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Heresy 94 The White Walkers

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Welcome to Heresy 94, the latest edition of the very fast moving thread that looks behind the struggle for the Iron Throne to try and work out what’s really going in the over-arching Song of Ice and Fire.

And welcome too to the fourth part of Mace Cooterian’s Centennial Seven project aimed at defining the seven major heresies and bringing together the current thinking and arguments surrounding them.

This one by Grey Words is the eagerly awaited piece on the White Walkers.

Part 3, on Winterfell, took us just over 60 hours to run through 20 pages of discussion, so I suggest you clear your diary, fill the coffee pot, cancel the papers and above all don’t blink, because this could be a fast one.

Once again, what has always made Heresy so different and more vibrant and exciting than other threads is that while the theories discussed here have evolved and are often fiercely debated, in general we take a holistic approach. We’ve now covered the Wall, the dodgy timelines, Winterfell and its mysteries, and now the blue-eyed lot, but they are not to be considered in isolation. Grey Words’ essay sets out a starting point for discussion without preconditions. This all about a free exchange of ideas and the further the Centennial Seven project goes on its way the more apparent it becomes that all of the themes being discussed here are inextricably intertwined.

All in all, we can’t claim to know as much as we’d like to, far less definitively predict how this is all going to turn out, (or have the arrogance to pretend that we do) but I do think we can fairly claim that the ongoing discussion on these pages takes us far deeper into the story and into a far better understanding of the Song of Ice and Fire.

In the meantime if you’re already actively involved in the Heresy business the thread needs no further introduction. Here’s a link to Wolfmaid's essential guide to Heresy: http://asoiaf.wester...uide-to-heresy/, which provides annotated links to all the previous editions of Heresy and will house the archives created by the Centennial Seven project. Above all please don’t be intimidated by the size and scope of Heresy. We’re very good at talking in circles and we don’t mind going over old ground again, especially with a fresh pair of eyes, so just ask.

Otherwise, all that we do ask of you as ever is that you observe the house rules that the debate be conducted by reference to the text, with respect for the ideas of others, and above all great good humour.

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And so, without further ado, here's Grey Words:

The White Walkers

White Walker Knowns:

First I must specify that the following is about White Walkers/Others and not wights. For the purpose of brevity here I refer to my subjects as WWs, and instead of a long list of their known characteristics I invite you to review the Citadel Concordance for clarity on these beings: Concordance

Though the Concordance includes myths and legends surrounding the WWs, additional knowns confirmed by GRRM are that there exists a connection between the WWs and the CotF in that, “...The Others are not dead. They are a strange, beautiful...think, ok... the Sidhe made of ice, something like that... a different sort of life... inhuman, elegant, dangerous.” Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel by GRRM

The WWs are a controversial topic and of utmost importance to the outcome of this story, yet we know so very little about them. In this essay I'll be expanding on some of the basic legends from within the text and on some primary Heresy theories. There is no point in flowery rhetoric describing what is textual regarding WWs so do use the linked Westeros Concordance. Apologies ahead of time for not crediting ideas presented here – they're hard to pin down, but feel free to correct me and stake your claim in a post if you feel it necessary.

Expanded facts, legends and myths regarding WWs:

  • They cannot pass south of the Wall
  • They are referred to as White Walkers, the Others, cold gods, white cold, white shadows, shadows with teeth, black shadows, the ones in the night and white mists
  • Craster's women believe they're Craster's sacrificed sons, call them the brothers
  • Old Nan says the WWs feed on the blood of children
  • Old Nan says wildling women lay with Others to produce half human children
  • The mortal Stark Night's King, fell in love with a female WW
  • Night's King, and his WW Queen were able to make love
  • Sexual intercourse gave her his soul along with his seed
  • Tormund G. refers to them as the masters of the wights
  • Per Tormund re: WWs, “Shadows never go away. Might be you don’t see them, but they’re always clinging to your heels.”
  • They have ice spiders big as hounds with them at times
  • They have recently been seen on the shore near Eastwatch
  • Maester Luwin and Old Nan believe the the WWs are dead
  • They supposedly are ruthless, pitiless and hunt maidens
  • They are said to feed their wight thralls the flesh of human children and sheep

