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Black Crow

Heresy 207 :skinchanging

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10,000 years, a lot of erosion happened.   We don't know what the gorge was like back then.  Men even currently make an effort to repair the Wall,  but why invest a disproportionate amount of effort in the westmost mile of the Wall when it ends there and you could still go around by water.

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3 hours ago, MaesterSam said:

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.

RAMBLING INCOMING

I should clarify that what I question is GRRM's structure that each chapter belongs singularly to one character, and he never plays around with shifting viewpoints within a chapter, even when it would be narratively or thematically sensible to shift between two major characters.

He also doesn't make use of minor POVs within chapters that 'belong' to a major POV, even when doing so would provide elucidation on events and motives; eg, Jon is the primary POV at the Wall, but Jon chapters occasionally shift to men of the NW or wildlings.

This unwillingness to utilize minor POVs, and shifts within chapters, leads to a habit where GRRM feels he needs to convey certain information, so he elevates a minor character - such as Barristan - to full POV, and to justify the idea that Barristan is now a POV, he gets an arc unto himself, and GRRM starts digging into his unrequited love with Ashara, and all of this other stuff that isn't necessarily bad, but also isn't doing ASOIAF as a whole any favors.

The way GRRM has structured his novel is such that, after Dany flies out of Meereen on Drogon, there are ten Meereen and Meeren adjacent chapters in ADWD: 4 Barristan, 2 Tyrion, 2 Quentyn, and 2 Victarion chapters. 

In a sanely structured novel, what is covered within those ten chapters could just as easily have been covered in 2 Tyrion chapters, perhaps with Victarion still kept separate.

EG
Chapter Begins
Tyrion (Major POV)
***
Barristan (Minor)
***
Quentyn (Minor)
***
Tyrion 
***
Barristan
***
Tyrion
Chapter End

And so forth...
______

I realize that it is ASOIAF blasphemy to question the wisdom of the POV Chapter system, but I personally think that the impediments it has created to telling a well-paced story outweigh its ostensible benefits.

For one thing, it's not as though he's doing some crazy experimental thing like As I Lay Dying or Ulysses where each POV represents a distinct stylistic break; he's not using first person narration, each chapter is delivered with the same third person limited voice, with the only distinguishing features being literal plot content, and internal monologues--which, again, differ in content but not in prose.

For another, it has had this odd effect where there are simultaneously too many and too few points of view; too many because he adds entirely new POVs whenever he needs "eyes" at a particular location, at a particular point in time.

Too few, because for a story that includes a civil war, a populist uprising with the Sparrows, a slave revolt in the east, and the diverse and demonized wildlings crossing the wall, the actual story is told almost exclusively through the eyes of aristocrats. 

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1 hour ago, JNR said:

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.

Just to add onto this, there are two relevant GRRM quotes I've seen posted on Reddit from interviews where he talks about the twist:

Entertainment Weekly, 4/3/2015:

Quote

“This is going to drive your readers crazy,” he teased, “but I love it. I’m still weighing whether to go that direction or not. It’s a great twist. It’s easy to do things that are shocking or unexpected, but they have to grow out of characters. They have to grow out of situations. Otherwise, it’s just being shocking for being shocking. But this is something that seems very organic and natural, and I could see how it would happen. And with the various three, four characters involved … it all makes sense. But it’s nothing I’ve ever thought of before. And it’s nothing they can do in the show, because the show has already — on this particular character — made a couple decisions that will preclude it, where in my case I have not made those decisions.”

IGN 2/24/2016:

Quote

"I have decided to do that, yes. It’s something that involves a couple characters, one of whom is dead in the show but not dead in the books. So the show can’t do this, unfortunately.”


That it involves a character that is dead in the show but not in the books might help narrow the possibilities.

Edit: And for further clarity, the latter interview is before Season Six, so the list should be narrowed only to those characters that died in season 1 - 5.

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3 hours ago, JNR said:

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

I don't think it's good enough at all. Mance could have quietly started digging out just a few tunnels - those farthest from CB, EW and the Shadow Tower. He could have the work done by night, when nobody is patrolling the Wall. All his people could have crossed to the south with no bloodshed at all. 

