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Heresy 229 and hitting the refresh button

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Welcome to Heresy, the latest episode of the long-running thread taking a slantwise look at the Song of Ice and Fire.

There’s no doubt that over the years as we stretch further and further from publication of Dances with Wolves or whatever the last book was called, we’ve gotten a little stale. Yet at the same time there appears to be an increasing expectation of Winter coming sometime within the coming six months – and if it does appear, I really won’t be surprised if a Dream of Spring follows soon afterwards. After all, GRRM has spoken of disease being a big factor in in Winter so presumably it will facilitate a big cull of the bloated cast and storylines. So, in that hope [but not yet expectation] and with the new year approaching, it’s a good reason to hit the refresh button.

And to do that we need to go right back to the beginning and the infamous 1993 synopsis.

In the process of analysing it to death we’ve reached a certain consensus that as the story has actually been written too much has changed to take it as a reliable guide to what happens next – at least in any detail. Notwithstanding it does have a vital role in telling us what the story is about.

It is in short about the children of Winterfell. Indeed the German translation of the first book is unambiguously entitled Die Herren von Winterfell [the Men of Winterfell] which may be rough on Sansa and Arya, but its unambiguous in its focus. And of course the synopsis goes on to emphasise that. Its about the Starks, not the Targaryens and Danaerys the Dragonlord is one of the threats. In fact the Ice and the Fire both represent apocalyptic threats and won’t be solved by one individual representing a union of the two, far less the Fire triumphing over the Ice – Benero made that pretty clear.

So turn back to the Starks and the central theme of how they meet and hopefully weather those twin but opposing threats.

Jon: the bastard. He will learn the truth of his parentage, and doing that obviously means coming through his current little local difficulty, although given the warning anent a bittersweet end he may be a little changed.

Sansa: the betrayer both in the synopsis and the book, but what is the significance of the snowflake communion? Does it have a deeper meaning than remembering that she is a Stark.

Similarly, Arya: the one with no name also remembers her name, but what else?

Bran: the broken. That one I think is going to be easy, if he is indeed Bran the Blessed. The outcome in the Mummers Farce may well come to pass although they obviously had no idea why.

And then, what might be the significance of Rickon. Is he destined to be a sacrifice?

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9 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Dances with Wolves or whatever the last book was called,

The Crow has a dry wit! I like it!

The Winds of Winter will make the north and winter it's focus. A Dance With Dragons already had it's turn focusing on dragons. It's time to focus on the wolves again, which Leaf proclaimed will "outlast us all". 

Quote

 

A Dance with Dragons - Bran III

And they did sing. They sang in True Tongue, so Bran could not understand the words, but their voices were as pure as winter air. "Where are the rest of you?" Bran asked Leaf, once.

"Gone down into the earth," she answered. "Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us."

She seemed sad when she said it, and that made Bran sad as well. It was only later that he thought, Men would not be sad. Men would be wroth. Men would hate and swear a bloody vengeance. The singers sing sad songs, where men would fight and kill.

 

I think it bears repeating, "In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us." This implies that the wonky seasons may be a human construction. What did they do and is this part of what was forgotten? Whatever the coming threat is, Leaf says "there is no room for them, or us." No room. Lets examine the definition of "room":

1) A space that is or may be occupied. (no room)

2) An area separated by walls or partitions from other similar parts of the structure or building in which it is located. (a partitioned part of a building like a living room)

3) An extant of space sufficient or available for something. (room to play)

4) A suitable or fit occasion or opportunity. (room for doubt or improvement)

It's notable that the Wall has partitioned the north from the rest of Westeros. Many readers have suggested that the Wall was meant to preserve a space for the Children to safely live, but it's also a space reserved for the wildlings who have been pushed out of the southron "room" known as the realm. 

Keeping in mind all the definitions of "room", it seems clear that Leaf is referring to the Wall. Mankind built the Wall, but it's held together by blood magic. Leaf's exclusion of the Children when referring to the "world that men have made" seems to suggest that they had no part in building the Wall.

Leaf called the current period of time as their "long dwindling", and she lists other groups that have died out and are on the verge of dying out. She included the direwolves, but she didn't specifically say all of humankind unless you interpret "no room for them" as being directed at "men"? I think we're tempted into including humans in Leaf's list, because surely the lions of the western hills are the Lannisters, but maybe she only meant actual lions and actual direwolves? Or Is she foretelling an end to House Stark?

