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The problem of The Others


Odej
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1 hour 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 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.

I think you're envisioning a very neat uniting of factions which with Dany's dragons will defeat the Others. I believe it will be far more complex and messy than you are thinking, and that those questions of the heart and head comes about in that mess.

Think of a Westeros where the only living dragon rider is king of a divided realm and refuses to believe in the Others or come help fight the North. Is the morally right thing then for the North to just try and defend the realm by themselves? Or should they try and conquer the south to unite the realm to fight the Others? What if the king brings their dragon against them in the process? Should they harm it knowing it could be the one weapon that could save the world from the Others? Say all the dragons die, would it be morally acceptable to sacrifice another child like Rhaego to raise another dragon?

When uniting becomes the only hope of survival does that give one a moral right to turncoat on dividing forces? To kill dividing forces? What if that dividing force is someone you love, or are sworn to, and you could be condemned to hell for all eternity if you turn on them? Like your family, lord, king, queen or high priest?

What if Euron becomes the only dragon rider? Should the realm submit and unite behind his rule to defeat the Others? What if the Others gave humanity the same deal as Craster? For all/most their sons they'll leave humanity alone, should humanity sacrifice their sons for existence? And who speaks for humanity? Who has the right to make these decisions?

The Others are one dimensional, they're not human, they're ice demons, they're an existential threat, and while we'll probably get some backstory as to how they were created from the greatest of human (or COTF with the same) folly, they don't need to be anything more for this story to be as GRRM says, a story of the heart in conflict. This story isn't about the Others, making them more relatable and understandable makes them more human, and that defeats the purpose of having made them not human in the first place.

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He may have changed his mind, but initially there were a lot of indications that the decisive battle with the Others was to take place at the Trident. That would have made  some unifications impossible, and others more or less inevitable. 

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On 6/18/2022 at 11:07 AM, Odej said:

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?

I don't see how it's possible to go from "we know little about these creatures" to they are "the final enemy to be defeated."

So far, we've seen them a grand total of twice: once with Waymar and once with Sam and Grenn. Both times, they attacked men of the Night's Watch. So at this point, I think it's premature to conclude any of the following:

 - that they are the ultimate enemy

 - that they are "evil" in the traditional dark lord/orcish fantasy sense. And Martin has made it clear that this trope has been done to death in fantasy literature.

 - that there will be a final battle of good vs evil to decide the fate of all mankind. This is another trope that Martin says is overdone.

 - that the Others are marching south to breach the wall and invade the 7K

 - or that the Others are even the ones who are raising and controlling the wights.

And all of this, I think, is what is jamming Martin up in the last two books. He set it up to make it seem that the Others are the ultimate enemy and that there will be a final death-match with them, but there won't be. And now that the show has demonstrated how high the expectations are for that kind of ending, he has to figure out a way to resolve the Others in a much more realistic fashion while still giving the readers the emotional fulfillment they've been expecting. Not an easy thing to do.

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Although I subscribe to the possibility that The Others may indeed be the end all beat all bad guys here, their existence and motives are really interesting.   I still remember thinking the Wildlings were The Others and not getting it at all.  Why would people do things like this as told by Old Nan. After all, the Wildlings really were othered by the rest of civilized Westeros.  The clashes between the Wildlings and Nights Watch are legendary making both parties very foolish.  So not Wildlings but still really other.   Not ghosts or vampires or even aliens but a group of beings so set apart Others is the best name humans could come up with.  That has a very cool and very creepy vibe to it.  Bring 'em on.  I am more than ready for all that dark, inexplicable magic!  

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On 6/18/2022 at 6:07 PM, Odej said:

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?

Others definitely are not the bad guys. We don't know what they want and in general all the problems started when humans became greedy for magic, the blood betrayal and the demons from the east is the same story and the demons came after that.

