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Mother Direwolf


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People read the mother direwolf scene and sometimes catch the somewhat obvious symbolism of the dead mother direwolf and the stag. I postulate there is soooooo much more. This post explores a small detail, the little maggots, from the mother direwolf scene. By bringing light to the smallest of details we may bring some understanding to the painstaking effort Martin makes to bring his books to their conclusion. As another says, when the singer has no books, no ink, no parchment, no more writing; he’ll instead have the trees, and the weirwoods above all. And when he dies, he’ll go into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remember. All the songs, the histories and prayers, everything they knew about the world. For time is different for a tree than for a man. Sun and soil and water, these are the things a weirwood understands, not days and years and centuries. For men, time is a river. We are trapped in its flow, hurtling from past to present, always in the same direction. The lives of trees are different. They root and grow and die in one place, and that river does not move them. A thousand human years are a moment to a weirwood, and through such gates you and I may gaze into the past. The books will come.

The mother direwolf scene, the first scene that Martin is said to have sung or written, is loaded with symbolism…

Here, we will focus on the smallest single bit of detail to make a point. But first…

We must understand Martin’s use of parallel structure, the repetition of the same ideas, pattern of words or phrases within a sentence or passage. Here they will reveal hidden details about both passages and turn the rereads into a literary treasure hunt.

George R.R. Martin’s use of parallel structure, besides helping to maintain continuity, gives his writing a rhythm and enables him to organize his thoughts and ideas. Additionally, GRRM’s keen awareness of rhythm, I believe, could partly explain his title of the series, “A Song of Ice and Fire”, with rhythm being an important element of song. Starting, I’d like to state that our understanding of parallel structure will be important while analyzing the following quotes.

To begin, do you remember reading this line when Bran looks at the dead mother direwolf,

“Bran glimpsed blind eyes crawling with maggots,”? (Bran 1, AGOT).

Compare that line with,

“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.” (Prologue, AGOT).

Analyzing these lines, noting the word “glimpsed”, we find similar ideas. GRRM’s use of the verb “glimpsed” in both quotes helps us to discover and connect these parallel ideas, actions, and scenes. I’ll show you;)

The characters in each quote “glimpsed” small white or “pale” somethings “crawling” or “gliding” through “blind eyes” or “the wood” and “darkness”.

Our first parallel here is easy to identify. The small white and “pale” somethings can conceptually be similar in size. We simply have to understand the visual context of both scenes from the POV(Point Of View) of our two characters. In AGOT prologue our POV character, Will, has been commanded “Up the tree.” and to “Be quick about it.” to “Look for a fire.” So we find him high up a in the sentinel tree. From that vantage point the “pale shape would seem smaller like the maggots they are symbolizing. By contrast, Bran, our second POV character “pushed through a waist-high drift to his brothers’ side.” where he “found Robb on the riverbank north of the bridge, with Jon still mounted beside him.” These two scenes ,though opposite in nature, illustrate the parallel structure we are trying to establish. Will is climbing up a tree away from our subjects and Bran is pushing toward our subjects getting closer. In this instance it’s inverted. But they are parallel none the less. 

Next consider the action of the two objects…

When we consider the action in both quotes we notice that they are interchangeable. Check this it out. It’s easy for us, the reader, to infer the maggots as also “gliding”. Take a moment to consider it. Larvae, with no legs, on a smooth wet surface of an eye.   This was actually my first hint that the maggots could be a metaphor for the “pale shapes”. However, the next action, “Crawling”, explains a point in both life cycles. Here the maggots are at the beginning stage of their life cycle, and, I believe, so to are our “pale shapes”. Life cycles in our story are never ending. I won’t go into it further but think reincarnation.

Looking for other similarities we find, those maggots are, in fact described as, faceless, just like our “pale shapes” or “watchers”. Do you remember the watchers with no eyes. Here’s the quote,

Behind him, to right, to left, all around him, the watchers stood patient, faceless, silent,

Oh yeah, I’d say that the “pale shapes” and maggots could be comparatively both silent and patient also;) Their descriptions match well. Confession, we understand that the “pale shapes” look nothing like maggots; however, the words that Martin uses to describe them are are parallel and supports the idea of parallel structure here.

