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three-eyed monkey

The untold truth of Robert Strong.

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Strong consensus.

We do not even know if he is alive. Meryn Trant claimed that Strong took neither food nor drink, and Boros Blount went as far as to say he had never seen the man use the privy. Why should he? Dead men do not shit.

Kevan Lannister had a strong suspicion of just who this Ser Robert really was beneath that gleaming white armor. A suspicion that Mace Tyrell and Randyll Tarly no doubt shared. Whatever the face hidden behind Strong's helm, it must remain hidden for now.

Everyone knows that Robert Strong is the undead Gregor Clegane. Some people might theorise about replaced body-parts like Robert’s head, Jaime’s hand, or Varys’ penis, but the vast majority agree that it is Gregor’s corpse reanimated by Qyburn using vaguely scientific means.

On the surface it seems so perfectly obvious that we can hardly call it a theory, except it is a theory, and not one that stands up well under scrutiny. Robert Strong is Gregor Clegane, but not in the way you might think.

Qyburn: scientist or sorcerer?

The first thing we need to ask is what exactly did Qyburn do? Was it science or magic? What type of science or magic was it? How did he generate the “spark of life”, to borrow Shelley’s phrase?

No doubt this is GRRM’s nod to Mary Shelley’s classic. There are parallels between Qyburn and Viktor Frankenstein, between the Mountain and the Monster, so it’s easy to assume we’re dipping into the realm of dark medieval science. After all, Qyburn did study at the Citadel, the most scientific institution in Westeros; he is a talented healer whose thirst for knowledge pushed him to perform the grim experiments that led to his expulsion; he seems well informed in areas we would identify as the scientific fields of medicine, biology, anatomy; and he is not constrained by ethics.

There is no doubt Qyburn has an inquisitive mind, but it is worth noting that he never mentions or expresses interest in phenomenon such as electricity or chemistry, fields that would potentially form the basis of a scientific attempt to generate the spark of life, at least if we remain with the Frankenstein model. Qyburn doesn’t often speak in scientific terms, but he talks a lot about magic.

The line between magic and science might be blurred at times in ASoIaF, but it does still exist. Resuscitation after drowning using CPR may be attributed to the power of the Drowned God by the Ironmen but we understand this practice has a scientific basis and magic is unnecessary as an explanation. However, Beric, Lady Stoneheart, and wights are not so easily explained in scientific terms. In the context of the books, such resurrections and re-animations are better explained by magic.

Qyburn does have a scientific side, I’m sure, but he is not opposed to going beyond science in search of answers. As soon as he was introduced at Harrenhal we heard rumors of his dabbling in black magic and necromancy, rumors that seem well-founded given that he openly declares his likeness of mind with Marwyn the Mage, who studied with warlocks and shadowbinders in Asshai, and his disdain for the grey sheep of the Citadel. This alignment says a lot about Qyburn’s attitude towards magic but we can further illustrate the point with his own words.

“Ser Gregor.” Qyburn shrugged. “I have examined him, as you commanded. The poison on the Viper’s spear was manticore venom from the east, I would stake my life on that.”

            “Pycelle says no. He told my father that manticore venom kills the instant it reaches the heart.”

            “And so it does. But this venom has been thickened somehow, so as to draw out the Mountain’s dying.”

            “Thickened? Thickened how? With some other substance?”

            “It may be as Your Grace suggests, though in most cases adulterating a poison only lessens its potency. It may be that the cause is... less natural, let us say. A spell, I think.”

            Is this one as big a fool as Pycelle? “So are you telling me that the Mountain is dying of some black sorcery?”

            Quburn ignored the mockery in her voice.

            ***

“Your Grace,” said Qyburn, “mayhaps I might move Ser Gregor to the dungeons? His screams will not disturb you there and I will be able to tend to him more freely.”

            “Tend to him?” She laughed. “Let Ser Ilyn tend to him.”

            “If that is Your Grace’s wish,” Qyburn said, “but this poison... it would be useful to know more about it, would it not? Send a knight to slay a knight and an archer to kill an archer, the smallfolk often say. To combat the black arts...” He did not finish the thought, but only smiled at her.

            He is not Pycelle, that much is plain.

Qyburn offers sorcery, not a mixture of substances or what we might consider chemistry, as an explanation for the slow acting poison. He wants to study the poison and by that he means study the sorcery involved. He suggests combating the black arts with black arts. And in a later conversation with Cersei we get a further demonstration of his interest in magic.

“Maegi?”

“Is that how you say it? The woman would suck a drop of blood from your finger, and tell you what your morrows held.”

