Thursday, June 6, 2013

Direwolves, Wargs & the Stark Children

It's often said that two heads are better than one, and that definitely proved the case for me. On my original "Ragnarök" post (which I would recommend you read first, before any of the other posts, in case you haven't), I had identified Gregor Clegane -- the Mountain -- as the hellhound Garmr, who is said to "guard Hel's gate", and is destined to kill Tyr (Jaime) at Ragnarök (according to the later mythology). But I wasn't particularly satisfied with that connection. In fact, I wasn't too sure Garmr existed in GRRM's telling at all... Until commenter Bram Hannan pointed out the similarities between Hel's Hound and young Rickon Stark.

Excerpt from Bram's comment:

"About Rickon: He may be Garmr. GRRM has characterized Rickon as growing incrasingly wild as he grows further from his family. Consider also that Garmr is bound to Gnippahellir, the 'mountaintop cave'. Rickon is currently stranded on Skagos (a mountainous island with a dangerous coastline) with Osha, so this fit is almost perfect. Add in that Garmr howls as one of the precursors to Ragnarok and you've got a dead ringer for the Rickon/Shaggydog pair filling this role. I'd forecast his 'unbinding' coming as a result of either, or a combination of, his death, Osha's death, or being taken from Skagos to the Wall (Hel's gate, where Garmr is watchdog) by Davos. The bloody part [note: Garmr is said to be the 'bloodstained hound who guards Hel's gate'], well, that could come from anything at all... may be that unicorn for all I know". (FYI: Skagos is said to be the ancient home of unicorns)

Or, could that "bloodstained" bit be in reference to cannibalism? Hmm...

I think he's on to something here. In fact, I like his theory so much, it led me to another connection, and a much larger connection overall, in regards to the Stark children, that, admittedly, has me feeling a little embarrassed I didn't see it before. Because, quite frankly, it's one of the more obvious connections in the series.

The 4 Stark kids with direwolves (Robb, Bran, Arya and Rickon) represent the 4 wargs from Norse mythology (i.e. Garmr, Loki's son Fenrir, and Fenrir's sons Hati & Sköll):

Garmr -- Rickon
Fenrir - Bran
Hati -- Arya
Sköll -- Robb

But before I get to that one name there at the end, let's review some of the connections we've already made for the Stark children:

If GRRM is in fact following the Ragnarök mythology, then Bran is almost certainly the warg (i.e. monstrous wolf) Fenrir -- the Bound Wolf. His binding (paralyzation), comes at the hands (pun intended) of Tyr (Jaime), who loses a hand as a consequence of his actions (FYI: Tyr's hand was bitten off after binding Fenrir's legs with a magical chain -- which will supposedly restrain him until he breaks free at Ragnarök). Similarly, Bran is now bound in a cave, much like Fenrir, and is in contact with Bloodraven, who represents Loki -- Fenrir's father. So, that one's pretty easy to figure out.

Arya's connection isn't quite so straightforward. And that's largely because Hati, one of Fenrir's two sons, doesn't have quite so large a role as Fenrir does in the mythology. But, Hati, whose name means "He Who Hates", is said to chase the moon through the night's sky, and will swallow it come Ragnarök. This is represented, firstly, by the intense hatred Arya displays for her enemies, as she recites a list of names of the people she wants to murder each night before she goes to bed, and secondly, by her quest to join the Faceless Men (FYI: a moon is carved on the door of the House of Black & White, where the Kindly Man trains her to become an assassin). So, in attempting to become a Faceless Man she is "chasing the moon", and in becoming one, she will have caught it (which is a sign that Ragnarök has begun).

Unlike Bran & Arya, Sansa is not a warg (i.e. a monstrous wolf), because her direwolf (i.e. Lady) was killed when Cersei ordered its destruction after Nymeria attacked Joffrey in A Game of Thrones. I therefore linked Sansa, whose name means "apple" (FYI: if you google "Sansa apple", you'll find it's a type of hybrid, much like a Fuji), to Idunn, the goddess of youth and beauty. Sansa is clearly associated with youth, given the silly romantic ideals she dreams of in the beginning of the series, and the fact that we've witnessed her transition into womanhood, by way of her "first blood". What's more is she married her brother's killer (or almost did), which is what Loki accuses Idunn of doing in the Lokasenna (granted, we're not quite sure who this brother was, but Idunn doesn't refute the charge). And, above all, she is smuggled out of King's Landing by Littlefinger and hidden away in a mountain fortress that's represented by a falcon -- almost exactly like the story of Idunn & the jötnar Thjazi. So, given the apples and the Eyrie, I think she's a pretty safe bet.

-Jon Snow
Jon says it himself in A Game of Thrones -- "I'm not a Stark" -- and I think we're all familiar with the Rhaegar + Lyanna theories linking him to House Targaryen. And, if my theory is correct (that Jon Snow, and Ghost, really are dead), that would send Jon Snow down the path of the fire giant Surtr -- the Black -- who is foretold to break the Bifröst Bridge and lead the Forces of Muspell into Asgard to do battle with the gods. Granted, I should point out that an anonymous commenter suggested that Stannis, rather than Jon, may be Surtr, and Jon may represent Sigurd -- which is a credible theory, but I'm not quite convinced. Because, firstly, Surtr will be working with Fenrir during Ragnarök, and I see Jon as a much more obvious connection to Bran than Stannis. Not to mention, Surtr is destined to attack Freyr (Walder Frey) during Ragnarök, and Jon Snow would have obvious reasons for doing so, whereas Stannis' motivations wouldn't be quite so clear. Plus, Jon was "kissed by fire" in regards to Ygritte, and could be the "song of ice & fire" Rhaegar had mistakenly named Aegon in the House of the Undying prophecy (which would fit Surtr's role -- given the fact he basically serves as Loki's general during Ragnarök -- i.e. Jon would "sing" the "song" of ice and fire). And, A Dance with Dragons has led me to believe he's beginning to replace Stannis in Melisandre's eyes. What's more is I personally believe Ramsay Bolton's letter to be real (i.e. claiming that he killed Stannis & captured Mance Rayder). I know that's controversial, and I could very well be wrong, but if I'm right about that, then Jon Snow will undoubtedly become Mel's latest flavor of the month. And his death at the end of ADwD creates an avenue for her to convert him to the Lord of Light. Of course, if it doesn't play out like that, then Stannis could be a candidate for Surtr. But, for now, I'm sticking with Jon Snow. And, if Jon Snow is dead, the TV show may have foreshadowed the death of Ghost when Jon threatened the wildling warg Orell early in season 3 by saying "When I kill you, what will happen to your eagle? Will he drop dead from the sky?" (paraphrasing). This, of course, didn't happen when Jon killed Orell a few episodes later, because Orell was able to warg into his eagle as he was dying, gaining his "second life" (which Varamyr Sixskins explains in the prologue of ADwD). But, since Ghost is locked up, far away (just as Grey Wind was when Robb was killed at the Red Wedding), and Jon isn't asleep in his wolf dream when he's killed, I'm under the impression he won't be able to warg into Ghost before he dies, and Ghost will drop dead when his warging-bond with Jon is severed.

So, to sum up -- Rickon, Bran & Arya are "wargs" (in the Norse sense -- i.e. "monstrous wolves"), whereas Sansa & Jon Snow are not (I know Jon is technically a "warg" in the Westerosi sense, but as I just explained, he may not be for long -- so bear with me). Which leads me to:

The warg Sköll is the counterpart to Hati. His name means "Treachery" and he is said to chase the sun through the sky, which he will swallow come Ragnarök. I think that bit about treachery is pretty obvious in regards to Robb, given the fact the Red Wedding is still fresh in everyone's minds. And, the phrase "chasing the sun" could be in reference to Robb's war with Joffrey -- if Joffrey represents Baldr -- the Shining One (although it should be said Baldr isn't the embodiment of the sun, strictly speaking, but he is associated with the sun, and light in general, hence his name "the Shining One". And, his hall is said to "shine brighter than the sun". Plus, Baldr's premature death is said to be a precursor to Ragnarök. Supposedly, Baldr's mother, Frigg -- i.e. Cersei -- made everything in the world, animals and inanimate objects included, swear an oath never to harm her precious "shining" son. But, she ends up overlooking the plant mistletoe, which Hodr, Baldr's blind brother, uses to shoot him with after he's tricked into doing it by Loki. The oaths Frigg forces out of all the world's things is representative of Cersei's warning to Joffrey, "Everyone who isn't us is an enemy" -- i.e. she sees everyone as potentially harmful to her precious little "Shining One", just like Frigg feared for Baldr. And Baldr's death, which basically causes Frigg to have a nervous breakdown, is represented by Joffrey's death by poison at his wedding). So, if Joffrey is Baldr, and Baldr represents the sun, then Robb was "chasing the sun" in his war with Joffrey. Or, "the sun" could be a reference to House Karstark, whose sigil is "the sun of winter" (i.e. the beheading of Rickard is a sign Ragnarök has begun).