Edited by Melifeather

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In my understanding the end of ASoIaF will echo the ending of LotR: the last surviving wargs, skinchangers, dragons, direwolves, ... (if there are any to survive) will leave Westeros or at least disappear from the realms of men.

Sansa will be the last Stark, and have a long reign without marrying (I see some parallels to Elisabeth I).

Unfortunately, Rickon will become Rickoff.

Jon, his name rhymes with gone.

Bran becomes Snapchat.

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Yes, I think we miserable heretics are agreed that the bittersweet end will entail the end of the last magics; not necessarily in a heap of bodies, but a consciousness of its ending, perhaps like the Last of the Mohicans.

As to the particulars, though, we can't get away from the Starks and the importance of their fates. Currently they are scattered, but we have had that line from Theon about remembering who you are; its starting with both Sansa and Arya, with the snowflake communion and Arya's resisting of being absorbed into the faceless men, while Jon has the same journey. He needs to find his mother, which has popularly been interpreted as a search which will lead to his discovering his Targaryen identity. I'm arguing the reverse. GRRM made it clear in the synopsis that the story was going to revolve around the Starks, and his search will surely confirm that he is a Son of Winterfell and he's certainly not going to cast that aside for the other lot.

That being so, while I do think that the mummers depicted the individual fates of the Starks as revealed to them by GRRM they very obviously had no idea at all how they got there, but its those journeys in themselves which are going to be crucial to the outcome and which offer us opportunities for discussion here and now.

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23 hours ago, alienarea said:

In my understanding the end of ASoIaF will echo the ending of LotR: the last surviving wargs, skinchangers, dragons, direwolves, ... (if there are any to survive) will leave Westeros or at least disappear from the realms of men.

Sansa will be the last Stark, and have a long reign without marrying (I see some parallels to Elisabeth I).

Unfortunately, Rickon will become Rickoff.

Jon, his name rhymes with gone.

Bran becomes Snapchat.

Well you certainly have the bitter covered. What about the sweet part of the equation? 

Edited by Lady Dyanna
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4 hours ago, Black Crow said:

Yes, I think we miserable heretics are agreed that the bittersweet end will entail the end of the last magics; not necessarily in a heap of bodies, but a consciousness of its ending, perhaps like the Last of the Mohicans.

As to the particulars, though, we can't get away from the Starks and the importance of their fates. Currently they are scattered, but we have had that line from Theon about remembering who you are; its starting with both Sansa and Arya, with the snowflake communion and Arya's resisting of being absorbed into the faceless men, while Jon has the same journey. He needs to find his mother, which has popularly been interpreted as a search which will lead to his discovering his Targaryen identity. I'm arguing the reverse. GRRM made it clear in the synopsis that the story was going to revolve around the Starks, and his search will surely confirm that he is a Son of Winterfell and he's certainly not going to cast that aside for the other lot.

That being so, while I do think that the mummers depicted the individual fates of the Starks as revealed to them by GRRM they very obviously had no idea at all how they got there, but its those journeys in themselves which are going to be crucial to the outcome and which offer us opportunities for discussion here and now.

Your note about Theon and remembering who you are is very on point. I think that is a key theme in the overall text. Note that Daenerys last chapter in Dance consistently had her hallucinating that phrase “remember who you are”.  While I agree the Starks are the focal point of this series, I think Daenerys is included and has been included for a very specific reason and it is erroneous to dismiss her or Targaryens as secondary. I think each of the main viewpoint characters from Game will be very important to the overall story, more so than any other character. So that includes Tyrion and Dany as well. 
 

Which leads us back to remembering who you are.  All of these characters are currently on a quest of sorts. Sansa under the tutelage of Littlefinger, Arya under the Faceless Men, Bran under Bloodraven. I believe that each of them will turn their back on their mentor and that Bloodraven isn’t as neutral as he initially appears. 
Jon, Dany, and Tyrion are also on quests - to save people, to lead, and to get revenge. I imagine these quests will be twisted before the end as well and they have to remember who they are.

