Black Crow

Heresy 198 The Knight of the Laughing Tree

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Welcome to Heresy 198, the latest edition of the quirky thread where we take an in-depth look at the story and in particular what GRRM has referred to as the real conflict, not the Game of Thrones, but the apparent threat which lies in the North, in those magical Otherlands beyond the Wall. The thread is called Heresy because we were the first to challenge the orthodoxy that the Wall is the last best hope of mankind; to question whether the three-fingered tree-huggers really are kindly elves and question too whether the Starks might have a dark secret in their past.

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

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

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

The latest contribution to the bicentennial series is written by Feather Crystal and looks at the curious business of the Knight of the Laughing Tree

:commie:

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Be Careful What You Pray For - Who was the Knight of the Laughing Tree, and how the crannogman’s prayer may have caused the Year of the False Spring.

Introduction

As part of the Heresy Bicentennial celebration it was suggested that we revisit the story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, debate who we think he/she was, and whether there was a higher purpose than simply telling a story to entertain Bran? Is there evidence to suggest a budding romance between Rhaegar and Lyanna, or was this a turning point in the history of Westeros, where our first clue is that this story happens during the Year of the False Spring?

During the past year I have studied the parallels of ASoIaF and have developed an inversion theory where I believe that the characters are reliving the past, but with different outcomes. I had been trying to pinpoint where this pivotal and momentous reversal occurred and it’s become apparent to me that it happened sometime during the Tourney of Harrenhal, specifically after the crannogman knelt and prayed to the Green Men on the Isle of Faces.

The story of the Knight of the Laughing Tree is the longest and most detailed historical account in-universe, but even Meera condensed some of it to highlight the parts about knights and jousting that Bran wanted to hear about, and abbreviated the yucky romantic stuff. She and Jojen seemed surprised that Bran hadn’t heard this significant story from his father before, but Bran said it was “Old Nan that told the stories, not his father.” And because it is the subject of this essay and important to the whole series, I will post it in it’s entirety.

 

The Story

“There was one knight,” said Meera, “in the year of the false spring. The Knight of the Laughing Tree, they called him. He might have been a crannogman, that one.” 

“Or not.” Jojen’s face was dappled with green shadows. “Prince Bran has heard that tale a hundred times, I’m sure.” 

“No,” said Bran. “I haven’t. And if I have it doesn’t matter. Sometimes Old Nan would tell the same story she’d told before, but we never minded, if it was a good story. Old stories are like old friends, she used to say. You have to visit them from time to time.” 

“That’s true.” Meera walked with her shield on her back, pushing an occasional branch out of the way with her frog spear. Just when Bran began to think that she wasn’t going to tell the story after all, she began, “Once there was a curious lad who lived in the Neck. He was small like all crannogmen, but brave and smart and strong as well. He grew up hunting and fishing and climbing trees, and learned all the magics of my people.” 

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.”

“I wish I could,” Bran said plaintively. “When does he meet the tree knight?” 

Meera made a face at him. “Sooner if a certain prince would be quiet.” 

“I was just asking.” 

“The lad knew the magics of the crannogs,” she continued, “but he wanted more. Our people seldom travel far from home, you know. We’re a small folk, and our ways seem queer to some, so the big people do not always treat us kindly. But this lad was bolder than most, and one day when he had grown to manhood he decided he would leave the crannogs and visit the Isle of Faces.” 

“No one visits the Isle of Faces,” objected Bran. “That’s where the green men live.” 

“It was the green men he meant to find. So he donned a shirt sewn with bronze scales, like mine, took up a leathern shield and a three-pronged spear, like mine, and paddled a little skin boat down the Green Fork.” 

Bran closed his eyes to try and see the man in his little skin boat. In his head, the crannogman looked like Jojen, only older and stronger and dressed like Meera. 

“He passed beneath the Twins by night so the Freys would not attack him, and when he reached the Trident he climbed from the river and put his boat on his head and began to walk. It took him many a day, but finally he reached the Gods Eye, threw his boat in the lake, and paddled out to the Isle of Faces.” 

“Did he meet the green men?” 

“Yes,” said Meera, “but that’s another story, and not for me to tell. My prince asked for knights.” 

“Green men are good too.” 

“They are,” she agreed, but said no more about them. “All that winter the crannogman stayed on the isle, but when the spring broke he heard the wide world calling and knew the time had come to leave. His skin boat was just where he’d left it, so he said his farewells and paddled off toward shore. He rowed and rowed, and finally saw the distant towers of a castle rising beside the lake. The towers reached ever higher as he neared shore, until he realized that this must be the greatest castle in all the world.” 

