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Slayer of Lies

Asha Wrote the Bastard Letter (Theon I, TWOW Spoilers)

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First up, long time reader, first time poster. I'm a huge fan of GRRM, and am way too addicted to reading these forums not to share something I think might be a potential find (especially considering all the “gems” I’ve discovered thanks to a community of astute readers).

For quite some time I’ve considered all the “usual suspects” for penning the Bastard Letter, but what follows is a case for purporting Asha as a primary suspect. I've opted to post this as its own topic (instead of in the Theon I sticky) because it is specifically about the author of the Letter (with evidence from Theon I), but not about everything else covered in Theon I. Anyway, first, a little bit of...

Setup:

If Ramsay wrote the Letter, this means he has Mance and/or at least one spearwife held captive and that he/she/they would be willing to talk. As it happens, Mance (or a spearwife) being held in unconfirmed captivity remains amongst my primary points of contention with Ramsay authoring the Letter. Moreover, that the Letter itself is the only piece of evidence we presently have to go on for asserting Ramsay as the author.

Furthermore, without a POV to confirm that Ramsay performed the deeds in the Letter (and no more POVs in WF thanks to Theon’s exit), the most likely way for “Ramsay supporters” to get “canon confirmation” will be through one of Theon’s or Asha’s upcoming TWOW chapters, since they’re in the neighborhood.

Therefore, one of the following scenarios must be accepted: (1) the events in the Letter are yet to happen, (2) Ramsay is lying about something, or (3) the Letter has an alternate author.

In the case of readers who believe #1, you are simply waiting for a POV to confirm this, which actually means Ramsay will author the Letter (not that he has yet), because Stannis is still alive in Theon I, and seven days of battle have yet to happen.

Meanwhile, if it’s #2 for you, the potential lies range from capturing a spearwife instead of Mance to perhaps not obliterating Stannis and his forces etc. Once again, though, only a POV can provide a window into which events are “real” or not, and the only POVs in the area “presently” are Asha and Theon. Since the Letter itself is not proof of the authorship, a second citation confirming Ramsay as the author is still necessary.

Finally, if you’re in camp #3, as Tormund says after hearing the contents of the Letter from Jon:

“Har. That’s buggered, and no mistake... Might be all a skin o’ lies... 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.”

To that end, regarding the potential for an alternate author, it’s important to note that anyone other than Ramsay would have to have a very particular set of information which pertains to Stannis, WF, Mel, the Wall, the wildlings, etc., which is why the cast of text-supported suspects is not all that large in my view.

Furthermore, it already appears to be widely accepted that much of the information in the Letter came from Mance, and this is because – even if you believe Ramsay wrote the Letter – you’re already granting that the information required to write certain parts of the Letter comes from Mance or a spearwife.

To take this notion one step further, Theon is a necessary information conduit to “camp Stannis” as A Ghost in Winterfell, ADWD leaves us with Theon heading off to have a conversation with Mance:

“But not till you’ve sung for Abel. He’s waiting for you.”

The conversation alluded to, however, is never witnessed, as Theon’s next POV picks up sometime after their conversation occurs:

“A few more tankards, and perhaps Abel’s plan might not seem quite so mad.”

The admission of a “plan” – and confirmation that a discussion occurred – is all that’s needed to set up the possible passage of additional information from Mance to Theon.

Asha's Access to Info:

In a key sentence from Theon I, TWOW, Theon not only confirms the passage of information from Mance to him, but passes the info along to Asha as well:

Then the words came spilling out of Theon in a rush. He tried to tell her all of it, about Reek and the Dreadfort and Kyra and the keys, how Lord Ramsay never took anything but skin unless you begged for it. He told her how he'd saved the girl, leaping from the castle wall into the snow. "We flew. Let Abel make a song of that, we flew." Then he had to say who Abel was, and talk about the washerwomen who weren't truly washerwomen.

So if nothing else, Theon I provides us with a direct link for the passage of information from Theon to Asha (although not yet to Stannis, for those purporting Stannis as the author). Specifically, Theon exposes – to Asha – elements of his conversation with Mance including the true identity of Abel and the washerwomen, and details about his time as Reek... key info to have if one is going to author the Letter.

Further, Asha has been travelling with Stannis long enough to know about Melisandre, Stannis’ “magic sword,” wildlings at the Wall, queen’s men, and Stannis’ family being at the Wall (through Massey, Stannis himself, Aly, etc.). As such, she has likely been made privy to all the details required to write the Letter. In fact, for many who believe that Stannis wrote the Letter, it’s through the informational conduit of either Theon or Asha, and at this point Asha is far as we can confirm the information has actually gotten.

