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Black Crow

Heresy 225 and the Snowflakes of Doom

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Welcome to Heresy 225, the latest chapter in a thread which began 8 years ago as The Wall, The Watch and a Heresy, and has been running continuously ever since, racking up well over 89,000 posts in the process.

So what’s it all about and why has it been so successful? The short answer is that we look in a lot of depth at the Song of Ice and Fire, as it was originally outlined in GRRM’s 1993 synopsis. The story as it has actually been written has moved a long way since then of course, but broadly speaking we still follow the same premise then as now that the story is about Westeros and about its ancient Stark family, rather than the parvenu Targaryen succession and some mythic Middle-Eastern hero known as Azor Ahai.

That's why, here and in the back-issues you’ll find more information and discussion than anywhere else on the Westeros forum anent the Wall, the Watch and the Otherlands which lie beyond. And as for the Heresy, well that revolves around discussion not only of the true nature and origins of the Others, but also of the true nature of the Starks and their direwolves and their connection to Winter.

Currently, there's an argument going on about the nature of the Others, with Sweet Sunray and friends considering a scientific approach, while others among us favour the magic and the likelihood that the white walkers were once Starks and may be the old kings of Winter come again.

There is after all an old heretic joke that in the end this may not be the story of the dragons saving Westeros from the Others, but of the Others saving Westeros from the Dragons.

So off we go, but remember that another reason why this thread has lasted so long and prospered is that while we disagree all the time, the basic rule in the strap line below has always been cheerfully observed, for which I thank you all.

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Posted (edited)

Carrying over a few points:

3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

It was indeed an interview. Here in the UK the mummers' version on Sky Atlantic was tied into a feature called Thronecast, usually aired after each episode and consisting of studio discussions and interviews. A couple of years back [I think Season 6] the series was preceded by a "special" bringing everybody up to date before it began. Being a special it included pieces to camera by GRRM himself and in one of them he stated straight out that when Sam pinked the white walker with his dragonglass dagger "it broke the spell holding him together". It was explicit and unambiguous.

Whatever the white walkers are or what their source is, we can confidently assert that they are creatures held together with magic.

LynnS pointed out that they feel pain:

2 hours ago, LynnS said:

It implies that they have soft tissue that is exposed, relatively speaking.  The crack sound could be piercing the skin or the sound of the armor cracking when heat is exchanged from the dragonglass.

Either way,  they do feel pain.  Which is characteristic of a living creature.  This seems comparable to Mel who was spared the agony of the fire when Jon killed Rattleshirt.  Although, she feels hunger, thirst and tires; she doesn't need to eat or sleep to survive in her current state.  She would then qualify as another form of life.    She is also not affected by the cold and goes barefoot on the Wall.  She seems to be the exact opposite of the WWs.

Skinchangers feel pain when their host is killed:

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ASOS - Jon XI

"Dalla died." Jon was saddened by that still. "Val is her sister. She and the babe did not require much capturing, Your Grace. You had put the wildlings to flight, and the skinchanger Mance had left to guard his queen went mad when the eagle burned." Jon looked at Melisandre. "Some say that was your doing."

 

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When his father found the dogs sniffing round Bump's body, he had no way of knowing which had done it, so he took his axe to all three. His hands shook so badly that it took two blows to silence Sniff and four to put the Growler down. The smell of blood hung heavy in the air, and the sounds the dying dogs had made were terrible to hear, yet Loptail still came when father called him. He was the oldest dog, and his training overcame his terror. By the time Lump slipped inside his skin it was too late.

No, Father, please, he tried to say, but dogs cannot speak the tongues of men, so all that emerged was a piteous whine. The axe crashed into the middle of the old dog's skull, and inside the hovel the boy let out a scream. That was how they knew. Two days later, his father dragged him into the woods. He brought his axe, so Lump thought he meant to put him down the same way he had done the dogs. Instead he'd given him to Haggon.

