tze, on 17 December 2011 - 07:50 PM, said:
I always thought the Boltons' habit of wearing other people's skins was them trying, and failing, to emulate the Starks. Not that the Starks flayed their enemies, but that the ancient Starks were probably skinchangers, and could "wear the skins" of men and beasts. The Boltons were approximating the Starks' abilities in the same way that the maesters now approximate the ancient First Men's usage of the ravens as messengers; they can imitate it, but they can't really accomplish the same thing as the people they're copying.
That's an interesting theory.
tze, on 17 December 2011 - 07:50 PM, said:
It's interesting that the Andals' approach to Westeros was apparently to kill off as many of the original inhabitants as they could and simply replace them---culturally, linguistically, and religiously. This contrasts starkly with how the First Men adopted the ways of the Children (and possibly even the Others as well). The Targaryens then came in and basically threw off Valyrian culture in favor of Andal culture (with the noted exceptions of polygamy and incest, but they didn't allow the population at large to do these things, only themselves), while apparently ignoring the remaining cultures of the First Men (Aegon the Conqueror adopted the Seven but chose not to adopt the Old Gods (or even the Drowned God),etc.)
A major theme so far has been the dangers of ethnocentrism, so I can absolutely see the Andal cultures and the Targaryens, who failed to understand or acclimate to the native Westerosi (the Children, giants, and possibly the Others) having that failure come back to bite them, while people like the Starks end up succeeding and thriving because they are more intimately tied into the extremely powerful forces native to Westeros.
The story of Brandon Ice-Eyes is basically a story of how the Starks and the Northmen are the only force really capable of surviving and thriving in winter (from the maps we've been given, there doesn't appear to be any other landmass parallel to the North (the bottom of the Westerosi North is about parallel to the top of Essos)), so the Northmen's culture is necessarily unique. And the point is that winter will kill everyone else, but it won't kill the Starks; if the Others come during winter, then a connection between the Starks and the Others makes sense, in that the Others will kill everybody except the Starks/Northmen.
I see this a little differently. We know that the First Men initially resisted the Old Gods and the CotF (i.e. they fought a prolonged war against them, and chopped down many of their weirwood trees). Their conversion only came later.
The common line of thinking is, we know that the Old Gods have special powers, whereas the Seven do not, so the Old Gods must be true, and the Seven must be false.
I see it this way; the Old Gods are not a human religion. Mankind was never meant to see into the future, or invade the bodies of other animals. If everyone were to embrace such a religion, it could seriously screw up human society.
Due to our perspective, we associate the Old Gods with the Starks, and associate Starks with the good guys, so we often overlook some of the more sinister aspects of their religion. But consider warging, for example. What's actually going on there? Someone is invading the body and mind of another living being and stealing their free will. When Bran wargs with Hodor, for instance, Hodor is terrified by the experience, yet Bran continues regardless. It's not a nice thing to be doing, in other words.
The same can be said for R'hllor. There are aspects to that religion that we know are sinister (namely, burning people to death in sacrifice). If all of humanity were to embrace such a religion, society would be doomed. If we could all look into the fires and read the future like Moqorro, what would be the point of living? Humans were never meant to see their future.
These religions, IMO, are incompatible with society, and were never meant for humanity in the first place (at least in the case of the Old Gods). The Seven, however, are a very human religion, that can provide balance and order in the world. There is no seeing into the future, there is no shooting fireballs from your body (like Melisandre did when she killed Orell's eagle), there is no blood magic, and there is no body-snatching, either. This is a good thing.
It may be taboo to say, but there is a fine line between tolerance and madness. Where do we draw the line? Tolerate another religion... that sounds good, but what if that religion practices cannibalism, or sex slavery, or something that is inherently intolerable (i.e. incompatible with society)? Should it be tolerated then?
In this case, I'd say ethnocentrism is a good thing. There's a reason why Aegon rejected the Old Gods.
In history, it's relatable to Kublai Khan. During his reign, he crushed a cannibalistic cult in Central Asia. In their religion, they'd lure travelers into their homes, kill them, cook them and eat them. By doing this, they believed they were gaining their victim's life-force. It was a practice based in spiritualism, but clearly fucked up, and Kublai Khan was right in stamping it out.
Warging is much the same (how would you like Bran warging with you, for example?), and humanity would be well-justified in wiping the Old Gods out, IMO.
Edited by BrosBeforeSnows, 17 December 2011 - 08:31 PM.