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

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Ramsay wrote the letter. Everything written he (Ramsay) believes to be true. The reveal will be that Stannis and the Manderly's met up in the field and sh!t stomped the Frey army. Then the Manderly's went back and gave a false report to Ramsay about Stannis being dead (with heavy Frey casualties conveniently) but Theon escaping to Castle Black with Jeyne. This will cause Ramsay to drop his guard at Winterfell and allow Stannis to sneak up and take Winterfell like Theon did (since Stannis will have gotten that info from him). Then Stannis will sneak in to Winterfell with the help of the Manderlys and Umbers on the inside and the whoop ass will commence.

This is all leading up to the big demonstration of Stannis' military prowess that's been built up over the previous novels. TWOW will reveal the time lapse of events that we've missed that lead to Ramsay sending the letter to Jon where we'll get the Theon interrogation, the Manderly doublecross, etc.

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I'm not sure Manderly wouldn't just go back to Winterfell like that after slaughtering Freys – it would cause a *lot* of suspicion and paranoia!

I think it's more likely that Stannis has some "fake death" ploy that's become unintentionally entangled with Manderlys' own betrayal of the Boltons.

This thread has certainly tipped it back more towards Mance playing some large part in the letter (this thread, and Bran Vras' article mostly), but I still think Ramsay authored it.

What I'd love to see, is the two timelines from Mance and Ramsay camps, with the two competing theories side-by-side for comparison and making it easy to visualise the hours and days between events.

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Assuming that the letter was in fact sent by Ramsay:

I dont know why still some people speculate that Stannis is already dead

a) there will be an ice fight which means he is still alive when the letter was written

B) if ramsay killed someone that would be the umbers at wf gate

I agree that Stannis is alive

But the allegation that there will be an ice fight, and because that we know stannis is alive is false.

Thats because the ice fight could be a flash back

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A possible theory I haven't seen. Mance was arrested as Ramsey claims, possibly even tortured, but definitely imprisoned. He then removes the ruby and his appearance changes. Then when someone comes back he says he was a guard who was tricked and the real guy escaped.

Nice idea! Although wouldn't that kill him or hurt a lot? I think he was bound by a ruby spell to Melisandre or something.

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The Essay:

I agree with this. Bran Vras did an amazing job presenting evidence behind the assertion that it was indeed Mance Raydar who wrote the letter and is much more eloquent than I could ever be, to boot:


Regarding the Branvras essay (which I have read before), it’s a well written essay, although many of the pieces of evidence come off as non sequiturs, and not all of the conclusions follow naturally, IMO.

For example, here’s what I think is a fairly obvious rebuttal to the first argument:

The Boltons' literary Achievements – Using the logic put forth in this section, why not challenge Mance’s literacy? Show me where – in five books – GRRM indicates that wildling-born Mance can read and write. Certainly if Ramsay is challenged in this regard, it should be accepted that Mance may be more so… particularly as implied by discussing the circumstances of Ramsay’s birth, upbringing, station, access to maesters, etc.

On the other hand, one of the soundest arguments in the essay – which I have seen in multiple locations – is the echoing of the phrases in the Song of Winks section, such as Rattleshirt saying, “for all the world to see,” and so on.

However, Theon also says, “He wants his bride back. He wants his Reek.” And Stannis says, “In Braavos you may hear that I am dead. It may even be true.” So the echoing of phrases doesn’t directly prove anything. It merely sets up the potential for a foreshadowing reveal for pretty much any of the primary suspects.

To that end, in a Song of Winks when Bran Vras says, “I conclude that the words in the letter come from Mance,” well… So do I. Whether Ramsay, Mance or Asha wrote the Letter, many of the words in the Letter pretty much have to come from Mance (or a spearwife at minimum, if you’re a Ramsay supporter). And as for how that pertains to the theory put forth in the OP, I provide a potential path of information from Mance to Theon to Asha.

Now, I’m fully willing to admit that the hinge of the “Asha theory” is completely dependent upon Mance having informed Theon of “everything” in their closed door meeting between A Ghost in Winterfell and Theon I in ADWD, which several readers disagree with, but which I believe is another thing that cannot be proven yet either way. Hence the generally accepted but loosely applied term “theory.”

The Show:

Secondly, the “show angle” was mentioned a few pages back…

Anybody else think the show hints that Ramsay wrote the letter, but is a lying POS and the letter is bogus? Episode 6 of this season...Ramsay: "You forgot to ask if I'm a liar! I'm afraid I am." I believe some lines in the show, especially this season, are likely allusions to future material, in the same way as the Melisandre/Arya "brown eyes, blue eyes, green eyes" scene from the same episode.

Insofar as the show may provide “foresight” into the potential outcome of events in the books in terms of distilling what’s “important” to the major book arcs, this is certainly one credible piece of takeaway.

To that end, anyone who saw the season 3 finale will also note that the show producers found it important that “Yara” receive a certain letter from Ramsay containing a “piece of prince” (never mind which piece), and that she is embarking on a mission to rescue Theon.

Of course, the producers may veer completely away from where the books are actually going, but most of the major arcs (ignoring flashbacks) share a fair amount of parity so far. On the flipside, if Robb lived through the Red Wedding or Jon Snow invented the cell phone, we could completely throw this angle out, but all the major characters are more or less where they’re meant to be at this time.

So a reasonable conclusion there might be that Asha is important to the events surrounding Ramsay, possibly Winterfell, and definitely the rescue attempt of Theon. Futhermore, the catalyst employed was in fact a letter from Ramsay (which, again, is important because it may provide a template for Asha to pen the Bastard Letter by in the books and the show if this is how it plays out).

The Godswood:

Asha’s desire to have Stannis send Theon to the godswood for some “highly speculative,” potentially positive purpose has been criticized, so I’ve pulled a few quotes out of The Sacrifice that illustrate Asha’s understanding of the northmen, northern gods, etc. (largely unrelated to the Letter, but maybe worth a read to you):

“What has your southron god to do with snow?” demanded Artos Flint. His black beard was crusted with ice. “This is the wroth of the old gods come upon us. It is them we should appease.”

