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The problem of The Others


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29 minutes ago, Black Crow said:

In considering exactly how Bloodraven fits into this and where various people in and around the cave are going, its ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

The story of the journey up the river is Bran's journey to the cave and in fact latterly, including the ambush just outside, it is plagiarised from Conrad - and I use the term advisedly. Compare GRRM's description of Bloodraven with Conrad's descripton of Kurz. Coldhands is the Harlequin/Russian and what both have to say about Bloodraven/Kurz is important - as are the betrayals and how it ends.

I agree that the Heart of Darkness is GRRM's primary inspiration for Bran's journey north of the Wall but I don't think it's the only one.  Bloodraven is a mix of Kurz, Dracula, Odin, Merlin, Nightingale the Robber out of Slavic mythology, and probably a handful of other inspirations.

Personally, Coldhands never really struck me as Conrad's Russian.  I think the fool Patchface makes a better analog for the Russian with the patched jacket.  Coldhands seems more like the Coachman who brought Jonathan Harker to Dracula's castle.

Edited by Frey family reunion
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53 minutes ago, Frey family reunion said:

I agree that the Heart of Darkness is GRRM's primary inspiration for Bran's journey north of the Wall but I don't think it's the only one.  Bloodraven is a mix of Kurz, Dracula, Odin, Merlin, Nightingale the Robber out of Slavic mythology, and probably a handful of other inspirations.

True, and ultimately the Mabinogion rears its head too, but the Heart of Darkness remains crucial to an understanding of this episode - including the Russian's revelation that it was Kurz who ordered the ambush

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15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

There's a difference between stark gibbering terror and feeling uneasy though.  Most things Bran has had to deal with are pretty unpleasant or disturbing for an eight year old but his (lack of) reaction is not enough to tie into his dream for me.

I would too :D.  Bloodraven is quite a grisly sight.  The difference between metaphor, the three eyed crow and reality, an enthroned/entombed near-corpse, is pretty graphic but Bran's training is about opening his third eye, I think?

Ok, still not seeing it? Let me try a little more...

How about this... ask yourself why do you think Bloodraven is interested in helping Mankind?

I think you will find it relies on inference and assumption, rather than the text.

The hour is late? Late for what? For Men? For the Singers? For Bloodraven? For a very important date?

It's all extra dressing anyway, since Bran asked Bloodraven point blank if he was the three eyed crow and Bloodraven didn't understand the question any more than Sam. I have never herd anything close to a convincing explanation for that piece of writing other than it proving Bloodraven is not the three eyed crow.

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

A Dance with Dragons - Bran III

The sight of him still frightened Bran—the weirwood roots snaking in and out of his withered flesh, the mushrooms sprouting from his cheeks, the white wooden worm that grew from the socket where one eye had been. He liked it better when the torches were put out. In the dark he could pretend that it was the three-eyed crow who whispered to him and not some grisly talking corpse.
One day I will be like him. The thought filled Bran with dread. Bad enough that he was broken, with his useless legs. Was he doomed to lose the rest too, to spend all of his years with a weirwood growing in him and through him? Lord Brynden drew his life from the tree, Leaf told them. He did not eat, he did not drink. He slept, he dreamed, he watched. I was going to be a knight, Bran remembered. I used to run and climb and fight. It seemed a thousand years ago.
What was he now? Only Bran the broken boy, Brandon of House Stark, prince of a lost kingdom, lord of a burned castle, heir to ruins. He had thought the three-eyed crow would be a sorcerer, a wise old wizard who could fix his legs, but that was some stupid child's dream, he realized now. I am too old for such fancies, he told himself. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. That was as good as being a knight. Almost as good, anyway.

Absolutely and there have been and are good reasons to be scared throughout the series for Bran.  He's eight and what is happening is creepy and spooky if not downright horrific if his training is to be plugged into the weirnet.

Yes he asks that almost as often as eight year olds ask "are we nearly there yet?".  It's a long way from Winterfell and Bran has never been more than a day's ride from home before.

