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[ADwD Spoilers] Plagues - Greyscale and the Pale Mare


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#21 Breakspear

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 09:32 AM

...it is possible that Jon will wake stone dragons by curing Aegon of greyscale.


This was my thought too. If Jon is a Targ, and some Targs are immune to disease (as has been suggested), it makes a sort of sense that "kings blood" could "wake a stone dragon".

#22 Tony Rigatoni

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 11:29 AM

I never noticed that greyscale has similarities to the Other's zombies. They might not be the same thing now, but could have descended from a virus or something from long ago. I always thought the Others were ghosts/gouls or demons but maybe the Others were a group of humans originally. Then this greyscalish disease came, and they survived by preforming a dark ritual on themselves that gave them the traits of the Others. Now the Others infect normal people with their lingering disease which is similar to greyscale but because of the ritual, keeps you alive once you die.

K, reading that back it looks like a crack-pot theory but oh well!

#23 rue721

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 02:23 PM

Now the Others infect normal people with their lingering disease which is similar to greyscale but because of the ritual, keeps you alive once you die.


Viruses are living things, and as they spread throughout your body, some are able to manipulate your body into doing things that will keep them alive -- stuff like, you might crave warmth, a certain food, etc. Whatever the chemical process the virus needs your body to do, it'll release chemicals that make you crave whatever will trigger that process. One example would be, if a certain virus is connected with your glandular system, it might release chemicals or inhibit your own body's chemicals in a way that makes you feel very hungry.

So what might happen in terms of the Others is, even though the human being is dead, the *virus* isn't. Because it's so cold out and the virus is going to have trouble surviving without its host or finding a new host, it might have adapted in a way that allows it to keep the basic functions of its host's body going, or adapted so that it could take over some of those functions itself.

In that way, it could "reanimate" the dead, though it wouldn't be able to stop the body from rotting somewhat, and the degree of "reanimation" wouldn't be the same as the degree to which the original person was alive. If that were true, and the Others are infected/dead human beings, then what the people are fighting when they're fighting them is actually a virus puppeteering a human body.

I don't think GRRM is going there, to be honest, and it's a pretty out-there way of thinking of how a virus could affect the body. But it's kind of fun to think about.../smile.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':)' />

I never noticed that greyscale has similarities to the Other's zombies. They might not be the same thing now, but could have descended from a virus or something from long ago.


Greyscale and the Others's issue take place in fairly different environments, so even if they're related viruses, they're going to have different adaptations. Both those environments are fairly wet. Maybe fire and dragonglass are dangerous for the virus because they're *dry*?

They do both make the infected become aggressive and nearly immune to pain.

Greyscale is easily communicable, but it's also found in environments with lots of possible hosts, which might be why people who have it seem reckless -- the virus doesn't care about the health of the host's body as much as it cares about being spread. On the other hand, whatever the Others have is in an environment with very few hosts, so it might lead the host to act very protective over its body (not be reckless) and also might stick with the host after death, making the adjustments necessary.

If the Others' virus needs to stay in one host and make that host last as long as possible, maybe it is actually incubating within the host for as long as possible -- until the host's death. The host would be more equipped and likely to protect itself than a virus would be able to -- so maybe the virus lives off the host and uses the human being's own self-protection drive to maintain the host/keep the virus alive, and it's only when the host is no longer able to maintain those duties that the virus comes to the fore?

As for who could be incubating the virus -- apparently, it's spreading. And it is communicable between humans and animals, too?

If only Pasteur were around -- these people need a vaccine! /tongue.gif' class='bbc_emoticon' alt=':P' />

As for the Pale Mare...The aspect of being so thirsty you want to drink an ocean, but everything just leaking out of you anyway until you're empty and dead -- that does seem like it has some metaphorical connection with emotional need or ambition?

When the master gets it, Tyrion immediately grabs Penny, they both go on about slavery being basically what makes the world go round, and flee to the sellswords. Is the Pale Mare what Penny seems to have, too? If it is, then when she shows symptoms, Tyrion slaps her, gives her all the worst news he can (Crunch is dead, etc), and scolds her into doing what he wants her to (stay with him and the sellswords/stop performing). I don't know, I'm still wondering how that connects to anything.

Also, when Tyrion pricks himself and signs his name as Lord of Casterly Rock, he brings up that it still hurts and tips his hat to the Half-Maester -- he brings up greyscale.

