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The Three I’d Question #1: Don’t Mistake the Crow for the Conspiracy


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The Three I’d Question

This is the first of three theories I would like to present regarding "secret identities" in A Song of Ice and Fire, other than that of Jon Snow, which I believe will play major roles in the plot.

First a note: I cannot claim to have found these details, made these connections, or invented this theory on my own. So, I’d like to begin by thanking the nameless faceless posters on the web who have helped me to see the truth which lies beneath the text. You are too many to name and doubtless I’ve forgotten more than half of you twice as quickly as you deserve.

#1: Don’t Mistake the Crow for the Conspiracy

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Old Nan told him a story about a bad little boy who climbed too high and was struck down by lightning, and how afterward the crows came to peck out his eyes.

A Game of Thrones - Bran II

The core question addressed here, “Who is the three-eyed crow?”, is raised by the text itself.

Not just as part of the inherent mystery of the crow’s identity, but repeatedly, and quite literally, right from the crow’s first appearance to Bran during his falling dream in Game of Thrones.

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The voice was high and thin. Bran looked around to see where it was coming from. A crow was spiraling down with him, just out of reach, following him as he fell. "Help me," he said.
I'm trying, the crow replied. Say, got any corn?
Bran reached into his pocket as the darkness spun dizzily around him. When he pulled his hand out, golden kernels slid from between his fingers into the air. They fell with him.
The crow landed on his hand and began to eat.

"Are you really a crow?" Bran asked.
Are you really falling? the crow asked back.
"It's just a dream," Bran said.
Is it? asked the crow.
"I'll wake up when I hit the ground," Bran told the bird.
You'll die when you hit the ground, the crow said. It went back to eating corn.
Bran looked down. He could see mountains now, their peaks white with snow, and the silver thread of rivers in dark woods. He closed his eyes and began to cry.
That won't do any good, the crow said. I told you, the answer is flying, not crying. How hard can it be. I'm doing it. The crow took to the air and flapped around Bran's hand.

"You have wings," Bran pointed out.
Maybe you do too.

Bran felt along his shoulders, groping for feathers.
There are different kinds of wings, the crow said.

A Game of Thrones - Bran III

There are several details here worth noting.

Bran hears a voice first, which is described as high and thin.

Bran sees the crow come spiraling down to him, and the crow says it is trying to help Bran.

Right from the start, Bran asks if the crow is really a crow.

Bran points out that the crow has wings, and the crow acknowledges the remark by pointing out that there are different kinds of wings, implying it knows Bran meant literal feathery wings, and not something else. There is no way, in my mind, that anyone could misinterpret this question as being about a “crow”, as in a brother of the Nights Watch, and no way that they, whoever the three-eyed crow is, does not know Bran saw it as a crow in the dream.

This is important to remember whenever Bran asks a character if they are the three eyed crow, as the real three eyed crow should know what he means. As we see so far in the story, none of the characters Bran has asked can be said to clearly understand what he means, with the exception of Jojen, who does not claim to be the crow himself, nor does he seem to know who exactly the crow is.

I do not believe that Bloodraven, Brynden Rivers, is the three-eyed crow.  However, I do think we see a reference to him in the, “silver thread of rivers in dark woods”. Bloodraven is literally a pale white (silver) bastard (from the Riverlands, with the bastard name “Rivers”) of house Blackwood (a dark wood). Bran is falling down towards the mountains and dark wood, a detail which we see repeated later in the dream.

From a symbolic perspective, the “dark wood” also has significant added connotations given it is conspicuously where Dante’s Divine Comedy began (and where ASoIaF begins, the setting for the Game of Thrones Prologue is literally a dark wood), “In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood and the straight way had been lost.” In turn, Dante inspired Frost, who’s poem, “Fire and Ice” inspired the name of A Song of Ice and Fire. The themes of fear and death are also evident, “Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was, that savage forest, dense and difficult, which even in recall renews my fear: so bitter—death is hardly more severe!” Also of note, from the beginning to The Divine Comedy, particularly in relation to Bran’s dream is; “I cannot clearly say how I had entered the wood, I was so full of sleep just at the point where I abandoned the true path.” Without getting to far into these references, a subject worthy of its own discussion, suffice it to say that I believe as Dante’s straight way was lost, Bran was led in circles by Coldhands, and as Dante had to pass through Hell to reach Heaven, so too will Bran have to pass through Bloodraven’s cave, including out through the bottom, as Dante passed down through hell seeing Lucifer at the bottom frozen in ice, before he can fly/ascend. Of possible note as well, Dante is originally guided by Virgil down into the inferno, but by Beatrice once he reaches paradise. Enough of that, back to the text of A Song of Ice and Fire…

Interestingly, only at the end of the falling dream does the crow actually appear to have three eyes:

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Bran looked at the crow on his shoulder, and the crow looked back. It had three eyes, and the third eye was full of a terrible knowledge. Bran looked down. There was nothing below him now but snow and cold and death, a frozen wasteland where jagged blue-white spires of ice waited to embrace him. They flew up at him like spears. He saw the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled upon their points. He was desperately afraid.
"Can a man still be brave if he's afraid?" he heard his own voice saying, small and far away.
Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.
Death reached for him, screaming.

A Game of Thrones - Bran III

And again, we see Bran looking below him, describing again the river in a dark wood.

We see two other major themes bookending this paragraph, the Stark motto, Winter is Coming, and Ned’s lesson from the very first chapter (Bran I), A man can only be brave when he is afraid, and we will see them echoed below.

But first, much more literally, what Bran sees below him is Bloodraven’s cave.

Something about the way the raven screamed sent a shiver running up Bran's spine. I am almost a man grown, he had to remind himself. I have to be brave now.

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But the air was sharp and cold and full of fear. Even Summer was afraid. The fur on his neck was bristling. Shadows stretched against the hillside, black and hungry. All the trees were bowed and twisted by the weight of ice they carried. Some hardly looked like trees at all. Buried from root to crown in frozen snow, they huddled on the hill like giants, monstrous and misshapen creatures hunched against the icy wind. "They are here."

A Dance with Dragons - Bran II

 The references to both fear/bravery and winter are clear; “I have to be brave” and “even Summer was afraid”.

Literally, the Weirwoods in the grove around and above Bloodraven’s cave are so covered in ice that they, “hardly looked like trees at all”. Rather, they appear just as Bran saw them from above in his falling dream, as jagged blue-white spires of ice.

Once Bran makes it into the cave, we see this:

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"Bones," said Bran. "It's bones." The floor of the passage was littered with the bones of birds and beasts. But there were other bones as well, big ones that must have come from giants and small ones that could have been from children. On either side of them, in niches carved from the stone, skulls looked down on them. Bran saw a bear skull and a wolf skull, half a dozen human skulls and near as many giants. All the rest were small, queerly formed. Children of the forest. The roots had grown in and around and through them, every one. A few had ravens perched atop them, watching them pass with bright black eyes.
The last part of their dark journey was the steepest. Hodor made the final descent on his arse, bumping and sliding downward in a clatter of broken bones, loose dirt, and pebbles. The girl child was waiting for them, standing on one end of a natural bridge above a yawning chasm. Down below in the darkness, Bran heard the sound of rushing water. An underground river.
"Do we have to cross?" Bran asked, as the Reeds came sliding down behind him. The prospect frightened him. If Hodor slipped on that narrow bridge, they would fall and fall.

A Dance with Dragons - Bran II

The cave is full of the bones with Weirwood roots growing through them, and these Weirwoods are the icy spires Bran saw from above. So it is, quite literally, the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled on the points of the jagged spires. The points are just the roots in the cave below.

Also in the cave, beneath the frozen dark wood, is a literal river, which Bran fears falling toward (in life, as it was in the dream).

Interestingly, while one might not expect to see an underground river from above, we see Melisandre provide an interesting detail as part of her explanation for how visions can be misinterpreted. The visions allow her to see though stone.

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When I gaze into the flames, I can see through stone and earth, and find the truth within men's souls. I can speak to kings long dead and children not yet born, and watch the years and seasons flicker past, until the end of days."
"Are your fires never wrong?"
"Never … though we priests are mortal and sometimes err, mistaking this must come for this may come."
A Dance with Dragons - Jon I

There is also an unmistakable similarity both between her description of visions in the flames and how Bran is told a Weirwood sees time, and with Marwyn’s explanation of how untrustworthy prophesy can be.

All of these details make me confident in identifying Bloodraven’s cave as the place towards which Bran was falling in his dream.

But, what about the identity of the three-eyed crow itself? Who, you will remember, came to Bran in his falling dream from above, not below.