So what’s her motive?

Motive 1:

Asha is a captive in an enemy's camp and is days if not moments away from certain death. Considering Jon grew up with Theon, a last ditch hope makes it plausible that – if she could convince Jon to show up in force – he could not only help Stannis win the battle for WF, but potentially even allow the Greyjoys to live in the aftermath.

From Asha’s view, she knows Stannis won’t ask for help and may even believe Stannis’ stubbornness is setting them all up for imminent defeat. She also knows there is only one force in the world that is both close enough to matter, and would be potentially willing to assist Stannis. Furthermore, although the reader generally accepts that the Others are coming “soon,” the vast majority of the characters in the books still seem to have little-to-no respect for “staffing” the Wall for the battle-to-end-all-battles. As such, from Asha’s perspective, due to Jon’s fledgling alliance with Stannis and his history of growing up in WF, what could possibly be more important than liberating his hometown and aiding his ally… and, by extension, Asha as well?

Motive 2:

Euron’s victory at the kingsmoot has left Asha without any real hope of the life that she envisioned for herself. With Euron in charge, the Iron Isles are a dead end for Asha, unless she can find a way around the decision of the kingsmoot... To this end, Tris points out:

“Even if you did find your uncle Damphair, the two of you would fail. You were both part of the kingsmoot, so you cannot say it was unlawful called, as Torgon did. You are bound to its decision by all the laws of gods and men.”

“Asha remembered now “Torgon came home …”

“… and said the kingsmoot was unlawful since he had not been there to make his claim...”

“Drown me for a fool, Tris, I should have remembered—”

The takeaway of this (much longer) conversation is effectively this: to overturn the decision of the kingsmoot, she needs to (1) live and (2) get herself and Theon to the Iron Islands to stake his claim as king (at least that’s what Tris’ story suggests, and Asha is so happy she kisses him for the information).

Motive 3:

Asha reflects back numerous times to her widowed mother who is still mourning over the persistent ache of losing her children, coupled with the loss of Balon.

“So she went. To Ten Towers first, to bid farewell to her mother. “It may be a long while before I come again,” Asha warned her. Lady Alannys had not understood. “Where is Theon?” she asked. “Where is my baby boy?”

The main takeaway here is that Alannys is consistently inquiring about Theon in every interaction that Asha has with her, which Asha recognizes, and as such shields her mother from the painful truth of reality that her baby boy is most likely never coming home.

However, now that’s she’s found Theon, she may believe she can return him to the Iron Island’s not only “selfishly” (see motive #2), but also to appease her mother. This may be the weakest of her potential motives, but it’s supported in the text.

Side Notes on Motives:

First up, these motives are not mutually exclusive, so all she needs is one.

Also, as Theon I ends with Asha suggesting that Stannis take Theon to the godswood, it’s my current believe that this is not actually to die, despite what Asha says to Stannis:

"Then do the deed yourself, Your Grace." The chill in Asha's voice made Theon shiver in his chains. "Take him out across the lake to the islet where the weirwood grows, and strike his head off with that sorcerous sword you bear. That is how Eddard Stark would have done it. Theon slew Lord Eddard's sons. Give him to Lord Eddard's gods. The old gods of the north. Give him to the tree."

Rather, Theon gave Asha another piece of information, which implies that there is some sort of “old gods power” at play, and she may very well be completely dependent upon that power’s intervention in an upcoming chapter.

"The heart tree knew my name. The old gods. Theon, I heard them whisper. There was no wind but the leaves were moving. Theon, they said. My name is Theon."

I primarily mention this side point because it is critical to keeping two of Asha’s three stated motives intact. If she does end up being responsible for Theon’s death through her “directive” to Stannis, this action would fly in the face of the tale of Trogon, and Asha’s virtually stated desire to overrule the recent kingsmoot. Therefore, it feels to me like she’s got a half-baked plan and is rolling the dice by sending Theon to the godswood, as she hopes (or expects) that he will somehow live through the experience based on something Theon told her.

Opportunity:

Asha has/had a sample of Ramsay’s wedding invitation, and as such knows his penmanship, tone, signature, and seal. The seal, of course, is one of the potential “tells” of the Bastard Letter – in that it’s sealed with a smear of pink wax (or maybe white wax mixed with blood? Weirwood sap?), instead of a pink button with an official seal (which Asha wouldn’t have easy access to while in Stannis’ camp).

