Matthew.

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  1. I hadn't thought of it in the context of the NW vows, but this is the general idea I'm leaning toward with referencing Whitetree's nearness to the Nightfort, and the idea of "godly" men and women being forced to make offerings--that, in the era of the first 13 LCs, the Watch was not only allowing this to happen, but that it may have been the Stark-at-the-Wall (King of Winter?) collecting and converting the tributes into new white walkers. The CotF failed to stop the incursions of men at the Arm of Dorne, failed again at the Neck, and finally succeeded at the border of the Haunted Forest; or, perhaps, were forced to stop men at the border of the Haunted Forest in response to repeated violations of the Pact. I think there are multiple timelines that could potentially work here. The Wall divides the realms of men from the last truly pristine deep forest (House Durrandon having claimed the Rain Wood, House Stark the Wolf's Wood, and most of the rest having been destroyed)--the Haunted Forest. Those humans unfortunate enough to find themselves on the wrong side of the Wall were forced to pay the blood toll, or face destruction.
  2. I didn't mean an army of the dead, I specifically meant whatever white walkers (or their creators) were leftover after either the end of the LN or the ouster of the NK might have taken refuge in the far, far north, or made it into a stronghold; I'm operating under the assumption that the Others, if their magic were in decline, would be unable to raise the dead, create new WWs, or perhaps even carry the cold winds with them--a set of circumstances that would make them incredibly vulnerable. I have generally assumed that the Others were either sealed away or rendered magically impotent, and that what we're seeing is a resumption of activity, as opposed to the Others having been a persistent presence in the lands of the Free Folk, and suddenly going hostile in response to some unknown offense.
  3. I agree that what Bran is seeing is to the far, far north--not just in metaphorical terms, but in literal geography. However, I don't know that it necessarily follows that white walkers must be created in the heart of winter; if the magic of the old gods is at work here, and the weirwoods are interconnected through some monstrous root system, it may be that any site where there is a heart tree will serve to perform the (theoretical) ritual. Thus, one might be able to utilize the sorcery of 'the heart of winter,' without actually being in the physical location--especially if the source is, itself, a massive tree, or perhaps a sacred grove like the Isle of Faces. To use Bran as a point of comparison, he is able to to "tap into" the Winterfell heart tree, in spite of the distance. It may also be that Bran's "heart of winter" is not actually a magically important site, but just the place that the Others have gathered after they were defeated, especially if there was a prolonged period where their magic lay fallow. In particular, one might characterize the far north as the "heart of winter" in much the same way that one might call Vaes Dothrak the 'heart' of the Dothraki sea, or the heart of Dothraki culture, or whatever--just a bit of flowery language. "Heart of winter," after all, is a phrase that has appeared only once, and not even as a proper noun.
  4. These are all great observations about Whitetree and the Nightfort, and all I have to offer as a matter of perspective is that I'm probably closer to Black Crow's point of view on the Others and the CotF (though we still differ on significant details). With that in mind, I'm inclined to look at Whitetree's location, as well as the fact that Craster's mother might have been a woman of Whitetree as important clues. Proceeding from an interpretation that the WWs may have been first created by the CotF as a final act of desperation to defend the deep forest that remained to them - the Haunted Forest - if the LN were ended in some sort of agreement or truce, then those WWs present in the Haunted Forest during the era of the NK would be more like sentinels than an apocalyptic threat, their ranks swelled by offerings from "godly" men and women in places such as Whitetree, who are forced to pay the toll for living in lands that rightfully belong to the CotF.
  5. That would rule out fire sorcery for Coldhands, but I still think Lynn raises an interesting question with Beric. His choice to make one of the hollow hills of the CotF (?) his base of operations has raised this line of speculation before, the notion that the sorcery resurrecting Beric is actually coming from the old gods (or Bloodraven), and I'm not entirely inclined to dismiss it. "The land is one," and all that.
