In Part 1 we talked about how the death’s Martin writes are consequential, and deal with the depersonalization of war. And in Part 2 we went over how R’hllor resurrection is essentially false, and discussed the glaring evidence that Beric Dondarrion and Lady Stoneheart, much like Coldhands, are being subconsciously animated by the Bloodraven, the Lord of Corpses. And we also talked about how Jon and Jaime have parallel crypt dreams, where something terrible is waiting for them in the darkness of death.
Remember how I said the second Act was the darkest? well I lied. This is going to be way, way darker. Most of you are not going to like this theory. You are going to have the urge to rage quite, call me crazy, and downvote. I only ask that you try to keep an open mind and remember that we’re just talking, and try your best to read the whole thing before forming an opinion. Just let the wave of horrible, devastating hype wash over you.
I’ll jump into your grave and die
And on my words you’ll give up your whole life for me
And you’ll be reborn bigger and stronger
and less alive…
- What did it mean when Frodo claimed the Ring of Power?
- How will Jon be resurrected?
- What is Bran’s story really about?
- When Brandon Stark died, what happened to Ned?
- What is Azor Ahai?
The Ring is Mind
“You know what I’m saying, I love Tolkien. I want to stress that here because I don’t want to come across like I’m slamming him. But I am responding to him.” – GRRM, TIME
In Martin’s response to the Lord of the Rings, the parallels between Jon Snow and Aragorn are hard to ignore. Both are Northern Rangers and secret heirs to a seemingly severed line of kings. Both were fostered and both are being supported by a wizard during a time of war with a supernatural force. And both wield magic swords which can kill that which cannot be killed otherwise. They even look alike. And if Jon is King Aragorn, then Bran is Frodo, the Ring Bearer. Frodo who is plagued by visions and being carried on a secret quest, taking absolute power into the territory of the enemy to save all of mankind. Both characters at first wield this power accidentally, and it seems like no big deal, yet both eventually succumb to the temptation to wield it on purpose.
Bran’s version of the One Ring is his own telepathic power.
Yet the One Ring in LotR strongly evokes The Ring of Gyges, Plato’s allegory for absolute power, which in Tolkein’s view; “corrupts absolutely.” When Frodo reaches Mount Doom, he succumbs to the lure of the Ring of Power and claims the ring for himself. When Frodo put on the Ring, did he not symbolically succumb to the temptation of absolute power? Do we not all remember how devastating it was to witness Frodo finally reaching the end only to lose sight of himself and claim the Ring? Has Bran not also reached his own Mount Doom? Are Bran’s powers of mind control not also allegorical to absolute power? What does this all mean?
Well… something devastating.
I promised controversy at the beginning, and so let me come right out with some.
Whatever part of Jon’s consciousness that jumped into Ghost, is going to remain in Ghost for the remainder of the story. Yes, I don’t think that part of Jon will really make it back. I believe Ghost has been named Ghost because he will permanently act as the ghost of Jon. A second life worthy of a king. The shell for Jon’s Ghost.
There would be a second life worthy of a king. He could have done it, he did not doubt. The gift was strong in Snow, but the youth was untaught, still fighting his nature when he should have gloried in it. – Varamyr, ADWD
Whatever part of Jon that jumped into Ghost was likely not all of him. It was his soul. It was his consciousness. But everything we know about warging indicates that it is a telepathic link. The warg’s consciousness enters the wolf, but they only bring so much of themselves. The reason they forget who they are over time is that memory is stored in the body. Each day of Jon’s second life inside Ghost, he will forget more and more of himself because the link to his memories is severed. His body is dead. He cannot access his memories.
Still Jon will be resurrected. The story demands it. But we remember Khal Drogo. We saw what life really means, when all else has gone. Jon needs more than a heartbeat.
Kill the Boy: The Abominable Snow Man Reborn
The show will likely have Melisandre giving Jon the kiss of resurrection, which she specifically learned was possible from Thoros in season 3. But in the books, though it could be Melisandre, I strongly suspect it will be Lady Stoneheart, as I really doubt that spark of life will end with her. Catelyn rising from the dead isn’t likely meant to simply result in a face off with Jaime and Brienne, as undead Catelyn has been planned as early as Martin’s original trilogy pitch.
