three-eyed monkey Posted March 22 Share Posted March 22 (edited) This post examines the tale of the Last Hero, as told to Bran by Old Nan. It's a tale from thousands of years past, a story of a hero on a quest to find the children of the forest in the hope that their magic could end the Long Night. Like any ancient tale that has been passed from mouth to ear through a hundred generations, we should perhaps be cautious about taking it too literally. However, I believe Old Nan’s stories convey information that even Old Nan herself is not aware of, because the stories are allegorical. That is, there is a second narrative woven into the fabric of the tale. A narrative readers should recognise once we understand the symbolic language it is written in. So, let’s get straight into the tale. Quote "Now these were the days before the Andals came, and long before the women fled across the narrow sea from the cities of the Rhoyne, and the hundred kingdoms of those times were the kingdoms of the First Men, who had taken these lands from the children of the forest. Yet here and there in the fastness of the woods the children still lived in their wooden cities and hollow hills, and the faces in the trees kept watch.” This first section provides the setting. An important point here is that the tale comes from a time when Westeros consisted of the hundred kingdoms of the First Men. We’ll return to this point later. Quote “So as cold and death filled the earth, the last hero determined to seek out the children, in the hopes that their ancient magics could win back what the armies of men had lost. He set out into the dead lands with a sword, a horse, a dog, and a dozen companions. For years he searched, until he despaired of ever finding the children of the forest in their secret cities. One by one his friends died, and his horse, and finally even his dog, and his sword froze so hard the blade snapped when he tried to use it. And the Others smelled the hot blood in him, and came silent on his trail, stalking him with packs of pale white spiders big as hounds—" In a recent OP - The cold, hard truth of the Others - I discuss what is meant by winning back what the armies of men had lost, and the Others smelling hot blood in him, but for now I’d like to focus on the Last Hero, his horse, his dog, his sword, and his dozen companions, as these are the symbolic elements that create the hidden narrative woven into the tale. The Horse. Let’s begin with the horse. We are told the Last Hero’s horse died. And what is his horse? We need only ask Jaime. Quote "Your word of honor?" Ser Brynden raised an eyebrow. "Do you even know what honor is?" A horse. If Jaime’s wit is not enough then we need only cross to the Dothraki Sea for further support. Quote Among the Dothraki, the man who does not ride was no man at all, the lowest of the low, without honor or pride. A man without a horse is, symbolically at least, a man without honor. The Last Hero lost more than his horse; he lost his honor. The Dog. Next, his dog died. And what is his dog? Sandor provides the answer to this. Quote “A hound will die for you, but never lie to you.” Dogs are loyal and honest, but it’s more than that as Sansa recalls. Quote A dog can smell a lie, you know, the Hound had told her once. A dog can smell a lie. When the dog died, the Last Hero lost his ability to tell a lie from the truth. The Sword. And finally, the last hero’s sword snapped. And what is his sword? (No, not that! I mean another interpretation.) Quote Ser Justin put one hand on his sword hilt. "On my honor as a knight, you have my word." Justin Massey instinctively put his hand on his sword hilt when he swore to his king because when you swear your sword, you give your word. In literature, someone’s sword has long been used to symbolize their word, going all the way back to the Bible. Quote "I know what I swore." Jon said the words. "I am the sword in the darkness.” When the Last Hero broke his sword, he broke his word, meaning he forswore his oath. The dozen companions. The last hero set out with a dozen companions. It’s natural to assume these twelve were his friends or sworn swords, but that is too literal an interpretation. Jon gives us the key to the symbolism, when he remembers a lesson from Maester Luwin. Quote Maester Luwin had taught him his stars as a boy in Winterfell; he had learned the names of the twelve houses of heaven and the rulers of each; The dozen companions were twelve rulers of ancient houses. In the context of the time the tale was set, the rulers of the ancient houses were