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

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Excellent analysis.


Since I am finally not sick anymore (or at least not that much) and I am able to concentrate for more than a minute, I can actually contribute something substantial before the next analysis comes. Not that I have that much to add, the analysis is amazing and quite exhaustive. I just want to say something about the part about Bran's dreams of being a knight:





However, the knights Bran dreams of are not the knights of a household like Ser Rodrik. Instead Bran dreams of the knights of legend, the ones whose deeds and actions have gone down in song; these are the knights Bran wants to emulate. When you read the list of knights Bran admires, you see a trend: heroic deeds on a mythic scale.



  • Serwyn of the Mirror Shield: A supposed member of the KG who slew a dragon.
  • Prince Aemon the Dragonknight: Lord Commander of the KG who helped conquer Dorne. Probably most famous for dressing as a mystery knight and winning the laurel, presenting it to his sister Naerys, with whom he was deeply in love, if you believe the stories.
  • The twins Ser Erryk and Ser Arryk: Died together on each other’s swords during the Dance of the Dragons.
  • The more recent KG including Ser Georld Hightower, the White Bull, and Ser Arthur Dayne, the legendary Sword of the Morning and probably best swordsman in Westeros in living memory.
  • Ser Barristan the Bold, the current Lord Commander who earned his moniker at the age of ten and whom “Father had promised that they would meet Ser Barristan when they reached King’s Landing and Bran had been marking the days on his wall, eager to depart, to see a world he had only dreamed of and begin a life he could scarcely imagine.”


For Bran, knighthood is wrapped up in the spirit of adventure, of great deeds and heroic quests. Bran’s ideas of knighthood are actually what you might expect from other “medieval” fantasy literature, but GRRM likes to take the idea of the knight in shinning armor and dirty them up: Jaime Lannister may wear a white cloak, but he is sleeping with his King’s wife (and his own sister) and pushes a young boy from a window; Joffery’s KG will beat Sansa Stark when ordered; Ser Gregor Clegane, The Mountain that Rides, spends his days raping, burning, and killing. But for Bran, knighthood is akin to what you would find in chivalric romantic literature, with all the well-worn hallmarks of dragons, maids, and noble battles. None of the dangers associated with knighthood—like death—scare Bran. In fact, nothing really scares Bran. He’s eager to begin his own adventure:





I want to expand a bit on this. It is not only about the idealization of knighthood, it is about the perception of how 'heroic' deeds are done. In all those stories there is this convention of how things work. Mostly clear cut sides, a hero that maybe is at a severe disadvantage, but uses his skill and courage to remain victorious. But when he stumbles upon Jaime and Cersei, that is not clear cut. It happens in the place he calls his home, and there are no sworn swords who give him reassurance earlier in this chapter. Instead they are talking about things he should not hear and he gets frightened, because he has no martial skills (and this is not a situation where he could use them anyways), he is just a seven year old boy who is not remotely prepared for what he stumbles upon. This does not fit in any narrative convention of these classical tales. And this will not be the last time that is the case. So the idealization is not just about knighthood, but also about how events are structured.


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Excellent analysis.

Since I am finally not sick anymore (or at least not that much) and I am able to concentrate for more than a minute, I can actually contribute something substantial before the next analysis comes. Not that I have that much to add, the analysis is amazing and quite exhaustive. I just want to say something about the part about Bran's dreams of being a knight:

Thank you, Illuminated by Fire! Glad you're feeling better

I want to expand a bit on this. It is not only about the idealization of knighthood, it is about the perception of how 'heroic' deeds are done. In all those stories there is this convention of how things work. Mostly clear cut sides, a hero that maybe is at a severe disadvantage, but uses his skill and courage to remain victorious. But when he stumbles upon Jaime and Cersei, that is not clear cut. It happens in the place he calls his home, and there are no sworn swords who give him reassurance earlier in this chapter. Instead they are talking about things he should not hear and he gets frightened, because he has no martial skills (and this is not a situation where he could use them anyways), he is just a seven year old boy who is not remotely prepared for what he stumbles upon. This does not fit in any narrative convention of these classical tales. And this will not be the last time that is the case. So the idealization is not just about knighthood, but also about how events are structured.

This is an excellent point, thanks for bringing it up!

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Brandon III

It seemed as though he had been falling for years

Summary

This chapter opens with Bran in what I can only describe as a very surreal dream. He is still in his coma after being pushed from a tall tower by a man he knows as the Queen’s golden-haired knight of a brother. In the dream he is reliving, to a limited degree, the incident of the disastrous fall which resulted from the golden man’s push.

A crow appears beside him as he is falling and tells him to fly instead of falling and crying. A debate ensues between Bran and the crow about flight and whether or not one actually needs “traditional” wings to fly. In the end, the crow wins the debate because Bran “flies” back to life, without "traditional" wings, instead of falling to his death. Immediately after awakening from his dream and coma, he names his direwolf ‘Summer.’

Analysis

Before I delve into the analysis I would like to bring attention to the following: although this is not the first chapter in which Bran is strongly associated with crows, wings and flight, this part of him is still heavily emphasised. The same can be said of his observant or “all-seeing” nature. This analysis may seem, at least to some posters, to lean too heavily in the direction of these aspects. This will be by design and not by mistake. Bran is arguably the most naturally magical (POV) character in the entire series; it is very difficult to discuss him without getting lost in it all.
I realise Bran’s magical/prophetic nature has been analysed extensively on the forums; if it seems repetitive I ask that you please bear with me. And as you may have noticed by now, I prefer using the first person style of writing. I find it is much less limiting than the third person approach. However, I still apologise to those who may find it tedious to read.
Fly, You Fool!
In the summary I stated that Bran is reliving his fall from Jaime’s push only to a degree; this assertion should become clear in a moment or so. I found it necessary to divide this dream into three, very distinct and exclusive parts. To make the analysis easier to read, I have named them as follows:

-----The Cloud Space: the space where Bran appears to be flung from the darkness and told to fly by a voice in the darkness. After he is flung, only physical forces such as gravity seem to be at work.

-----The Winterfell Space: the space where Bran glimpse his immediate reality and the actions which led him there. One could also refer to this as the Ser Jaime Lannister Space.

-----The Greenseeing Space: the supernatural space where Bran is “brought into Bloodraven’s confidence.” He travels the world and into the past, the present and the future with just his eyes.

In the Cloud Space we have Bran falling from a seemingly much, much higher altitude than the tower from which Jaime pushed him. Perhaps even more strange, this dream seems to start with him in a darkness where neither the stars nor the sun existed. As was pointed out in the previous analysis, Bran’s tale closely mirrors that of Icarus, with Bran as the tragic Icarus and Jaime as the sun that melted his wings. Given that the beginning parts of this chapter (and dream) make a note of the conspicuous absence of the sun and the potent presence of darkness, I think it is not too far-fetched to assume that the fall in this dream begins from a different place (both altitude and geographical location) than we saw in the last chapter.

He leaves the place of darkness with one instruction he must follow—fly. But because he does not know how to fly, he simply falls. ‘The Cloud Space’ seemed an apt name for this part of the dream since apart from the mysterious voice and the darkness, nothing else appears to be supernatural. Bran is merely a free object succumbing to gravity. To support the idea that he is falling from way above Winterfell we have the following: He makes note of the grey mists that whirled around him [clouds?] and that the ground was closer now, still far away, a thousand miles away

As he continues to fall, the scenery changes. He could see mountains now, their peaks white with snow, and the silver thread of rivers in dark woods. It might be premature to conclude that this part of the dream does not serve any narrative purpose. We can be sure that it does, however, serve the thematic purpose of emphasising flight. It also highlights the significance of the impact the infamous fall will have on this boy. Not only will the consequences limit him physically, but we will also see a change in his spiritual and mental state.

After leaving the Cloud Space he briefly enters the Wineterfell Space. This is the part of the dream where he actually relives the Jaime-induced fall. He makes observations that are most reflective of his own, current reality.

Bran was staring at his arms, his legs. He was so skinny, just skin stretched taut over bones. Had he always been so thin? He tried to remember. A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. “The things I do for love,” it said.

Bran screamed.

As soon as he sees the golden man, he starts falling faster. It is almost as though there is an extra resultant force pushing him, for lack of a better term. We can assume this resultant force to be our dear Jaime. Additionally, it seems that the sudden presence of the golden man, or Bran's observation that the ground is rushing towards him faster than before, or a combination of the two, causes Bran to experience a new surge of fear. This new surge seems to prompt the the crow to implore Bran to fly and look down [into the Greenseeing Space]. It seems that fear is not a welcome thing in the crow's world. I will delve into this later in the analysis. In any case, when Bran finally complies with the crow’s latter command, he enters the Greenseeing Space.

The Three-Eyed Crow

He could see everything so clearly that for a moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole realm, and everyone in it… … … At the heart of the godswood, the great white weirwood brooded over its reflection in the black pool, its leaves rustling in a chill wind. When it felt Bran watching, it lifted its eyes from the still waters and stared back at him knowingly.

Some of the things he sees while in this phase seem to be ordinary goings on of ordinary people, like Hodor carrying an anvil to the forge. All the others seem to have a prophetic quality to them. I think it is also worth noting that his visions start from Winterfell and then spread to other locations.

