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Slayer of Lies

Septon Chayle is the Hooded Man in WF (Theon I Spoilers)

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I like all of this. I dont know if I'm sold on it, but I love the detals and suppirting evidence. Even if you arent right, you're on to something.

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Good theory but it requires thick plot armor for our good septon. I had forgotten that this guy even exists.

But I think that I'll stay on Harwin band wagon although your idea is interesting

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I'd forgotten about the existence of Septon Chayle myself. He was just some guy who Theon 'had drowned' to show off to his troops. He was even a minor character when he was around in ACoK; was he an appearing character in the first book? I think that the theory is wholly plausible, but in my opinion if it's he, it's not exactly someone GRRM's had planned for a resurrection any time soon. He did this in AGoT when he 'killed off' Syrio Forel, a character who supposedly dies offscreen, but you get the impression Martin was toying with the idea of bringing him back and decided against it because he never fit in with later books.

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I'd forgotten about the existence of Septon Chayle myself. He was just some guy who Theon 'had drowned' to show off to his troops. He was even a minor character when he was around in ACoK; was he an appearing character in the first book? I think that the theory is wholly plausible, but in my opinion if it's he, it's not exactly someone GRRM's had planned for a resurrection any time soon. He did this in AGoT when he 'killed off' Syrio Forel, a character who supposedly dies offscreen, but you get the impression Martin was toying with the idea of bringing him back and decided against it because he never fit in with later books.

He was mentioned a few times in AGOT, and he appeared briefly in Tyrion's first chapter where Tyrion found sleeping with his head on a book. Read the OP, that passage is part of the theory.

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Plausible, but I'm a supporter to an extent of the Theon Durden theory.

I feel like the Theon Durden theory is a forum-driven concoction, more than a text-driven one. Maybe it’s easy to become somewhat convinced of when you pour through pages of people discussing what a “cool twist” that might be, and so on, and I agree, but the theory itself has next to zero text backing that I can find, and GRRM is generally fond of using foreshadowing (however mysterious it may seem prior to the reveal).

To that end, we have book precedent for people returning from the dead in a variety of different fashions (Red God, Drowned God, Qyburn’s dark arts, the rebirth of dragons, etc.), and the “Chayle theory” simply hinges on the belief that the various magics are growing in strength and frequency, which is not a stretch.

From a GRRM himself in this interview (and others like it), we have many quotes that echo this concept:

Despite the inevitable comparisons to Tolkien, Martin’s world is initially one without much fantasy; only at the end of the first book does he unleash the dragons, which had supposedly been dead for 150 years. Chapter by chapter he drip-feeds more magic – spells, prophetic dreams, people coming back from the dead. ‘Yeah, I bring it up gradually,’ he says. ‘That was a deliberate choice.’

The ASOIAF Themes page is also a good reference for interviews and such, touching on the slow acceleration of the usages and power of magic, as well as unreliable narrators being used such that, “What readers believe to be true may therefore not necessarily be true.”

In any case, I believe that to propose a better suspect than Chayle means to identify the supporting text.

With certain candidates (Benjen, etc.), that text simply doesn’t exist. With others like Robett Glover, for example, connections can be made, but how is his candidacy important to Theon’s arc? And why is Theon specifically seeing these “ghosts”?

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This theory certainly has merit. I think Chayle should be placed among the candidates. Personally I wish for someone ... better, but the arguments for Chayle are pretty compelling.

But regarding Benfred Tallhart - that guy is dead. Remember, Theon wanted him dead, he was ready to have him decapitated, but Aeron said it must be "He must be given to the god. The old way"

All the ironborn knew that he needed to die for spitting on Theon. In fact it's Aeron who says so: Aeron Damphair’s voice cut through the insults like a sword through cheese. “Now you must kill him.”

Yes, the fact that his limp body was dragged from the sea can be construed as curious, but I can think of a few explanations:

1) Regarding Aeron's intervention, I don't think prisoners of war are given to the Drowned God the same way willing ironborn are given to the god. Yes, he is "given" to the god, but as a sacrifice not to make a new drowned man "the old way".

2) Maybe they meant to leave him in the sea, but then realized he was still dressed, so they wanted to loot his body first. This is a feeble explanation, I know, which brings me to...

3) If one really intends to send a sacrifice to the watery halls of the Drowned God, one would do it further out in the sea. Leaving him there would only bring his body back to rot on the beach. So maybe Aeron intended to take the body on his ship and dump it later.

