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Heresy 233 A Walk on the White Sid[h]e

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Welcome to Heresy 233, the latest episode of the long-running thread taking a slantwise look at the Song of Ice and Fire.

The thread began in November 2011, under the title The Wall the Watch and a Heresy and has been going without a break ever since.

From the beginning it questioned the true nature and function of the Wall and the Nights Watch and above all the Heresy has lain in questioning the true role of the Starks and above all the popular assumption that Jon Snow is really the lost heir to the Iron Throne, and that as the legendary eastern hero Azor Ahai he will ride the RTAF [Royal Targaryen Airforce] to victory over the horror from the north.

Discussion here is open and free-ranging, and over the years has covered many different aspects of the story and where it could really be heading, but essentially we still question the popular emphasis on the Lost Targaryen scenario and remain focussed on GRRM’s own declaration that this story revolves around the children of Winterfell, and therefore concentrate on what may really be going on, and the real significance of the mystery of the Musgrave Ritual that is Winterfell, and ultimately the Stark connection to the Ice.

After a splendid Heresy 232 on the subject [and significance] of Rainbows – kudos to Lady Dyanna- discussion seems to have morphed once again [it does that] into discussion of the White Walkers.

Brushing aside the gross caricatures of the mummer’s version, we still have GRRM’s description as relayed Tommy Patterson, the graphic novel artist:

“I had many talks with George. He told me of the ice swords, and the reflective, camouflaging armor that picks up the images of the things around it like a clear, still pond. He spoke a lot about what they were not, but what they were was harder to put into words. Here is what George said, in one e-mail: 'The Others are not dead. They are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous.”

Then on 16 March 2015, I was watching a feature on Sky Atlantic, providing a catch up on the mummer’s version and featuring interviews with [among others] GRRM, when he confirmed that when Sam pinked Ser Puddles "he broke the spell holding him together." 

Both statements are consistent with Stannis’ in-text description of their being demons made [my emphasis] of snow and ice and cold.

This inevitably leads us on to discussion of who they are and who created them. If they are created from snow and ice and cold, then clearly we’re faced with two questions. First, what animates these creations? The answer to this one is relatively straightforward. Some of them at least are unequivocally identified as Craster’s sons -not by way of a physical transformation but rather through a transfer of the spirit or consciousness, as we see elsewhere in skin-changing and especially in the Varamyr prologue. The only difference is that instead of enslaving an animal or even another human being the spirit is capable of creating a completely new corporeal form.

As to the origin; Craster was obviously no more that the degenerate descendant of who…?

The obvious answer is the Night’s King and the white lady. I don’t believe that she was a corpse and that he gave her his seed and a white walker popped out. In the first place GRRM clearly and unambiguously said that “The Others are not dead”. There is, however an intriguing suggestion in the World book, that she was the daughter of one of the Barrow Kings. This could make sense if we see her not as a corpse herself, but as a sorceress. And we do after all know from the story that the Night’s King and his men were sacrificing to the Others, presumably exactly as Craster was doing.

In theory Craster might be descended of any one of the King’s men, but while the King was overthrown we’re not explicitly told that he was slain. We are told though that he was a Stark, and that the man who overthrew him was his brother.

Edited by Black Crow
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Thanks for the invitation @LynnS.  OK, say Craster is a descendent of NK/NQ.  I always liked a daughter of the Barrows for the NQ.  OP says she may have been a sorceress.  In related research I couldn't find any characters who are master of all spells.  In my own lame little research for a death verifying topic of all things, I associated necromancy with the magic that could be associated with the Dustins or Barrows Kings.  So my 1st question will be did the 1st Men bring their brands of magic with them or did this magic come as a gift from (Insert Magic Source) for more meritous actions or deeds?  The COTF don't seem to have factioned off into disagreeable tribes, displaying a united front at least as I read the history.  I'd like to keep it there without the Starks to understand the possible origin of the magic that would spawn Others.  We know how the Starks attained their boss magic points.  

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6 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

 I always liked a daughter of the Barrows for the NQ.  OP says she may have been a sorceress.

Hey Curled Finger, thanks for joining in and getting us started! This is not easy subject to discuss given the information we get is from the oral tradition. We have to guess at a lot of it.  I too prefer a daughter of the Barrowlands as the Corpse Queen.   He loved her and chased her in the Wildling manner of stealing a bride.  How close to the Wildlings in marriage and tradition were the Starks of the past?

It seems to me that if the North remembers; it's the Wildlings who remember this early history possibly including the name of the Stark who was the Night King.  

