IV. The Nerd Rebellion of 82

In Part 3 we talked about how the Long Night and war against the Others built Westeros and led to the kind of sovereigns/leviathans that maintain some semblance of order. When he disappeared North of the wall, Bloodraven saw through the Weirnet how war has led to massive consolidations of power throughout Westeros (and this is the case in real life as well). So let’s talk about the things that happened after Bloodraven started putting his plan into action. Let’s talk about prophecies, Robert’s Rebellion, and a bunch of nerds…

SPOILER ALERT: Robert’s Rebellion was a proxy war between Maester and Greenseer.


The Tragic (Not) Love Story of Aerys and Rhaella

“There was no fondness between them on the day they were wed…” – Barristan Selmy

Let’s fast forward to Robert’s Rebellion. When we think about Robert’s Rebellion, we usually think about the supposed ‘Helen of Troy’ love story of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. After all it makes for a romantic narrative doesn’t it? Worthy of song isn’t it? Star crossed lovers and a war for a beautiful maiden. It’s kind of like how Robert Baratheon was the mastermind behind a rebellion [he wasn’t] that was truly about getting back Lyanna [it wasn’t]. But what about the not love story? What about the not beautiful tragedy of two not star crossed not lovers? What about Aerys and Rhaella?


“Aerys and Rhaella, sittin’ in a tree, making-a-savior-baby” – (the Woods Witch probably)

Although marrying brother and sister was once all the rage for the Targaryens, Prince Aerys and Princess Rhaella, never wanted to be married. Aerys had the hots for Joanna Lannister, and Rhaella had a fling with the noble Ser Bonifer Hasty. Yet the teenage prince and princess were forced to get married by their father Prince Jaehaerys. But why? Well, it was because according to a woods witch who receives visions from the old gods, (and was brought to court by Jenny of Oldstones the wife of Duncan the Small), which said that the fabled, “Prince That Was Promised” was supposed to come from their line. Now, this supposedly isn’t the origin of TPTWP prophecy, but at this point this prophecy begins to dominate the actions of the Targaryen monarchy. For example, despite the fact that King Aegon V was trying to put an end to sibling marriages, he allowed Prince Jaehaerys to arrange this marriage between his two children because Aegon V desperately wanted dragons to enforce pro-small folk reforms he had intended to enforce through marriage alliances (which his disobedient children let him down on). And according to legend, the Prince That Was Promised, was supposed to herald the return of dragons. And so the two siblings were betrothed. And even if you adamantly refuse to believe this prophecy is about anything other than a humble lone savior, then at least believe that characters in the story (the King himself, as well as Maester Aemon and seemingly Prince Rhaegar), believed this should result in dragons. We know this much, and we also know that this event happened around the time Bloodraven disappeared North of the Wall, taking the weirwood throne and becoming the Old God sending the visions.


Dreams Promising Dragons

“The old gods stir and will not let me sleep. I dreamt I saw…” – (The Ghost of High Heart, ASOS)

Now it is IMPERATIVE that we get this settled. Bloodraven WAS responsible for this situation. Given the timing, it’s by far the most logical conclusion here. Bloodraven disappears North of the Wall in 525 AC, 7 years before Summerhall, while Aerys and Rhaella are still 8 and 6 respectively. Jenny of Oldstones was controversial and thus not accepted at court right away when Duncan married her, so the Ghost of High Heart likely came to court long after the Storm King’s rebellion. All likelihood points to this event being right around the time of Bloodraven’s disappearance. Whether or not you believe that genuine prophecy exists independently of Bloodraven, or whether or not you believe the Ghost of High Heart is one of the children of the forest in disguise or not, or regardless of who you think the “actual” Prince That Was Promised is or will be, or whether or not you believe that Bloodraven can literally send dreams even… this particular utterance of this particular prophecy at this particular time and place is Bloodraven’s doing. Though the concept of a Prince That Was Promised supposedly predates this particular prophecy and is an old myth similar to Azor Ahai, we have no historical record of this prophecy (or any woods witch) driving the actions of Targaryen monarchy at any point in history, until this point, at which point the prophecy becomes central to the lives of 4-5 generations of Targaryens.
In one corner of the world we have an exiled albino sorcerer who was known for manipulating the Targaryen monarchy and promoting absolutism all throughout his life disappearing North of the Wall, where we know he gains the ability to at the very least manipulate dreams. And then in King’s Landing at roughly the same time we have an albino woods witch showing up and giving a prophecy we know she receives in dreams that come from the Old Gods, that ends up manipulating the Targaryen monarchy towards bringing back the most powerful weapon in existence for maintaining absolute monarchy….

Reply just got it.

“… she has her own ways of knowing things, that one. The weirwoods whisper in her ear when she sleeps.” – (Thoros of Myr, ASOS)


Coincidence? Nope. This was the Three Eyed Crow.


But why send this prophecy? Why a child of Aerys and Rhaella specifically? and what was supposed to make that child a savior? Did someone look into the future and see an action movie starring their baby kicking White Walker butt? Is this a cheap case of magic destiny plot armor? Is is this just an obligatory fantasy trope? What is it?


“They shall come day and night to see the wonder that has been born again into the world, and when they see they shall lust. For dragons are fire made flesh, and fire is power.” – (Quaithe, ACOK)

Yes, it was about the return of dragons. I’d like to set aside the idea that magic, or the force, or cosmic out of this world predestination, are going to bring everything together to make a seemingly average youth the most especial person who ever dun’ lived. Even if you prefer that kind of convenient thing, work with me for a second. Let’s say the truth is a little bit less sunshine and rainbows, and that destiny doesn’t make a chosen hero, but instead power does. We are conditioned by fantasy to expect that all chosen ones must be underdogs who seem totally outmatched till at the very end they pull a magic sword made out of courage and truth, at which point they defeat the evil enemy in a duel for the fate of humanity. The idea that dragons or overwhelming power make a hero has been pushed out of our heads.

Either underdogs have developed a taste for human flesh, or we need to reconsider what makes a savior…


But realistically, a chosen hero monarch needs to lead armies into war and maintain a stable society afterwards, and the best possible weapon to do that with are winged fire breathing monsters. Especially for a Hobbesian philosopher King with a monopoly on the use of force. And again, this is about the Last Greenseer creating a Leviathan to stabilize a nation. Dragons fit perfectly into the metaphor of Bloodraven creating the leviathan. They are not only the most powerful weapon for a ruler in Westeros, but they are almost literally leviathans. In ASOIAF, dragons are synonymous with power. Every conflict over dragons is essentially an arms race, and the return of dragons is the return to power. If we think practically what is the most useful tool not only for conquest and warfare, but to defeat the Others, it’s dragons. Dragonsteel, dragon glass, dragon fire, dragons. Practically speaking, if a union between Aerys and Rhaella was meant to result in a generation of Targaryens equipped with dragons, then amongst them, whichever child happened to be the leader humanity rallied behind (doesn’t necessarily matter which one), would be considered by the people to be ‘The Prince That Was Promised.’


Planned Parenthood for Weapons of Mass Destruction


Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time around? Gallant dragonslayers armed with swords? The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons. Ask yourself why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester. His blood was why. He could not be trusted. No more than I can.” – (Archmaester Marwyn, AFfC)

(Take note of the bold. This quote is crucial.)

A big question seems to be what brought dragons back into the world. We have a pretty good idea that somehow the maesters got rid of them the first time, or at least prevented them from coming back after the Dance of the Dragons. (Check out Dragonless Ambitions by Preston Jacobs for more on this.) So what made Daenerys able to hatch her petrified dragon eggs at the end of AGOT? The red comet? The ritualistic funeral pyre? Mirri Maz Durr’s chanting? The death of Drogo and the stillborn Rhaego? If Preston Jacobs is to be believed maybe you’ll say genetics. But even if Mendelian genetics is a tough sell for you, consider at least that characters seem to think Dany is special before she hatches dragons, so I’m gonna say that although the ritual and deaths and chanting may have undone the petrification of the eggs, it was definitely something about Daenerys herself that hatched them.

See the Targaryens used to hatch dragons all the time before the Dance. They didn’t do this through funeral pyres every time. They didn’t sacrifice their husbands or children every time (Rhaella had constant stillbirths, and yet no dragons were hatched). They didn’t wait for a red comet every time. They just put dragon eggs in a cradle with their children and the dragons just hatched. So whatever hatched the dragons is more likely specific to the Dany, not any magic ritual the Targaryens forgot in one generation which she accidentally acted out.

Now when we look these two facts in conjunction, a narrative starts to play out pretty clearly. The Old Gods (at the time Bloodraven), sent the prophecy through the Ghost of High Heart that the line of Aerys and Rhaella was meant to result in the return of dragons, and so they were forced to get married and have children. Based on what Marwyn the Mage told Samwell Tarley, we have very strong reason to believe that the Maesters are the ones who put an end to the dragons. They have an integral role in the lives of royalty, serving as advisers, teachers, and doctors and thus can easily manipulate those they serve. Yet Maester Cressen‘s POV in Clash of Kings also gives us a pretty concrete idea that maesters don’t just heal people, but they know how to kill.

“The alchemists of Lys knew the way of it, though, and the Faceless Men of Braavos… and the maesters of his order as well, though it was not something talked about beyond the walls of the Citadel. All the world knew that a maester forged his silver link when he learned the art of healing – but the world preferred to forget that men who knew how to heal also knew how to kill.” – (Maester Cressen thinking about poisoning Melisandre, ACOK prologue)

“And how do I do that? the old man wondered. Once I might have silenced him forever, but now…” – (Maester Cressen thinking about Patchface)



Summerhall: Who Started the Fire?


