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  1. I know there are readers in this forum who have read and re-read all of his writing - they might be better able to report on the author's skill at wordplay. I have read a few of his non-ASOIAF novels or novellas and felt they were not as subtle and skilled as this series. He used some of the same (or similar) ideas in those books, but the symbolism didn't work as well for me. (For instance, little space ships were shaped like wolves and bears instead of the wolf and bear coats of arms we see in ASOIAF.) But I know he had a devoted following before ASOIAF so I'm not the best judge. I do think that working out ideas in those earlier writings probably helped when he used similar symbols and motifs in ASOIAF. I suspect GRRM worked out the stories and symbols before he started writing the books; that he goes back over and over his initial drafts to be sure he incorporates symbols where they are appropriate or where they help to tell the story, and that he has evolved as a writer and this series is his masterpiece; his Lord of the Rings.
  2. I suspect that all of the words used in the book titles represent important motifs: game, clash, storm, feast, dance, wind, dream. One of our best clues about winds may come from a Theon POV where he notes that Robb's wolf is called Grey Wind and Asha's ship is called Black Wind. Theon concludes, "We're all windy." I have also observed that Dany thanks Drogo through an interpreter for the gift of her "silver," the horse that her husband gives her as a wedding present. She says, "Tell him he has given me the wind." So it's probably very significant that Ned tells Cersei to take her children as far as the wind blows. In these other examples (Robb, Asha and Dany), possessing "wind" seems to magically empower them. Is Ned inadvertently empowering Cersei by recommending that she go as far as the wind blows? Additional clues might come from wordplay. I have the feeling that time is an important background element in ASOIAF. The Night's "Watch," for instance, might represent the ticking timepiece that counts the minutes of the day and night. How does a traditional watch stay current in keeping track of time? You have to wind it. So that might be one added layer of meaning associated with the word. A "wynd" is also a name for a narrow, twisty street. In the search site, you can see the word is initially strongly associated with Tyrion but it then comes up in several chapters with the timeless POV titles. Very intriguing. https://asearchoficeandfire.com/?q=wynd&scope[]=agot&scope[]=adwd&scope[]=tmk&scope[]=acok&scope[]=twow&scope[]=twoiaf&scope[]=asos&scope[]=thk&scope[]=trp&scope[]=affc&scope[]=tss&scope[]=tpatq
  3. Here's a really old comparison of Ser Alliser and Olenna Redwyne (Queen of Thorns). If Olenna was truly responsible for killing Joffrey, this could add more credence to the notion of Ser Alliser, as personification of the Iron Throne, sometimes deciding to kill a king. But the thread is old and archived. I'm sure there are things in it that I would no longer support or defend.
  4. The most important literary clues about Thorne are 1) wordplay on "throne" and "Dorne" (the German word for thorn); 2) his "Master-at-Arms" role; 3) his scene with Tyrion and the dead wighted hand at the Iron Throne. I think Alliser Thorne may personify the Iron Throne, a magnificent high seat built by Aegon the Conqueror using dragon fire. He is sent away after the Targaryens are deposed. Since we are engaged in a Game of Thrones, it's a bad omen for Robert's monarchy that Ser Alliser is not at the Red Keep. One thing we learn from the histories is that the Iron Throne sometimes doesn't like the king and causes him to be nicked and cut. Some kings are even killed by the throne, according to some accounts. So the "prickly" personality of Ser Alliser would be consistent with the ornery attitude of the Iron Throne. If there is an affinity or parallel between Ser Alliser Thorne and the land known as Dorne, he might like learning that Jon Snow was born in the Prince's Pass in Dorne. (If that Tower of Joy stuff turns out to be an account of Jon's birthplace.) If Jon has Targaryen heritage but has darker coloring, this would be consistent with the Dornish-looking members of the Targaryen family. The Master-at-Arms title is really interesting if Ser Alliser is the throne. The throne is made out of swords. Maybe Ser Alliser's sneering approach to teaching swordsmanship to Night's Watch recruits could be compared to the stone daring King Arthur to try to pull out the sword that has been embedded in the stone. He doesn't believe anyone is worthy of wielding the sword but Jon outsmarts him with some help from Donal Noye, who