So if you buy any or all of her motives, and grant that she has enough information – as well as a “template” letter from Ramsay by which to pen the Bastard Letter – all that’s left is to send a raven.

“Lord Arnolf had found them eight days past. The northman had brought a son, three grandsons, four hundred spears, two score archers, a dozen mounted lances, a maester, and a cage of ravens … but only enough provisions to sustain his own.”

Assuming one of those One Way Ravens is trained to go to Castle Black, or that BranRaven may be able to control/deliver the Letter, then Asha has access to means of delivery.

In fact, if you believe that Stannis wrote the Letter, then I think you’ve already given credence to the notion that someone from his camp is capable of sending one of those ravens to Castle Black, and that the passage of information from Mance-to-Theon-to-Stannis has occurred, or will soon. At this time however, the only text supported information pathway from WF to Stannis’ camp is Mance-to-Theon-to-Asha. That is to say, Stannis may not actually know about Mance or “Reek” yet, but Asha does.

Finally, Asha also needs a tactic that will have the desired effect on Jon. For this, she gets her inspiration from Robin Peasebury’s men, specifically their sergeant who berated, cursed, and insulted his guards as he was being pulled up to the fire to burn for eating a fallen comrade. He ultimately is given a red smile before reaching the fire, thus avoiding the fate of burning alive. Asha purposely watches this entire scene play out and comments:

“The serjeant was the clever one,” Asha said to Aly Mormont. “He goaded Suggs into killing him.” She wondered if the same trick might work twice, should her own turn come.

From this prior recollection, Asha now begins to see that she can use all the information at her disposal to achieve her goal. That is, if she can write the Letter to anger the recipient, she may convince them to forget their vows and duties due to their rage and desire for vengeance.

To that point, the Letter is clearly crafted to not only enrage Jon (bastard, Winterfell, bride) but is written in such a way to anger every group of people at the wall – King’s Men (Stannis is dead), Queen’s Men (red whore, Selyse, Shireen), NW (crows), wildlings (Mance in a cage, Val, the wildling babe). Asha has therefore drafted the letter to be a galvanizing force for them all in their sense of vengeance for their fallen or captured leaders, and demand for key hostages.

Conclusion:

Much like the cases for Ramsay, Mance, Stannis or Theon there is still much to play out via future POVs here, but Ramsay’s supporting text is basically limited to the Letter itself, while reliable text for Asha being a primary suspect (thanks largely to Theon I) may be stacking up.

Amongst the alternate authors, I feel Asha has the strongest motives, the clearest means, the fewest issues with “character consistency,” and one of the best windows of opportunity, as outlined above.

So in an upcoming POV, all that remains is for Asha to take advantage of a diversion and head to the guardhouse, where as it happens, Stannis has conveniently left the two remaining ravens, a quill, and a pot of (presently frozen) ink.

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A rather impressive theory. Methinks that this is the correct hypothesis and the next book will prove it. All the other possible authors have different modus operandi and personal characteristics (Stannis doesn't bend, Ramsey would rather torture somebody instead of writing a letter, Mance and Co. have their own agenda which wouldn't require the long odds of sending a fake letter, Melisandre has things planned ahead without such improvisations), only Asha is in a pretty desperate spot and is a sort of a loose cannon. She is in the vicinity of Winterfell against her will and without conventional means to do anything, so she has to act outside the box.The Occam's Razor suggests that if Asha has to tell Stannis in order for him to write the letter, then it is more likely that Asha herself wrote it. Every additional detail lowers the probability of a theory being correct.

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Excellent post! It seems like a very reasonable idea to me. I always had trouble with the idea that Stannis wrote the letter. His sense of justice would never allow it, I don't think.

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great theory, but i still dont see what asha really stands to gain from getting jon there. its not like jon is going to save her or theon, he would probably hate them both.

and im fairly certain stannis knows theon has kings blood in him so im pretty sure theon dies.

i just really dont see how jon could liberate asha from anything.

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It seems like she is risking Theon's life to clear out Stannis's tower. Perhaps she will hang back and draft the Bastard letter while they are taking Theon to the heart tree. She's gambling that Theon will survive to right the moot the kingsmoot. Even if he doesn't, she will still bolster her chances of surviving the coming battle if she provides reinforcements to Stannis.

I like it...

