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Risto

Ice and Fire animal project III: Stags

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And again, I wish you welcome to Animal project. After two, if I may say, successful editions, it’s time to open third. In this one, honoring all the King’s men, I think it would be best to deal with the crowned animal of Westeros – the stag of House Baratheon.

The previous projects can be found here:

1. Ice and fire animal project: Wolves

2. Ice and fire animal project II: Lions

The entire Animal project is envisioned to deal with one animal at the time, and that`s why we have separate threads for each one of them. These threads will deal with vast animal symbolism in ASOIAF, parallels with other literary work, mythology and cultural depictions. Also, our desire is to explore how biology, animal anatomy, psychology and behavior have influenced GRRM`s writing, and helped him in creating such magnificent world.

Like I said at the beginning of previous Animal projects, the contributors on this thread, including myself are neither animal nor literary experts. We do necessary research in order to present you with essays of best possible quality, but we make room that each essay can be amended with possible data or corrected where there is place for that.

As always, we’ll start with OP project that will in this occasion consist of:

1. Cultural depictions of stags

2. Anatomy, physiology and behavior of stags

3. Stags as Kings of Westeros

Finally, I would also like to inform you that Animal project has got a new co-host in immensely smart and creative member of our community – evita mgfs. I believe many of you will find her extremely helpful and resourceful. For those of you interested in objective analysis of Stannis and his surrounding, I warmly recommend a thread I host with my dear friend Stannis Eats No PeachesThe Last King’s Man: Rereading Davos. Now, with all of that said, I present you the Stag project with hope you will find our work satisfactory…

COMPENDIUM OF ICE AND FIRE ANIMAL PROJECT ESSAYS:

WOLF PROJECT:

Wolves in Literature

Anatomy of the wolves

Wolf's Psychology and Behavior

Direwolves, wolves and men

Robb Stark - young wolf (written by Manderlay)

Jon Snow - unique wolf (written by butterbumps)

Arya Stark - wild she-wolf part 1. part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7 (written by Arya_Nym)

Bran Stark - winged wolf (written by just an Other

LION PROJECT:

Cultural depictions of the lion - Part 1: Ancient cultures

Cultural depictions of the lion - Part 2: Medieval and modern depictions - Religious symbolism

Cultural depictions of the lion - Part 3: Medieval and modern depictions - Heraldry symbolism

Cultural depictions of the lion - Part 4: Medieval and modern depictions - Modern literature parallels

Lion anatomy

Behavioral patterns of prides, nomads and relationship between them

ICE AND FIRE ANIMAL PROJECT OUTLINE:

1. Wolf

2. Lion

3. Stag

4. Dragon

5. Kraken

6. Fish

7. Dog

8. Cat

9. Bear

10. Snake

11. Pig

12. Fox

13. Horse

14. Spider - Guest co-host: Alia of the knife

15. Mockingbird

16. Frog

17. Tiger and elephant

18. Ornithology subproject: Raven

19. Ornithology subproject: Crow

20. Ornithology subproject: Falcon

21. Ornithology subproject: Sparrow

22. Mythology creatures subproject: Giants

23. Mythology creatures subproject: Mermaid - Guest co-host: Rapsie

24. Mythology creatures subproject: Griffon

25. Mythology creatures subproject: Harpy

26. Botanic spin-off project: Rose - Guest co-host: Lala

27. Botanic spin-off project: Onion

28. Astronomy spin-off project: Sun

29. Astronomy spin-off project: Stars

30. Astronomy spin-off project: Moon


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Cultural depictions of the stag

Magnificently beautiful, mysterious and elusive, the stag has always been awe-inspiring animal. Gentle, and yet swift and strong, the stag inspired many poets and writers throughout the centuries, and have been important part of many cultures, religions and mythologies of the world. Their habitat, the woodland realm, has also had strong ambivalent symbolism, as place of the freedom of injustice and oppression, as in Robin Hood or as transgressive place full of unknown dangers, as the one in Dante’s Inferno. Being constantly object of human interest, stags have always been hunted, and that hunt in literature became metaphor for life-changing quest, in which the road is more important than the finish line. The stag, the forest and the hunt are intricately united in many stories and myths of our world.

The stag had important role in the Scythian mythology and art. Due to excavations during 20th century, we became acquainted with Scythian culture. Scythians were the equestrian nation, who migrated a lot throughout Asia. Because of their nomadic life, their art was portable, and most of it was found on belts, weapon-ornaments and personal jewelry. The most known object of Scythian art is Golden Stag from Kostromskaya, Russia, that is believed to originate from 7th century B.C. The animal motif has deeply religious, totemic and talismanic nature, especially given the fact that it is part of the personal property. The stag is believed to represent male prowess in battle, and antlers resembling tree (family tree) were regarded as the symbol of male fertility.

But, the foundations of our knowledge regarding symbolism of the stag and its use in modern literature originate from Ancient Greece. From Aesop’s fables to myths about Agamemnon, Heracles’ labors and Artemis, the stag had been constant symbol of the quest, sanctity and swiftness, but also with the negative connotations of cowardice and weakness.

Both the Agamemnon story about sacrificing his daughter and the legend about the third Heracles’ labor has one thing in common, one goddess to be precise – Artemis. Artemis is Zeus’ daughter and Apollo’s twin sister. She is the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth and virginity. She carries bow and arrow as her weapons, and as her brother Apollo, had power to sent plague and death to people, but also to heal. Stags are sacred animals to Artemis, but she is also accompanied by the other animal companions – the wolf, the bear, the boar, the hawk and others. The triad of symbolism – the stag, the forest and the hunt are all united in mythology surrounding Artemis.

