DominusNovus

What was Mance's original plan?

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@TheSeason, I don't have time for a proper reply just now, but just wanted to say that imo Mance's black cloak slashed w/ red is not about the cloak. You suggest he could have kept it, but the cloak is about what it represents and not a piece of clothing. 

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3 hours ago, TheSeason said:

Mance wants to shelter from the Others beyond the Wall in the Seven Kingdoms, but he doesn't want to pay the price that all men must pay to enjoy the comfort of the King's Peace. Mance misunderstands the nature of freedom, presuming that freedom is only free if it equates to anarchy. He proves this to us when he tells us that he defected for a cloak (he could have kept it as a keepsake treasure; not all possessions of the black brothers' must be black, just their military uniform and shield, banner, and other identifying arms). He proves it again when Jon Snow tries to negotiate a peaceful entry to the North for the Free Folk on certain terms (keeping the King's Peace and the law of the land), and Mance puts his pride ahead of the lives and suffering of his people. He could have negotiated their settlement, same as Jon Snow and Stannis later accomplish after his "death" by immolation, but refuses on the misunderstood, misconstrued, and willfully corrupted principle of "freedom." 

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Jon X, Storm

Open the gate and let them pass. Easy to say, but what must follow? Giants camping in the ruins of Winterfell? Cannibals in the wolfswood, chariots sweeping across the barrowlands, free folk stealing the daughters of shipwrights and silversmiths from White Harbor and fishwives off the Stony Shore? "Are you a true king?" Jon asked suddenly.

"I've never had a crown on my head or sat my arse on a bloody throne, if that's what you're asking," Mance replied. "My birth is as low as a man's can get, no septon's ever smeared my head with oils, I don't own any castles, and my queen wears furs and amber, not silk and sapphires. I am my own champion, my own fool, and my own harpist. You don't become King-beyond-the-Wall because your father was. The free folk won't follow a name, and they don't care which brother was born first. They follow fighters. When I left the Shadow Tower there were five men making noises about how they might be the stuff of kings. Tormund was one, the Magnar another. The other three I slew, when they made it plain they'd sooner fight than follow."

"You can kill your enemies," Jon said bluntly, "but can you rule your friends? If we let your people pass, are you strong enough to make them keep the king's peace and obey the laws?"

"Whose laws? The laws of Winterfell and King's Landing?" Mance laughed. "When we want laws we'll make our own. You can keep your king's justice too, and your king's taxes. I'm offering you the horn, not our freedom. We will not kneel to you."

Mance, himself, would "sooner fight than follow" and he even admits there is only one answer to that. Jon Snow should take his advice and lop off his head. 

That scene, in particular, is what really prompted me to consider this question.  Would a Mance facing the full might of Winterfell, and possibly having just been defeated by it, have been so obtuse?  Would he have been as dismissive to (victorious) Ned/Robb as he is to Jon? If Ned offers them something reasonable that involves keeping the King's Peace, does Mance refuse that because it will involve kneeling (literally or figuratively)?

That actually makes me wonder how strong Mance's hold on power would be in this scenario.  Consider victorious Ned meeting with Mance and several of the Wildling leaders.  After Mance tells Ned to "piss off, we don't kneel," does Styr or somebody else say "That sounds like a fair deal, can me and my people take it?"

Or, put it another way: given that Mance was raised by the Watch and presumably has a reasonable understanding for 'southern' laws and customs, what the hell would he expect Winterfell to say in response?  He can't be dumb enough to think they'll trust the Wildlings without some concessions, or else he'd never have united the Wildlings in the first place.

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2 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

@TheSeason , I don't have time for a proper reply just now, but just wanted to say that imo Mance's black cloak slashed w/ red is not about the cloak. You suggest he could have kept it, but the cloak is about what it represents and not a piece of clothing. 

I agree it's not about the cloak itself and never suggested that it was. It's about a misinterpreted and corrupted philosophy of what "freedom" is. Mance couldn't wear the cloak because he was always expected to be in uniform (all black) because the organization he was part of was always on duty (that's their whole point: "you guys play about and live your lives as normal; we'll make the sacrifice and keep that most important of watches for the foeman." Their lifestyle is restrictive to keep the Watch alive and prevent royal and lordly interference, but also to prevent Watchmen from getting distracted themselves, just as Mance did.). 

I don't think the Night's Watch is a great institution (at least not in its current form, that Mance and Jon Snow know), and I think they've forgotten the meaning and purpose of their vows (especially worsened because of Great Queen's Alysanne's "generous" allotment making them landlords responsible for managing the wildling raider threat rather than watching for the coming long night), and I believe they are sometimes restrictive in senseless and counterproductive ways because of it. 

However, if "the cloak" as presented to us was the real reason Mance defected to "a place where a kiss was not a crime and a man could wear any cloak he chose" then we are faced with Mance's clear failure to understand what "freedom" truly is simply because he bristled at following the rules of the military organization he was part of. Mance was not a criminal recruit banished to exile at the Wall as far as we know, he had options, and he chose to become a member of the Night's Watch understanding in full exactly who his "brothers" were, how they understood and implemented their vows, when and how they were allowed to "skirt" the keeping of those vows (e.g., the Moles Town "buried treasure" whores)  and what was expected from him after giving his oath (quite unlike Jon Snow, who came to the Watch with a song in his head). 

Mance would rather "fight than follow" because he's got his pride wrapped up in his bizarre notions of "freedom" (more clearly understood as "anarchy" with a healthy helping of "might makes right"), so he bucks at the Night's Watch, he bucks at Stannis, he even bucks at Jon Snow--the one "southron" who actually (misguidedly) admires him and believes in the way he's framed his cause... a fight for survival from extermination; the only problem with this frame is that the ends don't meet.

Jon thinks the Old Bear would have heard his plea if he'd ever bothered to make it. A southron king(!) is willing to hear his plea and negotiate a surrender to put an end to the Free Folk's suffering and the threat against them immediately after scattering his army. Jon Snow manages to negotiate even better terms with Free Folk who are willing to "obey" the rules and law of the land (Tormund, Val, and their band; the band of "nine" he found by the weirwood grove; he sends Cotter Pyke to Hardhome to rescue those who followed Mother Mole; he's even willing to negotiate surrender with the Weeper if he will hear him!).

And yet Mance, their "savior" and "king," who fought eleven grueling years of battle to win his people clan-by-clan and tribe-by-tribe, is not willing to negotiate on any terms for safe passage through the Wall and right to migrate to and settle in the Seven Kingdoms. If they were asking solely for safe passage it would be one thing, but they aren't. They're basically requiring the King of Westeros to cede them territory to do with as they please, refusing to agree to any peace treaties, and yet have the audacity to frame their struggle as simply "fleeing" from extermination from the Others, making the Westerosi the bad guys for not wanting to permit them entry and cede them territory one day and find themselves victim to wildling raids, kidnappings, and rapes the next. 

