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A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms Reread

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Spoiler alert: This thread will discuss plot elements and details of the Dunk & Egg stories, the first three of which have been available since 2015 in a volume called A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms. If you have not read them, you will want to do so before reading posts on this thread. They are wonderful stories and contain many points that connect with the ASOIAF novels.

Ashford Meadow = Mad Foreshadow*

If this is truly a hint to readers, I would guess that "mad" here is used in the slang sense. Urban dictionary tells us:

Most predominantly used in the greater New York area, "mad" is an appropriate replacement for Northern California's "hella" and Boston's "wicked." In the common vernacular, it translates into "a lot" or "extremely."

Ashford Meadow is everyone's destination in the first Dunk & Egg story, The Hedge Knight. In other words, the Dunk and Egg stories are filled with clues - a lot of foreshadowing - that can tell us what will happen in the ASOIAF series. I began to realize this when I recently examined Renly's Rainbow Guard. I noticed that there was tremendous overlap between the people and symbols in the Rainbow Guard and in the tourney at Ashford Meadow. I reread The Hedge Knight with the intention of further decoding the Rainbow Guard and found that the story is jam-packed with hints about ASOIAF and larger mysteries readers would like to better understand.

The details that have caught my interest go well beyond the colors, birds and fruit that were central to the Rainbow Guard analysis, so I thought I should start a new thread. I may not post things in chronological order here, and I can't promise that there will be a regular rhythm to these observations. In addition to the Tanselle post (below), I can foresee separate posts about pennies, rope, Dunk's "knighting" and his religion, and about helms and elms. (Note: almost all of those topics relate to armor.)

Tentatively, I am also pleased to share that the Bracken / Blackwood conflict may be at the core of all conflicts in the contemporary story - isn't it nice to simplify all of these complicated plots by finding that everything in ASOIAF boils down to a battle of two mighty warlocks (Bloodraven and Bittersteel)? Now we can all get on with our lives and set aside all this timesucking forum chit chat.

This thread may also lead to greater insights about the connection between oranges and feet. I'm sure there will be many more subjects as we reread the stories with an eye for detail.

I welcome thoughtful insights and comments from the good people of this forum. If you don't believe the stories and novels are filled with symbolism, layers of meaning and wordplay, however, I ask you to refrain from commenting, leave now and never darken my door again. You don't have to agree with everything, but straight-up sophomoric rejection of the analysis is a waste of my time and yours. Similarly, if you think it's fresh or clever to criticize comments here by posting something along the lines of, "It's really been too long between books. When is TWoW coming?" then you are neither original nor witty and you probably wore a half-helm in your last tourney and took a blow to the head. Borrowing a threat from Dunk:

"... I'll hunt you down, I swear I will. With dogs."

"You don't have any dogs," Egg pointed out.

""I'll get some," said Dunk. "Just for you."

Except I won't care enough to hunt you down. I will just revile you from afar.

*The next story in the Dunk & Egg series involves diversion of a waterway using a dam, so it's possible that GRRM is telling us that the Ashford Meadow setting of The Hedge Knight simply foreshadows The Sworn Sword - "dam" foreshadow instead of "mad" foreshadow. Based on the symbols and allusions already found in the earlier story, I believe that the foreshadowing applies to the larger world of ASOIAF and/or to Westeros history, not just to the upcoming dam.

Edited by Seams

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Tanselle is Bloodraven. Or, at least, Melissa Blackwood.

The first time Dunk sees the puppeteer, Tanselle Too-Tall:

When he caught the smell of sausages sizzling over a smoky fire, his mouth began to water. He bought one with a copper from his pouch and a horn of ale to wash it down. As he ate he watched a painted wooden knight battle a painted wooden dragon. The puppeteer who worked the dragon was good to watch, too; a tall drink of water, with the olive skin and black hair of Dorne. She was slim as a lance with no breasts to speak of, but Dunk liked her face and the way her fingers made the dragon snap and slither at the end of its strings. He would have tossed the girl a copper if he'd had one to spare, but just now he needed every coin.

[The Hedge Knight]

A parallel scene:

"... Ser Quentyn Ball was the master-at-arms of the Red Keep. He taught my father and my uncles how to fight. The Great Bastards too. King Aegon promised to raise him to the Kingsguard, so Fireball made his wife join the silent sisters, only by the time a place came open King Aegon was dead and King Daeron named Ser William Wylde instead. My father says that it was Fireball as much as Bittersteel who convinced Daemon Blackfyre to claim the crown and rescued him when Daeron sent the Kingsguard to arrest him. ..."

..."Did Ser Quentyn die upon the Redgrass Field?"

"Before, ser," Egg replied. "An archer put an arrow through his throat as he dismounted by a stream to have a drink. Just some common man, no one knows who."

[The Mystery Knight]

I think GRRM is implying that Dunk is struck by "cupid's arrow" (or slim lance) just as he sees the "tall drink of water" we later learn is called Tanselle. Quentyn Ball is similarly struck by an arrow just as he stops for a drink of water. Somewhere, I had gotten the impression that the archer who shot Ball was one of Bloodraven's crew known as The Raven's Teeth, but maybe that was never made explicit.

Tanselle is described as Dornish-looking, but the portrait of Melissa Blackwood in TWOIAF shows her as having dark hair as well. The reference to small breasts also seems to be an allusion to Melissa's chest size relative to the buxom build of her rival, Barbra Bracken. Recall that Barbra was a mistress of Aegon IV and the mother of Aegor Rivers, known as Bittersteel. Melissa Blackwood later became mistress of Aegon IV and was the mother of Brynden Rivers, known as Bloodraven.

Other relevant details from The Hedge Knight:

Dunk's campsite

"The spring grass there was as green as any knight's banner and soft to the touch. It was a pretty spot and no one had yet laid claim to it."

Green grass is significant in relation to the Redgrass Field, the battle that followed the death of Ser Quentyn Ball. The relationship of green and red grass is clarified by a quote from Jorah Mormont, explaining to Dany how grasses change with the season:

"The Dothraki sea," Ser Jorah Mormont said as he reined to a halt beside her on the top of the ridge. Beneath them, the plain stretched out immense and empty, a vast flat expanse that reached to the distant horizon and beyond. It was a sea, Dany thought. Past here, there were no hills, no mountains, no trees nor cities nor roads, only the endless grasses, the tall blades rippling like waves when the winds blew. "It's so green," she said.

"Here and now," Ser Jorah agreed. "You ought to see it when it blooms, all dark red flowers from horizon to horizon, like a sea of blood. ..."

(AGoT, Daenerys III)

A thousand eyes and one

Also at Dunk's campsite:

The stars were everywhere, thousands and thousands of them. One fell as he was watching . . . . A falling star brings luck to him who sees it, Dunk thought.

(The Hedge Knight)

Puppets and Puppeteers

When Dunk eventually has a conversation with Tanselle, his stumbling near-confession of his attraction to her implies that he is a puppet:

"I am called Ser Duncan the Tall"

"I'm Tanselle," she laughed. "Tanselle Too-Tall, the boys used to call me."

"You're not too tall," Dunk blurted out "You're just right for . . . " He realized what he had been about to say, and blushed furiously.

"For?" said Tanselle, cocking her head inquisitively.

"Puppets," he finished lamely.

(The Hedge Knight)

Tanselle's expertise as a puppeteer is one of the things that reinforces the Bloodraven connection, for me. Bloodraven is the behind-the-scenes manipulator who keeps the main branch of the Targaryens in power, defeating the Blackfyre pretenders in various ways. Egg is enthusiastic about Tanselle's skill, saying the puppet movement is smooth in her hands, in contrast to jerky movements he witnessed elsewhere. Is this GRRM's way of showing us that Egg and Bloodraven are on the same team, smoothly advancing Targaryen interests that will lead to Egg's eventual assumption of the monarchy?

So why is Dunk cast in the role of puppet? Throughout this story and future stories, we see Targaryens and Blackfyres trying to seduce, master, scapegoat, defeat and otherwise "possess" Ser Duncan the Tall. He tells Prince Aerion Targaryen that he is not a stable boy or a serving man. He is challenged to a trial by seven by Aerion, who wants him maimed. Prince Maekar joins the trial because Prince Daeron told him that Dunk was a robber knight and had kidnapped Egg. In The Mystery Knight, Dunk will turn down a proposition to "howl together" and the offer of a horse from John the Fiddler (Daemon II Blackfyre).

Dunk manages to avoid or defeat all of these putdowns and propositions and challenges, but he willingly becomes a "puppet" and also takes on Aegon V / Egg as his squire. The implication is that Dunk embodies a source of power that Targaryens / Blackfyres need in order to successfully rule Westeros. Just what those qualities are, I hope this thread will help to make clear. (I think it has something to do with being a "true knight".) Dunk chooses Bloodraven and Egg when he tells Tanselle that she is just right for puppets but wants to say that she is just right for him. 

Edited by Seams

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Pennytree and Missy's / Barbra's Teats

Dunk's mentor is Ser Arlan of Pennytree. Pennytree is part of the Blackwood / Bracken rivalry because it is located in the middle of the two hills known as The Teats - originally the Mother's Teats but renamed twice by Aegon IV after two rival mistresses, Barbra Bracken and Melissa Blackwood. Ownership of the land is disputed by House Bracken and House Blackwood.

Dunk has never been to Pennytree but he briefly considers telling Egg that he is from there at the moment he is put on the spot about his own name and pedigree. He rejects the Pennytree fib and instead names himself Ser Duncan the Tall, with a little help from Egg.

We learn details about Pennytree fairly late in A Dance with Dragons, when Jaime Lannister goes there as part of his work to resolve the remnants of conflict and the aftermath of war in the Riverlands. Jaime walks in on Lord Jonos Bracken having sex with a woman he describes as a "prize of war." Jaime, who is famously monogamous, finds himself strangely aroused as the woman provocatively and ineffectively tries to cover her breasts and "mound" with her hands. I suspect this woman is the personification of the disputed "Teats," and Bracken is enjoying taking possession of them.

Bracken tells Jaime that Pennytree has been a royal fief for 100 years, so he didn't claim the village as part of the lands to be forfeited by the Blackwoods and awarded to House Bracken. Barbra's Teats are, however, among the many castles, mills and larndmarks Bracken claims. Jaime points out that House Bracken supported Robb Stark and only bent the knee to the Iron Throne after Robb was killed by the Freys. Consequently, he doesn't anticipate that the Brackens will receive everything they want in the terms imposed on House Blackwood. To himself, Jaime finds Tytos Blackwood's loyalty to the Starks and Tullys more honorable than Bracken's capitulation after the Red Wedding. When Jaime finalizes the lands to be taken from the Blackwoods and awarded to the Brackens, the Teats are not included in the redrawn map, meaning they stay under control of the Blackwoods. (Note that Jaime walked in on Bracken before he reached climax in his session with the "prize of war".)

After leaving Raventree Hall, Jaime decides to stay the night at Pennytree with his escort and his Blackwood hostage, Hoster. The people of the town hide in the holdfast and refuse to come out. Jaime contemplates the old oak with hundreds of old copper pennies nailed to its trunk. He expects he could ask the Blackwood boy to explain the story of the oak, but decides "that would spoil the mystery," so he doesn't ask. A paragraph later, Brienne arrives and urges Jaime to ride off alone with her to a place where, she says, the Hound holds "the girl" (presumed to be Sansa Stark) hostage. That is the last we see of Jaime or Brienne.

Is the oak tree the only "armored" tree we have seen in ASOIAF? Or are the coins a sort of sacrifice - an alternative to the blood sacrifices at weirwoods that seem to be part of the northern worship of the old gods? Or are they more like scales, such as a dragon or fish would wear? Coins often bear a likeness of a king's head and they are found in great numbers in the Bank of Braavos. I believe coins are linked to the vault where the Faceless Men store the faces of dead people they use as disguises in their assassin work. Is the Pennytree oak another "vault" for the faces of dead people? What does it mean that a nail is driven through each face?

The trees - what does it mean that Jaime comes from the dead, poisoned weirwood tree at Raventree Hall, said to have been poisoned by the Brackens, and next sees the penny tree? GRRM likes to do things in threes so, naturally, there is a third tree in the chapter: Lord Blackwood offers to give up to his Bracken enemy a village called "Honeytree" where honey is produced. "All that sweet will make him fat and rot his teeth."

I haven't worked out a good or complete explanation, but both armor and pennies are major symbols in The Hedge Knight story. Obviously, we will see them throughout ASOIAF with many descriptions of literal and figurative armor and coins, Masters of Coins and characters such as the dwarf mummer Penny and Ser Ilyfer the Penniless.

Honey is mentioned several times in the Brienne POVs in AFfC, and she spends a night in a hive-like structure on the Quiet Isle. I have not made a systematic study of honey, so I'm not sure whether the association with Brienne is much stronger than with other characters. I thought the hard-working, all-male brothers on the Quiet Isle might be like worker bees, and Brienne would be in the position of Queen Bee during her stay on the island. If the three trees in this Jaime POV are a hint from the author, perhaps ravens, pennies and honey need to be compared to reveal their symbolic meanings. The clue about honey causing teeth to rot could be a helpful indication about honey, as lemon juice has been presented as the Westeros potion for strengthening teeth. Maybe honey is just the opposite of lemon. (And these symbols would then require us to sort out the meaning of teeth, but I believe that important symbol is outside of the scope of this thread.)

Before and after that Jaime POV (Chapter 48 in ADwD), more of the Pennytree and "Teats" story may be revealed indirectly. In what seem to be "Hero's Journey" arcs for Sansa/Sweetrobin, Bran and Jon, there are some references to mountainsides as "mothers" and advice to press one's face against the mother's breast in order to feel safe while climbing or descending the mountain. The Sansa chapter includes some additional Bracken / Blackwood allusions, featuring Sansa and Myranda Royce in the Missy and Barbra roles. (See this link for some details.)

As I mentioned in the OP, the Bracken and Blackwood rivalry looms larger and larger, the deeper I dig into the subtext.