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It's a very well thought out theory and perfectly viable being she has the most to lose and is in most desperate waters. If it's the only gamble she has left...why not take it.....if only to be her some time to try and get out of her situration..I don't think Jon would be in much of a forgiving mood considering how theon sacked winterfell. Plus I don't think ramsey would want John and the Nights Watch to contend with as well as Stannis and all the shanannagins happening at WF with the Manderly's and Frey's. It doesn't make sense for Ramsey to call unneccessary trouble on him. But if it was Asha....all her plans went up in smoke because Jon became "indisposed" at the end of his POV. Maybe Mellissendre got wind of this plan and had o ther plans for Jon....the stabbing could have been one of her illusions....who knows what GRRM has up his sleeve regarding winterfell...in fact he's actually had this part written out already.....but excluded it from the DWD.....

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Why.

Why, with all the other crackpot theories we compose and embrace, and why with how popular speculation on The Pink Letter, it's veracity, and it's true author, why why why why WHY has it taken so long for someone to theorize that Asha wrote it, when in retrospect, and reading over the OP, it makes so much sense?

This is the first I've heard of Asha as a suspect and I can't believe it hasn't occurred to me or anyone else (then again I don't keep up with the sample chapter speculation, have people been discussing her as an author for a while?)

Of course Asha's up to something. She's too cagey, most of us have known/suspect since the teaser chapter came out that she had more in mind than simple mercy for her brother when she suggested the weirwood tree execution instead of burning. She's got some sort of plan, some sort of gambit.

But connecting the dots to authorship of The Pink Letter didn't come to me until this thread spelled it out.

We won't know until we know [TWOW's release date], of course. But as of now I'm totally on board with Asha Wrote The Pink Letter.

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I really like it and your theory is well thought out and reasoned, but there is still one thing that you do not address. When Jon receives the letter, the steward who gives it to him is trembling and gone white and says that he is afraid, when Jon looks at the letter he tells him you were right to be afraid. I don't know if a fake letter would have that effect. Also, I don't see why George include that if it was just a ruse.

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The only person who has all of this information first hand AND could expect to benefit from the letter first hand (not in a secondary way like Asha expecting to maybe get free if Stannis gets help from Jon) is Mance. Who's going to be looking for Mance Rayder if everyone thinks he's a prisoner of The Bastard? Especially now that Jon has brought the remainder of his army to the other side of the wall. It also works as a way to announce that he's still alive to his people. Mance is a smart, savvy bastard and I have no doubt he'd have gotten out of WF before the Boltons really knew what was going on. After all, though he obviously had a hand in planning it, he didn't appear to be part of the plan to liberate FakeArya. He might have already sent the letter and been long gone before Theon and the WW went to get her. He also could have easily gotten his hands on pink sealing wax and a Bolton seal being that there were two Lord Boltons in WF who were busy chasing a ghost.

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Don't really believe it. Ithink people make way to much out of this pink letter. The author is Ramsay IMO. He has captured Mance (thus knowing about the magic sword and stuff) and he thinks Stannis is dead because Stannis used the Karstark Maester to spread lies about his demise (after killing of the Freys, they'll probably send a message that the Karstarks killed Stannis off but weren't able to rescue the Frey's). Ramsay fell for Stannis's lies and in an attempt to look more feared he claimed the honour for that kill. He'll be proven terribly wrong quite soon.

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As theories go, this isn't nearly as crackpot as some, but I must point out that you constrain events to only three possibilities. The hypothesis I believe most likely is that Ramsay wrote this letter believing everything was true, but he has been deceived. What if Stannis had won the battle on the frozen lake and either sent a raven to Bolton telling him what he wanted to hear or even feigned defeat and was brought to Winterfell, along with his southern remnants, disguised as Frey soldiers by the manderlys? Could such a possibility affect your theory?

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Don't really believe it. Ithink people make way to much out of this pink letter. The author is Ramsay IMO. He has captured Mance (thus knowing about the magic sword and stuff) and he thinks Stannis is dead because Stannis used the Karstark Maester to spread lies about his demise (after killing of the Freys, they'll probably send a message that the Karstarks killed Stannis off but weren't able to rescue the Frey's). Ramsay fell for Stannis's lies and in an attempt to look more feared he claimed the honour for that kill. He'll be proven terribly wrong quite soon.

Nice. I believe this more than Asha being the author. The letter certainly sounds like it's Ramsay but I still don't believe Mance was really captured.

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When Jon receives the letter, the steward who gives it to him is trembling and gone white and says that he is afraid, when Jon looks at the letter he tells him you were right to be afraid. I don't know if a fake letter would have that effect. Also, I don't see why George include that if it was just a ruse.

