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Valyrian Sphinxes, the Descolada and the Others

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Throughout ASOIAF we see a number of mythical hybrid creatures in the text, most prominently shown with dragons and Valyrian Sphinxes. The Targaryens believe themselves to be hybrids of the same variety, making a quite literal interpretation of the phrase "blood of the dragon".

Quote

The tales the Valyrians told of themselves claimed they were descended from dragons and were kin to the ones they now controlled.

-Ancient History: The Rise of Valyria, TWOIAF

We see this with Dany's miscarriage in AGOT, which we are told had small leathery wings. There are a number of scenes showcasing hybrid creatures matched together with dragons in the series.

Quote

The gateway to the Long Bridge was a black stone arch carved with sphinxes, manticores, dragons, and creatures stranger still.

-Tyrion VII, ADWD

In place of merlons, a thousand grotesques and gargoyles looked down on him, each different from all the others; wyverns, griffins, demons, manticores, minotaurs, basilisks, hellhounds, cockatrices, and a thousand queerer creatures sprouted from the castle's battlements as if they'd grown there. And the dragons were everywhere.

-Davos V, ASOS

Valyrian Sphinxes are another example of these amalgamated creatures, not having a uniform make up. This amalgamation is spelled out in describing Alleras, who is also nicknamed 'the Sphinx'.

Quote

A sphinx is a bit of this, a bit of that: a human face, the body of a lion, the wings of a hawk.

-Prologue, AFFC

Tyrion spots a different sphinx described as having a dragon's body and a woman's face. Dragons themselves, it's pointed out in-universe, have been speculated as a hybrid amalgam creature.

Quote

In Septon Barth's Dragons, Wyrms, and Wyverns, he speculated that the bloodmages of Valyria used wyvern stock to create dragons.

-Beyond the Free Cities: Sothoryos, TWOIAF

How would this amalgamation take place? For those who have been reading my previous posts regarding the Ender Quartet, there is a mechanism involving the descolada virus which would explain this process. It should be noted I'm not saying the descolada exists in Westeros. I'm saying the process that drives the descolada is essentially the same archetypal meta-mythological process behind these amalgamated beasts in ASOIAF.

Quote

A disease that struck across all species boundaries, that could adapt itself to any living thing.

-Ch. 13 "Ela", Speaker for the Dead

The Descolada doesn't just split the genetic molecules and prevent them from reforming or duplicating. It also encourages them to bond with completely foreign genetic material.

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

The key difference between the two is that the descolada serves as a transition from one genetic state to another. The limited life on Lusitania undergoes this transformation process, notably in the piggies and their transition into the third life as a tree. Tying another concept from both these works to the descolada seems to bridge this divide from a transitional process to a process of hybridization. In the Ender series, marriage is a way to metaphorically merge two people into the same entity. Magical marriages serve the same purpose by way of a much more direct process in ASOIAF.

Quote

The Starways Code declared it. Married people were virtually the same person in the eyes of the law.

-Ch. 3 "Libo", Speaker for the Dead

"This will help awaken your gifts and wed you to the trees."

Bran didn't want to be married to a tree... but who else would wed a broken boy like him? A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. A greenseer.

-Bran III, ADWD

As we see with Bloodraven, greenseers quite literally become part weirwood, with the worm-like roots and tendrils extending throughout the body. In this strange way, they become married to another.

Quote

Bran closed his eyes and slipped free of his skin. Into the roots, he thought. Into the weirwood. Become the tree.

-Bran III, ADWD

Bloodraven explains to Bran how he begins to perceive time through his growing tree powers, not as a man, but as a weirwood.

Quote

"You were looking through the eyes of the heart tree in your godswood. Time is different for a tree than for a man... And the weirwood... a thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past."

-Bran III, ADWD

What is the purpose of this combination process? In the Quartet the overall point is to not only humanize but also preserve and coexist with alien species. The difficulty and only unsolved problem of coexistence lie with the descolada since their language lies beyond current human capacity to translate. This echoes the Others and their untranslateable language. The crew agrees to take as long as it needs, even millennia, to solve this dilemma and incorporate the descolada into the several already coexisting species. The Others themselves haven't been seen for a similar amount of time, eight millennia if the histories are correct. This incorporation is precisely how the descolada can learn: by fusing completely alien species into a single form. This also occurs throughout Martin's work in terms of narrative. The same events play themselves out over and over in Westerosi history in slightly differing fashions. In the Quartet, one of the metaphysical quandaries that crop up is the idea of reality-as-information. All reality in that conception can be boiled down to behavior through the philotic twine. The descolada would not only incorporate genetic material but human behavior as well, treating the narrative as a source of genetic material. If we think as a Speaker for the Dead does, to think as the descolada does, we can witness this process in the behavior of these replayed narratives. If we think of the narrative structure as a form of DNA, each scene or key conflict can be split down the middle and re-fashioned into a new scene or conflict. I showed how this process can take the same archetypal scene but is replayed by analyzing Waymar's and Daenerys' trials in AGOT and I have added a link below.. Although I am certainly not the only person to talk about this narrative process in the community.

