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Your ideas for the 'secondary or tertiary' meaning of book titles?

Sandy Clegg

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GRRM stated in this interview that he is noted for story titles that have not just a primary meaning, but often a secondary or even tertiary one.


I like titles that work on several different levels where the title seems to have an obvious meaning but, if you think about it, also a secondary meaning, perhaps even a tertiary. That's what I'm striving for here. 

Three meanings for each book title, potentially? Getting to a third meaning might include obscure references, symbolism and even wordplay. 

I was thinking about A Feast for Crows and these thoughts occurred to me:

  1. Primary (obvious) meaning: the crows of Westeros, feasting on the corpses of those who died in the War of the Five Kings
  2. Secondary meaning: Metaphorical crows, i.e. characters who benefit from war, are in their ascendency (Cersei, Euron, etc)
  3. Tertiary meaning: crows are famously good at solving puzzles, so perhaps this book is a 'feast' for readers who like solving puzzles - or 'crows'.

So ... what are your ideas for how each book title might go 'three meanings deep'?

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A Game of Thrones

1. Primary Meaning - 'The Game of Thrones', characters' struggles to control the throne or who sits on it

2. Secondary Meaning - The influence of Aegon's throne against the multiple thrones of Westeros and its continuing influence

3. Tertiary Meaning - GRRM's own 'Game of Thrones' with other fantasy writers, money etc.

If you want specific wordplay/metaphors though, game can actually mean not treating something seriously, which could refer to how various rulers don't really focus on the responsibility which comes with the throne properly, or it can mean an illegal or secret activity (which characters do in pursuit of the throne(s), or it can mean working as a prostitute (not sure what that would mean though), or it could refer to how characters are hunting the throne(s) (game as in game animal). Throne can also mean toilet... So it could just be a big metaphor for King's Landing/Tywin's death?

sources: THRONE | English meaning - Cambridge DictionaryGAME | English meaning - Cambridge Dictionary

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7 minutes ago, Sandy Clegg said:

Game of 'the Throne' doesn't have a ring to it I guess? I think this is just a stylistic choice.

Yeah, that's probably true. Just as A Clash of Kings sounds better than A Royal Rumble, and A Storm of Swords is a better title than SwordnadoB)

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As GRRM is a chess fan, then:

A Clash of Kings

  1. Obvious = War of Five Kings
  2. Chess meaning ... In chess, opposition (or direct opposition) is a situation in which two kings are two squares apart on the same rank or file. Since kings cannot move adjacent to each other, each king prevents the other's advance, creating a mutual blockade.   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opposition_(chess) 
  3. Maybe a reference to a conflict in the Kings 1 or 2 books of the Bible?

So, for number 2 - opposition would be the symbolic meaning of Clash of Kings. Like Ice and Fire.


Edited by Sandy Clegg
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I know that we will never see a book with tittle A Time for Wolves. But it would be easy to find 3 potential meanings for that tittle.

1. Hour of wolf is darkest moment of night.

2. It will be time when many people will suffer and die and law and order do not exist anymore.

3. However that tittle also indicates return of dawn (Starks?) After all most nights end sooner or later.

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On 9/18/2023 at 5:11 PM, Sandy Clegg said:

So ... what are your ideas for how each book title might go 'three meanings deep'?

  1. Literal. Actual dragons, actual crows, actual swords.
  2. Metaphorical (?). Targs, warmongers, soldiers.
  3. I guess this is the god-level or similar: the category of singers, dreamers, destiny, prophecy, hive-minds, maws, whatever. We really don't have enough information to speculate on this, except maybe the first book, where I bet the thrones are Ice and Fire.
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I think by Dance the was sort of lagging behind the titles but he had a think about it and decided Dance still worked, BUT, that makes a lot more sense if Tyrion is a Targ and thus a dragon. Dragon Aegon emerging and instead of teaming up with Dany being steered by Dragon Tyrion away from her to Westeros and Tyrion continuing on to Dany and Viserion. That's the crux of things, what should have been a natural all conquering alliance between Aegon and Dany has been railroaded by Tyrion, that's the dance and will lead to drastically different outcomes.

I expect it to be revealed events in Dance to have been a result of Bloodraven and Shiera trying to steer things behind the scenes and so are also at play in the dance.

The title would have almost certainly been first envisioned for the book in which Dany and Aegon war for the throne and Tyrion plays each off the other and swoops in at the end to take power for himself.

Edited by chrisdaw
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