Honestly, I think the comparison to the child's story "Are you my mother?" is a great one here, you may remember that the hatchling wanders all over looking for its mother, asking everyone, until finally returning home to find her.

But, let's look at what you quoted.

Was he doomed to lose the rest too, to spend all of his years with a weirwood growing in him and through him?

Do you think that is Bran's fate? I do not.

Bloodraven sleeps, dreams and watches. Again, I'll point out nowhere does it say he can speak through dreams.

He had thought the three-eyed crow would be a sorcerer, a wise old wizard who could fix his legs, but that was some stupid child's dream

Is Old Nan a wise old wizard who could fix his legs?

I am too old for such fancies, he told himself. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. That was as good as being a knight. Almost as good, anyway.

Bran is not very old, and this is just another fancy.

Stories and dreams are repeatedly associated. Even early on:

Bran, that is only a story, like the tales of Florian the Fool. A fable from the Age of Heroes." The maester tsked. "You must put these dreams aside, they will only break your heart."
The mention of dreams reminded him. "I dreamed about the crow again last night. The one with three eyes. He flew into my bedchamber and told me to come with him, so I did. We went down to the crypts. Father was there, and we talked. He was sad."
"And why was that?" Luwin peered through his tube.
"It was something to do about Jon, I think." The dream had been deeply disturbing, more so than any of the other crow dreams. "Hodor won't go down into the crypts."
The maester had only been half listening, Bran could tell. He lifted his eye from the tube, blinking. "Hodor won't …?"
"Go down into the crypts. When I woke, I told him to take me down, to see if Father was truly there. At first he didn't know what I was saying, but I got him to the steps by telling him to go here and go there, only then he wouldn't go down. He just stood on the top step and said 'Hodor,' like he was scared of the dark, but I had a torch. It made me so mad I almost gave him a swat in the head, like Old Nan is always doing." He saw the way the maester was frowning and hurriedly added, "I didn't, though."
"Good. Hodor is a man, not a mule to be beaten."
"In the dream I flew down with the crow, but I can't do that when I'm awake," Bran explained.

I would point out that this also connects the crow, Ned, and the lesson that men should not be treated like animals. The last being doubly relevant when it seems possible for a skinshifter to take the body of another person.

Note below the same use of the Greenseer description you quoted above, and how the larger quote is reinforcing the point that the powers of a greenseer are rare and tied to their body:

"In a sense. Those you call the children of the forest have eyes as golden as the sun, but once in a great while one is born amongst them with eyes as red as blood, or green as the moss on a tree in the heart of the forest. By these signs do the gods mark those they have chosen to receive the gift. The chosen ones are not robust, and their quick years upon the earth are few, for every song must have its balance. But once inside the wood they linger long indeed. A thousand eyes, a hundred skins, wisdom deep as the roots of ancient trees. Greenseers."
Bran did not understand, so he asked the Reeds. "Do you like to read books, Bran?" Jojen asked him.
"Some books. I like the fighting stories. My sister Sansa likes the kissing stories, but those are stupid."
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies," said Jojen. "The man who never reads lives only one. The singers of the forest had no books. No ink, no parchment, no written language. Instead they had the trees, and the weirwoods above all. When they died, they went into the wood, into leaf and limb and root, and the trees remembered. All their songs and spells, their histories and prayers, everything they knew about this world. Maesters will tell you that the weirwoods are sacred to the old gods. The singers believe they are the old gods. When singers die they become part of that godhood."
Bran's eyes widened. "They're going to kill me?"
"No," Meera said. "Jojen, you're scaring him."
"He is not the one who needs to be afraid."

 

Let me ask you this, when has Jojen, the little grandfather who takes himself too seriously, ever correctly interpreted one of his own dreams?

The visions themselves are one thing, people's interpretations another. 

"He wants to go home," Meera told Bran. "He will not even try and fight his fate. He says the greendreams do not lie."
"He's being brave," said Bran. The only time a man can be brave is when he is afraid, his father had told him once, long ago, on the day they found the direwolf pups in the summer snows. He still remembered.
"He's being stupid," Meera said. "I'd hoped that when we found your three-eyed crow … now I wonder why we ever came."

