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Swan Song part 6/16. A brown-haired girl and a knight as tall as Hodor

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Then there came a brown-haired girl slender as a spear who stood on the tips of her toes to kiss the lips of a young knight as tall as Hodor. - ADWD, Bran IV

That vision was seen from the POV of a weirwood tree from Winterfell’s gods-wood. It’s not hard to guess who the knight was, because knights in The North are a rarity. Whoever he was, most likely, he was an outsider, while the girl was one of the locals. So let’s focus on her.

The Girl

Amongst the visions that were shown prior the one with the knight, Bran saw a girl who looked like Arya, and that girl mentioned Old Nan. Thus, I think that the girl with the knight was a younger Nan, and that her name could be a shortening of a name Alysanne. So what do we know about Old Nan?

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She was the oldest person in Winterfell for certain, maybe the oldest person in the Seven Kingdoms. Nan had come to the castle as a wet nurse for a Brandon Stark whose mother had died birthing him. He had been an older brother of Lord Rickard, Bran’s grandfather, or perhaps a younger brother, or a brother to Lord Rickard’s father. Sometimes Old Nan told it one way and sometimes another. In all the stories the little boy died at three of a summer chill, but Old Nan stayed on at Winterfell with her own children. She had lost both her sons to the war when King Robert won the throne, and her grandson was killed on the walls of Pyke during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion. Her daughters had long ago married and moved away and died. All that was left of her own blood was Hodor, the simpleminded giant who worked in the stables, but Old Nan just lived on and on, doing her needlework and telling her stories. - AGOT, Bran IV.

Old Nan is Hodor’s great-grandmother. Hodor is approximately from the same generation as Ned Stark. Hodor’s father, who was Old Nan’s grandson, was from the same generation as Rickard Stark. When Rickard and his brother were children, Old Nan was already a grandmother, and thus at that time she was too old to be anyone’s wet nurse. Lord Rickard’s father was Edwyle Stark, and he did had a younger brother named Brandon, whose mother, Lyanne Glover, died after Brandon’s birth. To be that Brandon’s wet nurse, Nan should have been from the same generation as Brandon’s parents. Brandon’s father was Willam, son of Beron Stark and Lorra Royce. Based on all that, it’s highly likely that Old Nan/the girl from that vision is Willam’s younger sister and little Brandon’s aunt - Alysanne Stark.

The Knight

The knight in Bran’s vision was as tall as Hodor. In connection to Winterfell there was only one tall knight. He visited Winterfell in the fourth novel from Dunk & Egg series “The She-Wolves of Winterfell”. And that knight is Duncan the Tall.

Hodor

GRRM confirmed that Brienne Tarth is Dunk’s descendant. Though, that doesn’t mean that she is his sole descendant. I think that there’s a reason why GRRM specifically compared that tall knight to Hodor, and that’s because Hodor is also Dunk’s descendant.

I think that amongst Nan’s children, one son and one daughter (twins) were Dunk’s children, while the others were children of Nan’s husband. I’m sure that Dunk never married, otherwise he wouldn’t have became a Kingsguard. Could be that some time after Dunk and Nan got together, for some reason he had to leave Winterfell. And when he left, her family found out that she’s pregnant. To avoid disgrace for their House they hastily married her off and sent her away from Winterfell. And I think that Hodor’s real name is a clue about who was Nan’s husband.

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Theon Greyjoy had once commented that Hodor did not know much, but no one could doubt that he knew his name. Old Nan had cackled like a hen when Bran told her that, and confessed that Hodor’s real name was Walder.

The Twins

I think that Nan’s family sent her to The Twins castle, where she married with a Frey and later gave birth to Dunk’s children. If you have read my thread “The real cause of the First Blackfyre Rebellion”, then you know that in my opinion Duncan the Tall was a secret child of Daemon I Blackfyre and Daenerys Targaryen. If that theory is correct, then amongst Dunk’s dragonseed-relatives there were many twins - eleven confirmed sets, including his mother and his half-brothers. Thus, the possibility that Dunk also had twin-children is very high.

My guess is that Nan married with Franklyn Frey (Walder’s uncle), based on this:

1.

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He was drunk, Dunk saw, and Ser Franklyn was a deal drunker… so drunk, he almost dropped the bride. Before Dunk quite realized what was happening, John the Fiddler had dragged him to his feet. “Here!” he cried out. “Let the giant carry her!” - TMK.

2. Later that night the Fiddler predicted to Dunk that he will never have a family (because he will become a Kingsguard).

