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The North during the 5 Year Gap


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The most problematic part of the 5 year gap was the Northern Theatre. What was Stannis or Jon supposed to do off-screen for 5 years after ASoS had the gap stayed? The ironborn story is also partially related to the north. In this thread, I want to explore possible early conceptions and setups for the Northern Theatre while the 5 year gap was still in play. Remember that GRRM came up with the idea of a 5 year gap while writing ACoK. That means ASoS was written with the intention of a 5 year gap to follow. Therefore, ASoS is the best place to look for clues about what to expect to happen in the north during the gap.


“I dreamt of a man without a face, waiting on a bridge that swayed and swung. On his shoulder perched a drowned crow with seaweed hanging from his wings.”

“You know how Pyke’s built on a headland, and part on rocks and islands off the shore, with bridges between? The way I heard it in Lordsport, there was a blow coming in from the west, rain and thunder, and old King Balon was crossing one of them bridges when the wind got hold of it and just tore the thing to pieces. He washed up two days later, all bloated and broken. Crabs ate his eyes, I hear.”

“The brother’s back.”

“Victarion?” asked Galbart Glover, surprised.

Euron. Crow’s Eye, they call him, as black a pirate as ever raised a sail. He’s been gone for years, but Lord Balon was no sooner cold than there he was, sailing into Lordsport in his Silence. Black sails and a red hull, and crewed by mutes. He’d been to Asshai and back, I heard. Wherever he was, though, he’s home now, and he marched right into Pyke and sat his arse in the Seastone Chair, and drowned Lord Botley in a cask of seawater when he objected. That was when I ran back to Myraham and slipped anchor, hoping I could get away whilst things were confused. And so I did, and here I am.”

In ASoS, Balon dies off-screen by falling from a bridge but adding all the above ASoS quotes side by side, most readers had already figured out that Euron hired a FM to kill Balon.


No sooner had he left the king’s pavilion than the Greatjon began to laugh, but Robb silenced him with a look. “Euron Greyjoy is no man’s notion of a king, if half of what Theon said of him was true. Theon is the rightful heir, unless he’s dead . . . but Victarion commands the Iron Fleet. I can’t believe he would remain at Moat Cailin while Euron Crow’s Eye holds the Seastone Chair. He has to go back.”

“There’s a daughter as well,” Galbart Glover reminded him. “The one who holds Deepwood Motte, and Robett’s wife and child.”

“If she stays at Deepwood Motte that’s all she can hope to hold,” said Robb. “What’s true for the brothers is even more true for her. She will need to sail home to oust Euron and press her own claim.”

“The ironborn will be setting sail toward Pyke, I expect. Theon told me how his people think. Every captain a king on his own deck. They will all want a voice in the succession.”

“Succession squabbles or no, the ironborn are not such fools as to abandon Moat Cailin,” said Lady Maege.

“No,” Robb admitted. “Victarion will leave the best part of his garrison, I’d guess. Every man he takes will be one less man we need to fight, however. And he will take many of his captains, count on that. The leaders. He will need such men to speak for him if he hopes to sit the Seastone Chair.”

“Whoever wins the Seastone Chair will want Theon Greyjoy dead,” Bolton pointed out. “Even in chains, he has a better claim than any of his uncles. Hold him, I say, and demand concessions from the ironborn as the price of his execution.”

Robb considered that reluctantly, but in the end he nodded. “Yes. Very well. Keep him alive, then. For the present. Hold him secure at the Dreadfort till we’ve retaken the north.”

The discussion in Robb’s council reveals that the notion of the kingsmoot had not fully formed back in ASoS. They were all expecting the ironmen to engage in a civil war for succession. At this point, we were going to have the 5 year gap. Does this mean that while writing this part of ASoS, GRRM planned to have an ironmen civil war for 5 years during the gap, only to have Euron finally win when the story takes off after 5 years? I think this is a likely idea. In addition to that, this internal strife of the ironmen would cause their holdings in the north to shrink, which still happened even after the gap was gone. Also Theon was going to be tortured for 5 years during the gap. In that case, him turning into an unrecognizable old man would be more believable.


“Perhaps Littlefinger succeeded where you and Varys failed. Lord Bolton will wed the girl to his bastard son. We shall allow the Dreadfort to fight the ironborn for a few years, and see if he can bring Stark’s other bannermen to heel. Come spring, all of them should be at the end of their strength and ready to bend the knee. The north will go to your son by Sansa Stark . . . if you ever find enough manhood in you to breed one. Lest you forget, it is not only Joffrey who must needs take a maidenhead.”

The plans of Tywin strengthen the idea of a prolonged conflict in the north. Tywin wanted all the sides to wear themselves out in wars, after which all of them would be weakened enough to be crushed by the Iron Throne. It is important to note that Tywin was absolutely planning to throw the Boltons under the bus by claiming the north via a child of Sansa. Roose is a smart guy. Do you really think he missed this? Do you really think he could fully trust Tywin in claiming the north via a fake Stark daughter married to a legitimized bastard while Tywin had the real and the elder Stark daughter married to his son? This is a major hint supporting the idea that Roose has his own plans to ditch the Lannisters and go for northern independence with him at the top. Especially after the death of Tywin, Roose had nothing left to fear. This idea is hinted at by Lady Barbrey in ADwD.