There is another character that gets killed by drowning in sea water: Lord Botley. Euron Crow's Eye drowns him in a cask of seawater (probably for objecting to Euron taking the Seastone Chair). Why did Euron use a cask and simply not drown him in the sea? And what did he do with the body? You can argue that Euron is a godless man, but it is also mentioned that he has always lived by the old way.

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With certain candidates (Benjen, etc.), that text simply doesn’t exist. With others like Robett Glover, for example, connections can be made, but how is his candidacy important to Theon’s arc? And why is Theon specifically seeing these “ghosts”?

I'm not sure that the HM necessarily has to be important to Theon's arc. Theon is our only POV in Winterfell at this time and the HM may have more to do with some other part of the story. I think this is most likely. Otherwise if important to Theon's arc, why not just reveal it is Septon Chayle right away? It doesn't seem like much of a payoff to me to find out a whole book later that the HM was Chayle.

More likely to me is that the HM is the intersection of Theon with another plot thread. My money is on Robett, so in his case, Robett could be coming to tell Manderly about the success or failure of the Davos mission. We know something interesting must be happening with Davos because he is absent for the whole second half of Dance. What if Robett found some information about Davos' mission and needed to tell Manderly in person? If Martin told us straight out that HM was Robett then he would give something away, but later on (once we get the Davos POV in WoW) the HM encounter may make more sense.

There are probably a bunch of other explanations proponents of the other HM candidates could put together that are similar to the one I just proposed for Robett. I actually think the HM being a secret makes much more sense if he is not really a major part of Theon's arc.

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This theory certainly has merit. I think Chayle should be placed among the candidates. Personally I wish for someone ... better, but the arguments for Chayle are pretty compelling.

Thanks for the credence. I can certainly see wanting a particular character or a “better” character to be the HM. Regardless of my own personal desires for how the books shake out, I don’t generally start with an endpoint and try to make the text work. I find similar phrases, dig up all references to certain characters, objects and places and attempt to find additional supporting text from there, while also looking for ideas or text that refutes my idea(s).

In this case, the conversational references to the gods and Yellow Dick’s murder conditions were the starting points, and while there’s not a ton to go on, I also haven’t found anything in the text that outright breaks this theory.

But regarding Benfred Tallhart - that guy is dead. Remember, Theon wanted him dead, he was ready to have him decapitated, but Aeron said it must be "He must be given to the god. The old way"

Obviously, dying and returning from the dead via the Drowned God’s “magic” is part of the premise of this theory.

GRRM will often start us off with something like Beric’s resurrection, then later give us Catelyn’s slightly more shocking one, all the while possibly setting up something involving Mel and Jon Snow in TWOW (or maybe something even more impactful than that).

In this case, right in front of our faces as usual, he’s used the Drowned God’s “powers” to bring people back from the dead, and provided us with their potentially foreshadowing mantra: what is dead may not die, but rises again, harder and stronger. To that end, this theory simply carries the “resurrection” theme one step forward.

I generally find that GRRM tends to do things like create unbreakable walls and undefeatable champions – and tell us that dragons are extinct – for the purpose of making it impactful when he changes the rules later. Most often, his execution steers well away from deus ex machina, and he drops subtle hints all along the way that make the mysteries challenging, but solvable, although the reveal – in my case – is quite often, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Plus, as we've already discussed, we have a sighting of Benfred's being dragged from the water.

All the ironborn knew that he needed to die for spitting on Theon.

Interesting you mention the spitting. Spitting comes up a lot in the beginning of chapter 37 of ACOK. Benfred’s defiance could have been anything, really, but it was spitting.

There was another quote from A Ghost in Winterfell I didn’t include in the OP, because it is likely nothing, but maybe not:

“Lord Winter has joined us with his levies,” one of the sentries outside the Great Hall japed … until he saw Theon’s face and realized who he was talking to. Then he turned his head and spat.

Following the logic in the OP, if Theon doesn’t acknowledge the identity of the HM, it’s possible this is a Benfred sighting. In fact, that Theon says “ghosts” (plural) implies he saw someone he recognized in addition to the HM. But I wouldn’t necessarily put money on this quote being related.

FWIW, there is also at least one Tallhart man inside the castle:

“Stannis has friends inside the castle,” Theon heard one serjeant mutter. He was an old Tallhart man, three trees sewn on his ragged surcoat.

Again, maybe nothing, but possibly relatable post-reveal. Having said that, there’s a reason not every single quote I found made it into the OP, and that’s because some are more speculative in nature, but not necessarily worth writing off entirely.

In fact it's Aeron who says so: Aeron Damphair’s voice cut through the insults like a sword through cheese. “Now you must kill him.”

