Well, so much for the show not having huge book spoilers. Egads. So that’s how you make an Other! …maybe. One thing is for sure – we already knew the Others had something to do with weirwoods, and with the children of the forest. In this sense, the show simply confirmed what has been telegraphed. I’ll talk about the black stone inserted into the Other at the bottom, but first, have a look at what I am talking about.
The Others are tied to two things via symbolism: the children of the forest, and weirwood trees. My favorite line is Cotter Pyke talking to Sam Tarly, incredulous at the tale of Sam slaying an Other:
“Sam the Slayer!” he said, by way of greeting. “Are you sure you stabbed an Other, and not some child’s snow knight?”
This isn’t starting well. “It was the dragonglass that killed it, my lord,” Sam explained feebly. (ASOS, Sam)
Some child’s snow knight. That’s what the Others are. Apparently, there’s a rumor of this in Ironborn folklore:
Asha saw only trees and shadows, the moonlit hills and the snowy peaks beyond. Then she realized that trees were creeping closer. “Oho,” she laughed, “these mountain goats have cloaked themselves in pine boughs.” The woods were on the move, creeping toward the castle like a slow green tide. She thought back to a tale she had heard as a child, about the children of the forest and their battles with the First Men, when the greenseers turned the trees to warriors. (ADWD, The Wayward Bride)
Trees as warriors is an idea we see all over the place in the books, with my favorite being Jon Snow perceiving the trees as warriors waiting to storm the Fist of the Fist Men right before the Fist is attacked by wights and probably Others:
The trees stood beneath him, warriors armored in bark and leaf, deployed in their silent ranks awaiting the command to storm the hill. Black, they seemed … it was only when his torchlight brushed against them that Jon glimpsed a flash of green. (ACOK, Jon)
And again, this is right before the Others launch their wight attack on the Fist.
The Others also have a tree-related nickname which isn’t used as often:
The horn blew thrice long, three long blasts means Others. The white walkers of the wood, the cold shadows, the monsters of the tales that made him squeak and tremble as a boy, riding their giant ice-spiders, hungry for blood …
White Walkers of the Wood.
The term “white shadow” or “pale shadow” is used to describe the Others many times in the books, including twice in the prologue of AGOT. Interestingly, there’s one occasion when a weirwood is described as a pale shadow, just like an Other, and it happens when a tree is frozen in ice:
Outside, the night was white as death; pale thin clouds danced attendance on a silver moon, while a thousand stars watched coldly. He could see the humped shapes of other huts buried beneath drifts of snow, and beyond them the pale shadow of a weirwood armored in ice. (ADWD, Prologue)
Dany’s dream of slaying Others on dragon back at the Trident involves warriors armored in ice, which everyone takes for the Others. So a tree which is a pale shadow and armored in ice has two references to the Others, who wear ice armor.
The Others’ bones are pale and shiny like milkglass, and their flesh milky white; while their swords shine with faint moonlight:
The Other slid forward on silent feet. In its hand was a longsword like none that Will had ever seen. No human metal had gone into the forging of that blade. It was alive with moonlight, translucent, a shard of crystal so thin that it seemed almost to vanish when seen edge- on. There was a faint blue shimmer to the thing, a ghost- light that played around its edges, and somehow Will knew it was sharper than any razor. (AGOT, prologue)
The Other slid gracefully from the saddle to stand upon the snow. Sword-slim it was, and milky white. (ASOS, Sam)
Milk and moonlight and a faint glow – these things are associated with the Others… and the weirwood face known as the Black Gate:
It was white weirwood, and there was a face on it.
A glow came from the wood, like milk and moonlight, so faint it scarcely seemed to touch anything beyond the door itself, not even Sam standing right before it. The face was old and pale, wrinkled and shrunken. It looks dead. Its mouth was closed, and its eyes; its cheeks were sunken, its brow withered, its chin sagging. If a man could live for a thousand years and never die but just grow older, his face might come to look like that.
The Others are also known as the “white walkers of the wood”
And finally, we have the prologue of AGOT, which basically spells out the whole thing, with repeated anthropomorphizations of the trees as being antagonistic to the Night’s Watch (way mar in particular) right before the confrontation with the Others:
Down below, the lordling called out suddenly, “Who goes there?” Will heard uncertainty in the challenge. He stopped climbing; he listened; he watched. The woods gave answer: the rustle of leaves, the icy rush of the stream, a distant hoot of a snow owl. The Others made no sound. Will saw movement from the corner of his eye. Pale shapes gliding through the wood. He turned his head, glimpsed a white shadow in the darkness. Then it was gone. Branches stirred gently in the wind, scratching at one another with wooden fingers.
