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Black Crow

Heresy 203 and growing suspicions anent the Starks

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1 hour ago, Brad Stark said:

Does anyone know why Mance was looking for the horn?  He clearly had no intent to bring down the Wall, and without doing so, could never prove the horn is the real deal.  If it was only meant as something he could use to threaten but not act on, the wildlings invested a lot of effort for a horn that was no better to Mance than the one Melisandre burned.  And if he found the horn, he'd run a very high risk that sooner or later someone would use it and bring down the Wall.  And why did Mance and the wildlings stop looking for the horn?

I can only think of 3 possibilities, from most to least likely: 

1) Mance was looking for something else.  It might just be something the wildlings wouldn't care about and he tricked them into helping him find it.  Or it might be something he doesn't want anyone to know he has.  They stopped looking for the horn once Mance found whatever it was he really wanted.

2) Mance wants the horn for a reason other than to bring down the Wall.  We've been told it can "wake giants from the Earth" and Joramun had it for reasons other than bringing down the Wall.

3) GRRM didn't put enough time into thinking this through.

Has anyone considered that Mance really did find the horn?  If Sam has it, it was lost for thousands of years and showed up as soon as Mance stopped looking for it.

The description of the horn that is 'destroyed' sounds very much like a dragon binding horn and I'm not sure that it is the horn of Joramun.  I doubt Melisandre would 'destroy' it  or could destroy, if it was that powerful or critical.  The description of the burning sounds more like fireworks; powders to make flames big and change their colors.  I have wondered if that horn was exchanged for the war horn on the wall as part of Melisandre's trappings of power.

I think the horn of Joramun would be a simpler item; something that any man of the Watch might carry.  Something that is easy to overlook.  The small horn found with the dragonglass seems more likely.  The fact that it is broken, means that it can't be sounded.  What it does when sounded is the question.  It has been suggested that it's a greenseers perogative to skin-change giants and this is reflected in Bran's relationship with Hodor, that it may not be an abomination.  The idea that the horn allows greenseers to bind with real giants is an interesting possibility.  It would lend weight to the story that giants built the Wall.

The small horn is a kind cornucopia of magical items. 

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A Clash of Kings - Jon IV

A length of frayed rope bound the bundle together. Jon unsheathed his dagger and cut it, groped for the edges of the cloth, and pulled. The bundle turned, and its contents spilled out onto the ground, glittering dark and bright. He saw a dozen knives, leaf-shaped spearheads, numerous arrowheads. Jon picked up a dagger blade, featherlight and shiny black, hiltless. Torchlight ran along its edge, a thin orange line that spoke of razor sharpness. Dragonglass. What the maesters call obsidian. Had Ghost uncovered some ancient cache of the children of the forest, buried here for thousands of years? The Fist of the First Men was an old place, only . . .

Beneath the dragonglass was an old warhorn, made from an auroch's horn and banded in bronze. Jon shook the dirt from inside it, and a stream of arrowheads fell out. He let them fall, and pulled up a corner of the cloth the weapons had been wrapped in, rubbing it between his fingers. Good wool, thick, a double weave, damp but not rotted. It could not have been long in the ground. And it was dark. He seized a handful and pulled it close to the torch. Not dark. Black.

In the book and film series The Hunger Games, the Cornucopia is filled with weapons, and is the starting point of the Games,

Whomever left the cache for Jon to find is the question.  Grumkins come to mind:

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A Storm of Swords - Sansa V

Sansa followed unresisting. I could never abide the weeping of women, Joff once said, but his mother was the only woman weeping now. In Old Nan's stories the grumkins crafted magic things that could make a wish come true. Did I wish him dead? she wondered, before she remembered that she was too old to believe in grumkins. "Tyrion poisoned him?" Her dwarf husband had hated his nephew, she knew. Could he truly have killed him? Did he know about my hair net, about the black amethysts? He brought Joff wine. How could you make someone choke by putting an amethyst in their wine? If Tyrion did it, they will think I was part of it as well, she realized with a start of fear. How not? They were man and wife, and Joff had killed her father and mocked her with her brother's death. One flesh, one heart, one soul.

A Storm of Swords - Catelyn VII

Dacey Mormont, who seemed to be the only woman left in the hall besides Catelyn, stepped up behind Edwyn Frey, and touched him lightly on the arm as she said something in his ear. Edwyn wrenched himself away from her with unseemly violence. "No," he said, too loudly. "I'm done with dancing for the nonce." Dacey paled and turned away. Catelyn got slowly to her feet. What just happened there? Doubt gripped her heart, where an instant before had been only weariness. It is nothing, she tried to tell herself, you are seeing grumkins in the woodpile, you are become an old silly woman sick with grief and fear. But something must have shown on her face. Even Ser Wendel Manderly took note. "Is something amiss?" he asked, the leg of lamb in his hands.

A Game of Thrones - Jon IX

"Good," Mormont said. "We've seen the dead come back, you and me, and it's not something I care to see again." He ate the egg in two bites and flicked a bit of shell out from between his teeth. "Your brother is in the field with all the power of the north behind him. Any one of his lords bannermen commands more swords than you'll find in all the Night's Watch. Why do you imagine that they need your help? Are you such a mighty warrior, or do you carry a grumkin in your pocket to magic up your sword?"

