VIII. God-On-Earth


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

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


 

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

– Richard III

 

 

We are the world, We are the children

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

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For a moment Bran thought this was Arya.

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

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

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

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

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

#SavetheChildren #SingersfortheEnvironment

 

Human, Nature, and Human Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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(original artworks by Mike Wrobel)

The answer is simply no.

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

 

 

Thus Spoke Bloodraven: The Thousand Goals and One

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

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This is Zoroaster.

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

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

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“You’re a wizard Bran” – Bloodumbledore

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

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

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

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

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

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(original artwork by Beautiful Death)

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

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

 

Iron to Wood: Transmuting the Philosopher’s Throne

philosophersthrone
Alchemy just got real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A bit of foreshadowing here.

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Dream Police State for the Children of Pride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Boy Who Dreamed He Could Fly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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


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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

“I am always proud of Bran.” – Catelyn

 


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

 

Cold War III. The Northern Dragon Crisis

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

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


 

Radio Dark Santa and the Sad Elves

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

digging
Nothing suspicious going on here…

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

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

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

giphy
Even the Killers are afraid of Santa Claus

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

 

 

A Dragon in Winterfell

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

Crisis averted.

Distances of Major Cites from Cuba

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

This is where the Prince That Was Promised comes in.

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

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

winterfell burning
dragon? (just kidding)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

The Wildling Refugee Crisis

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

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

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

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

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

Wight lemmings
the free folk seem particularly effective when dead.

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

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

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

omg dead
The Others clearly follow Maisie Williams on Vine.

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

 

 

Way More Royce and Operation Kill the Boy

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


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

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


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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

winterhype
so i herd u liek winterz

 

 

emohdraH

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

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

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

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

THEN came the White Walkers.

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

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

remember the titans
Take that Jon Snow

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

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

You may at this point be asking:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 


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

What does “Winter is Coming” really mean?

Cold War II. Silence in the Land of Always Winter

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

~Dylan Thomas


In Part 1 we talked about the Others from a conceptual standpoint. Hopefully you now believe that it’s theoretically possible for the Others to not be one dimensional final bosses. Now it’s time to apply that understanding to their actual history.


 

The Other Side of History

Other
art by Mike Wrobel

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” – Harper Lee

The Others and what they’re doing are the first mystery of our story, and certainly one of the most puzzling. There is so much about them we don’t know, and so much where we have so little to go on that we can only speculate. We wonder whether or not they are in some regard human, what made them appear in the first place, what relation do they have to the Children of the Forest, whether the Others helped build the giant wall of ice, and so much more. We don’t know what motivates them, and yet most have made their judgement. That the Others are essentially either evil, or at least amoral horror movie monsters. As if they are Martin’s snowy take on Daleks.

Snowmen-the-doctor-and-clara-33177012-500-281
“EXXXTERMINATE! EXXXTERRRMIIIIINAAAATE!”

Their history of conflict with mankind is so ancient that the people of Westeros have mostly forgotten they even exist. Thanks to the prologue we the readers know better, but can we really understand them without knowing why they do the things they do? without seeing the world from their perspective? Personally I don’t think we can, so let’s try to see the conflict between man and other, not as mankind, but as the others would. To truly understand these foreign beings, let’s get back to the basics. If we remove our bias and strip what we know about the history of humanity and the Others down to it’s most basic elements, there is one key fact which is hard to deny:

Humanity is the dominant side.

All accounts of the Long Night, the current geopolitical allocation of Westeros, and the Wall itself, make this very clear from a historical standpoint. We can’t be sure what exactly brought the Others during the Long Night, and because the Others seem to require humans for reproduction, we can’t be sure in what way the Others even existed prior to the Long Night. Perhaps the Long Night was the beginning of their existence. Else, the Others likely kept to the lands in the far north while the Children of the Forest inhabited most of the continent.

Then came the First Men.

“But some twelve thousand years ago, the First Men appeared from the east, crossing the Broken Arm of Dorne before it was broken. They came with bronze swords and great leathern shields, riding horses. No horse had ever been seen on this side of the narrow sea. No doubt the children were as frightened by the horses as the First Men were by the faces in the trees. As the First Men carved out holdfasts and farms, they cut down the faces[weirwood trees] and gave them to the fire. Horror-struck, the children went to war.” – Maester Luwin (Bran VII, AGOT)

What we know about the invasion of the Others in the Long Night is that it occurred during a time in which the First Men had apparently just recently migrated to, and violently conquered Westeros from the Children of the Forest, decimating their natural habitat and upsetting the natural balance of the continent. Afterwards, mankind were actively warring with one another, establishing kingdoms, and expanding their territory starting from the south and moving north. This is the state of Westeros when the Long Night and the Others come. It’s actually hard to argue that the Other’s wintery invasion during the Long Night is really that different from the violent deforesting “migration” of the First Men in the Dawn Age. According to the histories, the difference is that the Children settled for peace and the Others did not negotiate. Except history doesn’t mention that the Pact didn’t save the Children, and for their trust they are now going extinct anyways.

snowmonster
Trust the humans and nothing bad will happen.

Effectively, the Dawn Age for the First Men, was the Long Night for the Children of the Forest.

Theory: It’s possible that humanity’s expulsion of the Children from their lands resulted in an upset in the ecosystem. The Children who inhabited Westeros prior to the Dawn Age hunted with obsidian (AKA Kryptonite for White Walkers) and likely didn’t kill each other in massive numbers to provide the Others with wight armies . This would have hypothetically kept the Others at bay, because without an endless supply of corpses the Others wouldn’t stand any chance against the Children of the Forest in battle. Even the dead horse the Others ride did not exist in Westeros prior to the coming of the First Men. Furthermore it’s possible that The Wall itself is what is responsible for the unnatural seasons, as it may be blocking the season of winter itself until it periodically overflows and leaks out through the underground tunnels, coming out at Winterfell. That said this is merely speculation.


“…So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds.” – Old Nan 


Next we have stories about a War for the Dawn, and humanity (the Last Hero) getting the help of the Children of the Forest (who were supposedly already driven deep into the dead lands) and pushing the Others out of the lands that men had literally just taken from the Children.

illegalimmigration

At that point a the Wall is supposedly built to separate the realms of men from the Others, with several castles built along the human side. King Brandon the Builder of House Stark is credited with this, and supposedly got help from the Children of the Forest, and perhaps the giants. Though to be fair, it’s actually not clear who really built the Wall. Yet regardless of who actually built the enormous wall of ice, it’s currently manned and dominated by humans. Humans regularly cross back and forth, but the Others do not, either due to inability or unwillingness.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it

~ Mending Wall, Robert Frost

Beyond that, the Others who bring with them the cold (terraforming their environment to meet their needs, not unlike mankind did by chopping and burning the Weirwoods when they migrated to Westeros), are exiled to one side of the Wall. In fact, they currently need human infants to continue their species, indicating that humans either eliminated their original means of reproduction, or the Others did not exist in the same way prior to the First Men coming to Westeros (which would make them either aliens, or a divergent breed of mutated humans).

yetislide
Winter is coming!!!!

If we were to flip the story of humanity and the Others, then the narrative of invading Others might feel like the last of humanity resisting against an expanding evil empire of ice monsters. Yet because of our affinity to the characters we’ve been reading, and the fact we too are human, we see the conflict as humanity under attack  by an “evil army.”

After all, how dare they want more land? When have humans ever violently taken anyone’s land?

I point this out not to make the case that the Others are good people, but to bring attention to the basic fact that our view of the Others is inherently centered around human interests, and starts from the basic assumption that the current distribution of land and resources is just, and any shift in that distribution is evil. Furthermore we are inclined to see the extinction of humanity as a catastrophic tragedy (not saying it isn’t), but the slow extinction of the Others as irrelevant, “tough luck,” or even a positive thing.

 

Containment and Isolationism in the Lands of Always Winter

The often ignored yet crucial element in the dynamic between humanity and the Others, is that the Others have kept to their side of the wall for several thousand years. I should note that we don’t know for sure that the time since the Long Night has really been 8000 years, as we have a lot of indications that ancient history on Planetos is more recent than is seem. Still, since the Long Night (or maybe the tale of the Night’s King), they have kept dormant through the rise of Valyria, through the downfall of the Night’s King, through the coming of the Andals, through the mysterious tragedy at Hardhome, through the Doom of Valyria, through Aegon’s conquest, through the abolition of the practice of primae noctis (Preston Jacobs has an interesting theory about this as a motivator for the Others, and I think it is relevant, but as part of a larger narrative), and through the Dance of the Dragons and death of the dragons 150 years ago. Summers and winters have come and gone, dragons have lived and died, kingdoms have risen and fallen, and through it all, until pretty recently, the Others kept to their side of the Wall, and even left the free folk alone.

alwaysartists
though not anymore…

The Wildling invasion of Raymund Redbeard  in 226 AC. indicates that the resurgence of the Others has only occurred somewhere within the last 74 years, because that most recent Wildling invasion prior to Mance’s, was not predicated on a resurgence of the Others. This means that the Others aren’t coming because dragons simply exist again, nor are they coming because dragons came to the Seven Kingdoms (after all, what are the Seven Kingdoms as a political entity to the Others?). Nor are the Others coming because the dragons all died either, as the dragons died over a 150 years ago (it would not logically take the Others 150 years to build an army, as their methods increase their army with each kill. This increases numbers exponentially and is quick enough to build an army in weeks). Whatever is bringing them back, is likely something fairly recent, something occurring within the last 74 years.

Before I get to why the Others are coming, I want to note that this establishes one very important idea. Either:

  • peace with the Others is totally possible and has been maintained for thousands of years.
    ….or
  • the Others instinctively come in cycles regardless of human action and have been biding their time for thousands of years.

Because GRRM is an anti-war writer, and there is zero evidence for the latter, I am going to dismiss it during this essay series and explore the former. As in, peace with the Others is possible and has been practiced for years.

 

The Brandon Doctrine and the Tragedy of the Night’s King

“A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.” – (Bran IV, ASOS)

If we can rewind history real quick, the story of the Night’s King heavily points to the notion that the Others are not inherently genocidal towards humanity, and that there was at one point the potential for diplomacy and even peace. Though this story is also ancient history and the details of it are all subject to scrutiny, the tale of a Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch proclaiming himself a king from the Nightfort, and taking what seems to be a female Other as a “corpse queen,” and making human sacrifices to the gods (which were more likely infants who were not killed but rather turned into Others), indicates that a marriage alliance was at one point made for the survival of the Others as a species. The Nightfort also happens to be the largest castle along the Wall, and happens to be the only one with steps up and down the Wall, carved directly into the ice, which makes us wonder if the steps were made for members of the Watch at all… Now how this turns out tells us that this wasn’t really a pact between the Others and humanity as a whole, but rather an alliance between the Night’s Watch as an institution and the Others (with the Children of the Forest possibly involved as intermediates).

NightsKingQueen
This looks like it will end well…

In this context, it would appear that by ending the Night’s King’s 13 year reign and erasing his name from history, King Brandon the Breaker and Joramun the King Beyond the Wall, were trying to prevent the Others from taking the Wall as their stronghold and regrowing their population. What Old Nan gives us as a spooky children story, is an account of a marriage alliance and resulting territorial dispute. We see the Wall and the Watch as being an apolitical defense force, but if ever re-purposed as a politically independent kingdom with it’s own castle and wall, it becomes something far less benign and far more formidable and potentially threatening to King Stark and King Joramun. See the Watch seems to know about sacrifices to the Others to this day, but for the Watch to become an independent Kingdom with an alliance with the Others, well that is a far more threatening thing. This conflict over control of the Wall makes sense for the Others if they depend on humanity to continue their population, and it makes sense for King Joramun and King Stark in light of the Long Night still being relatively recent. What’s more, the Wall and possibly Brandon’s Gift becoming it’s own kingdom with several castles, a gigantic wall, and an alliance with the Others, would have been seen as a major political threat to the Stark Kings of Winter’s dominance in the region, and a threat to the Free Folk’s libertarian inclination to remain largely ungoverned. And ever since House Stark, who have largely dominated the North for thousands of years, have also effectively dominated the Wall.

“It seems the most important thing about Ronald Reagan was his anti-Communism and his reputation as a hawk who saw the soviet union as an evil empire.” – Mikhail Gorbachev

We can call this policy of Stark dominance over the Wall and containment against the Others, the Brandon Doctrine.

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“Bro, but she’s like not even hot.” – The Night’s King’s Sworn Bros

The narrative of a leader joining with a foreign woman for political reasons or falling in love and subsequently trying to make peace with another group, and being met with animosity from their own people who are not ready to trust or forgive the other side, being repeated over and over in our story. It shows up in Daeron II and his Dornish wife and favoritism towards Dorne contributing to the Blackfyre Rebellion. It shows up with Jon trying to make peace with the Wildlings after falling for Ygritte. It is sort of hinted at as Stannis recommends Jon become Lord of Winterfell and marry Val to secure the allegiance of the Wildlings (still a vague possibility). It is even present in the narrative of Stannis allowing influence from Melisandre as he uses her charisma, fanaticism, and sorcery, as a means of gaining political power (likely influenced by Mel, Stannis literally wants to make the Nightfort his base of operations and has Jon send builders to fix it up for him). Heck, it’s probably the story behind King Edderion Stark the Bridegroom, making peace with House Arryn through marriage after the Worthless War (I figure this because the next King of Winter is called Walton the Moon King). Sometimes that’s how things are. Everyone makes sense in their own way, but no one gets along because people want different things and are too proud and afraid to understand one another. Because power is threatening.

Yet this follows that if peace with the Others is possible, and the Others have been dormant for thousands of years, THEN the Others must now be coming for an actual reason.

 

Human and Other Interests

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

In asking ourselves why the others are active now, we first need to ask ourselves; what would motivate the Others?

thehappinessofbeingme

The alien appearance and behavior of the Others, has the effect of making characters and readers alike presume that they cannot be reasoned with and do not have understandable motivations besides killing humans like horror movie monsters. Most readers have completely bought into Melisandre’s dualistic ideology of the Others being thralls of cold and darkness who are antithetical to all life. We have assumed this because we have seen them being violent towards humans, and so we have closed ourselves off to the idea that they might have reasons which change or round out our view of them. Despite “what is bringing the Others?” being one of the central mysteries of the story, most readers have closed the book on the notion that they may have any goal or purpose in life aside from genocide. Judge first, understand later. Yet if we are able to look at the Others as historically, then we are able to understand their motivations in the same way we understand the motivations of other characters and factions.

