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The Dying of the...Maggot-White?


Phylum of Alexandria
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I’ve recently been mulling over the plot of GRRM’s first novel Dying of the Light, and considering what it might mean for the plot resolution of ASOIAF.

I mentioned Dying of the Light in an earlier write-up, but only briefly, when talking about once-great civilizations gone into a state of barbarism and ruin. Thinking back on Dying of the Light plot does give me pause about where ASOIAF may go. Perhaps GRRM has changed as a person since writing this first novel—he’s certainly since improved as a writer! But I am struck by how thoroughly unusual that ending was.

First off… [spoilers Dying of the Light]

Spoiler

there is the open-ended nature of the story’s end, leaving much of what happens to the main characters left unknown, or at least ambiguous. Much like Milkman in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon (published the same year as DotL), Dirk t’Larien chooses to face his struggles with a newfound resolve, and the open-ended conclusion helps readers feel that sense of the unknown, at once radiating uncertainty and possibility. Surely he wouldn’t try to pull that off for his epic fantasy series, though, would he? His other books have more or less conventional endings, so it’s not a given that he’d go there, but it’s also not impossible.

There’s also the nature of the story’s villain.

Spoiler

No, I’m not talking about the blood-thirsty barbarians who love to murder and flay other humans. Dirk ultimately learns to respect those people for abiding to some kind of code, no matter how brutal it is. The real villain was hiding in the background for most of the story, scheming in the shadows, and it is none other than Arkin Ruark, the brainy idealist peacenik! It is striking that a self-described pacifist conscientious objector like GRRM chose a pacifist as the villain of his first novel. But of course, for this character, utopian ends justified ruthless and opportunistic means. Being a thoroughly rational person, this was the logic that justified his dishonest and callous actions.

The God-Ecologist is a recurring character type in GRRM’s writing, and DotL's villain fits this type pretty well. In Tuf Voyaging, Haviland Tuf’s status as a God-Ecologist is more about wrestling with the ambivalence of the role. But Tuf is the main character of that story, whereas [see spoilers above] is the hidden puppetmaster, scheming for the sake of his God-Ecologist ideals, and as such he is about the unabashedly dark side of Utopianism.

Obviously there is a clear parallel to Varys in ASOIAF, and like [see above], Varys’ idealism is saturated with personal interests. But it also seems relevant for the CotF and the Weirwoods, and perhaps Bloodraven as well. They are regarded as the “Good Magic” team, the ones who favor balance and harmony, and compromise, and peace. Who wouldn’t side with that? But they certainly are also capable of manipulation, deception, and ruthless self-interest, in order to achieve their goals.

Coupled with the fact that I think all of the magic on Planetos comes from slight variations of one master species (the parasitic entity we call the Weirwoods), I am inclined to think the end of the story might culminate in the elimination of the Old Gods, in order to ensure a world without more Utopian manipulation.

What do you think?

Edited by Phylum of Alexandria
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1 hour ago, Phylum of Alexandria said:

Coupled with the fact that I think all of the magic on Planetos comes from slight variations of one master species (the parasitic entity we call the Weirwoods), 

Hmmm, on Westeros maybe, but Planetos?  Not convinced, how do you think that could be?

Also I find your looking common threads in GRRM’s previous books interesting as in my experience on this forum I have rarely come across it. 
 

A member of this forum, who sadly rarely visits now, also refers to GRRM’s previous writings on her blog.  Her handle is @The Fattest Leech , come take a look Leach! 

Interesting OP.  :cheers:

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Thanks!

Yes, I've read some of The Fattest Leech's works on Dreamsongs, she's one of the reasons I was motivated to read them myself! Also, the Vassals of Kingsgrave.

As for the Weirwoods, it's all speculation at this point, but I think there is evidence pointing to a common ancestry of Weirwoods, Others, and...maybe not dragons themselves, but fire magic that enabled their engineering and that of the dragon rider bloodline.

Part of this simply comes from teaser clues, such as the peppering of Red-Green-Blue color trios throughout the story. It's clearly not a clue about fire magic, ice magic, and greenseer magic: not only would that not require clues to understand, but such a demarcation actually breaks down when you think about similar powers across the types (visions, blood-bonds, skin-changing). So why does he plant those clues, including putting damn Muppet names into House Tully?

Coupled with the notion that Garth Greenhand planted the Three Singers--a set of three ancient weirwoods that resemble one large tree--and the graphic image of the Red fork, Blue fork, and Green fork merging into one river, I got the notion that GRRM is telling a story of magical bloodlines reflecting common descent. I admit it's tinfoily, but so far it actually helps make sense of a lot of other details, and thematically really works with other stuff GRRM has written. So, we'll see where it goes, but for now I'm taking that working hypothesis and seeing what sticks to it and what doesn't. Certainly if you can find something that seems like a strong contradiction of the notion, I'd be interested! I want to know what's weak ground and what's strong.

Edited by Phylum of Alexandria
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Just some rambling thoughts about magic in Westeros.