“Blood-magic is the darkest kind of sorcery. Some say it is the most powerful as well.”

Cersei did not want to hear that.

Along with sorcery and blood-magic, Qyburn has a healthy interest in death. He claims to know the nature of life and death better than any man in Oldtown, thanks to his horrific experiments at the Citadel. He has ambitions to surpass Ebrose as a healer, and what better way to do that than to bring the dead back to life. On the way to King’s Landing he shares his beliefs about death and ghosts.

            “Do you believe in ghosts, Maester?” he asked Qyburn.

            The man’s face grew strange. “Once, at the Citadel, I came into an empty room and saw an empty chair. Yet I knew a woman had been there, only a moment before. The cushion was dented where she’d sat, the cloth was still warm, and her scent lingered in the air. If we leave our smells behind us when we leave a room, surely something of our souls must remain when we leave this life?” Qyburn spread his hands. “The archmaesters did not like my thinking, though. Well, Marwyn did, but he was the only one.”

Unlike the majority of maesters at the Citadel, Qyburn is clearly open-minded towards the supernatural. He believes that something of our soul remains when we leave this life; perhaps a ghost or a shade or something of that nature.

It all adds up to magic, not science, as Qyburn’s most likely means of reanimation.

What type of magic?

We have seen a number of magical revivals in the story so far, some by fire, some by ice, which we can compare with Qyburn’s work. Whatever took place in the dungeons of the Red Keep, we know the end result was Robert Strong. He does not speak, he does not eat, and he does not use the privy. His armour is far too heavy for even the strongest of men to wear, and his face remains hidden behind his greathelm. He appears obedient to his creator. And we are told there is not a man in the kingdom who could hope to stand against him, which is a bold claim given that we have seen great fighters, giants, and even magically animated creatures such as Others and wights, all defeated by men.

Beric was brought back by Thoros with the kiss of fire. It did not make Beric invincible, in fact he died several more times, nor did he gain supernatural strength. He largely remained in command of his actions and was not enthralled by Thoros, the man who brought him back. His case has very little similarity with that of Robert Strong.

The Others brought Waymar Royce back in the prologue of the first book and we have learned quite a bit about wights ever since. They are hard to stop, though not invincible given their vulnerability to fire. They possess great strength and seem subservient to their masters. They are similar to Ser Robert in some respects, but there are substantial differences too. We see Robert Strong striding, yet wights are observed to be slow and clumsy. Wights also have a strong and distinctive stench, as we might expect from walking lumps of rotting flesh, but there is no suggestion that Robert Strong stinks like that.

There is another option that seems a much better fit. Cersei had instructed Qyburn to keep Gregor alive so that Ser Ilyn could take his head for the justice Dorne demanded, just as Dany once instructed Mirri Maz Duur to keep Drogo alive.

Mirri Maz Duur.

“The time for that is past, my lady,” Mirri said.  “All I can do now is ease the dark road before him, so he might ride painless to the night lands. He will be gone by morning.”

“No,” she pleaded. “Save him, and I will free you, I swear it. You must know a way... some magic, some...”

Mirri Maz Duur sat back on her heels and studied Daenerys through eyes as black as night. “There is a spell.” Her voice was quiet, scarcely more than a whisper. “But it is hard, lady, and dark. Some would say that death is cleaner. I learned the way in Asshai, and paid dear for the lesson. My teacher was a bloodmage from the Shadow Lands.”

            ***

“This is blood-magic, lady. Only death may pay for life.”

            ***

“Once I begin to sing, no one must enter this tent. My song will wake powers old and dark. The dead will dance here this night. No living man must look on them.”

            ***

            Inside the tent the shapes were dancing, circling the brazier and the bloody bath, dark against the sandsilk, and some did not look human. She glimpsed the shadow of a great wolf, and another like a man wreathed in flames.

Mirri knew a spell, hard and dark, in the form of a song that will wake old powers and bring the dead back, dancing as shadows. She learned the way from a bloodmage in Asshai.

“When I was younger and more fair, I went in caravan to Asshai by the Shadow, to learn from their mages. Ships from many lands come to Asshai, so I lingered long to study the healing ways of distant peoples. A moonsinger of the Jogos Nhai gifted me with her birthing songs, a woman of your own riding people taught me the magics of grass and corn and horse, and a maester from the Sunset Lands opened a body for me and showed me all the secrets that hide beneath the skin.

            Ser Jorah Mormont spoke up. “A maester?”

            “Marwyn, he named himself,” the woman replied in the common tongue.

