Black Crow

Heresy 200 The bicentennial edition

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Welcome to Heresy 200, which is, astonishingly the bicentennial edition of the quirky and very lively 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.

With iteration 200 we can safely claim to have been around for a while now and discussed an awful lot of stuff over the last five going on six 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 it’s 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 ran 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.

And as with last time around we’ve even contrived to throw in a bonus feature.

Dig in, enjoy yourself and if it comes to a fight just remember the local house rules; stick to the text, have respect for the ideas of others and above all conduct the debate with great good humour.

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THE CROWS by Black Crow

Crows appear in a number of guises throughout the story and figure in it so prominently that serious consideration needs to be given as to their true role and indeed whether they too are players in the Song of Ice and Fire.

In terms of large black birds with big beaks, they are of course ubiquitous both as crows and as the ravens used in Martin’s world for communication, who are also of the genus corvidae, ie; members of the crow family.

We’ll begin with the ravens, who we first encounter as oversized homing pigeons carrying what sometimes appears to be an improbably large file of correspondence from castle to castle – pigeons would probably never got off the ground with the size of some of the messages.

However, in the World Book extract there’s a hint of something more:

Though considered disreputable in this, our present day, a fragment of Septon Barth’s Unnatural History has proved a source of controversy in the halls of the Citadel. Claiming to have consulted with texts said to be preserved at Castle Black, Septon Barth put forth that the children of the forest could speak with ravens, and could make them repeat their words. According to Barth, this higher mystery was taught to the First Men by the children so that ravens could spread messages at a great distance. It was passed in “degraded” form, down to the masters today, who no longer know how to speak to the birds. It is true that our order understands the speech of ravens, but this means the basic purposes of their cawing and rasping, their signs of fear and anger, and the means by which they display their readiness to mate or their lack of health.

Ravens are among the cleverest of birds, but they are no wiser than infant children, and considerably less capable of true speech, whatever Septon Barth might have believed. A few masters devoted to the link of Valyrian steel, have argued that Barth was correct, but not a one was able to prove his claims regarding speech between men and ravens.

Nothing of course is as it seems in Martin’s World and the stout denials in Trouserless Bob’s book have rather the opposite effect in suggesting that the business of literally being able to talk is in fact true.

We see this of course in the Lord Commander’s raven, perched first on Mormont’s shoulder and then Jon’s – which tempts the thought that once it may have perched on Qorgyle’s shoulder.

The conventional explanation is that the raven in question is being warged or skinchanged by Bloodraven. This is certainly possible but I’m wary of that being so given that Bloodraven’s normal modus operandi is, or appears to be, to come in dreams as the three-eyed crow. This is a subject in itself, but before delving into it there’s also the question of the Singers and the Crows.

There was as we know a big intervention by a large number of crows when Sam and Gilly were rescued from Small Paul and his cold dead mates at the village which wasn’t called Whitetree. The show is more than a bit ambiguous here in that anyone who hasn’t read the books could easily come away with the impression that the crows led Ser Puddles to the village and then pursued Sam and Gilly afterwards. Otherwise the conventional explanation is that they are being warged or skinchanged by Bloodraven.

Again I’m very wary of this. Warging one crow is credible enough, a whole flock of them is something else entirely and dangerously close to the godlike intervention Martin has reassured us won’t happen. On the other hand there is a possible parallel with the wights, who appear to be susceptible to a degree of basic control at the “follow me” or “go there and kill” sort of level.

That may be what is happening here, but once again there seems to be a close association with the Singers. Crows, unlike bats, do not live in caves, yet there are a large number of them in the Cave of Skulls (not a canonical name I know, but everybody instantly recognises it) hence the earlier suggestion, which I wholeheartedly endorse, that Crows may be to Singers what Direwolves are to Starks; that it is a warging relationship not common skinchanging; and that to paraphrase "Part of the Singer is the Crow, and part of the Crow is the Singer.".

Such a symbiotic relationship may also explain, at least in part, the mystery of the Three-eyed-Crow; why what we assume to be Bloodraven appears in Bran’s dreams as a Crow in the first place, rather than say a kindly old man, and then of course Bloodraven’s curious vagueness when directly questioned on this by Bran.

“Are you the three-eyed crow?” Bran heard himself say. A three-eyed crow should have three eyes. He has only one and that one red. Bran could feel the eye staring at him, shining like a pool of blood in the torchlight. Where his other eye should have been, a thin white root grew from an empty socket, down his cheek, and into his neck.

“A… crow?” The pale lord’s voice was dry. His lips moved slowly, as if they had forgotten how to form words. “Once, aye. Black of garb and black of blood.” The clothes he wore were rotten and faded, spotted with moss and eaten through with worms, but once they had been black. “I have been many things, Bran. Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you…except in dreams.”

Its odd because although he has been watching Bran and coming to him in dreams – supposedly long before he fell – he effectively denies at the outset that he is the Crow; “Once, aye” is the opposite of yes. He was “Black of garb and black of blood” he was a crow of the Nights watch, not a three-eyed crow.

Nevertheless, if we admit a “personal” relationship between the Singers and the Crows and remember that Bloodraven is actually a Blackwood of Raventree Hall, it is easy to see that he himself is linked to the Singers through his Blackwood blood and the Crows on the Raventree weirwood – in exactly the same way that the Starks of Winterfell are linked to direwolves. Thus, perhaps, his vagueness as to whether he is the Three-eyed-Crow does not necessarily imply that he may not be the Crow, but rather that he is unaware or uncaring that this is how he manifests himself in communicating.

In discussing Crows as players it would be remiss not to mention the Morrigan, which first came into our discussions when I noticed the possible connection between a crow with three eyes and a crow goddess with three aspects. (maiden, mother and crone) That in turn led to recognition of the House Morrigen cookie: Storm Lords whose seat is the Crow’s Nest and whose sigil is a crow in flight against a storm green sky. In terms of subtlety that’s about nuanced as a train crash, given that Damphair distrusts ravens because they belong to the Storm God and the Crow Goddess is also associated with storms and in particular with the wind, hence bean sidhe, or banshee.

In this connection it’s also worth remembering  the first Catelyn chapter in Storm of Swords, where she's gone into a sept to pray for her father: "...and lit a candle to the Father Above for her own father's sake, a second to the Crone, who let the first raven into the world when she peered through the door of death, and a third to the Mother..."

On balance, tempting though it is in so many ways to look for evidence of an actual Morrigan, ultimately this is GRRM’s story and I think that the Morrigan reference is significant not as indicating the presence of such a deity but rather in emphasising the real importance of the Crows, as players, just as important if not more so than the direwolves and capable of serving as the interpreters who understand the speech both of Singers and of Men.

In closing, a final point concerns the white ravens who announce Winter and seemingly don’t get on with their black cousins. This I think may hark back to the business of Bran naming his direwolf Summer; that achieving a balance between Ice and Fire requires both a King of Winter and a Summer King with their respective direwolves and ravens.

 

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Feather Crystal: The Wheel of Time - Eating the Dragon’s Tail

 

Preface

I would like to preface this essay by saying that this theory is not all mine. It has been developed over many months of discussion, not only here on Heresy and other threads on Westeros, but on another forum…a think tank of creatives called The House of Black and White, or Hobaw for short. I cannot claim ownership for my ideas when they are birthed from the ideas of others.

 

Introduction

“The dragon is time. It has no beginning and no ending, so all things come round again. .." 

The ouroboros or uroboros is an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon eating its own tail. It often symbolizes the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, and other things which operate in cycles that begin anew as soon as they end. This is the basic premise of my theory: that there is a wheel of time in Westeros, but it is cycling in reverse. The dragon is eating itself inside out.

 

Black and White Connection:

@LynnS supplied this:

In alchemy, the ouroboros is a sigil. Swiss psychologist Carl Jung saw the ouroboros as an archetype and the basic mandala of alchemy. Jung also defined the relationship of the ouroboros to alchemy:

“The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This 'feed-back' process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which [...] unquestionably stems from man's unconscious.” - Wikipedia

A Song of Ice and Fire clashes with opposites, but they are two sides of the same coin. Black and white, ice and fire, white shadows and black shadowbabies, ebony and weirwood, swords Ice and Dawn, north and south.  There are even parallel inverted characters:

1) the two Kingsguards Ser Arthur Dayne and Sandor Clegane. The former being the shining example of what a knight should be, while the latter is the complete opposite. Over time however, we change our view of Sandor who proves that while imperfect, he is actually an honorable man which leads us to wonder if maybe Arthur wasn’t? 

2) Rhaegar Targaryen, the perfect prince that no one seemed to have a bad thing to say about him, and his modern day inversion Joffrey Baratheon, whom everyone hates. 

3) Lady Barbary mysteriously accused Lord Rickard Stark of "southron ambitions” making alliances with southern houses, while his son Lord Eddard Stark would rather stay home in the North and strengthen the bonds with his northern bannermen. 

4) Cersei Lannister (presumably) went behind her father's back and got King Aerys to appoint Jaime to the Kingsguard, while Sansa Stark went behind her father's back to prevent her father from returning his family to Winterfell. 

5) The wolfmaid fought three squires for dishonoring the crannogman who was also her father’s bannerman, and in Ned’s fever dream he fights three men while looking for Lyanna and is helped by Howland.

This is by no means a complete list, and is only meant as a sampling to get your brain started.

 

Evidence of the Wheel

“I am the storm, my lord. The first storm, and the last.” - Euron Greyjoy

The Kraken’s Daughter

Asha asks her uncle to lend her his history book so she can read about the last kingsmoot, and Rodrik frowns and says,

“Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again.” 

Rodrik says he thinks about what Rigney said whenever he thinks about Euron and how much he’s like Urron Greyiron, the man that butchered his way to the top at the last kingsmoot.

The mention of Archmaester Rigney is a reference to Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series. Robert Jordan is a pen name. His real name is James Oliver Rigney Jr.

The Soiled Knight

Arianne brings up House Toland of Ghost Hill whose sigil is a dragon eating it's own tail. 

“The dragon is time. It has no beginning and no ending, so all things come round again. Anders Yronwood is Criston Cole reborn.”

 

Memories Of A Thousand Years Ago:

@macgregorofthenorth said:

I’ve been thinking about a saying I've seen scattered through the books and I wonder if it carries more meaning than it appears to. I know that especially when it's said by a member of house Stark it is meant to imply the sayer has been through so much in the story that their memories literally seem to have happened a thousand years ago. But, I also wonder if it is a cheeky wee clue or nod to the idea that there are time loops and that these things have 'happened before' a long time ago, if you get my meaning. In spare time I gathered together the quotes. See below.

AGOT JON IV:

"Jon told the story of how he and Robb had found the pups newborn in the late summer snows. It seemed a thousand years ago now.”

AGOT CAT XI:

"It seemed a thousand years ago that Catelyn Stark had carried her infant son out of Riverrun, crossing the Tumblestone in a small boat to begin their journey north to Winterfell.”

ACOK ARYA IV:

"It seemed a thousand years ago now, something that had happened to a different person in a different life . .”

ACOK JON III:

"On the way back to Winterfell, Jon and Robb had raced, and found six direwolf pups in the snow. A thousand years ago.”

ASOS PROLOGUE (Mormont):

"Die," screamed Mormont's raven, flapping its black wings. "Die, die, die."

"Many of us," the Old Bear said. "Mayhaps even all of us. But as another Lord Commander said a thousand years ago, that is why they dress us in black."

ASOS CAT III:

"The north is hard and cold, and has no mercy, Ned had told her when she first came to Winterfell a thousand years ago."

ASOS SANSA V:

"The king was dead, the cruel king who had been her gallant prince a thousand years ago."

ADWD BRAN III:

"I was going to be a knight, Bran remembered. I used to run and climb and fight. It seemed a thousand years ago"

ADWD THE UGLY LITTLE GIRL:

"A thousand years ago, she had known a girl who loved lemon cakes. No, that was not me, that was only Arya."

ADWD DAENERYS X

"North they flew, beyond the river, Drogon gliding on torn and tattered wings through clouds that whipped by like the banners of some ghostly army. Dany glimpsed the shores of Slaver's Bay and the old Valyrian road that ran beside it through sand and desolation until it vanished in the west. The road home. Then there was nothing beneath them but grass rippling in the wind. Was that first flight a thousand years ago? Sometimes it seemed as if it must be.”

@Seams found this one:

AFFC Jaime V 

"A man such as Tywin Lannister comes but once in a thousand years," declared her husband.

“Tyrion is Tywin's son, not you. I said so once to your father's face, and he would not speak to me for half a year. Men are such thundering great fools. Even the sort who come along once in a thousand years.”Two Stories - Current and Inverted

Jojen tells Bran about the sea coming to Winterfell and seeing drowned bodies of people he now recognizes. Bran doesn't believe him at first so he tells him about little Walder and big Walder recieving a poor cut of meat witch they relish and Bran recieves he best cut which he doesn't enjoy. Then they recieve the news that Walder's uncle has been killed in battle and boys are delighted because that changes the succession. Then Bran realizes that Jojen is telling the truth and wants to warn everyone. Jojen says it doesn't matter that green dreams are true when the outcome cannot be changed. Alebelly hears the news that he will drown and refuses to bathe and go to the well. He stays behind at Winterfell instead of going with the war party towards the sea. In the end he is killed by Theon’s Ironborn men. The sea came to Winterfell.

George has been telling two stories simultaneously. One story is the one that appears on the surface, and the second story is inverted. We can learn the past and future by examining what the current characters are doing. For example, the Greyjoys are mimicking the Targaryens. Both families live on rocky outcroppings. Both areas are too stony to provide all the resources that they need. Both families choose to to take what they want by force rather than negotiate politically. Both are associated with "iron". The Greyjoys are ironmen from the iron islands, and Victarion is the iron captain. The Targaryens conquered the Seven Kingdoms, taking their iron swords and hammered them into an iron throne, making the very words “Iron Throne" to be the definition of "ruling". Both are associated with the wind. The Greyjoys need wind for their sails, while the Targaryen dragons fly in the sky. The Targaryens displaced the rule of Andals who brought the technology of creating iron swords to Westeros. The Greyjoys are descendants of people who survived the hammer of waters that separated their home from the mainland. They were effectively warded (ironed) until they built ships, so they were reborn from the iron (ward). Yet the Greyjoys are more like Blackfyres than Targaryens, and I for one think they will succeed where the Blackfyres have failed, because that is the inverted future.

The Reaver chapter is about Victorian's successful invasion of the Shield Islands, but the inversion story is Bittersteel's failure in the First Blackfyre Rebellion. Bittersteel landed with the Golden Company on Massey's Hook in an attempt to seat Daemon Blackfyre on the throne. I haven't completed deciphering this chapter so I don’t understand the entirety of what GRRM is trying to convey, but I do believe that all of the inversion chapters are meant to tell us the details leading into Robert's Rebellion, and what to expect in the future. The Reaver is a history lesson meant to shed light onto why Bloodraven became a greenseer. We are illuminated by examining what Euron is doing and then apply the inversion to Bloodraven.

