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The Fattest Leech

Night's Watch vows and the truth of history.

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On 8/6/2018 at 9:02 AM, The Fattest Leech said:

Oooohhh reeeaalllly?????

In support of your premise here, note my signature.

It comes from an interview in which GRRM was talking specifically about the context of Rhaegar and Lyanna:

Quote

Rhaegar and Lyanna — well, that's a revelation that will need to wait for later volumes. But if you're uncertain about it, I am glad. One thing I wanted to do was suggest the uncertainty of truth. I mean, think about it — in our own world, we don't even know what happened between Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings — or between Bill Clinton and Paula Jones, for that matter. The truth of Rhaegar and Lyanna may be similarly elusive . . . for a time.

So those who maintain we already know the truth of Rhaegar and Lyanna are, I'm afraid to say, wildly mistaken. 

The very best anyone who is not living in GRRM's house can do -- based on the canon -- is make an educated guess.  Though some of us are better educated than others.

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I've been following this with fascination and almost chimed in several times. I'm afraid my main thought is too much of a tangent, but I don't want to start a new thread so I'll try to be relatively brief. (Brief, for me, is less than 10 paragraphs.)

I really like the idea from @bemused that Jon and the Wall have become one:
 

Quote

 

In my various ramblings and musings about Jon, I became convinced of a distinct sort of symbiosis between Jon and the wall . . . Jon sees himself reflected "inside the wall"... and so on.

It seems to me that Jon, among all others bearing Stark blood, is who is needed to command at the wall (or walls)  at this time of crisis. He and the wall are equal parts of the magic... e.g., Benjen is equally Stark but not a skinchanger, Bran is a skinchanger but has developed (was destined?) for another purpose and something the same can be said of Jon's other "siblings".

We see Jon's reasoning in the text as he wrestles with understanding the oath, but whatever his mental processes, I think there's also something innate that draws him to the proper (or most magically sound) conclusion.

 

 

I think Jon's unique blood isn't his Stark blood, it's his combination of Stark and Targaryen blood. @The Fattest Leech pointed out this line, and I think it may be one of those HUGE hints that GRRM drops and readers tend to overlook on the first eleventy-six re-reads:

He had once heard his uncle Benjen say that the Wall was a sword east of Castle Black, but a snake to the west. It was true.

(ASoS, Jon IV)

Jon is the first person for generations - or, maybe, ever - who represents the sword and the snake. I am guessing that the sword is the Stark sword Ice and the snake represents the dragon. (Or that's what GRRM wants us to think, anyway.) The sword and the snake come together at Castle Black, according to Benjen. Does that mean Castle Black is symbolic of Jon Snow, the child (we are guessing) of sword and snake, Lyanna and Rhaegar? What if Benjen was off in his geography, and the two ends of the Wall actually join at the Night Fort and the Black Gate? Is Jon the gate? Is he the tunnel where Donal Noye and the giant fought?

In past posts, I have speculated that GRRM wants us to compare shields and doors. (Look at Brienne getting her shield painted in Duskendale for the best example of this motif.) So the shield that guards the realms of men may be guarding when he opens a door (for the wildlings to come through).

Anyway. Tangent.

Having broached the possibility of door opening as a special function of the Night's Watch (or of Jon), the other thought I had is to follow up on your link between the Night's Watch oath and the King's Guard oath. In that Dunk & Egg re-read, I persuaded myself that Jaime is about to open a door that can only be opened by a member of the King's Guard (or maybe the Rainbow Guard, if that is truly Brienne who came to lure him away at Pennytree). Here's the most relevant comment on that topic:

Edited by Seams

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@Seams and @bemused thanks for the contributions. I will read a little more later, but wow, the door issue is very interesting. 

Another thing I noticed a few days ago regarding the old ways waking again, and remembering whooooo you are/your name, is the parallels in Dany’s HotU scene when those old Bakkalon’s get her to recognize her identity.  