Mance's cloak exemplifies this embracing of the anarchy the Free Folk espouse--never mind that this same anarchy has kept them weak, scattered, ignorant, feuding amongst themselves, largely leaderless, and militarily disorganized and impotent (and even Mance himself laments this state of affairs, I believe?); the only peoples of the Free Folk who are socially and culturally sophisticated in any way are the ones who do not tolerate that anarchist worldview (the Thenns). Mance had other options he chose not to explore because a "rule" would have restricted his "self expression." Mance made a vow and then balked at keeping it because he found the keeping of it too hard, not because he came to think the vow inherently worthless. If that were the case, he would and should not have framed his defection that way, as something senseless, impulsive, and even vindictive. It couldn't even have been the straw that broke the camel's back, because Mance wasn't living by the rules to start with. Mance prefers to be in charge and giving the orders, because that way the rules are what he makes them. Mance was pretty much a "rebel without a cause" who defected for the sake of his pride... until the Others bit him back and he had to start building his kingdom. 

What do you think it represents?

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1 hour ago, DominusNovus said:

That scene, in particular, is what really prompted me to consider this question.  Would a Mance facing the full might of Winterfell, and possibly having just been defeated by it, have been so obtuse?  Would he have been as dismissive to (victorious) Ned/Robb as he is to Jon? If Ned offers them something reasonable that involves keeping the King's Peace, does Mance refuse that because it will involve kneeling (literally or figuratively)?

That actually makes me wonder how strong Mance's hold on power would be in this scenario.  Consider victorious Ned meeting with Mance and several of the Wildling leaders.  After Mance tells Ned to "piss off, we don't kneel," does Styr or somebody else say "That sounds like a fair deal, can me and my people take it?"

Or, put it another way: given that Mance was raised by the Watch and presumably has a reasonable understanding for 'southern' laws and customs, what the hell would he expect Winterfell to say in response?  He can't be dumb enough to think they'll trust the Wildlings without some concessions, or else he'd never have united the Wildlings in the first place.

That scene is also what sealed the deal on Mance for me. He put his pride before his people, and as Davos says, "a king protects his people or he is no true king at all." This is exactly what Jon Snow is asking him--"Are you a true king? You can kill your enemies, but can you rule your friends?" Do you know what will happen to them if they break the King's Peace after being awarded safe harbor south of the Wall? (A massacre, basically! Just by Northmen instead of the Others.)

And then Mance just spits in his face and refuses the hand being offered to him in good faith. He's essentially requiring the Seven Kingdoms to cede the Free Folk territory with no guarantee of peace treaty (making them subject to wildling raids, kidnappings, and rapes), and that will never go over with Winterfell, the North, or any king on the Iron Throne. There's a price to pay for enjoying the comfort of the King's Peace, and it's a rather reasonable price; Mance just balks at following anyone's rules and requirements but his own. 

I don't think Mance could maintain power in a situation where a "southron" lord or king offered the Free Folk safe harbor in exchange for "kneeling" or "obeying" or "keeping the King's Peace" where the offer was clear and up front, made in the presence of at least one other lord or leader of the Free Folk. Your example of the Magnar of Thenn is perfect. The Thenns already understand "kneeling" and "obeying" and require it of their own people. The Magnar would probably try to kill Mance for rebuffing such an offer with the lives of their (and his) people at stake--he didn't want to accept Mance as King anyway (requiring three defeats by combat before accepting his leadership). If Mance proved unworthy of that loyalty, then, with a selfish statement like the one he'd made to Jon Snow above... I don't see it ending well for Mance. 

That's also why I think he desperately needs hostages against Winterfell itself, to cripple their power to overrun and overrule him in his "own" domain. If Winterfell itself doesn't have the power to stop him (because of a Stark hostage or two, he hopes), he seems to imagine that reinforcements won't be forthcoming from further south (or that they will be ineffective; maybe he presumes he can take and hold Winterfell and Moat Cailin?). To get and keep the Free Folk south and safe, beneath the Wall, then, Mance must scatter the might of Winterfell (hostages) or even tear it down himself (by raising "Jon Snow" as a "Wildling" of Winterfell, turning him against the Starks and installing him as a "puppet lord" of the North in place of his father or brothers after having defeated the might of the Northmen with his superior numbers, since lacking superior arms, tactics, and training, etc.).

That's the only reasonable conclusion that I can draw from the evidence provided to us. Mance thought he could fight and beat the Starks, after which the North would belong to the Free Folk to overrun as they pleased without having to yield to the laws of the land. It's stupid and selfish, and it could consign the Free Folk to a grisly fate north of the Wall (or a massacre south of it by human hands) when the lords of Westeros either defeated them at or beneath the Wall or regrouped from the initial routing (unlikely they'd route in the face of wildlings) with reinforcements coming up from the south to triumph over them. It's a senseless risk to take when negotiations and concessions might win them the better fate (incorporation into the Seven Kingdoms, no wars to fight to maintain their lifestyle) and the trust of the people they hope to live alongside. Mance's answer would only serve to destroy any nascent friendship or trust evolving between Northmen and Free Folk, to disastrous result. Every other king who tried to "conquer" the Seven Kingdoms failed miserably. Mance thinks he can "conquer" with cunning tricks, but I see his own people turning on him if they feel that desperation sinking in following a great defeat at the hands of the Northmen. 

ETA: Mance is just another one of the wildlings "making noises about how (he) might be the stuff of kings." There's a reason Martin named him "Mance Rayder," indicating to the reader just how small, selfish, and petty his worldview and cause truly is. 

Edited by TheSeason

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1 hour ago, TheSeason said:

I agree it's not about the cloak itself and never suggested that it was. It's about a misinterpreted and corrupted philosophy of what "freedom" is. Mance couldn't wear the cloak because he was always expected to be in uniform (all black) because the organization he was part of was always on duty (that's their whole point: "you guys play about and live your lives as normal; we'll make the sacrifice and keep that most important of watches for the foeman." Their lifestyle is restrictive to keep the Watch alive and prevent royal and lordly interference, but also to prevent Watchmen from getting distracted themselves, just as Mance did.). 

I don't think the Night's Watch is a great institution (at least not in its current form, that Mance and Jon Snow know), and I think they've forgotten the meaning and purpose of their vows (especially worsened because of Great Queen's Alysanne's "generous" allotment making them landlords responsible for managing the wildling raider threat rather than watching for the coming long night), and I believe they are sometimes restrictive in senseless and counterproductive ways because of it. 

