Black Crow

Heresy 197 the wit and wisdom of Old Nan

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Welcome to Heresy 197, the latest edition of the quirky thread where we take an in-depth look at the story and in particular what GRRM has referred to as the real conflict, not the Game of Thrones, but the apparent threat which lies in the North, in the magical otherlands beyond the Wall. The thread is called Heresy because we were the first to challenge the orthodoxy that the Wall is the last best hope of mankind; to question whether the three-fingered tree-huggers really are kindly elves and question too whether the Starks might have a dark secret in their past.

 

The strength and the beauty and ultimately the value of Heresy as a critical discussion group is that it reflects diversity and open-ness. This is a thread where ideas can be discussed – and argued – freely, because above all it is about an exchange of ideas and sometimes too a remarkably well informed exchange drawing upon an astonishing broad base of literature ranging through Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and so many others all to the way to the Táin Bó Cúailnge and the Mabinogion.

 

If new to the thread, don’t be intimidated by the size and scope of Heresy, or by some of the many ideas we’ve discussed here over the years since it began in 2011. This is very much a come as you are thread with no previous experience required. We’re very welcoming and we’re very good at talking in circles and we don’t mind going over old ground again, especially with a fresh pair of eyes, so just ask. You will neither be monstered, patronized nor directed to follow links, but will be engaged directly. Just be patient and observe the local house rules that the debate be conducted by reference to the text, with respect for the ideas of others, and above all with great good humour

 

We’ve been around for a while now and discussed an awful lot of stuff over the last five years. Some of it has been overtaken by events and some of it seemingly confirmed by the mummers’ version, but notwithstanding the occasional crack-pottery on the whole its been pretty good stuff and we’re pleased enough with what we’ve done to have a bit of a celebration. In the run-up to Heresy 100 we ran a series of specially commissioned essays focused on discrete aspects of heresy. Now, in the run-up to the Heresy bicentennial we are running a series of essays summarizing what we’ve been discussing on particular aspects of Heresy. Some of it goes over old ground again, but other essays bring some new ideas to the table. The essays are just starters for 10 so while its hoped that we can focus the discussion on them, that’s not to be considered as prescriptive, to paraphrase GRRM himself, Heresy is a matter of gardening, not architecture.

 

The latest contribution to the bicentennial series isn’t actually an essay at all, but rather a compilation of all of Old Nan’s stories and passing remarks on Old Nan’s stories, presented here without commentary for your delectation, edification and discussion.

 

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Game of Thrones

Bran 1,

 

En route to see the execution.

He [Bran] remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

The same chapter, Bran talks to Eddard.

“He was a wildling,” Bran said. “They carry off women and sell them to the Others.”
His lord father smiled. “Old Nan has been telling you stories again."

The same chapter, Catelyn talks to Eddard.

“There are darker things beyond the Wall.” She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts. His smile was gentle. “You listen to too many of Old Nan’s stories.”

Bran 2

 

right before he sees Jaime and Cersei.

His father would be the Hand of the King, and they were going to live in the red castle at King’s Landing, the castle the Dragonlords had built. Old Nan said there were ghosts there, and dungeons where terrible things had been done, and dragon heads on the walls.

Same chapter, further on.

Old Nan told him a story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes.

Bran 4

he is paralyzed.

“It was just a lie,” he said bitterly, remembering the crow from his dream. “I can’t fly. I can’t even run.”
“Crows are all liars,” Old Nan agreed, from the chair where she sat doing her needlework. “I know a story about a crow."

“I hate your stupid stories.”
The old woman smiled at him toothlessly. “My stories? No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are, before me and after me, before you too.”
[...]
“I know a story about a boy who hated stories,” Old Nan said.
[...]

