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three-eyed monkey

The Mance Plan and how the Pink Letter killed it.

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Mance had spent years assembling this vast plodding host, talking to this clan mother and that magnar, winning one village with sweet words and another with a song and a third with the edge of his sword, making peace between Harma Dogshead and the Lord o' Bones, between the Hornfoots and the Nightrunners, between the walrus men of the Frozen Shore and the cannibal clans of the great ice rivers, hammering a hundred different daggers into one great spear, aimed at the heart of the Seven Kingdoms. He had no crown nor scepter, no robes of silk and velvet, but it was plain to Jon that Mance Rayder was a king in more than name.

Mance was a crow who flew down from the Wall for somewhere where a kiss was not a crime and a man could wear any cloak he chose. He spent years uniting the freefolk, forging a hundred different daggers into one great spear, aimed at the heart of the Seven Kingdoms, or so it would seem. In truth, Mance wanted to lead the great host he had gathered past the Wall before the cold winds rise and the dead come walking.

Once his host was gathered, Mance had two clear objectives. 1] Get the freefolk past the Wall. 2] Find a way to allow the freefolk stay south of the Wall.

History has shown that it is the second of these objectives that has proved most difficult for previous Kings-Beyond-the-Wall, and Mance simply must consider this problem or risk going the way of his predecessors.

"Wildlings have invaded the realm before." Jon had heard the tales from Old Nan and Maester Luwin both, back at Winterfell. "Raymun Redbeard led them south in the time of my grandfather's grandfather, and before him there was a king named Bael the Bard."

"Aye, and long before them came the Horned Lord and the brother kings Gendel and Gorne, and in ancient days Joramun, who blew the Horn of Winter and woke giants from the earth. Each man of them broke his strength on the Wall, or was broken by the power of Winterfell on the far side.”

From a military perspective, it was a good time for Mance to attack to Wall, given that Watch is weak and Winterfell has fallen. His initial plan was to draw defenders away from Castle Black with a feigned attack on the Shadow Tower while raiders climbed the Wall, attacked Castle Black from the south, and opened the gates. When this plan failed and Jon came to parley wearing black, Mance opted to try a bluff, using the fabled “Horn of Joramun”.

He turned back to Jon. "Go back and tell them to open their gate and let us pass. If they do, I will give them the horn, and the Wall will stand until the end of days."

Leaving the Wall standing is clearly preferable considering what Mance knows is coming, and even if he had the real horn it is unlikely he would blow it while he still had other options.

He touched the horn again. "If I sound the Horn of Winter, the Wall will fall. Or so the songs would have me believe. There are those among my people who want nothing more . . ."

"But once the Wall is fallen," Dalla said, "what will stop the Others?"

Mance believes he could storm the Shadow Tower as he knows the approaches well. He says he could build rafts and send ten thousand men across the Bay of Seals to take Eastwatch form the south. Or he could simultaneously dig out the gates of several of the abandoned castles along the Wall, stretching the defenders thin until he breaks through. But these options come at a price Mance would rather not pay.

"Blood," said Mance Rayder. "I'd win in the end, yes, but you'd bleed me, and my people have bled enough."

If Mance thinks the freefolk have bled enough, then it should be noted that there is no satisfactory military solution to his second objective, as carving out a slice of the Seven Kingdoms for their own would inevitably mean blood. He needs a means of integration, but the options available would also come at an obvious cost to the freefolk.

Mance offers a trade, the horn for passage through the Wall. Jon, who rode with the freefolk and learned to empathise with their position, seemed amicable to the idea, even if he still had legitimate concerns about what would happen once the freefolk enter the Seven Kingdoms.

“If we let your people pass, are you strong enough to make them keep the king's peace and obey the laws?"

"Whose laws? The laws of Winterfell and King's Landing?" Mance laughed. "When we want laws we'll make our own. You can keep your king's justice too, and your king's taxes. I'm offering you the horn, not our freedom. We will not kneel to you."