Mirri Maz Duur also studied with Marwyn in Asshai. She tells us what she learned from him but one wonders what she taught him in return. She studied healing ways, including the dark spell she learned from the bloodmage. And we have a direct link through Marwyn to another ambitious student of healing ways, Qyburn.

            “The archmaesters are all craven at heart. The grey sheep, Marwyn calls them. I was as skilled a healer as Ebrose, but aspired to surpass him. For hundreds of years the men of the Citadel have opened the bodies of the dead, to study the nature of life. I wished to understand the nature of death, so I opened the bodies of the living. For that crime the grey sheep shamed me and forced me into exile... but I understand the nature of life and death better than any man in Oldtown.”

Central to Mirri’s ritual was a bath of blood.

When they left the stallion fall, the bath was a dark red, and nothing showed of Drogo but his face.

This brings us back to Harrenhal, where we first met Qyburn. A castle once held by House Strong; where it’s said that Harren and his sons still walk the halls by night, afire, like the burning shadow in Dany’s tent; a place where Danelle Lothson is said to have bathed of blood.

Harrenhal.

      He found himself remembering tales he had first heard as a child at Casterly Rock, of mad Lady Lothston who bathed in tubs of blood and presided over feasts of human flesh within these very walls.

      ***

      Their line was ended in madness and chaos when Lady Danelle Lothston turned to the black arts during the reign of King Maekar I.

For Qyburn, Harrenahal may have proved to be a source of information about the black arts. We saw Roose Bolton burning old leatherbound books while he was there. What did he read that merited burning? What sort of books might Qyburn have found?

“My old ma used to say that giant bats flew out from Harrenhal on moonless nights, to carry bad children to Mad Danelle for her cookpots.”

            ***

He found an old shield in the armoury, battered and splintered, the chipped paint still showing most of the great black bat of House Lothston upon a field of silver and gold.

The sigil of House Lothson is the bat, a symbol of rebirth, its cave a symbol of the womb. Some readers suggest Mad Danelle was able to skinchange giant bats but perhaps the children were carried off by some other dark shape that was mistaken for a giant bat? There is a parallel here with another redhead versed in dark arts.

Shadowbinding.

Panting, she squatted and spread her legs. Blood ran down her thighs, black as ink. Her cry might have been agony or ecstasy or both. And Davos saw the crown of the child’s head push its way out of her. Two arms wriggled free, grasping, black fingers coiling around Melisandre’s straining thighs, pushing, until the whole of the shadow slid out into the world and rose taller than Davos, tall as the tunnel, towering over the boat. He had only an instant to look at it before it was gone, twisting between the bars of the portcullis and racing across the surface of the water, but that instant was long enough.

            He knew that shadow. As he knew the man who’d cast it.

Shadowbinding is not something we know a huge amount about. It’s dark art sorcery from Asshai. Marwyn is said to have studied with Shadowbinders. Mel is said to be a shadowbinder, so it makes perfect sense that the shadows she brought forth at Storm’s End were the result of that type of sorcery.

Mirri Maz Duur said the shadows dancing in Drogo’s tent were the dead. Qyburn, who claims to know the nature of life and death better than any man in Oldtown, might consider the shadow to be that part of the soul that remains when we leave this world. If he is right, then I suggest this is the part of Stannis’ soul Mel captured; his spirit, his ghost, his shade, his shadow.

Shadows.

The shadow. Something dark and evil had happened here, she knew, something that she could not begin to understand.

We can piece together some information about Mel’s shadows. We know she required Stannis’ seed to make it work and the spell physically took its toll on the man. We know it emerged from her womb and only required a gestation period of minutes or maybe hours. It seems subservient to a master, the sorcerer who cast the spell. It can interact with the physical world, like when throwing Courtney Penrose to his death. It has supernatural strength, as seen when slicing through Renly’s armour. It resembles its sire, with Davos, Brienne, and Catelyn all recognizing that it was Stannis’ shadow. And it appeared while Stannis was sleeping.

For a long time the king did not speak. Then, very softly, he said, "I dream of it sometimes. Of Renly's dying. A green tent, candles, a woman screaming. And blood." Stannis looked down at his hands. "I was still abed when he died. Your Devan will tell you. He tried to wake me. Dawn was nigh and my lords were waiting, fretting. I should have been ahorse, armored. I knew Renly would attack at break of day. Devan says I thrashed and cried out, but what does it matter? It was a dream. I was in my tent when Renly died, and when I woke my hands were clean."

