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The Blood Motif in ASoIaF/Symbolism/Analysis/Patterns

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:bowdown: :bowdown: CONGRATULATIONS, THEWINGEDWOLF, on such a beautifully composed response to my efforts, complete with evidences from other texts and Martin’s. I am familiar with much of what you are sharing, especially after once being a Dan Brown fan. [Martin has since replaced him in my heart].

I simply adore how you related the similarities between Jon’s parents with the Christ/Mary M’s mythology. Thank you so very much for sharing, and I will respond in greater length as I have time to sit and mull over all the particular details you outlined. MOST IMPRESSIVE EFFORT! :thumbsup:

\

Thank you for the warm words it definitely brought a smile to my smile to face. I hope we have the pleasure of sharing a thread together again soon!

Edit: This is the thread in which the full theory came to life should you want to look at it: http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/88469-masonic-and-templar-references-in-asoiaf/

Its a collection of information from different posters, so feel free to add anything you deem to be relevant!

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Wow, what an awesome thread, and I don't know how I missed it.

I am not as familiar with the Masons, (though my father-in-law was apparently a member), so I'll do my research.

Feel free to add as much as you like to the thread it is meant to be information gathering between posters!

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The Blood Motif in George R.R. Martin’s

A Game of Thrones, Book 1 of A Song of Ice and Fire:

How Martin Employs the Blood Motif as a Unifying Device that Connects

The Starks, their Direwolves, Winterfell, the Crypts,

and the Heart Tree

“Blood sprayed out across the snow, as red as summerwine” (15).

In A Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R. R. Martin’s series A Song of Ice and Fire, the author conscientiously crafts a strong literary foundation for the subsequent books to follow. Primary plots, subplots, histories, and characterizations that Martin secures in AGoT often foreshadow, parallel, mirror, insinuate, or symbolize what is yet to come. Martin features House Stark, a much admired family that includes two parents, five true-born children and one bastard, and the Stark retainers. Within the grey stone walls of Winterfell, the community lives peacefully despite Old Nan’s scary stories about endless snows that drift and bury entire castles. The cold Winterfell crypts house the stone statues of the Stark lords and Kings of Winter who watch with blind eyes and listen to silent whispers, their stone direwolves curled at their stone feet. The heart tree postures in the primeval godswood, a brooding expression carved on the bark of its face, sad eyes leaking red sap. Beneath the earth, the weirwood’s roots extend deep underground to kiss the grey, underground fortress of Winterfell, and maybe cradle the bottom of many levels, each holding the human remains of deceased Starks and their families beneath sepulchers. Martin associates the faces of the past Starks carved in stone with the face carved in the bark of the weirwood trunk. Deftly, Martin insinuates that the spirits of the dead Starks dwell within the heart tree, which happens to wear a “long face”, a physical trait of many Starks then and now. Martin emphasizes the Stark family’s good-standing and import by assigning them POV chapters that outnumber the POV’s of other characters from old, distinguished houses in the Seven Kingdoms.

Blood is a unifying device that seamlessly joins elements of plot development and storytelling. Mastering the details of an epic series that covers five completed novels with two promised for some time in the future, Martin relies on literary techniques and devices to add texture to his prose narratives. Blood is the operative word in the recurring “blood motif”, and just as the weirwood tree is crowned with blood red leaves “like a thousand blood-stained hands”, so does Martin marks his prose with literary intent that he expertly paints into the fabric of his fantasy. Blood symbology embraces a volume of traditional meanings, and Martin touches upon most of these as well as inventing some of his own: blood may represent the life force or the divine life force, magical powers, food or sustenance for supernatural beings, brotherhood, procreation, vengeance, passion, death, war, sacrifice, guilt, race, heritage, and genetics. The current Stark family, including the siblings and their direwolves, plus Winterfell, the crypts, and the heart tree, are touched by the enigmatic powers of blood that Martin barely winks at early in AGoT and that he continues through the four novels that follow.

THE BLOOD OF THE FIRST MEN

“. . . the blood of the First Men still flowed in the veins of the Starks, and his own gods were the old ones, the nameless, faceless gods of the greenwood they shared with the vanished children of the forest”.

The spilling of blood accompanies Lord Eddard Stark’s first appearance in the novel A Game of Thrones as he assumes the roles of Lord of Winterfell, Warden of the North, and an executioner, and in fulfillment of all these roles, he administers the King’s justice by wielding his Valyrian steel greatsword Ice to decapitate a deserter from the Night’s Watch. Aside from the bloody introduction, this heroic figure is also a father, a friend, and a husband.

Respected and admired in the North, Lord Eddard is the patriarch of a rich legacy, and he sets a good example for his children not only in his duties to the King, but he demonstrates his faith in the old gods by praying regularly beneath the heart tree in the godswood of Winterfell. Ned seeks forgiveness, wise counsel, and spiritual guidance from the old gods.

The blood of the First Men courses through the veins of Lord Eddard Stark and his five trueborn children, Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Rickon, all on his wife, the former Catelyn Tully. In addition, Lord Eddard acknowledges paternity for the bastard Jon Snow, although Jon’s true parents are a subject for much speculation. Regardless of Ned’s claim, one of Jon’s parents is indeed a Stark for Jon presents in his countenance the Stark grey eyes and the Stark long face. So all the Stark progeny inherit a genetic profile that is saturated in historical and familial associations. However, Martin has not confirmed formally in the novels thus far that the “current” Starks of Winterfell attain their warg status on an “as needed” basis. Wargs, a Three- Eyed Crow, greenseers, greendreamers, and magical powers seem to appear in conjunction with the arrival of the Long Night. Moreover, the warging skills develop in each Stark sibling independently and apparently only when the Long Night is inevitable. Otherwise, the warging spirit remains dormant through generations of Starks. It is a power associated with magic that is presently awakening for a purpose. Furthermore, storyteller Old Nan, who plays the bard by telling tales of the deeds of heroes, does not share much of anything about the Starks turning into wolves or trees or mastering wizardry. Also, Ned and his brother Benjen do not expose themselves as skinchangers either. However, if Martin’s crafting of a blood motif throughout the novels is any indication, then the Stark siblings with their ancient bloodline, with their own personal greenseer Brandon, and with the other children’s gifts of warging, all will disclose a historical past linked by blood and to magic.

To enable the young Starks to discover and master their warging powers, the forces that are the old gods arrange for Robb to find a litter of orphaned direwolf pups. Jon Snow eloquently convinces Lord Eddard that his five trueborn children each deserve one of the litter. Jon Snow’s personal sacrifice of going without a pup himself is fortuitously rewarded when the magic of the old gods inspires the bastard to turn back and cross the bridge where he discovers a sixth direwolf separated from his litter. Jon Snow immediately declares ownership of the white wolf with red eyes and no voice. Also of import is the fact that the pups are orphaned when their mother dies from a fatal wound caused by a stag antler imbedded in her throat. The stag is the sigil of House Baratheon, and since the direwolf is the Stark sigil, the message in the dead mother direwolf is that the Starks will earn the enmity of House Baratheon, who may strike out at the Starks in the same way the stag defeated the mother direwolf.

The direwolf pups act as loyal companions and fierce protectors of the children, but more importantly, the pups are the “conduits” that guide, mirror, and even reinforce the children’s behavior. Long before the “wolf dreams”, the Starks individually experience an acute awareness of their five senses. Even though the Stark children inherit their warging and/or greenseeing gifts through their bloodline, their direwolves will help them to remember what the First Men knew that is now long forgotten in Winterfell. In this fantasy world, it seems that power and knowledge are symbolically bought and paid for with blood.

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:bowdown: :bowdown: THANK YOU for the great response. I have some theories that I will share later regarding the blood and its relationship with sacrifice. The inheritance and memory I also touch upon in regards to "inheriting" aspects of a collective memory. Simply, the direwolves are the agents that are helping the Starks to realize their potential as wargs, skinchangers, greenseers, etc. The Starks need to remember what the First Men knew now forgotten in Winterfell.

I'm with Alia, I like the idea of blood as nourishment, especially in relation to your idea about the collective memory held by the wargs, skinchangers and greenseers. It might be worth identifying whether or not the Starks are able to do this because the Direwolves are pack animals? I don't know if Varamyr Sixskins' version of warging is the same -- he seems to have made his own pack out of animals (all hunters, who eat meat/blood), though the 'glue' binding them together there is Sixskins, whereas with the Starks, it is a familial/pack bond. Where a discussion of the variances in these instances will take you (or would be helpful), I'll let you be the judge.

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a few more thoughts:

The cold Winterfell crypts house the stone statues of the Stark lords and Kings of Winter who watch with blind eyes and listen to silent whispers, their stone direwolves curled at their stone feet. The heart tree postures in the primeval godswood, a brooding expression carved on the bark of its face, sad eyes leaking red sap. Beneath the earth, the weirwood’s roots extend deep underground to kiss the grey, underground fortress of Winterfell, and maybe cradle the bottom of many levels, each holding the human remains of deceased Starks and their families beneath sepulchers. Martin associates the faces of the past Starks carved in stone with the face carved in the bark of the weirwood trunk. Deftly, Martin insinuates that the spirits of the dead Starks dwell within the heart tree, which happens to wear a “long face”, a physical trait of many Starks then and now. Martin emphasizes the Stark family’s good-standing and import by assigning them POV chapters that outnumber the POV’s of other characters from old, distinguished houses in the Seven Kingdoms.

I really like how you've made a visual map for us of the castle's geography/family's history all connected by the heart tree. The way it's all stacked, from the roots of the tree to the branches, implies a kind of sustenance for the Starks (both physical and spiritual) drawn literally from the blood (and decomposition) of. . . earlier Starks. I hope we hear more about this!

