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The Puppets of Ice and Fire

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The Puppets of Ice and Fire

You're not too tall, Dunk blurted out. Youre just right for. . . He realized what he had been about to say, and blushed furiously.
For? said Tanselle, cocking her head inquisitively.
Puppets, he finished lamely.

The Hedge Knight

 
The puppet in question is poor lovestruck Dunk. Duncan the Lunk, Dunk the Tall, thick as a castle wall, a simple man about whom great events revolve. It's not Dunk's doing that rebellions flourish and sputter, or that princes die or become kings wherever he goes. He does not make these things happen, though he's the conduit for them happening. He dances as destiny tugs his puppet strings this way and that. He is Fate's Fool.

The Dunk & Egg stories act as a kind of microcosm of the world of fire and ice; vignettes that inform and give background. They are a way GRRM can explore the world he created in parallel, mirroring but not interfering with his overarching novel plot. If Dunk is a puppet, are all the players of the Song as well? It's a mummer's show, GRRM is so very fond of telling us. Maybe he's telling us more than we think.

What follows is not so much a theory as it is an observation. There is a pattern of events that can be found repeated in ASOIAF, and whatever it means, it seems to be connected to the core mysteries of the series. I suspect it is the core mystery of the series. These echoes may be a purely literary device, a use of paralleling to bring together shared ideas. It may be something rather more. A ritual that people stumble upon, more or less accidentally, more or less knowingly. Or it may be one of these events created magical ripples in the river of time, making the event replay as echoes before and after. Or perhaps it's a story desperate to be told, leaking out into the narratives of many characters and shaping their stories to its own. Perhaps it's a mixture of these. Each time we see these events echoed, some of the details are shared, and some changed. It's as if the story is struggling to be completed, the ritual never quite being fulfilled. Amidst the personal struggles of the characters we read about is a greater struggle they are fighting unaware, a fate that tugs their puppet strings and makes them dance to the song of ice and fire.
 

It all seemed so familiar, like mummer show that he had seen before. Only the mummers had changed.

ADwD, A Ghost in Winterfell

 
It all starts with the Tower of Joy. The language Martin uses in Eddard's dream is unlike almost anything else in the books. It's a dream, sure, but there's more to it than that. The language is richly poetic in a way Martin rarely employs, and the dialogue is highly unnatural and ritualistic. Everything about the way that it's written screams out that it's highly important. The Tower of Joy scene is presented to us as a mystery, and seems to have a connection to the central underlying theme of fire and ice. People have spent a lot of time trying to analyse this vitally central Tower of Joy scene, but generally miss an important point: the events at the Tower of Joy are not unique.

Throughout the text are a number of echoes of the ToJ, scenes that at first sight do not seem related, but share a sometimes very clear connection. When we start to look any pattern, it's inevitable that we will find them everywhere. Finding patterns and parallels is the brain's favourite trick. For that reason I urge caution with what you're about to read, but I think you'll agree that at least most of this is real, because it just fits a little too well not to be. I'm not the first person to have picked up on at least some of these echoes. Plenty of people have looked at the ideas discussed here before. Not everything is by any means new, but if anyone has brought all this together before, I haven't seen it. It's worth doing, because it helps to give context to a lot of disparate ideas and theories, and may explain a number of puzzling events in the books.

The first of these echoes happens right after Ned Stark's dream, and is easy to catch because Ned himself notices that it's an echo.

The Big Four

Maegor's Holdfast
 

The royal apartments were in Maegor's Holdfast, a massive square fortress that nestled in the heart of the Red Keep behind walls twelve feet thick and a dry moat lined with iron spikes, a castle-within-a-castle. Ser Boros Blount guarded the far end of the bridge, white steel armor ghostly in the moonlight. Within, Ned passed two other knights of the Kingsguard; Ser Preston Greenfield stood at the bottom of the steps, and Ser Barristan Selmy waited at the door of the king's bedchamber. Three men in white cloaks, he thought, remembering, and a strange chill went through him.

 
The most important thing about this echo is that GRRM tells us it is there. Ned's chill at seeing the connection himself invites the reader to recognise this echo, and look for more. Shortly after having his dream, Ned walks into a tower guarded by three Kingsguards, to see a dying loved one (Robert is "closer than any brother"). There are more connections than those, when we look more closely.

There are seven named people apart from the three Kingsguard and the dying "sibling": Ned, Cayn, Tomard, Cersei, Pycelle, Varys, and Renly. Seven and three, like the dream. Ned demands to know where the Kingsguard were when the events that lead to this happened ("Where was Ser Barristan and the Kingsguard?" vs. "I wondered where you were") . The room smells of blood. Ned makes a promise. These are all elements shared with the ToJ sequence. GRRM tells us so: Promise me, Ned, Lyanna's voice echoed ".