“I could tell you the story about Brandon the Builder,” Old Nan said. “That was always your favorite.”
Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite. Maybe one of the other Brandons had liked that story. Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were her Brandon, the baby she had nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.
“That’s not my favorite,” he said. “My favorites were the scary ones.”
“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Old Nan said quietly, “what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.”
“You mean the Others,” Bran said querulously.
“The Others,” Old Nan agreed. “Thousands and thousands of years ago, a winter fell that was cold and hard and endless beyond all memory of man. There came a night that lasted a generation, and kings shivered and died in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. Women smothered their children rather than see them starve, and cried, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks.” Her voice and her needles fell silent, and she glanced up at Bran with pale, filmy eyes and asked, “So, child. This is the sort of story you like?”
“Well,” Bran said reluctantly, “yes, only...
Old Nan nodded. “In that darkness, the Others came for the first time,” she said as her needles went click click click. “They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.”
Her voice had dropped very low, almost to a whisper, and Bran found himself leaning forward to listen.
“Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken these lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched, until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds-”
The door opened with a bang, and Bran’s heart leapt up into his mouth in sudden fear, but it was only Maester Luwin, with Hodor looming in the stairway behind him.

The same chapter, Yoren tells that Benjen is missing.

All Bran could think of was Old Nan’s story of the Others and the last hero, hounded through the white woods by dead men and spiders big as hounds. He was afraid for a moment, until he remembered how that story ended. “The children will help him,” he blurted, “the children of the forest!”

Eddard 5

“Dark wings, dark words,” Ned murmured. It was a proverb Old Nan had taught him as a boy.

Arya 3.

Huge stones had been set into the curving walls as steps, circling down and down, dark as the steps to hell that Old Nan used to tell them of.

The same chapter, further on, Arya talks to Eddard.

“A wizard,” said Ned, unsmiling. “Did he have a long white beard and tall pointed hat speckled with stars?”
“No! It wasn’t like Old Nan’s stories. He didn’t look like a wizard, but the fat one said he was.”

Sansa 3

When the Knight of Flowers had spoken up, she’d been sure she was about to see one of Old Nan’s stories come to life.


Jon 3

two frozen bodies are brought to the Wall.

Unbidden, he thought back on the tales that Old Nan used to tell them, when he was a boy at Winterfell. He could almost hear her voice again, and the click-click-click of her needles. In that darkness, the Others came riding, she used to say, dropping her voice lower and lower. Cold and dead they were, and they hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every living creature with hot blood in its veins. Holdfasts and cities and kingdoms of men all fell before them, as they moved south on pale dead horses, leading hosts of the slain. They fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children...

Bran 6

Bran is talking to Robb.

"Lord Roose never says a word, he only looks at me, and all I can think of is that room they have in the Dreadfort, where the Boltons hang the skins of their enemies.”
“That’s just one of Old Nan’s stories,” Bran said. A note of doubt crept into his voice. “Isn’t it?”

Arya 5

Old Nan used to tell stories of boys who stowed away on trading galleys and sailed off into all kinds of adventures.

Bran 7

“There was a knight once who couldn’t see,” Bran said stubbornly, as Ser Rodrik went on below. “Old Nan told me about him. He had a long staff with blades at both ends and he could spin it in his hands and chop two men at once.”
“Symeon Star-Eyes,” Luwin said as he marked numbers in a book. “When he lost his eyes, he put star sapphires in the empty sockets, or so the singers claim. Bran, that is only a story, like the tales of Florian the Fool. A fable from the Age of Heroes.”

The same chapter, further on, in the crypts.