“Aye,” said Big Bucket Wull. “Red Rahloo means nothing here. You will only make the old gods angry. They are watching from their island.”

And later, an observation and a thought from Asha:

A raven was perched atop one [of the Peasebury corpses], pulling at the tatters of burned flesh that clung to its blackened skull. The blowing snow had covered the ashes at the base of the pyre and crept up the dead man’s leg as far as his ankle. The old gods mean to bury him, Asha thought. This was no work of theirs.

Connecting the dots, it would follow that Asha has a realization when Theon tells her:

"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."

This helps to explain (in part) Asha’s action to tell Stannis to send Theon to the tree/island for a yet-to-be-revealed result:

"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."

While this action is not directly connected to the authorship of the Letter, it illustrates follow through on foreshadowing put forth in the Asha/Theon chapters, as the godswood is inarguably mentioned several times, and an action driven by an apparent realization from Asha is put into motion.

Now, I’m not directly tying Asha’s desire to send Theon to the godswood to her potential authorship of the Letter, but I am suggesting that this is an action she is performing in an effort to keep Theon alive (based on what she has recently observed about the old gods, godswoods, and Theon’s recent apparent connection to them, etc.).

After all, she not only needs to return Theon to the Iron Islands to dispute the kingsmoot, but she may need his assistance to write a certain Letter too.

Dire Straits:

Also in The Sacrifice, Asha’s understanding of the imminent danger of continuing to spend time with what appears to be a soon-to-be mutinous crew is growing as well. This is important because Asha being in “dire straits” was effectively suggested as motive #1 in the OP, which was also criticized as being weak.

From Suggs:

“The crowd will be even bigger when it’s you squirming from a stake.”

He was not wrong. The wolves did not love her. She was iron-born and must answer for the crimes of her people, for Moat Cailin and Deepwood Motte and Torrhen Square, for centuries of reaving along the stony shore, for all Theon did at Winterfell.

And later:

Asha had heard rumors that some of the men-at-arms were wagering on which of the great knights and lords would be the next to die. Ser Ormund had emerged as a clear favorite. And how much coin was place on me, I wonder?

So let it be concluded that Asha at least understands the potential danger she’s in, and that danger is death. Naturally, having one’s life threatened can result in desperate actions.

Additionally, for those who read it, Ghostwood put together a collection of citations indicating potential motives and more, many centered around Asha trying to come up with a way to ally with Stannis, which he is resistant to. In her “final moments” of ADWD, Asha thinks to herself:

Either way it seemed to Asha that the king was lost and crying out for help.

Yet, Stannis won’t allow her to assist directly, a minimum of one person in Stannis’ camp would love to see her burned at the stake, there are mixed feelings in camp about how to fight Ramsay and whether or not they will win no matter what they do, and she’s rolling the dice on a last ditch effort to save her brother by sending him to a tree.

But she can’t expect that sending Theon to the godswood will solve all of her problems. Therein, it’s possible that steering a third course is all that’s left, and what better way to do that than using Ramsay’s own creation (Reek) against him?

Endgame Speculation:

Asha may need Theon’s help to pen the Letter herself, but if Theon can redeem himself by helping Asha write a Letter that results in the northern reclamation of Winterfell (an arc that started for Theon way back in ACOK), there’s an excellent symmetry in play. (Theon takes WF in book 2, Theon helps the northmen take it back in book 6). Meanwhile, the clues pertaining to Asha’s desire to rule the Iron Islands – and the requirement that Theon lives in order to overrule the kingsmoot – feel like they need payoff as well. To that end, Asha’s potential authorship of the Letter (as catalyzed by receiving a “piece of prince”) and returning to the Iron Islands (as foreshadowed in AFFC) are not necessarily mutually exclusive storylines, and offer the “high impact” arc of the redemption of Theon.

Alternatively, as I believe Free Northman mentioned, Jon’s “practice yard” scene with “Rattleshirt” may be foreshadowing of a larger confrontation to occur with Mance – the very man Jon deceived in ASOS. So if Mance wrote the Letter, this sets up Jon to resolve the “Winterfell situation” by overthrowing Mance prior to being forced back to the Wall to fight the Others in book 7, right? However, since Jon is likely to be out of commission for a while (having warged into Ghost), what is it the “Mance supporters” are immediately anticipating GRRM to write for Jon and Mance next? Will it be resolved before the Others attack in full force? And which POV do you expect to learn that Mance wrote the Letter through?

Meanwhile, if you believe Ramsay wrote the Letter – whether it contains some untruths or not – what endgame result are you hoping for? That Winterfell is taken "back" by Stannis and company in book 6? Perhaps the best result here is that Jon “wakes up” in time to fight off the Others in late book 6 or early book 7, while Stannis and the northmen defend Winterfell to the south from Aegon, Euron, the Tyrells, or whomever else it needs defending against. Whatever it is, I’m also curious why people appear to want Ramsay to have written the Letter, or seem to believe they've added up the clues that makes it "obvious" it was him, as Mance and Asha seem like more interesting candidates IMO. In any event, perhaps the scenario I laid out is in your “top 25,” or perhaps I’m completely off base, but I'm curious what your endgame thoughts are as well.


For those that have enjoyed this theory and subsequent discussion as much as I have, thanks for all your feedback, insight, research, constructive criticism, well thought out rebuttals, compliments, acknowledgement, etc.

And for those that don’t know where to find the Theon chapter, http://tinyurl.com/n39h6mg.

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Upon further review of general commentary, it seems a couple more things should be made clearer.

The Hinge of the “Asha Theory”:

To accept that Asha wrote the Letter as plausible, you have to accept that Mance told Theon more than he’s letting on at present, despite Theon continuing to think of Mance as Abel through this chapter.

Many people have a fundamental difficulty with this that I don’t personally grapple with (insofar as “theories” are concerned).

Sure, Theon continues to think of Mance as Abel and a “singer” throughout Theon I in ADWD. However, Mance is not limited to being only a singer, and he could have easily told Theon to tell no one his real name. Suspending your disbelief for a moment, Abel and “singer” are simply how half-mad Theon thinks of him the couple of brief times it enters his addled mind in the middle of an adrenaline filled escape.

