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The "Winged Wolf" A Bran Stark Re-read Project - Part II ASOS & ADWD

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Re Ice Dragon: The Wildlings know it as the Ice Dragon because that's what Osha tells Bran it is called. I think it might be the one constellation they have in common, as far as names go.

Yes, which always seemed peculiar to me. There's such a separation (geographical and so on) of the Wildings with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms it's odd that they share a common name for it. Osha mentions dragons far too often for someone who seems so far removed from the Targaryens. We're told dragons mayhaps once roamed free prior to Aegon I & his sisters so it's possible that the wildings had there own encounters with them ages ago?

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Yes, which always seemed peculiar to me. There's such a separation (geographical and so on) of the Wildings with the rest of the Seven Kingdoms it's odd that they share a common name for it. Osha mentions dragons far too often for someone who seems so far removed from the Targaryens. We're told dragons mayhaps once roamed free prior to Aegon I & his sisters so it's possible that the wildings had there own encounters with them ages ago?

Quite possibly. According to WOIAF, ice dragons are very real and rumors have them living up in the Shivering Sea. While hardly anyone travels there these days, that it isn't to say that the dragons weren't once closer to lands of the Wildlings back during the years following the end of the War for the Dawn. Also, while dragons were native to Essos, they appear to have been quite spread out--including Sothroys. So I wouldn't be surprised if dragons (fire or ice) were once wandering around Westeros during the very early ages of the First Men and COTF and that they have become a bit of a cultural memory for the Wildlings--who are really just a group of First Men who are on the other side of the Wall--before the dragons died out only to be reborn again in Valyria and the 14 Flames.

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Quite possibly. According to WOIAF, ice dragons are very real and rumors have them living up in the Shivering Sea. While hardly anyone travels there these days, that it isn't to say that the dragons weren't once closer to lands of the Wildlings back during the years following the end of the War for the Dawn. Also, while dragons were native to Essos, they appear to have been quite spread out--including Sothroys. So I wouldn't be surprised if dragons (fire or ice) were once wandering around Westeros during the very early ages of the First Men and COTF and that they have become a bit of a cultural memory for the Wildlings--who are really just a group of First Men who are on the other side of the Wall--before the dragons died out only to be reborn again in Valyria and the 14 Flames.

In the Ice Dragon the cold and snow returns when the Dragon does. Maybe a cache of ice dragon eggs is what keeps the Lands of Always Winter in such a state? Not until the final syllable in ADoS is read will I give up on my Ice Dragon desires.

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Quite possibly. According to WOIAF, ice dragons are very real and rumors have them living up in the Shivering Sea. While hardly anyone travels there these days, that it isn't to say that the dragons weren't once closer to lands of the Wildlings back during the years following the end of the War for the Dawn. Also, while dragons were native to Essos, they appear to have been quite spread out--including Sothroys. So I wouldn't be surprised if dragons (fire or ice) were once wandering around Westeros during the very early ages of the First Men and COTF and that they have become a bit of a cultural memory for the Wildlings--who are really just a group of First Men who are on the other side of the Wall--before the dragons died out only to be reborn again in Valyria and the 14 Flames.

Maybe a stupid question but does those ice dragons breath ice instead of fire. That would be cool.

On the Liddle, I never really thought of the possibility he would be magical creature. It is an interesting idea. But how would magic make him appear. I thought suddenly appearances of people doesn't really happen. So it would be very strange.

But when if he would be "real", it is indeed very strange how much he knows about everything (Bolton, the ranging of the Old Bear?, ... ) Jojen called him also my lord?

I had also felt the Liddle was a little bitter that all the Starks were gone from Winterfell:

"When there was a Stark in Winterfell, a maiden girl could walk ..."

"It was different when there was a Stark in Winterfell . But the old wolf's dead and the young one's gone south to play the game of thrones, and all that's left to us is the ghosts"

I really loved the story telling. When Bran kept interrupting the story, it showed he was really still a child.

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1. Maybe a stupid question but does those ice dragons breath ice instead of fire. That would be cool.

2. On the Liddle, I never really thought of the possibility he would be magical creature. It is an interesting idea. But how would magic make him appear. I thought suddenly appearances of people doesn't really happen. So it would be very strange.

But when if he would be "real", it is indeed very strange how much he knows about everything (Bolton, the ranging of the Old Bear?, ... ) Jojen called him also my lord?

1. Gosh, I hope so. I really want an ice dragon!

2. Well, it's magic. There doesn't need to be a seriously scientific explanation for the "how." Magic is the operation principle of the world they live in and thus it interacts with the world as it sees fit. Just like it can cause "Rhaegar" to turn and look at Dany and the audience in order to drive home a point about there being another Targaryen. In that moment, it's not the historical Rhaegar, it's magic interfering in the world.

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So this is a really fantastic re-read project, and I while the essay I am about to post might have been more appropriate during the ACOK threads, it is applicable to Bran's arc at any stage. Here linked is an essay on a idea that I think deserves a place in these threads generally and that I hope plays a role in its discussions as it finished ASOS and moves into the ADWD chapters. It's central thesis that Bran is an incarnation of the Fisher King, a family of legends that include King Arthur and Bran the Blessed (Here is my complete resource of meta on the topic of the Starks as to-be mythological figures generally)

The Stark in Winterfell: Bran and the Fisher King

ASOIAF has been called “a love letter to democracy” by the way in which it ruthlessly criticizes feudalism and kingship and by (seemingly) giving no king (and only two queens) a POV, while also presenting all the men who are able to sit the throne or wear a crown as being ultimately unworthy. There is Robert Baratheon, the Whoremonger King; his successor King Joffrey, whose claim was based on a lie and was shown to be ineffectual and ill-suited to the role in every possible way; Viserys, the Beggar King,his father Aerys, the Mad King and many others. Renly, Stannis, Balon, Euron. All fall short or fail outright.

Feudalism is displayed as an inherently violent, wasteful and repugnant social order in almost every respect. Every respect, except one: The Starks, and in particular the narrative of magic kingship that exists around Bran.

"The Stark in Winterfell" is ASOIAF’s incarnation of the Fisher King, a legendary figure from English and Welsh mythology who is spiritually and physically tied to the land, and whose fortunes, good and ill, are mirrored in the realm. It is a story that, as it tells how the king is maimed and then healed by divine power, validates that monarchy. The role of "The Stark in Winterfell" is meant to be as its creator Brandon the Builder was, a fusion of apparent opposites: man and god, king and greenseer, and the monolith that is his seat is both castle and tree, a "monstrous stone tree.”

"It was different, when there was a Stark in Winterfell"

A saying that exists in the family is invoked by both Ned and Catelyn in AGOT as they depart for the South: “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell.”

Why? When spoken, the phrase is intoned, almost like a medieval laymen of the Catholic Church might repeat a Latin prayer, not fully understanding what the words mean, but knowing that they are important somehow.

Other Great Houses do not live by this stricture: Jon Arryn was largely absent from the Vale for 14 years, with no clear plans to return, leaving his sickly son and mentally ill wife behind. Nestor Royce was his regent. A distant cousin of Tywin Lannister, Damion, is left to rule, and no one seems particularly concerned that no Lannister of the main branch lives there. Doran Martell prefers to rule from the Water Gardens.

It is the Liddle that Bran meets in the northern mountains that gives us the clearest and most explicit reasoning for why their must always be a Stark in Winterfell:

"When there was a Stark in Winterfell, a maiden girl could walk the kingsroad in her name-day gown and still go unmolested, and travelers could find fire, bread, and salt at many an inn and holdfast. But the nights are colder now, and doors are closed."-(Bran, ASOS)

Bran also articulates it to some degree:

He was old enough to know that it was not truly him they shouted for—it was the harvest they cheered, it was Robb and his victories, it was his lord father and his grandfather and all the Starks going back eight thousand years.Still, it made him swell with pride.” -(Bran, ACOK)

When there is a Stark in Winterfell, the land is peaceful and the people do not starve. To have a Stark in Winterfell is to by definition have good lordship. The fact that the northerners depend on the Starks for their very survival is implied by many of their vassals, and it is often the Houses that trace their very existence to the them that are the most fanatical in their loyalty.

