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Faera

Green Dreaming of an Underground River

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I promised @Curled Finger and @Cridefea I'd let them know when I finally got around to posting this and want to thank them for their patience with me behind the scenes as this post semi-developed from numerous ideas I wanted to talk about regarding Bran, Jojen, Meera, Hodor, and those chapters in general. 

This will be a look into the underground river beneath Brynden "Bloodraven" Rivers's weirwood cave. We officially first learn about when Bran, Jojen, Meera and Hodor arrive at the location at the end of Bran's second chapter in A Dance with Dragons, when Bran overhears it as they approach Bloodraven's weirwood throne. I will look at the river's possible connection to Gorne's Way and why its appearance will probably be paid off soon, not least because Jojen appears to dreamed of it all the way back in Bran's final chapter of A Storm of Swords.

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Introduction: Jojen's dream?

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And there was no way through.
Bran had told them there wouldn't be. He had told them and told them, but Jojen Reed had insisted on seeing for himself. He had had a green dream, he said, and his green dreams did not lie. They don't open any gates either, thought Bran.
A Storm of Swords, Bran IV.

 

In A Storm of Swords, Bran and his friends camp for the night in the supposedly haunted Nightfort, the former seat of the Lord Commander and the Night's Watch prior to the construction of Castle Black. They are then awoken that night by the return of Samwell Tarly, Craster's daughter-wife Gilly and her baby 'Monster' and subsequently guided to the mysterious undead black brother, dubbed Coldhands. While we as readers are distracted by the sudden arrival of Samwell Tarly and the panic it provokes from Bran and Meera, the former having just skin-changed Hodor on purpose for the first time, we can be forgiven for not really paying attention to Jojen.

Upon realising that the massive, fat figure ensnared in Meera's net is not the Rat Cook of Old Nan's tales but just a fat boy of the Night's Watch, Jojen very suddenly puts the following question to him;

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"How did you get through the Wall?" Jojen demanded as Sam struggled to his feet. "Does the well lead to an underground river, is that where you came from? You're not even wet..."
A Storm of Swords, Bran IV.

 

The question of how they are going to get passed the Wall has been looming over Jojen ever since Bran and Meera reluctantly agreed to follow his plan. Bran repeatedly states that it is impossible to re-open the gate at the Nightfort, which has been purposely sealed since the castle was abandoned. Meera even climbed to the very top of the Wall to look for another way over and reconfirmed there is no way through the Wall at the Nightfort and certainly no way to go over it.

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"It's a sheer drop, and the ice is so smooth . . . I might be able to make the descent if I had a good rope and an axe to chop out handholds, but . . ."
". . . but not us," Jojen finished.
"No," his sister agreed. "Are you sure this is the place you saw in your dream? Maybe we have the wrong castle."
"No. This is the castle. There is a gate here."
Yes, thought Bran, but it's blocked by stone and ice.
A Storm of Swords, Bran IV.

 

Jojen is correct that there is another gate at the Nightfort, aside from the one Bran knows of, but has failed to predict the location of the tunnel, has made no mention of a river, or of a well. All he knows is that there is a gate in the Nightfort. Gate, not river. From this information, we might conclude that the first time the possibility of an underground river comes to Jojen is that night after Sam returns through the Black Gate;

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"We should sleep," Jojen said solemnly, after they were full. The fire was burning low. He stirred it with a stick. "Perhaps I'll have another green dream to show us the way."
A Storm of Swords, Bran IV.

 

He is anxious to come up with an answer for Bran and Meera but he is stumped and they are growing more sceptical. Having run out of options, Jojen falls back to his usual recourse of going to sleep and waiting for an answer from the gods. Upon seeing Sam emerge from the well, if we presume he had just dreamed of their group passing through some form of an underground river, it is natural he would put two and two together. It is only after this very sleep that Jojen awakes to blurt out the idea of an underground river being the path forward.

Though Sam is able to show them the way through the secret Black Gate with the suspiciously weirwood-like carved face and a magically opening mouth, proving that Jojen is correct about the gate being at the Nightfort, there is no river at the bottom of the well. None of them gets wet and the only dampness experienced by Bran is when he feels a salty warm tear from the weird, opening mouth fall onto his face, anointing him for the journey.

Bran, Hodor, the Reeds, and Summer move forward to meet Coldhands and the underground river is forgotten.

 

Connection to Gorne's Way

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"You know nothing, Jon Snow. It went on and on and on. There are hundreds o' caves in these hills, and down deep they all connect. There's even a way under your Wall. Gorne's Way."
A Storm of Swords, Jon III.

 

In the same book, A Storm of Swords, we also learn of Gorne's Way from Ygritte's conversations with Jon, a long-lost secret cave system which would allow people to pass beneath the Wall. In her story, the King-beyond-the-Wall, Gorne, and his brother Gendel (perhaps a nod to the monster of Beowulf?) led a host beneath the Wall using a network of tunnels known as 'Gorne's Way'. When they emerged, they were immediately caught by "the wolves of Winterfell".

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"There was a battle," Jon recalled. "Gorne slew the King in the North, but his son picked up his banner and took the crown from his head, and cut down Gorne in turn."
"And the sound o' swords woke the crows in their castles, and they rode out all in black to take the free folk in the rear."
A Storm of Swords, Jon III.

 

Jon was told, perhaps by Old Nan or even Maester Luwin as part of his history lessons, that both wildling brothers were slain by the symbiotic efforts of the wolf-Starks of Winterfell and the crow-men of the Night's Watch. "You know nothing, Jon Snow," is Ygritte's response as she proceeds to tell him the end of the Freefolk version;

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"Gendel did not die. He cut his way free, through the crows, and led his people back north with the wolves howling at their heels. Only Gendel did not know the caves as Gorne had, and took a wrong turn." She swept the torch back and forth, so the shadows jumped and moved. "Deeper he went, and deeper, and when he tried t' turn back the ways that seemed familiar ended in stone rather than sky. Soon his torches began t' fail, one by one, till finally there was naught but dark. Gendel's folk were never seen again, but on a still night you can hear their children's children's children sobbing under the hills, still looking for the way back up. Listen? Do you hear them?"
A Storm of Swords, Jon III.

 

Ygritte's ending is clearly one worthy of Old Nan and would undoubtedly make Bran's skin crawl delightedly, and Jon tells her as much. However, by taking out the embellishments, we learn that there is a cave system underneath the hills and one goes under the Wall that is known to the wildlings as 'Gorne's Way'. Ygritte even tells Jon that Mance looked for it but was unsuccessful. Even when Jon tries to find Ygritte, who has only ventured little ways in, he finds himself running into several dead-ends that immediately befuddle and confuse him.

The location of the entrance to the cave Jon and Ygritte were in is at an opening somewhere near Stonedoor and Greyguard, which is west of Castle Black, east of Shadowtower and, interestingly, north-east to the Northern mountains where the hill clans make their home. It might well be the case that Gorne's Way's southern exit lies somewhere in those hills, even in the cave where Bran and his friends sheltered alongside the Liddle.

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Only once did they encounter any of the mountain people, when a sudden burst of freezing rain sent them looking for shelter. Summer found it for them, sniffing out a shallow cave behind the grey-green branches of a towering sentinel tree, but when Hodor ducked beneath the stony overhang, Bran saw the orange glow of fire farther back and realized they were not alone. "Come in and warm yourselves," a man's voice called out. "There's stone enough to keep the rain off all our heads."
A Storm of Swords - Bran II

 

Therefore, it is feasible that one could bypass the Wall, most of the freezing landscape of the lands beyond the Wall in favour of the dark yet warmer subterranean tunnel.

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"...Come now. It is warmer down deep, and no one will hurt you there. He is waiting for you.”
A Dance with Dragons, Bran II.

 

The biggest difficulty will be knowing which way to go once down there.

 

The Blind Spot

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Jojen's eyes were a dark green, the color of moss, but heavy with a weariness that Bran had never seen in them before. The little grandfather. South of the Wall, the boy from the crannogs had seemed to be wise beyond his years, but up here he was as lost and frightened as the rest of them. Even so, Meera always listened to him.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran I.

