II. Now I am become Death: The Lord of Corpses

In Part 1 we went over GRRM’s philosophy about death and the consequences of resurrection. If you thought part 1 was a little bleak… then remember what they say about Act 2 being the darkest. Also, remember that I’m well aware that I could be wrong about any of this, and we’re just exploring here, and at the very least these may be new theories for you. So let’s try to keep an open mind while we take this one step further into darkness.


 

“To die will be an awfully big adventure”

– Peter Pan

 

Central Questions:

  1. Why was Thoros able to resurrect Beric Dondarrion?
  2. What was Coldhands?
  3. How different are Beric and Lady Stoneheart from Coldhands?
  4. Who is the Lord of Corpses?
  5. What really pulled Catelyn’s body from the river?
  6. Is identity something that is, or something that is performed?
  7. What are Jon and Jaime’s crypt dreams about?

 

Do you want to build a Scarecrow Knight?

Burning-Scarecrows
Not like this…

Beric Dondarrion is pretty much dead inside, and like Martin has said, part of what is animating Beric is his own inner purpose. His own burning desire to protect the innocent and serve the realm. To be a scarecrow that stands against those who would prey on the weak in the chaos of war. Though they are not of the Faith of the Seven, under Beric Dondarrion the Brotherhood Without Banners act pretty much like knights, and don’t display the religious extremism which defines Melisandre. The Brotherhood are friendly towards practitioners of multiple religions and even seek the wisdom of the Ghost of High Heart, who worships the Old Gods. The Brotherhood are all about justice, and though they serve no king, their oath indicates that they believe in the general idea of one. So they’re not quite the anarchists they seem, but are serving the abstract idea of a better kingdom.

The king is dead,” the scarecrow knight admitted, “but we are still king’s men, though the royal banner we bore was lost at the Mummer’s Ford when your brother’s butchers fell upon us.” He touched his breast with a fist. “Robert is slain, but his realm remains. And we defend her.”- Arya VI, ASOS

“This time the lightning lord did not set the blade afire, but merely laid it light on Gendry’s shoulder. “Gendry, do you swear before the eyes of gods and men to defend those who cannot defend themselves, to protect all women and children, to obey your captains, your liege lord, and your king, to fight bravely when needed and do such other tasks as are laid upon you, however hard or humble or dangerous they may be?”  – Beric knighting Gendry (Arya VII, ASOS)

Well that is definitely not the oath of an anarchist…

Yet our story is obviously filled with determined characters with a strong driving purpose. A lot of them die, and are not resurrected. Brandon Stark. Rhaegar Targaryen. Khal Drogo(we’ll come back to him). Oberyn Martell. Obviously whether you believe in a R’hllor, or just fire magic, there is something magical about Beric walking and talking and leading a band of honest outlaws. But after six resurrections, is it really just Thoros’ magic keeping him alive?

He isn’t very priestly, is he?” “No,” Gendry admitted. “Master Mott said Thoros could outdrink even King Robert. They were pease in a pod, he told me, both gluttons and sots.”

 

Well, it’s worth noting that Thoros specifically considered himself to be an unremarkable Red Priest to say the least. Originally sent to convert the Mad King Aerys, under Robert’s reign he had mostly been a drunkard and a womanizer. Thoros was more known for the mere tricks he’d pull with setting his sword on fire to spook opponents than any real magic. A trick which his buddy King Robert supposedly highly enjoyed. And at the time he resurrected Beric at the Mummers Ford, Thoros had never performed anything of the sort and was more or less out of faith entirely. Yet one day he is in the Riverlands, he watches Beric die, he says the words and performs the last kiss, and viola! The Lightning Lord rises in the light of the one true god, and Thoros’ faith is restored.

sixresurrections
well…

If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it is a pretty common one both in fiction and in real life. A person is without faith. They have themselves a near death experience or some brush with death, or are faced with some traumatic experience. They pray to god for a miracle, things turn around, and their faith is restored because they believe god answered their prayers. Regardless of your belief in the validity in these stories, they exist. So, has Martin given us one which is true? Did Thoros simply get lucky with magic? Did R’hllor really answer a prayer and raise a himself a fire champion?

 

Well there is one pretty big reason to think something else is going on here.

