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AGOT Re-Read Notes & Observations

Phylum of Alexandria

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I'm starting a thread here for notes and observations as I read AGOT and the rest once again. My primary interest relates to my working theory about magic (a trichromatic theory of sorts; see my topic post "Landkings" for a recent explanation). But I imagine I'll have other observations as well.

Here we go!

From the AGOT PROLOGUE, some lines that associate coldness, Others, and sentient trees...

“A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things.” 

“A cold wind whispered through the trees.” (This makes me think of Bran's conversation with Osha: "It's only the wind," he said after a moment, uncertain. "The leaves are rustling." "Who do you think sends the wind if not the gods?" Yet unlike Bran's tree gods, these are cold ones)

“Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, "Who goes there?" Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched. The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl. The Others made no sound.” (As written it almost sounds like the woods are the intercessor, commanding the Others, who silently start to move forward).

Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took. (Whether we're talking the bone-white kind, or the black Shade ones, the Others are everywhere dappled with magic-tree imagery)


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Bran I

“A faint wind blew through the holdfast gate. Over their heads flapped the banner of the Starks of Winterfell: a grey direwolf racing across an ice-white field.” (White is directly linked to ice. Grey is ambiguous, could be linked to smoke, or a grey winter’s sea)

“Bran's father sat solemnly on his horse, long brown hair stirring in the wind. His closely trimmed beard was shot with white, making him look older than his thirty-five years. He had a grim cast to his grey eyes this day, and he seemed not at all the man who would sit before the fire in the evening and talk softly of the age of heroes and the children of the forest. He had taken off Father's face, Bran thought, and donned the face of Lord Stark of Winterfell.”

(Establishing shot of Ned is as a cold lord of Winterfell, with grim grey eyes. Strong Grey King vibes. Interestingly, Ned’s warmer side is when he’s not just sitting by the fire, but talking of the heroes who worked with the CotF after the Pact. Perhaps the “Kings of Winter” came from a different time, or team)

“Lord Eddard Stark dismounted and his ward Theon Greyjoy brought forth the sword. "Ice," that sword was called. It was as wide across as a man's hand, and taller even than Robb. The blade was Valyrian steel, spell-forged and dark as smoke.”

(I feel like this symbolic contradiction is not appreciated enough. A smoky dark fire-magic sword named…Ice? We’ll later learn that its name comes from an ancient Stark sword now lost. Why would the Starks use a sword of Ice to fight the Others?)

“His father took off the man's head with a single sure stroke. Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine. One of the horses reared and had to be restrained to keep from bolting. Bran could not take his eyes off the blood. The snows around the stump drank it eagerly, reddening as he watched.”

(Interesting that it’s an ironwood stump, presumably black, but in this passage that’s not highlighted. What is highlighted is the white snow near the stump drinking red blood. White and red, like a weirwood. The red spray also triggers the horse into action. Still, the white here comes from snow. Is there a snowy variation of the weirwood that might like a colder, less active blood?)

"Ass," Jon muttered, low enough so Greyjoy did not hear. He put a hand on Bran's shoulder, and Bran looked over at his bastard brother. "You did well," Jon told him solemnly. Jon was fourteen, an old hand at justice."

(Both Ned and Jon enter the story being solemn, a rather icy characteristic)

Bran glimpsed blind eyes crawling with maggots, a wide mouth full of yellow teeth.” (Somewhat reminiscent of the “white worm” of weirwood coming out of Bloodraven’s eye. I hope GRRM isn’t using “blind eyes crawling with maggots” as symbolism for weirwood psionics such as greenseeing!)

“His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind.”

(We’ll see that the direwolves mostly correspond to warm-blooded lusts and rages, but Ghost is an ice-white variation. He sports the same counterbalanced hot/cold coloration as the weirwoods, and as such has both hot and cold attributes. Team Green is all about balance. The albino wolf opening his eyes in blindness seems quite relevant for Bran, as he is learning to open his own eye in the darkness of an albino tree, with an albino dragon lord leading the way)

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26 minutes ago, Phylum of Alexandria said:

“His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind.”

I've wondered about this as well.  I think this may be another instance of time and causality.  We know GRRM was playing with it from his comments about Hodor in the book "Fire Cannot Kill a Dragon.  I've wondered if this is the only instance where GRRM used entering another mind and affecting their past in some way.  With Hodor it's pronounced so I think it's curious that Hodor is somewhat mute and so is Ghost.

I think the cause occurs later in the story at the Skirling Pass when Tree-Bran enters Jon's wolf dream. Not quite the same thing as skinchanging Hodor, but close.



A Clash of Kings - Jon VII

He sniffed at the bark, smelled wolf and tree and boy, but behind that there were other scents, the rich brown smell of warm earth and the hard grey smell of stone and something else, something terrible. Death, he knew. He was smelling death. He cringed back, his hair bristling, and bared his fangs.

Don't be afraid, I like it in the dark. No one can see you, but you can see them. But first you have to open your eyes. See? Like this. And the tree reached down and touched him.


I've wondered about Hodor being the only instance of time and causality. What would be the point?  GRRM could have explained the onset of Hodor's condition any number of ways that didn't involve skinchanging.  

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24 minutes ago, LynnS said:

I've wondered about Hodor being the only instance of time and causality. What would be the point?  GRRM could have explained the onset of Hodor's condition any number of ways that didn't involve skinchanging.  

It's certainly a valid question to ask. Most readers worry about too much time-tampering in the story, especially given everything else that's going on. I trust that GRRM knows what he's doing. Not only does he really care about notions of agency and responsibility, his past writing on time travel shows that he thinks about stuff like paradoxes, and the larger theme of how time travel is all about the desire to fix things due to feeling like has grown unfair or disappointing. I wrote in a topic post that I think he'll really lay into those emotional themes, and will likely leave a lot of the time-tampering stuff to our imagination, or leave some room for interpretation. He'll definitely have some more overt tampering though, which may start off rather promising and then lead to disaster.

