Black Crow

Heresy 197 the wit and wisdom of Old Nan

399 posts in this topic

26 minutes ago, Voice said:

Bran corrected Old Nan... and reminded her that there is a distinction to be made between "the Others" and "white walkers."

Not so sure. To me it sounds like he's checking his understanding of what the white walkers are, or maybe when she's told the story before she always used "Others" and the change caught his attention?

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22 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

To me it sounds like he's checking his understanding of what the white walkers are, or maybe when she's told the story before she always used "Others" and the change caught his attention?

Yes.  I think Bran was expecting the preferred term south of the Wall, whereas Old Nan slipped up a tad there, and used the preferred term north of the Wall.

This is demonstrated in various ways in the canon, such as when Osha and her free folk pals show up and repeatedly talk about white walkers, or when in ADWD Jon is making his pitch to the free folk in Molestown, to man the Wall, and rather cleverly says:

Quote

"Winter is coming," Jon said at last, breaking the awkward silence, "and with it the white walkers."

...instead of "Others," so as to match their nomenclatural expectations, and avoid any confusion.  You can see he's getting a little better at politics (though not good enough to spare him the Ides of March routine later on).

The World book also makes its position plain:

Quote

The history of the stormlands stretches back to the Dawn Age. Long before the coming of the First Men, all Westeros belonged to the elder races—the children of the forest and the giants (and, some say, the Others, the terrifying "white walkers" of the Long Night).

But as always, that's just how Maester Yandel and the Citadel see it, as opposed to some sort of objective truth, and I still wince any time I cite the World book for any reason.

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Anyone give any thought to the term 'Others'?  We can think of the 2 races, the Children and Men, and not being either,  they are 'Others'.  But we have others, giants, snarks (Starks?), grumpkins, green men and others, so why 'Others'?

Could they be otherworld beings?  From the land of the dead?  This fits with the sídhe being their inspiration.  We see how Lady Stoneheart is changed from Catlyn Stark,  so much more than Beric, because she was dead longer.  Maybe she's halfway to being an Other, and Beric was only 10% of the way there.  A spirit recalled much later would only have hate for the living, and act like an Other.  The connection to death also fits with their control of wights.

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7 hours ago, JNR said:

Yes.  I think Bran was expecting the preferred term south of the Wall, whereas Old Nan slipped up a tad there, and used the preferred term north of the Wall.

Not so sure, while the terms are generally understood interchangeably and this story is the one which links the white walkers earlier mentioned by Mormont with the Others, it seems rather more specific.

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4 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

Anyone give any thought to the term 'Others'?  We can think of the 2 races, the Children and Men, and not being either,  they are 'Others'.  But we have others, giants, snarks (Starks?), grumpkins, green men and others, so why 'Others'?

Could they be otherworld beings?  From the land of the dead?  This fits with the sídhe being their inspiration.  We see how Lady Stoneheart is changed from Catlyn Stark,  so much more than Beric, because she was dead longer.  Maybe she's halfway to being an Other, and Beric was only 10% of the way there.  A spirit recalled much later would only have hate for the living, and act like an Other.  The connection to death also fits with their control of wights.

To continue what I was saying, although its entirely possible that the Others are so termed because they are "a different [or other] kind of life" we have the question as to why two terms are used and I still lean to the view that its a catch-all term for the non-human races - there's us and then there's the others - of whom the white walkers are but one, albeit the most obviously dangerous

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4 hours ago, Black Crow said:

To continue what I was saying, although its entirely possible that the Others are so termed because they are "a different [or other] kind of life" we have the question as to why two terms are used and I still lean to the view that its a catch-all term for the non-human races - there's us and then there's the others - of whom the white walkers are but one, albeit the most obviously dangerous

So are Children Others?  Giants?  Aurochs?

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On 3/26/2017 at 11:41 PM, 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.

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

...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.

Perhaps all of Old Nan's stories are about the Stark Children's future? Has anyone ever tried to find the parallels? You have connected Arya to the one about the giants and the castle. Bran could be the Last Hero seeking out the Children in their holdfasts with his dog.

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Posted (edited)

8 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Not so sure, while the terms are generally understood interchangeably and this story is the one which links the white walkers earlier mentioned by Mormont with the Others, it seems rather more specific.

Mormont is quoting other people, "fisherfolk near Eastwatch," not representing himself, or the cultural position of those south of the Wall. 