He sees his mother brooding over the infamous knife which almost killed him. He also sees a storm [of swords] gathering ahead of them, a vast dark roaring lashed by lightning [the sigil of House Dondarion features a prominent lightning bolt. It could also allude to BearQueen87's point about brief revelation]. It is possible this part of the dream is the first time we get a nudge pointing us to the brewing War of the Five Kings, which will be a result of the events surrounding the infamous knife, among other things. The fact that Catelyn and Ser Roderik can’t see the gathering storm may be a result of the focus they are placing on their current troubles or it could be because they were not in the confidence of the brooding great white weirwood which stared at Bran knowingly.

He then sees Eddard, Sansa and Arya struggling with their issues. Eddard’s troubles appear to be directly connected to the king as is suggested by this line (and as we know to be true given that we have Ned’s POV): He saw his father pleading with the king, his face etched with grief. Arya and Sansa are dealing with the grief of the loss of their direwolves in very different ways: one surrenders to her emotions while the other chooses silence.

There have been several interpretations on the forums regarding the next extract: There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armoured like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armour made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.I don’t want to pull the focus too far from Bran so I will only say this—I believe the golden armoured shadow is Jaime, and the hound is the Hound. I have no opinion on the identity of the giant stone.

His vision stretches farther as he sees beyond the Narrow Sea to the lands with which Khaleesi Daenerys is most associated [at least at this point in the story this is true]. I will digress a bit here so please bear with me. Given that we know [i think we all do] Bloodraven is present in this dream, it is my opinion he is showing Bran the parts of the world he deems most important and relevant to his plans, whatever they may be. I think it very curious that in this dream Bran makes this observation: where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise. Is this Bloodraven telling Bran he knows of the coming resurrection of the dragons? Is it just the author adding lyricism to his work? Whatever the answer, we cannot deny the curious nature of the phrase.

The next part, where he sees Jon growing cold at the Wall, is another source of endless discussions on the forums. I can only say I fall in the camp of those who believe Bran just saw his half-brother slipping further into bitter solitude, nothing more and nothing else. We can however, open the debate, in the case that we not stray too far away from Bran.

After the vision of his brother he travels beyond the known world, farther north where nothing grew and no one lived, and into the frightening heart of winter.

Winter is Coming

He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

Bran becomes aware of the third eye of the crow after looking deep into the heart of winter. We are told this third eye holds terrible knowledge. Also noteworthy, Bran is now almost at the ground; he sees the bones of a thousand other dreamers below him and he seems to innately know the bones belong to dead dreamers. Naturally, he becomes afraid and remembers a recent, significant time in his life when he spoke of fear.

The conversation he remembers is in Bran I when he asked his father if a man could be brave if he were afraid. His father told him that is the only a time a man can be brave. As Bran is remembering that moment with his father the crow urges him to fly or die. As we know, Bran spread his arms and flew.

I think there is significance to the order and manner in which these scenes progressed. Firstly, if we are to assume Bloodraven needs a champion for the impending war, and I fully invoke this assumption here, then it does not seem far-fetched to assume he has been actively searching for this champion for a much longer period than initially apparent.

In an alternate book series Bloodraven would have simply needed to await the arrival of a prophesied hero and the need to seek one would not be present. But this is ASOIAF and we have seen prophesies yield to reality and unforeseen circumstances. So it stands that someone as seemingly precautious as Bloodraven would not idly sit and await such a hero. The line where the crow tells Bran that he must live because winter is coming points in the direction of Bloodraven being an active recruiter trying to find a champion. Please allow me another mild digression.

I don’t think Bran is the first dreamer Bloodraven has attempted to recruit. I think there have been a thousand others over the years and they all failed to fly. I think the assumption Bran has in that even in dreams, you could not fall forever…You always woke up in the instant before you hit the ground is the biggest obstacle the thousand other dreamers faced.

All the other dreamers thought they would awaken in the instant before they hit the ground because that is what always happens [even in our world this holds true]. But as the crow warned Bran, they died when they hit the ground. This is not the case with Bran because he embraced his fear. The other dreamers might not have been brave or afraid enough to fly, however one chooses to look at it. Bran appears to have had a special weapon none of them possessed: his fear made him brave. And the bravery helped him fly.

Overall, I think this was Bloodraven’s first step in recruiting Bran. He probably searches the dream space [which I imagine is something between life and death] for potential champions and when he finds them he tests them with the simple instruction: fly or die. Brandon Stark passes this test and he is rewarded by the crow in this manner: Its beak stabbed at him fiercely, and Bran felt a sudden blinding pain in the middle of his forehead, between his eyes. This action shatters the grey mists of the dream world and Brandon Stark is returned to the real world, alive.

And His Name Shall Be Summer

Bran touched his forehead, between his eyes. The place where the crow had pecked him was still burning, but there was nothing there, no blood, no wound.

I have always had to read the last few paragraphs of this chapter several times. The ambiguity, whether intentional or not, still shifts my understanding of the events to this day. Here is what I mean…

I think it is clear Bran has no feeling in his legs; it is said as much: And then there was movement beside the bed, and something landed lightly on his legs. He felt nothing. But then we get this in the next two sentences: A pair of yellow eyes looked into his own, shining like the sun. The window was open and it was cold in the room, but the warmth that came off the wolf enfolded him like a hot bath.

I admit my understanding of paralysis is severely limited. I have, however, consulted several people who have experienced varying degrees of this condition. I came away with this understanding: in the case that someone has lost all feeling in his or her legs, as I assume is the case with Bran, then that person cannot feel heat and coldness in his or her legs. Which leads me to ask this: is this (Bran being able to feel the warmth emanating from his direwolf) another form of the warging bond shared by Bran and his familiar or is it something else?

Finally, in Bran II we saw him struggling to name his direwolf. He thought to himself that he tried a hundred names and none of them felt right. It comes as no surprise that after looking deep into the heart of winter and being frightened by what he saw, and after he awakens to feel the coldness of his room abated by the warmth of his direwolf, he names him Summer. I dare say he literally tries to bring back summer.

However, it is interesting to note that Summer’s eyes shine like the sun and Bran appears to “love” this fact. Can Icarus embrace the sun?

Conclusions

In this fairly supernatural chapter, Bran, Bloodraven and the author take us on a brief journey of things to come, the ordinary and the dreadful, the war and the dragons, and to the deep and frightening heart of winter. While I think it is a fairly straightforward chapter, I admit there are still questions which need answering. Who are the shadows Bran sees around his family [not the crackpot identities]? Did Bran really climb that tower of his own accord or was the mysterious Bloodraven involved? Was Jaime [without his knowledge] another agent of Bloodraven in that Bran needed to fall in order to fly [after all, Bran never falls. So he needed a push]?

The only thing that can be concluded with any certainty is this: Bradon Stark is no ordinary boy and his awakening is no ordinary resurrection. To put it boldly: he has been touched by the gods and his journey is only beginning.

Other Potential Symbolism and Foreshadowing

-----After the high and thin voice reveals itself to come from a crow, the first question it asks is: say, got any corn? This, in my opinion, continues the theme of the need to end winter and bring back summer. Blooming plants are representative of life and in the case of such a functional plant as maize/corn, they represent survival. This may also add to the debate of whether Bran is a champion for ice or nature. This chapter has pushed me towards the latter.

I also find it curious that the crow declares itself to be particularly concerned with Bran's adeptness with flight yet it spends an awful lot of time, at least in the beginning, focused on the corn.

-----When Bran tells the crow he cannot fly because he does not have wings, the crow tells him there are different kinds of wings. This could be potential foreshadowing of Bran being the third head of the dragon. I’m not particularly attached to this theory. Unlikely as it may seem to others [like me], it still appears more probable than the one which postulates that he may warg one of the dragons. I am especially sceptical of the latter as I don’t think dragons can be warged. Bran’s flight seems more to do with crows than anything else. Then again, maybe “traditional” flight is not the goal, maybe it just means being supernaturally aware…We shall see.

-----One of the things Bran sees while in the Greenseeing Space is Maseter Luwin looking through a polished bronze tube and making notes in his book. This could be linked to the appearance of the comet. Or not. In any case, I could not ignore the curiosity bell it rung in my head.

-----Last but not least, He saw his brother Robb, taller and stronger than he remembered him, practicing swordplay in the yard with real steel in his hand. Another nod to the coming War of the Five Kings? I wonder.

Final Thoughts and Stray Observations

As he was falling in the last chapter, one of the last observations Bran made was the congregation of the crows around the tower as they searched for corn. I find it interesting that one of the first things he observes in this chapter is the voice of a crow which has three eyes (by the end of the dream).

Given that we now know Bloodraven is the three-eyed crow, I now wonder if Bloodraven has been watching Bran for some time, even before his fall. Perhaps he even engineered it in a way. Allow me to employ a rather artless syllogism to argue my case:

-----The crow in Bran’s dream says this: every flight begins with a fall.

-----In order to fall, one would have to be at an elevated height

-----Bloodraven needs Bran to fall in order to fly so Bloodraven helps Bran fall.

Also worth noting is the opening line of the chapter: It seemed as though he had been falling for years. Is it possible Bran has been in a sort of limbo the entire time he has been in his coma, and this chapter is where he transitions from the limbo to ‘ordinary dreaming?’

Enjoy the discussion!

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Brandon III

It seemed as though he had been falling for years

You, sir, should take a bow. This is phenomenal. Really, well done Kyoshi!

I always forget how freaking amazing this chapter is until I re-read it. This is a chapter where George really went all out and shines.

A debate ensues between Bran and the crow about flight and whether or not one actually needs “traditional” wings to fly.

Not only is it a debate but it's the vein of the Socratic Method of teaching: question, answer, question, answer.

"Are you really a crow?"

"Are you really falling?"

