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Does Context Matter in Foreshadowing/Symbolism/Parallels?


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#1 AntZ

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 04:59 AM

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.



#2 BrienneofQarth

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 05:13 AM

Great post and interesting examples. :thumbsup:

 

I think that I am with you, if anything I think that often these various kinds of foreshadowing provide a unifying thread in an often disparate series. It implies that a higher intelligence somehow unites the novels' world. Obviously this is GRRM's higher intelligence, but I think in some cases it also implies a higher supernatural power unifying the books; I think that curses (e.g.Harrenhal) and prophecies are a part of this same cosmology. 



#3 cxvb

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 06:16 AM

As a result, I don’t think the context matters much in foreshadowing or symbolism for GRRM.

This is hillarious. I don't buy a single one of those supposed foreshadowings, except the "no man" thing because it's such a classic. Did you really not stop to consider that your argument hinges on people accepting your examples as valid? If you had, you might have saved yourself the trouble of typing this up, because everyone who believes context doesn't matter and any two similar things in 5 books are intentional parallels won't need convincing, and anyone who believes context matters will not be convinced by a bunch of lines vaguely similar passages that somehow with a bit of interpretation here and there might be connected.



#4 AntZ

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Posted 08 August 2014 - 06:21 AM

This is hillarious. I don't buy a single one of those supposed foreshadowings, except the "no man" thing because it's such a classic. Did you really not stop to consider that your argument hinges on people accepting your examples as valid? If you had, you might have saved yourself the trouble of typing this up, because everyone who believes context doesn't matter and any two similar things in 5 books are intentional parallels won't need convincing, and anyone who believes context matters will not be convinced by a bunch of lines vaguely similar passages that somehow with a bit of interpretation here and there might be connected.

 

Some of the examples are already proven (like Reek or Nymeria fishing UnCat). Don't you buy them as well?



#5 AntZ

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 12:40 PM

“When the smith’s son was an old man, a bastard son of the fourth Aegon rose up in rebellion against his trueborn brother and took for his sigil a black dragon. These lands belonged to Lord Darry then, and his lordship was fiercely loyal to the king. The sight of the black iron dragon made him wroth, so he cut down the post, hacked the sign into pieces, and cast them into the river. One of the dragon’s heads washed up on the Quiet Isle many years later, though by that time it was red with rust.”

 

This is one of the most important evidences for the Blackfyre origin of fAegon. The foreshadowing is not much related to the context, given that some people still refuse to take this quote as foreshadowing.



#6 sj4iy

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:09 PM

"Mance's blood is no more royal than mine" ~ Jon Snow.

Yes, there are definitely many examples of foreshadowing in the books. I wouldn't say that Martin is writing an unpredictable story...I think he is throwing in the clues for those who are paying attention. The Red Wedding was foreshadowed quite a lot before it happened and some people were able to figure it out.

#7 AntZ

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:21 PM

"Mance's blood is no more royal than mine" ~ Jon Snow.

Yes, there are definitely many examples of foreshadowing in the books. I wouldn't say that Martin is writing an unpredictable story...I think he is throwing in the clues for those who are paying attention. The Red Wedding was foreshadowed quite a lot before it happened and some people were able to figure it out.

 

Hmm, that is a good one. Patchface's prediction of the Red Wedding is completely independent of the context. In fact, almost all of Patchfaces's predictions are incoherent with the context.


Edited by Paper Waver, 10 August 2014 - 01:22 PM.


#8 sj4iy

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:47 PM

Hmm, that is a good one. Patchface's prediction of the Red Wedding is completely independent of the context. In fact, almost all of Patchfaces's predictions are incoherent with the context.


It wasn't just Patchface that predicted the Red Wedding. It was in the HotU, as well.

"Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Savaged limbs clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. On a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a sceptre, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal."

So does the Ghost of High Heart foretell the Red Wedding:

"I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells."

#9 Pod The Impaler

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:48 PM

 

In fact, almost all of Patchfaces's predictions are incoherent with the context.

 

 

True enough. But that's Patchface for ya.

 

I think context matters - the Ghost of High Heart is one in which context matters.

 

Best example is her statement about the "maid with purple serpents in her hair" and how that maid will later "slay a savage giant in a castle mad of snow". I think people like to read too much into that one, assuming they mean Littlfinger later on, or someone else. Sansa carries Joffrey's poison in her hair net, all agree, but those who read it influenced heavily by context see something else - the GOHH vision was one of immediacy. The "giant" is Robin, symbolized by his doll - she is in her castle of snow (and he in his snowed-in castle) and she tears off the doll's head which fells him almost immediately. Is he a giant? Well, he was playing as one, but also he is lord of the Vale. Some may see this also as a chain reaction leading to Lysa as the giant, dying soon after. Nothing else in the GOHH's visions seem to suggest anything longer term than what is contained in ASOS. My personal view is that going beyond that time-wise is a mistake, people reading into the text what they want to see, and that is my conclusion because of the context in which it occurs. It should be noted also that the readers can see the context, but the characters themselves often do not - the fact that we know more than the characters is important to account for. To Arya hearing it or even the GOHH herself seeing it, the Eyrie and Sansa and Robin and the snow castle are glimpses without context. We know what those are; we get to see the context.



