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The Stranger has three heads?

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At first Sansa did not notice the third stranger. ...

"The king is gone hunting, but I know he will be pleased to see  you when he returns," the queen was saying to the two knights who knelt before her, but Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man. He seemed to feel the weight of her gaze. Slowly he turned his head. Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. ...

The Hound, ever faithful, bowed and slid away quietly through the press. Sansa struggled to steady herself. She felt like such a fool. She was a Stark of Winterfell, a noble lady, and someday she would be a queen. "It was not him, my sweet prince," she tried to explain. "It was the other one."

The two stranger knights exchanged a look. "Payne?" chuckled the young man in the green armor.

The older man in white spoke to Sansa gently. "Ofttimes Ser Ilyn frightens me as well, sweet lady. He has a fearsome aspect."

[AGoT, Sansa I, Chap 15]

Strong and graceful (but old) Ser Barristan, handsome, tall and powerful Lord Renly and gaunt, grim, pockmarked Ser Ilyn: Sansa introduces us to these three strangers in her first POV in AGoT.

GRRM uses groups of three in numerous situations throughout the books: the dragon has three heads, the god known as Trios, Tywin's three children, Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters, etc.

Does the Stranger also have three heads?

With Renly dead, will there be a new Stranger rising up to complete the trio?

I suspect, by the end of the series, we will see an entirely new trio of Strangers filling the three positions laid out by GRRM in the early Sansa POV. My guesses would be Brienne, Gendry and Podrick Payne although Ser Garlan or Ser Loras might fit the group instead of Gendry or Brienne.

Intriguingly, the scene where Sansa encounters the three strangers includes a key moment with Sandor Clegane whose strong hands feel like her father's hands when she is initially frightened by Ser Ilyn. Sansa tells Joffrey that the Hound did not frighten her. The contrast between the frightening stranger(s) and the strong Clegane is a repeating theme in Sansa's story. If the three knights represent the Stranger, what does Sandor Clegane represent? I think he represents The Night (and there is a pun on "night" and "knight" with Sandor refusing to become a knight). The only force that can protect Sansa from death (The Stranger) is night.

There are other clues in characters that cluster around the three strangers: all of them are kneeling before Cersei when Sansa first encounters them (and they have been sent by the small council to escort the King). Ser Barristan is responsible for sparing the life of Ser Dontos after the Defiance of Duskendale (and Brienne will finally meet Pod in the ruins of the Hollard castle). Strong Belwas is attached to Ser Barristan when he crosses into Dany's arc. Ser Loras and all Tyrells are closely associated with Renly. Just as Ser Ilyn is a fanboy of Tywin Lannister, Podrick Payne is loyal to Tyrion. Analysis of these relationships could help us to understand the three heads of the Stranger, and to predict which characters will embody the new trio of Strangers, if that is part of GRRM's plan.

Related link from a couple of years ago:

 

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The trio's figure is intriguing, and I also believe that it's not reserved to dragons, and the kneeling before the queen is interesting too; in the same Idea, the Harpy - Dany's ennemie - has three daughters, but "bastard" daughters if we follow Ser Jorah (ACOK, Daenerys 2)

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Old Ghis had fallen five thousand years ago, if she remembered true; its legions shattered by the might of young Valyria, its brick walls pulled down, its streets and buildings turned to ash and cinder by dragonflame, its very fields sown with salt, sulfur, and skulls. The gods of Ghis were dead, and so too its people; these Astapori were mongrels, Ser Jorah said. Even the Ghiscari tongue was largely forgotten; the slave cities spoke the High Valyrian of their conquerors, or what they had made of it.

The queen has 3 bastard children, sure, but is she the "stranger" ? Or could the "stranger" be some other character (a "valonqar", for example ?)

 

I have made other observations for the "stranger" : 6 + 1 (there is always one missing)

As we can observe a symbolic avatar when Daenerys visits Vaes Tolorro, for exemple (ACOK, Daenerys 1)

Quote

At a place where six alleys came together, Dany passed an empty marble plinth. Dothraki had visited this place before, it would seem. Perhaps even now the missing statue stood among the other stolen gods in Vaes Dothrak. 

Number six appears in the very first scene with the Others. And perhaps, we could also pretend - if we follow Craster's wives and accord to them that Others are Craster's sons - that Gilly's son is the missing/stolen (saved ?) seventh.

