ravenous reader

'The Killing Word' -- A Re-examination of the Prologue

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The title of this thread -- 'The Killing Word' -- takes its name from Frank Herbert's Dune, upon which the movie adaptation is based in which we are introduced to a form of unconventional warfare called the 'weirding way' whereby a word can assume the power of 'magical thinking,' exacting its embodied intention materially in devastating fashion.  Basically, a weaponized thought; a materialized fantasy.  GRRM has his own version of this language, which I will be tentatively exploring here via a re-examination of the Prologue, stimulated by recent threads by @Crowfood's Daughter and @GloubieBoulga, who have both insinuated that some archetypal struggle may be at work, and that accordingly the Prologue ought to be read as an allegory; in addition to @Seams whose 'words'-'swords' wordplay has been pivotal.  To be honest, the conclusions I've drawn are a bit unbelievable -- even for me -- but as I've said before, I'll go wherever the language takes me!  And this is where I've arrived.

Paul:  

'Some thoughts have a certain sound, that being the equivalent to a form.  Through sound and motion, you will be able to paralyze nerves, shatter bones, set fires, suffocate an enemy or burst his organs. We will kill until no Harkonnen breathes Arakeen air.'

 'My own name is a killing word.  Will it be a healing word as well?'

This is Bran's dilemma, as I understand it.  Will he use his greenseer power -- once he's mastered 'the True Tongue ' (which is basically ASOIAF's equivalent of Dune's 'killing word') -- for good or evil?  Will he choose to stand idly by while his brother (Jon) dies; or will he rather die himself for the sake of another?

Let's talk about someone who doesn't have this dilemma:

As @OtherFromAnotherMother notes,

'Euron's crow compares with LF's mockingbird. Both killed a king while keeping their hands clean.' 

As I've mentioned before,  the three prologue 'brothers' can be interpreted as an allegory for an archetypal struggle at the heart of the saga.  What I'm finding is that the tricksy crow brother, naughty Shakespearean greenseer Will, not only failed to call out a warning, but did something far worse than that.  The language implies that he was the one responsible for calling, basically summoning, the Others with his sorcerous words -- the treacherous prayer he 'whispered' to the nameless gods of the wood (i.e. the Others) --  in effect leading to the death of his brother when those 'nameless gods' appeared on cue, while 'keeping his hands clean.'  Indeed, it was 'cold butchery'!  He stayed up the tree silently observing the action from a distance (the way his grey-green brother-in-arms LF did with Joffrey).  The telltale sign that he is tainted, however, is the 'sticky sap' like blood against his cheek -- and on his hands.  

While we're on the subject of 'mocking' as in 'Mocking bird', consider that an awful lot of mocking goes on in the Prologue, with condescending, supercilious, all florid adjectives apply, Ser Waymar as the main perpetrator.  @Pain killer Jane and I were recently having a fruitful discussion on the subject of moths and mocking (yes, there is a connection!) which made me realize that those who mock inevitably find themselves mocked in turn, in line with the theme of the 'hunters becoming the hunted' classic GRRM switcheroo.  Littlefinger is one of the greatest mockers:

A Game of Thrones - Eddard XV

I failed you, Robert, Ned thought. He could not say the words. I lied to you, hid the truth. I let them kill you.

Cracks ran down his face, fissures opening in the flesh, and he reached up and ripped the mask away. It was not Robert at all; it was Littlefinger, grinning, mocking him. When he opened his mouth to speak, his lies turned to pale grey moths and took wing.The king heard him. "You stiff-necked fool," he muttered, "too proud to listen. Can you eat pride, Stark? Will honor shield your children?"

Then there's this interesting quote about what happens to one when one mocks a warlock:

A Clash of Kings - Daenerys V

Dany had laughed when he told her. "Was it not you who told me warlocks were no more than old soldiers, vainly boasting of forgotten deeds and lost prowess?"

Xaro looked troubled. "And so it was, then. But now? I am less certain. It is said that the glass candles are burning in the house of Urrathon Night-Walker, that have not burned in a hundred years. Ghost grass grows in the Garden of Gehane, phantom tortoises have been seen carrying messages between the windowless houses on Warlock's Way, and all the rats in the city are chewing off their tails. The wife of Mathos Mallarawan, who once mocked a warlock's drab moth-eaten robe, has gone mad and will wear no clothes at all. Even fresh-washed silks make her feel as though a thousand insects were crawling on her skin. And Blind Sybassion the Eater of Eyes can see again, or so his slaves do swear. A man must wonder." He sighed. "These are strange times in Qarth. And strange times are bad for trade. It grieves me to say so, yet it might be best if you left Qarth entirely, and sooner rather than later." Xaro stroked her fingers reassuringly. "You need not go alone, though. You have seen dark visions in the Palace of Dust, but Xaro has dreamed brighter dreams. I see you happily abed, with our child at your breast. Sail with me around the Jade Sea, and we can yet make it so! It is not too late. Give me a son, my sweet song of joy!"

Give you a dragon, you mean. "I will not wed you, Xaro."

A warlock does not forget (nor forgive) a slight -- elsewhere this is confirmed:

A Storm of Swords - Daenerys I

"Hear my voice then, Your Grace," the exile said. "This Arstan Whitebeard is playing you false. He is too old to be a squire, and too well spoken to be serving that oaf of a eunuch."

Dany could not say.Was she an enemy too, or only a dangerous friend? Most of the Dothraki would be against her as well. Khal Drogo's kos led khalasars of their own now, and none of them would hesitate to attack her own little band on sight, to slay and slave her people and drag Dany herself back to Vaes Dothrak to take her proper place among the withered crones of the dosh khaleen. She hoped that Xaro Xhoan Daxos was not an enemy, but the Quartheen merchant had coveted her dragons. And there was Quaithe of the Shadow, that strange woman in the red lacquer mask with all her cryptic counsel. the warlock Pyat Pree had sent a Sorrowful Man after her to avenge the Undying she'd burned in their House of Dust. Warlocks never forgot a wrong, it was said, and the Sorrowful Men never failed to kill. That does seem queer, Dany had to admit. Strong Belwas was an ex-slave, bred and trained in the fighting pits of Meereen. Magister Illyrio had sent him to guard her, or so Belwas claimed, and it was true that she needed guarding. The Usurper on his Iron Throne had offered land and lordship to any man who killed her. One attempt had been made already, with a cup of poisoned wine. The closer she came to Westeros, the more likely another attack became. Back in Qarth,

In both of these two examples, in response to having been mocked, the 'warlock' acts out his murderous revenge fantasies via an intermediary -- the 'moths taking wing' sent by Littlefinger (mocked from his perspective by Brandon Stark in the duel, by Catelyn Tully for rejecting him, and by both their families for basically lording it over him) , and the Sorrowful Men sent by Pyat Pree (mocked by Dany who burnt the House of the Undying and its putrid heart).  Analogously, I'm maintaining that Will -- the warlock equivalent -- 'sent' the Others against his own brother.  Think of the sorcerous invocation involved as hiring a Faceless Man assassin in order to effect a desired kin(g)slaying!  As Dany muses above, sometimes it's difficult to tell ones enemies from 'dangerous friends'...

In terms of the first example, the mocked warlock got his revenge on the mocking woman via a sinister mirroring of what she had inflicted on him by her mockery.  So, for example, because she mocked his drab, moth-eaten clothes, he 'counter-mocked' her by making it impossible for her to wear any clothes at all, reducing her to humiliating nudity, and cursing her with the excruciating tactile sensation of moths crawling all over her body, with the added suggestion they may be consuming her.

Turning again to the prologue, let's parse some of the important 'mocking' with its corresponding mirror'counter-mocking':

"We should start back,” Gared urged as the woods began to grow dark around them. “The wildlings are dead.”

“Do the dead frighten you?” Ser Waymar Royce asked with just the hint of a smile.

 Waymar mocks Gared.  -- >>>  The ironic 'counter-mocking' revenge will involve Waymar being very frightened by the dead indeed!

Gared did not rise to the bait. He was an old man, past fifty, and he had seen the lordlings come and go. “Dead is dead,” he said. “We have no business with the dead.”

“Are they dead?” Royce asked softly. “What proof have we?”

“Will saw them,” Gared said. “If he says they are dead, that’s proof enough for me.”

Will had known they would drag him into the quarrel sooner or later. He wished it had been later rather than sooner. “My mother told me that dead men sing no songs,” he put in.

“My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,” Royce replied. “Never believe anything you hear at a woman’s tit. There are things to be learned even from the dead.” His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest.

In a reversal of fortune -- >>> by the end, Waymar will lose his voice.  In fact, he'll be mercilessly silenced.  The mocking will end.

“We have a long ride before us,” Gared pointed out. “Eight days, maybe nine. And night is falling.

It's dusk, liminal time prefacing night; in symbolic terms, prefacing the Long Night.  Accordingly, the Prologue with the bickering Night's Watch 'brothers' can be read as an allegory for the quarrel between actual brothers which was instrumental in ushering in the Long Night.  In line with @LmL's moon meteor hypothesis, which posits that night fell as a consequence of falling objects from the heavens above, 'falling' is a good word choice here!  It also evokes 'Winterfell' and that whole equivocal debate surrounding its origins, implying that the brothers responsible for the Long Night are likely to have been Stark progenitors.  It's important to note that 'Winter fell' may refer to the Stark responsibility both for bringing on the Long Night, as well as bringing it to a close -- employing Winter as a weapon against ones enemies (and brothers!) versus also defeating that same out-of-control weapon, ultimately.

Ser Waymar Royce glanced at the sky with disinterest. “It does that every day about this time. Are you unmanned by the dark, Gared?”

More mocking by the annoying Ser Waymar.  He's really beginning to remind me of Renly (the upstart 'green boy') taunting Stannis (the stern 'grey beard') with that peach!

In response to the aspersions cast at his manhood -->>> Waymar will be literally 'unmanned by the [forces of the] dark' -- first he will be killed by the Others, and then rise as an undead wight, so he will no longer be a man, strictly speaking!

Will could see the tightness around Gared’s mouth, the barely suppressed anger in his eyes under the thick black hood of his cloak. Gared had spent forty years in the Night’s Watch, man and boy, and he was not accustomed to being made light of. Yet it was more than that. Under the wounded pride, Will could sense something else in the older man. You could taste it; a nervous tension that came perilous close to fear.

Will shared his unease. He had been four years on the Wall.The first time he had been sent beyond, all the old stories had come rushing back, and his bowels had turned to water. He had laughed about it afterward. He was a veteran of a hundred rangings by now, and the endless dark wilderness that the southron called the haunted forest had no more terrors for him.

Until tonight. Something was different tonight. There was an edge to this darkness that made his hackles rise. Nine days they had been riding, north and northwest and then north again, farther and farther from the Wall, hard on the track of a band of wildling raiders. Each day had been worse than the day that had come before it. Today was the worst of all. A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things. All day, Will had felt as though something were watching him, something cold and implacable that loved him not. Gared had felt it too. Will wanted nothing so much as to ride hellbent for the safety of the Wall, but that was not a feeling to share with your commander.

Especially not a commander like this one.

Ser Waymar Royce was the youngest son of an ancient house with too many heirs. He was a handsome youth of eighteen, grey-eyed and graceful and slender as a knife. Mounted on his huge black destrier, the knight towered above Will and Gared on their smaller garrons. He wore black leather boots, black woolen pants, black moleskin gloves, and a fine supple coat of gleaming black ringmail over layers of black wool and boiled leather. Ser Waymar had been a Sworn Brother of the Night’s Watch for less than half a year, but no one could say he had not prepared for his vocation. At least insofar as his wardrobe was concerned.

Snappy dresser playing at being king -- definitely a kind of Renly!

His cloak was his crowning glory; sable, thick and black and soft as sin. “Bet he killed them all himself, he did,” Gared told the barracks over wine, “twisted their little heads off, our mighty warrior.” They had all shared the laugh.

Here the brothers are being uncharitable and mocking their commander.  Ironically, he will end up having the last laugh on them when he twists one of their heads off!

It is hard to take orders from a man you laughed at in your cups, Will reflected as he sat shivering atop his garron. Gared must have felt the same.

The other brothers are resentful of being mocked and ordered around by this ingenue.

“Mormont said as we should track them, and we did,” Gared said. “They’re dead. They shan’t trouble us no more. There’s hard riding before us. I don’t like this weather. If it snows, we could be a fortnight getting back, and snow’s the best we can hope for. Ever seen an ice storm, my lord?”

Waymar's about to find out what an 'ice storm' looks and feels like!

The lordling seemed not to hear him. He studied the deepening twilight in that half-bored, half-distracted way he had. Will had ridden with the knight long enough to understand that it was best not to interrupt him when he looked like that. “Tell me again what you saw, Will. All the details. Leave nothing out.”

Will had been a hunter before he joined the Night’s Watch. Well, a poacher in truth. Mallister freeriders had caught him red-handed in the Mallisters’ own woods, skinning one of the Mallisters’ own bucks, and it had been a choice of putting on the black or losing a hand. No one could move through the woods as silent as Will, and it had not taken the black brothers long to discover his talent.

