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[TWoW Spoilers] A geographical approach to the TWoW PoVs

Catelyn Cerwyn

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Content notice: Spoilers for the ten or so chapters which have been partially described or published as samples from The Winds of Winter thus far.

So we know from two interviews that GRRM gave in August 2014 that we can expect a contraction in the number of PoV characters from the beginning to the end. Firstly, from the French magazine Le Nouvel Observateur:


In the first book we have seven POV caracters. In the sixth, there are 13 I think. But near the end, I have less POVs.

From Rolling Stone:


The way my books are structured, everyone was together, then they all went their separate ways and the story deltas out like that, and now it’s getting to the point where the story is beginning to delta back in, and the viewpoint characters are occasionally meeting up with each other now and being in the same point at the same time, which gives me a lot more flexibility for killing people.

(Thanks to BryndenBFish for all those lovely links on his blog, btw.)

We’ve already had a taste of what is to come with GRRM narrating the Battle of the Blackwater through three PoV characters in close geographical proximity: Sansa, Davos, and Tyrion each taking turns as narrator. First Davos and then Tyrion are left insensible by the course of the conflict, so that we hear of the end of the battle from Sansa’s PoV: first, her hearing the city bells ringing, and then the babbling account from Ser Dontos Hollard, of all people. So it’s fairly clear that when multiple PoV characters converge, we can anticipate carnage, and TWoW will open with two set-piece battles each with multiple PoV narrators (potentially two in Winterfell; definitely three in Meereen). Two other PoVs are also converging on Storm’s End ahead of a third battle. I think one of GRRM’s problems is completing the arcs of characters he’s become attached to, and tying off whatever loose ends are dangling, which must necessarily begin occurring in this book.

So far GRRM has used 31 PoV characters in 337 chapters, 5 prologues, and 2 epilogues, and they are currently disposed in about a dozen geographical locations.

The land of the dead
Twelve PoV characters are deceased at the end of ADwD – besides the doomed prologue and epilogue PoVs, the five others are Ned, Cat, Jon, Quentyn Martell, and Arys Oakheart. The only PoVs likely from these twelve to get further chapters would seem to be “UnJon” (possibly via a warg chapter embodied in Ghost, before he is resurrected in human form by Melisandre?) – and would it be too outrageous to suppose that Zombie Catelyn might have one more chapter, in her post-mortem guise as Lady Stoneheart? It would be a tour de force of writing to attempt that particular point of view. Having mentioned doomed prologue PoV characters – if Jeyne Westerling is to be a character (but not necessarily the PoV) in the TWoW prologue, then it seems likely to concern the four-hundred-strong Lannister escort led by Ser Forley Prester which is taking Edmure Tully and the Westerlings toward the Golden Tooth and then on to Casterly Rock. Given the subject matter and geographical placement, a Tully or a Lannister might well provide the PoV.


Davos is currently isolated having been sent to Skagos in search of Rickon and his direwolf. If he survives he is likely to return to the Wall via Eastwatch-by-the-Sea; but it would be entirely like GRRM for him to have Davos die, trying to retrieve the boy.

The Wall
Starting from the North: close to the Wall, we have Bran plugged into the weirwood network north of the Wall, and Melisandre and Jon (victim of the “Ides of Marsh”) co-located at Castle Black. But Bran’s increasing abilities as the three-eyed crow and a warg does not confine his PoV to either the time or the place where he is currently situated!
As per above, if Davos survives Skagos he would likely return to Castle Black via Eastwatch-by-the-Sea.
Chapters: no sample chapters, because of the likely spoileriffic content; it is assumed Bran, Jon, and Davos will each get at least one. The last two books promise a lot more involving the Others and the far north, which would seem to favour Jon in person, and Bran as the three-eyed crow, as the main narrating PoVs – moreso than Davos or Melisandre.