I don't understand this.

They don't know it's a fake, is the point. It has only the word "bastard" on it. That's scary. The maester has to deliver it to Jon, which is also scary (knowing Jon's sensitive to 'bastard'). Stannis might be dead as well (they're waiting on news of his quest), so if indeed it's not from him but another lord well that's also scary.

All in all, scary.

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If Ramsay wrote the Letter, this means he has Mance and/or at least one spearwife held captive and that he/she/they would be willing to talk. As it happens, Mance (or a spearwife) being held in unconfirmed captivity remains amongst my primary points of contention with Ramsay authoring the Letter. Moreover, that the Letter itself is the only piece of evidence we presently have to go on for asserting Ramsay as the author.

Lots of evidence. It is written like Ramsay might write (we can assume), vicious and taunting. Ramsay may well have misinfo from Stannis (who sent the ravens). This is hinted at a lot.

Therefore, one of the following scenarios must be accepted: (1) the events in the Letter are yet to happen, (2) Ramsay is lying about something, or (3) the Letter has an alternate author.

What about if Ramsay believes the nformation he has been given, and/or is adding his own lies or misinfo?

it’s important to note that anyone other than Ramsay would have to have a very particular set of information which pertains to Stannis, WF, Mel, the Wall, the wildlings, etc., which is why the cast of text-supported suspects is not all that large in my view.

Agree.

Furthermore, it already appears to be widely accepted that much of the information in the Letter came from Mance, and this is because – even if you believe Ramsay wrote the Letter – you’re already granting that the information required to write certain parts of the Letter comes from Mance or a spearwife.

Torture. Also worth noting that we don't know how much mance knows. He's a cunning man, he might know much more than we suspect. He may even be in league with the trappers outside Winterfell's walls.

Theon is a necessary information conduit to “camp Stannis” as A Ghost in Winterfell, ADWD leaves us with Theon heading off to have a conversation with Mance:

“But not till you’ve sung for Abel. He’s waiting for you.”

The conversation alluded to, however, is never witnessed, as Theon’s next POV picks up sometime after their conversation occurs:

“A few more tankards, and perhaps Abel’s plan might not seem quite so mad.”

The admission of a “plan” – and confirmation that a discussion occurred – is all that’s needed to set up the possible passage of additional information from Mance to Theon.

Can you explain why this is relevant? Is it because he then passes this info (a rushed version of) to Asha?

As such, she has likely been made privy to all the details required to write the Letter. In fact, for many who believe that Stannis wrote the Letter

Possible; she is estute and has only time to listen (and plot) in her current situation.

So what’s her motive?

Asha is a captive in an enemy's camp and is days if not moments away from certain death. Considering Jon grew up with Theon, a last ditch hope makes it plausible that – if she could convince Jon to show up in force – he could not only help Stannis win the battle for WF, but potentially even allow the Greyjoys to live in the aftermath.

From Asha’s view, she knows Stannis won’t ask for help and may even believe Stannis’ stubbornness is setting them all up for imminent defeat. She also knows there is only one force in the world that is both close enough to matter, and would be potentially willing to assist Stannis. Furthermore, although the reader generally accepts that the Others are coming “soon,” the vast majority of the characters in the books still seem to have little-to-no respect for “staffing” the Wall for the battle-to-end-all-battles. As such, from Asha’s perspective, due to Jon’s fledgling alliance with Stannis and his history of growing up in WF, what could possibly be more important than liberating his hometown and aiding his ally… and, by extension, Asha as well?

This doesn't strike me as a likely motive. If anything, it's 50/50 whether she'll die by stag or flayed man. Or Suggs. Burning, flaying, what's worse? I'd claim her best bet might be for her and Theon to be executed the old way, i.e. with Stannis' camp.

With Euron in charge, the Iron Isles are a dead end for Asha, unless she can find a way around the decision of the kingsmoot... To this end, Tris points out:

“Even if you did find your uncle Damphair, the two of you would fail. You were both part of the kingsmoot, so you cannot say it was unlawful called, as Torgon did. You are bound to its decision by all the laws of gods and men.”

“Asha remembered now “Torgon came home …”

Really good spot!

Asha reflects back numerous times to her widowed mother who is still mourning over the persistent ache of losing her children, coupled with the loss of Balon.

This may be the weakest of her potential motives, but it’s supported in the text.

Again, it's a good catch but this doesn't sway me either way, personally.

Theon gave Asha another piece of information, which implies that there is some sort of “old gods power” at play, and she may very well be completely dependent upon that power’s intervention in an upcoming chapter.