Will is the greenseer or warlock equivalent.  Like a greenseer, he is 'silent', a 'watcher', almost one of the trees.  But he's not a harmless 'tree hugger', an innocent, nature-loving bystander necessarily.  He's a hunter, a poacher, a thief, caught 'red-handed skinning a buck' on the eagle's estate (so he's a Promethean highflyer, hubristic overreacher, like the Red Wanderer or Thief who dares to veer off orbit, encroaching where he's 'not 'sposed to be,' and move 'in to the Moonmaid' 

Note, GRRM's clever little line 'No one could move through the woods as silent as Will'.  Ha ha.  In other words, there is someone with whom Will is identified -- the nameless, faceless gods of the wood, or Others.  It breaks down like this:  The greenseer-orchestrator sits in the central control hub of the tree's 'engine room' (that's the interconnecting root system of the 'weirnet') from which the Others -- the intermediary assassins -- are dispatched!  The greenseer is the king and the Others are his Hands.  That's why the leaves of the weirwood are described as 'bloodstained hands.'  The greenseer orders the murder, keeping his hands clean like LF and Euron, while the faceless assassins, the Others, get their hands dirty!

'He wants the head that spoke the words, not just the hand that swung the sword.'

-Tyrion IX, aSoS

That's the greenseer: 'The head that speaks the words.'  That's the Others:  'the hand that swings the sword.'

These words of a greenseer or warlock can be treacherous.  In fact, I've recently discovered that etymologically the word 'warlock' at base means 'oathbreaker' or 'one in league with the devil' trafficking in poisonous words:

warlock (n.) 

Old English wærloga "traitor, liar, enemy, devil," from wær "faith, fidelity; a compact, agreement, covenant," from Proto-Germanic *wera- (source also of Old High German wara "truth," Old Norse varar "solemn promise, vow"), from PIE *were-o- "true, trustworthy" (see very, also Varangian). Second element is an agent noun related to leogan "to lie" (see lie (v.1); and compare Old English wordloga "deceiver, liar"). 

Original primary sense seems to have been "oath-breaker;" given special application to the devil (c. 1000), but also used of giants and cannibals. Meaning "one in league with the devil" is recorded from c. 1300. Ending in -ck (1680s) and meaning "male equivalent of a witch" (1560s) are from Scottish. Related: Warlockery

As we've mentioned, warlocks, basically greenseers, have a penchant to seek revenge on those who have 'mocked' them.  For example, the first thing Bran our budding greenseer does on emerging from the crypts together with his 'woodswitchy' sidekick Osha is curse those who have sacked and burned Winterfell, by appealing to the Others with the idiom 'the Others take them' -- which now in retrospect may not be so figurative after all!

A Clash of Kings - Bran VII

Osha called softly through the blowing smoke as they went, but no one answered. They saw one dog worrying at a corpse, but he ran when he caught the scents of the direwolves; the rest had been slain in the kennels. The maester's ravens were paying court to some of the corpses, while the crows from the broken tower attended others. Bran recognized Poxy Tym, even though someone had taken an axe to his face. One charred corpse, outside the ashen shell of Mother's sept, sat with his arms drawn up and his hands balled into hard black fists, as if to punch anyone who dared approach him. "If the gods are good," Osha said in a low angry voice, "the Others will take them that did this work."

"It was Theon," Bran said blackly.  [watch out Theon...Words are wind, and ...the Cold winds are rising...Winter is coming for you!]

"No. Look." She pointed across the yard with her spear. "That's one of his ironmen. And there. And that's Greyjoy's warhorse, see? The black one with the arrows in him." She moved among the dead, frowning. "And here's Black Lorren." He had been hacked and cut so badly that his beard looked a reddish-brown now. "Took a few with him, he did." Osha turned over one of the other corpses with her foot. "There's a badge. A little man, all red." [watch out Boltons...Winter is coming for you too!]


The camp is two miles farther on, over that ridge, hard beside a stream,” Will said. “I got close as I dared. There’s eight of them, men and women both. No children I could see. They put up a lean-to against the rock. The snow’s pretty well covered it now, but I could still make it out. No fire burning, but the firepit was still plain as day. No one moving. I watched a long time. No living man ever lay so still.”:

“Did you see any blood?”

“Well, no,” Will admitted.

“Did you see any weapons?”

“Some swords, a few bows. One man had an axe. Heavy-looking, double-bladed, a cruel piece of iron. It was on the ground beside him, right by his hand.”

“Did you make note of the position of the bodies?”

Will shrugged. “A couple are sitting up against the rock. Most of them on the ground. Fallen, like.”

“Or sleeping,” Royce suggested.

“Fallen,” Will insisted. “There’s one woman up an ironwood, halfhid in the branches. A far-eyes.” He smiled thinly. “I took care she never saw me. When I got closer, I saw that she wasn’t moving neither.” Despite himself, he shivered.

“You have a chill?” Royce asked.

“Some,” Will muttered. “The wind, m’lord.”

The young knight turned back to his grizzled man-at-arms. Frostfallen leaves whispered past them, and Royce’s destrier moved restlessly. “What do you think might have killed these men, Gared?” Ser Waymar asked casually. He adjusted the drape of his long sable cloak.

“It was the cold,”
 Gared said with iron certainty. “I saw men freeze last winter, and the one before, when I was half a boy.Everyone talks about snows forty foot deep, and how the ice wind comes howling out of the north, but the real enemy is the cold. It steals up on you quieter than Will, and at first you shiver and your teeth chatter and you stamp your feet and dream of mulled wine and nice hot fires. It burns, it does. Nothing burns like the cold. But only for a while. Then it gets inside you and starts to fill you up, and after a while you don’t have the strength to fight it. It’s easier just to sit down or go to sleep. They say you don’t feel any pain toward the end. First you go weak and drowsy, and everything starts to fade, and then it’s like sinking into a sea of warm milk. Peaceful, like.”

“Such eloquence, Gared,” Ser Waymar observed. “I never suspected you had it in you.”

More mocking from Waymar, making light of how men are killed by the cold (particularly insensitive considering Gared has already lost several body parts to frostbite).  In response -->>> Waymar will be killed by the cold (Others) and lose his eye!

Waymar mocks the other ranger for his 'eloquent words' -->>> Later he will be undone by Will's whispered prayer -- i.e. 'eloquence' he will not suspect Will had in him!

“I’ve had the cold in me too, lordling.” Gared pulled back his hood, giving Ser Waymar a good long look at the stumps where his ears had been. “Two ears, three toes, and the little finger off my left hand. I got off light. We found my brother frozen at his watch, with a smile on his face.”

Ser Waymar shrugged. “You ought dress more warmly, Gared.”

Waymar's callous mocking continues.  -- >>> Soon he will literally 'have the cold in him' too!

Gared glared at the lordling, the scars around his ear holes flushed red with anger where Maester Aemon had cut the ears away. “We’ll see how warm you can dress when the winter comes.” He pulled up his hood and hunched over his garron, silent and sullen.

Gared's pretty upset with the 'lordling' here.  Maybe I'm mistakenly saddling Will with all the responsibility for the curse.  Perhaps his brother Gared also said a 'silent prayer' of his own, releasing all that pent-up anger and frustration (release the 'Id' from the tree, I say...)!

“If Gared said it was the cold . . .” Will began.

“Have you drawn any watches this past week, Will?”

“Yes, m’lord.” There never was a week when he did not draw a dozen bloody watches. What was the man driving at?

“And how did you find the Wall?”

“Weeping,” Will said, frowning. He saw it clear enough, now that the lordling had pointed it out. “They couldn’t have froze. Not if the Wall was weeping. It wasn’t cold enough.”

Royce nodded. “Bright lad. We’ve had a few light frosts this past week, and a quick flurry of snow now and then, but surely no cold fierce enough to kill eight grown men. Men clad in fur and leather, let me remind you, with shelter near at hand, and the means of making fire.” The knight’s smile was cocksure. “Will, lead us there. I would see these dead men for myself.”

You betcha boss; you want to see these (un)dead men -- >>> That can be arranged!

And then there was nothing to be done for it. The order had been given, and honor bound them to obey.

Will went in front, his shaggy little garron picking the way carefully through the undergrowth. A light snow had fallen the night before, and there were stones and roots and hidden sinks lying just under its crust, waiting for the careless and the unwary. Ser Waymar Royce came next, his great black destrier snorting impatiently. The warhorse was the wrong mount for ranging, but try and tell that to the lordling. Gared brought up the rear. The old man-at-arms muttered to himself as he rode.

Could those be 'curses' Gared is muttering..?

Also note 'the horse was the wrong mount for ranging.'  Yes, indeed -- the right mount would be something you can skinchange, e.g. a wolf, a bird, or a tree!  I've repeatedly heard from multiple sources that 'grey-green sentinels' are particularly suited to the task, as are weirwoods...

Twilight deepened. The cloudless sky turned a deep purple, the color of an old bruise, then faded to black. The stars began to come out. A half-moon rose. Will was grateful for the light.

A whole slew of Long Night references.

“We can make a better pace than this, surely,” Royce said when the moon was full risen.

“Not with this horse,” Will said. Fear had made him insolent. “Perhaps my lord would care to take the lead?”

The tension is mounting, folks.  This lordling is insufferable.  Methinks there's a rebellion -- bro vs. bro -- in the works...

Ser Waymar Royce did not deign to reply.

Somewhere off in the wood a wolf howled.

Could there be a warg about?

Will pulled his garron over beneath an ancient gnarled ironwood and dismounted.

“Why are you stopping?” Ser Waymar asked.

“Best go the rest of the way on foot, m’lord. It’s just over that ridge.”

It's possible Will is leading his brother into a trap.

Royce paused a moment, staring off into the distance, his face reflective. A cold wind whispered through the trees. His great sable cloak stirred behind like something half alive.

We have our answer:  'wind whispering' through personified trees could be an indication of a greenseer/skinchanger gathering his powers.  The cloak seems 'half alive'-->>> soon in a turnaround of poetic justice, Waymar will be 'half-alive' too!

“There’s something wrong here,” Gared muttered.

The young knight gave him a disdainful smile. “Is there?”


“Can’t you feel it?” Gared asked. “Listen to the darkness.”

Will could feel it. Four years in the Night’s Watch, and he had never been so afraid. What was it?

Maybe what he's sensing are his own murderous intentions!

“Wind. Trees rustling. A wolf. Which sound is it that unmans you so, Gared?” When Gared did not answer, Royce slid gracefully from his saddle. He tied the destrier securely to a low-hanging limb, well away from the other horses, and drew his longsword from its sheath. Jewels glittered in its hilt, and the moonlight ran down the shining steel. It was a splendid weapon, castle-forged, and new-made from the look of it. Will doubted it had ever been swung in anger.

“The trees press close here,” Will warned. “That sword will tangle you up, m’lord. Better a knife.”

More foreshadowing of Waymar's fate.  He pays no heed to Will's advice; in response -- >>> he will find his sword ineffective against the Other's weapons.  The right weapon to carry is a knife and Will is the one with the dagger...

Moreover -- >>> the trees will 'come alive' to entrap Waymar -- that's what the Others are, after all; they're basically vengeful spirits conjured from trees using spells made of Words.

“If I need instruction, I will ask for it,” the young lord said. “Gared, stay here. Guard the horses.”

Oops.  Waymar always gives the wrong answer.  The brotherly excursion, or shall we call it 'Wild Hunt', is not going to end well.

Gared dismounted. “We need a fire. I’ll see to it.”

“How big a fool are you, old man? If there are enemies in this wood, a fire is the last thing we want.”

“There’s some enemies a fire will keep away,” Gared said. “Bears and direwolves and . . . and other things . . .”

Ser Waymar’s mouth became a hard line. “No fire.”

In response for unleashing this latest mocking onslaught centred around his rejection of fire -- >>> Waymar will be struck by lightning and cold-freezed into what the 'heretics' would term a 'popsicle'!

Gared’s hood shadowed his face, but Will could see the hard glitter in his eyes as he stared at the knight

Ooh -- 'glittering' or 'glimmering' eyes is never a good sign -- and smacks of a greenseer, another undead creature, or other such person versed in dark sorcery getting ready to target his victim.  If looks could kill...

For a moment, he was afraid the older man would go for his sword. It was a short, ugly thing, its grip discolored by sweat, its edge nicked from hard use, but Will would not have given an iron bob for the lordling’s life if Gared pulled it from its scabbard.

Despite tensions running high, no weapons were drawn...However, there are other 'weapons' -- less conventional weapons...i.e. Others conjured by magical greenseer speech.  I call it 'the song of the earth' sung by 'those who sing' --- the song of stone, water and wood...the True Tongue.  It's a deadly tongue-lashing -- the counter-mocking directed at the mocker, as a last resort.  The kind of words that grow wings, reaching out for a moon (e.g. by singing the song of stone), to strike at a remove.

This is @Seams' crucial WORDS/SWORDS or @GloubieBoulga's LAUGHTER/SLAUGHTER pun in action.


Finally, Gared looked down. “No fire,” he muttered, low under his
breath.

Royce took it for acquiescence and turned away. “Lead on,” he said
to Will.

Oh, but it isn't actually acquiescence -- he only 'took' it for acquiescence, so it's defiance from the grey beard and the other brother.  The green boy is not the boss in the woods, although he's pretending to be.  

Will threaded their way through a thicket, then started up the slope to the low ridge where he had found his vantage point under a sentinel tree.