For those who cannot be tied together by the descolada, the process results in the death of the rejected. This is what has reduced the ecosphere of Lusitania to the state it is in, with so few thriving species. The descolada is described as more destructive to the ecology of the colony than a collision with an asteroid. The descolada serves as a tyrant-like god that requires all under its rule to be tamed in accordance with its will. The connection to the descolada as gods is directly stated in the text:

Quote

The gods are like the descolada in every way. They destroy anything they don't like, and the people they do like they transform into something that they never were.

-Ch. 14 "Virus Makers", Xenocide

The most interesting part of this process is that it may hold the original seed for the race of the Others and their wights. The Others are likewise treated as gods, called the "Cold Gods" by Craster, who sacrifices to them in exchange for protection. Thus the descolada and the Others are both treated as deadly gods with no means of communication to humans.

Quote

<Perhaps the descolada meant to combine us with an existing pair. Or replace one pair-member with us.>

<Or perhaps it meant to pair you with the humans.>

>-Ch. 18 "The God of Path", Xenocide

This conversation takes place between one of the fathertrees and the buggers' hive queen. An interesting idea -- but in practice how would a bugger-human hybrid behave? Perhaps similar to the wights. Ender, early in Speaker, points out the buggers behave as a hive mind and treat individual life no different than nail clippings. When they would kill a human or two, it was their method of letting humans know they were 'in the neighborhood'. We see this same behavior in the prologue: the dead wildlings serve as a warning that says KEEP OUT, which Waymar ignores. The idea that these dead humans are a form of communication is evidenced more overtly in the show, with the dead positioned into some sort of strange rune.

Spoiler

What follows is an insight into the Other's behavior in the show. Do not open if you wish to remain unspoiled.

Spoiler

We also see that the Others act directly as a hive mind controlling the wights in the show. When an Other is killed, all the wights it commands die with it. The same behavior holds true for the hive queen and her workers in the Quartet.

 

I am going to get a bit speculative on the nature of the Others by way of the descolada. Speculation in this meta-mythological manner should be taken with a heavy eye for the symbolic/abstract ideas tying the two concepts together across narratives. Otherwise one runs the risk of taking a connection literally meant to be symbolic or vice versa. The descolada works solely on genetic lines of survival and we may be able to glimpse why the Others behave in such an odd way compared to the survival traits of humans.

Quote

Only when the environment puts them under such stress that one of these randomly drifting traits suddenly has survival value, only then will all those in that particular environment who lack that trait die out, until the new trait, instead of being an occasional sport, is now a universal definer of the new species.

-Ch. 14 "Virus Makers", Xenocide

The Others in a sense could be following this same train of thought regarding genetic survival. They aren't trying to destroy humanity because they hate humans or are some 'dark lord' trying to rule humanity with an iron fist. They are essentially forcing their genetic trait of a cold, prolonged life after death onto everyone in order to create a world they can survive and thrive in.

Quote

So few species, because the descolada only permits the species that it has tamed.

-Ch. 14 "Virus Makers", Xenocide

The Others would be trying to tame humanity into a form they can live with, without the threat of destruction due to their existential differences.

I treat this last speculation as a possibility and interesting food-for-thought due to the connections between the descolada and Others, not a hard-line prediction regarding the behavior of the Others in ASOIAF.

Edited by Cowboy Dan

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12 hours ago, Cowboy Dan said:

Throughout ASOIAF we see a number of mythical hybrid creatures in the text, most prominently shown with dragons and Valyrian Sphinxes. The Targaryens believe themselves to be hybrids of the same variety, making a quite literal interpretation of the phrase "blood of the dragon".

We see this with Dany's miscarriage in AGOT, which we are told had small leathery wings. There are a number of scenes showcasing hybrid creatures matched together with dragons in the series.

Valyrian Sphinxes are another example of these amalgamated creatures, not having a uniform make up. This amalgamation is spelled out in describing Alleras, who is also nicknamed 'the Sphinx'.

Tyrion spots a different sphinx described as having a dragon's body and a woman's face. Dragons themselves, it's pointed out in-universe, have been speculated as a hybrid amalgam creature.

How would this amalgamation take place? For those who have been reading my previous posts regarding the Ender Quartet, there is a mechanism involving the descolada virus which would explain this process. It should be noted I'm not saying the descolada exists in Westeros. I'm saying the process that drives the descolada is essentially the same archetypal meta-mythological process behind these amalgamated beasts in ASOIAF.