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3 minutes ago, Phylum of Alexandria said:

Most readers worry about too much time-tampering in the story

That is the problem.  It definately stops people from further examination.  In this case; it explains to me how and why Ghost is mute and his eyes are opened before the other pups.  What further ramifications it has for Ghost, Jon and Bran, I don't know.

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4 minutes ago, LynnS said:

That is the problem.  It definately stops people from further examination.  In this case; it explains to me how and why Ghost is mute and his eyes are opened before the other pups.  What further ramifications it has for Ghost, Jon and Bran, I don't know.

Could be. I'm staying agnostic on the details of time-tampering though. As such, I think of Ghost's silence as an example of an icy trait, especially relative to the other direwolves.

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Catelyn I

“The gods of Winterfell kept a different sort of wood. It was a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. It smelled of moist earth and decay. No redwoods grew here. This was a wood of stubborn sentinel trees armored in grey-green needles, of mighty oaks, of ironwoods as old as the realm itself. Here thick black trunks crowded close together while twisted branches wove a dense canopy overhead and misshapen roots wrestled beneath the soil. This was a place of deep silence and brooding shadows, and the gods who lived here had no names.”

(Most forest trees all compete for access to the sun, yet the trees of the ancient godswood seem to serve as a type of shroud, or cave, to keep the weirwood in darkness. GRRM often writes cave-dwelling organisms as blind and lacking pigmentation, in keeping with real biological patterns. Described here, the forest is almost a sort of dark fungal grove, smelling of moist earth and decay.

Opening one’s eyes in the dark is an important aspect of Bran’s magic, and perhaps various magical cults all over Planetos, including the blind priest of Boash in Lorath, the underground cities of Leng, and the Faceless Men. The weirwoods may indeed be a primarily underground dwelling species. The CotF have excellent night vision, and so could serve them in dark caves.

Their image as trees growing above ground comes from the limited vantage points of normal humans walking the earth.)

“At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. "The heart tree," Ned called it. The weirwood's bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle's granite walls rise around them. It was said that the children of the forest had carved the faces in the trees during the dawn centuries before the coming of the First Men across the narrow sea.”

(A long and melancholy face made of white bone is a wintery image, yet it’s infused with warm red blood. It’s a Stark face, at least as the Starks are now. Winter infused with warmth. But let’s also not forget how creepy all of this imagery is. Long bony white faces calls to mind the Others as well as the Starks. “A thousand blood-stained hands” calls to mind countless acts of bloodshed. They may represent a counterbalancing of forces, these weirwoods, but they’re also steeped in the imagery of vampires and zombies. Cat’s status as an outsider is used as a feint by GRRM here, especially against Ned’s indifference to the weirwoods. But she sees it true: these old gods of nature are eldritch beings, the Great Old Ones of the story. Ned sees them as if they are just part of the natural landscape, and so Catelyn tries to do so as well, and accordingly so do we readers)

“In the south the last weirwoods had been cut down or burned out a thousand years ago, except on the Isle of Faces where the green men kept their silent watch."

(Early mention of weirwoods being threatened by fire. So while they may represent warmth against the cold, that’s part of a more general theme of counterbalancing and moderation that typifies Team Green. Like humans and direwolves, they can thrive near a fire, as long as they’re not consumed by flame. We also have the first mention of the mysterious green men on the Isle of Faces. Men with tree attributes serving as silent sentries calls to mind the Others, but serving a different master. )

"Up here it was different. Here every castle had its godswood, and every godswood had its heart tree, and every heart tree its face.”

(Heavy Sandkings imagery here. The Others, and perhaps the green men, serve as mobile guardians of an immobile queen, which is optimally sheltered by a castle and its fortifications.

Given that humans here built the castle, and we also have mention of the CotF, it seems evident that Planetos has multiple people who can serve as mobile guardians, somewhat like the cross-species psionic conversions of And Seven Times Never Kill Man.

Yet why does GRRM keep the green men such a secret? My feeling is that they are Team Green’s own Others, true male mobiles of the female tree queen. The various other mobile guardians roped in can be quite helpful, but they do not count as part of the species)

“Catelyn found her husband beneath the weirwood, seated on a moss-covered stone. The greatsword Ice was across his lap, and he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night. A thousand years of humus lay thick upon the godswood floor, swallowing the sound of her feet, but the red eyes of the weirwood seemed to follow her as she came. "Ned," she called softly.”

(Our first glimpse of the weirwood, and it’s getting a nice taste of blood. Also, the imagery of darkness and decay, of caves, continues)

Ned frowned. "He must learn to face his fears. He will not be three forever. And winter is coming.”

(Ned’s formality is another chilly trait, particularly when played against Catelyn and Robert.

"Yes," Catelyn agreed. The words gave her a chill, as they always did. The Stark words. Every noble house had its words. Family mottoes, touchstones, prayers of sorts, they boasted of honor and glory, promised loyalty and truth, swore faith and courage. All but the Starks. Winter is coming, said the Stark words. Not for the first time, she reflected on what a strange people these northerners were."

(Another instance of puzzling Stark heritage. Most house words are inspirational, or threatening. Why is House Stark the one exception? One possible explanation is that “Winter Is Coming” used to be employed as a threat by the ancient Kings of Winter. Over time, like so many traditions, the meaning behind the words or actions was lost. Now the words serve as words of caution among friends. Perhaps this is a post-Pact rewriting of tradition

“I am always proud of Bran," Catelyn replied, watching the sword as he stroked it. She could see the rippling deep within the steel, where the metal had been folded back on itself a hundred times in the forging. Catelyn had no love for swords, but she could not deny that Ice had its own beauty. It had been forged in Valyria, before the Doom had come to the old Freehold, when the ironsmiths had worked their metal with spells as well as hammers. Four hundred years old it was, and as sharp as the day it was forged. The name it bore was older still, a legacy from the age of heroes, when the Starks were Kings in the North.”