Are there other shared elements too? We don't know everything that happened at the ToJ, but maybe some of those unknown events are echoed here, too. Robert talks to Ned about his funeral arrangements, as Lyanna did. He also decides to preserve the life of a Targaryen child, a relative of Rhaegar. Roberts last words are "Take care of my children for me." Lyanna's words could well have been quite similar.

2.Cersei's dream

The next echo I'll bring up is the most distant echo, but also the most obvious, because the language Martin uses tells us very clearly that it's an echo.
 

She dreamt an old dream, of three girls in brown cloaks, a wattled crone, and a tent that smelled of death.

 
Cersei's dream, where she recalls her visit to Maggy the Frog, seems to bear little connection to the ToJ, but reproduces a lot of the language of Ned's dream. We have to look a bit closer to see the parallels.

Cersei and her two companions make three; they are no Kingsguards, but they are wearing cloaks. In an odd inversion of the ToJ, the three are the ones trying to get in, rather than the ones guarding. We get "In the dream the pavilions were shadowed, and the knights and serving men they passed were made of mist," obviously reminiscent of Ned's "In the dream they were only shadows, grey wraiths on horses made of mist." There is no tower here, instead they enter a tent. There's someone lying in the bed in that tent, but it's a maegi rather than a dying girl though the tent does smell of death. As at the Tower of Joy, there are four questions asked, and there is blood. We're given a final echo with "But in the dream her face dissolved, melting away into ribbons of grey mist until all that remained were two squinting yellow eyes, the eyes of death," compared to the ToJ dream's "A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death. "

So many of the details are different here that it's a distant, if obvious, echo. It might tell us something more about the original though. Cersei's questions are about the children she believes she will have with Rhaegar. Although she is one of the three, Cersei is a kind of substitute for Lyanna. Lyanna stole both Cersei's kings from her, and that makes Cersei a kind of failed Lyanna. Perhaps then this echo, despite the obviously similar language, is an example of a failure of that ritual, or cycle of events, to unfold.

3.The Battle at the Brothel

Another of these echoes takes place before we even get Ned's dream, making it a particularly hard one to spot (credit goes to Pretty Pig, I believe, for picking up on this one). In A Game of Thrones ch. 35, Ned Stark visits a brothel. While there, Ned makes a promise to a girl that her bastard son would not go wanting, she smiled a smile that "cut the heart out of him", and his mind turned to Lyanna, then to Jon, then to Rhaegar. This is an obvious parallel to Ned's meeting with Lyanna, but the Tower of Joy parallel is far from over after that. After leaving the brothel, Eddard is accosted by Jaime, and the scene is rather familiar.

The connections here take a little more digging, but the first is quite clear-cut. Jaime has come to demand the return of his sibling, who was abducted while travelling near Harrenhal. Ned went to the ToJ to demand the return of his sibling, who was abducted while travelling near Harrenhal. There are other links too. Ned's opponents are cloaked, though in scarlet rather than white. Ned's men are on horses, but the people he fights against are on foot, in life as it was in his dream. There is one Lannister (Jaime) who is not on foot though, as if to draw attention to his horse, which gets mentioned several times. The horse is a "blood bay stallion" or in other words a red stallion, like Lord Dustin's "great red stallion", similarly the only horse described in the ToJ dream.

We have "Ned's men had drawn their swords, but they were three against twenty" here, like "Ned's wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three. " If you have any doubt about the discrepancy in numbers, ask yourself why GRRM chose to have Ned see the fight in terms of twenty against three when there are actually four men there Ned forgot to count himself. We have "phantoms in red cloaks," familiar from the shadow / mist / wraiths imagery we say in the ToJ and Cersei's dream. Ned is accompanied by Jory Cassel here, as he was accompanied by Jory's father at the tower. Eight men died in the fight, as at the Tower of Joy.

4.The Tent of Joy, the Dancers of Ice and Fire

How do you have a Kingsguard if you're not a king? If you're a khal, you have bloodriders instead and Drogo had three. Cohollo, Qotho and Haggo meet their end fighting outside a tent; inside there is someone dying of a fever. The parallels here are many, the events clearly magical in nature. In chapter 64 of AGoT we may be seeing the original event that echoed backwards and forwards in time, or the closest fulfilment yet of the ritual that fate demands will be performed, or a dark negative of the ToJ.

The three bloodriders are dark reflections of the three Kingsguards at the ToJ. Cohollo, we are reminded, is an old man. Like "old Ser Gerold Hightower", we have "old Cohollo". Qotho is a fearsome arakhman, as Dayne was a fearsome swordsman: "Qotho danced backward, arakh whirling around his head in a shining blur, flickering out like lightning as the knight came on in a rush. Ser Jorah parried as best he could, but the slashes came so fast that it seemed to Dany that Qotho had four arakhs and as many arms. " Dayne "had a sad smile on his lips", while "Qotho's lips skinned back from his crooked brown teeth in a terrible mockery of a smile." The fight at the ToJ starts when Dayne draws his sword, the fight at the tent when Qotho draws his arakh. Dayne's sword is "alive with light", Qotho's arakh "a shining blur, flickering out like lightning".

