Cold War IV. Mirror Mirror beyond the Wall


This will be the conclusion of the Cold War series, and in this essay I’ll be covering fundamentalism, the true meaning of  prophecy and ‘the Winds of Winter’, the politics of fear, magic mirrors, and the role of the protagonists in the final battle.
As arrogant as this likely sounds, and knowing full well I could very well be wrong about everything, I’m really confident about all of this. Probably more than any essay I’ve written thus far. Seriously, reading this may very well be a spoiler for the big twist behind A Song of Ice and Fire. So I’m prefacing this with a  SPOILER WARNING. Proceed with caution, for the essay is long and potentially full of spoilers.


 “When will my reflection show, who I am inside?”

– Mulan

The Holy War

From the very beginning of our story, everything the audience experiences is interpreted through the lens of three simple words. Winter. Is. Coming. It is these three words, our first POV’s being the Starks, and our general understanding that the story must culminate in a war of good and evil, which colors our interpretation of everything. It’s this assumption that makes us presume that the killing of three rangers North of the Wall is inevitably the first step in a genocide. These winds which make us see the systematic expulsion of the Wildlings as the first step in a southern invasion (even though Stannis is able to demolish the Wildling invasion with only 1,500 mounted knights.) Similarly, the characters in our story are being influenced by this propaganda.. and by prophecy.

“Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy… In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that.” – GRRM

I find it funny that this quote on prophecy given by Martin, is usually applied to ASOIAF in the most optimistic way possible. I constantly see the interpretation: “this means Jon Snow (and maybe Daenerys too) will be Azor Ahai and save the world no matter what! Even if they are too humble to believe they’re chosen ones. It’s unavoidable!” Not only is this absurdly easy, but it makes no commentary on the human condition aside from asserting that “prophecy is predestined in fantasy because fantasy is a magical false reality”. Except Martin’s writing tends to emphasize free-will as paramount.

Really, the above quote is about how a person brings about their death by listening to a prophecy about their doom, and then uses said prophecy in an attempt to prevent it. If we truly look at what is happening across the world of ASOIAF from the North to the East, this applies to out story in a very ominous way.

mel-crazy

“Melisandre has gone to Stannis entirely on her own, and has her own agenda.” – GRRM

I’ve argued in a past essay that Melisandre has greensight, and is being manipulated by Bloodraven. We know from her POV that Melisandre is genuine in her belief that she acts in service of R’hllor, yet the above quote confirms that her interpretation of her visions and of her religion has caused her to diverge from the rest of her order. As we come to realize, Melisandre is the only Red Priest who isn’t preaching that Daenerys is Azor Ahai reborn. In ADWD Mel gets a vision at the Wall (where her visions are stronger than anywhere else), of Bloodraven. He see’s her back, and the very next paragraph has her bleeding and having flashbacks to her childhood. Given that after his failure at the Blackwater she has brought Stannis to the North, Mel is seemingly being set up to switch allegiance to Jon Snow. And when the time comes that Stannis has outlived his use, Reverse Cassandra Melisandre will likely use her charisma to convert an army to the side of Bloodraven’s King candidate.

“I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow.” – (Melisandre, ADWD)

Melisandre has done something of incredible significance which no one seems to realize or acknowledge. Yet is staring us right in the face. After Stannis’ defeat at the Blackwater, when Melisandre convinces Stannis to bring his army north to stop the wildling invasion, aide the Night’s Watch, and attempt to take Winterfell in preparation for a holy war for the dawn, Stannis brings with him north of the Wall something incredibly dangerous.

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The banner of “let’s kill Others” is being flown north of the Wall.

He brings an ideology.

Demons made of snow and ice and cold. The ancient enemy. The only enemy that matters.” –  Stannis Baratheon (Samwell V, ASOS)

We as the readers merely applaud Stannis for picking the right fight because we have largely been on board with this since the prologue and Bran’s coma dream. So we don’t see the danger when Stannis brings to the wall a fire worshiping fundamentalist ideology which is totally intent on vanquishing the “thralls of the Great Other.” Talk about escalating the situation; Stannis has been proclaimed the second coming of a fabled flaming sword wielding white walker killing warrior king, and brought his army to their border.

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“Now let’s go burn some people.” – Mannis

Imagine for a moment if Stannis had brought Melisandre to and been victorious at the Blackwater, taken King’s landing, and been proclaimed King of the Andals and the First Men. The Seven Kingdoms would have made it’s official religion the Faith of R’hllor, proclaimed it’s King to be Azor Ahai, and then Melisandre would have convinced the supposed “Azor Ahai” to march his royal army north to stop a wildling invasion and prepare for a holy war against the “true enemy.” The cold children of the Great Other.”

Now I’m not saying that the Other’s worship a Great Other, or genuinely believe Stannis is Azor Ahai, or that these dual gods even exists (in fact I highly doubt it). None of that really matters. It’s only logical that they’d perceive this fire worshiping religion as being bent on their extermination, because it is.

“The way the world is made. The truth is all around you, plain to behold. The night is dark and full of terrors, the day bright and beautiful and full of hope. One is black, the other white. There is ice and there is fire. Hate and love. Bitter and sweet. Male and female. Pain and pleasure. Winter and summer. Evil and good.” She took a step toward him. “Death and life. Everywhere, opposites. Everywhere, the war.
“The war has been waged since time began, and before it is done, all men must choose where they will stand. On one side is R’hllor, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. Against him stands the Great Other whose name may not be spoken, the Lord of Darkness, the Soul of Ice, the God of Night and Terror.” – Melisandre (Davos III, ASOS)
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well as it turns out…
Can we all see the insanity of this yet? Melisandre’s believes the world is hurdling towards Armageddon. Towards the final battle between good and evil. She expects Azor Ahai to wage a holy war against the Others. And remember, Azor Ahai does NOT carry a flaming shield. Azor Ahai carries a flaming sword. Azor Ahai is not a hero who defends the realm against the Others. Azor Ahai plays offense and the Others flee before him. Azor Ahai is a killer.

 

I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan’. And I did. And then God would tell me ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq’. And I did.” – George W. Bush

“The hostility that America continues to express against the Muslim people has given rise to feelings of animosity on the part of Muslims against America and against the West in general.” – Osama Bin Laden

Over the last decade we saw a similar situation of self-fulfilling prophecy play out in the real world with the American “War on Terror” between radical organizations in the Islamic world, and Neoconservatives in the West. By proclaiming themselves as fighting for the side of Allah, terrorist groups convinced many in America that the “War on Terror” was indeed a Holy War. This prompted many religious right wing Christians to claim that they were fighting on the side of god against an anti-Christian, anti-Freedom ideology, which in turn raised the perception amongst Muslims that the war waged by the west was by nature a war of religion, of “defending a holy land from a nation of crusaders”. And this, along with the war in Iraq, served as the most powerful incentive for recruitment to these radical insurgencies.

“words are wind” – GRRM  (repeated 21 times over ASOS, AFFC, and ADWD)

Not only are the Others themselves representative of the literal winds of winter, arriving like cold winds. But winds are also (excuse me for stating the obvious) air currents which push things in a certain direction. So I’m betting that the larger theme of ‘The Winds of Winter’ is going to be the words, attitudes, and ideas that manifest as winds which blow humanity towards war.

FW3IH0L
The North Remembers

I believe this is the true nature of prophecy that this anti-war writer is depicting. Prophecy is not inevitable or a game of clue or a silly gimmick. Prophecy is a promise which challenges people to fulfill or prevent it, bringing to life the forces it describes. By trying to prepare for the War for the Dawn, Stannis, Melisandre, and yes, even Jon Snow, are bringing about the very war they are trying to prevent. By trying to kill Jon Snow and weaken the North with a Wildling invasion, the Others are inadvertently bringing human attention and war upon themselves.

By calling someone your enemy, you make yourself their enemy.

If you are among those who is still drinking Melisandre’s koolaide, convinced that the Others would have come either way; ask yourself, do you think the Others would be coming if humanity and the Children of the Forest were able to coexist and share the lands of Westeros? or if the First Men had come to Westeros peacefully? Would they be coming if mankind hadn’t driven the Children of the Forest onto the lands north of the Wall, putting them in conflict with with the people of the Land of Always Winter? Would they be coming if humans didn’t settle disputes by killing each other all the time, leaving behind mountains of corpses? Would the Others be a problem if the nature of mankind weren’t what it was? Do you seriously think that George R. R. Martin is writing the story of an empire without critiquing the cost of empire building? Or a story about the realities of war which ends in a zombie apocalypse?

 

THIS WOLF ATTACK IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD

“Winter is Coming” – the words of House Stark of Winterfell
The words winds of Winterfell (words are wind, words = wind)

THE WINDS OF WINTER

Which brings us to the great paradox at the very start of our series; the words of House Stark. Theorists have thought over, and rethought over, and overthought over these words, coupled with “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell,” for years. FOR YEARS. We know these words are enormously significant given not only how early and often they come up, and how the show continually emphasizes them. But given how adamantly GRRM has hammered “words are wind” into the narrative, and how the words of House Stark are indeed the Winds of Winter, and how ‘The Winds of Winter’ was the planned title for the final novel at the early stages when ASOIAF was a trilogy, we need to really look at these words.

Aside from representing the inevitable change of seasons to winter, and the inevitable coming of hard times, these words represent the subsequent need to remain prepared and hold together; as a family, as a kingdom, as a pack, and as a society. And these words represent the fundamental promise of the series that is seemingly confirmed in the prologue. The promise of an army of winter demons invading Westeros.

Because that’s why the Starks say it right? winter was always coming… wasn’t it?

Gmork
“AND HE DOESN’T LIKE CHAINS!” – Rickon Stark

Or maybe there was another reason for the Starks of Winterfell to repeat those words for all those thousands of years. Those thousands of invasion free years…

“Fear cuts deeper than swords” – Syrio Forel

It’s been noticed that where all other houses chose a boast for their words, House Stark chose a warning. Many have tried to find loop holes and argue that the Starks are actually boasting, and the white walkers are somehow envoys of the Starks, or that it means the Kings of Winter are coming. And the latter may be part of it. But the greater truth is far more ingenious than that, yet far simpler. It’s not a hidden boast.