Jon’s resurrection isn’t happening right away. It’s likely not coming till the end of TWOW. Given the realization that Stannis is going to burn Shireen, we can actually plot out Jon’s path from death to resurrection. We can safely assume that if Melisandre were to bring Jon back to life, she would immediately see Jon as Azor Ahai reborn, and thus would have no reason to burn Shireen with Stannis. Meaning, Jon cannot be resurrected by, or in front of Melisandre, until AFTER she reaches Stannis and they burn Shireen.
Let me break it down step by step:
Step 1: After reading the Pink Letter to the Watch and announcing his intent to march on Winterfell, Jon is seemingly stabbed to death by the Night’s Watch in front of a rampaging Wun Wun. The Pink Letter is a lie, book Stannis is alive.
Step 2: Chaos ensues. The Watch has betrayed the Lord Commander who ensured the wildlings safety, and they believe Stannis to be dead and the Boltons to be making demands. The Watch are currently being threatened by the Boltons unless they give up (f)Arya, Selyse, Shireen, Melisandre, Val, Reek, and “Mance’s son“. Two of them they don’t even actually have.
Step 3: Selyse and Melisandre can no longer stay at the Wall, nor can Val and the wildlings. Stannis’ faction and the wildlings find common cause, leave the Wall, and take Jon’s body with them. We know this has to happen, because Stannis has to burn Shireen, and Stannis isn’t coming back to the Wall without taking Winterfell.
Step 4: Stannis battles the Bolton forces, likely with the aide of several Northern Houses, Mountain Clans, maybe the wildlings, and the Brotherhood Without Banners, who have likely moved on to the other perpetrators of the Red Wedding.
Step 5: Eventually Stannis and Melisandre burn Shireen. We know this will happen. It could be because the Wall has fallen and Others are coming, or it could be because the Northerners have betrayed Stannis. It could happen before taking Winterfell, but I suspect the burning will likely happen at Winterfell, maybe even the broken tower.
Step 6: Meanwhile Jon’s body will be brought to the crypts. With the Brotherhood at Winterfell, Lady Stoneheart, [who has Robb’s crown], goes into the crypts and crowns Jon before passing her life to him. He is now King in the North and Lord of Winterfell. A dragon has awoken from stone[heart]. Azor Ahai, the Son of Fire has been reborn. Is Lady Stoneheart his mother?
“Sometimes I think I was born on the bloody grass in that grove of ash, with the taste of fire in my mouth and a hole in my chest. Are you my mother, Thoros?” – Beric Dondarrion (Arya VII, ASOS)
Step 7: Jon is risen. It’s seen as a miracle by Stannis’ R’hllor worshiping followers, who proclaim him Azor Ahai. The wildlings also choose to follow Jon, as they also witnessed his death, and they follow strength. The Brotherhood without Banners are working with Howland Reed, and also among them is Lem Lemoncloak who knows R+L=J, and so they acknowledge Jon as the King they must serve. This is the beginning of the forces who will face the Others.
Step 8: Jon will be able to ride a dragon and the Free Folk will call him the Winged Wolf.
WAIT A SECOND
… isn’t Bran the Winged Wolf?
Just like Bloodraven is the one using his consciousness to animate Coldhands and Beric and Lady Stoneheart, Bran will be the one to animate Jon.
“lol ya right, tinfoil alert” – you, denial
I know you don’t believe me yet. Stay with me.
Bran’s mind will animate Jon and the dragon he rides. He will become Jon through the abomination of human skinchanging. The dragon has three heads. THREE. HEADS. And in doing so he will start to lose himself and become Jon. Not Jon’s personality, but his identity. His political function. His “destiny.” When the corpse of Lady Stoneheart passes her fire on to wake the corpse of Jon Snow, she will really be looking at her own Bran one last time.