Facing the three are seven: Jhogo, Aggo, Jorah, Rakharo, Dany, Quaro and Mirri Maz Duur. Only six deaths took place at the tent: Rhaego, Cohollo, Qotho, Quaro, Haggo and Drogo's horse, but there were two more temporarily suspended deaths, Mirri Maz Duur and Drogo, to make up the eight:
 

Tell me again what you saved."
"Your life."
Mirri Maz Duur laughed cruelly. "Look to your khal and see what life is worth, when all the rest is gone."

 
Dany refuses Jorah's suggestion of fleeing to Asshai, as the three Kingsguard do not flee.
Lord Dustin had a "great red stallion" at the Tower of Joy. Drogo's "great red stallion" is sacrificed at the tent.

At the tower of Joy, "Ned had pulled the tower down afterward, and used its bloody stones to build eight cairns upon the ridge." Drogo's "blood-spattered sandsilk" tent plays a similar role. On his funeral pyre, Dany burns Drogo's treasures -- and the first item mentioned is his tent.

At the ToJ there was a "blood-streaked sky", at the tent there was "the sky a bruised red."

"Inside the tent, the shadows whirled" is echoed in the shadow-imagery we saw at the ToJ, in Cersei's dream, and the battle at the brothel.

One of the most puzzling and puzzled-over details in the tent scene is "Inside the tent the shapes were dancing, circling the brazier and the bloody bath, dark against the sandsilk, and some did not look human. She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames." Dany's next chapter opens with her own fever dream. In the dream, Drogo vanishes with the stars, Jorah fades away, Viserys burns, Dany burns, Rhaego burns and Rhaegar burns. The man wreathed in flame is a Targaryen, the wolf is obviously a Stark. It's no stretch to say that at the Tower of Joy, a great wolf and a man of fire danced too, then.
 

...continues in next post

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Dunk had the strangest feeling then, as if he had lived this all before.

The Mystery Knight

 

Echo Echo Echo Echo Echo


There are more echoes. How many? I don't know. Sometimes the echoes seem quite clear, some are much fainter. Some of these may be relevant, some may be simply resonances, the great event filtering through and leaving its imprint on smaller events. Some of these echoes may be a product of the pattern-recognition in my mind now I'm so primed to look for them. I'm not convinced of all of them. I'd be very surprised if none of them are intended, though. There are almost certainly echoes I haven't noticed yet, too. Before you start digging for them, I'll cover a few more of the ones I've seen.

The Hedge Knight
In The Hedge Knight, we have another blood bay, ridden by Aerion. There are three Kingsguards, with their white cloaks, and more phantom imagery: "At the north end of the meadow, a column of knights came trotting out of the river mist. The three Kingsguard came first, like ghosts in their gleaming white enamel armor, long white cloaks trailing behind them."

Dunc sees a falling star and makes it part of his sigil, reminscent of Arthur Dayne's falling star sigil, and we get an interesting description of his shield: "The falling star was a bright slash of paint across the oaken sky", similar to "A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky”.

The three (though they are not alone) fight against seven, and the cause of the fight is a knight who will not forsake his vows, whatever the cost. The number three comes up again in the death toll of the 7 vs 7 trial. It's quite a stretch I admit, but maybe we can read something into the fact that all the men fighting alongside the three Kingsguard are from the same families as members of Team Dunk, so at least in terms of unique houses it could be seen as seven against three.

At the end, Dunk's squire Egg is revealed as a secret dragon, and Duncan talks about going to the red mountains of Dorne.

The Sworn Sword
I've only scanned through the Sworn Sword, but I've seen a few familiar elements there, too. There's a tower, partially ruined long ago. There's a lady who's unusually martial. There's a showdown where three face against thirty-three, but there are seven knights amongst the thirty-three. A standard GRRM trick, he doesn't show us this number directly – “More knights came after, half a dozen of them” but we had one knight already. Dunk has a dream about digging graves near the red mountains of Dorne, and although the number of graves is eleven, the number actually mentioned is eight: “You’ve more graves to dig, lunk. Eight for them and one for me and one for old Ser Useless, and one last one for your bald-head boy.” There's another blood bay, which Lady Rohanne tries to gift to Duncan.

