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  1. Seams

    A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Reread

    At a relatively late stage in the story, we learn that a good bit of the conflict between Ser Eustace Osgrey and Lady Rohanne Webber is that he supported Daemon I Blackfyre during the First Blackfyre Rebellion, while House Webber raised its banners for Daeron II Targaryen, the victorious side in the conflict. House Osgrey forfeited lands and the stream known as the Chequy Water as penalties for choosing the wrong side in the rebellion, while House Webber gained control of the water supply and other prizes of war. Earlier, Ser Eustace had explained to Dunk that Coldmoat, the ancestral seat of House Osgrey, was taken from the family by King Maegor I (Maegor the Cruel, son of Aegon the Conqueror) when an Osgrey ancestor spoke out on behalf of the Poor Fellows and the Warrior's Sons, militant groups loyal to the High Septon who were viewed as a threat by King Maegor. (This would have been about 150 years before the events of The Sworn Sword.) But there is a third conflict that particularly interests me as a possible source of clues about content in ASOIAF. Ser Eustace tells Dunk and Ser Bennis the story of Ser Wilbert Osgrey, the Little Lion: Ser Wilbert was a tall and powerful man, and a great knight. The name was given him in childhood, as the youngest of five brothers. In his day there were still seven kings in the Seven Kingdoms, and Highgarden and the Rock were oft at war. The green kings ruled us then, the Gardeners. They were of the blood of old Garth Greenhand, and a green hand upon a white field was their kingly banner. Gyles the Third took his banners east, to war against the Storm King, and Wilbert's brothers all went with him, for in those days the chequy lion always flew beside the green hand when the King of the Reach went forth to battle. Yet it happened that while King Gyles was away, the King of the Rock saw his chance to tear a bite out of the Reach, so he gathered up a host of westermen and came down upon us. The Osgreys were the Marshals of the Northmarch, so it fell to the Little Lion to meet them. It was the fourth King Lancel who led the Lannister, it seems to me, or mayhaps the fifth. Ser Wilbert blocked King Lancel's path, and bid him halt. 'Come no farther,' he said 'You are not wanted here. I forbid you to set foot upon the Reach.' But the Lannister ordered all his banners forward. They fought for half a day, the gold lion and the chequy. The Lannister was armed with a Valyrian sword that no common steel can match, so the Little Lion was hard-pressed, his shield in ruins. In the end, bleeding from a dozen grievous wounds, with his own blade broken in his hand, he threw himself headlong at his foe. King Lancel cut him near in half, the singers say, but as he died the Little Lion found the gap in the king's armor beneath his arm and plunged his dagger home. When their king died, the westermen turned back, and the Reach was saved." The old man stroked the broken shield as tenderly as if it had been a child. This is the war story that seems to mean the most to Ser Eustace. After finally recognizing the significance of this anecdote, I have tried to interpret The Sworn Sword as a conflict between Garth Greenhand, the legendary, god-like figure who promoted fertile crops, abundant game and a robust harvest, and the forces that undermine vibrance of the land: fire, drought, avarice, preoccupation with other interests and general bad stewardship. I think this interpretation is a good fit - in the fields of Ser Eustace, we see melon vines shriveling in his fields as a result of the drought; at the suggestion of Egg, the smallfolk / bannermen who attempt to serve House Osgrey are named for their crops: Barleycorn, Melons and Beans. Even Ser Bennis of the Brown Shield, the hedge knight sell sword who served Ser Eustace before the arrival of Dunk and Egg, might be part of the "fertile earth" theme, representing dirt. Ser Bennis is always described as stinky and filthy, with dirty clothes and stained teeth. We don't