"It's just a dream"

"Is it?"

Fly, You Fool!

Appropriate LOTR Gandalf/Frodo reference is appropriate. (so is this)

In the Cloud Space we have Bran falling from a seemingly much, much higher altitude than the tower from which Jaime pushed him. Perhaps even more strange, this dream seems to start with him in a darkness where neither the stars nor the sun existed. As was pointed out in the previous analysis, Bran’s tale closely mirrors that of Icarus, with Bran as the tragic Icarus and Jaime as the sun that melted his wings. Given that the beginning parts of this chapter (and dream) make a note of the conspicuous absence of the sun and the potent presence of darkness, I think it is not too far-fetched to assume that the fall in this dream begins from a different place (both altitude and geographical location) than we saw in the last chapter.

I really like the way you've described this. The opening part of this is something like a normal falling dream. I'm sure we've all had them: you're falling and you never quite hit the ground because, of course, you're in a dream. The difference with Bran is that there is a real danger that he'll hit the ground--never wake up. Our subconscious somehow reaches out and lets us know that we're not really falling to our death, Bloodraven take a different approach; his warning is of imminent, immediate danger and death. There are a lot of meanings behind "falling dreams" and most of the time it has to do with our fears and anxieties and failures. Seems to fit Bran nicely given everything that is happening to him right now. He fears what was happening in that room; he is anxious over what he heard; and he recognizes his own sad failure at not getting away in time. So, his subconscious replays this over and over. There is a tendency in dreams to believe that you can "change" what happened in the real world by reacting it out in the dream, but performing something differently. Bran, being so young and scared, is being given a chance to change his fate by flying instead of falling. He can literally escape what was done to him--Bloodraven tells him to "forget that [Jaime and the shove], you do not need it now, put it aside, put it away."

Irony: I am deeply reminded of Jaime's own words to Prince Tommen about "going away inside yourself"

Bran is merely a free object succumbing to gravity

I'll take this a bit further. He's not just a free object; he's a victim. The things that are in the cloud space are almost violent against him. The grey mists whirl around him, it's cold; the ground is coming up to smash him. Everything is acting on him and he is unable to act on anything around him. And even further, this might be a theme for Bran as a whole: being used by forces outside of himself that are greater than him but manage to entice and provoke.

Additionally, it seems that the sudden presence of the golden man, or Bran's observation that the ground is rushing towards him faster than before, or a combination of the two, causes Bran to experience a new surge of fear.

Nice note that Jaime here is the sun to his wingless Icarus.

Some of the things he sees while in this phase seem to be ordinary goings on of ordinary people, like Hodor carrying an anvil to the forge. All the others seem to have a prophetic quality to them. I think it is also worth noting that his visions start from Winterfell and then spread to other locations.

I agree to an extent that Hodor carrying the anvil is the ordinary goings on of ordinary people...except I think it also foreshadows that Hodor is of immense strength--enough to carry a human, let's say. George is letting the readers know well in advance that Hodor possess a sort of gigantic strength that will play a part later.

The fact that Catelyn and Ser Roderik can’t see the gathering storm may be a result of the focus they are placing on their current troubles or it could be because they were not in the confidence of the brooding great white weirwood which stared at Bran knowingly.

He then sees Eddard, Sansa and Arya struggling with their issues. Eddard’s troubles appear to be directly connected to the king as is suggested by this line (and as we know to be true given that we have Ned’s POV): He saw his father pleading with the king, his face etched with grief. Arya and Sansa are dealing with the grief of the loss of their direwolves in very different ways: one surrenders to her emotions while the other chooses silence.

One of the biggest themes of ASOIAF: no one is paying any attention to what the FRACK is coming!!!!! Everyone is consumed by the game of thrones, by family troubles, by a tortured past, by their own personal power and glory, that they can't see the weirwood forest for the trees.

One thing to note here: Maester Luwin is acting rather odd. Or rather, he's noticing something that no one else is:

Maester Luwin on his balcony, studying the sky through a polished bronze tube and frowning as he made notes in his book.

What exactly is Luwin looking at? Or what is he looking for? Is it something that is supposed to be there or something that isn't supposed to be there?

There has been a lot of speculation as of late, post World Book, about whether or not the funky seasons and funky magic of Planetos were caused by some sort of astronomical occurrence. Like a second moon in the sky--Doreah's story to Dany about there once being two moons in the sky. What is it that Luwin is seeing? He's obviously troubled by it (the frowning). Whatever it is, it seems to be outside the "Winterfell" and its residents troubles.

There have been several interpretations on the forums regarding the next extract: There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armoured like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armour made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.I don’t want to pull the focus too far from Bran so I will only say this—I believe the golden armoured shadow is Jaime, and the hound is the Hound. I have no opinion on the identity of the giant stone.

Agreed about Jaime and Hound.

As for giant stone....I have an opinion, I just don't know how RIGHT it is. I think it's Rhaegar. Stone is, like I said in my analysis, often used to hide kings and princes. In Dany's own prophetic dream post "fall" she also sees a giant who is armored but when she opens the visor, there is HER face inside (and that's more about Dany accepting that she's the last dragon), but she thinks it is Rhaegar. In Dany's vision we have a black visor and here we have thick black blood. Bran is seeing everyone at the Trident which is the place where Rhaegar and Robert came together.

Metaphorically, Rhaegar's shadow is all over the Trident scenes as we have Arya--a wild wolf girl--defending her friend (a la the KotLT) from someone above Mycha. We have Ned thinking about lying with honor in his chapters at the Trident. Robert's Rebellion is all over those chapters; makes sense that Rhaegar's "shadow" or SHADE is too.

His vision stretches farther as he sees beyond the Narrow Sea to the lands with which Khaleesi Daenerys is most associated [at least at this point in the story this is true].

I don't know what to make of this, but I'm going to talk about it.

Bran doesn't see Dany. I have no idea why. Is it because Bran is the Ice champion and Dany is the Fire champion and they can't "sense" each other, despite all the REALLY BIG parallels between the two of them?

He can see everything else, but he can't see the Khaleesi with three dragon eggs that will hatch by books end.

think it very curious that in this dream Bran makes this observation: where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise. Is this Bloodraven telling Bran he knows of the coming resurrection of the dragons? Is it just the author adding lyricism to his work? Whatever the answer, we cannot deny the curious nature of the phrase.

Yeah we need to talk about these dragons. Again post World-Book...*sigh*

What the hell? Are there dragons in Asshai or not!? Cause the WB makes Asshai out to be NO DRAGON (or light for that matter) territory. If even the slightest bit of what Yandel reports is true, then Asshai has ZERO dragons. And I'm starting to believe that this is true--no dragons in Asshai. Why else would Quaithe want Dany to go there if not to bring back the light with her dragons?

I'm starting to wonder if these dragons beneath the surface of Asshai are in the WAAAAAAAAAAY distant past.

World book suggests that dragons were tamed in Valyria with the HELP of the Asshai'i who knew what they were doing from long ago AND suggests that there were COTF or at least COTF-like creatures all over Planetos and let's not forget: doors of black tree at the HotU....like, opposite of weirwoods or something. Do they block BR's visions??

After the vision of his brother he travels beyond the known world, farther north where nothing grew and no one lived, and into the frightening heart of winter.

Food for thought. Is there a heart of summer? Say, out there past

the Five Forts? Like near K'Dath, where it seems to be a HOT desert as opposed to the COLD desert beyond the wall

As to the Heart of Winter: what is it? What is in it? Death? Oblivion? Aliens? George RR Martin laughing at us all?

Bran's internal thoughts refer to it as a curtain of light at the end of the world. Curtain's are often metaphors for separation between this world and the next, between life and death. I think it's literally death. I think the realm of "death" exists in two places on Planetos--the heart of Winter and the Shadow city of Stygai which looks a lot like a variation of Styx, the river in Hades.

I think there is significance to the order and manner in which these scenes progressed. Firstly, if we are to assume Bloodraven needs a champion for the impending war, and I fully invoke this assumption here, then it does not seem far-fetched to assume he has been actively searching for this champion for a much longer period than initially apparent.

I don’t think Bran is the first dreamer Bloodraven has attempted to recruit. I think there have been a thousand others over the years and they all failed to fly. I think the assumption Bran has in that even in dreams, you could not fall forever…You always woke up in the instant before you hit the ground is the biggest obstacle the thousand other dreamers faced.

Euron "Crow's Eye" also dreamed a dream about flying as well....

Brandon Stark passes this test and he is rewarded by the crow in this manner: Its beak stabbed at him fiercely, and Bran felt a sudden blinding pain in the middle of his forehead, between his eyes. This action shatters the grey mists of the dream world and Brandon Stark is returned to the real world, alive.

Your reward is pain and possibly a very short life. Welcome to the Song of Ice and Fire, Brandon Stark!

I admit my understanding of paralysis is severely limited. I have, however, consulted several people who have experienced varying degrees of this condition. I came away with this understanding: in the case that someone has lost all feeling in his or her legs, as I assume is the case with Bran, then that person cannot feel heat and coldness in his or her legs. Which leads me to ask this: is this (Bran being able to feel the warmth emanating from his direwolf) another form of the warging bond shared by Bran and his familiar or is it something else?

Interesting. I never thought about it, interesting. I always assumed George meant the breath of the wolf is hitting Bran in the face. But yeah, that does read funny now that you point it out. Warging seems like the best answer.

Also, a nice Dany/Bran parallel: HOT BATHS. They like them.

