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The Underground Stargate (Crackpot)

Slayer of Lies

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As mentioned in other threads and locations, there are many parallels between Arya’s and Bran’s storylines. Primarily, what draws my attention is the exceedingly similar descriptions of:

  1. Bran’s and Arya’s mentors (the kindly man’s “skull face” and Bloodraven’s actual appearance)
  2. The underground caves in their respective locations

Speed readers, feel free to skip to the end (and revisit sections as desired).

Other readers, I'll start with the oft-posted “mentor”/cave passages, spoiler-tagged to conserve space:

Bloodraven, via Bran:

“The only thing that looked alive in the pale ruin that was his face was his one red eye, burning like the last coal in a dead fire, surrounded by twisted roots and tatters of leathery white skin hanging off a yellowed skull. The sight of him still frightened Bran -- the weirwood roots snaking in and out of his withered flesh, the mushrooms sprouting from his cheeks, the white wooden worm that grew from the socket where one eye had been.

The kindly man, via Arya:

The priest lowered his cowl. Beneath he had no face; only a yellowed skull with a few scraps of skin still clinging to the cheeks, and a white worm wriggling from one empty eye socket. [...]

The hooded man was tall, enveloped in a larger version of the black­and­white robe the girl was wearing. Beneath his cowl all she could see was the faint red glitter of candlelight reflecting off his eyes.

Secondly, Bloodraven’s cave, via Bran:

There were more side passages after that, more chambers and Bran heard dripping water somewhere to his right. [...]

"Bones," said Bran. "It's bones." The floor of the passage was littered with the bones of birds and beasts. But there were other bones as well, big ones that must have come from giants and small ones that could have been from children. On either side of them, in niches carved from stone, skulls looked down on them.

The HoB&W, via Arya:

The tunnels here were cramped and crooked, black wormholes twisting through the heart of the great rock [...]

He led her across the chamber, past a row of tunnels leading off into the side passages. The light of his lantern illuminated each in turn. One tunnel was walled with human bones, its roof supported by columns of skulls. Another opened on winding steps that descended farther still. How many cellars were there? she wondered. Do they just go down forever?

Some subjective takeaway from the above passages:

What these similar descriptions bring to mind for me are a couple different rather “adventurous” notions that I haven’t seen much discussion on, so here are some observations, thoughts and questions on the subject…

First up, how is it possible that kindly man appears to alter his face almost exactly to a description that almost exactly meets with Bran’s description of Bloodraven?

While I don’t believe the KM is BR, I tend to believe that the KM would have to have seen BR in order to “choose” this particular face. And, if so, this could imply a much deeper, yet-to-be-revealed connection between BR and the HoB&W. Do the two know each other? Are they working together on some level? Do they both have ties to the CotF? Etc.

Additionally, what “mechanical” reasons might the two tunnels share to have such common descriptions?

For example, if the KM has actually seen BR, and if the tunnels below BR’s cave and the HoB&W are similar in “construction” (bones, skulls, etc.), might it at least be worth considering that the two tunnels actually connect via some sort of (yet-to-be revealed) “portal,” which would actually allow the KM to fast-travel to BR’s location, and possibly to others as well?

The crackpot section:

Thinking along these lines, I started coming up with all sorts of crackpot notions, such as:

  • The portal(s) might open during certain phases of the moon (e.g. the “phase-less” moon), or
  • The general resurgence of magic might mean the portals are easier to open
  • KL also has an underground “cavern” full of (dragon) bones that may come into play as a “warp” location
  • Arya may travel to Westeros (e.g. to KL or TLOAW) via such a portal in book 6 or 7
  • “Powerful” FM may have the ability to fast-travel to key locations throughout Westeros/Essos
  • Firewyrms are also noted for digging tunnels, and maybe there’s not a portal at all, but a tunnel under the Narrow Sea
  • Etc.

Again, the crackpot disclaimer is in full effect here, but linking the remarkably similar descriptions of Arya’s and Bran’s respective mentors and locations feels like it wants to be more than simple coincidence to me.

In thinking through this, I’m also reminded of the story of Gorne and Gendel’s children, who discovered an underground pathway under the Wall. And while this story doesn’t directly connect to BR’s cave necessarily, it’s more “symbolic fodder” at the very least for the notion of going underground in one location, and resurfacing in another location all together, and might even be viewed as foreshadowing.

Additionally, while Bran notes entombed CofF singers in the walls of BR’s cave, it might also be important that a group reportedly known as the Moonsingers reportedly founded Braavos many years ago. And, while there is no direct “proof” of connection between the CotF singers and Moonsingers (yet), the similar names certainly allude to the possibility, especially when combined with all of these other details. (For example, the increasing significance of the moon in Bran’s and Arya’s chapters certainly seems to be another symbolic parallel between their storylines, and perhaps may later be revealed as a “tie” between the as yet separate notions of singers and Moonsingers.)