Why did they come? Because they were led there.

We are repeatedly told how prophesy and it's interpretation are a funny business. It's really easy to draw the parallel between Jojen saying "greendreams do not lie" and all the times we are told the "flames do not lie". 

The flames do not lie, Davos.
Yet they require me to make them true, he thought. It had been a long time since Davos Seaworth felt so sad.

"Sweetling," said Thoros, "the flames do not lie. Sometimes I read them wrongly, blind fool that I am. 

"The Lord of Light sent Melisandre to guide you to your glory. Heed her, I beg you. R'hllor's holy flames do not lie."
"There are lies and lies, woman. Even when these flames speak truly, they are full of tricks, it seems to me."

"This man will serve you faithfully. The flames do not lie, Lord Snow."
Perhaps not, Jon thought, but you do.

I think we would be better served to be like Davos, full of doubt.

Old Nan told scary stories of beastlings and shapechangers sometimes. In the stories they were always evil. "I'm not like that," Bran said. "I'm not. It's only dreams."
"The wolf dreams are no true dreams. You have your eye closed tight whenever you're awake, but as you drift off it flutters open and your soul seeks out its other half. The power is strong in you."

Old Nan's stories are Bran's story. Although it's worth mentioning that Bran liked the scary stories (about the shapechanger villians), the fighting stories, as opposed to the kissing stories Sansa liked.

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

Yes, but why, I wonder.  Why not come himself?

Besides that Howland knows too much for the readers at this point?

He was commanded to hold the Neck, but sends his children to swear oaths to Winterfell in his stead.

Jojen telling him about his dream seems to be the impetus for this.

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

Because Jojen has green dreams and Howland knows what he saw seems the most likely reason.  And that implies Howland expects Jojen to help Bran somehow.  And didn't Howland visit The Isle of Faces around the time of The Tourney at Harrenhall so if there are COTF there we can expect Howland / Jojen to know and to know if there are "bad uns" in the North they should avoid dealing with.

I would remind you that Howland is not a greenseer, nor does he dream like Jojen.

Bran was almost certain he had never heard this story. "Did he have green dreams like Jojen?"
"No," said Meera, "but he could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear."

But, he can "talk to trees", which is presumably what he did on the Isle of Faces.

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

I fear for Old Nan and Beth Cassell.  Ramsay took the young women from Winterfell for his "sport".  He's hardly a philanthropist so there is no reason for him or his men to take an old woman or young child all the way to the Dreadfort or to make any effort to keep them alive.  Killed outright is more likely :crying:

I'm willing to bet the farm that we haven't seen the last of Old Nan, assuming we see more books at all.

Talking about Old Nan made him sad. "Do you think the ironmen killed her?" They hadn't seen her body at Winterfell. He didn't remember seeing any women dead, now that he thought back.

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

Interesting.  He's told us a number of times that he knows "the day I die".  I always read that as him having a green dream about his own death and as Meera says to Bran in the cave "he will not even try and fight his fate".  He's fulfilled his mission to bring Bran here but now he sees his death approaching.  What might cause his death other than homesickness, malnutrition and the hardship of their journey - he is clearly struggling as they near the cave - is an interesting question though.

He's being a fool.

This is the classic example, given a vision of your death and misinterpreting it, even used by the author himself when describing the follies of believing prophesies.

Prophecies are, you know, a double edge sword. You have to handle them very carefully; I mean, they can add depth and interest to a book, but you don’t want to be too literal or too easy... In the Wars of the Roses, that you mentioned, there was one Lord who had been prophesied he would die beneath the walls of a certain castle and he was superstitious at that sort of walls, so he never came anyway near that castle. He stayed thousands of leagues away from that particular castle because of the prophecy. However, he was killed in the first battle of St. Paul de Vence and when they found him dead he was outside of an inn whose sign was the picture of that castle! [Laughs] So you know? That’s the way prophecies come true in unexpected ways. The more you try to avoid them, the more you are making them true, and I make a little fun with that.

