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  1. What do we know about septa Mordane?

    Agreed. The goal was to prepare for life as a highborn lady who had duties but who would be protected from most kinds of unpleasantness. That's why the groom putting a cloak on the bride's shoulders is the symbol of marriage in Westeros. Here's an excerpt showing the mindset with which Catelyn was raised, starting with Brienne, as Edmure's soldiers depart to engage the Lannister forces: What shall we do now my lady? "Our duty." Catelyn's face was drawn as she started across the yard. I have always done my duty, she thought. Perhaps that was why her lord father had always cherished her best of all his children. Her two older brothers had both died in infancy, so she had been son as well as daughter to Lord Hoster until Edmure was born. Then her mother had died and her father told her that she must be the lady of Riverrun now, and she had done that too. And when Lord Hoster promised her to Brandon Stark, she had thanked him for making her such a splendid match. I gave Brandon my favor to wear, and never comforted Petyr once after he was wounded, nor bid him farewell when Father send him off. And when Brandon was murdered and Father told me I must wed his brother, I did so gladly, though I never saw Ned's face until our wedding day. I gave my maidenhood to this solemn stranger and sent him off to his war and his king and the woman who bore him his bastard, because I always did my duty. (ACoK, Catelyn VI) And a page later: "Would that there were five of me, one for each child, so I might keep them all safe." "And who would keep you safe, my lady?" Her smile was wan and tired. "Why, the men of my House. Or so my lady mother taught me. My lord father, my brother, my uncle, my husband, they will keep me safe . . . but while they are away from me, I suppose you must fill their place, Brienne." So Septa Mordane's remark was not compromising Sansa or Arya's ability to function as a highborn lady with a future as a good match for a highborn lord; it was a reflection of the prevailing thinking about how to instill a sense of duty in a civilized young woman. Having said all that, the author clearly intends that we see the irony in these social expectations. Catelyn's conversation is with Brienne, who is not like any other highborn lady in the books, with the possible exception of Arya. In this same chapter, Brienne says she would feel safer if she could wear armor and fight instead of waiting helplessly. And Catelyn is obviously not kept safe by her husband and brother and son, even after she negotiates terms with Walder Frey and pays attention to the details of guest right. She teams up with the direwolf Summer and takes a grave wound to protect Bran. She makes the dangerous journey to King's Landing. She takes Tyrion prisoner. She may be doing her duty, as she sees it, to protect her family, but she is not passive and sheltered, even though she may see herself that way or prefer that her life had taken such a course. My suspicion is that Septa Mordane was put in a similar position: many of the comments here seem to share the suspicion that she has a backstory that hides some kind of loss or fall from grace. If she had to become a Septa out of necessity, what was her identity before she took the position at Winterfell? Who didn't keep her safe? Or what kind of risk did she take that put her in the position of Septa instead of the lady of a noble house? In favor of Septa Mordane's role in the subversive liberation of Sansa and Arya (and Jeyne), I would note that sewing is a huge metaphor throughout the books. (That's why I chose Seams for my username.) I suspect that teaching the girls to sew is a symbolic way of teaching them to take power. That's why Jon and Arya ironically choose the name Needle for Arya's sword - sewing is a metaphor for holding the realm together; people who do needlework are destined for leadership roles. GRRM loves to surprise readers with unexpected twists, and the appearance of a Stern (!) and passive Septa Mordane is probably one of the things he has set up so he can surprise us later with her secret role in helping the girls to be badasses (as their mother also becomes after she has been betrayed by the Freys and Boltons).