Then, I just read this passage, in CoK:
"He loved his brother's reckless wrath, but it was their lord father he must try and emulate. Stone, I must be stone, I must be Casterly Rock, hard and unmovable. If I fail this test, I had as lief seek out the nearest grotesquerie (778)."

That seems to have a lot of resonance with the scene in DwD, but...who knows what it means about what "turning to stone" does to a person?

Is the Pale Mare about turning to water, and greyscale about turning to stone, and the Others' disease about turning to ice?

Edited by rue721, 10 August 2011 - 03:39 PM.


#24 pappymojo

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 03:58 PM

I'm not sure that Grayscale and the Gray Plague are related, but if they are, could they be similar to chicken pox (that affects children) and shingles (which can be life threatening and affects adults who were never exposed to chicken pox and children)?

#25 Lord Godric

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 04:10 PM

Martin probably re-read the first four books and said to himself, "There's really not enough unavoidable misery in this series; I need some plagues."

Clearly you haven't read the Dunk and Egg novellas. The Great Spring Sickness plauged Westeros (and was in GRRM's mind) much earlier than ADwD.

#26 MillerEP

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 05:19 PM

That was my exact thought. I was Val's reaction that made me believe that the Greyscale had a much larger part to play than to off a tragic hero like Connington. Though I do see him causing some chaos in the south...



Oooh, hadn't thought of that. It certainly would make an interesting bit of storytelling.

Re: The Pale Mare, I genuinely think that's it's just for authenticity (sickness haunts encamped soldiers) and as a story device, but I thought the characterization of the disease is really fascinating.

I took the characterization of the disease to be just a form of normal water borne disease that occurs when a lot of unclean people are sharing a cramped place and water source. I don't think there was much symbolism there. If you remember about the Pale Mare in Tyrion's POVs before he escaped they repeatedly told him give him as much water as he asks for, because dehydration was one of the main causes of death for the disease (just like cholera or dysentery which are both waterborne diseases), and they repeatedly told him "make sure you don't get water from the River" to which tyrion commented that he already knew that much.

#27 snowjob

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Posted 20 January 2013 - 08:16 PM

The Pale Mare is just a poetic name for dysentery. Perhaps the name for it on Essos, as in Westeros they refer to it as the bloody flux. See the definition of dysentery that I found online:

Dysentery (formerly known as flux or the bloody flux) is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the feces[1] with fever, abdominal pain,[2] and rectal tenesmus (a feeling of incomplete defecation), caused by any kind of infection.


Greyscale I'm not so sure about. It sounds like a variation of leprosy with the viral properties of chickenpox adapted for ASOIAF. There are no "pox" marks with greyscale, but once you have it as a child (like Shireen) you should be immune to it later in life. The only time the chickenpox virus reappears in adults is in the form of shingles.

Lastly, someone mentioned the plague (Black Death) in Europe. The plague is a bacterial infection not a viral infection. Your body can develop resistance to a bacterial infection, but you are not immune from getting it again. Kind of like strep throat, which is a bacterial (not viral) infection. You can get strep over and over during your lifetime. However when your immune system is strong, you are able to resist it.

#28 Dimadick

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Posted 21 January 2013 - 05:04 PM

The Pale Mare is just a poetic name for dysentery. Perhaps the name for it on Essos, as in Westeros they refer to it as the bloody flux. See the definition of dysentery that I found online:

Dysentery (formerly known as flux or the bloody flux) is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon, that results in severe diarrhea containing mucus and/or blood in the feces[1] with fever, abdominal pain,[2] and rectal tenesmus (a feeling of incomplete defecation), caused by any kind of infection.


It could be shigellosis, also known as "bacillary dysentery", which accounts for about 100,000 deaths per year (worldwide) in the 21st century. Typically the bacteria are transmitted through water contaminated with human feces, through direct contact with infected individuals, and through houseflies. In the latter case, the flies come in contact with contaminated feces, become contaminated themselves, and then help transport the bacteria when coming in touch with food and eating utensils.

Most recent cases of shigellosis pandemics are related to political upheavals and natural disasters, forcing a sufficiently large population to inhabit an area with no sanitation, For example "During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, approximately 20 000 Rwandan refugees who had fled into the North Kivu region of Zaire died in one month from dysentery caused by a strain of S dysenteriae that was resistant to all commonly used antibiotics." See: http://www.who.int/v.../en/index6.html

#29 Arya Stalka

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 09:24 AM

Hmmm if children with greyscale shouldn't ever be touched by grey plague... someone or something will bring grey plague to Shireen. Perhaps from beyond the wall? That's my guess as to why Val freaked out. Wildlings seem so smart when it comes to explaining things to Jon; he knows nothing. So if that occurs what happens when she gets touched by grey plague? Does the greyscale become a contagion?