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On 8/13/2018 at 11:19 AM, Seams said:

I think Jon's unique blood isn't his Stark blood, it's his combination of Stark and Targaryen blood. @The Fattest Leech pointed out this line, and I think it may be one of those HUGE hints that GRRM drops and readers tend to overlook on the first eleventy-six re-reads:

He had once heard his uncle Benjen say that the Wall was a sword east of Castle Black, but a snake to the west. It was true.

(ASoS, Jon IV)

Jon is the first person for generations - or, maybe, ever - who represents the sword and the snake. I am guessing that the sword is the Stark sword Ice and the snake represents the dragon.

I see it as sort of two levels of uniqueness. ... (Oh gods, will that make it a dark version of "A unicorn riding a unicorn over a rainbow" ? :lmao:) .. pardon me.

What I mean to say is, I think GRRM is poised to reveal Jon as his version of a wolf berserker or ulfheddin. Berserkers were "Odin's men" ... Jon is the old gods' man .. or if you prefer, Bloodraven's man.  If this pans out, that would make Jon unique among his generation of Stark skinchangers, but I'm not entirely prepared to attribute it to his Targaryen blood (though that may provide a bit of augmentation). I say this because I suspect that some of the more implacable or fierce historic Starks may have shared this attribute, without any Targaryen connection at all. ( E.g., there are vague hints in the superstitious beliefs put forth by various characters about Robb. They must be tapping into some common myths.)

But I think Jon's unique combination of Stark and Targaryen blood my be of vital importance when it comes to whether he will be a new version of The Last Hero. Here Jon's additional different magical component may hold the possibility of finishing what the Last Hero started - permanently defeating the Others instead of greatly weakening them or holding them in abeyance.

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2 hours ago, bemused said:

But I think Jon's unique combination of Stark and Targaryen blood my be of vital importance when it comes to whether he will be a new version of The Last Hero. Here Jon's additional different magical component may hold the possibility of finishing what the Last Hero started - permanently defeating the Others instead of greatly weakening them or holding them in abeyance.

I have so many (crackpot :lol:) ideas that I have been working on elsewhere that fall right in line with this. Maybe when I get Home I will get it together here. 

I do wonder if Planetos is due for a major societal shift, something to permanently stop the imbalance... but also something that goes beyond just the seasons. Something that calls back to the Black Gate and the basic premise of who you are, not what your “station” is. 

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Excellent thread!

Speaking of the Night's Watch vow, I'm surprised that this quote from ADwD has not been brought up here (or maybe I missed it somehow, but here it is anyway):

With their black hoods and thick black cowls, the six might have been carved from shadow. Their voices rose together, small against the vastness of the night. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins," they said, as thousands had said before them. Satin's voice was sweet as song, Horse's hoarse and halting, Arron's a nervous squeak. "It shall not end until my death."

...

"I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children," the recruits promised, in voices that echoed back through years and centuries. "I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post."

...

"I am the sword in the darkness," said the six, and it seemed to Jon as though their voices were changing, growing stronger, more certain. "I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men."

The "years and centuries" bit is especially interesting when the vow is supposed to be thousands of years old. Then their voices grow stronger and more certain when they reach the "I am the sword..." part. 

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18 minutes ago, Julia H. said:

Excellent thread!

Speaking of the Night's Watch vow, I'm surprised that this quote from ADwD has not been brought up here (or maybe I missed it somehow, but here it is anyway):

With their black hoods and thick black cowls, the six might have been carved from shadow. Their voices rose together, small against the vastness of the night. "Night gathers, and now my watch begins," they said, as thousands had said before them. Satin's voice was sweet as song, Horse's hoarse and halting, Arron's a nervous squeak. "It shall not end until my death."

...

"I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children," the recruits promised, in voices that echoed back through years and centuries. "I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post."

...

"I am the sword in the darkness," said the six, and it seemed to Jon as though their voices were changing, growing stronger, more certain. "I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men."

The "years and centuries" bit is especially interesting when the vow is supposed to be thousands of years old. Then their voices grow stronger and more certain when they reach the "I am the sword..." part. 