This suggests that the subject must be asleep or perhaps even spellbound given that Devan could not wake Stannis. If the shadow remained for an indefinite period, then it stands to reason that the subject would need to be in a prolonged sleep or a coma.

Gregor.

Gregor was suffering an agonising death from a poison that was designed to kill him slowly and painfully. Pycelle could do nothing. Qyburn took Gregor to the black cells to study the poison, which he claimed was enhanced by sorcery. Next we hear that Gregor’s skull was being sent to Dorne, even though we did not see the beheading. The skull that arrived in Sunspear was large enough to belong to Gregor but some of the sand snakes remained sceptical, and for good reason. Gregor’s head should have been dipped in tar for the purpose of identification, not stripped to the bone.

"I'll take that." Obara Sand plucked the skull from him and held it at arm's length. "What did the Mountain look like? How do we know that this is him? They could have dipped the head in tar. Why strip it to the bone?"

"Tar would have ruined the box," suggested Lady Nym, as Maester Caleotte scurried off. "No one saw the Mountain die, and no one saw his head removed. That troubles me, I confess, but what could the bitch queen hope to accomplish by deceiving us? If Gregor Clegane is alive, soon or late the truth will out.”

I suggest Gregor Clegane is still alive deep in the dungeons of the Red Keep and the skull in sunspear, large as it is, is not his.

“The flesh mortifies and the wounds ooze pus," Pycelle told the council. "Even maggots will not touch such foulness. His convulsions are so violent that I have had to gag him to prevent him from biting off his tongue. I have cut away as much tissue as I dare, and treated the rot with boiling wine and bread mold, to no avail. The veins in his arm are turning black. When I leeched him, all the leeches died.”

***

"I have, Your Grace. I am sorry that it took so long. Such a large head. It took the beetles many hours to clean the flesh. By way of pardon, I have lined a box of ebony and silver with felt, to make a fitting presentation for the skull."

Gregor’s flesh was so foul that even maggots would not touch it and the leeches died, so how can we believe that beetles stripped the flesh? The skull the beetles cleaned was not Gregor’s and that is the very reason it was cleaned and not dipped in tar.

Even after Balon Swann departs with the skull, Qyburn’s experiments continue, replacing the spent Senelle with puppeteers and showing a particular interest in female subjects.

“There are four. Perhaps Your Grace might allow me two of them for mine own purposes. A woman would be especially...”

            “I gave you Senelle,” the queen said sharply.

            “Alas. The poor girl is quite... exhausted.”

            Cersei did not like to think about that. The girl had come with her unsuspecting, thinking she was along to serve and pour. Even when Qyburn clapped the chain around her wrist, she had not seemed to understand. The memory still made the queen queasy. The cells were bitter cold. Even the torches shivered. And that foul thing screaming in the darkness... “Yes, you may take a woman. Two, if it please you.”

Remember, to create her shadow assassins Mel needed at least three things. Stannis’ seed, a womb (which she provided), and some sorcery. Qyburn has unfettered access to Gregor, a man who is suspended somewhere between life and death. He has access to female subjects and their all-important wombs. And between Marwyn and Harrenhal, he has potential sources for the required sorcery.

The shadow of the mountain.

 Such shadows as I bring forth here will be terrible, and no creature of the dark will stand before them.

Mel’s words sound very similar to what Qyburn was aiming for.

“Alas, no,” said Qyburn. “I had another sort of champion in mind. What he lacks in gallantry he will give you tenfold in devotion. He will protect your son, kill your enemies, and keep your secrets, and no living man will be able to withstand him.”

One character who has glimpsed behind Ser Robert’s visor, even if it was in a dream or mystical vision, is Bran.

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

The darkness refers to the shadow. The thick black blood is an obvious reference to Gregor, whose veins turned black. I believe Gregor is alive in the dungeon, comatose in a bath of blood, pumped full of milk of the poppy, enduring an endless tortured dream that he is his shadow, while his shadow marches around the Red Keep encased in armour too heavy for any man to bear, silent and ready to serve his master, under the name Ser Robert Strong.

In my opinion the name Strong is a clear nod to Harrenhal, where Qyburn unearthed the knowledge, and Robert refers to the former king, a large man who stood over six and a half feet tall and whose thick skull now resides on a pedestal in Sunspear, and thus allows Qyburn to keep his subject alive in secret.

No living man will be able to withstand Ser Robert, he will be invincible in combat, but he does have a weakness hidden away beneath the Red Keep. I suspect that the only way to destroy Ser Robert is to go to the dungeon and give Gregor the gift of death.

