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Durran Durrandon

Jon and Beric: Fire Consumes. Cold Preserves

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Fire consumes. Ice preserves

 

The purpose of this article is to take at a closer look at the transformational power of Ice and Fire in the series, with a close look at Beric Dondarrion. While many readers, understandably focus on Beric’s resurrection, I will argue that it is the nature of the magic that sustains him, that is the primary source of his transformation, not his death, and we see the same forces transforming Melisandre and several others without, to our knowledge, resurrection having occurred.

 

A large piece of my argument will be rooted in my contention that the origin of the Others lay in an ancient religious order, likely existing among the First Men who migrated to the far north and were influenced by the ice magic of the Heart of Winter. This religious order is paralleled by  the Red Priests who share similar but opposing goals and characteristics with the Others. I made a fairly compelling argument for this in my essay Melisandre and the Night’s Queen. You may want to read it first.

 

Understanding all of this will be key to understanding the resurrection of Jon Snow. . . .Yes, yes, I know. It was only a flesh wound. He's not quite dead. He might get better. This is denial. He is as dead as Ned. Only resurrection is going to bring Jon back.

 

So, let’s begin with a comparison of Melisandre and Beric.

 

Unsmiling, Lord Beric laid the edge of his longsword against the palm of his left hand, and drew it slowly down. Blood ran dark from the gash he made, and washed over the steel. And then the sword took fire..(Storm of Sword 514)

 

. . . but the burning sword snapped in two, and the Hound’s cold steel plowed into Lord Beric’s flesh where his shoulder joined his neck and clove him clean down to the breastbone. The blood came rushing out in a hot black gush. (Storm of Sword 518)

 

Beric has black blood, which he uses to set his sword on fire.

 

The red priestess shuddered. Blood trickled down her thigh, black and smoking. The fire was inside her, an agony, an ecstasy, filling her, searing her, transforming her. (A Dance with Dragons 431)

 

Melisandre's blood is black and smoking. She feels a real heat inside her and it is transforming her. I would argue in a physical way..

 

[Beric] did not seem to sleep, either. His good eye would often close, as if from weariness, but when you spoke to him it would flick open again at once. (Storm of Sword 585)

 

Melisandre had spent the night in her chair by the fire, as she often did. With Stannis gone, her bed saw little use. She had no time for sleep, with the weight of the world upon her shoulders. And she feared to dream. Sleep is a little death, dreams the whisperings of the Other, who would drag us all into his eternal night . She would sooner sit bathed in the ruddy glow of her red lord’s blessed flames, her cheeks flushed by the wash of heat as if by a lover’s kisses. Some nights she drowsed, but never for more than an hour. One day, Melisandre prayed, she would not sleep at all. (A Dance with Dragons 433-434)

 

Neither Beric nor Melisandre sleep, or they sleep very little, never more than an hour each night.

 

Lord Beric himself did not eat. Arya had never seen him eat, though from time to time he took a cup of wine. (Storm of Swords 585)

 

Food. Yes, I should eat . Some days she forgot. R’hllor provided her with all the nourishment her body needed, but that was something best concealed from mortal men. (A Dance with Dragons 434)

 

Neither Beric nor Melisandre eat food, or if they do so they do it as a pretense. Neither need to eat. They are fueled by the fire inside of them. Moreover, Melisandre thinks of this as something to hide from mortals, implying that she is not mortal or does not think of herself as mortal.

 

Now let’s look back at the eschatology of the Red Priests, as presented by Benerro, the high priest of Volantis:

 

Haldon nodded. “Benerro has sent forth the word from Volantis. Her coming is the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy. From smoke and salt was she born to make the world a new. She is Azor Ahai returned … and her triumph over darkness will bring a summer that will never end … death itself will bend its knee, and all those who die fighting in her cause shall be reborn …” (ADwD 308)

 

Those who fight for Azor Ahai will be reborn. Well, we have already seen what it looks like to be reborn in the name of R’hllor. It is not a human life, it is a life of fire, but it is a life. (And sorry. Tyrion. Yes, you do do have to be reborn in your same body.)

 

This transformation does not end with Beric or Melisandre. A second Red Priests,Moqorro, seems to have similar attributes, revealed when he arrives on Victarion's ship in A Dance with Dragons.

 

“We found him clinging to a broken spar,” said the Vole. “He was ten days in the water after his ship went down.”