Yes, the fact that his limp body was dragged from the sea can be construed as curious, but I can think of a few explanations:

1) Regarding Aeron's intervention, I don't think prisoners of war are given to the Drowned God the same way willing ironborn are given to the god. Yes, he is "given" to the god, but as a sacrifice not to make a new drowned man "the old way".

2) Maybe they meant to leave him in the sea, but then realized he was still dressed, so they wanted to loot his body first. This is a feeble explanation, I know, which brings me to...

3) If one really intends to send a sacrifice to the watery halls of the Drowned God, one would do it further out in the sea. Leaving him there would only bring his body back to rot on the beach. So maybe Aeron intended to take the body on his ship and dump it later.

I can think of several ways this theory wouldn’t work out either. It’s as simple as the HM being someone else, really. But I definitely like to collect the text support that validates a suspect given the known constraints of Westeros, and resurrection is fast-becoming a non-constraint. Outside of that sort of approach, we can make up motives and means all day long, and that’s fun too, but suspects like Robett will still be missing some amount of foreshadowing.

There is another character that gets killed by drowning in sea water: Lord Botley. Euron Crow's Eye drowns him in a cask of seawater (probably for objecting to Euron taking the Seastone Chair). Why did Euron use a cask and simply not drown him in the sea? And what did he do with the body? You can argue that Euron is a godless man, but it is also mentioned that he has always lived by the old way.

Interestingly, the Botley drowning is told through Catelyn’s POV, and has no connection to the sack of Winterfell, or to Theon’s arc.

One of the “footnotes” for Septon Chayle and Benfred, meanwhile, is that they are both part of Theon’s arc, witnessed directly through his POVs, and drowned while he was in attendance.

I'm not sure that the HM necessarily has to be important to Theon's arc. Theon is our only POV in Winterfell at this time and the HM may have more to do with some other part of the story. I think this is most likely. Otherwise if important to Theon's arc, why not just reveal it is Septon Chayle right away? It doesn't seem like much of a payoff to me to find out a whole book later that the HM was Chayle.

While it’s entirely possible that the HM serves some purpose unrelated to Theon’s arc – if it’s Chayle – simply consider that we don’t know what GRRM’s planned reveal is. Will Theon and Chayle Skype through weirnet when Theon gets to the islet? Is Chayle’s identity being kept a mystery until he kills someone else of significance? We don’t know yet, and the future therein is an intentional mystery to freely speculate on, which makes it equally important to consider people inside and outside of Theon’s arc.

However, when you consider that Theon is utterly absent as a POV or a player from ASOS and AFFC, it’s fair to at least consider that ACOK is where his in-arc clues are, and that if the HM is important to Theon’s arc, that would be where to look.

Further, since the HM calls Theon not only “turncloack” but “kinslayer,” (all things that begin in Theon’s ACOK arc) I think it is quite likely someone from his past. And since Theon is convinced he’s seen “ghosts” in Winterfell, ghosts of his making, it stands to reason that he may have seen at least two people he believed to be dead by his hand.

Meanwhile, when you look outside of Theon’s arc, there’s no specific reason for Theon to mention “the gods” to someone who’s not a holy man, as Theon isn’t particularly pious either. I would think if the HM were Robett Glover, Theon may have said nearly anything else, where Glover might have simply killed him where he stood or taken him captive.

Of course, we can’t know yet, but with the text support available, dagger included, that's why Glover – and some purpose outside of Theon’s arc – is my #2.

This is the reason why I come to these boards, thank you.

Thank you as well!

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Slayer - To clarify, and I read your post fully - I just forgot afterwards where Chayle is mentioned before - I do think you're right. I'd just prefer it to be a character with more background history than Chayle. I still think Theon killed Little Walder, though, partly under the influence of Bran. I can't see the Septon killing him; Little Walder is a viable target for Theon's guilt-tripping over what happened to Winterfell, and the Stark kids. Subconsciously, the meting of a bad death to a character who aided the hunting of the Stark boys would be an effort into readressing things, along with the fact that Walder is the one character Theon could have realistically killed. Also, he was someone disliked personally by both Bran and Theon. Aside from throwing some internecine division in the mix, I don't see Chayle having a strong enough motivation for the carnage apparently committed on Walder's body. So on this occasion only I think T. Durden did the work.

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Thank you for this theory, I think it is very well reasoned and it might in fact be true. If GRRM wanted to give the HM an important role in the battle for Winterfell, it might even be necessary to use a surprise candidate, someone we know, but who doesn't carry around that much "plot baggage". Chayle would be an interesting solution and he would fit the ambiguous description of the HM. After he would have played his part (open the gates, betray the Boltons, do something unexpected, create a diversion...), he could vanish again without any narrative repercussions, he could be killed or decide to join a monastery or simply remain in the background.

