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Black Crow

Heresy 207 :skinchanging

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7 minutes ago, Matthew. said:

An approach to determining what is likely to be important based on how old the idea is seems a highly unreliable guide with GRRM, where his improvisations often supersede his plans.

That's not what I was suggesting at all. Brad raised a number of issues and asked whether GRRM was likely to have had them in mind from the beginning, as distinct from winging it:

16 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

GRRM has said he had an idea how the series ends when he wrote the first book.  So the Black Gate, Bloodraven,  the Pact, Craster, and anyone or anything else could have been in his head from the beginning if it is important enough to the story. 

My post was in direct response, offering my opinion as to whether they were "old", pre-planned ideas or improvisations to suit the way the story was going - and my estimation as to whether they were quick and dirty improvisations for a particular situation or whether they are likely [nothing being certain] to have a major impact further down the line. Craster, for example, may now be dead but as I said I think that he and his are likely to be important in demonstrating a human origin  for the blue-eyed lot

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2 hours ago, Black Crow said:

That's not what I was suggesting at all. Brad raised a number of issues and asked whether GRRM was likely to have had them in mind from the beginning, as distinct from winging it:

My post was in direct response, offering my opinion as to whether they were "old", pre-planned ideas or improvisations to suit the way the story was going - and my estimation as to whether they were quick and dirty improvisations for a particular situation or whether they are likely [nothing being certain] to have a major impact further down the line. Craster, for example, may now be dead but as I said I think that he and his are likely to be important in demonstrating a human origin  for the blue-eyed lot

With the exception of Gilly; Craster's wives have stayed at the Keep as far as we know, with a few men of the watch.  We might find out more from Craster's wives since they don't seem to be fleeing to the Wall.  I wouldn't give the watchmen a hope in hell though, if the sons return.  

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On 3/30/2018 at 0:23 PM, Black Crow said:

Either way, it reinforces my quoting of the 1993 synopsis as evidence that GRRM hadn't invented the Black Gate when he wrote the chapter and that while there's more about than at first appears, the episode didn't require Gared to bring the she-wolf through the gate

We certainly agree about all that.  

In fact, it can't even be demonstrated that GRRM had invented weirwoods when he wrote the first chapter.  

On 3/30/2018 at 2:46 PM, Matthew. said:

as recently as 2015/2016 he was talking about some new twist he had in mind

Yeah, according to rumors posted on Reddit anyway, the above is exactly what led him to revise his plans for TWOW at a fairly deep level, and thus "forced" him to rewrite quite a bit.   

If AFFC was tied up by the Meereenese Knot, TWOW appears to be tied up by the Gordian Knot... the untangling of which is taking far too many years, and the Alexandrian slicing of which the fans are long since ready for GRRM to carry out.  

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1 hour ago, LynnS said:

With the exception of Gilly; Craster's wives have stayed at the Keep as far as we know, with a few men of the watch.  We might find out more from Craster's wives since they don't seem to be fleeing to the Wall.  I wouldn't give the watchmen a hope in hell though, if the sons return.  

The mutineers may no longer be around - at least some of them [including Lollo Lophand] having been turned into long pig, and I'm not sure that the women are still going to be around far less explaining everything, Given the way GRRM writes, any revelations will come from a different source to leave the events as Craster's as a foreshadowing.

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14 minutes ago, JNR said:

...according to rumors posted on Reddit anyway, the above is exactly what led him to revise his plans for TWOW at a fairly deep level, and thus "forced" him to rewrite quite a bit.   

If AFFC was tied up by the Meereenese Knot, TWOW appears to be tied up by the Gordian Knot... the untangling of which is taking far too many years, and the Alexandrian slicing of which the fans are long since ready for GRRM to carry out.  

It's also worth considering that while GRRM has supposedly declared that he won't alter things just because a few readers have figured Jon's parentage. it doesn't rule out his changing things because he wants to, or sticking with whoever he saw as Jon's father but changing the consequences, for example to avoid a cheesy return of the king scenario, in order to write a better book.