 

 

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He summoned all the strength still in him, leapt out of his own skin, and forced himself inside her.

Thistle arched her back and screamed.

Abomination. Was that her, or him, or Haggon? He never knew. His old flesh fell back into the snowdrift as her fingers loosened. The spearwife twisted violently, shrieking. His shadowcat used to fight him wildly, and the snow bear had gone half-mad for a time, snapping at trees and rocks and empty air, but this was worse. "Get out, get out!" he heard her own mouth shouting. Her body staggered, fell, and rose again, her hands flailed, her legs jerked this way and that in some grotesque dance as his spirit and her own fought for the flesh. She sucked down a mouthful of the frigid air, and Varamyr had half a heartbeat to glory in the taste of it and the strength of this young body before her teeth snapped together and filled his mouth with blood. She raised her hands to his face. He tried to push them down again, but the hands would not obey, and she was clawing at his eyes. Abomination, he remembered, drowning in blood and pain and madness. When he tried to scream, she spat their tongue out.

 

 

Edited by Feather Crystal

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I also appreciated JNRs quote:

Quote

But as many have observed, the Popsicles are possibly the laziest villains in fantasy history... so far averaging about one appearance per million words of canon. 

The white walkers have been featured twice. They were in the prologue of AGOT and Sam killed one in ASOS, but no actual sightings or encounters after that. If they are the "big bad" of this story, shouldn't we have had more?

The Wall was built to keep them out. As long as the Wall stands the people of Westeros should have nothing to worry about, right? Thus my assertion that the source of the white walkers is the wildlings and they have successfully gained access to the south side without so much as a breach in the Wall. 

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14 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

I also appreciated JNRs quote:

The white walkers have been featured twice. They were in the prologue of AGOT and Sam killed one in ASOS, but no actual sightings or encounters after that. If they are the "big bad" of this story, shouldn't we have had more?

The Wall was built to keep them out. As long as the Wall stands the people of Westeros should have nothing to worry about, right? Thus my assertion that the source of the white walkers is the wildlings and they have successfully gained access to the south side without so much as a breach in the Wall. 

All of the wildlings or just some of them?

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17 minutes ago, redriver said:

All of the wildlings or just some of them?

There were only six white walkers, correct? So only six wildlings went through the transformation. It may be that only a few wildlings within Mance's circle know the details.

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1 hour ago, Feather Crystal said:

I also appreciated JNRs quote:

The white walkers have been featured twice. They were in the prologue of AGOT and Sam killed one in ASOS, but no actual sightings or encounters after that. If they are the "big bad" of this story, shouldn't we have had more?

To be fair there's also the reported sighting at Eastwatch, and Craster's women, but essentially they are indeed conspicuous by their absence. 

Instead, this does emphasise that they are not a race with its own culture and mores, but I disagree that they are Wildlings. Quite apart from the fact that the Wildings [and the Rangers] fear them, its not necessary to undergo a magical transformation to be scary,

The fact that they are real, rather than mere bogey men argues for a more ambitious and more sinister purpose in the book. Bogeymen are not the greatest threat to Westeros and nor to they serve any real purpose in the story. On the other hand if they are indeed Starks; the old kings of Winter transformed into icy Nazgul then they are an enemy within who must be recognised and confronted and no doubt at terrible cost to the present children of Winterfell.

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1 hour ago, Black Crow said:

To be fair there's also the reported sighting at Eastwatch, and Craster's women, but essentially they are indeed conspicuous by their absence. 

Instead, this does emphasise that they are not a race with its own culture and mores, but I disagree that they are Wildlings. Quite apart from the fact that the Wildings [and the Rangers] fear them, its not necessary to undergo a magical transformation to be scary,

The fact that they are real, rather than mere bogey men argues for a more ambitious and more sinister purpose in the book. Bogeymen are not the greatest threat to Westeros and nor to they serve any real purpose in the story. On the other hand if they are indeed Starks; the old kings of Winter transformed into icy Nazgul then they are an enemy within who must be recognised and confronted and no doubt at terrible cost to the present children of Winterfell.