Alternatively, just the warriors could have crossed (by any one of the many available routes), taken out CB from behind, then opened the gate. This way they wouldn't have to worry about the NW coming down on them later. Instead, he sent a group that wasn't up to the task (if he had 10,000 extra men why not send 1000 across the Wall?? With CB fallen, there would be no need for a frontal attack at all!) and included Jon of all people. Did Mance seriously think that his newest recruit - a freakin' STARK - would not only desert the NW after less than a year but would be willing to betray, attack and kill his sworn brothers in the sneak attack on CB? 

The Eastwatch plan he describes also sounds like a much better approach than what he ended up doing - one that would cost fewer wildling lives, b/c they would have more of an advantage (a few hundred feet by raft vs scaling the Wall and Eastwatch has far fewer men than CB). 

Literally any other plan would have cost fewer wildling lives than running his entire force against the Wall in the best-defended location of its entire length. 

Mance's planning is so poor that it almost looks like deliberate self sabotage to me. I think maybe he didn't want to win, given that winning would mean the end of the NW. Once across the Wall, Mance wants there to still be a NW to defend the Wall behind him. Maybe he even still feels some small bit of loyalty / gratitude toward them. Whatever the reason, he doesn't want to decimate the NW. So he plans an attack to show his strength, with the hope of reaching a deal to be let across. Which did work out in the end, in spite of Stannis's interference. 

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6 hours 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.

I thought it was Mel who set the eagle on fire? If it was the Wall's doing due to the eagle crossing, then that would make the Wall an extremely dangerous place for Ghost and Jon (and any skinchanger)! Also, why would the ice Wall cause things to catch on fire? That doesn't fit, IMO. 

That's not to say there aren't wards contained within the Wall. I'm sure there are. Coldhands flat-out tells us. But if the wards extend well past the physical structure - then it makes even less sense to have such a ginormous structure in the first place. Similarly, if the wards go past EW and the ST, then is it really necessary to have a continuous Wall? Why not build a few sections and let the wards fill in the space in between?

A theory I like (but can't take credit for) is that the Ice Wall is covering up something else. Something magical that needs to be sealed away - both physically and magically - underneath tons of ice with spells woven through.

 

6 hours ago, alienarea said:

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.

Oh I hope not! That would be SO SAD. 

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10 hours ago, JNR said:

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.

As the twist is referred to but not explained we know nothing, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a change of direction in the story.

We know about the problems with the Mereenese Knot; for all that we know this could be something similar in that GRRM has a desired outcome to an aspect of the book [or even the ending] but not known how to accomplish it to his satisfaction. Now he has thought of a twist that will allow him to get there.

EDIT: just seen the transcript of the SSM posted on Reddit, but I think that this may still be the case rather than the story wandering off in a different direction.

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6 hours ago, MaesterSam said:

That's not to say there aren't wards contained within the Wall. I'm sure there are. Coldhands flat-out tells us. But if the wards extend well past the physical structure - then it makes even less sense to have such a ginormous structure in the first place. Similarly, if the wards go past EW and the ST, then is it really necessary to have a continuous Wall? Why not build a few sections and let the wards fill in the space in between?

Ultimately I suspect that these weaknesses are deliberate; that we are meant to reflect on the absurdities of such a high wall that can be by-passed and therefore, as we miserable heretics do, question whether it is a man-made structure and what its real purpose might be.

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8 hours ago, MaesterSam said:

I thought it was Mel who set the eagle on fire? If it was the Wall's doing due to the eagle crossing, then that would make the Wall an extremely dangerous place for Ghost and Jon (and any skinchanger)! Also, why would the ice Wall cause things to catch on fire? That doesn't fit, IMO. 

That's not to say there aren't wards contained within the Wall. I'm sure there are. Coldhands flat-out tells us. But if the wards extend well past the physical structure - then it makes even less sense to have such a ginormous structure in the first place. Similarly, if the wards go past EW and the ST, then is it really necessary to have a continuous Wall? Why not build a few sections and let the wards fill in the space in between?

A theory I like (but can't take credit for) is that the Ice Wall is covering up something else. Something magical that needs to be sealed away - both physically and magically - underneath tons of ice with spells woven through

Melisandre may or may not have burned Orell's eagle. We know she takes credit for events that she has nothing to do with when she tells Stannis about the death of three kings.  She only had anything to do with Renley; but she lets Stannis think she is responsible for all three.  So I think she is doing the same with the eagle.