“Harrenhal!” Bran knew at once. “It was Harrenhal!”

Meera smiled. “Was it? Beneath its walls he saw tents of many colors, bright banners cracking in the wind, and knights in mail and plate on barded horses. He smelled roasting meats, and heard the sound of laughter and the blare of heralds’ trumpets. A great tourney was about to commence, and champions from all over the land had come to contest it. The king himself was there, with his son the dragon prince. The White Swords had come, to welcome a new brother to their ranks. The storm lord was on hand, and the rose lord as well. The great lion of the rock had quarreled with the king and stayed away, but many of his bannermen and knights attended all the same. The crannogman had never seen such pageantry, and knew he might never see the like again. Part of him wanted nothing so much as to be part of it.” 

Bran knew that feeling well enough. When he’d been little, all he had ever dreamed of was being a knight. But that had been before he fell and lost his legs. 

“The daughter of the great castle reigned as queen of love and beauty when the tourney opened. Five champions had sworn to defend her crown; her four brothers of Harrenhal, and her famous uncle, a white knight of the Kingsguard.” 

“Was she a fair maid?” 

“She was,” said Meera, hopping over a stone, “but there were others fairer still. One was the wife of the dragon prince, who’d brought a dozen lady companions to attend her. The knights all begged them for favors to tie about their lances.” 

“This isn’t going to be one of those love stories, is it?” Bran asked suspiciously. “Hodor doesn’t like those so much.” 

“Hodor,” said Hodor agreeably. 

“He likes the stories where the knights fight monsters.”

“Sometimes the knights are the monsters, Bran. The little crannogman was walking across the field, enjoying the warm spring day and harming none, when he was set upon by three squires. They were none older than fifteen, yet even so they were bigger than him, all three. This was their world, as they saw it, and he had no right to be there. They snatched away his spear and knocked him to the ground, cursing him for a frogeater.”

“Were they Walders?” It sounded like something Little Walder Frey might have done. 

“None offered a name, but he marked their faces well so he could revenge himself upon them later. They shoved him down every time he tried to rise, and kicked him when he curled up on the ground. But then they heard a roar. ‘That’s my father’s man you’re kicking,’ howled the she-wolf.” 

“A wolf on four legs, or two?” 

“Two,” said Meera. “The she-wolf laid into the squires with a tourney sword, scattering them all. The crannogman was bruised and bloodied, so she took him back to her lair to clean his cuts and bind them up with linen. There he met her pack brothers: the wild wolf who led them, the quiet wolf beside him, and the pup who was youngest of the four. 

“That evening there was to be a feast in Harrenhal, to mark the opening of the tourney, and the she-wolf insisted that the lad attend. He was of high birth, with as much a right to a place on the bench as any other man. She was not easy to refuse, this wolf maid, so he let the young pup find him garb suitable to a king’s feast, and went up to the great castle. 

“Under Harren’s roof he ate and drank with the wolves, and many of their sworn swords besides, barrowdown men and moose and bears and mermen. The dragon prince sang a song so sad it made the wolf maid sniffle, but when her pup brother teased her for crying she poured wine over his head. A black brother spoke, asking the knights to join the Night’s Watch. The storm lord drank down the knight of skulls and kisses in a wine-cup war. The crannogman saw a maid with laughing purple eyes dance with a white sword, a red snake, and the lord of griffins, and lastly with the quiet wolf . . . but only after the wild wolf spoke to her on behalf of a brother too shy to leave his bench. 

“Amidst all this merriment, the little crannogman spied the three squires who’d attacked him. One served a pitchfork knight, one a porcupine, while the last attended a knight with two towers on his surcoat, a sigil all crannogmen know well.”

“The Freys,” said Bran. “The Freys of the Crossing.” 

“Then, as now,” she agreed. “The wolf maid saw them too, and pointed them out to her brothers. ‘I could find you a horse, and some armor that might fit,’ the pup offered. The little crannogman thanked him, but gave no answer. His heart was torn. Crannogmen are smaller than most, but just as proud. The lad was no knight, no more than any of his people. We sit a boat more often than a horse, and our hands are made for oars, not lances. Much as he wished to have his vengeance, he feared he would only make a fool of himself and shame his people. The quiet wolf had offered the little crannogman a place in his tent that night, but before he slept he knelt on the lakeshore, looking across the water to where the Isle of Faces would be, and said a prayer to the old gods of north and Neck . . .” 

