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"The Winged Wolf" A Bran Stark Re-read Project - Part 1: AGOT

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MOIAF, QA, myself and some others touched on this and I get the feeling it's going to be a topic about which we'll constantly come back, but I don't think wiping out the Others is the ultimate solution unless you also remove the dragons. It's about balance. The 'ice" here isn't the great evil. They are two opposing forces that need to find balance. And the three main characters in ASOIAF--at least the three that I see as being the ultimate main--each represent this idea. Dany as Fire's Champion. Bran as Ice Champion. And Jon, the great balance of the two. That's why I tend to think that while Dany and Bran will play huge roles (on different sides of all this) it'll be Jon that has to do "the thing" that restores the world; that somehow satisfies both fire and ice and their desires.

Despite the title of the series I would not be so certain that Bran is an 'Ice Champion'. From what I remember of the Bran Chapters the imagery used in association with greensight is more about trees and earth. Darkness is an aspect, but roots are also common. There is also ice imagery but mostly in relation with the lands beyond the Wall and the Others, not directly in connection with Bran, at least not often. So I hesitate to draw that connection.

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Despite the title of the series I would not be so certain that Bran is an 'Ice Champion'. From what I remember of the Bran Chapters the imagery used in association with greensight is more about trees and earth. Darkness is an aspect, but roots are also common. There is also ice imagery but mostly in relation with the lands beyond the Wall and the Others, not directly in connection with Bran, at least not often. So I hesitate to draw that connection.

I'll be touching on this--nature champion vs ice champion--a small bit in my first POV (Bran II) but I do agree that Bran is linked to nature and the natural world through his gift. But it is his Stark blood that links him to "ice." Being linked to ice doesn't just mean ice imagery but there is also the worship of the old golds, the way Bran is in tune with Winterfell, the entire history of the BIG Brandon Stark (who, in my head, is very much alive and sitting up in the Lands of Always Winter), and what I think is a special connection between the Others and the Starks. If the Targaryens have literal dragon blood through some sort of magical ritual, then I think the Starks have Other blood/blood of winter and it's manifesting most strongly in Bran.

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I wonder if we should include in the reread some Samwell chapters where we can see the Others and wights in action, or Jon saving Lord Mormont from Othor (it depends if we consider wights/Others as something fundamental when dealing with Bran... if this reread could include them I'd be happy).

I think that's a good idea.

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I think that's a good idea.

That depends on how much we want to go into that particular topic in this reread. You could probably make a entire seperate reread for the Others and wights, but I am not fundamentally opposed to including chapters related to that. But if we include more chapters I think the Prologue of ADwD is a lot more important since it deals with warging specifically and that is highly relevant to Bran as a character.

Edit: On second thought: I think that a seperate reread for the Others and wights is better than including it here. Bran is probably the most magical character in the series, but that does not mean that everything magical is related to him and it could shift the focus of the reread away from his character to a general discussion about magic in ASoIaF.

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Mayhaps change the title of the reread then?

Not necessarily, since that chapter is when Sam meets Coldhands and the scene continues in Bran's next chapter. I think it might flesh out that portion of the story given GRRM leaves a large time gap between Bran's last two chapters in ASOS, and it's only understandable of you read the book normally with all chapters.

Edit: On second thought: I think that a seperate reread for the Others and wights is better than including it here. Bran is probably the most magical character in the series, but that does not mean that everything magical is related to him and it could shift the focus of the reread away from his character to a general discussion about magic in ASoIaF.

Good point!

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Edit: On second thought: I think that a seperate reread for the Others and wights is better than including it here. Bran is probably the most magical character in the series, but that does not mean that everything magical is related to him and it could shift the focus of the reread away from his character to a general discussion about magic in ASoIaF.

Valid observation, I agree.

In this case we'll get to observe them through Bran's eyes and not shift the focus of the reread.

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Bran I



Summary


In the early morning of a late summer day a group of twenty head to a small holdfast in the hills outside of Winterfell to deliver the king’s justice to a deserter of the Night’s Watch. They are led by Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. This is Bran’s first time witnessing an execution. He is accompanied by his brothers Robb and Jon, their father’s ward, Theon Greyjoy and members of the Winterfell household. On their way back to Winterfell Robb finds a dead direwolf and a recently whelped litter of pups. The direwolf is the sigil of their Great House and Jon convinces Lord Stark to allow the children to keep the pups. The events of this chapter are narrated through Bran’s point-of-view.



Analysis


Bran is an uncertain young man that expresses a range of emotions as he discovers his identity. Neutral colors are repeated often in this section creating a color motif that establishes the moral ambiguity theme in the series and in Bran’s character arc. There is a profound motif of respect and a smidge of magic by subtle indications of the warg abilities of Jon and Bran. Conjecture regarding Jon’s parentage and the Winterfell crypts will be intentionally left out in order to keep this as factual and focused as possible.



50 Shades of Grey


“Over their heads flapped the banner of the Starks of Winterfell; a grey direwolf racing across an ice-white field.” White, black and varying tones of gray contribute to the neutral motif in this chapter. The gray hues are especially true for Bran as he is unearthing his identity. As we get to know Bran we’ll learn that he is a multi-dimensional character that is not completely good and not completely bad, but somewhere in the grey area between. The first description of Ned, the head of House Stark has both grey and white.



QUOTE: His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest.


Similarly, Jon’s eyes are, “a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little he did not see.”



Bran begins the day nervous. After the execution with Ice, a sword as “dark as smoke”, on the “hard black wood” Bran speaks to Ned and is uneasy and unsure; answering questions with questions or answering them uncertainly.



QUOTE: “Robb says the man died bravely, but Jon says he was afraid.”


“What do you think?” his father asked.


Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”


“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him, “Do you understand why I did it?”


“He was a wilding,” Bran said. “They carry off woman and sell them to the Others.”


His lord father smiled. … “The question was not why the man had to die, but why I must do it.”


