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The difference between a deserter and a turncloak


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I think GRRM wants us to see a distinction between deserters and turncloaks, but I'm not yet sure what difference he intends. 

A Night's Watch deserter is an oathbreaker, and we know that there is a motif around oathkeepers and oathbreakers. But Jaime is considered to be an oathbreaker for killing Aerys and he is widely known as The Kingslayer, adding another layer of meaning to the deserter / turncloak / oathbreaker set of (related? distinct?) symbols. 

"Deserter" as an anagram of "red trees" was one of my earlier guesses about the author's use of wordplay to drop hints and to tie symbols together. Much later, I realized that Ned Stark commits treason and he also has a "tree son" (I'm thinking Bran) who become increasingly important in the story. 

The punishment for desertion (from the Night's Watch) is death, as we learn from Gared's fate in the first Bran POV in AGoT. The punishment is carried out in the name of the King's Justice and is inflicted (in Gared's case) by the sword Ice. 

In the last Jon POV of AGoT, Jon Snow is spared from being beheaded after his desertion attempt. Instead of beheading him, Jeor Mormont gives him a Valyrian steel sword and grants his wish to become a Ranger. Ned takes a hard line with deserters (and with Ser Jorah, who sold poachers into slavery), following the letter of the law; Jeor Mormont takes a lenient view of deserters and opts to forego that King's Justice. 

While on that ranging adventure, Jeor arranges for Jon Snow to be in the right place (The Fist) at the right time (full moon under the comet) with the right direwolf and "blood". While these elements are aligned, Jon Snow finds the obsidian cache hidden in a bundle in loose sand. That bundle is an old Night's Watch cloak and it must be turned before Jon Snow can open it. 

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Jon brushed the loose soil away to reveal a rounded bundle perhaps two feet across. He jammed his fingers down around the edges and worked it loose. When he pulled it free, whatever was inside shifted and clinked. Treasure, he thought, but the shapes were wrong to be coins, and the sound was wrong for metal.

A length of frayed rope bound the bundle together. Jon unsheathed his dagger and cut it, groped for the edges of the cloth, and pulled. The bundle turned, and its contents spilled out onto the ground, glittering dark and bright. He saw a dozen knives, leaf-shaped spearheads, numerous arrowheads. Jon picked up a dagger blade, featherlight and shiny black, hiltless. Torchlight ran along its edge, a thin orange line that spoke of razor sharpness. Dragonglass. What the maesters call obsidian. Had Ghost uncovered some ancient cache of the children of the forest, buried here for thousands of years? The Fist of the First Men was an old place, only . . .

Beneath the dragonglass was an old warhorn, made from an auroch's horn and banded in bronze. Jon shook the dirt from inside it, and a stream of arrowheads fell out. He let them fall, and pulled up a corner of the cloth the weapons had been wrapped in, rubbing it between his fingers. Good wool, thick, a double weave, damp but not rotted. It could not have been long in the ground. And it was dark. He seized a handful and pulled it close to the torch. Not dark. Black.

ACoK, Jon IV

In the world of literary analysis, Jeor Mormont was setting Jon up to become a turncloak; he wanted Jon to find the obsidian cache and finding it involved turning a cloak.

But the "turncloak" label is most closely associated with Theon, who delivers a POV under that name during his return to Winterfell for Ramsay's wedding. Like Gared, Theon has been badly maimed. Unlike Gared, Theon has not been beheaded. (Although he was the one to kick Gared's severed head after Ned severed the deserter's neck in Bran I.) 

A lot of this thinking was motivated by the recent good catch by Nadden, posted in the Puns and Wordplay thread. He/She/They noted that Ned used a "swatch" of oiled leather to clean the sword Ice after the beheading of Gared. This led to an exploration of the rags and tatters that are part of the fabric motif. "Ragged," in turn, ties into "dragged" and (I believe) "dagger" and "Gared." 

The discussion of rags and tatters also ties into the cloak symbolism, as Gared had a lot of thoughts about Ser Waymar's sable cloak that, he speculated, was made after Ser Waymar personally twisted the heads off of each fur-bearing animal that comprised the fabric.

It seems as if cloaks and daggers are paired but they function as opposites: cloaks can "smother" daggers when the blades are wrapped in a bundle; daggers (and other blades) can pierce cloaks when used as a weapon to stab someone wearing a cloak. 

(Aside: Remember how Samwell Tarly showed up at the Night's Watch with his own armor, but was told that he had to wear Night's Watch-issued armor instead of his own custom-made set? Why was Ser Waymar allowed to keep his splendid cloak after taking his vow if Sam had to give up his personal attire?)

Nadden's insights about cloaks and daggers also included a fantastic insight about the molds used to turn molten metal into a blade: a "drag" is the bottom half of the mold and a "cope" is the top half. "Cope" is also the name for a cloak worn by a bishop, so this brought us back to the cloak symbolism. 

Back to the original point (pardon the pun): is there a distinction between a deserter and a turncloak? 

We are told that Mance is a deserter. He deserts after his cloak is torn and then mended. He likes the mended cloak better than the original, plain black cloak so he becomes the King Beyond the Wall. Does he see himself as a deserter? A turncloak?

I just did a search on "turncloak" in the Theon POVs and I'm seeing a possibility that Theon IS Bael / Mance in the ADwD chapters at Winterfell. We know that the washerwomen were sent with the glamored Mance / Bael (Able) yet we never see Able "onstage" and only hear about him indirectly. Instead, we see a lot of Theon interacting with the washerwomen (especially in his turncloak identity) and Theon bringing about the escape of fArya (Jeyne Poole), which was the mission Mance was supposed to undertake. 

This could reinforce the idea of Mance as deserter and Theon as turncloak - are they two aspects of the same archetype?

Washerwomen have a number of functions, as Theon informs the reader in one of his internal monologues. One of those functions is washing clothes. This comes pretty close to the task of mending fabric, although I am the first to warn that GRRM would be explicit about sewing if he wanted us to make a connection to sewing. Maybe we will meet a seamstress in a later Theon POV. (Given the Ironborn slogan, "We do not sow," the pun on sow / sew tells us that Theon is not likely to be the one to repair a cloak or other ragged garment. My money would be on fArya / Jeyne to perform this task.) 

If I had to guess, I would say that a turncloak turns out to be a necessary character for solving a problem: someone who can infiltrate, break barriers and cross boundaries. We see Theon crossing the walls at Winterfell (the sea flowing over the walls, as Bran sees it in his dream), taking Lady Dustin into the crypt after she had been unable to find the door on her own, taking the washerwomen into Ramsay and Jeyne's bedchamber and taking Jeyne over the wall to escape Winterfell. He also infiltrates Moat Cailin, allowing Ramsay to conquer the Ironborn occupants without engaging in combat. I'm wondering whether the foray into the woods around Winterfell to track down the missing Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Jojen and Meera can be undertaken only with Theon Turncloak leading the party? That crossing of that woodland barrier may be unsuccessful only because there is a countervailing force preventing the Turncloak from crossing the barrier: it is my understanding that Hodor has a special power to hold doors.