Will threading his way through the thicket is like threading a needle -- and reminds me of Arya's connotation of 'needlework' and the following quote, which I think obliquely references the dark business of a greenseer:

A Dance with Dragons - The Ugly Little Girl

One time, the girl remembered, the Sailor's Wife had walked her rounds with her and told her tales of the city's stranger gods. "That is the house of the Great Shepherd. Three-headed Trios has that tower with three turrets. The first head devours the dying, and the reborn emerge from the third. I don't know what the middle head's supposed to do. Those are the Stones of the Silent God, and there the entrance to the Patternmaker's Maze. Only those who learn to walk it properly will ever find their way to wisdom, the priests of the Pattern say. Beyond it, by the canal, that's the temple of Aquan the Red Bull. Every thirteenth day, his priests slit the throat of a pure white calf, and offer bowls of blood to beggars."

I think our guide in the woods, our treacherous 'far-eyes,' is taking Waymar for a merry fool's dance through the 'patternmaker's maze' -- making Will 'a priest of the pattern' with his knowledge of the woods, as well as a kind of seamstress, weaver or 'volva' figure, considering weaving a way through the maze is like threading a way through the woods, and a patternmaker is a seamstress who sews up various garments or patchwork quilts according to a pattern of her fancy.

Under the thin crust of snow, the ground was damp and muddy, slick footing, with rocks and hidden roots to trip you up.

Indeed.  'Hidden roots to trip you up' like a nest of swarming weirwood roots compared to an underground cavern of 'milk snakes' and 'grave worms'.

Will made no sound as he climbed. 

Regardless of whether Gared is implicated, Will is definitely the leader here.  And it's significant that he's a proficient climber -- making us think of Bran who began his greenseeing career by climbing.  The greenseer figure who climbs -- later he will also climb up a tree, becoming indistinguishable from the tree ('lost among the needles' cleaving to the tree via 'sticky sap' like blood or glue) reinforcing the greenseer image -- is also a Ratatoskr figure, the meddling squirrel who runs between the dragon and the eagle, stirring discontent and ushering in the end of the world, Ragnarok (aka in our context, the Long Night).

Behind him, he heard the soft metalic slither of the lordling’s ringmail, the rustle of leaves, and muttered curses as reaching branches grabbed at his longsword and tugged on his splendid sable cloak.

The landscape is becoming more and more threatening towards the impudent lordling, as reflected in the personification of the trees which 'counter-mock' him, reaching out to grab his weapon and tugging on his sable cloak, as if to undress him (the wind does the same thing to Euron's sable cloak when he's prancing about half-naked in front of his brother Victarion, broadcasting his devious plans).

Considering Waymar's ringmail is described as 'soft metallic slithering', this might be an allusion to Waymar as a snake or dragon figure; or perhaps alternatively it's a sinister indication of something that ought to be protecting him, like his armor or his brothers-in-arms, failing him, and instead turning on him like a snake (like those weirwood roots).

Please take note of my favorite ambiguity in the description, based on the way GRRM deliberately constructs the sentence, from which its unclear who or what is the subject of the 'muttered curses.'  This raises the question, who cursed whom?  From a certain perspective, one could make the case that the trees are cursing Waymar, and not the other way around.  Or , more accurately, perhaps it's a case of 'curse and counter-curse' as I've been intimating.  To every action, an equal and opposite reaction, as Mr Newton and @Voice might say (the latter in his 'Miasma' theory of the forest protecting itself against the humans).  Where I diverge from Voice, is in this being a contest between human and the environment; whereas I see it more as a contest between humans, specifically brother vs. brother, in which the inhuman forces of nature were diabolically harnessed in order to get even with the other human vying for dominance.  The original sin was the sin of Cain vs. Abel who envied and resented his brother and therefore desired to usurp his position.  Therefore, I speculate the Others are humanoid -- a projection of man's basest instincts towards each other -- a weapon which got out of control.  The mocker is counter-mocked -- 'hoisted by his own petard'.  As it so happens, this is a quotation from the Bard himself, William Shakespeare (yes, I like Shakespeare...and so does GRRM, considering the warlockian greenseer in the Prologue is named after him):

A bit of trivia regarding the origin of the expression:

Hoist with your own petard

The phrase 'hoist with one's own petard' is often cited as 'hoist by one's own petard'. In the USA, 'hoisted' is preferred so the alternative forms there are 'hoisted with one's own petard' is often cited as 'hoisted by one's own petard'.All the variants mean the same thing, although the 'with' form is strictly a more accurate version of the original source.

A petard is, or rather was, as they have long since fallen out of use, a small engine of war used to blow breaches in gates or walls. They were originally metallic and bell-shaped but later cubical wooden boxes. Whatever the shape, the significant feature was that they were full of gunpowder - basically what we would now call a bomb.

The device was used by the military forces of all the major European fighting nations by the 16th century. In French and English - petar or petard, and in Spanish and Italian - petardo.

The dictionary maker John Florio defined them like this in 1598:

"Petardo - a squib or petard of gun powder vsed to burst vp gates or doores with."

The French have the word 'péter' - to fart, which it's hard to imagine is unrelated. [Can you believe this, @Lost Melnibonean..?!]

Petar was part of the everyday language around that time, as in this rather colourful line from Zackary Coke in his work Logick, 1654:

"The prayers of the Saints ascending with you, will Petarr your entrances through heavens Portcullis".

Once the word is known, 'hoist by your own petard' is easy to fathom. It's nice also to have a definitive source - no less than Shakespeare, who gives the line to Hamlet, 1602:

"For tis the sport to have the enginer Hoist with his owne petar".

Note: engineers were originally constructors of military engines.

See other phrases and sayings from Shakespeare

From:  http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hoist-by-your-own-petard.html

So, the engineer, smith or bard suffers a plan which backfires on him -- a 'counter-fart' according to the piece above!

His own swords and words come back to haunt him -- and this is exactly what happens in the Prologue when Waymar rises as a wight to take his revenge on his treacherous brother. 

The great sentinel was right there at the top of the ridge, where Will had known it would be, its lowest branches a bare foot off the ground. Will slid in underneath, flat on his belly in the snow and the mud, and looked down on the empty clearing below.

Will 'slides in beneath the tree' -- a graphic representation of the greenseer going into, or merging with, the tree.  I think he's probably the snake in the garden, considering he 'slides in  underneath flat on his belly'.  Yip original sin scenario with greenseer as snake, ushering in the Fall from Paradise (analogous to Long Night).


His heart stopped in his chest. For a moment he dared not breathe.

Moonlight shone down on the clearing, the ashes of the firepit, the snow-covered lean-to, the great rock, the little half-frozen stream. Everything was just as it had been a few hours ago.

They were gone. All the bodies were gone.

“Gods!” he heard behind him.

Perhaps Waymar summoned the Others himself, with a little help from his friends!

A sword slashed at a branch as Ser Waymar Royce gained the ridge.

It's probably not a good idea to hurt a tree when the tree gods are around...

He stood there beside the sentinel, longsword in hand, his cloak billowing behind him as the wind came up, outlined nobly against the stars for all to see.

“Get down!” Will whispered urgently. “Something’s wrong.”

Royce did not move. He looked down at the empty clearing and laughed. “Your dead men seem to have moved camp, Will.”

More mocking.  This is becoming a rather tedious affair.  -- >>> Prepare to be counter-mocked!

Will’s voice abandoned him. He groped for words that did not come. It was not possible. His eyes swept back and forth over the abandoned campsite, stopped on the axe. A huge double-bladed battle-axe, still lying where he had seen it last, untouched. A valuable weapon . . .

It's interesting his words failing him, just as my argument for the greenseer's words being so instrumental in the whole affair was gathering momentum!  As a possible explanation, there might be a correlate to the Lightbringer forging, which was only successful on the third attempt.  Accordingly, one might expect his words to fail him twice before he gets the spell right.

“On your feet, Will,” Ser Waymar commanded. “There’s no one here. I won’t have you hiding under a bush.”

More imperious mocking, Waymar?  But your instinct is correct -- it's never advisable to allow a greenseer to 'hide under a bush'.  It could prove fatal to you!

Reluctantly, Will obeyed.

Ser Waymar looked him over with open disapproval. “I am not going back to Castle Black a failure on my first ranging. We will find these men.” He glanced around. “Up the tree. Be quick about it. Look for a fire.”

No!  You were doing so well, Waymar...Prohibiting him from hiding in the bush was the right move, which you've now gone and undone by giving him free reign up the tree?!  But of course you don't know that -- just like no-one ever suspects the mockingbird.

Will turned away, wordless. There was no use to argue.

This is the second instance of Will's wordlessness (GRRM's having a ball taking the words out of Shakespeare's mouth, isn't he!)  So, that can be understood as the second forging attempt of Lightbringer.  You guys get what I'm saying here -- Lightbringer is forged using a spell.  A SWORD IS BORN OF A WORD

The wind was moving. It cut right through him. He went to the tree, a vaulting grey-green sentinel, and began to climb. Soon his hands were sticky with sap, and he was lost among the needles. Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest. He whispered a prayer to the nameless gods of the wood, and slipped his dirk free of its sheath. He put it between his teeth to keep both hands free for climbing. The taste of cold iron in his mouth gave him comfort.

There's a lot to unpack in this paragraph.  Importantly, up the tree Will finally recovers his voice; therefore, we can say that the 'whispered prayer to the nameless gods of the wood' constitutes the third and this-time successful forging of Lightbringer.

The sentinel is a sentry; a cent-tree and a sin-tree, a penny-tree, a star-tree (compliments @hiemal @Pain killer Janeand @LmL for the associations, respectively).  Most of all I love Hiemal's 'sin-tree' -- because this is the tale of the Long Night which befell humanity and the sin committed by the fell greenseer of Winterfell who literally brought down this calamity upon the planet, in his petty urge to fell his own brother (who admittedly was a bit of an annoying showoff, but surely didn't deserve to be murdered!).  As I've highlighted before, the tree is described as 'vaulting,' thus conveying the idea of the greenseer's hubris, overreaching, reaching for the fire of the gods and all that goes with it; but also the idea of the magical leap afforded the greenseer who uses the tree as a pole-vaulter uses his pole to launch himself into the sky and clear the beam (sometimes this is unsuccessful) -- and fly for a moment.  Additionally, 'vault' has the opposite connotation of a movement underground (think of a bank vault or a crypt, so the sense of the greenseer simultaneously imprisoning himself in a tomb of his own making as he leaps into the sky).  Shadowy goings-on, in any case.

His 'hands are sticky with sap' -- translation: he has blood on his hands (reinforced at the end by the mirroring when the injured, bleeding Waymar comes to kill him with 'sticky hands') -->>> this is an example of the complexity of the vicious cycle of revenge which goes on ad infinitum.  Will counter-mocked Waymar's mocking -- >>> Waymar in turning rising to counter-counter mock the counter-mocking.  You get the idea.  This is why GRRM says we are all puppets dancing on the strings of our forbears; and that human beings with their treacherous hearts caught up in conflict with their own hearts, and those of others, who are similarly in conflict with their own hearts and those of others,  just can't stop 'plucking the same string on the harp' for eternity.  (Where is the redemption, GRRM?)  And it all stems from a quintessential oathbreaking -- a broken promise -- a broken word:

A Dance with Dragons - Daenerys VI

"The Yunkai'i resumed their slaving before I was two leagues from their city. Did I turn back? King Cleon begged me to join with him against them, and I turned a deaf ear to his pleas. I want no war with Yunkai. How many times must I say it? What promises do they require?"

"Ah, there is the thorn in the bower, my queen," said Hizdahr zo Loraq. "Sad to say, Yunkai has no faith in your promises. They keep plucking the same string on the harp, about some envoy that your dragons set on fire."

"Only his tokar was burned," said Dany scornfully.

Back to Will -- 'the thorn in the [current] bower' -- up amongst the needles -- >>> These needles are later manifested as a weapon when the sword shatters into a storm of needles.  This is a visual representation of the tree being weaponised as a consequence I believe of Will's verbal intervention.

After saying the lethal prayer, Will unsheaths his dagger -- that's symbolic of his treacherous motives.  Recall 'daggers in the dark' surrounding the imagery of Jon's assassination by his mutinous brothers.  Also, recall Littlefinger's dagger that led to so much trouble for the Starks and the Lannisters.  That dagger and the lie told about it by Littlefinger, more than any other action, caused the most damage.  It's significant that he puts the dagger between his teeth, which renders him incapable of speaking.   @Pain killer Jane this is a further example of the 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' hypocrisy you've identified as one of GRRM's concerns.  Finally, the far-eyes betrays his brother, first with his treacherous prayer and then by keeping silent, failing to alert his brother to the danger.  But why would he want to alert his brother -- when his brother's death is what he secretly desired?  Why would he report what he'd seen when he'd envisioned (using his 'third-eye' capacity) what transpired to begin with?

Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, “Who goes there?” Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched.

Notice how soon following the prayer the Others appear -- because the prayer summoned them!

The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl.

 This is Waymar's comeuppance for mocking a warlock.  In response to his question, the greenseer answers in mocking tones -- >>> If you hadn't realized it by now, 'rustle of leaves'  is code for greenseer alert.  Likewise, the 'icy rush' will be mirrored in the icy ambush about to befall him.  The 'hoot of a snow owl' also somehow has mocking connotations (to 'hoot with laughter' at someone might be construed as derisive).

The Others made no sound.