 

The Titled Inversion Chapters

Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There is the sequel novel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and was written in 1871. Alice is playing with a white kitten named Snowdrop and a black kitten called Kitty, when she ponders what the world would be like on the other side of the mirror’s reflection. She climbs up onto the fireplace mantel to poke at the mirror and discovers that she is able to step through it to an alternate world. She finds a book of poetry named Jabberwocky, whose reversed print can only be read by holding it up to the mirror. Alice met a well known nursery rhyme creature called Humpty Dumpty, but in GRRM's tale we know him as Patchface, and he has been trying to tell us that ASOIAF is Jabberwocky, and that the north is upside down and under water: 

Under the sea, smoke rises in bubbles, and flames burn green and blue and black. I know, I know, oh, oh, oh.

Under the sea the old fish eat the young fish. Up here the young fish teach the old fish.

Under the sea the mermen feast on starfish soup, and all the serving men are crabs.

The crow, the crow. Under the sea the crows are white as snow, I know, I know, oh, oh, oh.

I will lead it! We will march into the sea and out again. Under the waves we will ride seahorses, and mermaids will blow seashells to announce our coming, oh, oh, oh.

There are currently thirty “Jabberwocky” chapters beginning in A Feast for Crows and ending in A Dance with Dragons, thirty one if you count the new The Foresaken chapter, but for one reason or another they are not named after the character like the rest of the chapters; they are titled. ”Victarion" becomes The Iron Captain and The Reaver. Asha becomes The Kraken's Daughter and The Wayward Bride. And Arianne becomes The Queenmaker and The Princess in the Tower. It is my belief that GRRM is using these titled chapters to tell us two stories cycling on the ouroboros: the current cycle and a previous cycle. Once you recognize the parallel inversions exist you will have a new understanding of the present story, realize that you are also reading about an inverted past, and gain insight into it’s inverted future.

While many readers have theorized the meanings of the various parallels and inversions, I had missed the significance of the titled chapters until my attention was redirected towards them by regular jon umber who was the first to wonder if these chapters meant anything. I set to work reading and writing chapter summaries, but it wasn't until I got to The Iron Captain that the proverbial lightbulb came on and I realized that the "Ironborn" was a metaphor for the Iron Throne.

How many instances has some character said another character has been reborn? The wheel of time has come around again, but since the dragon has eaten itself inside out the present is a mirrored reversal of the past. The results are not all strict opposites. I like to think of the people of Westeros as playing a giant game of cyvasse: different Houses, similar circumstances, differing results. Recall how the game is played. Each player sets up a shield to conceal how they setup their pieces. The shield is symbolic of the warding of the Wall. Once the pieces are in place, the shield is removed and play begins. 

Quaithe's instructions to Dany seem to confirm that the ouroboros has turned inside out:

Dany’s wrist still tingled where Quaithe had touched her. “Where would you have me go?” she asked. 

“To go north, you must journey south. To reach the west, you must go east. To go forward you must go back, and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.”

In other words, if she wants to navigate this mirrored reality she has to do the opposite of whatever her natural inclination is.

The Mirri Maz Duur Prophecy Deciphered - courtesy of LynnS: 

1) when the sun rises in the West and sets in the East, (when time runs backwards)

2) when the seas dry up (when the Narrow Sea is absorbed into the ice pack, or freeze dries)

3) when mountains blow in the wind like leaves (when the horn of Joramun blows and the Wall   swirls away in a cloud of ice crystals)

The Consuming Wheel Is Expelling

How did the ouroboros get turned inside out? It has to do with the Wall. LynnS described how the Wall was built as a consuming wheel, drawing the cold unto itself. She also described how it’s shape was as a sword without a hilt. The east is the straight sword, while the west is like a serpent. There is no safe way to wield it. The Wall consumed the killing cold by drawing it up unto itself, and indirectly it pulled warmer air up in it's wake, thus the extended summers. At the same time it is pulling cold air from the north until there is so much cold air that it forces the warmer air south again, thus the extended winter. In this way the Wall "breathes". 

When the Wall was first built, it had a lot of catching up to do. It drew all the cold air unto it and at the same time it pulled so hard that a rush of warmth was brought north. A movement like that may have caused a great gust of air that could in theory have stoked a very large flame. Thus, the creation of the Wall may have been like a giant billows feeding the flames of Valyrian volcanoes, and over thousands of years lead to The Doom. It may even explain the destruction of Hardhome if a volcano was once active there.

The building of the Wall was necessary to consume the killing cold, but the larger it gets the more dangerous it becomes. As it inhales and consumes the cold, the subsequent exhale brings even more cold down from the north building it higher and making it stronger. At the end of Dance the Wall is currently exhaling, but it is also expelling, because whatever magic created it has been reversed. The removal of the ward not only caused the Wall to begin expelling, it flipped the wheel of time and caused the great Houses to flip positions on the wheel.

Readers have speculated that the winter storm reported at the end of Dance is emanating out of Winterfell, but what if that's due to tunnels underground leading from the Wall to Winterfell? The Wall is supposed to be warded, but if there are tunnels where the killing cold has found an exit, then that implies that it is the location where the ward went missing. Like Lady Dyanna suggested, there is no Stark in Winterfell.

The Relationship Between Iron And Wards

@ravenousreader says:

According to the geomagnetic shift/polar reversal analogy, the earth's magnetic field is generated by the earth's dynamic iron core, so a shift thereof which can be construed as a symbolic opening/unlocking could indeed be configured as an 'iron gate' swinging down below!  Magnetism derives from, and is held in place by an iron foundation (although this is paradoxically always in flux). Wildly extrapolating, perhaps GRRM's concept of magic like magnetism hinges on iron!  After all, iron swords, like compass needles, are used as wards on tombs to ensure the proper alignment between the cardinal polarities of the living and the dead. 

The Starks may have served as an iron sword and ward on one of the major exits. It is interesting that the ascendance of the Ironborn is also connected to this magnetic and magical iron/ward connection. If I were a detective investigating a crime, my first suspect would be “who benefits”?

The Great Cycles

A Clash of Kings: Theon talking with Aeron:

“Every morning brings a new day, much like the old."

“In Riverrun, they would tell you different. They say the red comet is a herald of a new age. A messenger from the gods.”

“A sign it is,” the priest agreed, “but from our god, not theirs. A burning brand it is, such as our people carried of old. It is the flame the Drowned God brought from the sea, and it proclaims a rising tide.

The wheel of time or ouroboros has two kinds of cycles. There are shorter generational cycles and larger great cycles that may take a hundred or even several hundred years to complete. The shorter cycles are repeated lives which continue to occur generation, after generation, after generation. The most apparent repeating cycle is of the blood magic ritual. Think tower of joy, Mirri’s tent revival, King Bob’s death scene, the battle between Jaime and Ned outside the brothel, and Brienne’s fight against three men at the whispers. This is by no means a complete list, but for a more thorough discussion you can visit King Monkey’s thought provoking thread The Puppets of Ice and Fire:

The Targaryens seemed to have acknowledged that they were aware this was happening, because certain family members would "fulfill" certain roles: the reader, the warrior, the sept/septon, sighting the red comet, etc. Rhaegar thought he was the reader, then he read something that made him think he was meant to be the warrior. He also thought he was the Prince that was Promised, and then decided it must be his son, Aegon. I believe he changed his mind, because he discovered the red comet wasn't seen prior to his own birth. 

The wildlings too know that when the Thief is in the Moonmaid constellation it's a good time to steal a woman. 

If you know these same events are going to happen, you can change the outcome by changing who it happens to, basically change the present and you can change the future.

There seems to be smaller repeated cycles where there are generations of people acting like someone from their family’s past, and there are also larger greater cycles of major events:

Birth 

Human invasion

Pact

Broken Pact

Blood Magic Ritual

The Red Comet

Cataclysmic Event

 

Now apply this great cycle to each major migration. I’ve got them in order of how I think they happened:

1) Birth - Dawn Age

2) First Men Invastion

3) Pact between First Men and Children

4) Broken Pact

5) Blood Magic Ritual

6) The first sighting of the red comet

7) Cataclysmic Event - Hammer of Waters (tempered in water)

 

1) Rebirth

2)  Andal Invasion

3)  Pact - Children & First Men on one side, Andals on the other

4)  Broken Pact

5)  Blood Magic Ritual

6)  The red comet is sighted

7)  Cataclysmic Event - Long Night (heart of the lion) creation of white walkers

 

1)  Attempt at Rebirth, but darkness covers Westeros

2)  Last Hero seeks out the Children

3)  Pact - First Men remind Children of their agreement

4)  Blood Magic Ritual - sacrifice of greenseers

5)  The red comet - moon “broken” (sword tempered in Nissa Nissa)

6)  Cataclysmic event - meteors rain down on Westeros - first Night’s Watch w/fiery swords

7)  Wall built to consume the killing cold

 

1) Rebirth of survivors

2) Ironborn raid mainland, 

3) Pact - intermarriage between kingdoms

4) Broken Pacts - Wars between kingdoms

5) Magic is despised - no blood magic ritual

6) The Red Comet is sighted

7) Wall overtaken by Andals

 

1)  Rebirth 

2)  Rhoynar migration

3)  Pact - intermarriage between Rhoynar & Dorne

4)  Broken Pact - 7 Kingdoms fight amongst themselves

5)  Lord’s First Night tradition mimics the taking of the moon(maid)

6)  The Red Comet is sighted

7)  Cataclysmic Event - The Doom of Valyria 

 

1) Rebirth

2) Targaryen dragonlord invasion

3) Pact - unites the 7 Kingdoms

4) Blood Magic Ritual - Summerhal - out of sequence

5) No Red Comet - out of sequence

6) Storm Lord kidnaps Moonmaid

7) Broken Pact - Targaryen rule extinguished - Andals retake Iron Throne - out of sequence

8) Blood Magic Ritual - Tower of Joy - out of sequence

9) The Red Comet is sighted

10) Blood Magic Ritual - Mirri’s tent - Drogo’s false resurrection - ritual incomplete

11) Drogo’s funeral pyre - Mirri sacrificed - blood magic ritual completed - wheel is broken

12) Ouroboros turns inside out

Breaking the World and Rebuilding it Through Inversions

The three successive blood magic rituals: Summerhal, Tower of Joy, and Mirri's tent, made it possible for Drogo’s funeral pyre to break the world and reverse time. The dragon has been reborn, breaking the world, so that it can be rebuilt. This is a similar theme in Robert Jordan’s book series, The Wheel of Time.

The three swords are also described symbolically during Drogo’s funeral pyre:

She had sensed the truth of it long ago, Dany thought as she took a step closer to the conflagration, but the brazier had not been hot enough. The flames writhed before her like the women who had danced at her wedding, whirling and singing and spinning their yellow and orange and crimson veils, fearsome to behold, yet lovely, so lovely, alive with heat. Dany opened her arms to them, her skin flushed and glowing. This is a wedding, too, she thought.

She heard a crack, the sound of shattering stone. The platform of wood and brush and grass began to shift and collapse in upon itself. Bits of burning wood slid down at her, and Dany was showered with ash and cinders. And something else came crashing down, bouncing and rolling, to land at her feet; a chunk of curved rock, pale and veined with gold, broken and smoking. The roaring filled the world, yet dimly through the firefall Dany heard women shriek and children cry out in wonder. Only death can pay for life.

And there came a second crack, loud and sharp as thunder, and the smoke stirred and whirled around her and the pyre shifted, the logs exploding as the fire touched their secret hearts. She heard the screams of frightened horses, and the voices of the Dothraki raised in shouts of fear and terror, and Ser Jorah calling her name and cursing. No, she wanted to shout to him, no, my good knight, do not fear for me. The fire is mine. I am Daenerys Stormborn, daughter of dragons, bride of dragons, mother of dragons, don’t you see? Don’t you SEE? With a belch of flame and smoke that reached thirty feet into the sky, the pyre collapsed and came down around her. Unafraid, Dany stepped forward into the firestorm, calling to her children.

The third crack was as loud and sharp as the breaking of the world.

The funeral pyre was a magical rite that had all the symbolic elements of the origin story of Westeros. The three cracks symbolize the three swords the Children forged: the hammer of waters (tempered in water), the heart of the lion (white walkers), and the loss of a moon (Nissa Nissa). 

The chunk of curved rock pale and veined with gold is meant to symbolize the moon. The first “breaking” was just a crack: the hammer of waters. The roaring filled the world, yet the voices of women and children shrieking could still be heard. Only death can pay for life.

The smoke “stirred and whirled around her” symbolizes the blowing snow that came with the “heart of the lion” which were the white walkers that were created when the Children decided they needed to fight back. Frightened horses screamed and shouts of fear and terror were heard as humans fought inhuman monsters.

And the third crack finally broke the world-moon, or in this instance the wheel of time. This symbolizes the final sword…the rest of the moon (Nissa Nissa) was destroyed in a great cataclysmic event that nearly wiped out all human life. Some readers suspect actual moon meteors, but other suspect a super-giant volcanic eruption.

This is is the event that broke the wheel, the ouroboros began eating itself inside out, and time began rolling in reverse.

Daenerys is three things: 

1) daughter of dragons - this one seems pretty straightforward if she's Aerys and Rhaella's.

2) bride of dragons - not as clear, other than she was supposed to marry her brother, Viserys.

3) mother of dragons - this one is straightforward as well.

It was @LynnS that pointed out that Daenerys was the origin and the mother of dragons. She is at the beginning of the new inverted cycle of the wheel now turning in reverse. It was the funeral pyre that “broke the world” and is similar to the phrase "break the wheel" which, along with having a dragon reborn, is the main theme in the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. 

The New Cycle

1) Origin - Drogo’s funeral pyre

2) Rebirth - magic, dragons, direwolves

3) The Reversal of the Invasions

Iron Islands takes place of Dragonstone. Euron and Victarion are symbolically a united Bloodraven and Bittersteel on the verge of a successful "Blackfyre" type rebellion due to securing dragons, expect invasion from the west. 

Arianne Martell brought a Dornish marriage proposal to young Griff, who came to Westeros from the Rhoyne river symbolically representing the Rhoynar.

Faith Militant/Faith of the Seven turns on Andals and creates Papacy rule.

Lord Commander & Night’s King takes down Lord of Winterfell with King Beyond the Wall’s help.

Showdown at either Harrenhal or Gods Eye between Blackfyre dragons and First Men.