Elsewhere in this forum, I have pondered the idea that kings guard members (white cloaks) seem to have a special ability to cross boundaries. Maybe the "blank slate" of a white cloak allows these game pieces to move in any direction - like a checker that has reached the "king me" stage on the chessboard and received special powers. That "king me" stage is reached just as the game piece has to change directions; to turn (like a turncloak). But this must mean that gold cloaks (city watch) also have a special cloak power. When they betray Ned in AGoT, are they turncloaks? And then there are wedding ceremonies, where a woman is given a new cloak as a symbol of her transfer from one House to another. 

From a wordplay perspective, I can add one more little anagram clue: turncloak = turn a lock. Maybe a turncloak represents a key, allowing a lock to be opened. 

But why does GRRM set up these related but different deserter / turncloak / oathbreaker / kingslayer terms within one large motif of changing loyalties? What finer distinctions does he want us to see? Or are they all the same thing?

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You become a turncloak once you forsake one allegiance and join another. The Hound was a deserter for abandoning Joffrey and the Lannisters at the Battle of the Blackwater. If he had succeeded in joining Robb, that would have made him a turncloack.

Theon is considered a turncloak because he was aligned with Robb: they grew up together, Theon fought beside Robb, and he went to Pyke as Robb’s envoy. Of course, there is the question of why anyone expected Theon Greyjoy, the heir to the Iron Islands, to value his alliance with the Starks over his own house and kingdom, but that’s another conversation.

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On 2/26/2022 at 12:29 PM, The Bard of Banefort said:

You become a turncloak once you forsake one allegiance and join another. The Hound was a deserter for abandoning Joffrey and the Lannisters at the Battle of the Blackwater. If he had succeeded in joining Robb, that would have made him a turncloack.

Theon is considered a turncloak because he was aligned with Robb: they grew up together, Theon fought beside Robb, and he went to Pyke as Robb’s envoy. Of course, there is the question of why anyone expected Theon Greyjoy, the heir to the Iron Islands, to value his alliance with the Starks over his own house and kingdom, but that’s another conversation.

This is the difference.

Deserter = abandoning your post/duty

Turncloak = joining the enemy

Edited by Foot_Of_The_King
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"Old Nan has been telling you stories again. In truth, the man was an oathbreaker, a deserter from the Night's Watch. No man is more dangerous. The deserter knows his life is forfeit if he is taken, so he will not flinch from any crime, no matter how vile. But you mistake me. The question was not why the man had to die, but why I must do it."
A Game of Thrones - Bran I

I think it is often overlooked just how much of the underlying meaning of the series relates back to the start.

I also think there is an interesting relationship here to be examined between "oath" and "cloth" and that it is one aspect of the larger examination of choice and the relationship between our "inheritance" from our ancestors, both genetic and material, our loyalty, and our own self determination.

The emblematic groups representing "oaths" in ASoIaF are each represented by a color "cloth" which they don when joining the order. Black for the Nights Watch, White for the Kingsguard, and grey for the Maesters.

It is also an easy leap to see the connection to "men of the cloth" being priests irl. Religious peoples of ASoIaF may also fit this mold, worshipers of R'hlor being red, Drowned God's men being green/blue/grey, Septons wear white (and crystals/rainbows), Silent Sisters in grey, and perhaps even the "green" men of the isle of faces.

The importance of family "arms" is also worth noting here. 

"That would look silly. Besides, if a girl can't fight, why should she have a coat of arms?"
Jon shrugged. "Girls get the arms but not the swords. Bastards get the swords but not the arms. I did not make the rules, little sister."

A Game of Thrones - Arya I

We do not get to make the rules, just our own choices.

When we talk about a man's "cloth" and duty, we must also address the family. The Nights Watch replacing a man's family when he joins is repeatedly highlighted, as is the Maester giving up their family name, and the Kingsguard giving up their colors. All swear not to have children.

I believe we get a number of nice metaphors using cloak/cloth and oath/duty.

Jon Snow trading his black cloth for a sheepskin is a great one. The proverbial "wolf in sheep's clothing" who turns his cloak on the surface but not in his heart. Still, Ned's wisdom applies here, he is extremely dangerous, and his duplicity may well have thwarted Mance taking Castle Black. Nor would Jon flinch from any crime, he was ready to kill Mance under a banner of truce when sent to do such as an assassin by the watch, knowing his life would in turn be forfeit. The line between desperate criminal and noble sacrifice can be slim.

Mance has his own oath/cloth story. His Night's Watch oath/cloth were torn (but perhaps not completely lost), and the gaps filled with red silk. And he says he deserts the watch so he can choose what cloth to wear. Unlike many of the Nights Watch, for whom it is a "second chance" due to being criminals of some sort, Mance was basically born into it.

We could even go back to the prologue and note how Royce was mocked for the quality of his cloth, but when push came to shove he died a man of the watch, keeping his oath.

Jaime also provides a great example, with his choice to wear the gold armor when stabbing Aerys in the back, although he does still wear the white cloak:

Jaime reached for the flagon to refill his cup. "So many vows . . . they make you swear and swear. Defend the king. Obey the king. Keep his secrets. Do his bidding. Your life for his. But obey your father. Love your sister. Protect the innocent. Defend the weak. Respect the gods. Obey the laws. It's too much. No matter what you do, you're forsaking one vow or the other." He took a healthy swallow of wine and closed his eyes for an instant, leaning his head back against the patch of nitre on the wall. "I was the youngest man ever to wear the white cloak."
"And the youngest to betray all it stood for, Kingslayer."
"Kingslayer," he pronounced carefully. "And such a king he was!" He lifted his cup. "To Aerys Targaryen, the Second of His Name, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm. And to the sword that opened his throat. A golden sword, don't you know. Until his blood ran red down the blade. Those are the Lannister colors, red and gold."

A Clash of Kings - Catelyn VII

And, as we come to learn, what really caused Jaime to kill Aerys wasn't even loyalty to his father, it was because Aerys planned to have the city burned. I have to think that the end of this line of thinking isn't that because oaths can contradict that they are meaningless, but rather that at the end of the day it's the choices that matter more than the promises/oaths/cloth we wear to show our loyalty. The choice to side with "humanity" over lion or dragon might be Jaime's single biggest redeeming feature.

Basically what we get from all of these examples is that things are more complicated than they may first seem. There may be times when breaking your oath, deserting, or turning your cloak are justified. There may even be times when no matter what you choose you are breaking an oath. The choosing is hard, as Aemon tells Jon.

