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three-eyed monkey

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  1. @kissdbyfireThe spearwives were "Clad as serving girls in layers of drab grey roughspun," when they went to rescue Jeyne. Jeyne then swapped clothes with Squirrel. I think it is probably Jeyne but Lyanna remains a possibility in my opinion. Alys Karstark seems an obvious red herring to me.
  2. Is Stannis guilty of killing Renly? I would say yes, ultimately. Stannis did not go to Storm's End to kill Renly, he went because Mel told him he would win Renly's host there, and she mistook the Battle of the Blackwater for an alternative future where Renly, as opposed to Tywin and Renly's Ghost, would defeat Stannis. Stannis planned on attacking King's Landing but once Mel told him of her vision he had to reconsider. Stannis believes the Red Woman has power, though at that point she had not yet had an opportunity to prove it. I'm sure Stannis would have weighed it in typical fashion, and he almost certainly would have been skeptical, but the end result was that he accepted her counsel and sailed to Storm's End, rather than risk her alternative future becoming a reality. If Stannis held any hope that Renly would bend the knee, it quickly evaporated at the peach parley. Stannis gave his brother an ultimatum, bend the knee by dawn or else it's battle. From a military perspective it looks an impossible battle to win, even by Stannis's standards. He must have known that, yet before the sun rose the next day his camp was preparing to fight, so clearly Stannis was all-in on Mel's vision, he had pushed too many chips onto the table at that stage. He could not withdraw without losing face and had no choice but to trust Mel's vision and hope that the Lord of Light would make something happen for him, but I don't think he knew what that might be. The parley presented Mel with the opportunity she was waiting for. She knew the magic, she also knew Stannis. She only needed to unleash his shadow and the rest would take care of itself. That's the important part, it's not just a shadow assassin it is shadow Stannis. The shadow is the deepest and darkest parts of Stannis, the parts of him that even he fails to identify. It's the Id as opposed to the Ego, if we want to think of it in terms of psychology. Outwardly, Stannis portrays himself as the rightful king, a just man, laws made from iron not pudding, etc. He also has an inner side that we don't often get to see behind the facade, the Stannis who swaps Mance and Rattleshirt before he burns the king-beyond-the-wall to satisfy the law, but beyond that there are those deep, dark parts of him that even he dares not visit. That is where the shadow resides until called forth by Mel's spell. She did not create the shadow and I doubt she has much control over it, she just brings it into the world, and the shadow does the rest. Stannis remained connected to the shadow through his dream, but I'd imagine his ability to control the shadow was no different than his ability to control any of his dreams. However, it's not that simple. The shadow is Stannis, it's his dark-side. It knows his secrets and his desires. They inform the shadow and the shadow serves only Stannis, there is no one else. The only difference between Stannis and his shadow is that his shadow will do the things that Stannis cannot. When Stannis woke and heard the reports then he simply had to put two and two together. He dreamed of killing Renly in his tent, woke to find Renly was killed in his tent, Mel is a sorceress, the conclusion is that Mel's sorcery somehow allowed Stannis to actually kill Renly through a dream. But remember, the shadow is the part of him that even he fails to identify. When someone is confronted by their shadow the first line of defense is denial, and that's what Stannis chooses. He insists his hands are clean and his, well, clean hands prove it. It couldn't have been him, he was asleep as Devan will testify, Renly annoyed him but he is no kinslayer, that's not who he is. Besides, Renly chose his fate when he usurped the law, etc. The point of the whole thing is that the shadow exists in everyone, deep down, the Heart of Darkness as Joseph Conrad called it, and horrors like war bring it forth. Stannis does not identify the monster in him, he does not recognize what he is capable of. This is an important part of his arc because the day will come when the kinslaying shadow within can no longer be denied, it will be clear for all the world to see, and that is what will destroy him.
  3. I think the sparrows are a populist movement, cloaked in religion. The smallfolk are clearly unhappy with the corrupt ruling class, who they blame for the collapse of law and order, which has led to the defilement of septs and other previously unthinkable crimes across the realm. Much of the protest has related to the issue of the king protecting the people and maintaining order, or rather his failing to, and that is what has led to the revival of the faith militant. No doubt there are plenty of pious people in Westeros who consider it a religious issue, perhaps the Father's judgement on the morally bankrupt rulers of the realm, but I'm not convinced that's how the High Sparrow sees it. I seems to me that the High Sparrow's religious fervor must be something of an act. To begin with, there is the man himself. He is of unknown origin. He's supposedly a wandering septon, though no one seems to know anything about him. He swept into King's Landing on a disgruntled wave, orchestrated a campaign to expose and discredit other potential High Septons, and ultimately took the position by force when he was raised by men wielding axes. Sure, he gives some stuff to the poor, wears rags, scrubs some floors, but that's his unique selling point. He's going for "one of the people", not some haughty pope. He has quoted a few lines of the Seven-Pointed Star as far as I remember, but then Septon Meribald claims he can quote the whole book from memory and he can't even read. The High Sparrow shows no evidence of being a theologian of any sort. There is no debate about religious doctrine, no 95 theses nailed to the door of the Great Sept, no sign of a schism. Religion is not the issue. Nor do I see it being a struggle between the faith and the crown for control of the realm, like the many conflicts between popes and kings or holy roman emperors for control of Christendom. The High Sparrow's efforts have been primarily focused on weakening the crown, but also weakening the faith. He wrote off the crown's substantial debt to the faith without batting an eyelid, in exchange for a reduction in the crowns powers with the abolishon of Maegor's laws as well as the reinstatement of the Faith Militant, which is basically an arming of the people. I think the High Sparrow's goal is revolution, in terms of tearing down the establishment, both faith and crown, to make way for something better. He's part of the endgame.