The legend of Agamemnon speaks about sacrilege and sacrifice. The story begins in dawn of Trojan War. When the Greek fleet was ready to sail for Troy with Agamemnon at the head, the winds refused to blow because Agamemnon had killed a stag sacred to the moon goddess Artemis. As recompense for the stag, and in return for allowing the winds to blow, Artemis exacted the sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter Iphigenia. According to one version of the event, once when a sacrifice was offered under the boughs of a tree, a dragon crawled forth from under it, and devoured a nest on the tree containing eight young birds and their mother. The myth talks about Agamemnon’s desire to conquer Troy, and the prize he would pay for it. Paralleling with ASOIAF events, Stannis, guilty of killing a stag (Renly), has to sacrifice a daughter, so the winds would blow and carry him to his destination. The powerful image of dragon crawling forth from a tree can certainly be interpreted as Jon rising from the dead, and since we know that birds are actually symbolizing years, we could even speculate that war ahead of us will last for 10 years.

The origin of the stag symbolizing the quest is unknown, but certainly the most known myth containing it is Heracles’ third labor – capturing Ceryneian hind. This swift creature with bronze hooves and golden horns as in stag (the reason why in many interpretations it’s called a stag), was sacred to Artemis. Heracles’ labor was to capture her alive and bring her to Eurystheus. Heracles needed entire year to capture hind alive, having in mind that killing, or harming the hind would provoke Artemis’ wrath. Once he found it, he took her down by an arrow pinning her forelegs between bone and sinew and not drawing a single drop of blood. After catching the hind, Artemis and Apollo intercepted Heracles’ path demanding explanation, on which Heracles explained that he had to catch the hind as part of his penance. Artemis forgave Heracles making him promise to return her the hind. Heracles took the hind with him to Eurysteus, who demanded that the hind should become part of his menagerie. Heracles tricked him by letting the hind seconds before Eurysteus took her, thus giving the hind enough time to escape. Heracles’ perseverance and decision not to harm the hind made of this labor quest of wisdom, where Gods’ and men’s laws collide and finding solution that would satisfy both sides. The symbolism of the life-changing quest where someone finds possible wisdom while hunting the uncatchable is something we usually connect with Stannis. And, although Stannis is the stag, and his labor is catching something else, it is impossible not to notice big and small truths Stannis has learnt during his endless pursuit for Iron Throne.

In Celtic mythology, stag is connected with “horned god” whom scholars named Cernunnos. According to some interpretations, “horned god” is an antlered figure sitting and wearing a torc. Most likely, the “horned god” is deity of nature or better, as some scholars noted the “peaceful god of nature and fruitfulness”. He is also referred as “Lord of the Animals”. The connection of nature deities in both Greek and Celtic mythologies with the stag is interesting. The positioning of the stag as “lord of the animals” wonderfully parallels the situation in Westeros where the each house has the nature motif as their sigils, and royal House has the stag. So, just with Artemis and Cernunnos, the stag has royal symbolism among the animal kingdom.

When it comes to Norse mythology, Martin proves to be impressive symbolist. The only known story about stags in Norse mythology, originated from the poem Grímnismál, part of Poetic Edda, is the one of four stags nibbling the branches of the World Tree Yggdrasil. The stag names are: Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór. And now we come to the interesting part. Two, out of four stags, are also names for dwarves – Dainn and Dvalinn. They were also used in Tolkien’s opus, where Dwalin was one of 13 dwarves Bilbo joined in the quest, and Dain is the cousin of Thorin Oakenshield, and will eventually become King under the Mountain. But, in Martin’s world, these stag/dwarves remind us on the very powerful vision Daenerys had in House of the Undying:

In one room, a beautiful woman sprawled naked on the floor while four little men crawled over her. They had rattish pointed faces and tiny pink hands, like the servitor who had brought her the glass of shade. One was pumping between her thighs. Another savaged her breasts, worrying at the nipples with his wet red mouth, tearing and chewing.

The most popular and widely-accepted belief is that the woman represents Westeros in entirety and that four rat-faced little men (dwarves) are 4 remaining Kings – Stannis and Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy. So, two of these dwarves represent stags, just as in Norse mythology two of the stags are named with the dwarfs’ names. Naturally, positive symbolism of four stags, including those two is perversely changed to be fitting for cruel world of Westeros.

One of the very first work containing powerful, and yet vast animal symbolism is Aesop’s compendium of fables. The life truths Aesop taught us with his fables have been retold many times in many different ways. But, the uniqueness of Aesop’s work is in the simple fact that he set the foundation for many others that will use animals as the symbols of human characteristics. And, just like we did in the Lion’s project, we will analyze few Aesop’s fables to show the symbolism of the stag at the beginning of the history of literature.

The Doe and the Lion

A doe hard pressed by hunters sought refuge in a cave belonging to a Lion. The Lion concealed himself on seeing her approach, but when she was safe within the cave, sprang upon her and tore her to pieces. "Woe is me," exclaimed the Doe, "who have escaped from man, only to throw myself into the mouth of a wild beast?'

In avoiding one evil, care must be taken not to fall into another.

