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ASOIAF becoming a GOOD VS BAD story

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8 hours ago, Lord Wraith said:

There are a lot of alive Wildlings for the Others to be committing genocide on them. I think the Wildlings would already before wiped out if the Others wanted it considering how strong they are. Frankly it seems to me is that they are simply pushing them South although to what point and purpose I am unsure of.

True, and it we don't really know how it started, Ygritte, who is not in the know, kind of made it sound as though Mance and crew were doing things they shouldn't have. I wonder if we will ever get the whole story.

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13 hours ago, Lord Wraith said:

There are a lot of alive Wildlings for the Others to be committing genocide on them. I think the Wildlings would already before wiped out if the Others wanted it considering how strong they are. Frankly it seems to me is that they are simply pushing them South although to what point and purpose I am unsure of.

Driving millions of people off their land and committing genocide on them whenever they don't run away fast enough isn't very sympathetic or "grey" either.

I don't think their goal is to exterminate the Wildlings for extermination sake, but even if they are only doing it as a "by-product" that doesn't make the dead people any less dead or the whighted people any less zombified.

On 18/04/2017 at 9:01 PM, Whitering said:

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say Sauron ever wanted to do good for the world, I mean, Morgoth was selfish in the extreme from day 1. Still, if Tolkien had done some PoV characters, as it were, from the Easterlings or the Orcs, I don't think people would be so quick to write it off is a good v bad story.

 

On 18/04/2017 at 11:58 PM, Túrin the Turambar said:

hm... Sauron was a maiar following Aule (just like Saruman) before he supported Morgoth. But IIRC we know nothing about Saurons motives for supporting Morgoth. When we first see him in the story (in Tol Sirion), I would say he certainly had no "good" motives and wishes left.

On 18/04/2017 at 11:58 PM, Túrin the Turambar said:

hm... Sauron was a maiar following Aule (just like Saruman) before he supported Morgoth. But IIRC we know nothing about Saurons motives for supporting Morgoth. When we first see him in the story (in Tol Sirion), I would say he certainly had no "good" motives and wishes left.

All there in Tolkien's notes and letters to readers asking him about things.

Both Morgoth and Sauron, in the beginning thought that they were doing good.

Morgoth, being the first and most powerful of the Ainur thought that he was simply better than anybody else (including Eru Illuvatar, aka God) and that everybody would be better off if they'd just let him tell them what to do. For a long time he just felt that all the Valar were wrong for opposing him and so deserved to be fought against.

Morgoth fell around the time of Creation, true, but he wasn't irredeemably fallen until his final betrayal of the Valar and the business with the Trees (and possibly the stuff with humanity that might or might not be canon). And he degenerated into a barely aware...thing....a few centuries after that, with most of his essence leaking out into his followers (maybe) and into Arda itself. He wasn't really much of anything after that, except for a corrupting presence. 

Though of course if we take the Round World version into consideration, then he was irredeemable form the point of creation, but that's getting way of-topic and is very far removed from any of the texts released on the LoTR and the Silmarillion.

And Sauron served Morgoth because he believed so as well and might have been the only genuinely loyal follower Morgoth had. And it seems it took. Even far into his reign Sauron saw himself as a well-intentioned extremist.

At least from Tolkien's standpoint, Sauron at the time of This reign in Tol-Sirion DID still have good intentions. He did believe that Morgoth's reign would benefit Arda and was loyal to him. And really, from his POV, why should he rethink his position at that point? Because Luthien is pretty? So could he still be at that point and he was only a werewolf because his side was in a war with the Elves and Men.

From the POV of an Orc the Elves would be pretty scary as well; 6-7 (or more) foot tall incredibly strong, durable and resilient super beings that can hurt them by simply looking at them or by doing as much as invoking the name of one of their baleful gods (beings known to Orcs simply as "Enemies") all of whom have the strength of well...gods...and hate Orcs by principle alone (except Nienna, probably, she'd at least make an attempt rehabilitating them)

There is an objective good and evil in Middle Earth, but the vast majority of creatures living in it fall into the scale in-between.

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Posted (edited)

I think the OP has a valid concern... though that's mostly because it's a concern I've had for a while now too.

Even if the Others have some kind of sympathetic story, they themselves have made it into a war of the living versus the dead. They're the ones marching south, animating the corpses of the fallen into an army. It's the one enemy in the story that unites all the various living people in the world; it brings new light to the old idea that death is the true equalizer. Thus, for all intents and purposes, this becomes becomes a good vs evil, life vs death, light vs darkness topic. Not to mention there is the concept of walking dead being unnatural and an abomination against nature.