In this world magic is a part of nature and humans often take advantage of it, the others imo represent the way nature fights back and not the big evil guys. Definitely we will not have fight and a common solution will take place. Considering that Martin has said that the story comments on climate change and how humans interact with nature, I believe the moral of the story is that, balance, thus the name of the series.

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14 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

Although I subscribe to the possibility that The Others may indeed be the end all beat all bad guys here, their existence and motives are really interesting.   I still remember thinking the Wildlings were The Others and not getting it at all.  Why would people do things like this as told by Old Nan. After all, the Wildlings really were othered by the rest of civilized Westeros.  The clashes between the Wildlings and Nights Watch are legendary making both parties very foolish.  So not Wildlings but still really other.   Not ghosts or vampires or even aliens but a group of beings so set apart Others is the best name humans could come up with.  That has a very cool and very creepy vibe to it.  Bring 'em on.  I am more than ready for all that dark, inexplicable magic!  

Wow, I never really tought of that. What made people call the Others "Others". In my langauage the translation has two meanings, one of them being others, the other one being 'differents'. Which sounded creepy, but thinking solely on the word *other* makes you think of similarities, maybe more than the humanoid body shape.

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5 minutes ago, Daeron the Daring said:

Wow, I never really tought of that. What made people call the Others "Others". In my langauage the translation has two meanings, one of them being others, the other one being 'differents'. Which sounded creepy, but thinking solely on the word *other* makes you think of similarities, maybe more than the humanoid body shape.

Thanks for your thoughtfulness in reply.  Your definitions of Other only illuminate how weird this group is compared to everyone else.   I figure that as strange as places in east Essos are--Asshai, Land of the Shrykes, the Five Forts, Cities of the Bloodless and Winged Men, the Others of Westeros have to be the hands down strangest of them all.  So strange they don't even get a descriptive name, like Ice Wraiths or something like that.   The best ancient and contemporary people can do is Others.   You focused on human shape.   We know they can communicate with each other and that indicates intelligence.   They are bipedal, they have weapons.   They share commonality with the humans we know of.   As I understand the Others perhaps the best name we've been given is "cold gods".    Of course, we don't know the cold gods are the Others, but I would be willing to bet lunch with drinks they are.  The coming Long Night is going to be so bad...whatever their intentions, we can be certain they won't be any good at all for humans.  

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2 hours ago, Wolfcrow said:

Others definitely are not the bad guys. We don't know what they want and in general all the problems started when humans became greedy for magic, the blood betrayal and the demons from the east is the same story and the demons came after that.

In this world magic is a part of nature and humans often take advantage of it, the others imo represent the way nature fights back and not the big evil guys. Definitely we will not have fight and a common solution will take place. Considering that Martin has said that the story comments on climate change and how humans interact with nature, I believe the moral of the story is that, balance, thus the name of the series.

I think a good many folks see the Others as you do--metaphors for some larger problem.    However, this is a tale of magic and these Others do seem to represent a threat to the pretty non magical masses in Westeros.  My biggest sticking point with noncombative thinking there won't be a fight is all the build up for the fight, most specifically in magic swords and skin changing and dragons.    As small and rare are magic swords and creatures and psychic abilities are in Westeros, they are still there...surely for something?   

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1 minute ago, Curled Finger said:

Thanks for your thoughtfulness in reply.  Your definitions of Other only illuminate how weird this group is compared to everyone else.   I figure that as strange as places in east Essos are--Asshai, Land of the Shrykes, the Five Forts, Cities of the Bloodless and Winged Men, the Others of Westeros have to be the hands down strangest of them all.  So strange they don't even get a descriptive name, like Ice Wraiths or something like that.   The best ancient and contemporary people can do is Others.   You focused on human shape.   We know they can communicate with each other and that indicates intelligence.   They are bipedal, they have weapons.   They share commonality with the humans we know of.   As I understand the Others perhaps the best name we've been given is "cold gods".    Of course, we don't know the cold gods are the Others, but I would be willing to bet lunch with drinks they are.  The coming Long Night is going to be so bad...whatever their intentions, we can be certain they won't be any good at all for humans.  