After Rhaegar is born, Rhaella (the woman meant to birth the Prince That Was Promised) has 8 failed pregnancies in 17 years. So was Rhaella’s body failing her, or were the maester’s trying to prevent the birth of a child who would hatch dragons? Though stillbirths were far more common in medieval times, Rhaella’s is seemingly irregular to Aerys. Not to mention the circumstances around Rhaegar’s birth are clearly strange. Rhaegar was born in the Tragedy at Summerhall in 259AC. , which occurred at a celebration of his impending birth, thrown by King Aegon V. Now King Aegon V. was supposedly hell bent on bringing back dragons to impose his pro smallfolk reforms after his children had let him down by marrying for love rather than alliances with high lords. Anyways, “something” happens at this party, which results in a massive fire, and Rhaella barely makes it out and then she births Rhaegar right then and there after the commotion. So what caused the tragedy? Who started the fire? Was it just an accident? Was someone trying to emulate ‘salt and smoke’? Was Bloodraven the culprit? Somehow I doubt it, as none of the deaths that occurred at Summerhall (King Aegon V, Duncan the Small, Lord Commander Duncan the Tall) moved his plan forward at all, and the fire nearly have killed Rhaella herself. And this occured pre-Varys coming to King’s Landing, which would have been the only other conspirator I could suspect here. Were the maesters trying to thin the Targaryen herd in one fell swoop?

Obviously the face of a stone cold killer. #dragonslayer

“… the blood of the dragon gathered in one … … seven eggs, to honor the seven gods, though the king’s own septon had warned … … pyromancers … … wild fire … … flames grew out of control … towering … burned so hot that … … died, but for the valor of the Lord Comman … ” -( Archmaester Gyldayn, TWOIAF)


I’m gonna go ahead and say yes, it was probably the maesters. A lot of people presume that Summerhall is what is bringing back the Others, but nothing we know about Summerhall is unheard of in Westeros. There was an attempt at hatching dragon eggs at Rhaegar’s birth which went horribly wrong and started a fire which killed several Targaryens. Yet Summerhall is in the Dornish marshes, where the Old Gods don’t really have as much power because Weirwoods don’t really grow, and the Maesters, (who are clearly against the return of dragons and magic), likely have the ability to turn a bonfire into a wildfire. The only other faction I suspect are the Faceless Men, as burning Valyrians reminds us of the Doom, and Arya reminds the Ghost of High Heart of Summerhall, which could also could potentially relate to Hardhome, but I don’t necessarily know who of anyone who had the motive to pay them (unless it was in fact the Citadel), but I see no other evidence of their involvement. Not that there would be. Either way, sounds like it was Maesters…. or it was Faceless Men.


So first Rhaegar’s birth is an ordeal, and Rhaella nearly dies, but for the valor of Duncan the Tall. Then Rhaella has 8 failed pregnancies over 17 years. After those 8 failed pregnancies, finally Viserys survives infancy after King Aerys II out right refuses to let anyone near the boy, being obsessively protective of him. And though Rhaella apparently dies in her final childbirth, the pregnancy with Daenerys happens almost completely after the sack of Kings landing and away from the Red Keep. Though this does beg the question of why the Maesters were unable to prevent Daenerys from being born. Was there no conspiring maester on Dragonstone? Was it Ser Willem Darry’s protection? Was there some kind of convoluted baby swap? Is Daenerys really Rhaella’s daughter? Lemon Trees in Dorne theory anyone? R+L=D? resemblance to Ashara Dayne? Personally I think she probably is Rhaella’s baby. But it makes you wonder, what happened to the maester on Dragonstone after the rebellion? As we saw with Maester Luwin when the Ironborn came to Winterfell, maester are charged to a particular castle and its inhabitants, usually remaining in service at that castle despite a regime change. Yet when Stannis takes Dragonstone, he brings Maester Cressen with him from Storms End. So again, after Dany and Viserys fled Dragonstone, where did the Maester on Dragonstone go?


The Perks of Being a Walys Flowers

Rickard Stark
Things don’t go well for Ned’s dad.

“…Rickard Stark had great ambitions too. Southron ambitions…” – (Lady Barbrey Dustin, ADWD)

“That was how it was with Lord Rickard Stark. Maester Walys was his grey rat’s name….” “Once he forged his chain, his secret father and his friends wasted no time dispatching him to Winterfell to fill Lord Rickard’s ears with poisoned words as sweet as honey. The Tully marriage was his notion, never doubt it, he ” – (Lady Barbrey Dustin, ADWD)

Then there is the Southron Ambitions conspiracy. This is a subject that has been covered before by other theorists, but I will go over it a bit here.

At the same time that Rhaella is having miscarriages for 17 years, Rhaegar is secretly obsessed with prophecies about dragons coming back and him being a savior child, and the Mad King is repeatedly alienating his former best friend and powerful ally Tywan Lannisters; a bastard born maester from the Reach by the name of Walys Flowers is supposedly filling (Ned Stark’s father) Lord Rickard Stark’s head with thoughts of rebellion, and it seems to be working. Rickard Stark, Jon Arryn, and Hoster Tully, (who all met during Westeros, only foreign war, the War of the Ninepenny Kings in 260 AC) are setting up a series of highly unusual alliance building political marriages prior to Robert’s Rebellion. Additionally Lord Rickard and Lord Jon Arryn is fostering Ned and the orphan Bobby B. at the Vale to strengthen relations between the North and the Vale.

We have to bear in mind that at this point in time, marriages between High Lords of Kingdoms is still pretty unheard of, as High Lords tend to arrange marriages between sons and the daughters of their vassals, or in rare cases with the Targaryen royal family (since they are technically the vassals of the Targaryens). Marrying your daughters to your vassals is a way to join a House to you by blood, furthermore cementing loyalty by having their next generation raised by one of your daughters. Having your son and heir marry the daughter of your vassal is their way to be exalted as a House and have the next liege lord be of their own House.

If you look at the family trees of House Stark and Lannister from TWOIAF, there is not a single marriage to another great House (with marriages between the heir and someone from outside of the kingdom occuring extremely rarely), and so it seems pretty likely the Maesters are preparing an alliance between the great Houses. So to see the North, Vale, Riverlands, and Stormlands arranging marriages all at once is highly unusual. In fact, this goes beyond those who met during the War of the Ninepenny Kings, as even before Tyrion’s birth, the Martells and the Lannisters (who did not meet in the war), try to arrange a marriage between Oberyn and Cersei, and Elia and Jaime. But when they arrive Joanna has died, and Tywin has resolved to hold out for a better marriages for Cersei and Jaime, offering Tyrion instead. It’s unclear whether he had a plan for Jaime at this point, but it’s definitely clear that his plan for Cersei was for her to be Queen.

Still, years later, all at once, Robert Baratheon heir to Storms End, is engaged to Lyanna Stark, Brandon Stark heir to Winterfell is engaged to Catelyn Tully, and Jaime Lannister, heir to Casterly Rock is engaged to Lysa Tully (though this one falls through when Jaime joins the Kingsguard and Tyrion is refused as a backup, and so Lysa marries the older Jon Arryn at the start of the rebellion). It seems Tywin Lannister is only half in the fold and consequently doesn’t join the rebellion till it is essentially won, which makes sense as Tywin was the closest to power already and had little to gain from rebellion till late in the game. Tywin was hand of the King and was essentially already arguably the most powerful man in Westeros, so getting him to participate in a rebellion or reformation was naturally difficult. The idea that all of these kingdoms had the same groundbreaking idea at the same time is unlikely, but when you consider that there is an order of scientists who connect these great houses together, advising them and raising their children, things start to feel a little less incidental.


The Winterfell of Our Discontent

Best friend best friendship.

Since we at first see the Starks as being particularly loyal to the crown, many assume that loyalty to the crown has always been the Stark way. But this is really only the case at the start of the story because Ned and Robert are best friends. Northern disapproval of the Targaryen rule seemed to be growing over the last few generations of Starks, ever since Dagon Greyjoy(seriously his name was Dagon) raided the Western coast of the continent, and the North and Westerlands joined together to defend themselves. This event created anti-Targaryen sentiment throughout the realm, but particularly in the North, because in his fixation on preventing Blackfyre rebellions, then Hand of the King Brynden Rivers neglected the crown’s feudal oath to come to the aide of the North, and the Northerners lost their Lord Beron Stark (apparently leading to a minor succession crisis). Then, a generation later, Beron’s own son Lord Willam Stark (Rickard’s grandfather), also dies horribly, beheaded while repelling a wildling invasion by the King-Beyond-the-Wall Raymun Redbeard. And though the invasion is thwarted when Willam’s younger brother Artos kills Redbeard, as the Night’s Watch supposedly arrived too late to help and were simply asked to dispose of the dead by a distraught Artos. Did the crown neglect to sufficiently supply the Night’s Watch with men? Raymund Redbeard thought so, as he attacked specifically because the watch was dwindling. Did Targaryen negligence once again leave the North to fend for itself and result in even more Stark widows? Bran’s vision in his last ADWD chapter seems to indicate that one of the She-Wolves of Winterfell wanted to be avenged.

“…woman heavy with child emerged naked and dripping from the black pool, knelt before the tree, and begged the old gods for a son who would avenge her.” – (Bran, ADWD)

Did Rickard see himself as that avenger? Now we don’t know who this woman in Bran’s vision was exactly, and it’s unlikely that she was Rickard’s mother specifically, (a very complex and drawn out analysis of the situation indicates that it was Rickard’s grandmother Melantha Blackwood rather), but those two incidents and Bran’s visions of praying for revenge and the older vision of Brandon Snow attempting to assassinate dragons, point to a deep seated and growing climate of discontent with Targaryen rule in the generations leading up to Rickard Stark and Robert’s rebellion.