The Mystery Knight
Like The Hedge Knight, this story revolves around a dream. In the first the dreamer is Daeron, in the second Daemon II. Both are dragon dreams, the first the death of a dragon, this the birth of one. Daemon, going by the name John the Fiddler, has also dreamed of Duncan, in a white cloak. A true dream then, as Duncan would eventually become Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. "I dreamed it. This pale white castle, you, a dragon bursting from an egg." It may be the dream was actually about Summerhall, but Daemon believed it was about Whitewalls, which he describes as looking "as if it's made of snow" (A giant in a castle made of snow?) Or white like the shell of an egg, perhaps. A good castle for waking dragons out of stone.

Dunk enters the lists at Whitewalls bearing a shield without his regular coat of arms. His falling star is missing from this story, but there's another knight of the falling star instead: Ser Glendon Flowers, who claims to be the son of Ser Quentyn "Fireball" Ball.

The fighting takes place at morning rather than evening, but there's still red in the sky: "Somewhere in the east, lightning cracked across a pale pink sky". A few paragraphs earlier, we get "Lightning flashed blue and white..." something blue across a red sky again.

Ser Maynard Plumm (apparently an agent of Bloodraven, if not actually Bloodraven himself in disguise) tries to persuade Dunk to flee with Egg. Dunk is the future Lord Commander of the Kingsguard, and he responds to the suggestion that he flee with a Targaryen heir the same way Ser Gerold Hightower responded at the ToJ to the same suggestion: that he is honour-bound not to.

When Bloodraven arrives to end the rebellion before it started, we get "An army had appeared outside the castle, rising from the morning mists ... led by three knights of the Kingsguard". More of dreamy mist imagery, and three Kingsguards again. The army is accompanied by Danelle Lothstan, another martially inclined woman, and once more we see the bat of Harrenhal which Whent bore.

There's no pyre, but Bloodraven's men burn Daemon's Blackfyre banner, which oddly "burned for a long time, sending up a twisted plume of smoke that could be seen for leagues around."

Bloodraven says of White Walls that he means "to pull it down stone by stone", like Ned tearing down the Tower of Joy.

The events end with the symbolic birth of a dragon, or so Bloodraven tells us: "Daemon dreamed that a dragon would be born at Whitewalls, and it was. The fool just got the color wrong."


The Fall of Winterfell
I'm rather unsure about this one in ACoK ch.66, but there are a couple of points that make me want to include this as another possible echo.

There is a parley outside the walls before the fight, and a young maiden held hostage inside (Beth Cassel). We get the line "His seventeen might kill three, four, five times their own number " which has a faint echo of seven against three, and when Ramsey intervenes, he drops the bodies of three leaders, Rodrick Cassel, Leobald Tallheart, and Cley Cerwin, at the gates. Ramsey is met by three at the castle too, Theon, Black Lorren and Maester Luwin. Theon says "I will not run", like the Kingsguards who do not flee. The scene takes place at evening, when "sun was low in the west, painting the fields and houses all a glowing red" and there's an odd detail "The crows came in the blue dust" - an odd colour for drifting motes, reminiscent of "a storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky". Ramsey's men "rode out of the drifting smoke", more smoke/shadow imagery. We even have another Cassel dying. These echoes seem hard on House Cassel.

The scene ends with the destruction of Winterfell, just as the tent was burned, or the Tower of Joy was torn down. Theon's horse is on fire, "kicking free of the burning stables with his mane ablaze, screaming, rearing", which is similar to Dany's vision at the funeral pyre of "a horse, a great grey stallion limned in smoke, its flowing mane a nimbus of blue flame."

This may help explain a mystery in Bran's next chapter, ACoK ch.69. "The smoke and ash clouded his eyes, and in the sky he saw a great winged snake whose roar was a river of flame. He bared his teeth, but then the snake was gone. " This line has puzzled many readers and given rise to a lot of speculation. If the fall of Winterfell echoed the events at the tent that lead to the birth of dragons, then we can speculate that what Summer saw was a magical echo of the birth of a dragon, too. A little earlier, in ACoK ch.28, Maester Luwin told Bran that "Perhaps magic was once a mighty force in the world, but no longer. What little remains is no more than the wisp of smoke that lingers in the air after a great fire has burned out, and even that is fading."


Bran's Seven
A very uncertain one, but for an interesting turn of phrase. Hodor, Coldhands, Jojen, Meera, Bran, Summer and Leaf fight wights outside the three-eyed crow's cave in ADwD ch.13. That's the seven, though they fight more than three. Some of the enemy have cloaks. There are shadows and pale mist. "Their eyes glowed like pale blue stars" is reminiscent of "blue as the eyes of death". It's not much, but we do have this: "Summer was snarling and snapping as he danced around the closest, a great ruin of a man wreathed in swirling flame." A great wolf and a man wreathed in flame, dancing.