(The symbolic contradiction of the greatsword Ice is made clear here. Perhaps the Kings in the North were heroes of a different sort before the Pact?)

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Daenerys I

"A gift from the Magister Illyrio," Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. "The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess.”

(Given the Targaryen connection to fire and blood, the most obvious choice would be to have the blood of the dragon yield red eyes. GRRM’s color-coding is trickier. For my purposes, I am most interested in temperature and terrain coding. Sometimes this takes advantage of conventional color associations (blue is cold), sometimes it depends on combinations (warm paired with cold colors), and sometimes it merely depends on the context and imagery used for a given scene (weirwood leaves signifying bloody hands rather than fire). Here, GRRM is establishing a unique in-story trait: the blood of the dragon has eyes that range from purple to blue. Dany’s eyes are violet.)

"Illyrio is no fool," Viserys said. He was a gaunt young man with nervous hands and a feverish look in his pale lilac eyes. "The magister knows that I will not forget my friends when I come into my throne.”

(Viserys also gives off weakness and ill health; his eyes are pale compared to Dany’s violet)

“Dany said nothing. Magister Illyrio was a dealer in spices, gemstones, dragonbone, and other, less savory things. He had friends in all of the Nine Free Cities, it was said, and even beyond, in Vaes Dothrak and the fabled lands beside the Jade Sea. It was also said that he'd never had a friend he wouldn't cheerfully sell for the right price. Dany listened to the talk in the streets, and she heard these things, but she knew better than to question her brother when he wove his webs of dream. His anger was a terrible thing when roused. Viserys called it "waking the dragon.”

(Weak or no, he is the blood of the dragon, and has a fiery temper)

"Somewhere beyond the sunset, across the narrow sea, lay a land of green hills and flowered plains and great rushing rivers, where towers of dark stone rose amidst magnificent blue-grey mountains, and armored knights rode to battle beneath the banners of their lords. The Dothraki called that land Rhaesh Andahli, the land of the Andals. In the Free Cities, they talked of Westeros and the Sunset Kingdoms. Her brother had a simpler name. "Our land," he called it. The words were like a prayer with him. If he said them enough, the gods were sure to hear. "Ours by blood right, taken from us by treachery, but ours still, ours forever. You do not steal from the dragon, oh, no. The dragon remembers."

(So far, all we have seen of Westeros is Northern land with a late summer chill, and north of that, the Others. Viserys’ description here sounds like a Team Green paradise. So we have this Team Red outcast scheming in the East to reclaim the Green Kingdom, while further north, Team Blue seems activated and ready to invade as well, at least once winter comes)

“That was when they lived in Braavos, in the big house with the red door. Dany had her own room there, with a lemon tree outside her window. After Ser Willem had died, the servants had stolen what little money they had left, and soon after they had been put out of the big house. Dany had cried when the red door closed behind them forever.”

(Lemongate or no, the red door closing behind the exiled dragonlords is like being kicked off of the path toward Team Red power)

“They filled her bath with hot water brought up from the kitchen and scented it with fragrant oils. The girl pulled the rough cotton tunic over Dany's head and helped her into the tub. The water was scalding hot, but Daenerys did not flinch or cry out. She liked the heat. It made her feel clean. Besides, her brother had often told her that it was never too hot for a Targaryen. "Ours is the house of the dragon," he would say. "The fire is in our blood.”

(On first read, we’re tempted to think of Viserys’ talk about fire blood as narcissistic claptrap, but this is the first clue that GRRM’s temperature-coding of personality traits are more than simply symbolic in the story. As such, what about the folks like Ned and Jon who exhibit a relative iciness? Might it be more than symbolic?)

"Look at her. That silver-gold hair, those purple eyes … she is the blood of old Valyria, no doubt, no doubt…”

(And the fire-coded traits are coupled with a specific phenotype in appearance, indicating a bloodline being preserved, the blood of old Valyria. What about the blood of the ice dragon?)

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Eddard I

"The visitors poured through the castle gates in a river of gold and silver and polished steel, three hundred strong, a pride of bannermen and knights, of sworn swords and freeriders. Over their heads a dozen golden banners whipped back and forth in the northern wind, emblazoned with the crowned stag of Baratheon."

(As many commenters have mentioned, stag imagery calls to mind nature and fertility gods in the real world, such as the Celtic god Cernunnos. The Baratheons are stormlords as well, and the antlers can suggest lightning just as much as they suggest tree branches. Thus Robert Baratheon comes into the story as an avatar of summertime bounties from a fertile land)

“Ned! Ah, but it is good to see that frozen face of yours.”

(Said with affection, but a striking characterization of Ned)

“Would that Ned had been able to say the same. Fifteen years past, when they had ridden forth to win a throne, the Lord of Storm's End had been clean-shaven, clear-eyed, and muscled like a maiden's fantasy. Six and a half feet tall, he towered over lesser men, and when he donned his armor and the great antlered helmet of his House, he became a veritable giant. He'd had a giant's strength too, his weapon of choice a spiked iron warhammer that Ned could scarcely lift. In those days, the smell of leather and blood had clung to him like perfume.”

(Storm gods are often also fertility gods, as the rains and sunshine provide the conditions for vegetation. Appropriate that Robert in his youth wielded a giant hammer like Thor, god of storms as well as trees)

“Now it was perfume that clung to him like perfume, and he had a girth to match his height. Ned had last seen the king nine years before during Balon Greyjoy's rebellion, when the stag and the direwolf had joined to end the pretensions of the self-proclaimed King of the Iron Islands. Since the night they had stood side by side in Greyjoy's fallen stronghold, where Robert had accepted the rebel lord's surrender and Ned had taken his son Theon as hostage and ward, the king had gained at least eight stone. A beard as coarse and black as iron wire covered his jaw to hide his double chin and the sag of the royal jowls, but nothing could hide his stomach or the dark circles under his eyes.”