  2. I agree that Olenna is playing a power game and that her statements to the contrary are not to be believed. She is a puppet master: when she says Mace wants his daughter to be queen, Olenna is putting the words in his mouth. I don't think she sees the match with the so-called Baratheons as irrelevant. If the king's children are half-Tyrell, that will be a great and important alliance for their House going forward. With the Baratheons impoverished by Robert's debts (or Littlefinger's management practices) and the Tyrells still flush with wealth, there might even be a chance to continue manipulating the realm and even marrying their cousins in the next generation. Olenna does seem to care about her grandchildren, with Margaery being a favorite because she's a shrewd girl, like Olenna herself. (She seems to see many men as dimwitted oafs.) I don't know that the Renly match lasted long enough for Olenna to form a strong opinion, but she may have been aware that Renly was the true love of Loras and hoped the match would work out for that reason - if Renly stayed true to Ser Loras, the bond and alliance between the royal and Tyrell families would be secure. I think Olenna would like to see the western power centered at Highgarden, not remaining at Casterly Rock with a Tyrell heir assuming power. I suspect that the mines under Casterly Rock are exhausted and the Lannister power will diminish accordingly. Maybe Olenna knows that, too, and sees a chance for Willas to become warden of the west. The leg injury for Willas is intriguing. I think that one way GRRM tells us to examine the similarities between or among characters is by giving them similar injuries. The most crucial leg injury in ASOIAF was Ned's badly broken leg - suffered when Jaime Lannister confronted him and his horse fell on his leg. Willas was also injured when a horse fell on him, but he became friends with his opponent, unlike Ned and Jaime. So there are differences, as with all of these plot "echoes" that GRRM builds into various arcs, but there are surprisingly few leg injuries in ASOIAF compared with eye and hand and belly injuries. I am wondering whether we are supposed to compare Willas and Ned somehow. If so, Willas will obviously be an important figure when he finally appears. But the other intriguing thing is that Willas supposedly stays at home during all this war, important family weddings - we don't even see him during Catelyn's visit to Renly's camp. Supposedly, he gets around with a cane, so he's not a complete invalid, it seems. Even Prince Doran, who is in constant pain, moves from the Water Gardens to Sunspear. Lord Manderly is Too-Fat-to-Sit-A-Horse, but he gets around by having people carry him. Is Willas really confined to Highgarden because of his leg, or is there another reason he prefers to stay out of the soap opera of highborn Westeros society and warfare? What is his secret?
  3. Sansa did not need to hear how her brother’s body had been hacked and mutilated, he decided; nor how her mother’s corpse had been dumped naked into the Green Fork in a savage mockery of House Tully’s funeral customs (ASoS, Tyrion VII) This is an interesting point. In addition to floating the body on a boat down the river, part of the Tully funerary ritual is to set the boat on fire after it has been launched. The problem of igniting Hoster's funeral boat is a concern until the Black Fish grabs the bow and accomplishes the task. (Correct me if I'm wrong - I think that's in the books and not just the show.) So what does it mean that Catelyn's "rebirth" is achieved with red god fire magic of some kind? Are the Tully's ensuring an "afterlife" for their dead lords by combining the river with fire, or are they ensuring that their dead lords DON'T RISE by setting the boat on fire? Is the difference that the dead Tully lords are cremated from the outside in, while fire magic (if that's the right term for it) is breathed into Catelyn's mouth? Or that her body washed up again on the riverbank instead of being cremated while in the water? This could be relevant to the OP because the book Roose put in the fire was being "read" by a ghost as it was being burned. If fire has the power to revive, maybe Roose wasn't destroying the book by burning it, but symbolically giving it to the red god and giving it a new life on a larger scale. P. S. There's something important going on with the word "savage". I can't get the A Search of Ice and Fire site to work on this computer but I'm going to try to research that word next time I'm at the library.