  6. Even then, depending on the puzzle, there will not be consensus on objective truth--there are readers that not only embrace the Death of the Author, but will go full on post-structuralist in their interpretations. In general, I'm not one of them, but there are times that I understand the appeal. A few Heresys ago, PrettyPig presented a read of the "Dying Prince" vision as Littlefinger and Brandon's duel, which raised in me two immediate reactions: "That's really clever," followed by "...too clever for GRRM." Which, itself, raises a question--if the contents of ASOIAF support such an interesting read, then why should I let the intent of the Sixty Eight Year Old Man from Santa Fe steer me toward a less interesting read? Why should I allow him to define my experience with his art? Which is a long-winded way of warning that, even if the series were completed, I doubt it'll bring an end to vehement fan disagreements. Even leaving aside Death of the Author weirdness, ASOIAF will live under the cloud of the show, and Martin's own gardener tendencies; expect to see "he changed X because of the show" for a great many topics, even where there is demonstrable foreshadowing. Ah, I have to admit that I'm one of those readers that is guilty of intermingling magical and scientific explanations, though I don't buy into the comet theories. Nonetheless, the Hammer of the Waters is an example of something caused by magic with effects that can still be explained in scientific terms; my own overly scientific speculation for the Long Night being that it was a volcanic winter (fueled by an underlying magical event), with GRRM taking real world inspiration from The Year Without a A Summer. With a sense of defeat, I admit that that explanation might work in isolation for the Long Night, but fails as an explanation for ~8,000 years of broken seasons. Speaking of Westerosi humans of unknown origin, would you lump Moat Caitlin in along with the fun mysteries? In the spirit of the question I raised, here are two things that I think the fandom is potentially sleeping on: Tyrek Lannister's disappearance, and Lord Celtigar's kraken summoning horn.
  7. Technically, GRRM has provided sufficient evidence that Jon's true parents could be Eddard and Wylla, so it's not as though it would be hard to disappoint a bunch of RLJ believers. What you describe here is that GRRM has crafted what might be the most popular twist, if it's a twist at all, but whether it's the most 'well-built' seems a more tricky question. For example, couldn't an author devise a more clever puzzle than Jon's parentage within a standalone novel? Is the suggestion that, for this theoretical author to be the "better puzzle builder," they should have written one volume, dragged their feet for twenty years, and then published the answer--to allow for plenty of time for people to produce incorrect conclusions? What of a work that has a clever puzzle, but cannot reach the level of pop culture saturation that surrounds ASOIAF and GOT? By default, regardless of how well the puzzle builder has written, they are not fooling the largest number of people. ____ All of this just really brings me back to the sentiment that caused me to characterize ASOIAF as pulp in the first place: that I can't really relate to this thing where people (such as RLJ fanatics) attach weight and significance to the idea that it is Very Good and Important to be numbered among those that have correctly predicted who-was-fucking-who in the Books with Dragons and Ice Faeries, that it sorts the worthy from the unworthy. No matter who was "right," those people that were doing things such as comparing RLJ disbelief to being a moon landing conspiracy theorist are not somehow vindicated by the passage of time--because such a sentiment was always ridiculous, relative to how silly the disagreement is.
  8. As a matter of fact, I might internally rank them, but there is no need for anyone else to be particularly bothered that I have done so, yes? My tastes in style are subjective, and I'd go so far as to say my tastes in puzzles are subjective as well. The answer to Jon's parentage is not exciting to me, because I already inherently dislike secret parentage puzzles. I also found it a bit curious that my qualifications to have an opinion on Martin relative to Wolfe was something that needed to be assessed--if I said "the Rolling Stones are better than the Beatles," would you demand that I play the guitar for you, to prove that I'm qualified to have an opinion about music? I don't really agree with this premise, at least as regards the quality of a novel, show, movie, whatever--that the destination defines whether or not the journey was worth it. Nothing that GRRM does in his future volumes will make my favorite POVs - Tyrion, Jaime, and Arya - retroactively unenjoyable, nor obviate the established merits of the published novels. Not even the Omni-Bran could ruin that stuff, IMHO. Not having seen Lost, I can't really speak to this idea that it became a turd by virtue of its ending, but it seems strange to me to suggest that several seasons of (I'm assuming) quality cinematography, engaging performances, and enjoyable characters could be "ruined" by the mysteries being disappointing. Though, perhaps the answers do retroactively ruin it, if the only merit it had in the first place was the hype surrounding its questions. Quite possible, given that we live in the Franchise era, where a work being compelling becomes the responsibility of the fan theory/fan hype machine, rather than the artist. Take, for example, the character of Snoke (speaking of J.J. Abrams attached projects...), who is boring within the contents of the film The Force Awakens, so it is up to the fans to make him interesting with speculation over origins, motives, and true identities--to express creativity where the filmmakers have failed. Now, I don't really feel that's possible with ASOIAF, which I think is enjoyable independent of its puzzles and unresolved plots, but for those that have put all their interest in those areas, maybe ASOIAF can be retroactively ruined. Even that, in its own way, would be clever in a meta sort of way. It would be GRRM's greatest twist of all: ASOIAF was bad all along. ___________ In any case, I also don't agree that we need to see all of Wolfe and Martin's respective puzzles and their solutions to come to an opinion, as I already explained why I think certain aspects of what is published is already falling short--most significantly, the prophecies. My criticism is not that there is an absence of the clever and subtle within Martin's work, only that it also comes packed with stuff that is unsubtle and clumsy. Out of curiosity - and this is not meant as a challenge, but out of sincere interest - what do you feel is a mystery that is under analyzed?