(The god of summer is now looking worse for wear. He’s just as virile, just as warm, but his ability to command the realm has taken a back seat to the indulgence of his personal appetites. This summer won’t last much longer)

“Ned knelt in the snow to kiss the queen's ring, while Robert embraced Catelyn like a long-lost sister.”

(Ned’s formality is contrasted with Robert’s congeniality. Cold against Warmth)

“Robert Baratheon had always been a man of huge appetites, a man who knew how to take his pleasures. That was not a charge anyone could lay at the door of Eddard Stark.”

(Low appetite and libido are cold codes for Ned as well. Such austerity would of course be good to have when trying to survive a harsh winter. But contrast Ned’s disposition with his siblings Brandon and Lyanna. They both had “the wolf blood.” Ned does not. It’s almost as if he’s leeched his blood of those hotter appetites and impulses. But he doesn’t leech, it’s just how he is)

“He led the way between the pillars and Robert followed wordlessly, shivering in the subterranean chill. It was always cold down here. Their footsteps rang off the stones and echoed in the vault overhead as they walked among the dead of House Stark. The Lords of Winterfell watched them pass. Their likenesses were carved into the stones that sealed the tombs. In long rows they sat, blind eyes staring out into eternal darkness, while great stone direwolves curled round their feet. The shifting shadows made the stone figures seem to stir as the living passed by. By ancient custom an iron longsword had been laid across the lap of each who had been Lord of Winterfell, to keep the vengeful spirits in their crypts.”

(All of these lords of Winterfell have direwolves and iron swords. Perhaps the pre-Andal lords had bronze swords and direwolves; I wonder if the oldest tombs look rather different)

"She should be on a hill somewhere, under a fruit tree, with the sun and clouds above her and the rain to wash her clean.”

"I was with her when she died," Ned reminded the king. "She wanted to come home, to rest beside Brandon and Father." He could hear her still at times. Promise me, she had cried, in a room that smelled of blood and roses. Promise me, Ned. The fever had taken her strength and her voice had been faint as a whisper, but when he gave her his word, the fear had gone out of his sister's eyes. Ned remembered the way she had smiled then, how tightly her fingers had clutched his as she gave up her hold on life, the rose petals spilling from her palm, dead and black. After that he remembered nothing. They had found him still holding her body, silent with grief. The little crannogman, Howland Reed, had taken her hand from his. Ned could recall none of it. "I bring her flowers when I can," he said. "Lyanna was … fond of flowers."

(Lyanna being fond of flowers comes shortly after Robert talks about the wonders of King’s Landing—“flowers everywhere, the markets bursting with food.” Especially given that her favorite blue winter roses are made in the Winterfell glass gardens, this mostly speaks to her warm “wolf blooded” nature. But notably those roses are color-coded to correspond to Team Blue. Maybe that has more to do with her bloodline, and perhaps her offspring than with whatever trait seems dominant in Lyanna herself. She had the same parents as Ned, after all. The Starks don’t practice incest, so whatever ancient traits they might have are more variable than the Valyrians and Targaryens)

“They had come together at the ford of the Trident while the battle crashed around them, Robert with his warhammer and his great antlered helm, the Targaryen prince armored all in black. On his breastplate was the three-headed dragon of his House, wrought all in rubies that flashed like fire in the sunlight. The waters of the Trident ran red around the hooves of their destriers as they circled and clashed, again and again, until at last a crushing blow from Robert's hammer stove in the dragon and the chest beneath it. When Ned had finally come on the scene, Rhaegar lay dead in the stream, while men of both armies scrabbled in the swirling waters for rubies knocked free of his armor.”

(Stag man with giant hammer in a river perhaps calls to mind the Hammer of the Waters. If so, does this mean that the attack was against a Team Red foe?)

“Robert scarcely seemed to hear him. "Those years we spent in the Eyrie … gods, those were good years. I want you at my side again, Ned. I want you down in King's Landing, not up here at the end of the world where you are no damned use to anybody." Robert looked off into the darkness, for a moment as melancholy as a Stark.”

(The aging king of summer begins to resemble a king of winter)

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Jon I

“It was the fourth hour of the welcoming feast laid for the king. Jon's brothers and sisters had been seated with the royal children, beneath the raised platform where Lord and Lady Stark hosted the king and queen. In honor of the occasion, his lord father would doubtless permit each child a glass of wine, but no more than that. Down here on the benches, there was no one to stop Jon drinking as much as he had a thirst for.

And he was finding that he had a man's thirst, to the raucous delight of the youths around him, who urged him on every time he drained a glass. They were fine company, and Jon relished the stories they were telling, tales of battle and bedding and the hunt.”

(Jon is hiding his misery here, but his indulgent drinking reflects some warm characteristics. He’s not simply another Ned)

“His lord father had come first, escorting the queen. She was as beautiful as men said. A jeweled tiara gleamed amidst her long golden hair, its emeralds a perfect match for the green of her eyes. His father helped her up the steps to the dais and led her to her seat, but the queen never so much as looked at him. Even at fourteen, Jon could see through her smile.”

(Cersei is not a literal ice-blood candidate, but she does sometimes seem to radiate coolness in a figurative sense. And yet, let’s not forget her temper, and her obsession with wildfire. It may be that these qualities will simply serve symbolic purposes for certain passages, as they likely don’t reflect any real magical blood)

"Benjen watched Ghost with amusement as he ate his onion. "A very quiet wolf," he observed.

"He's not like the others," Jon said. "He never makes a sound. That's why I named him Ghost. That, and because he's white. The others are all dark, grey or black."

