HammerTron

Is there any significance to the Rat Cook or Mad Axe?

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In the third book - Storm of Swords one of Bran's chapters shows Bran remembering the stories that Old Nan told him about the Nightfort.

Where the stories about the Rat Cook and Mad Axe real or just tales?

Do they have any bearing on the present?

Is there any symbolism in the old stories that Bran remembers?

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The Rat Cook story is relevant to the "Frey pies" that Wyman Manderly brings to Ramsay and fArya's wedding feast.  Him being boisterous, eating a lot, and requesting a song about the rat cook, and the freys discussing their suspicions over their family members who died in Wyman's company are the puzzle pieces needed to put the frey pie theory together.

In general I think many of the stories are useful in terms of world building - everyone having their folk tales - and showing how history sort of repeats itself and how tall tales / legends usually have truthful origins.

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15 minutes ago, aryagonnakill#2 said:

What's the mad axe story?

From SoS, Bran IV:

Mad Axe had once walked these yards and climbed these towers [at the Nightfort], butchering his brothers in the dark.

...

He remembered what Old Nan had said of Mad Axe, how he took his boots off and prowled the castle halls barefoot in the dark, with never a sound to tell you where he was except for the drops of blood that fell from his axe and his elbows and the end of his wet red beard.

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I’m certain that Dolorous Edd is tied into this somehow. He’s so often tied into food, cooking, laws, cannibalism references, being cursed to hear Edd tell about it, axes, and even rats. So I’ve heard somewhere, but a rat needs to constant chew because their teeth never stop growing. Also, Edd is from the Vale and House Tollett’s words are When all is Darkest.

My best guess  at the moment is the story of the Rat Cook might have originated in the Vale and the cook may have been a Tollett, specifically an ancestor of Edd's branch. And since Craster has so much Rat Cook, Guest Right, and axe imagery, bastardy might have some role to play as well, as Craster is a bastard. I’m guessing that the Rat Cook may have been the bastard son of the King, and we might have the origin of Guest Right, Kinslaying, Kingslaying, and a bastard’s bad rap all tied to this tale. The story of Mad Axe might tie in here, because the Rat Cook likely used an axe. The Mad Axe slew his sworn brothers, so connecting dots, the Rat Cook may have been Kinslaying also.

The story of the Rat Cook also reminds me of Cronus. Cronos (the Rat Cook) was a Greek Titan who castrated his father Uranus for imprisoning some of Cronos’ more monstrous siblings and in ambition to rule as king in his father’s place. Cronos hears a prophesy that one day his children will overthrow him so he begins eating his own children. Cronos’ sister-wife Rhea hides their son Zeus to save him. When Zeus comes of age, he slices open Cronos to release the rest of Zeus’ siblings, the Olympian gods, and eventually Zeus comes to rule in Cronos’ place.

http://mythology.net/greek/titans/cronus/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cronus

The Rat Cook killed his king’s prince in revenge, and killing a king is not unlike killing one’s father. Kingslayer and Kinslayer are somewhat alike in this way, as a King is a sort of father to all of his kingdom. A more tame version of eating one children as the Rat Cook is cursed to do and Cronus does, is to keep ones children from advancement. House Tollett, or at least Edd’s branch, is extremely poor, and maybe it’s because of a curse? The Titans were the gods of the forces of nature, both beautiful and terrible. The Olympians were the gods of man’s mastery of nature, the beginning of civilization, hence a curse against those who violate Guest Right is to be isolated from civilization and community, perhaps explaining the poverty of Edd’s branch.

From the Wiki for Rat Cook:

According to legend, the man who would later be known as the Rat Cook was a simple cook at the Nightfort. He became infamous when he served an Andal king (identified either as King Tywell II of the Rock or King Oswell I of the Vale[2]) a pie that was made of bacon and, unknown to the king, the king's son. The cook killed the prince in revenge for a wrong the king supposedly did to him. The king was unaware of this, however, as he ate and praised the taste and asked for a second piece. The gods were angered — not because the cook had committed murder, nor because he had made the king a cannibal — but because the cook had slain a guest beneath his roof. They cursed the cook and transformed him into a massive rat who was doomed to be unable to eat anything but his own young.[1]

ASOS Bran IV:

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

Also in this Bran chapter, the Max Axe is described. Bran mentions the Rat Cook and the Mad Axe together more than once.