 

Here is our introduction to Lord Beric, the Scarecrow Knight:
“A huge firepit had been dug in the center of the earthen floor, and its flames rose swirling and crackling toward the smoke-stained ceiling. The walls were equal parts stone and soil, with huge white roots twisting through them like a thousand slow pale snakes. People were emerging from between those roots as she watched [….] In one place on the far side of the fire, the roots formed a kind of stairway up to a hollow in the earth where a man sat almost lost in the tangle of weirwood.

The voice came from the man seated amongst the weirwood roots halfway up the wall. “Six score of us set out to bring the king’s justice to your brother.” The speaker was descending the tangle of steps toward the floor. “Six score brave men and true, led by a fool in a starry cloak.” A scarecrow of a man, he wore a ragged black cloak speckled with stars and an iron breastplate dinted by a hundred battles. A thicket of red-gold hair hid most of his face, save for a bald spot above his left ear where his head had been smashed in. “More than eighty of our company are dead now, but others have taken up the swords that fell from their hands.” When he reached the floor, the outlaws moved aside to let him pass. One of his eyes was gone,” – Arya encounters Beric Dondarion for the first time – (Arya VI, ASOS)

AND I’M JUST LIKE..

Here is our introduction to Lord Bloodraven, the Last Greenseer:
“Before them a pale lord in ebon finery sat dreaming in a tangled nest of roots, a woven weirwood throne that embraced his withered limbs as a mother does a child. His body was so skeletal and his clothes so rotted that at first Bran took him for another corpse […] Where his other eye should have been, a thin white root grew from an empty socket […] The clothes he wore were rotten and faded, spotted with moss and eaten through with worms, but once they had been black.” – Bran I, ADWD

Beric is introduced to JUST LIKE BLOODRAVEN: a man in black sitting in a tangle of weirwood roots in a hollow beneath the earth, with a single missing eye. We don’t pick the significance of this because we meet Beric two books sooner than we realize just how big a deal weirwood roots are, but we need to seriously reconsider everything we are told about Beric. Has Beric really been resurrected in the light of R’hllor, or is he being reanimated by the power of the Old Gods? I’d say the latter.

It should be noted that the Last Kiss is a funeral rite and isn’t actually used by Red Priests to resurrect anyone. Thoros is a pretty liberal believer in the Lord of Light and unskilled as far as Red Priest come, while the Old Gods still have power in the Riverlands. Magic in ASOIAF typically has a price, and Thoros’ resurrections seem to completely cast aside the idea that “only death can pay for life.” But if the Old Gods are involved, then this makes more sense, since Weirwoods have been taking blood sacrifices for thousands of years (though to be fair, you could argue Red Priests sacrifice to the flames as well, which could also be collective sacrifice). Yet the Brotherhood without Banners is operating from from a Hollow Hill, far closer to the Isle of Faces than it is to Valyria, or Asshai, and it’s really hard to pick out a place more Old Gods-y to introduce a character than sitting in a tangle of underground white weirwood roots. I can think of little reason otherwise to introduce Beric this way. This being an arbitrary parallel would be questionable writing, and it would be kind of pointlessly misleading right? And again, the Brotherhood seemingly often consults the visions of the Ghost of High Heart, which come through the Old Gods. The old greenseer who happens to greet Beric like so…

wait… what? why did she call him that?

Aside from being the most metal possible nickname she could think of, why did she call him the lord of corpses? And why “his Grace“? it’s not like Beric is a prince…. or a royal bastard who was legitimized by the King on his deathbed… Is the old greenseer just making a bad joke? And why does she consider him the Lord of Corpses plural? Why not simply “Corpse Lord”? How is a resurrected lord or a reanimated corpse, a Lord of Corpses?

I’d say Beric Dondarrion being called the Lord of Corpses fits about as well as Frodo being called the Lord of the Rings, and the context, paired with the fact that the Ghost of High Heart speaks in prophecy and riddles indicates that there is more going on. After all, this is the same woman that knew to be terrified of Arya, and she first squints her red greenseeing eyes at her guests, and then proceeds to call Thoros an Ember, nodding to his status as a Priest of the Red Temple, and Lem a lemon. The Ghost of High Heart also consistently associates Lem Lemoncloak with ‘death’ and ‘kisses,’ giving a nod to his likely secret identity as the missing Ser Richard Lonmouth, the Knight of Skulls Kisses, who’s sigil looks like this.