A major strength of ASOIAF is that different characters and factions tend to have understandable motivations, rather than acting illogically and randomly to move events along. In general, people and factions have an overwhelming tendency to seek power. Seeking power tends to have an exclusively negative connotation, often being associated with oppressors, corrupt leaders, and megalomaniacs. But seeking power isn’t inherently about world domination, but rather can be about seeking the power to live freely according to one’s ideals, or to structure society in a way fitting one’s ideals. If we apply this way of thinking to the various factions in our story, their actions start to make a lot of sense.

  • High Lords of the individual Kingdoms had the most power prior to the unification of the Seven Kingdoms, and since have often had to bend to the will of the Targaryen Kings. Aside from autonomy, the next best thing for the individual High Lords is a system more like a feudal confederacy.
  • As I wrote about in the Nerd Rebellion, the Maesters on the other hand prefer something more like a meritocracy, as is reflected in their institution’s promotion based on individual merit. Since they cannot really make Westeros a meritocracy realistically, they fight against a system in which magic and dragons rule and are passed down through closed bloodlines..
  • The Septons naturally believe in a theocracy, as people’s faith in the Seven is what gives them power to define Westerosi morals and customs. Since they cannot achieve this, the next best thing for the Faith is to have a weak dragonless king who needs to be legitimized in the eyes of a religious populace by the Faith, or simply a religious King who will follow the will of the Septons.
  • The Targaryens tend to favor power in the form of absolute monarchy. Yet Westeros is large and difficult to govern, so even the King must share power, particularly in the absence of dragons. This explains why the Targs were so obsessed with bringing back dragons for so many generation.
  • Across the Sea in Slavers bay, we see a system more akin to an oligarchy, where a small number of wealthy families maintain all power. For them, Daenerys represented a massive decrease in power.
  • North of the Wall, the Free Folk prefer to be free of government, choosing their Kings themselves mainly for the purpose of organized invasions or survival. The wildlings basically have anarchy, or at the very least a very libertarian society.
  • The Children of the Forest are none human, yet still can be said to have had a genuinely egalitarian hunter-gatherer society in harmony with one another and nature.

This brings us back to the Others. Given how little we know about them, we can’t really say how they prefer to run their society in the lands of Always Winter, and GRRM has stated that it’s unclear whether they even have a culture. And though they may have sought to conquer Westeros during the Long Night, the thousands of years since then indicate they are able to maintain peace. Yet if something has provoked them, then this leaves us with the lowest common denominator. What shared interest could motivate the Seven Kingdoms, the Targaryens, the Wildlings, the Septons, the Maesters, Free Folk, the Children, and the Others?

disneywhitewalker

The Others are not dead. They are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.”

Remember that poem for which GRRM titled his first ever novel. The Others are living things. What if what they fear is simply extinction? What if like any other living thing, the Others just don’t want to die?

 

Do not go gentle into that good night
Rage, rage against the dying of the light

 

Quiet Cold Men and Nature’s Noisy Kids

There is one more element of history which has major bearing on the state of affairs north of the Wall, but is relatively ignored by the histories.

Since the Dawn Age, the Children of the Forest, who once roamed all over Westeros, have been pushed further and further out of the realms of men with each subsequent invasion and migration. From Bran Stark’s POV, we get a pretty good idea that the Children are mostly north of the Wall at this point. Essentially, over the past thousands of years, the children of the forest have become refugees.

snowmankrampus2

Though we have no specific information on what disruption this migration of singers might have caused to the White Walkers, we do have to bear in mind that there is an inherent conflict of habitat, where the Others prefer the cold, and the Children of the Forest, likely prefer to have forests and growth and seasons. The Children of the Forest, also likely know exactly how to deal with the Others, as they are known to hunt with obsidian, which is shown to essentially be White Walker kryptonite. Though the Others have been able to coexist to an extent with the Children for some time now, this relationship now being a hostile one, is further indicated by the siege on the cave of the Last Greenseer which Bran encounters.

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next time on Cold War: Jack Frost vs. Dark Santa & the Vengeance Elves

Ultimately it’s this refugee crisis which I believe has led to the Other’s need after all this time, to finally take action.

“did you know that six hundred years ago, the commanders at Snowgate and the Nightfort went to war against each other? And when the Lord Commander tried to stop them, they joined forces to murder him? The Stark in Winterfell had to take a hand . . . and both their heads. Which he did easily…” – (Jon VII, ASOS)

There is one more thing to take note of here. About 3oo years before Aegon’s Landing, and 100 years before the Doom of Valyria, two puzzling things happen up North. There is a mysterious fiery disaster at Hardhome killing hundreds of people and stomping out what would have been the first ever Wildling town. Around the same time, the Night’s Watch Commanders at the Nightfort, and Snowgate, go to war, and are subsequently beheaded by the King in the North. So what happened? Well I think I have an answer.

He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head

~ Mending Wall, by Robert Frost

Snowgate, is seemingly a castle named for giving over bastard infants or “Snows” to the Others. This may have also happened at the Watch’s largest castle, the Nightfort, which has a weirwood door known as the Black Gate, who’s mouth opens making it look like what goes through is being sacrificed to an old god. The Nightfort, not unlike Harrenhal(which also contains weirwood), is also known for being cursed, with countless bizarre horror stories coming from it. The story of the Rat Cook, who was transformed and punished by the Old Gods for violating Guest Right, implies that it’s in fact the Old Gods and the magic of Children of the Forest which has power and influence over the Nightfort. And the fact that the Nightfort goes to war with Snowgate, indicates a proxy war in which the Children of the Forest were trying to inhibit the Others from continuing their population. It’s likely the commander at the Nightfort ceased giving up infants to the Others, and went to war with the Snowgate Commander over this. And the tragedy at Hardhome, indicates an attempt by the Singers at trying to curb the wildling population and rise of civilization North of the Wall through death by fire. The fact that this is afiery tragedy, indicates that the bodies were unable to be turned to wights. Yet this proxy war is settled by the King of Winterfell, and it’s soon after this that the Targaryens settle Dragonstone, and Daenys dreams the Doom.

krampus2
“Spring is the mischief in me and I wonder, if I could put a notion in his head”

 

Those who have been reading Weirwood Leviathan, know that one of my central ideas is that Bloodraven and the Children of the Forest, are instigating war between mankind and the Others as a pretense for placing Jon and Daenerys on the throne as a dragon wielding absolute monarchy to stabilize Westeros. This brings us to a crucial point. This is where ASOIAF’s two major themes of society and identity collide.

The SELF requires the OTHER in defining the SELF

In order to define the SELF that is the Seven Kingdoms, Brynden Rivers requires the OTHERS to be the quintessential enemy against which Westeros defines ITSELF.

The tragedy of the Others is that it’s not them that need to go to war with humanity, but Westeros which needs to understand itself through war with the Other.

gooddalek2

 

 

Do not go gentle into that good light
Rage, rage against the dying of the night

 


To create this war, Bloodraven had first to make the Others feel that their very existence was bring threatened. So in Part 3 we’re going to really get into what has REALLY been going on North of the Wall since the main story began, and finally reveal How Bloodraven is bringing the Others.

Cold War I. How to Kill Your Neighbors and Still Feel Good About Yourself


Person of colder (plural: people of colder, persons of cold, sometimes abbreviated POC) is a term used primarily in Westeros to describe any person who is not warm blooded. The term encompasses all non-warm blooded groups, emphasizing common experiences of racism.

 just kidding


 

Understanding People of Colder

Welcome. In this new essay series titled ‘Cold War’ we will be taking  a more in depth and slightly unconventional look at the conflict in the true North by interpreting events as they would appear from the perspective of the Others themselves. Through this method as well as applying real history and sociopolitics, I believe we can find the answers to many of the series’ most puzzling mysteries, such as why Winter is coming, what thee Others want, and what is their true nature. With each part I hope to get more specific, beginning with the conceptual nature of the Others as a literary device, their history as a people, and then how and with what purpose they are currently operating as an insurgency and then an army. Now without further delay, let’s get started.

Though they appear in the prologue, we still know relatively little about the Others, and much of what we do know is based in incidental accounts and ancient stories which skirt the line between history and folklore (if you need a basic review, Alt Shift X has got this). Yet with what little our characters, and we fans know about the icy neighbors to the north, I feel confident in saying that the greatest inability to understand the White Walkers is rooted in the knee jerk reaction to judge them as inherently “good” or “evil”, and to value them only in terms of how they affect to humans.

others
what do you mean “you people“?

Too often people seek to understand the Others by jumping to a moral judgement, usually consisting of the basic “the others are the good guys, and they are here to save humanity” vs. “the others are clearly evil, and they are here to exterminate humanity.” In both cases, there is no real attempt at understanding the Others in relation to themselves, instead they are only being judged according to how they benefit or harm humans, as if their existence only has value in relation to the experience of mankind. We presume they are good if they’re good for us, and they’re evil if they aren’t. Yet we need to consider that the Others may have value to themselves.


“The Others are not dead. They are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.” – GRRM


What I once thought might be a missed opportunity on Martin’s part, not giving us a POV from the perspective of the Others, I now realize is likely a big part of the point of them. The Others are being presented to the reader in essentially the same light that they are being presented to our characters, and in doing so tricking readers and viewers to see them as ‘the other’ as if that is their inherent state of being. But let me argue that this is in fact a false understanding.

franco
Hey the Night’s King did it. So come with me into this awkward and unnatural journey of understanding.

 

The Others Don’t Call Themselves Others

“You don’t just have people who wake up in the morning and say, “What evil things can I do today, because I’m Mr. Evil?” People do things for what they think are justified reasons. Everybody is the hero of their own story, and you have to keep that in mind. If you read a lot of history, as I do, even the worst and most monstrous people thought they were the good guys. We’re all very tangled knots.” – GRRM

It’s important to note that in all likelihood, ‘the Others’ is not a name they gave to themselves. The Others are the others to mankind. This may seem a small thing to note, but I think it has major significance. Of course in a metatextual sense, Martin named the Others after the idea of ‘the other.’

The Other, is in fact a well known sociological, political, philosophical, and psychological concept used to describe usually a person or group of people that is different or alien to the self, or alien to one’s social identity (social identity is a form of self). In this way, the Other is a construct which we use to understand the self, by defining what we are by what we not. Because people tend to understand the world in duality (good is good compared to bad, hot is hot compared to something colder, large is large compared to something smaller, bright is bright compared to something darker) a person or group of people’s identity exists in comparison to the Other.

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

(Remember that. It’s key to this story and also your life)

Cold is Relative

“You’re from south of The Wall: that makes you a ‘southerner’ to me”- Osha

This idea is very much present in the story as well. The people of Westeros lack a sense of national identity, instead typically defining themselves according to their House or individual kingdom. They do this through othering (a verb basically meaning to label a person or people as the other by placing them outside of the category of self/social identity) neighboring kingdoms and peoples. Notice how those from the Kingdom of the North define themselves as Northerners, while viewing those North of the Wall as Wildlings. Meanwhile the Wildlings prefer to define themselves Free Folk, and view everyone south of the Wall as Southerners, including the Kingdom of the North.

oshanorth

Fan theorists make a similar misconception when they try to make the case that Jon Snow will save the world based on the notion that his father was a Targaryen and his mother was a Stark. The idea that the branding of his parents houses somehow gives him magical qualities which enable him to save the world, is rooted in the pretense that different characters are intrinsically defined as being “fire” or “ice” or “earth” or “water.” Yet a character’s status as “ice” or “fire” is a construct. All human characters can freeze to death and are warm blooded to the Others, and all characters can burn to death. Heck in the Doom of Valyria, even dragons burnt to death.


To build a conceptual framework around a notion of Us-versus-Them is, in effect, to pretend that the principal consideration is epistemological and natural—our civilization is known and accepted, theirs is different and strange—whereas, in fact, the framework separating us from them is belligerent, constructed, and situational. — The Colonial Present: Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq (2004)


These identities, like “otherness”, are relative and socially constructed, often to serve and reinforce power dynamics/hierarchies. Historically, empires and states (not unlike the Seven Kingdoms) have used the practice of othering to define a group of people as being uncivilized, irrational, or evil, and thus in need of saving, dominating, or even exterminating, ultimately for the extraction of resources or the benefit of the empire. We see various famous examples of this throughout history, whether in the European colonization of the East justified through Orientalism, or the American genocide of the Native Americans through Manifest Destiny, or the German extermination of the Jews in the Holocaust. In addition to these notorious historical examples, otherness is actually a practice which is constant and likely dates back to prehistoric times. Unity is essential to establishing a society or state, and unity historically requires a strong separation between those who are “one of us” and those who are “not one of us,” often seeing the latter group as inferior, evil, or lacking in humanity.

hateusaintus
Yes, I realize that Kim Jong Un does not help my case.

 

Haters Gonna Hate: The Deception of Coping Mechanisms

Aside from our limited perspective on them and their frightening and alien characteristics, our eagerness to hate the Others and to see them as evil is further supported by what is known as The Benjamin Franklin Effect, a proposed psychological phenomena which states that we do not do good things for people we think favorably of, but rather we think favorably of the people we do good things for. The inverse is also true. There is a human tendency to see negative qualities in people who we do not treat well, because it serves to alleviate our guilt about treating them in ways we do not treat those who we do not identify with. If we believe that a person or group of people is somehow evil and unworthy of our respect or kindness, it helps us feel better about the way we treat those people (for example, extermination).

Again, this is central to the practice of othering as a sociological and psychological practice which is used to justify exclusion and cruelty, therefore enforcing social hierarchy and power dynamics. I offer that this practice has happened, and will continue to happen in the next two novels, on both sides of the wall. In fact, we already see this dualistic ‘Us=Good, Them=Bad’ way of thinking as central to the religion of R’hllor.

“Okay, so people have a tendency to exclude and dehumanize others to construct our identity and as a rationalization to exploit them. But the Others aren’t even human! and they are the ones attacking! So despite the exclusion, can’t they also be evil?

First of all, the Others are not the only non-human people in ASOIAF.

Also good and evil are subjective, and each person is able to draw that moral line for themselves. I’m not claiming that what the Others are doing can’t be considered evil, and I’m not calling them good either. Rather I’m saying that they are likely intended to be no more “evil” than humanity.