And that’s not even to mention the unfulfilled Pact of Ice and Fire to Cregan Stark (but we’ll get to that…).


Rhaegar Targaryen: The wrong kind of nerd

So there is reason for Stark discontent aside from a Mad King, and even Baratheon discontent from a few generations prior, and there is reason to believe the Maesters of the Citadel are anti-dragon. Now for the Maesters you might still consider this simply a result of the madness of Aerys II, but if that were the case, then why weren’t the maesters putting their faith in Rhaegar like Tywin Lannister seemed to be?

Hint: if you think it has something to do with monsters you’re getting warmer.


“he may or may not, but if he does, we have a better king right here” – Tywin Lannister, speaking about the potential Lord Darklyn may put Aerys to death during the Defiance of Duskendale in 277 AC, TWOIAF)


In 276 AC, Tywin Lannister was hell bent on marrying Cersei to Rhaegar (the most advantageous possible political marriage for Cersei and House Lannister). So he seemed to be pinning the future of his House on the Prince of Dragonstone to make Cersei Queen. We have to remember that King Aerys II was clearly mad, but he is just one man who would eventually die, and Prince Rhaegar was reported to be intelligent, well read, and seemingly ideal for maester’s scholarly sensibilities. Particularly when compared to Robert Bro-ratheon or Bro-nden Stark. Yet the plan for the Maesters seemed to be getting a whole new family dynasty on the throne.

Robert I Baratheon
Bros before Rhaegars?

Which begs the question, with the dragons dead for 150 years, why did the Maesters choose this specific time to attempt to swap out one dynasty for another?


The answer is dragons.

Because Rhaegar wanted to fulfill prophecy. Rhaegar wanted to get a dragon.

Which begs another question we all need to ask ourselves. Why do the maesters hate dragons so much? I think I have an answer. Several actually.

Let’s make a pros and cons list!


The Advantages of Dragons:

Well diplomacy is easier…
  • Since Aegon’s landing, dragons served as a tool to unify the disparate kingdoms, ethnic groups, and factions of Westeros.
  • The time in which a dragon wielding dynasty presided over Westeros was relatively peaceful and stable.
  • Using the might of dragons, the Valyrians were able to cultivate an advanced civilization that excelled in nearly everything from steel, to magic, to transportation, to architecture, to long distance psychedelic communication.
  • The peace of dragons existing within the hands of a single ruling family was only disrupted with the Dance of the Dragons when the outside influence of Westerosi custom created a succession crisis and divided said family against itself.
  • The 150 years since the death of the dragons has resulted in a weaker central monarchy, and consequently has been at war almost constantly. 4 Blackfyre rebellions, 2 Greyjoy Rebellions, a secession by the Stormlands, unrest in the Westerlands, the king himself kidnapped in the Defiance of Duskendale, 2 wildling invasions, and then Robert’s rebellion, and the War of 5 Kings.
  • Dragons, dragon fire, steel, and glass are ideal for fighting Others and wights.


Reasons to be Anti-Dragon:

Don’t let this happen to you.
  • They are wild, vicious fire breathing monsters that eat people.
  • Aegon’s conquest through dragons resulted in a decrease in freedom for the individual kingdoms.
  • Powerful dragon wielding monarchy resulted in a massive decrease in power to the Faith and their capacity to define laws and morals. This is clearly evidenced by the fact that Maegor the Cruel massacred and banned the faith militant.
  • The Maesters, an inherently logical and scientifically minded group, who are also a relatively accessible group, would logically not be in favor of a system in which sorcerers use glass candles to send visions to manipulate monarchs, and the unpredictability of blood magic reigns, rather than their systematic, cold hard logic.

    “Ask yourself why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester. His blood was why. He could not be trusted. No more than I can.” – (Marwyn, ADWD)

Your blood makes you a greenseer,” – (Lord Brynden to Bran, ADWD)


  • Control over dragons and magic seems to have a large hereditary component, making these things inaccessible to most maesters and really everyone who isn’t a part of the royal family.
  • PROBABLY THE MAIN REASON RIGHT HERE: Old Valyria is actually really, really, really fucked up. It’s a Nazi’s wet dream. With the proliferation of dragons, the Valyrians created a highly stratified society where advancement was achieved through tireless and inhumane slave labor, and the fruits of that labor were enjoyed primarily by an ethnically pure aristocracy/master race. The Valyrian elite families who were able to control dragons viewed one another as relative equals and vied for power in a subtle and relatively diplomatic way, while everyone who was not Valyrian as essentially a slave. We often forget that the Citadel was likely aware of this, and probably fearful of it. Before the doom, the Valyrians were gradually expanding outwards, and reaching Westeros was likely an inevitability. I’m gonna go ahead and say that Aegon the Conqueror was a pretty unremarkable guy. He just did what the Valyrians eventually would have done anyways, as the Valyrians had dragons and subjugation was very much their game.
  • Beware the Blue Eyes Wight Drogon (maybe)what part of dragons



Maester VS. Greenseer

In conclusion Robert’s Rebellion can actually be looked at as a conflict between Maesters and Greenseers. Science vs. Magic. An age old struggle of Doctors vs. Wizards. Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest are manipulating the Targaryens into bringing back dragons, while the maesters are doing everything they can to make sure this doesn’t happen by putting an end to the Targaryen dynasty. The basic dichotomy here seems to be liberty vs. sovereignty.Whether the Maesters of the Citadel in Oldtown are alone in this conspiracy, or not, they are clearly deeply invested in preventing a dragon dynasty. And when you consider how dragons have historically taken power away from the Faith and the great Houses of Westeros, it wasn’t all that hard for them to find conspirators.

History tells us that the war just happened to be sparked by an act of Targaryen aggression in Rhaegar kidnapping Lyanna, or alternatively Lyanna running off with Rhaegar. This follows how we historically we tend to simplify wars down to inciting incidents, forgetting about all the build up and vested interests. Though it would be foolish to say that accidents and black swan events do not occur in the real world or in Westeros, it would be equally foolish to look at so many out of the ordinary marriages, alliances, and conflicting interests, and presume that accident reigns supreme. The Rebellion was not an accident, it was the human heart in conflict with itself. The result of various conflicting human interests, each tugging a nation in the direction they prefer.

Now in this essay I’m barely gonna touch R+L with Rhaegar’s 30 foot pole of overcompensation, as it’s always a controversial subject because everyone has talked it to death and has their own vision of it which they feel passionate about, and I feel relatively conflicted on how I think it transpired. Though I will say that Howland Reed is obviously involved as the Old God’s man. The Tourney happens near Harrenhall, and Howland had just spend a year at the Isle of Faces right near there. But more on that later.

Every great lord has his maester, every lesser lord aspires to one. If you do not have a maester, it is taken to mean that you are of little consequence. The grey rats read and write our letters, even for such lords as cannot read themselves, and who can say for a certainty that they are not twisting the words for their own ends? – (Barbrey Dustin)

Yet look at how the war really starts. Brandon Stark doesn’t witness but hears about the supposed abduction of his sister Lyanna by Prince Rhaegar and then rides off to the challenge crowned Prince Rhaegar to a duel. But who told Brandon the version of the story he heard? Especially if Lyanna went willingly, why not send word? And to think, this could have been avoided if Brandon had been told Lyanna went by choice, or if Lyanna had sent a raven with her true intentions to her family. Who receives the ravens again? Right, the maesters. Now she may or may not have sent word, but it’s an important consideration. The Histories tell us this was all bad luck, but in reality politics is more complex than that. More intentional. King Aery’s all out madness towards the situation sparked an ill-advised war that was already being set up, and when it’s all said and done it’s actually the grandmaester Pycelle (a Lannister man), who puts the nail in the Targaryen dynasty coffin by convincing Aerys to let in Tywin Lannister, who sacked the city. Maester’s shoot, they score.

dragonslayer grand champions 283AC


Now let’s put 17 years back up on the clock because magic is putting in the subs.


Thanks for reading! In the next part we are finally going to get into the events which actually happen during the main story. Part 5 is about the Mother of Dragons.



III. The Great Kingdom of the Night

In Part 2 we talked about how Bloodraven believes in an absolute monarchy to prevent mankind from a state of all out war, and how the timeline of the returning Others seems to coincide with his disappearance North of the Wall. Thus, the Three Eyed Crow is likely instigating a war with the Others, in order to unify humanity under the reign of a dragon wielding absolute monarch. But what would make him think that bringing the Others could result in a powerful sovereign?

This all could have happened maybe.
This all could have happened maybe.

A Mythical History of Myths About History

The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it. Those old histories are full of kings who reigned for a hundred years, and knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights.- (Samwell Tarly to Jon Snow)

The fact of the matter is that before the Andals came, there was no tradition of writing down history, and so the history of the Dawn Age and the Age of Heroes are all either deciphered from carved runes or oral traditions. As such we have to take everything with a grain of salt, and it’s hard to determine the accuracy of anything. But there are methods we can use to get a general idea of certain events. For example, we know that the First Men migrated to Westeros across the arm of Dorne and made their way north, so we get a general sense that the oldest settlements are the ones further south. This is supported in that Oldtown is supposedly the oldest city in Westeros (even sometimes theorized by maesters to have been built before the coming of the first men by earlier migrants by way of the sea), and it is in the southwestern coast of the Reach. And although stories about Garth Greenhand as the First King and grandfather of Bran the Builder (through Brandon of the Bloody Blade) and as a magic Johnny Appleseed man may or may not be true, it also makes sense that the earlier settlements would develop in the Reach, where it is warmer and the land provides a more plentiful harvest.