However, Martin has not confirmed formally in the novels thus far that the “current” Starks of Winterfell attain their warg status on an “as needed” basis. Wargs, a Three- Eyed Crow, greenseers, greendreamers, and magical powers seem to appear in conjunction with the arrival of the Long Night. Moreover, the warging skills develop in each Stark sibling independently and apparently only when the Long Night is inevitable. Otherwise, the warging spirit remains dormant through generations of Starks. It is a power associated with magic that is presently awakening for a purpose. Furthermore, storyteller Old Nan, who plays the bard by telling tales of the deeds of heroes, does not share much of anything about the Starks turning into wolves or trees or mastering wizardry. Also, Ned and his brother Benjen do not expose themselves as skinchangers either. However, if Martin’s crafting of a blood motif throughout the novels is any indication, then the Stark siblings with their ancient bloodline, with their own personal greenseer Brandon, and with the other children’s gifts of warging, all will disclose a historical past linked by blood and to magic.

this really seems to fit with the map you've created! I think it's significant, too, that Nan's stories are different than we might expect. I guess I think hers are there to prepare them for what is out in the world, the things they'll have to deal with and face, even though they are supposed to be about Northern folklore. The reservoir for the Stark's abilities seems to lie closer to home!

Jon Snow eloquently convinces Lord Eddard that his five trueborn children each deserve one of the litter. Jon Snow’s personal sacrifice of going without a pup himself is fortuitously rewarded when the magic of the old gods inspires the bastard to turn back and cross the bridge where he discovers a sixth direwolf separated from his litter. Jon Snow immediately declares ownership of the white wolf with red eyes and no voice. Also of import is the fact that the pups are orphaned when their mother dies from a fatal wound caused by a stag antler imbedded in her throat. The stag is the sigil of House Baratheon, and since the direwolf is the Stark sigil, the message in the dead mother direwolf is that the Starks will earn the enmity of House Baratheon, who may strike out at the Starks in the same way the stag defeated the mother direwolf.

The direwolf pups act as loyal companions and fierce protectors of the children, but more importantly, the pups are the “conduits” that guide, mirror, and even reinforce the children’s behavior. Long before the “wolf dreams”, the Starks individually experience an acute awareness of their five senses. Even though the Stark children inherit their warging and/or greenseeing gifts through their bloodline, their direwolves will help them to remember what the First Men knew that is now long forgotten in Winterfell. In this fantasy world, it seems that power and knowledge are symbolically bought and paid for with blood.

not sure where you'll head next, but someone noted in another thread that Ghost is mute. So I think that the assessment of the Stark's warging ability emerging through the five senses is really great! Also it is absolutely a different kind of 'hearing,' one that relies on an instinct -- we could say that it's 'in Jon's blood'

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a few more thoughts:

I really like how you've made a visual map for us of the castle's geography/family's history all connected by the heart tree. The way it's all stacked, from the roots of the tree to the branches, implies a kind of sustenance for the Starks (both physical and spiritual) drawn literally from the blood (and decomposition) of. . . earlier Starks. I hope we hear more about this!

this really seems to fit with the map you've created! I think it's significant, too, that Nan's stories are different than we might expect. I guess I think hers are there to prepare them for what is out in the world, the things they'll have to deal with and face, even though they are supposed to be about Northern folklore. The reservoir for the Stark's abilities seems to lie closer to home!

not sure where you'll head next, but someone noted in another thread that Ghost is mute. So I think that the assessment of the Stark's warging ability emerging through the five senses is really great! Also it is absolutely a different kind of 'hearing,' one that relies on an instinct -- we could say that it's 'in Jon's blood'

EIRA SEREN: THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE MEANINGFUL RESPONSE. I will post the next section since you really have a sense of what I am doing. I honestly believe that Martin presents the foundation for his subsequent novels in AGoT. I wish to point out something I learned on the threads: Ghost does "howl" - in ACoK, in Jon Snow's wolf dream, the same dream wherein Jon speaks with Bran whose face he sees in the trunk of a weirwood sapling. Now, many people have said that this scene is locked into a timeline, and that when Jon has this dream, Bran is hiding in WF crypts, where Bran learns to open his third - and then he has this prophetic dream. When Bran talks with Lord Brynden, he learns that "time" is different for a tree. So, the time line, I feel, is "bust" when it comes to Bran and his powers, which we are learning already exceed BR's. Bran can be heard when he speaks through the leaves. Thus, from Jon's wolf dream we learn several important points: 1) Jon is a warg; 2) Jon 'can' warg in as much as Arya can; 3) Jon while in Ghost will be able to communicate with Bran through the weirwoods - and maybe other trees or animals as well; 4) Ghost "speaks" when Jon wargs him!

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THE UNITY OF BLOOD: WINTERFELL, THE CRYPTS, AND THE WEIRWOOD TREE

“. . . Winterfell was a grey stone labyrinth of walls and towers and courtyards and tunnels spreading out in all directions” (79).

The Starks, historically and symbolically, are currently and have been in the past a part of the grey stones of Winterfell, the crypts below, and the weirwood tree in the godswoods. Through personification, Martin humanizes them. For example, since the castle is built over a natural hot springs, “scalding water rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body” (58). The water from the hot springs is compared to blood, the substance that sustains life in humans who without blood circulating their bodies will expire. Thus, Catelyn observes that “in winter, the hot springs and pools are the difference between life and death”.

Catelyn discloses that the scalding waters drive “the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing”. About the Winterfell grounds, “Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards”. Martin reveals that “Ned could never abide the heat”. Ironically, since the “Starks were made for the cold”, their earthly remains must be at peace in the chilly crypts below the castle.

Martin brings the WF crypts to life by assigning human attributes to the atmosphere. For example, as Ned prepares to take King Robert down into the crypts to pay his respects to Lyanna, Ned notes that “He could feel the chill coming up the stairs, a cold breath from deep within the earth” (41). The crypts are like the lungs that exhale cold air as the visitors make their way down the stairs to the toms Ned leading Robert “among the dead” (42) identified as “The Lords of Winterfell watched them pass” (42). The great stone statues appear “to stir” and the stone direwolves “curl” around stone feet when Robert roars with laughter: the “echoes rang through the darkness, and all around them the dead of Winterfell seemed to watch with cold and disapproving eyes” (47-48). Apparently, the expired Starks in stone disapprove of the King’s mirth when paying respects to the dead. Maybe Robert’s jollity annoys the spirits, or they are annoyed by the King’s plans to steal Ned away to serve as Hand of the King.

After Robert asks Ned to be his Hand, Ned feels a “horrible sense of foreboding. This was his place, here in the north” (48). Moreover, Ned “could feel the eyes of the dead. They were all listening, he knew. And winter was coming” (48). Martin reveals that Ned “knows” that the dead are listening; more importantly, the dead may see and hear that “winter is coming”, which seems to be their argument for Ned to stay at Winterfell. Winterfell with scalding water like blood and crypts that breath with statues that stir, watch, and listen are very human associations. However, the readers are told that Ned does not believe in signs, which may account for why Ned ignores the dead and decides to honor his King, a decision that may appear reckless to someone who does believe in signs and may have heeded the communications from the dead themselves.

Just as the Starks are historically and symbolically part of Winterfell and the crypts, so is the weirwood that thrives in the godswood: “Here [in the north] every castle had its godswood, and every godswood had its heart tree, and every heart tree its face”. As Lady Catelyn steps upon the deep humus covering the godswood floor, the sound of her footsteps is “swallowed” up by a the buffer: “A thousand years of humus lay thick upon the godswood floor, swallowing the sound of her feet . . .” “Swallow” is a word associated with eating or drinking as well as the mouth, teeth, breath, and lips. In this instance, Martin personifies the godswood floor by attributing to it the ability to swallow “sound”, not food.

“She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts”.

Catelyn found her husband beneath the weirwood, seated on a moss-covered stone. The greatsword Ice was across his lap, and he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night. . . . the red eyes of the weirwood seemed to follow her as she came.

“At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. "The heart tree," Ned called it. The weirwood's bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle's granite walls rise around them. It was said that the children of the forest had carved the faces in the trees during the dawn centuries before the coming of the First Men across the narrow sea”.

Maester Luwin likens Winterfell to a tree, a significant comparison that parallels the weirwood and the castle:

“The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree . . . and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep within the earth” (79).

Since Winterfell’s walls and towers and courtyards have been added to over hundreds of years, and Maester Luwin likens Winterfell’s expansion to “some monstrous stone tree”, perhaps one that has grown too large too quickly. The adjective “monstrous” has ugly connotations. “Gnarled . . . thick . . . twisted” all insinuate that the castle is showing her age. Winterfell’s roots are sunk deep into the earth, and Maester Luwin must mean that these roots represent the layers of the crypts beneath the fortress.

Martin personifies both Winterfell and the weirwood: just as the blood of the hot springs circulates in the castle so does the red sap seep from within the white bone bark of the tree. Its branches extend upwards in a gesture reaching for the sky. The weirwood’s leaves are blood red and take the form of a hand, a thumb and four fingers. Legend says that the CotF carved facial features on the weirwoods, two eyes and a mouth from which red sap leaks. A vivid red mouth is speechless without vocal chords. However, some people will later think that the leaves speak to them.

Maester Luwin comparing Winterfell to a gnarled, thick, twisted “monstrous tree” equates the castle to the godswood: “a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. It smelled of moist earth and decay. . . Here thick black trunks crowded close together while twisted branches wove a dense canopy overhead and misshapen roots wrestled beneath the soil. This was a place of brooding shadows, and the gods who lived here had no names” (22).

In Martin’s fifth novel in his series ASoIaF, the author strongly implies that the weirwoods in the north have been the locations for ritualistic blood sacrifices. Sadly, the offerings were not only goats, sheep, and bulls. Because of Bran’s journey through the Winterfell heart tree when he sat the weirwood throne beyond the Wall, Bran travels backward in time, his average distance in years clocked roughly by the weirwood’s diminishing in size. His final vision depicted an execution taking place beneath a young heart tree in Winterfell. The executioner takes off a man’s head in one sweep of the blade, his blood spraying onto the earth. Somehow, through the magic of the CotF and Bran’s own powers, when the hot blood seeps into the ground, Bran tastes it – and Bran’s reaction is not revulsion.