“You never heard this tale from your father?” asked Jojen. 

“It was Old Nan who told the stories. Meera, go on, you can’t stop there.” 

Hodor must have felt the same. “Hodor,” he said, and then, “Hodor hodor hodor hodor.” 

“Well,” said Meera, “if you would hear the rest . . .” 

“Yes. Tell it.” 

“Five days of jousting were planned,” she said. “There was a great seven-sided mêlée as well, and archery and axe-throwing, a horse race and tourney of singers . . .” 

“Never mind about all that.” Bran squirmed impatiently in his basket on Hodor’s back. “Tell about the jousting.” 

“As my prince commands. The daughter of the castle was the queen of love and beauty, with four brothers and an uncle to defend her, but all four sons of Harrenhal were defeated on the first day. Their conquerors reigned briefly as champions, until they were vanquished in turn. As it happened, the end of the first day saw the porcupine knight win a place among the champions, and on the morning of the second day the pitchfork knight and the knight of the two towers were victorious as well. But late on the afternoon of that second day, as the shadows grew long, a mystery knight appeared in the lists.”

Bran nodded sagely. Mystery knights would oft appear at tourneys, with helms concealing their faces, and shields that were either blank or bore some strange device. Sometimes they were famous champions in disguise. The Dragonknight once won a tourney as the Knight of Tears, so he could name his sister the queen of love and beauty in place of the king’s mistress. And Barristan the Bold twice donned a mystery knight’s armor, the first time when he was only ten. “It was the little crannogman, I bet.” 

“No one knew,” said Meera, “but the mystery knight was short of stature, and clad in ill-fitting armor made up of bits and pieces. The device upon his shield was a heart tree of the old gods, a white weirwood with a laughing red face.” 

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

“Perhaps they did. The mystery knight dipped his lance before the king and rode to the end of the lists, where the five champions had their pavilions. You know the three he challenged.” 

“The porcupine knight, the pitchfork knight, and the knight of the twin towers.” Bran had heard enough stories to know that. “He was the little crannogman, I told you.” 

“Whoever he was, the old gods gave strength to his arm. The porcupine knight fell first, then the pitchfork knight, and lastly the knight of the two towers. None were well loved, so the common folk cheered lustily for the Knight of the Laughing Tree, as the new champion soon was called. When his fallen foes sought to ransom horse and armor, the Knight of the Laughing Tree spoke in a booming voice through his helm, saying, ‘Teach your squires honor, that shall be ransom enough.’ Once the defeated knights chastised their squires sharply, their horses and armor were returned. And so the little crannogman’s prayer was answered . . . by the green men, or the old gods, or the children of the forest, who can say?”

It was a good story, Bran decided after thinking about it a moment or two. “Then what happened? Did the Knight of the Laughing Tree win the tourney and marry a princess?” 

“No,” said Meera. “That night at the great castle, the storm lord and the knight of skulls and kisses each swore they would unmask him, and the king himself urged men to challenge him, declaring that the face behind that helm was no friend of his. But the next morning, when the heralds blew their trumpets and the king took his seat, only two champions appeared. The Knight of the Laughing Tree had vanished. The king was wroth, and even sent his son the dragon prince to seek the man, but all they ever found was his painted shield, hanging abandoned in a tree. It was the dragon prince who won that tourney in the end.” 

“Oh.” Bran thought about the tale awhile. “That was a good story. But it should have been the three bad knights who hurt him, not their squires. Then the little crannogman could have killed them all. The part about the ransoms was stupid. And the mystery knight should win the tourney, defeating every challenger, and name the wolf maid the queen of love and beauty.” 

“She was,” said Meera, “but that’s a sadder story.” 

“Are you certain you never heard this tale before, Bran?” asked Jojen. “Your lord father never told it to you?” 

Bran shook his head. The day was growing old by then, and long shadows were creeping down the mountainsides to send black fingers through the pines. If the little crannogman could visit the Isle of Faces, maybe I could too. All the tales agreed that the green men had strange magic powers. Maybe they could help him walk again, even turn him into a knight. They turned the little crannogman into a knight, even if it was only for a day, he thought. A day would be enough.

Green Men and the Isle of Faces

A quick aside about Green Men. The wiki describes them as a sacred order entrusted with the guardianship of the Isle of Faces in the riverlands, which is a sacred island in the middle of the Gods Eye lake. It is one of the few locations of weirwoods in the south, with most others having been cut down and burned.