I think we can both agree that they are creatures of magic. Do you also agree the Wall was built to contain them?

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4 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Currently, there's an argument going on about the nature of the Others, with Sweet Sunray and friends considering a scientific approach, while others among us favour the magic and the likelihood that the white walkers were once Starks and may be the old kings of Winter come again

Well not an argument per se, more a friendly exchange of viewpoints.

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3 hours ago, Black Crow said:

On the other hand if they are indeed Starks; the old kings of Winter transformed into icy Nazgul then they are an enemy within who must be recognised and confronted and no doubt at terrible cost to the present children of Winterfell.

I do find it interesting that that there are nine Nazgul with nine rings in Tolkein's story controlled by the one great ring, and the Stark crown has nine iron spikes on a circlet (which is like a great ring). There is also the same number symbolism of nine weirwoods in the grove north of Castle Black, and in my head canon, that ties to the nine swords on the Stark crown. Ned also refers to his men as wraiths in his dream, and the Nazgul are called the ringwraiths! Now, Ned has only 6 wraiths in his dream, but he is also perhaps conflating a dream with a real life event or two. If I am remembering correctly (and it's been years since I read the LotR) when the Nazgul attack at Weathertop, I don't think all of them show up. Could the tower of joy be a nod to Weathertop? I am not sure if there are six nazgul or not at Weathertop, but if so, could that connect to Ned's six wraiths? Will we eventually see nine grey wraiths in our story, or nine white walkers? Also, this just popped into my head, and probably isn't worth much, but could Ned's 6 wraiths have anything to do with the number of children he has (or claims, depending on your thoughts on Jon's parentage)?

I also wonder about the White Walker that Sam stabbed. Is it dead and gone forever, or does it just need to regroup and reform? If it was somehow released forever, could it have something to do with the idea of the ghost in Winterfell?

Another "wraith" thought I just had is related to Davos. Davos has seven sons, four of which are now dead and three left alive. Davo's eldest son, Dale, who died at the Blackwater with several of his brothers, is associated with the ship The Wraith. Could Davos' son's be considered wraiths of a sort? Certainly the four that died, but perhaps the other three, as well? I can't help but think that the two youngest are at Cape Wrath with Davos wife, and Cape Wrath is probably soon to be a war zone. Are Davos wife and sons safe? Melisandre claims to have kept Devan with her at the wall because Davos has lost enough sons. Does that mean she has perhaps seen death for some of Davos' sons who still live?

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5 hours ago, Black Crow said:

The fact that they are real, rather than mere bogey men argues for a more ambitious and more sinister purpose in the book.

Yes, I would agree with that.  And their reality is almost certainly tied up with the Stark variation of the Musgrave Ritual, though exactly how remains for GRRM to reveal.

As one aspect of that idea, "Winter is coming" could be a truly ancient warning that in time, another Long Night would inevitably come to pass.  If so, that warning was mighty accurate. 

And it begs questions like "How was it known another Long Night was coming?" and "Under what conditions would that take place?" that GRRM seems very likely to answer, because unlike the LOST/GOT writers, he really does want to pull it all together.

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4 hours ago, JNR said:

Yes, I would agree with that.  And their reality is almost certainly tied up with the Stark variation of the Musgrave Ritual, though exactly how remains for GRRM to reveal.

As one aspect of that idea, "Winter is coming" could be a truly ancient warning that in time, another Long Night would inevitably come to pass.  If so, that warning was mighty accurate. 

And it begs questions like "How was it known another Long Night was coming?" and "Under what conditions would that take place?" that GRRM seems very likely to answer, because unlike the LOST/GOT writers, he really does want to pull it all together.

I've always been a touch wary of the words Winter is Coming.

