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[Pre-ADwD Spoilers] Prologue - Spoilers for ADwD

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How, how, how??? :drool:

EDIT: Um, how exactly did he die? :|

My guess would be either the Others or GRRM hasnt read until the end of the Prologue. But I'm damn excited about hearing more about all that ...

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GRRM opened by not giving the chapter a "name". It opens with a wolf sniffing. He hunts with his small sly sister and his one eyed brother. They hear a "pup" and begin to chase. They track another pack, the "pup", a male and a female. The male has a "long tooth" and the female a "smaller bone tooth". The wolves attack and kill, going especially for the pup which is the "sweetmeat". The wolves kill the man woman, and baby.

We then come back to Varamyr who remembers that a man named Haggen (sp?) told him that men who ate men were "abominations". Haggen was the man who taught him to be a skinchanger. Varamyr is dying in a hut. He lies there and remembers the burning and the heat. The eagle burning. He remembers all the memories of his wargs, he remembers the wolves and birthing a litter.

He is sick and his head is swimming. A boy knifed him for taking his dead mother's squirrel cloak. A wildlilng woman named Thistle stitched him up. Varamyr remembered that Hornfoot men knifed the boy's mother, Varamyr stole the cloak afterwards, and the boy knifed HIM. When Thistle helped him, she asked him his name. Varamyr said it was Lump. Because of what had happened at the Wall, Varamyr is afraid to use his real name now. He curses Mance's name.

Varamyr remembers his mother. She was a Wood Witch and he was Varamyr Six Skin. He rode a bear and lived in his own Hall. A dozen villages paid him homage. When he wanted a woman, he sent his shadowcat to fetch her. Once in a while some "hero" would come and try to slay him but Varamyr would slay him.

When Varamyr was young, Haggen would trade with Eastwatch, so he was fascinated with what lay behind the Wall. That is how Mance was able to tempt him with the greenlands. He reflects on his current situation. He is left waiting for Thistle to return. He could barely walk anymore so she left him and said she would return. She was a spearwife, ugly, one of thousands fleeing the battle.

No one knew where to go after the battle. Some talked of finding Gendel's Children. The Weeper talked talked of making for the Shadow Tower. Some even talked of striking out for Thenn, which made no sense since the Thenns had come down to Mance!

A wood's witch, though, had spoke of SHIPS.

There had been 9 of them once but they had slipped away one by one when he could no longer go one. He thinks of his father who had given him to Haggen the Skinchanger. He had tried to run away from Haggen but he had been beaten. Haggen taught him, tho. He taught him how to skinchange. Dogs were the easiest to warg. Wolves were harder, because you can't really tame a wolf, it's too much like a woman and marriage. Cats are even harder because they are vain and cruel. Elks were bad. Bears worse, Haggen didn't hold with them. Birds however were the worst. A man should never fly because he might forget who he was.

Haggen had taKen him north to meet other skinchangers. He had met the Wolf Brothers and Boros, who had tusks. It was there that Varamyr had killed Haggen. He had even taken one of Haggen's wolves until it died. Haggen had had only 3 skins but Varamyr had 6

Now only the wolves remained. The shadowcat had run off when the eagle died. The bear had killed everyone in sight before running off. But the wolves had stayed with him. Varamyr knows that he is dying and thinks that the wolves will feast on him when he is dead and he beliEves that is fair.

In another flashback, Varamyr remembers a boy named "lump" talking of taking another man's skin rather than dying, Haggen had beaten him bloody saying that "All men must die! Even skinchangers!"

He finally struggles outside and calls for Thistle. He can hear the wolves. He struggles through the snow and reaches a weirwood. He slips and falls and lies bleeding on the ground. The weirwood stares down at him and he begins to think of his past sins. He thinks to himself that the "animals did it", not he. He thinks again of Lump and then of Bump, lumps baby brother. Lump was small and weak but Bump was going to be a big string boy. As the memory unfolds, Lump uses skinchanging to murder Bump using 3 small dogs and is caught by their father. Lump was given to Haggen afterwards.

He finally is able to drag himself back to the hut and readies himself to die. He prepares to go into the wolves "skin" and then die so he can lose himself there. He briefly remembers Jon Snow and remembers his hate for Jon. He wishes Mance had let him kill Jon and let him take Ghost because the direwolf would have been a royal skin.