  4. This discussion came back to me as I was wondering whether there is an Arya / Arianne parallel; possibly a combined Arya-Sansa and Arianne parallel. A Dorne connection to Arya's arc could be reinforced by Arya naming her wolf Nymeria. Arya's wolf bites Joffrey at the Red Fork when Joffrey goes after Arya's friend, Mycah. Sansa looks on helplessly, but she wants to curry favor with Joffrey and takes his point of view saying that the wolf attacked him. Arya drives off her wolf to save the wolf from being executed. We are told that the Hound hunts down Mycah and kills him. Sansa's wolf is executed in the place of Arya's missing wolf. Compare to: Arianne's friend Darkstar attacks Myrcella at the Greenblood while Arianne looks on helplessly. Darkstar flees. Hotah kills Arianne's friend, Ser Arys, and Arianne participates in the coverup, wrongfully blaming the killing on the missing Darkstar. Hotah is sent to hunt down Darkstar. So it's not a one-to-one parallel, but the elements are there: An injured Baratheon on a riverbank, a passive young woman, a treasured friend/wolf dying needlessly, creation of a scapegoat, a mission to track down that scapegoat. In this parallel scenario, Hotah would be cast in the role of The Hound. Hotah is sent to find Darkstar; the Hound was sent to find Mycah. But is Ser Arys Oakheart like the direwolf Lady? That doesn't seem like a fit, and her death came at the hand of Ned Stark, not The Hound. So maybe Ser Arys represents Mycah and Darkstar represents the direwolf Nymeria. I'm seeing a third parallel scenario - also connecting to The Hound - in something I was re-examining yesterday: The Brotherhood without Banners kills Amerei Frey's father. The Brotherhood continues to operate from their secret base in the riverlands. Amerei wrongly or mistakenly accuses the Hound of being part of the Brotherhood, blaming him for her father's death. Lyle Crakehall agrees to track down The Hound to avenge the death of Amerei's father. Of course, Amerei Frey's father was arguably part of the Red Wedding plot at the Green Fork where Robb Stark died. I am also conscious that, by most standards of reckoning, the Hound WON his single combat trial for the killing of Mycah, although Beric Dondarrion recovered from that death as he had from many other deaths. Was the Hound innocent of Mycah's murder? He said he did it, but the reader didn't see him hunt down the child. One of the recurrent themes in the books is that the hunter in one set of circumstances becomes the hunted when the situation changes. GRRM seems to be showing The Hound going from hunter to hunted with the Mycah story and the Merrett Frey stories. Anyway. I guess this is a long-winded way of saying that Areo Hotah's story may tell us some things about what is going on in the mind of the Hound, and/or could foreshadow some things about his fate.
  5. Mirri Maz Duur and Bronze Yohn Royce

    Prince Tommen uses a leaf-shaped blade in his play joust at Joffrey's name day tournament. He is unhorsed by the straw man (jousting dummy). I think the leaf-shaped blades might be a reference to Bran, not necessarily to Leaf of the CotF, although the two are obviously linked. Bran and Tommen had a mock joust at Winterfell before Bran's fall. And we know that Bran communicates as a greenseer through the whispers of leaves. I don't know if this would extend to Dany's arc, or whether there are other characters who might "communicate" through leaf-shaped blades.
  6. Mirri Maz Duur and Bronze Yohn Royce

    @rotting sea cow just caught the glyph / rune similarity between the Mirri Maz Duur knife and the dagger in front of Widow of the Waterfront. There was some discussion of runes in a thread last month about the Royces. In a nutshell, I suspect that runes are a form of words, and there is a pun involving words / sword that leads me to think that runes are a form of weapon. But maybe you'll think of something deeper or come up with a fresh perspective. I still want to understand the silver sword, bright with runes that Ser Ilyn hands to Joffrey moments before he starts choking at the wedding feast.
