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  1. This leeching in front of gathered lords is a major clue about Bolton's turncloak intentions (or, more likely, his longtime loyalty to Tywin Lannister and lack of loyalty to House Stark) and his plan to become warden of the north. The whole chapter - burning the book, hunting wolves, burning Fat Walda's letter - contains many clues about his intention to betray Robb Stark. With that in mind, I see Roose's use of engorged leeches to be phallic symbolism: a public act of (pardon the slang) jerking off or, because Arya is the one handling the leeches, being stroked off by Ned Stark's little girl. This is a symbolic bedding, and it is closely grouped in ACoK with the symbolic bedding ("unkiss") of Sansa by Sandor Clegane in her bedchamber after the Battle of the Blackwater, and a symbolic bedding of Theon by Bran (via Bran's burned, melted direwolf's head pin which pricks Theon as he carries it around in his pocket). Note that Arya must wear the flayed man colors of House Bolton in this chapter as she performs the duties of cupbearer in Roose's household - this is a symbolic cloaking or skinchanging, such as a bride would experience in a Westeros wedding ceremony. Beddings are supposed to be witnessed to ensure consummation of the alliance represented by a highborn marriage. Roose's leeching (symbolic bedding) of Arya therefore takes place before the assembled Frey lords and other northern bannermen. In addition to revealing or foreshadowing Roose's turncloak intentions, this chapter represents a symbolic rebirth for Arya. She got blood on her hands with the "Weasel Soup" killing of the dungeon guards in the previous Arya POV chapter, and she makes the first use of the iron coin from Jaqen in this chapter, taking the first step on her journey to join the Faceless Men. I believe the author is telling us that her symbolic wedding / bedding with Roose Bolton has made her a blood-thirsty killer, much like the Bolton family. Roose "warged" into wolfskins, hunting and killing seven adult wolves and two cubs, and ordering a bed cover and mittens made from their skins. Arya "skinchanges" into the Flayed Man colors, using her livery to gain the trust of a guard who she kills in order to escape with Gendry and Hot Pie. P.S. I'm glad if you have stopped self-harming. It's interesting that you connected Roose's actions to a past behavior of your own. I imagine, the fact that you see Roose as a bad guy, and his behavior as creepy and destructive, is a good sign that your recovery is going in the right direction. "Strength to your arm!" as they would say in Westeros.
  2. More thoughts about @Lollygag's liminal theory and @Springwatch's "Heroes up / Monsters down" theory. When Arya is being initiated into the House of Black and White, she compares her bed there to the bed at Harrenhal, where she scrubbed steps: The dead were never hard to find. They came to the House of Black and White, prayed for an hour or a day or a year, drank sweet dark water from the pool, and stretched out on a stone bed behind one god or another. They closed their eyes, and slept, and never woke. . . . Her bed was stone, and reminded her of Harrenhal and the bed she’d slept in when scrubbing steps for Weese. The mattress was stuffed with rags instead of straw, which made it lumpier than the one she’d had at Harrenhal, but less scratchy, too. She was allowed as many blankets as she wished; thick woolen blankets, red and green and plaid. And her cell was hers alone. She kept her treasures there: the silver fork and floppy hat and fingerless gloves given her by the sailors on the Titan’s Daughter, her dagger, boots, and belt, her small store of coins, the clothes she had been wearing . . . And Needle. [AFfC, Arya II] When the waif and the Kindly Man discover the way she interacts with these possessions, the KM tells her she has to get rid of all of them if she wants to stay and be obedient to the God of Many Faces. Her thoughts indicate that she does not want to give up her true identity as Arya Stark, but she doesn't like her other options and she tells the Kindly Man she wants to stay. In other words, she is at a turning point - a liminal, transitional place that Lollygag describes. I suspect the hiding of the sword behind a loose stone in the middle of the stairs is a signal to the reader that Arya has not committed to the Faceless Men, even though she appears to be a full initiate. We KNOW she is going to go back for that sword some day, and the fact that it is in the middle of a set of steps tells us she could go up or down when she retrieves it. The paragraph preceding the description of her bed chamber emphasizes vaults and "the lower sanctum where only the priests could go." When the Kindly Man asks her what she thinks of when she smells the soothing candles of the Faceless Men, she thinks of Winterfell but all things at ground or lower levels: the stable, the crypt, the yard, the gods wood, bread baking (presumably in the kitchen). Her current duties at the temple all seem to be on the main level, too. This implies that her decision about joining the Faceless Men will take her in the direction of the vaults and "lower sanctum" from her current location in the liminal space. Most readers would probably agree that turning a young girl into an assassin is monstrous, so Springwatch's "monsters down" notion seems borne out by this development in Arya's arc. In TWoW,