House Stark picked a warning.

Warning is better.

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Atreyu’s mind = blown

For whatever reason the Starks chose their house words, they went with the superior political strategy. The words of House Stark appeal to the fundamental human fear of violent death. In warning the people of the North that winter is coming, they are warning people of what comes with it, be it freezing cold, fierce snow storms, hunger, or ice demons. And in doing so, they are using fear to convince the people to stay together. To bend the knee to the Kings of Winter. To uphold social order, maintain feudal oaths and, and keep the kingdom strong. Because Winter Is Coming, and you don’t want to be weak, alone, or unprepared when it does. When winter comes you want to have the Kings of Winter on your side. Everything about House Stark’s identity is about inspiring loyalty by appealing to people’s fear of death. Their very origin legend about Bran the Builder is about a man who built the wall. The wall. The giant Wall of ice which defends mankind from the Others and the wildlings. The inherent promise of House Stark is that they secure the borders of the North and offer protection against the Others.

Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths. So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm.” – Ned to Arya (Arya II, AGOT)

The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. You want to be part of the pack.

It’s a very old, very common, and very effective political strategy. An empire needs an enemy else it becomes it’s own enemy. It makes sense for a ruler to keep people afraid of an outside foe or some kind of threat to maintain power and sovereignty. Human beings can be proud, greedy, ambitious, and prone to violently disrupting social order for personal or factional gain if they don’t have something to fear, be it their leaders or whatever they need society to protect them from. In modern times we’ve developed a tendency to see “rule by fear” as this purely tyrannical method, but there is both good and bad to it. It’s really a balancing act of order vs. chaos, and protection vs. oppression.

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Which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Sometimes it serves to promote national unity, maintain social order, and prevent violent coups. Yet other times it serves to strip away liberties, alienate outsiders and push people to war. In the United States, parts of Europe, and Israel, fear of Islamic terrorist groups is often used by right wing parties, leaders, or nationalist movements to gain support and remain in power. But often times the rhetoric and military actions of those groups result in war, alienation, and radicalization anyways. Such as how the Iraq War was a major contributing factor in the rise of ISIS (or Daesh as they hate to be called).

Would the Others have come a long time ago if the North was weak and there was no Stark in Winterfell? Maybe? unprovoked conquest has happened in this world and our own. The First Men, the Andals, the Valyrians, the Targaryens, all of them were unprovoked conquerors when it suited them.

Was the North better off thinking they needed the Starks for protection than they would have been otherwise? Probably. Sure the Bolton’s rebelled anyways, but it could have been far worse if there wasn’t a healthy fear and loyalty to the Starks.

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THIS WOLF ATTACK IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD! LET US PROTECT YOU

But does that mean the White Walkers were always going to invade no matter what Westeros did? 8,000 years of sustained peace makes me think the answer is probably not. The reader was tricked into thinking full scale war was inevitable. By the prologue. By the Three Eyed Crow. By Melisandre. And by the words of House Stark; the winds of winter.

The reader has been tricked into seeing the Starks of Winterfell purely as the nerdy lone scientist who sees the government conspiracy / alien invasion / global warming / giant monster attack before everyone else. The outsider who sees the greater truth but isn’t believed by the establishment. We see that winter is coming and no one believes them. No one believes that doom is coming because mankind is too busy waging war… to go wage war. Yet House Stark was the establishment. For thousands of years, the Kings of Winter used the existence of evil beyond the borders to threaten the North into submission.

And it worked.

VOTESTARK
A VOTE FOR STARK IS A VOTE FOR A SAFER NORTH! #STARK2016 #WinterIsComing

Man in the Magic Mirror

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“If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change”

A Song of Ice and Fire has always been Martin’s take on fantasy, with the realities of politics and human nature applied to the often mythical and unrealistic tropes we see in the genre. We have jolly kings, mad kings, and secret princes. Prophecies, Sorceresses and Oracles. Bards, pirates, and jesters. White knights, dark knights, and enchanted swords. Wizards, gentle giants, forest elves, and magic trees. Crones, three wishes, and a kill genie. Maidens, dwarves and evil queens. Wolves, Dragons and Lion Kings. Magic dreams, cursed castles, and fabled cities. Which should make us wonder, where is the magic mirror?

“Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” – Evil Queen, Snow White

Well…

In the Dawn Age, the First Men invaded Westeros from the south and went to war against it’s indigenous people, destroying their homes and taking their lands, and establishing kingdoms that endlessly warred with one another. Even going as far north at the very least as the Fist of the First Men. Then in the Age of Heroes the Others invaded the realms of men from the north, going to war with the conquering settlers that were the First Men, making unlivable for man the very lands man had just stolen. Man drove the Others back, and someone built a Wall, along which mankind placed a security force.

The Night’s King saw an Other woman and he loved her. She loved him back and became his queen.

So the Others tried making a marriage alliance with that force along the Wall, so mankind  (Starks and Wildlings) drove the Others away from the Wall and ensured it remained neutral, but dependent upon the Starks.

Mankind slowly drove the Children of the Forest to the lands North of the Wall, putting them in conflict with the Others. And now the Others are slowly killing and driving the Wildlings to the lands South of the Wall, putting them in conflict with the Seven Kingdoms.

Mankind heard a prophecy about doom and a promised prince, and sought out that prince. And so did the Others.

The Others gathered their army, and mankind brought an army to the Wall with the burning heart of R’hllor as their banner.

The ruling class of humans force living people to fight and kill each other in wars on their behalf, and the Others kill, raise, and control the dead.

Humans exclude and give up their bastard children, and the Others take them.

staring back

They’re like our mirrors. Staring back at us.

“I am reminded that at the L.A. Worldcon in 2006, George was on a panel and he was talking a bit dismissively about the cookie-cutter fantasies with a Dark Lord that’s the ultimate evil, wants to destroy the world, etc. and he said, you know, nothing is ever that black and white in reality, history’s greatest villains and monsters were, from their own perspective, heroic, etc. And he basically said he didn’t want to write about a Dark Lord sort of situation. And so someone followed up asking, Well, what about the Others? They seem pretty clearly evil. He paused and then smiled and said we’d have to keep reading to see where that goes. It implied to me that, yes, there’s more to the Others than what we’ve seen so far.” – Elio Garcia on GRRM

“Perhaps it had only been a bird, a reflection on the snow, some trick of the moonlight. What had he seen, after all?” -Will (Prologue, AGOT)
“A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.” – (Prologue, AGOT)
“Its armor rippled and shifted as it moved, and its feet did not break the crust of the new-fallen snow.” – (Samwell I, ASOS)
“Beneath were bones like milkglass, pale and shiny, and they were melting too.” – (Samwell I, ASOS”
[GRRM] told me of the ice swords, and the reflective, camouflaging armor that picks up the images of the things around it like a clear, still pond. – Tommy Patterson
“They’re never far, you know. They won’t come out by day, not when that old sun’s shining, but don’t think that means they went away. Shadows never go away. Might be you don’t see them, but they’re always clinging to your heels.” – Tormund (Jon XII, ADWD)
“(We’ll learn more about their) history, certainly, but I don’t know about culture. I don’t know if they have a culture.” – GRRM
Trick of the moonlight? No culture of their own? Glass? Shadows? What are pale white shadows but reflections? and who’s shadows? what are they reflecting? well as it turns out the answer has been staring us in the face this whole time.
The Others are reflections of mankind.
Not necessarily in a literal sense, but certainly in a literary and behavioral sense. The Others don’t have culture. They mirror. They imitate. They appropriate. They are our bastard children. Snows with their wights. This is their nature. They are icy beings that reflect back what is used against them. Just as those living south of the Wall are required to fight and kill in the wars of the King or Lord who’s lands they live under, those “free folk living north of the Wall are used by the Others as wight soldiers (on much rarer occasions). Martin is not using the Others as a hypothetical zombie apocalypse or a genocidal alien invasion. Martin has by no accident called these ice spirits ‘the Others’. Remember what I said before about the purpose of the Other in sociology:

The SELF requires the existence of the OTHER to define the SELF.

And how do we identify ourselves? We look into a mirror and gaze upon our reflection.

Martin is as Shakespeare said, ‘holding the mirror up to nature‘. The Others are what we find through the looking glass. The Others are the reflections of how humans treat the sociological ‘other’, and they are terrifying. What does that say about us that we are terrified of our reflections? That we are terrified of someone doing to us what we do to outsiders? What does that say about how we treat those who we view as the other? The ending is not about what we should do in the event of a zombie apocalypse. It’s an indictment on how we treat each other.

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There are actually some pretty deep parallels between ASOIAF and the Neverending story.

“Oh, that’s what everyone thinks! But kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards! Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming!” – (Engywook, The NeverEnding Story)

In ‘The Neverending Story’ the hero Atreyu in trying to reach the wisdom of the oracle Uyulala, must pass through the ‘Magic Mirror Gate.’ This gate shows the viewer their innermost nature. And when confronted by that nature, most men are terrified. Having the innocence of youth, the gate only confuses Atreyu by showing him Bastian (which terrifies Bastian who is reading the story). But all the same, in the book when Atreyu passes through the gate he is without memory of his past self, reborn anew. And it’s this confrontation and purging of his past self and subsequent rebirth which allows him to proceed.
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Atreyu faces the magic mirror gate.
The magic mirror of A Song of Ice and Fire, is none other than the Wall itself. This giant Wall of ice which divides the Seven Kingdoms from the wild beyond it, is like a mirror to that which lies south. Just as Martin has written the Wildlings as a bunch of disparate anarchist clans who are perpetually hateful of and in conflict with one another, the people of Westeros have become a bunch of disparate kingdoms and factions perpetually hateful of and at war with one another. Just as the Free Folk are united by the common threat of the Others under a King-Beyond-the-Wall, so will the threat of the Others unite the realms of men under a King-Beyond-the-Wall.
“You’re definitely going to see more of the Others in The Winds of Winter… What lies really north in my books—we haven’t explored that yet, but we will in the last two books.” – GRRM
The relationship isn’t literally 1:1, but from a literary standpoint the Wall functions like a mirror, with the events north of the Wall as a microcosm of the events south of the Wall. The Others reflect what humanity uses against them and reverses it back at realm. They are not reflections of the best of humanity. Nor are they reflections of the worst of humanity. But they are reflections of humanity’s movements towards them.
And if the Others are reflections of what humanity puts forth towards them, then war is definitely coming.