Edited by three-eyed monkey

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That was a great read! Thank you for the time and trouble you took to write such a well researched essay. I like the theory you put forward :) it gives a very elegant solution to the question of Robert Strong’s nature, being both absolutely terrifying and already possible within the ASOAIF lore. 

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Excellent read!

a little thing

12 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

In my opinion the name Strong is a clear nod to Harrenhal, where Qyburn unearthed the knowledge, and Robert refers to the former king, a large man who stood over six and a half feet tall and whose thick skull now resides on a pedestal in Sunspear, and thus allows Qyburn to keep his subject alive in secret.

I'd disagree with this. It is actually a nod to Dunk. Look at this

Quote

The king can give a man a white cloak. Tommen's a good boy. Tell him who to name and he will name him."

"And who would you have him name?"

She did not have a ready answer. My champion will need a new name as well as a new face. "Qyburn will know. Trust him in this.

Cersei I, ADWD

Quote

Was it? The old man had called him just Dunk for as long as he could recall, and he did not remember much of his life before. "Duncan, yes," he said. "Ser Duncan of . . ." Dunk had no other name, nor any house; Ser Arlan had found him living wild in the stews and alleys of Flea Bottom. He had never known his father or mother. What was he to say? "Ser Duncan of Flea Bottom" did not sound very knightly. He could take Pennytree, but what if they asked him where it was? Dunk had never been to Pennytree, nor had the old man talked much about it. He frowned for a moment, and then blurted out, "Ser Duncan the Tall." He was tall, no one could dispute that, and it sounded puissant.

The Hedge Knight

So, when Kevan went to Qyburn and asked for Cersei's champion, Qyburn had to think faster and said:

"Ser Robert", Queen Cersei would like that, "Ser Robert Strong", yes, he is strong.

 

 

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46 minutes ago, rotting sea cow said:

"Ser Robert", Queen Cersei would like that, "Ser Robert Strong", yes, he is strong

Good catch. Yes, it could actually be that simple. I'm not tied to the reasons behind the name as it's obviously very speculative on my behalf.

Given that we met Qyburn in Harrenhal I felt the name was too much of a coincidence. House Strong did have some famously strong members, like Harwin Strong, said to have been the strongest man in the Seven Kingdoms, so Qyburn may be using the name to lend credibility to his champion's ability to carry such heavy armor. They are also a house that provided kingsguard before, which may be another favorable factor.

One more point of interest is that House Strong is thought to be dead, but in fact we hear of two Strongs in the Golden Company. They may not be genuine but if even one of them is then, like Gregor, the house is not as dead as people think. But choosing a dead house would almost be a necessity as Qyburn did not want anyone alive who could object. He might have considered Lothson, given that they are the ones who practiced the dark arts in Harrenhal, but it is a name of ill repute and associated with sorcery. Their predecessors were a better choice.

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Very nice theory!

Not sure that's the answer, but it could very well be. And it would be the solution on how to kill Ser Robert Strong - his dreaming comatose body would be the necessary target instead of the shadow. I like it very much!

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Robert Strong is the man with thick, black blood in Bran’s vision. Perhaps Robb’s head is sewn on his neck.  That would be cool.

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8 hours ago, rotting sea cow said:

I'd disagree with this. It is actually a nod to Dunk. Look at this

Quote

It can be both at once. And more. I find that things rarely have just one meaning or one reason when it comes to asoiaf. Layers upon layers... when Qyburn comes up with the name, it feels like a reiteration of Dunk’s reasoning, but it is also the same name of a presumed dead family whose seat was Harrenhal, which is heavily associated with Qyburn. Analysing from a doylist perspective all three can work simultaneously as motivation for the author to have chosen that name for such a character. From a watsonian angle, I tend to side with the OP considering the name a nod to Harrenhal. 

20 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

“There are four. Perhaps Your Grace might allow me two of them for mine own purposes. A woman would be especially...”

I never stopped to wander about why Qyburn would find women subjects specially important to his experiments. I took it as a minor, meaningless thing, as if he was merely interested in torturing women, as if this detail had been given to us to illustrate how he dehumanises his victims (calling them male and female instead of men and women). 

But it makes sense - a lot of sense really, the most sense - that he would have a true reason to want women, and you came up with a really good one.

Edited by Lady Dacey

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42 minutes ago, Lady Dacey said:

I never stopped to wander about why Qyburn would find women subjects specially important to his experiments. I took it as a minor, meaningless thing, as if he was merely interested in torturing women, as if this detail had been given to show to illustrate how he dehumanises his victims (calling them male and female instead of men and women). 