Second Long Night while the Wall expells magic

Night’s King may become the new King in the North, and this time he does not kneel to the dragonlord, and “Brandon” kills the dragons this time with weirwood arrows, however the King may end up dead. 

4) Second hammer of waters as the snow and ice melts

5) End of magic - Children of the Forest extinguished

6) Queen in the North rebuilds Winterfell 

Conclusion

The wheel of time or ouroboros is a construct or literary device that GRRM is using to tell his story, and may never be directly referred to, but the evidence is there. The titled chapters are a treasure trove of symbolism, parallels, and inversions. Deciphering them is a labored process. The reversal of the invasions is the strongest piece of evidence that I can point at to start you on your way to rereading the titled inversion chapters. You can always read one of my chapter analysis’, but I encourage you to work through them yourself, looking for historical parallels between characters and events, and then sort through the inversions.

There is no good way to summarize this essay, but long story short Westeros operates on an ouroboros, aka a wheel of time that started turning in reverse after a series of three blood magic rituals along with the removal of the warding on the Wall, namely there is no Stark in Winterfell, which made it possible for Drogo’s funeral pyre to work as a magic spell, causing Daenerys to become the dragon reborn, and break the wheel. The world will be rebuilt through a series of inversions, and return to an origin point where the Children, this time, give way to humans.

 

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Winterfell                   by Black Crow

Winterfell is a slightly different topic and I think it would be fair to say that there are a number of “mysteries” impacting on the story in all sorts of ways. So I’d like to begin with a description of the place as seen in a couple of paragraphs by Catelyn and Bran right at the beginning of AGoT:

First we have Catelyn, entering the godswood in search of Ned:

 

It was a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it.

So, we’ll come back to the forest later, but right away we thus have a legendary date for the castle’s founding all of 10,000 years ago and this immediately presents us with a big problem, because if Bran the Builder did indeed raise the castle he did so all of 2,000 years before he supposedly raised the Wall if we accept both Catelyn’s date and the traditional belief that the Wall was built after the Long Night 8,000 years ago, but lets leave that aside for the moment and look at the castle itself as seen by our Bran:

To a boy, Winterfell was a grey stone labyrinth of walls and towers and courtyards and tunnels spreading out in all directions. In the older parts of the castle, the halls slanted up and down so that you couldn’t even be sure what floor you were on. The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree, Maester Luwin told him once, and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth…

It’s quite a vivid picture and Maester Luwin’s observation is clearly intended as an allusion to a weirwood tree. He may well be right in this and there may be some significance to the comparison, but at the same time it also provides a misleading impression of the real Winterfell. Lets come back to Bran again, just a little further on:

The builders had not even levelled the earth; there were hills and valleys behind the walls of Winterfell. There was a covered bridge that went from the fourth floor of the bell tower across to the second floor of the rookery. Bran knew about that. And he knew that you could get inside the inner wall by the south gate, climb three floors and run all the way around Winterfell through a narrow tunnel in the stone, and then come out of ground level at the north gate, with a hundred feet of wall looming over you.

What we also know from Theon’s brief defence of the castle and subsequent escape is that not only is it surrounded by a double stone wall, but there’s a deep moat between the two. In mediaeval terms this might at first seem unusual, but in fact it tells us rather a lot.

What’s immediately striking is the vastness of the area contained within the walls. Not only are there three acres of godswood, which was probably once larger still but there is also sufficient room for a whole host of towers, halls, courtyards, workshops, granaries and other domestic buildings around the original drum tower known as the First Keep and yet all comfortably accommodated with the massive double walls. Once upon a time those walls or their predecessors must have enclosed a huge empty area and far from the castle physically growing larger we’re actually seeing the built part of it slowly expanding to fill that already defined space within the walls – and ditches.

Fortunately there’s a splendid and very relevant parallel here in the 2,000 year old Celtic hill forts such as the famous Maiden Castle in Dorset. Typically these occupy the entire hilltop, extending to 100 acres at Maiden Castle enclosed by very substantial double or even triple banks and ditches. Yet most of the site was left unoccupied with the inhabited areas (including animal pens) being confined to relatively small areas by the gates. While we’re not actually quoted a site area for Winterfell it easily falls within these parameters. It seems obvious therefore that Bran the Builder’s Winterfell was an archetypal Celtic hill fort rather than a classic mediaeval motte and bailey – and that is entirely consistent with the familiar First Men/Celts parallels which we’ve discussed so often before. Indeed we also have a very pertinent example in-house so to speak with the ring-work on the Fist of the First Men.

The Fist in fact provides us with a pretty good idea of the original Winterfell, not the High Mediaeval castle which we see now but a ring-work very like the Fist. Clearly therefore the stone walls and other structures which our Bran climbs and clambers over were not erected by Bran the Builder himself. In this respect its also noticeable that the oldest part of the castle …the First Keep… a squat round fortress that was taller than it looked…is known as the First Keep not as Bran’s Keep or Bran’s Tower as one might expect if he was responsible for it. Therefore while there’s no reason to doubt that Bran the Builder created Winterfell by surrounding the site with a ring-work comprising a massive double earthen ditch and rampart, which now underpins the present stone walls, that perimeter may be his only surviving legacy.

So why did he surround this particular site with those ditches and banks in the first place?

I think that the short answer has to be that rather than pitching upon it as a good site for a castle, he was deliberately enclosing something significant which is even now impacting on the story.

Most obviously there are two very striking features; first that unusually large godswood centring on the weirwood and the pools, some hot, some cold. And secondly the crypts,  or perhaps more accurately the caves below Winterfell which have been re-shaped into crypts; caves which are accessed by a deep spiral stair, a “stair to Hell” paraphrasing Old Nan, just like the entrance to the Black Gate up on the Wall.

That immediately raised an important question. We’ve discussed how the Black Gate is said to be as old as the Wall and how the Night Fort appears to have been built around it. Are we looking at the same thing here? Were the crypts created or opened up after Winterfell was built or were they the reason why Bran the Builder threw his double rampart and ditch around the sidhe halls within the hill?

The crypts themselves present a whole raft of mysteries. As described they are deep underground, and accessed by that spiral staircase to Hell. There appears to be a vaulted roof over a central spine corridor lined by sepulchres. The impression given is that there is a statue fronting on to the corridor with a tomb behind. Wives and children of the deceased may also be in there although that’s not entirely true.

As Bran is carried along the corridor he is required to identify the kings buried there and to all appearances the early ones are closest to the stair and we gradually work forward in time as we pass along until we reach the as yet empty ones. There’s no indication that it runs in a circle although I’d be surprised if it didn’t since the Celts didn’t really do straight lines. At the moment though we don’t know and there’s no hint of any significance to the layout of this particular crypt.

What’s also odd are the references to lower levels, said to be where the older kings are buried. This seems very strange. Its possible that if the upper level filled up it might be necessary to extend it or to dig deeper, but starting off at the lower level doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The only other thing we’re told is that its dangerous because its partially collapsed, but somehow that doesn’t ring true either and sounds more like a reason for forbidding exploring. There is something old down there and it may not necessarily be the Kings of Winter. Perhaps those stairs to Hell, like those of the Nightfort, lead to a magic door; one that can only be opened by a son of Winterfell speaking the words “Winter is Coming”

 

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Sly Wren: The Crypts are Alive!

Or: The Dead have Eyes—Again and Always

VERY SHORT VERSION:

Of all of the novels’ underworlds, only the Stark underworld is “alive,” not just a place of visions and facing the past in dreams. It is the living past interacting with the living. The Stark dead are not “dead.” They are sleepers in a frozen hell who will wake. The Others are already ranging. They will soon ride south, killing all in their path. A Wild Hunt with ice spiders as hounds.  But the Stark Dead have Hell Hounds in their crypts, waiting to rise with them. A reverse Wild Hunt to counter the Others’ ranging.

NOTE: A huge shout out to @Darksister1001 for her help with finding a lot of these quotes.

1. In the novels, we go into multiple underworlds. All of them are tied to standard tropes: revelations, guilt, and long nights of the soul.

—@Sweetsunray has nailed a lot of this in a lot more detail than I have: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php?/topic/138237-the-chthonic-cycle-part-1-4-the-persephone-hades-demeter-and-isis-of-winterfell/

—But a very quick run down:

·         House of Black and White.

·         Bloodraven’s Cave.

·         Ned in the Black Cells.

·         Arya under the Red Keep. Plus the “well” she sees there, with its spiral stair.

·         Jaime in the tunnels, finding the dragon mosaic and hearing Rhaegar’s voice.

·         Jaime’s dream under Casterly Rock with shades tied to his guilt and insecurities.

·         Dany in the House of the Undying—visions and illusions. And living dead.

·         Dreams of the dead: Jaime of his mother, Dany as Rhaegar, Tyrion climbing the stair, etc.

2. The Winterfell Crypts have multiple things in common with these places:

·         Repository of the dead

·         Tied into the Weirnet via the godswood

·         Place to go in dreams for understanding: Ned’s nightmare of Lyanna, Bran and Rickon’s seeing Ned, Jon’s recurring dreams.

·         Place of refuge: Bran and Rickon hide from invaders.

·         A spiral stair, like the Black Gate and the well in the Red Keep.

·         The Black Gate down its spiral stair.

3. But they are also unique:  

·         The spiral stair is only meant to admit Starks. Like the Black Gate only admits sworn brothers. As though this is a “portal” just for Starks.

o   Rickon even showed them the deep vaults under the earth where the stonemason was carving father's tomb.  "You had no right!" Bran screamed at his brother when he heard.  "That was our place, a Stark place!"  But Rickon never cared. Clash, Bran I

·         In none of the places listed above are the dead completely one-family specific--Starks.

·         And in none of these places are the dead “kept” in their tombs, waiting.

·         Even the Wildlings, who know the Others and wights are real and know about Winter, burn their dead. They don’t “crypt” them, even though they believe in the living nature of shades:

o   We opened half a hundred graves and let all those shades loose in the world, and never found the Horn of Joramun to bring this cold thing down!" Storm, Jon IV

4.  In Winterfell, Starks see the dead both in dreams and in current reality. A frozen hell.

·         The Winterfell crypts are tied to living dead. And to the fate of the living when they die.

o   It was always cold down here. Their footsteps rang off the stones and echoed in the vault overhead as they walked among the dead of House Stark. The Lords of Winterfell watched them pass. Their likenesses were carved into the stones that sealed the tombs. In long rows they sat, blind eyes staring out into eternal darkness, while great stone direwolves curled round their feet. The shifting shadows made the stone figures seem to stir as the living passed by. Game, Eddard I

o   Ned stopped at last and lifted the oil lantern. The crypt continued on into darkness ahead of them, but beyond this point the tombs were empty and unsealed; black holes waiting for their dead, waiting for him and his children. Ned did not like to think on that. "Here," he told his king. Game, Eddard I

·         Bran and Rickon seek their living father among the dead in the crypt.

·         The crypts protect the living Bran and Rickon from Theon and Co.

·         Theon’s feast with the dead.

·         Bran thinks Summer and Shaggy are calling for their living siblings—AND Lady’s Shade. Clash, Bran I

·         Ned’s nightmare of the angry Kings of Winter, growling direwolves, and Lyanna’s statue weeping tears of blood. Game, Eddard III

·         When the kids play in the crypts, Jon’s a living ghost. That Arya does not fear: he’s family.

·         And the shadows in the crypts look alive, even for the wolves.

o   In the light of the guttering torch, shadow wolves twenty feet tall fought on the wall and roof. Game, Bran VII.

·         The living dead are “frozen” still with eyes like ice. This is the “frozen hell” Ned dreams of.

o   Sansa cried herself to sleep, Arya brooded silently all day long, and Eddard Stark dreamed of a frozen hell reserved for the Starks of Winterfell. Game, Eddard IV

5. So, why a frozen hell? Because they are waiting and watching, only for the Starks.

·         The iron longswords on the Stark statues traditionally should keep the Starks in their tombs.

o   By ancient custom an iron longsword had been laid across the lap of each who had been Lord of Winterfell, to keep the vengeful spirits in their crypts. The oldest had long ago rusted away to nothing, leaving only a few red stains where the metal had rested on stone. Ned wondered if that meant those ghosts were free to roam the castle now. He hoped not. The first Lords of Winterfell had been men hard as the land they ruled. In the centuries before the Dragonlords came over the sea, they had sworn allegiance to no man, styling themselves the Kings in the North. Game, Eddard I

·         With the swords rusted away and with the Wildling burning tradition, the swords as binding the dead makes no sense. No—the swords and watchers are waiting for invaders.

o   "Any man of the Night's Watch is welcome here at Winterfell for as long as he wishes to stay," Robb was saying with the voice of Robb the Lord. His sword was across his knees, the steel bare for all the world to see. Even Bran knew what it meant to greet a guest with an unsheathed sword. Game, Bran IV

·         Not only to warn invaders, but to punish the failed Starks. Ned shows this—knows the Starks are unhappy with his idea of leaving Winterfell. And believes he has failed Lyanna.

o   For a moment Eddard Stark was filled with a terrible sense of foreboding. This was his place, here in the north. He looked at the stone figures all around them, breathed deep in the chill silence of the crypt. He could feel the eyes of the dead. They were all listening, he knew. And winter was coming. Game, Eddard I

o   The Kings of Winter watched him pass with eyes of ice, and the direwolves at their feet turned their great stone heads and snarled. Game, Eddard XIII

6. So, why would the dead need to wait and watch in a “frozen hell?” To fight back the Others and their dead army.

·         We don’t know how the Last Hero turned the tide in the Battle for the Dawn. Or how he drove back the Others and their army. But we do know what the Others did when they came.

o   "In that darkness, the Others came for the first time," she said as her needles went click click click. "They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children."[ snip. . . ]

o   “And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds—" (Game, Bran IV)

·         The Starks have their own hounds for protection, even against “other” Starks and their wolves:

o   And Summer came, shooting from the dimness behind them, a leaping shadow. He slammed into Shaggydog and knocked him back, and the two direwolves rolled over and over in a tangle of grey and black fur, snapping and biting at each other, while Maester Luwin struggled to his knees, his arm torn and bloody. Osha propped Bran up against Lord Rickard's stone wolf as she hurried to assist the maester. In the light of the guttering torch, shadow wolves twenty feet tall fought on the wall and roof. Game, Bran VII

·         And those Starks and their dire-hounds are NOT partial to invaders or even to Starks who fail:

o   The Kings of Winter watched him pass with eyes of ice, and the direwolves at their feet turned their great stone heads and snarled. Game, Eddard XIII

·         Plus, there’s a good chance the hellish hounds have fought each other before at the Wall.

o   The Nightfort had figured in some of Old Nan's scariest stories. It was here that [. . . snip] blind Symeon Star-Eyes had seen the hellhounds fighting. Storm, Bran IV

7. So, living Starks with and army of cold, dead Starks with eyes like ice. Hunting the Others and their “armies of the slain”—that could make a lot of sense. But what will wake these frozen Starks, to interact with the living as no other dead can in the novels? Jon.