usually think of the earth in those terms, but the description becomes more apt if the earth refuses to come into contact with water in any way - instead of being a medium for growing crops, dry earth is just dust and filth. Ser Bennis does not even drink water: the one time he tried it, it made him "sick as a dog." Bennis prefers to drink wine which might present us with a new pair of opposites (wine vs. water to add to fire vs. ice, bitter vs. sweet, shaggy vs. sharp, smiler vs. slayer, etc.). Another possibility is that Ser Bennis is the personification of the drought that has held Westeros in its grip. The detail that discourages this interpretation is that Dunk remembers Ser Bennis as being a relatively normal person who joined a party of knights hired to escort a Dornish merchant. Dunk has forgotten some of the irritating details of his earlier encounter with Ser Bennis, but it is apparently only subsequent to that contact that Dunk sees Ser Bennis as having "grown mean and false and craven." Also, the eyes of Ser Bennis are "pale green" and "shiny bright with malice." It's as if GRRM wants us to know there is a tiny spark of green - a sign of life? - buried within the rust and dirt, even if that green shows a malicious attitude. If you accept the egg / Ei / eye wordplay as a hint from the author, Ser Bennis's happiness with the free eggs provided by House Osgrey could be a sign that Ser Eustace is keeping that spark of green alive by providing eggs for the eyes of Ser Bennis. When Dunk states his intent to discover the cause of the dried-up stream, Bennis tries to discourage him, urging him to passively enjoy the supply of eggs and straw pallets of their employer but to ignore the mystery of the dry stream bed. But House Webber has crops, too, right? As well as livestock? One of the workers digging an irrigation ditch for Lady Rohanne says the diverted stream is, "... for the crops, ser. ... The wheat was dying, the maester said. The pear trees too." But Dunk later describes the ditch as a spear with channels snaking off. When they reach Coldmoat, Egg notices that the main ditch ends at the moat surrounding the castle. The primary purpose of the water diversion seems to be defense, not food production, in spite of what the Maester may have told the smallfolk. In that extended passage about the Little Lion, I also highlighted a phrase about tearing a bite out of the Reach. Very early in AGoT, in their conversation in the Winterfell crypt, King Robert tells Ned that the peaches from the Reach are amazingly delightful, and that he has brought some along as a gift for Ned. Later, Renly urges Stannis to accept a ripe peach from Highgarden that he has brought along to their parly. When Stannis declines, Renly eats the peach. In AFfC, Biter takes a bite out of the cheek of Renly-fangirl Brienne. If the attempted "bite out of the Reach" by the Lannister king is part of this theme of biting peaches from the Reach, we have an interesting new piece of evidence about the Lannister relationship to the blood of Garth Greenhand. Perhaps the Tyrell alliance in ASOIAF is the long-awaited fulfillment of this ancient dream for House Lannister. We know that Rohanne Webber will eventually marry a scion of House Lannister and will produce a number of heirs for that family before she mysteriously disappears. Is it possible that, through her marriage into House Osgrey, she acquires the "green blood" identity associated with the chequy lion? If so, does she pass it along to House Lannister during her subsequent marriage? My previous post compared Rohanne Webber to the Night's King's corpse queen and this post proposes that Eustace Osgrey is some kind of caretaker for (if not the embodiment of) the legacy of Garth Greenhand. I don't remember anything in Old Nan's stories that tells us those two legendary characters crossed paths, but they certainly both rise to the level of gods or demi-gods in the ancient stories of Westeros. If The Sworn Sword presents us with allegories about them, sorting out some of these parallels will help us to identify similar parallels in ASOIAF.
  2. Seams