But it makes sense - a lot of sense really, the most sense - that he would have a true reason to want women, and you came up with a really good one.

Totally agree. First time I came across a perfect reason for it.

And in the magic used on Drogo, we have a pregnant woman (Dany), who barely survives the ordeal. Completely makes sense.

But basically whichever soul producing magic you use, it requires "seed" and a woman. The Corpse Queen using Night's King seed is another allusion to this, except in her case instead of shadows or black-blood oozing kingsguard she makes icy Others out of it.

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Great analysis. The shadow weapons seem to be the most unstoppable, lethal way to assassinate someone. If Robert Strong is a shadow weapon, Cersei will have a major new weapon in her armory.

You are probably also right that Qyburn needed a womb (or four of them) in creating Robert Strong, similar to Melisandre's use of her own womb to make her shadow baby (or babies).

But I think we also have to look at the nature of the women he "used" to make his monster:

  • two puppeteers who insulted the royal family
  • Senelle, Cersei's handmaid
  • Falyse Stokeworth

Remember Sandor telling Sansa about the toy he borrowed from his brother without permission? It was a marvelous jointed wooden knight. Sandor liked it because you could make it fight. Sounds like a marionette, doesn't it? I think the use of the puppeteers was part of Qyburn's work to turn Ser Gregor into a puppet that could be controlled. (But the puppeteer ingredient also goes to the point about the parallel between Dunk and Ser Robert Strong, mentioned by @rotting sea cow, above. The puppeteer Tanselle is Dunk's dream girl and she helps to design his all-important shield. Dunk wants to be Tanselle's puppet.)

Senelle is loyal and subservient to Cersei, to the point that she has no idea she is being led into torture when Cersei asks her to accompany her to the dungeon. If I recall correctly, it was Lady Merryweather who suggested to Cersei that her maid might be duplicitous. Could Taena of Myr be working with Qyburn to get him the "ingredients" he needs to make his monster? Anyway - Senelle's loyalty to Cersei is probably the reason she is used to help make Ser Robert Strong. The term "handmaid" is interesting, though, in light of the "Hand of the King" title for the person who runs the kingdom. Cersei is something of an acting Hand for Tommen. Could Senelle be a symbol of Cersei herself? Has Qyburn used Cersei's "hand" to make the monster? (And does he still have Jaime's severed hand?)

Falyse Stokeworth is nobody's favorite character but she was briefly the head of House Stokeworth. House Stokeworth has some kind of symbolic importance I haven't yet pinned down: they provide food for King's Landing but the members of the House also seem to be associated with important passages in the Red Keep - the serpentine steps and the drawbridge that the women have to cross to get to Maegor's Holdfast. Certain characters seem to be able to cross barriers and can lead others through barriers that would otherwise be closed to them. (Think of Sam Tarly, as a sworn brother of the Night's Watch, leading Gilly through the Black Gate and leading Bran and his travel companions back in the other direction.)

Quite a bit of conjecture, but I think Qyburn wanted the ingredients of a puppeteer, a Cersei loyalist and a Stokeworth to give his monster the qualities it needed.

Other possible clues:

Ser Gregor is the Mountain that Rides; Dany's baby is the Stallion that Mounts the World. Sort of opposites - a horse that masters the world; a big piece of the world that mounts a horse. I bet we are supposed to compare the black blood and other symptoms of Ser Gregor to the description of Dany's baby. I remember that the flesh sloughs off of Dany's baby - maybe this is like the flesh on Ser Gregor's head that is supposedly eaten by beetles. (Except I like your point that the beetles didn't really eat it - maybe it just sloughed off and Qyburn made up the bit about the beetles.)

Gregor Clegane = Green Grace Log. I know, I know: anagrams are not trustworthy. But there is corroborating evidence: GRRM gives us a Green Grace in Astapor who is impaled on a stake and left to die, similar to Oberyn Martell's technique for killing Ser Gregor. The death of the Astapor Green Grace is witnessed by Quentyn Martell. The leftover letters "log" are a bit puzzling except that burned trees are associated with the death or destruction of "Gardener" and "Garth Greenhands" characters. If Ser Gregor is a "green" character - reflected in the anagram of his name - a burning log is a useful hint about his eventual fate. P.S. The Green Grace of Astapor is put to death for her failed prophecy that the dead body of King Cleon would lead Astapor to victory. This may be foreshadowing of an eventual failure for the dead body of Ser Gregor as the reanimated Ser Robert Strong.