As he is about to skinchange, the room grows colder, his hand freezes to the ground. Thistle returns. She is covered with frost and her eyes glow blue. Varamyr's tears, eyes, and lips all freeze but he is able to slip his skin. He feels animals everywhere. Birds and beasts everywhere. In particular...an elk with two children on it and a direwolf wakes and lifts it's head.

Varamyr slips into One Eye, dies and loses himself. The wolf sees men. Many men. Too many men to count. But something is wrong. They are not living. They have blue glowing eyes. And the eyes look at the wolves.

_____

GRRM indicated that he has struggled with the flashbacks and the realtime POV. He had written it with many ppl passing by.

Oh...and...I asked GRRM IF a certain HOWLAND REED might make an appearance in ADwD. He said "possibly".

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Hey guys, I'm new to the board, but I've been lurking for quite some time. I was right across the aisle from you guys, and I noticed right off the bat we didn't get a name for the chapter. There were quite a few similarities between this prologue chapter and the prologue chapter for AGOT.

Was anyone else mesmerized by Martin's reading? I've heard him read chapters many times before, but it never ceases to amaze me the power his voice carries. I was totally sucked into the description; I could see and feel the snow that he described, and the wolves jumped off the page. Reason number eight million to go to a con with Martin present; the magic he conveys can't be found anywhere else.

Don't forget the "Orell" bit with the Bulgarian translation. That was hysterical.

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Don't forget the "Orell" bit with the Bulgarian translation. That was hysterical.

Right. I'm the Bulgarian guy. At some point I'll compile a list of words translated wrongly in the Bulgarian editions.

To those not in the know (i.e. virtually anybody who was not at the con), I have not yet read the English books past the first one, which means I have not yet encountered Orell in English. In Bulgarian, the name is translated "Orell" (in Cyrillic, of course). I thought that was just a piece of incredibly bad translation (and such pieces are common in the Bulgarian editions), but while George was reading, he happened to mention Orell, and I was thunderstruck: it was not actually a translator error.

The funny bit is that the Bulgarian word for eagle is "orel." So in Bulgarian the name is something like "Eaglee the eagle."

George claims he just came up with the name, and that he does not know Bulgarian. I believe him, but what is the chance for that happening? :)

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In particular...an elk with two children on it and a direwolf wakes and lifts it's head.

What in the world... Where's Hodor and Coldhands then? And one of Jojen/Meera/Bran is missing too...

Varamyr slips into One Eye, dies and loses himself. The wolf sees men. Many men. Too many men to count. But something is wrong. They are not living. They have blue glowing eyes. And the eyes look at the wolves.

Very interesting. Looks like the battle provided the Others with massive amounts of wight fodder. I wodner if we'll be seeing zombie mammoths and zombie giants.

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Awesome job, Trebla.

Varamyr serves as an example of what a skinchanger should not be like. No wonder wargs and skinchangers have a bad rep if they are all like Varamyr.

an elk with two children on it and a direwolf wakes and lifts it's head.
Obviously, this is Bran's crew. But it seems like we're missing three when last we saw them: Hodor for one, Meera (since she is no longer a child?), and Coldhands? I wonder where they are? On the other hand, maybe Varamyr could only sense potential skinchangings. Thus the elk and direwolf, plus maybe Bran and Hodor (being the two children?). I don't know.

GRRM indicated that he has struggled with the flashbacks and the realtime POV. He had written it with many ppl passing by.

What do you mean by passing by?

Thanks for the summary.

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there only seemed to be the 2 children on an elk and a direwolf. it was really fast paced the way it was described because he was "speeding" to the wolf as he was dying.

I thinbk what GRRM meant was that the there would have been a number of wildling passing by the hut while Varamyr was dying that would have provided context to the chapter. He indicated that it wasn't working.

And yes, GRRM always does a WONDERFUL job reading. It's actually kind of HARD to take notes because you find yourself stopping to just LISTEN to take it all in and you are like "ack! I just missed that!" :P

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A bit of a nap and I'm back... :)

Some details on descriptions that I'm recalling:

- The life that Orell lived in the eagle after dying and that all skinchangers seemingly expect to live is called the "second life", something that Orell has now entered at the end of the chapter, something that he denied Haggen by conquering Haggen's wolf, stealing him away from Haggen so that he died alone and crying.

- The death of the original self he calls the "True Death" as he was taught by Haggen, and he also refers in the memory of his father chopping off his head (while in the dog skin) to his "True Father" and it was read in a way to make it sound like these are the ways he was taught to refer to such things.