Later, a further deeper analysis of the maggots life cycle will reveal much more and become an important topic in this continued post. But so far in our analysis both objects have the same imagery; And, the actions of the objects are interchangeable.

Lastly, glimpsing “blind eyes” and glimpsing “in the darkness” are parallel concepts and need very little explanation. Close your eyes and pretend your blind if you don’t see the connection. 

Furthermore, while considering how the indirect object, “the wood”, compares with the “blind eyes” and the “darkness” I noticed something that I think you’ll find interesting. The word “wood” is not plural. Though, that’s not unique, I think it is intensional and has purpose. I admit, there are other cases when one describes the plural of something that they use its’ singular form. One example that comes to mind is deer. The word deer can either be used to describe a parcel of deer or a single stag. However, in one previous analysis’ of mine I’ve discovered that the sentinel tree is figuratively symbolizing the mother direwolf, a singular thing. To me, this is why Martin uses the singular form of the word “wood”. And what I mean by figuratively symbolizing is that the two seemingly unrelated objects in these two different scenes parallel each other and are metaphors for one another. Why is Martin creating figurative meaning?

In these scenes, and in other parts of his writing, Martin is subverting the main narrative of the text in order to develop a figurative meaning for many objects and people. Have you noticed that the description of all the swords in AGOT prologue match the descriptions of those wielding them? Developing the figurative meaning in his work not only has he made his writing more interesting and enjoyable; but it’s a big part of our treasure hunt.

Now, comparing “the wood” with the “blind eyes” and “the darkness”. Let’s understand clearly that the “white shadow” whom Will glimpses in the darkness is not one of the ”pale shapes” that are gliding threw “the wood”. I want only to concern ourselves with the “pale shapes”. It is “the wood” that is the metaphor of our mother direwolf. and not “the darkness”. “The darkness” seems to encapsulate our “white shadow”, who is in a duel with Waymar at the time our “pale shapes” are gliding. And we are not analyzing the duel. The focus here is on the maggots.

So let’s look, maggots are blind parasites in the “blind eyes” of our sentinel being. I believe our “pale shapes” are also parasites in the “the wood”, or were(emphasis on “were”) parasites. However, we are still unsure what this moment is for our “pale shapes”. We’ll need to continue our investigation into the maggots.

But let’s take another moment to summarize. The parallel imagery and concepts, along with the interchangeable actions are establishing our quotes as great parallels and allows us to draw additional conclusions. We are hoping that a deeper investigation into our maggots will reveal more information about our “pale shapes”.

Additionally, the parallel structure of these two quotes helps to support a previous idea that the mother direwolf is symbolic of the sentinel tree. More on that in a bit. I want to finish establishing the two quotes as parallels. For now, a fun thought. 

The word “wood” may be a clever wordplay because of the two “o”’s  looking like eyes in the word. Here they are “oo”. See it?:) Like “blind eyes” that can’t see. They are figuratively blind:) Get it!? And those “oo” creating the word and connecting the letter “W”, perhaps standing for the “white” or “pale shapes” scene and the “D” for the “direwolf” scene. White or pale shapes/ Direwolf. It’s debatable.

You should know that GRRM often engages in this type of wordplay. But certainly that idea is up for debate. But take a look at this good example of another type of wordplay Martin uses. This one is undebatable. GRRM describes Waymar’s cloak, from the same prologue chapter saying it was “as soft as sin”. If we take “as sin” combine the words and write them backwards we get Nissa. Thus, the cloak can be seen as a symbol of Nissa Nissa. Cool right?

The wordplay would complete my analysis of the two quotes. Thus, allowing me to conclude my argument. Which is, the two quotes are great parallels in spite of the example of wordplay given for the word “wood”. The maggots, that Bran sees,  symbolically represent the “pale shapes”, Waymar’s new stabby friends, figuratively. It’s funny that Bran can’t see any of the symbolism. As per this quote,

A sudden silence descended over the party. The men looked at the antler uneasily, and no one dared to speak. Even Bran could sense their fear, though he did not understand.

To be continued…

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