Edited by Seams

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On 4/7/2018 at 0:14 PM, Seams said:

Ashford Meadow = Mad Foreshadow*

If this is truly a hint to readers, I would guess that "mad" here is used in the slang sense. Urban dictionary tells us:

Most predominantly used in the greater New York area, "mad" is an appropriate replacement for Northern California's "hella" and Boston's "wicked." In the common vernacular, it translates into "a lot" or "extremely."

:o

On 4/7/2018 at 0:14 PM, Seams said:

*The next story in the Dunk & Egg series involves diversion of a waterway using a dam, so it's possible that GRRM is telling us that the Ashford Meadow setting of The Hedge Knight simply foreshadows The Sworn Sword - "dam" foreshadow instead of "mad" foreshadow. Based on the symbols and allusions already found in the earlier story, I believe that the foreshadowing applies to the larger world of ASOIAF and/or to Westeros history, not just to the upcoming dam.

:o

Edited by Lost Melnibonean

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On 4/8/2018 at 3:49 PM, Seams said:

Pennytree and Missy's / Barbra's Teats

. . . Pennytree is part of the Blackwood / Bracken rivalry because it is located in the middle of the two hills known as The Teats - originally the Mother's Teats but renamed twice by Aegon IV after two rival mistresses, Barbra Bracken and Melissa Blackwood. Ownership of the land is disputed by House Bracken and House Blackwood.

. . .

We learn details about Pennytree fairly late in A Dance with Dragons, when Jaime Lannister goes there as part of his work to resolve the remnants of conflict and the aftermath of war in the Riverlands. Jaime walks in on Lord Jonos Bracken having sex with a woman he describes as a "prize of war." Jaime, who is famously monogamous, finds himself strangely aroused as the woman provocatively and ineffectively tries to cover her breasts and "mound" with her hands. I suspect this woman is the personification of the disputed "Teats," and Bracken is enjoying taking possession of them.

After leaving Raventree Hall, Jaime decides to stay the night at Pennytree . . . Brienne arrives and urges Jaime to ride off alone with her to a place where, she says, the Hound holds "the girl" (presumed to be Sansa Stark) hostage. That is the last we see of Jaime or Brienne.

...

The trees - what does it mean that Jaime comes from the dead, poisoned weirwood tree at Raventree Hall, said to have been poisoned by the Brackens, and next sees the penny tree? GRRM likes to do things in threes so, naturally, there is a third tree in the chapter: Lord Blackwood offers to give up to his Bracken enemy a village called "Honeytree" where honey is produced. "All that sweet will make him fat and rot his teeth."

Pennytree as an entrance to the Otherworld

The woman in Bracken's bed (her name is Hildy) personifies both the teats and Pennytree.

Skip this if you hate wordplay, but a little anagram - paired with a remark by Jaime - offers another clue about the purpose or symbolism of Pennytree in the story. Here's the bit with Jaime:

... Jaime smiled at the woman in the bed. She had one hand over her left breast and the other between her legs, which left her right breast exposed. . . . When she felt Jaime's gaze she covered her right nipple, but that revealed her mound. "Are all camp followers so modest?" he wondered. "If a man wants to sell his turnips, he needs to set them out."

"You been looking at my turnips since you came in, ser." The woman found the blanket and pulled it up high enough to cover herself to the waist, then raised one hand to push the hair back from her eyes. "And they're not for sale, neither."

Jaime gave a shrug. "My apologies if I mistook you for something you're not. My little brother has known a hundred whores, I'm sure, but I've only ever bedded one."

(ADwD, Jaime I, Chap. 48)

The anagram is this:

Pennytree = neep entry.

"Neep" is the Scottish and northern English word for turnip. That explains why GRRM chose that particular odd metaphor for Jaime's conversation with Hildy.

But what does this mean for the larger ASOIAF story?

We know that root vegetables are important in part because Davos Seaworth chooses to be The Onion Knight when Stannis knights him. Davos thinks to himself that he smuggled "life" in the form of onions on his first secret mission into Storm's End and death in the form of Melisandre on his next mission there. Root vegetables come up at feasts including when Bran must choose which dishes to send to which honored guests at Winterfell and he sends a plate of turnips to Big and Little Walder. But roots are major symbols throughout the books.

The Hildy / turnip interlude and the matching anagram indicate that Jaime's departure with Brienne will involve entering a magical "mound" like those found in Celtic legends - an entrance to the Underworld. If I understand correctly, the Celts allowed for multiple Underworlds with multiple entrances. Jaime's "guide" to this Pennytree entrance was Hoster Blackwood, so he may be entering the Blackwood underworld. Or maybe Pennytree is the neutral entrance between two other entrances (Raventree and Honeytree). Maybe, like the Black Gate beneath the Night Fort, the entry can be opened only by an authorized party - the Black Gate opens only for a brother of the Night's Watch; maybe Pennytree opens only for ... a member of the King's Guard? Jaime is that and Brienne was a member of the Rainbow Guard. And there is constant, strong King's Guard interaction and build-up in the Dunk & Egg stories.

[Edit: I think the King's Guard requirement may be correct. Part of Jaime's interaction with Hildy involves her asking whether he has a wife (he tells her he has a sister) and he calls attention to his white cape (asking her to note that he is a member of the King's Guard and therefore has no wife). She then leaves without finding one shoe (a sort of Cinderella allusion, I think, inviting Jaime to come after her) and gives his crotch a squeeze as she passes him. She wants him to come after her.]

I'm not saying that Jaime and Brienne are literally going to ride their horses into a hole in the ground and interact with Children of the Forest (although that's always a possibility). I believe that Brienne's entire quest through the Riverlands has an Otherworld quality to it, and the "entry" into another world can be figurative, not a literal part of the plot.

So this Dunk & Egg stuff is taking us deep into ASOIAF, which is what I hoped. But it could get quite complex in terms of symbolism. For instance, what more do we need to know about turnips and the underworld? I remember that Bran was unhappy that Rickon allowed Little and Big Walder to play in the Winterfell crypt - he felt that was a Stark place and the Walders were not the kind of guests who should be allowed in there. But he sent the Walders a plate of turnips at the Harvest Feast and sent Nan and Hodor a plate of sweets, thinking this was an expression of his love for them. This is the opposite of Lord Blackwood agreeing to give up Honeytree to Lord Bracken, a gesture intended to rot Bracken's teeth. Was Bran steering each of these characters toward different entrances to the Underworld?

I would also note that Jaime compares Hildy to Cersei and he earlier compared Ser Ryman Frey's camp follower, the Queen of Whores, to Cersei as well.

Edited by Seams

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For a few days, I thought my next post here would be something along the lines of, "Plummer is Bloodraven," with a giant mea culpa about my too-narrow interpretation of all the plum symbolism and new ideas about links between plums and plumbing. As I wrestled with that big topic, I realized another idea should come first, to help clarify Plummer's role in Dunk's story. So here is the necessary prerequisite post.

Dunk is not a knight - until he is knighted in a one-of-a-kind knighthood ritual

Dunk claims that his mentor, Ser Arlan of Pennytree, knighted him as he lay dying and that only a "robin in a thorn tree" witnessed the moment. When the steward of the tournament, Plummer, asks whether he is a knight, however, Dunk's initial response is only to nod, "wondering if his ears were red." Plummer asks whether there were witnesses to Dunk's "dubbing" and follows up by saying, "No doubt" when Dunk tells him about the robin and the words of the vow. I think there is wordplay here on dubbing and doubt, with Plummer implying that there was "no dubbing," in spite of the details related by Dunk.

After the scene with Plummer, deft turns of phrase provide additional reason to question Dunk's story of being knighted by Ser Arlan. "I have the honor to be a knight," he tells Prince Aerion. One might interpret this to mean that Dunk IS a knight or one might read this as saying that Dunk has a necessary quality to be a knight without actually holding that title. Later, in a conversation with the squire Raymun Fossoway, Dunk reflects on Raymun's qualifications to be a knight and then thinks to himself, "If he is only a squire, what business do I have being a knight? One of us is a fool." Just a few minutes earlier, Dunk was embarrassed to remember kissing a tavern girl and the narration summarizes his thoughts: "What a great fool he was." Of course, there is a strong connection to the Florian the Fool legend in both Dunk and Brienne's stories. It's possible that Dunk is both a knight and a fool, but I think the implication here is that Dunk is a fool, not a knight.

Later in the story, the knighting of Raymun is another moment of truth for Dunk. To round out the group of seven combatants necessary for the Trial of Seven, Raymun must be quickly knighted so he will be allowed to participate.

"Knight me." Raymun put a hand on Dunk's shoulder and turned him. "I will take my cousin's place. Ser Duncan, knight me." He went to one knee.

Frowning, Dunk moved a hand to the hilt of his longsword, then hesitated. "Raymun, I ... I should not."

"The lad has the truth of it," said Ser Lyonel Baratheon. "Do it, Ser Duncan. Any knight can make a knight."

"Do you doubt my courage?" Raymun asked.

"No," said Dunk. "Not that, but ... " Still he hesitated.

"A fanfare of trumpets cut the mist-morning air. Egg came running up to them "Ser, Lord Ashford summons you."

The Laughing Storm gave an impatient shake of the head. "Go to him, Ser Duncan. I'll give squire Raymun his knighthood."

It's pretty clear that Dunk hesitates to knight Raymun Fossoway because he does not actually have the power to confer that title on anyone. As Ser Lyonel points out, "Any knight can make a knight." Dunk's reluctance to conduct the ceremony is persuasive evidence that Dunk is not a knight (as knighthood is understood in Westeros) and doesn't want to undermine another knight's dubbing by pretending to confer a title that is not his to award.

But Dunk does undergo some rituals

There are so many hints in the text that Dunk was not really knighted - maybe all of this debate is old and I'm just late to the party. The idea that is new to me, however, is that Dunk really does undergo a series of ceremonial experiences in The Hedge Knight that echo the knighting process with some unique twists.

First, recall some aspects of the Westeros knighthood ceremony. From the wiki:

There are several variations of ceremonies. It is customary to stand vigil in a sept the night before one receives knighthood. This vigil is carried out before the figure of the Warrior. The sword might be placed before or upon the figure, and the armor in a pile at the statue’s base. ... The six hundred knights who were dubbed after the Battle of the Blackwater, also wore shifts of undyed wool, and marked receiving their knighthood by the putting on a swordbelt after being dubbed. ... However, men can also be dubbed a knight without exercising these customs, for example on the battlefield, possibly as they lay dying (e.g., Tywald Lannister). Witnesses might be present at the moment of receiving knighthood, although this is not a requirement.

Knighthood in Westeros is an institution associated with the Andals so many knights are followers of the Faith of the Seven, explaining the rationale for a vigil in a sept prior to being dubbed. Several times in The Hedge Knight, Dunk reflects that he does not know any prayers, indicating that he does not have a strong religious upbringing or devotion. Instead of a vigil in a sept, we do see Dunk awake alone at night, "gazing up at the night sky. ... The stars were everywhere, thousands and thousands of them. One fell as he was watching, a bright green streak that flashed across the black, then was gone.

"A falling star brings luck to him who sees it, Dunk thought. But the rest of them are all in their pavilions by now, staring up at silk instead of sky. So the luck is mine alone."

In the earlier post, I mentioned the possible connection between Bloodraven's "a thousand eyes and one" in the thousands of stars with one falling as Dunk watches. Now I see this passage as both a Bloodraven symbol and also an indication of Dunk's "religion." His vigil is not inside a sept but out in the open, under the night sky and with a falling star bringing him luck.

Does this also mean that Bloodraven is Dunk's "god"?

After his night under the stars, one of Dunk's steps to gain admission to the tourney is to talk to the steward of House Ashford, as outlined earlier in this post. Perhaps similar to the way that a mainstream knight would place his sword before the figure of the warrior in the sept, Dunk places his sword before this steward, Plummer:

"And where might you be from, Ser Duncan the Tall?"

"Everyplace. I was squire to Ser Arlan of Pennytree since I was five or six. This is his shield." He showed it to the steward. "He was coming to the tourney, but he caught a chill and died, so I came in his stead. He knighted me before he passed, with his own sword." Dunk drew the longsword and laid it on the scarred wooden table between them.

The master of the lists gave the blade no more than a glance. "A sword it is, for a certainty. . . . "

Later, Dunk returns to Egg who had waited at their camp beneath the elm tree.

Dunk took out his new armor to show the boy. "If you're ever to be a knight, you'll need to know good steel from bad. Look here, this is fine work. ..."

So the usual ceremonial presentation of the sword and armor before the Warrior of the seven gods instead takes place before the master of the lists and the squire who will become Aegon V. Based on what we know of Dunk in the first three stories, it does seem as if those three people - Dunk, Egg and Bloodraven (represented by Plummer, if my surmise is correct) - have a special bond and common or complementary missions. Instead of offering his services to the warrior, Dunk is offering his services to Egg and Bloodraven.

The sword belt may be the last piece of evidence that Dunk is a largely do-it-yourself knight, not an official, sponsored knight. In the opening pages of the novella, when he finishes burying Ser Arlan, Dunk thinks about his options including squiring for another knight or joining the City Watch in King's Landing or Lannisport. Then he takes stock of Ser Arlan's possessions - describing them now as things that he, Dunk, owns.

Dunk looked at the shield, scooped up the sword belt, and looked at the shield again. The belt was made for the old man's skinny hips, it would never do for him, no more than the hauberk would. He tied the scabbard to a length of hempen rope, knotted it around his waist, and drew the longsword. ... Plain as it was, the sword felt good in his hand, and Dunk knew how sharp it was, having worked it with whetstone and oilcloth many a night before they went to sleep. It fits my grip as well as it ever fit his, he thought to himself, and there is a tourney at Ashford Meadow.

This is the moment Dunk decides to present himself as a knight instead of seeking work as a squire or watchman. The belt he uses to attach the sword to his body is simple hempen rope; he does not use Ser Arlan's sword belt. The rope belt becomes a topic in his first encounter with Egg:

Dunk frowned . . . "I am a knight, I'll have you know."

"You don't look to be a knight."

"Do all knights look the same?"

"No, but they don't look like you, either. Your sword belt's made of rope."

"So long as it holds my scabbard, it serves. ..."

