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Seams, portals and bridges - The Magical Landscape of Westeros? What about islands?

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Are certain places in Westeros special connectors between the magic world and the non-magic world? Or maybe between the past and the present? Legend and "real" life? Let's try to think of examples and provide book-based evidence to back up our ideas.

This topic was suggested by an entry on the Puns & Wordplay thread, briefly discussing the pun between the words "seems" and "seams." I had looked up the dictionary definition of "fell" as part of an examination of the name Winterfell, and was pleased to discover this meaning that had been unknown to me: "to sew (a seam) by folding one raw edge under the other and sewing flat on the wrong side". I knew there were a lot of symbols around the motif of sewing, fabric and weaving but I didn't realize when I chose my username that "seams" would be a deliberate part of this important theme.

My working understanding of the sewing motif is that it relates to efforts to hold together the fabric of Westeros. Arya's sword Needle, for instance, would be used to prevent the tearing of the fabric or to mend places that have been torn. The Ironborn motto, "We do not sow," is another pun that relates to the theme: the Iron Islanders don't farm (sow) but they also don't do anything to hold together the fabric of Westeros (sew). This explanation seems oversimplified though, as Sansa tears her sheets when she gets her first period, and Jon and Arya both tear cloaks to use as bandages. (Jon to bind a wound the eagle inflicted on Ghost and Arya to help the Hound after he is gravely - ha!- injured at the inn at the crossroads.) My best guess was that sometimes tearing is necessary to keep the fabric strong or that little bits of the fabric can be sacrificed to help people in certain circumstances.

So it was helpful to me to stumble across a thread begun by YOVMO discussing a phrase uttered by Jojen. He and his companions explore the Night Fort and Jojen says, "This seems an old place." YOVMO's point was essentially, "Well duh, Jojen." The old, abandoned fort is old. Quite obvious unless you examine the subtext, suggested by a pun on "seems" and "seams." If you re-read the phrase with a seam in mind, Jojen's insight is that the Night Fort holds together two places that meet there; it is a "seam" between - - what? We know that this becomes the place where Bran and his group will find entrance beyond the Wall and where Sam and Gilly and Gilly's baby will find a path back to Castle Black. So maybe it's simply a gate between beyond and below the Wall. But no one has said that Eastwatch or Castle Black "seems an old place." So why is the Night Fort a seam?

I think the author wants us to compare Winterfell and the Night Fort. Jojen's "seems" observation and the alternate definition of "fell" as a seam strengthen this comparison.

@The Fattest Leech suggested last night that the seam common to both places could be a connection between magic and non-magic existence. Somehow the connection has been made again so we are seeing direwolves south of the Wall, Gared bypassing Castle Black to attempt his desertion, and Osha and her companions somehow escaping to the Wolfswood near Winterfell. These examples are all about above and below he Wall. Is that the only dividing line between magic and non-magic? Is there a similar "seam" in the Dothraki Sea that allowed Dany's dragon eggs to hatch?

A further example that immediately comes to mind is Gendel and Gorne and the free folk lost in tunnels leading from beyond-the-Wall to Winterfell. Was Gorne's Way a seam at one point, and the fabric was torn at a critical moment to prevent people from crossing over?

In addition to finding seams, I propose that this thread is a good place to sort out other questions about meaningful features of the landscape. Some that have intrigued me:

1) Why would the Arryns import stone all the way from Tarth to build their castle? Does Tarth stone have special properties that ward off magic? Is the failure to grow a weirwood tree at the Eyrie really because of the altitude, or is it because of this imported stone?

2) The Tarth example may be part of a larger motif around islands. These bits of land are torn off from the mainland of Westeros. Is Pike falling apart because it is devoid of magic? What will we find in the Stepstones or the Arbor? Does Skagos retain magic because of its northern location, or will we find out what happens to an island that has been too far removed from the mainland for too long? Can bits of magic break off and evolve like an isolated ecosystem when an island's environment evolves separately from the larger environment? The Isle of Faces and the Quiet Isle seem more magic than their surrounding mainland areas, if anything. Maybe magic survives in pockets on some islands after it has died out on the mainland.

3) Speaking of islands: "For a thousand years, Winterfell and the Eyrie contested for the rule of the Three Sisters. The Worthless War, some dubbed it. Time and time again the fighting seemed at an end, only to flair up once more a generation later. The islands changed hands more than a dozen times. ... 'This was not a case of the Eyrie winning so much as Winterfell losing interest,' Archmaester Perestan observes in A Consideration of History. 'For ten long centuries the direwolf and the falcon had fought and bled over three rocks, until one day the wolf awoke as from a dream and realized it was only stone between his teeth, when he spat it out and walked away.'" [TWOIAF, p. 168] This vignette struck me the first time I read it. Why fight for 10,000 years and then just give up? I suspect magic was used to get the "wolves" out of the fight, or that the magic had gone from the islands and the northmen realized they were no longer worth having.

4) Ley Lines - There are so many building-related symbols I would like to sort out, and I suspect that towers are super important. The Tower of Joy is central to a major mystery that drives the plot. Is it connected to the Queenscrown tower, somehow? Jon seems to spend a lot of time in towers and he has a conversation with Ygritte about towers. But maybe towers are a major category within a larger topic of man-made structures: crypts, mines, wells, walls, bridges, keeps, gates, waycastles, castles, septs and lots of ruins. Would it help to make sense of these buildings and their underlying meaning by drawing lines between or among them? Or are the connections more literary than geographic? Of course, this raises the whole Brandon the Builder legend, and questions about the magical structures he built.

Sorry to go on at such length. Please help sort this out by suggesting interpretations of places where magic might overlap with the straightforward, non-magic world.

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Thanks for the new thread. It looks perfect! 

I can't wait to see the connections people make. Mine will have to come later tonight. 

Post away! 

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Well, for starters, I do believe Winterfell's name is significant in some way. I think it's the place where the Others and the Winter they brought with them Fell, or were defeated. But I don't really see the Night Fort being of the same mold..unless it's something the Night's King did. Maybe he and his Other queen were trying to make the Night Fort into a "place of power" or something. 

If there are these portals or whatever...The Shadow, Yeen, the wastes beyond the 5 forts and the God's Eye seem pretty natural spots. 