  3. This might be right. If so, it goes back to the idea of the Hero's Journey, I would think, and possibly the point made by Springwatch: Maybe GRRM's unique twist is that some heroes want to go upstairs and others want to go downstairs. Others, such as Theon, seem to be able to do both. (And if there is wordplay on whores and heroes, the upstairs / downstairs resolution might answer the question, "Where do whores go?") As I thought about this steps motif today, I kept coming back to Arya imagining each step as the face of a person she wants dead. Arya's bedtime list of people she wants dead is referred to as her "prayer." So the step / sept wordplay really comes into play here, with Arya using each step as a place of "prayer". And then she hides the sword Needle inside a step leading down to the canals. All that could fit with the idea that the steps are a transitional place, but is a sept usually a destination? People go there for a purpose such as the beheading of Ned, a wedding for Joffrey and Margaery or a funeral for Tywin. I suppose those might be moments of transition, too. Maybe your liminal idea sums it up, even if a step is a place for "religious" activity. I seems relevant to recall Jaime slaying Aerys with his (now lost) kingslayer hand and then ascending the steps to the Iron Throne, where Ned Stark found him when he entered the great hall. The illustration of the Iron Throne in TWOIAF is supposed to be much more like what GRRM envisioned than the little throne used for the tv show, and the illustration shows a lot of steps. Maybe the difference between Tyrion's urge to go down steps and Jaime's urge to go up steps has to do with the destiny of sitting on the Iron Throne. Both of them have done it now - Tyrion when he is the acting Hand of the King, receiving petitioners such as Aliser Thorne, asking for more recruits for the Night's Watch. Tyrion feels good about being Hand of the King, though, and he likes sitting on the throne. So maybe "fear of responsibility" is not a good match for his apparent desire to avoid going "up". Very nice catch. So we have Arya observing the two men coming up out of the well at the Red Keep; Sam Tarly coming up out of the well at the Night Fort, then leading Bran and his companions down into the well; and Tyrion walking down steps outside of a tower but seeming to emerge from underwater as he makes his way down the steps. Maybe the steps outside of a tower being paired with the steps inside of a well are confirmation of @GloubieBoulga's idea of the mirror image - up and down are mirror images of each other, with more in common than one might expect. Those TWOIAF references are excellent. Very reminiscent of the unseen and partially collapsed lower levels of the Winterfell crypt as well as the uncharted and deadly tunnels built into Maegor's Holdfast. I'm thinking of the men lost looking in the tunnels under the Tower of the Hand after Tywin's murder. I was also thinking about the Stepstones today. Guess I should go back and read about those islands if I am to fully understand steps. This is a really good point. Jon climbing the Wall with the Free Folk is like Bran climbing the walls at Winterfell instead of using the stairs. And like Theon "flowing" over the walls of Winterfell when he invades with his Ironmen. Littlefinger gets Ned to climb down the side of Aegon's Hill using the nearly invisible foot and handholds instead of steps. That little journey is almost like Alice following the March Hare down the rabbit hole, and Ned finds Littlefinger eating an apple when he reaches the bottom - is this like the snake in the Garden of Eden with the fruit of knowledge? What does it mean that some journeys explicitly avoid the use of steps? I just remembered - in addition to the situation where Jon tells Ghost that he can't come with Jon because Jon is going to climb the Wall and there are no steps, there is a scene where Bran is warging Summer, who is trapped in the gods wood with Shaggy. Bran tries to get Summer to run up the trunk of a slanted Sentinel Pine that leans up against the wall enclosing the woods, but Summer can't do it. And Theon will exit Winterfell with Jeyne without going down any steps. There has to be a deeper meaning to these step-free scenes. Does it have to do with the Moon Door at the Eyrie and making people fly? Thanks, everyone, for your ideas so far. This is uncovering some interesting possibilities.
  4. Please help to compile a list of significant steps, stairs, climbs, descents. Help is also needed to figure out the meaning of these climbs and descents. Are some characters naturally supposed to be "up" while others inhabit "down"? Lollygag made an interesting observation about a pair of Lannister dreams: Tyrion's nightmare fear of meeting the Shrouded Lord at the top of a flight of stairs and Jaime being forced down stairs into the unfamiliar flooded cavern where he encounters his father, sister and son. Tyrion does not want to go up and ends up tumbling down the stairs; Jaime does not want to go down but is forced down by hooded figures. Significant stairs seems like a subject that hasn't been explored (correct me if I'm wrong). The thread containing Lollygag's post is on an entirely different topic, so I felt a continuing discussion of stairs should have its own thread. Elsewhere in this forum, I tried to compare the "climbs" of Bran and Jon with the "descents" of Sansa and Sweetrobin. Maybe also Ned's descent with Littlefinger from the Red Keep to the brothel in King's Landing where Catelyn is hiding. My thinking was that these climbs and descents were variations on the Hero's Journey pattern (although I realize that GRRM likes to subvert tropes and wouldn't wholesale adopt the same pattern for a bunch of characters). But I think the steps have a more specific meaning than just personal growth for a hero. I have also looked at the probably pun on "step" and "sept" and even started a list of significant steps in another thread. (Maybe I just need to drop this topic - I hadn't realized how many times I've tried to sort it out already, until I started searching for old posts.) These are the steps I singled out in that link: This passage seems particularly significant in understanding steps in ASOIAF: Theon led the way up the stairs. I have climbed these steps a thousand times before. As a boy he would run up; descending, he would take the steps three at a time, leaping. Once he leapt right into Old Nan an knocked her to the floor. That earned him the worst thrashing he ever had at Winterfell, though it was almost tender compared to the beatings his brothers used to give him back on Pyke. He and Robb had fought many a heroic battle on these steps, slashing at one another with wooden swords. Good training, that; it brought home how hard it was to fight your way up a spiral stair against determined opposition. Ser Rodrik liked to say that one good man could hold a hundred, fighting down. [ADwD, Theon