GRRM told it in an SSM that he tries to tell an unpredictable story yet at the same time he likes to insert subtle foreshadowing. He said that he won’t explain foreshadowing/symbolism from the series in interviews and that is up to the readers to figure out. He also said that the parallels that he draws from history are not complete matches because the history is known and drawing exact parallels from history damages the unpredictability of his storytelling. GRRM is also known to say that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
So, with this info from various SSMs, the question is, does context matter in Foreshadowing/Symbolism/Parallels that GRRM inserts to the text?
Of course, one should define what kind of context we are talking about clearly.
The first layer of the context comes from within the story. It is related to when and where a piece of quote was written, which characters were involved etc.
Another layer of context comes from outside the text. GRRM sometimes makes references or homages to things that do not belong to the ASOIAF universe. Ser Patrek is a popular example for this.
It should also be noted that GRRM has a certain vocabulary, descriptive language, use of motifs, stylistic approach etc. which means that everything he wrote down should include his unique signature. Sometimes, a connection might be seen between two distinct quotes but that connection might not be intended for foreshadowing; instead it might be the natural result of GRRM’s unique signature.
Certain themes, stories, characters of GRRM sometimes resonate with unrelated characters/stories.
As an example, take the parallels between the Night’s King legend and Stannis. I don’t think GRRM is intending to make Stannis the new Night’s King but the general theme of that legend is observed in the arc of Stannis. I think this is because the theme (i.e. fighting the evil but becoming a monster in the process) is universal and no further foreshadowing is intended, except perhaps the fall of Stannis into more evil in his own unique way (not necessarily similar to the case of Night’s King).
Mance-Rhaegar parallels are a similar case. Mance is not Rhaegar. I think the parallels in this comparison are intended to imply R+L=J.
To explore the relationship between the context and foreshadowing, I will present some strong foreshadowing that I believe in.
Lord Emmon rubbed his mouth. His hand came away red and slimy from the sourleaf. “To be sure. Riverrun is mine, and no man shall ever take it from me.”
This is one of the oldest tricks in literature. No man shall ever take Riverrun from Lord Emmon but that does not say anything for Lady Stoneheart, who is literally no man. The red and slimy juice of the sourleaf symbolizes blood and Lord Emmon’s death. Here, the foreshadowing is in agreement with the context.
“We don’t know where the Blackfish is,” Jaime reminded him, “but if he can cut Edmure free, he will.”
“That will not happen, my lord.” Like most innkeeps, Ser Forley was no man’s fool. “Scouts and outriders will screen our march, and we’ll fortify our camps by night. I have picked ten men to stay with Tully day and night, my best longbowmen. If he should ride so much as a foot off the road, they will loose so many shafts at him that his own mother would take him for a goose.”
“Good.” Jaime would as lief have Tully reach Casterly Rock safely, but better dead than fled. “Best keep some archers near Lord Westerling’s daughter as well.”
Ser Forley seemed taken aback. “Gawen’s girl? She’s—”
“—the Young Wolf’s widow,” Jaime finished, “and twice as dangerous as Edmure if she were ever to escape us.”
“As you say, my lord. She will be watched.”
I think the same trick is seen here as well. Lady Stoneheart is no man and we will most probably see the action (rescue operation) in the Prologue of TWoW. Again the foreshadowing is in agreement with the context.
“My lady, you should have sent word of your coming,” Ser Donnel Waynwood told her as their horses climbed the pass. “We would have sent an escort. The high road is not as safe as it once was, for a party as small as yours.”
“We learned that to our sorrow, Ser Donnel,” Catelyn said. Sometimes she felt as though her heart had turned to stone; six brave men had died to bring her this far, and she could not even find it in her to weep for them. Even their names were fading.
This was a hint for Lady Stoneheart from AGoT and the context is not so related to the foreshadowing.
“The woman is important too!” Arya protested.
Jon chuckled. “Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister. Wed Tully to Stark in your arms.”
“A wolf with a fish in its mouth?” It made her laugh. “That would look silly.”
… and her jaw closed around a pale white arm. She shook it to make it move, but there was only death and blood in her mouth. By now she was tiring, and it was all she could do to pull the body back to shore. As she dragged it up the muddy bank, one of her little brothers came prowling, his tongue lolling from his mouth. She had to snarl to drive him off, or else he would have fed. Only then did she stop to shake the water from her fur. The white thing lay facedown in the mud, her dead flesh wrinkled and pale, cold blood trickling from her throat. Rise, she thought. Rise and eat and run with us.
The first one is from AGoT and it foreshadows how Nymeria will fish Cat’s corpse from the river. The context does not agree with the foreshadowing. But the symbolism with wolf and fish makes sense.
Theon Greyjoy had once commented that Hodor did not know much, but no one could doubt that he knew his name.
Again a nice foreshadowing from AGoT about the future Reekification of Theon. It is just a word play, nothing related to the context.
“Something is happening across the lake,” said Jojen. “I thought I saw a man pointing at the tower.”
I won’t be afraid. He was the Prince of Winterfell, Eddard Stark’s son, almost a man grown and a warg too, not some little baby boy like Rickon. Summer would not be afraid. “Most like they’re just some Umbers,” he said. “Or they could be Knotts or Norreys or Flints come down from the mountains, or even brothers from the Night’s Watch. Were they wearing black cloaks, Jojen?”
“By night all cloaks are black, Your Grace. And the flash came and went too fast for me to tell what they were wearing.”
“Are you blind, man?” Yoren waved his staff back and forth, making the cloak ripple. “You see a bloody lightning bolt?”
“By night all banners look black,” the knight in the spiked helm observed. “Open, or we’ll know you for outlaws in league with the king’s enemies.”
I think this is a foreshadowing for a time in the future when the Game of Thrones or the Dance 2.0 will end (at least in the North) and every person, regardless of allegiance, will practically be a man of the NW. It will be men against the Others, The New Battle for the Dawn, as it is supposed to be. Here we see that the context is somewhat less related to the foreshadowing.
Gerrick Kingsblood was a tall man, long of leg and broad of shoulder. The queen had dressed him in some of the king’s old clothes, it appeared. Scrubbed and groomed, clad in green velvets and an ermine half-cape, with his long red hair freshly washed and his fiery beard shaped and trimmed, the wildling looked every inch a southron lord. He could walk into the throne room at King’s Landing, and no one would blink an eye, Jon thought.
Here, we can draw a parallel between Rickard Stark and Gerrick Kingsblood. Both of them planned to marry their 3 children for power and influence because of their southron ambitions. We know how Rickard’s story ended in the throne room at King’s Landing. Jon’s thought puts Gerrick into the same room and the surname of Gerrick might water the mouth of Mel if she needs a spell to work out. The foreshadowing is that Gerrick is a dead man walking and this is not in agreement with the context.
As a result, I don’t think the context matters much in foreshadowing or symbolism for GRRM.