Note also that there is always a lord commander among the King's Guards (and when Jaime comes back for a little while, he is missing his sword's hand). Even Renly's Guard can't be completed.

 

 

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3 hours ago, GloubieBoulga said:

I have made other observations for the "stranger" : 6 + 1 (there is always one missing)

As we can observe a symbolic avatar when Daenerys visits Vaes Tolorro, for exemple (ACOK, Daenerys 1)

Number six appears in the very first scene with the Others. And perhaps, we could also pretend - if we follow Craster's wives and accord to them that Others are Craster's sons - that Gilly's son is the missing/stolen (saved ?) seventh.

There's also Rhaegar's 6 rubies at the Quiet Isle; they're still waiting for the 7th to show up.

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On 9/15/2019 at 4:32 PM, GloubieBoulga said:

The trio's figure is intriguing, and I also believe that it's not reserved to dragons, and the kneeling before the queen is interesting too; in the same Idea, the Harpy - Dany's ennemie - has three daughters, but "bastard" daughters if we follow Ser Jorah (ACOK, Daenerys 2)

The queen has 3 bastard children, sure, but is she the "stranger" ? Or could the "stranger" be some other character (a "valonqar", for example ?)

 

I have made other observations for the "stranger" : 6 + 1 (there is always one missing)

As we can observe a symbolic avatar when Daenerys visits Vaes Tolorro, for exemple (ACOK, Daenerys 1)

Number six appears in the very first scene with the Others. And perhaps, we could also pretend - if we follow Craster's wives and accord to them that Others are Craster's sons - that Gilly's son is the missing/stolen (saved ?) seventh.

Note also that there is always a lord commander among the King's Guards (and when Jaime comes back for a little while, he is missing his sword's hand). Even Renly's Guard can't be completed.

Ah, the old 6+1=7... We call it Stranger or Night's King Math!

 

On 9/15/2019 at 1:45 PM, Seams said:

At first Sansa did not notice the third stranger. ...

"The king is gone hunting, but I know he will be pleased to see  you when he returns," the queen was saying to the two knights who knelt before her, but Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man. He seemed to feel the weight of her gaze. Slowly he turned his head. Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. ...

The Hound, ever faithful, bowed and slid away quietly through the press. Sansa struggled to steady herself. She felt like such a fool. She was a Stark of Winterfell, a noble lady, and someday she would be a queen. "It was not him, my sweet prince," she tried to explain. "It was the other one."

The two stranger knights exchanged a look. "Payne?" chuckled the young man in the green armor.

The older man in white spoke to Sansa gently. "Ofttimes Ser Ilyn frightens me as well, sweet lady. He has a fearsome aspect."

[AGoT, Sansa I, Chap 15]

 Strong and graceful (but old) Ser Barristan, handsome, tall and powerful Lord Renly and gaunt, grim, pockmarked Ser Ilyn: Sansa introduces us to these three strangers in her first POV in AGoT.

GRRM uses groups of three in numerous situations throughout the books: the dragon has three heads, the god known as Trios, Tywin's three children, Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters, etc.

Does the Stranger also have three heads?

 With Renly dead, will there be a new Stranger rising up to complete the trio?

 

Quote

There were shadows all around them. One shadow was dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood.

(AGOT Bran 3)

 

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55 minutes ago, The Anti-Stark said:

The Stranger, or rather the concept, was invented by the Faith of the Seven.  Seven is their sacred number.  

Interesting.You can categorically state that the Faith invented it rather than inherited it or grafted it on from a pre-existing religion?

I'm referring to the concept.

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On 9/15/2019 at 1:45 PM, Seams said:

At first Sansa did not notice the third stranger. ...

"The king is gone hunting, but I know he will be pleased to see  you when he returns," the queen was saying to the two knights who knelt before her, but Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man. He seemed to feel the weight of her gaze. Slowly he turned his head. Lady growled. A terror as overwhelming as anything Sansa Stark had ever felt filled her suddenly. ...

The Hound, ever faithful, bowed and slid away quietly through the press. Sansa struggled to steady herself. She felt like such a fool. She was a Stark of Winterfell, a noble lady, and someday she would be a queen. "It was not him, my sweet prince," she tried to explain. "It was the other one."

The two stranger knights exchanged a look. "Payne?" chuckled the young man in the green armor.

The older man in white spoke to Sansa gently. "Ofttimes Ser Ilyn frightens me as well, sweet lady. He has a fearsome aspect."