  7. Wow, I never noticed that v.15

    "Jon knew. The seed is strong, he told me. His last words. He kept saying Robert's name, and he grabbed my arm so hard he left marks. Tell them, the seed is strong. His seed. He wanted everyone to know what a good strong boy my baby was going to be." (AGoT, Catelyn VI) "You are Arya of Winterfell, daughter of the north. You told me you could be strong. You have the wolf blood in you." "The wolf blood." Arya remembered now. "I'll be as strong as Robb." (ACoK, Arya X) She is stronger than I am. The realization chilled him. Robert had been stronger than him, to be sure. The White Bull Gerold Hightwoer as well, in his heyday, and Ser Arthur Dayne. Amongst the living, Greatjon Umber was stronger, Strongboar of Crakehall most likely, both Cleganes for a certainty. The Mountain's strength was like nothing human. (ASoS, Jaime III) Robert had spindly arms and legs, a soft concave chest and little belly, and eyes that were always red and runny. He cannot help the way he is. He was born small and sickly. "You look very strong this morning, my lord." He loved to be told how strong he was. (AFfC, Alayne II) ". . . you have six sons, my lord, not four." "Once. Robert was my youngest and never strong. He died nine days ago, of a looseness of the bowels. Lucas was murdered at the Red Wedding. . . ." (ADwD, Jaime I) "Your Grace," He said, "it is so good to have you back. May I have the honor of presenting our newest member of the Kingsguard? This is Ser Robert Strong." (ADwD, Cersei II)
  8. I'm pretty sure that Garlan has been cast in the symbolic role of Renly's ghost. So whatever future you see for him, you might want to ask yourself, "What would Renly do?" (or "What would GRRM do to Renly") before finalizing your prediction. Aside from wearing Renly's armor at the Battle of the Blackwater, Garlan dances with Sansa at a wedding feast, helping her to feel better, much the way that Renly danced with Brienne at a feast years earlier, helping her to feel better (and causing Brienne to develop a crush on him). Not coincidentally, Garlan appears at that wedding feast immediately following the performance of a lengthy song about Renly dying heroically and, as a ghost, watching over his beloved Margaery as she goes on to marry Joffrey. Thanks to Olenna and Margaery, Sansa imagined herself married to Willas Tyrell. Her mental image of this union included the two of them playing with kittens, which is what Margaery ends up doing with the sexually immature Tommen. Sansa thought of Margaery as a sister at one point, if I recall correctly. She looked forward to spending time with her if/when she became Lady of Highgarden. Of course, Sansa's marriage to Tyrion, Joffrey's death and Sansa's escape from King's Landing prevented them from developing much of a friendship. Sansa had a crush on Ser Loras, of course, and treasured the memory of the rose he gave her at the Hand's Tourney. Ser Loras didn't even remember giving her the rose when she brought it up later. I bring up all of these contacts/relationships between Sansa and the four Tyrell children because I think they are echoed in one of Dany's visions at the House of the Undying: A kingly man in rich robes rose when he saw her, and smiled. “Daenerys of House Targaryen, be welcome. Come and share the food of forever. We are the Undying of Qarth.” “Long have we awaited you,” said a woman beside him, clad in rose and silver. The breast she had left bare in the Qartheen fashion was as perfect as a breast could be. “We knew you were to come to us,” the wizard king said. “A thousand years ago we knew, and have been waiting all this time. We sent the comet to show you the way.” “We have knowledge to share with you,” said a warrior in shining emerald armor, “and magic weapons to arm you with. You have passed every trial. Now come and sit with us, and all your questions shall be answered.” She took a step forward. But then Drogon leapt from her shoulder. He flew to the top of the ebony-and-weirwood door, perched there, and began to bite at the carved wood. “A willful beast,” laughed a handsome young man. “Shall we teach you the secret speech of dragonkind? Come, come.” Doubt seized her. The great door was so heavy it took all of Dany’s strength to budge it, but finally it began to move. Behind was another door, hidden. It was old grey wood, splintery and plain . . . but it stood to the right of the door through which she’d entered. (ACoK, Daenerys IV) @Lollygag and I share a couple - but not all - things in our approach to literary analysis. Like her, I see these rose references as well as the mention of the green armor as Tyrell symbols. However, the handsome figures in Dany's vision make FALSE claims to be the Undying of Qarth who will help Dany to reach her destiny. It appears that the Tyrell attempts to seduce Sansa were very similar to the attractive people who tried to tempt Dany to stray from her path, shortly before reaching the door she really needed. Loras didn't remember giving Sansa the rose, the betrothal to Willas never materialized, Ser Garlan seemed to melt away when he could have exonerated Tyrion (and, by extension, Sansa) in Joffrey's death and Margaery moved on with different lady companions. The nature of the Tyrell "trap" sprung on Sansa may be symbolized by the cheese the Queen of Thornes orders shortly after Sansa shares her true opinion about Joffrey. Other literary points to consider: the wrong door is ebony and weirwood, like the door at the House of Black and White and like the door at Tobho Mott's blacksmith shop. The Moon Door at the Eyrie is weirwood. The right door is plain and old and grey - a Stark color but possibly also a Greyjoy allusion. The "kingly man" in Dany's vision sounds like the "kindly man" in Arya's sojourn at the House of Black and White. Will Willas Tyrell be the kingly man? And is the kingly man the same as the wizard king? Perhaps the true heir of his grandmother, the Queen of Thornes. Rhaegar wore red armor. Renly and Garlan Tyrell and the warrior in Dany's vision wore green armor. Brienne wore blue armor. (Brienne and Sansa are linked through Brienne's quest and her constant repetition that she is seeking her sister.) Jaime wears gold armor. I may be wrong, but it seems like each "team" needs to stick with its own color, and shouldn't trust the other colors. Or, at least, stay away from complementary colors. In short, I see the Tyrells as potential false friends for Sansa and/or Dany in the upcoming books. And their ambitions to sit on the Iron Throne will not be restricted to making a match between Margaery and the current king, if the wizard king in Dany's vision is correctly seen as a hint about the Tyrells. I think Olenna is actually a parallel to the Stark nursemaid, Old Nan, oddly enough. I like your comparison of the four Tyrell offspring with four of the Stark kids. That could be a good approach.