  4. The Thematic Principle of A Song of Ice and Fire - and how it informs the story. At this stage, with five of the seven novels published, I believe we have enough material to establish the Thematic Principle of the story. So what, I hear you say. Readers are generally more interested in plot and character. Plot and character are concrete parts of the story, while theme remains aloof. Well, theme may be abstract and seem nebulous at times but it is far more important to the structure of a story than most readers appreciate. A lot can be learned about plot and character when viewed through the lense of theme. There are three parts to this. First, I’ll briefly explain some of the technical aspects of theme to provide context, then I’ll demonstrate how those technical aspects apply to A Song of Ice and Fire, and finally I’ll look at what theme can tell us about some well-known character arcs and elements of the plot. What is theme? If plot is the brain of the story, and character is the heart of the story, then theme is the story’s soul. It’s the glue that holds a story together. A story is simply the dramatic expression of a theme. It is theme that gives the story meaning. Theme is the point of the story, the very reason the story was written the way it was written. Theme is a message from the author, the lesson he wants his story to teach. It’s also the lesson his main characters must ultimately learn if they are to succeed in their goals. Topics and Themes. We should differentiate between a topic and a theme. A topic can be anything like power, justice, revenge, love or war. A theme is what the author is saying about a topic. Theme cannot be summed-up in one word, and there is rarely only one way to state a theme, but it can usually be captured in a short phrase that reflects a universal truth. If the topic is “war” then the theme will be something like “war is futile” or “war is profitable”, depending on the message the author is trying to convey. Thematic questions. The author conveys their message about a topic by first raising a thematic question. Thematic questions can be stated explicitly or they can be implicit. For example, what is power? The question is explored by the characters from a variety of perspectives as we progress through the story. For some, power flows from wealth or military strength or the gods. For others it‘s a trick, a shadow on the wall. By the end of the story the thematic questions will be answered and the characters actions will prove the answers to be true. Major themes and minor themes. A story that covers a lot of topics is going to have a lot of themes. These can be divided into two main categories, major themes and minor themes. Naturally, the major themes contain the main message the author wants to convey. Authors want to convey their message clearly so they help readers identify major themes by highlighting them with a literary device known as a motif. When the important points stand out we can better make sense of the story, and subsequently the message. Motifs. A motif is simply a recurring line, image, or symbol that explains a theme and underlines the importance of that theme to the story. For example, if the image of a blood-stained dollar bill recurs in a story then it is a motif that supports the theme “war is profitable” and the reader can identify it as a major theme. As a general rule, major themes are supported more than minor themes. The Thematic Principle. The major themes of a story should be congruent. If one theme says “everyone is equal” and another says “some are more equal than others” then the story will lack coherence and fall apart. In a coherent story the major themes will stand in harmony and form a single unifying idea, an idea built on the universal truths presented by the major themes. This is the story’s Thematic Principle. The Thematic Principle is where the message from the author to the readers meets the lessons that the characters must learn. It's how the author gives meaning to the characters actions and brings life to the themes at the same time. If the Thematic Principle of a story is that “war is evil”, then those characters who fail to heed the lesson and persist with war are doomed to failure while characters who learn the lessons will ultimately prevail. That way, when the characters resolve the plot by peaceful means then they will prove the principle to be true. Theme, Plot, and Character. Every story is made up of plot, character and theme. There are other elements too, like setting or mood, but for the purpose of this exercise we need only focus on the big three. You could say the story has three heads. All three are intrinsically connected. The plot is driven by characters, the characters develop in line with the theme, the moral of the tale so to speak, and this new-found understanding then provides the characters with the key to resolving the plot. The Lie and the Truth. Characters usually begin a story believing lies. The lies can be personal, like the true identity of the character’s parents, and they can relate to broader issues, like the society within which the characters live. Characters progress through the story along a character arc, learning or failing to learn as they go. They are driven by internal conflict and in turn they drive the external conflict of the story. At the root of both internal and external conflicts is a lie. It is often said that characters must learn to stop striving for what they want and instead strive for what they need. If you prefer to look at it that way then their want is wrapped up in the lie while their need can be found in the truth. They must grow to abandon the lie and accept the truth if they are to succeed, and the Thematic Principle defines what the truth is, according to the story. It is worth noting that GRRM shares William Faulkner’s view, “The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.” This supports the idea that in A Song of Ice and Fire it is the internal conflict that is the key. That’s where the real drama resides. If the characters can solve their internal conflict then they will find the solution to the external conflict. The climax of the story. The climax of a story is where the central mysteries are revealed and the point of the story is made. As such we can see how theme impacts the climax because theme is the point of the story. The characters decisions and subsequent actions at the climax will decide the outcome of their arcs and the plot, but they will also prove the Thematic Principle. This is why theme only really emerges at the climax, even though it has been explored from a variety of different perspectives throughout the story. Imagine a story where the plot involves a bank heist. The main character is a bank robber. The