Arya refers to Jaqen H'gar as grumkin as well.

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A Clash of Kings - Arya IX

Jaqen still owed her one death. In Old Nan's stories about men who were given magic wishes by a grumkin, you had to be especially careful with the third wish, because it was the last. Chiswyck and Weese hadn't been very important. The last death has to count, Arya told herself every night when she whispered her names. But now she wondered if that was truly the reason she had hesitated. So long as she could kill with a whisper, Arya need not be afraid of anyone . . . but once she used up the last death, she would only be a mouse again.

So I think it is Coldhands who leaves the cache for Jon to find since he also fits the description of a faceless man when he binds Sam to a vow of silence for the life Sam owes him. 

So I'm not sure that Mance has found the horn, but I am suspicious of Wun Wun swinging Ser Patrick around and the walls of Castle Black falling when Jon is stabbed.

It's always the third horn blast that has significance as we see with Euron's demonstration of Dragonbinder. 

Tormund is the Hornblower and the Giant's Bane, possibly a descendant of Joramund:

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A Storm of Swords - Jon II

"I never did, but see you don't go spreading that about. Tormund Giantsbane has a better ring to it than Tormund Giantsbabe, and that's the honest truth o' it."

"So how did you come by your other names?" Jon asked. "Mance called you the Horn-Blower, didn't he? Mead-king of Ruddy Hall, Husband to Bears, Father to Hosts?" It was the horn blowing he particularly wanted to hear about, but he dared not ask too plainly. And Joramun blew the Horn of Winter, and woke giants from the earth. Is that where they had come from, them and their mammoths? Had Mance Rayder found the Horn of Joramun, and given it to Tormund Thunderfist to blow?

"Are all crows so curious?" asked Tormund. "Well, here's a tale for you. It were another winter, colder even than the one I spent inside that giant, and snowing day and night, snowflakes as big as your head, not these little things. It snowed so hard the whole village was half buried. I was in me Ruddy Hall, with only a cask o' mead to keep me company and nothing to do but drink it. The more I drank the more I got to thinking about this woman lived close by, a fine strong woman with the biggest pair of teats you ever saw. She had a temper on her, that one, but oh, she could be warm too, and in the deep of winter a man needs his warmth.

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A Dance with Dragons - Jon XII

"Melisandre burned the Horn of Joramun."

"Did she?" Tormund slapped his thigh and hooted. "She burned that fine big horn, aye. A bloody sin, I call it. A thousand years old, that was. We found it in a giant's grave, and no man o' us had ever seen a horn so big. That must have been why Mance got the notion to tell you it were Joramun's. He wanted you crows to think he had it in his power to blow your bloody Wall down about your knees. But we never found the true horn, not for all our digging. If we had, every kneeler in your Seven Kingdoms would have chunks o' ice to cool his wine all summer."

Jon turned in his saddle, frowning. And Joramun blew the Horn of Winter and woke giants from the earth. That huge horn with its bands of old gold, incised with ancient runes … had Mance Rayder lied to him, or was Tormund lying now? If Mance's horn was just a feint, where is the true horn?

The story does seem a bit off.  What would a giant be doing with a horn banded and runed in gold?  Their 'technology' is far simpler amounting to wood mauls rather than crafted items.

Another reader has pointed out that Tormund will blow the horn three days hence:

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A Storm of Swords - Jon X

"What if we refuse the offer?" Jon had no doubt that they would. The Old Bear might at least have listened, though he would have balked at the notion of letting thirty or forty thousand wildlings loose on the Seven Kingdoms. But Alliser Thorne and Janos Slynt would dismiss the notion out of hand.

"If you refuse," Mance Rayder said, "Tormund Giantsbane will sound the Horn of Winter three days hence, at dawn."

What exactly is the Horn of Winter and is it the same as Joramun's horn?

First blast?

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A Dance with Dragons - Jon XII

That is a lesson I would sooner they never learned. Jon peeled the glove off his burned hand, put two fingers in his mouth, and whistled. Ghost came racing from the gate. Tormund's horse shied so hard that the wildling almost lost his saddle. "Naught to be feared?" Jon said. "Ghost, stay."

"You are a black-hearted bastard, Lord Crow." Tormund Horn-Blower lifted his own warhorn to his lips. The sound of it echoed off the ice like rolling thunder, and the first of the free folk began to stream toward the gate.

From dawn till dusk Jon watched the wildlings pass.

Second blast?

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A Dance with Dragons - Jon XII

Jon gave the boy a close inspection. Bran's age, or the age he would have been if Theon had not killed him. Dryn had none of Bran's sweetness, though. He was a chunky boy, with short legs, thick arms, and a wide red face—a miniature version of his father, with a shock of dark brown hair. "He'll serve as my own page," Jon promised Tormund.

"Hear that, Dryn? See that you don't get above yourself." To Jon he said, "He'll need a good beating from time to time. Be careful o' his teeth, though. He bites." He reached down for his horn again, raised it, and blew another blast.

This time it was warriors who came forward. And not just one hundred of them. Five hundred, Jon Snow judged, as they moved out from beneath the trees, perhaps as many as a thousand. One in every ten of them came mounted but all of them came armed. Across their backs they bore round wicker shields covered with hides and boiled leather, displaying painted images of snakes and spiders, severed heads, bloody hammers, broken skulls, and demons. A few were clad in stolen steel, dinted oddments of armor looted from the corpses of fallen rangers. Others had armored themselves in bones, like Rattleshirt. All wore fur and leather.