Bran had no answer for that.



Robb stands “knee-deep in white” when he discovers the dead direwolf “half-buried in bloodstained snow, a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had formed in its shaggy grey fur, and the faint smell of corruption clung to it like a woman’s perfume…Bran was afire with curiosity by then. He would have spurned the pony faster, but his father made them dismount beside the bridge and approach on foot. Bran jumped off and ran” to see what Robb had found." Bran’s interest overcomes his apprehension.


QUOTE: Bran tore his eyes away from the monster. That was when he noticed the bundle in Robb’s arms. He gave a cry of delight and moved closer. The pup was a tiny ball of grey-black fur, its eyes still closed. Bran reached out hesitantly. "Go on", Robb told him. "You can touch it." Bran gave the pup a quick nervous stroke, then turned as Jon said, "Here you go." His half brother put a second pup into his arms.



The dead direwolf and her five pups are varieties of grey and the sixth pup is albino ice white. Once the direwolf is in Bran’s arms he becomes more confident. Hullen suggests killing the pups and Theon offers to be the slayer, Bran responds fiercely and without hesitation and after Jon pleads a case for keeping the pups Ned gives the children firm directions on his expectations of their training and caretaking of the pups and Bran is enthusiastic. His journey of self-discovery pivots on his direwolf for they will come to share a supernatural bond and Summer will later become a part of him. The wolf is as grey as Bran.



R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Stark it to me


“He looked up. Wrapped in his furs and leathers, mounted on his great warhorse, his lord father loomed over him like a giant.” There is respect all around; the children’s respect of Ned, Ned’s respect of power, justice and life and Ned’s teaching that respect to the children. There is also incident of blatant disrespect.



Robb, Jon and Bran respect Ned and are all eager to earn his respect and approval. And Jon reminds Bran to stay strong in front of dad.



QUOTE: Bran’s bastard brother Jon Snow moved closer. “Keep the pony well in hand,” he whispered. “And don’t look away. Father will know if you do.” Bran kept his pony well in hand and did not look away.



As Warden of the North Ned respects the power and responsibility that comes with the title.



QUOTE: “One day, Bran, you will be Robb’s bannerman, holding a keep of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will fall to you. What that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away.”



Robb and Jon have seen Ned carry out the king’s justice before and now it is Bran’s turn to learn. There will come a day when they will need to bring justice and end the life of another person for the good of many. Ned is teaching Bran that when that day comes he cannot ignore his responsibility, no matter how difficult nor can he take delight in it. This is an important lesson in respect. Respect for his brother, respect for the power Bran will wield as a lord, for the power to take a life in the name of justice and respect enough to know that “If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”



Theon finds amusement in everything despite the seriousness of this situation and disrespects the dead instead of controlling himself.



QUOTE: The head bounced off a thick root and rolled. It came up near Greyjoy’s feet. Theon was a lean, dark youth of nineteen who found everything amusing. He laughed, put his boot on the head and kicked it away.



Theon has lack of respect for the dead. In reaction to Theon’s disrespect Jon mutters “ass”. Jon’s decision to murmur where Theon could not hear instead of openly ridiculing his behavior demonstrates Jon keeping the peace out of respect for the group.


Bran is keenly aware of Robb’s respect and admiration of their father.



QUOTE: “Do we know what killed her?”


“There’s something in the throat,” Robb told him, proud to have found the answer before his father even asked. “There just under the jaw”.



Theon’s reaction to the dead “freak” is to unsheathe his sword. Bran thinks Robb’s response is authoritative, like their father.



QUOTE: “Put away your sword, Greyjoy,” Robb said. For a moment he sounded as commanding as their father, like the lord he would someday be. “We will keep these pups.”


Bran does not want to look timid or weak to his father or the older boys.



QUOTE: Bran looked to his lord father for rescue, but only got a frown, a furrowed brow. “Hullen speaks truly, son. Better a swift death than a hard one from cold and starvation.”


“No!” He could feel the tears welling in his eyes and he looked away. He did not want to cry in front of his father.


Robb resisted stubbornly.


Bran gave a wordless cry of dismay.



It was here that Jon respectfully appeals to their father’s logical side, devoid of emotion and addresses him formally.



QUOTE: “Lord Stark,” Jon said. It was strange to hear him call Father that, so formal. Bran looked at him with desperate hope. “There are five pups,” he told Father. “Three male, two female”.


“What of it, Jon?”


“You have five trueborn children,” Jon said. “Three sons, two daughters. The direwolf is the sigil of your House. Your children were meant to have these pups, my lord.”


Bran saw his father’s face change, saw the other men exchange glances. He loved Jon with all his heart at that moment. Even at seven Bran understood what his brother had done. The count had come right only because Jon had omitted himself. He had included the girls, included even Rickon, the baby, but not the bastard that custom decreed be given to all those in the north unlucky enough to be born with no name of their own.


Their father understood as well. “You want no pup for yourself, Jon?” he asked softly.


“The direwolf graces the banners of House Stark,” Jon pointed out. ‘I am no Stark, Father.’


Their lord father regarded Jon thoughtfully.



Ned and Bran both understand what Jon has done to convince Ned to allow them to keep the pups and they both respect him for it. Ned instructs the boys on their responsibilities with the direwolves and in doing so shows his respect of the Winterfell household servants and the power of a direwolf. He does not regard the servants as slaves to be ordered about, but as people with jobs to do.



QUOTE: The lord weighed his sons carefully with his eyes. “Easy to say, and harder to do. I will not have you wasting the servant’s time with this. If you want these pups, you will feed them yourselves. Is that understood?”


“You must train them as well,’ their father said. You must train them. The kennelmaster will have nothing to do with these monsters, I promise you that. And the gods help you if you neglect them, or brutalize them, or train them badly. These are not dogs to beg for treats and slink off at a kick. A direwolf will rip a man’s arm off his shoulder as easily as a dog will kill a rat. Are you sure you want this?”


