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Cowboy Dan

Names of Legend: The Stranger and Ender the Xenocide

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From what I can gather there is a large meta-narrative game between creators which involves A Song of Ice and Fire as an early progenitor or participant. This has been going on for over three decades, perhaps longer.

I'll begin by using Orson Scott Card's Ender Quartet (of Ender's Game fame) to evidence some cross-narrative connections.

Warning: spoilers will be involved due to sourcing quotes and concepts from the Ender Quartet. This is the first in a series of posts I'll be writing on the similarities. As an introduction, there will be a fair amount of set-up familiarizing readers with plot points and key concepts for those who have not read the Ender Quartet.

The Stranger

Quote

 

He was who he was; Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned. For the rest of his life—however long that might be—he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing in the shadows who dares not speak his true name.

-Jon IX, AGOT

And the seventh face... the Stranger was neither male nor female, yet both, ever the outcast, the wanderer from far places, less and more than human, unknown and unknowable.

-Catelyn IV, ACOK

 

 

Ender is essentially a non-entity in the files of the ruling Hegemony, as his identity is protected by the highest security possible. Despite being Ender the Xenocide his students only know him as Andrew Wiggin, itinerant Speaker. He never puts roots down on any of the planets he visits or makes concrete connections aside from his sister Valentine, thus making him 'unknown and unknowable'.

Quote

"Everyone calls him Quim." The nickname was pronounced like the word king in Stark. It began because his middle name is Rei but now it's because he thinks he rules by divine right.

"Bastard," said Quim. He stalked out of the room.

At the same time the others settled in for conversation. Miro had decided to accept the stranger, at least temporarily; therefore they could let down their guard a little.

-Ch. 7 "The Ribeira House", Speaker for the Dead

A man named king in Stark calls the stranger a bastard, invoking Jon Snow. The difference between the two is worth noting, however. Jon, assuming R+L=J, is a king passed off as a Stark bastard and has the shadow imagery of the stranger. This exemplifies how the cross-narrative concepts used are often split apart and re-assembled throughout the different series taking part in this meta-game.

Ender is a long-time outcast of the Hegemony, the ruling worlds of Card's universe. Card's Hegemony is the Hundred Worlds while Martin has his Thousand Worlds. Ender's role as the Stranger and the Speaker for the Dead concerns death as a funerary rite. He decided to take on the name in response to the events of Ender's Game in which he killed an entire species known as the buggers. After being philotically linked (psychic magic) with the only remaining Hive Queen cocoon, he writes a book, the Hive Queen and the Hegemon, indicting the Xenocide Ender committed and spreading understanding of the dead species. As a Speaker Ender performs this same role throughout many different worlds over many thousands of years due to the effect of relativistic travel times in universe. This eventually brings him to the colony of Lusitania to determine if the Pequeninos (also called piggies) are 'raman' or 'varelse', a species we can coexist with or not. His hope is to use the mostly untouched world to rebirth the last Hive Queen. In this sense Ender is much like the Stranger of the Seven, identifying and commiserating with the non-human alien species as much as with his fellow humans.

 

Only Half Man

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The Stranger in the shadows, his half-human face concealed beneath a hooded mantle.

-Jaime IV, AFFC

The Speaker, however, followed **lines of thought alien to Miro**. Even though **he wore a human shape**, it made Miro wonder if Ender really was a framling--he could be as baffling as the piggies. He was as much a ramen as they were, **alien but still not animal**.

-Ch. 14 "Renegades", Speaker for the Dead

Both Jon and Ender are described as being unhuman in the manner of ghosts.

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[H]is white skin made him look sickly compared to the thousand shades of brown of the Lusos. Ghostly.

-Ch. 15 "Speaking", Speaker for the Dead

When the spirit stepped out of the open tomb, pale white and moaning for blood... Arya stood her ground and gave the spirit a punch. It was only Jon, covered with flour.

-Arya IV, AGOT

To further the connection of a Speaker not being fully human is the novel's initial insights into Novinha Ribeira. Novinha originally put out the call for a Speaker for the Dead that drew Ender to Lusitania.

Quote

For he loved her, as you can only love someone who is an echo of yourself at your time of deepest sorrow.

-Ch. 5 "Valentine", Speaker for the Dead

"And someone else is in you. The Speaker for the Dead. That's who you want to be."