  9. Re-Read Suggestion

    Interesting. And Cersei feels older and less glamorous after her head is shaved and she is pelted with meat during her walk of shame. Maybe it's time for a haircut re-read.
  10. Re-Read Suggestion

    My own dream is a searchable spreadsheet of injuries. So you could search on all the people with hand injuries, missing eyes or scars. I suppose it would have to include deaths, too. "Stabbed with a sword" would have to be broken down into smaller categories - through the mouth, in the belly, etc. "Clawed by a skinchanged eagle" would be a relatively small category.
  11. Re-Read Suggestion

    The wiki has something like this but maybe the summaries are too long for you? For example, here is AGoT, Arya I. There is also the little directional tool that allows you to go to the next chapter of that POV or the next chapter in the book.
  12. Re-Read Suggestion

    What about a Brothel Re-Read? Or Brothels and Inns? Or a Smith Re-Read? The "A Search of Ice and Fire" website makes it possible to plug in a key word and find all references to that word, in order. So you could set up a Dragonglass Re-Read or a Rickon Stark Re-Read or a Rust Re-Read or a Plum and Prune Re-Read. Maybe a Reed Re-Read. Edit: You could also set yourself a quest to identify an unrecognized pattern. This classic thread by Kingmonkey developed and refined a list of elements that are always present before dragons are hatched. For those who don't want to read that whole thread, the elements that precede/accompany dragon hatching, identified by Kingmonkey with some input from others on the thread, are: Seven against three. Three Kingsguards, or some equivalent / cloaked figures. Event takes place at sunset with a blood-red sky. Ghost / wraith imagery. A tower long fallen / destroyed at the end of the event. A parley before the battle. Promises and vows. A refusal to flee. A great red stallion / stallion on fire. A notably martial woman. The sign of the falling star / red comet. Animal totems. Bloody walls. Eight deaths. A maegi or possibly similar wise/magical figures. Maybe you can pick out some other elements from the books and try to figure out whether there are other patterns. For instance, pick something like the arrival of dawn, crossing a river, climbing a mountain, taking a bath, drinking spiced wine. Then look at things that happen before or after that activity: Do people always move to a new home or camp? Do they receive a visitor? Do they find someone important to their future arc? Pretend to believe a lie? On the recent thread about Roose Bolton burning the unnamed book at Harrenhal, we realized that Sansa and Arya both make escapes after destruction of a book (Joffrey destroys "Lives of Four Kings" at his wedding feast). Now I'm starting to wonder whether Sam Tarly noticing the mouse eating the book in the Castle Black library is connected to the departure of Gilly from the Wall. I also started to wonder whether Arya wearing two layers of smallclothes as she prepares to leave Harrenhal is like Sansa wearing her own cloak as well as Littlefinger's cloak when she arrives at the ship in the harbor. But maybe this is too much of a tail-wagging-the-dog approach. I'll be curious to hear what you settle on as your theme or uniting element.