Mr. Joramun Tear Down This Wall

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“I am the Lord of Winterfell,” Jon screamed….
… and woke with a raven pecking at his chest. “Snow,” the bird cried. – (Jon XII, ADWD)

In the Winds of Winter, Jon Snow will be reborn by fire much like Berric or Stoneheart. Naturally Stannis or Jon will take Winterfell. With Stannis dead, the show will likely have Jon do this with the Wildlings he just let through the Wall (and maybe Littlefinger and the knights of the Vale will help), but the books may have this be Stannis (though I mostly suspect Jon, given his determination to kill Ramsay). If it’s Stannis, a man raising a banner of a burning heart and claiming to be Azor Ahai AKA champion of fire and slayer of the Others, will have taken the seat of the King’s south of the Wall. Regardless if Stannis takes Winterfell or not, Stannis will likely die at some point after the burning of Shireen, and then Jon will take Winterfell, either in battle leading the Wildlings and the remainder of Stannis’ forces, or after being resurrected from the crypts. Either way, Jon will obtain the thing he always coveted but could never have because of his status as a bastard. Jon will take Winterfell, and from the Other’s perspective the new King of Winter will be the blood of the dragon, reborn by fire and proclaimed Azor Ahai. Once again we have to bear in mind, calling oneself Azor Ahai is basically an open threat to the Others.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” – Ronald Reagan

Meanwhile, I suspect Samwell Tarley possesses the Horn of Jorgmungandr Joramun. Acting as the Heimdal parallel in the great big Ragnarok metaphor we have going, Sam will likely blow the horn signaling the Wall to go down, and also waking the power of the old gods / greenseer from the earth. This will likely result in earthquakes. Yet the tearing down of the Wall, as much as it terrifies the Watch, will actually signal to the Others that the realms of men are preparing for war, and the Jötunn Others will advance.

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Where is that third dragon? hmm….

To the south Daenerys Targaryen will have arrived to take King’s Landing or at least Dragonstone. In the show I suspect Cersei will burn down the Red Keep (maybe much of KL). But the books will place Daenerys in conflict with Aegon, with Tyrion having accused his claim of being false resulting in a second Dance. About when Daenerys fulfills her desire of taking her Kingdom, and likely once Tyrion obtains vengeance on those who mocked and wronged him, is likely when the Wall will fall. And with Fenrir Bran’s powers unbound, the Winged Wolf will skin change one of Dany’s dragons and take flight.

YEAAAAA
Yes dragon riding is cool, but there is a downside here.

“You will never walk again, Bran… but you will fly.” – (Bran II, ADWD)

That brings us to the second thing Jon always wanted, to know his true parentage. This could be revealed to him by a number of people, but I suspect the most likely candidates are Mance Rayder (from some secret in the Crypts), Howland Reed (due to his presence at Harrenhal and the Tower of Joy), or Benjen Stark (due to his intimate knowledge of Ned and Lyanna’s nature). Though in the show I also offer Littlefinger as a candidate based on how his crypt conversation with Sansa indicated inside knowledge of the R+L scandal. But to actually prove his true parentage, Jon’s sword in the stone moment will come in the form Bran Stark bringing a dragon to Winterfell. It will be Bran who provides the dragon to ultimately prove the man is who he says he is, the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna.

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Like Ghost, Falkor the Luck Dragon is also an albino. And Jon Snow is basically Atreyu.

“The wolf will prove the boy is who he says he is” – Wyman Manderly

And then come the Others. When the Wall comes down and the man proclaimed to be the one true King of the Andals and the First Men at Winterfell is an undead fiery blooded, dragon riding, Valyrian steel sword wielding, champion of R’hllor and the prophesized slayer of the Others, declaring to the realms of men that Winter is Coming, and they must all unite under him to destroy the true enemy to the north; THAT is when the war with the Others will arrive.

Because humans will have basically declared war.

Note: This is just one possibility. It’s also possible that the Wall coming down and a Valyrian steel wielding blood of the dragon Jon reborn by fire, proclaimed Azor Ahai and King in the North, will be enough to bring war with the Others. So there is the potential that the dragons will arrive later with Daenerys’ after the war has already begun. Though there are a lot of variables, I’m confident that it will play out specifically that several of the protagonists ascension to power is what ultimately incites the conflict.

The great irony is that the war will come not only when, but because several of our protagonists obtain what they desire.

Too often theorists determine that the coming of the Others is like a switch which has nothing to do with the actions of our characters or anything happening in the novels. Theories tend to propose that the answer is in Asshai, or some mystic fire switch that was pulled at Summerhal which made war inevitable, or revenge for the Night’s King that just took thousands of years to plan, or an invisible cosmic magic balance. The war will happen not because of evil mustache twirling villains, or because wicked ice demon are inexplicably hungry for genocide, or because a cosmic hourglass of ice and fire was turned over.
War will come because (Stannis?), Jon, Dany, Tyrion, and Bran, will obtain the power they desire. Our characters will not simply be responding to senseless random evil and from afar, nor are they merely fixing something brought on by the sins of previous generations. When a just man believing himself the rightful king by law claims Winterfell and makes the ultimate sacrifice. When a bastard boy takes the castle he was always denied for circumstances beyond his control, and learns that he is truly a king destined to be the hero he always wanted to be. When an exiled girl with the power of dragons returns home as the proclaimed champion of fire to reclaim her birthright as Queen of Westeros. When a dwarf, mocked throughout his entire life, returns to the city which condemned him and the family that reviled him to take revenge. When a crippled boy who has had everything taken away from him, harnesses his powers and learns to fly. War will come when these characters (and possibly more) obtain the power and vengeance they desire to fight the enemies they hate. The power they feel they rightly should have for the greater good. It’s this very desire for power and vengeance which will bring the world to war.

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
~ Fire and Ice, by Robert Frost
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Luke Skywalker has a vision where he kills Vader and see’s his own head in Vader’s helmet. There is a double meaning here.

In this I believe GRRM is presenting an uncomfortable and typically unexplored reality. Usually in stories, the well-intentioned protagonist obtaining what they desire is depicted as “what is best for everybody except the evil bad guys.” But in the real world there are always consequences to the pursuit and acquisition of power. And I don’t mean that to be at all so simple as accusing the main characters of being the REAL villains for taking power. Absolutely not. After all most of them have relatively noble intentions and have had to make hard choices. Still that doesn’t mean that their rise to power isn’t threatening. Power is always threatening as by its very nature power implies that which is to be feared. Power is dominance and dominance cannot exist without something to be dominated. One man’s rise is another man’s fall. One man’s revolutionary is another man’s terrorist. We view our protagonists as we would humble Luke Skywalker, yet what the story has shown us time and time again is that no one ruler can simultaneously be or do what is best for everyone. Maybe a plurality or even a majority, but not everyone. So what happens when the rebel becomes the king? Does one man’s Luke Skywalker, not then become an Other’s Emperor Palpatine?

Now How it Ends

“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.”- (Eddard X, AGOT)

If this series has been convincing at all for you, then I’ve have made more apparent the tragedy in what seemed like a glorious holy war for human survival. At this point you may be having second thoughts about wanting the Others exterminated, or seeing war as the answer, and are maybe wondering if there is a way out. This is a story after all, and maybe you still want to see a final shootout. Or you may be wondering if any of our characters might be able to make peace instead of war.

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I highly recommend the movie Seven Psychopaths.

I doubt it. It’s sort of hard to see where such a peace could even come from at this point. The Others really have no reason to trust humanity, particularly if they see a path to victory. Humanity has already proved deadly, inconsistent, and uncompromising, and rarely keep vows between one another, let alone a treaty with the Others. The White Walkers and the army of the dead are still monsters from a fairy tale to most of Westeros, and to imagine they will go from being a ghost story, to an imminent apocalypse, to respected neighbors, in such a short time is hard to imagine. The Others don’t even speak the language of humans.

“Jon  was armored in black ice, but his blade burned red in his fist. As the dead men reached the top of the Wall he sent them down to die again.” – (Jon XII, ADWD)

Much is said of Jon Snow as a man who unites different peoples given his track record with the wildlings, with people going so far as to compare him to Jesus. Yet Jon’s inclination to make peace with the wildlings was built primarily on his natural human attraction and love for Ygritte, and his fear of the Others. He has thus far been inclined towards clear cut traditional morality, and his resurrection is likely to make him less idealistic. And having been raised a bastard boy himself, it’s hard to imagine he would accept a treaty in which bastard children are taken from their mothers.

“That night she dreamt that she was Rhaegar, riding to the Trident. But she was mounted on a dragon, not a horse. When she saw the Usurper’s rebel host across the river they were armored all in ice, but she bathed them in dragonfire and they melted away like dew and turned the Trident into a torrent. Some small part of her knew that she was dreaming, but another part exulted. This is how it was meant to be. The other was a nightmare, and I have only now awakened.” – (Daenerys III, ASOS)

As for Daenerys, she has already been dreaming of an enemy to her people just like the Others which she can burn away with dragon fire. Daenerys’ entire arc has driven her away from peace as a solution, and brought her towards the conclusion that force is the path towards the greater good, and she happens to have exactly the kind of force necessary.

And Bran is still a kid, sitting under a cave with Bloodraven and the Children who have orchestrated the whole conflict. There another race on the verge of extinction if this war doesn’t happen and doesn’t result in a new dragon monarchy, sustained through the absolute power of dragons and the fear of the Other and the promise of protection from the Others. Though Bran is likely to obtain the most knowledge of the greater history and the true nature of the conflict which the Seven Kingdoms find themselves, that knowledge also faces him with the most complex moral decision of all.