Whether these fisherfolk live north or south of the Wall is not specified, but I think we can reasonably conclude he means immediately north of it.  If somebody south of the Wall had claimed the Others had been sighted there, south of the Wall, that would surely have been mentioned, and Tyrion would have mocked that idea even more aggressively.

8 hours ago, Black Crow said:

we have the question as to why two terms are used

Because the free folk, with rare exceptions like the above fishermen and Craster, have a fundamentally different culture that doesn't frequently engage with kneeler culture. 

It's the same reason they call themselves "free folk," whereas the preferred term for them south of the Wall is "wildlings."   (Though if someone in Heresy wants to dispute this, I won't be too surprised.)

We see much the same thing on this very site.  "Popsicles" as a term for the Others derives straight from Heretic culture, which is quite different from the submissive kneeler culture to be found over in General.

2 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

Perhaps all of Old Nan's stories are about the Stark Children's future?

I think quite a few of them are, at least.  For instance, when Black Crow writes in the OP:

Quote

 

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.

 

That is almost certainly self-referential.  Bran's paralysis stems from the fact that he climbed too high and was struck down (albeit not by lightning), and afterward he had a coma dream in which a three-eyed crow tried to force his third eye open.

Quote

Bran touched his forehead, between his eyes. The place where the crow had pecked him was still burning, but there was nothing there, no blood, no wound. He felt weak and dizzy. He tried to get out of bed, but nothing happened.

So here, it seems overwhelmingly clear to me that Old Nan did indeed foretell Bran's future in her "story."  I also note that the person who remembers Old Nan's story about the hero who is trapped in a dark castle by evil giants before cleverly escaping is Arya... who then is trapped in a dark castle by "giants," before cleverly escaping.

Edited by JNR

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18 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

Not so sure. To me it sounds like he's checking his understanding of what the white walkers are, or maybe when she's told the story before she always used "Others" and the change caught his attention?

I don't disagree, but Bran isn't inquisitive. He's querulous. He knows it's supposed to be "the Others" in that part of the story. Old Nan was having a senior moment, and agreed with Bran.

 

17 hours ago, JNR said:

Yes.  I think Bran was expecting the preferred term south of the Wall, whereas Old Nan slipped up a tad there, and used the preferred term north of the Wall.

This is demonstrated in various ways in the canon, such as when Osha and her free folk pals show up and repeatedly talk about white walkers, or when in ADWD Jon is making his pitch to the free folk in Molestown, to man the Wall, and rather cleverly says:

...instead of "Others," so as to match their nomenclatural expectations, and avoid any confusion.  You can see he's getting a little better at politics (though not good enough to spare him the Ides of March routine later on).

The World book also makes its position plain:

But as always, that's just how Maester Yandel and the Citadel see it, as opposed to some sort of objective truth, and I still wince any time I cite the World book for any reason.

I agree that the terms are certainly interchangeable for most people. What should raise our eyebrow is that they are not interchangeable for Bran and Old Nan.

 

The argument that "white walkers" is a term preferred in north of the Wall dialects, and "the Others" exclusively south, is a flimsy one. It's not baseless, but it isn't exactly absolute. Samwell is a southroner, yet uses the term "white walkers."

Quote

He remembered turning in a circle, lost, the fear growing inside him as it always did. There were dogs barking and horses trumpeting, but the snow muffled the sounds and made them seem far away. Sam could see nothing beyond three yards, not even the torches burning along the low stone wall that ringed the crown of the hill. Could the torches have gone out? That was too scary to think about. The horn blew thrice long, three long blasts means Others. The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows, the monsters of the tales that made him squeak and tremble as a boy, riding their giant ice-spiders, hungry for blood . . .

Note that Sam thinks of "white walkers" in terms of the monster tales that made him squeak as a boy. Sam was raised at Horn Hill, yet is very familiar with the term.

Like Sam, Bran too seemed familiar with the term. His tone wasn't one of puzzlement. He was querulous.

 

10 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Not so sure, while the terms are generally understood interchangeably and this story is the one which links the white walkers earlier mentioned by Mormont with the Others, it seems rather more specific.

Just so.

If we accept Bran's edit, and Old Nan's agreement with Bran's edit, we get the following introduction to the Others:

"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 Others move through the woods."

"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?"

 

Bran and Old Nan know and distinguish for the reader that it was "the Others," specifically, who come when the long nights come and the sun hides its face for years at a time. That is quite specific.