 And we haven't even gotten to the Maesters yet:

The maester was a small grey man. His eyes were grey, and quick, and saw much. His hair was grey, what little the years had left him. His robe was grey wool, trimmed with white fur, the Stark colors. Its great floppy sleeves had pockets hidden inside. Luwin was always tucking things into those sleeves and producing other things from them: books, messages, strange artifacts, toys for the children. With all he kept hidden in his sleeves, Catelyn was surprised that Maester Luwin could lift his arms at all.
A Game of Thrones - Catelyn II

The Maester's grey cloth, with all it's pockets, is characterized by secrets. And I would hazard to guess there is also an ancient connection to the Nights Watch and House Stark, but I digress.

They are the knights of the mind, and like the knights of the Kingsguard or the nights watch, they share in a purpose larger than themselves, and set aside personal gain to serve that purpose.

But he had not left the Wall for that; he had left because he was after all his father's son, and Robb's brother. The gift of a sword, even a sword as fine as Longclaw, did not make him a Mormont. Nor was he Aemon Targaryen. Three times the old man had chosen, and three times he had chosen honor, but that was him. Even now, Jon could not decide whether the maester had stayed because he was weak and craven, or because he was strong and true. Yet he understood what the old man had meant, about the pain of choosing; he understood that all too well.
A Game of Thrones - Jon IX

Bastards get the swords but not the arms... but perhaps at the end of the day, no matter the cloth you wear or the oaths you swear, what is important is trying to serve something greater than yourself.

Why does Ned have to swing the sword? Because he cast the sentence, and he takes responsibility for his choice and action, and does it in service to justice.

"The blood of the First Men still flows in the veins of the Starks, and we hold to the belief that the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man's life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die."
"One day, Bran, you will be Robb's bannerman, holding a keep of your own for your brother and your king, and justice will fall to you. When that day comes, you must take no pleasure in the task, but neither must you look away."

A Game of Thrones - Bran I

Edited by Mourning Star
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45 minutes ago, Mourning Star said:

I think it is often overlooked just how much of the underlying meaning of the series relates back to the start.

I also think there is an interesting relationship here to be examined between "oath" and "cloth" ... 

Agreed. I turn to those initial POVs with increasing frequency as I dig down into events and hints in the series.

And fantastic catch on oath/cloth. This could help to make sense of a lot of the fabric and sewing symbolism in the books. 

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7 hours ago, Seams said:

Agreed. I turn to those initial POVs with increasing frequency as I dig down into events and hints in the series.

And fantastic catch on oath/cloth. This could help to make sense of a lot of the fabric and sewing symbolism in the books. 

I almost added an entire section about swords/sigils and being one's "father's son". But I found I ended up writing something completely different than what I set out to. Oh well, here it is!

A sigil is an symbol sown on cloth. (I'm taking liberties conflating sowing and stitching, but there it is.) And sowing is done with a needle, which we see used as a metaphor for swords.

"You Westerosi are all the same. You sew some beast upon a scrap of silk, and suddenly you are all lions or dragons or eagles. I can take you to a real lion, my little friend. The prince keeps a pride in his menagerie. Would you like to share a cage with them?"
The lords of the Seven Kingdoms did make rather much of their sigils, Tyrion had to admit. "Very well," he conceded. "A Lannister is not a lion. Yet I am still my father's son, and Jaime and Cersei are mine to kill."
"How odd that you should mention your fair sister," said Illyrio, between snails. "The queen has offered a lordship to the man who brings her your head, no matter how humble his birth."

A Dance with Dragons - Tyrion I

A few immediate takeaways.

The Starks have literal dire wolves and Dany has literal Dragons, the skin shifting talent even allows for them to "be" the animals, in a sense. There is more going on here than just literally sewing sigils on cloth.

The metaphor of sewing a sigil with a needle and carving (creating by force) a kingdom/house with a sword is wonderful.

Cersei offering a lordship (and thus a sigil on a cloth) to the man who swings the sword and beheads Tyrion, regardless of who their father is, plays on this.

The parallels to the Blackfyre plot abound, from sigils to swords. It's worth comparing to Jon's quote about the bastard getting the sword and Mormont giving him a sword not making him his family.

But he had not left the Wall for that; he had left because he was after all his father's son, and Robb's brother. The gift of a sword, even a sword as fine as Longclaw, did not make him a Mormont. Nor was he Aemon Targaryen. Three times the old man had chosen, and three times he had chosen honor, but that was him. Even now, Jon could not decide whether the maester had stayed because he was weak and craven, or because he was strong and true. Yet he understood what the old man had meant, about the pain of choosing; he understood that all too well

We are our choices, not our sword or our sigil or our family or our oaths.

The gift of Blackfyre did not make Aegon a Targaryen, but he was still his father's son.

"A dragon is one thing, a dream's another. I promise you, Bloodraven is not off dreaming. We need a warrior, not a dreamer. Is the boy his father's son?" -The Mystery Knight

This theme is actually used for both Blackfyre and Fireball's son's in The Mystery Knight. We get this lesson from Dunk:

I thought if I showed them all how good I was, they'd have no choice but to admit I was my father's son. But they won't. Even now. They just won't."
"Some never will," Dunk told him. "It doesn't matter what you do. Others, though… they're not all the same. I've met some good ones." He thought a moment. "When the tourney's done, Egg and I mean to go north. Take service at Winterfell, and fight for the Starks against the ironmen. You could come with us." The north was a world all its own, Ser Arlan always said. No one up there was like to know the tale of Penny Jenny and the Knight of the Pussywillows. No one will laugh at you up there. They will know you only by your blade, and judge you by your worth.

Dunk isn't the fastest thinker in the Westeros, and confusing the two basically becomes a plot point:

A jumble of words came rushing back to him: beggar's feast you've laid before us… is the boy his father's son… Bittersteel… need the sword… Old Milkblood expects… is the boy his father's son… I promise you, Bloodraven is not off dreaming… is the boy his father's son?

We do eventually come to the conclusion that the Fiddler is the heir to his father and House Blackfyre. Which is to say, heir to nothing, sword or no.

He does not bear the sword! If he were his father's son, Bittersteel would have armed him with Blackfyre. And all this talk about a dragon… madness, madness and folly.

But, back to the main series.

Ned didn't get the chance to pass on his sword, but if we are being honest, it's passing on his lessons that makes them his "sons" (even if not by blood).

He looks like a Tully, she thought, yet he's still his father's son, and Ned taught him well.

While I'm pretty sure Jon is a Stark, we have reason to believe he isn't Ned's biological son, which makes some of these quotes even better:

Robb and Bran and Rickon were his father's sons, and he loved them still, yet Jon knew that he had never truly been one of them.

He raised Longclaw over his head, both hands tight around the grip. One cut, with all my weight behind it. He could give her a quick clean death, at least. He was his father's son. Wasn't he? Wasn't he?

And this can be contrasted to Jaime and Joff as well:

Remember Jaime at thirteen? If you want the boy to be his father's son, let him play the part.

Where Joff is actually playing the part of being Robert's son.