So these rituals around knighthood - vigil, presentation of sword and armor, and donning of a sword belt - take a new and unique form for Dunk, but they are carried out, in a fashion. But what about the actual dubbing?

Is there such a thing as a rawhide knight?

In Westeros, the moment of conferring knighthood involves the candidate knight kneeling and a sponsoring knight touching the flat of the sword blade to the shoulder of the candidate knight, and then moving to the other shoulder and alternating as he is charged to be brave, just, to protect the innocent, etc. There are several moments in The Hedge Knight when someone touches Dunk on the shoulder, perhaps conveying the idea that many people want Dunk to be a champion and true knight. The scene where Dunk is being measured for his new suit of armor stands out:

The armorer looked him up and down. "You're a big one, but I've armored bigger." He came out from behind the table. "Kneel, I want to measure those shoulders. Aye, and that thick neck o' yours." Dunk knelt. The armorer laid a length of knotted rawhide along his shoulders, grunted, slipped it about his throat, grunted again "Lift your arm. No, the right." He grunted a third time. "Now you can stand." The inside of a leg, the thickness of his calf, and the size of his waist elicited further grunts. "I have some pieces in me wagon that might do for you," the man said when he was done "Nothing prettied up with gold or silver, mind you, just good steel, strong and plain. I make helms that look like helms, not winged pigs and queer foreign fruits, but mine will serve you better if you take a lance in the face."

Instead of a noble charge to defend the innocent, the armorer grunts three times and tells Dunk to lift his arm. The shoulders are touched with the rawhide measuring tape instead of a sword. What does that mean? Is it the same as Dunk's hemp rope belt? Rawhide is a dried and treated cowhide and animal skins in ASOIAF are often symbolic allusions to skinchanging. Has Dunk just been inducted into the service of skinchangers? Or is there another point in being "dubbed" with a measuring tape?

Note that the rawhide also goes around Dunk's throat. We know that Dunk is an ancestor of Brienne of Tarth and that Brienne will be hanged nearly to death by the Brotherhood without Banners. Brienne ends the hanging by agreeing to take up a sword. Is the knotted rawhide here a symbolic hanging for Dunk as well as a knighting?

The armorer, whose name is Steely Pate, reappears when Dunk is facing a crisis. He delivers Dunk's repainted and strengthened shield to him, reassures him that he made a good choice of sigil that shows life and summer and then reminds Dunk of a "shield rhyme" he had learned from Ser Arlan years earlier: Oak and iron, guard me well or else I'm dead and doomed to hell. Dunk cannot remember any prayers, but he remembers this rhyme with the help of Steely Pate. In addition to the sky and stars, Bloodraven and Egg, and hempen rope or rawhide, perhaps oak and iron are elements of Dunk's faith. The battle he will fight to resolve the central conflict of the story - saving his own life and limb - involves using a shield as a weapon.

Throughout ASOIAF there are many references to true knights and there are characters who have many of the qualities one would expect in a knight but they have not been officially recognized as such:

  • The Hound hates knights and thinks they are phoneys, but he is a great swordsman and takes on Arya as something of a squire.
  • Brienne of Tarth is a skilled and powerful fighter but she is a woman.
  • Bran Stark dreams of being a knight but he is from the North, where the tradition of knighthood is not established and he cannot walk after being pushed off a wall. He does team up with the tall and powerful Hodor, however.
  • Jon Snow joins the Night's Watch and becomes Lord Commander but is never knighted along the way.
  • Tyrion performs some amazing and effective acts of combat, but his dwarfism may prevent any thoughts of pursuing a knighthood. He becomes a mummer knight, however, when he joins Penny's fake jousting act and rides the pig in comical staged combat.
  • Ser Dontos was a knight but he is stripped of his knighthood and made a fool for his disgraceful behavior at Joffrey's name day tourney.

So Dunk is in great company in his "not really a knight" situation. Maybe the best knights in Westeros are those who are not really knights at all.

Edited by Seams

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Posted (edited)
On 4/16/2018 at 3:03 PM, Seams said:

Is there such a thing as a rawhide knight?

...

The armorer looked him up and down. "You're a big one, but I've armored bigger." He came out from behind the table. "Kneel, I want to measure those shoulders. Aye, and that thick neck o' yours." Dunk knelt. The armorer laid a length of knotted rawhide along his shoulders, grunted, slipped it about his throat, grunted again "Lift your arm. No, the right." He grunted a third time. "Now you can stand." The inside of a leg, the thickness of his calf, and the size of his waist elicited further grunts. "I have some pieces in me wagon that might do for you," the man said when he was done "Nothing prettied up with gold or silver, mind you, just good steel, strong and plain. I make helms that look like helms, not winged pigs and queer foreign fruits, but mine will serve you better if you take a lance in the face."

Instead of a noble charge to defend the innocent, the armorer grunts three times and tells Dunk to lift his arm. The shoulders are touched with the rawhide measuring tape instead of a sword. What does that mean? Is it the same as Dunk's hemp rope belt? Rawhide is a dried and treated cowhide and animal skins in ASOIAF are often symbolic allusions to skinchanging. Has Dunk just been inducted into the service of skinchangers? Or is there another point in being "dubbed" with a measuring tape?

Note that the rawhide also goes around Dunk's throat. We know that Dunk is an ancestor of Brienne of Tarth and that Brienne will be hanged nearly to death by the Brotherhood without Banners. Brienne ends the hanging by agreeing to take up a sword. Is the knotted rawhide here a symbolic hanging for Dunk as well as a knighting?

Duh. Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall.

I think I just figured this out - Dunk is being "strung" in this scene, like a marionette. The armorer's "grunts" are wordplay on "strung."

Brienne is similarly treated as a puppet or marionette in the scene where she is strung up for hanging. The puppeteer in that case is Lem Lemoncloak, believed to be Richard Lonmouth, who was Rhaegar's squire. Lem wears the helmet of The Hound, Sandor Clegane, who was burned by his brother after playing with his brother's wooden knight toy; a toy coveted by Sandor because, "you could make him fight."

"Do you mean to hang her, Lem?" asked the one-eyed man. "Or do you figure to talk the bitch to death?"

The Hound snatched the end of the rope from the man holding it. "Let's see if she can dance," he said, and gave a yank.

(AFfC, Brienne VII, Chapter 42)

@The Fattest Leech is the resident expert on the Pinocchio symbolism in the books, with Bran as the character with the clearest parallels to the puppet.

It might be consistent with what we know of GRRM's attitude toward war and toward being a warrior, that Dunk is being strung up as a puppet at the same time he is symbolically knighted. (Pushing my luck: maybe the "raw" in rawhide is wordplay on "war"?)

If the speculation was correct in the earlier post, that the puppeteer (Tanselle) is a manifestation of Bloodraven, does that mean that the armorer (Steely Pate) is another manifestation of Bloodraven? It's possible, although I didn't notice descriptive details that would tie them together. We are told in the story that Tanselle's uncle makes the puppets and she paints them. Could Steely Pate be the uncle? Or maybe just a parallel of the uncle as he "strings" Dunk to prepare him for the tourney. In the puppet shows, a fat Dornish woman operates the knight puppet, while Tanselle manipulates the dragon. Maybe Steely Pate is a parallel of the Dornish puppeteer?

Edit: I just want to make a note here of an inkling of a connection between Steely Pate and the novice Pate in the AFfC prologue. The hapless Pate in AFfC takes a key from a lobstered gauntlet. Steely Pate exhibits two lobstered gauntlets as samples of his work. Steely Pate says he does not make helms with winged pig decorations; novice Pate strives to rise above his common origins, to avoid becoming a pig boy.

Because of the Crabb / crab wordplay, Nimble Dick Crabb is also linked to the lobstered gauntlet symbolism. Are all three characters mentors / guides for major, POV heroes? All three engage in transactions involving coins. I think it's also significant that Steely Pate's name literally means "steel head" but Dick Crabb dies after being hit on the head with a morning star. Interesting, too, that Steely Pate is a smith while novice Pate has not made a single link toward creating his maester's chain.

Don't know yet where GRRM might be going with all this, but I wanted to jot down notes because I know it will all come together at some point, if we can just sort it out.

Edited by Seams

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16 hours ago, Seams said:

 

@The Fattest Leech is the resident expert on the Pinocchio symbolism in the books, with Bran as the character with the clearest parallels to the puppet.

It might be consistent with what we know of GRRM's attitude toward war and toward being a warrior, that Dunk is being strung up as a puppet at the same time he is symbolically knighted. (Pushing my luck: maybe the "raw" in rawhide is wordplay on "war"?)

If the speculation was correct in the earlier post, that the puppeteer (Tanselle) is a manifestation of Bloodraven, does that mean that the armorer (Steely Pate) is another manifestation of Bloodraven? It's possible, although I didn't notice descriptive details that would tie them together. We are told in the story that Tanselle's uncle makes the puppets and she paints them. Could Steely Pate be the uncle? Or maybe just a parallel of the uncle as he "strings" Dunk to prepare him for the tourney. In the puppet shows, a fat Dornish woman operates the knight puppet, while Tanselle manipulates the dragon. Maybe Steely Pate is a parallel of the Dornish puppeteer?

Hey there @Seams thanks for the mention. Every time I think that Pinocchio "connection" was just a funny fluke, it pops back up again in strange places. That is pretty cool. I like it :thumbsup:

The last few posts in that thread with @Feather Crystal start to get in to some cool mirroring metaphors.

Also, because of this AKoSK reread focus of yours, I went searching in those stories for some possible ideas that link the past to the future plot, and I found it! Maybe I will detail it here later, but as for now it is in something else I am writing up. Hint: beards! :stunned:

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40 minutes ago, The Fattest Leech said:

Also, because of this AKoSK reread focus of yours, I went searching in those stories for some possible ideas that link the past to the future plot, and I found it! Maybe I will detail it here later, but as for now it is in something else I am writing up. Hint: beards! :stunned:

Sweet! I can't wait to read it. I know there has to be a ton of beard-related imagery throughout all the books. That odd "sharp or shaggy" remark by Bran in the Winterfell crypt is only the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure.

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So what if Plummer is Bloodraven?

As promised, here are some thoughts that grew from a focus on the House Ashford steward, Plummer, who oversees the tourney at Ashford Meadow. He may be another character channeling Bloodraven. (See the earlier post about Tanselle for the previous example from this story.) Others in this forum long ago recognized that Ser Maynard Plumm, who appears in The Mystery Knight story, is very probably Bloodraven in disguise. As I was re-reading The Hedge Knight, the name Plummer suddenly hit me and I realized that Plumm and Plummer had to have been chosen deliberately. If Ser Maynard Plumm was Brynden Rivers in disguise, could Plummer be another incarnation of the infamous Targaryen loyalist?

In a Rainbow Guard thread a few weeks ago, I had tried to puzzle out the meanings of various colors and fruits. The purple knight in Renly's guard, Ser Parmen Crane, is only vaguely presented in ASOIAF. He does wear plums on his surcoat, however, which leads me to link that purple symbolism in this analysis. This may take more than one post and more than one day, but the goal is to bring together ideas about plums (both fruit and the color) and Plumms (Ser Maynard, Brown Ben and others) and lumps. I may save plumbing for the discussion of The Mystery Knight because it is central to the resolution of that story and linked to the plum motif through wordplay and character associations.

Fair warning: this is a complex symbol. If you don't like symbolism, stay away from this entire thread. If you are open-minded about it, I welcome constructive comments.

House Ashford

Although the tourney is at Ashford Meadow, is sponsored by Lord Ashford and includes his daughter as the "Queen of Love and Beauty" and his two sons in the first rounds of jousting, the Ashfords are all sketchy presences in the story: the Lord and his daughter are not even given first names and the family has not made a subsequent appearance in the books. Instead, the story is dominated by half a dozen princes of House Targaryen as well as Dunk. Even tourney participants, a variety of minor smallfolk participating in the market attached to the tourney, and servants for House Ashford have bigger roles than the Lord and his family. So what is the author's purpose in putting House Ashford at the center of the activities?

As with many places and characters in ASOIAF, House Ashford is the author's way of creating a portal to a magical place, linking current people and events to their departed ancestors and/or to divine beings. This fits with ancient Celtic ideas of the Otherworld on which the author has drawn for some of the rich literary allusion built into the plot lines. The Winterfell crypt, for instance, is a place where Stark lords and ancient kings are interred, but it is also a place where Stark children play, where Bran and Rickon hide from people who want to kill them, where Theon confesses his desire to be a Stark, and where Ned takes the visiting king. I suspect the village of Pennytree, discussed earlier in this thread, is another such portal. I believe that House Ashford is a symbolic link to dead Targaryens or, perhaps, a place where Targaryen ritual and fate can be played out.

The house name, Ashford, is our first clue: Targaryen bodies are cremated when the die, causing them to turn to ashes. A ford is a place where a river can be crossed without a bridge. A river often is used in myths and legends as a symbolic barrier between the land of the living and the land of the dead. So "ash ford" seems to indicate that this is a place where people could cross toward ashes (or ashes could cross from wherever they have been).

In the scene at the great hall, Dunk describes Lord Ashford as "hovering at [the] shoulder" of the prince seated in the high seat. This sounds like Mormont's raven, always on or near the Lord Commander's shoulder. That Night's Watch mascot bird may carry the consciousness of past Lord Commanders. Perhaps the hovering Lord Ashford represents the collective consciousness of past Targaryens similar to the function provided by Mormont's raven. Recall, though, that Mormont's raven often demands corn, which is associated with the sacrifice of the harvest king. Perhaps we will see a similar ritual sacrifice at Ashford Meadow.

When Lord Ashford delivers his big speech, admonishing Dunk that he has not provided sufficient credentials for the tournament, he is described as "a big bald man with a round face." This could be a Wizard of Oz allusion, with Ashford as the fake image of the Wizard projected on the curtain, while the real wizard - is it Baelor or Bloodraven? - operates the projector and loudspeaker. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" was ineffective in deterring Dorothy and her companions, and ineffective in stopping Dunk.

