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Cowboy Dan

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  1. I believe I already answered that first part in my comment, Lynn. I'm not sure what you expect me to say, other than repeat that I see it as a journey in three parts and add that journey can apply to any of the characters mentioned. I can't speak for Brynden since he's a pretty enigmatic figure in the histories but I'll apply that same three part journey to Tyrion and Jon. Tyrion: His heart is destroyed figuratively/emotionally (the drunk who can't hold his wine, disconnected from ecstatic understanding of the heart tree) when he finds Shae in his father's bed, he then flees across the narrow sea (whose bridge was destroyed by the Hammer of the Waters), then becomes a vengeful ghost of who he previously was and wants to get back at Westeros however he can. I saw you mention a post about Card's Ender series titled "Creating the Innocent Killer", that's a good analysis of issues I have with the text and I'll probably throw it on a post or two in the future. Would you mind if I credited you when I do so? I bring it up because Tyrion's treatment and response is exactly the sort of behavior condemned at the height of Speaker for the Dead, a chapter that points toward a number of issues at the heart of these different series. But it's to be noted I'm only going to focus on Tyrion's treatment in this context, treated similarly to the dead Marcos Ribeiro (whose size invokes that of a giant -- which Tyrion is called by Maester Aemon early in AGOT) that Ender speaks for at the climax of the book. If only the story ended there for Marcos. But, like Tyrion, he inevitably gives in to his darker desires for vengeance and grows violent. This is one of those through lines that crops up, the desire for justice versus vengeance and that one should be certain when seeking justice, that you're not simply perpetrating vengeance and lying to yourself. Tyrion seems to be an inverted figure representing the Dionysian impetus, since he only dreams when he is not drinking. Much like his desire for vengeance and chaos over reparation and restoration/reconciliation, I would hazard to guess he is the negative aspect of this particular archetype manifested. This also fits with the symbolism of his eyes: normally the Dionysian is represented with Renly's colors, green and gold, but Tyrion's are green for hunger (invoking the starvation motif I mentioned in response to Melifeather above) and rage in the black, hinting that his nature is out of balance with the archetype he is meant to embody. As for the Silenus bit I think Martin is playing with this idea by way of Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy. First it should be noted that the archetype of "the drunk fool", a Dyonisian figure, is also played by "The Mad Poet" Martin Silenus in Dan Simmons' Hyperion Cantos. Long story short: by taking on an intense amount of pain and suffering he achieves an oracling state and writes the Cantos in-universe, which is universally perceived as a prophetic text. But the veracity of its prophetic nature is somewhat retconned in the fourth book, The Rise of Endymion. I should note the fourth installment was published in '97, the year after A Game of Thrones was published. This implies that while George R.R. Martin's works may be a focal point for all of this cross-narrative interplay I like to refer to as "Meta-Mythology", he himself wasn't as fully in command of the mythological narrative as one would assume upon publishing AGOT. But that's speculation for another time. Returning to Nietzsche, he identifies the Dionysian aspect in his "Attempt at a Self-Criticism" not only with drunken orgiastic revels but with the eternal suffering of life and Primal Oneness, linking to Martin Silenus' oracling as well as BR & Bran's powers through the weirwood. Nietzsche argues out of the Titanic world, with its constant punishments of Oedipus, Prometheus, and cohorts, arose the Olympian world of gods who overthrew the Titans of old. The threat of pain and suffering as the only prescriptive, the scouring lash meant to impel mankind toward goodness was replaced with the active life of praise for the gods, to live as their mythical gods do, embodying the gamut of human emotion and possibility, the goods and evils we are capable of, as the new salve for life's woes. Nietzsche then commits a reversal of this Silenusian wisdom, in the same fashion we Heretics like to mention the idea of the situational inversions Martin likes to play with: This seems to imply that Pessimism and Passive Nihilism is the inverted response to the "true" answer of the Wisdom of Silenus. Martin has gone on record as stating he is not a nihilist, after all. So while he may be playing with ideas Nietzsche puts forth, he does not necessarily see the body of Nietzsche's philosophy as one that coincides with his own beliefs (and one could assume he in turn would not sincerely suggest such a philosophy to others). The Dionysian figure serves as a sort of Lightbringer of the Earth, and as we all know Martin never fails to mention his status as a gardener over an architect. Because