As for Tarth...I just think it's very nice. If you're going to build a castle in the most ridiculously difficult to build spot...might as well make it the best damn castle you can and make it look nice. 

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The House of Black and White, particularly the weirwood/ebony door with the moon face that will open by itself on command of a said phrase to reveal inside an area larger than it appears from out. Hence why the assassins can all arrive in close timing for a scheduled meeting. They all entered different scattered doors, magic portals, but arrived on the other side of the same doors in the same place, the House of Black White.

Quote

"Oysters, clams, and cockles" were Cat's magic words, and like all good magic words they could take her almost anywhere.

Like with the door below Castle Black, it's a matter of knowing the right words. Only some of the words won't be so much words, they'll be the language of the COTF. The war turned when men learned the language of the COTF, as it will again, as understanding the COTF language will take man (or girl) almost anywhere.

Don't know if you're aware, indeed I might have read it from a post of yours rather than realised it myself, but in keeping with the fabric language, the Freys are the cause of the KITN's realm fraying.

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3 hours ago, Seams said:

Why would the Arryns import stone all the way from Tarth to build their castle? Does Tarth stone have special properties that ward off magic? Is the failure to grow a weirwood tree at the Eyrie really because of the altitude, or is it because of this imported stone?

Perhaps the stone in that part of the Vale isn't a great building material? I take the failure to grow a weirwood as a sign that weirwoods need to be able to eventually connect with the rest of the weirnet, and that's not possible from a mountaintop.

2 minutes ago, chrisdaw said:

Don't know if you're aware, indeed I might have read it from a post of yours rather than realised it myself, but in keeping with the fabric language, the Freys are the cause of the KITN's realm fraying.

Wow, that's a really good spot. Quite amusing actually.

 

As for my own ideas for potential seams (excluding the ones already said), the Fourteen Flames, the Bone mountains, the Kingdom of the Ifeqevron (especially Vaes Leisi), possibly the Rhoyne (especially the Sorrows).

I also believe that there's a more-than-passing connection between volcanism and magic, in which case I'd add Thenn, Hardhome, and Marahai to the list, as well as possible volcanoes such as the Lonely Light, Skagos, and the Mother of Mountains.

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4 hours ago, Seams said:

Are certain places in Westeros special connectors between the magic world and the non-magic world? Or maybe between the past and the present? Legend and "real" life? Let's try to think of examples and provide book-based evidence to back up our ideas.

Hi Seams.  :)

Thinking on any magic connectors we have the 'Hollow Hill' at High Heart in the Riverlands.  There are all those weirwood stumps atop the hill, and the Ghost of HH tells us that 'this place belongs to the old gods still'.  Thoros also notes that 'the weirwoods whisper in her ear when she sleeps' and she tells Thoros his powers won't work at HH because of the old gods.  And it was said that this was a sacred place for the CotF.

Secondly, Nagga's bones are at the top of a hill on Old Wyk, and the Ironborn revere the site as a holy place.  This 'seems' very similar to HH.  And thirdly, of course BR's cave north of the Wall, showing a lot of parallels to the cave at HH. 

Interestingly 'fell' is another name for a hill as well.  Furthermore, the weirwoods atop High Heart were 'felled' by the Andals.  And to take it a bit further, the Ironborn legend says Nagga's bones are that of the first sea dragon, so one could say Nagga 'fell' on Old Wyk at the hands of the Grey King. 

A quick look into the history/myths of hollow hills is interesting as well.  The following is from the Encyclopedia of Earth Myths site... 

HOLLOW HILLS . Experiential doorways into the Earth's visionary geography and its 100+ different features, light temples, and residences of the gods.  

Also known as locus consecratus, nemeton, sacred fords, sidhe, tirtha, wahi tapu

Explanation : The terms Hollow Hills or sidhe are clues to the Earth's vast visionary geography and the openings into this realm through physical landscape features such as hills, caves, mounds, rockfaces, or human-made structures.

The Earth's visionary geography consists of at least 95 different types of portals, doorways, or openings into the planet's subtle landscape. These different types have multiple copies, so that, for example, a Hollow Hill, sidhe, or landscape portal to the Rich Fisher King of Celtic lore is through any of 144 Grail Castles accessed through sacred or holy sites around the Earth. In all, there are many thousands of gateways into the Otherworld each accessed through a physical site.

Thus Hollow Hill or sidhe can refer accurately to any of these 95 features.

Often the sidhe or Hollow Hill leading to a Tuatha is already hallowed and culturally recognized as such, or at least it will carry an aura of numinosity. Places known as a god's sidhe or King Arthur's Hollow Hill, or even the fairy mounds, are functional passageways from our physical realm to their numinous one and as the Tibetan visionary cited above said, those of "pure vision", or the Celtic lore calls "second sight," may enter and visit with the gods and spirits.

Hindu sacred geographic lore calls such places tirthas, or spiritual fords, where one can safely cross the "river" between physical and subtle realms. The ancient Druids used the term nemeton (from the Latin nemus meaning "Heaven") to indicate a sacred center, sanctuary, or enclosure, such as a grove or woodland clearing, as a place of spiritual exchange between the terrestrial and celestial worlds. Similarly the Romans spoke of a locus consecratus, "consecrated place."

The Maori of New Zealand use the term wahi tapu, which literally means "sacred place," but whose wider connotations mean "windows to the past." Such places provide genealogical links to the Maori ancestors, original stories of creation, and events that define individual tribes within their landscapes.

Early days but this is very interesting, nice thread again Seams!

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Speaking of seams, I posted this in the Wow, I nevery noticed that thread a couple of years ago. You might dig it...

The George has compared the Others to the Sidhe of Irish folklore. According to such folklore, the splits in a tree caused by lightning strikes can serve as pathways to the world of the Sidhe. White is often used to symbolize purity and innocence. We learn in Clash that Craster gives his sons to the Others, and in Storm, apparently, that those boys become Others.

Now, check this out from Jon III, Clash as Jon and the Nights Watch approach Crasters Keep,

Quote

As he rode past a lightning-blasted chestnut tree overgrown with wild white roses, he heard something rustling in the underbrush.