- Varamyr describes Thistle as being hard and ugly, but when she returns as a wight, the shining blue eyes give her a beauty that she had never had in life (excellent descriptions in this passage).

- George mentioned the decisions he has to make in ending a chapter, and in this chapter notes that it can be difficult knowing where to leave it as the cliffhanger, does he do it when Thistle returns as the undead, does he do it where she strikes and kill him, or does he go through the process of Varamyr reaching into and continuing on in his wolf only to see the massive force of wights turn towards the wolfpack at the end? (Personal opinion: the third option here closes the chapter brilliantly, and I love the description as he reaches out with his last thoughts for the wolves and enters One-Eye).

- The 2 children on the elk are obviously some of Bran's party, but I don't think that the group is necessarily split, only that in the instant Varamyr feels them he only notices the people on top of the elk itself, and not everyone that is there.

- When thinking of the meeting with Jon Snow and the hatred he inherited from Orell, Varamyr makes note of feeling the "gift" inside Jon, and strong, but going to waste.

more coming later if I recall more. :)

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Okay, we've already gotten a few posts about the reading, but I scribbled my little hand to death during the hour and got six pages of notes, so I'll post pretty much everything I wrote. It's funny because George talked about how hard the chapter has been to write because it has something like 5-6 flashbacks, many embedded into one another. I thought that I would try to organize my post into topics to make it more understandable, but since Trebs and Narish and Alex have already given reports, I'll post everything in the order that I wrote it (and therefore the order in which it was read). This should give you an idea of how terribly complicated the chapter is with its flashes to the past and back to the present. Disclaimer: I don't feel like going to get the books from downstairs so if I forget certain names or misspell them, then my bad. Oh, and it’s a real long post.

Before I begin (if you don't feel like reading below), I thought the chapter was interesting for the following reasons:

1) it describes the training of young skin-changers - they are taught by someone older than them and are steeped in the traditions of warging (a 'gift' of the old gods). It is assumed that they will experience death multiple times in the forms of their various animals, but eventually they will experience the 'True Death,' i.e. their body will die. Following this, however, comes the 'Second Life' in which the man has joined with his animal. Eventually the man part will fade and be forgotten, only the animal will remain. Although this was cool, I found it dismayingly similar to The Wit and the traditions of Witted Ones in Robin Hobb's Farseer Trilogy. Forgive me, George, for even thinking it, but it’s pretty much the same thing.

2) We actually do learn a bit more about the religion of the old gods amongst the Wildlings - they speak about it in a somewhat different way than the Starks do, e.g. about blending with all the trees and plants and earth when they die. More on this below.

3) The Others/Wights are practically the size of an army now. eep!

4) This prologue is indeed similar to ones in the past (e.g. Chp 1, Bk 1), but also similar in other ways to Stark chapters, such as Jon 1 from ADWD when Ghost is out hunting and then Jon wakes up. That is, it starts off in the mind of the wolf, then transitions to the human. It reveals a sharp contrast between the Stark kids and Varamyr. It also shows us why Bran is such a total Stark badass. I'll add some of my own comments below based on our discussions amongst ourselves and with George; they will be marked by an *asterisk*

Here it goes.

We start from the POV of a wolf, out hunting at night with his sister and One-Eye, his brother. He smells men (whom he hates), stags, smoke, blood, piss. They are following two men and a woman with a baby. He remembers hunting men many times in the past, the taste of their flesh. Some carry pointy sticks and are dangerous. They kill the two men, then the woman, and the babe, who tastes the sweetest.

We then move to the POV of a man, a league away, lying on the hard packed floor of a hut in an abandoned Wilding village. The man’s fire is going out, the hut is filled with smoke, but he is sick and feverish with an oozing wound in his side that burns to his touch. He is too weak to search for food or firewood. This is Varamyr, dying.

He thinks of the wolves eating humans, and that he could get them to bring them the meat, as they have in the past, but he refuses to bring himself to becoming a cannibal. The wolves can eat men, but he cannot (although he knows the taste of human flesh from warging in the wolves). He is starving to death as well as dying from the cold and his wound. He thinks of Hagen (sp?) who often said that “death is no stranger to our kind†but that there is also the Second Life after the True Death.

He thinks on experiencing death in the form of the eagle, as he flew above the wall. He’d driven Orell out of the eagle (*Eagle the Eagle, ha!*) and had been flying above the wall when he was struck by dark sorcery, and the burning was the worst death that he had ever felt. He went mad for a while because of it, and lost control of his various other animals.

