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The Sacred Order of Green Men.


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#1 three-eyed monkey

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:14 PM

The Order of the Green Men is one of the most mysterious notes in the song of ice and fire. The purpose of this thread is to explore what the order is all about. As the text provides us with very little, the exercise requires us to look beyond the pages of A Song of Ice and Fire and consider other things, like the material that might have inspired GRRM’s creation of the Order and their role in the story.

 

But let’s start with the books. The first we hear of the Green Men is from Catelyn, early in AGoT:

 

            In the south, the last weirwoods had been cut down or burned out a thousand years ago, except on the Isle of Faces where the green men kept their silent watch.

 

Later in the same book, Maester Luwin elaborates a little and provides some context:

 

            “Finally, the wise of both races prevailed, and the chiefs and heroes of the First Men met the greenseers and wood dancers amidst the weirwood groves of a small island in the great lake called Gods Eye.

            “There they forged the Pact. The First Men were given the coast-lands, the high plains and bright meadows, the mountains and bogs, but the deep woods were to remain forever the children’s, and no more weirwoods were to be put to the axe anywhere in the realm. So the gods might bear witness to the signing, every tree on the island was given a face, and afterwards the sacred order of green men was formed to keep watch over the Isle of Faces.

            “The Pact began four thousand years of friendship between men and children. In time, the First Men even put aside the gods they had brought with them, and took up the worship of the secret gods of the wood. The signing of the Pact ended the Dawn Age, and began the Age of Heroes.”

 

The Green Men are mentioned again in ASoS, when Meera tells Bran the tale of Howland and the KotLT:

 

            “The lad knew the magics of the crannogs,” she continued, “but he wanted more. Our people seldom travel far from home you know. We're a small folk, and our ways seem queer to some, so the big people do not always treat us kindly. But this lad was bolder than most and one day when he had grown to manhood he decided he would leave the crannogs and visit the Isle of Faces.”

            “No one visits the Isle of Faces.” objected Bran. “That's where the green men live.

            “It was the green men he meant to find. So he donned a shirt sewn with bronze scales, like mine, took up a leathern shield and a three-pronged spear, like mine, and paddled a little skin boat down the Green Fork.”

            Bran closed his eyes to try and see the man in his little skin boat. In his head, the crannogman looked like Jojen, only older and stronger, and dressed like Meera.

            “He passed beneath the Twins by night so the Freys would not attack him, and when he reached the Trident he climbed from the river and put his boat on his head and began to walk. It took him many a day, but finally he reached the Gods Eye, threw his boat in the lake, and paddled out to the Isle of Faces.

            “Did he meet the green men?”

            “Yes,” said Meera, “But that's another story, and not for me to tell. My prince asked for knights.”

            “Green men are good too.”

            “They are,” she agreed, but said no more about them. “All that winter the crannogman stayed on the isle, but when spring broke he heard the wide world calling and knew the time had come to leave. His skin boat was just where he'd left it, so he said his farewells and paddled off toward shore.”

 

And later in the same conversation, when the KotLT appears:

 

            “Was he green?” In Old Nan’s stories, the guardians had dark green skin and leaves instead of hair. Sometimes they had antlers too, but Bran didn’t see how the mystery knight could have worn a helm if he had antlers. “I bet the old gods sent him.”

 

And later still, when Bran meets Sam in the Nightfort:

 

“Was he green?” Bran wanted to know. “Did he have antlers?”
The fat man was confused. “The elk?”

“Coldhands,” said Bran impatiently. “The green men ride on elks, Old Nan used to say. Sometimes they have antlers too.”

 

But there’s not much more about the Green Men in the books, besides a little from TPatQ. They were formed when the Pact was signed, to watch over the Isle of Faces. Old Nan describes them as having dark green skin and leaves for hair, sometimes they had antlers too, and they ride on elks. Meera tells us Howland sought them out, and met them... but that’s another story, and not for her to tell. Presumably this means it is Howland’s story to tell, but is he ever going to tell it?