that's what seems to be Martin's (and by extension Bloodraven's) intent regarding Bran: to craft him into a sort of Dionysian Philosopher-King. That said, I've already mentioned Bran's escapism as a detriment and one of the requisite marks of a philosopher-king is reliability. Now to take all of this back to the beginning of this post and expand further: Jon's triplet journey revolves around his desertion from the Watch. He faces the Sphinx's riddle of individuation three times as Aemon did: First at the end of AGOT, when his brothers bring him back to the Wall. Second at the end of ADWD with his death. The third will occur upon his resurrection. He's already undergone the first step, which (I believe) you mentioned was Bran activating his powers in the dream. I'm not entirely sure what the second is but I assume this is his taking the WIldlings in, serving as a bridge between disparate peoples. There are a number of archetypes in this meta-mythology and Jon, like Ender Wiggin, falls under the "Proficient Protector" archetype. It is stated at one point with regards to Ender, "Like a bridge he'll come between us, not a wall." This same archetype shows itself under the guise of the "bridgeboy" of Bridge Four, Kaladin Stormblessed, initial -- and thus far main -- protagonist of Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archives. He fits the "innocent killer" mold as well and is early on often punished for the transgressions of others. He, as well as Jon, may be Jesus analogues in some ways, punished for other humans' sins, but are not completely spotless and shoulder the punishments for their own failings as well. To quote Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams' deconstructive Horror film (which features puppeteers and a Dionysian drunk fool), The Cabin in the Woods: Kaladin's major moral failing, the reason he winds up punished for his own transgression, occurs in the second book Words of Radiance. In it, he learns of the attempted assassination of King Elhokar, yet another "drunk fool" character. Kaladin makes the choice to stand by and let the assassination occur, thinking that it is for the benefit of the realm. Like the surgeon he grew up as, he thinks of Elhokar's death as amputating a particularly infected limb. But this is just a rationalization he uses to justify his selfish desire to no longer be subjected to the king's personal failings, despite the king's continual renewed efforts, which ultimately show Elhokar's heart is in the right place in spite of his repeated failings. Jon in a similar manner thinks of his desire for Winterfell -- and by extension kingship -- exemplified by him killing Robb in his nightmare as something he truly desires. All of this takes place in his psychological shadow, the aspect of himself he wishes to deny, as it does not fit with the honorable savior mold he learned from Ned. In the essay "Creating the Innocent Killer" you posted by John Kessel, this ethical dilemma is summed up succinctly: This seems to be the response to this particular dilemma and rejection of the abdication of moral fault implied by Card's ethos: what happens when the intent seems good but the process is still faulty, when the "good" doesn't know their motives or perhaps recognizes their subconscious desires but fails to admit openly the motive is built using a "bad" moral structure, in effect deluding oneself? I won't get into specifics so I don't spoil anything from the books but Kaladin does learn the correct lesson. Whether this is before or after the assassination takes place doesn't matter for this discussion. It's possible someone could know of this particular psychological test of the archetype and play off of perceived expectations, akin to Jaime's monstrous threat toward Edmure by playing up his Kingslayer persona, then in turn goad someone into failing in their role as protector, to serve as a sort of refusing chair designed to needle one away from making the right choice to test if they've learned the lesson properly. The nature by which magic is gained in Sanderson's series occurs by way of Oaths, promises made to spirits that give them power but also represent steps of psychological individuation that must be achieved in order to gain greater magical power as well as psychological wholeness. Kaladin's lesson results in him speaking the third of his five potential ideals in which he states: But, as always, there are choices to be made, choices which in turn make us. We can't guarantee that someone, even knowing an answer to such a dilemma, will choose as expected. But that could just as easily be said of other characters and the psychological tests of their archetypal journeys as well. So don't take it as me singling out this particular dilemma but using it as an example of how these psycho social tests are carried out for any character involved in this "children's game" of magic and personal individuation. It seems my two cents has become two dollars yet again and I've committed my own personal Dionysian deluge. It's hard to talk about any of this in a succinct fashion so I'll hold off on adding any new ideas and stick to the ideas I've already included for the near future.