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Whether anyone else recognizes this or not, there is a wheel of time at play, and character fates are manipulated by the historical events which repeat cyclically. It is a live-scale game of Cyvasse. It is also a mummer's play. Each cycle is a new game or show, the playing pieces/characters are setup geographically, and the famous historical events play out. The only thing that changes is how the players react to their new environment and the circumstances they've been given. Jon is the easiest character that I can point to as an example. He is a player that has been set up to play the part of the Lord Commander that becomes the Nights King. But everything has been flipped upside down, so the game has had different outcomes. In the original game/cycle/play, the King Beyond the Wall allied himself with the Lord of Winterfell to take the Lord Commander down.  Also in the original play, the Lord Commander married an Other. Jon never married an Other, but he did marry Alys Karstark (his distant cousin) to the Magnar of Thenn (an Other), and he also allowed a large majority of wildlings (more Others) through the Wall and settled them in castles. 

Quaithe keeps reminding Daenerys to remember who she is, because Daenerys has been reacting to the circumstances and events in her environment. She is being influenced whether it's on a conscious or subconscious level. For some reason Quaithe seems to understand what's going on while very few other characters do. She's even tried to help Daenerys navigate her environment. She said to go east if she needs to travel west, and to travel north if she wants to go south. Quaithe wants Daenerys to play the part of Aegon the Conqueror in the show, but she's been recast as a dragonlord, so she's been reacting like a dragonlord. The only thing she's been doing differently than the dragonlords has been to free people rather than enslave them.

The show has been flipped like Alice's Lookingglass. Things in the mirror appear backwards. You can wave with your right hand, but your reflection is waving back with it's left. West is now east and north is upside down and under water. 

Edited by Melifeather

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7 hours ago, Melifeather said:

The only thing she's been doing differently than the dragonlords has been to free people rather than enslave them.

The game has been flipped like Alice's Lookingglass. Things in the mirror appear backwards. You can wave with your right hand, but your reflection is waving back with it's left. West is now east and north is upside down and under water. 

Hmmm. I’m wondering. Has she really flipped things from Aegon and his sisters? In a way I guess she has. Their sexes are opposite. But didn’t Aegon originally go in with the intent of freeing Westeros too to a certain extent? I mean what exactly was Black Harren and his work at Harrenhal doing other than forcing people and the environment to do his bidding? Isn’t that slavery too? 

Edited by Lady Dyanna
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Maybe TWoW should start with a five year gap?

Jon Snow is dead and gone, betrayed and killed by his brothers of the Nightwatch, and avenged by the Wildlings and their new leader Thormund Giantsbane. 
 

South of the wall, Stannis Baratheon defeated Ramsay Bolton or vice versae, as both armies and all people inside of Winterfell succumbed to the snowstorm. 

Meanwhile in Essos, Daenerys Targaryen has been captured by the Dothraki and escorted to Vas Dothrak, to live out her days as a widow of a Khal should.

Mereen has fallen to the slavers and Victarion Greyjoy's ironborn, 1forming a cruel alliance to build a new kingdom with fire and blood.

Aegon Targaryen and the Golden Company have landed in Dorne and allied with House Martell. They are leading their armies towards King's Landing, not knowing that their General Jon Connington has been infected with Greyscale.

North of the wall, in a cave beneath a giant weirwood tree, Bran Stark is merging with the roots of the tree, and watches in horror as his sister Sansa marries the Lord Protector of the Vale.

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21 hours ago, alienarea said:

Maybe TWoW should start with a five year gap?

Jon Snow is dead and gone, betrayed and killed by his brothers of the Nightwatch, and avenged by the Wildlings and their new leader Thormund Giantsbane. 
 

South of the wall, Stannis Baratheon defeated Ramsay Bolton or vice versae, as both armies and all people inside of Winterfell succumbed to the snowstorm. 

Meanwhile in Essos, Daenerys Targaryen has been captured by the Dothraki and escorted to Vas Dothrak, to live out her days as a widow of a Khal should.

Mereen has fallen to the slavers and Victarion Greyjoy's ironborn, 1forming a cruel alliance to build a new kingdom with fire and blood.

Aegon Targaryen and the Golden Company have landed in Dorne and allied with House Martell. They are leading their armies towards King's Landing, not knowing that their General Jon Connington has been infected with Greyscale.

North of the wall, in a cave beneath a giant weirwood tree, Bran Stark is merging with the roots of the tree, and watches in horror as his sister Sansa marries the Lord Protector of the Vale.