theme will develop in the background as the story progresses until it finally emerges at the climax where the character’s actions prove it to be true. However, if we know ahead of time that the main theme is “crime doesn’t pay” then before we ever reach the climax of the story we can project that, one way or another, the money is safe. The climax should not be mistaken for the end as it is followed by the resolution, often in the form of a final battle, which then leads into the conclusion. The themes of A Song of Ice and Fire. In A Song of Ice and Fire the Thematic Principle permeates every aspect of the story. It’s in the titles of the books and the series. It’s reflected in the plot lines and the character arcs. We find it in the symbolism and in the dialogue. We could easily disappear down a rabbit-hole given the volume of material, so I’ll focus on two major topics, “the true king” and “unity”, and demonstrate how the themes develop, are supported, play off each other, and interact with the characters and plot. Words without action. In the very first chapter, Ned tells Bran that “the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.” The old way of the Starks conflicts with the new way of the king, who employs a headsman. It’s a memorable line and one Ned later repeats to Robert word-for-word when discussing the assassination of Dany, highlighting that the sentiment expressed is important to the story. The line comments on the system of justice, political accountability, and personal responsibility, topics which are explored through the story and developed into themes. For example, in the case of personal responsibility the theme that develops from the line is the universal truth - words are meaningless without action. In terms of plot, the line may foreshadow someone passing a sentence and swinging the sword, but thematically it is telling us that the concept of words being meaningless without action will be important to the story. We should watch that space. Identity. In Jon’s first chapter he tells Tyrion, “I don’t even know who my mother was,” opening the story’s central mystery. The answer to that particular question will have implications for the plot, but there are subtle thematic questions here too. Jon’s identity and status as a bastard is central to his internal conflict as well as his external conflict within his family and the wider world. It’s not just a question of who his parents are, it’s who Jon is? What sort of person is he? How does he relate to other people? What determines his identity? The concept of identity is explored by Jon and a host of other characters in their arcs, and just as the questions of Jon’s parents will be revealed to satisfy the plot, the thematic questions will be answered too. A reveal about his parents is one thing, but his reaction will very much depend on what type of person Jon is. For example, is he the type of person who gives meaning to his words with action? The True King. Early in Dany’s story she brings up the concept of a true king. "He is still the true king. He is …" Jorah pulled up his horse and looked at her. "Truth now. Would you want to see Viserys sit a throne?" The thematic question is what is a true king? It reminds us of another question, what is a true knight? The author will answer these questions before the end, but GRRM is offering us an immediate hint using word games. A true king or true queen or true knight is someone who rejects the lie and embraces the truth of the story. Remember, the truth of the story is defined by the story’s Thematic Principle. Words are wind. “Words are wind.” The saying was first introduced by Davos in the prologue of A Clash of Kings, and we have grown very familiar with it ever since. This recurring line is a motif, a simple expression that explains and supports a theme. The sentiment being expressed is that words are worthless, once spoken they’re gone on the wind. It’s not what you say but what you do that matters. It’s a theme that has implications for other areas of the story that involve oaths, vows, promises and pacts. It also recalls Ned’s line to Bran. Words without action are meaningless. We can identify this heavily supported theme as a major theme. If all major themes flow into single unifying idea of the Thematic Principle, then we know one of the qualities of a true king, queen, knight, or indeed person. It’s someone who gives meaning to their words with action. I am the king! “And any man who must say 'I am the king' is no true king at all.” Tywin gave Joffery a sharp lesson in A Storm of Swords, but there is learning here for the reader too. It connects to a familiar theme. Joffery’s words are wind, meaningless without action. This is the antithesis of a true king. We know Joffery was no true king therefore Tywin was speaking the truth, and based on his statement we can identify other false kings and indeed queens. Obviously there is "No one commands the dragon," Viserys snarled. "I am your king!” And of course, She ran as far as the sept, but no farther. There were women waiting for her there, more septas and silent sisters too, younger than the four old crones below. "I am the queen," she shouted, backing away from them. Then there is, Stannis frowned at her. "You presume too much, Lady Stark. I am the rightful kind.” And not to forget, "I am their rightful queen," Dany protested. Win the throne and save the kingdom. Stannis may not be a true king but he does hold another piece of the thematic puzzle. “I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne." It’s a common trope in the genre. Win the throne and save the kingdom. Stannis wants to eat his cake and have it too, like so many other fantasy heroes, but we know GRRM won’t allow it. In A Song of Ice and Fire everything comes at a cost. The implicit thematic question here is, the individual or the group? Winning the throne benefits an individual, and perhaps an elite cohort of allies, but saving the kingdom is of benefit to all. Stannis will have to choose between the two, and as we know he’s a false king, we know he'll choose incorrectly. The true king or queen will face the same dilemma but they will choose correctly because they will understand and adhere to the Thematic Principle. A queen belongs to her people. Learning to rule is central to Dany’s arc. A queen should hear all sides before reaching a decision... A queen must know the sufferings of her people... A queen must listen to her people. Good qualities, all, and we should take note, but we can condense the fruit of her lessons into a single line. A queen belongs not to herself but to her people. It’s a recurring line that marks another major theme. Dany knows the truth, the question is can she adhere to it as the true queen would? Words are meaningless