Thank you, thank you, thank you. 

Wow, these are great quotes. 

A few days ago I had some other scenes come to mind that show how the Watch is going back to the old ways. I will update the main op again later today when I get back to my computer. 

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And it just made me think of something else that I've always found intriguing. It's a totally OT a bit of a tangent... 

It's in ADwD, and it's Jon thinking that for a thousand years or more  a long horn blast had meant brothers returning. 

The explanation people usually offer is that "a thousand years" is a sort of shorthand for long ago. But I don't find this explanation satisfactory. Jon is a crow, and a northerner (even if Dornish by birth), he knows more about the histories and stories of the NW and the Wall better than most. So why one thousand yrs? I know it's probably nothing, but I find it curious. 

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26 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

Fucking great catch, @Julia H.!!! :thumbsup:

Not my catch though, I must say. I think it was @bemused who called my attention to it once upon a time in an old thread. 

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Not letting me edit the post above, so... here's the passage below. It makes me think of something I've been saying since Dance came out, and what @The Fattest Leech said above. That the Watch is going to become true to its purpose again, and that is due to all the FM blood of the Free Folk. 

ADwD, Jon XII

Seven hundred feet above, the sentries heard and raised their warhorns to their lips. The sound rang out, echoing off the Wall and out across the world. Ahoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo. One long blast. For a thousand years or more, that sound had meant rangers coming home. Today it meant something else. Today it called the free folk to their new homes.

 

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2 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

And it just made me think of something else that I've always found intriguing. It's a totally OT a bit of a tangent... 

It's in ADwD, and it's Jon thinking that for a thousand years or more  a long horn blast had meant brothers returning. 

The explanation people usually offer is that "a thousand years" is a sort of shorthand for long ago. But I don't find this explanation satisfactory. Jon is a crow, and a northerner (even if Dornish by birth), he knows more about the histories and stories of the NW and the Wall better than most. So why one thousand yrs? I know it's probably nothing, but I find it curious. 

I was part of a discussion a couple of years ago of the "a thousand years" phrase, and what it might mean. The initial thinking came from @Macgregor of the North, who wanted to explore the idea of Bran as a time traveler. My own thinking was more along the lines that the use of the "thousand years" phrase in the text signals a character reenacting events of one of the ancient legends.

In this case, Jon is about to allow the wildling refugees to come through the Wall and settle at Castle Black and join the watch. My guess would be that this is an echo of Nymeria bringing her refugees from the Rhoyne and being welcomed by House Martell.

As a narrator, he does throw in the "or more" with the reference to "a thousand years." So the timeline issue is addressed, albeit vaguely. The phrase is not evidence of Jon forgetting the history of the watch, but may be a signal to readers that one of the old stories is coming back to life.

 

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2 hours ago, kissdbyfire said:

And it just made me think of something else that I've always found intriguing. It's a totally OT a bit of a tangent... 

It's in ADwD, and it's Jon thinking that for a thousand years or more  a long horn blast had meant brothers returning. 

The explanation people usually offer is that "a thousand years" is a sort of shorthand for long ago. But I don't find this explanation satisfactory. Jon is a crow, and a northerner (even if Dornish by birth), he knows more about the histories and stories of the NW and the Wall better than most. So why one thousand yrs? I know it's probably nothing, but I find it curious. 

Sorry, that's really just over-interpreting things. We do know that 'a thousand years' is used all the time for 'very long ago'. Arianne and Daemon Sand talk about the Mudds being kings of the Riverlands 'a thousand years' ago, and Children of the Forest living in the Rainwood 'a thousand years' ago - which is all nonsense if taken literally.

3 hours ago, Julia H. said:

The "years and centuries" bit is especially interesting when the vow is supposed to be thousands of years old. Then their voices grow stronger and more certain when they reach the "I am the sword..." part. 

I'd read that as a bunch of young people being uncertain/timid about making as serious a pledge as the NW vows and then getting more and more confident while they are doing this. Just like some children get more confident when they sing a song after they have gotten beyond a certain point (when it no longer appears to be silly).

