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Black Crow

Heresy 187

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Welcome to Heresy 187, the latest edition of the quirky thread where we take an in-depth look at the story and in particular what GRRM has referred to as the real conflict, not the Game of Thrones, but the apparent threat which lies in  the North, in the magical otherlands beyond the Wall.

Otherwise Heresy is not of itself a theory but rather a free-flowing and above all a very friendly series of open discussions about the Song of Ice and Ice and Fire.

The strength and the beauty and ultimately the value of Heresy as a critical discussion group is that it reflects diversity and open-ness. This is a thread where ideas can be discussed – and argued – freely, because above all it is about an exchange of ideas and sometimes too a remarkably well informed exchange drawing upon an astonishing broad base of literature ranging through Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and so many others all to the way to the Táin Bó Cúailnge and the Mabinogion.

 If new to the thread, don’t be intimidated by the size and scope of Heresy, or by some of the many ideas we’ve discussed here over the years since it began in 2011. This is very much a come as you are thread with no previous experience required. We’re very welcoming and we’re very good at talking in circles and we don’t mind going over old ground again, especially with a fresh pair of eyes, so just ask. You will neither be monstered, patronized nor directed to follow links, but will be engaged directly. Just be patient and observe the local house rules that the debate be conducted by reference to the text, with respect for the ideas of others, and above all with great good humour

 And just a quick reminder. The run-up to Heresy bicentennial will begin in Heresy 191 with the first of a series of in-depth essays on various aspects of our discussions over the years. Some will be re-runs of the essays from the original Centennial project; others will be updated to reflect current thinking and some will be entirely new. Some of you have already very kindly volunteered and I look forward to your re-affirming your interest in contributing – or volunteering if you haven’t already done so.

Beyond that, read on…

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

 *yes it really is 187. Heresy 186 appears on the mummers’ page as Heresy Branch office 05

 

 

 

 

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And now as usual the slightly spoilerish full text of GRRM's1993  letter to his agent, Ralph Vicinanza. Things have obviously changed a bit since then but a lot of it remains relevant so If you don’t want to know, don’t read on:

October 1993

Dear Ralph,

Here are the first thirteen chapters (170 pages) of the high fantasy novel I promised you, which I'm calling A Game of Thrones. When completed, this will be the first volume in what I see as an epic trilogy with the overall title, A Song of Ice and Fire.

As you know, I don't outline my novels. I find that if I know exactly where a book is going, I lose all interest in writing it. I do, however, have some strong notions as to the overall structure of the story I'm telling, and the eventual fate of many of the principle [sic] characters in the drama.

Roughly speaking, there are three major conflicts set in motion in the chapters enclosed. These will form the major plot threads of the trilogy, intertwining with each other in what should be a complex but exciting (I hope) narrative tapestry. Each of the conflicts presents a major threat to the peace of my imaginary realm, the Seven Kingdoms, and to the lives of the principal characters.

The first threat grows from the enmity between the great houses of Lannister and Stark as it plays out in a cycle of plot, counterplot, ambition, murder, and revenge, with the iron throne of the Seven Kingdoms as the ultimate prize. This will form the backbone of the first volume of the trilogy, A Game of Thrones.

While the lion of Lannister and the direwolf of Stark snarl and scrap, however, a second and greater threat takes shape across the narrow sea, where the Dothraki horselords mass their barbarians hordes for a great invasion of the Seven Kingdoms, led by the fierce and beautiful Daenerys Stormborn, the last of the Targaryen dragonlords. The Dothraki invasion will be the central story of my second volume,A Dance with Dragons.

The greatest danger of all, however, comes from the north, from the icy wastes beyond the Wall, where half-forgotten demons out of legend, the inhuman others, raise cold legions of the undead and the neverborn and prepare to ride down on the winds of winter to extinguish everything that we would call "life." The only thing that stands between the Seven Kingdoms and and endless night is the Wall, and a handful of men in black called the Night's Watch. Their story will be the heart of my third volume, The Winds of Winter. The final battle will also draw together characters and plot threads left from the first two books and resolve all in one huge climax.