·         He’s been dreaming of going into the Winterfell crypts alone into darkness at least since he got to the Wall. But he only sees the Stark dead wake in his dreams AFTER he comes to the Wall and the night RIGHT before Ghost finds the wights. Jon recalls this dream in the same chapter where he kills the wight.

o   Last night he had dreamt the Winterfell dream again. He was wandering the empty castle, searching for his father, descending into the crypts. Only this time the dream had gone further than before. In the dark he'd heard the scrape of stone on stone. When he turned he saw that the vaults were opening, one after the other. As the dead kings came stumbling from their cold black graves, Jon had woken in pitch-dark, his heart hammering. Even when Ghost leapt up on the bed to nuzzle his face, he could not shake his deep sense of terror. He dared not go back to sleep. Game, Jon VII

·         This dream has been around for a while:

o   Somehow I know I have to go down there, but I don't want to. I'm afraid of what might be waiting for me. The old Kings of Winter are down there, sitting on their thrones with stone wolves at their feet and iron swords across their laps, but it's not them I'm afraid of. I scream that I'm not a Stark, that this isn't my place, but it's no good, I have to go anyway, so I start down, feeling the walls as I descend, with no torch to light the way. It gets darker and darker, until I want to scream." He stopped, frowning, embarrassed. "That's when I always wake." Game, Jon IV.

·         Jon is a shadow, like the dead.

o   All in black, he was a shadow among shadows, dark of hair, long of face, grey of eye. Clash, Jon I

·         Jon’s prank on his siblings thus seems dead on with symbolism: he’s the rising dead who’s no threat to the living Starks.

o   When the spirit stepped out of the open tomb, pale white and moaning for blood, Sansa ran shrieking for the stairs, and Bran wrapped himself around Robb's leg, sobbing. Arya stood her ground and gave the spirit a punch. It was only Jon, covered with flour. "You stupid," she told him, "you scared the baby," but Jon and Robb just laughed and laughed, and pretty soon Bran and Arya were laughing too. Game, Arya IV

BOTTOM LINE: The Stark crypts are alive with dead waiting to rise for the final battle. Jon and light (Dawn) will wake the waiting Starks—the “long pale flame,” waking the shadows/shades. Then the dead will rise and fight the Others’ dead army.

From the “dark hall of the dead where the living fear to tread”—but Jon, the living dead, will tread that hall and wake his army.

Bran heard fingers fumbling at leather, followed by the sound of steel on flint. Then again. A spark flew, caught. Osha blew softly. A long pale flame awoke, stretching upward like a girl on her toes. Osha's face floated above it. She touched the flame with the head of a torch. Bran had to squint as the pitch began to burn, filling the world with orange glare. The light woke Rickon, who sat up yawning.

When the shadows moved, it looked for an instant as if the dead were rising as well. Lyanna and Brandon, Lord Rickard Stark their father, Lord Edwyle his father, Lord Willam and his brother Artos the Implacable, Lord Donnor and Lord Beron and Lord Rodwell, one-eyed Lord Jonnel, Lord Barth and Lord Brandon and Lord Cregan who had fought the Dragonknight. On their stone chairs they sat with stone wolves at their feet. This was where they came when the warmth had seeped out of their bodies; this was the dark hall of the dead, where the living feared to tread. (Clash, Bran VII)   

 

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TIMELINES by Black Crow

 

Anent the timeline business, it’s important to distinguish between a timeline and a chronology. The first sets out a sequence of events and the other takes that sequence and applies dates to it. With certain exceptions the issue here is not the timeline but the dates and that issue rests not on the fertile imaginations of those here present, but in what GRRM himself has said and very largely in text at that.

In the beginning we were told that men first came to Westeros 12,000 years ago, that the Pact was concluded 10,000 years ago and that the Wall and the Watch date from 8,000 years ago, while the Andals turned up in the Vale 6,000 years ago. There was also an alternative date of 4,000 years offered for the coming of the Andals but this isn’t necessarily a contradiction because as the World Book makes plain there was no conquest like that enacted by Aegon but rather a succession of different groups at different times and different places.

Then we get Rodrik the Reader and Hoster Blackwood, with the first rather precisely dating their arrival by reference to the last Kingsmoot as just 1,500 years ago, while Hoster rather more moderately explains:

Only no one knows when the Andals crossed the narrow sea. The True History says four thousand years have passed since then, but some masters claim that it was only two. Past a certain point, all the dates grow hazy and confused, and the clarity of history becomes the fog of legend.

So let’s play safe and go for Hoster’s 2,000 years ago. It’s not unreasonable in itself but it does have an immediate impact on the earlier chronology in that it suddenly increases the gap between the supposed date of the Long Night and the arrival of the Andals from 2,000 years to 6,000 years. It’s surely reasonable therefore to infer that the Long Night was also, proportionately nearer in time and indeed we have now have references in the World Book to it occurring 6,000 years rather than 8,000 years ago.

Now there are two immediate points arising from this. Clearly it was not contemporary with the supposed arrival of the Andals in the Vale 6,000 years ago, but if the Andals did in fact turn up 4,000 years ago then the 2,000 year gap is preserved. So far so good, but does that therefore mean that if there is a solid tradition that the Andals came 2,000 years after the Long Night? If so then the Long Night could be as recent as only 4,000 years ago.

Now turn to the Watch. Sam as we know is unhappy about what he finds in the records, and remember once again this passage is important enough to be told from two different POVs:

The oldest histories we have were written after the Andals came to Westeros. The First Men only left us runes on rocks, so everything we think we know about the Age of Heroes and the Dawn Age and the Long Night comes from accounts set down by septons thousands of years later. There are archmaesters at the Citadel who question all of it. The old histories are full of kings who reigned for hundreds of years, and knights riding around a thousand years before there were knights. You know the tales, Brandon the Builder, Symeon Star-eyes, Knight’s King…we say that you’re the nine-hundred-and-ninety-eighth Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, but the oldest list I’ve found shows six hundred seventy-four commanders, which suggests that it was written during-“

“Long ago,” Jon broke in…

According to legend the Wall was built 8,000 years ago at the end of the Long Night and has been manned by the Watch ever since. Jon Snow is reckoned to be the 998th Lord Commander which would imply a very reasonable average of 8 years for each of his predecessors. Bring that forward to 6,000 years and the average drops to an average of 6 years apiece, while 4,000 years ago…

But there’s more to it than that. Why was Sam cut off? Because the list was written during what? Evidently something that would invalidate the chronology. Let’s look again at the list. Now the point about any list of Lord Commanders is that depending on how its arranged it will either begin or end with the current incumbent. Once again, although Jon cuts him off, it’s easy to work out that it was only compiled about 324 Lord Commanders ago, or if we apply the 8 year average approximately 2600 years ago.

And that’s where it really gets interesting, because let’s stick with the World Book date of 6,000 years ago for the Long Night and the foundation of the Wall. That means, allowing for a tolerable degree of inexactitude the list was probably compiled halfway through – at the point when Castle Black and mayhap all the other castles were built.

Now OK you can argue that the arithmetic changes if you try to squeeze a reputed 998 Lord Commanders into 6,000 years rather than 8,000 years but all of this is why Sam is unhappy with the list and why we’re not allowed to know why.

So far so good, but then we are explicitly told that the Nightfort is the oldest castle on the Wall and twice as old as the others. So how old is that? The Black Gate beneath the fort is as old as the Wall itself. We have discussed in the past the possibility that originally there was just the well-house and that the castle came later, but lets keep it simple and work on the proposition that the Nightfort itself in one form or another has existed on that site since the Wall was built – 8,000 years ago.

A quick calculation on the fingers therefore tells us that the other castles were built or started to be built 4,000 years ago. Whatever way you look at it for the first 4,000 years of the Wall’s existence it had no castles apart from the Nightfort and presumably no garrison patrolling those 300-odd miles of ice. The Watch were in effect no more than gatekeepers.

Then 4,000 years ago a programme of castle-building begins, and it comes at an interesting time.

  1. We’re talking about the Andal invasion period and the creation or consolidation of the Seven Kingdoms under Andal rule. Yet against this backdrop massive resources are devoted to building castles along the Wall.
  2. The Andals are incomers who neither experienced the full rigours of the Long Night in its awfulness, nor ran from the blue-eyed lot.
  3. The North beyond the Neck was never conquered by the Andals, so this massive building programme and the men to carry out the work and then populate the castles can only be there with the consent of the Starks of Winterfell.
  4. This consent and oversight is not inconsistent with what we see; a Watch not always commanded but certainly dominated by Starks and castles which serve as barracks but have no defences and cannot form a threat to the Stark kingdom of the North. There is also the business of pledging to play no part in the affairs of the realm, ie; they are allowed to go north for the purpose of manning those castles and the Wall but no other.

So why now, what has changed and why are the Starks of Winterfell co-operating? What are the Andals so afraid of?

And just as final point there’s that list of Lord Commanders discovered by Sam. There are reasonable explanations for his findings, after all he himself complains that he hasn’t had time to look properly and that there might be more as yet undiscovered. Yet that interview with Jon is important. There’s something in there that he says, and we know its important because quite uniquely GRRM tells it twice, first as a Sam POV and then for a second time as a Jon POV.

One of the things Sam talks about is the oldest list of Lord Commanders he’s discovered, with 674 names on it. Now the point about any list of Lord Commanders is that depending on how its arranged it will either begin or end with the current incumbent. Once again, although Jon cuts him off, its easy to work out that it was only compiled about 324 Lord Commanders ago, or if we apply the 8 year average approximately 2600 years ago, which is well within the second phase of the Wall’s existence, but it does beg one more question given that GRRM through Sam draws our attention to it. How reliable is the list and did the compiler use an average of 8 years a pop to reach back to that legendary foundation date?

Again anent the Andals, here’s Lord Rodrik aka Rodrik the reader in A Feast for Crows:

“I have been consulting Haereg’s History of the Ironborn. When last the salt kings and the rock kings met in Kingsmoot, Urron of Orkmont let his axemen loose among them, and Nagga’s ribs turned red with gore. House Greyiron ruled unchosen for a thousand years from that dark day, until the Andals came…

Asha smiled. “And miss the first kingsmoot called in…how long has it been, Nuncle?”

“Four thousand years, if Haereg can be believed. Half that, if you accept Maester Denestan’s arguments in Questions.”

This of course comes back to Hoster Blackwood’s statement that some masters the Andals didn’t turn up until 2,000 years ago. In this case. Haereg is giving the arrival of the Andals as 3,000 years ago with Maester Denestan arguing a more recent date. That there’s not a consensus is probably down to perspective with the Andals landing in the east and not causing problems for the Ironborn until much later.

 

Either way where there is consistency is in bringing the Andal arrival forwards and perhaps much further forwards from that 6,000 years bragged of by the Arryns.

 

On one level the chronology question is straightforward enough. At the outset we were presented with some impossibly mouldy dates; that the First Men came to Westeros 12,000 years ago; that the Long Night fell 8,000 years ago and the Andals arrived between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. However, we’ve since been told through Rodrik the Reader and Hoster Blackwood that some of these dates are nonsense and that the Andals rather more credibly only tooled up about 2,000 years ago and perhaps as recently as 1,500 years ago. No such correction has yet been offered on the earlier events like the Long Night but it would not be unreasonable to apply a similar discount, Thus, we could see the First Men rather more realistically turning up as recently as 6,000 years ago and the Long Night as recently as 4,000 years ago.

 

But does it go further than that? GRRM himself has gradually revealed the chronology to be wrong, but is it wrong because the historians can’t count, or is it wrong because its false?

 

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Lynn S The Wall – Deconstructing the Myth

Introduction

"The gods made seven wonders, and mortal man made nine," quoted the Halfmaester. "Rather impious of mortal man to do the gods two better, but there you are. The stone roads of Valyria were one of Longstrider's nine. The fifth, I believe."

The Wall, of course is one of the wonders made by man according to Lomas Longstrinder although we are not told what Longstrider thought when he gazed upon the Wall. It is a colossal fixture in the story, a character in itself. Its antiquity, presence and purpose largely forgotten; its true history shrouded in the mists of time; the subject of legend and fanciful oral tradition of the Dawn Age and the Long Night, of heroes and monsters.

When and how the Wall was built, by whom and why is open for discussion. The Wall isn’t just a massive construct of ice cutting across the land, 300 miles long and 700 feet high, as wide or wider on top as the Kingsroad, a bridge that spans the horizons with an abyss on either side. It is a magical construct; one of the hinges of the world as well as a physical construct. It is shaped like a sword east of Castle Black and a serpent to the west; in other words a sword without a hilt. It is one of the crossroads of the world; a bridge east and west and doorway between north and south.

The Wonders made by Man

A Game of Thrones - Jon III

The largest structure ever built by the hands of man, Benjen Stark had told Jon on the kingsroad when they had first caught sight of the Wall in the distance. "And beyond a doubt the most useless," Tyrion Lannister had added with a grin, but even the Imp grew silent as they rode closer. You could see it from miles off, a pale blue line across the northern horizon, stretching away to the east and west and vanishing in the far distance, immense and unbroken. This is the end of the world, it seemed to say.

Viewed by Jon from a distance; the Wall is a thin blue line which calls to mind the modern symbol of police forces.

The idea that the Wall and the Watch represents a police force between chaos and order is an apt description; harkening back to Black Crow’s essay on Winterfell as a prison and the Starks as wardens not only of Winterfell but the North in general including the Wall and the lands beyond the Wall. 

The Night’s Watch original purpose of guarding the realm against the darkness, lost and replaced with Wildling population as the enemy.  Something that occurs with the usurpation of the Night’s Watch by the Andals who view the wildling population and the old gods with extreme prejudice; expunging and replacing the true history in the process.

It will be obvious to the reader at this point that containing the wildlings cannot be the purpose of the Wall and the raison d’etre for the Nights Watch in the larger scheme of things.  Nor is it likely to have been built by men and giants.  The Wall is as much a magical construct as a physical construct.

 Ravenous Reader explains:

I'd say the existence of the Black Gate made out of weirwood is suggestive of a magical foundation.  That also seems to be a very old weirwood, judging from the face of the greenseer inhabiting it, as Bran observes.

A Storm of Swords - Bran IV

It was white weirwood, and there was a face on it.

A glow came from the wood, like milk and moonlight, so faint it scarcely seemed to touch anything beyond the door itself, not even Sam standing right before it. The face was old and pale, wrinkled and shrunken. It looks dead. Its mouth was closed, and its eyes; its cheeks were sunken, its brow withered, its chin sagging. If a man could live for a thousand years and never die but just grow older, his face might come to look like that.