I like to theorise a lot about the Others. I am very much aware of the Others being inteliigent, self-conscious beings. Whereas I think they have bad intentions as an organization/society/whatever, I think it will all come down to people making compromises with them, and to decide wether they deserve to live through this conflict or not. 

IF they are a developed/developing society, with the abilities of reproducing and free thinking, (and not just a hive-mind system with a supreme magical entity popping them out of its magical nonexistent magical womb) I think their ultimate fate will be survival and coexistence. It drives throu several good messages: That peace is always an option and that humans don't have the moral right or any kind of supreme reign over every single life form, especially if we speak of a self-conscious one. Just look at the Children of the Forest and the giants. Did they make the right decision there by pushing them all the way to the edge of extinction?

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1 minute ago, Daeron the Daring said:

I like to theorise a lot about the Others. I am very much aware of the Others being inteliigent, self-conscious beings. Whereas I think they have bad intentions as an organization/society/whatever, I think it will all come down to people making compromises with them, and to decide wether they deserve to live through this conflict or not. 

IF they are a developed/developing society, with the abilities of reproducing and free thinking, (and not just a hive-mind system with a supreme magical entity popping them out of its magical nonexistent magical womb) I think their ultimate fate will be survival and coexistence. It drives throu several good messages: That peace is always an option and that humans don't have the moral right or any kind of supreme reign over every single life form, especially if we speak of a self-conscious one. Just look at the Children of the Forest and the giants. Did they make the right decision there by pushing them all the way to the edge of extinction?

I like to read theories about the Others so we are well met, Ser.  Your ideas above remind me of the 1st humans being thrown out of the trees.   We were all a species, but ours was weak and forced to live on the ground.   We learned to walk and speak and do stuff while our stronger cousins remained in the trees living the good life.  Not that I think the Others share so much commonality with men.  We have some very ancient legends in ASOAIF, but there are no tales of an ice age, which I would anticipate if the Others were eternal or even 1st humanoids.   We have a Long Night that lasted generations.  (Just for fun, how about TLN killed off the Giants and the 1st Men merely took credit for it?)  Humans wouldn't be able to survive many generations, even short ones in the conditions Old Nan describes.  Still, this does seem to be the only actual event, regardless how far reaching.   I expect TLN lasted less than 30 years.  In my thinking this makes it either a conquering effort or a defensive mechanism.    30 years (even 100 years which I doubt seriously) does not indicate the Others ruled worlds, but a place that was expanded to make a wider habitat.  Or just a wider defense?  

Magic definitely seems to have left the world or dried up...until now, where we see Others and dragons and all that wonderful weird magic of the North.   Man did just fine without it, of course, there was no real reason to have it for a long time.   Is it a cycle?  Is it a response?   Which part is responding?   Is it a case of Others to magic or magic to Others?   If the COTF are actually behind the Others did they lose control?  If not how did the little COTF survive all this time?    Are they akin to Tolkien's elves and it is simply time for them to move on?   

As with yours and the poster above, I really enjoy the metaphorical conversation.  However, I think the unity has more to do with men and cooperation than cooperation with the Others or even the COTF.   I expect this event will be the COTF's and likely the Others' final stand.   Men need to cease fighting each other if they are to win against magic gone so very wrong.   

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2 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

I think a good many folks see the Others as you do--metaphors for some larger problem.    However, this is a tale of magic and these Others do seem to represent a threat to the pretty non magical masses in Westeros.  My biggest sticking point with noncombative thinking there won't be a fight is all the build up for the fight, most specifically in magic swords and skin changing and dragons.    As small and rare are magic swords and creatures and psychic abilities are in Westeros, they are still there...surely for something?   