The thirteen chapters on hand should give you a notion as to my narrative strategy. All three books will feature a complex mosaic of intercutting points-of-view among various of my large and diverse cast of players. The cast will not always remains the same. Old characters will die, and new ones will be introduced. Some of the fatalities will include sympathetic viewpoint characters. I want the reader to feel that no one is ever completely safe, not even the characters who seem to be the heroes. The suspense always ratchets up a notch when you know that any character can die at any time.

Five central characters will make it through all three volumes, however, growing from children to adults and changing the world and themselves in the process. In a sense, my trilogy is almost a generational saga, telling the life stories of these five characters, three men and two women. The five key players are Tyrion Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and three of the children of Winterfell, Arya, Bran, and the bastard Jon Snow. All of them are introduced at some length in the chapters you have to hand.

This is going to be (I hope) quite an epic. Epic in its scale, epic in its action, and epic in its length. I see all three volumes as big books, running about 700 to 800 manuscript pages, so things are just barely getting underway in the thirteen chapters I've sent you.

I have quite a clear notion of how the story is going to unfold in the first volume, A Game of Thrones. Things will get a lot worse for the poor Starks before they get better, I'm afraid. Lord Eddard Stark and his wife Catelyn Tully are both doomed, and will perish at the hands of their enemies. Ned will discover what happened to his friend Jon Arryn, but before he can act on his knowledge, King Robert will have an unfortunate accident, and the throne will pass to his sullen and brutal son Joffrey, still a minor. Joffrey will not be sympathetic and Ned will be accused of treason, but before he is taken he will help his wife and his daughter escape back to Winterfell.

Each of the contending families will learn it has a member of dubious loyalty in its midst. Sansa Stark, wed to Joffrey Baratheon, will bear him a son, the heir to the throne, and when the crunch comes she will choose her husband and child over her parents and siblings, a choice she will later bitterly rue. Tyrion Lannister, meanwhile, befriend both Sansa and her sister Arya, while growing more and more disenchanted with his own family.

Young Bran will come out of his coma, after a strange prophetic dream, only to discover that he will never walk again. He will turn to magic, at first in the hope of restoring his legs, but later for its own sake. When his father Eddard Stark is executed, Bran will see the shape of doom descending on all of them, but nothing he can say will stop his brother Robb from calling the banners in rebellion. All the north will be inflamed by war. Robb will win several splendid victories, and maim Joffrey Baratheon on the battlefield, but in the end he will not be able to stand against Jaime and Tyrion Lannister and their allies. Robb Stark will die in battle, and Tyrion Lannister will besiege and burn Winterfell.

Jon Snow, the bastard, will remain in the far north. He will mature into a ranger of great daring, and ultimately will succeed his uncle as the commander of the Night's Watch. When Winterfell burns, Catelyn Stark will be forced to flee north with her son Bran and her daughter Arya. Hounded by Lannister riders, they will seek refuge at the Wall, but the men of the Night's Watch give up their families when they take the black, and Jon and Benjen will not be able to help, to Jon's anguish. It will lead to a bitter estrangement between Jon and Bran. Arya will be more forgiving... until she realizes, with terror, that she has fallen in love with Jon, who is not only her half-brother but a man of the Night's Watch, sworn to celibacy. Their passion will continue to torment Jon and Arya throughout the trilogy, until the secret of Jon's true parentage is finally revealed in the last book.

Abandoned by the Night's Watch, Catelyn and her children will find their only hope of safety lies even further north, beyond the Wall, where they fall into the hands of Mance Rayder, the King-beyond-the-Wall, and get a dreadful glimpse of the inhuman others as they attack the wildling encampment. Bran's magic, Arya's sword Needle, and the savagery of their direwolves will help them survive, but their mother Catelyn will die at the hands of the others.

