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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. Let me just say that I think the 3 KG's presence at the ToJ means it is most likely that the baby was there too. In this scenario returning Dawn to House Dayne was probably enough motive for Ned's trip to Starfall. However, as I firmly believe that Arthur survived the ToJ and took the black, I think there are other factors that compelled Ned to go there. To be honest, I don't know what to make of Ashara's situation. I think she was part of Rhaegar's inner circle. I wonder if she was at the ToJ, perhaps as a female companion for Lyanna? If Lyanna gave birth at the tower and was too unwell to travel, then perhaps Ashara took the baby to Starfall while the KG remained at the tower with Lyanna. An interesting and indeed tragic aspect to all this is the rumor that Ashara had recently lost a baby herself. If Ashara bonded with Lyanna's child and then Ned arrived at Starfall to take the child back to Winterfell, then maybe it was too much for Ashara so she took her own life. But the Daynes seem to have had respect for Ned, so I doubt Ashara took her life over something Ned did. My gut says she didn't kill herself at all, which suggests one of the assumed identity theories like Septa Lemore or Howland's wife or whoever would be true, but I don't know which one, if any.
  7. No, I'm just taking the full quote. and there's more that Qhorin says about Mance that doesn't really fit with Mance being Arthur, like him being born of wildling raiders and when he forswore his oath he was only going back to the wild. That fits with what Mance says about himself being as low born as a man can be. Add to that Qhorin saying that Mance never learned to obey. I just don't think Mance fits with being Arthur. It was Qhorin and Dayne who said the line about knees bending easily. But my main point here is that an undisciplined, never anointed, low born Arthur who never learned to obey is nothing like the character Jaime, Barristan, and Jon Connington recall. I don't buy it. His use of the same first name seems a little silly to me in such a scenario. Only really tinfoil in a Lord Dustin was clearly a faceless man, hence fleeing to Braavos sort of way. He did change a letter of his first name and was clearly smarter than Oswell. Agreed. I don't think that is necessarily so. I think Ser Arthur being snared in Howland's net and Ned offering him the block or the black is very plausible. If the other kingsguard survived too, and indeed Lord Dustin, then a different dynamic would have been in place at the end of the battle at the tower and that would have to be explained.
  8. @The Green Bard Ok, we agree about a lot here and that's good. Correct me if I'm wrong but it seems to me that we're both open to Arthur having survived the ToJ, and Qhorin being someone other than who we are told. I must say though, for someone who doesn't subscribe to 3/4 of the identity swap theories that are out there you are pedaling quite a few of them. I don't subscribe to the theory that Oswell Whent is Oswell Kettleblack. That he went into hiding in the Crownlands without even changing his first name and then entered the service of Littlefinger, with his three sons, some of whom were born when he was still a kingsguard? Sorry, but none of that make sense to me. As for Willam Dustin walking away from the ToJ and becoming Willem Darry? I should like to read that theory if only to find out what happened the real Ser Willem. I seems ridiculous to me on first impression but I guess I should be fair and read the theory first. It sounds entertaining at least. It seems to me that you are basing Qhorin being Hightower on the fact that Hightower was the White Bull, Jon is Mithras, Mithras killed a bull, and therefore Qhorin who was killed by Jon must be that bull. The Mithras myth is based on the sun rising in the constellation of Taurus during the vernal equinox in the age of Taurus. The constellation died or faded from view as the sun rose in that section of the sky and then journeyed west to it's death and ultimate resurrection again. This tale has been retold through the ages with goats and lambs or whatever replacing the bull depending on the astronomical age. It seems to me that the White Bull dying at the ToJ where Jon was born would better fit the myth. As I said, I don't deny parallels between main characters and mythical figures but that is archetypal heroes journey and is to be expected, especially in the fantasy genre. It also seems that a large part of your case for Mance being Arthur is based on what Qhorin said about Mance being the best of us, Arthur Dayne was the best swordsman, therefore Mance is Arthur. However, the full quote is that Mance was the best of us and the worst of us, paraphrasing here. He's talking about Mance's character not his skill with a sword to begin with. Clearly he can't be the best swordsman and the worst swordsman at the same time. Qhorin also told us that Mance never learned to obey and was ill-disciplined. So you are proposing a Ser Arthur Dayne that was ill-disciplined, fond of the charms of women, and who never learned to obey. Sounds more like the Smiling Knight than Arthur Dayne to me. I just think Qhorin is a much better fit for Arthur than Mance. I'm going to stick with the master numbers of the series at the ToJ, three survivors and seven dead. I don't see the other possibilities as plausible. I don't accept that arguments based on mythical parallels trump arguments based on theme. This is simply not the case for literature. Plot, Character, and Theme are essential to forming a story, while mythical parallels are not, even if they are often unavoidable. All three are intrinsically linked and develop together when done well. Theme is the point of the story, the reason the story is being told. Themes are supported by motifs. Motif's are very common literary devices that explain or underline the main theme. Motifs have to be created and inserted into the story. Nothing I'm proposing is outside standard story structure for a novel. The titles of the books and series reflect the same message, a journey away from the game of thrones and all it represents. For me, it's too well constructed to be a coincidence.