[AGoT, Sansa I, Chap 15]

Strong and graceful (but old) Ser Barristan, handsome, tall and powerful Lord Renly and gaunt, grim, pockmarked Ser Ilyn: Sansa introduces us to these three strangers in her first POV in AGoT.

GRRM uses groups of three in numerous situations throughout the books: the dragon has three heads, the god known as Trios, Tywin's three children, Aegon the Conqueror and his two sisters, etc.

Does the Stranger also have three heads?

With Renly dead, will there be a new Stranger rising up to complete the trio?

I suspect, by the end of the series, we will see an entirely new trio of Strangers filling the three positions laid out by GRRM in the early Sansa POV. My guesses would be Brienne, Gendry and Podrick Payne although Ser Garlan or Ser Loras might fit the group instead of Gendry or Brienne.

Intriguingly, the scene where Sansa encounters the three strangers includes a key moment with Sandor Clegane whose strong hands feel like her father's hands when she is initially frightened by Ser Ilyn. Sansa tells Joffrey that the Hound did not frighten her. The contrast between the frightening stranger(s) and the strong Clegane is a repeating theme in Sansa's story. If the three knights represent the Stranger, what does Sandor Clegane represent? I think he represents The Night (and there is a pun on "night" and "knight" with Sandor refusing to become a knight). The only force that can protect Sansa from death (The Stranger) is night.

There are other clues in characters that cluster around the three strangers: all of them are kneeling before Cersei when Sansa first encounters them (and they have been sent by the small council to escort the King). Ser Barristan is responsible for sparing the life of Ser Dontos after the Defiance of Duskendale (and Brienne will finally meet Pod in the ruins of the Hollard castle). Strong Belwas is attached to Ser Barristan when he crosses into Dany's arc. Ser Loras and all Tyrells are closely associated with Renly. Just as Ser Ilyn is a fanboy of Tywin Lannister, Podrick Payne is loyal to Tyrion. Analysis of these relationships could help us to understand the three heads of the Stranger, and to predict which characters will embody the new trio of Strangers, if that is part of GRRM's plan.

Related link from a couple of years ago:

 

As usual Seams you've wasted a huge amount of text on achieving absolute zero.

What do we learn from this exercise?

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On 9/22/2019 at 7:52 PM, redriver said:

As usual Seams you've wasted a huge amount of text on achieving absolute zero.

What do we learn from this exercise?

Wow. Why would you even read it, let alone comment if you think it's so pointless?

As usual Seams you have made an insightful post & as usual I have nothing to add but will continue to follow. Thanks for your posts, I enjoy them. 

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Maybe I'm being overly critical.But I can't see where these observations lead us.

Yes Martin has used the word stranger several times here,but I can't see any of the characters involved as truly exemplary of that model.It's a dead end,perhaps a feint of sorts.

I can think of several incidents where the Stranger paradigm is played out without the over use of that word in the story.

 

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Joffrey "his golden curls shining in the sun like a crown."

His face turns black and purple when he is poisoned: "The boy's face turned black as a plum." . . . "his face turning as black as a Dornish plum."

A golden-crowned solar character, with a blackened face, that sounds like an eclipse.  The phrase "the night King Joffrey died" is repeated three times in Brienne I in Feast.  And that is the only time the phrase "night king" appears in the books.  I think the Night King's Crown is the corona of a solar eclipse, and the Night King will be the young king who causes the Long Night.

What turned the solar character's face black?  The Strangler, which is one letter away from The Stranger.   The Stranger turns the sun black. 

On 9/22/2019 at 1:50 PM, ravenous reader said:

Ah, the old 6+1=7... We call it Stranger or Night's King Math!

Tell me more.  I found something interesting in the thread you linked, some of Donal Noye's possessions: "six pennies and a copper star, a niello brooch with a broken clasp"  I had to look up niello, it is a black metallic material used in making jewelry.  I think this is a representation of the solar system--six pennies = six planets, a copper star = the sun, and a niello brooch (black metallic item) = the Stranger, 6 + 1 = 7,  This fits into my theory that in the Faith of the Seven, the 7 are the planets, and the Stranger is a mysterious black object with no regular orbit that is a wanderer from far places "the face was a black oval, a shadow with stars for eyes."  The Stranger is LmL's second moon, it was not destroyed, it is still hanging around and it will cause the Long Night again.