“We don’t need any more Dark Lords, we don’t need any more, ‘Here are the good guys, they’re in white, there are the bad guys, they’re in black. And also, they’re really ugly, the bad guys.” – GRRM


Plenty of the actions we witness humans do can arguably be seen as evil or justified based on our perspective. The Red Wedding is often perceived as evil because it violates the customs of warfare of Westerosi society, even though it ended a war and likely saved lives in the short term, while the same kind of betrayal is seen as wise when carried out against slave owners by Daenerys, despite the fact that slavery is normal by the morals and customs of Astapor. Stannis and Renly lead men to kill and be killed by the thousands because they believes that Joffrey has the wrong DNA to legally be king (they’re right, but they have no concrete real proof). The Dothraki raid, kill, rape and demand tribute from innocent people, while Wildlings raid, burn villages and kill innocent people in their effort to get south of the Wall for survival. Heck, the Skagosi eat people.

khaldrogo
Even the Night’s Khal over here loved his wife and unborn child…

Killing and devastation on a large scale are often seen as either justified or evil depending on our moral perspective and given justification. Though this doesn’t negate the fact that some acts are still more cruel or violent than others, it does establish a tendency for people to be more likely to make rationalizations for violence perpetrated by characters whom we see the perspective of, and more likely to see actions which we don’t understand for the senseless carnage they ultimately are for the victims, often most of whom are low born folk who have no choice or much benefit.

stannis-has-lost-it.gif
Try explaining to someone how these are not villains.

Now if people can make a rationalization for Stannis Baratheon burning his own innocent daughter alive, then perhaps those same people could imagine a rationalization for the actions of Others if they only understood them just a little better.

 

“Come on. What rationalization could there possibly be for massacring innocent people and then reanimating their corpses as weapons?”

Well, let’s run through a little thought exercise shall we?

 

If Superman Came to Westeros

“..and instead of absolute power corrupting absolutely, absolute power has absolved him from fear, and greed, and hate, and all of the weaknesses that stem from human insecurity” – (Max Landis, Regarding Clark)

Imagine for a moment, that instead of Ned Stark bringing home the baby of Rhaegar and Lyanna, imagine if he brought to Winterfell a baby they found in a strange crash landed metallic ship that looked like a red comet. A baby they swore to care for because they assumed it was the Prince That Was Promised. What if Eddard Stark had promised a dying Lyanna to claim as his bastard the baby Kal El, the last son of Krypton.

superman
“Obviously Hope starts with the letter h. The ‘S’ actually stands for Snow.”

If Jon Snow were Superman, it could change the entire nature of warfare. Heck, if he wanted he could leave the Wall to save his father from execution and fly back in a few minutes. He could fight for Northern independence, and protect against the wildling invasion. But if he were merciful, he wouldn’t actually have to kill anyone because he wouldn’t need to. He could go down to the battlefield and disarm every single Lannister soldier, break a hand if they were overly zealous, and send them home. Really most soldiers would retreat when they saw him in action.

Essentially, Superman doesn’t have to kill people because average people are no threat to him. Superman can choose to spare people because he can afford to spare people. Super powers have absolved Superman from fear of death and harm, and they allow him to operate according to whatever moral code he chooses, particularly when dealing with those he has power over.

This leads me to the concept of asymmetrical warfare.

  • Asymmetric warfare (or Asymmetric engagement) is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.

To put it simply, asymmetrical warfare is when two sides fight very differently because they have to fight differently. Usually, this is between a large and powerful nation, and a smaller or poorer insurgent group. Examples of this include the American Revolutionary War, the Vietnam War, or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In cases of asymmetrical warfare, the ‘weaker’ side uses tactics often seen by the stronger side as dishonorable, inhumane, and even terrorist, tactics that the stronger side often cannot afford to be seen using, or simply cannot utilize. These tactics include things such as using human shields, suicide bombing, and attacking civilian targets. Though these methods are often seen to be indicative of a lack of honor or lower regard for human life, both sides are just exploiting each others’ weaknesses and fighting in the most effective method they can. The side using the ‘inhumane’ or ‘dishonorable’ tactics may lack the technology, numbers, or less resources to compete with their opponent in any other way.

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thanks Stannis

Now bear in mind that this isn’t a judgement of one side or the other being right or wrong, but rather that the standards of humane or inhumane warfare are relative. All war is destructive and brutal, and what is excused as often subject to what we can afford to excuse. It’s just not that easy to be like Superman.

Men Are Meat, Meat is Murder, Murder is a Means

The means used by the Others of killing people and use their corpses as puppet soldiers are indeed horrific, even when compared to the way Westerosi force young men into war, even when compared to the war the masters of slavers bay use of Unsullied, they are horrific. But they’re also the only methods the Others can use, and the Others are seemingly the only ones who even can use these methods.

tXLefZd
James Franco = the Night’s King confirmed

Though each White Walker is worth several humans in battle (minus obsidian), they seemingly have very very very small numbers, as they are unable to even reproduce on their own. Consequently, when it comes to war, the Others literally have no choice other than to use the dead as their soldiers, or die.


”  We want freedom by any means necessary. We want justice by any means necessary. We want equality by any means necessary.” – Malcom X


You may feel that you specifically are morally above practicing this kind of brutality, but historically humans have committed similar or crueler atrocities against one another in war all throughout history, and in time periods far more advanced than Westeros, particularly towards different ethnic groups.

Now, since the Others aren’t necessarily human (or, not in the normal sense), let’s think about all of the inhumane ways in which we treat other species to this day. Whether for utilitarian use, or for their meat, or just because they are over populated, we have no problem killing or enslaving animals for our own needs. Of course, we use the justification that it’s okay for us to do this to animals because they aren’t intelligent, but the act of valuing intelligence is a human practice (and is also mostly an excuse, as we historically have not valued animals or different humans any according to their intelligence). And for all we know, the Others have their own things which they value and care about.

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White Walkers might have feelings too…

This isn’t to say that the Others actually see things this way. It’s just a thought exercise as we try to break ourselves from judging the White Walkers as good or evil according to what benefits us.

 

It’s not genocide if they’re evil

“Yes but GRRM wrote Ramsay Bolton, Joffrey Baratheon, and Gregor Clegane. Those characters are basically irredeemable morally black monsters who enjoy causing misery. They serve as proof that this series has morally black characters. Why can’ the Others just be a race of morally black characters?”

I see this argument thrown around way too much. Even without morally dissecting those characters, there is a huge difference between writing a psychotically cruel and violent person, and writing an entire race of evil murderers. You have to consider Martin’s politics and world view here; to write the White Walkers as a race of murderers akin to Ramsay Bolton, who all deserve extermination, would be to end his novels on a conditional justification for genocide. If the White Walkers have no innocence nor rational justification for what they do, then Martin is creating a morally convenient war.

FW3IH0L
take it easy there supreme leader…

If the Others are all intrinsically evil, then war against the Others is a war in which every enemy combatant deserves to die and every casualty on the other side is “good”, and serves as a total white washing of the tragedy of war. It’s a war which serves the narrative that it’s possible to fight a war against a people who are evil and deserve extermination as a species. Sure this is possible in a fantasy novel, and it’s often written, but considering that Martin has spent 5 books challenging these ideas of a just war, it would be bizarre to end the story on a morally clear cut war.


“War brings out the best and the worst in people. Literature of the past used to celebrate the glory of war; then the hippie generation in the 1970s wrote about the ugliness of it. I think there’s truth in both.” – GRRM

“We all have good and evil in us and there are very few pure paragons and there are very few orcs. A villain is a hero of the other side, as someone said once, and I think there’s a great deal of truth to that, and that’s the interesting thing. In the case of war, that kind of situation, so I think some of that is definitely what I’m aiming at.” – GRRM


In light of this quote, I think we need to be very skeptical of the notion that Martin will have the ultimate war of ASOIAF turn out to be a totally glorious war without tragedy or realism. The Others acting as an illogical force of nature just turns them into a punching bag to make our heroes look glorious, without challenging the way we look at war.

kimjongmqalmhsaxu4zssrjheg
So before we send in the dragons, can we take a moment to try to understand the northern threat?

We have to go beyond trying to boil down the central conflict of ASOIAF to “haters gonna hate.” Instead I offer that if we really want to understand the conflict with the Others, we should try to see things from their perspective, looking at their history from the other side of the wall.

I understand that this may seem speculative and conceptual, and I also understand that the safest way to go about defining the Others, is to simply admit that there is too much that we don’t now yet, wait for Season 6 or Winds of Winter, and call it a day….

…or maybe not.

Maybe Martin has been giving us clues to what the others are really about all along. Maybe it’s out natural tendency to subject them to the practice of ‘othering’ which has prevented us from really seeing what is going with the antagonists of our story. After all, if we learned anything from To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s that


Thank you for reading the first part of my new series. Part 1 was a little bit on the conceptual side, but in part 2 of Cold Wars I am going to take a page from Harper Lee and look at the history of the whole history of the North from the Other side of the Wall. The Dawn Age, the Long Night, the story of the Night’s King, and the thousands of years since.

VII. The Wedding of Ice and Fire

For decades, Bloodraven has been using the prophecy from the Woods Witch, among other things, for manipulating the Targaryens to bring back dragons. But for what? We’ve established who Bloodraven and Quaithe’s proposed Three Heads of the Dragon are. But what is the purpose and meaning of the Prince That Was Promised? And what is the Song of Ice and Fire? It’s time to get down to the true purpose of Jon and Daenerys.

Yes, we’re talking Jon and Dany getting married. Also we’ll talk old man Cregan Stark, (for those of you who care).


 

“I should have seen it. Fire consumes but cold preserves.” -Maester Aemon (Samwell III, AFFC)

 

The King in the North

Anyone really paying attention knows the major points about Jon. Presumably Jon is coming back to life after spending some time within Ghost, whether by way of Melisandre, or Lady Stoneheart, or both, or neither. The R+L=J theory makes him the likely son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, giving him a claim to the throne if they were married in front of a heart tree like many suspect. Now yes this claim wouldn’t be considered valid by most Westerosi custom, but in the absence of Stannis no one really has much claim, so his claim matters in the event of a great council or as a way to legitimize a military conquest. The fact that Jon will come back, has been basically confirmed by HBO. That he will be technically freed from his vows, is implicit and highly suggested. That we will eventually find out his secret parentage has been confirmed by Martin in SSM #159(whether this is through Bran, Melisandre, the Winterfell Crypts, Benjen, or Howland, is anyone’s guess). And how he will be changed by death after returning has been covered by other essays. Now to talk about where he goes from here, we have to go back a bit. And because this is Weirwood Leviathan, we’re going back to Bloodraven.

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The Lord Commander and his old, chatty, overgrown raven. (art by Wouter Bruneel)

He rose and dressed in darkness, as Mormont’s raven muttered across the room. “Corn,” the bird said, and, “King,” and, “Snow, Jon Snow, Jon Snow.” That was queer. The bird had never said his full name before, as best Jon could recall. -Jon, ADWD


 

It’s clear by several hints throughout the story that Bloodraven is backing Jon. In fact, we really need to look no further than this when questioning why the Last Greenseer is against Aegon. Because Aegon isn’t Jon. Given Howland Reed‘s spiritual retreat to the Isle of Faces prior to the Tourney at Harrenhal, and his presence in the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree (and the ‘Tree’ aspect of that Knight), we have indication that Bloodraven had a hand in that situation, or at least knowledge of Jon’s parentage (though it should be noted that the Tower of Joy is located in the Red Mountains of Dorne, where the Old God’s have no power, so it’s questionable whether Rhaegar and Lyanna wanted to hide from the sight of the Old Gods. If they were even aware that is…) Though, aside from the Bloodraven + Quaithe connection, Bloodraven is clearly skin changing Lord Commander Mormont’s raven, which just like the raven in Bran’s dreams, prefers to eat corn. This raven also seems to cryptically support Jon.  It enthusiastically emphasizes that Bran will “Live.” And then when Jon is in combat with a wight, it’s Mormont’s Raven which tells Jon to “Burn” the wight. And it outright calls Jon Snow “King.”

 

We can actually look at Bloodraven’s backing of Jon Snow as paralleling two important fantasy narratives, Arthurian Legend, and The Lord of the Rings.

 

The Once and Future King of the Andals and the First Men

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Is it just me or do all medieval kings of look like Jon Snow?

You see, Bloodraven is actually GRRM’s parallel to the infamous wizard Merlin. For example, there’s a popular story about Merlin which parallels the Blackfyre rebellions which Brynden Rivers defended against, involving a prophecy about a battle between a Red dragon (representing Wales) and White dragon (representing the Saxons). And just like Merlin’s ultimate undoing is to be bound in the trunk of a tree by the Lady of the Lake, Bloodraven’s too is ultimately bound to a tree and has a similar love which is never fully requited to Shiera Seastar.

But my main focus for this parallel, is the legend where Merlin helps Uther Pendragon (Rhaegar Targaryen), use circumstances to trick Lady Igraine (Lyanna Stark) who is the wife (fiancé) of his enemy Gorlois (Robert Baratheon), into sleeping with him. This results in the siring of King Arthur (Jon) who due to the troubled times is taken by Merlin to be raised elsewhere in secret (in some instances hiding Arthur was Merlin’s price for helping Uther, in others it was for safe keeping). Similarly in ASOIAF, this conception between Rhaegar and Lyanna results in King Jon, who is ultimately taken to be raised in secret (Howland is seemingly also Merlin by proxy here).

Many of us know the popular story of how in order to prove himself the rightful King, Arthur pulls the infamous Sword from the Stone, which sat atop an anvil with the words “Whoso pulleth out this sword from this stone, is right wise King born of all England.” But it’s not often considered that it was Merlin himself who planted the sword in the stone, words and all, having arranged already Arthur’s birth. So in a sense, the sword in the stone was actually just Merlin’s trick, a physical piece of propaganda which would prove Arthur’s legitimacy in the eyes of all of England. This will likely be reflected in Jon and the Azor Ahai prophecy, which Bloodraven has used Melisandre spread to the North.

 

The Lord of the Greensight

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The Return of the King (by Hildebrant)

Tolkein is an admitted major influence of Martin’s work, and I propose that Bloodraven is actually Martin’s answer to Gandalf. Gandalf the White (Bloodraven the Last Greenseer), while prepping mankind for war against the armies of Sauron (the Others), also uses this opportunity to supplant the Stewards of Gondor (the Baratheon line), with Aragorn (Jon), the one true King of Gondor(King of the Andals and the First Men) descended from a seemingly severed line called the Dunedain (the Targaryens), who actually hail from the Elendils (Valyrians) of the advanced civilization of Numenor (Valyria). Aragorn is disguised as a Northern Ranger called Strider (Northern Ranger/Lord Commander called Snow). In fact, when Aragorn leads the armies of men against Mordor as King, he even wears the sigil of the White Tree of Gondor (Weirwood Tree). May the Weirwood tree end up being Jon’s sigil, just as the Laughing Tree?