However, if "the cloak" as presented to us was the real reason Mance defected to "a place where a kiss was not a crime and a man could wear any cloak he chose" then we are faced with Mance's clear failure to understand what "freedom" truly is simply because he bristled at following the rules of the military organization he was part of. Mance was not a criminal recruit banished to exile at the Wall as far as we know, he had options, and he chose to become a member of the Night's Watch understanding in full exactly who his "brothers" were, how they understood and implemented their vows, when and how they were allowed to "skirt" the keeping of those vows (e.g., the Moles Town "buried treasure" whores)  and what was expected from him after giving his oath (quite unlike Jon Snow, who came to the Watch with a song in his head). 

Mance would rather "fight than follow" because he's got his pride wrapped up in his bizarre notions of "freedom" (more clearly understood as "anarchy" with a healthy helping of "might makes right"), so he bucks at the Night's Watch, he bucks at Stannis, he even bucks at Jon Snow--the one "southron" who actually (misguidedly) admires him and believes in the way he's framed his cause... a fight for survival from extermination; the only problem with this frame is that the ends don't meet.

Jon thinks the Old Bear would have heard his plea if he'd ever bothered to make it. A southron king(!) is willing to hear his plea and negotiate a surrender to put an end to the Free Folk's suffering and the threat against them immediately after scattering his army. Jon Snow manages to negotiate even better terms with Free Folk who are willing to "obey" the rules and law of the land (Tormund, Val, and their band; the band of "nine" he found by the weirwood grove; he sends Cotter Pyke to Hardhome to rescue those who followed Mother Mole; he's even willing to negotiate surrender with the Weeper if he will hear him!).

And yet Mance, their "savior" and "king," who fought eleven grueling years of battle to win his people clan-by-clan and tribe-by-tribe, is not willing to negotiate on any terms for safe passage through the Wall and right to migrate to and settle in the Seven Kingdoms. If they were asking solely for safe passage it would be one thing, but they aren't. They're basically requiring the King of Westeros to cede them territory to do with as they please, refusing to agree to any peace treaties, and yet have the audacity to frame their struggle as simply "fleeing" from extermination from the Others, making the Westerosi the bad guys for not wanting to permit them entry and cede them territory one day and find themselves victim to wildling raids, kidnappings, and rapes the next. 

Mance's cloak exemplifies this embracing of the anarchy the Free Folk espouse--never mind that this same anarchy has kept them weak, scattered, ignorant, feuding amongst themselves, largely leaderless, and militarily disorganized and impotent (and even Mance himself laments this state of affairs, I believe?); the only peoples of the Free Folk who are socially and culturally sophisticated in any way are the ones who do not tolerate that anarchist worldview (the Thenns). Mance had other options he chose not to explore because a "rule" would have restricted his "self expression." Mance made a vow and then balked at keeping it because he found the keeping of it too hard, not because he came to think the vow inherently worthless. If that were the case, he would and should not have framed his defection that way, as something senseless, impulsive, and even vindictive. It couldn't even have been the straw that broke the camel's back, because Mance wasn't living by the rules to start with. Mance prefers to be in charge and giving the orders, because that way the rules are what he makes them. Mance was pretty much a "rebel without a cause" who defected for the sake of his pride... until the Others bit him back and he had to start building his kingdom. 

What do you think it represents?

Red on black... Maybe another hint at just how special the special snowflake is?

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1 hour ago, TheSeason said:

I don't think Mance could maintain power in a situation where a "southron" lord or king offered the Free Folk safe harbor in exchange for "kneeling" or "obeying" or "keeping the King's Peace" where the offer was clear and up front, made in the presence of at least one other lord or leader of the Free Folk. Your example of the Magnar of Thenn is perfect. The Thenns already understand "kneeling" and "obeying" and require it of their own people. The Magnar would probably try to kill Mance for rebuffing such an offer with the lives of their (and his) people at stake--he didn't want to accept Mance as King anyway (requiring three defeats by combat before accepting his leadership). If Mance proved unworthy of that loyalty, then, with a selfish statement like the one he'd made to Jon Snow above... I don't see it ending well for Mance. 

Even if he doesn't fight Mance, simply taking Winterfell's offer of land for keeping the King's Peace would likely start to fracture the Wildlings.

1 hour ago, TheSeason said:

That's also why I think he desperately needs hostages against Winterfell itself, to cripple their power to overrun and overrule him in his "own" domain. If Winterfell itself doesn't have the power to stop him (because of a Stark hostage or two, he hopes), he seems to imagine that reinforcements won't be forthcoming from further south (or that they will be ineffective; maybe he presumes he can take and hold Winterfell and Moat Cailin?). To get and keep the Free Folk south and safe, beneath the Wall, then, Mance must scatter the might of Winterfell (hostages) or even tear it down himself (by raising "Jon Snow" as a "Wildling" of Winterfell, turning him against the Starks and installing him as a "puppet lord" of the North in place of his father or brothers after having defeated the might of the Northmen with his superior numbers, since lacking superior arms, tactics, and training, etc.).

Could Mance have tried to make off with a hostage during his visit to Winterfell?

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Great discussion here.  There are simply too many posts to quote so I'm not doing it :D.  Interestingly enough, the show is trudging up a lot of these themes right now re: Jon and Dany and bending the knee.  The pride/safety of your people question is even tied directly back to Mance by Tormund.  

As with Jon and Dany, there has to be a question of whether the wildlings under Mance would ever have truly bent the knee had Mance done so.  Being King Beyond the Wall has its perks, but for people that call themselves Free Folks blind unquestioned devotion is not one of those perks.   While maybe a more Southron-oriented clan like the Thenns would be fine bending the knee, I struggle to see characters like Harma Dogshead and the Weeper ever committing to the King's Peace.  And I think Mance knew that, which brings me to the second part of this topic- Mance's plan or lack thereof.

In short, I don't think Mance truly had a plan.  As the famous Mike Tyson quote goes, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."  That's Mance to me in particular, and the wildlings in general.  As Melisandre says numerous times, they are, and perhaps always were, a doomed people largely due them being on the wrong side of the Wall when it was built.  I think Mance and the wildlings were facing their extinction and they knew it.  Mance became King Beyond the Wall because he was the strongest fighter out of them and the smartest.  He mentions there were numerous contenders for Kingship but that he killed a few of them when they wouldn't commit and the others largely fell in-line behind Mance (like Tormund and the Magnar of Thenn who were also contenders).  I don't think there was ever a true plan in the sense of "Here's Step A- here's step B and so on."  I think the plan largely boiled down to "Get South of the Wall."

And obviously Mance's big concern is not the Night's Watch and the decrepit institution it has become but the Starks and other Northern houses who could come to the aid of the Night's Watch.  So you can see where the Stark hostage comes in, especially with Mance's love of the story of Bael the Bard, something Mance couldn't resist playing out again in ADWD.  Although I'd note I'm curious as to whether Mance knows "Arya" is not actually Arya seeing as how Jaime knew it right away and they last saw Arya at around the same time- which makes me really excited to find out what exactly is happening in Winterfell around the time of the Pink Letter and how much of it is true.  