3. On the next day at tournament Franklyn was defeated by John the Fiddler (Daemon II Blackfyre).

It’s kind of ironic if one secret Blackfyre (Daemon) defeated Franklyn, and the other secret Blackfyre (Dunk) deflowered and impregnated Franklyn’s future bride. And Daemon’s prophecy also turned out to be correct - if Franklyn took away Dunk’s bride, in a reverse to what happened between them on that wedding night at Whitewalls, then, instead of becoming Nan’s husband, Dunk became a Kingsguard.

Note that here - “Old Nan stayed on at Winterfell with her own children.” - there’s no mentioning of a husband. Nan’s husband never lived at Winterfell with Nan and her children. Franklyn Frey was significantly older than Alysanne, and if Addam Frey was his son, then he already had an heir. So when Nan’s husband died, other Freys sent her away, together with her children. Then the Starks allowed her to return home. Though they never accepted her back into their family, instead from then on they treated her as a mere servant. Eventually they even forgot that in the past Nan was one of the Starks.

The Mountain

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“King Jaehaerys once told me that madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, he said, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land.” - ASOS, Dany VI.

I noticed that those dragonseeds, who are “bad coins”, share common characteristics - they are mentally ill, they love fire, hate horses, and like to behead or torture people. For example: Maelys the Monstrous, Aerion Brightflame, Maegor the Cruel, Viserys. And then there’s The Mountain - burned his brother’s face, killed his own stallion at the Hand’s tourney, killed a stableboy during his duel with Oberyn Martell, etc. Jaime Lannister said about the Smiling Knight - “The Mountain of my boyhood. Half as big but twice as mad”. I think that the Smiling Knight was a dragonseed from a female-line of Blackfyres. Same as GRRM comparing a tall knight from Bran’s vision to Hodor, Jaime comparing the Smiling Knight to the Mountain, is a clue that those two are bloodrelated. Thus, Gregor Clegane could be one of Dunk’s descendants and partially a Blackfyre by blood.

The Hound

There are many parallels between Sandor and Brienne (and maybe that’s because they are bloodrelated). On this forum there are plenty of threads about Sandor, so let’s just skip this part.

Pretty Meris & Brienne the Beauty

I think that Duncan the Tall getting married either with a daughter of Lord Tarth or with a Targaryen Princess whose descendant then married with a Tarth, and then becoming a Kingsguard after his wife’s death, is a ridiculous idea, because it contradicts everything that is known about Dunk. And that’s why I contemplated other options, looked elsewhere for an explanation of Brienne’s descent from Dunk. And thus I came to conclusion that it’s Brienne’s mother and not Selwyn Tarth who is Dunk’s dragonseed-descendant, because why else GRRM kept her identity a secret? Eventually, after exploring this mystery from several different angles, I think I found who Brienne’s mother is - could be that it’s Pretty Meris from the Windblown sellswords company.

There are many similarities between Brienne and Meris (quotes are from ACOK Catelyn II, AFFC Brienne I, from ADWD Dany VII, The Windblown and The Spurned Suitor) - they have mocking nicknames (“Brienne the Beauty, they name her ... though not to her face”; “Pretty Meris,” her captain named her, though pretty was the last thing Dany would have called her.”), both of them are tall female-warriors, blond-haired with light-colored eyes (“She pulled off her greathelm, letting her hair spill free. It was yellow, the color of dirty straw, and near as brittle”, “Brienne’s eyes were large and very blue”; “When Daario brought them forward, she saw that one of them was a woman, big and blond and all in mail.”, “Pretty Meris stood cradling a crossbow, her eyes as cold and dead as two grey stones.”), disfigured faces (Brienne - “her nose had been broken more than once”; Meris - “earless, with a slit nose, deep scars in both cheeks”), and no breasts (“Out of armor, her body seemed ungainly, broad of hip and thick of limb, with hunched muscular shoulders but no bosom to speak of.”, “Her chest was more muscle than bosom.”; “If the talk he had heard was true, beneath that shirt Pretty Meris had only the scars left by the men who’d cut her breasts off.”).

And finally there’s this:

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The dragon came down between the Dornishmen and the door with a roar that would have sent a hundred lions running. His head moved side to side as he inspected the intruders - Dornishmen, Windblown, Caggo. Last and longest the beast stared at Pretty Meris, sniffing. The woman, Quentyn realized. He knows that she is female. He is looking for Daenerys. He wants his mother and does not understand why she’s not here. - ADWD, The Dragontamer.

Quentyn was an idiot. He not only overestimated the purity of his dragonblood and envisioned himself as the great Dragontamer, he also thought that the dragons are either too stupid to distinguish their mother from other females, or that they are shortsighted. But he was wrong about all of that. Meris’ dragon-blood is four times purer than Quentyn’s, thus - R.I.P. Quentyn and Long Live Meris.