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7 hours ago, Black Crow said:

My post was in direct response, offering my opinion as to whether they were "old", pre-planned ideas or improvisations to suit the way the story was going - and my estimation as to whether they were quick and dirty improvisations for a particular situation or whether they are likely [nothing being certain] to have a major impact further down the line. Craster, for example, may now be dead but as I said I think that he and his are likely to be important in demonstrating a human origin  for the blue-eyed lot

I apologize if I misunderstood, as I was taking it all as not only related to the timeline of when these ideas developed, but as an indication of their likely plot relevance, especially in relation to whether or not certain things were present or absent in the 1993 letter.

Nonetheless, Craster highlights why such speculation is difficult: Craster the character may not have taken shape until aCoK's writing process, but some proto-seed may have existed in GRRM's head for years; so to with Bran's mentor, who eventually became Bloodraven the Great Bastard. The Black Gate is tricky, because there is an important history that is only alluded to incompletely within aGoT, and it is difficult to tell to what extent the BG might relate to the history that will eventually unfold: the truth of the Wall, the Last Hero, Brandon the Builder, the Long Night, and the decline of magic into the stuff of legend south of the Wall.

Does the Black Gate relate to any of that history? Perhaps not, but the Nightfort existed in aGoT, and the Winterfell crypts that are often compared to the Nightfort's dark vaults within this very thread existed in aGoT, so it may be that this was just a revelation waiting for a future volume, and not complete improvisation.
 

3 hours ago, JNR said:

If AFFC was tied up by the Meereenese Knot, TWOW appears to be tied up by the Gordian Knot... the untangling of which is taking far too many years, and the Alexandrian slicing of which the fans are long since ready for GRRM to carry out.  

I'm beating a dead horse, but I always mentally return to the SSM where GRRM says he "solved" the Meereenese knot by introducing Barristan as a POV character, because I think it's solving one problem by creating a new problem--trying to give one narrative (Meereen) momentum by introducing an entirely new narrative (Barristan), creating exponential bloat.

POV bloat is, itself, symptomatic of a chapter structure that has, IMO, produced more problems than benefits for a story of this size and scale. 

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GRRM likely had an idea what the purpose of the Wall originally was when he wrote the first book and he had the concept of the Nightfort.  We know the castles and other passages through the Wall weren't there at the beginning,  so if the Gate were the only connection between North and South, it may have been in his plans all along.

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Responding here to both Matthew and Brad:

The questions raised are valid, but it all depends how you define "plans".

As I said earlier, I don't think that Craster himself is of any great significance, but rather the episode is an important clue pointing to the human origin of the walkers. GRRM may not have had Craster in mind when he started writing, but he will have known the true nature of the walkers - and indeed has teased readers about it in SSMs as well as in text. 

Similarly, I'm not convinced that the Black Gate existed from the beginning, but I do believe that the Wall did. The latter statement may seem blindingly obvious, but the Wall which we're presented with at the very outset is a man-made one, As the story has developed a fair number of we miserable heretics have come to see it as primarily a magical creation. If this is correct then GRRM presumably had that in mind from the very beginning. If so the Black Gate isn't important in itself, but is a later improvisation which in the immediate term provides an escape route not mentioned in the 1993 synopsis, but far more importantly raises a very important question about the true nature of the Wall.

Simply put, if the Wall was raised by mortal man, why is there a magic portal underneath it?

 

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2 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Simply put, if the Wall was raised by mortal man, why is there a magic portal underneath it?

Why did the chicken cross the road?  To get to the other side.  

GRRM wouldn't have had the idea of the Wall without some idea whether the Wall could be crossed, where and how.  So either he originally planned on the castles and their crossings and only later came up with the idea they didn't exist far back in history - or more likely had the concept of 1 portal to the land beyond from the start.

We don't know for certain who built the Wall,  but GRRM does.  He could have presented it as manmade knowing it was not.

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13 minutes ago, Brad Stark said:

GRRM wouldn't have had the idea of the Wall without some idea whether the Wall could be crossed, where and how.

