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Targaryeninkingslanding

The Nature and Origins of the Others (meta)

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The nature and origins of the supernatural and malevolent seeming Others is an important and as of yet unexplained feature in the world of asoiaf. Even if that is the case, there are things that can be assumed about the others based on what we know about the the world of asoiaf, George RR Martin, and real world history and mythology. To that end this post will more so be about real world myth and how it pertains into asoiaf.

While George has done a great job more or less keeping his secrets, he has let one thing slip regarding the appearance the others take. According to George R. R. Martin, the Others "are strange, beautiful… think, oh… the Sidhe made of ice, something like that… a different sort of life… inhuman, elegant, dangerous."

Now the specific mention of the Sidhe is important. With such a simple description of appearance, George could have said many things to a similar effect (they look like ice elves or whatever), but the specific mention of the Sidhe means that when creating his mental prototype of what the other should be, George associates them with the Sidhe. Given how deeply routed asoiaf is to the history of england, it is not a strange claim to say the others are inspired bu this ancient religious belief by those bothered by the British.

Now the Sidhe or the Aos Sí, as they are more contemporarily called, are a race of supernatural people from Celtic mythology. they are described as either fallen angels or descendants from a people called the Tuatha Dé Danann, or the descendants of Dana; a Goddess with no modernly existing known myths. one power commonly associated with both groups is necromancy, with aos si also being strongly associated with barrows.

they can be described as: "Aos sí are seen as fierce guardians of their abodes —whether a fairy hill, a fairy ring, a special tree (often a hawthorn) or a particular loch or wood. It is believed that infringing on these spaces will cause the aos sí to retaliate in an effort to remove the people or objects that invaded their homes. Many of these tales contribute to the changeling myth in west European folklore, with the aos sí kidnapping trespassers or replacing their children with changelings as a punishment for transgressing. The aos sí are often connected to certain times of year and hours; as the Gaelic Otherworld is believed to come closer to the mortal world at the times of dusk and dawn, the aos sí correspondingly become easier to encounter. Some festivals such as Samhain, Bealtaine and Midsummer are also associated with the aos sí."

So just from this we can see several similarities to the Others and how they have acted. Both groups carry a strong association with a particular type of tree. one of few battles seen (or not seen) involving the Others is at the Fist of the First Men, a place thought to be constructed by the first men, a ring fort, barring strong resemblance to fairy circles (or maybe not). if the north of the wall is the home of the others, they may be fed up with what is seen to them as otherwise human expansion into their territory. I'm also curious to what extent Mance was excavating old tombs looking for the horn of Winter. based on the timeline of the story, it is not strange to say that Mance was king beyond the wall before the threat of the others was a main concern of his. Mance could have very well inspired the ire of the others at current. but thats just speculation, let instead look at some other Aos si type creature infulanecing the story.

Now in full disclosure there are more than a few types of Aos is. the children of the forrest and the giants are both suitable to be classified as such.

in addition:

The Cù-sìth are a type of aos sí wolfhound. they are described as larger than average beast, some as big as bears, and shaggy. Irish wolfhounds in particular are a good stand in for this type of beast because of there historic relevance and prevalence in Ireland. this could easily be used to promote the idea of the direwolves being gifts from the old gods and or the association of the stark with the old gods. Similarly, a character called the hound serves as a replacement protector of Sansa and later Arya. (in fact Arya meets and travels with all the hound, sandor, Rorge, and Lem), each hearing her where she needs to go. there are also associated with the wild hunt.

Cat-Sith are in turn a cat type aos si. they are a black cat, much like the black tom in kings landing. one famous folk tale about a cat-sith is a story called, "the king of the cats" and as we all know Balereon is the real king of the castle. jokes aside, they are also associated with soul stealing and transformation. some witches could turn into them, some legends say, and such an ability has great resemblance to warging. other examples include the cat of the canals, Carya's warg cat. 

the final type i will mention and the most important is Leanan sídhe: fairy lovers. lovers of Leanan sídhe are said to live short but highly inspired lives and more than a few characters can be described as fulfilling similar rolls. first and foremost is the copse queen of the 13th lord commander, nights king, who became king of the wall for a surprisingly long 13 years. Lyanna stark, of north blood, was shortly together with Rhaegar targaryen. Jane westering similarly with Rob stark (well maybe not her but...)

The wild hunt: not so readily associated with the aos si but some with the cu-sith, particularly the welsh incarnation. that is beside the point, i just belt the need to point out that it is usually seen led by some hero or by odin: a god with one eye, because he sacrificed an eye to a tree for wisdom. Ascetically this strongly resembled Bloodraven at current, a one eyed magic an enveloped in roots.

This is all i have gathered for the time being. i basically just had a free couple hours so i thought why not post. hopefully this post will be helpful in inspiring other theories and ideas about asoiaf. thanks for reading.

 

Edited by Targaryeninkingslanding
typo

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Boy! Lots of interesting stuff on the forum today.  Some of us have suspected for a while that Jon Snow (Corn King) will lead Martin's version of the wild hunt.  Also, the WWs and their screaming swords could be likened to the Bansidhe, pronounced Ban-Shee.  Thanks for posting!  

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Off on some things... but I think you're definitely onto something and the insight is well founded. Taking a statement from the GRRM and following it to a conclusion, well done.

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