So let’s start here instead: There is enough text evidence during Theon I to make a case – at a bare minimum – for Theon knowing that the washerwomen were in fact wildlings.

Squirrel says to him (during the escape):

“I was twelve the first time my brother took me raiding south o’ your Wall,” and, “I’ve done that Wall six times over since, over and back again.”

Also, Theon is in the room when they tell Jeyne they'll take her to Jon Snow, which indicates (1) that the Wall is where Mance was planning to send them, and also (2) that Theon knows they were supposed to be heading to the Wall.

What’s also important here is that Theon displays no inward or outward reaction to the washerwomen suddenly exposing to the reader that they are wildlings, or where they are going. Further, Theon definitely knows who wildlings are (see AGOT where, as a side note, the phrase “black crows” is uttered in his presence). In short, he might be driven to “react” if he didn’t know these things in advance of the escape, but he doesn’t. So I take from this that – in the closed door conversation between A Ghost In Winterfell and Theon I (ADWD) – Theon’s already been told they are wildlings or he would react in some way.

Meanwhile, as resistance to the notion that Theon knows that Abel is Mance (and possibly more), many readers suggest that the absence of acknowledgement of Abel as Mance means that he doesn’t know who Mance is.

Conversely, I’m suggesting that the absence of acknowledgement that the washerwomen are “suddenly” wildlings is because he already knows that they are. So it would stand to reason that it’s at least possible that he knows who Abel is as well (via the closed-door “escape plan” conversation in which he learned about the wildlings), and is simply trying to stay “in character” for the escape.

Also, at the beginning of the escape – which is suddenly accelerated due to extenuating circumstances (Jeyne screaming) – Theon utters, “But … Abel …” with an ellipsis, suggesting (to me at least) that “the plan” involved Abel personally escorting them to the Wall, and Theon is just now learning he’s leaving “Abel” behind in a last minute improvisation effort.

From all this, I take away that Theon already knew that the “washerwomen” were wildlings, that “the plan” is to take “Arya” and company to Jon Snow/the Wall, and it seems as though “Abel” was supposed to go with them. Of course, “Abel” was left behind, and Theon knows that now as well.

All this leads me to: What else wouldn’t Theon react to if exposed in the chapter? Did Mance perhaps expose his identity behind closed doors, but GRRM hasn’t been exposed that info to the reader yet? Did Mance also mention that Jon Snow burned “him” for all the world to see? Possibly. We don’t know yet, in my view.

In any case, I generally accept that when GRRM uses subtle language like “he tried to tell her all of it,” and “he had to say who Abel was, and tell her about the washerwomen who weren’t really washerwomen,” there is the potential that he is sustaining the mystery of what Theon actually knows.

And, if so, since most of the terminology required to pen the Letter can come from “camp Stannis,” if Theon happens to know that Abel is Mance, and about the “Mance burning,” then it’s possible for that the Letter didn’t come from Winterfell at all.

Endgame Speculation:

If you only read the Asha and Theon chapters, there is almost nowhere else for them to “go” but to attempt escape, and possibly to help the northmen reclaim Winterfell (first) by whatever means are in their power. Whatever their course of action, many of the quotes that I’ve pulled together (and that Ghostwood piled on as well) make it clear to me that Asha and Theon living through (or avoiding) the Battle of Ice is next up for them, and some sort of escape back to the Iron Islands is in their cards in the relatively near future. As I said in my last post, there’d be an excellent symmetry to Theon assisting with the reclamation of Winterfell, since he took it from the northmen in the beginning. Redemption arc.

In that vein, concocting the Letter is a great way to potentially work toward that, and also to sew multiple storylines together as we approach the end of GRRM’s septology. Of course, without the Letter, my next best guess is something involving Bran, but generally everything we could discuss there would be pretty darn speculative (though equally “fair game” for discussion).

It’s also important that Theon’s and Asha’s POVs are still near Winterfell, as this may provide the reader with a window into when/how/why the Letter was written, and who wrote it. More directly, though, if the Letter was written by a POV, that would provide another interesting way to expose its authorship.

If not that, then what? Theon has a “flashback” in which he remembers helping Mance pen the Letter prior to his escape? Ramsay shows up on the walls of Winterfell in an Asha POV and tells “camp Stannis” that he’s sent Jon a nasty Letter? Certainly Theon can’t become a captive again and witness Ramsay writing the Letter, as Ramsay wouldn’t ask for his Reek if he recovered Theon. Anyway, I wonder how GRRM will confirm authorship if it does not directly involve a POV.

But, of course, there are more chapters than simply Asha and Theon. So contrary to Asha’s and/or Theon’s potential involvement in the Letter, it's the significance of the impact that the Letter has when Jon reads it that makes it seem like Mance is the primary suspect – or at least heavily involved – because Mance is such a big part of Jon's arc, Jon is a main character, and we're closing in on the end of a 7-book series.

However, if that was GRRM's design, wouldn't he simply leave Jon “alive” so Jon and Mance could have their alluded to confrontation as the next course of action?

Or wouldn’t he more directly have Mance “kill” Jon, so it was clearer that Mance “deserved” payback?

Meanwhile, Jon barely knows who Ramsay is, so why bring the two of them together so late in the game, when Jon’s ultimate “place” seems to be the Wall, and he apparently has some unresolved business with Mance as well?

For me, it’s the fact that the arrival of the Letter resulted “directly” in Jon's stabbing (directly in timeline, not directly because of the Letter) which means that Mance or Ramsay "lose value" as potential author/co-author. I say this because – from where the clues seem to point – Jon's first chapter will likely be called "The White Wolf" or some such, and won't be till some 2-300 pages into Winds, so when is the reader-suggested confrontation supposed to occur, and with whom?

Provided a Mance-Jon face-off is the cards, when is it going to happen? Will Jon only be a wolf for a chapter or so, and then his number one priority will be confronting Mance when he “wakes up,” and then return to defend the Wall after that? Or – because he was out of commission for so long and the wildlings already marched to Winterfell – will the conflict that he meant to have already be resolved? Or will he be a wolf right up until the Wall comes down and the Others march in force, and he'll have to battle Mance in parallel somehow?