He gives us 4 options in the first book and later more with the caves under the Wall, the Bridge of Skulls and the BlackGate. Of the 4 options from the first book only 2 are not ignored throughout the fandom: the tunnels at the castles and climbing the Wall. The only thing that actually speaks for the BlackGate as a early idea is the way the Wall is not build in the west and that GRRM knew from the beginning that the Wall can be penetrated by men through the Gorge. It's a strange design choice building a Wall for 700 feet and not building a 30 feet high wall at the Gorge. 

 

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19 hours ago, Black Crow said:

It's also worth considering that while GRRM has supposedly declared that he won't alter things just because a few readers have figured Jon's parentage. it doesn't rule out his changing things because he wants to, or sticking with whoever he saw as Jon's father but changing the consequences

Sure. Though he didn't identify the puzzle in that quote; he just said there was such a puzzle, that he had laid "extremely obscure and subtle" clues, that one or two people had figured it out in the nineties anyway, and that he wasn't going to change the solution.  So we don't really know what the puzzle concerns.

However, Jon's Parents seems a good candidate, doesn't it?  Of all the puzzles in the books, I think we can all agree that's a major one and one he must have been planning and working on in the nineties.

Regarding the 2015 twist Matthew mentioned, GRRM also said that it involved an organic change that emerged naturally from the story (not something he was bolting on artificially), and furthermore, that it couldn't be done on the show because they had made decisions that ruled it out, whereas he had not made such decisions.

So in conclusion, I think we can guess with some confidence that:

1) This twist involves one or more major characters (otherwise it would be implemented easily, and not require substantial effort)

2) Since it did require substantial effort, it's a pretty big deal in the books

3) Since it's a big deal in the books, and couldn't happen in the show, it will be Even More Evidence that Show World ≠ Book World... as GRRM has constantly said for years and the fans have somehow never really believed

Does it involve Jon's parents too?  It may very well, though I agree with you it probably doesn't mean he changed those parents.  It would be some aspect pertaining to them, or the circumstances of Jon's birth, perhaps.

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17 hours ago, Matthew. said:

I always mentally return to the SSM where GRRM says he "solved" the Meereenese knot by introducing Barristan as a POV character, because I think it's solving one problem by creating a new problem--trying to give one narrative (Meereen) momentum by introducing an entirely new narrative (Barristan), creating exponential bloat.

Couldn't agree more.  You can track the way the number of POVs has gotten completely out of control as the series progresses.  

GRRM may consider it necessary because the story takes place in so many locations simultaneously, but it doesn't really make for a better reading experience IMO at least.

I won't speak for other people, but when I heard he was literally cutting half the POVs out of AFFC and turning one book into two... and that that (now) pair of books would take a decade or more to turn out... I rolled my eyes and thought "That's not gonna help," and in my outlook, it didn't.  He was letting the garden run wild instead of pruning it logically here and there, and he's still doing that as far as I can tell based on the TWOW samples.

If he writes the last page of TWOW, and it comes home to him that he is nowhere near being one book away from the finish line, I think there may be a moment of reckoning.

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On 30/03/2018 at 0:28 PM, JNR said:

For instance, the concept that the Andals sailed to Westeros and invaded the South... but somehow could never sail to the North to conquer it, and were instead stymied for thousands of years by Moat Cailin.  Or the idea that Winterfell sits on top of a pressurized water table that yields hot spring water flowing through the walls, yet the crypts below Winterfell are not underwater. 

It's remarkable that ASOIAF hangs together as well as it does, given his improvisational gardening style.  It must constantly be a struggle to him to conform to the narrative structure he's built -- and the more structure he creates, the bigger the struggle.

Ouch. I wasn't aware there were discrepancies of this magnitude hidden throughout the story! The one that always bothered me was Mance's ridiculously inefficient attack on the Wall. I know nothing of warfare but I could have come up with a better plan than running your entire force against the only properly defended spot along the 700 mile Wall. Neither Eastwatch nor the Shadow Tower have nearly as many men as Castle Black, and both offer a convenient option for getting men around the Wall without having to climb it. Those wildlings that climb the Wall during the battle and are knocked off should have simply climbed it a mile over and then attacked from the top. Etc, etc. I keep hoping we'll get a reveal of Mance not wanting to win this battle but I don't know how likely that is. 