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Third Blast?

A Dance with Dragons - Jon XIII

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.

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A Dance with Dragons - Jon XIII

Men poured from the surrounding keeps and towers. Northmen, free folk, queen's men … "Form a line," Jon Snow commanded them. "Keep them back. Everyone, but especially the queen's men." The dead man was Ser Patrek of King's Mountain; his head was largely gone, but his heraldry was as distinctive as his face. Jon did not want to risk Ser Malegorn or Ser Brus or any of the queen's other knights trying to avenge him.

Wun Weg Wun Dar Wun howled again and gave Ser Patrek's other arm a twist and pull. It tore loose from his shoulder with a spray of bright red blood. Like a child pulling petals off a daisy, thought Jon. "Leathers, talk to him, calm him. The Old Tongue, he understands the Old Tongue. Keep back, the rest of you. Put away your steel, we're scaring him." Couldn't they see the giant had been cut? Jon had to put an end to this or more men would die. They had no idea of Wun Wun's strength. A horn, I need a horn. He saw the glint of steel, turned toward it. "No blades!" he screamed. "Wick, put that knife …"

… away, he meant to say. When Wick Whittlestick slashed at his throat, the word turned into a grunt. Jon twisted from the knife, just enough so it barely grazed his skin. He cut me. When he put his hand to the side of his neck, blood welled between his fingers. "Why?"

Jon's instinct for a horn in relation to Wun Wun is curious.  Why does he need a horn?

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A Storm of Swords - Jon II

In Old Nan's stories, giants were outsized men who lived in colossal castles, fought with huge swords, and walked about in boots a boy could hide in. These were something else, more bearlike than human, and as wooly as the mammoths they rode. Seated, it was hard to say how big they truly were. Ten feet tall maybe, or twelve, Jon thought. Maybe fourteen, but no taller. Their sloping chests might have passed for those of men, but their arms hung down too far, and their lower torsos looked half again as wide as their upper. Their legs were shorter than their arms, but very thick, and they wore no boots at all; their feet were broad splayed things, hard and horny and black. Neckless, their huge heavy heads thrust forward from between their shoulder blades, and their faces were squashed and brutal. Rats' eyes no larger than beads were almost lost within folds of horny flesh, but they snuffled constantly, smelling as much as they saw.

They're not wearing skins, Jon realized. That's hair. Shaggy pelts covered their bodies, thick below the waist, sparser above. The stink that came off them was choking, but perhaps that was the mammoths. And Joramun blew the Horn of Winter, and woke giants from the earth. He looked for great swords ten feet long, but saw only clubs. Most were just the limbs of dead trees, some still trailing shattered branches. A few had stone balls lashed to the ends to make colossal mauls. The song never says if the horn can put them back to sleep.

The question is what does Tormund's horn look like and has it been in his possession all along? A relic of his own ancestor?

Edited by LynnS

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2 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

Does anyone know why Mance was looking for the horn?

I think he wanted to leverage it as a bluff to try to persuade the Watch to allow his people past the Wall, where as Dalla says and Mance agrees, they would have some protection from the Popsicles.

2 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

And why did Mance and the wildlings stop looking for the horn?

Because if you're running a bluff, what you need is something really impressive, something the superstitious Watch might believe is legit... and he had certainly found that.

It's interesting, and well done by GRRM in my opinion, that Mance has a different plan from the one Ygritte and Tormund think he has.  They are free folk, who have only ever seen the Wall in negative terms; it's where their enemies live, and the most obvious symbol of kneeler culture.  So their idea is just to blow it to hell and run south -- an idea we hear from other wildlings in this tale, too.

But Mance is a former man of the Watch, and he knows very well just how formidable the Wall can be in terms of protecting against Northern threats.   So, like Dalla, he wants to leverage it as a shield, not destroy it.  He just needs to be sure his people are on the shielded side.

Whether it really was the Horn of Joramun that Melisandre burned we'll find out in time, but like others, I suspect it was not.

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I agree that Mance has his own agenda and looking as ever for the most straightforward explanation, I would suggest the following scenario:

Mance needs the horn, so he enlists the help of the Free Folk by telling them that when blown it will bring down the hated Wall

It won't. It's needed for something else but they don't know that so do the digging.

The horn is found, but unrecognised by the free Folk who are looking for something impressive [its worth noting at this point that the various grail legends tell how the seekers are looking for some elaborate golden chalice when in reality it is a simple wooden or pottery cup] but then enter Benjen Stark - remember him, the last clues pointed to him heading towards the Frostfangs - siezes it and runs.

At some point he buries it near the Fist, where of course Jon finds it, but not knowing this, Mance decides the logical hiding place is in the Stark crypts at Winterfell - indeed its real purpose may lie there

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3 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

Does anyone know why Mance was looking for the horn?  He clearly had no intent to bring down the Wall, and without doing so, could never prove the horn is the real deal.  If it was only meant as something he could use to threaten but not act on, the wildlings invested a lot of effort for a horn that was no better to Mance than the one Melisandre burned.