This will mirror the events of Jon saying goodbye to a comatose Bran, and Catelyn remarking that it “should have been [Jon].” It’s not unlike the Dance of the Dragons actually, with Lady Stoneheart playing the part of Queen Alicent, Bran playing the part of Aegon II, and Jon playing the part of the motherless Rhaenyra. A Dance of the Wolves, if you will.
Azor Ahai is reborn from his own mother, taking her life.
If that sounds morbid that’s because it is. It’s all going to be incredibly morbid.
We’re all going to be like Sam:
Bran will become Jon, and Jon will be seen as Azor Ahai reborn. The Lightbringer. Yet Jon is dead, and Bran will have taken his place. The thing in the darkness in Jon and Jaime’s crypt dreams is in fact Bran the Body Statcher. That’s why in Jon’s first wolf dream which awakens his warging ability, the weirwood with Bran’s face smells of death. That’s why Jaime answers that the doom in the crypts is neither a bear nor a lion, but does not deny that it’s a direwolf. Because it is a wolf.
For Fear of the Big Bad Wolf
“he doesn’t like chains”- Rickon Stark AKA Thug #1
In part 2 I talked about how both Jon and Jaime have crypt dreams where they fear something waiting for them in the darkness of the crypts. Using both crypt dreams to interpret each other we can see that the darkness of the crypts is death, as Jaime knows it to be his doom with certainty. And the thing waiting for them in the crypts? Well it’s shown to us in Bran VII, AGOT, when Bran, Osha, and Maester Luwin actually go into the crypts of Winterfell.
“I dreamed about the crow again last night. The one with three eyes. He flew into my bedchamber and told me to come with him, so I did. We went down to the crypts. Father was there, and we talked. He was sad.”[…] “It was something to do about Jon, I think.” The dream had been deeply disturbing, more so than any of the other crow dreams. “Hodor won’t go down into the crypts.” – Bran VII, AGOT
[Maester Luwin] thrust his arm into the blackness inside the tomb, as into the mouth of some great beast. “Do you see? It’s quite empt—”
the direwolf, beating at his muzzle with one hand while the jaws closed on the other.” Bran VII, AGOT
The thing in the darkness of the crypts is a wolf.
“That . . . that beast,” Luwin went on, “is supposed to be chained up in the kennels.” – Bran VII, AGOT
Summer gets Shaggydog off of him, and Maester Luwin comments that Shaggydog is supposed to be chained. But he’s now been unchained.
“I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains,” he said. “It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them.” – Jojen Reed (Bran IV, ACOK)
When Jojen dreams of Bran, Bran is constantly depicted as a chained wolf. Until Jojen unchains him.
The wolf in the crypts is Bran.
“Bran,” the maester said firmly, “I know you mean well, but Shaggydog is too wild to run loose. I’m the third man he’s savaged. Give him the freedom of the castle and it’s only a question of time before he kills someone. The truth is hard, but the wolf has to be chained, or …”
Rickon remarks that he doesn’t like being chained. Luwin says that he is the third person Shaggydog has savaged. Luwin then tells Bran that the wolf must be chained, which Bran doesn’t like hearing.
Bran will seize the bodies of three people. Hodor is the first. Robert Strong (maybe Jaime) is the second. Jon is the third.
It should be no surprise that Bran is the the wolf in the darkness. Not only does Jon dream that BranTree™ likes darkness, and not only does Bloodraven keep Bran in darkness, and tell Bran that darkness will make him strong, but Bran literally hides in the crypts during ACOK.
“Oiwho8a8UKSHNDKU NO, no no NO! No. that’s NOT what this story is Jon needs to find out his parentage and he needs to be himself so he can save the universe + have a happy ending and he is the main character and he needs to slay the Night’s King + marry the Other Queen and be King and Sam will be Grand Maester and..” – you, anger
Resist the urge to rage quit. Resist. We’re just talking here. STAY WITH ME.
It’ll be better to flame me when you’re done reading.
You think it’s a coincidence, but you still don’t believe me. You aren’t ready to embrace the hype because the hype is an abomination.
So let’s keep going.
What if I told you, that Bran’s entire story has been setting this up?
