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Any Maths or Numerology Related Secrets in the Books?


Craving Peaches
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I have seen loads of wordplay threads but not so many on 'numberplay'... Admittedly I have no idea on GRRM's level of mathematical knowledge.

Significant numbers in the series seem to be 3 (three heads of the dragon, child of three, three fires, maiden-mother-crone trio, third eye) and 7 (Seven Kingdoms, Seven Kingsguard, Seven Gods, Seven Wanderers (planets aside from the 'home' planet) etc.). 

3 and 7 are 'stock' fantasy numbers.

I also think 8 might be important due to the '7+1' motif I see. The Gods are the 'Seven who are One', Seven and One (7+1, which is 8), the Seven Kingdoms follow the same pattern, as do the planets when you include the planet Westeros and Essos are on. Of course, if you put 8 on its side, you get an infinity symbol.

Westeros appears to be using a base 10 number system (Decimal - Wikipedia). How Westeros got this could be interesting. In the real world, it is speculated to be because we have ten digits per hand, and Arabic numerals were adopted to better represent large numbers (which were difficult to count on hands). However, not every language uses base 10. For example, there was some speculation that the ancestors of Germanic-language speaking peoples were not always using the decimal system, but were actually using the base 12 duodecimal system. If Westeros was roughly following this pattern, perhaps the First Men had a duodecimal system and the Andals brought along a decimal system? This could help explain some of the dating issues with events that occured a long time ago. What the Andals recorded as '6000' years ago when they supposedly invaded, would only be '3580' years in base 12 (according to an online base converter I found). If the Andals invaded '4000' years ago, it would be '2394' years (which lines up roughly with the claim that the Andals only invaded 2000 years ago). Which while still a long time, seems vaguely more plausible. The First Men would 'only' arrive on Westeros ~6000 years ago rather than 12,000, and so on. This does assume that there was some sort of mix-up in translating First Men numbers. I assume that the calendar was 'reset' after the Conquest as well. And of course, this is likely just a coincidence. It seems more likely that GRRM just wanted long lengths of time to make the world sound mysterious, and wasn't thinking that much about it, but it is fun to speculate.

Any thoughts?

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That's an intriguing idea, that the confusion over dates might be due to differena cultures using different number systems. It's entirely possible ... but I don't think there's any evidence for it in the books.

We know that a lot of elements of the story are taken from real life, but amplified or exaggerated. Westeros is basically England, but enlarged to the size of a continent. The Wall is Hadrian's Wall, but four times as long, and 5 to 10 times as high, with monsters living on the far side. Similarly, the history was stretched from centuries to millennia, to make it more fantastical.

I will guess that the importance of the numbers 3 and 7 was driven by the story line. Once you've created a religion with seven gods, it's just human nature that the people will think that seven is a lucky number.

I think the George has acknowledged that he's not real good with numbers; and in this low-tech society, the characters don't deal with them very often. So it seems unlikely that there's any complex "numberplay" in the story. But now that you've mentioned it, I'll keep an eye out for it during my next reread.  :^)

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  • 1 month later...

I always wondered about the numbers relating to the founding Keyholders, who held keys to the Iron Bank of Braavos' subterranean vaults:

Quote

Matthar recounts that the founders of the Iron Bank numbered three-and-twenty; sixteen men and seven women, each of whom possessed a key to bank's great subterranean vaults - World of Ice and Fire

It so nearly matches the number of POV characters in the books and how they are divided by gender - but not quite. 

  • 24 POV characters - 23 key holders
  • 15 male POVs - 16 male key holders
  • 9 female POVs - 7 female key holders

I'm sure it's relevant, as the breakdown is too uncannily similar to be accidental. Any thoughts?

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Not a lot of fantasy authors feel the need to talk about maths at all, but George does, we get a couple of heavy nudges. Arya is very good at maths. Sansa is not, and may need a steward to manage her accounts. Gold has an in-world metaphorical link to 'sums and numbers'.

So maybe Arya's character is gold? The sun and not the moon?

Elsewhere, twelve houses in the Planetos zodiac, each with its ruler. I like the sound of that.

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On 9/28/2023 at 8:57 PM, Springwatch said:

Sansa is not, and may need a steward to manage her accounts. Gold has an in-world metaphorical link to 'sums and numbers'.

We also have Bowen Marsh, the perpetually counting pomegranate. Not to mention Camarron of the Count, in Meereen.

Bran's direwolf 'Summer' is possibly a reference to sums and summing as much as the season, too.