Humans made all these because they were greedy and had a hero complex, it a circle. They followed prophecies and in their minds they need the swords and blood magic and all of these, but in reality these are the reasons the others are coming to restore the balance in the first place.

All the prophecies we have are vague, bc that is what prophecies are. I believe he took the concept directly from Greek tragedies, people have dreams and prophecies and they become obsessed with them, but in reality all these things happened because they tried to follow this prophecies in the first place. These prophecies show something fluid, humans translate it in war and magic swords and blood magic and sacrifices.

Like in Oedipus's story, his father had a prophecy that his son will kill him and take his crown, so he decided to get rid of him. The baby didn't die and later in life killed him and took his throne, bc he didn't know that he was his father. The thing is, even if he did know it was his father, he would probably kill him, since he was the reason for his almost death and injury. But if his father didn't try to kill him and was a good father, maybe nothing would have happened.

In the end I believe it's gonna be the realization that doesn't matter the swords and the fights, you need balance and a common ground, the others are coming only because humans are making these prophecies come true. 

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4 hours ago, Curled Finger said:

I like to read theories about the Others so we are well met, Ser.  Your ideas above remind me of the 1st humans being thrown out of the trees.   We were all a species, but ours was weak and forced to live on the ground.   We learned to walk and speak and do stuff while our stronger cousins remained in the trees living the good life.  Not that I think the Others share so much commonality with men.  We have some very ancient legends in ASOAIF, but there are no tales of an ice age, which I would anticipate if the Others were eternal or even 1st humanoids.   We have a Long Night that lasted generations.  (Just for fun, how about TLN killed off the Giants and the 1st Men merely took credit for it?)  Humans wouldn't be able to survive many generations, even short ones in the conditions Old Nan describes.  Still, this does seem to be the only actual event, regardless how far reaching.   I expect TLN lasted less than 30 years.  In my thinking this makes it either a conquering effort or a defensive mechanism.    30 years (even 100 years which I doubt seriously) does not indicate the Others ruled worlds, but a place that was expanded to make a wider habitat.  Or just a wider defense?  

Magic definitely seems to have left the world or dried up...until now, where we see Others and dragons and all that wonderful weird magic of the North.   Man did just fine without it, of course, there was no real reason to have it for a long time.   Is it a cycle?  Is it a response?   Which part is responding?   Is it a case of Others to magic or magic to Others?   If the COTF are actually behind the Others did they lose control?  If not how did the little COTF survive all this time?    Are they akin to Tolkien's elves and it is simply time for them to move on?   

As with yours and the poster above, I really enjoy the metaphorical conversation.  However, I think the unity has more to do with men and cooperation than cooperation with the Others or even the COTF.   I expect this event will be the COTF's and likely the Others' final stand.   Men need to cease fighting each other if they are to win against magic gone so very wrong.   

Well, my idea in a nutshell is that: History kind of got a little bit whitewashed, because people didn't really understand the conflict of the Long Night back then. I think The Night's King was the Last hero (there are multiple hints towards this, (I could elaborate if you'd like), and he ultimately made a pact/peace deal/treaty with the others, which resulted in him having his Corpse Queen/female White Walker as a wife. But people didn't really understand the things laying behind this, and ultimately acted against the NK, and separated the identity of the Last Hero from his character in order to preserve the good 'uncorrupted', from their perspective, of course. The reason the Others have a second coming may be because things didn't get fulfilled with the NK's death, and ultimately, TPTWP (likely Jon) has to do some kind of a same thing, but this time has to make it work, and get the message to the people. Or something. If you're interested, I can really elaborate tho, if u want to.

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I get the feeling GRRM doesn't like using The Others in his story. He seems to be going out of his way to use them as little as possible in his story. It's not been two books since we last saw them and we didn't exactly see them much before that either.

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2 hours ago, Springwatch said:

There may be an ultimate evil beyond the Others. Bran's visions suggest it - there's an even bigger giant above the shining man, and the dog-headed man. Not to mention the thing beyond the curtain of light that absolutely terrified him.