  13. Theon IV Overview Theon wakes suddenly in Lord Eddard’s bed and realizes that he no longer hears the sound of the direwolves howling. The wolves and Bran and Rickon are gone, and two guards are found slain. Theon leads a hunting party that follows the scent of the six escapees into the godswood. The tracking dogs lose the scent at a brook. Unable to pick up the trail again after searching until dark, “Reek” suggests that the Stark boys might have taken a different path altogether, and stopped at a mill for shelter overnight. He shows Theon a bag containing some of the Stark boys’ clothes. Theon says he now knows where the Stark boys are hiding, and sends most of the hunting party back to Winterfell. Observations There is a lot of irony in this chapter: Theon declaring that there will be no flaying in the north as long as he rules Winterfell, for instance. He also wishes that the smallfolk would recognize that he protects them, and that they owe him their loyalty. (He does not acknowledge that they have helped take care of him for years, and that he might owe them something.) Skinning and flaying are brought up numerous times. This chapter also adds to the motif of the hunter becoming the hunted: Theon did not relish the idea of chasing direwolves through the wood by night; the hunters could easily become the hunted. Analysis "I need huntsmen. Who wants a nice warm wolfskin to see them through winter?" – The literary allusion here is that Bran “sees” the heart of winter, and also “sees” by warging his wolf. Is this a way of saying that Bran is a huntsman? Reek stepped close. "Strip off their skins," he urged, his thick lips glistening. "Lord Bolton, he used to say a naked man has few secrets, but a flayed man's got none." . . . "There will be no flaying in the north so long as I rule in Winterfell," Theon said loudly. I am your only protection against the likes of him, he wanted to scream. – There is irony here, as Theon will experience some flaying when Ramsay takes power from him. But Theon’s point may be valid about being the last chance at protecting the Winterfell residents from the Boltons. Things get worse when the Boltons take over. Walder Frey: “Let me come too. I want that wolfskin cloak.” Maybe it’s not important that we figure out whether it is Big Walder or Little Walder in the hunting party. Maybe the point is that this Walder represents the Lord of the Crossing. Everything generic Walder says or does as part of the hunting party may foreshadow the Red Wedding. On another thread, I recently noted that this chapter seems to pair up with elements in the Arya X chapter later in ACoK. That chapter starts to reveal that Roose Bolton has been undermining Robb Stark and shows him going out to hunt wolves. Here we see “Walder Frey” also out to hunt wolves. Foreshadowing the upcoming betrayal by both bannermen. One of the most complicated ironies in this chapter is that Reek (really Ramsay Snow) puts “wolfskins” on two miller’s boys – clothes belonging to Bran and Rickon. Ramsay is the son of a miller’s wife, and he wears a wolfskin when he is legitimized by Roose and takes charge of Winterfell. But Reek puts those wolfskins on the miller’s boys after killing them. I suppose you could say that Ramsay Snow will also “die” so that Ramsay Bolton can be “born” and wear the wolfskin. But I wonder whether there is more foreshadowing here about Ramsay dying. Another interesting detail, having to do with “skinchanging”: “Reek arrived carrying a boar spear and an overstuffed washerwoman’s sack bulging with god knows what.” It will be the washerwomen who enable Theon and fArya/Jeyne to escape Winterfell after Ramsay’s wedding, undoing a key piece of Roose and Ramsay’s takeover scheme. Live by the laundry bag, die by the laundry bag. Since bad smell is a key piece of the identity of each successive Reek character, maybe the washing symbolism also confirms that Theon will no longer be Reek after his escape – he will be washed clean by a washerwoman at a Poole.