Actually, what if I told you that the entirety of A Song of Ice and Fire has been setting this up?
Let’s talk about Bran…
Bran the Body Snatcher
A Song of Ice and Fire truly opens on Bran. After the prologue, it is Bran, not Ned, not Daenerys, and not Jon, who is our first POV character. Early in the story, Bran experiences a fall which changes his life, and from that moment forward Bran’s story becomes plagued with the fundamental power dynamic at the heart of Westeros.
“No one wants to hurt you, Hodor, he said silently, to the child-man whose flesh he’d taken. I just want to be strong again for a while. I’ll give it back, the way I always do.” – Bran, ADWD
Bran is an innocent, well meaning, high born boy who cannot be what he wants, unless he subjugates someone else.
What we also have in Bran, is a main character that not only has the capacity to warg another person, and not only has done it already, but who has every reason to want to do it to escape his disability.
“You will never walk again, Bran,” the pale lips promised, “but you will fly.” – (Bran II, ADWD)
Despite the first quote, Bran continues to seize Hodor’s body and walk around in his skin.
“Meera began to cry. Bran hated being crippled then. ‘Don’t cry,’ he said. He wanted to put his arms around her, hold her tight the way his mother used to hold him back at Winterfell when he’d hurt himself. She was right there, only a few feet from him, but so far out of reach it might have been a hundred leagues. To touch her he would need to pull himself along the ground with his hands, dragging his legs behind him. The floor was rough and uneven, and it would be slow going, full of scrapes and bumps. I could put on Hodor’ s skin, he thought. Hodor could hold her and pat her on the back. The thought made Bran feel strange…” – Bran, ADWD
Within the fandom we spend a lot of time talking about the inevitability of Bran warging a dragon, or Bran having a vision quest and revealing Jon’s parentage, as these are both satisfying things which are very very likely to happen. We want answers about Jon and we want to see Bran being a badass without it being at the expense of anyone we care about, so we have sort of accepted Bran’s story working around his handicap through becoming a “knight of the mind.” We spend more time thinking about how Bran can boost up Jon, and little time thinking about what Bran will do for himself.
Yet that is sort of ignoring Bran himself, and everything he wants in life. It’s sort of like how many fans expect Arya to lose her identity and become No One, until they actually start paying attention to the fact that everything about who Arya is and what she is thinking is telling us that she cannot give up her identity. Similarly, if we actually listen to Bran, he is sending us a very clear message that most of us aren’t listening to.
If I had a poleaxe with a big long haft, Hodor could be my legs. We could be a knight together. – (Bran VII, ACOK)
SEE. EVERYONE PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT BRAN IS SAYING.
It’s really heart breaking. Bran is totally obsessed with knights, and knights are mentioned constantly in Bran’s chapters. Before his fall being a knight was all Bran ever dreamed of, and before his fall he was going to go to King’s Landing with his father and squire for his hero Ser Barristan the Bold. Even up until now, Bran has never really let go of that hope.
In case you felt like having a good cry, here is every mention of knights in Bran’s chapters.
Yes, Bran is being trained to be a tree person, and yes he will probably be able to warg a dragon at some point. But these things parallel Arya’s training to become a Faceless Man. They aren’t what the kid really wants. Likely due to Bran’s age, the show doesn’t continually emphasize this as much (though the show pretty much has had Jojen spell out that Bran is chosen to stop the Others, and pretty much everyone ignores this scene completely because Jon isn’t in it), but a big part of Bran’s story revolves around escapism and feelings in inadequacy resulting from his disability. In Westeros, particularly among the more martial culture, a cripple boy is essentially seen as a waste of life, and Bran is actually called a coward by the other kids for not having killed himself already. He can neither be a knight, nor produce an heir, nor join the Watch let alone the Kingsguard, nor be a normal person.
Bran doesn’t truly want to be a a tree. Bran doesn’t want to be his broken self. Bran doesn’t even really want to be Hodor.
Bran wants to be a knight.