And, because Sköll & Hati are brothers/counterparts, I theorize that Arya's death will mirror Robb's. Meaning, if Robb's death (i.e. his "catching the sun") is a sign of Ragnarök, then Arya's death (i.e. her "catching the moon") should be the same. So, I'm guessing she'll be killed in her sleep at some point down the line by the Kindly Man after getting inducted into the Faceless Men (i.e. catching the moon), while inside her wolf dream. And, her death will run counter to Robb's in this sense -- Robb was unable to warg into Grey Wind when he was killed, but Arya will be connected to Nymeria via the wolf dream, and will gain her "second life" on the Trident, with a pack of thousands of wolves at her back (the pack she's always dreamed of -- which she will use to reconquer Winterfell during Ragnarök -- i.e. Jojen's prophecy, "The wolves will come again"). This may have been foreshadowed on the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, The Rains of Castamere, when Sandor tells Arya, "You're very kind. Someday it will get you killed" (i.e. someday the Kindly Man will kill her).

Which brings us back to the first connection:

As mentioned by commenter Bram, Garmr is said to be the "greatest" or "most powerful" of wargs, and in Germanic languages, the name "Ric" means "powerful". Similarly, Rickon is being held on the island of Skagos, which means "stone" in the Old Tongue. And it is said to be both mountainous and populated with cannibals (which could be in reference to the mountainous cave in which Garmr resides, and his "bloodstained" teeth, respectively). And, what's more, Rickon's role as Garmr may have been foreshadowed on the Rains of Castamere episode as well, when he tells Bran, "I'm your brother. I have to protect you", being that Garmr's role is to attack the god Tyr (i.e. Jaime) during Ragnarök. As for his "unbinding", I'm assuming Davos will eventually take him to the Wall (i.e. Hel's Gate), where he'll assist Bran & Jon Snow during the events Ragnarök. I'm almost certain he'll survive now that I know he's Garmr, because, as opposed to Hati & Sköll, he does play a prominent role in Ragnarök, like his counterpart Fenrir. So, I'm guessing he too, like Bran, has partaken in cannibalism (while on Skagos), and has thusly strengthened his warging abilities by way of blood magic. Perhaps even more so than Bran, given the fact that he may be doing it regularly, whereas Bran has only eaten Jojen so far (assuming he actually has). That's my best guess for now, at least.

So, add it all up and it makes perfect sense -- the four Stark children, minus Jon Snow (who's not a Stark) and Sansa (whose wolf is dead) represent Loki's pack of wargs. And, when you think about it, it's really the most basic connection to be made -- the foundation upon which the entire story is written. And, now that we've uncovered this much, perhaps some of the other connections may fall into place as well.

And, like I said, two minds are always better than one. So I appreciate your input. Given the fact I hadn't come to this conclusion on my own as of yet, I may never have, so don't hold back with your theories and suggestions in the comment section. I welcome all feedback. And thanks again to commenter Bram Hannan for coming to my aid on this one. I owe you one.

Clarification: Commenters have pointed out that Stannis still appears to be alive, given the Theon sample-chapter from TWoW GRRM posted on his website. But, to clarify, GRRM said that the chapter is supposed to be retroactive to about the middle of ADwD, before Ramsay sends the letter. The chronology is all messed up because of the way he had to split the stories for AFfC and ADwD. Because, if you recall, ADwD does not pick up from where AFfC left off. It starts at the end of ASoS, with Varamyr Sixskins fleeing from the Battle at the Wall. TWoW will start in similar fashion -- rewinding in time to tell Stannis' story on his march to Winterfell.

Edit: In the comment section down below, you'll find that Bram raised an interesting possibility -- What if Jon Snow, or rather Ghost, is Sköll instead of Robb? What if when Jon gets killed at the end of ADwD, he does manage to warg into Ghost and gain his "second life", right before Melisandre resurrects him via R'hllor? In other words, what if Ghost -- with Jon's soul in him -- becomes Sköll, and Jon's resurrected, soulless corpse becomes Surtr? It would firstly fit Melisandre's prophecy, of seeing Jon as both a wolf & a man -- and it would make sense in regards to the mythology, given the fact that treachery was a big part of Jon's storyline (i.e. being first forced to betray the Watch, then subsequently choosing to betray his vows, and Ygritte, etc..). And, although Robb did betray the vows he made to Walder Frey (which ended up being his downfall), Robb was usually the one betrayed, rather than the traitor himself (see: Theon Greyjoy, Catelyn Stark, Rickard Karstark, etc.). So, I'm actually really digging this connection. And, I think that could play out well if that's how it goes down -- Jon & Arya, in the form of Ghost & Nymeria (i.e. Sköll & Hati) retake Winterfell from Ramsay Bolton (i.e. Jojen's prophecy "The wolves will come again") while soulless unJon (Surtr) sets House Frey ablaze with his fiery sword. I'd say you did it once again Bram. If nothing else, that's how I hope it plays out. So, good show.

Another Edit: Granted, that may sound like a pretty far out idea... and it is. But, all I'll say is this -- if you had just finished reading A Game of Thrones for the first time, and I had told you that Arya was going to remove her face, and Bran was going to plug himself into the roots of a weirwood tree, and Renly was going to get killed by a "shadow baby" birthed by a "red woman", would that have sounded pretty far out to you too? So, just keep in mind what we're talking about here. As real as ASOIAF seems sometimes, it is ultimately a fantasy series. The very idea that Jon can even gain a "second life", or be raised from the dead by Melisandre is bizarre in and of itself, so I'm not so sure a "glitch" in that [biological?] process would be as out of left field as you might think. But, of course, I could be wrong about that.

On a side note, here's a tapestry I wove depicting the Red Wedding:

Disclaimer: Not for commercial use. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire are registered trademarks and copyrights, as are the images used in this post. I do not own them*, nor do I stand to profit from this site. For educational purposes only.

*Excepting my exquisite tapestry, of course. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jaime, Azor Ahai & the God of War

What is a savior? If we take the example of Jesus, a savior is someone who defends the weak from the powerful. In other words, someone who defends people from other people.

But, in A Song of Ice & Fire, the long awaited savior will be fighting for ALL of humanity -- the oppressed and their oppressors -- the innocent and the guilty -- everyone.

And herein lies the confusion. Many people wrongly assume Dany to be the savior because she liberated the Slaver Cities. But, as opposed to the Roman world in which Jesus lived, tyrannical slavers are not the enemy. They're actually part of "humanity" that the savior must save.

Because, that's the thing about being the "savior of all humanity". You have to save them all -- good and bad. And, I get the impression, Dany wouldn't sacrifice a single silver hair on her head, let alone her precious dragons (read: weapons of mass destruction), to save the slavers. And, somehow, I can't imagine Jon Snow rescuing Ramsay Bolton from the apocalypse. Nor can I see Stannis fighting to protect someone like Joffrey (or anyone who's wronged him, or broken the law, for that matter).

But, before we get any deeper into that, I should probably backtrack a little. Because, if you've read my previous posts, you may have noticed that I don't think the Long Night went down quite like it's been described in the histories. In fact, I think the legend of Azor Ahai (as the Red Priests know it), is completely bunk -- a ruse put on by the Children of the Forest. Yet, for some odd reason, I still think Jaime Lannister is Azor Ahai. And, not only do I think that, but I think the prophecy has ALREADY been fulfilled. How can that be?