“Past a certain point, all the dates grow hazy and confused, and the clarity of history becomes the fog of legend” – (Hoster Blackwood, ADWD)

Throughout this essay I am going to be using a very ‘cautious’ model of deciphering ancient history from myths. I’m not saying that the more magical stories and myths of the Age of Heroes did or didn’t happen, just that we may never know. But we can use them to determine the development of Westeros. You see, war against the Others has happened before and it already created a geopolitical shift in Westeros. But we are often distracted by tales of great heroes to realize how this happened. I find that fans even spend more time theorizing about the Long Night based on the fabled ‘Great Empire of the Dawn‘ despite the fact that mythic tales of the Dawn Age from another continent should reasonably be the least historically accurate of any. So instead of speculating on the Great Empire of the Dawn, I’m going to discuss what I consider to be the Great Kingdoms of the Night.

But first I’d like to do my best to discuss The Age of Heroes and The Long Night.

The Age of Conditions Which Created Heroes

I’m going to do something a little different in talking about the Long Night. Because we tend to discuss the Long Night by looking at the events which transpired during the Long Night, and then also the story of the Night’s King as a reference, which I think is ironically like staring directly into a blind spot. There are a lot of fantastic theories out there, but ultimately we don’t know much about the Long Night. We have several myths about what happened, and we often try to piece the events together by trying to translate the symbolism in the story of the Last Hero, or Azor Ahai, or the Bloodstone Emperor, or Bran the Builder. Is the fallen star a fallen star or a Dayne woman? Is the Last hero’s dog a dog or a Clegane companion? Is the lion Azor Ahai forged his second sword in a Lannister? Is that story even about a literal sword? And the famous, is Dawn actually Lightbringer? We look to the stories of great heroes and legends, trying to imagine a magic sword wielding action hero or even some Christ-like savior and their rag tag bunch of companions. Since this is fantasy these stories may of course be true to some extent, but the accuracy of them is questionable. Yet, we rarely talk about the Long Night, an inherently supernatural event, in the context of history and geopolitics.

There is this 19th century idea called ‘Great Man theory‘ which postulates that history can largely be explained through looking at the actions of a few great men. Great Man theory states that a series of outliers, or heroes, through sheer intellect, will, charisma, or wisdom, arise from mediocrity and it is these individuals who shape the course of human events. Really though the tendency to define human history based on the actions of great individuals is actually very very old, and it is still prevalent today. In fact, we have all heard the phrase ‘history is written by the victors’ and the deeds of individual leaders are the ones that tend to get recorded. But in 1860 a man by the name of Herbert Spencer posed the counter argument that these ‘Great Men are actually products of their societies, and though these great men remake society, society must first make great men (more recently actually Malcom Gladwell has written about this). In a way I’d like to apply this counter argument to Westeros. See Westeros, not unlike the real world, remembers history as a history of great men, often ignoring considerations of what conditions led to those great men. The Age of Heroes is a perfect example of this. We remember the Long Night, and then the heroes. Yet we don’t consider the conditions which created those heroes. We rarely look at what the Long Night actually did to, or should I say, did for Westeros.

I think what Bonnie should really be holding out for are the societal conditions which may create a hero…

The Day Before The Long Night

A little quick background; history tells us the Dawn age involved the First Men coming to Westeros (which was populated by the children of the forest, the giants, and other mystical creatures), by crossing the Arm of Dorne in the south, and warring with a Children, the Children called down the Hammer of the Waters, which didn’t stop them, and then there was some form of pact, and mankind got pretty much the whole continent. In exchange the Children supposedly keep the deep wood (they don’t seem to have it anymore) and the religion of the Old Gods is established. Based on the children of the forest, we have a pretty good idea that the war between the first men and the children did happen, as did the pact on the isle of faces and the establishment of the religion of the old gods. Now, what of the subsequent Age of Heroes?

gangs of new york
#stateofnature #childrenofpride #ThomasHobbes #itsgonnabeme

If we look at the Age of Heroes, even in broad strokes, it’s actually very telling. The Age of Heroes is characterized by the stories of historical figures which seem to border on myth… and that is what we tend to focus on. The actions of seemingly mythical individuals. But the Age of Heroes also apparently involved the rising and falling of hundreds of smaller kingdoms, (now this likely wasn’t literally 100). Meaning that at some point after the pact was signed between the First Men and the Children, without a common purpose or enemy mankind descended into the chaos of petty land disputes and struggles for dominance. If we apply basic history as well as the philosophies of Thomas Hobbes, this pattern actually makes complete sense. The First Men were new to Westeros, a very large continent, and they were newly in the process of expanding outwards and founding settlements. Without a common enemy, the power vacuum created by the lack of a sovereign to keep the varying desires of humanity in check resulted in the First Men all throughout Westeros descending into the natural state.’ So we have a large continent with small kingdoms being established all throughout, warring with each other, and no clear front runner or ‘leviathan’ to settle things down. And then the Long Night happens.

Night Falls And So My Speculation Begins

Given just how long ago it was there is a lot of mystery surrounding the Long Night (history has it happening about 8000 years ago, but that is an unreliable number that could literally be off by thousands of years). Still the Others are clearly real, and the ability to kill them with obsidian and dragonsteel is clearly real. If we look at the stories from throughout the world, some other vague patterns start to emerge which we can take as reliable. Since tales of darkness exist across the known world, it appears that it was a period of global darkness which lasted at least a generation. Since there are stories of the Rhoyne freezing it appears that the cold/winter spread to parts of Essos, (but winter is not a part of most Essosi tales). And it appears that the Others are mainly just a Westerosi problem, as tales of the Others are specific to Westeros, and naturally become more and more prevalent the further you go North (this makes sense since the North is cold, the Others were repelled North, and the North has the highest concentration of First Men traditions).

Nobody asked you Old Nan!
Shut up Old Nan, nobody asked you.

So what brought the Others the first time?

I honestly don’t know. Did the First Men break their pact with the children during this time? After all the story of the Last Hero indicates the Last hero had to really search and venture into the dead lands to find the children, so they had likely become very scarce already. Did the first men start violating guest right? Were they kinslaying? Did the Children of the Forest bring the Others because of this? Are the Others essentially the children’s ice golems? after all if the children are capable of creating a tsunami (the hammer of the waters), then who knows what else they are capable of? or was it the red comet that brought them? Are the Others magic ice aliens who crash landed with a fallen meteorite which caused the Long Night? (a meteorite impact would explain a period of global darkness) Were they humans who were cursed by exposure to a magic fallen ice meteorite? Is the true purpose of the Night’s Watch to Watch the Night Sky? are the Others secretly the cursed corpse-like descendants of the Barrow Kings? Did the Others come because of some other action from mankind? or did mankind simply try settling too far North into their lands? was it because they felt like it? because it got dark out? perhaps because all of the war and death of a 100 kingdoms rising and falling gave them all the corpses they needed for an invasion

I prefer not to go into my shakier theories on what the Others are and what brought them the first time because it actually doesn’t make a difference to the rest of this theory. But if I had to make a guess, I’d say that I think the source of the Others was a magic comet which fell somewhere (Starfall? Winterfell? The Heart of Winter?) and caused the Long Night, and cursed humans that came near it. Either that or the piling up of corpses resulting from civil wars. I like these ideas because the Others don’t show up when the First Men first come to Westeros and war with the children of the forest, and don’t show up till the global darkness of the Long Night. I personally don’t think the Children of the Forest created them or brought them the first time, but again…
I don’t actually know.


The Day After The Long Night

Rather than staring into the global blackout and speculating on that, I’d really like to focus on what we generally know is the outcome of the Long Night. Because we have the general idea that after the Long Night, is the time of Bran the Builder, the fabled founder of House Stark who allied with the Children of the Forest, built (or at least was somewhat involved in building) the Wall, Winterfell, and apparently Storms End before that and Hightower in Oldtown after. But did Bran the Builder really do all that? Did he even exist?

“No one can even say for certain if Brandon the Builder ever lived. He is as remote from the time of the novels as Noah and Gilgamesh are from our own time.” – (GRRM)

So if the author says no one can say, then really no one can say. But in a way it doesn’t actually matter. See, this is the point where I think we tend to start asking questions like whether Bran the Builder was the mythical Last Hero, or if Azor Ahai and Lightbringer were a Dayne wielding Dawn, or if Dragons were involved in any of this… but I’m gonna go a different way here. The point I’d like to address is what Bran the Builder represents historically and politically. Whether Bran was real, or a story, Bran the Builder represents the beginning of the history of House Stark. Whether he was actually the first Stark or not isn’t important (obviously he had parents). If he existed, he is the first Stark who actually made history, and if he didn’t exist, then House Stark still traces the beginning of their rise to power as being directly after the Long Night (also if the Starks name like every other male child after him). Either way, we know history is written by the victors, so the Starks of Winterfell are clearly the victors of the Long Night in the North. Rather than looking at Bran the Builder and pondering how great or magical or heroic his life may have been as an individual, I think Bran the Builder’s most significant role in history is what the stories about him say about the world in which he lived, and that he serves as a link between the story of the Long Night and the rise of the Kings of Winter. In fact, most times we read Bran the Builder we can essentially substitute ‘House Stark on the rise.’


Additionally, Bran the Builder’s supposed role in building the Storms End serves as a tie between the timeline of the beginning of House Stark, and the beginning of House Durrandon of the Stormlands within a generation of each other. And his (or his son’s) legend from the Reach of having of supposedly having been commissioned by King Uthor of the High Tower to build the currently still standing Hightower (the namesake of House Hightower), serves to place the establishment of that structure and great house in a similar general time period. Whether any of these people existed or not isn’t as important as the implication that several of the Great Houses of Westeros were on the rise directly after the Long Night. How could an apocalyptic winter and war against invading ice beings result in anyone rising to power you may ask?