The End

Edited by Megorova

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great explanation on this part of your analysis M, thanks!  

i have no comments to you yet; i am just keeping on reading on :cheers: 

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On 5/17/2021 at 9:10 AM, Megorova said:

Franklyn Frey was significantly older than Alysanne, and if Addam Frey was his son, then he already had an heir. So when Nan’s husband died, other Freys sent her away, together with her children. Then the Starks allowed her to return home. Though they never accepted her back into their family, instead from then on they treated her as a mere servant. Eventually they even forgot that in the past Nan was one of the Starks.

This seems unlikely to me. If she really is a Stark living in Winterfell, even a disgraced Stark, the other Starks would surely remember who she was.

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Posted (edited)
19 hours ago, Aebram said:

This seems unlikely to me. If she really is a Stark living in Winterfell, even a disgraced Stark, the other Starks would surely remember who she was.

Not necessary.

Alysanne had six siblings: older brothers Donnor, Willam and Artos, older sister Berena, and younger brothers Errold and Rodrik.

Alysanne returned to Winterfell and became a wet-nurse for her nephew Brandon, son of her brother Willam. Donnor and Willam died in 226. Besides Brandon, Willam also had two children born by his second wife. Thus Brandon was born before 226. He died when he was 3 years old, so it was no later than in 229. Artos was married with Lysara Karstark and they had two sons, who also got married and had children. It isn't known with whom were married Berena and Errold. Could be that both of them died when they were children, or maybe GRRM is planning to add into the plot some new twist concerning with whom married those two. Either way, if Berena didn't died while she was a child, if she did grew up and married, then it's likely that she moved out of Winterfell and lived with her family elsewhere. So she wasn't around when Nan returned to Winterfell. Rodrik also was not at Winterfell. He migrated to Essos and became a sellsword.

Thus by 229 Donnor, Willam, Berena, Rodrik and little Brandon were either dead or not at Winterfell. Rodrik's daughter, Branda, married with Harrold Rogers and moved away from Winterfell. Her sister Lyarra married with Rickard Stark, who was her first cousin once removed. Lyarra died before Rickard, she was already dead at that time when Bran saw Lyanna and Benjen in one of his tree visions. Rickard died during Robert's Rebellion.

Out of all Starks that knew Nan before she left Winterfell by 229 there was remaining only her brother Artos. Willam's children Edwyle and Jocelyn weren't born yet when Alysanne still lived at Winterfell. Seems likely that they were born after Nan's return. So they always knew her only as their dead older brother's ex-wetnurse. It's likely that their mother, Melantha Blackwood, never mentioned to them who Nan really is. Her husband allowed Nan to return to Winterfell when Freys sent her away, though he allowed her to come to Winterfell not as a family member but only as a servant. So even after Willam died, his widow and his brother Artos were following his last will and kept treating Nan as a servant. Artos was younger than Willam, so it's likely that his own childen were not much older than Willam's children. Thus at the time of Nan's return to Winterfell, they were either little babies, or they weren't even born yet. They definitely didn't knew Alysanne while she was still a family member of House Stark. Same thing concerning children of Rodrik - Branda and Lyarra. They never knew Nan as Alysanne.

Then Melantha, Artos and his wife Lysara, and Rodrik and his wife Arya Flint died from old age or other causes. Next generation of Starks - Edwyle, Jocelyn, Artos' sons Brandon and Benjen, Rodrik's daughters Branda and Lyarra, were raised thinking that Nan is merely a servant and didn't knew that actually she was their aunt.

Then there was also the Third Blackfyre Rebellion in 219, the Fourth in 236, the Fifth in 260. There was also Peake Uprising in 233. And who knows how many conflicts between Starks and the wildlings (Willam died in 226 because of the wildlings). Both of Nan's sons died during Robert's Rebellion and grandson died during Greyjoy Rebellion. It's likely that Artos' children and grandchildren died in one of those conflicts - 219, 226, 233, 236, 260, 283, 289.

Those characters that knew Nan as Alysanne all died long time ago. And those who were alive at the beginning of AGOT, always knew her only as a servant that has been living at Winterfell and serving to Starks for many generations.

Even if Edwyle, Jocelyn, Brandon, Benjen, Branda and Lyarra were told by their parents who Nan really is, there would have been absolutely no reason for them to pass on this knowledge to their own children. But even if for some reason they did decided to tell to their chidlren this insignificant information and those children passed it to their own children, all of them were dead by the end of 283.

And I doubt that Rickard Stark told to his children - "you know what? this old servant that we all call Nan? actually her real name is Alysanne Stark and she is your great-great-aunt. She was evicted from Winterfell and out of our family because she got pregnant from some hedge knight and her family married her off away from Winterfell to some old widower, and when that guy died and his relatives kicked her out of their castle, the Starks allowed her to return under condition that it will be never mentioned by her or by them that in the past she used to be one of the Starks. And if that is so, then there's no way for me to know this information. And thus it's impossible for me to share with you this knowledge, because I myself, same as my father and aunts and uncles before me know nothing about this".