 

“If he were ten days in the water, he’d be dead, or mad from drinking seawater.” Salt water was holy; Aeron Damphair and other priests might bless men with it and swallow a mouthful or two from time to time to strengthen their faith, but no mortal man could drink of the deep sea for days at a time and hope to live. ( A Dance with Dragons 784)

 

No Mortal could survive that long at sea, but as Melisandre’s thoughts suggest, some of the Red Priests may not be mortal. Certainly Moqorro seems to be sustained by the fire of R’hllor.

 

What Moqorro does next is to perform an act of transformative magic on Victarion’s arm. The description of what precisely Moqorro does is incomplete, which is odd given that chapters occurs from Victarion’s point of view:

 

The iron captain was not seen again that day, but as the hours passed the crew of his Iron Victory reported hearing the sound of wild laughter coming from the captain’s cabin, laughter deep and dark and mad, and when Longwater Pyke and Wulfe One-Eye tried the cabin door they found it barred. Later singing was heard, a strange high wailing song in a tongue the maester said was High Valyrian. That was when the monkeys left the ship, screeching as they leapt into the water.

 

Come sunset, as the sea turned black as ink and the swollen sun tinted the sky a deep and bloody red, Victarion came back on deck. He was naked from the waist up, his left arm blood to the elbow. As his crew gathered, whispering and trading glances, he raised a charred and blackened hand. Wisps of dark smoke rose from his fingers . . . (A Dance with Dragons 788)

 

The shift from Victarion’s view to a limited omniscient narrator is odd and intentionally hides what magic was done to heal Victarion’s arm. Whatever it is, it drives the monkeys off of the ship, and presumably to their death. (They are at seas.) The black and smoking hand is not black and smoking temporarily:

 

The arm the priest had healed was hideous to look upon, pork crackling from elbow to fingertips. Sometimes when Victarion closed his hand the skin would split and smoke, yet the arm was stronger than it had ever been. (A Dance with Dragons 867)

 

So, yeah his hand just smokes sometimes, but it is stronger than ever. There seems to be a consistent pattern of transformation, but in this case it is partial, and no I don’t think Victarion died.

 

Fire Consumes

 

So what is this experience like? Beric takes no pleasure in being brought back to life. We see in him both a world weariness and distancing from his past life, with an apparent loss of memories.

 

“Can I dwell on what I scarce remember? I held a castle on the Marches once, and there was a woman I was pledged to marry, but I could not find that castle today, nor tell you the color of that woman’s hair. Who knighted me, old friend? What were my favorite foods? It all fades. Sometimes I think I was born on the bloody grass in that grove of ash, with the taste of fire in my mouth and a hole in my chest. Are you my mother, Thoros?” (Storm of Swords 587)

 

Much of has been made of this in some forum posts and other sources. Moreover, others have suggested that Beric and Lady Stone Heart are affected by a single minded purpose, as if they are stuck in the actions and commitments they had taken and made immediately prior to their death. suggesting that Beric and Lady Stoneheart are undead and that their loss of memories and single minded purpose represents a lack of a soul. I don’t mean to get stuck on these terms, but I really think do not think they apply here. I will suggest that we put them aside for a moment. If the reader wants to put them back on again at the end, hopefully they will at least take on a more nuanced meaning.

 

As for the later, we know little of Beric prior to this time, but Catelyn Stark is single mindedly focused on protecting and or avenging her children long before her death. This trait goes back to Brandon’s fall in Game of Thrones. In fact Catelyn’s love for her children developed to a fault, is at the core of all of her worst decisions, and marks her as a tragic character. This is true long before she dies and is raised. Her injuries, and delayed resurrection certainly make her more ghastly, but we have no indication that she is mentally impaired. Dead or not, avenging her children, and holding Jaime and Brienne accountable as oathbreakers are not at all out of her character arc.

 

As for the the former, diminished memories seems poor evidence for the absence of a soul. Now I don’t really care much as to whether these risen characters have a soul or not, so much as I don’t really think it is an important metaphysical concept here. My gripe rather is that  I think there is direct text undermining the theory of soullessness. First, we have Varamyr Sixskins account of what happens during the second life of a skin changer:

 

“They say you forget,” Haggon had told him, a few weeks before his own death. “When the man’s flesh dies, his spirit lives on inside the beast, but every day his memory fades, and the beast becomes a little less a warg, a little more a wolf, until nothing of the man is left and only the beast remains.” (A Dance with Dragons 23)

 