  9. I guessed as much and I am indeed from the Emerald Isle. I must also thank you for indulging me. I like testing this theory and my thoughts have solidified a lot since the beginning of the thread because of the discussion. I think a lot of mysteries are concerned with plot, but I consider Arthur Dayne and Qhorin Halfhand to be a bit different because it is primarily concerned with the main theme. I submit that GRRM could have written the story without either character. Imagine if Arthur Dayne had died fighting the Smiling Knight and Dawn was in Starfall since then, waiting until the next Sword of the Morning arose. And imagine if Jon went ranging with Stonesnake, Ebben, and Squire Dalbridge, spared Ygritte who later returned the favor when Jon was captured by Rattleshirt, opening the door for Jon's relationship with Mance and the free folk. You could easily write them both out and the story would proceed along the same lines because neither are essential to the main plot. Yet they do have a purpose, and that is to support and indeed explain the main theme in symbolic terms. The journey away from the white cloak of the game of thrones and towards the black cloak of the song of ice and fire, because as we have been told several times, by night all cloaks are black and that will be true of the Long Night. The ToJ mystery was already set-up since AGoT. Bran's recollection of his conversation with Ned came in ACoK. The question that is left to linger is what happened between Ned, Arthur and Howland? I believe this question will be answered. My point is I don't see the same question being raised about Hightower and Whent or the others. We would need several more plausible identities. I know some have proposed that Whent is Mance, and Hightower is Tormund, but I don't see it. I think the fight started seven against three and ended with three alive and seven dead. I should think spare horses were not a problem, but even if there was a shortage then where did the third northman walk to and why hasn't he been seen since? Ser Arthur stood over Jaime during his vigil at the sept, which suggests to me that he does keep the new gods, even if the Daynes once kept the old gods. Dunk was never knighted. It will be interesting to see if he is anointed by a septon, possibly the high septon, when he is appointed to the kingsguard. I think learning to fight with his left parallels Jaime closer. I understand mythology quite well but comparisons between characters and mythological figures are due to the hero with a thousand faces factor. They share an archetypal hero's journey. This is very common in storytelling. We could compare Jon with Jesus, compare Jesus with Mithras, and compare Mithras and the slaying of the bull to the journey of the sun through the constellation Taurus. I doubt very much that GRRM is retelling one particular mythological figure's story, but rather that he is retelling them all. Some people argue that the Dothraki are based on the Mongols, or the Ironborn are based on Vikings, or Dorne is based on Andalusia, but it's never that simple. GRRM has stated he takes inspiration from a wide variety of influences. Maybe Arthur's ego was not as fragile as you think. Jon also admits that Qhorin could have swatted him like a bug if he had wanted to. Mance can handle himself for sure, but I don't think we can be certain he was a better than Qhorin was. We can't really compare the battles because Qhorin's intention was to lose to Jon, and Ghost played a major part in his defeat. Mance's intention was to win and ghost was not involved.