Any history documenting human sacrifice is sketchy because language had not yet been written. Then once a language is created, acquiring reading materials and writing materials were costly. For instance, books and other mediums had to be carefully copied by transcribers. Those who have access to such written resources are the wealthy who maintain their literacy and enjoy a good story. For this reason, manuscripts and other documents are so revered by Samwell, Tyrion, the Reader, and Maester Aemon. Many attend to Old Nan’s stories because even though they are highly exaggerated and delightfully melodramatic, they do contain traces of past events that may otherwise be lost to the northern culture forever. Ironically, Martin, speaking through his character Tyrion Lannister, points out the advantage of the current generations looking to the past generations and their successes and foibles in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the present and future. Sadly, “time” forgets “history” not recorded in the written word or memorized by a tribe’s historian, elder, bard, or the like and passed on with some modicum of accuracy. Of note is how Martin’s conscientious construction and organization of his novels in a series, all of which offer invaluable information, are resources where the visionary Martin has conveniently stored much and more. Martin leads by example, guiding his readers and fans to return to the beginning that he establishes in his first novel of the series A Game of Thrones, and the subsequent novels that follow. All the knowledge the First Men knew now forgotten in Winterfell is far more than a contrived riddle Jojen Reed uses to challenge Bran to take command and “own” his powers. If the heroes and heroines are to survive ASoIaF, they will need to learn how others turned back the Long Night and brought the return of spring. Regardless, when Martin finally reveals “all” to his avid fans, no matter the course, he is not likely to disappoint. However, the complicated relationship the Starks and their ancient House have with the Children of the Forest and others will more than likely be related to the complicated blood motif that ensues in AGoT and that resolves in the final text.

THE STARKS, THEIR DIREWOLVES, AND THE BLOOD CONNECTION

“We are one person in two bodies” (485).

The above quote is spoken by Cersei about her close relationship with her twin brother Jaime Lannister. Regardless of who says it, Martin writes it, and these words distinguish quite eloquently how the Starks and their wolves are intrinsically joined.

It is imperative to grasp the supernatural bond between each Stark child and his/her direwolf in order to understand the complex symbology of the blood motif that ultimately empowers the Stark children. Each child, with one exception, demonstrate in their actions, reactions, and words, a resulting empowerment that seemingly manifests itself AFTER his or her direwolf tastes blood from a kill, or from an unlucky victim. Through the magic or wizardry that Martin hints at yet has not fully revealed or explained, the direwolf ingests fresh blood, after which he or she nourishes a Stark child through a mystical telepathy that brings about event. Prior to opening the third eye, to warging, to greenseeing, to greendreaming, and to managing other magical talents, each Stark symbolically tastes the blood through his or her direwolf. Specifically, the bloodied muzzle of the wolf emboldens his or her Stark counterpart “independently” and with markedly different, yet personal winning attributes, such as self-confidence, strength, courage, battle prowess, persuasive speaking, problem-solving skills, and more. The preternatural blood commands each child in a way that each needs at the specific moment in the story.

In specific instances in AGoT, Martin depicts the direwolves with bloody muzzles immediately prior to the Stark children each experiencing unnatural empowerment. For example, after Summer, Nymeria, Grey Wind, Ghost, and Shaggydog taste blood, Bran, Arya, Robb, Jon, and Rickon, respectively, demonstrate extraordinary mental or physical expertise not evident in their prior levels of knowledge and skill sets. However, since Martin separates Arya and Sansa from their direwolves, he nevertheless grants them each mystical experiences through personal experiences and dreams that establish that the Stark girls do indeed possess the same supernatural dominion as their brothers. Martin hints at Arya’s and Sansa’s potential for opening their third eyes, and Martin temporarily replaces their loss of a direwolf by gifting them a “Hound”.

A thesis to organize and compartmentalize the specific blood incidents that attach the direwolves to their Stark children with magical consequences follows:

  1. Summer infuses Bran with the will to live, a fact that Martin illustrates after Summer tastes the blood of Bran’s would-be-assassin and after Summer licks clean the blood caused by Catelyn’s defensive wound on her hand. In his Three-Eyed Crow dream, Bran chooses to “fly”, not “die”, and after having this prophetic dream, Bran wakes from his coma.
  2. Nymeria infuses Arya with courage after the direwolf bites Prince Joffrey in an effort to protect Arya.
  3. Grey Wind infuses Robb with strength and battle prowess after Grey Wind and Summer take down an elk in the wolfswoods and after Grey Wind takes two of the Greatjohn’s fingers while defending Robb.
  4. Ghost infuses Jon with problem-solving skills and with the power of persuasive speaking after Ghost takes down a kill near the Kingsroad.
  5. Shaggydog infuses Rickon with a wild spirit, “as wild as a winter storm” that needs to be tamed after Shaggydog has “bitten Gage on the arm and torn a chunk of meat from Mikken’s thigh” (573); after Shaggydog has ravaged Maester Luwin’s arm in the crypts of Winterfell; and after “Rickon patted Shaggydog’s muzzle, damp with blood. “I let him loose. He doesn’t like chains.” He licked at his fingers” (734).
  6. Rickon’s symbolic tasting of human blood, even if transfer from Shaggydog’s muzzle, eerily speaks to the blood sacrifices that fed the heart tree thousands of years ago and to the “blood” that Bran “tastes” during his vision while sitting the weirwood throne.

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EIRA SEREN: THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE MEANINGFUL RESPONSE. I will post the next section since you really have a sense of what I am doing. I honestly believe that Martin presents the foundation for his subsequent novels in AGoT. I wish to point out something I learned on the threads: Ghost does "howl" - in ACoK, in Jon Snow's wolf dream, the same dream wherein Jon speaks with Bran whose face he sees in the trunk of a weirwood sapling. Now, many people have said that this scene is locked into a timeline, and that when Jon has this dream, Bran is hiding in WF crypts, where Bran learns to open his third - and then he has this prophetic dream. When Bran talks with Lord Brynden, he learns that "time" is different for a tree. So, the time line, I feel, is "bust" when it comes to Bran and his powers, which we are learning already exceed BR's. Bran can be heard when he speaks through the leaves. Thus, from Jon's wolf dream we learn several important points: 1) Jon is a warg; 2) Jon 'can' warg in as much as Arya can; 3) Jon while in Ghost will be able to communicate with Bran through the weirwoods - and maybe other trees or animals as well; 4) Ghost "speaks" when Jon wargs him!

Am looking forward to reading more! good call on the timeline. playing with time is hell to write, and can be a real mire for interpretations. the sensory connection awakens the warging ability because they are some of the key features of the warging ability. What's that saying about the lone wolf versus the pack staying together, in order to survive? It seems like blood allows for the communication, and ultimately the survival of the Stark clan? lots at stake there.

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Great posts both to Evita and Eira.

And yes, there are several common denominators in Martins story, as well as cultures who embraced human sacrifice:

- Atonement

- Nourishment

- Life force

I'm going to research the Druids as it has since come out that they too practiced blood sacrifices.

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THE UNITY OF BLOOD: WINTERFELL, THE CRYPTS, AND THE WEIRWOOD TREE

“. . . Winterfell was a grey stone labyrinth of walls and towers and courtyards and tunnels spreading out in all directions” (79).

The Starks, historically and symbolically, are currently and have been in the past a part of the grey stones of Winterfell, the crypts below, and the weirwood tree in the godswoods. Through personification, Martin humanizes them. For example, since the castle is built over a natural hot springs, “scalding water rushed through its walls and chambers like blood through a man’s body” (58). The water from the hot springs is compared to blood, the substance that sustains life in humans who without blood circulating their bodies will expire. Thus, Catelyn observes that “in winter, the hot springs and pools are the difference between life and death”.

Catelyn discloses that the scalding waters drive “the chill from the stone halls, filling the glass gardens with a moist warmth, keeping the earth from freezing”. About the Winterfell grounds, “Open pools smoked day and night in a dozen small courtyards”. Martin reveals that “Ned could never abide the heat”. Ironically, since the “Starks were made for the cold”, their earthly remains must be at peace in the chilly crypts below the castle.

Martin brings the WF crypts to life by assigning human attributes to the atmosphere. For example, as Ned prepares to take King Robert down into the crypts to pay his respects to Lyanna, Ned notes that “He could feel the chill coming up the stairs, a cold breath from deep within the earth” (41). The crypts are like the lungs that exhale cold air as the visitors make their way down the stairs to the toms Ned leading Robert “among the dead” (42) identified as “The Lords of Winterfell watched them pass” (42). The great stone statues appear “to stir” and the stone direwolves “curl” around stone feet when Robert roars with laughter: the “echoes rang through the darkness, and all around them the dead of Winterfell seemed to watch with cold and disapproving eyes” (47-48). Apparently, the expired Starks in stone disapprove of the King’s mirth when paying respects to the dead. Maybe Robert’s jollity annoys the spirits, or they are annoyed by the King’s plans to steal Ned away to serve as Hand of the King.

After Robert asks Ned to be his Hand, Ned feels a “horrible sense of foreboding. This was his place, here in the north” (48). Moreover, Ned “could feel the eyes of the dead. They were all listening, he knew. And winter was coming” (48). Martin reveals that Ned “knows” that the dead are listening; more importantly, the dead may see and hear that “winter is coming”, which seems to be their argument for Ned to stay at Winterfell. Winterfell with scalding water like blood and crypts that breath with statues that stir, watch, and listen are very human associations. However, the readers are told that Ned does not believe in signs, which may account for why Ned ignores the dead and decides to honor his King, a decision that may appear reckless to someone who does believe in signs and may have heeded the communications from the dead themselves.

Just as the Starks are historically and symbolically part of Winterfell and the crypts, so is the weirwood that thrives in the godswood: “Here [in the north] every castle had its godswood, and every godswood had its heart tree, and every heart tree its face”. As Lady Catelyn steps upon the deep humus covering the godswood floor, the sound of her footsteps is “swallowed” up by a the buffer: “A thousand years of humus lay thick upon the godswood floor, swallowing the sound of her feet . . .” “Swallow” is a word associated with eating or drinking as well as the mouth, teeth, breath, and lips. In this instance, Martin personifies the godswood floor by attributing to it the ability to swallow “sound”, not food.

