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2 hours ago, Edgar Allen Poemont said:

I think that’s an idea that makes a great deal of sense, too. It’s improbable that Ice is the original heirloom sword of the Starks, given that it is Valyrian steel.

It seems a likely explanation to me.  I've also speculated that true sword Ice is in the crypts with the crown of the Kings of Winter.  That sword being possibly of a magical nature opposite to fire.  So that sword also had a stand-in called Ice.  Because the name of the sword is peculiar and conjures up images of the icy swords made by the Others.

But I doubt anyone in Westeros had a valyrian steel sword before the arrival of the Andals.  How they were acquired is subject to the imagination.  

It could be that House Mormont recieved it in exchange for loyalty.  It could be that an Andal ancestor married into a Northern family and brought the sword with them.   There is a similar alliance with the Thenn of the Magnar and Alice Karstark.  Magnar being and old form of the word king.  

There is some broken records concerning dragonsteel and the long night.  So if it was present during the war with the Night King; that puts a question mark around the dating of that Long Night. I've wondered if the 13th LC was the 13th from the time the Wall was raised or the 13th after the arrival of Andals at the Wall when record keeping began presumably.

I've wondered if Joramund was an Andal who went over to the Wildlings in that conflict.

Edited by LynnS
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On 5/12/2022 at 4:57 AM, LynnS said:

I wonder if Jorah, Joer and Tormund have a common ancestor in Joramund.  ...  Tormund boasts of mating with bears ...  Perhaps Joramund gave the horn to one son and the sword to another and they ended up on opposite sides of the Wall and handed down that way.

I think you're onto something.

I also think that we need to look at Craster and Jeor Mormont as a pair of kings. It's never quite clear what the distinctions are among the King of Winter, King Beyond the Wall and King in the North. I suspect that Mance, Craster and Lord Commander Mormont are all pieces of the puzzle, but Tormund (who Jon Snow mistakes for Mance Rayder when he first enter's Mance's tent) is probably also part of the symbolic king constellation. The paired kings would also fit with the Gendel and Gorne story.

We know from Jon's conversation with Lord Commander Mormont that Jeor was aware of the baby sacrifices made by Craster but he (and the Night's Watch) have allowed the practice to continue. I think GRRM also wants us to see service in the Night's Watch as similar to Craster's baby sacrifices: of all people, Ser Alliser Thorne gets upset about young recruits with no training in the use of swords, being sent out to slaughter and certain death beyond the wall.

When Jon Snow arrives at Craster's compound, we are told that there are two skulls at the entrance: a bear and a ram. I assume that the bear represents Jeor and the ram represents Craster. The two men will die together in the same insurrection by Night's Watch traitors.

I am also intrigued by Craster requesting an axe from the Night's Watch and Jeor giving his own axe (which is carried by Dolorous Edd, who is a symbolic Ned Stark). Dolorous Edd complains about giving a weapon to Craster and makes a kind of "hell in a handbasket" remark. A scene with Asha Greyjoy tells us that an axe can represent a husband (also shown in Areo Hotah's relationship with his weapon). So I'm not sure whether the delivery of the axe represents a symbolic marriage between Jeor and Craster, or some other kind of bond. Maybe it's like the Ironborn game in the scene with Asha, where an axe is thrown and must be caught in midair. (Hmm. "Thrown" and "throne." Seems like a pair.) Before Jon Snow ventures beyond the fist to find the obsidian cache, he sees Grenn chopping wood with an axe.

Also at Craster's compound, we are told that Mance sent a messenger to Craster when he was trying to organize the free folk into a united front. To show his disdain for Mance's claim to be the King Beyond the Wall, Craster cut out the messenger's tongue and nailed it to the wall of his compound. This is similar to King Aerys cutting out the tongue of Ser Ilyn when Ser Ilyn said that Tywin was the real ruler of Westeros. Is Craster supposed to be like Aerys?

Craster is stabbed by a guy named Dirk. Asha Greyjoy told Theon that her axe is her wedded husband and her dirk (a small knife) is her suckling babe.

I have to run but I'll try to come back to this thread later.

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5 hours ago, Seams said:

I also think that we need to look at Craster and Jeor Mormont as a pair of kings. It's never quite clear what the distinctions are among the King of Winter, King Beyond the Wall and King in the North. I suspect that Mance, Craster and Lord Commander Mormont are all pieces of the puzzle, but Tormund (who Jon Snow mistakes for Mance Rayder when he first enter's Mance's tent) is probably also part of the symbolic king constellation. The paired kings would also fit with the Gendel and Gorne story.