NOTE: Richard Lonmouth being with the Brotherhood is no small thing. Richard Lonmouth was one of Rhaegar’s closest supporters, and he likely knows what happened with Rhaegar and Lyanna. This carries MAJOR implications for the Brotherhood Without Banners supposed Bannerlessness in the coming conflict.

Since the Ghost of High Heart’s speech is established as containing double meanings and seeing through false identities, this leaves us to question, was the Ghost of High Heart looking through Beric and talking to Bloodraven?

Hold on a second and keep an open mind before you accuse me of pointless overthinking a cool nickname. Here is what comes next in that conversation.

“An ill-omened name. I have asked you not to use it.”  – Beric to TGOHH (Arya VIII, ASOS)

The Greenseer supposedly calls him this on a regular basis, and Beric apparently does not like being called the Lord of Corpses. Though he can’t remember much anymore, clearly Beric is walking around believing that he is Beric Dondarrion. But is he really? Is Beric’s soul really in there? Do souls exist? Is it really just consciousness? How many memories of Beric does this Scarecrow Knight need to really be considered Beric Dondarrion? How much of his personality? If part of Bloodraven’s consciousness were animating the scarecrow knight’s body, would that consciousness be aware of it? I mean, Bloodraven is pretty far away, yet through the power of the weirwoods he seems to have his eyes on hundreds of things at once, and he has a tendency to seemingly control ravens by the conspiracy. If he’s spread so thin, does he even have the capacity to fully overwhelm Beric and take full control? Think of Arya’s wolf dreams. When Arya wargs Nymeria in her dreams does she really realize that she is Arya controlling a direwolf or is she simply the Night Wolf? Who or what is the man leading the Brotherhood without Banners? Is it a Corpse Lord, or is it The Lord of Corpses?

Well, I think it’s both.

Note: Arya (in part thanks to Syrio Forel) also seemingly has an impressive ability to “see”, and that she keeps thinking of Beric as a scarecrow seems to reassert to his hollowness.

This could easily turn into a pretty esoteric train of thought about identity. But it’s worth noting that body without consciousness, ghost without body, and identity without memory, are all themes that Martin is working with in ASOIAF, and has written about in his other works.

hellodarknessberic2

Still, the main point here is that although the Scarecrow Knight believes himself to be Beric Dondarion, he is clearly a bit hollow and isn’t all there. Beric’s personality, his quirks and memories, his capacity to experience love and joy, all those are pretty much gone. Yes, the purpose that drives him is the one Beric died for, yet when the man who believed in that purpose died, who was it that decided the fire of that purpose should continue? Thoros? R’hllor? or Bloodraven? Aside from the “fire” of inner purpose, Beric is likely being animated by Bloodraven. Perhaps Thoros’ magic kiss provides the spark. But it’s the magic Old Gods what truly animates the scarecrow knight.

“fff0kFjHduWhksf… bUT BLUDRAVIN = TREE = iCe, BERIC = FIRE MAGIK 1s SONG 0F FIrE + ICE STOP CONNEKTING EVRYTHING TO 3EYES RAVIN” – someone

Never.

But really the connections make themselves. Not only are the connections between two rotting one eyed men tangled in weirwood pretty unambiguous, but Bloodraven is hinted in Melisandre’s POV to have some capacity to see through fire magic.

Ladystoneheartcrown
HMM. I WONDER WHAT SHE’S GONNA DO WITH ROBB’S CROWN???

Since Beric is the one who mysteriously decides to give his life to revive Catelyn, pretty much everything we just covered with Beric seems equally applicable to Catelyn. And “R’hllor” is seemingly irrelevant to Lady Stoneheart as well. She also leads the Brotherhood from the same Hollow Hill, and neither worships the Lord of Light, nor does she sacrifice the “guilty” to flames, but rather she hangs them from trees. It should also be noted that Mother Merciless sends Brienne to get Jaime, who is somehow able to find him despite Jaime being on the move, soon after he leaves Raventree Hall.

Perhaps the reason that Lady Stoneheart does not get a POV is that it’s not necessaily Catelyn’s soul which is carrying on Catelyn’s purpose. Lady Stoneheart has Catelyn’s memory, and she clearly carries on the vengeance of Catelyn’s final thoughts. That said, I do think there is something a little more than just blind fury and vengeance going on with Lady Stoneheart. I suspect that there is also a greater purpose of carrying out Robb’s will, hence why she has acquired Robb’s crown. But I’ll get to that. Still, is it truly Catelyn’s soul that animates her? maybe not entirely. And yes, males can warg females, even if you think it’s icky, it’s in the story already. Tiresias Varamyr literally wargs a female wolf while it’s being mounted.