It turns out to be Dywen and Grenn, who have been screening the main column as outriders, and Dywen tells Jon,

Quote

"Thought me and the boy had us one o' them Others to deal with."

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6 hours ago, Seams said:

~snipped!~

These examples are all about above and below he Wall. Is that the only dividing line between magic and non-magic? Is there a similar "seam" in the Dothraki Sea that allowed Dany's dragon eggs to hatch?

~snipped~

Maybe a parallel in Essos would be the Mother of Mountains or the Womb of the World??? Just guesses at the moment. I am thinking that, or the House of Undying (portal to underworld)?

  • A Game of Thrones - Daenerys IV

    A small army of slaves had gone ahead to prepare for Khal Drogo's arrival. As each rider swung down from his saddle, he unbelted his arakh and handed it to a waiting slave, and any other weapons he carried as well. Even Khal Drogo himself was not exempt. Ser Jorah had explained that it was forbidden to carry a blade in Vaes Dothrak, or to shed a free man's blood. Even warring khalasars put aside their feuds and shared meat and mead together when they were in sight of the Mother of Mountains. In this place, the crones of the dosh khaleen had decreed, all Dothraki were one blood, one khalasar, one herd.
  • A Game of Thrones - Daenerys V

    Khal Drogo looked down at her. His face was a copper mask, yet under the long black mustache, drooping beneath the weight of its gold rings, she thought she glimpsed the shadow of a smile. "Is good name, Dan Ares wife, moon of my life," he said.
    They rode to the lake the Dothraki called the Womb of the World, surrounded by a fringe of reeds, its water still and calm. A thousand thousand years ago, Jhiqui told her, the first man had emerged from its depths, riding upon the back of the first horse.

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6 hours ago, Lord Vance II said:

Well, for starters, I do believe Winterfell's name is significant in some way. I think it's the place where the Others and the Winter they brought with them Fell, or were defeated. But I don't really see the Night Fort being of the same mold..unless it's something the Night's King did. Maybe he and his Other queen were trying to make the Night Fort into a "place of power" or something. 

If there are these portals or whatever...The Shadow, Yeen, the wastes beyond the 5 forts and the God's Eye seem pretty natural spots. 

As for Tarth...I just think it's very nice. If you're going to build a castle in the most ridiculously difficult to build spot...might as well make it the best damn castle you can and make it look nice. 

What if the places were significant before the people lived there - maybe the people chose to occupy these places because they discovered the magic seams at Winterfell and the Night Fort? Maybe that's why there is an ancient weirwood that seems to be sort of imprisoned into service in the Black Gate. I wonder if there is something similar in the bottomless hot springs at Winterfell?

3 hours ago, chrisdaw said:

The House of Black and White, particularly the weirwood/ebony door with the moon face that will open by itself on command of a said phrase to reveal inside an area larger than it appears from out. Hence why the assassins can all arrive in close timing for a scheduled meeting. They all entered different scattered doors, magic portals, but arrived on the other side of the same doors in the same place, the House of Black White.

Like with the door below Castle Black, it's a matter of knowing the right words. Only some of the words won't be so much words, they'll be the language of the COTF. The war turned when men learned the language of the COTF, as it will again, as understanding the COTF language will take man (or girl) almost anywhere.

Don't know if you're aware, indeed I might have read it from a post of yours rather than realised it myself, but in keeping with the fabric language, the Freys are the cause of the KITN's realm fraying.

The Moon Door at the Eyrie is also made of weirwood, I believe, and we have the double door to Tobho Mott's blacksmith shop in King's Landing.

I believe that the House of the Undying is paired with the Winterfell Library - both of them are libraries, and both hold information that is not found anywhere else. Dany's dragon seems to destroy the House of the Undying, and the catspaw (apparently) tried to burn the Winterfell library (but not before Tyrion borrowed a few books to take to the Wall). Maybe the HotU and Winterfell library are part of this larger group with the HoB&W (although I think that is paired with the Bank of Braavos) and Tobho Mott's shop (which I believe is paired with the Winterfell crypt).

Yes, discussion of the fray / Frey pun was in one of my earliest posts, all about the sewing motif. (Look at the quote box dated 10/15/2014.) Others may have made the same observation.

3 hours ago, Maester of Valyria said:

Perhaps the stone in that part of the Vale isn't a great building material? I take the failure to grow a weirwood as a sign that weirwoods need to be able to eventually connect with the rest of the weirnet, and that's not possible from a mountaintop.

...

As for my own ideas for potential seams (excluding the ones already said), the Fourteen Flames, the Bone mountains, the Kingdom of the Ifeqevron (especially Vaes Leisi), possibly the Rhoyne (especially the Sorrows).

I also believe that there's a more-than-passing connection between volcanism and magic, in which case I'd add Thenn, Hardhome, and Marahai to the list, as well as possible volcanoes such as the Lonely Light, Skagos, and the Mother of Mountains.

I was thinking the Rhoyne. Definitely. I like the idea of the volcanism being linked to magic. Maybe there are different kinds of "seams" for different kinds of magic. It makes sense that an earthquake fault line would be a seam in the land.

3 hours ago, Wizz-The-Smith said:

Thinking on any magic connectors we have the 'Hollow Hill' at High Heart in the Riverlands.  There are all those weirwood stumps atop the hill, and the Ghost of HH tells us that 'this place belongs to the old gods still'.  Thoros also notes that 'the weirwoods whisper in her ear when she sleeps' and she tells Thoros his powers won't work at HH because of the old gods.  And it was said that this was a sacred place for the CotF.

Secondly, Nagga's bones are at the top of a hill on Old Wyk, and the Ironborn revere the site as a holy place.  This 'seems' very similar to HH.  And thirdly, of course BR's cave north of the Wall, showing a lot of parallels to the cave at HH. 

Interestingly 'fell' is another name for a hill as well.  Furthermore, the weirwoods atop High Heart were 'felled' by the Andals.  And to take it a bit further, the Ironborn legend says Nagga's bones are that of the first sea dragon, so one could say Nagga 'fell' on Old Wyk at the hands of the Grey King. 

A quick look into the history/myths of hollow hills is interesting as well.  The following is from the Encyclopedia of Earth Myths site... 