“Yes, Father,” Bran said.


“Yes,” Robb agreed.



Dance Magic Dance


There are clandestine traces of magic in this chapter brought to light by a closer examination of the chosen verbiage.



QUOTE: “Come let us see what mischief my sons have rooted out now”



“Rooted” is a unique choice of words considering Bran’s mentor, the numinous three-eyed crow, the last greenseer, is literally rooted in a weirwood and Bran must travel to him.



QUOTE: “Direwolves loose in the realm, after so many years,” muttered Hullen, “I like it not.”


“It is a sign,” Jory said.


Father frowned. “This is only a dead animal, Jory,” he said. Yet he seemed troubled. Snow crunched under his boots as he moved around the body.



Ned does not vocalize a belief in magic and he dismisses the omen. Bran notes the unmistakable concern in Ned and the fear of the group when they discover what killed the direwolf even though the particular significance eludes him.



QUOTE: His father knelt and groped under the beast’s head with his hands. He gave a yank and held it up for all to see. A foot of shattered antler, tines snapped off, all wet with blood.


A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked at the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran could sense their fear, though he did not understand.



Not only has a legendary creature not seen in this area for 200 years appeared, she managed to whelp a litter of puppies either just before her death or shortly thereafter after.



QUOTE: “Maybe she didn’t,’ Jory said. "I’ve heard tales…maybe the bitch was already dead when the pups came."


"Born with the dead," another man put in. "Worse luck."



The birth of the pups alone is fate and possibly the intervention of a greater force. There is a connection between the wolves and the Stark children, and it is not just overhead on their banner. Some of the group, including Ned, advocate for a merciful and swift death for the pups. Theon eagerly offers his services and Summer’s reaction implies he feels the threat through Bran.



QUOTE: “The sooner the better,” Theon Greyjoy agreed. He drew his sword. “Give the beast here, Bran.“


The little thing squirmed against him, as if it heard and understood. “No!” Bran cried out fiercely. “It’s mine.”



Ned finally gives consent for the pups to go to the Stark children and Bran and Summer react similarly signifying Summer’s understanding through Bran.



QUOTE: Bran nodded eagerly. The pup squirmed in his grasp, licked at his face with a warm tongue.



And then…



QUOTE: Halfway across the bridge, Jon pulled up suddenly.


“What is it?” their lord father asked.


“Can’t you hear it?”



Jon does not ask, “Can you hear it?” as if he needs assistance. His question is in disbelief, “Can’t you hear it?” Again, the verbiage is essential. It suggests there is more to what he hears than sound. A sixth (sense) pup is calling to him, loudly and only Jon can hear it. It is also possible that Bran heard it but was not able to translate it. The wind in the trees, the True Tongue.



Indicative of their newborn age, the pups have not opened their eyes, except for the albino, Ghost, the direwolf already reaching out to his Stark. Bran is bright enough to know this is peculiar. His open eyes could point to him being older than his litter mates.



QUOTE: Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironwood planks, the whimpering of his hungry pup, but Jon was listening to something else.


“There,” Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them smiling.



QUOTE: Bran thought it was curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were blind.



Conclusion



Bran is groomed at a young age in duty, respect and family. He is neither starkly black nor white (pun intended), rather a shade of grey somewhere in between like his direwolf. Summer is a magical element of him from the instant Jon placed him in Bran’s arms. Robb, Jon and Bran protect the direwolves from certain death and they in turn are protected by their wolves.



Final Thoughts / Observations



Foreshadowing


The most obvious foreshadowing is the direwolf killed by a stag indicative of Ned’s death by Joffrey Baratheon (an execution Joffrey order instead of handling himself, the old way).



Bran remembers Old Nan’s hearth tales and thinks about the wildings stealing girl children in the dead of night. We find out later that stealing woman is common among the wildings. It is a social custom they enjoy to prove the prowess of a man.



Ned warns the children that a direwolf “will rip a man’s arm off his shoulder as easily as a dog will kill a rat.” It is reported that Grey Wind ripped the arms off of men during the Red Wedding, even while being showered with arrows. This statement by Ned also brings to mind Theon and the rat he catches to eat while living with the dogs as Reek version 3.0.



It is interesting that Theon calls the direwolf a “freak” as it is later how he identifies himself. It rhymes with Reek.



Robb and Jon were discussing how Gared died, “This one was dead of fear. You could see it in his eyes, Stark.” Robb was not impressed and swore, “The Others take his eyes”. Fascinating considering the eyes are the most remarked upon feature changed when an Other creates a wight.



Symbolism


Ironwood, a tree indigenous to the north, is mentioned only a total of ten times in the series; almost all in the initial book, A Game of Thrones. In precisely half of these instances the ironwood has been altered or formed into an object; in the other half they are in the forests of notable locations, the wolfswood near Deepwood Motte, the Haunted Forest near the Wall and around Craster’s Keep and in the godswood of Winterfell around the heart tree. The presence of ironwood objects symbolizes protection.



QUOTE: “In truth, the man was an oathbreaker, a deserter from the Night’s Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will not flinch from any crime, no matter how vile.”



Ned explains to Bran that the execution was done to protect the realm from the criminal. Going deeper,



QUOTE: “…why I must do it… our way is the older way. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s like, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”



In executing the man himself and teaching his sons about it Ned is protecting their way, the old way.


In the same chapter ironwood is mentioned again. On the riverbank, north of the bridge they found the dead direwolf and her litter of pups. After convincing Ned to allow them to keep the pups they start back to Winterfell with five little fur balls.