But I’d like to move on and talk about Coldhands.

 

The Wizard’s Imaginary Friend

coldhands_by_elleneth-d60dz86
artword by Elleneth

I could always be wrong (about anything), but I’m confident Coldhands is actually one of the Raven’s Teeth. I know a lot of people have theories he is the Night’s King, or Bran the Builder, or the Last Hero, and I know many are still clinging to him being Benjen. But I think him being one of the Raven’s Teeth is the most likely and supported theory, while also being super heart breaking.

Coldhands is pretty confusing. The lack of glowing blue eyes tells us that he isn’t the same type of wight as the ones raised by the Others. Also he literally fights against the starry blue-eyed wights. Yet despite walking and talking, unlike the Scarecrow Knight or the Hangwoman,  Coldhands’ body, seems to actually be dead, and it seems his heart doesn’t beat nor does he breath.

A friend. Dreamer, wizard, call him what you will. The last greenseer.” The longhall’s wooden door banged open. Outside, the night wind howled, bleak and black. The trees were full of ravens, screaming. Coldhands did not move.

 

Apparently unlike the wights raised by the Others, Coldhands claims he cannot cross the Wall, and though he seemingly displays an aversion to fire, he mentally resembles those resurrected by fire more than those raised by the Others. Just as George says of his characters who have died and risen, Coldhands, like Beric and Lady Stoneheart, seemingly lives for a single purpose, and that purpose seems to be loyalty to his lord and friend, Brynden Rivers. Though the method of his resurrection are a bit of a mystery, (perhaps fire resurrection cannot happen North of the Wall) Coldhands, like Beric and Stoneheart, is seemingly being animated by the magic of the Old Gods.

What’s so sad about Coldhands, is that if he is like Beric, he is being animated by the Bloodraven. Afterall, he is likely one of the Raven’s Teeth that volunteered to go to the Wall with Brynden Rivers, and given that he is dead but not raised by the Others, it’s possible that like Jeor Mormont, and like Jon Snow, perhaps Brynden River’s disappearance was actually a result of a mutiny against the totalitarian magic practicing Lord Commander. Did Coldhands die protecting his friend and Lord Commander? This would certainly explain his loyalty, and it would explain why he went out of his way to kill the mutineers at Craster’s keep. The singular purpose for which Coldhands moves is his loyalty and duty to Bloodraven. This means that Brynden Rivers is using the body and memories of Coldhands to animate his own last living friend.

hellodarknessbrynden

Coldhands is sort of an imaginary friend…

People often recognize resurrected characters for their memory loss, or their brutality, or their disfigurement (which surely are there), assuming “Jon won’t be anything like that.” But I think this misses the forest for the trees. Beric led and helped found an insurgency which was able to survive and fight a guerilla campaign against several established Houses and defend the weak. This is as impressive as being a lord, if not even more so. The Scarecrow Knight, Lady Stoneheart, and Coldhands, are exactly as capable as they need to be to fulfill their purpose. Nothing less, and nothing more. No love, no laughter, no joy, no rest. I believe it’s no accident that these three characters are actually more like machines than people. There is a point to all of this resurrection beyond “cuz fantasy,” or beyond giving some characters magic powers, and certainly beyond scaring readers into thinking a character died so that they can rise up again triumphantly. By having his resurrected characters live for a single purpose, George is making a commentary on how society, particularly in war, dehumanizes individuals by reducing them to their utilitarian fuctions, be is social, political, or military. Coldhands, Beric, and Lady Stoneheart, have been reduced to a single function. They have been turned into tools of war. Yes it’s a purpose they themselves believed in, but that purpose has become all that is left of them.

burning skeleton
A sword day… a red day… ere the sun rises! Ride now!… Ride now!.. Ride! Ride to ruin, and the world’s ending! Death! Death! DEATH!

Here we have threemoving corpses which do not have the starry blue eyes of the wights raised by the Others, but all seem to follow Martin’s credo on his own resurrected characters. The three each “live” to serve a singular function. Three moving corpses who all seem to exist for one purpose and nothing else. Justice, Vengeance, and Loyalty. And all three are animated by the Lord of Corpses.