 

This is from SSM back in March, 1999:

 

LINDA: Will we see or hear anything of the green men on the Isle of Faces? If not, what are they like? Just a secluded order that's never bothered, and has no role in the events of the Seven Kingdoms?

GRRM: The green men and the Isle of Faces will come to the fore in later books. (Boy, it's tough to sneak anything by you guys.)

 

So it seems the Green Men plotline is a sleeper and they will have a role to play in the story. But to try and understand what that role might be, or at least what strand of the story they might connect with, we need to first understand the symbolism involved, as it does dovetail quite nicely with the type of events we might expect to see in the next two books.

 

Green Man symbolism permeates cultures around the world and across the ages, and can be found in art, sculpture, architecture and theatre. It denotes spring, re-birth, rejuvenation, and their place in the natural cycle.

 

The Green Man motif usually consists of a face made from, or framed by, leaves, branches, vines, and budding flowers, which evokes the description of Leaf from ADwD, as well as Old Nan’s description of the Green Men. Old Nan’s Green Men sometimes had antlers, which are also a symbol of regeneration as they can be shed and re-grown. Green Man imagery often portrays vines and branches sprouting from the ears, nostrils, mouth, cheeks, or eyes of the face, reminiscent of Bloodraven.

 

Green Man symbolism is often found in literature; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, A Midsummer Night’s Tale, Peter Pan, the Ents of Lord of the Rings, (and now of course ASoIaF), to name but a few.

 

C.G. Jung, in his comparative study of symbolism, mythology, and archetype, suggests that the Green Man rises to counter a lack in men’s attitude toward the natural order, reminding mankind of the balance that should be maintained between humanity and nature. In Westerosi parlance, that might mean too much game of thrones and not enough song of ice and fire.

 

So share your thoughts on the Green Men. How might they impact the story? What’s Howland Reeds angle? What about Bran, Bloodraven, Coldhands, and the CotF? What about the coming winter and the Long Night?

 

Thanks for reading. All opinions welcome.



#2 The_Crannogman

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:33 PM

 

But let’s start with the books. The first we hear of the Green Men is from Catelyn, early in AGoT:

 

            In the south, the last weirwoods had been cut down or burned out a thousand years ago, except on the Isle of Faces where the green men kept their silent watch.

 

I think the silent watch part means that they are not meant to interfere in matters of the realm so I don't think the Game of thrones matters to them, their order looks beyond that at the bigger picture.

 

C.G. Jung, in his comparative study of symbolism, mythology, and archetype, suggests that the Green Man rises to counter a lack in men’s attitude toward the natural order, reminding mankind of the balance that should be maintained between humanity and nature. In Westerosi parlance, that might mean too much game of thrones and not enough song of ice and fire.

I think this hits the nail on the head with how they might affect the story. I think they are here to try to maintain the natural order and balance. I don't think this means the balance between the game of thrones and the song of ice and fire but rather a balance between ice and fire as a balance would be a natural order.



#3 three-eyed monkey

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:42 PM

I think the silent watch part means that they are not meant to interfere in matters of the realm so I don't think the Game of thrones matters to them, their order looks beyond that at the bigger picture.
 

I think this hits the nail on the head with how they might affect the story. I think they are here to try to maintain the natural order and balance. I don't think this means the balance between the game of thrones and the song of ice and fire but rather a balance between ice and fire as a balance would be a natural order.


I agree completely. I think they would want men to forget about the game of thrones and focus on the ice and fire.

#4 The_Crannogman

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:52 PM

I agree completely. I think they would want men to forget about the game of thrones and focus on the ice and fire.

 

With the balance between ice and fire they have seen a lot. They were founded in the dawn age and so I think I'm right in saying that they predate the long night. This means that they must have experienced the coming of the others. Now obviously this massive invasion of ice creatures threatens the balance between ice and fire so surely they had some role in restoring the balance between ice and fire and pushing the others back.

I also wonder if they still have some sort of record of what the others are exactly and how to fight against them.