My thought are that while many conscientious people will likely drop their feuds and wars and answer the call to the ultimate fight for life, proximity to the Wall really plays a factor. We can guarantee the majority of the North will respond once provided with proof of the Others' existence because they'll be the first victims. Southron lords? I think that's where we'll find the grey.

Though I'm a fan of Cersei's POV chapters and (heavily flawed) character, I'd be lying if I said I thought she'd pull through and march an army North to try and save humanity. She'll be concerned with protecting herself and Tommen more than anything else. Will the Golden Company, Aegon VI, and Connington suspend their campaign for the throne and march North? Unlikely. Human selfishness will prevail in some cases. I hate to even think about it, but there's a very good chance some factions will take advanatage and still try and strike at their enemies that are fighting the Others. The worst part about that is that they'd be weakening the overall strength of the living and their own chance for survival. But this won't be the first time we've seen characters do this kind of thing. Let's also not forget that Winter has arrived and traveling an army (much less traveling one North!) is a foolish thing to do, regardless of a zombie horde.

On 4/18/2017 at 2:01 PM, Whitering said:

Well, I wouldn't go so far as to say Sauron ever wanted to do good for the world, I mean, Morgoth was selfish in the extreme from day 1. Still, if Tolkien had done some PoV characters, as it were, from the Easterlings or the Orcs, I don't think people would be so quick to write it off is a good v bad story.

If that's an idea you're actually interested in, I'd recommend The Sundering series. It's only two books. It's intentionally written as a deconstruction of Tolkien-esque Light vs Dark from the perspective of the losing side. As you suggested, the change of perspective makes everything a very neutral shade of gray. This of course turns a Heroic Epic concept into an Epic Tragedy, but a very good one. Her wording is also very Tolkien-esque, but in a way that isn't hard to read like Lord of the Rings can be. Something to read while we wait for this book to come out! ;)

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40222.Banewreaker

Edited by Traverys

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Well, I don't like reading about evil people, I can't even play an evil dude in a computer game. I was simply trying to say that Lotro was more nuanced than people give it credit for, and the Lord of the Rings books occupy an extremely small piece of the pie in a much larger context.

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I largely agree with the OP. It seems so bizarre for Martin to have written thousands upon thousands of pages where morality is largely shown to be relative, and where good an evil is (for the most part) so objectively in the eye of the beholder, or at least quite well explained, only for an entire race of creatures to end up as Evil Evildoers of Evil.

I don't buy that the Others are all like-minded and similarly hell-bent on destroying humanity (and taking pleasure in doing so). I doubt Martin would sink to the trope of such generic single-tracked monsters. You know the type, the villains written in only to exist as morally acceptable adversaries for The Heroes, something which is not only acceptable to destroy/kill, but even objectively necessary. Not villains like Sauron, but like Smaug, or something out of Narnia.

So, let's try to classify what the Others can be, out of the assumption that they're not Voldemort-esque Dark Lords who have been brooding on their genocidal dominion plan for generations, and only now decided to strike at a moment of weakness. Let's assume they are not active villains, and that their motivation is something other than "hatred of everything good, for that is their nature". In short, and to reiterate the point for the umpteenth time, let's assume they are not The Devil expies.

 

Okay, then, we can find a variety of different options still. One is that they're passive, that they simply don't know better. Killing humans, reanimating their corpses with magic, and using them to kill more humans? Seems evil, but from a certain perspective it's hardly different from chopping down a tree with an axe, using the wood and a piece of iron to create more axes, and chopping down more trees. The Others could simply be using humans as a convenient tool to remove humans, the same way you might use certain parasite-based remedies to rid your garden of slugs (the type where the slugs themselves spread the parasite around through contact with each other). The Others may simply not regard humans as something worthy of attention, just weeds that happens to grow in the garden. Of course, the GoT prologue with Ser Waymar is a pretty strong argument against this interpretation. The Others are clearly interacting with him instead of treating him like something that nature happened to put in their path.

 

They could also be reactive in some form. And I'm not talking "revenge for the War of the Dawn" here, but something that happened relatively recently. Grudges going back hundreds of generations to some long-since-forgotten event, after millennia of interim peace, does not seem to be a very solid reason to base a war on. It's like if Tunisia should go to war on Italy for what happened to Carthage, only it has been five times longer. No, I firmly think that whatever triggered the Others, it happened in living memory. Living for whom, that's hard to tell, though.