I hadn't thought of it this way before. But I like it.

6 hours ago, Seams said:

We know from Jon's conversation with Lord Commander Mormont that Jeor was aware of the baby sacrifices made by Craster but he (and the Night's Watch) have allowed the practice to continue. I think GRRM also wants us to see service in the Night's Watch as similar to Craster's baby sacrifices: of all people, Ser Alliser Thorne gets upset about young recruits with no training in the use of swords, being sent out to slaughter and certain death beyond the wall.

When Jon Snow arrives at Craster's compound, we are told that there are two skulls at the entrance: a bear and a ram. I assume that the bear represents Jeor and the ram represents Craster. The two men will die together in the same insurrection by Night's Watch traitors.

This is interesting.   Both of these house totems mark the entry to Craster's Keep.  There has been speculation that the keep was once a Night Watch outpost.   What do we make of Mance's tent of white bearskin and great elk antler?

 

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20 hours ago, Seams said:

So I'm not sure whether the delivery of the axe represents a symbolic marriage between Jeor and Craster, or some other kind of bond.

Coming back to the idea of Mormont and Craster as a pair of kings; I did a bit of research on the bear and ram totems and they both represent kingship in folklore.  The bear is considered the king of the wood in some cultures and the ram as the horned god in others.  We have a reference to the Horned Lord as one of the Kings beyond the Wall.  Horned god/lord can be depicted with antlers or ram's horns.

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The Horned God represents the male part of the religion's duotheistic theological system, the consort of the female Triple goddess of the Moon or other Mother goddess.[2] In common Wiccan belief, he is associated with nature, wilderness, sexuality, hunting, and the life cycle.[3]: 32–34  Whilst depictions of the deity vary, he is always shown with either horns or antlers upon his head, often depicted as being theriocephalic (having a beast's head), in this way emphasizing "the union of the divine and the animal", the latter of which includes humanity.[4]: 11 

It's association with the mother godess/Morrigan and fertility seems to be in Craster's bailiwick.

Horned God - Wikipedia

And also with the recurring theme of holly and oak kings.

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In traditional Wicca (British Traditional Wicca), he is generally regarded as a dualistic god of twofold aspects: bright and dark, night and day, summer and winter, the Oak King and the Holly King. In this dualistic view, his two horns symbolize, in part, his dual nature.

 

And also again with the holly and oak kings.

The bear totem is also associated in the celtic tradition with King Arthur/Arctorius.

The Bear God | Celtic Bear | Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (druidry.org)

Mormont and Craster, bear and ram may represent a kind of brotherhood:

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The bear has been worshipped, probably as a brother, for many thousands of years. In this it can probably be said to be the oldest human-animal relationship. It can be seen why the bear is regarded as a Brother

.

 

Edited by LynnS
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There is a lot to mull over in both your responses @Seams and @LynnS. I really like the mention of the skulls outside Craster’s Keep. I’m not sure if it was meant as foreshadowing or symbolism or both. I definitely agree they are both “kings” in a sense. I wrote quite a bit on a thread called For the Watch back in 2017 about Jon in regards to his position as LC. I believe the authority of the LC is akin to that of a king within the confines of the Wall and the Gift. I actually think GRRM is paralleling it somewhat with the Prince of Dorne, not quite a king in title but different than a lord. The Wall is dependent on the Realm but does not swear fealty to it and the “law” ends at the Wall. The LC is the highest authority within those boundaries. That is why the Jeor is able to decide his own penalties, in regards to Jon and any other members of the Watch. I think he does so judiciously.

Craster, however is beyond the Wall and beyond any sense of law or authority. He is free (folk) to name himself king and has done so. He rules only his keep and his authority is limited to it but there is no denying he is king of his castle. His keep, his rules. These ideas  are part of a larger framework I’ve been thinking about for awhile, but in brief, I think Craster also represents a distorted version of a King. If Winter really lasted for a generation or more and Cold and Death and Fear took physical form, what choices would a King need to make to ensure the survival of his people? What realities would they need to face to survive? Murder, Cannibalism, Incest, almost  certainly, would all happen. Men would become more and more expendable, simply from a biological perspective but also a resource perspective.
I think Craster has taken a few of the hard choices a King would need to consider and made them the only considerations because he is ultimately self serving and only truly concerned for his own survival. He is a false king, a Crass Stark, but he is no Bastard. I think we are also meant to compare him to Aerys because Aerys’ motivations and actions are equally as distorted.