However, and this is more a feeling than actual reasoning, I just don't think GRRM would go for this kind of solution. In a way, it would be disappointing if the HM was someone without any "real" importance. We would be surprised if it was Chayle, but we would not be surprised because of his character or the manner of his "death", but because of his limited importance. I think this "surprise" would be a bit dull, it would be a convenient solution without having any real "edge" to it.

The HM is the only mystery in ASOIAF to which I don't have any clue whatsoever. I don't like the Theon Durden theory because to me, this is not the way GRRM deals with his character's psychology, it is way too modern and clear-cut. I don't think he would make use of these concepts because they lack the poetic ambiguousness his characters are allowed to remain in. Also I think Theon's state of "madness" has been overemphasised on these boards. I don't think he has developed any schizophrenic traits, in fact, when they come for him in his first chapter in ADWD, he doesn't even remember the name "Reek" and panics because he knows he is supposed to act and think like he was "Reek". The trick not to mention his real name is a narrative device GRRM makes use of in order to leave us "in the dark" about the prisoner's identity. The real problem Theon has is his fear of Ramsay, so that he is constantly tempted to make use of the "role" of Reek because for him, "being" Reek is the only way he has left to ensure his safety. All the way through ADWD however, he knows full well that he is not Reek, but Theon. When he says to Asha it is important to remember your name, he doesn't mean that he forgot who he is, but that he deliberately tried to get rid of this memory in order to spare himself some pain. The reason the chapter "Theon" in ADWD is called "Theon" for the first time is because he acts like Theon for the first time since he learned how to act in the role of Reek. He overcame his fear, not an identity crisis. This is why Theon Durden doesn't sound right to me.

However, I have no idea who the HM could be instead. My favourite surprise candidate would be the Hound, trying to expose fake Arya to the north (there was a scene in ASOS in which he is explicitly told about fake Arya having been "sold" to Roose Bolton), but I know it's crackpot. I haven't been convinced by theories about any other candidate yet.

There is one more argument against Chayle being "alive" again, and this is the manner of his execution. I don't think Theon would have thrown a man into a well and leave him there while the possibility of a siege was an imminent threat. The well would have been poisoned, so I think we can imply that the body was retrieved shortly after Chayle had died. If the body had vanished, however, I think this would have been made into a major plot point, especially since Theon was already fearful of ghosts, revenge of the dead and was having bad dreams. There is no way GRRM could reveal later that the body of a dead men had vanished, but Theon had not cared about it in any way.

I also think that the way the prisoners are executed by being drowned in shallow water or in casks of seawater are not merely coincidental. I think these are ways to ensure that those "weak" prisoners (being defined as weak by the fact that they had been caught alive) do not reach the halls of the watery god and are allowed to mingle with the "real" drowned warriors: those who drown in the open sea after having been slayed or being mortally wounded in combat, namely, while fighting on a ship. This is the "ideal" way to go for any ironborn, so they would of course ensure their prisoners are given to their god as a sacrifice, but in a manner that doesn't equal them to their heroes and forefathers. If this line of reasoning would be correct, it would follow that the bodies of executed prisoners would have been buried or burned instead of being given eternal rest in some "watery" grave. Therefore I think Chayle's body was probably retrieved from the well off scene, it was most likely burned or buried, and so his chances of "rising again" would be slim.

This doesn't mean that your theory can't be true, however, there are of course ways to have him come back to live again. As far as we know, the ghosts in Winterfell could be "activated" by mere anger or hatred (although I think that the "ghosts" (plural) Theon sees are just a poetic way to describe the memories of his childhood and his forsaken relationship to the Starks).

Your theory was, as always, a joy to read, and I still think it is worth thinking about it.

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Obviously, dying and returning from the dead via the Drowned God’s “magic” is part of the premise of this theory.

I've just thought of a silly theory. The Drowned God must be the patron of fools. :P

After all, he did bring Patchface back. And Benfred was clearly a fool as well, considering how he blundered his way into that ambush. Aeron isn't much better either.

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Do we know the Faith of the Seven's stance on guest rights? I know that the Old Gods hold it sacred, but not sure about the new ones...

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Do we know the Faith of the Seven's stance on guest rights? I know that the Old Gods hold it sacred, but not sure about the new ones...

Probably the same, judging the relief Catelyn feels once bread and salt is given by Walder Frey.

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It's the same. Witness the reaction in the south to the Red Wedding ("These Freys are cursed" etc.) in relation to the betrayal by the Freys.

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