QUOTE: “…Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironwood planks…”



Then Jon finds the sixth, Ghost. The direwolves protect the Stark children. The earliest and most prominent protection is from Summer (before he is named). Summer attacks the catspaw hired to kill Bran while in the coma. Other examples are Nymeria attacking Joffrey, Grey Wind biting off the fingers of Greatjon Umber when he intimidates Robb, Summer, Grey Wind and Shaggy Dog cornering Tyrion after he’s suspected of the assassination attempt on Bran and Ghost discovering dragonglass that Sam uses to slay the Other. Even Catelyn, an outsider to the North and a Stark by marriage alone recognizes their importance to the protection of the Stark children and their powerful intuition. She tells Robb:



QUOTE: “Any man Grey Wind mislikes is a man I do not want close to you. These wolves are more than wolves, Robb. You must know that. I think perhaps the gods sent them to us. Your father’s gods, the old gods of the north” (Catelyn ASoS, Chapter 14).


In preparation to leave for King’s Landing “Arya was in her room, packing a polished ironwood chest that was bigger than she was.” She had already nonchalantly thrown her belongings into the chest and now Septa Mordane was making her repack neatly. Jon comes in to say his final goodbye before leaving for the Wall. When Arya explains why she must repack he tells Arya,



QUOTE: “It’s just as well. I have something for you to take with you, and it has to be packed very carefully”.



He gives her Needle, the bravos blade he had made for her. She protected it in her journey South in the ironwood chest, protected it from discovery and Needle has protected her. Her “water dancing” training has aided her in her flight from King’s Landing and her resulting journeys. Needle has been her connection to the North, Jon and Winterfell, even when it wasn’t with her. Ironically, she uses Needle to bring the king’s justice to another deserter from the Night’s Watch.



The next ironwood object is in Chapter 62 of A Game of Thrones. Tyrion is reunited with Tywin and his host in the Riverlands just before the Battle of the Green Fork. Tyrion has the Vale clansmen with him and has promised to outfit them all with weapons and armor. Leo Lefford has charge of the Lannister supplies and equipped Tyrion and the clansmen with weapons and armor. Before the battle the next morning Shae and Pod help Tyrion don his armor.



QUOTE: “Pod handed him his shield, a massive slab of ironwood banded with steel”.



A shield by definition is protection. For the battle Tywin gave Tyrion and his clansmen over to the left vanguard under the direction of Gregor Clegane. Tyrion suspects that Tywin was setting up a situation that would likely end in the death of Tyrion. When confronted by this Tywin shrugs off the accusation and said he positioned them there with the intent of baiting the enemy with the undisciplined clansmen.



And finally, the last object ironwood object is the door to the Winterfell crypts. The door is only described once and from the inside. In chapter 69 of A Game of Thrones Bran, Hodor, Jojen, Meera, Osha, Rickon, Summer and Shaggy Dog reemerge after hiding in the crypts following the “deaths” of Bran and Rickon at the hands of Theon and “Reek”.



QUOTE: The door to the crypts was made of ironwood. It was old and heavy and lay at a slant to the ground. Only one person could approach it at a time.



The crypts of Winterfell are a sacred place. Their concealment in the crypts behind that old, heavy door protected them until they were able to escape Winterfell safely.



Substituting “y” for “i” is common in the series. Blackfyre, Blacktyde, Redwyne & Pyke are a few of the most common, but there are many others. Basing the pronunciation on this spelling pattern, the audiobooks and the general consensus of the forums means that Yronwood is pronounced “Ironwood”. According to the Citadel, the words of House Yronwood are “We Guard the Way”. House Yronwood guarding the way through the Boneway Pass in the Red Mountains of Dorne and protecting Quentyn on his journey reinforces that the occurrence of ironwood/Yronwood in the series symbolizes protection.



That’s all folks!


A special thank you to The Good Queen Alysanne & MoIaF for allowing me to join the group and for sweetly guiding me through this process.



Thank you all so much for taking the time to read through my first analysis. Please forgive me if you found it lengthy. Bran is one of my favorite characters. I find his POV chock full of vital information and I didn’t want to leave anything out. I’m excited to see what it in store for this summer child.



ETA: Formatting, too many quotes.


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Finally it starts for real :D


Lot of valid points, I particularly like the ones about Bran's pup and the colours.


Please forgive me if you found it lengthy.



You what? The more the better!




Adding some reflections of mine:




The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.



Asoiaf events start with summer ending. From now on, autumn and most importantly winter are coming.


Given Bran's direwolf name I find it particularly telling.




-They set forth at daybreak to see a man beheaded (...)


-(...) "and don't look away. Father will know if you do."



The very first act of Bran, the very first thing he is required to do is to watch.


Since we won't speak of future events, for now we should just register it ^^


Interesting to notice how the trend of watching/seeing/and even peeping will continuously return from now on.




It was the ninth year of summer, and the seventh of Bran's life.



Bran's a summer child as it could possibly be.




"Are you well, Bran?"



Eddard's very first lines. He stay composed in front of everyone as a proper Lord shoul be, but as the same time he's concerned for his son.


Interesting to notice Eddard's style when speaking with Bran: he asks for his opinion, he makes him reflect on the events. And only then, he explains.


Unrelated, but it struck me similar to what Richard Feynman said about his father and his teachings: make the kid reflect on problems or events and then offer the solution after all the possibilities have been considered.


Nevertheless, Eddard strikes as a wise and caring father and soon we will know about Catelyn's feelings for Bran.



Bran Stark has been raised with love and care. I'm going to write this to quote myself in about four books ^^


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Finally it starts for real :D

Lot of valid points, I particularly like the ones about Bran's pup and the colours.

You what? The more the better!

Adding some reflections of mine:

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.

Asoiaf events start with summer ending. From now on, autumn and most importantly winter are coming.

Given Bran's direwolf name I find it particularly telling.

-They set forth at daybreak to see a man beheaded (...)

-(...) "and don't look away. Father will know if you do."

The very first act of Bran, the very first thing he is required to do is to watch.

Since we won't speak of future events, for now we should just register it ^^

Interesting to notice how the trend of watching/seeing/and even peeping will continuously return from now on.

It was the ninth year of summer, and the seventh of Bran's life.

Bran's a summer child as it could possibly be.