Additionally, we have magic out there like the obsidian/glass candles that not only provide visions and dreams, but effectively allow people to Skype… not unlike where BR/Bran weirnet appears to be heading. So fast-travel could be amongst the next big “magic reveals.” Alternatively, might weirnet and the glass candles “share a network,” allowing BR and the KM to see/talk to each other (provided the KM has a glass candle)?

Summary and reader questions:

In attempting to figure out how/why the KM changes his face to BR’s, and in consideration of the similar underground tunnels and surrounding mysteries of the singers/Moonsingers, etc., I think it’s possible that the notion of a “portal” (or at least a “window”) may be worthy of exploration, or else how do you explain the face change? Further, what deeper connection might the FM and CotF have if so? Are the

CotF the “founders” of the FM, as others have suggested? Etc.

Alternatively, if you don’t believe that these tunnels will ever “connect” via magic, Firewyrms or other “fantasy means,” what explanation (besides coincidence) would you suggest for the KM being able to change his face to resemble BR’s? The worm in the eye socket is the primary clue that indicates he would have had to have seen BR after his “retirement” to the tree. And if he didn’t use tunnels, the KM would have to have traveled all the way to the LOAW and back after BR was “entombed” in the tree, which seems like a giant waste of time to me, but may be the case… Or, again, the glass candle/weirnet thing could be in play, but that would require the KM to possess a candle.

Or maybe you believe the whole thing is pure “symbolic coincidence,” and that the KM has never actually seen BR, and simply pulled the “worm skull face” out of thin air. Or that the KM – at most – has simply seen a “vision” of a yellowed skull with a worm growing out of one eye, and never seen or spoken with BR at all.

But I’m certainly open to the possibility of more than that.

What’s muddies the waters a little bit is that Arya’s description of the KM’s “skull face” (Arya I, AFFC) happens before Bran’s first encounter with BR (Bran III, ADWD) in publication order, and probably in timeline as well, so just seems like an unrelated “illusion” in your first read through AFFC. However, had we encountered BR first via Bran, I believe that Arya’s description of the KM’s face changing would have been a much more glaring mystery to more readers. Nonetheless, that it’s a little bit buried in the text makes it no less significant, IMO.

Speed readers, the entire premise here is: if we can agree that the KM/BR “skull face” descriptions are simply too much alike to be pure coincidence, then how do we explain it? I’ve presented some ways for that to happen that aren’t necessarily text supported, and I’m certainly curious what other readers think.

And, with luck, I won't get dragged through the mud too badly for daydreaming a little bit...

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This face parallel is clearly going to have some significance, only the exact context remains unclear. Very good catch!

In other threads I have made the case that the Ironborn have some sort of alliance with Braavos at the present point in the series. Euron has used the services of a Faceless Man to assassinate Balon and take over the Ironborn and has launched an attack on the Reach with the goal of invading Oldtown and probably stealing some important books or artifacts having to do with dragons from there. There is also his 'payment' to the FM in the form of a dragon egg.

Moreover, Aeron seems to have vanished and there is a speculation that he has fled north and will meet the Others. Maybe he will find them to be "What is dead may never die." incarnate and will give them a ride with Ironborn ships to circumvent the Wall. Cotter Pyke's report of "dead things in the water" seems to suggest that they may have already made such an attempt at Eastwatch.

With the above connection between Braavos in the face (pun not intended) of the Kindly Man and Bloodraven (who is theorized to be an agent of the Others), this series of speculations comes full circle. This may very well be the outlines of one of the factions in the upcoming battle of ice and fire.

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Har, Slayer! Another entertaining research!

Shall we factor in the Weirwood abundance at the HoB&W? Chairs, gates, etc. I wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility that the FM harness the power of Weirwood granting visions. They may also be privy to the usage of both the Weirwood paste and Shade of the Evening. So, it is rather possible that the skull-face seen during one such vision, was documented, and used.

Portals are tricky though. There's one that we know of that sort of opens "between the worlds", so could be others. I like this.

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Substantive and a very nice catch, I would say. Now that you mention it, I do recall a certain child trying to kill Daenerys and that fails due to the timely intervention of Arstan Whitebeard or Ser Barristan, as he is known. After, she simply disappears into the sea. You could be on to something here. :agree:

Sorry but I think you are confusing the show with the book, couldn't remember off-hand (and my book is out in my car right now) but here's what I pulled from the wiki:

There she notices two strangers following her. Thus distracted, she is off her guard when a Sorrowful Man attempts to poison her with a manticore, but one of the strangers intercedes and knocks the manticore aside just in time

It is a sorrowful man in any case, so what was the connection you were making?