Some Heresy Theories: A basic incomplete list - yes, many conflict and any can be contested

  • They are not evil
  • They may have been around all the time and have only recently shown themselves
  • The Cold itself may be sentient and the WWs agents of that Cold
  • They're related to the cold but actually not the mists
  • The WWs may be the sentient Cold's physical form
  • They may be allied with the CotF
  • The WWs may have a duty, a job to do, or a purpose/function in the natural world
  • Their reappearance may be related to an increase in wights
  • They may be the spirit of dead Starks
  • A dead Jon Snow could be King of the WWs
  • They may be associated somehow with the Night's King
  • They may be associated with the Kings of Winter/the Starks
  • There may be an ancient treaty between them and the Starks
  • They may act independently as beings from a separate realm
  • They may be associated with or live in hollow/Sidhe hills
  • They may literally be Craster's sons
  • They may only gain some form of sustenance, essence or life force from Craster's sons
  • The cold gods and old gods may be one and the same
  • They are elemental, magical beings
  • A potential imbalance in nature has brought the WWs back
  • There is a relationship with WW's reappearance and the re-emergence of dragons

Some thoughts on WWs:

In the cave of skulls, Leaf tells Bran many things, and one subtle statement concludes with, “...every song must have its balance.”

In my opinion, balance is the key to much and more in this tale and ultimately is the answer to what the White Walkers are. GRRM'S world is not our own as it contains mystical, magical beings that humans openly interact with. Yet the story is set in a world of natural elements like our own, an earth-like planet with lands, seas, a sun, moon, stars, comets and four seasons.

This song of ice and fire is about two naturally opposing elements, and we've been shown that in this world there exist dragons that are fire made flesh. It stands to reason that in order for there to be balance in this world we must also have beings of ice made flesh. In the list of theories above, I fall in the group that believes the WWs are a magical, independent species, and expand on that belief in thinking they exist in their own natural realm, the Land of Always Winter.

In our own world many ancient beliefs focus on what are known as the four classical elements: earth, water, fire and air. These elements are equally germane to the world in this story, though are taken to an extreme level. The water element looms in a frozen state and threatens as an approaching Winter. Ice is the perfect foil to fire, though its impending intensity and the existence of aggressive ice-beings threatens to overwhelm the balance of the natural order.

Getting back to the four classical elements, all four are present and very relevant on Planetos, further balancing the elements of the opposing ice and fire: GRRM's dragons are associated with the earth, volcanoes, molten lava, the caves of the fire wyrms and living in caves; WWs are simply and elegantly related to air as the Cold, or as airy mists and as the trailing vapors of the WWs.

The prevailing mysteries and questions we must find answers to are: why are the WWs coming back now after having been gone for so long; are they or aren't they working with the CotF; are they truly evil; and ultimately, what do they want.

To seek answers to these questions I propose that we we return to the key issue: balance. Perhaps the WWs existed in their realm doing their thing in the LoAW just as the dragons were doing theirs before the Valyrians tamed, used and abused them. It seems the WWs are natural beings that can do amazing things with ice, crafting it into armor, swords and potentially even the Wall. A parallel with the dragons' path to exploitation could be the CotF somehow forming an unnatural alliance with the WWs, possibly using them as a mercenary force, and to work their ice magic to construct the Wall – the Wall built as a barrier to keep the realms of men separate from the realms of magic and the old gods.

The Starks also seem to be connected to this alliance and may remain as some sort of overseers of the Night's Watch's stewardship responsibilities. The Stark's responsibilities may be forgotten, which could be a contributing factor to the re-emergence of the WWs. Whether or not the WWs have always had a martial force is unclear to me, but I suspect the CotF are the old race parallel to the human Valyrians and that both are capable of, as well as culpable in abusing their use of the powers of magic and magical beings. I've wondered if the emergence of wights from this magical alliance was an unintended by-product of the abuse of magic, and is subsequently responsible for driving the CotF completely underground. For the WWs, the wights have been useful and possibly a boon to their own possibly limited numbers/resources.