 

We hear nothing of the underground cave system on the North-side of the Wall until Bran and his friends reach the abode of the Last Greenseer, Brynden 'Bloodraven' Rivers. Instead, throughout the journey from the Wall to the cave, Jojen's input as the self-appointed 'spirit guide' for the team diminishes significantly and he grows weaker and less vocal than before. Moreover, it appears that Jojen's "sight" is no longer providing him with hints as to where they need to go and what to do.

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Buried under drifts of snow, the round stone houses could just as easily have been boulders or hillocks or fallen logs, like the deadfall that Jojen had mistaken for a building the day before, until they dug down into it and found only broken branches and rotting logs.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran I.

 

This may imply Jojen is no longer receiving visions of the path forward in his dreams. Bran and Meera are used to following Jojen's instructions, albeit reluctantly at times, hence why they probably investigated the deadfall in the first place. Though Jojen is weak he is resolved to reach the three-eyed crow and offset Meera's concern for his welfare and her hesitancy to obey Coldhands.

While Meera was always willing to give Jojen the benefit of the doubt prior to their journey beyond the Wall, she was more argumentative towards Jojen south of the Wall. Her reason for taking Jojen so seriously could be for numerous reasons. One reason might be due to cultural sensitivity as the crannogmen appear to have a society similar to the Children of the Forest where green seers - and presumably those with green sight - were considered the "wise men". Another possibility is that her father, Howland Reed, told her to take Jojen's advice seriously as there are hints that Meera may have been often sceptical of them until recently;

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"My brother has the greensight," said Meera. "He dreams things that haven't happened, but sometimes they do."
"There is no sometimes, Meera." A look passed between them; him sad, her defiant.
A Clash of Kings, Bran IV.

 

Now, perhaps because of Jojen's recent run of success, she is relying on Jojen's supposed greater wisdom and is made all the more anxious by the fact that he is essentially coming up blank.

Quote

"Why won't this three-eyed crow come to us? Why couldn't he meet us at the Wall? Crows have wings. My brother grows weaker every day. How long can we go on?"
Jojen coughed. "Until we get there."
...
Bran thought that Meera meant to argue [with Coldhands] until her brother said, "Do as he says. He knows this land."
A Dance with Dragons, Bran I.

 

What Jojen says comes from his own inner wisdom, not his dreams. He is undoubtedly wiser and in some ways more mature than his big sister. With the deadfall, he was going by sight and instinct, two things by his own admission he lacks compared to Meera. My sister is a hunter... [she] has sharp ears, keen eyes, a steady hand with net and spear. (ASoS, Bran I). Her instinct is to mistrust Coldhands and her reasons are numerous: partly because she has sensed something is "off" about him (i.e. his "deadness", which she and Bran suss out between them) but it is also because she is convinced - and might very well be correct - that Coldhands is going in circles.

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"That river we crossed this morning is the same one we crossed four days ago, I swear. We're going in circles."
"Rivers turn and twist," Bran said uncertainly, "and where there's lakes and hills, you need to go around."
"There's been too much going around," Meera insisted, "and too many secrets. I don't like it. I don't like him. And I don't trust him."
A Dance with Dragons, Bran I.

 

It would be easy to dismiss Meera's concerns as her simply being mistaken. There are folks east of the river that flows by Craster's Keep, so, if Coldhands led them in a straight line they would likely need to cross both. However, Meera's awareness of her surroundings is nothing to be scoffed at and her concern over Coldhands's choices is understandable.

For what it is worth, there is no suggestion that Coldhands wishes any ill-will against Bran's companions and, if anything, acknowledges the importance of Meera as a defender. "You'll stay." he tells her as he leaves to face the mutineers, "The boy must be protected." (ADwD, Bran I.) He also seems to acknowledge that she has a good sense of direction since he provides instruction for her to "turn north" to find the refuge point. Therefore, if Coldhands has been leading them in circles, he probably knows it hasn't escaped her attention -- though Jojen's counsel will ensure she follows his orders.

Despite her senses tingling so profusely, Jojen appeals to her common sense; that they must remain with Coldhands because there literally is no other option. He has no dream to speak of and can only appeal to Coldhands as, literally, their only hope of survival;

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"Jojen, did you dream this?" Meera asked her brother. "Who is he? What is he? What do we do now?"
"We go with the ranger," said Jojen. "We have come too far to turn back now, Meera. We would never make it back to the Wall alive. We go with Bran's monster, or we die."
A Dance with Dragons, Bran I.

 

The reason for this might be surprisingly simple -- the Wall.

It is stated plainly that the Wall "is more than just ice and stone," and does, in fact, have "spells woven into it . . . old ones, and strong." (ASoS, Bran IV.) They prevented Coldhands from passing the Wall and appear to have interfered with Jon and Ghost's magical bond. When Jon was forced to leave Ghost behind beyond the Wall, their connection was severed and their ability to feel one another was gone. It was only once Ghost himself returned to the Wall that Jon felt his presence again. (ASoS, Jon XII.) Therefore, we can hypothesise that perhaps the magic that was sending Jojen his dreams or even keeping him healthy could not reach him while he was travelling overland beyond the Wall. While it might be a stretch to argue that Jojen's life-support is reliant on him not having a massive ice Wall in the way, it is certainly worth considering.

Jojen's lack of dreams and deterioration might be down to the physical toils on his body. While there is no real indication that he is particularly sickly other than we are told that he nearly died as a small child from a fever, which also seems to have been his magical awakening much like Bran's fall was. "When I was little I almost died of greywater fever. That was when the crow came to me." (ACoK, Bran IV). Bloodraven also later describes a typical greenseer.

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Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

Fans have suggested that Bran, despite having lost the use of his legs, there is little indication that he suffers from further complications or that it has taken an overall toll on his health. In comparison,  Jojen deteriorates from the wise little grandfather figure south of the Wall to a scared little boy, he is also by far the weakest member of their little pack. Originally, his dreams were his contribution. He was not a prince like Bran, nor big and strong like Hodor, nor as good a hunter as Meera, yet somehow it was always Jojen telling them what to do. (ASoS, Bran I). Yet he has lost that now, reduced to dreaming as other boys do. He is a seer who cannot dream and see the messages from the gods. In a sense, he has lost his purpose.

Until they reach the cave...

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Investigating the Underground River

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The last part of their dark journey was the steepest. Hodor made the final descent on his arse, bumping and sliding downward in a clatter of broken bones, loose dirt, and pebbles. The girl child was waiting for them, standing on one end of a natural bridge above a yawning chasm. Down below in the darkness, Bran heard the sound of rushing water. An underground river.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran II.

 

Throughout the following chapter, Bran's final of A Dance with Dragons, there are several references to the hill under which Bran and his companions are living, the blessed warmth of the caves, the fires the singers light to ward off the cold and the vastness of the caverns;

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The caves were timeless, vast, silent. They were home to more than three score living singers and the bones of thousands dead, and extended far below the hollow hill. "Men should not go wandering in this place," Leaf warned them. "The river you hear is swift and black, and flows down and down to a sunless sea. And there are passages that go even deeper, bottomless pits and sudden shafts, forgotten ways that lead to the very center of the earth. Even my people have not explored them all, and we have lived here for a thousand thousand of your man-years."
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

Leaf's words are an attempt to warn Bran and his friends of the dangers of wandering off into the singers' territory without truly knowing where they are going. Quite fittingly, it might remind us of Meera and Jojen's own comments about their homeland of the Neck;

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"There are no knights in the Neck," said Jojen.
"Above the water," his sister corrected. "The bogs are full of dead ones, though."
"That's true," said Jojen. "Andals and ironmen, Freys and other fools, all those proud warriors who set out to conquer Greywater. Not one of them could find it. They ride into the Neck, but not back out. And sooner or later they blunder into the bogs and sink beneath the weight of all that steel and drown there in their armor."
A Storm of Swords, Bran II.

 

The message seems to be clear; wandering in is perilous to an outsider who doesn't know where they are going. It invokes Ygritte's story to Jon about the children of the children of the children of Gendel's free folk wandering about Gorne's Way in the dark. The "light" at the end of the tunnel is the promise of that same story - that there is a path under the Wall and it is possible to navigate your way through it and emerge in the North.