Asha and Theon are the only PoVs likely to see anything of the first of the northern battles, Stannis vs. Ramsay. This would seem to not spell good news for at least one of them in the short term!
Chapters: the Theon I sample chapter was originally extracted from ADwD, and a second Theon chapter has been mooted. If the events from the Battle of Winterfell then lead the victors north to the Wall, this would seemingly make both Asha and Theon redundant as four PoV characters are already converging there.

The Vale
Sansa is the only PoV character here, but given that GRRM has used tourneys as set-pieces for various mayhem when things go awry (involving trials of seven, or lances going where they prove fatal to horse and rider, etc), the Alayne I chapter is setting the scene for future carnage. Sansa herself ought to be safe though, unless she leaves the Vale.
Chapters: Alayne I, and at least one more for the tourney seems a safe bet.

King’s Landing
Cersei is the only remaining PoV here, but the various claimants to the Iron Throne must come here to claim it. Once the fighting reaches King’s Landing, all bets are off.
Chapters: no sample chapters, but at least one Cersei chapter.

The riverlands
Jaime and Brienne were last seen leaving Pennytree together in the fifth moon of 300 AC and a month’s turn later Ser Kevan and Cersei have had no word of him in King’s Landing. As mentioned above, there is one undead former PoV in the area, as well as a huge band of wolves led by Nymeria (and occasionally warged by Arya), which does not bode well for the living.
Chapters: no sample chapters published, nor possible chapters announced, as even the chapter title itself might be a spoiler.

The ongoing reaving by the Iron Fleet under the kingship of Euron Crow’s Eye seems likely to involve an attack on Oldtown, which would be narrated by either Samwell or possibly by Aeron, if he survives long enough, tied to the prow of the Silence. The two chapters mooted for Aeron seems like all he might get, judging by the first of them (The Forsaken).
Chapters: besides the infamous reading of The Forsaken, GRRM confirmed a second chapter for Aeron.

Areo Hotah is the only PoV character left in the Dornish capital. As Doran’s captain of guards, his mobility is limited by his prince, unless Sunspear were to be attacked requiring Doran to be evacuated for his safety.
Chapters: at least one is mooted, as Doran is anticipating news from Arianne (a raven saying ‘dragon’ or ‘war’), as well as from Lady Nym and Tyene when they reach King’s Landing. In addition, he is the only likely PoV to witness the ongoing pursuit of Darkstar.

Storm’s End
Arianne’s two sample chapters carry her to the verge of meeting Jon Connington, having decided to take the offered passage across Shipbreaker Bay to Storm’s End ahead of the Tyrell army.
Chapters: samples Arianne I and Arianne II are already available; in addition a presumed Jon Con. chapter which bridges the narrative to a third Arianne III chapter was mentioned by GRRM back in 2010. If the battle of Storm’s End proves to be a rout for the Golden Company then further chapters might be unnecessary; if the Tyrell army is defeated then Jon Con. might march with his mummer’s dragon to King’s Landing. (Whether Arianne sends a raven to Sunspear bearing the message ‘dragon’ or not is another matter.) If Jon Con. and Arianne both go to King’s Landing, surely one or more of them are redundant as PoVs.


Arya seems most likely to cross the narrow sea back to Westeros once her training at the House of Black and White concludes; and she may also have wargish dreams of what Nymeria and Chekov’s wolfpack are up to in the riverlands. And there’s more than a vague possibility that Arya might encounter Gendry again.
Chapters: one sample chapter published. If anything, the Mercy chapter may be a catalyst for her time at the HoB&W to come to an end, for the liberty she takes claiming a life which was not Mercy’s to take. At least another one or two more would seem necessary to leave Essos and get her back to Westeros.

The Dothraki sea
No sample chapters have been provided or mooted, but as Dany is one of the most popular characters various plot elements have been mentioned in relation to her, such as encountering Mago as a recurring character. So it seems likely that she will spend some chapters away from Meereen, and possibly not be there on the day of the battle; GRRM has been quoted, “Tyrion and Dany will intersect, in a way, but for much of the book they’re still apart. They both have quite large roles to play here… they’re both coming home.” 

