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Karlshammar

The Others and the Sidhe

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This is a post I originally wrote to answer a question on another forum about what we thought GRRM would do to make the Others more interesting:

 

I think we'll find out that they are operating under the belief that they are engaged in a struggle to protect their homes. GRRM has described the Others as:

strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.

 

According to Wikipedia:

The aos sí [...] older form aes sídhe

 

Some sources describe them as the survivors of the Tuatha Dé Danann who retreated into the Otherworld [...] As part of the terms of their surrender to the Milesians, the Tuatha Dé Danann agreed to retreat and dwell underground.

(In Irish mythology, the Milesians were the humans who became the final inhabitants of Ireland.)
Underground or behind the Wall? And the Otherworld sounds a fit abode for the Others.

In folk belief and practice, the aos sí are often appeased with offerings, and care is taken to avoid angering or insulting them. Often they are not named directly, but rather spoken of as "The Good Neighbors", "The Fair Folk", or simply "The Folk".

Craster's sons as offerings? Not named directly - simply "The Others"? Or White Walkers?

 

The aos sí are generally described as stunningly beautiful, though they can also be terrible and hideous.

Fits the Others to a tee.

 

So why do I think they are engaged in defense?

Aos sí are seen as fierce guardians of their abodes—whether a fairy hill, a fairy ring, a special tree (often a hawthorn) or a particular loch or wood. It is believed that infringing on these spaces will cause the aos sí to retaliate in an effort to remove the people or objects that invaded their homes.

 

Another thing they engage in is:

Many of these tales contribute to the changeling myth in west European folklore, with the aos sí kidnapping trespassers or replacing their children with changelings as a punishment for transgressing.

Craster's sons again?

The aos sí are often connected to certain times of year and hours

"Winter is coming."

 

To go a bit further, what may have awakened them?

Those who maintain some degree of belief in the aos sí also are aware to leave their sacred places alone and protect them from damage through road or housing construction.

Who knows what the wildlings have been up to up there? But after eight thousand years, I'd wager some of their knowledge of the Others has been lost, and they may have inadvertently trespassed on or even ruined some lands or property of the Others.

Those who went into the north of the world are the supernaturally-gifted Tuatha Dé Danann (or Tuath Dé), who represent the main pagan gods of Ireland.

There's a host more material on the sidhe in hundreds of books, so I think there's likely to be a lot more information to be found there, if anyone's interested.

Edited by Karlshammar
Removed unnecessary and distracting sentence.

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I don't see how you got the impression that they are near-mindless zombies. They are obviously very intelligent and organized. They have a language, they make swords and armor and know how to use them, they track and stalk their targets and choose when and where to attack...

The wights are mindless zombies. The Others are anything but.

They could very well be trying to protect their homeland. If they do come from the Land of Always Winter and the Long Summer has left it in a state of constant daylight for more than a decade, then the ice sheet that they call "ground" is melting away. The Others also appear to be living creatures, so I don't think they would fare very well if they were to suddenly find themselves under water.

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37 minutes ago, John Suburbs said:

I don't see how you got the impression that they are near-mindless zombies. They are obviously very intelligent and organized. They have a language, they make swords and armor and know how to use them, they track and stalk their targets and choose when and where to attack...

The wights are mindless zombies. The Others are anything but.

They could very well be trying to protect their homeland. If they do come from the Land of Always Winter and the Long Summer has left it in a state of constant daylight for more than a decade, then the ice sheet that they call "ground" is melting away. The Others also appear to be living creatures, so I don't think they would fare very well if they were to suddenly find themselves under water.

Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. I meant mindless as in single-mindedly devoted to their goal, and not to be reasoned with - more a force of nature than living beings as we normally conceive of them.

However, that part was the least relevant of the entire post. I think the rest can stand on its own without it. Since it draws attention away from my main point, I'll edit it out. :)

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1 hour ago, Karlshammar said:

Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. I meant mindless as in single-mindedly devoted to their goal, and not to be reasoned with - more a force of nature than living beings as we normally conceive of them.

So basically the TV Show?  xD

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16 hours ago, Karlshammar said:

Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. I meant mindless as in single-mindedly devoted to their goal, and not to be reasoned with - more a force of nature than living beings as we normally conceive of them.