The door opened its eyes.

Coldhands also confirms that there's some kind of ward woven into the Wall preventing the dead/undead from passing, hinting that the Wall is not merely a physical barrier but a metaphysical one.

The fact that the word 'weaving' is used in conjunction with the Wall is significant in itself -- see a few quotes below -- but the word 'weaving' is 'code' for magic, specifically that of the Children whose special art it was to 'weave snares of grass'...and there's always my favorite example of 'weaving silver seaweed' which I believe refers to the magic of the Children, particularly as it pertains to weirwoods.  Storms End and Winterfell -- the other two constructions also attributed to Brandon the Builder -- are magically woven structures, so by association perhaps one could speculate that the Wall is unlikely to be an ordinary structure either.

 'Brandon the Builder' learnt his architectural/engineerial skills from the Children, specifically receiving from them the instruction regarding how to build the Wall.  Seeing as the Children's own dwellings are hardly very sophisticated structures requiring vast armies of construction workers, and that it's confirmed that the reason they were defeated by the First Men is that they lacked the ability to forge metals of war , these techniques learnt from them by Brandon were likely to involve magic rather than a more prosaic definition of 'building construction'-- just as in the case of our 'Bran' who is currently acquiring shall-we-say 'unorthodox' methods of navigating the world in Bloodraven's cavern.

A Clash of Kings - Davos II

Together they tied off the sail as the boat rocked beneath them. As Davos unshipped the oars and slid them into the choppy black water, he said, "Who rowed you to Renly?"

"There was no need," she said. "He was unprotected. But here . . . this Storm's End is an old place. There are spells woven into the stones. Dark walls that no shadow can pass—ancient, forgotten, yet still in place."

"Shadow?" Davos felt his flesh prickling. "A shadow is a thing of darkness."

A Storm of Swords - Bran IV

"Why not?"

"The Wall. The Wall is more than just ice and stone, he said. There are spells woven into it . . .old ones, and strong. He cannot pass beyond the Wall."

GoT – Bran IV

"I could tell you the story about Brandon the Builder," Old Nan said. "That was always your favorite."

Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said theWall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite.

While the age of the Wall is in dispute; I believe Bran when he tells us that the Wall is thousands and thousands of years old. It’s size and span alone gives pause to the notion that it was built by man, hewing blocks of ice from frozen lakes over generations.  But where is the workforce to build it?  The forts along the Wall came much later; the Night’s Watch has both grown and dwindled and we know nothing of it’s original workforce..  The men of the Watch at Castle Black no longer maintain or increase the Wall; the current number inadequate to maintain such a task.  The Wildling population is sparse and scattered.

A Storm of Swords - Jon IV

 The Wall was often said to stand seven hundred feet high, but Jarl had found a place where it was both higher and lower. Before them, the ice rose sheer from out of the trees like some immense cliff, crowned by wind-carved battlements that loomed at least eight hundred feet high, perhaps nine hundred in spots. But that was deceptive, Jon realized as they drew closer. Brandon the Builder had laid his huge foundation blocks along the heights wherever feasible, and hereabouts the hills rose wild and rugged.

He had once heard his uncle Benjen say that the Wall was a sword east of Castle Black, but a snake to the west. It was true. Sweeping in over one huge humped hill, the ice dipped down into a valley, climbed the knife edge of a long granite ridgeline for a league or more, ran along a jagged crest, dipped again into a valley deeper still, and then rose higher and higher, leaping from hill to hill as far as the eye could see, into the mountainous west.

 Jarl had chosen to assault the stretch of ice along the ridge. Here, though the top of the Wall loomed eight hundred feet above the forest floor, a good third of that height was earth and stone rather than ice; the slope was too steep for their horses, almost as difficult a scramble as the Fist of the First Men, but still vastly easier to ascend than the sheer vertical face of the Wall itself. And the ridge was densely wooded as well, offering easy concealment. Once brothers in black had gone out every day with axes to cut back the encroaching trees, but those days were long past, and here the forest grew right up to the ice.

In the above passage we are given a more accurate observation of the Wall by Jon which creates some skepticism to my mind that the entire Wall was built by men and giants and I doubt there was ever a population captive or otherwise large enough for such a feat of engineering even over a span of thousands and thousands of years.  Or that the CotF had such knowledge to impart to Brandon the Builder.

 A plausible explanation might be that the Wall builders used resources that were already available in the form of a massive glacier or ice sheet.  It makes sense to me that magic was applied to the leading edge to fix it in place across the landscape to form the barrier, rather than cutting and moving massive blocks of ice from frozen lakes; to place on top of hills, rising ever higher into mountainous terrain, an unbroken line across the horizon. 

There is a suggestion that the Night’s Watch increased the Wall in places or maintained it after a fashion.  But I think this is a much later development and I question whether increasing the height was even necessary or feasible after a certain point.  Maintenance of the Wall becoming nothing more than adding crushed gravel along the top or maintaining the tunnels beneath the fortifications and perhaps increasing it’s height along specific points.

When Jon first sees the wall, there are catapults and wooden cranes along the top and we get a sense of the immensity of the Wall:

A Game of Thrones - Jon III

The largest structure ever built by the hands of man, Benjen Stark had told Jon on the kingsroad when they had first caught sight of the Wall in the distance. "And beyond a doubt the most useless," Tyrion Lannister had added with a grin, but even the Imp grew silent as they rode closer. You could see it from miles off, a pale blue line across the northern horizon, stretching away to the east and west and vanishing in the far distance, immense and unbroken. This is the end of the world, it seemed to say.

When they finally spied Castle Black, its timbered keeps and stone towers looked like nothing more than a handful of toy blocks scattered on the snow, beneath the vast wall of ice. The ancient stronghold of the black brothers was no Winterfell, no true castle at all. Lacking walls, it could not be defended, not from the south, or east, or west; but it was only the north that concerned the Night's Watch, and to the north loomed the Wall. Almost seven hundred feet high it stood, three times the height of the tallest tower in the stronghold it sheltered. His uncle said the top was wide enough for a dozen armored knights to ride abreast. The gaunt outlines of huge catapults and monstrous wooden cranes stood sentry up there, like the skeletons of great birds, and among them walked men in black as small as ants.

As he stood outside the armory looking up, Jon felt almost as overwhelmed as he had that day on the kingsroad, when he'd seen it for the first time. The Wall was like that. Sometimes he could almost forget that it was there, the way you forgot about the sky or the earth underfoot, but there were other times when it seemed as if there was nothing else in the world. It was older than the Seven Kingdoms, and when he stood beneath it and looked up, it made Jon dizzy. He could feel the great weight of all that ice pressing down on him, as if it were about to topple, and somehow Jon knew that if it fell, the world fell with it.

The Wall is a mountain of ice with all the characteristics of a glacier in it's size and blue white color; a remnant from a past age when massive ice sheets covered the land. It is described in several passages as shining like a blue crystal; an analog to Melisandre’s ruby on an immense scale.

A Game of Thrones - Bran III

He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal...

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

Sam squinted up at the Wall. It loomed above them, an icy cliff seven hundred feet high. Sometimes it seemed to Jon almost a living thing, with moods of its own. The color of the ice was wont to change with every shift of the light. Now it was the deep blue of frozen rivers, now the dirty white of old snow, and when a cloud passed before the sun it darkened to the pale grey of pitted stone. The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world.

 “It was the end of the World” is a description often repeated by different characters in reference to the Wall and on first read it means: the end of the world as we know it; or the end of life as we know it. Literally it means as far north as one can go before meeting a massive barrier and I think in this case an ice sheet or glacier for which the Wall is all that remains without travelling further north and north and north.  An anomaly since it should have melted and receded along with the main body of ice.

Ultimately, I think that the purpose and origin of the Wall is tied to whatever it was that Bran saw in the heart of winter, the reason that he must live. I have no real notion of what that might be, although Voice has suggested that Bran saw a frozen Khalasar. It’s an intriguing idea that would push the origin of long night eastward. There is some additional speculation from the World Book that supports that notion.

The World of Ice and Fire - Ancient History: The Long Night 

As the First Men established their realms following the Pact, little troubled them save their own feuds and wars, or so the histories tell us. It is also from these histories that we learn of the Long Night, when a season of winter came that lasted a generation—a generation in which children were born, grew into adulthood, and in many cases died without ever seeing the spring. Indeed, some of the old wives' tales say that they never even beheld the light of day, so complete was the winter that fell on the world. While this last may well be no more than fancy, the fact that some cataclysm took place many thousands of years ago seems certain. Lomas Longstrider, in his Wonders Made by Man, recounts meeting descendants of the Rhoynar in the ruins of the festival city of Chroyane who have tales of a darkness that made the Rhoyne dwindle and disappear, her waters frozen as far south as the joining of the Selhoru. According to these tales, the return of the sun came only when a hero convinced Mother Rhoyne's many children—lesser gods such as the Crab King and the Old Man of the River—to put aside their bickering and join together to sing a secret song that brought back the day. 

It is also written that there are annals in Asshai of such a darkness, and of a hero who fought against it with a red sword. His deeds are said to have been performed before the rise of Valyria, in the earliest age when Old Ghis was first forming its empire. This legend has spread west from Asshai, and the followers of R'hllor claim that this hero was named Azor Ahai, and prophesy his return. In the Jade Compendium, Colloquo Votar recounts a curious legend from Yi Ti, which states that the sun hid its face from the earth for a lifetime, ashamed at something none could discover, and that disaster was averted only by the deeds of a woman with a monkey's tail.

We have echoes of Old Nan’s tale when the snows fell hundreds of feet deep and according to the World Book the waters dwindled and rivers froze as far south as the Rhoyne. This sounds very suspiciously to me like the effects of an ice age or mini-ice age with sea levels falling; the water captured in glaciers and ice sheets to form land bridges. We are given something of a hint of this when Martin includes such ice age fauna as the woolly mammoth and the aurochs. Animals that are dying out at the end of our own ice age 12,000 or so years ago; remnants of the old races. 

We also have George Martin’s comment:

If time is permitting would you mind giving a brief description on how the wall was constructed?

Much of those details are lost in the mists of time and legend. No one can even say for certain if Brandon the Builder ever lived. He is as remote from the time of the novels as Noah and Gilgamesh are from our own time.

It’s curious that Martin references Noah and Gilgamesh in the above quote, since both stories tell the tale of great floods; vast cataclysms that are in evidence in our own geological history. Oceans recede, land bridges appear, then the bursting of glacial dams and massive flooding, the Hammer of the Water in other words. It is my contention that Brandon of legend was both the builder and breaker dams and that the CotF used what was available to them in the natural landscape. 

Whether the long night is an unnatural extension or acceleration of this cold period; it comes to an end; the waters released back into the seas and with the disappearance of land bridges; perhaps the capture and containment of an undead khalasar of grim reapers in the far north; surrounded by the poison waters which they cannot cross and the only land available to the south in Westeros. The Wall becomes a thin blue line of defense between order and chaos.

As to the antiquity of the Wall; I lean towards a great age; that the Wall is both the beginning and ending of things, a consequence of the long night which appears to have been a global catastrophe. We have the red lot with the nightly prayers echoing the vow of the Night’s Watch; Melisandre’s vigil at the wall as much her place as it is Jon’s; her search for the ancient enemy. The Great Other in opposition to Dany, the Great Mother.

There is also the question of the hinges the world; doorways to the otherworld or underworld; moving backwards and forwards in time and place. The seeming interconnection between The Wall, The House of Undying and The House of Black and White and the old gods. All places of power and sorcery that can be accessed either to consume magic or be consumed by it. 

And finally, the Wall itself a character in its own right, subject to moods and weeping; gloomy desolation; the personification of the ice dragon constellation.

The Wall defends itself

The Wall defends itself so we are told by Jon, that it is built with blood according to Ygritte and it may also build itself.
 

A Storm of Swords - Jon IV 

"It's made of ice," Jon pointed out.

"You know nothing, Jon Snow. This wall is made o' blood." 


Nor had it drunk its fill. By sunset, two of the Thenns had fallen from the ladder to their deaths, but they were the last. It was near midnight before Jon reached the top. The stars were out again, and Ygritte was trembling from the climb. "I almost fell," she said, with tears in her eyes. "Twice. Thrice. The Wall was trying t' shake me off, I could feel it." One of the tears broke free and trickled slowly down her cheek.

As a glacial wall it is subject to the seasonal melts and ice accumulation. We know that it is subject to ice storms and freezing rain and over thousands of years, it would increase in size on its own and shed its outer skin of rotting ice like a great serpent.

A Game of Thrones - Tyrion III :

It was bitingly cold up here, and the wind pulled at his clothes like an insistent lover. The top of the Wall was wider than the kingsroad often was, so Tyrion had no fear of falling, although the footing was slicker than he would have liked. The brothers spread crushed stone across the walkways, but the weight of countless footsteps would melt the Wall beneath, so the ice would seem to grow around the gravel, swallowing it, until the path was bare again and it was time to crush more stone.

His bare cheeks were ruddy with the cold, and his legs complained more loudly with every step, but Tyrion ignored them. The wind swirled around him, gravel crunched beneath his boots, while ahead the white ribbon followed the lines of the hills, rising higher and higher, until it was lost beyond the western horizon. He passed a massive catapult, as tall as a city wall, its base sunk deep into the Wall. The throwing arm had been taken off for repairs and then forgotten; it lay there like a broken toy, half-embedded in the ice.

A Game of Thrones - Catelyn V :

Catelyn had almost forgotten. In the north, the rain fell cold and hard, and sometimes at night it turned to ice. It was as likely to kill a crop as nurture it, and it sent grown men running for the nearest shelter. That was no rain for little girls to play in

A Dance with Dragons - Jon XII :

"Did they trouble you on your way south?"
"They never came in force, if that's your meaning, but they were with us all the same, nibbling at our edges. We lost more outriders than I care to think about, and it was worth your life to fall behind or wander off. Every nightfall we'd ring our camps with fire. They don't like fire much, and no mistake. When the snows came, though … snow and sleet and freezing rain, it's bloody hard to find dry wood or get your kindling lit, and the cold … some nights our fires just seemed to shrivel up and die. Nights like that, you always find some dead come the morning. 'Less they find you first. The night that Torwynd … my boy, he …' Tormund turned his face away. 
"I know," said Jon Snow.

A Dance with Dragons - Jon XIII :

"Six. Mully and the Flea look in need of something warm. So will you."
When Satin left, Jon seated himself and had another look at the maps of the lands north of the Wall. The fastest way to Hardhome was along the coast … from Eastwatch. The woods were thinner near the sea, the terrain mostly flatlands, rolling hills, and salt marshes. And when the autumn storms came howling, the coast got sleet and hail and freezing rain rather than snow. The giants are at Eastwatch, and Leathers says that some will help. From Castle Black the way was more difficult, right through the heart of the haunted forest. If the snow is this deep at the Wall, how much worse up there? 