“She glanced behind her at the heart tree, the pale bark and red eyes, watching, listening, thinking its long slow thoughts”.

Catelyn found her husband beneath the weirwood, seated on a moss-covered stone. The greatsword Ice was across his lap, and he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night. . . . the red eyes of the weirwood seemed to follow her as she came.

“At the center of the grove an ancient weirwood brooded over a small pool where the waters were black and cold. "The heart tree," Ned called it. The weirwood's bark was white as bone, its leaves dark red, like a thousand bloodstained hands. A face had been carved in the trunk of the great tree, its features long and melancholy, the deep-cut eyes red with dried sap and strangely watchful. They were old, those eyes; older than Winterfell itself. They had seen Brandon the Builder set the first stone, if the tales were true; they had watched the castle's granite walls rise around them. It was said that the children of the forest had carved the faces in the trees during the dawn centuries before the coming of the First Men across the narrow sea”.

Maester Luwin likens Winterfell to a tree, a significant comparison that parallels the weirwood and the castle:

“The place had grown over the centuries like some monstrous stone tree . . . and its branches were gnarled and thick and twisted, its roots sunk deep within the earth” (79).

Since Winterfell’s walls and towers and courtyards have been added to over hundreds of years, and Maester Luwin likens Winterfell’s expansion to “some monstrous stone tree”, perhaps one that has grown too large too quickly. The adjective “monstrous” has ugly connotations. “Gnarled . . . thick . . . twisted” all insinuate that the castle is showing her age. Winterfell’s roots are sunk deep into the earth, and Maester Luwin must mean that these roots represent the layers of the crypts beneath the fortress.

Martin personifies both Winterfell and the weirwood: just as the blood of the hot springs circulates in the castle so does the red sap seep from within the white bone bark of the tree. Its branches extend upwards in a gesture reaching for the sky. The weirwood’s leaves are blood red and take the form of a hand, a thumb and four fingers. Legend says that the CotF carved facial features on the weirwoods, two eyes and a mouth from which red sap leaks. A vivid red mouth is speechless without vocal chords. However, some people will later think that the leaves speak to them.

Maester Luwin comparing Winterfell to a gnarled, thick, twisted “monstrous tree” equates the castle to the godswood: “a dark, primal place, three acres of old forest untouched for ten thousand years as the gloomy castle rose around it. It smelled of moist earth and decay. . . Here thick black trunks crowded close together while twisted branches wove a dense canopy overhead and misshapen roots wrestled beneath the soil. This was a place of brooding shadows, and the gods who lived here had no names” (22).

In Martin’s fifth novel in his series ASoIaF, the author strongly implies that the weirwoods in the north have been the locations for ritualistic blood sacrifices. Sadly, the offerings were not only goats, sheep, and bulls. Because of Bran’s journey through the Winterfell heart tree when he sat the weirwood throne beyond the Wall, Bran travels backward in time, his average distance in years clocked roughly by the weirwood’s diminishing in size. His final vision depicted an execution taking place beneath a young heart tree in Winterfell. The executioner takes off a man’s head in one sweep of the blade, his blood spraying onto the earth. Somehow, through the magic of the CotF and Bran’s own powers, when the hot blood seeps into the ground, Bran tastes it – and Bran’s reaction is not revulsion.

Any history documenting human sacrifice is sketchy because language had not yet been written. Then once a language is created, acquiring reading materials and writing materials were costly. For instance, books and other mediums had to be carefully copied by transcribers. Those who have access to such written resources are the wealthy who maintain their literacy and enjoy a good story. For this reason, manuscripts and other documents are so revered by Samwell, Tyrion, the Reader, and Maester Aemon. Many attend to Old Nan’s stories because even though they are highly exaggerated and delightfully melodramatic, they do contain traces of past events that may otherwise be lost to the northern culture forever. Ironically, Martin, speaking through his character Tyrion Lannister, points out the advantage of the current generations looking to the past generations and their successes and foibles in order to avoid making the same mistakes in the present and future. Sadly, “time” forgets “history” not recorded in the written word or memorized by a tribe’s historian, elder, bard, or the like and passed on with some modicum of accuracy. Of note is how Martin’s conscientious construction and organization of his novels in a series, all of which offer invaluable information, are resources where the visionary Martin has conveniently stored much and more. Martin leads by example, guiding his readers and fans to return to the beginning that he establishes in his first novel of the series A Game of Thrones, and the subsequent novels that follow. All the knowledge the First Men knew now forgotten in Winterfell is far more than a contrived riddle Jojen Reed uses to challenge Bran to take command and “own” his powers. If the heroes and heroines are to survive ASoIaF, they will need to learn how others turned back the Long Night and brought the return of spring. Regardless, when Martin finally reveals “all” to his avid fans, no matter the course, he is not likely to disappoint. However, the complicated relationship the Starks and their ancient House have with the Children of the Forest and others will more than likely be related to the complicated blood motif that ensues in AGoT and that resolves in the final text.

I am going to respond to this in parts, mainly so I can take some time to think through my response (your work here is very thought-provoking and a welcome break while job-hunting. . . my husband graduated and we've relocated for his new job!)

you're doing fantastic work of establishing that the personification of Winterfell (through blood imagery/symbolism) occurs. right now it doesn't seem to me that you come right out and say GRRMs reason for it, but you get darn close here:

Sadly, “time” forgets “history” not recorded in the written word or memorized by a tribe’s historian, elder, bard, or the like and passed on with some modicum of accuracy. Of note is how Martin’s conscientious construction and organization of his novels in a series, all of which offer invaluable information, are resources where the visionary Martin has conveniently stored much and more. [by this, do you mean he stores it in the blood?] Martin leads by example, guiding his readers and fans to return to the beginning that he establishes in his first novel of the series A Game of Thrones, and the subsequent novels that follow. All the knowledge the First Men knew now forgotten in Winterfell is far more than a contrived riddle Jojen Reed uses to challenge Bran to take command and “own” his powers. If the heroes and heroines are to survive ASoIaF, they will need to learn how others turned back the Long Night and brought the return of spring.

Catelyn found her husband beneath the weirwood, seated on a moss-covered stone. The greatsword Ice was across his lap, and he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night. . . . the red eyes of the weirwood seemed to follow her as she came. I never noticed this before. . . do you think Ned is deliberately feeding the tree?? It fascinates me that we don't seem to get any indications that Ned is a warg, but his actions, intentional or not, might be keeping the channels open, so to speak.

also, possibly a discussion for another time, but out of curiosity, what do you make of "There must always be a Stark in Winterfell"?

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Great posts both to Evita and Eira.

And yes, there are several common denominators in Martins story, as well as cultures who embraced human sacrifice:

- Atonement

- Nourishment

- Life force

I'm going to research the Druids as it has since come out that they too practiced blood sacrifices.

ALIA OF THE KNIFE: Thanks! I am going to continue: some of this is a bit rough, so all me on anything that needs further development. I am going to deal with Arya and Sansa first since they lose their wolves. I CAN'T WAIT TO READ ABOUT THE DRUIDS!

ARYA, SANSA, AND THE THIRD-EYE

“Its beak stabbed at him fiercely, and Bran felt a sudden blinding pain in the middle of his forehead, between his eyes” (164).

Martin conspicuously separates Arya and Sansa from their direwolves early in AGoT, but not before he hints at how Arya and Sansa may “open” their third eyes. For example, Martin describes Arya chasing cats as an exercise to perfect her skills as a water dancer while in Kings Landing. Her dancing teacher Syrio Forrel challenges her with such a task. When Arya captures the one-eared black tomcat with a notorious reputation, Arya kisses him between his eyes in a gesture of victory. The fact that she kisses the cat in the location of the “third eye” offers subtle foreshadowing that suggests the circumstances and the means of Arya mastering her psychic connection to the third eye. She achieves enlightenment in A Dance with Dragons when Arya as Blind Beth uses the eyes of a tomcat to replace her own sight, which she has temporarily lost because of a drink ordered for her by the Kindly Man in the House of Black and White in Braavos.

Moreover, through her training as an acolyte, Arya is mastering her skills as an assassin AND as a warg and a skinchanger. Arya works tirelessly to improve her powers and her skills. Arya may not share Bran’s greensight, but Arya appears adept at moving from host to direwolf and from host to cat, even while awake, like Bran.

Martin is hinting that Arya will wear many skins, just as Bloodraven promises Bran “100 skins”. Furthermore, Arya learns to change her face as an acolyte of “Him of Many Faces”, and she combines this with the magic that is part of her Stark bloodline, warging and skinchanging. Arya’s arrival in Braavos may be [NOT] accidental, but then again, Arya’s arrival in Braavos relied upon numerous generous guides who all represent a physical association with the forces that are the old gods. For example, Yoren chews the sour leaf, making his teeth and mouth red – like the mouths of the weirwoods. Martin also employs “verbs” indicative of a wolf’s actions: he barks, growls, snaps, etc. Jaqen has hair streaked with red and white, and he has Arya promise with her hand in the weirwood’s mouth. Arya’s ‘daily’ prayer listing the names of those she wishes vengeance against is slowly shrinking. Is a force joined with the old gods helping to answer Arya’s prayer?

Either way, Arya has Stark blood in her veins, and if her “magical” blood works in her favor as she trains as a Faceless Man, so be it. “Him of Many Faces” may be an alias for “the old gods who have no names”. The thousand hooded faces hanging below the House of Black and White may be similar to the weirwoods that survive with the faces carved on their trunks by the Children of the Forest. Therefore, it is not out of the realm of possibility that some “godly force” with a secret name or no name at all has deliberately guided Arya to The House of Black and White because of her association with the Starks, the old gods, the weirwoods, the warging, and the skinchanging.

Regardless, Martin reveals Sansa’s connection to the third eye when, during an argument with her sister Arya, Arya hurls a blood orange at Sansa, and it hits her in the middle of her forehead. The bloody juices color her forehead and stain her new dress.

“She [sansa] shrieked as Arya flung the orange across the table. It caught her in the middle of the forehead with a wet squish and plopped down into her lap. . . It was running down her nose and stinging her eyes. She wiped it away with a napkin” (476).