Lyanna Mormont,whose House was given their land by Rodrik Stark angrily rejects Stannis’s demands for fealty, writing, “Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North whose name is STARK!”

Another younger northern lady, Wylla Manderly lashes out against the Freys lies about Robb and her fathers (false) disavowal of him: The wolves took us in and nourished us and protected us against our enemies! And we swore that we would always be their men, Stark men!” -(Davos, ADWD)

Bran tells us in AGOT that the Mountain Clans, among others would, “when the snow fell and the ice winds howled out of the north, the farmers left their frozen fields and more distant holdfasts, loaded up their wagons” and took refuge in Winterfell’s winter town. When the clansmen tells Asha that he would rather see his “men die fighting for the Ned’s little girl than die than hungry in the snow, weeping tears freeze upon their cheeks”, it also likely that Mountain Clans are making a desperate attempt to win back their refuge.

Because of the presence of the winter town, to be the Stark in Winterfell is an immensely important office that has no equivalent anywhere else. It means being a hands-on ruler who knows his subjects intimately, and takes care of them when winter comes, which they constantly remind themselves of. Ned practices this in his own lordship of Winterfell:


Her father used to say that a lord needed to eat with his men if he hoped to keep them. “Know the men that follow you,” she heard him tell Robb once, “And let them know you. Don’t ask your men to die for a stranger.” At Winterfell, he always had a an extra seat set at his own table, and everyday a different man would be asked to join him.- (Arya, AGOT)

In western European mythology, (Western Europe being GRRM’s primary basis for Westeros), there is a family of legends known as the Fisher King. The Fisher King, also known as the Maimed or Wounded King, contains within its lineage the Brythonic King Arthur and the Welsh king Bran the Blessed. For the English, the Fisher King is a keeper of the Holy Grail. He is wounded or maimed and as a result is infertile, and is sustained only by the power of the Grail. In turn, the land becomes infertile and barren as well, and the only food to be had is fish, hence the name. In some versions, the Father is the Wounded King and his son is the Fisher. Tumblr user theelliedoll describes the connection, writing in their meta:


The point of the Fisher King as a mythical character is not so much the particularities of his character or even of his injury, but the simple fact that his (sexual)affliction is transferred to his lands. The myth thus presupposes a mystical, inextricable, sympathetic connection between king and kingdom that requires of the king a potent, generative virility, and thus functions, the myth, as the symbolic narrative that articulates a dominant power ideology [of Medieval Europe, the basis of GRRM’s Westeros]. This power ideology is the divinity of kingship, which is itself inseparable from the notions of inheritance and primogeniture.

The Fisher King myth functions then simply as a strategy of legitimation for royal authority and thus for a progressively more and more absolutist monarchy,perceived and culturally represented as the only imaginable form of government.

The Stark in Winterfell is ASOIAF’s equivalent of the Fisher King, whose personal fortunes are mirrored in the land itself. In at least two instances in narrative when the King of Winter is referred to as “The Stark in Winterfell”:


“The Stark in Winterfell wanted Bael’s head…”

“The Stark in Winterfell had to take ahand [instopping the Night’s Watch’s rebellion]
-Jon, ASOS


"He’s young King Arthur”-GRRM, about Bran

There is one character, in narrative, who is called by others and calls himself the Stark inWinterfell: Bran, son of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn:

“I’m the Prince. I’m the Stark in Winterfell.”

“You are the Stark in Winterfell, and Robb’s heir. You must look princely.” Together they garbed him as befit a lord.

He was the Stark in Winterfell, his father’s son and his brother’s heir, and almost a man grown.

“Your are the Stark in the Winterfell, and Robb’s heir.”

-(Bran, ACOK)

And who also holds the closely associated titles of prince and heir of Winterfell:

I’m the Prince of the North, and a warg too.-(Bran, ASOS)

"You are our prince as well, our lord’s son, and our king’s true heir.” -(Meera Reed to Bran, ASOS)

Jojen gazed up at him with his dark green eyes. “There’s nothing here to hurt us,Your Grace.”-(Bran, ASOS)

“He’s our prince.”-(Meera to Samwell Tarly, ASOS)

“By night all cloaks are black, Your Grace.”-(Jojen to Bran, ASOS)

Bran’s story is also very similar to the Welsh incarnation of the Fisher King: Bran the Blessed, who fought an army of undead warriors (wights) who were continuously revived by a magic cauldron (The Heart of Winter). His half-brother, (Jon Snow) hides among the dead after a battle in order to be thrown into the cauldron (Jon mind you, might very well be warging Ghost, whose name was the last word he spoke, and the Night Watch might very well be in a state of collapse right now, if not the Wall itself) and is able to destroy it, but dies in the process. He has a name that is very similar to one of the Fisher King’s other titles, the Wounded King. The narrative calls him and he calls himself, again and again, “broken:”


Just broken. Like me, he thought.

Bran,” he said sullenly. Bran the Broken. “Brandon Stark.” The cripple boy.

But who else would wed a broken boy like him?

And through the mist of centuries the broken boy could only watch.

Bran’s suffering because of his maiming just as Winterfell itself is “broken” establishes an sympathetic link between king and kingdom.
When GRRM said of Tolkien, whom he admires:

Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple. Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine?

-GRRM also implicitly asked the question: How can human beings, who are flawed and mortal, make for perfect monarchs, as the Fisher King is meant to be? Bran’s story, intertwined with that of his ancestor Brandon the Builder, is his answer to that question. From the very beginning, the Starks were empowered by the Old Gods. Westerosi legend has it that The Builder had the help of giants, and used the magic of the Children of the Forest to build the Wall. When Catelyn looks into the eyes of Winterfell’s heart tree, she thinks that they are older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; watched the castles granite walls rise around them.” (Catelyn, ACOK)

Jon Snow, another who is not a Stark patrilineally, has nightmares in which the Crypts “are not is place” and refuses Stannis’s offer to made its lord when he realizes, “The weirwood was the heart of Winterfell … but to save the castle Jon would have to tear that heart up by its ancient roots, and feed it to the red woman’s hungry fire god. I have no right. Winterfell belongs to the old gods.” (Jon, ASOS)

When Rickon took the Walder’s down to the Crypts, Bran is enraged: You had no right! That was our place, a Stark place!”

It is no accident that the tales suggest that the heart tree, “the heart of Winterfell” is said to have witnessed the Builder’s construction. In fact, in the North, the heart tree is used as a witness for vows of all kinds, including marriages and contracts. Ramsay and “Arya” say their vows in front of a heart tree, and Jojen tells Bran that [The Children had ] no ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all.” Piecing together what we learn about House Stark’s history on TWOIAF, we can read how the growth of their domain was not only reflected in how Winterfell’s growth “over the centuries, like some monstrous stone tree”, but that there was a deeper purpose to the wars they waged. They killed the warg Gaven Greywolf in the “War of the Wolves” and the Warg King of Sea Dragon Point, killing his greenseers and taking his daughters as prizes. These might have been the historical events that led Haggon to say, "South of the Wall, the kneelers hunt us down and butcher us like pigs." Theon Stark the Laughing Wolf killed the Marsh King and married his daughter, and it is commonly rumored the crannogmen intermarried with the Children of the Forest. Based on Howland’s visit the Isle of Faces and Jojen’s status as a greendreamer we can suppose that they have close connections with the Old God’s magic, intermarriage or not.

The reason for these wars against other practitioners of northern magic goes all the way back to Brandon Builder, who I will hypothesis was also the Last Hero, as it was Winterfell and the Wall that managed to achieve what the Last Hero had set out to do:


So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the Children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost.

It goes back to a grand pact he made with the Children 8000 years ago: In exchange for their magical aid, to be sole rightful possessor of that magic, and mandate to conquer the North, the Builder and his descendents would give sacrifices to the Old Gods, preserve their weirwoods, and hold the Others at bay. The entire purpose of House Stark’s motto is expressed in “Winter is Coming”. It is not a boast, it is commonly observed, but it is something more as well. It is a justification for their right to rule. By absorbing the magic in the blood of the Warg King and the Marsh King, the Kings of Winter were acting on that compact. As the Fisher King, namely King Arthur, kept the Holy Grail, so do the Starks keep the heart tree, drawing from it power and legitimacy.