This theme also includes this wonderful bit which in retrospect screams to us:

"It would have been kinder to leave her with a bastard in her belly," said Tyrion bluntly. The Westerlings stood to lose everything here; their lands, their castle, their very lives. A Lannister always pays his debts.
"Jeyne Westerling is her mother's daughter," said Lord Tywin, "and Robb Stark is his father's son."
This Westerling betrayal did not seem to have enraged his father as much as Tyrion would have expected. Lord Tywin did not suffer disloyalty in his vassals. He had extinguished the proud Reynes of Castamere and the ancient Tarbecks of Tarbeck Hall root and branch when he was still half a boy. The singers had even made a rather gloomy song of it. Some years later, when Lord Farman of Faircastle grew truculent, Lord Tywin sent an envoy bearing a lute instead of a letter. But once he'd heard "The Rains of Castamere" echoing through his hall, Lord Farman gave no further trouble. And if the song were not enough, the shattered castles of the Reynes and Tarbecks still stood as mute testimony to the fate that awaited those who chose to scorn the power of Casterly Rock. "The Crag is not so far from Tarbeck Hall and Castamere," Tyrion pointed out. "You'd think the Westerlings might have ridden past and seen the lesson there."
"Mayhaps they have," Lord Tywin said. "They are well aware of Castamere, I promise you."
"Could the Westerlings and Spicers be such great fools as to believe the wolf can defeat the lion?"
Every once in a very long while, Lord Tywin Lannister would actually threaten to smile; he never did, but the threat alone was terrible to behold. "The greatest fools are ofttimes more clever than the men who laugh at them," he said, and then, "You will marry Sansa Stark, Tyrion. And soon."

A Storm of Swords - Tyrion III

And if that wasn't thick enough, The Hound lays it on even thicker:

"Then I'll take as much gold as I can carry, laugh in his face, and ride off. If he doesn't take me, he'd be wise to kill me, but he won't. Too much his father's son, from what I hear. Fine with me. Either way I win. And so do you, she-wolf. So stop whimpering and snapping at me, I'm sick of it. Keep your mouth shut and do as I tell you, and maybe we'll even be in time for your uncle's bloody wedding."

Jaime goes on to directly give us a parallel to Tywin (Ned could be trusted, Tywin could not):

"My Sworn Brothers were all away, you see, but Aerys liked to keep me close. I was my father's son, so he did not trust me."

And this brings us back to the dragons. Because, I saved the best for last.

"Some truths are hard to hear. Robert was a . . . a good knight . . . chivalrous, brave . . . he spared my life, and the lives of many others . . . Prince Viserys was only a boy, it would have been years before he was fit to rule, and . . . forgive me, my queen, but you asked for truth . . . even as a child, your brother Viserys oft seemed to be his father's son, in ways that Rhaegar never did."
"His father's son?" Dany frowned. "What does that mean?"
The old knight did not blink. "Your father is called 'the Mad King' in Westeros. Has no one ever told you?"
"Viserys did." The Mad King. "The Usurper called him that, the Usurper and his dogs." The Mad King. "It was a lie."
"Why ask for truth," Ser Barristan said softly, "if you close your ears to it?" He hesitated, then continued. "I told you before that I used a false name so the Lannisters would not know that I'd joined you. That was less than half of it, Your Grace. The truth is, I wanted to watch you for a time before pledging you my sword. To make certain that you were not . . ."
". . . my father's daughter?" If she was not her father's daughter, who was she?"

In conclusion, this theme leads me to believe Dany is not the biological daughter of Aerys Targaryen.

Edit:

I think it's no coincidence that the "father's son" quotes surround the Usurper and his dogs.

With that said, I would be remiss if I didn't point out some other uses throughout the story, now that I have come this far. In total, "father's son" appears in 24 sections, 6 of those in The Mystery Knight.

Besides the quotes above, there are some others of note.

"Lord Robb went to visit the godswood, my lady."
It was what Ned would have done. He is his father's son as much as mine, I must remember. Oh, gods, Ned …

A reminder from Cat that a child has two parents;

 "Don't call me the boy," Robb said, rounding on his uncle, his anger spilling out all at once on poor Edmure, who had only meant to support him. "I'm almost a man grown, and a king—your king, ser. And I don't fear Jaime Lannister. I defeated him once, I'll defeat him again if I must, only . . ." He pushed a fall of hair out of his eyes and gave a shake of the head. "I might have been able to trade the Kingslayer for Father, but . . ."
". . . but not for the girls?" Her voice was icy quiet. "Girls are not important enough, are they?"
Robb made no answer, but there was hurt in his eyes. Blue eyes, Tully eyes, eyes she had given him. She had wounded him, but he was too much his father's son to admit it.

And a reminder of the importance of women to the whole baby making process.

He might have cried then, but he couldn't. He was the Stark in Winterfell, his father's son and his brother's heir, and almost a man grown.

Here, as with several places, "father's son" is also tied to being a "man". I would include Aemon's whole "kill the boy" speech.  I would say that a large part of being a "man grown" is about making your own choices.

Yet Edric Storm was three inches taller and broader in the chest and shoulders. He was his father's son in that; nor did he ever miss a morning's work with sword and shield. Those old enough to have known Robert and Renly as children said that the bastard boy had more of their look than Stannis had ever shared; the coal-black hair, the deep blue eyes, the mouth, the jaw, the cheekbones. Only his ears reminded you that his mother had been a Florent.

The bastard son of Robert Baratheon, a house founded by a bastard, Edric Storm is (I would argue) will be the "heir" of Robert. He has been sent into exile so he won't be killed because of his blood.

"This," Qyburn said. "For years now, the Night's Watch has begged for men. Lord Stannis has answered their plea. Can King Tommen do less? His Grace should send the Wall a hundred men. To take the black, ostensibly, but in truth . . ."
". . . to remove Jon Snow from the command," Cersei finished, delighted. I knew I was right to want him on my council. "That is just what we shall do." She laughed. If this bastard boy is truly his father's son, he will not suspect a thing. Perhaps he will even thank me, before the blade slides between his ribs. "It will need to be done carefully, to be sure. Leave the rest to me, my lords." This was how an enemy should be dealt with: with a dagger, not a declaration. "We have done good work today, my lords. I thank you. Is there aught else?"
"One last thing, Your Grace," said Aurane Waters, in an apologetic tone. "I hesitate to take up the council's time with trifles, but there has been some queer talk heard along the docks of late. Sailors from the east. They speak of dragons . . ."

Turncloaks! (See now its all relevant...haha... oops)

And finally, speaking of Turncoats.