He looked at the passing faces and the tales came back to him. The maester had told him the stories, and Old Nan had made them come alive. “That one is Jon Stark. When the sea raiders landed in the east, he drove them out and built the castle at WhiteHarbor. His son was Rickard Stark, not my father’s father but another Rickard, he took the Neck away from the Marsh King and married his daughter. Theon Stark’s the real thin one with the long hair and the skinny beard. They called him the ‘Hungry Wolf,’ because he was always at war. That’s a Brandon, the tall one with the dreamy face, he was Brandon the Shipwright, because he loved the sea. His tomb is empty. He tried to sail west across the SunsetSea and was never seen again. His son was Brandon the Burner, because he put the torch to all his father’s ships in grief. There’s Rodrik Stark, who won BearIsland in a wrestling match and gave it to the Mormonts. And that’s Torrhen Stark, the King Who Knelt. He was the last King in the North and the first Lord of Winterfell, after he yielded to Aegon the Conqueror. Oh, there, he’s Cregan Stark. He fought with Prince Aemon once, and the Dragonknight said he’d never faced a finer swordsman.” They were almost at the end now, and Bran felt a sadness creeping over him. “And there’s my grandfather, Lord Rickard, who was beheaded by Mad King Aerys. His daughter Lyanna and his son Brandon are in the tombs beside him. Not me, another Brandon, my father’s brother.
They’re not supposed to have statues, that’s only for the lords and the kings, but my father loved them so much he had them done.”

The same chapter, further on.

“Old Nan says the children knew the songs of the trees, that they could fly like birds and swim like fish and talk to the animals,” Bran said. “She says that they made music so beautiful that it made you cry like a little baby just to hear it.”
“And all this they did with magic,” Maester Luwin said, distracted.

 

 

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Clash of Kings

Chapter 4, Bran

Starks had wolf blood. Old Nan told him so. “Though it is stronger in some than in others,” she warned.

Chapter 6, Jon

“Aerion the Monstrous?” Jon knew that name. “The Prince Who Thought He Was a Dragon” was one of Old Nan’s more gruesome tales. His little brother Bran had loved it.

Chapter 7, Catelyn

And when at last Harrenhal stood complete, on the very day King Harren took up residence, Aegon the Conqueror had come ashore at King’s Landing. Catelyn could remember hearing Old Nan tell the story to her own children, back at Winterfell. “And King Harren learned that thick walls and high towers are small use against dragons,” the tale always ended. “For dragons fly.” Harren and all his line had perished in the fires that engulfed his monstrous fortress, and every house that held Harrenhal since had come to misfortune. Strong it might be, but it was a dark place, and cursed.

Chapter 9, Arya

She remembered a story Old Nan had told once, about a man imprisoned in a dark castle by evil giants. He was very brave and smart and he tricked the giants and escaped . . . but no sooner was he outside the castle than the Others took him, and drank his hot red blood.

Chapter 14, Arya

Arya was remembering the stories Old Nan used to tell of Harrenhal. Evil King Harren had walled himself up inside, so Aegon unleashed his dragons and turned the castle into a pyre. Nan said that fiery spirits still haunted the blackened towers. Sometimes men went to sleep safe in their beds and were found dead in the morning, all burnt up.

Chapter 23, Jon

Jon remembered Old Nan’s tales of the savage folk who drank blood from human skulls.

The same chapter, further on

“Wildlings have invaded the realm before.” Jon had heard the tales from Old Nan and Maester Luwin both, back at Winterfell. “Raymun Redbeard led them south in the time of my grandfather’s grandfather, and before him there was a king named Bael the Bard.”
“Aye, and long before them came the Horned Lord and the brother kings Gendel and Gorne, and in ancient days Joramun, who blew the Horn of Winter and woke giants from the earth. Each man of them broke his strength on the Wall, or was broken by the power of Winterfell on the far side . . . but the Night’s Watch is only a shadow of what we were, and who remains to oppose the wildlings besides us?"

Chapter 26, Arya

She remembered Old Nan’s stories of the castle built on fear. Harren the Black had mixed human blood in the mortar, Nan used to say, dropping her voice so the children would need to lean close to hear, but Aegon’s dragons had roasted Harren and all his sons within their great walls of stone.

Chapter 30, Arya

Old Nan used to tell of the giants who lived beyond the Wall.

Chapter 33, Catelyn

Storm’s End emerged like a dream of stone while wisps of pale mist raced across the field, flying from the sun on wings of wind. Morning ghosts, she had heard Old Nan call them once, spirits returning to their graves.

Chapter 35, Bran

Old Nan told scary stories of beastlings and shapechangers sometimes. In the stories they were always evil.