"It's the only true story I ever heard," she said. "The only one I care about. Is that what you wanted to hear?"
...
"What I wanted to hear," said Pipo softly, "was the name of what you are instead of all the things you are not. What you are is the hive queen. What you are is the Speaker for the Dead. It's a very small community, small in numbers, but a great-hearted one. So you chose not to be part of the bands of children who group together for the sole purpose of excluding others, and people look at you and say, poor girl, she's so isolated, but you know a secret, you know who you really are. You are the one human being who is capable of understanding the alien mind because you are the alien mind; you know what it is to be unhuman because there's never been any human group that gave you credentials as a bona fide homo sapiens."

"Now you say I'm not even human?"

-Ch. 1 "Pipo", Speaker for the Dead

A small, great-hearted community seems to invoke the magical communities we sometimes see in ASOIAF: most directly with the Warlocks of Qarth around their fiery indigo heart and the greenseers in Bloodraven's cave connected to heart trees.

Quote

 

"The way you say it, you make it sound as easy as writing a scholarly paper. You don't know what it was like to write the Hive Queen and the Hegemon. How much agony it was for him to--to imagine himself inside an alien mind..."

-Ch. 1 "Pipo", Speaker for the Dead

 

 

The matter of community seems to be at the center of an archetypal stranger -- or more accurately of otherization and alienation, the exclusion from or lack of participation in a community. Ender becomes associated less and less with the stranger as he becomes part of the town of Milagre and a member of the Ribeira family. This transition arises due to his reason for arriving: to learn if the Hive Queen can be born on Lusitania and if the piggies are raman or varelse. We learn that both the xenobiologist and xenologer of Lusitania have been aiding the piggies, interfering with their cultural development, in direct violation of Hegemony law. This spurs Ender to appeal to the leaders of Milagre to rebel against Hegemony intervention and allow further contact with the piggies.

Quote

"I submit to your authority," said Ender, "because I don't want to be a framling here. I want to be your citizen, your student, your parishioner."
"As a Speaker for the Dead?" asked the Bishop.
"As Andrew Wiggin. I have some other skills that might be useful. Particularly if you rebel..."
"We don't doubt your sincerity," said the Bishop. "But you must forgive us if we are doubtful about casting in with a citizen who is something of a latecomer."
Ender nodded. The Bishop could not say more until he knew more. "Let me tell you first what I know."

-Ch. 16 "The Fence", Speaker for the Dead

Ender, as well as playing the Stranger, plays a variation on the roles of the Last Hero, the creator of the Pact between First Men and Children, and Brandon the Builder.

Quote

"The manner in which Brandon [the Builder] learned to comprehend the speech of the children is a tale in itself, and not worth repeating here."

-Ancient History: The Dawn Age, TWOIAF

This seems to raise many questions: How long has this been going on? What is the purpose? Is Martin the originator and gave the ideas to other creators then re-purposed their use in his own series? Or is Martin one of a group that is working some sort of co-operative meta-narrative project? 

Ender's Game is the oldest entry in this tradition that I am aware of and it was published in 1985, over a decade before AGOT. Are there examples that predate Card's work?

Most importantly: What other series are involved and where have you seen this use of cross-narrative collaboration? What information can we take from these different series to help suss out certain issues in ASOIAF?

These aren't rhetorical questions I'm asking. I want to hear what people have to say on the matter.

Edited by Ran

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I hesitate to link the themes of these two authors.  Both wrote ambitious stories with grand themes involving human motivations.  Maybe the similarities you see are coincidental?

At any rate, I was involved in a book forum back in the early 2000s and at that time people were pretty judgemental of Card because of his personal views on homosexuality and his Mormon beliefs.  Any discussions people tried to have about how wonderful his books are (especially the Ender books) tended to devolve into people judging him for his personal and religious beliefs. 

I read all of Ender books.  Ender's Game is one of my all time favourite books, but the series became more esoteric and less interesting for me as is developed.  The same is true for his "Tales of Alvin Maker" series.  Strong beginnings but less interesting as each books continued the tale.

I don't find a need to judge his books based on his personal and religious beliefs.  A good book is a good book.  But you might find that some people don't agree with that point of view. 

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I hesitate to link the themes of these two authors.  Both wrote ambitious stories with grand themes involving human motivations.  Maybe the similarities you see are coincidental?

At any rate, I was involved in a book forum back in the early 2000s and at that time people were pretty judgemental of Card because of his personal views on homosexuality and his Mormon beliefs.  Any discussions people tried to have about how wonderful his books are (especially the Ender books) tended to devolve into people judging him for his personal and religious beliefs. 

I read all of Ender books.  Ender's Game is one of my all time favourite books, but the series became more esoteric and less interesting for me as is developed.  The same is true for his "Tales of Alvin Maker" series.  Strong beginnings but less interesting as each books continued the tale.

I don't find a need to judge his books based on his personal and religious beliefs.  A good book is a good book.  But you might find that some people don't agree with that point of view. 