  9. My thinking is probably too narrow here, as when I think of a "tall and twisted thing with ten long arms," besides the more straightforward interpretation that this is just Euron represented as a kraken, the alternative that most immediately comes to my mind is a weirwood--which, presumably, could be described as a "tall and twisted thing with ten (give or take) long arms," depending on the weirwood. If three eyed crow(s?) are spirits in the wood, and Euron has been taken, that would reconcile a lot of the surrounding imagery--the red eye as a "third eye" on his sigil, the repeated association of red eyes and albinism with sensitivity to the old gods; and of course, Crow's Eye, which could turn out to be a very literal title. -- Yet another alternative would be that GRRM is using purposely repetitive language with Moqorro's vision--"tall and twisted" is the exact description that is also used for the glass candles. While Euron's sigil is red, his hidden eye appears as black or onyx in visions--the color of the glass candle. It may be that, in addition to his Shade of the Evening consumption, he has embedded a chunk of dragonglass into his eye socket. If that were the case, it may be that he's receiving visions, or perhaps even manipulating dreams, a suggested capability of the glass candle; in that regard, he would be kind of like Sauron in the Palantir.
  10. What I said several Heresys ago was that ASOIAF is not as inscrutable as a Wolfe book, and I stand behind that, but more on that later. I don't believe I said that I am "rarely surprised" by ASOIAF, I said that the moments I find most surprising are not rooted in puzzles and mysteries. Furthermore, what we define as 'surprising' might be a bit murky. A reader looks at the question of Azor Ahai, and says "I think Person A is probably Azor Ahai, but I also have a decent theory for Person B, and a crackpot idea for Person C." If Azor Ahai turns out to be person B, is the reader "surprised?" In finding the 'wrong' idea most plausible, yet still developing a theory for the 'right' Azor Ahai, is what the reader found most plausible what matters? Have they failed to solve the mystery? The above scenario is why your proposal that I must provide 'solutions' to prove...something(?) doesn't really ring true to my philosophy as a reader--I come to Heresy because I'm always looking for new interpretations, not a single, 'correct' interpretation. In asking for predictions, are you suggesting that I should cease theorizing about what will happen in the next book (which I do all the time), and instead insist on singular interpretations? ____________________________ Insistence isn't really my thing, but I'll embrace the spirit of the conversation, and throw out some predictions anyway--two that I feel are more personal to me, and two that are more general. Should time eventually prove me to have been wrong, I accept whatever comeuppance I have earned in failing to accurately predict the future...assuming that GRRM ever actually releases another book, and that we both still give a shit about GRRM releasing another book at that point in time, and that I'm not blown away by the next hurricane to hit Florida. -Jaime Lannister has been taken, his fate uncertain. Brienne has not played Stoneheart false, so she will not help Jamie escape (yet). However, Jaime is not to be summarily executed, nor to spend an extended period of time as a prisoner; Stoneheart wants something, and she will either leverage Brienne's life or Jaime's failure to return her daughters to compel him to steal and deliver what she wants: Widow's Wail, the other half of Ice. -Mance Rayder's search for the Horn of Winter did not begin with his large scale excavation of the Frostfangs, and it did not end there, either. -Shireen Baratheon will be sacrificed to "wake dragons from stone," and Stannis will be complicit. -Craster's sons are being used to create white walkers. (edit: Obviously, the latter two are not "my" theories, but I'm assuming that isn't in contradiction of what you're asking. I'm also sticking with four under an assumption that you don't literally want an exhaustive list of everything that I think will happen in TWOW) ___________________________ You are articulating here what I failed to articulate earlier--this