Plummer the Steward

Dunk is told that the steward of House Ashford is "the master of the games," in charge of deciding who is eligible to participate in the tourney. Keep in mind that "A Game of Thrones" is a central metaphor of the entire ASOIAF series - a master of the games is an important position, even if he keeps a low profile. This seems like an apt description of the role of Bloodraven in Targaryen history: he does not take the throne himself, but he manipulates circumstances to keep the Targaryens in power and plays a major role in running the kingdom.

Dunk finds Plummer after being led up stone steps in a turret to the wall walk at the castle. This seems like the ascent one would make to reach a rookery, where ravens live. Or maybe the turret alludes to the chess piece called a rook. Either way, the rookery hint could be a raven allusion and a clue about Plummer as Bloodraven.

More symbolism stuff: Perhaps similar to Dunk's ascension to Plummer's room on the wall walk, Jon Snow and Tyrion have an important scene on a wall walk on top of the ice Wall as they look out at the edge of the world. Jon Snow is about to become a steward (and, like Dunk, not a real knight). Several of the major POV characters go through a period of being a steward or servant: Theon as Reek, Arya as a cupbearer, Tyrion as a slave. So the idea of the Targaryen bastard Bloodraven as a steward is not such a stretch and it also parallels with the (possible, probable) Targaryen bastard arc being played out by Jon Snow and/or Tyrion.

Plummer the steward has only two scenes: with Dunk in the room on the wall walk and in the great hall with the Targaryen princes. When Prince Maekar asks why Dunk is in the room with them, Prince Baelor says, "He is the knight that our good steward was expecting." As a servant in the Ashford household, it's hard to imagine that Plummer would have informed the Hand of the King and other Targaryen princes that there was a wannabe hedge knight who might or might not qualify for the tournament. Why is Baelor made aware of Dunk before even encountering him in person?

Let's assume for a moment that the Ashford-as-magic-Targaryen-portal theory is true, and that the steward is overseeing an event that connects to Targaryen heritage and destiny. Maybe the event even determines or foreshadows who will become king. Why would Plummer let anyone other than Targaryen princes participate in the contests? Why would he give Dunk even a second of his valuable time?

Recall that Dunk has been made a puppet

Since this is a re-read, and we know a little bit about Dunk's mysterious squire Egg, we know that Egg will eventually become king. It seems as if Dunk is a player in ensuring that young Aegon's royal destiny is realized, although we don't yet know exactly what role Dunk will play. If the previous posts about Tanselle and Steely Pate were correct, Dunk is also put in the position of being a puppet with Bloodraven possibly pulling the strings. Since Aegon is eight years old, having a big, strong knight as his constant companion is a good way of keeping him safe while he matures into a worthy occupant for the Iron Throne.

But wait a minute - is Bloodraven really pulling Dunk's strings? Tanselle specializes in operating the dragon puppet. If the earlier post was right about Tanselle as Bloodraven, this reinforces the image of Bloodraven as the manipulator of the Targaryen dynasty but it might mean that he has his hands full, so to speak, with the dragon puppet.

If you have the Gary Gianni illustrated edition of the Dunk and Egg stories, however, you will have seen a couple of pictures of Egg sitting on Dunk's shoulders. This would put young Egg in the perfect position to "pull the strings" of a symbolic marionette Dunk. For instance, as Egg sits on Dunk's shoulders, watching the tournament, he reacts strongly when his vain and cruel brother, Prince Aerion, rides onto the field. "'Kill him!' he shouted suddenly. 'Kill him, he's right there, kill him, kill him, kill him!' Dunk was not certain which of the knights he was shouting to." Later, Dunk attacks Aerion to put a stop to Aerion's torture of Tanselle. He will fight him again in the Trial of Seven later in the story. Dunk says he does not know which knight Egg was shouting to, but I think Dunk was that knight. Egg wanted a knight to "kill" Aerion, and Dunk almost literally delivered.

So the motive for Team Bloodraven (with Tanselle and Plummer as suspected players but possibly including others) has been to provide Egg with a giant knight puppet who could represent him in the tourney at Ashford Meadow, the place where the future monarchs will be lined up. Prince Baelor, the current hand of the king and crown prince, is also instrumental in clearing a path for Dunk & Egg. I'm not yet sure whether he is a player like Tanselle and Plummer on team Bloodraven, or whether he is a player on his own team.

Aerion Brightflame, I suspect, is a player for team Aegor Rivers. But that notion will have to wait until I finish with my plum obsession.

Edited by Seams

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I will come back to the plum stuff (I know you're all on the edge of your seats) but the Bloodraven / Bittersteel / Shiera Seastar triangle is getting too interesting to ignore.

First, recall that House Ashford is an allegorical place:

On 4/7/2018 at 0:14 PM, Seams said:

Ashford Meadow = Mad Foreshadow*

Tentatively, I am also pleased to share that the Bracken / Blackwood conflict may be at the core of all conflicts in the contemporary story - isn't it nice to simplify all of these complicated plots by finding that everything in ASOIAF boils down to a battle of two mighty warlocks (Bloodraven and Bittersteel)?

Ashford Castle was a stone structure built in the shape of a triangle, with round towers rising thirty feet tall at each point and thick crenellated walls running between.

(The Hedge Knight)

The triangular shape of the castle, with three connected towers, may be symbolic of the three siblings - three of King Aegon IV's "Great Bastards" - who form a love / hate triangle within the Targaryen family:

  • Aegor Rivers, known as Bittersteel,
  • Brynden Rivers, known as Bloodraven, and
  • Shiera Seastar

Each of the three was fathered by Aegon IV but each with a different mother. Bloodraven and Bittersteel's mothers were rivals as the king's mistresses and their sons became bitter enemies. The young men both desired their half-sister, Shiera, and she chose to have an affair with Brynden but refused to marry him. Brynden supported King Daeron II and his descendants as the rightful kings while Aegor promoted several of the Blackfyre rebellions, favoring the claim of Daemon Blackfyre, another of the bastard sons of Aegon IV. The events of the Dunk & Egg stories play out against a background of the Blackfyre Rebellions with characters affected by the side they chose during the armed conflicts or continuing to plot for or against the Targaryen / Blackfyre contenders. 

GRRM likes variations on a theme, however, and it seems as if some of the Bittersteel / Bloodraven rivalry, along with the desire for Shiera, plays out in The Hedge Knight with different characters playing the main roles. Previous posts already outlined some signs pointing to Tanselle and Plummer as manifestations of Bloodraven. I don't have as much evidence, but I suspect that Prince Aerion fulfills the Bittersteel role in this story.

Egg tells Dunk about his older brother Aerion's early interactions with him:

I remember when I was little, he used to come into my bedchamber at night and put his knife between my legs. He had too many brothers, he'd say, maybe one night he'd make me his sister, then he could marry me. He threw my cat in the well too. He says he didn't, but he always lies.

(The Hedge Knight)

This remembered scene puts Egg in the role of Shiera Seastar, the sister who is not interested in sleeping with her brother, and Aerion in the Aegor Rivers role. (Throwing a cat into water sounds like the Frey murder of Catelyn "Cat" Stark, so maybe that detail will take on importance as this re-read progresses.)

If Egg occupies the Shiera corner of the triangle in this story, he should show an affinity for the "Bloodraven" characters, as Shiera was a willing lover for that Targaryen ally in real life. Indeed, we see Egg avidly watching Tanselle's puppet shows and praising the way she handles the dragon. Aerion, by contrast, is angered by Tanselle's portrayal of the dragon when it is beheaded and "bleeds" red sawdust in one of the puppet performances. He attacks Tanselle, setting up the central conflict of the story when Dunk comes to her rescue. In the original Bloodraven / Bittersteel conflict, the two half-brothers engage in combat in the battle at Redgrass Field, where Bittersteel maims Bloodraven in the eye before being forced to retreat with his losing Blackfyre forces. In The Hedge Knight, we will see Aerion similarly exiled after losing in "combat" during the Trial of Seven.

For what it's worth, Dunk chides himself whenever he thinks he has done something stupid, recalling the words of his mentor: "Dunk the lunk, thick as a castle wall." If the Targaryens are the symbolic towers of the triangular castle, Dunk is apparently a thick castle wall running between them.

And now a little treat for lovers of sword mysteries.

A rich detail of the Bloodraven / Bittersteel conflict is that Bloodraven inherits a Targaryen ancestral sword called Dark Sister. Bittersteel ends up taking the other Targaryen ancestral sword, Blackfyre, which was bestowed upon his late half-brother and close ally, Daemon. The whereabouts of these two swords are currently unknown but members of this forum suspect they are important in establishing the next legitimate Targaryen heir and/or the next claimant from the Blackfyre side of the family.

Bloodraven won in the rivalry for the affection of the sister, Shiera Seastar. And isn't it interesting that the name Seastar even sounds like the word "sister"? One of the other details revealed about Lady Shiera will come from Egg in the next Dunk & Egg story, The Sworn Sword:

Duncan: You've known queens and princesses. Did they dance with demons and practice the black arts?

Aegon: Lady Shiera does. Lord Bloodraven's paramour. She bathes in blood to keep her beauty.

Swords bathe in blood. Whether blood helps a sword to retain its beauty, I can't say. And the lady practices the "black arts" - does that mean she could be described as "dark"? So the comparison seems deliberate: Shiera Seastar and the sword Dark Sister are two aspects of the same character or element.

I'm sure the Dark Seastar / Dark Sister comparison has been drawn by others in this forum at some point. Having established that the eight-year-old squire Egg / Aegon plays the Shiera / sister role in this iteration of the love / hate triangle, does he constitute a new incarnation of the sword Dark Sister? In what way is Egg dark?

I believe the darkness comes through the pairing of Egg with Ser Duncan the Tall. The combination may be a symbolic reforging, perhaps similar to the creation of Oathkeeper and Widow's Wail by combining the dark Valyrian steel of Ice with the red steel introduced at the request of the Lannisters. In this case, Egg is the "Sister" and Dunk is the "Dark". If you speak a little German, you might know that the word for "dark" is "dunkel." For what it's worth, this also adds a layer of meaning to Dunk's shield rhyme / prayer: "Oak and iron guard me well, or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." "Hell" is the German word for "bright." "Dunkel" and "hell" cannot co-exist. And what was the nickname of the reviled Aerion? Oh yeah, Brightflame.

In other words, Dunk & Egg is another way of saying Dark Sister.

For those who haven't followed my wordplay obsession, I'll also note that I have expanded my belief in the linked "egg = Ei = eye = ice = Eisen = iron" symbolism. I used to think that these linked symbols led back specifically to Ned Stark's sword. Now I'm certain that references to eyes cover a broader range of sword allusions. (For instance, Qyburn telling Jaime that he has an inflamed cut over his eye is probably a reference to Jaime having a flaming sword.) So Aegon / Egg as the manifestation of a sword makes sense in this larger context of the complex sword pun. ("Ei" is the German word for "egg".)

Note: This does not exclude eggs as a symbol for dragons - swords and dragons are both weapons, family treasures, things that can be melted (gold coins are dragons), etc.

There's some relevant stuff about Prince Baelor's relationship to Dunk & Egg and the Bloodraven / Bittersteel rivalry, but that will have to come in another post.

Edited by Seams

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Prince Baelor - origins in Celtic legend

In the Dissecting Names thread, I asked for help analyzing possible meanings behind the name of Prince Baelor, the Hand of the King and Prince of Dragonstone ( = Targaryen heir to the throne) who presides over the tourney and later joins in the Trial of Seven. @By Odin's Beard immediately responded with background on the ancient Celtic legend of Balor, a king with a prophecy hanging over his head:

Balor was king of the Fomorians, a group of supernatural beings. He is often described as a giant with a large eye in his forehead that wreaks destruction when opened. He has been interpreted as a god or personification of drought and blight.

It is suggested that Balor comes from Common Celtic *Baleros, meaning "the deadly one", cognate with Old Irish at-baill (dies) and Welsh ball (death, plague).

He is also referred to as Balor Béimnech (Balor the smiter), Balor Balcbéimnech (Balor the strong smiter) and Balor Birugderc (Balor of the piercing eye). The latter has led to the English name Balor of the Evil Eye.

 @LiveFirstDieLater followed up with the story of the prophecy and the death of the Celtic Balor:

Balor hears a prophecy that he would be killed by his grandson. To avoid his fate, he locks his only daughter, Ethniu, in a tower on Tory Islandto keep her from becoming pregnant. One day, Balor steals a magical cow of abundance, the Glas Gaibhnenn, from Goibniu the smith. He takes it to his fortress on Tory Island. Cian, who was guarding the cow for Goibniu, sets out to get it back. With the help of the druidess Birógand the sea god Manannán, Cian enters the tower and finds Ethniu. They have sex, and she gives birth to three sons. Balor attempts to drown the boys in the sea, but one is saved and is raised as a foster-son by Manannán. He grows up to become Lugh.

Lugh eventually becomes king of the Tuatha Dé Danann. He leads the Tuath Dé in the second Battle of Mag Tuired against the Fomorians, who are led by Balor. Ogma disarms Balor during this battle, but Balor kills Nuada with his eye. Lugh kills Balor by casting a sling, or a spear crafted by Goibniu, through his eye. Balor's eye destroys the Fomorian army. Lugh then beheads Balor.

One legend tells that, when Balor was slain by Lugh, Balor's eye was still open when he fell face first into the ground. Thus his deadly eye beam burned a hole into the earth. Long after, the hole filled with water and became a lake which is now known as Loch na Súil, or "Lake of the Eye", in County Sligo. 

Balor's story is not an exact match for the events involving Prince Baelor Targaryen, but we can draw some very good parallels between the details and relevant events from A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms (AKOTSK), ASOIAF and TWOIAF.