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11 hours ago, LynnS said:

What do we make of Mance's tent of white bearskin and great elk antler?

There is definitely something to this, too. I think Mance is symbolizing his intent and his purpose as King of the Wildlings. The white bear skin makes me think of Jeor, but also Varamyr and his snow bear; an unwilling recipient of  Varamyr’s power. The great elk horn makes me think of Coldhands and also one of Haggon’s lessons to Varamyr: 

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Other beasts were best left alone, the hunter had declared. Cats were vain and cruel, always ready to turn on you. Elk and deer were prey; wear their skins too long, and even the bravest man became a coward. Bears, boars, badgers, weasels … Haggon did not hold with such. "Some skins you never want to wear, boy. You won't like what you'd become."

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In brief, I think Mance sees himself as a protector, father and brother figure to the Wildlings and symbolizes that with the white bear skin, but also sees his people as a great elk herd, in a sense and puts the needs of the herd at the top of the tent, so to speak.

Thank you for the mythology links, @LynnS. I hope to find time to read them later today.

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3 minutes ago, Edgar Allen Poemont said:

There is definitely something to this, too. I think Mance is symbolizing his intent and his purpose as King of the Wildlings. The white bear skin makes me think of Jeor, but also Varamyr and his snow bear; an unwilling recipient of  Varamyr’s power. The great elk horn makes me think of Coldhands and also one of Haggon’s lessons to Varamyr: 

There may be more religious significance to white bear skin and elm antlers.  Val also returns wearing white bear skin and wierwood clasp in the shape of the moon.

I'm also reminded that Mormont's house is not built like other keeps.  It's a longhouse with a carved wooden statue of a mother and child at it's door.  It's an upscale version of Craster's keep.

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2 hours ago, LynnS said:

There may be more religious significance to white bear skin and elm antlers.  Val also returns wearing white bear skin and wierwood clasp in the shape of the moon.

I'm also reminded that Mormont's house is not built like other keeps.  It's a longhouse with a carved wooden statue of a mother and child at it's door.  It's an upscale version of Craster's keep.

Excellent connection, because if the white bear skin does represent a protective spirit, it would need to incorporate the feminine spirit as well as the masculine spirit to be a more fully effective energy. An interesting connection the home of House Mormont brings to mind for me is the longhouse of the Iroquois, native to my home state of New York. The Iroquois were a matrilineal society where descent and family ties were traced through the mother. I think House Mormont traditionally was, as well and still retains some of that tradition and so do some of the Wildlings.

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5 minutes ago, Edgar Allen Poemont said:

I think House Mormont traditionally was, as well and still retains some of that tradition and so do some of the Wildlings.

I get this sense as well.  Maege Mormont and her daughters seem a force unto themselves.  They are taken seriously as warriors and Maege commands respect among her male peers..

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On the Craster / Mance / Jeor relationship, we should think about Gilly's baby (Craster's baby) ending up with Val and Dalla's baby (Mance's baby) ending up with Gilly. GRRM is doing something with interchangeable babies (see also Grumkins) so the switched babies of Craster and of the Night's Watch deserter are definitely clues about the relationship. Are they both princes? How does Ser Jorah fit in this analysis of the three kings and their sons?

As for Mance's white bearskin tent, aren't white bearskins associated with Val and Dalla? Could the tent be the tent of the women, not Mance's tent? If so, I think we need to consider that the people in the tent are a litter of cubs - sort of like Tormund crawling into the body of a sleeping giant who then mistakes him for her baby. It will be Val who later rides out and retrieves Tormund, at Jon's request, right? This could be another symbolic "delivery" of a baby. And the giant Wun Wun becomes Val's protector (lover?) against Ser Patrek, the Queen's Man (Selyse's loyalist). Is this further evidence of Val as a giant?