The Builder himself is highly likely to have been a greenseer, fusing with the heart tree as a part of his pact with the Old Gods to become the first Stark in Winterfell. “Bran” means “raven” in Welsh and Bloodravens tell Bran that messages were sent by raven by skinchanging into them:


It was the Singers who taught the First Men to send messages by raven… but in those days, the birds would speak the words. The trees remember, but men forget, and so now they write the messages on parchment and tie them round the feet of birds who have never shared their skin.”-(Bran, ADWD)

This is not an accident, as GRRM has stated that the names of his characters were chosen with “a fair amount of thought.” Only two individuals are confirmed in narrative to be able to skinchange ravens, and both of them were greenseers. The kings in the Age of Heroes, the Builder among them, are said to have lived for hundreds of years, a feet which is exactly what greenseers do by using the weirwoods as a kind of supernatural life support in old age. Jojen deepens our understanding of the role of the weirwoods when he says:

When
[the singers and greenseers]
died,
they went into the wood,
into leaf and limb and root, and
the trees remembered
. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. The singers believe that they are the old gods.
When singers die they become part of that godhood.
-(Bran, ADWD)

If the Builder was in fact a greenseer, and the Winterfell heart tree his ultimate resting place (recall the cool black pool next to it, that nobody has ever seen the bottom of), as he is strongly evidenced to be, then that means that Brandon’s journey has been under the direct gaze of his ancestor from the very beginning. When Bran first speaks of the heart tree, he says that it "had always frightened him; Trees ought not to have faces…nor leaves that look like hands."

As Bran’s grooming as the Builder’s heir continues, he falls increasingly under its influence, drawn to the weirwoods more and more, but especially to the heart tree:


Bran had always liked the godswood, even before, but of late he found himself drawn to it more and more. Even the heart tree no longer scared him the way it used to. The deep red eyes carved into the pale trunk still watched him, yet somehow he took comfort from that now. The gods were looking over him, he told himself; the old gods, gods of the Starks and the First Men and the children of the forest, his father’s gods. He felt safe in their sight, and the deep silence of the trees helped him think. Bran had been thinking a lot since his fall; thinking, and dreaming, and talking with the gods.-(Bran, ACOK)

“It was a queer kind of tree, skinnier than any other weirwood that Bran had ever seen and faceless as well, but it made him feel as if the old gods were with him here, at least.”-(Bran, ASOS)

The heart tree in Winterfell saw the laying of the first stone, and it was in the godswood that Bran made his final climb atop Winterfell’s walls. Summer notably, howled fearfully as he did, sensing that something terrible was about to happen just Grey Wind did outside the Twins:


He was halfway up the tree, moving easily from limb to limb, when the wolf got to his feet and began to howl.
Bran looked back down. His wolf fell silent, staring up at him through slitted yellow eyes. A strange chill went through him. He began to climb again. Once more the wolf howled. “Quiet,” he yelled. “Sit down. Stay. You’re worse than Mother.” The howling chased him all the way up the tree, until finally he jumped off onto the armory roof and out of sight.

The Old Gods, and Bloodraven, are strongly to implied to have foreseen his fate, just as Summer sensed it. They have entirely intended that he will play his role in the saga and fulfill the pact, whether he wants to or not:


“Most of him has gone into the tree … He has lived beyond his mortal span, and yet he lingers. For us, for you, for the realms of men. Only a little strength remains in his flesh. He has a thousand eyes and one, but there is much to watch. One day you will know.”

I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late.”
-(Bran, ADWD)

GRRM’s answer to the question “How can mortal me be perfect kings?” is evident in Bran’s narrative: Only by becoming something not completely human at all, to have godly and immortal things, such as the weirwood, fused into your being, and hence to become more or less than completely human, depending on your perspective. This is the only type of monarchy GRRM gives legitimacy, the kind where the king suffers on his journey and is almost dehumanized for the sake of his people. The Last Hero (the Builder) in his search for the Children, saw all 12 of his companions die. Jojen now lies close to death, and tells Bran that:

Earth and water, soil and stone, oaks and elms and willows, they were here before us all and will still remain when we are gone.”
So will you,” said Meera. That made Bran sad. What if I don’t want to remain when you are gone?-he almost asked.-(Bran, ADWD)

Bran will outlive his friends, Meera and Jojen. Though he will be reunited with his siblings, Arya, Sansa, Rickon, even Jon, and his life with them will be happy, Bran will outlive them too, and their children. He will outlive Nymeria and Shaggydog and Ghost, and even Summer. Bloodraven tells him:


“I have my own ghosts, Bran. A brother that I loved, a brother that I hated, a woman I desired. Through the trees, I see them still, but no word of mine has ever reached them. The past remains the past.” (Bran, ADWD)

Through the heart tree of Winterfell, Bran will in old age be as Bloodraven is now, “half-corpse and half-tree…less a man than some ghastly statue made of twisted wood, old bone,” and awash in the memories of a happy childhood that is lost to him: He and Arya running playing with stick swords in the godswood; climbing the stone walls while Arya and Sansa have a snowball fight; a father who sits by the fire “speaking softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest”; a mother ordering him to get down lest he should fall; Jon and Robb training in the yard. Toward the end of his life, Bran will not so much be a human being as a vessel and conduit of the magical energies that are the source of House Stark’s power. He will be a king where “he had never asked to be a prince”, a greenseer where “it was knighthood he had always dreamed of”: He will be the Stark in Winterfell, bound to the place first by the paralyzing of his legs, his wedding to the direwolf and the trees, and then his physical binding to the heart tree itself.

Whatever Faustian Bargain the Builder made for the Children’s aid, it’s clear that he didn’t just offer himself: he offered up his heirs. Bran’s journey, his grooming as lord, warg and now greenseer is a mechanization possibly thousands of years in the making. As the Even Bran himself comes to view the role of lord, the Stark in Winterfell, as his destiny, his only choice:

Why must he waste his time listening to old men speak of things he only half understood? Because you’re broken, a voice reminded him. A lord on his cushioned chair might be crippled, but not a knight on his destier. Besides, it was his duty. -(Bran, ACOK)

After he has looked deep into the Heart of Winter, the Three-Eyed Crow tells him, “Now you know why you must live…because winter is coming.


The New Age

The extent of the Singers’ aid to Bran, House Stark and the realm brings to mind the question: Why? Why would they do this? They live in a warded cave, and are nearing extinction any case, so what does it matter to them that humankind in Westeros could be wiped out? The Answer lies in Leaf’s foretelling of the years that lie ahead:

Gone down into the earth … Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us. (Bran, ADWD)

Leaf is foretelling the death of all the magical and elder races of the world, even direwolves. Given that the magic of the weirwoods includes powers of prophecy, perhaps she will be proven correct, perhaps not. What is significant however is what it isn’t been foretold to die out: the weirwoods and the blood sacrifices given to them are what the magic of Westeros comes from. Where human settlement has declined, the weirwoods return, as Brienne discovered in the Whispers and Bran in the Nightfort. Both found young, skinny, faceless weirwoods. The Andal civilization that fears and burns wild weirwoods is also dying out, as the South collapses in violence and famine.

The explanation lies in the weirwoods, and in their aid to Bran and by extension the realm: They intend that humanity will be the heirs to their stewardship of the sacred trees that hold the souls of their ancestors and their memory. Humanity, unlike the Singers, reproduces rapidly, and whatever the exact origin of the Others (whether as weapon created by the Singers that backfired, or as some theorists suggest, skinchangers that accomplished what Varamyr failed to do by using male infants such as Craster’s offerings, or something else entirely), it is only since the arrival of mankind that the Others have entered the historical record. The Others are acting as a cosmic fail-safe for a humanity that would deplete the land likedeer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them." The Others are the wolves to hunt humans, the ice to bring balance to the fire. The Starks in Winterfell act as one of the keepers of that balance, the lock on a gate that keeps at bay a dark power in the earth, just as the Valyrians were for whatever lay deep in the Fourteen Fires. They will keep this balance until perhaps they in turn meet the same fate as the Singers and are replaced by another invader from Essos. It is no surprise that Winterfell appears to be designed with fighting the Others and their wights in mind.