In the German language, the word "strong" is "stark." Given the equivalent names as well as the beheading parallel, I think there is a Robb Stark parallel in the two characters. GRRM gives us a lot of "strong" characters, including Sweetrobin (whose name is Robert) insisting that people reassure him of how strong he is. You already mentioned the likely King Robert connection. I agree with everyone who thinks there is a connection to Harrenhal, but I think the Strong family at Harrenhal was part of a larger theme that includes these other Robert Strongs.

People who kill may take on qualities of the people they have killed. Gregor has killed a lot of people, including a Queen (Elia Martell), the Red Viper, Vargo Hoat. I would also give him credit for killing Lommy Greenhands, which may bring us back to my earlier point about the "green" qualities he embodies. Lommy was a specialist in green dying. (Dyeing?)

 

 

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On 12/2/2019 at 9:05 PM, Lady Dacey said:

It can be both at once. And more. I find that things rarely have just one meaning or one reason when it comes to asoiaf. Layers upon layers...

Absolutely.

On 12/2/2019 at 9:54 PM, sweetsunray said:

But basically whichever soul producing magic you use, it requires "seed" and a woman. The Corpse Queen using Night's King seed is another allusion to this, except in her case instead of shadows or black-blood oozing kingsguard she makes icy Others out of it.

Yes, I have thought about how the Night's King might be related, how these shadows might be related to the Others, what type of sorcery was being practiced at the Nightfort, etc?

The only thing I could come up with is the Others being the icy shadows of the King's of Winter. I do believe the Night's King was a Stark or possibly a Snow with Stark blood, and that the Others are related to the King's of Winter. The parallel could be merely thematic though, it's hard to know.

On 12/2/2019 at 11:50 PM, Seams said:

I think Qyburn wanted the ingredients of a puppeteer,

Yes the use of puppeteers was interesting. I did notice that but again I put it down to a thematic hint.

On 12/2/2019 at 11:50 PM, Seams said:

Other possible clues:

Ser Gregor is the Mountain that Rides; Dany's baby is the Stallion that Mounts the World. Sort of opposites - a horse that masters the world; a big piece of the world that mounts a horse. I bet we are supposed to compare the black blood and other symptoms of Ser Gregor to the description of Dany's baby. I remember that the flesh sloughs off of Dany's baby - maybe this is like the flesh on Ser Gregor's head that is supposedly eaten by beetles. (Except I like your point that the beetles didn't really eat it - maybe it just sloughed off and Qyburn made up the bit about the beetles.)

Gregor Clegane = Green Grace Log. I know, I know: anagrams are not trustworthy. But there is corroborating evidence: GRRM gives us a Green Grace in Astapor who is impaled on a stake and left to die, similar to Oberyn Martell's technique for killing Ser Gregor. The death of the Astapor Green Grace is witnessed by Quentyn Martell. The leftover letters "log" are a bit puzzling except that burned trees are associated with the death or destruction of "Gardener" and "Garth Greenhands" characters. If Ser Gregor is a "green" character - reflected in the anagram of his name - a burning log is a useful hint about his eventual fate. P.S. The Green Grace of Astapor is put to death for her failed prophecy that the dead body of King Cleon would lead Astapor to victory. This may be foreshadowing of an eventual failure for the dead body of Ser Gregor as the reanimated Ser Robert Strong.

In the German language, the word "strong" is "stark." Given the equivalent names as well as the beheading parallel, I think there is a Robb Stark parallel in the two characters. GRRM gives us a lot of "strong" characters, including Sweetrobin (whose name is Robert) insisting that people reassure him of how strong he is. You already mentioned the likely King Robert connection. I agree with everyone who thinks there is a connection to Harrenhal, but I think the Strong family at Harrenhal was part of a larger theme that includes these other Robert Strongs.

People who kill may take on qualities of the people they have killed. Gregor has killed a lot of people, including a Queen (Elia Martell), the Red Viper, Vargo Hoat. I would also give him credit for killing Lommy Greenhands, which may bring us back to my earlier point about the "green" qualities he embodies. Lommy was a specialist in green dying. (Dyeing?)

Let me add one more that was originally part of the essay but didn't make it into the OP.

From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . .

The great stone beast could be Gregor, a mountain is a stone "beast" in many respects and he is depicted in stone armor in Bran's vision. The shadow fire he is breathing is Ser Robert.

Spoiler

The smoking tower from which he took wing made me think of Gregor and Ser Robert plunging to their death together from the Red Keep (in a scene somewhat resembling Gregor and Sandor's end in the show).