Certainly skinchanging involves the transfer of consciousness from the warg into his or her host animal. To the extent that we need to have a concept of a soul, we would say the wargs soul enters the animal (Haggon says spirit), especially so in the case of a wargs second life. If memories are lost in the second life, then it doesn’t follow that Beric’s diminished memories are caused by a lack of a soul. In fact the text directly references Beric’s soul in Thoros’ account of raising Beric for the first time:

 

I gave him the good god’s own kiss to send him on his way. I filled my mouth with fire and breathed the flames inside him, down his throat to lungs and heart and soul. The last kiss it is called . . . (Storm of Sword 587)

 

I’m not so much arguing that this is literal evidence that he has a soul, so much as it is literary evidence that he does not literally not have a soul. Instead, we should look to Beric’s own explanation for why he lacks memories. Beric describes his resurrection as a rebirth. “Sometimes I think I was born on the bloody grass in that grove of ash, with the taste of fire in my mouth and a hole in my chest. Are you my mother, Thoros?” (That or he is a big P.D. Eastman fan. Just kidding. No one is a P.D. Eastman fan.) So we get the impression of a slate wiped clean, but more so Beric balmes the nature of fire:

 

“Fire consumes.” Lord Beric stood behind them, and there was something in his voice that silenced Thoros at once. “It consumes , and when it is done there is nothing left. Nothing .”

 

“Beric. Sweet friend.” The priest touched the lightning lord on the forearm. “What are you saying?”

 

“Nothing I have not said before. Six times, Thoros? Six times is too many.” He turned away abruptly. (Storm of Swords 644)

 

Beric’s seventh death is his last (yes, seventh), when he passes the fire to Catelyn Stark, who will be reborn as Lady Stoneheart. We do not yet have text that tells us much about her experience reborn from fire, but we can assume it is similar. Beric in words and deeds expresses concern with doing the right thing. He questions who he is, and what he has become. He is concerned over his loss of memories. This is self reflection. This is sentience. This is, if anything, what a soul is.

 

It is difficult to say if this process has affected Melisandre similarly. We get one snap shot of a memory in her point of view chapter, taking us possibly back to her childhood. Does she remember much else? How much does anyone really remember of their early childhood, other than the stories they have told themselves over and over? We do see however, that she expresses real concern over the suffering of Davos. She is not perhaps the most reflective person, but she is reflective enough to give us the impression of someone who is self-aware.  To convince me that she and Beric do not have souls, someone would have to make a fairly concrete case as to what a soul is in the context of the story, and demonstrate that they lack these qualities. As of now, the only view we have been given of the metaphysics of the afterlife comes from Varamyr Sixskins, in which we see his consciousness begin to join with nature before he is pulled back into the body of one of the animals he warged. The idea then that a soul can leave the body and move onto what would be a final rest, joining with the collective soul of nature, and then still be pulled back into a body to live a second life is well established, and so there is no reason to think this is not the case for Beric or Lady Stoneheart.

 

What is Beric? A brief somewhat length exploration of the strikingly large number of ways a person can come back to life in the World of Ice and Fire

 

So what are the these people reborn or transformed by the fire of R’hllor? Well, as I mentioned before, some people have argued that they are undead, I see that as oversimplified and I think it brings with it a set of assumptions and biases that may not be helpful. On the other hand, I do understand this argument on some level, in that these people are not alive in the sense that other humans are alive. That is, they are not going through the biological processes we associate with humans and are fueled instead by magical fire.  They don’t eat. They don’t sleep.They probably can’t make  babies (of the non-shadowy variety.)

 

Possibly the worst label I have seen thrown on them is “fire wights”. Whether we want to consider them to be undead or not, they certainly are not analogous to the wights. These are people that still show full signs of being conscious, self- directed individuals, whereas the wights do not show signs of being self aware or having self direction or any continuity of purpose from their former life. (Jon’s does infer that they might have some residual memories. ) Waymar Royce, for example, goes from being a dedicated member of the Night’s Watch to killing Night’s Watch members in the next scene, presumably under the direct direction of the Others. He is not then self directed and likely is not self aware.

 

Other readers will compare Beric to Coldhands. Admittedly, if we are going to compare him to someone undead, this seems a better fit. We do not know to what extent Coldhands may be controlled by Bryned Rivers or the Children, but he behaves like an independent, self-aware being, who can direct his own actions. However, he stinks . . . literally, and Summer is not crazy about him:

 

Summer growled at him, his fur bristling. The direwolf did not like the way that Coldhands smelled. Dead meat, dry blood, a faint whiff of rot. And cold. Cold over all . (A Dance with Dragons 75)

 

Coldhands stinks of decay, he is rotting as one would expect, of a proper walking corpse. Perhaps only Summer can smell this because of the freezing temperatures. His hand are black because his circulation has stopped. He is entirely dead. Beric, Melisandre, Moqorro, they don’t smell. The do not have black hands due to a stopped circulatory system. They do not have the properties of a corpse. Granted Melisandre and possibly Moqorro could possibly have a glamour covering these traits, but this isn’t true for Beric, whom we see in a temperate environment, where everyone would notice if he was rotting.