  2. Hey feather and LynnS, thanks for the welcoming response. Y'all have always been warm despite my idiosyncratic or at times even aberrant behaviors and it's appreciated. You know me, I kind of come and go, and there'll certainly be more of that in my future once I catch up on my workload and can present more fully what I've been working toward. That said, even if I am busy elsewhere I expect I'll find my way back among the Heretics from time to time. I wasn't expecting that everything I wrote was spot on but that was a summary of what I was getting at, yes. I suppose about 20-30% of it was me making off-the-cuff connections I hadn't fully thought out or me simply being flippant. You know what they say about old habits. RE: Bran and the Wall. I doubt that's an inevitability, Martin seems to delight in playing with prophetic expectations and the perceived direction of the narrative flow, not outright lying about his intentions. Or at least that's how it comes across to me. That sort of toying with narrative intent is pretty typical for the game though, it's a recurring idea that crops up when someone who can access the narrative prompt wants a particular outcome but the person in control of the narrative itself then toys with or outright denies the direction they're trying to push the narrative. If Bran's job is implied here to protect the Wall from falling then I think the difficulty comes from Bran. "The little grandpa" Jojen consistently advises him to not spend too long in his dreams and to take care of himself better but Bran's been through some pretty heavy traumas and resorts to the escapism of the trees when life puts more on him than he can handle. Not to excuse that sort of response, more an observation. His issues and inherent sense of brokenness are the very reasons he is slated for the role he is, because as Sanderson tells us "They all were [broken], silly." It's a game meant for broken players and the intent revolves around giving them journeys for restoring them to wholeness. As far as we can tell the Greenseers do not need to eat. Recall when Bran is in Hodor within BR's cave: I imagine this is because of them becoming "wed to the trees". I've argued before in Card's Ender series marriage means man and wife are one and the same, thus in asoiaf marriage to the trees could mean they would gain sustenance through light absorbed by the leaves which then passes on to the roots and into the greenseers proper. That said, the Undying likewise seem dead but spring to life when they try to feed on Dany and as far as I recall we see no way they would receive the same nourishment. Strange. Perhaps it's because they are married to their indigo fire heart? But then how does that nourish them? I'm guessing it's symbolic then hand-waved under "magic" and not meant to have a physiological basis. The Tyrion line was actually sweetsunray's comment, I guess I missed cropping that, as it wasn't directly relevant to my contribution. But it is interesting that Tyrion shows this duality since when Sansa is about to be bedded on their wedding night she notes his eyes are green and black, which she perceives as hunger and fury, furthering the dualism of Tyrion's nature. Beric is definitely a similar archetypal figure, who appears to Arya in the cave on his weirwood throne. That said it's a different telling of the same archetypal role as Bran, tied through the symbolism of children and thrones as cradles. I wrote a post about this symbolism regarding Bran as a weirwood child. It's also worth remembering Mirri Maz Duur asks Dany if she thinks bloodmagic is a "game for children" and when Joffrey and Robb say fighting with wooden swords is a game for children, Sandor laughs at them, saying they are children.
  3. Was reading this thread, catching up, and found a puzzle from a month ago worth bringing back up. [...] Tyrion is represented by the drunken ash tree: [...] In this trio of trees, Jon is also represented as the oak tree. This is foreshadowing of Jon's assassination. There is a symbolic lighting bolt located at Castle Black. [...] I can shed some light on this issue, it only seems natural. The problem stems from dividing the three trees/towers into different characters rather than treating the trio as a cohesive metaphor in stages. Specifically it's the sphinx rearing its head. Everyone should know the sphinx's riddle, it's a common tale intended to represent man (or woman) in the three stages of life: child, adult, old man/woman. Interestingly enough this all seems to be Bran's journey as well as the recurring symbolic journey of the godhead. SSR was correct in suggesting it's a Dionysian figure playing into this as well, as the state of drunkenness is invoked. Before getting into the trees it's worth pointing out Bran's symbolic journey. I've argued elsewhere recently that Bran's journey is symbolic of a tree's journey: first he falls to the ground much like a seed then leaves to learn to fly. Thus his journey takes him into the sky, just as how a tree's physical growth ends with a reaching upward into the sky. Bran, however, is hampered by the air itself due to his Promethean transgression, which LmL always enjoyed bringing up. His abominable transgression is of course the use of Hodor's body. We see a number of 'abominations' by a magic user, including this possession, in the Varamyr prologue. It is in fact because of and not in spite of this abomination against nature that Bran gains the extreme heights of his powers: due to the transgression his aerial aggressors pursue him, leading in turn to a sort of figurative door being opened which Bran is able to look through to learn all sorts of secrets. Now on to the trees: I'm not sure if this is in the book's order of appearance but we must first re-work the ordering to be the drunk ash, the chestnut watcher, and the angered oak last. This all seems to indicate Bran's journey in relation to the weirwood. First he looks north toward Bloodraven's cave. The tree looking north implies upward movement according to a map, should the compass rose be properly oriented. In the same way Bran and crew make an upward ascent toward Bloodraven's cave in the hill. Naturally these references to upward ascent are symbolic of Bloodraven's desire to have Bran fly. After entering the cave Bran consumes the weirwood paste, able to see the past and in essence becoming a drunken oracle. The second tree, the chestnut, is Bran once he's been granted the responsibility of the weirwood, guided by Bloodraven and primarily keeping watch. He watches a bridge though, symbolizing unity and the connection between disparate lands. Pretty much the exact opposite of a wall. If you look at the world map you'll see hand prints and fingers jutting out in all sorts of locations. I've argued before these all indicate