On 31/03/2018 at 0:34 AM, Brad Stark said:

What if Bran and Jon are both new Greenseers being recruited by old Greenseers at war with each other?  Whoever sent the wolves claimed Jon so BR took the next strongest to stand against him.

While this is a cool idea, the only one who seems to be trying to "recruit" Jon is Melisandre. He doesn't dream of crows, weirwoods or anything else steering him in a particular direction; he only dreams of the Winterfell crypts. And that dream is scary, and not likely to make him want to go there and check them out. 

Of course, if he does join team Mel, that likely would put him in direct conflict with Bran (which was part of the original outline, right?). 

22 hours ago, Matthew. said:

GRRM has, to some extent, touched upon this:

http://www.westeros.org/Citadel/SSM/Entry/Quite_a_Few_Questions

 

Sansa's a tough case, but I think Rickon and Robb's relationships with their wolves are strongly implied by the text.

 

Yes, definitely, and I wasn't trying to suggest otherwise. I was merely pointing out that we have no evidence of their bond existing at the moment the pups are found. It seems their "gifts" awoke some time later, as did Arya's and Bran's. They can't hear their pups in their minds the way Jon does with Ghost before ever meeting him. 

Speaking of Rickon, I do think we overlook him at our peril. He has remarkably good control over his very aggressive black direwolf despite only being 4 years old, which suggests a very strong bond. The fact that he received the green-eyed wolf is surely also significant. When Ned died, he dreamed about it like Bran, but unlike Bran he didn't try to fool himself or listen to the maester. He was in the tomb and waiting when Bran finally made his way down there. How did he know? Was he, too, told by the 3EC like Bran? What we can say for certain is that he is not afraid of the dark. (Bran isn't, later on, but my point is that for every significant step of Bran's - bonding with his wolf, knowing to go to the crypts after his father died, and learning to love the darkness - Rickon had already taken that step, well ahead of Bran.)

There is also that moment where Shaggy has maester Luwin's blood on his muzzle, and Rickon pets him and then licks the blood off his hand. That kid is creepy. But powerful. Surely he was included for a reason. 

Oh and Rickon reacted extremely strongly to Robb riding off to war, once again visiting the crypts as if he knew how this would end (Bran, AGOT):

Quote

“Please make it so Robb won’t go away,” he prayed softly. He moved his hand through the cold water, sending ripples across the pool. “Please make him stay. Or if he has to go, bring him home safe, with Mother and Father and the girls. And make it... make it so Rickon understands.”
His baby brother had been wild as a winter storm since he learned Robb was riding off to war, weeping and angry by turns. He’d refused to eat, cried and screamed for most of a night, even punched Old Nan when she tried to sing him to sleep, and the next day he’d vanished. Robb had set half the castle searching for him, and when at last they’d found him down in the crypts, Rickon had slashed at them with a rusted iron sword he’d snatched from a dead king’s hand, and Shaggydog had come slavering out of the darkness like a green-eyed demon. The wolf was near as wild as Rickon; he’d bitten Gage on the arm and torn a chunk of flesh from Mikken’s thigh. It had taken Robb himself and Grey Wind to bring him to bay. Farlen had the black wolf chained up in the kennels now, and Rickon cried all the more for being without him.

And a little later:

Quote

“Listen to Maester Luwin’s counsel, and take care of Rickon. Tell him that I’ll be back as soon as the fighting is done.”
Rickon had refused to come down. He was up in his chamber, redeyed and defiant. “No!” he’d screamed when Bran had asked if he didn’t want to say farewell to Robb. “NO farewell!”
“I told him,” Bran said. “He says no one ever comes back.
“He can’t be a baby forever. He’s a Stark, and near four.” Robb sighed. “Well, Mother will be home soon. And I’ll bring back Father, I promise.”

Rickon the Dreamer?