Chapter 46, Bran

Torrhen’s Square was under attack by some monstrous war chief named Dagmer Cleftjaw. Old Nan said he couldn’t be killed, that once a foe had cut his head in two with an axe, but Dagmer was so fierce he’d just pushed the two halves back together and held them until they healed up.

Chapter 47, Arya

In Old Nan’s stories about men who were given magic wishes by a grumkin, you had to be especially careful with the third wish, because it was the last.

Chapter 64, Arya

I’d just fly away, fly up past the moon and the shining stars, and see all the things in Old Nan’s stories, dragons and sea monsters and the Titan of Braavos.

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Storm of Swords

 

Jon

In Old Nan’s stories, giants were outsized men who lived in colossal castles, fought with huge swords, and walked about in boots a boy could hide in.

The same chapter, further on

Old Nan used to tell stories about knights and their ladies who would sleep in a single bed with a blade between them for honor’s sake.

Bran,

“There’s people,” Bran told her. “The Umbers are mostly east of the kingsroad, but they graze their sheep in the high meadows in summer. There are Wulls west of the mountains along the Bay of Ice, Harclays back behind us in the hills, and Knotts and Liddles and Norreys and even some Flints up here in the high places.” His father’s mother’s mother had been a Flint of the mountains. Old Nan once said that it was her blood in him that made Bran such a fool for climbing before his fall. She had died years and years and years before he was born, though, even before his father had been born.

The same chapter, further on, Meera is telling the story about the knight of the Laughing tree.

“Maybe he came from the Isle of Faces,” said Bran. “Was he green?” In Old Nan’s stories, the guardians had dark green skin and leaves instead of hair. Sometimes they had antlers too, but Bran didn’t see how the mystery knight could have worn a helm if he had antlers. “I bet the old gods sent him.”

Bran,

“They were afraid of the wildlings,” said Bran. “Wildlings come over the Wall or through the mountains, to raid and steal and carry off women. If they catch you, they make your skull into a cup to drink blood, Old Nan used to say. The Night’s Watch isn’t so strong as it was in Brandon’s day or Queen Alysanne’s, so more get through.

The same chapter, further on

“There’s a causeway. A stone causeway, hidden under the water. We could walk out.” They could, anyway; he would have to ride on Hodor’s back, but at least he’d stay dry that way.
The Reeds exchanged a look. “How do you know that?” asked Jojen. “Have you been here before, my prince?”
“No. Old Nan told me. The holdfast has a golden crown, see?” He pointed across the lake. You could see patches of flaking gold paint up around the crenellations. “Queen Alysanne slept there, so they painted the merlons gold in her honor.”

The same chapter, further on


“There are abandoned castles along the Wall, I’ve heard,” Jojen answered. “Fortresses built by the Night’s Watch but now left empty. One of them may give us our way through.”
The ghost castles, Old Nan had called them.

Jon

"This is Queenscrown.”
Across the lake, the tower was black again, a dim shape dimly seen. “A queen lived there?” asked Ygritte.
“A queen stayed there for a night.” Old Nan had told him the story, but Maester Luwin had confirmed most of it. “Alysanne, the wife of King Jaehaerys the Conciliator. He’s called the Old King because he reigned so long, but he was young when he first came to the Iron Throne. In those days, it was his wont to travel all over the realm. When he came to Winterfell, he brought his queen, six dragons, and half his court. The king had matters to discuss with his Warden of the North, and Alysanne grew bored, so she mounted her dragon Silverwing and flew north to see the Wall. This village was one of the places where she stopped. Afterward the smallfolk painted the top of their holdfast to look like the golden crown she’d worn when she spent the night among them.”
“I have never seen a dragon.”
“No one has. The last dragons died a hundred years ago or more. But this was before that.”
“Queen Alysanne, you say?”
“Good Queen Alysanne, they called her later. One of the castles on the Wall was named for her as well. Queensgate. Before her visit they called it Snowgate.”