Wars of Statecraft

There is actually a lot of evidence in real history for the effects that war can have on a nation and it’s peoples. Wars historically tend to get people of a nation to set aside social and political quarrels in the interest of survival against a perceived threat or ‘other’,shifting people from smaller factional social identification towards social identification on a national level. To put it simply, people see the enemy in war as the ‘other‘ and thus start to identify with all of those who are not the other and who stand with them against that common enemy. Now this isn’t necessarily the case for all wars. Vietnam for example didn’t project any kind of threat to the American public, and so when middle class boys started coming home in body bags, people didn’t see the point and so opposition to the war grew. Furthermore the rapid production and mobilization of wartime economies also has a potential to rapidly expand a nations infrastructure and military capability. And wars in which many nations (or states, or groups, etc.) tends to involve mutually beneficial war alliances. Though Martin is notoriously cited for using the War of the Roses as an inspiration for the events of ASOIAF, the War of the Roses has no parallel to the Others. So instead, I’m going to use the United States as an example here.


Prior to World War I, the Untied States was plagued by a corrupt and gridlocked political system, financial dysfunction, and tense and often violent labor and racial conflicts (not totally unlike Westeros actually). It wasn’t until the mobilization of the American war time economy during World War I to support the war effort in Europe that America truly became an economic superpower. World War I effectively shifted the balance of power (economically) from the Europe to America. And then it was after the second World War and the military and technological advancements which came as a result (in addition to the New Deal), that America was able to truly cement itself as a global superpower. Now Westeros and pre-WWI America aren’t exactly what I’d call identical, but the point remains that war (despite being ugly and violent and sad), is a transformative thing which results in a transferal of wealth, status, and power, both domestically and internationally.

And Then Came The Wolves

So why was House Stark the victor of the Long Night in the North and not some other house? Was it magic winter resistant blood? Was it the valor of one Last Hero? Was it divine intervention? Was it simply the geographical location of their stronghold? Was it luck? We don’t know, and it’s unclear if we ever will.

Whatever the reason, the point is that House Stark were the ones who came out on top. From many relatively evenly matched petty kingdoms arose relative superpowers. And thus they (the Starks) were the ones most able to take advantage of the momentum of driving the Others back. They were the ones who were able to build the wall (or allied with the Children of the Forest to build the wall). They were the ones able to claim the central location of Winterfell. They were the ones who seemingly took advantage of treaties with the Storm King in helping construct Storm’s End, and the King of the High Tower, helped them build structures, and reap whatever payment they got for that. And then the Kings of Winter rode that momentum through the Age of Heroes. The Starks did what wolves do. They hunted. The wolves of Winterfell were strong and they preyed on the weaker petty kingdoms in the wake of the devastation of the Long Night. Essentially, winter made time for wolves. Though without dragons they were never able to be truly uncontested rulers of the North (their rivals to the east, the Red Kings of the Dreadfort, House Bolton saw to that). But they were able to defeat and hold dominion over the Barrow Kings to their south in the Thousand Years War (which was more likely 200 years). They were able to defeat the Marsh King and give control of the Neck over to their vassals House Reed. They were able to reign in countless houses as their vassals, making most of the North their domain. They were even able to defeat the ‘Warg King’ who resided at Sea Dragon Point in the Wolfswood, who was allied with the Children of the Forest, and then after having him executed, marrying his daughters (this is likely where the Stark warging ability comes from).

Fun Fact! The ‘Warg King‘s name is not given in the histories, but it’s likely that the Warg King was actually an ancestor of House Blackwood, who were also supposedly from the Wolfswood until they were driven away by the Starks. This would make sense considering how reverent to the Old Gods. And you know who else is a Blackwood? You guessed it, Brynden Rivers on his mother’s side. Anyways, a little off topic. More on this in part 7.

Westeros wasn’t built in a day, but it was forged in a Long Night


Or, in the wake of a Long Night at least. Ultimately, regardless of what caused the Long Night or how it was ended or to whom we give the glory, the Long Night results in a massive consolidation of power. Like we discussed in part 1, it results in a leviathan which kills the ‘children of pride’ and pulls mankind away from the Hobbesian ‘state of nature’. While this is potentially true throughout Westeros, it is especially apparent in the kingdom of the North (which accounts for a third of Westeros), where the clear leviathan in House Stark. But this is also the case in the Stormlands, where the institution of House Durrandon is seemingly established at the same time (another Kingdom which based on the stories is seemingly forged through crisis and storm). This is also seemingly the stories of the Iron Islands (as the stories of the Grey King similarly involve crisis). In any case, in the wake of the Long Night, powerful dynasties like the Greyirons, the Durrandons (Storm Kings), the Gardeners (Gardener Kings), and the Lannisters (though tales have the Lannisters rising as Kings of the Rock by swindling Casterly Rock from the House Casterly, rather than building it).

Another very important thing to note about Westeros at this time, is that all of the major Houses and Kingdoms aside from the Iron Islands, keep the religion of the Old Gods and are thus overseen by the Children of the Forest and their Greenseers. While we don’t know how well the pact was upheld both before and after the Long Night, (though tales of the Long Night seemingly indicates the Children of the Forest were very difficult to find by the time the Long Night occurs), we do know that godswoods with heart trees are kept throughout Westeros to oversee the forming of pacts, treaties, oaths, marriages, and personal prayers of mankind, particularly powerful families. And this relative peace continues in fact, all the way up until the invasion of the Andals where we know that the Storm Kings and the Children of the Forest form the Weirwood Alliance to keep the Andals at bay.

Yet, it’s only the Kingdom of the North which is able to repel the Andals at bay and fully retain the religion of the Old Gods. And, though we are getting a little spread out in talking about history, it is not until the threat of the Andals that the Starks are able to get the Boltons to bend the knee and. So yet again, we have an instance of invasion and war unifying a people and increasing the status of one group over another. War against the Andals finally unifies the North and gives House Stark dominion.

What The North Remembers

Because we’ve covered a lot of ground, in conclusion:

  • After the pact with the Children is made at the end of the Dawn age, mankind spread out throughout Westeros and many petty kingdoms were established which all warred with one another for dominance. This anarchy is an example of the Hobbesian state of nature.
  • Then the Long Night happens. War with the Others occurs. The Others are environmentally antithetical to humanity, and thus war with them served to cause mankind to set aside factional social and political quarrels for survival.
  • The Others are driven back beyond the Wall, and the war effort (and postwar effort) and the general crisis of the Long Night, serves to mobilize the North and strengthen House Stark (who take part in building the Wall, Winterfell, Storms End, and Hightower) as well as other great Houses across the rest of Westeros who start to dominate as leviathans in their respective regions.
  • Bran the Builder, whether or not the stories about him are true, marks the rise of House Stark, making important treaties and taking advantage of the post Long Night momentum as the Wolves of House Stark began expanding throughout the North and winning wars against other petty kingdoms to establish dominance in the North.
  • The religion of the Old Gods is kept throughout Westeros, allowing the Old Gods to watch over the more stable kingdoms up until the Andal invasion, which only the North is able to repel. But the Andal invasion serves to solidify Stark dominion over the North.

“The Others have done it all in one night” – Ebenezer Westeros

In the end, the lesson of the Long Night may be that powerful dynasties arise and kingdoms are forged through crisis. The Long Night and war against the invading Others led to a more stable consolidated Westeros, (that still revered the Old Gods, was overseen by the Old Gods, and sacrificed to the Old Gods). It’s like Westeros was this greedy belligerent old scrooge that needs to get his act together and the Others are the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. The Long Night is like a Christmas Carol to get Westeros to organize itself into something that looks like a society. Westeros doesn’t remember this, and instead (like our society) remembers a history of great men. An ‘Age of Heroes’. But what did the Long Night really do? the Weirwoods saw it, and they remembered. And when a political mind like Brynden Rivers disappeared beyond the wall and assimilated into the weirnet, he saw it too. A collective memory of war and conquest. A Great Kingdom of the Night if you will. And I think it’s that moment that Brynden Rivers had himself an idea.

and thanks for reading

Thank you all for putting up with this incredibly nerdy essay. Next one should be more fun, as we’re going to fast forward and talk about Westeros’ resident nerds. Part 4 is about Robert’s Rebellion.

II. Bloodraven and the Greatest Evil

In Part 1 we talked about powerful absolute monarchs preventing mankind from a state of all out civil war, and about the fragility of Westerosi feudalism, and the question of what unifies societies. So how does this question relate to the Three Eyed Crow?
Spoiler Alert: Bloodraven is bringing the Others.

“Crows are all liars.” – Old Nan

Bloodraven is Loki, Odin, Merlin, Kurtz, Dark Santa… but really he’s Thomas Hobbes

Let’s talk about the man in the tree. Ol’ Man Rivers. The Three Eyed Crow, Brynden Bloodraven Rivers, The Last Greenseer. We often discuss Bloodraven’s similarities to mythological and fictional characters. He has been compared to the Norse trickster god Loki. He’s been compared to the wizard Merlin from Arthurian Legend (what with his prophecies about dragons, role in uncovering secret Kings, teaching youths, love for a magical lady, and eventual entrapment). And his initial meeting with Bran seems heavily inspired by Marlow’s introduction to Kurtz in ‘Heart of Darkness’. We ask whether he is Gandalf or Christopher Lee? Dumbledore or Voldemort? Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury or Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass? Struan Rodger or Max Von Sydow? I myself have even compared him to a ‘Dark Santa’ living with his sad elves up North (will he leave the naughty children of mankind obsidian in their stockings this Christmas?). We often discuss his hateful rivalry with his envious half brother Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers, and his love affair with his half sister Shiera Seastar. His weirwood longbow, his personal guard of archers called ‘The Raven’s Teeth’, and the eye he lost in a duel. We talk about his likely magical Blackwood lineage and his feared reputation as a practitioner of dark sorcery, his status as an albino Targaryen bastard of King Aegon ‘the Unworthy’ and his mistress Missy Blackwood, and his defense against multiple Blackfyre rebellions… But let’s talk for a minute about what we know Bloodraven really did during his rule as Hand of the King.