There are a lot of details, but the evidence seems to point to Tormund as "King 2.0," successor to the title after "Mance" (Rattleshirt) dies in Melisandre's fire and Craster and Mormont are killed by the Night's Watch traitors. On the other hand, Jon Snow becomes the successor to Jeor Mormont as Lord Commander. Jon has the added mojo of being the next-of-kin to BenJen Stark and (readers suspect) Maester Aemon. (Aemon is also part of the king game in this northern cluster because he could have been the Targaryen heir but deferred to his brother, Egg.) Because of the thematic ties between Mance and Rhaegar, Jon may also be the "heir" of Mance. The point may be that one generation of kings gives way to the next generation - Tormund and Jon Snow together become the Winter King / King in the North / King Beyond the Wall. Maybe Sam completes the hat trick. 

In contrast with the white bearskin tent, there is an important set of symbols around Jon Snow creating a tent for himself, Sam Tarly and the direwolf Ghost. He uses his cloak (black, of course) and creates a sort of lean-to against a rock wall but manages to start a little fire to keep warm. When he wakes up in the morning, the frozen rain has created a layer of ice on his cloak / tent and the world outside of the tent is a wonderland of nature's beauty. Jon's delight in this morning vision is broken by Gilly, asking for his help in keeping her baby safe - very similar to what we think we know of Lyanna asking Ned to promise to keep her baby safe. 

Details to note:

  • The black cloak in Jon's tent may contrast with the white bear skin of Mance's (Val's or Dalla's) tent. 
  • Jon unites fire and ice in his self-made shelter.
  • Jon's emergence from the cloak/tent is like a dragon hatching from an egg.
  • Jon declines to help Gilly but Sam Tarly steps up later and protects her. Sam also slept in Jon's tent, I believe, and he and Jon and the direwolf ate Gilly's rabbits. Are the rabbits fertility symbols? 

Craster and Aerys may be parallels but we also have to keep in mind that Jon is very explicit about comparing Craster's Keep to a pile of shit. Shit is strongly associated with Jaime's shit for honor and with Tywin, who is often associated with bad smells, is rumored to "shit gold," and who dies on a toilet. I am mindful, though, that Ned Stark and Ser Ilyn Payne also have buckets of shit in their dungeon rooms. 

Just one more detail to consider in decoding this group of kings: I suspect there is wordplay around "Longclaw" and "long walk." This could add meaning in a number of ways but I recently realized that Baelor the Blessed is a king associated with a long walk: he walks to Dorne to try to make peace and to free his cousin, Prince Aemon the Dragonknight, from the cage suspended over a snake pit. I can see possible parallels for Jon Snow here, if he forgives his enemies for killing his brother. The imprisoned Dragonknight could be a parallel for Maester Aemon, who is sort of trapped at the Wall until Jon Snow sends him away to prevent Melisandre from trying to kill him for his king's blood. But the Dragonknight could also be a parallel for Bran Stark. GRRM uses the image of a nest of snakes to describe tree roots and we have the sense that Bran may be trapped in a tree-like prison that also ensnared Bloodraven. So Baelor's "long walk" to free Prince Aemon might be a hint for us about Jon and "Longclaw's" role in getting Bran out of the cave. 

Edited by Seams
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I’m not sure where to start, but there is again a lot to consider in your response @Seams. I really like the idea of the white bear skin representing Val and Dalla as a protector and life giver. Maybe it’s all three, Mance as Father, Dalla as Mother and Val as Warrior. It’s interesting too, that when Stannis arrives and breaks the Wildling army, Jon, who has been sent to kill Mance, doesn’t join in the battle but stays outside the tent to protect Dalla and Val and the child about to be born. One of my favorite Jon moments. Val wants to leave and find a midwife but Jon tells her to be the midwife. Aemon Steelsong is born at the moment all the confusion and violence end and the king is heralded as having arrived. Jon at first wonders if it’s Robb but it’s Stannis. Also, Varamyr loses control of all his “thrall” skins at the same time. We learn later in the ADWD prologue, 

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Varamyr had lost control of his other beasts in the agony of the eagle's death. His shadowcat had raced into the woods, whilst his snow bear turned her claws on those around her, ripping apart four men before falling to a spear. She would have slain Varamyr had he come within her reach. The bear hated him, had raged each time he wore her skin or climbed upon her back.

Dalla, also dies at the same time. It’s an intertwining of life and death. The she bear hates Varamyr, I think because he is an enslaver. He uses his power, similarly to Craster to serve his owns ends. I think when Jon finally learns to use his warg abilities, it will be to protect and free his people. 
 I agree the black tent scene is related but I need to reread it again. I’ve always loved the imagery  of Jon emerging from his icy black tent and seeing the beauty of winter and feeling at peace for a short while. 

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