Martin may be intimating that Sansa accessing her warg nature, signified by the symbolic reference to the third eye, will be through a bloody means.

Of interest is the fact that after Arya and Sansa argue, Sansa locks herself in her room and cries herself to sleep, but as she wakes, Sansa senses Lady’s presence:

“Sansa sat up. ‘Lady,’ she whisperd. For a moment it was as if the direwolf was there in the room, looking at her with those golden eyes, sad and knowing. She had been dreaming, she realized. Lady was with her, and they were running together, and . . . and . . . trying to remember was like trying to catch the rain with her fingers. The dream faded, and Lady was dead again” (477).

Sansa’s vivid dream speaks more to the latent warg within her: she had cultivated an attachment with Lady that she feels dwindling, especially as a result of Lady’s death. However, Martin affirms that Sansa possesses the same intuitive potential as her siblings. Yet Sansa does not comprehend any significance in her liaison with her direwolf because their time together was cut way too short. However, Sansa is fortunate to have a younger brother who now sits the weirwood throne as an especially gifted greenseer, the wise men of the CotF.

With Bran’s far-reaching powers, he will no doubt make finding his siblings a priority. Bran’s means of communicating with Sansa may be through “birds”, a logical vehicle since Bran has been riding the ravens in Bloodraven’s cave. Even before arriving in Bloodraven’s cave, Bran’s fondness of the sweet air high in the sky and the birds gliding overhead is evident even before he falls: “He liked the way the air tasted way up high, sweet and cold as a winter peach. He liked the birds: the crows in the broken tower, the tiny little sparrows that nested in cracks between the stones, the ancient owl that slept in the dusty loft above the old armory. Bran knew them all”. Likewise, Sansa has been referred to often as a “little bird”, a “little dove”, and a parrot, it seems a logical means of greenseer Bran to reach out to sister Sansa. Moreover, coincidences abound as Sansa, the “little bird” has been hiding out in the Eyrie [an eagle’s nest] with the Arryn’s, whose sigil is a “falcon”.

ARYA WITHOUT NYMERIA

Ned to Arya: “Even a blind man could see that wolf would never have left you willingly” (222).

Before Arya chases Nymeria away to guarantee that her direwolf is not put to death for ravaging Prince Joffrey, Nymeria does succeed in drawing blood from the Prince when she tackles him to protect her mistress Arya. Unlike Lady, it is here that Nymeria tastes first blood, which, in turn empowers Arya by endowing her with an inner strength and fortitude and courage which Arya demonstrates when she selflessly orders Nymeria to “begone” from her side and to return to the wild from whence she came. Despite Arya’s love and affection for Nymeria, she understands the danger facing the wolf if she is captured by the King’s men.

Arya manages to succeed in her efforts to expel Nymeria from King’s Landing, a feat that demands conviction and personal sacrifice. Furthermore, when Arya returns after running off, she must needs attend an audience with King Robert and Queen Cersei where she is grilled about her direwolf attacking and wounding the Prince. Drawing from her inner strength that may very well be the result of Nymeria tasting blood and infusing her human counterpart with the confidence to stand before the royals and relate the truth even when her own older sister Sansa chooses to lie to support Prince Joffrey. Pained by Sansa’s betrayal, Arya displays her anger and confusion while in the presence of the King and Queen. Somehow Arya draws strength from Nymeria and the blood, and even though Arya and Nymeria are parted, Arya’s story arc will bring her near Nymeria, and she will journey through the Riverlands. But in ADwD, Arya will join Nymeria again in her dreams as the Night Wolf.

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I am going to respond to this in parts, mainly so I can take some time to think through my response (your work here is very thought-provoking and a welcome break while job-hunting. . . my husband graduated and we've relocated for his new job!)

you're doing fantastic work of establishing that the personification of Winterfell (through blood imagery/symbolism) occurs. right now it doesn't seem to me that you come right out and say GRRMs reason for it, but you get darn close here:

Sadly, “time” forgets “history” not recorded in the written word or memorized by a tribe’s historian, elder, bard, or the like and passed on with some modicum of accuracy. Of note is how Martin’s conscientious construction and organization of his novels in a series, all of which offer invaluable information, are resources where the visionary Martin has conveniently stored much and more. [by this, do you mean he stores it in the blood?] Martin leads by example, guiding his readers and fans to return to the beginning that he establishes in his first novel of the series A Game of Thrones, and the subsequent novels that follow. All the knowledge the First Men knew now forgotten in Winterfell is far more than a contrived riddle Jojen Reed uses to challenge Bran to take command and “own” his powers. If the heroes and heroines are to survive ASoIaF, they will need to learn how others turned back the Long Night and brought the return of spring.

Catelyn found her husband beneath the weirwood, seated on a moss-covered stone. The greatsword Ice was across his lap, and he was cleaning the blade in those waters black as night. . . . the red eyes of the weirwood seemed to follow her as she came. I never noticed this before. . . do you think Ned is deliberately feeding the tree?? It fascinates me that we don't seem to get any indications that Ned is a warg, but his actions, intentional or not, might be keeping the channels open, so to speak.

also, possibly a discussion for another time, but out of curiosity, what do you make of "There must always be a Stark in Winterfell"?

I think the "blood" is going to feed the supernatural powers needed to access the knowledge and to restore the Stark souls to their "dead" bodies. In this I think I see where the heretics conceive their stance about the Others. I am wondering if this Stark army will do battle against the Others, or join them? About Ned feeding the heart tree: I am not sure that he does this intentionally, but I do get a sense that this habit is one he learned, maybe even through Jon Arryn. ****I have been reading a lot about the Stark in Winterfell, and the latest argument is that a Stark must be the lord of WF even if not physically present. I have long held the theory that there is a Stark in WF - Bran - and the Boltons and company violate the laws of hospitality. I'll write more later. My husband needs me for a moment!

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The relationship between the Starks, the weirwood trees, blood and human sacrifice are more intimate and connected as I think we will see later on.

We see Bran, under Bloodravens tutelage begin to reconnect with his past which leads him to the power of the weirwood and blood.

I'm probably getting into heretic territory here, but I think Martin makes a deliberate connection between the North, the Celts, the old gods and nature, particularly in regards to the current imbalance.

Like the Starks, the Celts had a mythology and religion around the worship of trees with each one representing a different power. Human blood and sacrifice was an important element in this in terms of the ideas of atonement, nourishment, and pleasing the gods with the ultimate sacrifice.

"Pliny said of the Celts: They esteem nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree on which it grows. But apart from this they choose oak-woods for their sacred groves, and perform no sacred rite without using oak branches."

"Maximus of Tyre also speaks of the Celtic (? German) image of Zeus as a lofty oak, and an old Irish glossary gives daur, "oak," as an early Irish name for "god," and glosses it by dia, "god."6 The sacred need-fire may have been obtained by friction from oak-wood, and it is because of the old sacredness of the oak that a piece of its wood is still used as a talisman in Brittany.7 Other Aryan folk besides the Celts regarded the oak as the symbol of a high god, of the sun or the sky,8 but probably this was not its earliest significance. Oak forests were once more extensive over Europe than they are now, and the old tradition that men once lived on acorns has been shown to be well-founded by the witness of archæological finds, e.g. in Northern Italy"- Cetlic Twilight.

In rethinking the Starks, I speculate that they were on the road to violation of their old beliefs with Rickards desire to involve their family in the South and Southern politics, marrying off his children to men and women of the Seven, forgetting their roots.

And in terms of Ned cleaning his sword before the weirwoods, while thier eyes followed Cat, (perhaps that was the disapproval she's always felt)? Is that because Ned was contemplating the past, and sacrifice, or reenacting some ritual from that past that he'd forgotten?

"The Celts made their sacred places in dark groves, the trees being hung with offerings or with the heads of victims. Human sacrifices were hung or impaled on trees, e.g. by the warriors of Boudicca.4 These, like the offerings still placed by the folk on sacred trees, were attached to them because the trees were the abode of spirits or divinities who in many cases had power over vegetation." - Celtic Twilight.

It's also been discovered that though rare, the druids did engage in a form of cannibalism to connect with the spirits of their dead.

Jojen perhaps?

So a historical reference between blood sacrifice, "nourishment" and atonement. You also see the more elaborate descriptions of the trees, their roots and the connection to the children of the forest and Celtic reference:

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The relationship between the Starks, the weirwood trees, blood and human sacrifice are more intimate and connected as I think we will see later on.

We see Bran, under Bloodravens tutelage begin to reconnect with his past which leads him to the power of the weirwood and blood.

I'm probably getting into heretic territory here, but I think Martin makes a deliberate connection between the North, the Celts, the old gods and nature, particularly in regards to the current imbalance.

Like the Starks, the Celts had a mythology and religion around the worship of trees with each one representing a different power. Human blood and sacrifice was an important element in this in terms of the ideas of atonement, nourishment, and pleasing the gods with the ultimate sacrifice.

"Pliny said of the Celts: They esteem nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree on which it grows. But apart from this they choose oak-woods for their sacred groves, and perform no sacred rite without using oak branches."

"Maximus of Tyre also speaks of the Celtic (? German) image of Zeus as a lofty oak, and an old Irish glossary gives daur, "oak," as an early Irish name for "god," and glosses it by dia, "god."6 The sacred need-fire may have been obtained by friction from oak-wood, and it is because of the old sacredness of the oak that a piece of its wood is still used as a talisman in Brittany.7 Other Aryan folk besides the Celts regarded the oak as the symbol of a high god, of the sun or the sky,8 but probably this was not its earliest significance. Oak forests were once more extensive over Europe than they are now, and the old tradition that men once lived on acorns has been shown to be well-founded by the witness of archæological finds, e.g. in Northern Italy"- Cetlic Twilight.

In rethinking the Starks, I speculate that they were on the road to violation of their old beliefs with Rickards desire to involve their family in the South and Southern politics, marrying off his children to men and women of the Seven, forgetting their roots.

And in terms of Ned cleaning his sword before the weirwoods, while thier eyes followed Cat, (perhaps that was the disapproval she's always felt)? Is that because Ned was contemplating the past, and sacrifice, or reenacting some ritual from that past that he'd forgotten?