I wondered what a daughter of the Barrowlands was doing so far North.   

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History

Singers claim the Barrow Kings fought against the Kings of Winter, the Starks of Winterfell, north of the barrowlands, in the Thousand Years War, but runes of the First Men indicates the conflict lasted about two hundred years. When the last Barrow King submitted to Winterfell, the Stark king received his daughter in marriage. The Dustins of Barrowton claim descent from the First King and the Barrow Kings.[2]

Maester Kennet's Passages of the Dead mentions a curse was supposedly placed on the Great Barrow, weakening and making corpselike any living man who dared to equal the First King. Some maesters think the corpse queen of the Night's King may have actually been a daughter of a Barrow King, as they were often connected with graves.[4]

So potentially, this wasn't the first marriage alliance between the Starks and Barrow Kings of old; in a time before the men of the Watch were forbidden to marry.  

In our story, It looks like Jon Snow is being set up as the current version of the NK:

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A Game of Thrones - Jon IX

Tyrion Lannister had claimed that most men would rather deny a hard truth than face it, but Jon was done with denials. He was who he was; Jon Snow, bastard and oathbreaker, motherless, friendless, and damned. For the rest of his life—however long that might be—he would be condemned to be an outsider, the silent man standing in the shadows who dares not speak his true name. Wherever he might go throughout the Seven Kingdoms, he would need to live a lie, lest every man's hand be raised against him. But it made no matter, so long as he lived long enough to take his place by his brother's side and help avenge his father.

 And it looks like the mysterious Val is being set-up as the Corpse Queen:

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A Dance with Dragons - Jon XI

"Did you follow me as well?" Jon reached to shoo the bird away but ended up stroking its feathers. The raven cocked its eye at him. "Snow," it muttered, bobbing its head knowingly. Then Ghost emerged from between two trees, with Val beside him.

They look as though they belong together. Val was clad all in white; white woolen breeches tucked into high boots of bleached white leather, white bearskin cloak pinned at the shoulder with a carved weirwood face, white tunic with bone fastenings. Her breath was white as well … but her eyes were blue, her long braid the color of dark honey, her cheeks flushed red from the cold. It had been a long while since Jon Snow had seen a sight so lovely.

Val's eyes are not described as blue anywhere else and I don't think this is a mistake.  I think she is involved with Craster's women and the fate of the sons and brothers.  She calls Gilly' child Monster.  I don't think she is so much a princess as she is a priestess of the old gods.  Like most of the Wildlings,, she knows more than she is telling.  She could be a Corpse Queen to the future Corpse King. 

Edited by LynnS

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6 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

Thanks for the invitation @LynnS.  OK, say Craster is a descendent of NK/NQ.  I always liked a daughter of the Barrows for the NQ.  OP says she may have been a sorceress.  In related research I couldn't find any characters who are master of all spells.  In my own lame little research for a death verifying topic of all things, I associated necromancy with the magic that could be associated with the Dustins or Barrows Kings.  So my 1st question will be did the 1st Men bring their brands of magic with them or did this magic come as a gift from (Insert Magic Source) for more meritous actions or deeds?  The COTF don't seem to have factioned off into disagreeable tribes, displaying a united front at least as I read the history.  I'd like to keep it there without the Starks to understand the possible origin of the magic that would spawn Others.  We know how the Starks attained their boss magic points.  

I don't think we necessarily need to pin X on Y, rather look for a cummulative processs.

We "know" from the text that that the spirits/souls of some individuals can move independently of their bodies and in some cases survive their bodies.

Commonly this takes the form of skin-changing into animals. Sometimes its an intimate link between one human and one host which can also be a two way process

More powerful spirits - such as Varamyr can utilise multiple hosts or even, like Bran fellow humans

From there it doesn't seem too much of a stretch to see such a spirit having the ability to create a new [temporary?] body out of ice crystals in the air.

As a variant Our Mel is able to draw a spirit or its essence and cast it into a temporary form using smoke. Her Shadows and the White Shadows are different, not least because Ice preserves while Fire consumes, but ultimately the underlying "principles" are the same.

How this is accomplished is less clear, but from that little we do know heredity ["King's blood"] plays a vital part, whether they are Starks or anybody else, although Our Mel suggests it can be short-circuited by the exercise of magick.

Anyways, I'd avoid easy answers like suggesting its all down to the Children. Oh the basic ability may originate in the trees, but how it has spread is a different matter

Edited by Black Crow
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6 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

I associated necromancy with the magic that could be associated with the Dustins or Barrows Kings.  So my 1st question will be did the 1st Men bring their brands of magic with them or did this magic come as a gift from (Insert Magic Source) for more meritous actions or deeds? 