The Isle of Faces is said to be the place where the Pact was signed after the ancient war between the First Men and the Children of the Forest ended. With the signing, the order of the Green Men was formed to tend to the last remaining weirwoods. According to Old Nan, the green men ride elks and sometimes have antlers. Most maesters believe their clothes are green and that they wear headdresses adorned with horns.

The Pact would give the First Men all the land except for the deep forests, which would remain the dominion of the Children. The First Men agreed they would no longer cut down the weirwood trees. Afterward, faces were cut into the weirwoods on the island so that the old gods could bear witness to the historic agreement, and the order of Green Men would guard them.

The Parallels and Inversions at the Tourney of Harrenhall

Lyanna, a sister to three brothers (plus Howland), chased off three squires with a tourney sword in defense of the crannogman is a reversal to the daughter of Harrenhal, as the queen of love and beauty, being defended by her four brothers. 

Rhaegar’s search for the Knight of the Laughing Tree is the reverse of Howland’s search for a way to become a knight. 

Meera’s account says Rhaegar never found the Knight, just the shield hanging from a tree. The reverse of this is Howland’s success in finding a way to become a knight, and he painted his shield with a laughing weirwood tree. 

The KotLT defeating the three squires’ knights parallel Rhaegar also winning his tilts on the third day as indicated by the words, “the day belonged to Rhaegar”. 

Rhaegar made Lyanna his Queen of Love and Beauty is a reversal of not acknowledging his wife, Elia, which shocked the crowd.

Jaime’s investiture into the Kingsguard was also in recognition for his part in helping bring down the Kingswood Brotherhood, which was a group of bandits that gained notoriety for kidnapping nobles and holding them for ransom. The parallel inversion is that there was a group of people responsible for kidnapping Lyanna, but their identities remain hidden, and Rhaegar took the blame.

I don’t want to go too far down the path of reversals before and after the Tourney of Harrenhall, because we would wander off on a tangent, but I will add one more example of supporting evidence that history would continue to replay in reverse by pointing out that just prior to the capture of the Kingswood Brotherhood, was the attack on Princess Elia by the Kingswood Brotherhood. The attack was successfully thwarted and Elia remained safe, but Ser Gerold Hightower was seriously injured. The reversal of this would be Lyanna’s abduction by a group that would have mirrored the Kingswood Brotherhood, only this time they were successful in capturing Lyanna, and in my opinion, a Kingsguard helped the group get away.

Human into Human Skinchanging

I think most readers accept and believe that the little crannogman was Howland, the wild wolf was Brandon Stark, the quiet wolf was Ned, the young pup was Benjen, the wolf-maid was Lyanna, and the laughing girl with purple eyes was Ashara Dayne. We could identify the rest, but I’m not sure that doing so adds to the stated purpose of identifying the Knight of the Laughing Tree. You may have a different theory to debate, but IMO Ned’s offer to Howland to “sleep in his tent” was permission to do what I call “consensual skinchanging”, and it indicates that Ned knew what was about to happen.

Through Varamyr we learn that forcibly skinchanging another human is considered an “abomination”, but what if you asked permission first?

Bran thinks to himself that if he and Hodor joined together they would make a great knight. The knight would have the strength of Hodor and the knowledge and ability of Bran. I believe we are meant to draw a connection here to Ned and Howland. 

Howland prayed for a way to win. He wanted vengeance, but he feared shaming his people. Having someone else take vengeance is no vengeance at all if he doesn’t participate, so “twining” with another person would supply Howland with knowledge and skill that he didn’t have. Ned is a possible candidate for this intertwining. He was definitely trained, and he must have been very skilled to lead Robert’s van. He and Robert were also trained in how to have a “booming voice” since a military leader must be heard over a noisy battlefield, but there is another candiate with better supporting evidence in the text.

Evidence: Howland skinchanged into Lyanna

There are echoes of the Tourney of Harrenhal that reverberate in the current story that with careful examination reveal who skinchanged whom. This passage was brought to my attention by Pretty Pig. She offers compelling evidence that the tourney held in Ned’s honor mirrors the one at Harrenhal.

A Game of Thrones - Eddard VII

When the Knight of Flowers made his entrance, a murmur ran through the crowd, and he heard Sansa's fervent whisper, "Oh, he's so beautiful." Ser Loras Tyrell was slender as a reed, dressed in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen and filigreed with twining black vines and tiny blue forget-me-nots. The commons realized in the same instant as Ned that the blue of the flowers came from sapphires; a gasp went up from a thousand throats. Across the boy's shoulders his cloak hung heavy. It was woven of forget-me-nots, real ones, hundreds of fresh blooms sewn to a heavy woolen cape.