All things are possible, but of course he had a notion of doing that before and instead got himself tied up in the Merreen knot. At that time leaving the children scattered and returning to them several years later and all grown up might have worked, but not now. The world is as it is and we're now moving towards a resolution - even if there will be a broad fringe of loose threads. It's easy to get pessimistic about GRRM bringing it to a conclusion but as we get nearer to the castle the roads will converge.

And, as I said, plague, allied with malnutrition and winter will also play its part in culling the bloated cast and storylines

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47 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

And while I'm on... Merry Chistmas

Merry Christmas!!!!  Hope you have a wonderful one!

And Merry Christmas to all the rest of you Crazy Heresy Peeps. :grouphug:
 

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On 12/19/2019 at 2:45 AM, Black Crow said:

And then, what might be the significance of Rickon. Is he destined to be a sacrifice?

If Rickon were destined for anything else, we'd have a POV character near him, or he'd be a POV himself.   Rickon only exists to affect the other Starks, either by them trying to save him, trying to avoid dying the same way, or being sacrificed for something else. 

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7 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

If Rickon were destined for anything else, we'd have a POV character near him, or he'd be a POV himself.   Rickon only exists to affect the other Starks, either by them trying to save him, trying to avoid dying the same way, or being sacrificed for something else. 

I’m inclined to agree. This was basically his arc on the show as well, to affect Jon’s arc. I don’t think it will happen the same way but I think his function is essentially the same

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12 hours ago, Brad Stark said:

If Rickon were destined for anything else, we'd have a POV character near him, or he'd be a POV himself.   Rickon only exists to affect the other Starks, either by them trying to save him, trying to avoid dying the same way, or being sacrificed for something else. 

Well... this is where the puzzle lies. He certainly didn't feature at all in the original synopsis and what we don't know is whether he featured in the sample chapters which accompanied it, but may since have been re-written. If he was there all along then perhaps he was destined to die along with Catelyn in that battle which never was, but if his dying was indeed to have been been part of the fall of House Stark I would still have expected him to turn up his toes before now. The fact that he hasn't yet died suggests to me that he is a later addition and may therefore have been added to the cast for a reason. As written he seems a seriously disturbed kid and I'm inclined to suspect that this may contribute to the bittersweet ending 

Edited by Black Crow

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The titled chapters that tell two stories do not describe the Manderlys in a kind light. Their "ship" is described as an "oily" whaler. Recall that in the Cat of the Canals chapter, "ships" are where plays are held. The Ibbenese whaler was said to reek of tar, blood, and whale oil. "Reek" seems a clear reference to Ramsay Bolton. The "tar" and "blood" to the two miller's children that were killed and tarred to make everyone believe they had caught and killed Bran and Rickon. The "oil" isn't just any kind of oil. It's "whale" oil, which seems to be a direct reference to the Manderlys. "Oily" can have various definitions, among them being excessively suave or ingratiating, flatteringly servile, obsequious, or unctuous. "Obsequious" means to be obedient, attentive, submissive, compliant, or ingratiating servile in behavior. "Unctuous" means to be insincere, self-serving, or smugly agreeable, which to me is the intended meaning behind the "oily" description. 

This "oily" description doesn't appear to cast the Manderly's as Rickon's savior, but their redemption may yet be found if we consider their location. When we turn our attention to where the whaler is moored, it's the Ragman's Harbor. I believe GRRM has drawn inspiration from the DC Comic's hero, "Ragman" when he named the location. Ragman is a Jewish vigilante in Gotham City who wears the mystical Suit of Souls. This costume allows him to take the souls of the guilty, and summon their strengths and abilities in combat. Through his actions, their evil deeds are redeemed and they are slowly allowed to ascend to Heaven. The Suit of Souls seems to be echoed in the hooded Ghost in Winterfell mystery character. 

Edited by Melifeather

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I was rereading ADWD chapter 46 A Ghost in Winterfell and came across an interesting passage - particularly because of the language. To set up the passage, this is after three mysterious deaths.  First was a 44 year old man-at-arms from House Ryswell (fell from battlement taking a piss, face eaten by dogs), next was Aenys Frey's grizzled squire (drunk, naked, froze to death), then a crossbowman sworn to the Flints (broken skull, kicked by horse). 