This is an interesting question.  I suspect that the magic source originates with the Pact.  When the trees are given faces in a blood magic ritual to bind the First Men to the old gods.  In order to maintain obligations, some gift is given in return.  With the Starks, that seems to be an association with direwolves, warging and skinchanging.  But that comes with a price.  Children of the bloodline must serve the old gods as protectors and greenseers. 

So, we get the story of the Night King giving his seed to the NQ and sacrificing to the Others.  This sounds very much like what Craster  or his women are doing. This may be part of the Pact that the Starks have forgotten and the Wildlings remember. And the reason why he goes unchallenged and his women don't kill him.

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5 minutes ago, LynnS said:

So, we get the story of the Night King giving his seed to the NQ and sacrificing to the Others.  This sounds very much like what Craster  or his women are doing. This may be part of the Pact that the Starks have forgotten and the Wildlings remember. And the reason why he goes unchallenged and his women don't kill him.

Absolutely agree, which is exactly why I've argued before that Craster is regarded by his neighbours as a Sin-Eater

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30 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

Absolutely agree, which is exactly why I've argued before that Craster is regarded by his neighbours as a Sin-Eater

Yes, the sons are abominations by incest in the eyes of the Wildlings.  As much as I despise the killing of infants or young boys; I can't avoid this outcome any longer.  I don't think Val would hesitate to dispatch something as unclean as Crater's boys.  Especially, given her lack of pity for Shireen.  I also wonder where Craster's women went if they didn't go to the Wall.  They must have a refuge somewhere.

Monster is not called Monster because he is meant to become a WW.  Val calls him Monster because he is meant to replace Craster. 

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Agreed as to Monster, but the point of Craster as a sin eater is that because he's cursed to give up his sons, his neighbours aren't forced to.

Edited by Black Crow

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2 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

Agreed as to Monster, but the point of Craster as a sin eater is that because he's cursed to give up his sons, his neighbours aren't forced to.

Yes, it lets them off the hook alright.  I'd say the Starks are cursed in the same way, as we are seeing now.   I've been curious about how they have been chosen or marked.  Leaf says the chosen have red or green eyes.  This doesn't fit with the Stark kids.  But it does with their direwolves.  Nymeria has eyes like gold coins.  She is chosen by the Faceless Men.  Ghost, well Jon belongs to the old gods.  Shaggy Dog has green fire for eyes and Rickon may have been chosen by the Storm Gods.  Summer has yellow-gold eyes like the sun. and he is chosen by the COTF. 

Leaf says the young who are chosen, live short lives.  Crasters boys live short lives before they become WW's.  As Gilly says infants are filled with the stink of life and this is very powerful. 

What is the point of the WWs, if it isn't to protect the last refuge of the COTF and their greenseers, north of the Wall?  

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20 minutes ago, LynnS said:

What is the point of the WWs, if it isn't to protect the last refuge of the COTF and their greenseers, north of the Wall?  

Certainly a good possibility, but if they were originally Starks then regaining what was once theirs is a powerful motive.

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1 hour ago, Black Crow said:

Certainly a good possibility, but if they were originally Starks then regaining what was once theirs is a powerful motive.

You mean Winterfell?  The crown and sword?

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4 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

Winterfell and everything that goes with it

OK.  Jon Snow will have to embrace his Stark side then.  I see where this get's vader-ish.    

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I'm sure most Heretics already know my position on this topic, but I'll briefly touch on a few key points regarding what white walkers are, who created them, and for what purpose.

My position remains that the Others are simply people who were "otherized" due to their loyalty to a family that knew how to work magic. The family in question were the original inhabitants and lords of Winterfell, but were pushed out by a bastard son who became legitimized when he took possession.

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“You know nothing, Jon Snow. Daughters are taken, not wives. You’re the ones who steal. You took the whole world, and built the Wall t’ keep the free folk out.”

When Jon was LC and his new recruits were taking their oaths, the story juxtaposes the Nights Watch and their purpose along side a small group of wildings. IMO it does a good job in showing that the "bogeymen" are really only just people: 

Quote

“I am the sword in the darkness,” said the six, and it seemed to Jon as though their voices were changing, growing stronger, more certain. “I am the watcher on the walls. I am the fire that burns against the cold, the light that brings the dawn, the horn that wakes the sleepers, the shield that guards the realms of men.” 