However, that part was the least relevant of the entire post. I think the rest can stand on its own without it. Since it draws attention away from my main point, I'll edit it out. :)

OK, but we really don't know much of anything about the Others, least of all their goal(s) or how single-mindedly they are devoted to it(them). We do, in fact, know they can be reasoned with since men were able to agree to some kind of truce to end the Long Night that resulted in Others continuing to exist north of the Wall and eventually retreating to the LoAW.

I think it's clear they are living beings, although unlike anything else we've seen, and it is more than likely that they have the same factions, political struggles and confliction that exist in human society. So even though the few Others we've seen have acted violently toward men, it's a leap to conclude that all Others are violent toward men, just as it would be a leap to say all men are murderous, vile rapers just because Gregor Clegane and his men are.

As to what awakened them, I think all possibilities are on the table, including the birth of Jon with his fire/ice blood, the fall of the Targ dynasty, the despoiling of the ancient graves by Mance and his people. But if I had to choose a favorite, it would be that the Long Summer is causing their homeland to melt into the sea.  

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3 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

We do, in fact, know they can be reasoned with since men were able to agree to some kind of truce to end the Long Night that resulted in Others continuing to exist north of the Wall and eventually retreating to the LoAW. 

We don't know this, though, do we? I don't remember reading anything in the books about some sort of agreement or truce between the Others and the other races. I don't think the books says much about it, other than that the Others were defeated and the Wall was raised. Am I forgetting something here?

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57 minutes ago, Karlshammar said:

We don't know this, though, do we? I don't remember reading anything in the books about some sort of agreement or truce between the Others and the other races. I don't think the books says much about it, other than that the Others were defeated and the Wall was raised. Am I forgetting something here?

Craster sacrifices to the Others, so he must have negotiated some sort of agreement with them, no? The Long Night ended and yet years later the Nights King and his "corpse bride" were still sacrificing to the Others. The mere fact that the Others are still around even after their defeat means they must have reached some kind of settlement with the victors, otherwise their single-minded desire to destroy all life on earth would force them to keep fighting until the bitter end.

They have a language, they show emotion, they have needs and desires. They can be reasoned with.

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3 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

Craster sacrifices to the Others, so he must have negotiated some sort of agreement with them, no? The Long Night ended and yet years later the Nights King and his "corpse bride" were still sacrificing to the Others. The mere fact that the Others are still around even after their defeat means they must have reached some kind of settlement with the victors, otherwise their single-minded desire to destroy all life on earth would force them to keep fighting until the bitter end.

They have a language, they show emotion, they have needs and desires. They can be reasoned with.

We don't know that they have a single-minded desire to destroy all life on Earth. Wasn't that one of your own points a few posts ago? :)

Giving offerings to someone is not the same as having communication or diplomatic agreements with them. I posted in my original post here how the Irish leave offerings for the sidhe. I don't even believe the sidhe exist, much less are capable of reason. Yet people still leave offerings to them. If people can give offerings to fictional creatures, they certainly can do it to real beings without some sort of agreement with them.

They may have language, emotion, needs, and desires, sure. That doesn't mean they are willing to reason with humans, or even if they are, that this has ever happened.

We're just going to have to accept that we don't know if there was some sort of agreement at the end of the Long Night, or has been since. We can hypothesize just like you have done (and I admit that your reasoning is pretty good), sure, but there isn't anything definitive yet.

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On 11/6/2018 at 1:15 PM, Karlshammar said:

This is a post I originally wrote to answer a question on another forum about what we thought GRRM would do to make the Others more interesting:

 

I think we'll find out that they are operating under the belief that they are engaged in a struggle to protect their homes. GRRM has described the Others as:

strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.

 

According to Wikipedia:

The aos sí [...] older form aes sídhe

 

Some sources describe them as the survivors of the Tuatha Dé Danann who retreated into the Otherworld [...] As part of the terms of their surrender to the Milesians, the Tuatha Dé Danann agreed to retreat and dwell underground.

(In Irish mythology, the Milesians were the humans who became the final inhabitants of Ireland.)
Underground or behind the Wall? And the Otherworld sounds a fit abode for the Others.