However, it is interesting to note that Summer’s eyes shine like the sun and Bran appears to “love” this fact. Can Icarus embrace the sun?

No. And because this is George, I am going to give one of my saddest theories: Summer will die. Bran will sacrifice his wolf for something else (cough ice dragon cough). The boy of ice and winter who has been touched by the gods to lead the Wintery Charge cannot have any connotation with heat and warmth and light. He is cold and darkness and winter. And lest we forget, coming soon, a certain hero who also lost his beloved dog.

1. After the high and thin voice reveals itself to come from a crow, the first question it asks is: say, got any corn? This, in my opinion, continues the theme of the need to end winter and bring back summer. Blooming plants are representative of life and in the case of such a functional plant as maize/corn, they represent survival. This may also add to the debate of whether Bran is a champion for ice or nature. This chapter has pushed me towards the latter.

I don't know that it needs to be one or the other. Bran certainly has some of John Barleycorn in, the god who dies and is reborn with the harvest and seasons. But that fertility god is associated with life and death, summer and winter. I think Bran will always be part of both--but so is, for example, fire's champion. Dany is both life and death, mother and dragon, and all the good things we talked about in Dany Re-Read. Both have the "nature" part down pact. Dany's next POV (Dany III) will find her heavily embedded with natural imagery: it opens with Jorah telling her about the growing plants on the Dothraki seas, but he tells her of their DEATH too. And Dany walks amogst them, barefoot, muddy, but at peace. And then comes the ultimate life and death story: dragons born from a dead cracked moon, and Dany herself becoming pregnant to a baby that will not live.

So my stance on nature or winter is that he is both...but only he can be winter. \

Enjoy the discussion

Once again, REALLY NICE JOB Kyoshi!!!

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Nice job, Kyoshi



First, I think it could draw some inspiration from Black Elk's vision described in Black Elk Speaks. In the book, when he is a boy of nine (Bran's age) he becomes sick and falls into a coma. While in that coma he had prophetic visions that told of a hard road ahead for his people and likely the world. The Spirit of the Sky says to him: "My boy, I have sent for you, an you have come. my power you shall see." They told him he had a role to play, and he later became a medicine man.



I agree regarding Jaime and Sandor. I think the giant in stone is Robert Strong. I think Jaime and Sandor will face Robert Strong to help Sansa. It is a theory of mine.



I don't know if Bran saw Asshai, given he has never actually been there, and from what we got in ASOIAF, I don't know if there is a noticeable sunrise there.



As for the Heart of Winter,

in WOIAF, ancient tales tell of when the seasons were regular like in the real world. Maybe in the end, Bran will change it to that (with a big enough sacrifice if Cersei burns down KL with a population of 500,000 or something else like that if the rules regarding magic are true).



As for corn, that was a common term for grain, and a kernel is a symbol of birth, hope and the future. On a larger level, it is associated with life in general.


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Nice job, Kyoshi

First, I think it could draw some inspiration from Black Elk's vision described in Black Elk Speaks. In the book, when he is a boy of nine (Bran's age) he becomes sick and falls into a coma. While in that coma he had prophetic visions that told of a hard road ahead for his people and likely the world. The Spirit of the Sky says to him: "My boy, I have sent for you, an you have come. my power you shall see." They told him he had a role to play, and he later became a medicine man.

Definitely. I hadn't made that connection until you mentioned it, but yes there are quite a lot of similarities between Bran's vision and Black Elk's vision. And given that BE was seeing the end of his people...that might be telling.

If anyone wants to read Black Elk's Great Vision here is a link, page 24 of the PDF

I don't know if Bran saw Asshai, given he has never actually been there, and from what we got in ASOIAF, I don't know if there is a noticeable sunrise there.

1) If not Asshai, then where?

2) Like I pointed out above, it might be the incredibly distant past when the Asshai had dragons of their own. Like Others, dragons might be cyclical.

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Hi everyone! Good work on your essay Kyoshi!




I think that Bran is seeing what lies in store for each of the characters he names and westeros in general. Like BearQueen87 said:



"One of the biggest themes of ASOIAF: no one is paying any attention to what the FRACK is coming!!!!! Everyone is consumed by the game of thrones, by family troubles, by a tortured past, by their own personal power and glory, that they can't see the weirwood forest for the trees"



-The Winterfell People- Everyone is going about their lifes, without any clue of the dangers lurking ahead for Westeros in general and their family in particular.



-Catelyn -" He saw his mother sitting alone in a cabin, looking at a blood-stained knife on a table in front of her, as the rowers pulled at their oars and Ser Rodrik leaned across a rail, shaking and heaving. A storm was gathering ahead of them, a vast dark roaring lashed by lightning, but somehow they could not see it".


She's going to fall into LF trap. The Storm ahead represents all the trouble that insues after she "arrests" Tyrion.



Regarding the 3 shadows:



- "Over them both loomed a giant in armour made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood". -- Statues wear armours made of stone. The giant armored statue that comes to mind is the Giant Titan of Braavos. So, this probably relates to Arya future. When the giant opens his visor, we can see what's inside Braavos- darkness/Faceless Men. And the thick black blood- Arya's need for vengeance.



- "Another was armoured like the sun, golden and beautiful"-- Similar to Ned's decription of Jaime in the throne. Ned is resolved to find the truth about Jon Arryn death, which will lead him to the black cells and Ilyn Payne. He probably should have left king's landing after the fight with Robert, but the injury he suffers after the confrontation with Jaime seals his fate (If not, he would have gone after Gregor with Beric and co, be captured by Tywin and used to forge a peace with the north) --- Ties up with Catelyn's Storm



- "One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound" -- Sandor. Maybe if Sansa had run-away with Sandor after the Battle of the Blackwater, she would have gotten away from the Lannister grasp? Still undecided on this one.



---


-Bran - " He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.


Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.


“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.


Because winter is coming"


--- Bran needs to "fly" because no one else can see the real dangers ahead. Is BR/3EC acting for the benefit of Westeros or does he have a secret plan?


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Hi everyone!

Welcome to the Re-Read and welcome to the Boards! :cheers:

Statues wear armours made of stone. The giant armored statue that comes to mind is the Giant Titan of Braavos. So, this probably relates to Arya future. When the giant opens his visor, we can see what's inside Braavos- darkness/Faceless Men. And the thick black blood- Arya's need for vengeance.

Interesting interpretation! Given that Arya experiences death for the first time--Mycha--here at the Trident, you might be on to something.

--- Bran needs to "fly" because no one else can see the real dangers ahead. Is BR/3EC acting for the benefit of Westeros or does he have a secret plan?

I think BR is a ruthless person but one who serves the world--at least the world as he understands it and his understanding of the world is vastly different than the rest of humankind.

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Brandon III

It seemed as though he had been falling for years

[snip]

Excellent analysis, great job! :thumbsup:

​You have all set a really high bar for those of us who have yet to do a chapter review :D

-----The Cloud Space: the space where Bran appears to be flung from the darkness and told to fly by a voice in the darkness. After he is flung, only physical forces such as gravity seem to be at work.

-----The Winterfell Space: the space where Bran glimpse his immediate reality and the actions which led him there. One could also refer to this as the Ser Jaime Lannister Space.

-----The Greenseeing Space: the supernatural space where Bran is brought into Bloodravens confidence. He travels the world and into the past, the present and the future with just his eyes.

I like how you separated these three realms of existence that Bran goes through throughout the chapters. they can almost been seen as stages he must go through in order to understand that he needs to fly, in order to find the strength to fly.

He leaves the place of darkness with one instruction he must followfly. But because he does not know how to fly, he simply falls. The Cloud Space seemed an apt name for this part of the dream since apart from the mysterious voice and the darkness, nothing else appears to be supernatural. Bran is merely a free object succumbing to gravity. To support the idea that he is falling from way above Winterfell we have the following: He makes note of the grey mists that whirled around him [clouds?] and that the ground was closer now, still far away, a thousand miles away

I think this gray mist is associated with death. From Jaime's weirwood dream when he sees the dead kings guard, they are brought by the mist of death and it swirls away when they come back to life:

"He saw them too. They were armored all in snow, it seemed to him, and ribbons of mist swirled back from their shoulders."

When Bran is about to awaken:

"...grey mists shuddered and swirled around him and ripped away like a veil..."

His vision stretches farther as he sees beyond the Narrow Sea to the lands with which Khaleesi Daenerys is most associated [at least at this point in the story this is true]. I will digress a bit here so please bear with me. Given that we know [i think we all do] Bloodraven is present in this dream, it is my opinion he is showing Bran the parts of the world he deems most important and relevant to his plans, whatever they may be. I think it very curious that in this dream Bran makes this observation: where dragons stirred beneath the sunrise. Is this Bloodraven telling Bran he knows of the coming resurrection of the dragons? Is it just the author adding lyricism to his work? Whatever the answer, we cannot deny the curious nature of the phrase.

He didn't see Dany per se, however, the Dothraki sea is very much associated with Dany at this point in the story and later on. Just like GRRM has been keeping Tyrion from Dany for a while now, he's probably king Bran from her as well for an important reason. The similarities between Bran and Dany are great, if there was only a character who was related to both, who could bring them together....

There have been several interpretations on the forums regarding the next extract: There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armoured like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armour made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.I dont want to pull the focus too far from Bran so I will only say thisI believe the golden armoured shadow is Jaime, and the hound is the Hound. I have no opinion on the identity of the giant stone.