This is basically Stannis’ war campaign in War of 5 Kings. First, he was saved by Melisandre’s powers that killed Renly, even though Renly got the numbers. Then, he attacked King’s landing with all his force, and failed, escaping alive from united force of Lannister/Tyrell newly formed alliance. He escaped only to go to Wall and fight the wildings, but the inevitable doom in the Others is certainly approaching. As the famous line says: “out of frying-pan into the fire”, Stannis’ campaign, although voluntarily, went from bad to worse to apocalyptic. The mere fact he is still alive says a lot about him. On the other hand, we could discuss about Robert’s arranged marriages. He escaped loveless marriage that would certainly come with Lyanna, only to be married with adulterous lioness that horned him with her own brother, and eventually kill him. And of course his “son” Joffrey, who set Sansa Starkaside so he could marry Margaery Tyrell, a sweet, darling girl, who poisoned him at their wedding.

The Stag at the pool

A stag overpowered by heat came to a spring to drink. Seeing his own shadow reflected in the water, he greatly admired the size and variety of his horns, but felt angry with himself for having such slender and weak feet. While he was thus contemplating himself, a Lion appeared at the pool and crouched to spring upon him. The Stag immediately took to flight, and exerting his utmost speed, as long as the plain was smooth and open kept himself easily at a safe distance from the Lion. But entering a wood he became entangled by his horns, and the Lion quickly came up to him and caught him. When too late, he thus reproached himself: "Woe is me! How I have deceived myself! These feet which would have saved me I despised, and I gloried in these antlers which have proved my destruction."

What is most truly valuated is often underrated

The story of three Baratheon brothers isn’t the loving one. Robert was always closer with Ned, and Renly and Stannis were distant. The things worsened when Robert named Renly as the Lord of Storm’s End, leaving Dragonstone to Stannis. Stannis proved himself, over and over again that he is a great military commander, especially valuable as Master of the Ships, but sadly underrated by Robert. The tragedy of WO5K could perhaps have been evaded if Baratheon brothers knew how to love and cherish each other. But, each of them had their moments in underrating people that should have been valued. Stannis, torn between Melisandre and Davos, has chosen many times Melisandre over Davos, not knowing that Melisandre will take him to his doom. Renly did value Brienne, and he proved that by naming her a member of his Rainbow guard, but that couldn’t change the fact she was exposed to ridicule. Robert, by underrating his Hands, ran straight into death. Sadly, but what Varys said about Robert, could be applied to all three Baratheon brothers, so allow me to paraphrase it. They could have been protected from their enemies, but they could have never been protected from their friends, or even worse their own blood. And it serves as wonderful prelude to the next fable and it’s moral.

The Sick Stag

A sick stag lay down in a quiet corner of its pasture-ground. His companions came in great numbers to inquire after his health, and each one helped himself to a share of the food which had been placed for his use; so that he died, not from his sickness, but from the failure of the means of living.

Evil companions bring more hurt than profit.

That both Robert and Stannis were and are surrounded with bad advisors is nothing new. From Robert’s wife, to his Small Council and Kingsguard, he was surrounded by people who actively worked on his demise. Rare are those that were actually working for his good and the good of the realm, like Jon Arryn, Ned Stark, Barristan Selmy, Stannis Baratheon. Others, guided by their ambition or hatred destroyed Robert and created chaos after his death. Surrounding Stannis are lords whose loyalty isn’t most trusted. Then, there is Melisandre, whose agenda is different from Stannis’. Surviving among such bad, corrupted advisors and allies is talent rare people have. But, in my country there is a saying: “with good people be good, with bad ones, be bad”. So, unlike Robert, who was blind about his allies, Stannis is well-aware who might betray him in the future. As he told Davos about Stormlords: I have forgiven them, but not have forgotten. And that is the essence of surviving in such harsh world as Westeros. You should always know who your friends and your enemies are and to always know what you can expect from them.

In Christian lore and medieval art and literature, stag has deeply religious and positive symbolism. The sources for these claims we find in the books called Bestiaries, which were the illustrated volumes describing animals and birds. Beside description and the illustration of each animal, the bestiaries contained the moral lesson that originated from the each animal’s spiritual meaning. Thus, bestiaries became the encyclopedias of symbolic language of the medieval art and literature. According to the bestiaries, the stag’s relentless enemy is the snake. Because the snake is a symbol of Satan, the stag's war against them made the stag a symbol of Christ and the Catholic in his battle against the evil one. It was believed that stags live long, according to one, obviously legend, that Alexander the Great had some stags captured, marked them, and they were found 100 years after. Also, stags are described as the lustful animals, mating with the rising of the star Arcturus. Needless to say, that although they were wrong in so many things regarding biology, bestiaries provide us a valuable insight in the medieval language of symbolism.

The one thing I would truly like to evade is the comparison between Jesus Christ and certain Baratheon. But, what I am interested in is the confrontation between the stag and the snake, which mirrors perfectly the Robert’s Rebellion and the confrontation between Targaryens and Baratheons. The unproductive debate about possible future confrontation between certain Baratheon King and certain Targaryen Queen, and who will be the Jesus and who would be the devil will not be addressed here.

In another, very important field of medieval symbolism – heraldry, we find alternatives of the stag symbolism. According to the “Oxford guide to Heraldry” by Thomas Woodcock and John Martin Robinson, the stag has been symbol of “poverty in youth and wisdom in war”. Antlers as heraldic motif are symbols of virility, strength and fortitude. Also, the most common interpretation is that the stag symbolizes peace and harmony, the one that won’t fight unless is provoked. In “New dictionary of heraldry”, published in 1725 in London, the stag is attributed swiftness as virtue, but fear as derogatory interpretation. This ambivalence of meaning as always suggests us that the importance of the perspective, especially in symbolism should never be forgotten.

