*This Post is Dark and Full of Spoilers*
Approximately seven years ago I was introduced to the A Song of Fire and Ice series and promptly became obsessed with the Seven Kingdoms and everything that realm and world has to entail. One of my goals upon starting my blog was to do a set of posts, whereupon I reread the aforementioned series and comment on statements, clues, or breadcrumbs Martin leaves for the reader to perhaps ascertain the bigger mysteries at play. As you can imagine, my analytical mind loves this kind of jigsaw puzzle and as my family and friends can attest they have suffered through me discussing my various theories regarding people and places completely foreign to them. My Mom once stopped me and commented that she thought I was speaking another language. With that being said, I’ve finally finished listening to the first book and you’ll find the following blog post significantly different from my traditional posts. As when I reviewed The World of Ice and Fire, which was broken up into four components, Ancient History, Seven Kingdoms, Free Cities, and the world beyond the Free Cities, I will be formatting the posts in bullets containing the topics that catch my interest during the reread. In the past two weeks, I’ve pondered the wisdom in whether living through Sansa’s betrayal, Ned’s death or Drogo’s suffering would be worth the pain, but the end result has been to fall even more in love with this fantastic series! Even though I know what is going to happen Martin’s extensive details draws me in, hook, line and sinker. Of note, I’ve highlighted in RED several of my theories, as well as interesting insights garnered from the novel. Please let me know what you think! I’m rearly looking forward to hearing your theories, however you’d better be able to back them up with references to the text.
- I was pleasantly surprised, upon starting the book that the White Walkers made their very first appearance in the Prologue. I’d forgotten how early they appeared, having gotten caught up in the comparatively petty battle for the crown.
- Another aspect that I’d forgotten about was the discrepancy in the ages from the books to the show. For example, Daenerys was 13, John Snow and Rob Stark were 14, Bran was 9 and poor Ned Stark was only 35.
- Another foreshadowing I had overlooked the first time around was the cause of death of the mother direwolf. She had an antler in her throat, which could be read that the Baratheons will lead to the downfall/death of the Starks. Specifically, Ned’s impending death at the hands of Joffrey (technically a Baratheon). Another interesting comment was the superstition surrounding the pups regarding being ‘born with the dead,’ with respect to their recently deceased mother. Of note, Theon made the comment upon the discovery of Ghost, that it would be the first to die, whereupon John quipped that ‘No, this one belongs to me.’ Perhaps Ghost will make it to the end? Dare I hope?
- The very first Daenerys chapter makes mention of the Red Priests, far sooner than I had anticipated. There are additional references to burning that while not specifically naming the Red Priests, they offer intriguing connections. One such example is the First Men cutting down the Weirwoods and giving them over to the fire, much to the displeasure of the Children of the Forest. Also Daenerys, burns Khal Drogo upon his death, as with the Dothraki customs and sees many images in the flames, including her lost love. Those flames also gave her the gift of her dragons. I just found these references to flame interestingly worded.
- With both the Red Priests and White Walkers mentioned early in the text, the readers are subtly being introduced to the main players all the while being distracted with the pseudo main conflict of crowns.
- The night Daenerys met Drogo and he asked for her hand, Viserys is quoted as saying,
“When they write the history of my reign sweet sister, they will say it began tonight.”
Little did he know, the more accurate quote would have been in reference to his sister’s reign. Another quote of interest around this chapter was one Daenerys thought regarding Rhaegar,
“Her brother Rhaegar battling the usurper in the bloody waters of the Trident and dying for the woman he loved.”
There is no elaboration to this quote, however what woman was she referring to? His wife, which seems unlikely? Lyanna? I thought it was an interesting quote that seemed a bit out of place because how did Daenerys know about Lyanna? Toward the end of the book Daenerys makes a second reference to the woman Rhaegar loved. She must be talking about someone other than his wife!
- Let’s hope this quote from Ned proves true!
“Winters are hard but the Starks always endure, the Starks always have.”
- Several times, early in the book, it has been mentioned that in the Winterfell crypts iron long swords are placed across the laps of each previous ruler of Winterfell to keep the spirits in place. Perhaps an old tradition from when the bodies might literally wake, e.g., the Others.