Firstly, if GRRM is indeed adhering to the Ragnarök mythology, then Jaime is the only possible candidate for "Azor Ahai". Why is that? Because he represents Tyr -- the one-handed god of war -- the champion of mankind, who in the earliest tellings of Ragnarök, was said to prevail over Fenrir in his role as "the Mighty One" (granted, we don't know for certain if Tyr is the "Mighty One" referred to in the earlier poems that have been passed down, but most scholars agree that he is). If you're a casual observer of Norse mythology, you probably think it strange that the two most well-known gods from the mythology -- Odin & Thor -- were later additions. In all likelihood, they were probably real kings who ruled in the earliest times, and were only deified and mythologized much later in history. Because, it is Tyr who stood at the head of the pantheon in the earliest times. His name even means "god" or "glory", and he is equivalent to Indo-European Dyeus -- the god from which Zeus and Jupiter evolved. And, given the early exits for both Aerys (Odin) and Robert Baratheon (Thor) from ASOIAF, I'm under the impression GRRM is sticking to these earlier tellings of Ragnarök, before Odin & Thor came into prominence.

Secondly, prophecies aren't always so straightforward in the series. We've seen prophecies that have been fulfilled (i.e. the Sea Comes to Winterfell), and prophecies that haven't been (i.e. the Stallion Who Mounts the World). Some prophecies are vague, (i.e. Patchface), whereas some are incredibly detailed (i.e. House of the Undying). But more importantly, some prophecies don't happen quite the way you expect them to. They are self-fulfilling. And this is the case with the Azor Ahai prophecy.

"When the red star bleeds and the darkness gathers, Azor Ahai shall be born again amidst smoke and salt".

People who want to take that literally often try to connect Jon Snow, or Daenerys, or even Stannis to this prophecy. The red star is obviously the red comet, in their eyes, and smoke & salt are either related to the island of Dragonstone, or the storeroom in which Jon Snow is killed at the end of A Dance with Dragons. But they're looking at it the way GRRM wants them to -- the wrong way.

The "red star" is what throws most people off the trail, right from the get-go. It has to be the red comet that appears in the sky after Dany's dragons hatch. Right? Uh... no. Firstly, that's way too easy. Secondly, a comet is not a star. It's not even in the same ballpark. A star is a sun. Not a comet.

So, let's take a look at the House sigils. Who has the red star? If you answered House Martell, you are correct. House Martell of Sunspear: a red sun pierced by a golden spear. Bingo.

Ok. So, if the prophecy is talking about an actual person, then we need to find a Martell who "bleeds"... and there are several. Elia Martell met her demise at the hands of Gregor Clegane and Amory Lorch during Robert's Rebellion. And Quentyn Martell recently got scorched by Dany's dragons. Not to mention, Doran Martell seems to have an especially nasty case of gout. Could the prophecy be referring to any of them? Possibly. But there is another Martell who "bleeds" in the books, and provides us with a much better match -- Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper.

But, how does his death affect the story? What's the significance? When Oberyn is killed in trial-by-combat by the Mountain, Tyrion (Jaime's half-brother) is condemned to death -- which leads Jaime to free him from prison and come clean to him about his "wife". Hurt by this revelation, Tyrion calls Jaime a cuckold in response (i.e. "[Cersei's] fucking Lancel, and Osmund Kettleblack, and probably Moon Boy too" --paraphrasing), before he murders Tywin & Shae. This is linked to the Lokasenna -- a story in which Loki crashes one of Odin's parties, and insults the guests (i.e. the gods), accusing Tyr of cuckoldry (even though we're not exactly sure who Tyr's wife was).

Well then. It looks like Oberyn has led us to something here in regards to Jaime. So, let's go ahead and plug his name into the prophecy:

"When Oberyn Martell dies and the darkness gathers, Azor Azor shall be born again amidst smoke and salt".

Now, the next clue is "darkness gathers". Most everyone assumes this is referring to the Others/White Walkers, who seem to be amassing the forces of darkness on the other side of the Wall. But, since I think it's the Children who are driving the story, rather than the Others, that simply cannot be. Because, just as dragons represent fire in the Song of Ice & Fire, the Others represent ice -- not darkness. It's Bran who represents darkness, and Jaime the light.

These roles are hinted at in both A Dance with Dragons and A Game of Thrones:

From ADwD: "The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong" --Bloodraven to Bran.

Clearly, that is a pretty strong indication of what "the darkness gathers" is referring to (i.e. Bran finding the Three-Eyed Crow).

And, as for Jaime's role as light, I'll refer to Bran's vision from AGoT: "He saw his father pleading with the king, his face etched with grief. He saw Sansa crying herself to sleep at night, and he saw Arya watching in silence and holding her secrets hard in her heart. There were shadows all around them. One shadow was as dark as ash, with the terrible face of a hound. Another was armored like the sun, golden and beautiful. Over them both loomed a giant in armor made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but darkness and thick black blood".

I believe it was Melisandre who said that shadows are a product of the light -- and the two shadows Bran sees are obviously the Hound & Jaime -- the Hound being the dark shadow, and Jaime being the one who was "golden and beautiful". We can be fairly certain the Hound now walks in the "light" of the Seven (assuming he's the monk Brienne sees on the Quiet Isle). And, given the fact that Jaime is "armored like the sun", that would imply he's the light's champion. He wasn't shining like the sun, or as bright as the sun -- he was a shadow (a product of the light) armored like the sun (dressed for war against the darkness). And since the giant who was looming over both Jaime and the Hound was in all likelihood Gregor, who represents Garmr -- Tyr's adversary in the latter tellings of Ragnarök -- that's more than likely an allusion to Jaime's role as Tyr (on a side note, I wonder if that's how GRRM plans on solving the "Odin-problem"? Give Garmr to the Hound, so Tyr can fight Fenrir?).

Another clue can be found in Jaime's dream (while sleeping on a weirwood tree) from A Storm of Swords. He's deep down in the bowels of Casterly Rock, and is accosted by his half-brother Rhaegar Targaryen, who accuses him of betrayal. Cersei also appears in the dream and calls out to Jaime, "The flames will burn so long as you live". And, given Cersei's role as Frigg, who has the power of prophecy, I'm going to go out on a limb and say she might be on to something there.

So, let's fill in the next part:

"When Oberyn Martell dies and Bran meets the Three-Eyed Crow, Azor Ahai will be born again amidst smoke and salt".

As for "Azor Ahai", I doubt the real person ever existed (perhaps he did, but that's not important). However, if humanity means to hold out against the Children, someone will have to lead them. And given the fact that Tyr was not only the primary god of the Norse pantheon for much of their history, but was also the god of war -- and the god of champions, no less -- the god of single combat -- I'm inclined to believe Jaime's going to play a major role in the upcoming battle. In ancient times, prior to the advent of Odin & Thor, the Roman writer Tacitus claimed the primary god worshipped by the Germanic tribes was Mars, who he named Mars Thringus -- or "Mars of the Thing" (FYI: a Thing was basically Norse parliament -- a governing assembly). Which goes to show that the Romans equated Tyr with Mars. And, consider, not only did Tyr & Mars symbolize war amongst mankind -- they symbolized war with the elements, and were said to "ward off hostile forces of nature" (like ice & fire, for example).

Which brings us to:

"When Oberyn Martell dies and Bran meets the Three-Eyed Crow, Jaime Lannister will be born again amidst smoke and salt".

Now, let's look at that bit about being "born again". I suppose that could be taken literally, especially since Red Priests seemingly have the ability to resurrect corpses, but, if we take it to be figurative, it essentially means "a second chance at life". And, when we look to Jaime's story, we find he was given exactly that by none other than Roose Bolton -- who spared him from execution, and freed him from imprisonment (not to mention, Jaime literally disappears from the story for the second book, and is "reborn" onto the pages for the third). So, if that's the event the prophecy is referring to, then "amidst smoke and salt" must have something to do with that scene.

What happens before Jaime is freed? He takes a steam bath with Brienne, in which he finally comes clean to her about why he killed Aerys (i.e. to save humanity). And, when he does, there is so much steam coming off the bath, he ends up passing out from the heat. Steam represents smoke. He is then invited to dinner with Roose Bolton (which, in Westerosi culture, is called "sharing the salt"), and given his life back.

Not convinced? That's where the TV show comes into play. In the scene in which Stannis and Renly parlay, many viewers were upset when Renly didn't give Stannis a peach, like he does in the books. But, if you know what to look for, the line he did utter was far more important to the overall story. When Melisandre declares that Stannis is Azor Ahai because he was reborn amidst smoke and salt, Renly asks incredulously, "What is he? A ham?"