Bran,

The Nightfort had figured in some of Old Nan’s scariest stories. It was here that Night’s King had reigned, before his name was wiped from the memory of man. This was where the Rat Cook had served the Andal king his prince-and-bacon pie, where the seventy-nine sentinels stood their watch, where brave young Danny Flint had been raped and murdered. This was the castle where King Sherrit had called down his curse on the Andals of old, where the ‘prentice boys had faced the thing that came in the night, where blind Symeon Star-Eyes had seen the hellhounds fighting. Mad Axe had once walked these yards and climbed these towers, butchering his brothers in the dark.
All that had happened hundreds and thousands of years ago, to be sure, and some maybe never happened at all.

The same chapter, further on.

The Wall could look like stone, all grey and pitted, but then the clouds would break and the sun would hit it differently, and all at once it would transform, and stand there white and blue and glittering. It was the end of the world, Old Nan always said. On the other side were monsters and giants and ghouls, but they could not pass so long as the Wall stood strong.

The same chapter, further on

The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.
He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.
“Some say he was a Bolton,” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down.” She always pinched Bran on the nose then, he would never forget it. “He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.”

[...]

Night’s King was only a man by light of day, Old Nan would always say, but the night was his to rule.

The same chapter, further on

The Rat Cook had cooked the son of the Andal king in a big pie with onions, carrots, mushrooms, lots of pepper and salt, a rasher of bacon, and a dark red Dornish wine. Then he served him to his father, who praised the taste and had a second slice. Afterward the gods transformed the cook into a monstrous white rat who could only eat his own young. He had roamed the Nightfort ever since, devouring his children, but still his hunger was not sated. “It was not for murder that the gods cursed him,” Old Nan said, “nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive.”

The same chapter, further on

Outside the wind was sending armies of dead leaves marching across the courtyards to scratch faintly at the doors and windows. The sounds made him think of Old Nan’s stories. He could almost hear the ghostly sentinels calling to each other atop the Wall and winding their ghostly warhorns.

The same chapter, further on

He remembered what Old Nan had said of Mad Axe, how he took his boots off and prowled the castle halls barefoot in the dark, with never a sound to tell you where he was except for the drops of blood that fell from his axe and his elbows and the end of his wet red beard. Or maybe it wasn’t Mad Axe at all, maybe it was the thing that came in the night. The ‘prentice boys all saw it, Old Nan said, but afterward when they told their Lord Commander every description had been different. And three died within the year, and the fourth went mad, and a hundred years later when the thing had come again, the ‘prentice boys were seen shambling along behind it, all in chains.
[...]
Mad Axe had been a big man in Old Nan’s story, and the thing that came in the night had been monstrous.

The same chapter, further on, they meet Sam

“Was he green?” Bran wanted to know. “Did he have antlers?”
The fat man was confused. “The elk?”
“Coldhands,” said Bran impatiently. “The green men ride on elks, Old Nan used to say. Sometimes they have antlers too.”

The same chapter, further on

Beyond the gates the monsters live, and the giants and the ghouls, he remembered Old Nan saying, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong.

Sansa

In Old Nan’s stories the grumkins crafted magic things that could make a wish come true.

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Feast for Crows

Arya

The Titan of Braavos. Old Nan had told them stories of the Titan back in Winterfell. He was a giant as tall as a mountain, and whenever Braavos stood in danger he would wake with fire in his eyes, his rocky limbs grinding and groaning as he waded out into the sea to smash the enemies. “The Braavosi feed him on the juicy pink flesh of little highborn girls,” Nan would end.

Arya

She remembered a tale she had heard from Old Nan, about how sometimes during a long winter men who’d lived beyond their years would announce that they were going hunting. And their daughters would weep and their sons would turn their faces to the fire, she could hear Old Nan saying, but no one would stop them, or ask what game they meant to hunt, with the snows so deep and the cold wind howling.