  10. What textual clues lead to Gerold = Qhorin? Or Arthur = Mance? Mance said no septon ever smeared his head with oil, if anything that's a strong clue that Mance was never knighted. On the other hand, "Dawn arrived with Qhorin Halfhand." If that's what you mean by a textual clue then it clearly points to Arthur Dayne, in my opinion. Also, as I pointed out, the death of Arthur Dayne is signposted as a mystery by Bran, who wished Ned had said more about Arthur Dayne almost killing him but for Howland Reed. I don't see that type of technique used to guide the reader to ask what happened Oswell or Gerold, so I think they most likely died at the tower. As you are a green bard and green bards are my favorite bards then I will try to briefly summarize my argument. Some of the points around motif and theme and how they tie into the climax are explained in more detail on the pages of the thread you didn't get around to reading. It's quite technical but it's central to the argument, and that's where the mind blown factor is for me as it demonstrates GRRM's mastery of his craft. To begin with Arthur Dayne's "death" remains a mystery, and one Bran guides us to ponder. The points that suggest Arthur died are misleading, such as the eight cairns Ned built etc. Qhorin's past remains a mystery to some degree. Jon says "so far as he knew" Qhorin spent his life in the Watch. Qhorin talks of a shy maid on her wedding night, which seems odd to Jon, but Jon shrinks from probing further. Again it's the author telling you there is more to the shy maid on her wedding night. What significant wedding could we be talking about here? I suggest it was Lyanna and Rhaegar. Qhorin says in the same passage that he almost forgot how beautiful a fire could be, fire is a Targaryen symbol and Rhaegar was renowned as beautiful. Other clues include lines like Dawn arriving with Qhorin Halfhand, symbolism like the red tears and rubies which recall Rhaegar's death, a swordhand parallel with Jaime who wanted to be Arthur Dayne but turned into the Smiling Knight, and the fact that Qhorin uses the same turn of phrase as Arthur when he talks about knees not bending easily. The point of Arthur being Qhorin is this. We know the ToJ will be revisited at the climax of the story and there will be reveals. The main reveal about Lyanna's child will affect main characters and the main plot. The reveal about Arthur taking the black will support the main theme. The climax is where the point of the story is made, and the point of the story is the main theme, which is why Arthur was placed in the ToJ scene to begin with. He has no plot function of note, because his function is to make the point of the story in symbolic terms. It's the same point reflected in the titles of the books which migrate from A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings through conflict to The Winds of Winter and A Dream of Spring. A migration away from the game of thrones and all it represents towards a song of ice and fire and all that represents. A migration from the white cloak of a kingsguard who protects the king to the black cloak of the Night's Watch who protect the realm. As I said, there is a more detailed breakdown of theme, motif, and climax a few pages back, but that's the brief version. I'm happy to delve deeper into any of it again.
  11. @kissdbyfire Mance is Rhaegar should not be a thing and it is not in the same category as Qhorin is Arthur. To begin with Mance and Rhaegar's eye and hair color don't match. Mance visited Winterfell with Lord Commander Qorgyle sometime before 288 AC, which is 5 years or less after the Trident, and was not recognized by Ned. Later he attached himself to Robert's tail and feasted in Winterfell once more with Ned and Robert and Cersei and Jaime all present. Rhaegar was known to be very good looking, no one ever says that about Mance. Rhaegar was knighted at seventeen and Mance told Jon no septon ever smeared his head with oil. And while I would put Arthur not revealing Jon's identity down to an oath of secrecy about the events at the ToJ that was imposed by Ned and honorably upheld by Arthur, it's harder to explain why Rhaegar would not reveal anything to Jon. It's also harder to explain why so many people think Rhaegar died at the Trident given there was a battle with thousands present, while there were only two witnesses to Arthur's death and we know Ned lied about what happened at the ToJ. The fact is there are many identity swaps in the series, some obvious, some revealed, and some that are yet to be revealed. Most serve the plot but Arthur has no plot function, he serves the main theme. I have explained how motifs work and how theme interacts with plot and character. A monkey can only lead you to water, he cannot make you drink.
  12. I meant after Lyanna's "abduction" near Harrenhal, not the tourney.
  13. I also think the scream in the dream puts her there, especially as the dream was essentially about her. There were fevered elements like the wraiths but I suspect the general premise of the dream is correct. Rhaegar was compared to Baelor reborn and I think that's a further link to the princess in the tower trope. I must say though, I wonder if the baby was still there when Ned arrived or was the baby being nursed in Starfall by then?