But there might be other ghosts in the Nightfort, ones even more terrible. He remembered what Old Nan had said of Mad Axe, how he took his boots off and prowled the castle halls barefoot in the dark, with never a sound to tell you where he was except for the drops of blood that fell from his axe and his elbows and the end of his wet red beard.

ACOK Jon II

"I was born in a house much like this," declared Dolorous Edd. "Those were my enchanted years. Later I fell on hard times." A nest of dry straw bedding filled one corner of the room. Edd looked at it with longing. "I'd give all the gold in Casterly Rock to sleep in a bed again."

"Something worse than we can imagine," suggested Dolorous Edd. "Well, I might be able to imagine it, but I'd sooner not. Bad enough to know you're going to come to some awful end without thinking about it aforetime."

ACOK Jon III

Sam looked dubious. "Dolorous Edd says Craster's a terrible savage. He marries his daughters and obeys no laws but those he makes himself. And Dywen told Grenn he's got black blood in his veins. His mother was a wildling woman who lay with a ranger, so he's a bas . . ." Suddenly he realized what he was about to say.

The Lord Commander had entrusted his mount to Dolorous Edd. He was cleaning mud out of the horse's hooves as Jon dismounted. "Lord Mormont's in the hall," he announced. "He said for you to join him. Best leave the wolf outside, he looks hungry enough to eat one of Craster's children. Well, truth be told, I'm hungry enough to eat one of Craster's children, so long as he was served hot. Go on, I'll see to your horse. If it's warm and dry inside, don't tell me, I wasn't asked in." He flicked a glob of wet mud out from under a horseshoe. "Does this mud look like shit to you? Could it be that this whole hill is made of Craster's shit?"

Dolorous Edd was feeding the horses. "Give the wildling an axe, why not?" He pointed out Mormont's weapon, a short-hafted battle-axe with gold scrollwork inlaid on the black steel blade. "He'll give it back, I vow. Buried in the Old Bear's skull, like as not. Why not give him all our axes, and our swords as well? I mislike the way they clank and rattle as we ride. We'd travel faster without them, straight to hell's door. Does it rain in hell, I wonder? Perhaps Craster would like a nice hat instead."

"Do you know the difference between a wildling who's a friend to the Watch and one who's not?" asked the dour squire. "Our enemies leave our bodies for the crows and the wolves. Our friends bury us in secret graves. I wonder how long that bear's been nailed up on that gate, and what Craster had there before we came hallooing?" Edd looked at the axe doubtfully, the rain running down his long face. "Is it dry in there?"

"You cheer me," said Edd, sounding utterly morose. "And besides, there's much to be said for a good sharp axe. I'd hate to be murdered with a maul. I saw a man hit in the brow with a maul once. Scarce split the skin at all, but his head turned mushy and swelled up big as a gourd, only purply-red. A comely man, but he died ugly. It's good that we're not giving them mauls." Edd walked away shaking his head, his sodden black cloak shedding rain behind him.

"There's always a bear," declared Dolorous Edd in his usual tone of gloomy resignation. "One killed my brother when I was young. Afterward it wore his teeth around its neck on a leather thong. And they were good teeth too, better than mine. I've had nothing but trouble with my teeth."

ACOK Jon IV

Grenn was staring at him with wide eyes, but Dolorous Edd said, "All I smell is the shit of two hundred horses. And this stew. Which has a similar aroma, now that I come to sniff it."

ACOK Jon V

"I'll bring him, my lord." The men from the Shadow Tower had been expected days ago. When they had not appeared, the brothers had begun to wonder. Jon had heard gloomy mutterings around the cookfire, and not just from Dolorous Edd.