The Sacred of Green Men is suggested to have combined themselves in some way with the land based on their green skin, magical aura and stewardship of a powerful grove of weirwoods, and are certain to play some part in this design, though it is still very unclear what that part is, as are the details of that design.

Conclusion

There is a directly parallel relationship between the different mythical figures and the sources of their power:

  • The Fisher King and the Holy Grail
  • The Greenseer and the weirwood trees
  • The Stark and Winterfell

In every case, there is a drawing of supernatural strength and even divinity from an entity that acts as a bridge from the present to something much greater: Winterfell to the ancient past, the weirwood to godhood, the Holy Grail to the Christian creator. The image of the Fisher King in ASOIAF is created from fusing together the role of King of Winter to that of greenseer, and in turn that of Winterfell to the heart tree. It relies on a web of grafting between various and unlike beings: As this meta writer states,

Symbolically, the graft imagines the sudden joining of unlike things - a fusion that may be either disruptive or transformative. Grafting represents not only a horticultural practice, but also a way of understanding the permeable and productive boundaries between self and other, human and nonhuman, as well as the connections between past, present, and future…

Perhaps most importantly, grafting elides notions of primogeniture and strict ideas of kinship, introducing uncertainty into Renaissance distinctions between high and low, animal and plant, human and nonhuman.

The Stark in Winterfell by his nature is meant to be a greenseer, and his binding to the castle is made one with his binding to the heart tree. Through this in turn, Winterfell acquires the aspect of a tree as the weirwood has aspects of stone. Each becomes like the other, fused into practically one being, just as the king acquires qualities of godhood and in the case of the Christian Creator, the god is thought of as a king (“king of kings, who dost from thy throne gaze down upon thee”). Winterfell, is never said to have been “built” in the narrative. Rather, “Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall.”-(Bran, AGOT). “Raising”, in the way that you “raise” a child or crop, is the way in which you deal with something that is organic, living, with sentience of its own. Bran also notices that those that “built” Winterfell "had not leveled the earth…there were hills and valleys beyond the walls." Winterfell is asymetrical and irregular, as living and organic things are. This image is strongly imprinted onto it that is said that "the place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree…and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth.” Each is made stronger and by these relationships, with the Stark in Winterfell serving as the human conduit.

In the same way that Winterfell becomes like a tree, weirwood has aspects of being somehow not of the world of flesh-and-blood. A Blackwood observes of one weirwood, “For a thousand years it has not shown a leaf. In another thousand it will have turned to stoneWeirwoods never rot.Many times in the narrative, weirwood is compared to bone, smooth and white, and bone is a tissue of the body that lingers long after death, separate from living flesh. The Builder is also associated with Storm’s End “Some said the children of the forest helped him build it, shaping the stones with magic; others claimed that a small boy told him what he must do, a boy who would grow to be Bran the Builder.”-(Catelyn, ACOK)

Understanding that the Builder as the Fisher King resolves many contradictions in his story, namely the idea that a man went to a race of beings who made their homes from wood and leaf to learn how to a build a stone castle. There was a purpose much beyond learning; he went to propose a union: human civilization and primordial forest, to create a monolith that is both castle and tree, ruled by a man that is both king and shaman, as it was meant to be. And as it will be, by the only king in Westeros that GRRM and his story values and honors:

Brandon Stark, the heir to Winterfell, son of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn.

---------------------------------------------------------------

For my piece on Bran and his parallels to Bran the Builder, click here.

For my piece on Bran and how will return to Winterfell through Gorne’s Way, click here

I hope that you enjoyed reading this essay, and wish you good luck on the rest of this meta project! I have an essay in the works that discusses Bran's skinchanging Hodor and how Bran's arc deconstructs the notion of destiny, but I wills save that until you guys reach the ADWD chapters.

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Excuse me, while i try to adjust to the board's formatting issues.



Sorry for those. I am adjusting to the copy and pasting the board. You can also just click the link embedded in the title and the format is much more readable.


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I will go through the new posts later in depth, but I wanted to pick up BearQueen's point: Some more time until the chapter 3 analysis would be nice. I can use it and we have so many essays at the moment that we should need some time anyways to pick up on them.


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So this is a really fantastic re-read project, and I while the essay I am about to post might have been more appropriate during the ACOK threads, it is applicable to Bran's arc at any stage. Here linked is an essay on a idea that I think deserves a place in these threads generally and that I hope plays a role in its discussions as it finished ASOS and moves into the ADWD chapters. It's central thesis that Bran is an incarnation of the Fisher King, a family of legends that include King Arthur and Bran the Blessed (Here is my complete resource of meta on the topic of the Starks as to-be mythological figures generally)

The Stark in Winterfell: Bran and the Fisher King

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A fascinating essay! Thanks for sharing. I want to hit a couple points that you've brought to the table.

"The Stark in Winterfell" is ASOIAF’s incarnation of the Fisher King, a legendary figure from English and Welsh mythology who is spiritually and physically tied to the land, and whose fortunes, good and ill, are mirrored in the realm

In case people are unfamiliar with the Fisher King legend, a Wikipeida run down

When there is a Stark in Winterfell, the land is peaceful and the people do not starve. To have a Stark in Winterfell is to by definition have good lordship. The fact that the northerners depend on the Starks for their very survival is implied by many of their vassals, and it is often the Houses that trace their very existence to the them that are the most fanatical in their loyalty.

Lyanna Mormont,whose House was given their land by Rodrik Stark angrily rejects Stannis’s demands for fealty, writing, “Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North whose name is STARK!”

Another younger northern lady, Wylla Manderly lashes out against the Freys lies about Robb and her fathers (false) disavowal of him: The wolves took us in and nourished us and protected us against our enemies! And we swore that we would always be their men, Stark men!” -(Davos, ADWD)

I can't help but wonder if that is not a bit of a romanticization on the part of the current northerners, though. It's one thing to believe that life in the North has always been plentiful and they've always been cared for, but it's another for it to be a reality. The Liddel's speech about how a maid could walk naked and go unmolested strikes me as "fairy tale." Why? Because we've seen time and time again from GRRM that when it comes to the horrors of life, it doesn't matter who you are, where you live, or to whom you swear allegiance: men are men and they are driven by nobility, honor, money, power, greed, family, legends, sex, and every other negative and positive attribute.

The idea that "there must be a Stark in Winterfell" sound like propaganda, one the Starks now buy into without actually know what it means or entails. Think about all of Westteros history from an outside objective perspective. Surely there were times when people starved or went hungry or were cold and miserable. We've had tales from Old Nan about men who go out "hunting" during the Long Night---when there was surely a Stark in Winterfell, if we follow the idea that the LH was BtB. It is largely mythologized, but so is the idea that A Stark in Winterfell means that all is right with the world. And to take this a step further, there are *always* Starks in Wintefell. Even when there is no living Stark in Winterfell--the dead lay below in the crypts and the family talks about them as if they are still watching over the castle and people.

I'm not saying I disagree with your assessment but I think it's the Northerns buying into certain propaganda that has been around a *very* long time unto the point where it's become cultural staple.

He is wounded or maimed and as a result is infertile, and is sustained only by the power of the Grail. In turn, the land becomes infertile and barren as well, and the only food to be had is fish, hence the name

Just a brief little note in my head: but it's interesting that it's a man. Often times in myths, the land is tied to a woman--Mother Earth, if you will. In Greek myth, the seasons and infertility of the land is likened to Demeter's pain at having to be without her daughter for half the year as Persephone goes down to Hades to be with her new lord (who abducted her cause...that's what Greek gods do...bastards)

Anyway, it just stood out to me. In this case we have a man/king who is physically wounded, not emotionally. In other myths, when it's a woman, it's her emotional distress that cause infertility and "death." And according to that meta you posted, it's the loss of the male virility--being unable to perform. With the woman it's the loss of proof that she has "done her duty" since a woman's key role was to produce children. It all ties back to sex, as it should given that we're dealing with fertile and infertile lands, but it's gendered.