It just seems to me that if GRRM meant for the Letter to be from Mance for the purpose of triggering a Mance-Jon reunion party, Jon wouldn't have "died" in between, because that's a fairly massive “distraction” that works to overshadow any possible confrontation he could have with Mance.

For all the same reasons (Jon being OOC for a while), a Jon/Ramsay face-off is clearly not in the immediate future either, so the same questions apply: why would GRRM temporarily "kill" Jon and overshadow Ramsay's or Mance’s authorship? How is facing off with Ramsay or Mance supposed to be more impactful than being stabbed four times, warging into Ghost, and presumably fighting the Others with a red sword after potential being risen as Azor Ahai?

After all, isn’t it even more important – and more frequently and directly foreshadowed – that Jon needs to “kill the boy and let the man be born”?

Sure, readers can postulate all they want to about how Jon's stabbing wasn't the intended result of sending the Letter, but it was. It was GRRM's intent, and that’s important.

On top of that, GRRM also created the other POVs for a reason, and moved them into place per his grand plan. So why are Theon and Asha still near Winterfell? Is it purely to give us a window into how Mance, Ramsay or Stannis penned the Letter prior to attempting to escape to the Iron Islands? Or is it because it's important to their storylines and endgame as well?

In effect, the “Asha Wrote the Bastard Letter” theory is simply a way of weaving characters and events together based on the available information in the text, and while it’s clear to me that not everyone thinks it’s plausible, and I also don’t believe that it can be disproven yet.

While we wait to find out, though, I’m curious what Mance/Ramsay supporters think.

If you wrote these books, you detailed the relationship Jon has with Mance and Ramsay, and you determined that one of them wrote the Letter, why would you also "kill" Jon when he received it? Why “derail” a plotline you’ve been setting up for several books so close to the end?

And – if you’re a J=AA “believer” – why would you set the wheels in motion that begin Jon’s transformation to AA prior to resolving his conflict with “mere mortals” such as Mance or Ramsay?

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Of course, you have to look at it like this if Mance ultimately wrote the letter(say, with Roose - posing as Ramsay to make him the scapegoat)

Jon ultimately caused the destruction of Mance Rayder's power via treachery while posing as his ally. Mance Rayder, getting payback, destroying Jon Snow's power via treachery while posing as Jon's ally?

The irony is just TOO perfect for Mance not to be behind the letter. And considering how much of a poet Mance Rayder is(and musician), I don't see why such a letter would be surprising for him to write considering it enrages EVERYONE at the wall. Mel and her men, the Queen and her men, the wildlings, the night's watch, Jon himself - this letter is very purposefully meant to divide EVERYWHERE at the wall and cause an all out mutiny,

I believe the best theory is that Mance Rayder wanted the washerwoman and "Arya" to escape(and for that he needed Theon as well) so that if Mance ULTIMATELY ever ended up in Jon's captivity again, he could pose to be an ally and say "hey look, I saved your sister like I said! It's not my fault I got caught and tortured!"

When Mance doesn't show up to help Theon, Jeyne and the wildlings escape - I expect this is because Mance Rayder is simutainously meeting with Roose Bolton. Or trying to, anyway.

Only Roose Bolton and Mance Rayder know about him being Mance Rayder and the letter. With Mance, and the maestor spy sending ravens from Stannis's camp, every word of the letter was purposeful and makes sense.

If Mance's motive was only revenge on Jon:

Obvious. The letter would clearly destroy the wall, as it did.

If Mance's motive was some sort of powerplay: (i'll help you Lord BOlton if you make me a lord and/or help my wildlings south of the wall establish ourselves):

No reason Mance wouldn't trust Roose, honestly. Do the people on the wall really even KNOW much of what's going on south of the wall? Janos Slynt still thought Tywin was alive when Janos was about to be executed.

If Mance's motive is, as that Branvras essay suggests, to warn Val of the horn:

It makes sense. His "powerplay" and/or vengeance on Snow are his "cover" to which he tells Lord Bolton as to why he is helping Roose construct the letter. But warning Val of the horn is the ACTUAL message.

What does Roose Bolton have to gain from all of this?

1.) It DESTROYS the wall. This destroys one of Stannis's places of retreat, destroys his reserve forces(including the NW and wildlings, as i'm sure Bolton views them as Stannis reserve forces), crushes morale, etc.

2.) This, as Roose likely would've predicted, either would've resulted in a mutiny resulting in Jon's death or detainment, but even if this failed and Jon rode south - it would've played him right into Roose's hand had he been slain in battle or died on the way south. Jon Snow is one of the few people who could've confirmed revealed Jeyne Poole being false.

3.) He has no desire for Ramsay to sire a son, as Roose is likely planning to have Ramsay lost soon anyway. The temporary absence of Jeyne helps this. Plus, playing into #4, Roose treated both Theon and (if my memory is correct) Jeyne with respect and didn't particularly mistreat either of them. Between this and Ramsay's OBVIOUS cruelness, the two of them would spread tales of Ramsay's cruelty to Stannis and/or the Watch.

4.) It furthers Ramsay as a scapegoat for Roose. Between Roose acknowledging Ramsay's Northern crimes of rape and murder early on, him being the ONLY character in the series to suggest that Ramsay was behind the death of Domeric, Roose Bolton blatantly and consistently making signals and statements of distrusting Ramsay and ultimately the letter suggests that perhaps Roose had nothing to do with any of it. Whether Ramsay died in battle, was captured by Stannis or Roose simply refused to let his forces back into WInterfell(it's been mentioned that none of the three armies have enough supplies to go all the way to The Wall or The Dreadfort) and thus leading to Ramsay's death more or less in all situations. If, worst came to worst, Roose Bolton(using the letter as well) could easily blame EVERY SINGLE THING on Ramsay. All except the Red Wedding, of course, but that can't be proven to be linked with Roose to begin with evidentially anyway - even if it's obvious to everyone that he was involved.