Another way to phrase "the night king" is "the lion of night" and King Joffrey is a lion--a golden lion turns into a black lion.  In the Yi-tish legends, the sun turned her back on the world and The Lion of Night came forth in all his wroth to punish mankind, and this event was accompanied by a demon army invading.

 

Viserys also gets the golden crown and blackened face when he eclipses a solar character Drogo.  The Khalasar is a metaphor for the heavens, Drogo is the sun, Dany the moon, the bloodriders are the planets, the rest of the khalasar are the stars, Viserys is told that his place is in the back of the khalasar far from the sun, and in the back of the feast hall in the shadows, he refuses his assigned place, drunkenly lurches towards the sun (and he is the only one with a sword/comet), usurps his sister (the moon) and gets his golden crown and is killed.  (viser means "to shade,")

Two instances of the a prince/young king getting the night king's crown of eclipse, who will be the third and final person to wear it?

 

 

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13 hours ago, By Odin's Beard said:

A golden-crowned solar character, with a blackened face, that sounds like an eclipse.  The phrase "the night King Joffrey died" is repeated three times in Brienne I in Feast.  And that is the only time the phrase "night king" appears in the books.  I think the Night King's Crown is the corona of a solar eclipse, and the Night King will be the young king who causes the Long Night.

Very, very nice catch. I think you've hit on something really important in unlocking more of the symbolism.

In terms of the three "strangers" identified by Sansa, at Joffrey's wedding feast, Ser Ilyn hands him a silver sword just before Joffrey's choking fit begins. "Renly" is present in the form of Ser Garlan Tyrell, who wore Renly's armor at the Blackwater, and/or in the form of a ghost who is described in a long, sentimental song. (Ser Garlan danced with Sansa at her own wedding celebration, and he makes a point of praising Tyrion for his defense of King's Landing.) Ser Barristan is not present at the feast because he has been dismissed from the King's Guard. When Ser Barriston was removed from his post, it opened up a spot for The Hound to wear a white cloak in Joffrey's orbit. (Before escaping King's Landing, however, Barristan goes to the White Sword Tower to write in the White Book. Is the White Sword Tower a place where meteors are launched?)

Because Sansa described the three strangers but she pretends that The Hound had not frightened her, I had been thinking that there are three strangers and The Hound is something else. What if the eclipse is finally made possible when The Hound is given a white cloak? Or maybe the eclipse occurs because The Hound deserts his King's Guard job during the battle and he, too, is not present during the wedding feast?

These bits of description had planted in my head the notion of The Hound as The Night:

... a voice from the night, a shadow leaning so close ... a hulking black shape shrouded in the night, hidden from her eyes.

"He was no true knight," she whispered to him.

... "No," he growled at her, "no, little bird, he was no true knight."

(AGoT, Chap. 29, Sansa II)

But your idea of the Stranger as a Wanderer without a regular orbit opens up new possibilities. In that same passage:

Sandor Clegane stopped suddenly in the middle of a dark and empty field. ...

The left side of his face was a ruin. His ear had been burned away; there was nothing left but a hole. His eye was still good, but all around it was a twisted mass of scar, slick black flesh hard as leather, pocked with craters and fissured by deep cracks that gleamed red and wet when he moved. ...

Sansa began to cry. He let go of her then, and snuffed out the torch in the dirt.

(AGoT, Chap. 29, Sansa II)

The Hound may be a comet or meteor with his craters and fissures. Jon Snow carries a torch when he leaves the circle of stones at The Fist and follows the direwolf Ghost to the obsidian / dragonglass cache. The Night's Watch men call the comet "Mormont's Torch," and Jon Snow wedges it in the soft ground (sand) when Ghost shows him where to dig. (This also creates a parallel between Sandor as the gravedigger and Jon Snow, who wonders at first whether he is digging up an old grave.)

I am wandering (heh) further afield, but I started to think that King's Guard members have a special ability to cross boundaries. Who else would have a power to cross boundaries? Ghosts. Although Sansa's description emphasizes that the three strangers are

  • young and handsome and dark
  • old and graceful and strong
  • gaunt, grim and pockmarked

I wonder whether each also represents a different type of "Stranger magic"? Renly becomes a ghost who can transcend physical barriers; King's Guard commander Ser Barristan has an amazing ability to scale walls, infiltrate sewers and escape danger -- so what is Ser Ilyn? He was the King's Justice but also the Chief Jailer. He cuts off heads but also prevents other people from crossing boundaries by imprisoning them in a dungeon.