I also think Mance in his heart is a bit of a softy- He didn't want to just destroy and murder everyone in the Night's Watch because he knows the real threat is there and the Wall needs to be manned.  So he wants to avoid war like that at all costs, both to save his people and save the Night's Watch.  That's where the fake horn and the diplomacy comes in.  

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16 minutes ago, Tagganaro said:

As with Jon and Dany, there has to be a question of whether the wildlings under Mance would ever have truly bent the knee had Mance done so.  Being King Beyond the Wall has its perks, but for people that call themselves Free Folks blind unquestioned devotion is not one of those perks.   While maybe a more Southron-oriented clan like the Thenns would be fine bending the knee, I struggle to see characters like Harma Dogshead and the Weeper ever committing to the King's Peace.

The weird part is that the more hierarchal-minded Thenns are one of the most northerly of the Wildling peoples.  But even as stubborn as the Wildlings are, I have to wonder how many of their leaders and the rank and file, faced with a superior army and an impenetrable fortification, and the choices of:

- die at our swords, and we'll promise to burn your bodies 

- stay north of the wall, retain your freedoms, and get killed by the Others

- swear to keep the King's Peace and fight alongside us, and we'll let you through the Wall

Its basically "Cake or Death" with enough cake for everyone.  Particularly when you consider this is an option that is being offered to 100,000 people. Thats 100,000 being asked "Cake or Death" individually (though it would be funny to see Mance try to argue that nobody can take the offer if he says no).  When you get 10,000 Wilidlings saying "Cake, please," that has to make the remaining 90,000 think "Well, hell, option 'death' just got 10% worse, if that was possible."  At what point do the Wilidlings reach critical mass and figure, "Fuck my pride, everyone I know has gone south of the Wall."  Would we get to the point where there's 99,000 Wildings trying to assimilate in the 'south,' and Mance and some hardliners just bitching about how they won't kneel, camped out north of the Wall?

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2 hours ago, Lost Melnibonean said:

Red on black... Maybe another hint at just how special the special snowflake is?

Lol, yeah. I wasn't really getting into the Rhaegar parallels with Mance (both acting out, with differing intention, the tale of Bael the Bard stealing a blue winter rose of Winterfell) with Mance as an (undeserved) mentor figure to Jon Snow in his father's place, or how Mance's story of defection both parallels Rhaegar's defeat on the Trident and foreshadows exactly what's going to happen to him at the Wall (doing battle with "a fine big elk"--Stannis--and being swept upon by a "shadowcat"--Mel, the shadowbinder, burning Varamyr's eagle alive and crippling their ability to spy upon the Watchmen/southron army--thought dying/dead, but being healed by a witch--Mel "burning" Mance (really Rattleshirt) but saving his life in disguise as Rattleshirt--who stitches him up and even his cloak with red silk from Asshai--the red ruby manacle that weaves the illusion about him like a veil or cloak and "changes his seeming" to the Lord of Bones). There's a lot more to get into with Mance's cloak and its symbolism than just the corrupted notions of freedom, like the red-on-black representing the slaughtered moon goddess's "tears of blood" falling amid the night sky (the "waves of night and blood") and the "blinding of the god's eye" and the three (dragon) meteors streaking across the heavens before smashing into the earth (waking the dragon from stone, the giant from the earth). Same as his helmet, with its raven wings (raven wings, sphinxes, fists punching upward, lances, etc., all representing that "dragon woken from stone" or the "giants woken from the earth," which are actually the same thing expressed with varying symbols and phrases). 

Taking Mance's red-on-black further... we even see that counting him as the sixth (Free Folk) man who was "making noises about how (he) might be the stuff of kings," we result with Jon Snow--again!--as the seventh king (who really is the stuff of kings, yada, yada, who acts every bit the king in Dance) who is also represented by Rhaegar's seventh (long awaited, yet still missing/hidden) ruby (six so far have "washed up" on the Quiet Isle, with Dany represented by the third ruby and Aegon "Young Griff" Targaryen represented by the sixth, which fits well with the symbolism and birth order for all three of them, "born" of the line of Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen, as the Dragon that was Promised--all three of them--was prophesied to be). 

But that's a digression, I suppose, so I'll zip it now. I know how verbose I am. ;) 

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Mance would've needed some sort of believable and practical plan for getting south of the Wall to gather the rest of the Wildlings to him. On the other hand, most of the Wildlings probably don't really know that much about the realities of things south of the Wall, so it could perhaps be believable to most Wildlings while not actually being practical in reality.

I'm not sure he had a plan for what came after getting south of the Wall.

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2 hours ago, DominusNovus said:

Even if he doesn't fight Mance, simply taking Winterfell's offer of land for keeping the King's Peace would likely start to fracture the Wildlings.

Could Mance have tried to make off with a hostage during his visit to Winterfell?

I agree. Mance himself describes the Free Folk as "shadowcats" and "stones" who cannot be forced to do what they do not wish to do by any lord or king. That includes him. If the Free Folk received an offer that they individually or as a whole appreciated and wished to accept, Mance would either have to go along with them and kneel to the powers that be south of the Wall or lose his crown (the will and loyalty of his people) or his life (as the Free Folk found a leader who understood and worked toward their wishes). 

As to Mance trying to take a hostage during his visit to Winterfell... I don't think so. I think this infiltration was merely a recon mission as he said (although if the opportunity arose he might have taken it, he's an opportunistic predator kind of guy with "half a plan" in his head). He didn't have the resources to take, hold, transport, or defend (from rescuers) his hostage at that time.

It's only when Bran is nearly kidnapped by Osha and her comrades (a poor, unplanned and half-hearted attempt), Benjen ranges beyond the Wall with a small group, stopping at Craster's (where he was likely killed and made into "black"/wight "pork sausage"), Jon Snow is delivered to him by Qhorin Halfhand (who had a deliberate infiltration of the Free Folk in mind--perhaps this is also why Qhorin sacrificed the lives of his men to reunite Jon with Ghost, as "proof" that he was a Stark of Winterfell, just the same as Manderly wants Rickon "and the wolf. The direwolf will prove the boy is who we say he is," from Davos, especially, conveniently, as Mance already infiltrated Winterfell and noted which Stark hostages were available and saw the direwolves running at their heels. As I say, I think he had more information from the wildling he "questioned" than Jon Snow is led to believe.), and Melisandre and Jon Snow permit him south to Long Lake to retrieve "Lady Arya"/Jeyne Poole (although he goes on to infiltrate Winterfell again, without enough resources or the consent of his "masters," although possibly having aid from Manderly and others) that Mance has access to and resources to take, hold, and defend (from rescue attempts) any Stark hostages against Winterfell/the Wall.