#10 Pod The Impaler

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:50 PM

It wasn't just Patchface that predicted the Red Wedding. It was in the HotU, as well.

"Farther on she came upon a feast of corpses. Savagely slaughtered, the feasters lay strewn across overturned chairs and hacked trestle tables, asprawl in pools of congealing blood. Some had lost limbs, even heads. Savaged limbs clutched bloody cups, wooden spoons, roast fowl, heels of bread. On a throne above them sat a dead man with the head of a wolf. He wore an iron crown and held a leg of lamb in one hand as a king might hold a sceptre, and his eyes followed Dany with mute appeal."

So does the Ghost of High Heart foretell the Red Wedding:

"I dreamt such a clangor I thought my head might burst, drums and horns and pipes and screams, but the saddest sound was the little bells."

 

 

As well, I think Theon even has a prophetic dream about it, does he not? Robb and Grey Wind entering the halls of Winterfell covered in wounds, along with other dead men? (Or was it Bran or Jon who saw that?)



#11 the trees have eyes

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:50 PM

 

Some of the examples are already proven (like Reek or Nymeria fishing UnCat). Don't you buy them as well?

 

The Hodor quote, taken in its proper context, is to play a joke on Theon because Hodor does not in fact know his own name, which is Walder.  Old Nan got a cackle out of that understandable but false assumption by Theon and the reader got a chuckle at how Theon's japing wit could sometimes backfire on him.

 

Context matters imo and I don't think this foreshadows Reek because there is absolutely no way the reader can foresee circumstances in which Theon may come to be in that situation.  Its not a clue any more than the line about Catelyn's heart turning to stone was a clue for the astute reader.  If anything these are Easter Eggs hidden for those hunting through the text for them though I don't think typical rhetorical or literary devices like hearts turning to stone, no man's fool, garments appearing black by night should be taken like prophecy.  I mean how many times does a character say or be described by someone else as no man's fool?  It's pretty common but you only bring up the ones that suit your argument here that Catelyn will do one or both of these things.



#12 AntZ

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 01:52 PM

 

 

True enough. But that's Patchface for ya.

 

I think context matters - the Ghost of High Heart is one in which context matters.

 

Best example is her statement about the "maid with purple serpents in her hair" and how that maid will later "slay a savage giant in a castle mad of snow". I think people like to read too much into that one, assuming they mean Littlfinger later on, or someone else. Sansa carries Joffrey's poison in her hair net, all agree, but those who read it influenced heavily by context see something else - the GOHH vision was one of immediacy. The "giant" is Robin, symbolized by his doll - she is in her castle of snow (and he in his snowed-in castle) and she tears off the doll's head which fells him almost immediately. Is he a giant? Well, he was playing as one, but also he is lord of the Vale. Some may see this also as a chain reaction leading to Lysa as the giant, dying soon after. Nothing else in the GOHH's visions seem to suggest anything longer term than what is contained in ASOS. My personal view is that going beyond that time-wise is a mistake, people reading into the text what they want to see, and that is my conclusion because of the context in which it occurs. It should be noted also that the readers can see the context, but the characters themselves often do not - the fact that we know more than the characters is important to account for. To Arya hearing it or even the GOHH herself seeing it, the Eyrie and Sansa and Robin and the snow castle are glimpses without context. We know what those are; we get to see the context.

 

About that. I might agree with it because the snowy Winterfell scene has its own symbolism and foreshadowing.

 

 

 

 

As well, I think Theon even has a prophetic dream about it, does he not? Robb and Grey Wind entering the halls of Winterfell covered in wounds, along with other dead men? (Or was it Bran or Jon who saw that?)

 

 

It was Theon.


Edited by Paper Waver, 10 August 2014 - 01:52 PM.


#13 sj4iy

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 04:07 PM

 
About that. I might agree with it because the snowy Winterfell scene has its own symbolism and foreshadowing.
 
 
 
It was Theon.


Jon also had a dream about Grey Wind being dead.

#14 Ser Cory Trevor

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 04:23 PM

I don't think the context matters at all really George seems like a very deliberate writer and there are so many that they can't possibly be coincidences



#15 AntZ

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Posted 10 August 2014 - 11:54 PM

 

The Hodor quote, taken in its proper context, is to play a joke on Theon because Hodor does not in fact know his own name, which is Walder.  Old Nan got a cackle out of that understandable but false assumption by Theon and the reader got a chuckle at how Theon's japing wit could sometimes backfire on him.