He found Dolorous Edd at the fire, complaining about how difficult it was for him to sleep when people insisted on blowing horns in the woods. Jon gave him something new to complain about. Together they woke Hake, who received the Lord Commander's orders with a stream of curses, but got up all the same and soon had a dozen brothers cutting roots for a soup.

They found Dolorous Edd frying a rasher of bacon and boiling a dozen eggs in a kettle over the Old Bear's cookfire. Mormont sat in his wood-and-leather camp chair. "I had begun to fear for you. Did you meet with trouble?"

Edd stood over the kettle swishing the eggs about with a spoon. "I envy those eggs," he said. "I could do with a bit of boiling about now. If the kettle were larger, I might jump in. Though I would sooner it were wine than water. There are worse ways to die than warm and drunk. I knew a brother drowned himself in wine once. It was a poor vintage, though, and his corpse did not improve it."

"It's an awful thing to find a brother dead. You'd have need of a drink as well, Lord Snow." Edd stirred the kettle and added a pinch more nutmeg.

Edd cut three thick slices off a stale round of oat bread, stacked them on a wooden platter, covered them with bacon and bacon drippings, and filled a bowl with hard-cooked eggs. Jon took the bowl in one hand and the platter in the other and backed into the Lord Commander's tent.

 ASOS Jon III

Jon knew the tale as well. Arson Iceaxe had been halfway through the Wall when his tunnel was found by rangers from the Nightfort. They did not trouble to disturb him at his digging, only sealed the way behind with ice and stone and snow. Dolorous Edd used to say that if you pressed your ear flat to the Wall, you could still hear Arson chipping away with his axe.

ASOS Jon V

Dolorous Edd sometimes called Marsh "the Old Pomegranate," which fit him just as well as "the Old Bear" fit Mormont. "He's the man you want in front when the foes are in the field," Edd would say in his usual dour voice. "He'll count them right up for you. A regular demon for counting, that one."

ASOS Jon VI

"We left him." Grenn sounded miserable. "I shook him and screamed at him, even slapped his face. Giant tried to drag him to his feet, but he was too heavy. Remember in training how he'd curl up on the ground and lie there whimpering? At Craster's he wouldn't even whimper. Dirk and Ollo were tearing up the walls looking for food, Garth and Garth were fighting, some of the others were raping Craster's wives. Dolorous Edd figured Dirk's bunch would kill all the loyal men to keep us from telling what they'd done, and they had us two to one. We left Sam with the Old Bear. He wouldn't move, Jon."

(It was Edd who convinced them to leave Sam, though they didn't have much choice.)

ASOS Jon XII

That was so absurd Jon had to smile. "By who?" he said, looking for his friends. This had to be one of Pyp's japes, surely. But Pyp shrugged at him, and Grenn shook his head. It was Dolorous Edd Tollett who stood. "By me. Aye, it's a terrible cruel thing to do to a friend, but better you than me."

ADWD Jon I

"I hear you." The room was dim, his pallet hard. Grey light leaked through the shutters, promising another bleak cold day. "Is this how you woke Mormont? Get your feathers out of my face." Jon wriggled an arm out from under his blankets to shoo the raven off. It was a big bird, old and bold and scruffy, utterly without fear. "Snow," it cried, flapping to his bedpost. "Snow, snow." Jon filled his fist with a pillow and let fly, but the bird took to the air. The pillow struck the wall and burst, scattering stuffing everywhere just as Dolorous Edd Tollett poked his head through the door. "Beg pardon," he said, ignoring the flurry of feathers, "shall I fetch m'lord some breakfast?"

"Three corns and one roast raven," said Dolorous Edd. "Very good, m'lord, only Hobb's made boiled eggs, black sausage, and apples stewed with prunes. The apples stewed with prunes are excellent, except for the prunes. I won't eat prunes myself. Well, there was one time when Hobb chopped them up with chestnuts and carrots and hid them in a hen. Never trust a cook, my lord. They'll prune you when you least expect it."

"Two more wildlings turned up to surrender," Edd went on. "A mother with a girl clinging to her skirts. She had a boy babe too, all swaddled up in fur, but he was dead."