In modern culture and literature, the stag is depicted in Walt Disney’s Bambi and Harry Potter book series by J.K. Rowling. In both works, the stag is presented as a noble animal. In Bambi, it is the “Great Prince of the forest” embodied in Bambi’s father, and in Harry Potter, the stag is depicted through Patronus charm. The Patronus charm is used to repel Dementors, the soul-sucking monsters. Patronus is essentially the corporeal positive energy force that is conjured by evoking the happiest memories. Dark wizards and witches can’t conjure Patronus which served as one of the proofs that Severus Snape wasn’t Death Eater after all. Harry’s Patronus is a stag, just like his father’s, and his mother’s Patronus, also the one of Severus Snape was a doe. The stag and the doe represent family, love, happiness and resistance to dark magic.

By observing the positive symbolism of the stag in Bambi and Harry Potter, there are parallels that can be drawn with ASOIAF. First, in both Bambi and ASOIAF, the stag is presented as the royal animal of the forest. It is not completely strange that the stag has royal status in the forests, especially given magnificent appearance of the grown stag. As for the stag in Harry Potter, it is pure opposition of the stag in ASOIAF. Where the stag as symbol of paternal love is used as a shield against the evil, in ASOIAF, the stag represent the disconnected family, where brothers either don’t care or even hate each other.

From being the symbol of peace and life-changing quest, to religious allegory and mystical characteristics, the stag endured as symbol of those unattainable things that elude to those that desire it above all else. The significance of the stag isn’t in individualization and strict depiction and parallels with certain characters, but in representation of centuries-long myths about never-ending hunt that changes us. For that is what the stag symbolizes -the loss and the discovery, the reexamination of us and the reevaluation of what should be really desired.

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Great read.

What about the white hart Robert is hunting just before he is killed? It was torn about by wolves and all the hunting party found was a hoof and horn. So Robert went deeper into the woods, towards the boar and his death.

The good folks at Wikipedia tell me the white hart was the emblem of Richard II. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_II_of_England

Richard II was deposed by Henry IV and died less than a year later. The deposition used to be considered one of the main causes of the War of the Roses, which we know the WotFK is somewhat based on.

Richard doesn't sound like one particular Baratheon, but there were aspects of all three. He liked to hunt and spend lavishly like Robert. He was stern and taciturn at court like Stannis and like Stannis wanted to keep the nobles less powerful. He was considered beautiful and somewhat feminine and wasn't a great warrior. This is more like Renly.

Does the brutal and untimely death of the white hart in the kings wood foreshadow an abrupt death for all three Baratheon brothers? It's already happened to Robert and Renly. Will Stannis become "white" from loss of blood, or freezing in the snow? What of the fact that the hart was killed by wolves? This could indicate that Stannis will be the casualty of a Stark resurgence in the north. Or maybe Stannis will be "deposed" by Jon as AAR. This also recalls the Stag and snake story Mladen wrote about above, since Jon is (presumably) part dragon as well.

I admit that I'm not as knowledgeable about history as I would like to be. If anybody has anything to add or correct, please chime in.

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Cultural depictions of the stag

Magnificently beautiful, mysterious and elusive, the stag has always been awe-inspiring animal. Gentle, and yet swift and strong, the stag inspired many poets and writers throughout the centuries, and have been important part of many cultures, religions and mythologies of the world. Their habitat, the woodland realm, has also had strong ambivalent symbolism, as place of the freedom of injustice and oppression, as in Robin Hood or as transgressive place full of unknown dangers, as the one in Dante’s Inferno. Being constantly object of human interest, stags have always been hunted, and that hunt in literature became metaphor for life-changing quest, in which the road is more important than the finish line. The stag, the forest and the hunt are intricately united in many stories and myths of our world.

snip From being the symbol of peace and life-changing quest, to religious allegory and mystical characteristics, the stag endured as symbol of those unattainable things that elude to those that desire it above all else. The significance of the stag isn’t in individualization and strict depiction and parallels with certain characters, but in representation of centuries-long myths about never-ending hunt that changes us. For that is what the stag symbolizes -the loss and the discovery, the reexamination of us and the reevaluation of what should be really desired.

:bowdown: :bowdown:

MILADEN: THANK YOU VERY MUCH. AND HELLO, everyone. I am looking forward to reading your work, and I hope you will enjoy reading some of mine. Thanks for making me feel WELCOME! ALSO, ABSOLUTELY AMAZING ANALYSIS OF THE STAG! Detailed ad well-supported, Overall, excellent effort.

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Great read.

What about the white hart Robert is hunting just before he is killed? It was torn about by wolves and all the hunting party found was a hoof and horn. So Robert went deeper into the woods, towards the boar and his death.

The good folks at Wikipedia tell me the white hart was the emblem of Richard II. http://en.wikipedia....d_II_of_England

Richard II was deposed by Henry IV and died less than a year later. The deposition used to be considered one of the main causes of the War of the Roses, which we know the WotFK is somewhat based on.

Richard doesn't sound like one particular Baratheon, but there were aspects of all three. He liked to hunt and spend lavishly like Robert. He was stern and taciturn at court like Stannis and like Stannis wanted to keep the nobles less powerful. He was considered beautiful and somewhat feminine and wasn't a great warrior. This is more like Renly.