"Are you well, Bran?"

Eddard's very first lines. He stay composed in front of everyone as a proper Lord shoul be, but as the same time he's concerned for his son.

Interesting to notice Eddard's style when speaking with Bran: he asks for his opinion, he makes him reflect on the events. And only then, he explains.

Unrelated, but it struck me similar to what Richard Feynman said about his father and his teachings: make the kid reflect on problems or events and then offer the solution after all the possibilities have been considered.

Nevertheless, Eddard strikes as a wise and caring father and soon we will know about Catelyn's feelings for Bran.

Bran Stark has been raised with love and care. I'm going to write this to quote myself in about four books ^^

Thanks!

I love the dynamic between Ned & his kids. Especially when you look at the other Lords of Great Houses and how they treat their children. Twyin & Jaime/Tyrion, Frey & his broad, Roose & Ramsay, Robert Baratheon/Jaime & Joffrey, Doran & Quentyn, etc. I also found it interesting that as of this point Ned had not sent any of his children to squire or be fostered anywhere else, nor did he have marriages lined up. I think he genuinely enjoyed being around his family, the children in particular and used his time with them to teach them and mold them into something more than ambitious.

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A good analysis to start things of with the first Bran chapter!

Ned finally gives consent for the pups to go to the Stark children and Bran and Summer react similarly signifying Summer’s understanding through Bran.

QUOTE: Bran nodded eagerly. The pup squirmed in his grasp, licked at his face with a warm tongue.

And then…

QUOTE: Halfway across the bridge, Jon pulled up suddenly.

“What is it?” their lord father asked.

“Can’t you hear it?”

Jon does not ask, “Can you hear it?” as if he needs assistance. His question is in disbelief, “Can’t you hear it?” Again, the verbiage is essential. It suggests there is more to what he hears than sound. A sixth (sense) pup is calling to him, loudly and only Jon can hear it. It is also possible that Bran heard it but was not able to translate it. The wind in the trees, the True Tongue.

Indicative of their newborn age, the pups have not opened their eyes, except for the albino, Ghost, the direwolf already reaching out to his Stark. Bran is bright enough to know this is peculiar. His open eyes could point to him being older than his litter mates.

The first encounter with the direwolves is quite telling in that the Stark children have a deeper connection to the pups than to regular pets. Especially Jon's part is interesting and I really like the observation that Jon is hearing the pup when no one else could, since it points out their connection quite nicely. Regarding the open eyes I have always seen them as a representation of his wariness regarding his status as a bastard. He was forced to 'see' much earlier than his siblings since there always is this seperation between them and himself. He is even described as very observant.

Conclusion

Bran is groomed at a young age in duty, respect and family. He is neither starkly black nor white (pun intended), rather a shade of grey somewhere in between like his direwolf. Summer is a magical element of him from the instant Jon placed him in Bran’s arms. Robb, Jon and Bran protect the direwolves from certain death and they in turn are protected by their wolves.

To be honest, I do not think that the colors are a motif directly related to Bran. If they are a motif at all they serve to introduce the setting to us (the prologue was more a start in action) and set the general mood for the chapter. But I would be very careful to apply the colors directly to characters when they are not linked to them via very specific phrasing because it basically lends itself to 'hindsight analysis', by which I mean that you apply thoughts to the character you have to begin with and justify it with wording found in the chapter, even if it might not mean anything. However, I agree with the general assessment about Bran getting educated about things, but more on the basis on what actually happens, which you pointed out (but see below).

Symbolism

Ironwood, a tree indigenous to the north, is mentioned only a total of ten times in the series; almost all in the initial book, A Game of Thrones. In precisely half of these instances the ironwood has been altered or formed into an object; in the other half they are in the forests of notable locations, the wolfswood near Deepwood Motte, the Haunted Forest near the Wall and around Craster’s Keep and in the godswood of Winterfell around the heart tree. The presence of ironwood objects symbolizes protection.

This is a symbol I can get behind because the name alone says that that ironwood is a very hard and stable material and thus perfect to make doors or shields out of it. The name itself provides the link to iron which comes up in a similar role later on, at least when Meera has her introduction. It should be worthwhile to remember this when we encounter items made of ironwood at future points.

Bran remembers Old Nan’s hearth tales and thinks about the wildings stealing girl children in the dead of night. We find out later that stealing woman is common among the wildings. It is a social custom they enjoy to prove the prowess of a man.

Ned warns the children that a direwolf “will rip a man’s arm off his shoulder as easily as a dog will kill a rat.” It is reported that Grey Wind ripped the arms off of men during the Red Wedding, even while being showered with arrows. This statement by Ned also brings to mind Theon and the rat he catches to eat while living with the dogs as Reek version 3.0.

QUOTE: “In truth, the man was an oathbreaker, a deserter from the Night’s Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will not flinch from any crime, no matter how vile.”

Ned explains to Bran that the execution was done to protect the realm from the criminal. Going deeper,

QUOTE: “…why I must do it… our way is the older way. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s like, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”

In executing the man himself and teaching his sons about it Ned is protecting their way, the old way.

I will not go into the seperate points that come up but instead zoom out a bit to look at the general situation. Bran is seven and has never seen a winter. He has some simplified views of the world as seen in his statement about the wildlings, where his knowledge comes from Old Nan's stories about them. This is completely understandable, since he is seven (I don't think anyone is blaming him, but it cannot hurt to point it out once more). Now he witnesses an execution the first time, which is certainly a different situation than 'the hero kills the villain in a fight' kind of scenario, then finds out that the man as in fact a deserter of the Night's Watch, an organisation that is supposed to protect people. Then there is this fear and bravery topic and the topic of personal responsibility (here regarding the executions). He asks his father and gets asked by his father about those topics and the answers are a foundation for his future understanding about those things.

To be frank, that is just a lot of stuff to deal with and the matter of the realities about those situations versus a simplified understanding (which is a nice parallel to Sansa) will come up time and time again, especially in regards to himself being a cripple later on.