Prince Quentyn was listening intently, at least. That one is his father's son. Short and stocky, plain-faced, he seemed a decent lad, sober, sensible, dutiful … but not the sort to make a young girl's heart beat faster. And Daenerys Targaryen, whatever else she might be, was still a young girl, as she herself would claim when it pleased her to play the innocent. Like all good queens she put her people first—else she would never have wed Hizdahr zo Loraq—but the girl in her still yearned for poetry, passion, and laughter. She wants fire, and Dorne sent her mud.
You could make a poultice out of mud to cool a fever. You could plant seeds in mud and grow a crop to feed your children. Mud would nourish you, where fire would only consume you, but fools and children and young girls would choose fire every time.

Quentyn chooses fire!

Edited by Mourning Star
grammer format clarity and added a final section including turncoat relevance
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2 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

I almost added an entire section about swords/sigils and being one's "father's son". But I found I ended up writing something completely different than what I set out to. Oh well, here it is!

This is major! 

I realize that paternity is a major aspect of the Game of Thrones that GRRM has laid out before us, but I hadn't realized how often those phrases are repeated: "my father's son" and "his father's son." When a raven or a human says something three times, we know that GRRM wants us to take note. These father phrases are like bad pennies that keeps coming back, and I never took notice!

Running them through the anagram website they yield a lot of possibilities around roses, honest, farms, myths, moths, fishes, starfish, north, etc. I think these are among the phrases that GRRM has put to use to structure some of the symbolism in the books. (There are other phrases and names like these, such as "trial of seven," where I believe he worked out the possible permutations ahead of time and built stories and plot details around them.) 

I had noticed that Tysha is often referred to as a crofter's daughter. When I ran that phrase through the anagram website, I felt it was a hint for us about "truth." This made me think that finding and marrying Tysha represented Tyrion searching for the Truth. (Which is also the name of a lost Valyrian sword.)

2 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

"Very well," he conceded. "A Lannister is not a lion. Yet I am still my father's son,

Lots of half-baked thoughts in response to this.

We know that Lann the Clever was the founder of House Lannister. I was persuaded a few years ago by a theory that Lann was a woman who infiltrated another House and took over through seduction and childbearing. (The pattern may be repeated when Rohanne Webber marries into House Lannister and becomes the matriarch of the dynasty.) House Baratheon similarly took over the Storm Lord title and House words from House Durrandon. 

So the lion sigil may have been appropriated from another house (Ser Eustace Osgrey's sigil was a chequy lion) and we can get to deeper insights about House Lannister by looking for a symbol other than the lion. 

Interesting that Tyrion has already killed his father at the point that he is insisting that he is still his father's son. I think this could go to the deserter and turncloak topic at the top of the thread. When is it ok to be a turncloak? When your father tells you to do it? Qhorin tells Jon Snow to infiltrate the wildlings by doing whatever it takes to appear to be a turncloak. Is this like Tywin preparing Tyrion to appear to be Joffrey's killer and to escape to Essos? 

Very interesting new possibilities here. I hope your idea doesn't get buried by being a mere comment in this deserter thread. I would encourage you to post it at the top of its own thread to see if it can garner more notice and discussion.

The "Rains of Castamere" song emphasizes that all lions have claws. The "bear" sword that went to Jon Snow, becoming a "wolf" sword, is known as Long Claw. Dragons also have claws. 

 

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Thx Seams Thx for the shout out:) It’s certainly understandable why Gared would have a negative impression of “Ice”. I mean, with the beheading and all. Like you, I just got a flood of new thoughts. I’ll try to organize them and share:) 

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Seams, I think that the distinction that you’re unsure of regarding deserters and turncloaks is the same dichotomy we see throughout the series. Here, I think, we are looking at two opposing halves that make up the whole, like Yin and Yang. I want to say thanks for validating and understanding the point I was making about Gared being a drag component of a mold for casting a sword. (Gared backward is derag a homophone for drag) Your mentioning of turncloak coupled with deserter lead me to conclude that Will from AGOT, Prologue is a turncloak. I looked at the definition to see if I could sparse out anymore details. Here it is- A turncloak is an insider who is maliciously stealing data. In most cases, it’s an employee or contractor – someone who is supposed to be on the network and has legitimate credentials but is abusing their access for fun or profit. So my thoughts are the we have a member of an organization (Night’s Watch) accessing the net (weirwoodnet) abusing their credentials.

 

Quote

 

AGOT, Prologue

”It steals up on you quieter than Will,…”

 

“Will had been a hunter before he joined the Night’s Watch. Well, a poacher in truth. Mallister freeriders had caught him red-handed in the Mallisters’ own woods, skinning one of the Mallisters’ own bucks, and it had been a choice of putting on the black or losing a hand. No one could move through the woods as silent as Will, and it had not taken the black brothers long to discover his talent.”

 

 

And so I think Will is the symbolic cope of the symbolic mold for our sword “Ice”. You’ll remember Widows Wail and Will’s words, like swords as you once pointed out, freeze in his throat and our Lord of Winterfell labeling Gared an oathbreaker. “Ice”, later re-forged into both Oathkeeper and Widows Wail. Makes a great impression in the sand of our mold. Thus, an inverse parallel or negative impression.

 

And I very much agree with red trees being an anagram of deserter. However:) there’s a more famous “tree son”. Though, of coarse, Bran is Ned’s Tree son. But I’m thinking of Adonis. His mother Myrrha is symbolized by the gnarled ironwood(pregnant tree) in the prologue. And Waymar’s wet nurse makes a very good Aphrodite. Myrrha a tree that secretes a resin used in perfume associated with death.

 

Quote

“Half-buried in bloodstained snow, a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had formed in its shaggy grey fur, and the faint smell of corruption clung to it like a woman’s perfume.”(AGOT, Bran 1)

 

And I think you’ve made the connection before with King’s Justice and Just “Ice” as the sword. They both come down on Gared.

 

Your comment about Mormont sparing Jon after his desertion attempt making him into a turncloak when he joins Mance is spot on in my opinion:)

 

Then you mention Jon finding the cache of obsidian in a bundle buried in loose soil or sand. I’m excited to mention that sand is used in the molds when casting a sword. But it seems reversed. In casting, the cope contains the sand which has the negative impression of the sword.

 

And your comparison of Theon and Gared as maimed or broken lines up with the idea of breaking the mold. Like what happens after the casting.

 

And your ragged, dragged, dagger in Gared associations are good but you have to bring Will into it for the dagger part:) However, I’ve been struggling with the fabric motif. Needles, threading, rag etc. did you have something on that I haven’t read?

 

Ahhhh:) are you saying that Waymar’s sable cloak, where he …“ twisted their little heads off“…is a play on words? Twisted cloak, turncloak? Nice!!

But now maybe I’m confused:) If Waymar is the turncloak ….? I’ll need to think some more:)

And I would agree that cloak and daggers are like Yin and Yang. Just like drag and cope. Remember also that Waymar’s sable cloak was “as soft as sin”. “As sin” or “Nissa spelled backwards”. This would seem to lead into another motif about assassin. “Ass” “assin”. I wrote a small essay about “ass” and Uranus. I liked it but didn’t get much feedback.