 

An interesting comparison could be made with Patchface, who washed up on shore three days after the ship he was on was lost in Shipbreaker Bay. Local tales say that a mermaid taught him how to breath water in exchange for his seed, which has all sorts of great parallels with the Night’s Queen and Melisandre. However, it is just a local tale. If indeed he was drowned and brought back by magic somehow, the cognitive effect sees to be much different than what we have seen with Beric or Lady Stoneheart. Patchface appears to be brain damaged and gifted with prophetic abilities. This has lead some readers to speculate that he drowned and was brought back to life by the Drowned God. The Ironborn baptism ritual of either symbolically pouring water over a person's head or literally drowning a person and resuscitating them seems to bolster this idea. When the Ironborn say, “What is dead may never die, but rises again, harder and stronger” it certainly isn't  literal, in the sense that if I pulled an unconscious person out of a pool and performed CPR, reviving that person, we wouldn't consider that person to be dead or undead. Rather the Ironborn phrase  seems to be an homage to warrior traditions like that of samurai considering themselves to be dead as they go into battle as a meditative practice  to overcome the fear of death. It is also an obvious homage to Lovecraft, giving many readers a pause as to what kind of god the Drowned God really is. However, when Aeron baptizes Theon the ritual began with the words “Let Theon your servant be born again from the sea, as you were” indicating that the idea of rebirth is the true central concept, not the idea of truly being already dead. The full form of the baptism, where the priests literally revives a person drowned in sea water stands in strong parallel with the Red Priest’s last kiss, which revives Beric. Though, the rituals have different purposes, the last kiss is traditionally used as a last rights blessing for the dead, the result is at least similar in the case of Beric and Lady Stoneheart.

 

Another example of, not exactly rebirth, but a similar, but even less pleasant, transformation can be found in the events and lore surrounding greyscale. Greyscale is a disease that is contracted in cold damp environments and legends track the origin to the defeat of the Rhoynar and a curse leveled by Prince Garrin, which allegedly drowned the Valyrian conquerors, who now haunt the river below the waters in a section of the river called the Sorrows, near the ruins of the former Rhoynar festival city. In Westeros we first see greyscale as it affected Shireen, who contracted it as a child. Children who contract greyscale can be cured but are often scared by the diseases, which makes their skin stoney in patches. However, adults who contract the disease will see the disease turn inwards and affect their internal organs unless the disease is halted in time through amputation. In the Sorrows we see Stone Men, people afflicted by the disease that have been exiled to this place. We are told and they behave as if they are gradually losing their minds. Some become violent and attack the passengers of the Shy Maid as their boat passes through. We are led to believe that greyscale can be contracted from the touch of Stone Men or from the waters surrounding the Sorrows. So in effect, greyscale functions as a slow onset zombie virus. It is  on the Shy Maid that the reader learns about  the legendary origin of the disease and figure called the Shrouded Lord.

 

“The Shrouded Lord has ruled these mists since Garin’s day,” said Yandry. “Some say that he himself is Garin, risen from his watery grave.”

 

“The dead do not rise,” insisted Haldon Halfmaester, “and no man lives a thousand years. Yes, there is a Shrouded Lord. There have been a score of them. When one dies another takes his place . . .” (Dance of Dragons 251-252)

 

Well, the halfmaester is at least half wrong here. Like most maesters he gives a rational explanation for a story of the supernatural, and at least part of his answer has been disproved by events in the story.