 The shield that guards the realms of men. Ghost nuzzled up against his shoulder, and Jon draped an arm around him. He could smell Horse’s unwashed breeches, the sweet scent Satin combed into his beard, the rank sharp smell of fear, the giant’s overpowering musk. He could hear the beating of his own heart. When he looked across the grove at the woman with her child, the two greybeards, the Hornfoot man with his maimed feet, all he saw was men.

The World Book also suggests that the Others were people:

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Archmaester Fomas's Lies of the Ancients—though little regarded these days for its erroneous claims regarding the founding of Valyria and certain lineal claims in the Reach and westerlands—does speculate that the Others of legend were nothing more than a tribe of the First Men, ancestors of the wildlings, that had established itself in the far north. Because of the Long Night, these early wildlings were then pressured to begin a wave of conquests to the south. That they became monstrous in the tales told thereafter, according to Fomas, reflects the desire of the Night's Watch and the Starks to give themselves a more heroic identity as saviors of mankind, and not merely the beneficiaries of a struggle over dominion.

I'm not sure why the Starks took up the name of "Stark", because I suspect the Magnars of Thenn are descendants of the original lord of Winterfell, unless the Thenns were the ones that changed their name in order to refute that the bastard was ever one of them?

The crown of the Kings of Winter seems to symbolize the idea that they defeated a magical enemy and warded it. The First Men worked bronze, which is associated with magic. The Andals are credited with bringing iron. Iron is a known substance used to ward against magic. The crown of the King in the North is of a bronze circlet surrounded by nine iron swords, which to me symbolically sends the message that the King in the North defeated a magical opponent. This goes along with the name of Winterfell sounding like the defeat of winter, and the motto "Winter is Coming". Put it all together and it would appear the Starks took Winterfell by conquest.

@Tucu posted on my Wildings reread thread a long list of quotes that linked white shadows to roles as "protectors". Tucu said:

I think that the Others have two separate dimensions:

-one is a campaign to create a fake terrible enemy that hates all living things. A great tool to control the actions of your own population and scare away desperate foreigners during events like the Long Night

-the other dimension is who is behind the campaign. In my opinion this is a conspiracy of weirwoods, greenseers, CoTF and some leaders of human and giant tribes. Direwolves might also be part of this (or at least act as their agents). They operate like like black ops or covert operations groups.

The WW are just magical shadows not very different than the shadow assasins created by Mel. There is a good reason that the term "white shadow" is only used for three entities in the books: the WW, the Kingsguard and Ghost; I see them as knights/protectors of the conspirators.

These are quotes about the white shadows. You can see that the term is either used for the WW or for protector figures (KG and Ghost):

Quote

Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone
They walked, with Ghost pacing along beside Jon like a white shadow. "I leave on the morrow," Tyrion said.

"We have white shadows in the woods and unquiet dead stalking our halls, and a boy sits the Iron Throne," he said in disgust.

"The cold gods," she said. "The ones in the night. The white shadows."

"We do not ride for the Wall. We ride north, after Mance Rayder and these Others, these white shadows and their wights. We seek them, Gilly. Your babe would not be safe with us."

Joffrey was galloping at his side, whey-faced, with Ser Mandon Moore a white shadow on his left.

 Men ran from him and he ran after them, clambering up over the rail to the next ship and then the next. His two white shadows were always with him; Balon Swann and Mandon Moore, beautiful in their pale plate
 
 He's talking about bleeding stars and white shadows and dreams and . . . if we could find out more about these dragons, it might help give him ease
 
 Dany glimpsed Ser Barristan sliding closer, a white shadow at her side
 
 Ghost padded after him, a white shadow at his side.
 
 Ghost ran with them, a white shadow at Jon's side.

 

I think the wildings manufactured the white walkers to be their own Kingsguard - icy snow knights:

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“Sam the Slayer!” he said, by way of greeting. “Are you sure you stabbed an Other, and not some child’s snow knight?”

Tucu found some other gems to support the idea that white walkers were created for protection:

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World Book

Mern III (the Madling) showered gold and honors on a woods witch who claimed that she could raise armies of the dead to throw the Andals back

Was the woods witch that could raise armies of the dead an ice priestess or was she actually one of the Children of the Forest?  Jenny of Oldstones thought her woods witch friend was:

Quote

World Book

Jenny of Oldstones was accompanied to court by a dwarfish, albino woman who was reputed to be a woods witch in the riverlands. Lady Jenny herself claimed, in her ignorance, that she was a child of the forest.