- When Caitlyn Stark is reflecting on John’s mother she notes that the mystery woman must have been someone that Ned truly loved to have never revealed her identity. Well of course she was! She was Ned’s sister. Oh GRRM, I love these breadcrumbs you leave!
- It was said that Summer was keeping Bran alive. Perhaps Ghost will keep John Snow alive after his debacle at the end of ADWD? I have many many thoughts on this topic. All in due time.
- I now have a great hope that John and Arya will meet again! In their last meeting John tells her that different roads can lead to the same castle. Let’s hope they converge at the same castle soon!
- When Tyrion is at the Wall, Maester Aemon calls him a giant among men. I found this quote significant because not many people, including Tyrion see his potential that this junction of the book. Was this the first whisperings of the great adventures that await Tyrion? This reference must still be in the back of his mind because in his initial meeting with Shae he asks her if he is a giant.
- Bran’s first green dream of the three-eyed crow happens just prior to awakening from his coma and is thoroughly analyzed and discussed in many, many blogs and forums. If you’re curious you should take a gander, however be aware of people saying false claims as fact! This dream is a treasure in the early part of the series because here we see GRRM beginning to weave later events into the present. There is a sequence of images as he looks out over the Seven Kingdoms and beyond, most of them are things that have happened since his fall from the tower, and as such he should have no knowledge of, such as his mother on a ship with a storm quickly approaching and his father pleading for Lady. However, in the latter image, he describes three shadows looming over the scene or the Sansa and Arya. The interpretation is again discussed in excess within the other blogs. My initial interpretation is that the first shadow has to be the Hound and the second Jamie. I try to put more thought into the first two, however my other guesses don’t seem to match up as cleanly. The last of the shadows as described below, would fit the description of the Gregor Clegane. In the end of A Dance with Dragons, it can be safely assumed he had been made undead and renamed Ser Robert Strong. My reasoning:
1. In the book we still do not know what Robert Strong looks like as he always wears a visor, however the mountain’s head was sent to Dorne. Personally I’m thinking that a dwarf head sits atop the monstrous body, but that has yet to be seen.
2. The shadow is described as having armor of stone, as such, please recall Gregor Clegane’s nickname: The Mountain.
3. I’m of the assumption that the larger shadow loomed over the two pervious shadows, as well as the Starks. Perhaps the two other shadows are also impacted by the larger, threatening one? The Hound’s connection, as well as Arya’s is obvious, however the other characters (assuming Ned isn’t involved) might have to band together to defeat this greater evil.
I can see the arguments for Joffery or Littlefinger filling the shadows, however they don’t sit quite right with overall feeling of the scene. To be fair, my husband immediately said the third shadow must be Littlefinger because he is the ultimate puppet master. We will see who is right!
“There were shadows all around them. One shadow was 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 armer made of stone, but when he opened his visor, there was nothing inside but the darkness and thick black blood.”
- I can’t believe I didn’t notice the following quote the first time I read Game of Thrones! Hearing Ned mention his father talking about the wolf blood in the Starks immediately made me think of the dragon blood in the Targyrians. Yet another parallel!
“Ah, Arya. You have a wildness in you, child. ‘The wolf blood,’ my father used to call it. Lyanna had a touch of it, and my brother Brandon more than a touch. It brought them both to an early grave.”
- The following quote is another exchange between Ned and Arya, which resounds throughout the remainder of the series! I feel as though it was a turning point in Arya’s character where she starts to mature into the tough persona we come to love.
“Arya, sit down. I need to try and explain some things to you.”
She perched anxiously on the edge of her bed. “You are too young to be burdened with all my cares,” he told her, “but you are also a Stark of Winterfell. You know our words.”
“Winter is coming, “ Arya whispered.
“The hard cruel times,” her father said. “We tasted them on the Trident, child, and when Bran fell. You were born in the long summer, sweet one, you’ve never known anything else, but now the winter is truly coming. Remember the sigil of our House, Arya.”
“The direwolf,” she said, thinking of Nymeria. She hugged her knees against her chest, suddenly afraid.
“Let me tell you something about wolves, child. When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies, but the pack survives. Summer is the time for squabbles.
In winter, we must protect one another, keep each other warm, share our strengths. So if you must hate, Arya, hate those who would truly do us harm.”