  14. Excellent presentation and very persuasive. Roose's support for the Starks was a "ruse" all along - he has been with Tywin from the start, it appears. So the details of this book burning and wolf hunting don't indicate so much that Roose has decided to switch sides as that he has decided to make the last moves toward taking out Robb and revealing his longtime hidden loyalty. The things he may have been waiting for finally came true in this chapter: the Freys as a group have openly expressed their collective opinion that Robb cannot win and that he should bend the knee to Joffrey; and the news of Robb's marriage to Jeyne Westerling reaches the Freys. This leads to the withdrawal of the Frey bannermen. Roose then sends the Tallheart and Glover forces into a trap at Duskendale. (Hmm. When have we seen Duskendale used as a trap for a king?) So he has done his best to weaken Robb's support and to make Robb vulnerable on several levels. As for Lady Dustin's insistence on seeing Theon, I've just done a close reading of ACoK, Theon IV, the chapter where Theon leads a hunting party from Winterfell to look for Bran, Rickon, Osha, Hodor and the Reeds. I think that chapter might be intended as a strong companion to this chapter (ACoK, Arya X). There is language and imagery in that Theon chapter that clearly juxtaposes Theon and Roose as opposites in contention for control of the North: Reek stepped close. "Strip off their skins," he urged, his thick lips glistening. "Lord Bolton, he used to say a naked man has few secrets, but a flayed man's got none." . . . "There will be no flaying in the north so long as I rule in Winterfell," Theon said loudly. I am your only protection against the likes of him, he wanted to scream. (ACoK, Theon IV) In the Arya chapter, we see Roose lying naked on a table while the leeches are doing their work - so he has a few secrets, the author is telling us. When you realize that Roose has been aiming all along to wipe out the Starks and take control of Winterfell, you realize that Theon's takeover actually might have put a monkey wrench in his plans. It appears to be useful, since Ramsay as Reek can use it as a chance to secretly infiltrate the castle and get Theon to do his dirty work. But Roose really needed Bran and Rickon dead. He probably planned for Ramsay to capture Winterfell at the right moment, or to otherwise have Bran and Rickon killed - maybe he had another catspaw at work. (In Arya X, there is a moment when she sees a cat and thinks that she could catch it, but she doesn't have time.) Theon's arrival at Winterfell allowed Osha and Meera and Jojen and Hodor and the direwolves to save the Stark heirs, preventing an essential piece of Roose's plan from coming to fruition. He had to settle for the killing of the miller's boys presented as the killing of the Stark heirs, but his whole scheme could collapse if the northern banner men learn that there are still living Stark children somewhere in hiding. The Theon chapter is loaded with literary irony, and this is probably a big piece of it: Theon actually saved the Stark heirs when he invaded Winterfell and allowed Ramsay to pretend to kill the boys. His clumsy invasion and occupation allowed them to escape. Otherwise Roose would have completed that piece of his overall plan and Bran and Rickon would have really died. In her actions at Winterfell after the Ramsay / fArya wedding, Lady Dustin may know what Manderly has learned from Wex Pyke: that Rickon is thought to be alive. She is part of the symbolism of restoring Theon, pulling him out of his "Reek" delusion so that he can continue as the foil of Roose Bolton. She wants him to get a grip and reach Stannis, maybe, to help Stannis liberate Winterfell by sharing his inside knowledge of the buildings and of Roose's garrison. Roose needs Lady Dustin's support, so he lets her have contact with Theon. He must not realize that Theon is going to be his downfall, for some reason, which is a little surprising given his good intelligence gathering in the other situations you described. He has too much faith that Ramsay has destroyed Theon's will or maybe he thinks he can give Barbary a little slack without losing control of her. He doesn't realize that she has allies in the form of the washerwomen and Abel to loosen the Bolton hold on Winterfell by helping Theon and fArya to escape. I can't wait to see how this plays out next in TWoW.
  15. Buried cache at Fist of First Men

    I'm not sure who buried it, but I think it had to be found by a person with Stark blood, and it might have been available only on that specific night. Some of the things Mormont does in that chapter make me think he knew that there was a specific night and a fairly narrow window of opportunity for Jon to be led to the site. The Night's Watch men call the comet "Mormont's Torch". Jon brings a torch to the place Ghost leads him and stabs it into the ground before digging. To me, it's as if the comet fell to earth at that location, which brings the sword Dawn to mind. I suspect that the obsidian dagger Jon keeps from the cache may actually end up being Lightbringer. I believe the comet sightings stop after Jon finds the obsidian cache, but correct me if I'm wrong. I also found it interesting to compare the description of the hand-made handle Jon constructs for his obsidian dagger with the "ugly" handle on Gared's weapon in the opening prologue of AGoT. Jon and Gared are both deserters, so the similar weapons add to the parallel.