I know we've debated many times about the number of white walkers that attacked Waymar, but for the record my current belief is that there were six. Six matches up not only the numbers of Stark children with their corresponding direwolves, but if you set aside the Lord Commanders for a minute, there are six Kingsguard, six Rainbow Guard, and six gods plus the Stranger in the Faith of the Seven. The Stranger and the LC's of both the Kingsguard and Rainbow Guard suggests that the six white walkers are just missing their Lord Commander. Do they already have a Lord Commander? I think Mance could arguably be their Lord Commander, or for some Heretics I'm sure they think Jon Snow will take up the mantle of the LC of the dead.

Edited by Melifeather

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Please allow me to add a wild thought connecting GRRMs "a different form of life", the rainbow, the hinges, the comet and magic:

Not all colors of the rainbow are visible to the human eye. Still they are there. Maybe the Others are a different form of life, not visible to humans under normal conditions, and not able to interact. Parallel beings. Then something changes, maybe the doom of Valyria, maybe the comet, or the creation of the dragons. Or the hammer of the waters? It makes the Others visible to the humans, "they come for the first time". The CotF help the humans, I suspect out of guilt as they are responsible for some of it, and the Black Gate is created to separate the two worlds. Magic and human sacrifice are involved.

Fast forward: the murder of Rickard and Brandon revokes the truce (this "so they both die kings" still puzzles me), and the Others rise again.

In the end, Jon killing Daenerys might be the sacrifice required to separate the parallel worlds again and bring the seasons back in synch.

 

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I like the rainbow "connection" After all Varamyr was presumably invisible [at least to human eyes] after he was expelled from Thistle and if the Walkers ride the cold winds like the Sidhe then they too will be invisible until they assume corporeal form using ice and snow.

I don't think that anything has changed though. Ultimately there may well be a connection to the trees and the Walkers' origin may lie in a human ability for the spirit/soul to escape from the Wood. I think that may be more likely than the Weirnet  being directly responsible for creating or controlling them.

 

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52 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

I don't think that anything has changed though. Ultimately there may well be a connection to the trees and the Walkers' origin may lie in a human ability for the spirit/soul to escape from the Wood. I think that may be more likely than the Weirnet  being directly responsible for creating or controlling them.

I think this is likely as well.  I don't think they are controlled so much as powered up by by the killing cold from it's focal point in the far North.

Quote

A Clash of Kings - Jon VIII

There was no question of riding double. Stonesnake offered to lay in wait for the pursuit and surprise them when they came. Perhaps he could take a few of them with him down to hell. Qhorin refused. "If any man in the Night's Watch can make it through the Frostfangs alone and afoot, it is you, brother. You can go over mountains that a horse must go around. Make for the Fist. Tell Mormont what Jon saw, and how. Tell him that the old powers are waking, that he faces giants and wargs and worse. Tell him that the trees have eyes again."

I don't think we are just talking about Weirwood trees.  I think we might be getting a little closer to the nature of the Green Men as well if we consider them to be wood spirits.  Those south of the Wall aren't affected or they are protected from the cold fire that make the WWs north of the Wall.

The Haunted Forest is old and unchanged since the Dawn age:

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A Game of Thrones - Jon VI

Mormont himself confirmed Grenn's doubts. "Castle Black has no need of a godswood. Beyond the Wall the haunted forest stands as it stood in the Dawn Age, long before the Andals brought the Seven across the narrow sea. You will find a grove of weirwoods half a league from this spot, and mayhap your gods as well."

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A Clash of Kings - Jon IV

They ought to be safe here. The hill offered commanding views, and the slopes were precipitous to the north and west and only slightly more gentle to the east. Yet as the dusk deepened and darkness seeped into the hollows between the trees, Jon's sense of foreboding grew. This is the haunted forest, he told himself. Maybe there are ghosts here, the spirits of the First Men. This was their place, once.

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A Storm of Swords - Jon IX

Day and night the axes rang.

Jon could not remember the last time he had slept. When he closed his eyes he dreamed of fighting; when he woke he fought. Even in the King's Tower he could hear the ceaseless thunk of bronze and flint and stolen steel biting into wood, and it was louder when he tried to rest in the warming shed atop the Wall. Mance had sledgehammers at work as well, and long saws with teeth of bone and flint. Once, as he was drifting off into an exhausted sleep, there came a great cracking from the haunted forest, and a sentinel tree came crashing down in a cloud of dirt and needles.

Cutting and burning the trees was the original sin of the First Men.  

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Another thought about Rickon.  If the WWs are powered by cold fire and they are tree spirits; then maybe the Green Men are powered by green fire,  Rickon my be connected to the green men through Shaggy Dog especially given that Wyman Manderley belongs to the Order of the Green Men. 

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