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Seams

Literacy and House Glover

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Initially, I was going to toss off a little post for the "Wow, I never noticed that" discussion, pointing out the parallel between the "wordless" ranger Will in the AGOT prologue, and Wex Pyke, Theon's squire, in ADwD:

Ser Waymar looked him over with open disapproval. "I am not going back to Castle Black a failure on my first ranging. We will find these men." He glanced around. "Up the tree. Be quick about it. Look for a fire."
 
Will turned away, wordless. There was no use to argue. The wind was moving. It cut right through him. He went to the tree, a vaulting grey-green sentinel, and began to climb. Soon his hands were sticky with sap, and he was lost among the needles. Fear filled his gut like a meal he could not digest. He whispered a prayer to the nameless gods of the wood, and slipped his dirk free of its sheath. He put it between his teeth to keep both hands free for climbing. The taste of cold iron in his mouth gave him comfort.
 
...
They emerged silently from the shadows, twins to the first. Three of them … four … five … Ser Waymar may have felt the cold that came with them, but he never saw them, never heard them. Will had to call out. It was his duty. And his death, if he did. He shivered, and hugged the tree, and kept the silence.
 
The pale sword came shivering through the air.
(AGoT, Prologue)

Robett Glover took up the tale. "We may never know all that happened at Winterfell, when Ser Rodrik Cassel tried to take the castle back from Theon Greyjoy's ironmen. The Bastard of Bolton claims that Greyjoy murdered Ser Rodrik during a parley. Wex says no. Until he learns more letters we will never know half the truth … but he came to us knowing yes and no, and those can go a long way once you find the right questions."

"It was the Bastard who murdered Ser Rodrik and the men of Winterfell," said Lord Wyman. "He slew Greyjoy's ironmen as well. Wex saw men cut down trying to yield. When we asked how he escaped, he took a chunk of chalk and drew a tree with a face."

Davos thought about that. "The old gods saved him?"

"After a fashion. He climbed the heart tree and hid himself amongst the leaves. Bolton's men searched the godswood twice and killed the men they found there, but none thought to clamber up into the trees. Is that how it happened, Wex?"

The boy flipped up Glover's dagger, caught it, nodded.

Glover said, "He stayed up in the tree a long time. He slept amongst the branches, not daring to descend. Finally he heard voices down beneath him."

"The voices of the dead," said Wyman Manderly.

(ADwD, Davos IV)

If the parallel is valid, we could also compare Ramsay Bolton's men to the Others. They attack the Winterfell smallfolk and defenders while Wex Pyke looks down from the tree, much the way that the Others attacked Ser Waymar while Will looked down from the tree. The "voices of the dead" in the Wex Pyke excerpt are Bran and Rickon and their traveling companions. Is the author telling us to compare these characters to reanimated wights, like the slaughtered wildlings or like Ser Waymar, with a shard of a shattered sword in his eye?

This may be significant as well:

"Fallen," Will insisted. "There's one woman up an ironwood, half-hid in the branches. A far-eyes." He smiled thinly. "I took care she never saw me. When I got closer, I saw that she wasn't moving neither." Despite himself, he shivered.

(AGoT, prologue)

The author seems to be giving us a string of silent observers up in the trees. The wildling "far-eyes" and Will are wighted after their tree-climbing observation efforts. Perhaps Wex is more successful in hiding and watching from the tree because he is Ironborn: perhaps his "What's dead can never die" religion gives him some kind of immunity? Of course, he was hiding from Ramsay Bolton, not the actual Others, White Walkers and wights. So maybe the parallel is not intended to extend to Wex's descent from the tree.

The detail that had caught my eye and suggested the Will / Wex parallel was the airborne blade in each excerpt. In the prologue, the blade is wielded by the Other. In the Wex Pyke scene, the blade is a dagger belonging to Robett Glover and Wex keeps flipping it (GRRM uses the word "flipped" three times to describe Wex handling the dagger) until he finally flings it across a room to pick out a place on a map -- Skagos, the island where Rickon Stark is believed to be hiding.

Any word that is used three times in ASOIAF is significant. (See Mormont's raven for more examples.) I suspect the word "flipped" might be telling us that the Wex Pyke scene represents a turning point in the action: we are about to see a change of fortune or some other turning of the tide, and I suspect it will favor the interests of the north but also of House Greyjoy and, perhaps, the Ironborn in general.

And, somehow, reading and tales are part of the new path on which we are embarking.