The Tower of Crabbs
Brienne of Tarth's journeys through the riverlands on a quest to rescue a Stark maiden has hints of Eddard Stark's quest to rescue a Stark Maiden. In AFfC ch.20, Brienne has a showdown at a tower long fallen, The Whispers.

At the Whispers Brienne fights Pyg, Shagwell and Timeon. These three can be seen as a twisted low-rent version of the three Kingsguard at the Tower of Joy. Pyg is a rather less majestic beast than the "old bull" Ser Gerold Hightower. Timeon is a Dornishman like Ser Arthur Dayne, but about as far from Dayne's chivalric nature as you can get. Shagwell is a psychotic Jester always making dark jokes, while just about the only thing we know about Ser Oswell Whent is that he was known for "his black humour".

As at the Tower of Joy, there's a parley before the fight, but while the Three Kingsguard made it clear they would not flee across the narrow sea, that's exactly what the three bloody mummers are trying to do.

Brienne has only two men with her when she meets the three, Podrick and Nimble Dick. However, this is another hidden seven. Ser Creighton Longbough, Ser Illifer the Penniless, Ser Shadrich of the Shady Glen and Ser Hyle Hunt had all been her companions too, but she left them behind.

Brienne set out on her journey with a shield bearing the arms of Lothstan, the same Harrenhal bat that was on Whent's helm and coat of arms at the Tower of Joy. However by the time she arrives at the tower long fallen, she's had her sheild repainted with Duncan the Tall's coat of arms, including a falling star like Dayne's. She's directed to find a sheild painter by a tavern called the Seven Swords, named for seven Kingsguards.

The Ritual of Ice?
Given the focus on cloaks and Kingsguards, we should surely expect there to be a scene with three black cloaks somewhere. Possibly with three black cloaks rather than white cloaks, we might expect an inversion, a ritual of ice rather than a ritual of fire.

There's a possibility that we saw just this right at the start. Back in the prologue of AGoT, we saw three black cloaks on a ranging. Here, we are told that “nothing burns like the cold”. Ser Waymar Royce says “No fire”, the same words repeated moments later by Gared. Could this be the ice ritual inversion we're looking for?

“The cloudless sky turned a deep purple, the color of an old bruise" could be the ice-equivalent of the blood/sky imagery we've seen elsewhere. We have the eight deaths in the eight dead wildlings that the rangers find. We have shadow imagery: “Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness.” Awkwardly I only count six Others, not seven – unless Royce gets to count for both teams, after he's killed. “Will saw its eyes; blue, deeper and bluer than any human eyes, a blue that burned like ice” gives us a match for “blue as the eyes of death.” Of Dayne's sword Dawn, we are told “the blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.” Similarly, the lead Other here has a “pale sword”, “alive with moonlight”.

I cannot now find the post to give credit where credit is due, but someone recently noticed an interesting point about this chapter (give a shout and I'll edit to credit you). “Again and again the swords met”, yet after the Other draws blood, “The Other's parry was almost lazy” and Royce's sword shatters. Once Royce is down, the Others all join in, “as if some signal had been given.” Could this be another blood-sacrifice ritual, that empowers the Other's blades?

 

...concludes in next post

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"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.

AFfC, The Kraken's Daughter


All This has happened before, and will happen again

Peter Pan / Battlestar Galactica



Observations and speculations

I said at the start that this is more observation than theory. I have lots of ideas that stem from this set of observations, but no firm theory to draw from it all. Thus I will not present a conclusion to this essay, but rather a few additional observations and speculations that I hope will fire your own. I present this all in the hope that some of you can make more sense of it than I have so far. I hope it triggers some really good discussions.

1. A lot of these events concern the birthing of dragons. Ashford saw Egg revealed as a dragon, while White Walls was all about a dragon born from stone. Summer saw the image of a dragon rising out of the flames of Winterfell. Cersei asked about the half-dragon children she'd have with Rhaegar. Dany's half-dragon child turned out to be literally half-dragon, and then when she finished the ritual off, her three eggs hatched into more literal dragons. I think this gives us a pretty good reason to suspect that a half-dragon was born at the Tower of Joy, as well.

2. There's a strong thread of blood magic running through these echoes. Cersei has to give up some of her blood, Jaime's men are ordered to kill Ned's to send a message, Lewin crawls to the heart tree to die, accidentally replaying the ancient tradition of a blood sacrifice at a wierwood that Bran witnesses in his visions. The most obvious one for blood sacrifice is of course the ritual at the tent. I wonder whether this doesn't fulfil the two kings to wake the dragon sacrifice idea. At first it might seem that Rhaego dying before Drogo is contradicted by The father first, then the son, so both die kings but if Rhaego's spirit went into Drogo's body then arguably they are both living as king at the time of death. Alternatively it might be that this is, like the question of dragons and gender, a matter of incorrect interpretation. You don't actually have to have been crowned king to have king's blood, so maybe any royal father and son pair will do.