I agree here with you that the first two shadows are Jaime and The Hound, I think the third one is clearly Robert Strong, in my opinion. He looms over The Hound as he always did in life as the Mountain, however, now as Robert Strong he looms over Jaime as Cersei's new champion. Life & Death in one character, very thematic.

The next part, where he sees Jon growing cold at the Wall, is another source of endless discussions on the forums. I can only say I fall in the camp of those who believe Bran just saw his half-brother slipping further into bitter solitude, nothing more and nothing else. We can however, open the debate, in the case that we not stray too far away from Bran.

I believe Jon has died and I think that might be what Bran is seeing, however, I do believe he'll be resurrected.

In an alternate book series Bloodraven would have simply needed to await the arrival of a prophesied hero and the need to seek one would not be present. But this is ASOIAF and we have seen prophesies yield to reality and unforeseen circumstances. So it stands that someone as seemingly precautious as Bloodraven would not idly sit and await such a hero. The line where the crow tells Bran that he must live because winter is coming points in the direction of Bloodraven being an active recruiter trying to find a champion. Please allow me another mild digression.

I dont think Bran is the first dreamer Bloodraven has attempted to recruit. I think there have been a thousand others over the years and they all failed to fly. I think the assumption Bran has in that even in dreams, you could not fall foreverYou always woke up in the instant before you hit the ground is the biggest obstacle the thousand other dreamers faced.

I like this interpretation and I think you are correct that it falls in line with the theme of the series, when it comes to prophecies. People are constantly trying to make prophecies come about and most of the time cause more harm then good in these endeavors. Who knows what sort of repercussions (other than the deaths of thousands of dreamers) has Bloodraven's search wield.

One of the biggest themes of ASOIAF: no one is paying any attention to what the FRACK is coming!!!!! Everyone is consumed by the game of thrones, by family troubles, by a tortured past, by their own personal power and glory, that they can't see the weirwood forest for the trees.

One thing to note here: Maester Luwin is acting rather odd. Or rather, he's noticing something that no one else is:

Maester Luwin on his balcony, studying the sky through a polished bronze tube and frowning as he made notes in his book.

What exactly is Luwin looking at? Or what is he looking for? Is it something that is supposed to be there or something that isn't supposed to be there?

There has been a lot of speculation as of late, post World Book, about whether or not the funky seasons and funky magic of Planetos were caused by some sort of astronomical occurrence. Like a second moon in the sky--Doreah's story to Dany about there once being two moons in the sky. What is it that Luwin is seeing? He's obviously troubled by it (the frowning). Whatever it is, it seems to be outside the "Winterfell" and its residents troubles.

Last chapter when Bran was a top of Winterfell observing the world below he made a comment about no one ever looking up. I jotted it down because I thought it sounded very interesting. he we have Maester Luwin looking up, perhaps noticing something everyone is missing because they are to preoccupied with their earthly woes.

Other Observations

So, I did a comparison in the Dany re-read about the similarities Bran's coma dream shares with Dany's fevered dream and I though it would be good to bring it up here as well.

Bran III AGOT:

"Death reached for him, screaming. Bran spread his arms and flew. Wings unseen drank the wind and filled and pulled him upward. The terrible needles of ice receded below him. The sky opened up above. Bran soared. It was better than climbing. It was better than anything. The world grew small beneath him."

Dany IX AGOT

"Wings shadowed her fever dreams...She felt the dark behind... If it caught her she would die a death that was more than death, howling forever alone in the darkness. She began to run. ... dont want to wake the dragon. She could feel the heat inside her, a terrible burning in her womb."

Both Dany and Bran are afraid of the ice that is coming for them. Death to them is a howl (wolf) a scream. They are terrified and are trying to get away as quickly as possible. It's also interesting that both these premonition / dreams came to them in times where they were both battling for their lives. Perhaps connecting this current battle with a future battle (for their lives and the lives of others).

*******

Both Bran and Dany must fly in order to get away from the ice that is threatening to consume them. Here we see that they both share the same fear - perhaps a common enemy.

Bran III AGOT:

"Death reached for him, screaming. Bran spread his arms and flew. Wings unseen drank the wind and filled and pulled him upward. The terrible needles of ice receded below him. The sky opened up above. Bran soared. It was better than climbing. It was better than anything. The world grew small beneath him."

Dany IX AGOT

"And Daenerys Targaryen flew. Wake the dragon The door loomed before her, the red door, so close, so close, the hall was a blur around her, the cold receding behind. And now the stone was gone and she flew across the Dothraki sea, high and higher, the green rippling beneath, and all that lived and breathed fled in terror from the shadow of her wings."

Bran I ASOS - While warged into Summer he thinks the following:

"Prince of the green, prince of the wolfswood. He was strong and swift and fierce, and all the lived in the good green world went in fear of him."

Note the two items highlighter in green, Once both Dany and Bran embrace their inner strength (animal?) others will run in fear of them. I think this might be foreshadowing of the vast amount of power they both will hold.

There is another similarity related Bran and Dany. Fro Dany it appears in her fevered dream but for Bran it appears in a later chapter:

Dany IX AGOT

"Ghosts lined the hallway, dressed in the faded raiment of kings. In their hands were swords of pale fire. They had hair of silver and hair of gold and hair of platinum white, and their eyes were opal and amethyst, tourmaline and jade. Faster, they cried, faster, faster. She raced, her feet melting the stone wherever they touched. Faster! the ghosts cried as one, and she screamed and threw herself forward. A great knife of pain ripped down her back, and she felt her skin tear open and smelled the stench of burning blood and saw the shadow of wings."

Bran VII AGOT

Do you recall your history, Bran? the maester said as they walked. Tell Osha who they were and what they did, if you can. He looked at the passing faces and the tales came back to him. The maester had told him the stories, and Old Nan had made them come alive. That one is Jon Stark. When the sea raiders landed in the east, he drove them out and built the castle at White Harbor . His son was Rickard Stark, not my fathers father but another Rickard, he took the Neck away from the Marsh King and married his daughter.

Theon Starks the real thin one with the long hair and the skinny beard. They called him the Hungry Wolf, because he was always at war. Thats a Brandon, the tall one with the dreamy face, he was Brandon the Shipwright, because he loved the sea. His tomb is empty. He tried to sail west across the Sunset Sea and was never seen again. His son was Brandon the Burner, because he put the torch to all his fathers ships in grief. Theres Rodrik Stark , who won Bear Island in a wrestling match and gave it to the Mormonts.

And thats Torrhen Stark, the King Who Knelt . He was the last King in the North and the first Lord of Winterfell, after he yielded to Aegon the Conqueror. Oh, there , hes Cregan Stark. He fought with Prince Aemon once, and the Dragonknight said hed never faced a finer swordsman. They were almost at the end now, and Bran felt a sadness creeping over him . And theres my grandfather, Lord Rickard, who was beheaded by Mad King Aerys.

His daughter Lyanna and his son Brandon are in the tombs beside him. Not me, another Brandon, my fathers brother. Theyre not supposed to have statues, thats only for the lords and the kings, but my father loved them so much he had them done.

Here both Bran and Dany see their ancestors as they go down long hallways, they are passing them by. This will become very important in their future development. Bran is underground in the crypts when he passes his ancestors and Dany in her dream is running down a long hallways in which will lead her to become a dragon and fly. Both Bran and Dany find themselves in these places (underground and in flight) by the end of ADWD.

One last observation between Bran, Dan and Jon:

Dany

"... The last, the last. Dany lifted his polished black visor. The face within was her own. After that, for a long time, there was only the pain, the fire within her, and the whisperings of stars. She woke to the taste of ashes."

Jon

"He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold.."

Bran

"The window was open and it was cold in the room , but the warmth that came off the wolf enfolded him like a hot bath.

All three characters are going through a newer death or death experience. Dany feels the fire, Jon feels the cold, but Bran feels all three, cold, hot and warm.

ETA

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First and foremost: Very good analysis!

Since you have done a very good job dissecting the symbolism and foreshadowing I want to point out some things regarding the interaction of Bran and Bloodraven and the emotional phases and lessons Bran goes through.

Fly, You Fool!

In the summary I stated that Bran is reliving his fall from Jaime’s push only to a degree; this assertion should become clear in a moment or so. I found it necessary to divide this dream into three, very distinct and exclusive parts. To make the analysis easier to read, I have named them as follows:

-----The Cloud Space: the space where Bran appears to be flung from the darkness and told to fly by a voice in the darkness. After he is flung, only physical forces such as gravity seem to be at work.

-----The Winterfell Space: the space where Bran glimpse his immediate reality and the actions which led him there. One could also refer to this as the Ser Jaime Lannister Space.

-----The Greenseeing Space: the supernatural space where Bran is “brought into Bloodraven’s confidence.” He travels the world and into the past, the present and the future with just his eyes.

In the Cloud Space we have Bran falling from a seemingly much, much higher altitude than the tower from which Jaime pushed him. Perhaps even more strange, this dream seems to start with him in a darkness where neither the stars nor the sun existed. As was pointed out in the previous analysis, Bran’s tale closely mirrors that of Icarus, with Bran as the tragic Icarus and Jaime as the sun that melted his wings. Given that the beginning parts of this chapter (and dream) make a note of the conspicuous absence of the sun and the potent presence of darkness, I think it is not too far-fetched to assume that the fall in this dream begins from a different place (both altitude and geographical location) than we saw in the last chapter.