How they did it:

Roose has been around Ramsay long enough, and seen him write and knows his style. Mance knows Jon and all the peoples at the wall. Together, their genius creates the perfect Mance Rayder revenge(and possible horn of joramun warning) and Roose Bolton scapegoating.

As intriguing as the idea of Asha or Stannis or even any other character writing the letter is, I just don't see it happening. Nor do I see it being Ramsay's work, as this would be TOO obvious considering all the details GRRM has included in these books as various users have pointed out.

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What do you think of Veltigar's post? (hidden in the spoiler tag)

It seems like the simplest explanation to me. While Stannis is to honorable to deceive Jon by writing the pink letter directly, I'm sure he is not too honorable to deceive Ramsay to capture winterfell.

I like the Asha theory a lot, but Veltigar makes some very good points.

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Not to step on any toes (and I'm certainly not the first one to suggest this) but if the letter was not written by Ramsay, and I think we have good reasons to think it's not (particularly after reading the Theon chapter from TWoW), I'd say the strongest candidate for authorship would be Wyman Manderly. He has access to Mance in Winterfell and, thus, all the detail associated with Stannis, he has access to Reek/Theon, and may know that "Arya" is Jeyne Poole, and he's deeply invested in bringing as much force down on the Bolton-Frey alliance ... Also, in light of the great "Northern Conspiracy", he may be privy (no pun intended) to other plots related to crowning Jon Snow.

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After reading the OP, I think there is much and more to the idea of Asha having written the Bastard Letter. She appears to have been exposed to all the necessary information, through her personal correspondence with Ramsay, her conversations with Theon, her observations in Stannis' camp, and even through potentially meeting Ramsay/ Reek in WF during Theon's brief lordship.

After re-reading through many of the potentially relevant chapters spanning all the way back to AGoT, I believe she has another motive that has yet to be fully discussed, although Slayer did touch on it a bit in the OP when explaining his 1st motive.

Asha recognizes the Iron Isles are no longer an option for her due to Euron's ascension to power, and that her life is in grave danger as a result of being a captive in Stannis' camp. As such:

“If there are rocks to starboard and a storm to port, a wise captain steers a third course.”

So Asha points her bow to the only course remaining to her... The forging of a Baratheon-Greyjoy alliance.

While many on this thread have called out Slayer for insinuating that Jon will somehow pardon Asha and Theon because she wrote him a nasty note and convinced him to foreswear his vows, I can't help but feel that this was not Slayer's intention... Forgive me if I'm putting word in your mouth, but I think what was being proposed is: if Asha was successful in persuading Jon to aid Stannis then she may be able to curry some favor from Stannis, prove her value as an ally, and be rewarded with her freedom. She may even be able to leverage her efforts in order to negotiate Theon's release thereby potentially laying the foundation for the 2nd motive proposed by Slayer in the OP.

Alliances however, benefit all parties in the arrangement, so Stannis must also have something to gain by allying with the Greyjoys.

Alliances also come at a cost, and for Asha (and Theon), the price of freedom is submission. The notion of submission while not initially preferable may be her only option. To this end, Asha recalls the Readers’ sage advice:

“Its land we need, not crowns. With Stannis Baratheon and Tywin Lannister contending for the Iron Throne, we have a rare chance to improve our lot. Let us take one side or the other, help them to victory with our fleets, and claim the lands we need from a grateful king.”

And also that of her late father's:

“No man has ever died from bending his knee,” her father had once told her. “He who kneels may rise again, blade in hand. He who will not kneel stays dead, stiff legs and all.”

With that in mind, Asha begins to ply the waves in her course of submission to Stannis:

“I yield, Your Grace”...

“Do as you wish with me. I ask only that you spare my men.”...

“Sire.” Am I humbled enough for you, Your Grace? Am I beaten, bowed, and broken sufficiently for your liking?..."

“Strike these chains from my wrists, I beg you. Let me ride. I will attempt no escape.”

“You earned those irons.”

“I did. Now I offer you my men, my ships, my wits...."

Asha even goes so far as to try and conspire with him, by bringing in the forces of the iron born:

"Dagmer Cleftjaw holds Torrhen’s Square. A fierce fighter, and a leal servant of House Greyjoy. I can deliver that castle to you, and its garrison as well...”

“...Strike off these irons and let me help you take [Winterfell], Sire. Your Grace’s royal brother was renowned for turning fallen foes into friends. Make me your man.”

Asha has also already shown herself to be mentally aligned with Stannis, as demonstrated when Theon and Tycho approach Stannis' Camp:

“A horn, she thought, I need a horn to rouse the camp.”

Given that her first instinct was to alert her captors of approaching riders, and not something more selfish or nefarious, provides some insight into her current motivations, state of mind, and intentions.

Theon also attempts to earn his freedom through submission (although separately) in his conversation with Stannis:

"Unchain me, and I will serve you."

"As you served Roose Bolton and Robb Stark?" Stannis snorted. "I think not.

Despite both Asha's and Theon's efforts, Stannis remains unmoved to which Asha observes:

“Those deep-set blue eyes of his seemed always slitted in suspicion, cold fury boiling just below their surface. Her life meant little and less to him. She was only his hostage, a prize to show the north that he could vanquish the ironborn....

And that... [he] looked at her as he might look at a dog who presumed to hump against his leg.

Despite Stannis' un-receptive and prickly nature, Asha presses onward and realizes that an allying with Stannis’ may be her best and only option. Therefore, in order forge this alliance, Asha looks to the past, in hopes that history may repeat itself.

Asha is aware of the year long siege Stannis endured at Storms End, a situation which is fairly similar to the one that Stannis and his forces are currently enduring. His forces are starving, besieged (this time by weather), surrounded by enemies (this time the Boltons, Freys, Iron Born, and for the moment Manderlys), but the iron will of Stannis has not faltered and it is Asha's hope that perhaps a smuggler may once again be able to lift the siege, and save the day.