One more loose thought, Waymar Sword(martensite) 

  1. Quote

    Martensite- a metastable microconstituent of any of various forms of carbon steel, produced by undercooling sufficiently below the normal transformation temperature, especially a hard, brittle product of the decomposition of austenite, produced in this way.

    It’s why his sword shattered. 
     

    And Waymar’s sable cloak(sable- a fury little marten)

    Quote

    Marten- 

    any of several slender, chiefly arboreal carnivores of the genus Martes, of northern forests, having a long, glossy coat and bushy tail.
    the fur of such an animal, generally a dark brown.

     

     

    Waymar’s Cloak and dagger, end up being some form of Martin. Not a coincidence I’m sure.

Lastly, love the turncloak = turn a lock

Thx again Seams, these are just my initial thoughts I’ve got more thinking to do:)

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Morning Star. Those are some very insightful thoughts. I simply can’t digest the stuff that fast. Cloth/Oath. My initial thoughts are of threading, needles, Eye of the needle. To rag(verb) someone using words to inflict harm. And derag (Gared backwards) can be “de” meaning "out of" or "away from." A rag is a small cloth torn out of a larger cloth. Torn/sworn seem to be antonyms here. To be a sworn brother of the Night‘s Watch would be to become ‘part of’. Torn, as in cloth, is a rag.  By definition rag and tatter line up well with Waymar’s cloths. 

The definition of tatter- A person who does tatting, or make (knotted lace) by tatting. Skin changing? I am rambling :-) I’ll try to organize my thoughts better in another post.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 2/26/2022 at 12:35 PM, Seams said:

I think GRRM wants us to see a distinction between deserters and turncloaks, but I'm not yet sure what difference he intends. 

A Night's Watch deserter is an oathbreaker, and we know that there is a motif around oathkeepers and oathbreakers. But Jaime is considered to be an oathbreaker for killing Aerys and he is widely known as The Kingslayer, adding another layer of meaning to the deserter / turncloak / oathbreaker set of (related? distinct?) symbols. 

"Deserter" as an anagram of "red trees" was one of my earlier guesses about the author's use of wordplay to drop hints and to tie symbols together. Much later, I realized that Ned Stark commits treason and he also has a "tree son" (I'm thinking Bran) who become increasingly important in the story. 

The punishment for desertion (from the Night's Watch) is death, as we learn from Gared's fate in the first Bran POV in AGoT. The punishment is carried out in the name of the King's Justice and is inflicted (in Gared's case) by the sword Ice. 

In the last Jon POV of AGoT, Jon Snow is spared from being beheaded after his desertion attempt. Instead of beheading him, Jeor Mormont gives him a Valyrian steel sword and grants his wish to become a Ranger. Ned takes a hard line with deserters (and with Ser Jorah, who sold poachers into slavery), following the letter of the law; Jeor Mormont takes a lenient view of deserters and opts to forego that King's Justice. 

While on that ranging adventure, Jeor arranges for Jon Snow to be in the right place (The Fist) at the right time (full moon under the comet) with the right direwolf and "blood". While these elements are aligned, Jon Snow finds the obsidian cache hidden in a bundle in loose sand. That bundle is an old Night's Watch cloak and it must be turned before Jon Snow can open it. 

In the world of literary analysis, Jeor Mormont was setting Jon up to become a turncloak; he wanted Jon to find the obsidian cache and finding it involved turning a cloak.

But the "turncloak" label is most closely associated with Theon, who delivers a POV under that name during his return to Winterfell for Ramsay's wedding. Like Gared, Theon has been badly maimed. Unlike Gared, Theon has not been beheaded. (Although he was the one to kick Gared's severed head after Ned severed the deserter's neck in Bran I.) 

A lot of this thinking was motivated by the recent good catch by Nadden, posted in the Puns and Wordplay thread. He/She/They noted that Ned used a "swatch" of oiled leather to clean the sword Ice after the beheading of Gared. This led to an exploration of the rags and tatters that are part of the fabric motif. "Ragged," in turn, ties into "dragged" and (I believe) "dagger" and "Gared." 

The discussion of rags and tatters also ties into the cloak symbolism, as Gared had a lot of thoughts about Ser Waymar's sable cloak that, he speculated, was made after Ser Waymar personally twisted the heads off of each fur-bearing animal that comprised the fabric.

It seems as if cloaks and daggers are paired but they function as opposites: cloaks can "smother" daggers when the blades are wrapped in a bundle; daggers (and other blades) can pierce cloaks when used as a weapon to stab someone wearing a cloak. 

(Aside: Remember how Samwell Tarly showed up at the Night's Watch with his own armor, but was told that he had to wear Night's Watch-issued armor instead of his own custom-made set? Why was Ser Waymar allowed to keep his splendid cloak after taking his vow if Sam had to give up his personal attire?)

Nadden's insights about cloaks and daggers also included a fantastic insight about the molds used to turn molten metal into a blade: a "drag" is the bottom half of the mold and a "cope" is the top half. "Cope" is also the name for a cloak worn by a bishop, so this brought us back to the cloak symbolism. 

Back to the original point (pardon the pun): is there a distinction between a deserter and a turncloak? 

We are told that Mance is a deserter. He deserts after his cloak is torn and then mended. He likes the mended cloak better than the original, plain black cloak so he becomes the King Beyond the Wall. Does he see himself as a deserter? A turncloak?

I just did a search on "turncloak" in the Theon POVs and I'm seeing a possibility that Theon IS Bael / Mance in the ADwD chapters at Winterfell. We know that the washerwomen were sent with the glamored Mance / Bael (Able) yet we never see Able "onstage" and only hear about him indirectly. Instead, we see a lot of Theon interacting with the washerwomen (especially in his turncloak identity) and Theon bringing about the escape of fArya (Jeyne Poole), which was the mission Mance was supposed to undertake. 

This could reinforce the idea of Mance as deserter and Theon as turncloak - are they two aspects of the same archetype?

Washerwomen have a number of functions, as Theon informs the reader in one of his internal monologues. One of those functions is washing clothes. This comes pretty close to the task of mending fabric, although I am the first to warn that GRRM would be explicit about sewing if he wanted us to make a connection to sewing. Maybe we will meet a seamstress in a later Theon POV. (Given the Ironborn slogan, "We do not sow," the pun on sow / sew tells us that Theon is not likely to be the one to repair a cloak or other ragged garment. My money would be on fArya / Jeyne to perform this task.) 