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At the Tourney at Harrenhal someone else took the sigil of the white tree.

Even beyond this, Aragorn is fostered in Rivendell(Winterfell) under the care of Elrond (Ned Stark) who actually gives Aragorn the name Estel. Aragorn falls for Elrond’s daughter Arwen (Arya, who was supposed to fall in love with Jon in the original outline). And both Jon and Aragorn wield swords which can cut the dead.

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have we seen this somewhere before?
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yup.

And even beyond that, Gandalf sends Frodo (Bran) on a secret quest to take the Ring (Bran’s powers) into Mordor (North of the Wall). Of course, in this part of the metaphor Bloodraven is also the Eye of Sauron… and Hodor is Golem.

 

Metaphors aside. Besides claim, why would Bloodraven be backing Jon?

 

A Song of Tropes and Cliches

Discussion of why Jon is special, tends to focus on the abstract, the symbolic, and the intangible. We tend to look at cliche things like, Jon being a child of an ice Maiden and a dragon prince, “an embodied song of ice and fire”. We look at things like Jon being the Prince That Was Promised because Lyanna made Ned promise #promisemened, or Jon being the first ever “Starkgaryen”, or Jon being a first men + valyrian (not by any means the first one here mind you). Things like Jon being Azor Ahai because he will be reborn amidst salt and smoke, or things like Jon being Lightbringer because he was Rhaegar’s third attempt at creating a hero and supposedly killed his mother in childbirth.

Side note: If Rhaegar believed he was Azor Ahai, it makes sense why he chose Elia Martell as his Nissa Nissa.

Now all of these are relatively obvious readings of prophecy, but I personally find them all to be shallow and uninteresting, as they all revolve around abstract magical and semantic coincidences making Jon cosmically ordained to do and say all of the right things and be placed into the perfect circumstances to save the world. Sorry, but I think that’s boring and conceptually meaningless and lacking in substance. That is just using the fact that the author told you what will happen to explain why it happens. It doesn’t explain why.

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Really though Jon fits into so many tropes and cliches  that it’s often confusing to readers and fan speculation. Jon is a bastard of humble beginnings who likely has a secret origin/lineage which makes him King. He is a white male teenager who doesn’t get as much respect as he feels he should, but is constantly proving himself by being heroic. And he even gets to be good looking and fall in love with a girl. He reminds us of Aragorn, and King Arthur, and Luke Skywalker, and even Jesus. And he reflects the demographic which is culturally most pandered to.

As a result, fans tend to either unquestioningly accept that Jon is the cosmically ordained chosen one who will save the world for esoteric and convenient reasons because that is just what happens in fantasy, OR they presume that Jon will be the new Night’s King and lead the Others against humanity. But it’s more complicated than either of those. ASOIAF definitely doesn’t do convenient pandering heroism (and I expect the Night’s King Parallel for Jon has already been fulfilled with the Wildlings). Even the idea that a person is a hero because magic made them the hero is the opposite of what Martin writes, and it might as well just be ‘because they’re the main character and the author said so.’ Instead, let’s look at what does Jon bring to the table that Bloodraven (and his allies the Children of the Forest) would find advantageous? And I mean what SPECIFIC and TANGIBLE  things make Jon special?

 

Jon, he will be King

Despite his “underdog” status, Jon Snow’s got a lot going for him. Raised a recognized bastard of Winterfell, though he is not a Stark, he’s still affiliated with the Stark family, one of the oldest, and easily in the top 5 most respected and powerful families in the realm. And as of late, the Northern Houses have turned to him in the absence of the Starks. He has a pet direwolf which he has the rare hereditary ability to skin change (which to be fair Bloodraven is probably using to keep tabs on him, as Ghost has the albino coloration of greenseers and weirwood trees). Jon was also given a White Walker slaying Valyrian steel bastard sword well before he really earned it, and given his Targaryen father he may well have the ability to ride a dragon. He has quickly risen to Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he has the respect and perhaps allegiance of the Wildlings, and he is clearly going to get to come back to life, through the “power of R’hllor” which might give him the allegiance of some of Stannis’ followers as well. I mean how many in Westeros have so many advantages? Lucky guy right?

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When we strip away abstract prophecy and symbolism, Jon actually has real political potential and thus he has specific use to Bloodraven. After all, Jon can remember, standing, by the wall. His direwolf, his connection and respect for the Old Gods, his potential blood of the dragon, his warg blood, his claim to the throne, his ability to carry the allegiance of the largest of the Seven Kingdoms, his focus on the threat of the Others… These are actual tangible attributes, as well as political realities which define Jon as a leader. And in Jon’s case, a potential king. But what does the King in the North really need? The King in the North needs a Queen… and dragons.

 

The cliche is real folks. Jon and Daenerys are the ultimate political alliance, and so they are being set up to get married.

 

… and Dany, she will be Queen


“Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire. . .” – Vision at the House of the Undying, ACOK Daenerys IV


And there is a very very clear cut allusion to this in the narrative. In the ‘Bride of Fire’ segment of Daenerys’ House of the Undying vision, Jon (the blue winter rose in the wall of ice), is depicted favorably, and is indicated to be Dany’s third and final marriage. The Mother of Dragons is already being prepped to be Jon’s Bride of Fire. This is something a lot of the fandom avoids looking at (I myself mentally blocked this passage out for a while because it seemed way too played out). For a notorious trope breaker like Martin, this feels like such a huge cliche. Jon and Daenerys, the two good looking teenage heroes of our story, meeting and getting married and saving the world together. It feels too convenient. It feels staged.

Dany-on-throne

But that is just the point of it of it. It is convenient, and it is staged. As we’ve seen time and time again in this story, political marriages aren’t normally about love or romance, they are about brokering power, which is about creating a stable society. And a marriage between Jon and Dany, is the most advantageous possible political marriage to defeat the Others. Just as we learned in the Long Night, foreign war has a major societal effect of consolidating power. And any regime, any hero King and Queen that defeats the Others, will be respected.

And that’s really what we’re pushing towards isn’t it? Winter is Coming and a new War for the Dawn is imminent. Just like in the legends and prophecies. But rather than thinking of this War for the Dawn as an inevitable and totally symbolic/esoteric battle between the illogical and uncaring forces of ice and fire, let’s consider it a consequence of human action. A real war with a realistic purpose beyond the simplicity of good vs. evil, or a war for the preservation of humanity. It’s a war about power. A war about establishing Westeros under a new monarchy, and quieting the constant civil war which has plagued the continent since the dragons died. If it ever sounded too perfect or too orchestrated, it’s because it was. A Northern King and a Dragon Queen, to save the realm from winter and death, and to become the father and mother of a new dynasty, is almost like a song. A song of Ice and Fire.

This leaves the question, is Daenerys actually barren? Mirri Maz Durr tells her she is, but is that the truth? Did Mirri’s sorcery make her that way? After all she seems to suffer a miscarriage. Then again, after Summerhall and before having her, so did her mother Rhaella actually, many many times. But that may have been the work of maesters. Still, in a world where people come back to life, would Dany having a child be so strange? If magic made her infertile could magic undo that curse? Will Dany be able to have a child with Jon? or would Jon instead simply be Dany’s heir and be expected to marry someone else, like Arianne Martell to bring in Dorne (though Bloodraven probably doesn’t care much about Dorne)? or Val to bring in the wildlings? or even Sansa? Will a resurrected Jon even be able to make children? Would a seemingly magically infertile Dany specifically only be able to have a child with a magically resurrected Jon? Would that heir be a normal person even?

So, which is the Prince That Was Promised, Jon or Dany? And is there any precedent for a Targaryen Princess marrying a Northern Prince? Let’s talk about the Prince That Was Promised.

 

A Promise to an Old Man and his Old Gods

One of the most infamous Starks in the history of Westeros, is Cregan Stark. Cregan was the Lord of Winterfell during the famed Targaryen civil war known as the Dance of the Dragons. During the Dance, the larger numbers were behind the claim of Aegon II and the Greens, as the Greens followed Westerosi customs of succession which favored males. But Rhaenyra Targaryen and the Blacks, who had more dragons hatched on their side, are able to bring to their side among others, the Iron Islands, and the North. Dalton Greyjoy ‘The Red Kraken‘ brings Iron Islanders to the cause of the Blacks because rather than being promised titles or honors, the Blacks promised the chance to pillage and attack the Westerlands, appealing to the bloodlust and warrior culture of the Iron Islanders. So what did the Blacks promise Cregan Stark and North you might ask? Well, they promised a princess.

In what is called ‘The Pact of Ice and Fire‘, Prince Jacaerys Velaryon flies to Winterfell to meet with Lord Cregan Stark to gain the support of the North for the claim of his mother Rhaenyra Targaryen. This pact, among other things, promised that a Targaryen princess would marry into the Stark family. Now from a political standpoint, this is a strange choice on Cregan’s part, because if he wanted to increase the political power of the North, he would ask for a Stark maiden to marry a Targaryen Prince, or heir. Because that way, the Stark bloodline would work it’s way into the royal family, and the future monarch would be half Stark. Instead, Cregan specifically asks for a Targaryen princess, not to marry him, but simply to marry into the Stark family, which means it would be Targaryen blood which would make it’s way into the Stark family. And of course, this pact, like all pacts in the North, was made in front of a heart tree… before the Old Gods.

The Targaryens have magical blood/genes which allows the to tame and hatch dragons, and yet this doesn’t actually follow the name “Targaryen”, so unlike a last name, it can be passed from a father or a mother. And the practice of the Starks bringing magical blood into their line dates all the way back to the Age of Heroes, when the Starks defeated the Warg King, who ruled from Sea Dragon Point deep in the Wolfswood. Now the Warg King likely is an ancestor of the extinct House Greenwood, as well as House Blackwood, who claim to be descended from the Wolfswood. In any case, after the Starks defeated the Warg King, they killed his sons, his beasts, and his greenseers. But they took his daughters as prizes, thereby bringing Warg blood into their line. In fact, the Stark bloodline shows that Blackwoods are the only family from outside the North that the Starks marry their heir to. And during the Dance Cregan Stark was likely doing the same thing with the blood of the dragon. Trying to bring it into the Stark bloodline.

CS 58 (13/10/10)
I’d like to officially nominate Kurt Russel to play Cregan Stark if ever there is an adaptation of the Dance of the Dragons.

The Dance of the Dragons is a long story, but it ends in something called ‘The Hour of the Wolf‘, where Cregan Stark marches into King’s Landing for the Blacks to find Aegon II already poisoned by his own men, and eleven year old Aegon III (son of Rhaenyra) seated on the throne. Aegon III makes Cregan Stark hand of the King (not that he has a ton of choice in the matter), and Cregan Stark holds that office for a day. Although Cregan fought for the Blacks, he sought to punish all oath breakers equally, including those who had betrayed his enemy Aegon II. Corlys Velaryon, a prominent leader of the Blacks, is pardoned by the new King Aegon III, but Cregan (at this point holding all of the power), still wants to make Lord Corlys stand trial, as his honor will not allow him to pardon an oathbreaker even on his own side.
But even the honor bound Cregan, allows the pardon to stand in exchange for a marriage to Alysanne ‘Black Aly’ Blackwood. Now, this doesn’t technically fulfill the Pact of Ice and Fire, as Alysanne is not a Targayen princess, nor is she a reward for the Northern involvement in the war on behalf of the Blacks. That said, Black Aly is a Blackwood descended from the Warg King, which further cements the fact that Cregan was intent on bringing magical blood into the Stark Line. Likely due to a lack of post Dance Targaryen Princesses, and the subsequent Maidenvault incident, the Pact of Ice and Fire though, is never fulfilled… which could explain why Cregan ends up dueling Aemon the DragonKnight as some point…

 

They can be Heroes!

Together, Dany and Jon are set up to play out the two structurally defining moments in Westerosi history (as well as maybe the Dance of the Dragons, which may occur between Dany and Aegon, with Jon fulfilling the role of Cregan). These two moments are the Long Night, and Aegon’s Conquest. Daenerys is meant to arrive in Westeros, with the Seven Kingdoms basically separate and without order , and unify those Kingdoms with the might of dragons (unless of course Aegon VI throws a wrench in that). Meanwhile in the north, Jon (with Dany), is meant to lead Westeros in a foreign war against a winter apocalypse. But this time, after the new Long Night, the North will have dragons, and the dragon monarchy will lead the realm with a common purpose.

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Ha ha ha! Look everyone! Look how pretty and successful we are!

A union between a hero King and a hero Queen who defeat the Others is one for the whole realm to get behind. A union establishing a dragon monarchy to stabalize Westeros. In the words of Maester Aemon, “Fire consumes but cold preserves.” Daenerys and her dragons bring the fire of conquest, and Jon and the war with the Others brings the ice which binds the realm together. Jon is a unifying figure affiliated with one of the oldest most respected families in Westeros as well as the Night’s Watch, and war with a threatening foreign power brings the common unifying purpose that a conquering military force just can’t. That’s what it’s ALL been about. The prophecies, the red comet, the dragons, the visions, the Others, the marriage, and the Ragnarok-like War for the Dawn…. The Song of Ice and Fire isn’t about hot and cold fighting or a love story between a Prince who happens to be from a dragon bloodline and a maiden that happens to be from a place where it’s cold. It’s about remaking the world.


“Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?” – (GRRM on Tolkein)


But… what kind of a world will it be? We assume that our heroes winning in the end is right because we cheer for them, but what kind of a structure do our protagonists bring with them? Because according to Bloodraven’s plan at least; Jon, he will be King. And Dany, she will be Queen.

 


I’d like to thank everyone for reading this far. In part 8 we’re going to finally reach the root of everything. What kind of a world is Bloodraven building? Who are the true heroes and who are the villains of ASOIAF? Why is this all happening now? We’re finally getting to the Children of the Forest, the Children of Pride, and Bran Stark the little Prince of Winterfell.