Edit: At the Castle Black by the time of Jon's arrival there, no one knew that maester Aemon is actually Prince Aemon Targaryen. So there's that. Whoever served at The Wall in 233 and after, all died long ago. While Prince Aemon was a fresh news, the other members of Night's Watch were discussing him and gossiping about him with newly joined members - "do you know who our maester is? he is not just a mere maester, he is one of the Targaryens, the older brother of our King (then - great uncle of our King, then - great-great uncle of our King, and then it just became irrelevant)". Though eventually he was accepted by his sworn brothers as who he is just as he is, and everyone forgot about his origin.

Same thing could have happened in Nan's case. If she behaved like a mere servant and was treated by other people at Winterfell as a mere servant, then eventually with the passage of years and decades, those who knew her as something else than Old Nan and knew who she really was, all died, and the others weren't interested in a background story of the person whom they thought to be just a mere servant. That's what she looked like and that's what she eventually became. For everyone, including herself.

Edited by Megorova

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Posted (edited)

You make a good case, but much of it is speculative, not backed up by the text. Hopefully future books will fill in the missing information.

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At the Castle Black by the time of Jon's arrival there, no one knew that maester Aemon is actually Prince Aemon Targaryen.

We don't know that. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." I'm sure Lord Commander Mormont knew. He knew the dark secrets of Craster and his sons, but he never spoke about it until it was necessary, after Jon Snow found out for himself. 

Probably many of the older or more senior men of the Watch knew about Aemon; but those men don't eat, drink, or gossip much with their younger, less senior brothers. And in a place like the Night's Watch, there might well be a tradition that you don't ask a brother any questions about his family name, or anything about his past. The answer is likely to be something he would prefer not to discuss.

Edited by Aebram

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6 hours ago, Aebram said:

You make a good case, but much of it is speculative, not backed up by the text. Hopefully future books will fill in the missing information.

In my opinion we already have all the necessary information. GRRM has already build in the books a fundament for the future reveal concerning Old Nan's real identity, and all that information is there in the text, all you have to do to make a conclusion on that information is to "connect the dots" or to "follow a trail of breadcrumbs". Those clues in the books, in the text already form nearly a complete picture. The only part that is still missing is the reason why Dunk left pregnant Alysanne. And that will be revealed probably in "The She-Wolves of Winterfell".

All the clues/the fundament are already there, readers just don't understand their meaning or their significance. Though when later GRRM will make a reveal concerning Nan, then by looking back on what was already written in the first five books, readers will be able to see all that previously known information from a new perspective and then they will see that all those elements that they have previously missed in the books are evidences of Nan's real identity and that all those evidences were there in the text all along.

6 hours ago, Aebram said:

And in a place like the Night's Watch, there might well be a tradition that you don't ask a brother any questions about his family name, or anything about his past. The answer is likely to be something he would prefer not to discuss.

Same concerning Nan. It's likely that she didn't wanted to discuss with other people her past and how she was evicted from her family, how she disgraced them and later was allowed to return but only as a mere servant.

And this all is not a mere speculations not backed up by the text.

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She was the oldest person in Winterfell for certain, maybe the oldest person in the Seven Kingdoms. Nan had come to the castle as a wet nurse for a Brandon Stark whose mother had died birthing him. He had been an older brother of Lord Rickard, Bran’s grandfather, or perhaps a younger brother, or a brother to Lord Rickard’s father. Sometimes Old Nan told it one way and sometimes another. In all the stories the little boy died at three of a summer chill, but Old Nan stayed on at Winterfell with her own children. She had lost both her sons to the war when King Robert won the throne, and her grandson was killed on the walls of Pyke during Balon Greyjoy’s rebellion. Her daughters had long ago married and moved away and died. All that was left of her own blood was Hodor, the simpleminded giant who worked in the stables, but Old Nan just lived on and on, doing her needlework and telling her stories. - AGOT, Bran IV.

Everything that is known about Nan people know from her own words. She tells them what she wants, and ommits what she doesn't want them to know. Those people who knew her when she was little Brandon's wet-nurse are long dead, and the children of those people are also dead, and the grandchildren of those people are also dead. Do you get it? -> At Winterfell the only source of information about Old Nan is Nan herself. And, as you said about maester Aemon, the same thing could be applied to Nan's case - their past and their families are not something that they would have wanted to discuss with other people, and thus the knowledge about their origin eventually fell out of the gossip mill and got lost.

Just look at Hodor's case - Bran knew him his entire life (Bran's life), and Theon knew Hodor since 289, though both Bran and Theon were unaware that Hodor is not that guy's real name.

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