One interpretation is that the humans broke some pact, such as creating settlements on the side of the wall reserved for the Others, and the Others believe this to be casus belli. A sort of "Hey! You're not supposed to be on our lands!" kind of thing. It seems a little excessive to go to war just for that, but hey, the humans may simply have forgotten both the pact and the communications channels through which the Others would file their repeated complaints. After hundreds of years of thunderous silence despite repeated and regular inquiries ("Why aren't they answering their weirwoods? We agreed that we would call if something needed to be sorted out!"), war might seem like an appropriate response.

This view is supported by the fact that the Others never seem to attack in force, they just force the Wildlings down south. It could very well be that they are content with putting all humans on the right side of the Wall, and that any escalation from there (if any) would be because the humans misunderstand and start dragging in the forbidden "superweapons" of obsidian. We could quickly and plausibly find ourselves in "I didn't want to escalete, but you started it!" territory here.

 

My favourite is that the Others feel threatened by the humans, and attack in order to protect themselves. I'm not sure exactly what this threat could be, after all, the activity of the Night's Watch is at an all-time low, but Mance Rayder is a probable culprit. He gathered the wildlings in force and went to the Frostfangs to open ancient graves in search of a weapon that could bring the Wall down. From the perspective of the Others, this would look a lot like an army gathered on their doorstep, committing grave robbing to boot. However, the timeline is a little ambiguous on whether the Others showed up after Mance gathered the tribes, or if the return of the Others was what enabled Mance to gather the tribes in the first place.

As for why the Others would consider a human army threatening, we have to look back at the Long Night and the War for the Dawn. By all accounts, the Others were awfully close to winning that war. Humans were murdered en masse, the Others crept really far south, slaughtering everything in their path (this could be exaggerated after the fact, though - just see how the stories of the Purple Wedding changed as they were passed around, and that was after a matter of weeks), and humans were pretty desperate when they suddenly got their hands on some Obsidian and/or Valyrian steel. These weapons must have been a hard counter to the Others, because the ragged remains of the First Men managed to push them back beyond the Frostfangs. For such a war-weary and besieged group of primitive folks to beat back the previously-impervious Others, something must have happened that really turned the tables. After such a brutal defeat despite overwhelmingly good odds, no wonder why the Others might be a little jumpy when armies of humans show up in the Frostfangs.

This view is supported by the reaction of the Others when meeting Waymar Royce. A man in black armour, carrying a fancy sword? To them, it must have been as terrifying as the sight of an Other atop an ice spider would be to most Northmen. Genocide on two legs, ripped straight from the tales mothers use to scare their children. No wonder why they approach him cautiously, only to laugh in mocking relief when he turns out to be a trivial foe to defeat. It would be like seeing an Other tumble helplessly as the ice spider melts underneath him. "We were afraid of this?"


Of course, I like to favour another (hehe) interpretation too. The Others are not homogeneous. It could be that the ones wreaking havoc in the Haunted Forest are a marginalized, radical splinter faction in the society of the Others. That their population at large have been content with chilling in the Land of Always Winter, caring little for what happens in the remote lands south of the Frostfangs. But that some charismatic figure has managed to gather an army and march south in search of conquest, while the Wise Old Others hang their heads and sigh at the folly.


Oh geez, this became a long one. But what do you all think?

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Thank you very much forr al the replies! there are some interesting considerations for sure...but let me clarify a few things.

When I say that LOTR charachters are black/white i do not mean that they are FLAT (they are not, and I loved the book by the way), but that ultimately you have Elfs (super cool, super smart and attractive, besides), Men (like us), Dwarfs (a little like your grumpy, hairy great-aunt) who are threatened by Orcs (ugly, smelly, stupid, cruel) led by an EVIL/Satanic lord. The whole book builds up to the final showdown, to the GOOD vs EVIL BATTLE that settles everything, and I would like to know how many of you were actually rooting for Sauron, in the end.

ASOIAF has been - so far - a story of conflicts for power in which you had good reasons to support more than one party involved, if you wanted to. And then you have the Others. As of now, the only concrete consequences of their presence is to force the wildlings to find a way to cross the wall; the rest of the world seems rather unaffected by their existence. However, the clues we have from the books suggest that their role will become greater and greater. If not, this would be quite anti-climatic. If they do have a huge role in the next books, the risk is IMO that their arrival will pretty much reset the current equilibrium and alliances and change the book into: ok, let's put our armies together and fight the battle of Men VS Others. Ok, not everyone will join in (as Dwarfes and Elves in LOTR), but in the end that conflict will be the ultimate cause of the new equilibrium in Westeroes/Essos.