To answer that question, I believe we need to take a step back and look at Bran’s dreams more generally.

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Jojen sat on Bran's bed. "Tell me what you dream."
He was scared, even then, but he had sworn to trust them, and a Stark of Winterfell keeps his sworn word. "There's different kinds," he said slowly. "There's the wolf dreams, those aren't so bad as the others. I run and hunt and kill squirrels. And there's dreams where the crow comes and tells me to fly. Sometimes the tree is in those dreams too, calling my name. That frightens me. But the worst dreams are when I fall." He looked down into the yard, feeling miserable. "I never used to fall before. When I climbed. I went everyplace, up on the roofs and along the walls, I used to feed the crows in the Burned Tower. Mother was afraid that I would fall but I knew I never would. Only I did, and now when I sleep I fall all the time."

A Clash of Kings - Bran V

Bran has different kinds of dreams.

The wolf dreams, when Bran wargs into Summer.

The dreams where the crow comes and tells him to fly.

Sometimes, the tree is in those dreams too, calling Bran’s name.

And there are the falling dreams.

The fact that the crow and the Weirwood appear to Bran separately, and only sometimes together, is a clear indication that these are two distinct entities in his dreams.

In fact, the Weirwood was a part of Bran’s first falling dream:

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At the heart of the godswood, the great white weirwood brooded over its reflection in the black pool, its leaves rustling in a chill wind. When it felt Bran watching, it lifted its eyes from the still waters and stared back at him knowingly.

A Game of Thrones - Bran III

And this is, I believe, how Bran sees Bloodraven in his dreams, as the Weirwood.

It is also worth noting that the Weirwood in Bran’s dreams doesn’t seem to do more than try to call to him, and watch.

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She should never have talked about the wolf dreams, Bran thought as Hodor carried him up the steps to his bedchamber. He fought against sleep as long as he could, but in the end it took him as it always did. On this night he dreamed of the weirwood. It was looking at him with its deep red eyes, calling to him with its twisted wooden mouth, and from its pale branches the three-eyed crow came flapping, pecking at his face and crying his name in a voice as sharp as swords.

A Clash of Kings - Bran II

 I would note that the crow’s voice is described as “sharp as swords”, a detail I will come back to.

The three-eyed crow almost seems to be trying to prevent Bran from contacting the tree, or perhaps it is trying to protect him from the tree.

We see similar behavior from the crow during the falling dream when it seems to be trying to protect Bran from his memory of Jaime throwing him from the tower:

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The crow took to the air, cawing. Not that, it shrieked at him. Forget that, you do not need it now, put it aside, put it away. It landed on Bran's shoulder, and pecked at him, and the shining golden face was gone.

A Game of Thrones - Bran III

 This odd behavior of the crow in relation to the tree leads me to believe, not only are these separate entities, but that they are at crossed purposes. Not to mention that the crow is clearly intentionally hiding things from Bran, possibly for his own good.

Melisandre’s visions also seem to support the idea that Bloodraven is the tree:

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But beyond the Wall, the enemy grows stronger, and should he win the dawn will never come again. She wondered if it had been his face that she had seen, staring out at her from the flames. No. Surely not. His visage would be more frightening than that, cold and black and too terrible for any man to gaze upon and live. The wooden man she had glimpsed, though, and the boy with the wolf's face … they were his servants, surely … his champions, as Stannis was hers.

A Dance with Dragons - Melisandre I

 Melisandre catches glimpses in her flames of beyond the wall, and Bloodraven (the wooden man) with Bran (the boy with a wolf’s face) by his side.

The crow meanwhile appeared not just to Bran, but to Jojen Reed.

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"My brother dreams as other boys do, and those dreams might mean anything," Meera said, "but the green dreams are different."
Jojen's eyes were the color of moss, and sometimes when he looked at you he seemed to be seeing something else. Like now. "I dreamed of a winged wolf bound to earth with grey stone chains," he said. "It was a green dream, so I knew it was true. A crow was trying to peck through the chains, but the stone was too hard and his beak could only chip at them."
"Did the crow have three eyes?"
Jojen nodded.
Summer raised his head from Bran's lap, and gazed at the mudman with his dark golden eyes.
"When I was little I almost died of greywater fever. That was when the crow came to me."
"He came to me after I fell," Bran blurted. "I was asleep for a long time. He said I had to fly or die, and I woke up, only I was broken and I couldn't fly after all."
"You can if you want to." Picking up her net, Meera shook out the last tangles and began arranging it in loose folds.
"You are the winged wolf, Bran," said Jojen. "I wasn't sure when we first came, but now I am. The crow sent us here to break your chains."
"Is the crow at Greywater?"
"No. The crow is in the north."
"At the Wall?" Bran had always wanted to see the Wall. His bastard brother Jon was there now, a man of the Night's Watch.
"Beyond the Wall." Meera Reed hung the net from her belt. "When Jojen told our lord father what he'd dreamed, he sent us to Winterfell."
"How would I break the chains, Jojen?" Bran asked.
"Open your eye."
"They are open Can't you see?"
"Two are open." Jojen pointed. "One, two."
"I only have two."
"You have three. The crow gave you the third, but you will not open it." He had a slow soft way of speaking. "With two eyes you see my face. With three you could see my heart. With two you can see that oak tree there. With three you could see the acorn the oak grew from and the stump that it will one day become. With two you see no farther than your walls. With three you would gaze south to the Summer Sea and north beyond the Wall."

A Clash of Kings - Bran IV

 It cannot be overstated how little information we have about why Jojen believes what he does.

It seems clear that he dreamed of a winged wolf in stone chains and the three eyed crow, who had come previously to him when he was sick, pecking at the chains.

Jojen didn’t know who the winged wolf was from his dream, any more than he knows who the three eyed crow is.

It’s not clear why Jojen thinks the crow is beyond the Wall, and it was Howland who sent his children to Winterfell (and specifically to Winterfell, not beyond the Wall).

Jojen says the crow is in the north. In fact, it is Meera who says the three eyed crow is beyond the Wall, not even Jojen himself.

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Jojen Reed was thirteen, only four years older than Bran. Jojen wasn't much bigger either, no more than two inches or maybe three, but he had a solemn way of talking that made him seem older and wiser than he really was. At Winterfell, Old Nan had dubbed him "little grandfather."
A Storm of Swords - Bran I

Jojen, like Melisandre and seemingly most who can see visions of the future (readers included!) struggle to interpret what they see. Nan calls Jojen, “little grandfather” because he speaks too seriously and solemnly about what he sees.

We shouldn’t forget that he is a child and we should question his interpretations, perhaps even more than usual, and we should always question the interpretations of visions in ASoIaF.

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"Are you certain?" said the little grandfather.
"Certain." Summer had wandered far afield today, and would not be back till dawn. Maybe Jojen dreams green, but he can't tell a wolf from a direwolf.
A Storm of Swords - Bran I

I suspect, like many readers, Jojen also can’t tell a crow from a raven.

As was mentioned at the start, there is a reasonable expectation that the crow, when finally confronted by Bran, will know it was the crow in Bran’s dreams.

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"I'm a brother of the Watch." He had one cord under his chins, forcing his head up, and others digging deep into his cheeks. "I'm a crow, please. Let me out of this."
Bran was suddenly uncertain. "Are you the three-eyed crow?" He can't be the three-eyed crow.
"I don't think so." The fat man rolled his eyes, but there were only two of them.

A Storm of Swords - Bran IV

When Sam appears in the Night Fort, he is confronted by Bran and his companions, and after he mentions being a Brother of the Night’s Watch (a crow), Bran asks him in no uncertain terms if he is the three-eyed crow.

I do not think anyone would argue that Sam is the three-eyed crow.

Note that Sam is trapped by the net, which is digging into his cheek, and Bran thinks about the number of eyes being wrong, because we see these same points repeated later.

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"Are you the three-eyed crow?" Bran heard himself say. A three-eyed crow should have three eyes. He has only one, and that one red. Bran could feel the eye staring at him, shining like a pool of blood in the torchlight. Where his other eye should have been, a thin white root grew from an empty socket, down his cheek, and into his neck.
"A … crow?" The pale lord's voice was dry. His lips moved slowly, as if they had forgotten how to form words. "Once, aye. Black of garb and black of blood." The clothes he wore were rotten and faded, spotted with moss and eaten through with worms, but once they had been black. "I have been many things, Bran. Now I am as you see me, and now you will understand why I could not come to you … except in dreams. I have watched you for a long time, watched you with a thousand eyes and one. I saw your birth, and that of your lord father before you. I saw your first step, heard your first word, was part of your first dream. I was watching when you fell. And now you are come to me at last, Brandon Stark, though the hour is late."