VI. Young Aegon vs. The World Tree

So thus far we’ve talked about how The Three Eyed Crow is instigating war between mankind and the Others in order to establish a stable monarchy. In Part V we’ve talked about how Bloodraven and Quaithe are manipulating the mother of dragons, pushing her on to embrace her conquerors side and bring her dragons to Westeros. They want her to mistrust all potential suitors and political allies that might pull her into their conspiracy. Including, her supposed nephew Aegon…


 

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“WE ARE WEIRWOOD LEVIATHAN AND WE’RE HERE TO MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT DRAGONS AND GET HYPE AND STUFF”

Young Aegon’s Precious Little Life

This is the beginning of the essay…

If he’s real, Aegon VI Targaryen, son of Rhaegar, would be the Targaryen heir to the throne. He’d be King ahead of the Mother of Dragons, ahead of R+L=Jon Snow, and Moonboy for all we know. Yet Quaithe, and by extension Bloodraven, seem pretty against Daenerys lending him any military aide to take back his rightful throne. Which begs several questions. Why not? Is Aegon who he claims to be? Is he who Jon Connington thinks he is? Is he who HE seemingly thinks he is? And how much does that really matter? Because one way or another the Old God’s are against him.

Now, for those of you who haven’t heard Aegon Blackfyre theory, here is one of the many assertions of it. It’s pretty convincing, and for some this theory is enough a reason for Brynden Rivers, (who spent his entire tenure as Hand fighting off Blackfyre Rebellions orchestrated by his envious half brother) to be against Young Griff. But is it really? If Aegon were a Blackfyre, would it be enough reason for the the Three Eyed Crow to be against him? I mean, this made sense for the young Brynden Rivers, but does it make sense for the Last Greenseer? Does it make sense for a telepathic shaman working with the Children of the Forest? Does an ancient race of nature people care about Targaryen legitimacy and the line of succession?

 

No. Absolutely not.

 

With Leaf for example being over 200 years old, we can pretty much presume that the 300 years since Aegon the Conqueror established dominion over Westeros is relatively short for the Children. So, to think they would care whether the person who sits the throne is a descendant of some human named Daeron or some human named Daemon, is kind of silly actually. In fact I’d propose that whether the ruler is legitimate in terms of male primogeniture and Andal religious customs at all is totally irrelevant to the Children.

So then why is the Bloodraven (and Quaithe) Old Gods conspiracy opposed to a Dany and Aegon alliance? Is the 125 year old Greenseer letting petty personal grudges define nation building political policy? I’m gonna say no. Not only would it make the Children relatively irrelevant, it also goes against how Brynden Rivers talks about himself to Bran.


 “I have my own ghosts. A brother I loved, a brother I hated, a woman I desired. In my dreams I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them.”- Lord Brynden, ADWD


This quote really indicates that the guy has moved on from selfish personal desires, and it really wouldn’t make sense for him to be lying about that to a little kid when really it’s something he could easily just not mention. (This quote also heavily indicates that Quaithe is actually not Shiera).

But still, Bloodraven and Quaithe, and the Children, are against Young Aegon. Now this is where we could drive into some deep, deep, deep tinfoil, about the origins of the Blackwood/Bracken feud being a proxy war between the Children of the Forest and their Greenseer’s, and the Deep Ones and their Stone Men, in some kind of land vs. sea conflict which underpins the story. But I’m going to steer away from mountain of tinfoil.

 

Dresses and Dragons: The Color Conundrum

dress
It’s the dress color fiasco of 2014 all over again. But this time with dragons.

 “In a room sit three great men, a king, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me – who lives and who dies?” – Varys’ Riddle


Now far be it by me to debunk Blackfyre theory, because it’s very probably correct. But I think Aegon’s identity is a bit more complex than a simple “ah ha!” Scooby Doo revelation. I think the case of Young Griff speaks more to the difficulty or even impossibility in defining paternity under feudalism in the middle ages, and more specifically, to Varys riddle.

You See, Aegon is the living embodiment of Varys’ riddle, as he is a character who is either the most powerful person in Westeros, or no one, or anything in between, based on who people believe he is. Because Jon Connington, the closest living person to Rhaegar Targyaryen, believes Aegon to be true, and the only person who could bear witness otherwise, Gregor Clegane, is unable to speak, there is no person with more credibility on the matter who could debunk his identity. Aegon is able to be whoever he needs to be, for whoever he needs. For Jon Connington and most of Westeros, he is Aegon VI Targaryen, son of Rhaegar. For the Golden Company, he is likely Aegon Blackfyre. For the Dornish, he is the surviving son of Elia Martell.  And on the flip side, Daenerys may be turned against him by Tyrion Lannister based on the BELIEF that he is a Blackfyre.

Who Aegon’s actual parents literally are, isn’t technically what matters. What matters are who people believe his parents are. The irony of Young Griff is that both his allies and his enemies will be completely defined by the unverifiable belief in who his parents are, but not who he actually is as a human being. Heck Illyrio himself could potentially be being deceived as to the boy’s true parentage. We may never get proof.

varys-proof

And even for us as readers, if we were able to surmise that Aegon was indeed a Blackfyre, then that takes us back to the initial question of whether Daeron II truly was the son of Aegon IV at all, or if the legitimized Daemon Blackfyre truly was the legal heir. Determining legitimacy in feudalism is just endlessly problematic for the time. And thus Varys riddle truly does rule the politics of Westeros…. Until it doesn’t.

 

Where Varys’ Riddle Goes to Die

Let’s reexamine Varys’ riddle, but this time let’s change one thing about it. Let’s give the King a dragon.

danyihavedragons
or Queen…

Varys: “In a room sit three great men, a king with his gigantic fire breathing dragon, a priest, and a rich man with his gold. Between them stands a sellsword, a little man of common birth and no great mind. Each of the great ones bids him slay the other two. ‘Do it,’ says the king, ‘for I am your lawful ruler and if you don’t this fucking dragon will eat all three of you.’ ‘Do it,’ says the priest, ‘for I command you in the names of the gods.’ ‘Do it,’ says the rich man, ‘and all this gold shall be yours.’ So tell me – who lives and who dies?”
Tyrion: The King lives. The priest and the rich man obviously fucking die.
Varys: Ah, but my dear friend, what if the sellsword believes..
Tyrion: Are you serious? then he’s an idiot, and the dragon eats him too. The King still lives.
Varys: But… but what if… what if I don’t believe dragons have power?
Tyrion: Good luck with that.


 

Belief is power, money is power, knowledge is power, but Cersei was right too.

Ultimately Vary’s riddle is still relevant, and it serves as a critique of the nature of power as it manifests through societal, political, financial, and military structures. As long as you need various independent wills to believe something in order to utilize power, Varys’ riddle applies. This is particularly true under feudalism, where all power came through oaths, which ultimately rested on human belief in the necessity of the social contract. But it also applies to everything from the power of the church, which draws power from people’s faith, to the power of money, which only has value because human institutions trust that it has value.

 

But things can happen whether you believe in them or not.

 

Now yes, a monarchs ability to control dragons is a powerful intimidation tactic, and that human belief in the power of dragons can indeed be used as a diplomatic tool to get one’s way. But that belief is rooted in a capital F-FACT. A fact which doesn’t really depend on the loyalty or belief of any human beings. If you have control over a flying fire breathing monster, you have an enormous military advantage, and no one has to agree with you, or be afraid of you, or believe it, for it to be true. Of course they will believe it…. because of just how blatantly true it is.

what part of dragons

And this is a major problem for Young Aegon, the narrative embodiment of Varys riddle. Because Aegon is NOT intended to be one of the Three Heads of the Dragon.

 

The Clash at Dragonhead

The following is a streamline explanation of why Aegon, Tyrion, and Victarion, are not intended to be Heads of the Dragon. Since both Dany and the audience are hearing and trying to interpret the prophecy, Dany and the audience will be together.


Dany + Audience: “I just wanna get to Westeros. What do I do with all these prophecies?”
Quaithe: “Dany, everyone is going to try to take your dragons. Remember the Undying okay?”
Undying: “Yea Dany, remember how we showed you Rhaegar with his newborn baby saying there needed to be one more, because the dragon has three heads.
Dany + Audience: “Got it. Everyone wants dragons. But there’s gotta be 3 heads.
Quaithe: Yes. Also, don’t trust Aegon, Tyrion, or Victarion.”
Dany + Audience: “But who are the heads of the dragon who I should share my dragons with? Is it be Aegon or Tyrion or Victarion?”
Quaithe: “Did I fucking stutter.”


Essentially, right there are three of the most popular proposed 3 heads of the dragon, and Quaithe has essentially vetoed all of them. In the last part we established that Quaithe and Bloodraven are most likely working together. Even taking Quaithe alone though, Tyrion, Aegon, and Victarion are clearly not intended to be among the 3 heads of the dragon.

Note: Regardless of Tyrion’s parentage (I believe it’s Joanna and Tywin), Tyrion not being a head of the dragon doesn’t in my opinion define his parentage, and doesn’t even necessarily mean he won’t ride a dragon. It just defines how he fits into the Old God’s plan.

See a common misconception is the idea that everything in the House of the Undying is to be read as clues from Martin to the reader, but in fact they are more specifically visions meant for Daenerys, and in our story it is Daenerys who interprets them, is shaped by them, and must act based on them. It’s Quaithe who pulls Dany towards internalizing and acting upon the sentiments expressed in the House of the Undying (where the Three Heads of the Dragon are mentioned), and Quaithe is, again, pretty clearly against the idea of Dany trusting in Tyrion, Aegon, or Vic. So it follows, that for Quaithe, and Bloodraven (who may actually be the reason Rhaegar was intent on a 3 headed dragon in the first place), those 3 characters are not heads of the dragon.

daenerys-targaryen-game-of-thrones
figure it out Khaleesi

So who are?

Prophecy is Providence: The Three Heads of the Leviathan


“Aegon… What better name for a king… He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire“; When Rhaegar’s eyes meet Daenerys’s, he says either to her or Elia, “There must be one more… The dragon has three heads“, and he picks up a silver harp and begins to play.” – Vision in the house of the Undying of Rhaegar speaking to Elia, (Daenerys IV, ACOK)


Appearing right next to the only in text mention of the series title, “the dragon has three heads” is one of the most heavily speculated on quotes in the series. But the vision (and clarifications by Martin on it) actually tells us a lot. It tells us Rhaegar was expecting to have a 3rd child who would be a third head of the dragon, and it tells us Rhaegar believed Aegon was the Prince That Was Promised. We also know from an SSM that the Third Head of the Dragon doesn’t have to be a Targaryen.

Side Note: Given that Martin has gone on record that R’hllor is based on the Zoroastrian faith, the ‘Three Heads of the Dragon,’ aside form mirroring the Targaryen sigil and the events of Aegon’s Conquest, actually reference the Zoroastrian ‘Azi Dahaka.’ The Azi Dahaka is an evil three headed dragon of the winter apocalypse.

Based on the fact that Rhaegar Targaryen was largely being influenced by prophecy from the Old Gods/Bloodraven, and the concept of a song of Ice and Fire, can presumably be attributed to those who sing the song of the earth. So the Song of Ice and Fire, and the Three Heads of the Dragon, can all be looked at as prophecy which Bloodraven, Quaithe, and the Children of the Forest are using.

When we look at it through this lens, things become a little more clear. Who decides the Three Head of the Dragon? well Martin aside, on one level it’s Daenerys Targaryen who is actively trying to make sense of the prophecy and apply it towards her conquest of Westeros. But on another level, it’s the Old Gods, the Children, Bloodraven, and Quaithe, who are using this prophecy to manipulate events. And using this line of thinking, we can actually narrow this down a bit. Instead of just asking who the Three Heads of the Dragon are in terms of ‘who will ride a dragon?’ maybe what we should be asking are ‘who are the Three Heads of the Dragon for Bloodraven?’


“Perhaps we can fly. All of us. How will we ever know unless we leap from some tall tower? No man ever truly knows what he can do unless he dares to leap.” – Euron Greyjoy (The Reaver, AFFC)


Well the first candidate I’d like to get out of the way is Euron ‘Crow’s Eye’ Greyjoy. His personal sigil, and a lot of his dialogue, have often been theorized to indicate a connection to the Three Eyed Crow. Afterall, he seems obsessed with flying. He also seemingly appears in the ‘Bride of Fire’ segment of the House of the Undying, Quaithe might not be warning Dany against him, he claims to have got a Dragon Binding horn from the ruins of Old Valyria, and he seems hell bent on marrying Daenerys and producing an heir with her. So, he might our guy. Except he isn’t.

piratesarein
Tough break Euron…

So why isn’t it Euron? Well, because Euron is fucking crazy, is trying to use a horn to steal dragons, and he is hell bent on marrying Daenerys, and yet the last part of the Bride of Fire prophecy is about Jon, and so Jon is supposed to be King. Which means at some point, the mad man Euron Crow’s eye  probably has to die.

Still we have Daenerys, and we have Jon. So who is the third head of the dragon?

Well, assuming it’s not Bran Stark and has to be a dragonrider… I think on order to figure out the answer, the best thing to do is pretend you’re Bloodraven, and you want to put someone on a dragon to fight a war against the Others. Who would you want? Preferably someone already strategically located for that war. You’d want someone who can fight. Someone less focused on the civil wars of mankind and more focused on the war of ice and fire. Heck someone from a House who swears by it would be nice right?  And someone who can ride a dragon would be a plus, though dragon rider blood might not be totally necessary, as you do have Bran, who can probably warg dragons… so maybe you want someone who Bran would want riding him……?

tyrionbrows
Get it? because I said ‘ride him’
tumblr_mam0lcufmY1qimc6j
anyone? it was a joke…
aryalaugh2
See Arya got it.
cersei-eyeroll
Okay okay, I’ll move on.

 

Anyways, the anwser is Meera Reed.

meerawaitwhat

Yes really. The Third (or perhaps first?) Head of the Dragon is none other than Meera Reed.

(and no, despite Kit and Ellie’s absurdly similar hair I don’t think she is Jon’s twin sister or the daughter of Lyanna Stark at all.)