  • Balor is a king; Baelor is a leader and is slated to be the next king of the seven kingdoms.
  • Bloodraven, apparently a close ally of Prince Baelor, has one eye (+1000) and he or his eye is thought to have supernatural powers. And you probably already know there are a zillion posts explaining the connection between eyes and weapons, including the one immediately preceding this one.
  • Baelor the Blessed is the only other Baelor in the Targaryen royal line. Instead of his daughter, he locks his sister-wife, Daena, and other sisters in a maiden vault so they cannot have sex. Daena has a baby anyway.
  • Instead of a magic cow, we will see a dragon egg stolen (by Bloodraven) in an upcoming Dunk & Egg episode.
  • The ASOIAF series includes a number of "thought to be dead" babies who readers suspect may have been saved.
  • Translation of the group name "Tuatha Dé Danann" is "People of the Goddess Danu," which sounds like the name of Daenerys / Dany Targaryen. Scholars believe that the Tuatha Dé are the gods of the people who lived in Britain before the Celts.
  • Ogma may be the equivalent of Aegor Rivers (Bittersteel), who maims Bloodraven's eye during the battle at Redgrass Field, but is ultimately defeated and driven into exile.
  • Nuada is the name of a different Tuatha Dé king. He may be the equivalent of Daemon I Blackfyre, a pretender to the throne, who is killed by Bloodraven and his archers.
  • Targaryen family members "do battle" at the tourney at Ashford Meadow. Baelor is not killed by his grandson but inadvertently by his brother, Maekar. Scholars see the battle between Lugh and Balor as one example of a larger pattern or motif of the battle between the youthful hero and the tyrant king, common in tales from many cultures.
  • Balor's eye destroying his own army does not yet have an equivalent in ASOIAF, unless there is a parallel in Bloodraven's "Raven's Teeth" archers being sent with him to the Wall. (Edit: Actually, Dunk makes a point of saying that his new helmet has one narrow eye slit and it becomes blocked with mud during the Trial of Seven. And three of his six champions die in the combat. When he defeats Aerion, he thinks about popping one of the prince's eyes, like a grape, but decides that would not be knightly. Before Prince Baelor dies, he remarks that his visor is cracked.)
  • There is a lake in Westeros called The God's Eye.

It's pretty clear that GRRM paid homage to these ancient stories when he plotted his Westeros stories. Some of these elements repeat more than once in ASOIAF: @By Odin's Beard thought the god with the destructive evil eye referred to Euron Greyjoy. I don't doubt that GRRM could use an element like that to create a parallel within the story at the same time he alludes to the ancient legend.

How does this relate to the Targaryen triangle theory?

I suspect that GRRM is using that Bloodraven - Bittersteel - Shiera Seastar triangle in different ways. For instance, Jaime and Cersei are lovers, but Tyrion and Jaime have a strong brotherly bond that does not include Cersei. Catelyn and Brandon are engaged, but Catelyn has a sister/brother relationship with Littlefinger (who would like a romance with Catelyn). You can come up with any number of parallels: Jaime-Brienne-Cersei, Renly-Margaery-Loras, Tywin-Johanna-Aerys, Tywin-Tyrion-Shae, Dany-Daario-Hizdahr, Dany-Jorah-Barristan, maybe even Joffrey-Sansa-Sandor. Ygritte tells Jon Snow a story about the King Beyond the Wall being killed by his own son in battle. And, of course, we are told that the dragon has three heads.

The triangle in the Celtic legend seems to have been Balor (father) - Ethniu (daughter) - Lugh (grandson). Is GRRM's Prince Baelor also part of a triangle? I think you could make that case: Baelor is killed by his brother, Maekar, who hits him on the helmet with a mace in the supposedly ritualized combat that is part of a Trial of Seven. Maekar was drawn into this combat by his sons - Daeron, Aerion and Aegon - who lie, bully and run away from home, providing false motives for their father to fight to defend his family's honor. The corners of the triangle are occupied by different family members than those in the Celtic legend, but the pattern is similar.

Instead of the Bloodraven - Bittersteel - Shiera Seastar triangle setting the pattern, it may be one example among many that follow the template of the ancient Balor.

Why does GRRM give us Baelor Breakspear and Baelor the Blessed?

There are only two Baelors in the Targaryen family history and perhaps in all of highborn Westeros, if I've done the search correctly on the wiki. Since they were both beloved, it seems surprising that the name wasn't used to name subsequent Targaryen babies. That GRRM gives us two characters by that name leads me to think that he wants us to compare them.

At first glance, the two men seem dissimilar. Prince Baelor Breakspear is the oldest son of King Daeron II and a Dornish mother. Baelor the Blessed is the second son of King Aegon III and a Velaryon mother. Prince Baelor has two sons and serves as Hand of the King, a very worldly responsibility. Baelor the Blessed is a septon, very pious and celibate. So where are the parallels? I suspect they are in the details.

The two Baelors have strong bonds with Dorne: Prince Baelor's mother is Dornish and he looks Dornish instead of having the usual silver-blonde Targaryen hair. Baelor the Blessed went out of his way to make peace with Dorne - returning hostages, showing humility in his travels to and from Sunspear, arranging a marriage between a Targaryen prince and a Dornish princess (father and mother of Prince Baelor).

I suspect that both men are instrumental in trying to make peace and - my intuition tells me - to circumvent a curse or prophecy. Maybe even the same prophecy that Prince Rhaegar tries to grapple with generations later. Both men seem to have focused on Dorne (maybe some credit goes to Daeron II for marrying a Dornish bride) to foster this peace and/or to avoid the prophecy.

The conflict for the Balor of Celtic legend was between the Celts and the Fomorians (the people before the Celts). The reader might assume that the equivalent in Westeros would be the conflict between the First Men and the Andals. But the Targaryens seem to be focused on making peace with Dorne. What is in the prophecy that causes them to turn to Dorne? Is their interpretation correct or should they have turned their attention to other groups where the blood of the First Men and/or worship of the old gods remains strong?

Reconciling the past and present - Dunk and Ser Arlan as envoys

Maybe Prince Baelor was on the right track, trying a First Men connection that didn't involve Dorne. Unlike most highborn knights, Prince Baelor Breakspear willingly jousted with the hedge knight Ser Arlan of Pennytree. Pennytree is likely an entrance to the Otherworld, where the fair folk live, so the mysterious Ser Arlan may have been a representative of a special group. The two men shattered four or seven lances before Baelor won - an honorable outcome that left both men alive and feeling respect for each other. Dunk is not a blood relative of Ser Arlan, but he was his squire and is his heir for all practical purposes. Baelor essentially legitimizes Dunk as a knight, allowing him to participate in the tourney that is the first "game" in the Game of Thrones. (He is apparently fighting on behalf of Egg, though, in so far as the tourney will help to determine the Targaryen line of succession.)

Note: I think there's also a possibility that Flea Bottom is a parallel to the land of the Children of the Forest, which might make Dunk the equivalent of a "singer" or Child of the Forest. Follow the bowls of brown, also known as singer stew, weirwood paste and sister stew to start seeing parallels. Or consider Prince Duncan, son of Aegon V and namesake of Ser Duncan the Tall, who marries Jenny of Oldstones, friend of the woods witch and the Ghost of High Heart - sounds like another fair folk or CotF parallel. So Prince Baelor might actually reach back beyond Ser Arlan and the First Men, creating a pact with the CotF, by acting as a friend and champion for Dunk. (This also might be the Balor / Lake of the Eye parallel, as the God's Eye is a sacred, off limits location associated with the old gods.)

He could vanquish Ser Duncan the Tall, but not Dunk of Flea Bottom. The old man had taught him jousting and swordplay, but this sort of fighting he had learned earlier, in shadowy wynds and crooked alleys behind the city's winesinks.

(The Hedge Knight)

Snakes and Sacrifices

Baelor the Blessed put his life at risk rescuing his brother from a cage suspended over vipers. He was bitten but managed to free his brother before being taken unconscious from the viper pit. And this is linked to Pennytree:

Between a duck pond and a blacksmith's forge, he came upon the tree that gave the place its name, an oak ancient and tall. Its gnarled roots twisted in an out of the earth like a nest of slow brown serpents, and hundreds of old copper pennies had been nailed to its huge trunk.

(ADwD, Chapter 48, Jaime I)

Prince Baelor puts his life at risk by participating in the Trial of Seven on behalf of Dunk. Is this like the rescue of Aemon, brother of Baelor the Blessed? If you consider snakes and dragons to be rough equivalents, then Baelor is certainly entering a nest of vipers when he participates in the Trial of Seven. Four princes are involved and each bears dragon armor, helmet or shield, some with sigils having multiple serpentine necks.

The description of a wound inflicted on Dunk also seems to equate the broken lance with a snake or possibly a leech:

Dunk reached over with his right hand, grasped the lance just below the head, clenched his teeth, and pulled it out of him with one savage yank. Blood followed, seeping through the rings of his mail to redden his surcoat.

(The Hedge Knight)

Grasping "just below the head" is the way to handle a snake to keep it from biting.

Baelor does not rescue a brother, but he does rescue Dunk. His last act before dying is to instruct that boiled wine be poured on Dunk's wound. This seems like a blood sacrifice allusion which may, again, show Baelor's affinity for the old gods. When Dunk's horse had stumbled and fallen in the Trial, Dunk had thought of his horse at one point: "I am Thunder and Thunder is me, we are one beast, we are joined, we are one." After the fight, he speaks with Prince Baelor:

"Your Grace," Dunk said, "I am your man. Please. Your man."

"My man." The black knight put a hand on Raymun's shoulder to steady himself. "I need good men, Ser Duncan. The realm ..."

Baelor's helmet is then removed and he dies in Dunk's arms.

Dunk caught him. "Up," they say he said, just as he had with Thunder in the melee, "up, up." But he never remembered that afterward, and the prince did not rise.

So Dunk becomes one with his horse and, it appears, with Prince Baelor. It's interesting to note that King Renly dies in Brienne's arms as she is helping him into his armor. Baelor dies in Dunk's arms as his armor is being removed.

If I had not fought, you would have had my hand off. And my foot. sometimes I sit under that tree there and look at my feet and ask if I couldn't have spared one. How could my foot be worth a prince's life?

Earlier in the story, Dunk sold his horse, Sweetfoot, to a man named Henly. This seems linked to the foot being worth a Prince's life and the man-horse bond being compared to the "I am your man" bond. And Henly sounds like Renly.

Pate and Eight

Just briefly. From the wiki:

When the High Septon died, Baelor [the Blessed] chose a simple stonemason called Pate as the replacement, as the gods had told him. Pate carved stonework so beautifully that Baelor believed him to be the Smith in human form. The new High Septon could not read, write or recite any prayers, was described as a lackwit, and died of a fever the next year after taking office. Rumor spread that Viserys had him poisoned to end the embarrassment to the realm. Baelor then raised a street urchin of eight years to the position, as Baelor claimed the boy worked miracles.

In The Hedge Knight, Steely Pate the armorer becomes a spiritual guide of sorts for Dunk, giving him faith in his sigil and reminding him of the shield rhyme that becomes Dunk's prayer. Dunk's other close supporter is an eight-year-old-boy, his squire, Egg.

Edited by Seams

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@Seams love it, I’m gonna have to process the Baelor stuff and come back... especially since I always kinda thought of Breakspear and the Blessed as almost opposites, one practical and a good ruler while the other doesn’t seem like a bad man he clearly didn’t make a great king.

I would suggest there is a more obvious parallel to the three great bastards, Bloodraven, Seastar, and Bittersteel in our current series... Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. I believe these are all Targaryen bastards themselves. (R+L=J and little sister D)

Tyrion learned about all we know about the Golden Company, it seems to be a big part of his arc considering he basically inspired their current invasion to take place without delay. There is also the fact that Tyrion is a bitter exile who escaped his punishment by fleeing to Essos, branded a traitor, hoping to return to Westeros with an army.

Dany has been visited by Qaithe, whom many suspect is Seastar. She’s beautiful, practices blood magic, and takes multiple lovers, possibly one day to include a sibling. Loves the sea and dreamed of being a sailor as she crossed the narrow sea half a hundred times. My take on her is probably the most controversial, but let’s just say lemons make your eyes water, and lemon juice was an old cure for cataracts.

Jon who’s body is loosing all memory of warmth, like Bloodraven in his hollow hill amidst the frozen land of always winter. Both served as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, both appear to have loved and lost, and both have lost brothers they loved.

The dragon has three heads!

Edited by LiveFirstDieLater

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1 hour ago, LiveFirstDieLater said:

@Seams love it, I’m gonna have to process the Baelor stuff and come back... especially since I always kinda thought of Breakspear and the Blessed as almost opposites, one practical and a good ruler while the other doesn’t seem like a bad man he clearly didn’t make a great king.

I would suggest there is a more obvious parallel to the three great bastards, Bloodraven, Seastar, and Bittersteel in our current series... Jon, Dany, and Tyrion. I believe these are all Targaryen bastards themselves. (R+L=J and little sister D)

Tyrion learned about all we know about the Golden Company, it seems to be a big part of his arc considering he basically inspired their current invasion to take place without delay. There is also the fact that Tyrion is a bitter exile who escaped his punishment by fleeing to Essos, branded a traitor, hoping to return to Westeros with an army.

Dany has been visited by Qaithe, whom many suspect is Seastar. She’s beautiful, practices blood magic, and takes multiple lovers, possibly one day to include a sibling. Loves the sea and dreamed of being a sailor as she crossed the narrow sea half a hundred times. My take on her is probably the most controversial, but let’s just say lemons make your eyes water, and lemon juice was an old cure for cataracts.

Jon who’s body is loosing all memory of warmth, like Bloodraven in his hollow hill amidst the frozen land of always winter. Both served as Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, both appear to have loved and lost, and both have lost brothers they loved.

The dragon has three heads!

I suspect you are right about those three making a big Targ triangle. (Although I suspect there are other hidden Targ bastards and other potential triangles.)

For instance, Brown Ben Plumm is from House Plumm with its colorful story of Targ lineage.  Ben tried really hard to buy Tyrion at the slave auction, and waited until he had Tyrion locked in as a member of the company before revealing that he was still loyal to Daenerys. Did he need both of them, for some reason? Was Tyrion his priority? If I ever get back to my analysis of plums and Bloodraven, I hope to figure out how Brown Ben fits in that vein of symbolism.