(Funnily enough, Ghost “never making a sound” makes him quite like the Others! Just not the other wolf pups. Warm-blooded, but also wintry. Like Jon)

“Jon had noticed that too. A bastard had to learn to notice things, to read the truth that people hid behind their eyes. His father was observing all the courtesies, but there was tightness in him that Jon had seldom seen before.”

(You’d think this quality would have let Jon be a more politically effective Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, and have a better understanding of the trappings of power. Ah well…)

"I don't care about that!" Jon said hotly.

Jon felt anger rise inside him. "I'm not your son!"

Jon trembled. "I will never father a bastard," he said carefully. "Never!" He spat it out like venom.

(Certainly has some non-Ned qualities)

"You're Ned Stark's bastard, aren't you?"

Jon felt a coldness pass right through him. He pressed his lips together and said nothing."

(Ah, there’s the cool formality)

"Lord Eddard Stark is my father," Jon admitted stiffly.

"Lannister studied his face. "Yes," he said. "I can see it. You have more of the north in you than your brothers."

(He's probably not, Jon. But the resemblance is likely more than skin deep. At least sometimes)

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On 1/24/2023 at 12:28 PM, Phylum of Alexandria said:

I'm starting a thread here for notes and observations as I read AGOT and the rest once again. My primary interest relates to my working theory about magic (a trichromatic theory of sorts; see my topic post "Landkings" for a recent explanation). But I imagine I'll have other observations as well.

Here we go!

From the AGOT PROLOGUE, some lines that associate coldness, Others, and sentient trees...

“A cold wind was blowing out of the north, and it made the trees rustle like living things.” 

“A cold wind whispered through the trees.” (This makes me think of Bran's conversation with Osha: "It's only the wind," he said after a moment, uncertain. "The leaves are rustling." "Who do you think sends the wind if not the gods?" Yet unlike Bran's tree gods, these are cold ones)

A point to watch, this one - I've never been sure myself that the old gods are different to the cold gods, and GRRM likes close sounds, we know. Hope you find the clues to this one.

On 1/24/2023 at 12:28 PM, Phylum of Alexandria said:

Tall, it was, and gaunt and hard as old bones, with flesh pale as milk. Its armor seemed to change color as it moved; here it was white as new-fallen snow, there black as shadow, everywhere dappled with the deep grey-green of the trees. The patterns ran like moonlight on water with every step it took. (Whether we're talking the bone-white kind, or the black Shade ones, the Others are everywhere dappled with magic-tree imagery)

Pale as milk - reminds me Gared talks of death by cold feeling like sinking into a sea of warm milk - the first instance of GRRM messing about with his hot-cold-ice-fire imagery. If you sort that one out, I'll thank you!

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Catelyn II

“Of all the rooms in Winterfell's Great Keep, Catelyn's bedchambers were the hottest. She seldom had to light a fire. The castle had been built over natural hot springs, and the scalding waters rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man's body, driving the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing. Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards. That was a little thing, in summer; in winter, it was the difference between life and death.

Catelyn's bath was always hot and steaming, and her walls warm to the touch. The warmth reminded her of Riverrun, of days in the sun with Lysa and Edmure, but Ned could never abide the heat. The Starks were made for the cold, he would tell her, and she would laugh and tell him in that case they had certainly built their castle in the wrong place.”

(So Ned could never abide the heat of chambers that feel like a day in the sun in the Riverlands. Now, some people simply prefer cooler weather, so is there nothing to see here? Let’s not forget Dany’s preference for hot baths from two chapters ago. Was that innocuous? In both cases, the character’s temperature inclination is cast not simply as a personal preference, but as a trait of their once-royal bloodline.

Yet there is a bit of a contradiction here. If the Starks were made for the cold, why did they build their castle where they did? The above passage’s description of the hot springs flowing like blood through chambers points to the answer: the heart tree. All of the castles were built by a weirwood, at least after the Pact. One possibility to consider is that the Starks were made for the cold by different gods, but once they tied themselves to the cause of Team Green, they became the protectors of those who try to survive the cold. They offered their castle and surrounding town as a source of shelter and warmth to their family and subjects, though those with ice-blood traits themselves tend to avoid the warmest rooms)

"And in mine," she blazed, angry now.”

(To be fair, Ned does also “blaze” in this chapter, but only toward the end, when Catelyn is at her most intransigent regarding Jon Snow’s fate. Before that, he responds to unpleasant information by saying things irritably, darkly, dully, etc. Catelyn’s fire comes quite easy to her, whereas it takes a lot more to get Ned’s blood boiling. Of course, her more fiery disposition is not just a great foil to accentuate Ned’s coolness, it also fits quite well with her eventual resurrection by fire magic)

"Very well. Send him in.”

Ned crossed to the wardrobe and slipped on a heavy robe. Catelyn realized suddenly how cold it had become. She sat up in bed and pulled the furs to her chin. "Perhaps we should close the windows," she suggested.

Ned nodded absently. Maester Luwin was shown in.”

(GRRM wrote Ned as mindful enough to cover his nakedness for Luwin, but not conscious of the cold night air coming in. It’s just a little touch, but it’s there)

Many men fathered bastards. Catelyn had grown up with that knowledge. It came as no surprise to her, in the first year of her marriage, to learn that Ned had fathered a child on some girl chance met on campaign. He had a man's needs, after all, and they had spent that year apart, Ned off at war in the south while she remained safe in her father's castle at Riverrun. Her thoughts were more of Robb, the infant at her breast, than of the husband she scarcely knew. He was welcome to whatever solace he might find between battles. And if his seed quickened, she expected he would see to the child's needs.

He did more than that. The Starks were not like other men. Ned brought his bastard home with him, and called him "son" for all the north to see. When the wars were over at last, and Catelyn rode to Winterfell, Jon and his wet nurse had already taken up residence.”