Bran’s story is also very similar to the Welsh incarnation of the Fisher King: Bran the Blessed, who fought an army of undead warriors (wights) who were continuously revived by a magic cauldron (The Heart of Winter). His half-brother, (Jon Snow) hides among the dead after a battle in order to be thrown into the cauldron (Jon mind you, might very well be warging Ghost, whose name was the last word he spoke, and the Night Watch might very well be in a state of collapse right now, if not the Wall itself) and is able to destroy it, but dies in the process. He has a name that is very similar to one of the Fisher King’s other titles, the Wounded King. The narrative calls him and he calls himself, again and again, “broken:”

Fascinating!

My only thing is that I'm hesitant to read Bran the Blessed as a line for line set up of our Bran. They mirror each other quite a bit, as you point out but the name is different and I think that changes the journey. Bran the Blessed is wounded, but yet blessed. Our Bran sees his disability as a curse and wishes to be rid of it, spending ever increasing amounts of time in another skin because his broken body is a nightmare for him.

Bran’s suffering because of his maiming just as Winterfell itself is “broken” establishes an sympathetic link between king and kingdom.

Oooh. See..hm. I agree and I disagree. I think it's easy to say that Bran's crippling led to the mess that is Westeros and ultimately the WF's downfall but I think that removes the choices and actions of others--from Littlefinger to Varys to Ned to Cersei to Cat. Even if Bran hadn't been broken war would have come, Robb would have ridden south (though not as the King in the North) and he may have still sent Theon out to speak with Lord Greyjoy which resulted in the Kraken's taking WF.

It's not causal because if one person did something did something different--had Robb not sent Theon but Bran was still broken--it wouldn't have played out the same. So while I agree that the parallel is striking, I hesitate to call it a sympathetic link, which has the connotation (and maybe I'm just misunderstanding you?) of whatever happens to one, happens to the other, voodoo doll style.

The entire purpose of House Stark’s motto is expressed in “Winter is Coming”. It is not a boast, it is commonly observed, but it is something more as well. It is a justification for their right to rule. By absorbing the magic in the blood of the Warg King and the Marsh King, the Kings of Winter were acting on that compact.

Interesting. I tend to agree that the Starks of old did something to their blood--I call it ice magic for wont of a better phrase--that linked them to whatever magic runs throughout the northern lands and the Others. Just like the Targaryens did something with fire magic to link them to dragons.

Only by becoming something not completely human at all, to have godly and immortal things, such as the weirwood, fused into your being, and hence to become more or less than completely human, depending on your perspective.

And is that a good thing or a bad thing? I agree that Bran is about to become something clearly other (ooh, careful wording from BQ) but what happens when one becomes a god, or at least godlike. Bloodraven was ruthless and determined in real life--taking whatever paths necessary to achieve the goals he thought were necessary, and then he attached himself to a tree and seems to have only intensified in this. Becoming a sort of divine entity might be the monarchy that GRRM gives credence but what does it to your humanity? If you view yourself as a god, an immortal with control over past, present, future, life and death, what is there to stop you? Should any human really have those abilities? Look at the humans who lives and operate in Westeros now....would we want Gregor Clegane to be someone with godly powers. And yes Bran is not Gregor Clegane but as he gets ever closer to the goal of godhood, he loses his humanity. And I'm not sure GRRM thinks that's a good thing.

Though he will be reunited with his siblings, Arya, Sansa, Rickon, even Jon, and his life with them will be happy, Bran will outlive them too, and their children. He will outlive Nymeria and Shaggydog and Ghost, and even Summer. Bloodraven tells him:

Not to sure about all that. I don't know if Bran will ever see all his siblings again. Jon, yes. Though is it seeing with his eyes, or seeing in the trees and will it be a happy reunion? Will Bran be happy? I'm not convinced he will be. His desires keep getting greater and more pronounced. He wants to fly and not be crippled, but he'll never not be crippled. He hates being stationary, and his ideal life is being stuck to a tree? Seems highly contradictory. He will keep losing more and more of himself as he spends more and more time flying or in Hodor or in a wolf or in any other creature that is around. The freedom of being in another skin will never be enough because in the end, he has to return to his position which is crippled, broken, and unmovable. And what happens when our reality smacks us in the face and it's not the reality we want? We retreat to a more wonderful fantasy. We try harder and for longer to reach some form of happiness, but ultimately fail because reality has a way of biting us. And then the cycle repeats. I have to wonder if part of Bran's story and to a greater extent ASOIAF itself is about breaking the cycle, that wheel that forever spins.

Whatever Faustian Bargain the Builder made for the Children’s aid, it’s clear that he didn’t just offer himself: he offered up his heirs.

Marriage! But yes, I agree. BtB married...something...and had children and that blood of Stark and...something...continues in the Starks to this day.

Understanding that the Builder as the Fisher King resolves many contradictions in his story, namely the idea that a man went to a race of beings who made their homes from wood and leaf to learn how to a build a stone castle. There was a purpose much beyond learning; he went to propose a union: human civilization and primordial forest, to create a monolith that is both castle and tree, ruled by a man that is both king and shaman, as it was meant to be. And as it will be, by the only king in Westeros that GRRM and his story values and honors:

Brandon Stark, the heir to Winterfell, son of Lord Eddard and Lady Catelyn.

Once again a really fascinating read and you've given me something to think about. The idea of balance seems to be critical, where neither ice nor fire reign but rather a concordance of the perhaps best seen in nature (death and life, fertile and infertile, preservation and creation anew).

Just a quick question: how do you see Bran getting to the heart tree in WF? He's so far north right now and I do think that Jojen, Meera, Hodor and Summer are all doomed before they ever get to leave the cave.

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I can't help but wonder if that is not a bit of a romanticization on the part of the current northerners, though. It's one thing to believe that life in the North has always been plentiful and they've always been cared for, but it's another for it to be a reality. The Liddel's speech about how a maid could walk naked and go unmolested strikes me as "fairy tale." Why? Because we've seen time and time again from GRRM that when it comes to the horrors of life, it doesn't matter who you are, where you live, or to whom you swear allegiance: men are men and they are driven by nobility, honor, money, power, greed, family, legends, sex, and every other negative and positive attribute.

The idea that "there must be a Stark in Winterfell" sound like propaganda, one the Starks now buy into without actually know what it means or entails. Think about all of Westteros history from an outside objective perspective. Surely there were times when people starved or went hungry or were cold and miserable. We've had tales from Old Nan about men who go out "hunting" during the Long Night---when there was surely a Stark in Winterfell, if we follow the idea that the LH was BtB. It is largely mythologized, but so is the idea that A Stark in Winterfell means that all is right with the world. And to take this a step further, there are *always* Starks in Wintefell. Even when there is no living Stark in Winterfell--the dead lay below in the crypts and the family talks about them as if they are still watching over the castle and people.

I'm not saying I disagree with your assessment but I think it's the Northerns buying into certain propaganda that has been around a *very* long time unto the point where it's become cultural staple.

I believe that GRRM has written in a lot of romanticization here; like you mentioned with the Liddle in the Mountains who appeared practically by magic to assist them, and some of the "magic" is on a narrative level. The Liddle served some very convenient narrative purposes for GRRM, including having the Mountain Clans know of Bran's existence as much as Manderly (Wex "drew two boys...and two wolves") and more later on the significance of that. He's playing with our notions about divine kingship and magic.

Oooh. See..hm. I agree and I disagree. I think it's easy to say that Bran's crippling led to the mess that is Westeros and ultimately the WF's downfall but I think that removes the choices and actions of others--from Littlefinger to Varys to Ned to Cersei to Cat. Even if Bran hadn't been broken war would have come, Robb would have ridden south (though not as the King in the North) and he may have still sent Theon out to speak with Lord Greyjoy which resulted in the Kraken's taking WF.

It's not causal because if one person did something did something different--had Robb not sent Theon but Bran was still broken--it wouldn't have played out the same. So while I agree that the parallel is striking, I hesitate to call it a sympathetic link, which has the connotation (and maybe I'm just misunderstanding you?) of whatever happens to one, happens to the other, voodoo doll style.