The Golden Company, with its Bittersteel connection, is going to be a big player, as you point out. But, for some reason, apples / Fossoways are also important for people who aspire to the Iron Throne. While Tyrion and/or Dany has a brown plum on the team, Young Griff / Aegon has a brown apple:

 
Quote

 

The prince acknowledged him with a nod. "Flowers is a bastard name. You're from the Reach."
"Aye. My mother was a washerwoman at Cider Hall till one of milord's sons raped her. Makes me a sort o' brown apple Fossoway, the way I see it." Flowers waved them through the gate. "Come with me. Strickland's called all the officers to his tent. War council. The bloody Volantenes are rattling their spears and demanding to know our intentions."
(ADwD, The Lost Lord)

 

 
In The Hedge Knight, we witnessed the origin of the green apple Fossoways. They teamed up with Dunk & Egg, although Raymun admitted he was not ripe yet. Steffon Fossoway of the red apple Fossoways joined the Maekar side of the Trial of Seven and, don't you know, Maekar became the next king. So a brown apple Fossoway might be a bad sign for Aegon - his time has passed and the apple is old and rotten. Because this is part of the Golden Company foreshadowing, it might be that "Bittersteel" is destined to fail yet again, betting on the wrong Targaryen bloodline.

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55 minutes ago, Seams said:

I suspect you are right about those three making a big Targ triangle. (Although I suspect there are other hidden Targ bastards and other potential triangles.)

As you point out with the Plumms this does seem likely... but I do think there is a difference between “the three heads”, if you will, and just being decended from Targs, or having a drop of dragon blood.

Quote

For instance, Brown Ben Plumm is from House Plumm with its colorful story of Targ lineage.  Ben tried really hard to buy Tyrion at the slave auction, and waited until he had Tyrion locked in as a member of the company before revealing that he was still loyal to Daenerys. Did he need both of them, for some reason? Was Tyrion his priority? If I ever get back to my analysis of plums and Bloodraven, I hope to figure out how Brown Ben fits in that vein of symbolism.

Not only are the Plumms have a super interesting history, poping up at remarkable times, but since Aegon the Unworthy may well have jumped into the family tree, and he legitimized all his bastards, not just certain ones specifically, they could have a real claim (better than Baratheons for instance) to the Iron Throne through a male line. They are also descended from the First Men and so have a noteworthy combination of ancestors.

Also, Brown Ben is the leader of the Second Sons... I don’t know exactly what it means yet, but this company has a long history which includes some truely remarkable members... not only that, but it really can’t be coincidence that every male POV in game of thrones is a second son.

Also, I didn’t realize this but apperantly the Plumm heraldry is three purple globes on a field of gold.

Quote

The Golden Company, with its Bittersteel connection, is going to be a big player, as you point out. But, for some reason, apples / Fossoways are also important for people who aspire to the Iron Throne. While Tyrion and/or Dany has a brown plum on the team, Young Griff / Aegon has a brown apple:

Before getting into Fossoways, as you point out here, it seems we have our Blackfyre for the modern parallel, not one of the Three Heads, but an important scion of House Targaryen.

Quote
In The Hedge Knight, we witnessed the origin of the green apple Fossoways. They teamed up with Dunk & Egg, although Raymun admitted he was not ripe yet. Steffon Fossoway of the red apple Fossoways joined the Maekar side of the Trial of Seven and, don't you know, Maekar became the next king. So a brown apple Fossoway might be a bad sign for Aegon - his time has passed and the apple is old and rotten. Because this is part of the Golden Company foreshadowing, it might be that "Bittersteel" is destined to fail yet again, betting on the wrong Targaryen bloodline.

The fossoways are fun for sure, and the creation of the green apples I really enjoyed seeing in Dunk, but I’m not sure I’ve drawn any conclusions yet... hmmm

Edited by LiveFirstDieLater

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A few random thoughts.

Anyone out there with expertise on ancient Danish kings? It occurred to me that maybe

Dunk = Knud

Knud is the Danish spelling, but kings over a large area of what is now Scandinavia have used variations on the name.

I learned recently that the novel Ivanhoe was one of GRRM's inspirations for the ASOIAF story. Part of the plot is driven by the tension between Anglo-Saxon nobles and their Norman king, with the resolution coming when the disinherited Anglo-Saxon main character, Ivanhoe, remains loyal to King Richard the Lion Hearted; and King Richard defends / rescues Ivanhoe while the king is disguised as a mystery knight in a melee.

The Anglo-Saxon vs. Norman conflict is played out in a similar way in ASOIAF. I mentioned up the thread that Prince Baelor's jousting match with Ser Arlan of Pennytree seemed like a moment when the Westeros of the First Men -- or even earlier -- is reconciled with Westeros of the Andals. Arlan represents the "fair folk" or maybe the First Men, and Baelor represents the Andals.

Dunk may represent something even older than the First Men; he might be a "singer" in the sense that the Children of the Forest use the term. If his name is intended to evoke an ancient Scandinavian king, this could reinforce the notion that an ancient culture is either clashing with, or coming to terms with, the new "medieval" regime. Prince Baelor's participation in the Trial of Seven is similar to King Richard's defense of Ivanhoe in the melee.

Also, through the magic of the Internet, I learned today that the name Knud comes from an Old Norse word for "knot".

On 4/16/2018 at 3:03 PM, Seams said:

Dunk looked at the shield, scooped up the sword belt, and looked at the shield again. The belt was made for the old man's skinny hips, it would never do for him, no more than the hauberk would. He tied the scabbard to a length of hempen rope, knotted it around his waist, and drew the longsword. ... Plain as it was, the sword felt good in his hand, and Dunk knew how sharp it was, having worked it with whetstone and oilcloth many a night before they went to sleep. It fits my grip as well as it ever fit his, he thought to himself, and there is a tourney at Ashford Meadow.

This is the moment Dunk decides to present himself as a knight instead of seeking work as a squire or watchman. The belt he uses to attach the sword to his body is simple hempen rope; he does not use Ser Arlan's sword belt. ...

Is there such a thing as a rawhide knight?

In Westeros, the moment of conferring knighthood involves the candidate knight kneeling and a sponsoring knight touching the flat of the sword blade to the shoulder of the candidate knight, and then moving to the other shoulder and alternating as he is charged to be brave, just, to protect the innocent, etc. There are several moments in The Hedge Knight when someone touches Dunk on the shoulder, perhaps conveying the idea that many people want Dunk to be a champion and true knight. The scene where Dunk is being measured for his new suit of armor stands out:

The armorer looked him up and down. "You're a big one, but I've armored bigger." He came out from behind the table. "Kneel, I want to measure those shoulders. Aye, and that thick neck o' yours." Dunk knelt. The armorer laid a length of knotted rawhide along his shoulders, grunted, slipped it about his throat, grunted again "Lift your arm. No, the right." He grunted a third time. "Now you can stand." The inside of a leg, the thickness of his calf, and the size of his waist elicited further grunts. "I have some pieces in me wagon that might do for you," the man said when he was done "Nothing prettied up with gold or silver, mind you, just good steel, strong and plain. I make helms that look like helms, not winged pigs and queer foreign fruits, but mine will serve you better if you take a lance in the face."

Instead of a noble charge to defend the innocent, the armorer grunts three times and tells Dunk to lift his arm. The shoulders are touched with the rawhide measuring tape instead of a sword. What does that mean? Is it the same as Dunk's hemp rope belt? Rawhide is a dried and treated cowhide and animal skins in ASOIAF are often symbolic allusions to skinchanging. Has Dunk just been inducted into the service of skinchangers? Or is there another point in being "dubbed" with a measuring tape?

Note that the rawhide also goes around Dunk's throat. We know that Dunk is an ancestor of Brienne of Tarth and that Brienne will be hanged nearly to death by the Brotherhood without Banners. Brienne ends the hanging by agreeing to take up a sword. Is the knotted rawhide here a symbolic hanging for Dunk as well as a knighting?

The armorer, whose name is Steely Pate, reappears when Dunk is facing a crisis. He delivers Dunk's repainted and strengthened shield to him, reassures him that he made a good choice of sigil that shows life and summer and then reminds Dunk of a "shield rhyme" he had learned from Ser Arlan years earlier: Oak and iron, guard me well or else I'm dead and doomed to hell. Dunk cannot remember any prayers, but he remembers this rhyme with the help of Steely Pate. In addition to the sky and stars, Bloodraven and Egg, and hempen rope or rawhide, perhaps oak and iron are elements of Dunk's faith. The battle he will fight to resolve the central conflict of the story - saving his own life and limb - involves using a shield as a weapon.

If Dunk = Knud = knot, then the knotted rope sword belt and the knotted rawhide "dubbing" are both more meaningful.

(For what it's worth, the only wordplay I've been able to come up with for "belt" is the German word "lebt," which is a form of the verb "to live". This seems appropriate for Dunk's decision to live as a knight just as he makes his own sword belt from the knotted rope. It may also add a layer of meaning to Khal Drogo's melting of his gold medallion belt to make a "crown" for Dany's brother Viserys.)

But I also highlighted the word "laid" in the passage. I'm getting to that now.

I've been thinking about Steely Pate -- the man and his name. A "steely pate" could describe the helmet that goes with a suit of armor. Since Pate provides Dunk with a helmet, the name is apt in that sense. The shared helmet detail and Pate's steadfast support for Dunk provide a potential link to a character who is literally on the same team with Dunk: Prince Baelor.

For the Trial of Seven, Baelor wears armor borrowed from his son. Pate had told Dunk that the helms he makes look like helms and provide good protection. Dunk tells Egg that the curved crown of the helmet made by Pate will help to deflect blows. The borrowed helmet available to Baelor, however, has a fancy three-headed dragon embellishment and it does not provide adequate protection, resulting in Baelor's death.

As mentioned earlier, it feels as if Baelor knights Dunk when he remembers Dunk's mentor Ser Arlan and briefly quizzes Dunk about a detail of jousting history that Dunk might have learned from Ser Arlan. Baelor "knighting" Dunk by vouching for him is a match for Pate's rawhide "dubbing" that also struck me as I re-read the story. This time around, however, I also noticed the word "laid" in Pate's actions toward Dunk. "Laid" may be a clue to another one of those complex and convoluted symbols, but it might shed some more light on a Pate / Baelor match.

  • Targaryen armor is like egg shells in the sense that dragons hatch from eggs.
  • Dragon eggs are laid by dragons.
  • The armorer "laid" as part of the process of providing Dunk with armor.
  • Dunk represents Egg / Aegon V in this symbolic tournament for the Iron Throne. (Egg is too young to fight on his own.)
  • Pate providing armor for Dunk is like laying an egg for a soon-to-hatch dragon.
  • Pate is not a dragon. He is nominally just a tradesman.
  • Prince Baelor is a dragon, however, and would really care about the succession in the Targaryen dynasty and, therefore, about the outcome of the tournament.
  • Baelor recognizing Dunk as a knight is like Pate ensuring that Dunk has strong armor.
  • Pate may be a symbolic Baelor.
  • Baelor wants Egg to become king (with Dunk as a partner and helper).

I know I already said that the rawhide dubbing is like the hanging of Brienne with a rope, which means there could be a symbolic death involved in Dunk's kneeling before the armorer. But this egg-laying symbolism would be a symbolic birth. How can death and rebirth both occur at the same moment? Actually, this is very consistent with GRRM's frequent use of the death / magical transformation / rebirth motif throughout the books. For instance, Torrhen Stark kneels before Aegon the Conqueror as a King in the North, gives up his crown, and rises as Warden of the North. Dany should die when she walks into Drogo's pyre, but she emerges with hatched dragons as the Mother of Dragons.

Just one more detail: When Pate provides Dunk with his repainted and reinforced shield, he charges Dunk a penny. Also in this story, Dunk gives a penny to Egg (when he thinks he is a stable boy at the inn) although Egg doesn't pick it up. He gives two pennies to Tanselle (in appreciation of her puppet performance). He gives a penny to Henly to buy an apple for Sweetfoot, the horse he sells to pay for his armor. There seems to be a bond created by the giving of a penny, and Pate is part of that elite penny-receiving team.

Edited by Seams

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Leo Tyrell's Secrets

If the tourney at Ashford Meadow represents the battle for succession for rule of Westeros, then why are there any participants other than Targaryens at that moment in history? The first day of the tourney begins with five champions defending the unnamed Ashford daughter as Queen of Love and Beauty:

  • Ser Androw Ashford
  • Ser Robert Ashford
  • Lord Leo "Longthorn" Tyrell
  • Ser Humfrey Hardyng
  • Prince Valarr Targaryen

I assume Androw and Robert are part of the Ashford symbolism I mentioned above, representing the Targaryen equivalent of the Winterfell crypt. They are not expected to win the tourney, just to last long enough to make a good showing. They may represent Targaryens who are in the process of being reborn, part of the motif of death and rebirth we see throughout the novels. (They probably deserve deeper analysis and maybe I'll come back to them another day.)

Prince Valarr is second in line for the throne, after his father, Prince Baelor. So it's logical that he is part of the line-up of would-be champions in the tournament.

That leaves Lord Leo and Ser Humfrey. How do they figure in a symbolic battle for rule of Westeros? I want to focus on Leo in this post.

As I am finding to be increasingly true, there will be at least one symbolic Bloodraven in this analysis.

Mr. Bountiful?

Leo is the Lord of Highgarden at the time of the tournament. This position gives him a strong link to Garth Greenhand, the larger-than-life character associated with fertility and nature in the legends of the First Men in Westeros.

Leo's first opponent in the lists is the Lord of Casterly Rock, Damon Lannister. He knocks off Damon's helmet and Damon yields. (Damon's son has already won his match, however, so there is Lannister representation among the "champions".)

Leo then battles Lord Pearse Caron. House Caron is a Stormlands house, with a nightingale sigil. Their words are, "No Song So Sweet," according to the wiki. Lord Pearse is a noted singer and harp player and his shield carries his personal symbol of a silver harp on yellow. Interestingly, Egg cheers for Caron as he and Tyrell go head-to-head:

It seemed to be Lord Caron he was cheering on. The harper was playing a different sort of music now, driving Lord Leo back and back as steel sang on steel. Chips of wood and paint were flying from Lord Leo's shield as Lord Pearse's axe knocked the petals off his golden rose, one by one, until the shield finally shattered and split. But as it did, the axehead hung up for an instant in the wood ... and Lord Leo's own axe crashed own on the haft of his foe's weapon, breaking it off not a foot from his hand. He cast aside his broken shield, and suddenly he was the one on the attack. Within moments, the harper knight was on one knee, singing his surrender.

