos and individual practitioners to come forward and talk about it. If you are a curious soul and wondering what is Greyscale, then keep on reading. By the time you finish this post, you’ll gain sufficient knowledge about it.

Greyscale is considered a death sentence as far as Game Of Thrones is considered. Of course, our favorite knight Ser Jorah has become an exception to this. The Stone Men in Game of Thrones are examples of the last stages of the disease where the body is turned almost completely to stone. Let us take a look at some details about this deadly disease.

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What is Greyscale?What Is Greyscale

It’s a disease George R.R. Martin created for his book that turns the infected person into stone, calcifying the skin and internal organs, causing madness, and eventually a cruel, slow death. As the disease advances, the person loses feeling in the affected areas. It’s very difficult to cure Greyscale in adults. The infection looks like scales on the skin. Advanced stages make the person appear to be made of stone (Stoneman). A person is infected by coming in direct contact with someone who has greyscale. Shireen got her Greyscale from an infected doll that Stannis bought from a passing Dornish ship. Some may survive the disease for a year or two – others longer. But death is certain. It is highly contagious and can be transmitted by touch.

Also read: GOT Season 7 Deaths: Your Favorite Characters That Are Going To Die This Year

Symptoms Of GreyscaleWhat Is Greyscale

The skin becomes rough, gray, and scaly. As George R.R. Martin explains in a featurette about the disease, “It calcifies the skin.” At first, it’s just a thin patch, but it can consume your whole body. Gilly also tells Shireen about how when her sisters contracted it, they began to act like animals and didn’t sound like themselves anymore. As one recently afflicted man considers in Martin’s book, A Dance with Dragons, put it: “Death, but slow… a year. Two years. Five. Some stone men live for 10”, becoming “feeble, clumsy, lumbering and witless” in the process.

The History Behind GreyscaleWhat Is Greyscale

The men of Volantis captured Prince Garin and suspended him in a golden cage, making him watch as his people were burned by dragon fire. Legend says that Greyscale is the result of Garin’s Curse, a ruler of the Rhoynar who called upon the river’s Mother Goddess to destroy the Targaryen invaders. She responded by drowning them. It’s said that the mist and fog created by the drowned dragon lords caused the greyscale. However, the show differs from the books in a few ways, so we’re not positive this also applies to the characters on the show.

Also, read: 7 Reasons Why Daenerys Targaryen Will Never Sit On The Iron Throne

In season one, merchant prince Illyrio explains that 2,000 people were killed by Greyscale after it was spread by rats. In Oldtown, a more deadly version of the disease, the grey plague, caused authorities to burn all the ships in the port to prevent its spread.

Real Diseases That Inspired The Idea of Greyscale

What is Greyscale? George R.R. Martin has taken some literary inspiration from many real-life examples. Greyscale combines aspects of several human diseases, creating a scary and destructive plague. Here are the most similar human diseases:

  • Greyscale’s closest real comparison is probably leprosy. Dermatologist Anthony M Rossi says: “as with Greyscale, lesions of cutaneous leprosy cause the skin to feel numb in the area and it is prone to skin breakdown and ulceration because the patient cannot feel the area.  
  • Harlequin-type ichthyosis is a genetic disease that causes the skin to thicken and crack but isn’t contagious.
  • Scleroderma is an autoimmune condition that causes hardening of the skin, but its causes are unknown.
  • Fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva is when the body replaces muscle with bone, resulting in a severely limited movement for sufferers.  

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The Greyscale look

When it came to creating the stone men, head of prosthetics Barry Gower said in a behind-the-scenes video, the team took inspiration from Shireen’s condition alongside elephant skin and cracked riverbeds. The stuntmen involved were in makeup for four hours just to have their heads and shoulders covered in the rubber prosthetics that created the look.

The cure for GreyscaleWhat Is Greyscale

Samwell spent a considerable amount of time in understanding what is greyscale and ultimately found a treatment for Greyscale in his research, in a book titled Archmaester Pylos On Rare Diseases. According to it, “exposed skin to be cleansed and soaked in a salve made from the resin of pine, the green bark of elder twigs, white beeswax, and oil from the olive. “Fans saw part of the disgusting process, as Samwell peeled off Jorah’s scaly pus-covered skin. Despite how painful the process was, Jorah was cured.What Is Greyscale

The importance of the mysterious disease in GOT

It’s interesting to note the parallels between Greyscale victims and the resurrected corpses created by the White Walkers, called wights: both are strongly associated with death, both become brainless automatons, and both seek to harm other humans. Could Greyscale actually be related to the White Walkers in some way? After all, Game Of Thrones doesn’t introduce mysterious concepts just for the sake of entertainment. There’s got to be some role in the upcoming seasons. 

Also read: Game Of Thrones Theory: Jaime Will Kill Cersei

I hope the question- What is Greyscale has been answered. What do you think about the role Greyscale has to play in the upcoming episodes? Let us know in the comments below.


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