In contrast to this, and to JNR's point, Osha mentions white walkers in a far different capacity. :devil: Rather than be half-forgotten demons out of Long Night legends, Osha treats "white walkers" as being contemporaneous with the giants (whom she's seen) and the children of the forest (whom she has not).

Thus, the Others = old as fawk.

white walkers = contemporary.

This is why no one ever says, "The white walkers take your _____."

It isn't much of a curse. It doesn't pack the same punch. If instead one summons the demons of legend, not seen since the long night, rather than their underlings, the swear words feel far more forceful.

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Bran only heard of Others from Old Nan,  he wouldn't be familiar with wildling culture.  She probably usually used the word 'Others' and Bran guessed that's what she meant from context.  GRRM provided this to tell the reader both refer to the same creatures. 

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4 hours ago, JNR said:

I also note that the person who remembers Old Nan's story about the hero who is trapped in a dark castle by evil giants before cleverly escaping is Arya... who then is trapped in a dark castle by "giants," before cleverly escaping.

Indeed.   We also have the Harrenhal hat tip to the part of the tale about the hot red blood, what with the story of Mad Danelle Lothston bathing in blood and feasting on human flesh.

I'll point out here that this is an(other) instance in which I believe GRRM's Marvel influence is rearing its head:    all descriptions and lore of Harrenhal dovetail nicely with the dark and evil castle of Karnilla the Norn Queen, powerful sorceress and Queen of Nornheim.   Nornheim in both real Norse mythology and the Marvelverse is pretty straightforward, but the Marvel version in particular emphasizes dark & corrupted magic much like that surrounding Harrenhal.     Karnilla's castle is typically guarded by demons and giants, fwiw.

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3 hours ago, Voice said:

Samwell is a southroner, yet uses the term "white walkers."

Yes, as a secondary term -- a sort of synonym, and only one in a string, and only ever used by him once.

Let's take another look at that passage you quoted. I'll boldface things a little differently:

3 hours ago, Voice said:

The horn blew thrice long, three long blasts means Others. The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows, the monsters of the tales that made him squeak and tremble as a boy, riding their giant ice-spiders, hungry for blood

As I would expect, "Others" is his preferred term, the one that comes to his mind first.  This is no doubt why it's the term he uses all through the rest of the canon, whenever he thinks about or discusses the Popsicles, such as in the extended passage in which Sam and Jon discuss the Others (not the white walkers).

The only other instances of non-wildlings using the term "white walkers," in all of canon, are rangers.  Which is to say: people who hang around the free folk far more than the norm.  And, of course, Old Nan, whose background is uncertain, to say the least. 

I'd say that we'll surely find out more re the Popsicles in a book called The Winds of Winter, but of course, GRRM couldn't find room in A Dance with Dragons for the actual dance with dragons.  So I guess we'll wait and see...

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1 hour ago, PrettyPig said:

I'll point out here that this is an(other) instance in which I believe GRRM's Marvel influence is rearing its head

I've always thought you're right that this particular influence is underestimated.  Even now, in his sixties, he spends money seeing Ant Man and reviews it in his LJ; Marvel is just in his blood. 

There's no doubt (IMO at least) that he wants to evoke in his readers some of the same fascination he felt for the creative work of Lee and Kirby in the Silver Age, and though we all have our complaints, we think he's succeeded, too, or we wouldn't be here.

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4 hours ago, Voice said:

I don't disagree, but Bran isn't inquisitive. He's querulous. He knows it's supposed to be "the Others" in that part of the story. Old Nan was having a senior moment, and agreed with Bran.

 

I agree that the terms are certainly interchangeable for most people. What should raise our eyebrow is that they are not interchangeable for Bran and Old Nan.

 

The argument that "white walkers" is a term preferred in north of the Wall dialects, and "the Others" exclusively south, is a flimsy one. It's not baseless, but it isn't exactly absolute. Samwell is a southroner, yet uses the term "white walkers."

Note that Sam thinks of "white walkers" in terms of the monster tales that made him squeak as a boy. Sam was raised at Horn Hill, yet is very familiar with the term.

Like Sam, Bran too seemed familiar with the term. His tone wasn't one of puzzlement. He was querulous.

 

Just so.

If we accept Bran's edit, and Old Nan's agreement with Bran's edit, we get the following introduction to the Others:

"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 Others move through the woods."