 

Dance with Dragons

Bran

Bran found himself remembering the tales Old Nan had told him when he was a babe. Beyond the Wall the monsters live, the giants and the ghouls, the stalking shadows and the dead that walk, she would say, tucking him in beneath his scratchy woolen blanket, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong and the men of the Night’s Watch are true.

Bran

“Someone else was in the raven,” he told Lord Brynden, once he had returned to his own skin. “Some girl. I felt her.”
“A woman, of those who sing the song of earth,” his teacher said. “Long dead, yet a part of her remains, just as a part of you would remain in Summer if your boy’s flesh were to die upon the morrow. A shadow on the soul. She will not harm you.”
“Do all the birds have singers in them?”
“All,” Lord Brynden said. “It was the singers who taught the First Men to send messages by raven … but in those days, the birds would speak the words. The trees remember, but men forget, and so now they write the messages on parchment and tie them round the feet of birds who have never shared their skin.”
Old Nan had told him the same story once, Bran remembered.

Jon

The wind was gusting, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan had told when Jon was a boy.

Jon

Wun Wun was very little like the giants in Old Nan’s tales, those huge savage creatures who mixed blood into their morning porridge and devoured whole bulls, hair and hide and horns.

Arya

Old Nan had told her tales of Hardhome, back at Winterfell when she had still been Arya Stark

Jon

The snowfall was light today, a thin scattering of flakes dancing in the air, but the wind was blowing from the east along the Wall, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan used to tell.

Theon

Theon would have laughed if he had dared. He remembered tales Old Nan had told them of storms that raged for forty days and forty nights, for a year, for ten years … storms that buried castles and cities and whole kingdoms under a hundred feet of snow.

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3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Old Nan said quietly,

Wish she hadn't said that -- the remark that spawned ten thousand sarcastic, condescending insults on this site.

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“A wizard,” said Ned, unsmiling. “Did he have a long white beard and tall pointed hat speckled with stars?”

"No!" said Arya, laughing.  "That's Dumbledore."

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“There was a knight once who couldn’t see,” Bran said stubbornly, as Ser Rodrik went on below. “Old Nan told me about him. He had a long staff with blades at both ends and he could spin it in his hands and chop two men at once.”

"Darth Maul,” Luwin said as he marked numbers in a book.  "But it was a staff with lightsabers at both ends."

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

She remembered a story Old Nan had told once, about a man imprisoned in a dark castle by evil giants. He was very brave and smart and he tricked the giants and escaped . . . but no sooner was he outside the castle than the Others took him, and drank his hot red blood.

This tale is underanalyzed and I don't feel like I've figured it out at all.

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

In Old Nan’s stories about men who were given magic wishes by a grumkin, you had to be especially careful with the third wish, because it was the last.

Which is why the hero would always wish for three more wishes.

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

The Rat Cook had cooked the son of the Andal king in a big pie with onions, carrots, mushrooms, lots of pepper and salt, a rasher of bacon, and a dark red Dornish wine. Then he served him to his father, who praised the taste and had a second slice.

Except for the Andal ingredient, this sounds like it could be quite good.  (Andals are also fattening.)

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

The wind was gusting, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan had told when Jon was a boy.

 

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

The snowfall was light today, a thin scattering of flakes dancing in the air, but the wind was blowing from the east along the Wall, cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales Old Nan used to tell.

Gosh, it's almost as if GRRM is trying to put the notion of an ice dragon into our heads for some reason...

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11 hours ago, JNR said:

Gosh, it's almost as if GRRM is trying to put the notion of an ice dragon into our heads for some reason...

Interesting that the two passages come so close together and so comparatively late in the day, as if paving the way...

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Posted (edited)

11 hours ago, JNR said:

 

This tale is underanalyzed and I don't feel like I've figured it out at all.

 

Bran, imprisoned in the cave of skulls, with the blue-eyed lot waiting outside?

Edited by Black Crow
spelling

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3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Interesting that the two passages come so close together and so comparatively late in the day, as if paving the way...