Does the brutal and untimely death of the white hart in the kings wood foreshadow an abrupt death for all three Baratheon brothers? It's already happened to Robert and Renly. Will Stannis become "white" from loss of blood, or freezing in the snow? What of the fact that the hart was killed by wolves? This could indicate that Stannis will be the casualty of a Stark resurgence in the north. Or maybe Stannis will be "deposed" by Jon as AAR. This also recalls the Stag and snake story Mladen wrote about above, since Jon is (presumably) part dragon as well.

I admit that I'm not as knowledgeable about history as I would like to be. If anybody has anything to add or correct, please chime in.

:bowdown: :bowdown: GREAT CALL! I was working on a theme discussing “puns”, or plays on words, a popular device of Shakespeare’s. So here is where the ‘HART’ / ‘HEART’ TOOK ME, though lots of AGoT and just for fun, a visit with a hart in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

THE RECURRING HEART / HART “PUN” in PARALLEL POV’S

Daenerys’ POV, Chapter 46, specifically involves the blood sacrifice of a stallion for the purpose of removing his “heart”. Martin describes Khal Drogo with blood up to his elbows after he retrieves the heart and delivers it to his wife to eat.

In Sansa’s and Ned’s previous POV’s, chapters 44 and 45, respectively, Martin mentions the enchanted “hart”, “White harts were . . . very rare and magical”. It is this beast that is the object of desire that Robert hopes to hunt down. When the King’s party finds the hart, it has been taken by a pack of wolves. This event marks a “reversal of fortune” from Bran’s first POV where a direwolf succumbs to a stag, a creature with characteristics similar to a “hart”, or deer.

In chapter 44, Sansa gushes to Jeyne that in her dreams, Prince Joffrey takes the white hart the King and his retainers are hunting in the Kingswood. But Sansa misleads her friend: in truth, Sansa has no such dream. She only wishes that her love Joffrey takes the hart, so she fibs to make her story more appealing and less self-serving, especially since “Everyone knew that dreams were prophetic”.

“In her heart”, Sansa thinks that her prince is worthier than his drunken father. Jeyne asks if Joffrey touched the hart with his bare hand and did it no harm, since that is what knights in song do when near a magical beast. Sansa says, "No . . . He shot it with a golden arrow and brought it back for me."

Sansa’s deception is interesting in that she justifies her lies by being truthful in part: “she knew Joffrey liked hunting, especially the killing part”. I suspect Sansa enjoys ‘shocking’ her friend out of decorum.

Then, Sansa must convince herself, evidently. It appears she may be having some doubts:Only animals, though. Sansa was certain her prince had no part in murdering Jory and those other poor men; that had been his wicked uncle, the Kingslayer. She knew her father was still angry about that, but it wasn't fair to blame Joff. That would be like blaming her for something that Arya had done”.

Sansa’s thoughts are revealing, yet complicated. After losing her direwolf Lady, Sansa excusing Joffrey for killing an enchanted “animal” seems paradoxical. Her rationale is that it is okay to kill animals, even those that are “enchanted” and not a direct threat to over-population, feeding from crops and livestock, or savagely killing innocents. Sansa soothes her conscience with assurances that her Prince could never murder Jory and her father’s other retainers.

Does this suggest that Sansa has dismissed memories of her direwolf Lady already? Like the enchanted hart, Lady does not invite trouble from the southron folk, yet “trouble” finds both the “hart” and “Lady” and the upshot will be “broken” hearts when Sansa must learn the same lessons that Syrio teaches Arya.

“ ‘Just so. Opening your eyes is all that is needing. The heart lies, and the head plays tricks on us, but the eyes see true . . . Look with your ears. Taste with your mouth. Smell with your nose. Feel with your skin. Then comes the thinking, afterward, and in that way knowing the truth’” (GOT 531).

In chapter 45, Ned asks Littlefinger about Robert:. "Just how long does Robert intend to hunt?"

"Given his preferences, I believe he'd stay in the forest until you and the queen both die of old age, . . . Lacking that, I imagine he'll return as soon as he's killed something. They found the white hart, it seems . . . or rather, what remained of it. Some wolves found it first, and left His Grace scarcely more than a hoof and a horn. Robert was in a fury, until he heard talk of some monstrous boar deeper in the forest. Then nothing would do but he must have it”.

Robert’s failure to catch the “hart” symbolizes Robert’s inability to capture Lyanna’s Stark’s “heart”. She is metaphorically like the “hart” fleeing south from Robert.

THE JULIUS CAESAR / HART TO HEART CONNECTION

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the words “heart” and “hart” are puns in a heart-felt, emotional speech executed by Marc Antony who is shocked and amazed by the assassination of his friend Caesar. Before meeting with the conspirators whose hands are still red with Caesar’s blood, Antony obtains a promise of “safe passage” from the noble Marcus Brutus. Antony also hopes for a “reason” why Caesar needed to fall, and Antony wishes to ask permission to speak at Caesar’s funeral.

Antony arrives at the Senate-House, where several conspirators remain, all standing around Caesar’s corpse. Despite Antony’s evident grief upon seeing Caesar, he feigns friendship and shakes the bloody hands of these men. In Antony’s lines, he apologizes to Caesar for making nice with the conspirators in the presence of his corpse, all marked with blood. Antony then waxes poetic, using a metaphor to compare Caesar to a “hart” brought down by hunters:

Pardon me, Julius! Here wast thou bayed, brave hart;

Here didst thou fall; and here thy hunters stand,

Signed in thy spoil, and crimsoned in thy lethe.

O world, thou wast the forest to this hart,

And this indeed, O world, the heart of thee.