Asha therefore executes the strategy that it is sometimes better to ask forgiveness than permission... So she, unfurls her black sails, and deploys her muffled oars to smuggle in an army instead of onions, and she does so by drafting the letter.

By prompting the forces at the wall to aid Stannis she would have succeeded where he failed... In that, she has not only managed to convince the watch and the others at the wall to interfere in the affairs of the kingdom, but has also successfully conscripted the wildling force to fight for his cause (even if it is motivated solely in the desire to liberate Mance).

Therefore, Asha attempts to accomplish her primary motive of proving her worth to Stannis in an effort to forge an alliance, through the drafting and mailing of the letter with the goal of summoning an army to both assist Stannis and to get revenge on Ramsay for the deeds he has committed... more on the revenge angle later.

Upon the arrival of the army from the wall, Stannis will no doubt be surprised to see the wildling force and would make inquiries as to why they are there... This would ultimately lead to Stannis becoming aware of the letter (if he has not figured it out beforehand by noticing a missing raven or through other means). At any rate if Asha is successful in summoning an army to aid Stannis she may be able to prove her value to him. As we know from Davos, however, past defiance comes at a cost, and although Asha may keep all her fingers in tact, an alliance with Stannis will result in sacrifices, some of which I will explain shortly.

First however we must understand Stannis and his present situation. Stannis is a cunning battle commander, and while brittle, he is realistic. He understands that he does not have enough men to conquer the realm, hence sending Massey to Braavos, and he also understands that even if he does manage to capture the North, he must still contend with the much larger forces in the south... So an alliance with one of the warring factions would be a prudent move. The most logical and logistically possible alliance (aside from the houses in the North i.e. Manderly) is with the Greyjoys. Convincing Euron to relinquish his kingship however, will not be an easy task but, by having both Asha and Theon in his possession he has the potential to bring the Iron Islands back into the King's peace without having to spill a drop of his own force's blood.

Stannis exhibits his realism in the following conversation with Jon:

“Tywin Lannister has named Roose Bolton his Warden of the North, to reward him for betraying your brother. The ironmen are fighting amongst themselves since Balon Greyjoy’s death, yet they still hold Moat Cailin, Deepwood Motte, Torrhen’s Square, and most of the Stony Shore. Your father’s lands are bleeding, and I have neither the strength nor the time to stanch the wounds. What is needed is a Lord of Winterfell. A loyal Lord of Winterfell.”

This admission that he does not have the strength to battle both the ironborn and the powers in the north suggests that he may be willing to accept an alliance... Provided the terms are acceptable.

Acceptable terms of course are hard to come by, unless the party that you are bargaining with is in a disadvantageous position as exemplified by the Greyjoys.

Timing also must be considered when making alliances, and at the moment an alliance with the Greyjoys provides Stannis with a plausible path to victory in the Iron Isles.

Euron has taken most of the military might that could be summoned from the Isles south to pillage and reave the Shield Islands and along the Arbor. He has also dispatched the Iron Fleet to Slavers Bay in search of Dany (although Stannis most likely does not know this). As such, if Asha/Theon were to return to the Iron Isles, they would meet very little resistance, and as Asha exclaims to Tris:

“There are those on Harlaw who would welcome my return. On Pyke as well. And Euron won no friends on Blacktyde when he slew Lord Baelor. I could find my nuncle Aeron, raise the isles...”

Therefore her return to the Iron Isles with Stannis' support, may not only be possible, but advantageous for both the Greyjoys and Stannis.

Theon's primary role would be to dispute the kingsmoot having not had the opportunity to press his claim. Whether or not he will actually be allowed to rule... has yet to be determined.

As mentioned before however, there are costs to be paid for freedom, and the price for the Greyjoys will be a crown. They must relinquish there claim as kings/ queens of the Iron Isles, and once again become vassals under Stannis. This is but one potential price that must be paid. The cost however, will likely be higher in order for Stannis to accept. Additional capitulations may also include the abandonment of any captured northern lands along the Stony Shore, as well as Torrhen's Square.

The withdrawal from the North would be an important point for Stannis to insist upon in order to appease his Northern allies, especially given Asha's recognition that;

“The wolves did not love her; she was iron born and must answer for the crimes of her people, for Moat Cailin and Deepwood Motte and Torrhen’s Square, for centuries of reaving along the stony shore, for all Theon did at Winterfell.”

Additional concessions may still be necessary, and given that the Greyjoy strength is in their long ships not in their land forces, Stannis would be wise to either commandeer the long ships or command the remaining iron born captains to transport his troops, attack territories currently occupied by his enemies (I would personally start with the Freys), and to generally assist him in his quest to conquer the realm.

Although Euron may not personally align with Stannis he is still harassing Stannis' enemies, weakening them, and drawing forces that direction thereby allowing for an easier path to victory in other areas.

If/ when Euron hears of Asha/ Theon’s alliance and the surrender of the Iron Isles to Stannis, he may try to sail back to press his claim as king and for dominance. This task however, will be formidable considering he has dispatched the greater part of his fighting fleet on a search for dragons, and he has awarded lordships and lands to many of the influential captains in his remaining fleet. Given the reluctance of the remaining captains to halt their reaving in favor of searching for dragons, Euron may not be able to convince them to abandon their newly acquired holdings in order to retreat back in defense of the Iron Isles. Therefore, the isles are currently more or less defenseless. This also means that the only naval force of any significance in the north on the western side of the world would belong to Stannis via Asha, Dagmer Cleftjaw and any remaining captains still in the Isles. As such, if Asha can deliver the ships, abandon the north, raise the Isles, pledge allegiance to Stannis, and aid him in his quest for the iron throne an alliance may be beneficial for all parties involved.

Given the above information Asha has in my view a very strong and plausible motive for penning the letter. Smuggle in a army through subterfuge, prove her worth to Stannis, offer an alliance, and win her freedom.

As noted by many astute members on this thread however, there are still some potential issues associated with her authorship.