It's indicated that there is some way of relating to the WWs by offering them a form of sacrifice or tribute, be it a human child (sons in Craster's case) or sheep. This appears to be a means of ensuring the WWs will not threaten in any way, but there is much intense debate surrounding the WWs use of these children that we need answers to. Much debate hinges on weather the WWs are literally Craster's sons, or whether they extract a life-essence from them.

In questioning the WWs reason for their reappearance and mounting threat after the redundant “eight thousand years”, I suspect the balance/imbalance issue is a causative factor - though it's not the only one. Westeros has been a fairly chaotic place since humans arrived, and it seems to be in the process of entropy on many levels (ironically where even the laws of thermodynamics apply). What was likely a balanced, possibly idyllic, ecosystem is being damaged to dangerous levels by warring humans. Perhaps the initial Pact was meant to stabilize an ecosystem that would now include humans. It's possible a certain balance was meant to be maintained and is now so out of whack that the ice element from the north is moving south to restore some natural order. There is also the waning population of the CotF, their primary human greenseer is nearly absorbed and only now are they initiating Bran's recruitment. On top of that the greenseer/skinchanger raven network is being slaughtered with abandon in the wars and their aftermath.

Other important disruptive factors in Westeros are the breaking of and disregard for oaths and honor. In the point we're left at in ADWD both are being trampled, shredded and disregarded with a vengeance on a multitude of levels, likely on both sides of the Wall. The very serious system that is the Night's Watch code is barely being upheld - their numbers are few and few of those men are “true,” which could be weakening the inherent strength of the Wall and drawing or inviting the WWs south. Of course there is some issue with the Starks, their honor, connection to the realm of magic via their warging abilities are now awakening in the Stark children. Warging abilities may have been disregarded or suppressed in previous generations over the years. Now that there is no physical presence of a Stark in Winterfell a serious breach of an oath or responsibility may be a looming threat.

There is also a vacuum in the diminished presence of, and respect for, magic throughout Westeros that could be strengthening and drawing the WWs south into the vacuum created by magic's weakening. The CotF and their greenseers are hiding in decline, which may be threatening the maintenance of elemental magic's balance at the same time that magic is being suppressed by factions south, at the Citadel. I've wondered in turn if the strengthening of elemental ice magic has stimulated a response from the elemental fire magic that is being drawn from the opposite direction.

What do the WWs want? There must have been some natural balance in Westeros before the arrival of the FM. An eventual agreement with the FM was reached thousands of years ago and a physical barrier was erected between the realms of magic and realms of men. Either the agreement is now not being honored or is seriously degraded to the point that it essentially “doesn't count” anymore, and the WWs are now going to resume their attempt to drive humans out of Westeros. Perhaps they will simply seek to find a level of balance and tolerance with humans. Perhaps they will capitulate if humans will acknowledge and respect their presence or be willing to respect and tolerate their existence. Legends present the WWs as ruthless killers, but that image may be a convenient construct that has created a false image of the WWs and their intentions – creating convenient boogie-men that have been demonized over the ages.

It's the idea of acknowledging the terrifying, dangerous and alien within their world that's challenging the core beliefs of Planetos and Westerosi humans. It's the perceived threat to human safety that leads me into the psychological parallels inherent in the human population. I don't want to beat this comparison to death with self-aggrandizing psycho-blather, so will keep this as simple and brief as possible. There are important concepts that may shed some light on the WWs themselves and help us understand their motivations as well as the human population's relationship to them. Please bear with these very simplistic examples.