Accepting death because you think it is prophesized is equally foolish.

We have not been told what vision Jojen has seen of his own death, and we cannot entirely trust his own interpretation.

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

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

A Dance with Dragons - Bran III

The moon was a black hole in the sky. Outside the cave the world went on. Outside the cave the sun rose and set, the moon turned, the cold winds howled. Under the hill, Jojen Reed grew ever more sullen and solitary, to his sister's distress. She would often sit with Bran beside their little fire, talking of everything and nothing, petting Summer where he slept between them, whilst her brother wandered the caverns by himself. Jojen had even taken to climbing up to the cave's mouth when the day was bright. He would stand there for hours, looking out over the forest, wrapped in furs yet shivering all the same.
"He wants to go home," Meera told Bran. "He will not even try and fight his fate. He says the greendreams do not lie."
 

Very possibly but are there enough of them left to have competing factions?  It's odd that Howland didn't establish any contact with them when he visited or that they never sent the equivalent of Leaf to learn the human tongue "for the Bran boy".  Unless of course both things happened and Jojen / Bran are being directed north for a reason.

It's unclear to me if there are still Singers walking around the isle of faces, or only in the trees, or if it is only Green Men who have taken up their mantel. But I expect that when we get another book or two we will eventually find out. This is a major location, introduced at the series start, and often referenced, that we have not actually seen yet.

We have no idea what Howland Reed knows.

I'm suggesting that Old Nan was there in Winterfell the whole time, and that she came there to serve as a teacher for a Brandon Stark, just like her story says. I suspect that she is aligned with the green men.

Metaphorically, I think we see this reflected in the opposition of "crows" and "ravens" throughout the story. And of course, there is the wonderful expression invented here, and used in every book so far as well as Dunk and Egg, a play on the pot and kettle:

"The crow calls the raven black, and you speak of betrayal."

15 hours ago, the trees have eyes said:

Well this would explain Bloodraven as a warg but not The Others.  And what little I know of him is that he was given to duty and that's what led to him plugging into the weirnet and searching out Bran.  If it's just one creepy dude's quest for power and a second life I don't know why the COTF would indulge him or Leaf learn the common tongue to assist him in hijacking Bran.  The COTF sought BR out and enthroned him as they recognised his power (and I think sense of duty) and Howland/Jojen have brought Bran to them for the same reason.  The aim is unclear but the hour is indeed late with The White Walkers threatening to break through The Wall.

At least that's my take on it, so much is completely unknown.

Duty to whom? Duty to what?

The Targaryen Dynasty? It has been overthrown. The Golden Company has landed on the shores of Westeros bearing the skull of his nemesis Bittersteel.

I think the Singers, who have been driven close to extinction by Men, have a clear motivation for bringing the Others down on Mankind.

Bloodraven is the last (legitimized) son of the male Targaryen line (potential Tower of Joy secrets aside).

From his perspective, it's easy for me to see his story of one of service and loyalty (past the point of morality and honor even) to the Targaryens which was only rewarded with exile and shame. His father's house has been deposed and the descents of his ancient rival Bittersteel have invaded once again, with a possible Blackfyre in tow.

I think he may see it as his duty to rule, by any means necessary.

The gathering gloom put Bran in mind of another of Old Nan's stories, the tale of Night's King. He had been the thirteenth man to lead the Night's Watch, she said; a warrior who knew no fear. "And that was the fault in him," she would add, "for all men must know fear."

...

Night's King was only a man by light of day, Old Nan would always say, but the night was his to rule. And it's getting dark.

The Night's King "knew no fear", and that "was the fault in him" but it did give him the power to rule the night.

And, I would point out that "not fearing" is the opposite of Ned's lesson "a man can only be brave when he's afraid".

There he sat, listening to the hoarse whispers of his teacher. "Never fear the darkness, Bran." The lord's words were accompanied by a faint rustling of wood and leaf, a slight twisting of his head. "The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong."