And GRRM's phrasing was identical, word for word, in both cases:

Quote

cold as the breath of the ice dragon in the tales

This suggests to me as a writer that GRRM made a note to himself to be sure to include that phrase in ADWD, and then he used it twice without realizing it, and the good Ms. Groell didn't notice either.

The point being: GRRM wants to establish that there are multiple stories in the North about ice dragons and they are well-known and frequently told -- in short, there may be some sort of historical foundation for them, in the same way there may be for any/all of these tales.

The World book also supports this slant:

 
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Of all the queer and fabulous denizens of the Shivering Sea, however, the greatest are the ice dragons. These colossal beasts, many times larger than the dragons of Valyria, are said to be made of living ice, with eyes of pale blue crystal and vast translucent wings through which the moon and stars can be glimpsed as they wheel across the sky. Whereas common dragons (if any dragon can truly be said to be common) breathe flame, ice dragons supposedly breathe cold, a chill so terrible that it can freeze a man solid in half a heartbeat.
 
Sailors from half a hundred nations have glimpsed these great beasts over the centuries, so mayhaps there is some truth behind the tales. Archmaester Margate has suggested that many legends of the north—freezing mists, ice ships, Cannibal Bay, and the like—can be explained as distorted reports of ice-dragon activity. Though an amusing notion, and not without a certain elegance, this remains the purest conjecture. As ice dragons supposedly melt when slain, no actual proof of their existence has ever been found.

 

I note the remarkable parallel between the boldfaced with the established canonical reality of the Popsicles. 
 
However, the World book does not, as far as I know, attempt to link the two, either, which suggests to me the tales may be independent -- that is, Old Nan's ice dragon stories aren't necessarily about the Long Night.

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No dogless man may sit the Seastone Chair!

Oh Snap!  ROFL.

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Whom the Gods would destroy they first...

but this is getting way off topic.

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17 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Bran, imprisoned in the cave of skulls, with the blue-eyed lot waiting outside?

It's not impossible Bran is imprisoned, but the cave isn't a castle, the CotF aren't giants, and try though I might, I can't seriously picture the Others drinking Bran's hot red blood any time in these books.

However, we also have Arya escaping Harrenhal.  This seems better, because

1. She was a child and they were all giants there to her

2. Harrenhal really was quite a dark castle at that time

3. That tale and her Harrenhal story both occur in the same book, as if the one were meant to introduce the other

4. She does escape cleverly: by asking Jaqen to murder himself.

But if her hot red blood was soon drunk by the Others afterwards, in either a literal or metaphorical sense, I can't say I recall it.

Perhaps this particular tale has no parallel in the current story.  Some just don't seem to, after all, like the seventy-nine sentinels who were buried in the Wall.

Tackling it from another angle: Doesn't it seem odd to find giants living in a castle?  But when you combine that story with

On 3/25/2017 at 2:25 PM, Black Crow said:

In Old Nan’s stories, giants were outsized men who lived in colossal castles

...a more coherent picture begins to form.  Perhaps all of Old Nan's tales about giants were, in fact, about men.  Historical men of note.

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On 3/26/2017 at 4:09 PM, JNR said:

I note the remarkable parallel between the boldfaced with the established canonical reality of the Popsicles. 

However, the World book does not, as far as I know, attempt to link the two, either, which suggests to me the tales may be independent -- that is, Old Nan's ice dragon stories aren't necessarily about the Long Night.

A much closer parallel would be with the eponymous Ice Dragon, fatally wounded while killing three [!] fire dragons and finishing up as a very cold pond of water.

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On 3/27/2017 at 5:41 AM, JNR said:

It's not impossible Bran is imprisoned, but the cave isn't a castle, the CotF aren't giants, and try though I might, I can't seriously picture the Others drinking Bran's hot red blood any time in these books.

I thought we were looking at a parallel rather than a duplication. The cave may not be a mediaeval fortification but it is akin to the hall of the mountain king; the tree-huggers may be squirrels rather than giants but they are powerful, probably the most powerful of the Old Races and while I agree that the blue-eyed lot aren't likely to do for him, they are a danger which he needs to avoid in making his escape.