The magic in Westeros seems quite subtle to me.  The Weirwoods are creepy trees with their carved faces and red leaves, until we meet Bloodraven and then we see some of their magic.  Same for CotF.

Skinchanging and warging south of the Wall is considered evil and generally dangerous and not encouraged.  Wargs emerge in House Stark with the arrival of the direwolves.  However, north of the Wall they are more acceptable.

Maesters disparage and discourage magic, though some practice it in private.

South of the Wall many, many Wierwoods have been cut down.    This is not true North of the Wall. 

Could the number of living WW trees affect the type, use and belief of magic?

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7 minutes ago, LongRider said:

Could the number of living WW trees affect the type, use and belief of magic?

I think it's an interesting detail that the Shade trees and their blue corrupted heart were characterized as near death, but still alive. Obviously, they still have magical potency in this corrupted state, but if they went from mostly-dead to all-dead, then that would be quite different.

I definitely lean on the side of eliminating WWs would eliminate magic. However, you're asking if there's a weighted relationship between number of WWs and the extent of magic. That's interesting to think about, but I have no idea.

It is interesting that, at least in the spotlight of the story, magic does seem to be emerging, coalescing, and growing in power again. Why is that? That still remains a mystery.

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Hello again,

1 hour ago, Phylum of Alexandria said:

As for the Weirwoods, it's all speculation at this point, but I think there is evidence pointing to a common ancestry of Weirwoods, Others,

What hints do you see as common ancestry for these two?  

 

1 hour ago, Phylum of Alexandria said:

and...maybe not dragons themselves, but fire magic that enabled their engineering and that of the dragon rider bloodline.

I don't see the WW associated with dragons, myself.

 

9 minutes ago, Craving Peaches said:

What I find interesting is the 'blue as death' and then the corrupt blue but not quite dead Undying and Shade of the Evening.

"blue as death" hmmm, blue roses associated with a woman who was given the honorific of blue roses by a prince at a tourney, who later died in agony.   

 :dunno:

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2 hours ago, LongRider said:
4 hours ago, Phylum of Alexandria said:

As for the Weirwoods, it's all speculation at this point, but I think there is evidence pointing to a common ancestry of Weirwoods, Others,

What hints do you see as common ancestry for these two?  

Well, that first came out of LmL's observations about literary associations between Others and the Weirwoods, or trees in general.

In my opinion (and LmL would probably agree) that his greatest asset is his ability to pick out patterns in the text. However, I usually don't find his explanations very persuasive (he might say the same of mine!). 

Anyway, he also has a video looking at literary associations in the books between the Others and the kingsguard. 

And again, the evidence of the pattern was compelling, but the reason why didn't really convince me.

But after reading Sandkings, a possibility seemed to stand out: multi-component organisms that war with one another. Each organism consists of an immobile queen and multiple mobile guardians, like a game of biological chess (GRRM is an avid chess player, and has written about it several times).

And indeed, in cyvasse, the playable pieces seem to be made from white material (ivory or alabaster), black material (onyx), or wood. To me, that calls to mind the weirwoods and shade trees, which tend to petrify into white and black stone. As for the squares on the cyvasse board, they are changed from game to game, but the materials used are jade, carnelian, and lapis lazuli. In other words, it's a Green-Red-Blue color trio, just like the Trident, the sigil of House Massey, and the Tully Muppets. Incidentally, the warring Sandking hiveminds are color-coded as well.

But what about "red?"

2 hours ago, LongRider said:

I don't see the WW associated with dragons, myself.

 

Admittedly the ties to fire magic are not as obvious, and there's so much we don't know about dragons, or the lands beyond Westeros in general. Still, that's one reason I've been focusing on Crowfood's Daughter's videos. She definitely has found a lot of associations between the "green" magic line and the "red."

I posted this one recently, but it's a great place to start if you haven't seen it. I recommend all of her videos. She's great.

 

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10 hours ago, LongRider said:

"blue as death" hmmm, blue roses associated with a woman who was given the honorific of blue roses by a prince at a tourney, who later died in agony.

I just find it interesting that on one hand you have the dead but ultimately more 'pure' blue which is associated with having blue eyes, presumably linking to the eyes of the Others, and the not dead corrupted Shade of the Evening blue. Perhaps this suggests that death is only natural. The Warlocks of Quarth have extended their lives through unnatural means. Lyanna's blue winter rose turns black and dies, rather than persisting in the corrupted dark blue state.

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Another thought: if it is true that Bran is intended to become king at the end of the series (I won't say where I got that notion because to do so is a mortal sin), perhaps GRRM is actually thinking of steering closer to the ambivalence of Tuf Voyaging (not to mention Leto in Frank Herbert's Children of Dune). The God-Ecologist is there to steer the planet back to some path to a viable future, but there is a troubling aspect to his rule: absolute control.

It would seem very strange to spend the entire series critiquing monarchy and then creating your dream of spring through God-tyranny. But if Bran were to become the figurehead of power, there would be no real chance for anything resembling a Republic. Just something to chew on.

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