without action. Furthermore, if we apply this rule to Stannis’s pending dilemma, win the throne or save the kingdom, then we can imagine how a queen who truly belongs not to herself but to her people might choose. The true queen or king would choose to save the kingdom. Kill the boy. Jon has also been learning to rule. In A Dance with Dragons Maester Aemon told Jon “Egg had an innocence to him, a sweetness we all loved. Kill the boy within you, I told him the day I took ship for the Wall. It takes a man to rule. An Aegon, not an Egg. Kill the boy and let the man be born." The old man felt Jon's face. "You are half the age that Egg was, and your own burden is a crueler one, I fear. You will have little joy of your command, but I think you have the strength in you to do the things that must be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy and let the man be born.” As Jon struggles with his command he recalls Aemon’s lesson several times. “Kill the boy,” becomes a recurring line, another motif that draws our attention to the importance of the underlying theme. The boy represents innocence, the stuff of fairytales and knights in shining armor and heroes who win the throne and save the kingdom, but it takes a man to rule. Jon’s burden will be a crueler one because he will not be able to attain both. He will have to kill that innocent notion and choose between the throne and the kingdom, but he has the strength to do the things that must be done when winter is upon them, to choose correctly. The true king cannot be innocent. What better name for a king? Young Griff is well on his way to winning the Iron Throne and becoming Aegon VI, and when his fall comes the stage will be set for the next Aegon to be the seventh of his name. What better name for a king? Seven is even one of the story’s master numbers. It seems perfect, but we are slipping into innocence again. We need to kill the boy and let the man be born because as Mance told Jon, "Free folk don't follow names, or little cloth animals sewn on a tunic," the King-Beyond-the-Wall had told him. "They won't dance for coins, they don't care how you style yourself or what that chain of office means or who your grandsire was. They follow strength. They follow the man.” Mance says free folk won’t dance for coins, which also means they won’t fight for money like the sellswords used by many a false king. Free folk fight for what they believe in under a leader they choose to follow, in extreme contrast to the thralls of the Others. Mance might be talking about wildlings but GRRM is playing with words again. All wildlings are free folk but not all free folk have to be wildlings. All folk should be free, a noble aspiration, but to give those words meaning kneelers need to rise and stop being smallfolk. A king in more than name. Jon says of Mance, He had no crown nor scepter, no robes of silk and velvet, but it was plain to Jon that Mance Rayder was a king in more than name. Mance spent years making peace between the wildlings and forging them into one people, his goal is to get his people south of the Wall before the cold winds rise, he does not order a full-scale assault on the Wall because he believes his people have bled enough. Mance, who is an influential mentor of Jon’s, is a true king. He belongs not to himself but to his people and that is the type of strength people follow. His kingship is based on merit, not on his bloodline, and his sons will have no more of a claim to succeed him than any other man’s son. Folk ruled by a king who belongs not to himself but to his people are in fact free folk, not smallfolk, and that is the transformative power a true king or queen can have on Westeros. As they say, the truth will set you free. The black cloak. There is another big transformation needed in war torn Westeros. The topic is unity and as usual the theme is explored and developed through the story. It’s an important theme and one that is very heavily supported. There are two recurring lines, or motifs, that I feel best explain the theme. The first is, “By night all cloaks are black.” This line is repeated in slightly different forms. “By night all banners are black,” and “by night all sails are black.” The night in question is the Long Night. The cloaks, banners, and sails represent the houses of Westeros, a colorful array on any given day, but when the Long Night falls they’ll all share the black of the Night’s Watch. Every sword will be a sword in the darkness, every shield a shield that guards the realm, all united in the fight against extinction, the greatest unifying factor of them all. The lone wolf. The second is, “When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” The white winds signify the Others. When the Long Night falls, those who put their own needs ahead of the group’s needs will perish while those who put the group’s needs first will survive. United we stand, divided we fall. And there are more layers to the line. As Stannis bluntly told us, "Kings have no friends." The lone wolf represents the false king who serves himself and not the realm. The true king belongs not to himself but to his people, to the pack. It’s also worth noting that the line recurs through Arya’s arc because it relates to her internal identity crisis, and as such connects the thematic question of identity with the thematic question of unity. If we can identify the true king, and the true king can truly unify the realm, then clearly both the game of thrones and the song of ice and fire aspects of the story can be resolved together at the story’s climax. In summary, topics are opened, questions asked, themes explored, answers revealed, all connecting, each one building upon the other, rising up and converging like a pyramid until we reach the capstone, the single unifying idea of the story to which all themes refer to or flow from, the truth of the story, the Thematic Principle, and it all boils down to a conflict between the lie and the truth. The titles. I believe that the truth and the lie of this story are evident in the titles of the books and series. The series is called A Song of Ice and Fire and the first book is called A Game of Thrones. One represents the truth while the other represents the lie, and it’s not hard to determine which is which. A song of ice and fire suggests balance and harmony. "If ice can burn," said Jojen in his solemn voice, "then love and hate can mate.” While Cersei told us, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” The game of thrones is the lie and the song of ice and fire is the truth. We can look at symbols of each, the white-cloaked Kingsguard who protect the king and the black-cloaked Night’s Watch who protect the realm, and see how they stand in opposition. We can test it against the major