But Mance is adamant the freefolk will not kneel. Freedom is naturally a large part of their identity and culture, and it’s a price Mance could never pay, even if he wanted to, as the freefolk are accustomed to following whomever they choose. This is the crux of the matter, as Val later explains to Queen Selyse:

"Free folk do not kneel," Val told her.

"Then they must be knelt," the queen declared.

"Do that, Your Grace, and we will rise again at the first chance," Val promised. "Rise with blades in hand."

So how can the freefolk integrate with a kingdom ruled by a king who expects his subjects to kneel? The immediate solution was provided by Stannis, who arrived to smash the wildling host and capture the King-Beyond-the-Wall.

The arrival of Stannis was a game-changer. Mance was defeated and captured, his newborn son was taken hostage, the horn he was using as a bluff had been seized, and his life was forfeit as an oath-breaker. On the surface, his position seems very weak, yet it is not without hope. In Stannis, Mance is confronted with a king who sees the sense in an alliance with the Wildlings because he believes in their common enemy. If Mance had been defeated and captured by any other king, then it would have surely spelt his doom, but luckily for Mance, Stannis needs him.

The only man who can bind them to your cause is Mance Rayder."

"I know that," Stannis said, unhappily. "I have spent hours speaking with the man. He knows much and more of our true enemy, and there is cunning in him, I'll grant you.”

When Mance spoke with Stannis for hours he no doubt still had his two main objectives in mind. The first was to secure safe passage through the Wall for his people. The second was to find a political solution that will allow his people to live south of the Wall while maintaining their freedom, and subsequently their cultural identity.

Of course, Stannis also wanted the Wildlings south of the Wall so both men have common ground upon which to build an agreement, but Stannis demands they swear fealty to him, keep the king’s peace, and take the red god as their own, terms that strongly oppose the second of Mance’s objectives.

"Your brothers will not like it, no more than your father's lords, but I mean to allow the wildlings through the Wall . . . those who will swear me their fealty, pledge to keep the king's peace and the king's laws, and take the Lord of Light as their god. Even the giants, if those great knees of theirs can bend. I will settle them on the Gift, once I have wrested it away from your new Lord Commander. When the cold winds rise, we shall live or die together. It is time we made alliance against our common foe." He looked at Jon. "Would you agree?"

The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Stannis sees the sense of an alliance even if he knows the Watch and northern lords won’t like it. In his eyes, however, he has to proceed to choose between defending the Wall against the Wildlings or with them, with the latter being the obvious preference, as long as they accept his terms. And Mance Rayder is essential to such an alliance.

Although we were not privy to the meeting between Stannis and Mance, we can make some reasonable assumptions, based on what we know about the situation and the motives of each character, as to what they discussed and the resulting agreement.

To begin with, Stannis holds both Mance’s life and son in his hands, which is a very strong position from which to negotiate. He clearly planned to use Mance in a process of loyalty-by-proxy, which means keeping Mance loyal to him and trusting Mance to keep the wildlings loyal in turn. This is no different than how a king uses any lord throughout the Seven Kingdoms, and that is effectively what Mance would become in Stannis’ eyes, a new Lord of the Gift, ruling over the Wildling settlers on behalf of his king. If the Wildlings are to come into Stannis’ kingdom then it only stands to reason that he would want them subjected to the kingdom’s traditional feudal hierarchy, as well as its taxes and laws.

The creation of a new lordship on the Gift would be the smart move on Stannis behalf, especially as it does not require taking lands from any existing lords. Having Mance, who knows much of the true enemy, as lord of such a fief would be greatly beneficial, considering the Gift’s proximity to the Wall. Holding Mance’s son as a hostage, or possibly appointing him a ward of Winterfell, would be advantageous to this end as well. Marrying the “wildling princess” to the Lord of Winterfell would, from Stannis’ southron point of view, only further strengthen the bond.

Sam reddened. King Stannis had plans for Val, he knew; she was the mortar with which he meant to seal the peace between the northmen and the free folk.