But Ser Ilyn is also pockmarked and silent. In the passage where Sandor Clegane leads Sansa through the tourney pavilions, she emphasizes "the silence weighed heavier with every step." If silence accompanies both The Hound and Ser Ilyn, and they are both pockmarked, are they both comets (or meteorites)? (I have to note, too, that Sandor's face is a ruin, according to Sansa, and Ser Ilyn's silver sword is covered with runes.) Were Ned and Joffrey both killed by meteorites?

In the past, I have noted a parallel between Jon Snow's silent direwolf, Ghost, and the silent Ser Ilyn whose loyalty to the Lannisters is unwavering. So Ser Ilyn may be both a meteorite and a ghost.

One of the interesting things about Ser Ilyn is that he lives in a windowless room in his own dungeon with an overflowing bucket of shit in one corner. Even though he is the jailer, he lives like a prisoner. (Although Jaime establishes the "shit for honor" symbolism with his own bucket of shit during his imprisonment at Riverrun.) Jaime frees Ser Ilyn from this life and asks him to come on a journey. The metaphor you describe would suggest that Jaime sets Ser Ilyn into orbit as a Wanderer.

We know that GRRM has set up games as a central metaphor of ASOIAF. I'm wondering whether the three-headed stranger is like the game of "rock, paper, scissors": paper smothers rock, rock smashes scissors, scissors cuts paper. (I believe the lizard and Spock elements from the tv show The Big Bang Theory were added after GRRM introduced us to the three strangers in Sansa's first POV, so I will leave them out of this discussion.) If you look at the list of jousting outcomes from the Hand's Tourney, I think you can see some of this game play at work. There is a King's Guard team, a Renly team (including Tyrells and men who will become members of the Rainbow Guard) and the Cleganes. Representatives from each of the three "stranger" teams exchange victories until the showdown comes down to team ghost (Tyrell) vs. team meteor (Ser Gregor). The thing that defeats the meteor is a combination of the maiden (the filly in estrus) and another meteor who comes from outside of the orbit of the jousting match - Sandor defeats Gregor.

Pinning down some of this symbolism helps to explain the other group of strangers that seems parallel to the three described by Sansa: Brienne, Podrick Payne and Ser Hyle Hunt. Brienne is a sort of King's Guard member because of her Rainbow Guard membership. So she may be on both the King's Guard and Renly "Stranger Magic" teams. Perhaps Biter eating part of Brienne's face gives her the third kind of "Stranger Magic," turning her into a meteor, and making her invincible? Brienne finally catches up with Pod at a ruin (the ancestral home of Ser Dontos). Ser Hyle is a bit like Renly, wanting to marry her but not because he is at all attracted to her. Ser Hyle admires Brienne's fighting prowess, similar to Renly awarding Brienne a King's Guard cloak for her victory in the Melee at Bitterbridge. Notably, Ser Hyle carries the "three heads" of the men slain by Brienne and Pod to show to Randall Tarly back at Maidenpool. (Ser Hyle's sigil is a dead deer, so he may have some "Renly = ghost" magic.)

In the Faith of the Seven, the Stranger leads the dead to the other world. Your insight about the "eclipse" that strikes Joffrey at the feast seems to underscore this role for the strangers among the guests. As I was writing the initial post for this thread, I was also struck by some lines about the relationship of the three strangers to King Robert:

The queen stood at the top of the wooden steps, smiling down at someone. She heard her saying, "The council does us great honor, my good lords."

"What's happening?" he asked a squire she knew.

"The council sent riders from King's Landing to escort us the rest of the way," he told her. "An honor guard for the king."

...

"The king is gone hunting, but I know he will be pleased to see you when he returns," the queen was saying to the two knights who knelt before her, but Sansa could not take her eyes off the third man.

(AGoT, Chap. 15, Sansa I)

Seems like foreshadowing about Robert's death. He will be gravely injured in a hunting situation and will die shortly after he returns. Is Cersei pleased that the strangers are coming to escort Robert to his death?

Edit: Now that I think of it, the three-headed stranger symbolism may also apply to Gared, Will and Ser Waymar in the AGoT prologue. The rangers have three heads. And Ned Stark probably turns Gared into a meteor when he beheads him. The meteor metaphor could be the key to all kinds of symbolism. Nice catch!

Edited by Seams

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