Yip.  They're as silent as Will -- who conjured them.

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone. Branches stirred gently in the wind, scratching at one another with wooden fingers. Will opened his mouth to call down a warning, and the words seemed to freeze in his throat. Perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps it had only been a bird, a reflection on the snow, some trick of the moonlight. What had he seen, after all?

More greenseer imagery: 'branches stirring...scratching with wooden fingers'.  

Why do the words freeze in his throat again, when his prayer was whispered successfully just a moment ago?  Perhaps the Others took his breath away?  I'm not sure.  According to the current hypothesis of Will himself as the perpetrator, I'd venture that Will is making excuses for why he didn't call out.  I think he's in denial about what he did!  (ETA:  It's also subsequently occurred to me that this might be foreshadowing of Will receiving his own comeuppance, when the wighted Waymar returns to throttle him at the close of the Prologue).

“Will, where are you?” Ser Waymar called up. “Can you see anything?” He was turning in a slow circle, suddenly wary, his sword in hand. He must have felt them, as Will felt them. There was nothing to see. “Answer me! Why is it so cold?”

It was cold. Shivering, Will clung more tightly to his perch. His face pressed hard against the trunk of the sentinel. He could feel the sweet, sticky sap on his cheek.

To his brother's entreaties for help, Will keeps his silence.  He abandons him to his fate.  The greenseer as well as mockingbird imagery is there with Will clinging to his 'perch', tainted by the 'sweet, sticky sap on his cheek.'  Like 'summerwine' or blood.

A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood.

The Others come from the wood.  They've been conjured from the wood.  The shadow in question is a reflection of Will's dark soul.

It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.

The tree imagery is obvious.  The Other is tall like the sentinel from which it was conjured.  It's 'gaunt and hard as old bones', like a weirwood.  The bones retain the memories.  A weirwood 'remembers' -- remembers the insults, the mocking; and gets its revenge.  The deep 'grey-green of the trees' betrays the greenseer presence, and symbolically the taint of treachery always inherent in the murky 'grey-green' -- the color of Littlefinger's eyes (hardly a coincidence).

Will heard the breath go out of Ser Waymar Royce in a long hiss.

The one who at the start had the loudest voice -- >>> now loses his voice.  There's the 'hissing' though, perhaps foreshadowing that he is also a snake like his brother who will end up having the last word?

“Come no farther,” the lordling warned. His voice cracked like a boy’s.

The ranger who had scorned the other men, emasculated them with disrespectful talk of being 'unmanned' -- >>> now finds himself likewise 'unmanned' and cut down to size.  He becomes a child again, rendered strangely vulnerable, just like Renly, when all the pompous puff went out of him, after being shadow-ambushed (analogous to what's happening in the Prologue with the Others conjured by his brother).  You might counter, but Stannis sent the shadow assassin with the help of Melisandre, so who is the Melisandre-figure in the context of the prologue?  Correspondingly, a greenseer gives birth to an Other with the help of the weirwood-incubator (Melisandre has weirwood coloring and frequently stands with her pale hands aloft beckoning the heavens like a tree to drive home this point for the reader).

Another observation on the 'cracking of the voice'.  This echoes the voices of the Others which sound like 'ice cracking'.  In effect, the greenseer analog Will has cursed his brother who was so keen to silence him at the beginning of the Prologue, basically telling the others to shut up at every opportunity and/or dismissing their advice and opinions.  Now, however, the tables are turned.  The mocker becomes the counter-mocked -- >>> loses his voice.  In an eerie mirroring of Will holding the iron dagger between his teeth -- >>> It's as if Will has cut out Waymar's tongue (as a king like Aerys or Joffrey, or a Hand like Tyrion, would do...the singer who mocked Tyrion, following which Tyrion cut out his tongue by turning him into singer's stew, courtesy of Bronn).

He threw the long sable cloak back over his shoulders, to free his arms for battle, and took his sword in both hands. The wind had stopped. It was very cold.

If anyone can tell me why symbolically ‘the night was windless,’ I’d be most grateful!

The Other slid forward on silent feet.

Kind of like their creator, Will.

In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor.

Ser Waymar met him bravely. “Dance with me then.” He lifted his sword high over his head, defiant. His hands trembled from the weight of it, or perhaps from the cold. Yet in that moment, Will thought, he was a boy no longer, but a man of the Night’s Watch.

The Other halted. Will saw its eyes; blue, deeper and bluer than any human eyes, a blue that burned like ice. They fixed on the longsword trembling on high, watched the moonlight running cold along the metal. For a heartbeat he dared to hope.

They emerged silently from the shadows, twins to the first. Three of them . . . four . . . five . . . Ser Waymar may have felt the cold that came with them, but he never saw them, never heard them. Will had to call out. It was his duty. And his death, if he did. He shivered, and hugged the tree, and kept the silence.

The pale sword came shivering through the air.

Ser Waymar met it with steel. When the blades met, there was no ring of metal on metal; only a high, thin sound at the edge of hearing, like an animal screaming in pain. Royce checked a second blow, and a third, then fell back a step. Another flurry of blows, and he fell back again.

Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent, the shifting patterns of their delicate armor making them all but invisible in the wood. Yet they made no move to interfere.

Again and again the swords met, until Will wanted to cover his ears against the strange anguished keening of their clash. Ser Waymar was panting from the effort now, his breath steaming in the moonlight. His blade was white with frost; the Other’s danced with pale blue light.

Then Royce’s parry came a beat too late. The pale sword bit through the ringmail beneath his arm. The young lord cried out in pain. Blood welled between the rings. It steamed in the cold, and the droplets seemed red as fire where they touched the snow. Ser Waymar’s fingers brushed his side. His moleskin glove came away soaked with red.

The Other said something in a language that Will did not know, his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.

As ye sow, so shall ye reap.  As ye mock, so shall ye be mocked.

Ser Waymar Royce found his fury. “For Robert!” he shouted, and he came up snarling, lifting the frost-covered longsword with both hands and swinging it around in a flat sidearm slash with all his weight behind it. The Other’s parry was almost lazy.

When the blades touched, the steel shattered.

A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles.

The needles are a physical manifestation of the tree’s needles, as I mentioned earlier.  ETA:  'a storm of (s)words'!

Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.

The watchers moved forward together, as if some signal had been given. Swords rose and fell, all in a deathly silence. It was cold butchery. The pale blades sliced through ringmail as if it were silk. Will closed his eyes. Far beneath him, he heard their voices and laughter sharp as icicles.

When he found the courage to look again, a long time had passed, and the ridge below was empty.

He stayed in the tree, scarce daring to breathe, while the moon crept slowly across the black sky. Finally, his muscles cramping and his fingers numb with cold, he climbed down.

Following his treachery, Will climbs down to retrieve the spoils of war – specifically the sword and likely the sable coat, had the wighted Waymar not interfered. 

By the way, there is literary precedent for brothers and kinsmen making off with the sable following someone’s death.  For one, Euron purloined a sable coat off Aenys Blackfyre after he’d killed him (tricked him into thinking he’d granted him safe passage to the kingsmoot).  Another example has been provided by @Crowfood's Daughter of Thoren Smallwood snapping up Ser Jaremy Rykker’s sable-trimmed coat after he’s been ‘wighted’

The implication of wearing a coat is that it may just as easily be removed and appropriated by another, reversing the roles – just as one actor may step out of one role and instead play a different role, accompanied by a wardrobe change in his assigned costume! 

In a sense, a coat like this never truly belongs to one person.  That is the nature of clothing, passing from person to person, especially following someones death.  Perhaps it ‘runs in the family’ and Ser Waymar, despite being a fool in some respects, has inherited the coat as a legacy of his family House Royce, arguably a ‘giant’ among the First Men clans.  A priori, there is also an undeniable taint inherent in the coat, considering that its existence is built upon stripping off the coats of a multitude of sables, who have in effect had their fur coats – and their lives -- stolen from them to begin with. 

Ultimately, also, the coat should remind us of the magical power of the greenseers, particularly skinchanging, a mystical communion with the ‘host’ at its best, and an abominable rape and/or murder at its worst. 

In summary, given that the sable coat always signals a purloined identity, and a source of ensuing envy and resentment, we have a younger sibling (‘Waymar’) who is already predicated as a thief, from whom the others in turn would like to steal power!

Royce’s body lay facedown in the snow, one arm outflung. The thick sable cloak had been slashed in a dozen places. Lying dead like that, you saw how young he was. A boy.

A reference to Bran Stark fallen from the tower.


He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof. 

Another reference to Bran.  Bran is the broken sword struck by lightning.

Gared would know what to make of it, and if not him, then surely that old bear Mormont or Maester Aemon. Would Gared still be waiting with the horses? He had to hurry.

Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.

His fine clothes were a tatter, his face a ruin. A shard from his sword transfixed the blind white pupil of his left eye.

The right eye was open. The pupil burned blue. It saw.

The glance the wighted Waymar gives his brother is accusing.  It’s reminiscent of an almost identical phrase used for the wighted spearwife Thistle after Varamyr has attempted to steal her body.

The broken sword fell from nerveless fingers. Will closed his eyes to pray.

His ‘prayers’ have backfired on him!

Long, elegant hands brushed his cheek, then tightened around his throat. They were gloved in the finest moleskin and sticky with blood, yet the touch was icy cold.

Edited by ravenous reader
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Posted (edited)

I'm still only halfway through my meal, but I wanted to compliment the chef and offer a few thoughts on the themes expressed in the courses so far:

"The Killing Word"- great title and a great expression of one of themes underlying the Song, namely that of the conflicting orders and worlds and more particularly the tension between literate and pre-literate civilizations and the power given to words at different stages in this process. Imbuing language with the power to shape reality through sorcery, runes, and glyphs to both the rationalism of the maesters and the ubiquitious songs of the bards. I'd love to hear your thoughts of this dynamic.

Kudos also on the Dune reference. I hadn't thought about it that way before. Doing so now. I'll let you know more after I pick my teeth.

A brief diversion: My own Dune links are a vague feeling of similarity between the failures on the Bene Gesserit's program to create the messianic kwizatz haderach and the Targaryen stillbirths and madmen as well as a gallows humor link between blood and melange. Both must flow.

 

13 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

As we've mentioned, warlocks, basically greenseers, have a penchant to seek revenge on those who have 'mocked' them.  For example, the first thing Bran our budding greenseer does on emerging from the crypts together with his 'woodswitchy' sidekick Osha is curse those who have sacked and burned Winterfell, by appealing to the Others with the idiom 'the Others take them' -- which now in retrospect may not be so figurative after all!

A Clash of Kings - Bran VII

Osha called softly through the blowing smoke as they went, but no one answered. They saw one dog worrying at a corpse, but he ran when he caught the scents of the direwolves; the rest had been slain in the kennels. The maester's ravens were paying court to some of the corpses, while the crows from the broken tower attended others. Bran recognized Poxy Tym, even though someone had taken an axe to his face. One charred corpse, outside the ashen shell of Mother's sept, sat with his arms drawn up and his hands balled into hard black fists, as if to punch anyone who dared approach him. "If the gods are good," Osha said in a low angry voice, "the Others will take them that did this work."

"It was Theon," Bran said blackly.  [watch out Theon...Words are wind, and ...the Cold winds are rising...Winter is coming for you!]

"No. Look." She pointed across the yard with her spear. "That's one of his ironmen. And there. And that's Greyjoy's warhorse, see? The black one with the arrows in him." She moved among the dead, frowning. "And here's Black Lorren." He had been hacked and cut so badly that his beard looked a reddish-brown now. "Took a few with him, he did." Osha turned over one of the other corpses with her foot. "There's a badge. A little man, all red." [watch out Boltons...Winter is coming for you too!]

 

 

 

 

13 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

“We have a long ride before us,” Gared pointed out. “Eight days, maybe nine. And night is falling.

It's dusk, liminal time prefacing night; in symbolic terms, prefacing the Long Night.  Accordingly, the Prologue with the bickering Night's Watch 'brothers' can be read as an allegory for the quarrel between actual brothers which was instrumental in ushering in the Long Night.  In line with @LmL's moon meteor hypothesis, which posits that night fell as a consequence of falling objects from the heavens above, 'falling' is a good word choice here!  It also evokes 'Winterfell' and that whole equivocal debate surrounding its origins, implying that the brothers responsible for the Long Night are likely to have been Stark progenitors.  It's important to note that 'Winter fell' may refer to the Stark responsibility both for bringing on the Long Night, as well as bringing it to a close -- employing Winter as a weapon against ones enemies (and brothers!) versus also defeating that same out-of-control weapon, ultimatel

 

 

 

Interesting, I agree, but hadn't though of the name in that context. I was fixated on it as pun between "fell" as meaning:

  "fierce, cruel, terrible  :  sinister, malevolent :  very destructive :  deadly

and

:  a high barren field or moor"

...Merriam-webster

 

My attempt at editing this failed miserably. I just wanted to point out that I thought your catch about Bran and the curses was insightful. You have a keen eye.

 Anyways, I'll be back. I think the prologue is very important and introduces some thematically necessary elements.

 

Edited by hiemal

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Same here - I'm only halfway through, but I am excited to see Dune references. Did you know that Paul's name muadib, which is indeed a killing word, is named for the shadow on the SECOND MOON? 