An additional characteristic of the Wall is that Sentinels trees and Soldier pines grow up and abut the Wall on the northern side wherever the Watch allows them to grow. While on the southern side, the Wolfswood turns to grassland with no source of firewood near to hand.  

A Storm of Swords - Bran III :

It was the first village they had seen since leaving the foothills. 
The ground from here to the Wall was grasslands, Bran knew; fallow fields and low rolling hills, high meadows and lowland bogs. It would be much easier going than the mountains behind, but so much open space made Meera uneasy. "I feel naked," she confessed. "There's no place to hide." 


The norther side of the Wall would seem to have a second defensive wall of trees. As Ygritte tells us the Wall is built o’blood and the ascent the wildlings make explains why 

A Storm of Swords - Jon IV:

 And when they looked up Jarl and his team were gone. Men, ropes, stakes, all gone; nothing remained above six hundred feet. There was a wound in the Wall where the climbers had clung half a heartbeat before, the ice within as smooth and white as polished marble and shining in the sun. Far far below there was a faint red smear where someone had smashed against a frozen pinnacle.

The Wall defends itself, Jon thought as he pulled Ygritte back to her feet. 
They found Jarl in a tree, impaled upon a splintered branch and still roped to the three men who lay broken beneath him. One was still alive, but his legs and spine were shattered, and most of his ribs as well. "Mercy," he said when they came upon him. One of the Thenns smashed his head in with a big stone mace. The Magnar gave orders, and his men began to gather fuel for a pyre.

The imagery of the climbers falling to their death, impaled on soldier pines and sentinel trees seems to have its analog in Bran’s vision of icy spears flying up towards him and the curtain of light surrounding the heart of winter.

A Game of Thrones - Bran III :

He lifted his eyes and saw clear across the narrow sea, to the Free Cities and the green Dothraki sea and beyond, to Vaes Dothrak under its mountain, to the fabled lands of the Jade Sea, to Asshai by the Shadow, where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise.

Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him. And he looked past the Wall, past endless forests cloaked in snow, past the frozen shore and the great blue-white rivers of ice and the dead plains where nothing grew or lived. North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks. 

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

"Why?" Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

Bran looked at the crow on his shoulder, and the crow looked back. It had three eyes, and the third eye was full of a terrible knowledge. Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid

The dead plains where nothing grew or lived and the dreamers impaled upon the points of spears calls to mind Jorah’s tale of ghost grass and the dead city encountered by Dany’s bloodrider in the desert surround by spears and bones that he does not enter.

A Game of Thrones - Daenerys III :

Down in the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai, they say there are oceans of ghost grass, taller than a man on horseback with stalks as pale as milkglass. It murders all other grass and glows in the dark with the spirits of the damned. The Dothraki claim that someday ghost grass will cover the entire world, and then all life will end." 

A Clash of Kings - Daenerys I :

Aggo was back next. The southwest was barren and burnt, he swore. He had found the ruins of two more cities, smaller than Vaes Tolorro but otherwise the same. One was warded by a ring of skulls mounted on rusted iron spears, so he dared not enter, but he had explored the second for as long as he could. He showed Dany an iron bracelet he had found, set with a uncut fire opal the size of her thumb. There were scrolls as well, but they were dry and crumbling and Aggo had left them where they lay.

A Clash of Kings - Daenerys I 

Other searchers returned with tales of other fruit trees, hidden behind closed doors in secret gardens. Aggo showed her a courtyard overgrown with twisting vines and tiny green grapes, and Jhogo discovered a well where the water was pure and cold. Yet they found bones too, the skulls of the unburied dead, bleached and broken. "Ghosts," Irri muttered. "Terrible ghosts. We must not stay here, Khaleesi, this is their place." 

It may be that the fortifications begin at the Wall, the thin blue line between order and chaos; with a second defensive ring of trees; a dead zone, followed by a ward which Bran can see with the third eye as a curtain of light or containment wall and icy spears impaling the bones of ‘dreamers’ another defensive wall. A clear warning in the Dothraki culture that terrible ghosts reside within and the living should not enter.

This is formidable magic or great lore as Meliasndre puts it and altogether the ancient enemy must be very frightening indeed.

There is an old heresy in these parts that during the battle for the Dawn that the Cotf and First Men were forced into an alliance; that the Children’s own weapon turned on them; that they had lost control of it. Joramun warns that sorcery is a sword without a hilt with no safe way to grasp it.
Moqorro gives a good explanation of the consequences:

A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion VIII :

"I know some sailors say that any man who lays eyes upon that coast is doomed." He did not believe such tales himself, no more than his uncle had. Gerion Lannister had set sail for Valyria when Tyrion was eighteen, intent on recovering the lost ancestral blade of House Lannister and any other treasures that might have survived the Doom. Tyrion had wanted desperately to go with them, but his lord father had dubbed the voyage a "fool's quest," and forbidden him to take part.

And perhaps he was not so wrong. Almost a decade had passed since the Laughing Lion headed out from Lannisport, and Gerion had never returned. The men Lord Tywin sent to seek after him had traced his course as far as Volantis, where half his crew had deserted him and he had bought slaves to replace them. No free man would willingly sign aboard a ship whose captain spoke openly of his intent to sail into the Smoking Sea. "So those are fires of the Fourteen Flames we're seeing, reflected on the clouds?"

"Fourteen or fourteen thousand. What man dares count them? It is not wise for mortals to look too deeply at those fires, my friend. Those are the fires of god's own wrath, and no human flame can match them. We are small creatures, men."


"Some smaller than others." Valyria. It was written that on the day of Doom every hill for five hundred miles had split asunder to fill the air with ash and smoke and fire, blazes so hot and hungry that even the dragons in the sky were engulfed and consumed. Great rents had opened in the earth, swallowing palaces, temples, entire towns. Lakes boiled or turned to acid, mountains burst, fiery fountains spewed molten rock a thousand feet into the air, red clouds rained down dragonglass and the black blood of demons, and to the north the ground splintered and collapsed and fell in on itself and an angry sea came rushing in. The proudest city in all the world was gone in an instant, its fabled empire vanished in a day, the Lands of the Long Summer scorched and drowned and blighted.

An empire built on blood and fire. The Valyrians reaped the seed they had sown. "Does our captain mean to test the curse?"

On the icy side of the equation; it’s the killing cold that is the unseen enemy; entering the body and raising an army of the dead. The dead that hate the living and can’t be controlled; something that destroys all life indiscriminately. The reason why Bloodraven warns Bran not to raise the dead. 

The Wall is a stop-gap measure acting as both a physical and magical barrier. To be effective, it must consume and contain the killing cold, locking it within the ice itself; tooling up during the winters and consuming itself during the summers; the dragon that swallows its own tail. 

A Storm of Swords - Bran IV 

But he was a broken boy with useless legs, so all he could do was watch from below as Meera went up in his stead.

She wasn't really climbing, the way he used to climb. She was only walking up some steps that the Night's Watch had hewn hundreds and thousands of years ago. He remembered Maester Luwin saying the Nightfort was the only castle where the steps had been cut from the ice of the Wall itself. Or maybe it had been Uncle Benjen. The newer castles had wooden steps, or stone ones, or long ramps of earth and gravel. Ice is too treacherous. It was his uncle who'd told him that. He said that the outer surface of the Wall wept icy tears sometimes, though the core inside stayed frozen hard as rock. The steps must have melted and refrozen a thousand times since the last black brothers left the castle, and every time they did they shrunk a little and got smoother and rounder and more treacherous. 

And smaller. It's almost like the Wall was swallowing them back into itself. Meera Reed was very surefooted, but even so she was going slowly, moving from nub to nub. In two places where the steps were hardly there at all she got down on all fours. It will be worse when she comes down, Bran thought, watching. Even so, he wished it was him up there. When she reached the top, crawling up the icy knobs that were all that remained of the highest steps, Meera vanished from his sight.

Conclusion 

Although it is generally accepted that the Cotf and their greenseers raised the Wall and for good reason; I doubt that the Wall was physically built by men and I question whether or not other agencies were involved given the metaphysical connections between the Wall, the House of Black and White and the House of the Undying. I think these connections or doorways between suggest a great age rather than a more recent development.

And I wonder what Dany has released into the world when she woke the old powers in Mirri Maaz Duur’s ritual; brought dragons back into the world and destroyed the House of the Undying. 

That is the subject of part II of this discussion to follow: the Hinges of the World; the Wall as a magical construct and the personification of the Ice Dragon. 

Many, many thanks to Ravenous Reader, Crystal Feather and Yield for assistance and support.  Their generosity is boundless! 

 

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BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU PRAY FOR by Feather Crystal 

Or 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:

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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ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST…   by Black Crow

“I spy with my little eye,” said Dayne as he polished his sword. “Something beginning with R”

“Rock,” replied Whent with utter certainty

“Got it in one, go on, it’s your turn”

“I spy something beginning with R”

“Need something different”

“It is different, it’s a red rock”

“They’re all bloody red,” pointed out Hightower, scratching his crotch moodily. “Anyway, its time to go and get the bread and milk; two pints, and see if you can get a newspaper while you’re at it”

“It’ll be out of date. Always is. And so’s the milk”

“I’m not bothered about the news, it’s always the same. I want to do the crossword”

“You did one of them before”

“Didn’t finish it though, did I? You got caught short that night, remember?”

“Bloody sour milk, sorry about that”

“I hear the Dothraki drink themselves silly on the stuff once its fermented”

“Might try that,” commented Dayne, wistfully.  “Getting beastly drunk has to be better than staring at rocks”

“Well who’s fault is that? Who was it got her preggers, and then his nibs turns round and puts on his sanctimonious go to meeting face and says it won’t be fair to take you off to the wars and let the little bastard grow up without ever seeing his father”

“Not my fault… well I suppose it is, but what about you two?”

“Ah high politicks that one,” says Hightower loftily, then produces his famous impersonation of the last best hope of House Targaryen;  ‘I’m going to speak VERY FIRMLY to Pater about making changes,’ says he, ’and anyway I know you can’t stand the sight of blood’

“Smell of burnt toast more like, knowing his Old Man” grumbled Whent .

“Speaking of toast, are you going for the bread or not?”

“Not my turn, I did the washing up last night”

“I don’t care, I’m the Lord Commander and what I say goes… hullo… what’s this? Riders!”

“Can’t be the guy to read the gas meter, he came last week.”

“And there’s seven of them”

“Oh shit” muttered Dayne. “Seven; warrior, smith, maiden, mother, crone and all that jazz… It’s the bloody Jehovah’s Witnesses!”

 

And as to what may have happened next...

In AGoT chapter 39, Ned has his infamous dream about the fight there as quoted many a time. He's woken from it by Vayon Poole and becomes involved in various bits of business, and on learning that Alyn, the new captain of his guard, has given the body of Jory Cassel into the keeping of the silent sisters to be taken home to Winterfell to lie beside his grandfather, he reflects:

It would have to be his grandfather, for Jory's father was buried far to the south. Martyn Cassel had perished with the rest. Ned had pulled the tower down afterward, and used its bloody stones to build eight cairns upon the ridge. It was said that Rhaegar had named that place the tower of joy, but for Ned it was a bitter memory. They had been seven against three, yet only two lived to ride away; Eddard Stark himself and the little crannogman, Howland Reed.

This, incidentally, is the only use of the term tower of joy [no initial capitals] anywhere in the books, and at this point we need to qualify the dream and its aftermath with this comment by GRRM:

http://www.westeros....he_Tower_of_Joy

You'll need to wait for future books to find out more about the Tower of Joy and what happened there, I fear.

I might mention, though, that Ned's account, which you refer to, was in the context of a dream... and a fever dream at that. Our dreams are not always literal.

So there’s something wrong with the dream passage, but what? To a large extent the encounter itself is confirmed by the passage about Ned’s thoughts on waking. He’s not dreaming, feverishly or otherwise, when he thinks of Martyn Cassel and the aftermath of the fight, so it obviously happened and it ended with all of them dead except Messrs Stark and Reed. Nor do I think there’s a problem with the exchange between Ned and the Kingsguard that preceded the fight. It’s too clear, too precise, not to be a memory of an actual conversation, or at least an accurate memory of the gist of what was said. Nor can Ned seeing his dead friends as wraiths or the blood red skies be regarded as significant enough to justify GRRM’s warning, given that he was specifically responding to a question about the events.  That then leaves Lyanna.

Is GRRM therefore hinting that in his “fever dream” Ned is conflating two related but different memories; that of the fight and that of Lyanna’s death, not in an old watchtower in the Prince’s Pass, but somewhere else entirely and not improbably Starfall?

It’s not only an interpretation that makes sense, but one which makes a lot more sense than star-crossed lovers spending all that time at the tower. In the first place the tower in question wasn't a remote hideaway by any stretch of the imagination, but a watchtower sitting on a ridge overlooking one of only two roads into Dorne. It was not a castle, or even a holdfast, but a simple watchtower. All in all; very small, very squalid and very Spartan. There is no way it could have been used as a hideout for a prince, and a young [and latterly pregnant] girl attended by two and eventually three members of the famous kingsguard, bickering over whose turn it was to fetch the bread, milk and morning papers over a period of several months. [see above]

All very well says you, but what about the Kingsguard and why the tower?

Again it’s worth turning back to GRRM, specifically answering that question:

http://web.archive.o...s3/00103009.htm

Martin: The King's Guards don't get to make up their own orders. They serve the king, they protect the king and the royal family, but they're also bound to obey their orders, and if Prince Rhaegar gave them a certain order, they would do that.

There’s a clear implication here that the reason they were so far from home in the first place is that they were obeying an order given by Prince Rhaegar or even Aerys himself. Exactly what that order was we don’t know but it is apparent from the exchange with Ned it was an order they didn’t like. It’s also important at this point to consider the timing of that order.

Rhaegar has been absent for months, but at some point Hightower catches up with him bearing Aerys’ summons to return. Rhaegar then does so, but Hightower, Dayne and Whent remain behind. I’ll discuss a possible reason for this shortly, but at this particular moment when Rhaegar returns to Kings Landing, Aerys is the King, Rhaegar is the Crown Prince, and Rhaegar’s own son and heir, Aegon is still living. Jon is still just a bump, so with war raging up north, leaving three out of the seven members of the guard to protect an unborn child who at best will be third in line after Aerys seems a touch odd.

So let’s look at what happens:

"I looked for you on the Trident," Ned said to them.

"We were not there," Ser Gerold answered.