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The KM may not have seen BR in person, Mel glimpsed BR in her flames and IMO watching the flames and using the glass candles for vision use pretty much the same form of magic. Furthermore the Faceless Men are servants of death, not unlike BR is theorized to be a servant of the Others, so there might be a connection between them. Maybe they serve the same purpose and have some rudimentary communication. Only time will tell!

As far as the tunnels go I think they are bunk, but magic portals are a bit interesting... you never know what sort of crazy shit GRRM might think up next.

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Har, Slayer! Another entertaining research!

Shall we factor in the Weirwood abundance at the HoB&W? Chairs, gates, etc. I wouldn't entirely rule out the possibility that the FM harness the power of Weirwood granting visions. They may also be privy to the usage of both the Weirwood paste and Shade of the Evening. So, it is rather possible that the skull-face seen during one such vision, was documented, and used.

Portals are tricky though. There's one that we know of that sort of opens "between the worlds", so could be others. I like this.

Well met, ser, and thanks for the indulging what is probably idle fascination.

As for a list of “non-portal-related” magic, that’s worthy of a list too. Related to visions, interaction and “travel,” we have:

  • “Weirnet” – Allows a powerful greenseer to see – and sometimes interact – with people near a different weirwood tree; also can be used to witness historical events near different weirwood trees, though (reportedly) not to affect historical events
  • Weirwood paste – Used to “wed a greenseer to the trees,” thereby activating one’s lifetime subscription to Weirnet; also provided Bran with visions of the past
  • Skinchanging – The ability to enter the mind of an animal (or person) to observe everything the inhabited subject observes, and to control its actions
  • Shade of the evening – Allows its imbibers to "hear and see the truths" that will be laid before them
  • Glass candles – Allows “sorcercers” to see across mountains, seas and deserts, give men visions and dreams and communicate with one another half a world apart.
  • Visions from R’hllor – Followers of R’hllor can gaze into flames in an effort to receive visions of the future.

It might be argued that many of these are strikingly similar, particularly anything in the “visions” or “interaction” category.

For example, as you suggest, the KM could have simply had a vision of BR, either from drinking Shade of the Evening, or having access to weirwood paste or a glass candle (though, I doubt from being a secret worshiper of the red god). Or, again, a connection through the weirwood furniture in the HoB&W, like a weirwood door effectively turning into a flatscreen TV for a moment and – bam –FaceTime.

But then, why also the similar tunnels underneath both locations? Why the bones in the earth?

Granted, the bones in Bran’s location appear to be from giants, children, animals and more, where the bones in Arya’s location appear to be exclusively human, implying that they were “built” by separate groups, individuals or forces. But why the common “ritual” of building “power bases” above places laden with the dead? Because the CotF are behind both “organizations?” Or are these simply symbolic parallels meant to intrigue, but never to be directly paid off with a revelation?

At minimum, it seems a vision would have to be in play for the KM to see BR’s face and recreate it. And, if so, who sought out whom? Did the KM have a vision of BR and that’s that? Or did BR actively seek out the KM and perhaps even speak with/to him?

Alternatively, to add some addition more crackpottery, are the “interaction” magic types “cross-compatible?” As in, might BR/Bran be able to Skype with the owner of a glass candle? I think not, as it feels “cheap” and is definitely not (yet) supported in the text, but the two types of magic are similar enough in one aspect of their core nature to at least consider the possibility.

Anyway, I’m admittedly way down Speculation Lane with this one, but I think the things that intrigue me the most are the notions that the KM has potentially been to BR’s cave, or that the KM and BR have otherwise been in communication. And both of these possibilities imply (to me at least) that they may be in league with one another, which is hinge of the intrigue surrounding the matching facial descriptions IMO.

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Certainly, FM working with the CotF is not entirely improbable. And I would not try arguing otherwise. What I am considering though, is if the FM are actually trying to emulate and harness the CotF powers. Hence, the caves, the bones, the many faces, the Weirwood chairs, gate, etc. (Also, notice how the WW/Black Ebony gate seemingly opens as a magic portal) Simply put, the FM could have found one of the CotF cave - say the High Heart - brilliantly figured out that the Children are harnessing Weirwood for its networking and visions powers, and are trying to do the same (including abundantly covering their caves with bones) OR, if one factors that the FM knowledge is based on intelligence, then they could have simply received this information from someone as a payment for services (the FM hired by the Children to off someone? Now that is some cracking pot). The bottom line is, however they came up with the usage, it is clear that there is connection between the FM and Weirwood, and this connection may extend towards the Children.