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Posted (edited)

Thoroughly into this. Still reading, but I started looking up Gared name stuff to see how it might relate to the moon-meteor role his head plays in Bran's first chapter.

I found that "gar" has ye olde meanings of:
-Spear or Javelin

-to make or force an action by someone else

-lots of stuff also closely related to Garth

And has a modern German meaning of "to cook with dry heat" (ie, over a flame).
 

22 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

Will’s voice abandoned him. He groped for words that did not come. It was not possible. His eyes swept back and forth over the abandoned campsite, stopped on the axe. A huge double-bladed battle-axe, still lying where he had seen it last, untouched. A valuable weapon . . .

It's interesting his words failing him, just as my argument for the greenseer's words being so instrumental in the whole affair was gathering momentum!  As a possible explanation, there might be a correlate to the Lightbringer forging, which was only successful on the third attempt.  Accordingly, one might expect his words to fail him twice before he gets the spell right.

You could say that his words failed him because his would-be soldiers were all gone. He was leading his brother into a trap, only to find that some greater power had stolen his toys, so he climbed the tree to steal that power for himself and take back his toys. And when he puts the dagger in his mouth, we can think of that as the blade being his words.

And this has also reminded me of the Cleganes. If the archetype story in the prologue is about Will trying to steal some god's toys, only to feel it's wrath, then we can think of Sandor's playing withe Gregor's toy soldier in the same way. The idea of a figurine being like a wight could be useful for analysis, too.

Edited by cgrav

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Great read RR. I love the way your brain works!

There is so much good going on here I don't know what to hone in on but I'll start with this. 

22 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

“Come no farther,” the lordling warned. His voice cracked like a boy’s.

The ranger who had scorned the other men, emasculated them with disrespectful talk of being 'unmanned' -- >>> now finds himself likewise 'unmanned' and cut down to size.  He becomes a child again, rendered strangely vulnerable, just like Renly,

Right here Waymar is a boy. I agree that the mocker is now exhibiting the behavior of which he was mocking earlier. 

Now here.

22 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

Ser Waymar met him bravely. “Dance with me then.” He lifted his sword high over his head, defiant. His hands trembled from the weight of it, or perhaps from the cold. Yet in that moment, Will thought, he was a boy no longer, but a man of the Night’s Watch.

Waymar becomes a man. What changed? Why is he a man now? The obvious answer is he is going to fight 'like a man'. However, I think it is because he is done mocking. He has seen the danger he was warned about (not specifically the Others, just the dangers beyond the wall) and is now humbled. He has become a man.

 

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22 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

When the blades touched, the steel shattered.

A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles.

The needles are a physical manifestation of the tree’s needles, as I mentioned earlier.

And Long Night symbolism? I wish it said a thousand instead of a hundred, then I'd be more convinced. I still think it is a possibility though.

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Posted (edited)

19 minutes ago, OtherFromAnotherMother said:

And Long Night symbolism? I wish it said a thousand instead of a hundred, then I'd be more convinced. I still think it is a possibility though.

LOL.  I think even GRRM realized that might sound rather unrealistic, seeing as it's only one sword shattering!  (There are limits when one wants to hide the symbolic in the literal...;)).

I'll let you in on another of my 'vaulting' thoughts, seeing you were so complementary about 'the way my brain works' :)...

Given that the sword cracking mirrors the cracking speech of the Others; and that the sword in question is described as 'frosted'-over just before it cracks additionally echoing the speech of the Others, which is specifically described as ice cracking on a winter lake; I'm wondering whether the mocking words of the Other were the decisive, triggering factor, causing the sword to become brittle enough, compromising its integrity sufficiently, so that the following 'lazy parry' was sufficient to shatter it entirely.  My idea might even harmonize with MacGregor's notion of checking out the sword's material and consistency, since this kind of 'killing word' would not work on a more 'fire'-based material such as Valyrian steel or dragonglass, since fire can withstand the freezing effect, absorbing it without becoming brittle.  What do you think?

Edited by ravenous reader

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Posted (edited)

22 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

He threw the long sable cloak back over his shoulders, to free his arms for battle, and took his sword in both hands. The wind had stopped. It was very cold.

If anyone can tell me why symbolically ‘the night was windless,’ I’d be most grateful!

Well wind = words = swords, and the wind is literally a weapon of the Others. And all along it seems like the weather's behavior precedes the Others. So when the wind stops, that's a preview of the Others holding their swords still while they observe Waymar. 

Thinking of words = wind, it could also be significant that the wind stops shortly after Will loses his words. The wind stopped because god-Will was done speaking.

My idea might even harmonize with MacGregor's notion of checking out the sword's material and consistency, since this kind of 'killing word' would not work on a more 'fire'-based material such as Valyrian steel or dragonglass, since fire can withstand the freezing effect, absorbing it without becoming brittle.  What do you think?

 

I've definitely seen it speculated that this interaction was about sizing up the opponent to see if he was carrying some rumored weapon or was a person they might have reason to fear. 
 

Edited by cgrav

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, cgrav said:

Well wind = words = swords, and the wind is literally a weapon of the Others. And all along it seems like the weather's behavior precedes the Others. So when the wind stops, that's a preview of the Others holding their swords still while they observe Waymar. 

Thinking of words = wind, it could also be significant that the wind stops shortly after Will loses his words. The wind stopped because god-Will was done speaking.

Hi @cgrav :)  I love your elegant equation wind=words=swords.  ( @Tijgy and @Wizz-The-Smith -- we can now add a further 'W-' to our quartet of Stark weapons, to make a quintet of wind, wolf, wood, winter and words!)

There is some evidence that the wind is related to the greenseer whispering.  For example, earlier in the Prologue the wind is described as 'whispering through the trees' which is what Will does when he's hidden in the sentinel literally 'whispering the prayer' through and to the trees.

However, how would you then explain that curious passage of  Theon's 'communion' with Bran at the heart tree where Bran was capable of speaking to Theon without using wind?  In fact, GRRM specifies the leaves were 'rustling,' despite it being a 'windless night':

Quote

A Dance with Dragons - A Ghost in Winterfell

And in the heart of the wood the weirwood waited with its knowing red eyes. Theon stopped by the edge of the pool and bowed his head before its carved red face. Even here he could hear the drumming, boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM boom DOOM. Like distant thunder, the sound seemed to come from everywhere at once.

The night was windless, the snow drifting straight down out of a cold black sky, yet the leaves of the heart tree were rustling his name. "Theon," they seemed to whisper, "Theon."

The old gods, he thought. They know me. They know my name. I was Theon of House Greyjoy. I was a ward of Eddard Stark, a friend and brother to his children. "Please." He fell to his knees. "A sword, that's all I ask. Let me die as Theon, not as Reek." Tears trickled down his cheeks, impossibly warm. "I was ironborn. A son … a son of Pyke, of the islands."

I also had a notion regarding a possible pun on 'windless' with 'windlass,' a word Tolkien uses, with which GRRM would have been familiar, specifically describing the winding mechanism of the crossbow used to kill the dragon Smaug with a black arrow -- thereby relating 'windlass' to 'windless'.  Can the symbolic absence of wind be a weapon too?

2 hours ago, cgrav said:

Thoroughly into this. Still reading, but I started looking up Gared name stuff to see how it might relate to the moon-meteor role his head plays in Bran's first chapter.

I found that "gar" has ye olde meanings of:
-Spear or Javelin

-to make or force an action by someone else

-lots of stuff also closely related to Garth

And has a modern German meaning of "to cook with dry heat" (ie, over a flame).

Thanks for those.  Remember @Blue Tiger broke down a few 'gar' or rather 'rag' connotations -- since we're being encouraged by GRRM to think of anagrams here, given Gared is a nod to the horror writer Edgar Allan Poe (who wrote 'The Raven'), in keeping with the nods to the other two rangers as writers, William Shakespeare and GRRM himself (or alternatively James Joyce).  BT noted that 'rag' is related to 'dog' or 'wolf' and 'Ragnarok'.  Also Seams has noted the grouping of 'ragged...dagger...egg...' to which I've also added 'Yggdrasil', since it's a 'rag tree' (wishing tree) like the hawthorn.

As far as the German meaning of 'gar,' this has been previously noted by @Evolett in another context in which she cleverly identified 'Symeon Star-Eyes' as GRRM's nod to the singing duo Simon and Garfunkel.  'Funkel(n)' means to twinkle as in 'twinkle, twinkle, little star' and 'Funke' is a spark, conveying the idea of igniting a fire (or animating the eyes of a wight with light), reinforced by the meaning of 'gar' which as you've noted is to cook something well done,  Garfunkel's first name was Art, short for 'Arthur' like our favorite Sword of the Morning, which likewise is a star!  

Quote


You could say that his words failed him because his would-be soldiers were all gone. He was leading his brother into a trap, only to find that some greater power had stolen his toys, so he climbed the tree to steal that power for himself and take back his toys.

This is interesting.  So he wasn't expecting to conjure the Others?  He was trying to steal something else?  In celestial terms, what would you speculate the greenseer intended achieving via tinkering with the comet and/or other celestial bodies, then?

Applying this to Bran and Bloodraven's situation, who would be the 'higher power'?

Quote

And when he puts the dagger in his mouth, we can think of that as the blade being his words.

Nice.  'sword' = 'word' very literally.  What do you think is the significance of the 'iron' blade?

Quote


And this has also reminded me of the Cleganes. If the archetype story in the prologue is about Will trying to steal some god's toys, only to feel it's wrath, then we can think of Sandor's playing withe Gregor's toy soldier in the same way. The idea of a figurine being like a wight could be useful for analysis, too.

That's a good analogy.  Sandor got burned, making him a hellhound -- almost like a Stark greenseer symbolically 'struck by lightning'.  What do you make of the Other as big brOther?!

Edited by ravenous reader

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1 hour ago, OtherFromAnotherMother said:

And Long Night symbolism? I wish it said a thousand instead of a hundred, then I'd be more convinced. I still think it is a possibility though.

It's definitely a meteor shower. The giveaway is that one shard sticks him in the eye. That is the moon eye, or the God's Eye, however you want to say it. Also, the needle = sword symbolism plays on Arya's needle as well, and she is the one who sees the actual "storm of swords" quote: 

Quote

When they reached the top of the ridge and saw the river, Sandor Clegane reined up hard and cursed.  The rain was falling from a black iron sky, pricking the green and brown torrent with ten thousand swords.

And @ravenous reader is right that the needles of the tree play into this as well - they symbolize meteors just as the blood and fire hand-shaped weirwood leaves do.

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37 minutes ago, ravenous reader said:

However, how would you then explain that curious passage of  Theon's 'communion' with Bran at the heart tree where Bran was capable of speaking to Theon without using wind?  In fact, GRRM specifies the leaves were 'rustling,' despite it being a 'windless night':

I think that's the difference between present story and the archetype story. The stealing from the gods theme would mean that the greenseer can make some noise but is not himself the wind. 

56 minutes ago, ravenous reader said:

This is interesting.  So he wasn't expecting to conjure the Others?  He was trying to steal something else?  In celestial terms, what would you speculate the greenseer intended achieving via tinkering with the comet and/or other celestial bodies, then?

Applying this to Bran and Bloodraven's situation, who would be the 'higher power'?

No, I don't think the result was intentional, even if something else was.

re: Bran and Bloodraven: Neither is the higher power at the moment. I don't think the higher power that casts down the thief is "who". It's life and death and the natural world beyond our control. The lesson of the Icarus archetype is that there is no controlling those. Bran may represent a dynamic archetype who goes from trying to "steal" from forces beyond control to transcending into their realm. 

So on the archetypal level, we have a story of the seasons: a trickster calls the Others to come in and cause winter, and then 180 days later Lightbringer is forged and it brings warmth back into the world. The "naughty greenseer" story is about someone who was actually able to bring those archetypes into the real world, as if the gods and forces of nature were poltergeist. Like a seance that got out of hand, trying to control the seasons. 

I'd posit that someone was pissed about the changing of the seasons - power over life and death - and thought they could do a better job than the Universe. What I'm not sure of is if this is a one or two step thing. One step would be that the greenseer conjured winter not realizing that the moon would be destroyed to bring it. Two steps would be that the greenseer conjured winter with (symbolized by an eclipse) and then someone else (a firstmen greenseer?) destroyed the moon in return, acting out the LB forging. I think the two-step story is more consistent with the broad-level conflict of winter/summer symbolism.

On the one level is the mythical story told in the sky and seasons of Planetos (and the real world), and then down from that are the same stories being acted out by forces on Planetos, and then again by powerful normal people, and so on. Something has clearly gone wrong in story's "real world" level.
 

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9 minutes ago, cgrav said:

I think that's the difference between present story and the archetype story. The stealing from the gods theme would mean that the greenseer can make some noise but is not himself the wind. 

No, I don't think the result was intentional, even if something else was.

re: Bran and Bloodraven: Neither is the higher power at the moment. I don't think the higher power that casts down the thief is "who". It's life and death and the natural world beyond our control. The lesson of the Icarus archetype is that there is no controlling those. Bran may represent a dynamic archetype who goes from trying to "steal" from forces beyond control to transcending into their realm. 

So on the archetypal level, we have a story of the seasons: a trickster calls the Others to come in and cause winter, and then 180 days later Lightbringer is forged and it brings warmth back into the world. The "naughty greenseer" story is about someone who was actually able to bring those archetypes into the real world, as if the gods and forces of nature were poltergeist. Like a seance that got out of hand, trying to control the seasons. 

