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The problem of The Others


Odej
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Martin argues that the only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself and that stories in which the plot is limited to the good guys facing the bad guys are not that interesting. Asoiaf is usually faithful to this idea, but we have a apparent exception: the Others. We know little about these creatures, but they are undeniably presented as antagonists. The final enemy to be defeated. Long before the TV show there was speculation about a possible union of the remaining forces in Westeros to defeat them, but this climax goes against what asoiaf is supposed to be. Many readers say that the Others are unnecessary to the story and that it would work best with just the conflict over the Iron Throne.

We know that Martin will no longer be creating POV characters, so we won't see the story from an Other's point of view other than in a prologue or epilogue. We have five books written and the Others remain a mystery, the political plot is bloated with just two more books to sort it all out. So what's your opinion?

Can the Others still become more than the evil creatures of the story?

Will the conflict between them and humans and will its resolution be only by war?

May there be a diplomatic resolution where Others and humans will have to coexist?

Edited by Odej
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I think it will turn out that the Others are basically more or less tools the Children of the Forest (or a faction of the Children) created to avenge themselves on the treasonous First Men scum who continuously broke and/or forgot the solemn promises and pacts they made.

I think the final confrontation won't be between the Others and their wight army and the humans, but rather between whoever directs their actions and keeps them 'alive' and one or a group of heroes.

We don't need the POV of that person/entity to empathize with them and understand what their motives are - it would be enough, say, to see their history by way of Bran's visions of the past. Not to mention that they might be powerful enough to share their emotions and thoughts telepathically.

The big twist for 'the good guys' should be them realizing that their ancestors were actually the worst guys in history, committing a monstrous genocide again and again and again. They will still have to fight for their survival, of course, but no longer with the knowledge or conviction that they are in the right. Rather with the understanding that it wouldn't be that unjust or evil of the other side was victorious and mankind in Westeros was annihilated.

But we certainly are not going to get the petty personal conflicts or political ambitions of the Others because they are not likely to exist. They are most likely tools in a similar way as the wights they control.

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1 hour ago, Odej said:

Many readers say that the Others are unnecessary to the story and that it would work best with just the conflict over the Iron Throne.

[snip]

May there be a diplomatic resolution where Others and humans will have to coexist?

No and no.

There are a lot of unresolved issues with the world before winter; the biggest being that evil prospers (if not at the individual level, then at the group). 

The twist with the Others that avoids them being boring evil monsters could be that humanity, given freedom (and maybe influenced by fire), has fallen into evil itself, and a second life under absolute mental control would actually be better - sin and suffering eliminated.

Alternatively (or as well), the Others may exploit their spirit slaves to product a magnificent civilisation. Qarth on steroids.

Either way, the two ways of being can't exist in the same place. More than that, the Others seem to hate the living world, sunshine and hot red blood and all.

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Well in my opinion the least interesting part of the book is the pending conflict with the Others. For his criticism of Tolkien's generic evil bad guys, Martin seems to have made his big baddies the very same.

But we don't really know very much about them yet. I suppose there could be a tragic story behind them that gives them something to identify with. 

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I just hope we learn more about The Others compared to the Unknown Aggressors, in the Expanse series. I'm still a little upset, without how little info we got on them in the final book.

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I like to believe that the Others were around even before the First Long Night and that they were scapegoated for the whole event which caused the conflict in the first place. The Others are basically coming down south to return to their homeland by any means necessary.

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2 hours ago, Lord Lannister said:

Well in my opinion the least interesting part of the book is the pending conflict with the Others. For his criticism of Tolkien's generic evil bad guys, Martin seems to have made his big baddies the very same.

But we don't really know very much about them yet. I suppose there could be a tragic story behind them that gives them something to identify with. 

Which would make them literally Orcs - utterly evil beings but with utterly tragic backstory that explains why they are the way they are.

Orcs may have become the generic bad guys (which is what Martin seems to be criticizing), but Tolkien's orcs are far from that. Granted, we do not see much of that - but what we do see, in Hobbit and through those few inter-orc conversations we witness through Sam in Lord of the Rings - they actually have dreams, hopes and culture... while still being, perhaps not utterly evil, but definitely utterly devoted to doing evil; Tolkien's orcs are essentially cursed creatures, in constant pain, lashing out against the world. Less Nazis and more vandals, if you catch my drift.

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9 hours ago, Odej said:

Long before the TV show there was speculation about a possible union of the remaining forces in Westeros to defeat them, but this climax goes against what asoiaf is supposed to be.

This sentence makes no sense.

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17 hours ago, Lord Lannister said:

Well in my opinion the least interesting part of the book is the pending conflict with the Others. For his criticism of Tolkien's generic evil bad guys, Martin seems to have made his big baddies the very same.

But we don't really know very much about them yet. I suppose there could be a tragic story behind them that gives them something to identify with. 

I think it’s arrogant for GRRM to criticise LoTR for having “generic bad guys”. Given how the “bad guys” are brought about and are led by a god gone bad then essentially a demon. GRRM bad guys are still a mystery 5 books in.

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9 hours ago, A_upton said:

I think it’s arrogant for GRRM to criticise LoTR for having “generic bad guys”. Given how the “bad guys” are brought about and are led by a god gone bad then essentially a demon. GRRM bad guys are still a mystery 5 books in.

Well, we don't really get the motivations of the bad guys in Tolkien's works, especially not from their point of view nor their historical documents. Folks do overhear Orcs talking about stuff, but we never learn what they want, why they serve Sauron, etc.