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Bran I

Summary

In the early morning of a late summer day a group of twenty head to a small holdfast in the hills outside of Winterfell to deliver the king’s justice to a deserter of the Night’s Watch. They are led by Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. This is Bran’s first time witnessing an execution. He is accompanied by his brothers Robb and Jon, their father’s ward, Theon Greyjoy and members of the Winterfell household. On their way back to Winterfell Robb finds a dead direwolf and a recently whelped litter of pups. The direwolf is the sigil of their Great House and Jon convinces Lord Stark to allow the children to keep the pups. The events of this chapter are narrated through Bran’s point-of-view.

Analysis

Bran is an uncertain young man that expresses a range of emotions as he discovers his identity. Neutral colors are repeated often in this section creating a color motif that establishes the moral ambiguity theme in the series and in Bran’s character arc. There is a profound motif of respect and a smidge of magic by subtle indications of the warg abilities of Jon and Bran. Conjecture regarding Jon’s parentage and the Winterfell crypts will be intentionally left out in order to keep this as factual and focused as possible.

Darksister thank you for the analysis!

First I want to say that I found the symbol of "Ironwood" you pointed out very interesting. Thanks for pointing this symbol out, and it will be something I'll now be looking out for when reading.

50 Shades of Grey

“Over their heads flapped the banner of the Starks of Winterfell; a grey direwolf racing across an ice-white field.” White, black and varying tones of gray contribute to the neutral motif in this chapter. The gray hues are especially true for Bran as he is unearthing his identity. As we get to know Bran we’ll learn that he is a multi-dimensional character that is not completely good and not completely bad, but somewhere in the grey area between. The first description of Ned, the head of House Stark has both grey and white.

QUOTE: His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest.

Similarly, Jon’s eyes are, “a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little he did not see.”

Bran begins the day nervous. After the execution with Ice, a sword as “dark as smoke”, on the “hard black wood” Bran speaks to Ned and is uneasy and unsure; answering questions with questions or answering them uncertainly.

QUOTE: “Robb says the man died bravely, but Jon says he was afraid.”

“What do you think?” his father asked.

Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”

“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him, “Do you understand why I did it?”

“He was a wilding,” Bran said. “They carry off woman and sell them to the Others.”

His lord father smiled. … “The question was not why the man had to die, but why I must do it.”

Bran had no answer for that.

Robb stands “knee-deep in white” when he discovers the dead direwolf “half-buried in bloodstained snow, a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had formed in its shaggy grey fur, and the faint smell of corruption clung to it like a woman’s perfume…Bran was afire with curiosity by then. He would have spurned the pony faster, but his father made them dismount beside the bridge and approach on foot. Bran jumped off and ran” to see what Robb had found." Bran’s interest overcomes his apprehension.

QUOTE: Bran tore his eyes away from the monster. That was when he noticed the bundle in Robb’s arms. He gave a cry of delight and moved closer. The pup was a tiny ball of grey-black fur, its eyes still closed. Bran reached out hesitantly. "Go on", Robb told him. "You can touch it." Bran gave the pup a quick nervous stroke, then turned as Jon said, "Here you go." His half brother put a second pup into his arms.

The dead direwolf and her five pups are varieties of grey and the sixth pup is albino ice white. Once the direwolf is in Bran’s arms he becomes more confident. Hullen suggests killing the pups and Theon offers to be the slayer, Bran responds fiercely and without hesitation and after Jon pleads a case for keeping the pups Ned gives the children firm directions on his expectations of their training and caretaking of the pups and Bran is enthusiastic. His journey of self-discovery pivots on his direwolf for they will come to share a supernatural bond and Summer will later become a part of him. The wolf is as grey as Bran.

Im not sure what to make of the colours, though I agree that Bran is a grey character and is about balance rather than one extreme. I believe one of the themes of his arc is about combining two extremes and it already starts in this chapter from his question to Ned.

Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” “That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him.

Bravery and fear are two different extremes and Bran asks if they can act together and Ned answer is that they can. We will later see that he will pose a similar question to Jojen and Meera on "love and hate" and they will answer him the same way and they will also relate it to ice and fire. Most people say Bran is the champion of ice but I actually believe these themes show he is going to play a role in the balance of both forces rather than being one extreme.

QUOTE: Halfway across the bridge, Jon pulled up suddenly.

“What is it?” their lord father asked.

“Can’t you hear it?”

Jon does not ask, “Can you hear it?” as if he needs assistance. His question is in disbelief, “Can’t you hear it?” Again, the verbiage is essential. It suggests there is more to what he hears than sound. A sixth (sense) pup is calling to him, loudly and only Jon can hear it. It is also possible that Bran heard it but was not able to translate it. The wind in the trees, the True Tongue.

Indicative of their newborn age, the pups have not opened their eyes, except for the albino, Ghost, the direwolf already reaching out to his Stark. Bran is bright enough to know this is peculiar. His open eyes could point to him being older than his litter mates.

QUOTE: Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironwood planks, the whimpering of his hungry pup, but Jon was listening to something else.

“There,” Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them smiling.

QUOTE: Bran thought it was curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were blind.

Very nice catch on the True Tongue or at least a connection to it. Just as we saw in the last chapter from the others. So at this point we have heard it from both the others and the direwolves and later on the CotF, so it seems all these living things sing the song of earth which seems to be connected to the Old gods magic.

In general, I think this chapter is similar to the prologue and the theme of AGOT, in the sense that "old powers" are awakening, first we see the whitewalkers and then we find the first Direwolves in 200 hundred years. GRRM also links the two chapters by Gared being the deserter that is executed, unfortunately either they don't know why he is deserting or they didn't believe him.

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Bran I

Very nice job Dark Sister!

There is a profound motif of respect and a smidge of magic by subtle indications of the warg abilities of Jon and Bran. Conjecture regarding Jon’s parentage and the Winterfell crypts will be intentionally left out in order to keep this as factual and focused as possible.