After parsing out each phrase in the letter and reading through the posts on this forum it appears, as Slayer pointed out that there are gotchas for each candidate. For Asha these include but may not be limited to:

The phrase "my Reek"

The use of the term "black crows"

The term "my Reek," to my knowledge, has been used exactly once in the entirety of the books, and that is in the Bastard Letter. So the argument that "it sounds like Ramsay" may be true, but he has never actually used the phrase. Therefore, due to the lack of text supported precedence, it may be possible that "my Reek" was spontaneous and ad-libbed no matter who authored the letter.

Asha's knowledge about "Reek" may extend all the way back to when she journeyed to WF following Theon's conquest. Although we are not provided with any details pertaining to a conversation between Ramsay/Reek and Asha, he informs Theon of her arrival, reports that Asha has brought 20 men by his count, and escorts Theon to the great hall of WF. All of these occurrences suggest that he was in close proximity to Asha and her group, and may have also been responsible for getting them situated upon arrival, and provisioned upon their departure. Asha at this point would have no idea that Ramsay is Reek, since that is not exposed until Ramsay's return to WF with his Bolton force culminating in the slaughter of Ser Rodrik and company before the walls of WF.

Asha's next interaction with Ramsay is the catalyst for her hatred and desire for revenge. As mentioned in the OP, Ramsay sent a letter to Asha at Deepwood Motte, informing her of the fall of Moat Cailin and of his upcoming marriage to "Arya.” Ramsay also writes;

"This letter is "written in the blood of iron men..."

And Jon, having received a seemingly identical letter notes that

"the brown ink came away in flakes when... brushed..." (Suggesting that Stannis' signature on his contract with the iron bank may similarly disappear... But that is a different subject all together).

Further Ramsay proclaims;

"I send you each a piece of prince. Linger in my lands, and share his fate.”

To which Asha reflects that:

"[she] had believed her little brother dead. Better dead than this."

Asha also recalls and broods upon the phrase "I send you each a piece of prince" on at least two occasions suggesting that Ramsay's letter struck a chord, and has instilled in her feelings of anger and hatred for his treatment of Theon.

Asha at this point still most likely does not have the requisite information to know that Ramsey was Reek however, that may have changed following her conversation with Theon in his TWoW chapter when he is thinking back on their conversation:

"She has to understand. She is my sister. He never wanted to do any harm to Bran or Rickon. Reek made him kill those boys, not him Reek but the other one. "I am no kinslayer," he insisted. He told her how he bedded down with Ramsay's bitches, warned her that Winterfell was full of ghosts..."

Asha had scolded Theon for killing "Bran" and "Rickon" when she met him in WF so the aforementioned quote sets up the passage of several key pieces of information including the true identity of Ramsay/Reek, and the revelation that it was Ramsay's plan to kill "Bran" and "Rickon." Knowledge of the aforementioned points would solidify her hatred for Ramsay.

The second term "black crows" is a uniquely wildling slur for the nights watch, and it's use in the letter seemingly suggests that the author was from north of the wall. Mance has long been one of my favorite candidates for having written the letter, due in some part to the presence of this phrase. After doing some research however, and working from the assumption that Theon may have provided Asha with some of the information in the letter, it becomes clear that Theon may have also provided Asha with the knowledge of this slur due to the following passage:

“I broke no oaths. Stiv and Wallen flew down off the Wall, not me. The black crows got no place for women.”

Theon Greyjoy sauntered closer. “Give her to the wolves,” he urged Robb.”

Theon's exposure to the phrase "black crows" and the fact that the reader is not provided with a verbatim account of his conversation with Asha at the very least provides a plausible text supported pathway for the transfer of the term "black crows" to Asha.

I'll freely admit that none of the information presented above constitutes "proof" of Asha's authorship, but given the amount of text based support provided by Slayer and others on this forum I believe that should GrrM reveal that Asha wrote the letter, the collective reading community cannot claim that he didn't provide a boatload of supporting text to follow... He just challenged us to try and follow his black skiff on a moonless night while churning in the wake of his black sails and muffled oars.

Beautifully researched & presented. After ADWD , I was firmly in camp Ramsay as the author of the pink letter. The Theon gift chapter made me think Asha. She is an incredible character-she has become stronger from her experiences & quickly reads people & what motivates them.

I think that Theon provided the information but think that Stannis is in on this too. He knows or is learning to know & appreciate Ashas' value & will keep her close. She gives much better counsel than the Red Woman

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This thread as convinced me that Mance wrote the letter. Keep in mind that Jon has also sent Mance's son halfway across the world. I don't know for sure if Mance knows this, but Jon holds his son hostage in any case so he would rightfully be pissed with him. Of course it all makes sense, the messes up pink wax, the repeated use of the word 'Bastard', the 'I want my bride back'. Just the right words to get Jon moving.


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Holy crap this never even occurred to me. It's a very strong possibility, if not the strongest. But I read Bran Vras' essay on Mance, and I still agree with his conclusion.

Now the candidates for me are 1. Mance; 2. Asha; 3. Ramsay; 4. (a distant fourth) Stannis. Anyone outside of these 4 is a massive stretch. Unless it's Mel, because R'hllor says so.

BUT, does the letter matter at this point (aside from the possibility of Stannis' death)? No matter who wrote it, they seemed to want Jon to come to Winterfell, not get stabbed and remain at the Wall. It appears that the mission failed, big time.

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As intriguing as the idea of Asha or Stannis or even any other character writing the letter is, I just don't see it happening. Nor do I see it being Ramsay's work, as this would be TOO obvious considering all the details GRRM has included in these books as various users have pointed out.

Thanks for the exceptional post, and note that my defense of the Asha theory is largely based on bearing the onus of having started this thread in the first place, knowing that several people would bring other excellent ideas to the table as well.

I feel I should “break character” for a minute to also say that – if I were a betting man – my money would be on Mance too, but I dug up this info and started this thread (not because the idea is new or no one’s discussed it, but) because it felt like it could use some text-supported defending, and to not be written off so quickly as an implausible arc.