“Make no mistake, ’tis Lord Rivers who rules, with spells and spies. there is no one to oppose him.” – Septon Sefton (Knight of the Seven Kingdoms)

“”How many eyes does Lord Bloodraven have? the riddle ran. A thousand eyes, and one. Some claimed the King’s Hand was a student of the dark arts who could change his face, put on the likeness of a one-eyed dog, even turn into a mist. Packs of gaunt gray wolves hunted down his foes, men said, and carrion crows spied for him and whispered secrets in his ear. Most of the tales were only tales, Dunk did not doubt, but no one could doubt that Bloodraven had informers everywhere” – (The Mystery Knight)

See during the reign or Aerys I (not the Mad King), Bloodraven effectively ruled the Kingdoms as Hand while the King totally withdrew from his responsibilities. During that time and into the subsequent reign of Maekar I, he lived through several rebellions, created a massive network of spies, and presided over a totalitarian police state with a zero tolerance policy for treason and sedition. Brynden Rivers was a man willing to be a kinslayer, reigning arrows down on, and killing his half brother Daemon Blackfyre and his sons in the battle of Redgrass field, and on top of that violate guest right for the sake of crushing future rebellion (offering Aenys Blackfyre safe passage to participate in the Great Council of 233 AC and then having him seized and executed on arrival). That’s not even to mention the string of suspicious deaths under his reign which led to the ascension of Aegon V, Aegon the Unlikely.

“Sometimes at court I would serve the king’s small council. They used to fight
about it. Uncle Baelor said that clemency was best when dealing with an honorable foe. If a defeated
man believes he will be pardoned, he may lay down his sword and bend the knee. Elsewise he will fight
on to the death, and slay more loyal men and innocents. But Lord Bloodraven said that when you pardon
rebels, you only plant the seeds of the next rebellion.”- (Egg, The Sworn Sword)

Brynden Rivers was Big Brother before Big Brother, he enforced the Patriot act before the Patriot Act, and he created the NSA before the NSA. And then later in life he entered the Weirnet and expanded all of that exponentially. Whether he held the belief that a strong central government was paramount sincerely (which I tend to believe), or whether it was a self-serving ruse to keep Bittersteel away from Shiera (which I think is less important), Bloodraven has always zealously worked towards and believed in a strong sovereign government to the extent that he values it above his honor and reputation, which he seemed to have little regard for.

That’s not to say he didn’t have his biases. As a Blackwood on his mother’s side, Brynden Rivers was especially hateful of the Brackens, and thus when his half brother Aegor sat across the narrow sea preparing rebellions, he kept his eye on Tyrosh and often dropped the ball elsewhere, foregoing aid to the Starks and the Lannisters when Dagon Greyjoy raided the western coast (though he eventually did intervene). But still, all of Bloodraven’s actions were ultimately geared towards preserving the sovereignty of the monarch. Like Hobbes, Brynden Rivers believed that the sovereign must be so absolute that there is no separation of powers(as in a monarch who even holds power over the church), and restriction on the rights of free speech. In his pro-monarchy stance he is not unlike the spymaster Varys, though likely to an even greater absolute. But unlike Varys, Bloodraven has an innate connection to, and affinity for magic and the Weirwoods. He is a Blackwood on his mother’s side, and the Blackwood’s of Raventree Hall have a long history of keeping the old gods, in fact having originally come from the Wolfswood in the North. If you look at the sigil of House Blackwood it is clear that Brynden Rivers has essentially become the sigil of his mother’s house. And it’s this connection to the magic of the old gods which is ultimately what put him on the path to the Weirwood throne.

Some 48 years before the start of the story, Lord Commander Brynden Rivers disappeared ranging North of the Wall, at which point he became the last greenseer and assimilated into the Weirnet (for a deeper look at Weirwoods and collective consciousness, check out ‘The Minds of Wolves and Robins part 1‘). At this point we know for fairly certain that Bloodraven obtained some very significant abilities. As ‘the last greenseer,’ connected to the Weirwood and living beneath a weirwood tree, Bloodraven has the ability not only to see through the eyes of the Weirwood trees, it also appears he has the ability to send dreams, particularly where there is Weirwood. Jaime has a particularly vivid dream when he sleeps with his head on a Weirwood stump, and Robin Aryyn, who sits on a throne of Weirwood seems constantly plagued by voices and thus constantly medicated by maesters. It should be needless to say, what ever powers of manipulation and surveillance Brynden Rivers had as Hand of the king, have increased exponentially.

“your lord brother will get no help from them, not where he’s going. The old gods have no powers in the south…how can they watch your brother when they have no eyes?” – (Osha, AGOT)

So while the Old Gods traditionally don’t have as much power where there is no weirwood, here is just a quick list of confirmed places where there is Weirwood, and thus Bloodraven has eyes and influence (this doesn’t even count his well established ability to look through the eyes of animals).

  • Ygritte and Brynden Rivers both have weirwood bows
  • All the Godswoods except the one in the Eyrie
  • The Isle of Faces at the God’s Eye
  • Styr of the Thenns has a weirwood spear.
  • The Kingsguard’s meeting table
  • The throne and the Moon Door of the Eyrie
  • Blackgate of the Nightfort
  • Rafters of Harrenhall (a castle which is notably cursed)
  • Rafters of Whitewalls
  • Half the House of Black and White door and the chairs
  • Tobho Mott’s shop doors are half weirwood
  • House of the Undying has a half weirwood door
  • Val has a pin with a weirwood face
  • Morna (the wildling now in chrage of the Queen’s Gate) has a weirwood mask
  • High Septon’s staff is weirwood

(credit reddit user caravaggio2000 for compiling this list)

This couldn’t possibly have any negative consequences down the road…

A Thousand Greater Goods and One Greatest Evil

What does this say about Bloodraven now? It says that he will do whatever he needs to prevent the disintegration of the realm, as that is what he worked for in life. Like Thomas Hobbes, Brynden Rivers likely doesn’t believe in the concept of ‘the greater good’ for humanity. Human beings have varying desires and thus there can be no universally agreed upon concept of greatest good. The First Blackfyre Rebellion which Bloodraven defended against, was a perfect example of this. Essentially it was a war without a well defined inciting incident, with a question of legitimacy raised as a mere excuse. Really it was a dispute between those who ruled and those who almost ruled, over whether the future of Westeros would move in the direction of King Daeron II’s intellectualism, or Daemon Blackfyre’s more martial warrior culture. Those who followed Daemon didn’t follow him because they believed Daeron illegitimate, they followed him because his vision of Westeros suited them and Daeron’s forgiveness and favoritism for the Dornish and the intellectually minded, did not. Daeron II’s situation prior to the Blackfyre rebellion is very not unlike Jon’s situation in trying to make peace with the Wildlings. Like Daeron with Dorne, Jon loved a wildling woman and was able to relate to and sympathize with them, and so he saw unity as a greater good, while those around him saw Jon’s forgiveness as a betrayal of all the brother’s of the Night’s watch who had died fighting them. That said, the Shieldhall speech might have been a bit more of a major inciting incident in Jon’s case, but the central conflict which plagued both their tenures is very similar.

Even in the present story, characters are constantly fighting for competing notions of the greater good. Jaime Lannister pushes a mere child out a window for the love of Cersei. Because that is his greater good. Lady Catelyn frees Jaime for the love of her daughters, because her childen’s safety is the greater good for her. Stannis goes to war for the throne because it is his duty, and for Stannis his duty is the greater good. Whether you agree with him or not, Renly goes to war because he believes that him being King is a greater good. Tywin fights a war and annihilates Robb Stark’s campaign in the Red Wedding for the Lannister name, because legacy and family name is his greater good. Ned Stark sacrifices his honor and admits to a crime he didn’t commit for the life of his daughter, because family is his greater good. With “a thousand eyes and one” Bloodraven has seen all of this transpire. Love, and Honor, and Duty, and Family, though noble and beautiful ideas, lead to Hatred, and Stubbornness, and Ambition, and Vengeance. Competing notions of the greater good will always exist among humanity, and I suspect that having lived through the Blackfyre rebellion, Brynden Rivers knows this, and likely does not even look at his own actions during those rebellions as completely exempt from this. I mentioned biases before. Even in his defense of the realm, Bloodraven had a brother he loved, a brother he hated, and a woman he desired, which heavily influenced his own focus and cost the realm. But I think it is a mistake to believe that these personal vendettas are what are motivating his actions as the Three Eyed Crow. Rather, then is then, and now is now, and now is some 50 years, an exile, and an assimilation into a collective earth consciousness later.

“Men live their lives trapped in an eternal present, between the mists of memory and the sea of shadow that is all we know of the days to come.” (Lord Brynden, Bran III ADWD)

“…and next time you see me I’ll be played by Max Von Sydow…” – Struan Rodger Bloodravem

What Hobbes, and likely Brynden Rivers does believe in, is the concept of ‘the greatest evil’ or summum malum. That one goal which can be agreed upon by all of humanity, that no one doesn’t accept, is the prevention of violent death. The fear of the natural state. Fear from the chaos of all out anarchy. The war of all against all. That is what a monarchy and a society can be built around. And how does Bloodraven prevent that? a strong dragon wielding absolute monarch… manipulated by the weirwoods. A leviathan to kill the children of pride and prevent mankind from the endless chaos of civil wars. For this end he has sacrificed his honor. He has manipulated everything from kings and queens to mere children. He would let thousands die to save a million and preserve the realm for the future. He would even…. instigate a war between mankind and the Others?