I] Oddly, I see a potential link here between skinchanging and steps. The words GRRM uses are, "he leapt right into Old Nan." This sounds like Bran slipping into the skin of Hodor, who is associated with opening a door at the top of the crypt stairs and with hoisting his traveling companions through a "murder hole" in the Queen's Crown tower. We know that Bran was famous for climbing around Winterfell without using stairs and he is also known to readers as the guy who violates the taboo against skinchanging into human beings. Are people who leap on stairs or who skip steps similar to skinchangers? Time travelers? Does climbing or descending stairs represent death / rebirth? Or can it represent a change in a person's identity or worldview somehow, like skinchanging? The ups and downs of Winterfell seem particularly significant, although that perception might be influenced by the large number of POVs associated with Winterfell. This passage tells us that navigating the levels of Winterfell is hard to understand: Bran could perch for hours among the shapeless, rain-worn gargoyles that brooded over the First Keep, watching it all: the men drilling with wood and steel in the yard, the cooks tending their vegetables in the glass garden, restless dogs running back and forth in the kennels, the silence of the godswood, the girls gossiping beside the washing well. It made him feel like he was lord of the castle, in a way even Robb would never know. It taught him Winterfell's secrets too. The builders had not even leveled the earth; there were hills and valleys behind the walls of Winterfell. There was a covered bridge that went from the fourth floor of the bell tower across to the second floor of the rookery. Bran knew about that. And he knew you could get inside the inner wall by the south gate, climb three floors and run all the way around Winterfell through a narrow tunnel in the stone, and then come out on ground level at the north gate, with a hundred feet of wall looming over you. Even Maester Luwin didn't know that, Bran was convinced. [AGoT, Bran II] Tyrion has a memorable moment on a strange exterior set of steps at Winterfell's library tower: ‘See that you return the books to the shelves. Be gentle with the Valyrian scrolls, the parchment is very dry. Ayrmidon’s Engines of War is quite rare, and yours is the only complete copy I’ve ever seen.’ Chayle gaped at him, still half-asleep. Patiently, Tyrion repeated his instructions, then clapped the septon on the shoulder and left him to his tasks. Outside, Tyrion swallowed a lungful of the cold morning air and began his laborious descent of the steep stone steps that corkscrewed around the exterior of the library tower. It was slow going; the steps were cut high and narrow, while his legs were short and twisted. Back in the realm of wordplay, there we have the close juxtaposition of septon and steps. Septon Chayle will be thrown in a well when Theon arrives, and presumed drowned. However, drowning is not the same thing as dying when it is inflicted by a follower of the Drowned God. Here we have Chayle gaping like a fish and Tyrion emerging from the library and swallowing a lungful of air, as if he has just surfaced from being under water. But maybe Winterfell's steps aren't unique or maybe they are part of a group of unique steps. I have wondered whether GRRM wants us to compare Harrenhal and the Night Fort to Winterfell. With Sam leading the way, Bran and his traveling companions descend down the well in the kitchen of the Night Fort, arriving at the secret Black Gate under the Wall. At Harrenhal, we have a number of explicit references to steps: On the road Arya had felt like a sheep, but Harrenhal turned her into a mouse. She was grey as a mouse in her scratchy wool shift, and like a mouse she kept to the crannies and crevices and dark holes of the castle, scurrying out of the way of the mighty. Sometimes she thought they were all mice within those thick walls, even the knights and great lords. The size of the castle made even Gregor Clegane seem small. Harrenhal covered thrice as much ground as Winterfell, and its buildings were so much larger they could scarcely be compared. . . . Walls, doors, halls, steps, everything was built to an inhuman scale that made Arya remember the stories Old Nan used to tell of the giants who lived beyond the Wall. [ACoK, Arya VII] She spent the rest of that day scrubbing steps inside the Wailing Tower. By evenfall her hands were raw and bleeding and her arms so sore they trembled when she lugged the pail back to the cellar. . . . . . there was always Weese. She thought of him again the next morning, when lack of sleep made her yawn. ‘Weasel,’ Weese purred, ‘next time I see that mouth droop open, I’ll pull out your tongue and feed it to my bitch.’ He twisted her ear between his fingers to make certain she’d heard, and told her to get back to those steps, he wanted them clean down to the third landing by nightfall. As she worked, Arya thought about the people she wanted dead. She pretended she could see their faces on the steps, and scrubbed harder to wipe them away. The Starks were at war with the Lannisters and she was a Stark, so she should kill as many Lannisters as she could, that was what you did in wars. But she didn’t think she could trust Jaqen. I should kill them myself. Whenever her father had condemned a man to death, he did the deed himself with Ice, his greatsword. ‘If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look him in the face and hear his last words,’ she’d heard him tell Robb and Jon once. [ACoK, Arya VIII] As I've been putting together citations for this post and re-reading old threads, one new insight has struck me: there seem to be characters who can easily navigate steps - maybe only in one direction? maybe both up and down? - and who might act as guides for other characters. Ser Rodrik Cassel clearly serves that function for Robb and Theon. Old Nan and Hodor's names also seem to come up in connection with the traversing of steps. (It might also be significant that Old Nan's last son or grandson died on the Wall at Pyke during Greyjoy's Rebellion - he may have performed the role of a guide or gate-opener at that