Thistle had sewn up his wound but didn’t recognize him as Varamyr Six-Skins, because he wasn’t surrounded by his animals and had not been wearing the cloak that Mance gave him to show that he was one of Mance’s favorites. He’d stripped a cloak off a dead woman, but her young son had stabbed him and taken the cloak back. He’d told Thistle that his name was Lump, his boyhood name.

He had taken the name of Varamyr at ten years old, because he thought it was a name ‘fit for a king’ and he had wanted to be King Beyond the Wall. Before he had joined Mance he had lived in a moss and wood hut away from human kind, but when he felt the need for a woman, he would send his shadowcat to a woman’s bed. She would follow it back to his hut, even if she didn’t want to, was afraid, was crying. Sometimes young men would come to kill him and thus save their sisters, girlfriends, etc. ‘Them he killed.’ But he never mistreated the women. Some he sent back even ‘blessed’ with his seed. But none of his children had gotten his ‘gift,’ which he saw as a great disappointment.

Mance had come and convinced him to leave his hut and to join with him. Varamyr thinks of seeing the Wall as a child, trading there at Castle Black and EastWatch. He thought how the Watch members, even knowing that Hagen was a skin-changer, had been nice to him and considered him a ‘friend of the Watch.’ On his third visit to the wall, he’d seen his sister there, pregnant by a Crow, but she didn’t recognize him. He had dreamed of the green lands south of the Wall, longed to be there, which made him decide to go with Mance.

“Mance was their hope.â€

He thinks of Thistle, a spear-wife with a “hard, ugly face.†She had promised to bring him food and help, but she was gone for several days and was probably not coming back, leaving him in the village to die like the other refugees had.

After the battle at the Wall, thousands had been fleeing. Some had followed a leader to search for the “dark path beneath the Wallâ€. Others went to find the Secret Valley of the Thenns. Others followed a Woods Witch who had a vision of a fleet of ships which would come to take the free-folk to a new land. Those that stayed were victims of ‘relentless enemies’ – many dying from the cold, hunger or ‘killed by desperate men.’ *George said that he was really trying to get across how the Wildlings hungered for the land south of the wall, how daunting the wall seemed to the ‘other side’ and how Mance had been the only one to hold them together, the ‘linchpin’; without him, they had scattered and were helpless.*

Thinking that Thistle abandoned him, he thinks on his mother who had also ‘abandoned’ him to Hagen because he was a skin-changer. Hagen would catch him every time he ran away and would beat him. But his ‘gift’ was stronger than Hagen’s.

He thinks about how easy it is to warg into dogs, because dogs are pack animals and humans live in packs too. Partnering with a wolf was like a marriage; cats are vain and cruel. Hagen would tell him that warging into certain animals would change you too much, such as birds, and to avoid them. He had taken Varamyr to a gathering of skin-changers where V. had seen the various partners people had chosen.

But Hagen had died 30 years before, and Varamyr had driven him out of his animal so that he could have no Second Life. The animal had died not long after. Varamyr could take any animal he chose. *Notice the language – ‘take’ any animal he wanted. George talked about this after, about it being like rape. Vhagar asked how Hoder fit into this schema. George didn’t really say anything, but it makes you realize how talented Bran, a mere boy, is. And the moral question behind warging.*

But Varamyr couldn’t take any animal he wanted anymore, ever since the bird had burnt up. He remembers the terrible pain. When the bird died he lost the bear, who had always hated him, and the shadowcat had run away. But his wolves stayed true. He thinks about how the wolves will eat his body when he dies, and thinks that this is appropriate because they had often fed him in the past.

When he was younger he had told Hagen that he would never die, and would take a passing hunter and thus continue living. Hagen had beaten him, saying that that was an abomination.

He tries to keep his fire going, but can’t. He stumbles out of the hut and eats the snow, but it just makes him more hungry. He collapses in the snow by the weirwood, whose red eyes stare down at him. This makes him think of the bad things he’d done in the past, eating human flesh. But then he thinks, no, that was the wolf, it wasn’t me.

He dreams of his mother’s home and his little brother Bump who had died early. His own name had been Lump, and he hadn’t been expected to live long because he had been born a month early. Thus he was scrawny and weak. Bump, however, had been strong and born right on time; his parents had loved him better.

But Bump had died at age two, when Lump (Varamyr) was aged six. The old Crone had told his mom, when she was crying over the baby’s death, that Bump was with the gods. He was in the trees, in the plants, in the earth, in the animals, that he is a god himself now. This bothers the hell out of Lump/Varamyr because that means his brother was always there, always watching him.