In folk belief and practice, the aos sí are often appeased with offerings, and care is taken to avoid angering or insulting them. Often they are not named directly, but rather spoken of as "The Good Neighbors", "The Fair Folk", or simply "The Folk".

Craster's sons as offerings? Not named directly - simply "The Others"? Or White Walkers?

 

The aos sí are generally described as stunningly beautiful, though they can also be terrible and hideous.

Fits the Others to a tee.

 

So why do I think they are engaged in defense?

Aos sí are seen as fierce guardians of their abodes—whether a fairy hill, a fairy ring, a special tree (often a hawthorn) or a particular loch or wood. It is believed that infringing on these spaces will cause the aos sí to retaliate in an effort to remove the people or objects that invaded their homes.

 

Another thing they engage in is:

Many of these tales contribute to the changeling myth in west European folklore, with the aos sí kidnapping trespassers or replacing their children with changelings as a punishment for transgressing.

Craster's sons again?

The aos sí are often connected to certain times of year and hours

"Winter is coming."

 

To go a bit further, what may have awakened them?

Those who maintain some degree of belief in the aos sí also are aware to leave their sacred places alone and protect them from damage through road or housing construction.

Who knows what the wildlings have been up to up there? But after eight thousand years, I'd wager some of their knowledge of the Others has been lost, and they may have inadvertently trespassed on or even ruined some lands or property of the Others.

Those who went into the north of the world are the supernaturally-gifted Tuatha Dé Danann (or Tuath Dé), who represent the main pagan gods of Ireland.

There's a host more material on the sidhe in hundreds of books, so I think there's likely to be a lot more information to be found there, if anyone's interested.

Thank you for providing these quotes!  What strikes me are George's use of the term The Free Folk for the Wildlings (as a riff on The Fair Folk?) and Winterfell itself described symbolically as an otherworld over or underworld and over again.  The underground cold crypts, the implications Stark ancestors might rise.  We always get these connections of the Others to the Starks or Wildlings but other than, " there must be something in the blood" we know very little more.

For me the underlying structure comes from the Norse, where the world is actually made from the body parts of a giant, itself made from fire and ice.  These elements came first, and at the end of the World, Ragnarok, they emerge as chaotic forces wanting to take back what was theirs in the first place.  

They're coming home.  Dany and dragons,( leading Red Priests, the Dothraki and Unsullied from Essos, (Musspelheim), and the Others from the Land of Always Winter (Jotunheim).  

What are Dany's reasons not to stay in Essos Once she has carved out a queendom there?  She wants to go home; Westeros is hers by right.  I expect we'll find out the Others have similar reasons, particularly if the Children created, then almost destroyed, then banished them.

And that echoes very much with the Sidhe.  So are they coming because someone has disturbed their homes in the far north, or because the time is right to take back their original home?  I'm betting on the latter, but we will see!

 

Edited by Lady Barbrey

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16 hours ago, Karlshammar said:

We don't know that they have a single-minded desire to destroy all life on Earth. Wasn't that one of your own points a few posts ago? :)
 

I was pointing out the inconsistency of your original post. They cannot have this single-minded desire if the end of the Long Night resulted in Others still living among men.

16 hours ago, Karlshammar said:

Giving offerings to someone is not the same as having communication or diplomatic agreements with them. I posted in my original post here how the Irish leave offerings for the sidhe. I don't even believe the sidhe exist, much less are capable of reason. Yet people still leave offerings to them. If people can give offerings to fictional creatures, they certainly can do it to real beings without some sort of agreement with them.

They may have language, emotion, needs, and desires, sure. That doesn't mean they are willing to reason with humans, or even if they are, that this has ever happened.

We're just going to have to accept that we don't know if there was some sort of agreement at the end of the Long Night, or has been since. We can hypothesize just like you have done (and I admit that your reasoning is pretty good), sure, but there isn't anything definitive yet.

Yes to your point about offerings, but in Craster's case there is a quid pro quo here. He sacrifices his sons and the Others protect him when the "white cold" comes. Notice how he seems to be making a distinction between the Others and the white cold.