Composing the Song of Ice and Fire

Yes, actually I think he would. Especially now that he has been assimilated into the collective consciousness of the Weirwoods. How better for Bloodraven to establish the absolute sovereign the kingdom needs than by creating an immediate need for that sovereign to save Westeros from an endless winter?

“‘Now you know,’ the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live. “Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling. Because winter is coming.” – (Bran III, AGOT)

After all, nothing unites people and gets them to quite fighting with one another like a common enemy. A good old “other” if you will, for everyone to be horrified of so that they set away their pride and stop killing one another. I mean just look at how quickly the Thenns changed their mind at Hardhome. One look at the Others and he’s ready to help ‘King Crow’ retrieve the dragonglass. And what better other is there than the army of the dead wielding bringers of icy death that are the Others? The inhuman Others are tailor made for this role right down to the basic fact that the Other’s army of the dead LITERALLY gets bigger the more people kill each other. The more divided mankind is, the stronger the Others become. Just look at how this impending icy doom has enabled Mance to unite the anarchist free folk. Is Mance uniting the wildlings a precursor to what Bloodraven expects to happen with the Seven Kingdoms?

“Do you know what it takes to unite ninety clans, half of whom want to massacre the other half for one insult or another? They speak seven different languages in my army. The Thenns hate the Hornfoots. The Hornfoots hate the ice-river clans. Everyone hates the cave people. So, you know how I got moon-worshippers and cannibals and giants to march together in the same army?… I told them we were all going to die if we don’t get south. Because that’s the truth. ” – (Mance Rayder, S3E02)

so lets change this up a little…

“Do you know what it takes to unite Seven Kingdoms, half of whom want to massacre the other half for one grudge or another? They speak seven different languages in my army. The Northerners hate the Lannisters. The Lannisters hate the Tyrells. Everyone hates the Ironborn. So, you know how I got Sparrows and Wildlings and Dornishmen to march together in the same army?… I told them we were all going to die if we don’t. Because that’s the truth. ”

Wait what were we fighting about again?
Wait what were we fighting about again?

Yea, I think that might be the plan.

Some time after being exiled to the wall in 233 AC., Lord Commander Brynden Rivers (he becomes Lord Commander after 6 years), disappears North of the Wall while ranging in the year 252 AC(at the age of 77). This is about 45 years before the start of the story, and he subsequently joins the Children of the Forest North of the wall and becomes the Last Greenseer, assimilating into the Weirnet (collective consciousness of nature and dead greenseers). It’s actually not until after he disappears that a bunch of key events in our story start happening. Note, I cannot stress enough how important it is that these events all happen after Bloodraven disappears.

  • The albino woods witch, who gets her visions “from the Old Gods” delivers ‘The Prince That Was Promised’ prophecy to the Targaryen royal family, instructing them to wed Aerys II and Rhaella so that a savior will be born from their line (and lo and behold, from their line Daenerys brings dragons back into the world). As the newest Old God, this prophecy is from Bloodraven. I cannot stress enough the significance of this, as this event is largely the catalyst to Roberts Rebellion, Jon, Daenerys, and the return of dragons.
  • The Tourney at Harrenhall.
  • The Others become a threat to the wildlings to the extent that Mance begins herding his people south.
  • For the first time in hundreds of years Direwolves are found south of the wall, coincidentally exactly one pup for each of Ned Stark’s children + Jon.
  • King Robert Baratheon, is killed by a pig. (okay this one might not be Bloodraven, but we’ll get to it).

But since when exactly? How long has winter been coming?
But since when exactly? How long has winter been coming?

A Timeline of Northern Aggression

Now we don’t know exactly when the Others began their aggression (the show puts Mance gathering the wildlings for southern migration at 20 years, but we can’t necessarily take that as gospel). We have pretty good reason to believe that the free folk began feeling an immediate and impending threat at some point which required them to migrate south, and this happened before the actual return of dragons, before there were no more Starks in Winterfell, and before the red comet most recently showed itself. That said, the last major wildling invasion before out story was by then King-Beyond-the-Wall Raymun Redbeard around 72 years before the start of the story, and that seemingly was as a result of the dwindling Night’s Watch, and so the return of the Others as a threat likely occurred after that, since Mance had to unite the Wildlings again. So, the Others didn’t start coming back when the Hardhome tragedy occurred 600 years ago (in the books this was a different tragedy involving fire), or when dragons came to Westeros with Aegon the Conqueror 300 years ago, or when the Nightfort and Snowgate were abandoned and first night was abolished in the North during the reign of Good Queen Alysanne, or even when the dragons died in Westeros around 150 years before the story begins. Whatever brought them back, they didn’t actually start coming back till some point in the last 72 years. So what awoke them? What made them start coming south? Could Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest get the Others to invade? Well the timeline certainly fits.

The timeline indicates the return of the Others seemingly coincides with Bloodraven’s disappearance, as they don’t seem to have come back around any major events prior to that, and all of the major events in our story in the last 72 years which could believably concern them seem to be after Bloodraven took the Weirwood throne. Furthermore, considering we know Craster and the Others have an arrangement where he supplies them with children, the 48 years since Bloodraven’s disappearance also fit with the apparent age of Craster. Though the possibility that Bloodraven began working his scheme because he saw the Other’s coming exists, there is seemingly no event in the 30 some years before his disappearance while still after the last wildling invasion, which would bring the Others. If Bloodraven had seen the White Walkers beginning to gather their forces while he was Lord Commander, you’d think he would send word to Aegon V. (yes that is the King who exiled him, but that should not have stopped him from warning the realm. Yet Aegon the Unlikely seem hell bent on bringing back dragons to enforce pro small folk reforms. It appears Aegon V wasn’t warned of the Others.

Furthermore, though the Others appear an inherently hostile and ominous force, we have to bear in mind that the Others have kept to their side of the wall for thousands of years when our story begins, and neither the comings nor going to men or dragons in Westeros seems to have provoked them south as of yet. In fact, historically there is zero evidence of the Other’s gathering forces to march south at any time after the Long Night, so we don’t have any actual indication that there are any expansionist tendencies or southward manifest destiny among wight walkers. They seem to have started their aggression only during Bloodraven’s reign as the last greenseer.

Brynden Rivers’ Cold War

So how did he instigate this? Well there are several ways Bloodraven could have done it. The Three Eyed Crow, a specialist in sending dreams, could well be threatening the Others with prophecies of their destruction just as mankind is receiving threats of the Other’s return. Seeing as dragons are essentially nuclear weapons of white walker destruction, it’s also possible that the plot to wed a Targaryen into the Stark family and thus bring dragonblood and dragons into the North is seen by the Others much like a Bay of Pigs situation, where fiery weapons of White Walker destruction are moving too close to their border. Maybe the Starks repel them but they know dragons could destroy them? Ice preserves, but fire consumes? In anycase we do know that the Children were involved in repelling the Others and ending the Long Night the first time, and so it’s likely that they have the power to reverse that.

Though I can’t say for sure mankind didn’t unintentionally violate some form of pact and tempt the Others down themselves (perhaps something about child sacrifices they require to preserve their population), I don’t doubt that the Children of the Forest, who were instrumental in ending the Long Night, and who were able to flood the Neck with a tsunami, and Break the Arm of Dorne to stop the first men, are capable of some pretty significant magic, including getting the Others to invade. After all, based on the way blood magic seemingly works, and based on the fact that practitioners of the Old Gods have been whether knowingly or unknowingly, making blood sacrifices to the weirwoods for thousands of years, there is likely significant power in the weirwoods. I think that GRRM is using the Children of the Forest as essentially a cognizant and personified earth, and so thematically the planet itself bringing winter is very likely. Really it works on multiple thematic levels. Nature brings winter, and the (old) gods bring the apocalypse.

At this point I’m sure some of you are reading this and saying to yourselves, “A human and the Children of the Forest bringing the Others to unite humanity? That sounds crazy. CLEARLY the Others are coming because they are evil and humanity will unite in a morally white War for the Dawn for the future of humanity and truth and justice!
Well, here is the author on that…

“The war that Tolkien wrote about was a war for the fate of civilization and the future of humanity, and that’s become the template. I’m not sure that it’s a good template, though.” – (GRRM, Rolling Stone)


So. Is the story of heroes saving the world from evil death really plastic? And why would the Children of the Forest, who have been pushed to the edges of the world by mankind, have anything to gain from a stable Westeros, much less an endless winter? And why would Bloodraven believe that a war with the Others could possibly promote a stable society? Well for that answer we have to remember what the North, the true North, remembers.

In part 3 we’re going to talk about the Long Night…. but from a geopolitical standpoint.

I. What Holds It All Together?

“During the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that conditions called war; and such a war, as if of every man, against every man.” – Thomas Hobbes

um boom ba bay, um boom ba bay, ba ba boom ba be be…

So there is this book by the 16th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes called ‘Leviathan’. As one of the earliest and most influential examples of social contract theory, Leviathan is at its most basic level an attempt at answering the grand old sociopolitical question; “What holds society together?” What holds people together? Why aren’t we all killing each other right now?