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1 hour ago, Sandy Clegg said:

We also have Bowen Marsh, the perpetually counting pomegranate. Not to mention Camarron of the Count, in Meereen.

Bran's direwolf 'Summer' is possibly a reference to sums and summing as much as the season, too.

The summer pun is sweet, I like it.

The most sublimely creative accountant is LF, who can magic gold dragons out of the air. (So Sansa already has her steward; unfortunately she doesn't like him very much.)

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Thirteen seems quite significant and GRRM definitely references the unlucky or negative aspect of the number:

Quote

“Xaro Xhoan Daxos has offered me thirteen galleys,” she told Irri and Jhiqui as they were dressing her for court. “Thirteen is a bad number, Khaleesi,” murmured Jhiqui, in the Dothraki tongue. “It is known.”

 

Night's King of course stands out as the legendary evil 13th LC of the NW who ruled for 13 years. Xaro who offers Dany thirteen galleys is of the mechant guild named the "Thirteen." The last hero and his companions numbered 13 in all. And many child characters such as Joffery, Daenerys, Sansa and Jojen begin the story at the age of thirteen; Jamie won a tourney melee at the age of thirteen. My guess is there's a connection between all these instances that if deciphered, may inform on the last hero or NK. 

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  • 1 month later...
  • 1 month later...

Coming back to this thread for another number: 19.

  1. Theon Greyjoy was 19 at the start of the series;
  2. There were 19 Targ dragon skulls in King's Landing, the oldest over three thousand years old. Too bad we don't know what the Targs were doing back then;
  3. The Night's Watch built 19 castles;
  4. Lord Walder Frey had 19 great-grandsons;
  5. Craster has 19 daughter-wives;
  6. Ygritte is 19 in ASOS;
  7. Besieged at Craster's, the NW had 19 arrows;
  8. Fair Walda would "be 19 soon" in ASOS (and in the previous paragraph, Catelyn remarks, with black humor in retrospect, "A wedding feast was not a battle");
  9. Penny was no more than 19 in ADwD;
  10. Jon moved 19 women and girls from Mole's Town to the Hardin's Tower;
  11. Tyrion and Penny drifted for 19 days on a storm-stranded ship;
  12. Stannis' army marched for 19 days from Deepwood Motte to Winterfell;
  13. Betha Blackwood was 19 when she married the future Aegon V;
  14. Tytos Lannister was 19 when Ellyn Reyne tried to seduce him;
  15. Laenor Velaryon was 19 when he was married to Princess Rhaenyra;
  16. Prince Aemond was 19 when Viserys I passed;
  17. Aemond and Criston Cole marched for 19 days to Harrenhal, only to find the Rogue Prince Daemon had deserted it.
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On 10/4/2023 at 12:31 AM, Evolett said:

Thirteen seems quite significant and GRRM definitely references the unlucky or negative aspect of the number:

Night's King of course stands out as the legendary evil 13th LC of the NW who ruled for 13 years. Xaro who offers Dany thirteen galleys is of the mechant guild named the "Thirteen." The last hero and his companions numbered 13 in all. And many child characters such as Joffery, Daenerys, Sansa and Jojen begin the story at the age of thirteen; Jamie won a tourney melee at the age of thirteen. My guess is there's a connection between all these instances that if deciphered, may inform on the last hero or NK. 

I wonder if that's why GRRM has Brienne swerve the number entirely when describing Sansa - always three-and-ten, three-and-ten; eighteen times in total, that would be a heck of a lot of bad luck if she'd said thirteen.

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1 hour ago, Springwatch said:

I wonder if that's why GRRM has Brienne swerve the number entirely when describing Sansa - always three-and-ten, three-and-ten; eighteen times in total, that would be a heck of a lot of bad luck if she'd said thirteen.

There's a half-rhyme perhaps going on here with Dany. Maid of three-and-ten .... child of three ... ?

Just a random thought.

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2 hours ago, Sandy Clegg said:

There's a half-rhyme perhaps going on here with Dany. Maid of three-and-ten .... child of three ... ?

Just a random thought.

That is a very cute idea - now you mention it, Sansa has three fathers: in addition to Ned, both Joffrey and Littlefinger claim to be her father.

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Jon to Ned: "You have five trueborn children"

Jon persuades Ned to let the Stark kids keep the direwolf pups by pointing out the symbolic meaning of the number of pups matching the number of his children. The counts only match because Jon says "trueborn children" instead of "children", because Jon is a bastard (or so they all believe at this stage of the story). If Jon had included himself in the count of children by saying "children", the symbolic meaning would deactivate and then the persuasion would fail, and the Starks would be without direwolves. It's a mildly heroic act on Jon's part because it required him to take ownership of his bastardy for the benefit of others.