To me it sounds not so much a suggestion to lay in extra firewood, as a war cry. Winter is coming and House Stark is bringing it. :commie:

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7 hours ago, LynnS said:

Well not an argument per se, more a friendly exchange of viewpoints.

My bad, as drafted in my head that was going to read "a genteel argument" :commie:

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13 hours ago, Feather Crystal said:

There were only six white walkers, correct? So only six wildlings went through the transformation. It may be that only a few wildlings within Mance's circle know the details.

Will have a look at the theory.I can respond here or PM if you'd prefer?

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3 hours ago, redriver said:

Will have a look at the theory.I can respond here or PM if you'd prefer?

There is a thread in the re-read section that Fattest Leech began for me: 

Her intention was to rid me from her Nymeria thread, but whatever!

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The thing about the Wall is that it was built to contain magic and the Others. I suspect that magic is escaping and that is why Daenerys funeral pyre facilitated the hatching of the dragon eggs and why the white walkers have reappeared. But is the integrity of the Wall still strong enough to prevent white walkers and wights from crossing? The wards are threadbare, but they are still there otherwise I suspect the Wall would come crashing down - either that or its slowly disintegrating and blowing away in the form of the blizzard that has all but disabled the north at the end of Dance.

If the wildlings are the source of the white walkers, what's to prevent them from creating more on the south side of the Wall? Some have been sent by Jon to repopulate the castles along the Wall, but a large portion of warriors were still at Castle Black fully intending to ride with Jon on Winterfell. Now that he's been stabbed, will the wildlings wait around for him to recover or will they attack Winterfell without him?

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20 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

If the wildlings are the source of the white walkers, what's to prevent them from creating more on the south side of the Wall? Some have been sent by Jon to repopulate the castles along the Wall, but a large portion of warriors were still at Castle Black fully intending to ride with Jon on Winterfell. Now that he's been stabbed, will the wildlings wait around for him to recover or will they attack Winterfell without him?

What is their incentive to go without him? Unless they are driven from Castle Black and have no place else to go, but there are still multiple other places to take shelter along the wall where they might seek shelter. Plus, it seems like they have the better numbers, so perhaps they will just take and hold Castle Black? :dunno:

7 hours ago, Black Crow said:

To me it sounds not so much a suggestion to lay in extra firewood, as a war cry. Winter is coming and House Stark is bringing it. :commie:

11 hours ago, JNR said:

As one aspect of that idea, "Winter is coming" could be a truly ancient warning that in time, another Long Night would inevitably come to pass.  If so, that warning was mighty accurate.

I would love it if "winter is coming" was a threat or warning, but when I think of Winter, I also think of them as being Kings of Winter. But as Osha says, "Winter's got no king. If you'd seen it, you'd know that, summer boy." What if Winter isn't just a season, what if it's something far worse? Also, this quote by Osha has always stood out to me because of the contrast of Winter and Bran being a "summer boy".

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4 minutes ago, St Daga said:

What is their incentive to go without him? Unless they are driven from Castle Black and have no place else to go, but there are still multiple other places to take shelter along the wall where they might seek shelter. Plus, it seems like they have the better numbers, so perhaps they will just take and hold Castle Black? :dunno:

If my theory about the Thenns being the ancient family of Winterfell is true, wouldn't they want to take it back?

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6 minutes ago, Feather Crystal said:

If my theory about the Thenns being the ancient family of Winterfell is true, wouldn't they want to take it back?

The Thenn's are one group of wildlings, and they haven't even proved they can pass the gates of Karhold. They might want to do it, but do they have the strength? Will the rest of the wildling's follow House Thenn, who has knelt to Stannis? They might have followed Styr, as he was a great challenge to Mance himself before Mance was declared king. But Styr is gone and Sigorn is their leader now. I think the challenge is harder to gather warriors for Sigorn than it would have been his father. The north might not follow a wildling and the wildling's might not follow a man who has knelt. :dunno:

I'm not saying it's not possible, but I do think it's quite a challenge that Sigorn and Alys have before them if they want to take Winterfell, and then hold it.