The king’s terms are clearly too much for Mance, given that he was adamant the freefolk would not kneel when he spoke with Jon, but Stannis leaves him with a simple choice between death or accepting those terms. By virtue of the fact that Stannis spared Mance, we know that Mance must have compromised to the king’s satisfaction. But Qhorin Halfhand told us that Mance never learned to obey and that his knees do not bend easily. Even if we put Mance’s personal objections aside, there is still a political implication to kneeling. As Mance tells Jon:

You don't become King-beyond-the-Wall because your father was. The free folk won't follow a name, and they don't care which brother was born first. They follow fighters.”

If Mance was seen to kneel to Stannis, then he would most likely lose support amongst the freefolk, who would clearly see him as a kneeler, not a fighter. Again Stannis provides the solution when, under pressure to execute the oath-breaking King-Beyond-the-Wall, he burned “Mance” for all the world to see. This leaves Mance free to privately accept Stannis’ terms, swear an oath to the king, live, not lose face, and if he needs to renege on the deal at a later date then it’s not as if he is unaccustomed to breaking an oath. Faced with the choice of kneel or die, Mance did what he had to do.

“We all do what we have to do, Snow. Even kings."

Stannis would have left the negotiation believing that he had gained a means of binding the Wildlings to his cause, as well as preserving a military asset in the war with the true enemy. Of course, the problem of Mance’s oath-breaking and execution still needs to be resolved at some future date. Perhaps Stannis could solve the problem the same way he did with Davos, a pardon and lordship in exchange for some fingers?

Mance, on the other hand, would have secured a place south of the Wall for the freefolk on the strength of an oath of loyalty to Stannis, and importantly he lives to break that oath should the opportunity arise. Words are wind after all. It may even be that Stannis, given his disadvantageous military position in his war for the Iron Throne, will die soon and negate the oath. Either way, Mance has very little to lose.

So Mance donned Rattleshirt’s bones and bided his time until Melisandre and Jon eventually gifted him an opportunity. He travelled south and attached himself to the Bolton tail as it moved towards Winterfell, just as he had with Robert a few years before.

Mance seemed well-enough informed of events south of the Wall to begin with, as evidenced by his timely knowledge of King Robert’s visit to Winterfell. It also seems clear that he himself has been south of the Wall a number of times as he tells Melisandre about hidey-holes he has used east of Long Lake from time to time. There is a strong suggestion that Rowan the “washerwoman” is a northerner, based on her deep offence at Theon’s use of Lord Eddard’s words. And of course, Abel and his washerwoman are well placed to observe the game being played in Winterfell between Lord Wyman and Roose, and the plainly visible cracks in the Bolton alliance. Mance is shrewd enough to understand there is a northern agenda working against the Boltons and by extension the Iron Throne, and that is a development he and his people could benefit from.

The fact is, while Stannis has proved useful to Mance, Mance doesn’t need Stannis if there are other political players and political philosophies in play that would better suit his objective. Stannis wants the wildlings to be kneelers in his realm, he consorts with a sorceress and purports to follow the red god, and he has a child with greyscale, none of which would appeal to the freefolk, no more than being ruled by a boy-king on the Iron Throne through his Bolton wardens would. Neither Stannis nor Tommen are kings the freefolk would choose to follow. An independent north under Robb Stark’s heir would be a far better proposition from Mance’s point of view. More so if Robb’s heir was someone the freefolk could respect, a fighter, someone who could unite the north and the freefolk in the wars to come.

"Free folk don't follow names, or little cloth animals sewn on a tunic," the King-Beyond-the-Wall had told him. "They won't dance for coins, they don't care how you style yourself or what that chain of office means or who your grandsire was. They follow strength. They follow the man."

When last we saw Abel he was singing in the hall at Winterfell before the rescue commenced. What fate befell him is unclear. He may have been captured and caged as the Pink Letter suggests, or he may have escaped to hide in the crypts as many fans theorise. But unless he was killed off-screen, which is unlikely, he will still be alive when next we have a pov character in Winterfell, regardless of whether he’s to be found in a cage or in the crypts.