#5 SunflashJT

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 04:59 PM

Be interesting to know more about them, maybe Howland will tell us.



#6 Mitbert Strangejoy

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 05:15 PM

One more quote to pay attention to: “His elk?” said Bran, wonderstruck. “His elk?” said Meera, startled.  [In reference to Coldhands].

 

This is a pretty key quote here.  Bran is excited about the possibility that Coldhands may be a green man.  But Meera seems to be shocked and alarmed.

 

I get the sense that Coldhands may, indeed, be related to the green men.  Moreover, Meera's reaction suggests that the active involvement of the green men in worldly affairs is a really bad sign.  Things are about to get serious.

 

Elk are an interesting mount, because they predate the arrival of horses in Westeros and horses are strongly associated with humans and their conquest of Westeros.  Elk riding may be the old way or some sort of amalgam between CoTF traditions and human traditions.


Edited by Mitbert Strangejoy, 05 August 2014 - 05:17 PM.


#7 The_Crannogman

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 05:20 PM

One more quote to pay attention to: “His elk?” said Bran, wonderstruck. “His elk?” said Meera, startled.  [In reference to Coldhands].

 

This is a pretty key quote here.  Bran is excited about the possibility that Coldhands may be a green man.  But Meera seems to be shocked and alarmed.

 

I get the sense that Coldhands may, indeed, be related to the green men.  Moreover, Meera's reaction suggests that the active involvement of the green men in worldly affairs is a really bad sign.  Things are about to get serious.

You could be right but I think riding an Elk is someone most people would be startled by. I think Bran is wonderstruck as he still has an idealistic view on magic.

 

Do you have any idea as to how Coldhands could be related to the greenmen as coldhands seems to be a member/ex-member of the nights watch and the greenmen are located quite far away on the isle of faces? (I'm not bashing you I'm genuinely curios)



#8 Whitering

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 05:25 PM

Maybe the World Book will have some info on it but I am pretty interested as well.

 

Coldhands could be related in that the Singers are maybe at both places, but ya, I can't see a link either.



#9 RumHam

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 05:30 PM

Maybe the World Book will have some info on it but I am pretty interested as well.

 

There's a sidebar on the Green Men in one of the worldbook samples. Sadly it's two sentences long and doesn't really provide any new information.



#10 three-eyed monkey

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 06:17 PM

There is another passage I vaguely remember about the CotF using trees as warriors. I don't have electronic books so finding it could prove difficult. It must be in one of Bran's chapters. And of course there is the passage where the tree drops its burden of snow on Bran outside the cave. Very Ent like, but I don't know if GRRM would go there, at least not without subverting the idea, even if they are the ultimate in green man symbolism in the fantasy genre.

#11 Berric_Dondiedagain

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 08:49 PM

I do not know where I saw it, but I do remember something about Sam (when he was looking through all the books for Jon) that he found a Night's Watch member who treated with the CoTF in some way - that would explain why he was dressed as a NW but was helping the CoTF bring Bran to BR-

I am sure there is a theory about it on the forum somewhere - I wish I could find the guys name-



#12 Ser Furious

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 09:33 PM

I dont have much to add, just my wish that Arya had rejoined Nymeria and gone to the Isle of Faces to train with the Green Men instead of going off to Braavos and wallowing in the fringes of the Meerenese Knot.



#13 Lady Blizzardborn

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 09:48 PM

You could be right but I think riding an Elk is someone most people would be startled by. I think Bran is wonderstruck as he still has an idealistic view on magic.

 

Do you have any idea as to how Coldhands could be related to the greenmen as coldhands seems to be a member/ex-member of the nights watch and the greenmen are located quite far away on the isle of faces? (I'm not bashing you I'm genuinely curios)

I know you weren't asking me but...Coldhands was killed long ago.  Who says there were never any greenmen in the Night's Watch?