He leaves the place of darkness with one instruction he must follow—fly. But because he does not know how to fly, he simply falls. ‘The Cloud Space’ seemed an apt name for this part of the dream since apart from the mysterious voice and the darkness, nothing else appears to be supernatural. Bran is merely a free object succumbing to gravity. To support the idea that he is falling from way above Winterfell we have the following: He makes note of the grey mists that whirled around him [clouds?] and that the ground was closer now, still far away, a thousand miles away

As he continues to fall, the scenery changes. He could see mountains now, their peaks white with snow, and the silver thread of rivers in dark woods. It might be premature to conclude that this part of the dream does not serve any narrative purpose. We can be sure that it does, however, serve the thematic purpose of emphasising flight. It also highlights the significance of the impact the infamous fall will have on this boy. Not only will the consequences limit him physically, but we will also see a change in his spiritual and mental state.

After leaving the Cloud Space he briefly enters the Wineterfell Space. This is the part of the dream where he actually relives the Jaime-induced fall. He makes observations that are most reflective of his own, current reality.

Bran was staring at his arms, his legs. He was so skinny, just skin stretched taut over bones. Had he always been so thin? He tried to remember. A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. “The things I do for love,” it said.

Bran screamed.

As soon as he sees the golden man, he starts falling faster. It is almost as though there is an extra resultant force pushing him, for lack of a better term. We can assume this resultant force to be our dear Jaime. Additionally, it seems that the sudden presence of the golden man, or Bran's observation that the ground is rushing towards him faster than before, or a combination of the two, causes Bran to experience a new surge of fear. This new surge seems to prompt the the crow to implore Bran to fly and look down [into the Greenseeing Space]. It seems that fear is not a welcome thing in the crow's world. I will delve into this later in the analysis. In any case, when Bran finally complies with the crow’s latter command, he enters the Greenseeing Space.

The Three-Eyed Crow

He could see everything so clearly that for a moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole realm, and everyone in it… … … At the heart of the godswood, the great white weirwood brooded over its reflection in the black pool, its leaves rustling in a chill wind. When it felt Bran watching, it lifted its eyes from the still waters and stared back at him knowingly.

[...]

After the vision of his brother he travels beyond the known world, farther north where nothing grew and no one lived, and into the frightening heart of winter.

Winter is Coming

He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

“Why?” Bran said, not understanding, falling, falling.

Because winter is coming.

Bran becomes aware of the third eye of the crow after looking deep into the heart of winter. We are told this third eye holds terrible knowledge. Also noteworthy, Bran is now almost at the ground; he sees the bones of a thousand other dreamers below him and he seems to innately know the bones belong to dead dreamers. Naturally, he becomes afraid and remembers a recent, significant time in his life when he spoke of fear.

The conversation he remembers is in Bran I when he asked his father if a man could be brave if he were afraid. His father told him that is the only a time a man can be brave. As Bran is remembering that moment with his father the crow urges him to fly or die. As we know, Bran spread his arms and flew.

I think there is significance to the order and manner in which these scenes progressed. Firstly, if we are to assume Bloodraven needs a champion for the impending war, and I fully invoke this assumption here, then it does not seem far-fetched to assume he has been actively searching for this champion for a much longer period than initially apparent.

In an alternate book series Bloodraven would have simply needed to await the arrival of a prophesied hero and the need to seek one would not be present. But this is ASOIAF and we have seen prophesies yield to reality and unforeseen circumstances. So it stands that someone as seemingly precautious as Bloodraven would not idly sit and await such a hero. The line where the crow tells Bran that he must live because winter is coming points in the direction of Bloodraven being an active recruiter trying to find a champion. Please allow me another mild digression.

I don’t think Bran is the first dreamer Bloodraven has attempted to recruit. I think there have been a thousand others over the years and they all failed to fly. I think the assumption Bran has in that even in dreams, you could not fall forever…You always woke up in the instant before you hit the ground is the biggest obstacle the thousand other dreamers faced.

All the other dreamers thought they would awaken in the instant before they hit the ground because that is what always happens [even in our world this holds true]. But as the crow warned Bran, they died when they hit the ground. This is not the case with Bran because he embraced his fear. The other dreamers might not have been brave or afraid enough to fly, however one chooses to look at it. Bran appears to have had a special weapon none of them possessed: his fear made him brave. And the bravery helped him fly.

Overall, I think this was Bloodraven’s first step in recruiting Bran. He probably searches the dream space [which I imagine is something between life and death] for potential champions and when he finds them he tests them with the simple instruction: fly or die. Brandon Stark passes this test and he is rewarded by the crow in this manner: Its beak stabbed at him fiercely, and Bran felt a sudden blinding pain in the middle of his forehead, between his eyes. This action shatters the grey mists of the dream world and Brandon Stark is returned to the real world, alive

Throughout the chapter there are some important lessons, that either the crow tells Bran or are given by the dream itself:

Maester Luwin made a little boy out of clay, baked him till he was hard and brittle, dressed him in Bran's clothes, and flung him off a roof. Bran remembered the way he shattered. "But I never fall," he said, falling.

Challenge your preconceptions:

You can believe something all you want, but it does not become true because of it. He thought that he would never fall and he did not because of normal circumstances, but yet Jaime pushed him and he fell, one unusual event and all previous assumption are meaningless (I am suppressing my urge for a pun here).

Even in dreams, you could not fall forever. He would wake up the instant he hit the ground, he knew. You always woke up the instant you hit the ground.

And if you don't? the voice asked

Realize the situation:

This is no normal dream, it is a near death experience. There will be no awakening if he hits the ground, he will die. Bloodraven makes him realize the danger he is in to help him survive and awaken his powers, something which could not take place if he just went oblivious into his death. This is what you mentioned when you say that the biggest obstacle for the other dreamers is that their assumption was that their dream is just a normal one.

Bran looked down. He could see the mountains now, their peaks white with snow, and the silver thread of rivers in dark woods. He closed his eyes and began to cry.

That won't do any good, the crow said. I told you the answer is flying, not crying. How hard can it be? I'm doing it.

Face the situation:

Closing your eyes to something will not change it either. Crying and succumbing to ones fears will not lead to someone or something miraculously saving you. You can only change the situation by doing something about it yourself.

Every flight begins with a fall, the crow said. Look down.

"I'm afraid..."

LOOK DOWN!

Bran looked down, and felt his insides turn to water. The ground was rushing at him now. The whole world was spread out below him, a tapestry of white and brown and green. He could see everything so clearly that for one moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole world, and everyone in it.

See what lies before us, or - see what could be yours:

This is different to the parts before. Now Bloodraven shows Bran what he can see and all those visions and observations he can have. He forgets to be afraid: Before this everything was hostile and Bloodraven snapped him out of it. Now there is the upside: The power of greenseeing, seeing everything and everyone and have something that is similar to omniscience. It is risk and reward: Here is what could kill you and there is what you could have.

He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder.

Now you know why you must live:

Here Bloodraven shows Bran the dangers that lie ahead, that winter is coming. That these are not only powers he could have but powers that are needed to avert whatever he saw. The first ones were the about snapping Bran out of his fears, the second was what he could have and this step is why he is needed and for what his powers are so important.

Bran looked at the crow on his shoulder, and the crow looked back. It had three eyes, and the third eye was full of a terrible knowledge. Bran looked down. There was nothing below him but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid.

"Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?" he heard his own voice saying, small and far away.

And his father's voice replied to him. "That is the only time a man can be brave."

Now, Bran, the crow urged.

Choose, fly or die:

All is said and done and the time is running out. Bloodraven cannot do anything anymore, it is up to Bran to save himself, in the end it is his decision. Remarkable here is that he makes his decision not because of something Bloodraven said, but because of his father's lesson. In the end the support of his family is the pivotal point that helps him through:

Death reached for him, screaming.

Bran spread his arms and flew.

As a side note I find the description here intriguing. 'Death reached for him, screaming.' Death is described as acting, it reaches for him and it screams. It almost looks like there is an intelligence that weighs all those whose magical abilities threaten to awake (at least those related to greenseeing), and it seems almost malicious. But that could just be my impression of it.

It is important to see that Bloodraven carefully orchestrated the dream at least to the extent he could. He leads Bran through, he pushes him in the right direction, does not allow him any reclusion the imminent death he is facing. At one point he even suppresses the Bran's memory of Jaime Lannister which (at least in the beginning) seems to cause an amnesia. He is right: It is detrimental to Bran's survival because it is a traumatic experience that magnifies his fears, but it is still a cold calculation, it is not needed. This approach makes me worry that Bloodraven does not care about the person Bran in the slightest.

As an afterthought this makes me wonder if Jojen did go through a similar dream. Not a pleasant notion.

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Great analysis Kyoshi! I also like the way you characterized the three parts of the dream. I've always had problems reading this chapter cause a lot goes on in it but you method simplified reading.






.



And His Name Shall Be Summer


Bran touched his forehead, between his eyes. The place where the crow had pecked him was still burning, but there was nothing there, no blood, no wound.



I have always had to read the last few paragraphs of this chapter several times. The ambiguity, whether intentional or not, still shifts my understanding of the events to this day. Here is what I mean…



I think it is clear Bran has no feeling in his legs; it is said as much: And then there was movement beside the bed, and something landed lightly on his legs. He felt nothing. But then we get this in the next two sentences: A pair of yellow eyes looked into his own, shining like the sun. The window was open and it was cold in the room, but the warmth that came off the wolf enfolded him like a hot bath.



I admit my understanding of paralysis is severely limited. I have, however, consulted several people who have experienced varying degrees of this condition. I came away with this understanding: in the case that someone has lost all feeling in his or her legs, as I assume is the case with Bran, then that person cannot feel heat and coldness in his or her legs. Which leads me to ask this: is this (Bran being able to feel the warmth emanating from his direwolf) another form of the warging bond shared by Bran and his familiar or is it something else?