HOLLOW HILLS . Experiential doorways into the Earth's visionary geography and its 100+ different features, light temples, and residences of the gods.  

<snip>

I love, love, love all of this.

I was just discussing on another thread the revelation that "deserter" and "red trees" are probably a wordplay (anagram) pair. Weirwood stumps therefore become important because deserters are beheaded on Westeros. Why are weirwood trees (and stumps) supposed to be compared to traitors? It's interesting to think that they still have stories to tell, even when they are "stumps." Jaime's arm that was cut off was, of course, his kingslayer arm so, like a deserter, his arm was a traitor and it was "beheaded." There are a number of references to his stump and Jaime has an important dream vision while sleeping against a weirwood stump, also called a bole. (Which has to be a pun on bowl, and a reference to the paste Bran eats from a bowl in the CotF cave.) But I digress.

One more wordplay possibility? Is Nagga sort of the backwards equivalent of Aegon? As an Ironborn dragon, will she rise again? I suspect you are right about the holy hill where her bones rest.

2 hours ago, Lost Melnibonean said:

Speaking of seams, I posted this in the Wow, I nevery noticed that thread a couple of years ago. You might dig it...

The George has compared the Others to the Sidhe of Irish folklore. According to such folklore, the splits in a tree caused by lightning strikes can serve as pathways to the world of the Sidhe. White is often used to symbolize purity and innocence. We learn in Clash that Craster gives his sons to the Others, and in Storm, apparently, that those boys become Others.

Now, check this out from Jon III, Clash as Jon and the Nights Watch approach Crasters Keep,

It turns out to be Dywen and Grenn, who have been screening the main column as outriders, and Dywen tells Jon,

I do dig this! Woo hoo, do I ever. Splits in trees seem like a fit for so many aspects of ASOIAF. Excellent connection, Lost Mel.

I suspect that "Craster" is another offshoot of "Stark," like "Karstark," and that all of Craster's sons (and daughters) are as close as you can get to having pure Stark bloodlines after generations of inbreeding. So Dywen mistaking Jon for an "Other" might be fabulous evidence in support of this notion.

1 hour ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Maybe a parallel in Essos would be the Mother of Mountains or the Womb of the World??? Just guesses at the moment. I am thinking that, or the House of Undying (portal to underworld)?

  • A Game of Thrones - Daenerys IV

    A small army of slaves had gone ahead to prepare for Khal Drogo's arrival. As each rider swung down from his saddle, he unbelted his arakh and handed it to a waiting slave, and any other weapons he carried as well. Even Khal Drogo himself was not exempt. Ser Jorah had explained that it was forbidden to carry a blade in Vaes Dothrak, or to shed a free man's blood. Even warring khalasars put aside their feuds and shared meat and mead together when they were in sight of the Mother of Mountains. In this place, the crones of the dosh khaleen had decreed, all Dothraki were one blood, one khalasar, one herd.
  • A Game of Thrones - Daenerys V

    Khal Drogo looked down at her. His face was a copper mask, yet under the long black mustache, drooping beneath the weight of its gold rings, she thought she glimpsed the shadow of a smile. "Is good name, Dan Ares wife, moon of my life," he said.
    They rode to the lake the Dothraki called the Womb of the World, surrounded by a fringe of reeds, its water still and calm. A thousand thousand years ago, Jhiqui told her, the first man had emerged from its depths, riding upon the back of the first horse.

Great examples. These are both definitely female places. There are some female places in Westeros (e.g., the Mother's Teats) but Essos has Mother Rhoyne and these other good examples you cite. I wonder whether gender differences in magic portals is significant?

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1 minute ago, Seams said:

~snipped~

Great examples. These are both definitely female places. There are some female places in Westeros (e.g., the Mother's Teats) but Essos has Mother Rhoyne and these other good examples you cite. I wonder whether gender differences in magic portals is significant?

Well, to quote Val, "ask a woods witch if you would know the truth." ;)

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8 hours ago, Seams said:

I had looked up the dictionary definition of "fell" as part of an examination of the name Winterfell, and was pleased to discover this meaning that had been unknown to me: "to sew (a seam) by folding one raw edge under the other and sewing flat on the wrong side". I knew there were a lot of symbols around the motif of sewing, fabric and weaving but I didn't realize when I chose my username that "seams" would be a deliberate part of this important theme.

My working understanding of the sewing motif is that it relates to efforts to hold together the fabric of Westeros. Arya's sword Needle, for instance, would be used to prevent the tearing of the fabric or to mend places that have been torn.

Another fascinating thread, Seams!  A 'seam' also has a mining connotation, namely the valuable stratum of ore that miners strive to tap, which made me think of analogous rich seams of magic being bottled up under pressure (perhaps warded?) at key sites, and waiting (or threatening?) to be released!

Your identification that 'fell' can signify both a fall and repair implies that falling, and those who fall and/or are 'felled,' may harbor rich seams of magic potential, as I'll discuss next:

2 hours ago, Lost Melnibonean said:

According to such folklore, the splits in a tree caused by lightning strikes can serve as pathways to the world of the Sidhe.

Perhaps the magical 'seam' or 'hinge' is not a place but a person.  

In the prologue, Ser Waymar's broken sword, which has been struck by the Others, is compared to 'a tree struck by lightning.'  Likewise, Ser Waymar, described as 'a boy slashed in a dozen places,' has been symbolically struck down.  Shortly thereafter, however, he magically rises again as a wight as a consequence of the symbolic lightning strike:

Quote

A Game of Thrones - Prologue

Royce's body lay facedown in the snow, one arm outflung. The thick sable cloak had been slashed in a dozen places. Lying dead like that, you saw how young he was. A boy.

He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. Will knelt, looked around warily, and snatched it up. The broken sword would be his proof. Gared would know what to make of it, and if not him, then surely that old bear Mormont or Maester Aemon. Would Gared still be waiting with the horses? He had to hurry.

Will rose. Ser Waymar Royce stood over him.