makes swords (and warhammers). When L. C. Mormont sends Ser Alliser to King's Landing with the wight's hand, this is GRRM being funny with the "Master of Arms" title. Alliser is in charge of a whole new kind of arm. And he presents his arm evidence while Tyrion is sitting on the Iron Throne. Lots of layers of meaning in this scene, I'm sure. We know that Ned found Jaime sitting on the Iron Throne right after Jaime killed King Aerys. What does it mean that Ser Alliser has a severed hand and Jaime's hand will soon be severed? And Tyrion is the acting Hand of the King? Tyrion makes fun of Ser Alliser, as he did during the crab feast at Castle Black. He offers to provide shovels to the Night's Watch so they can bury their dead. The burying ties Ser Alliser (or the whole Night's Watch) to the Gravedigger at the Quiet Isle (thought to be Sandor Clegane) and to Shagwell, the horrifying fool, at Crackclaw Point. (Possibly also to the diggers at Coldmoat in The Sworn Sword.) I buy the theories that say Tyrion is a chimera with both Lannister and Targaryen paternity. So maybe Ser Alliser was seething but willing to accommodate Tyrion as someone worthy to sit on the Iron Throne. Still, he couldn't have been too happy with the way Tyrion treated him. If Jon Snow needs to be reborn after dying of his wounds at the Wall, could Ser Alliser as Gravedigger play a role in the resurrection process? GRRM has never made it clear that Gravediggers only bury people; maybe they also exhume bodies. Or maybe it's not the Gravedigger identity but the personification of the Iron Throne has a special role in resurrecting Jon Snow. Sandor Clegane's horse won't let anyone else ride him. And dragons have only one rider at a time. Maybe the Iron Throne gets to choose its rider, too.
  5. I agree with those who say that was not GRRM's purpose in setting up the storyline of the Wall dividing the Free Folk from the Kneelers. His themes are about universal truths, not about a specific political situation in the 21st Century. Sometimes it is difficult to separate an artist or writer's message from a narrow set of circumstances. In this case, it is not difficult to draw a distinction between life and art. Except to acknowledge that there are "haves" and "have nots" throughout history, and some solutions are more humanitarian than others. I would also point out that there is a very persuasive theory known as the Miasma Theory. In this interpretation, The Others are an infectious disease trying to invade the organism below the Wall. Maybe the wildlings are antibodies that the kneelers need to fight the undead enemy. Or maybe they are a vaccine. (Actually, I think obsidian is the vaccine.) A close reading of this excerpt tells you that the author wants us to think of Tyrion's murder of Tywin. Which is an interesting discovery: the author wants us to compare Tyrion to wildlings. Or, perhaps, to Styr, the wildling who climbs the Wall with Jon and Ygritte. Tyrion climbs a ladder in the Tower of the Hand. He kills Tywin with a crossbow bolt in his belly. Recall that he found that crossbow on the wall. (I remember that Tyrion noticed a broken trebuchet at the top of the Wall in the scene he shared there with Jon Snow.) I suspect this parallel also supports the notion of Tywin as a version of the Night's King. It always struck me as intriguing that Tywin + Cersei could anagram to make winter + ice (or maybe "wintery ices," to use all the letters). Maybe the wildling / kneeler conflict is about ending the long night, similar to the Night's King story. And the Tyrion / Tywin kinslaying is a variation on the same tale.
  6. I don't know about the wealth of White Harbor relative to other port cities. To me, the more interesting question is how Wyman Manderly compares to Littlefinger. He seems to function as a Master of Coin for The North and/or House Stark: Coins are important symbols in ASOIAF. Controlling a mint would be an important and powerful job. On the other hand, the Wolf's Den is used as a prison and Manderly controls it. This would cause him to be similar to Ser Ilyn Payne or to Rugen, the Undergaoler (aka Varys). If there is a parallel to Ser Ilyn, it's interesting that the Payne sigil is purple and white checks with gold coins. We have Manderlys living in White Harbor and Arya (as Cat of the Canals) in Purple Harbor. Arya is closely associated with the coin given to her by Jaqen H'ghar. Her first contract hit for the Faceless Men involved the use of a poisoned coin. Are Purple and White Harbor the only two harbor towns named after a color? Are the checkers of the House Payne sigil related to these two harbors? Is the House Payne sigil supposed to be like a game of checkers among the many game metaphors in the Game of Thrones?