Additionally, when Bran questions Leaf as to where the rest of her people are, she remarks that they have done "down into the earth... into the stones, into the trees." (ADwD, Bran III.) We might take this to mean simply that they have died and their spirits have joined the earth, stones and trees, a concept introduced by Bloodraven and explained by Jojen earlier in the chapter). However, we could take it at face value and presume there are more singers living in the deeper recesses of the caves available to give guidance to people they are willing to assist. Again, this is much like having the support - or at least ambivalence - of Howland Reed and his crannogmen to navigate the Neck.

Meera and Jojen nonetheless defy Leaf's warnings and decide to investigate the river themselves. It is not a stretch to presume that he insisted they take a look as had she simply wishes to satiate her curiosity, she would have gone alone, as she did with her climb of the Wall, and not take her sickly brother Jojen with her. Unfortunately, when Bran expresses the desire to go as well, Meera provides us with the problems that would need to be overcome if they ever were to take him;

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Meera gave him a mournful look. The river was six hundred feet below, down steep slopes and twisty passages, she explained, and the last part required climbing down a rope. “Hodor could never make the climb with you on his back. I’m sorry, Bran.”
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

The first question is this - how does she know how far down the river is or the existence of the rope? Did Leaf tell her? Did Jojen see the rope in a dream? Has Meera already been down to check? Perhaps it is all three. It makes sense that Meera might have explored the area before allowing Jojen to go down there and if she, or Jojen, voiced this desire to Leaf she may have told them what was required to get down safely.

The second question surrounds Meera's "mournful look". While the obvious explanation for it would be regret over excluding Bran from what he views as a mini adventure there might be other reasons, too. If the underground river is being explored as a means of escape or route to travel home, Meera might be sad over two significant things; leaving without 'her prince' and the prospect of her brother's death. Jojen has stated his "part in this is done" and so may believe that Bran is where he needs to be and is safe. Meera might not be so sure. It might be that Jojen has told her about the significance of the underground river to their journey. If he did dream of it at the Nightfort, he would have believed it significant to Bran's mission. So, for it to have shown up in Bloodraven's cave is an indicator that the journey is not yet over. It would certainly put Meera's later exchange with Bran into perspective;

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"He wants to go home," Meera told Bran. "He will not even try and fight his fate. He says the greendreams do not lie [...] I'd hoped that when we found your three-eyed crow… now I wonder why we ever came."
For me, Bran thought. "His greendreams," he said.
"His greendreams." Meera's voice was bitter.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

Incidentally, I have often wondered what Meera was going to say about what she'd "hoped" would happen when they found the three-eyed-crow. That it would be over? That Jojen would be saved? If Jojen wishes to return home to die, it might be she is lamenting over the pointlessness from her perspective of their journey if all they are going to do is turn around and go back again. She certainly seems tired of her life being ruled by her little brother's greendreams.

Then, if they do intend to escape with Bran, the concern may be over how to get him down that verticle drop safely. Of course, she is unaware that Bran "often tagged along, whether they wanted him or not" by wearing Hodor' skin. Moreover, his going with them to the underground cave might have provided the answer as to how they will lower Bran's body down to the river if they are taking him with them;

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Jojen made it down the rope easily enough, but after Meera caught a blind white fish with her frog spear and it was time to climb back up, his arms began to tremble and he could not make it to the top, so they had to tie the rope around him and let Hodor haul him up. "Hodor," he grunted every time he gave a pull. "Hodor, hodor, hodor."
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

Bran-Hodor could very easily lower himself - and Jojen, if need be - down to the bottom using the rope before climbing down himself. Overall, a very productive investigation for the Reeds if they were going down there to spec out the place based on a dream from Jojen rather than just ideal curiosity.

If anything, the hardest part will be getting Summer down... or whether they ever will. Most likely Jon and Ghost, they will be forced to endure a separation and Summer be required to make his own way back to the Wall above ground along with his mini-wolfpack.

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Journey down the River Styx - The Conclusion

Ultimately, I believe Jojen has already dreamed of the significance of the underground river in Bloodraven's cave. At the time of seeing it, he was looking for a way through the Wall yet by looking at the history of his dreams, he tends to pick up the messages a while before they happen. He dreamed of the winged-wolf while still at Greywater Watch; of the "sea" coming to Winterfell, and of Ramsay-Reek killing and skinning the faces of "Bran" and "Rickon" weeks before Theon even arrived back.

Given it would have taken them several weeks to reach Bloodraven it is reasonable to presume whatever is sending Jojen his dreams - whether it is Bloodraven himself or something south of the Wall - wished to inform him of the underground river before he entered the "blind spot" beyond the Wall.

Upon reaching Bloodraven's cave, Jojen appears to recover from the ordeals of the journey there "but he seemed sadder now, sullen, with a weary, haunted look about the eyes." (ADwD, Bran III.) It is unclear whether he has begun to dream once again though it would make sense if they did. In the safety of the cave, he is close to the weirwood roots that stretch all over Westeros, linking him back up to the south of the Wall once again. Now he below the foundations of the magical Wall, its crushing influence over blocking magic is gone.

Meera's allowing Jojen and “Hodor” to accompany her down to the underground river may indicate that she was acting on Jojen's wishes. She "always listens" to Jojen. If he tells her the cave is important then she feels obligated to give her the benefit of the doubt. If he has finally put meaning to the old dream he had back at the Wall of the underground river, it may go a long way to why Meera is more anxious while Jojen has become more miserable.

 

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"He wants to go home," Meera told Bran. "He will not even try and fight his fate. He says the greendreams do not lie."
"He's being brave," said Bran. The only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid, his father had told him once, long ago, on the day they found the direwolf pups in the summer snows. He still remembered.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

The wording does seem to suggest that Jojen's fate, whenever it is, whatever it entails, seems to be related to the return journey to or at Greywater Watch itself. It would be fitting as Jojen's powers awoke at home from his near death from the Greywater fever. He and his sister cannot stay indefinitely in that cave and will need to find a way back someday, with or without Bran. The underground river provides a means to get home... provided they can navigate it. Personally, I do believe Bran will leave the cave with Jojen and Meera when they go, along with Hodor. We know Bran does not need to be hooked into a weirwood tree to have his visions... and his lack of reliance on the weirwood is Bloodraven's goal for Bran;

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"Once you have mastered your gifts, you may look where you will and see what the trees have seen, be it yesterday or last year or a thousand ages past. Men live their lives trapped in an eternal present, between the mists of memory and the sea of shadow that is all we know of the days to come. Certain moths live their whole lives in a day, yet to them that little span of time must seem as long as years and decades do to us. An oak may live three hundred years, a redwood tree three thousand. A weirwood will live forever if left undisturbed. To them seasons pass in the flutter of a moth's wing, and past, present, and future are one. Nor will your sight be limited to your godswood. The singers carved eyes into their heart trees to awaken them, and those are the first eyes a new greenseer learns to use … but in time you will see well beyond the trees themselves."
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

 

Despite how sinister Bloodraven seems, his intentions towards Bran truly seem to be to impart his wisdom of the greenseers to him with no clear indication he wants him to having a tree growing through him, too. Together with mentions of the Green Men in Bran's chapters and the established connection Howland Reed has with them it might been the God’s Eye is the final destination George R.R. Martin has in mind for Bran. Even if the intention is for Bran to remain in the cave, that would not stop him from actively aiding the Reeds and Hodor home. With Bran's powers as a greenseer, Jojen's dreams, Meera's senses, Hodor's strength and Summer perhaps making the return journey above ground, they have a better chance than we might think of finding Gorne's Way.

However, if Bran's final destination is the God's Eye and the Green Men, then this might well indicate that Jojen will not be there for the end if he is due to die on his home turf of Greywater Watch, leaving it to Meera to follow in their father Howland's footsteps and travel to the Isle with her liege in tow.

Jojen's sadness might well be because he knows his journey truly is coming to an end and he may die soon. Jojen's knowledge of when he will die seems to be how he gets through the tough trials he has faced – because he knew he would always make it, no matter what. He frequently reassures Meera "This is not the day I die." Now, he ventures into unknown territory. He needs to get his sister home safely, which means facing the final chapter. The last leg is here. He thought his job was to simply get Bran to the Three-Eyed-Crow but may he realise now that is wrong and that his last job is to go home and die with the Underground River is being like his River Styx.

