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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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’.
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.
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)
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?
“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.