Being able to reason and being willing to reason are two different things. I never said that the Others will reason with men, just that they could if some mutually agreeable resolution can be found. There had to have been some kind of agreement at the end of the Long Night, otherwise either the Others or men would have been extinguished north of the Wall.

Nothing is certain regarding the Long Night, which is why your original characterization of them as "single-minded zombies" is inaccurate. But I don't see that anymore in the OP, so I guess we're good. ;)

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16 hours ago, Lady Barbrey said:

Thank you for providing these quotes!  What strikes me are George's use of the term The Free Folk for the Wildlings (as a riff on The Fair Folk?) and Winterfell itself described symbolically as an otherworld over or underworld and over again.  The underground cold crypts, the implications Stark ancestors might rise.  We always get these connections of the Others to the Starks or Wildlings but other than, " there must be something in the blood" we know very little more.

For me the underlying structure comes from the Norse, where the world is actually made from the body parts of a giant, itself made from fire and ice.  These elements came first, and at the end of the World, Ragnarok, they emerge as chaotic forces wanting to take back what was theirs in the first place.  

They're coming home.  Dany and dragons,( leading Red Priests, the Dothraki and Unsullied from Essos, (Musspelheim), and the Others from the Land of Always Winter (Jotunheim).  

What are Dany's reasons not to stay in Essos Once she has carved out a queendom there?  She wants to go home; Westeros is hers by right.  I expect we'll find out the Others have similar reasons, particularly if the Children created, then almost destroyed, then banished them.

And that echoes very much with the Sidhe.  So are they coming because someone has disturbed their homes in the far north, or because the time is right to take back their original home?  I'm betting on the latter, but we will see!

 

Great points! :) Good catch with the free folk vs. fair folk - it never even occurred to me. I did a search and during the Ramsay and "Arya"/Jeyne wedding Theon actually thinks that due to the mists "It felt like some strange underworld".

I'm Swedish, so I was actually taught Norse mythology in school. Ice and fire did both come from Ymir (the primordial giant that the world was made from that you mention), though so did the sun, the earth, and other things.

Your post reminds me a bit of the ragnarok theory of ASOIAF - have you read it?

 

4 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

I was pointing out the inconsistency of your original post. They cannot have this single-minded desire if the end of the Long Night resulted in Others still living among men.

Yes to your point about offerings, but in Craster's case there is a quid pro quo here. He sacrifices his sons and the Others protect him when the "white cold" comes. Notice how he seems to be making a distinction between the Others and the white cold.

Being able to reason and being willing to reason are two different things. I never said that the Others will reason with men, just that they could if some mutually agreeable resolution can be found. There had to have been some kind of agreement at the end of the Long Night, otherwise either the Others or men would have been extinguished north of the Wall.

Nothing is certain regarding the Long Night, which is why your original characterization of them as "single-minded zombies" is inaccurate. But I don't see that anymore in the OP, so I guess we're good. ;)

There is a quid pro quo between Craster and the Others, though I wonder if they is an explicit agreement, or just a belief much like the old Irish belief in leaving offerings for the Sidhe in return for being left alone. The only difference being that in ASOIAF it turned out to be true, while in the real world it's just a fairy tale. :)

You know, I never perceived the white cold and the Others to be distinct. When Gilly mentions it she says: "He gives the boys to the gods. Come the white cold, he does, and of late it comes more often." I took it for the cold of the Others that everyone who has been close to them mentions, and not anything else. Were you thinking differently?

There doesn't necessarily have to have been some sort of agreement, I think. Is the Others considered themselves beaten they may just have withdrawn. The other races, rather than chase into the far north of the Land of Always Winter, may have been content to build the Wall for whatever reason, and some stayed north of it. Maybe it was their ancient homeland and they felt tied to it, but who knows? I think an agreement may very well have been possible, but I think it's also possible that there wasn't one. I don't think we don't have evidence either way.

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20 hours ago, Karlshammar said:

You know, I never perceived the white cold and the Others to be distinct. When Gilly mentions it she says: "He gives the boys to the gods. Come the white cold, he does, and of late it comes more often." I took it for the cold of the Others that everyone who has been close to them mentions, and not anything else. Were you thinking differently?