I don't agree Bran's vision suggests this at all, what Bran sees is north and is termed the heart of winter which completely suggests direct relation to the Others.

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7 hours ago, Daeron the Daring said:

Well, my idea in a nutshell is that: History kind of got a little bit whitewashed, because people didn't really understand the conflict of the Long Night back then. I think The Night's King was the Last hero (there are multiple hints towards this, (I could elaborate if you'd like), and he ultimately made a pact/peace deal/treaty with the others, which resulted in him having his Corpse Queen/female White Walker as a wife. But people didn't really understand the things laying behind this, and ultimately acted against the NK, and separated the identity of the Last Hero from his character in order to preserve the good 'uncorrupted', from their perspective, of course. The reason the Others have a second coming may be because things didn't get fulfilled with the NK's death, and ultimately, TPTWP (likely Jon) has to do some kind of a same thing, but this time has to make it work, and get the message to the people. Or something. If you're interested, I can really elaborate tho, if u want to.

If there really was a Night King, and we don't have anything other than stories to say there were, it fits.  Even with the stories we do have, the NK and TLH are separate in separate times.   There are many folks who incorporate the 2.   Who am I to argue that?   I am a sword geek.  That's what grabs me in the first place.  Gotta be in the tale for a reason.   Sam and Jon and Salador Saan all think they know the reason.  I'm thinking there was a great deal of like random, untamed magic about once.  Be that creatures possessed of elemental magic or Heroes who possessed very specific types of talent, skill and deviousness which became the foundations of the great houses.  I don't think magic itself is good or bad, intention is entirely within the wielder.  Martin says the seasonal chaos is due to magic.   I think the seasonal chaos had some role to play in the availability of magic in this place.   We are told TLN sought out the COTF who interceded for humanity.  We are told NK was just a nasty oath breaking piece of work.   Before there was the idea of the COTF creating the Others as weapons against humanity I reckoned they were unlucky vessels for this random magic.   Like they were simply folks or types of folks who lived and thrived in the cold but became corrupted when this chaotic magic was introduced to them.   I thought it more or less made them inhuman which caused their hatred of those who retained their humanity.  The weapon idea is better.  The COTF interceded and intercession is an interesting concept when the world is dying and entire expeditions are killed, lost or changed in search of the COTF.  Does not say the COTF fixed anything, only that they interceded and provided weapons.  It was after the Others were thrown back (not defeated but exiled with authority) that the COTF actually became productive members of Westeros in the building of the Wall and yearly donations of dragon glass.  I always read that to mean the COTF signed on to help protect Westeros after TLN. 

All these words and we still don't really know what the Others are or why they are or what they want.  I appreciate your take on this matter and the whys.  Your idea is as good as any other I have read.   Thank you for sharing your ideas.  The conversation is so much easier to follow when we know where we all stand.   

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On 6/19/2022 at 7:35 PM, Odej said:

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.

Yea, I think I agree with this.  I would also add that it's folly to look at the tv show as any confirmation of GRRM's original plan.  The thing that we have to take into account is that the show was missing several key characters from the book.  No Val, and no Young Griff.  So it's not a stretch that the show substituted Jon for Young Griff, and Dany for Val and merged their storylines more than GRRM planned or plans on doing.

My personal take is that there probably won't be one big climatic battle between the combined forces of Westeros and the Others.  I think GRRM may be using the Norse tale of Ragnarok as a loose blueprint.  Several different, separate battles occurring simultaneously, which combined nearly destroy the world.  We may be getting something similar here.

Separate wars in both the North and the South which perhaps bring on a cataclysmic event.

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On 6/23/2022 at 2:00 AM, chrisdaw said:

I don't agree Bran's vision suggests this at all, what Bran sees is north and is termed the heart of winter which completely suggests direct relation to the Others.