Otherwise, Mance would be foolish to attempt to take a Stark hostage whilst Ned is hosting King Robert and his household (if ever there was a way to convince the king that the wildlings are a true threat that need to be dealt with, giving no quarter!). 

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25 minutes ago, TheSeason said:

Taking Mance's red-on-black further... we even see that counting him as the sixth (Free Folk) man who was "making noises about how (he) might be the stuff of kings," we result with Jon Snow--again!--as the seventh king (who really is the stuff of kings, yada, yada, who acts every bit the king in Dance) who is also represented by Rhaegar's seventh (long awaited, yet still missing/hidden) ruby (six so far have "washed up" on the Quiet Isle, with Dany represented by the third ruby and Aegon "Young Griff" Targaryen represented by the sixth, which fits well with the symbolism and birth order for all three of them, "born" of the line of Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen, as the Dragon that was Promised--all three of them--was prophesied to be). 

Hey, I never saw that first one. Cool :thumbsup: But as to the presumed Aegon, weren't there six Blackfyre pretenders? And weren't there six black cherry trees standing sentinel around Illyrio's statue? Illyrio served those black cherries in sweet cream... Shouldn't we be looking for a seventh one of those too? 

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1 hour ago, Tagganaro said:

Great discussion here.  There are simply too many posts to quote so I'm not doing it :D.  Interestingly enough, the show is trudging up a lot of these themes right now re: Jon and Dany and bending the knee.  The pride/safety of your people question is even tied directly back to Mance by Tormund.  

As with Jon and Dany, there has to be a question of whether the wildlings under Mance would ever have truly bent the knee had Mance done so.  Being King Beyond the Wall has its perks, but for people that call themselves Free Folks blind unquestioned devotion is not one of those perks.   While maybe a more Southron-oriented clan like the Thenns would be fine bending the knee, I struggle to see characters like Harma Dogshead and the Weeper ever committing to the King's Peace.  And I think Mance knew that, which brings me to the second part of this topic- Mance's plan or lack thereof.

In short, I don't think Mance truly had a plan.  As the famous Mike Tyson quote goes, "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."  That's Mance to me in particular, and the wildlings in general.  As Melisandre says numerous times, they are, and perhaps always were, a doomed people largely due them being on the wrong side of the Wall when it was built.  I think Mance and the wildlings were facing their extinction and they knew it.  Mance became King Beyond the Wall because he was the strongest fighter out of them and the smartest.  He mentions there were numerous contenders for Kingship but that he killed a few of them when they wouldn't commit and the others largely fell in-line behind Mance (like Tormund and the Magnar of Thenn who were also contenders).  I don't think there was ever a true plan in the sense of "Here's Step A- here's step B and so on."  I think the plan largely boiled down to "Get South of the Wall."

And obviously Mance's big concern is not the Night's Watch and the decrepit institution it has become but the Starks and other Northern houses who could come to the aid of the Night's Watch.  So you can see where the Stark hostage comes in, especially with Mance's love of the story of Bael the Bard, something Mance couldn't resist playing out again in ADWD.  Although I'd note I'm curious as to whether Mance knows "Arya" is not actually Arya seeing as how Jaime knew it right away and they last saw Arya at around the same time- which makes me really excited to find out what exactly is happening in Winterfell around the time of the Pink Letter and how much of it is true.  

I also think Mance in his heart is a bit of a softy- He didn't want to just destroy and murder everyone in the Night's Watch because he knows the real threat is there and the Wall needs to be manned.  So he wants to avoid war like that at all costs, both to save his people and save the Night's Watch.  That's where the fake horn and the diplomacy comes in.  

Great comment! So much in here... 

As for the first bit:

Spoiler

 

Argh! That's something that really bothered me about this last season of Game of Thrones. Jon is explicit that "pride" is not his issue despite people (Dany, Tyrion, Tormund) constantly throwing in his face that it is (Mance's issue also was explicitly not pride, but Stannis's demand that the Free Folk swell his ranks as levies against their will to fight his "southron" wars for the Iron Throne! "My people have bled enough!" and "If you don't understand why I won't enlist my people in a foreigner's war, there's no point in explaining..." You'd think his buddy Tormund would know that, but, nope. :dunno: And this is the same position Jon finds himself in--rejecting a "foreigner and her war for the Iron Throne" because he has more important concerns--the survival of humanity itself in the face of the Others' onslaught). Personally, I don't think Jon ever should have knelt to Dany, because she did absolutely nothing to prove that she deserved to be queen of the North/Vale/Free Folk (Trident?).

Pride was clearly her issue, not Jon's. She refused to help or entertain the argument that the Others were the true threat (despite increasingly treating Jon as if she believed his story!) unless she was called "queen" (an empty crown, an empty title, an empty vanity solely for her pleasure, the rest of the world--including her own subjects!--be damned if she isn't) and the Iron Throne was attended to first (another foolish, selfish war distracting armed men who might otherwise concern themselves with defending humanity itself--and thus themselves and all their loved ones--from the threat of extermination to the North!). Worst of all, she gives away as worthless what is actually the most important and most valuable resource in the world because she's too proud, stubborn, and self-important to investigate his claims or why he--a king!--would risk himself for a resource that has no value whatsoever! Not to mention, Mel told Dany she needed to "hear what he has to say" about his experiences (the Others and the coming Long Night), but instead she whines hysterically about being queen in perpetuity--despite the fact that House Targaryen broke the fealty contract, not House Stark, for which she has the audacity to ask forgiveness (almost dismissively) while demanding unconditional surrender; if she expects not to be bound by the choices of her ancestors (and from merely a generation ago!) then why should King Jon Snow/Stark be bound by the choices of his ancestors (from three hundred years ago!), especially when the Starks were "kings in perpetuity" too until Aegon conquered (for thousands of years, in fact, compared to the Targs' measly three-hundred year long hold on Westeros; there's "new money" in Westeros that's existed twice as long!), and King Jon and his descendants became "kings in perpetuity" too after he conquered the North. Either way you slice it, her "claim" rests on "right of conquest" but she refuses to acknowledge other regnants who have actually conquered to become king (unlike Dany, who had yet to conquer so much as a square inch of Westerosi territory; D&D simply gift-wrapped Dragonstone for her in the stupidest way ever, and she then proceeded to lose her major allies, again, in the stupidest way ever...). 