As for ironies, things that are either too obvious or too “out there,” or other temporal speculation based on where ADWD left off, I would suggest that what follows is a reasonable order of what I would think is “obvious and boring,” with the least interesting possible outcome – in my opinion – listed first:

  1. Just about anyone not listed below wrote the Letter (a little too deus ex machina for me)
  2. Ramsay wrote the Letter and everything in it is true (which could yet happen, because of the timeline differential)
  3. Ramsay wrote the Letter and it contains some falsehoods (e.g. the Stannis “Trojan horse” theory)
  4. Mance has (temporarily) aligned with Ramsay and they wrote the Letter together
  5. Mance has (temporarily) aligned with Roose and they wrote the Letter together
  6. Mance wrote the Letter by himself (and his revenge plot will play out… sometime)
  7. Mance captured Ramsay and wrote the Letter
  8. Stannis wrote the Letter (whether planned in advance or through info from the Greyjoys)
  9. Mance wrote the Letter behind closed doors with Theon (my first instinct on my initial read)
  10. Mance provided Theon with enough info such that Asha could craft the Letter (this and other threads)

Maybe I’ve left somebody’s theory out unintentionally, but that’s the gist of my more recent thinking, where immediately after I’d finished ADWD less than a week after it was released I was all hot on Mance’s lone involvement.

However, one of the many things that continues to haunt me (as mentioned above) is that GRRM intentionally “killed” Jon (for some unknown period of time), that “kill the boy and let the man be born” is one of many AA foreshadows, and that setting the wheels in motion for an AA transformation overshadows Mance’s authorship and any potential confrontation they could have (IMO).

If it turns out Mance wrote (or was heavily involved in the writing of) the Letter, I’m sure GRRM will weave it together in a satisfying way.

Interestingly, though, the disparity of reader opinions wages on with this subject, as virtually never do two (let alone three) posts in a row see eye-to-eye on the subject or share degrees of the support for the OP (not just on this thread, but on many of them, which is another reason we love not only the books, but the forums).


What do you think of Veltigar's post? (hidden in the spoiler tag)

It seems like the simplest explanation to me. While Stannis is to honorable to deceive Jon by writing the pink letter directly, I'm sure he is not too honorable to deceive Ramsay to capture winterfell.

I like the Asha theory a lot, but Veltigar makes some very good points.

My “disclaimer post” above probably helps explain where I’m coming from, at least in regards to – based on what we know now – how I think I would like for things to play out, in a world where I could help GRRM finish TWOW.

And this is largely because basically any scenario in which Mance (or a spearwife) is captured and squeals doesn’t sit well with me, and I have a feeling that’s not where GRRM is going with it.

After all, why invest so much time foreshadowing the Mance-Jon revenge party that The Mountain That Posts mentioned if the outcome is simply that Mance is captured by Ramsay and then becomes the new Reek?

Conversely, my “beef” with where things are left now is also mentioned above, and relating to Jon’s “death.” Personally, I was hoping (and maybe still can hope?) that the Mance-Jon conflict is/was resolved before Jon’s transformation to AA, provided that’s where things are heading.

For instance, if Mance writes the Letter, then Stannis takes Winterfell, then the wildlings (who are likely still on their way to WF sans Jon) take Winterfell from Stannis, Jon can “wake up” to being sandwiched in between the Others and his new-old enemy, galvanized and turn-cloaked by the back that their fearless leader is actually alive.

So there are ways to handle Jon’s “death” and still make it epic, and Mance is still near the top of my list.

But – getting back “in character” – Asha’s potential authorship (with Theon’s assistance) has a bittersweet effect too, in that her intent wouldn’t be to have Jon stabbed by his own men, but instead to catalyze him to reclaim his homeland. But, like so many GRRM plots, it didn’t exactly work out as expected.

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I don't see why the possibility doesnt seem to exist here that Stannis does get killed. Theon, FakeArya, and Asha escape. Melissandre finally figures out that Stannis is not who she thought he was and can turn her attention to Snow who is riddled with wounds.

Ramsay marches north thinking to take back what is his to find Jon and his wildling army prepared and ready to fight, liberating Winterfell and Jon (who is no longer in the Night's Watch after the assassination attempt) and his wildings begin the rebuild process and preparations for the White Walkers to overflow from beyond the wall.

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I thought the release of the gift Theon chapter kind of explained what happened with the pink letter though:

- We know that the gift chapter takes place before the events at the Wall, and we see in the gift chapter that Stannis finds out the maester is actually sending informations to Winterfell, and thus to Ramsay, with the help of a few trained ravens.

- Stannis sends the maester in the dungeons but keeps the ravens. He is in the presence of Theon/Reek who has been under Ramsay's influence for a while.

- Stannis mentions that "you might hear I am dead. It might even be true" and Theon notes about Ramsay "he wants his bride, he wants his Reek".

---> all of the elements are there for Stannis to send a letter to Winterfell to give misinformation to Ramsay Bolton. For example, pretending to be the maester/a Karstark and writing that Stannis Baratheon is dead BUT that "Arya" and "Reek" unfortunately ran away and are likely making their way to the Wall. It is even possible Stannis sent a fake "Karstark envoy" to bring Lightbringer to Ramsay to finish the trick (without a corpse to show, I guess only Lightbringer can be the token of Stannis's death as the sword seemed to be someting he liked to show off. Hence, Ramsay wrote the letter with the misinformation he received from Stannis, and thus stating "your false king is dead" (if he believes his bannermen killed him, it's not far-stretched to thing he would write that) and to make his demand "I want my bride back. I want my Reek".

For the rest, it doesn't seem unlikely to me Mance has been captured by Ramsay and his identity and other informations about the things happening at the Wall have been given away by one of the captured spearwives. Wildlings are sure great fighters and willful people, but they sure didn't meet anyone like Ramsay North of the Wall, I am not sure how they would react under torture.

All this to say that, as much as I think Asha has indeed an important part to play in the North atm, I don't think she wrote the pink letter. I think Asha probably advised Stannis on the letters/things to send to WF to trick Ramsay. And I think Ramsay wrote the pink letter using this misinformation AND the knoweldge of Mance/spearwives (I also sometimes thing that Mance participated willingly to the letter as part of a Mel/Mance plan - nobody knows what went up between the two of them earlier on, Mance still has Mel's ruby)

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