In an earlier Heresy I compared Planetos to a physical being, but in this WWs topic I'm asking you to narrow that concept down to Westeros, focusing on its collective continental psyche. Writers, philosophers and psychologists such as Hegel, Freud, Lacan etc. have produced a wealth of material on the concept of “the other/Other” and on the importance of the developing perception of otherness in an individual's psyche. Many have proposed that in the human psyche, the self exists and is defined by the existence of the “other” and a perceived vs. real relationship to it. In theory, very early childhood development involves a mirror stage in which an infant sees itself in a mirror and perceives the image as a literal object outside of themselves. It's somewhat amusing that the WWs wear very reflective armor in which any proximal human would see himself reflected in it: thus he would be looking at an iconic image of his own terrorized and terrifying self in all its aggressive potential. This reflection sheds light on the potential foundation of human response to WWs. There is much that could be discussed regarding scholarly thought on the other/Other, but there are two relevant theories in psychology that may contain parallels regarding the WWs. These two concepts are relevant in helping us understand the human response to WWs, which may in turn affect the collective psyche of Westeros as being. These theoretical concepts are: psychological projection and repression. I'm reducing these concepts to a very simplistic level to convey their essential spirit for brevity's sake.

Psychological projection develops well beyond that initial mirror phase in an infant, and is a more mature self aware psyche's repulsion or rejection of its negative characteristics and an ensuing process of blaming or attributing those characteristics to another. This is essentially a defense mechanism. There is no denying that a wealth of ugly characteristics have been attributed to the WWs. One doesn't have to look far to witness the overwhelmingly violent, warlike, greedy behavior that has developed in feudal Westeros society. Many human-caused atrocities are overlooked as horrible, and terrifying negatives are attributed to WWs. Isn't it ironic that the WWs encountered so far have not been the ones to initiate aggression against humans? There is a deep seated fear of, and an unwillingness to attempt to engage with, the alien WWs on a non-violent level because of a projected negative image and the long history of cultural horror stories surrounding them. A wall of mis-perception stands between both sides.

The second concept from the realm of psychology that has some bearing on the WW/human relationship is “psychological repression.” In this process, undesirable impulses and tendencies in an individual are squashed and exiled from an individual's consciousness and banished to the deep subconscious. Looking at a societal level in Westeros, negative characteristics and desires that are projectable are equally capable of being suppressed and buried in this process of repression. As an example, we are commonly familiar with repressed real and/or imaginary memories that occur in child abuse cases. In these instances horrible real or imagined treatment, behavior, psychological and physical wounding can be buried deep within an individual's subconscious, i.e. repressed. The building of the Wall is the physical manifestation of a cutting off and repression of a perceived evil enemy. It is a monumental repression that has reinforced an avoidance and unwillingness to establish any understanding or attempt to minimize, mediate, reduce or heal the anxiety produced by the existence of the WWs.

The point of all this is that the relationship between the WWs and human inhabitants of Westeros is an unhealthy one that feeds an environment of misunderstanding, fear and reactive violence. This has set both sides on a festering, destructive course that only serves to feed the imbalance in nature and society. Analyzing the collective psyche of Westeros is my own best argument for restoring and maintaining the natural balance in the ecology, cultures and forces of magic. As it now stands, this is impossible considering the relationship between humans and their world. At the root of this is the collective unbalanced human relationship, misunderstanding and unwillingness to consider of the WWs real place in the world.

Ultimately, we know far too little regarding the WWs. Theories abound and opinions vary widely and I hope we're able to put our heads together to find some common ground for consensus. It seems a fair number of us don't think the WWs are the ultimate evil enemy and that they have some purpose in the world of ASoIaF. It wouldn't be a balanced world-psyche without them, as the WWs are also related to the natural cycle of seasons. The ebb and flow of seasonal phenomena is a metaphor for the breathing of the being that is Westeros, and any irregular or constricted breathing is unhealthy and likely dangerous for all involved.

(release the hounds)

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Brilliant opening BC! I've been waiting for this topic a while now, and I'm already hyped about it.

As to the WW, they could be like the COTF where they are gifted with very long lives but aren't able to breed (if they even can) a lot. So maybe they've always lived in the LoAW, and when the time came the COTF seeker their help on the matter of the Wall and to help them reclaim some land for themselves and the remainder of the Old Races, so and uneasy alliance.