The whole thing was just bizarre! At no point did Dany prove herself a worthy queen (and for some reason D&D think all the Starks are idiots anyway, despite ample evidence to the contrary in the books, and salivate over Cersei/Lannisters and Dany in inexplicable ways without just cause) or astute war-time leader (necessary to combat the Others) nor did she have a suitable war-oriented council (what pathetic counsel she had from her advisors, if they performed any function at all), nor any resources to support her army or her war in the south anyway (I still have no idea what any of these people or horses are eating on a Dragonstone that was completely abandoned and stripped of resources, down to the candlesticks! Yet Dany proceeds to stupidly burn supplies at the "Field of Fire" massacre of the Lannister forces. Not to mention, "winter is here" apparently--we've seen little-to-no evidence of it. They must be eating the rats... that have survived by eating each other!), and every "rational man" was constantly trying to rein her in and prevent her from committing "hysterical woman" war crimes (the horrifying likes of which she's happily committed every season since season one!) on monumental scales (burning cities to the ground! Although no one seems to have a problem with starving cities to death. :(:blink::tantrum:). WTF is going on here? Should we be rooting for the Others and the extermination of humanity at this point?

As to the rest... 

Unquestioned devotion is definitely not one of the perquisites of being King Beyond the Wall, so Mance would have a hard time convincing his people that it's in their best interest to go to war for their "freedom" when there is a peaceful solution to settling south of the Wall presented to them. On the one hand they have Mance and "freedom" to be exterminated by the Others come the Long Night and on the other hand they have peace, security, fertile land, and a small price to pay for their lives, livelihoods, and liberties (king's peace, laws of the land, king's justice, king's taxes, as Mance puts it). How many people will follow Mance, the Weeper, Harma Dogshead, or any other "hardcore" reaver, raider, and raper to their grisly deaths and reanimation by the Others (their extermination as a people, their extermination as a community, tribe, clan, or family) when the "southrons" are offering shelter and peace for a reasonable price? How many people love their "freedom" more than their lives and their children? We see clearly that the Free Folk are willing to "kneel" and "obey" even if their leader claims otherwise (Tormund's group happily flees south and pays every price Jon Snow requires of them, including their treasures, their oaths of fealty, and even their children as hostages! Mother Mole's group mistakenly believes the slavers are their "rescuers" and the rescuers are their "slavers"--how this mix-up happened, I'm not sure--but they're willing to be "rescued" and live the law of the land they arrive in, too. Stannis's captives are so desperate to get south of the Wall they burn branches of the weirwood trees--their gods!--as their fee--although they do carve other trees with faces, keeping their gods in secret. The Weeper's group is willing to fight, yes, but that's because they do not yet know there's a peaceful option available to them. Val is willing to "kneel" to Selyse Baratheon for Jon Snow's sake and willing to be wedded and bedded by a "southron" lordling "kneeler" to save Mance's life.). Mance so far has been the one most resistant to the idea of "kneeling" and "obeying" the laws of the land in exchange for the security of sheltering behind the Wall. Certainly there are others like him, but by no means do I think they are in the majority, and they can be left behind to fend for themselves until they come to their senses (option one) or killed in battle to secure the freedom of the Free Folk from their unreasonable and contrary masters (option two), with care taken to burn their bodies afterward, thereby reducing the "wight" population boom "threat" they think they can wield against the "south" to get their way. 

While the plan was by no means elaborate, I do believe there was a clear "guideline" or "outline"-style plan in motion. Step 1. Gather Free Folk into a massive host, (so as to use numbers alone to threaten Night's Watch and/or Northmen, and save as many Free Folk as possible) Step 2. Find "Horn of Joramun" (or likely fake) as back-up plan "b" and "c" (back-up plan "b": trade Horn of Joramun for safe passage through Watch gate, back-up plan "c": use Horn of Joramun as threat to terrorize Night's Watch into opening their gates, under belief horn can breach the Wall). Step 3. Attack Wall in raids and feints to whittle away or draw away power of Night's Watch, as well as to test its true strength, even sending raiders over Wall to attack from south. Step 4. Attack Wall in main assault, attempting to breach gate to effect an advantageous surrender from Watchmen (by breaching gate rather than Wall itself, they can always repair the gate before the Others ride south). Step 5. Secure "castles" for themselves on the Wall (either by negotiating Watch's surrender or by taking them by force) and raise walls/towers for defense. Step 6. Use raids and feints to draw out large parts of Winterfell garrison/forces to keep their host scattered and ineffective while, Step 7. Infiltrate Winterfell and take Stark hostages, taking Winterfell itself if able, securing hostages alone if not. Step 8. Use Stark hostages to cripple power of Winterfell and negotiate favorable terms for Free Folk settlement of the North, requiring them to cede territory if able, settling the Gift if not. Step 9. If still retaining possession Horn of Joramun (or likely fake) use horn in conjunction with hostages to leverage favorable terms from Starks/Northmen/southron King of Westeros and prevent reinforcements from regrouping against Free Folk settlements. 

Mance has to have some ability to strategize and a "convincing enough" plan to earn and maintain the loyalties of other tribal leaders, especially those like Styr, who did not want to follow him anyway. If he didn't have a plan that could convince these "shadowcat" and "stone" type leaders that he was the best option to get them south and keep them south, then they would have rebelled against his leadership at some point, for failing to "earn" his kingship. I can definitely see how the Free Folk might feel like a doomed people, and understand the rage they must feel to be the primary targets of the Others for so long with the "southrons" enjoying the security of the Wall to the extent they think it guards against "grumkins and snarks" and laugh at the thought of the Others, all the while rebuffing any "wildling incursion" into the realm (sometimes with good reason, though!) and demonizing them beside (although they do maintain unsavory customs, like most peoples do). 

I'm also curious about whether Mance has realized that his prime hostage isn't even a Stark (just a steward's daughter masquerading as a Stark to keep Bolton/Frey control over the Northmen secure), and wonder if he's desperate enough to think he can "fool" Jon Snow into believing he has his sister. (Not that I think Mance will make it out of Winterfell in one piece. Right now, I'm thinking the Dornishman's Wife--the song Mance sings when we first meet him--is foreshadowing of Mance's fate at the hands of a Bolton for breaking guest right--the "kidnapping"/rescue of "Lady Arya"/Jeyne Poole from her husband, Ramsay Bolton, the current reigning "Lord of Winterfell" and the Hornwood by royal decree of Tommen Baratheon, after eating his food and drinking his wine and even singing in his hall, just like Bael the Bard before him broke guest right.) 

I'm not convinced Mance is in any way a "softie" a heart, though. I think it's just the opposite. Mance doesn't care if he has to annihilate the Night's Watch to get the Free Folk south, and even threatens to do so. I think his attempts at "diplomacy" (not really diplomacy, because he's unwilling to make any concessions on his end; he's just threatening people, "do what I say or die," consequences be damned) are more for the sake of sparing his army and maintain his strength (because he knows he'll need it to defeat the Northmen, so letting the Night's Watch whittle away his power is not an option). Mance, like Tyrion and Littlefinger, presents the world one persona (an amiable, friendly, non-threatening persona) but is really just the opposite (a wolf in sheep's clothing, just like Jon Snow throughout Storm. They were two "wolves in sheep's clothing" dancing around each other, trying to sniff out which one is more "sheepish" and can be "herded" to a certain end; it appears Jon Snow was the bigger, badder wolf, even though he did not quite recognize the threat Mance himself posed to him!) 