A Dance with Dragons - Bran II

The fact alone that Bloodraven does not know what Bran is talking about alone should be enough to prove to readers that he is not the three eyed crow.

But, we also see other direct parallels to the scene where Sam answered the same question too.

The number of eyes is wrong.

The root runs down his cheek, like the net dug into Sam’s, trapping him.

The voice is wrong.

Despite the litany of voyeurism from Bloodraven, you will notice he never claims to have spoken with Bran, like the three-eyed crow did, or pecked at Bran, like the three-eyed crow did, or tried to free him from chains, or that he ever appeared to Jojen.

Bloodraven simply claims to have come to bran in dreams where he watched, saw, heard, and was a part of the first falling dream. Just like the Brooding Weirwood, which, as I showed above, is distinct from the three-eyed crow.

In addition to the textual reasons above, there is the very simple symbolic detail that a raven is not a crow.

Not only are the birds seen to not get along in the series:

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When the ravens came the crows would scatter, only to return the moment the larger birds were gone.

A Clash of Kings - Arya X

But, GRRM invented his own version of a phrase using these two birds in place of the pot and kettle, "The crow calling the raven black", and he used it in every book in the series so far, as well as in Dunk and Egg.

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Toad made a face. "I hope not. I'm sick of looking at those ears of yours."
"Ho," said Pyp. "Listen to the crow call the raven black. You're certain to be a ranger, Toad. They'll want you as far from the castle as they can. If Mance Rayder attacks, lift your visor and show your face, and he'll run off screaming."

A Game of Thrones - Jon V

So, if we can be sure beyond any reasonable doubt that Bloodraven is not the three-eyed crow, who is?

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"Close your beak, crow. Spin yourself around, might be you'd find who you're looking for."
A Storm of Swords - Jon I

As I mentioned briefly above, I believe the voice is important.

The Three-eyed Crow first speaks to Bran and,

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“The voice was high and thin.”
A Game of Thrones - Bran III

Whereas, Bloodraven’s voice is described:

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"A … crow?" The pale lord's voice was dry.
A Dance with Dragons - Bran II

His voice was so soft that Bran had to strain to hear.
A Dance with Dragons - Bran III

 I for one do not think soft and dry is the same as high and thin.

While a number of characters are described as having a high voice, most of them are women, children, priests or eunuchs. A notable exception is Sam (and Amory Lorch, both of whom are compared to pigs), who Bran had to ask if he was the three-eyed crow.

As it turns out, Jon’s friend Pyp (with his large ears) demonstrates for us that one could expect a woman to have a high voice.

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Pyp was in the middle of a story. The mummer's boy with the big ears was a born liar with a hundred different voices, and he did not tell his tales so much as live them, playing all the parts as needed, a king one moment and a swineherd the next.
When he turned into an alehouse girl or a virgin princess, he used a high falsetto voice that reduced them all to tears of helpless laughter, and his eunuchs were always eerily accurate caricatures of Ser Alliser.
A Game of Thrones - Jon IV

And this distinction continues through Dance where Davos describes a girl’s voice as high and thin:

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"Yes," piped a girl's voice, thin and high.
A Dance with Dragons - Davos III

I would also be remis if I did not point out that Dany’s old burning victims screamed in high thin voices as well, both Mirri Maz Duur and the Undying.

We also see the three-eyed crow’s voice described another way:

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On this night he dreamed of the weirwood. It was looking at him with its deep red eyes, calling to him with its twisted wooden mouth, and from its pale branches the three-eyed crow came flapping, pecking at his face and crying his name in a voice as sharp as swords.
A Clash of Kings - Bran II

It is in this line that I think we see some beautiful wordplay come full circle.

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When the blades met, there was no ring of metal on metal; only a high, thin sound at the edge of hearing, like an animal screaming in pain.
A Game of Thrones - Prologue

In the prologue, the swords are described as sounding high and thin, like the crow’s voice, a voice as sharp as swords.

What else is sharp as a sword?

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A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. Royce went to his knees, shrieking, and covered his eyes. Blood welled between his fingers.

A Game of Thrones – Prologue

And this sound is repeated when Sam see’s the Other’s blade touch a flame.

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The Other's sword gleamed with a faint blue glow. It moved toward Grenn, lightning quick, slashing. When the ice blue blade brushed the flames, a screech stabbed Sam's ears sharp as a needle.
A Storm of Swords - Samwell I

And of course, the obvious direct parallel between swords and needles is the literal sword named Needle which Jon give Arya.

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When he turned back at the door, she was holding it again, trying it for balance. "I almost forgot," he told her. "All the best swords have names."
"Like Ice," she said. She looked at the blade in her hand. "Does this have a name? Oh, tell me."
"Can't you guess?" Jon teased. "Your very favorite thing."
"Needle!"
The memory of her laughter warmed him on the long ride north.

A Game of Thrones - Jon II

And so, if you haven’t already guessed where this is going, it is my belief that the three-eyed crow is none other than Old Nan.

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"Crows are all liars," Old Nan agreed, from the chair where she sat doing her needlework. "I know a story about a crow."
"I don't want any more stories," Bran snapped, his voice petulant. He had liked Old Nan and her stories once. Before. But it was different now. They left her with him all day now, to watch over him and clean him and keep him from being lonely, but she just made it worse. "I hate your stupid stories."
The old woman smiled at him toothlessly. "My stories? No, my little lord, not mine. The stories are, before me and after me, before you too."
She was a very ugly old woman, Bran thought spitefully; shrunken and wrinkled, almost blind, too weak to climb stairs, with only a few wisps of white hair left to cover a mottled pink scalp. No one really knew how old she was, but his father said she'd been called Old Nan even when he was a boy. 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.
"I don't care whose stories they are," Bran told her, "I hate them." He didn't want stories and he didn't want Old Nan. He wanted his mother and father. He wanted to go running with Summer loping beside him. He wanted to climb the broken tower and feed corn to the crows. He wanted to ride his pony again with his brothers. He wanted it to be the way it had been before.
"I know a story about a boy who hated stories," Old Nan said with her stupid little smile, her needles moving all the while, click click click, until Bran was ready to scream at her.

A Game of Thrones - Bran IV

I love the line, “The stories are, before me and after me, before you too.” It could be taken as chronological, in which case will Bran end the story (since Nan doesn’t say the story is after him too)? Or could it be descriptive, as in “the story lies before them”, as the world was laid out before Bran as he fell in his dream or the path lay before Dante in the dark wood? Both are nice, and together even better.

Crows have no teeth, and Nan repeatedly described as smiling toothlessly.

As the three-eyed crow speaks in a voice as sharp as swords, Nan speaks her stories and the needles go click click click.

As the three-eyed crow is watching over Bran in his dreams, Old Nan is there watching him in the waking world too. 

In fact, we see one example where Nan is carried off after falling asleep, and that is a night Bran has a terrible dream about the very memory the crow took away from him (or was protecting him against).

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Summer followed them up the tower steps as Hodor carried Bran back to his bed. Old Nan was asleep in her chair. Hodor said "Hodor," gathered up his great-grandmother, and carried her off, snoring softly, while Bran lay thinking. Robb had promised that he could feast with the Night's Watch in the Great Hall. "Summer," he called. The wolf bounded up on the bed. Bran hugged him so hard he could feel the hot breath on his cheek. "I can ride now," he whispered to his friend. "We can go hunting in the woods soon, wait and see." After a time he slept.
In his dream he was climbing again, pulling himself up an ancient windowless tower, his fingers forcing themselves between blackened stones, his feet scrabbling for purchase.

A Game of Thrones - Bran IV

 We also see Old Nan described as laughing like a bird.

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Old Nan had cackled like a hen when Bran told her that, and confessed that Hodor's real name was Walder. No one knew where "Hodor" had come from, she said, but when he started saying it, they started calling him by it. It was the only word he had.
They left Old Nan in the tower room with her needles and her memories.

A Game of Thrones - Bran IV

You could even say she was “crowing”, which is one way to describe the noise of a hen.

All of this begs the question, who is Old Nan?

While I can’t be certain of an answer, there are some details that seem well worthy of note.

We never get Nan’s hair or eye color. She has only a few wisps of white hair left and here eyes are pale and filmy with age.

Quote

Her voice and her needles fell silent, and she glanced up at Bran with pale, filmy eyes and asked, "So, child. This is the sort of story you like?"
A Game of Thrones - Bran IV

I would be absolutely astounded if Old Nan was not of Targaryen blood.