And maybe now they're using Craster's boys as a life force thing or they are turning them into fellow WW, but I think the COTF have sort of reinvoked their alliance with the WW as there are no more Starks in Winterfell and the Pact (one of them) had been broken, so the COTF yet again need the WW to sort the situation out with Men.

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All good points and while they've been spoken of before they need bringing forward again and fleshing out properly in the way we've done for the preceding topics. Arguably all three have been done to death already and yet we drew out so much more and I'm hopeful we'll do the same for the blue-eyed lot.

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One thing I'd like to do early on is consolidate those lists of facts, legends and myths in Grey Words' list, and likewise the theories.

Everything else aside there is still a very widespread degree of confusion and uncertainty as to who is who:

We have Others, White Walkers (with multiple aliases) and Wights; we need to clearly distinguish between the latter two at least (yes I know those of us who are grown old in heresy...) and see is we can come to some sort of consensus on the Others.

As a starting point, I'd like to propose that the White Walkers are the beautiful but deadly different form of life described in GRRM's email and quite different from the dead Wights, but that collectively they are the Others, ie; while we have evidence of the white walkers being around in the background north of the wall long before the story opens, its only when they become associated with the wights that they are recognised as the Others.

Although they themselves are a different sibject it might also be useful to touch on the hinted at connection to the Children, and also see whether we're agreed the Others are not led by the Great Other.

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All good points and while they've been spoken of before they need bringing forward again and fleshing out properly in the way we've done for the preceding topics. Arguably all three have been done to death already and yet we drew out so much more and I'm hopeful we'll do the same for the blue-eyed lot.

Out of all the things in ASOIAF the one thing I'm most interested in (WW) is the thing we know least about. Thank the gods GRRM's said we'll know more about WW on TWOW.

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We have Others, White Walkers (with multiple aliases) and Wights; we need to clearly distinguish between the latter two at least (yes I know those of us who are grown old in heresy...) and see is we can come to some sort of consensus on the Others.

As a starting point, I'd like to propose that the White Walkers are the beautiful but deadly different form of life described in GRRM's email and quite different from the dead Wights, but that collectively they are the Others, ie; while we have evidence of the white walkers being around in the background north of the wall long before the story opens, its only when they become associated with the wights that they are recognised as the Others.

I'm reminded of that discussion of what Old Bear said to Tyrion in AGOT when he said that "fisherfolk near Eastwatch have glimpsed white walkers on the shore" which would be weird since if Old Bear knows then the NW at Eastwatch must have known in which case the three blast would have been blown, but they weren't, they're only blown for Others, not White Walkers. Which I find weird since the purpose of the NW (now) is to keep them away from the Wall and out of the south.
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Ah yes, one of my favourite bits:

Lord Mormont is the Lord Commander of the Nights Watch, an organisation which for thousands of years has dedicated itself to defending the realms of men against the darkness, commonly understood to be the Others. Mormont is unquestionably worried and is begging Lord Tyrion, the Queen’s brother, for assistance:

"I tell you my lord, the darkness is coming. There are wild things in the woods, direwolves and mammoths, and snow bears the size of aurochs, I have seen darker shapes in my dreams"
"In your dreams," Tyrion echoed, thinking how badly he needed another strong drink.
Mormont was deaf to the edge in his voice. "The fisherfolk near Eastwatch have glimpsed white walkers on the shore."
This time Tyrion could not hold his tongue. "The fisherfolk of Lannisport often glimpse merlings."
"Denys Mallister writes that the mountain people are moving south, slipping past the Shadow Tower in numbers greater than before. They are running, my lord... but running from what?" Lord Mormont moved to the window and stared out into the night. "These are old bones, Lannister, but they have never felt a chill like this. Tell the king what I say, I pray you. Winter is coming, and when the Long Night falls, only the Nights Watch will stand between the realm and the darkness that sweeps from the north."

At no point does Mormont mention the Others. All he has to do is say that there are reported sightings of the Others, stirring again after all these thousands of years. Its why the Watch exists and why the Watch must be supported and reinforced.