Bloodraven is teaching Bran the opposite of the lesson from Ned, and Old Nan.

"Oh, my sweet summer child," Old Nan said quietly, "what do you know of fear? Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods."

Edited by Mourning Star
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1 hour ago, Mourning Star said:

Ok, still not seeing it? Let me try a little more...

There's really no need, we just don't see it the same way :dunno:

Bloodraven the big bad, Old Nan the Oracle, ideas I've heard many times before but not my cup of tea.

The one thing I agree with is the difficulty of interpreting prophecy or dreams.  But then my point was not that Jojen was right about his fate but it is why he is so bleak.  Not him realising his mistake as you hypothesize.

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37 minutes ago, the trees have eyes said:

There's really no need, we just don't see it the same way :dunno:

Bloodraven the big bad, Old Nan the Oracle, ideas I've heard many times before but not my cup of tea.

The one thing I agree with is the difficulty of interpreting prophecy or dreams.  But then my point was not that Jojen was right about his fate but it is why he is so bleak.  Not him realising his mistake as you hypothesize.

I'm here for fun, not because I have to be.

Just don't say nobody ever warned you!

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On 8/2/2022 at 1:36 PM, Mourning Star said:

I'm here for fun, not because I have to be.

Just don't say nobody ever warned you!

Just was reading your last post, and got to the part where you say Jojen’s interpretation cannot be trusted, and your citation to support this is the opinion of an irritated-with-Jojen Bran. That seems pretty thin to me. I do agree there are various valid interpretations of Bloodraven’s agenda, but this one particular argument fell flat for me. 

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On 8/2/2022 at 10:26 AM, Mourning Star said:

I would remind you that Howland is not a greenseer, nor does he dream like Jojen.

Bran was almost certain he had never heard this story. "Did he have green dreams like Jojen?"
"No," said Meera, "but he could breathe mud and run on leaves, and change earth to water and water to earth with no more than a whispered word. He could talk to trees and weave words and make castles appear and disappear."

Why are we sure that Howland wasn't a greenseer?  We just know that he doesn't have Jojen's prophetic dreams.  But those aren't the typical abilities of a greenseer.  I'm not sure what else it could mean to "talk to trees" other than what a greenseer has the potential to do with the weirwoods and the weirnet.

On 8/2/2022 at 10:26 AM, Mourning Star said:

Bloodraven is the last (legitimized) son of the male Targaryen line (potential Tower of Joy secrets aside).

From his perspective, it's easy for me to see his story of one of service and loyalty (past the point of morality and honor even) to the Targaryens which was only rewarded with exile and shame. His father's house has been deposed and the descents of his ancient rival Bittersteel have invaded once again, with a possible Blackfyre in tow.

I think he may see it as his duty to rule, by any means necessary.

For me at least, I'm up in the air with whether Bloodraven is a puppet or the puppeteer.  Is he ruling or has he become a thrall of the weirnet?

He seems to be plugged into the weirnet, but if I had to guess, I don't think he's a powerful enough telepath to take control over the collective of telepaths that make up the weirnet.  My best guess is the weirnet is using his abilities to further it's own agenda.  Which I do agree probably has no love for the humankind who have already violated their previous truce.

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I suspect the author has given us numerous hints about the Others, if only we could recognise these and string the dots together. What does the word "Others" really imply? It is a collective term and could refer to all beings outside of the human race. We have plenty of those. The giants, the CotF, the squishers, obscure invaders from the sea, deep ones - all these are "Others." "White Walkers" is an exact term, referring to and included in those "Others." 

Lately, I've been trying to think out of the box  and propose that regarding those elegant creatures made of ice, we must be more specific in our terminology and stick to "white walkers" rather than speak of them generally as "Others." 

Here is a citation that caught my attention:

Quote

Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.” “You mean the Others,” Bran said, querulously. “The Others,” Old Nan agreed. 

 

Old Nan specifically mentions the white walkers but Bran seeks clarification by asking if she means the "Others." She agrees. The terms appear to be synonymous but are they really? Characters in the story of course refer to the Others as Others but Old Nan particularly mentions white walkers and Bran is querulous, as though unconfortable with the term. Hmm. 