I'd posit that someone was pissed about the changing of the seasons - power over life and death - and thought they could do a better job than the Universe. What I'm not sure of is if this is a one or two step thing. One step would be that the greenseer conjured winter not realizing that the moon would be destroyed to bring it. Two steps would be that the greenseer conjured winter with (symbolized by an eclipse) and then someone else (a firstmen greenseer?) destroyed the moon in return, acting out the LB forging. I think the two-step story is more consistent with the broad-level conflict of winter/summer symbolism.

On the one level is the mythical story told in the sky and seasons of Planetos (and the real world), and then down from that are the same stories being acted out by forces on Planetos, and then again by powerful normal people, and so on. Something has clearly gone wrong in story's "real world" level.
 

One thing to think about is the idea of the cycle of the seasons in regard to the Others and the comet. The Long Night represents a stopping of the cycle - like, night and death and winter are ok, because they are part of the cycle, but if you stop the cycle, that is the worst sin you can do. The wights break the life cycle, the Long Night breaks the seasonal cycle... the Others are the manifestation of winter that doesn't go away. 

The comet, meanwhile, is the sword that slays the seasons. You could interpret that as the comet turns the seasons, but I think it makes more sense to interpret is that comet breaking the cycle (especially because that's what I think it did! ;) ) That's another reasons why I have been saying lately that Bran and other greenseers are Morningstar / Lucifer / Prometheus characters, which means they represent the comet. The comet is the naughty seer, reaching for the fire of the gods. The moon is like the weirwood - the greenseer slips inside the weirwood and 'sets it on fire,' and the comet slips inside the moon and sets it on fire. The naughty greenseer slays the seasonal cycle, so again they correlate with the comet. 

Also, being a wanderer and a stranger is a big part of Odin's character, and that is who the naughty greenseer is heavily based on, among others. 

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@ravenous reader,

 

At the fight outside the Drogo's tent Dany's summoned savior comes in the form Jorah.  However, he is not wearing a helm, making him a sorcerous sword without a hilt.  The blood rider he fights mocks him as a milkman among other things making into an Other.  Jorah counter mocks with a sword rather than a word.  Then Jorah drags Dany into the tent.  She tries to tell him not to, but her words fail her.  This likely results in the death of her child, but if she had been killed by the blood riders, Rhaego would have died anyway.  This way at least Dany lived.  In this case a sword without a hilt was better than no sword at all while surrounded by enemies.  

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13 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

I'm wondering whether the mocking words of the Other were the decisive, triggering factor, causing the sword to become brittle enough, compromising its integrity sufficiently, so that the following 'lazy parry' was sufficient to shatter it entirely.  My idea might even harmonize with MacGregor's notion of checking out the sword's material and consistency, since this kind of 'killing word' would not work on a more 'fire'-based material such as Valyrian steel or dragonglass, since fire can withstand the freezing effect, absorbing it without becoming brittle.  What do you think?

I like it! The sudden breaking of Waymar's sword is peculiar indeed. This could certainly explain it. The sword's structural integrity does not have an observable change. The Other's strength does increase, the 'lazy parry' would indicate a weaker strike. Shattering a steel sword does not make sense given that Waymar's had been meeting each blow before this. So, magical mocking words from the Other to weaken steel, I like it!

It's also interesting that the Other speaks the magical mocking words after cutting Waymar. It had to see the blood to know that Waymar was not 'special'? What was the Other's plan if he would have been 'special'?

 

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9 minutes ago, OtherFromAnotherMother said:

It's also interesting that the Other speaks the magical mocking words after cutting Waymar. It had to see the blood to know that Waymar was not 'special'? What was the Other's plan if he would have been 'special'?

Well, that's a very good observation! What do you think, @ravenous reader? LoLoLoL

@OtherFromAnotherMother, I'm loling because RR and I suggested that very thing on a different thread a few weeks ago and got kind of a funny reaction. I do think it's very possible that this hot blood - described to be like drops of fire in that scene - was the other clue the Others were looking for. If he was a zombie skinchanger like the Last Hero, his blood might have been black like Beric's if he was a fire undead, or black and dry if he was icy undead. It's speculative, but of course blood is very important and the undead people do have noticeably different blood, so... I also find it curious that all the Others dip their swords in his blood, almost as if it were strengthening them, like Vampires feeding or something. 

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1 hour ago, LmL said:

I'm loling because RR and I suggested that very thing on a different thread a few weeks ago and got kind of a funny reaction.

What thread was that? I'd be interested in checking it out if I haven't already.

1 hour ago, LmL said:

I do think it's very possible that this hot blood - described to be like drops of fire in that scene - was the other clue the Others were looking for. If he was a zombie skinchanger like the Last Hero, his blood might have been black like Beric's if he was a fire undead, or black and dry if he was icy undead.

This would support an idea that I've had that the current Others are aware of the Long Night and what sent them back originally. If this is true, George may have some unpredictable twists during the next Long Night. 

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I agree the blood is significant. The first mocking sounds come after Waymar is first cut, and that's when the Other gets lazy. And the red color is also important, as it's noted by Will, even though the scene is set at twilight when it would have been hard to make out red against black.

And right there is the first instance of the Targ colors. Waymar is burnt black on the outside, but plain old red on the inside. Is the NW black uniform an homage to a fire transformation undergone by the original LH? Perhaps he was "armored in black ice" that the Others couldn't touch, and of course his inner fire transformation made him un-killable by ice weapons.

 

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Posted (edited)

59 minutes ago, OtherFromAnotherMother said:

 

What thread was that? I'd be interested in checking it out if I haven't already.

Start reading from here:

 

3 hours ago, Unchained said:

@ravenous reader,

 

At the fight outside the Drogo's tent Dany's summoned savior comes in the form Jorah.  However, he is not wearing a helm, making him a sorcerous sword without a hilt.  The blood rider he fights mocks him as a milkman among other things making into an Other.  Jorah counter mocks with a sword rather than a word.  Then Jorah drags Dany into the tent.  She tries to tell him not to, but her words fail her.  This likely results in the death of her child, but if she had been killed by the blood riders, Rhaego would have died anyway.  This way at least Dany lived.  In this case a sword without a hilt was better than no sword at all while surrounded by enemies.  

Great example!  I'm intrigued by your recent idea of sending a saviour Other in order to take on another Other; basically fighting ice with ice (an idea @LynnS has previously suggested in conjunction with the Wall which keeps out the foe by containing the 'killing cold'), fire with fire, like with like.  You gave the example of 'otherized' Jaime (who similarly is a corrupted knight like Jorah -- a soiled knight is a sword without a hilt -- someone who idiomatically 'shoots from the hip', a 'loose cannon'), who in the Whispering Wood is transformed into an Other and tellingly wears no helm; 'Others followed him...' (ha ha)... who subsequently sends ice moon maid Brienne to retrieve Sansa from the ice moon of the Eyrie.  Also, you mentioned the liberation of the fiery king Aerys from ice moon Duskendale by Barristan aka whitebeard also serving as an icy Other analog ('arstan' also means lion, evoking the white lion of the Dothraki sea, which I've identified as an ice moon symbol, the 'hrakkar,' which in Dothraki means lion, in addition to lightning strike and sword).  

I agree with your observation about the interchangeability of weapons -- so one can either counter-mock using a sword or a word; and I love the idea of a word being a sword without a hilt!   As Tywin sagely advised, sometimes wars are won more effectively with 'quills and ravens'.  A sword without a hilt is basically a sword swinging in the air without being directly connected by extension to the ground -- i.e. in my parlance, a 'killing word' which takes flight, like 'quills and ravens' or the 'mocking moths' of Littlefinger.  For example, as Jaime spells out here via the pun on 'quarrel' (which is both a verbal argument as well as an arrow) when he is mercilessly mocking his captor Brienne on the rowboat:

Quote

A Storm of Swords - Jaime I

"Cousin Jaime, please, you ought not speak so roughly." Under his cloak, Ser Cleos wore a surcoat quartered with the twin towers of House Frey and the golden lion of Lannister. "We have far to go, we should not quarrel amongst ourselves."

"When I quarrel I do it with a sword, coz. I was speaking to the lady. Tell me, wench, are all the women on Tarth as homely as you? I pity the men, if so. Perhaps they do not know what real women look like, living on a dreary mountain in the sea."

"Tarth is beautiful," the wench grunted between strokes. "The Sapphire Isle, it's called. Be quiet, monster, unless you mean to make me gag you."

Jaime is a bit disingenuous, since he's equally adept with words as with swords, especially later when he has to compensate for the loss of his sword hand.  After having lost his hand, he's a sword without a hilt in more ways than one and must  hone his verbal skills more than ever following the example of his brother who has had to compensate, by wielding words, for his physical deformity his whole life.  Perhaps there's a pun on 'wit' and 'whet'-stone, since as Tyrion explains ones wit is honed via the whetstone of books!  A rough word, or cutting word -- of which Jaime is the master, rather sadistically unleashing them on comparatively defenseless naive Brienne (although ironically she is the one is this situation carrying the physical sword) -- is a kind of sharp instrument like a sword or arrow.  In his ardent desire to wound Brienne and pierce her icy shell with his cutting barbs, the subtext of the symbolism reveals Jaime may actually unconsciously wish to penetrate the guarded Maid of Tarth in a further way, especially in light of YOVMO's insight that 'a sword in the dark' (always a phallic symbol) may come in handy in order to pierce the stubborn opposition of the 'hymenal' gate:

Quote

A Storm of Swords - Jaime III

"Give me the sword, Kingslayer."

"Oh, I will." He sprang to his feet and drove at her, the longsword alive in his hands. Brienne jumped back, parrying, but he followed, pressing the attack. No sooner did she turn one cut than the next was upon her. The swords kissed and sprang apart and kissed again. Jaime's blood was singing.

The double entendre entailed in the mocking (riposte) and counter-mocking (counter-riposte) motion of the duel positively oozes.  I don't think I need to explain that further!

Also note the inclusion of 'singing' accompanying the 'sexy swordplay', implying what we're seeing enacted by the river is 'the song of swords', which for the purposes of the symbolic argument can be understood as crucial in greenseeing and all manner of Lightbringer forgings.  Thus, words, spells, songs, music, drumbeats, bells ringing, books, runes, glyphs, the faces carved in the trees, the whispering of starlight, the rustling of leaves, the rumbling of the waves (the language of Leviathan), etc. can all be understood as different manifestations of the 'killing word', when we're looking for clues towards this pattern in the text.

In the example you've forwarded, Mirri's 'ululating wail' (evoking Nissa's cry and Widow's Wail) is similarly important in being directly responsible for summoning the demonic spirits.  @cgrav is correct in terming this ritual invocation 'a seance that got out of hand' -- because it's a 'sword without a hilt'...i.e. literally 'out of hand'!  Otherwise stated, the sword is not carried in the hand, but in the mouth, being a word (just as Will demonstrates as he's ascending the fiery Jacob's ladder of the tall sentinel).  

Incidentally, Bran also utilized a tall sentinel in order to ascend the long way to the broken tower on that fateful day.  In that scenario, Bran plays the role of the Other summoned by the voices of the 'stone gargoyles who once were lions' in the tower.  It's also interesting that Summer's 'howling chased him all the way up the tree'.  This constitutes a very interesting paradox whereby the greenseer in order to fulfil his calling must be called by another.  Who called him up the tree and from there to the tower?  Was it really Jaime and Cersei?  Further, who made the noise alerting Cersei to Bran's presence at the window?  Could it have been a crow?

@LmL -- how would you analyse this scenario in celestial terms, assuming Bran is the comet?  I'm getting this peculiar insight that Bran is playing multiple roles at once.  Perhaps he even summoned himself, should he also prove to be the three-eyed crow.

*  voice issuing 'killing word' summons Bran -- the tricksy greenseer presence in the void

*  Bran the stranger intruding on the twins' intimacy -- the nosy comet eavesdropping on the incestuous tryst

*  the incestuous duo -- either sun + moon; or the twin moons getting it on with their 'kinky eclipse conjunction'.  At first, Jaime is positioned in front of Cersei (who is pushed against a wall); thus Jaime (fire moon) blocks Cersei (sun) from view.  This interpretation might fit seeing as Cersei 'wears the pants' in the relationship, always wanted to be a man, and is the one whose resplendent golden mane of hair (like the alpha male lion) is mentioned in that scene repeatedly.  She as the sun is the one who gets her hands into Jaime's hair (like the sun's rays penetrating the moon) and pulls his head down to her breast.  The total eclipse (of the 'heart')!  :devil:  

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A Game of Thrones - Bran II

Inside the room, a man and a woman were wrestling. They were both naked. Bran could not tell who they were. The man's back was to him, and his body screened the woman from view as he pushed her up against a wall.

There were soft, wet sounds. Bran realized they were kissing. He watched, wide-eyed and frightened, his breath tight in his throat. The man had a hand down between her legs, and he must have been hurting her there, because the woman started to moan, low in her throat. "Stop it," she said, "stop it, stop it. Oh, please …" But her voice was low and weak, and she did not push him away. Her hands buried themselves in his hair, his tangled golden hair, and pulled his face down to her breast.

Bran saw her face. Her eyes were closed and her mouth was open, moaning. Her golden hair swung from side to side as her head moved back and forth, but still he recognized the queen.