With this in mind, it may be that the ToJ represents an interrupted version of the same ritual. Rhaegar died at the Trident, and his body was burned. To complete the ritual then, we should expect to see his son burned, too. There's a good reason to think that's about to happen, with Melissandre burning Jon's body at the wall. Will there be another hatching when the ritual that started at the ToJ is completed? Kill the boy...

3. There's a maegi in Cersei's tent as well as in Drogo's. There's a maester at the burning of Winterfell and in Maegor's Holdfast. There may also be a similar figure at White Walls. This is thoroughly speculative of course, but there's a troupe of dwarves who are apparently agents of Bloodraven who steal the Dragon's egg. Could one of those dwarves have been the Ghost of High Heart? Howland Reed, with his greenseer training, may have played a similar role at the Tower of Joy. Another intriguing possibility is that the Ghost may have been brought to the Tower of Joy from the Riverlands with Lyanna. When Arya meets the Ghost at High Heart, the Ghost already knows who she is, but reacts with dismay on seeing Arya up close. Perhaps that's because Arya's appearance reminded her of Lyanna? This could neatly answer the question of who was tending to Lyanna, and who the they were who found Ned with Lyanna, if only Howland survived.

4. Summerhall may have been another of these events. We have very few details, but we know that at least one Kingsguard was there, Duncan the Tall, who seems to have been involved in these echoes wherever he went. After Duncan's death at Harrenhal, the command of the Kingsguard passed on to Ser Gerold Hightower, described in the world book as the new young lord commander. It's reasonable to speculate Dunk wasn't the only Kingsguard fatality there, or we might expect a more senior Kingsguard to have taken Dunk's place. Could there have been three? There were seven eggs, perhaps like the seven that faced the three. We've got a woods-witch present, and a castle burned to the ground. From Jenny's song we have High in the halls of the kings who are gone, Jenny would dance with her ghosts, which might bring to mind the shadows dancing in the tent. We've got the death of a king, and the birth of a dragon, Rhaegar. We might speculate that Duncan the Tall, poor dumb Dunk the Lunk, despite having lived through more of these echoes than anyone, got in the way of dragons hatching by rescuing Rhaegar.

What we do know about Summerhall is that it was Jaehaerys' intent to fulfil a prophecy about hatching dragons, and that in itself fits the symbolism we have here. We know that Rhaegar had reason to believe that he was the prince born amidst salt and smoke because of Summerhall, so he thought it important. This is obviously highly speculative stuff, but if we find out that there were three kingsguards at Summerhall, I reserve the right to say told you so!

5. The idea of Targs drinking wildfire to become dragons has always seemed pretty much barking mad. Perhaps they knew more than we do, and they were trying to become the burning man, who rides the steed of fire?

6. I wonder if the red stallion is symbolic of the horse-on-fire. We're told that the Dothraki believe the stars are horses of fire. It's interesting to consider that a dragon is a fiery steed too. It may be that in some totemic system, the advent of Targaryen dragon-riders meant that the dragon came to replace the fiery horse.

7. There's a lot of animal symbolism involved, often repeated over several of these events. I wonder if this represents some ancient pantheon of animistic deities: The Bear, the Boar, the Stag, the Wolf, the Bat, the Bull, the burning horse / burning man (burning horse & rider?

8. GRRM's fever dream warning about the ToJ, that we shouldn't take it too literally, is an interesting one. It may reflect GRRM warning us that what we saw isn't the same kind of mundane reality we see elsewhere.

9. The similarity between the abduction of Jaime's sibling and the abduction of Ned's may be reason to think that Lyanna was abducted from the Inn at the Crossroads. This would create an interesting symmetry of events, as the Ruby Ford where Rhaegar died is close at hand.

10.There are overlaps and differences, but we can start to consider a list of signs that seem to be shared by a number of different examples:
Seven against three.
  • Three Kingsguards, or some equivalent / cloaked figures.
  • Event takes place at sunset with a blood-red sky.
  • Ghost / wraith imagery.
  • A tower long fallen / destroyed at the end of the event.
  • A parley before the battle.
  • Promises and vows.
  • A refusal to flee.
  • A great red stallion / stallion on fire.
  • A notably martial woman.
  • The sign of the falling star / red comet.
  • Animal totems.
  • Bloody walls.
  • Eight deaths.
  • A maegi or possibly similar wise/magical figures.

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Great job. It amazes me sometimes (all the time) how much their really is to these books. Even after multiple re-reads, you made points I had not realized - mainly the "echoes" from Dunk and Egg's adventures. Some of them I had noticed but you explained them in a clear, thought out and easy to follow manner. Even if none of this is related (which I highly doubt, there has to at least be SOMETHING to the pandora's box you're opening here), it is still a testament to GRRM's talent as a writer and storyteller that we are even having this conversation. Bravo.