  14. So do you lean towards the Tower of Joy or indeed the Prince's Pass being part of Rhaegar's plan/ritual for the birth of the PtwP/third head of the dragon or is it just a place Rhaegar liked to go and just happened to be the place Jon would be born? I agree that Ethan Glover being spared by Aerys and then being part of Ned's party is very suspicious. It's a story-telling decision that does facilitate such a message. What you're suggesting here makes a lot more sense to me than the link between Ashara and Brandon. I'm still not sure how Hightower found Rhaegar but I could see Rhaegar returning to King's Landing and leaving a contingency plan with Glover before he rode to the Trident. It may even have been at Lyanna's behest. Of course, Ned did say he expected to find the kingsguard at Storm's End, but then again Glover might have been told about Lyanna's location only and not that there were kingsguard with her. Overall, I like this explanation and it makes sense of GRRM keeping Glover alive. I think I'm sold. I don't think they returned to King's Landing after Harrenhal. I think Summerhall and Starfall are the likely places they visited because it just seems too odd that they were in a tower near on a main route for all that time. From a poetic point of view Summerhall would be a good setting if Rhaegar wanted to explain to Lyanna what he was doing in a prophetic sense, and what part she would play in it. I think the conflict between love and duty will be part of their story, which is why I believe Rhaegar would have had that discussion. As I said before I'm surprised Summerhall was not the intended place of birth if indeed there was a ritualistic element to Rhaegar's prophecy driven plan. Due to the time that needs to be filled between the "abduction" at Harrenhal and the fight at the Tower of Joy, I think Starfall is very plausible as well. Dayne's home, comfort befitting a lady, relatively isolated, etc. The fact that the Prince's Pass lies between the two leads me to believe they were traveling this route in one direction or the other, but probably Starfall to Summerhall, when they met Hightower. Rhaegar then returned to King's Landing while Hightower stayed with Lyanna and the others at the nearby tower. That still leaves them at the tower for quite a long time. Rhaegar has to get back to King's Landing, muster the army, ride to the Trident, Ned then needs to race to King's Landing, then ride to Storm's End, before eventually going to the tower. If Lyanna going into labor was the reason they stopped at the tower then her child would be a couple of months old by the time Ned arrived. So maybe the Tower of Joy was the ultimate destination and they were there hidden away for the majority of the time they were missing, which seems to be the general consensus. If that is the case then I'm still curious as to why Rhaegar chose the tower to be the place of birth, as opposed to Summerhall from a ritualistic point of view or a castle like Starfall from a practical point of view.
  15. A tower on a ridge overlooking the pass. That means a line of sight between both parties. So if Ned and companions were going south and saw signs of occupancy at the tower, like horses or smoke, then they might go there, if only to inquire if the watchers had seen three kingsguard and a maid come this way. I'm not opposed to Ned having been informed by someone, I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case, but it remains a possibility that he was not. The reason I keep that option open is because I'm unclear about so many other questions surrounding the tower, and I'd love hear your opinion on them. They are related to the OP so I don't think I'm straying off-topic. My main question is how long was Lyanna and company at the tower? If Lyanna was there a long time then it is likely someone could inform Ned but if she was there a short time then it's less likely. We don't know if they went straight from Harrenhal to the tower or if they went elsewhere in between. Summerhall and Starfall are plausible locations they might have visited over those months. Ned tells us that Rhaegar named the place the Tower of Joy. Was that a widely known fact? If it was then we could say that even without an informer Ned might decide to search Summerhall, the Tower of Joy, Starfall, and then maybe Oldtown. Or was that something Lyanna told Ned before she died? It raises the question as to when Rhaegar named the tower. Had he named it that before he ever met Lyanna? Was it so named because that's where the Prince that was Promised was conceived or was it because that's where he would be born? Was it always Rhaegar's intention that the child would be born there or was it unscripted so to speak? If that was Rhaegar's intention then I wonder why he chose the tower over somewhere more like Summerhall? And finally there is the question of Gerold Hightower. Jaime only recalls that Rhaegar returned from the south. How did Hightower know where to find Rhaegar? Did he have the same informer as Ned or did he follow the same logic as Ned when it came to deciding where to look? Hightower may have found them at Summerhall for all we know. He may have met them at the Prince's Pass while he traveled from Summerhall to Starfall and they from Starfall to Summerhall. Or maybe he knew exactly where to go. I don't have definitive answers for these questions and I'm interested to hear what people think.