“But . . . my lord, you said . . . you said we were sailing home.”

“And there it stands, miserable as it is. My ancestral home. It has no name, I fear. A great lord’s seat ought to have a name, wouldn’t you agree? Winterfell, the Eyrie, Riverrun, those are castles. Lord of Harrenhal now, that has a sweet ring to it, but what was I before? Lord of Sheepshit and Master of the Drearfort? It lacks a certain something.” His grey-green eyes regarded her innocently. “You look distraught. Did you think we were making for Winterfell, sweetling? Winterfell has been taken, burned, and sacked. All those you knew and loved are dead. What northmen who have not fallen to the ironmen are warring amongst themselves. Even the Wall is under attack. Winterfell was the home of your childhood, Sansa, but you are no longer a child. You’re a woman grown, and you need to make your own home.”

Stannis studied him with those dark blue eyes. “Tywin Lannister has named Roose Bolton his Warden of the North, to reward him for betraying your brother. The ironmen are fighting amongst themselves since Balon Greyjoy’s death, yet they still hold Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, Torrhen’s Square, and most of the Stony Shore. Your father’s lands are bleeding, and I have neither the strength nor the time to stanch the wounds. What is needed is a Lord of Winterfell. A loyal Lord of Winterfell.”

“I killed a thousand wildlings, took another thousand captive, and scattered the rest, but we both know they will return. Melisandre has seen that in her fires. This Tormund Thunderfist is likely re-forming them even now, and planning some new assault. And the more we bleed each other, the weaker we shall all be when the real enemy falls upon us.”

Stannis crossed his arms. “I shall require a few other things from you as well. Things that you may not be so quick to give. I want your castles. And I want the Gift.”

“What will you do with the Gift?” demanded Cotter Pyke.

“Make better use of it than you have.”

Your brothers will not like it, no more than your father’s lords, but I mean to allow the wildlings through the Wall . . . those who will swear me their fealty, pledge to keep the king’s peace and the king’s laws, and take the Lord of Light as their god. Even the giants, if those great knees of theirs can bend. I will settle them on the Gift, once I have wrested it away from your new Lord Commander.


Open the gate and let them pass. Easy to say, but what must follow? Giants camping in the ruins of Winterfell? Cannibals in the wolfswood, chariots sweeping across the barrowlands, free folk stealing the daughters of shipwrights and silversmiths from White Harbor and fishwives off the Stony Shore? “Are you a true king?” Jon asked suddenly.

Littlefinger told Sansa that there was infighting among the northmen. That is very interesting because that did not happen after the 5 year gap was scrapped (at least not in the way originally imagined). All things considered, the conflict in the north that was supposed to happen during the 5 year gap and possibly continue well into the post-gap period seems like a certainty.

At one side, there would be Boltons and their Northern allies with the (limited) backing of the Iron Throne. At the other side, there were going to be Stark loyalists. During these 5 years, Stannis would surely settle some wildlings to the Gift and use their raiders (even the giants) in his wars, which would alienate a lot of northmen to his cause. It seems that in this scenario, the controversial wildling policy and all the problems it would entail was going to on Stannis and bite him in the back in a major way. In the current version of the story, GRRM delegated this part to Jon. As Tywin imagined, Boltons would be playing to win the support of the Stark bannermen by fighting off the ironmen invaders and the wildling raiders unleashed by Stannis.

Meanwhile, the ironborn invasion of the North would dwindle slowly but surely due to Stannis and Boltons taking ground throughout the 5 year gap. The armed conflict would eventually reach a stalemate but as soon as the story started after the 5 year gap, things would start happening again and the status quo would come to an end.


So Jon Snow took the wineskin from his hand and had a swallow. But only one. The Wall was his, the night was dark, and he had a king to face.

At the Wall, Jon would juggle between helping Stannis and not taking sides. But the foreshadowing is there to suggest that Stannis would definitely take the Gift and allow the wildlings in. Once the story started after the gap, Stannis would eventually start losing ground and Jon’s involvement with him would lead to the assassination.

In this version of the story, Stannis has a more active role whereas Jon is passive and powerless to have any choice, not to mention his story up to the assassination would not have much meat. GRRM rightfully thought that it would be bad writing and changed that. Yet still, we have some readers predicting a major role for Stannis in TWoW whereas a minimal role for Jon (if at all). You can't be more wrong than that.

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2 hours ago, Mithras said:

This is a major hint supporting the idea that Roose has his own plans to ditch the Lannisters and go for northern independence with him at the top. Especially after the death of Tywin, Roose had nothing left to fear. This idea is hinted at by Lady Barbrey in ADwD.

If Roose knows that Dany has 3 dragons there is a chance that his plans include an idea about turning his cloak and becoming her "loyal" subject. After all if Dany comes to Westeros soon enough and he would kneel to her b4 another northern houses do that he might become her Warder of the North and so anyone who would resist his rule of the North would have to worry about possibility of becoming target of nasty flying flamethrowers.

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