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Yeah, generally speaking, I read most of these and then think to myself: "I rue the moment I clicked on you". That was not the case with this one though. Perhaps because this isn't the 47th time I've seen this exact "theory" (I use this term loosely because I look at this as more of an essay) but i found myself disappointed upon finishing this that there wasn't more to start putting crazy thoughts in my head lol.

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I apoligise i should have waited to know full post

i did like what you wrote though


No problem mate. Glad you liked it! Edited by Kingmonkey

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Even if none of this is related (which I highly doubt, there has to at least be SOMETHING to the pandora's box you're opening here), it is still a testament to GRRM's talent as a writer and storyteller that we are even having this conversation. Bravo.


A Pandora's box, I like it. Good description. Perhaps all the crackpot of the world is now free to roam -- oh wait, that already happened. ;)

I'm sure that like you most people will have seen much of the individual pieces before, but finding an interconnection here was a bit of a revelation to me, and that seemed like a box well worth opening. Please do dig around in that box for some of your crazy thoughts!

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This is really interesting. I had a thread a while back about the similarities between Ned and Cersei's dreams. My conclusion was that Cersei's dream informed us, or confirmed for us, that Ned's dream dealt with prophecy. In Ned's case, the PtwP. Here's that thread: [url=http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/102362-neds-toj-dream-more-than-we-thought/]Link[/url]. I'm not 100% sure about that, obviously. But, I think the possible connections with the D&E stories, especially the two dealing with dragon dreams, don't weaken that argument.

 

Also: “He dreamt an old dream of a hovel by the sea, three dogs whimpering, a woman’s tears.” - ADwD, Prologue. Given the nature of that prologue, I think it could be very relevant to what you're onto here.

 

Giving that chapter another quick once over, I saw one line that stuck out to me as a possible RLJ winky-wink: “Wolves and women wed for life,” Haggon often said. “You take one, that’s a marriage.” You take (kidnap?) a wolf and that's a marriage, eh? Maybe. And a woman's newborn babe is described as a "pup" in the chapter. Any child of Lyanna's could be described that way too, I'd say. Lyanna was a she-wolf, after all. There's also a wood's witch in the chapter, and probably more that I didn't catch.

 

Oh, I almost forgot about the fiery steeds meaning dragons. I completely agree, and pointed out the two seemingly, but not necessarily, contradictory Dothraki star myths in a half-baked theory I was kicking around.

 

The Dothraki believed the stars were horses made of fire, a great herd that galloped across the sky by night. - AGoT, Daenerys V. To me, horses made of fire reads like dragons. Especially since these fiery mounts are in the sky; flying.

 

But in Clash, we read a different version of what the Dothraki supposedly believe the stars are. “The Dothraki believe the stars are spirits of the valiant dead,” Theon said. - ACoK, Theon VI.

- [url=http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/125901-astronomy-of-planetos-ii-the-bloodstone-compendium/page-19#entry6839093]Link[/url]

 

IIRC, Tyrion (ACoK, Battle of the Blackwater) and Ramsay (ADwD, for sure) both also have red stallions, fwiw. And of course the sigil of House Braken (Bittersteel) is a red stallion. http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/House_Bracken

Edited by J. Stargaryen

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This is really interesting. I had a thread a while back about the similarities between Ned and Cersei's dreams. My conclusion was that Cersei's dream informed us, or confirmed for us, that Ned's dream dealt with prophecy. In Ned's case, the PtwP. Here's that thread: Link. I'm not 100% sure about that, obviously. But, I think the possible connections with the D&E stories, especially the two dealing with dragon dreams, don't weaken that argument.


Cersei's dream is the obvious one. My assumption when I first read it was that it was simply a clue to Rhaegar having a son with Lyanna, by extension of the contrast that's made between Cersei and Lyanna. When we take into account the wider context of all these echoes, I think that link to prophecy is quite clear.

Something I left out of my observations section, but you have reminded me of, is that the idea of an event having echoes can go some way to explaining the mechanism of prophecy. Prophecy implies either a deterministic universe, which is no fun at all, or some mechanism whereby effect can come before cause. This idea that a potent magical event can create ripples or echoes through time that a magically sensitive person might read could be such a mechanism.
 

Also: “He dreamt an old dream of a hovel by the sea, three dogs whimpering, a woman’s tears.” - ADwD, Prologue. Given the nature of that prologue, I think it could be very relevant to what you're onto here.


Good call. I completely forgot about that one. I need to go over that and see if any of those other indicators can be found.
 

Oh, I almost forgot about the fiery steeds meaning dragons. I completely agree, and pointed out the two seemingly, but not necessarily, contradictory Dothraki star myths in a half-baked theory I was kicking around.
 