 

“Aye, I’ve heard that too,” said Duck, “but there’s another tale I like better. The one that says he’s not like t’other stone men, that he started as a statue till a grey woman came out of the fog and kissed him with lips as cold as ice.” (Dance of Dragons 252)

 

This legend has elements of the the last kiss and imagery that is reminiscent of the Night’s Queen with her lips as cold as ice, though the transformation is inverted. This theme of the greyscale being passed with a kiss is repeated in Tyrion’s dream when he drowns in the Sorrows:

 

“He dreamt of his lord father and the Shrouded Lord. He dreamt that they were one and the same, and when his father wrapped stone arms around him and bent to give him his grey kiss, he woke with his mouth dry and rusty with the taste of blood and his heart hammering in his chest.” (A Dance with Dragons 298)

 

Because Tyrion's drowning occurs from his own point of view, it is unclear if Jon Connington does anything to revive Tyrion after he pulls him out of the Sorrows. As Connington does contract greyscale, and Tyrion doesn’t. The image Connington breathing air into Tyrion’s lungs, if it happened, evokes the image of the kiss passing from the Shrouded Lord, to Tyrion, to Connington, Admittedly, there is no evidence that Connington did this. None the less, we can now add transformation by stone to, transformation by water, and transformation by fire to our list. Though as far as we know, no one has been reborn this way.

 

This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t look at the House of the Undying which shows another transformation taking place over time. The warlocks drink the shade of the evening, made from trees that look like inverted weirwood trees:

 

The weirwood’s bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. (Game of Thrones 28)

 

Long and low, without towers or windows, it coiled like a stone serpent through a grove of black-barked trees whose inky blue leaves made the stuff of the sorcerous drink the Qartheen called shade of the evening. (Clash of Kings 675)

 

The drink notoriously turns the lips of the warlocks blue, but in the House of the Undying, Danny sees the further extent of that transformation:

 

The figures around the table were no more than blue shadows. . . .Through the indigo murk, she could make out the wizened features of the Undying One to her right, an old old man, wrinkled and hairless. His flesh was a ripe violet-blue, his lips and nails bluer still, so dark they were almost black. Even the whites of his eyes were blue. They stared unseeing at the ancient woman on the opposite side of the table, whose gown of pale silk had rotted on her body. One withered breast was left bare in the Qartheen manner, to show a pointed blue nipple hard as leather. (Clash of Kings 683)

 

The effect of the shade of evening over time is to transform them and, as the name the Undying Ones seems to suggest, extend their lives past their natural span. However, their form is physically limited if not their supernatural abilities. This seems to directly parallel with the description Leaf gives of Brynden Rivers:

 

“Most of him has gone into the tree,” explained the singer Meera called Leaf. “He has lived beyond his mortal span, and yet he lingers . . .”

 

The effect of eating the weirwood paste, derived from the weirwood trees (and most definitely not made of Jojen) then is similar to the effect of the shade of the evening made from the undying trees.  Here we have transformation and at the very least extension of life through green magic and its inverted and corrupted doppleganger.

 

I will skip over the reanimated body of Gregor Clegane and whatever it was exactly that Mirri Maz Duur did to Drogo, and summarize by saying that we see a large number of physical transformations throughout the text, several of which seem to lead to the transformed person living passed their regular lifespan, regardless of whether or not actual death occurs first. I think Martin is deliberately playing with different permutations of the same idea to create multiple precedents for however he intends to bring back Jon Snow, which I will go into in the next section. We can call these beings undead, if you really want to. I don’t thinks so They are transformed. Their human nature permanently changed.  (Yeah, I sound like that creepy little girl in The Walking Dead. “They’re just changed!”) I prefer to think in a term borrowed from science fiction. They are post-human

 

However, bringing this back to Beric and the Red Priests, I think these particular post-humans have more in common with one other group, the Others. Now I went into this in more depth  in my essay about Melisandre and the Night’s Queen, and I can’t possibly go into it all here, but let me summarise. The parallels between Melisandre and the Night’s Queen are significant. The fact that the Others, by which I mean the White Walkers, not the wights, are made from Craster’s boys, transformed by magic is pretty much indisputable. Anyone who cried foul during that scene in the HBO series, simply wasn’t paying attention when one of Craster’s wives told us that this is what was happening back in A Storm of Swords:

 

Gilly was crying. Me and the babe. Please. I’ll be your wife, like I was Craster’s. Please, ser crow. He’s a boy, just like Nella said he’d be. If you don’t take him, they will.

 

They? said Sam, and the raven cocked its black head and echoed, They. They. They .

 

The boys brothers, said the old woman on the left. Craster’s sons. The white colds rising out there, crow. I can feel it in my bones. These poor old bones don't lie. They'll be here soon, the sons. (ASoS 505)

 

It is pretty easy to gloss over this on the first read and not integrate it into what we already think we know about the Others, after all, they are called the Others. That implies that that they are not human. They are something else. What we see here is something else entirely. They take boys and transform them. We see what the Others are when Sam slays one, it melts. They are creatures made of ice, but they were made from human beings, transformed by ice magic, just as Beric, Melisandre, and Moqorro are in the process of being transformed by fire magic. They are not non-human so much as post-human, and again we have no indication the the boys died, just that they are changed. Death is not the important part of this process.