    On Janos Slynt

    GRRM is showing us in many ways that "the King's Justice" is subject to interpretation and whim - there is no single standard that clearly guides Lords (or Lord Commanders) in deciding whether to be merciful or to inflict the death penalty. As for Jon's treatment of Mance and whether he should have killed him, one might argue two relevant points: 1) The army of Stannis arrived at a key moment when Jon would have been forced to make a decision about killing Mance. The decision was taken from Jon at that moment, although he may have had subsequent opportunities. Jon was trying to co-exist with Stannis and Mance became a prisoner of Stannis, so Jon may have felt he did not have full power to kill Mance even after he became Lord Commander. 2) Jon did kill "Mance." When Melisandre staged the dramatic burning of "Mance" in a cage, Jon ordered NW archers to end the suffering of the caged man by shooting him with arrows. Only later did Jon discover the burning man was not Mance but actually Rattleshirt. As I say, though, I don't think GRRM wants us to wonder at Jon's apparent inconsistency in meting out justice for desertion or insubordination. Jon was "raised" by both Ned Stark and Jeor Mormont (and possibly Donal Noye, Qhorin Halfhand, Maester Aemon and Alliser Thorne). Jon has had a variety of lessons on pragmatism, justice and punishment from the range of people who have educated him. He will draw on different lessons at different times in his arc. There are some important details that can help us to understand why Slynt's fate played out the way it did. 1) Janos Slynt is the son of a butcher. There is an ongoing theme of butcher kings in the books but the other major player who was the son of a butcher was Arya's friend Mycah, who was slaughtered by The Hound at the Red Fork. Slynt and the Hound are both promoted to Joffrey's inner circle on the same day, with Slynt showing open approval for the dismissal of Ser Barristan, the opening that allows the Hound to join the King's Guard. I think we are seeing aspects of Joffrey represented in the changes to the small council. Slynt may represent the overall awfulness of Joffrey as a king and a human being. The fact that Slynt is granted the strategic, unique and (apparently) cursed seat of Harrenhal may embody the type of king that Joffrey will be. Jon beheading Slynt may show that Joffrey's reign has come to an end. Does the parallel to Mycah foreshadow that Slynt will eventually be butchered? I don't think it's that simple or straightforward. He is definitely linked to the execution of children, overseeing the killing of Robert's bastards. Most readers feel Mycah was an innocent boy who was slaughtered. As a symbol, though, he might represent a future butcher who was stopped before he could get started in his likely profession - the link between Mycah and Slynt is that they are both butchers. Slynt represents what Mycah would have been if he had grown up. 2) Slynt tells Tyrion that Allar Deem is "my right arm." Deem is the man who killed the infant Barra and her mother in the brothel, following Cersei's orders. When he sends Slynt and his henchmen to the Night's Watch, Tyrion recommends to Jacelyn Bywater that Allar Deem be "swept overboard" at some point on the voyage north - a convenient excuse for executing a man who killed a baby. But Slynt's characterization of Allar Deem as his right arm opens up a Jaime comparison: Tyrion has ordered the cutting off of Slynt's right arm. So this brings us back to the butcher imagery again. The maiming of Jaime was followed by the slow torture and execution of Vargo Hoat by Ser Gregor. Hoat was forced to eat his own flesh as his limbs were severed one at a time. Very much a butcher situation. Vargo Hoat is not a sympathetic character, but his death is one of the worst in the books (and that's saying a lot). Are we supposed to sympathize with him a little bit? Are we supposed to sympathize with Janos Slynt a little bit? When one butcher king falls in ASOIAF, another rises up. (Sometimes the same one rises up, as with King Cleon.) I think Ramsay is also a butcher king and he has probably left fArya / Jeyne Pool pregnant with the son of a butcher, setting up the next cycle.
  3. Seams

    A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Reread

    Almost a year later . . . I still have not sorted out everything I would like to understand in this story. I have read and re-read, written pages of notes and drawn inspiration from other discussions in this forum. Here, at least, are a few additional observations that might give us a toehold in understanding what GRRM is dangling in front of us. Lady Rohanne may be a parallel of the Night's King's corpse queen. She receives the seed of her several husbands and, Egg tells Dunk, "Whenever she gives birth, a demon comes by night to carry off the issue. Sam Stoops's wife says she sold her babes unborn to the Lord of the Seven Hells, so he'd teach her his black arts." We know very little about the corpse queen but this "rumor" is interesting: "Some suggest that perhaps the corpse queen was a woman of the Barrowlands, a daughter of the Barrow King who was then a power in his own right, and oft associated with graves" (The World of Ice and Fire - The Wall and Beyond: The Night's Watch). I do see parallels between Lady Rohanne and Lady Dustin, who visits the Winterfell crypt with Theon. When the spell is broken toward the end of The Sworn Sword, and Lady Rohanne is able to cross the Chequy Water, she immediately visits the grave of her lost love, Addam Osgrey, in the berry patch at Standfast, similar to Lady Barbry's visit to Brandon Stark's crypt at Winterfell. Lady Rohanne also gives horses as gifts, similar to Barbry Dustin's gift horses in ASOIAF. It would be wonderful to understand more about Lady Dustin by sorting out some of the clues surrounding Rohanne Webber. If Lady Rohanne is the corpse queen, this implies that there is a parallel for the Night's King somewhere in the Sworn Sword story. Ser Eustace ends up partnering with her, so he might be the match. As I mentioned in a previous post, Ser Lucas Longinch is described in terms of a Night's Watch member - the Night's Watch connection might make him the parallel character for the Night's King. There might also be clues among her four previous husbands, helping to understand her role as a spouse collector (see also Walder Frey) and the parallel to the corpse queen. (Gotta go but I will try to add more later.)
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    Wow, I never noticed that. Vol. 18