Actually, yes he is. And, I remember thinking when he said that, "If Jaime is eating some kind of pork product at his dinner with Roose, then it's a done deal". And, lo and behold, what was Jaime eating at dinner with Roose Bolton? Yep. You guessed it. A ham (see it in there? To Brienne's left).

"When Oberyn Martell dies and Bran meets the Three-Eyed Crow, Jaime Lannister will be freed from prison after dinner and a bath".

Granted, that's pretty mundane compared to what most people think when they imagine Azor Ahai, but at the same time, it is very human. The point being -- Azor Ahai is not supernatural. He is a human savior for humankind, much the same as the Seven are human gods for humankind (what I mean by that is this -- if every human had the ability to warg, or shape shift, or raise people from the dead, the natural order would be thrown into chaos. Such sorcerous abilities as that run contrary to human nature).

But, at the same time, Jaime is far from mundane. He even says himself, "There are no men like me. Only me". He's a walking contradiction who is seemingly one of the most amoral characters in the books, while simultaneously being the most principled and rational. Consider how he got his nickname, "The Kingslayer". Whereas a guy like Ned Stark wouldn't have broken his oath -- even if it meant the death of thousands of people -- Jaime would have, and did, because he can see that culture for what it really is -- bullshit. For example, if you refer back to the Nuremberg Trials after WWII, "I was just following orders" was no excuse. It didn't matter if they swore an oath to their Führer. They were ultimately responsible for their actions. If you let others think for you -- like Ned Stark did -- and never question the orders you're given, you end up becoming something less than a man -- a drone -- a slave. And out of all the characters we've met, Jaime is seemingly the only one who has liberated himself from this medieval mentality. He doesn't repress intuition. He sees truth, and refuses to live within the confines that culture places upon him. He's his own man. But that's what so contradictory about him, because he's also totally ruthless -- which is what Azor Ahai must be -- a murderous savior -- a death-dealing Renaissance Man -- i.e. the walking contradiction that Jaime is. All that matters is the end game, and Jaime's willing to do whatever it takes to reach those ends -- even if it means murdering his own family members (which the TV show has really drummed up). He'll break his oath if it means saving thousands of people, but he'll also murder his cousin if it means escaping from prison. Sure sounds like Azor Ahai to me.

Which leads me back to Azor Ahai himself. Here we have a guy who supposedly murdered his beloved wife in order to save humanity -- and ALL of humanity at that. He didn't get to pick and choose who he wanted to save and who he didn't. He had to save everyone -- the slavers, the Joffreys, and even the Ramsay Boltons of the world. Now ask yourself, would you be willing to murder your family in order to save complete strangers? No? How about to save violent criminals? Even worse, you say? Well, Azor Ahai did exactly that (if the legend is to be believed). He sacrificed his beloved wife in order to save people he had no love for at all -- slavers & rapists included.

Which leads me to the issue of Jaime's parentage. The fact that he is Aerys' bastard has been foreshadowed countless times throughout the series (yet, most everyone is thrown off of his trail because of Jon Snow). He and Cersei are the products of the rape of Joanna Lannister. Barristan Selmy claims Aerys was infatuated with Tywin's wife, which is the real reason why Tywin resigned as Hand of the King, and ended up sacking King's Landing. That's also the reason why Ilyn Payne had his tongue cut out -- because he witnessed the event (which is also why he laughs when Jaime admits his love for Cersei to him). And, yet again, that's why Aerys went behind Tywin's back to recruit Jaime into his Kingsguard, and refused to marry Rhaegar to Cersei.

But that begs the question -- if the Targaryens married brother-to-sister, why wouldn't Aerys want Rhaegar to marry Cersei, assuming he knew Cersei was his bastard daughter? You'd have to refer back to the Dunk & Egg books for the answer. GRRM goes to great lengths to stress the point that the Targaryens were so leery of their bastard children, it almost reached the point of superstition (thanks in large part to Daemon Blackfyre). Even Egg, who is portrayed as fair-minded and enlightened, shares this irrational fear of Targ bastards (which might have something to do with why Bloodraven ended up at the Wall). And, more simply, in marrying Rhaegar to Cersei, Aerys would have had to publicly acknowledge Tywin as Cersei's father (which he knew he wasn't, I'm assuming).

And, by inducting Jaime into the Kingsguard, Aerys was not only forcing an oath out of him and keeping him close (i.e. keep your friends close, and your enemies closer), but was essentially disinheriting him, neutralizing whatever future threat he may have posed to the Iron Throne, with Targaryen blood coursing through his veins, and a Lannister army at his back.

I could dedicate an entire post to Jaime & Cersei's Targ connections, but just bear with me here for argument's sake. If Jaime really is Aerys' son, that means he didn't just murder his king to save King's Landing -- he murdered his father -- which is symmetry, given the fact that Tyrion murdered his father as well (Jaime may not have known Aerys was his father, and Tyrion may not have saved King's Landing by killing Tywin, but, at the very least, here we have a case of two half-brothers who both committed patricide). And, much like the legend of Azor Ahai, Jaime has already sacrificed family members for the "greater good". So, perhaps the forging of Lightbringer is figurative? Jaime forged Lightbringer (i.e. his indomitable will to save humanity, and courage to face those who would ridicule him for doing so) after sacrificing his own father to protect the masses.

Then again, Lightbringer could be Ice (on a side note, I've always wondered if Ice is what they called Lightbringer when the light went out -- i.e. to "ice" Lightbringer), which Jaime will use to kill Cersei or Brienne with (which could play in to Cersei's "valonqar" prophecy as well). But, I'm pretty sure the Azor Ahai prophecy has already come to pass (in a self-fulfilling kind of way), and Tyrion really is the "valonqar" (this could play into Cersei's role as Frigg as well, being that Frigg has the power of prophecy, and Cersei has always been convinced Tyrion is her "valonqar" -- not Jaime).

And, it only makes sense that Jaime & Bran will square off again in the end, given the fact that it was their conflict that set the whole story in motion (on a side note, if GRRM is mixing in other stories from the mythology as well, like he did in the case of Robert Baratheon -- i.e. Robert represents both Thor & Hoenir -- it's possible Jaime also represents the legendary hero Sigurd, in addition to Tyr. And Sigurd was famous for slaying dragons -- Fafnir in particular -- who is represented by Tyrion in ASOIAF. So, perhaps the Kingslayer will become the Dragonslayer as well?). Which leads me to the Prince Who Was Promised -- Tommen Baratheon -- the second coming of Egg (his life mirrors Aegon V's in many ways, just as Tyrion's runs parallel to Bloodraven's). When it comes down to it, the series is not about the Stark kids, or Dany's dragons. It is the story of the rise of King Tommen "the Great". Because it is King Tommen -- enlightened as he is -- who will usher in a new golden age upon the completion of Ragnarök. This has been foreshadowed on numerous occasions as well, not least of all in the "Blackwater" episode during the TV show's second season (which GRRM wrote himself, by the way). Cersei thinks the battle is lost, so she spirits Tommen away to the throne room, intent on poisoning him, to keep him out of Stannis' clutches. Tommen sits on her lap, on the Iron Throne, as Cersei readies the vial. In an attempt to calm his nerves, she tells him a story. And, in my opinion, this is what the entire story is centered on.

She first tells him that no one is going to hurt him, before claiming that stags are evil (fyi: in Norse mythology, stags eat away at and rot the World Tree Yggdrasil). She then goes on to say:

"You are a lion, my son, you mustn't be afraid. For, one day, all the beasts will bow to you. You'll be king. All the stags will bow, all the wolves will bow; the bears in the North, and the foxes of the south; all the birds in the sky, and the beasts in the sea. They will all come to you little lion, to rest a crown upon your head. The cub said, 'will I be strong and fierce like my father?'. Yes, said his mother. You'll be strong and fierce, just like your father".

This is an allusion to Tommen's role as Vidarr -- Vengeance -- the Slayer of Fenrir (which is foreshadowed in A Game of Thrones, when Tommen and Bran spar with each other on the training grounds at Winterfell). In addition to being an incarnation of Aegon V (Egg), he is a combination of Tyr, Thor and Odin all rolled into one. Tyr (Jaime) is his father. Thor (Robert Baratheon) is his namesake. And Odin (Aerys) is his grandfather. Which leads me to believe he'll survive the Last Battle (even if his father does not), since the children of the gods, and Vidarr in particular, are foretold to inherit the earth after Ragnarök. And, since Tommen is the embodiment of an enlightened ruler -- even at such a young age -- it stands to reason that he represents the dawning of a new era.