In another tale, Old Nan talks about wildling women laying with the Others to sire terrible half-human children.

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 He remembered the hearth tales Old Nan told them. The wildlings were cruel men, she said, slavers and slayers and thieves. They consorted with giants and ghouls, stole girl children in the dead of night, and drank blood from polished horns. And their women lay with the Others in the Long Night to sire terrible half-human children.

And according to Nimble Dick, the squishers...

Quote

The girls they keep to breed with, but the boys they eat, tearing at them with those sharp green teeth.”

 

Both "squishers" and "Others" breed with human women, yet equating the current "white walkers" with "Others" seems a misnomer in this case. Can creatures made of ice mate with humans? And if these are the same, why do they now accept boys instead of female babies? I think we are looking at a variety of "Others" here. Perhaps those "Others" evolved to become white walkers or perhaps  the white walkers and other "others" belong to the set of "old races" that Osha mentions were confined beyond the Wall after  the Long Night. She talks about the giants, the CotF and the other "old races." 

Half-human should also ring a bell. Amongst other unsavoury aliases, Tyrion is also known as the "Half-Man." Does he represent a throwback to these "half-human others?" And what about all those human characters who appear to be different than the rest? Take the Manderlys for instance. They once hailed from the Reach and presumably possessed productive farmland comparable with that of Highgarden. They differ from the northerners in respect of their religion but also differ from the rest of Westerosi humanity in terms of the merman imagery surrounding them. Their town is Cold Harbour, the river they control the "White Knife." They are sworn to the Starks. Shouldn't that be telling us something? They still subscribe to the Order of the Green Hand. 

Ramsay and Roose are creepy enough to arouse our suspicion. How do they fit into the "Other" scheme? What about the Ironborn whose "historians" claim they came from a land "beyond the seas?" 

Arya releases three diabolical prisoners into the world. By granting Jaqen H'ghar, Rorge and Biter a new lease on life she sort of opens a Pandora's Box of evils, especially where Rorge and Biter are concerned. She is on the way to becoming a member of the "Other" clan, initiated into abilities no normal humans possess. On account of their  abilities, wargs, skinchangers and greenseers can also be thought of as "Others."

I would argue that even Daenerys and the Daynes belong in the "Other" category. The question is, how do the White Walkers fit in? 

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Let's not forget Mel mentions a 'Great Other' the big bad in the R'hllor beliefs.  From the wiki 

Quote

 

The Great Other,[1] also known as the Other,[2][3] the Lord of Darkness,[1] the Soul of Ice,[1] and the God of Night and Terror,[1] is a god considered the enemy of R'hllor, the Lord of Light. His true name is never spoken.[4]

Followers of R'hllor believe that there are only two gods, the Lord of Light and the Great Other, who wage an eternal war over the fate of the world.[1] Darkness, cold, and death are believed to be servants to the Great Other,[3] while shadows are considered servants of R'hllor.[5] Red priests believe that they have been given the power to see through falsehoods of the Other's servants.[1] Melisandre believes her enemy has black eyes,[5] and she thinks that no man could survive looking upon the cold, frightening visage of the Great Other.[3]

 

Also, in her fires she sees

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When gazing into her fires, Melisandre sees a white wooden face, a thousand red eyes, and a howling boy with a wolf's face beside him. She thinks they must be the Other's champions, as King Stannis is hers.[3]

Mel thinks that this vision is associated with the Great Other, and how do we know, really know, that they are not?

 

From Bran's coma dream

Quote

North and north and north he looked, to the curtain of light at the end of the world, and then beyond that curtain. He looked deep into the heart of winter, and then he cried out, afraid, and the heat of his tears burned on his cheeks.

Now you know, the crow whispered as it sat on his shoulder. Now you know why you must live.

Who is this 3 eyed crow anyway?  What is behind the curtain of light?  Is the curtain holding something back, or captive?  What is deep in the heart of winter?

 

Edited by LongRider
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