There are a lot of similarities between Jon and Bran and I do think that is important for the overall ASOIAF. But the one I want to touch on now is that both Jon and Bran see. Bran is a curious and observant little boy. He knows when Ned is "Lord Stark" and he knows when Ned is "father." Jon is the one who sees the man of the NW die with fear and later Bran picks up on this idea in his conversation with Ned, but it's something Robb misses. Jon is the first one to hear his wolf, and Bran's wolf instantly responds to him when placed in Bran's arms.

50 Shades of Grey

Very interesting. Not something I've thought about before! I would also point out that these colors--gray, white, black--are also colors we associate with cold, winter, and death. We have the white of the Others picked back up here. In TV (and books) bright colors are used to signal heat. So, if you're in a warm place, you dress people in loud bright colors because they invoke heat. But if you want the opposite then you dress them in dull muted tones. Bran, and his whole family. are readily associated with cold.

QUOTE: Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironwood planks, the whimpering of his hungry pup, but Jon was listening to something else.

“There,” Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them smiling.

Of course, Jon hears "his" wolf, Ghost but Bran cannot. However, after the fall, it is said that Summer's howling makes Bran stronger. Bran and Jon have the earliest ties to their wolves.

Ironwood, a tree indigenous to the north, is mentioned only a total of ten times in the series; almost all in the initial book, A Game of Thrones. In precisely half of these instances the ironwood has been altered or formed into an object; in the other half they are in the forests of notable locations, the wolfswood near Deepwood Motte, the Haunted Forest near the Wall and around Craster’s Keep and in the godswood of Winterfell around the heart tree. The presence of ironwood objects symbolizes protection.

Nice catch! I'll have to keep an eye out of this symbolism.

Bran remembers Old Nan’s hearth tales and thinks about the wildings stealing girl children in the dead of night. We find out later that stealing woman is common among the wildings. It is a social custom they enjoy to prove the prowess of a man.

I'm sure we'll talk about Old Nan a lot but I find it interesting that one of the very first things we hear about in the way of stories is of the Others and the Wildlings: "and their women lay with the Others in the Long Night and sire terrible half-human children."

Now, from the World Book we know that

the Wildlings are rumored to just be First Men who are on the wrong side of the Wall

. And who else fits that category, at least the first part?

The Starks: "Yet our way is the older way. The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks..."

Again, not a coincidence. I am going to be suggesting, probably a lot, that the Others and the Starks have some sort of history--be it antagonistic or both bad and good over the many years--but these two people are tied. And when we talk about the Family Stark and their blood, I think they have some Other-blood in them. If the Targs really do have Dragon blood (and I think they do through sorcery and magic) then it's very possible that the family who once styled themselves as the Kings of Winter have actual Other/cold/winter blood in theirs.

The morning had dawned clear and cold, with a crispness that hinted at the end of summer.

Asoiaf events start with summer ending. From now on, autumn and most importantly winter are coming.

Given Bran's direwolf name I find it particularly telling.

I don't think it's at all a coincidence that the very first sentence is basically "winter is coming." It's a hint at the end of summer and Bran is losing his innocence--first he witnesses death and then he'll witness sex, two things that typically end childhood. As Winter comes to Planetos, Bran grows up and becomes who he is supposed to be. Not coincidental.

In general, I think this chapter is similar to the prologue and the theme of AGOT, in the sense that "old powers" are awakening, first we see the whitewalkers and then we find the first Direwolves in 200 hundred years. GRRM also links the two chapters by Gared being the deserter that is executed, unfortunately either they don't know why he is deserting or they didn't believe him.

And like I said above, I don't think it's a coincidence that as these old wintery associated powers awaken, Bran is "awakening" in the sense of coming to age and losing his childhood.

And of course, balance in all things, the old Firey powers are awakening as well, and who is coming of age half a planet away....

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Thanks everyone!



I had pages, and pages more but cut it down to (try) and stay focused on Bran. I'd read the series twice and when I did this re-read I realized just how much is "throne" (get it?) at readers right off the bat. Especially for a relatively short chapter. Old Nan, the Night's Watch & oaths, wildings, Others, sharpness of spell-forged Valyrian steel swords, Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-wall, Targaryens, etc. Just so much info.



As far as the Ironwood goes, I have more regarding the areas their located and the situations when they're described but I think I'll put that all together for a thread itself. VERY interesting stuff.



IbF - I wasn't sure if it was normally done and I went back and forth with myself on it. Even tried to make my hubs read the chapter and my analysis (no dice, lol). In the end I did allow myself some 'hindsight analysis' since it was a re-read. If the only "rules" that we know about warging are accurate, then Bran has already broken the biggest one. But I don't think he's bad. He may have to do bad things and be good. As BearQueen & Queen Alysanne, mentioned he's the balance. I think the colors in this chapter point that way.


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Bran I

Summary

In the early morning of a late summer day a group of twenty head to a small holdfast in the hills outside of Winterfell to deliver the king’s justice to a deserter of the Night’s Watch. They are led by Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. This is Bran’s first time witnessing an execution. He is accompanied by his brothers Robb and Jon, their father’s ward, Theon Greyjoy and members of the Winterfell household. On their way back to Winterfell Robb finds a dead direwolf and a recently whelped litter of pups. The direwolf is the sigil of their Great House and Jon convinces Lord Stark to allow the children to keep the pups. The events of this chapter are narrated through Bran’s point-of-view.

[snip]

Very nicely done, thanks you! :thumbsup:

I don't have much to contribute as a lot of it has been addressed but here are a few things:

QUOTE: “Robb says the man died bravely, but Jon says he was afraid.”

“What do you think?” his father asked.

Bran thought about it. “Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?”

“That is the only time a man can be brave,” his father told him, “Do you understand why I did it?”

“He was a wilding,” Bran said. “They carry off woman and sell them to the Others.”