"The heart tree knew my name. The old gods. Theon, I heard them whisper. There was no wind but the leaves were moving. Theon, they said. My name is Theon."

I primarily mention this side point because it is critical to keeping two of Asha’s three stated motives intact. If she does end up being responsible for Theon’s death through her “directive” to Stannis, this action would fly in the face of the tale of Trogon, and Asha’s virtually stated desire to overrule the recent kingsmoot. Therefore, it feels to me like she’s got a half-baked plan and is rolling the dice by sending Theon to the godswood, as she hopes (or expects) that he will somehow live through the experience based on something Theon told her.

I think this is really, really wild speculation! Interesting yes, but to me it's more reasonable at this stage to conclude she's simply trying to prevent her brother being burned alive after all his been through.

Asha has/had a sample of Ramsay’s wedding invitation, and as such knows his penmanship, tone, signature, and seal.

Please elaborate?

The seal, of course, is one of the potential “tells” of the Bastard Letter – in that it’s sealed with a smear of pink wax (or maybe white wax mixed with blood? Weirwood sap?), instead of a pink button with an official seal (which Asha wouldn’t have easy access to while in Stannis’ camp).

But the Boltons always use pink wax (according to Jon himself). We're not told if Jon's first letter from Ramsay (re: "Arya") had a seal as well (e.g. flayed man), but Jon asked who it was from and only recognised the pink wax seal, so likely it didn't have a particular stamp on it.

So if you buy any or all of her motives, and grant that she has enough information – as well as a “template” letter from Ramsay by which to pen the Bastard Letter – all that’s left is to send a raven.

“Lord Arnolf had found them eight days past. The northman had brought a son, three grandsons, four hundred spears, two score archers, a dozen mounted lances, a maester, and a cage of ravens … but only enough provisions to sustain his own.”

The ravens are critical for Stannis' ploys. I'm not sure slipping in, casually writing a letter in someone else's hand, then sending it before being spotted is a simple manner. But it's possible depending on future events, especially if Stannis is faking his own death.

But wouldn't he use all the available ravens? How many does he have? Etc. If she's caught, she'd be executed anyway I suppose, even IF her ploy was somehow succesful "for" Stannis in the long run.

In fact, if you believe that Stannis wrote the Letter, then I think you’ve already given credence to the notion that someone from his camp is capable of sending one of those ravens to Castle Black, and that the passage of information from Mance-to-Theon-to-Stannis has occurred, or will soon. At this time however, the only text supported information pathway from WF to Stannis’ camp is Mance-to-Theon-to-Asha. That is to say, Stannis may not actually know about Mance or “Reek” yet, but Asha does.

I just think it's much simpler to assume Stannis sent (misinfo) ravens to Winterfell (would a maester really be carrying Caslte Black ravens to battle anyway?). Then Ramsay concocted his bastard letter to Jon.

Finally, Asha also needs a tactic that will have the desired effect on Jon. For this, she gets her inspiration from Robin Peasebury’s men, specifically their sergeant who berated, cursed, and insulted his guards as he was being pulled up to the fire to burn for eating a fallen comrade. He ultimately is given a red smile before reaching the fire, thus avoiding the fate of burning alive. Asha purposely watches this entire scene play out and comments:

“The serjeant was the clever one,” Asha said to Aly Mormont. “He goaded Suggs into killing him.” She wondered if the same trick might work twice, should her own turn come.

From this prior recollection, Asha now begins to see that she can use all the information at her disposal to achieve her goal. That is, if she can write the Letter to anger the recipient, she may convince them to forget their vows and duties due to their rage and desire for vengeance.

Nice catch, I like. Not sure I buy, but I like.

To that point, the Letter is clearly crafted to not only enrage Jon (bastard, Winterfell, bride) but is written in such a way to anger every group of people at the wall – King’s Men (Stannis is dead), Queen’s Men (red whore, Selyse, Shireen), NW (crows), wildlings (Mance in a cage, Val, the wildling babe). Asha has therefore drafted the letter to be a galvanizing force for them all in their sense of vengeance for their fallen or captured leaders, and demand for key hostages.

Possible, but again it's such a massive gamble even for a person without much hope. There are so many variables standing between Jon, the Watch and the Wildlings getting to Stannis.

Amongst the alternate authors, I feel Asha has the strongest motives, the clearest means, the fewest issues with “character consistency,” and one of the best windows of opportunity, as outlined above.