(The Hedge Knight)

Lots of singing references. Could Lord Caron represent a singer, in the sense of the Children of the Forest? It does seem as if Westeros history includes a conflict between the singers / CotF and the First Men who, according to legend, were led to Westeros by Garth Greenhand. Was that conflict ever "hung up for an instant in the wood"? You could make a case that the CotF yield in order to save their weirwood trees, which the First Men had been cutting down.

GRRM uses references to hands and feet (and all body parts) very deliberately and here we have the phrase "breaking it off not a foot from his hand". If this has deeper meaning, it could go any of a number of ways. Taken together with the singer references, the hand and foot mention here reminds me of the singers who are dismembered by Joffrey, Tyrion/Bronn (Symon Silver Tongue) and Littlefinger (Marillion). Leo is not literally dismembering Lord Caron, but the allusion may be there. I'm not sure what the dismembered singer represents in ASOIAF, but it certainly turns up more than once.

For what it's worth, Lord Caron's descendant, Lord Bryce Caron, will be a member of Renly's Rainbow Guard (representing orange). He will be killed by Ser Philip Foote at the Battle of the Blackwater.

Ser Robyn Rhysling

Leo's next opponent is Ser Robyn Rhysling. Who would Garth Greenhands fight after the end of the conflict with the CotF? Ser Robyn is the only Rhysling in the series, so there aren't family members to offer reinforcement of any symbols we might pick out of his interaction with Leo. This is their interaction on the field:

One-eyed Ser Robyn Rhysling, a grizzled old knight with a salt-and-pepper beard, lost his helm to Lord Leo's lance in their first course, yet refused to yield. Three times more they rode at each other, the wind whipping Ser Robyn's hair while the shards of broken lances flew round his bare face like wooden knives, which Dunk thought all the more wondrous when Egg told him that Ser Robyn had lost his eye to a splinter from a broken lance not five years earlier. Leo Tyrell was too chivalrous to aim another lance at Ser Robyn's unprotected head, but even so, Rhysling's stubborn courage (or was it folly?) left Dunk astounded. Finally the Lord of Highgarden struck Ser Robyn's breastplate a solid thump right over the heart and sent him cartwheeling to the earth.

(The Hedge Knight)

If you don't like literary symbolism and wordplay stuff, run away now. Far away.

There are several notable one-eyed characters in ASOIAF. Crowfood Umber's eye is pecked out by a crow. Ser Waymar Royce's eye is pierced by a shard from his own sword during his battle with a wight in the AGoT prologue. Shortly before the events of this story, Bloodraven loses an eye in combat with his half-brother, Bittersteel. With the fully-blind characters Maester Aemon and Blind Beth (Arya), the reader learns that loss of normal vision can result in great insight and perception. Of course, opening a third eye is also a sign of having a special ability to see things. So Ser Robyn is in important company.

Edit: The reference to the "broken lance" just caught my eye (ha! so to speak) and I ran it through the anagram generator. Don't you know: "none blacker" and "lone bracken" are among the top anagrams. A pretty strong indication that Ser Robyn lost his eye in the same way that Bloodraven lost his eye in combat with Aegor "Bittersteel" Rivers, a son of House Bracken and die-hard partisan of the Blackfyre faction.

The very deliberate insertion of the word "folly" in with the description of Ser Robyn's courage is probably a reference to the fool-knight combination that is strongly associated with Dunk and with Brienne. In GRRM's world, it seems like an honor to be a fool as fools have wise insights that people around them do not understand. So Ser Robyn's foolishness marks him as a deep thinker and observer.

I'm also intrigued by the reference to Ser Robyn as "grizzled" and as having a "bare face." The grizzle and grizzly as well as the bare / bear pun signal a possible Mormont allusion here. And, don't you know, Ser Jorah Mormont tells Tyrion at one point that a splinter in the eye is one of the worst ways to die:

“It feels as though I bit through half my tongue.”

“Next time bite harder.” Ser Jorah shrugged. “Truth be told, I’ve seen worse jousters.”

Was that praise? “I fell off the bloody pig and bit my tongue. What could possibly be worse than that?”

“Getting a splinter through your eye and dying.”

(ADwD, Tyrion)

So Jorah is part of this eye-splinter symbolism and seems to be connected to Ser Robyn, if only because he has observed that this is a horrible way to die.

But Ser Robyn isn't dead! Or is he?

After his match with Lord Leo, Ser Robyn will show up again the next day for Dunk's Trial of Seven, participating in Dunk's defense at the request of Prince Aegon (Egg), who knew him from previous tourneys. Egg is eight years old, though. How did he know Rhysling well enough to put his life on the line for Dunk's trial? This might be a hint:

Ser Robyn Rhysling = Reborn Grins Shyly

We know that Dunk's mentor, Ser Arlan of Pennytree, died just before the beginning of this story and that Dunk buried him. Ser Arlan had engaged in tournaments over the years, once being matched, and fighting to an honorable outcome, with Egg's uncle, Prince Baelor. Could Ser Robyn (symbolically) be a reborn Ser Arlan?

One other hint might come from Dunk's sole "witness" to Ser Arlan knighting him, as described to the House Ashford steward, Plummer. He says that only a "robin in a thorn tree" witnessed his dubbing. Ser Robyn's first name might allude to that robin who Dunk remembers or imagines looking down on him and Ser Arlan. Maybe the robin is symbolically similar to Lord Commander Mormont's raven, which seems to be a repository of the wisdom or consciousness of past Lord Commanders. (It is interesting to note, with the mention of the thorn tree, that Lord Leo's nickname is "Longthorn.")

The "solid thump" from Lord Leo that sends Ser Robyn cartwheeling to the earth. I suspect the author's choice of the words "solid thump" here is very deliberate because it allows him to make a reference (through the magic of anagrams) to plums. Yet another allusion to Bloodraven? Why would Leo deliver a "plum" to Ser Robyn's breastplate? It could be an allusion to the character's rebirth: even though I now believe that plums are richer symbols than I initially grasped, I believe the association with pregnancy (through Varamyr's story about being called Lump because of the shape of his mother's pregnant belly) is still valid. If Leo is the symbolic representative of Garth Greenhand in this tourney, he may be using his fertility magic to help with the "rebirth" Ser Robyn is undergoing. Giving the man some kind of "plum" on his breastplate allows him to be reborn. (It sounds like a rough delivery, though, as Ser Robyn goes cartwheeling to the earth.)

We don't see Rhysling's sigil in the book, but the wiki reveals that it is an oak and iron door in a stone wall. Recall Dunk's "prayer" that is a shield rhyme: "Oak and iron, guard me well or else I'm dead and doomed to hell." So Ser Robyn might also represent Dunk's shield, which had been Ser Arlan's shield until Dunk paid Tanselle to repaint it (another rebirth?) and Steely Pate added reinforcements around the edge and along the back. Ser Arlan's shield is reborn as Dunk's shield just as Ser Robyn may be a reborn Ser Arlan.

Edit: It may be worth noting that Ser Arlan's shield was painted with a winged chalice. Prince Baelor reminds Dunk that he cannot use Ser Arlan's sigil if he is not a blood relative. I suspect this is a "holy grail" image, derived from ancient Celtic myths about magic cauldrons but adapted by later Christian inhabitants of Celtic areas. Under a layer of paint, Dunk may be carrying the holy grail in his travels around Westeros.

Trial of Seven

Lord Leo does not participate in Dunk's Trial of Seven. If Leo represents the First Men, he may stay out of the trial by combat because, we are told, the ritual "came across the narrow sea with the Andals and their seven gods."

"... The Andals believed that if seven champions fought on each side, the gods being thus honored, would be more like to take a hand and see that a just result was achieved."

"Or mayhaps they simply had a taste for swordplay," said Lord Leo Tyrell, a cynical smile touching his lips.

(The Hedge Knight)

I take a reference to "swordplay" as a hint about wordplay (there's a pun on sword / words). So Lord Leo seems to be telling us here that there is an anagram involving the phrase "Trial of Seven". Indeed, when you plug that phrase into the anagram website, you get many possible allusions to the novels including "reveal on fist" (a reference to Jon finding the dragonglass bundle and horn?), "aversion left" (always the door to the right), "no afterlives" (because everyone is reborn), "oft a sniveler" (describing Sweetrobin?), etc. Granted, you also get a lot of irrelevant possibilities. But GRRM is "the gods" for the characters of his novels, and Leo seems to be correct in hinting that he has a taste for wordplay.

Edited by Seams

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P.S. The other Leo Tyrell

The Leo Tyrell who appears in the prologue of A Feast for Crows could be a descendant of Leo Longthorn -- the relationship of the contemporary Tyrells to the historic Lord Leo is not shown in the wiki. In other instances in the books, GRRM does seem to subscribe to a traditional Norse notion of rebirth:

Some sources also speak of the dead being reborn in one of their descendants, although never in someone outside of their family line. Here as well, the sources are unclear as to how exactly this would happen, but oftentimes the dead person is reincarnated in someone who is named after him or her.

... the dead could be thought to have multiple fates simultaneously. There’s not necessarily a contradiction on this particular point, since such a scenario would be logically possible in the Norse view of the self having multiple spiritual parts.

So Lazy Leo is arrogant and malicious while Leo Longthorn was well respected and well liked, but they are both skilled in the use of weapons and may both have that Garth Greenhand connection on some level.

It was actually a line from Lazy Leo that caused me to go back and take a look at Leo Longthorn, which is one reason I include this Lazy Leo post here in the Dunk & Egg analysis.

... A soft, sly voice called out from behind him. "I always knew you were a traitor, Hopfrog." Lazy Leo was slouching by the foot of the old plank bridge, draped in satin striped in green and gold, with a black silk half cape pinned to his shoulder by a rose of jade. The wine he'd dribbled down his front had been a robust red, judging from the color of the spots. A lock of his ash-blond hair fell down across one eye.

Mollander bristled at the sight of him. "Bugger that. Go away. You are not welcome here." Alleras laid a hand upon his arm to calm him, whilst Armen frowned. "Leo. My lord. I had understood that you were still confined to the Citadel for ..."

"... three more days." Lazy Leo shrugged. ... Though there were a dozen empty tables on the terrace, Leo sat himself at theirs. "Buy me a cup of Arbor gold, Hopfrog, and perhaps I won't inform my father of your toast. The tiles turned against me at the Checkered Hazard, and I wasted my last stag on supper. Suckling pig in plum sauce, stuffed with chestnuts and white truffles. A man must eat. What did you lads have?"

(AFfC, Prologue)

This description tells us that Leo has a wine stain and that his pale blond hair falls across one eye. Who else has these characteristics? The wiki describes Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers: "On the right side of his face he had a red winestain birthmark ..." and "He wore his white hair straight and to his shoulders, with the front brushed forward to cover his missing eye."

Leo was also confined to the Citadel and Bloodraven was confined to the Wall.

Leo shows up at the moment when one of the acolytes proposes a toast to Daenerys and describes her as the rightful queen. Leo calls the man a traitor for his toast, but seems to be interested in sharing news about the dragons and the return of magic in the form of a functioning glass candle in Maester Marwyn's chambers. These are things that would interest Bloodraven, if he were the "the master of the games," manipulating the game of thrones that seems to be playing out again among the highborn families of Westeros. If Lazy Leo represents Bloodraven, he would probably take a particular interest in the prospects of Daenerys (and in the depth of her support among families in Westeros) as she appears to be the heir of the Targaryen line supported by Bloodraven several generations earlier.

As with all of the prologues, there is a lot going on with literary symbolism and subtext. I am wholeheartedly persuaded by the theory that Mollender is the son of Ser Dontos Hollard. Alleras is almost certainly Sarella Sand, a daughter of Oberyn Martell. Pate seems to symbolically represent Quentyn Martell, hoping to marry his queen but (apparently) burned by a dragon (a real dragon, in Quentyn's case; a gold coin in Pate's situation).

When Leo Tyrell appears at the tavern the other acolytes and novices are surprised to see him as they thought he was grounded for some infraction and was not allowed to leave the Citadel for three more days. I have a suspicion that someone else - the alchemist? - is using Leo or his face (glamor? faceless man? skinchanger?) to appear to Pate at the scheduled hour of their meeting. When Pate is finally alone, that person reappears to Pate with the face that Pate recognizes as the alchemist and readers recognize as the most recent known face of Jaqen H'ghar. Now that I see the Bloodraven symbolism, I have to wonder whether this Leo / Alchemist figure is both a faceless man and Bloodraven. Consider this line:

Leo had two names where Pate had only one, and his second was Tyrell.

This is one of those clever turns of phrase that GRRM uses when he wants us to think one thing but he might actually mean something else. The reader thinks that Leo's two names are Leo and Tyrell. I think GRRM is telling us that Leo has a hidden identity. His second name, Tyrell, is a fake name or a disguise.

(To complicate things a bit more -- some "not quite" anagramming and a particular set of skills that Leo shares with Illyrio Mopatis: Leo had been trained to arms, and was known to be deadly with bravo's blade and dagger. I realize that a number of characters are skilled with blades, but the bravo's blade would be common to only a few of our important characters.)

The gist of what I'm seeing is that Leo is a spy, probably loyal to the Targaryens. For what it's worth, I also saw some of that with Ser Garlan Tyrell back in the chapters covering Joffrey's wedding feast. Which brings me to another point about Lazy Leo, and the reason I examined his prologue scene as part of my plum obsession:

... I wasted my last stag on supper. Suckling pig in plum sauce, stuffed with chestnuts and white truffles. A man must eat.