Quote

It all seemed so familiar, like a mummer show that he had seen before. Only the mummers had changed. Roose Bolton was playing the part that Theon had played the last time round, and the dead men were playing the parts of Aggar, Gynir Rednose, and Gelmarr the Grimm. Reek was there too, he remembered, but he was a different Reek, a Reek with bloody hands and lies dripping from his lips, sweet as honey. Reek, Reek, it rhymes with sneak.

Hmm, lets see. How did Aggar, Gynir, and Gelmarr die? All three rode with Theon and Reek when they went looking for Bran and Rickon. This was before Theon knew Reek was Ramsay.

Quote

ACOK Theon chapter 56

Outside his door, Reek waited with Urzen and Kromm. Theon fell in with them. These days, he took guards with him everywhere he went, even to the privy. Winterfell wanted him dead. The very night they had returned from Acorn Water, Gelmarr the Grim had tumbled down some steps and broken his back. The next day, Aggar turned up with his throat slit ear to ear. Gynir Rednose because so wary that he shunned wine, took to sleeping in bernie, coif, and helm, and adopted the noisiest dog in the kennels to give him warning should anyone try to steal up on his sleeping place. All the same, one morning the castle woke to the sound of the little dog barking wildly. They found the pup racing around the well, and Redness floating in it, drowned.

I have been using this same type of language to describe what I think is happening in the titled chapters - specifically as mummers playing a part in a show that has happened before.

In the first "play" Theon played a part in killing the miller's sons - probably his own bastards. "Reek" was the one to suggest the ploy. Theon learns later that Ramsay killed all three men.

In the second "play" Theon and Ramsay have traded places. Theon has become Reek and Ramsay is playing Theon. We have yet to confirm the identity of the murderer for these recent killings. The chapter names the murderer as the Ghost in Winterfell. During the “first round” Ramsay “played” Reek - the real Reek is dead, so symbolically Ramsay was a “ghost” Reek. If Theon is playing "Reek" this second round,  then he is playing the ghost.

Edited by Melifeather

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What were Theon's reactions to the murders?

Quote

The dead man was found at the base of the inner wall, with his neck broken and only his left leg showing above the snow that had buried him during the night.

If Ramsay's bitches had not dug him up, he might have stayed buried until spring. By the time Ben Bones pulled them off, Grey Jeyne had eaten so much of the dead man's face that half the day was gone before they knew for certain who he'd been: a man-at-arms of four-and-forty years who had marched north with Roger Ryswell. "A drunk," Ryswell declared. "Pissing off the wall, I'll wager He slipped and fell." No one disagreed. But Theon Greyjoy found himself wondering why any man would climb the snow-slick steps to the battlements in the black of night just to take a piss.

I think our main clue is that the mummer's character of the "ghost of Reek" is no longer played by Theon in this moment. He's Theon Greyjoy, and "Theon Greyjoy" wondered why any man would climb snow-slick steps up to the battlements in the black of night to take a piss. But he also notes that "No one disagreed." Our second clue is that the dead man's face had been eaten off, concealing his identity.

Lets look at the next one.

Quote

The next morning Ser Aenys Frey's grizzled squire was found naked and dead of exposure in the old castle lichyard, his face so obscured by hoarfrost that he appeared to be wearing a mask. Ser Aenys put it forth that the man had drunk too much and gotten lost in the storm, though no one could explain why he had taken off his clothes to go outside. Another drunkard, Theon thought. Wine could drown a host of suspicions.

"Theon thought" that wine could drown suspicion. The dead man was also wearing a mask of hoarfrost. A second reference to concealment.

Here's the third murder scene:

Quote

That night the new stable collapsed beneath the weight of the snow that had buried it. Twenty-six horses and two grooms died, crushed beneath the falling roof or smothered under the snows. It took the best part of the morning to dig out the bodies. Lord Bolton appeared briefly in the outer ward to inspect the scene, then ordered the remaining horses brought inside, along with the mounts still tethered in the outer ward. And no sooner had the men finished digging out the dead men and butchering the horses than another corpse was found.

This one could not be waved away as some drunken tumble or the kick of a horse. The dead man was one of Ramsay's favorites, the squat, scrofulous, ill-favored man-at-arms called Yellow Dick. Whether his dick had actually been yellow was hard to determine, as someone had sliced it off and stuffed it into his mouth so forcefully they had broken three of his teeth. When the cooks found him outside the kitchens, buried up to his neck in a snowdrift, both dick and man were blue from cold. "Burn the body," Roose Bolton ordered, "and see that you do not speak of this. I'll not have this tale spread."

