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Broken swords; broken words


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Waymar’s sword hilt is directly compared to a tree struck by lightning.


He found what was left of the sword a few feet away, the end splintered and twisted like a tree struck by lightning. (AGOT, Prologue)

The blade of that metaphorical tree is the same one that earlier shivered into a hundred brittle pieces.


A scream echoed through the forest night, and the longsword shivered into a hundred brittle pieces, the shards scattering like a rain of needles. (AGOT, Prologue)

In fact, the shard or needle from that shattering swords that Will sees in Waymar’s eye can also be considered a figurative shiver. A shiver, a noun, is a fragment or splinter.

A shivering tree or shivering timber brings to my mind another old childhood saying or phrase that lends support to the ancient broken oath idea, or the pact. The phrase, “shiver me timbers”, is an exclamation in the form of a mock oath.  It’s a sort of crossing your fingers behind your back thing. It was brought into pop culture by Long John Silver, the main antagonist in the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. And it was brought forward by a one-eyed, green paste eating, sailor named Popeye. It’s still being used today by an animated Crab in SpongeBob the cartoon. It’s often employed as a literary device by authors to express shock, surprise, or annoyance. And if expressing shock is another aspect of the phrase than it corresponds nicely with our lightning.

Lightning, the thing that figuratively struck or shattered Waymar’s sword causing an echoing scream throughout the forest night. This would metaphorically represent the pale sword. The sword that no human metal had gone into. The one that was alive with moonlight, translucent. The one described like shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish I seen edge-on. The one with a faint blue shimmer that danced with a pale blue light. The one with a ghost-light playing around its edges and shaper than any razor.


…a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge-on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost-light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor. (AGOT, Prologue)


His blade was white with frost; the Other's danced with pale blue light. (AGOT, Prologue)

But I’ve gotten away from my original point:) The phrase, shiver me timbers, is based on real nautical slang and is a reference to the timbers, which are the wooden support beams of a sailing ship. In heavy seas, ships are lifted up and pounded down so hard that the timbers "shiver", startling the sailors. The exclamation was meant to convey a feeling of fear and awe during those dire situations.

“Shiver" is also reminiscent of the splintering of a ship's timbers in battle – my reading tells me that splinter wounds were a common form of battle injury on wooden ships. And ,of course, like we read in the prologue shiver can also be used as an expression of being "cold to the bone".

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