 

Living the Dream

Hopefully you’re on board with the connection between Bloodraven, and the walking corpses of the Scarecrow Knight, Lady Stoneheart, and Coldhands. But you may be wondering why I believe that part of Bloodraven’s consciousness is animating them, rather than simply watching over them, or influencing them, or using tree magic to keep them running.

Well, let’s look at the first thing Bloodraven says (in person) to Bran:

I have been many things, Bran. Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you … except in dreams. I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.”- Bloodraven (Bran II, ADWD)

Three-Eyed Ravenː I have been many things. Now, I am what you see. – S4Ep10

Keep in mind that this exchange is significant enough that although it was shortened for the show, I have been many things,” was preserved word for word, and when Bran reaches the cave, these are the very first words uttered by the Three Eyed Raven. These words matter, and I believe they go beyond having had many titles, or having been many trees and ravens simultaneously. Lord Brynden has been many many things indeed. But this quote isn’t my only reason for thinking this way.

Let’s shift gears for a moment.

Question:
Who pulled Catelyn’s body from the river?

Towards the end of ASOS, the night that Nymeria pulls Catelyn from the river, Arya goes to sleep thinking of her mother, and then in her dreams she enters Nymeria, and without rationalizing it, Nymeria is inclined towards carrying out Arya’s desire. So, even though Arya’s consciousness was inhabiting Nymeria, was that truly Arya? or was it Nymeria? Because the show doesn’t display internal monologues, it’s often looked over that the POVs change dramatically while they’re warging. It’s not a matter of simply “oh hey cool, I’m me in a wolf’s body now, time to keep living my life but on four legs for a bit…” The skinchanger loses their immediate sense of self as they blend with their beast, and their thoughts truly resemble that of someone dreaming they are something else.

And we’ve all had those dreams right? dreams where we were someone else?

So we have to ask ourselves what and who Arya really is when she wargs into Nymeria (don’t worry she isn’t Bloodraven). She is a wolf, she behaves with the instincts of a wolf, makes the insights of a wolf, yet doesn’t really remember herself to be Arya or truly recall memories of being Arya. She’s simply a wolf. Let’s call her NymArya™. Her pack is Nymeria’s pack, and her brothers and sisters are Nymeria’s brothers and sisters (though she does not identify them by the names given by the Stark children), and unless she brings with her a very strong desire to accomplish something specific, she will just live out what Nymeria was doing. Yet when she wakes Arya remembers everything she experienced as Nymeria as if it was a dream. Later while blinded, Arya later skinchanges a cat, but even then she is barely aware of it while it’s happening.

The same can be said for Bran when he is learning to warg. At the beginning of ASOS, while Jojen is training Bran to use his warging abilies, Jojen not only warns Bran not to spend too much time in Summer lest he lose himself, but Jojen also tries to get Bran to bend Summer to his will through the simple exercise of trying to get Bran to remember to mark a tree. Yet even that is difficult, as his vague recollection of needing to complete a mundane task is overpowered by his new animal self. Bran does not really remember that he is Bran till he comes back. Bran is perhaps more aware of himself when he wargs Hodor, but even in his later chapters there is little to no self awareness while skinchanging animals, and most understanding comes after the fact.

teenage direwolf

Even a truly seasoned skinchanger like Varamyr thinks of himself inside his wolf as “warg”, and is never referred to as Varamyr, and does not really recall memories of his identity, nor does he think about Haggon’s skinchanger’s code which fills his waking thoughts as a man. Like Arya and Bran, Varamyr does not truly understand or rationalize his actions until he comes back. The most Varamyr seems to remember is when he recalls that he had just attempted to seize Thistle’s body.

Aside from simple subservient Hodor, there is a pattern with skinchanging:

If through the power of the weirwoods Bloodraven’s consciousness were simultaneously animating a conspiracy of a hundred ravens, and Coldhands, and hundreds of miles away Beric, and later Lady Stoneheart… what would that be like for each individual POV? The Scarecrow Knight wouldn’t remember being Bloodraven, nor understand himself as Brynden Rivers any more than NymArya understands herself as Arya. But Bloodraven would understand and recall animating Beric like he were remembering a dream he cannot really control. Just a dream he knows to be real. The same way he remembers having been several hundred different ravens, or wolves, or Coldhands. The fact that skinchanging merges two minds should radically shift the way we understand identity, because it fundamentally changes identity.