(The assumption that Ned had a typical man’s needs is where Cat and first-time readers go wrong on the bastard issue. Cat herself says that the Starks were not like other men here. And GRRM earlier stated that Ned didn’t have the same hot, lusty, appetites as Robert did. So although the author has been throwing all of these characterizations of Ned as cool and low-appetite at us, first-time readers tend to think of such descriptions as somewhat superficial, not meaningful enough to affect the plot. The fact is, though, Ned likely has no lusts that burn so hot, and anyone who knew that fact would find the presence of the bastard Jon Snow quite suspicious.

Consider that Roose Bolton clearly regrets the consequences that came of raping Ramsay’s mother. And here is what he says about seeing her: “The moment that I set eyes on her I wanted her.” When we see Roose he is cold and calculating, and recommends his hot-tempered bastard son get leeched as well, to remove the bad blood. I have said before that I think Roose’s leeching reflects a desire for cold blood, which is one of several ways in which he longs to be a Stark, specifically a King of Winter. But part of his desire to leech may be to avoid situations of hot lust that led to his greatest regret: the birth of his bastard)

“It had taken her a fortnight to marshal her courage, but finally, in bed one night, Catelyn had asked her husband the truth of it, asked him to his face.

That was the only time in all their years that Ned had ever frightened her. "Never ask me about Jon," he said, cold as ice. "He is my blood, and that is all you need to know. And now I will learn where you heard that name, my lady." She had pledged to obey; she told him; and from that day on, the whispering had stopped, and Ashara Dayne's name was never heard in Winterfell again.”

(We see Ned and Catelyn argue a bunch in this chapter, but note that when Cat thinks back to the only time that Ned had ever frightened her, it wasn't not via an explosive anger—it’s when he was as cold as ice. His face took on his house words “Winter is Coming,” and she was afraid)

Edited by Phylum of Alexandria
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TWOIAF break:

The Kings of Winter

"Chronicles found in the archives of the Night's Watch at the Nightfort (before it was abandoned) speak of the war for Sea Dragon Point, wherein the Starks brought down the Warg King and his inhuman allies, the children of the forest. When the Warg King's last redoubt fell, his sons were put to the sword, along with his beasts and greenseers, whilst his daughters were taken as prizes by their conquerors." -- The North

This ancient war may have resulted in the Starks gaining skinchanging and greenseeing abilities, through the blood of the warg-women they claimed as prizes.

Yet it's also striking that the Starks were fighting against the CotF here, even though other humans had clearly sided with Team Green at this point.

Just what side were these Kings of Winter fighting for? And what made them so powerful that even the CotF couldn't stop them? No idea... ;)

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On 1/24/2023 at 4:28 AM, Phylum of Alexandria said:

The Others made no sound.

>The Others made no sound.

Here the word “Others” is given to us as a proper noun, in its’ plural form, for the first time in our series though the other two times in this chapter I believe Martin is figuratively alluding to them. At this moment they are presented as a single stand alone thought from Will immediately after hearing the woods give answer to Waymar in the previous paragraph, after he suddenly calls out. Simultaneously, Will sees “Pale shapes” and then a white shadow appear and disappear and reemerge from the dark of the wood to stand in front of Waymar.

“Others” as a proper noun is defined in my dictionary app. as:
>a person or thing that is the counterpart of someone or something else: the role of the Other in the development of self.

This idea will feed into an over arching theme of Yin and Yang being figuratively illustrated in the Prologue.

And it’s noteworthy that Will notices thinks he can’t hear the “Others” make a sound. When, in truth, it’s sound that creates the “Others”. Read Vic Tandy and his shivering sword.

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  • 3 weeks later...

For many of the readers of ASOIAF, the ones  that have spent countless hours exploring and rereading the books, the ones that have spent time on discussion boards and watching YouTube videos, the ones that like to analyze the text, I think I’ve found an interesting parallel.


Comparing the second scene in AGOT, Prologue and the second scene in AGOT, Bran 1:


In the first scene of the Prologue, the young ranger Will has already reported back to his green commander, Ser Waymar Royce. Waymar, deciding to press on, is quarreling with the older ranger. Dragging Will into the quarrel, he orders Will to tell him again what he saw. All the details. Will, tracking a band of wildling raiders, came upon a camp two miles farther on, over a ridge. He tells the young lordling,



It’s “…hard beside a stream," Will said. "I got close as I dared. There's eight of them, men and women both. No children I could see. They put up a lean-to against the rock. The snow's pretty well covered it now, but I could still make it out. No fire burning, but the firepit was still plain as day. No one moving. I watched a long time. No living man ever lay so still."(AGOT, Prologue)


The lean-to here, a temporary shelter, is likely made of animal hide and branches. Both dead. The hide of a stag is commonly used as the cover for many lean-tos. And  broken tree branches with the small twigs snapped off are placed sloping against, in this case, the rock to support the cover. In this scene the snow has pretty well covered the lean-to. It’s not hard to imagine it as a snowdrift up against a rock. Later, in his head Will describes the rock hard beside a stream as, “the great rock”. There’s a couple sitting up against it.


Here’s the quote about the couple,



"Did you make note of the position of the bodies?"


Will shrugged. "A couple are sitting up against the rock. Most of them on the ground. Fallen, like."(AGOT, Prologue)



With good chapter symmetry, the imagery here I believe parallels the second scene in the next chapter.


There too, we have a huge dark shape hard beside a stream with a snowdrift up against it. And it’s later revealed, when Ned holds it up for all to see, that there’s a foot of shattered antler, tines snapped off in the dark shape. The antler, too me, symbolizes a broken branch with the twigs snapped off. And it’s likely from a stag. A stag with the same hide as the lean-to. With this logic, the dead stag should be under the snowdrift. Were Robb and Bran standing in the waist-high draft right next to the stag? The dark shape is, of course, the dead mother direwolf.