Is this a symbolic reference to Joffrey's death? There is an informal use of the word "wasted" that means to murder or kill. A "wasted stag" could mean a murdered Baratheon. But Joffrey was young and, in ASOIAF, boars are often present at the death of kings so the next sentence refers to a suckling pig. The plum sauce is (maybe? probably?) a hint about our Maynard Plumm / Plummer / plum motif that seems to tell us Bloodraven is nearby. Not sure about the chestnuts but the word seems to describe horse color more often than food - I have long thought it was significant that no one gave Joffrey a horse for a groom's gift although he received a saddle, riding boots and a tournament pavilion. Mushrooms (truffles) may be associated with poison and with Tyrion. There is a lot of suspicion in this forum that Lady Olenna Tyrell masterminded a Tyrell murder scheme that caused Joffrey's death. Leo's "confession" to wasting a stag might confirm that the Tyrells were indeed behind the mysterious death of the young Baratheon king.

I feel as if I'm picking up breadcrumbs the author has left for us, but I admit that I am confused. Leo Longthorn is associated with Bloodraven because he participates in a tournament where Bloodraven (in the guise of Plummer) is the Master of the Games. Lazy Leo is associated with Bloodraven because he seems to embody the man in details of his appearance and in his interest in Daenerys and dragons. Both Leos engage in symbolic activities - a tournament and a meal - that may describe game-of-thrones-related actions affecting the Iron Throne. Is the Leo we see in the prologue the Alchemist? Is he Bloodraven? Is he a faceless man? All three? None of the above?

Edited by Seams

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Just a quick little observation.

I'm not sure whether to post this in the puns & wordplay thread, the color analysis of the rainbow guard thread, or the Dissecting Names thread. But it's a phrase from The Hedge Knight so this is as good a place as any.

He had piled the old man's things under an oak. The cloth purse contained three silver stags, nineteen copper pennies, and a chipped garnet.

Why did Ser Arlan of Pennytree carry a chipped garnet in his purse? I realize we could come up with an explanation - he found it on the ground, it broke off a pin he has in his bag (although Dunk's inventory mentions no pin), he won it gambling (Dunk doesn't mention that Ser Arlan was a gambler, and it seems out of character). What I'm looking for is a literary rationale. When a relatively poor man has only a paragraph's worth of possessions, it seems significant that GRRM would mention this item as one of his few belongings.

An explanation for the garnet may have presented itself as a side effect of something else I have been trying to figure out. As I have pondered the rainbow symbolism and the meaning of each color, orange has proven to be a more complex puzzle than some of the other colors. My tentative conclusion is that red and yellow must combine in the right way to create orange. (I expect we will see something similar for blue and purple creating indigo but, so far in the books, the emphasis has been on the "fire colors.") As a secondary color, orange is something of a higher order, more elusive color than the primary colors. (This is largely theory, I admit.)

So I've been looking at sigils with orange (Peake and Hornwood and Ashford) and looking for oranges in wordplay. For instance, the orange background of the Hornwood sigil caused me to examine the House words: Righteous in Wrath. "Orange with rust hi" is one possible anagram outcome. If this is a hint, the "hi" appears to be a leftover byproduct of getting the motto to make some sense. Rust is frequently mentioned in connection with armor, however, so now I'll pay closer attention to the rust references, to see what rust can tell us about orange and its possible deeper meaning.

Why did I make the leap from the chipped garnet to the color orange? Because:

Aegon Targaryen = Orange Garnet Ay

The dictionary says "ay" is an interjection meaning alas or alack or woe. Of course, I just see it as further confirmation of the all-important eye - Ei - Eisen chain of puns.

Here's my guess about one way the orange and garnet come together: Dunk & Egg are destined to be a team. They complete each other. Dunk comes into possession of a garnet and brings it into the partnership. Aegon has entree to House Ashford, with its orange sigil. Similarly, we see Bran & Hodor, Joffrey & The Hound, and the two heads of Maelys the Monstrous working as a boy/man team or, at least, as two heads coming together as one. Maybe Tyrion and Bronn also count as a pair.

But are there other ways to create this kind of "royal" power team?

There may be a pun on "garnet" and "argent." The latter word means "silver" or "white" and is used to describe those colors when used in heraldry. So the orange and white sigil of House Ashford might take on new meaning as a billboard expressing "Aegon Targaryen" through the use of orange + argent colors.

This may add to our understanding of why Lord Commander Mormont chose garnets for the eyes of the direwolf pommel he commissioned for the sword Long Claw:

The pommel was a hunk of pale stone weighted with lead to balance the long blade. It had been carved into the likeness of a snarling wolf's head, with chips of garnet set into the eyes.

(AGoT, Jon VIII)

With the presentation of the sword Long Claw, Jon has the "garnet ay (eye)" part of the equation. It is interesting to note that Sam obtained the garnets for the pommel in Molestown. Perhaps garnets have to be carried by true knights like Ser Arlan, Dunk and the Slayer. Edit: Also, Molestown is an anagram of both "lost women" and "two lemons." Members of the Night's Watch refer to brothel visits in Molestown as "digging for treasure," which is exactly what Jon does when he discovers the cache at the Fist. Speaking of which . . .

Now that the garnets are in hand, how will Jon obtain the orange, if he is to fully realize a destiny related to Aegon Targaryen?

Jon picked up a dagger blade, featherlight and shiny back, hiltless. Torchlight ran along its edge, a thin orange line that spoke of razor sharpness. Dragonglass.

(ACoK, Jon IV)

Blood orange. Orange garnet. Garnet eye. White and orange. Look for these combinations if you want to find a king or queen in the making. (Or an aspirational king or queen.)

I'm also going to look for evidence of these central characters assembling rainbows - they may need more than an orange and a garnet to fully realize their ambitions or destinies.

Edit: If you can stand a similar anagram:

Maelys the Monstrous = Amethyst Sour Lemons

Of course, you could also construct some interesting possibilities around "motley short man ..." or "rusty helmet ... " or simply "author's lemon system." But I think it's significant to see the fruit + gem combination, especially if the orange / garnet combination is correct. Both Sansa and Dany have associations with amethysts or violet eyes and with lemon cakes or lemon trees. In other stories, GRRM has used a gem as a significant focal point for action, and we know that he has created a Gemstone Emperors ancient back story for the history of the ASOIAF series. His mad king Aerys instructed the alchemists to make wildfire grenades in the shapes of fruit. Something seems to be going on with this symbolism.

Edited by Seams

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My head tells me that anagrams are dangerous ground but my heart urges me to keep testing certain odd phrases or single-use names of characters. So skip this post if you find anagrams to be a waste of time. On the other hand, if you enjoy the possibility that GRRM has buried some hints for us, this is a good one.

One of the little throw-away details in The Hedge Knight comes when Dunk is paying his respects to Ser Arlan of Pennytree, eulogizing him at the burial site Dunk has created:

"You were a true knight, and you never beat me when I didn't deserve it," he finally managed, "except that one time in Maidenpool. It was the inn boy who ate the widow woman's pie, not me, I told you. It don't matter now. The gods keep you, ser."

Of course this little anecdote is useful background to tell us that Dunk had been fairly treated by a kindly man (Doh! Kindly Man!) as he grew up. It also tells us that Ser Arlan had achieved that elusive quality of being a true knight, an ideal we usually hear expressed by Sansa but we have not often seen embodied by warriors in ASOIAF. Maybe that should be enough for the author to have thrown it into the story but (aber natürlich) I see more.

Maidenpool could be an important location as it is the site where Florian the Fool came across Jonquil bathing in a pool with her sisters. We see Florian and Jonquil come up again in one of Tanselle's puppet shows in this story and it seems to foreshadow something we will be seeing in Dunk's arc. I believe Maidenpool and the Florian and Jonquil story are also linked to the hero story from Brienne's birthplace featuring Ser Galladon of Morne and the maiden of the new gods.

I have a guess, but I don't yet know for sure how any of that ties into these possible anagrams:

the inn boy = ebony hint

ate the widow woman's pie = wite time shadow weapon

The "ebony hint" possibility is what really caught my eye and got me to dig deeper for possible clues. What is ebony? It is black wood. Who in the story is strongly associated with Blackwood? That would be Bloodraven, whose mother was Missy Blackwood. "The inn boy" appears to be a coded reference to Bloodraven. (This also fits with some ideas about inns as magical places where characters cross from one world to another.)

So I took a look at the widow woman's pie, thinking I would find something about Joffrey's sword or maybe an anagram involving a window. I was surprised when the words that seemed to work best pointed to a shadow weapon. We certainly have seen shadow weapons used in ASOIAF, most notably in connection with Melisandre, who appears to be working on behalf of Stannis.

I'm not 100% sure of the "wite time" portion of this anagram, as there are a few other possible words that could be made of those letters. "Wite time" intrigues me, though. An online dictionary tells me that "wite" is a Scottish word. It can be a noun meaning a fee or fine imposed by a king for committing a serious crime or a verb meaning "to blame for; to declare guilty of". This would fit like a glove with a major theme of ASOIAF, which introduces The King's Justice in the first Bran chapter of AGoT and continues to challenge the reader to grapple with what is just and fair and lawful behavior in a society where people compete for power based on varying definitions of rightfulness. Because the paragraph discusses an unjust accusation and punishment, the word "wite" seems almost like a slam Dunk ( :) heh - couldn't resist!) as a part of this wordplay clue.

I also found that GRRM probably used a Scottish word in the Pennytree anagram "neep entry" (see above). So there's precedent for a Scottish theme in connection with Ser Arlan.

Also intriguing would be the pairing of "time" and "shadow" in the anagram, if it is accurate. Readers have labeled Melisandre's weapons as her "shadow babies," but what if the weapons are comprised of both time and shadow? I think there's a lot of wordplay around time because of the Dawn and Lightbringer symbolism as well as the Night's "Watch," the Hightower acting as a sundial as its shadow moves across the city, etc.

Alright. So I mentioned that I have a guess about how the Maidenpool reference might fit with the ebony / Blackwood hint and the time-shadow weapon. Hang onto your floppy straw hat because here goes:

Of the numerous Great Bastards of Aegon IV, five are described in some detail: Bloodraven, Bittersteel, Daemon Blackfyre, Shiera Seastar and Mad Danelle Lothston. Daemon dies pretty quickly and Bittersteel seems to be the standard bearer for his Blackfyre line of claimants for the Iron Throne. Shiera Seastar is the great beauty who is desired by both Bloodraven and Bittersteel. We are told that she sleeps with Bloodraven but refuses to marry him. We are not told that she entirely refuses all overtures from Bittersteel, but the implication is that Bloodraven was her preferred bed partner.

We don't hear anything about Danelle's relationships with her siblings. We do learn that she turned to the black arts, could turn into a bat and kidnap children and that she bathed in blood to keep her beauty. As the head of House Lothston, her seat was at Harrenhal and she sent bannermen in support of House Targaryen (Bloodraven's team) during the second Blackfyre Rebellion. (Note that the second Blackfyre rebellion was the only one Bittersteel did not endorse or support, so Danelle did not actively clash with Bittersteel by supporting Bloodraven at Whitewalls.)

But what's this about Danelle's special interest in bathing? We had that Maidenpool reference in the story about the widow woman's pie, and Maidenpool is named for a woman who was bathing. Is GRRM linking the shadow weapon to the bathing maiden? And is Danelle a creepy twist on the story of the Maiden, bathing in blood instead of spring water?

But wait, there's more! Remember this revelation from Egg that I cited earlier in the thread?

Duncan: You've known queens and princesses. Did they dance with demons and practice the black arts?

Aegon: Lady Shiera does. Lord Bloodraven's paramour. She bathes in blood to keep her beauty.

So half-sisters Danelle and Shiera are both renowned for their bathing habits. Do they represent Jonquil and the Maiden of the new gods, discovered while bathing by Florian and Ser Galladon? Not literally, of course, and I don't mean that one has to be assigned to Jonquil and the other would necessarily be the maiden reincarnated. GRRM seems to work in groupings of symbols - we called them mosaics in a thread a couple of years ago - so the bathing sisters or maidens represent a general type, not necessarily specific individuals.

If I'm remember correctly, both Shiera and Danelle engage in these blood baths in order to retain their beauty - to conquer time, in a sense.

Could the shadow weapons be another aspect of this same magical ability to conquer time?

Others in this forum have pointed out that Melisandre resembles Mad Danelle and/or Shiera Seastar. Does she also take special baths to preserve a youthful appearance? The speculation was that she has used her own dark magic to sustain her beautiful appearance in spite of being alive for "years beyond count".

It does appear that Melisandre's shadow babies are conjured by taking some essence from Stannis - not king's blood per se, but probably semen and, it seems, a measure of his strength and vitality. Does the "donor" of the seed for these shadow weapons give up some of his "time" in order to conquer his foes?

In other words, the possibility I'm seeing is that, like the magical sword Just Maid that the maiden gives to Ser Galladon, the shadow babies are powerful weapons given by Melisandre to Stannis. And I'm guessing that there might have been earlier shadow weapons given by Danelle and/or Shiera to Bloodraven.

We are fairly certain that Melisandre uses one of the shadow babies against Renly, although the origin of that shadow is not shown. If it came from Stannis via Melisandre, that would be a pretty clear case of kinslaying, which is taboo in Westeros.

We also know that Bloodraven will be accused of kinslaying in the death of Aenys Blackfyre. I happen to suspect that Bloodraven is wrongfully accused (much like Ned Stark being accused of treason) but that larger topic may have to wait for the discussion of The Mystery Knight in this re-read thread, as we see Bloodraven make the conscious and strategic decision there to keep Daemon II alive as a hostage instead of executing him. We are told that Aenys is beheaded, so it appears that a shadow weapon is not the cause of his death. I suppose there is nothing that rules out shadow weapons beheading their targets - Renly is stabbed and bleeds real blood when he is attacked by a shadow. If the shadow has the strength to cut through armor, presumably it could also cut through a person's neck.

But we will have to wait and see how Dunk's story of the inn boy and the widow woman's pie will play out. If it's intended to be literary irony, maybe we will see Dunk harness the power of a shadow weapon and blame Bloodraven for using it. If it's foreshadowing, maybe Bloodraven really will wield the shadow weapon but the blame will be directed at Dunk. Either way, maybe the sword known as the Just Maid will turn out to be not so Just after all.

Edited by Seams

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