If I had to guess, I would say that a turncloak turns out to be a necessary character for solving a problem: someone who can infiltrate, break barriers and cross boundaries. We see Theon crossing the walls at Winterfell (the sea flowing over the walls, as Bran sees it in his dream), taking Lady Dustin into the crypt after she had been unable to find the door on her own, taking the washerwomen into Ramsay and Jeyne's bedchamber and taking Jeyne over the wall to escape Winterfell. He also infiltrates Moat Cailin, allowing Ramsay to conquer the Ironborn occupants without engaging in combat. I'm wondering whether the foray into the woods around Winterfell to track down the missing Bran, Rickon, Hodor, Jojen and Meera can be undertaken only with Theon Turncloak leading the party? That crossing of that woodland barrier may be unsuccessful only because there is a countervailing force preventing the Turncloak from crossing the barrier: it is my understanding that Hodor has a special power to hold doors.

Elsewhere in this forum, I have pondered the idea that kings guard members (white cloaks) seem to have a special ability to cross boundaries. Maybe the "blank slate" of a white cloak allows these game pieces to move in any direction - like a checker that has reached the "king me" stage on the chessboard and received special powers. That "king me" stage is reached just as the game piece has to change directions; to turn (like a turncloak). But this must mean that gold cloaks (city watch) also have a special cloak power. When they betray Ned in AGoT, are they turncloaks? And then there are wedding ceremonies, where a woman is given a new cloak as a symbol of her transfer from one House to another. 

From a wordplay perspective, I can add one more little anagram clue: turncloak = turn a lock. Maybe a turncloak represents a key, allowing a lock to be opened. 

But why does GRRM set up these related but different deserter / turncloak / oathbreaker / kingslayer terms within one large motif of changing loyalties? What finer distinctions does he want us to see? Or are they all the same thing?

Beautifully thought out, as always Seams. 

Maybe there is more to be found in looking at other turncloaks and deserters? 

We have Theon & Jaime who are renowned for turning. Jon who tries to desert & then later is accused of turning cloak. 

Mance who can be argued turned cloak & deserted. 

What about Robb, who turned cloak against the crown or Robert who did the same thing. Though this is probably better labeled as rebelling, so maybe no connection. But they did attempt (successfully in Robert's case) to over throw or turn over power of the realm. 

Walder Frey who turned cloak against the Starks.

Sandor deserted, not only his post, but also the crown all together. 

Very interesting stuff. 

 

 

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On 3/1/2022 at 4:52 PM, Mourning Star said:

The metaphor of sewing a sigil with a needle and carving (creating by force) a kingdom/house with a sword is wonderful.

Excellent post. 

What do you make of Arya being the wielder of "needle" ? 

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On 3/18/2022 at 10:07 AM, Lyanna<3Rhaegar said:

Excellent post. 

What do you make of Arya being the wielder of "needle" ? 

I'm not sure I can make and hard earthshattering predictions here... but I would look back to the start of the story first:

"You had best run back to your room, little sister. Septa Mordane will surely be lurking. The longer you hide, the sterner the penance. You'll be sewing all through winter. When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers."

It's easy to see how this is the metaphorical "needle", aka a sword, being used to describe Arya's future. She'll still be wielding the sword come spring.

This is compared to the alternative, sowing a sigil, or making a House. Which dovetails well with the other easy pun here. "Sowing" as in planting seeds. Made most obvious in the Greyjoy saying, "we do not sow". It even fits with all the penis/sword comparisons tbh.

I think we see that Arya, consciously or not, has traded a "ladies" future of sowing and babies for that of the sword. (One might note that Bran seems to have lost both his ability to have children and use a sword, but I digress).

Jon chuckled. "Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister. Wed Tully to Stark in your arms."
"A wolf with a fish in its mouth?" It made her laugh. "That would look silly. Besides, if a girl can't fight, why should she have a coat of arms?"
Jon shrugged. "Girls get the arms but not the swords. Bastards get the swords but not the arms. I did not make the rules, little sister."

It is also worth noting that it is the gift of the sword (and Arya practicing her "sowing") that results in her loosing her Direwolf, her family "arms".

As for looking to the future... Will Arya lose her ability to have children to the House of White and Black? Will she be required somehow to give up the sword in exchange for getting her "arms" back? Will she come to learn mercy over vengeance? Will there be a play on the "true seeing" and "opening your third eye", ? Time will tell.

I think these metaphors very much spill over from one arc to the next, and often important meanings are given in one plot arc that are relevant to another. This theme of swords/needles and sowing seed/sigils/swordplay is a fantastic one that pops up repeatedly.

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21 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

I'm not sure I can make and hard earthshattering predictions here... but I would look back to the start of the story first:

"You had best run back to your room, little sister. Septa Mordane will surely be lurking. The longer you hide, the sterner the penance. You'll be sewing all through winter. When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers."

It's easy to see how this is the metaphorical "needle", aka a sword, being used to describe Arya's future. She'll still be wielding the sword come spring.

This is compared to the alternative, sowing a sigil, or making a House. Which dovetails well with the other easy pun here. "Sowing" as in planting seeds. Made most obvious in the Greyjoy saying, "we do not sow". It even fits with all the penis/sword comparisons tbh.

I think we see that Arya, consciously or not, has traded a "ladies" future of sowing and babies for that of the sword. (One might note that Bran seems to have lost both his ability to have children and use a sword, but I digress).

Agreed. She may not be having babies, but may she be creating a house via sword? 

21 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

Jon chuckled. "Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister. Wed Tully to Stark in your arms."
"A wolf with a fish in its mouth?" It made her laugh. "That would look silly. Besides, if a girl can't fight, why should she have a coat of arms?"
Jon shrugged. "Girls get the arms but not the swords. Bastards get the swords but not the arms. I did not make the rules, little sister."

It is also worth noting that it is the gift of the sword (and Arya practicing her "sowing") that results in her loosing her Direwolf, her family "arms".

As for looking to the future... Will Arya lose her ability to have children to the House of White and Black? Will she be required somehow to give up the sword in exchange for getting her "arms" back? Will she come to learn mercy over vengeance? Will there be a play on the "true seeing" and "opening your third eye", ? Time will tell.

I think these metaphors very much spill over from one arc to the next, and often important meanings are given in one plot arc that are relevant to another. This theme of swords/needles and sowing seed/sigils/swordplay is a fantastic one that pops up repeatedly.

yes, or maybe she will break the wheel & keep her sword & get her arms back. tHoB&W is trying to get her to let go of her sword & her arms but thus far she has not cooperated in that manner. I don't see GRRM as a writer that would allow a character to have their cake & eat it too but I think it's pretty clear she will not remain at tHoB&W. She will gain the knowledge & skills she can from them & then leave in some manner, with her needle. But will she be able to carve her house as well? 

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55 minutes ago, Lyanna<3Rhaegar said:

yes, or maybe she will break the wheel & keep her sword & get her arms back. tHoB&W is trying to get her to let go of her sword & her arms but thus far she has not cooperated in that manner. I don't see GRRM as a writer that would allow a character to have their cake & eat it too but I think it's pretty clear she will not remain at tHoB&W. She will gain the knowledge & skills she can from them & then leave in some manner, with her needle. But will she be able to carve her house as well? 