True enough, so far we have no clue what exactly the Others want, but we do understand the motivations of pretty much all human antagonists in ASoIaF - and we also will understand what the Others and what they want.

That this is still a mystery at this point is no accident but intentional.

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On 6/18/2022 at 6:18 PM, Lord Varys said:

I think it will turn out that the Others are basically more or less tools the Children of the Forest (or a faction of the Children) created to avenge themselves on the treasonous First Men scum who continuously broke and/or forgot the solemn promises and pacts they made.

I think the final confrontation won't be between the Others and their wight army and the humans, but rather between whoever directs their actions and keeps them 'alive' and one or a group of heroes.

We don't need the POV of that person/entity to empathize with them and understand what their motives are - it would be enough, say, to see their history by way of Bran's visions of the past. Not to mention that they might be powerful enough to share their emotions and thoughts telepathically.

The big twist for 'the good guys' should be them realizing that their ancestors were actually the worst guys in history, committing a monstrous genocide again and again and again. They will still have to fight for their survival, of course, but no longer with the knowledge or conviction that they are in the right. Rather with the understanding that it wouldn't be that unjust or evil of the other side was victorious and mankind in Westeros was annihilated.

But we certainly are not going to get the petty personal conflicts or political ambitions of the Others because they are not likely to exist. They are most likely tools in a similar way as the wights they control.

In that case, the Others seem to be the Apocalypse itself. Magic is a sword without a hilt. I don't think the Children who created the Others counted on still being there after the damage is done. Think of it in Ultron-style.

The question we should raise here is: Is something that was created purely for evil and destruction can do any good and be productive, and doesn't every lifeform deserves the right to their own existence? 

I don't think they are puppets or skins to anyone at this point, because if their existence was all about being a tool you always have at hand, then why didn't the Last Hero put an end to them for good?

Edited by Daeron the Daring
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9 minutes ago, Lord Varys said:

Well, we don't really get the motivations of the bad guys in Tolkien's works, especially not from their point of view nor their historical documents. Folks do overhear Orcs talking about stuff, but we never learn what they want, why they serve Sauron, etc.

True enough, so far we have no clue what exactly the Others want, but we do understand the motivations of pretty much all human antagonists in ASoIaF - and we also will understand what the Others and what they want.

That this is still a mystery at this point is no accident but intentional.


Fair point. I find it galling that GRRM criticises Tolkien’s work when there are so many questions yet to be answered and the books aren’t finished. The arrogance of criticising someone’s work when your own isn’t finished is breathtaking. 
 

The difference is we know how the orcs were made, we know they have dreams, we know they have orc children, we know their motivation, they follow Sauron because of fear and their desire for revenge. All of this was explained by Tolkien in a subtle but straightforward way. 
 

There is the wider issue of GRRM and the fan base, some are annoyed about the decade fans have waited, others say we have no right to demand someone’s work. But that is a whole different topic.

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5 minutes ago, A_upton said:

There is the wider issue of GRRM and the fan base, some are annoyed about the decade fans have waited, others say we have no right to demand someone’s work. But that is a whole different topic.

Yea, but he's either totally irrational or intentionally evasive. I mean, noone can demand an explanation from him, but he gives us one regardless. When he says he's working on this or that sideproject, He must know very well that there'll be many tv adaptations of his work in the future, and other things as well can move forward without him, but not the books. That's a one shot situation, hit or miss. Not that I mean to talk about it here.

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12 hours ago, Odej said:

?

What is ASOIAF supposed to be that a union to defeat the Others runs contrary to? And why would there be a before and after the show mindset in this regard?

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, chrisdaw said:

What is ASOIAF supposed to be that a union to defeat the Others runs contrary to? And why would there be a before and after the show mindset in this regard?

Sorry if I wasn't clear, English is not my native language, but what I meaned was:

George R R Martin said in an interview that a conflicted heart is a more interesting topic than the good guys fighting the bad guys. He likes to write stories in which his characters' great battles are against themselves and that's what he intents to do in asoiaf. The point is that in asoiaf there is a race of creatures presented as antagonists who appear to be inherently evil, without any complexity. Readers have long speculated that Asoiaf's final arc will be the remaining forces of Westeros coming together to face this common threat to all (it wasn't an idea that came up because that was what happened in the TV show) and that narrative decision falls into the cliché of good vs evil Martin said he wanted to do different.

It is worth mentioning that If the war of men vs Others happens we know that the human side will not be composed of immaculate good heroes, Martin has written gray characters on the human side, but so far the Others are extremely one-dimensional characters.

Edited by Odej
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2 minutes ago, Odej said:

Sorry if I wasn't clear, English is not my native language, but what I meaned was:

George R R Martin said in an interview that a conflicted heart is a more interesting topic than the good guys fighting the bad guys. He likes to write stories in which his characters' great battles are against themselves and that's what he intents to do in asoiaf. The point is that in asoiaf there is a race of creatures presented as antagonists who appear to be inherently evil, without any complexity. Readers have long speculated that Asoiaf's final arc will be the remaining forces of Westeros coming together to face this common threat to all (it wasn't an idea that came up because that's what happened in the TV series) and that narrative decision falls into the cliché of good vs evil Martin said he wanted to do different.

It is worth mentioning that If the war of men vs Others happens we know that the human side will not be composed of immaculate good heroes, Martin has written gray characters on the human side, but so far the Others are extremely one-dimensional characters.

So it would be more in line with Martin to have the conflict with the Others followed by the end of the war for the Throne? Would also harken back to Tolkien's Scouring of the Shire.

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