Update: I've just realized the image had a major flaw in it. I've added a new image and made sure it's correct. Nothing else has changed, only the image. Sorry for the inconvenience.

I have six words that all start with "a". Each word is specific to one of these six book series:

A Song of Ice and Fire
Harry Potter
His Dark Materials
Sherlock Holmes
The Lord of the Rings

Each word occurs at least once in the canon of its respective series, but almost certainly never occurs in the canon of any of the other series. The words are not necessarily standard English.

This image encodes all six words. Can you figure out what they all are?

encodes the six words


Each of the secret words relates to one of these six words (given in random order):
changer healer teller river maimer treasure


To verify your answer without asking me, put your six guessed words in the same order as their series are in above. Make them all lowercase and separate them with single spaces. e.g.

asoiafword hpword hdmword rword shword lotrword

Take the MD5 hash of this string. If you get 66a8a3195f64cb095da3643c7731c0f5 then you've got the answer exactly correct!

  • $\begingroup$ Aha! I spot a fellow fan of fantasy novels :-) +1 $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 '15 at 11:08
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    $\begingroup$ Easy, get all book series present, parse out all of the words starting with 'A', convert them all to lowercase, and make the program try all possible combinations while comparing the hashed values of all... yeah... heh... "easy" $\endgroup$ – Ceiling Gecko Mar 18 '15 at 14:24
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    $\begingroup$ You haven't been copying my avatar, have you? :P $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Mar 18 '15 at 17:09

Solution below.

First, an analysis of the (updated) image:

The brightness values in the image are all multiples of 4. Dividing by 4 gives the following grid:

21 12 21 11 18 22 8 25 12
5 14 17 25 13 5 25 25 19
6 13 8 7 11 7 25 13 25
17 21 13 6 19 21 18 25 19
12 25 25 7 21 11 11 8 6

The most common numbers are 25 followed by 21. Combined with the number range (5-25) it seems likely that these are letters, with 25 being 'a', 24 being 'b, 21 'e' and so on. The grid is then as follows:

e n e o h d r a n
u l i a m u a a g
t m r s o s a m a
i e m t g e h a g
n a a s e o o r t

This contains the letters for many of the solutions suggested elsewhere, though in no obvious order. There are two u's, so animagus/anduin/asmodeus can't all be right. (The originally uploaded image had one fewer values–a 5 ('u')–though the ordering was different.)

Based on this:

The letter distribution is a: 9, e: 5, m: 4, o: 4, r: 3, s: 3, n: 3, g: 3, t: 3, I: 2, h: 2, u: 2, d: 1, l: 1.
From the other suggestions, we can see that aemon/animagus/alethiometer/asmodeus/agra/? fits, leaving "aaorngth". A Tolkien Dictionary indicates the final word: argonath. And indeed this gives the correct MD5 hash.


A Song of Ice and Fire: aemon (healer)
Harry Potter: animagus (changer)
His Dark Materials: alethiometer (teller)
Redwall: asmodeus (maimer)
Sherlock Holmes: agra (treasure)
The Lord of the Rings: argonath (river)

  • $\begingroup$ The brightness values as in the RGB values scaled to 100? $\endgroup$ – Joe Z. Mar 18 '15 at 17:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. Brightness of 0 to 100 is common in HSV color space. $\endgroup$ – Uri Granta Mar 18 '15 at 17:21
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    $\begingroup$ @UriZarfaty I've just realized the first image I uploaded has a major flaw. I've added a new one. I'm alerting the people who did some image analysis. $\endgroup$ – Calvin's Hobbies Mar 18 '15 at 20:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Uri - Congratulations. Well done ;-) $\endgroup$ – Len Mar 18 '15 at 21:48
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks, though it does feel like @MaRa and @ rand al'thor did the hard work! $\endgroup$ – Uri Granta Mar 18 '15 at 21:51

Don't have the answer yet, but scraping clues (hopefully). Might be useful to others.

A Song of Ice and Fire

No idea...

Harry Potter

anapneo (hint: healer, healing spell in HP, not sure on this one) or albus (?)

His Dark Materials

alethiometer (hint: teller? Device to find 'dust' in the books)


asmodeus (hint: maimer, Asmodeus' maiming of Chickenhound makes him indirectly responsible for the events of Mattimeo.)

Sherlock Holmes

agra (hint: treasure, Agra treasure in "The Sign of the Four")

The Lord of the Rings

anduin (hint: river, Anduin is The Great River in LOTR)

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    $\begingroup$ What about Animagus (changer) for HP? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 '15 at 10:44
  • $\begingroup$ The aSoIaF clue could be Aemon (as in Maester Aemon the healer). $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Mar 18 '15 at 11:09
  • $\begingroup$ @rand al'thor +1 - I think both of them are valid. $\endgroup$ – Zikato Mar 18 '15 at 11:21

I've no idea what to do with the image file (JoeZ will probably know, since it looks just like his profile pic!), but like MaRa I'll put some guesses as to what the final words could be.

A Song of Ice and Fire

Aemon (the healer)

Harry Potter

Animagus (the changer)

His Dark Materials

No idea (haven't read it)


Not sure yet.

Sherlock Holmes

Not sure yet.

Lord of the Rings

Probably Anduin (the river) as @MaRa says.


Adding more information about the image and another approach:

Being all neutral greys, with no saturation, the hexadecimal values of the colors are all in the form of #ABABAB. Using only AB to create the grid we have:

C1 70 51 47 3D FF FF 3D D6 7A D6
D6 70 FF B7 FF E0 C1 47 47 FF 70
3D FF 84 33 FF FF 7A 51 84 AD AD
B7 C1 51 D6 84 FF 70 84 D6 8E 7A

with a decimal version:

193 112 81 71 61 255 255 61 214 122 214
214 112 255 183 255 224 193 71 71 255 112
061 255 132 51 255 255 122 81 132 173 173
183 193 81 214 132 255 112 132 214 142 122
(do you notice something funny between this and the brightness table?)

which translated in ASCII is:

Á p Q G = ÿ ÿ = Ö z Ö
Ö p ÿ · ÿ à Á G G ÿ p
= ÿ 3 ÿ ÿ z Q ­ ­
· Á Q Ö ÿ p Ö z

which is plain and clear nonsense. Still, there is no value repeated exactly six times and only one repeated more than six times which is FF, the white square. This, if some kind of decoding strategy has yet to be applied, must be the value for A (which also correspond to 25 in the answer posted by @Uri Zarfaty).

  • $\begingroup$ I've just realized the first image I uploaded has a major flaw. I've added a new one. I'm alerting the people who did some image analysis. $\endgroup$ – Calvin's Hobbies Mar 18 '15 at 20:36

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