Tommen: Is Joffrey going to kill Sansa's brother?

Cersei: He might. Would you like that?

Tommen: (pauses to weigh the question) No. I don't think so.

Disclaimer: Not for commercial use. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire are registered trademarks and copyrights, as are the images used in this post. I do not own them, nor do I stand to profit from this site. For educational purposes only.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Faceless Men & the Many Faces of the Children

Valar Morghulis -- All Men Must Die.

It is the motto of the Faceless Men -- a band of assassins renowned for their stealth, who have the ability to change their faces. In all likelihood, their history began as slaves, deep underground, toiling in the same volcanic mines where their Valyrian masters had first discovered the almighty dragons they used to conquer the known world (disclaimer: this is technically still just a "fan theory", but it seems fairly likely to me, given what the Kindly Man told Arya about where their guild "first took root" -- which in itself is a clue).

It is said the first Faceless Man, whoever he was, emerged from these mines sometime before the Doom obliterated the Valyrian Freehold, when he supposedly heard and answered the prayers of his fellow slaves -- slaves from disparate ends of the empire, who were all praying to different gods. This first Faceless Man told them that they all prayed to the same god -- a god of many faces -- and that he himself was this god's "instrument".

What happened after that, we're not entirely sure, other than Valyria was destroyed, and the Faceless Men somehow went from the Fourteen Fires (which, in all likelihood, was the source from which the Doom exploded) to Braavos, all the way across the continent, where they managed to build a reputation for themselves as the most feared assassins in all of the world. Which seems strange, doesn't it? The mighty dragon-riders of Valyria were all destroyed (excepting House Targaryen, of course), yet their lowly slaves, who mined the same volcanoes from which the Doom emanated, were not. I think it's therefore reasonable to assume (if the Kindly Man's history is accurate) that the Faceless Men were somehow responsible for this cataclysm.

But who was this first Faceless Man the Kindly Man speaks of, who proclaimed himself an instrument of the Many-Faced God, and liberated his enslaved brethren?

Well, that's just the thing. I'm of the opinion that GRRM wants us to believe the first Faceless Man was in fact a man, but I'm not so sure about that. I wonder, what if the first Faceless Man wasn't a man at all? What if he was a child -- a Child of the Forest?

But how did the Children, who live beyond the Wall in Westeros, get to the the volcanic pits of Valyria, all the way around the world? You'd have to ask Leaf. And when Bran does exactly that -- asks her where the Children went to when they disappeared from the world -- she replies, "Gone down into the earth... Into the stones, into the trees" (A Dance with Dragons, Ch. 34).

Now, does she mean they simply retreated to subterranean dwellings, like the cave Bloodraven is bound in, or is she referring to something else entirely? I mean, after all, these are "those who sing the song of the earth" (which is what the Children call themselves) we're talking about here. So I'm going to go out on a limb and say she was probably hinting at something a little deeper than a human being could possibly fathom. Perhaps even deep enough to travel to the other end of the world, depending on their biology, and the metaphysics of their sorcery, of course.

So, humor me. Let's just assume for argument's sake the first Faceless Man was in fact a Child of the Forest who appeared to the slaves of Valyria on a sojourn to the Fourteen Fires. What link do the two groups share?  Well, faces, of course. The Children of the Forest worship faces -- many faces -- the faces they carve onto their weirwood trees. And, so strong is their reverence for faces, that their most holy place in all the world is even called the Isle of Faces (not the Isle of Trees, or the Isle of Greenseers, mind you -- the Isle of Faces). But, why would the Children care to convert humans to the "Many-Faced God"? Do they have a history of doing that sort of thing? Why, yes. Yes they do. We know that the First Men of the North and the Riverlands were converted to the Children's "Old Gods", at some point following the conclusion of the 2,000 year long struggle that saw humanity claim Westeros from them. The Starks pray to the faces the Children carved on the trees, as do the Boltons and the Blackwoods (i.e. the House of Bloodraven's mother). Yet, these were not the native gods the First Men brought with them from Essos (that was probably the "Drowned God" the Iron Islanders still hold to). These were the Children's gods. So, the Northmen either had to convert to them willingly -- or be converted.

Granted, the impression I always got when reading the books was that the First Men had come to worship the Old Gods without any proselytizing on the part of the Children. But, when you think about it, the First Men must've undergone a massive transformation in their faith, if they suddenly went from cutting down and burning weirwood trees to worshipping them. And, you've got to figure, the Iron Islanders never did come around, so someone, or something must've convinced them to do so.

Of course, I can imagine the First Men coming to the Old Gods of their own accord, given the fact their migration into Westeros was probably a long, drawn out process, rather than a unified assault, like the Andal Invasion. And, according to Leaf, they must've outnumbered the Children by a wide margin, given the fact that she tells Bran that the Children's numbers have always been few. Yet, the Children's greenseers still managed to fight humanity to a standstill for over 2,000 years with their sorcery. And, although the histories of the First Men claim they finally overcame the Children with superior size, weaponry and technology, I get the feeling the truth of it ultimately came down to numbers. The Children were few, and the First Men were many. But, you can imagine that these awesome displays of sorcery the Children wielded, which were capable of stopping whole hosts of warriors dead in their tracks, and even smashing geographical landmasses into oblivion (see: Arm of Dorne), might've put the fear of god into the First Men -- even if they did eventually overrun the Children, after enduring what must've seemed like almost unimaginable carnage at their hands for over two millennia.

And perhaps, just perhaps, the Children of the Forest started singing a different tune once they admitted all was lost. Perhaps their motto changed from Valar Morghulis -- All Men Must Die -- to Valar Dohaeris -- All Men Must Serve? And if that was the case, what better way to make men serve than convince them to worship your race as their gods? Because, that's who the "Old Gods" are, you know -- the Children themselves -- or rather, their greenseers. Why would I say that? Because the Children are not human, and do not understand "god" as humans do. They are creatures of nature that commune with the elements and live within the earth itself. Their "god" is something far beyond our comprehension. But we can understand their "Old Gods", because they are their ancient greenseers who commune with those natural forces we can't comprehend (i.e. the elements, the cycle of time, and death, or necromancy). And, as we know from A Dance with Dragons, in ancient times, back when the Children were more numerous, there was a greenseer living under each and every weirwood tree -- including those the First Men prayed to. So, when Ned Stark, or Roose Bolton, or Jeor Mormont prays to his weirwood tree, he's actually praying to a greenseer -- not a "god" (i.e. "Old Gods" = "Ancient Sorcerers").

And consider, if the Children truly do believe in the motto 'All Men Must Serve', would they not attempt to convert other peoples beyond the Northern wilds of Westeros? I think it fairly likely. But how would they go about doing it, if they're stuck beyond the Wall? Well, if they can manipulate the elements with their sorcery, and can travel "deep into the ground" due to their biology, it's possible their greenseers may have tried to contact other peoples either directly or by way of sorcery (like through the fires of R'hllor, perhaps?).

So bear with me here. The first Faceless Man was a Child who either contacted the subterranean slaves of the Fourteen Fires directly, face-to face, or through an element, such as fire, and instigated the Doom. The Faceless Men pledged to worship the Children's "Many-Faced God" -- who the Northmen call the "Old Gods" and the Asshai'i call "R'hllor" -- which was the Children's way of translating this very non-human concept to disparate groups of people -- in exchange for "The Gift" -- i.e. access to the Children's almost godlike sorcery.

But what exactly is the Children's sorcery comprised of? How does it work? According to the histories, the Children's armies were composed of singers, and greenseers. It's not exactly clear in what capacity the singers serve (as Bran seems to think they can't do much, other than sing sad songs), but the First Men claim the Children's greenseers used "dark magic" to bring down the "Hammer of the Waters" upon the Arm of Dorne, smashing it into an island chain. We're not entirely sure what was meant by "dark magic", but there is a type of magic known to the world that one might describe as "dark" (and, in all likelihood, probably didn't originate from a human source) -- blood magic. And, when one considers the visions Bran had of the white-haired people performing human sacrifices over weirwood trees (the ancient Others, perhaps?), we may have found our source -- the "people" living under those trees -- the Children. Perhaps human and/or animal blood increases their greenseers' power (which could explain why they waited so long to shatter the Arm of Dorne -- they were gaining their strength, filling up on the blood of the First Men)?