    Have we discussed the torture and murder of singers? (We probably have but I tend to return to topics I haven't fully explained to myself.) I've always thought of this repeated motif as a way of showing a character suppressing the truth: Littlefinger scapegoats Marillion; Tyrion orders the murder of Symon Silver Tongue. Ned simply refuses to have singers at Winterfell (perhaps fearing the old Bael the Bard scenario). In addition to suppressing the truth, is there a rite of passage involved in the murder? The character who orders the murder may need to kill a singer to move on with his/her journey, or to reach the next level of power? Cersei and Qyburn seem intent on torturing and murdering the Blue Bard. In the Dunk & Egg stories, does Bloodraven's decision to imprison but spare the life of John the Fiddler (Daemon II Blackfyre) follow the pattern? One part of the pattern seems to be that we don't witness the demise of the singer - there is always the possibility that the badly-mangled music maker has survived in a cell somewhere, or has somehow escaped. An exception would be Arya's murder of Dareon, a deserter from the Night's Watch. We are given pretty definite proof that Dareon is dead. (Although his body is dumped in a canal and we know that people emerge reborn from rivers.) Here is a little bit of context from Littlefinger and Sansa surround Joffrey's torture of a singer: Lord Petyr had said to her, here in this very hall. "Life is not a song, sweetling," he'd told her. "You may learn that one day to your sorrow." In life, the monsters win, she told herself, and now it was the Hound's voice she heard, a cold rasp, metal on stone. "Save yourself some pain, girl, and give him what he wants." The last case was a plump tavern singer, accused of making a song that ridiculed the late King Robert. Joff commanded them to fetch his woodharp and ordered him to perform the song for the court. The singer wept and swore he would never sing that song again, but the king insisted. It was sort of a funny song, all about Robert fighting with a pig. The pig was the boar who'd killed him, Sansa knew, but in some verses it almost sounded as if he were singing about the queen. When the song was done, Joffrey announced that he'd decided to be merciful. The singer could keep either his fingers or his tongue. He would have a day to make his choice. Janos Slynt nodded. AGoT, Sansa VI If life is not a song, maybe I am wrong in equating singers with truth-tellers. Why does Sansa long for heroes and true knights, as portrayed in song? Why do other characters suppress and punish singers?
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    Wow, I never noticed that. Vol. 18

    It's cool if he's the son of a chandelier, but my copy of the book says he is the son of a chandler - a person who provides supplies for boats and/or a grocery supplier who may deal in candles, soap, paint and other such items. The Blue Bard's fabulous clothes remind me of the singer Dareon, who dies wearing an outfit that is various shades of purple: The whores called him the black singer, but there was hardly any black about him now. With the coin his singing brought him, the crow had transformed himself into a peacock. Today he wore a plush purple cloak lined with vair, a striped white-and-lilac tunic, and the parti-colored breeches of a bravo, but he owned a silken cloak as well, and one made of burgundy velvet that was lined with cloth-of-gold. The only black about him was his boots. Cat had heard him tell Lanna that he'd thrown all the rest in a canal. "I am done with darkness," he had announced. (AFfC, Chap. 34, Cat of the Canals) In The Sworn Sword, I believe the name Wat is linked to the fight over water that is central to the plot. The Blue Bard's "real" name being Wat might also link him to water. Dareon weds the Sailor's Wife, perhaps giving him a symbolic link to life on a boat. Arya dumps Dareon's body in a canal, which seem to be the Braavos equivalent of a river. In attempting to sort out the symbolism of the Trident, I think blue ends up being the happy medium between the green and red branches. Green and red flow from completely different headwaters and have nothing in common until they eventually converge around Lord Harroway's Town. The association of blue-haired characters with water and riverboats might underscore the symbolism of the blue fork of the river. But again, Daario does not have a particularly strong association with rivers. The strongest association I have with Daario is three - he brings Dany the heads of the other sellsword captains, creating a situation where he has three heads. Dany frequently remarks on Daario stroking the hilts of his weapons - hilts shaped like naked women. This also creates a "three heads" image, if you count Daario in the middle. And then there is his three-pronged beard. Maybe a re-read would bring up some boat or river-related details in connection with Daario. Of course, I suspect GRRM is setting us up with a blue beard and blue bard hint. But I'm not sure what he is trying to tell us.
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    Did Varys wed Ned to the trees?