Still gotta go with Ramsay here, but I'm happy to help you flesh out your theory and I might just change my mindas there are some nice links in here. Please convince us!

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I've never understood why there is so much speculation over this. The entire letter "reeks" of Ramsay writing it. Just because he claims Stannis is dead an all that crap, means absolutely nothing. People seem to take the fact that the letter obviously has some lies in it as it being some elaborate ruse by Mance or whoever else, when the simple fact of that matter is it's just what Ramsay believes to be true. Just because the contents of the letter aren't 100% accurate, doesn't mean Ramsay doesn't believe they are. It's much more logical to assume this, then all these crazy elaborate theories on anyone but Ramsay writing the letter.

Seems pretty obvious to me and everyone else that Manderly and his men are going to turn on the Frey's(they pretty much already did with pies lol)and help Stannis, and the best way to get them into Winterfell is to disguise them as something else while claiming they defeated him. Look, I realize this is Martin and not everything is what it seems all the time, but it also doesn't mean that everything has some kind of elaborate plot behind it.

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First off, I’d like to thank everyone for their responses so far! The effort of this post was simply to engage discussion on the topic, poke holes in the idea, etc. Your comments are much appreciated, whether in well thought out affirmation or rebuttal.

The basic effort here is “proof of plausibility,” and I think Asha should be right up there for contention with Ramsay, Mance, Theon, Stannis or anyone else that you feel is supported in the text. What I’m not saying is that I know who wrote the Letter, because GRRM has been making me feel stupid for over a decade now.

To that end, the "Asha wrote the Bastard Letter" compilation effort was based on identifying key quotes in the text that could potentially provide clues that help solve the mystery before GRRM publishes TWOW. And, believe me, I thumbed through a lot of chapters to discover that there was more potential “quotable” POV support for Asha, and a sizable lack of it for anyone else, including Ramsay (so far, at least!).

In any case, I believe all candidates are equally lacking POV confirmation of the Letter’s authorship, pending future events. Furthermore, that the Letter itself is not proof of its authorship is exactly why there’s a debate!

To that end, if you believe anyone other than Asha wrote the Letter, please feel free to provide the passage(s) that highlight(s) this!

To mrlukeduke, who invested some extra time in a rebuttal, here’s some (hopeful) clarification on a couple points (though not all of them, yet at least!).

Lots of evidence. It is written like Ramsay might write (we can assume), vicious and taunting. Ramsay may well have misinfo from Stannis (who sent the ravens). This is hinted at a lot.

Can you provide a Theon (or other) POV quote/citation that provides evidence that Ramsay wrote the outside of the Letter itself? This would squash the “theory” heartily for sure! I recognize that the Letter has Ramsay’s tone, signature, etc., which is why I think it could be important that Asha also has a template by which to draft a forgery.

What about if Ramsay believes the nformation he has been given, and/or is adding his own lies or misinfo?

That falls under #2, in my opinion. Part truth, part lies – if Ramsay wrote it, of course.

Can you explain why this is relevant? Is it because he then passes this info (a rushed version of) to Asha?

Yes. We never witness the conversation, yet there is proof/strong evidence that Theon knows Abel is Mance, by which my conclusion is that anything else in the Letter that you feel needs to come from Mance could have been communicated to Theon during that conversation. In Theon’s case, the escape plan itself is made clear by its execution. Beyond that, the only thing in the Letter that really needs to come from Mance (that can’t be obtained in “camp Stannis”) is that Abel is Mance, he didn’t burn, he brought six spearwives with him, and his mission was to retrieve “Arya”:

You told the world you burned the King-Beyond-the-Wall. Instead you sent him to Winterfell to steal my bride from me.

If you want Mance Rayder back, come and get him. I have him in a cage for all the north to see, proof of your lies. The cage is cold, but I have made him a warm cloak from the skins of the six whores who came with him to Winterfell.

As it happens, Theon knows about Mance, the spearwives, and “Arya’s” escape, and passes that exact set of info to Asha, where the rest of the info necessary to pen the Letter could come from Stannis and company.

I think this is really, really wild speculation! Interesting yes, but to me it's more reasonable at this stage to conclude she's simply trying to prevent her brother being burned alive after all his been through.

Call it speculative if you like, but Theon told Asha the godswood in Winterfell knew his name, and Theon I ends with this:

And suddenly there came a wild thumping, as the maester's ravens hopped and flapped inside their cages, their black feathers flying as they beat against the bars with loud and raucous caws. "The tree," one squawked, "the tree, the tree," whilst the second screamed only, "Theon, Theon, Theon."