Three thoughts here:

1.) I'm personally of the point of view that Mance's wide-scale excavation in the Frostfangs is not necessarily the first time Mance searched for the Horn--I think it's possible that it is, instead, his final and most desperate search, and that he had an initial interest in seeking the Horn for selfish reasons, before the return of the Others forced him to seek the Horn as leverage to negotiate with the Watch.

2.) It isn't a given that he had no intention of bringing down the Wall. If the Watch calls his bluff, and refuses to let the Free Folk through, what then? Will he make the altruistic choice, and let the Wall stand so that the "kneelers" might be saved, or will he sound it and flee as far to the south as he can?

3.) It's also possible that there is additional lore surrounding the Horn that the Free Folk know, but that has been hidden from the reader; can the Horn do other things besides "wake sleeping giants beneath the earth?" And, even if it can't, is it specifically an anti-Wall tool, or does it cause localized earthquakes? Or, alternately, devastation on the (theoretical) scale of the Hammer of the Waters?

Edited by Matthew.

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52 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

Mance needs the horn, so he enlists the help of the Free Folk by telling them that when blown it will bring down the hated Wall

It won't. It's needed for something else but they don't know that so do the digging.

I don’t think they’re just taking Mance’s word for it. I think there is a cultural mythology surrounding the Horn of Winter, and the free folk all know what that is. As Mance says to Jon at the Wall: 

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“If I sound the Horn of Winter, the Wall will fall. Or so the songs would have me believe. There are those among my people who want nothing more . . .”

So the Horn is celebrated in “the songs” known to Mance’s people. And those songs tell that at the next sounding of the Horn, the Wall will fall. Of course, Mance himself seems rather cynical, in the end... it’s not the Horn itself, but the belief in the Horn that he needs and uses (or tries to use) to his advantage. Mance may know all the songs, but you kinda get the sense that he views them more as tools, than as actual truths. (Perhaps he’d agree with Petyr Baelish, another cynic, that “life is not a song.”)

So is the Horn a real thing? Well, Mance doesn’t much care - or he cares, but only to the extent that the myth (and the song) serves his purpose. 

Edited by The Snowfyre Chorus

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1 hour ago, JNR said:

I think he wanted to leverage it as a bluff to try to persuade the Watch to allow his people past the Wall, where as Dalla says and Mance agrees, they would have some protection from the Popsicles.

Because if you're running a bluff, what you need is something really impressive, something the superstitious Watch might believe is legit... and he had certainly found that.

What he found is just as useful, if not more useful, than the real horn, and he knows that.  Why go through all that trouble if you just need an impressive looking horn?  There was no guarantee they'd find one, and if they just needed something impressive looking, there were probably easier ways to make or find one.  Look at Yohn Royce's armor, which is hinted isn't really all that old.  Just make a large brass fancy rune encrusted horn - a better bluff than what Sam has if he has the real horn.

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On ‎1‎/‎5‎/‎2018 at 10:27 AM, The Snowfyre Chorus said:

Uh huh.  With the crossroads, Arya's Needle, a Gods Eye, etc... a Reed here and there... a missing collection of tapestries at nearby Castle Darry... and suddenly you've got yourself a bunch of mysterious textile metaphors. Or whatever.  :cool4:

Hello, I hope you don't mind my jumping into the conversation, but this line of thought intrigued me.

Obviously Martin has "woven" quite a bit of Norse mythology into his prose, and with this I am reminded of the Norns:  the three women (at least one of whom is depicted as an old hag or crone representing the Past) who collectively weave the destiny of humankind as a web, or tapestry.  
Most of our reader knowledge about the Others, the Night's King, and other legends of old is provided by Old Nan, vis a vis Bran.  The other Stark children also make reference to Old Nan's stories and hearth tales of ancient days (and usually, ancient monsters, as Old Nan's tales tend toward the dark side of history).   Old Nan herself certainly meets the criteria of a crone, and isn't it interesting that our first introduction to the mythology behind the Others is accompanied by not only Old Nan, but her needle:  (chapter text placed in spoiler tags for length)
 

Spoiler


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A Game of Thrones - Bran IV

"It was just a lie," he said bitterly, remembering the crow from his dream. "I can't fly. I can't even run."

"Crows are all liars," Old Nan agreed, from the chair where she sat doing her needlework. "I know a story about a crow."

"I don't want any more stories," Bran snapped, his voice petulant. He had liked Old Nan and her stories once. Before. But it was different now. They left her with him all day now, to watch over him and clean him and keep him from being lonely, but she just made it worse. "I hate your stupid stories."

The old woman smiled at him toothlessly. "My stories? No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are, before me and after me, before you too."

She was a very ugly old woman, Bran thought spitefully; shrunken and wrinkled, almost blind, too weak to climb stairs, with only a few wisps of white hair left to cover a mottled pink scalp. No one really knew how old she was, but his father said she'd been called Old Nan even when he was a boy. She was the oldest person in Winterfell for certain, maybe the oldest person in the Seven Kingdoms. Nan had come to the castle as a wet nurse for a Brandon Stark whose mother had died birthing him. He had been an older brother of Lord Rickard, Bran's grandfather, or perhaps a younger brother, or a brother to Lord Rickard's father. Sometimes Old Nan told it one way and sometimes another. In all the stories the little boy died at three of a summer chill, but Old Nan stayed on at Winterfell with her own children. She had lost both her sons to the war when King Robert won the throne, and her grandson was killed on the walls of Pyke during Balon Greyjoy's rebellion. Her daughters had long ago married and moved away and died. All that was left of her own blood was Hodor, the simpleminded giant who worked in the stables, but Old Nan just lived on and on, doing her needlework and telling her stories.