We know that the Wall blocks warging or skinchanging if the warg and animal are separated by the Wall and it's fire that destroys wights not ice.  Othor and Jafr are not affected when they are brought through the Wall; but nobody is home so to speak.  They are not animated until they have passed the Wall.  Given that they seem to have a specific purpose; I think it possible that they are skinchanged in some way.

So if the Wall is as much Melisandre's place as it is Jon's; is it because the Wall conceals a fire ward; one that destroys anything that is skinchanged?  Mel says that the Wall has power that can be accessed and I think she does this by channeling the power through her ruby when she burns Rattleshirt:

Quote

A Dance with Dragons - Jon III

Stannis Baratheon drew Lightbringer.

The sword glowed red and yellow and orange, alive with light. Jon had seen the show before … but not like this, never before like this. Lightbringer was the sun made steel. When Stannis raised the blade above his head, men had to turn their heads or cover their eyes. Horses shied, and one threw his rider. The blaze in the fire pit seemed to shrink before this storm of light, like a small dog cowering before a larger one. The Wall itself turned red and pink and orange, as waves of color danced across the ice. Is this the power of king's blood?

When Melisandre says that she is more powerful at the Wall, I think it's because she can draw from the fire magic woven into the Wall and the reason why she isn't affected by the Wall.  She isn't actually a skinchanger so how can she know that Orell's eagle was occupied?

I think the eagle was affected by the fire ward as it flew directly above the Wall.  

So then what is the purpose of all that ice?  It may be a dam or collector of the killing cold and it might be a source of ice magic that can be used.  I supsect that the House of Undying might have been connected to the Wall in some way via the Black Gate.  It might also be the source of magic for creating the white walkers.  But I think it blocks skinchangers and wights with a fire ward. 

Edit:  Melisandre also seems to be limited or blocked in some way when it comes to seeing Bran in her fires.  When asks to see the Great Other; she sees a vision of an old man like a face with a tree, a boy with a wolf's head and one other whom dismisses because he doesn't have a terrifying and evil face.  I think what she is seeing are the forms that Bran has taken - a weirwood, a direwolf and Hodor.

Dany has the same problem when she sees the shadows dancing around the fire during MMD's tent ritual.  She sees a great wolf and a man limned in flame.  So she can't see the Great Other/Direwolf but she can see the man transformed by flame or Great Dragon.

I'm favoring fire for Jon's resurrection since this will allow him to defend the Wall; if that's what happens and that would line up with the NW vow of 'the fire that burns in the night'.

 

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28 minutes ago, LynnS said:

So then what is the purpose of all that ice? 

Do you know how a fridge operates ? It removes energy from the interior and transports it to the exterior. You can check that at the back of your fridge, where there is usually a warmer spot. 

If the Wall is indeed increasing fire magic and heat is required for it, then the ice could well be the result of a heat pump: puming the outside energy inside resulting in ice at the outside. And the melting of the Wall simply means the engine is no longer working.

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3 minutes ago, SirArthur said:

Do you know how a fridge operates ? It removes energy from the interior and transports it to the exterior. You can check that at the back of your fridge, where there is usually a warmer spot. 

If the Wall is indeed increasing fire magic and heat is required for it, then the ice could well be the result of a heat pump: puming the outside energy inside resulting in ice at the outside. And the melting of the Wall simply means the engine is no longer working.

And how does frozen fire work?

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1 minute ago, SirArthur said:

frozen fire where ?

The Wall, the Wall, the Wall...  I think there is a balance between ice and fire at the wall.  It's a magical construct, not just a fridge.

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Just now, LynnS said:

The Wall, the Wall, the Wall...  I think there is a balance between ice and fire at the wall.  It's a magical construct, not just a fridge.

Just to make my idea more clear: i did not suggest a fridge (that was just to demonstrate the principle), I suggested a reversed fridge called a heat pump.

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3 minutes ago, SirArthur said:

Just to make my idea more clear: i did not suggest a fridge (that was just to demonstrate the principle), I suggested a reversed fridge called a heat pump.

I see.  Well, I do think the magic of the Wall has been deteriorating for some time.  Although magic is tooling up for some reason (to use Black Crow's turn of phrase).

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33 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

You mean dragonglass?

No, I mean the same principle as dragonglass in that the Wall balances ice and fire magic like dragonglass.

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11 minutes ago, LynnS said:

No, I mean the same principle as dragonglass in that the Wall balances ice and fire magic like dragonglass.