Breaking of the World locations. Instead of building a huge wall of stone high into the sky a la the North, it is the removal of stone deep into the earth, quickly filled by water, thus creating a river or sea -- in the case of Essos/Westeros, the Narrow Sea in particular. It's worth noting the crow cries for corn and Jon denies him in favor of feeding the wildlings, effectively starving the crow. I'll touch on this starvation motif upon analyzing the towers' symbolism. The final tree, the raging oak, faces south. Returning to the map motif this implies Bran is already north, he is upward in direction and can fly at this point in his journey so turning south is a sort of descent. Note the tree seems to be tearing its roots from the ground, symbolic of its leaving the earth, reinforcing the flight motif. In combination with the rage and wounds this seems to be justice or vengeance for some slight against the weirwood network, likely against the very aerial gods, most likely the Others, who attempted to prevent Bran's growth into flight. I like that the last tree reminds y'all of Jon with his blackout berserker strength. The blackout he has at Castle Black is induced by a forced memory involving Robb, a sort of daydream -- likely gifted to Jon by Bran himself -- in order to trigger some sort of growth in Jon. In this way Bran serves as both hurtful and helpful toward Jon by influencing him to take the proper course of action for the benefit of many. This blackout scene in turn reminds me of Bran in Winterfell when he is cheered on by a crowd but thinks the crowd is actually cheering for Robb. Perhaps Bran will use his powers of abomination to warg Jon (and others at key points) in order to disrupt the will of his opponent. Thus Bran would get to be a knight like he always wanted but like Jon's vows to the Watch, does so not for the titles or glory that usually go with the territory. On to the towers. We have in order: a drunk who can't hold his wine, a damaged tower with half a crown, and the ghost tower. The drunk who can't hold his wine seems to imply a failed greenseer, one who does not have the "1 in a 1000" bloodline you mentioned, LynnS. Since this all revolves around Bran's need to fly it implies someone who became sick from their flight. Perhaps they had acrophobia. The bifurcated crown implies division: instead of a bridge, the land is divided in two by a wall or sea. The last, the ghost, implies death but more particularly the usual unfinished business that goes along with ghosthood. This is all symbolic of ritual rebirth as you pointed out so well with the Trios quote. To return to the starvation motif: this tripling occurs with the apples that are used as target practice in the AFFC Prologue. The second apple is wormy but also likewise bifurcated. Discussion leads to the statement if apples were like worms and cutting them in half made two of them then no one would go hungry. Thus the second phase of this ritual involves starvation for the subject. Bran is told he still needs to eat when he spends time in the dreams, that the meat his wolf eats does not nourish him. Similarly Bloodraven is himself emaciated, having spent so long attached to the weirwood. Due to their sedentary state when in their dreams Bran and Bloodraven are fed mentally and use so little energy their physical starvation isn't as detrimental as it would seem on the surface, to the uninitiated. Directly after this oblique reference to starvation is the line, "The Sphinx was always smiling, as if he knew some secret jape." This immediately segues into Pate's self-loathing getting triggered and thinking how the sphinx will become a maester some day, implying the knowledge of secrets is the initiation and purview of those involved in this ritual. The first apple was cored, implying its heart was taken out. This links to the weirwood, the source of magic, a heart tree, is pierced through, reminiscent of Dany using her "flaming sword" to burn the heart in the House of the Undying. We've seen this in the mummer's version as well with the flaming sword stabbed through the wight in the form of a spiral that LmL has also mentioned. But if we take another big reveal from the show, we learned that In essence, using the flaming sword destructively brings about the potential destruction of humanity. From what I recall, LmL also made a post from his earlier days titled "A Burning Brand", in which he posits Bran will burn and he interpreted this in a negative fashion. If I'm misremembering this fact feel free to correct me. I think this was taking the correct symbols but misappropriating them, as Bran would symbolize the dragonglass itself. The flaming sword is centered on a cluster of symbols such as dragons, giants, and the weirwood itself, all interchangeable. In this way, Bran is symbolic of the Promethean giant at the heart of the weirwood or "under the sea". This connection between weirwood powers and the dragonglass is all but directly stated by Marwyn: The third apple is missed instead, due to its implied ghostly nature, then disappears in the mists, and "morning mists" is a phrase linked to ghosts. That's an excellent Orpheus catch. So in this way the body, separated from the head, is another example of this bifurcation. This ties to the Red Wedding and the Freys cutting off Robb's head and replacing it with Grey Wind's. This seems to imply those who use the ritual in this way are in essence on par with good old Walder Frey in the eyes of the game. Luckily for Walder he sits in his black oak chair, a symbolic preservative against the underworld. Once he loses that protection I imagine the backlash against him and his family will be severe. The apple and the tower scenes, like the Red Wedding, seem to be examples of this ritual rebirth failed or even purposefully interfered with, to deny the godhead recipient their boon. This would make them like one of the many failed greenseers Bran sees in his coma dream, those unable to overcome their god-nemesis of the air. Once Bran knows the full implications of this ritual intended for positive means of rebirth and regrowth supplanted and corrupted, I imagine he's going to be very angry. Perhaps his anger will flash a bit like a drunken lightning bolt? Speaking of drunken lightning bolts, we have a drunk and a lightning bolt tied to rebirth and righteous wrath as well as remembrance and forgetfulness in the form of everyone's favorite outlaws, Thoros of Myr and Beric Dondarrion. Arya is told where Beric, the symbolic lightning bolt, resides: "the lightning lord is everywhere and nowhere, skinny squirrel". All of this has been far too straight forward and informative around a discussion involving Dionysus for my taste, so I will leave off this particular addition with my usual choices of music and oblique referentialism.