Now in the book, Hobbes, having lived through a bunch of civil wars himself, asserts that humankind’s ‘state of nature’ is one of all-out war, of every man for themselves. All against all. He posits that while small communities can function, larger societies cannot exist peacefully unless mankind relinquishes a degree of control or self-governance to a Leviathan. In mythology, a Leviathan (Hebrew for ‘whale’), is a large sea monster or dragon, a demon often associated with envy. But in this metaphor it’s any sovereign power which promises security from the chaos of all-out war in exchange for submission to its will. Hobbes characterizes the Leviathan as the ‘killer of the children of pride.’ And the children of pride are all of the other smaller factions who think they can be leviathans by establish control themselves, and consequently end up killing one another and creating all out chaos in the process. Of course Hobbes does not consider the children of pride an anomaly, but an inevitability of mankind’s natural desire for power. Essentially the leviathan is a big fish in a small pond that makes all the other fish stop fighting, and though that sounds like a big bully, once that big fish is gone everyone starts killing each other, trying to take its place. It’s like a big game of King of the Castle…. with sea monsters.

And we can actually look at society and history and see this premise play out time and time again. Take Iraq, a nation of multiple ethnic and religious groups who’s borders were drawn according to foreign economic and colonial interests, and consequently didn’t have a strong Iraqi national identity. The brutal dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein was essentially a leviathan for that country, enforcing peace and building a nation through totalitarian control. And look what happened when someone went and killed the Leviathan; we got the chaos every faction for themselves, killing each other for dominance as a result of conflicting interests. The Assad Government of Syria is another obvious Leviathan, where we have a horrible dictator holding together a volatile situation. Assad is the leviathan, and ISIS are the children of pride. Now of course I am paraphrasing here, but at its core Leviathan is an argument for absolute power to the monarch, and an undivided government to save mankind from itself. The leviathan is the absolute monarch and the children of pride are the reason to have one.


Now why am I bringing up Leviathan? Why am I asking what keeps society together? Because when it’s all said and done, I think that is what A Song of Ice and Fire is all about.

Why We Need Monsters

Let’s apply this concept to our story. Westeros has a 7 kingdom feudal system where oaths of fealty are sworn to lords who swear fealty to high lords who swear fealty to kings. The King really owns all of the land in Westeros, and the highest lords or ‘wardens’ govern their regions in the King’s stead, because Westeros is too big for the King to govern on his own(and because even that is such a huge responsibility, Westeros even has a ‘Hand of the King’ so that the monarch can appoint a more capable individual to govern or help govern). And because those regions are too big for the wardens to really govern, that process is repeated downwards. These allegiances are unstable because they are from one individual to another, and oaths must be sworn over again when a lord or king dies and is replaced, hence the pressure placed that there be succession and legitimate heirs. Hence why bastards are largely considered to be so unwanted. Not only are bastards particularly difficult to verify the paternity of, but if bastards could inherit ahead of trueborn children, then that would undermine all marriage alliances, taking away not only what little power and prestige wives have, but also the capacity for fathers to use women as currency on the marriage market. Now one could argue that bastards are hated for religious or moral reasons, but I think it’s more likely that the religious stigma against bastards actually derives from how problematic they can be in upholding society. See without a legitimate heir from a legitimate marriage, feudal society collapses under pressure of itself, as there is no way to determine who governs, and thus civil war potentially breaks out among those who have the will and power to rise up and take control, or as Hobbes would put it, ‘the children of pride’.

“So many vows…they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It’s too much. No matter what you do, you’re forsaking one vow or the other.” – (Jaime, ACOK)

Furthermore, the pressure on upholding these oaths is so immense because a single breaking can have a huge ripple effect. For instance, if the Starks of Winterfell break their oath to the crown, or if the crown breaks it’s oath to the Warden of the North (because oaths work both ways), then the Northern Houses sworn to the Lord of Winterfell have a conflict. They must either break their vow to their liege lord, or they must break their oath to the king who supposedly owns everything (because they are sworn to the crown too). Now in the North allegiance usually falls to the Starks, but it’s not so simple everywhere, and these decisions often come down to self interest. No one wants to be on the losing side, and refusing to take a side is often not an option.

“The Seven Kingdoms have a very long history, and I haven’t mentioned all of it… nor will I.” – GRRM

We also have to keep in mind that Westeros is a continent not only of seven separate Kingdoms, but of multiple cultures and ethnic groups which all have to be held together. Notice how the King’s title has to remind us that he is ‘King of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm.’ The First Men trace their history differently from the Andals (though hardly anyone is truly fully Andal or First Men, people tend to affiliate with one or the other) while the people in Dorne are largely influenced by the Rhoynar (their part Rhoynish ancestry from the migration of princess Nymeria is the reason why the Dornish have equality in succession between men and women, and thus less of a stigma against bastards). Religiously we have practitioners of the Faith of the Seven, the Old Gods, the Drowned God, and now R’hllor. Culturally the Ironborn are outright antagonistic of the customs of the rest of the Kingdoms, which themselves each have customs which are distinct from one another. Meanwhile the former Targaryen monarchy was actually very recent in Westeros and brought their own foreign secular customs from Valyria which resulted in friction with the faith of the seven, which you now see making a political resurgence. And then you have the Free Folk (technically outside of the Seven Kingdoms), who’s refusal to be governed has caused them to develop their own separate customs from their neighbors, which also vary from clan to clan.

So the people of Westeros cannot be said to identify by a common religion, ethnicity, culture, or even necessarily a shared history. There is just no unifying idea. In the Seven Kingdoms people tend to identify by their smaller geographical region, and there certainly isn’t actually a concept of a Westerosi national identity. Westeros is just too big. Notice how no one in our story identifies as “Westerosi.” One major reason for this is because power in Westeros’ is very stratified. Feudalism places too many layers of separation between the smallfolk and the Iron Throne, and thus common people do not feel represented by the monarchy, and by extension feel distance from the idea of a unified nation which that monarch is supposed to represent.

”What is the bigger number, five, or one? Five… One. One army, a real army. United behind one leader, with one purpose.” – Robert Baratheon, S1E05

Because 1 is the bigger number

So. Because it is very very very important. Same question. What holds the realm together? What inspires loyalty and upholds order? What stops people from killing each other? This question has been posed by characters throughout the series. In fact it is so important that it has been central to multiple key scenes written specifically for the show:

“Chaos is not a pit. Chaos is a ladder!” – (Littlefinger, S3E06)

“Now we’ve got as many armies as there are men with gold in their purse, and everybody wants something different: your father wants to own the world. Ned Stark wants to run away and bury his head in the snow …..We haven’t had a real fight in nine years. Back-stabbing doesn’t prepare you for a fight. And that’s all the realm is now: back-stabbing and scheming and arse-licking and money-rubbing. Sometimes I don’t know what holds it together.” – (Robert Baratheon, S1E05)

  • Cersei tries to sell the High Sparrow on the importance of partnership between the crown and the faith.

“The Faith and the Crown are the two pillars that hold up this world.” – (Cersei Lannister, S5E03)

“One stone crumbles and another takes its place and the temple holds its form for a thousand years or more. And that’s what the Iron Bank is, a temple. We all live in its shadow and almost none of us know it. You can’t run from them, you can’t cheat them, you can’t sway them with excuses. If you owe them money and you don’t want to crumble yourself, you pay it back.” – (Tywin Lannister, S4E05)

“Have you ever sown a field, Lady Olenna? Have you ever reaped a grain? Has anyone in House Tyrell? A lifetime of wealth and power has left you blind in one eye. You are the few, we are the many. And when the many stop fearing the few….” – (The High Sparrow, S5E07)

“Here in Slaver’s Bay you had the support of the common people and only the common people. What was that like, ruling without the rich?” – (Tyrion Lannister, S5E08)

“Do you know what it takes to unite ninety clans, half of whom want to massacre the other half for one insult or another? They speak seven different languages in my army. The Thenns hate the Hornfoots. The Hornfoots hate the ice-river clans. Everyone hates the cave people. So, you know how I got moon-worshippers and cannibals and giants to march together in the same army?… I told them we were all going to die if we don’t get south. Because that’s the truth. ” – (Mance Rayder, S3E02)

And those are just scenes that were written in specifically for the show. The question of what brings people together and holds a society together, is ever present behind the events of our story, and in fact it’s so significant, that when the show runners (who have to communicate the overall story in a far more condensed form) are given an opportunity to write conversations which are not presented in the books, they make a point to address this question directly.

What is it that really keeps the realm together? Is it bloodlines? Was it dragons? Or loyalty to the Targaryen name? Is it honor? Borders? Duty? Gold? Family? Friendship? Common purpose? Religion? Power? Belief? Lies? Robert and Cersei’s Marriage? It’s a terrible question to ask, and it can have even more terrible answers. I mean it’s the terror of knowing what this world is about. And at the core of everything is an exploration of this question. Different characters all have their answers and many live and die by those answers while kings and lords and priests lead armies to kill and be killed for them. Martin has famously quoted Faulkner in stating that “The human heart in conflict with itself, is the only thing worth writing about,” and just as this theme plays out for each individual character in our story, it also plays out among society as a whole. Westeros is fighting to keep itself together, and thus the heart of humanity is in conflict with itself over this question.
And if you’d ask this question to say… Brynden Rivers, I think he’d tell you the answer to the question is fear. Fear of the Leviathan. Fear of an absolute sovereign power to save mankind from themselves. And I am here to tell you that this paradigm applied in world, is the general basis for the events of the current story as a whole. That A Song of Ice and Fire is a story of the last greenseer’s last chance at keeping the realm together, no matter what the cost. And the cost is the events of our story. The pressure it puts on our characters as they unknowingly dance to the song of ice and fire. Under pressure, that burns a building down. Splits a family in two. Puts people on the streets.

In part 2 we’ll talk about Bloodraven. Who is he and how does he mean to save the world from itself?

I’d like to thank the gentlemen over at Game of Thrones Academy for their video on The Leviathan, which clearly very heavily influenced the first part of this essay and sparked the upcoming Weirwood Leviathan series as a whole.