The key difference between the two is that the descolada serves as a transition from one genetic state to another. The limited life on Lusitania undergoes this transformation process, notably in the piggies and their transition into the third life as a tree. Tying another concept from both these works to the descolada seems to bridge this divide from a transitional process to a process of hybridization. In the Ender series, marriage is a way to metaphorically merge two people into the same entity. Magical marriages serve the same purpose by way of a much more direct process in ASOIAF.

As we see with Bloodraven, greenseers quite literally become part weirwood, with the worm-like roots and tendrils extending throughout the body. In this strange way, they become married to another.

Bloodraven explains to Bran how he begins to perceive time through his growing tree powers, not as a man, but as a weirwood.

What is the purpose of this combination process? In the Quartet the overall point is to not only humanize but also preserve and coexist with alien species. The difficulty and only unsolved problem of coexistence lie with the descolada since their language lies beyond current human capacity to translate. This echoes the Others and their untranslateable language. The crew agrees to take as long as it needs, even millennia, to solve this dilemma and incorporate the descolada into the several already coexisting species. The Others themselves haven't been seen for a similar amount of time, eight millennia if the histories are correct. This incorporation is precisely how the descolada can learn: by fusing completely alien species into a single form. This also occurs throughout Martin's work in terms of narrative. The same events play themselves out over and over in Westerosi history in slightly differing fashions. In the Quartet, one of the metaphysical quandaries that crop up is the idea of reality-as-information. All reality in that conception can be boiled down to behavior through the philotic twine. The descolada would not only incorporate genetic material but human behavior as well, treating the narrative as a source of genetic material. If we think as a Speaker for the Dead does, to think as the descolada does, we can witness this process in the behavior of these replayed narratives. If we think of the narrative structure as a form of DNA, each scene or key conflict can be split down the middle and re-fashioned into a new scene or conflict. I showed how this process can take the same archetypal scene but is replayed by analyzing Waymar's and Daenerys' trials in AGOT and I have added a link below.. Although I am certainly not the only person to talk about this narrative process in the community.

For those who cannot be tied together by the descolada, the process results in the death of the rejected. This is what has reduced the ecosphere of Lusitania to the state it is in, with so few thriving species. The descolada is described as more destructive to the ecology of the colony than a collision with an asteroid. The descolada serves as a tyrant-like god that requires all under its rule to be tamed in accordance with its will. The connection to the descolada as gods is directly stated in the text:

The most interesting part of this process is that it may hold the original seed for the race of the Others and their wights. The Others are likewise treated as gods, called the "Cold Gods" by Craster, who sacrifices to them in exchange for protection. Thus the descolada and the Others are both treated as deadly gods with no means of communication to humans.

This conversation takes place between one of the fathertrees and the buggers' hive queen. An interesting idea -- but in practice how would a bugger-human hybrid behave? Perhaps similar to the wights. Ender, early in Speaker, points out the buggers behave as a hive mind and treat individual life no different than nail clippings. When they would kill a human or two, it was their method of letting humans know they were 'in the neighborhood'. We see this same behavior in the prologue: the dead wildlings serve as a warning that says KEEP OUT, which Waymar ignores. The idea that these dead humans are a form of communication is evidenced more overtly in the show, with the dead positioned into some sort of strange rune.

  Hide contents

What follows is an insight into the Other's behavior in the show. Do not open if you wish to remain unspoiled.

  Hide contents

We also see that the Others act directly as a hive mind controlling the wights in the show. When an Other is killed, all the wights it commands die with it. The same behavior holds true for the hive queen and her workers in the Quartet.

 

I am going to get a bit speculative on the nature of the Others by way of the descolada. Speculation in this meta-mythological manner should be taken with a heavy eye for the symbolic/abstract ideas tying the two concepts together across narratives. Otherwise one runs the risk of taking a connection literally meant to be symbolic or vice versa. The descolada works solely on genetic lines of survival and we may be able to glimpse why the Others behave in such an odd way compared to the survival traits of humans.

The Others in a sense could be following this same train of thought regarding genetic survival. They aren't trying to destroy humanity because they hate humans or are some 'dark lord' trying to rule humanity with an iron fist. They are essentially forcing their genetic trait of a cold, prolonged life after death onto everyone in order to create a world they can survive and thrive in.

The Others would be trying to tame humanity into a form they can live with, without the threat of destruction due to their existential differences.

I treat this last speculation as a possibility and interesting food-for-thought due to the connections between the descolada and Others, not a hard-line prediction regarding the behavior of the Others in ASOIAF.

Interesting read.

I am totally unfamiliar with your source material so tell me how this Descolada virus was created?

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15 hours ago, Legitimate_Bastard said:

Interesting read.