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Great theory, and an incredible effort.

Bran & Co getting home is something I never thought of. I think I had just assumed that they would go back the way they'd come, wights and all.

Meera and Jojen seem to have disappeared at the end of Bran III, perhaps they've already left and Bran will have to stay behind?

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@Giant Ice Spider - Thank you very much. It actually took me a crazy amount of time to get this all down and even now I feel like I have more to say.

I suppose it was only because of the re-read I did of Bran's chapters that I realised that Jojen mentioning an underground river might be important - and then for it to turn up  in BR's cave made me think whether GRRM is setting it up to be significant.

I don't think Meera and Jojen not being in their cubby at the end of Bran's chapters is evidence of them being gone - though it might be evidence that they are continuing to spec out the cave. Truth is that I don't see them leaving Bran inn the cave though, if they are obligated to leave him, he will continue to influence things by skinchanging Hodor and Summer.

A part of me even wonders if Meera might be on the verge of sussing out that Bran has been skin changing Hodor by the speculated "buzzing" of her towards the end of the chapter. It's something I've debated with friends (@Curled Finger especially) a lot since I'm not completely convinced that is what was happening but conceded it'd be interesting.

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5 minutes ago, Faera said:

@Giant Ice Spider - Thank you very much. It actually took me a crazy among of time to get this all down and even now I feel like I have more to say.

I suppose it was only because of the re-read I did of Bran's chapters that I realised that Jojen mentioning an underground river might be important - and then for it to turn up  in BR's cave made me think whether GRRM is setting it up to be significant.

I don't think Meera and Jojen not being in their cubby at the end of Bran's chapters is evidence of them being gone - though it might be evidence that they are continuing to spec out the cave. Truth is that I don't see them leaving Bran inn the cave though, if they are obligated to leave him, he will continue to influence things by skinchanging Hodor and Summer.

A part of me even wonders of Meera might be on the verge of sussing out that Bran has been skin changing Hodor by the speculated "buzzing" of her towards the end of the chapter. It's something I've debated with friends a lot since I'm not completely convinced that is what was happening.

Initially I thought Jojen wasn't there because Bran had eaten him (the 'weirdwood paste' he's given) but this makes more sense (since it's actually kinda hard to turn human flesh into a paste). So my mindset was already "they disappeared for good" when I read this and I thought, "ah, they've gone off." Come to think of it, wouldn't they at least say goodbye first?

So yeah, I think I agree with your theory.

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44 minutes ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

Initially I thought Jojen wasn't there because Bran had eaten him (the 'weirdwood paste' he's given) but this makes more sense (since it's actually kinda hard to turn human flesh into a paste).

Aha! Don't get me started on Jojen Paste. I hate that theory, oh, let me count the ways... 

Actually, I won't. :P Though I will say that once I noted this whole underground river thing together with Meera seeming convinced that Jojen will die if he returns home... it made me really suspect the river would will come into play soon and killed off any agreements I had about the paste theories. So, in many ways, this is my counter-theory to paste. :rolleyes:

48 minutes ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

So my mindset was already "they disappeared for good" when I read this and I thought, "ah, they've gone off." Come to think of it, wouldn't they at least say goodbye first?

 So yeah, I think I agree with your theory.

Well, the concept of time in the chapter is difficult to follow anyway so it might be day time. In which case, Jojen spends most of his time at the mouth of the cave, anyway, so there's no reason to presume at this point they've left the cave. Slightly OT but I think it was @Curled Finger who suggested off-hand to me that Jojen might be sitting at the mouth of the cave waiting for something to happen. I had never considered the possibility that Jojen might actually be waiting for something to happen rather than just... moping around feeling sorry for himself.

Like you, I'm also sceptical they would up and leave without Bran like that without saying goodbye. I don't think GRRM would have had Jojen be murdered and turned into paste or run away and leave Bran behind in Bran III without having that be the final cliffhanger or stinger of the chapter. It makes no sense to wait until his first chapter in TWoW to do that. That's why I'm about 90% certain that TWoW, Bran I will open with Jojen perfectly fine and, at most, planning to leave the cave. Even if they did do that, OP!Bran will not be a happy bunny.  If they do plan to go though, regardless, I think Meera would just up and tell Bran. She seems to become more open with him and she promised Bran she would do what he wanted.

Meera took Bran by the hand. "[...]You are only a boy, I know, but you are our prince as well, our lord's son and our king's true heir. We have sworn you our faith by earth and water, bronze and iron, ice and fire. The risk is yours, Bran, as is the gift. The choice should be yours too, I think. We are your servants to command." She grinned. "At least in this."
"You mean," Bran said, "you'll do what I say? Truly?"
"Truly, my prince," the girl replied, "so consider well."
A Storm of Swords, Bran I.

Her little "at least in this" means she could go back on it but based on her personality... I think she'd just crack under the guilt and tell him. Meera is not shy these days in telling Bran what she really thinks. Her sisterly feelings don't just stop at Jojen - I think they very much extend to Bran, too. Heck, this might even lead to him sabotaging the cave's wards because he doesn't want to lose them. Bran for his part doesn't feel like he'd be gracious about the idea of her leaving him behind either... now that I think about it.

That made Bran sad. What if I don't want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe."Maybe you could be greenseers too," he said instead.
"No, Bran." Now Meera sounded sad.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

That whole not wanting to remain is about the greenseers having greater staying power than normal people but it speaks to the situation as well. Bran is bonded to Meera and Jojen and won't want to be be left behind. Even if Jojen is completely convinced Bran won't be needing him anymore, that sadness Meera feels makes me feel like she wouldn't have the conscious to leave without him. She seemed to feel bad about leaving him behind when they went to look at the underground river, let alone stranding him - her prince and, at this point, king - forever in a cave beyond the Wall!

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19 minutes ago, Faera said:

Aha! Don't get me started on Jojen Paste. I hate that theory, oh, let me count the ways... 

Actually, I won't. :P Though I will say that once I noted this whole underground river thing together with Meera seeming convinced that Jojen will die if he returns home... it made me really suspect the river would will come into play soon and killed off any agreements I had about the paste theories. So, in many ways, this is my counter-theory to paste. :rolleyes:

Well, the concept of time in the chapter is difficult to follow anyway so it might be day time. In which case, Jojen spends most of his time at the mouth of the cave, anyway, so there's no reason to presume at this point they've left the cave. Slightly OT but I think it was @Curled Finger who suggested off-hand to me that Jojen might be sitting at the mouth of the cave waiting for something to happen. I had never considered the possibility that Jojen might actually be waiting for something to happen rather than just... moping around feeling sorry for himself.

Like you, I'm also sceptical they would up and leave without Bran like that without saying goodbye. I don't think GRRM would have had Jojen be murdered and turned into paste or run away and leave Bran behind in Bran III without having that be the final cliffhanger or stinger of the chapter. It makes no sense to wait until his first chapter in TWoW to do that. That's why I'm about 90% certain that TWoW, Bran I will open with Jojen perfectly fine and, at most, planning to leave the cave. Even if they did do that, OP!Bran will not be a happy bunny.  If they do plan to go though, regardless, I think Meera would just up and tell Bran. She seems to become more open with him and she promised Bran she would do what he wanted.

Meera took Bran by the hand. "[...]You are only a boy, I know, but you are our prince as well, our lord's son and our king's true heir. We have sworn you our faith by earth and water, bronze and iron, ice and fire. The risk is yours, Bran, as is the gift. The choice should be yours too, I think. We are your servants to command." She grinned. "At least in this."
"You mean," Bran said, "you'll do what I say? Truly?"
"Truly, my prince," the girl replied, "so consider well."
A Storm of Swords, Bran I.

Her little "at least in this" means she could go back on it but based on her personality... I think she'd just crack under the guilt and tell him. Meera is not shy these days in telling Bran what she really thinks. Her sisterly feelings don't just stop at Jojen - I think they very much extend to Bran, too. Heck, this might even lead to him sabotaging the cave's wards because he doesn't want to lose them. Bran for his part doesn't feel like he'd be gracious about the idea of her leaving him behind either... now that I think about it.