But whatever the case, the shattering of the Arm of Dorne is the only example we have in Westerosi history of something other than natural forces destroying a landmass. So, if the greenseers used the "Hammer of the Waters" to destroy a landbridge connecting Essos to Westeros, is it possible they might have used a "Hammer of the Fires" to destroy the Valyrian Freehold, in order to break the power of the only true source of innate "human magic" in the world -- that of the Valyrians --  who have "dragon's blood"? Could be. The Faceless Men were apparently spared from this fate in exchange for their service to the "Many-Faced God" (read: greenseers). And, not only were they given "the Gift" of blood magic, which granted them stealth and the ability to change their faces (in quite grisly fashion, might I add -- which I imagine blood magic always is), but also their freedom as well. They're forever indebted, I would think.

But what's it all for? Why are the Children doing this? Why tell one group of men "Winter Is Coming", while telling others "the Night is Dark and Full of Terrors", only to tell yet another group that "All Men Must Die"? Ragnarök is why. Winter Is Coming to make the Night Dark and Full of Terrors so All Men [Can] Die. As I explained in my previous post ("Loki's Tricks & the Children of the Forest"), since the greenseers couldn't defeat humanity with their brawn, they are attempting to do it with their brains -- their insight and knowledge. So, their greenseers have been positioning humanity about the world like chess pieces, for their own destructive ends. The peoples who worship the Children are either oppressed, and have reason to hate humanity (i.e. the pit-slaves of Valyria, and the slave-priests of Asshai), or were awestruck when they encountered the Children's sorcery directly (i.e. the First Men). And each of these peoples were taught a different kind of blood magic, inherent to the Children's understanding of nature -- warging for First Men -- shapeshifting for Faceless Men -- and necromancy for Red Priests.

But why bestow these "gifts" upon humankind if you mean to destroy them all in the end (i.e. Valar Morghulis)? Because, the Children need agents in the world in order to get them to Ragnarök -- like Jon Snow, and Danaerys. Their greenseers may be able to see the future, but they still need a means by which to reach those ends.

And clearly, in destroying the Valyrian Freehold, the Children vanquished their greatest threat. Because, if they didn't like fighting the First Men or the Andals, they sure as hell wouldn't have liked fighting an empire of all-powerful, uber-aggressive, dragon-riding Valyrians. But then again, if anything, the Doom only brought House Targaryen and their dragons to Westeros. So, why would the Children want that?

I'm guessing it had something to do with Bloodraven -- their Last Greenseer. If they could see the future, then they knew that Targaryen blood would eventually mix with the blood of the First Men -- i.e. dragon blood combining with warg blood. But, that begs the question, how exactly did warging get into the blood of the First Men? I'm guessing blood magic -- i.e. human sacrifice and cannibalism (which is alluded to in both Bran's visions, and the repeated accusations of cannibalism made by southerners against the Northmen). So, in Bloodraven, and Jon Snow for that matter (assuming R+L=J), we have hybrid blood -- blood that possesses both the ability to warg, and to bind dragons to its will. And if the Children's greenseers could see that far into the future, then they also knew that all of the Targaryen's dragons would die off relatively quickly (in Children-years) upon reaching Westeros, and that dragons would only reemerge when a vulnerable little girl, forced to wander the world in exile, would hatch three eggs in the Red Wastes of Essos at the end of A Game of Thrones.

And consider the North -- they get pretty good press in the books (at least in the beginning). They are honorable freedom fighters, pledged to avenge their lost lord and defend their homeland against a murderous boy-king in the name of their own freely chosen sovereign -- a native born son of the North. But what if the Northmen actually do deserve the less than stellar reputation they hold in the eyes of southerners, and virtually everyone else around Westeros, and beyond? What if Andal hatred for First Men stems more so from sorcery than from barbarism? Now we might be on to something.

Consider the Stark words -- Winter Is Coming. Throughout the books, several characters make mention of those being the only House words which are a warning rather than a boast. But what if the true meaning has been lost? What if they are a boast -- a battle cry -- a threat of sorcery? Winter Is Coming. Mess with us and we'll bring the winter to your doorstep (and perhaps a few White Walkers along with us). That would mean these words date back to a forgotten past, back to when Northmen practiced blood magic, and all of its grisly machinations, such as human sacrifice and cannibalism (and when you consider the fact that Old Craster still sacrifices his sons to the Others, and is probably a Stark bastard -- i.e. Krats is Stark spelt backwards, and Kratser may have been used as a nickname for him, i.e. the "backwards Stark", which would've become Kraster, or Craster, due to the consonant shift from 'ts' to 'st' in English -- it only lends credence to my theory). And what of the Boltons -- the 2nd most powerful House in the North? Their sigil is just as unique as the Stark words -- the most gruesome in all the land, by far -- but what if its true significance has been lost to the ages? What if the Flayed Man originally stood for something more than Bolton cruelty? If, say, it was once a threat of blood magic, then that would mean the two most powerful Houses in the North were connected to the Children's sorcery in their most ancient times (i.e. Bran the Builder, the Night's King, etc.).

But if the Northmen were once sorcerers, why aren't they sorcerers anymore (barring the leftover warging residue they still possess)? What happened? Targaryens (and Maesters) happened, I think (or, at least, that's my best guess). The Targaryens only arrived in Westeros 300 years before the story began, whereas the First Men arrived 12,000 years prior to Robert's Rebellion. And, when the Targs did descend upon the countryside with their dragons, they quickly subdued the nations in short order -- all but two of them, at least; the desert wastes of Dorne, and the frozen wilds of the North. It is said they failed to conquer Dorne due to the harsh desert terrain, and their Dornish adversaries' familiarity with it. They tried to conquer Dorne -- they tried hard -- but they failed. However, up in the North, they didn't even try. They signed a truce with House Stark before any hostilities commenced. Supposedly, the Starks assembled a massive host to meet the Targaryens in battle, but were cowed into surrendering when they finally laid their eyes upon Meraxes, Vhaghar & Balerion the Black Dread. Yet, not long after this event, it is said House Bolton revolted against House Stark for the "last" time (of course, they rebelled against House Stark yet again in A Storm of Swords, but for historical purposes, we'll just call it the "last" time). Were the Boltons just being wily Boltons, or could there have been something in the pact the Starks signed with the Targaryens that rubbed them the wrong way? The banishment of blood magic, perhaps? Yet, we're led to believe the Starks banned the Bolton practice of flaying some 1,000 years before the story begins -- even though the Boltons kept doing it... Which leads me to believe the Starks didn't ban the Boltons from flaying until much later than they claim (and perhaps they claim to have banned it 1,000 years ago in order to appear more "civilized" than they would seem otherwise). And, perhaps -- just perhaps -- that "final" Bolton rebellion against the Starks, that occurred some 300 years before the story begins (the same time Aegon's dragons first appeared in Westeros) had something to do with the terms of that surrender? Could it be that the banning of blood magic was the condition upon which that truce was based? Could be. And, if that were the case, one could see why the Starks & Boltons went to war -- the Starks to stamp out blood magic, and the Boltons to defend it.

Yet, if the Children were the ones who prodded the Targaryens westward, they must've foreseen this event. And if they were the ones to teach the First Men blood magic, why would they want it stamped out? That's a good question. It could be that the First Men could no longer be trusted, since they had come to adopt so many Andal customs and beliefs over the years. Or, perhaps it's just a necessary step to reach Ragnarök -- All Men Must Die. Because, if the Children ultimately cannot coexist with humankind, they'll eventually have to face down the First Men at some point. And, it would be far easier to bring about their destruction if they no longer had the means with which to fight back.

Again, that's just speculation on my part (your guess is as good as mine). But I think it's likely there's more to the North, and their relationship to the Children than meets the eye.