 

Ice Preserves

 

Okay, death has some importance. It is relevant symbolically in the case of Jon, in that it is part of his hero’s journey in the Joseph Campbell sense. Jon will not come back immediately, and I imagine in some sense this will be used to give him a journey into the underworld plot device, figuratively in the sense that he will warg into Ghost and maybe somewhat literally as we may during this period see him enter or at least see into the Winterfell crypts. I don’t have strong opinions on what precisely will happen here. It is kind of bracketed off in my head.

 

However, I think it is pretty clear what will happen to his body at first given Bran’s vision early in A Game of Thrones:

 

"Finally he looked north. He saw the Wall shining like blue crystal, and his bastard brother Jon sleeping alone in a cold bed, his skin growing pale and hard as the memory of all warmth fled from him." (GoT 175)

 

Jon’s death is foreshadowed in Bran’s dream from the beginning of the series along with a hint of transformation from cold magic. Bran then sees north to the heart of winter hinting at a connection between the two. Obviously, all memory of warmth leaving him could just reference his death, but I think we have reason to think it might be more. When we see in Jon’s dream in A Dance with Dragons that not only does his blade burn red in his hand, but he is armored in black ice (804), it is easy to be distracted by the burning red sword, but black ice might be more significant. Melisandre refers to dragon glass as frozen fire, translating for the Valyrian word for obsidian. The black ice armor appears to represent that idea of frozen fire, and the dual nature of Jon’s transformation.Why is ice a necessary element to his transformation? Because as Maester Aemon tells Sam in Fest, “Fire consumes, but cold preserves.” (393) Aemon is referring to his own health, but the deeper meaning of the line becomes clear when placed next to Beric’s statement about his own transformation, “Fire consumes . . . It consumes , and when it is done there is nothing left. Nothing .”  Jon will be reborn by fire, but that fire will be transformed by cold, preserving him. He will be frozen fire. He will be brought back into his body after warging into Ghost, making his rebirth a confluence of the three major factions of magic in the series, red, blue, and green. The symbol for this has been present in the text from the beginning with the three tributaries of the Trident flowing through the Riverlands, merging into one river before emptying out into the Saltpans.This may be a possible interpretation of the dragon having three heads, though I still suspect that it refers to separate individuals as well, having multi-layered meanings.

 

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Fascinating analysis!

I have some questions: Martin has repeatedly used green and black as motifs, with black representing the 'true' faction in some capacity and green the 'false'. I've also seen theories that Aegon, who accepted Torrhen's crown near the Red Fork, and Robert, who won his crown on the Green Fork, will be succeeded as dynasty-founders by someone on the Blue Fork, associated somehow with House Stark or the Winter, or that some climactic battle will take place there. Aligning the magic of Red and Green with Fire and Nature, what do you think the implications of a Blue dynasty would be? Do you think that there's any significance to the green-false connection in the nature of the magical forces of the world?

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I'm not sure about green being false. Was there really a "true" side in the Dance? I guess I think Rhaenyra's claim was stronger. In general I think the idea of true vs false doesn't get at idea of amoral forces at play. Here is the pattern I see.

Black and white -Faceless Men

Red and white - Weirwood Trees

Red and Black- R'hllor and Targs

Blue and Blacks -Warlocks

Blue and White - Others 

Red, and Blue - Jon

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Fascinating analysis!

I have some questions: Martin has repeatedly used green and black as motifs, with black representing the 'true' faction in some capacity and green the 'false'. I've also seen theories that Aegon, who accepted Torrhen's crown near the Red Fork, and Robert, who won his crown on the Green Fork, will be succeeded as dynasty-founders by someone on the Blue Fork, associated somehow with House Stark or the Winter, or that some climactic battle will take place there. Aligning the magic of Red and Green with Fire and Nature, what do you think the implications of a Blue dynasty would be? Do you think that there's any significance to the green-false connection in the nature of the magical forces of the world?

As for Aegon being victorious at the Red Fork and and Robert at the Green, I don't see a Stark dynasty on the rise, and I see Jon headed north, so out would have to be someone else.

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It really is a great article.   And here I was whining about the lack of originality.   I read your companion essay as forewarned in the opening of this.   I think you're really on to something with the changeling line of thought.   I kept looking for reference to The Faceless Men/Many Faced God transformation in the mix.   Physically at least and FM do get the memories along with the faces.   