Taking this as 'evidence' for a very specific change in the vows is more than grasping at straws.

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30 minutes ago, Seams said:

I was part of a discussion a couple of years ago of the "a thousand years" phrase, and what it might mean. The initial thinking came from @Macgregor of the North, who wanted to explore the idea of Bran as a time traveler.

To be honest, the whole time travelling bit is something I've seen people bring up over the years in connection to all sorts of things, and not once have I read a compelling argument to support it. 

30 minutes ago, Seams said:

My own thinking was more along the lines that the use of the "thousand years" phrase in the text signals a character reenacting events of one of the ancient legends.

In this case, Jon is about to allow the wildling refugees to come through the Wall and settle at Castle Black and join the watch. My guess would be that this is an echo of Nymeria bringing her refugees from the Rhoyne and being welcomed by House Martell.

As a narrator, he does throw in the "or more" with the reference to "a thousand years." So the timeline issue is addressed, albeit vaguely. The phrase is not evidence of Jon forgetting the history of the watch, but may be a signal to readers that one of the old stories is coming back to life. 

Now, this is super intersting! I can't wait to read the thread you linked below. 

30 minutes ago, Seams said:

 

:cheers:

8 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Sorry, that's really just over-interpreting things. We do know that 'a thousand years' is used all the time for 'very long ago'. Arianne and Daemon Sand talk about the Mudds being kings of the Riverlands 'a thousand years' ago, and Children of the Forest living in the Rainwood 'a thousand years' ago - which is all nonsense if taken literally.

I'd read that as a bunch of young people being uncertain/timid about making as serious a pledge as the NW vows and then getting more and more confident while they are doing this. Just like some children get more confident when they sing a song after they have gotten beyond a certain point (when it no longer appears to be silly).

Taking this as 'evidence' for a very specific change in the vows is more than grasping at straws.

As the young ones say, OMFG!!!! 

We are completely disagreeing on something b/c you refuse to see past the literal. But only when it suits you, of course. :)

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6 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

I'd read that as a bunch of young people being uncertain/timid about making as serious a pledge as the NW vows and then getting more and more confident while they are doing this. Just like some children get more confident when they sing a song after they have gotten beyond a certain point (when it no longer appears to be silly).

Taking this as 'evidence' for a very specific change in the vows is more than grasping at straws.

"Years and centuries" is a very specific choice of words, and it stands out in connection with an organization whose 8 thousand years of history is constantly emphasized. The new recruits could be just as timid if their voices echoed through millennia, but the author somehow chose to say "years and centuries". If they are simply getting more confident later, then there is no reason to tell us which parts are recited with more confidence. But we are told and it just happens to be the part that Sam uses to open the magical gate, the part that is most often cited, the part which appears to be the core of the vow. In this context, using "years and centuries" with reference to the other part of the vow is a strange coincidence. If it is a coincidence.   

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3 minutes ago, kissdbyfire said:

As the young ones say, OMFG!!!! 

We are completely disagreeing on something b/c you refuse to see past the literal. But only when it suits you, of course. :)

I accept subtle hints when there are some such, but what's the point in looking for symbolic hints possibly supporting a crackpot theory when there are no subtle or direct hints actually pointing towards that theory?

If you do that, you can basically justify any fringe theory there is - like many people out there actually do.

2 minutes ago, Julia H. said:

"Years and centuries" is a very specific choice of words, and it stands out in connection with an organization whose 8 thousand years of history is constantly emphasized. The new recruits could be just as timid if their voices echoed through millennia, but the author somehow chose to say "years and centuries". If they are simply getting more confident later, then there is no reason to tell us which parts are recited with more confidence. But we are told and it just happens to be the part that Sam uses to open the magical gate, the part that is most often cited, the part which appears to be the core of the vow. In this context, using "years and centuries" with reference to the other part of the vow is a strange coincidence. If it is a coincidence.   

If the author wanted to indicate that the vows changed overtime in a certain way he could just give us actual hints, rather than have us figure things out by closely focusing on things which might be just coincidence.