"Woe to the Usurper if we had been," said Ser Oswell

 The use of the term Usurper is interesting. Robert is no longer a rebel, they acknowledge that he holds the throne, they just refuse to recognise him as their king.

"When King's Landing fell, Ser Jaime slew your king with a golden sword, and I wondered where you were."

"Far away," Ser Gerold said, "or Aerys would yet sit on the Iron Throne, and our false brother would burn in seven hells."

 But not “here” and Aerys is still their king and still would be if they had anything to do with it.

"I came down on Storm's End to lift the siege," Ned told them, "and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dipped their banners, and all their knights bent the knee to pledge us fealty. I was certain you would be among them."

"Our knees do not bend easily," said Ser Arthur Dayne.

 Now again this one is consistent with the bit about the usurper. Tyrell, Redwyne and the others did bend the knee, because their king and his heirs and successors were gone and there was no point in fighting on in the name of that boy fled to Dragonstone. On the other hand Messrs Hightower, Dayne and Whent decline to do so because their pride and their honour as members of Aerys’ guard do not allow it.

 If we separate Lyanna from the tower, there is nothing in the exchange with the Kingsguard to suggest that they are guarding anybody; whether Lyanna Stark, Jon Snow or even, the gods help us, Aegon Targaryen.

So why are they at the tower?

 The obvious answer is that it’s a landmark and human nature being what it is their eyes will be drawn to it – as will Ned’s.

 We now know from the World Book about Rhaegar’s involvement in a coup to overthrow Aerys and the Harrenhal tourney being a cover for a gathering of conspirators or would-be conspirators. However the three guards in the Pass, and certainly not Hightower, were not party to the possible coup. Their loyalty to Aerys is unambiguously expressed. Whether Rhaegar ordered them to remain behind for that very reason, perhaps only using Lyanna and her bump as a pretext, we don't know but it’s a very strong possibility given that the exchange with Ned affirms their loyalty to Aerys but mentions no other king.

Ser Willem Darry is fled to Dragonstone, with your Queen and Prince Viserys. I thought you might have sailed with him.”

“Ser Willem is a good man and true,” said Ser Oswell.

“But not of the Kingsguard,” Ser Gerold pointed out. “The Kingsguard does not flee.”

“Then or now,” said Ser Arthur. He donned his helm.

“We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Gerold.

There’s another interesting point here. We also know from the World Book that when Rhaegar died at the Trident, Aerys named his own second son Viserys as his heir in place of Rhaegar’s son Aegon. Its argued by some of those who believe that R+L=Jon Targaryen that the Kings Guard were protecting the true king – but that was Viserys and men whose last words repeatedly affirm their loyalty to Aerys are hardly likely to be rejecting his last orders.

 Therefore if we look at the exchange between Ned and the three knights without preconceptions as to R+L=J it all makes sense. In the first place the knights are not defending or protecting anything, the three of them have lined up to fight.

 It is more like the OK corral than the defence of Kings Landing.

 We're actually given some very strong clues as to this. They speak of their king, Aerys, who they failed by being far away. They refer to Bob as the Usurper, because he has usurped the throne.  Then both Viserys and Danaerys refer to Ned as the usurper's dog. He is recognised as Bob's right-hand man and just as responsible for everything that has happened.

 The knights also speak of Jaime Lanister with some understandable venom and how he should burn in seven hells

 And then there's the final exchange: "And now it begins..." to which Ned replies no, "Now it ends..."

That bit tends to get passed over in discussion but it’s of a piece with the rest. The three knights have failed in their duty and their king is dead. They are now Ronin and all that remains is their honour. That not only means that they will not kneel, but they will die avenging him.

 This is the vow they have sworn. "It begins" with killing the Usurper's Dog and if they're not stopped the forsworn Jaime Lanister and the Usurper himself are next on the list.  But to Ned "Now it ends", because the war is over and too many have already died. And so they fight, and so the three Ronin die.

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And now for the bonus feature...

The Citadel: Birthplace of the Grey Rats

by the Fatest Leech

What we know of the Citadel origins is a based on what we learn is a AFFC Samwell chapter, or what we learn from the World book.

  • TWOIAF: The origins of the Citadel are almost as mysterious as those of the Hightower itself. Most credit its founding to the second son of Uthor of the High Tower, Prince Peremore the Twisted. A sickly boy, born with a withered arm and twisted back, Peremore was bedridden for much of his short life but had an insatiable curiosity about the world beyond his window, so he turned to wise men, teachers, priests, healers, and singers, along with a certain number of wizards, alchemists, and sorcerers. It is said the prince had no greater pleasure in life than listening to these scholars argue with one another. When Peremore died, his brother King Urrigon bequeathed a large tract of land beside the Honeywine to "Peremore's pets," that they might establish themselves and continue teaching, learning, and questing after truth. And so they did.
    • I was curious and looked up what "Peremore" could possibly mean in the real world, but found nothing. So I stayed within the theme of the series and checked for word play, which brought me to Peregrine and found this: A powerful bird found in coastal areas, foreign, abroad, farming, pilgrim.
  • Rats in general have a negative connotation in the story. They always seem to go against the main protagonists of the series. The Freys come to mind first. But also the rats of King's Landing during the Great Spring sickness. There is speculation that it was Bloodraven that drove the rats from the city. That was, after all, the place where BR's family lived and he had already lost some to the sickness.
    • TSS: "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?"

Now, this all seems normal, and then we have the this piece of information given to us (below). Now this is strange, and highly risky, because of the terrible nature of pirates we are told about.

  • "Not far. The Isle of Ravens."

They did not need a boat to reach the Isle of Ravens; a weathered wooden drawbridge linked it to the eastern bank. "The Ravenry is the oldest building at the Citadel," Alleras told him, as they crossed over the slow-flowing waters of the Honeywine. "In the Age of Heroes it was supposedly the stronghold of a pirate lord who sat here robbing ships as they came down the river."

Moss and creeping vines covered the walls, Sam saw, and ravens walked its battlements in place of archers. The drawbridge had not been raised in living memory.

·         Who were these pirates?

·         How were they defeated?

·         Could it have been for money?

The bonding of faith and money, such a natural union...

Money can be a devious beast, depending on the side of the coin that lands face up. It causes all sorts of issues among friends, family, and countrymen alike. It is a root cause for issues like greed, jealousy, and deception. But who would take such a chance against a bunch of pirates that take valuable goods from pirates? Enter House Hightower...

  • Supported Greens over the Blacks, which during the Dance of the Dragons, it was shown that they were trying to work their way in to ruling power.
  • House words, 'We Light the Way", and they use a beacon of fire atop a building. By the way, have you guys ever read And Seven Times Never Kill Man??? You should if you have not had the chance yet. Why? Well, this overlaps with George's use of a lighted beacon atop a stone structure that is used to lure in the unsuspecting. Annnd the Steel Angels. Just sayin' because this is not the only place we see fire atop a building in ASOIAF.
  • TWOIAF: When the Andals came, the Hightowers were amongst the first lords of Westeros to welcome them. "Wars are bad for trade," said Lord Dorian Hightower, when he set aside his wife of twenty years, the mother of his children, to take an Andal princess as his bride. His grandson Lord Damon (the Devout) was the first to accept the Faith. To honor the new gods, he built the first sept in Oldtown and six more elsewhere in his realm. When he died prematurely of a bad belly, Septon Robeson became regent for his newborn son, ruling Oldtown in all but name for the next twenty years and ultimately becoming the first High Septon. The boy he raised and trained, Lord Triston Hightower, raised the Starry Sept in his honor after his passing.
  • From the author: Q.How does the Citadel get financed? A: Lords pay for the service of the Maesters and the Citadel collects some of the revenue of Oldtown via taxes.
    • What is funny about this is that maesters do not stay loyal to a family, instead it seems as though they stay loyal to a castle. So as families may come and go, the maesters always have shelter over their head and they have a definite place to live while they await a new family to train.

The Citadel can't make money off the trees! If no one needs or believes what the measters are teaching, or of they realize that they can go out in search of knowledge on their own, then the maesters and Citadel lose money. Follow the green.

Basically, the Citadel is assuring its own growth and survival by planting themselves in different castles, not necessarily with the family as we have seen when a family changes. What does this mean for the future of Westeros? Will there be a reform?

Maesters covet dragons- the flying kind

But wait, if wars are bad for trade, then why did the Citadel work against the Targaryens??? I mean, the Targaryens were not poor, rough spun wearing, tree-huggers. No. They were rich, so maybe it is something else? As we see in the Dance of the Dragons and the Hightower/Targaryen marriages, if you can't weed them out, breed them in. Maybe there is something to the dilution of magic in the blood, or, maybe the Citadel wants to covet the magic of dragons, the fire magic of the "gods", for themselves.

The Hightower, building and sigil, could be that hiding-in-plain-sight beacon? Think about the parallels to the dragons in Meereen now roosting atop the pyramids like flaming beacons of fire (while making claim to the pyramid). Also, the Hightower in Oldtown is said to be an actual beacon that guides ships into port. Dany, the sea loving dragon, is coming to Westeros. Could she be destined for Oldtown at some point?

We get a parrallel to this in the north at the wall as well:

  • "I've sent to Oldtown for more maesters. You'll have two ravens for when your need is urgent. When it's not, send riders. Until we have more maesters and more birds, I mean to establish a line of beacon towers along the top of the Wall."

Fire and Ice magics

The Citadel seems to have this diacotomy of wanting to hold magic, and yet wanting to suppress and even eliminate it. Chances are is the Citadel want to be the holders of magic and the highest power in the country. There is a chance that this "wisdom" is passed down from the Archmaesters to the house maesters and the acolytes. The house maesters are just repeating what they are taught, but eventually after several generations, magic and religion and any other knowledge is ridden from Westeros and the Citadel could reign supreme. Yeah, it sounds really fantastical, doesn't it? But is it false?

We know from the books that, "Though the Citadel has long sought to learn the manner by which it may predict the length and change of seasons, all efforts have been confounded." Confounded? Why so? Could it be because of GRRM's statement that is keeping them so confounded?

Bran has always dreamed to be a knight even though there are no knights in the north, and he shares this idea with Luwin. So what is a broken boy to do? Well, naturally the measter encourages Citadel training because that should teach the magic out of the boy. Kindly, dear old Maester Luwin is frequently telling Bran that the Children of the Forest (and other old god creatures) are gone. Bran tries to explain his dreams and feelings to Luwin and the response he gets is:

  • Broken, Bran thought bitterly as he clutched his knife. Is that what he was now? Bran the Broken? "I don't want to be broken," he whispered fiercely to Maester Luwin, who'd been seated to his right. "I want to be a knight."

"There are some who call my order the knights of the mind," Luwin replied. "You are a surpassing clever boy when you work at it, Bran. Have you ever thought that you might wear a maester's chain? There is no limit to what you might learn."

"I want to learn magic," Bran told him. "The crow promised that I would fly."

Maester Luwin sighed. "I can teach you history, healing, herblore. I can teach you the speech of ravens, and how to build a castle, and the way a sailor steers his ship by the stars. I can teach you to measure the days and mark the seasons, and at the Citadel in Oldtown they can teach you a thousand things more. But, Bran, no man can teach you magic."

"The children could," Bran said. "The children of the forest." That reminded him of the promise he had made to Osha in the godswood, so he told Luwin what she had said.


But this is not true because we have Bran in his weirwood throne actually learning everything, and more, that Luwin claimed the Citadel could teach him. There is no way that the Citadel can give this level of learning... could they?

  • Could Ice= Bran, Fire= Citadel?

There is something called a wood dancer in the story and they are thought to be the knights of the Children of the Forest. So, in a way Bran has achieved his wish, while simultaneously proving maesters wrong and exposing the reader to the bias. Bran has become THEknight of the mind.

  • The hunters among the children—their wood dancers—became their warriors as well, but for all their secret arts of tree and leaf, they could only slow the First Men in their advance. The greenseers employed their arts, and tales say that they could call the beasts of marsh, forest, and air to fight on their behalf: direwolves and monstrous snowbears, cave lions and eagles, mammoths and serpents, and more.

The Other mysteries

The maester written World book is filled with the concept that magic and higher myteries (knowledge) are not worth exploring. Just put it out of your mind... here come take a look at this shiny link I forged. Isn't it shiny. By the way, please pay your taxes so that the Citadel can continue to keep its income steady.

  • Legend further holds that the greenseers could also delve into the past and see far into the future. But as all our learning has shown us, the higher mysteries that claim this power also claim that their visions of the things to come are unclear and often misleading—a useful thing to say when seeking to fool the unwary with fortune-telling. Though the children had arts of their own, the truth must always be separated from superstition, and knowledge must be tested and made sure. The higher mysteries, the arts of magic, were and are beyond the boundaries of our mortal ability to examine.

Though considered disreputable in this, our present day, a fragment of Septon Barth's Unnatural History has proved a source of controversy in the halls of the Citadel. Claiming to have consulted with texts said to be preserved at Castle Black, Septon Barth put forth that the children of the forest could speak with ravens and could make them repeat their words.

However, as much as they seem to oppose magic, they also study it. Why? If magic is "nonesense" and doesn't really exist, when take the time to study it, forge Valyrian steels link, give blood donations to the glass candles, etc?

  • "This is Valyrian steel," he said when the link of dark grey metal lay against the apple of his throat. "Only one maester in a hundred wears such a link. This signifies that I have studied what the Citadel calls the higher mysteries—magic, for want of a better word. A fascinating pursuit, but of small use, which is why so few maesters trouble themselves with it.
  • "There are men who call themselves mages and warlocks," Maester Luwin said. "I had a friend at the Citadel who could pull a rose out of your ear, but he was no more magical than I was. Oh, to be sure, there is much we do not understand.

It seems fairly evident that Marwyn the Mage is the closest to pulling roses out of ears, and he has received a fair amount of scorn and contempt for attaining such knowledge.

  • "Kill him?" Sam said, shocked. "Why?"

"If I tell you, they may need to kill you too." Marywn smiled a ghastly smile, the juice of the sourleaf running red between his teeth. "Who do you think killed all the dragons the last time around? Gallant dragonslayers armed with swords?" He spat. "The world the Citadel is building has no place in it for sorcery or prophecy or glass candles, much less for dragons. Ask yourself why Aemon Targaryen was allowed to waste his life upon the Wall, when by rights he should have been raised to archmaester. His blood was why. He could not be trusted. No more than I can."

"What will you do?" asked Alleras, the Sphinx.  (<<<<---- sneaky Alleras. Prying for info)

 

Even un-maester Qyburn was scorned from attaining further knowledge that could be seen in modern eyes as exploratory surgery. (George has said that Aeron is really only providing CPR)

  • Qyburn did not look a monster, Jaime thought. He was spare and soft-spoken, with warm brown eyes. "How does a maester come to ride with the Brave Companions?"