kings in the hundred kingdoms of the First Men. Another clue to this comes from a conversation between Anguy and Lem. Quote Well, here's to His Grace," Anguy the Archer called out cheerfully, lifting a toast. "Seven save the king!" "All twelve o' them," Lem Lemoncloak muttered. The dozen companions were twelve rulers of ancient houses, kings of the kingdoms of First Men, who all died, one by one. The fact that they are described as companions suggests that they were counterparts or peers of the Last Hero, meaning that he too must have been a king. In summary, the Others came, the kings died one-by-one. Then the last hero lost his honor. Next, he lost his ability to tell a lie from the truth. And finally, he broke his oath. Parallel with Jon Snow. When we compare the symbolic narrative in the tale of the Last Hero with the tale of Jon Snow, we find a striking parallel. To begin with, the Others have returned after thousands of years. Meanwhile, in the Seven Kingdoms there is the War of Five Kings, or perhaps more accurately a war of twelve kings, as Lem put it. In Jon’s time there have been a dozen men or women who have claimed to be kings or indeed queens. Robert, Joffrey, Tommen, Stannis, Renly, Robb, Viserys, Dany, Aegon, Balon, Euron, and Mance. What this suggests to me is that the Last Hero’s companions, who died one by one, did not die at the hands of the Others but rather by the hands of each other, just as Euron killed Balon or Stannis killed Renly. As Maester Aemon said: Quote They came from a hundred quarrelsome kingdoms, and they knew times may change, but men do not. Times have changed but men have not. The kings of the First Men were no different than the kings of today. They lusted for power and thirsted for revenge every bit as much as characters like Euron or Stannis. The high lords and kings played the game of thrones long before there was an Iron Throne to play for. Jon can be considered a companion of these kings because he too is a king, even if he does not know it, as he is Robb’s legitimized heir to the independent North. Quote "Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK.” Like the companions in the time of the Last Hero, the kings of Westeros in the time of Jon have been dying one by one. Robert, Viserys, Balon, Renly, Robb, Joffrey. It does not bode well for the rest. Then, Jon’s symbolic horse died when he lost his honor. Quote "You as well," Ygritte said as she yanked down her sheepskin breeches. "If you want to look you have to show. You know nothing, Jon Snow." "I know I want you," he heard himself say, all his vows and all his honor forgotten. Next, Jon’s dog died when he lost his ability to tell a lie from the truth. When Jon received the Pink Letter, he turned from his duties at the Wall and set himself to march on Ramsay Bolton at Winterfell, drawn by his emotions into the game of thrones when he was unable to smell the lies in the letter. Quote "Might be all a skin o' lies." Tormund scratched under his beard. "If I had me a nice goose quill and a pot o' maester's ink, I could write down that me member was long and thick as me arm, wouldn't make it so." "He has Lightbringer. He talks of heads upon the walls of Winterfell. He knows about the spearwives and their number." He knows about Mance Rayder. "No. There is truth in there." A little truth, maybe, but not much. Jon fell for the lies in the letter and broke his sword in the process. Quote "The Night's Watch takes no part in the wars of the Seven Kingdoms," Jon reminded them when some semblance of quiet had returned. "It is not for us to oppose the Bastard of Bolton, to avenge Stannis Baratheon, to defend his widow and his daughter. This creature who makes cloaks from the skins of women has sworn to cut my heart out, and I mean to make him answer for those words … but I will not ask my brothers to forswear their vows.” So, in several thousand years time, if they still tell the story of Jon Snow, then they might tell of a hero whose companions died, one by one, followed by his horse, and then his dog, until finally his sword broke. And while the details of what happened with Ygritte or with the letter brought by a raven in a storm, and the names of people like Balon Greyjoy or Renly Baratheon will be lost to the mists of time, the point of the story will be preserved in the symbolism. Thanks for reading. Edited March 22 by three-eyed monkey ravenous reader, Aejohn the Conqueroo, Northern Sword and 4 others 6 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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