His courser was as slim as her rider, a beautiful grey mare, built for speed. Ser Gregor's huge stallion trumpeted as he caught her scent. The boy from Highgarden did something with his legs, and his horse pranced sideways, nimble as a dancer. Sansa clutched at his arm. "Father, don't let Ser Gregor hurt him," she said. Ned saw she was wearing the rose that Ser Loras had given her yesterday. Jory had told him about that as well.

Pretty Pig said:

A reed, cloaked in vines and flowers, on a slim, fast grey mare, facing off against a powerful opponent. The wolf girl concerned for the rider's safety against a bigger, stronger, and more formidable foe. The wolf girl favoring the rider because of an earlier personal connection. The grey mare's scent distracts the opponent's horse and allows "her" champion to win.

KOTLT: Howland. How did Lyanna help him cheat?

To take this further and make it both an echo and an inversion to the ToHH KotLT incident, we look at what happens next - the Mountain by no means accepts his defeat graciously, as did those defeated at the ToHH.  Instead, he flies into a rage, kills his own horse, and then tries to take out Loras next.   Loras is saved from death only by the intervention of the Hound - the personal protector of the Crown Prince.  (As many have noted, such as Melifeather, the Hound is the current day inversion of Arthur Dayne.)

Also of note, during CleganeBowl Lite at the Tourney of the Hand, King Bob gets fed up and yells to "Stop this madness!" before the Hound obeys and kneels, and the Mountain stomps away in a fury. At the ToHH, King Aerys is incensed by the KotLT and sends out men to capture the mystery knight.

Sansa is wearing the rose given to her by her 'champion' the day before - an honor she was thrilled to receive. Lyanna is given a laurel of roses by the 'champion' the day after - at which "all the smiles died".

(end of Pretty Pig’s quote)

I am going to double down on the passage and interpretation that Pretty Pig has provided in case you didn’t catch it the first time. The man slender as a reed is Howland, dressed in a suit of fabulous silver armor polished to a blinding sheen. Ravenous Reader liked greenseeing into the weirwoods as wearing, or being dressed in a silver gown. Howland, like Loras, was “cloaked” or rather inside Lyanna. He was so beautiful. The twining black vines and the blue forget-me-nots indicate the joined connection, or rather an instance of consensual skinchanging. Could it be any clearer that “the slender reed riding the grey mare” means that Howland rode Lyanna just like Bran rides Hodor? The grey mare centaur of House Stark who loved blue flowers was the host. And IMO, the reason why GRRM made Loras a gay character is because the Knight of the Laughing Tree was both male and female.

Conclusion

I was struck by how close together the parallel inversions are during the Tourney of Harrenhal. It’s evident, at least to me, that this was ground zero and a turning point. It makes me wonder what occurred during Howland’s vist to the Isle of Faces, and what all did he pray about? There must have been something more other than the consensual skinchanging in order to flip time and send it unraveling. It’s called the Year of the False Spring, because of the quick return to winter.

Whether you believe the KotLT was Howland, Lyanna, Ned, or some combo, it does seem as if the Knight was being actively inhabited. Howland’s prayer directed at the Isle of Faces was likely a request and permission for the connection, but it seems it did something more.

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Great introduction to a complex topic.  Just a quick note:

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

She and Jojen seemed surprised that Bran hadn’t heard this significant story from his father before

It's actually just Jojen who expresses this -- three times:

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Jojen’s face was dappled with green shadows. “Prince Bran has heard that tale a hundred times, I’m sure.”

 

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“You never heard this tale from your father?” asked Jojen. 

 

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“Are you certain you never heard this tale before, Bran?” asked Jojen. “Your lord father never told it to you?” 

IMO, this is because the two Reed kids have heard the story from their father many, many times -- exactly as we hear it, without the Knight being identified -- and just as we have, they've arrived at different theories of the Knight's identity.  

This is Meera's theory:

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“There was one knight,” said Meera, “in the year of the false spring. The Knight of the Laughing Tree, they called him. He might have been a crannogman, that one.”

Jojen has a different theory, obviously:

Quote

"Or not."

...and I think we can guess his theory, from the fact that he looks to Bran (three times!) for evidence to support it.