It remains to be seen where the balance of power lies within Winterfell when Stannis takes the castle, given that he is surrounded by northmen who have a different agenda to him. But when Stannis and Mance are reunited they will again find themselves with a common interest, that being Jon, though for very different reasons.

Stannis wants Jon to come to Winterfell, swear his sword, and help win the north to the king’s cause. Mance would prefer Jon to come to Winterfell to be crowned king of an independent north by the northern lords, and become something Mance could never hope to be, a man who both the north and the freefolk might choose to follow. Uniting both factions under a common leader is the best political solution Mance could hope to find in his bid to achieve his second objective.

Of course, that solution requires Mance sacrificing his own kingship, something he could not have realistically hoped to hold for long once he was south of the Wall anyway. But I don’t see Mance as being hung up on kingship, he wears no crown, holds no lands, and has no wealth. I believe his mission to save the freefolk is more important to him. Having them south of the Wall under Jon’s leadership is something he would surely consider a success, and is certainly preferable to any other political situation he could hope to achieve.

What all this means is that if Stannis defeats the Boltons and takes Winterfell, as I suspect he will, then we will have three parties inside the castle who have an interest in Jon. Stannis, who wants to make Jon Stark his loyal Lord of Winterfell; some northern lords, who seem to be working against the Iron Throne’s Warden of the North with a return to northern independence the obvious motive; and Mance, who would much prefer to be left dealing with King Jon than with King Stannis.

The Pink Letter was designed to provoke Jon into breaking his vows and riding to Winterfell. Personally, I think Stannis wrote the letter, and I detail why in my post titled, The Stannis Plan and why he wrote the Pink Letter, naturally. But I also believe some of the language in the letter is reminiscent of Mance, which suggests he is involved directly or indirectly in the crafting of the letter. If Mance was involved directly, as I believe he was, then I think he was happily assisting Stannis get Jon to Winterfell in the knowledge that the northern lords have an agenda that is well-placed to trump Stannis should Jon ever arrive.

Jon being “dead” due to the unintended consequences of the letter is not a good result for Stannis, Mance, or the northern lords, as Jon was central to all their plans. But while Rickon could well serve as a substitute for Jon in the plans of Stannis or the northern lords, once the issue of regency is settled, he (or any potential regent of his) is not necessarily someone the wildlings will choose to follow. Mance does not have an alternative to Jon. That’s why the Pink Letter killed the Mance plan, with its revival now depending on Jon’s own resurrection.

Thanks for reading.

Or TL;DR.

Mance gathered the freefolk into one great host with two objectives in mind, getting past the Wall and staying past the Wall. Some previous kings-beyond-the-wall had achieved the first of these objectives but none had ever achieved the second objective.

His goal is to preserve the lives of the freefolk and he believes his people have bled enough already, so there is no satisfactory military solution to his second objective. He needs a political solution.

When Mance was captured by Stannis he reluctantly swore fealty to the king in exchange for his life, but it is not an oath he means to keep.

Stannis wants to make Jon his Lord of Winterfell, with Val his wife, and in so doing seal a peace between the north and the wildlings.

The freefolk follow whomever they choose and don’t care about chains of office, how you style yourself, what house you’re from, or who your father was. They follow strength. They follow fighters. They follow the man. They follow Mance, but unfortunately the north never will.

Jon, who killed the boy and let the man be born, a fighter, a son of Eddard Stark, is the political solution Mance is looking for, someone who the north and the freefolk would follow.

Abel is well positioned to observe the game being played between Wyman and Roose in Winterfell, and shrewd enough to understand there is an agenda against the Boltons and by extension the Iron Throne. An independent north under Jon is the best political solution Mance could hope to achieve in integrating the freefolk with the north, and it makes sense that he would wait for the northern agenda to advance before he declared for Jon. This would mean Mance giving up his own kingship, obviously, but I don’t think that would be an issue.