Over across the narrow sea, Daenerys Targaryen will discover that her new husband, the Dothraki Khal Drogo, has little interest in invading the Seven Kingdoms, much to her brother's frustration. When Viserys presses his claims past the point of tact or wisdom, Khal Drogo will finally grow annoyed and kill him out of hand, eliminating the Targaryen pretender and leaving Daenerys as the last of her line. Daenerys will bide her time, but she will not forget. When the moment is right, she will kill her husband to avenge her brother, and then flee with a trusted friend into the wilderness beyond Vaes Dothrak. There, hunted by Dothraki bloodriders [?] of her life, she stumbles on a cache of dragon's eggs [?] of a young dragon will give Daenerys the power to bend the Dothraki to her will. Then she begins to plan for her invasion of the Seven Kingdoms.

Tyrion Lannister will continue to travel, to plot, and to play the game of thrones, finally removing his nephew Joffrey in disgust at the boy king's brutality. Jaime Lannister will follow Joffrey on the throne of the Seven Kingdoms, by the simple expedient of killing everyone ahead of him in the line of succession and blaming his brother Tyrion for the murders. Exiled, Tyrion will change sides, making common cause with surviving Starks to bring his brother down, and falling helplessly in love with Arya Stark while he's at it. His passion is, alas, unreciprocated, but no less intense for that, and it will lead to a deadly rivalry between Tyrion and Snow.

[7 Lines Redacted]

But that's the second book...

I hope you'll find some editors who are as excited about all of this as I am. Feel free to share this letter with anyone who wants to know how the story will go.

All best,

George R.R. Martin

What’s in that redacted passage we don’t know but here’s what appears to be the equally spoilerish original synopsis/publisher’s blurb for Winds of Winter; not the forthcoming one, alas, but one apparently dating back to when it was still to be the third volume of the trilogy and following directly on in content and style from the first synopsis set out above:

Continuing the most imaginative and ambitious epic fantasy since The Lord of the Rings Winter has come at last and no man can say whether it will ever go again. The Wall is broken, the cold dead legions are coming south, and the people of the Seven Kingdoms turn to their queen to protect them. But Daenerys Targaryen is learning what Robert Baratheon learned before her; that it is one thing to win a throne and quite another to sit on one. Before she can hope to defeat the Others, Dany knows she must unite the broken realm behind her. Wolf and lion must hunt together, maester and greenseer work as one, all the blood feuds must be put aside, the bitter rivals and sworn enemies join hands. The Winds of Winter tells the story of Dany’s fight to save her new-won kingdom, of two desperate journeys beyond the known world in to the very hearts of ice and fire, and of the final climactic battle at Winterfell, with life itself in the balance.

 

 

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Being a follower of the Old Gods or the New requires faith and commitment. Pressing a button isn't enough.:commie:

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Seriously though to continue the discussion at the tal end of Heresy 185, I don't  think that GRRM has a problem with beliefs, but rather with the church [of whatever creed] becoming an institution which seeks to regulate the lives of those who subscribe to it and destroys those who do not - in the name of their god.

Joking aside is one reason why the name of the Great Other may not be spoken because he truly is the many faced god, ie; any god who is nor R'hllor and that in turn means that all who do not worship the Red God are by definition against him and when the great day of reckoning comes only the elect will survive - hence Mel's thought that the Wildlings are a doomed people.

And there I think is where GRRM takes issue with revealed religion. Its the readiness to do a manx cat job by imprisoning, torturing, burning or otherwise slaying anyone who is not of the elect.

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1 hour ago, Black Crow said:

Seriously though to continue the discussion at the tal end of Heresy 185, I don't  think that GRRM has a problem with beliefs, but rather with the church [or whatever creed] becoming an institution which seeks to regulate the lives of those who subscribe to it and destroys those who do not - in the name of their god.

 

 

This is what I think he is getting at with the Free Folk. They constantly talk about their detest for kneelers, and we seem to assume that they mean kneeling to lords and kings, but I think there is another step that they are taking. At one point in history they were just Wildlings, and probably sacrificed to the old gods (cold gods) in a manner as well, but tended to send the elderly and dying to join the ranks.