There is of course the Shaw interview:

Shaw: Is there a certain reason why they named obsidian "dragonglass" or why you did that?

Martin: Yes, there is a reason.

Shaw: Are dragons somehow the mortal enemy of the Others?

Martin: There are a lot of legends, and you'll be hearing more about them in the future books, but a lot of stuff about Others and about dragons maybe isn't completely understood by the people of the present. Obsidian is of course volcanic glass; it's formed by immense heat and pressure down in the earth. The dragons themselves are creatures of intense heat.

 Shaw: Do you know what substance an Other sword is made from.

Martin: Ice. But not like regular old ice. The Others can do things with ice that we can't imagine and make substances of it.

 

I believe "frozen fire" is to be understood as in petrified/frozen in time/stopped in mid-flicker, rather than as deep frozen. Its Fire in a solid, corporeal form, but that isn't the same as Fire made Ice.

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53 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

There is of course the Shaw interview:

Shaw: Is there a certain reason why they named obsidian "dragonglass" or why you did that?

Martin: Yes, there is a reason.

Shaw: Are dragons somehow the mortal enemy of the Others?

Martin: There are a lot of legends, and you'll be hearing more about them in the future books, but a lot of stuff about Others and about dragons maybe isn't completely understood by the people of the present. Obsidian is of course volcanic glass; it's formed by immense heat and pressure down in the earth. The dragons themselves are creatures of intense heat.

 Shaw: Do you know what substance an Other sword is made from.

Martin: Ice. But not like regular old ice. The Others can do things with ice that we can't imagine and make substances of it.

 

I believe "frozen fire" is to be understood as in petrified/frozen in time/stopped in mid-flicker, rather than as deep frozen. Its Fire in a solid, corporeal form, but that isn't the same as Fire made Ice.

Yes, it's dragonglass.  I think the wall is analogous to a rock or a crystal in it's structure. Dragonglass is crystalline as well.

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5 hours ago, Black Crow said:

EDIT: just seen the transcript of the SSM posted on Reddit, but I think that this may still be the case rather than the story wandering off in a different direction.

A twist he had never thought of before 2015 is, by definition, the story wandering off in a different direction.  

The content of the twist is unclear, but the significance of it is not going to be a trivial matter.  It has apparently required GRRM to rethink and rewrite quite a bit of TWOW content.  It may also have required him to rethink future content.

However, I think we agree that if the twist is about Jon's parents, it's not going to change the names of those parents. 

15 hours ago, Matthew. said:

That it involves a character that is dead in the show but not in the books might help narrow the possibilities.

Yes, I think the same.

12 hours ago, MaesterSam said:

Mance's planning is so poor that it almost looks like deliberate self sabotage to me.

That seems a bit over the top -- I think he certainly wanted to get his people through -- but I agree that there are alternate approaches that would have been far more logical given his stated goals.   

For instance, we're told he had a fake Horn of Joramun he meant to use as a bluff.  

Well, he might have begun by running that bluff, before attacking the Wall or sending a team over it.  

If it worked, problem solved.  He could then have left the Horn in the control of a single trusted lieutenant (or told the Watch he had, another bluff), to ensure that his people wouldn't be slaughtered or enslaved once across the Wall.

How is it possible this didn't occur to Mance?  Same reason, I would guess, that it somehow didn't occur to Cat in AGOT that kidnapping Tyrion Lannister and handing him to her sister to put him on trial and then kill might easily have sparked a civil war.  

Sometimes GRRM's characters can't think of obvious things because... that would ruin the plot.  :D

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52 minutes ago, JNR said:

A twist he had never thought of before 2015 is, by definition, the story wandering off in a different direction.  

The content of the twist is unclear, but the significance of it is not going to be a trivial matter.  It has apparently required GRRM to rethink and rewrite quite a bit of TWOW content.  It may also have required him to rethink future content.

For some reason I have a feeling that GRRM has grown quite fond of Stannis Baratheon as a character and I think he may be increasing the role that he initially intended for him.  If nothing else it seems that Stannis is experiencing a bit of a character arc, and is growing in complexity as a character (especially if it turns out he is the author of the pink letter).  So I wonder if his twist might involve Stannis and Theon?  The haphazard death toll of the show blends together for me, however, so I'm not sure if they killed Stannis off in the 5th or 6th season.

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