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Really though GRRM has stated the ending will be bittersweet.

You have to wonder what value there is for either side in peace predicated on the word of a single individual or monarch. GRRM has described the ending as “bittersweet”, so it’s hard to see the ending resulting in defeat for humanity, so even if the Others happen to obtain some kind of Blue Eyes Wight Drogon, it’s unlikely they will be able to overcome humanity. But it’s also tough to see the story ending in  a situation where “everybody wins” or “everyone gets along.” There needs to be a bitter part to have a bittersweet ending, and perhaps the reader and the protagonists coming to an understanding about the tragic cost of creating a new world is part of that. Maybe the heroes can change things, or maybe not everyone gets a happy ending. The Seven Kingdoms might not be ready for one. Perhaps it’s not about whether the entire world chooses peace. Maybe the best we can hope for is that the few people our story has centered on can learn from all of this, and transcend hatred, desire and fear. Maybe in the end what matters is the self understanding and inner peace a few characters can take forward with them, and the promise of a kinder world. The hope that one day we can look into the mirror and see fairer reflections staring back at us.

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VIII. God-On-Earth


In seven parts we’ve been through the central conspiracy of A Song of Ice and Fire. Brynden Rivers, the last Greenseer, is instigating war between mankind and the Others in order to unite Westeros under a dragon monarchy who can defend against the coming winter. Jon and Daenerys will be the hero King and Queen, father and mother of a new dynasty. Foreign war unites people, and as an absolutist Bloodraven believes that only a strong sovereign with dragons can save Westeros from the endless civil wars of the last century. In Hobbesian terms, a Leviathan to kill the children of pride and save mankind from it’s state of nature. This is the Song of Ice and Fire.

If you’ve been paying attention, there should be two major questions to all this. Why would the Children of the Forest go along with this? and how is this really different from the last Targaryen dragon monarchy? The short answer to both of these questions is shown to us immediately after the prologue. The answer is the Prince of Winterfell, Bran Stark.


 

“Now is the winter of our discontent. Made glorious summer by this son of York.”

– Richard III

 

 

We are the world, We are the children

What winter that is coming for the realms of men, has long since come for the Children of the Forest. Since the coming of the First Men, mankind has taken more and more of their lands. Since the coming of the Andals, the religion of the Old Gods which was the basis for their initial Pact with mankind has become less and less prevalent. Their numbers are growing smaller, likely resulting in fewer and fewer of them with the gift of Greensight. The rise of hegemonic capitalism is resulting in the traditions and honor of the old ways established in the Pact becoming less and less relevant. Fewer practitioners of their religion, results in fewer weirwoods and fewer blood sacrifices (when Ned Stark cleans the blood from his sword at the black pool in the Winterfell godswood, the blood goes into the weirwood), weakening their magic. Now the Singers who roamed all of Westeros for millenniums have become refugees on the north side of the Wall. The opposing forces of the Children of Spring and the Old Men of Winter have now been forced into conflict, as the Children drift literally closer and closer to the Land of Always Winter where nothing grows. Figuratively closer and closer to death.

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For a moment Bran thought this was Arya.

Gone down into the earth … Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us. – (Leaf, ADWD)

Imagine you are one of them. Imagine you are one of the singers and the survival of humanity isn’t the center of your world, but rather the weirwood trees are. Imagine living in harmony with nature and preserving the weirwoods is what you want most. What do you do? You can’t leave Westeros and be apart from the Weirwoods, as they are basically the Gods to you. And you can’t live in endless winter.

“Men would not be sad. Men would be wroth. Men would hate and swear a bloody vengeance. The singers sings sad songs, where men would fight and kill.” – (Bran III, ADWD)

But fight and kill is not an option. You can’t win a war with mankind. You can’t even trust mankind. They aren’t like you. More and more they are violent, prideful, dishonest, ruthlessly ambitious, and their numbers grow exponentially. So how do you reach them? Who will hear you? How do you preserve what is important to you and your people?

You call Brynden Rivers, that’s how. And then you sing a sad song. The Song of Ice and fire.

#SavetheChildren #SingersfortheEnvironment

 

Human, Nature, and Human Nature

About half a century before the start of our story, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers, seeing the weakness of the crown in the absence of dragons, disappears North of the Wall and allies with the Children of the Forest. Lord Brynden was a Targaryen king’s bastard born to a mother from house Blackwood of Raventree Hall, a house strongly affiliated with the Old Gods, and likely descended from the Warg King who allied with the Children of the Forest. So like Jojen, like Bran, like the Ghost of High Heart, and I’d propose like Melisandre as well, the red eyed Brynden Riversis highly susceptible to being contacted telepathically by the Old Gods.

“Only one man in a thousand is born a skinchanger,” Lord Brynden said one day, after Bran had learned to fly, “and only one skinchanger in a thousand can be a greenseer.” – (Bran III, ADWD)

Before his exile to the Wall, Brynden was the most powerful man in Westeros. He was Hand of the King, a Greenseer and Sorcerer who ruled the Seven Kingdoms with an absolutist philosophy, by establishing the most vast information network Westeros had ever seen. Or should I say, the second most.

In events that mirrored the story of the Last Hero, the long winter had come for the children, and so the Last Hero Greenseer journeyed into the far North to seek out the Children of the Forest. In political terms this is an ALLIANCE, complete with a NEW PACT between man and nature. The Children of the Forest offer to the political mastermind Brynden Rivers a Weirwood throne, and with it the deep memory, knowledge, sight and magic of the North. That is not to mention giving out man Max Von Sydow the power to cheat death and live an unnaturally long life. With this power he can stabilize Westeros by establishing a Leviathan (strong monarch) to save the kingdoms from the natural state (war of all against all). And I propose that what singers want in exchange, what they need for their very survival, is to have a voice in Bloodraven’s new world.

It makes sense that these events would be occurring now. The dwindling population of Children of the Forest likely results in a scarcity of Greenseer’s among their population. And the politically minded ends justify means approach of Brynden Rivers represents a radical paradigm shift for the Children.

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Note that Bran’s name literally means ‘raven.’ #youreawizardBran (original artwork by Aido Katayanagi)

Making alliances with mankind is seemingly nothing new for the Children. After warring with the First Men in the Dawn Age, the First Men and Children try their hand at a Pact. In the Long Night the Children seemingly help mankind defeat the Others, and perhaps build the Wall, or at least some of the castles along the Wall. In the Age of Heroes the Children of the Forest ally with the Warg King who rules at Sea Dragon point, against House Stark. They may have had a similar alliance with the Marsh Kings as well, given the stories we have about crannogmen intermarrying with the singers. Heck, they may have similarly been involved in propping up the Night’s King considering the prevalence of the Nightfort in that story, and their power over the Nightfort. When the Andals came with their iron weapons and new religion, the Children of the Forest form an alliance with the Storm Kings. Yet it seems that at every step, when the Singers allied with mankind, whether they pick the winner or the loser, it doesn’t stop mankind from driving them further and further out.

If we look at the direction Westeros is trending, the potential for mankind to honor their agreements in the future doesn’t seem to be looking good. Westeros is seemingly transitioning away from magic, further away from the strict honor system of the Pact which defined characters like Ned Stark, and towards hegemony, capitalism, and the sort of ambitious and competitive mentality of self interest which defines men like Petyr Baelish. In fact, based on the laws set by the Pact, someone like Littlefinger is would be seen as a monstrosity to the Children. While human society is seemingly built more and more around expansion, the culture of the Children of the Forest is seemingly built around sustainability.

So we have to ask ourselves, even if the war with the Others results in victory for mankind and a dragon wielding monarchy led by Daenerys and Jon, how will that be any different for the Children of the Forest?

We can ask a similar question of Bloodraven. Even if this new regime under Jon and Daenerys is successful in heroically driving back the Others and ruling with the power of dragons, how will that be much different from the reign that was achieved before? I mean, naturally Westeros will effectively become a superpower and there will be a newly achieved sense of national unity after winning the war, but how long will that unity last? and what is to stop another Dance of the Dragons situation where the monarchy itself becomes torn? You have to ask, is Bloodraven really willing to gamble everything on the judgement and temperament of Jon and Daenerys and whoever their heirs may be?

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(original artworks by Mike Wrobel)

The answer is simply no.

Neither Bloodraven, nor the Children of the Forest, are ultimately gambling the future on the wisdom of Jon and Daenerys. As heroes yes. As conquerors yes. But as rulers? No. They are placing their faith in the summer child, Brandon Stark.

 

 

Thus Spoke Bloodraven: The Thousand Goals and One

There is one more Bloodraven parallel we have to draw, and that is to Zarathustra, the founder of Zoroastrianism who is later adapted and fictionalized in Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra. We know Martin is referencing Zoroastrianism, as that is admittedly what he based the faith of R’hllor on. We can also see parallels between the song about Bloodraven ‘A Thousand Eyes and One’ and Zarathustra’s ‘Thousand and One Goals.’ Yet Nietzsche‘s Zarathustra rejects the dualistic good vs. evil binary [which he himself] previously put forward. Like Brynden Rivers, Nietzsche’s Zarathustra was a hermit who retreated into years of solitude on a mountain and found wisdom, yet in his great love for mankind decides that he must share the great truth he has discovered with humanity. Thus just as Zarathustra descends from the mountaintop to share his wisdom, Bloodraven is sharing his wisdom of the weirwoods with Bran and by sending dreams. Where Zarathustra’s truth is of the overman and his higher purpose for humanity is somewhat ambiguous, Bloodraven is seemingly trying to create the ideal structure for society.

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This is Zoroaster.