How like a deer, strucken by many princes,

Dost thou here lie! (3. 1. 215-221)

Antony speaks to the “world”, affirming “you” were the “forest” to this “deer”/hart/Caesar, and this “deer”/hart/Caesar was “your dear”. Now, just like a hart, you “Caesar” lie here stabbed by many nobles / shot by many hunters.

The “hart” in AGoT is a coveted, sought-after enchanted beast killed by ravaging wolves, probably a better fate for an enchanted beast than if it was left to the whims of Prince Joffrey and his crossbow! The “hart” may represent several people, but directly Sansa is metaphorically similar to an enchanted hart, innocent and pure, but vulnerable to the cruelties of the forest/KL court/the world/mean-spirited people.

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Pardon me, Julius! Here wast thou bayed, brave hart;

Here didst thou fall; and here thy hunters stand,

Signed in thy spoil, and crimsoned in thy lethe.

O world, thou wast the forest to this hart,

And this indeed, O world, the heart of thee.

How like a deer, strucken by many princes,

Dost thou here lie! (3. 1. 215-221)

Great catch! You could also interpret the deer as the realm itself. The War of Five Kings was caused by a confluence of many people and many events. A lot of nobles pretending to care about the realm but really being out for themselves. Antony in particular here reminds me of Varys, who claims to be serving only the realm.

The Sansa-Jeyne conversation about the white hart is interesting. I brought this up already in the food code thread, but that same chapter has other symbolism of her loss of innocence and loss of identity as a Stark. It can be read here, I don't want to stray from the topic. http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/95101-the-food-code-of-ice-and-fire/page__st__200__p__4891566#entry4891566

I do think that the conversation about the hart also hints at a more Machiavellian side to Sansa's personality (sorry to sound like I'm in a pawn to player thread). She lies about having a dream instead of a wish to sound more impressive. Then she reads Joffrey's character enough to realize he would much prefer to shoot the hart than just touch it. Of course, she goes right back to being naïve when she thinks that he would never kill people. Sansa also doesn't realize that it's a fantasy to equate Joffrey with a white hart. Joffery is a false stag/hart.

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Stags are symbols of male virility and sexual power, especially in Celtic mythology. Or at least that is what I always thought after reading the Mists of Avalon.

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What about the white hart Robert is hunting just before he is killed? It was torn about by wolves and all the hunting party found was a hoof and horn. So Robert went deeper into the woods, towards the boar and his death.

Does the brutal and untimely death of the white hart in the kings wood foreshadow an abrupt death for all three Baratheon brothers? It's already happened to Robert and Renly. Will Stannis become "white" from loss of blood, or freezing in the snow? What of the fact that the hart was killed by wolves? This could indicate that Stannis will be the casualty of a Stark resurgence in the north. Or maybe Stannis will be "deposed" by Jon as AAR. This also recalls the Stag and snake story Mladen wrote about above, since Jon is (presumably) part dragon as well.

I always interpreted the wolves killing the white hart, as the opposition to the first scene where stag killed direwolf. It seems that both scenes have prophetic meanings, Joffrey killed Ned, and Ned investigating Jon Arryn's death killed Robert. But, death of white hart for me represents also the elusiveness of someone's desire. Robert never was with Lyanna, Stannis never had a son, Renly never became a King. Will Stannis die? Perhaps, but we also have to see how far will he go in his quest for IT.

The good folks at Wikipedia tell me the white hart was the emblem of Richard II. http://en.wikipedia....d_II_of_England

I have found out that data in my research, but I didn't know where to put it. I am afraid that Richard II parallel with ASOIAF, for me sounds a bit overreaching... Maybe I am wrong, but I have found nothing that would strongly connect him with either Baratheon brothers,

:bowdown: :bowdown: GREAT CALL! I was working on a theme discussing “puns”, or plays on words, a popular device of Shakespeare’s. So here is where the ‘HART’ / ‘HEART’ TOOK ME, though lots of AGoT and just for fun, a visit with a hart in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

THE RECURRING HEART / HART “PUN” in PARALLEL POV’S

Daenerys’ POV, Chapter 46, specifically involves the blood sacrifice of a stallion for the purpose of removing his “heart”. Martin describes Khal Drogo with blood up to his elbows after he retrieves the heart and delivers it to his wife to eat.

In Sansa’s and Ned’s previous POV’s, chapters 44 and 45, respectively, Martin mentions the enchanted “hart”, “White harts were . . . very rare and magical”. It is this beast that is the object of desire that Robert hopes to hunt down. When the King’s party finds the hart, it has been taken by a pack of wolves. This event marks a “reversal of fortune” from Bran’s first POV where a direwolf succumbs to a stag, a creature with characteristics similar to a “hart”, or deer.

In chapter 44, Sansa gushes to Jeyne that in her dreams, Prince Joffrey takes the white hart the King and his retainers are hunting in the Kingswood. But Sansa misleads her friend: in truth, Sansa has no such dream. She only wishes that her love Joffrey takes the hart, so she fibs to make her story more appealing and less self-serving, especially since “Everyone knew that dreams were prophetic”.

“In her heart”, Sansa thinks that her prince is worthier than his drunken father. Jeyne asks if Joffrey touched the hart with his bare hand and did it no harm, since that is what knights in song do when near a magical beast. Sansa says, "No . . . He shot it with a golden arrow and brought it back for me."

Sansa’s deception is interesting in that she justifies her lies by being truthful in part: “she knew Joffrey liked hunting, especially the killing part”. I suspect Sansa enjoys ‘shocking’ her friend out of decorum.