 

The Dragonfly Among the Reeds


“He (Dunk) sat naked under the elm while he dried, enjoying the warmth of spring air on his skin as he watched a dragonfly move lazily among the reeds. Why would they name it a dragonfly? he wondered. It looks nothing like a dragon.” – Dunk, The Hedge Knight


meera2
“but, I’m a Reed…”

So in The Hedge Knight, there is this really odd quote. Ser Duncan the Tall makes a comment about dragonflies, wondering why they are called that despite not actually looking like dragons. Now, Duncan’s Squire eventually becomes King Aegon V, and his eldest son Duncan Targaryen, or ‘Duncan the Small’ (who is named after Dunk), eventually gives up all claim to the throne to marry a common girl called Jenny of Oldstones, earning him the title ‘Prince of Dragonflies’. Now Jenny of Oldstones and Duncan the Small’s love is famous, they are together for some 20 years till Duncan dies at Summerhall, and they are the subject of many songs, including the one Rhaegar sang at the Tourney of Harrenhall. The histories don’t mention them having any children, but they also don’t mention that they didn’t. It seems likely though that any children they have would remain under the radar, as they would never be granted any land nor titles.

Now Jenny of Oldstones, was a peasant woman. ‘Oldstones‘ is not actually a family name, but rather a ruined castle in the Riverlands where Jenny supposedly hung out, once belonging to House Mudd. She could have been a distant descendant of House Mudd, but there’s no real evidence for that. That said, we do get the sense that Jenny of Old Stones has a connection to the Old Gods, as she was a friend to the Ghost of High Heart, who brought her to court to deliver the infamous Prince That Was Promised Prophecy. Yet especially after Duncan’s death, any child of Duncan and Jenny would be almost like commoner, who could hold no lands or titles. But they could marry the Lord of Greywater Watch.

oh yea…

The spouse of Howland Reed is one Jyana (no family name given). We know next to nothing about her, but that she and Howland supposedly have their first child Meera around the same time as Jon and Dany are born. Given that Howland spent a lot of time at the Isle of Faces directly before going to the Tourney at Harrenhall, and he and his son Jojen seem deeply influenced by the Old Gods, it wouldn’t surprise me that Howland also at some point married the daughter of the Prince of Dragonflies, and Jenny of Oldstones. This would not be a smart political match necessarily, but then again Howland Reed’s son and heir basically went North on a suicide mission. Howland and House Reed seems relatively disinterested with politics, and far more so in serving his liege lords and the will of the Old Gods. So if Jyana were the daughter of Duncan and Jenny, then Meera Reed’s grandfather on her mother’s side would be half Valyrian blooded, and though not a Targaryen nor in any way royalty, could have the ability to ride a dragon passed down to her. She would be a Dragon flying among the Reeds, yet she would look nothing like a dragon, and would fit perfectly into Bloodraven’s plan as our third head.

Now I realize that might be a tough sell for some, but even if we put aside the ‘Meera Reed = Dragonfy theory’, let’s consider the other facts…

Meera Reed was taught by her father to be a skilled fighter, like her brother she is keeps and is loyal to the will of the Old Gods, and she is disinterested in political squabble or entitlement yet loyal to the Starks of Winterfell, going so far as to call Bran her prince. Beyond that, considering that a war is coming to the war North, Meera Reed is already in the far North with seemingly nothing else left to do. Even from a narrative standpoint, though it’s certainly not essential she be given a dragon to justify her continued existence in the story, it would be efficient to utilize this central character to Bran’s story who has nothing else to do for the last two books but watch Bran (that said, I totally acknowledge there are other possibilities there). Clearly Hodor has some mysteries left to uncover, why not Meera?

darksister
Good. Because we’ve got a weapon for her….

Oh yea… there is one more clue I should mention about Meera Reed. You see long ago when Lord Commander Brynden Rivers disappeared North of the Wall, he brought with him one of the two remaining Valyrian steel swords of House Targaryen, the slender Dark Sister.

In Dark Sister, we have a famous Valyrian steel sword which went missing with Brynden Rivers, once used by one of the original Three Dragon Riders who conquered Westeros. Now, many think that Dark sister is meant for Arya, as the original outline for ASOIAF had Arya North of the Wall killing White Walkers with Needle. Except Arya’s story has totally transformed since then, and she already has a sword, which has too much sentimental value to get traded in for another. Still, Dark Sister is a sword meant to be wielded by a woman, and it carries the rare power to kill the Others. And at the same time, North of the Wall, in the Cave of the Last Greenseer, we have a young female warrior, herself essentially drafted into the fight against the Others, with a potential ability to ride dragons, or at the very least she has young Bran Stark (who is in love with her) and who can likely possess dragons. Can we think of a more advantageous dragon rider for the battle between Ice and Fire than this old god keeping warrior crannogmen who swears by Ice and Fire?

Oh yea!

clashatdragonhead
and then it was time… for Westeros to burn in the sweet fire, of the CLASH. AT. DRAGONHEAD!

 

And there you have it. Though we don’t know who will end up riding dragons, Dany, Jon, and Meera serve as the likely candidates to act as the Three Heads of the Dragon in the war against the Others. That said, we have to understand there is a difference between who is intended by the Old gods to ride a dragon, and who will ride them. Plans don’t always work out like they are supposed to. Still, if Bloodraven and Quaithe have it their way, neither Tyrion, Victarion, Quentyn, nor Aegon, are meant to have the dragons they seek in order to accomplish their personal ends.

 

EDIT: Never mind. All three heads of the dragon are Bran.

 

Unfortunately (for him), the odds seem pretty stacked against Young Aegon, and even if he can defeat the weakened Lannisters, even an alliance with the Faith Militant won’t likely help him against the plot of the Weirwood Leviathan. Though I haven’t gone into it, I think Bloodraven’s lack of support for Aegon is less about who he is and more about who he isn’t.

 

All Hail Henry Tudor

Henry Tudor
Historical Aegon’s eyes are clearly not in the right place on his head.

Though he doesn’t write straight allegory, our author has gone on record as being heavily influenced by the events of the War of the Roses. Though the War of the Roses has no parallel to the White Walkers, things like the Yorks and Lancasters seem to influence the Starks and Lannisters. And in looking at comparisons between the War of the Roses and our story, Young Griff actually parallels  Henry Tudor, the real historical figure who ultimately comes out on top.

Henry Tudor had a claim to the throne yet seemingly came out of nowhere. He crossed the English Channel(like the Narrow Sea) and he brought with him English exiles (like the Golden Company), he gathered support from his Welsh ancestry (like Aegon’s supposed Dornish side). He landed at the seat of his uncle Jasper, who raised him (Jon Connington and Griffins Roost), who was his biggest political supporter. His invasion was prepped for across the sea by his mother Margaret Beaufort (Varys), and he lived in the Court of Francis Duke of Brittany (Illyrio Mopatis). And in fact, Henry Tudor even had attributed to him the Welsh prophecy of Y Mab Darogan, The Destined or Prophesised Son, or Son of Destiny. Everyone see the parallels here?

scottfamous

So is Aegon legitimate? Will we ever really know? Was Daeron II ever legitimate? Does it matter? Will Aegon crash and burn in the face of 3 dragons? Will the 3 heads of the dragon really be Dany, Jon, and Meera? is Meera Reed a dragonfly? And will 5th suitor theory come true and give him the edge he needs? Could Aegon be proclaimed the story’s black sheep candidate for Azor Ahai?  And in the end, could Aegon, if you-want to call him Aegon, come out on top after all?


There you have it folks. Two Princes for Westeros. In Part 7 we’ll talk about the other prince, The Prince that Was Promised, and the big tropes behind Jon and Daenerys, and the political consequences and advantages of them.

The Blackwood Greensight of the Red Woman and the White Wolf

This will be a one shot essay that is not part of the main Weirwood Leviathan series. A little bit more tinfoil than normal, but I hope you all enjoy it. I’m gonna prove Melisandre has greensight like Jojen, though she isn’t a true greenseer like Bran.


 

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Hold onto your hats because I’m about to turn tinfoil into weirwood. I’m going to prove that the white wolf and the lady in red are actually related. Sort of….

“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.” – Varamyr (ADWD, Prologue)

All three of these have happened. We will get to this…


 

Star Crossed: The Sea Star and The Red Star

Serenei_of_Lys
I feel like grandma Serenei would be the type of grandmother who objects to being called grandma.

So once upon a time, way back during the reign of Aegon the Unworthy, there was a lady from Lys, descended from a now impoverish Valyrian noble family, and this lady was called Serenei. Serenei of Lys. We know little of her appearance, but she was apparently cold and haughty, and yet noted by many to be the most lovely of Aegon IV’s mistresses. And also she was also the last, with the King taking no more mistresses after her. Though we do know she appeared young and beautiful, Serenei was rumored to practice dark arts to retain her youth and beauty, and was actually rumored to be far older than the King. Yet somewhere around 180 AC., Serenei died in childbed, after giving birth to her only daughter with the King, Shiera Seastar.


“Lady Shiera does. Lord Bloodraven’s paramour. She bathes in blood to keep her beauty” – Egg (The Sworn Sword)


The famously beautiful Shiera Seastar, was one of the Great Bastards of Aegon IV and the lover of Brynden Rivers (much to the jealousy of Aegor “Bittersteel” Rivers). She, like her mother, was also rumored to practice dark arts to retain her youth and beauty. Shiera apparently had classic Lyseni/Valyrian features, and wore a famed necklace of sapphires and emeralds to reflect her uniquely mismatched eyes. Now we don’t have any confirmation on what ends up happening to Shiera, as she sort of just disappears from the story with no mention of her death. But from what we do know, Shiera “Star of the Sea” is actually described with an uncanny similarity to Melisandre, “the Red Star.”


Description of Shiera:
“She was the greatest beauty of her age, a slender and elegant woman, slim of waist and full of breast … She had a heart-shaped face, full lips, and her mismatched eyes were strangely large and full of mischief; her rivals said she used them to melt men’s hearts.”

Description of Melisandre from Maester Cressen’s POV:
Slender she was, graceful, taller than most knights, with full breasts and narrow waist and a heart-shaped face. Men’s eyes that once found her did not quickly look away, not even a maester’s eyes. Many called her beautiful.

I should note that credit goes to this thread for the compilation as well as for a ton of the groundwork on this theory…


 

Shiera Seastar
Melony’s mom…

All of the same words are being used to describe these two characters. Slender, slim waist, full breast, heart shaped face, beauty, graceful/elegant, and eyes which captivate men.

Now, some of these are common describing words, while others such as ‘heart shaped face’ are not so commonly used (though it is attributed to Daena ‘the Defiant’ Targaryen the mother of Daemon Blackfyre, as well as Jeyne Westerling, who is actually the great granddaughter of the Essosi blood magic practitioner Maggy the frog). Still, the similarity in description is so congruent it’s uncanny. Not only visually, but Melisandre is also, like Shiera’s mother, apparently older than she appears, like Shiera a practitioner of sorcery, and just as Shiera wore emeralds and sapphires around her neck to match her eyes, meanwhile Melisandre wears a ruby around her neck to match hers.

Coincidence? Maybe. But lets keep going. Because I think the similarity here is intentional, and I think Melisandre is Shiera Seastar’s daughter. Which begs the question, who would be Melisandre’s father? Hmmm….

(Yup, it’s Bloodraven.)

 

The Red Eyes of House Blackwood

Although Shiera supposedly took many lovers and had many admirers, I believe the father of her child is none other than Brynden Rivers. Because aside from her similarity to Shiera, Melisandre has a few key similarities to Bloodraven. Melisandre is described as being ‘pale’ and having red eyes, and seemingly unnaturally red hair. Now whether or not her eyes are naturally red, having red eyes is an extremely rare thing in ASOIAF, and is typically found in those with the gift of greensight. The Woods Witch/Ghost of High Heart is a red eyed albino. Jojen Reed has the gift of greensight, and he has unnaturally deep green eyes. And Brynden Rivers, an albino greenseer, also has red eyes.

“Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift.” – Brynden Rivers (Bran III, ADWD)


melisandres
Excuse the rushed mousepad photoshop, but on the left we have Melisandre closer to her book complexion, and on the right we have what Melisandre would look like if she were actually white haired.

So is Melisandre an albino as well? Well she does have pale skin, and she has red eyes too. We often assume that this is just GRRM making her look the part of a Red Priestess, while others assume that all of this is a glamour to make her look the part. But what if it’s a bit of both? What if Melisandre is an albino with the gift of greensight like her father, except she dyes her naturally white hair red as tribute to the Red God? Well sure enough, GRRM has gone on record stating that Westeros has better technology with dyes, particularly red, than medieval Europe did.

Now if we assume from this that Melisandre is the daughter of Brynden Rivers and Shiera Seastar, a lot of things about Melisandre start to make a whole new kind of sense. I’d even say a much better, much more logically consistent kind.

(Side note, the Ragnarok theory of ASOIAF also compares Bloodraven to Loki and Melisandre to Hel. And in Norse mythology, Hel is actually the daughter of Loki.)

What’s in a name? That which we call Mel


“Strange voices called to her from days long past.“Melony,” she heard a woman cry. A man’s voice called, “Lot Seven.” She was weeping, and her tears were flame. And still she drank it in.”- (Melisandre, ADWD)


Melissa_Blackwood
Now meet grandma Missy. She’s also dead.
Something we can gather from Melisandre’s POV in ADWD is that Melisandre was originally a slave child called ‘Melony’, who was sold to the Red Temple, and at some point changed her name to Melisandre (a combination of Mel and Cassandra). The name Melony or Melanie, actually means ‘Black,’ which seems an odd choice for the Red Woman right? Well, it is until we we consider that Brynden Rivers is a Blackwood on his mother’s side, and in fact, House Blackwood seems to have a tendency towards names starting with Mel. Bloodraven’s own mother’s name was Melissa Blackwood. A generation or so later, there is a Melantha Blackwood (likely the pregnant woman from Bran’s vision) who marries Lord Willam Stark, and who is actually the great grandmother of Ned Stark. The names Melony, and Melantha, and Melissa/Missy, are all related derivative names. The name Melisandre is almost the same name as Melissa, Brynden River’s mother‘s name. Melisandre is also an anagram for ‘mislearned’ as Melisandre has seemingly mislearned how to use her powers. And in fact, the name ‘Melanie‘ is a combination of the names of Brynden and Shiera’s mothers names; Melissa and Serenei. Yet another coincidence? maybe, but let’s keep going.

What fell upon Sea Dragon Point

You see, a big part of people’s aversion to this theory, is the notion that Melisandre is yet another secret Targaryen, which oddly enough is of very little relevance here. The significance of her bloodline seems mainly from her two (non Targaryen) grandmothers, and the main important thing here is that Melisandre is a secret Blackwood.