The Pink Letter killed the Mance Plan, with any potential revival depending on Jon’s resurrection.

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People who want Northern Independence are crazy.  Winter is coming.  A north finding the white walkers and their wights without support from the other regions do not stand a chance.  Then again, maybe that is George Martins plan from the start.  Those crazy northern people will choose independence and then the joke is on them when the white walkers arrive.  Mance is stupid enough to do this because he's so hung up on keeping the free folk way.  Jon and the Starks are stupid enough to want this because they put family ahead of everything else and they can't see the bigger picture.  But the more reasonable people in the north like Lady Dustin will hopefully knock some sense into the Stark nutjobs.  Ever hear of the Trojan horn idea?  Mance used the horn to trick Stannis and Jon.  He didn't have anything to bargain with.  He used the horn to give him leverage.  

The best hope for the north is to work out a peace deal with Roose Bolton.  Stannis will give up his claim and take the black in exchange for more men to guard the wall.  Jon Snow will recognize Roose Bolton's rights to lord over the north and Winterfell.  Jon pissed all of that chance away when he pushed his nose into Ramsay's business with the Arya rescue operation.  

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3 hours ago, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

The best hope for the north is to work out a peace deal with Roose Bolton.  Stannis will give up his claim and take the black in exchange for more men to guard the wall.  Jon Snow will recognize Roose Bolton's rights to lord over the north and Winterfell.  Jon pissed all of that chance away when he pushed his nose into Ramsay's business with the Arya rescue operation.  

I am sorry but I have to ask... Do you actually believe any of this? If so, you might want to skip TWoW and ADoS altogether. :dunno:

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On 1/5/2019 at 11:12 AM, three-eyed monkey said:

snip.

 

Man I was with you word for word until the very end. I agree mance does recognize that his best route is having Jon in power in the north as Jon sympathizes with the wildlings and would protect them. I just think that the pink letter is mances next step in this plan, as it motivates Jon to leave the wall and go south with a wildling army, which is exactly what mance wants. The mutiny was what got in the way of the plan, not stannis. And the mutiny will be overcome.

 

its easy to think that the whole reason mance let Jon join the wildlings was to build this relationship so jon could rule/protect them later. Mance cant be so stupid as to actually think Jon deserted

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8 hours ago, Aegon VII said:

Man I was with you word for word until the very end. I agree mance does recognize that his best route is having Jon in power in the north as Jon sympathizes with the wildlings and would protect them. I just think that the pink letter is mances next step in this plan, as it motivates Jon to leave the wall and go south with a wildling army, which is exactly what mance wants. The mutiny was what got in the way of the plan, not stannis. And the mutiny will be overcome.

 

its easy to think that the whole reason mance let Jon join the wildlings was to build this relationship so jon could rule/protect them later. Mance cant be so stupid as to actually think Jon deserted

Why would Mance think this is possible?  There were some 300 wildlings at Molestown who hated John when Mance left the wall.  He does not have any knowledge of Tormund crossing the wall.

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It would mean that this plan has been prediscussed, at least with Val at CB. Mance boasts that he can climb in and out of CB windows to Jon, suggesting he has the means. And Val states things that she seemingly couldn’t know without mance being the one to tell her, e.g.

 

“…For his mother’s sake, and mine. And keep him away from the red woman. She knows who he is. She sees things in her fires.”

Arya, he thought, hoping it was so. “Ashes and cinders.”

“Kings and dragons.”

 

Val was the one to treat with tormund and could have shared the plan then. There’s enough language in the pink letter to tell Val/tormund that it’s fake, that mance wrote it and to know to follow Jon.

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6 hours ago, aryagonnakill#2 said:

Why would Mance think this is possible?  There were some 300 wildlings at Molestown who hated John when Mance left the wall.  He does not have any knowledge of Tormund crossing the wall.

I agree with you. This theory, nor The Stannis Plan which is a twin theory of this, rely on Jon needing an army of wildlings for the reason you give. They only require Jon.