I mean, the narrator usually closely follows the perceptions and thoughts of the POV. Are we believing that Jon Snow knows how the vows supposedly changed?

And it is, of course, the case that the core content of the vows come only after some introductory sentences.

In fact, if you look at the vows in detail one would actually expect the most important clauses to come at the beginning rather than the end. If one adds things one tends to add those things at the ending, not the beginning. But the way it is the whole thing is pretty round the way it is.

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1 minute ago, Lord Varys said:

If the author wanted to indicate that the vows changed overtime in a certain way he could just give us actual hints, rather than have us figure things out by closely focusing on things which might be just coincidence.

I mean, the narrator usually closely follows the perceptions and thoughts of the POV. Are we believing that Jon Snow knows how the vows supposedly changed?

I think you have answered your own question here. The author does not reveal directly anything that the POV character does not know or notice, but he can give us subtle hints through the choice of words, and such hints make the text richer. If you don't believe in the existence of these hints, I won't convince you. Read in your own way, I will read in mine.   

1 minute ago, Lord Varys said:

And it is, of course, the case that the core content of the vows come only after some introductory sentences.

In fact, if you look at the vows in detail one would actually expect the most important clauses to come at the beginning rather than the end. If one adds things one tends to add those things at the ending, not the beginning. But the way it is the whole thing is pretty round the way it is.

Well, it does not seem to be the case here. Call it an exception if you will - but where to add things in a text depends on the individual decision of whoever extends the text, and the person may have a specific reason to rewrite the text in a specific way. The NW vow is not a text of folklore, which would develop in a "spontaneous" way. Someone formulated it and made it canon. If its text was indeed changed, then it was probably more like rewriting than just extension. Perhaps they wanted it to sound "pretty round", as you say, because it was considered to be an important text. It can only be expected that, if the vow is ever changed, the changes aren't just random "afterthoughts" added to the end of the original text, but careful modifications serving and emphasizing a certain goal.  

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8 minutes ago, Julia H. said:

I think you have answered your own question here. The author does not reveal directly anything that the POV character does not know or notice, but he can give us subtle hints through the choice of words, and such hints make the text richer. If you don't believe in the existence of these hints, I won't convince you. Read in your own way, I will read in mine.   

I'm curious - can you give me any examples where this kind of thing is actually done by the author? A thing where the author hints at a rather complicated fact merely with the choice of words?

In my experience, people usually cite such things as 'evidence' when there is nothing else to be found.

8 minutes ago, Julia H. said:

Well, it does not seem to be the case here. Call it an exception if you will - but where to add things in a text depends on the individual decision of whoever extends the text, and the person may have a specific reason to rewrite the text in a specific way. The NW vow is not a text of folklore, which would develop in a "spontaneous" way. Someone formulated it and made it canon. If its text was indeed changed, then it was probably more like rewriting than just extension. Perhaps they wanted it to sound "pretty round", as you say, because it was considered to be an important text. It can only be expected that, if the vow is ever changed, the changes aren't just random "afterthoughts" added to the end of the original text, but careful modifications serving and emphasizing a certain goal.  

The NW vow isn't a text as such. It is oral tradition. Nobody ever reads it from a piece of paper or parchment.

Since it is a vow it would have always been repeated with utmost respect and accuracy. People would just sit down and carefully change it like scribes might change or rewrite written documents. Such vows might be changed at the ending - it is easier to enlarge something at the end than glue something at the beginning and change that.

Just think how difficult it would be to change the beginning of a well-known song or rhyme. You can add another verse or strophe, but it would be a very radical change to change the beginning.

And the whole beginning is very powerful and completely in accord with everything we know about the NW. There is no reason to believe that it didn't start always with 'Night gathers and now my Watch begins.' It shows the commitment of the man taking the vow. And of course it makes sense to specify what this commitment means before you go to the part what they actually do.

Starting with 'I am the sword in the darkness' etc. wouldn't make much sense since that and the other stuff isn't a vow.

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