I also found this when looking for more Rickon references (Bran, AGOT):

Quote

In the yard below, Rickon ran with the wolves.
Bran watched from his window seat. Wherever the boy went, Grey Wind was there first, loping ahead to cut him off, until Rickon saw him, screamed in delight, and went pelting off in another direction. Shaggydog ran at his heels, spinning and snapping if the other wolves came too close. His fur had darkened until he was all black, and his eyes were green fire. Bran’s Summer came last. He was silver and smoke, with eyes of yellow gold that saw all there was to see. Smaller than Grey Wind, and more wary. Bran thought he was the smartest of the litter. He could hear his brother’s breathless laughter as Rickon dashed across the hardpacked earth on little baby legs.

This implies that the wolves' appearance - at least for Shaggy - changed after they were found. Given that none of their eyes were open when found, could it be that their final coloring (both hair and eyes) reflects who they bonded with? 

There is also the question of Ghost's red greenseer eyes already being open. This made me wonder if Jon's third eye has been open for a while, since he heard Ghost when he shouldn't have. Not to mention that he received the special wolf. In the mummer's version, Catelyn tells us that

Spoiler

Jon almost died as a young child from some illness, which would have been a great opportunity for his third eye to open and him have no real memory of it.

Alas, in the books so far we have no evidence to support this. 

 

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1 hour ago, JNR said:

 

However, Jon's Parents seems a good candidate, doesn't it?  Of all the puzzles in the books, I think we can all agree that's a major one and one he must have been planning and working on in the nineties.

 

Well even that is open to doubt if we turn to the infamous 1993 synopsis:

Arya will be more forgiving... until she realizes, with terror, that she has fallen in love with Jon, who is not only her half-brother but a man of the Night's Watch, sworn to celibacy. Their passion will continue to torment Jon and Arya throughout the trilogy, until the secret of Jon's true parentage is finally revealed in the last book.

Now this isn't the time to argue the likelihood of Jon ever getting inside Arya's knickers [or Sansa's for that matter], but what is interesting is that this is the only reference in the synopsis to "the secret of Jon's true parentage" and it doesn't sound like a big deal if the purpose of the revelation is to allow the two of them to get together. Obviously things have changed and moved on since 1993, but it does raise questions as to whether GRRM actually intended it to be a big deal, or whether he has been happy to allow and even nurture speculation as to the "return of the king" scenario as a means of diverting attention  away from something else, and if so what?

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21 hours ago, Matthew. said:

I'm beating a dead horse, but I always mentally return to the SSM where GRRM says he "solved" the Meereenese knot by introducing Barristan as a POV character, because I think it's solving one problem by creating a new problem--trying to give one narrative (Meereen) momentum by introducing an entirely new narrative (Barristan), creating exponential bloat.

POV bloat is, itself, symptomatic of a chapter structure that has, IMO, produced more problems than benefits for a story of this size and scale. 

While I actually really enjoy the structure of the different POVs, I don't see why new characters (Barristan, Quentin, Victarion, Tyrion) had to go to Meereen in order to tell us what's going on there. He could have just made one of the people already there a new POV. (Missandei - although she is meant to be mysterious, I think; Hizdahr, Reznak, the Shavepate, or even one of Dany's cupbearers). It would have helped us see things from the perspective of the people who have been conquered and are now being ruled by a dragonlord; a descendant of the people that brought down the Ghiscari Empire in the first place. Maybe then we'd care about what happens there a little more...

Then again, Barristan is one of few survivors of Robert's Rebellion, and thus has much and more he could share with readers. I suspect that's the real reason he is being included in the POV lineup.

6 hours ago, SirArthur said:

He gives us 4 options in the first book and later more with the caves under the Wall, the Bridge of Skulls and the BlackGate. Of the 4 options from the first book only 2 are not ignored throughout the fandom: the tunnels at the castles and climbing the Wall. The only thing that actually speaks for the BlackGate as a early idea is the way the Wall is not build in the west and that GRRM knew from the beginning that the Wall can be penetrated by men through the Gorge. It's a strange design choice building a Wall for 700 feet and not building a 30 feet high wall at the Gorge. 