That made Bran sad. What if I don't want to remain when you are gone? he almost asked, but he swallowed the words unspoken. He was almost a man grown, and he did not want Meera to think he was some weepy babe."Maybe you could be greenseers too," he said instead.
"No, Bran." Now Meera sounded sad.
A Dance with Dragons, Bran III.

That whole not wanting to remain is about the greenseers having greater staying power than normal people but it speaks to the situation as well. Bran is bonded to Meera and Jojen and won't want to be be left behind. Even if Jojen is completely convinced Bran won't be needing him anymore, that sadness Meera feels makes me feel like she wouldn't have the conscious to leave without him. She seemed to feel bad about leaving him behind when they went to look at the underground river, let alone stranding him - her prince and, at this point, king - forever in a cave beyond the Wall!

That does seem like a quintessentially nine-year-old thing to do: "Oh, you're leaving without me? I'll just get us all killed!"

You make a good point seeing Bran as a little brother. My interpretation is that Bran has some sort of non-sisterly feelings towards her (he thinks of saying "I love you" to her by way of Hodor, I think). This situation could sour their relationship, and, come to think of it, make it easier for Meera to leave Bran behind.

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Great topic and very nice OP.

Have you thought about the comparison between the water flowing in the walls of Winterfell and the underground river? I think there is a motif around all flowing water being part of the flow of life or history or something -- that it's all connected. So you are right to keep an eye (so to speak) on the God's Eye but I bet we need to link the Milkwater and Trident (Meera's frog spear) and even the Rhoyne and Mander to Jojen's underground river. (There's probably also a link between Brynden Rivers and Brynden Tully, of Riverrun, who finds an underwater way to escape the castle unknown to anyone else, slipping out under the siege of the Freys and Jaime Lannister.)

Bran also claims that he knows of paths around and through Winterfell (and up the walls, of course) that no one else knows how to find or follow. Sounds similar to the cave / tunnel network described by Ygritte.

If the wolf-flow-fowl wordplay is a clue, my guess is that Jojen has been working toward this river flow all his life, just as Robb Stark was destined to find the wolf pups and Bran was destined to find the fowl known as the Three Eyed Crow. You quoted these passages:

Jojen's eyes were a dark green, the color of moss ...

(ADwD, Bran I)

Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.

(ADwD, Bran III)

If I were making a bet, I would guess that Jojen is the one who will stay in the cave or river or somehow go "inside the wood," not Bran.

I suspect we are supposed to link Qhorin, Yoren and Gorne. They lead heroes along paths and then die, leaving the heroes in holes or caves when their work is done. Maybe Jojen is part of that group, even if his name doesn't rhyme as well. "Gendel" could be wordplay on "legend," telling us that endless linked tunnels are like stories from oral tradition. But Gendel is almost certainly linked through wordplay to the Gardens of Gelenei, located in the city of canals (perhaps comparable to Jojen's underground river) and to the Isle of Leng, for what it's worth:

Down here the steps grew narrower and steeper, but the girl had run up and down them a thousand times and they held no terrors for her. Twenty-two more steps and they were at the subcellar. The tunnels here were cramped and crooked, black wormholes twisting through the heart of the great rock. ... This stair was unknown to her, however, and that made it perilous. One-and-twenty two-and-twenty three-and-twenty. With every step the air seemed to grow a little colder. When her count reached thirty she knew that they were under even the canals. ...

There was no haste, so she decide to take the long way round to the Purple Harbor. Across the bridge she went, to the Isle of the Gods. ... The statue outside the shrine of the Weeping Lady of Lys was crying silver tears as the ugly girl walked by. In the Gardens of Gelenei stood a gilded tree a hundred feet high with leaves of hammered silver. Torchlight glimmered behind windows of leaded glass in the Lord of Harmony's wooden hall, showing half a hundred kinds of butterflies in all of their bright colors.

(ADwD, The Ugly Little Girl)

In the depth of the island's jungles are strange ruined cities, with massive, fallen buildings. The buildings are so overgrown with plants that only rubble is visible, but underground are endless labyrinths of tunnels that lead to vast chambers, and carved steps descend hundreds of feet into the earth. No one knows when these cities were built or by whom, and perhaps they are the only thing remaining of some extinct people. Those who entered the underground ruins often returned mad, and even today it is forbidden to enter them, under penalty of death.

(from the wiki page for Leng, paraphrasing TWOIAF, The Bones and Beyond)

One more thought on Gendel and on guides for heroes. You cited this passage:

"Gendel did not die. He cut his way free, through the crows, and led his people back north with the wolves howling at their heels. Only Gendel did not know the caves as Gorne had, and took a wrong turn." She swept the torch back and forth, so the shadows jumped and moved. "Deeper he went, and deeper, and when he tried t' turn back the ways that seemed familiar ended in stone rather than sky.

(ASoS, Jon III)

This immediately clicked (funny how I say "immediately" when I mean, "I never noticed this on half-a-dozen rereads") as an allusion to the way castles leading to the Eyrie. The three castles are named stone, snow and sky. So Ygritte may be giving Jon a warning similar to the "to go south, you must go north" directions given to Dany: you might think you are going toward sky (up) but you are actually going to stone (down). The guide who leads Sansa on the path at the Eyrie is named Mya Stone and she is, of course, the first-born bastard of Robert Baratheon. And we already noted that Bloodraven's original surname was the bastard name Rivers. So I started to think about other guides or mentors for heroes and whether they are also bastards - we don't know about the back story of the Night's Watch brother named Stone Snake, but the natural daughters of Oberyn Martell are called Sand Snakes, so a snake name could have a bastard association. Flowers? Storm? Hill? Pyke?

The other thought that occurred to me after you cited that Gendel passage is that the flow-wolf-fowl wordplay suggests water, land and sky, similar to the stone, snow and sky waycastles but perhaps also alluding to ancient beliefs that there had to be a similar beast in each realm - for instance, narwhals exist, therefore unicorns must also exist somewhere on land and there must be a horned beast somewhere in the sky as well. In ASOIAF, I suspect that krakens, direwolves and dragons are one grouping; squishers, Others and bats might be another trio? I'm thinking of giant, Danelle Lothston-style bats.

Anyway. Thanks for a stimulating read and a nudge toward other fun tangents.

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@Seams -- I have to go out now but I'll give you a proper response soon! Thank you so much for joining the discussion!

1 hour ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

That does seem like a quintessentially nine-year-old thing to do: "Oh, you're leaving without me? I'll just get us all killed!"

Basically, yes. He's nearly ten-years-old and I remember when I was that age (around 8/9) was when you first to really start to get those gut punching crushes on people and find it hard to express or find a good outlet for your emotions. While I'm not sure this is the way things would go, it could and I wouldn't put it passed Bran to make a mistake because he was frightened of being left behind by his crush, his buddy and his second pair of legs.

1 hour ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

You make a good point seeing Bran as a little brother. My interpretation is that Bran has some sort of non-sisterly feelings towards her (he thinks of saying "I love you" to her by way of Hodor, I think). This situation could sour their relationship, and, come to think of it, make it easier for Meera to leave Bran behind.

Actually I think if Bran were to finally blurt out to Meera that he loves her it would make her feel guiltier about leaving him and less likely to want to do so.  He's young enough where his crush would probably be accepted by her as a sweet and endearing affection rather than creepy. Bran is a child and Meera is old enough to know his feelings are innocent.

It would have to turn into something a lot more intrusive for her to feel completely soured by him and feel leaving him in preferable than staying true to the helpless child who is looking to her for protection. This is probably why some theories hypothesize that Bran will, let's say, actually go through with using Hodor. I don't think it will happen but, if anything, it will no result in some horrible molestation of Meera as some of the more "hardcore" theories suggest but the notion that Bran will do something horrible to her while in Hodor that will prompt her to run away makes me very uncomfortable on three counts: a child, a man with the mentality of a child, and a young girl being attacked by someone who has only ever shown admiration for her. 