 

Does this mean fire resurrection is fake? what happens when fire resurrection is not supplemented by an animator? what would have become of Beric without Bloodraven? Doesn’t death pay for life? Well yes… and that’s what happened to Khal Drogo.

The man’s face grew strange. “Once, at the Citadel, I came into an empty room and saw an empty chair. Yet I knew a woman had been there, only a moment before. The cushion was dented where she’d sat, the cloth was still warm, and her scent lingered in the air. If we leave our smells behind us when we leave a room, surely something of our souls must remain when we leave this life?” Qyburn spread his hands. “The archmaesters did not like my thinking, though. Well, Marwyn did, but he was the only one.” – Qyburn (Jaime VI, ASOS)

 

Given that Marwyn is well versed in magic, having been to Asshai, and is actually the man who trained Mirri Maz Durr, it’s likely that this quote from Qyburn is significant. The characters who are resurrected are not empty shells, but rather they contain some part of themselves. Some part of their memories,

 

The Army of the Dead

Yet when we look at the characteristics of those who have been resurrected; singularly purpose driven, missing memories, etc. There are actually several characters that come to mind. I don’t think all of these characters are actually resurrected, but I’m going to run through them real quick with my vague thoughts. Feel free to skip this section, because it’s a little besides the point.


Who else has died and been resurrected?

Robert Strong – Big spoiler right?  The bigger question is whether he has a head, or who’s head is on Gregor’s shoulders. Tywin? Joffrey? Robb Stark? a random dwarf head? Qyburn’s seemingly animates UnGregor by some Frankenstein inspired method.

Khal Drogo – Probably. I believe Khal Drogo was at least unnaturally kept alive. I suspect his memories were all there, and some small part of his soul. And though he had a sense of purpose before, without any magic or consciousness to animate him he was totally blank. Though in the books he can actually walk and eat.

Melisandre – Maybe. This one’s interesting. Mel is definitely unnaturally old, and is likely kept alive by some sort of magic. Like Beric and LSH she’s totally purpose driven, she has black blood, doesn’t really sleep, doesn’t really eat, and she also has suppressed memories of being a child named Melony. But I don’t see who or what would be animating her. Bloodraven? I mean she does seem to get stronger at the Wall. But it’s unclear that she’s ever suffered a death. Also she never mentions knowledge of resurrection.

Moqorro – No. I think the Moqorro that turns up on Victarion’s ship is an imposter, and he is actually one of Euron’s captured warlocks.

Patchface – Yes. Something is obviously up with Patchface, and clearly he should have died at Shipbreaker Bay, and his survival is nothing short of a miracle. Once a witty young lad, Patchface like other resurrections has been reduced to a singular function (which for him is to be a fool). I suspect Patchface is being animated by something. Hence his weird and cryptic dialogue.

Hodor – Probably not. Hodor can cross the Wall, though he wasn’t being warged at the time. Something happened to Hodor which broke his mind.

Jojen Reed – Not likely. He suffered a near death experience, is very purpose driven, and incredibly mature for his age. But, I don’t think he is being animated, as he suffers seizures, indicating his mind is being infiltrated. It’s also never implied that he ever actually died.

Mance Rayder – No. He’s purpose driven, his name is suspicious, and a Woods Witch helped hims survive a near death experience, but he is seemingly having way too much fun, and there’s no evidence of memory loss. Also his driving purpose isn’t the one he supposedly died for, and he has no fertility issues.

Davos – Nope, I really don’t think he died or was resurrected. I think he’s just dedicated. He’s always been dedicated. His POVs don’t really change.

Aeron Greyjoy – Not sure. He had a near death experience and spiritual awakening leading to a transformation of personality but it’s not a focused purpose but a changed purpose, and it’s not clear there was any miracle. His memories are oddly cryptic though. Aeron may just be very religious.