  16. Ned's fever dream may be unreliable to some degree, and GRRM has stated as much, but some of Ned's memories, like seven against three and pulling down the tower to build cairns, are more reliable. It's the pivotal scene in the series and one we know will be revisited. Even though our perspective may change when all the details are revealed, I doubt the basic premise will change.
  17. It hasn't been revealed yet but it is also possible that no one told him. Ned and his companions began at Storm's End. Ned expected to find the kingsguard there but when he did not then Summerhall and Starfall were obvious places to start looking, and the Prince's Pass is on that route.
  18. I am aware of the shy maid's use throughout the series, and as you point out there's certainly a strong textual connection to another of Rhaegar's friends, but I was asking specifically in reference to Qhorin. Who do you think was he talking about?
  19. The moon was rising behind one mountain and the sun sinking behind another as Jon struck sparks from flint and dagger, until finally a wisp of smoke appeared. Qhorin came and stood over him as the first flame rose up flickering from the shavings of bark and dead dry pine needles. "As shy as a maid on her wedding night," the big ranger said in a soft voice, "and near as fair. Sometimes a man forgets how pretty a fire can be." He was not a man you'd expect to speak of maids and wedding nights. So far as Jon knew, Qhorin had spent his whole life in the Watch. Did he ever love a maid or have a wedding? He could not ask. So you have to ask here, what's with this odd musing from Qhorin? Is this characterization? Possibly, but if so it still adds a sense that there is more to his character than we know about. So far as Jon knew, Qhorin spent his whole life in the Watch. Black brothers don't marry and Mance told us that Qhorin never shared his love for the charms of women. Jon shrinks from probing further and therefore the subject remains unresolved. Will there be a revelation about Qhorin and a wedding? Who will it come form and what will it's purpose be? Or, we can accept this is a reference to something significant, like a wedding between Rhaegar and Lyanna, hence the Targaryen fire symbolism. This way it will be resolved by the revelation that Arthur became Qhorin, which will come when we revisit the Tower of Joy.
  20. Thank you. That Arthur died or that Qhorin spent his whole life in the Watch is also inference. These beliefs have been held for so long that people often forget that. Arthur's death is a mystery, key information has been withheld, there will be a reveal, and I doubt that reveal will be pointless. I think Arthur and Qhorin match up quite well on what little we know. Both are respected leaders and highly skilled with a sword. Not all characters have those traits so it at least places them in the same subset. It's not much but it's better to be in the same subset than not. The rest are hints, granted, and it does require inference because we know little about Arthur. Qhorin's name is odd because he doesn't seem Ironborn, but if he is then it's odd he served at the Shadow Tower when Denys Mallister dislikes Ironborn. Qhorin's clean-shaven straight and solemn appearance are classic fantasy knight traits. He is tall and long-limbed, which would certainly suit being highly proficient with a greatsword. Qhorin is described as a big man and Jaime lists Arthur among a group of people he says is stronger than him like the Cleganes, The White Bull, Robert, The Greatjon, all of which are big men. I laid out a logical argument on age a few pages back. You might not agree with my inferences but physically there is no reason they could not be the same person. Qhorin values discipline and obedience and lives by his vows. Not everyone shares these traits, but they are traits we might expect Arthur to share. Again, it places them in the same subset of characters. Then there are the clues like Dawn, the shy maid, the rubies. Again, you don't have to agree with my conclusion, but surely you see how they can be taken as clues. Dawn was his sword, Lyanna is suspected to have married Rhaegar, the rubies connect Qhorin's death to the death of Rhaegar. And not to mention Qhorin musing about forgetting how beautiful a fire could be, fire being symbolic of Targaryens and Rhaegar being renowned as beautiful. Finally, there is Qhorin's vague past. Highly suspicious in my eyes. The objections that Qhorin knew Lord Rickard and heard a black brother tell about the waterfall when he was no older than Jon can both be answered logically. Those statements are as ambiguous as they are leading, which suggests to me that they are in fact purposefully misleading. We see the same thing with the eight cairns and the two who survived to ride away. While I agree there's nothing confirmed, I believe the potential for them to match up is clearly there, and when you add in the vague ending for Arthur and equally vague beginning for Qhorin we can see how it could be done. Then add the fact that there will be a reveal about Arthur and how he died is not really significant and would only make for a poor pay-off. Nor would we if he was injured fighting wildlings after taking the black. I'm suming-up the theme as - united we stand, divided we fall. There's never only one way to phrase a theme. The idea is really more than just unity, it applies to justice, liberty, honor, identity, truth. They will all flow into one stream, a whole movement away from the toxic game of thrones and everything that entails, through conflict and sacrifice, to the dream of spring. That's what the titles of the books suggest and that's what Arthur's story will be when it is revealed he took the black. A bitter-sweet ending does not conflict with such a theme. With GRRM, everything comes at a cost and the thematic truth will be no different. There will be a cost, probably in the form of a sacrifice. I think it's clear that to get to Spring, differences will have to be set aside and common cause made against the Others. Growing season will return I'm sure, but GRRM loves layered meaning and Spring has a political meaning too. It suggests political change and the birth of nations, etc. Again, moving away from the game of thrones. We will find out what happened Arthur, one way or another. It has been set up, it will be paid off.