    Some more thoughts about this parallel. Many people have noticed the parallels between Mance and Rhaegar, but @GloubieBoulga is the first and only person (as far as I know) to compare Ned and Rattleshirt. I think she's right. Catelyn spending time with Ned's bones (laid out by the Silent Sisters at Riverrun) and Lady Dustin's talk about Ned's missing bones create an important "Ned is present in his bones" situation that could easily be parallel to Rattleshirt, with his shirt made of bones. (Even earlier, Ned's leg injury involves a broken bone sticking out through the flesh of his leg - a unique injury in the books except for one Stone Man at the Bridge of Dream.) Perhaps similarly to the way Bran is "wedded" to the trees (and Ned is wedded to his bones?) Melisandre might be said to have "wedded" Mance and Rattleshirt with her ruby glamor: she makes it appear that Mance is burned (in a cage made of branches). The person who is actually burned is Rattleshirt. The glamor - a combination of a ruby and the rattleshirt - causes Mance to live on for some time disguised as Rattleshirt. (Until, we assume, he travels to Winterfell, disguised as Abel the singer, for Ramsey's wedding.) GRRM is pretty clearly comparing the cage made of branches and suspended over the fire (which is stoked with weirwood branches Melisandre forces the wildlings to throw onto the flames) to Rattleshirt's shirt made out of the bones of his enemies. I am starting to think about collectors and collections in ASOIAF - the Starks marrying into various bloodlines of petty kings and thereby collecting for House Stark the magic powers of those bloodlines; Rohanne Webber marrying an assortment of old and young husbands; Walder Frey doing the same with wives from various Houses. Oberyn Martell doesn't marry but he does make daughters with a variety of partners. Maester Luwin collects obsidian arrowheads. Characters such as Brienne and Joffrey seem to go through several swords in the course of the story. Ser Clarence Crabb collected the severed heads of people he had slain. Tyrion scrounges up mismatched armor and weapons from piles of used armor (as well as wooden armor he wears when he joins Penny's jousting act). Rattleshirt's bone collection may be most similar to Tyrion's armor encounters, in that it is used as armor and it is made of mismatched pieces from a variety of sources. I suppose Rattleshirt's bone armor and Tyrion's wooden armor (initially used by Groat) might be another piece of evidence for the bone / branch parallel. Rattleshirt's bone armor then takes on a magical quality when Melisandre uses it to create the glamor that disguises Mance. So how might these pieces fit together? If Mance = Rhaegar and Rattleshirt = Ned, but Melisandre "weds" Mance and Rattleshirt, what does that tell us about Rhaegar and Ned? Branches and bones may be similar. What does it mean that Rattleshirt assembles a bone collection? If bones are armor, does that mean that branches are also a form of armor? Doesn't Arya make a sword out of a branch at one point? Rattleshirt gives up his bone collection (or it is taken from him) but he is burned in a cage made of branches. Mance is forced to wear the bone shirt and to appear in the guise of Rattleshirt. Ned loses his head, then his flesh and then his bones are misplaced or misdirected. And then there is a whole line of inquiry about the role of Varys in "wedding" Ned to the trees (bones) with the wine in the dungeon. If Bloodraven is responsible for wedding Bran to the trees, are we supposed to compare Varys and Bloodraven? Do we compare the Children of the Forest to the Little Birds of Varys? Should the wine Ned drinks in the dungeon at the Red Keep be compared to the wine that Catelyn sends to Jaime in the dungeon at Riverrun? He rejects it until he is ready to begin trading "truths" with Catelyn. "Oh, it's truth you want? Be careful, my lady. Tyrion says that people often claim to hunger for truth, but seldom like the taste when it's served up." "I am strong enough to hear anything you care to say." "As you will, then. But first, if you'd be so kind . . . the wine. My throat is raw." Catelyn hung the lamp from the door and moved the cup and flagon closer. Jaime sloshed the wine around his mouth before he swallowed. "Sour and vile," he said, "but it will do." ... Lannister poured, drank, poured, and stared into his wine cup. "This wine seems to be improving as I drink it. Imagine that. ..." (ACoK, Chap. 55, Catelyn VII) Does Catelyn wed Jaime to the trees by providing him with wine in the dungeon? If it's not trees or bones for Jaime, maybe Catelyn is wedding him to ... Brienne? The two traveling companions do begin their journey together the minute that Jaime finishes the wine. Maybe she weds him to honor or to keeping his oaths, turning him into a true knight? Bran's ambition was to become a knight - it would be a nice, ironic parallel if Catelyn "weds" Jaime to knighthood with the ritual of the wine in the dungeon.
  7. Seams

    Did Varys wed Ned to the trees?