Not only are her eye and hair color, the two most obvious identifying features of a Targaryen/Valyrian, left unidentified, but she smells dragons.

Quote

Though Old Nan did not think so, and she'd lived longer than any of them. "Dragons," she said, lifting her head and sniffing. She was near blind and could not see the comet, yet she claimed she could smell it. "It be dragons, boy," she insisted. Bran got no princes from Nan, no more than he ever had.
A Clash of Kings - Bran I

Bran not being called prince by Nan is also clearly of note, since the Targaryens are royalty themselves, and the ones to whom the Starks knelt.

Meanwhile we also see Aemon, another ancient blind Targaryen, identify dragons with the comet.

Quote

"Dragons," Aemon whispered. "The grief and glory of my House, they were."
"The last dragon died before you were born," said Sam. "How could you remember them?"
"I see them in my dreams, Sam. I see a red star bleeding in the sky. I still remember red. I see their shadows on the snow, hear the crack of leathern wings, feel their hot breath. My brothers dreamed of dragons too, and the dreams killed them, every one. Sam, we tremble on the cusp of half-remembered prophecies, of wonders and terrors that no man now living could hope to comprehend . “

A Feast for Crows - Samwell III

Aemon describes how his family sees, hears and feels dragons in their dreams, seemingly directly tied to the comet, or bleeding star. So it completely fits that Nan “smells” them.

Old Nan also doesn’t just tell stories about the Others and the North. She told many tales of the Targaryens, Kingsguard and Dragons.

Quote

Bran was going to be a knight himself someday, one of the Kingsguard. Old Nan said they were the finest swords in all the realm.
A Game of Thrones - Bran II

"A queen stayed there for a night." Old Nan had told him the story, but Maester Luwin had confirmed most of it. "Alysanne, the wife of King Jaehaerys the Conciliator.
A Storm of Swords - Jon V

Catelyn could remember hearing Old Nan tell the story to her own children, back at Winterfell. "And King Harren learned that thick walls and high towers are small use against dragons," the tale always ended. "For dragons fly."
A Clash of Kings - Catelyn I

We see Nan’s stories recalled remarkably often by the characters in the series and often we see her needles featured.

Quote

Unbidden, he thought back on the tales that Old Nan used to tell them, when he was a boy at Winterfell. He could almost hear her voice again, and the click-click-click of her needles

A Game of Thrones - Jon VII

 Bran is even directed to remember her voice, which was so often accompanied by the needles!

Quote

"Remember Old Nan's stories, Bran. Remember the way she told them, the sound of her voice. So long as you do that, part of her will always be alive in you."
"I'll remember," he promised. They climbed without speaking for a long time, following a crooked game trail over the high saddle between two stony peaks. Scrawny soldier pines clung to the slopes around them. Far ahead Bran could see the icy glitter of a stream where it tumbled down a mountainside. He found himself listening to Jojen's breathing and the crunch of pine needles under Hodor's feet. "Do you know any stories?" he asked the Reeds all of a sudden.
A Storm of Swords - Bran II

And at the sound of breath and needles, Bran suddenly requests a story.

But, who is Old Nan?

If she is a Targaryen and been in Winterfell since at least the time of Rickard Stark (Bran’s grandfather, and possibly before that), I wouldn’t be surprised if she was born around the time of Aemon and Bloodraven, two other ancient characters we see both in the main series and in their youth in the Dunk and Egg series. As it turns out, the Brandon who died at three after Nan came to Winterfell was likely Brandon, son of Willem Stark. Making the baby Rickard Starks half uncle, and placing Nan's arrival right during the time period covered by Dunk and Egg.

There are a few Targaryen women from this period to whom we do not know what happened. 

Shiera Seastar being a popular character to theorize about, but my personal suspect would be Rhae, Aemon and Egg’s little sister.

Quote

"You've known queens and princesses. Did they dance with demons and practice the black arts?"
"Lady Shiera does. Lord Bloodraven's paramour. She bathes in blood to keep her beauty. And once my sister Rhae put a love potion in my drink, so I'd marry her instead of my sister Daella."
Egg spoke as if such incest was the most natural thing in the world. For him it is. The Targaryens had been marrying brother to sister for hundreds of years, to keep the blood of the dragon pure. Though the last actual dragon had died before Dunk was born, the dragonkings went on. Maybe the gods don't mind them marrying their sisters. "Did the potion work?" Dunk asked.
"It would have," said Egg, "but I spit it out. I don't want a wife, I want to be a knight of the Kingsguard, and live only to serve and defend the king. The Kingsguard are sworn not to wed."
"That's a noble thing, but when you're older you may find you'd sooner have a girl than a white cloak."

The Sworn Sword

The above is actually the only time she has been named so far in the series. Although, Aemon does refer to her as he is dying, which I will get to below.

However, I think there is a great deal of irony in the quote above.

We know that Egg does end up getting married, choosing a wife for love, if the wordbook can be believed.

And, we know Duncan becomes Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. However, we also know that his descendants are alive in ASoIaF, thanks to comments by GRRM, so he must have had a child, if not multiple.

Bran sees a series of visions looking out the eyes of the Weirwood in Winterfell, which may be related:

Quote

… but then somehow he was back at Winterfell again, in the godswood looking down upon his father. Lord Eddard seemed much younger this time. His hair was brown, with no hint of grey in it, his head bowed. "… let them grow up close as brothers, with only love between them," he prayed, "and let my lady wife find it in her heart to forgive …"
"Father." Bran's voice was a whisper in the wind, a rustle in the leaves. "Father, it's me. It's Bran. Brandon."
Eddard Stark lifted his head and looked long at the weirwood, frowning, but he did not speak. He cannot see me, Bran realized, despairing. He wanted to reach out and touch him, but all that he could do was watch and listen. I am in the tree. I am inside the heart tree, looking out of its red eyes, but the weirwood cannot talk, so I can't.
Eddard Stark resumed his prayer. Bran felt his eyes fill up with tears. But were they his own tears, or the weirwood's? If I cry, will the tree begin to weep?
The rest of his father's words were drowned out by a sudden clatter of wood on wood. Eddard Stark dissolved, like mist in a morning sun. Now two children danced across the godswood, hooting at one another as they dueled with broken branches. The girl was the older and taller of the two. Arya! Bran thought eagerly, as he watched her leap up onto a rock and cut at the boy. But that couldn't be right. If the girl was Arya, the boy was Bran himself, and he had never worn his hair so long. And Arya never beat me playing swords, the way that girl is beating him. She slashed the boy across his thigh, so hard that his leg went out from under him and he fell into the pool and began to splash and shout. "You be quiet, stupid," the girl said, tossing her own branch aside. "It's just water. Do you want Old Nan to hear and run tell Father?" She knelt and pulled her brother from the pool, but before she got him out again, the two of them were gone.
After that the glimpses came faster and faster, till Bran was feeling lost and dizzy. He saw no more of his father, nor the girl who looked like Arya, but a woman heavy with child emerged naked and dripping from the black pool, knelt before the tree, and begged the old gods for a son who would avenge her. 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. A dark-eyed youth, pale and fierce, sliced three branches off the weirwood and shaped them into arrows. The tree itself was shrinking, growing smaller with each vision, whilst the lesser trees dwindled into saplings and vanished, only to be replaced by other trees that would dwindle and vanish in their turn. And now the lords Bran glimpsed were tall and hard, stern men in fur and chain mail. Some wore faces he remembered from the statues in the crypts, but they were gone before he could put a name to them.

A Dance with Dragons - Bran III

First, Bran sees his father, Ned, presumably having just returned from Robert's Rebellion and talking about Jon, who is almost assuredly the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, a Targaryen.

Then presumably we see Lyanna and Benjen fighting with sticks, and they clearly reference Old Nan.

Then Bran sees three visions in quick succession, presumably in reverse chronological order.

The first, a pregnant woman praying for vengeance, is a bit of a mystery, but may well be Old Nan herself. But, there isn't much to go off of. Perhaps, it is some sort of reference to vengeance against her own house, the Targaryens? Or Dagon Greyjoy, who "bearded the lion in his den and tied the direwolf's tail in knots" but "even Dagon could not defeat the dragons." He lived in the right time period, "in the days when the Seven Kingdoms were ruled in all but name by the bastard sorcerer men called Bloodraven". Or maybe it's a reference to the invasion of the Wildlings lead by Raymun Redbeard, which was also in this time period and resulted in the death of Willem, father to baby Brandon Stark, who's second wife, the mother to his heir, was a Blackwood (like Bloodraven's mother and Egg's wife). Old Nan's two sons died in Robert's Rebellion and her grandson died on the Walls of Pyke, while her daughters moved away.