But, you may be wondering, what does any of this have to do with the Norse? In Norse mythology, both Fire & Blood (which is probably just a coincidence that those happen to be the words of House Targaryen) were sacred. Fire was a purifying agent -- the cleanest death, as Melisandre might say -- as the Norse believed the body was comprised of two souls -- a dream soul, and a primeval soul. The dream soul was awakened through dreams and trance, whereas the primeval soul was basic and elemental, and comprised of passion, free will and the senses. Upon death, the primeval soul used the dream soul as a medium to enter the world of the gods, which could only be achieved through the immolation of the body (hence Viking ship burials and fire festivals). Granted, this was not a uniform practice, as certain tribes in certain regions practiced burial rather than cremation at different times in their history -- but cremation was the preferred method of funeral rite for the majority for most of their history. They would often build massive funeral pyres to burn their dead -- so large in size they burned hotter than modern crematoriums -- because they believed the towering column of smoke they created delivered the soul unto the heavens. And these practices are mirrored almost exactly by both House Tully's funeral rites -- who cremate their patriarch, Hoster Tully, aboard a longship -- and the Lady Melisandre, who immolates men in sacrifice, and torched the statues of the Seven on the beaches of Dragonstone (in an event that fairly closely resembles a Norse fire festival). Consider as well, that Norse paganism, and virtually all branches of European paganism, for that matter, originate from the same source (i.e. the root religion of the Proto-Indo-European tribes) as both the Vedas of ancient India, and the Zoroastrian faith of ancient Persia (see: Agni). And GRRM has said himself, on numerous occasions, that he specifically modeled the R'hllor religion of Asshai on Zoroastrianism... Turns out, so did the Norse.

But what about the second half of the Targaryen motto -- you know, the "& Blood" part? In Norse mythology, the flesh and blood were said to bestow great knowledge and power upon those who consumed it. The legend of the god Kvasir is illustrative of this (FYI: Kvasir is equivalent to Jojen Reed in ASOIAF). Kvasir was the wisest of the gods, but was killed by dwarves and drained of his blood. The dwarves then used his blood to make the "Mead of Poetry", which imbued great wisdom upon those who drank it.

Similarly, Odin was said to have cut out his eye in order to gain the power of insight (i.e. to open his third eye), much the same as Bran's fall causes the transformation within him. And Odin even committed suicide in order to gain dominion over the 9 worlds the Norse believed the universe was comprised of. He supposedly pierced himself with a spear and hanged himself from the World Tree Yggdrasil because he was curious to find out what death was like, and wanted to attain the power that death was thought to confer. And, after hanging there for 9 days and nights, he did in fact emerge from Yggdrasil all-powerful -- the greatest and foremost of the gods.

These two themes are explored in ASOIAF by way of the Children's use of fire & blood as powerful mediums for their sorcery. Fire is both a means by which to communicate with and "purify" humanity, and blood is consumed and/or used in order to gain supernatural powers. So, at the very least, that's how (and why) the fires of R'hllor and blood magic work. Or, at least, that's my best guess at the moment.

Also -- I wonder if the Children use the Faceless Men and the Red Priests of R'hllor sort of like a filling station for their blood magic? Perhaps they do it because the First Men no longer sacrifice to weirwoods anymore like they used to? Could be. Just throwing it out there.

Disclaimer: Not for commercial use. Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire are registered trademarks and copyrights, as are the images used in this post. I do not own them, nor do I stand to profit from this site. For educational purposes only.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Loki's Tricks & the Children of the Forest

If George R. R. Martin's epic fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is in fact based on the Ragnarök mythology of the ancient Norse, then we know the coming battle cannot be between Dragons and White Walkers, as we've been led to believe all along. So, what is going on? What's the catalyst? What's driving the story if not the Others?

In A Dance with Dragons, Bran has a conversation with a "Child" of the Forest he calls Leaf. Bran asks Leaf why all the Children disappeared from the world, and where they have gone, to which Leaf replies,

"Gone down into the earth... Into the stones, into the trees. Before the First Men came, all this land that you call Westeros was home to us, yet even in those days we were few. The gods gave us long lives but not great numbers, lest we overrun the world as deer will overrun a wood where there are no wolves to hunt them. That was in the dawn of days, when our sun was rising. Now it sinks, and this is our long dwindling. The giants are almost gone as well, they who were our bane and our brothers. The great lions of the western hills have been slain, the unicorns are all but gone, the mammoths down to a few hundred. The direwolves will outlast us all, but their time will come as well. In the world that men have made, there is no room for them, or us". (A Dance with Dragons, Ch. 34)

Notice, Leaf claims that the giants (who are attempting to flee from the Others along with Mance Rayder) are/were their "bane", which would imply the two races aren't exactly on the best of terms (which might explain why the giants are in the same boat as the humans). Similarly, Leaf is essentially saying that the Children cannot coexist with humans. But, it's Bran's reaction to this spiel that I think is telling.

Bran is troubled by how sad this seems to make Leaf, but resolves, "Men would not be sad. Men would be wroth. Men would hate and swear a bloody vengeance. The singers sing sad songs, where men would fight and kill".

Indeed they would... And, what, might I ask, is Bloodraven? What is Bran, for that matter? Are they not men? And, if Bloodraven is the Children's "Last Greenseer", is it possible he might sympathize with their plight?

But, what exactly is the "Last Greenseer"? We know what he can do, but what is his function in relation to the Children? If the ancient histories of the First Men are to be believed, the greenseers essentially functioned as the Children's generals, or battle commanders during their 2,000 year long struggle against those first human invaders who crossed the Arm of Dorne (which the greenseers subsequently "shattered" with their sorcery, turning what was once a land bridge into an archipelago). So, is it possible the title "Last Greenseer" is a euphemism for "the last general [who will ever be needed to war against humanity -- assuming the Children don't war amongst themselves]"? Perhaps. (A side note: I'm not sure if it's just a coincidence that the greenseer in the picture below happens to be conjuring fire, or what, but it certainly doesn't hurt my R'hllor theory).

But, then again, if the Children hate humans, why recruit one to be their greenseer?

Could it be, as evidenced by their past battles against mankind, the Children aren't exactly suited for warfare? Could it be they're a naturally pacifistic race that was pushed to violence against their will, due to circumstance? And, if so, could it be that they've adopted the strategy, "it takes one to know one"? If they have, they've certainly picked the right guy for the job, given Bloodraven's reputation as a tactical genius in warfare.

But what might possess Bloodraven to take up the Children's cause? Why should he go against his own kind to give Westeros back to the "little squirrel people" (which is what the giants call the Children)? And why should Bran be part and parcel to his plans?

Well, let's think about it. The life Bloodraven led prior to becoming the Last Greenseer was actually very similar to Tyrion's. Like Tyrion, Bloodraven once served as Hand of the King, and did a good job of it, but was hated by both the small-folk, and his own peers for his freakish appearance (something that was beyond his control). And like Tyrion, he also almost single-handedly defeated a rebellion against the crown (i.e. the Blackfyre Rebellion), and was rewarded with imprisonment and condemned to the Night's Watch. As we see in Tyrion's case, when he's put on trial for the death of Joffrey, he does not take this betrayal very well, thinking to himself, "I should've let Stannis' troops rape and kill you all" --paraphrasing. So, if Bloodraven's life mirrored Tyrion's in so many ways, is it unreasonable to assume he might've had a similar reaction when he was put on trial for whatever he was accused of? I think not. And what's more is, unlike Tyrion, Bloodraven actually had the power to do something about it -- that is, if his reputation as a sorcerer was the truth, which I think is safe to assume now that we know he's the Three-Eyed Crow. Similarly, there's another major difference between Tyrion and Bloodraven -- Tyrion is good-natured and doesn't seem to hold grudges, whereas Bloodraven was known to brood and carry grudges on till the bitter end (pun intended -- see Bittersteel). So, in Bloodraven we have a brooding outcast who carries grudges and was wronged by humanity, and the people he served. And, the kicker -- he has the means to take revenge against them.

Similarly, Bran has little reason to love humanity. They destroyed his home and murdered his family, and would've murdered him as well if he hadn't escaped their clutches. And, given the fact that he's still a child, he seems like he'd be fairly easy to persuade -- which is exactly what Bloodraven does.

"The strongest trees are rooted in the dark places of the earth. Darkness will be your cloak, your shield, your mother's milk. Darkness will make you strong". --Bloodraven to Bran (A Dance with Dragons, Ch. 34).

And this is where Bloodraven's role as Loki -- the Trickster -- comes into play. Bloodraven has clearly tricked Bran into embracing the darkness, but in addition to that, I am of the opinion that the Children of the Forest are manipulating humanity in general in an effort to destroy them. They couldn't destroy them with their brawn, so now they're trying brains. And, since their greenseers can see the future, they are able to use humanity like chess pieces, positioning them where they need them for their own ends.