Finally, in Bran II we saw him struggling to name his direwolf. He thought to himself that he tried a hundred names and none of them felt right. It comes as no surprise that after looking deep into the heart of winter and being frightened by what he saw, and after he awakens to feel the coldness of his room abated by the warmth of his direwolf, he names him Summer. I dare say he literally tries to bring back summer.



However, it is interesting to note that Summer’s eyes shine like the sun and Bran appears to “love” this fact. Can Icarus embrace the sun?







Not much to add just wanted to comment on this part, When Bran woke up he was cold in the room and Summer gave him warmth, I take this as a symbol of Summer being the "fire" aspect of Bran, or in other words, whatever hardships Bran faces during this winter, Summer is always going to be the one that brings him the "warmth" (his saviour) during the winter, and again in other words he will bring him what he "needs" when he is in need. This is also a common theme in the series for all the characters that have animal familiars, the familiars play a key role in giving them what they need, and when these characters try and separate themselves from the familiars they often end in misfortune (Jon, Robb and Dany are a good examples of characters that have experienced said misfortune).









See what lies before us, or - see what could be yours:



This is different to the parts before. Now Bloodraven shows Bran what he can see and all those visions and observations he can have. He forgets to be afraid: Before this everything was hostile and Bloodraven snapped him out of it. Now there is the upside: The power of greenseeing, seeing everything and everyone and have something that is similar to omniscience. It is risk and reward: Here is what could kill you and there is what you could have.



He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.


Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder.






I like the way you put this, it fits with Bran seeing what he wasn't supposed to see in the last chapter. As you said Bran having omniscience is both "a risk and reward"

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As to the Heart of Winter: what is it? What is in it? Death? Oblivion? Aliens? George RR Martin laughing at us all?

Bran's internal thoughts refer to it as a curtain of light at the end of the world. Curtain's are often metaphors for separation between this world and the next, between life and death. I think it's literally death. I think the realm of "death" exists in two places on Planetos--the heart of Winter and the Shadow city of Stygai which looks a lot like a variation of Styx, the river in Hades.

From TWOIAF

That's what came to my mind aswell, it's been speculated before that the heart of darkness may be connected to the heart of winter give the globe is round and Asshai is at the extreme south east and the heart of winter is probably at the extreme north west.

Just for reference

On its way from the Mountains of the Morn to the sea, the Ash runs howling through a narrow cleft in the mountains, between towering cliffs so steep and close that the river is perpetually in shadow, save for a few moments at midday when the sun is at its zenith. In the caves that pockmark the cliffs, demons and dragons and worse make their lairs. The farther from the city one goes, the more hideous and twisted these creatures become … until at last one stands before the doors of the Stygai, the corpse city at the Shadow’s heart, where even the shadowbinders fear to tread. Or so the stories say.

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Realize the situation:

This is no normal dream, it is a near death experience. There will be no awakening if he hits the ground, he will die. Bloodraven makes him realize the danger he is in to help him survive and awaken his powers, something which could not take place if he just went oblivious into his death. This is what you mentioned when you say that the biggest obstacle for the other dreamers is that their assumption was that their dream is just a normal one.

Bran looked down. He could see the mountains now, their peaks white with snow, and the silver thread of rivers in dark woods. He closed his eyes and began to cry.

That won't do any good, the crow said. I told you the answer is flying, not crying. How hard can it be? I'm doing it.

I wanted to digest your post a bit but this part sticks out to me.

I think you're right that the fall here is a near death experience and I think we can take that and parallel it to its reverse at the end of the chapter....Bran flying. The flight is scary and terrifying and all sorts of nightmare horror. But the flight is better than anything, better than running, better than climbing.

So if fall = near death experience then the flight = near LIFE experience. Anyone seen the movie 'Fight Club?" It's one of my favorites, but there is a scene in which the Narrator has a near life experience in the midst of a life altering near death experience with the message being "just let go" and that it's only after we've lost everything are we free to do anything.

I am remind of that. Bran has to let go--let of go of what happened to him, let go of being the Bran who wanted to be a knight--in order to fly. I think that's what BR/3EC is doing in this dream.

From TWOIAF

That's what came to my mind aswell, it's been speculated before that the heart of darkness may be connected to the heart of winter give the globe is round and Asshai is at the extreme south east and the heart of winter is probably at the extreme north west.

Just for reference

On its way from the Mountains of the Morn to the sea, the Ash runs howling through a narrow cleft in the mountains, between towering cliffs so steep and close that the river is perpetually in shadow, save for a few moments at midday when the sun is at its zenith. In the caves that pockmark the cliffs, demons and dragons and worse make their lairs. The farther from the city one goes, the more hideous and twisted these creatures become … until at last one stands before the doors of the Stygai, the corpse city at the Shadow’s heart, where even the shadowbinders fear to tread. Or so the stories say.

Nice connection with the bolded!

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Nice post, Kyoshi.


I really, really like the division in three “spaces” with separated characteristics, I didn’t thought of it but actually it looks quite logic.


I don’t want to break your post into a thousands segments and one since at that point I’d do a reread of yours rather than about the chapter… but there’s so much to discuss that I can’t help about something:



Bloodraven searching for other candidates rather than just Bran: definitely agree. We’ll know from Jojen that wargs are rare as well as greenseers, but they are not unique – rather it’s an extremely close, members-only club.


However I strongly disagree with Bloodraven causing Bran’s fall. I can see him waiting for the fall to happen, since apparently he’s a sort of Big Brother in Westeros, but beside the presence of crows (who don’t do anything but watching, in future Sam chapters we’ll see that things are different) we have no hint of sort about him arranging things. The Lannister twins, especially Jaime, wanted some action and Bran loves to climb. There’s nothing anomalous nor anything that suggest something more complicated.


Especially since like you say, apparently Bran’s not the only one.


On a side note: other users pointed out to Sweetrobin as another possible candidate and Euron’s case shows some odd similarities. Personally I’m not into the Ironborn’s case, but I think they should be registered nevertheless.



Jon: I still have to decide whether I believe it to be a foreshadowing clue or actually a vision about the future. More about it later.



Three shadows etc.: without digressing too much, I’ll just say that I find it strange for Bran to “panic” whenever the memory of Jaime Lannister arises (more on this after the reread progresses) and then not recognize him right after another of these “attacks”. This being said, I gotta admit that some huge similarities are still there.



A face swam up at him out of the grey mist, shining with light, golden. (…) Bran screamed.



Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful.



Still, I can’t see how Jaime can be put into correlation with Sansa/Arya/Ned Stark, since the only one he interacts with is the latter, and only because “provoked” because of Tyrion’s kidnapping. They may not like each other, but it’s not like they actively interact with something in mind. If Jaime’s shadow can be ralated to a Stark, it should rather be Bran imo.



@BearQueen87: thought the same about Luwin and the Red Comet!


But I wouldn’t speak about Bran and Dany being ‘champions’, since the first one currently doesn’t have any idea about what to do and the latter hasn’t shown any intention of fulfilling this role – admitting this role even exists.


Solid pick about Bran and Dany’s similarities, though.


And since we’re here MoIaF points out another good similarity between the two that I didn’t see so props to him as well.



Notes:


-Bloodraven answers both Bran’s actual questions AND his inner thoughts. Nothing particular to elaborate on this but I point it out since this doesn’t always happens in dreams or visions, iirc.



It was cold here in the darkness. There was no sun, no stars, (…) and the whispering voice. He wanted to cry.


Very similar choice of words will come in ACoK and ADwD, I’m adding it here for the future.



He reached out to pet him, his hand trembling like a leaf.


Foreshadowing or not, I find it appropriate.



-Bran’s vision is terribly ambiguous and it’s not a surprise that there can be a lot of different interpretations, all of them valid somehow. Especially the most controversial, the one about Jon Snow: whatever Bran sees about him has both a literal and a figurative interpretation (and checking his following chapter in AGoT you can see that he actually sleeps alone and that warmth abandons… personally I believe it to be a strong foreshadowing choice of words, but at the same time I simply cannot dismiss a more literal interpretation).


The structure of the vision, and then some points, or crackpottery: it starts with Winterfell, somehow the center of the vision if not for being the starting point. The subjects are Maester Luwin, Robb, Hodor and the white weirwood plus his pool (I find it important since when speaking of this particular tree this pool always shows up). The activities they are doing are all plausible, since Arya I seems to suggest that training with proper swords was about to happen sooner or later.


Then the vision turns up to EAST, portraying Catelyn and Ser Rodrik. The storm they are unaware of doesn’t strike me as particularly prophetic nor about a something specific, so I don’t believe this extract of vision to be about particular future events.


The focus then turns to SOUTH, showing Ned Stark, King Robert, Sansa, Arya and three shadows. All their activities seem to involve the present events. Without digressing on the three shadows subject too much I’ll just say that they are around the other four characters, and the giant looms over the other two shadows.


I can see why the Hound or eventually Gregor Clegane should be there, but I’m not totally sure about Jaime despite the huge visual hints. Not that it matters that much, apparently.


Then the focus shifts again, to the Narrow Sea, the Free Cities, Dothraki sea and Vaes Dothrak, the Jade Sea and Asshai and finally to NORTH with Jon.


1: since cardinal directions are always mentioned, can we refer to Essos (and especially Asshai and the Jade Sea as WEST? Guess it depends on the perspective ^_^


2: the Dothraki Sea is still green and except maybe Jon everyone is doing something related to the present events… can we really think of this vision as something related to the future?