is what I meant in calling Wolfe's work inscrutable, in suggesting it is packed with secrets to unlock, that it rewards several rereads. I'm not saying GRRM doesn't aspire to something similar, I'm saying he falls short, not the least because of his aforementioned unambitious prose, likely stemming from a desire to not make ASOIAF too unapproachable. For every one clever moment you spot on a reread, do you not find yourself encountering others that are cringe worthy? I cited the GoHH visions previously, and I'll return to them--GRRM reveals that Balon did not fall in a gust of wind, but was killed by a Faceless Man through...a vision of "a man without a face." Yeesh. You could call that cherry picking, but I think GRRM is inelegant just often enough that ASOIAF falls short of subtle. I'm really beating a dead horse here, but I think prophecy is already an inherently bad genre trope, and GRRM only compounds that by using it poorly. In the visions and prophecies we find a lot of the lazy, on-the-nose symbolism that you deride--coming not from the fandom, but the author himself. See the above; I disagree that GRRM always holds himself to a higher standard. Furthermore, "readers might see symbols where they do not exist" is not the same thing as "symbolism has no value in interpreting the text." This is not to dismiss the broader point you are making - and the insight into GRRM's history is interesting - but I think this puts a spotlight on the value of a discussion forum, and the potential for new ideas that can come from the individual points of view that each reader brings. To put it in Heresy terms, I'm as interested in what you have to say about what is verifiable and rational within ASOIAF as I am in what RR has to say about ASOIAF's symbolism; both approaches bring their own unique benefits and blind spots. IMO, the blind spot of approaching ASOIAF as a journalist would is that such a reader might miss relational and allegorical ideas. Journalistic background or not, ASOIAF is still art, created by an artist that values the traditional foundation he is building upon; while not every line is foreshadowing, every line is deliberate. History is full of things that are arbitrary or coincidental...literature, less so. On the one hand, GRRM plays upon literary expectations to surprise readers, as he does with Eddard's death. On the other hand, it is for literary reasons that it is 'obvious' that Dany's eggs will eventually hatch, that she will eventually ride a dragon, that the dragon she will eventually ride is Drogon, and that she will eventually invade Westeros on dragon back. All of this can be inferred in AGOT. -- TL;DR I understand that this grew into a real wall of text, so if you (JNR) are only interested in whether or not I've tried my hand at amateur prophecy, a few TWOW predictions are nestled in the first section of my post.
  11. I really like that read of his sigil, especially in relation to the theory certain Heretics have raised that Euron is a failed greenseer--perhaps even a failed apprentice of Bloodraven. I wonder if GRRM is going for contrasting ideas with the two sadistic antagonists - Ramsay and Euron - that have come to the fore in the aftermath of ASOS. Ramsay embodies terror of the flesh, carnality taken to its extremes, and Euron embodies terror of the spirit, blasphemy taken to its extremes. He's the godless man. In addition to the vision you cited from the Forsaken, there's also this comment to Aeron: Perhaps Euron understands the magic of Planetos, independent of its underlying superstitions, and this accounts for his bizarre medley of occult figures and artifacts--priests, mages, lips stained by Shade of the Evening, Valyrian artifacts, etc. That being the case, it may be that Euron is quite comfortable making alliances that saner men would balk at--and perhaps Valyria isn't the only dangerous territory he has charted. It may also be that, in relation to the theory you raise, Euron's interest in magic has made him vulnerable, that he has been mentally compromised, perhaps taken outright. It goes back to that question that comes up from time to time in Heresy--a skinchanger's ability to take bodies ostensibly ends in their second life, but can they extend themselves by taking another skinchanger, or greenseer?