Right after the shadows come through the wood, the tree is portray as humanoid with its clutching fingers. Lots more of this all through the scene:
Behind him, he heard the soft metallic slither of the lordling’s ringmail, the rustle of leaves, and muttered curses as reaching branches grabbed at his longsword and tugged on his splendid sable cloak.
I won’t quote all of them – just re-read the prologue and think about the trees as symbols for tree warriors who become Others.
In the show scene, we have a person up agains the weirwood when they are transformed by insertion of the black stone. What the show did not touch on is what role the WW really plays in Other creation – I’m talking book canon here. I suspect it has to be a skinchanger or greenseer who is transformed, perhaps a greenseer bonded to a tree. The Other would then be a kind of ghost of the tree / greenseer union.
What I want to know is: was there anything special about the human victim? Was he a skinchanger or greenseer? What role did the weirwood play?
Also, why is Night’s King so different looking than the rest of the Others? He’s got those spiky horns around his head, much like the cotf, whereas the other White Walkers do not. I have to suspect the NK is something other than a simple human transformed like the other WWs, perhaps a male cotf or some related species.
As for Bran being told to leave but also that he has to take Bloodraven’s place, the only possible answer is that he is to sit beneath the weirwood at Winterfell, probably deep in the lowest level of the crypts or something.
Also interesting was the Ironborn imagery present. We saw a resurrection and then a horny crown – tree branches are very similar to stag antlers, and can symbolize each other. I think there is some ancient horned lord creature – the Green Men on the Isle of Faces – which is related to the children. People all over Westeros remember these horny folk. The Storm Kings wear an antlered helm. What are they remembering? Garth the Green, the progenitor of many First Men houses, is taken directly from real myths of Cerrunos and the larger horned god archetype. The Gardener Kings wore crowns of vines and twigs, a livelier version of the driftwood crown. Those Gardener kings sat on a living tree throne also. The old Ironborn sit on a tree throne, the one made of Nagga’s fangs, which means weirwood, and wear tree crowns too, but the emphasis is on death. The lord of the vale sits in a weirwood throne, and the Velaryons have a driftwood throne. The Marsh Kings were chosen for their gifts of greensight, indicating that greenseers may have been kings.
In other words, I think the First Men have a collective memory of greenseer kings with horned helms or horned heads. He juxtaposition of the resurrection and driftwood crown with the horned NK and horned cotf was quite interesting, to say the least.
As for the black stone which transformed the victim, and the black obelisks surrounding that tree, I believe those are oily black stones, and in turn, I believe the oily black stone to be moon meteors from the second moon which exploded in the Dawn Age. I have theorized that these black moon meteors can be used to work dark magic, and I even postulated that these black meteors may have been used to make the Others. I can’t help but think the black stone which created the Other in the show is reference to this idea.
Now we don’t know what is the same between show and books of course, but the broad strokes should be similar, and I don’t think the answers to major things like “who is Jon’s father” and “where do the Others come from” will be different.
And creating Others is apparently accomplished by inserting a black stone into a man’s chest while he’s tied to a weirwood.
Now this is an idea I haven’t gotten into too much – I’ve been saving it for a proper episode – but I have discussed in comment threads that I believe there may be a piece of black fire moon – one of the black meteors – lodged in the hypothetical “ice moon,” which is the moon that survived and still exists. This frozen fire would be the thing which animates the forces of ice with a burning quality, as in the burning star eyes of the Others. I keep finding examples of black moon meteor symbols which become encased in ice or buried in snow and ice, and I believe it’s talking about a black meteor lodging inside the ice of the ice moon. Parallels to this idea would be black stone under the Wall, a moon meteor in the Heart of Winter… or a piece of moon meteor inside an Other.
I’m not sure if the show creators were thinking of that black stone as obsidian or not, but the fact that the tree was surrounded by spirals of black obelisks, which are definitely not obsidian, suggests some other kind of black stone being involved there. And I don’t think that it makes sense for WW to be created with obsidian if they can be killed by obsidian.
Ergo, my theory about a black fire moon meteor being lodged in the ice moon gained a lot of support when the children shoved that black stone into that dude’s chest. I’ve speculated that black moon meteors were somehow used to create the Others, and it’s REALLY damn tempting to think that’s what we just saw.
And of course, the Hodor scene was done brilliantly and was quite moving. That was really something.