I'm not convinced by Osha's claim that Mance thinks he can fight the Others, and therefore I don't think he's interested in "manning the Wall" against the coming Long Night (or else he should have remained in the Night's Watch or at least tried to warn and/or negotiate with them on the importance of the Others and the threat they pose), and don't think he even cares if he destroys the Night's Watch entirely. He doesn't show any respect for the institution, even now knowing what he does--that the Others are real, are a danger, and the sacrifice the Watchmen make is real, substantive, and valuable. What he cares about maintaining is the Wall itself with all its spells and sorceries that are said to protect against the Others. The Wall itself is the only part of the Watch he shows any respect for. He thinks if the Free Folk "hide behind the Wall" with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms that the Others cannot get to them. (I think he's wrong on this account, but we'll see. That Which Shall Not Be Named turned the "breaching" of the Wall into a ridiculous and nonsensical self-fulfilling prophecy, making the Others a threat only because people treated them like they were a threat, so....:dunno:)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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12 hours ago, TheSeason said:

He proves this to us when he tells us that he defected for a cloak (he could have kept it as a keepsake treasure; not all possessions of the black brothers' must be black, just their military uniform and shield, banner, and other identifying arms).

This bit above is why I brought up the cloak not being about the cloak in my reply. The argument that he "could have kept it as a keepsake treasure" sounded like you were implying the cloak's importance and meaning were about the cloak itself. 

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2 hours ago, Lost Melnibonean said:

Hey, I never saw that first one. Cool :thumbsup: But as to the presumed Aegon, weren't there six Blackfyre pretenders? And weren't there six black cherry trees standing sentinel around Illyrio's statue? Illyrio served those black cherries in sweet cream... Shouldn't we be looking for a seventh one of those too? 

No. Aegon is the sixth because he's the sixth surviving prince born of Aerys II and Rhaella's line and will be the sixth-reigning King Aegon of the Targaryen dynasty. The Blackfyre pretenders are a red herring (an excellent one!). They don't descend from Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen, who are the forebears of the Promised Dragon (not Aegon the Unworthy). It doesn't matter that he's a Blackfyre pretender (and he doesn't know that he is anyway), because the important part is that he "died" (in the person of Aegon VI, son of Rhaegar and Elia) and was "reborn" as the Promised Dragon (the deaths are the important notes of the "song" that belongs to the promised prince, the song of ice and fire) a scion of House Targaryen descended from Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen. He may as well have another significant "death" experience (the way Dany "dies" in childbed and is "reborn" on Drogo's pyre, and Jon Snow dies at the Wall and shall be reborn from his "true death" thereafter), a truer "wake the stone dragon" experience, like Jon, Dany, and Tyrion (drowning at the Sorrows) all have, they being the four persons of the prophecy of ice and fire. They each have unique roles to play in the prophecy, as the "gods below:" the Creator (Jon Snow, Promised Prince inverted, Corn King), Preserver (Aegon VI "Young Griff", Mummer's Dragon, Promised Prince played straight), and Destroyer (Dany, Mother of Dragons, the Stallion that Mounts the World) and the threat in their midst (Tyrion the Stinky Steward/Perfumed Seneschal--that's a separate essay, though)... but I haven't gotten that far in the essay series yet. 

This is how it works out (forgive my copy-pasta from the essay): 

Spoiler

 

Daenerys IV, Clash

Rubies flew like drops of blood from the chest of a dying prince, and he sank to his knees in the water and with his last breath murmured a woman's name. . . . mother of dragons, daughter of death . . .

 

Let’s talk for a moment about the significance of Rhaegar’s rubies. People have been known to search the Trident at the Ruby Ford (where Rhaegar fell dying during the Battle of the Trident) for lost rubies. In fact, Arya engages in this activity in Game when traveling south to King’s Landing for the first time, now that Ned Stark has agreed to take the position as Hand of the King to Robert Baratheon. Six of Rhaegar’s rubies, which were part of his black armor, the rubies creating the Three-Headed Dragon charge of House Targaryen, have washed up on the Quiet Isle, according to its Elder Brother. He adds, “We are waiting on the seventh,” seven being a magical and powerful symbolic number in A Song of Ice and Fire, with it representing the Seven in Westeros, who are, conveniently, all aspects of the Three-Headed Dragon god, Trios.

If we consider which persons might be represented by the “seven rubies” knocked free of Rhaegar’s armor by Robert Baratheon’s (the Demon of the Trident) vengeful blow, we come to conclusion that it represents the prince that was promised, who was said to be born of Aerys and Rhaella’s line. (Of course, more than seven rubies were part of his armor, and more than seven rubies were knocked free of his armor, but Martin places special emphasis on “the seventh” for narrative and thematic means.)

Two characters most often argued to be the Prince that was Promised are Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. Another character who is possibly the Prince that was Promised is Aegon VI “Young Griff” Targaryen. The seven rubies as a whole represents all of them, each born of Aerys II and Rhaella’s line (although Aegon VI “Young Griff” is an imposter who does not know he is an imposter; that said, I made it clear above that he was “killed” in the person of Aegon VI, Rhaegar and Elia’s son, and was later “reborn” as Aegon VI “Young Griff” when his mummers, Varys and Illyrio, decided make a “pisswater prince” out of him. It is a symbolic death and rebirth, which counts as far as the prophecy is concerned). The “seventh” ruby in particular, however, represents Jon Snow, who is the prince that was promised, a prince in hiding, a dragon who does not know he is a dragon.

Of Aerys II and Rhaella’s line, we have:

1. Rhaegar

2. Shaena

3. Daeron

4. Aegon

5. Jaehaerys

6. Viserys

7. Rhaenys

8. Aegon VI

9. Jon Snow

10. Daenerys

As it a promised “prince” we are looking for here, let us remove the three female characters (Shaena, Rhaenys, and Daenerys). This makes Jon Snow the seventh-born male Targaryen heir born of Aerys II and Rhaella’s line, and as a hidden prince—the ruby, the dragon, the drop of blood and fire yet-to-be-found that fell from Rhaegar’s person into the waters of the Trident as he collapsed, dying, with Lyanna’s name on his lips—it fits very well that this seventh ruby is symbolic of him. Given that he was literally promised (Promise me, Ned! Promise me! Lyanna cries in a room that smelled of blood and roses.), it all comes together nicely. And if his name is indeed Aegon rather than Aemon, he will become the “seventh reigning Aegon” of House Targaryen (following after Aegon VI “Young Griff” and Daenerys Targaryen).

There are some complications for Aegon VI and Daenerys if they are to be symbolized by the “seventh” ruby in particular rather than as part of a whole.