  21. GRRM's main rule in this series, from what I can see, is that he doesn't spoon-feed the reader until the reveal. He want's the reader to work. Sometimes writers frontload a mystery, that means blurting out the correct answer close to the question and then leading away from that answer and into other possibilities through the deliberations of the characters, only to later reveal the character's initial instinct was right. I don't like that method, I feel it's not as satisfying for the reader, and I don't think GRRM is too fond of it either because he doesn't seem to use it in ASoIaF. If any character answers a mystery in the series then it is most likely wrong, unless of course it is the reveal. For example, when Aemon works out that Dany is TPtwP, I feel certain he is wrong because it is to early for the reveal on that question. We are presented with Stannis as the first option, but later Aemon debunks that and presents the case for Dany, setting up a false dilemma, Stannis or Dany, which is something GRRM is fond of. Now let's look at the structure of the Arthur Dayne mystery. The following quotes appear in the same order in the books. They whispered of Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, deadliest of the seven knights of Aerys's Kingsguard, and of how their young lord had slain him in single combat. And they told how afterward Ned had carried Ser Arthur's sword back to the beautiful young sister who awaited him in a castle called Starfall on the shores of the Summer Sea. The Lady Ashara Dayne, tall and fair, with haunting violet eyes. It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face. This is the first mention of Arthur in AGoT. Straight-up we are told how he was slain by Ned in single combat. It's similar to how we are straight-up told by Mel that Stannis is TPtwP. At this stage we know nothing about Arthur other than he was the deadliest of Aerys's seven, and he had an eye-catching title, the Sword of the Morning, but we have no reason to suspect the tale is not true. However, there is a hint that suggests there may be more to the tale as Ned shuts Catelyn down when she asked him. Catelyn's concern is not Arthur, it's the part about Ashara that interests her, but nonetheless the two Daynes are connected in the tale. Bran knew all the stories. Their names were like music to him. Serwyn of the Mirror Shield. Ser Ryam Redwyne. Prince Aemon the Dragonknight. The twins Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk, who had died on one another's swords hundreds of years ago, when brother fought sister in the war the singers called the Dance of the Dragons. The White Bull, Gerold Hightower. Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. Barristan the Bold. Arthur is mentioned in high company. This is simply designed to further pique our interest in Arthur. We are reminded of Catelyn's tale. "And now it begins," said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light. "No," Ned said with sadness in his voice. "Now it ends." As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. "Eddard!" she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death. We encounter Arthur briefly at the Tower of Joy in Ned's dream. They come together in a rush of steel and shadow, Lyanna screams, and we don't find out what happened. We were told that Ned killed Arthur, but we don't see it and Ned never reflects on it. Still, there's enough here to maintain the belief that what we heard is true and it is supported by a couple of Ned's reflections, like the eight cairns and the two surviving to ride away, points that are actually quite ambiguous, and of course there is the fact that Arthur Dayne was never seen again. By the time AGoT ends, the obvious conclusion to draw based on what we know is that Ned did indeed kill Arthur, even though we have no first-hand account of it. Also a neat little connection here to the blue eyes of the Others, because ultimately that's what the scene is about, although it is easy to believe it's all about the heir to the Iron Throne. "The finest knight I ever saw was Ser Arthur Dayne, who fought with a blade called Dawn, forged from the heart of a fallen star. They called him the Sword of the Morning, and he would have killed me but for Howland Reed." Father had gotten sad then, and he would say no more. Bran wished he had asked him what he meant. In ACoK Bran revisits the subject. Here we get a little more, although the new information remains vague. Arthur would have killed Ned but for Howland Reed. The first thing we notice is that Catelyn's tale about single combat was not entirely correct. Ned gets sad and says no more. The subject is shut down once again. Bran wishes he had asked what Ned meant, and by doing so guides the reader to wish the same. It's the same technique used later when