“All the tales agreed that the green men had strange magic powers. Maybe they could help him walk again, even turn him into a knight. They turned the little crannogman into a knight, even if it was only for a day, he thought. A day would be enough.” – Bran, ASOS
Bran wants to be a hero.
“I’d sooner be a wolf. Then I could live in the wood and sleep when I wanted, and I could find Arya and Sansa. I’d smell where they were and go save them, and when Robb went to battle I’d fight beside him like Grey Wind. I’d tear out the Kingslayer’s throat with my teeth, rip, and then the war would be over and everyone would come back to Winterfell. If I was a wolf . . .” He howled. “Ooo-ooo-oooooooooooo.” – Bran I, ACOK
Bran wants to be with Meera.
“Part of him wanted to shout at [Jojen and Meera] for leaving him, and another part wanted to cry. He was almost a man grown, though, so he said nothing. But after they were gone, he slipped inside Hodor’s skin and followed them.” – Bran, ADWD
Bran wants to not be broken anymore.
“What was he now? Only Bran the broken boy, Brandon of House Stark, prince of a lost kingdom, lord of a burned castle, heir to ruins. He had thought the three-eyed crow would be a sorcerer, a wise old wizard who could fix his legs, but that was some stupid child’s dream, he realized now. I am too old for such fancies, he told himself. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. That was as good as being a knight. Almost as good, anyway.” – Bran, ADWD
Unfortunately for Bran, not being broken anymore comes at a terrible cost. The cost of violating another person’s agency, subjugating another person, and losing himself. Bran’s abilities are Martin’s version of the Ring of Power, and serve as an allegory for power at it’s most basic. I have to hand it to GRRM, as the relationship between Bran and Hodor is a microcosm of feudal power dynamics, and perhaps the most empathetic possible illustration we could have gotten of the relationship between the ruling class and their subjects. Bran is a kind hearted boy of privilege and the best possible representation of the ruling class, and Hodor is a simpleton without education or ambition who could accomplish nothing on his own. Bran needs Hodor’s services for the most sincere of reasons, but it still requires the subjugation of Hodor’s will. Yet we have to wonder if Bran’s possession of simple Hodor is not often times for the greater good.
“Abomination, abomination, abomination. To eat of human meat was abomination, to mate as wolf with wolf was abomination, and to seize the body of another man was the worst abomination of all. Haggon was weak, afraid of his own power. He died weeping and alone when I ripped his second life from him.” – Prologue, ADWD
But it’s not going to stop at Hodor. In fact, I strongly believe that Varamyr and Haggon parallel Bran and Jon here. Jon/Haggon resists their power, and Bran/Varamyr exult in it. It’s funny that I’ve seen people suggest that Bran will play Jon’s Nissa Nissa, but Bran’s entire story has been filled with people being sacrificed for him. The Miller’s boys die in Bran’s place. Bran has likely eaten human meat passed off as pig and even later Jojen (Jojenpaste) to help awaken his powers. And in Bran’s very last scene in ADWD, Bran tastes the blood of a human sacrifice.
“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
I know. You still don’t believe me. You’re thinking:
“FINE! Bran wants to be someone else, or a knight or whatever… But Bran and Jon both have their own stories to live out! Jon has to save the world, and Bran has to… give exposition about Jon… maybe he can warg Robert Strong or something? … someone less important. Not Jon. Anyone but Jon.” – you, bargaining
But I suspect it has to be Jon. It being Jon may be the whole point.
Passing On: The Ultimate Hand-Me-Down
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
– William Shakespeare
When Brandon Stark rode off to challenge the crowned Prince and was subsequently executed by the Mad King, what happened to Ned? Well, Ned was sentenced to death for Brandon’s crime. Ned marched off to fight Brandon’s war. Ned went to Riverrun to marry Brandon’s fiancé. Ned found Lyanna on Brandon’s behalf. And Ned became Lord of Winterfell in Brandon’s place.
“Brandon had been twenty when he died, strangled by order of the Mad King Aerys Targaryen only a few short days before he was to wed Catelyn Tully of Riverrun. His father had been forced to watch him die. He was the true heir, the eldest, born to rule.” – (Eddard I, AGOT)
Ned became his older brother.