"I don't care whose stories they are," Bran told her, "I hate them." He didn't want stories and he didn't want Old Nan. He wanted his mother and father. He wanted to go running with Summer loping beside him. He wanted to climb the broken tower and feed corn to the crows. He wanted to ride his pony again with his brothers. He wanted it to be the way it had been before.

"I know a story about a boy who hated stories," Old Nan said with her stupid little smile, her needles moving all the while, click click click, until Bran was ready to scream at her.

It would never be the way it had been, he knew. The crow had tricked him into flying, but when he woke up he was broken and the world was changed. They had all left him, his father and his mother and his sisters and even his bastard brother Jon. His father had promised he would ride a real horse to King's Landing, but they'd gone without him. Maester Luwin had sent a bird after Lord Eddard with a message, and another to Mother and a third to Jon on the Wall, but there had been no answers. "Ofttimes the birds are lost, child," the maester had told him. "There's many a mile and many a hawk between here and King's Landing, the message may not have reached them." Yet to Bran it felt as if they had all died while he had slept … or perhaps Bran had died, and they had forgotten him. Jory and Ser Rodrik and Vayon Poole had gone too, and Hullen and Harwin and Fat Tom and a quarter of the guard.

Only Robb and baby Rickon were still here, and Robb was changed. He was Robb the Lord now, or trying to be. He wore a real sword and never smiled. His days were spent drilling the guard and practicing his swordplay, making the yard ring with the sound of steel as Bran watched forlornly from his window. At night he closeted himself with Maester Luwin, talking or going over account books. Sometimes he would ride out with Hallis Mollen and be gone for days at a time, visiting distant holdfasts. Whenever he was away more than a day, Rickon would cry and ask Bran if Robb was ever coming back. Even when he was home at Winterfell, Robb the Lord seemed to have more time for Hallis Mollen and Theon Greyjoy than he ever did for his brothers.

"I could tell you the story about Brandon the Builder," Old Nan said. "That was always your favorite."

Thousands and thousands of years ago, Brandon the Builder had raised Winterfell, and some said the Wall. Bran knew the story, but it had never been his favorite. Maybe one of the other Brandons had liked that story. Sometimes Nan would talk to him as if he were her Brandon, the baby she had nursed all those years ago, and sometimes she confused him with his uncle Brandon, who was killed by the Mad King before Bran was even born. She had lived so long, Mother had told him once, that all the Brandon Starks had become one person in her head.

"That's not my favorite," he said. "My favorites were the scary ones." He heard some sort of commotion outside and turned back to the window. Rickon was running across the yard toward the gatehouse, the wolves following him, but the tower faced the wrong way for Bran to see what was happening. He smashed a fist on his thigh in frustration and felt nothing.

"Oh, my sweet summer child," Old Nan said quietly, "what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods."

"You mean the Others," Bran said querulously.

"The Others," Old Nan agreed. "Thousands and thousands of years ago, a winter fell that was cold and hard and endless beyond all memory of man. There came a night that lasted a generation, and kings shivered and died in their castles even as the swineherds in their hovels. Women smothered their children rather than see them starve, and cried, and felt their tears freeze on their cheeks." Her voice and her needles fell silent, and she glanced up at Bran with pale, filmy eyes and asked, "So, child. This is the sort of story you like?"

"Well," Bran said reluctantly, "yes, only …"

Old Nan nodded. "In that darkness, the Others came for the first time," she said as her needles went click click click. "They were cold things, dead things, that hated iron and fire and the touch of the sun, and every creature with hot blood in its veins. They swept over holdfasts and cities and kingdoms, felled heroes and armies by the score, riding their pale dead horses and leading hosts of the slain. All the swords of men could not stay their advance, and even maidens and suckling babes found no pity in them. They hunted the maids through frozen forests, and fed their dead servants on the flesh of human children."

Her voice had dropped very low, almost to a whisper, and Bran found himself leaning forward to listen.

"Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken these lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched, until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds—"

The door opened with a bang, and Bran's heart leapt up into his mouth in sudden fear, but it was only Maester Luwin, with Hodor looming in the stairway behind him. "Hodor!" the stableboy announced, as was his custom, smiling hugely at them all.

"I'm listening to a story now," Bran complained.

"Stories wait, my little lord, and when you come back to them, why, there they are," Old Nan said. "Visitors are not so patient, and ofttimes they bring stories of their own."

"Who is it?" Bran asked Maester Luwin.

"Tyrion Lannister, and some men of the Night's Watch, with word from your brother Jon. Robb is meeting with them now. Hodor, will you help Bran down to the hall?"

"Hodor!" Hodor agreed happily. He ducked to get his great shaggy head under the door. Hodor was nearly seven feet tall. It was hard to believe that he was the same blood as Old Nan. Bran wondered if he would shrivel up as small as his great-grandmother when he was old. It did not seem likely, even if Hodor lived to be a thousand.