"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?"

 

Bran and Old Nan know and distinguish for the reader that it was "the Others," specifically, who come when the long nights come and the sun hides its face for years at a time. That is quite specific.

In contrast to this, and to JNR's point, Osha mentions white walkers in a far different capacity. :devil: Rather than be half-forgotten demons out of Long Night legends, Osha treats "white walkers" as being contemporaneous with the giants (whom she's seen) and the children of the forest (whom she has not).

Thus, the Others = old as fawk.

white walkers = contemporary.

This is why no one ever says, "The white walkers take your _____."

It isn't much of a curse. It doesn't pack the same punch. If instead one summons the demons of legend, not seen since the long night, rather than their underlings, the swear words feel far more forceful.

Once again its worth drawing a parallel with the European settlement or conquest of North America, which we've suspected before that GRRM may be invoking here. I've suggested in the past that in terms of breaking the Pact [like so many other similar historical treaties] the Children are unlikely to have distinguished between First Men and Andals - to them. both are White-Eyes.

Turn that particular viewpoint around and to Europeans, all Native Americans are collectively Redskins, Indians, Savages or other another pejorative term of choice. They are the Others. Those Whites living on the frontier or otherwise more familiar with them recognise distinctions, between say the Abenaki, the Crows, the Sioux and so on, just as those on the Wall recognise the difference between the wights and the white walkers - and the Children? Use of those terms needn't be confined to the frontier whether its marked by a Wall or not. I'm sure that more than a few New Yorkers were aware in 1876 that Custer and his command were taken out by the Sioux, just as young Samwell heard of the white walkers, but in the end they are all "Indians".

 

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16 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

I've suggested in the past that in terms of breaking the Pact [like so many other similar historical treaties] the Children are unlikely to have distinguished between First Men and Andals - to them. both are White-Eyes.

I suppose this is one of the many issues in which the short vs. long timeline is essential to the interpretation.

In the long timeline, according to Luwin, the First Men were the guys who came over the Arm of Dorne, spoke the Old Tongue, signed a Pact of peace, eventually adopted the CotF's old gods as their faith, and, for an incredible four thousand years after the Pact, got along with the CotF quite well. 

So they would be quite easy to distinguish from the Andals, who never signed any Pact, never spoke the Old Tongue, never adopted the CotF's old gods or worshipped weirwoods, and certainly never honored the Pact (that had been in place for twice as long as it's been in our world since Julius Caesar).

But in the short timeline, it was two or three weeks between the First Men and the Andals, give or take?  And the Pact is sometimes said to have happened after the Long Night, instead of 2K years before it, confusing things even more.  So in this scenario, I guess the CotF might have seen the difference as splitting hairs.

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I wouldn't shorten the timescales that far, but I still hold to my proposition that to non-humans all humans probably look alike

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Perhaps I'm being unimaginative here, but that whole white walkers/Others exchange between Old Nan and Bran just feels like something that was done for the reader's benefit, so that we would understand what is meant when we see wildlings and rangers referring to "white walkers"--that they mean the Others. That the two terms are interchangeable seems to be the understanding expressed by Bran, by Sam, by Jon, by the maesters that wrote the WB, and (implicitly) by Tyrion.

To be clear, I'm not dismissing Voice's idea that there might potentially be some distinction between the soldiers of ice we've seen, and their theoretical masters, only that the characters themselves don't make any such distinction between the two terms.

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6 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

I wouldn't shorten the timescales that far, but I still hold to my proposition that to non-humans all humans probably look alike

I'd like to think that we can credit the CotF with enough intelligence to distinguish between the humans that have adopted their gods, and the humans that are destroying the weirwood in the name of the Seven; that'd be like suggesting that someone can't distinguish between the Umbers that have raided their fields and the Karstarks that are their allies, just because both happen to be Northmen.

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Other northmen would distinguish between them certainly, but to southerners all northmen eat babies for breakfast

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23 minutes ago, JNR said:

But in the short timeline, it was two or three weeks between the First Men and the Andals, give or take?  And the Pact is sometimes said to have happened after the Long Night, instead of 2K years before it, confusing things even more.  So in this scenario, I guess the CotF might have seen the difference as splitting hairs.

I thought the Pact was signed before the Long Night and that it lasted "even through the Long Night"? Which never made sense to me if the Children are responsible for creating white walkers in the first place, unless the Pact didn't hold?

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