strategic wall.) Bran descends and ascends steps on Hodor's back but climbed walls without using stairways before his fall. Bran was not happy when Rickon invited the Walders into the Winterfell crypt, and it is the Walders who retrieve Theon from the Dreadfort dungeon when Ramsay decides to temporarily restore Theon/Reek to his Ironborn identity. Are the Walders special step guides like these other characters? Are all Freys step guides? Maybe Theon is one of these step guides, too, before he becomes Reek. Here is the passage at Riverrun with Catelyn Stark: Theon Greyjoy vaulted over the side of the boat and lifted Catelyn by the waist, setting her on a dry step above him as water lapped around his boots. [AGoT] If he is someone who - as Theon - can move both up and down stairs and can guide others up and down stairs, that explains how he takes the lead in the first passage I cited, where he is helping the undercover washerwomen to kidnap fArya (Jeyne Poole) from Ramsay's bedchamber. It's also significant, of course, that Lady Dunstan helps him to shake off his Reek identity and recover his Theon identity by asking him to help her find and enter the Winterfell crypt: 'Somewhere beneath us are the crypts where the old Stark kings sit in darkness. My men have not been able to find the way down into them. They have been through all the undercrofts and cellars, even the dungeons, but . . .' 'The crypts cannot be accessed from the dungeons, my lady.' 'Can you show me the way down?' 'There's nothing down there but - ' '- dead Starks? Aye. And all my favorite Starks are dead, as it happens. Do you know the way or not?' 'I do.' He did not like the crypts, had never liked the crypts, but he was no stranger to them. ... The way was narrow and steep, the steps worn in the center by centuries of feet. They went single file - the serjeant with the lantern, then Theon and Lady Dustin, her other man behind them. He had always thought of the crypts as cold, and so they seemed in summer, but now as they descended the air grew warmer. Not warm, never warm, but warmer than above. Down there below the earth, it would seem, the chill was constant, unchanging. 'The bride weeps,' Lady Dustin said, as they made their way down, step by careful step. 'Our little Lady Arya.' Take care now. Take care, take care. He put one hand on the wall. The shifting torchlight made the steps seem to move beneath his feet. 'As . . . as you say, m'lady.' ... 'My lady,' Theon broke in, 'Here we are.' 'The steps go farther down,' observed Lady Dustin. 'There are lower levels. Older. The lowest level is partly collapsed, I hear. I have never been down there.' He pushed the door open and led them out ... [ADwD, The Turncloak]
  5. Great catch! I know that GRRM has said that early drafts showed Tyrion actually encountering the Shrouded Lord. I assumed the dream substituted for the literal encounter but I have also wondered whether Penny represents a symbolic Shrouded Lord - she keeps wanting to kiss Tyrion, and he keeps resisting. "Lord of Light, bless your slave Moqorro, and light his way in the dark places of the world," the red priest boomed . . . That was when Tyrion noticed Penny, watching the mummery from the steep wooden stair that led down beneath the sterncastle. She stood on one of the lower steps, so only the top of her head was visible. Beneath her hood her eyes shone big and white in the light of the nightfire. She had her dog with her, the big grey hound she rode in the mock jousts. [ADwD, Tyrion VIII] Here, Penny sounds like a stand-in for Melisandre, presiding over the appeal to R'hllor. In one of Melisandre's fire ceremonies at The Wall, the wordplay on "god" and "dog" was used in a description of a fire, so it's probably significant that Penny's dog was at her side in this context. But this passage links back to the Craster / Tywin "pile of shit" link, as well as your upstairs/downstairs observation. On the deck of the Selaesori Qhoran, Moqorro points out for Tyrion and Penny the looming storm on the horizon: Penny was lost. "I don't understand. What does it mean?" "It means we had best get below. Ser Jorah has exiled me from our cabin. Might I hide in yours when the time comes?" "Yes," she said. "You would be . . . oh . . . " . . . "The time has come to hide." Tyrion took Penny by the arm and led her belowdecks. Pretty and Crunch were both half-mad with fear. The dog was barking, barking, barking. He knocked Tyrion right off his feet as they entered. The sow had been shitting everywhere. Tyrion cleaned that up as best he could whilst Penny tried to calm the animals. Then they tied down or put away anything that was still loose. "I'm frightened," Penny confessed. The cabin had begun to tilt and jump, going this way and that as the waves hammered at the hull of the ship. . . . "We should play a game," Tyrion suggested. "That might help take our thoughts off the storm. . . . When you were a little girl, did you ever play come-into-my-castle?" [ADwD, Tyrion IX] On The Shy Maid, Tyrion enjoyed sewing. Here, he is cleaning up after the sow. I think this is all part of the wordplay around sewers and sewing. Tyrion is a self-trained expert on sewers, having cleared the drains at Casterly Rock. (Hmm. I wonder whether we should be looking for a Twelve Labors of Hercules connection, with this representing the Augean Stables? Hercules wears a lion skin and that has a Lannister connotation, for sure. We also get a couple of references to "hide" in these passages, and I suspect there is wordplay around animal skins and skinchanging when we see the word "hide".) As a result of this storm, the "constipated" ship's figurehead of the fragrant civil servant (compared to a King's Hand) will be badly damaged, losing an arm (like Jaime). It would be great if the Craster / Tywin "pile of shit" link could help us to sort out another layer of the complex sewing motif that GRRM has planted throughout the books. There seems to be something here about the cathartic release of the constipated person - Tyrion clearing the clogged drains might be connected to the voiding of Tywin's bowels at the moment Tyrion kills him. The Ironborn do not sow but at Moat Cailin, Theon touches the tip of