It is somewhat Voodoo style, but again GRRM is somewhat eliding the notion of a sympathetic link between king and kingdom: I believe that the Old Gods intended entirely that Bran would fall from that tower, and either foresaw it and allowed it happen, or even somehow "magicked" it into happening, which is completely separate from the other events you mentioned. Causation and coincidence are made one in the narrative as a part of GRRM's deconstruction/reconstruction of our ideas about destiny and magic, which I will talk more about in an essay i will post later.

Just a brief little note in my head: but it's interesting that it's a man. Often times in myths, the land is tied to a woman--Mother Earth, if you will. In Greek myth, the seasons and infertility of the land is likened to Demeter's pain at having to be without her daughter for half the year as Persephone goes down to Hades to be with her new lord (who abducted her cause...that's what Greek gods do...bastards)

Anyway, it just stood out to me. In this case we have a man/king who is physically wounded, not emotionally. In other myths, when it's a woman, it's her emotional distress that cause infertility and "death." And according to that meta you posted, it's the loss of the male virility--being unable to perform. With the woman it's the loss of proof that she has "done her duty" since a woman's key role was to produce children. It all ties back to sex, as it should given that we're dealing with fertile and infertile lands, but it's gendered.

Existing prior to this family of myths is another that is much older which could peak your interest but I don't have detailed info on them at hand: in which it is a male spirit who dies and is continuously reborn to make the Mother Earth spirit fertile again. The male is secondary to the female in terms of creation, and was born after. Adonis is part of this family of myths. I believe that Bran (all "The Starks in Winterfell" that have been greenseers but especially the Builder and now our Bran) are essentially blood sacrifices of the "Adonis" order; given to the very stones of Winterfell and its heart tree to power its magic and reinvigorate House Stark. To be crowned is secondary. "It's gods that make men but it's men that make crowns." The Old Gods required a Stark in Winterfell, but it was humans who called him "king."

And is that a good thing or a bad thing? I agree that Bran is about to become something clearly other (ooh, careful wording from BQ) but what happens when one becomes a god, or at least godlike. Bloodraven was ruthless and determined in real life--taking whatever paths necessary to achieve the goals he thought were necessary, and then he attached himself to a tree and seems to have only intensified in this. Becoming a sort of divine entity might be the monarchy that GRRM gives credence but what does it to your humanity? If you view yourself as a god, an immortal with control over past, present, future, life and death, what is there to stop you? Should any human really have those abilities? Look at the humans who lives and operate in Westeros now....would we want Gregor Clegane to be someone with godly powers. And yes Bran is not Gregor Clegane but as he gets ever closer to the goal of godhood, he loses his humanity. And I'm not sure GRRM thinks that's a good thing.

This will be a part of another essay I will post when we finish the ASOS chapters but no, this is not a good thing for Bran as a person. Arya and Bran's stories show us the suffering and the cruelty inherit in the structure of the Hero's Journey, and that is a criticism of the reader's expectations about wish-fulfillment and living vicariously through these stories. This in turn acts as an indictment of kingship entirely: the only good kings are the kings that endure deprivation and to some extent dehumanization for the sake of their subjects. Because this is magic kingship, it's also the kind that cannot exist in our world.

I believe reunion will make Bran happy, but that will be because he will simply be attaining what he had at the beginning anyways, and what the story took from him and his siblings. The Hero's Journey we wanted to read, in other words, is what has caused his suffering.

Just a quick question: how do you see Bran getting to the heart tree in WF? He's so far north right now and I do think that Jojen, Meera, Hodor and Summer are all doomed before they ever get to leave the cave.

I'm glad that you asked! I will post my theory with a link immediately after this post. Give the importance of Summer's name (and how important the direwolves are to the Starks and their futures) I am certain that Summer will live. Jojen I will believe will almost certainly die in the Cave given his general health at that moment, but with Meera and Hodor I can scarcely begin to guess if/when they will die.

Because Bran has so many ties to Winterfell, and because of his parallels with his sisters (acting as a narrative triad that mirros Jon-Tyrion-Dany) I am absolutely confident he is meant to return.

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Bran, Gorne's Way, and the "Ice Eyes"

When Bran arrives in the Cave he is told by Leaf not explore the tunnels beneath:

"Men should not go wandering in this place," Leaf warned them. "The river you hear is swift and black, and flows down and down to a sunless sea. And there are passages that go even deeper, bottomless pits and sudden shafts, forgotten ways that lead to the very center of the earth. Even my people have not explored them all, and we have lived here for a thousand thousand of your man-years."

Reading this, one can’t help but think of the caves of Gendel and Gorne, a story related to us in the very same book that Bran passes through the Wall, told by Ygritte to Jon:

"There are hundreds o’ caves in these hills and down deep they all connect. There’s even a way under your Wall. Gorne’s Way.”

"Gorne," said Jon, "Gorne was King-beyond-the-Wall."

"Aye," said, Ygritte, “Together with his brother Gendel, three thousand years ago. They led o’ host of free folk through the caves…”

"Gendel did not die. He cut his way free, through the crows and led his people back north with the wolves howling at their heels. Only Gendel not know the Caves, as Gorne had, and took a wrong turn….Deeper and deeper he went, and when he tried t’ turn back the ways that seemed familiar ended in stone rather than sky…Gendel’s folk were never seen again."

This reinforced in the world by the statement that in fact, the Nights Watch never joined the battle. They were late, and ordered to bury the dead by the King in the North.

It is very likely that the cave Bran is currently living in is a part of this system, and that in turn, it connects to Gorne’s Way. GRRM has told us this story for a reason, and that reason is interwoven toto Bran’s character arc and status as an heir to the Builder.

TWOIAF also lends credence to the connection:

It brings to mind a transcription of a wildling song in Maester Herryk’s History of the Kings-Beyond-the-Wall, regarding the brothers Gendel and Gorne. They were called upon to mediate a dispute between a clan of children and a family of giants over the possession of a cavern. Gendel and Gorne, it is said, ultimately resolved the matter through trickery, making both sides disavow any desire for the cavern, after the brothers discovered it was a part of a greater chain of caverns that eventually passed beneath the Wall.

Also, consider the Leaf’s statement that even she does not know where they call go: That is a very suspicious one. In fact, but it can also be read as a deliberate attempt to keep Bran, for the time being, from possibly stumbling upon Gorne’s Way. They have lived there for a “thousand thousand of your man-years”: if anyone knows where Gorne’s Way is, the Singers do.

Why try to keep Bran from exploring the tunnels and possibly getting lost or finding Gorne’s way in the skin of a raven? Because he wants to go home, desperately. When he is told warg the tree above him by Brynden, he instead reaches out for Winterfell’s heart tree:

"Your heart yearns for your father and your home, so that is what you saw.

-when If he is to learn greenseeing, that obviously can’t occur for the time being. But I believe that GRRM has created a means for Bran and whoever of his companions are still alive to travel back to Winterfell in TWOW

There is also possible foreshadowing in ADWD:

When old King Edrick Stark had grown too feeble to defend his realm, the Wolf’s Den was captured by slavers from the Stepstones.

Then a long cruel winter fell,” said Ser Bartimus. “The White Knife froze hard, and even the firth was icing up. The winds came howling from the north and drove them slavers inside to huddle round their fires, and whilst they warmed themselves the new king come down on them. Brandon Stark this was, Edrick Snowbeard’s great-grandson, him that men called Ice Eyes. He took the Wolf’s Den back, stripped the slavers naked, and gave them to the slaves he’d found chained up in the dungeons.”

Jon Snow notes that blizzard falling on Stannis’s army comes from the south, from Winterfell itself, and wind from Winterfell coming down the Wolf's Den would have come from the north (this fits with the theory that the Old Gods have power over the wind, speaking through the wind and using the "Hammer of the Waters"). Our Bran’s eyes are deep blue, and eyes of that color are in the narrative described as being like ice.