In the Thousand and One Goals, like Thomas Hobbes, Zarathustra posits that different groups of people have many different conceptions of what ‘the greater good’ is, which matches Brynden River’s experience during the Westerosi civil war known as the Blackfyre Rebellion. Furthermore, Zarathustra has come to realize the violent lengths which people will go to against a group of people whom they perceive to be evil (such as the Others). A significant aspect of Zarathustra’s goal for humanity, was that this salvation of humanity would entail a highly destructive and sacrificial process. While Thus Spake Zarathustra is focused on the goal of ‘the overman,’ in Bloodraven’s case, this salvation seemingly requires a heavy human cost, catastrophic war with the Others, and the establishing of a new monarchy bound neither to the values of the Faith nor the scholarship of the Maesters.

Still, the philosophy and details of Bloodraven’s ideal society are difficult to really pinpoint. But the structure of it is actually pretty clear when we look at the alliance between Brynden Rivers and the Children of the Forest from a sociopolitical standpoint.

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“You’re a wizard Bran” – Bloodumbledore

Like Bran’s father and Robert Baratheon were fostered at the Eyrie to strengthen ties between the Vale, the Stormlands and the North, Bran Stark is essentially being fostered among the Children of the Forest to strengthen ties between mankind and nature, indicating that Bran is to be the true holder of power in Bloodraven’s ideal society. Bran is learning from Bloodraven and the weirwoods and growing uniquely sympathetic to the Children of the Forest. Through his powerful warging abilities Bran will obtain the capacity to control the dragons, giving him final control over the use of military force. Through the weirwoods and ravens Bran will be able to oversee the realm, and through the greenseer’s ability to send dreams Bran will influence the monarch. And just like Bloodraven has chosen his replacement in Bran, when the time comes Bran will pick his replacement too.

“You will never walk again, Bran… but you will fly.” – (Bran II, ADWD)

And yes, Bran will absolutely be able to warg dragons (bringing a certain irony to the show quote by Daenerys “a dragon is no slave”). It’s a Chehkov’s gun being set up throughout the text. he is already being taught by Bloodraven to enter ravens. The bond between Arya and Nymeria is so strong that she able to warg Nymeria in her dreams from across the narrow sea. Bloodraven is able to warg Lord Commander Mormont’s raven. Bran can already skinchange Summer effortlessly and has learned to skin change ravens pretty quickly as well. The show and the books have both emphasized the extent of Bran’s warging ability. And through the power of blood sacrifice or training or the Weirwood network, or all three, Bran’s powers will only become more potent.

“No,” said Bran, “no, don’t,” but they could not hear him, no more than his father had. The woman grabbed the captive by the hair, hooked the sickle round his throat, and slashed. And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch as the man’s feet drummed against the earth … but as his life flowed out of him in a red tide, Brandon Stark could taste the blood. – (Bran III, ADWD)

Thus we can pretty logically conclude that Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest’s ideal society is one in which control is given to a shaman / philosopher / greenseer who draws their wisdom from the Weirwoods / Children / Old Gods.

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(original artwork by Beautiful Death)

Which leaves the question, since Bran isn’t actually going to be King, how will Bran as the greenseer hold any power over the Seven Kingdoms? Yes, Bran can skinchange Hodor so it’s presumably possible that it may be possible for Bran to skinchange a King, but I don’t see something so overt as total mind control to be feasible or necessary.

If I had to guess, I’d say they only need to change the throne.

 

Iron to Wood: Transmuting the Philosopher’s Throne

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Alchemy just got real.

There is a pattern that where there is weirwood, there are strange happenings. Harrenhal contains weirwood and is cursed. The Nightfort has a weirwood gate and is cursed. Jaime sleeps on a weirwood stump and has a bizarre paradigm changing dream of the Crypts of Casterly Rock (Jaime IV, ASOS). Whitewalls contains weirwood, is the sight of the second Blckfyre rebellion, and Brynden Rivers see’s everything coming. In the Eyrie Lysa Tully and Sweetrobin sit on a weirwood throne before a weirwood moondoor, and Lysa is insane and Sweetrobin hears voices constantly, needs to be medicated to go to sleep, and knows things he logically shouldn’t. (Preston really gets into this). After Samwell Tarley prays to a weirwood, he has a vivid dream of everything he wants if he takes Gilly back to Horn Hill, just before being attacked by wights and saved by thousands of ravens perched on that very Weirwood. It’s clear that where there is weirwood, the old god/children of the forest/greenseer has power and influence.

So it follows that to give the children a voice, to give the Old Gods power, to give the greenseer influence over not only a single king and queen, but over the throne, they need to change out the throne itself for one made of weirwood.

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It might be time to get rid of this super gaudy chair. (artwork my Marc Simonetti)

The Iron Throne, is the most important symbol of power in Westeros, and represents the seat of Targaryen’s power over the realm. It represents the might of all those conquered by Aegon I melded together by dragonfire into one realm, under one king. It’s an icon which for 300 years was the symbol of sovereignty and unity in Westeros. And just as the last 100 years has seen a weakening of the monarchy and a degradation of that unity, the War of 5 Kings and all of the civil unrest and people’s uprising of the story has shown that the Iron Throne is losing it’s power. The realm may be in need of a new symbol.

And it’s rather fitting that the throne is made of Iron. Iron which represents the Andals and their New Gods who exist outside of nature. This is in direct contrast to the Children of the Forest, which represent nature, but also more early human societies in which existed in closer harmony to nature, and worshiped nature as god, prior to god being removed from nature. Iron is also represented through the Iron Bank, and the rising power of capitalism. Iron which represents mankind’s power and technology to move away from the natural world. The Children of the Forest have been struggling to deal with mankind since the Dawn Age, and for thousands of years the Singers have been faced with the problem of iron.

Essentially, iron is the power of man, and weirwood is the power of the singers.

Which is why I suspect that the plan when all is said and done, when humanity defeats the Others in a holy war for the dawn, when the Leviathan of King Jon reborn by fire and Queen Daenerys the Mother of Dragons, unite the Seven Kingdoms through the might of dragons and the propoganda of prophecy, is to seat the new monarchs on a throne of Weirwood.

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This throne being made of weirwood is kind of a really big deal.

Again, there is precedent for this in the Eyrie. Remember, we know Children of the Forest and Greenseers go into wood, and we know they can leave a part of themselves in animals, as Bran detects a singer inside a raven he skin changes. Though we don’t know the story behind it, we know that somehow a giant Weirwood throne and Moondoor were brought to the throne room of a mountaintop castle at a height where Weirwood doesn’t actually grow. A castle built by House Arryn of the Andals, a House who do not keep the Old Gods. Given Sweetrobin’s hearing of singing, and seizures, it’s very likely there is something of the Children of the Forest inside this throne.

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A bit of foreshadowing here.

It’s likely that the Red Keep will be destroyed in the upcoming conflict, either by Cersei’s madness, or Daenerys’ dragons, or by the wildfire that Aerys II left all throughout the castle. It’s unclear where Bloodraven is planning the new capitol to be, though I suspect Jon and Dany’s Camelot will be somewhere in the Riverlands near the Godseye (and the Isle of Faces), as this places the seat of power close to a density of weirwoods. But regardless of where it is, I suspect that a new throne will be required for the new dynasty.

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Could Bran the Builder make this ruin into Westeros’ new Camelot? (original artwork by Lino Drieghe)

Note: It might be impressive if Harrenhal, being the largest castle in Westeros, and seated right on the edge of the God’s Eye, was made the capitol. It’s currently something of a white elephant, being too large, ruined and thus too expensive to fix and maintain. But seeing as sorcery and dragons have resulted in inhumanly impressive feats of sorcery, Harrenhal might be a worthy project. Who knows, by warging a dragon, Bran might even become another Bran the Builder.

And it’s likely that Jon with his warg blood, particularly after being reborn by fire, will be susceptible to visions and dreams from the Old Gods (Bloodraven or Bran-Dragon-Wolf), and through this can be influenced by the Greenseers. This is pretty clear considering how he will spend time in the body of Ghost, and the Varamyr chapter emphasizes how time spent in a wolf causes the man to lose parts of himself and become the wolf. The wolf Jon is spending time inside is an albino just like Bloodraven, with the white complexion and red eyes of the weirwoods, making Ghost and subsequently Jon further susceptible to influence by the Old Gods. Furthermore it’s likely that any children of Jon and Daenerys will be susceptible to visions from the Old Gods anyways. But even without having to worry about the unpredictability of hereditary gifts, setting up a Weirwood Throne will place the greatest control and influence over the kingdom not with any individual corruptible King or Queen or Hand or Small Council, but rather with an isolated greenseeing philosopher who is fostered by the Children of the Forest and inclined to view what is best for the realm through the lens of what is best for the Children of the Forest. This structure lines up well with GRRM’s story Guardians, from his series Tuf Voyaging.

One could say that the whole Song of Ice and Fire is figuratively a transmutation of iron to wood. Changing out the Iron throne, for one made of Weirwood. A Philosophers Stone Throne.

 

A Dream Police State for the Children of Pride

“Men, they are the children” – Leaf (Bran II, ADWD)

Once Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest set up a friendly regime to stabilize Westeros, complete with a Philosopher’s Throne to reflect the Greenseer, Bran will effectively be able to influence the monarch, oversee the realm, and maintain fail safe control over the most powerful weapons in the realm. When spring comes, power would ultimately reside with a boy taught to transcend the petty pride and violence of mankind and use his sight to see all sides of a conflict and truly act for the greater good. Effectively, a god on earth. Not literally the one from the stories of the fabled Great Empire of the Dawn, but rather a reflection of that ideal of a society at it’s highest, ruled by a god.

But we need to dispense with the idealistic utopian version of this and see this arrangement realistically. What makes for the “right” decision, or the “ideal” society is subjective and imperfect and has been discussed and debated by philosophers and societies for ages. What we really need to acknowledge here is the bias. Bloodraven was an absolutist who’s notion of an ideal society was always one where power resided with a central sovereign who looked beyond strict customs or what was popular, and acted for the greater good, and for him this is his best option to deal with the conflicting interests of humanity. In fact it’s rather fitting that all of this is happening now on Brynden River’s watch, as he seems willing to break several of the central customs typically associated with the Old Gods.
The Children have always maintained difficulty trying to hold any rights or protection or lands in the kingdoms of man, and regardless of whether this idealized utopia is much better or not, the point is that they will have a voice. They will have the power and influence to protect themselves and their own interests for once. To protect their ecosystem and their old Weirwood tree gods.