IF this happens:

- most of what happened so far is relevant only to decide who is going to fight the Others and his strenght at that time

- most of what happens after the battle will be decided within the arc the battle itself

- it will be really hard to root for the Others, even though Men aere selfish and greedy, and do not respect trees and animals enough -- OK but do we deserve to be exterminated for that? See Great Flood

So all that was build until now will have a moderate relevance in the end, and we will be reading about a great  battle where we all (almost all) agree who should win, that will be the ultimate cause of the story ending.

That said, I TRUST Mr. GRRM will do a great job and I look forward to read it.

 

Kyll.Ing.

your prediction of not homogeneous Others could be indeed an interesting path!

 

 

 

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Elves were also not universally good or anything, I mean, in Lotro they were, but that was a war. Galdriel selfishly led a bunch of her followers across the broken ice to found her own Kingdom in Middle Earth, the whole series basically only happened because one fucknut elf who used the light of the divine to make some pretty jewels wouldn't let his own gods have them at their time of greatest need, so instead they were stolen by Melkor.

So, the idiot's kids get all uppity run to Middle Earth to go after Melkor, but their Gods said this would end in their ruin so their kinsmen that owned all the boats said, no you shouldn't go, so the idiots kids killed them and stole the boats (Kinslaying Part 1), but instead of sending the boats back to get the people left behind, the forerunners burned them, thus Galadriel led a bunch across the ice, where you know, they died.

And it goes on from there, they kinslayed 2 more times, wiping out whole Elven lands in the process of betrayal. And it's not like the Elves of the Elven lands were super well behaved anyway. They were pretty much dicks to everyone not of their land, even other Elves.

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Even though LOTR (and can somebody please explain to me why you put an extra O at the end?) is not the best example, the point still stands. This is not about whether or not LOTR has black-and-white characters, but that black-and-white characters do not suit ASOIAF very well.

When somebody says "I don't wish for the Others to be Sauron On Ice", the point isn't that their characterization of Sauron is technically wrong, given his backstory. The point is that they don't want Generic Fantasy Villains, of which Sauron makes a handy - although imperfect - example.

I guess we could use other examples when discussing our hopes for what the Others aren't like. Gargamel, for instance? The White Witch? The Wicked Witch of the West? Voldemort? Doctor Claw? Cruella de Vil? Rita Repulsa? Bowser?

Thing is, for most well-known examples, there's usually some backstory, alternate interpretation, out-of-character episode or fan theory that ruins the image. For true examples of Generic Fantasy Villains taken seriously, you have to deep into third-tier YA novels or Saturday Morning cartoons nobody watched, but then nobody would get the reference either.

Hence Sauron. An dark wizard in black armour, with his own tall superfortress in the land of darkness, a lust for power via genocide, and an army of dirty, wicked underlings. And pretty much everybody knows who he is, you don't have to explain that when making the argument. Sure, the supplementary information gives him some nuance, but at a glance he serves as a good example of an Evil Evildoer of Evil. Don't get stuck in the semantics. Focus on the message.

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Heh, because I play Lord of the Rings Online sometimes and my head is all screwy due to age.

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Thank you Kyll. Ing., the post is about ASOIAF, not LOTR...we can allow ourselves to be superficial when talking about LOTR if it helps making a point about ASOIAF.

 

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It sound kind of like the opposite really.

It begun as a good versus evil story, with Ned and Cat and then Robb cast into the role of the heroes fighting for things the majority of the readers could empathize with and acting within their code of conduct.

This has been systematically undermined not in terms of those characters intentions, but as to their efficacy, the compatibility of their code with their stated aims and the significance of those aims in the larger context.

As it goes further on, all the characters have taken a turn for the darker and everyone is fighting on behalf of themselves.

As for the Others, there are two points to be made. So far, their actions could be seen as simple expansion. That is something humans are certainly guilty off. They are not the real threat. The damage that the various wars have caused is much more extensive than anything the Others have done. The coming Winter and Long Night are poised to do more. What happens when there are fewer resources is that people fight over them. Making this a vicious circle.

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Posted (edited)

On 25.4.2017 at 7:47 PM, Kyll.Ing. said:

They could also be reactive in some form. And I'm not talking "revenge for the War of the Dawn" here, but something that happened relatively recently. Grudges going back hundreds of generations to some long-since-forgotten event, after millennia of interim peace, does not seem to be a very solid reason to base a war on. It's like if Tunisia should go to war on Italy for what happened to Carthage, only it has been five times longer. No, I firmly think that whatever triggered the Others, it happened in living memory. Living for whom, that's hard to tell, though.