3: Bran sees into “the heart of winter” but nothing is said about the Others. The only thing the reader gets is a feeling of something unpleasant, if not flat out horrid.



I wonder if Bran will ever consider this heart of winter again during the whole asoiaf plot like he does with flying and so on, and I suggest to keep it in mind during the reread since I find it baffling that the issue never shows up, unless I missed something of course. We’ll see in the future chapters.



edit:@QueenAlysanne


Thanks for the Old Nan references... also I didn't buy TWOIAF so I didn't knew about that and gotta say that if that's true I find it incredibly rage inducing, since for a complete speculation a reader would need maps not included in the original books. In any case that's possibly an awesome pick. Btw how can you keep track of so many threads? I wouldn't have found the Old Nan one in years! :P


edit 2: writing an answer to find the site crashing down, and then connecting the following day and finding that someone already wrote something you thought new is heartbreaking :D


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@BearQueen87: thought the same about Luwin and the Red Comet!

But I wouldn’t speak about Bran and Dany being ‘champions’, since the first one currently doesn’t have any idea about what to do and the latter hasn’t shown any intention of fulfilling this role – admitting this role even exists.

Solid pick about Bran and Dany’s similarities, though.

And since we’re here MoIaF points out another good similarity between the two that I didn’t see so props to him as well.

So, I think I've been saying this a lot lately in other threads--apologizes to those who keep reading it :)

Cultures decide their own heroes. They are the ones who decide what characteristics should be upheld as heroic or mythic or fantastical, ect. So Dany and Bran don't need to declare themselves champions in order to be the champion of fire/ice, respectively. It comes down to what the people existing in that culture believe should exist in their champions. Think about Moqorro on his way to Dany because he (and Benerro) believe her to be AAR. They have decided she is champion of fire and light and freedom and salvation. Bloodraven might have decided that Bran was his (and the Others) champion because Bran is the first kid who flew instead of falling.

Dany has no idea that she is even considered AAR at the moment--it'll be interesting to see her reaction, though as we talked about in Dany re-read her approach to religion is sorta piecemeal and she plucks a bit from different religions at will.

Bran takes 5 books to get to the point where he can even begin his training to be Ice champion, but right now (at the end of Dance, not to jump ahead a lot) he's still focused on flying again. He's not seeing the full picture yet--but he will. And like Dany it'll be interesting to see what his reaction is.

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So, I think I've been saying this a lot lately in other threads--apologizes to those who keep reading it :)

Cultures decide their own heroes. They are the ones who decide what characteristics should be upheld as heroic or mythic or fantastical, ect. So Dany and Bran don't need to declare themselves champions in order to be the champion of fire/ice, respectively. It comes down to what the people existing in that culture believe should exist in their champions. Think about Moqorro on his way to Dany because he (and Benerro) believe her to be AAR. They have decided she is champion of fire and light and freedom and salvation. Bloodraven might have decided that Bran was his (and the Others) champion because Bran is the first kid who flew instead of falling.

Dany has no idea that she is even considered AAR at the moment--it'll be interesting to see her reaction, though as we talked about in Dany re-read her approach to religion is sorta piecemeal and she plucks a bit from different religions at will.

Bran takes 5 books to get to the point where he can even begin his training to be Ice champion, but right now (at the end of Dance, not to jump ahead a lot) he's still focused on flying again. He's not seeing the full picture yet--but he will. And like Dany it'll be interesting to see what his reaction is.

Personally, I don't believe that either Bran nor Dany will be the "champions" of ice or fire.I actually think that it'll be The Others (and perhaps human allies such as the Boltons and Euron Greyjoy) as ice and the R'hllor (Mel and the Red Priest and their followers) as fire and Bran, Dany and Jon in between.

Jumping super far ahead...

As for Bran, I actually see him as the intermediary for both groups. He alone will have the ability and the access to actually understand both groups of people / humanoids and it'll be through his guidance that the others (Dany, Jon, Tyrion, etc) will be able to act.

In many ways I believe Bran will become omnipotent and he alone will be able to understand the motivations of the Others and why they'll need to be stopped but he'll also understand why the extremist R'hllor will need to be stopped as well.

He's been uniquely placed by GRRM to have access to the past, present and perhaps future as well as have the ability to communicate with others from his current location. Bran was the character that inspire ASOIAF and I think in many ways he'll end up being the center of it all.

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Personally, I don't believe that either Bran nor Dany will be the "champions" of ice or fire.I actually think that it'll be The Others (and perhaps human allies such as the Boltons and Euron Greyjoy) as ice and the R'hllor (Mel and the Red Priest and their followers) as fire and Bran, Dany and Jon in between.

Jumping super far ahead...

As for Bran, I actually see him as the intermediary for both groups. He alone will have the ability and the access to actually understand both groups of people / humanoids and it'll be through his guidance that the others (Dany, Jon, Tyrion, etc) will be able to act.

In many ways I believe Bran will become omnipotent and he alone will be able to understand the motivations of the Others and why they'll need to be stopped but he'll also understand why the extremist R'hllor will need to be stopped as well.

He's been uniquely placed by GRRM to have access to the past, present and perhaps future as well as have the ability to communicate with others from his current location. Bran was the character that inspire ASOIAF and I think in many ways he'll end up being the center of it all.

I see what you're saying but here is one of my big issues: conflict of the heart and the emotional investment of the readers.

If you have Dany, Bran, and Jon (along with Tyrion, Sansa, Brienne, Jaime, ect) all working together then I, as the reader, am not conflicted. Obviously I'm rooting for the group that has all my favorite characters in it--whoever that may be. But if you are pitting people against each other, Bran on one side, Jon on another then suddenly I have conflicting feelings about the outcome of this war. Do I want Jon to have to go against his baby brother in order to save the land? And what kind of conflict of the heart does that create for Jon? That's high drama and "the only thing worth writing about" (or so sayeth Mr. Martin).

If we're seeing your set up as Others and Boltons (rather nasty people) and Euron Greyjoy (extremely nasty individual) vs R'hllorists like Mel (burns people in the name of religion) and other extremes of her ilk then there is no conflict for me as a reader. Why would I want either of these sides to win? Why would I care if they begin to destroy each other? Destroy each other and leave my favorites standing to rebuild Westeros. I don't know how that's bittersweet.

But if you've got Dany as the lauded fire champion with her dragons believing that the way to solve the problem is X, Bran as the ice champion with a unique perspective on the Others and believing that the solution to the problem is Y, and Jon having to decide if his brother (love) is more important than saving the world (duty)....that's bittersweet conflict of the heart.

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I see what you're saying but here is one of my big issues: conflict of the heart and the emotional investment of the readers.

If you have Dany, Bran, and Jon (along with Tyrion, Sansa, Brienne, Jaime, ect) all working together then I, as the reader, am not conflicted. Obviously I'm rooting for the group that has all my favorite characters in it--whoever that may be. But if you are pitting people against each other, Bran on one side, Jon on another then suddenly I have conflicting feelings about the outcome of this war. Do I want Jon to have to go against his baby brother in order to save the land? And what kind of conflict of the heart does that create for Jon? That's high drama and "the only thing worth writing about" (or so sayeth Mr. Martin).

If we're seeing your set up as Others and Boltons (rather nasty people) and Euron Greyjoy (extremely nasty individual) vs R'hllorists like Mel (burns people in the name of religion) and other extremes of her ilk then there is no conflict for me as a reader. Why would I want either of these sides to win? Why would I care if they begin to destroy each other? Destroy each other and leave my favorites standing to rebuild Westeros. I don't know how that's bittersweet.

But if you've got Dany as the lauded fire champion with her dragons believing that the way to solve the problem is X, Bran as the ice champion with a unique perspective on the Others and believing that the solution to the problem is Y, and Jon having to decide if his brother (love) is more important than saving the world (duty)....that's bittersweet conflict of the heart.

Well, I think we might differ just a bit here, as I think that the conflict is more about the character than the reader.

Let's start with Bran for example. If he is somehow able to learn the true motivations of the Others, where they came from, why they are acting the way they are and he somehow empathizes with them even though he believes what they are doing is wrong, then he'll be conflicted about it. Once we as readers understand what the Others are truly about, then things might not appear so black and white. They would probably need to be destroyed or pushed back because their interest are opposite to those of the humans but it might not be as black and white as it seems.

Now, let's take Dany. Throughout her battles in Slaver's Bay we've seen her flight a pretty treacherous enemy, however, there is a lot of decent about her war against slavers, there is a lot of ambiguity about the tactics she has employed in fighting the slavers. We know how destructive the dragons can be, what if the type of tactics she'll need to employ to fight the Others also cause harm and destruction to her people, however, sacrifices need to be made.

The same can be said about Jon, making decision about who should be saved, who you'll need to let go. There won't be enough food or shelter for everyone, he'll have to pick and choose in a way he didn't do in ADWD. There is plenty of conflict on a war even with all your favorites in one side, because as we've seen, war is anything but simple or easy.

As for the R'hllor I could see how they would be considered allies at first and then come to realize that they are more harm than good. Then comes the tough part, if you get rid of the priest, what about their followers, what do you do with them?

There will be plenty of conflict without having the top characters on opposite sides. But of course this is just MHO and as always I might just be completely wrong. :D

ETA: I just think it's really important to note that Bran has been given almost omnipotent powers and I just can't see him picking a side outright but I can see him understanding both sides and then having to choose.

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