Not his brother’s personality. Not his love of horseback riding or womanizing tendencies. Not his brother’s soul or humanity. Not the things of Brandon which really made him Brandon on a personal level. But a shell of Brandon. He took on Brandon’s sociopolitical and military function. Whatever hopes or dreams or plans Ned had in life, be they to win the heart of Ashara Dayne or what have you, none of that mattered anymore. The world and the war needed an heir to Winterfell, and Ned had no choice but to play the part.
And now the Westeros “needs” Bran’s dead “brother” to be “Azor Ahai.”
What did Garlan Tyrell do when Renly Baratheon died and the Tyrells went to fight at the Blackwater? Did he not put on Renly’s armor and march in to battle, confusing Stannis’ troops? It didn’t matter that Garlan was not really Renly. The battle didn’t need Renly’s soul or his humor. It didn’t need Renly’s personality or his personhood. War doesn’t care about your soul. The battle needed a shell of Renly in the most literal sense, and it worked. Garlan played the part, and “Renly’s Shade” was among the great heroes of the battle.
When Jon Arryn dies, Ned is pushed to leave his home and his family to take over for his mentor as Hand (though to be fair Ned also wanted to solve the murder). When Ned left Winterfell, Robb did his best to emulate his lord father. When Robb marched off to war, Bran did his best to emulate his oldest brother as Lord of Winterfell (which technically, Bran is still the rightful Lord of Winterfell).
“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
Then there is Daenerys. Daenerys is all about taking up the cause of the dead. When Viserys dies she takes to pushing Drogo to war. Her brother Rhaegar “The Last Dragon” was obsessed with abstract prophecies and being or creating a messiah figure. And Dany repeatedly dreams herself in Rhaegar’s armor, and becomes “the Last Dragon” herself. When her husband and son dies, she takes up their roles as well. She tries to lead Drogo’s khalasar, and in place of her stillborn son Rhaego, Dany seems set up to become The Stallion That Mounts The World.
Perhaps some small part of Bran will know he is dreaming too. But will he want to wake up?
“Aegon has been shaped for rule before he could walk. He has been trained in arms, as befits a knight to be, but that was not the end of his education. He reads and writes, he speaks several tongues, he has studied history and law and poetry [….] Tommen has been taught that kingship is his right. Aegon knows kingship is his duty, that a king must put his people first, and live and rule for them.” – Varys (Epilogue, ADWD)
What has Varys done in response to baby Aegon’s apparent death? Has he not prepared a lookalike and indoctrinated him with the belief he is Rhaegar’s [dead] son to lead an invasion and reclaim Aegon’s throne? Is Young Griff not living out a dead boy’s life? Sure it may offer more glory than any life he could have hoped for as whoever he really was, but the same could be said about the life of a cripple. The point stands that Young Griff has been made to live out someone else’ life because a political cause needed him to.
And what of King Tommen?
I think it’s funny that in all the talk of “bad poosay” and “20 goodmen,” there has been next to no discussion on this incredibly significant season 5 scene on Tommen and Margaery’s wedding night.
Tommen: King Tommen… still sounds strange to me. Does Queen Margaery sound strange to you?
Margaery: So strange… husband.
Tommen: Wife. [both laugh]
Tommen: Sometimes it feels odd. I’m the king. I’ve married the most beautiful woman in the world. And it’s all because my brother died.
Margaery: I understand, but it’s not your fault. You know that, don’t you? You mustn’t feel guilty.
Tommen: I don’t feel guilty. That’s what’s odd.
Besides showing us that Tommen in fact knew his brother was awful, the boy King is making an astute observation about the nature of feudalism. Before Joffrey’s funeral was even over, Tywin began grooming Tommen to take his brother’s place. Like Ned, the feudal order has required that Tommen jump into the life that was meant for his older brother, and he is reflecting on his own lack of guilt over it. Now this is a significant realization, and considering how naive and simple Tommen is, we can only assume that having sex with Natalie Dormer completely blew Tommen’s mind.