I've never seen the blue trees on Qarth described as inverted weirwoods.   Truly clever if this is your idea.   Overall I like this a thousand times better than any other theory I've read regarding the Others.   Really clean, vertically integrated lines of reasoning explaining "ice consumes" and "fire preserves".  Where is the like button anyway? 

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...

So, yeah his hand just smokes sometimes....

 

...probably just before and after sex. 

:D

 

 

 

Moreover, others have suggested that Beric and Lady Stone Heart are affected by a single minded purpose, as if they are stuck in the actions and commitments they had taken and made immediately prior to their death.

 

Which sounds like ghosts.

 

 

 

So, new comment software doesn't have a preview function, huh?

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Excellent work Durran.  I'd been thinking about what you'd said the other day regarding Beric being undead as too simplistic.  I think there's a lot of merit to your points and observations and I'll be looking for others elsewhere.  It's also interesting to think how this might all apply to Jon should he be the mixture of both.  I'm curious if there were other characters that would've had this duality... the Last Hero comes to mind but it might be hard to categorize him definitively with the lack of information we have on him.

Interesting too that Aemon's life may have been extended because of his presence at the Wall, I wonder if proximity has any bearing on things since Aemon begins to fade more quickly after he leaves the Wall?  I suspect there was no Ice-Magic involved with Aemon, so his living to, what, 105 or so can be partially attributed to being present at the Wall, but there's also the Magic associated with the Wall as well.  It'd be interesting if there's some sort of Ice Magic properties as part of the Wall considering the Others have to bypass it.  That element might not be coming until the next book, so it'll be cool to see how the theory stands up as we gain more information about the Others.

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Fire consumes. Ice preserves

 

The purpose of this article is to take at a closer look at the transformational power of Ice and Fire in the series, with a close look at Beric Dondarrion. While many readers, understandably focus on Beric’s resurrection, I will argue that it is the nature of the magic that sustains him, that is the primary source of his transformation, not his death, and we see the same forces transforming Melisandre and several others without, to our knowledge, resurrection having occurred.

snip

 

 

 

Wow!  Super effort!  Well-argued and evidenced. 

 

I will share my observations from my own scholarly essays that may augment your findings.

 

From the very first page of the Prologue in AGoT, Martin places “death” and “song” together and in a prominent location.  Both words are in dialogue written for three men of the Night’s Watch tracking wildlings beyond the Wall.

 

During a heated discussion about whether dead wildlings are truly dead, Will and Royce reveal a myth from their youths:

 

"My mother told me that dead men sing no songs," he [Will] put in.

 

"My wet nurse said the same thing, Will,"  Royce replied. "Never believe anything you hear at a woman's tit. There are things to be learned even from the dead."  His voice echoed, too loud in the twilit forest. 

 

The “children” are associated with “song”, yet the first mention of song in the series is linked to the dead.

 

Of course, Will’s remark is innocent enough, and he may be invoking humor to ease the stress among the rangers. However, the fact that it is placed on the first page of the first novel of the Series is more than a happy coincidence.

 

The wights are the dead walking, not talking. If they cannot talk, how could they sing? In order to sing, they need to breathe.  So from what readers learn later, the wights have no voice singly or collectively.  Perhaps it is a voice they seek.

 

This is my issue with Coldhands:  he is a wight by virtue of descriptors, and like other wights, he has "no voice"!  The dead men cannot speak because they do not breath air!

 

This is why CH conceals his mouth behind a scarf - not to disguise his features.

 


So, Bloodraven employs magic - perhaps a glamour - which allows Bran and company to "believe" the voice they hear is that of the wight. 

 

Jon’s direwolf Ghost has no voice unless Jon wargs him in a wolf dream.  As far as Ghost dying to return Jon’s warg spirit to his body, I only have this to say:  Martin writes that Jon names him Ghost – and this is for a reason:  foreshadowing.  Ghost may die, but he will rise along with Jon.

 

Moreover, Bran communicates with Jon in a wolf dream through mental telepathy and empathy:  “Can a shout be silent?”

 

Do not forget the Faceless Men – they wear faces of the dead that reanimate through blood magic.  

 

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It really is a great article.   And here I was whining about the lack of originality.   I read your companion essay as forewarned in the opening of this.   I think you're really on to something with the changeling line of thought.   I kept looking for reference to The Faceless Men/Many Faced God transformation in the mix.   Physically at least and FM do get the memories along with the faces.   