Now House Blackwood are actually extremely important to the story. For example, both Lyanna, Ned, and Rhaegar and Robert all have great grandmothers that are Blackwoods. Heck, though I’m not one to speculate about Dawn Age lore, if not a Stark I wouldn’t be surprised if the Last Hero were an ancestor of the Blackwoods. The Blackwoods show up constantly in the background of our story. And House Blackwood of Raventree Hall, a House that resides in the Riverlands, claim to have long ago ruled most of the Wolfswood until they were driven out by House Stark.

The_North3
The Kings of Winter do not fuck around.

Which brings me to the conclusion that the Blackwoods (possible relatives of the extinct House Greenwood) are actually descended from the ancient Warg King, who ruled from Sea Dragon Point (deep in the Wolfswood) and was an ally of the Children of the Forest till he was defeated by House Stark in the savage ‘War of the Wolves’ during the Age of Heroes. House Stark apparently won the war in a wave of mutilation and then put his sons, beasts, and greenseers to the sword, and then the took the Warg King’s daughters as prizes, effectively taking the warg ability for themselves (which is likely where the Stark warg ability comes from). But as we have seen throughout the story, bloodlines usually don’t die off just like that.

My theory here is that the Warg King was likely Gaven Greywolf of House Greenwood, and when his House was extinguished by the Starks, the survivors fled to the Riverlands and founded House Blackwood, with the ‘Black’ being used to signify mourning.

The Blackwoods being descended from the warg king (Gaven Greywolf perhaps?) is further evidenced by the fact that the Blackwoods are one of the only Houses outside of the North which the Starks had married before Robert’s Rebellion, and in fact Cregan Stark takes a marriage to Black Aly Blackwood in exchanged for allowing a pardon for lord Corlys Velaryon to stand the end of the Dance of the Dragons. And as we know, Cregan was deeply interested in bringing powerful/magic blood into the Stark family, as his participation in the Dance on the side of the Blacks was predicated on the promise of marrying a Targaryen Princess into the Stark family. More on Cregan Stark in Weirwood Leviathan part 7.

Beyond that, just as the Warg King was allied with the children of the forest, the Blackwoods of Raventree Hall in Blackwood Vale, are also deeply reverent to the Old Gods (which is very very unusual at this point outside of the North). Raventree hall is built around an enormous Weirwood under which the Blackwoods bury their dead (a dead Weirwood in fact, as it was supposedly poisoned by the Brackens, who the Blackwoods hate).

 

The Warg King’s Red Shadow

Which brings us back to Melisandre. If we look at Melisandre as a secret Blackwood, a descendant of the Warg King, with the gift of greensight, then certain things about Melisandre start to fall into place.

“A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? she thought, for just a moment … but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf’s face threw back his head and howled.” – (Melisandre, ADWD)
  • For example, Melisandre’s vision/encounter with Bloodraven becomes far more significant, as he would actually be her father. Note that this is literally the paragraph before she has a flashback to her childhood.

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

  • The fact that Melisandre, a total and unwavering believer in the Lord or Light, has (unlike Moqorro) come to Stannis on her own and with her own agenda, and is naming a different Azor Ahai than all the other Red Priests, makes more sense if we consider her visions may be coming from to her differently.
  • The reason that a young (potentially albino) slave girl named Melony, was ever bought by the Red Temple and brought to into the order of Red Priests, makes more sense, as Valyrian heritage and red eyes may have indicated possession of magical power or sight (or at least would have been appealing to red priests on a superstitious level). Just as theorists often believe Varys may have been used as a sacrifice due to his blood, Melisandre may have been bought by the Red Temple of R’hllor for hers.
She was stronger at the Wall, stronger even than in Asshai. Her every word and gesture was more potent, and she could do things that she had never done before. Such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them. With such sorceries at her command, she should soon have no more need of the feeble tricks of alchemists and pyromancers.” – (Melisandre, ADWD)
  • Melisandre’s abilities being even more powerful at the Wall than they were at Asshai, suddenly becomes very logical if Melisandre is a Blackwood with the gift of greensight. The Wall was supposedly built with the help of the Children of the Forest (Snowgate even has a Weirwood gate), is thus likely woven with spells and magic of the Old Gods, and is in the North, where there are more Weirwoods, and thus the Old Gods have more power.

“May I touch your … wolf?” The thought made Jon uneasy. “Best not.” “He will not harm me. You call him Ghost, yes?” “Yes, but …” “Ghost.” Melisandre made the word a song. The direwolf padded toward her. Wary, he stalked about her in a circle, sniffing. When she held out her hand he smelled that too, then shoved his nose against her fingers. Jon let out a white breath. “He is not always so …” “… warm? Warmth calls to warmth, Jon Snow.” Her eyes were two red stars, shining in the dark. At her throat, her ruby gleamed, a third eye glowing brighter than the others. Jon had seen Ghost’s eyes blazing red the same way, when they caught the light just right. “Ghost,” he called. “To me.” The direwolf looked at him as if he were a stranger. Jon frowned in disbelief. “That’s … queer.” – Jon ADWD

  • And the fact that the (albino) direwolf Ghost, a creature of the North, so quickly takes to Melisandre, a priestess of Asshai, makes all the more sense this way. In fact, the other character for whom this occurs is Jojen Reed, who is also gifted with greensight. If Melisandre is a Blackwood, she would consequently not only have the gift of greensight, making her a likely a warg with power over beasts, but she’d be a descendant of the Warg King.
  • Even still the relationship to Ghost may go even further than that…

 

And here comes the tinfoil that was promised…. Melisandre and Ghost… may sort of have the same father.

 

1bef277090184e472dacd06838c830af.jpg
Easy Renly…

In the first chapter of A Game of Thrones, after watching Lord Stark execute Gared, the Stark party happens to encounter a dead direwolf mother, who happens to have just given birth to six direwolf pups, one for each of the Stark kids, including Jon Snow. Coincidence? or did the Old Gods(Bloodraven) send them to the Stark children? I’m going to say the latter. I can’t stress enough the importance of this event, as GRRM has gone on record stating that this was literally the eureka moment which he came up with which inspired the entire series. Martin’s very origin idea for A Song of Ice and Fire, is this scene. So forgive me if I really read into it.

“When Martin was between Hollywood projects in the summer of 1991, he started writing a new science fiction novel called Avalon. After three chapters, he had a vivid idea of a boy seeing a man’s beheading and finding direwolves in the snow, which would eventually become the first non-prologue chapter of A Game of Thrones.”

There is a potential in canines, where a female is able to have a litter with children from more than one male. So Ghost as the lone albino pup, mirrors Jon’s status among the Stark children, as being related and yet somehow separate. The white, red eyed Ghost, is the first pup to open it’s eyes, which reflects not only the sentinel like Weirwoods, but the ever watchful albino Brynden ‘Bloodraven’ Rivers. Which leads me to the assertion, that not only did Bloodraven send the Direwolves to the Stark children, but he committed the abomination of warging into a direwolf and mating wolf with wolf. I believe that Bloodraven warged into the wolf which fathered Ghost, and it is for this reason that Ghost came out as an albino. Now I’m sure some of you are thinking: “Um, excuse me. Isn’t the idea of a person warging into an animal and having sex a little too weird for this story?” Well…

you know nothing
Because this story is dark and full of batshit insane happenings.

Crazy idea yes, but not too much when kept as more of a background element. Not only has GRRM written much stranger plotlines, but it’s specifically mentioned in the ADWD prologue that mating wolf with wolf while warging is a taboo, which indicates that somewhere in the story, this is relevant.

 

The Raven Brings the Sight

And there you have it folks. Here are out conclusions:

  • Melisandre is the daughter of Brynden Rivers and Shiera Seastar.
  • Melisandre and her maternal grandmother, and her mother, use dark arts to appear younger than they are. Her original name Melony is a combination of both her grandmother’s names.
  • Melisandre is an albino Blackwood warg who’s red eyes indicate the gift of greensight. She probably dyes her hair red. Yet she likely never learned of her telepathy like warging ability because it never developed, because all animals die very quickly in Asshai.
  • The reason Melisandre has declared a different Azor Ahai than the rest of her order is that she is receiving her visions a little differently due to her bloodline.
  • Melisandre is stronger at the Wall than Asshai because she is closer to the Weirwoods and the magic of the children of the forest, her ancestral magic. The red eyed Melisandre, like the unnaturally green eyed Jojen Reed, has the gift of greensight. Except unlike Jojen, Melisandre has spent her life far away from the source of her sight.
  • Bloodraven sent the direwolves and created Ghost by warging into a direwolf and committing the taboo act of mating wolf with wolf. This is bizarre to think about, but not so bizarre that Martin hasn’t explicitly mentioned it as a possibility.
  • In a bizarre sense, when Ghost met Melisandre, it was a meeting between magic warging half siblings, hence why Ghost is so immediately friendly to her.

And the implications?

“Strength of the beast, go into the man.” – Mirri Maz Durr (Daenerys VIII, AGOT)

  • If Melisandre sacrifices Ghost to Bring Jon Snow back to life, does that actually make her a kinslayer?
  • Has Bloodraven or the Old Gods, or both, used the fact that Melisandre has greensight to make her diverge from her order? making guiding her towards Jon and towards the front of the battle against the Others?

“When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt to wake dragons out of stone.” – Melisandre (Davos III, ASOS)

  • Given what we know now, could Melisandre play the part (among many other things) of a bleeding red star in some way?

“From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire.” – (Daenerys IV, ACOK)

  • GRRM has already set up Melisandre’s ability to cast shadows. Now that her power have greatly increased at the Wall, where the Old Gods are strong, what sort of shadow will Melisandre cast?
  • Will Jon’s time within Ghost make him warm up to Melisandre much like Ghost did?
  • And is Shiera Seastar Quaithe, or did Shiera die in childbirth like her mother? and if Shiera still lives, why would she be living in the same city as her daughter and never contacting her?
  • In a way, Melisandre has adopted total faith in the Lord of Light as a replacement father for the one she never had. And in doing so, and in burning the weirwoods, she has replaced her natural father (who is now part of nature), with an otherworldly father outside of nature. Yet it is the pull of her own nature which has caused her to diverge from the order of red priests, and she may unconsciously be serving the children of the forest.

 

 

 


Well we’ll just have to wait for the answers. for now I invite you to speculate.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this one shot essay, and I do hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be getting back to the Weirwood Leviathan series now, and I’ll leave you all with now with the sounds of Chris De Bugh…

V. how i manipulated your mother (of dragons)

So far we’ve gone over how the Last Greenseer is instigating a war between mankind and the Others to unite the many disparate factions of Westeros. But in order to defeat the Others and maintain sovereignty, the new monarchy needs power. And in trying to get power, Bloodraven’s plan met with resistance from the Maesters, leading to Robert’s Rebellion. Still baby Daenerys survived, and so everything is going to fall in line, someone needs to manipulate the Mother of Dragons.

SPOILER ALERT: Quaithe is working with Bloodraven to get Daenerys to Westeros, to marry and join with Jon Snow, and defeat the others.


 

Pa pa pa pa, pa pa pa pa… pa pa, da da da da, da da da da da…

himymkids2

Kids, by the Year of the False Spring, the Targaryen royal family had been manipulated by the Three Eyed Crow into birthing a child that would dragons again. And in response, in order to prevent the return of dragons the Maesters orchestrated Robert’s Rebellion by creating an alliance of the great houses of Westeros. After the scandalous Tourney at Harrenhal and the subsequent “abduction” of Lyanna Stark by Rhaegar Targaryen, Brandon Stark goes and challenges the crown prince, and the Mad King has him and his father executed, officially instigating the rebellion. A conflict which saw to the end of the Targaryen dynasty in Westeros after 300 years. But that’s not the end of out story. It’s just the beginning.

Rhaegar never got that dragon he wanted. No, instead Rhaegar went off to college, and his little sister Daenerys got all 3 dragons when she hatched them on the Dothraki Sea. And Dany has been a phenomenon ever since. She has been part of Bloodraven’s plan (not to mention Varys and Illyrio’s plan) since even before she hatched dragons. Even before she brings dragons back into the world, there are prophecies about Daenerys. And afterwards, Dany is approached by the Shadowbinder Quaithe.

 

Running with the Shadowbinder

Quaithe_by_The_Mico©
her?

Who is Quaithe? Though it’s possible she is just some random Shadowbinder named Quaithe, given the blatant and repeated star imagery around her, she is probably Ashara Dayne or Shiera Seastar. The Targaryen Great Bastard and former lover of Brynden Rivers Shiera Seastar would make sense since Quaithe is a ‘star’ that ‘shows Dany the Way’ on the Dothraki ‘Sea’, and her own Lyseni mother was a rumored practitioner of sorcery. Ashara Dayne, younger sister of Ser Arthur Dayne (a rumored but unlikely mother of Jon Snow) is also possible given, Ashara’s apparent suicide which never turns up a body, her role in the Tourney at Harrenhal, and the star imagery of House Dayne of Starfall.

One big reason people believe it would be Shiera though, is the theory that Melisandre is the daughter of Shiera Seastar and Brynden Rivers. Essentially this theory goes that Melisandre is described just like Shiera Seastar:

Description of Shiera: “She was the greatest beauty of her age, a slender and elegant woman, slim of waist and full of breast… She had a heart-shaped face, full lips, and her mismatched eyes were strangely large and full of mischief; her rivals said she used them to melt men’s hearts.”

Description of Melisandre: Slender she was, graceful, taller than most knights, with full breasts and narrow waist and a heart-shaped face. Men’s eyes that once found her did not quickly look away, not even a maester’s eyes. Many called her beautiful.”

Furthermore, Melisandre has red eyes, just like Bloodraven. And if she is an albino she could be glamouring her hair red. And even beyond that, Melisandre has a flashback where she was a child slave sold to the read temple named ‘Melony.’ It’s worth noting that house Blackwood has a tendency towards names beginning with ‘Mel,’ like with Melissa and Melantha Blackwood. And if her powers come from her Blackwood heritage, it would explain her abilities being strongest in the far North, and her ability to get charm  Ghost so easily.

Although, if Melisandre is the daughter of Shiera, and Shiera is Quaithe, another shadowbinder of Asshai… then why would Shiera have sold her daughter into slavery and then remained in the same city as the daughter she abandoned? Does it really make sense for Shiera to sell her daughter into slavery and then live in the same city as her daughter, serving totally different ends and yet never reconnecting with her? wouldn’t it make more sense if Shiera died giving birth to Melony(Melisandre) much like her mother Serenei died giving birth to her? Which would lead to Shiera’s child being sold into slavery… In that case, it might make more sense for Quaithe to be Ashara, and Melisandre to be the daughter of Bloodraven and Shiera, and Shiera to be dead…

shierashara
Shiera or Ashara. One or neither of these ladies is Quaithe maybe.