- Link


Nice. This is exactly the kind of theorising I wanted to try to help bring together into some kind of framework with this essay. It seems to me that there's a lot of people who've come up with some smart observations in need of a framework to hold them together, and I suspect these ToJ echoes might give us that.
 

IIRC, Tyrion (ACoK, Battle of the Blackwater) and Ramsay (ADwD, for sure) both also have red stallions, fwiw. And of course the sigil of House Braken (Bittersteel) is a red stallion. http://awoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/House_Bracken


We shouldn't assume that any red stallion is a burning steed, of course. I've always had it at the back of my mind that there was something odd about the focus on Dustin's horse in the ToJ dream, and since noticing that the specific wording "A great red stallion" is shared with the MMD tent scene I've been looking for more. Jaime's blood bay was what made me decide this was an intentional connection. It's classic GRRM the way he distracts you from the similarity by using different wordings to mean the same thing, and giving you the information severally rather than in a single phrase. I've looked for red stallions only where there's other indicators that it's an echo event, because you'd expect there to be a few red stallions randomly, too.

House Bracken though? The Brackens are such an intriguing family that it's suspicious. I think the biggest tell is that Otho Bracken bore that red stallion sigil at Ashford, and refused Dunk's request he fight in the trial of seven. I think when we see a decision being made that distances the echo from the complete ritual, it's likely to be meaningful. Bracken's refusal to take Dunk's side meant the red stallion was not inolved the Ashford showdown, breaking the completion of the ritual.

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Ok, so if we extend this all the way: if those are indeed echoes, do they tell us more about the tower of joy scene itself? Are there other commonalities that we can retro-fit to the tower of joy to find out more about it?

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Cersei's dream is the obvious one. My assumption when I first read it was that it was simply a clue to Rhaegar having a son with Lyanna, by extension of the contrast that's made between Cersei and Lyanna. When we take into account the wider context of all these echoes, I think that link to prophecy is quite clear.

 

There's a lot of Rhaegar (especially) and Lyanna stuff in Cersei's chapters. I did a follow up post to the OP I linked dealing with AFfC, Cersei V. The OP was on Cersei VIII. And I posted another small excerpt from Cersei IX dealing with the Blue Bard.

Edited by J. Stargaryen

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9. The similarity between the abduction of Jaime's sibling and the abduction of Ned's may be reason to think that Lyanna was abducted from the Inn at the Crossroads. This would create an interesting symmetry of events, as the Ruby Ford where Rhaegar died is close at hand.

 

I'm not sure if this is what you were implying; but wasn't Catelyn killed "on the trident" (at the twins) and her body dumped into the Trident? She being the one to abduct a sibling.

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I'm not sure if this is what you were implying; but wasn't Catelyn killed "on the trident" (at the twins) and her body dumped into the Trident? She being the one to abduct a sibling.

 

The symmetry I was thinking about was in terms of Rhaegar's journey. He kidnapped Lyanna somewhere very close to Harrenhal, starting a war that ended with his death in almost the same place. 

 

You make an interesting point about Cat's death on the Trident. You could say that her kidnapping of Tyrion was similarly the trigger for the war between Stark & Lannister which ended with her death on the Trident. However the Twins is a few hundred miles from the Inn at the Crossroads, so it's not so neatly symmetrical.  

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Ok, so if we extend this all the way: if those are indeed echoes, do they tell us more about the tower of joy scene itself? Are there other commonalities that we can retro-fit to the tower of joy to find out more about it?

 

That's a big question. We have to ask whether the ToJ was the "main event" that should have all the indicators present, or whether it was another failed or semi-completed version of the ritual. Dany's version is the one which saw literal dragons hatched, which may mean that the ToJ itself was one of the echoes of that. I wonder about the oppositions involved though. The three bloodriders seem like opposites of the three KG, and Dany's is at a tent rather than a tower. 

 

Speculating wildly, I like the idea that the ToJ and MMD's tent are the two biggies, the first tapping into some ice magic, the second tapping into a fire magic, and that the echoes occur because of a magical resonance that's set up between these two events. 

 

The only one of the indicators I've listed at the end that we don't obviously see present at the ToJ is the last, the presence of a maegi or similar figure. I speculated above that this role may have been played at the ToJ by the Ghost of High Heart, which could explain her reaction to Arya when they meet. The other possibility I speculated was that Howland plays that role. Could that give us some clue to how he saved Ned from Arthur? I can't think of any obvious connection between those two, but if my speculation about one of the dwarves at Ashford is correct, then that could be symbolically linked with Howland disrupting the events at the ToJ by running off with Rhaegar's child at a key moment. That's pretty wild speculation though. Anyone else got a thought?

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