One thing I have wondered is whether she will realise Bran's skinchanging of Hodor before Jojen. No one can ever know, he thinks to himself in ADwD, Bran III, while he's doing it. Yet twice he has thought of using Hodor as a means to express affection to Meera - once to say "I love you" and once to hug her. Perhaps the third time he does it, he simply end up revealing himself and that will lead into her telling him to stop doing it... only for her to go back on it and ask him to do sometime in the future?

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11 minutes ago, Faera said:

@Seams -- I have to go out now but I'll give you a proper response soon! Thank you so much for joining the discussion!

Basically, yes. He's nearly ten-years-old and I remember when I was that age (around 8/9) was when you first to really start to get those gut punching crushes on people and find it hard to express or find a good outlet for your emotions. While I'm not sure this is the way things would go, it could and I wouldn't put it passed Bran to make a mistake because he was frightened of being left behind by his crush, his buddy and his second pair of legs.

Actually I think if Bran were to finally blurt out to Meera that he loves her it would make her feel guiltier about leaving him and less likely to want to do so.  He's young enough where his crush would probably be accepted by her as a sweet and endearing affection rather than creepy. Bran is a child and Meera is old enough to know his feelings are innocent.

It would have to turn into something a lot more intrusive for her to feel completely soured by him and feel leaving him in preferable than staying true to the helpless child who is looking to her for protection. This is probably why some theories hypothesize that Bran will, let's say, actually go through with using Hodor. I don't think it will happen but, if anything, it will no result in some horrible molestation of Meera as some of the more "hardcore" theories suggest but the notion that Bran will do something horrible to her while in Hodor that will prompt her to run away makes me very uncomfortable on three counts: a child, a man with the mentality of a child, and a young girl being attacked by someone who has only ever shown admiration for her. 

One thing I have wondered is whether she will realise Bran's skinchanging of Hodor before Jojen. No one can ever know, he thinks to himself in ADwD, Bran III, while he's doing it. Yet twice he has thought of using Hodor as a means to express affection to Meera - once to say "I love you" and once to hug her. Perhaps the third time he does it, he simply end up revealing himself and that will lead into her telling him to stop doing it... only for her to go back on it and ask him to do sometime in the future?

Only that's the thing. Bran isn't innocent.

He caught Jaime and Cersei having sex (though it's unclear how much he remembers that). What he DOES remember, however, is Joseth (who was master of horse) having sex with a serving girl during the Winterfell harvest feast in ACoK. So he understands the 'birds and bees' as it were.

Several times, Bran refers to Meera's breasts (or lack thereof), which could be George mucking up, or it could show Bran is a bit further down the road than most kids his age.

Will he end up having sex with Meera through Hodor, thus going through the last of the three abominations Varamyr mentions? I have no idea. I mean, I hope not, but GRRM is the sort of writer who would do that to us.

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5 hours ago, Seams said:

Great topic and very nice OP.

Have you thought about the comparison between the water flowing in the walls of Winterfell and the underground river? I think there is a motif around all flowing water being part of the flow of life or history or something -- that it's all connected. So you are right to keep an eye (so to speak) on the God's Eye but I bet we need to link the Milkwater and Trident (Meera's frog spear) and even the Rhoyne and Mander to Jojen's underground river. (There's probably also a link between Brynden Rivers and Brynden Tully, of Riverrun, who finds an underwater way to escape the castle unknown to anyone else, slipping out under the siege of the Freys and Jaime Lannister.)

No, I had not considered this.

Admittedly, it's a little broad for the scope I was - and still am - considering. My main concern was specifically with the underground river as it related purely in regards to Bran's story. Jojen dreamed of a river yet it did not materialise until they reached BR's cave, indicating a pay off is something soon. So, my focus was more on how it may move forward rather than an overarching relation between rivers in general. It makes sense that all the subterranean caves and rivers would be connected so you could be right. I don't think Bran's crew would follow the path that far out, though, just back to the other side of the Wall at most.

Quote

 

Bran also claims that he knows of paths around and through Winterfell (and up the walls, of course) that no one else knows how to find or follow. Sounds similar to the cave / tunnel network described by Ygritte.


 

I have certainly toyed with the possibility that the crypts of Winterfell might be linked to Gorne's Way so it would be interesting.

Quote

 

If the wolf-flow-fowl wordplay is a clue, my guess is that Jojen has been working toward this river flow all his life, just as Robb Stark was destined to find the wolf pups and Bran was destined to find the fowl known as the Three Eyed Crow. You quoted these passages:

Jojen's eyes were a dark green, the color of moss ...

(ADwD, Bran I)

Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers.

(ADwD, Bran III)

 

 

My only reservation there is that Jojen only mentioned the underground river once, the night they spent at the Nightfort, after Sam came back. He had hit a roadblock and was looking for an answer as he settled down to sleep. When he woke, he suddenly mentions the river. The fact it never came up before makes me suspect this was the first time it ever occurred to Jojen as a possibility. I'm not against the idea that the river means more to Jojen but, to me, it is just the next step of the journey that will lead them to the underground (his metaphorical Styx) rather than something he has been working towards his whole life. I'm not sure I would go that far at this point... though if there is a pay off with the underground river it would be interesting if it had been significant to Jojen himself.

Quote

 

If I were making a bet, I would guess that Jojen is the one who will stay in the cave or river or somehow go "inside the wood," not Bran.

 

:o

While I can't say I'm convinced at this point, that would be very interesting. Jojen does fit the descriptions Bloodraven gives more than Bran does and it would be a neat little twist if Bran was the one BR taught but Jojen was he one who "went into the wood" as it were.

Quote

 

I suspect we are supposed to link Qhorin, Yoren and Gorne. They lead heroes along paths and then die, leaving the heroes in holes or caves when their work is done. Maybe Jojen is part of that group, even if his name doesn't rhyme as well. "Gendel" could be wordplay on "legend," telling us that endless linked tunnels are like stories from oral tradition. But Gendel is almost certainly linked through wordplay to the Gardens of Gelenei, located in the city of canals (perhaps comparable to Jojen's underground river) and to the Isle of Leng, for what it's worth:

Down here the steps grew narrower and steeper, but the girl had run up and down them a thousand times and they held no terrors for her. Twenty-two more steps and they were at the subcellar. The tunnels here were cramped and crooked, black wormholes twisting through the heart of the great rock. ... This stair was unknown to her, however, and that made it perilous. One-and-twenty two-and-twenty three-and-twenty. With every step the air seemed to grow a little colder. When her count reached thirty she knew that they were under even the canals. ...

There was no haste, so she decide to take the long way round to the Purple Harbor. Across the bridge she went, to the Isle of the Gods. ... The statue outside the shrine of the Weeping Lady of Lys was crying silver tears as the ugly girl walked by. In the Gardens of Gelenei stood a gilded tree a hundred feet high with leaves of hammered silver. Torchlight glimmered behind windows of leaded glass in the Lord of Harmony's wooden hall, showing half a hundred kinds of butterflies in all of their bright colors.

(ADwD, The Ugly Little Girl)

In the depth of the island's jungles are strange ruined cities, with massive, fallen buildings. The buildings are so overgrown with plants that only rubble is visible, but underground are endless labyrinths of tunnels that lead to vast chambers, and carved steps descend hundreds of feet into the earth. No one knows when these cities were built or by whom, and perhaps they are the only thing remaining of some extinct people. Those who entered the underground ruins often returned mad, and even today it is forbidden to enter them, under penalty of death.

(from the wiki page for Leng, paraphrasing TWOIAF, The Bones and Beyond)

One more thought on Gendel and on guides for heroes. You cited this passage:

"Gendel did not die. He cut his way free, through the crows, and led his people back north with the wolves howling at their heels. Only Gendel did not know the caves as Gorne had, and took a wrong turn." She swept the torch back and forth, so the shadows jumped and moved. "Deeper he went, and deeper, and when he tried t' turn back the ways that seemed familiar ended in stone rather than sky.

(ASoS, Jon III)

 

When things are that far removed from each other, though, I tend to think that there might be a symbolic connection between these things - rather than a literal one. For the Stark siblings to encounter similar things and trials makes sense.