    What implications could that have? If the branch / bone comparison is correct, I think you may have fit another piece into the puzzle of this theory: https://sweeticeandfiresunray.com/2016/11/01/them-bones/ @sweetsunray laid out a really interesting and persuasive case for Ned and Catelyn as Osiris and Isis parallels, and for Ned's bones possibly becoming mingled with the bones of murdered septons in the Riverlands. Those bones were carried by the religious sparrows (little birds!) to Baelor's Sept in King's Landing and piled around the statue of Baelor. What I'm seeing is the building of a "tree" on the steps of the Sept. (And, yes, there is an important pun on step and Sept, and the steps at Baelor's Sept are a key location for crossing in and out of the mainstream world and the Otherworld.) The Isis / Osiris parallel tells us that Ned becomes an underworld ruler after his death and that his son (Horus, in the Egyptian story) will avenge his murder to recapture rule of the mainstream world. The more I have worked with the ASOIAF books, the more I have seen GRRM showing us that the Old Gods and the Faith of the Seven are variations on a theme; maybe all religions in Westeros are variations on a theme. The Old Gods would use a tree with branches (and a human face); the New Gods would use human bones piled around a petrified human (statue) to create a similar point of worship (and violence - Ned was executed there). I love the detail about Ned being "wedded to the trees" (or bones) by Varys. This opens all kinds of new possibilities for the role of Varys in the story as well as helping us to understand the purpose of wine.
  8. Seams

    Did Varys wed Ned to the trees?

    Nice catch. I've been wondering whether the author wants us to compare tree branches and bones. The fact that Ned's bones are misplaced or have their journey interrupted seemed related to Rattleshirt's "armor" and the way that Arya and some other characters can freely navigate among tree branches. If Ned has a special concoction before his beheading, maybe his bones take on a magical significance, similar to the magic Bran finds in the weirnet.
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    What would Barristan have done about the wildfire?

    I meant to mention that Ned's unrealized desire to kill Aerys is a key piece of the dynamic between Jaime and the King. I suspect GRRM is using an old archetype from The Golden Bough, by Sir James George Frazer, a 1922 book that has been discredited by anthropologists. Frazer's book has been influential on writers of fiction with its claim to have distilled commonalities in myths about sacred kings from various cultures. The juiciness of Frazer's archetypes continues to make them good models for writers, even if the scientists have rejected the 1922 interpretation of the stories. The first and central example in Frazer's book is about a king who will be replaced by the man who kills him: In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier. 2 The post which he held by this precarious tenure carried with it the title of king; but surely no crowned head ever lay uneasier, or was visited by more evil dreams, than his. For year in, year out, in summer and winter, in fair weather and in foul, he had to keep his lonely watch, and whenever he snatched a troubled slumber it was at the peril of his life. Sounds a lot like paranoid King Aerys and, don't you know, he is slain by a stronger and craftier Jaime Lannister. Recall that Jaime doesn't just kill the king and recoil in horror at this necessary act of regicide: he immediately climbs the steps to the iron throne and seats himself there. When Ned enters the room - apparently moments later - he finds Jaime seated on the throne. Did Jaime consciously want to become king? Probably not. I agree with the comments that his focus was on being a great knight and on Cersei. But there's the interesting part - Cersei and Jaime are two halves of a whole. They complete each other. Cersei wants the throne. And we eventually see Jaime's "mini me," Joffrey, become king. Dividing Jaime and Cersei into twins is a useful way of showing the new king killing the old king without having Jaime overtly play the role of ambitious, would-be king. GRRM is showing us that Jaime really did win that round of the Game of Thrones and he and his House end up in power, even if that was not Jaime's intention. Readers are assured that Ned didn't want to be king, but I also agree with the points in this thread that Ned wanted to kill Aerys, and would have done so if Jaime hadn't beaten him to the task. He doesn't see himself as an ambitious player in the Game of Thrones, but he is and his children will act out - with variations - some of the events that didn't work out in favor of the Starks in previous generations. Archetypes will repeat. P.S. Back to the original topic. Upon reflection, I suspect that Barristan's attack on Hizdahr is a deliberate parallel to Jaime's attack on Aerys. I suspect that Ser Barristan is a dragonseed (don't know who his real parents might be), born in a brothel. So he would be related to Dany in some way and playing for Team Targ in the Game of Thrones. His efforts to champion Dany are similar to the throne-winning outcome for Lannisters after Jaime kills Aerys.
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    What would Barristan have done about the wildfire?