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Theon prays to the Weirwoods Bran. (original art by Dejan Delic)

Note: If you are asking yourself, are the Children the one’s in control or are the Weirwoods the one’s using the Children to protect themselves, then I’d answer with: Does it matter?

Is Bloodraven the bad guy? Are the Children of the Forest the secret villains? is this a story about mankind against an evil Weirwood hive mind? I think it all depends on your perspective. A subtle mind control based version of society seemingly pulled right out of Plato’s Republic might seem wrong and underhanded to us, and the methods of setting up a proxy war which kills thousands and thousands of people and possibley exterminates the Others is very severe. But given how awful the current system is, we have to wonder if it isn’t an improvement to establish a dream police state. And what else are the Children of the Forest to do? They are literally going extinct. If they are the Children of the Forest, then mankind are the Children of Pride. It’s mankind who cannot coexist with one another. Mankind who build societies based on pride, and expansion and consumption rather than sustainability and care. Mankind who came to their home, and destroyed their habitat. Can we seriously blame them for not simply laying down accepting the extinction that mankind has doomed them to? When they cannot fight mankind, and cannot trust mankind to live among them, are we really surprised that this may all be a proxy war for land?

Which brings me to the subject of land. Because wars are pretty much always about land.

“North of the Wall, things are different. That’s where the children went, and the giants, and the other old races.” – Osha (Bran VII, AGOT)

If I may speculate a little further on the plan here, I believe that the destruction of the Others and the destruction of the Wall may lead to a subtle climate shift just North of the Wall. Perhaps regular seasons, and perhaps a weaker force of winter. In any case, once the Free Folk have been cleared out of the land’s North of the Wall and merged into Northern society, and once the Others no longer hold dominion over the lands North of the Wall, the Children of the Forest may be able to more freely settle those newly vacant lands. In the absence of the Others, and without the disturbance of the Wildlings, the Haunted Forest might become a more livable habitat for the Children of the Forest. And with lasting influence and power over the new dragon monarchy, they would be able to ensure that their lands remain unimpeded.

 

 

The Boy Who Dreamed He Could Fly

“Bran was falling faster than ever. The grey mists howled around him as he plunged toward the earth below.”

“Bran looked down, and felt his insides turn to water. The ground was rushing up at him now. The whole world was spread out below him, a tapestry of white and brown and green. He could see everything so clearly that for a moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole realm, and everyone in it….” – (Bran III, AGOT)

At the center of all of this, of the entire Song of Ice and Fire, is Bran Stark. Where our Lord of the Ring’s comparison has Jon as the hidden true King Aragorn, it has Bloodraven as simultaneously Gandalf and the Eye of Sauron, and has Bran as the Ring bearer Frodo… and his very own powers are the One Ring. Where Jon is meant to be King and Daenerys Queen, Bran is meant to be both guardian and god-on-earth. Where A Clash of Kings features various characters across the world looking to the sky and interpreting the Red Comet in various ways, Bran embodies the comet in his A Game of Thrones coma dream where he falls from the sky and looks down over the whole world from the Shadowlands to King’s Landing to the Heart of Winter. That Red Comet, is literally burning ice across the sky. And when he awakens from this destiny altering dream, he calmly names his direwolf ‘Summer’.

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“fly or die” (original artwork by Marc Simonetti)

Our story truly opens of the young Bran Stark, off for his first time to witness his lord father deliver justice to a deserter, executing them by decapitation. This is crucial to Bran’s story and the entire story, as GRRM opens his first character POV chapter on Bran bearing witness to the juxtaposition of brutality and justice. Bran’s story, and really his role in the world, is to bear witness to the human condition as he suffers loss as a result of the war that befalls his family. As early as Bran’s second chapter, while climbing Bran Stark witnesses the incest of Jaime and Cersei, and is consequently pushed to the ground and crippled for life. And for the first two books, in part due to his crippling Bran does little other than bear witness.

Note: The initial conflict of the first novel which is kicked off by the paralyzing of Bran Stark by Jaime Lannister, mirrors the Norse tale of Fenrir the monstrous wolf, who is bound by Tyr the Norse god of champions. Tyr subsequently loses his hand to the wolf, just as Jaime loses a hand as a result of the binding of Bran. And like Bran is underground wih Bloodraven, the Norse cataclysm of Ragnarok begins when the bound wolf Fenrir (who is bound underground with the trickster god Loki) is set loose upon the world.

As a second son, Bran Stark is raised to favor humility over glory. As a middle child he looks up to Robb and Jon, and he takes care of Rickon. From an early age Bran displays a deep sense of humility and aspires to be a knight of the Kingsguard like Barristan the Bold, so that he can protect the weak and uphold justice. This dream is taken away from him early on in the story by a knight of the very kingsguard he hoped to join. It is at this point that Bran begins to experience loss after loss, realizing firsthand the devastation and misery that war brings, meanwhile becoming more and more antisocial and diving further and further into tales of magic and his own strange dreams. Still, as friends and family leave him one after the other, he witnesses the betrayal and ruin of his home at the hands of Theon Greyjoy, someone who had previously saved his life. And as a cripple Bran has grown distant from his peers as he has experienced the cruelty that people can show to a broken boy.

“ . . . sooner die than live like that,” muttered one, his father’s namesake Eddard, and his brother Torrhen said likely the boy was broken inside as well as out, too craven to take his own life. – (Bran VI, AGOT)

 

 

Given awfulness like that, it’s no wonder that when the Children of the Forest tell him that the world mankind is creating has no place for them, Bran has no trouble seeing the pride, cruelty, and brutality of man, and he empathizes with and actually seems to relate better with the Children of the Forest. The show has emphasized Bran’s capacity as a mediator, but the books have really emphasized how alienated his condition has left him. Throughout the story, Bran seems to trust less and less in mankind, as more and more he places his hope for a better life in magic. Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest are trying to bring magic back into the world, and of all of our protagonists, Bran may be the most dependent upon a return of magic to give his life meaning.


So long as there was magic, anything could happen. Ghosts could walk, trees could talk, and broken boys could grow up to be knights.“But there isn’t,”he said aloud in the darkness of his bed. There’s no magic, and the stories are just stories. And he would never walk, nor fly, nor be a knight. – (Bran IV, ACOK)
All this has seemingly made Bran ideal for the role which Bloodraven has carved out for him as the Winged Wolf in the Song of Ice and Fire.

 

“I just want to be strong again for a while. I’ll give it back, the way I always do.” – (Bran III, ADWD)

 

Bran’s effortless ability to skin change Hodor at such a young age indicates he is the most powerful telepath warg in the story (or at least has the greatest potential). This is further supported by show scenes in which Jojen proclaims that Bran’s warging ability is one of a kind, and exceeds all others. And Bran’s willingness to skin change Hodor for increasingly less pressing reasons (he even skin changes Hodor to go exploring with Jojen and Meera) shows that he would likely be willing to violate another person’s agency for a greater good. If Bran is willing to skin change Hodor, then may well be willing to manipulate a monarch through dreams. And it certainly indicates he’d be willing to re-purpose a ferocious fire breathing dragon to be a guardian and protector of the people. In a way Bran would become a “knight of the mind” Maester Luwin encouraged him to be. Though to be fair, this is not at all what Maester Luwin meant by Knight of the Mind.

“So will you,” said Meera. That made Bran sad. What if I don’t want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe. “Maybe you could be greenseers too,” he said instead.
“No, Bran.” Now Meera sounded sad. “It is given to a few to drink of that green fountain whilst still in mortal flesh, to hear the whisperings of the leaves and see as the trees see, as the gods see,” said Jojen. “Most are not so blessed. The gods gave me only greendreams. My task was to get you here. My part in this is done.” – (Bran III, ADWD)

Bran has been chosen. But when it comes down to it, we have to ask if Bran will be willing to accept the human cost of Bloodraven’s Leviathan. We have to wonder if Bran will feel the same way about his role when and if he discovers how his predecessor Brynden set up the current conflict. Or when he comes to terms with the effect that human skinchanging is having on Hodor. On the other hand, what is a boy to do? It’s not like the right thing to do is even remotely clear cut. Kill the Others? refuse to kill the Others? let the Children of the Forest die? trust mankind to change? control mankind? resign himself to a philosopher’s life of solitude? what of his infatuation with Meera Reed? will he leave the greenseer’s and go home? home to what kind of life? And will the memory of how he fell from the broken tower remain suppressed forever? what happens when Bran remembers why he cannot walk? does he understand and forgive Jaime? does he seek revenge ? And as dark as Bloodraven has become, I still suspect that at the root of his actions is a love of mankind, and a desire to alleviate the suffering of his people. We tend to view the young as being more innocent, but we have to wonder given all he has been through if Bran carries the same love of mankind. When it really comes time to sing the song of ice and fire, will Bran Stark sing along?

branwatching
This is face you make when you watch a man die.

“The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.” – Eddard Stark (Bran I, AGOT)

Remember, in the very first chapter Bran witnesses his father the Lord of Winterfell dispensing the King’s justice, and Bran’s father warns him the gravity of taking a life, even for the greater good and even to uphold the law. For all that he has lost, the Winged Wolf has been given the greatest power in the story. Bloodraven is leaving to Bran the power to pass the sentence and the power to swing the sword. The Dreamer of Spring is to be the watchmen and the keeper of humanity’s fate, A Song of Ice and Fire is a story of the heart of humanity in conflict with itself, and Bran Stark’s story has been largely about using his gift of sight to look directly into the heart of humanity.
Now, though he may be North of the Wall, Bran Stark is the true Lord of Winterfell like his father before him. Consequently, I believe that in the end, when he looks over the world through that heart tree, and when he looks into the eyes of man and hears the final song of nature, everything will hinge on whether or not Bran can bear to swing the sword.