themes of the story such as, united we stand, divided we fall, symbolized by the lone wolf or king and the pack or realm. The Iron Throne is a divisive force. It turns the north against the west, house against house, friend against friend, brother against sister, father against son. The Long Night is a unifying force that brings the pack together and makes the banners, sails, and cloaks of the Seven Kingdoms all one shade. The journey from the lie to the truth is also reflected in the titles of the books as they progress. A Clash of Kings still very much connects to the game of thrones but by the time we reach The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring the focus has shifted to the song of ice and fire, and we have moved from the lie to the truth. It’s the same journey the characters must take to complete the story, and the same journey Westeros must take, moving from the feudal system of the Seven Kingdoms to a spring, which is a term that refers to a revolutionary political movement such as the period of European history known as the Springtime of the Peoples. They may not get there, it is still only a dream after all, but they should at least have learned that there is a new way forward. Abandon the Lie. The single unifying idea that captures all the themes of the story is this, abandon the game of thrones and all it represents; the Iron Throne, monarchy, elitism, bloodlines, injustice, corruption, might is right, gender inequality, and whatever else you can think of. Abandon the lie. When we apply the Thematic Principle to what we have of the story so far we can see where the characters stand in relation to the thematic truth, judge how far they must go if they are to complete the journey, and how they might get there. So let’s take a look at how the principle frames some of the main character’s stories. Daenerys. Dany was raised with the belief that Targaryens are exceptional and the true rulers of the Seven Kingdoms. Learning to rule was a large part of her arc, and in doing so she discovered the truth. She repeatedly tells herself that a queen belongs not to herself but to her people, but words are wind. Knowing the truth is meaningless unless she acts on it. She is the slayer of lies, and the game of thrones is the big lie, but when she wakes the dragon the fire in her blood will consume her because bloodlines and doctrines of exceptionalism are part of the lie. Stannis. Stannis is heavily invested in the lie. He began with seemingly good intentions, to win the throne in order to save the kingdom. He wanted to scour the court clean of corruption and bring justice to those who had bled the realm and made a mockery of the law. After his defeat on the Blackwater he clawed his way back into the game, more determined than ever to win it, but save the kingdom is merely a means now, win the throne has become the end. However, when he returns to a position of strength he will eventually have to choose between the truth and the lie. The simple answer is to say he’ll choose incorrectly and fail, but I think it is actualey more likely that he will choose correctly and fail. It’s not just a matter of what you do but how you do. Stannis has already made a habit of staring into the flames. His belief in R’hllor is taking hold. By the time he wins the north the belief that he is the Lord of Light’s anointed one may well have a firm grip. I can’t see him burning Shireen to win the throne. “I have a duty . . . If I must sacrifice one child to the flames to save a million from the dark . . . Sacrifice . . . is never easy, Davos. Or it is no true sacrifice.” He’ll do it in a desperate attempt to defeat the Others, save the kingdom, and prove himself the true king, but the fire he lights will eventually consume him, like the king with the burning crown in his dreams. Cersei. The very personification of the lie, she’s too deep into the game to abandon it, and there’s nothing in her character to suggest she will. She’s not going to win, and there’s no middle ground. The lion is a symbol of kingship and the Lannisters are a family of Hands, Queens, and Kingsguard. As such, the thematic truth does not bode well for them. Jaime. Jaime is a most interesting case because he already passed the test of a true knight before the series even began. Jaime chose the people over the king when he killed Aerys and defused the wildfire plot, yet it is considered his most shameful hour by a society heavily immersed in the lie. The result was a downward spiral as the boy who wanted to be Arthur Dayne became the Smiling Knight instead. He hit rock bottom when he pushed Bran from the window but has been steadily climbing a steep redemptive arc ever since. However, there is a strong theme around history repeating itself, signifying that the lie is a cycle that will continue endlessly unless broken, the purpose of which is to increase the stakes. Jaime will have to face the test again with Cersei the wildfire plotter this time around. Arya. Ned gave Arya a nugget of thematic truth but the world made her question it. A long time ago, she remembered her father saying that when the cold winds blow the lone wolf dies and the pack survives. He had it all backwards. Arya, the lone wolf, still lived, but the wolves of the pack had been taken and slain and skinned. She turned to the lie instead and lost herself in the process, temporarily at least. Her choice between lone wolf assassin and her pack will determine her outcome. If she pursues her list all the way to Cersei then she is lost, but if Jaime gets there first then he will inadvertently save her and keep his oath to her mother. Jon Snow. Jon was raised with the belief he is a bastard in a world where bastards are considered less than worthy. The true identity of his parents is the central mystery of the series, and Jon’s own identity drives his inner conflict. Typically, the central mystery would be revealed at the climax and the bastard who is secretly the true king would then proceed to win the throne and save the kingdom. Unfortunately for Jon, the trope is certain to be subverted. Jon’s desire to find a place in a society based on the lie brought him to the Wall where he unknowingly found the truth. In fact he embraced it and no other character has been more proactive in preparing for the Long Night. Stannis tempted Jon back towards the lie with promises of legitimacy, lordship, and Winterfell, which would bring him into the game of thrones, but Jon resisted until eventually the Pink Letter arrived to play on his inner conflict and pull him back into the lie. Jon has been on a learning-to-lead arc and passes a lot of the tests that determine a true king, like giving meaning to his words with actions, etc. He is a leading candidate for the Prince that was