  4. Since you seem to have a recent fascination with Hotel California this came to mind. Darnielle is saying, "yeah, I thought about Hotel California, don't point out the obvious." But sometimes you gotta point out the obvious so maybe someone can finally get it. But perhaps not. This reminded me of something from a game series I've enjoyed heavily since my first playing of it about a decade ago. A meta-narrative involving oppositional realities: a wonderful little game called Bioshock Infinite. To wit: To give some quick context the original Bioshock hinges on a singular moral choice you make throughout the game. There are these children named Little Sisters that contain a large amount of what equates to magical fuel in-universe, called 'ADAM'. Each time you get the choice to either kill the Little Sister and get larger benefits in the short run or save the Little Sisters and the game gives you benefits later on through a character named Brigid Tenenbaum. Killing the children for personal gain infuriates Tenenbaum and only increases her wrath. Should you choose to save all the Little Sisters you get the good ending. Should you kill even one, for any reason, the game gives you the bad ending. There is no avoiding it. I'll give a little more context so people not familiar with the game can get a better understanding. In the original Bioshock, the city it takes place in is named Rapture, an Atlantis-like city that's fallen into disrepair due to the machinations of an ideological demagogue named Andrew Ryan. He's this Ayn Randian proponent of Objectivist ideals (you can do some playing with the letters of her name and get And[rew] Ryan). But he gets so megalomaniacal and becomes this self-possessed demagogue that eventually destroys the thing he's trying to create because he won't cede control. Conversely Bioshock Infinite is set in the city of Columbia, a city in the clouds. Whereas Ryan was despotic and tyrannical leading to downfall, Comstock claims himself a prophesied savior and his despotic, tyrannical attitude brings prosperity to his city. But it's a hollow prosperity, as the city later gets divorced from the nation that birthed it and his regime is overthrown by those he oppresses. It is a victory built on absolute control and aggrandizement of the dictator, a true-to-form police state. Whether it's below the sea or up in the clouds, both are the wrong answer to the questions being asked by the series. In both narratives the antagonist works desperately to thwart the player character and eventually fails, even though the antagonist triumphs from time to time. To avoid giving big spoilers away to anyone interested in learning for themselves by playing the games -- which I highly recommend if you play games -- here's a spoiler tag. To tie the key ethical/moral dilemma of Bioshock back to the series proper, let's recall Davos' major dilemma with Stannis before striking for the Wall. Should someone understand that simple truth and still decide to try and murder a child -- and that's what it is, it would be no willing self-sacrifice -- the end result won't be pretty. Elizabeth is the real protagonist of Bioshock, not Booker or Jack, as the player would like to believe. She's not simply the 'hero of her own story', as she can tear open holes in the realities of the Bioshock multiverse and even gives up that power, not so she can kill children, but to save them. That's the objective she is trying to achieve: the one reality where Jack saves the Little Sisters and they all return to the surface. It's why she gives away her powers and confronts the sociopathic Fontaine, allowing seeds to be planted for the reality she truly wants to come about. Rapture or Columbia. Above or below. It's the same imbalance. It's the same error. It's the same fated self-defeating conclusion. So, sure, someone can try to build an empire on the sacrifice of a child, and it may even seem to work for a time. But in other realities the foundation is faulty, the wood is rotted, and solid ground is quicksand. My guess is a person looking to build such a city could hear that sort of prediction and still decide to follow through with acquiring their temporary ill-gotten gains. Perhaps they can't stop what they've started or wouldn't, even if they could. If that were the case, then a song comes to mind:
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