All I’m saying here is that if motive #2 is in play (the one about needing to present Theon to overthrow the kingsmoot), then Asha doesn’t actually want Theon to die. The ravens flying around saying “Theon” corroborate Theon’s story, so Asha may believe sending him to the godswood will result in something other than his immediate death. This could be a non-sequitur, if you prefer, but could also be proven out in a future chapter.

Please elaborate?
(on Asha’s access to a “template” letter from Ramsay)

From ADWD, Chapter 26:

“My lady.” The maester’s voice was anxious, as it always was when he spoke to her. “A bird from Barrowton.” He thrust the parchment at her as if he could not wait to be rid of it. It was tightly rolled and sealed with a button of hard pink wax.

Barrowton. Asha tired to recall who ruled in Barrowton. Some northern lord, no friend of mine. And that seal… the Boltons of the Dreadfort went into battle beneath pink banners spattered with little drops of blood. It only stood to reason that they would use pink sealing wax as well.

(Then, a little later:)

“The northmen have taken Moat Cailin.”

“The Bastard of Bolton?” asked Qarl, beside her.

Ramsay Bolton, Lord of Winterfell, he signs himself. But there are other names as well.” Lady Dustin, Lady Cerwyn, and four Ryswells had appended their own signature beneath his. Beside them was drawn a crude giant, the mark of some Umber.

Those were done in maester’s ink, made of soot and coal tar, but the message above was scrawled in brown in a huge spiky hand. It spoke of the fall of Moat Cailin, of the triumphant return of the Warden of the North to his domains, of a marriage soon to be made. The first words were, “I write this letter in the blood of ironmen,” the last, “I send you each a piece of prince. Linger in my lands and share his fate.”

In short, it’s pretty clear that Asha has/had a template letter by which to copy Ramsay’s tone, hand-writing, etc., whether it’s still in her possession or not. I think I called it a "wedding invitation" in my initial post, but the point that she has a "template" is still valid.

But the Boltons always use pink wax (according to Jon himself). We're not told if Jon's first letter from Ramsay (re: "Arya") had a seal as well (e.g. flayed man), but Jon asked who it was from and only recognised the pink wax seal, so likely it didn't have a particular stamp on it.

From ADWD, Chapter 28:

Clydas thrust the parchment forward. It was tightly rolled and sealed, with a button of hard pink wax.

I always took that to mean “the Bolton seal,” or the word "seal" may not have been mention, which I suppose is arguable either way. Regardless, both letters that Asha and Jon receive are sealed with a button of hard pink wax, not a smear. And my point here is that – without Ramsay’s seal – the best an alternate author could do is maybe a button of wax, but if pressed for time, emotionally driven, or without an actual Bolton seal handy, a pink smear is “good enough.” On the other hand, it's equally as speculative to assume that Ramsay smeared wax on the Letter, instead of sealing it the way he always has.

The ravens are critical for Stannis' ploys. I'm not sure slipping in, casually writing a letter in someone else's hand, then sending it before being spotted is a simple manner. But it's possible depending on future events, especially if Stannis is faking his own death.

But wouldn't he use all the available ravens? How many does he have? Etc. If she's caught, she'd be executed anyway I suppose, even IF her ploy was somehow succesful "for" Stannis in the long run.

There are two ravens in the guardhouse (as supported in the text), we don’t yet know where they are trained to fly, and ravens may only be critical to Stannis’ ploys if he’s the author of the Letter, or if has provided / will provide Ramsay with false info.

For those that believe Stannis wrote the, fair enough, but I think we have one sentence implying potential awareness of his upcoming “death,” which could either be based on an awareness of the Letter, or could simplyl be his expression of a legitimate concern that he may die in battle soon and still wants his orders carried out.

Meanwhile, to purport that Stannis sends false info to WF - while it's been kicked around on the forums (on threads I quite enjoy) - has little-to-no supporting text (so far).

Again, though, I’m not saying I know how things are going to play out, only that Asha has some motives and means for “equal candidacy consideration.”

I also don’t expect everyone to “buy” the motives. In my opinion, the strongest one may not be that she’s “surrounded,” but that she needs some sort of escape plan for both her and Theon in order to potentially overthrow the kingsmoot. And that along with the means to write the Letter makes her a potential suspect of its authorship.

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Why would someone besides Ramsay write: "I want my Reek"?

Because Theon told Asha about the importance of Reek, as mentioned (bolded) in the initial post.

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