We don't get any thoughts from Theon about this murder until later on, because Roose Bolton wanted the body burned and he ordered people to not spread the tale, making this our third concealment. Further into the chapter Theon is answering to the name of Reek, but concealing that he now "remembers" that he is Theon Greyjoy.

Quote

The tale spread nonetheless. By midday most of Winterfell had heard, many from the lips of Ramsay Bolton, whose "boy" Yellow Dick had been. "When we find the man who did this," Lord Ramsay promised, "I will flay the skin off him, cook it crisp as crackling, and make him eat it, every bite." Word went out that the killer's name would be worth a golden dragon.

The reek within the Great Hall was palpable by eventide. With hundreds of horses, dogs, and men squeezed underneath one roof, the floors slimy with mud and melting snow, horseshit, dog turds, and even human feces, the air redolent with the smells of wet dog, wet wool, and sodden horse blankets, there was no comfort to be found amongst the crowded benches, but there was food. The cooks served up great slabs of fresh horsemen, charred outside and bloody red within, with roast onions and needs ... and for once, the common soldiers ate as well as the lords and knights.

<snip>

The Bastard's Boys gathered beneath a wall sconce where a torch was flaming smokily. Luton and Skinner were throwing dice. Grunt had a woman in his lap, a breast in his hand. Damon Dance-for-Me sat greasing up his whip. "Reek," he called. He tapped the whip against his calf as a man might do to summon his dog. "You are starting to stink again, Reek."

Theon had no reply for that beyond a soft "Yes."

 

The text is telling us that "the reek" is within the Great Hall and that Ramsay's men identify Theon as "Reek", but not only is Theon concealing his identity from Ramsay and his men, he is also concealing the identity of the Ghost in Winterfell from himself:

Quote

Farther on, he came upon a man striding in the opposite direction, a hooded cloak flapping behind him. When they found themselves face-to-face their eyes met briefly. the man put a hand on his dagger. "Theon Turncloak. Theon Kinslayer."

"I'm not. I never ... I was ironborn."

"False is all you were. How is it you still breathe?"

"The gods are not done with me," Theon answered, wondering if this could be the killer, the night walker who had stuffed Yellow Dick's cock into his mouth and pushed Roger Ryswell's groom off the battlements. Oddly, he was not afraid. He pulled the glove from his left hand. "Lord Ramsay is not done with me."

The man looked, and laughed. "I leave you to him, then."

Just a few pages before this "encounter" Theon was thinking about jumping off the battlements himself, but acknowledged that even if he survived the jump, Ramsay, his dogs, and his men would just hunt him down and kill him. So I think this "encounter" with the hooded man was not physical, but rather a mental one between ghost "Reek" and Theon. "Reek" accused Theon of being a turncloak and a kinslayer, but Theon denies both charges and replies back that he's "ironborn" and an instrument of the gods. To me, this passage makes it quite clear that Theon is the Ghost in Winterfell.

Edited by Melifeather

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On 12/26/2019 at 10:42 PM, Brad Stark said:

If Rickon were destined for anything else, we'd have a POV character near him, or he'd be a POV himself.   Rickon only exists to affect the other Starks, either by them trying to save him, trying to avoid dying the same way, or being sacrificed for something else. 

Just curious..... Do you feel the same way about Howland Reed? 

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13 hours ago, Lady Dyanna said:

Just curious..... Do you feel the same way about Howland Reed? 

Can't answer for Brad Stark, but I feel myself that he could be a bit of a red herring. GRRM has responded in the past to his non-appearance by saying that he knows too much. This has traditionally been interpreted by the faithful in another place to mean that he will one day appear with his affydavey and sundry other proofs to proclaim the truth of R+L=J and Jon's claim to be the rightful lawful king of all Westeros. 

I find this scenario difficult to believe.

Even if Mr Reed is already striding the pages under some disguise, a story as complex as this one requires a solider resolution, whether that resolution lies in a connection to the Green Men [who GRRM has also promised will appear] or the Musgrave Ritual which is connects House Stark to Winterfell, its crypts and Winter itself. Howland Reed may have a part to play in this, but I feel that an expectation he may be the key to it all, is misplaced.

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