Jon is curious about Qhorin and the shy maid on her wedding night. The result is we now have two potential suspects in the mystery of Arthur's death, setting up a dilemma, Ned or Howland, just like Stannis or Dany in TPtwP mystery, or Wylla and Ashara in the mystery of Jon's mother. I would say all three are in fact false dilemma's. After that we meet Qhorin at the Fist of the First Men. Dawn arrives with him, he talks about a mysterious shy maid and wedding, and he dies with some ruby imagery. His past remains unclear, the blank filled by "So far as Jon knew," Qhorin had spent his life in the Watch. So Ned shut the subject down with Cat and later Bran. Ned never reflects on killing Arthur. The points that support Arthur's death are cleverly ambiguous. The details remain a mystery. Qhorin's past remains a mystery, despite curious hints that Jon was unwilling to press. And we know there is going to be a reveal about the events at the Tower of Joy. In terms of the three-step structure, the tale Catelyn heard is the set-up, Bran's recollection of what Ned said about Arthur and Howland introduces the conflict in the form of a dilemma, and Howland will produce the resolution when we reach the climax.
  22. I just wanted to add that Justice is indeed a very important topic here because the goal cannot be unity alone, a totalitarian society could be unified, there must be justice and truth as well. But all those major themes should converge into the main theme, just as the plotlines converge.
  23. To begin with, it is indicated in Qhorin's chapters that he may not be Qhorin. The best example might be Qhorin's mention of the shy maid on her wedding night. Jon then signposts it with his own surprise at Qhorin talking about maids and weddings, but then he shrinks from pursuing the subject, just as Bran wished he had asked Ned what he meant about Arthur and Howland. There is something undisclosed here, something the characters wanted to know but did not ask. It's designed to pique the readers interest, and in both cases the answer will be directly revealed or become apparent. Plus there is a bunch of clues. Qhorin does not need to be mentioned much. He is half of the motif but he is also Arthur Dayne. We don't need to go at this from both ends. Arthur is the recurring symbol, he is the one we are meant to watch. Once we learn the truth about Arthur, then the Qhorin part will fall into place. Remember, the motif is not the mystery. The motif simply explains the main theme in symbolic terms. The motif is hidden, or at least obscured, because it confirms the theme and as theme is connected to plot and character, then it can guide us to see where plot and characters are going in a thematic sense. That's why theme must emerge along with plot and character progression. For example, let's say you are reading a novel about an ordinary guy's attempt to rob a big bank that foreclosed on him and it's getting to the climax of the story. Will he pull it off or get caught? If you know the theme is "banks are corrupt," then you might anticipate an ending. If you know the theme is "crime doesn't pay," then you might anticipate a different ending. The best storytelling choice is to have theme emerge as the plot and characters develop, so that they are revealed together. The mystery is the death of Arthur Dayne. That's where the information vacuum is. That's the piece of the jigsaw that has not yet been put in place. We have been presented with story that says Ned killed Arthur, but no confirmation. Bran and Ned's conversation hinted there is more to the story. There will be reveals when the Tower of Joy is revisited. From a plot point of view the big confirmation will concern Lyanna. The reveal about Arthur will confirm the theme. That's why he was placed in that scene, so that plot and theme are revealed together. This will happen when we revisit the Tower of Joy, most likely through Howland Reed. I'll explain why it has to happen there, even though I've already touched on it in my reply to Ygrain. So I contend that GRRM created a masterful motif to underscore his main theme, and he plans to reveal it at the climax of the series so to confirm the main theme of the series. Story is when characters negotiate the plot, exploring the themes, learning lessons, changing along the way and making a point in the process. Those characters that learn the lessons of the thematic principles will change for the better on a positive change arc and succeed, while those who reject the lessons will endure a negative change arc and fail. The main lesson in A Song of Ice and Fire is that division needs to be replaced by unity, because the main thematic principle is - United we stand, divided we fall. In terms of the main plot, that means abandoning the divisive game of thrones and uniting to survive