#14 Damp Hair - The Prophet

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Posted 05 August 2014 - 10:10 PM

The isle of faces is a huge paradox in the storytelling.  God's eye/Harrenhall, they are the center of the continent & important happenings.  Why did no one build here before lakeside Harrenhall?  Wouldn't the Ironborn of course sail their boats all around Godseye & of course onto the Isleoffaces?

 

Howland Reed stayed with the Green men.  Ironborn, as Vic will tell you, dislike bog devils 



#15 three-eyed monkey

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 05:05 AM

I think the first thing to try and establish here is, who are the Green Men? They were formed during the Pact between Children and First Men, so there are three options in my opinion. These are, in no particular order:

1. They are First Men. If this is the case then there are some serious questions raised, like how would a commune of First Men survive on the Isle of Faces for so long without resorting to inbreeding and such? Now, this doesn't exclude First Men from being members of the Order. Perhaps some old Houses descended from the First Men, like the Daynes or Blackwoods, are secretly connected to the Order, but I don't see those members living on the Isle of Faces if this is the case. And Howland went to the Isle of Faces to seek them out.

2. They are Children. This is more plausible to me, given the Childrens' longevity and indeed the similarities between Leaf and Old Nan's description of the Children, even if it's not an exact match. But then Old Nan often gets a few details muddled in her stories and it is an oral tradition, passed down through centuries, and probably subject to the Chinese whispers effect.

3. They are a magical entity created by the Children. An invoking of the spirit of the woods. I think this fits better with the whole Green Man symbolism being used by GRRM. Perhaps when you go to seek the Green Men's council, you end up talking to the faces carved in the trees, even if the the voice on the other end of the line, so to speak, is a Greenseer, like Bloodraven or his predecessors?

I'm not certain Coldhands is a Green Man, despite what Bran thinks. The Children had never seen a horse until the first men came so I agree that the elk-riding might be a tradition of the Children, or an amalgam between CotF and FM traditions as Mitbert Strangejoy suggests. Coldhands does seem to be connected to the Children, which could explain the symbolism of the elk, without him being a Green Man as such.

The issue of Harrenhal is another interesting one, as noted by Damp Hair above. We know King Harren used weirwoods in the construction of the castle, but it is unclear whether the trees came from the isle or the mainland. It is difficult to surmise if he and his forces ever went to the isle. We could speculate about the isle being warded magically, but in the end it would merely be speculation. If I recall correctly, House Hoare were Fist Men, but unlike many of the other Fist Men families, they kept to the Drowned God and did not take the Old Gods, like the Starks and others did.

Curiously, we know that two houses that held Harrenhal, namely the Lothstons and the Whents, had a bat as their sigil. The bat, like the Green Man, is a symbol of rebirth, so perhaps there is some connection here? I tend to believe, because of the little we learn from Brienne and Jamie, that the Lothstons practised blood-magic. And Bran has tasted the blood of weirwood blood sacrifice, so there may be a tenuous parallel.

#16 The_Crannogman

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 06:45 AM

3. They are a magical entity created by the Children. An invoking of the spirit of the woods. I think this fits better with the whole Green Man symbolism being used by GRRM. Perhaps when you go to seek the Green Men's council, you end up talking to the faces carved in the trees, even if the the voice on the other end of the line, so to speak, is a Greenseer, like Bloodraven or his predecessors?

 

I like this the best but if this is true what is it that keeps people from visiting the isle of faces. So far we know of only Howland Reed and Addam Velaryon visiting the isle of faces and both learned something from their time there. If wisdom or knowledge is told to you by visiting the isle of faces why don't more people visit it?



#17 redrose

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 08:26 AM

I think it is amazing that we have an island in one of the most strategic positions of westeros where a monumental pact was forged between men and the CoTF and yet we only know of 3 characters ever visiting the place. ( correct me if I'm wrong 1, HR 2, rogue prince flew there on his dragon, waiting to battle prince Aemond and 3 a valeryon who went to seek the green men's council).

There is an old heretical view that the island is glamoured ? I'm not sure but what are your thoughts on why so few people have visited the place?