"The Citadel took my chain." Qyburn put away his needle. "I should do something about that wound above your eye as well. The flesh is badly inflamed."

 

Could the Citadel be punishing people, even their own followers, for going out on their own to learn actual knowledge that is not spoonfed to them? The player punishing the pawns via an unsound variation could end up biting them in the ass when all is said and done.

Also if curious note is the lack of response when Grand Maester Pycelle was locked in the black cells. Why no response?

 

The dose makes the poison

What happens to the (human) children that wake up and share their probably prophectic dreams to their house measter? Why, they are drugged or hushed as any good doctor would do to a child. 

  • "I had bad dreams," Shireen told him. "About the dragons. They were coming to eat me."

The child had been plagued by nightmares as far back as Maester Cressen could recall. "We have talked of this before," he said gently. "The dragons cannot come to life. They are carved of stone, child. In olden days, our island was the westernmost outpost of the great Freehold of Valyria. It was the Valyrians who raised this citadel, and they had ways of shaping stone since lost to us. A castle must have towers wherever two walls meet at an angle, for defense. The Valyrians fashioned these towers in the shape of dragons to make their fortress seem more fearsome, just as they crowned their walls with a thousand gargoyles instead of simple crenellations." He took her small pink hand in his own frail spotted one and gave it a gentle squeeze. "So you see, there is nothing to fear."

  • Sweetrobin is overdosed because of his "tremors' and his hearing voices.
  • Bran is dosed when he wakes from his coma dream.
  • Teora Toland also has possible prophetic dreams and a maester who is dismissing her, and yet Teora supposedly has a taste for "sweet things":

"How could you possibly know that?" her sister asked, with a note of scorn in her voice. "One of your little dreams?"

Teora gave a tiny nod, chin trembling. "They were dancing. In my dream. And everywhere the dragons danced the people died."

"Seven save us." Lady Nymella gave an exasperated sigh. "If you did not eat so many creamcakes you would not have such dreams. Rich foods are not for girls your age, when your humors are so unbalanced. Maester Toman says—"

"I hate Maester Toman," Teora said. Then she bolted from the table, leaving her lady mother to make apologies for her.

 

Also, when Ned goes to Grand Maester Pycelle during his clue collecting for what Jon Arryn could have been looking for, Pycelle plays the ignorant during the meeting, however, we do see GM Pycelle serve an overly sweetened milk to Ned. Ned later complains about the sweet ice milk, but that does not mean he hates it, it is just the dose makes the poison. 

  • Pycelle lifted a tiny silver bell with thumb and forefinger and tinkled it gently. A slender young serving girl hurried into the solar. "Iced milk for the King's Hand and myself, if you would be so kind, child. Well sweetened."

But later we see that Ned does like sweet stuff, just not "well sweetened". Could Grand Maester Pycelle have been slipping something extra (besides honey) in to Ned's drink at the time?

  • Ned drank. His lips were parched and cracked. The water tasted sweet as honey.
  • When Pycelle was gone, Ned called for a cup of honeyed wine. That clouded the mind as well, yet not as badly. He needed to be able to think.

Remember one thing kids,

  • "The maesters say greyscale is not—"

"The maesters may believe what they wish. Ask a woods witch if you would know the truth.

The men who heal are the men who kill

Alchemy is a form of "magic". Turning iron into gold, as the tale goes. Just ask Pate... oh wait, you can't because he got what he wished for when he reversed the alchemial change from gold into iron. However, Pate aside, the Citadel does have its trickster hand in the art of alchemy as well.

What we know of philosophical teachings alchemy in the real world is that is was used a transmutation of base metals into noble metals, and the creation of an exliir of immortality. This immortality is a common theme we see working its way through the story via skinchanging a second life, faceless men mask wearing, perhaps something with a dragon bond and second life, Bloodraven feeding the tree and becoming part of the data storage in the weirnet.

  • The alchemists of Lys knew the way of it, though, and the Faceless Men of Braavos . . . and the maesters of his order as well, though it was not something talked about beyond the walls of the Citadel. All the world knew that a maester forged his silver link when he learned the art of healing—but the world preferred to forget that men who knew how to heal also knew how to kill.
  • The substance was the pyromancers' own term for wildfire. They called each other wisdom as well, which Tyrion found almost as annoying as their custom of hinting at the vast secret stores of knowledge that they wanted him to think they possessed. Once theirs had been a powerful guild, but in recent centuries the maesters of the Citadel had supplanted the alchemists almost everywhere. Now only a few of the older order remained, and they no longer even pretended to transmute metals . . .

 

In conclusion:

 

First, thanks for taking the time to read through this. I hope I gave enough info to ignite some deeper discussions.

Second, If there was ever such a perfect time to bring the World of Ice and Fire book into a discussion, this be it. The book is written by a master of the Citadel, Maester Yandel, with excerpts and additional input from other maester's added along the way. There are very few bits of clear, totally unbiased pieces of information in this book, but let's take a look between the lines to see what we find.

I am excited to hear the discussion that comes out of this. I know this is just the tip of the wand when it comes to the Citadel and the measters, but it is all I could fit.

 

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47 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

The Citadel seems to have this diacotomy of wanting to hold magic, and yet wanting to suppress and even eliminate it. Chances are is the Citadel want to be the holders of magic and the highest power in the country. There is a chance that this "wisdom" is passed down from the Archmaesters to the house maesters and the acolytes. The house maesters are just repeating what they are taught, but eventually after several generations, magic and religion and any other knowledge is ridden from Westeros and the Citadel could reign supreme.

...

What happens to the (human) children that wake up and share their probably prophectic dreams to their house measter? Why, they are drugged or hushed as any good doctor would do to a child. 

There's a lot to digest in this essay, but I did briefly want to expand upon this--although Marwyn and Lady Dustin have provided the most overt re-contextualization of the Citadel, I think that what they tell us also casts some of Aeron's POV opinions of "green land" influence and the maesters in a new light, and gives us insight into how the Citadel suppresses magic.

In particular, we see that Aeron is upset by the trend of the Iron Islands abandoning true drownings in favor of a comparatively tamer baptism; while, on the surface, this is just a religious fanatic grumbling about how the Iron Islands are becoming soft, I think this is an example of the "civilizing influence" of the Citadel undermining the ritual traditions that may have once fueled magic.

Aeron himself is considered a prophet, and we have another drowned character with prophetic visions: Patchface. Granted, Patchface mostly offers inscrutable rambling, but one of his "songs" seems to have been relaying a vision of the Red Wedding. IMO, the near death experience of a true drowning - just as Bran has a near death experience that opens his third eye - is what made them prophets, and by discouraging this element of the Drowned Priest faith, one could also suppress magic and visions.

To be more speculative, I suspect that the gradual erosion of Iron Island traditions that Aeron sees playing out in the present is insight into what happened in the North, and why the practice of blood sacrifice to the weirwood fell out of favor--noble children are raised to be more skeptical, and to eschew superstitious and barbaric practices. Consequently, magic declines south of the Wall.

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Posted (edited)

The maesters have infiltrated Westeros with at least one of them in every lord's castle. They are able to teach their children, heal their sick, and influence the families with their "wisdom". They are credited with the disappearance of dragons from Westeros. Perhaps they should be credited with the disappearance of direwolves also? If they know the language of crows/ravens, why do they say that this is a lost art? They appear to have sided with Tywin in the past as hinted at by Pycelle. The Lannister's did supplant a Targaryen regime with one by Andal. There is a rough theory floating around that they are looking for Rhaegar's "seven rubies" which some suspect correlate with the Faith of the Seven. Sandor Clegane would make a good Stranger, while in the past Robert Baratheon makes a good Smith. Brienne seems to fit the aspect of the Warrior even if she is a maiden. Tywin could have been their Warrior, and even their Father. The "seven rubies" theoretically would be of Andal descent and working in conjunction with the Citadel.

Edited by Feather Crystal

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On ‎18‎/‎06‎/‎2017 at 9:44 PM, Black Crow said:

 

They did not need a boat to reach the Isle of Ravens; a weathered wooden drawbridge linked it to the eastern bank. "The Ravenry is the oldest building at the Citadel," Alleras told him, as they crossed over the slow-flowing waters of the Honeywine. "In the Age of Heroes it was supposedly the stronghold of a pirate lord who sat here robbing ships as they came down the river."

Moss and creeping vines covered the walls, Sam saw, and ravens walked its battlements in place of archers. The drawbridge had not been raised in living memory.

·         Who were these pirates?

·         How were they defeated?

·         Could it have been for money?

 

Just a very minor point but I read this bit not as sea-going pirates but as an allusion to certain robber barons with castles on the Rhine, who were prone to levying heavy tolls or worse on passing shipping. Sooner or later they all tended to be ganged up by shipping interests, the Empire and anyone else they upset or didn't pay off

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4 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

...They appear to have sided with Tywin in the past as hinted at by Pycelle. The Lannister's did supplant a Targaryen regime with one by Andal. There is a rough theory floating around that they are looking for Rhaegar's "seven rubies" which some suspect correlate with the Faith of the Seven. Sandor Clegane would make a good Stranger, while in the past Robert Baratheon makes a good Smith. Brienne seems to fit the aspect of the Warrior even if she is a maiden. Tywin could have been their Warrior, and even their Father. The "seven rubies" theoretically would be of Andal descent and working in conjunction with the Citadel.

I like that one.

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58 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

Just a very minor point but I read this bit not as sea-going pirates but as an allusion to certain robber barons with castles on the Rhine, who were prone to levying heavy tolls or worse on passing shipping. Sooner or later they all tended to be ganged up by shipping interests, the Empire and anyone else they upset or didn't pay off

Hmmm.

A mirroring of Troy and its theoretical position as controlling the shipping through the Dardanelles?

https://books.google.es/books?id=ccQIyA9CW-wC&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=Troy+as+a+trading+centre&source=bl&ots=BPnD215wqH&sig=unSqmlvO-iFNOmJZrJwG32Tov-A&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiTgonh9MvUAhWJh7QKHb8OBqgQ6AEINzAE#v=onepage&q=Troy as a trading centre&f=false

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Here is the passage regarding The Elder Brother on the Quiet Isle collecting seven rubies:

…The sept had windows of leaded glass, wide doors carved with likenesses of the Mother and the Father, and a seven-sided steeple with a walk on top. Behind it was a vegetable garden where some older brothers were pulling weeds. Brother Narbert led the visitors around a chestnut tree to a wooden door set in the side of the hill. 

   “A cave with a door?” Ser Hyle said, surprised. 

   Septon Meribald smiled. “It is called the Hermit’s Hole. The first holy man to find his way here lived therein, and worked such wonders that others came to join him. That was two thousand years ago, they say. The door came somewhat later.” 

   Perhaps two thousand years ago the Hermit’s Hole had been a damp, dark place, floored with dirt and echoing to the sounds of dripping water, but no longer. The cave that Brienne and her companions entered had been turned into a warm, snug sanctum. Woolen carpets covered the ground, tapestries the walls. Tall beeswax candles gave more than ample light. The furnishings were strange but simple; a long table, a settle, a chest, several tall cases full of books, and chairs. All were made from driftwood, oddly shaped pieces cunningly joined together and polished till they shone a deep gold in the candlelight. 

   The Elder Brother was not what Brienne had expected. He could hardly be called elder, for a start; whereas the brothers weeding in the garden had had the stooped shoulders and bent backs of old men, he stood straight and tall, and moved with the vigor of a man in the prime of his years. Nor did he have the gentle, kindly face she expected of a healer. His head was large and square, his eyes shrewd, his nose veined and red. Though he wore a tonsure, his scalp was as stubbly as his heavy jaw. 

   He looks more like a man made to break bones than to heal one, thought the Maid of Tarth, as the Elder Brother strode across the room to embrace Septon Meribald and pat Dog. “It is always a glad day when our friends Meribald and Dog honor us with another visit,” he announced, before turning to his other guests. “And new faces are always welcome. We see so few of them.” 

   Meribald performed the customary courtesies before seating himself upon the settle. Unlike Septon Narbert, the Elder Brother did not seem dismayed by Brienne’s sex, but his smile did flicker and fade when the septon told him why she and Ser Hyle had come. “I see,” was all he said, before he turned away with, “You must be thirsty. Please, have some of our sweet cider to wash the dust of travel from your throats.” He poured for them himself. The cups were carved from driftwood too, no two the same. When Brienne complimented them, he said, “My lady is too kind. All we do is cut and polish the wood. We are blessed here. Where the river meets the bay, the currents and the tides wrestle one against the other, and many strange and wondrous things are pushed toward us, to wash up on our shores. Driftwood is the least of it. We have found silver cups and iron pots, sacks of wool and bolts of silk, rusted helms and shining swords . . . aye, and rubies.”

   That interested Ser Hyle. “Rhaegar’s rubies?” 

   “It may be. Who can say? The battle was long leagues from here, but the river is tireless and patient. Six have been found. We are all waiting for the seventh.” 

   “Better rubies than bones.” Septon Meribald was rubbing his foot, the mud flaking off beneath his finger.

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8 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

 

   That interested Ser Hyle. “Rhaegar’s rubies?” 

   “It may be. Who can say? The battle was long leagues from here, but the river is tireless and patient. Six have been found. We are all waiting for the seventh.” 

  

In your suggested context its very reminiscent of the seven stars.

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Posted (edited)

2 hours ago, Black Crow said:

In your suggested context its very reminiscent of the seven stars.

Rhaegar's armor had more than seven rubies on it. His whole sigil was made of rubies, so obviously they are referring to something else. It seems logical to conclude that they are referring to something that matches up with the Faith of the Seven. If the rubies came from Rhaegar's death at the Trident, then the seven people who represent the seven aspects of the Faith were born out of the Rebellion, wouldn't you think? I also bolded the fact that the Septon wasn't displeased to see Brienne, so he may have been waiting for a female. Now whether Brienne would be Maiden, Mother or Crone would be up to debate, but she seems like a Maiden Warrior to me.

Edited by Feather Crystal

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Thanks to the Fattest Leech for the fascinating new essay on the Citadel!

On 6/18/2017 at 3:44 PM, Black Crow said:

"I had a friend at the Citadel who could pull a rose out of your ear,

Interesting.  I said in an earlier thread that

Quote

winter roses are not so easily or instantly obtained that Rhaegar could win the tourney, realize he had the power to crown the queen, and then conjure some up

I now see I was wrong.  Rhaegar just needed the right maester... or perhaps it was a little sleight of Hand.

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17 hours ago, Prof. Cecily said:

A mirroring of Troy and its theoretical position as controlling the shipping through the Dardanelles?

I've always thought GRRM had that in mind, or Istanbul, or both, in imagining Qarth.

 

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