the return of the Others. In terms of character progression, it means elevating the needs of the many above the wants of the individual. These three key elements - plot, character, and theme - converge at the climax of a story. This is the pivotal scene of the series, where the mysteries are revealed. The Tower of Joy has already been set up to be the scene of the climax. We know we will revisit the tower, most likely through Howland Reed, and we will get answers to our questions about the plot, but we should remember that the climax is also the point where the main characters will accept or reject the thematic principles. It's where they admit or deny who they truly are, where they choose between the truth and the lie, where they elect to stand united or fall divided. The climax will be followed by the resolution, where we will see the outcome of the character's decisions and a potential final battle etc., but the climax is the place where the point of the story will be made. Theme is an important part of the climax. GRRM wants his central theme to be understood, and not misinterpreted or lost among other major themes. To support his main theme he has used a number of simple motifs, such as the lone wolf and pack, but to distinguish his main theme from the other major themes he has crafted something special. He has taken two recurring symbols, the white cloak of the kingsguard and the black cloak of the Night’s Watch, Arthur Dayne and Qhorin Halfhand, neither of which, it must be said, has a significant plot function. The white-cloaked Arthur is a kingsguard, connected to the game of thrones element of the story. The black-cloaked Qhorin is a brother of the Night’s Watch, connected to the song of ice and fire element of the story. When we revisit the pivotal Tower of Joy scene at the climax of the story, and the big reveals are made, the two recurring symbols will be combined to form a master motif, which will explain the main theme in symbolic terms. The truth about Lyanna and child is not the only reveal we are waiting for when it comes to the Tower of Joy. We also await the truth about the death of Arthur Dayne, and while the reveal about Lyanna is significant to the main plot, the reveal about Arthur is significant to the main theme, it’s the very reason he was placed in the climactic scene. We have been presented with a tale that says Ned killed Arthur in single combat, while Ned’s own account recalls that Arthur would have killed him but for Howland Reed. So was it Ned or was it Howland who struck the mortal blow? In truth there is a third option, there was no mortal blow. GRRM left Arthur's death vague for a reason, and so too Qhorin’s past. That lack of reliable detail on one character’s end and the other’s beginning is set-up perfectly to allow both characters to be joined into one. Arthur is the beginning of Qhorin’s story, just as Qhorin is the end of Arthur’s. His story is a journey away from the lie of the game of thrones and towards the truth of a song of ice and fire. We see the exact same journey represented in the titles of the books, which start at A Game of Thrones and progress to A Dream of Spring, a journey from division to unity. When it is revealed that Arthur took the black, then there will be no debate as to who he became. There will not be a single shred of text that can contradict such a reveal; not the eight cairns, the two who lived to ride away, Qhorin knowing Lord Rickard, Qhorin hearing about the waterfall form a black brother when he was no older than Jon, nothing. As well as that, hints like the red tears and rubies, the shy maid on her wedding night, Dawn arriving with Qhorin, will also make sense. When the series is analyzed from a literary point of view, it will become clear that Arthur Dayne's journey to becoming Qhorin Halfhand, a journey that is also reflected in the titles of the books, is a perfect symbolic representation of the main theme, the main plot, as well as the journey of many main characters, especially Jon as the eyes are the windows to the souls and the theme is the soul of the story. Regardless of whether you believe this or not, I hope what I'm saying is somewhat clear. There is a lot to it so I'm trying to be brief but concise, and I know I'm failing to be brief. I think the first thing to understand here is the relationship between plot, character, and theme. This is vital to the analysis of any novel. Next is to understand what a motif is and why author's use them. It's a very standard technique. Then, recognize that the author is using characters to prompt questions that we can expect to be answered, like the shy maid and her wedding, or what Ned meant by "but for Howland Reed."
  24. 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.
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