"Aye, m'lord," said Edd, "but all she knows is that she ran off during the battle and hid in the woods after. We filled her full of porridge, sent her to the pens, and burned the babe."

ADWD Jon II

Edd was back by the time that he had dressed, pressing a steaming cup into his hands. Jon expected hot mulled wine, and was surprised to find that it was soup, a thin broth that smelled of leeks and carrots but seemed to have no leeks or carrots in it. The smells are stronger in my wolf dreams, he reflected, and food tastes richer too. Ghost is more alive than I am. He left the empty cup upon the forge.

"And to you, Sam," said Dolorous Edd. "Your boat's not like to sink, I don't think. Boats only sink when I'm aboard."

 

ADWD Jon III

"It was a relief to see that horn burn, my lord," Edd said. "Just last night I dreamt I was pissing off the Wall when someone decided to give the horn a toot. Not that I'm complaining. It was better than my old dream, where Harma Dogshead was feeding me to her pigs."

"Boiled beef and beets." Dolorous Edd always seemed to know what was cooking. "Hobb says he's out of horseradish, though. What good is boiled beef without horseradish?"

"Edd, best see to your own supper. I have work to finish."

ADWD Jon IV

Careful of the rats, my lord." Dolorous Edd led Jon down the steps, a lantern in one hand. "They make an awful squeal if you step on them. My mother used to make a similar sound when I was a boy. She must have had some rat in her, now that I think of it. Brown hair, beady little eyes, liked cheese. Might be she had a tail too, I never looked to see."

"Yum," declared Dolorous Edd. "Nothing beats a hot cup of horse blood on a cold night. I like mine with a pinch of cinnamon sprinkled on top."

Dolorous Edd said, "Now I understand why King Stannis let the wildlings through the Wall. He means for us to eat them."

"Oh, good," said Edd. "They look a stringy lot, and my teeth are not as sharp as when I was younger."

ADWD Jon V

Last night's supper had congealed beside his elbow, scarce touched. Dolorous Edd had filled his trencher almost to overflowing to allow Three-Finger Hobb's infamous three-meat stew to soften the stale bread. The jest among the brothers was that the three meats were mutton, mutton, and mutton, but carrot, onion, and turnip would have been closer to the mark. A film of cold grease glistened atop the remains of the stew.

Dolorous Edd had heard the entire exchange. As Bowen Marsh trotted off, he nodded toward his back and said, "Pomegranates. All those seeds. A man could choke to death. I'd sooner have a turnip. Never knew a turnip to do a man any harm."

 

ADWD Jon VII

A sentry's horn greeted them as they approached, sounding from on high like the cry of some huge, deep-throated bird, a single long blast that meant rangers returning. Big Liddle unslung his own warhorn and gave answer. At the gate, they had to wait a few moments before Dolorous Edd Tollett appeared to slide back the bolts and swing open the iron bars. When Edd caught sight of the ragged band of wildlings, he pursed his lips and gave the giant a long look. "Might need some butter to slide that one through the tunnel, m'lord. Shall I send someone to the larder?"

ADWD Jon VIII

"I don't care what she says," muttered Dolorous Edd, as Val vanished behind a stand of soldier pines. "The air is so cold it hurts to breathe. I would stop, but that would hurt worse." He rubbed his hands together. "This is going to end badly."

Dolorous Edd made the trek to the kitchens and soon was back with a tankard of brown ale and a covered platter. Under the lid Jon discovered three duck's eggs fried in drippings, a strip of bacon, two sausages, a blood pudding, and half a loaf of bread still warm from the oven. He ate the bread and half an egg. He would have eaten the bacon too, but the raven made off with it before he had the chance. "Thief," Jon said, as the bird flapped up to the lintel above the door to devour its prize.

Mormont's raven muttered his annoyance as the door opened beneath him, heralding the return of Dolorous Edd with a flagon of wine and a plate of eggs and sausages. Bowen Marsh waited with obvious impatience as Edd poured, resuming only when he left again.