"A freak," Greyjoy said. "Look at the size of it."


Bran's heart was thumping in his chest as he pushed through a waist-high drift to his brothers' side.


Half-buried in bloodstained snow, a huge dark shape slumped in death. Ice had formed in its shaggy grey fur, and the faint smell of corruption clung to it like a woman's perfume. Bran glimpsed blind eyes crawling with maggots, a wide mouth full of yellowed teeth. But it was the size of it that made him gasp. It was bigger than his pony, twice the size of the largest hound in his father's kennel.

(AGOT, Prologue)



The idea of stone direwolves comes up again later. And the antler and branches have both been figuratively associated with swords in both these scenes.


So what if, the rock and the direwolf, and the lean-to and the stag, are parallel elements….? Then we can begin to infer Other things…

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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven't been posting as much, because the potential RGB theory related content dropped off dramatically compared to the opening chapters. Still, I'll include a few interesting bits.

Bran II

"The best way was to start from the godswood, shinny up the tall sentinel, and cross over the armory and the guards hall, leaping roof to roof, barefoot so the guards wouldn't hear you overhead. That brought you up to the blind side of the First Keep, the oldest part of the castle, a squat round fortress that was taller than it looked. Only rats and spiders lived there now but the old stones still made for good climbing. You could go straight up to where the gargoyles leaned out blindly over empty space, and swing from gargoyle to gargoyle, hand over hand, around to the north side. From there, if you really stretched, you could reach out and pull yourself over to the broken tower where it leaned close. The last part was the scramble up the blackened stones to the eyrie, no more than ten feet, and then the crows would come round to see if you'd brought any corn."

This mention of gargoyles in the oldest part of Winterfell seemed awful strange to me. I checked out TWOIAF, and GRRM definitely seems to be suggesting that something is odd here. 

"Within its walls, the castle sprawls across several acres of land, encompassing many freestanding buildings. The oldest of these—a long-abandoned tower, round and squat and covered with gargoyles—has become known as the First Keep. Some take this to mean that it was built by the First Men, but Maester Kennet has definitively proved that it could not have existed before the arrival of the Andals since the First Men and the early Andals raised square towers and keeps. Round towers came sometime later.

Hot springs such as the one beneath Winterfell have been shown to be heated by the furnaces of the world—the same fires that made the Fourteen Flames or the smoking mountain of Dragonstone. Yet the smallfolk of Winterfell and the winter town have been known to claim that the springs are heated by the breath of a dragon that sleeps beneath the castle. This is even more foolish than Mushroom's claims and need not be given any consideration."

Maester Kennet seems to be convinced that the oldest part of a structure built by Brandon the Builder came from a later Andal period, which is preposterous. Like the base of the High Tower, this seems to be a clue about a forgotten people who preceded the First Men. There we had fused black stone, and here we have gargoyles.

There's only one other places mentioned that have gargoyles, and it's Dragonstone. The smoking mountain of Dragonstone is mentioned here, as it and Winterfell were built over the furnaces of the world, same as the Fourteen Flames.

Like the High Tower base, the details here are playing with the idea that dragonriders could have come to Westeros in the Dawn Age or early Age of Heroes. I am thinking more and more that the early Ironborn legends about the Grey King are indeed about a Team Red band of humans (possibly from the GEotD), some of whom perhaps adapted their blood magics to thrive in the North, thus becoming the Kings of Winter. We know that the Grey King became grey as a winter sea; he was not always that way.

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Dany II

This stuff has been covered to death, but I may as well include it. First the dragon dream:

“Yet that night she dreamt of one. Viserys was hitting her, hurting her. She was naked, clumsy with fear. She ran from him, but her body seemed thick and ungainly. He struck her again. She stumbled and fell. "You woke the dragon," he screamed as he kicked her. "You woke the dragon, you woke the dragon." Her thighs were slick with blood. She closed her eyes and whimpered. As if in answer, there was a hideous ripping sound and the crackling of some great fire. When she looked again, Viserys was gone, great columns of flame rose all around, and in the midst of them was the dragon. It turned its great head slowly. When its molten eyes found hers, she woke, shaking and covered with a fine sheen of sweat. She had never been so afraid …”

And then the eggs:

“Magister Illyrio murmured a command, and four burly slaves hurried forward, bearing between them a great cedar chest bound in bronze. When she opened it, she found piles of the finest velvets and damasks the Free Cities could produce … and resting on top, nestled in the soft cloth, three huge eggs. Dany gasped. They were the most beautiful things she had ever seen, each different than the others, patterned in such rich colors that at first she thought they were crusted with jewels, and so large it took both of her hands to hold one. She lifted it delicately, expecting that it would be made of some fine porcelain or delicate enamel, or even blown glass, but it was much heavier than that, as if it were all of solid stone. The surface of the shell was covered with tiny scales, and as she turned the egg between her fingers, they shimmered like polished metal in the light of the setting sun. One egg was a deep green, with burnished bronze flecks that came and went depending on how Dany turned it. Another was pale cream streaked with gold. The last was black, as black as a midnight sea, yet alive with scarlet ripples and swirls. "What are they?" she asked, her voice hushed and full of wonder.

"Dragon's eggs, from the Shadow Lands beyond Asshai," said Magister Illyrio. "The eons have turned them to stone, yet still they burn bright with beauty."

"I shall treasure them always." Dany had heard tales of such eggs, but she had never seen one, nor thought to see one. It was a truly magnificent gift, though she knew that Illyrio could afford to be lavish. He had collected a fortune in horses and slaves for his part in selling her to Khal Drogo.”