His lord father smiled. … “The question was not why the man had to die, but why I must do it.”

Bran had no answer for that.

We've discussed in previous re-read about the importance of embracing the conflicting roles and feeling within yourself. Here are tow inflicting emotions and yet GRRM expresses them as going hand in hand. This alludes to one of the major themes of the series which is the complexity of people and the human heart in conflict with itself.

When describing Ned Bran says:

"He had taken off Father’s face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell."

Here we see that Ned has to play dual roles as both a father and the Lord of Winterfell, he not one or the other, he's both and has to jungle both roles. Again these roles might be conflicting at times but it makes it no less important that both be embraced.

The idea of embracing opposites is an important and as noted above will come into play again.

I found this quote to be interesting and a bit telling of what is to come as winter approaches:

"His father took off the man’s head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched."

A lot of blood will be spilled as winter approaches the earth and the snow will be saturated with it.

Symbolism

Ironwood, a tree indigenous to the north, is mentioned only a total of ten times in the series; almost all in the initial book, A Game of Thrones. In precisely half of these instances the ironwood has been altered or formed into an object; in the other half they are in the forests of notable locations, the wolfswood near Deepwood Motte, the Haunted Forest near the Wall and around Craster’s Keep and in the godswood of Winterfell around the heart tree. The presence of ironwood objects symbolizes protection.

This is a really good catch, very nicely done. We will definitely have to pay attention to this symbolism in the future.

50 Shades of Grey

“Over their heads flapped the banner of the Starks of Winterfell; a grey direwolf racing across an ice-white field.” White, black and varying tones of gray contribute to the neutral motif in this chapter. The gray hues are especially true for Bran as he is unearthing his identity. As we get to know Bran we’ll learn that he is a multi-dimensional character that is not completely good and not completely bad, but somewhere in the grey area between. The first description of Ned, the head of House Stark has both grey and white.

I think this is a good observation in general. GRRM seems to use color throughout the series to denotes certain symbolic meaning. The colors of white, gray and black play a very important role on the series as we see the infusion of having gray characters, that is humans with virtues and flaws. I think incorporating this onto the first chapter is a good introduction of what we should expect of the characters that'll form part of the series.

"Bran was afire with curiosity by then."

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I found this quote to be interesting and a bit telling of what is to come as winter approaches:

"His father took off the man’s head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched."

That is an interesting quote and it brings to mind something that was pointed out to me in a different context in a different thread. The stump in question is an ironwood stump and as Dark Sister points, they seem to symbolically represent protection. Snowfyre Chrous wrote a really compelling essay about weirwood trees and blood sacrifices and MOIAF's above quote fits with this idea that Northerners have been unknowingly giving blood to the trees. The reason behind it has been lost to time, but it might have something to do with protection and appeasement of the gods. So Ned (and his sons) believe he is doing justice, but at the same time, the gods will accept it as an offering of blood.

I bring this up because a large part of Bran's overall arc is his relationship with the old gods. So the first time Bran witnesses death, it is done--unknowingly--in service of sacrifice to the old gods.

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Maybe another point, away from the magical aspects, that was passingly mentioned in the analysis regarding this quote:



“One day, Bran, you will be Robb’s bannerman, holding a keep of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will fall to you. What that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away.”



This is the first mention of Bran's expected role in the Westerosi society: Bran as a bannerman of Robb, the lord of Winterfell, holding a keep of his own. Note that this is mentioned before he gets crippled. It is not just an alternate option for Bran that seems more likely because he gets crippled, it is the desired option in the eyes of his parents. I will jump ahead a little bit to draw the basic connection which we will definitely find more out about in the future chapters.



There are essentially three different conceptions for his future:


1.) Bran the lord, the role he would take according the Westerosi norms.


2.) Bran the knight, his own wish, the path he wants to take.


3.) Bran the greenseer, the path that is open to him because of his talents and may be required due to the times ahead.



These three conceptions and the choices made regarding them will play a huge role later on.


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That is an interesting quote and it brings to mind something that was pointed out to me in a different context in a different thread. The stump in question is an ironwood stump and as Dark Sister points, they seem to symbolically represent protection. Snowfyre Chrous wrote a really compelling essay about weirwood trees and blood sacrifices and MOIAF's above quote fits with this idea that Northerners have been unknowingly giving blood to the trees. The reason behind it has been lost to time, but it might have something to do with protection and appeasement of the gods. So Ned (and his sons) believe he is doing justice, but at the same time, the gods will accept it as an offering of blood.

I bring this up because a large part of Bran's overall arc is his relationship with the old gods. So the first time Bran witnesses death, it is done--unknowingly--in service of sacrifice to the old gods.

Yes, I was thinking about the blood sacrifice tot eh Old Gods as well. We also see it when Ned is cleaning his sword near the weirwood in the following chapter.

Blood sacrifice seems to be an important element of the magic in the series and it's interesting to see that it was right in front of use from the beginning but of course we did not know when we first read it.

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Yes, I was thinking about the blood sacrifice tot eh Old Gods as well. We also see it when Ned is cleaning his sword near the weirwood in the following chapter.

Blood sacrifice seems to be an important element of the magic in the series and it's interesting to see that it was right in front of use from the beginning but of course we did not know when we first read it.

How much that still applies is dependent on how special weirwood trees are. The stump is ironwood and we have seen the wildlings carve faces into trees other than weirwoods as well, so there could be a magical element to all trees to a degree. But it could also be the case that because much has been forgotten that they make the 'sacrifice' to the 'wrong' tree and it actually needs to be a weirwood to have any kind of effect.

And then there is the question of necessity: The Reeds never mention blood sacrifice and they seem to have more knowledge about the Old Gods than anyone else in the North (south of the wall). Furthermore the sacifices made in the series are very personal, just sacrificing other people may not achieve anything. That it was practiced does not mean that they did fully understand what they were doing.

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