"The Celts made their sacred places in dark groves, the trees being hung with offerings or with the heads of victims. Human sacrifices were hung or impaled on trees, e.g. by the warriors of Boudicca.4 These, like the offerings still placed by the folk on sacred trees, were attached to them because the trees were the abode of spirits or divinities who in many cases had power over vegetation." - Celtic Twilight.

It's also been discovered that though rare, the druids did engage in a form of cannibalism to connect with the spirits of their dead.

Jojen perhaps?

So a historical reference between blood sacrifice, "nourishment" and atonement. You also see the more elaborate descriptions of the trees, their roots and the connection to the children of the forest and Celtic reference:

:bowdown: :bowdown: ALIA OF THE KNIFE: AWESOME! My computer has been acting up, so I will post my full comments soon! I also appreciate the larger type face. Much easier for me to read!

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The relationship between the Starks, the weirwood trees, blood and human sacrifice are more intimate and connected as I think we will see later on.

We see Bran, under Bloodravens tutelage begin to reconnect with his past which leads him to the power of the weirwood and blood.

I'm probably getting into heretic territory here, but I think Martin makes a deliberate connection between the North, the Celts, the old gods and nature, particularly in regards to the current imbalance.

Like the Starks, the Celts had a mythology and religion around the worship of trees with each one representing a different power. Human blood and sacrifice was an important element in this in terms of the ideas of atonement, nourishment, and pleasing the gods with the ultimate sacrifice.

"Pliny said of the Celts: They esteem nothing more sacred than the mistletoe and the tree on which it grows. But apart from this they choose oak-woods for their sacred groves, and perform no sacred rite without using oak branches."

"Maximus of Tyre also speaks of the Celtic (? German) image of Zeus as a lofty oak, and an old Irish glossary gives daur, "oak," as an early Irish name for "god," and glosses it by dia, "god."6 The sacred need-fire may have been obtained by friction from oak-wood, and it is because of the old sacredness of the oak that a piece of its wood is still used as a talisman in Brittany.7 Other Aryan folk besides the Celts regarded the oak as the symbol of a high god, of the sun or the sky,8 but probably this was not its earliest significance. Oak forests were once more extensive over Europe than they are now, and the old tradition that men once lived on acorns has been shown to be well-founded by the witness of archæological finds, e.g. in Northern Italy"- Cetlic Twilight.

In rethinking the Starks, I speculate that they were on the road to violation of their old beliefs with Rickards desire to involve their family in the South and Southern politics, marrying off his children to men and women of the Seven, forgetting their roots.

And in terms of Ned cleaning his sword before the weirwoods, while thier eyes followed Cat, (perhaps that was the disapproval she's always felt)? Is that because Ned was contemplating the past, and sacrifice, or reenacting some ritual from that past that he'd forgotten?

"The Celts made their sacred places in dark groves, the trees being hung with offerings or with the heads of victims. Human sacrifices were hung or impaled on trees, e.g. by the warriors of Boudicca.4 These, like the offerings still placed by the folk on sacred trees, were attached to them because the trees were the abode of spirits or divinities who in many cases had power over vegetation." - Celtic Twilight.

It's also been discovered that though rare, the druids did engage in a form of cannibalism to connect with the spirits of their dead.

Jojen perhaps?

So a historical reference between blood sacrifice, "nourishment" and atonement. You also see the more elaborate descriptions of the trees, their roots and the connection to the children of the forest and Celtic reference:

ALIA OF THE KNIFE: AWESOME CELTIC TIE IN! I definitely see this with the sacred knowledge of the trees. I remember when I brought in an American Indian play to expose my students to another culture. The actors portrayed elements of nature: the wind, the rock, the trees. When the Indian hero tears a leaf from the tree, it cries. That is a simple way of explaining how I see Bran becoming a “force” of nature when he slips his skin. I think he is the WIND – see my “wind” thread! I presented there idea in Redriver’s Winter Fell Thread:

Beware WILD SPECULATION AND CRACKPOTTERY:

As I track the blood motif, it does seem to establish evidence that aligns with the heretic thinking. That is why it is worth looking at throughout the POV’s of every narrator because Dany’s POV’s deal with empowerment through ingesting blood: literally, when she is in Vaes Dothrak and eats the stallion’s heart. Moreover, there must be some significance of Viserys dying without shedding one drop of his dragon blood.

Along with this, here is where my mind is going with the blood: What if “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell” is a THREAT? [And this is part of that knowledge the First Men knew that is now forgotten in Winterfell, but some who live closer to the bogs, earth, and stone still know]. What if Manderly knows of the threat; hence, he asserts some effort to locate Rickon? What if that is why keeping Theon at Winterfell is so important? Theon is the “stand-in” Stark until Rickon arrives? The Lannisters and the Boltons know full well fake-Arya is not real – and I bet those Northmen know as well – but they figure they are ‘safe” as long as Ned’s ward is a house hostage. Is there “more” to Ramsay wanting his “Reek” back?

I wonder if the Stark needs to be present in order to “receive” guidance from the forces that are the old gods to prevent the inhospitable stone Starks from rising to seek vengeance. The Starks sit with their swords unsheathed, all in rows of uniformity, “alert” direwolves [not sleeping] at their feet. The Stark posture memorialized in ‘stone” presents to ‘all’ not Starks that “they” are not welcome to Stark hospitality. Are you following?

Without the Stark in Winterfell WITH THE STARK BLOOD flowing in his veins, the magic cannot be prevented. Bran will “figuratively” be part of earth and stone, and he will be part of the godhead to seek vengeance against those who have usurped Winterfell and violated the laws of hospitality.

Hmmm. Bran may be a force that is convincing Stannis to go to the weirwood. Bran may believe he can communicate with Theon, especially since Theon hears Bran’s voice in the leaves of the WF weirwood. BR knows of Bran’s gifts, including powers beyond BR’s. BR urges Bran to do this not telling Bran what will happen – the Northmen will execute Theon, and Theon’s blood will feed the roots of the trees, networking back to WF. Bran will feel betrayed, and he will be wroth, enabling the Stark spirits, long residing in the roots of the heart tree, to feed on the blood, then guide the spirits to infuse the stone statues of the Kings of Winter and their direwolves, creating an army of his own to kill all those in WF, except for the ‘bard”! In Homeric epics, the bar is always spared – and it sounds like a Martin “touch”! Now – those are just some of my wild thoughts!

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ALIA OF THE KNIFE: AWESOME CELTIC TIE IN! I definitely see this with the sacred knowledge of the trees. I remember when I brought in an American Indian play to expose my students to another culture. The actors portrayed elements of nature: the wind, the rock, the trees. When the Indian hero tears a leaf from the tree, it cries. That is a simple way of explaining how I see Bran becoming a “force” of nature when he slips his skin. I think he is the WIND – see my “wind” thread! I presented there idea in Redriver’s Winter Fell Thread:

Beware WILD SPECULATION AND CRACKPOTTERY:

As I track the blood motif, it does seem to establish evidence that aligns with the heretic thinking. That is why it is worth looking at throughout the POV’s of every narrator because Dany’s POV’s deal with empowerment through ingesting blood: literally, when she is in Vaes Dothrak and eats the stallion’s heart. Moreover, there must be some significance of Viserys dying without shedding one drop of his dragon blood.

Along with this, here is where my mind is going with the blood: What if “There must always be a Stark in Winterfell” is a THREAT? [And this is part of that knowledge the First Men knew that is now forgotten in Winterfell, but some who live closer to the bogs, earth, and stone still know]. What if Manderly knows of the threat; hence, he asserts some effort to locate Rickon? What if that is why keeping Theon at Winterfell is so important? Theon is the “stand-in” Stark until Rickon arrives? The Lannisters and the Boltons know full well fake-Arya is not real – and I bet those Northmen know as well – but they figure they are ‘safe” as long as Ned’s ward is a house hostage. Is there “more” to Ramsay wanting his “Reek” back?

I wonder if the Stark needs to be present in order to “receive” guidance from the forces that are the old gods to prevent the inhospitable stone Starks from rising to seek vengeance. The Starks sit with their swords unsheathed, all in rows of uniformity, “alert” direwolves [not sleeping] at their feet. The Stark posture memorialized in ‘stone” presents to ‘all’ not Starks that “they” are not welcome to Stark hospitality. Are you following?

Without the Stark in Winterfell WITH THE STARK BLOOD flowing in his veins, the magic cannot be prevented. Bran will “figuratively” be part of earth and stone, and he will be part of the godhead to seek vengeance against those who have usurped Winterfell and violated the laws of hospitality.

Hmmm. Bran may be a force that is convincing Stannis to go to the weirwood. Bran may believe he can communicate with Theon, especially since Theon hears Bran’s voice in the leaves of the WF weirwood. BR knows of Bran’s gifts, including powers beyond BR’s. BR urges Bran to do this not telling Bran what will happen – the Northmen will execute Theon, and Theon’s blood will feed the roots of the trees, networking back to WF. Bran will feel betrayed, and he will be wroth, enabling the Stark spirits, long residing in the roots of the heart tree, to feed on the blood, then guide the spirits to infuse the stone statues of the Kings of Winter and their direwolves, creating an army of his own to kill all those in WF, except for the ‘bard”! In Homeric epics, the bar is always spared – and it sounds like a Martin “touch”! Now – those are just some of my wild thoughts!

I think all the points you've raised are relevant and actually, your reference to the bogs are another realm of Celtic myth revolving around the "Wicker Man." I think there is some magic to "there must always be a Stark in Winterfell" though they've forgotten it themselves.

And "Winter is coming" was likely a war cry and not just a saying if the Starks themselves warded off, or brought with them the power of Winter.

Another factor are Bran and co. taking the swords from the laps of the Starks in the crypts. The alchemists power of iron is supposed to bind the dead which is why we see iron fences around graveyards, so with the swords gone, were the visions that shallow Theon saw just "visions"?

And certainly the Starks of Jons dreams know that he is likely more dragon than direwolf, rejecting him in the same way that not all Targaryens are dragons.