 

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2 hours ago, HammerTron said:

In the third book - Storm of Swords one of Bran's chapters shows Bran remembering the stories that Old Nan told him about the Nightfort.

Where the stories about the Rat Cook and Mad Axe real or just tales?

Do they have any bearing on the present?

Is there any symbolism in the old stories that Bran remembers?

It tells me there's something weird going on at the Nightfort.  The men on the tree roots haunt the minds of those who live in that place.

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3 hours ago, HammerTron said:

In the third book - Storm of Swords one of Bran's chapters shows Bran remembering the stories that Old Nan told him about the Nightfort.

Where the stories about the Rat Cook and Mad Axe real or just tales?

Do they have any bearing on the present?

Is there any symbolism in the old stories that Bran remembers?

Why only these 2 stories?   What of Danny Flynn or the thing in the night?  I've seen the Danny Flynn story connected to Arya, but I'm not sure I buy it.   But there may be a girl hiding among the men of the Nights Watch.  Before all the commotion before "For The Watch" attack on Jon I was really looking forward to seeing Selyse take up residence in the Night Fort in hopes of learning more about these great old stories.   

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Rat Cook is about Bloodraven.

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33 minutes ago, chrisdaw said:

Rat Cook is about Bloodraven.

Because BR is an albino, or do you see other similarities between the Rat Cook and BR?

The Rat Cook is definitely white, but I can't find any reference to the Rat Cook being albino, and not all white rats are albino.

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4 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

Why only these 2 stories?   What of Danny Flynn or the thing in the night?  I've seen the Danny Flynn story connected to Arya, but I'm not sure I buy it.   But there may be a girl hiding among the men of the Nights Watch.  Before all the commotion before "For The Watch" attack on Jon I was really looking forward to seeing Selyse take up residence in the Night Fort in hopes of learning more about these great old stories.   

I forgot to list the other story in my original post.

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3 hours ago, Lollygag said:

Because BR is an albino, or do you see other similarities between the Rat Cook and BR?

The Rat Cook is definitely white, but I can't find any reference to the Rat Cook being albino, and not all white rats are albino.

There's the colour association but it's a thematic thing. By the time we are through we are going to learn how BR is symbolically a rat, the lowest of the low. The Rat Cook is an extension of this, BR = rat(s).

Quote

"It was not for murder that the gods cursed him," Old Nan said, "nor for serving the Andal king his son in a pie. A man has a right to vengeance. But he slew a guest beneath his roof, and that the gods cannot forgive."

The Rat King held a grudge and would not let it go, and for his scheming and revenge he cursed not only himself but all his innocent young. It's what a rat is to GRRM, in the text, that which will just not let go.

Quote

She cut him off. "I said, take the books away. The steward will attend to our needs."

"We have no steward," Maester Luwin reminded her. Like a little grey rat, she thought, he would not let go.

Bloodraven held a grudge against the Blackfyres, and he followed it beyond reasonable vengeance to the breaking of guest rights.

Quote

Dunk furrowed his brow. "How did you know I was from King's Landing, septon?"

"Kingslanders have a certain way of speaking." The septon took a gulp of wine, sloshed it about his mouth, swallowed, and sighed with pleasure. "I have served there many years, attending our High Septon in the Great Sept of Baelor." He sighed. "You would not know the city since the spring. The fires changed it. A quarter of the houses gone, and another quarter empty. The rats are gone as well. That is the queerest thing. I never thought to see a city without rats."

Dunk had heard that, too. "Were you there during the Great Spring Sickness?"

Bloodraven was made hand during the Great Spring Sickness. Those fires are his work. And I put to you the rats abandoning the city are his work too. He can skinchange, rats carry disease, he's skinchanged them all and ran them out of the city to stop the Spring Sickness spreading.

Note the effects of the Sickness, it wiped out a whole heap of Targs and emboldened the Blackfyres to another rebellion. And it brought BR to be Hand.

One of two possibilities happened here. Either Bloodraven was experimenting with skinchanging diseased rats for the purpose of weaponising them, and shit got out of hand and caused the above. Or in attempting to save the city as best he could Bloodraven got the idea of weaponising his ability to skinchange diseased rats.