Daenerys Targaryen – Believe it or not, this is a theory. This one is tough because Daenerys is such a consequential character. Was she just figuratively reborn or was she literally reborn? Well Dany is very purpose driven without but she still has insecurity and doubt. She is not totally reduced to her purpose. She does have odd memories, and she survived the flames in what can only be seen as magic or a miracle. Also she likely survived poisoning, doesn’t sleep normally, and seemingly cannot birth a living child. If Daenerys did die in childbirth or in the funeral pyre, then she was likely resuscitated pretty quickly, which isn’t unusual in real lie. To me the whole thing is more like Bran’s coma than death, but who knows. This could mostly be symbolic. Though the idea of Daenerys being animated by something is rather fun to think about. Quaithe seems to be watching over Daenerys, and probably has been for a long time…

Note: If you think this is all too weird, then I understand. Just keep an open mind.

Now this list doesn’t really give us a lot of conclusions, but it’s possible that there is a difference between those that die momentarily (which happens in real life), or are preserved unnaturally, and those who suffer mortal wounds and actually die for hours or days and then are brought back.


 

Now, there’s one more point I need to make before moving onto part III.

 

Lord Commander: Into Darkness

raven-crypt1

Though there is a bit of an age gap between the two, there is actually a crucial parallel between the Lord Commanders Jon Snow and Jaime Lannister. Though they join their brotherhood for different reasons, both Jon in black and Jaime in white once had similarly idealized views about heroism which are challenged by the reality of the order that they serve. Yet in ADWD, both Jon and Jaime arise as important men who are able to serve significant political functions in a time of war. In the absence of Robb, Northerners look to Jon as if he were a true Stark, and Jaime is able to lift the siege of Riverrun and settle disputes wielding clout as a Kingsguard and a Lannister. There are definitely big differences too, (Jaime had abandoned honor for a long time) but both are driven to do what is morally right to them rather than what is conventionally considered moral. And both are bound by their vows till death, and for Jon his pursuit of doing what he sees as “right” has led him to death, while for Jaime it is currently leading him straight to the Hangwoman.

And both Jon and Jaime have the same dream.

I wrote in part 1 about how Jon as early as AGOT, mentions that he has a reoccurring nightmare about having to go down into the crypts. He knows he is not a Stark, but he has to go anyways. Without a light. Alone into terrifying darkness, where something awaits him. Take not that in his waking life Jon is actually not scared of the Crypts, and even plays in them. Yet in this dream, Winterfell is lifeless and filled with bones. Theorists have optimistically interpreted this dream as being about how a harp, or marriage cloak, or Rhaegar’s Armor, or Blackfyre, or a dragon egg, or a pet ice dragon, or some other key to proving Jon’s parentage.

Unfortunately it’s none of those things. This dream is about death.

In Jaime VI, ASOS, Jaime Lannister has the same dream, and it pushes Jaime’s paradigm shift away from Cersei and family, and towards Brienne and chivalry. Now since he has this dream when he sleeps on a weirwood stump in the moonlight, it could be that more than one entity is acting on his mind. Anyways, that night Jaime dreams he is naked and has two hands (indicating the dream is figurative), yet he too must descend swordless into the darkness of the crypts beneath Casterly Rock. Like Jon and the Kings of Winter, he hears the voices of Lannisters past going back to the Age of Heroes, most of all his father. He sees Cersei carrying the only torch, but she walks away, leaving him alone. Jaime knows with certainty that his doom is down there, but he too must go anyways. Something in the darkness wants him.

“A cave lion? Direwolves? Some bear? Tell me, Jaime. What lives here? What lives in the darkness?

Doom.” No bear, he knew. No lion. “Only doom.” – (Jaime VI, ASOS)

NOTE: Jaime answers that it’s not a bear, nor a lion. But he doesn’t say it’s not a wolf.

hellodarknessJaime

Jon and Jaime are afraid of the same thing waiting in the darkness.

Then, Jaime and Jon both have a follow up. In both cases the continuation alleviates their fear. Sort of…

Jaime’s follow up is in the same dream. When Cersei leaves him to darkness and Jaime asks for a sword, and Tywan Lannisters reminds him of Oathkeeper, which burns in silvery blue light. Then comes Brienne to defend him, almost beautiful and more knightly than ever before, carrying her own silvery blue burning sword. Together he and Brienne face his guilt in the form of Rhaegar and his dead Kingsguard. They guilt Jaime of his past failing to protect Rhaegar’s children, pulling his thoughts away from loyalty to family, and towards chivalry and guilty obligation to the “true” Targaryen heir. The dream ends on a bit of an uncertain note. Jaime’s light goes out, and the light of Brienne’s sword is the only thing left keeping the darkness at bay, and the guilt that awaits him in the darkness. So it’s no surprise that when Jaime wakes, he goes back to save Brienne (after asking Qyburn about Ghosts).