Another important aspect of this is that the castle is taken back from foreigners to the North, and nonbelievers, which in our Bran's case would be the followers of R'hllor who are among the army. Also significant is that the castle was lost because of his predecessor's weakness. If GRRM wanted to confirm blood sacrifice to the Old Gods, Bran's weirwood visions could have sufficed, or he could have just have had Ser Bartimus allude to it in another manner. Instead, GRRM chose to specifically describe a historical event in which Old Gods sent down a savior-king named Brandon from the north during a harsh winter and take as compensation grisly sacrifice. That cannot be accidental.

Given that Bran is increasingly in the thrall of the Old Gods and their designs on him (as described in my essay above but also here), I believe that Bran, by the time he uses Gorne's way to return to Winterfell, could be capable of ordering or allowing such an atrocity to occur. Since Winterfell was built to withstand such a siege, and food will be scarce, and it will be up to he and Arya to fight the Wights with the ravens and wolves that they have power over because of the lack of enough fire or arrows, who would want the extra mouths to feed?

I think it generally fits in with Bran's role as the destined Rebuilder.

“Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said.”

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Forgive the hit and run type of response. Busy day. I'll do my best to respond to this and try to get to your other essay a wee bit later.







It is somewhat Voodoo style, but again GRRM is somewhat eliding the notion of a sympathetic link between king and kingdom: I believe that the Old Gods intended entirely that Bran would fall from that tower, and either foresaw it and allowed it happen, or even somehow "magicked" it into happening, which is completely separate from the other events you mentioned. Causation and coincidence are made one in the narrative as a part of GRRM's deconstruction/reconstruction of our ideas about destiny and magic, which I will talk more about in an essay i will post later.






I can see the Old Gods allowing it to happen by inaction. That makes sense given that BR and, by your theory, BtB has probably been watching WF/The Starks for awhile now, monitoring. I rather draw the line though at the idea of magicking it because it sounds like you're suggesting the mildly popular notion I've seen that BR warged Jaime. That one doesn't sit right with me because it absolves Jaime of his actions and renders much of redemption arc as null. But like I said, I can buy that the Old Gods simply sat back and let it all happen for the sake of their own desires.





This will be a part of another essay I will post when we finish the ASOS chapters but no, this is not a good thing for Bran as a person. Arya and Bran's stories show us the suffering and the cruelty inherit in the structure of the Hero's Journey, and that is a criticism of the reader's expectations about wish-fulfillment and living vicariously through these stories. This in turn acts as an indictment of kingship entirely: the only good kings are the kings that endure deprivation and to some extent dehumanization for the sake of their subjects. Because this is magic kingship, it's also the kind that cannot exist in our world.



I believe reunion will make Bran happy, but that will be because he will simply be attaining what he had at the beginning anyways, and what the story took from him and his siblings. The Hero's Journey we wanted to read, in other words, is what has caused his suffering.




Ok, yes, we seem to be on the same page here.



Still not 100% convinced that there will be an actual reunion--body to body--though.





I'm glad that you asked! I will post my theory with a link immediately after this post. Give the importance of Summer's name (and how important the direwolves are to the Starks and their futures) I am certain that Summer will live. Jojen I will believe will almost certainly die in the Cave given his general health at that moment, but with Meera and Hodor I can scarcely begin to guess if/when they will die.




I don't know how Meera and Hodor will die but if our Bran is playing out the LH/BtB story again, then he has to lose his companions and his dog which is why I think Summer might die. But it also goes back to something I wrote about in my AGOT Bran II essay which is that Bran is likened to Icarus--the boy who would embrace the sun...and he died for it. Now, on the one hand, Jaime is the "sun" (a golden haired man as bright as the sun itself) but our first real indication of Summer, the wolf, is warmth and heat as he sits on Bran's bed after he wakens from his coma. I think the notion that Bran (Icarus) cannot embrace the sun is carried through here. Right now, Bran-The-Boy can hold on to his direworlf/sun but once he really starts to take flight (learn to be a Greenseer) I think that might change and Icarus again will learn that he cannot embrace the sun.



Losing Summer--and Jojen, Meera, and Hodor and eventually BR (cause Fenrir has got to "eat up" his Odin)--is a further aspect of the dehumanization process we're bouncing around right now. Keeping Summer would keep Bran tied to his human "before" reality since Summer is the last vestige of his life pre-fall (since his siblings are, at the moment, very far from him and both his parents are dead(ish))

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I don't know how Meera and Hodor will die but if our Bran is playing out the LH/BtB story again, then he has to lose his companions and his dog which is why I think Summer might die. But it also goes back to something I wrote about in my AGOT Bran II essay which is that Bran is likened to Icarus--the boy who would embrace the sun...and he died for it. Now, on the one hand, Jaime is the "sun" (a golden haired man as bright as the sun itself) but our first real indication of Summer, the wolf, is warmth and heat as he sits on Bran's bed after he wakens from his coma. I think the notion that Bran (Icarus) cannot embrace the sun is carried through here. Right now, Bran-The-Boy can hold on to his direworlf/sun but once he really starts to take flight (learn to be a Greenseer) I think that might change and Icarus again will learn that he cannot embrace the sun.

I'm intrigued by that comparison.

To be completely honest, while I have a great deal of confidence about Bran's return and Summer's survival, I also don't have quite so much that I don't consider it impossible that Summer could in fact die in the process of Bran going through Gorne's Way or in the fight around around Winterfell, but I believe that if Summer were to die, Bran would have to make a conscious choice i.e. it couldn't happen through starvation. It would be a moment of immense significance and way of letting go (although you and I fundamentally disagree that the purpose of Bran's journey is let go of his pre-fall life; I affirm through my analysis that his journey has always been centered on Winterfell and that is where his destiny lies)

Ultimately, my mind will only be settled when I see it on page in TWOW (though I fell as though the big Stark returns will all happen somewhere toward the end of TWOW)

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Just informed I have a few extra mins so here goes....

Nicely done, once again. I don't have much in the way of a followup except to say that I thought this idea of a connective cave system might be where you were heading, hence my question last night. I must say...I agree with it. I think the Cave might actually go all the to WF and as a piece of evidence, consider how Luwin once described WF to Bran in AGOT Bran II:

The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree, Maester Luwin told him once, and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep into the earth.”

If that last bit doesn't scream BR's cave I don't know what does. So yes, I agree that there is some sort of linked passageway.

(now what that means vis a vis the relationship of The Starks, The Others, the COTF, and Winter I think might be one of the central revelations in the story)

I'm intrigued by that comparison.

To be completely honest, while I have a great deal of confidence about Bran's return and Summer's survival, I also don't have quite so much that I don't consider it impossible that Summer could in fact die in the process of Bran going through the Caves or in the fight around around Winterfell, but I believe that if Summer were to die, Bran would have to make a conscious choice i.e. it couldn't happen through starvation.

Ultimately, my mind will only be settled when I see it on page in TWOW (though I fell as though the big Stark returns will all happen somewhere toward the end of TWOW)

One wonders what would happen if an incredibly powerful Greenseer (a STARK Greenseer at that) offered up his closest familiar in sacrifice before a heart tree. What kind of godly powers (to go back to what we said last night) would *that* bestow upon him?

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(now what that means vis a vis the relationship of The Starks, The Others, the COTF, and Winter I think might be one of the central revelations in the story)

There is a theory that the Others are in fact First Men Skinchangers who succeeded where Varamyr failed (and that in turn makes me wonder what exactly the Singers have in mind concerning Bran skinchanging Hodor. A greenseener has seen Bran while in Hodor's skin, and wargs can sense each others presence, as Bran did while Varamyr was in One Eye, so they do know. So why stay silent?)

One wonders what would happen if an incredibly powerful Greenseer (a STARK Greenseer at that) offered up his closest familiar in sacrifice before a heart tree. What kind of godly powers (to go back to what we said last night) would *that* bestow upon him?

*Shudders* Could Summer's death in the struggle to retake/defend Winterfell possibly be a means by which blood is given to the heart tree and "The Summer" returned?

This has been a fantastic re-read discussion you've been running BearQueen.

Largely for kicks, I want to add more piece to the connection the Gorne's Way, and that is Jon's warging dream in ACOK:

A weirwood.