Sample chapters: We have Tyrion, Barristan, and Victarion narrating the battle of Meereen in at least five chapters, which have been partially or wholly described or published. Tyrion I, Victarion I, and Barristan I (probably in that chronological order) are prior to the battle leading up to the very moment that the fires are lit atop the Great Pyramid; and Tyrion II and Barristan II describe the earliest phases of the battle. Barristan II apparently ends with him gleefully comparing the Unsullied and the Iron Fleet to Baelor’s anvil and Maekar’s hammer, anticipating the Yunkai’i besiegers will be smashed between them. A second Victarion chapter seems necessary to narrate the sea battle, and what happens when his three oarsmen try blowing the cursed dragonhorn. Tyrion seems the best placed to survive the battle if we consider that GRRM has alluded to Tyrion reading the books that Jorah Mormont gave to Daenerys as wedding gifts, and these being an important part of his narrative. This possibly makes Victarion and Barristan superfluous as PoVs, beyond the day of the battle.


Starting PoV characters: Jon (Ghost), Bran, Daenerys, Arya (Mercy), Tyrion, Sansa (Alayne), Davos, Theon, Aeron, Samwell, Areo, Cersei, Victarion, Arianne, Jon Connington, Ser Barristan, and one of either Jaime or Brienne. (That’s 17.)

Attrition: I predict the ‘flexibility’ that GRRM has for killing of PoV characters spells the end – sometime over the course of the novel:
• for both Asha and Theon, after the Battle of Winterfell;
• for Davos or Melisandre, once Jon is revived, and Davos returned from Skagos (if he returns?);
• for Jaime or Brienne or both, depending on how the encounter with Lady Stoneheart goes;
• for Aeron, once Euron attacks Oldtown and Samwell can continue the ongoing narrative there;
• for both Victarion and Ser Barristan, after the Battle of Meereen;
• for Jon Connington, who is marked for death anyway, thanks to the greyscale;
• and if the Golden Company and Aegon (possibly supplemented by a Martell army) have taken King’s Landing by the close, causing Daenerys to rush back to Westeros to claim the Iron Throne, then I’m thinking it’s curtains for Cersei as well. (There’s enough foreshadowing that if Jaime survives the encounter with Lady Stoneheart and returns to King’s Landing, they might go out together, thanks to Cersei’s failure to identify which brother is the valonqar.)

Thus, my prediction for the main PoV characters left by the end: Bran, Jon, Daenerys, Arya, Tyrion, Sansa (with minor contributions from Samwell and Arianne) — and maybe only one out of Cersei, Jaime, and Brienne. GRRM did say “everybody will be shivering together once again” but I really don’t think he means, everybody.

(Of course, I don’t expect to know whether any of this speculation is correct for some time to come.)

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Well done! Every time a post like this appears, I question the reason why this forum has no Like button. As far as I know, it's a standard feature for this package of forum software.

Anyway, to the topic, I think your assessment is pretty solid. Provided that characters will start to die rather than split up, I see little other way this could play out. Then again, I think it's unwise to rule out the idea that some groups will split up rather than killing off the unnecessary members. For instance, the party at the Wall is the biggest one at the moment (even bigger if you include the entire North, which admittedly is pretty huge), and it may be that some POVs head to the Dreadfort or White Harbour while others stay to witness whatever kind of shenanigans the Others will play out. And some will probably get the boot. With three characters in Meereen, one could feasibly die while the two others going their separate ways as well.

Given the principle of The Plot Needs Eyes, I think Sansa, Arya, and Daenerys are pretty safe in their current situations, and likely to get out of them alive. They are unlikely to interact with any other POVs in a deadly manner any time soon, and they all have story arcs that need to be finished. Their situations would all have to change drastically before they can leave the story. Cersei is "isolated" too, but several characters are bound for King's Landing. It's a stretch, but a possibility, that some of them could get to King's Landing and kill Cersei before her story can develop beyond the immediate aftermath of ADwD. Same goes for Sam, the chapter of his demise could feasibly be told by Aeron. Or vice versa, of course. Probably more likely, considering Aeron's state in the preview chapters.