The second, a brown haired girl kissing a knight "as tall as Hodor", I believe more confidently is Old Nan, and Duncan the Tall.

The third, a youth cutting weirwood arrows, I believe was Brandon Snow, the Bastard of the King Who Knelt, who offered to to try and kill Aegon the Conqueror's dragons. 

What I think is remarkable is that they all seem to be related to Targaryens.

It's possible that Hodor, Nan's great-grandson, gets his size from Duncan, and that one of Nan's daughters/granddaughters became the wife of Selwyn Tarth, explaining both Brienne's size, the shield she remembers bearing Duncan's coat of arms from her youth, and the link between house Tarth and the Targaryens mentioned in the world book.

Quote

For all these years I've lingered, waiting, watching, and now that the day has dawned I am too old. I am dying, Sam." Tears ran from his blind white eyes at that admission. "Death should hold no fear for a man as old as me, but it does. Isn't that silly? It is always dark where I am, so why should I fear the darkness? Yet I cannot help but wonder what will follow, when the last warmth leaves my body. Will I feast forever in the Father's golden hall as the septons say? Will I talk with Egg again, find Dareon whole and happy, hear my sisters singing to their children? What if the horselords have the truth of it? Will I ride through the night sky forever on a stallion made of flame? Or must I return again to this vale of sorrow? Who can say, truly? Who has been beyond the wall of death to see? Only the wights, and we know what they are like. We know."

A Feast for Crows - Samwell IV

Rhae is one of Aemon’s sisters, and we know Nan had children. 

We also see Old Nan try to sing Rickon to sleep.

Quote

His baby brother had been wild as a winter storm since he learned Robb was riding off to war, weeping and angry by turns. He'd refused to eat, cried and screamed for most of a night, even punched Old Nan when she tried to sing him to sleep, and the next day he'd vanished.

A Game of Thrones - Bran VI

But, wild Rickon does not listen.

But Bran did, and I think there is every reason to believe his storyteller Old Nan, whether she is Rhae or not, has been his guide all along, right from the very beginning.

Quote

"It was just a lie," he said bitterly, remembering the crow from his dream. "I can't fly. I can't even run."
"Crows are all liars," Old Nan agreed, from the chair where she sat doing her needlework. "I know a story about a crow."

A Game of Thrones - Bran IV

Crows are all liars, and Nan would know. I would be astounded if Nan was her real name.

She's been trying to teach Bran from the very beginning, as seen in the very first quote in this far to long post.

TLDR: Old Nan is very likely the three-eyed crow from Bran's dreams, and, I suspect, will turn out to be Rhae Targaryen, Egg's little sister.

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I always assumed nan was just short for nana (I mean, called one of my grandmas that) or nanny (she was a wet nurse and a nanny essentially). 

She probably did have a relationship with Dunk, which gives us Hodor; bran's "body," and she provides some good exposition,

But is there any real further utility in her being the three eyed crow given where everyone is in the world at current?

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18 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

The Three I’d Question

This is the first of three theories I would like to present regarding "secret identities" in A Song of Ice and Fire, other than that of Jon Snow, which I believe will play major roles in the plot.

First a note: I cannot claim to have found these details, made these connections, or invented this theory on my own. So, I’d like to begin by thanking the nameless faceless posters on the web who have helped me to see the truth which lies beneath the text. You are too many to name and doubtless I’ve forgotten more than half of you twice as quickly as you deserve.

#1: Don’t Mistake the Crow for the Conspiracy

The core question addressed here, “Who is the three-eyed crow?”, is raised by the text itself.

Not just as part of the inherent mystery of the crow’s identity, but repeatedly, and quite literally, right from the crow’s first appearance to Bran during his falling dream in Game of Thrones.

There are several details here worth noting.

Bran hears a voice first, which is described as high and thin.

Bran sees the crow come spiraling down to him, and the crow says it is trying to help Bran.

Right from the start, Bran asks if the crow is really a crow.

Bran points out that the crow has wings, and the crow acknowledges the remark by pointing out that there are different kinds of wings, implying it knows Bran meant literal feathery wings, and not something else. There is no way, in my mind, that anyone could misinterpret this question as being about a “crow”, as in a brother of the Nights Watch, and no way that they, whoever the three-eyed crow is, does not know Bran saw it as a crow in the dream.

This is important to remember whenever Bran asks a character if they are the three eyed crow, as the real three eyed crow should know what he means. As we see so far in the story, none of the characters Bran has asked can be said to clearly understand what he means, with the exception of Jojen, who does not claim to be the crow himself, nor does he seem to know who exactly the crow is.

I do not believe that Bloodraven, Brynden Rivers, is the three-eyed crow.  However, I do think we see a reference to him in the, “silver thread of rivers in dark woods”. Bloodraven is literally a pale white (silver) bastard (from the Riverlands, with the bastard name “Rivers”) of house Blackwood (a dark wood). Bran is falling down towards the mountains and dark wood, a detail which we see repeated later in the dream.

From a symbolic perspective, the “dark wood” also has significant added connotations given it is conspicuously where Dante’s Divine Comedy began (and where ASoIaF begins, the setting for the Game of Thrones Prologue is literally a dark wood), “In the middle of the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood and the straight way had been lost.” In turn, Dante inspired Frost, who’s poem, “Fire and Ice” inspired the name of A Song of Ice and Fire. The themes of fear and death are also evident, “Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was, that savage forest, dense and difficult, which even in recall renews my fear: so bitter—death is hardly more severe!” Also of note, from the beginning to The Divine Comedy, particularly in relation to Bran’s dream is; “I cannot clearly say how I had entered the wood, I was so full of sleep just at the point where I abandoned the true path.” Without getting to far into these references, a subject worthy of its own discussion, suffice it to say that I believe as Dante’s straight way was lost, Bran was led in circles by Coldhands, and as Dante had to pass through Hell to reach Heaven, so too will Bran have to pass through Bloodraven’s cave, including out through the bottom, as Dante passed down through hell seeing Lucifer at the bottom frozen in ice, before he can fly/ascend. Of possible note as well, Dante is originally guided by Virgil down into the inferno, but by Beatrice once he reaches paradise. Enough of that, back to the text of A Song of Ice and Fire…

Interestingly, only at the end of the falling dream does the crow actually appear to have three eyes:

And again, we see Bran looking below him, describing again the river in a dark wood.

We see two other major themes bookending this paragraph, the Stark motto, Winter is Coming, and Ned’s lesson from the very first chapter (Bran I), A man can only be brave when he is afraid, and we will see them echoed below.

But first, much more literally, what Bran sees below him is Bloodraven’s cave.

Something about the way the raven screamed sent a shiver running up Bran's spine. I am almost a man grown, he had to remind himself. I have to be brave now.

 The references to both fear/bravery and winter are clear; “I have to be brave” and “even Summer was afraid”.

Literally, the Weirwoods in the grove around and above Bloodraven’s cave are so covered in ice that they, “hardly looked like trees at all”. Rather, they appear just as Bran saw them from above in his falling dream, as jagged blue-white spires of ice.

Once Bran makes it into the cave, we see this:

The cave is full of the bones with Weirwood roots growing through them, and these Weirwoods are the icy spires Bran saw from above. So it is, quite literally, the bones of a thousand other dreamers impaled on the points of the jagged spires. The points are just the roots in the cave below.

Also in the cave, beneath the frozen dark wood, is a literal river, which Bran fears falling toward (in life, as it was in the dream).

Interestingly, while one might not expect to see an underground river from above, we see Melisandre provide an interesting detail as part of her explanation for how visions can be misinterpreted. The visions allow her to see though stone.

There is also an unmistakable similarity both between her description of visions in the flames and how Bran is told a Weirwood sees time, and with Marwyn’s explanation of how untrustworthy prophesy can be.

All of these details make me confident in identifying Bloodraven’s cave as the place towards which Bran was falling in his dream.

But, what about the identity of the three-eyed crow itself? Who, you will remember, came to Bran in his falling dream from above, not below.

To answer that question, I believe we need to take a step back and look at Bran’s dreams more generally.

Bran has different kinds of dreams.

The wolf dreams, when Bran wargs into Summer.

The dreams where the crow comes and tells him to fly.

Sometimes, the tree is in those dreams too, calling Bran’s name.

And there are the falling dreams.

The fact that the crow and the Weirwood appear to Bran separately, and only sometimes together, is a clear indication that these are two distinct entities in his dreams.