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, St Daga said:

The Thenn's are one group of wildlings, and they haven't even proved they can pass the gates of Karhold. They might want to do it, but do they have the strength? Will the rest of the wildling's follow House Thenn, who has knelt to Stannis? They might have followed Styr, as he was a great challenge to Mance himself before Mance was declared king. But Styr is gone and Sigorn is their leader now. I think the challenge is harder to gather warriors for Sigorn than it would have been his father. The north might not follow a wildling and the wildling's might not follow a man who has knelt. :dunno:

I'm not saying it's not possible, but I do think it's quite a challenge that Sigorn and Alys have before them if they want to take Winterfell, and then hold it.

The story about the wildlings not kneeling has to do with them deciding not to follow the son, because he was not like his father. If history is undoing itself, then this time the wildlings will follow the son, because he is like his father - even though he knelt. Kneeling to Stannis would also be the opposite of what happened historically with the son.

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Sigorn was the first to kneel before the king. The new Magnar of Thenn was a younger, shorter version of his father—lean, balding, clad in bronze greaves and a leather shirt sewn with bronze scales. 

Alys believes Karhold will yield to her and Sigorn's 200 Thenns. 

Sigorn may have signaled his intent:

Quote

ADWD - Jon V

"You want more food?" asked Jon. "The food's for fighters. Help us hold the Wall, and you'll eat as well as any crow." Or as poorly, when the food runs short.

A silence fell. The wildlings exchanged wary looks. "Eat," the raven muttered. "Corn, corn."

"Fight for you?" This voice was thickly accented. Sigorn, the young Magnar of Thenn, spoke the Common Tongue haltingly at best. "Not fight for you. Kill you better. Kill all you."

The raven flapped its wings. "Kill, kill."

Sigorn's father, the old Magnar, had been crushed beneath the falling stair during his attack on Castle Black. I would feel the same if someone asked me to make common cause with the Lannisters, Jon told himself. "Your father tried to kill us all," he reminded Sigorn. "The Magnar was a brave man, yet he failed. And if he had succeeded … who would hold the Wall?" He turned away from the Thenns. "Winterfell's walls were strong as well, but Winterfell stands in ruins today, burned and broken. A wall is only as good as the men defending it."

An old man with a turnip cradled against his chest said, "You kill us, you starve us, now you want t' make us slaves."

A chunky red-faced man shouted assent. "I'd sooner go naked than wear one o' them black rags on my back."

Do the Thenns sound like allies of Jon Snow?

Edited by Feather Crystal

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1 hour ago, St Daga said:

But as Osha says, "Winter's got no king. If you'd seen it, you'd know that, summer boy." What if Winter isn't just a season, what if it's something far worse? Also, this quote by Osha has always stood out to me because of the contrast of Winter and Bran being a "summer boy".

Winter has certainly always been a symbolic time of struggle and difficult in the North... but it has been for the Starks as well.  We have Ned's words on this subject directly:

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Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles. In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths.

This clearly puts winter on one side, and the Starks on the other, relying on each other to cope with and overcome its difficulties.  When Old Nan tells Bran he's a summer child, she is saying the same thing: that winter is the enemy, an enemy he has never known.

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"Oh, my sweet summer child," Old Nan said quietly, "what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods."

Once again we have the Starks and direwolves on one side, and the Long Night and white walkers on the other.

Which brings us to:

8 hours ago, Black Crow said:

I've always been a touch wary of the words Winter is Coming.

To me it sounds not so much a suggestion to lay in extra firewood, as a war cry. Winter is coming and House Stark is bringing it.

They might bring winter, in a sense, to other houses like Frey, in time... but when it comes to the Long Night, House Stark is only surviving it, IMO.  As they did originally.

But that isn't to say the Starks have no connection to the Long Night, either.  Think of humanity and its relationship to global waming: it's a major threat to us.  But we are intimately connected to it, too.

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