Here are the pieces that seem important in deciphering this set of clues:

  • Robett Glover is (or may be) the heir to Deepwood Motte. While he is serving as Robb Stark's bannerman, his wife Sybelle is left in charge of the castle.
  • Asha Greyjoy leads an invading force and takes control of Deepwood Motte, taking hostage Sybelle and the two Glover children.
  • When Asha returns to the Iron Islands for the kings moot, she takes Sybelle and the children with her. After the moot, she leaves the Glover children at Harlaw.
  • The Lord of House Harlaw is Asha's uncle, Rodrik the Reader.
  • Wex Pyke is mute (moot? Motte?) but Robett Glover is teaching him to write (and, presumably, to read).
  • In ASOIAF, belts are used to carry messages and blades. When Robett Glover wants Wex to communicate with Davos, he pulls a dagger from his belt and hands it to Wex.
  • Davos was illiterate but has learned to read and put his new skill to good use in advising Stannis to go to the Wall and help defend it.
  • From his base at the Wall, Stannis retook Deepwood Motte and turned it over to Sybelle Glover.
  • In Greek mythology, Sibyls are know for their written prophecies.
  • Galbert Glover, the brother of Robett and current Lord of Deepwood Motte, was sent by Robb Stark to find Howland Reed.

What is this motif around learning to read? What does it mean that the Glover children are in the care of Rodrik the Reader while Theon's squire, Wex, is under the tutelage of Robett Glover?

Wex uses the dagger to write his name on wood. In addition to climbing the trees to hide and observe, there is a lot of tree action in the AGoT prologue and in the Davos POVs at White Harbor - Davos eats an apple, hears about human sacrifices made to weirwood trees and passes an enormous weirwood tree on his way to meet Wex Pyke.

I suspect there is some wordplay around leaves and pages - the German word "Blatt" can mean leaf, page, hand or blade. Wex "writing" on wood may be showing us a new purpose or function for trees. (See also the Talking Trees of the Summer Isles, on which is recorded the history of the community.) Will climbs a sentinel pine, which would have needles instead of leaves. Arya has a sword called Needle. When Jon Snow opens the obsidian cache, he describes the blades as being shaped like leaves. What should we make of the comparison between leaves and blades?

Is there any connection between the "learning to read" motif and characters such as Tyrion, Aemon or Sam, who are avid, dedicated readers and lovers of books? What about a connection to Joffrey, who uses a blade to destroy a book? Or the catspaw, who sets fire to the Winterfell library before taking the special dagger to Bran's bedchamber?

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Seams said:

I suspect there is some wordplay around leaves and pages - the German word "Blatt" can mean leaf, page, hand or blade. Wex "writing" on wood may be showing us a new purpose or function for trees. (See also the Talking Trees of the Summer Isles, on which is recorded the history of the community.) Will climbs a sentinel pine, which would have needles instead of leaves. Arya has a sword called Needle. When Jon Snow opens the obsidian cache, he describes the blades as being shaped like leaves. What should we make of the comparison between leaves and blades?

Is there any connection between the "learning to read" motif and characters such as Tyrion, Aemon or Sam, who are avid, dedicated readers and lovers of books? What about a connection to Joffrey, who uses a blade to destroy a book? Or the catspaw, who sets fire to the Winterfell library before taking the special dagger to Bran's bedchamber?

This came to mind. AGoT, Tyrion II.

Quote

"Why do you read so much?"

Tyrion looked up at the sound of the voice. Jon Snow was standing a few feet away, regarding him curiously. He closed the book on a finger and said, "Look at me and tell me what you see."

The boy looked at him suspiciously. "Is this some kind of trick? I see you. Tyrion Lannister."

Tyrion sighed. "You are remarkably polite for a bastard, Snow. What you see is a dwarf. You are what, twelve?"

"Fourteen," the boy said.

"Fourteen, and you're taller than I will ever be. My legs are short and twisted, and I walk with difficulty. I require a special saddle to keep from falling off my horse. A saddle of my own design, you may be interested to know. It was either that or ride a pony. My arms are strong enough, but again, too short. I will never make a swordsman. Had I been born a peasant, they might have left me out to die, or sold me to some slaver's grotesquerie. Alas, I was born a Lannister of Casterly Rock, and the grotesqueries are all the poorer. Things are expected of me. My father was the Hand of the King for twenty years. My brother later killed that very same king, as it turns out, but life is full of these little ironies. My sister married the new king and my repulsive nephew will be king after him. I must do my part for the honor of my House, wouldn't you agree? Yet how? Well, my legs may be too small for my body, but my head is too large, although I prefer to think it is just large enough for my mind. I have a realistic grasp of my own strengths and weaknesses. My mind is my weapon. My brother has his sword, King Robert has his warhammer, and I have my mind . . . and a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge." Tyrion tapped the leather cover of the book. "That's why I read so much, Jon Snow."

The boy absorbed that all in silence. He had the Stark face if not the name: long, solemn, guarded, a face that gave nothing away. Whoever his mother had been, she had left little of herself in her son. "What are you reading about?" he asked.

"Dragons," Tyrion told him.

 

Edited by TsarGrey

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