Edit: Martin is a genius at combining cultures and traits. The Starks embody much of the Celtic traditions, but Native American as well given that "skin walker" is a native term for individuals in their mythologies said to have these abilities.

And the talisman that Cat was weaving in the HBO series looked to be a Native American dream catcher, something that I myself don't mind sleeping with above my bed to ward off nightmares. :thumbsup:

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I think all the points you've raised are relevant and actually, your reference to the bogs are another realm of Celtic myth revolving around the "Wicker Man." I think there is some magic to "there must always be a Stark in Winterfell" though they've forgotten it themselves.

And "Winter is coming" was likely a war cry and not just a saying if the Starks themselves warded off, or brought with them the power of Winter.

Another factor are Bran and co. taking the swords from the laps of the Starks in the crypts. The alchemists power of iron is supposed to bind the dead which is why we see iron fences around graveyards, so with the swords gone, were the visions that shallow Theon saw just "visions"?

And certainly the Starks of Jons dreams know that he is likely more dragon than direwolf, rejecting him in the same way that not all Targaryens are dragons.

Edit: Martin is a genius at combining cultures and traits. The Starks embody much of the Celtic traditions, but Native American as well given that "skin walker" is a native term for individuals in their mythologies said to have these abilities.

And the talisman that Cat was weaving in the HBO series looked to be a Native American dream catcher, something that I myself don't mind sleeping with above my bed to ward off nightmares. :thumbsup:

:bowdown: :bowdown: ALIA OF THE KNIFE: YOU GO GIRL! AWESOME AGAIN! I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU!

I found a “new” source detailing symbology in literature, one that actually cites great works that employ the symbols. Here is the web site, which is an online version of Ferber’s hardcover book. http://www.academia.edu/1052805/A_DICTIONARY_OF_LITERARY_SYMBOLS_B_Michael_Ferber

It took me forever to transfer the info to a word document – when I tried to copy and paste, the information transferred in a list, one word at a time. I couldn’t format it – so I had to do the entire thing word for word. But I was excited for you to read all the info on leaf/leaves. [i also have a few other surprises, from my new source, but it will take me some time to get them all formatted by hand so that I can post the information!]

I did not “apply” the symbology to the leaf/leaves in Martin’s works because I wanted you to take the first stab since you mentioned the Druids, trees, and sacrifice/death. [i am formatting TREE for later!]

THE SYMBOLOGY OF THE LEAF/LEAVES IN LITERATURE

[TO APPLY TO MARTIN’S WORKS]

Three of the most striking facts about leaves are that

  1. there are vast numbers of them, even on a single tree,
  2. that they are born in the spring and die in the fall, and
  3. that they rustle or fly off in the wind.

****These features, mainly, make them favorite images in poetry.

The familiar contrast between the annual coming and going of leaves on deciduous trees and the near-permanence of the trees themselves prompts Homer’s famous simile in the speech of Glaucus to Diomedes: ‘‘High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask of my generation? / As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity. / The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber / burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning. / So one generation of men will grow while another / dies’’ (Iliad 6.145--50; trans. Lattimore).

Glaucus goes on to tell his genealogy, what we would now call his ‘‘family tree,’’ as befits a poem in which patronymics are as prominent as given names (here, for example, each hero is named only as the son of someone). That this perspective may seem too godlike for a young warrior, himself a leaf likely to fall, is confirmed by the reappearance of the simile on the lips of Apollo, who tells Poseidon there is no point in contending over ‘‘insignificant /mortals, who are as leaves are, and now flourish and grow warm / with life, and feed on what the ground gives, but then again / fade away and are dead’’ (21.463--66).

It is part of the poignancy of the Iliad that its heroes occasionally achieve the detachment to see their own life as the brief thing it is. Homer’s comparison is repeated by Mimnermus: ‘‘we, like the leaves that grow in the flowery springtime...like them we enjoy the flower of youth for a brief span’’ (2.1--4);

by Sophocles: man is as ‘‘short lived as the leaves of a slender poplar’’ (frag.593); and by Aristophanes in Birds 686: humans are ‘‘feeble-lived, much like the race of leaves’’ -- an appropriate simile to be drawn by a bird.

Shelley elaborates the simile in Queen Mab 5.1--15 and takes an even longer view, imagining the trees falling as well as the leaves, while from the rotting trunks a new forest springs ‘‘Like that which gave it life, to spring and die’’(his note cites Iliad 6.146 ff.).

Homer also mentions leaves (and flowers) as types of multitudinousness in his flurry of similes for the mustering armies outside Troy (Iliad 2.468), a comparison used by many poets ever since, such as this by Apollonius of Rhodes: the Colchians thronged to the assembly, and ‘‘like the waves of the stormy sea / or as the leaves that fall to the ground from the wood with its myriad branches / in the month when the leaves fall’’ (Argonautica 4.215--17).

Marlowe uses the image with a Homeric allusion to Mt. Ida: ‘‘Here at Aleppo, with an host of men, / Lies Tamburlaine, this king of Persia, / In number more than are the quivering leaves / Of Ida’s forests’’ ( 2 Tamburlaine 3.5.3--6).

The numerousness of leaves, their mortality, and their susceptibility to wind made them perfect emblems for the dead in the underworld.

According to Bacchylides, when Heracles descended to Hades he saw the souls of mortals ‘‘like leaves the wind shakes’’ (Epinician 5.63).

Virgil’s Aeneas in the realm of Dis meets ‘‘as many souls / As leaves that yield their hold on boughs and fall / Through forests in the early frost of autumn’’ ( Aeneid 6.309--10; trans.Fitzgerald).

Seneca uses the leaf simile among several others (flowers, waves, migrating birds) to bring out the vast number of shades summoned by Tiresias (Oedipus 600).

Dante sees the dead on the shore of Acheron: ‘‘As, in the autumn, leaves detach themselves, / first one and then the other, till the bough / sees all its fallen garments on the ground, / similarly the evil seed of Adam / descended from the shoreline one by one’’ (Inferno 3.112--16; trans. Mandelbaum).

With this tradition before him, and a passage from Isaiah about the day of vengeance -- ‘‘all their host [of heaven] shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine’’ (34.4) -- it was almost inevitable that Milton would use it for the recently fallen legions of Lucifer, ‘‘angel forms, who lay entranced / Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks / Of Vallombrosa’’(PL 1.301--03).

Isaiah also likens an individual life to a leaf: ‘‘we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away’’ (64.6). This too became a commonplace. To take some modern examples: Lamartine likens himself to‘‘une feuille morte’’ (‘‘a dead leaf’’), and prays the wind to carry him like the leaf (‘‘L’Isolement’’);

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, home from her honeymoon, gazes at the withered golden leaves and feels she is ‘‘already into September’’ (Act 1);

Hopkins’s Margaret is grieving over the ‘‘unleaving’’ of the grove, while the leaves, ‘‘like the things of man,’’ express ‘‘the blight man was born for’’ (‘‘Spring and Fall’’).

A tree may be personified and given feelings, leaves then becoming hair, as in Ovid: ‘‘The woods grieved for Phyllis, shedding their leaves’’ (Ars Amatoria 3.38); the cutting of hair was the common rite of mourning. Sometimes a person is compared to a tree that may or may not lose its leaves.

In the Bible: ‘‘he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither’’ (Ps.1.3); ‘‘ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water’’ (Isa.1.30).

Ovid and other ancient poets compared the life of a man to the passing seasons (as in Metamorphoses 15.199--216). Drawing on these comparisons, Shakespeare begins one of his best known sonnets (73), ‘‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold / When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang /Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, / Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.’’

In the garden scene of Richard II, which is one elaborate simile for the condition of England, a servant, thinking of Richard says, ‘‘He that hath suffered this disordered spring / Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf’’ (3.4.48--49). As he faces his doom, Macbeth says, ‘‘I have liv’d long enough: my way of life / Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf’’(5.3.22--23). Byron felt ‘‘My days are in the yellow leaf’’ in ‘‘On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year’’ (5).

In his ‘‘Ode to the West Wind,’’ Shelley (like Lamartine above) imagines that he is a dead leaf the wind might bear, but (like Shakespeare) also imagines that he has leaves: ‘‘make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: / What if my leaves are falling like its own!’’ (57--58).

In several languages ‘‘leaf’’ also serves for the page, or double-page, of a book (e.g., French feuille, feuillet, German Blatt ), as we say when we ‘‘turn over a new leaf’’ -- an irresistible meaning for writers to exploit. Du Bellay imagines his verses as dead leaves ( feuillards) scattered by the wind (‘‘Non autrement quela prˆetresse folle’’).

In Sonnet 17 Shakespeare considers ‘‘my papers, yellowed with their age’’ like old men. Shelley asks the West Wind to ‘‘Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!’’(63--64).

Perhaps a distant source of this metaphor is Horace’s simile likening the changing words (vocabulary) of a language to the shedding and regrowing of leaves (Ars Poetica 60--62).

Pindar uses the evocative phrase ‘‘leaves of song’’ (Isth. 4.27).

Among the Romantics it became a commonplace that poetry should come spontaneously, as if it grew organically from the poet. Keats wrote, ‘‘if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all’’ (letter to Taylor, 27 February 1818).

Hugo dismisses as of no importance the fact that ‘‘some autumnal blast of bitter air / With its unsettled wings may sweep along / Both the tree’s foliage and the poet’s song’’ (‘‘Friends, a last word!’’6--8).

This metaphor, combined with the near-punning sense of ‘‘page,’’ lies behind such titles as Leigh Hunt’s Foliage, Hugo’s Feuilles d’automne , Whitman’s Leaves of Grass , and Rosalia de Castro’s Follas Novas.

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:bowdown: :bowdown: ALIA OF THE KNIFE: YOU GO GIRL! AWESOME AGAIN! I HAVE A SURPRISE FOR YOU!