Then, Sansa must convince herself, evidently. It appears she may be having some doubts:Only animals, though. Sansa was certain her prince had no part in murdering Jory and those other poor men; that had been his wicked uncle, the Kingslayer. She knew her father was still angry about that, but it wasn't fair to blame Joff. That would be like blaming her for something that Arya had done”.

Sansa’s thoughts are revealing, yet complicated. After losing her direwolf Lady, Sansa excusing Joffrey for killing an enchanted “animal” seems paradoxical. Her rationale is that it is okay to kill animals, even those that are “enchanted” and not a direct threat to over-population, feeding from crops and livestock, or savagely killing innocents. Sansa soothes her conscience with assurances that her Prince could never murder Jory and her father’s other retainers.

Does this suggest that Sansa has dismissed memories of her direwolf Lady already? Like the enchanted hart, Lady does not invite trouble from the southron folk, yet “trouble” finds both the “hart” and “Lady” and the upshot will be “broken” hearts when Sansa must learn the same lessons that Syrio teaches Arya.

When it comes to Sansa, I must appeal that full quotes are provided, for these reasons:

“I had a dream that Joffrey would be the one to take the white hart,” she said. It had been more of a wish, actually, but it sounded better to call it a dream. Everyone knew that dreams were prophetic. White harts were supposed to be very rare and magical, and in her heart she knew her gallant prince was worthier than his drunken father.

“A dream? Truly? Did Prince Joffrey just go up to it and touch it with his bare hand and do it no harm?”

“No,” Sansa said. “He shot it with a golden arrow and brought it back for me.” In the songs, the knights never killed magical beasts, they just went up to them and touched them and did them no harm, but she knew Joffrey liked hunting, especially the killing part. Only animals, though. Sansa was certain her prince had no part in murdering Jory and those other poor men; that had been his wicked uncle, the Kingslayer. She knew her father was still angry about that, but it wasn’t fair to blame Joff. That would be like blaming her for something that Arya had done.

As you can see Sansa isn't for killing animals, but she admits that the hunt exist. It would be weird not to expect that she knows nothing about hunt, since that was noblemen's favorite passtime. Also, the lie isn't justified here, because it's her train of thoughts. She wishes Joffrey to bring her white hart unharmed, but she also saw Joffrey liking killing. The truth is here we see that Joffrey maintained the perfect decourum with Sansa, before killing Ned, being perfect gentleman,. He even justified his attack on Mycah by claiming he would defend her. Also, "only animals though" means that Sansa truly believes that Joffrey is incapable of killing another human being. And to be honest, Joffrey after all didn't kill Jory and the rest of Stark men.

Also, Lady lives vividly in Sansa's memory, I doubt we could find big portion of the Sansa POVs in which she doesn't remember Lady. Lady is constantly near Sansa's heart, alive or dead, suggesting that Sansa is indeed a she-wolf, just like Arya, only in other way.

Sansa also doesn't realize that it's a fantasy to equate Joffrey with a white hart. Joffery is a false stag/hart.

Actually, even GRRM considers Joffrey a stag. He is called lion by people due to his hair, but in foreshadowings, Joffrey is always presented as the stag:

1. stag that killed she-wolf at the beginning of AGOT

2. the parallel I noticed between Dain and Dwalin and Dany's HotU vision.

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Great post Mladen (again). I don't have any thing to add at this point as I was going to say something about the White Hart...

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I seem to have mislaid my copies of Frazier & Campbell, but IIRC, isn't the stag associated with sacred kingship? The king that was wed to the goddess of sovereignty, symbol of the land, became the sacrifice. King Bob's death as the Long Summer ends fits with this. The stag is the Summer King whereas the Wolf is the Winter King. Which makes it particularly interesting that the Young Wolf is named for the old stag! That really makes me wonder about the relationship between the old Storm Kings and the Kings of Winter. Didn't Brandon the Builder supposedly build Storm's End for the Storm King? Hmm.

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I seem to have mislaid my copies of Frazier & Campbell, but IIRC, isn't the stag associated with sacred kingship? The king that was wed to the goddess of sovereignty, symbol of the land, became the sacrifice. King Bob's death as the Long Summer ends fits with this. The stag is the Summer King whereas the Wolf is the Winter King. Which makes it particularly interesting that the Young Wolf is named for the old stag! That really makes me wonder about the relationship between the old Storm Kings and the Kings of Winter. Didn't Brandon the Builder supposedly build Storm's End for the Storm King? Hmm.

:bowdown: :bowdown: purrl1: FIRST, YOUR POST IS WONDERFUL, BUT YOU SURE MADE ME LAUGH: :lol: ""THE YOUNG WOLF IS NAMED FOR THE OLD STAG!" :thumbsup: Well-said. I wish I could "come off" with humor; usually, I "unintentionally" end up offending someone - so, I am sincere in that I found your "old stag" quip humorous. I also think your parallels with the Summer versus the Winter King insightful - I never would have figured that out! Fine Job!

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In Celtic mythology, stag is connected with “horned god” whom scholars named Cernunnos. According to some interpretations, “horned god” is an antlered figure sitting and wearing a torc. Most likely, the “horned god” is deity of nature or better, as some scholars noted the “peaceful god of nature and fruitfulness”. He is also referred as “Lord of the Animals”. The connection of nature deities in both Greek and Celtic mythologies with the stag is interesting. The positioning of the stag as “lord of the animals” wonderfully parallels the situation in Westeros where the each house has the nature motif as their sigils, and royal House has the stag. So, just with Artemis and Cernunnos, the stag has royal symbolism among the animal kingdom.