I am totally unfamiliar with your source material so tell me how this Descolada virus was created?

There's no definitive answer in the text although they do have some speculations on what the purpose of such a virus would serve. The series ends with their group presumably continuing the mission to contact and coexist with those who originally created the descolada virus.

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6 hours ago, Cowboy Dan said:

There's no definitive answer in the text although they do have some speculations on what the purpose of such a virus would serve. The series ends with their group presumably continuing the mission to contact and coexist with those who originally created the descolada virus.

And what was the purpose? LOL

Sorry, I'm intrigued now.

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On 3/12/2019 at 5:42 AM, Legitimate_Bastard said:

And what was the purpose? LOL

Sorry, I'm intrigued now.

Terraforming. They speculate the species that created the virus would need a specific environment to live in so they send the descolada to essentially pave the way for them, incorporating what they can coexist with and destroying what they can't. The Piggies also go to war, planting trees in their dead as a form of forcing the greenhouse effect or removing it to cause a form of planetary homeostasis when it becomes too hot or cold.

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48 minutes ago, Cowboy Dan said:

Terraforming. They speculate the species that created the virus would need a specific environment to live in so they send the descolada to essentially pave the way for them, incorporating what they can coexist with and destroying what they can't. The Piggies also go to war, planting trees in their dead as a form of forcing the greenhouse effect or removing it to cause a form of planetary homeostasis when it becomes too hot or cold.

I will have to read this. It sounds pretty awesome. 

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3 minutes ago, Legitimate_Bastard said:

I will have to read this. It sounds pretty awesome. 

The series is definitely worth the read in my opinion. Plenty of good stuff to unpack. Should be noted we don't see the piggies go to war, it's not as much about the action as it is about the ideas and abstractions involved. It's very philosophical in style and treats ethical/moral dilemmas as central to the literary journey.

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First of all, thanks for the interesting read -- I've only read Ender's Game so far, this is the first thing that made me want to check out the rest too.

Second --

On 3/11/2019 at 2:32 AM, Cowboy Dan said:

The Others in a sense could be following this same train of thought regarding genetic survival. They aren't trying to destroy humanity because they hate humans or are some 'dark lord' trying to rule humanity with an iron fist. They are essentially forcing their genetic trait of a cold, prolonged life after death onto everyone in order to create a world they can survive and thrive in.

The Others would be trying to tame humanity into a form they can live with, without the threat of destruction due to their existential differences.

I treat this last speculation as a possibility and interesting food-for-thought due to the connections between the descolada and Others, not a hard-line prediction regarding the behavior of the Others in ASOIAF.

I think the idea that the Others are a tool for self-defense and survival makes a lot of sense -- and it would also explain why we haven't seen many factions within the Others, as we have with every other "side" in this story. My personal hypothesis is that there are at least two different factions among the remaining Children of the Forest ("remaining" not necessarily in humanoid shape -- remember they're still in the trees and stones, and their greenseers may have been watching through ravens' eyes all this time), one of which is bent on reclaiming Westeros as their habitat, or at least ending the threat of humans encroaching on their last refuges once and for all. (The ones protecting Bran & Bloodraven would seem to belong to a different faction, one resigned to fading.)

In this view, the irregular winters look a lot like a population control measure that is being escalated now for some reason. (I think the reason might be Summerhall, but there's no way to tell at this point.)

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, Ida Hearst said:

I think the idea that the Others are a tool for self-defense and survival makes a lot of sense -- and it would also explain why we haven't seen many factions within the Others, as we have with every other "side" in this story. My personal hypothesis is that there are at least two different factions among the remaining Children of the Forest ("remaining" not necessarily in humanoid shape -- remember they're still in the trees and stones, and their greenseers may have been watching through ravens' eyes all this time), one of which is bent on reclaiming Westeros as their habitat, or at least ending the threat of humans encroaching on their last refuges once and for all. (The ones protecting Bran & Bloodraven would seem to belong to a different faction, one resigned to fading.)

An interesting take but I suppose it makes sense. Leaf does talk about their long dwindling in Bran's chapters.  In your conception do you think one greenseer is enough to accomplish that aim, provided events work in their favor? Or would they need further assistance from the faction that seems resigned?

I can't speak for anyone else but I know I would rather fight than fade away, whatever that may take.

As for the Others, I think that is how it seems from their perspective but killing everyone to get what you want is not copacetic. I really don't think that's what Martin has in store for the outcome of the series.

13 hours ago, Ida Hearst said:

First of all, thanks for the interesting read -- I've only read Ender's Game so far, this is the first thing that made me want to check out the rest too.

Speaker for the Dead is probably the best of the series so I'd certainly recommend checking that one out. It is a Hugo and Nebula winner for a reason.

Edited by Cowboy Dan

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