Bran could be stuck in his current situation for the entire book, and maybe for the rest of the series. He could just become a medium for backstories, and never get out of that cave, but still stick around for a long time since there is a lot of backstory to tell. This would effectively end Bran as a character interacting with the plot, and instead be relegated to the unglamorous - but important - role of exposition vessel. In effect, other temporary POVs would be created and vanish, and Bran would be as good as "dead". If not for some MST3K-style comments on the events he watches as they play out, of course.

The plot threads in Skagos and Dorne could both end in a brutal cut, with the end of all involved characters there. The plots going on there could be resolved in a manner that leaves no POV survivors, and both locations be demoted to off-screen status, with no considerable impact on the overarching story.

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While geographic proximity to other characters is important, other factors need to be taken into consideration.  For instance, what is the nature of the character's story, has the character received recent buildup (suggesting they might be around), have they outlived their usefulness, are they mainly useful as an observer (e.g., Areo Hotah).  My take on survival through TWOW:

Safe:  Daenerys, Jon, Bran, Sansa, Arya, Tyrion:  These are the main characters of the series and their stories are nowhere near complete.  Bran, Sansa and Arya are in standard "coming of age" stories.  Daenerys needs to come to Westeros.  Jon needs to discover his parentage, or at least it has to have an effect.  Tyrion has stuff to do in Meereen.  Given that all these stories have a ways to run, they might as well all have indestructible plot armor.  By the way, I expect Bran to leave the cave before too long.

Probably (75-90%) safe:  Sam, Asha, Arianne, Brienne, Melisandre:  Sam's death would be pointless.  It wouldn't really effect the story, and I doubt anyone would care.  Maybe later, when he is in the think of things.  The others on this list have all had a bit of build-up lately.  Asha will probably take over for Theon as the lead Iron Islander.  Brienne got 8 chapters of what can only be described as build-up.  If she quickly dies, what is the point?  Melisandre's POV seems designed to give us insight into her attitudes and methods, so I think she still has a big part to play.  Also,, she will likely be needed for a while at the Wall until jon recovers/is revived.  Arianne I think will be around for a while as well.

Maybe, maybe not:  Davos, Cersei:  These are in a precarious position.  I expect Davos will get caught up in the Hardhome evacuation, and then possibly wind up in the far North.  A simple out and back to pick up Rickon isn't in the cards.  Cersei has so many enemies her survival is questionable, plus Arianne can probably cover events in KL if necessary.

Probably goners;  Jaime, Theon  I think they have had their run.  If Jaime isn't the valoqar, there isn't anything really necessary for him to do, plus it's about time for an unexpected major death, and Jaime would fit the bill nicely.  Theon is in such bad shape, and in Stannis's and the Northerners' sights that I can't see him making to the end of the book.

????:  Areo Hotah, Barristan:  The are mainly useful as observers.  I doubt they will retain POV status, but as to whether this will mean their death is quite hard to say.  I think Hotah is safer than Barristan simply because he is so minor.

Dead men walking:  JonCon, Victarion, Aeron "Damphair".  They will not survive.  

By the way, places like the Vale, Braavos, and Meereen are important because POVs happen to be located there.  Once the POVs leave, they will no longer have any importance (or at least no more than anywhere else).  In other words the Vale is important only because Sansa happens to be there.  Sansa is the important aspect, not her presence in the Vale or even her proximity to Littlefinger.  And as I pointed out above, Sansa has a suit of indestructible plot armor.


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  • 2 months later...

Very nice approach, Catelyn. I did something similiar here:


You see my map is still in progress, as not all POVs are considered in that setting. My idea here was to combine three aspects. 1) Which areas still have to be explored by one of our POVs? 2) Where do their interests lead characters? 3) Which POVs have to be separated from another and which have to meet for narrative purposes?

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