Look at this image.  From a certain perspective this is the sun, eyes closed and mouth open (the large round dark void created by the solar eclipse might resemble a wide-open mouth instead of the pupil of an eye), from which the '(nenny)moaning' emanates, around which the golden aureole radiates (this is the golden ring surrounding the gaping void, circling it like a lion's mane).

While Jaime's head is down there, the sun peers around him and spies the comet spying on them and lashes out, igniting the moon, who then rejects the transformed comet (ETA:  Jaime's hand ejects Bran from the window; Cersei's mouth directs him) who got burnt along with the moon (i.e.Jaime) in the encounter.  This is the day on which Jaime truly blackened his soul, so it's fitting that he is the one who got burnt in the encounter along with Bran.  Killing Aerys might still have been morally justifiable, but not this action towards a child.  From this day onwards, Jaime's and Cersei's trajectories slowly part ways.  The fire moon is destroyed, although a piece of it remains to haunt the ice moon.  I'd posit the haunted ice moon is therefore Jaime himself.  Indeed, he is alienated from the sun, becoming a pale shell of his former self as Cersei notes:

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A Feast for Crows - Jaime III

"Robert's beard was black. Mine is gold."

"Gold? Or silver?" Cersei plucked a hair from beneath his chin and held it up. It was grey. "All the color is draining out of you, brother. You've become a ghost of what you were, a pale crippled thing. And so bloodless, always in white." She flicked the hair away. "I prefer you garbed in crimson and gold."

Extrapolating, we might anticipate a renewed showdown between Bran and Jaime in future, considering the broken comet's oathkeeping promise (Bran is the broken sword) to return oneday and kiss the second moon to release the dragon.  Is Jaime a secret Targ? (upfront, I'll admit I love that idea)

*  In the scenario after the tower drama, Cersei plays the role of the sick, darkened sun.

*  Bran falling to earth -- moon meteor shower 

*  Bran rising harder and stronger with open third eye from the coma -- weirwood /'ash' tree

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A Game of Thrones - Daenerys VIII

"Go with them, Silver Lady," Mirri Maz Duur told her.

"I will stay," Dany said. "The man took me under the stars and gave life to the child inside me. I will not leave him."

"You must. Once I begin to sing, no one must enter this tent. My song will wake powers old and dark. The dead will dance here this night. No living man must look on them."

Dany bowed her head, helpless. "No one will enter." She bent over the tub, over Drogo in his bath of blood, and kissed him lightly on the brow. "Bring him back to me," she whispered to Mirri Maz Duur before she fled.

Outside, the sun was low on the horizon, the sky a bruised red. The khalasar had made camp. Tents and sleeping mats were scattered as far as the eye could see. A hot wind blew. Jhogo and Aggo were digging a firepit to burn the dead stallion. A crowd had gathered to stare at Dany with hard black eyes, their faces like masks of beaten copper. She saw Ser Jorah Mormont, wearing mail and leather now, sweat beading on his broad, balding forehead. He pushed his way through the Dothraki to Dany's side. When he saw the scarlet footprints her boots had left on the ground, the color seemed to drain from his face. "What have you done, you little fool?" he asked hoarsely.

"I had to save him."

"We could have fled," he said. "I would have seen you safe to Asshai, Princess. There was no need . . . "

"Am I truly your princess?" she asked him.

"You know you are, gods save us both."

"Then help me now."

Ser Jorah grimaced. "Would that I knew how."

Mirri Maz Duur's voice rose to a high, ululating wail that sent a shiver down Dany's back. Some of the Dothraki began to mutter and back away. The tent was aglow with the light of braziers within. Through the blood-spattered sandsilk, she glimpsed shadows moving.

Mirri Maz Duur was dancing, and not alone.

Similarly, in the Prologue once the shadows (Others) have been conjured by Will, as I've suggested, Ser Waymar gets ready to do combat vs. the shadows, referring to the ritual as a dance ('Dance with me then') -- and dancing needs music!

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Dany saw naked fear on the faces of the Dothraki. "This must not be," Qotho thundered.

She had not seen the bloodrider return. Haggo and Cohollo were with him. They had brought the hairless men, the eunuchs who healed with knife and needle and fire.

"This will be," Dany replied.

"Maegi, " Haggo growled. And old Cohollo - Cohollo who had bound his life to Drogo's on the day of his birth, Cohollo who had always been kind to her - Cohollo spat full in her face.

"You will die, maegi," Qotho promised, "but the other must die first." He drew his arakh and made for the tent.

"No," she shouted, "you mustn't." She caught him by the shoulder, but Qotho shoved her aside. Dany fell to her knees, crossing her arms over her belly to protect the child within. "Stop him," she commanded her khas, "kill him."

Rakharo and Quaro stood beside the tent flap. Quaro took a step forward, reaching for the handle of his whip, but Qotho spun graceful as a dancer, the curved arakh rising. It caught Quaro low under the arm, the bright sharp steel biting up through leather and skin, through muscle and rib bone. Blood fountained as the young rider reeled backward, gasping.

Qotho wrenched the blade free. "Horselord," Ser Jorah Mormont called. "Try me." His longsword slid from its scabbard.

Qotho whirled, cursing. The arakh moved so fast that Quaro's blood flew from it in a fine spray, like rain in a hot wind. The longsword caught it a foot from Ser Jorah's face, and held it quivering for an instant as Qotho howled in fury. The knight was clad in chainmail, with gauntlets and greaves of lobstered steel and a heavy gorget around his throat, but he had not thought to don his helm.

Qotho danced backward, arakh whirling around his head in a shining blur, flickering out like lightning as the knight came on in a rush.

There's a curious echo I'm hearing here to the pivotal duel at the Tower of Joy between Ned and Arthur Dayne -- the 'rush of steel and shadow'.  That's another example of Other vs. Other, since both Ned and Ser Arthur have ice moon/Other/wintery rather than fiery symbolism.  In that scenario, though, I'd venture that Howland Reed fulfilled the role of Ned's 'sword without a hilt', with some kind of tricksy greenseeing / 'bog devil' connotation.  The crannog people can change water to earth with a (killing) word -- I'd reckon a word might send a hammer like the Hammer of the Waters, just as Garin's chanting summoned Mother Rhoyne from a golden cage:

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A Storm of Swords - Bran II

Bran was almost certain he had never heard this story. "Did he have green dreams like Jojen?"

"No," said Meera, "but he could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear."

If there is a parallel between the Mormont-Qotho 'dance' and that of Stark-Dayne, then this text substantiates Ned's account that the tables turned in the fight and Ned was almost killed by Dayne (but for the saving intervention of the sword without a hilt -- the 'woven green wet words' of Reed).

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Ser Jorah parried as best he could, but the slashes came so fast that it seemed to Dany that Qotho had four arakhs and as many arms. She heard the crunch of sword on mail, saw sparks fly as the long curved blade glanced off a gauntlet. Suddenly it was Mormont stumbling backward, and Qotho leaping to the attack. The left side of the knight's face ran red with blood, and a cut to the hip opened a gash in his mail and left him limping. Qotho screamed taunts at him, calling him a craven, a milk man, a eunuch in an iron suit. "You die now!" he promised, arakh shivering through the red twilight. Inside Dany's womb, her son kicked wildly. The curved blade slipped past the straight one and bit deep into the knight's hip where the mail gaped open.

Mormont grunted, stumbled. Dany felt a sharp pain in her belly, a wetness on her thighs. Qotho shrieked triumph, but his arakh had found bone, and for half a heartbeat it caught.

It was enough. Ser Jorah brought his longsword down with all the strength left him, through flesh and muscle and bone, and Qotho's forearm dangled loose, flopping on a thin cord of skin and sinew. The knight's next cut was at the Dothraki's ear, so savage that Qotho's face seemed almost to explode.

This is quite horrible -- is this how we are to infer Ser Arthur died too?  Arthur losing his arm would parallel the other one-handed warriors Jaime, Qhorin and Jon, to name a few.

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The Dothraki were shouting, Mirri Maz Duur wailing inside the tent like nothing human, Quaro pleading for water as he died. Dany cried out for help, but no one heard. Rakharo was fighting Haggo, arakh dancing with arakh until Jhogo's whip cracked, loud as thunder, the lash coiling around Haggo's throat.

This echoes all the other magical 'cracking' speech, like the Others, the dragons hatching from their stone eggs, Tyrion's mast struck by lightning

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A yank, and the bloodrider stumbled backward, losing his feet and his sword. Rakharo sprang forward, howling, swinging his arakh down with both hands through the top of Haggo's head. The point caught between his eyes, red and quivering. Someone threw a stone, and when Dany looked, her shoulder was torn and bloody. "No," she wept, "no, please, stop it, it's too high, the price is too high." More stones came flying. She tried to crawl toward the tent, but Cohollo caught her. Fingers in her hair, he pulled her head back and she felt the cold touch of his knife at her throat. "My baby," she screamed, and perhaps the gods heard, for as quick as that, Cohollo was dead. Aggo's arrow took him under the arm, to pierce his lungs and heart.

When at last Daenerys found the strength to raise her head, she saw the crowd dispersing, the Dothraki stealing silently back to their tents and sleeping mats. Some were saddling horses and riding off. The sun had set. Fires burned throughout the khalasar, great orange blazes that crackled with fury and spit embers at the sky. She tried to rise, and agony seized her and squeezed her like a giant's fist. The breath went out of her; it was all she could do to gasp. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur's voice was like a funeral dirge. Inside the tent, the shadows whirled.

An arm went under her waist, and then Ser Jorah was lifting her off her feet. His face was sticky with blood, and Dany saw that half his ear was gone. She convulsed in his arms as the pain took her again, and heard the knight shouting for her handmaids to help him. Are they all so afraid? She knew the answer. Another pain grasped her, and Dany bit back a scream. It felt as if her son had a knife in each hand, as if he were hacking at her to cut his way out. "Doreah, curse you," Ser Jorah roared. "Come here. Fetch the birthing women."

I wonder if there's a parallel to Ned and Lyanna here?  After all, Jorah calls Dany 'blood of my blood,' so symbolically they could be siblings.  @Voice and @PrettyPig have suggested Jon may have been delivered by C-section, following clues surrounding the dead female direwolf leaving Ghost and the other pups in the snow.

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"They will not come. They say she is accursed."

"They'll come or I'll have their heads."

Doreah wept. "They are gone, my lord."

"The maegi," someone else said. Was that Aggo? "Take her to the maegi."

No, Dany wanted to say, no, not that, you mustn't, but when she opened her mouth, a long wail of pain escaped, and the sweat broke over her skin. What was wrong with them, couldn't they see? Inside the tent the shapes were dancing, circling the brazier and the bloody bath, dark against the sandsilk, and some did not look human. She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames.

"The Lamb Woman knows the secrets of the birthing bed," Irri said. "She said so, I heard her."

"Yes," Doreah agreed, "I heard her too."

No, she shouted, or perhaps she only thought it, for no whisper of sound escaped her lips. She was being carried. Her eyes opened to gaze up at a flat dead sky, black and bleak and starless. Please, no. The sound of Mirri Maz Duur's voice grew louder, until it filled the world. The shapes! she screamed. The dancers!

Rhaego died; Jon didn't.   Who intervened to save Jon in a similarly difficult birth?  Did Ned perform the C-section in order to deliver Jon?  What was the promise extracted?  And did Ned keep it?

Edited by ravenous reader

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7 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

Start reading from here:

 

Great example!  I'm intrigued by your recent idea of sending a saviour Other in order to take on another Other; basically fighting ice with ice (an idea @LynnS has previously suggested in conjunction with the Wall which keeps out the foe by containing the 'killing cold'), fire with fire, like with like.  You gave the example of 'otherized' Jaime (who similarly is a corrupted knight like Jorah -- a soiled knight is a sword without a hilt -- someone who idiomatically 'shoots from the hip', a 'loose cannon'), who in the Whispering Wood is transformed into an Other and tellingly wears no helm; 'Others followed him...' (ha ha)... who subsequently sends ice moon maid Brienne to retrieve Sansa from the ice moon of the Eyrie.  Also, you mentioned the liberation of the fiery king Aerys from ice moon Duskendale by Barristan aka whitebeard also serving as an icy Other analog ('arstan' also means lion, evoking the white lion of the Dothraki sea, which I've identified as an ice moon symbol, the 'hrakkar,' which in Dothraki means lion, in addition to lightning strike and sword).  