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Posted (edited)

4 hours ago, Black Crow said:

A much closer parallel would be with the eponymous Ice Dragon, fatally wounded while killing three [!] fire dragons and finishing up as a very cold pond of water.

It's closer in the sense that it's a dragon, but it's further in the sense that it's entirely outside the world of ASOIAF.  

The difference is clear from an epistemological standpoint: Inside this one fictional world of ASOIAF, you have two apparently independent groups of stories told about (1) creatures of living ice who (2) have blue eyes and (3) emit tremendous cold -- both Popsicles and ice dragons. Is this really a coincidence?

The ice dragons are also said to ( 4) melt when slain, something we know for sure happens to Popsicles. 

Well, that's interesting because it would have been just as easy for a storyteller who was making up bullshit about imaginary ice dragons to imagine a false death, like the death depicted in the show where the Popsicles shatter instead of melt

So one has to assign the ice dragon tales a little more credibility as a result. Odds of such a thing actually existing and putting in a future appearance climb slightly.

(Of course, the entire World book is noncanonical, primarily not written by GRRM, and explicitly characterized as untrustworthy by GRRM, who while chuckling said we don't know what to believe from it or not.  Which, as always, makes me wonder why anyone would buy it, except for the art.)

Edited by JNR

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4 hours ago, JNR said:

It's closer in the sense that it's a dragon, but it's further in the sense that it's entirely outside the world of ASOIAF.  

 

True, but on the other hand GRRM has a habit of re-imagining, reworking and expanding themes from his earlier work - and sometimes combining them as well. Whilst he has explicitly denied that the two stories are connected, sufficient [and not just the dragons] has bled through to give us ideas.

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Certainly.  Obviously terms like "Shivering Sea" and "Haunted Forest" turn up in both works, for instance (though IMO they are not as well suited for adult fantasy as for the original children's book).

So this is a good example of two fundamentally different approaches to analyzing GRRM's fiction:

1. In-world logic.  This is my favorite approach, in which I examine the information within the fictional world on its own terms and ask questions like "How would X character know Y tidbit, and what does Z behavior imply?"  

In this case, that would be "How would sailors know that ice dragons melt when slain? And doesn't that seem interesting?  Given that the sailors' descriptions of ice dragon so closely parallel Popsicles, who definitely do melt when slain even though we never hear that in the myths about Popsicles."

2. External influences that may or may not have had an effect on ASOIAF.  Heresy has historically focused on these, in the form of mythology from our world, or other fiction written by himself or others, including both GRRM's known influences such as Marvel Comics as well as more esoteric potential influences.

Both systems yield useful insights.  It's a fault of asoiaf.westeros.org, as a site, that it has culturally discouraged and often even mocked the second system, as in the first AMA given on Reddit by the site admin.

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Giants in monstrous castles, makes me immediately think 5 forts/Moat Cailen...or perhaps someone held by the umbers?

Stretching in any case.  

Given show spoilers/leaks currently unproven we may indeed see an ice dragon after all which I'm honestly not sure about.  

We have three dragons in this story for a reason.  Danny can't ride em all.

 

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22 minutes ago, The Dragon has three heads said:

Giants in monstrous castles, makes me immediately think 5 forts/Moat Cailen...or perhaps someone held by the umbers?

Stretching in any case.  

Given show spoilers/leaks currently unproven we may indeed see an ice dragon after all which I'm honestly not sure about.  

We have three dragons in this story for a reason.  Danny can't ride em all.

 

The stories of mysterious ruins did make me wonder, but given that its mainly a World Book I think its more of a curiosity - "so Old Nan was right all along" - rather than an actual plot device.

As to Ice Dragons I think that one might turn out to be true after all. Danaerys' the Dragonlord's pets need to be stopped and as I noted earlier the eponymous Ice Dragon of the story did fight and kill three fire dragons; so there may well be a plot device emerging

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