In fact, the Weirwood was a part of Bran’s first falling dream:

And this is, I believe, how Bran sees Bloodraven in his dreams, as the Weirwood.

It is also worth noting that the Weirwood in Bran’s dreams doesn’t seem to do more than try to call to him, and watch.

 I would note that the crow’s voice is described as “sharp as swords”, a detail I will come back to.

The three-eyed crow almost seems to be trying to prevent Bran from contacting the tree, or perhaps it is trying to protect him from the tree.

We see similar behavior from the crow during the falling dream when it seems to be trying to protect Bran from his memory of Jaime throwing him from the tower:

 This odd behavior of the crow in relation to the tree leads me to believe, not only are these separate entities, but that they are at crossed purposes. Not to mention that the crow is clearly intentionally hiding things from Bran, possibly for his own good.

Melisandre’s visions also seem to support the idea that Bloodraven is the tree:

 Melisandre catches glimpses in her flames of beyond the wall, and Bloodraven (the wooden man) with Bran (the boy with a wolf’s face) by his side.

The crow meanwhile appeared not just to Bran, but to Jojen Reed.

 It cannot be overstated how little information we have about why Jojen believes what he does.

It seems clear that he dreamed of a winged wolf in stone chains and the three eyed crow, who had come previously to him when he was sick, pecking at the chains.

Jojen didn’t know who the winged wolf was from his dream, any more than he knows who the three eyed crow is.

It’s not clear why Jojen thinks the crow is beyond the Wall, and it was Howland who sent his children to Winterfell (and specifically to Winterfell, not beyond the Wall).

Jojen says the crow is in the north. In fact, it is Meera who says the three eyed crow is beyond the Wall, not even Jojen himself.

Jojen, like Melisandre and seemingly most who can see visions of the future (readers included!) struggle to interpret what they see. Nan calls Jojen, “little grandfather” because he speaks too seriously and solemnly about what he sees.

We shouldn’t forget that he is a child and we should question his interpretations, perhaps even more than usual, and we should always question the interpretations of visions in ASoIaF.

I suspect, like many readers, Jojen also can’t tell a crow from a raven.

As was mentioned at the start, there is a reasonable expectation that the crow, when finally confronted by Bran, will know it was the crow in Bran’s dreams.

When Sam appears in the Night Fort, he is confronted by Bran and his companions, and after he mentions being a Brother of the Night’s Watch (a crow), Bran asks him in no uncertain terms if he is the three-eyed crow.

I do not think anyone would argue that Sam is the three-eyed crow.

Note that Sam is trapped by the net, which is digging into his cheek, and Bran thinks about the number of eyes being wrong, because we see these same points repeated later.

The fact alone that Bloodraven does not know what Bran is talking about alone should be enough to prove to readers that he is not the three eyed crow.

But, we also see other direct parallels to the scene where Sam answered the same question too.

The number of eyes is wrong.

The root runs down his cheek, like the net dug into Sam’s, trapping him.

The voice is wrong.

Despite the litany of voyeurism from Bloodraven, you will notice he never claims to have spoken with Bran, like the three-eyed crow did, or pecked at Bran, like the three-eyed crow did, or tried to free him from chains, or that he ever appeared to Jojen.

Bloodraven simply claims to have come to bran in dreams where he watched, saw, heard, and was a part of the first falling dream. Just like the Brooding Weirwood, which, as I showed above, is distinct from the three-eyed crow.

In addition to the textual reasons above, there is the very simple symbolic detail that a raven is not a crow.

Not only are the birds seen to not get along in the series:

But, GRRM invented his own version of a phrase using these two birds in place of the pot and kettle, "The crow calling the raven black", and he used it in every book in the series so far, as well as in Dunk and Egg.

So, if we can be sure beyond any reasonable doubt that Bloodraven is not the three-eyed crow, who is?

As I mentioned briefly above, I believe the voice is important.

The Three-eyed Crow first speaks to Bran and,

Whereas, Bloodraven’s voice is described:

 I for one do not think soft and dry is the same as high and thin.

While a number of characters are described as having a high voice, most of them are women, children, priests or eunuchs. A notable exception is Sam (and Amory Lorch, both of whom are compared to pigs), who Bran had to ask if he was the three-eyed crow.

As it turns out, Jon’s friend Pyp (with his large ears) demonstrates for us that one could expect a woman to have a high voice.

And this distinction continues through Dance where Davos describes a girl’s voice as high and thin:

I would also be remis if I did not point out that Dany’s old burning victims screamed in high thin voices as well, both Mirri Maz Duur and the Undying.

We also see the three-eyed crow’s voice described another way:

It is in this line that I think we see some beautiful wordplay come full circle.

In the prologue, the swords are described as sounding high and thin, like the crow’s voice, a voice as sharp as swords.

What else is sharp as a sword?

And this sound is repeated when Sam see’s the Other’s blade touch a flame.

And of course, the obvious direct parallel between swords and needles is the literal sword named Needle which Jon give Arya.

And so, if you haven’t already guessed where this is going, it is my belief that the three-eyed crow is none other than Old Nan.

I love the line, “The stories are, before me and after me, before you too.” It could be taken as chronological, in which case will Bran end the story (since Nan doesn’t say the story is after him too)? Or could it be descriptive, as in “the story lies before them”, as the world was laid out before Bran as he fell in his dream or the path lay before Dante in the dark wood? Both are nice, and together even better.

Crows have no teeth, and Nan repeatedly described as smiling toothlessly.

As the three-eyed crow speaks in a voice as sharp as swords, Nan speaks her stories and the needles go click click click.

As the three-eyed crow is watching over Bran in his dreams, Old Nan is there watching him in the waking world too. 

In fact, we see one example where Nan is carried off after falling asleep, and that is a night Bran has a terrible dream about the very memory the crow took away from him (or was protecting him against).

 We also see Old Nan described as laughing like a bird.

You could even say she was “crowing”, which is one way to describe the noise of a hen.

All of this begs the question, who is Old Nan?

While I can’t be certain of an answer, there are some details that seem well worthy of note.

We never get Nan’s hair or eye color. She has only a few wisps of white hair left and here eyes are pale and filmy with age.

I would be absolutely astounded if Old Nan was not of Targaryen blood.

Not only are her eye and hair color, the two most obvious identifying features of a Targaryen/Valyrian, left unidentified, but she smells dragons.

Bran not being called prince by Nan is also clearly of note, since the Targaryens are royalty themselves, and the ones to whom the Starks knelt.

Meanwhile we also see Aemon, another ancient blind Targaryen, identify dragons with the comet.

Aemon describes how his family sees, hears and feels dragons in their dreams, seemingly directly tied to the comet, or bleeding star. So it completely fits that Nan “smells” them.

Old Nan also doesn’t just tell stories about the Others and the North. She told many tales of the Targaryens, Kingsguard and Dragons.

We see Nan’s stories recalled remarkably often by the characters in the series and often we see her needles featured.

 Bran is even directed to remember her voice, which was so often accompanied by the needles!

And at the sound of breath and needles, Bran suddenly requests a story.

But, who is Old Nan?

If she is a Targaryen and been in Winterfell since at least the time of Rickard Stark (Bran’s grandfather, and possibly before that), I wouldn’t be surprised if she was born around the time of Aemon and Bloodraven, two other ancient characters we see both in the main series and in their youth in the Dunk and Egg series. As it turns out, the Brandon who died at three after Nan came to Winterfell was likely Brandon, son of Willem Stark. Making the baby Rickard Starks half uncle, and placing Nan's arrival right during the time period covered by Dunk and Egg.

There are a few Targaryen women from this period to whom we do not know what happened. 

Shiera Seastar being a popular character to theorize about, but my personal suspect would be Rhae, Aemon and Egg’s little sister.

The above is actually the only time she has been named so far in the series. Although, Aemon does refer to her as he is dying, which I will get to below.

However, I think there is a great deal of irony in the quote above.

We know that Egg does end up getting married, choosing a wife for love, if the wordbook can be believed.

And, we know Duncan becomes Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. However, we also know that his descendants are alive in ASoIaF, thanks to comments by GRRM, so he must have had a child, if not multiple.

Bran sees a series of visions looking out the eyes of the Weirwood in Winterfell, which may be related:

First, Bran sees his father, Ned, presumably having just returned from Robert's Rebellion and talking about Jon, who is almost assuredly the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, a Targaryen.

Then presumably we see Lyanna and Benjen fighting with sticks, and they clearly reference Old Nan.

Then Bran sees three visions in quick succession, presumably in reverse chronological order.