Quote

 

This immediately clicked (funny how I say "immediately" when I mean, "I never noticed this on half-a-dozen rereads") as an allusion to the way castles leading to the Eyrie. The three castles are named stone, snow and sky. So Ygritte may be giving Jon a warning similar to the "to go south, you must go north" directions given to Dany: you might think you are going toward sky (up) but you are actually going to stone (down). The guide who leads Sansa on the path at the Eyrie is named Mya Stone and she is, of course, the first-born bastard of Robert Baratheon. And we already noted that Bloodraven's original surname was the bastard name Rivers. So I started to think about other guides or mentors for heroes and whether they are also bastards - we don't know about the back story of the Night's Watch brother named Stone Snake, but the natural daughters of Oberyn Martell are called Sand Snakes, so a snake name could have a bastard association. Flowers? Storm? Hill? Pyke?

The other thought that occurred to me after you cited that Gendel passage is that the flow-wolf-fowl wordplay suggests water, land and sky, similar to the stone, snow and sky waycastles but perhaps also alluding to ancient beliefs that there had to be a similar beast in each realm - for instance, narwhals exist, therefore unicorns must also exist somewhere on land and there must be a horned beast somewhere in the sky as well. In ASOIAF, I suspect that krakens, direwolves and dragons are one grouping; squishers, Others and bats might be another trio? I'm thinking of giant, Danelle Lothston-style bats.

Anyway. Thanks for a stimulating read and a nudge toward other fun tangents.

 

They are all interesting ideas. I'm pleased to have got your juices flowing! :D

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4 minutes ago, Faera said:

When things are that far removed from each other, though, I tend to think that there might be a symbolic connection between these things - rather than a literal one. For the Stark siblings to encounter similar things and trials makes sense.

Yes, many of these connections would  be symbolic. Sorry I was unclear.

And Jojen's destiny of going to an underground river wasn't necessarily a conscious search before the dream you mentioned. Just as Robb had no inkling that there would be five pups meant for the Stark children until he came across them.

But it's all good. The literal scope of the river is also interesting.

Cheers.

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7 minutes ago, Seams said:

Yes, many of these connections would  be symbolic. Sorry I was unclear.

And Jojen's destiny of going to an underground river wasn't necessarily a conscious search before the dream you mentioned. Just as Robb had no inkling that there would be five pups meant for the Stark children until he came across them.

But it's all good. The literal scope of the river is also interesting.

Cheers.

Aha, sorry, just got in from a party so I'm worried I'm not being clear either. :P I guess what I mean by the river turning out to be more to Jojen than a physical thing he has encountered in the waking world that appeared in his dreams is that fact that of these characters - Robb, Jon, Bran etc. - who have also done things they were perhaps led towards Jojen is one of the few who could actually try and explain the significance as well. Robb had no chance of understanding it, Jon and Bran... slightly more but not completely. Jojen has always been weirdly ahead of the game so these sorts of connections might be clearer to him. Gosh, I hope I'm making sense! 

Either way I'm thrilled that what I wrote has sparked so much more thoughts than just the general overview of what I think might be going on and building up for a payoff in Bran's chapters. :D

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5 hours ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

Several times, Bran refers to Meera's breasts (or lack thereof), which could be George mucking up, or it could show Bran is a bit further down the road than most kids his age.

It's true that Bran does like watching her pretty much from the off. He blushes when she catches him looking at the harvest feast, he watches her interesting tussle with Summer, he thinks about her supple grace as she walks and how he likes to watch her fish, admiring her swiftness. Then, there's the several paragraphs dedicated to Bran wishing it was him climbing up the Wall to the tune of watching Meera until he literally can't see her anymore... but that's all. Looking.

Even when it comes to touch he's never wanted to do more than hug her and that was comfort her when she was crying. That's really what I meant by innocent - he has no bad intentions towards her or ever thought about her in an, let's say, intrusive way.

Quote

Will he end up having sex with Meera through Hodor, thus going through the last of the three abominations Varamyr mentions? I have no idea. I mean, I hope not, but GRRM is the sort of writer who would do that to us.

If GRRM had kept the five-year-gap that would have aged Bran up to his mid-to-late teens, I might have agreed. Had we been talking about a fifteen or sixteen-year-old Bran then perhaps this relationship would have taken that turn. The notion of a ten-year-old doing that...? No. Not only would it be out of character for the Bran we've seen so far but I just don't think GRRM would go down that road and it would be destroying a perfectly good and sweet relationship for all I can see is shock value.

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32 minutes ago, Faera said:

It's true that Bran does like watching her pretty much from the off. He blushes when she catches him looking at the harvest feast, he watches her interesting tussle with Summer, he thinks about her supple grace as she walks and how he likes to watch her fish, admiring her swiftness. Then, there's the several paragraphs dedicated to Bran wishing it was him climbing up the Wall to the tune of watching Meera until he literally can't see her anymore... but that's all. Looking.

Even when it comes to touch he's never wanted to do more than hug her and that was comfort her when she was crying. That's really what I meant by innocent - he has no bad intentions towards her or ever thought about her in an, let's say, intrusive way.

If GRRM had kept the five-year-gap that would have aged Bran up to his mid-to-late teens, I might have agreed. Had we been talking about a fifteen or sixteen-year-old Bran then perhaps this relationship would have taken that turn. The notion of a ten-year-old doing that...? No. Not only would it be out of character for the Bran we've seen so far but I just don't think GRRM would go down that road and it would be destroying a perfectly good and sweet relationship for all I can see is shock value.

I suppose you're right. I still only trust GRRM as far as I can throw though

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1 hour ago, Giant Ice Spider said:

I suppose you're right. I still only trust GRRM as far as I can throw though

I agree that it is something GRRM might have done had we had that time-jump. Based on his sci-if books it certainly is within the realms of possibility that he might have used Hodor as Bran’s proxy to have sex with Meera. It just doesn’t seem to fit with the story as it stands now.

That’s why I’ve toyed with the idea that she will work out that Bran is skin changing Hodor. 

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Ah very very nice, @Faera!   I even tried to quote pieces of the OP but somehow lost my way in this brave new forum look.   So I will try to do your lovely OP some justice in my comments and questions as this is quite a question, isn't it?   

Let's get to the point that really turned me on.   That bit about there possibly being COTF in the ways beneath the cave.   BRILLIANT!  I'm asking myself why I've always assumed the Crannogmen are the only people the Singers would have interbred with.  As you illustrated so well, Leaf tells us explicitly on no uncertain terms what happens to the COTF.  For a mostly non-symbolic kinda guy I can't even begin to wonder why we've never taken the words literally?    Good grief that's fabulous.  

The entire OP was ripe with possibility.  As you are aware, I have given some thought to the kids' departure from the cave and am with you 100% with an underground exit.   I haven't made up my mind if it will be by water or land, but it will be subterranean.  What say you?

Getting Bran physically out of the cave may be a temporary problem, though I have no doubt it is possible.  At the risk of bringing medium other than books up--any cataclysm could drop the floor of the cave or open hidden passages.   In any event, Hodor is remarkably strong and can haul any of his companions in a sort of dumb waiter type vehicle.  There are options aplenty for getting the company out in tact.   Who knows?   There may well be a door...

Faera, I could and have gone on for days about this and I absolutely love everything you've put forth so well in this topic.   Well done!   

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2 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

Ah very very nice, @Faera!   I even tried to quote pieces of the OP but somehow lost my way in this brave new forum look.   So I will try to do your lovely OP some justice in my comments and questions as this is quite a question, isn't it?   

 

Thank you! I was anticipating your contribution since you were a response I could count on. I fear my interest in this is a bit of a niche subject. :P

2 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

 Let's get to the point that really turned me on.   That bit about there possibly being COTF in the ways beneath the cave.   BRILLIANT! I'm asking myself why I've always assumed the Crannogmen are the only people the Singers would have interbred with.  As you illustrated so well, Leaf tells us explicitly on no uncertain terms what happens to the COTF.  For a mostly non-symbolic kinda guy I can't even begin to wonder why we've never taken the words literally?    Good grief that's fabulous.  

I do think the crannogmen's culture overlaps with the singers. Whether or not the humans and singers interbred at all or the crannogmen are the result of such a liaison, Jojen and Meera seem to have a much easier time taking in the knowledge that Bloodraven has to impart than Bran is. When Bran is unsure about something, he asks them.