I believe that this dialogue is not simply about Tommen, nor about Jon and Robb, but is foreshadowing the big twist with Bran. Not only are the parallels set up between Tommen and Bran, but it’s Bran, not Jon who has survived his two brothers, and is most set up to jump into the life of another person.
For Bran it’s really the same, (unfortunately for Bran he gets a magic tree rather than Natalie Dormer, as if he hasn’t suffered enough…) It should be abundantly clear that Bran doesn’t actually like his life, or having to be himself. He doesn’t like being under the tree with the rotting Bloodraven. He doesn’t like being broken. He doesn’t like being left behind. He doesn’t like being Bran. He wants to be a knight. He wants to be a hero.
Someone like Jon. Someone like Azor Ahai.
Bran’s older brother has just died when the Realm needed him most (or at least, that’s how it’s been set up). But the Realm doesn’t need Jon’s personality. Not his insecurity. Not his humanity. Not his love for Ygritte, or his guilt over her death, or his friendship with Samwell Tarly. The Realm doesn’t need him to have a sweet reunion with Arya. Westeros needs someone to fulfill a political and military function. To be a symbol, a hero, a messiah, a Prince That Was Promised. But not to be a person.
This is what society, and more specifically war, does to people.
War, like feudalism, is inherently depersonalizing. It reduces people to their military and political function. When one soldier, lord, or king dies, the next person in line takes their place, and carries on the charade. It makes us question who is really driving society when the kings and leaders are themselves being played by their own game. We often look at Kings and Presidents as being these all powerful puppet masters, but people become slaves to their political power, and all of the responsibility and history they are bound to. It’s as if the strongs between puppet masters and their puppets work both ways.
Perhaps it’s not really about pawns and players. Perhaps we don’t play the game. Perhaps the game plays us.
Well, he will not want it said that Stannis rode to the defense of the realm whilst King Tommen was playing with his toys. – Samwell I, AFFC
Thus the War for the Dawn needs Jon to be reborn amidst salt and smoke, and consequently convince mankind he is their savior, but not to be whole or happy. It needs him to declare the political implications of his true parentage, but not for him to deal with the painful realization that he is adopted and never even knew his real parents. The War needs him to ride a dragon as if he and it are of one mind. Not for the joy of flight, but to kill things. The War needs him to marry Daenerys to unite the Kingdoms, but not to genuinely experience love or joy. The War for the Dawn needs Jon, but it doesn’t need Jon.
“but…. but Jon is the song of ice and fire…” – you, sad
To that I’ll just say that if you insist upon the symbolism that Jon is the song, then the song needs someone else to sing it. Jon is the dream, and Bran is the dreamer. Also I’d say that Bran dreamed he was the comet of burning ice way back in book 1. Anyways…
The War for the Dawn needs it’s Azor Ahai. And what is Azor Ahai but a symbol? A legacy? A vicarious fantasy? A child’s toy?
War In Heaven
“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds”
– J. Oppenheimer,
(from The Bhaghavad Gita)
All of that dialogue about losing oneself inside a wolf wasn’t foreshadowing Jon struggling to remember himself inside Ghost. It was foreshadowing Bran’s struggle not to lose himself in Jon.
Jojen: Summer was eating. You’re body can’t live on the food your wolf consumes. Spending too much time in Summer’s skin is dangerous. You’re not a direwolf Bran. It must be glorious though. To run. To leap. To hunt. To be whole. I know it’s tempting, but if you’re trapped in Summer for too long, you’d forget what it was to be human.
Meera: You’d forget us Bran. You’d forget your mother and father, you’d forget your brothers and sisters, you’d forget Winterfell. You’d forget you. And if we lose you, we lose everything.
– S4Ep2, written by GRRM
Look at it this way. Jon’s struggle not to lose himself inside Ghost, though internal, is really totally dependent upon what is external. It’s merely a question of whether or not Jon remembers being Jon long enough till someone can work their resurrection magic. Jon doesn’t actually want to be a wolf. It’s forced upon him by death.