  7. Mirri Maz Duur and Marwyn are linked - she studied with him in Asshai to learn about the human body. Burning Mirri was part of the literal dragon-hatching recipe or ritual that Dany intuitively assembled and implemented in Khal Drogo's funeral pyre. I suspect Marwyn will be part of a new symbolic "hatching" recipe or ritual, allowing Dany (as the symbolic dragon) to break the shell of Essos and fly back to Westeros. We saw a second hatching when Quentyn liberated the two dragons that had been chained in the pit beneath the great pyramid. Quentyn (or someone from his group of companions) was burned in the process of liberating Rhaegal and Viserion. This description of the lair of the dragon Rhaegal could represent Mirri Maaz Duur with hot coals as her jewels - representative of her death in the funeral pyre fire. It would not surprise me if Marwyn became the rider of Rhaegal. P.S. It's also interesting that Mirri Maaz Duur says that Marwyn taught her the "secrets that hide beneath the skin" of bodies. This seems like a Bolton allusion and could give us a hint about the Bolton flaying symbolism - is it intended to reveal secrets?
  8. It is not a coincidence that we are introduced to Ned Stark when he is meting out the King's Justice (using the sword Ice to behead the deserter Gared) and we get a big scene with Randyll Tarly when he is meting out the King's Justice at Maidenpool. There is contrast with Ned, to be sure, but also additional parallels: both men have a "son" in the Night's Watch, for instance. Catelyn's animosity toward Jon Snow and Randyll's hostility toward Sam Tarly may be parallels. I suspect that the "flower" symbolism of House Florent (Randyll's wife's family) and "flow" with House Tully (the flowing river association with Ned's wife's family) may also be a parallel. I think it's also fair to say that GRRM makes the point that rebellion is in the eye of the beholder. Tyrell and Tarly may have seen instability and harsh rule if Stannis succeeded Robert; they felt Renly was the logical and safe choice. Following Renly's death, the Tyrells saw the Lannister branch of the Baratheons as the best alternative and Randyll Tarly dutifully followed as a loyal bannerman. They could probably rationalize their actions as the best choice for the Seven Kingdoms and would never see themselves as rebels.
  9. https://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/Dragon_egg#Known_dragon_eggs
  10. Each region ("kingdom") of Westeros has unique qualities. I'm not sure of the nature of the unique importance of The Reach, but my guess is that it's a sort of "Garden of Eden" destination that is highly desirable to anyone who wants to control Westeros. One clue comes from Ser Eustace Osgrey who tells the story of the Little Lion who defends The Reach when a Lannister lord seeks to "take a bite out of" it. The other clue is in the legends surrounding Garth Greenhands, who is supposed to be the original partriarch of House Gardener but who is also an ancestor of many of the great houses of Westeros. House Gardener died out (supposedly - in ASOIAF we can never trust blanket assertions about the extinction of a house) and House Tyrell was elevated to Highgarden and Warden of the South by Aegon the Conqueror. The "Queen of Thorns" title hints to me that House Tyrell may have a unique symbolism as the "throne" of Westeros - like the thorns of a rose, the iron throne is prickly with sharp points. The House that has the best Tyrell alliance has the best control of the throne. We know that Houses Manderly, Peake and Florent felt they had claims to Highgarden and the Reach at points in history, in spite of the Tyrell bloodlines that were closely intertwined with House Gardener. I suspect these are the core houses we should examine as rivals or potential breakaway houses. I hope to eventually write up one of my lengthy and mind-numbingly pedantic posts about Osgrey's "bite out of the reach" story, but suffice it to say that this bite dynamic is still at work among kings and would-be kings in Westeros. Robert didn't marry a Tyrell but, in the first pov in which he appears, he tells Ned that he has to come south so he can taste the peaches from the Reach. In other words, the best thing about being king is the access to the fruits of summer. (Robert describes them in the same breath that he describes women in scanty clothing during the hot weather.) Recall that Renly initially proposes Margaery as a bride for Robert, intending to displace Cersei and make Margaery the new queen. Ned thinks Renly is nuts and, as far as we know, the plan is never put before Robert before his hunting accident. After Robert dies, Renly realizes the goal of controlling the Reach through marriage to Margaery but the marriage is a sham. (Although Renly does consummate his Tyrell alliance through Ser Loras.) After Renly's death, Tywin makes sure that Joffrey and Tommen pursue and lock in the Tyrell alliance. We are waiting to see what happens when Tommen is old