For Aegon VI, if we follow the same methods as with Jon Snow—looking for a prince, that is—we come to the conclusion that he is better represented by the “sixth” ruby rather than the seventh, and that works well for him, as he would have been (Elia and Rhaegar’s son) and will be (“Young Griff” himself) the “sixth reigning Aegon” in the Targaryen dynasty. He is also not a truly “hidden” prince, in that he knows himself to be a dragon, and others know him to be a dragon as well—they just know him to be a “dead” dragon rather than a hidden dragon. C’est la vie. That said, Young Griff does spend some time in “hiding” as a “griffin” rather than a dragon, but very soon into his arc he shirks his cloak and shield in favor of unfurling his dragon banner and waving it with pride.

If we are to include the females—“a dragon has no gender”—we still run up against a problem, with Aegon VI best represented by the “eigth” ruby, which… is not party to the symbol, and so it must be discarded as a possibility.

Now, to think of Dany as a promised princess rather than prince, we must exclude the males from the list of live births following from Aerys II and Rhaella’s line. This places Dany squarely at number three, which is a perfect number for representing her. The “third” ruby, dragon lines up well with Dany’s place in the line—Aerys II and Rhaella’s third-surviving child (Rhaegar, Viserys, Daenerys)—and also sits square with Dany’s known symbolism—mother of dragons, child of threethree?... so many threes…etc.—established in the House of the Undying Ones. Dany misunderstood what was meant by “child of three” and misinterpreted the prophecies/visions given to her at this time (more on this later), but we needn’t.

This leaves us with the Princes and Princess that were Promised, or the Dragon that was Promised, being represented fairly and well, each having a unique symbolic “ruby” corresponding to them and their place in the line of Aerys II and Rhaella Targaryen, as it was established that the Dragon would be born from this union. It was. And Daenerys is represented by the “third” ruby, Aegon “Young Griff” by the “sixth” ruby, and Jon Snow by the awaited “seventh” ruby. No one is excluded or cheated in this way. The promised dragon is born of smoke and salt—smoke representing the Gemstone Emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn and salt representing the Fisher Queens of the inland saline Silver Sea, smoke representing the fires that raged at their “death” and “rebirth” cycle and the salt of the tears shed for them or that they shed, smoke representing the fires of the dragons and salt representing the weeping of the Wall, smoke and salt representing the great celestial event with the forging of Lightbringer and the drowning of the goddess… as above, so below.

This leads me to my next point about the symbolic nature of Rhaegar’s rubies: as a whole, they create the three-headed dragon. I will show you how this is done shortly, so I leave you this riddle to chew on, in hopes that you might solve it yourself.

Here are Rhaegar’s seven rubies: <> <> <> <> <> <> <> Make the three-headed dragon out of them.

I talk about this in my essay series "Deconstructing the Prophecy of Ice and Fire: the Triune Deity at War with Itself" found below (the specific essay I'm referencing is "Ice and Fire and the Dragon that was Promised"  Part Two: The Dragon that was Promised (linked from the table of contents). It's long, but you might like to check out the TL;DR (first post), which has my conclusions about what "the Dragon that was Promised" was all about and what happened during the "celestial event" that was Lightbringer's forging. 

 

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8 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

This bit above is why I brought up the cloak not being about the cloak in my reply. The argument that he "could have kept it as a keepsake treasure" sounded like you were implying the cloak's importance and meaning were about the cloak itself. 

Ah, no, sorry. Maybe I wasn't too clear? I was arguing the cloak represented "freedom" to Mance, but that it was a corrupted and twisted conception of "freedom" that really equated to "anarchy." By arguing that Mance could have kept the cloak as a keepsake treasure, I was simply saying that there were other options if it were about the cloak itself, which would have permitted him to keep his vows and keep his prized possession, too (so long as he did not wear it; maybe he could have kept it as a blanket/throw, even, as I don't think their bedding has to be black too--what an expensive waste that would be! Black dye was the hardest to make and most expensive to come by and hardest just to dye properly! It's one of the notions why the "black brothers" in themselves are just silly, especially since the institution has become little more than a penal exile and labor colony. Only the nobility should be able to afford their uniform, and even some of they would be hard-pressed and angry about getting "everything" in black). 

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31 minutes ago, TheSeason said:

Ah, no, sorry. Maybe I wasn't too clear? I was arguing the cloak represented "freedom" to Mance, but that it was a corrupted and twisted conception of "freedom" that really equated to "anarchy." By arguing that Mance could have kept the cloak as a keepsake treasure, I was simply saying that there were other options if it were about the cloak itself, which would have permitted him to keep his vows and keep his prized possession, too (so long as he did not wear it; maybe he could have kept it as a blanket/throw, even, as I don't think their bedding has to be black too--what an expensive waste that would be! Black dye was the hardest to make and most expensive to come by and hardest just to dye properly! It's one of the notions why the "black brothers" in themselves are just silly, especially since the institution has become little more than a penal exile and labor colony. Only the nobility should be able to afford their uniform, and even some of they would be hard-pressed and angry about getting "everything" in black). 

Gotcha! A misunderstanding. :)

 

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51 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

Gotcha! A misunderstanding. :)

 

All cool. Cheers! :cheers:

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While trying repeatedly to get Steven Atwell's insights on this very question (I don't think he's seeing nearly as much nuance in the matter as some of us here are), a different possibility occurred to me.  Consider how the Wildlings accepted Jon's terms or even Stannis', even paying for the privilege, or publicly rejecting their gods, after a solid defeat.  Could it possibly be that the Wildlings had to see that their cause was doomed?  Not as plan A, mind you.

But Mance had to expect that Winterfell would be there to meet him.  Maybe he needed to make a good showing against them, so he could negotiate after an honorable defeat, after showing his army that, between the Wall, the Watch, and Winterfell (all alliteration aside), whatever option they chose, beating those south of the Wall wasn't an option.  Consider it something akin to Mance having to fight many of the other leaders himself in order to attain leadership (which brings up the intriguing idea of Mance fighting Ned one on one).

Maybe that was one of the options.  Fight, lose, and accept whatever reasonable terms got them south of the Wall, whatever his bluster was.  Granted, events unfolded that Mance would have been foolish to not take advantage of Winterfell's absence, but even then, it was all bluster bluster, and then one solid defeat, and the Wildlings are agreeing to almost every term asked of them.

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The NW can't be negotiated with. They are the freefolk's enemies after all.

However, the Starks aren't that bad. In the past Starks and Freefolk had fought side by side so its possible to negotiate something with them. Mance should have known that Ned is a honourable man who would do his very best to save innocent lives.

All Mance needed was proof. He should have taken a zombie at the right side of the wall and to Winterfell. Once Ned acknowledges the threat then I can see him putting pressure on both Robert and the NW to allow the freefolk access to the South. 

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