Bran saw shadows near his sisters: one with a terrible canine face, and another that was a golden, shining man. Comparable to the shadows in Mirri's tent: a wolf and a burning man. Seems to me these are likely the major forces in 'a song of ice and fire', appearing with major POV characters who are about to experience them (or what is the point of these shadows?) But there is a third force seen by Bran: the giant.

If the conflict were binary as Mel believes, I just feel the division would be clearer to see, but there's always confusion. Bloodraven and Bran are happy and safe in the dark (mother's milk etc). Mel hates it. Dany fears being lost and howling in the dark forever. Are they thinking of the same thing?

There's a curtain of light at ultimate north. But Mel says the choice is between life and death, darkness and light, so her idea of the Great Other won't fit here. And a small thing, but she refers to the Other as the 'Soul of Ice' - not a heart, hearts are special to R'hllor. So what is this heart of winter? To see it Bran has to look north and north, to the end of the world, and then keep going, through the curtain of light. In the real world, when you run out of north, you are heading south again. In asoiaf, maybe you're at some mystic place where ice burns, north meets south, love and hate can mate etc.

Last thing: there's a little bit of ambiguity in Bran's terror at the heart of winter. Like the red priest shaking his fist at the moon - either the moon is evil, or something evil is happening to the moon. Same with the heart of winter.

tldr: it's complicated. Not as simple as north = winter = darkness = cold = ultimate foe.

 

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The Others are hate-filled monsters who genuinely want to destroy existence itself. I think that's going to be Martin's surprise twist with the Others, so to speak. People are expecting him to pull some kind of miraculous humanization of the Others at the end of the story. So the way he surprises an audience that's expecting that is to not do that. 

The interesting parts are in the how, why and the thematic meaning of such an ending. 

What I gather so far is that the Others are basically what emerges when a civilization betrays its traditions.

In Westeros, the tradition was Old Gods. That tradition was betrayed when the First Men betrayed the pact, and when the Andals burned the weirwoods and instituted the Faith of the Seven along with chivalry and knighthood. So mankind lost its access to the magic that derived from the Old Gods tradition, which was mostly that the children of the forest used their magic to build giant castles and protect them with spells. So the "Game of Thrones" can fairly be interpreted as mankind losing its access to the power to build magic castles, which derives from their traditions, and then as a consequence being doomed to fight over the castles that remain. Because they can't make new ones. 

So when the Andals and Faith took over the continent, the story is showing that the magic of the Old Gods doesn't simply go away when that happens. It gets redirected into something evil.

Why? Because the Old God values align with the reality of their world better than the Faith values do. So one lesson is that that's what happens when you go against reality itself. And that's what you're doing when you go against your oldest traditions. They're old for a reason, because they go deep to the roots of reality. Your tradition had a close relationship with reality, and that closeness remains even while you're betraying it and going against it. And the magic that made your civilization strong and functional then gets directed into something that hates you, hates your civilization, hates everything that you consider good including trees, babies, summer and even the frickin' sun. They want eternal night, darkness, cold and fear, all of which spell maximum suffering for normal healthy human beings.

Because of the obviousness of what the Other want being so anti-human, the commentary about good and evil in a story where everybody is shown to be part good and part evil is, surprisingly, that there does in fact come a point when what a person wants is so completely anti-human that the battle against them is synonymous with a battle of good against evil. Maybe when people are taking human baby sacrificies, working toward eternal night and cold nad darkness, it's finally okay to say enough is enough, these people are evil and we need to band together and fucking kill them, because if we don't they're going to kill us and our children for every generation into eternity if nobody stops them. 

Edited by Lissasalayaya
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On 6/25/2022 at 7:47 AM, Springwatch said:

tldr: it's complicated. Not as simple as north = winter = darkness = cold = ultimate foe.

I disagree, he saw one villain Ungregor looming over Jaime, Sandor and the girls, and the villain the Others.

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