"breaking the wheel" isn't a thing in the books and doesn't fit with the rest of the story in the least. If anything, the seasons in the story represent a broken wheel in need of mending, not whatever breaking the wheel is supposed to mean.

The story is all about hard choices, and getting everything doesn't fit that mold.

I agree that she will not remain in the House of White and Black, the question I have is how far will she get before she leaves and on what terms. How much will she have given up by then? I think the "giving one's seed" in exchange for power is a common theme of sacrifice in the series and we might see it reflected in Arya's story here.

I agree she will take her needle, and her identity, and her self determination (metaphorically her ability to "sow" her own fate, if you will) with her when she leaves. Will she have the power to change faces too? I'm not so sure.

I'm a believer that Syrio was a faceless man the whole time, and the same one as Jaqen. I wouldn't be surprised if he was there to kill Ned, and learning this might be what precipitates Arya's departure. If I had to guess, the real Syrio Forrel died trying to defend the Sealord of Braavos who signed Viserys's marriage pact, and Phario Forel knows this.

But obviously I'm speculating wildly.

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10 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

breaking the wheel" isn't a thing in the books and doesn't fit with the rest of the story in the least. If anything, the seasons in the story represent a broken wheel in need of mending, not whatever breaking the wheel is supposed to mean.

No, I know. I was just being facetious & using the phrase to mean maybe Arya will be outside of the norm & have her arms & her sword. 

 

10 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

The story is all about hard choices, and getting everything doesn't fit that mold.

Certainly not, but she wouldn't have everything still. She has experienced true hardship & loss. I wouldn't feel as if she was getting everything if she was able to have arms & sword. 

 

10 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

agree she will take her needle, and her identity, and her self determination (metaphorically her ability to "sow" her own fate, if you will) with her when she leaves. Will she have the power to change faces too? I'm not so sure.

Yeah, I'm not sure about that either. If I had to guess, I would think not. 

 

10 hours ago, Mourning Star said:

I'm a believer that Syrio was a faceless man the whole time, and the same one as Jaqen. I wouldn't be surprised if he was there to kill Ned, and learning this might be what precipitates Arya's departure. If I had to guess, the real Syrio Forrel died trying to defend the Sealord of Braavos who signed Viserys's marriage pact, and Phario Forel knows this.

Interesting theory. I'm not sure I buy it but wouldn't mind if it turned out this way. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/21/2022 at 4:12 PM, Mourning Star said:

I'm not sure I can make and hard earthshattering predictions here... but I would look back to the start of the story first:

"You had best run back to your room, little sister. Septa Mordane will surely be lurking. The longer you hide, the sterner the penance. You'll be sewing all through winter. When the spring thaw comes, they will find your body with a needle still locked tight between your frozen fingers."

It's easy to see how this is the metaphorical "needle", aka a sword, being used to describe Arya's future. She'll still be wielding the sword come spring.

This is compared to the alternative, sowing a sigil, or making a House. Which dovetails well with the other easy pun here. "Sowing" as in planting seeds. Made most obvious in the Greyjoy saying, "we do not sow". It even fits with all the penis/sword comparisons tbh.

I think we see that Arya, consciously or not, has traded a "ladies" future of sowing and babies for that of the sword. (One might note that Bran seems to have lost both his ability to have children and use a sword, but I digress).

Jon chuckled. "Perhaps you should do the same thing, little sister. Wed Tully to Stark in your arms."
"A wolf with a fish in its mouth?" It made her laugh. "That would look silly. Besides, if a girl can't fight, why should she have a coat of arms?"
Jon shrugged. "Girls get the arms but not the swords. Bastards get the swords but not the arms. I did not make the rules, little sister."

It is also worth noting that it is the gift of the sword (and Arya practicing her "sowing") that results in her loosing her Direwolf, her family "arms".

As for looking to the future... Will Arya lose her ability to have children to the House of White and Black? Will she be required somehow to give up the sword in exchange for getting her "arms" back? Will she come to learn mercy over vengeance? Will there be a play on the "true seeing" and "opening your third eye", ? Time will tell.

I think these metaphors very much spill over from one arc to the next, and often important meanings are given in one plot arc that are relevant to another. This theme of swords/needles and sowing seed/sigils/swordplay is a fantastic one that pops up repeatedly.

What are your thoughts on Arya fitting the role of the Last hero? Your comments on Arya's losing her sword made me recall this theory. 

Notice what happens here to the Last Hero's sword:

Quote

"Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken these lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch. So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds—"

The reference to Nymeria when old nan mentions crossing the Narrow sea. Foreshadowing a similar exodus from Westeros when the Long Night arrives? Nymeria is an obvious link to Arya. Hollow Hills? Like the one Arya visits when she meets the Ghost of High Heart. Arya is sometimes cloaked in CoTF descriptions in the books. I often wonder why…? The dog the last hero is travelling with is probably The Hound who might die to protect her from the WW.

Quote

and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped

Dragonglass or Valyrian steel wouldn not do that. But regular castle forged steel might. Is it her Needle? In the Outline George had Arya fighting the Others with her Needle.

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“the faces in the trees kept watch.”

Where is the last place in Westeros where the trees are keeping watch? The Isle of Faces. If Arya is the "grey girl on a dying horse" the correct journey would put her along the Gods Eyes and that would take her to The Isle of Faces. The Last Hero is searching for the CoTF and their secret cities and almost gives up. Perhaps with the help of Bran (who is already watching her through her wolfdreams in Braavos) he might be guiding her on the journey at that point. 

Now that finally brings me to the pale white spiders stalking the Last Hero: There is only one place (other than the original passage from Bran's chapter) that mentions something similar pale white spiders:

The Old thin man Cat of the Canals has to kill.

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The old man did not smile back. He scowled at her and went on past, sloshing through a puddle. The splash wet her feet.

He has no courtesy, she thought, watching him go. His face is hard and mean. The old man's nose was pinched and sharp, his lips thin, his eyes small and close-set. His hair had gone to grey, but the little pointed beard at the end of his chin was still black. Cat thought it must be dyed and wondered why he had not dyed his hair as well. One of his shoulders was higher than the other, giving him a crooked cast.

"He is an evil man," she announced that evening when she returned to the House of Black and White. "His lips are cruel, his eyes are mean, and he has a villain's beard."

The old man's hands were the worst thing about him, Cat decided the next day, as she watched him from behind her barrow. His fingers were long and bony, always moving, scratching at his beard, tugging at an ear, drumming on a table, twitching, twitching, twitching. He has hands like two white spiders. The more she watched his hands, the more she came to hate them.

 

Arya poisons him with an iron coin that stops his heart.

Perhaps the Last Hero does something similar, killing these pale white spiders (wights) with something that is poisonous to them i.e. Dragonglass? Valyrian steel? Dark Sister? Catspaw?

Also the description of the old man is very reminiscent of a spider and I think that was deliberate.

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