Hodor lifted Bran as easy as if he were a bale of hay, and cradled him against his massive chest. He always smelled faintly of horses, but it was not a bad smell. His arms were thick with muscle and matted with brown hair. "Hodor," he said again. Theon Greyjoy had once commented that Hodor did not know much, but no one could doubt that he knew his name. Old Nan had cackled like a hen when Bran told her that, and confessed that Hodor's real name was Walder. No one knew where "Hodor" had come from, she said, but when he started saying it, they started calling him by it. It was the only word he had.

They left Old Nan in the tower room with her needles and her memories.

 

 

 

Old Nan is a Norn.   Although there are many versions of Norns / Fates in various mythologies, most tend toward the benign and are thought to assist in birthing, with lesser norns even serving as guardian or "weaver" to an individual at the point of that person's birth.   This guardian Norn will weave the thread of the individual's life into the grand tapestry and connect them to the rest of mankind.   Coincidentally, the Three Norns of legend make their home at the Well of Fate, which lies the base of Yggdrsdil the World Tree.   The sisters are likewise said to carve runes into Yggdrasil's roots, and the meaning behind the carvings "bleed" through the root system to affect all nine worlds of Asgard.

Old Nan has resided at Winterfell for time immemorial (in Bran's perspective);  Winterfell is home to the large heart tree and the black pool.   She has been Bran's caretaker since his birth, and although she has cared for all the Stark children, she seems to focus on the Brandons.    She gifts Bran with the knowledge of all the old stories; by imparting this knowledge, she has been weaving Bran's fate from the start.

The hag Norn Urd represents the past; she looks to the west, the setting sun.   Her two sisters Verdandi (a middle-aged woman) and Skuld (a young girl) are thought to represent Present and Future, and look to the south and east, respectively.   The middle sister is Catelyn,  as her actions going "south" in A Game of Thrones seem to set the path / weave the pattern of the present; in addition, Verdandi's role in the Weaving is to take the thread given to her by Urd, measure it, and pass it on to the young sister Skuld.   Skuld is clearly seen in Arya, who most obviously looks to the east via her travels to Braavos.     Skuld receives the measured thread from Verdandi and cuts it to size - most interestingly, she makes this cut blindly, as Skuld is faceless.      Skuld is also referenced in legend as a Valkyrie; Arya displays many qualities of a Valkyrie.    Arya is also in possession of her own "Needle".

In sum, it appears that from the very beginning Bran may have been in the presence of the Three Norns responsible for his destiny.     Old Nan influenced him by "weaving tales" as she worked her needles and thread, Catelyn began his journey by looking south and capturing Tyrion in her "web" at the crossroads, and Arya...well, we don't know that yet, but presumably it will involve riding into battle and use of her Needle.    

 

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20 minutes ago, The Snowfyre Chorus said:

Hello. And not at all - I thoroughly enjoyed your post. :D 

Thank you!  I apologize for dragging the conversation backwards a page or two.   I must learn to type faster!

 

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26 minutes ago, DJ Jazzy Joff said:

Thank you!  I apologize for dragging the conversation backwards a page or two.   I must learn to type faster!

 

I enjoyed your post as well.  I like the idea that Old Nan is weaving together all of Bran's story and that he is now being woven into that thread.  Arya is known for her crooked stitching and having to take them apart and start over.  So I wonder if she will be unraveling the thread. 

Edited by LynnS

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1 hour ago, DJ Jazzy Joff said:

Hello, I hope you don't mind my jumping into the conversation, but this line of thought intrigued me...

Welcome to Heresy and what a splendid post to announce yourself :commie:

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1 hour ago, LynnS said:

I enjoyed your post as well.  I like the idea that Old Nan is weaving together all of Bran's story and that he is now being woven into that thread.  Arya is known for her crooked stitching and having to take them apart and start over.  So I wonder if she will be unraveling the thread. 

Ah, indeed!  Arya and her crooked needlework, bane of Septa Mordane!  Yes, it seems clear that Arya has a role to play as the Norn of the Future.   Perhaps her role will involve some degree of permanence,  given Jon Snow's jape about her clutching her "Needle" in "frozen fingers":  the reference to freezing relating to either an unwillingness to play her end part, or to the stoppage of Time itself via the cutting of the thread (that is the role of Skuld the Future Norn).

The "unraveling" of past stitches is also a part of the legend of the Norns:  though the Three Sisters weave the fabric of Destiny, it is neither fixed nor unchangeable.    Even the runes that they carve into the roots of the World Tree are not immutable.   Individual actions can influence the pattern and change the form of the tapestry being woven, which in turn causes the words in the runes to be re-written.  

The World Tree Yggdrasil (the Present) draws water from the Well of Fate (the Past) by which the Norns dwell, and dewdrops (the Future) from Yggdrasil's leaves fall into the Well, replenishing it, which stimulates growth of the tree; the growth draws more water, which forms later on new leaves, and returns to the well again in a slightly altered state at a different point in time.    All is cyclical:  the past determines the future, but the present and the future can also affect the past in a perpetual circular loop. 

I believe it is likely that Old Nan  - or is it Old Norn? ;)  - has been in place for some time, waiting for the opportunity to begin weaving the thread for a renewed cycle with the next Brandon Stark.   All has happened before, and all will happen again.  