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  • 1 month later...

Clearly connected, yes. As to the locations both involving temples above and bones/death beneath... I read that as having to do with the power of gods (or magic) deriving from sacrifice. Only death can pay for life, as they say. (And vice-versa.).

There is a Zoroastrian tradition involving a bridge at the end of life / end of the world, that intersects (or parallels) the Old Norse tradition of the Bifrost bridge in some striking ways. The eastern myth version is called the Chinvat bridge, and I believe that somewhere there is reference to a "portal" leading from the lower levels of the bridge into the realm of death. Sounded somewhat similar to the Black Gate, I thought...

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The similarities between what the greenseers can do compared to glass candles are striking. Mel even claims to be able to see into the past; talk to dead people. She goes so far as to say that she can talk to infants in the womb. Although the medium is different; the abilities are the same. The big difference is that the red lot avoids sleep as much as possible because dreams come from the enemy.

Dreams or accessing the subconscious mind seem to be the purview of the old gods/wierwoods or the greenseers.

The parallels between the drowned god; Patchface's under the sea imagery and the Haunted Forest "like storm tossed green sea" as Jon observes at the Fist of the First Men are striking. I don't think this has not been explored enough.

Arya represents the Stranger or the Wanderer in my view. She is the daughter of darkness of the prophecy or one of the dark sisters if you prefer. It's interesting that the FM think that all gods represent the Stranger or that each religion has their own version of the stranger.

ETA: The red lot cheat death. Is this why the Other/Stranger is their enemy?

The FM think there is only one god; along with the red lot who think there is only R'hllor and the Other. Even the Faith of the Seven say that the seven are one aspect of the same god. Syrio says there is only one god and his name is Death. Bran refers to the greenseer as the corpse lord. The ghost of high heart senses the presence of the Lord of Death in Arya. The irony is that the red lot, the drowned god and the faceless men are death cults. They all worship the stranger.

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Nice catch on the face descriptions. What I am most interested in, is how the relevant chapters would line up with each other before the book was split.

If someone familiar with the best merged Feast/Dance chapter order and knows the relevant chapters could enlighten me that would be most appreciated.

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Nice catch on the face descriptions. What I am most interested in, is how the relevant chapters would line up with each other before the book was split.

If someone familiar with the best merged Feast/Dance chapter order and knows the relevant chapters could enlighten me that would be most appreciated.

Here's the proposed reconstruction of chapter order I was able to locate online. (The blogger's disclaimer is that he has sequenced them to preserve a "rough," not a "strict" chronological order - preserving Martin's flow as much as possible, not re-sequencing chapters appearing within the same book):


The relevant chapters are AFFC, Arya I (Kindly Man description), and ADWD, Bran III (Bloodraven description)... although Bran actually first encounters Bloodraven in ADWD, Bran II, which occurs significantly earlier in the sequence.

(I don't like the chapter numbering used in this list... every chapter is one off by my count, since the blogger assigns each prologue the number "1"... otherwise, it looks like a useful sequencing)

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Published chronology aside, considering AFFC was originally intended to contain all of the characters, it’s important to note that GRRM likely wrote the Bran chapter long before its publication date, and possibly pretty close in his writing timeline to the Arya chapter.

So if Arya I (AFFC) and Bran II/III (ADWD) had ended up in the same book, and that book was not 2000 pages long containing 20+ POVs, these chapters might have originally been intended to be edited fairly closely together in the same book as well.

That certainly would have made the eerily similar KM/BR descriptions easier for many readers to spot, being only a 100 pages apart or so.

For that reason and others, it’s apparent to me that the KM/BR descriptions do not match coincidentally, so the questions are: Is GRRM just pulling our chain, or has the KM in fact seen BR? And, if so, how? By actually travelling to the LoAW by boat, by fast-travelling through a portal, or via a dream, vision, glass candle, weirnet, etc.?

Weirwood is certainly featured in both locations (HoB&W and BR’s cave), and I contend that the underground caves that are full of bones are important as well… without yet knowing why.

With the sparse details we have at present, the matching KM/BR descriptions could be anything from a simple case of BR showing up in the KM’s dreams or visions to a more complex case of underground caves (also with very similar descriptions) that are magically connected.

And while absolutely no one would be shocked by the complete absence of fast-travel portals in ASOIAF, I think the possibility that there may be portals is an interesting one.

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This is a great thread. I love it.

Slayer of Lies, great catch. One of those, "I wish I had written that." Grumble.

And that is one of my problems, I do speed read and miss a lot of stuff. On about the 5th go 'round I might catch something. But I have only read Dance twice.

Thank you

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