I found a “new” source detailing symbology in literature, one that actually cites great works that employ the symbols. Here is the web site, which is an online version of Ferber’s hardcover book. http://www.academia...._Michael_Ferber

It took me forever to transfer the info to a word document – when I tried to copy and paste, the information transferred in a list, one word at a time. I couldn’t format it – so I had to do the entire thing word for word. But I was excited for you to read all the info on leaf/leaves. [i also have a few other surprises, from my new source, but it will take me some time to get them all formatted by hand so that I can post the information!]

I did not “apply” the symbology to the leaf/leaves in Martin’s works because I wanted you to take the first stab since you mentioned the Druids, trees, and sacrifice/death. [i am formatting TREE for later!]

THE SYMBOLOGY OF THE LEAF/LEAVES IN LITERATURE

[TO APPLY TO MARTIN’S WORKS]

Three of the most striking facts about leaves are that

  1. there are vast numbers of them, even on a single tree,

  2. that they are born in the spring and die in the fall, and

  3. that they rustle or fly off in the wind.

****These features, mainly, make them favorite images in poetry.

The familiar contrast between the annual coming and going of leaves on deciduous trees and the near-permanence of the trees themselves prompts Homer’s famous simile in the speech of Glaucus to Diomedes: ‘‘High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask of my generation? / As is the generation of leaves, so is that of humanity. / The wind scatters the leaves on the ground, but the live timber / burgeons with leaves again in the season of spring returning. / So one generation of men will grow while another / dies’’ (Iliad 6.145--50; trans. Lattimore).

Glaucus goes on to tell his genealogy, what we would now call his ‘‘family tree,’’ as befits a poem in which patronymics are as prominent as given names (here, for example, each hero is named only as the son of someone). That this perspective may seem too godlike for a young warrior, himself a leaf likely to fall, is confirmed by the reappearance of the simile on the lips of Apollo, who tells Poseidon there is no point in contending over ‘‘insignificant /mortals, who are as leaves are, and now flourish and grow warm / with life, and feed on what the ground gives, but then again / fade away and are dead’’ (21.463--66).

It is part of the poignancy of the Iliad that its heroes occasionally achieve the detachment to see their own life as the brief thing it is. Homer’s comparison is repeated by Mimnermus: ‘‘we, like the leaves that grow in the flowery springtime...like them we enjoy the flower of youth for a brief span’’ (2.1--4);

by Sophocles: man is as ‘‘short lived as the leaves of a slender poplar’’ (frag.593); and by Aristophanes in Birds 686: humans are ‘‘feeble-lived, much like the race of leaves’’ -- an appropriate simile to be drawn by a bird.

Shelley elaborates the simile in Queen Mab 5.1--15 and takes an even longer view, imagining the trees falling as well as the leaves, while from the rotting trunks a new forest springs ‘‘Like that which gave it life, to spring and die’’(his note cites Iliad 6.146 ff.).

Homer also mentions leaves (and flowers) as types of multitudinousness in his flurry of similes for the mustering armies outside Troy (Iliad 2.468), a comparison used by many poets ever since, such as this by Apollonius of Rhodes: the Colchians thronged to the assembly, and ‘‘like the waves of the stormy sea / or as the leaves that fall to the ground from the wood with its myriad branches / in the month when the leaves fall’’ (Argonautica 4.215--17).

Marlowe uses the image with a Homeric allusion to Mt. Ida: ‘‘Here at Aleppo, with an host of men, / Lies Tamburlaine, this king of Persia, / In number more than are the quivering leaves / Of Ida’s forests’’ ( 2 Tamburlaine 3.5.3--6).

The numerousness of leaves, their mortality, and their susceptibility to wind made them perfect emblems for the dead in the underworld.

According to Bacchylides, when Heracles descended to Hades he saw the souls of mortals ‘‘like leaves the wind shakes’’ (Epinician 5.63).

Virgil’s Aeneas in the realm of Dis meets ‘‘as many souls / As leaves that yield their hold on boughs and fall / Through forests in the early frost of autumn’’ ( Aeneid 6.309--10; trans.Fitzgerald).

Seneca uses the leaf simile among several others (flowers, waves, migrating birds) to bring out the vast number of shades summoned by Tiresias (Oedipus 600).

Dante sees the dead on the shore of Acheron: ‘‘As, in the autumn, leaves detach themselves, / first one and then the other, till the bough / sees all its fallen garments on the ground, / similarly the evil seed of Adam / descended from the shoreline one by one’’ (Inferno 3.112--16; trans. Mandelbaum).

With this tradition before him, and a passage from Isaiah about the day of vengeance -- ‘‘all their host [of heaven] shall fall down, as the leaf falleth off from the vine’’ (34.4) -- it was almost inevitable that Milton would use it for the recently fallen legions of Lucifer, ‘‘angel forms, who lay entranced / Thick as autumnal leaves that strew the brooks / Of Vallombrosa’’(PL 1.301--03).

Isaiah also likens an individual life to a leaf: ‘‘we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away’’ (64.6). This too became a commonplace. To take some modern examples: Lamartine likens himself to‘‘une feuille morte’’ (‘‘a dead leaf’’), and prays the wind to carry him like the leaf (‘‘L’Isolement’’);

Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler, home from her honeymoon, gazes at the withered golden leaves and feels she is ‘‘already into September’’ (Act 1);

Hopkins’s Margaret is grieving over the ‘‘unleaving’’ of the grove, while the leaves, ‘‘like the things of man,’’ express ‘‘the blight man was born for’’ (‘‘Spring and Fall’’).

A tree may be personified and given feelings, leaves then becoming hair, as in Ovid: ‘‘The woods grieved for Phyllis, shedding their leaves’’ (Ars Amatoria 3.38); the cutting of hair was the common rite of mourning. Sometimes a person is compared to a tree that may or may not lose its leaves.

In the Bible: ‘‘he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither’’ (Ps.1.3); ‘‘ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water’’ (Isa.1.30).

Ovid and other ancient poets compared the life of a man to the passing seasons (as in Metamorphoses 15.199--216). Drawing on these comparisons, Shakespeare begins one of his best known sonnets (73), ‘‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold / When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang /Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, / Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.’’

In the garden scene of Richard II, which is one elaborate simile for the condition of England, a servant, thinking of Richard says, ‘‘He that hath suffered this disordered spring / Hath now himself met with the fall of leaf’’ (3.4.48--49). As he faces his doom, Macbeth says, ‘‘I have liv’d long enough: my way of life / Is fall’n into the sere, the yellow leaf’’(5.3.22--23). Byron felt ‘‘My days are in the yellow leaf’’ in ‘‘On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year’’ (5).

In his ‘‘Ode to the West Wind,’’ Shelley (like Lamartine above) imagines that he is a dead leaf the wind might bear, but (like Shakespeare) also imagines that he has leaves: ‘‘make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: / What if my leaves are falling like its own!’’ (57--58).

In several languages ‘‘leaf’’ also serves for the page, or double-page, of a book (e.g., French feuille, feuillet, German Blatt ), as we say when we ‘‘turn over a new leaf’’ -- an irresistible meaning for writers to exploit. Du Bellay imagines his verses as dead leaves ( feuillards) scattered by the wind (‘‘Non autrement quela prˆetresse folle’’).

In Sonnet 17 Shakespeare considers ‘‘my papers, yellowed with their age’’ like old men. Shelley asks the West Wind to ‘‘Drive my dead thoughts over the universe / Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!’’(63--64).

Perhaps a distant source of this metaphor is Horace’s simile likening the changing words (vocabulary) of a language to the shedding and regrowing of leaves (Ars Poetica 60--62).

Pindar uses the evocative phrase ‘‘leaves of song’’ (Isth. 4.27).

Among the Romantics it became a commonplace that poetry should come spontaneously, as if it grew organically from the poet. Keats wrote, ‘‘if Poetry comes not as naturally as the Leaves to a tree it had better not come at all’’ (letter to Taylor, 27 February 1818).

Hugo dismisses as of no importance the fact that ‘‘some autumnal blast of bitter air / With its unsettled wings may sweep along / Both the tree’s foliage and the poet’s song’’ (‘‘Friends, a last word!’’6--8).

This metaphor, combined with the near-punning sense of ‘‘page,’’ lies behind such titles as Leigh Hunt’s Foliage, Hugo’s Feuilles d’automne , Whitman’s Leaves of Grass , and Rosalia de Castro’s Follas Novas.

Thanks so much for the references, I will look at them.

And your analysis as always is amazing.

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Very deep, multi-layered analysis. And a challenging work in progress, branching out like a fractal model at different scales.

My two cents on blood symbology.

'Bed of blood' is a very powerful metaphor iterated throughout the saga. Not only it contains the textual seed of pivotal plot developments but it is also connected to the life and death dichotomy: women fight their wars in the 'bed of blood' to bring forth a new life or lose theirs trying. We could even draw a parallel with the archetypal theme of 'eros and thanatos', both linked to the theme of birth and the 'battle of the bloody bed'.

Blood is also symbolic cornerstone of the Targaryen words 'fire and blood'. In the previous posts it was postulated that blood could life-feed the Old Gods through sacrifice. Same imagery could be applied to Daenerys' rebirth through fire and blood (sacrifice). In the fiery pyre life and death find balance through blood shedding. Therefore blood is one of the catalysts (the other one being fire) for releasing and awakening old natural and/or magical forces (dragons hatching).

As blood and wine are interchangeable symbols, the same can be said about blood and rubies. Rubies are blood red and often connected to life force: according to oriental legends they in fact contain the 'spark of life'.

In ASoIaF Rubies are both associated to Rhaegar's end and 'continuation' (his blood legacy), giving form to another intriguing conceptual oxymoron containing life and death.

The 'seventh ruby' is what all are waiting for on the mysterious, secretive Quiet Isle (water and blood intertwined in a powerful allegory).

A ruby gleams red on Melisandre's neck (two words: blood magic).

According to Tywin, rubies are preferable to garnets 'cause the latter lack fire (again, fire and blood metaphorically embraced).

The ruby symbology and its link to blood has been ciclycally discussed on the R+L=J thread. Here is a short summary with all the relevant posts and a recent tail here.

Last but not least, a little contribution to the symbology of leaves, by Ungaretti and his ermetic poem Soldiers:

Here we are

like leaves on

trees, in Autumn

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