a sword to Ralf Kenning's infected wound, setting loose a gush of puss and blood that finally allows Ralf's suffering to end with death. Hmm. That sounds like the Faceless Men rationale for assassination, and we know that Arya practices needle work when she uses her sword. Lysa requests a song about a lady sewing in her garden just when she is about to throw Sansa out the moon door. I do think Tyrion's ordeal on the Selaesori Qhoran represents a death and rebirth for him, much like Dany's rebirth in Drogo's funeral pyre. The shitting symbolism could be connected to the idea of laying an egg - Tywin was the goose that laid gold eggs according to the rumor that he shitted gold. Maybe Penny's big white eyes (described in the first citation, above) link to the egg / eye / Ei (German word for egg) pun, and the storm allows those eggs to "hatch," leading to rebirth for Tyrion and . . . Ser Jorah? Penny? Moqorro? By contrast, Craster has no problem with shitting or with producing offspring. He has many daughters and many sons and he lives on a giant compound built of shit. Craster giving his sons to his gods - the ice creatures called The Others - could also connect to the eyes / ice / egg / Ei wordplay. In this case, the newly- "hatched" baby boys go directly from Ei to ice. But how does this link back to the Jaime nightmare scene for which you noted the strong connection to Tyrion's upstairs / downstairs situations? Part of the strange cargo on board the Selaesori Qhoran is a corpse pickled in brine. I suspect that there is deliberate wordplay here on "brine" and "Brienne." The needle / sewing connection also alludes to Tywin telling Jaime that he gave him a sword - Tyrion was given the sewers; Jaime was given the sword (needle) which Jaime, in turn, gave to Brienne. Comments elsewhere in this forum have proposed that Maester Aemon's corpse might be reanimated aboard the Cinnamon Wind ship that carries Marwyn to Meereen. My guess is that it will be a symbolic reanimation, not literal, but the same idea might apply to a symbolic rebirth of the brine corpse as part of Tyrion's rebirth on the Selaesori Qhoran. (More wordplay just occurred to me: Vargo Hoat was responsible for cutting off Jaime's sword arm; Jaime's sword is called Oathkeeper. Hoat and Oath. Probably another connection.)
  6. I think the "iron" wordplay might actually be on the French word "noir" (also "noire"). Those words might also be linked to the important river Rhoyne, which would tie in very nicely to a Blackwood / Ironwood connection. Fascinating! I hope you will share asap when you are ready. I have been intrigued by a lot of the detail in Tyrion's voyages on the Shy Maid and the Selaesori Qhoran - the people on board each ship or boat, where Tyrion sleeps, what he eats and reads, his sewing, his asking Penny to be his father (in a symbolic sense), his voluntary and involuntary swims in the river, the turtle, the Shrouded Lord, etc. If I'm right about the iron / noir / Rhoyne connection, your Blackwood / Ironwood connection and Jaime / things in the water theory could help to clarify why so many forces seem to conspire to get Tyrion into the water while he is in Essos.
  7. Regarding the ax given by Mormont to Craster - does it help to consider the ax Asha Greyjoy calls for Rolfe to throw to her at the feast at Pyke? She calls the ax her husband and the dirk (knife) her sweet suckling babe. Craster is killed by a guy named Dirk. (If the gifted ax is also Craster's "lord husband," maybe his murder by Dirk represents the revenge of his many sons - Craster is killed by a "sweet, suckling babe". Of course, Tywin will also be killed by his youngest son. Does Shae represent Gilly?) The gate to Craster's Keep unites the ram and the bear: On the southwest, he found an open gate flanked by a pair of animal skulls on high poles: a bear to one side, a ram to the other. (ACoK, Jon III) It's almost like a shared coat of arms. Are Mormont and Craster two parts of a whole that needed to be reunited? Is there a symbolic marriage when Mormont gives Craster the ax? If so, is there a comparable symbolic "wedding" for Tywin? I don't think we are supposed to compare Mormont to Joanna Lannister, but there are some odd weapon / wedding gift references in connection with Tywin: Robert makes Ser Ilyn the King's Justice as a wedding gift for Tywin; Gerion Lannister gave Robert a dagger as a wedding gift (and Tywin recommends that Tyrion go get it). Of course, Tywin also gives Joffrey a sword as a wedding gift. Speaking of Ser Ilyn, Craster tells a story about cutting the tongue out of a messenger sent by Mance. I believe the tongue is still nailed to the wall in Craster's keep. In that detail, Craster is more like Aerys, I suppose, and Mance more like Tywin. Maybe marriage is the wrong analogy for the bond between Craster and Mormont. Maybe they are linked by the gifted ax the way that Tywin is linked to Robert when Cersei marries Robert. Arya gives an ax to Jaqen that allows him to escape Yoren's caged wagon during the attack by Amory Lorch. You could say that Arya and Jaqen bond at that point, as Jaqen tells her that she can choose three deaths to offer to the gods. Or maybe the bond occurs when he gives her a weapon - the iron coin. Ramsay Snow and Theon / Reek develop a strange bond when Ramsay tortures Theon - not exactly the same thing as giving Theon a weapon, although that will happen, too, when he sends Theon to persuade the Ironmen to surrender at Deepwood Motte. A tie to this basket of symbols might be the finger dance that is underway when Asha calls for Rolfe to throw her the ax - Ramsay plays his own version of the finger dance with Theon. Jon Snow gives obsidian weapons to his close friends in the Night's Watch. We hear about his distribution of weapons through a Sam POV while Grenn uses an ax to split wood. We know that some historic Lord Stark awarded Bear Island to the Mormont family. Were the Mormonts also displaced from somewhere, as were the Casterlys and the Manderlys? When Mormont joins the Night's Watch, he leaves behind a large family of women - his sister and nieces. Is this comparable to Craster's sister wives, left behind at his compound after he is murdered?