But no. Mormont speaks of his uneasiness; he speaks of direwolves, mammoths, snow bears and aurochs, he speaks of the mountain people fleeing south from something unknown, he speaks of his troubled dreams, and in the middle of it all he mentions that white walkers have been glimpsed on the shore near Eastwatch, but his concern is along the lines of, you don’t normally see them this far south at this time of year. He conspicuously doesn’t say bar the doors and lock up your daughters, the Others have been sighted near Eastwatch. Yes, its possible to echo Tyrion’s scepticism, but if he associated them at all with the Others, his very first duty was to verify or disprove the sighting because if they were the Others he should be sounding the horn thrice, calling the banners and telling the southern lordling right at the very outset that the Others had been seen. Direwolves, mammoths and snow bears mean squat. It’s the Others which are the danger, but no there’s no mention of Others, just that mention halfway down the list of his concerns, after the direwolves and everything else, his bad dreams included, one of the things that makes him uneasy is that white walkers have been seen near Eastwatch, and because he doesn’t make that connection to Tyron or to us, neither do we as readers make the connection until several chapters later when Old Nan agrees with Bran that they are one and the same.

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For the record, here's the collected works of Old Nan on the subject:

AGoT Bran 1

He [Bran] remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

The same chapter, Bran talks to Eddard.

“He was a wildling,” Bran said. “They carry off women and sell them to the Others.”
His lord father smiled. “Old Nan has been telling you stories again."

AGoT Bran 4

“I could tell you the story about Brandon the Builder,” Old Nan said. “That was always your favorite.”
Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite. Maybe one of the other Brandons had liked that story. Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were her Brandon, the baby she had nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.
“That’s not my favorite,” he said. “My favorites were the scary ones.”
“Oh, my sweet summer child,” Old Nan said quietly, “what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.”
“You mean the Others,” Bran said querulously.
“The Others,” Old Nan agreed. “Thousands and thousands of years ago, a winter fell that was cold and hard and endless beyond all memory of man. There came a night that lasted a generation, and kings shivered and died in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. Women smothered their children rather than see them starve, and cried, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks.” Her voice and her needles fell silent, and she glanced up at Bran with pale, filmy eyes and asked, “So, child. This is the sort of story you like?”
“Well,” Bran said reluctantly, “yes, only...
Old Nan nodded. “In that darkness, the Others came for the first time,” she said as her needles went click click click. “They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children.”
Her voice had dropped very low, almost to a whisper, and Bran found himself leaning forward to listen.
“Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken these lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched, until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds-”
The door opened with a bang, and Bran’s heart leapt up into his mouth in sudden fear, but it was only Maester Luwin, with Hodor looming in the stairway behind him.

The same chapter,

All Bran could think of was Old Nan’s story of the Others and the last hero, hounded through the white woods by dead men and spiders big as hounds. He was afraid for a moment, until he remembered how that story ended. “The children will help him,” he blurted, “the children of the forest!”

AGoT Jon 7

Unbidden, he thought back on the tales that Old Nan used to tell them, when he was a boy at Winterfell. He could almost hear her voice again, and the click-click-click of her needles. In that darkness, the Others came riding, she used to say, dropping her voice lower and lower. Cold and dead they were, and they hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every living creature with hot blood in its veins. Holdfasts and cities and kingdoms of men all fell before them, as they moved south on pale dead horses, leading hosts of the slain. They fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children...

AGoT Arya 9

She remembered a story Old Nan had told once, about a man imprisoned in a dark castle by evil giants. He was very brave and smart and he tricked the giants and escaped . . . but no sooner was he outside the castle than the Others took him, and drank his hot red blood.