Not only is it possible that the Others and the "white cold" (which may or may not be the horror that Bran saw in his coma dream) might be two separate things, but there is also a distinct possibility that the Others are not the ones raising and reanimating the wights. After all, we are five novels into the series and we have yet to actually see this. In fact, we have never seen an Other and a human wight in the same place at the same time. The closest we get is the Other riding the dead horse during Sam's encounter in the Haunted Forest. But then he just dismounts the horse and we never hear of it again: no blue eyes, no compulsion to slay the living... Apparently, it just meandered off somewhere to do whatever it is that dead horses do with themselves.

 

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36 minutes ago, John Suburbs said:

Not only is it possible that the Others and the "white cold" (which may or may not be the horror that Bran saw in his coma dream) might be two separate things, but there is also a distinct possibility that the Others are not the ones raising and reanimating the wights. After all, we are five novels into the series and we have yet to actually see this. In fact, we have never seen an Other and a human wight in the same place at the same time. The closest we get is the Other riding the dead horse during Sam's encounter in the Haunted Forest. But then he just dismounts the horse and we never hear of it again: no blue eyes, no compulsion to slay the living... Apparently, it just meandered off somewhere to do whatever it is that dead horses do with themselves.

 

Of course it's possible, but do we have any indication that they are different, though? Everyone in the books who speak of the matter associate the two. That does not give us 100% certainty, but it is some sort of evidence. Is there any evidence to the contrary?

Edited by Karlshammar

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Only the evidence that this has yet to be observed. Sure, the conventional approach would be to link the Others and the wights together, but when has Martin ever taken the conventional approach?

I'm not saying it is or it isn't -- just that a wise man does not accept anything as fact until it's proven. B)

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7 hours ago, John Suburbs said:

Only the evidence that this has yet to be observed. Sure, the conventional approach would be to link the Others and the wights together, but when has Martin ever taken the conventional approach?

I'm not saying it is or it isn't -- just that a wise man does not accept anything as fact until it's proven. B)

I'm not sure I count as a wise man, but I haven't accepted either possibility as fact. I just see one possibility as more likely than the other, based on the evidence. :)

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On 11/8/2018 at 11:00 AM, Karlshammar said:

Great points! :) Good catch with the free folk vs. fair folk - it never even occurred to me. I did a search and during the Ramsay and "Arya"/Jeyne wedding Theon actually thinks that due to the mists "It felt like some strange underworld".

I'm Swedish, so I was actually taught Norse mythology in school. Ice and fire did both come from Ymir (the primordial giant that the world was made from that you mention), though so did the sun, the earth, and other things.

Your post reminds me a bit of the ragnarok theory of ASOIAF - have you read it?

 

 

Ha, don't get me started on Ragnarok.  I've read a few theories but they get too specific in a tale as mythically entangled as this one.  But I do think He's taken the basic structure from the Norse, which is why I'll point out that while the sun and the earth, heaven's, people, gods and giants come from Ymir, Ymir himself comes from the ashes of Muspelheim and the slow icy drip of a poison river.  Fire and Ice (he is later called a Frost Giant).  I only insist on this difference because I think it related to the crucial problem and end game of the series - the irregular seasons.  But That's another theory in itself.

There's a thread by sweetsunray where she describes all the symbolism of Winterfell to the land of the dead, an underworld or "other"world.  I think she has the word chthonic in it if you want to search.

In Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, which was a major inspiration for this series, there is also a long winter caused by the Sidhe/Norns who had been dispossessed from their lands and homes and they wanted them back and revenge at the same time.  I don't know if Martin will follow that story line (he often does follow the same tropes as Williams though treats them so differently they don't copy) or do something completely different for his own version of the Sidhe, the Others, if only because he has so publicly acknowledged his debt to Williams.  We will see!

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14 hours ago, Karlshammar said:

I'm not sure I count as a wise man, but I haven't accepted either possibility as fact. I just see one possibility as more likely than the other, based on the evidence. :)

That is very wise of you.

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On 11/6/2018 at 9:15 PM, Karlshammar said:

Some sources describe them as the survivors of the Tuatha Dé Danann who retreated into the Otherworld [...] As part of the terms of their surrender to the Milesians, the Tuatha Dé Danann agreed to retreat and dwell underground.