As the chapter comes to an end, Jon alone hears a noise, turns back and retrieves a sixth direwolf pup which he keeps for himself. The pup is his narrative reward for the heroic deed. 

To a long time reader of the series, more meaning is available in the situation. Because if Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, then Jon is a trueborn Stark through Lyanna. The sixth direwolf pup is symbolic of a sixth Stark — Jon. The symbolic meaning of the pup being separated from the other pups is that Jon is separated from his siblings, too, having to live under the lie that he's a bastard to protect him from King Robert. 

The essence of the scene's symbolic meaning is that a change in the number of pups represents a discrepancy in the number of Stark children yet unknown to the casual reader. 

This marks the end of the red herring. The casual reader is satisfied that the scene has acquired enough narrative meaning to explain its existence and form, flattered his moral judgement of the characters, and flattered his intellect. 

The number play is accompanied by some word play, where the meaning of the word "have" has changed from "parenthood" to "custody." If Jon is the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, Ned can't "have" Jon in a parental sense, he can only "have" Jon in a custodial sense. But that works because Ned can "have" all of his kids plus Jon in a custodial sense.

Unnoticed, Jon being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna does not make him a trueborn child unless Rhaegar and Lyanna married before conceiving him, either publicly or secretly. Because "trueborn" doesn't only mean highborn, it also means born in wedlock. It's an easy qualifier for modern people to forget or dismiss, but not Westerosi people. 

Now the number match is broken. Ned has five trueborn children but there are six direwolf pups. 

To repair the interpretation, the reader will commit to Rhaegar and Lyanna married. Now Jon is a trueborn Stark and the numbers match again: six Starks to six pups. 

Unnoticed, even if Rhaegar and Lyanna married and Jon is a trueborn Stark, the numbers still don't match, because the sentence was "You have five trueborn children", not "You have five trueborn Stark children." 

Forgotten, Theon is a trueborn child who Ned has custody of. He is just a trueborn Greyjoy instead of a trueborn Stark.

This reveals that the reader has injected the word Stark into a sentence that doesn't have the word Stark. Changing the words of the story is against the rules.

The number match has broken again: Seven trueborn children to six pups. Marrying Rhaegar and Lyanna repaired it in one place and broke it in another. The reader is forced to confess to and redact his "Stark" addition to the story. 

With the text restored to original form: "You have five trueborn children", the logical conclusion is that the marriage of Jon Snow's parents, whoever they are, is a more resilient theory by itself than the married and unmarried versions of R+L=J combined. Rhaegar and Lyanna are holding back progress on the mystery of Jon Snow's parentage. 

That's my favorite number game in the series that I know about.

Edited by Lissasalayaya
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1 hour ago, Lissasalayaya said:

Unnoticed, Jon being the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna does not make him a trueborn child unless Rhaegar and Lyanna married before conceiving him, either publicly or secretly. Because "trueborn" doesn't only mean highborn, it also means born in wedlock. It's an easy qualifier for modern people to forget or dismiss, but not Westerosi people.

I have remained frustrated by the concept of a secret marriage. The essence of a marriage is a public declaration of union, isn't it? Say a couple who secretly married then got publicly married, but had a child in the meantime. How could anyone except themselves know the child was born in wedlock (if they married before a weirwood tree, so no septon as witness)?

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4 hours ago, SaffronLady said:

I have remained frustrated by the concept of a secret marriage. The essence of a marriage is a public declaration of union, isn't it? Say a couple who secretly married then got publicly married, but had a child in the meantime. How could anyone except themselves know the child was born in wedlock (if they married before a weirwood tree, so no septon as witness)?

For this reason, a marriage needs witnesses. Still, a marriage can have a witness and remain a secret from the general public until attested to much later by the witness, changing important things like succession calculations even after the married people, their child or grandchild has died. Even then, a witness may not be enough proof to move nobility to support a different claimant, but in combination with other proofs like hereditary traits (having "the look" of a Targ/Stark/Tully/etc) does help move people. And of course, each successful persuasion increases the likelihood of the next, and the nobles who benefit most from changing the succession outcome will be moved earliest and can get the ball rolling. 

Outside of political ramifications, a secret marriage can have an emotional effect on the characters, and on the readers who are invested in the characters.

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