“You have to wake, he would tell himself, you have to wake right now, or you’ll go dreaming into death. Once or twice he pinched his arm with his fingers, really hard, but the only thing that did was make his arm hurt. In the beginning he had tried to count the days by making note of when he woke and slept, but down here sleeping and waking had a way of melting into one another. Dreams became lessons, lessons became dreams, things happened all at once or not at all. Had he done that or only dreamed it?” – Bran III, ADWD
Bran’s struggle to remember himself while playing Azor Ahai is genuinely internal. It’s not just an arbitrary question of how long he is stuck in Jon before a wizard pulls him out, but rather it’s a question of whether Bran even wants to come out at all. Is there any reason for Bran to want to go back to being Bran the Broken? Is there any reason for him to want to wake up from his hero dream? from being the knight who slays the monsters?
BONUS Show Prediction: We are not going to get a scene where Bran, having witnessed the reveal of Jon’s parentage at the Tower of Joy then explains it to Jon. S6Ep1 ‘The Red Woman’ ended with Melisandre staring into the mirror, taking off her glamor, and looking at her true self, an old feeble woman. I predict that Jon will be resurrected and we won’t actually know that it’s Bran who is animating him. Jon will fight against the Boltons in the much anticipated Battle of Snow, and take Winterfell. There, in the season finale, hoping to pocket himself a claimant to the throne, Littlefinger will approach Jon in the Godswood to reveal Jon’s true parentage. To Littlefinger’s surprise, Jon will say that he already knows. Later, like Atreyu staring into the Magic Mirror Gate, Jon will stare at his reflection to reveal Bran Stark. His true self is a crippled boy.
Yet we really have to ask ourselves, when Jon is resurrected, who will that person be? will it be Bran? will it be Jon? is it Bran playing Jon? is it both? is it like the Father, Son ,and Holy Ghost? is it neither? is it Azor Ahai? It’s like asking ourselves who is Bran when he wargs Summer? (furthermore, for everyone wondering how a formerly crippled 10 year old will fight a war, I’d argue he will do it as seamlessly as he becomes a direwolf with absolutely no learning curve.) But is he still himself if he is in another body, with the instincts and impulses of another body? if he has the memories of another man? if he can’t really remember himself? if he is slowly losing himself in a child’s fantasy? in living out a game of toy knights?
And that’s all Azor Ahai is isn’t it? a fantasy. A story we tell ourselves over and over until we forget that it’s a lie. That it’s hollow, empty propaganda. Just like the War for the Dawn. The dead leading the living against the living leading the dead. A war on earth between the forces of heaven and hell. And which side are we? Which side, are we?
“Maester Aemon, wake up.”
Aemon’s blind white eyes came open. “Egg?” he said, as the rain streamed down his cheeks. “Egg, I dreamed that I was old.” – (Samwell I, AFFC)
I don’t think we really know. But I suspect that like Bran Stark, we can either go dreaming into death, or we can wake up.
- What did it mean when Frodo claimed the Ring of Power?
– Symbolically it meant succumbing to temptation and claiming absolute power. The power of Kings.
- How will Jon be resurrected?
– Lady Stoneheart will pass on her life force to him like Beric before her. Bran will animate Jon through the power of human skinchanging.
- What is Bran’s story really about?
– Escapism and feelings of inadequacy. All Bran ever dreamed of was being a knight, but now through no fault of his own he cannot even be a normal person. The only way out for Bran is seemingly by subjugating someone else.
- When Brandon Stark died, what happened to Ned?
– War and the feudal order demanded that Ned jump into his brother’s life, becoming a shell of his brother. Ned became Brandon. This de personalizing nature of succession and war is a theme throughout the story, from Renly’s Ghost, to (f)Aegon, to Daenerys, and next to Bran.
- What is Azor Ahai?
– An abomination of human skinchanging. A human weapon of war. A symbol. The burning dead leading the living against the frozen living leading the dead. A fiery corpse riding to death, and the world’s ending. A child’s toy living out a hero fantasy.
Whether I’m right about any of this or wrong about all of it, thanks for reading.
Play us out Laura Marling…