enough to consummate his marriage to Margaery. There is no wedding until there is also a bedding. The Lannisters also hold Redwyne hostages and have allied with other important Reach households. So Stannis never gets a chance to marry into the Tyrells and he chooses the next best option for controlling the Reach: marriage to House Florent. Robert also pursued this angle, fathering a bastard on a Florent cousin. It gives Stannis (and maybe Robert) some Reach mojo, but not enough to overcome the Tyrell-Reach mojo. So far, at least. We feel fairly certain that House Manderly is now loyal to House Stark, so there is the Reach mojo for the longtime wardens of the North. It will be interesting to see what happens with House Peake. In AFfC, there is a Lannister marriage alliance with House Peake. The narrow thread for House Peake seems to be mostly upheld by three Peakes in the Golden Company, now allied with fAegon and assisting Arianne Martell in her attempts to reach the invader at Storm's End. You also mention House Highgarden. They are not mentioned as having ambitions to rule the Reach, from what I can see, although they are clearly players in the Game of Thrones. Mace Tyrell is married to a Hightower daughter and there is a Redwyne-Hightower marriage alliance. They are working hard to assemble all of the pieces needed to control The Reach effectively. There was also the famous and unexpected Mormont-Hightower alliance, however, which could be interesting now that Ser Jorah is utterly devoted to Dany. Ser Jorah once gave Dany a small peach which she felt was the sweetest thing she ever ate. I think it's also significant that House Tyrell has an important marriage alliance with House Fossoway. Their sigil is an apple (although we don't know if Ser Garlan's wife is a green or red apple Fossoway). In the symbolism department, I am circling around the meaning of "poaching," which is a way of preparing eggs, fruit or fish (each recipe very different from the others). The recipe for preparing poached fruit involves wine. (Eggs and fish are poached in hot water.) So I think the symbolism of House Redwyne's approach to controlling the Reach is on track for the peach / Reach wordplay pair - peaches poached in wine. But the word "poach" can also involve hunting animals on someone else's land and we know that House Osgrey had a conflict with House Webber over poaching and that Ser Jorah got in trouble for selling some poachers into slavery instead of sending them to the Wall. If poached fruit (and other poaching) is of potential symbolic importance in understanding control of the Reach, we should probably also examine mulled and spiced wine. Like poached fruit desserts, this also involves mixing fruit into heated wine. Jon Snow says that Jeor Mormont has a very specific recipe for preparing mulled wine, and it must be followed precisely. Maybe the Hightower presence, with their flaming tower sigil, in the Reach power struggle represents the heat source for mulling or poaching the fruits in the liquid medium? Hmm.
  11. Excellent topic. I think GRRM may use several name-related tricks to show connections between or among characters. Your theory might be right in some cases: different speakers or POVs hear the name slightly differently or guess at the spelling and this helps to hide from the reader a character who was encountered elsewhere. We strongly suspect that Alleras at the Citadel is actually Sarella Sand, which would tend to support the idea that there are disguised characters changing their names in order to hide or do undercover work. I've speculated about these possible name tricks in ASOIAF: 1) Recombined syllables to show that someone embodies qualities from two characters. For instance, Rickon Stark may somehow represent both his grandfather, Rickard, and a Brandon or someone else with an -on suffix. Aegor Rivers has a syllable from Aegon but also a syllable from Maegor. 2) Variations and anagrams of a name: Queen Alysanne was beloved and, as @The hairy bear points out, many babies are named Alysanne, Alyssa, Alys, Lysa, and even Lyanna or Nan. But then Alayne seems like a recombination of Lyanna. How far will the variations go? Do these characters have much in common that would explain why GRRM gave them related names? 3) One letter (or sound) is different. I am hoping to one day figure out both how and why Jon Snow's friend Grenn is a "green" character and Tyrion's friend Bronn is a "brown" character. Hizdahr zo Loraq is a Wizard of Oz allusion but "Wizard" swaps out the "W" for an "H" (or two) and then some letters are rearranged. "Oz" becomes "zo". (I don't know yet what Loraq stands for.) There are some anagrams that seemed to be off by one letter and this drove me crazy until I started to think that it might be part of a pattern of changing (or adding or subtracting) one letter. 