  8. I've just been thinking about an interesting possibility for Roose's paternity: what if Rickard Stark claimed his First Night rights with Roose's mother? Roose would be a half-brother to Ned, Lyanna, Benjen and Brandon. I do think we are supposed to compare Jon Snow and Ramsay Snow in some ways: the two Snows. So maybe we are supposed to compare Ned and Roose, too. Ned has grey eyes; Roose has eyes like chips of dirty ice. Not too different, it seems to me. Roose's overarching ambition seems to be to install his line as Wardens of the North at Winterfell. Maybe this is payback for his biological father. If Roose is half-Stark, I think this opens an interesting possibility for Ramsay's paternity. Roose believes that Ramsay is his son because the miller's wife says so and because the kid had his eyes. If those eyes are a version of Stark eyes, however, Ramsay's father could be another man from the Stark lineage. I'm thinking Brandon Stark, who liked to deflower virgins and may have beaten Roose to the bed of the miller's wife.
  9. I can't tell if you're just patronizing me, or if you really want to hear the theory. In a nutshell, this is it: Penny and Groat were given dragon eggs by the Sealord of Braavos, who loved their act. (ADwD, Tyrion VIII: "We performed for the Sealord of Braavos once, and he laughed so hard that afterward he gave each of us a . . . a grand gift.") Groat either sold those eggs to Littlefinger's agents or he was killed by Littlefingers agents (Kettleblacks?) under the cover of Cersei's bounty on dwarf heads. The eggs were taken to be hatched and raised at the isolated but sheep-inhabited Baelish ancestral lands. Penny says that Groat handled all of the arrangements for their act, so she may have never seen the money paid for the eggs or, as I say, Groat may have been murdered and the eggs taken from him.
  10. I thought this had more to do with the Nightfort legend of the Rat Cook, who is turned into a massive rat and doomed to eat his own young. Just before Theon emerges from the dungeon at the Dreadfort, he catches and eats a raw rat. I realize that Porridge is a jailer, not a prisoner, but there seems to be a deliberate blurring of the distinction - Ser Ilyn is the boss of the jail, but he lives in a stinky, windowless cell, for instance. But you may be right. It does seem like a GRRM twist to place a skinchanger somewhere we don't expect to find him or her.
  11. Nice one! (Was the scolding from Yoren, though, or Weese?)
  12. I am certain there is a Littlefinger / Mance parallel - the name Baelish and Bael the Bard and Abel are all part of one of GRRM's chains of similar arcs. (Not to mention Baelor the Blessed.) I don't know that Mance was behind the attempt on Bran, but he does seem to be behind the mysterious deaths at Winterfell during the snowstorm, and probably behind Theon's escape with fArya. Gendry may also be linked. (That's why I like chain mail as a metaphor for the fabric of GRRM's plot - everything is linked.) Gendry kills Biter, who was part of the Weasel Soup murders at Harrenhal. And he finds himself thrown together with Lady Stoneheart, to some extent, who was part of the Bran assassination scene. As GRRM has promised, the disparate strands of the plot are starting to come together as the last books draw us toward a conclusion.