I remember reading about that when the Ender's Game movie was being released. While I don't agree with his personal stances I don't see a need for that to influence what the work itself says. So long as the author doesn't start preaching their personal views and I didn't see that in the series.

The series definitely gets into esoteric and metaphysical ideas. Personally, that's what I really liked about the series as it went on: the philosophical bent it possessed.

I made a post on reddit recently pointing out the use of keywords in Martin's series to tie meaning to a phrase or connect different passages in a post I titled Jon Snow and the Flexed Hand: Preparing for War. This is similarly employed across Card's work to link concepts together. The pervasiveness and specificity of the connections make me say it's not coincidental archetypal overlap.

A couple of examples:

A promise made on a death bed regarding a child affects the outcome of both stories. In ASOIAF we have Lyanna and Ned's promise regarding Jon.

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Promise me, Ned, his sister had whispered from her bed of blood.

-Eddard XV, AGOT

Han Fei-tzu makes a similar promise on his wife's deathbed regarding the raising of their child Qing-jao.

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"Promise that you will teach Qing-jao to love the gods and walk always on the Path. Promise that you will make her as much my daughter as yours."
...
"Promise me."
I will. I promise.
...
Her eyes were wide and frightened. The moment had come.
Her lips moved. Promise me, she said, though her breath could make no sound but gasping.
"I promise," said Han Fei-tzu.

-Ch. 1 "A Parting", Xenocide

Martin's guiding principle of writing is at the core of the third book in the series, Xenocide.

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"I've always agreed with William Faulkner—he said that the human heart in conflict with itself is the only thing worth writing about. I've always taken that as my guiding principle, and the rest is just set dressing." - George R.R. Martin

The tagline on the back of my copy of Xenocide states:

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The war for the survival of the planet Lusitania will be fought in the heart of a child named Gloriously Bright.

The promise is the key conflict of the heart for Qing-Jao, whether she sides with her father's teachings of 'the Gods' and Starways Congress, or the colonists of Lusitania.

Qing-jao's initiation to discover if she is Godspoken almost directly corresponds to Catelyn's behavior at the Red Wedding. For the unaware: during the initiation, the initiate has their hands shoved in grease. They are then put in a clean room and unable to wash their hands. The Godspoken show an extreme, pathological need to wash their hands, to 'be clean in the sight of the Gods', which Card modeled after OCD behavior.

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When her palms and fingers hurt badly enough that she couldn't feel the slime on them, she wiped her face with them, gouged at her face with her fingernails to scrape away the grease there. Then, hands dirty again, she once more rubbed them on the walls.
Finally, exhausted, she fell to the floor and wept at the pain in her hands, at her helplessness to get clean. Her eyes were shut with weeping. Tears streaked down her cheeks. She rubbed at her eyes, her cheeks--and felt how slimy the tears made her skin, how filthy she was. She knew what this surely meant: The gods had judged her and found her unclean. She wasn't worthy to live. If she couldn't get clean, she had to blot herself out. That would satisfy them. That would ease the agony of it. All she had to do was find a way to die.

-Ch. 3 "Clean Hands", Xenocide

Catelyn similarly gouges at her own face, feels helpless at the situation she finds herself in, dirties her hands (with blood), cries intensely, wants to ease her agony, and finds a way to die.

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"Let him go and I swear we will forget this . . . forget all you've done here. I swear it by the old gods and new, we... we will take no vengeance..."
...
Ten fierce ravens were raking her face with sharp talons and tearing off strips of flesh, leaving deep furrows that ran red with blood. She could taste it on her lips.
It hurts so much, she thought. Our children, Ned, all our sweet babes. Rickon, Bran, Arya, Sansa, Robb... Robb... please, Ned, please, make it stop, make it stop hurting... The white tears and the red ones ran together until her face was torn and tattered, the face that Ned had loved. Catelyn Stark raised her hands and watched the blood run down her long fingers, over her wrists, beneath the sleeves of her gown.

-Catelyn VII, ASOS

Whereas Qing-jao accepts her punishment by the gods and tries to die, Catelyn invokes the gods to stop her torment. Her hands are dirty but instead of grease, there is blood.

Then comes the kicker: as Cat had her throat slit, so does Qing-jao think of slitting her own throat on a statue's blade.

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For a moment, touching the sword, she thought of trying to cut her throat on it--that would stop her breath, wouldn't it? But the blade was only a pretend blade.

-Ch. 3 "Clean Hands", Xenocide

I don't find it reasonable these sorts of parallels and variations are incidental. 

Edited by Cowboy Dan
Formatting glitches

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