In the figure of Bran, we can identify a similar constellation of symbolic elements recurring: a tree, a boy, a lightning strike, a fall, shattered limbs, eyes feared closed forever opening again...  Bran is a boy joined to a weirwood tree, therefore it follows that in his crippled state he might be 'splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning.'-- Bran is a 'felled' tree, a tree stump (I suppose he was a bit of a 'deserter' according to @Seams theory of why people get various bits of them felled, considering he failed to heed the admonitions of his parents, maester, and wolf, etc.).  Moreover, the broken tower from which Bran fell was struck by lightning.  Then Nan tells us of a naughty boy who climbed too high and was struck by lightning inviting crows to peck out his eyes-- whom we can recognise in retrospect as Bran:  

Quote

His favorite haunt was the broken tower. Once it had been a watchtower, the tallest in Winterfell. A long time ago, a hundred years before even his father had been born, a lightning strike had set it afire. The top third of the structure had collapsed inward, and the tower had never been rebuilt. Sometimes his father sent ratters into the base of the tower, to clean out the nests they always found among the jumble of fallen stones and charred and rotten beams. But no one ever got up to the jagged top of the structure now except for Bran and the crows.

 

A Game of Thrones - Bran II

Old Nan told him a story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes. Bran was not impressed. There were crows' nests atop the broken tower, where no one ever went but him, and sometimes he filled his pockets with corn before he climbed up there and the crows ate it right out of his hand. None of them had ever shown the slightest bit of interest in pecking out his eyes.

 

Quote

A Game of Thrones - Jon II

She was holding one of his hands. It looked like a claw. This was not the Bran he remembered. The flesh had all gone from him. His skin stretched tight over bones like sticks. Under the blanket, his legs bent in ways that made Jon sick. His eyes were sunken deep into black pits; open, but they saw nothing. The fall had shrunken him somehow. He looked half a leaf, as if the first strong wind would carry him off to his grave.

Yet under the frail cage of those shattered ribs, his chest rose and fell with each shallow breath.

Here, even before Bran gets to Bloodraven's weirwood, he is already described as a shattered tree, with 'bones like sticks...legs bent...half a leaf.' Like Ser Waymar, he is a boy struck down who miraculously rises again, emerging from his coma with a renewed identity and purpose.  

The consequences of the 'lightning strike' which fells Bran are crippling and magically transformative at once. We know that the 'lightning strike' on Bran allowed the opening of his third eye beginning his journey to becoming a greenseer.  Has the lightning strike also marked him somehow as a port of entry for the Others?

Also, I failed to mention the other symbolic element in the configuration I identified in the prologue, namely the significance of the sword struck by lightning.  If swords like the people and trees to whom they are compared have limbs, then which side of the sword -- hilt or blade -- corresponds to the legs and head respectively?  The sword in the prologue was struck by lightning at its top end.  However, depending on ones interpretation, perhaps Bran as a sword was struck at his lower end, corresponding to his legs, making him a sword without a hilt and a livewire seam on the magical front:

Quote

A Dance with Dragons - Jon VIII

 [Sorcery is] a sword without a hilt, with no safe way to hold it. But Melisandre had the right of it. Even a sword without a hilt is better than an empty hand when foes are all around you.

Is Bran the sword without a hilt?

3 hours ago, Wizz-The-Smith said:

The Maori of New Zealand use the term wahi tapu, which literally means "sacred place," but whose wider connotations mean "windows to the past." Such places provide genealogical links to the Maori ancestors, original stories of creation, and events that define individual tribes within their landscapes.

'Windows to the past'..perfect for Bran!

16 minutes ago, Seams said:

Maybe that's why there is an ancient weirwood that seems to be sort of imprisoned into service in the Black Gate.

That's an interesting notion.  How do you see the tree being imprisoned?  Into whose service?

 

 

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This is a place that I always took as a type of portal. I hope I can make sense of it here. And sorry, it might get a tad long.

Before the mutiny at Castle Black by Marsh and Wick, and two others, one most likely Pyp and Yarwyck, Jon calls everyone to the Shieldhall, and this is before decisions about the pink letter. These are the first introductions to Shieldhall we get. Everything is from Jon/ ADWD:

  • Tormund roared at that as well. "Eat," the raven said darkly, flapping its black wings. "Corn? Corn? Corn?"
    "We need to talk about the ranging," said Jon. "I want us to be of one mind at the Shieldhall, we must—" He broke off when Mully poked his nose inside the door, grim-faced, to announce that Clydas had brought a letter.
    "Tell him to leave it with you. I will read it later."
  •    The Shieldhall was one of the older parts of Castle Black, a long drafty feast hall of dark stone, its oaken rafters black with the smoke of centuries. Back when the Night's Watch had been much larger, its walls had been hung with rows of brightly colored wooden shields. Then as now, when a knight took the black, tradition decreed that he set aside his former arms and take up the plain black shield of the brotherhood. The shields thus discarded would hang in the Shieldhall.
       Hundreds of knights meant hundreds of shields. Hawks and eagles, dragons and griffins, suns and stags, wolves and wyverns, manticores, bulls, trees and flowers, harps, spears, crabs and krakens, red lions and golden lions and chequy lions, owls, lambs, maids and mermen, stallions, stars, buckets and buckles, flayed men and hanged men and burning men, axes, longswords, turtles, unicorns, bears, quills, spiders and snakes and scorpions, and a hundred other heraldic charges had adorned the Shieldhall walls, blazoned in more colors than any rainbow ever dreamed of.
       But when a knight died, his shield was taken down, that it might go with him to his pyre or his tomb, and over the years and centuries fewer and fewer knights had taken the black. A day came when it no longer made sense for the knights of Castle Black to dine apart. The Shieldhall was abandoned. In the last hundred years, it had been used only infrequently. As a dining hall, it left much to be desiredit was dark, dirty, drafty, and hard to heat in winter, its cellars infested with rats, its massive wooden rafters worm-eaten and festooned with cobwebs.
       But it was large and long enough to seat two hundred, and half again that many if they crowded close. When Jon and Tormund entered, a sound went through the hall, like wasps stirring in a nest. The wildlings outnumbered the crows by five to one, judging by how little black he saw. Fewer than a dozen shields remained, sad grey things with faded paint and long cracks in the wood. But fresh torches burned in the iron sconces along the walls, and Jon had ordered benches and tables brought in. Men with comfortable seats were more inclined to listen, Maester Aemon had once told him; standing men were more inclined to shout.
    ***
    "No. I ride south." Then Jon read them the letter Ramsay Snow had written.
    The Shieldhall went mad.
    Every man began to shout at once. They leapt to their feet, shaking fists. So much for the calming power of comfortable benches. Swords were brandished, axes smashed against shields. Jon Snow looked to Tormund. The Giantsbane sounded his horn once more, twice as long and twice as loud as the first time.
    ***
    The roar was all he could have hoped for, the tumult so loud that the two old shields tumbled from the walls. Soren Shieldbreaker was on his feet, the Wanderer as well. Toregg the Tall, Brogg, Harle the Huntsman and Harle the Handsome both, Ygon Oldfather, Blind Doss, even the Great Walrus. I have my swords, thought Jon Snow, and we are coming for you, Bastard.
    ***
    Yarwyck and Marsh were slipping out, he saw, and all their men behind them. It made no matter. He did not need them now. He did not want them. No man can ever say I made my brothers break their vows. If this is oathbreaking, the crime is mine and mine alone. Then Tormund was pounding him on the back, all gap-toothed grin from ear to ear. "Well spoken, crow. Now bring out the mead! Make them yours and get them drunk, that's how it's done. We'll make a wildling o' you yet, boy. Har!"
    ***
    >>>Now, compare all of this to none other than the Viking society and völva (which is what Val and Dalla are/were):
     