 

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39 minutes ago, DJ Jazzy Joff said:

Ah, indeed!  Arya and her crooked needlework, bane of Septa Mordane!  Yes, it seems clear that Arya has a role to play as the Norn of the Future.   Perhaps her role will involve some degree of permanence,  given Jon Snow's jape about her clutching her "Needle" in "frozen fingers":  the reference to freezing relating to either an unwillingness to play her end part, or to the stoppage of Time itself via the cutting of the thread (that is the role of Skuld the Future Norn).

The "unraveling" of past stitches is also a part of the legend of the Norns:  though the Three Sisters weave the fabric of Destiny, it is neither fixed nor unchangeable.    Even the runes that they carve into the roots of the World Tree are not immutable.   Individual actions can influence the pattern and change the form of the tapestry being woven, which in turn causes the words in the runes to be re-written.  

The World Tree Yggdrasil (the Present) draws water from the Well of Fate (the Past) by which the Norns dwell, and dewdrops (the Future) from Yggdrasil's leaves fall into the Well, replenishing it, which stimulates growth of the tree; the growth draws more water, which forms later on new leaves, and returns to the well again in a slightly altered state at a different point in time.    All is cyclical:  the past determines the future, but the present and the future can also affect the past in a perpetual circular loop. 

I believe it is likely that Old Nan  - or is it Old Norn? ;)  - has been in place for some time, waiting for the opportunity to begin weaving the thread for a renewed cycle with the next Brandon Stark.   All has happened before, and all will happen again.  

 

We discussed on pages 11/12 the influece of Marvel comics in GRRM work, including their adaptation of the Norse mythology. You might want to take a look.

Also worth mentioning that the Old English name for Uror is Wyrd and this was the inspiration for the Weird Sisters in Macbeth and in Discworld (and probably for the name of the weirwoods)

Edited by Tucu

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32 minutes ago, DJ Jazzy Joff said:

The World Tree Yggdrasil (the Present) draws water from the Well of Fate (the Past) by which the Norns dwell, and dewdrops (the Future) from Yggdrasil's leaves fall into the Well, replenishing it, which stimulates growth of the tree; the growth draws more water, which forms later on new leaves, and returns to the well again in a slightly altered state at a different point in time.    All is cyclical:  the past determines the future, but the present and the future can also affect the past in a perpetual circular loop. 

I think Martin is tapping into this concept of time also.  What comes to mind is the Black Gate in the Well at the Night's Fort and the drop of salty water that drips onto Bran.  I was actually looking at the Norns a while back:

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Their names are Urd (Old Norse Urðr, “What Once Was”), Verdandi (Old Norse Verðandi, “What Is Coming into Being”) and Skuld (Old Norse Skuld, “What Shall Be”). A common misconception is that they correspond to the past, present, and future in a linear conception of time. A more sensitive analysis shows that they correspond instead to past, present, and necessity in a cyclical conception of time, as is discussed here.[1]

https://norse-mythology.org/gods-and-creatures/others/the-norns/

Weaving and sewing are euphamisms for magic in the story:

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A Storm of Swords - Bran IV

"The Wall. The Wall is more than just ice and stone, he said. There are spells woven into it . . . old ones, and strong. He cannot pass beyond the Wall."

Quote

A Clash of Kings - Davos II

"There was no need," she said. "He was unprotected. But here . . . this Storm's End is an old place. There are spells woven into the stones. Dark walls that no shadow can pass—ancient, forgotten, yet still in place."

Quote

A Storm of Swords - Bran II

"No," said Meera, "but he could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear."

Quote

A Dance with Dragons - Melisandre I

Jon Snow turned to Melisandre. "What sorcery is this?"

"Call it what you will. Glamor, seeming, illusion. R'hllor is Lord of Light, Jon Snow, and it is given to his servants to weave with it, as others weave with thread."

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A Clash of Kings - Prologue

Patchface rang his bells. "It is always summer under the sea," he intoned. "The merwives wear nennymoans in their hair and weave gowns of silver seaweed. I know, I know, oh, oh, oh."

Likewise, Dany sees the magic woven into the House of Undying:

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A Clash of Kings - Daenerys IV

The mold-eaten carpet under her feet had once been gorgeously colored, and whorls of gold could still be seen in the fabric, glinting broken amidst the faded grey and mottled green. What remained served to muffle her footfalls, but that was not all to the good.

Quote

A Clash of Kings - Daenerys IV

Finally the stair opened. To her right, a set of wide wooden doors had been thrown open. They were fashioned of ebony and weirwood, the black and white grains swirling and twisting in strange interwoven patterns. They were very beautiful, yet somehow frightening. The blood of the dragon must not be afraid. Dany said a quick prayer, begging the Warrior for courage and the Dothraki horse god for strength. She made herself walk forward.

Qyburn's robes:

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A Feast for Crows - Cersei IV

"I have informers sniffing after the Imp everywhere, Your Grace," said Qyburn. He had garbed himself in something very like maester's robes, but white instead of grey, immaculate as the cloaks of the Kingsguard. Whorls of gold decorated his hem, sleeves, and stiff high collar, and a golden sash was tied about his waist. "Oldtown, Gulltown, Dorne, even the Free Cities. Wheresoever he might run, my whisperers will find him."