    I think this is one of the keys to Jaime's role in the death of Aerys. Not just because of the knighthood vows, but because he received his knighthood from him, Jaime is an heir of Ser Arthur Dayne, one of the greatest knights and someone so legendary and perfect that GRRM makes sure he is dead and gone before readers can meet him. Oddly enough, I suspect that Jaime passes along his "Ser Arthur magic" to Bran, when he pushes him out the window. It would be interesting to see whether there are any parallels between Ser Arthur drawing blood on Jaime's shoulder when he taps him with his blade and Bran's injuries when Jaime follows through on, "The things I do for love." Yes and no - he is a hostage and that's how he helps the Mad King. Aerys deliberately drafted Jaime into the Kingsguard to turn him into a hostage: he knew that Jaime was Tywin's only or best hope for a Lannister heir. (Or he knew that's what Tywin believed.) So Jaime is "helping" Aerys to be safe by preventing Tywin from undermining his old friend on the throne. If Tywin organized an uprising, Aerys would turn Jaime into toast. Aerys' determination to wipe out northern and Stark heirs may appear to be irrational and lacking in just or proper motive, but I think it goes to the Knight of the Laughing Tree situation. GRRM uses tournaments to drop hints about who will win and who will lose in the Game of Thrones. Aerys was apoplectic about discovering the identity of the Knight of the Laughing Tree, but he could not get that information before the Knight disappeared. Because of the weirwood sigil, he probably believed the KotLT was from the North. The subsequent slaughter of northern lords and heirs may have been an attempt to prevent fulfillment of the "prophecy" of the tournament at Harrenhal. As we know, Ned survived in spite of Aerys ordering him to come to King's Landing and Stark heirs continued to take roles in the ongoing Game of Thrones. I believe the King's Guards play a much more complex role. GRRM is very specific about who is chosen to serve on the King's Guard. (As well as the Rainbow Guard for Renly and other places where "kings" are served by seven warriors - someone recently pointed out that Jon Snow is retrieved by seven friends when he attempts to desert Castle Black at the end of AGoT.) The magic that keeps the king safe seems to involve a special "recipe" of Houses and sigils, each representing something different. We know that House Darklyn was the most prolific provider of King's Guard members. Why did so many kings choose Darklyns? What are the circumstances surrounding death, exile or forced resignation of a member of the King's Guard? For instance, Arys Oakheart, with his oak leaf sigil, seems to have divided loyalties, becoming the lover of Arianne Martell while also guarding Princess Myrcella. He is killed by Areo Hotah - cut down with an axe. So the cutting down of a tree seems to be the symbolism here. What does it mean that Arianne seduced the tree and Areo cut it down? There is a related set of clues in the connections between Pennytree and King's Guard members Ser Duncan the Tall and Jaime Lannister. That is a long post but the gist of it is that a tree can be an entrance to the Otherworld and King's Guard members seem to have a special ability to open (and close?) those entrances.
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    What would Barristan have done about the wildfire?

    If GRRM gives us the Summerhall story in the last Dunk & Egg installment, we will know by Dunk's actions in that situation how Barristan would have reacted to Aerys with his wildfire. I think Aegon V is going to manifest signs of the Targaryen insanity / fire obsession and Dunk will act in a way that reflects his / Ser Barristan's / Brienne's sense of honor.
  12. I bet Bran is the seeking See King.
  13. Excellent topic. I think there are numerous kings in the books. Westeros had many "kingdoms" that were conquered and consolidated by regional kings - the kind of king that the Starks were, uniting the North before Torrhen Stark bent the knee to Aegon the Conqueror. We see a lot of these petty kings persist or revive in the course of the novels - not necessarily as openly-acknowledged kings, as Renly or Robb Stark believes is necessary, but through their leadership or other actions. Heredity may also be a factor. I'm partial to wordplay as a source of clues, and I think it's clear that GRRM uses words ending in "-king" to drop hints. For instance, Jon Snow is often walking around Castle Black and he is probably the Wall King. Gendry is described as being thin and Arya describes his pained expression when she observes him thinking. It would not surprise me if Tyrion is the talking tall king: Maester Aemon says that Tyrion is a giant and we often observe him talking and using words to his advantage. In the last paragraphs of this post, I made a case for Joffrey as the Lie King. Stinking, tricking, working, dunking, kicking. There could be as many potential kings in the books as there are verbs ending in the letter k.
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    Wow, I never noticed that. Vol. 18