    In addition, many aristocratic Viking women wanted to serve Freyja and represent her in Midgard.[9] They married Viking warlords who had Odin as a role model, and they settled in great halls that were earthly representations of Valhalla.[9] In Norse mythology, Valhalla (from Old Norse Valhöll "hall of the slain"[1]) is a majestic, enormous hall located in Asgard, ruled over by the god Odin.In these halls there were magnificent feasts with ritualized meals, and the visiting chieftains can be likened with the einherjar, the fallen warriors who fought bravely and were served drinks by Valkyries.[9] However, the duties of the mistresses were not limited to serving mead to visiting guests, but they were also expected to take part in warfare by manipulating weaving tools magically when their spouses were out in battle.[9] Scholars no longer believe that these women waited passively at home, and there is evidence for their magic activities both in archaeological finds and in Old Norse sources, such as the Darraðarljóð.[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Völva
     
    >>> Basically, I think Shieldhall, a grand hall that is steeped with the history of warrior brothers and mead and feasts (getting drunk in this case, and Mormont's raven tells them to "Eat"), is Jon's personal portal to his underworld that he is about to face. He goes in to his portal and raises his warriors (the wildlings) and then leaves only to be stabbed by the NW traitors.
     

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18 hours ago, Seams said:

I love, love, love all of this.

I was just discussing on another thread the revelation that "deserter" and "red trees" are probably a wordplay (anagram) pair. Weirwood stumps therefore become important because deserters are beheaded on Westeros. Why are weirwood trees (and stumps) supposed to be compared to traitors? It's interesting to think that they still have stories to tell, even when they are "stumps." Jaime's arm that was cut off was, of course, his kingslayer arm so, like a deserter, his arm was a traitor and it was "beheaded." There are a number of references to his stump and Jaime has an important dream vision while sleeping against a weirwood stump, also called a bole. (Which has to be a pun on bowl, and a reference to the paste Bran eats from a bowl in the CotF cave.) But I digress.

One more wordplay possibility? Is Nagga sort of the backwards equivalent of Aegon? As an Ironborn dragon, will she rise again? I suspect you are right about the holy hill where her bones rest.

Thanks, I have discussed the hills as magic strongholds before in the Riverlands Web and with RR.  Your search and explanation on the word 'fell' and 'seam' strengthened the idea considerably.  Great work.

'Deserter' and 'red trees' is very interesting, nice catch, that's something else to look out for.  A lot of my Bran's growing powers search surrounds the trees, I will now include this angle as well.  I have often re-visited Jaime sleeping on the weirwood stump, I missed it was also called a 'bole'.  RR and I had a similar conversation regards that Bran scene and the bowl of paste, there is an Arya example in the HoBaW as well.  But I too digress.

I like your wordplay on Nagga and Aegon, that's a cool idea.  If as I suspect, we can link these hills or hollow hills to these magic portals then Nagga is in the right place to rise again.  :P  You mention up thread....

On ‎15‎/‎08‎/‎2016 at 1:46 PM, Seams said:

Can bits of magic break off and evolve like an isolated ecosystem when an island's environment evolves separately from the larger environment? The Isle of Faces and the Quiet Isle seem more magic than their surrounding mainland areas, if anything. Maybe magic survives in pockets on some islands after it has died out on the mainland.

Regards the Isles of Faces, or just lakes and islands in general, it seems they were also very important to the psyche of Irish folklore.  This next passage from Celtic folklore: The people of the mounds sounds very much like our Isle of Faces.  Perhaps an influence in some way... 

The 'Sluagh Sidhe', the fairy host who travel through the air at night, and are known to 'take' mortals with them on their journeys. There are also guardian sidhe of most of the lakes of Ireland and Scotland. These distinct categories of sidhe beings ties in with the testimonies of seers who divide the sidhe into wood spirits, water spirits, air spirits and so on, the elemental spirits of each place.  

Getting back to the hollow hill, RR had a very interesting point [among many] about our search including people..

18 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

Perhaps the magical 'seam' or 'hinge' is not a place but a person.  

In the prologue, Ser Waymar's broken sword, which has been struck by the Others, is compared to 'a tree struck by lightning.'  Likewise, Ser Waymar, described as 'a boy slashed in a dozen places,' has been symbolically struck down.  Shortly thereafter, however, he magically rises again as a wight as a consequence of the symbolic lightning strike:

This is a good catch, and I agree that our search will probably include many different aspects, swords, people, buildings, places etc...  Reading about Irish folklore/The Sidhe last night I also spotted a possible play on words.

It is interesting to note that many of the Irish refer to the sidhe as simply "the gentry", on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech.

Is there a play on the word ‘gentry’ going on here?  It sounds very much like Gendry, who is of course tall and of noble appearance, looking so much like King Robert.  The tall and noble gentry synonymous with the hollow hills.