It seemed to sprout from solid rock, its pale roots twisting up from a myriad of fissures and hairline cracks. The tree was slender compared to other weirwoods he had seen, no more than a sapling, yet it was growing as he watched, its limbs thickening as they reached for the sky. Wary, he circled the smooth white trunk until he came to the face. Red eyes looked at him. Fierce eyes they were, yet glad to see him. The weirwood had his brother’s face. Had his brother always had three eyes?

Not always, came the silent shout. Not before the crow.

He sniffed at the bark, smelled wolf and tree and boy, but behind that there were other scents, the rich brown smell of warm earth and the hard grey smell of stone and something else, something terrible. Death, he knew. He was smelling death. He cringed back, his hair bristling, and bared his fangs.

Don’t be afraid, I like it in the dark. No one can see you, but you can see them. But first you have to open your eyes. See? Like this. And the tree reached down and touched him.

We can confirm with a good deal of confidence that this is Bran. More importantly, it's Bran speaking through time. He did not have these abilities in ACOK, or even in his ADWD chapters. He was just able to send a breeze to his father when he spoke through the heart tree.

This is meant to come from further in the future, either very late in ADWD, or the TWOW or ADOS.

The real question is of course is from when this vision comes from, but where.

Admitting that my following speculation is just that, speculation and somewhat thin, i have a hypothesis: from under the heart tree and within the crypts, and possibly connected to that supposedly bottomless black pool near it.

In most respects, the "place" that Ghost/Jon smells matches the Cave of the CotF: warm brown earth, tree, boy, wolf. It is different in one key respect: "hard grey stone." The word "grey" appears in his ADWD chapters only once: to describe moss. The Cave is a "world of black soil and white wood." The air is black, the caverns are black, Brynden and his bones and his hair and the trees are white. When it's life vs. death, moral ambiguities are ignored and forgotten. Nothing about it is grey, not even the rock and stone.

The stones of Winterfell, even those in the crypts are always described as grey (possibly to represent the morally grey choices that built it and maintain it through the centuries).

Bran also makes this very significant statement in ACOK about the crypts of Winterfell:

Their faces were stern and strong, and some of them had done terrible things, but they were Starks every one, and Bran knew all their tales. He had never feared the crypts; they were part of his home and who he was, and he had always known that one day he would lie here too.

Bran's character among other things, is strongly imprinted with the aspects of "grey" and "strong", which connect him to both Winterfell, the crypts, and the direwolf. Summer has a color of fur very close to the color the stones.

"The grey is strong, stronger than he knows."-Jojen, ACOK

"You were in the godswood, all in grey."-Jojen, ACOK

"The stone is strong. Bran told himself, the roots of the trees go deep, and under the ground the Kings of Winter sit their thrones. So long as those remained, Winterfell remained. It was not dead, just broken. Like me, he thought, I'm not dead either."-Bran ACOK

"He was strong an swift and fierce."-Bran, ASOS, while in Summer's skin

"Darkness will make you strong."-Bloodraven, ADWD

Moreover, Bran sounds...oddly...happy as he speaks to Jon. Maybe he's just excited about speaking to a sibling, but the Bran we know in the Cave is not in a happy place at that moment. And, he calls Brynden "The Crow." In his thoughts in ADWD he never calls him that once he begins his training. He calls him "Lord Brynden." So Bran seems to have deliberately avoided using the name of a former LC of the Night's Watch to his brother, a black brother. Bran also seems to have deduced that Brynden was in the Watch:

“Once, aye. Black of garb and black of blood.” The clothes he wore were rotten and faded, spotted with moss and eaten through with worms, but once they had been black.

We are told Winterfell was built with the help of giants, but TWOIAF says that the Starks drove the giants from the North. I have another hypothesis: the giants where weirwood trees. Weirwoods and especially the heart tree of Winterfell are called sometimes referred to as "giants" or compared to giants:

The heart tree at Winterfell had roots as thick around as giant's legs, but these were even thicker. (5.13, BRAN)

...the heart tree stood before him, a pale giant with a carved face and leaves like bloody hands... (5.41, THE TURNCLOAK)
and at the center the heart tree standing like some pale giant frozen in time....That wood was Winterfell. (2.49, TYRION)

(quotes gathered by this meta writer)

Considering that the weirwoods act as storehouses of memory, the fact that Winterfell is described like you and others have pointed out has "grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree",(mirrored in the gradual growth of the Stark's domain) the fact that dead weirwood are said to be literally like stone, and that the ground underneath Winterfell is uneven, I think that weirwoods both provided magic, knowledge and perhaps even part of a foundation to Winterfell, and it is from beneath Winterfell that Bran speaks to Jon/Ghost (Perhaps being home explains the strange happiness in his voice)

You mentioned BearQueen an idea that I find extremely relevant here (and that I really like) is that Bran's journey is much like a Katabais: a journey into the underwold.

I'll take this a little farther and make an admittedly strange comparison the wolves' fur colors. The older the Stark sibling, the more connected to westerosi thoughts about honor they are, and the lighter the fur color of their direwolf. The direwolves of the older siblings are now dead or possibly heading towards death (what Ghost's name ultimately means is fun to think about) , and in turn we are witnessing a general collapse of sophisticated human civilization. The wolves with the darkest colors are the ones whose destinies are most intertwined with House Stark's future: Summer has a silver grey fur much like Winterfell's stone, Nymeria has a smokey grey fur, and Shaggydog's is deep black. The darker the fur, the more affected the warg's personality and story is with sadness, anger and despair. Jojen describes Rickon and his direwolf very famously as being "full of fear and rage." While Arya and Bran's status as wargs are tempered with training, an older age at which they required their direwolf, or separation, Rickon has likely has given himself completely over to the wolf.

Thus, the death and rebirth of House Stark that we are witnessing is "the chopping of the tree and the regrowing from the roots." We can imagine that the younger children are closer "to the roots" of House Stark and its primordial magic. With the older siblings' death or disconnection from their direwolves, Arya and Bran in particular are returning their family "to its roots", to a way of life that is much more savage and primordial. Rickon in turn, might very well be from where the future Kings of Winter will descend (I cannot guess with any certainty what GRRM has in mind concerning Bran and children, but I think there is a reason that it is to wolf, tree, and stone that he is wed, not a human woman, and grafted creatures are usually by definition infertile in this respect).

And as Winterfell, that "monstrous stone tree" is regrown, so isn't House Stark and its ruler Brandon, reborn again in the New Age of Heroes after having been broken.

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That was a really dumb question. What I meant to ask was this, do we have confirmation the Wildlings also call it the Ice Dragon, other than what Bran tells us? I know Jon mentions/thinks about it a few times in Dance. I haven't read the rest of the posts yet so someone might have already answered. Let me get to it.

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That was a really dumb question. What I meant to ask was this, do we have confirmation the Wildlings also call it the Ice Dragon, other than what Bran tells us? I know Jon mentions/thinks about it a few times in Dance. I haven't read the rest of the posts yet so someone might have already answered. Let me get to it.

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I will go through the new posts later in depth, but I wanted to pick up BearQueen's point: Some more time until the chapter 3 analysis would be nice. I can use it and we have so many essays at the moment that we should need some time anyways to pick up on them.

This sounds great. I'm behind as well and although I'm all caught up with the reading I'm not caught up with the essays. I'm moving the re-read schedule by two weeks, should give us time to discuss everything.

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This sounds great. I'm behind as well and although I'm all caught up with the reading I'm not caught up with the essays. I'm moving the re-read schedule by two weeks, should give us time to discuss everything.

BLESS YOU

ScaredOrderOfGreenMen: I'll get back to you soon!

That was a really dumb question. What I meant to ask was this, do we have confirmation the Wildlings also call it the Ice Dragon, other than what Bran tells us? I know Jon mentions/thinks about it a few times in Dance. I haven't read the rest of the posts yet so someone might have already answered. Let me get to it.

Official confirmation, no. But Ygirtte and him do have that conversation where she named the stars and Jon thinks about it afterwards in Dance I think in relation to her? (maybe)

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