- Interesting sequence when Tyrion returns to Winterfell after visiting the Wall when the direwolves attacked him without provocation. Tyrion has an interesting relationship with the Stark children. He befriends John, helps Bran, and weds Sansa, but stays respectful toward her. There’s also a fun quote from Tyrion in this interaction where he claims he as a soft spot for, cripples bastards and broken things.
- Later that evening when supping with the men of the Night’s Watch, the news is broken that Benjen is missing north of the wall. In a fit of realization, Bran yells out that the Children of the Forest will help/save him. Bran was laughed at and corrected that the Children are long gone. He is probably more right than the reader yet knows based on the revelations from the most recent HBO season.
- Oh, poor sweet innocent Lancel makes his introduction early in the series as one of Robert’s hapless squires trying in vain to fit the plump King into his ill fitting armor as he attempts to enter the melee. It was an inconspicuous introduction to a side character that turns out to have a role throughout the series and even in ADWD.
- Speaking of the Hand’s Tournament, I believe that this is the critical event in which Game of Thrones (GoT) truly begins to separate itself from its contemporaries. Up until this point in time we see the Hound as only an evil, vile man, however he defies his character’s previously defined personality as the reader find themselves pitying him upon revealing the origin of his horrific wounds to Sansa. Perhaps that initial sense of pity can be excused away by the reader as a fluke, but alas our perception of the Hound is altered yet again as he comes to the aid of the Knight of Flowers, as his terrible brother is intent on taking revenge of the most permanent kind. This was the first of many, many times in which GRRM, teaches the reader to pass no judgment on his beloved characters as good or evil. His creations are far more complex than simple black or white classifications, and oft times, as in the case of the Hound, you will find yourself growing to like a character previously despised. Also, around this timeframe, Varys meets with Ned and the lines of division that had seemed so clearly drawn in sand, quickly became muddled. Who is actually good or evil, trustworthy or dishonest, loyal or enemy? The mere scale at which the lines become blurred again is a statement to GoT truly being in a league of its own.
- Another important conversation, which I was delighted to rediscover, was overheard by Arya in the dungeons of the Red Keep between two men she had never seen. From the descriptions it can be inferred that the two culprits were Varys and Illyrio Mapotis. It was the first hint at Varys true allegiances that have become more apparent in the last few books. Their conversations are full of secrets that, for the most part, can be deciphered from talking about Daenerys being pregnant to the death of John Arryn. One interesting tidbit that we still are not sure about refers to Varys’ birds. Who are they?
- The Faceless Men also make an interesting introduction as the Council is meeting with King Robert to discuss how to best deal with Daenerys’ pregnancy. Littlefinger mentions over and over again how expensive they are to hire.
- Poor, poor Sam. He has matured so much as the series progresses it is hard to recall the broken, weak, and pitiful boy that first entered the Night’s Watch. His story is just as heartbreaking the second time hearing it.
- One story line that consumed much of the GoT has to do with Jon Arryn and Ned Stark hunting down Robert’s bastards. While that story line, in my opinion, has run its course, unless Genry or Mia Stone decide to make another appearance, it is good to remember that it established that Cerci’s three children are not of Baratheon decent. During the reread I found myself getting frustrated with this side story, prior to remembering that what I know now wasn’t necessarily obvious to begin with. I did enjoy Ned train of thought while mulling over Littlefinger’s statement about all Kings frequenting brothels and begetting bastards, which entailed Ned pondering if Rhaegar was fond of brothels and somehow he thought not? Slightly before this train of thought Ned was thinking about his sister predicting that Robert would never stay faithful. This exchange felt as though Ned was comparing Rhaegar to Robert through Lyanna’s eyes.
- While Tyrion was in the sky cell in the Vale, he had begun to ponder his situation and stumbled upon the troubling thought that there were more than just Lions and Direwolves at play. Another allusion to the increasingly complex nature of the GoTs.
- Upon his release from the Eyre he and Bronn stumble upon the Mountain Clans with delightful results for the reader. These side characters are so colorful, especially Shagga’s constant threats regarding cutting off the enemy’s manhood. These fearless clans remind me in a lot of ways of the Wildlings, moreover read about my theories regarding the origin of the Burned Men here.