Take R'hllor, for example -- aka the Lord of Light. I'm assuming he's a ruse put on by the Children. The Red Priests are not communing with a god in their fires, they are communing with greenseers. Bloodraven personally commands the High Priest of R'hllor himself, and uses him as a tool to carry out his own plans. The TV show actually touches on this when Melisandre meets Thoros of Myr (a scene that isn't in the books). Melisandre asks Thoros about his "mission" that the High Priest had supposedly sent him on -- which was to convert Robert Baratheon to the Lord of Light -- a mission Thoros did not accomplish. Meaning, the High Priest is clearly set to a greater purpose. But, are they his own designs, or did his "god" command him? When we meet the High Priest of R'hllor in A Dance with Dragons, it is noted that his skin is corpse white -- just like Bloodraven's. Is he trying to emulate his "god" -- i.e. the face who speaks to him in his fires -- or is it just a coincidence? I might say the latter, if Bloodraven didn't appear to Melisandre in her fires later on in the book.

"A face took shape within the hearth. Stannis? she thought, for just a moment... but no, these were not his features. A wooden face, corpse white. Was this the enemy? A thousand red eyes floated in the rising flames. He sees me. Beside him, a boy with a wolf's face threw back his head and howled". (A Dance with Dragons, Ch. 31)

I remember when I first read that, I thought the Lord of Light was showing Melisandre a vision of Bloodraven. But I realize now, that's not what's happening at all. It was actually Bloodraven who had come to her. Because, even though he cannot take physical form in the world while bound in his cave, he can use nature and the elements as a medium to communicate with those above ground. Which, I imagine, the greenseers have been doing for countless generations -- however long "R'hllor" has been in existence -- the Children reveal the future to the Red Priests when it suits their needs. And I imagine that it was Bloodraven himself who persuaded Melisandre to attack the Wildlings, after showing her images in her fires, given the fact that the Wildlings are the only people in Westeros who know anything at all about the Others, and are the only ones who could warn the nations of the imminent threat they pose.

And, I'm guessing that's how the Azor Ahai legend was transmitted to Asshai. Because, think about it -- the Long Night was supposedly a battle fought in Westeros against the Others. Yet, for some strange reason, no one in Westeros knows anything about Azor Ahai. They do have a prophecy concerning the "Prince Who Was Promised", but Maester Aemon tells Samwell that the prophecy is only 1,000 years old, whereas the Long Night supposedly occurred some 8,000 years before the story takes place. So, how is it that people in the east -- in Asshai, far from Westeros -- know of a prophecy concerning a hero who defeated the Others during the Long Night in Westeros 8,000 years ago, and drove them back beyond the Wall, but Westerosis do not? Most easterners have never even seen a Westerosi, let alone been to Westeros, so why is it that they know more of Westeros' ancient history than the Westerosis do?

Could it be that it isn't their history? Could it be that the Asshai'i have been told a tale, meant to manipulate? Because, I ask, if the Long Night was a real event, and the Children banded together with the First Men in order to defeat the Others, why is it that the Children ended up on the wrong side of the Wall, in an ice world free of forests? That hardly seems fair. If they fought so bravely alongside mankind, and then raised the Wall with their sorcery to keep the Others out, why did they lock themselves out along with them? I'm guessing it didn't quite go down like that. If anything, it would seem to me the Children raised the Wall to keep humans out, rather than the Others. Because they didn't do a very good job of it, if they were going for the latter. And, granted, there are humans beyond the Wall as well (i.e. wildlings), but their numbers are relatively sparse, and, if their histories can be believed, they did not heed the Children's warnings to go south before the Wall was raised.

With that being said, I do not doubt the Others/White Walkers once attacked Westeros, but I get the feeling the Children were somehow behind it. For a time, I hypothesized the Others were weapons, conjured by the Children's sorcery... until I came across something Osha tells Bran in A Game of Thrones.

"North of the Wall, things are different. That's where the Children went, and the giants, and the other old races". (A Game of Thrones, Ch. 66).

Other old races? What other old races? I thought the Children and the giants were the only non-human inhabitants of Westeros... unless, of course, the Others can be counted as a "race" (which might lend credence to the story of the Night's King -- who supposedly married a female Other. Because, if there are female Others, that would mean there are also baby Others -- families and societies of Others -- an "Other race"). Which would imply they aren't merely a tool of the Children, but rather, elemental ice creatures, much the same as dragons are to fire (then again, the white-haired people Bran saw making human sacrifices near a weirwood tree in his visions may very well have had something to do with the Others. I also wonder what the significance of Craster's Sons are? Are the Others merely sacrificing the boys in connection to blood magic, or are they raising them as their own children to become Others? -- but that's for another post). And, just as the Valyrians found dragons in volcanoes, perhaps the Children discovered the Others in glaciers, or what have you? And, perhaps, the purpose of the Horn of Winter is not to summon giants, but rather, to bind the Others to their will, much the same as Valyrians used horns to control their dragons? If GRRM is indeed modeling his story on the Ragnarök mythology, then this would make sense, because, in Ragnarök, ice and fire do not oppose each other -- they mirror one another. So, if in ASOIAF, dragons are to fire, then there must be an equivalent ice creature similar to dragons -- i.e. the Others. And, since dragons are elemental beasts, rather than creatures created by sorcery, I'm inclined to believe the Others are as well.

So, with that in mind, could it be that the greenseers have intentionally fed the Red Priests misinformation about the Long Night, and the true designs of the Others? Why, you ask? Well, to rally the forces of fire (i.e. dragons) to their side, of course. So, Bloodraven can take control of them and use them, in concert with the Others, to scourge the land -- because, as we do know from Westerosi history, the Others could not defeat humanity on their own. And, of course, you can't very well tell the Red Priests to bring dragons to Westeros because you want to exterminate humanity. I doubt they'd go for that. So, in effect, the Children showed the Asshai'i glorious visions of Azor Ahai through their sorcerous fires, and convinced them that they were/are in fact working for heroic ends.

Why go to all that trouble? Because, as I mentioned, the forces of Ice were not enough to overcome humanity on their own. The humans drove the Others back beyond the Wall from whence they came. So, if the Children ever wanted to reclaim their land, something more would be needed. And, being a Targaryen bastard, Bloodraven was well-acquainted with a creature that did bring human armies to heel -- his ancestors' dragons. And, if Bloodraven & the Children can see the future, and knew that Danaerys would hatch dragons far in advance, they must've had some kind of scheme already in place to procure those dragons. Which is why Moqorro was sent to Victarion, with the knowledge of how to use a dragon horn.

The TV show has revealed that Bloodraven is in fact working with the Others (i.e. the "Sam the Slayer" scene -- when Bloodraven's flock signals the White Walker to Craster's Son, before Samwell kills it with dragon glass, and the ravens chase after he and Gilly in response -- a scene that plays out very differently in the books). And, if GRRM really is adhering to the Ragnarök mythology, then that is only half of Loki's arsenal. So, I imagine Bloodraven will get his fire, somehow. But, we will have to wait and see how it plays out.

And, finally, one last thing I've always wondered about Bloodraven -- if he's such a good guy, fighting for the forces of light against the Others, why didn't Maester Aemon ever mention him to Jon Snow, or Samwell, or anyone, for that matter? Not only was Bloodraven Aemon's great uncle, he was also sent to the Wall with him when Aegon (Egg) became king. Yet, Aemon never said a word about him. Which makes me think Aemon either believed him dead, or didn't speak of him for a reason. I tend to gravitate towards the latter, given the fact that Bloodraven's name does not appear in the annals of the Night's Watch, even though he was supposedly raised to the position of Lord Commander in his day. Was his name erased and never spoken again? Seems like that could be a possibility. But, even if he did somehow disgrace the Watch, why hasn't Bloodraven contacted Aemon, or anyone else in the Watch, if he's such a good guy? "Hey guys. It's me Bloodraven. I'm still alive, believe it or not, living with the Children of the Forest (who you don't even believe in). And you know those White Walkers and zombie-things that keep attacking you? I can tell you everything you want to know about them. Just go ahead and ask". Yet, there's only silence from his end. If anything, he's killed Night's Watchmen (or, Coldhands has, at least -- and, on a side note, I've always wondered if the name "Coldhands" is an allusion to Bloodraven's time as Hand of the King? Maybe not, but it could be), rather than helped them. So, something doesn't add up there... unless Bloodraven isn't quite the good guy he portrays himself to be. Then it would all make sense. 

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