 

 

“I am always proud of Bran.” – Catelyn

 


You made it! Thank you for reading, as I know this essay was longer than those I’ve done previously. But we aren’t done yet. We’ve spent 8 parts going over Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest’s song of Ice and Fire. In part 9 we are going to start getting into some of the cracks in the Weirwood Leviathan conspiracy. Dead ends, blind spots, and missing pieces which should prove to be problematic. I hope you’ll stay tuned.

 

Cold War III. The Northern Dragon Crisis

…what is the life of one bastard boy against a kingdom?”
“Everything
.”

– Stannis Baratheon and Davos Seaworth(Davos V, ASOS)/(S3Ep10, Mhysa)


 

Radio Dark Santa and the Sad Elves

Half a century prior to the start of the story, Brynden Rivers goes far North of the Wall and forms an alliance with the Children of the Forest, becoming the Last Hero Greenseer. We see when Bran gets there, that the Others are laying siege to the Last Greenseer’s cave, and based on the appearance of the wights, seem to have been doing so for a very long time. The siege is pretty logical for the Others, given that Bloodraven has established an outpost/stronghold on their lands and is transmitting visions to organize a war effort against them. I could point to examples till I’m blue in the face, but the simplest and clearest is when he enters Bran’s coma dream, shows him the Heart of Winter, and warns him that he must live because “Winter is coming.” Bloodraven’s presence is seemingly highly agitating to the Others, and they are trying to ensure no one gets into his cave, or at the very least, Bran specifically.

digging
Nothing suspicious going on here…

The important thing to take note about the conflict between the Children of the Forest and the Others, is that it’s likely almost entirely the fault of human conquest and greed. The Children of the Forest had dominion over a vast majority of the continent of Westeros before the weirwood burning invasions of the First Men, and later the Andals. At this point the Singers have been pushed by mankind to the far corners of the world, inevitably putting them in conflict with the Other group of people who reside there. The fact that there is a conflict here is inevitable, as these are two different forms of life with differing preferred habitats and ways of life. It’s easy for us to side with the cute Children and blame the scary Others for this, describing them as antithetical to life horror monsters akin to the Daleks. But this misses the point that if humans were able to coexist with the Children better, or leave them a sufficient home, then these two peoples of spring and of winter would never have been in conflict in the first place.

This follows an overwhelming human history of ignoring our own responsibility in conflicts created by our own expansionist tendencies. We have little problem acknowledging past wrongs by human societies, yet pass even harsher judgements on those dealing with an unjust status quo. So we place blame on the ancient individuals who pushed the Children out while the characters in the current story reside on their land. Then we place blame on groups like the Children of the Forest or the Others for not quietly dealing with the fact that their ecosystem is being disrupted by mankind’s expansion. There is no attention being paid to the fact that the Others, and the Children of the Forest, are living with the consequences of human empire building.

It’s not clear exactly how long there have been tensions between the Children of the Forest and the Others north of the Wall. It could be thousands of years, 600 years, 50 years, or even more recent than that. We just know relations are not good now, which indicates that to some extent, the Others are aware of Brynden Rivers and his machinations.

giphy
Even the Killers are afraid of Santa Claus

This is very fitting with the theory I lay out in Weirwood Leviathan, as I believe Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest are trying to instigate war against the Others as a pretense to establish a union between Jon and Daenerys and a new dragon wielding monarchy. If Bloodraven got the blood of the dragon into the Stark family, is bringing the mother of dragons to the North, is calling out to Bran Stark to control those dragons telepathically, and tricked Melisandre into proclaiming Stannis as Azor Ahai, bringing his fire worshiping army North… then Bloodraven is a serious problem for them. Though, it’s unclear how much they know of all this, it’s clear that the Killer Jack Frosts of the North know something’s not quite right for them about what’s going on under the tree with the Dark Santa and his Sad Elves.

 

 

A Dragon in Winterfell

For 13 days in 1962 it seemed the world could actually end. In what is known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War nearly escalated to a full on nuclear conflict. To summarize, the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred as tensions between the United States and the Soviets, already aggravated by the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion by the US, and the placement of ballistic missiles in Turkey and Italy, were brought near the breaking point when the Soviets agreed to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. Both sides were at a stalemate, and war between the two sides could have meant global devastation, and mutually assured destruction. Fortunately for all, after a 2 week blockade the tensions were diffused, as talks between Leader Khrushchev and President Kennedy led to an agreement for the Soviets to remove the nuclear missiles from Cuba and the United States secretly agreeing to remove the ballistic missiles in Turkey and and Italy.

Crisis averted.

Distances of Major Cites from Cuba

In simple terms, the Cuban Missile Crisis happened because the Soviets and the United States placed missiles within striking range of one another.

This is where the Prince That Was Promised comes in.

After Robert’s Rebellion Ned Stark brings Jon Snow, a Stark with the blood of the dragon to live at Winterfell. For those who went to war against the warm blooded, this event represents the Starks of Winterfell possibly acquiring the necessary bloodline to tame dragons. Dragons, who are fire made flesh, represent the bane of the Other’s existence, given that their weaknesses are dragonglass and dragonsteel, and dragonfire at the very least burns wights. The Starks are historically known for keeping the Others at bay, being the Kings south of the Wall for thousands of years, having supposedly aided in building the Wall or at least some of the castles along the Wall, having provided the Wall with men and lands and supplies, having executed deserters to the Wall, having had more Stark lord commanders than any other house, having risen to power right after the Long Night, and having brought down the Night’s King. It’s likely that the Kings of Winter are the only Kings south of the Wall that the Others recognize or care about, and now those Kings are seemingly acquiring the power to destroy them.

There is also of course the popular theory that Winterfell is named for being where the armies of winter, fell. In The Great Kingdom of the Night, I discuss how war against the White Walkers likely gave House Stark the momentum to become Kings in the North. The natural hot springs indicate that Winterfell is seemingly built on a geological hot spot, possibly having given the centrally located castle an edge in fighting the war on winter. This could also indicate the presence of dragonglass deep in the collapsed lower levels of the crypts. In fact Winterfell, Valyria, and Dragonstone are only three places in the story noted to have gargoyle statues, Valyria is also built on a geological hot spot, and Dragonstone is supposedly filled with dragonglass. So perhaps Winterfell has to too… or perhaps in there is some in the black pool?

winterfell burning
dragon? (just kidding)

“The smoke and ash clouded his eyes, and in the sky he saw a great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame. He bared his teeth, but then the snake was gone.” – Bran as Summer (Bran VII, ACOK)

There is also questionable evidence that there may have been a literal dragon under Winterfell, which Summer witnesses after the burning of Winterfell. I am not sold on this theory, but it is worth considering. Needless to say this is something that would likely make the Others very very nervous.

“And the Others smelled the hot blood in him and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds” – Old Nan (Bran IV, AGOT)

But this calls into question, how much can the Others actually see south of the Wall? North of the Wall they are supposedly always nearby, likely able to utilize snow and ice and wind as their eyes and ears. They seem to be able to sense warmth or warm blood. But the question remains what they can actually see beyond a giant Wall which they don’t ever cross?

Though this is speculative, it’s possible that though they do not cross the wall, winter allows them to see beyond it. A second possibility exists that the Others use the Wall as a way to look upon the realms of men bellow. A third possibility is that black pool of Winterfell allows the Others to see and hear things from the Winterfell Godswood, as this cold black pool seemingly connects to a larger underground body of water which extents North of the Wall. Even still, though it’s hard to know how much the Others know South of the Wall (we don’t have reason to assume they know much more than humans know about the Lands of Always Winter really), it’s clear that there are a lot of threatening moves happening on humanity’s part.

“The Horned Lord once said that sorcery is a sword without a hilt. There is no safe way to grasp it.” – Dalla to Jon Snow

Yet there is one little detail which points to the Others knowing about a certain prophecy. The prophecy of the Prince That Was Promised, was initially made central to the lives of Targaryen monarchy when it was brought to court by a Wood’s Witch, the Ghost of High Heart. Now the thing about Wood’s Witches is that they sometimes have the gift of prophecy, and receive their prophecies through the Weirwoods, so they are likely susceptible to receiving visions from Bloodraven. Furthermore we have Woods Witches North of the Wall too. Mother Mole and Wood’s Witches like her North of the Wall, receive visions and prophecies from the Last Greenseer, and being North of the Wall, are surely within earshot of the Others. The prophecy of TPTWP and Azor Ahai are used interchangeably by Melisandre, and the prophecy of a chosen dragon riding hero wielding a flaming Other slaying sword and delivering mankind from darkness and the the Great Other, is likely to be perceived even more ominously by the folks from the Land of Always Winter.

“Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy .” – GRRM

“[A] prophecy is like a treacherous woman. She takes your member in her mouth, and you moan with the pleasure of it and think, how sweet, how fine, how good this is . . . and then her teeth snap shut and your moans turn to screams. That is the nature of prophecy, said Gorghan. Prophecy will bite your prick off every time.” – Marwyn to Samwell Tarley

 

 

The Wildling Refugee Crisis

Mance-Rayder-Jon-Snow
Moses Rayder and Jesus Snow

The first group of humans to recognize that the Others have become active again are the Wildlings, and thus Moses Mance Rayder, has organized an exodus to lead his people south of the Wall. The common assumption here is that the Others woke up “cuz magic” and are killing free folk to build up their armies. And to an extent they probably are preparing their armies. But if we look closer, this conflict seems to be a bit more complicated than all that.

“They never came in force, if that’s your meaning, but they were with us all the same, nibbling at our edges. We lost more outriders than I care to think about, and it was worth your life to fall behind or wander off. Every nightfall we’d ring our camps with fire. They don’t like fire much, and no mistake. When the snows came, though … snow and sleet and freezing rain, it’s bloody hard to find dry wood or get your kindling lit, and the cold … some nights our fires just seemed to shrivel up and die. Nights like that, you always find some dead come the morning. ” – Tormund (Jon XI, ADWD)

some dead? if the Others were able to sneak into a camp at night to kill some people, why wouldn’t they just use kill everyone?