(In Irish mythology, the Milesians were the humans who became the final inhabitants of Ireland.)
Underground or behind the Wall? And the Otherworld sounds a fit abode for the Others.

Welcome to the forum, @Karlshammar. I'm not that active here anymore, as I mostly frequent twitteros; however, I still browse occasionally to see if anything grabs my interest, and really enjoying your thread, this being one of my favorite topics. :)

The subterranean and by extension subaquatic realm -- or in other words, the 'chthonic,' as @sweetsunray has pointed out -- is represented in ASOIAF by the hollow hills and sea, respectively, (super)natural portals which figure prominently in Celtic myth. 

Have you read @Wizz-The-Smith's quintessential 'Hollow Hills' essay, in which he links these magic, otherworldly spaces to the Children of the Forest and human greenseers? 

As many have speculated, there is a likely connection between the COTF, greenseers and the Others, which is borne out by ample symbolic evidence, if not explicit proof.  

For example, the text repeatedly refers to the Others 'emerging from the trees', which might be a cryptic reference to their origins.

Quote

 

In folk belief and practice, the aos sí are often appeased with offerings, and care is taken to avoid angering or insulting them. Often they are not named directly, but rather spoken of as "The Good Neighbors", "The Fair Folk", or simply "The Folk".

Craster's sons as offerings? Not named directly - simply "The Others"? Or White Walkers?

What is the purpose in having to refer to the Sidhe only indirectly, via evasive circumlocutions or euphemisms, instead of directly by name?  

Should this be interpreted as purely lyric convention in the tradition of Norse kennings, or does it also hint at a ritualized superstition, with the intention of not invoking the wrath of the gods?

Interesting to contemplate the implications attending  the observation that like the old gods, the Sidhe and Others are nameless!

Consider my favorite example:

Quote

AGOT Prologue 

He whispered a prayer to the nameless gods of the wood, and slipped his dirk free of its sheath. He put it between his teeth...

Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, “Who goes there?”...

The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl....

The Others made no sound.

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone. Branches stirred gently in the wind, scratching at one another with wooden fingers... 

A shadow emerged from the dark of the wood. It stood in front of Royce. Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took.

 

Quote

The aos sí are generally described as stunningly beautiful, though they can also be terrible and hideous.

Fits the Others to a tee.

 

So why do I think they are engaged in defense?

 Aos sí are seen as fierce guardians of their abodes—whether a fairy hill, a fairy ring, a special tree (often a hawthorn) or a particular loch or wood. It is believed that infringing on these spaces will cause the aos sí to retaliate in an effort to remove the people or objects that invaded their homes.

My current working hypothesis is that while the Others technically can't be considered human (hasn't GRRM referred to them as 'inhuman'?), they're nevertheless humanoid (i.e. magically transformed humans).

The Others as weapons of the COTF/greenseers:

Quote

ADWD The Wayward Bride

Asha saw only trees and shadows, the moonlit hills and the snowy peaks beyond. Then she realized that trees were creeping closer. "Oho," she laughed, "these mountain goats have cloaked themselves in pine boughs." The woods were on the move, creeping toward the castle like a slow green tide. She thought back to a tale she had heard as a child, about the children of the forest and their battles with the First Men, when the greenseers turned the trees to warriors.

Actually, I think the reverse may be true -- namely, the trees turning the greenseers to Others!

The Others are greenseers. That's why they speak a dialect of the True Tongue:

Quote

AGOT Prologue

The Other said something in a language that Will did not know; his voice was like the cracking of ice on a winter lake, and the words were mocking.

Compare to this classic passage:

Quote

The World of Ice and Fire - Ancient History: The Dawn Age

Maester Childer's Winter's Kings, or the Legends and Lineages of the Starks of Winterfell contains a part of a ballad alleged to tell of the time Brandon the Builder sought the aid of the children while raising the Wall. He was taken to a secret place to meet with them, but could not at first understand their speech, which was described as sounding like the song of stones in a brook, or the wind through leaves, or the rain upon the water. The manner in which Brandon learned to comprehend the speechof the children is a tale in itself, and not worth repeating

I maintain, the song of ice spoken by the Others is a dialect of the song of the earth sung by the Children.