  13. Nice find with the Gendry connection. The more I thought about the Theon parallels I mentioned earlier, the more I suspected there is a common factor of "bastard" in the attempt on Bran's life and the maiming of Theon. (This is largely literary analysis so skip this post entirely if you don't like close readings of the text that might turn up evidence.) If Joffrey was the mastermind behind the catspaw, then we have a bastard as would-be murderer in that case. In Theon's case, we have Ramsay Snow as the torturer who takes down the Prince of Winterfell. But the cases differ in that Catelyn is the person who is actually injured by the catspaw, while Theon is successfully targeted by Ramsay. Catelyn and Theon don't seem much alike to me. Aha! Stay with me, though. Lady Hornwood IS ALSO targeted by Ramsay, and she ends up with wounds to her hands that are somewhat self-inflicted, sort of like Catelyn's hands being cut to the bone by the catspaw's dagger as she grabs the blade to prevent him from using the knife on Bran. Ramsay targets Lady Hornwood because he wants her land and castle and title. Hmm. A desire for land and titles doesn't sound like a motive at all related to the attempt on Bran, especially if Joffrey was behind it. He has plenty of land and titles. But Littlefinger does not have good land and titles. Would he have a motive to kill Bran? Bran is Robb's heir, of course. If Littlefinger wanted Winterfell, why wouldn't he try to kill Robb? Because he doesn't want Winterfell, he wants Harrenhal. A number of people in the forum have commented that Catelyn's children are the likely heirs to Winterfell through Catelyn's mother, Minisa Whent. Since Robb would be Lord of Winterfell, Bran is a likely candidate to be heir to Harrenhal. Although Littlefinger may not have seen Sansa in the flesh before the Hand's Tourney, he surely had spies to tell him that she looked like a young Catelyn. He may have pictured an easier path to his goal with Sansa as the heir to Harrenhal than with Bran still in the picture. Even if Sansa married Joffrey, Littlefinger may have guessed that Joffrey's reign would not last long. Sansa would soon be a young widow and the Lannisters would need to send her somewhere so Tommen could marry a virgin bride and get on with empire building. That would be one of several scenarios that might work to Littlefinger's advantage. In addition to the wounds on Catelyn's hands, the catspaw pulls out a handful of her hair. There is an important pun on "hair" and "heir," and we know that Catelyn's last conscious words are, "Don't cut my hair; Ned loves my hair." This may show her unconscious understanding that people are targeting her heirs, although she doesn't connect it to Harrenhal. Littlefinger's archenemy a generation earlier was named Brandon Stark. Littlefinger claims to have bedded Catelyn. She says she was a virgin when she married Ned, but maybe it doesn't matter what the truth is. For the purposes of literary symbolism, Littlefinger sees Catelyn as his "first wife," much like Lady Hornwood was Ramsay Snow's first wife. Like the catspaw, Ramsay Snow also commits a crime near Winterfell where he fails to murder Bran Stark (and instead murders the miller's sons - sort of a symbolic self-inflicted wound, since he is also a nominal miller's son until his mother confronts Roose). Ramsay and Roose know that he is not secure as the Lord of Winterfell unless they can find and kill the real Bran and Rickon Stark. As I thought about the dragonbone handle on the dagger, I decided this might also point to Littlefinger as the motivator behind the catspaw. I suspect that Littlefinger is a hidden Targ or, perhaps, a Velaryon descendant. In his role as Master of Coin, people talk about his magical ability to rub dragons together to make more dragons. Of course, on the surface, this refers to his business acumen in earning gold coins. I still have a suspicion that he obtained real dragon eggs from Penny and Groat. I admit, it's hard to imagine that dragon eggs would both hatch and grow large enough to be factors in the last two books of ASOIAF in the time since Littlefinger contacted Penny and Groat to perform at Joffrey's wedding feast. It may be more likely that Littlefinger is the "dragon" who has hatched and grown over the years while he nursed his grudges against the highborn houses that refused to acknowledge him as a peer. His lack of silver blonde Targ hair may be one of the twists GRRM has in store for us: we have bought into Ned Stark's (and Jon Arryn and Jon Connington's) certainty that hair color is scientific proof of paternity. In the real world, we know that recessive and dominant genes can recombine in unexpected ways. Why have we become convinced that we can spot a ASOIAF person's heritage solely through hair color? The author has already told us that "dragonseeds" who don't look like Targs and who have non-Targ mothers could become dragon riders. I think this early and central "canon" belief is one of the ways GRRM might surprise us. Of course, if @LiveFirstDieLater's observation is correct about a bastard connection to the catspaw, does that mean Littlefinger is also a bastard? This could be true - we have only vague, third-hand accounts of his family line. He has come up with a sigil (the mockingbird) that differ's from his father's sigil (the head of the Titan of Braavos), and he does not seem particularly attached to his family's colors. Maybe Hoster Tully knew his real story; maybe not. I would compare him to Hugh of the Vale, whose origin seems similarly vague, but who secured a prestigious job close to Jon Arryn. As I thought about the Ramsay / Theon and Catspaw / Bran parallels suggested by the earlier post and some of these new ideas, I thought of an additional possible parallel arc: Jaqen / Arya at Harrenhal. Jaqen is Arya's catspaw until the Weasel Soup incident plays out. At the close of that scene, Jaqen tells Arya that she has blood on her hands. He is telling her that she is responsible for the deaths of the guards, but is there a second layer of meaning? Is Arya becoming "Catelyn" at that point, with bloody hands from a somewhat self-inflicted wound to her moral compass? While Jaqen talks to Arya, Biter is in the background eating the fingers of one of the dead guards. (Recall also that Theon tells Lady Dustin that he asked Ramsay to cut off his fingers because he didn't need so many - another "self-inflicted" wound.) The Jaqen link in the chain mail takes us in another direction, perhaps, if it is parallel to Littlefinger. There has been discussion elsewhere in the forum comparing the Bank of Braavos to the House of Black and White, so a Jaqen / Littlefinger comparison might be apt on that level. If Littlefinger sent the catspaw (or manipulated Joffrey into doing it), however, there is a further parallel in Jaqen giving Arya the iron coin and setting her on a path to become a killer. Both men manipulating others to become assassins. Ramsay corrupts Theon, Jaqen corrupts Arya and Littlefinger corrupts Joffrey and then Sansa. And Ramsay marries fArya and Theon kidnaps fArya so (in a literary, symbolic sense) the circles close.