I think you are onto something here. In the last weeks i thumbed through the books, thinking about re-reading, and stumbled across a line, there one of the characters was musing about winters becoming longer and harsher since the last dragon died. Unfortunately I dont recall where and who thought that, but its in the books somewhere. And Maester Marywn tells Sam (us), that the maesters did something to make the dragons become extinct.

So here my theory: What if whatever the maester did against the dragons, also did something to old magic/and old truce from the end of the Long Night? At this point it would be interesting to know, when the first dragon was seen. It would still be possible for all your possibilities to be true:

- The Others could be a weapon of the Children (thus passiv/not thinking - though i do agree with you, that their interaction with Ser Waymar works well against that theory), hold at bay with a spell damaged by the maesters in their attempt to kill off the dragons and all magic.

- We dont know if the stories about the end of the Long Night are true to the bones. What if the Others were not defeated, but a truce has been made, between humans and magic beings, which was broken by killing of the one magic species who was living with humanity - dragons. In this scenario the Others would be another magic species, maybe the most powerful (more powerful than the CotF, possibly the one the First Men first thought to be gods?), and now they would feel threatened by human actions and an important truce would have been broken. As they are most likely quite long living beings, their reactions are slow for human standards, but now they snowball, as they get in the vicinity of humans. This would also explain, why they are - mostly - just driving the Wildlings away, as this humans are not the primary target of their war (at least not at the beginning). This would also explain why they attacked the NW at the Fist of the first Men: For the Others this was the clear prove for their fear that humanity indeed broke the truce of leaving the magic species alone and at peace: "Now they even come into our lands!"

- The last possibility would be that the Others are indeed an expansive species, in this scenario the maester would have damaged a protection spell, most likely it will be damaged further by Mel (accidentally breaking the wards of the Wall) or another person (Bran?), so they will be able to pass the Wall in the end.

I think the second scenario makes the most sense, as I go with The Sleeper:

On 23.8.2017 at 11:42 AM, The Sleeper said:

It sound kind of like the opposite really.

It begun as a good versus evil story, with Ned and Cat and then Robb cast into the role of the heroes fighting for things the majority of the readers could empathize with and acting within their code of conduct.

This has been systematically undermined not in terms of those characters intentions, but as to their efficacy, the compatibility of their code with their stated aims and the significance of those aims in the larger context.

As it goes further on, all the characters have taken a turn for the darker and everyone is fighting on behalf of themselves.

As for the Others, there are two points to be made. So far, their actions could be seen as simple expansion. That is something humans are certainly guilty off. They are not the real threat. The damage that the various wars have caused is much more extensive than anything the Others have done. The coming Winter and Long Night are poised to do more. What happens when there are fewer resources is that people fight over them. Making this a vicious circle.

In my second scenario, and with Winter and the Long Night coming back, it is not even necessary for the Wall to come down for humanity to suffer, but of course it could, and maybe we will even get an epic battle between humanity and the Others, but IMHO in the end there will be two possible outcomes with the Others:

Either will all magic dies, dragons, Others, CotF, the magic of Ashai and of the Red Priests etc., OR the truce will be reinstalled, with the maesters having to deal with living in a world that, in the long run, will turn into Steam Punk Paradise (imagine something like in the game "Arcanum"). I would bet on the second, as this would fit quite well into GRRMs portfolio of worlds he had described so far, even in the Sci-Fi books.

 

Edit: Oh, and all of this may even explain, why magic is returning into the world: Maybe the other part of the bargain was for the sapient magic beings not to interfere with humanity, holding back the magic of the world. Now (in Other standards) that the truce is broken, they let magic flow again (and the dragon candles burn again).

Edited by Morte
forgot something

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Posted (edited)

On 25/04/2017 at 6:47 PM, Kyll.Ing. said:

snip

I agree with a lot of what Kyll.Ing. said. I've been toying with the broken pact idea for some time, although it's not based on much, and it's a bit Battlestar Galactica. I like to think there was more to the agreement between the CotF and the First Men than we know, and I also have a vague theory that things like guest right are related somehow. I won't go into it now as it's a bit of a tangent.

That said, the Others' behaviour in the prologue doesn't exactly seem like that of a self-righteous, wronged people. They're kind of dicks.

The idea that they feel threatened is also something I've been thinking about, and it might make more sense. Maybe what humans want/need and what the Others want/need (e.g. summer and winter) are so opposite that there is no room for negotiation. The humans would end winter forever if they could, and not loose much sleep over the idea that they might wipe out the Others by doing so. Perhaps one might be heard to whine "From my perspective, the humans are evil!"

Edited by Ser Petyr Parker

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