The first, a pregnant woman praying for vengeance, is a bit of a mystery, but may well be Old Nan herself. But, there isn't much to go off of. Perhaps, it is some sort of reference to vengeance against her own house, the Targaryens? Or Dagon Greyjoy, who "bearded the lion in his den and tied the direwolf's tail in knots" but "even Dagon could not defeat the dragons." He lived in the right time period, "in the days when the Seven Kingdoms were ruled in all but name by the bastard sorcerer men called Bloodraven". Or maybe it's a reference to the invasion of the Wildlings lead by Raymun Redbeard, which was also in this time period and resulted in the death of Willem, father to baby Brandon Stark, who's second wife, the mother to his heir, was a Blackwood (like Bloodraven's mother and Egg's wife). Old Nan's two sons died in Robert's Rebellion and her grandson died on the Walls of Pyke, while her daughters moved away.

The second, a brown haired girl kissing a knight "as tall as Hodor", I believe more confidently is Old Nan, and Duncan the Tall.

The third, a youth cutting weirwood arrows, I believe was Brandon Snow, the Bastard of the King Who Knelt, who offered to to try and kill Aegon the Conqueror's dragons. 

What I think is remarkable is that they all seem to be related to Targaryens.

It's possible that Hodor, Nan's great-grandson, gets his size from Duncan, and that one of Nan's daughters/granddaughters became the wife of Selwyn Tarth, explaining both Brienne's size, the shield she remembers bearing Duncan's coat of arms from her youth, and the link between house Tarth and the Targaryens mentioned in the world book.

Rhae is one of Aemon’s sisters, and we know Nan had children. 

We also see Old Nan try to sing Rickon to sleep.

But, wild Rickon does not listen.

But Bran did, and I think there is every reason to believe his storyteller Old Nan, whether she is Rhae or not, has been his guide all along, right from the very beginning.

Crows are all liars, and Nan would know. I would be astounded if Nan was her real name.

She's been trying to teach Bran from the very beginning, as seen in the very first quote in this far to long post.

TLDR: Old Nan is very likely the three-eyed crow from Bran's dreams, and, I suspect, will turn out to be Rhae Targaryen, Egg's little sister.

I like this theory I so want it to be true. Sadly it isn't. 

1) If old nan was the three eyed crow, jojen and bran would identify her. They're young not dumb. 

2) Her being a targaryen has zero chance. In a place like the seven kingdoms. You maintain records of who princesses married into

3) A Royal princess being a nanny to a vassal is completely unacceptable. 

 

The post is long and nicely written but still tinfoil

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15 hours ago, Targaryeninkingslanding said:

I always assumed nan was just short for nana (I mean, called one of my grandmas that) or nanny (she was a wet nurse and a nanny essentially). 
 

According to Arya, Nan is short for Nymeria.

If Nan is Rhae, her grandmother was Myriah Martell (who’s marriage was part of bringing Dorne into the realm).

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She probably did have a relationship with Dunk, which gives us Hodor; bran's "body," and she provides some good exposition,

But is there any real further utility in her being the three eyed crow given where everyone is in the world at current?

Yes!

It not only goes along way to explain what is going on practically, it completely reframed who Bloodraven is and the threat of the Others as a whole. Frankly the entire thing makes much more sense if there is a human figure with human motivations and flaws behind it, rather than some faceless cold evil. 

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3 hours ago, Daenerysthegreat said:

I like this theory I so want it to be true. Sadly it isn't. 

1) If old nan was the three eyed crow, jojen and bran would identify her. They're young not dumb. 
 

Why do you think this? Jojen wasn’t able to identify the winged wolf as Bran when they met. There is lots of confusion about what is who in dreams/visions.

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2) Her being a targaryen has zero chance. In a place like the seven kingdoms. You maintain records of who princesses married into

Completely disagree. Even just from a storytelling perspective there is almost zero chance she doesn’t have Targaryen blood. You don’t include details for no reason. 

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3) A Royal princess being a nanny to a vassal is completely unacceptable. 

Haha ok. Maybe she’s hiding herself, not wanting to marry whatever relative they tried to marry her to would be a logical reason. We don’t have her story yet, but she’s there, she’s Targaryen, and we haven’t seen the last of her. Book it!

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The post is long and nicely written but still tinfoil

I can only hope that we get another book so you can see what I’m trying to show you.

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16 hours ago, Lord Lannister said:

I still think Old Nan is just a lady named Nan who likes to tell stories. Some of those stories do warrant closer examination though.

It is still wild to me that after reading these books and all this time, with all this plot and world building, anyone can still believe that an original character mentioned in relation to such critical story elements so consistently has no backstory.

The line, Bran got no “princes” from Nan, wasn’t written for no reason. 

From a higher level, once you realize that Bloodraven is likely behind the return of the Others, it makes sense that he wasn’t the only one waiting around for the right Brandon Stark.

"The crow is the raven's poor cousin. They are both beggars in black, hated and misunderstood."

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47 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

Why do you think this? Jojen wasn’t able to identify the winged wolf as Bran when they met. There is lots of confusion about what is who in dreams/visions.

 

It's bloodraven, grrm confirmed it. If you want a debatable theory go to r + l = j. Even if it isn't old nan has to be the last person to be a targaryen. 

48 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

 

Completely disagree. Even just from a storytelling perspective there is almost zero chance she doesn’t have Targaryen blood. You don’t include details for no reason. 

 

What story telling perspective? The only perspective with her as a targaryen is you. That's extreme level tinfoil. 

51 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

Completely disagree. Even just from a storytelling perspective there is almost zero chance she doesn’t have Targaryen blood. You don’t include details for no reason.

 

Let me clarify this, if we go by storytelling perspective there is a zero probablity that old nan will be a targaryen and the three eyed crow. You don't write 5 books out of 7, make sure that the others are coming in the 6th book, and make the person who needs to have knowledge about them find a fake mentor while his real one is a captive or possibly dead. 

 

54 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

I can only hope that we get another book so you can see what I’m trying to show you.

I know that you're going to be disappointed with the winds of winter. 

 

27 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

It is still wild to me that after reading these books and all this time, with all this plot and world building, anyone can still believe that an original character mentioned in relation to such critical story elements so consistently has no backstory.

 

It is still wild to me that people after having 10 years to read the books propose these theories. 

 

29 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

The line, Bran got no “princes” from Nan, wasn’t written for no reason. 

 

It was written so that we can see how much bran's position has changed a prince. Seriously that's a small line that those three words will change the story is impossible. 

 

@Lord Lannister Your version is the simplest and the most correct if you ask me

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56 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

It is still wild to me that after reading these books and all this time, with all this plot and world building, anyone can still believe that an original character mentioned in relation to such critical story elements so consistently has no backstory.

The line, Bran got no “princes” from Nan, wasn’t written for no reason. 

From a higher level, once you realize that Bloodraven is likely behind the return of the Others, it makes sense that he wasn’t the only one waiting around for the right Brandon Stark.

"The crow is the raven's poor cousin. They are both beggars in black, hated and misunderstood."

A lot of time I think he simplest answer is the most likely. Just because I don't think she's harboring some secret identity doesn't mean I'm denying Nan has a backstory. As old as she is I'm sure she's had a long and full life. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw her make a cameo in Wolves of Winterfell. 

I think her role in the story, which has run it's course, was to get Bran thinking outside the box as it were and to give the readers some information with her stories. Most folk stories have nuggets of truth buried in them and I don't doubt for a moment Nan's stories do as well. 

Sorry but I just don't think that makes her a pawn of Bloodraven, a secretly Targaryen or whatever else.

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1 minute ago, Lord Lannister said:

A lot of time I think he simplest answer is the most likely. Just because I don't think she's harboring some secret identity doesn't mean I'm denying Nan has a backstory. As old as she is I'm sure she's had a long and full life. I wouldn't be surprised if we saw her make a cameo in Wolves of Winterfell. 

There is no reason to think a simple answer is true in a fantasy story.

But out of curiousity, what is your simpler explanation for not calling Bran “prince”? She had no problem calling him little lord…

1 minute ago, Lord Lannister said:

I think her role in the story, which has run it's course, was to get Bran thinking outside the box as it were and to give the readers some information with her stories. Most folk stories have nuggets of truth buried in them and I don't doubt for a moment Nan's stories do as well. 

Because in a story full of impossibly ancient beings waiting for promises princes the original old teacher is probably nothing important? I don’t understand this sort of thinking.

1 minute ago, Lord Lannister said:

Sorry but I just don't think that makes her a pawn of Bloodraven, a secretly Targaryen or whatever else.