Either way, back to his grudge he won't let go. He hates the Blackfyres still and fights the Blackfyre rebellion still.

Quote

"How did she die?" Tyrion knew that she was dead; no man spoke so fondly of a woman who had abandoned him.

"A Braavosi trading galley called at Pentos on her way back from the Jade Sea. The Treasure carried cloves and saffron, jet and jade, scarlet samite, green silk … and the grey death. We slew her oarsmen as they came ashore and burned the ship at anchor, but the rats crept down the oars and paddled to the quay on cold stone feet. The plague took two thousand before it ran its course." Magister Illyrio closed the locket. "I keep her hands in my bedchamber. Her hands that were so soft …"

Tyrion thought of Tysha. He glanced out at the fields where once the gods had walked. "What sort of gods make rats and plagues and dwarfs?"

Serra, Aegon's theorised mother and Blackfyre is killed by diseased rat. Bloodraven. And note the collateral damage, innocent people, Bloodraven has killed many and will kill many more in continuing to fight his war. That's the sort of god that makes rats and plagues, the god who can not let go of his grudge for the greater good. In contrast Bran will be everything Bloodraven has been unable to become. That's the real purpose of this arc, and that line, but I stray.

Back to Aegon. His next attack doesn't involve a rat, but that was Bloodraven again on the Bridge of Dreams. The winged thing beating overhead will be his, and that's why the stonemen focussed on Aegon. End result is JC got Greyscale (Garin's Curse), and when he brings it to Westeros it's going to wipe out a whole heap of people (particularly children), thus the Rat King theme.

However unintentional it may have been that JC got greyscale, the spreading is not going to be unintentional. Greyscale will cause mass death and particularly target children, but somehow it will also help fight the others, and BR will be willing to make this sacrifice which isn't his to make. He will spread the greyscale.

It is the same theme as craster. Sacrifice to survive the Others. And it is the same theme as Blood and Cheese. Sacrifice one child so that both may not die. Cheese, who was not coincidentally a rat catcher. And Jojen, the sacrifice to awaken Bran's powers so that he may save the world.

The text abhors sacrificing other people at every turn, it's going to prove it wrong, and thus BR wrong and evil. Bran is benevolent for good reason, he's going to reject BR's ways and forge his own path. Which means BR will need to be done away with.

Quote

Bran nodded eagerly. The pup squirmed in his grasp, licked at his face with a warm tongue.

"You must train them as well," their father said. "You must train them. The kennelmaster will have nothing to do with these monsters, I promise you that. And the gods help you if you neglect them, or brutalize them, or train them badly. These are not dogs to beg for treats and slink off at a kick. A direwolf will rip a man's arm off his shoulder as easily as a dog will kill a rat. Are you sure you want this?"

"Yes, Father," Bran said.

Quote

So they went exploring, Jojen Reed leading, Bran in his basket on Hodor's back, Summer padding by their side. Once the direwolf bolted through a dark door and returned a moment later with a grey rat between his teeth. The Rat Cook, Bran thought, but it was the wrong color, and only as big as a cat. The Rat Cook was white, and almost as huge as a sow . . .

 Summer is going to kill the Rat Cook.

 

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I believe that all of Old Nan's stories as well as things like the Gendel and Gorne stories are echoes or foreshadowing of things we see in the current situation in Westeros. On the current direwolf re-read thread, a couple of us just tried to analyze some details that strengthen the connection of the Rat King story to the Manderly family and to Walder Frey.

And I tried this more comprehensive set of guesses in a thread last year:

But the larger point is that these legends of Westeros are supposed to have repeated with variations through the centuries. They come up again and again and contain lessons about life that the people of Westeros never seem to fully internalize.

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I think Mad Axe was an Andal that was forced into the Night's Watch. He eventually found out whatever shady shit that the First Men were doing at the Nightfort. Then he started killing them before getting caught. No proof of course but its an interesting notion and one of the symbols of the Andals is the axe.

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