SoS Bran

The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan’s stories, the tale of Night’s King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night’s Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. “And that was the fault in him,” she would add, “for all men must know fear.” A woman was his downfall; a woman glimpsed from atop the Wall, with skin as white as the moon and eyes like blue stars. Fearing nothing, he chased her and caught her and loved her, though her skin was cold as ice, and when he gave his seed to her he gave his soul as well.
He brought her back to the Nightfort and proclaimed her a queen and himself her king, and with strange sorceries he bound his Sworn Brothers to his will. For thirteen years they had ruled, Night’s King and his corpse queen, till finally the Stark of Winterfell and Joramun of the wildlings had joined to free the Watch from bondage. After his fall, when it was found he had been sacrificing to the Others, all records of Night’s King had been destroyed, his very name forbidden.
“Some say he was a Bolton,” Old Nan would always end. “Some say a Magnar out of Skagos, some say Umber, Flint, or Norrey. Some would have you think he was a Woodfoot, from them who ruled Bear island before the ironmen came. He never was. He was a Stark, the brother of the man who brought him down.” She always pinched Bran on the nose then, he would never forget it. “He was a Stark of Winterfell, and who can say? Mayhaps his name was Brandon. Mayhaps he slept in this very bed in this very room.”

ADwD Bran

Bran found himself remembering the tales Old Nan had told him when he was a babe. Beyond the Wall the monsters live, the giants and the ghouls, the stalking shadows and the dead that walk, she would say, tucking him in beneath his scratchy woolen blanket, but they cannot pass so long as the Wall stands strong and the men of the Night’s Watch are true.

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And a minor digression, an unconsidered trifle relating to the link we're drawing between the Winterfell crypts and the Black Gate, which I picked up while hunting out the above.

AGoT Arya 3

Huge stones had been set into the curving walls as steps, circling down and down, dark as the steps to hell that Old Nan used to tell them of.

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...additional knowns confirmed by GRRM are that there exists a connection between the WWs and the CotF in that, “...The Others are not dead. They are a strange, beautiful...think, ok... the Sidhe made of ice, something like that... a different sort of life... inhuman, elegant, dangerous.” Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel by GRRM


No, the quote does not suggest any connection between the Popsicles and the CotF.

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Linkage between the WW and the CotF:

The Holly King is a speculative archetype of modern studies of folklore and mythology which has been popularized in some Neopagan religions. In his book The White Goddess, the author Robert Graves proposed that the mythological figure of the Holly King represents one half of the year, while the other is personified by his counterpart and adversary the Oak King: the two battle endlessly as the seasons turn. At Midsummer the Oak King is at the height of his strength, while the Holly King is at his weakest. The Holly King begins to regain his power, and at the Autumn Equinox, the tables finally turn in the Holly King's favor; his strength peaks at Midwinter. Graves identified a number of paired hero-figures which he believes are variants of this myth, including Lleu Llaw Gyffes and Gronw Pebr, Gwyn and Gwythr, Lugh and Balor, Balan and Balin, Gawain and the Green Knight, the robin and the wren, and even Jesus and John the Baptist.[1][2]

A similar idea was suggested previously by Sir James George Frazer in his work The Golden Bough in Chapter XXVIII, The Killing of The Tree Spirit in the section entitled The Battle of Summer and Winter.[2][3][4][5] Frazer drew parallels between the folk-customs associated with May Day or the changing seasons in Scandinavian, Bavarian and Native American cultures, amongst others, in support of this theory.[3] However the Divine King of Frazer was split into the kings of winter and summer in Graves' work.[2][4]

These pairs are seen as the dual aspects of the male Earth deity, one ruling the waxing year, the other ruling the waning year. Stewart and Janet Farrar, following Graves' theory, gave a similar interpretation to Wiccan seasonal rituals.[6] According to Joanne Pearson, the Holly King is represented by holly and other evergreens, and personifies the dark half of the Wiccan Wheel of the Year.[7] He is also seen by some Neopagans as an early inspiration for the Santa Claus legend.[8]

The battle of light with dark is commonly played out in traditional folk dance and mummers plays across Britain such as Calan Mai in Wales, Mazey Day in Cornwall and Jack in the Green traditions in England which typically include a ritual battle in some form.

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Well he knows his forces are limited and the opponent, regardless of number, is strong.

Best not to take a chance at that point

Well he could have at least prepared for the worst and sent letters out to the surrounding Lords of the danger. It would've been better to do something rather than nothing.
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