Promised, which seems an apt title for the true king in waiting. He understands that he belongs not to himself but to the realm. It’s a lot of arc to just throw away so I suspect Jon will be king. He must engage with the game of thrones to some degree when he returns, if he is to impact the plot. The reveal about his parents will come at the climax, setting the stage for Aegon VII to take or at least contend for the throne. This is where Jon will have to choose between the truth and the lie. He cannot take the Iron Throne and choose the truth at the same time. If Jon accepts the truth then he has to reject the lie in its entirety. This is why Jon must accept his true identity and resolve his inner conflict. He’s not Aegon Targeryen, seventh of his name, or Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell. Not the king on the Iron Throne or indeed the King in the North, which is simply a miniature of the one in King’s Landing. He is Jon Snow, King of Winter. The Man whom folk who are free choose to follow. The difference between the King of the Seven Kingdoms and the King of Winter is that one is based on a geographical area but the other is based on a period of time. The King of Winter’s purpose is to unite and save the kingdom, he will not rule come Spring but without him Spring will never come. There is a strong theme of sacrifice to consider and I feel his story will conclude in one of two ways. The first is a sacrificial death. Qhorin Halfhand once told Jon, "Our honor means no more than our lives, so long as the realm is safe. Are you a man of the Night's Watch?" A true king belongs not to himself but to his people. Jon could be the lone wolf that dies so that the pack survives; a long-standing winter tradition in the North. The second involves the tale of the seventy-nine sentinels, as recounted by Bran in A Storm of Swords, a cautionary tale about men who forswore their vows to the Watch but were eventually returned to the Wall and encased in the ice. “The seventy-nine sentinels, they're called. They left their posts in life, so in death their watch goes on forever.” Jon did leave his post in life, even if he failed to get very far, and he is dead. In Coldhands we might very well be looking at Jon’s future. Rhaegar. Rhaegar understood the truth. He could have been a big player in the game of thrones, backed by other serious players like Tywin, but that is the road not traveled. Instead his focus was on producing the Prince that was Promised. When he returned from the Tower of Joy to lead the Targaryen army to the Trident, he reluctantly returned to the lie and rode to his doom. Arthur Dayne. A character with no significant impact on the plot, he was the seemingly perfect white knight but as such a symbol of the lie. As Varys told Kevan, “There are many like you, good men in service to bad causes …” However, when we revisit the Tower of Joy at the climax it will be revealed that Arthur did not die but was trapped in Howland’s net and given the choice by Ned between the block or the black. Arthur chose the latter and swapped his white cloak for a black cloak, the king for the realm, thus creating the perfect symbolic representation of the journey from the lie to the truth. This is considered crackpot by the vast majority of the fandom, who believe Ser Arthur died for the lie, but as GRRM says, keep reading. King Torrhen, the King Who Knelt. When Torrhen faced his decision, the metaphorical crossroad, he chose to give up his crown to save his people from another field of fire. Like Jaime, his reputation suffered in a society immersed in the lie, but Torrhen knew that a king belonged not to himself but to his people and that marks him as a true king. Ser Duncan the Tall. We all love Dunk. We know he rose from humble beginnings to Lord Commander of Egg’s Kingsguard before meeting a tragic end in the fire at Summerhall. Many readers assume he died trying to save Egg, to whom he was fiercely loyal. However, the titles of the short-stories are again reflecting a journey, from Hedge Knight to Lord Commander. GRRM has confirmed that The Kingsguard and The Lord Commander are working titles for future stories, but I suspect that the final episode of Dunk’s story will be called The True Knight. When the fire raged in Summerhall, Dunk faced a choice between the king and the people. Being the true knight he was, he must have chosen the people, or possibly the symbolic Tanselle, getting them to safety before trying to go back for Egg, back to the king, back to the lie, and perishing in the process. Dunk was a true knight and the end of his story will prove it, while at the same time proving you don’t have to be knighted to be a true knight, just as you don’t need king’s blood to be a true king. It comes down to who you are, or rather who you choose to be by your decisions, words, and actions. Aegon V. Egg was a good person and wanted to be a good king. He wanted to hatch dragons so that he could, like Aegon the Conqueror, bring peace and unity to his kingdom. Alas, it’s not just what you do it’s how you do it. Peace by superior firepower is a flawed philosophy because power corrupts and sooner or later peace by superior firepower becomes tyranny by superior firepower. Egg’s actions would only have served to bolster the lie, so he failed. If you want to succeed in GRRM’s world then you have to discover, understand, and accept GRRM’s truth, as defined by his Thematic Principle. Thanks for reading.
  5. I don't like What if... threads. I agree they should have a separate sub-forum, but I'm fine with just passing them over. What if I did like them? Then I would disagree with my point. I also hate hate threads. I have read some great posts on this forum about mythology, political science, philosophy, history, and even geography. This type of comparative analysis can add a lot to understanding the story, often without quoting ASoIaF even once because it's not needed. When it comes to comes to analysis or theories regarding the actual story, i.e. plot, theme, character, setting, mood, mystery, literary devices or story-telling technique, then citation makes the argument a lot stronger. It's the only way to do it really. All these things are put in place by the author using nothing but words. Trying to explain what the author is saying without using the words he has given us for that specific purpose is like trying to build a jigsaw puzzle without using the pieces. The books are layered so re-reading clearly helps, as does the quantity and quality of literature you consume, but that does not always translate into understanding the series. At the end of the day, an argument stands or falls on its own merits, regardless of how many times the poster read the books or how long they've been on the forum.