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In the last Heresy thread about the tales of Old Nan, we did go off a bit on a tangent with regards to the parallels between Rhaegar's death at the Trident to Littlefinger's near-death duel with Brandon Stark over Catelyn. We also discussed the "looping" of time and noted there is a repeated loop with a group of abductors, a prince, a female target, a Kingsguard, with somebody in each loop getting hurt, and I might add, somebody dies. You could easily insert Elia, Lyanna, Sansa, and Myrcella into this formulaic loop and see how they are all similar and how they differ. Why is time looping like this? Why are the same scenarios replaying over and over again? I think the key lies in the Year of the False Spring.

An aside to my original thoughts regarding the inversions...the theory is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made, and through discussions with other members, such as with Pretty Pig with regard to the Knight of the Laughing Tree. She has another take on the interpretation that I find just as plausible. Anyways....I wanted everyone to know that sometimes I use the terms echoes, inversions, reversals, and time loops to describe what I'm noticing and if I'm sounding a bit crazy, please ask for clarification. Cheers!

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5 minutes ago, JNR said:

Great introduction to a complex topic.  Just a quick note:

It's actually just Jojen who expresses this -- three times:

 

 

IMO, this is because the two Reed kids have heard the story from their father many, many times -- exactly as we hear it, without the Knight being identified -- and just as we have, they've arrived at different theories of the Knight's identity.  

This is Meera's theory:

Jojen has a different theory, obviously:

...and I think we can guess his theory, from the fact that he looks to Bran (three times!) for evidence to support it.

 

You are right, of course. I should have specified that it was Jojen that kept asking Bran. I guess we could speculate as to his reasons. Was there a bet between Meera and Jojen as to the identity? Or were they being careful and wanted to learn how much Bran knew? 

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3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Also of note, during CleganeBowl Lite at the Tourney of the Hand, King Bob gets fed up and yells to "Stop this madness!" before the Hound obeys and kneels, and the Mountain stomps away in a fury. At the ToHH, King Aerys is incensed by the KotLT and sends out men to capture the mystery knight.

We could speculate on who might be Ser Gregor's parallel at the Tourney of Harrenhal. Ser Gregor was one of Tywin's "dogs". Who may have served in a similar capacity back in the day? The first name that comes to my mind is Ser Illyn Payne. If Ser Illyn acted like Ser Gregor and went to kill a "horse", or rather Lyanna, would Arthur Dayne have interceded like Sandor did for Loras?  heh...just realized that "horse" and "Loras" sound alike.

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Posted (edited)

13 hours ago, Black Crow said:

“Once there was a curious lad who lived in the Neck. He was small like all crannogmen, but brave and smart and strong as well. He grew up hunting and fishing and climbing trees, and learned all the magics of my people.” 

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.”

I'm curious about Howland's magical capabilities.  He's not a greendreamer but can weave words, create a glamor.

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Jon Snow turned to Melisandre. "What sorcery is this?"

"Call it what you will. Glamor, seeming, illusion. R'hllor is Lord of Light, Jon Snow, and it is given to his servants to weave with it, as others weave with thread."

 

 

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Melisandre touched the ruby at her neck and spoke a word.

The sound echoed queerly from the corners of the room and twisted like a worm inside their ears. The wildling heard one word, the crow another. Neither was the word that left her lips. The ruby on the wildling's wrist darkened, and the wisps of light and shadow around him writhed and faded.

 

 

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She was stronger at the Wall, stronger even than in Asshai. Her every word and gesture was more potent, and she could do things that she had never done before. Such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them. With such sorceries at her command, she should soon have no more need of the feeble tricks of alchemists and pyromancers.

Breathing mud and running on leaves sounds like skinchanging an amphibious animal.

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The legendary salamander is often depicted as a typical salamander in shape, with a lizard-like form, but is usually ascribed an affinity with fire, sometimes specifically elemental fire.

Another idea which is found in several Medieval and Renaissance works was that "Egyptian priests" used a hieroglyph which applied the figure of a salamander to represent a man who is burnt, or in other versions a man who has died from cold.[25] This tradition is first found in the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo (Book 2, Ch. LXII), but it is not now considered to be an authentic representation of hieroglyphic usage.

 

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

The magic of making castles appear and disappear sounds like the ability to create thick mists and fogs; the ability to make water into earth and earth into water, the ability to raise and lower water levels. The ability to talk to trees, we can assume weirwood trees implies that they reply in some manner. 