Interesting, I wonder if this is a hint as to the nature of the "Horned Lord" that Val and her sister spoke of?

When it comes to Norse mythology, Martin proves to be impressive symbolist. The only known story about stags in Norse mythology, originated from the poem Grímnismál, part of Poetic Edda, is the one of four stags nibbling the branches of the World Tree Yggdrasil. The stag names are: Dáinn, Dvalinn, Duneyrr and Duraþrór. And now we come to the interesting part. Two, out of four stags, are also names for dwarves – Dainn and Dvalinn. They were also used in Tolkien’s opus, where Dwalin was one of 13 dwarves Bilbo joined in the quest, and Dain is the cousin of Thorin Oakenshield, and will eventually become King under the Mountain. But, in Martin’s world, these stag/dwarves remind us on the very powerful vision Daenerys had in House of the Undying:

In one room, a beautiful woman sprawled naked on the floor while four little men crawled over her. They had rattish pointed faces and tiny pink hands, like the servitor who had brought her the glass of shade. One was pumping between her thighs. Another savaged her breasts, worrying at the nipples with his wet red mouth, tearing and chewing.

The most popular and widely-accepted belief is that the woman represents Westeros in entirety and that four rat-faced little men (dwarves) are 4 remaining Kings – Stannis and Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark and Balon Greyjoy. So, two of these dwarves represent stags, just as in Norse mythology two of the stags are named with the dwarfs’ names. Naturally, positive symbolism of four stags, including those two is perversely changed to be fitting for cruel world of Westeros.

Another aspect of Norse mythology involving a stag is the legend of Freyj from the Prose Edda

Freyj (the god of summer) spied a giantess in the north that he decided he had to have. He turned to his servant and asked him to woo her on his behalf. The servant replied that he would, only in exchange for Freyj's magic sword. Freyj agrees and later when faced with having to do battle with Beli, he is armed only with the "horn of a hart (stag)". Later he rues the day when Ragnorak approaches that he no longer had his magic sword.

In ASOIAF, Rhaegar's decision to pursue Lyanna, leads to the end of the Targaryen reign in Westeros (House Targaryen the magic sword of Westeros?) House Baratheon takes over (horn of the hart?). Will Westeros rue the day when Martin's Ragnorak comes to pass?

ETA: remember what had killed the giant direwolf, the Starks came across? The horn of a stag.

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Nothing to add, just want to say I love the posts so far.

ETA: Stags have a linear hierarchy with the more dominant, older males getting more of the females as Robert demonstrates. The older stags are more passive compared to the nervous young bucks and pregnant does, and have a calming effect on the rest of the herd. This aspect is demonstrated when after the eldest stag dies, Robert, the Baratheons and realm fall to pieces.

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Interesting, I wonder if this is a hint as to the nature of the "Horned Lord" that Val and her sister spoke of?

Another aspect of Norse mythology involving a stag is the legend of Freyj from the Prose Edda

Freyj (the god of summer) spied a giantess in the north that he decided he had to have. He turned to his servant and asked him to woo her on his behalf. The servant replied that he would, only in exchange for Freyj's magic sword. Freyj agrees and later when faced with having to do battle with Beli, he is armed only with the "horn of a hart (stag)". Later he rues the day when Ragnorak approaches that he no longer had his magic sword.

In ASOIAF, Rhaegar's decision to pursue Lyanna, leads to the end of the Targaryen reign in Westeros (House Targaryen the magic sword of Westeros?) House Baratheon takes over (horn of the hart?). Will Westeros rue the day when Martin's Ragnorak comes to pass?

ETA: remember what had killed the giant direwolf, the Starks came across? The horn of a stag.

I always wondered if that omen ended with ned and roberts story or it can happen now... We have two stags in the north and many alternatives of a new stag/wolf dwadly clash:

Stannis vs the great other servent (bran in mels vision); Shireen being sacrifized for Jon by mel, Rickon raising against stannis as some in the GNC say... Or even Arya send to kill someone...

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Same as Fire Eater, nothing to add at the moment, (or at least until I get a day off), but I'll see what I can find.

As always, a fabulous thread.

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Both the Agamemnon story about sacrificing his daughter and the legend about the third Heracles’ labor has one thing in common, one goddess to be precise – Artemis. Artemis is Zeus’ daughter and Apollo’s twin sister. She is the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth and virginity. She carries bow and arrow as her weapons, and as her brother Apollo, had power to sent plague and death to people, but also to heal. Stags are sacred animals to Artemis, but she is also accompanied by the other animal companions – the wolf, the bear, the boar, the hawk and others. The triad of symbolism – the stag, the forest and the hunt are all united in mythology surrounding Artemis.

Again...I love this project! Great Essay! :cheers:

I just wanted to note, and I didnt see it previously mentioned, that there are quite a few versions of Artemis and the Stag. And a few other stories of her and deer (since it was her sacred animal) as well. 5 also pulled her chariot.

It is widely thought the stag killed by Agamemnon was not Artemis' sacred stag, but a stag killed in her sacred grove. In some versions he was tricked into thinking Artemis wanted the sacrifice of his daughter, but Artemis switched Iphigenia with a deer.

Hercules captured the Cerynitian Hind, Artemis' beloved golden stag, as part of his labours (for killing his sons).

Another story tells of Artemis turning Aktaion (not positive on that spelling), a hunter, into a stag. His hounds killed him. Sometimes her hounds killed him.

:dunno:

edit for typo...again

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