@Wizz-The-Smith has provided this excellent summary of the Sidhe's symbolic relations to ASOIAF:

On 2/19/2017 at 4:13 PM, Wizz-The-Smith said:

I agree.  Though slightly different in terms of research, the hollow hills and their Celtic influence is I think a good example of this, particularly with the old Gaelic word Sidhe. [Pronounced Shee or Shay]  Old Irish has various meanings for the word Sidhe, all of which fit rather nicely into the Celtic angle of my hills essay.  I of course started with the clue that Sidhe also meant hollow hills but the Celtic link grew with some research.  Here’s a quick explanation…      

Sidhe as hollow hills

Searching the mythology of hollow hills I found they are directly linked to Celtic myth in that they are another name for Sidhe [or Sidhe mounds].  We have only visited two hollow hills in the series, both associated with CotF and human greenseers, so I was pleased to note the other uses of the word Sidhe in connection to this...  

The Sidhe as CotF

The Sidhe are often thought of as the ‘Faery folk of the mounds’, small people often dressed in green living in their hills etc.  There is obviously a connection to be made with the CotF here.  However, the small faery image a lot of people have isn’t always the case in Irish lore.   

The Sidhe as human greenseers

The Sidhe of Irish myth [or the Tuatha De Dannan] were different in that they had gods living amongst them, human gods.  These human gods had supernatural powers, lived extremely long lives but could still be killed as mortals, and they too also lived in the hollow hills.  There are tales of these Sidhe being shapeshifters and seers as well.  Again it seems reasonable to make a connection with the human greenseers in asoiaf.    

So the word Sidhe seems to be associated with the hollow hills, CotF and human greenseers, but it doesn’t stop there.  This thread in particular has looked at the various powers of the greenseers, one such ability being controlling the wind.  @evita mgfs noted very early on that the word ‘gust’ seemed like a clue for us readers to look out for a presence in the wind. 

Sidhe meaning wind or gust  

The word Sídhe can also be translated in Old Irish as ‘wind or gust’ and certainly the Sidhe have much to do with the wind.  They journey in whirling winds and when old country people see the leaves whirling on the road they bless themselves, because they believe the Sidhe to be passing by. 

Celtic lore which seems to parallel the greenseers/CotF in their hollow hills inhabiting the whirling winds and rustling leaves etc, all from the ‘hollow hill/Sidhe link.  Instantly Celtic mythology became more interesting than it was already for me.  :)

Ser Gendry of the Hollow Hill and the Gentry of Ireland

Not bound to their hollow hills, the Sidhe were often called ‘the Gentry’ by the country folk on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech.  The Gentry is one letter away from Gendry, who is of course tall and of noble appearance himself.  Ser Gentry of the Hollow Hill.

I’m a little unclear where this one fits in, but is a good example of how digging and following a potential pattern can have its rewards.  I have my eye on Gendry and his link to the hollow hills moving forward.     

I'll stop here as there is plenty more to research, but if nothing else this continues to prove that George is weaving all these myths/inspirations into one big melting pot for us to research and enjoy.  While one poster can say ‘this is Norse inspired’ another can claim some Celtic influence on the same subject, and so on.  Most likely they would both be right, the joy for me is the journey and seeing how all these inspirations are masterfully pieced together. 

 

Edited by ravenous reader

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Check out the Sithi and Hikeda'ya, from the Osten Ard series by Tad Williams. Martin has said several times that Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn were a major inspiration for ASoIaF. 

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On 11/6/2018 at 4:36 PM, John Suburbs said:

I don't see how you got the impression that they are near-mindless zombies. They are obviously very intelligent and organized. They have a language, they make swords and armor and know how to use them, they track and stalk their targets and choose when and where to attack...

The wights are mindless zombies. The Others are anything but.

They could very well be trying to protect their homeland. If they do come from the Land of Always Winter and the Long Summer has left it in a state of constant daylight for more than a decade, then the ice sheet that they call "ground" is melting away. The Others also appear to be living creatures, so I don't think they would fare very well if they were to suddenly find themselves under water.

The show is casting its shadow on our fellow readers.  Benioff and Weiss chose to make the Others into primitive beings.  

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