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The allegory of the Last Hero


three-eyed monkey

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On 4/4/2023 at 6:17 PM, Lost Melnibonean said:

 

Well "lost" does not always mean death. It can also mean permanent separation. With that I mean that Old Nan's tale does not explicit say all of the last hero's companions died, just that they did not all make it to the children of the forest.

To the O: @three-eyed monkey I have a proposal for the meaning of Bran's Dancer. All in all, Bran riding Dancer is only featured really in two chapters:

  • the one where Bran rides the horse into the wolfswood and ends up nearly killed by a united gang of NW deserters, spearwives and wildlings (6 total). We have the plot of Tyrion stopping over in WF to gift Bran the special saddle idea, then we're told he rode Dancer all by himself for a fortnight in the yard, the disastrous ride into the wolfswood, but after that Bran is kept within the walls of WF, and the sole one featured as his "ride" is Hodor after that.
  • the second time is in aCoK when Bran must be the host presiding the harvest feast

The chapter that introduces us to Dancer is the one where Robb has sent out riders to the bannermen to prepare, after they received a letter from the Eyrie that Cat has Tyrion as prisoner. The next Bran chapter is the one where Robb leaves with the bannermen to go to war, and fighting has already begun in the Riverlands and they already received Sansa's letter.

As you and others have noted: "to dance" or "the dance" applies to fighting and war. Noteworthy too is that Dancer is a chestnut colored horse. We see chestnut horses featured in the arcs of the Stark children with Tully features. Robb, Sansa and Bran share auburn hair. And Sansa ends up dyeing her auburn hair into chestnut brown for her Alayne disguise. The other chestnut horses are

  • the courser Sansa rides during the bread riots in aCoK
  • Dontos rides a chestnut stallion on Joffrey's nameday tourney of gnat (it's also a "red stallion" because it's bedecked with scarlet red and crimson cloth)
  • Shadrich rides a chestnut courser

So, I think Dancer symbolizes pro-war mindset of Cat and Robb. But George gives the horse for Bran to ride, since the root of the war were the various Lannister attempts against Bran's life: throwing him out of a window and then the catspaw. This matches with the timing that Dancer dies: after the Battle of the Blackwater. Robb's war agains the Lannisters was over because of it. Dancer dies in the fire caused by the son of the man who is a major part in finishing off Robb and Cat.

How does "honor" come into this?

  • Ned Stark was too rigid and inflexible in his honor. His gravest mistake at the end imo was his response to Renly's offer. He was disgusted by the idea of taking Cersei's children hostage with the King still "alive", and he pretty much must have sounded like a crazy-man when he tells Renly that Robert might somehow still survive. This inflexibility is symbolized with Bran being strapped in the saddle of Dancer so much that he cannot get off the horse when the outlaws order and threaten him. That this refers to Ned Stark's honor is highlighted by Styr cutting Bran's leg when he cuts the straps that keep him on the saddle. So, euhm we get an image of "Ned Stark's high horse inevitably leading to war".
  • Irony of fate makes it that the grown child he once took as "hostage" (Theon) ends up taking WF (to earn IB honors), "crippling" Robb's war,
  • and of course Robb is confronted with impossible honor-dilemmas as well: Jeyne Westerling and Karstark. No matter what choice Robb would have made, the result would always be both "honorable" as well as "dishonorable" to those implicated in the dilemma.

So, honor is the root of the war as well as losing it.

And while we have come to perceive honor as a Stark thing, it's actually a Tully thing - Famy, Duty and Honor. Whereas the Stark words otherwise portray a far more pragmatic take: winter is coming.

It then becomes quite interesting that it are former NW-men, spearwives and wildlings are the ones who liberate Bran from the inflexible saddle on Tully honor that leads to war. Osha proposes to take Bran hostage and hand him to Mance, while another argues that idea is pointless because of the "white walkers". The sole one of the six who survives is Osha, who's a stand in "child of the forest" (with shadow dappled skin beneath the leaves of an oak tree, instructing Bran on dreams and how gods speak).

It therefore is a mini story of the last hero already: Bran is left alone, the wolves lost, Robb going in search for them, Theon and the guards flushing out game and lagging behind, and Luwin arriving on his mule as the last one. And Bran finds himself a stand-in Cotf instructor.

So, imo Dancer's demise does not represent the loss of honor, let alone Bran's honor, but demonstrates how too rigid and inflexible concept of honor can be the cause of war and loss of a home.

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