Interestingly, Gendry was knighted at High Heart and is now ‘Ser Gendry of hollow hill’.   Literally one of the gentry now.  ;)  We can also link him to the half weirwood, half ebony doors at Tobho's workshop.  Will keep looking.  :)    

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6 minutes ago, Wizz-The-Smith said:

~snipped~

This is a good catch, and I agree that our search will probably include many different aspects, swords, people, buildings, places etc...  Reading about Irish folklore/The Sidhe last night I also spotted a possible play on words.

It is interesting to note that many of the Irish refer to the sidhe as simply "the gentry", on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech.

Is there a play on the word ‘gentry’ going on here?  It sounds very much like Gendry, who is of course tall and of noble appearance, looking so much like King Robert.  The tall and noble gentry synonymous with the hollow hills.

Interestingly, Gendry was knighted at High Heart and is now ‘Ser Gendry of hollow hill’.   Literally one of the gentry now.  ;)  We can also link him to the half weirwood, half ebony doors at Tobho's workshop.  That's as far as I've got, will keep looking.  :)    

Aha! I love it. My mind is racing now with a flood of new thoughts. Thank you :cheers:

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14 minutes ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Aha! I love it. My mind is racing now with a flood of new thoughts. Thank you :cheers:

No problem, look forward to your thoughts as always.  I love your ideas regards Shieldhall as well.   :cheers:

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3 hours ago, Wizz-The-Smith said:

Regards the Isles of Faces, or just lakes and islands in general, it seems they were also very important to the psyche of Irish folklore.  This next passage from Celtic folklore: The people of the mounds sounds very much like our Isle of Faces.  Perhaps an influence in some way... 

The 'Sluagh Sidhe', the fairy host who travel through the air at night, and are known to 'take' mortals with them on their journeys. There are also guardian sidhe of most of the lakes of Ireland and Scotland. These distinct categories of sidhe beings ties in with the testimonies of seers who divide the sidhe into wood spirits, water spirits, air spirits and so on, the elemental spirits of each place.  

The 'elemental spirits of each place' sounds like the 'genius loci' we discussed.  The Sidhe 'taking mortals with them on their journeys' at night is reminiscent of green- or 'plain' dreaming.  While traveling with the Sidhe might sound fun on the surface, 'taking' mortals also sounds a bit like bodysnatching or human sacrifice fueling these flights!

3 hours ago, Wizz-The-Smith said:

It is interesting to note that many of the Irish refer to the sidhe as simply "the gentry", on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech.

Is there a play on the word ‘gentry’ going on here?  It sounds very much like Gendry, who is of course tall and of noble appearance, looking so much like King Robert.  The tall and noble gentry synonymous with the hollow hills.

Interestingly, Gendry was knighted at High Heart and is now ‘Ser Gendry of hollow hill’.   Literally one of the gentry now.  ;)  We can also link him to the half weirwood, half ebony doors at Tobho's workshop. 

Great catch!  'Silvery sweet speech' is appropriate for Gendry, a shy young man short on words, but who as a smith can make silver ring and swords sing!  Gendry's 'sweet' speech expresses itself in metallic utterances:

Quote

A Storm of Swords - Arya IV

"I wish I had a flaming sword." Arya could think of lots of people she'd like to set on fire.

"It's only a trick, I told you. The wildfire ruins the steel. My master sold Thoros a new sword after every tourney. Every time they would have a fight about the price." Gendry hung the tongs back up and took down the heavy hammer. "Master Mott said it was time I made my first longsword. He gave me a sweet piece of steel, and I knew just how I wanted to shape the blade. Only Yoren came, and took me away for the Night's Watch."

A Clash of Kings - Arya X

 Arya took out the dagger and sharpened it to keep her hands busy. Long smooth strokes, the way Syrio had taught her. The sound calmed her.

She heard them coming long before she saw them. Hot Pie was breathing heavily, and once he stumbled in the dark, barked his shin, and cursed loud enough to wake half of Harrenhal. Gendry was quieter, but the swords he was carrying rang together as he moved. "Here I am." She stood. "Be quiet or they'll hear you."

Perusing some quotes, there's an additional connection I found between Gendry and the old gods.  See below how the Gods Eye itself is compared to 'a sheet of sun-hammered blue' fashioned by a master smith such as Gendry, who is therefore likened to the sun (pun on 'son,' given that he's the king's son).  Like a sheet of metal being hammered, the lake calls out to Arya, presumably singing in the song of the earth as we've seen trees do:

Quote

A Clash of Kings - Arya V

The air was full of birds, crows mostly. From afar, they were no larger than flies as they wheeled and flapped above the thatched roofs. To the east, Gods Eye was a sheet of sun-hammered blue that filled half the world. Some days, as they made their slow way up the muddy shore (Gendry wanted no part of any roads, and even Hot Pie and Lommy saw the sense in that), Arya felt as though the lake were calling her. She wanted to leap into those placid blue waters, to feel clean again, to swim and splash and bask in the sun.

 

A Clash of Kings - Arya IX

As she passed the armory, Arya heard the ring of a hammer. A deep orange glow shone through the high windows. She climbed to the roof and peeked down.  Gendry was beating out a breastplate. When he worked, nothing existed for him but metal, bellows, fire. The hammer was like part of his arm. She watched the play of muscles in his chest and listened to the steel music he made. He's strong, she thought. As he took up the long-handled tongs to dip the breastplate into the quenching trough, Arya slithered through the window and leapt down to the floor beside him.

He did not seem surprised to see her. "You should be abed, girl." The breastplate hissed like a cat as he dipped it in the cold water. "What was all that noise?"

In the direwolf thread I argued that the direwolves like the Winterfell crypt might be conceived of as symbolic forges, smiths and smithy in one, who participate in the spiritual reforging of their human counterparts.  In this vein, I wondered whether Gendry is also a direwolf spirit for Arya, with his shaggy, unkempt black hair and keen blue eyes and his rare ability to keep up with Arya, holding his own in their tussles, much as Nymeria was able to do.  Unlike the direwolves, however, who have eyes of fire, Gendry's eyes are intriguingly described by Ned as 'eyes of blue ice' (AGOT--Eddard VI) -- like an Other or Sidhe..?