    I have not seen such a thread. I have not yet read Fire & Blood but I am very interested in the motif of the severed foot. It's an important symbol in Dunk & Egg, when Dunk sells his horse, Sweetfoot, in order to buy armor. (He promises he will come back for her, but he hasn't mentioned her in the subsequent stories.) Dunk also ponders whether he should have allowed Brightflame to cut off his foot instead of setting in motion the Trial of Seven that led to the death of Prince Baelor. Every time someone mentions "two feet of rope" or "he climbed to his feet," I know GRRM is dropping a hint about something. I just don't know yet what he is telling us.
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    The Stranger has three heads?

    @By Odin's Beard pointed out the probable wordplay on "stranger" and "strangler." In the past, I have wondered whether GRRM intended us to compare "strangers" and "rangers." Pondering your idea of the "6 + missing 1," I decided to check Benjen, to see if the First Ranger (Fur stranger?) fit the 6+1 pattern. Three days after their arrival, Jon had heard that Benjen Stark was to lead a half-dozen men on a ranging into the haunted forest. . . . "...You're no ranger, Jon, only a green boy with the smell of summer still on you." AGoT, Chap. 19, Jon III Seems like a perfect fit! So the six Others attack Ser Waymar Royce (who wears a notable fur). Then six rangers accompany Ranger Benjen into the Haunted Forest on a mission to find Ser Waymar. Immediately after Benjen's departure, Jon Snow "buried his face" in Ghost's "thick white fur," says he will "make solitude his honor" and "could not find it in him to pray to any gods, old or new. If they were real, he thought, they were as cruel and implacable as winter." (AGoT, Chap. 19, Jon III) Is Jon trying to make himself into a ranger/stranger in this scene? Burying his face would be consistent with the faceless, hooded image of The Stranger. If the "fur stranger" pun is correct as a play on "first ranger," burying his face in Ghost's fur might be especially appropriate. There could be an interesting in-depth exploration of characters who find themselves unable to pray. I have noticed in the Dunk & Egg stories that Ser Duncan the Tall is unable to pray. (He instead recites a rhyme asking his shield to guard him.) Renouncing religion might be a necessary stage for becoming a demigod? Getting back to the Stranger / strangler wordplay, the next action in this chapter is Grenn and his henchmen coming after Jon to pay him back for humiliating them during sword training. Jon knocks over and starts strangling and head-bashing Toad, whose name I believe to be wordplay on Der Tod, the German word for death. He is stopped by Donal Noye who breaks up the fight (and maybe "forges" Jon Snow into a new weapon). Essentially, Jon nearly defeats death and then Donal Noye instructs Jon to stop trying to defeat these weaker Night's Watch recruits and to instead join them and help them become stronger. A note on fur and The Stranger / First Ranger Ser Waymar Royce's sable fur cloak was quite a topic among his Night's Watch brothers. He was a junior man in the Night's Watch, but Jeor Mormont allowed him to lead a ranging party, which might make him a symbolic "first ranger." He and his body are not recovered, but the sable-trimmed cloak reappears as a bit of a motif among would-be First Rangers: Jaremy Rykker has a sable-trimmed cloak that is inherited by Thoren Smallwood. Jaremy was a sort of "acting" first ranger after Benjen's disappearance, and Jeor Mormont tells Thoren that he is NOT the First Ranger but then gives him all of Jaremy's clothes after Jaremy is killed by a wight. Maybe the sable cloak is a motif that tells us when a character represents a Stranger / God of Death character. There is an old thread that lists a lot of cases of sable cloaks in the books. Many of them are consistent with characters I see as would-be "Angels of Death," if that is the right term. If there is wordplay on sable, it may be related to the Bael characters - Bael, Baelor, Baelish. Since the direwolf Ghost's fur is white, this might mean that the notion is incorrect of Jon burying his face in Ghost's fur in an attempt to become a stranger. This does start to give me the beginning of a toehold on the "white vs. black" symbolism in the books, though. If black fur is associated with the Stranger, white fur may be its opposite. Time to revisit Val and Dalla?
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