- Poor, Poor Ned! He had so many chances to live or foresee the betrayals yet to come, however his honor leads him to the most unfortunate outcome. Speaking of his honor, the fact that he was had a bastard turned out to be a permanent stain and character flaw as people use that as an excuse as to why he was capable of treason. As will we find out soon enough, he isn’t in fact Jon’s Father, but those breadcrumbs are only first being laid. Back to Ned’s missed opportunities. First, he underestimated Cersei by telling her his plans by meeting with her in the Godswood. She shockingly admitted to all of Ned’s accusations, e.g., her children being products of incest, Bran’s intentional fall, however her comment, “When you play the game of thrones you win or you die.,” might prove to be the most prophetic for the series. Second, Renly offered to help Ned take the throne by holding Cersei’s children hostage. Ned refuses and Renly flees the castle, thereby abandoning Ned to his morals. Lastly, he puts misplaces his trust in Littlefinger, by telling the opportunist his entire plan and did not heed Littlefinger’s disagreements or take note of the potential for betrayal. Ned is so frustratingly blinded by his morals that we love him for it but yet are exasperated by his lack of self-preservation.
- Sansa, Sansa, Sansa. Oh, how I’d forgotten how much I had despised you. You betray your family not once but twice. You failed to denounce Joffrey as a liar, thus punished by the murder of Lady. Lastly, you run to the evil Queen and lay your father’s plans at her feet, ultimately leading to his death. I found it interesting while she was defending herself against the Cousil regarding her traitor blood that she claimed she did not have the same blood as Arya, especially after her Lord Father told Arya she had wolf blood running through her veins. Therefore, Sansa admits that she is not made of the same stuff as Arya, hence why the readers love the little sister more than the selfish elder.
- Osha, the wildling is another fascinating character. She tells Bran stories of Giants and the Others that exist above the wall. She forewarns Bran that Rob’s army is headed the wrong direction, and that they should be marching North to meet the White Walkers. Another interesting moment of foreshadowing is when Osha interprets the Old God’s answer to Bran’s prayers regarding keeping Rob and his family safe. She claims that the God’s are sad that they can not keep him safe because all of the Weirwood trees have been cut down in the south and how can they keep his family safe when they can not see.
- The first time reading through GoT I thought Jorah sneaking off in the Western Market place was strange but I dismissed it much as Daenerys had. However, during the reread, the sequence stood out, his timely arrival at the wine seller’s tent seemed a bit too consequence. Did Illyrio really warn Jorah about the price of Dani’s head or did it come from Varys.
- It is mentioned that Princess Rhaenys once owned a black cay named Balerion, who disappeared upon the young Royal’s death. The description fits the black tomcat that Arya catches right before Prince Tommen and Princess Myrcella surprise her. How interesting if the two cats are indeed the same one? When questioned regarding the cat, George R. R. Martin fails to deliver a straight forward answer but he doesn’t deny it either.
- Jon is indeed a Targaryen. I called it from the moment that Daenerys has her dream regarding a blue rose at the Wall in one of the later books. However, the fact that he burns his hand when dealing with the white walker troubles me regarding two main theories about Jon Snow. The first one is that he might be a dragon rider. However, if he is of dragon blood and a Targaryen he should not be hurt by fire. My other thought is that he might be the Prince who was Promised, Azor Ahai, rather than that Stannis fraud. Yet again he has to be able to wield the Lightbringer without being burned. I believe I remember that this fabled hero must be of Targaryen decent, but all in due time.
- Jon receiving Longclaw from Mormont was emotional, despite Jon’s lack of appreciation. Daenerys promises Jorah a sword of valerian steel. Might he receive or recognize the sword at Jon’s side?
- Aemon reveals to Jon that he is a Targaryen, much to the shock of the reader. He claims that he had three times his vows tested throughout his life. The first must have been when his older brother Aerion died. The third must have been Rhaegar and his family’s deaths, however I had a hard time placing the third time. Still pondering. I like the thought that he had fallen in love at one point or another.
- Bran and Rickon’s dreams about Ned being in the crypt the night after his death was rather creepy but also add another point in the column regarding these children having unique talents. I also thought it was interesting that Ned appeared to have two different messages for Bran and Rickon regarding Jon and coming home, respectively.