5 hours ago, Aegon VII said:

It would mean that this plan has been prediscussed, at least with Val at CB. Mance boasts that he can climb in and out of CB windows to Jon, suggesting he has the means. And Val states things that she seemingly couldn’t know without mance being the one to tell her, e.g.

 

“…For his mother’s sake, and mine. And keep him away from the red woman. She knows who he is. She sees things in her fires.”

Arya, he thought, hoping it was so. “Ashes and cinders.”

“Kings and dragons.”

 

Val was the one to treat with tormund and could have shared the plan then. There’s enough language in the pink letter to tell Val/tormund that it’s fake, that mance wrote it and to know to follow Jon.

Discussed with Val at Castle Black, perhaps. Personally I think the plan to get the free folk south of the Wall may have originated with Val some years ago, and she is part of Mance's inner circle so she knows what's going on.

There is certainly language in the Pink Letter that should alert Mel to the fact the letter is fake as it contradicts her visions.

Your false king is dead, bastard. He and all his host were smashed in seven days of battle. I have his magic sword. Tell his red whore.

Melisandre swears that she has seen me in her flames, facing the dark with Lightbringer raised on high. Lightbringer!" Stannis gave a derisive snort.

This is one of the many reasons I believe Stannis is the primary architect of the letter.

Some of the language is reminiscent of Mance, and as I believe the letter was written in Winterfell after Stannis has taken the castle then I believe Mance was involved.

But I'll stress again, while Mance would not be opposed to an army of wildlings arriving with Jon he does not need them, his plan is to help create a political solution that will bind the free folk to the north, and Jon is that solution as he is someone both factions would choose to follow. The only other options the free folk have is kneel or fight, neither of which Mance sees as a satisfactory solution. Stannis' plan to bring Jon to Winterfell suits Mance for now, even if he has a different endgame in mind.

 

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8 hours ago, Sire de Maletroit said:

Jon is now a known traitor.  He will be shunned by the people of the north.  His only fan club will come from the free folk.  

I don't think he will be seen as a traitor by the north given that he was riding against the Boltons who most of the north is aligned against. Jon's actions were treacherous to the Iron Throne but not to the North. If anything Jon's concern for northern affairs could be seen as a positive from a northern perspective. Alys Karstark was not opposed to Jon getting involved in Karstark affairs. And the houses who support Robb's will needed Jon to break his vow to the Watch at anyway. Robb even discussed circumventing Jon's vows before he died.

Jon's death is the more obvious issue. This unintended consequence of the letter means the plan failed essentially, and Stannis, Mance, and the northern lords will all have to react to his resurrection in whatever way they deem appropriate.

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On 1/5/2019 at 2:10 PM, James Fenimore Cooper XXII said:

People who want Northern Independence are crazy.  Winter is coming.  A north finding the white walkers and their wights without support from the other regions do not stand a chance.  Then again, maybe that is George Martins plan from the start.  Those crazy northern people will choose independence and then the joke is on them when the white walkers arrive.  Mance is stupid enough to do this because he's so hung up on keeping the free folk way.  Jon and the Starks are stupid enough to want this because they put family ahead of everything else and they can't see the bigger picture.  But the more reasonable people in the north like Lady Dustin will hopefully knock some sense into the Stark nutjobs.  Ever hear of the Trojan horn idea?  Mance used the horn to trick Stannis and Jon.  He didn't have anything to bargain with.  He used the horn to give him leverage.  

The best hope for the north is to work out a peace deal with Roose Bolton.  Stannis will give up his claim and take the black in exchange for more men to guard the wall.  Jon Snow will recognize Roose Bolton's rights to lord over the north and Winterfell.  Jon pissed all of that chance away when he pushed his nose into Ramsay's business with the Arya rescue operation.  

They might get their independence but it will be short lived.  The white walkers are coming and those northern folk will be ice thralls before long.  Then Dany and Drogon will burn them at the trident to put them out of their collective misery.

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