  14. I bet it's worth considering Sansa's snow castle in the group. She tells Littlefinger she doesn't know how to make the gargoyles and he tells her to just make lumps of snow because the gargoyles would be covered with snow in winter, anyway. If the statues in the crypt represent Starks, it seems that gargoyles represent Targaryens. The strong comparison of Tyrion to a gargoyle might be our best clue about his paternity, if he is truly a son of Aerys. Littlefinger suggesting that a gargoyle can be covered in snow seems like a symbolic way of suggesting that a Targaryen is hiding as a bastard in the north. Another place to look, if you are so inclined, is at the stone men at the Bridge of Dreams. Tyrion prevents a stone man from attacking fAegon / Young Griff, but is himself dragged into the river by the lame attacker.
  15. A few thoughts about hints below the surface: 1) Although a number of comments have noted the Valyrian Steel blade, I don't believe anyone has discussed the dragonbone handle of the dagger. At this point in the books, the only dragonbone weapons have been given to Dany: a dragonbone bow as a wedding gift from a Dothraki warrior (I believe) and a whip with gold claws, called The Harpy, when she buys the Unsullied from Kraznys mo Nakloz. Does a dragonbone handle suggest that the dagger was originally a Targaryen weapon? Does that matter? Far from thinking such a dagger is conspicuous, handsome or representative of his self-image, Joffrey thinks a dragonbone handle is too plain. When Tyrion offers to get him a dagger with a dragonbone handle as a replacement wedding gift, Joffrey instead insists on a gold handle with rubies to match his new sword. 2) The word "mercy" keeps coming up in this discussion, but the catspaw has several lines: "You weren't s'posed to be here." "No one was s'posed to be here." "It's a mercy. He's dead already." The words "mercy" and "no one" are associated with Arya's sojourn with the Faceless Men. (You could make a case that they also reappear in Theon's scene in the godswood in ADwD The Turncloak and A Ghost in Winterfell - Theon asks for "Strength? Courage? Mercy?" and tries to remember his name although he admits, "Reek is no man.") 3) The catspaw stinks - Catelyn finds his stench overpowering. Theon as Reek is also known by his smell. (As is Tywin Lannister.) 4) The catspaw has hidden in the stables. With several of the Starks compared to horses (Ned, Lyanna, Arya), I think it would really be worthwhile to decipher the meaning of stableboys but, I admit, I'm not sure how to proceed. At their first encounter, Aegon is taken for a stableboy by Ser Duncan the Tall. Arya's first kill is a stable boy who tries to prevent her escape from King's Landing. Sansa is distressed by a creepy stableboy who stares at her chest. Hodor is a stableboy. On the other hand, the catspaw might stink for reasons beyond having slept in the stable. What if he is a Reek-like character? At least part of Theon's stench comes from sleeping with Ramsay's Girls in the dog kennel. 5) Daggers seem to be special weapons. (IRL, this is consistent with their use in ancient rituals, some of which may have involved human sacrifice.) I think we see one in the first POV chapter, raising the Gared / ragged / dragged / dagger association with the deserter / turncloak. Jon Snow (soon to become a turncloak) makes himself an "ugly" dagger with a wooden handle and a blade from the obsidian cache at the Fist. Theon is associated with a dagger after he is maimed by Ramsay Snow and he feels unable to use a sword. But Lady Dustin protests his innocence after Bolton's inner circle demands to see his maimed hands: "Look at him. Hold a dagger? He hardly has the strength to hold a spoon. Do you truly think he could have overcome the Bastard's disgusting creature and shoved his manhood down his throat?" (ADwD, A Ghost in Winterfell) I better clarify: I don't think the parallels to the Theon chapter are telling us that Theon hired the catspaw. I just think it could be helpful to examine other arcs that use similar settings and details, to see whether we can make inferences. The way GRRM returns to symbols and motifs is never an exact copy of his previous combination of elements, but the catspaw chapter and Theon's A Ghost in Winterfell chapter both feature mysterious murders (or an attempted murder) at Winterfell. In Theon's ADwD chapters, he has injured hands and a dog licks his hand. In the catspaw chapter, Catelyn has injured hands and a direwolf licks her hand. Theon compares himself to a ghost but the catspaw seemed to say that Bran was the one who was already dead. Many people have noted that Theon's desperate plea at the pool before the heart tree results in an apparent connection with Bran (and a red leaf that introduces yet another bloody hand). Theon and Bran both make journeys north through the snow after their stays at Winterfell. This may also be relevant: “I would have told you that there was only one knife like this at King’s Landing.” He grasped the blade between thumb and forefinger, drew it back over his shoulder, and threw it across the room with a practiced flick of his wrist. It struck the door and buried itself deep in the oak, quivering. “It’s mine.” (AGOT, Catelyn IV) Littlefinger uses the dagger to "murder" an oak door. Theon has committed treason. Bran is sort of a tree's son when he sees through the eyes of the heart tree. The word "quivering" might also support the comments here that support Bloodraven's involvement in the catspaw episode. He is associated with archers and arrows are carried in quivers. None of this eliminates the Joffrey theories, either. I think Joffrey is a mini-Jaime and a lot of his actions foreshadow or echo Jaime's actions. Jaime did push Bran off the wall "for love." Maybe Joffrey was echoing Jaime in hiring the catspaw. Catelyn nearly choking under the strong grip of the catspaw reads similarly to Joff's death by choking.