  12. In relation to this, it does put me in mind of a passage that is occasionally a subject of debate, from Victarion II in AFFC: Straightforwardly, Euron could just be referring the Iron Throne as a "him" rather than it, but there are some believe that the "him" may reference an unrevealed ally, a figure to which Euron is loyal, or some prophetic idea.
  13. I didn't say anything about 'allowed,' just that I think it's silly--yes, including the examples you cite. Nonetheless, there's a distinction between people projecting their personal interpretations onto the fandom with the presumptuous "everyone knows" moniker (eg, "we all know Lyanna was in Dorne") and generalizing fans in a way that is meant to impugn their relationship with the text, the conclusions they draw, or the way that they arrive at those conclusions. In the latter, discussing the text is secondary to discussing the people that discuss the text. Not at all. If my "spaghetti against the wall" approach to theorizing hadn't already made it apparent, there are very few unresolved mysteries where I think I have The One True Answer. What we can compare, however is that which has already been resolved or completed. The comparison between the two was one of both style and the nature of their use of ambiguity. The former is subjective, but it's not even in question to me--Martin is the inferior stylist. When it comes to the cleverness of mysteries, I think that is overstated when it comes to ASOIAF. Very few of the surprises within the story thus far are "puzzles." This is also subjective, but for me, the greatest surprise I've experienced in ASOIAF was the first time I read Jaime's ASOS chapters, getting to know him as a character. In that regard, I think that ASOIAF's actual strength lays in characterization, and the sheer amount of work and detail that goes into the build up that precedes a "big moment"--to use a cliche, Martin's destinations are appealing by virtue of how well he handles the journey. One need only look at the 1993 letter to appreciate why a list of plot ideas doesn't do justice to what actually makes ASOIAF appealing. To return to ambiguity, and actual "puzzles," this to me is also not in question. Those mysteries that have been resolved within ASOIAF are, IMO, crystal clear--the process by which Joffrey was poisoned, Littlefinger's role in the War of the Five Kings, etc. For the latter, the revelation is literally delivered in the form of exposition, holding the reader's hand. Assessing the way Martin has told his story thus far, I don't think there will be much left in the story that is unsolved, or left ambiguous--whereas we're over 30 years removed from the completion of The Book of the New Sun, and people are still making discoveries in their rereads. This is not really a "good" vs "bad" comparison, merely an observation that treating ASOIAF as some sort of force for intellectual vindication, as though it sorts the Worthy from the Unworthy, is ridiculous. ____ You might think it is incorrect, or smug for me to characterize ASOIAF as pulp (and, to be clear, I love pulp), yet implicit in the way you discuss ASOIAF is that you yourself are treating it as pulp: emphasis is placed on plot, mystery, failures of prose are by the author's design, because his greater priority is that the plot have mainstream comprehension. Indeed, it was only a page ago where you were seemingly dismissing the value of symbolism in understanding the text, a practice that suggests it is better to discuss ASOIAF as though it were a historical document, rather than a work of literature.
  14. In addition to Bran possibly mucking things up by attempting to call back his father, this is a good time to give a shout out to Sly Wren's theory about how the spirits of the crypts might be sprung into action: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/139034-a-horn-no-a-wolf-jon-ghost-and-the-horn-that-wakes-the-sleepers/ Not an identical theory, but I think a lot of these idea could overlap, or be reconciled with one another.
  15. Then I apologize for misinterpreting the meaning of Bran being unexpected, as I was interpreting the context to be in reference to awareness rather than belief; eg "everyone is missing the obvious possibility of Bran as a Head of the Dragon," vs. "people are aware of Bran's potential, but find other candidates more plausible." Though this does feel like it's overemphasizing the value of belief, as though leaning toward some candidates over others is a problem, or that it's particularly important to tally who ends up being right and who ends up being wrong as a percentage of "the fandom." In practice, for many readers, I don't think the answer to "is Bran one of the Heads of the Dragon," is either yes or no, but rather, "maybe, but here's some other people I've considered." I find it, in general, a bit odd to attempt to define the fandom and their beliefs when we're talking about a series that has sold at least 60 million copies, as of the 2015; such an approach seems narrow and reductive, and all but ensures strawman arguments.