Jon’s continuation comes earlier. In Jon VII, ACOK:

hellodarknessJon

In one of the most bizarre passages of ACOK, Jon is dreaming he is Ghost, and GhostJon turns to find a slender young Weirwood behind him with Bran’s face. This is way back when Bran is hiding in the crypts, so it’s unclear how much of this is real or a dream, or whether it’s Bran reaching out to him from the Crypts, or whether Bran has somehow figured out time-travel, or if it’s actually Bloodraven. But the BranTree™ has 3 eyes, and is fierce yet friendly, and calls the white wolf Jon. It grows rapidly and yet for some reason this young tree has the unsettling smell of death. When the smell alarms GhostJon, BranTree tells him to open his eyes and not to fear the darkness. Because BranTree likes the cloak of darkness. BranTree reaches out with it’s branches and touches the wolf, and suddenly GhostJon finds himself in another place entirely, looking over the Wildling camp. From then on Jon can warg Ghost.

The crypt dreams are not about secret parentage. They’re about death. The darkness in the crypts is death.

  • Jon’s fear of death is alleviated when BranTree opens his eyes and he learns to warg into Ghost. And yet it’s Jon’s link to Ghost that pulls him towards Winterfell, which is what brings about his death. And then it’s through Ghost that Jon “escapes.”
  • Jaime’s fear of the darkness is alleviated by the glow of Brienne’s sworn protection. Yet when we last left him, it’s Brienne who is bringing Jaime straight to Lady Stoneheart. Will Brienne somehow save Jaime from death?

Jon and Jaime are important men pulled by their dreams towards death. Yet a terror in the darkness is waiting for them, and Jaime associates it with guilt. Have we figured this one out yet?

Never fear the darkness, Bran.” The lord’s words were accompanied by a faint rustling of wood and leaf, a slight twisting of his head. “The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother’s milk. Darkness will make you strong.”  – (Bran III, ADWD)

The strongest trees take root in darkness.

 

Let’s Review:

  1. Why was Thoros able to resurrect Beric Dondarrion?
    – The magic of the Old Gods. Beric’s purpose is politically advantageous.
  2. What was Coldhands?
    – One of the Raven’s Teeth. He likely died protecting Lord Commander Brynden Rivers from a mutiny.
  3. How different are Beric and Lady Stoneheart from Coldhands?
    – Mainly physically, probably due to what magic is effective on either side of the Wall. But really they are all reduced to a singular purpose and animated by the Lord of Corpses.
  4. Who is the Lord of Corpses?
    – Bloodraven
  5. What really pulled Catelyn’s body from the river?
    NymArya© When Arya wargs Nymeria she is not truly herself, nor is she simply Nymeria. Arya doesn’t have her memories, sense of identity, or human instincts. It’s a new identity resulting from two merged consciousness. A hive mind for two. This applies to skinchanging in general.
  6. Is identity something that is, or something that is performed?
    – Think about this one for the rest of your life.
  7. What are Jon and Jaime’s crypt dreams about?
    – The crypt dreams are about death. The darkness is death. Something is waiting for them in death.

 


Thank you for reading, and whether you think I’m crazy or not I really hope I’ve at least given you something to think about. And if you’re still on board, I look forward to losing you in the conclusion. Part 3 will wrap this series up, and reveal how I believe Jon’s return is going to play out, and what I believe Martin’s greater meaning behind all of this death and resurrection and transformation truly is.

 

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4 thoughts on “II. Now I am become Death: The Lord of Corpses

      1. In The Mystery Knight Dunk asks, “Who are you?”
        “A friend,” said Maynard Plumm.
        Maynard Plumm is Bloodraven.
        In A Dance With Dragons, Meera asks Coldhands, “Who is this three-eyed crow?”
        Coldhands responds: “A friend.”

        Earlier in The Mystery Knight we get this passage.

        Ser Uthor filled his cup again. “I think you have more enemies than you know, Ser Duncan. How not? There are some who would say you were the cause of all our woes.”
        Dunk felt a cold hand on his heart. “Say what you mean.”

        Like

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