4) "Foreign" words. The German word for green is "grün" which might be approximated as "gruen" by someone who doesn't speak German. So I wonder whether Rugen, the alter-ego of Varys, is another "green" name with a small anagram to better hide it. Podrick and Ilyn Payne might be linked to the French word "pain," meaning "bread" (which might mean they are in a category with Arya's friend Hot Pie). Although their surname could also relate to panes of glass or the kind of pain that results from being stabbed with a sword. But these related or identical names seem to have a variety of purposes. In some cases, as you say, it might be a disguised person we have seen elsewhere in the histories or in a different pov. More often, I think it is the "reborn" spirit of a character we have seen or heard about in a legend, or someone with similar traits. Tyrion and Arya take on many names over the course of their travels. I think each new name shows an aspect of their growth and the powers they are taking on. Apparently, the Celtic notion about names and rebirth was that heroes or gods might be reborn in a child from the same family line. One website I can't seem to find said that child and the hero would have the same name. Another website says, "a particular deity would choose to befriend a particular lineage and incarnate him or herself within that lineage, and thus a child could be born possessing certain characteristics of that deity. The child would not necessarily embody the personality of that spirit or divinity (though this sometimes happened in the cases of great heroes), but certain attributes or talents would develop as gifts from that divinity." Something along these lines seems to ring true with some of the ASOIAF characters. I'm not sure how often GRRM uses the Celtic device, or whether he puts his own twist on the rebirth idea: for instance, is there a mutation each time the deity is reborn, making each reborn person unique in some small way? We see Brynden Blackfish become the guardian at the Gates of the Moon and then the disappearing uncle, somewhat similar to Brynden Blackwood becoming the Hand of the King and then "disappearing" to go the Wall. Hmm. It appears that Bloodraven is not yet dead, though. Can he be reborn in Brynden Tully if he is not dead? Or is the reader just supposed to see them as similar characters? The two Bryndens do not come from the same kin group but they have Riverlands roots in common. The many Brandon Starks have some things in common but each seems to have his own unique twist that helps us to differentiate among them. I still don't know why Arya's friend Lommy Greenhands shares the name of the important deity Garth Greenhands, although I suspect it has to do with dying / dyeing and then being reborn. Although maybe he really was Garth Greenhands in disguise.
  12. I don't think we can get hung up on real-world etymology to rule in or exclude the author's choices of some words over others. There is no Latin or Greek or Sanskrit in this world, but the author frequently uses words with those roots.
  13. Quaithe, with her red laquered mask, embodies the red door that represents Dany's deepest longing. She appears to Dany like a dream or a memory just as the red door is a vague memory from Dany's distant childhood. But many characters in ASOIAF are searching for a way home so the advice of "the red door" applies to numerous characters. Many characters are surrounded by symbolic figures that manifest parts of their psyches or convey something else about the character: Jon Snow has Grenn, Toad, Satin and Leathers. Margaery has her ladies. Renly has his rainbow guard. Quentyn has his traveling companions. Quaithe is among these characters in Dany's arc, along with Missandei, the handmaids, the bloodriders, Ser Jorah, Ser Barristan, etc. GRRM incorporates a number of allusions to The Wizard of Oz in Dany's arc. When Dany finally climbs on the back of Drogon and flies away from the fighting pit, she is flying "over the rainbow" in the sense that GRRM expended effort to describe the rainbow-colored clothing of people seated by section to watch the resumption of fighting. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Dany is searching for home and this "over the rainbow" flight is a step toward her goal. (She ends up at the rock she calls Dragon Stone in the Dothraki Sea, however. So it is a still a symbolic homecoming and not quite the red door homecoming she craves.) If Drogon is the badass equivalent of Dorothy's Toto, and Hizdahr zo Loraq is the Wizard of Oz, Quaithe may be the ruby slippers (combined with Glinda, the Good Witch).
  14. GRRM often uses ambiguity in the text; he seems to like words or phrases that can mean more than one thing. I believe Quaithe's prophecies (if that's what they are) apply to more than one of the main characters. She is speaking to Dany, so most of us assume that the advice applies to Dany. I think the advice also applies (in whole or in part) to characters such as Catelyn, Tyrion, Arya, Jon, etc. The ambiguity makes it easier to apply to the different story arcs.
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