We have many indications that the Others are not going at the wildlings in full force to build their armies, but rather are picking them off and pushing the wildlings south, towards the Wall. Which calls into question that simpler explanation, as the others really shouldn’t have any trouble exterminating the Wildlings if they wanted to, given the efficacy of their methods. So allowing 100,000 wildlings to invade south seems like it would be a risky move for the Others if they were planning to invade, considering that all those wildlings could make for perfectly good corpse soldiers. So in light of that, why send them away?

Wight lemmings
the free folk seem particularly effective when dead.

Well the Others likely know that the Watch has shifted focus in the past several thousand years from fending off white walkers to fighting off wildling invasions to preserve the sovereign borders of Westeros. So the Others would know that forcing the wildlings south has one inevitable conclusion. It creates chaos to the south.

There have been several wildling invasions in the history of the North, and given the under manned state of the Wall, war between the Night’s Watch and the wildlings has the likely result of crippling or even decimating the Watch. But if the Others were only trying to weaken the Watch so they could invade Westeros they might as well use the Wildlings as wight soldiers right off the bat, yet they don’t. The Wildlings have begun to organize, and are preparing an exodus as a result of the Others picking them off. Yet neither fans nor characters, ever stop to think that the Others might actually know what they are doing, or might actually be planning this.

The previous wildling invasion by Raymund Redbeard, though a smaller invasion, didn’t lead to a war with the watch, as the Watch was low in numbers (kind of like it is now). It led to an invasion of the North, a Battle at Long Lake and the death of Lord Willam Stark. Before that, the Wildling invasion of King Beyond the Wall Bael the Bard led to a battle with House Stark, except the heir to Winterfell was Bael’s own son, so Bael refused to be a kinslayer and was instead killed by him. We have little information on what happened with the Horned Lord’s invasion besides magic being involved, but before him the tunnel invasion of Kings Beyond the Wall Gendel and Gorne led to a dead Lord of Winterfell as well. It would seem wildling invasions have a habit of resulting in attacks on the North, and dead Starks.

omg dead
The Others clearly follow Maisie Williams on Vine.

And maybe, just maybe, dead Starks are exactly what the Others were counting on.

 

 

Way More Royce and Operation Kill the Boy

This brings us back to the prologue. But this time we’re going to understand it in context. As reddit user Joemagician has pointed out, the death of Waymar Royce in the prologue is very peculiar in that the Others seem to have set a trap specifically for the three rangers. Waymar Royce visits Craster’s Keep on his way to the Haunted Forest just prior to his demise, and we know Craster has contact with the Others even if in the most basic terms. Craster also takes note of Waymar. The Rangers then find a bunch of wildling raiders having frozen to death, yet the weather is unseasonably warm. When Will brings Waymar to see, the bodies have all moved, (the weather being warm indicates that they were frozen to death earlier, and left there to be found by the Rangers). And that’s when Waymar is surrounded by 6 White Walkers. These are highly irregular numbers for just one watchmen, since they seem to have such small numbers, and later send only one man to kill several watchmen. Now we can chalk this up to dramatic effect, or this being before Martin had cemented his idea of how the Others do battle, but it seems there may be something far more significant going on.


“He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife.” – Description of Waymar Royce in the Prologue of AGOT

Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see. He was of an age with Robb, but they did not look alike. Jon was slender where Robb was muscular, dark where Robb was fair, graceful and quick where his half brother was strong and fast. – Description of Jon in Bran I, AGOT


royce-is-a-douche
You’re not Kit Harrington.

Waymar’s description characteristically matches the description Martin gives for Jon Snow in the very next chapter. The quintessential look of a Stark. In fact there is a chance Waymar has Stark blood somewhere in his line. Which supports the idea that not only was Waymar targeted, but that the Others took precaution, seemingly expecting him to put up a fight. They weren’t simply being cruel, they were looking for a Stark who would be a threat, and wanted to make sure they had the right Stark. In fact the Others are so focused on Waymar that they don’t even bother to chase down Gared. They just let him escape.

 

Yet it’s been thousands of years since the Starks and the Others fought. Why now?

Because of Ned Starks mercy. Because Lord Eddard Stark seemingly brought the blood of the dragon into his house, and because Brynden Rivers is orchestrating war with Quaithe guiding Daenerys and her dragons west and north to unite with Jon. In fact, if the Others heard any of the prophecies about the Prince That Was Promised or Azor Ahai from the Woods Witches in the North, they’d have even more cause for concern. After all, these are prophecies about their demise.

ollykillsjon
Olly = Night’s King confirmed! (jk no rly it’s James Franco)

The notion that the Others fear the Starks are readying to go to war, and are trying to kill Jon Snow and eliminate their ability to fly over and rain down dragon fire on them, really changes the way we can interpret events.

  • If the Others knew that the Stark with the blood of the dragon has been moved to the Wall, this would further agitate the situation and cause them to really start pushing the wildlings to attack the Wall.
  • This would explain the disappearance of Benjen Stark, as Starks are the ones being targeted.
  • The fact that a wight tries to assassinate Lord Commander Mormont indicates that they are trying to weaken the organization of the Watch. This would result in the wildling assault on the Wall yielding a higher death toll for the Watch, and hopefully killing Jon Snow.

    “Who’s this one now?” Craster said before Jon could go. “He has the look of a Stark.” – (Jon III, ACOK)


  • The fact that the unprecedented 300 men of the Great Ranging are attacked at the Fist of the First Men, also makes sense, as before the attack they pass through Craster’s keep, and Jon Snow is noted to be among them. The attack at the Fist of the First Men actually just barely misses Jon, because he spares Ygritte and is consequently captured by Rattleshirt’s group. Otherwise Jon may have died right in that attack (though he did have Longclaw).

Later, the mutiny of the Night’s Watch at Craster’s keep ends up sabotaging the only source we know of the Others obtaining children, and Samwell ‘The Slayer’ Tarley takes an infant that was promised to the Others, back to the Wall.

We have a tendency to view our enemies, or ‘the other,’ as being savage and bloodthirsty, but further inspection shows us that the Others are actually quite intelligent and tactical. They aren’t on a mad killing spree. They are trying to be efficient.

winterhype
so i herd u liek winterz

 

 

emohdraH

“But isn’t Hardhome proof that the Others were eventually going to massacre and make all the Wildlings into wights anyways?”

This is show only, so feel free to acknowledge or ignore it however much you think it matters. But the biggest evidence people cite for the Others being evil genocidal snowmen, is featured in the season 5 episode Hardhome. After all, they seem to indiscriminately kill wildlings seeking asylum, tragically right at the cusp of a peace between the free folk and the Westerosi. And as the audience we assume this was always their plan, and that Jon Snow got there just barely too late to save everyone. But the answer as to why the Others committed this war crime, is right in front of us, right in the episode. We only need to see things from the Other side.

crossing-the-delaware-met-museum
Jon Snow looks funny in that hat.

The day of the attack on Hardhome, Lord Commander Jon Snow, a man with the blood of the Kings of Winter and the blood of the dragon, with the quintessential look of a Stark and a dragon steel sword, sails up like George Washington crossing the Delaware, bringing White Walker Kryptonite into a camp containing thousands of wildlings. Jon then proceeds to recruit a very large number of them to join him and make war with the white walkers. I believe the term he uses is “give the fuckers a fight”.

THEN came the White Walkers.

beachball1
We heard you were recruiting wildlings to beat us at hockey. No one beats us at hockey.

Anyone still wonder why the attack on Hardhome happened when it did? It didn’t just so happen to take the Others that long to get there. They could have gotten there whenever they wanted to. After all, they are apparently always nearby. No, the Others got there exactly when they needed to in order to prevent all of those people from being used against them, to prevent the Starks and Wildlings from uniting against them again. The Others literally send one of their own into the hut to stop Jon from getting the dragonglass. In that last scene, the leader of the Others is taunting Jon with thousands of people that Jon had come to recruit for war. He’s essentially saying “You wanted them, I got them. What’s good Crow?”

remember the titans
Take that Jon Snow

As horrific as the events at Hardhome are, they are actually extremely threatening to the Others. A Lord Commander of Night’s Watch, descended from the Kings of Winter, with the Blood of the Dragon, brings weapons of their destruction, and tries to form an alliance with the wildlings to kill them. We don’t see it that way because the Others come out on top, but they were potentially in a lot of trouble there.

This of course is not to say that killing innocent people is okay, just that we are generally hypocritical about this. Until Lord Commander Jon, the Night’s Watch had no qualms keeping out the Free Folk (including innocent men, women, and children) to die, because they knew that a Wildling invasion inevitably meant raids and casualties on the south side of the Wall. Essentially at Hardhome the Others are doing more or less the same thing, killing people (including innocence), because those people are going to result in deaths on their side. The main difference is that the Others do the killing directly, and the Watch is allowing someone else to do the killing. Which tends to be how powerful empires operate; through institutional oppression. Just because a society aren’t killing people directly, doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible for systematically oppressing people. The Westerosi, the Others, and the Free Folk, are all merely protecting themselves above all else, doing what they have to do.

You may at this point be asking:

even if the Others know about the Azor Ahai and Prince That Was promised prophecy.. still aren’t the Others overreacting a bit to be doing all this in response to the mere existence of Jon Snow?”

and I’m sure there are still some among you are clinging to the narrative that:

“the Others are just antithetical to human life and are inevitably bent on human extinction and global winter”

melisandenightisdark
“Amen! Now let’s burn some children.”

After all, that’s what Melisandre says isn’t it? That they’re thralls of the Great Other, creatures of cold and death and darkness who oppose all warm blooded life and humanity. Well, maybe that attitude is exactly what is pushing the world to war.

 

 


Part 4 will be the conclusion of this series, and IF I turn out to be right it’s kind of mega-spoilers for some of the biggest mysteries of the series. We’ll talk about the true meaning of the war with the Others. The self fulfilling winds of prophecy and the nature of holy wars. The fate of the Wall and the place of our main character’s ambitions in the ultimate conflict. And we’ll reevaluate the great platitude at the opening of our story.

What does “Winter is Coming” really mean?