We learn from the start that dragons come from the Shadowlands, and this is confirmed in Bran III. So it’s a little strange to have TWOIAF introduce this in-world maesterly dispute over their origin:

“In such fragments of Barth's Unnatural History as remain, the septon appears to have considered various legends examining the origins of dragons and how they came to be controlled by the Valyrians. The Valyrians themselves claimed that dragons sprang forth as the children of the Fourteen Flames, while in Qarth the tales state that there was once a second moon in the sky. One day this moon was scalded by the sun and cracked like an egg, and a million dragons poured forth. In Asshai, the tales are many and confused, but certain texts—all impossibly ancient—claim that dragons first came from the Shadow, a place where all of our learning fails us. These Asshai'i histories say that a people so ancient they had no name first tamed dragons in the Shadow and brought them to Valyria, teaching the Valyrians their arts before departing from the annals.

Yet if men in the Shadow had tamed dragons first, why did they not conquer as the Valyrians did? It seems likelier that the Valyrian tale is the truest. But there were dragons in Westeros, once, long before the Targaryens came, as our own legends and histories tell us. If dragons did first spring from the Fourteen Flames, they must have been spread across much of the known world before they were tamed. And, in fact, there is evidence for this, as dragon bones have been found as far north as Ib, and even in the jungles of Sothoryos. But the Valyrians harnessed and subjugated them as no one else could.”

The eggs looking to Dany as if they were encrusted with jewels is a possible nod to the Gemstone emperors of the Great Empire of the Dawn. It certainly makes some in-world sense that a society grown rich and powerful from the mining of precious stones might have eventually tapped into the furnaces of the world, and the powers they housed.

Note also that the TWOIAF passage puts the Qartheen myth of the second moon right before the mention of Asshai. Just sayin'....

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Eddard II

I’m not going to beat this horse to death, but:

"You were never the boy you were," Robert grumbled. "More's the pity. And yet there was that one time … what was her name, that common girl of yours? Becca? No, she was one of mine, gods love her, black hair and these sweet big eyes, you could drown in them. Yours was … Aleena? No. You told me once. Was it Merryl? You know the one I mean, your bastard's mother?"

"Her name was Wylla," Ned replied with cool courtesy, "and I would sooner not speak of her."

"Wylla. Yes." The king grinned. "She must have been a rare wench if she could make Lord Eddard Stark forget his honor, even for an hour. You never told me what she looked like …"

Ned's lack of lusty appetites is a character trait, one of coolness. And when he responds to Robert's inquiry about his one supposed instance of infidelity, he turns cool.

And then:

"Ned did not feign surprise; Robert's hatred of the Targaryens was a madness in him. He remembered the angry words they had exchanged when Tywin Lannister had presented Robert with the corpses of Rhaegar's wife and children as a token of fealty. Ned had named that murder; Robert called it war. When he had protested that the young prince and princess were no more than babes, his new-made king had replied, "I see no babes. Only dragonspawn." Not even Jon Arryn had been able to calm that storm. Eddard Stark had ridden out that very day in a cold rage, to fight the last battles of the war alone in the south. It had taken another death to reconcile them; Lyanna's death, and the grief they had shared over her passing."

Ned storms out in a rage, but unlike Robert it's a cold storm of rage.

Edited by Phylum of Alexandria
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Tyrion II

“With the mountains a wall to the west, the road veered north by northeast through the wood, a forest of oak and evergreen and black brier that seemed older and darker than any Tyrion had ever seen. "The wolfswood," Benjen Stark called it, and indeed their nights came alive with the howls of distant packs, and some not so distant. Jon Snow's albino direwolf pricked up his ears at the nightly howling, but never raised his own voice in reply. There was something very unsettling about that animal, Tyrion thought.”

Another instance of “he’s not like the others, but he’s a little bit like the Others.” Just to underline that a bit more:

“And suddenly the wolf was between them. He did not growl. The damned thing never made a sound. He only looked at him with those bright red eyes, and showed him his teeth, and that was more than enough. Tyrion sagged back to the ground with a grunt. "Don't help me, then. I'll sit right here until you leave.”

And then there’s Benjen:

“He took a small revenge in the matter of his riding fur, a tattered bearskin, old and musty-smelling. Stark had offered it to him in an excess of Night's Watch gallantry, no doubt expecting him to graciously decline. Tyrion had accepted with a smile. He had brought his warmest clothing with him when they rode out of Winterfell, and soon discovered that it was nowhere near warm enough. It was cold up here, and growing colder. The nights were well below freezing now, and when the wind blew it was like a knife cutting right through his warmest woolens. By now Stark was no doubt regretting his chivalrous impulse. Perhaps he had learned a lesson. The Lannisters never declined, graciously or otherwise. The Lannisters took what was offered."

This is just some small speculation, but note that the passage is limited to Tyrion’s assumption about Benjen. The scene doesn’t actually depict Benjen as shivering or scowling or anything like that. Not to mention, Benjen knows very well how cold it can get up North. He likely knew that Tyrion would need it more than he would.

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Today I got into great discussion about several parallel scenes. The primary scene I was interested in was the Prologue of AGOT. 

In Ned’s fever dream it’s seven vs. three. The obvious parallel with those scenes are the 3 NW men(Gared, Waymar, and Will) and (Ser Gerold Hightower, Ser Authur Dayne, Ser Oswell Whent).

But what about the seven?

Today I think I’ve figured it out. The seven are a Greenseer and 6 Cotf. 

The seer, the couple sitting up against a rock, staring at his reflection in “the great rock”.

The Cotf, are the watchers. The ones that emerged from the shadows, twins to the first. Three of them… four…five… The twin however is the one in the ironwood. 

The one in the ironwood, is the far-eyes also a watcher.

When Will first saw them they were all meditating, not fallen or sleeping.

The Kevan Lannister death scene help to confirm the Cotf in the Waymar dueling scene. 

The mother direwolf scene also help to identify the Cotf in Waymar’s scene.

Ghost would be the white haired Cotf

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