Dragon Eggs:

Quote

 

A Game of Thrones - Daenerys IX

"Bring me … egg … dragon's egg … please …" Her lashes turned to lead, and she was too weary to hold them up.

When she woke the third time, a shaft of golden sunlight was pouring through the smoke hole of the tent, and her arms were wrapped around a dragon's egg. It was the pale one, its scales the color of butter cream, veined with whorls of gold and bronze, and Dany could feel the heat of it. Beneath her bedsilks, a fine sheen of perspiration covered her bare skin. Dragondew, she thought. Her fingers trailed lightly across the surface of the shell, tracing the wisps of gold, and deep in the stone she felt something twist and stretch in response. It did not frighten her. All her fear was gone, burned away.

 

 

Edited by LynnS

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3 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

Just make a large brass fancy rune encrusted horn

Well, metallurgy's not exactly a strength of the free folk.

Also, to be an effective bluff as the Horn of Joramun, from the "ancient days" of the First Men, many thousands of years before, it probably wouldn't suit the job to have a newly-forged metal horn even if they could make one.

Best off trying an ancient organic horn, and a particularly impressive one, and that's exactly what we're told this is:

Quote

The horn was huge, eight feet along the curve and so wide at the mouth that he could have put his arm inside up to the elbow. If this came from an aurochs, it was the biggest that ever lived. At first he thought the bands around it were bronze, but when he moved closer he realized they were gold. Old gold, more brown than yellow, and graven with runes.

Might also be worth asking what sort of creature could possibly be large enough to grow a horn this size.   

Eight feet long also outclasses, by a third, the length of the dragon horn Euron turned up:

Quote

he brought forth the dragon horn that the Crow's Eye had found amongst the smoking wastes of great Valyria. A twisted thing it was, six feet long from end to end, gleaming black and banded with red gold and dark Valyrian steel

Quite striking in general similarity.  This one is also gigantic, also organic and curved, also banded with metal, though in this case not just gold but also Valyrian steel, and instead of runes, it has Valyrian glyphs.  

Quote

Above them all the dragon turned, dark against the sun. His scales were black, his eyes and horns and spinal plates blood red.

That's Drogon, from ADWD.  I wonder how big Drogon's horns will eventually get?  Six or eight feet long?  Hmmm...

4 hours ago, The Snowfyre Chorus said:

Of course, Mance himself seems rather cynical, in the end... it’s not the Horn itself, but the belief in the Horn that he needs and uses (or tries to use) to his advantage.

Yes.  He wasn't too cheerful about the odds of this bluff being successful, though, or he'd have started with it, instead of trying to storm the Wall by force from two sides.

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1 hour ago, JNR said:

Yes.  He wasn't too cheerful about the odds of this bluff being successful, though, or he'd have started with it, instead of trying to storm the Wall by force from two sides.

Again, he invested a heck of a lot of effort given his belief in the likelihood of this bluff working.

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2 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

Again, he invested a heck of a lot of effort given his belief in the likelihood of this bluff working.

That's true, but I'd have done the same in his shoes.  

A hundred thousand people were looking desperately to him for survival; he was going to play every card he could. 

We can speculate a bit more.  Although Mance clearly has no intention of bringing down the Wall, let's suppose he had found the real Horn and knew it.  And suppose his bluff, as he feared, didn't work.  So the free folk were trapped on the north side of the Wall... with an endless host of wights and Popsicles closing in, no more than a mile or two away.  What would he have done then? 

My guess is that rather than let his peple be massacred, he would have given the Horn a shot.

This scenario, too, might have been in his mind in looking for it -- a time when he had no way to know he wouldn't find it.  But he couldn't look forever, or that would guarantee the massacre he was trying so hard to avoid.

(Had Mance known GRRM would take this long to write ASOIAF, and that the Popsicles would be the laziest villains in F/SF history, maybe he'd have spent another year or two digging up graves.)

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A question about Mance.  He tells Jon that when he came disguised as Abel to Winterfell, that Benjen did not know him by sight.  And yet the Halfhand tells Jon that all the brothers of the Watch knew him, that he was the best of the rangers.  How is it that Benjen would not know him?  Is Mance lying?

 

Quote

A Storm of Swords - Jon I

"It was. When your father learned the king was coming, he sent word to his brother Benjen on the Wall, so he might come down for the feast. There is more commerce between the black brothers and the free folk than you know, and soon enough word came to my ears as well. It was too choice a chance to resist. Your uncle did not know me by sight, so I had no fear from that quarter, and I did not think your father was like to remember a young crow he'd met briefly years before. I wanted to see this Robert with my own eyes, king to king, and get the measure of your uncle Benjen as well. He was First Ranger by then, and the bane of all my people. So I saddled my fleetest horse, and rode.

 

Quote

A Clash of Kings - Jon VII

She even claimed we were kin. She told me a story . . .

". . . of Bael the Bard and the rose of Winterfell. So Stonesnake told me. It happens I know the song. Mance would sing it of old, when he came back from a ranging. He had a passion for wildling music. Aye, and for their women as well.

You knew him?

"We all knew him." His voice was sad.

They were friends as well as brothers, Jon realized, and now they are sworn foes. "Why did he desert?

 

 

 

Edited by LynnS

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