I agree with your observation about the interchangeability of weapons -- so one can either counter-mock using a sword or a word; and I love the idea of a word being a sword without a hilt!   As Tywin sagely advised, sometimes wars are won more effectively with 'quills and ravens'.  A sword without a hilt is basically a sword swinging in the air without being directly connected by extension to the ground -- i.e. in my parlance, a 'killing word' which takes flight, like 'quills and ravens' or the 'mocking moths' of Littlefinger.  For example, as Jaime spells out here via the pun on 'quarrel' (which is both a verbal argument as well as an arrow) when he is mercilessly mocking his captor Brienne on the rowboat:

Jaime is a bit disingenuous, since he's equally adept with words as with swords, especially later when he has to compensate for the loss of his sword hand.  After having lost his hand, he's a sword without a hilt in more ways than one and must  hone his verbal skills more than ever following the example of his brother who has had to compensate, by wielding words, for his physical deformity his whole life.  Perhaps there's a pun on 'wit' and 'whet'-stone, since as Tyrion explains ones wit is honed via the whetstone of books!  A rough word, or cutting word -- of which Jaime is the master, rather sadistically unleashing them on comparatively defenseless naive Brienne (although ironically she is the one is this situation carrying the physical sword) -- is a kind of sharp instrument like a sword or arrow.  In his ardent desire to wound Brienne and pierce her icy shell with his cutting barbs, the subtext of the symbolism reveals Jaime may actually unconsciously wish to penetrate the guarded Maid of Tarth in a further way, especially in light of YOVMO's insight that 'a sword in the dark' (always a phallic symbol) may come in handy in order to pierce the stubborn opposition of the 'hymenal' gate:

The double entendre entailed in the mocking (riposte) and counter-mocking (counter-riposte) motion of the duel positively oozes.  I don't think I need to explain that further!

Also note the inclusion of 'singing' accompanying the 'sexy swordplay', implying what we're seeing enacted by the river is 'the song of swords', which for the purposes of the symbolic argument can be understood as crucial in greenseeing and all manner of Lightbringer forgings.  Thus, words, spells, songs, music, drumbeats, bells ringing, books, runes, glyphs, the faces carved in the trees, the whispering of starlight, the rustling of leaves, the rumbling of the waves (the language of Leviathan), etc. can all be understood as different manifestations of the 'killing word', when we're looking for clues towards this pattern in the text.

In the example you've forwarded, Mirri's 'ululating wail' (evoking Nissa's cry and Widow's Wail) is similarly important in being directly responsible for summoning the demonic spirits.  @cgrav is correct in terming this ritual invocation 'a seance that got out of hand' -- because it's a 'sword without a hilt'...i.e. literally 'out of hand'!  Otherwise stated, the sword is not carried in the hand, but in the mouth, being a word (just as Will demonstrates as he's ascending the fiery Jacob's ladder of the tall sentinel).  

Incidentally, Bran also utilized a tall sentinel in order to ascend the long way to the broken tower on that fateful day.  In that scenario, Bran plays the role of the Other summoned by the voices of the 'stone gargoyles who once were lions' in the tower.  It's also interesting that Summer's 'howling chased him all the way up the tree'.  This constitutes a very interesting paradox whereby the greenseer in order to fulfil his calling must be called by another.  Who called him up the tree and from there to the tower?  Was it really Jaime and Cersei?  Further, who made the noise alerting Cersei to Bran's presence at the window?  Could it have been a crow?

@LmL -- how would you analyse this scenario in celestial terms, assuming Bran is the comet?  I'm getting this peculiar insight that Bran is playing multiple roles at once.  Perhaps he even summoned himself, should he also prove to be the three-eyed crow.

*  voice issuing 'killing word' summons Bran -- the tricksy greenseer presence in the void

*  Bran the stranger intruding on the twins' intimacy -- the nosy comet eavesdropping on the incestuous tryst

*  the incestuous duo -- either sun + moon; or the twin moons getting it on with their 'kinky eclipse conjunction'.  At first, Jaime is positioned in front of Cersei (who is pushed against a wall); thus Jaime (fire moon) blocks Cersei (sun) from view.  This interpretation might fit seeing as Cersei 'wears the pants' in the relationship, always wanted to be a man, and is the one whose resplendent golden mane of hair (like the alpha male lion) is mentioned in that scene repeatedly.  She as the sun is the one who gets her hands into Jaime's hair (like the sun's rays penetrating the moon) and pulls his head down to her breast.  The total eclipse (of the 'heart')!  :devil:  

Look at this image.  From a certain perspective this is the sun, eyes closed and mouth open (the large round dark void created by the solar eclipse might resemble a wide-open mouth instead of the pupil of an eye), from which the '(nenny)moaning' emanates, around which the golden aureole radiates (this is the golden ring surrounding the gaping void, circling it like a lion's mane).

While Jaime's head is down there, the sun peers around him and spies the comet spying on them and lashes out, igniting the moon, who then rejects the transformed comet (ETA:  Jaime's hand ejects Bran from the window; Cersei's mouth directs him) who got burnt along with the moon (i.e.Jaime) in the encounter.  This is the day on which Jaime truly blackened his soul, so it's fitting that he is the one who got burnt in the encounter along with Bran.  Killing Aerys might still have been morally justifiable, but not this action towards a child.  From this day onwards, Jaime's and Cersei's trajectories slowly part ways.  The fire moon is destroyed, although a piece of it remains to haunt the ice moon.  I'd posit the haunted ice moon is therefore Jaime himself.  Indeed, he is alienated from the sun, becoming a pale shell of his former self as Cersei notes:

Extrapolating, we might anticipate a renewed showdown between Bran and Jaime in future, considering the broken comet's oathkeeping promise (Bran is the broken sword) to return oneday and kiss the second moon to release the dragon.  Is Jaime a secret Targ? (upfront, I'll admit I love that idea)

*  In the scenario after the tower drama, Cersei plays the role of the sick, darkened sun.

*  Bran falling to earth -- moon meteor shower 

*  Bran rising harder and stronger with open third eye from the coma -- weirwood /'ash' tree

Similarly, in the Prologue once the shadows (Others) have been conjured by Will, as I've suggested, Ser Waymar gets ready to do combat vs. the shadows, referring to the ritual as a dance ('Dance with me then') -- and dancing needs music!

There's a curious echo I'm hearing here to the pivotal duel at the Tower of Joy between Ned and Arthur Dayne -- the 'rush of steel and shadow'.  That's another example of Other vs. Other, since both Ned and Ser Arthur have ice moon/Other/wintery rather than fiery symbolism.  In that scenario, though, I'd venture that Howland Reed fulfilled the role of Ned's 'sword without a hilt', with some kind of tricksy greenseeing / 'bog devil' connotation.  The crannog people can change water to earth with a (killing) word -- I'd reckon a word might send a hammer like the Hammer of the Waters, just as Garin's chanting summoned Mother Rhoyne from a golden cage:

If there is a parallel between the Mormont-Qotho 'dance' and that of Stark-Dayne, then this text substantiates Ned's account that the tables turned in the fight and Ned was almost killed by Dayne (but for the saving intervention of the sword without a hilt -- the 'woven green wet words' of Reed).

This is quite horrible -- is this how we are to infer Ser Arthur died too?  Arthur losing his arm would parallel the other one-handed warriors Jaime, Qhorin and Jon, to name a few.

This echoes all the other magical 'cracking' speech, like the Others, the dragons hatching from their stone eggs, Tyrion's mast struck by lightning

I wonder if there's a parallel to Ned and Lyanna here?  After all, Jorah calls Dany 'blood of my blood,' so symbolically they could be siblings.  @Voice and @PrettyPig have suggested Jon may have been delivered by C-section, following clues surrounding the dead female direwolf leaving Ghost and the other pups in the snow.

Rhaego died; Jon didn't.   Who intervened to save Jon in a similarly difficult birth?  Did Ned perform the C-section in order to deliver Jon?  What was the promise extracted?  And did Ned keep it?

@Kingmonkey has a top level thread about ToJ scenes called The Puppets of Ice and Fire, which is a better investigated observation and connection type thread similar to mine about Lightbringer forgings.  The prologue, the fight outside the tent of Joy, and the of course the ToJ itself are three identified in it, along with other ones.  That is the reason my mind went to the tent fight as soon as I read this OP.   There are several components connecting them, one of them being a series of words spoken, questions and answers, curses, or pleas for help, which result in death.  I just wanted to point out to anyone not familiar with that thread that this one is taking on one aspect of one of the eternal, and underinvestigated, ASoIaF mysteries, namely what the hell those cryptic words at those scenes are about.  

 

I was not familiar with Dune other than I knew it existed.  I read a quick summary today.  A ton jumped out at me as smelling of ASoIaF, but only one character had enough to make me feel any level of certainty that a direct reference may be involved.  The powers of the Bene Gesserit include, immunity from poison, the ability to control their metabolism to the point of not really needing much food (they do not actually do this in order to better blend in), the ability to use The Voice to influence others like a Jedi mind trick, the power of seduction, and once men are seduced, they can be imprinted by the seducer.  Targets for imprinting are people or future people in power.  Anyway, Melisandre is totally a Reverend Mother imprinter.  They can also slow the aging process, but it seems if they do it is a sign they are becoming an Abomination.  Anyone know what this about?  Seems relevent.  

 

ToJ scenes seem to be good places to look for killing words.  Another one is the fight outside the brothel.  Jaime wants have fight with Ned with swords.  Ned thinks a charge may free them, but then decides to fight with words.  He says that if he is hurt, Tyrion will be killed.  Jaime gives him the word fight he wants, but wins it anyway.  Jaime tells his men to "Kill his men" meaning Ned's.  I have a vague hunch that may be a killing word.  There is also the blood flying from Jory's word to mirror the tent fight where it flies from the bloodrider Jorah fights.  Another I want to mention is the dream where Cersei meets Maggy the Frog.  There is blood, and an exchange of questions and answers like at the ToJ, and the result is the death of Cersei's friend and she herself thinking and probably causing her own death via a self-fullfiling, Id type prophecy about being kinslayed.  Cersei feels like she is watching the whole dream lacking a tongue to speak with like Dany who cannot speak while being drug into the tent.  These all seem to be about the terrible knowledge the dreamer learns that causes their death.  Some of them are actual dreams.     

 

I think the whole thing about words that are swords without hilts is that the target dies, but then there is a price to be paid.  After the target is killed (or in Ned's case at the brothel fight I think he was just saving himself) everyone nearby basically flips a coin to decide if they live or die.  There are desperate times where that is better than a normal fight.  At the tent the child was the sacriface, at the brothel fight it was Ned's men, in the prologue it was the dreamer himself.  

 

One more thing, @LmL has not mentioned this yet, so I think I will steal it.  There seems to be a correlation between words that make things happen in the 'Dunes' way this thread describes and the in the 'Runes' way Odin would do.  Exactly what powers Odin got by hanging himself from the tree vary, but the Havamal looks like the place where they are decribed most famously.  Here are the first 4 of the 18 new superpowers Odin says he has.

 

The first charm I know is unknown to rulers
Or any of human kind;
Help it is named,
for help it can give
In hours of sorrow and anguish.

 

I know a second that the sons of men
Must learn who wish to be leeches.

 

I know a third: in the thick of battle,
If my need be great enough,
It will blunt the edges of enemy swords,
Their weapons will make no wounds.

 

I know a fourth:
it will free me quickly
If foes should bind me fast
With strong chains, a chant that makes
Fetters spring from the feet,
Bonds burst from the hands.

 

The first one is what we seem to be seeing the most of.  Someone say a magic word for help, and it arrives with a cost.  The second is some shit about leeches I do not understand, but Mel may be weirding woman who knows how these Dunes Runes operate and she uses leeches.  The third one makes enemies' swords useless, this would be what the Other in the prologue is doing to Waymar's sword.  The forth one needs to be explored imo, and I have not yet.  We have a lot of characters who escape.  Do any of them pray for it?  Theon seems to pray to Bran for it in some way.              

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Posted (edited)

@ravenous reader: Jaime is armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. He is the sun. He cannot be anything else in a scene where he is specifically identified with the sun. I follow the rest of your idea flow, but honestly, mythical astronomy becomes worthless if we ignore the text when it very clearly spells out who someone is in fact or of more convoluted interpretations. Cersei exposes her breast to Jaime right before screaming - she's Nissa Nissa. 

Plus, all of our white lion conversations seem to show Jaime going from golden sun to a white sun (which seems to overlap with the ice moon, as we have discovered). He doesn't really do Nissa Nissa things that I can think of. 

I'm not sure why you keep wanting to make him other than the sun, but the text is super clear on this. If I try to tell my readers and listeners that even though Jamie is described as armored like the sun, golden and beautiful, he's not actually the sun, I may as well quit and hang up the podcast. 

As for Cersei, all of her maleness and agency is a part of NN transforming into NN reborn, which is just the female version of AS reborn. NN reborn is the moon reborn as a black meteor. It's no longer passive, a receiver - it's now The giver, the impregnator. When Cersei thinks about wearing the armor instead of Robert, or when she thinks she should have been born with the cock instead of Jamie - that is NN turning into a vengeful moon meteor. Stoneheart is the same.  And dont forget the moon meteors are in a sense the new sun, but they are the dark sun figure. That also fits Cersei. Honestly, I think the show got it perfect when they showed her sitting on the throne in all that black and red get-up. 

As for Bran and the others, I would say that this is very similar to the White Lion / sun dichotomy. We've talked about how the original comet may have been white, and we have seen the Others or KG play that role of original comet. On a thematic level, that fits pretty well - the others too are like a Wanderer from Far places, a stranger, an interloper. I kind of think we should think about the original comet as containing Ice and Fire. That's probably part of the Comet splitting idea, where the comet is split and one half is destined for each Moon.

Switching the conversation over to swords, this would line up with the idea that Dawn is the original lightbringer technology, and that are good buddy the Bloodstone emperor made his black sword as a kind of corrupted imitation of the original version.

As for Bran being summoned to climb the tower, I think he did that on his own. The only hint that any other agency called him up there would be the idea that he wanted to go feed the crows. You could blame the crows I guess.

Edited by LmL

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