What?!?!? It is clear to me you didn’t read the post if you think this is suggested. Which is fine, but explains a lot, did you even read the books? Lol

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13 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

There is no reason to think a simple answer is true in a fantasy story.

But out of curiousity, what is your simpler explanation for not calling Bran “prince”? She had no problem calling him little lord…

 

She's old and may have small memory lapses. 

13 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

Because in a story full of impossibly ancient beings waiting for promises princes the original old teacher is probably nothing important? I don’t understand this sort of thinking.

Well in this story the young hero king who would avenge his father died in a wedding. You just changed the story into a fairy tale.

15 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

What?!?!? It is clear to me you didn’t read the post if you think this is suggested. Which is fine, but explains a lot, did you even read the books? Lol

None of us understood the overly post as it's filled with tinfoil. Are you being ironic with the last line. Because it feels like you didn't read the books

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1 hour ago, Daenerysthegreat said:

It's bloodraven, grrm confirmed it. If you want a debatable theory go to r + l = j. Even if it isn't old nan has to be the last person to be a targaryen. 
 

Really? Can you show me where he confirmed this?

Obviously I think you are wrong and lying.

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What story telling perspective? The only perspective with her as a targaryen is you. That's extreme level tinfoil. 

I’m far from alone in seeing the hints for Nan being a Targaryen, please.

If you aren’t open to discussing the text that’s fine, but this sounds silly.

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Let me clarify this, if we go by storytelling perspective there is a zero probablity that old nan will be a targaryen and the three eyed crow. You don't write 5 books out of 7, make sure that the others are coming in the 6th book, and make the person who needs to have knowledge about them find a fake mentor while his real one is a captive or possibly dead. 
 

So you are just wrong, but that’s ok, you can always come back and apologize when the next book comes out.

What you don’t do is have a mystery identity in the three eyed crow several books before introducing the character who is the crow! see how you sound?

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I know that you're going to be disappointed with the winds of winter.

Only if it doesn’t come out!

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It is still wild to me that people after having 10 years to read the books propose these theories. 

It blows my mind that people still think Bloodraven is the three eyed crow. 

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It was written so that we can see how much bran's position has changed a prince. Seriously that's a small line that those three words will change the story is impossible. 
 

This doesn’t make any sense, and I think you know it.

Again, I don’t think lines like this are added for no reason, and it isn’t in a void. When you can’t supply a single conceivable alternative explanation, this only strengthens my point.

But you do you, I tried to lay this out as simply as I could, if you want to stay in denial it doesn’t hurt me any! Have a good one!

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16 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

There is no reason to think a simple answer is true in a fantasy story.

But out of curiousity, what is your simpler explanation for not calling Bran “prince”? She had no problem calling him little lord…

Because in a story full of impossibly ancient beings waiting for promises princes the original old teacher is probably nothing important? I don’t understand this sort of thinking.

What?!?!? It is clear to me you didn’t read the post if you think this is suggested. Which is fine, but explains a lot, did you even read the books? Lol

Hey you're entitled to think whatever you want. I think it can be as simple as Nan is an eccentric old lady set in her ways. 

I didn't say Nan wasn't important, you're so desperate to attack a view that doesn't agree with your own that you're putting words in my mouth. 

Like with assuming I haven't read your post or the book. It's rather arrogant to assume because I don't agree with your conclusions I must have some personal fault. The Targaryen comment was referring to another recent thread on Nan's identity(which I guess you didn't read?). 

Yes it's a fantasy story. That doesn't mean every little facet has some secret meaning. I think sometimes people are just so desperate to be the one to unravel some hidden meaning and to be the one to discover something new, they try to connect dots that aren't related to draw pictures. 

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19 minutes ago, Daenerysthegreat said:

She's old and may have small memory lapses. 

The lengths you need to go! Haha 

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Well in this story the young hero king who would avenge his father died in a wedding. You just changed the story into a fairy tale.

It is a fairy tale.

Robb suffers a classic tragic fate, one created by his own choices. There is nothing revolutionary in this.

What this story isn’t, is about some war of good versus evil, light versus dark, fire versus ice. That’s has been made obvious.

Human problems will have a human behind them.

As for a story telling perspective, what you need is an endgame, and Bloodraven’s lair presents a perfect mt. doom scenario for our heroes. Bran will escape back south, probably using the underground river to the crypts, once he realizes Bloodraven wants to take his body, and we are left with a workable endgame target.

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None of us understood the overly post as it's filled with tinfoil. Are you being ironic with the last line. Because it feels like you didn't read the books

Ok, sorry you don’t get it, bye!

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13 minutes ago, Lord Lannister said:

Hey you're entitled to think whatever you want. I think it can be as simple as Nan is an eccentric old lady set in her ways. 

I didn't say Nan wasn't important, you're so desperate to attack a view that doesn't agree with your own that you're putting words in my mouth. 

Like with assuming I haven't read your post or the book. It's rather arrogant to assume because I don't agree with your conclusions I must have some personal fault. The Targaryen comment was referring to another recent thread on Nan's identity(which I guess you didn't read?). 

If you read the post you’d see I spell out how the crows and the ravens, and the crow and the tree, do not get along.

It’s also in the books.

If you want to comment on other posts, please be my guest. It would probably help to avoid confusion if you comment on the post you are talking about.

We all have personal faults, no worries.

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Yes it's a fantasy story. That doesn't mean every little facet has some secret meaning. I think sometimes people are just so desperate to be the one to unravel some hidden meaning and to be the one to discover something new, they try to connect dots that aren't related to draw pictures. 

By the same token, it’s a fantasy story where we can expect to find secret identities and intentional misdirection by the author… as I said at the start, this isn’t a new idea and I’m not the first to suggest it, so if you have textual reasons for arguing for or against something that’s great, but blanket dismissals out of hand are silly given the context.

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18 hours ago, Fool Stands On Giant’s Toe said:

The outsider by H.P. Lovecraft.

A great short story. About climbing and the fall. The rise and the withdrawal. I’d love an opinion or discussion on this.

I think that GRRM drew lots of inspiration from Lovecraft, but I’m always wary of trying to interpret it too much 1 for 1.

I think the Old Tower in Winterfell actually indicates that the Starks might not be the pure First Men they now claim to be.

It is a round tower, and yet the First men didn’t build round towers, they built square ones like the those on the Walls of Winterfell.

It has gargoyles, which are characteristic of Valyrians and no where in evidence on First Men constructions.

It has iron swords in the crypts below. In addition the old soties mention the Others hating iron. But, the Andals were said to bring iron to Westeros.

When we put this together with the “stories” (that might well be based on visions of the past through Weirwoods) of knights riding around Westeros before the Andals came, and it leads me to believe they share a common ancestry with the Valyrians (and Dany’s vision of the line of ancient gemstone kings).

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6 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

According to Arya, Nan is short for Nymeria.

that may be true in the case of Arya while under cover, but I don't think we can safely conclude from that, that old nan is a Nymeria. Arya just has the propensity to adopt names from people she knows, and she knew a nan, and she knew a Nymeria, and so borrowed names from both. the only other example of a nymeria I can think of who uses is a nickname is lady Nym, which is clearly stylized differently. we may dismiss that as north vs south name variation... but that's a little arbitrary. And its not like at any point in time do we hear old nan or anyone say anything along the lines of, "wow Arya, your wolf is named nymeria just like me." 

All to say I feel there are a few assumptions with this aspect of the claim that I'm not prepared to accept at face value.

6 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

 

It not only goes along way to explain what is going on practically, it completely reframed who Bloodraven is and the threat of the Others as a whole. Frankly the entire thing makes much more sense if there is a human figure with human motivations and flaws behind it, rather than some faceless cold evil. 

Does it though? bran is with bloodraven regardless, and nan has not seemed to do anything in the meantime in regards to contacting any other stark children with this supposed power. that she is alive at all is more just a conceit at this point given the untrustworthiness of boltons. wouldnt maester Aemon want to know about how his sister and great grandnephew are doing, so close as they are?

I'm also not sure how I feel about the claim that bloodraven is evil. power-hungry? maybe, but he has always been loyal to his family and the realm in his own way. like Tyrion he seems evil, but more so he's just sinister looking which greatly effects both reputations. he is a sort of conduit of the old gods, and if the old gods were the enemy, wouldnt the first men after the last long night do all they could to suppress their worship? 

and wargs are more old blood not valyrian blood, which as a Blackwoods would explain bloodraven being a warg, but not nan- within the confines of the claim that she is Rhea at least.

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