These are formidable skills and that's before he goes to the God's Eye for an entire winter to learn more.  It is curious that the false spring coincides with Howlands appearance at the Tourney.

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In another example, a 1556 edition of the Book of Lambspring depicts the salamander as a white bird,

Its also curious the that shield of the KotLT depicts a weirwood with a face that is completely red rather than just red eyes and mouth.  Perhaps all the trees on the God's Eye have red faces. 

Howland is more than what he seems and likely more capable as a fighter than we are being led to believe. I think it likely that Howland is the KotLT and his word is powerful, hence the booming voice and considering that he saved Ned from someone as formidable as Arthur Dayne, not as helpless as we think. 

Edited by LynnS

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3 hours ago, LynnS said:

Breathing mud and running on leaves sounds like skinchanging an amphibious animal.

I like this!   Makes sense to me.

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16 hours ago, Black Crow said:

~~~

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.”


I always wondered if this ability to make castles disappear is somehow related to the ToJ being brought down. I have read many comments in various threads that question how or IF that could have really happened. I wonder if Howland had a more direct hand in that? (Aside from Greywater moving, that is.)

Just a curious idea :dunno:

4 hours ago, LynnS said:

I'm curious about Howland's magical capabilities.  He's not a greendreamer but can weave words, create a glamor.

 

 

Breathing mud and running on leaves sounds like skinchanging an amphibious animal.

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

The magic of making castles appear and disappear sounds like the ability to create thick mists and fogs; the ability to make water into earth and earth into water, the ability to raise and lower water levels. The ability to talk to trees, we can assume weirwood trees implies that they reply in some manner. 

 

21 minutes ago, PrettyPig said:

I like this!   Makes sense to me.

I agree. The weaving words is a nice connection. I like the idea of the salamander thing as well. Maybe the running on leaves is a squirrel? We have lots of squirrel icons in the story. This also relates to Ratatoskr.

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Posted (edited)

A lizard-lion, the sigil of House Reed would fit the bill.  Something that may be a fantastic beast, not unlike a giant salamander or alligator.

Bran asks about hunting lizard-lions which Meera doesn't answer and Jojen wants to know if Bran has dreamed of a lizard-lion:

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 A Clash of Kings - Bran IV

"You have three. The crow gave you the third, but you will not open it." He had a slow soft way of speaking. "With two eyes you see my face. With three you could see my heart. With two you can see that oak tree there. With three you could see the acorn the oak grew from and the stump that it will one day become. With two you see no farther than your walls. With three you would gaze south to the Summer Sea and north beyond the Wall."

Summer got to his feet. "I don't need to see so far." Bran made a nervous smile. "I'm tired of talking about crows. Let's talk about wolves. Or lizard-lions. Have you ever hunted one, Meera? We don't have them here."

Meera plucked her frog spear out of the bushes. "They live in the water. In slow streams and deep swamps—"

Her brother interrupted. "Did you dream of a lizard-lion?

 "No," said Bran. "I told you, I don't want—"

 

It's a curious question.  Why would a lizard-lion show up in Bran's dreams?

Edited by LynnS

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7 minutes ago, LynnS said:

A lizard-lion, the sigil of House Reed would fit the bill.  Something that may be a fantastic beast, not unlike a giant salamander or alligator.

Bran asks about hunting lizard-lions which Meera doesn't answer and Jojen wants to know if Bran has dreamed of a lizard-lion:

It's a curious question.  Why would a lizard-lion show up in Bran's dreams?

Agreed, curious it is. It also kinda reminds me of the discussion between Tyrion and Jon when Tyrion claims Jon was dreaming of dragons and and a young Jon was like "nuh -uhh!". It seems both Bran and Jon were not only in denial of their burgeoning abilities, but they were actively resisting them.

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Posted (edited)

37 minutes ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Agreed, curious it is. It also kinda reminds me of the discussion between Tyrion and Jon when Tyrion claims Jon was dreaming of dragons and and a young Jon was like "nuh -uhh!". It seems both Bran and Jon were not only in denial of their burgeoning abilities, but they were actively resisting them.

 We have this seeming symbolic (salamander) connection between the burnt man, the ones who die of the cold and the white bird all of which point to Jon Snow.

The Crow, the crow. Under the sea the crows are white as snow. - Patchface

Jon becomes a burnt man when he fights Othor and perhaps he was also claimed by the cold.

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A Dance with Dragons - Jon XIII

Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. "For the Watch." He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.

Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger's hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. "Ghost," he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold …

 

 

I go back to Lyanna as the 'weeping woman' or god's wife recalling that Arya sees the Weeping Woman beside the Lion of Night in the HoB&W. Lizard lions are black... so the lion of night?  It opens up some questions about Howland's purpose at the Tourney and whether or not he is an agent of the God's Eye or something else.... :D

Given Howland's ability to hide a castle and create glamors; does he have something to do with Lyanna's disappearance as well?

 

 

Edited by LynnS

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1 hour ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Maybe the running on leaves is a squirrel? We have lots of squirrel icons in the story. This also relates to Ratatoskr.

Interesting; Ratatoskr, a message carrier. I wonder what interesting message Howland might have to deliver?

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3 minutes ago, Darkstream said:

Interesting; Ratatoskr, a message carrier. I wonder what interesting message Howland might have to deliver?

I don't know, but it could start out sounding a little like a "yo momma" joke. :lol:

 

(sorry. I'm at work again and the paint fumes are silly strong) 

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19 minutes ago, The Fattest Leech said:

I don't know, but it could start out sounding a little like a "yo momma" joke. :lol:

 

(sorry. I'm at work again and the paint fumes are silly strong) 

:lol: I think I've heard that one before. If I recall correctly, it starts out "yo mamma is so wild..."

(unfortunately, I've no fumes to put the blame on. :P)

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1 hour ago, LynnS said:

Given Howland's ability to hide a castle and create glamors; does he have something to do with Lyanna's disappearance as well?

IMO, "no". It could be partially his fault though if whatever he did caused these time loops.

There is a group of as yet unidentified abductors that should mirror the Kingswood Brotherhood, and I don't believe Rhaegar had anything to do with it. He was framed.

The Kingswood Brotherhood gained notoriety for kidnapping nobles and holding them for ransom. Who else was known for doing this? The Lannisters. Specifically Kevan Lannister would abduct nobles who's families owed them debts and had resisted repayment due to their lack of respect for Tytos Lannister. I don't want to go too far off on this tangent, but IMO Tywin had Lyanna abducted to make way for his daughter, Cersei, to marry future King Robert, and I would not be surprised if he hired the Kingswood Brotherhood to attack Elia too. She could have been killed if not for Ser Gerold HIghtower.

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While I've no strong views on this either way, realistically there are just the two candidates for the mystery knight. Initially as Jojen tells the story everything points to Howland Reed the Crannogman, but then we get counter-hints pointing to Lyanna Stark. She also has a strong suit in that we're told of her prowess as a horsewoman and therefore expect by extension a degree of skill in jousting, which we assume Puddleglum Reed can't match.

But...

There's the sigil.

All that X requires to qualify as a mystery knight is a plain shield bearing no sigil. Its pretty well customary for at least one mystery knight to enter a tourney - and then cast aside their anonymity at the end. But this one is different. Not only does Ser Knight remain anonymous and skip bail, but has a very distinctive sigil.

The laughing tree has, [I presume we're agreed] to be a weirwood with a laughing face. Why? To be recognisable as such it has to be a bit of quality work. No doubt somebody could be found to do it at such a grand tourney, but why bother when a plain one would do as well? There's something significant about the tree. Sure the Starks have one in their godswood but they're far from unique in this and the face doesn't laugh. Nor does it appear to be significant. Its a place for reflection and prayer, but its not a rallying point. 

Howland Reed on the other hand has just come from the Isle of Faces and is probably a Green Man dedicated to protecting and serving the trees.

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3 hours ago, The Fattest Leech said:

I always wondered if this ability to make castles disappear is somehow related to the ToJ being brought down. I have read many comments in various threads that question how or IF that could have really happened. I wonder if Howland had a more direct hand in that? (Aside from Greywater moving, that is.)

Just a curious idea :dunno:

Yes, I had that same idea, after reading @Voice's various linguistic and logistical objections on the difference between a 'tower' (lowercase, not uppercase...) and a 'cairn,' LOL.

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3 hours ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Agreed, curious it is. It also kinda reminds me of the discussion between Tyrion and Jon when Tyrion claims Jon was dreaming of dragons and and a young Jon was like "nuh -uhh!". It seems both Bran and Jon were not only in denial of their burgeoning abilities, but they were actively resisting them.

Or when Bran says he dreamt that he touched Ghost and spoke to Jon.  So I think Jojen is asking if Bran dreamt a lizard-lion and spoke to Howland; given that speaking to trees is one of Howland's abilities. 

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