  6. Yes, it's a good point and it was discussed on previous threads. The Bolton's do not want to provoke Jon because he is in a position to discover their lie about Arya. The same thing happens when Theon asked Roose why not have Jon give Arya away for her wedding but Roose casualy dismissed the notion as Jon was bastard born and sworn to the Night's Watch. The subtext here is that the Boltons want to keep Jon at a distance. That's why writing to him to ask for Arya back is not very likely, especially when they know she's not Arya, and they know that Jon would know that too.
  7. Yes, I would agree he is selfish, I think most of the players in the game of thrones are ultimately selfish. Stannis is extremely driven, single-minded, desperate to emerge from Robert's shadow, desperate to win the throne and set the realm right as he sees it, and he's like a dog with a bone who will fight to the bitter end and then some. He is a complicated character and he's the one who wrote the letter as explained in the OP.
  8. The huge, spiky hand. I say it is conspicuous in its absence. A classic literary clue. Those who disagree claim that as it is what Jon expected to see then he would not mention it as it would only be repetitive. There is no reason for him to think, oh, same huge, spiky hand. I believe this is argument is baseless and I will demonstrate why using examples in the text that concern letters Jon received from Cotter Pyke. In AFfC Samwell is told that Cotter Pyke is illiterate and that Maester Harmune writes for him. In Jon VI, ADwD, Jon receives a letter from Cotter and notes as much, demonstrating that he knows about Cotter’s illiteracy. Cotter Pyke was blunter. "I could hang them from the Wall as a warning to other wildlings to stay away, but I don't see any other use for them," Maester Harmune wrote for him. "I wouldn't trust such to clean my chamber pot, and ten is not enough." In Jon X, ADwD, Cotter Pyke sends another letter as he departs Eastwatch for Hardhome. The note was sealed with a dot of hard black wax. Eastwatch, Jon knew, even before he broke the seal. The letter had been written by Maester Harmune; Cotter Pyke could neither read nor write. But the words were Pyke's, set down as he had spoken them, blunt and to the point. Calm seas today. Eleven ships set sail for Hardhome on the morning tide. Three Braavosi, four Lyseni, four of ours. Two of the Lyseni barely seaworthy. We may drown more wildlings than we save. Your command. Twenty ravens aboard, and Maester Harmune. Will send reports. I command from Talon, Tattersalt second on Blackbird, Ser Glendon holds Eastwatch. Jon knew that the letter was written by Maester Harmune, as he writes all of Cotter Pyke’s letters given that Cotter is illiterate, and Jon already told us Harmune writes for him, yet still Jon mentions it again. Later in Jon XII, ADwD, when Cotter Pyke sends a further report from Hardhome, as he said he would, we get the following. At Hardhome, with six ships. Wild seas. Blackbird lost with all hands, two Lyseni ships driven aground on Skane, Talon taking water. Very bad here. Wildlings eating their own dead. Dead things in the woods. Braavosi captains will only take women, children on their ships. Witch women call us slavers. Attempt to take Storm Crow defeated, six crew dead, many wildlings. Eight ravens left. Dead things in the water. Send help by land, seas wracked by storms. From Talon, by hand of Maester Harmune. Cotter Pyke had made his angry mark below. Jon takes note of Cotter Pyke’s angry mark despite the fact that Jon had seen Cotter Pyke’s signature several times before. I think this demonstrates that the argument - Jon did not mention Ramsay’s huge, spiky hand because the signature was what he expected to see and therefore was not unusual or noteworthy, or that mentioning the signature again would only be repetitive – is a very weak argument. Trying to second guess what Jon might or might not think about is folly. The huge, spiky hand was set up twice by GRRM so that its absence would be conspicuous and clue readers into the fact that Ramsay did not write the letter.
  9. Hallis Mollen. Stannis. Davos will repeat his trick at Storm's End and save Stannis at Winterfell using Rickon instead of onions this time. Wolfish Rickon, whose political value in the north will obviously soar after Jon's death, will like what Stannis is selling - vengeance against the Lannisters. Will skinchange with Ghost before resurrection midpoint or later in the novel. No, That's the whole point of the chapter in my opinion. I think she will, it's too good an opportunity to miss given the strong themes around identity. I also have a hunch that Arya will kill Massey. Jaime will survive, no question. I'm more worried about Brienne but I hope she makes it too. He thinks he's the real deal, so does Connington, but he's fAegon. RLJ Connington yes, not certain about Shireen. Stannis wins, survives, takes Winterfell next chapter. The Green Grace, Galazza Galare. Yes. I doubt it.
  10. Another thing, we might call this the egocentric argument or something, is that "Your false king is dead," is the first line of the letter. To me this hints again at Stannis as the author. First thing - Stannis is dead. Why not Mance has been captured or my bride has been stolen? I would say because to Stannis, his death would clearly be the most important thing.