 

Context matters imo and I don't think this foreshadows Reek because there is absolutely no way the reader can foresee circumstances in which Theon may come to be in that situation.  Its not a clue any more than the line about Catelyn's heart turning to stone was a clue for the astute reader.  If anything these are Easter Eggs hidden for those hunting through the text for them though I don't think typical rhetorical or literary devices like hearts turning to stone, no man's fool, garments appearing black by night should be taken like prophecy.  I mean how many times does a character say or be described by someone else as no man's fool?  It's pretty common but you only bring up the ones that suit your argument here that Catelyn will do one or both of these things.

 

The fact that no reader could make any connection before the foreshadowed event takes place does not matter. The first three books were written almost simultaneously and Martin knew many of the details until the end of Storm while publishing Game. In fact, he knows the end of all major characters. With so many word plays becoming true in an unthinkable way, I think GRRM is putting them deliberately.


Edited by Paper Waver, 10 August 2014 - 11:55 PM.


#16 JonCon's Red Beard

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 12:02 AM

"To find foreshadowing you must first find the event to which the foreshadowing points".

#17 the trees have eyes

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Posted 11 August 2014 - 06:33 PM

 

The fact that no reader could make any connection before the foreshadowed event takes place does not matter. The first three books were written almost simultaneously and Martin knew many of the details until the end of Storm while publishing Game. In fact, he knows the end of all major characters. With so many word plays becoming true in an unthinkable way, I think GRRM is putting them deliberately.

 

It has to matter.  If there is no foreshadowing for the characters to take note of (which is what prophecy is - see Dany's visions in the HotU, Quaithe's mysterious riddle, Rahegar believing that the dragon must have three heads) or for the reader to work out (The Red Wedding, Jon's identity) then it serves no purpose.

 

Take the Catelyn / Lady Stoneheart line.  That means nothing to anyone in story or to the reader at the time of reading.  You can reread it later and wonder if GRRM put that in as an Easter Egg for his audience to find on their re-reads and remark on how clever he was but for someone who claims he is a gardener not an architect all these elaborate hidden layers seem a bit contrived.



#18 cxvb

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 04:18 AM

Take the Catelyn / Lady Stoneheart line.  That means nothing to anyone in story or to the reader at the time of reading.  You can reread it later and wonder if GRRM put that in as an Easter Egg for his audience to find on their re-reads and remark on how clever he was but for someone who claims he is a gardener not an architect all these elaborate hidden layers seem a bit contrived.

:agree:  Well said.



#19 AntZ

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 04:27 AM

 

It has to matter.  If there is no foreshadowing for the characters to take note of (which is what prophecy is - see Dany's visions in the HotU, Quaithe's mysterious riddle, Rahegar believing that the dragon must have three heads) or for the reader to work out (The Red Wedding, Jon's identity) then it serves no purpose.

 

Take the Catelyn / Lady Stoneheart line.  That means nothing to anyone in story or to the reader at the time of reading.  You can reread it later and wonder if GRRM put that in as an Easter Egg for his audience to find on their re-reads and remark on how clever he was but for someone who claims he is a gardener not an architect all these elaborate hidden layers seem a bit contrived.

 

He knows the end of all major characters. He plants such subtle clues deliberately for further re-reads. He foreshadowed the RW much clearer than this but the real event was shocking to all. Same goes for Jon's assasination. The reasons were clearly building up but it was very shocking.

 

I personally didnot catch any foreshadowing while reading the series for the first time. So, either George failed to foreshadow me or his clues are really intricate. Without reading the forums, I think majority of the readers will be shocked to read new stuff in the books which are highly examined in the forums and considered as good as canon.



#20 Lord Varys

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Posted 12 August 2014 - 05:08 AM

I really don't buy the rusted dragon foreshadowing anything at all. You really have to hammer (or rust) this thing into place to make a connection between it and Aegon. The chances that Aegon is actually born a dragon (or born to parents who bore the Blackfyre name) are pretty slim, and only in that context would this whole think make any sense.

 

One would also have to consider the fact that rust actually changes the metal - if a black dragon was painted red (say, due to the fact that the Blackfyre Rebellion broke out) I'd also see the parallel, but the inn dragon is permanently changed red by the rust, and that's most likely not the case for Aegon (if we assume that his heritage is going to become an important plot point in the future).

 

Overall, I really don't like or practice the search for clues that are not easily visible. Things GRRM put in there consciously and with intent have to be hidden very carefully and should thus be recognizable rather easily, at least as soon as all the pieces are given.