One of the family’s three dogs had killed Bump, so his Dad had killed all three dogs with an ax. Lump screamed out when the dogs died, so his parents had known he was a skin-changer and had given him to Hagen.

He thinks of Jon Snow and wishes he had ‘taken’ his direwolf, since that would be a worthy partner.

He drags himself back to the hut. The fire had gone out. Then Thistle comes in behind him. She is covered in hoarfrost, and her eyes are blue. His eyes and mouth frieze shut and he starts to die. He reaches out (as warg), searching for his wolves. He thinks to take the youngest one. He’d been in all three of them before, he’d even been in the female when she had been mounted which strangely excited him. But he figures the youngest male wolf is the best bet for the Second Life.

As he reaches out, he is no where and everywhere, in the trees, in the plants, in the earthworms, in the owls, the ravens. He sees a great elk with children on his back, a direwolf recognizes him. *We assume he can’t warg past the wall and that the only creatures to recognize his skin-changer spirit would be the Starks*

His True Death comes as a ‘shock of cold.’ He finds himself in the One-eyed wolf, with his brother and sister next to him.

He sees “blue-eyed shadows moving among the snow.†There are too many to count. They smell like dead flesh, they are wrong, they are not men, they are not prey, they have wrong smells, they are cold.

And they sense him. “One by one they raised their heads and turned their blue eyes to the three wolves on the hill.â€

- End

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Oh...and...I asked GRRM IF a certain HOWLAND REED might make an appearance in ADwD. He said "possibly".

Well, as I remember it, you said "is there a chance that Howland Reed will be in the book" and George sort of snorted and said, "Well, yeah, there's always the chance." I got the impression that this was his way of saying hell no :)

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Not to sound fanboyish but that sounds like an absolutely amazing chapter, right up there with the Cressen prologue in ACOK, which is one of my favorite chapters in the series.

And we learn so much, from how warging works, to the nature of the old gods religion, to our first real glimpse of the gathering Others army.

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IMHO Children on Elk are Meera and Jojen. Bran can't ride. He is probably on Hodor's back, and Hodor is walking.

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This does indeed sound like a really well-done chapter. The last line is very creepy indeed. And full of interesting information about skinchangers and wildlings.

The woods witch and her dream of ships is interesting, and one rather wonders about it. If it were true, I'm, thinking this explains the existence of Hardhome on the maps, and I'm going to suppose that maybe Stannis decides to send some ships that way to gather any wildlings who are willing to bend the knee.

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What ships does Stannis have left now that Saan has fled to the Free Cities? I'm filing those people under 'Others wight fodder' until proven otherwise myself, though Hardhome's presence on the map is conspicuous. <brain not functioning as I'm currently working third shift> There's no one around there really with ships left either, is there? </brain not functioning as I'm currently working third shift>

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There's no one around there really with ships left either, is there?

Saan Sallador and Bastard of Driftmark are potential candidates, they have both sailed away according to POVs we have had, and their current whereabouts is not known for certain. Don't know why they would send their fleets up North of the Wall though.

Aratan

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The Night's Watch has ships at Eastwatch, and Stannis could possibly convince them to do something of that sort.

Or, actually, it might make more sense for Jon to come up with the idea.

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I also loved these summaries. The chapter feels very apocalyptic, very much like a horror novel. I don't think wildlings will be coming back from beyond the Wall in any great numbers. Tormund and a few others might make it, but most of those people have switched teams.

- It seems to me that Stannis' intervention at the Wall is ultimately going to hurt the cause of the Night's Watch. Nobody was thinking in these terms, but it seems like really, the imperative for both sides is to make sure that the wildlings get south of the Wall. Instead, Stannis' victory left a hundred wildling bands, and as one after another is taken piecemeal by the Others the wight army grows to gigantic proportions. If there's a Great Other, he now has tens of thousands of new servants, which clearly nobody wants. In hindsight, Stannis should have made a serious effort to deal with the wildlings before he attacked, even if he lost the element of surprise.

- I'm interested in Varamyr's thought that birds are the most dangerous because it changes you and you might forget who you are. Bran is already having trouble remembering who he is with Summer; when he starts to fly, who knows what he'll become?

- Isn't it interesting that the wights don't pay attention to the wolves until Varamyr wargs into one? It makes me think that the wights sense something about a person's spirit or life-force or whatever you want to call it, not the human form as such.

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