  11. @Yaya asked an important question about Mance so I''l give my own position on the matter. Let's start with Ramsay. The Pink Letter claims that Mance is caught and in a cage for all the world to see, cloaked in the skins of the six whores that came with him to Winterfell. On the surface it seems plausible as we know Mance and his women were in a difficult situation. It makes Jon think that there is truth in the letter, and the readers too on a meta level. The explanation seems simple. Ramsay caught at least one spearwife and interrogated her, and she told all. I believe Mance escaped, along with between one and three of the spearwives, (Rowan, Myrtle, Willow) to hide in the crypts, the location of which they had gained from Theon. Holly was killed on the outer wall but Frenya, who was holding the drawbridge at the battlement gate, and Squirrel, who was due to climb out of Jeyne's room, were definitely vulnerable to being taken alive. So Ramsay has a very plausible means of getting the information, but we can't be certain. All we can say is that IF he caught any of the party alive THEN he would be in a position to know. I don't really argue this point... not much anyway. Stannis, on the other hand, knows what Mance looks like and he knows that Mance is alive. We know that Stannis has Theon in his possession. We know that Theon knows the washerwomen are wildlings, because Squirrel told him as much when she said she had climbed the Wall on several occasions. And we know that Theon spilled his story to Asha when he arrived at Stannis' camp. "What is this?" Ser Clayton Suggs demanded. "You're one of hers? How did you get loose of Deepwood's dungeons?" Tris rose and brushed the snow from his knees. "Sybelle Glover was offered a handsome ransom for our freedom and chose to accept it in the name of the king." "What ransom? Who would pay good coin for sea scum?" "I did, ser." The speaker came forward on his garron. He was very tall, very thin, so long-legged that it was a wonder his feet did not drag along the ground. "I had need of a strong escort to see me safely to the king, and Lady Sybelle had need of fewer mouths to feed." A scarf concealed the tall man's features, but atop his head was perched the queerest hat Asha had seen since the last time she had sailed to Tyrosh, a brimless tower of some soft fabric, like three cylinders stacked one atop the other. "I was given to understand that I might find King Stannis here. It is most urgent that I speak with him at once." "And who in seven stinking hells are you?" The tall man slid gracefully from his garron, removed his peculiar hat, and bowed. "I have the honor to be Tycho Nestoris, a humble servant of the Iron Bank of Braavos." Of all the strange things that might have come riding out of the night, the last one Asha Greyjoy would ever have expected was a Braavosi banker. It was too absurd. She had to laugh. "King Stannis has taken the watchtower for his seat. Ser Clayton will be pleased to show you to him, I'm sure." It was then Asha noticed Theon, who had arrived with Tycho and the others. Theon recalls the rest while chained before Stannis in the watchtower. My sister, Theon thought, my sweet sister. Though he had lost all feeling in his arms, he felt the twisting in his gut, the same as when that bloodless Braavosi banker presented him to Asha as a 'gift.' The memory still rankled. The burly, balding knight who'd been with her had wasted no time shouting for help, so they'd had no more than a few moments before Theon was dragged away to face the king. That was long enough. He had hated the look on Asha's face when she realized who he was; the shock in her eyes, the pity in her voice, the way her mouth twisted in disgust. Instead of rushing forward to embrace him, she had taken half a step backwards. "Did the Bastard do this to you?" she had asked. "Don't you call him that."Then the words came spilling out of Theon in a rush. He tried to tell her all of it, about Reek and the Dreadfort and Kyra and the keys, how Lord Ramsay never took anything but skin unless you begged for it. He told her how he'd saved the girl, leaping from the castle wall into the snow. "We flew. Let Abel make a song of that, we flew." Then he had to say who Abel was, and talk about the washerwomen who weren't truly washerwomen. By then Theon knew how strange and incoherent all this sounded, yet somehow the words would not stop. He was cold and sick and tired... and weak, so weak, so very weak. Theon talked about Abel and the washerwomen who weren't truly washerwomen in front of Ser Clayton in the moments before the guards Ser Clayton called came to drag him off to Stannis. Even if Ser Clayton could make little of the strange and incoherent tale, Stannis would want to know everything he could about the rescue, the mysterious rescuers, and the whole situation in Winterfell. "Just now, the turncloak is more use to me alive. He has knowledge we may need." Theon does not know who Abel really is, but Stannis, who knows Mance is alive, might have a much better chance of working it out. To begin with, Abel's description matches that of Mance. The spearwives are wildlings. After Stannis had talked to Mance for hours, he admitted to Jon than Mance has cunning in him. What do you think Mance said that gave Stannis that impression? I think it's likely it was his tale of sneaking into Winterfell disguised as a bard to have a look at Stannis' brother, the former King Robert. Stannis is smart, he could easily put it together. Of course, all that may be moot if, as this theory suggests, Stannis sent the letter from Winterfell after taking the castle. I think Mance will reemerge from the crypts when that happens, so maybe Stannis had the story first-hand.
  12. Yes, false kings is a theme that runs through the series. I'm sure a lot of people use it.
  13. You are correct, my lady. But I think when amended my point still stands. Stannis and the black brothers call her wildling princess. Mance and the wildlings do not. No one we know of in Winterfell does. She has value to Stannis, but none to Ramsay. I still think this is a big clue to the author of the letter being Stannis.
  14. Mance's life is forfeit by the laws of the seven kingdoms and the Warden of the North is the one who enforces those laws. Sending an oathbreaker you secretly saved from execution to steal the Lord of Winterfell's wife is a crime, and a serious one. And that's the allegation. Mance in a cage is the proof.
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