14 hours ago, The Fattest Leech said:

I think Shieldhall, a grand hall that is steeped with the history of warrior brothers and mead and feasts (getting drunk in this case, and Mormont's raven tells them to "Eat"), is Jon's personal portal to his underworld that he is about to face. He goes in to his portal and raises his warriors (the wildlings) and then leaves only to be stabbed by the NW traitors.

Informative mythological background, Leech!  I definitely think the hall might be a locus of magic, particularly by the history you gave and in its very name 'Shield-hall.'  The 'shield' is reminiscent of that cyvasse players put up on the board in order to arrange their pieces for their opening formation in the game.  When the 'shield' comes down and is removed, the 'game' starts.  A shield is not only a barrier separating opponents, but serves as a liminal or transitional space -- a hall --both separating and connecting the realms of life and death, as you indicated.  Ultimately, the 'Shield-hall' is an integral representation of the 'Shield-wall,' the ice wall or magical 'hinge of the world' overshadowing the action there. Once the Wall comes down, the game will start in earnest!

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On 15/08/2016 at 10:55 PM, Seams said:

I was thinking the Rhoyne. Definitely. I like the idea of the volcanism being linked to magic. Maybe there are different kinds of "seams" for different kinds of magic. It makes sense that an earthquake fault line would be a seam in the land.

Well if you're interested, there are almost certainly tectonic plate boundaries in the Narrow Sea, at the Bones, at the Frostfangs, and possibly at the Fourteen Flames and Mountains of the Morn.

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4 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

Great catch!  'Silvery sweet speech' is appropriate for Gendry, a shy young man short on words, but who as a smith can make silver ring and swords sing!  Gendry's 'sweet' speech expresses itself in metallic utterances:

Ha!  I knew I should've sent for our informative raven!  :P  Great examples for Gendry's 'silvery sweet speech', that rounds off 'Ser Gentry of hollow hill' rather nicely, thanks. 

4 hours ago, ravenous reader said:

In the direwolf thread I argued that the direwolves like the Winterfell crypt might be conceived of as symbolic forges, smiths and smithy in one, who participate in the spiritual reforging of their human counterparts.  In this vein, I wondered whether Gendry is also a direwolf spirit for Arya, with his shaggy, unkempt black hair and keen blue eyes and his rare ability to keep up with Arya, holding his own in their tussles, much as Nymeria was able to do.  Unlike the direwolves, however, who have eyes of fire, Gendry's eyes are intriguingly described by Ned as 'eyes of blue ice' (AGOT--Eddard VI) -- like an Other or Sidhe..?

Excellent idea!  And I love the 'eyes of blue ice' catch.  Very much like an Other or Sidhe.  And the God's Eye quotes were cool as well.  Lot's to think on, good work as always RR!  :)     

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Hi @Seams  :)

Having been able to link your ‘seam’ and ‘fell’ wordplay to the hollow hills, I have been seeking any word association we can develop further from ‘fell’ and ‘hill’.   Searching for various meanings of the word hill we get many options, including tor, elevation, rise, hillock but the one that caught my eye was ‘mound’.  This drew my thoughts towards the word ‘barrow’, and a further search confirmed this link.  

Definition of barrow

1mountain, mound —used only in the names of hills in England

2 :  a large mound of earth or stones over the remains of the dead

Where Westeros in concerned, we have the Barrowlands with all those burial mounds or ‘barrows’ spread out all across the land, creating a hill or fell laden landscape.  Ned speaks of these barrows with Robert in AGOT…

A wide plain spread out beneath them, bare and brown, its flatness here and there relieved by long, low hummocks.  Ned pointed them out to his king. ‘’The barrows of the first men.’’ 

Robert frowned. ‘’Have we ridden onto a graveyard?’’

‘’There are barrows everywhere in the north, Your Grace,’’ Ned told him. ‘’This land is old.’’

So we can link the hills and barrows to the landscape of the Barrowlands in the north.  But with these being burial mounds it is interesting to think of those that ‘fell’ in the days of the first men, and are buried there.  Another ‘window into the past’.

Theon speculates on some of the people rumoured to be buried in the barrows, including two kings.

Reek’s lags began to shake.  He had to stop to steady them, staring up at the grassy slopes of the Great Barrow.  Some claimed it was the grave of the first King, who had led the First Men to Westeros.  Others argued that it must be some King of the Giants who was buried there, to account for its size. A few had even been known to say it was no barrow, just a hill, but if so it was a lonely hill, for most of the barrowlands were flat and windswept.

So interestingly, we have potential ‘seams’ or ‘portals’ dotted all over the north, with possible windows into the past in the form of the fallen.  Maybe including the King of the First Men and the King of the Giants, no less.  Certainly conjures thoughts of 'giants waking from the earth' anyway.  :P      

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

With this new possibility, my next stop was look into the word barrow a bit further in the books.  With Seams and @The Fattest Leech having some great ideas around the Nightfort and the Shieldhall at Castle Black respectively, the castle ‘Long Barrow’ at the Wall seemed interesting. 

In fact, Long Barrow acts as a ‘portal’ of sorts for Mance Rayder when he travels to Winterfell for King Robert’s visit in AGOT.  He mentions this to Jon…

‘’The Wall can stop an army, but not a man alone.  I took a lute and a bag of silver, scaled the ice near Long Barrow, walked a few leagues south of the New Gift, and bought a horse.  All in all I made much better time than Robert, who was travelling with a ponderous great wheelhouse to keep his queen in comfort.’’

As far as I can see, this is the only time Long Barrow was used as a potential portal, or as access to the other side of the Wall.  And it is later garrisoned with just the spear wives on Jon’s orders, save the commanders that were stationed there, including Dolorous Edd.  Nevertheless, perhaps Long Barrow is another castle along the Wall to look out for?       

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Love this thread.  Not sure what I believe but certainly fun to speculate!

I've always been interested in the Shadow Tower. It's far west compared the the shadow in the Far East (is there a link across the sea?). It's also sited near a massive gorge. I did wonder if this was the shadow that Dany would have to pass beneath to reach the light.  Despite a reasonable amount of NW being based at Shadow Tower, including Mance & Qorin, we know next to nothing about it.

For water portals, it's interesting to note the Winterfell godswood pool being described as bottomless.

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