Just as we hear the stories of northerners going out to hunt in the deep snows of winter, and the family somberly lets them go out, knowing that there is nothing to hunt and knowing that they are an aging and an increasingly less useful mouth to feed. Yet at a certain point south of the Wall, this seems to be happening less and less, till probably happening very little at all.The Free Folk want this as well, they just got caught on the wrong side of the Wall. Maybe sending men to the NW was the north's way of accomplishing this (Jeor Mormont.) Yet we know that the NW numbers are more than greatly diminished.

 

Personally I think Craster's curse is that he himself should have gone out to become the sacrifice to his gods, and eventually his eldest behind him, allowing the young and strong to take his place as head of the castle.

 

ETA: Yet there are no curses, hence Craster's lack of caring. Just as old king Sherritt cursed the Andals, the Andals remain.

 

E1kabong described Craster well towards the end of the last thread.

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I was always taught that curses; proper ones where you curse the subject standing, curse the subject sitting, curse the subject waking, curse the subject sleeping and so on and so forth are powerful weapons, but there is always a price to be paid and while effective they will eventually rebound on the curser

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12 hours ago, TheMiddleHero said:

 

This is what I think he is getting at with the Free Folk. They constantly talk about their detest for kneelers, and we seem to assume that they mean kneeling to lords and kings, 

 

I'm inclined to wonder about this as well but suggest that there may be something more ancient and more sinister behind this.

Elsewhere in the story we do come across real kneelers. The most prominent was Torrhen Stark, the King who knelt, but it goes on all the time and in very specific circumstance. Its not a matter of the commons routinely kneeling before their lords and masters but of kings and lords kneeling in submission.

We've discussed before back in the dim and distant how the Wildlings may be sitting where they are at the start of the story because they are the descendants of survivors of the Long Night, survivors of lost kingdoms whose rulers failed their people by dying or by fleeing south, but what if their kings were kneelers? I'm wondering here you see whether given the white walkers were [originally at least] human changelings from way back are their nearest literary equivalent Tolkein's Nazgul; ancient kings who knelt in return for the promise of power - and this is reinforced by Tolkein's basing the Nazgul on Herne the hunter and the wild Hunt, who we've already compared to the blue-eyed lot.

If this interpretation is correct then not only does it explain why the Wildlings detest kneelers, but as I've earlier suggested it provides the white walkers with the motive not of destroying all life but of recovering what was once theirs.

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I have been thinking that the depressing thing is that the best sample chapters from The Winds of Winter (The Forsaken and Mercy) that have been released to date are some of the oldest chapters written, but not yet published.  Compare those two to the two Arianne chapters (one of which has been more or less recently reworked) as well as the Alayne chapter.  The only one that also really holds up is Theon I, a late cut from A Dance with Dragons.

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I wouldn't worry about it. The book aint finished until the fat lady sings and there's a lot of reworking before that happens.

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15 hours ago, TheMiddleHero said:

Maybe sending men to the NW was the north's way of accomplishing this (Jeor Mormont.) Yet we know that the NW numbers are more than greatly diminished.

I'm curious about the diminishing of the Watch. GRRM aint infallible. There are a lot of contradictions, impossibilities and inconsistencies in what he writes simply because they have no bearing on the outcome. This feeds discussion, not least here in Heresy, but does it matter he built his Wall too high?

The Watch may be different though. We have these mysteries and inconsistencies but some at least appear to be intentional because GRRM specifically draws attention to them - a prime example being Sam's unhappiness about the list of Lord Commanders.

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On 6/10/2016 at 10:30 AM, Black Crow said:

Seriously though to continue the discussion at the tal end of Heresy 185, I don't  think that GRRM has a problem with beliefs, but rather with the church [of whatever creed] becoming an institution which seeks to regulate the lives of those who subscribe to it and destroys those who do not - in the name of their god.

Joking aside is one reason why the name of the Great Other may not be spoken because he truly is the many faced god, ie; any god who is nor R'hllor and that in turn means that all who do not worship the Red God are by definition against him and when the great day of reckoning comes only the elect will survive - hence Mel's thought that the Wildlings are a doomed people.