 

It is indeed! The Wall's size is complete overkill, yet it can be circumvented fairly easily on both sides. I'm surprised wildlings ever bother to climb the Wall, when the Gorge is available as a much safer option. (And, yes, surprised that there is not even a small barrier at the Gorge. I forget the details of the terrain, but given that the builder managed to work with the terrain for the entire length of the Wall, it shouldn't be insurmountable.) It's also notable that the Black Gate is not guarded at all, which to me suggests it has been forgotten by the Watch. Otherwise, Mance should know about it too, and as someone who has sworn the NW oath he should be able to open it and let his people across. That well should have been filled in when the Nightfort was abandoned, but it wasn't ...

Long story short, given the immense effort that would have gone into building the Wall, and the glaring omissions of fortifications in the far West and East, we have strong support for the (Heresy-original, I believe) idea that the Wall was never meant as a barrier in the first place. 

 

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2 minutes ago, MaesterSam said:

Long story short, given the immense effort that would have gone into building the Wall, and the glaring omissions of fortifications in the far West and East, we have strong support for the (Heresy-original, I believe) idea that the Wall was never meant as a barrier in the first place. 

 

If it's not a barrier, what is it?  We know it's made with great lore and has wards for keeping wights like Coldhands from passing.  Otherwise, why didn't he go around the Wall to collect Bran?  If Orell's eagle is anything to go by; skinchangers can't pass while inside their host animal and the eagle was flying directly above the Wall.  So the ward doesn't end at 700 feet.

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As usual, not following the discussion but dropping in with wild ideas and smoking guns, apologies:

Just wondered whether Bran ends up as the Black Gate by the end of the story.

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1 hour ago, LynnS said:

If it's not a barrier, what is it?  We know it's made with great lore and has wards for keeping wights like Coldhands from passing.  Otherwise, why didn't he go around the Wall to collect Bran?  If Orell's eagle is anything to go by; skinchangers can't pass while inside their host animal and the eagle was flying directly above the Wall.  So the ward doesn't end at 700 feet.

Well perhaps that's the point; that the magic barrier radiates from the Wall, including the ends

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5 hours ago, Black Crow said:

this is the only reference in the synopsis to "the secret of Jon's true parentage" and it doesn't sound like a big deal if the purpose of the revelation is to allow the two of them to get together

Yeah, if it were that trivial I don't think he would have bothered planning it out at all. And we know he did -- continuously from 1993 through pub date of book one -- because AGOT is just shot through with hints that there's something unexpected lurking there, from Ned's enigmatic memories to Jon's dreams to the infamous TOJ scene.

So my guess is it isn't the only such reference in the synopsis.  I think Jon's parentage also comes up in the redacted paragraph -- the blacked-out section so many have pondered, at such length, to so little success.  

In any event, if the twist GRRM has apparently struggled with since 2015 is no big deal, I wonder why he's been struggling with it all that time?   

If it involves Jon's parentage, a thing that's unclear to me, I think it's going to have some weight to it.  

At the moment the firmest knowledge we have is that it would be impossible to do on the show and that GRRM knew it would be impossible at least as early as 2015.  Did he know, by 2015, what direction the show was taking with Jon's parents?  Probably.  But even that seems uncertain.

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6 hours ago, MaesterSam said:

The one that always bothered me was Mance's ridiculously inefficient attack on the Wall. I know nothing of warfare but I could have come up with a better plan than running your entire force against the only properly defended spot along the 700 mile Wall.

Uh huh, this is a good point.

To his credit, I think GRRM was conscious of this storytelling weakness too... so he provided a kinda-sorta-maybe explanation for it in this ASOS passage:

Quote

 

"Don't think you've stopped us, though. The truth is, you are too few and we are too many. I could continue the attack here and still send ten thousand men to cross the Bay of Seals on rafts and take Eastwatch from the rear. I could storm the Shadow Tower too, I know the approaches as well as any man alive. I could send men and mammoths to dig out the gates at the castles you've abandoned, all of them at once."

"Why don't you, then?" Jon could have drawn Longclaw then, but he wanted to hear what the wildling had to say.

"Blood," said Mance Rayder. "I'd win in the end, yes, but you'd bleed me, and my people have bled enough."

 

Jon asks the very question you have in mind and whether Mance's answer is good enough is a thing we'll have to decide for ourselves.

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