#18 Mitbert Strangejoy

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:18 AM

You could be right but I think riding an Elk is someone most people would be startled by. I think Bran is wonderstruck as he still has an idealistic view on magic.

 

Do you have any idea as to how Coldhands could be related to the greenmen as coldhands seems to be a member/ex-member of the nights watch and the greenmen are located quite far away on the isle of faces? (I'm not bashing you I'm genuinely curios)

 

To be honest, it's more of a hunch than anything else.  I don't see the location issue as much of a problem, because CoTF and related entities communicate through weirwood.  In fact, it would be quite unexpected (for me at least) if we discovered that the CoTF north of the wall and Bloodraven weren't in touch with beings living among the largest collection of weirwoods (with faces) in Westeros. 

 

Also, it's seems to me that the wall could be related to the Pact.  The First Men promised to leave certain wild areas to the CoTF (and other related forest creatures?), but clearly men have encroached upon the forests and even destroyed large colections of weirwood (heart trees).  Most of these men were Andals. 

 

There are first men above the wall now.  But they have no cities.  Indeed, the only city they created, Hardhome, was horifically destroyed.  If you ask me, the Pact is still intact, and I wouldn't be surprised if the NW historically helped the Green Men and the remaining CoTF enforce the Pact.  Thus, while I'm not ready to say that CH is a Green Man, I think it's not a stretch to say that he could be both a man of the NW and an ally of the Green Men.  The elk to me was a symbol of his allegiance, as it contrasts against the Andals' horses.  We can fairly surmise that that Andals do not abide by the Pact.



#19 Hangover of the Morning

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:21 AM

I think it is amazing that we have an island in one of the most strategic positions of westeros where a monumental pact was forged between men and the CoTF and yet we only know of 3 characters ever visiting the place. ( correct me if I'm wrong 1, HR 2, rogue prince flew there on his dragon, waiting to battle prince Aemond and 3 a valeryon who went to seek the green men's council).

There is an old heretical view that the island is glamoured ? I'm not sure but what are your thoughts on why so few people have visited the place?

 

I agree. It is incredibly odd that people would stay away from a place that seems to be fairly easily accessible and that many people are probably eyeballing on daily basis. I would imagine that the God's Eye shores would be quite busy with fisherman and that the area is quite well populated due to the availability of resources and closeness to Harrenhal and major roads. Given the historical significance of the place, you'd also expect it to be a tourist attraction pilgrimage site. Superstition and horror stories might keep most visitors at bay but surely not all. Magical barrier is the only explanation that I can think off. 

 

The island definitely sounds a little bit like Avalon. I am glad to see a post about the Green Man. Thanks three-eyed monkey for a really nice analysis. Really surprising how little we know about the green men and that they haven't been mentioned more often in the books. I am sure that we'll eventually find  out more and the green men will have a bearing on the story (Chekhov's gun) but in what way I have absolutely no idea. If I had to guess their ethnicity, I would say CotF.

 


Edited by Hangover of the Morning, 06 August 2014 - 09:22 AM.


#20 The_Crannogman

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Posted 06 August 2014 - 09:37 AM

I agree. It is incredibly odd that people would stay away from a place that seems to be fairly easily accessible and that many people are probably eyeballing on daily basis. I would imagine that the God's Eye shores would be quite busy with fisherman and that the area is quite well populated due to the availability of resources and closeness to Harrenhal and major roads. Given the historical significance of the place, you'd also expect it to be a tourist attraction pilgrimage site. Superstition and horror stories might keep most visitors at bay but surely not all. Magical barrier is the only explanation that I can think off. 

With the magical barrier though how did Howland Reed and Addam Velaryon get to the isle of faces, the only thing I can think of is that either the Greenmen know who's coming to them and can let them pass through the magical barrier or it has something to do with Kings blood. The theory http://asoiaf.wester...ncan-the-small/ could be onto something there as if Howland Reed has Targaeryn ancestors then due to his blood he might be able to bypass a magical barrier and obviously the same goes to Addam Velaryon riding his dragon.