And there I think is where GRRM takes issue with revealed religion. Its the readiness to do a manx cat job by imprisoning, torturing, burning or otherwise slaying anyone who is not of the elect.

Word! Papa Crow permit the shameless mention of the essay in my link "No one: The Trickster gods of asoiaf"

I brought this point up though i think the Many faced god is all of them including Rhollor and better yet the Many faced god is of the Trickster archetype and has been masquerading as gods.Who are the namelss gods and the Old gods if not greenseers.How would it go down if some of these people find out they've been sacrificing,praying to Ned Stark's 10yr old kid.Or some Targ lost beyond the Wall.......

Fire burn Weirwoods.

 

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13 hours ago, Phillip Frye said:

I have been thinking that the depressing thing is that the best sample chapters from The Winds of Winter (The Forsaken and Mercy) that have been released to date are some of the oldest chapters written, but not yet published.

Too true.  Worse, for me, is that the samples don't suggest an accelerating plot, which is absolutely necessary if GRRM is going to finish in two books... which in turn may be necessary if the series is going to finish at all.

For instance, instead of Arianne zipping straight from Dorne to Storm's End (as Cat zipped from Winterfell to King's Landing in book one) we get pit stop chapters of dubious necessity. 

The battle of Meereen, which might or might not deserve a chapter -- notice we never got a chapter actually depicting one of Robb's battles, unless you count the Red Wedding -- somehow winds up justifying several chapters.  Etc.

7 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Sam's unhappiness about the list of Lord Commanders

Sam observes that the oldest list he could find doesn't have as many LCs as legend suggests.  But Sam also reminds us that the Watch existed many centuries prior to the coming of the Andals, when there was no conventional writing in Westeros, so it's not very surprising hundreds of names would long since have been lost.

Also, of course, if it's the oldest list it will naturally be missing all the LCs to come to power since the list was created.

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17 minutes ago, JNR said:

Sam observes that the oldest list he could find doesn't have as many LCs as legend suggests.  But Sam also reminds us that the Watch existed many centuries prior to the coming of the Andals, when there was no conventional writing in Westeros, so it's not very surprising hundreds of names would long since have been lost.

Also, of course, if it's the oldest list it will naturally be missing all the LCs to come to power since the list was created.

The last line goes without saying. The point about the oldest list is that it is by definition also the shortest list since any which list which follows it will be extended by the subsequent Lord Commanders. There we have the problem in that in proclaiming Jon as the 998th Lord Commander, the current list presumably doesn't have 997 names on it.

The question which then arises is whether the missing names are lost, as well they might be [although that then raises the supplementary question that if the names are lost how can anyone be sure as to how many are missing] or whether that early list does recall all of the names and the Watch isn't as old as it pretends.

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38 minutes ago, JNR said:

 

 

 

The battle of Meereen, which might or might not deserve a chapter -- notice we never got a chapter actually depicting one of Robb's battles, unless you count the Red Wedding -- somehow winds up justifying several chapters.  Etc.

 

http://web.archive.org/web/20001005212114/eventhorizon.com/sfzine/chats/transcripts/031899.html

This was 1999:

I try to have the most important action on stage. At the same time, I don't want to seem as if I'm doing rehashes. In A GAME OF THRONES, for instance, there were three important battles fairly close together, and I wrestled with how to do those. I finally chose three different approaches. The first battle (the Green Fork) was fully dramatized. The second (the Whispering Wood) was presented by someone who heard the battle more than saw it . . . summarized rather than dramatized, relying on only one sense. The final battle (the Camps) was presented in dialogue, when a courier reported the result to Lord Tywin. That way, I hoped, the reader would not feel as they were slogging through endless passages of swords slashing, horses screaming, and axes crunching on skulls. (Not that I mind that stuff, of course.)

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And spinning off on a tangent I also came across this comment in the same interview, which I've not come across before:

The hardest characters are Jon and Dany — in part because they are so removed from the main action, and in part because their chapters have the heaviest "magic quotient." As I have said in other interviews, the magic needs to be handled very carefully.

Jon, not Bran, Jon...

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