If it said take flight instead of take wing then I would have included it in the OP but it is hard to argue against this being some sort of winged creature.

Edited by three-eyed monkey
spolier tag added

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1 minute ago, three-eyed monkey said:

The only thing I could come up with is the Others being the icy shadows of the King's of Winter. I do believe the Night's King was a Stark or possibly a Snow with Stark blood, and that the Others are related to the King's of Winter. The parallel could be merely thematic though, it's hard to know.

Well, in case of the Corpse Queen and Others, I think of them as Ice Spiders (intelligent inhuman hiveminded creatures), with the Queen as being the mother of spiders. She doesn't come out of her hidey hole until after the Long Night and the Wall was built, and most of her species were killed by dragonglass. She came out in search of a mate and long ago learned to harness magic. As she had no male spider to give her seed, she sought out a man, and NK ended up being that man. I don't think Craster's sons are "turned" in the way the abomination showed us, but are vessels for ice spider souls, and that their appearance is partially an ice glamor even.

Anyhow the body and the soul are not of the same nature or origin imo. Somethign similar might have happened to the dragon eggs (human souls/shadows into dragon bodies, but the reverse order for Others), and seems to be going on with the shadowbabies, and now per your proposal Gregor.

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40 minutes ago, three-eyed monkey said:

(in a scene somewhat resembling ____ in the show).

Could you please delete the show reference from your post? It was a spoiler for me and it may be for others as well.

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7 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

From a smoking tower, a great stone beast took wing, breathing shadow fire. . . .

The great stone beast could be Gregor, a mountain is a stone "beast" in many respects and he is depicted in stone armor in Bran's vision. The shadow fire he is breathing is Ser Robert. The smoking tower from which he took wing made me think of Gregor and Ser Robert plunging to their death together from the Red Keep (in a scene somewhat resembling Gregor and Sandor's end in the show). If it said take flight instead of take wing then I would have included it in the OP but it is hard to argue against this being some sort of winged creature.

Could Ser Robert actually be capable of controlled flight?  The shadow at Storm's End seemed to be sort-of-capable of something of the sort.

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17 hours ago, Seams said:

Could you please delete the show reference from your post? It was a spoiler for me and it may be for others as well.

Sincere apologies. My mistake. I'd ask the previous poster to do the same.

@Lord Browndodd

Edited by three-eyed monkey

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20 hours ago, sweetsunray said:

Anyhow the body and the soul are not of the same nature or origin imo. Somethign similar might have happened to the dragon eggs (human souls/shadows into dragon bodies, but the reverse order for Others), and seems to be going on with the shadowbabies, and now per your proposal Gregor.

Yes, I tend to think that there was some sort of soul swap going on with the dragon eggs in Drogo's tent, with Drogon's soul entering Drogon's egg or whatever. And of course, we have the whole skin-changing phenomenon, the seven aspects of one god, and a strong theme regarding changed identity, lost identity, transformation, etc. I think the "shadow" ties in to that stuff quite well, in a Jungian way.

13 hours ago, Lord Browndodd said:

Could Ser Robert actually be capable of controlled flight?  The shadow at Storm's End seemed to be sort-of-capable of something of the sort.

Well this is where it gets complicated because we don't really know where the limits lie with shadows. They seem ethereal and do not move like physical beings, as you point out. I guess the limit for shadows will be where ever GRRM wants to set it, but I think he's good at setting in-world rules in a way that enhance rather than detract from the story.

I would say that taking wing could simply be a metaphor. For example the great stone beast taking wing and breathing shadow fire could simply mean the mountain rising again and wreaking havoc as a shadow, or something like that.

Edited by three-eyed monkey

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9 hours ago, three-eyed monkey said:

And of course, we have the whole skin-changing phenomenon, the seven aspects of one god, and a strong theme regarding changed identity, lost identity, transformation, etc. I think the "shadow" ties in to that stuff quite well, in a Jungian way.

I am *mindblown*. I had never thought of that, but it does tie so well. Stannis killing Renly “in a dream”, Renly who is Robert-come-again, Robert who was always the older brother that Stannis resented so very much. The shadow killing Renly is in a way a image of Stannis’s (jungian) shadows, it’s him enacting his repressed desires in his dreams. How did I ever miss that? 

I am tickling to go back to the books looking for shadows all over again with that in mind.

Edited by Lady Dacey

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thanks T-E.M for this posting - your research and analysis on the magic aspects is great, i'll definitely be thinking on this. 

& also:
i sure do like the idea that the skull that went to dorne is old bob baratheon - LOL !

 

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