I've never seen the blue trees on Qarth described as inverted weirwoods.   Truly clever if this is your idea.   Overall I like this a thousand times better than any other theory I've read regarding the Others.   Really clean, vertically integrated lines of reasoning explaining "ice consumes" and "fire preserves".  Where is the like button anyway? 

The connection between the Undying Trees and the Weirwoods is something I first saw on a thread about a year ago. I feel like it is so strongly supported by the text, that it is cannon.

I feel like with the Faceless Men, at the very least, psychological transformation is at the core of their training. "A girl is no one." 

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The connection between the Undying Trees and the Weirwoods is something I first saw on a thread about a year ago. I feel like it is so strongly supported by the text, that it is cannon.

I feel like with the Faceless Men, at the very least, psychological transformation is at the core of their training. "A girl is no one." 

Don't you think the nameless, faceless gods of the north are the Faceless Men of Bravoos?

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Don't you think the nameless, faceless gods of the north are the Faceless Men of Bravoos?

No, I don't think any of the personification of the gods exist outside of the dogma of the religions. By that measure, I think the Faceless Men are some of the smartest players on the board in that they with death as an abstract force, but acknowledge all personification of death as equally valid. By contrast, we know that the Old Gods are a pantheistic spirit made up of the green seers whose consciousness has gone into the trees. They are real and they can have personified goals in that green seers like Blood Raven can provide the hive mind with some direction, though it is unclear as to how much and to what effect.

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Excellent work Durran.  I'd been thinking about what you'd said the other day regarding Beric being undead as too simplistic.  I think there's a lot of merit to your points and observations and I'll be looking for others elsewhere.  It's also interesting to think how this might all apply to Jon should he be the mixture of both.  I'm curious if there were other characters that would've had this duality... the Last Hero comes to mind but it might be hard to categorize him definitively with the lack of information we have on him.

Interesting too that Aemon's life may have been extended because of his presence at the Wall, I wonder if proximity has any bearing on things since Aemon begins to fade more quickly after he leaves the Wall?  I suspect there was no Ice-Magic involved with Aemon, so his living to, what, 105 or so can be partially attributed to being present at the Wall, but there's also the Magic associated with the Wall as well.  It'd be interesting if there's some sort of Ice Magic properties as part of the Wall considering the Others have to bypass it.  That element might not be coming until the next book, so it'll be cool to see how the theory stands up as we gain more information about the Others.

Thanks. I'm not sure how much magic or just a low bacteria environment in the cold has to do with Aemon's longevity. It seems clear that he is trying to communicate a universal truth, beyond just talking about his own health. But yes, the fun part will be seeing how all these theories play out come The Winds of Winter.

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No, I don't think any of the personification of the gods exist outside of the dogma of the religions. By that measure, I think the Faceless Men are some of the smartest players on the board in that they with death as an abstract force, but acknowledge all personification of death as equally valid. By contrast, we know that the Old Gods are a pantheistic spirit made up of the green seers whose consciousness has gone into the trees. They are real and they can have personified goals in that green seers like Blood Raven can provide the hive mind with some direction, though it is unclear as to how much and to what effect.

Well, at least you addressed the ridiculous question I posed.  Ignored all my other replies.  

Skip it.  But do not use it without attributing the author.

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Well, at least you addressed the ridiculous question I posed.  Ignored all my other replies.  

Skip it.  But do not use it without attributing the author.

No offense was intended. I had limited time to respond to questions and comments last night, and I had more to say to your question than your earlier comments. Your point about Coldhand talking seems valid, had hadn't stopped to think about how he could possibly talk. Even Lady Stoneheart doesn't properly talk and injuries to her vocal cords at least leave her able to push air of her lungs.

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One of the ideas that I left out of the OP is the idea that Davos wasc drowned and rsised back by the Drowned God at the Blackwater. While there is ton of symbolism there: Davos describes the the flaming wreck of ships at the chain as the mouth of hell as the river sweeps him towards him, he washes up on the spears of the trident of the merling king and is there for three days, etc., I think the fact that his first thoughts are about the betrayal of the Seven, takes away from a Drowned God angle. Moreover, we are in his head quite a few times after this and we don't get any indications of him being transformed in any way.

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This may be interesting:

She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud. You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time.

by Barristan about Daenerys

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This may be interesting:

She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud. You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time.

by Barristan about Daenerys

Well, I love Danny, but her taste in men is pretty damn questionable. I like the mud and fire juxtaposition though.

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