Connington has definitely brought greyscale to the south though he is taking great care to conceal it. I'm not convinced he is keeping it under control. He needs to cut his hand off and get one like Jaime.

#30 Mulled Wino

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 10:22 AM

well, we know that Tyrion is basically impervious to both of them.

#31 jarl the climber

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Posted 22 January 2013 - 08:09 PM

Hmmm if children with greyscale shouldn't ever be touched by grey plague... someone or something will bring grey plague to Shireen. Perhaps from beyond the wall? That's my guess as to why Val freaked out. Wildlings seem so smart when it comes to explaining things to Jon; he knows nothing. So if that occurs what happens when she gets touched by grey plague? Does the greyscale become a contagion?

Connington has definitely brought greyscale to the south though he is taking great care to conceal it. I'm not convinced he is keeping it under control. He needs to cut his hand off and get one like Jaime.

My thinking is that if there is an outbreak of the grey plauge somebody might get the idea of using this less virulent form as a form of innoculation to combat the spread of the disease. Tyrion just said that Shireens form of the disease was, "oft seen in children", not that it exclusively affected them. Its confusing because there are illnesses,diseases, viruses, etc. that are more fatal to adults that catch them but not children.

#32 Sand_Snake

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 08:48 AM

I am fairly sure that greyscale is going to be fairly, if not, very important in the future.
In the last couple of books there has been such a large focus on it and I don't think GRRM just put that in there for fun....
I think when Tyrion goes past the Sorrows it could be possible foreshadowing of either a big outbreak somewhere important or some form of less direct foreshadowing with something to do with suffering and leaders stuff ????
Also there is constantly mentions of 'stone' in the books and greyscale, to me seems like just slow petrification of the human body.

#33 Greymoon

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 06:58 PM

Shireen almost drowned and got greyscale from the water, yeah? (Wasn't she saved by Patch Face? )

Also, some speculate that those who have been in contact with the virius but survived, like Shireen, might be imune to it.

Based on that, I just had this thought:

What if the Iron Men were, some time way back, familiar with Greyscale? Their God is the drowned God after all, and their words are: "What is dead, may never die"... which could be a roundabout way of saying... "He who was touched by Greyscale, may never die"

So, could the 'drowning ritual' of the Iron Men have developed from some left over knowledge about immunizing children against Greyscale? could the Drowned God have the answer to Greyscale? Might that explain why Aeron Greyjoy is still around?

Extrapolating: We have so many different religions and so many prophecies from different cultures that bear similarities... I like to think that the Prince Who Was Promised = AA reborn = The Stallion that mounts the World etc... So eventually, on a subliminal level (as in sub-story, not spotted on first read), each different Religion/God(s) could have their own champions fight against the Great Evil...Aeron, Melisandre, and Bran I see as the guides to whomever their champion ends up being.

Basically, this would mean the story ends not with one great hero, but with quite a few different ones. And, by the way... does anyone else think there is no Great Evil? but only a sum of smaller evils? Winter + plague + famine + Others + ... ?

#34 Greymoon

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Posted 27 January 2013 - 07:22 PM

My thinking is that if there is an outbreak of the grey plauge somebody might get the idea of using this less virulent form as a form of innoculation to combat the spread of the disease. Tyrion just said that Shireens form of the disease was, "oft seen in children", not that it exclusively affected them. Its confusing because there are illnesses,diseases, viruses, etc. that are more fatal to adults that catch them but not children.


In order to get the idea to use a less virulent form the westerosis would have to have some advanced knowledge of medecine, no? I don't think it likely they'd just try their luck at possibly isolating a less virulent form, especially since they would first have to figure out there might be more then one kind of Greyscale.

Granted the maesters seem to have some advanced knowledge of healing, and Cersei has one on hands who likes to experiment.

Also, children might not always die from it, but we don't actually know that for sure. The way I understood it from what Val said, the virius is just sort of dormant in Shireen and might yet wake up.

That contradicts my earlier post, but, I'd say, it all depends on whether Shireen really is immune to it, or eventually succombs... half her face is immobilized, which might be proof she's still carrying a dormant form of the virius. Tyrion, however, could either be very lucky, or really immune.