As for why we tend to look at what Leaf says about the rest of her people being "down into the earth... into the stones, into the trees" and think she simply means they are all dead, I think it's because of what BR and Jojen each said.  "But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers." says BR, and "When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered... When singers die they become part of that godhood." says Jojen. So, we have the preconceived notion that "going into" something is singer/CotF-talk for entering the godhood upon death. They really hammer that in so we don't really think about a more literal reading that going into the wood refers to the living singers Bran-Hodor find, or the stone and earth refers to the caves and tunnels below the earth. At least, that's what I think.

2 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

 The entire OP was ripe with possibility.  As you are aware, I have given some thought to the kids' departure from the cave and am with you 100% with an underground exit.   I haven't made up my mind if it will be by water or land, but it will be subterranean.  What say you?

It depends how much shore there is to follow the river. It might be that they have to switch at different points. There was mention of a sunless sea... what if they had to cross it? Or travel the river like countless heroes in Indo-European tales who journey to the underworld as part of their hero's journey. While we cannot rule out walking, it would certain be interesting if there was a fair bit of water involved in the journey. What do you think? I want to stop myself from getting carried away with the whole "trip to the underworld" mytheme but it really is tempting when GRRM has offered it on a plate to me like this! :drool:

2 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

 Getting Bran physically out of the cave may be a temporary problem, though I have no doubt it is possible.  At the risk of bringing medium other than books up--any cataclysm could drop the floor of the cave or open hidden passages.   In any event, Hodor is remarkably strong and can haul any of his companions in a sort of dumb waiter type vehicle.  There are options aplenty for getting the company out in tact.   Who knows?   There may well be a door...

Well, as I said above, I think they cracked the case in getting Bran down there. While Hodor would not be able to carry Bran down with him on his back (I'm actually starting to wonder if Bran is getting too big for he basket, too), he could lower him with the rope. They achieved the reverse with Jojen as Bran-via-Hodor pulled him back up by tying the rope around him. While a little harder with Bran due to him being close to a dead-weight because of his legs, they could still tie the rope around his waist and lower him down. Hodor is definitely strong enough to do that and could then climb down himself after. 

I doubt there will be a door in the cave though if the singers - or even human beings - have made homes in the tunnels below the earth then I could believe there is an exit somewhere where an accursed literal door might be. 

2 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

 Faera, I could and have gone on for days about this and I absolutely love everything you've put forth so well in this topic.   Well done!   

Well, I'm excited to hear anything you might have to say. This is only my second topic so I was still apprehensive about posting though no where near as bad as the Bran-Hodor one. 

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I have long thought that the underground river is possibly Gorme's Way and that Bran and his party will use it to get south of the Wall.  My guess is that it comes out in the gorge below the Bridge of Skulls, although it could come out near the Bay of Ice.  I think Bran will end up at Winterfell eventually.   I don't really see Jojen or Meera making it back to Greywater Watch anytime soon.

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@Faera--you're an old hat at this now.   You already know most of what I think.   It bugs me that Jojen sits at the mouth of the cave and yah, i really do wonder what he's waiting for.   Odd place to hang out, you know?   

As you know, I've looked at the 3 possible rivers an underground river could connect to.   We've got the Milkwater, which is my best guess for a real way out, but also the Antler which will take them round about over by Hardhome and that unnamed river that leads right up to the Lands of Always Winter.  Have you got a guess or is this way off base?    When considering a river, well any subterranean travel, you have to consider mode of transport.   Sure they can walk or float on a raft or something, but what light is there?   What of Gorne's children?  As I understand your OP, Jojen could in fact have regained his power to prognosticate.  Should we expect it to remain intact so long as they are underground or south of the Wall?   

Hey @Nevets!  If I remember correctly the Milkwater does go through the Bridge of Skulls.  Grab a map and take a look at the options as I would be very interested in your musings on all 3 routes of evacuation.  

 

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1 hour ago, Nevets said:

I have long thought that the underground river is possibly Gorme's Way and that Bran and his party will use it to get south of the Wall.  My guess is that it comes out in the gorge below the Bridge of Skulls, although it could come out near the Bay of Ice.  I think Bran will end up at Winterfell eventually.   I don't really see Jojen or Meera making it back to Greywater Watch anytime soon.

I like this idea! My thought is that these underground rivers, sunless seas and lakes might also act as sources for some of the terrarian rivers and lakes. 

I agree that Greywater Watch and, therefore, the Isle of Faces is A Dream of Spring territory. If Bran and his crew do go sailing down the underground river on their little journey to through the underworld, it would probably be one heck of an Odyssey and the process of leaving Bloodraven, taking that trip and coming out the other end together with Bran getting used to his powers will probably take up the majority of The Winds of Winter.

21 minutes ago, Curled Finger said:

@Faera--you're an old hat at this now.   You already know most of what I think.   It bugs me that Jojen sits at the mouth of the cave and yah, i really do wonder what he's waiting for.   Odd place to hang out, you know?   

Well, you were the first person to actually make me stop and think that Jojen might well be waiting for something to happen. I had questioned whether his dreams had returned and he might have seen something that made him sad but this "sentry duty" he's doing is a very sudden break in his routine. He goes from being on-hand to answer Bran's questions and assist in Bloodraven's training, to going with Meera to have a look at the underground river, to... brooding and spending hours upon hours just staring out the entrance. Why? I thought he was being a stick in the mud but after mulling it over and over I realised that he only started doing this after a while of being in the cave. I'm going to have to see if there is a hint of what might have prompted it.

24 minutes ago, Curled Finger said:

 As you know, I've looked at the 3 possible rivers an underground river could connect to.   We've got the Milkwater, which is my best guess for a real way out, but also the Antler which will take them round about over by Hardhome and that unnamed cave that leads right up to the Lands of Always Winter.  Have you got a guess or is this way off base?    When considering a river, well any subterranean travel, you have to consider mode of transport.  Sure they can walk or float on a raft or something, but what light is there?   What of Gorne's children?  As I understand your OP, Jojen could in fact have regained his power to prognosticate .  Should we expect it to remain intact so long as they are underground or south of the Wall?  

(I don't think Gorne's Children would be much of a threat... I wonder more if the "cries" aren't something else more mundane, or even just run of the mill singers. But hey - mole people would be fun, too! )

I put a couple of my thoughts above in my response to @Nevets that the river could be connected to - or even be a source for - several lakes or rivers of the North, meaning they could come out anywhere. Plus, I wonder if underneath it all it is connected to all terrainean rivers and lakes and thus seas. If all the tunnels are connected, why not the rivers both up and below ground?

As for light... that is my biggest stumbling block. It is one of the reasons why I factored in some more singers being below to help them. That said, there is this feeling that being in complete darkness might actually heighten Bran's abilities. Bran, Meera, Jojen and Hodor have all literally been in complete darkness before in the crypts. That was where Bran's third eye opened. Perhaps having their eyes taken away from them again and their sources of light being limited will mean dreams would come easier to Jojen while Meera's heightened senses will be even sharper to make up for her excellent eyesight being negated. There really does seem to be this theme of darkness and blindness aiding people as much as debilitating them. (Arya's blindness help her start skinchanging cats in order to get around it, after all! Goes in the various parallels @Seams suggested above with different characters and places sharing etymologies, themes and names). Then, while travelling to Bloodraven's cave, Coldhands limited the fires they could light and forbade them, forcing the group to sleep in cold and darkness because 'You cannot know what the light might summon from the darkness.' (ADwD, Bran I).

One of the more interesting lessons Bloodraven provides Bran with is about darkness:

"Never fear the darkness, Bran." The lord's words were accompanied by a faint rustling of wood and leaf, a slight twisting of his head. "The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong." (ADwD, Bran III).

The biggest concern is the navigation aspect, which is why I think having such a magically inclined team will be of help to them. Beneath the earth I speculate Jojen would be close enough to the weirwood roots to pick up any message the godhood might have for him and Bran is already skinchanging trees without physically having to "dial-up". Plus, if there is a connection between terrainean and subterranean water then Summer, who would likely have to make the return journey home above ground since it might be hard to get him down to the river, can also help them keep place above ground... if that makes sense. Pure speculation. I'm just trying to figure out how it would work.

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