But regardless of exactly who she is, Quaithe is a Shadowbinder of Asshai who gives Daenerys advice (sound advice really), astral projecting herself using glass candles to advise Dany in Meereen. And based on what that advice, and the fact that she is giving it to Daenerys so purposefully, I think we actually have enough information to determine what Quaithe is working towards. And yes, this goes to Bloodraven. Quaithe is most likely working with Bloodraven.


DISCLAIMER 1: For the record, if is seems like I am saying that everything is traced back to Bloodraven, that’s only because in this essay I’m mainly writing about Bloodraven’s scheme. There are countless characters and factions who are not working with or for Bloodraven (the Varys conspiracy, the Littlefinger scheme, the Faceless Men, the Undying of Qarth, the Faith Militant, the Dornish, the Stone Men, etc. etc.), I’m just not writing about them… yet.

DISCLIAMER 2: I believe it is a huge misconception that people in ASOIAF, (particularly magical people), do things for no logical reason or understandable motivation. For example, the idea that Quaithe is just an oracle that gives Dany visions because she can, or even more illogically, “because she is on the side of fire.” This is perhaps (I predict) the most widespread nonsense in ASOIAF fandom. The idea that this story of complex human characters and real motivations can be explained as an abstract struggle between cold solid water and combustion, is an absurdity to me. Regardless of what your beliefs are on the existence of R’hllor or a Great Other, real human characters do things for real human reasons. I mean, the Others might be on the side of “ice” but this is probably in the sense that cold is what they are made up of, and is their natural habitat. But the idea that characters can be broken down into being on the side of fire or the side of ice, is dualistic over simplification of real political and human interests.

DISCLAIMER 3: I should note a few important things about Quaithe. Although people assume that because the birthplace of the faith of R’hllor is Asshai, and Quaithe is from Asshai, that Quaithe must be affiliated with the Red Priests. But in fact Quaithe doesn’t appear to be a religious extremist at all. In all of her dialogue, Quaithe never once mentions the Lord of Light or indicates that she is working with any of the Red Priests who are preparing to court Daenerys to champion their religion. This really makes it unlikely that she is a red priest, considering that none of the other priests of R’hllor in our story seem to go 10 seconds without mentioning the Lord of Light or the flames. The Red Priests of Asshai, like any religion are clearly trying to expand their faith, but Quaithe is unlikely to be part of that expansion.


 

Quaithe Facts

tedmosby
I just wanted to include this.

Now that I’ve gotten that out, how about some Quaithe facts! What do we know about Quaithe?

  • She appears not to be a Red Priest, religious extremist, or servant of R’hllor.
  • She is not on the side of “fire” as an abstract concept.

To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east.” – Quaithe (ADWD)

  • She is giving Dany advise on how to ultimately go West, as well as North. Maybe northwest…

“Hear me, Daenerys Targaryen. The glass candles are burning. Soon comes the pale mare, and after her the others. Kraken and dark flame, lion and griffin, the sun’s son and the mummer’s dragon. Trust none of them. Remember the Undying. Beware the perfumed seneschal.” – Quaithe (ADWD)

  • She warns Dany of the coming ‘bloody flux‘, and the Others.
  • She does not want Dany to trust the ‘Sun’s Son‘ Quentyn Martell or the ‘Mummer’s Dragon‘ Aegon (two potential Kings of Westeros if she joins them), the ‘lion‘ Tyrion or the ‘griffin‘ Jon Connington(two political actors bent on vengeance against the current Lannister regime), the ‘dark flame‘ Moqorro(apparently a red priest sent by High Priest in Volantis Benerro, but could be a warlock) or ‘kraken‘ Victarion(a brutish chump who also wants to marry her). So Quaithe doesn’t want Victarion, Quentyn, or Aegon to be King of Westeros alongside Daenerys, nor does she want JonCon, Tyrion, or Moqorro directing Dany and the might of her dragons.
  • She wants Daenerys to beware of the perfumed seneschal, whoever that may be.
  • She seemingly wants Dany to embrace her more absolutist, conqueror side, by going back to the Dothraki and her role as Khaleesi and Mother of Dragons.
  • She is pushing Dany towards Westeros, but not as a part of Varys’ scheme or part of Doran’s.

“Last of the three seekers to depart was Quaithe the shadowbinder. From her Dany received only a warning.“Beware,”the woman in the red lacquer mask said.“Of whom?” “Of all. They shall come day and night to see the wonder that has been born again into theworld, and when they see they shall lust. For dragons are fire made flesh, and fire is power.”” – ACOK (Daenerys II)

  • She warns Dany to leave Qarth, and from the beginning does not want Dany to trust the warlocks of Qarth, who wanted to hold Daenerys and her dragons captive at the House of the Undying to strengthen their own magic, yet Quaithe tells her to remember the Undying.

“A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness….mother of dragons, bride of fire” – Daenerys IV, ACOK

  • She astral projects herself across long distances to communicate/send visions. So she is clearly using burning glass candles, as this is exactly what glass candles are described to do. They seemingly gain their power from dragons existing, as they stopped working over a hundred years ago, and are now working again, matching the dragon timeline.

 

The Quaithe Bloodraven Connection

Taking all that into account, I think Quaithe is likely working with Bloodraven, as they are benefiting one another. We can presume contact between them is possible as Bloodraven is able to see through the flames (as shown in Melisandre’s chapter), and Quaithe communicates through the flames of Glass Candles. Bloodraven was responsible for the prophecy which brought dragons back into the world, and thus dragons are a part of his plan. Yet Dany is all the way in Essos, and the Old Gods do not have power where there are no Weirwoods. So Quaithe is a proxy to expand Bloodraven’s spy network beyond the lands where the Weirwoods grow. Quiathe doesn’t want Daenerys to join with Quentyn (Dorne) or Aegon, because Quaithe(based on asking Dany to remember the Undying) like Bloodraven(based on a lot of things) is backing Jon Snow, or a union between Dany and Jon. Hence why Quaithe steers her away from distractions and alternate suitors.


 

“A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? she thought, for just a moment … but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf’s face threw back his head and howled. […] The wooden man she had glimpsed, though, and the boy with the wolf’s face … they were his servants, surely … his champions, as Stannis was hers.” – Melisandre (ADWD)


 

And why is who Dany marries so important? well aside from family name…

dragons
Guys, we talked about this.

Who Daenerys marries is critical because she has dragons, and dragons are power incarnate, which makes her the ultimate marriage alliance. She is essentially the Queen in chess. Whoever marries the Mother of Dragons gains the most significant military advantage there is, especially against the Others.

When-Daenerys-begins-her-takeover-Drogon-right-beside-her
This season on the Bachelorette…

As we saw with the Long Night, foreign war against Westeros’ frosty neighbors to the North created a social bottleneck effect, which strengthened House Stark and consolidated power throughout Seven Kingdoms. And as we saw with the last 300 years of Targaryen history, a central monarch with a monopoly on the use of force through dragons served to stabilize the continent far more so than the lack thereof. Therefore, Daenerys’ dragons are essential to the creation and stability of the world Bloodraven wants to build. Every piece of advice Quaithe is giving Daenerys, is pushing her towards fulfilling that end.

 

“Trust None of them”

We should take a quick aside here and talk about why Quaithe warned against Tyrion, because obviously Tyrion is important. Essentially it’s because at this point Tyrion is Varys’ man, and part of Varys’ plot. Now I’m not going to write about Varys’ plot because it’s essentially a different essay. Now in the show Varys is backing Daenerys, but in short, in the books Varys and Illyrio are clearly working to put Aegon on the throne, and Dany and Viserys were always accessories to that plan, but now that Dany has dragons they want Dany on Aegon’s side, because she is an obvious military advantage. So Quaithe obviously is going to warn Dany against anyone in Varys circle, including Tyrion.

iamthegift
bullshit.

But Tyrion is a bit of a wildcard. When he actually reaches Young Aegon he delays the meeting between Daenerys and Aegon, pushing Aegon to go to war without dragons, seemingly sabotaging Varys and Illyrio’s plan (for more on the Varys Illyrio conspiracy, BryndenBFish has an essay). Still, though not necessarily the case in the show, Tyrion’s primary concern (seemingly taking after his old man) seems to be the absolute annihilation of those who crossed him, and Daenerys and her dragons are likely a powerful tool to that end. Will Tyrion’s council be in her best interest? and more importantly, does it appear to be in the best interest of Bloodraven’s plan? In the books it’s rather unlikely, so warning Dany against Tyrion seemed to make sense for Quaithe.

 

#MotherofDragons #BrideofFire

throneismine
But who is gonna sit next to her? Who will be bridegroom to the bride of fire? who will be the step-daddy of dragons?

The fact that Quaithe warns Dany against all potential suitors and advisors, but does not warn Dany against Jon Snow, is telling. Quaithe even tells Daenerys to remember the visions of the House of the Undying, which during the “Bride of Fire” segment, associated Jon; the blue flower growing from a chink in a wall of ice, with sweetness, and seemed to indicate that Dany must marry Jon Snow. Because I expect Jon is a part of Bloodraven’s plan, this indicates that Quaithe and Bloodraven are both backing Dany to bring her dragons to Westeros, marry and ally with Jon Snow, and inevitably take the throne and defeat the Others.


“Remember who you are, Daenerys, … The dragons know. Do you?” – Quaithe (ADWD, Daenerys X)

Dragons plant no trees. Remember that. Remember who you are, what you were made to be. Remember your words. “Fire and Blood,” Daenerys told the swaying grass. (ADWD Daenerys X)


 

And over the course of her character arc, Dany has very evidently come to take Quaithe’s warnings, and visions in general, very seriously, moving from being skeptical to deciding to follow her idea of what those prophecies mean, particularly in her last ADWD chapter. (If you want to read more on Daenerys and her relationship to prophecy, check out this essay by BryndenBFish). Despite all warnings against trusting in sorcery by the superstitious Dothraki, Dany wants very much to take back her homeland, and she is actively trying to place events which happen to her according to what Quaithe has told her. Which begs the question, was Quaithe giving prophecies, making predictions, or giving instructions? I think it’s a bit of all of them, and in any case the result is the same.


“Her silver was trotting through the grass, to a darkling stream beneath a sea of stars. A corpse stood at the prow of a ship, eyes bright in his dead face, grey lips smiling sadly. A blue flower grew from a chink in a wall of ice, and filled the air with sweetness. . . . mother of dragons, bride of fire. . .” – Vision at the House of the Undying, ACOK Daenerys IV


I won’t really get into the prospect of Dany briefly marrying or joining up with Euron Greyjoy, if that indeed is supposed to be Euron, but the Kraken wedding the Dragon is mentioned by the Euron. Do Quaithe and Bloodraven want her to marry this mad man at all, or is she being warned against him? I’m skeptical of all of this, and so I welcome anyone to address that in the comments if they feel they have a strong idea for how this fits into everything. Due to his childhood accident, dialogue about flying, serving countless gods, and his personal sigil and title of “Crow’s Eye,” Euron is often theorized to have already been visited in his dreams by Bloodraven much like Bran, though whether they are still helping one another is questionable. And Euron is hell bent on marrying Daenerys, taking her dragons, producing an heir with her, and he seems to already be fighting her war before even meeting her. The most obvious way I could see this fitting into Bloodraven’s plan is that obviously Euron has ships to get her army across the narrow sea (though I have some difficulty believing that The Three Eyed Crow wants to bring the marauding Dothraki to Westeros to be citizens). Perhaps it’s also that Euron, essentially being a heretic, can get the Ironborn to abandon the old ways of the religion and the religion of the Drowned god (which is famously antagonistic to the old gods and the children of the forest), and also that when it comes to conquest, Euron Crow’s Eye is just plain brutal enough to get the job done. But Euron as King of Westeros? that would be ridiculous. Euron is no man’s notion of a King.


“Euron Greyjoy is no man’s notion of a king, if half of what Theon said of him was true.” – Robb Stark


Hence why Dany is subtly being prepared to marry Jon. Maybe Jon is Mr. Right, and Euron is at the very best Mr. Right Now, with ‘now’ presumably being in TWOW. Why marry Jon though? I’ll get into that in Part 7. But in a nutshell…


and that kids, is how Quaithe and Bloodraven manipulated your mother of dragons.

 

 

Which leaves the question; What about Aegon? Why not join with Aegon?

 


Well I’ll get into Aegon VI, and break down the infamous Three Heads of the Dragon, in part 6.


 

IV. The Nerd Rebellion of 82

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

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


 

The Tragic (Not) Love Story of Aerys and Rhaella

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

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

 


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


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

 

Dreams Promising Dragons


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


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

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Reply just got it.

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


 

Coincidence? Nope. This was the Three Eyed Crow.

 

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

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


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

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

 

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

 

Planned Parenthood for Weapons of Mass Destruction

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


 

 

Summerhall: Who Started the Fire?

Marc_Simonetti_The_fire_at_the_summer_palace

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

cressen
Obviously the face of a stone cold killer. #dragonslayer

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


 

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

 

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

 

The Perks of Being a Walys Flowers

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

The Winterfell of Our Discontent

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Best friend best friendship.

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


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


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

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

 

Rhaegar Targaryen: The wrong kind of nerd

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

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

 


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


 

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

Robert I Baratheon
Bros before Rhaegars?

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

 

dragons
The answer is dragons.

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

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

Let’s make a pros and cons list!


 

The Advantages of Dragons:

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

 

Reasons to be Anti-Dragon:

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

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

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


 

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

 


 

Maester VS. Greenseer

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

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

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


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


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

luwin
dragonslayer grand champions 283AC

 

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

 


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


 

III. The Great Kingdom of the Night

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

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

A Mythical History of Myths About History


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


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


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


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

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

The Age of Conditions Which Created Heroes

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

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

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

The Day Before The Long Night

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

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

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

Night Falls And So My Speculation Begins

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

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

So what brought the Others the first time?

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

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

unonothing


The Day After The Long Night

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


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


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

BRAN THE BUILDER! CAN WE BUILD IT?
BRAN THE BUILDER! CAN WE BUILD IT?

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

Wars of Statecraft

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

gangsnewyork
“murica”

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

And Then Came The Wolves

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

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

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

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

ageofheroes

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

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

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

What The North Remembers

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

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

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


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

and thanks for reading


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